Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Just Let Me Sleep

This last dose of chemo has sucked all the energy out of me.  I am still taking two naps per day.

Yesterday, I logged on to work from home.  I worked for 2.5 hours, took a long break for a nap and lunch, and then worked another 2.5 hours in the afternoon.  By then, I was toast.

I could take a nap right now.


Saturday, August 28, 2010

Avoid Your Favorite Foods

Helpful tip sheets about surviving chemo warn you to avoid your favorite foods when you are nauseated, because you might associate that feeling with that food -- and completely ruin your favorite foods forever.

I haven't ruined any food, but I think I might have ruined The Andy Griffith Show in a similar manner.  For the last couple of days, I have been nauseated and too exhausted to sleep or read or converse intelligently. All I could manage was watching TV. So I have been working my way through season 1 of  The Andy Griffith Show thanks to NetFlix. I really enjoyed the epsiodes, especially Don Knotts. I had forgotten how hysterical he was!  But I was sitting there, nauseated and tired and occasionally drifting off to sleep.  So I found myself clearing out season 2 from my NetFlix queue. I just can't face it right now.

I've got some Miss Marple coming instead.  Plus I have a lot of good stuff piled up in my Tivo queue.

It's about 4:30AM on Saturday. I am thrilled to report that I am finally not nauseated.  I am trying to be very quiet so I don't wake up Lou or Samantha.  I cannot iron, because my iron died yesterday. It got really hot, burned my ironing board cover, and then refused to heat up after that. Total bummer. (Apparently, no matter how awful I feel, I can still amuse myself by ironing.)

I am not sure what the heck wrinkly outfit I am going to wear to work on Monday!  But I have surfed the web (oh the joy of chemo insomnia!) and order a new Rowenta from Macy's.
Rowenta DW9080 Iron "Steamium"

I am pretty psyched!  Free shipping, so I have to wait an entire week. Maybe one of my neighbors will take pity on me and lend me their iron for some Sunday afternoon entertainment.

Update at 8:30AM:  I walked Sam in the dark at 6:00AM, a slow stroll around the block, sniffing everything. We even woke up a little birdie sleeping on the front porch when we left the house!  Then I went along for a longer walk, for a total of 2.6 miles this morning. There was this amazing sweet smell on the breeze.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Successful Dose 5

Yesterday during Doxorubicin dose 5, I hope we slaughtered a bunch of cancer cells!

The whole day went really well. Lou and I left the house just before 7, and we got to the checkin counter at Duke just before 8, when my appointment was. I didn't go in for bloodwork till after 8:30 but that just gave me time to read my Jack Reacher novel.

Dr R reported that my neutriphils count is 1400. They do not like to give you chemo if it is not 1500, but he said we would go ahead anything. I said that I really hoped I was not going to have to get another Neulasta shot, and he said no.  Thank God!  That was a week and a half of misery I am glad to avoid.

Neutrils are white blood cells that are for cuts and infections.  They are what makes pus yellowy white.  Ick. Is there anything I can do to bring that count up? I need to be careful about being around germs.  I also need to get enough sleep.

Luckily, I had my favorite nurse in the treatment room.  (Well, they are all awesome.)  This time, my port gave us no trouble at all.  (Last time, it was clogged and it took like an hour and a half to clear it.)  We mostly talked about local restaurants that we ought to try.

On the way home, Lou and I always stop for lunch. This time, we went to The Olive Garden because I was really craving eggplant parmesan. It was very good, and we were seated immediately. Whenever we try to go there for dinner, there seems to be a long wait because it is popular and packed to the rafters.

But I have to admit that I was tired and generally not well for the rest of the day.  I tried to sleep early in the afternoon, but I couldn't. It was like I was too tired to fall asleep.  So I gave up and read Jack Reacher. Later, I started watching espidosdes of The Andy Griffith Show and fell alseep for at least an hour in the very late afternoon.

This morning, I woke up at 5:00AM totally wide awake, so I got up and checked email and played with Sam.  Today I have physical energy (must be the Decadron) but I am mentally tired.  Lou walked Sam alone, then he walked me too!  It is very cool right now, nice walking weather.

Oh, and today I started eating Nutrisystem food again.  My weight has gone up a bit since coming off the clinical trial drug that miraculously made me totally disinterested in food.  Because I threw out my clothes as soon as they got too big, I need to stop gaining weight before all my clothes don't fit!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Fruity Candy Plans

Tomorrow morning, I get Doxorubicin dose 5, and then there is only one more dose to go!

I have been feeling really great, physically, for at least the last week.  I made the most of it. Awhile ago, I asked my neighbor Pat for some help with this flowerbed at the edge of the road that just looks awful. So this weekend, we came up with a plan, went shopping at three local nurseries, and brought home ten plants.  Ten plants might not sound much, but it was more than enough work planting them! The flowerbed looks better but still needs some work. I feel as though I have some momentum and can handle the rest of the beautification project.

But I caught myself over the weekend thinking, "Oh, rats, chemo Wednesday, that is going to stink."

I shook that off and reminded myself that it's more like, "Yahoo, chemo Wednesday, let's kill some cancer cells!"

I had been really struggling with nausea, but for dose 4 we changed some things and it helped tremendously. Just having fruity candy in my mouth when they accessed my port made it so that I didn't start the day completely nauseated. And then the new medication, Emend, helped through the weekend.  So I am looking forward to feeling not too terrible Thursday through Sunday.  Whatever happens, by Sunday afternoon, I'll be feeling fine.

So my only remaining problem?  My appointment is for 8:00AM tomrrow!  Lou and I are going to have to get up wicked early to get to Durham by 8:00AM.

I better not read in bed tonight. I am reading Lee Child's 5th book in the Jack Reacher series, and just like the others, it is so gripping that it makes me stay up late into the night, reading long after I ought to have gone to sleep. These books are so awesome.  In case you are looking for something good to read, the first one in the series was Killing Floor by Lee Child.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Studying Ancient Egypt

Lou and I continue watching the Teaching Company DVDs on Ancient Egypt in preparation for the big trip in April. We just watched two lectures on King Tut. The first lecture explained how Howard Carter found the tomb in the Valley of the Kings. The second lecture was all about King Tut's life and what happened to his poor wife after he died.  The second lecture was especially interesting because the professor posited his own personal and controversial theory that King Tut was murdered.

If you have any interest in learning about King Tut, here is an interesting link:


I am feeling great this week!  Yesterday I worked for ten hours, and I walked to Build T for BBQ chicken lunch. I just feel very good. I expect to continue feeling this good till chemo next week.
Today I woke up early and went for a longer walk. I will have to measure this new route in the car to see how long it is.
My only complaint is that I have a knot in my left shoulder, and my massage therapist told me I cannot get a massage during chemo. Total bummer.  I'll see if Lou is up for jumping in the hot tub this morning.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Eighteen Years

Lou and I have been married for eighteen wonderful years.

We went to Kanki at the Crabtree Valley Mall for sushi lunch on Saturday to celebrate. We sat in the dimly lit, crowded restaurant, holding hands across the granite topped table, and decided to have another wonderful eighteen years together.  Then we ate some awesome raw fish.

I really am married to the best guy in the whole world.

Oooh, after lunch, we wandered over to the Williams and Sonoma and bought a Cuisinart convection bread machine so Lou can start making bread at home again. Yum.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Strong Fingernails

Little things can really have a huge impact on your quality of life.

For months, my fingernails were a huge problem for me.  It was the clinical trial drug.  My nails were very thin and flexible -- and they chipped or tore virutally time I touched something.  I had to keep them trimmed really short, because when they tore, it was often up over the quick, which is so gross.

I could not put on a necklace because pushing back the tiny knob on the clasp was enough to crumple my fingernail.

Anything that required using my fingertips was hard to accomplish, because my fingertips were sore.

Well, the good news is, that is over!  My fingernails are now back to normal, nice and strong.  And my fingertips no longer hurt.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


One evening, we saw a family of deer making their way through the neighborhood.  Mom was leading her three little fawns across our neighbor's lawn, and Dad was bringing up the rear.

Dad glared at us as we sat there taking pictures from the car.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Weekend of the Long Naps

Both yesterday and today, I was struck down by complete exhaustion and forced to surrender to a long nap. What a waste of weekend minutes!  But I admit, I was nonfunctional before each nap, and much better afterward.

Two hours almost to the minute is what one of these naps takes.

Both days, though, I started off early with a 2-mile walk. In the morning, I see and hear a lot of birds.  I am hoping that these walks will keep me strong. My plan is to stay strong till a cure becomes available.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Mayberry USA

Last weekend, Rich, Lisa, Lou and I went to Mount Airy, NC, for the first time. That's the hometown of Andy Griffith. It's also "Mayberry USA," the setting for The Andy Griffith Show.

It rained on us, which we blamed on our Seattle friends, but we still had a blast.

I have not laughed this much in a while!

So here I am outside Floyd's Barber Shop. Looks like Floyd took a little too much off this time, by golly! What can you expect for an $8 haircut, I guess.

Here's Lisa and me with the statue of Andy and Opie going fishing.

I put The Andy Griffith Show in my NetFlix queue.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Eavesdropping in the Treatment Room

On Wednesday, I sat next to a guy in his sixties, and his wife.  The guy was getting chemo. They smiled and said hello but did not seem to want to talk.

At some point, his nurse came over and started patient education. This was the first time the guy was getting chemo.  It is always interesting to listen in on patient education. One thing is that I am surprised at how much I know, and another thing is that I might pick up something new.  Every chemo is different and has different things to watch out for.

Whatever this guy is getting, he has to come back the next day for a Neulasta shot. So right at the end, the nurse is standing there with her palm pressed to her forehead, saying, "I just heard about something that can help with Neulasta bone paine, it's over the counter and you take it for something else, but for the life of me..."

So I piped up, "Claritin and Aleve?"  On Monday morning, my favorite port-accessing nurse had told me about how her doctor recently presented a paper on how people who took Aleve and Claritin experienced significantly less bone pain after the Neulasta shot.

"Yes! Claritin! Thanks!"

So, this was one time when butting in was a good thing!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Emending the Plan

I dragged around all afternoon yesterday, yawning and sleepy. I actually had my eyes closed during part of one Egypt lecture. But when it was finally time to go to bed, I woke up and got all fidgety. Darn that Decadron.  Dr R had given me half the usual dose because I started a new anti-nausea drug yeseterday, so I had hoped to be able to sleep easily.  The new drug is Emend. We're trying it because last time, I was on Decadron, Zofran, and Compazine and still was nauseated.  So Emend is like the big gun; with any lucky I won't need any Zofran or Compazine.

I also think it made a big difference that I took Compazine and Jolly Ranchers yesterday so that I did not start feeling mauseated when they accessed my port. Once that nausea starts, it is so hard to get rid of.

Last night, Lou went to bed without me.  I puttered around quietly in my office, surfed the web looking at silverware, and watched part of a Miss Marple DVD from Netflix.

At about 2:00AM, a thunderstorm was right over our house. It was amazing.  It woke up Sam and Lou, and then they came looking for me.  Lou talked me into trying to come to bed, but first I had to burn off some energy, so I washed the baking dish which had been sooking in the sink since dinner and then I tried washing all our existing silverware with a paste of baking soda to try to make it shinier.  Mixed results.  (Again with the mixed results!)

I woke up just after 8:00AM.  That is five hours of sleep.  I feel okay right now, and I plan to log on to work for a half day.

Here is the outrageous silverware I fell in love with while I was surfing the web. It's Palace Orchard from Reed and Barton, totally on sale right now because it is being discontinued.  It is so bold and beautiful!  I hope it will look good next to my good china, and not be a distraction.

Here is my good china.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Not a Rare and Delicate Flower

I won't make you wait.  Lou and I went in to see Dr R this morning, and he told us that Monday's CT Scan shows "mixed results."  A couple tumors grew, a couple tumors shrank, and no new tumors appeared.  Because the results were mixed, it's sort of a guessing game as to whether to continue on Doxorubicin.

Ultimately, we decided to stay the course. (I never seriously considered quitting.) We would not want to give up on Doxorubicin too soon -- because I have only two or three additional chemos to try after Doxorubicin!  Radiation is still on the table, but only if a tumor gets so big that it starts to cause trouble that cannot be solved by pain meds or chemo.

So I got chemo today on schedule.

I suggested (and Dr R agreed that it was possible) that the tumor growth could have occurred in the five weeks between the last scan and the start of the Doxorubicin.  That's the window where I was bouncing back from the clinical trial drug and cruising to Greece on the Celebrity Equinox with my honey.

Also, let's not lose sight of the fact that no new tumors have appeared.  That is just super duper, completely fabulous, front page news.  My tumor count has been pretty steady.  Last April/May, they found eight tumors, and then in October they added one teeny spot on L5.

Getting the chemo today was no walk in the park, though.

My port would not give any blood return. It took in the saline really easily, but it would not output any blood.  That was not cool, especially for such a tricky chemo as Doxorubicin. Two nurses worked on me.  I was rolling from side to side, leaning back, leaning forward, coughing, raising one arm, raising the other arm, taking deep breaths, and generally just trying anything to get the port working. Nothing worked.

They decided to try a TPA, where they inject an anticoagulant into the port, let it sit for awhile, and then suction it back out. (You do not want to flush the anticoagulant into the patient's system!)  The anticoagulant cleans out the blockage inside the port mechanism, and you get instant blood return.  (They theorized that maybe the nurse on Monday did not flush me well enough or did not use heparin. From now on, I plan to pay closer attention when someone de-accesses my port.)

After 30 minutes, Nurse S. tried the port.  Only anticoagulant came out -- no blood return -- so she injected it back into the port.  Feeling uncharacteristically pessimistic, I asked what would happen if it still didn't work after an hour. Nurse S. suggested that we could inject the Doxorubicin via a normal IV, but yikes I wasn't too thrilled about that and offered to come back and try again tomorrow.  Nurse S. went off to work on other patients.

She came back at about the 75 minute mark. She explained that she had worked out a plan with the charge nurse.  If the port didn't work now, I would sit for another hour and try again. If it still didn't work, she would consult Dr R and let me go home with the anticoagulant still in the port, so it could sit overnight. I would come back tomorrow, and it would work. That all sounded better than using a vein for the Red Devil!  So we had a plan.

Then she tried the port, and this time it worked like a charm.  Nice dark red blood filled the tubing so fast, it was like magic.  Yahoo!  We were good to go.  The rest of the chemo went smoothly.  We finished about 1:30PM.  (We had come into the treatment room at about 10:30AM.)

Oh, and I noticed that the last two times anyone accessed my port, I got nauseated by the saline flush. Mildly nauseated, but persistenly so. When they access the port, there is a flood of taste and smell like bathroom cleaner. It has always seemed gross, but was never a real problem till recently.  So Dr R had me take a Compazine, and the Nurse S gave me a Jolly Rancher candy. No nausea!  Excellent!  Even better, Nurse S. assured me that I was not a rare and pathetically delicate flower, because lots of people get nauseated by the heparin.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Questionable Magazine in Waiting Room

As I sat in the waiting room at Duke yesterday, I started flipping through a magazine and found an article about how lots of people die every year from the big dose of radiation that you might get during a CT Scan.  Yikes!  I have to get a CT Scan every two months.  I do not want to be reading this kind of info... I put that mag down and started reading the novel I had brought with me instead.

Otherwise, my scan day was quite pleasant.

While I was in the machine, after they took the first few scans, there was a long break where nothing was happening.  I drifted off, then sort of woke up and realized that a significant amount of time had passed. I started wondering if they had forgotten about me.  I always wonder what would happen if the technician keeled over dead from a heart attack while I was in the machine.  How long would I be stuck in the machine before someone noticed?

Right when I was about to call out, "Hellooo there..." the technician's voice came over the speaker to tell me that they had not forgotten about me, that they were comparing the scans to the set from two months ago. Oooh, I wanted to ask how the comparison was going, but I didn't.  I don't think that the technicians are allowed to tell you anything.  And rightly so!  I want the offical analysis, the final report.

Tomorrow (Wednesday) I get the results from Dr R.