Thursday, September 30, 2010

Lucky Raindrops

Eighteen years ago, it rained at my wedding. People said that would bring us good luck, and it did.  We have had a wonderful marriage, and every day I am reminded how lucky I am to have Lou.

This weekend, Lou and I went to the wedding of Amelia and Steve.  (Amelia is my friend from work, and the person who does the energy work, Healing Touch, which has been helping me deal with my chemo side effects.)

This was an amazing wedding.

We were directed to park in a field. Then we climbed aboard a golf cart for a fast, bumpy trip up the hill to Amelia's folks' place.  We were hanging on for dear life (we were on the back bench and could have been thrown right off by any of the bumps), and Lou looked at me and said, "I am really glad we came to this wedding!"  It was better than any excursion we ever paid for on a cruise.

Anyway, we made it to the house alive and got pretty good seats on the upper level of the flagstone patio. The view was gorgeous, of woods and a pond and a meadow.  (When the bride and groom joined the minister, we could see Amelia's face, but not Steve's.)

It started to sprinkle rain drops on us, which we figured would bring Amelia and Steve nothing but good luck. Another friend from work, Anya, quickly found an umbrella for her daughter, Drake, and her cello.  Drake's performance was so beautiful.

Then the rain stopped, but it started up again later while some lady was reading an Irish blessing and got to the part about God's blessings being like little raindrops.  A collective, awed "Oooo," swept through the assembled guests!

Then, while Steve was reciting his vows, the sun broke through the clouds and shone down on them, like God was saying, "You are bathed in my light, and your future together is very bright."

I got all choked up.

The reception was excellent, and dinner was excellent. We got to chat with the minister and his wife Nancy, who informed us that the same minister married Amelia's parents too.

But, by now I was completely exhausted and we had to slip away.  We stayed overnight in a hotel and then drove home really early to find poor old Samantha sort of mad at us for leaving her.  John next door had dropped by a couple of times to check on her, but she was still annoyed with us, until we took her for a walk and plied her with cookies and got back in her good graces.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Chemo is Over!

"Chemo has been over for awhile, Karen," you might be thinking.  "Wasn't the last chemo on September 15?"

You'd be right, if that was what you were thinking.

But somehow, until late last night, it hadn't really sunk in that chemo is over.  Late last night is when I realized that I can finally schedule another massage appointment with Martha at Avante Physical Therapy in Cary, NC, because chemo is over!  (No massages allowed during chemo because of all the drugs swirling around in your system.)

I have this knot on my left shoulder that is killing me...  and I know Martha can make it go away.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Personality NOT Linked to Cancer Risk or Prognosis

Here are a couple of quotes from a Reuters Health article that I found:

"People who are friendly and outgoing and those prone to be nervous and moody have at least one thing in common: their personalities do not seem to be connected to their risk of developing or dying from cancer, a new study finds."

"The findings, from two long-running studies of Finnish and Swedish twins, add to evidence refuting the theory that there are certain cancer-prone personalities, and that personality is an important factor in the odds of surviving cancer."

"The notion that having a 'fighting spirit' will affect your cancer prognosis is an appealing one, said Coyne, who directs the behavioral oncology program at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine in Philadelphia."
For the full article, use this link:

Why did I like this article so much?  Because when I hear someone telling me that I am going to be fine because I am so cheerful, sometimes it strikes me the wrong way.  I "hear" that I had better stay cheerful, or else I won't be fine. And I "hear" that if I end up not fine, it will be my fault because I was not cheerful enough. Grrrrr.  (I know that is not what the person is really saying.)

But I am very glad to be a cheerful person. It certainly helps make every day more enjoyable.  Maybe personality type is more of a quality of life issue. 

What if some Grumpy Joe and I have the same tumors, get the same treatment, have our tumors shrink (or not) at the same rate, and have the same number of days left on the planet?  Which one of us is having more fun?  The moody one complaining about everything, or the cheerful one focuing on the bright side and planning crazy vacations? 

The article says a cheerful personality won't buy me more days -- but I think it buys me more fun every day.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Time for Walkies

I haven't been sleeping well at all.  It takes a long time to fall asleep, and then I wake up many times in the night. I can blame Decadron for a few nights of insomnia, but not for this.  It has to be because I have not been walking at all.  I always sleep better when I am exercising.

I haven't felt like walking at all for like two weeks.  I had that bad cold and then the last dose of chemo... but now that's all over.  I need to start walking again, if only so I can get a good night's sleep.

It's already a little late this morning to go for a walk, and it will get up to 96 degrees this afternoon.  Darn.  Maybe I can do laps inside the air conditioned building at lunchtime.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Last Day of Summer 2010

Yesterday was another shaky day, but I did not go down for a ridiculous nap.  That is progress.  I feel as though I am emerging from the other side of chemo strangeness.

I feel better this morning.  Not shaky, and stronger.  So, my plan is to actually go in to the office.

Tonight, summer ends.  I must admit that I am looking forward to cooler temperatures and long-sleeved shirts.  I'm so tired of all my summery clothes.  The funny thing is, tomorrow we are expecting 96 degree heat.  Welcome, Autumn!

I find myself thinking about what it will be like when all my chemo options are exhausted, and the cancer is growing. That will be a difficult time.  I feel really good about my choices, my oncologist, and the sarcoma specialty center at Duke, so I assume that I won't be filled with regret.  The only thing I could have done differently was to fall for some of the crazy claims, like eating pureed asparagus every day, or cottage cheese mixed with flax seed oil, or some wacky supplement that someone was trying to sell me.  Those crazy claims offend me.  What kind of loser do you have to be to take advantage of a panicking cancer patient by selling them crap that won't work?  I can only hope that there is a special circle in hell for those people.  (It's probably right next to the people who steal from the elderly.)

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Shaky Monday

I struggled with that shaky chemo feeling yesterday.  Like, if I held out my hands, they would shake.  Plus, I was tired and sort of groggy.

I logged on remotely to work for the morning, but then I had to go to sleep after lunch.  This time, I slept for hours and hours.  I was much better when I finally woke up around 5:00PM.  I actually worked till 9:30PM!  Got a lot done, too.  That was nice.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Maybe Tomorrow I'll Sleep Late

Jeepers, I was wide awake at 3:00AM today. I tried to fall back to sleep for a half hour, but it was no good.  So I got up and had a lovely small cup of my regular tea, Tetley British Blend (round teabag).  Yum.  Usually I drink from a huge mug with two teabags, but I figured I had better start small after not having any caffeine for four days.

Maybe tomorrow I will be able to sleep late.  Not the most fabulous plan for a Monday morning, a working day, but it's what I've got.  By tomorrow, the Decadron will have worn off. The thing is, I didn't want to take any Ambien to sleep this weekend. So I have been waking up early like this.  Waking up early won't kill ya.

Waking up early, puttering around the kitchen, making little clattering noises, and rousing your husband might get ya in trouble though  ;^)  which is why I am tucked away in my office.

Yesterday I dragged myself around the short loop with Lou and Sam, and then I went to sleep for almost two hours. Ridiculous!  Then we went out to lunch at Sushi Thai in Cary. Total perfect yummification. Then we went to Macy's and I returned my brand-new, expensive, dripping Rowenta iron and replaced it with a brand-new, less-expensive, non-dripping Rowenta iron. I started ironing practically the minute I got home, so I am sure it does not drip water at all. I ironed six shirts and then had to stop because I was tired.  Basically, I spent the rest of the day watching NetFlix Miss Marple movies and waiting for my zombie exhaustion to make me fall asleep again (but it never happened).

I took only one anti-nausea pill yesterday. So basically I was just easily tired.  That is not bad at all!  My cold and cough are almost gone, too, which is good because I have two days of antibiotics left.

I finally finished the three Stieg Larrson novels. They were excellent, but they took concentration (although maybe that is the chemo talking).  Thanks to the lady who warned me that I needed to have the third book in hand before I even started reading the second book.  She was right.  I had to go from the end of book 2 right into book 3 without a break.

This morning I started the next Jack Reacher novel by Lee Child, One Shot.  I am getting bummed about how quickly I am working my way through these novels.  When my Mom first got me hooked by sending me the first in the series, Killing Floor, I was so psyched that there were like 14 to go. It seemed like that number of novels ought to keep me entertained for awhile. But I have been flying through them.  Lee Child is excellent at keeping the reader hooked.  I haven't stayed up late into the night reading like this in years. I usually put my book down early enough to get a good night's sleep.  "Got to go to work tomorrow," I think.  But not when I am reading Jack Reacher. I have stayed up way to long because I couldn't wait to see what happened next. I just checked the list, and because I read a couple out of order [gasp] I only have three to go.  Argh.  I just hope Lee Child is busy writing number 15...

Do you think it's funny that I love these Jack Reacher novels as much as I love the Precious Ramotswe novels?  Opposite ends of the spectrum in crime novels, for sure.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Long Nap on Friday

Except for a quick  run out to the pharmacy to pick up a refill of Campazine (anti-nausea pill) yesterday, plus a walk through the grocery store for milk and a cooked chicken, I did nothing at all.  I slept all afternoon, I read a little, and I watched some TV.

In the past, I have waited till I was definitely nauseated before taking anything. I decided that was waiting too long. Once you get nauseated, it is so hard to get rid of.  So this time, at the earliest hint of nausea, I take a pill. It's working out a lot better because the nausea hasn't gotten its grip on me. It's sort of funny, though, to have settled on this most workable approach on my last dose of Doxorubicin!

 (I am hoping that this is a strategy I won't have to employ in the future, but realistically I guess I have learned something that I will be able to use again.)

My mouth has been really dry. This is a new side effect for me on Doxorubicin, but a typical one for this chemo. I have been lucky to have avoided it till now.  Some people get awful mouth sores; dodged that bullet.

Lou is still sleeping, and I am trying to be as quiet as a mouse so as not to wake him up. Today our plan is to return my fancy new steam iron to Macy's.  It drips water.  Bummer.

At breakfast, I will take my last dose of Decadron! That means one more decaf morning to suffer through, and one more day feeling sort of speedy yet exhausted.  I am hoping that tonight I will get a good night's sleep and not wake up in the wee hours of the morning.

Both the Patriots and the Dolphins play on Sunday -- but not each other, thank God.

I guess that sort of wraps up the entire weekend!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

When Life Hands You Lemons

When life hands you lemons, the gang where Lou works sends you a big, beautiful, lemony yellow bouquet to cheer you up!

Can you see the lemons?  There is one in the bottom of the vase, underwater.  And there is one dangling from the flowers, on the right.

What an awesome bouquet!  I love it!  Thanks, everyone Lou works with!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Not Too Sick for Chemo

Hey, I got my last dose of Doxorubicin today!

The day started with some trouble. I waited a half hour for a nurse to access my port and draw blood for the labwork (too many patients, not enough nurses) and then the poor woman could not get blood return from my port.  Saline went in just fine, but no blood would come out.  She fooled with it a bit, then quit.  There were too many people in the waiting room for her to keep fooling with my port.  So she walked me through a maze of corridors to a different department, where another nurse used a needle to get blood out of my arm the old fashioned way.

I had a nice chat with Dr R, but my bloodwork was not back, so he could not say whether I would be getting chemo.  He sent me off to the cafeteria for a coffee with the promise that he would phone my cell if I was not getting chemo.  I never got a call, and then I got paged to go to the treatment room to get chemo.

When we got to the treatment room, I warned the nurse there that my port was acting temperamental.  But you know what?  It worked just fine for her!  She got great blood flow immediately.  What a relief.  So I got my last dose of Doxorubicin with no trouble at all.

Lou is listening to a book on tape about the richest 400 people in the world, and he kept shutting it off and telling me some interesting tidbit, like how four of the top five richest people never graduated from college.

Anyway, we zoomed home and ate leftovers for  lunch. Then Lou went to work and I flopped onto my bed and slept for two hours.

I'm awake now and heading out to the pharmacy for some drugs.

Am I Too Sick for Chemo?

Today is supposed to be my last dose of Doxorubicin!  But the question is, am I too sick to get it?  All depends on what the labwork says.

I started the antibiotic yesterday.  I coughed a lot last night, waking us both up a few times.  You'd think maybe we'd be cranky this morning, but we are both cheerful.  I'm excited at the prospect of finishing up the Doxorubicin.  Let's killl a few more cancer cells today, and then go get a scan in three weeks.

But with this cold and my low neutrafil count, I might not get chemo today.

I was thinking about telling Lou to stay home today. If he is not with me, and if it turns out I am too sick for chemo, then I could go straight to work from Duke... but how crazy is that?  If I am too sick for chemo, then I am too sick for work!

Cross your fingers!  I want this chemo!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Germ Warfare

Tomorrow when I go to the Duke Clinic, I am supposed to wear a paper mask to protect other patients from my germs!  Nice.

As it stands, I am still getting chemo tomorrow. Having a bad cold does not necessarily keep you from getting chemo.  It all comes down to what the lab says about your bloodwork.

I coughed all night long. This morning, I started coughing up nasty yellow goop, which means I have a respiratory infection.   I've got an appointment with my fabulous primary care physician later this morning, and I expect to come home with a bag full of antibiotics.

On the phone and in email, a couple of my dearest friends have very kindly suggested that if I had just called in sick last week when they told me to, then maybe I wouldn't be so sick this week.  Well, I'm not 100% sure that saying I told you so is technically within the spirit of the Cheer Me On blog.   ;^)   It's not called the Bum Me Out blog.  Or the Tell Me Off blog. 

I know I should have taken it easy last week.  But that is so hard to do.  With the flowerbed, it was unbelievably satisfying to get those flowers planted. A couple of times yesterday, I snuck outside in my PJs to admire my flowerbeds.  And with work, it is super hard to call in sick because I love what I do and I have deadlines.   Oooh, if it turns out I am too sick for chemo, then I bet I can work from home for the rest of the week!  Excellent!  (I never learn.)

Monday, September 13, 2010

And on Sunday, He Rested

I spent all day Sunday resting.

Well, I ran out to the grocery store in the morning.  Lou came with me, though, and did all the heavy lifting.

I took Vitamin C, rested, watched movies, and read.  My cold symptoms were pretty serious yesterday (and today).  Headache, sore throat, nasty productive cough... I am starting to get a little worried about chemo on Wednesday.  I called the chemo nurse to give them a heads up that I have a bad cold.

Ooooh, I wonder if they won't want me coming in to the clinic at all because I might spread my germs to other patients whose immune systems are compromised.

Lou just talked me into staying home today.  I am bummed because I am looking forward to a meeting at 11:00.  Maybe I can try to do it over the phone.  I guess it depends on how bad my voice is.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

No Rest for the Wicked

I feel awful today.  I have a headache, a very sore throat, and a nasty productive cough. Strangely, my sinuses are clear.  I have decided that this cold would probably have gotten this bad even if I had spent Friday and Saturday resting. 

Of course, I didn't spent Friday and Saturday resting. 

On Friday, I worked 10 hours in the office.  On Saturday, I ran a million errands and planted a lot of flowers.  I'm happy with what I accomplished on both days.

Home Depot has chsysanthemums at an awesome price right now, and I picked up nine plants last weekend.  It took me a week to get them planted because every hole I dug uncovered something strange, like pockets of gravel, or short lengths of rope, or empty burlap sacks, or chunks of concrete.  All the yellow chrysanthemums went into the big flower bed in the front yard. That big flower bed now looks perfectly ordinary and acceptable. I no longer cringe when I look at it.

Yesterday I had to go back to Home Depot for more Miracle Grow dirt, and I picked up one Balloon Flower plant to fill a gap in the small flower bed near the house.

Friday, September 10, 2010

The Eye of the Storm

Yesterday must have been the eye of the storm, the calm pause in the middle of the chaos.

I felt really wonderful yesterday. I didn't even blog because I was in such a rush to get to the office.  I had a great day, too.  I ran around, talking to people all day, gathering lots of good info to stuff into my book.  I even volunteered to update a particular chapter that on a topic that I loath and fear.  Not once did I cough.  No germs did I spread.

But last night, the cough was back. I even woke up in the night coughing.  Lou woke up, too.  And this morning, I've got the cough, the sore throat, the whole shebang.

So the debate in the Ross household this morning is, do I work from home today?  Lou wants me to stay home.  I want to go in because I need to talk to some people to clear up some questions I have. Lou counters that I could use the phone to ask my questions.  I argue that these questions are too complex to talk about on the phone.  Stalemate.

I am going to take another 12 hour Sudafed, rinse my sinuses, jump in the shower, and see how I feel after that...

Next Wednesday is my last dose of Doxrubicin. I want to feel well by next Wednesday. I wouldn't want to do anything that causes this cold to linger any longer than it has to. I don't want to have the sniffles when the nausea hits.

Ooooh and the plan for this weekend involves the Museum of History and an exhibit on George Washington!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

No More Coughing

My cough is gone!

I still have sinus congestion, a sore throat, and a headache though. Yesterday Lou gave me a 12 hour Sudafed, which worked great. It was the old formula for which you must go to the pharamacy, show ID, and get written up in a logbook. (The old formula is what people used to make methamphetamine, right? So pharmacists had to make it harder to buy.  Darned drug dealers making everyone's life more complicated!)

I actually got in a full day of work yesterday.  Someone had asked me to add something to my book like two weeks ago -- and yesterday I finally did it.  That's a good feeling!  Now I just have to get this new text approved by an engineer...

I am sort of torn about whether to work from home again today.  I am not coughing anymore, but I am not that well either.  But today is my group meeting, which I hate to miss.  I guess I will go take a shower now and see how I feel afterward.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Supposed to Feel Great

Darn it, I am supposed to feel great from now till next Wednesday when I get my last dose of Doxorubicin,  but I feel awful today. My lungs are tight, my sinuses are stuffed up, my back aches, I have a small dry cough, and I am tired... basically I have a cold.

I have been sidelined by the common cold.  Jeepers.  I guess I've grown accustomed to more dramatic illnesses like, "chemotherapy-induced nausea" or "fatigue associated with a low blood cell count."  Not the sniffles!

I slept as late as I could this morning, took some Sudafed and some Vitamin C, and now I am going to log on to work.  I'm not going into the office because I figure I do not want to spread this germ and I probably will need to take a nap later.

Anyway, I had a fabulous long weekend:

  • On Saturday, Lou and I went to the planetarium in Chapel Hill and saw a show on black holes. It was awesome. I took away two things:  that gravity is like acceleration and that there are a disconcertingly large number of black holes in our universe that are constantly sucking in all surrounding matter at an alarming rate.  My worries for the safety of the universe were abated by a delicious lunch at the Weathervane restaurant at that store called A Southern Season.

  • On Sunday, we went for a really long walk in the neighborhood. I bought some yellow mums on sale at Home Depot for the flower bed by the stop sign.  My wonderful neighbor Nick poured holy water from Lourdes over my head!  And then we wrapped up Sunday night at Chas and Darlene's house for dinner and a roaring fire in the firepit.

  • On Monday, Lou sprayed Round-Up on the crabgrass in the front lawn while I planted some of my plants.  After a couple of hours, it was too hot to continue working in the yard, so we quit.  We went out to lunch AGAIN and then did a little shopping for the house.  We finished the day by killing our second disc of The Unit (Season 1) which we are hooked on. By the afternoon, I had started feeling this cold creep up on me, with the exhaustion and the little cough, so I ended my weekend on the couch under a blanket.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Wednesday, September 1, 2010


Jeepers, I was dragging for about a week, and it took its toll on my mood.  It is hard to be tired for a long time.  Nothing seems fun when you are so tired.

So last night, I found myself reading psalms in The Bible. Not just any psalms either.  Just the lamentations!  They are the ones that are like, Oh Lord, rescue me from the mire!

The lamentations really cheered me up.  Today I feel a lot better, both physically and emotionally.  I think the appeal of the lamentations is two-fold.  First, I got the message that there's lots suffering in the world, so much so that it made it into The Bible. I am clearly not the only person with problems.  Second, my situation doesn't seem so bad in comparison.  I am not in a pit with my enemies rejoicing over me.

I am feeling so much better that I am actually headed into the office.  (I have been working from home so far this week.)

My friend Truett sent me this picture awhile ago.  It is a snapshot that someone in his congregation took of his church.

Late Afternoon Update

I went to the office and got some good work done.  At about 2:00PM, I started to see blank spots on my computer screen.  Migraine!  I had to head home.  Total bummer.  The Maxalt helped, but I had a bad headache for the next couple of hours.  It's 5:00PM now and the headache is now mild. 

Also, my new Rowenta iron arrived via UPS this afternoon, but a big chunk of the plastic housing was BROKEN off and rattling around in the box. This iron is really lovely looking, though.  Macy's has the best customer service on the planet, and they are expediting me another iron.  All I have to do now is drop off the broken iron at my local Macy's.  A couple more days of wrinkly clothes...