Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Kickin' cancer--soccer style

About two weeks ago, I got a phone call from my cousin Natalyn.  She is the girls head soccer coach for Timpanogos High School.  She explained to me that she was coming to town with the girls soccer team for a tournament.  Every year Natalyn puts together some type of fireside for the girls, and they do service for someone, in conjunction with their tournament.

Natalyn was calling to ask me to speak to the girls at a fireside about trials, and how to get through them with a positive attitude.  She also told me that the team would like to help me with anything I needed done around the house--cleaning, with the kids, grocery shopping...whatever I needed done.  At this point in time, it had only been about a month since my breast cancer surgery.  I was still moving slow and not feeling 100%.

I agreed to speak, and I spoke to the girls about how everyone in life has or will go through trials.  It is not a matter of if, but when.  I told them how important it is to rely on Heavenly Father when facing a trial.  I told them that you have to have a good attitude.  Having a bad attitude and pulling a blanket over my head won't change the fact that I have cancer.  It was fun speaking to the girls.  They we all so cute and fun to be around.

It was decided that the next day, the would put together SEVERAL freezer meals (for days that I was going through chemo and too sick to cook).  They also made me a darling fleece blanket.  The day after the fireside, they delivered the meals, blanket, and sweet card.  What a blessing to our family!  Natalyn and the girls are SO awesome (along with help from Natalyn's sisters and my sweet cousins--Cindy and Karri)!
The picture above shows two different blankets that have been made for me.  The blanket with the large flowers was made by the girls soccer team and the pink and white blanket was made by my sister Lisa and her girls.  They are both darling and have already been put to good use.  I have slept on the couch many nights when I am having a hard time staying asleep.  That was so sweet of all of them!! 

This past Thursday, I received a text from my cousin.  She said that the girls had just played a game in my honor, and won 5-1.  These are the pictures that she sent with the text...
It made my (rough) day...and made me cry.  So sweet!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Chemotherapy - Round 1 Update

What a week from hell---I literally felt like I was traveling through hell.  I don't say that to be a potty mouth.  It really WAS just a torture.  Things certainly did not go as expected this week in the way of my chemotherapy treatments.  To sum up the week--splitting migraine headache, sick to my stomache, lots of tears, and major frustration.

My previous post talks about going in on Monday for my first dose of chemotherapy and my allergic reaction to one of the drugs.  Well, they had me return the next day to "challenge" the drug.  They wanted to see if I would have another reaction after being on steroids.  So, I took steroids the night before and the morning of my appointment on Tuesday.  When I arrived there, they gave me a drip in my I.V. of Benadryl and more steroids.  Once again, I had an allergic reaction to the Taxotere.  So scary!  There is nothing worse than feeling like you cannot breathe!

After the reaction, they flushed the I.V. with saline and gave me MORE Benadryl and steroids.  It was just nauseating.  I cannot stand Benadryl, it makes me feel totally out of it---to say NOTHING of the steroids. 

They then proceeded to give me the chemotherapy drug Taxol.  It was almost instantly that I had an allergic reaction.  My chest felt tight and I felt like I couldn't even say a word.  I just started waving my hands in the air.  My nurse stopped the drug and repeated the procedure--flush I.V., Benadryl, MORE steroids.  At this point I was in panic mode.  I kept saying, "Please help me!  I can't breathe!"  Obviously I was breathing because I was talking, but it seemed very hard to breathe. 

After resting in the chair and having the nurses monitor me, they sent me home.  Two days in a row to be wheeled out of the office in a wheelchair to my car.  My skin was so hot to the touch and I was completely swollen.  My skin just looks fried.

I went home feeling like crap and totally defeated.  This wasn't even considered a full treatment. 

I went straight to bed when I got home and didn't hardly get out for almost 4 days.  There is no way to describe the headache I was/have been feeling.  It is not like just any headache.  It is the queen mother of all headaches.  My entire head has been sore.  Sore to the touch.  I can now see how hair falls out so quickly with these treatments.  I have spent a lot of time with an ice pack propped on the top of my head.  It seems like it just takes the edge off.  My skin looks old and dry and my hair follicles look different.  I can't explain it.  They look larger or something.  Weird.

I was hoping to be able to head to a family reunion from Wednesday to Friday, that is until I realized how sick I was going to be.  I had to miss it.  What a bummer.  But, there is NO WAY that I could have dealt with the noise and chaos.  My brother-in-law made some shirts for the reunion.  What a talent he has!  This looks exactly like my dad!  I think he would get a kick out of this shirt!
My sister Heather and her husband Rocky (and kids) came over to visit us after returning from the reunion.  She brought with her 2 gift bags.  One bag was from them.  It had a hat and several cute head coverings.  The other bag was from my sister-in-laws sister Leisle.  It was a very large gift bag completely FULL of things for me.  There were 15...yes FIFTEEN absolutely darling hats, 7 darling crotched head wraps, and three CUTE pairs of shoes!  It was like Christmas morning!  I have been worried about my lack of hats/scarves and I don't yet have a wig.  I just kept wondering when I have would have the time and energy to shop.  Even though I was feeling sick, it was an instant pick me up!  The pressure of finding head coverings was completely gone!  Thank you Heather and Leisle for saving the day!

I have been out of bed a lot more today.  I loaded and unloaded my dishwasher and did a couple batches of laundry!  Yeah me!  What an accomplishment! 

Now, I am just waiting to try another chemo drug.  There is a drug that they would like me to try that is very similar to Taxotere and Taxol--it is called Albumin.  The difference is...something to do with how they coat it, it is a protein, absorbed differently, hidden from the immune system.  I basically don't know what I am talking about.  All I care about is if it works or not and if I can tolerate it.  When I think about another allergic reaction, I feel so anxious!  Surely something is going to work!  The problem right now is, my insurance company doesn't know whether or not they want to cover this because it is more expensive.  Well, I might not have a choice.  Monday I should be hearing what they have decided.  Tuesday I have an appointment for blood work and possible chemotherapy treatment.  Oh goodness. 

I am praying that things will start to get easier soon!

The highlight of my week was last night when John, and all my kids, were laying on the bed with me watching T.V.  We were all there together, visiting, and no one was fighting or annoyed with each other.  Everyone was just relaxed.  It was just nice spending a little time with everyone.  My husband and kids are being so good and patient with me!  What a blessing!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Chemotherapy - Round 1

Yesterday was my very first day of chemotherapy.  John went with me and we had to be there at 9:00a.m.  The first hour or so was spent going over the different medicines I would be taking, and all of their side effects.  Some of the side effects are hair loss, metallic taste in my mouth, headaches, achy bones, numb fingers and toes, sores in my mouth and throat, nausea, insomnia, the list goes on.  It was quite overwhelming.  I was so grateful to have John there to help me keep it all straight--what medicines I should take and when.  After meeting with the Nurse Practitioner, they took me into a large room with lots of chairs and I.V. stands.

The nurses there were all very friendly.  They tried to put my mind at ease and make me as comfortable as possible.  My nurse put an I.V. in and initially started with saline, steroids and anti-nausea meds.  Then she brought out the first dose of chemo called Cytoxane.  It was a 30 minute drip.  While I was receiving the drip, I sucked on pieces of ice to help fight against sores forming in my mouth.  I seemed to tolerate the Cytoxane fairly well.

The next dose of chemo was Taxotere.  This chemo causes you to have numbness in your finger tips and toes for the entire 18 weeks you are on the chemo.  The nurse gave me 2 ice packs to set my hands on during the 1 hour drip to help prevent some of the numbness.  I was feeling quite cold and shivering a lot.  John bundled me up with four different blankets to help me get comfortable.  I had only been receiving the drip for 3-5 minutes when I started having an allergic reaction.  It started with chest pains and I sent John to go and get my nurse.  Then my lower back was hurting.  Before John and the nurse returned I felt like I couldn't breathe and was burning hot.  I sat up straight in my chair and started ripping the blankets off of me and was trying to catch my breath.  I felt like I was gasping for breath.  Several nurses joined me with oxygen, and they immediately stopped the I.V. drip.  They then gave me a large dose of Benedryl and Demerol.  My entire body was shaking uncontrollably.  A nurse took my blood sugar to make sure that I wasn't low.  It was very, very scary for me.

The nurse practitioner told me that I needed to go home and come back today to try it again.  This time they are going to have me take steroids before I go to see if that will make a difference.  I took pills last night and will take more before I go in this morning.  The lovely side effect of this medicine...insomnia.  I fell asleep around 12:00 and have been up since 4:00.  So, I finally decided to get up and update my journal.  Things always seem worse at night when you are lying there thinking about everything...not feeling well, all the medical bills, how to juggle all the kids schedules when I'd rather be in bed, etc.

In a few hours, I will be heading back over to the Cancer Center to try the Taxotere again.  Man that makes me nervous.  I don't want a repeat of yesterday.  It was too scary.  If my body reacts to it again, they will have to try a different type of chemo.  It's bad enough just getting the chemo and it's side effects--to say nothing of an allergic reaction. 

I was told that I should be feeling awful the rest of this week and into the next week.  As soon as I start feeling a little better, it will be just in time for Round 2.

Friday, August 16, 2013

This past week...

This past week has been busy, yet I've been doing a lot of sitting around.  It just feels better to sit than to stand.  Standing and walking (with the help of gravity) just doesn't feel too good on the incisions.  It's just too much pulling down on everything and when I say everything, I mean my boobs.  I constantly have my shoulders scrunched up around my ears and I don't have a lot of use with my left arm.  It is incredibly sore from surgery and especially where the lymph nodes were removed.  When I straighten my left arm out completely, I get pains that shoot down my arm and around my elbow.  I pray that this goes away in time.
Riley turned 17 last week, on August 6th.  The last couple of months, she has planned to "ring in the birthday" with our new friends and neighbors from across the street.  At 10 minutes to 12:00 3 neighbors---Brenna, Spencer, and Mitchell met up with Riley, Brynn, Jace, Haley, and my niece Madi--outside to set up.  They put a table and chairs right in the middle of the road.  Around the chairs they strung caution tape.  They played a Go Fish tournament.  While playing the games, they ate Gold Fish crackers and Swedish Fish.
Thursday, August 7th I went to the hospital for a CT scan.  They were checking to make sure there was no sign of cancer in my chest, lungs, abdomen, and pelvis.  I cannot believe how nervous I was for the scan.  I couldn't bear the thought of any more bad news.  When I got to the hospital, I was feeling very emotional (wow there's a surprise).  The guy doing the scan began with hooking me up to an I.V.  In the I.V. he shot some iodine that would help them to see more clearly (I'm no doctor, so I cannot give a good explanation).  It was an awful feeling.  I immediately felt like my body was 200 degrees, then I got a metallic taste in my mouth, and lastly, it made me feel warm like I just wet my pants---and no I did not wet my pants.  I kept my eyes closed tight the entire time and had the words from "A Child's Prayer" running through my head.  I could feel tears creeping through the side of my tightly closed eyes.  When the scan was all done and the guy came in to unhook the I.V., I couldn't even look him in the face.  I know he could tell that I was about to burst.  He walked me back to change my clothes and I just about had to close the door on his face.  He was trying to comfort me and also explain when the results would be complete.  Once I got the door closed, I had a nice little cry in the room.

The next day, August 8th, I called my oncologists office to find out if they had any results.  The girl I spoke to told me that everything looked clear and good.  I was so relieved!  I had a good cry when I got off the phone.  Finally, some good news!

Monday, August 5, 2013

Breast cancer sucks

An update and some total random thoughts---

Last Thursday,  I met with my oncologist to go over my treatment plan for the next 6 months or so.  This week I will be going in for a full body scan.  Two weeks from today, Monday- August 19th, I will be starting my first round of chemo.

I can't believe I was diagnosed with breast cancer June 18th, surgery July 16th, and start chemo August 19th.  What a difference a couple of months can make.  I feel like I am just still trying to process it all.

I am slowly healing from surgery---(lumpectomy with breast reconstruction).  I am full of stitches, from one side to the next.  It looks like something you would see on a crime scene show.  I didn't have the stomach to ask the surgeon how many stitches it took to complete this "look".  But, now I want to know.

I am moving at a snail pace, BUT I am up and moving.  Sleeping at night has been rough.  It is hard to get comfortable and my back it very sore from just staying in one place all night.

I am starting to be able to move my arms more.  I can do a lot more reaching, but, I drive like a total grandma.

It's been hard seeing all my friends and family go on trips and fun vacations with their kids and we are here at home looking at each other.  I don't feel sorry for me, I feel sorry for my kids.

School is around the corner, so I have something else to focus my attention on.  I hope my kids will step up to the task of doing things on their own!  This could get interesting!