Today marks one week past chemo and I have begun having back pain in my lower back, a result of bone marrow rebuilding and white cells being low. I’ve been warned it could happen, but it didn’t with my first round so I thought maybe I’d get lucky. I am on a heating pad and popping medicine all day. The snow and ice didn’t keep me from my infusion yesterday. My friend Betty got me to the hospital safely and we didn’t have any waiting. The Herceptin I get weekly causes the runs and fatigue so I’m not a very good party partner right now. I just feel out of it and don’t really want to do much. I’ve taken on some work orders and am slowly getting around to them. Hopefully by next week my energies will bounce back. The e-mails and phone calls are encouraging, so thank you! Your continued prayers are much appreciated as I fight back infections and try to stay safe at home. Thankfully I am enjoying food once again and the meals brought in this week were fabulous! My family is really getting spoiled! My friend asked me yesterday how I keep from getting depressed, after all, feeling like every ounce of feminity has been taken from me and many of my routine abilities as well. I told her that I count my blessings every single day. I think if you dwell on what you don’t have it would be easy to go “there” but I remember how many friends I have, how much God has cared for me, how well I am tollerating treatement, and I look forward to a new “me”, a new year awaiting me next year, and all the possibilities! I think of the dozens of people available to me who have expressed their love and concern, I think of how great my kids are doing and how independent they are. It’s impossible to get down when I am so grateful for all I have. Many others suffer without the tremendous support I enjoy. Keep looking upward and outward and all I see is joy!
Today was our first snowfall of the year! Yeah! Being a California girl, I get very excited about snow! When I was growing up it never snowed, in fact we had to drive hours to Lake Tahoe to see snow. So today’s 3 inches brings a fresh new feel to the air and a reason to get outside a bit, escaping from my warm cocoon on the couch where I have been hibernating for days. I have a treatment tomorrow morning at the hospital but they are calling for an ice storm tonight which makes me wonder how I will get there! We will have to wait and see, possibly going a little later in the day after things have melted. My nausea seems to ongoing this cycle, but I am resisting the medications as they make me VERY loopy and foggy feeling. I keep those for night time! I am beginning to feel the “slump” which occurs about 7 days following chemo therapy where the white blood cell count drops and the bone marrow begins to rebuild. I feel like my body has turned to Jell-O, as if the blood has drained right out of me. Barely up from the couch and I feel like I need to lay down again. This lasts about 4 days. Thankfully the kids were off school today and dear friends brought dinner yesterday for tonight, knowing that the weather may get bad. I am thankful everyone is taken care of. I have not succumbed to watching soap operas, rather, I have been up on all the political goings on and recent economic woes, trying to educate myself instead of becoming a vegetable. At least I will be a more interesting person at the end of all of this! Oh yes, and I have watched every imaginable talk show there is on TV during the day! I have never even heard of some of these hosts before!
All of this time alone has had me thinking about my life a year from now, who I will be, who I will become. For so many years my life was defined by motherhood, being the wife of a servicemember, and being a teacher and a crafter, but somehow now I feel myself taking on a new person. I don’t know who she is yet, and sometimes it is scary because I don’t want cancer to define who I am in the end. I just want normal back.
Thanks to the prayers of many – NO headaches! God is so good and I am praising Him for this small victory in my battle! Since my chemo therapy on Wednesday I have had nights filled with nausea and have slept a lot of them on the couch, tossing and taking medicine waiting for it to pass. No throwing up, just a nagging, persistent nauseousness. My toes have neuropathy in them when I lay down so I have them wrapped in a hot heating pad , trying to get circulation flowing. They ache at times and feel like frost bite, tingly and cold. I have two hats covering my very cold bare head. Who knew that hair was such an insulator? My stubble, or “head whiskers” litter the floor and sinks if I don’t cover up…it is very patchy and thin now. My mouth feels like a thin layer of slime, and taste is hard to find. This is perhaps the most annoying side effect considering I really do love to eat! My ears keep plugging with fluid making my equilibrium a bit shaky so I am spending most of the day on the couch. The Lord is faithful to continue providing all I need, and friends are so gracious to bring meals prepared with love going on 3 months now! I am blessed!
So far I feel pretty good today and the only notable side effects from yesterday’s chemo seem to be fatituge, slight controllable nausea and a funny feeling in my mouth again. Food flavors are a bit dulled. I still have my hearty appetite, though! I have spent the day completing all of my incoming jewelry orders, and went to the post office to get those mailed out. Looking forward to a lazy weekend of watching movies and maybe enjoying a walk in these 50 degree temperatures before they fall once again. The fresh air feels good and moves the toxins along through my body. I am drinking a ton of water. So far so good! No headaches (yet anyways). Keep praying!
Psalm 30: 10 – 12
“Hear, O LORD, and be gracious to me;
O LORD, be my helper.”
You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;
You have girded me with gladness,
That my soul may sing praise to You and not be silent O LORD my God, I will give thanks to You forever!”
Well, here’s where I spent the day – just reclining and reading my book! 7 /12 hours – like a “real” job! Ha! I’m working full time at beating this thing called breast cancer, and occasionally I have to go ‘in’ to the ‘office’ 🙂 Too bad they don’t pay me to sit here. Tim sat in the chair to my left, reading, checking work e-mail, and running errands for me, like grabbing lunch or a nurse when the infusion bags would empty.
Today we left the house at 6 a.m., picked up my fellow chemo friend I met last week, then got home at 4 pm to find dinner waiting on the counter! Thank you Melissa! How nice! They placed me in this chair today in a room with only this chair and a bed, which an elderly lady was in. She slept most the day. You can see I have a small TV to watch, but nothing was really on except talk shows and sports. On the other side of me, next to that cart by my chair, was a blood draw chair, so patients filtered in and out all day long to get their blood drawn. We saw two young dads there, one of whom told us he was a soldier from N.C. being treated for lymphoma. There were also several older patients, one a 58 year woman being treated for advanced pancreatic cancer. I found myself feeling like one of the lucky ones! My friend whom we drove to treatment today got her blood drawn and her white cell counts were too low for her to receive chemo. She must now wait until Monday. I really do feel lucky to be tolerating this as well as I am.
We met with my oncologist for a thorough history and physical. He told me I would be losing my hair soon, and when I told him I already had, and that this wasn’t my real hair he was very surprised and said it looked so natural! Whew that made me feel good. He told us the effects are cumulative, so we can expect this round to get me down more than the last one, as far as fatigue, and he armed me with a morphine prescription just in case I get the headaches. We pray that they won’t occur. Tim will give me another shot tomorrow to boost my white blood count. Anticipating pre-med early on in college, he had always dreamed of this! I’m afraid it’s the closest thing he’ll get to be to becoming a doctor.
I have taken several jewelry orders, which I intend to fill tomorrow while still feeling good, but I enjoy continuing the things I am able to do. It makes me feel like life is fairly normal, and that I am useful and productive. Living life to its fullest! That is the “goal” in the end of this journey so I’d like to get started on that NOW, thank you!
To all of you who are praying, I truly feel God answering them, a peace that passes understanding, and I’d just ask you pray especially Saturday through Wednesday, that the headaches won’t return and I will regain my strength quickly. Thank you so much!
UPDATE: THURSDAY 1/22/09 Nauseated since 10 p.m. last night and all through the night. Took anti-nausea medicine three times through the night. Next morning still queasy. Otherwise feeling okay.
This was my first full week wearing a wig. I now realize what other women have told me about this phase of treatment, that wigs are not comfortable and you will soon decide to ditch the whole idea. It is true! Wigs are uncomfortable and pinch at the ears so much that after a few hours, you are happy to fling it off your head and let out a big “AHHHHHHHH!” Relief! Most women I have talked to have said that around the house they go without anything. I tried that and my dog barked at me! I didn’t like the person I saw walking past the mirror, either! So I have opted for a hat around the house, and a wig with hat when going out. I really only went to three public places this week and that was to church twice and to the kids’ concert at their high school. It is very strange when you see people you know and the look on their face says it all. It’s as if they’re not sure if you have lost your hair or not, and then they kind of do the double take, hmmmm, it certainly LOOKS real! To me, it looks anything but natural, but my 15 year old daughter assures me that it does and I feel a little less intimidated. Maybe because it feels so NOT natural! It’s like “going public” is a sneaky thing, fooling everyone around you that you have hair when you really don’t! But I remind myself that these people, whoever they are, probably don’t care very much and if they don’t know my story, they certainly haven’t even noticed! The kids have really helped me get through this period of time and I am so grateful!
You also don’t realize how much heat escapes through your head and so with the brutally cold days we have had here, I have had a hat on 24 hours a day, with or without the wig. My favorite hairpiece is actually the one in this picture because it is a partial wig, meaning, there is no hair at the top. It is a soft t-shirt fabric cap and a stretchy headband with human hair attached at the back, thick enough to form a pony tail, and then thinner full length bangs attached at the front which I swoop behind the ears, and can wear without anything binding across the tips of the ears. I can wear it like this, or in a ponytail that goes through the back of a baseball cap opening, which is sporty looking. It is so much more comfortable than a wig. The wigs have their place and occasions to be worn, but on most days I will decide comfort over fashion.
This long weekend will be spent preparing for the next chemo round which is Wednesday this week. I feel like I am getting ready to go on a very long ten day vacation from my family! To the COUCH! ( I wish it were to the warm sunny beach somewhere in the Bahamas!) So I am doing things like making sure the laundry is caught up and the cupboards and refrigerator are stocked. I also got my bloodwork done Saturday morning, as they have to make sure my white blood cell count is high enough to receive the chemo therapy in a few days.
We are asking for an army of prayers to go up Thursday and Friday for me, that I not experience the headaches that I did last time. I am reading a book written by a breast cancer survivor, and she actually held the bags of chemo therapy drugs they handed to her so that she could verify the dosing and her name, etc. and she closed her eyes right then and there and prayed over the drugs, that they be used for good and not for harm, and that their effects would not make her ill. When she finished praying, her nurse standing next to her, as she did this, said “AMEN!” !
“For I know the plans I have for you”, declares the LORD, “Plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope!”
Today is Thursday and it’s been a good week of feeling totally normal, doing all my normal everyday activities, and catching up on things like laundry and housework. I have been a little more tired than usual but have taken short naps to energize myself. Getting use to wearing a wig and hats is a challenge, especially on a very blustery day like today! Somehow I just can’t shake the idea of that shaven head underneath it all, but I’ve managed to fool a couple of friends who didn’t know I had lost my hair 😉 I guess I look more natural than I feel. Actually it is kind of fun going from short hair to long hair all in the same day, if I feel like it ! I enjoyed a night of bunco with friends, and felt very comfortable in their company. It felt good to laugh and share with each other all the things going on in our lives. There’s a level of comfort knowing that life continues to unfold, kids have their up and down days of school, and we gather at the dinner table to bond as a family. Friends get pregnant and share their happy news, others talk of upcoming vacation plans. This is what it feels like to fight cancer….to know that no matter what, it won’t consume our conversations and our daily activities, and that taking pleasure in the things we enjoy is like saying “You can’t beat me down, Cancer!” I have taken and filled several jewelry orders this week and have felt great about resuming my business (as I am able). It is a wonderful opportunity to work from home but to know that I can “put on the brakes” if I have to. I feel incredibly blessed by notes of encouragement via e-mail or in the mailbox, flowers delivered, meals brought by, or just a phone call to say how are you feeling? I am surrounded by an army of supportive friends and family who are helping me get through this fight. It is a fight sometimes to resist the emotions of sadness, pity or anger, but my army “says” press on – you are strong”!
Romans 8 :35, 37
” Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Christ who loved us.”