Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Finally

It's quiet this morning - everyone is keeping to themselves, and that's not a bad thing.  It gives us all time to focus on what we need to do and where we need to be in the future.  Also gives us some time to build energy.  Always a good thing.

Finally, finally, I completed chemo, yesterday.  It's a good feeling to know that now, I can really build some energy, get my platelets up, build some red blood cells and grow some magnesium. My fervent prayer is that the treatments did their thing and that my change in lifestyle will keep any future cancer at bay.  After all, I have been sliced, diced, nuked and poisoned!  Living through all of it just HAS to have a happy outcome.

If my next set of labs come back good, I can return to work in May.  If my energy surges, I can get the house as clean as it should be, and the yard will look spectacular!  I haven't been able to pay attention to the outside since last May, when all this came to light, and needless to say, it is a jungle out there.  I'm considering having a yard company come in for the worst of it.  I've never handled a chainsaw (that's right!  need chain sawing) in my life, and it is NOT on my bucket list.  Then, there will be debris to haul away.  Another thing I want to do is build a fire pit - the one of my dreams! - out of either brick or cinderblocks so that when I gather up the pine cones and cut down undergrowth, pick up limbs, etc...I can do a nice little burn at dusk, and sit there with a glass of tea and enjoy the fire.  Peaceful!

Looking forward to the future is so wonderful.  having a positive outlook is even better.  And having gratitude trumps both.  I thank you, God, for all you have done, and for the people you have sent into my life.  Please take care of each and every one of them.


Saturday, March 24, 2018

Just when you thought it was almost over

Well, after the last surge of energy and enthusiasm, cumulative side effects (I hope) have reared their ugly heads and attacked like I walked into a booby trap.  Having a lot of pain - joints, bones, and skin, even.  Until now, I've done well to do without pain medication, but the time has come for some relief.  And though this sounds like complaining, it really isn't.  It's just stating facts.

The chemo infusion on the 21st was cancelled because my platelets barely rebounded.  Last CBC, they were 47, so no treatment then.  This time, they climbed to 55, so there has been another 2 week delay.  April 3 is the new big day.  It has been 6 weeks since the last one.  Oh, and my magnesium level, already a little low, dipped again, also.  That deficiency could be where the pain is coming from.  I'm currently on 400 mg magnesium oxide 3 x daily, and I have been stuffing my face with foods rich in that mineral to no avail.  The good news is, though I'm still anemic, the lab value was a little higher this time.  Hey, it's a step in a positive direction!  And I lost 5 pounds - a good thing, because it was fluid. 

During all of this, I have read voraciously anything I could get my hands and eyes on, and have learned a lot.  I also joined a support group.  The ladies - peach sisters, so named because the endometrial cancer ribbon is peach colored - have been a tremendous source of information.  We need that information because not all oncologists have time to share those tidbits of knowledge, and not all oncologists have the same outlook on how to treat this disease.

One of the books I've read is Anticancer:  A New Way of Life by Dr. David Servan-Schrieber, who is a 14-year survivor.  His anticancer recommendations are:  living a positive life, strict attention to diet, and a clean environment.  He must be on to something, seeing as he has survived brain cancer for so long.  He offers tips on meditation, what chemicals to avoid (did you know you should avoid dry cleaning your clothes and not to use scented candles/wax melts?!), and which foods actually cause cancer cells to commit suicide.  Not all oncologists put any faith in particular diets, aside from a well-rounded one, and many scoff at superfoods.

Two cookbooks I've bought are The Cancer Fighting Kitchen and The Mediterranean Cookbook.  Both offer a healthier way of eating.  The Cancer Fighting Kitchen actually gives foods and recipes to combat the side effects of chemotherapy, and has been a godsend on those sick days.

There are more books I want to read, but $108 for one of them simply isn't in my budget and probably never will be.  BUT - I find the books are a better source of info than the conflicting articles found on the internet.  IF you have cancer, the net is not usually the place to start research (although there are some legitimate sites that aren't trying to sell miracle cures), and if you don't have cancer, the thing to do is arm yourself against it with knowledge, and even then, there are no guarantees.

I could be wrong, but I believe the diet I was following before diagnosis may have stopped the cancer from spreading as quickly as it could have otherwise.  Beans, kale, cabbage, broccoli, carrots, sweet potatoes, so much garlic and ginger ...you get it.  The reason i think this is, I had cancer at least a year before diagnosis.  My symptoms were late stage, and although mine is aggressive, only one lymph node out of seventeen was positive for metastasis.  There may have been more throughout my body, but no tumors showed on the Petscan.  I'll take that as a positive.

At this point, my head is full of all kinds of useless trivia and some very good insights as to strategies to hopefully prevent recurrence.  What to expect, realisticlly, from chemo and how to deal with the days after infusion.  What I haven't quite harnessed yet is how to live after treatment has ended.  The closer it gets, the more unsure and frightened I become, for various reasons.  It's the next stage in my life with cancer.

I have decided to do a blog that may serve as a guide for anyone who is preparing to go through this ordeal, and I'll tell you why - NOTHING could have prepared me for the last year.  It is not an easy journey, and anyone who sugarcoats it is not helping deal with it, although the intentions are good.  Remain positive - right?  The truth is, there are going to be days you aren't sure you'll live through.  There are going to be days you spend crying.  And a breakdown every now and then is ok, as long as you can find it in you to dry your eyes when it's over, get back up with renewed vigor (i use that term loosely) and pick up the fight again.  I'm having a hard time right now keeping my thoughts straight - chemo brain is REAL! - but my vision is to help prepare someone and arm them with more than just an honorable mention on methods that can only help.  An expert I am not but I've been through it.

Hey, it's something to focus on.  And a purpose.  We all need that.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

One More To Go

I'm a little over 4 weeks since chemo, and will have 1 more on the 21st of March.  The last one! I am overhoyed and apprehensive, at the same time.  No scan, per the doctor, so how will they know treatment actually worked?  How will I know if the pain I feel is just your ordinary, run-of-the-mill, age-related aches?  I don't have answers to either question, BUT!

I am determined to do everything in my power to make sure my body is as cancer proof as it can be. A week or two ago, I started paying attention to diet, more specifically, nutrition.  Lots of veggies, no red meat, organically fed chicken, omega 3 eggs, wild-caught salmon, and since sardines are (ick) the worst things I ever tasted, Kipper Snacks.  Added green tea (not much for now, don't want anything to interfere with chemo), ginger tea, all those things (or, most of them) that stock a cancer killing kitchen.  I can't tell you whether or not there is a slaughter in progress, but  good HEAVENS, there is such a change in my mood!  That can probably be attributed to the omega 3's, and if it's true, I will never again take another antidepressant. 

I woke up yesterday morning, and magically, had the desire to shower, dress, and put on some make-up.  To do some laundry, which did happen, but amazingly, not only did I wash clothes, I PUT THEM AWAY!! Regardless of how breathless I was, regardless that every step felt like slogging through cold molasses.  That was a big step for me.

There's a big possibility this could be because the last chemo was so long ago and the side effects have abated significantly, but the diet probably has a lot to do with it, also.  Resume work day is May 1, and I was wondering how in the world I could do it.  Maybe it will happen, maybe my energy will increase, maybe I can get my life back!  If I do, it will be better than it was before.

I want to give back more than before.  There are so many places and situations that need community involvement...going to see where I can best serve. 

For now, I need to get up and get things done.  It's a good St. Patty's day!

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Just Looking Back

On the surface, my life has been little more than ordinary, most times boring beyond words.  Yet, there is so much more, below the surface.  I have truly been blessed.

I have seen a skulk of foxes running toward my car as I drove down Ashemont Road.  Have seen racoons playing on an embankment, have watched a deer hunker down and make her escape while a group of hunters with their backs turned plotted their hunting strategy.  I never said a word, just admired her and snickered a little at the hunters.  Have seen two deer swim in the pond where we were fishing, and have watched one eat crabapples at the fence.  I have escaped injury when the neighbors' horses broke through their fence and thundered through my yard, shaking the ground, running for all their worth.

I have had the love of many good dogs throughout my life -- two of them protected me from what they perceived as threats, and very well could have been.  

I have felt the sun warm my skin, and water cool the burn in the summer.  I have heard the sound of snow against snow, have marvelled at the renewal of life in the spring.  I have watched the sky, heard the birds singing as though they were rejoicing at the break of day.  I have watched the mist rise from mountain tops, and have been lulled to sleep by the sound of the ocean as it found its way to shore.

I have confronted an undercover drug enforcement agent when he asked me where he could score some good stuff (a serious case of mistaken identity) and lectured him on the dangers of drugs, and how the people behind my place of employment were being strong-armed out of their social security checks.

I have fled with my mother to safety after finding her, bloodied, trapped in my drunk father's arms, have later poured his stash down the drain in front of him. At a later time, I had the good sense to scream for help when, stone cold sober, he tried to choke me.  He let me go.  And once, when I was fifteen, I stopped him from leaving the house with a loaded gun, bent on revenge, and was able to talk him down.

I have made mistakes, poor choices, but managed to work through them and come out a little worse for the wear, but a little wiser.

I have carried life twice, and may not have been the perfect parent, but I learned what it feels like to love a child and have been awed at how powerful and enduring that love can be.

I have walked down the halls with a concentrated population of rapists, murders, and other offenders and have been protected and safe.  I have read sex offenders their duty to report and have had them tell me unbelievable bits of information I never asked for and didn't want to know, and have wondered about why and what the purpose of hearing and seeing all of this has been.  I have entered an intensive control block and have been treated respectfully.  There IS a power in the universe that watches over all of us.  Of that, I am certain.

I have lost my brother, parents, and best friend in a short period of time and let the pain and grief take me under and stayed there until, one day, I found myself surface and carry on.  All of us...all of us...have more strength than we ever knew, and can survive that which we thought would surely kill us.

I have battled cancer, am still battling cancer, and am not sure which of us will win the fight, but I don't have time to be afraid, until the wee hours of the morning when all is quiet and there's too much time to think and regret all that I have not done or seen. I worry my life has been too dull, I haven't done enough for other people or myself  and every time I ask myself what I should do, the response is immediate - Fight!  And that's what I will do.

I'm just not finished being amazed by life, just yet.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Endometrial Cancer

Endometrial/uterine cancer is probably one of the least researched cancer, and the most common cancer among women.  If caught early, prognosis is good.  If not, depending on the type of tumor, prognosis can be poor. It is not like people seem to think, that it is the most curable cancer.  It can be, but also can NOT be.

This post is not written from a medical standpoint.  I am not in the healthcare field.  However, I am a regular  post- meonopausal woman who is diagnosed with mixed carcinoma.  I have high grade stage IIIC-1 metastatic serous adenocarcinoma and am currently undergoing chemo and radiation.  This type of cancer is particulary aggressive and will be treated like ovarian cancer.

My symptoms were vague:  unexplained weight loss (seemed like a dream come true!  I could eat whatever I wanted and still lose weight.  If that happens, get thee to a physician ASAP and make them listen.  My doctor didn't listen to me when he marveled at my weight loss and I told him I had not tried).

Low back pain, spotting, hip pain (my hip actually locked up while walking), fatigue, lower abdominal bloating, cramps.  I thought it was:  1. my regular back pain, because I am an older woman and the doctor told me each time I complained that..well, you ARE getting older...2.  Maybe I wasn't quite finished with my periods, who knew.  The cramps do feel like menstrual cramps.

I am posting this in hopes that it helps another woman.  Advice to you:

Have regular pap smears.  My cancer actually showed up on the pap smear.

If you notice any of the symptoms above, especially the bleeding, no matter how light, and the weight loss, seek treatment immediately.  DO NOT delay. 

DO NOT let your medical provider disregard your symptoms.  If he/she won't listen, call your gynecologist and insist upon tests.  DO NOT let your provider tell you, well..you are getting older.  Your life may depend on it.

DO YOUR RESEARCH!  There are more symptoms than what you have read here.

No matter what your age, PLEASE BE AWARE that heavy periods can also be an indicator.  There are 20-something year olds in my support group who have been diagnosed with endometrial cancer. It is not as uncommon as you might think.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Encouragement? i'm going to take it as such

Got the test results from my CA 125 test.  The value is 19, normal range is 0-35.  The lab included a disclaimer with words to the effect of - these results should not be an indicator of the presence or absence of cancer without other tests.  BUT - I'm taking it as a sign of good things to come.

It's a good day.  :-)

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Bald is Beautiful

On my visits to the oncologist, I see ladies with pretty scarves covering their hairless heads.  Some women can carry off that look, kind of cute and feminine.  They definitely don't wear that resigned look on their faces, and the ones I've seen still have their eyelashes and eyebrows.  In the face of what really matters - fighting for their lives - hair loss seems a fair trade-off.

Trust and believe, it doesn't seem that small when your hair begins falling out.  Two weeks to the day of the first treatment, I was riding in my husband's truck, windows down, and I kept seeing these wispy things fly around the cab.  What IS that?...At first, I had no idea, but I caught one.  It was my hair, detaching from my head in the wind.

It isn't that hard to describe that first reaction:  a little bit of horror mixed with a little disbelief.  But I knew this was coming, Dr. S. had said it would happen.  Yet, i was overcome with grief, and I cried.  It's not that my hair was so beautiful, but it had that wave to it that gave it a smoky, 50's kind of look when it was cut right.  And besides, I was kind of attached to it.

I had the foresight to buy some chemo caps before treatment began, so I plopped one of my head when we got home.  Took it off a while later and it was full of strands.  By then, I was used to the idea of losing it.  It's a trade-off, and it's temporary.  I can live with it, in more ways than one.

This morning, it's coming out in clumps.  My eyelashes are next.  I can feel them itching and stinging, and I'm scared to rub them or even put mascara on.  Losing those might be a little harder, but, there again, a trade-off.  And they will grow back, too.

It's nothing but vanity, you know?

I wanted to prepare my son for my new look.  He's taking all this a little hard, even though he tries not to show it.  I know because when we talk on the phone, he says I love you before we hang up.  He is a young man of few words and an overabundance of testosterone that keeps him from always showing his softer side. When I told him of my impending baldness, he said, Let me know when you get it shaved so I can shave mine, too.  His show of love and support brought tears to my eyes, but I hope he doesn't shave his head.  Again.  he spent the last 5 years looking like Mr. Clean (his choice) and has just recently began sporting his hair again  - complete with a little styling and some gel to keep it looking that way.  He is handsome with or without, but he looks really nice with, and I can tell he likes it.  I hope he'll keep his.

Today, I'm going to the prison for an employee appreciation dinner.  Can't decide whether to wear my cap or not, but probably will.  Would hate for the fan to hit me and blow hair all over everybody's food.  After that, I'll be off in search of bandanas, hats, and some earrings.  Might as well rock the look!

It really is a small price to pay for a chance to live.