Thursday, September 23, 2010

Round 2 Update

Just a quick update... I can't believe it has been 2 weeks since I last posted, time seems to be going by so quickly.

I am now 4 days into my second round of chemo. I am very tired and spend a lot of time resting, but all things considered I am doing well.

I did receive some very encouraging news on Monday, the oncologist confirmed that the tumor is shrinking, it is softer, and the edges are not as well defined. In short -- the chemo is working.

I will try to update more frequently, thank you for keeping us in your thoughts and prayers.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

I'm still here... just sort of different.

I have so much to say, I don't even know where to start. I can't even start at the beginning because I don't remember it. Appearantly chemo drugs will do that to you. Chemo drugs can really mess with your mind. I didn't anticipate that.

The last 48 hours have been... interesting. My mind has been exposed to all sorts of new ideas about life, and fighting off death (seven times), and perfect bodies, and world peace, and how to achieve the impossible. You probably just laughed and told your computer that I was crazy. Don't worry, my oncologist had the same reaction but was more polite and only discussed it quietly on the phone as he scheduled my consultation with the doctor at the inpatient psych ward.

I was smart enough not to say too much to the emergency room nurses, though. I know they deal with all sorts of people who see what I have seen and most of them are either strung out on who-knows-what or actually are crazy.

But rest asurred, I am not. I am still very much sane, happy and safe in my home with my loving husband and adorable children. I have all of these words just bursting inside me though, and this little blogspot just does not have enough 1s and 0s to fit my needs. So I have decided that.....

I am going to write a book.

Now every single one of you who know me in person must be terrified right now because that is not something I would do. I am far too practical, and far too logical, and far too mathmatically-minded (not to mention far too busy!) to spend countless hours typing in words. BUT!!! you do not know me while I am on mind altering medications, and it has been brought to my attention that THAT side of my brain has a lot to say.

So stay tuned, my friends, because my book is coming. It probably won't be soon though, because first I must sleep (which I have not done since Tuesday morning), and then I must spend time with my family because I have missed them so very much while I was sleeping last week. And then of course it will probably take a while to actually type the thing. I wonder how long that normally takes. I will need to ask some of my friends in the publishing world. <-- This is my first attempt at being funny in print, because of course nobody cool enough to be in the "publishing world" would be friends with a math nerd like me. OH! I actually do know someone, my son's Latin teacher just finished writing a book, I should ask her how long it takes. (OK, this is an inside joke for my local friends, our dear friend recently finished writing her book after ten years, sent it to an editor who thinks it is amazing, and we are all so excited and proud!)

If anyone who reads this blog happens to be in the publishing world and wants to offer me free advice, it's really not necessary. This isn't going to be one of those REAL books that people buy in stores and talk about at work. It probably won't even be one of those books my high school friends will buy out of pity so they can own "That cute little book Colleen wrote when she was messed up on all those chemo meds, Bless her heart." It is going to be a book about me, what I think about things, and what I think about when I have 216 consecutive hours of deep thought. And you never know, I might just have the answers to all of those problems keeping you awake at night.

P.S. Honestly, you do not need to worry about me. Over the past 2 days they have given me a wide range of tests that have shown no signs of infection, my white blood cell counts have rebounded nicely, I am off of all meds, and they are adjusting my nausea and pain meds for the next round of chemo scheduled 9/20 (since I had NO pain or nausea at all the first round). I am in a very good place physically, emotionally, and spiritually right now, and for a breast cancer patient that is pretty great. XOXOXO

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Chemo Reality

Reality is starting to sink in.

I knew chemo was going to be tough, I researched as much as I could before it started and was ready for all of the expected physical side effects. I have a collection of products to help with dry mouth and nausea and itchy scalp. We hired nannies to care for the kids while Jason is at work. My mom was here for the first few days after chemo. I paid all of my online bills in advance. I stocked my pantry. I thought I was prepared.

I was not prepared for being gone for a whole week. That is what it feels like. I have been sleeping about 20 hours per day for the last 7 days, and when I am awake I am in a fog -- there are a couple of days I don't even remember. It is such a strange feeling, as a homeschooling mom I normally mentally track about 100 different details but at this moment I can't even tell you what my kids ate for lunch today. I haven't left my house in 3 days, and I didn't leave my bedroom on Monday because I could barely walk.

Along with the physical fatigue and mental fog, my body also stopped producing saliva. I have never really given much thought to saliva, but trying to eat a saltine cracker without it sure made me miss it. I was constantly sipping water to keep my mouth from drying out, but I have not been able to eat anything since Sunday at lunch. I haven't had any nausea, but just physically could. not. eat.

My mom was worried about me and flew back up on Monday evening. She took me in to the doctor today, they suspect I have an infection somewhere (I have had bouts of fever that my whole body gets drenched in sweat) and drew 3 vials and 5 large syringes of blood to have cultured, along with a urine culture (it was very bloody) and chest x-ray. We should get the results in a couple of days, but they have put me on a strong antibiotic in the meantime. It is the same antibiotic I was on for the third round of treating my antibiotic-resistant mastitis 2 years ago, and I know how it affects me -- joint pain and fatigue, just what I need more of. They also confirmed that I was dehydrated and gave me a bag of fluids. I have been drinking lots of water and even some Gatorade, but not enough to stay caught up.

I wish I could tell you that I was doing great, and I guess if I dig deep enough for a silver lining I can add that I have not had any nausea or mouth sores (though I am taking 3 different anti-nausea meds, and sores probably require saliva to form). I was finally able to eat something tonight -- a few bites of mashed potatoes while at the doctor, and a few bites of pasta stars at home. It was pretty exciting. My mom was proud.

I am not really sure what to expect going forward. On one hand I now realize that dry mouth is normal, but complete lack of saliva is not. Fatigue is normal, but sleeping 20 hours every day is not. I can keep a better eye on these things now that I know the difference. On the other hand, I have read that some of the effects of chemo are cumulative, meaning they get worse as treatment goes on. I can't really plan for these things.

My dad is arriving later today to take care of me for a while. After what happened on Sunday and Monday, my moms and dads decided that I need full time care and they are rearranging their lives to take turns being here, to be sure I stay on top of my meds, to drive me to doctor appointments, and to help with the kids. It is a strange thing to need to be taken care of by your parents at 33 years old, a time when some of my friends are starting to take care of their aging parents.

Jason has been great all through this, but he has to go to work during the day, and he has to do double duty in the evening. It has been hard on him practically being a single parent. I'm glad we chose to keep traditional wedding vows, he's getting a good dose of better/worse, richer/poorer, sickness/health all at once.

I think my boys are doing ok, though I only see them for a couple of hours each day. I am hoping that I will feel a little better today and spend some time with them. The nannies we hired are great, but they just don't know my boys like I do. I am trying very hard to fight off the guilt of how chemo is affecting their lives.

I guess that is about it for now. It is 5 in the morning, but all things considered I don't have the right to complain about not being able to sleep.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Treatment Day 3: Quick Update

Just a quick update... I am doing ok. I am very fatigued, but so far no nausea or other side effects. I am hungry and worn out, surprisingly similar to the first trimester of pregnancy (calm down! I'm not pregnant! ha ha).

Thank you for the messages and cards and notes, it helps keep my spirits up to read them. My mom is staying with us for a few days to tend to me and we have hired nannies to help with the kids and around the house. Yesterday was Jason's last day of working two jobs, and the kids are looking forward to their classes starting up next week (Ronan will be in preschool 5 days, older 3 will attend co-op classes they have been taking for 3 years, and Brayton takes a couple of online classes).

So at this moment, all is well.

Lesson for today: sometimes life hands you lemons. What you choose to make with those lemons is up to you.