Friday, December 24, 2010

The Latest

It's blurry, but it's still cute!
   We made it to see Santa at Willowbrook Mall- the kids were so dang cute!  Mykelle was talking to Santa from the line, trying to tell him what she wanted before she even sat on his lap.  When it was finally her turn, she ran up to his lap and told him she wanted a baby Cinderella doll for Christmas and that she's been good!  I sure hope Santa was listening... she'll be heartbroken if she doesn't get that doll!  Evan was good sitting on his lap, but still hasn't got down the asking for a present thing.  He was just happy to see Santa.  

   I've had further updates on the cancer and chemo front, but haven't felt like writing for a while.  Things have been busy and I've been kind of down because I have to be in the hospital for most of Christmas.  But as I keep getting told, it's all so I can experience many more Christmases with my family in the future!  I was able to have another CT scan and a PET/CT scan that came back showing "dramatic" response to the chemo, but there still being some "residual disease" left.  I have yet to hear if the doc will require an extra session of chemo before I go through the stem-cell transplant.  Currently I am in the hospital receiving chemotherapy to bring down my blood count so that I can rebuild it up with twice daily Neupogen shots after which they'll remove my stem cells to freeze for the later transplant, date TBA.  Make sense? :)

   So I'm in the hospital now on my third day of chemo.  Should be out tomorrow evening some time.  It's not been too much fun this time around, though today is a good day.  When I first came in (after a fun morning at the mall seeing Santa) it took the chemo 8 hours to start getting administered to me which meant pushing back when I get out of the hospital.  I was also under the misunderstanding (because the doctors told me wrong) that I'd be getting out Christmas Eve- nope.  Christmas day.  Then, I had a roommate that was "anti-social" as her mom put it.  I guess that means being completely rude to people around her and being whiny and grumpy?  She also kept the heat up to 80 which was almost unbearable!  I asked for a room transfer in the morning after she'd been on the phone griping about her roommate situation  and after she'd slammed the door on me... I guess it pays to complain once in a while- I got transfered to a private room with a view! 

   The same day as the transfer I was scheduled to get a catheter put in my chest where I'll be getting the stem cells removed.  While getting wheeled down on a bed to the OR the guy steering me rammed into the wall- hard!  It was kind of funny until we realized I was leaking chemo all over the floor!  They had to send people down in blue suits and gloves with masks to clean it up- and to think, that stuff they are so scared to touch is going into my veins!   The doc was great though, he played Michael Jackson for us while I was getting the surgery (my request).  When I woke, I was in intense pain so I received morphine and oxycodone- I felt like neither was working and I just had to wait it out.  To top everything off, I threw up- my first time actually throwing up since this whole thing started, so not too bad I guess!  

   I'm feeling much better today- I've been watching movies (thanks Mimi) and was even able to paint my toenails!  Things are looking up, probably since I'll be heading out soon enough.  We've decided to do Christmas for our family another day- probably Monday or Tuesday so we can be all be together.  It's a good thing our kids don't know how to read a calendar yet!

   Once again, I need to thank everyone for their support.  I'm reminded daily how blessed I am to have such caring friends and family rooting for me.  I was sent this quote by C.S. Lewis and thought it would be nice to share-

   "Imagine yourself as a living house.  God comes in to rebuild that house.  At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing.  He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised.  But presently He starts knocking that house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense.  What on earth is He up to?  The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of -- throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards.  You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace."

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Goodbye Hair, Hello Chemo Session #2

    It finally happened!  My hair started to fall out last Tuesday, Nov. 30th.  It was just a little at first.  I could pull a single strand and it would come out way too easy.  I started to worry because I knew I was going in to the hospital on Wednesday, and didn't want hair all over my room and bed, but I also didn't want to jump the gun and shave it off any sooner than I had to!  Somehow I couldn't remember how quickly it came out at 16, so I decided to wait.  

   The hospital called to tell me they may, or may not, have a room for me on Wednesday, maybe Thursday.  Supposedly a lot of people put off chemo over the Thanksgiving holiday (can we really blame them??) and it was causing a bed crunch in the cancer wing.   So now I was even more concerned about the hair... to wait, or to shave...?  Papa Skip was needing to plan which nights he'd stay at our place to help with the kids and when to go back to the hotel, making things a little stressful.  To top it off, the hospital doesn't tell you when they have a bed available until several hours before.  I know, it doesn't actually sound too stressful, but it felt like it at the time!  

   While waiting to hear from the hospital, I sat at the table with Skip and Adam and showed them just how easily my hair was coming out now.   Within 24 hours it had gone from pulling one strand out to a small handful with one swipe!

Brings back memories of my Dad's stache!
    Finally, Wednesday at 5PM I received the call, "How soon can you come in?"  Oh no!  Of course I wasn't ready!  Hadn't packed, showered, eaten dinner, or decided on shaving!  I said I could come in at 8 and that seemed to work for the nurses well enough.  Knowing how easily my hair was coming out within such a short time of it starting, I decided to take it all off!  Adam got out the clippers...

    Papa Skip held the video camera while I pulled up a chair in the kitchen and sat the kids down to a snack (so they wouldn't step all over the falling hair).  Within ten minutes it was done!  All shaved up, like GI Jane or my personal favorite, Evey Hammond (V for Vendetta, thanks for the analogy Alison ;)  Mykee and Evan were so cute!  They kept saying, "You look like a BOY!"  And laughing like it was the funniest thing around, as toddlers tend to laugh at anything remotely silly.  We are a little concerned about the kids getting hold of some scissors and deciding they want to look like Mommy, so we're keeping the scissors out of reach for awhile :)  

   Everyone has been extremely kind in complementing my new look, thank you so much!  I have to say though, I still don't know how to respond when I'm told, "You have a nice-shaped head."  Can I really take credit for genetics??  But thank you all the same, it's nice to know my head shape doesn't make me look weird on top of bald!  

Adam's good luck charm
   I made it to the hospital by 8PM to serve my time.  Because they had so many people in the cancer wing they moved me up to the eighth floor to a private room with a great view!  

Doesn't the lamp add to the healing ambience of the room...?
    Though the first night was terrible because the chemo didn't start until 3AM, the three days (and three nights this time) were much better than the first session.  I still felt weaker than I had the first time, but having my own room made a huge difference.  The only people going in and out were there for me, so I wasn't being interrupted or woken up for anyone else.  I slept much better, and the nurses on this floor seemed much more calm and collected than on the chemo floor.  If all goes well over the next couple of weeks I'll be back to this floor for the stem-cell transplant.  Something to look forward to right?

View of NYC from my room
   Recovery after chemo has gone similar to last time.  Feeling much better today than the first 3 days.  It was a little rough coming home on Saturday- I came home to Mykelle having a fever of 105!  I set my bags down and Adam and I rushed her to the doctor where they determined she had two nasty ear infections (probably from swimming in Papa's hotel pool) and put her on antibiotics.  Thankfully she's doing very well now!  

   The next step in the cancer fight is to get my blood back to normal healthy levels and get another CT/Pet scan to see if the tumors have shriveled up.   If the scans come back looking good, I'll go in for 2-5 days (outpatient) to have my own stem-cells removed from a catheter that will be put in my chest (gross!).   The cells will be frozen and I'll go back into the hospital (8th floor, private room- woohoo!) for a 6 day session of high-dose chemo followed by the actual stem-cell transplant and 10-12 days of recovery in a hospital apartment (to keep me away from outside germs that could cause serious illness).  

   I had a friend tell me the other day after reading this blog that I made cancer and chemo look easy (something about smiling in all of the pictures :)  I think she knew it is not truly easy, but I've been thinking about her comment- it must look easy because I, along with my family, have been the recipients of a tremendous amount of assistance, taking all sorts of forms- from cards with kind words of encouragement, to baby-sitting two unruly kids, to washing my dishes and everything in between!  The sincerity of the people surrounding me in sharing their time, money, affection, and talents has made this journey easier for me and my family to go through.  There is no way to repay the kindnesses shown to us over the past month, but I can tell you all that I am extremely grateful for everything.  With the steady outpouring of love, prayers, and support from friends and family that I've received in plenty, I know the events over the next month can't go anything other than perfectly well!   So to all of you out there supporting me in my fight to kick cancer's butt, thank you for helping make it easy(-er) on me!