Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas from Florida

Merry Christmas from sunny south Florida!

We're having a great time visiting family and catching up with friends. I have spent the past two afternoons out by the pool just soaking up the warm, sunny weather. This is exactly what I needed.

And how's this for a "feel good" story... I went to a local nail salon to get a pedicure this morning. As I was sitting in the spa chair, I told the woman who was working on my feet that I had just finished chemo and was so excited to be able to get a pedicure again. I went to pay for my service and someone had paid for my pedicure.

I found out it was a woman who was getting a pedicure two chairs down from me. Unbelieveable. I gave her a big hug and thanked her and told her she really didn't need to do that but she insisted.

I told her that she needed to promise me that she would do her self-exams and get her annual mammograms and she promised. We hugged and I left the salon with yet another example of how huge some people's hearts can be. Amazing.

I know that when I get through this -- I will definitely need to pay it forward.

Hope you all have a wonderful holiday season spent with those you love.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

So you think you can bloat?

I will bet I can bloat better than you...

Friday evening I was feeling fine and decided to sit at my desk and get caught up on some email. A couple of hours later, I got up from my desk and tried to walk to my bedroom when I realized my ankles wouldn't bend. They were stiff and just wouldn't bend at all.

When I looked down, this is what I saw. How disgusting and scary is this?!

My last chemo was on December 7 and the doctor said I could stop taking my diuretic one week later. I took my last Lasix on Wednesday and this is what happened to me on Friday. Needless to say, I am back on my diuretic. I also bought some compression stockings to wear until the fluid retention went down.

To top it all off, Saturday night I had an employee Christmas party to attend. I am usually all worked up about what to wear, how to do my hair, etc. Not this year. I didn't have much of a choice. I pulled on stretch pants and found a top that had some red in it and still fit. No sexy shoes for me. I wore my compression stockings and Dansk clogs. They were the only shoes that I could get on my feet. They were brown and my stretch pants were black. Oh well - it was the best I could do. And hair - how to do my hair? What a joke. I put on a wig and called it good.

Today the swelling is down and I am back to normal. Whatever that is. I don't feel normal at all. I feel lost. I look in the mirror and I barely recognize myself.

My goal for 2012 is simple. Get myself back. Hopefully stronger and healthier than before all this mess.

Friday, December 16, 2011

My Bullet List

I loved bullet lists. Why is that? Anyway - here is the bullet list that is running through my chemo brain right now.

  • I just realized this morning that I have absolutely no nose hairs. None. I must admit that I love having no body hair thanks to chemo. But no nose hair is DA BOMB. Seriously. And no "tailfeathers." That's cool, too. I may keep that up even after the hair starts to grow back in. Just sayin'...

  • I am so excited about our trip to Florida for Christmas. I absolutely cannot wait to see my family and friends and soak up some sun. I am just not sure what I am going to wear. None of my shorts from last summer fit me now. Bah humbug.

  • We just got a new car two weekends ago. I love it. After sharing one car for the past year, having two cars again is a LUXURY.

  • My husband got a job. Actually, he is starting his own business. He will be selling AFLAC insurance to employees who do not have robust benefit plans through their employers. It doesn't matter what he's doing. I am just thankful he has found something he is interested in. The money will follow (I hope).

  • I love the TV series "Breaking Bad." OMG. This series makes "The Sopranos" look like crap. The series was created by a guy from Richmond, VA and he makes some references to the people and places he knew growing up here. The scripts are clever, the story line is intriguing. Bryan Cranston is a great actor. I can't get enough. But you can't just start watching it. You must rent it from Netflix (or wherever) and start from Season 1, Episode 1. It's worth it.

  • I plan on baking LOTS of Christmas cookies this weekend. At least - that is my plan.

  • I'm happy. Really freakin' happy. And I am so thankful to be done with chemo. I love my life. I hope it stays this happy.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Lessons Learned: Create Yourself a Medical Binder

I highly recommend creating your own medical binder.

And I mean a kickass, huge, three-ring medical binder. You will need it. I started out with a three-ring binder that was 1.5" in diameter. I am up to the jumbo 3" size and still growing. If you go through chemo, the binder is a must because there is no way you will be able to remember any of this stuff.

I have my binder separated into sections:

  • One section for each doctor. I ask for copies of everything whenever I have an appointment and put my records in the binder. This helps when I am going to doctor appointments - a doctor may not have received my latest test results. With my binder in tow, I can usually pull out the latest and greatest information which definitely saves time at appointments and makes things go a little smoother.

  • A section for my medical bills and corresponding claims, payment history, etc. This section is really useful to have on hand in case you have a question about a bill, a claim or need to follow up on a payment when you are at the doctor's office. It also helps me stay on top of what I've had done and who did it to me. (haha!)

  • A calendar section to write down appointments and keep track of procedures. This helps when the doctor wants to know the last time you had your blood counts checked or received your Neulasta injection. I can quickly look at my calendar and say: I had my blood counts checked on XYZ date without hesitation.

  • A section that lists all medications you are taking or have taken. My list includes everything from my chemo drugs to my Vitamin D supplement to my laxative. Seriously. I write down what I take on a daily, weekly, monthly or as needed basis. If you stopped taking something, keep track of when you stopped. You can also keep notes on side effects, etc. This is a huge help if you have to see a new doctor or end up in the ER for any reason. Trust me.

  • A section for notes and questions you want to ask your doctor. Keep your questions and answers together and just keep adding to them. This is important because one healthcare provider may give you one answer to a question while another provider might disagree. It's best to have all your questions and answers in one place so you can easily refer to them when you have an appointment.

  • A section with important phone numbers. I keep every doctor's phone number and emergency contact. I also keep other important phone numbers including the number for my pharmacy (I cannot tell you how many times I am asked for that information!). You might keep all your phone numbers in your list of contacts on your cell phone. That's fine but in a situation where someone else might need to call on your behalf (like your spouse or a friend), I think it's easier to just have everything in one place.

I carry my binder to all my appointments. Sometimes I need it and sometimes I don't. But when a doctor or nurse or other healthcare provider asks me a question, the answer is usually in my binder and I am always glad I have it with me.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

I'm Done With Chemo!!

Today has been a very good day in more ways than one.

First, I just read a post from Ann on her blog "Breast Cancer? But Doctor I Hate Pink." She's home from the hospital for now and still fighting her infection. But she sounds strong in her post and I have a very good feeling that she is going to fully recover. You are in my thoughts and prayers, Ann.

And my thanks to everyone who left a comment on my last post about being worried about Ann. She obviously touches a lot of our lives through her blog.

My big news is that I finished my six rounds of chemo today! WOO HOO! My husband got me a sweet card that had a penguin jumping in the air on the front and shouting "Woo Hoo!" He knows me so well... After 23 years, he should - hehe!

Here are a couple of pictures for your viewing pleasure. I had to take one with my Boston Red Sox cap on. I am hoping that 2012 will be a better year for our team and for me.

Here is a picture of my nurse hooking me up to my first chemo drug. She has to wear a HAZMAT outfit when she handles the chemo -- that's how nasty the stuff is.

Happy, happy, joy, joy, joy!

I just hope and pray that I don't ever have to go through this again. For now, I am focusing on the positive - chemo is OVER!

And being the planner that I am, I am focusing on next steps. I will be meeting with the radiation oncologist sometime this month to get set up for radiation treatments. Then I will start radiation after the holidays. I am hoping to be done with them by the end of February.

I will need to wait six weeks before I can have a hysterectomy. I will need a full hysterectomy because I also have a large uterine fibroid that is benign but needs to be removed. So it will all come out sometime after radiation. With any luck, I am hoping to have my surgery in April and be fully recovered by early June - one year from my diagnosis.

Thanks for stopping by to read my blog. I'm off to celebrate with a nice big glass of water.


Tuesday, December 6, 2011

I am so worried...

I am so worried about Ann who blogs at "Breast Cancer? But Doctor I Hate Pink!" I started reading Ann's blog right after I was diagnosed. She writes in a humorous, helpful and informative way. We have traded emails about our experiences and she has left comments on my blog.

A couple of months ago, Ann "graduated" to Stage IV metastatic breast cancer when doctors found mets on her liver. She apologized to her readers in this post. I must say, her post broke my heart. It REALLY hit me hard because I have been reading her blog and relying on her words of encouragement. I know that's selfish of me to say. But she is a big part of my life after diagnosis.

Ann is a fighter. She opted for more chemo and sought state of the art treatment in San Francisco. Her doctors told her she was a candidate for liver resection surgery which she underwent in early October.

Now she is fighting for her life - trying to fend off a horrible infection in her colon. She is in the hospital (again). She has been able to maintain contact with her friends and readers through her Twitter feed which is also on the sidebar of her blog.

I don't like what I'm reading. I'm so worried. I am praying that she makes it through this horrible experience.

I hate cancer.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Last Chemo Coming Right Up!

Good news... I had my blood counts done today and I am cleared to receive my last round of chemo on Wednesday. Yay!

I was a little worried that my counts would be too low since I did not get a Neulasta injection after my last round of chemo. My counts were very low ("dismal" is the word my doctor used) just before Thanksgiving. She was worried I might get very sick over the holiday. The last thing I wanted was a postponement of my last chemo. That was NOT going to be an option for me!

I made sure I took it easy, avoided crowds and ate healthy foods - especially beans and legumes which are known to boost blood cell counts. I am feeling fine and my blood cell counts reflected that today.

I am so relieved... I have the chemo finish line in sight!