The Scourge of the Red Rash

On Tuesday I had a red rash on my left leg which got ultrasounded (is that even a word?) to make sure it wasn’t a blood clot — which it wasn’t. On Wednesday, the rash looked like it was going away. But on Thursday it was back with a vengeance and even looked like it was starting on my other leg. So I went to the doctor. He thinks it’s an allergic reaction to something, but because it started before my Tuesday chemo, he says it’s not an allergic reaction to the chemo — which would be a real bummer. In my opinion, the chemo has a hand in it though, because it’s the chemo’s action of screwing with my immune system that’s made me susceptible to an allergy that under normal circumstances would not bother me. So I’ve got a course of prednisone to go through, and I’ve added Claritin to my daily pills. It seems to be helping because the red patch is getting smaller. It feels like my legs have been sunburned on the inside of my skin — you know, that nagging, uncomfortable burning you get when you allow the sun to cook your skin? And the red rash looks a little like a sunburn might look. But it doesn’t cover my entire leg (as the “sunburn pain” does), only a small patch on my ear shin.

This is the second allergic rash I’ve had. During my last cycle, I had some red splotches on my hips. Didn’t know what triggered them, either.

Tomorrow our favorite speciality super market, Dorothy Lane, is having a sale on lobster — and we had already decided we were going to participate. Personally, I think lobster is too much trouble — what with cracking the shell and pulling the meat out and the fishy smell and the mess — but my mom loves it. It’s part of our heritage (which is another story). So, fingers crossed that I won’t have an allergic reaction to shell fish. By this time tomorrow I could be looking like I was the one boiled. Instead of the lobster.

Live Blogging from the Chemo Chair: Cycle 2.3: My Hair?

Lunch with a Chemo Cocktail chaser! Cindy is with me today. We went to Murphy’s Pub for lunch and here we are at the Chemo Cafe. Three  more visits and I’ll be at the half way point!

Cindy and Bev

I noticed today that my left leg is a bit swollen around my ankle, and I have a “hot spot” on my shin. It’s easy to see because my skin is red. And did I mention that it’s swollen? My favorite Cemo Nurse, Jenna, has taken a look and decided that the Doctor-On-Call should also take a look. Could be a blood clot. Could be some kind of infection. Whatever it is, I know it will be inconvenient.

So. I’ve noticed that  I’m losing more hair — and I’m not sure how I feel about it. When I started Gemma Chemo, I thought (maybe it was my imagination) I saw a difference in the texture of my hair. I don’t know how to describe it other than it was laying on my head in different, new ways. There seemed to be a few extra hairs in my comb, but that didn’t worry me. After all, I’ve been told that this chemo treatment is fairly well accepted and that my hair “might” get thinner — I wouldn’t go cue ball. But this week…. Is it my imagination or has the amount of hair on my comb and in the sink doubled? I’m seeing loose hairs in odd places — like mixed in with Tyler’s fur or on the page of the book I’m reading. And it seems like every hour I’m brushing a loose hair off of my face WHICH IS DRIVING ME CRAZY. All these loose hairs showing up in places I’ve never seen the before… Truly, I don’t know how I feel about this.

Euphemisms for baldness seem to be mostly masculine: Chrome Dome, Mr. Clean, Follically Challenged, Shiny, Dr. Orb, Bald Eagle, Reflecto, Barber’s Dream, Toupee Stand, Gleam-o, Hat Head, Kojak, Daddy Warbucks, Homer, Lex Luthor. There’s also the more feminine Sinead and Baldielocks. 

Personally, I think I like “Kojak” best. If you’re a boomer, you remember this TV show. I always had a crush on Telly Savalas — so sexy with that cue ball head and lollipop.

Thank you Wikipedia.

Thank you Wikipedia.

Sexy Telly said, “We’re all born bald, baby.” Certainly something to ponder.

Thank you Wikipedia

Thank you Wikipedia

I think I’ll continue to channel my inner Samantha. I’m talking “Sex and the City” Samantha Jones, and her breast cancer story arc (this has always been my favorite story line from “Sex and the City”). I am no where near as sexually liberated as Samantha, but the way she handled her cancer has inspired me on my own battle. She didn’t let hair loss stop her from being fabulous — she took control by making the decision to go for the cue ball and wig out with outrageous wigs and haute couture hats and scarves.

It’s not time yet, but if my hair loss increases I’m going to Colleen (my hair stylist) and she’ll get out her electric razor. She’s already told me she has a couple of outrageous wigs with my name on them in her stock room. I’m counting my blessings that I have such a wonderful friend!

While I was working on the above, the Doctor-On-Call stopped by. Once I’m disconnected from Genna Chemo, I’m on my way to get an ultrasound on my leg. Whoppie.

Later — ultrasound says it’s not a blood clot (which is a relief!), but I’ve got no news on what it is. Just that it’s a red patch that’s hot, on my shin, and it hurts. I’m going to try really hard not to imagine all the possibilities of what this could be while I wait to find out what I should do about it. I said this would be inconvenient. I guess I’m also going to get served up with some anxiety until I have news of what it is and how we deal with it.

In spite of this glitch, I have another blessing to count: my wonderful friend Cindy who trapsed from one end of the hospital to the other with me, helped me keep focus (I didn’t mention that I’m having a little trouble remembering things today), and waited an extra hour for me while I had the ultrasound. I never knew how many incredible friends I had until this sh*t hit the fan.!

I may not have an answer yet about what’s going on with my leg, but I got me some mighty fine friends! And next week is CHEMO VACATION!

Live Blogging from the Chemo Chair: Cycle 2.2

Spoiler alert! Slight gross-out ahead. Skip the next paragraph if you’re squeamish.

I just went through my first week with no constipation! But, being me, I’ve had a little bit too much of the other extreme. Given a choice, I’ll take the Hershey squirts over the painful backup of “hardtack” every time! So my goal for this week is going to be fine-tuning the Dulcolax and Phillips to achieve a slightly less liquid result.

Thank you CBC News for this image of Puriety Hard Tack. This "cracker" is so hard it has to be soaked in water, overnight, in order to eat it. Click the photo for an interesting sidebar.

Thank you CBC News for this image of Puriety Hardtack. This “cracker” is so hard it has to be soaked in water, overnight, in order to eat it. You’ll crack your tooth if you try to eat it out-of-the-box. Click the photo for an interesting sidebar.

I’ve had some indigestion issues, and a bad taste in my mouth lately. Altoids have become my new best friend. It felt intuative to use peppermint, but I’ve actually found some credible proof that it DOES help with indigestion. So I’ve been chewing Altoids like Lindsay Lohan’s lawyer has been chewing antacids.

My new best friends.

My new best friends.

And, by the way. my hair is falling out. More than it did during cycle 1. I’m not bald yet, but I’m glad that I have a wig plan in place.

Today, I have the marvelous Monica with me! We had lunch at Murphy’s Irish Pub, and the conversation was so good I forgot to take pictures of the meal! And I really regret this because the food was fabulous. I’m happy to write that I ate my entire hamburger — it was so good! We were able to eat out on the patio, because the sun was on the other side of the building (I’ve got to be careful to stay out of the sun). It was delightful!

Lunch at Murphy's.

Lunch at Murphy’s.

Janna (my chemo nurse) had a little bit of trouble with my port today. The last two times it “floated” meaning when she put the needle through my skin it didn’t connect with the port because the port did a little side-stepping dance. But Janna is not without experience with “floating” ports. Without having to re-stick me, she is able to manipulate the needle so that it pierces the port. Once she gets the needle in the port, she draws blood to check my blood count prior to doing the chemo (if my numbers are low, then no chemo). So today, after dealing with the floating, she couldn’t get any blood out. I thought maybe I had dried up, but she assured me there was blood in there. She had me do a few contortions, like holding my arm over my head and leaning way back in the recliner. I felt kind of silly, but she says this changes the position of the catheter (needle). Sometimes, the catheter gets into a position where a vacuum is created in the port — so nothing comes out. Sure enough, after a few wiggles and giggles we hit blood and she was able to take the sample.

And I got a foot massage today! There was a massage therapist in the Chemo Lounge today giving out free massages. We talked about lymphedemia. Basically, for me, I may be at risk for fluid collecting in my legs because some of my lymph nodes were removed. I think my left leg is a little bigger than my right leg, so I’m going to keep an eye on this.

I don’t know if lymphedemia is as bad or worse than constipation, but in the short term I know which one I’m going to worry about. So, keep your fingers crossed that the Constipation Plan I executed last week works for me this week! Hershey squirts trumps hardtack every day of the week.

Live Blogging from the Chemo Chair: Cycle 2.1, A Chemo Picnic

Vacation is over, and it’s back to “work.” Here we are, cycle 2, treatment 1. When I realized I would be doing chemo, I promised myself I would do my best to make every treatment a fun event.  My friend Shelley is with me today, and we’re having a chemo chair-side picnic!

Menu for Two

  • Cucumber Sandwiches
  • Prosciutto Sandwiches
  • Apple Rounds
  • Orange Slices
  • Ants on a Log (no picnic is complete without ’em!)
  • Assorted Cookies (from my favorite bakery)
  • Virgin Sangria (after all, today is Cinco de Mayo!)

Recipe: Cream Cheese Spread

  • 1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup plain yogurt
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 dash Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion flakes

Mix all the ingredients together until smooth. Refrigerate until needed. (Note: I made this the day before to give the garlic powder and the onion flakes time to blossom.)

Recipe: Cucumber Sandwiches

  • 4 slices white bread
  • 1/2 cucumber, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon dried dill weed
  • 1/2 of Cream Cheese Spread, listed above

Wash the cucumber. Some people may prefer to trim off the skin — I like to leave it on for the extra fiber. Also, you can remove the seeded center — or not if you want the fiber. Carefully, cut it into thin slices. (Note: I sliced the cucumber, mixed it with the dill, and stored in a zipper bag the day before.)

Spread the Cream Cheese Spread on the 4 slices of bread. Next, layer the cucumber slices on 2 of the bread slices. Sprinkle the dill on the cucumbers. Place the other 2 slices of bread (cream cheese side down) on top of the cucumbers. Trim the crusts. And cut into triangular quarters.

Recipe: Prosciutto Sandwiches

  • 4 slices brown bread
  • 4 to 8 slices of prosciutto
  • 1/2 of Cream Cheese Spread, listed above

Spread the Cream Cheese Spread on the 4 slices of bread. Place the prosciutto on 2 of the bread slices. Place the other 2 slices of bread (cream cheese side down) on top of the prosciutto. Trim the crusts. And cut into triangular quarters.

Recipe: Ants on a Log

  • 4 to 6 celery sticks
  • 2 tablespoons peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup raisins

With a knife, neatly “stuff” the celery with the peanut butter. Next, gently push the raisins (the “ants”) into the peanut butter.

I used golden raisons, seperating the lighter ones fro the darker ones. I used the lighter ones on the celery stuffed on the maple flavored almond butter, and the darker ones on the regular peanut butter.

ants on a log-done

Finished!

Recipe: Virgin Sangria

  • 4 cups cranberry-grape juice (refrigerated)
  • 3 cups of Ginger Ale (refrigerated)
  • 1 and 1/2 cups lemonade
  • 3/4 cup frozen berries

Day before: Pour the lemonade into ice cube trays. Add the frozen berries. Freeze.

In a pitcher, add the cranberry-grape juice, the Ginger Ale, and the lemonade ice cubes. Pour into glasses making sure each glass gets at least 3 lemonade cubes.

Packing the Picnic

Did you know that you can get wax paper with pretty designs on it? We use it for Christmas cookies, and I had some left over with red poka dots on it. I used it to gently wrap the cookies I got from one of my favorite local grocers, Dorothy Lane Market.

Cookies

I packed the picnic in a cooler, starting with a layer of ice. I’m also using the ice for the virgin sangria to add some coolness.

image

Lastly, on the top of the cooler, another layer of ice and some flowers — what’s a picnic without flowers?
top o cooler

 

Happy Cinco de Mayo!

Today is not only signiicant because it’s Cinco de Mayo, today is also the 12-week anniversary of my surgery. That means, the end of my short-term disability. That means, I no longer have a job. Yes, my job has been eliminated in the re-organization of Mars Petcare that’s been going on since last August. My new job is to regain my health, and then to decide whether I want to find another job or not. I leave the company with a very happy and grateful heart.

So here I am at the end of my 4th chemo treatment. Only 14 more to go! The food was delish (if I do say so myself), the company was prime! Hope you’re all having a fabulous Cinco de Mayo!

Cheers!

First Chemo Vacation

It’s a beautiful day as I approach the end of my first chemo vacation week, and I feel like my pre-chemo self — in fact, better than my pre-chemo self because I’ve lost over thirty pounds and I’m fitting into clothes I’ve had to sideline because they were too tight.

I won’t mince words, last week sucked.  Once again I found myself on the torture throne of constipation. Wednesday and Thursday were all about having a movement, Friday and Saturday were all about trying to recover from the movement.  It’s obvious this means changes to the Constipation Plan. Drastic changes. Or I run the risk of blowing out my eyeballs.

On the positive side, my surgery is almost done healing. Not too long ago, I wrote about how I couldn’t sleep on my side because it felt like my internal organs were trying to tear away from whatever had them anchored into place. In the last few days this has changed, and I find I’m once again able to lay on my sides without feeling like my insides are about to shift and fall out. The last several nights I haven’t awakened at 4 a.m. Instead I’ve slept right through until 7 — something I was not able to do during my 3 weeks of treatments.

I think all of our flowering trees peaked last weekend when I was too miserable to go out and take photos, but here are some I took on Tuesday:

Flowering crab Weeping cherry

I hope the second cycle is easier than the first cycle — I’d like to think I know what to expect now, and I have my next vacation week to look forward to. And the weather is helping. But like a vampire, I have to be careful of the sunshine — even though it feeds my soul! I’m not fond of the sun screen I’m forced to wear, but it must be done. Welcome sunny days!

Live Blogging from the Chemo Chair: Cycle 1.3

Chemo soxHere I am again, in the chemo chair.

This past week has been a mixed bag of ups and downs.

On Wednesday, I once again had an Energizer Bunny energy level. Turns out, there is a steroid component in my chemo cocktail. So I took advantage of it.

Back in January, just before the sh*t hit the fan, there was a day when the weather cooperated to allow me to take down all the Christmas lights I had put up outside. And they’ve been sitting in various piles in the garage, tangled with the extension cords, waiting to be put away.  It took me most of the day, but my garage is now clean and the lights and extension cords are all untangled and put away. Heaven! I was really tired when it was done, but the positive emotional boost I got from accomplishing the task was more than worth it.

I seem to have achieved some control of the constipation devil through timely use of Mr Phillips magic elixir — only had to use it once, but it worked!

Thursday and Friday were blah days — no other way to describe them. I felt crappy.

Saturday, Sunday, and Monday I almost felt normal. I even had the energy to mow our little stretch of patio grass and to make a stab at cleaning up some of my flower beds — it was overcast enough that I got away without putting on sunscreen. So, 3 good days out of 7. I can deal with this.

The Viking hat didn't feel right for Knollwood.

The Viking hat didn’t feel right for Knollwood.

Today, my pal Cindy is my partner in crime. We did a field trip to one of my favorite greenhouses, Knollwood, and spent the morning looking at plants and planning flower beds.

 

Cindy

Í Cindy

I’m inspired! This summer, I want to build some fairy gardens. And make some mixed pots of coleus. And work on my rock garden — with succulents! So much to do! So much sunlight to avoid!

Escargot Begonia

Escargot Begonia — Loving the curly leaves!

succulents

Succulents

fairy garden

A fairy garden

coleus

Coleus

hibiscus

Hibiscus

geranium

Geraniums

 

Next, we had a lovely lunch at Mimi’s Cafe, which for some reason always reminds me of opera. I had French Pot Roast which is described as:

Mimi’s Beef Bourguignon of braised beef with carrots, mushrooms and pearl onions in a red wine shallot sauce over mashed potatoes.

French Pot Roast

YUM! (Except for the pearl onions).

 

Omigosh! It was good! And my appetite cooperated because I ate every bite — except for the pearl onions. Those got pushed to the side.

We arrived early for my appointment at Club Chemo –but that was OK, they had a chair available. We had an interesting moment as my Chemo Nurse was trying to stick my port with the power needle — my port “floated.” But my Chemo Nurse is a clever one! She was able to manipulate my port to where she had already inserted the power needle through my skin, to make the connection. But this makes me speculate — what if my port decided to go on a little journey under my skin? How far away could it “float?” This needs more investigation.

“Chemo Tuesday” is starting to feel like a normal thing. They recognize me (could be the Viking hat?) when I walk in. Sort of like when Norm walks into Cheers and everyone shouts out “NORM!” except they’re shouting out “BEV!” That Viking hat makes certain that everybody knows my name.

I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.

 

 

Dating your (Chemo) Mouthwash

Today has been a slightly tough day for me, emotionally. I think a large part of that is due to the fact that I’m sitting on another constipation issue.

So, to get myself out of this blue funk, I’ve taken some Phillips Milk of Magnesia. And tackled a little craft project.

One of the side effects of chemotherapy is the possibility of sores in your mouth and/or throat. My Oncology Nurse has given me a recipe for a mouthwash (1 tablespoon baking soda, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 quart of water) that I use to rinse my mouth 4 to 6 times a day. But the mixture is only good for 2 days. I’m already a little distracted, and I find it’s a challenge sometimes to remember when I mixed it up — which adds to my anxiety level.

For my mixture, I use a 32-ounce quality plastic drinking bottle with a wide mouth and a screw-on lid that’s attached to the bottle.

Mouthwash bottleI started by putting a sticky note on the bottle. I ended up taping it on because it kept falling off. It gets wet when I rinse out the bottle. It’s not efficient or attractive.

i needed a mixture dating system that was easy to use –but I wanted it to be pretty, too. How about a little loop of ribbon with the day’s name attached to it? Almost like a gift tag.

Items needed

First I got out my label maker and made a label for each day of the week. I printed each name twice and then folded each one in half so that the name of the day would appear on the front and back of the tag.

Next, I wanted these new labels to be festive, so I hit the button jar and found 7 nice buttons that would add a little weight to my tags.

I had to experiment with the ribbon length — but eventually got it right. To get the ribbon through the button hole, I used a little loop of wire. I pushed the loop half-way through the opening where normally thread would go. Then I placed the ribbon into the loop and pulled the loop back out, bringing the ribbon with it.

Finally, I sandwiched the ends of the ribbon in between the back and front of the label.

Completed labels

The ribbon loop representing the day I made the magic mouth wash easily slips onto the bottle, and I can easily change it when I make a fresh mixture. I’ll always know when I made it, so no more shelf life anxiety.

Label storage

The days I’m not using live on a safety pin hooked to a fridge magnetic, which holds my Chemo Quick Tips.

Notice the Chemo Tips mention Sennokot for constipation. I wish it were that simple.