Live Blogging from the Chemo Chair: Cycle 4.1, Back From Vacation and I got Attitude

It’s been a long day and I’m late posting this because my day ended with dinner with my old team mates from Consumer Care. I am again amazed and humbled by the friendship and strength these women offer me.

6-30-15 team dinner

Last week, Gemma opened a big old can of whoop ass on me. I guess I should have been expecting it, because the previous week (my week of whining) was, to say the least, difficult. I’m not going to go into great detail about this, because I’m trying to remain positive. But I will say that I’m a little pissed off at that bitch Gemma for cutting into my vacation time.

Because I was two days late getting my last treatment (Thursday instead of Tuesday), the after effects were two days late (Sunday instead of Friday). And I think this was the worst case of treatment side effects I’ve yet experienced. My muscles ached like I had extreme flu. My appetite was totally AWOL. And I was so tired! I slept for most of the day on Sunday and Monday — and was tired enough to sleep all night, too. It was Thursday before I felt human again. Instead of having a week of Chemo Vacation, Gemma allowed me only four days.

Between Gemma and the extra rain we’ve had all week, I STILL have 2 flats of marigolds and 4 pots of zinnias to put in to the front flower beds (but first they need to be weeded). The one thing I managed to accomplish was to weed whack the grass around our patio — I think the grass had actually grown taller than Tyler’s legs, and he was really giving me some dirty looks when I urged him to “Go potty!”

But now, the good news!

Today is my 10th chemo treatment. That means only 8 more left to do! Ten and a half weeks left until I’m done! I think I’m going to put some kind of count-down widget on the side of the blog.

Results of last week’s CT scan confirm that I’m tumor-free!

Also, according to the American Cancer Society, “CA 19-9 is a substance often released into the blood by exocrine pancreatic cancer cells…” Though not conclusive, knowing CA 19-9 levels can indicate whether treatment is working as expected. Normal levels are <38. I had a pre-surgery level of 88. After surgery it went to 12. It’s now down to 9. Gemma may be a bitch, but she’s working her mojo!

(Moving forward, these will be our measuring sticks regarding Siggy. CT scans every 6 months, CA 19-9 tests every 3 to 4 months.)

My Dermatologist has confirmed that the Scrounge of the Red Rash is actually a side effect of Gemma, and I now have a cream to use against it. Which is  a good thing because the rash has expanded from my left shin to include my inside knee, calf, and duplicated spots on my right leg. It’s like I’m sunburned on selected areas of my legs.

My left foot and ankle are really swollen — so much so that I can no longer wear my favorite shoes (I guess I could wear one of them on my right foot, but that might look funny with my Viking helmet). But my Oncologist is not worried that I’m retaining water. So I’m not going to worry either. I’ll just pull on my compression stockings and pretend that they don’t make me feel like an old woman.

Today, my Chemo Cafe partner is my most wonderful cousin, Annie Lee. We went to Flavors for lunch (see also previous post) — I’m really liking this little hole-in-the-wall restaurant!

6-30-15 Annie and Bev

We had a great time at the Chemo Cafe! I always take my iPad with me so I can at least start my “Live Blogging from the Chemo Chair” post, but today all we did was talk and laugh! We had a great conversation about attitude with one of the volunteers, Sandy. She told us her cancer story — and it’s worth a brief repeat here.

Sandy had just reached her Weight Watchers goal weight, when she discovered she could eat anything without gaining any weight. Imagine that! She was stuffing herself and not gaining an ounce (first red flag)! Then she noticed a lump under her arm (second red flag). Her doctor took a look and thought it might be her lymph nodes working overtime because it was allergy season. But the lump didn’t go away (third red flag), so the doctor arranged for a biopsy. She was in Stage IV Lymphoma.

At first, Sandy was in denial. Her denial turned into anger — at the cancer, at the Oncologist, at anyone who questioned whether she could walk down the hallway to her bedroom without help because her red blood cell count was so low that her strength was sapped. As she found her way through her anger, it morphed into an attitude that she used to fight her way kicking and screaming to remission. She still has two years to go before she can be considered cancer-free, but she’s coming back from cancer that had spread throughout her body! This is amazing!

My take-away from Sandy’s story? When dealing with cancer, whether patient or care-giver, one of our most productive tools in the cancer-fighting toolbox is attitude. Whether it’s anger or humor, faith or enlightenment — anything except giving up and giving in. Find your attitude knowing that for most of us, cancer today is more like a chronic condition than the end of the line.

That being said, there are people out there facing cancer with no hope of remission. Attitude is still important. It gives you the strength to do what must be done.

Six years ago, my Uncle Oliver was diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer. Radiation and chemo treatments would have marginally increased his life span, but at an extreme sacrifice of his quality of his life. I was his care giver. He told me, “What I want, is to be clean and comfortable.” This became his litany. He made the decision to enter hospice care. This was not giving up. It was making his wishes known. And that became my mission for the short time he had left with us. His wish, shared with me, gave us both the attitude and direction which led to the strength to make it through his departure from this world.

Whether it’s cancer or some other big thing in your life, it’s all about the attitude. Don’t give up and surrender. Find your attitude, find your path.

And when you need an attitude power boost, don’t hesitate to plug in to your friends (and family). 

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