Tag Archives: Cancer

3:15 AM Reveals a New Side Effect

One of Gemma’s less common side effects is listed as “difficulty sleeping.” Guess who’s sitting on her bed typing instead of snoozing?

This could also be due to the storm moving through — Tyler does not like thunder so he won’t settle down. But I don’t think so. I’m wide awake. I did not take any naps today, and after running errands, cleaning house and vacuuming I should be tired.

The storm has moved through and Mr. Tyler is sleeping beside me. I’m trying to think of what I can clean that won’t wake up the rest of the household.

Sneaky side effect!

Sleeping Tyler


Chemo Cycle 1.1, Wednesday

So, I’ve been waiting for the side effects to kick in.

Yesterday afternoon (after the chemo) and last night felt like most of the other afternoons and nights I’ve had since the surgery. I took a little nap in my recliner, and then spent the evening sitting on the sofa reading or messing around on Facebook while I tried to find something interesting for my mom to watch on TV. No extra aches or pains, No upset tummy. A few twinges from where the vampire bit me on Monday (when the port was installed on my upper chest).

I got up this morning around 6, let Tyler out to pee, and spent a couple of hours on the recliner — not sleeping, sort of meditating. By 9 I was up and energized. I mean, seriously energized. We had a big thunderstorm move through (I wrote a haiku!), and Tyler stood on my lap (instead of sitting) for over an hour while I ordered stuff from Amazon and then yakked on the phone to one of my best buddies. Paid some bills. Balanced my checkbook.

Today has been one of those days where my body feels strong enough to conquer the world. I’ve had a few of these days, and I have to say they are a little disconcerting — I’m supposed to be sick, but I feel great mentally and physically.

I drove my mom to Krogers, and while she shopped I did a quick trip to the drive-through Starbucks. And then I did something that took courage (for me, anyway). I watch the young man at the window as he put the lid on my cup of coffee–his naked fingers all over the place where my mouth would sip the coffee. And as he handed me my coffee, I said to him, “My immune system is under attack right now, and I noticed that your fingers were very friendly with the top of the coffee lid. Could I please get a different lid and I’ll put it on myself?” He looked a bit confused, but gave me not one, but two lids. I used the one that was on the bottom hoping it had the least amount of exposure to his fingers.

Eating out is going to be a mental challenge for me.

Like I was saying, I felt energized today. So when we got back from Krogers, we house-cleaned. Opened windows to push out the old air. And I VACUUMED THE ENTIRE HOUSE. Great exercise that had me sweating. And I still felt great.

Next I sat down to work on this blog. And I experienced a side effect.

I’d probably been sitting for an hour. I got up abruptly because Tyler was in a playbow in the doorway to my office with something illegal in his mouth. When he saw that I noticed him, he took off on a run, so I had to go after him to get whatever it was he was messing with (a piece of broken china!!) By the time I walked from my chair to the door (8-feet), I experienced a wave of dizziness that had me clutching to door frame. It only lasted a few seconds, and has not returned, but it was a bit of a freak-out for me. Or maybe it was more of an “ah-ha moment” — yes, I’m going to experience some side effects.

I’ve heard the 3rd day after chemo is the one where the nasties kick in. We will see.

Live Blogging from the Chemo Chair: Cycle 1, Tuesday

As I write this, I’m sitting in a recliner hooked up to a machine that’s pumping the mighty Gemma (AKA Gemzar®) into my bloodstream to combat the evil Siggy. Instead of “Kill the wabbit! Kill the wabbit!” I’m singing “Siggy must die! Siggy must die!” I am no longer a chemo virgin.

Bev gets hooked up to receive chemo

Yes. I wore the Viking Helmet!

Treatment is about 90 minutes. First is blood work to check my levels. Then 20 minutes of anti nausea medicine (through the port). Then 30 minutes to port in Gemma. No real pain–just a few little tweaks and stings–in spite of the still raw-ish wounds I have from yesterday’s port installation. I also received a little education on what to expect and how to care for my port and how to prep my port for the next session.

The chemo chair view

My view from the chemo chair

I’ve decided that I’m going to do my best to turn each one of the Chemo Sessions into a fun event.

My pal Cindy is with me today. We had a lovely lunch at the Boro Bistro. I had the steak burrito–but I could only eat half. Cindy had a huge panini sandwich–she also left with a to-go bag. I took my first Zofran with my lunch.

Cindy and Bev selfie

Selfie with Cindy behind the receptionist desk at Bigger Road.

Then we attended the ribbon cutting at the new Bigger Road Veterinary Clinic (right next door to the restaurant. Bigger Road has been my vet clinic for 19 years and I’m thrilled that they’re expanding into a larger space that looks delightful (it’s set up like a little interior village with oak trees and exam rooms that have each have a different cottage facade), and has so much to offer (acupuncture, Puppy Montresori, doggie day care, do-it-yourself dog wash, a beautiful surgery suite, and a retail space.) It’s the area’s first and only pet spaw!

Ribbon cutting at the new Bigger Road Veterinary Clinic

The ribbon cutting including all the staff in attendance.

Then off we went to Chemo City. We arrived a little early, but they had a seat available for me. Cindy and I had a delightful couple of hours just talking and doing little odds and ends online (there’s wi-fi). Seriously, the time flew by. 

(SIDEBAR: I want to give a shout-out to my local Walgreens. Before we went to lunch, Cindy took me to our local store because I had to return the thermometer I bought last week–it kept telling me my temperature was 99 or 100 degrees. I had tossed the packaging and the receipt, but they took it back no questions asked! The store manager told me that’s their policy on any Walgreens-branded product!)

So. Here begins the new adventure, the new step to bring me back to health. I WILL eradicate that stinking Siggy!!!!


NOTE: Portions of this post originally appeared elsewhere. Also, I have backdated this post to preserve chronological order

Returning to the Scene of the “Crime”

I returned to Miami Valley Hospital this morning to get my port installed.

Waiting for my port of call.

Waiting for my port of call. Yes, I wore the hat for the procedure.

This was done as an out-patient procedure under “twilight” sleep — so it wasn’t so bad.

From the brochure they gave me (heavy on market-speak):

“Your Bard PowerPort device is a small device (about the size of a quarter) used to carry medicine into the bloodstream. It has one or two small basins that are sealed with a soft silicone top, called a septum. The port is placed under the skin on your chest or arm. The port connects to a small, soft tube called a catheter. The catheter is placed inside one of the large central veins that take blood to your heart. When a special needle is put into the septum, it creates “access” to your bloodstream. Medicine and fluids can be given through the needle and blood samples can be withdrawn.”

From the brochure.

From the brochure.

“Because the port places medicines into a large central vein, the medicines mix better in the blood. The medicines are also diluted so they are less harmful to your veins.”

(Sometimes I have to remind my self that chemo is my alley, not my enemy.)

“The port has a special triangle shape and three bumps on top of the septum. The bumps are called palpation bumps. Your doctor or nurse can feel these bumps and the triangle port shape to know that you have a Bard PowerPort device”

Feeling the port: Why does this photo make me squirm a little?

Feeling the port: Why does this photo make me squirm a little?

I’m guessing that finding those bumps also helps them to aim the needle.

“Your doctor or nurse will use the port when they need to give medicine or fluids or withdraw blood samples. To do this, they will access the port by placing a special needle, called a Huber needle, into the port. You may feel a mile pricking when they put the needle into the port. This sensation often gets milder over time.”

Yeah. This one is also squirm-worthy.

Yeah. This one is also squirm-worthy.

Ugh! That’s one big-ass needle!

“After your port is placed, your doctor will place a small bandage over the wound. For the first few days, you should avoid heavy exertion and follow any special guidance from your doctor or nurse to care for the small wound. Once the wound has healed, it will not take any special care and you can resume normal activities.”

So now I look a little bit like a vampire snacked on me. This photo looks much worse then the reality — the steri-strip looks like jagged edges when it’s really simply getting wrinkly as the swelling goes down.

Not as scary as it looks.

Not as scary as it looks.

I want to give a shout-out to the folks at Miami Valley, and to my surgeon and her team. They’re all top-notch professionals. So nice. So willing to spend time and answer my questions. They really made me feel safe as I went through this procedure.

And when they wheeled me into the operating room, they turned up the music so we could all dance to Bruno Mars. Of course, I had to dance in a supine position from the gurney.

Going home to lunch.

Waiting for Cousin Joe to bring the car around. Yes, I wore the hat.

Waiting for Cousin Joe to bring the car around. Yes, I wore the hat.

NOTE: Portions of this post originally appeared elsewhere. Also, I have backdated this post to preserve chronological order.

Naming the Enemy

The names of evil spirits have power. For instance, in the Harry Potter universe, people generally don’t say “Voldemort.” They refer to him as “You-Know-Who” and “He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.”

Lord Voldemort courtesy of Wikipedia

Courtesy of Wikipedia

By saying the evil spirit’s true name, you bring yourself to the attention of the evil spirit — and the evil spirit, once noticing you, just might choose to do more evil. To you.

The word “cancer” is a powerful name for an evil spirit, and I feel an urge to rename it when it applies to me. Calling it “cancer” feels a little like I’m putting a Voldemort-target on my cells. I want a different name to refer to the nasty cells that think they can take over my body.

My friend Shelley used to call her breast cancer “Ruby Red.” As the chemo was going in, her mantra was “Die Ruby! DIE!” And she would visualize Ruby exploding. Great image!!

My theme song is The Ride of the Valkyries (thank you Jane for this wonderful Met performance!) This is a good clip of the entire song — even if you don’t like opera, it’s worth a look. The Valkyries are part of Norse mythology. They rode winged horses and would bring fallen heroes to Valhalla–which is party city until the world ends in Ragnarok. The opera clip below is from a New York Metropolitan Opera production of Richard Wagner‘s Die Walkure. The big boards the warrior women are on represent the huge horses they ride. They’re on the battle field collecting the souls of the fallen heroes (notice they’re much larger than the skeletons they’re collecting).

I am inspired! This is a good fight song!

On the lighter side, there’s a wonderful Bugs Bunny cartoon called “What’s Opera Doc?” that has a great scene where Elmer Fudd sings “Kill the wabbit! Kill the wabbit!” I think it’s the only cartoon where Elmer actually succeeds in killing Bugs (after all, that’s what usually happens in opera). Here is the entire cartoon. It’s not the best video quality (I think someone copied it off of their TV), but it’s good enough to give you a laugh. If you’re really paying attention, you’ll notice how the cartoonists used large colored circles — like spotlights in a real opera — to focus your attention on the “singer.”

I love this cartoon, and there’s much to be said for having a Magic Helmet. But, as was pointed out to me by some of my buddies on Facebook, Bugs is cute. Affectionate. Maybe even a welterweight, and not really equal to the battle I’m waging.

So I’ve turned my attention to something a little more serious and possibly gruesome. Lots of blood and guts and vengeance. Lots of enemies slain.

One of my favorite TV shows is “Vikings” on the History channel. I thought I could choose a bad guy from that show and name my cancer after him. Or her–there’s a character named Siggy (played by Jessalyn Gilsig) who is pretty much out for herself trying to regain her previous power and status. From Wikipedia, “She possesses a strategic mind and a tireless urge to retain (or regain) her power and influence.”

Siggy is devious. Siggy want’s her power back. Siggy is a very worthy adversary. I think I’ll call my enemy Siggy.

NOTE: Portions of this post originally appeared elsewhere. Also, I have backdated this post to preserve chronological order.

A Recovery Measuring Stick

Here’s how I know my insides are not done healing: before my surgery I slept on my side a lot. Now I can’t stand more than a couple minutes on my side because it feels like all my internal parts are pulling against the thread they used to sew me back together. As if they all want to fall into that negative space created when the bad parts were removed. When I lay on my back, everything nestles nicely in place. But on my side it’s like I’ve tipped a platter and all the meat wants to slid to one end.

A bit grizzly, I know, and I’m sorry if I’ve grossed you out. But it’s a really good measuring stick for where I’m at with my recovery. I need measuring sticks like this.

The Joy of Farting

I do some of my best walking at 3 AM.

I do some of my best walking at 3 AM.

At 3:40 this morning, I farted. You probably don’t understand the significance–and that’s okay. You may be grossed out by the news–but I refuse to be held back by your puritanical viewpoint. I farted. And nurse Cathy was there to witness and document the glory which was the sweet little giggle that was all sound and no aroma. It was a beautiful thing which I hope to repeat very soon.

And now I find that I’m a bit tired and a little groggy. But I had to share this news because it’s so momentously important: I farted and will live on to take a dump like the regular people do.

Someone please cue the doves and the angelic host. I’m going back to bed