Tag Archives: chemo

Live Blogging from the Chemo Chair: Cycle 6.2, A New Beginning.

9-17-15 bracelet

My new bracelet. Click the photo and you can order one too!

Almost done… Almost done… Almost done…

Today is my last (I hope) chemo treatment. Emotional roller coaster doesn’t even come close to what I’m feeling today.

“Almost done” has been percolating on my brain all week, and it’s been a rough week. Last Thursday, I still had residual fatigue from the previous week. This week, I didn’t get my usual Friday-after-treatment steroid buzz, Just more fatigue. Sunday and Monday, traditionally bad days, were beyond bad. In 36 hours I put on 10 pounds of water weight in my face, upper arms, and thighs. If I stayed in a supine position it’s tolerable. But if I had to walk anywhere (like to the bathroom) it’s as if I had pillows strapped between my thighs. Walking down our driveway to the mailbox has been exhausting.

Almost done… Almost done… Almost done…

A few weeks ago, an old and very dear friend reminded me of something quite wonderful: the end of my chemo corresponds with the start of the Jewish New Year — which can be viewed as a new beginning.

A new beginning. For me, this is a profound thought. I found myself out on my patio on Tuesday afternoon pondering this thought and the incredible day. It was the kind of day meant to stop you in your tracks so that you could ponder something momentous. An autumn day of such perfection that it inspires an urgent feeling to be doing SOMETHING. Anything! Make your mark, pull some weeds, start a business, make a new beginning. I’ve been standing still since January 15. Eight months dormant. I hardly remember the passage of time, but I feel the urgency for a new beginning.

The urge to rush and grab that new beginning as if it might slip away from me.

Almost done… Almost done… Almost done…

9-17-15 Bev Shelley Cindy selfir

Today’s selfie!

My Chemo Buddies for today, my last day, are Shelley and Cindy — which is fitting because these two women have been my rock and anchor through the chemo battle. Shelley, Cindy, Pam H., Sharon, Pam C., Dr. Amy, Monica, Annie Lee — I have been so lucky to have such an amazing group of women supporting me through this battle. They’ve patiently listened to me whine, and made time in their busy lives to check on me, helped me celebrate the good milestones, chauffeured me to my treatments, and helped me stay positive over the past six months. I am humbled and in awe that they would gift me with their time and care.

Cindy made me chocolate covered strawberries to celebrate today!

Cindy made me chocolate covered strawberries to celebrate today!

Almost done… Almost done… Almost done…

9-17-15 Chump lunch

Patio at TJ Chumps. Thanks for this photo, Chumps!

We had lunch today at my favorite ‘Burg sports bar, T.J. Chumps. I forgot to take photos, take my word for it, the food was great, the conversation even better and we had a glorious day for patio dining.

The Chemo Cafe was packed today, with only one open seat. And it was a cursed seat — when Chemo Nurse Jana inserted the needle to my port, we discovered my port was clogged. We knew it was clogged because when Nurse Jana tried to draw blood for my blood test, all she got was clear bubbles. This happened once before, and there are ways to fix it starting with something euphemistically known as “Drano” — which (of course) didn’t work today. After trying a few other tricks (coughing, laughing, pushing the recliner all the way back, holding up my right arm, bending over my knees), we tried re-sticking the needle, with a bigger needle. Clever Nurse Jana! She knew I’ve been dealing with water retention in my torso, and by using a bigger needle she thought the needle would have better purchase in my port. She was right! So, only an hour late, we finally started the last chemo treatment.

9-17-15 needle in

Almost done… Almost done… Almost done…

Last week, I posted about things I would not miss once chemo was over. One of my friends asked me what I WOULD miss. It’s a very short list — only three things

I will miss all the wonderful nurses at the Chemo Cafe, especially Nurse Jana. They have been so kind and understanding. And I’ve always felt that I was in good hands when they had me in their care. Truly, I cannot say enough good things about the nurses who have seen to my healthy well-being since my battle began back in January when the first step back to normal was surgery. God bless all nurses, and thank you God for putting me in the path of some of the best of them!

I’ll miss how easy it’s been to schedule lunch with my friends. Without the cloud of chemo hanging over my head, scheduling lunch with my pals may become less urgent and a little more complicated. Or not. We’ll see.

A part of me will miss the lazy excuse to take no action. Since January, my life has been on hold and I’ve been living, not so much in suspended animation, but more of a suspended existence. No big decisions until I was done with chemo. Now, I have no excuse. Change is scary. And after six months, my life is going to be one big change. Scary, but exhilarating all at the same time. I just might miss the comfort of a suspended existence most of all. Or I might revel in this new beginning. We’ll see.

Almost done… Almost done… Almost done…

As I sit here in my chair, the nurses seem to be gathering. They’re moving towards me in a group like the wait staff at a cheesy restaurant waiting to sing Happy Birthday. Or a bunch of zombies looking for brains.

9-17-15 Nurses converge

Almost done… Almost done… Almost done…

They’ve pulled out sparkly party horns! They’re smiling and tooting the horns!

9-17-15 horns

OMG! I’m done!

Live Blogging from the Chemo Chair: Cycle 6.1, Good Medicine?

Thursday I began Cycle 6 of my chemo — the last cycle!

My Chemo Date was the incomparable Dr. Amy, one of my favorite veterinarians. We had a lovely lunch at Meadowlark Restaurant. (And I continue with my brain block for taking photos of lunch.) I had the most luscious BLT. The bacon was Amish and piled about two inches high at the middle. The lusciousness came from the locally grown yellow tomatoes, cut in one-half inch thick slices and so juicy! Dr. Amy had a grilled sharp white cheddar cheese sandwich with apricot chutney. She was in bliss!

9-6-15 Amy and Bev

The Chemo Cafe felt quiet, I don’t know why. I miss the ladies of the afternoon snack cart — they do not visit the Chemo Cafe on Thursdays like they do on Tuesdays. They’re volunteers and maybe there’s no one to cover Thursdays.

The peacefulness of the Chemo Cafe was in direct contrast to my just-finished chemo vacation, which is best described as crowded, loud, and busy. In fact, I think I over did things a little. But sometimes wonderful events happen that must not be ignored.

9-6-15 Book of Mormon logo

 

9-6-15 Book of Mormon

I saw “The Book of Mormon” with my pals on the Sunday after my last treatment — which is my “bad” day (it wasn’t my bad day when my treatments were on Tuesday, as they were when we bought the tickets). But I’m glad I went because I haven’t laughed so hard in a long time! Laughter is good medicine.

9-6-15 cousins

The next day we had a short-notice visit from a couple of my cousins (and their hubbies) — who we hadn’t seen in nearly ten years! They were on their way from North Carolina up to Thunder Bay, Ontario where they were attending a wedding. We took the easy way out and got deli salads and meats the day before, which made a nice lunch. Time with family — even when unexpected — is good medicine.

I had two separate lunches with two dear friends, met another dear friend for coffee, and met my former co-workers for dinner. Time with friends is good medicine.

9-6-15 Team meeting

And we did an update to the entertainment center in our living room. Of course, this meant emptying out all the gewgaws stored in the two side display towers plus the DVD/video player and amplifier we never use ( which might not make a return appearance), and summoning the Salvation Army to remove three of the five pieces of outdated entertainment center. Then my pal Sharon came by with her massive farm pickup truck and together we went to the Antique Mall to pick up the new-old buffet that will be the new center piece of our entertainment center. Updating your digs is good medicine.

The newest member of our house, Warren Buffet.

The newest member of our house, Warren Buffet.

But now I’m faced with restoring all the gewgaws to the two display towers. That includes re-attaching the glass doors, re-setting the glass shelves, and re-circuiting the display lights (because the on/off switch was on one of the three pieces that the Salvation Army hauled away). Ah! Bah! A challenge is good medicine!

I’ve started a business plan for the next act of my work life. This is also good medicine.

I think this was my most active chemo vacation. I probably should have rested more then the short naps I managed to occasionally grab. But in spite of that, I’m back at the Chemo Cafe feeling fine, with a sense of purpose.

Sixteen treatments down, two treatments left to go! Siggy, the cancer, is a war I will be facing for years to come. But this first big battle is nearly over, and that’s really good medicine!

9-6-15 Chemo Countdown 2

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.

 

AltoidesAnd, 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!

Live Blogging from the Chemo Chair: Cycle 1.3

Here 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.

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.

 

 

Live Blogging from the Chemo Chair: Cycle 1.2

I’m really happy to be able to say that the Anti-Constipation Plan seems to be working. At least, it worked very well this morning. We’ll see what happens the rest of the week.

My pal Shelley is my escort todaySo, here I am for my second chemo treatment. April is Cycle 1. I have 1 treatment per week for 3 weeks, then a vacation week. That makes one cycle.

Up until yesterday, I’ve been sharing this experience on a private group on Facebook. I announced Siggy on my Facebook timeline yesterday, and I am overwhelmed and humbled by the responses from my friends. I didn’t know I had so many people who cared about me. You guys all rock my world!

Shelley and I had a lovely lunch at Panera, then scooted over here to the chemo lounge for dessert.

Official chemo sox

I’m  relaxed in my chair, wearing my official chemo sox (thanks Pam!) and eating a snack of pop corn that was just brought around by the snack cart ladies. It’s all so festive, if a little quiet. Maybe I need to start planning some parties here. Hmm. This is something to consider.

Sitting next to my chair is the machine that’s pumping poison into my body. It’s important for me to remember that poisonous Gemma is my friend. Together we’re killing off the evil Siggy. But it’s a little freaky to think that I’m giving this nasty potion free access to my body. In quiet moments, there is a part of me that wants nothing to do with the chemo. I hate the idea that it’s in my body.  But I want to live as long as I can, and there’s studies that show the chemo can help with that.

Life is a series of compromises.

Chemo Cycle 1.1, Thursday

I had around 36-hours of manic Energizer Bunny energy, and then this afternoon I crashed. Just after lunch I started yawning, eventually ending up snoozing on my bed. Right now my head is muddled and the yawns just keep on coming. So it’s off to bed for me where I will hopefully sleep the night through.

Now, if only I could poop.

 

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.