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Done with chemo!

25 Jul

10 Somewhere Over the Rainbow
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This is me and my brother Steve – not long after he shaved his head. Do you see a resemblance? 🙂

Above is a link to my favorite version of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”

Well it was quite a week. I have finally turned around after this last chemo. I believe I am pretty much over the effects of it. I went on three walks today. I think I walked over a mile today. I am not sure because I couldn’t walk my normal route all at once, but I may drive it tomorrow and see how far I actually walked today. What matters is that I got back out there. This morning I will walk a mile first thing. I need to do it early while it is still cool outside. I hope to go to the gym in the afternoon. But, I need to make sure my blood counts are good before I go. I feel like my counts are good, but I won’t know until I see it in print. My blood work was faxed to the office today, so I will go in tomorrow and get it. I really hope it is good.

I will have surgery in a week and six days. So there is a lot to do. I hope to get a lot done tomorrow and then Sunday I will have time to see friends and family and hear some live music. At least that is the plan.

I am so grateful to be able to exercise again. Considering how I felt a couple of days ago, it is really amazing.

Thank you for your thoughts and prayers and support. I really appreciate it.

Poor Molly . . .

23 Jul

This is my loyal “pup” Molly, she’s 15 years old. Molly SmilingPoor Molly, she is getting kind of tired of me going through Chemo. She’s not too happy. Resists going for walks unless I am going with her. When someone comes to walk her, she tries to stay here with me, then reluctantly goes ahead, stopping and looking back for me. So sweet, but it makes me feel bad.

I am very tired and weak after this last chemo round. But, I am definitely on the mend. Oh, not that it really matters that much, but my hair started growing back after the fourth chemo, so maybe I am getting a head start on a head of hair. 🙂

Thank you to everyone for your continued prayers and support!

Hard Day's Night . . .

23 Jul

This last round was by far the worst.  But, I am definitely on the other side of it now, thank God. I am tired, weak and worn out, but coming back.  

Yesterday was a tour of Hoag facilities. Tuesday night I had been pretty dizzy and woke up feeling the same way yesterday morning. It seemed like it was from dehydration. But, I also I had a fever so that was a concern too. With chemotherapy, you can end up in what is called a neutropenic fever or shock. This is caused by low white blood count and is very dangerous. The trouble is, you never know whether the fever is just from an infection or if it is from your white count being so low that you are in a fever from that.  So I went in to the doctor yesterday. They decided to give me intravenous fluids, it took a couple of hours and well, it definitely seemed to do the trick (the dizziness went away, blood pressure came back up, it had been a little low).

So after a quick trip to Mother’s Market (it is next door to the Hoag Health Center) I went home and went back to bed.

Then I woke up with a fever and felt worse than before. The whole point of my going into the doctor’s yesterday was to avoid having to make a trip to the ER after hours in case I didn’t improve on my own. So, I was pretty disappointed that I wasn’t able to save myself the ER trip. I tried to get my fever down last night, but wasn’t able to. So, I called my doctor and he made me go into the ER. It was the last thing that I wanted to do – be around all those germs when I am at my lowest point immune system wise. And the only reason why I had to do this was to get a simple blood test to confirm my white blood count. If it was normal, then my fever was simply from an infection and I would be put on an antibiotic. If it was low, then the fever was a dangerous one.

So I get to the ER and it is packed with people. The front desk person tells me that there are no beds in the ER (yet) and that there are no beds in the hospital – that there are 13 people in the ER waiting to be admitted to the hospital, but because there were no beds available, they were taking up space in the ER. So, it was going to be a long night. Meanwhile, I was told that I could wait outside (to avoid exposure) and they would come and get me when it was my turn.

I waited outside for a while and then decided (and I know my doctor would be mad at me, but) that I was going home. I did the math and figured by the time I would even have blood results and get care based upon those blood results that my own doctor’s office would almost be open. So, what was the point.

So I left (without signing the release of liability the hospital wanted me to sign). They were none too happy about that. I was just not going to stand around in germville any longer.

So I went home. And, to my delight, my fever went down to normal, I started taking a Z-Pack (antibiotics) and went to bed.  So glad that I decided to leave, it would have been a miserable night.  Besides, I was definitely not up for another IV in the same day.

Today I have a bit of a busy day medical wise. I have my Herceptin treatment this am. That usually takes about an hour and a half. I get this done in the same place where I HAD (woo-hoo) my chemos. And then I see my reconstruction surgeon this afternoon.  The key is to be alert enough for the afternoon appointment (I am on Benadryl during the Herceptin treatment and so that kind of wipes me out for a while). A friend of mine is taking me to my appointment and she will come in with me and take notes in case I am not so clear myself.

I feel SO much better, even in the last few minutes while writing this post. Wow. So glad. Thank you to everyone who has been helping me and praying for me and thinking of me. I now really, really feel like I am done with chemo!

Slowly but surely coming back . . .

21 Jul

Well, this round has definitely been a rough one. Last night was one wave after the next and each one seemed to grow more intense, more heat, more pain and then it would subside. If it had been like this from the beginning, I don’t think I could have made it through. So, this morning I woke up pretty upside down, weak, dizzy, very unsteady. I think the worst of it is over, but I don’t know yet. Each time one stretch passes, I am so relieved to have it past and that is all that I think about – that it is over. Then it hits again, like it is starting all over again. I have a friend with me now so I am covered in that regard. But, what a roller coaster. I will write more soon, when I am better.

Yeah!!! Almost done with last round . . .

20 Jul

Hi all, I am doing well. Just still a bit in the thick of this last chemo round. The past two were definitely rougher, but I am getting through it. Very weak, tired. I have a good friend here to look after me, so no worries, just waiting it out until I am feeling better. Then look forward to celebrating this milestone, so happy about that. Will write more soon.

Thank you for your continued prayers and support. It means so much to me that people check in here (every time I see my blog stats spike, it makes me feel good knowing that my friends are checking up on me in this way). Much love to you all!

Light at the end of the tunnel – day four is done, now onto day five

20 Jul

Bryce 3 thumbnailHere’s hoping day five is much better than day five of the last chemo round. But, if not, it will pass. It is too early to tell how today will be for me. But, it is my last chemo and I am definitely feeling good about that!

Surgery is currently scheduled for August 7th. Right around the corner. I have pre-op appointments with both my breast cancer surgeon and my reconstruction surgereon (as they will be performing surgery on the same day on August 7th . . . assuming the surgery goes forward on that day. I will have to be cleared for surgery (my blood work will have to be up to a certain requirement). Also, I have to feel comfortable with moving forward on that date. Having had chemotherapy prior to surgery makes the recovery from surgery a potential issue since your immune system has been under attack by the chemo, it can then take longer to recover from the surgery.  I have already seen this with just getting a little scrape on my knee last week. Normally, because of the type of scrape, I would not have expected to see it last the day (it would have already healed up). But this one has lasted for a week now, still not healed. And that was just a little scrape. So, I have some concerns there.

I fully expect that my surgeons will want to move forward with the 7th because my blood work has always shown a rebound with each chemo round. But, with each chemo round there has never been a complete rebound.  I know that they originally wanted to schedule my surgery on the 14th because that would give me four weeks in between the last chemo and surgery.  But, my doctors are both going on vacation during the month of August making scheduling pretty difficult.  I would rather not wait, but I might have to wait until they both return. The surgeons here (and my oncologist) will try to limit me to a “window of opportunity” during which I need to apparently have the surgery done in order for it to be successful. However, their interpretation of when that window closes is much shorter than what the doctor from UCLA tells me.

Dr. Hurvitz from UCLA said that I could postpone the August 7th surgery date by by 2 or 3 weeks without any problem as long as I was still on the Herceptin.  She also thought that going ahead with the surgery just three weeks out from the last chemo would be fine because of how healthy I am in general. But, she agreed that another week would be nicer for me (allow more time to heal form the last chemo). But, she underscored that it was up to me what I wanted to do.

So, I have some things to think about and a lot of questions to ask. Unfortunately, both of my pre-op appointments with my surgeons are early this week (today and Tuesday) while I am still in the throes of chemo aftermath making these meetings a bit challenged by the fact that I am definitely not at my best physically and mentally.  I have no idea how I will be feeling today, other than the knowledge that it is not over yet (so I am bracing myself for the day right now)

I feel pretty good right now (as in, “I feel pretty good for a chemo Monday”). But, it comes and goes in waves (the pain and other symptoms) and each wave is more intense and lasts longer until they stop lasting longer and become less intense and then eventually the waves stop. So, I just escaped the last wave, have recovered from it and am preparing for the next one. Hopefully this one will be shorter and less intense – then I will know that I am on my way back from this round.

So exhausted right now, wow.

Day three is done, now onto day four . . .

19 Jul

So in chemo speak, day one is the day of chemo, day 2 is the day after, day 3 is the second day after and well, you can see where it goes from there.

So now I am just into day four (since it is now 3:16 in the morning, Sunday).

After a certain number of these numbered days you start to improve some each day and then you start counting your way back to feeling like yourself. I have been really lucky and for most part haven’t felt an incredible cumulative effect from these chemos. But, with chemo round five and now this last one, things have changed a bit for sure.  I think it is the heat. It was really hot the weekend of my fifth chemo and so I was not able to take walks through the day – the heat just turns me upside down. But, with the prior chemo rounds it was cool enough for me to walk most anytime of the day. In my fourth chemo round I was still walking a mile in the morning  or evening on Saturday (the day I am “hit” by the side affects of the chemo). But, it has been too hot to do that the past two rounds.

I did go for a short walk this am, while it was cool. And then I went for a walk around 1:30 am with Andrea who is my caretaker this evening. She was kind enough to go with me and walk my pup Molly at the same time. We heard and then saw a bat flying overhead (that was pretty neat). Anyway, it felt great to walk in the cool air and I felt much better after the walk. So, I think that it the key for me, being able to get exercise during this time, but also being able to stay cool.

Tomorrow (okay, today I mean) I am going to go out early and try to get in a long walk and then repeat it again in the evening.

Well, I am doing pretty well right now, happy to be nearly done with this last chemo and looking forward to the break ahead. From what I am told by women who have gone through this, everything else I have to go through with the treatment (surgery, reconstruction, radiation) the chemotherapy is the worst part of it. Nice to know I guess. And, if it is true then I am glad to be getting the worst part of it out of the way.

Please continue to keep me in your thoughts and prayers, it means so much.  And the traffic on my blog really makes me feel good to know that my friends are following me. Thank you.

Good morning no more chemo!

17 Jul

Yesterday was my last round of chemo.  This has been quite a ride (and will still be so for the next several days getting through what I not so affectionately call my “chemo weekend” . . . especially since “chemo weekend” really lasts for about ten days now).  So I will likely feel pretty crummy physically for the next several days.  But, I am definitely celebrating the fact that yesterday I endured the very last 8 1/2 hour intravenous cocktail. It really is such a long day. And, while I never really paid attention to it, I see two sets of chemo patients come and go each time I have a treatment.  The morning group who come in about 9:00 am (an hour after I get started) and the afternoon group who come in at about 2:00 and many of the afternoon chemo patients STILL get out of there before me.  Everyone makes fun of me for bringing in so much stuff into the treatment room . . . “Hey Lisa, ya movin into this place?” to which my nurse defends me and says if your chemo took 8 or 9 hours you’d be packing in some stuff too.  Then the room get’s a little quieter after that.

I was in the group treatment room yesterday so I was ribbed all day. I have made a lot of friends in this room. For the chemo days, I have always been in the semi private room because that is where you can have a family member or friend sit with you. This has been my nurses preferred placement for me so that I can be watched for any reactions as I am highly allergic to two of the medications that I have during the chemo. But, yesterday, there was a woman in for treatment who was very sick and so she needed to be isolated from the rest of us.  Hence, I was put in the group treatment room. But, I am in the group treatment on all of the other Thursdays for my weekly Herceptin treatment.  So I have met many cancer patients in this room since April 2nd when my treatment first began. There is an instant bond that develops. I have met the sons and daughters of many of these patients (most patients are much older than me, although there are a few that are closer to my age, I am generally the youngest in the room). We have had some great conversations. Barbara, she is probably in her late 60s maybe 70 – she is a huge movie buff and when I see her it is like sitting next to Siskel and Egbert. She has good taste in films.  I left yesterday with a few good rental recommendations for my weekend.

And there was Cathy (or Chick as her friends call her – I get to call her Chick) who I miss a lot. I have sat next to her for nearly every chemo round. She was one chemo round ahead of me when I started so she graduated last month.  I miss her. But, I will talk to her soon. Her daughter would often come and stay in the room with us. And, I owe her daughter my life – literally.  She just happens to be a cancer nurse and she walked in right at the moment I stopped breathing during the  second chemo round. She immediately new what was wrong, got a nurse in who then took care of me and got me back to breathing.  I was worried that something like that might happen yesterday (another severe reaction). But, everything went smoothly and for the first time I got out of there at 4:3o ish.  It was nice.

There are about six or seven reclining chairs all in a semi-circle – perfect for joking around, and being made fun of when you sleep and snore loudly.  Most everyone is in good spirits. There is also a tv that we can all see. Fortunately I lucked out as no one asked to have it turned on all day. I have  grown to hate day time television.  The chemo was bad enough, but being subjected to soap operas at a very high volume just takes me over the edge a bit.

I will be in this room pretty often as I continue my weekly herceptin treatments (these take only about an hour and a half and do not cause any bad reactions for me, not physcial symptoms, pain or hair loss or any of those things – herceptin is the mon-clonal antibody that I will get for a year). Eventually (after surgery, I believe) I will start going in only every three weeks for this treatment. It will be a triple dose, so it will take about three times as long to get, but I will only have to do it once every three weeks. I am very excited about that. And, as I said before, there are no side affects that I feel from taking this drug.

So, I have reached a huge landmark in my treatment. I have been told by many that have gone through chemotherapy, surgery and radiation, that of all of it, the chemotherapy was by far the worst part of their cancer treatment.  So, I am quite relieved to be done with chemotherapy.  What a journey. I can’t believe how fast it has gone by.  It has been three and a half months of chemo now.  And I am done!

I am currently scheduled to have surgery on August 7th. It is coming up quick and I have a lot to do to get ready for it (including exercise and strengthening core muscles to improve recovery from the surgery). Since I will be having a bi-lateral mastectomy there will be a time that I can not really use my arms to lift myself up out of bed, or hold onto the railing on my stairs. So, it was suggested that I work on my stomach muscles to make it a bit easier to get up and down.  It should not be for too long. But, just in case, I am really going to work hard on that area in the coming weeks.  Hopefully there will be time to improve this area.

So, today I am feeling great – the excited to be done with the 8 plus hour days of chemo and to know that whatever pain or discomfort I experience this week will be my last chemo pain/discomfort.  Thank God, it is over 🙂

And, thank you to everyone who is praying for me and sending out good thoughts my way!  Please continue praying for me as my battle is not over yet. But, I am getting through this and it feels so good to be done with this phase!

Grateful for . . .

16 Jul

Lisa&Garrett_07-06-09I know I have already posted this picture, but I just love it and so I am posting it again. If you are new to my blog, there is a video on here of me and this little guy – my nephew Garrett. Today I got to see my other nephew Matthew. I only got to see him for dinner, but it was great to see him. He is a delight. He spent the day with my parents – went to the zoo and saw a movie – and I am told, that he asked my Dad to explain one of the laws of physics (my Dad is quite knowledgeable in math, physics and of course, music). Here is Matthew  having fun with my Mom, and another picture of him below. He is such a handsome boy. I didn’t get to see him for long, it was short, but so great to be able to see him. I also got to see my brother Steve for a little while when he came to pick up his boy. A very nice end to the work day.

IMG_2958 I wish I could have tagged along with them at the zoo or the movie, but, I had to finish up a lot of tasks before today’s chemo round – MY LAST ONE!!! Woo-hoo!  I can’t say it will be a ton of fun, but it won’t be bad. I have company. I have two dear friends taking shifts (the babysitting I require). One will pick me up at 7:30 and take me to chemo and stay with me until 1:30 when my other friend arrives. She will stay with me until I am done and take me home (which is sometime between 5 and 6, although lately pretty close to 5, which is much better). I am so grateful for their help. I know it can’t be the most pleasant experience to hang out with me while I am attached to an IV all day and having to watch for reactions that I might have and flag down my nurse stat. But, somehow there is fun involved. Thanks to both, I spend far more time laughing than I would have ever imagined. Thank you so much!

And I am so grateful for my friends and family who stay with me during the days after chemo (I don’t know how I would have made it through the past chemo weekends without you, or this one coming up). And I am so grateful for my friends who have taken me to and from doctors appointments, fixed my cell phone, helped me find a wig before my hair all fell out! (this was sooo key for me :)), grocery shopped, understood when I have lost my cool, brought food, sent cards and emails, stayed with me when I just needed company and called for no reason, and I am grateful for the friend who dropped out of the sky and landed in my lap recently – you know who you are. You have all made each day so much easier for me. There is no way that I could have come this far or have done this well with out your help. I am getting well because of your help.  I feel truly, truly blessed and loved. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

My last chemo is in a few hours. True to form, it is now 5:21 am and I have not slept yet. I am doubtful that I will sleep much before my friend shows up to take me to chemo in just a few hours 🙂  But, it is okay. It is from the steroids I take the day prior to chemo. A normal side affect and all part of getting well. I will probably doze off some tomorrow during the treatment. And, I will certainly get some sleep over the weekend.

Please keep me in your thoughts and prayers today.

My nephew Matthew and his puppy Freddy.

My nephew Matthew and his puppy Freddy.

LAST CHEMO IS TODAY!

16 Jul

Today is my last chemo. I can’t wait to be done. I am definitely weaker now and that is frustrating. But, considering everything, I am doing really great. I am having a great response to the chemo. My cancer has shrunk significantly.  So, all is good. And, even though I am pretty tired, I have worked full time (except for the actual days of chemo and the weekend following chemo). With each round so far, I have gone back to work the next day (on Friday) and met with clients and put in a full day. And, with most chemo rounds, I was working from home – laptop in bed – on Monday. I would work a little bit, rest a little bit, work a little bit and rest a little bit.  Fortunately, my work doesn’t require much physically. I am writing mostly. But, this last chemo round was not so easy.  I did get anemic and wow, I could really feel that.  I still feel it, although it feels as though I have improved in that regard (I will know when I see my blood work tomorrow morning).

What a crazy ride this has been. From incompetent doctors and a near death experience to the most amazing people showing up in my life in ways I could not have imagined they would, helping me in ways that I would not have expected. I don’t know what to say, except that I am so incredibly grateful for the latter part of course, not the incompetent doctors or the near death experience) 🙂 I am grateful for the incredible support of my family, friends, and new friends and I am so grateful for having only one more chemo left. (If you have read prior posts, you will see that Dr. Gloom had told me that I might need more chemo after surgery. But, I have since met with a specialist who specializes in my specific type of breast cancer and she has made it very clear that I will not receive more chemo).  My current oncologist is a general oncologist (not a breast cancer oncologist).  He deals with all types of cancer and just doesn’t really understand the treatment protocol for my type of breast cancer. Thankfully he follows whatever UCLA says he should do. But, in the interim he comes up with some wacky comments and doesn’t really seem to know how to filter what he is saying (as in he ought to really know what he is talking about before he talks . . . this is the same guy who argued with me about how may chemo rounds I had received . . . aaargh).

Anyway, this one is my last. So grateful for that.

I am bracing myself for the possibility that the sixth round may be as difficult as the fifth and, or, I suppose, could be worse. But, it could also be a lot easier (which is what I am really hoping and even expecting – why not? My third and fourth chemos were by far easier than my first two).  In either case, I am prepared and will recover and do well.

Okay, this post seems a little whinier than most. I am still going to post it.  But, I will do a follow up that is less whiny 🙂

Thank you so much for your continued prayers and support. I so greatly appreciate it!