Wednesday, August 29, 2012

By the numbers

I am done! The Triathlon (Surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation) known as Breast Cancer treatment is complete.  I started this journey almost nine months ago with a  report of a "suspicious spot" on my mammogram (November 17, 2011)  but as of Friday, August 24th, 2012, I have completed the race.  As with all long distance runners, I have had to learn to pace myself, take care of my body before, during and after the race, and not give up when the going gets rough, just keep pushing.  There have been lots of life lessons learned during this very humbling experience.  Usually there is only one triathlete in a family, but you know us Pickles, we all wanted to race, at the same time, on different tracks all over Houston.  So, lets recap the numbers...

7833   Number of miles (at $.55 a mile - $4308 for tax purposes) that we have driven to and      from the various doctors/treatments/therapies/surgeries (4112-Karen, 1514-George, 2207 Eddie---I win!) While I win on the mileage, Eddie wins on the parking fees.  His doctors are downtown and charge $12 to park, the Woodlands is free.  Eddie gets a half point.

84  Doctor appointments (42-Karen, 27-Eddie 15-George--I win) You realize, of course, when you have 84 doctor appointments you have spent at least that many hours in a waiting room

71 Inches of Stitches (36-Karen, 20 Eddie, 15-George--I win, again) Eddie's are the prettiest, and with proper care will not be that visible even with shorts on. Mine look better every month (except the ratty chemo port that comes out on Tuesday of next week--yeah) but very few will see those.  George gets a half point for scary scars, for sure...hope the stitching on the inside of him is prettier than the outside.

40 assorted tests, xrays, scans (29-Karen, 8-Eddie, 3 George) The winner in this category gets to glow in the dark--that would be me.  Next time you see me, ask me how to scare a Radiology Doctor.  It involved a long wire in my boob before surgery number one.

38 visits to CVS for drugs (20-Karen, 10-Eddie, 8 George--hummm-Me)and these are just for the Rx drug. The additional trips for OTC/bandages/creams and assorted first aid items were at least that many.  I am so glad that our pharmacist is also a long time family friend, people in Kingwood would think something was going on....

30 radiation treatments - 6 weeks, five days a week, 45 minutes drive each way, leaving at 7:45 each morning...this is not in the Doctor appointment count, and there were mornings that there was up to a 2 hour wait for this.

25 nifty headcoverings - wigs, turbans, scrubs caps, in assorted colors - no winners here, just a fashion statement kind of thing.  This number was actually lots higher, but some did not look quite as good as others, so they were donated to a Cancer Support Group.

24 Physical Therapy treatments - two knees replacements---still star of his class.  Eddie got his groove back in record time--we will let him win this category

22 days in hospital - (George 16, Eddie 6, Karen 0) The zero by name, I have come to realize is a small victory.  When in the waiting room for the various treatments, tortures, and appointments--there is sharing---I was surprised at the number of people that had numerous reactions, infections and hospital stays.  George wins on points, but I get a half point for my 0.

22 hours in surgery (George 10, Eddie 4, Karen 7)  George wins--hands down, it was not even close.

17 times we have seen Eli - best medicine in the world---he is sooo cute, and has a smile that lights up the room with an infectious laugh, that makes me laugh.

7 surgical procedures  (Karen 3, George 2, Eddie 2) - Lauren wants a point for her C-Section delivery--since she is a Pickle/Day.  Tuesday's port removal will give me a slight lead on quantity at a total of 4.   

6/6/18 days/shots/weeks of chemotherapy (Karen 6 rounds of chemo, with Neulasta shot the day after for 18 weeks)  The boys can't hang here---particularly Eddie--he doesn't do nausea, bone ache or fatigue.  Done!

6 pink flamingos - in the yard, out of the yard - back in box - done!  Ready to be shared with some one else.

0 hairs on my head - Lost all my hair on day 13 day of the first round of chemo, here I am 11 weeks (77 days)---nothing on top.  Well, crap.  My legs have gotten the message--and have picked up on where they left off, but the top of my head, not so much.  My doctors have no explanation---more of "it happens" kind of thing.  Great--just my luck.

1 pill for 5 years - Bleh!  Estrogen inhibitors--not a fan, on second formulation.  The bone and joint pain from the Neulasta shot for five years---seriously?  Hot flashes?  That is so last decade for me. Aggressive behavior/mood swings ---bitchy---Eddie is sooo looking forward to 5 years of that.   20% reduction in reoccurring risk---nothing to sneeze at, will keep pushing.

1 out 2, 1 out 3 -These are the American Cancer Society statistics for Men and Women's chances of developing cancer---with skin being the most common in the count--during the course of their lifetime. Take care of yourselves--- Which brings me to my last number....

1,732,865- That is the number of prayers, words of encouragement, random acts of kindness, cards, calls, emails, Words with Friends games, that our family has received over the last nine months.  Thank you all for your support.














Wednesday, June 27, 2012

How I am I Spending My Summer Vacation

Remember back in the day when you returned to school and your first assignment was to write about what you did over your summer vacation? Come to think of it, I think even Lauren and George had some of those assignments. You always wanted something in your summer memories to be special, different, or something the other kids would go "wow" or "cool"...you certainly did not want to admit the truth that you had laid in the air conditioned house, watch TV and were really bored. Side bar...coolest summer vaca was when Kathy and I attended an Apollo launch as a NASA VIP with my mom, who was a NASA VIP. It was a down and back one day affair, with a plane ride and private tour, but it was way cooler than the car trip that everyone else had taken. While our kids did have some pretty good summer vacas..I still think watching (and feeling)a Saturn V rocket leave the launch pad is still top of the list for memorable vacas...yeah, space geek, I am. Fast forward, after a couple of years of business travel with Ed, semi retirement travel and full out retire travel...the last six months have been lacking in cool, interesting or wow...it has been boring, and I feel deprived. When we (I mean me and my travel partner, Ed) first started the 2012 medical year, we promised that we would reward ourselves we I finished my last chemo treatment,before I began radiation (usually a four week recess) and after he finished his knee replacements. Well, how's that plan working you ask, since I am finished with my chemo and Ed is three weeks out from his right knee replacement. The medical community all wants to see us before radiation starts...as if I might explode or something during rads...like a marshmallow in the microwave. Monday was Ed's day with Dr. Siff. What can I say, the boy responds to having his ego stroked...Siff gave him yet another gold star for being his best patient. Wanted to hire him to teach his other patients how to rehab after knee replacement. The man who was too stiff that morning to drive downtown, sprinted out of the very crowded office and nearly jumped over the furniture to retrieve me. He skipped to the elevator...he has a couple more weeks of three day a week PT, where he continues to showoff his flexibility and brag about the zero complications he has had. He has made loads of new friends... Told you we were bored. Tuesday was my turn...back to the plastic surgeon...for after, but before pictures. You know how much I love having my picture made to begin with...it is a head on crash of fantasy, reality and the whole "adds ten pounds" thing...hate them...just ask my family. So, a shirt off shot, cringe...while my neck up are not,part of the shot, I would know the girls before and after surgery in a heartbeat if said pics show up on a gallery of clients. Just hope I didn't sign that right away somewhere along the line. After regaining my shirt and dignity, I recognized that I was a mere 1.5 miles from the new Trader Joe's store in the Woodlands. Summer field trip...105 in the shade, yeah, let's go...if nothing else to people watch. I am familiar with TJ from my Tucson visits. I was curious how a Texas TJ would do..when you have HEB, Central Market and Whole Foods..Texas born and breed...and everything is bigger in Texas, thing going on..the bar can be pretty high for outsiders. There were lots of confused shoppers...this is not a big store...this is more for high end, empty nester or professionals, not mom with 5 kids. Got my party snacks...great selection and price, my chicken sausage (want to compare to my HEB) and the obligatory bottles of "two buck chuck" ($2.99) ...aka Charles Shaw wine, now rebranded as Trader Joes wine. Think that a midtown location may have been wiser, but since I have plenty of trips (30+) this summer, I will bring my friends along for their summer field trip, when we go to radiation and lunch. Oh yeah, there will be more shirt off pics after they nuke me. Dr. G said that it might make the skin look like a dried out citrus fruit, or they could change shape or size...like I said, no big bucks on cute underwear yet, can't wait. Today, is Wednesday, I was out the door solo by 7:45 for All day appointments with the mother ship of MD Anderson..complete with the usual awful traffic on 59 just as you get to downtown and crawl to 288. Eddie knows how to go through downtown and get back on right before 288 and avoid the mess. I thought I remembered, apparently not, chemo brain, whatever, I was on a one way going the wrong way during rush hour...the good Lord watches over me, thank goodness. If Eddie finds out, he probably won't let me leave the 'hood by myself..so mums the word. Anyway, it is more pictures after and before...shirt off...but don't know,if I would recognize them in a line up. Can I tell you how much easier a mammogram is when the girls fit on the platform, without help...not too painful either. Even the tech remarked how much smaller they were, since she had my before surgery shots. Interesting side note, she said you could tell how they had rearranged the furniture with the reduction. Most painful moment would be the close up of the ratty chemo port...so it is not confused with any of the other pieces of furniture..as if...I am currently waiting for my ultrasound, where they use way more than the recommended dose of goo. If I am lucky, I will be finished early and head back home before the traffic builds. Today's reward stop will be at Pensky's for a spice fix. Hey, you have to look forward to these small vacas. Next couple weeks will be pretty much like this week, hot, humid and doctor's waiting rooms. Radiation after the 18th looks more like a holiday since it suppose to be quick in and out. Gee, I hope you all aren't jealous of how I am spending my summer vacation. Will keep you updated on our unique staycation...until then, hope your summer travels are safe and full of good and happy memories.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Vicky & Wally

Today, as I sit awaiting the completion of my LAST chemo treatment, I thought I would tell you a story...of Vicky & Wally...this is certainly not a love story, it is more reality TV...Pickle style. 30-40 years ago, young ladies, women, and girls in general did not share their undergarment purchases...with anyone other than family/husband or occassional Doctor or oooo, blush, a lover. These items were foundations...not objects du art that required bank loans or are on full display with various skimp outfits. In my price range the fancy of panties, bra and slips (yes, we wore slips..full slips that matches our bra, panties and garter belt..which pre-dated panty hose, but I understand and has made a comeback---no thanks) were the Vanity Fair collection....I, in fact, still have the ensemble that I wore leaving on my honeymoon. Only wished it still fit. I guess that I stuck with my matchy, matchy sets of underwire bras/undies from VF until after my second child was born....to this day, I know it was the fancy panties that got me into a second pregnancy so quickly after the first. By that time the "girls" had added several letters to their alphabet and my cleavage started right under my chin. The final straw was when the underwire would poke out, work its way out of the bra and magically appear from the top of my shirt. Changes were coming...maybe even a hint of thing to come, lifetime of boobie issues. I think they call that foreshadowing... Anyway, two kids in diapers, one income, new house, a new car...on the budget line item, matchy matchy would have to be scratched for the more practical...foundations purchase. Kmart, WalMart (Wally) --- multi pack panties, no lace here, and bras in a box-- Playtex (living, as they were known) which came with large enough numbers, high enough multi letters and no wire to poke the crap out of me when I was holding two kiddos. Matchy matchy would be special, not,everyday. That and a little snip, snip for Eddie, assured us of no more panties surprises. I would treat myself and Eddie to at least a couple of sets of matchy matchy fancy sets, but day in day out---Wally was my go to. Fast forward to the present...or at least the last 5-10 years....Victoria Secret, Soma, and a whole range of pricey undergarments that I did not know existed until I stumbled upon the on the Internet or in NYC...wow, I could go broke putting fancy threads over my fat butt. Our budgets have changed...no kids in diapers or college, or needing their own underwear...so I could splurge. I would stick my toe in the pool on occasion and shop at Vicky...here again alphabet and letter issues, and underwire, too. So, I would return to my friend, Wally, with an side trip for vacas to Macy's (with a coupon--old habits never die). After the second surgery, I had been instructed to purchase supportive sports bras for the first six months, while the girls settled into a more normal position. Thank goodness there was a warning label in that...they were high ..a normal bra would have been right under my chin.... Well it is 4.5 months, so I beginning to get the itch for some new undies. However, I will say, I have enjoyed the sport bras phase...I now see why women love them, never got it when the girls were so big, it,just did not do the job. After redecoration of the mantle, encouraged by my mom's and sister's gift certificate for Soma, I have spent a week (in my spare time...when not being Flo-ren) previewing what it would be like to have bras in sizes that didn't look like car tags numbers/letters. Ahhh, fantasy vs reality can be so cruel. Silly me, the front had changed, the back had not. One thing about the bigger bras, the back is bigger, and smoothed the lumps and humps back there. Guess I never fully appreciated that aspect of 6-9 hooked bras with 2.5 inch straps...I just,saw to ruts in my shoulders, pain in my neck and mid back....traded that all in for Much more manageable girls, but had no idea they were covering for a jelly belly and back muffin top. While the jelly belly is one of the chemo side effects...really...they call it something more clinical like fat building due increase cortisol levels and the triggers of said cortisol by the T & C therapy..great another thing that makes me look bigger. I have a sneaking suspicion that this side effect will hang on longer than the treatments...just a guess, seeing how reality is a cruel mistress and all. Let's shop...I started at the top, for my budget (hey, I told you I am cheap) and did Victoria Secrets...more of the back of the store items, not the front, hot patterns, colors, or words like PINK on my fat butt...that would be no. Even had a coupon. Told you pink flamingos was my signature wearing of the pink/ribbon move. No sale, with pouty lip(read dejected) I left without a cute pink bag with tissue wrapped garments. On to Soma, repeat of day with Vicky, more pouty, more grumpy. I contiuned my journey from store to store..speciality and department, on hot Texas days...my mood became worse, no purchases or even possibles for my list after six months, which I have now been informed will be until September, since radiation can make things change, too. Yeah, yet another breast cancer item to be survived. So, Please wait before committing resources to the new undergarments. Sadly, I have come to the realization, that except for vaca/date wear, me and Wally will be going steady for the coming years. Some times, reality bites. On the positive note of the day, the last flamingo will be placed in the yard this afternoon. Had to hide it, Ed and George have become so interested in the flocking that they have tried to help me by offering to put it out for me. To which they draw back a nub, this is my victory...period. Additonally, with Eddie's second knee, a driving knee, he could not be part of today's victory dance and bell ringing (that the reward MDAnderson gives your for surviving the chemo). Deb picked me you and has driven me to to my the appointment time...which as we have learned is merely a suggestion. Luckily, they have started a new procedure here...it starts with communication and ends with a better time management program in the infusion clinc...so we,should be home before 3:00 this afternoon. I would like to say my "words of wisdom/input" has helped in their procedural changes (Hey, once a Type A organizer, always a Type A...we like the control stick, too) It has been a journey...it does change you, but not in a bad way...it does make you more mindful of your blessings, more forgiving of others faults (cause you let go of the small and petty things), and you treasure the things that matter most...family, friends and health. As I turn this corner, into the final lap...6 weeks radiation and putting my flamingos back in the box at the end of every week...there is a light at the end of the tunnel...remember you can do anything for 90 days, don't try and eat the elephant all at once, and keep a positive attitude. Wing salute! Please forgive any errors, IPAD is not the greatest for blogs and spell check...there is probably an app for that but I haven't have time to look.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Men are not good patients!

After the last five months, I have come to the conclusion that men, in general, do not make good sick people...God help us all if modern science figures out how to let a man carry a baby for nine months. After my last post from Methodist Hospital with George, I added the fifth flamingo to the flock...yet another Tuesday event. If it is Tuesday, the Pickle clan is at some medical facility received some treatment, artificial body part or reworking the plumbing. Obviously, Tuesday is a big surgical day in Houston...which baffle me as to why getting to the room after the surgery and wake up time is such a fire drill. Does not matter which of our fine medical centers you have chosen for treatment, it is hurry up and wait for your procedure (even if your arrival time is 5:30 AM), poor, if any information...until you speak with the doctor after the procedure, a quick post op visit, then the four hour wait for a room. Excuse me, they know how many are coming, how many rooms they have, how long the surgery normally last, so why do these places fail the math word problem, every time. There should be an app for that... Oh well, last Tuesday (June 5th), Eddie had he right knee replaced (for those keeping score-that is 6 surgeries on Houston Pickles, 1 c-section surgery on a Pickle/Day since the first of the year). Is there a trophy or something for that? Patient Eddie is not a good patient..he hates hospitals...he conned his Doctor into letting him come home in 2 days...yikes! So on Thursday morning, he had me arrive at 9:00 AM to spring him from prison. I knew we would not leave until 1:00, they want to charge you for the next day (probably why rooms aren't ready when people come out of surgery) but he was sure we would be out for 9:30..I win. Besides being a grumpy old man, he was in loads of pain, complete with nausea and vomit...of course, let's go home and let Florence Nightengale take care of him. (my friends call me Flo-ren for short). So, home we came. Did you know That if you have your knee replaced, you can't bend down to barf in the John? I guess that is why the area behind your sink is called a backsplash...clean up on aisle 3. It was a ver-r-ry long weekend...while he tried to be undemanding, when you have limited mobility, there are simply things you can not do...and Eddie is not patient. We have spent the week doing the physical therapy, but he is totally unsatified with his progress...remember he got a gold star for his left and was completely able to flex his knee by end of week three. So, it has been a long week at Camp Pickle, for sure. George has done well, stitches removed, just waiting for the all clear to resume eating a more normal diet. While he has been fine with his low residue (read white bread, pasta, and potatoes) he has tried of fin and feathered meats... He is looking forward to something red on a hoof...between my taste bud/semi queasy all the time issues, Ed's flat out queasy/barfing, and George's restrictions, I am more of a short order cook attempting to cook a meals that appeals to everyone. Will be glad when this part of our joint journey over...I feel like I cook for Luby's every day. Come Monday (curve ball for the Pickles, 'cuz chemo is in Tuesdays) my friend, Deb will be driving me to the MDA in the Woodlands for my last Chemo treatment...can I get a hallajuah! I am so looking forward to placing my last flamingo in the yard...and saying goodbye to all the pesky side effects that have been my constant companions for the last 16 weeks. I will not miss any of them, there will be no farewell party. I will have four weeks before my 6 weeks of daily radiation begins. I'd like to brag that I doing something fun and exciting, but, MDA, and all the others doctors on my dance card want to have a dance with me before I start to radiation. Add Ed's doctor visits and PT sessions, and there is no rest for the wicked and weary. I am sitting in Lauren's house watching my precious grandchild, Eli, who is almost four and a half months old...and keeping Cali busy while Lauren and Drew work. Tomorrow is Father's Day, Drew will celebrate his first, Ed's his 29th as truly wonderful fathers to their children. We are blessed in so many ways by the men in our lives...even though they are not great patients.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Almost Normal

Please forgive me, this was begun on Friday, and not completed until today.  George came home yesterday afternoon.  Since I have been so quiet lately, figured I would finish it up and post today.

As I sit in George's hospital room on the 8th floor at The Methodist Hospital for the second time in six months, the sense of deja vu is pretty surreal...talk about been here done that...only I am bald this time, with a little less gas in my tank.   This time is a little different, not so much drama, pain or what comes next.  No co-pay or out of pocket expenses either, did that on the first visit.   No feelings of panic or needing to stay overnight, just in case the nurses can't get there fast enough. Yeah, we were first in line for what the medical profession calls a "take-down" like taking down the Christmas tree, or WWF smack down (we call it a plumbing reconnect---at least with our definition you have an idea of what is being done, with doctors, no such luck). We had to be here for 5:15 AM (read: get up at 3:30 AM, leave house at 4:15...ugh), but still got to wait until after 8:30 to get started on a 4 hour surgery - no explanation, just the usual hurry up and wait.   George got to his room around 5:00. Not until Ed did a bed check count and tell the nurses station that were 7 open beds did the computer catch up---AHHHHH, progress, just ask Facebook what happens when computers can't keep up.   Back to George---but for the half a dozen one inch scars, a 7" here to there and a 3" on the left side, he is as good as new---not going to be a greased ab underwear model, but could do public service advertising for what happens in a knife fight...he will be the one without tats.  With "take down" you get to stay in the hospital to see if the pipes work, which take about 5-6 days, but you are just sitting around, doing nothing, waiting for the next meal. Not even the surgeon comes by, it is the lowly resident making rounds before 6:00 am that gets the call.   I could write a book on what was on the menu card for George, and what should not be consumed by a post "take down" patients---cheeseburgers and turnip greens should not have been on his list, but were.    He even knew enough to stay away from those.  Obviously with 7 empty bed, they wanted to make sure they could keep them filled.  Good Grief.    While the replumb will take some time to heal, we all hope that this will be the beginning of a new chapter in George's life...a new normal.  George is probably one of the bravest people I know---his normal and what each of us consider normal are not even in the same book, much less the same page.  He tries everyday to make lemonade out the the lemons he has been given, some days it is really hard--if not impossible.  He treats each day with a smile, complains little, and is probably one of the most kindest and gentlest souls in the world.  George is my hero, always has been, and always will be.

On another totally selfish almost normal front, we had the most normal weekend last week (funny how long ago that seems after a week of hospital time) we have had in almost six months. Friends of ours have purchased a house down on the Bay, near Kemah. For about ten years prior to Hurricane Ike, Ed and I along with this same couple would steal several weekends a year to a borrowed bay cottage. These weekends were all about the food, fishin' and friendship...we would sit on the dock of the bay, solving the problems of the world, cooking, playing cards, catching crab and assorted fish, and I ain't gonna lie---have more than the recommended amount of alcoholic beverages--that was more of a guy thing, since us girls were all about world peace and fishin'. We would eat, sleep, fish and laugh ---get sweaty and smelly, then come home on Sunday, a little tanner, a lot more mellow, and with lots higher sodium and cholesterol counts. I know we live on the Lake now, but it is just not the same.  When it your home, there is always something else that needs to be done, laundry, cleans the bird poop off the dock, yard work, housework, paperwork, and then there is the aquatic life---how can you compare catfish, bass and crappie with crabs, trout, redfish, sea snakes, sting rays---and there is always great boat traffic on the bay.  Just sayin'  This time, it was a day trip, down at 9 back at 9...world peace, fishin', crabs and liquid refreshments for the boys were all on the menu. Yeah, I drank water, yet again.     Twelve hours of almost normal---it was pure heaven. It was a taste of what we will return to in 90 days....2 more chemo poisonings, 2 more flamingos, 6 weeks of daily radiation, then, boom---normal.  Thanks Deb and DK reminding us what normal looked like.  

"Accept --- then act.  Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it...."                                   Eckhart  Tolle


Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Hi-ho, Hi-ho it is off to chemo, I go....

Okay, this is a new one for me.  I composed this on a clear brain day, meaning sometime on Sunday or Monday, thinking that I would post it before I left for my Tuesday morning treatment.  My blog was missing in action...asked Lauren for technical support, and she could not find it either.  What did I tell you about chemo brain, it is real.  Either I pressed delete or it was eaten by a hungry blogger.

Let's see how my memory is on Nasty Neulasta day, after Treatment #4, 2/3 done, one more pink bird in the yard. Booyah!  Boom!   'Cause this one was pretty cute, if I do say so myself.  You can tell that the creative mind no longer flows (funny that isn't in the side effects sheet, thank goodness I am not writing for a living) when you are being poisoned, it is more of fits and spurts.  This is more in my fairy tale/classics story retelling.  In addition to my nocturnal visits from the chemo ghosts, I have my own posse of Seven Dwarfs...I have no delusions of being Snow White, I am more of Fluffy Bald...with a chemo poison apple every three weeks.  Onco Doctor can be the Huntsman.    Glad we have a big car because the gang follows me everywhere, just glad I don't have to cook and do their laundry, hard pressed to do for the guys that actual live with me.  Let's meet my crazy gang of seven.

There is my favorite, but unfortunately, he is not always around, Doc, he goes with me to all my appointments, helps me make sense of the side effect sheets, and gives me courage to speak up and say no when I think that things are not right, or not for me.  I say that a lot, but it is my body.

Dopey is always around, I suspect that he was the one that hit the delete key on this original post.  I have sticky notes (I call them cookies) all over, or notes of what I have done and when I did them so I don't repeat or screw up what I need to do.  The number of errors that I have (I mean Dopey) made are pretty incredible.  Have caught them with my paper trail, but sometimes lose emails of social engagements, there are saved some where I think.  If we don't show up, don't think we are too ill, figure Dopey hid the email.

Sleepy hangs around far more than I would like.  Sometimes when Dopey is too much, I just follow Sleepy's siren call to the pillow.  If I am lucky, Dopey stays in bed just a little longer, and I can have some clear headedness.

Now for the sets of twins Itchy and Twitchy.  They are quite the pair.  Twitchy just hangs out around my eyes, drying them out, clogging tear ducts, making my eyelids flutter involuntarily.  While Itchy is the real trouble maker, he goes head to foot make sure that my nerve endings are all firing at will.  Hands, feet and top of my head (along with my eyes) get more than enough attention...tingling and itching (see side effect sheets)  Can quiet Itchy down with a dose of benedrayl but then Sleepy and Dopey come out to play.  Boy, decisions, decisions.

Finally, there are Lumpy and Grumpy.  Lumpy only is around from about day 13-21, when my hair can't decided where to fall out or grow.  Ed takes the clippers to what is left, I use creams, then Lumpy comes, and invites Itchy to come up and play.  I have more razor stubble on my side of the bathroom vanity than Ed does on those days.  Good Grief.  Grumpy like Dopey is a constant companion.  He grumbles a lot about everything...out loud, it has been a long journey and this traveler is getting weary.  My next post will be how I am trying to tame my inner grumpy...I know my family will be happy...I am going back to my earlier Attitude is everything...

Until my creative surf is next up, take care of the dwarfs and ghosts in your lives and thanks for your continued support.





Wednesday, May 2, 2012

A Chemo Carole

Ed is a big Charles Dickens fan...told you he was a book geek..so this is a Pickle Spin on the Dickens' classic A Christmas Carole..you remember the one were Ebenezer is visited by Jacob Marley and a gang of ghosts...well, our story is the ghosts that visit after every chemotherapy treatment.  Can I get a "Bah, Humbug"?  My mother has long said that as you age, you are revisited by illnesses, injuries and weaknesses of your body's past.  After three rounds of chemo, I would say the ghosts of my medical past have revisited me--it is as if the chemo knows your medical history and seeks outs those weak links to exploit.  Ahh, the price you pay for misspent youth.

On my first visitation (chemo treatment)--the ghost of Neulasta, I was greeted by all my old back, hip (structural issues) and joint issues, with a side order of tooth and foot problems.  Good grief---I have spent a lifetime learning how to care for these back and body problems, without out massive doses of drugs or surgical intervention.  Do I hear an "Ommmm-lotus position"?  I don't wear cute shoes---nothing about them are cute--they are practical, borderline homely--can't stand foot pain.  I have forsaken stilettos, strappy sandals, and ballet flats, for shoes with structural integrity (read: big and boaty-ugly), I drew the line at shoe inserts and night splints, but have had the torturous steroid shot in the bottom of my foot more than a few times (#7 on my all time most painful medical treatment)---just so my plantar fascitis would stay away.  Same for tooth issues--in my childhood I had some pretty serious accidents with diving boards that resulted in tooth issues/repairs/braces. And how am I repaid---with a visit from the ghost---not a pretty Disney style one but more of the ugly night of the living dead one....guess that is why I lost my hair.

My second visitation was more of a chorus of ghosts, none real frightening or overly painful, just a presence that you are aware---it is your body trying to do damage control over the poisoning that is taking place.   As you lie still at night, (yeah, after midnight, with your idle hands) you can feel/hear everything--like an alien movie.  These ghosts invite the Neulasta ghost back to party.  Couple of days of 24/7 partying with the ghosts, the fatigue factor sets in.  I've been tired before, but nothing like this...the ghosts are trashing the place, my blood work looks like a Keno board in Vegas--red and black numbers all lit up.  

After my most recent visitation, a real ugly ghost from my past has resurfaced.  This one has been there since the first night of treatment, but I brushed it off as a chemo headache.  After 11 weeks, I still have it.  I was concerned, since I have had this headache before---it almost robbed me of eyesight when the kids were small.  Parts of the treatment still ranks #1 on my all time most painful medical treatments...don't even ask.    I asked my Onco Doctor before my treatments if this was going to be a problem....after I explained what the condition was.  Yikes!  Since it wasn't his 10 inches of my body, he didn't know.  Double Yikes!  Hello, research, phone a Doctor friend.... So, I decided after my third, sixth and completion of radiation I would again call my own plays, and go to Eye Doctor.  Did that, I was right, chemo is a little bit of a problem for my optic nerves.  He increased a medication I have taken for 25 years in small dose, to a 7x larger dose---great, new ghost friends.  He also suggested I see the Wizard of Tang (Dr. Rosa Tang - Neuro Opthamologist) (Have been seeing her for this problem since she was just a Dr.--she is now an MD, MPH, MBA and any other letters you want to add behind her name---talk about not having idle hands) ---my personal Ghostbuster...4 hours and 6-10 tests later (her appointment train runs on time, to the minute---she said it would take 4 hours)  Best test of the day was the brain wave, eye response one--my brain responses extremely quickly (like a 40 year old the cute little tech said) to little red strings on moving checker boards--woohoo!  Ghosts in the house, but brain still works ---go team!  Made my Monday for sure.   Before I ever got home she had contacted Onco Doctor and discussed changing my medications---would love if she said I had to stop after 4 (typical conservative) treatments instead of the more aggressive 6.  But I will have to wait until Friday to see how many more visits of ghosts I will have to endure. Stay tune for more ghostly updates.  

While I am hoping for an early Christmas, I will close with the words of Tiny Tim, "God bless us, everyone."