Gotta keep on keepin' on.......

Cancer again...that's 3 times in 2 years. This time it’s not breast cancer, but a new one called squamous cell carcinoma. New cancer, same old fighting spirit! My blog is still named for one of many songs that kept me going the first time around. Driving home from an upsetting appointment, I turned on the radio just as this line from Steve Miller Band's Jet Airliner was playing: "I've got to keep on keepin' on"....so I did just that. And I'll do it again.

Friday, October 27, 2006

You know things are good when your oncologist is all smiles

My oncologist was absolutely giddy today when she saw me. I always meet with her before my chemo, so she can review my blood count (they take my blood the minute I walk in the office), examine the lymph node in my armpit and the mass in my breast, answer my questions (I always have a few), and just chat a little bit about how things are going.

She was thrilled that my bloodwork looked so good, and she was so pleased that I haven't had any bad side effects to report, except for the occasional queasy stomach a few days post-chemo. No vomiting, no mouth sores, no drastic weight loss, nothing terrible so far (except for my hair falling out but that was a given, and it turned out to be not so traumatic for me anyway).

When she examined me, she had a hard time finding the lymph node. It took her well over a minute to locate it, and when she did find it she remarked at how small it had become. Even the mass in my breast, which was a fairly large mass of dense tissue that held the smaller mass (about 1 inch) of cancer cells, had drastically reduced. I've come a long way since she first examined me on September 20th.

She looked at me with a huge smile on her face and said, "You have done SO well! I am so happy for you!" She was so excited I thought she was going to grab my hands and dance around the room with me!

What a good feeling, when your oncologist can't contain her happiness over your progress. It's funny how different things make me happy now. It has really changed. While hugs from my babies, a nice hot cup of tea, and a sparkly kitchen still bring me joy, I also look forward to white counts in the acceptable range, nights when I can sleep on my tummy without my port hurting, and being able to stomach food other than chicken soup and crackers.

So I am even more encouraged than ever, and it's only my 3rd treatment.

My sister Susie went with me to chemo today, and she got to meet my oncologist (and could see why I like my doctor so much). We had a good time, considering the circumstances. I was at the other end of the room today, with a different but nice nurse, surrounded as usual by patients much older than me.

I wrote some letters and read a little, chatted with my sister and the nurse, chewed on ice chips when the nurse administered one of the drugs (to help prevent or lessen the mouth sores the drug can cause). Didn't meet anyone interesting like I did last time when I sat next to Dr. Wally, my idol. Dr. Wallace Johnston writes a business column for the local paper and has a radio show too. I thoroughly enjoy reading his column. I love all that stuff. My favorite classes in graduate school were Organizational Behavior, Organization Theory, Management Psychology, all the stuff he writes about. Unfortunately, when I realized the man next to me was Dr. Wally I became tongue-tied, couldn't remember any of his columns or advice or anything from my classwork....so we ended up chatting about Motivation and Frances' potty training. He had some suggestions that had to do with Obedience vs. Motivation, with Habit thrown in there too. I know he thinks I'm an absolute idiot! But I digress. No one today as interesting as Dr. Wally. Except for my sister.

After chemo today, I was as usual feeling fine so Susie and I took off for a wig salon I had heard about. It turned out to be a wonderful experience! Reggie, the owner, greeted us as we walked in. Raved about how we look so much alike, there's no doubt we're sisters. Loved my ponytail wig. Couldn’t believe I had just come from chemo, I was so perky and smiling so sweetly. Et cetera. He was so sincere, not just playing us to get a sale. He told us how he had started his business after so many of his and his wife’s family members....grandparents, sister, brother, aunts….were diagnosed with cancer. How he likes the smaller salon experience, and being able to help others get through this part of their cancer battle.

When I described what my normal hairstyle looked like, and what I was hoping to find, Reggie immediately found three wigs for me. The first: too overpowering. The second: too much hair. The third: perfect! He was thrilled! I was thrilled! Susie, my fashion consultant, was thrilled! Reggie sent us outside with a mirror and told me to walk around and look at myself in the natural light before I made a decision. Susie and I agreed it was perfect, and we saw no need to try any others on. We bought my wig, I gave Reggie a big hug (I couldn’t help it, he was just so sweet), and Susie drove me home to grab some lunch.

It really was a good day. Things are going well. I had some stew tonight, went to bed earlier than the kids, and got a good solid three-hour nap before waking up to baby's cries. At that moment when I opened my eyes, John walked in to retrieve the baby monitor and startled me. I screamed and jumped and somehow flailed my arm across the nightstand and knocked over my bowl of crackers in between the bed and nightstand, which made such a rattle that between that and being scared out of my wits I decided that I was not going to get back to sleep any time soon. But I had expected to be up for a little while tonight anyway, thanks to the steroids they give me to make the anti-nausea drugs work better.

So I can add today's things to my list of what makes me happy: finding the perfect wig, having fun with my sister at chemo, and laughing over a flying bowl of crackers.

John is just now making me a cup of tea, some of the Sleepytime tea my friends Christine and Susanne gave me. Hopefully that will do the trick and I can enjoy some more quality sleep....on my tummy of course. That of all things right now would bring me great joy!

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