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" I did just that. And I'll do it again.

Monday, December 29, 2008

many lessons later...

Well, tomorrow is my 5th chemo session since starting treatment for this new cancer. Radiation every weekday morning, chemotherapy every Tuesday. We've settled into quite a schedule.

I've learned a lot since that 1st chemo on December 2nd. First of all, when your oncologist says, "Oh, this is a low dose of chemo, your side effects will be minimal"....DON'T BELIEVE HER! You will still feel like cr*p!!! Any visions of frolicking in fields of flowers, kicking up your heels, playing monkey in the middle with the kids.....foh-GET about it! I learned that lesson week 1.

Also, when your oncologist tells you not to bother taking the anti-nausea pills as a preventative.....IGNORE HER! Don't wait until you toss your cookies to take those pills. It's too late then. Take the pill the night before you know you'll feel yucky. I learned that week 2.

And, when both your oncologist and radiation oncologist urge you to keep eating even when you're down and out from the chemo...well, it's OK to listen to them on that one! Gotta keep your weight steady, no more losing several pounds a week! Have someone wake you every few hours and force-feed you soup or pudding or even some water, anything, just to keep hydrated. Then chow like crazy once you feel better. I learned all that, thanks to "John-Jacques", my personal chef (and wonderful hubby). His full-time job from Thursday through Saturday is to make sure I eat. We learned that lesson week 3.

My lesson week 4? Be thankful for the little things. On Christmas Day, a Thursday (when I would normally wake up feeling achy and then go back to sleep for the rest of the day), the chemo demons were merciful. They waited to set in until after the presents were opened. I was able to see the joy on my children's faces when they opened the gifts that, as 4-year-old Frances said many times that day, "I've wanted this my whole life!!!!" And I was able to spend some quality, painfree time with my family.

I've learned a lot so far, almost feel like I have this chemo thing down to a science. It's a whirlwind schedule, starting every Tuesday. I'm peppy until Wednesday night, take my anti-nausea pill, and then spend the next few days feeling like I have the flu....just the aches not the yakking, fortunately! Sleep and eat Thursday and Friday, lounge and eat on Saturday. Have a cup of tea Sunday afternoon and start to perk up for Monday. Catch up on errands, phone calls, etc... on Monday. Tuesday chemo. Rinse. Repeat.

It's a lot harder than the first time around, I will admit that. But I won't complain. I need to focus on getting through, because I want to beat this so very badly. And as long as I have my schedule, and my personal chef, I know I can do it!

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

treatment underway at last!

Finally started my treatment this week. Chemo was yesterday (Tuesday) and I'm happy to report it was very uneventful. No passing out like the first time around 2 years ago. Since my port was in, they had easy access and didn't have to stick me in my arm veins....although they had a hard time getting a "blood return" (apparently when the solution goes in, some blood is supposed to peek back out. I don't know where or how, I don't like to look. But anyway, I hear a good blood return is important.)

So, to get the port going and get that "blood return", they made me flap my arm like a chicken, put my arm behind my head and flap that too. Then I had to lie on my side (in the very comfortable, blue pleather reclining chair) and put my arm behind my head like a cover model. I told the nurse she could take my picture for the "2009 Chemo Babes" calendar. She laughed. I liked my nurse, she had a sense of humor....though I'm kind of wondering if there really wasn't a problem, that this was some kind of prank they pull on first-timers in the infusion room. But it was funny, and I didn't care if I looked like an idiot. I didn't know anyone in the room anyway!

Finally she was happy with the blood return and we were on our way. They pumped in the pre-chemo mix: Benedryl, in case of allergic reaction; steroids, to pump me up; anti-nausea drug, to keep me from yakking all over myself; and Pepcid or Zantac, to protect my delicate tummy. That was an hour at least.

The chemo drugs, Carboplatin and Taxol, were next. They took a few hours. Taxol is dripped in very slowly, because it can cause an allergic reaction. I've had it before, for breast cancer, and had no issues. But they still dripped it slow.

I was in at 10am and out at 2pm. A long morning. Next time it will go faster because they will speed up the Taxol. They tell me the whole thing normally takes 2-1/2 to 3 hours.

My dad picked me up and brought me home. We took a detour and picked up some mashed potatoes (my favorite comfort food) at the market. When we got home, I hung up my jacket and proceeded to straighten up everything in the house. I was a whirlwind! It felt great! After feeling so sick for so long, being couch-bound for a few weeks in November, waiting all this time for a treatment plan....finally to start treatment AND to have a burst of steroid-induced energy? What a treat!!!!!

I slept better than ever last night, another treat. No coughs waking me up, no night sweats. I still have a lingering hacking cough from the October bronchitis, and it interfered with my sleep so much that my doctor prescribed a cough suppressant with a narcotic. I take that every night and I can make it through at least 5 hours without waking myself up with a coughing fit. Last night I think I slept 7 hours straight. Wonderful!

Then, I woke up this morning feeling better than I have in weeks. That was the best treat of all. Not sure if it's the steroids still at work, or maybe the Benedryl they gave me. I've been wondering if my cough is more an allergy problem than a leftover from bronchitis....

My dad drove me to my first radiation appointment this morning, 8:15am. That too, I'm glad to report, was uneventful. I met with my radiation oncologist afterwards, will meet with him every Wednesday after treatment. We talked about some side effects to expect, like difficulty swallowing and maybe some heartburn. The radiation is targeting the tumor, which is in a tight spot wedged between my esophagus, heart, and lungs. They are using this cutting-edge radiation technology to zap the tumor with minimal contact with the major organs. The lungs will get a little hit, but for the most part they are avoiding everything else. Because the esophagus is so close to the tumor, I will most likely experience heartburn and some difficulty swallowing in a few weeks. But I like smooth foods, like mashed potatoes and pudding, so I think I'll be OK. And it's all temporary anyway, so I can do it. (I can do anything, I tell my kids, because Mommy is super-strong and ready to kick cancer in the be-hiney.)

My mom will take a turn driving me to radiation tomorrow, so she can see the nice waiting room with the fishtank, free coffee, baskets of books to share, and baskets of hand-knit hats to take home. It's a pleasant place, considering we're all there for such unpleasant reasons.

Maybe afterwards, if I'm feeling perky, Mom and I will do brunch and maybe a little shopping. We'll see. Just taking each day as it comes. And so far, I'm very pleased.