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, February 23, 2009

How's that for normal?

I'm up and fed, all on my own. Woke up around 9am, took my Femara, looked at my awful bedhead in the mirror (I need another haircut!) and threw on my favorite baseball cap. Walked (not crawled) downstairs, put on the tea kettle, poured myself some Cheerios with banana and milk, and ate my breakfast while I read the newspaper.




How's that for a normal morning?

I'm so pleased to report that I made it through last week's chemo. It was a little different from the weekly dose, more aches and pains this time, but nothing a little Percocet couldn't handle. Kathy, John's sister, flew in from out west to help us through the week. She was a huge help, running the show just like my parents had over the past few months. (Mom and Dad finally got a break and continued south to Florida, where they are getting some much-needed sun and rest!)

Chemo was Tuesday, and it was a long day. I saw the nurse practitioner at 9:30am, was plugged in around 11:30am, but didn't leave until almost 5pm. Thursday I started to feel a little weak, but our nanny drove us (Kathy, Jesse, and me) to Barnes and Noble to play with the train set and do some birthday present shopping for the girls' friends. We even stopped at a favorite "greasy spoon" for lunch. It was so nice to get out. Friday and Saturday I felt like I had the flu but like I said, it was doable.

So I was thrilled to wake up this morning feeling like I could take care of myself. No calling in my breakfast order. No having to sit down while I sliced my banana. And no sips of warm water after every two bites of food.

Oh, did I mention I can eat again? That is a new development, too. I noticed about a week ago that I no longer needed to wash down every other bite. I celebrated by having some pizza. It was DiGiorno, not delivery, so it wasn't the best, but it was pizza. And then I had some gingerale. Yes, I can now drink carbonated beverages without feeling like I swallowed a dagger. Not that I drink much, just an occasional gingerale or root beer, but it's the principle of it all.

It was horrible, the not eating thing. Just imagine: your doctor tells you to eat anything you want....that's right, ANYTHING YOU long as you gain some weight. And then imagine, thanks to (supposedly short-term) effects of radiation, that you can barely swallow a spoonful or two of rice, and even then only if you drink warm water with it. Imagine how cruel that would feel!

Kind of like in that Twilight Zone episode where Burgess Meredith (as Henry Bemis) survives the end of the world but discovers the ruins of the public library, with all the books he could ever hope for. They're all there for the taking, and he finally has all the time in the world to read. But, his reading glasses break and he kisses his dream of reading his days away good-bye. In tears, Henry picks up the remains of his glasses and sobs, "That's not fair. That's not fair at all. There was time now. There was all the time I needed... ! It's not fair!"

Well, that's how I felt about my food. "That's not fair," I would sob to John. "I am so hungry and I can't eat what I want!" I'd cry for hours. I could feel the pounds falling off me. It stunk.

But enough whining. I can eat again. I can even down a milkshake, which is what I plan on doing every day to gain some of this weight back. I've been eating a Klondike Bar every night before bedtime, that's a good 250 calories a pop. And I try to get a real fattening latte every time I get out. Those Starbuck's lattes really pack in the calories. (Don't hate me because I can eat whatever I want! I still have cancer, remember? And except for my chubby cheeks, I look skeletal, nothing to envy believe me!)

So....that's how things are. Much better, although I'm still a little peeved that I have cancer in the first place. But at least I can eat, and I plan on doing just that once I publish this post!

Monday, February 09, 2009

I'm getting tired of whining here!

OK, I am getting really tired of whining, so I will tone it down a little. I am still feeling pretty blah, but I get moments of energy here and there, which I'll take anytime. I'm thinking my problem is that I'm not eating enough. I'm too tired to fix myself anything, and my family had gotten used to me taking care of myself (I was doing great that first week after chemo/radiation ended) when I didn't ask for help no one knew I needed help.

So now I am asking for help. It's hard to do, I really hate being waited on, but a girl's gotta eat! My mom made me breakfast this morning, scrambled eggs which went down OK. I made myself some hot chocolate laced with Carnation Instant Breakfast drink. That wasn't too painful, the making or the drinking part.

I even ran Frances' birthday tea party yesterday. That was a lot of fun, though I did have helpers. I felt so bad about it. I was too tired to do any of the cleaning or setup on Sunday, so John and my Mom took on those tasks. I just wrote the "to-do" list and shuffled around looking pathetic and apologizing to everyone that I was such a slug.

The party started at 3:00, so I was showered and upright and ready for the 5 little 5-year-old girls to arrive. They were so cute! They all came in pretty dresses (Frances wore the bridesmaid dress her big sister Emma had worn in a wedding when she was 5) and some even wore garden party hats. Emma helped the girls "glam up" a bit with stick-on earrings and a tiny bit of eyeshadow. Leah hovered and helped them with their princess crown craft.

We played outside on the playground (imagine 6 little girls in their pretty dresses and foam-craft crowns, climbing the rock wall and playing in the mulch!) and opened presents, served tea (pink lemonade), talked about tea party manners (napkin on lap, wait for everyone to be served, sip don't slurp, etc.), and had some cake and ice cream. Then we let the girls loose in the playroom upstairs, where we keep the dressup clothes. That was a party in itself! The moms and dads had a tough time pulling them away to go home!

When I scheduled this party, several weeks ago, I was certain that it was a good date. Certainly, 2 weeks out from chemo/radiation ending I'd be my usual perky self. Not so. That was really disappointing. But I guess with cancer, anything goes. You really never know how it will affect you. I was strong when I went through treatment for breast cancer 2 years ago. I figured this would be the same. Again, not so! But that's all right. We had a wonderful party anyway, with the little girls in their tea party dresses and shiny shoes. I made a doll cake (actually John had to bake the cake for me, but I frosted and decorated it, and got the Barbie doll dressed and stuck her in the cake) which the girls all ooh'd and ahh'd over.

What fun we had on Sunday! Frances was beaming in her beautiful dress. The afternoon was pretty magical. I'm so glad my energy delivered for Frances' special day. I was nervous because of how tired I'd been, but it turned out just fine, thank you!

Here's a picture of the cake. The birthday girl stole one of the jellybeans off the dress, but it was a beautiful cake just the same!

Not sure why there is a "3" written on the Barbie dress. It was there when I found it in the confiscated Barbie clothes box I keep in my room. (Barbie clothes left on the floor for too long become Mommy's) Anyway, it was the best I could do on short notice. I still think she's a beautiful doll!

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

What's new, you ask? You'll be sorry!

How are things going? You'll be sorry you asked! I finally finished radiation, my 5-days-a-week zapping, on Wednesday January 28th. I even received a certificate of completion from the staff. My last chemo, for this round at least, was Tuesday January 27th.

So now I am on a break. A 3-week break, until February 17th when I go back for more chemo. This next time it will be a regular dose, not the weekly low-dose of chemo I've been getting since early December. I'll get another 3 weeks off, then more heavy duty chemo on March 10th. End of March, I'll get a PET scan (I have to wait that long for the radiation effects to settle down) and we'll see what impact the treatment had on the tumor.

Wheee! I get a break! Am I skipping around, kicking up my heels, living life to its fullest? NO! Why? BECAUSE I FEEL REALLY CR@PPY! I am more tired than when I was going to radiation every morning at 8:00! The last 2 mornings I've slept in....1pm yesterday, 11am today. My ribs ache from coughing so much. My throat gets all constricted when I try to eat, and if I do get 2 bites of something down, it sticks in my esophagus and feels like a heart attack until I wash it down with warm water. I can't drink anything cold or carbonated, else I get the dagger-in-the-esophagus feeling all the way down. My radiation oncologist said it will get worse before it gets better, but this is ridiculous!

I haven't showered since Monday and I know I stink. I've taken more Percocet in the last 2 days than I've taken all during treatment. I'm miserable and I want to eat pizza and sip a gingerale but it is too painful.

Did I tell you you'd be sorry you asked how I was?

My friend Janet called me a few months ago, I think it was in late December. I hadn't posted in a while, and she knows I like to put a positive spin on my blog posts, so she was concerned about me. And she was right. At that time I was really wiped out from the weekly chemo, and I didn't have a lot of nice things to say. So I wrote nothing.

But today I've been thinking about that conversation with Janet and I thought, maybe I should try a little honesty. What do you think? TMI? Or honesty is good? I guess I wouldn't mind complaining if I could just find something funny about it. The only really funny thing is my hair, which hasn't been washed in days. I have wicked "bed head" and I look like a homeless person. (Believe it or not, I still haven't lost my hair. I'm happy about that, at least! It's been thinning a bit but not falling out in clumps. I do expect by March it will be gone. This next chemo will be pretty strong so I think that will be the final blow.)

I'm sure in a few days I'll be feeling better. By Sunday, I hope, because we're hosting a little birthday tea party for Frances (she turned 5 on February 2nd) and 6 of her preschool friends. I'll need to be showered and presentable by then. And maybe the party will give me something positive to write about!