Saturday, 30 July 2011

The Wind Is In My Hair

I am very excited about my last chemo now! There are only three more sleeps until Tuesday. I have been in good health (with fatigue not bothering me too much), in the past two weeks. My hope is that my body will be strong enough to take the last taxotere and cyclophosphamide combo, with little hinderance to my days and nights. The last two days have been great and a testament to one's greater need for good relationships than the need for food for comfort (although a thick based, cheesy, oily pizza would satisfy albeit for a mere 10 minutes or so).

My paleo diet has been compromised somewhat during chemo. While there was no way I was going to do gluten, on the days where I struggled to taste anything, I did indulge on gluten free biscuits and some dark chocolate (it was only 70% not the 80% that I should have had). That's all though! Once I feel as though I am through the worst of the chemo side effects, I want to do the Whole30. All this will mean is that I will be absolutely strict in my paleo diet. This will give me a chance to detox. The husband has just finished his Whole30 so I am so keen to do mine. Of course, once the thirty days are up we will continue to eat paleo, but it will mean that we can add 80% dark chocolate and sausages/bacon (as a treat). This will be a serious anti-cancer lifestyle change. I'm so looking forward to it.

Speaking of eating... I have had some serious cravings for salty food, So, I have been adding a little salt to my cooking (even though we really have cut that out) and I just couldn't resist some sliced apple with salt sprinkled on top. Another strange side effect, and I assume it is from the chemo, is that I have a watering left eye. For around a week now, I have had to carry a tissue ready to dab at my eye. My eye is not sore, red or swollen. It is just tearing all the time. I promise I'm not crying!

Friday I shared the morning with a beautiful friend. Then, in the evening the husband and I finished a mocumentary series (loved it!) and then watched an episode of our latest television series. That night, I had a most interrupted sleep. The night sweats disturbed my sleep. My beanie and blankets were going on and off.

On Saturday morning, I awoke pumped for a group crossfit session. I participated in a thirty-minute AMRAP that consisted of 5 dead lifts (very light weights for me), 13 pushups and 9 box jumps. I was happy with my effort and felt strong. My arm did swell a little during the workout. So, even though my initial thought was that the swelling was not related to exercise, I have a feeling that it is. Anyway, the exercise is good, and I had taken it easy. I think I will just need to be in tune with my body to know when it's too much. I don't think yesterday was too much.

In the afternoon, I sat in a massage chair and enjoyed a spa pedicure. I haven't had my nails painted for a few months. When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I stopped using anything that would present itself as a toxin to my body. Nail polish was one of them. I won't be wearing it as much as I had in the past. It will be a special occasion thing now. Yeah, I know. I am so turning into a weirdo. It was very relaxing to sit and enjoy the company of a good friend. My two little toes were not too sore. That was good. I was worried that they may give me trouble. They are not as sensitive as they were. It's just so bizarre to have sore toes... I will definitely check with the oncologist about that.

The other point I wanted to raise with the oncologist was how I go about finding out whether cancer is in my genes. In a previous consultation, a doctor recommended that I speak with a genealogist to have tests conducted. While I would be most upset to discover that this gene could be hiding in one of my children, I do believe that it would be better to know now than later.

I am very much approaching this last chemo with high expectations. Although, let's face it, if I do happen to experience some severe side effects this time round, do you think I will really care?

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Radiation Planning Appointment

I am sure my heart skipped a beat when the husband said the word, "cannula" this morning. While I knew that a CT scan meant that I would have a needle, I actually forgot that it involved a cannula! Last time I had this test, I had to sit and wait for around fifteen minutes with a needle hanging out my arm. And, I just couldn't help but stare at it. Of course, you know the story of the panic attack.

On the way to the hospital, I didn't want to talk. I was real nervous! Anyway, it wasn't long before I was called in for the first part of my planning appointment. The young, male radiation therapist was so kind. He introduced me to another therapist, female, who was amazingly reassuring! I couldn't have asked for a better a pair. Relief washed over me, when I was told that only my chest was going to get pictures; that meant no needle, no cannula! My day just improved 100%.

My familiarity with having to show my breasts to strangers had left weeks ago. Since undergoing chemo it was no longer necessary to have my breasts examined or my scars checked. So, with blushing cheeks (hidden behind my brown skin), I had to lie topless on a table that was millimetres away from the CT machine. The therapists then drew lines, dashes and dots on my right breast. They were creating a map so that they would know at which angle the radiation was to direct its powerful burn to the cancer cells (if there were any left after they had been poisoned by the chemo). I was most surprised when they used rulers to measure (I thought they may have been beneath the medical profession). They also took photos from all angles (with a camera that you or I may have). Blue tac was placed at strategic points (this is the only material that will actually show up on the CT pictures). It was rather strange to have all this action occurring on me. Finally, I was given four tattoos. Each the size of a freckle. In order for the radiation to be within millimetres for each blast, the table I was lying on was also measured so that I would lie in the same position for each of my thirty radiation appointments.

I wanted desperately to see what my breast looked like with all the markings, but I was also still quite embarrassed of my state. I figured that if I didn't look down, then it was like I wasn't actually topless. Yes, I was fully clothed. That's what I told myself. I don't think it really helped.

I tried to relax, with arms above my head, when the whirring of the machine indicated it was warming up. Soon the table (or was it the machine?) was moving. The CT scan was over so quickly. I dressed and left the room, so glad that I didn't have a puncture wound to show for it.

I wasn't waiting long before a lady introduced herself and then ushered me to a small room. There, she explained the process that I would follow for my radiation treatment. I was given a phone number should I experience any difficulties and my first supply (of many) of aqueous cream. I was to apply the cream three times between treatments to prevent the burns from becoming nasty. Of course, the information was overwhelming.

I was able to have a breather in the waiting room, before a second woman called me into anther small room. We discussed parking arrangements and babysitting. I was given a small book for appointment dates. My first radiation appointment was already there, August 22 at 3pm. Closer to the date, I would be given a code that would allow me to access a close carpark with a $2 fee.

An hour and a half later, I was leaving the building. On the way out, I met a friend who is in their last week of their radiation treatment. With my head spinning from all the information, it was great to speak with someone who was on the other end.

All in all, a very big, tiring day.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Moving Forward

The sunny days have been terrific. The children and I have been spending lots of time in the glorious outdoors. And, today it got me thinking of how fortunate I was to be able to spend so much time with them. So, in a way, I guess I am grateful for having breast cancer this year because it has meant that I could be a home-maker for a little bit longer.

For all of 2010, I was on maternity leave. I had had an absolute ball. Even though I do enjoy my work very much, there's nothing that tops spending time with my children (and the husband of course). The last few days have meant that we could ride bikes, go to the park, blow bubbles, water the plants, have a picnic, go for a walk, to mention a few. No doubt, there are some trying days. But when I'm feeling good, those days definitely fade quickly from my memory.

Of course, there are small reminders that I am not simply on holiday. The fatigue is still there. Most of the play will be me watching. I join in for a time, but I tire quickly. Both of my little toes are looking and feeling a little sore. My hands and feet are cracked even though I moisturise. But, none of these side effects are debilitating. So, I enjoy the sun and the company.

I am looking forward to tomorrow, as it marks movement forward on this journey (I didn't cringe when I used that word). Very soon, I will be walking out of Day Care for the last time. And, the excitement is growing. The radiation planning appointment that I attend tomorrow will be a chance for me to ask questions, to meet with doctors and get a general idea of what to expect of my six week treatment. I have a little anxiety about the CT scan. Last time I had a CT scan, I had a panic attack (an embarrassing little episode). I have had quite a few needles since then and I also plan to ask to be horizontal for the needle; these should help me through it.

I do not want to write off 2011. It can still be a great year.

Monday, 25 July 2011


I think I can report the strangest side effect so far. For the last couple of days, my two little toes have been really sore. It's like I have hit them on the corner of furniture. You know that feeling? But, the pain hasn't gone away. Now, both my little toes are swollen at the cuticle. They also look bruised in that area. It's very strange. I just heard today of someone who had cancer, a couple of years ago, who was taken aback by the bizarre, individualised side effects of chemo. My sore toes have not stopped me from having a great day though. I didn't even have a nap, this afternoon.

This round of chemo has not affected my sleep at all. In fact, I have been sleeping very well. When I fall asleep, I am totally out of it until the morning. It's great.

My arm is still a little swollen. Nothing like it was yesterday. Yesterday, my arm actually felt heavy. I have since heard reports of other breast cancer patients getting the extra fluid in their arm on and off. It's incredible that the removal of only five lymph nodes means that the usual process, which I absolutely took for granted, of clearing the fluid, is now jeopardised. Anyway, I did a workout this evening, and my arm has not shown signs of becoming more swollen. I think it is safe to assume that the exercise and then the swelling of my arm are not related.

I was pretty happy with my workout today. I feel as though I did my best. And, I feel even better about the fact that I am doing something to get stronger for Tuesday's chemo. The AMRAP workout only lasted 12 minutes and included box jumps, kettle swings and squats. It was fun. It was quick.

Now, if only chemo, radiation and hormone therapy could be over and done with!

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Reality Hits Again

To say I was disappointed is an understatement. Minutes into the altered Painstorm 36 workout, I wanted to burst into tears. Not because it was hard (which it was) but because it hit me that I had cancer. It was as if I was being told for the first time.

Of course I feel tired and there are days where I am stuck in bed. On those days I understand that I am in a battle against cancer. But, when I feel good, almost normal, I discard the notion that I am sick. On my way out the door, this morning, I was healthy and energetic. Even as I watched the first group do the crossfit session I was convinced that it was a routine that I could handle. As a precaution, I discussed an alteration to the routine with our trainer, I wanted to be realistic. But even with the advantage of an adjusted workout, I was still so slow. I had to stop and take that many breaks. My spirit was definitely willing but my body was just so weak from the weeks of chemo. My counter, and friend, encouraged me along the way, waited patiently as I caught my breath so often and told me to stop when I made comments that put myself down. I didn't finish in the thirty minute timeframe. Such disappointment. The husband encouraged me with words that I needed to hear. It was ok. It was unreasonable to expect more. I had given it my best. And, under the circumstances, I should be thankful that I was even able to participate. So, I enter my healthy week looking forward to participating in some group crossfit sessions. I'll be less hard on myself.

The right arm is a little swollen. At first I had thought that it might be related to exercise. But, that doesn't seem to be something that brings on lymphedema. I will check with the oncologist about that. I don't have any pain so that's good.

Not for the first time, I have a dry nose. After each dose of chemo I get this strange side effect. Each time I just shrugged it off. But three in the row now, is too coincidental for it to just be nothing. It's not that I have no snot. My nose is actually dry. It's as if I have blown my nose, towel dried it, blow dried it with a hair dryer and flared my nostrils at on-coming cold wind. I imagine the skin in my nose is dry. Just like my hands and feet are. My feet are so dry, that one foot has a red and sore bit. I can't seem to rub on enough cream to keep them moisturised.

Where I do have discomfort though is in my toenails now. It's the same feeling that I am currently having in my fingernails. All twenty nails are there though. Another good thing to report.

I am standing at the top of the mountain today. I have a great week of healthy days ahead. Beyond that is my last chemo.

Friday, 22 July 2011

Happy Hormones

When I told the husband that I had more energy today and that I wasn't as cranky he replied, "Yeah, you were a bit scary yesterday". For real. The husband and the children didn't seem that scared of me. But, when I am in the middle of a tired rampage because, well, because I can, to be honest, I didn't really take much notice of their reactions. Oh, to be calm again. That would be bliss; for all of us.

The day just seemed to begin quite upbeat. I busied myself with housework and kept child one and two occupied too. Then, when the afternoon hit, I was surprised that I had enough energy to do some exercise. I wasn't really expecting that. So, I finally did the 21-15-9 that I had wanted to do. I did squats and push-ups with a weighted vest. I topped it off with a skip. It's not much, and it took me longer than I would have liked. But, I worked up a sweat and my heartbeat increased. I felt great afterwards.

My fingernails are still sensitive, my scar is irritating, I still have a patchy face and the fatigue is loitering. Honestly, such minor issues.

Actually, I do have to add that I have not begun using either of the creams that I purchased yesterday. I really should use the one for my wrist. There's no reason for putting that one off. But, I have reservations about the cream for my face. First of all, the pharmacist couldn't read the oncologist's handwriting. Then she thought it was odd for the doctor to recommend using that cream for what she could see on my face. If it was on any other part of my body I know I wouldn't have thought twice. But, it's on my face. Scarves don't cover that up. What if the cream reacts badly to my skin? What if it makes the marks worse? What if the cream is the wrong one? What if the cream is actually acid and eats away at my cheek bone and I forever have a hole in my face... Ok, I will admit, I worry about stupid stuff. Sure, pump taxotere and cyclophosphamide into my veins for a couple of hours, but there is no way I'm putting that over-the-counter cream on my face. Pathetic! Right, now that it's out there, I feel stupid. I am going to have a shower, open the bag (truly, I haven't even opened the bag since bringing the creams home yesterday) and put on both creams.

If I never blog again, you will know it was the cream...

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Patch Face

I have felt tired today. I have also been irritable again. I am trying very hard to stay calm and in control but with the chemo encouraging my hormones to bounce all over the place, I'm fighting a losing battle sometimes. I am conscious of the affect that this is having on those around me so, I do try to say those words that cling so tightly to my lips and don't want to get out, "I'm sorry".

If I could just exercise. I really think that getting some exercise would help with the fatigue. The thing is though that by the time the children are asleep (their afternoon nap) I'm unable to pull together the motivation to do it. I could push myself, but it's likely to be my body saying that it needs a little more time. Tomorrow, day 10, is the end of my low immune period. So, I will aim to do exercise then. But, if I can't that's ok. On Saturday, I will (mind over body for this one) do a group crossfit session. I have to. It'll get the blood moving. I need that.

I cut my fingernails (how did something so mundane become worthy of a its own paragraph?). And, I was tricked into cutting them too short. My nails have obviously come away from the nail bed because even though I left a little white on my nails, they feel as though I have cut them way too short. Still, it's a minor issue.

Aside from the fatigue, the scar on my face is the most confronting side effect. I purchased ointment. I hope it makes the marks disappear. And, while I was there I also got the antibiotic lotion to put on the two places where the chemo has caused tissue damage close to my wrist.

The scar (in my armpit), as it has for each low immune week, is a little sore. It feels like there is a small lump at the one end. And, the scar has opened again. I'm so glad I never pretended to be brave and put deodorant on. Yes, my self-imposed ban on any products in my right armpit continues.

Today, I had the cancer chat with child number one. I tried to be as casual as I could in bringing up the topic. I explained that I had one more chemo treatment and the reason for having it. I should have followed my gut instinct. When child number one asked that question alarm bells didn't ring. So now, when I was talking cancer, child number one really wasn't interested. Fine. Conversation over.

I think I'm starting to get excited about the next chemo being my last one. I really haven't been excited. I haven't allowed myself to. Why? Well, I wanted the cannular in and the drugs flowing before the no-more-chemo smile came out. But yesterday, I dug out my radiation paperwork and discovered that my planning appointment with the radiation doctors is Wednesday! Woohoo! I get the goosebumps (good ones) thinking of the next step in my journey (haven't used that word for a while).

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Goodbye Follicles

I thought I had dandruff. As it turned out, it was just the next lot of hair unloosening itself from the follicles. This is that story...(and some others)

While watching our favourite (at the moment) mocumentary, I scratched my head. I couldn't believe it. There was a moment there where I thought I had discovered that I had dandruff. If I hadn't been receiving chemo that would have been the obvious response. Under the spell of chemo though means that I am more likely be be scratching at a side effect. It was simply dry skin. My scalp was crying out for its daily fix of aqueous cream.

Before stepping into the shower, I admired my shiny head (which isn't so fair anymore) and inspected the disappearing scar (thanks Mr High Intensity Vitamin E cream) from the lumpectomy. I gave my head a good scrub with the cream. I brought my hands around to rinse off the excess cream. It was Tuesday. I forgot! Only then, as I stared at my hands, did the puzzle pieces fall into place (how cliche? who hasn't used that phrase?). Well, they did ok? Tuesday, one week after chemo, has been when hair things happen. There was hair all over my hand. I reached around and pinched at bits of hair. I could actually pull them out. It didn't hurt, at all. I could feel nothing. The last ones.

Although only minor, I have experienced pain in my fingernails. I've been knocking my fingers into everything. And, they are actually sensitive. I must have always given my fingernails a good bashing in my day to day movement, but now I am feeling it. That coupled with the discolouration of my nail, closest to my cuticle, in some fingers, is my most discomforting side effect today. I can't complain.

Another good point? The fatigue is still there but certainly not as intense as that which I experienced after my last round of chemo. I'm feeling pretty good!

The red splotch is back though, sort of. After it changed to a dark patch on my cheek bone it never completely disappeared. Now, with the poisons of the latest chemo swimming around my system, there is redness again. It is still limited to one side of my face. But, it is growing. I do have a prescription for it, but that was only if it became pimply. And, that hasn't happened yet. So, I'll be like Mariah Carey and only have photos taken of my good side.

I keep forgetting to include an interesting quote from child number one. The other day, I was asked, "Mum, will you die after your last chemo?" The question was posed without emotion, matter-of-factly. I wasn't even upset that it was posed. But, it did present to me that I needed to have another chat about the whole breast cancer process. Because, quite clearly, what I had said, and what child number one could see was a little confusing. I will look for a casual, no-big-deal opportunity to discuss cancer with the four year old again.

Monday, 18 July 2011


I slept all through the night. It was amazing. Sleep, while I do get over lying in bed, is the best eliminator of chemo side effects. Of course, that's if you can get it. And, I got it! I even had a wonderful sleep in! And, when I rolled out of bed, I instantly felt that I was much better than the day before. I wasn't expecting that.

Today, marks me beginning my recovery from the third dose of chemo. Tomorrow though, brings low immunity, and that will last until Friday. While I'm ecstatic to be going to bed feeling pretty good, I am very much aware of how quickly things can change. A runny nose, an undercooked meal or even one of my own bugs (in my belly) could set off a chain reaction that would mean an Emergency Department check-in.

So, with only the continuance of my nails lifting from the bed (although none have fallen off) I have nothing to report in terms of side effects today. Oh yeah, actually, I have a tiny ulcer on my tongue. I totally deserve it though because I am sick of rinsing my mouth (yep, already). Such a rebel, I know. Oh, and hair loss. So forgetful. That's a chemo thing too.

For the most part, I am bald. I have a small patch that I don't think will last. My bald head now requires cream as opposed to shampoo and conditioner. I made the change last week. I "wash my hair" with aqueous cream. I'm satisfied with that. Surprisingly, I still have eyebrows and eyelashes. Two separate people have commented that both seem thinner. I have to second that. But, they are both well and truly there. I hope they stay. Honestly, I am rubbish at putting on fancy makeup. If my eyebrows disappear, I may just opt for a monobrow because I have a ruler and that would just be easier...

I have not shaved under my armpits (eeewww!) since the week of the lumpectomy. I am talking a good couple of months there. And, I am proud to say that the hair has disappeared! Quite a while ago actually. While I'm talking armpits, I may as well share that I have only been putting deodorant on under my left arm. Why? Because, since I had trouble with the wound (under my arm) during the first chemo and then when the wound opened up, I have been too scared to do it. Even as I type that I can't even convince myself to start doing it now. I am literally too scared. It's unreasonable too. What would happen? Truthfully, there is some affected part of my brain that thinks the application of deodorant will reopen the wound. Yes, it's ridiculous. I'm just not ready. Hi, I'm Alicia and I have a fear of putting deodorant under my right arm.

Finally, my legs. There are a few straggling hairs which I can actually just pluck out. For real! It doesn't even hurt. I'm not interested in doing that though. I just did it to test.

I can now count two perks to having breast cancer. Aside from the obvious ones like, other people cook for me, I get whatever I want, I get to lie in bed all day...

1. Chemo patients are seen to immediately upon arrival to the Emergency Department
2. Chemo patients don't have to bother with shaving/waxing for a while

I wonder if I get to add anymore to my list of two?

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Another Two Days

Today, I was the pathetic, irresponsible, drug-addicted mother. Too unwell to move. My head was banging. All I wanted was ice. Yep, a glass of ice cubes, please. I have always had sensitive teeth (although not so now that I am on a sugar free diet) so my desire for ice is really quite strange. For whatever reason, I did feel better sucking on cubes of ice. I kept my scarf over my eyes, that was my way of limiting any incoming messages through the senses. I felt overloaded. Yesterday, I thought I had felt miserable...this morning topped it! I wanted to cry, when I admitted that I just didn't have the ability to get up to feed the children.

Anyway, by the time 9am ticked along, I was able to get up to make myself breakfast. I wasn't hungry, but I knew that food in my belly would keep away the nausea. I got up, ate and then returned to bed.

The last two days have definitely been the toughest. The accumulative effect of chemo reared its bald and nasty head. At this point in time, I can say that my side effects have included: feeling miserable, headaches, aches and pains in my arms, slight nausea, loss of appetite, loss of taste buds, a funny taste in my mouth, menopausal moments, sore stomach, diarrhoea, irritable moods and of course, fatigue.

And, with great applause I welcome a new side effect. I have noticed some ever so slight changes in my finger nails. Throughout the treatment, so far, my nails have remained really strong. I hadn't noticed any weakening in my nails and my nails were not brittle as I was told they may become. What I have felt now though is that my nails are lifting from the nail bed. Rather than hugging my fingertips my nails are curling up and away. And, my nails just feel funny. Time will tell where that will go. Since I only have one more chemo I can hold onto the fact that I may be finishing the treatment before the nails decide to leave Fingertip Town.

By the afternoon, I was able to lay on my belly with my arms under the pillow. What a treat. Only hours before, my arms would have been too sore for that. What a simple pleasure.

Another two days are history. I wish I could say that I greeted them with excitement and anticipation of good things. The truth is, I didn't. I really just wanted them over. I should work on that, hey? Each day is a gift...blah, blah. I'll work on that.

Friday, 15 July 2011

Day 2 and Day 3

The last two days have been hard. Fortunately, the husband has been home.

On Thursday I awoke with a slimy mouth. It's gross. I got to have a sleep in as the husband did the morning breakfast routine. Then, when child number two had a nap, in the morning, the husband took child number one out. It was bliss to be asleep in a quiet house. But, I have to admit that before I did have a shower and get back into bed, I quickly swept the floor and did a general tidy up. Why? I don't know. It just made me feel a little better.

By the time, I was ready for my afternoon nap I had a sore tummy to contend with. I was just feeling miserable. It's pretty sad when you get so low that the laughter of your children or their cuddles don't bring up the usual warm fuzzies. It's very sad.

I ate gluten free bread, but it didn't do the trick. Nothing did. I wanted to eat, but nothing tasted right. I was so glad when the end of the day came.

The day closed with that awful taste of chemo saliva. When I had a shower, I spat so much. Sleep, I knew, would bring reprieve...

I spent much of the night on my tummy wide awake. I refused to look at the time and I resisted the urge to watch television, which was only going to stimulate my mind. When Friday morning did come, I was immediately struck with aches and pains in my arms.

This was the first time I had experienced this side effect. For the past few weeks, I had been questioning my friend, who gets them quite bad, to describe it. No need, I get it. Although, I have to be grateful that I have only had it in my arms. (Some people get the aches and pains throughout their body!) My arms have been sore to move and sore to touch.

On the upside though, I got breakfast in bed. It didn't taste like it should but I ate it anyway.

Much of today has been spent in bed. I had a burst of energy just after dinner, but that energy has waned.

Days 1-3 are history. I'm over them both! Next!

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Who Sank The Boat?

In the warmth of my bathroom, I take off my beanie. It's a sorry sight, I'm afraid. For the first time I look bald. There are a few patches around the back. But if I look straight into the mirror, I am bald. My theory is that I will be hairless, apart from the fine hair that insists on hanging about, by the next treatment. The hair loss has really been a slow process. Not as dramatic as I had imagined. My eyebrows and eyelashes are still there. I can be thankful for that.

Day One in the cycle has been ok. I was so excited to have bowel movement today (remember I said that I would include it all). I resist the notion of breast cancer taking over my life but it's so hard not to get caught up in it all. I recall having two newborns and my monitoring of their wet and soiled nappies. Someone's got to do it, right? Well, the aforementioned occurrence meant that I wouldn't need any assistance. Good news.

I had two naps today; one in the morning and another in the afternoon. Again, I wasn't falling asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow. It's just that I get the need for my body to rest. Despite my rest, by the end of the day I was so on edge. Nothing anyone did was good enough, quiet enough or quick enough. This is not me. I'm usually more patient. I will blame the chemo or the hormones. It's just not me. So, I hear this is pretty normal. While it's great to hear I'm not alone, when I'm in the moment of being totally annoyed beyond belief it's hard. It will pass though. A couple of days of that perhaps? Sorry mi familia.

My elbows have been sore. I am not sure whether it's the aches and pains that come with chemo or if it's more to do with the workouts I had been doing in the week before chemo. Either way, it will be something that I will keep an eye on.

In my crazy obsession to stay away from germy humans I have had to knock back a few outings this round. That's a downer. On the upside, a few months ago my surgeon had commented that in the scheme of things this short amount of time given to the treatment of breast cancer is such a small percentage of my life. So, I often quote that. It's true. I suppose it can be said of most of the things that we experience in life. Things are all consuming when we walk through them but once we get to the other side it never seems as bad. Or at least, we are able to see the good that can actually come out of terrible situations. I've been fortunate enough to hear a number of speakers share some tragedies in their life and they have become stronger. When I think of them, my challenge is small. And, even now, I think I am able to say that this cancer has brought more good than bad. I have learnt much, grown a lot and had a few of my own little ideas turned on their head. How else would I have got all that in a few months? No regrets here.

Having said that, I wouldn't mind a remote control to fast-forward through the next week. Tomorrow marks the day in the last cycle when I began my three day stint in bed. If I wake up feeling ok, that would be amazing. It would mean that I may skip that. Oh please let it be! We'll see.

What I have been seeing in myself though are definitely signs of menopause. What? I'm thirty and I am going through menopause? Weird. During the night I have been waking feeling all sweaty. Yes, on these cold winter nights. I just found out that they are called, night sweats. I have to admit I don't get the whole menopause thing. Will I be experiencing this for ages? Do I get these side effects for a bit and then do they pass? Am I now officially infertile? So many questions? Why don't women talk about these things? Have they been talking and was I just not listening? That, my friends, is more than likely.

And, as for the question, "Who sank the boat?" The needle nearly had me tonight. Neulasta is it's name. It reduces the risk of infection caused by the rapid decline of white blood cells. It enabled my oncologist to site my blood results as being "perfect" when I went in for my chemo yesterday. Before my personal nurse arrived (mother-in-love), I held the husband and confessed that I was upset about the needle. He matter-of-factly- reminded me that I had been through far worse. I didn't cry (although I really wanted to). It was enough. I (start playing the violins) have always been so fearful of doctors, nurses, hospitals and here I was appendix-less, I'd had two emergency caesarean sections, a lumpectomy, an auxiliary clearance and chemo and still so pathetically weak. One would really think that you would get used to all this medical attention. Well, I haven't. And, as things roll on it's clear that I never will. I allowed the needle to be given. It was sore. I whinged. I cringed. It was over. Thank you (not really).

No plans for tomorrow. Will see what it brings.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

The Chemo Lounge: Round 3 of 4

Chemo day began with a bright and happy bunch of flowers delivered to my door from a beautiful friend. I rushed around doing some last minute cooking and cleaning. Then, all too soon, my support buddy, bless her, and I were heading to the hospital for my second last lot of chemo. I still wasn't nervous.

For the first time, I had a long wait for my blood to be taken. I was so relieved when a nurse, who I knew to be gentle, called me in for the first needle of the day. It was as pleasant as it could be.

I then headed over the road to meet with friends for coffee. Who could have thought that within the hour we would be hitting up a toxic concoction of drugs? Yes, we were in high spirits.

I had drank all that I could and my veins looked pretty plump. So, I stared at my veins until I was called to be weighed. I returned to my seat to stare at my veins some more. I sat and willed my veins not to wiggle; to be co-operative. Then, I was called in to see the oncologist. She was lovely. I was given a script for the mark on my face, in case it got worse or got red again. And, the pain in my wrist and sore vein were both the result of tissue damage. So, she gave me a second script for some lotion to put on the affected area. We had a nice little chat and then she sent me back out into the waiting room. By this time, it was packed. I chatted with a lady who I shared acquaintances with; we remarked on how small the world was. We also questioned how on earth the two of us had ended up in an oncology ward...neither could answer that one.

Then the dreaded happened. I heard one of the nurses call up some patients to convince them to come back on Saturday because there was just going to be too long a wait for them. My heart sunk. I didn't want to be selfish but my need to have the chemo over and done with was just so strong. I was nervous that I would be asked the same thing. As it turned out, I wasn't. Phew! But, I do feel sorry for those woman. They would have felt as disappointed as me in that situation, I'm sure.

It was a long wait today. But, eventually, I was called in to Day Care. There were hardly any nurses and the few who were there were working so hard. And, what's more, none of them were cranky or any less professional. A heat pack was placed on my arm to raise my beautiful blue-green veins.

I was now nervous. But, I knew that once the cannula was in and the flush went through it would be clear sailing. While the heat pack did it's trick, in further plumping up my veins, it didn't prevent my veins from wiggling when it came time for the needle. It took three goes before a good cannula was in. It was sore, but not as bad as my second bout of chemo. And, I didn't faint! I wasn't even light-headed. So happy.

I shared some gluten free crackers and beetroot chips (celebration food), and enjoyed the company of other support people and chemo recipients for the next two hours.

The needle was removed at 6.45pm. This made for a long day. My sore, needle-pricked arm was bandaged and soon we were briskly walking out into the cool air of the evening. Home time. All was at peace at home. Again, this was a sign, surely, that I could expect a smoother run than the last cycle.

A dear friend had brought over a stack of home-cooked paleo meals, another good buddy came to visit and I felt good. I was actually feeling as though I was on a bit of a high. Or was it relief?

With the third chemo down, I now only have ONE more round to go! I don't think I'll be excited about the last one, until the cannula is in and the drugs are moving. After that, I'll be damn well flying over the moon!!

Monday, 11 July 2011

Stop. Chemo Time.

I'm not nervous. I don't know whether it's getting normal to be doing chemo, or that I've kept myself busy or because I am on a healthy high. Does the reason really matter. Nah (is that how you spell that common phrase?).

As I'm sure I've made clear, I am feeling great. I think that this week has been my best during the chemo process. The exercise, I'm sure, will have played a big part in that. My blood is moving so fast it's going to swish this chemo around, spit it out and power through my body to get back to the spot I'm in now. Yeah! I am woman hear way, I won't finish that one. Mega corny.

Preparation for chemo means lots of water. And, I have been chugging it big time! I am willing my veins not not wiggle tomorrow afternoon. Wouldn't it be great if the cannula is in first try. Definitely. Last cycle, the first (failed) try was so sore!

I have also completed a big cook up. This means I have meals frozen ready for eating when we need it in the next week. I have cleaned the house so it's ready too. There are prunes in the cupboard, a gluten free treat in my bag, the rectinol and movicol are waiting patiently in the cupboard (who invited them?), salt to gargle at the ready, naturopath meds pushed to the back (for a week) and natural organic yoghurt (I tell the children that it's adult yogurt so they wont eat it. Oh, and, I know it's not paleo but I justify it because I need the acidophilus) and liver is cooked and another is in the freezer. The babysitter, the driver and buddy, the husband's days off, friends, family are all in position. Thank you. Tuesday is just such a big day. But, after this one...ONE MORE!

It really has gone quite quickly. Was I having fun? Well, I must have been because that's what they say.

My hands are just so dry. I am finding it very hard to keep the moisturising cream up. But, my nails haven't shown any damage. One of the side effects of tamoxifen is that it can make your nails fall off. Or, at the least, the nails can get very brittle. It's a bonus that I've skipped that one. Just before I began treatment I was asked whether I wanted to participate in a cold glove experiment. In the past, wearing a cold glove has been known to lessen the chance of nail damage. There are quite a few reasons why I opted out of it. One of them is pretty stupid.

I can knit rectangles. Top skill, I know. Well, anyway, this has enabled me to knit scarves for the children. So, since I would have to sit for hours, I thought that I could knit some scarves (I'm probably more likely to complete one over the whole treatment because I'm not that fast). At least I wouldn't be wasting time sitting there. To be honest, that was the main reason that turned me off doing the cold glove trial, initially. I figured that if I had a glove on I wasn't going to be able to knit. As I sat, in the breast clinic, (the lady had left me with the paper to sign to agree to participate), I had made up my mind. I wasn't going to do it. But, how would I tell the lovely, kind lady, who was just keen to help out the breast cancer patients? It just sounded so pathetic that I wanted to knit rather than help others. Totally selfish. Mmmm...see all the things you find out about yourself. The funny thing is though, that it didn't take me long to realise that I just wouldn't be able to do it anyway. Not mentally, at least. Once the cannula was put in, on that dreaded first chemo appointment, the nurse said that I needed to keep the arm still to prevent it from wiggling around (do you remember?). Well, there was no way the knitting needles were coming out. And, well, before the cannula was in I had the melt down (do you remember that too?). In the end, the glove just seemed like another mountain that I would have to climb. It was. I was done. The glove did not fit, in a way. So, as it turns out, if my nails continue to hold up, I wouldn't have been a good candidate anyway for the cold (it's actually freezing, frozen) glove test.

Is it weird to say that I am keen to sit down for a couple of hours and do nothing? Well, it's out there. I am looking forward to it. I am also looking forward to meeting with my breast cancer buddies. How have they been? Any strange side effects? Have they had an easy ride or a challenging one? Do they have a red splotch that turned grey on their cheek bone? Probably not. That side effect is just for me. Oh well.

Actually, I know. I am looking forward to having another chemo down. Woohoo!!

Good night.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

New Discoveries

I am feeling great! I have had a great start to week three of my second cycle. My energy has really picked up. I have been fitting so much into the last three days that not writing in my blog meant I have thought very little about cancer. Bonus. But, here I am. I have returned to this spot. And, I do have lots of positives to report. For one, I'm alive. Yay!

The discolouration on my skin is still there. I have been moisturising with high potency vitamin E cream but let's face it (what's with the pun?), the issue is more likely to be linked with what's going on inside. Will it be around forever? Will it disappear soon? Who knows.

The second cycle has certainly brought about different side effects. My wrist continues to be sensitive. When I was doing push-ups on Monday there was discomfort there. Just up from my wrist there is a bump where two failed cannulas were inserted. It is also quite sensitive to touch. Once again, issues that I'll raise with the oncologist.

I am very pleased to say that in the last three days I have been to the park, the shops, participated in two (group) crossfit sessions, did some craft and baked. All of which I couldn't have imagined doing last week. And then again, so little of what I could normally have fit in prior to the interruption of cancer.

While I have found myself to have lots more energy, it still doesn't compare to what I was. I am very much looking forward to being over and done with all of this stuff so that I can get back to jamming my days full of activity. There seems to be a post breast cancer culture where the woman break free of the confines of cancer and their old life, to adopt one that is more daring and assertive. I really like the idea of being a survivor. And, while I haven't got used to having cancer I know I'll embrace the former title. Only two chemo treatments to go and thirty radiation blasts and I'll accept that I am a survivor. Cool!

So, my head is looking ghastly these days. It's hard to imagine that I once had long, thick hair! Interestingly, I have discovered that I have a moley head. I counted about four moles (I'm sure there's more) and I have load of those little red ones. Should I have them checked? The itchiness (on my head/hair) has gone. That's good.

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Ready, Set, Go!

Before the chemo started a few people decided that I was up for a roller coaster ride. To be honest, I thought I was better than that. (Yes, another lesson learnt!). I really liked the idea of, thinking of me as, not being someone who was one minute flying high in the sky and then in the next minute hanging about with the pigs in the mud. I am level headed; and that's how I was going to approach the fight against this disease. At least, that was the plan. Plan smashed!

I know that the posts from last week were pretty down. I don't even want to read over them now that I am coming back into full health. I probably sound like a moaning fool. I will admit it now. Chemo has been a roller coaster ride. And, particularly last week, I have had to take each day as it comes. In fact, there were some days were I had to take each hour as it came. The husband was checking me every time I would try and plan the next day. You must know by now that I like routine. I like to know what's happening next. So, each evening I would always plan the next day. As part of our bedtime routine, child number one and I would discus the next day's plans. A couple of times, I tried to do this when the husband would remind me not to do it. Why? Quite simply, it's more upsetting when I can't do the things that I had planned. Last week, there were no plans. And, it meant there was little room for disappoint in that regard. This week however, I am planning to my heart's content. While, I'll still avoid inhaling the exhaled breath of the crowds, I do plan to leave these four walls for some fun with the children. As of today I have officially left the pigs, in the mud, and now I am flying high!

While the health and energy is there I have decided that I am going to exercise every day until the next chemo. I began my exercise regime today with a tabata. I went for sit-ups, push-ups, squats and lunges. It has been a couple of weeks since I had done any mentionable exercise so I was pretty disappointed at my (lack of) achievement. It doesn't matter though. I have a week. And, in that time I really want to get as fit as is realistically possible in the time frame that I have. Don't worry, I won't push myself ridiculously! I totally get what the chemo does to my body and will rest if I need it. But, I suppose it's my way of fighting the cancer.

In a previous post I mentioned having an itchy head/hair (I'm not sure which it is sometimes). Well, that has continued. I imagine that until every last strand of hair has left its follicle that that will continue. The trouble is that wearing wigs and scarves is a pain now because it pushes my short hair in odd directions so that by the time our visitors have left or I am in my bedroom, I am dying to rid myself of the headpiece. While none of my friends or family mind my patchy, bald head, it's more of a me thing. It's not that I want to cry because I'm upset about being ugly, it's just that I want to be normal. It's weird. I can't really explain it. I need to wear something on my head. Maybe I need to think about this issue a bit more to explain it. Maybe someone else, who has lost their hair, can explain it...I need more time. Two facts remain: I have to wear something on my head because it's important to me; and wearing something on my head increases the itch. Oh well. If my head gear doesn't move it's not too bad. It's just so hard to keep my head still!

Speaking about my head... Remember the splotch. Well the colour has changed. While it was once red, the skin has now turned dark. It's sort of like the colour of a bruise. I'm not sure why the skin is reacting this way, and why it had to happen on my face. If it were on my belly, legs or arms no one would need to know about it. I actually tried to cover it with make-up today, and that did nothing. I will mention it to the oncologists at my next visit. I've got a feeling though that it is just something I will have to wear during the treatment.

Friday, 1 July 2011

It's No Longer Cool

The itch is back. And, it is has created two problems. My head is cold, of course, it's winter. So, I have had to wear something on my head all the time. The only trouble has been that having anything on my head irritates because it pushes my hair in the wrong directions! So, all of yesterday and during the night I was finding myself scratching, repositioning my hat, taking it off and putting it on. Not a big discomfort, I know, but it's there. You know what this means, right? The chemo, the second round, was now going to encourage some more hair loss.

Just after lunch, child number two became very clingy. This little one is full of action so, while I was totally enjoying all the the snuggles I knew that something was not right. I got myself comfortable and, for the first time in ages, I watched some midday television. I was very shocked when my youngest fell into a restless sleep. What happened next was disgusting. It was foul. But, it was also a mother showing such deep love. Child number two looked into my eyes and with a great heave, which I felt from deep within their tiny belly, I was blasted with scrambled eggs, juice, water, pumpkin soup, meat and vegetables. My motherly instincts took over and I sat and endured it. I even curled my shoulders around to cup the overflow so as to protect the beanbag and floor from the half-digested conglomerate of meals. My nasal passages refused to allow the stench in as I patiently waited for the heaves to stop and the the child's face to relax. Both came. With balance, that any circus performer would admire, I carried myself, the child and the meals to the bathroom.

In no time, child number two was playing in the bath and I was in the shower (of course I was watching!). It was then that I was able to wash my hair. So much hair came out! I stood and rinsed until most of the loose hair had fallen. It was pretty gross to run my hands through my hair and see so much black in my palms! My hair has continued to fall out. I am back to wearing a cap with the idea that it will catch the hair.

With so much of my scalp exposed, it really is not a good look. I will keep scarves and wigs on when I'm out in public. And, when I'm at home, I just keep the beanies on to keep out the cold.

I have felt pretty good today. In my two naps times, I began watching a new television series. I really enjoyed it. And, I was probably more excited that I managed to get through the day without needing to sleep.