Saturday, December 20, 2008

First Chemo

Yesterday was my first chemo. I had intended to write a second posting after my update, but it went pretty quickly. I got up there about 8:45am & we were out of there by 12:30pm. I was kind of surprised at that. Pleasantly, though. They try to make it as nice as possible, but you know, it's still a chemo unit. The port worked as advertised, except for the less pain part. Ow! Man, that hurt like ca-razy. It shouldn't hurt as much next time because a) I'll be more than a week & a half out from the port implant procedure & b) my doctor prescribed lidocaine. So I will put that on about 45 minutes before I got in for my next infusion & then I shouldn't feel it. Phew! Here's hoping.

I'm feeling ok. A little tired. I went to bed early last night, but then I got sucked into this book I've been reading, so it was about 10:15 when I finally shut out the light. Which is still a lot earlier than I normally go to sleep - especially on a weekend. But I feel mostly fine. Yesterday I felt like I was starting to get the flu a little - just sort of headachy & a little sore. I feel better now. Not much headache left. Still tired though. I fell asleep at halftime of the basketball game & woke up & they had switched to some other game. So I was pretty out for probably at least 1/2 hour. The dry mouth came on immediately though. Bleah! More water! I don't feel dehydrated - except for my mouth. I think I need to start chewing gum more. I must remember to tell Mom that for stocking stuffers for me. Yes, I still get a stocking. Shut up!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Update on Things

I'm sitting here about to start my chemo session. I'm currently receiving some anti-nausea drugs. So far they are working. Here's hoping they continue once I get the real stuff. To bring you up to date this week:
Monday was the egg harvesting. I was totally knocked out. Also had the fun experience of walking into the operating room & putting my legs straight up in the stirrups. I sort of thought maybe I'd go in, they put me out & then they'd arrange me however they needed, but nope! Right up in there! The indignity didn't last too long, though, as I was out soon enough. After waking up they said they had 6 eggs. Now the thing I didn't realize was that after they get them out, they still have to mature before they can freeze them. I did not know this, so was quite shocked when I got a call Tuesday from one of the nurses that 2 of them had matured. Meaning 4 of them hadn't. So great. I went through all that for two eggs? To my great relief, my doctor called Wednesday and said that the remaining four had matured overnight. Phew! So 6/6 have been put on ice. 100%, baby! Well, really, only 50%. Ha ha ha. A little fertility humour there.

Wednesday morning I had a CT scan & a MUGA heart scan. The CT scan was interesting, mostly because they dye they inject in you makes you all warm in your crotch like you're peeing yourself. The nurse told me this, but she had a bit of an accent - from the islands - so I said "What?" sure I had heard her wrong. Nope, she laughed "It'll feel like you're peeing." Wow, ok. And sure enough, there it was. I felt a bit of warmth in the back of my throat & jaw, and some in my feet, but yep, it feels like I'm losing bladder control. Weird, because nothing else really warmed up. For the MUGA scan, they pull out some blood, attach it to a radioactive tracer, and let it sit for 1/2 hour to bond before putting it back into you and taking the pictures. The technician brought the syringe of blood back inside this thing that looked like an empty toilet paper tube with a stand. It was lead! To protect us! I hadn't even thought about that, but there it is. So everything turned out fine. The CT technician saw some "changes" in my ovaries, but my oncologist told him (her?) about the egg harvesting.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Quickie Update

Well, I did it. I managed to wake up at about 5am this morning. Hooray for me! Somewhat easier than that was having my eggs harvested. I just had to lie there & take an IV. It's quite a process they have there. Like an assembly line. Anyhoo, they got 6 eggs out, which I think is about average. I'm a little crampy, but not horribly so. They gave me some Vicodin, so I shouldn't be feeling any pain when I go to bed tonight. Yawn! Well, I'm going to go & break in the new heating pad my parents bought. The other one just died. Peeeer-fect. Thanks, stupid heating pad. Next step: CT & MUGA (heart) scans on Wednesday.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Ports & Egg Harvesting

This past week has gone really quickly. I had a port put in last Tuesday, which was an interesting procedure. Mostly because I wasn't under for it, unlike every other surgical procedure I've ever had done. I was totally out even for my wisdom teeth extraction! I was under sedation, but not so heavy it put me to sleep. I did try to fall asleep, but because I was being jostled around as the doctor was putting the port in, I wasn't quite able to get there. They also use a local around the surgical site, but you're still getting jostled. At one point I remember going "Ow". I vaguely remember someone saying "Give her more local." I was much more eloquent in my head than just "Ow." Like "Excuse me, doctor. I know you're busy, but perchance could I have a little more local anesthetic in the region you're operating on? I seem to be able to feel something more than I believe I should." Also: "Pardon me. I hate to be so fussy, I understand you're all very busy. I know I asked for a warming blanket upon my arrival in this chilly room, but I seem to have become overheated. Would it be too much trouble to ask for the blanket to be turned down? Thank you ever so much." came out as "Too hot." Ah well, I was never that . . . uh . . . good. With words. So it's in now & it's healing. My chest is all yellow on that side, so that's hot.

So now I have the port, so I hopefully won't get collapsed veins. Which I was worried about this past week because of all the blood I've had drawn for my various fertility treatments. I had blood drawn & vaginal ultrasounds on Friday 12/5, Tuesday 12/9, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday 12/11-12/13. Apparently I, uh, ripened, a little quicker than they thought because they had me take the trigger injection last night at 8PM. They were very specific about that time. And I have to report to Rockville at 6AM on Monday!!! Man, that's going to be tough. And the procedure isn't even for a couple of hours after I check in. So this should be interesting. I guess they use the same type ultrasound I've been using the past week & a half, but it's got a needle attached. They go through the vaginal wall to retrieve the eggs. Things seem to be going well & I think I should have something like 8 or 10 eggs. But I'm not sure. Will report back later.

Last week, I also went to a 'Look Good...Feel Better' session. Look Good...Feel Better is a free service to women to help them (us) with the physical changes that accompany cancer treatments. It was nice. There were 3 of us - all for breast cancer. One of the other 2 had had chemo about a week earlier, but her hair hadn't started falling out yet. And what hair! Long and thick! Like mine. Beautiful! So we got some makeup tips, and some information on what we can expect from our skin. Apparently chemo is drying, so we got lots of lotions & moisturizers. And we learned the importance of cleaning your face twice a day, which . . . I should be better about anyway. We each came away with a little goody bag of cleansers, moisturizers, and makeup which were graciously donated by a bunch of companies. My bag had stuff from Avon, Revlon, Mary Kay, Aveda, Bobbi Brown, St. Ives, and several others (uh, I'm at the library, so I don't have it with me). Oh, I got 3 sample sizes (like ketchup packet-sized) of Udder Cream! I'm looking forward to smearing that on my . . . skin. Hm. Looking at their website, one of their products contains 10% urea. Which is . . . yeah, you know. Anyways, it was a fun & informative session. Everyone (er, everyone with cancer) should go to one - they have a version for men and for teens, too. After leaving the session, I had to walk through the lobby of the Cancer Center, where they were having a Christmas party for kids. Some were children of people who are patients at the cancer center, others are patients themselves. It was really sweet, but really sad at the same time. I mean, no kid should have to deal with this. I had to leave quickly, before I became the sobbing woman at the childrens' party.

I also went to an intro to chemo session at the hospital. They went through the logistics of chemo. You come up to here, check in, then they'll bring you back here. You can have guests, they have wifi (hello, live- blogging!), they have tvs at each chair. They provide lunch, if you're around then, but you can also byo. So, hey, it'll be like a little party in there. Except for the all the sick people. Man, we are always bringing things down!

Schedule for this week: Egg retrieval Monday 12/15, CT scan & MUGA Wednesday 12/17, and first chemo Friday 12/19. So I imagine my hair will start falling out after the new year. Siiiiiiigh. In that vein, look for an upcoming post about my wig shopping.

My New New Hair

Ok, I am finally posting pictures of my new new hair. So this all happened Tuesday, almost 2 weeks ago. I went in for what I thought was a two hour 'do (a two hour 'doooooo). It turned into an eight hour thang. Holy cow! And my neck was killing me at the end of it. I never thought that being a hair model could be so difficult. So basically I was one of many guinea pigs Vidal Sassoon was using to demonstrate (to the good workers of the salon) the new color palette and hair cuts of the season. It's not anything I would have picked for myself, but I am digging it. It's super funky & the kind of thing I like to think I would have done in college, if I hadn't had a ton of hair & a lack of money. Eh, maybe I wouldn't have, but whatever. So here they are:


Here's the overhead view. That orange zigzag streak? Is ORANGE. I mean, like road sign orange. Neon orange. Creamsicle orange.

And side B. In my hair dresser's defense, this is a couple of days after the actual hair styling. I was exhausted that night, so I didn't take any pictures. This is my first attempt at styling it after washing it. I have it pretty well approximated, I think. He actually did some flat-ironing, so it was smoother, but hey, suck it up. This is the best you're getting. And if you don't like, well, you won't have to look at it very long. So, hey, silver lining! Ha ha!

How you like me now?

Monday, December 08, 2008

I Am So Proud of Me!

Yesterday was a red-letter day. I actually gave myself a shot! And even more amazingly, I didn't pass out or even throw up once. Which wouldn't be unheard of. Ok, I exaggerate, but not by much. For those who've known me for a long time, I have big time issues with needles. I blame it on the surgery I had when I was 4 & 1/2 - I was in the hospital for 10 days & was poked with every needle in northern VA. Along the way, I've managed to come to terms (granted, there are lots of breathing exercises involved) with having the occasional vial of blood taken for cholesterol testing, etc. I even worked up the nerve to go & donate blood a couple of years ago (long overdue, since I was the recipient of blood during the aforementioned surgery, and really, everyone should give), only to find out they didn't want my blood (mad cow - lived in Europe in the wrong years - phew! I mean, darn!) But I have never had a flu shot that I can think of. I only had my first tetanus shot since high school last year, and that was mostly b/c I didn't want to look like a complete wuss in front of my doctor. When my mom & I were planning on going to India in November 2001, I had a plan before getting whatever vaccinations were needed. I was going to explain my issue to the doctor, ask for a prescription for Valium (extra-strength, please), then take a cab there & back the day of the shots. After 9/11 happened & we had to cancel our trip, I was greatly relieved to not have had my shots yet. So me & needles? Not good friends. Last night was the first occasion for the nightly shots I will have to endure for the next week and a half to two weeks. I read & re-read the directions, then cursed myself for not re-watching the video while I had access to the internet (yes, still have the broken modem at home). I considered asking my friend if I could go over & watch it on her computer, but decided to just get on with it. I already watched the video. Twice. I can do this. Breathe. Pant pant pant. No, no, no. Slow breaths. Phew. Ok. So it's in pen form, which means you attach a new needle every time, and there are multiple dosages in one pen. So I attached a needle, twisting tightly (but not too tightly), primed the pen for the first time use, made sure there were no floaters in the medicine, made sure there were no air bubbles in the pen, swabbed my belly with alcohol, went to pick the pen up again, and . . . shoot, where did I swab again? Re-swabbed, aiming for that mole right there. Picked up the pen, pinched the flab, aimed for the mole. Pulled back, took a breath, muttered to myself "don't be a wuss." Ok, started aiming again. Wait, wait, wait. I'm not ready. Hold on. Ok. Let's do this. Ok. Ok. Ok ok ok ok ok and eeeeeeeeeeeeee! I did it!!! I am so proud of myself! I'd give myself a gold star if it were socially acceptable for a 35-year-old to walk around with gold stars on her shirt! And I have to say, I didn't even feel the needle. That could have been a combination of the adrenaline & near-panicky-almost-fainting feeling I was having, but hey, whatever. Now I only have, aw crap, ten more days???

So I did it again tonight, and didn't panic as much, though the adrenaline kicked in again. And this time I felt the needle more. But it still wasn't bad. I've been told these needles are about the same size as the diabetic needles, but that first time I was looking at it . . . man, it looked like one of those large-gauge things they used to drain me after my lymph node surgery. I know, I'm not getting any sympathy from the diabetics right now. Well, soon, I, too, will be blase about giving myself shots! Perhaps I'll even be like my diabetic friend in junior high, who gave herself a shot at her sleepover & then, to gross us all out, let it hang out of her arm & kind of let it bob & weave around for a bit. It totally worked at grossing us out. I might have passed out a little at that display back then. But not anymore! Well, not for the next week & a half, anyway.

I swear, pictures of my hair soon.

Thursday, December 04, 2008


Agh, finally, I got my period. So I suppose I'll be going in tomorrow for my pre-testing and then I get to start taking the hormone shots (shudder) Saturday (see how I used the passive voice there? I'm still in denial about giving myself injections). Oh joy. However, this probably means I'll have to put off my first chemo treatment from the 19th (when we had it originally scheduled). Unless my eggs start popping right quick. Hm. Well, I'm not going to worry about that too much at the moment. Trying to be zen about it all. Ommmmm. So here's my tentative schedule for the next couple of weeks (how fun!):
Tuesday 12/9 having mediport put in (for those of you wondering 'what's a mediport?' - it's a temporary portal they put in on your unaffected side (the right side, in my case) that they can then put the injections directly into, instead of having to put a new IV in every time you go for chemo. It dumps into the big vein that goes into your heart, so that's a little nerve-wracking. Here's a Wiki article about it, if you want more info). I keep having the word 'heliport' pop in my head, so I get images of little toy helicopters landing on my right clavicle.
Wednesday 12/10 going to a 'look better, feel better' (something like that) class. I think they give you makeup and makeup tips, and hair info.
Thursday 12/11 intro to chemo class. Tour of the infusion facilities, among other things.
Wednesday 12/17 CT scan & heart scan. The CT scan is to check & see if there are any other potential trouble spots - i.e. if the cancer has spread. Fingers crossed that it hasn't. The heart scan is to check out my heart function (oooh, damn you, curly fries & mozzarella sticks - why are you so tasty??) b/c one of the chemo drugs has the unfortunate (but fortunately rare) side effect of inducing congestive heart failure. Which is different from just plain old bad ticker-itis, b/c it's a chronic condition that can be controlled. I think the main difference (could be wrong - I need a dr. to weigh in here) is that CHF is a weakness or damage of the muscle of the heart - whereas we typically think of heart attacks being caused by plaque build-up in the arteries. So I guess that actually lets the cheese fries off the hook! I forgive you, cheese fries. How can I stay mad at you?? Anyways, this is something that probably wouldn't show up for 5-10 years, so I'm having a heart scan to see if my ticker's ok, and to get a baseline for the future. Again - here's hoping it's fine.

Sometime, amongst all these things, over the next 2 weeks, I'll be going in several times for varous visits to have multiple vaginal ultrasounds. Fun, fun. And then I'll go in for the ova extraction, which will involve sleepytime anesthesia. Yawn!

Oh yeah, and I went in for my hair-modeling hairdo. It is wild. I have to say, it's nothing I ever would have picked for myself. But I'm digging it. And I intend to get pix up here sometime soon. So watch this space for that!

Monday, December 01, 2008

Holy Cow

Man, I'm going to have a busy couple of weeks coming up. I met with my oncologist (Dr. Liu) today & she has given me a to-do list & yowzer! I have to go in & get some blood work done (missed the clinic hours by thismuch). I also have to make an appointment to get a CT scan (to see if there are any other spots we need to worry about (fingers crossed)), and a heart scan (to get a baseline for my heart function because one of my chemo meds apparently (in very rare cases) can be toxic to your heart. Which means possibly in 5-10 years I could be having congestive heart failure. Siiigh.), and then sometime next week I'll have my port put in so I can preserve my right arm veins. I don't want to wind up like Keith Richards or Amy Winehouse & have all collapsed veins in my arms (well, arm - since I can't have blood or any needles put in my left arm anymore, there's not much chance of that, I guess). Ugh! I think they have to take blood through your toes or something then. Or is that where the addicts inject themselves when they've run out of arm veins? Anyways. So the port will go in & then I can start with chemo, which is scheduled for the 19th. This is all dependent, of course, if you've been following my menstrual saga, on me actually getting my period in the next couple of days. Argh! So here's hoping. Stupid Aunt Flo! When will you get here?! And in case anyone has that in the back of their mind - no, I'm not pregnant. My middle name is Mary, not my first. And I've got my scrip for my "cranial prosthesis". Dr. Liu says that insurance companies won't fill the prescription if the scrip says "wig". So there's your little trivia factoid for the day. And with that, I'm off! Tons to do. Panic, panic, panic - hope I don't forget anything. Oooh, tomorrow's the big (hair) day! Wish me luck - I hope I like what he does to me. I'll have my camera along to record for posterity.