Thursday, February 12, 2009

Immune Count is Up & Aromatherapy

Every week I go in to get my blood drawn out of my port by the chemo nurses at my oncologist office - to check my immune system. The port is located under my skin on my chest between my collarbone and my right breast. It feels like a raised disk and I can feel a thin tube running up to my collar bone that I guess connects this with my vein. It's a vulnerable feeling when I go to get this blood draw so I get the shot that numbs the skin before they push in the IV. I tried using a cream to numb the area because the numbing shot stings but then I thought that I could deal better with the sting than with the puncture of the IV. I was wrong. My answer to this dilemma was to ask the chemo nurses to inject the lidocaine at a very slow pace. No sting!!

My dad told me that he always needs more pain medication than normal people do when he's been in the hospital but he's also more sensitive to other kinds of medications and needs to take less of them. I guess I'm like him. Diladed (sp?) was the only thing that helped my pain in the hospital so maybe I'm more sensitive to needles and pain (and chemo) then most.

Anyway, because I have had immune problems, the doc wants to check my counts every week. Every Tuesday I go in for a blood draw. This Tuesday marked 2 weeks post-chemo and my white count was up to 3.9 - remember 4.0 is the lowest end of normal. So my immune system is definitely healing from that first blast that sent me into the hospital. Last chemo I was up to 3.3 the day before getting chemo again. This time I'm already above that one week earlier.

I can't believe how awful I felt after that first chemo and then after getting out of the hospital. I definitely believe now that I dodged a bullet with that experience. But I really didn't know until now that that was not how chemo was supposed to be.

Anyway, I think going to acupuncture regularly and sometimes 2 or 3 times a week has really helped me heal. The Chinese herbs I'm taking have probably helped my immune system more than anything and I regret that I wasn't on them regularly from the beginning. But I just couldn't get them down when I was struggling to just get water and food down.

You can imagine, now knowing me, how many supplements I was primed to take and I had them all laid out for me by the day and time to take them prior to my first chemo. When I got home from the hospital, weeks went by as I looked at those supplements and was too overwhelmed and nauseous and probably depressed and in shock to take anything... Thank goodness a nutritionist told me about Florastor and I was able to build probiotics in my system without having the antibiotics destroy them so the nausea went away.

I'm also now enjoying using aromatherapy as a complimentary medicine. I got some nice blends that my acuptuncturist uses, made by Elizabeth Van Buren: Immune, Digest, Headache, and Calming are all the blends I like. Then another friend who's a cancer survivor told me about making your own blend of all the cancer-fighting essential oils: Frankincense, Lavender, Geranium, Orange, and Lemon. I got myself a dropper bottle and filled it part-way with jojoba oil and then put 20 drops of each of these single essential oils into the dropper bottle. Everyday I use the dropper and drop 2 or 3 drops to rub into the areas of my body where I want to get rid of those cells. Whether it really works or not, I love the smells.

I am very effected by smells. This was difficult when I was nauseous all the time and it was excruciating when I couldn't eat what my family was eating. Recently, my sister-in-law Wendi came for a visit and brought me some freesias - one of my favorite smells. Yesterday Geoff cut one of our roses (we shouldn't even have them yet, but for the weather) and it's sitting on my desk right now. 16 years ago, when I had my own therapy office in Hermosa Beach, I had a diffuser going all the time. I made my own blend for that: 1/8th oz. of tangerine, 20 drops of eucalyptus, 20 drops of cypress and 20 drops of geranium. I got rid of that diffuser when we moved and need to get another one! I love scented candles too. But strong perfumes are sometimes too harsh for me.

Anyway, life goes on and I'm enjoying the change in weather - finally getting some rain - though I don't like the cold. I've been going through receipts and tallying them for taxes tomorrow (we're meeting with the accountant). This was something that I was dreading having to do months ago when I felt so sick. Instead I felt great this week. I was even happy to see I actually made a little money last quarter of last year! Next week on Wednesday is the new/old T chemo which is a 4 hour drip. I'll check back in again before that.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Admitting Being Human

My updates from last week weren't very easy for me to write and post. It was an emotionally draining experience writing about emotionally loaded experiences. But I had to get it out and admit where I've been and how I ended up here. It was time to do it.

When I went to the Jewish women's program on Sunday, it was another chance for me to be seen hairless and human. It's not easy to go out in public and I am amazed that my clients are able to just focus on themselves and not get distracted by my appearance. Though I wear hats, I do look like a cancer patient.

So getting it out last week in writing was really an important step for me. It allowed me to confront that side that feels ashamed about being where I am. Then when I walked into the program on Sunday, I was immediately confronted by a very old friend who's kind of harsh who I really didn't want to have to tell how I ended up here.

Anyway, people do ask and I'm sure everyone wonders when they see me, what the story is. We all want to know: How did you find out? Did you feel something? Did the mammogram not catch something? And mostly, people just want to know the story so they can prevent it from happening to them.

It's just that it's been so darn hard telling people the story because I always want to say, "Well, this happened because I screwed up." So I told this old friend, "I thought what I was feeling wasn't what it was and then I should have gotten a mammogram earlier than I did." And after the look on her face, I went to find someone else to talk to!

I guess it will eventually get easier to tell people my story. Luckily I heard that the T allows some of your hair to grow back. That's great because even my eyelashes are nearly gone...

Next week is the T chemo on Wednesday. This week is the week of not feeling like I even had chemo a couple weeks ago. Just tired and weak, but that's normal for me! One of my friends tells me how great I'll feel after this cancer is gone from my body. I'm looking forward to it and the end is in sight.

Hope your week is going well too.