Thursday, February 19, 2009

Jewish Inspiration & Law & Order

Every once in awhile I go to and click on the multimedia offers. I like to listen to audio classes while playing Hoyle solitaire card games. Most of the time, I just search for topics of interest to me: prayer, sin, satan, why bad things happen, positive thoughts, reincarnation, angels, etc., etc. Other times, I just look up Manis Friedman and listen to whatever he has there of interest to me.

Today I went on there and listened to a wonderfully inspiring talk that I wanted to give you the link to - if you are so inspired. It's titled, "Life's Four Questions - The Questions G-d will ask You," by Dov Greenberg. He starts out with the premise that Jews are not concerned with how to get to Heaven, but with how to bring Heaven down to earth. The four questions help to clarify how to do that with your life.

BTW, most of the time I spend my recovery watching TV, so don't think I'm a saint. Every once in a while I read or listen to these audios. But I'm also enjoying just watching TV and vegging. Lately I've added old reruns of Law and Order to my Food Network viewing and have figured out how to use Geoff's Tivo so I can skip through all the commercials. I think Law and Order is appealing to me right now because the bad guy gets put away nearly every time. It gives me a sense of order and the feeling that things happen for the best in life. It may also be validating for me the feeling I've experienced in this cancer battle: that people die all the time from situations beyond their control.

My sister-in-law, Wendi, also gave me a list of fun movies that I've been ordering through Netflix. Yes, I'm making the most of this down-time!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Chemo Went Smoothly

I didn't have any reaction to chemo today. My oncologist lowered the normal dose by 25%. He says fatigue is the only reaction & possible neuropathy in the fingers and toes. No nausea. My white counts were lower than last week: 3.2 vs 3.9. (4 is normal). My neutraphils went down: 1.8 this week vs 2.9 last week. (2 is within normal range and .9 is good but if they go down to .5, I'm in danger) But my red blood cells and platelets were up, though the RBCs were lower than normal range.

I ran out of one of the immune building Chinese formulas so I was off of it from last week until this week. So I guess now I know that I really need to continue taking that! I took a different formula in the meantime but it probably wasn't covering me fully.

My doctor wants to see how my immune system does on this new chemo and then if I do ok, we'll probably do 3 more sessions every 3 weeks. If I don't do well, he mentioned the possibility of doing "dense dose" which is a lower amount every other week but ends up being a higher dose overall. Just to get this over with and not damage my immune system. I still want to ask him if we can just do the dense dose anyway and get it over sooner! I'll ask tomorrow when I go in for my neulasta shot.

We saw the radiation oncologist today. We liked her very much and she was recommended by all my other doctors. She confirmed my desire to get mastectomies on both sides to lower my chances of recurrence and no reconstruction to lower my chance of not being able to feel a recurrence, plus to lower my need for more surgeries! Survival rates remain the same between lumpectomies and mastectomies. I just don't want to go through this again more than I will mourn the loss of my body parts. But I will have to go through some grieving over the loss for sure.

This Dr. also lowered our expectations for being done with all my treatment by our Hawaii trip, August 5th. She said if there are no complications, then we can make it. If there are complications (example: extra surgery recovery time due to infections, etc., or not being able to get all my chemos on schedule.) Plus she recommended changing Aimee's Bat Mitzvah date from July 26th to sometime in the Fall.

One very positive thing she did say was that after an extensive palpating exam of my breasts, she couldn't feel any tumor! I will bring that up to my oncologist too because maybe I don't have to go through all this chemo?

Anyway, I hope I feel fine next weekend because I want my parents to come visit. They will bring my niece Rachel too (my sister's daughter). Rachel gave me the ok to miss her softball games because, "family's important!"

Here's a quote to end this update,
"Whenever someone has found the courage to live more deeply, more courageously than before, no matter how short a time it may be, they hold open that door for anyone who tries to follow." Rachel Naomi Remen, M.D. in her book: My Grandfather's Blessings.

Have a good rest of the week and weekend.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Yay! It's Only 2 Hours!

Just got back from the port draw and discovered that tomorrow's drip is only 1 1/2 to 2 hours. The chemo nurse looked up on my chart which "T" I'm getting. The first chemo I had was Taxol - which is a 4 hour drip. This time I'm getting Taxatere instead which drips in half the time!

The nurse told me it doesn't cause nausea but I should bring frozen peas to put on my finger nails and toe nails. It can cause darkened nails and mouth sores. So I got bags of frozen corn and a box of frozen organic strawberries to suck on during my drip.

No need for tons of visitors! I can easily read through this one!

4 Hour Chemo Tomorrow Morning

Remember the old "is the glass half full or half empty"? Well, I'm half-way done with my chemo! I'm also a 1/4 of the way done with my entire treatment! Yay! No more A & C chemo, I'm on to the T tomorrow.

Actually I am nervous. I woke up a couple of days ago with the muscles on the left side of my jaw feeling tight when opening my mouth. Think my teeth were clenched through the night? I think I'm just nervous because I haven't had this chemo since the first time I had chemo and had been given all 3 of them (A,C, & T) and ended up in the hospital.

With the T, you have to take Decadron twice a day on the day before, the day of and the day after. It's an anti-allergy type of medicine... I'll start that this morning with breakfast. Actually, I've heard that the T is easier than the A & C. And the A & C have been very easy!

In Santa Cruz they have this place called "WomanCare" where they offer lots of free stuff for cancer patients. One of the things I requested is something they call, "Sister to Sister". It's where they match you up with someone who went through the same thing you are going through now and they are available to you on a weekly basis. I had my first talk with my match a few days ago.

She had her second recurrence when she had kids the same age as mine are now. That was 10 years ago. I told her about my hospitalization and she told me she couldn't even do the A & C due to constant throwing up. She also couldn't take the decadron for the T. I told her about my guilt and she told me that she had a stage 1 when her kids were in Kindergarten and 3rd grade and then a stage 3 seven years later. And a mastectomy after being very diligent with her mammograms. She said it's very common and told me to just tell people when they ask how you found out, "I felt a lump and got a mammogram."

Well, I'll have to think about that. Maybe I'll use that line when I really don't want to go into it with a particular person. Anyway, it was so nice talking to her.

My cousin Joanie also told me about a national group that matches you up with a support person who went through what you are going through: Breast Cancer Network of Strength. They match you with a volunteer who has survived the exact same cancer you have and they are a wealth of information about everything while giving emotional support. Their number is 1-800-221-2141

So I already have one person who said she might be able to visit me during that 4 hours tomorrow and I welcome anyone else. I should be there between 9:30am and 1:30pm. And if you can't make it this time, I have 2 or 3 more times when I'll have to sit for this chemo. I'll go to lunch with Geoff afterward and then to visit the radiation oncologist for the first time. I had an appointment with her after my first chemo, but missed it because I was in the hospital.

This morning I get my port blood draw and then I go to see my acupuncturist. She's also teaching me QiGong which I am enjoying incorporating into my daily exercise. (My uncle sent me a study where people who exercise do better by 2/3rds.) I also want to stop at the herb room today to get some Eucalyptus and Tangerine essential oils. I got myself a diffuser with my dad's gift card to New Leaf at Bloom. Jason's coming down with another cold and everyone's got colds since we've had so much rain and the Eucalyptus in the diffuser works to kill the germs in the air and tangerine is for cheerfulness (supposedly).

And talking about rain, we had some hail yesterday and it was so exciting! Aimee was outside in the backyard with her umbrella and bare feet. Next she tried stepping on the hail with thick socks on. She loved it! And she took photos too. Then she went in the hot tub.

Jason's been wowing us with his basketball talent and getting his picture in the paper and doing 360 lay-ups. If it weren't for Jason (who's a freshman) his varsity team would be nothing. In fact that's why he never gets taken out of the game. He's lucky to be at a school where they have more brains than athletic ability so he can be a leader. (He hates this story now that he's older but I'll tell you anyway: when he was 3 years old, he came up to me holding a couple of balls and said, "Mommy, I love balls!") I'm pumping him with Chinese herbs, Aminovirox, and Elderberry extract so he can kick this cold out of his system.

One more thing - about Geoff - can't leave him out! He told me I was brave today and that he'd be curled up in bed crying. Valentine's Day was interesting for me this year because it was so easy writing a card to him. I have been feeling more gratitude for him than I have ever felt in our entire relationship. He read the card and thought I was faking it!

Well, I'm off to eat breakfast and take my decadron. I'll probably write again tomorrow once I'm back from chemo. One thing I'm really enjoying in this rain is the electric throw blanket I got at Bed, Bath and Beyond before chemo even started. Thanks for the suggestion, Doris. I'm also enjoying the microwavable heat pack that Glenna gave me that sits on my lap when I'm at the computer.