Friday, July 30, 2010


Even though I'm off work, I still appreciate the significance of Fridays. And this Friday is special because it is the start of the long weekend in many provinces in Canada. Woo hoo!

I love weekends because Michael is off work and we can do things together - as a couple and with the kids as a family.

Luckily, I'm feeling really good and hopefully the results of my blood test today will reflect that. After I'm done blogging, I'll go get my blood drawn so my research nurse can have the results this afternoon. They want to know my levels are climbing before the long weekend. I'm sure they are, but we need proof.

I'm excited because we have fun plans for the weekend. Tonight we're going to head to Port Franks and have a picnic on the beach. Despite all the times we visit Diane and Pete, we don't always make it to the beach. So this evening, after the day crowd has cleared the stretch of sandy real estate, we'll meet up with Diane and Pete, set up a little camp, enjoy some good food and take a dip in the lake (another reason my white blood cells need to improve). I'm really looking forward to it.

Tomorrow, I'm going to Port Huron, Michigan with my sister-in-law to pick up her wedding dress. She's getting married next June and Tara is going to be the flower girl. This trip will allow Tara to admire all the pretty dresses and shoes. She'll be able to try on styles she likes, but we're certainly not buying her anything until next spring because she's growing so quickly.

I'd also like to visit rib fest this weekend in Victoria Park. I love the smoky, sweet flavour of ribs and would like to indulge. But that plan is flexible. If we make it, we make it. If not, oh well. I can cook a mean set of ribs on my own BBQ.

On Sunday, I'm going to take Noah to get his hair cut. He's been growing it since Christmas and it's long! My stylist friend, Jacqueline, suggested he let her cut it in an actual style and he surprisingly agreed. So, we'll see how that goes.

During the rest of the weekend, we have no plans. We'll do whatever strikes our fancy - read a book, go for a bike ride, visit, swim in the pool, whatever.

I hope everyone has a safe and enjoyable weekend. Make the most of the sunny summer days.


Thursday, July 29, 2010

The mid-chemo trough

When the doc walked into the room yesterday, he said, "You look great, but your blood work results are terrible." All my levels are a lot lower than they should be. In fact, the lab called my nurse because my white blood cells are that low.

At this point last cycle, my absolute neutrophils or neuts (the part of the white blood cell they're concerned about) were 0.3, which puts me at risk for infection or illness. This time, they're 0.2. The literature says anything below 0.5 is dangerous. I've been told to be careful, avoid crowds and avoid sick people.

My red blood cells and platlets are low too. So, I'm going to feel tired (yup, but not too bad), I may get dizzy if I move from a laying to sitting position too quickly and I won't heal as quickly. That explains why a sore on my finger isn't even scabbing over. I may also get headaches.

I'm currently in, what my doc and nurse called the mid-chemo trough. It's the point when the full effects of the chemotherapy's killing power is witnessed in the blood cells. They're seeing the same types of results in the others in the study, regardless of whether the participant takes Olaparib. In other words, these results are probably typical of patients undergoing chemotherapy treatment around day 15.

My low blood levels aren't a problem unless they don't recover quickly. I need to see the vampires (oops, give blood) again tomorrow morning at a lab in London so my research nurse can verify I'm on the rebound by tomorrow afternoon. Then I'll be able to enjoy myself during the long weekend!

I also have a prescription for a new antacid. When I mentioned the breakthrough pain from over the weekend, the doc decided to try a different way to combat it. So now, I'm going on AcipHex, once a day. Hopefully, that'll work and I won't have any side effects from the Olaparib next time around.

I'm confident my blood levels will be fine by tomorrow and continue to build in time for my chemo next Friday. Until then, I'll lay a little low and rest.


Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Do you believe in angels?

A couple of weeks ago, I declared I believe in angels. These heavenly, helpful creatures come in both celestial and human form. On many occasions, I've been fortunate enough to benefit from the graces of the corporeal versions. I'm surrounded by human angels who've helped me in countless ways.

I'm sure heavenly angels have also guided and assisted me during my life. I just haven't been made aware of their work.

For as long as I can remember, I've always asked God to send angels to protect my family when we embark on a long car trip or when I felt we were in danger from inclement weather. (Even though, ironically, most car accidents happen close to a person's home.) It made me feel better to envision invisible winged creatures blanketing the vehicle and shielding us from harm.

I've never talked freely about my belief in angels nor my silent prayers of protection. It's not something one mentions because of the potential for others to snort in disbelief. But I'm past that now. My cancer experience and brush with death moved me past caring about the negative reactions of others to my beliefs. It's a matter of faith. I believe in angels and I respect if you do or don't. It's that simple.

A couple of months ago, a friend from my cancer survivor group talked about angel cards that she discovered while on a retreat post treatment. They piqued my interest, so I went online and ordered a deck from Chapters. The goal of the cards is to increase the clarity of the messages from the angels. The guidebook that accompanies them says, "Angel Therapy is a powerfully effective and safe healing modality that helps you release fears or other emotional blocks, receive guidance about your life purpose and other issues, and heal your body and life."

Despite my belief in angels, I was a little sceptical. Why would angels (and therefore God) communicate directly with little old me? I believed angels did their work almost invisibly. Would cards really work to convey messages?

But I approached the cards with an open mind. The first day I used them while waiting for Angie to pick me up for my first post-chemo appointment in Hamilton. If you recall, I was crying in pain from the Olaparib and devastated because I wasn't sure I was going to be able to withstand the side effects of the clinical trial drug designed to save my life. I was discouraged and sad.

That morning, the reading consisted of two cards (the main card I selected and one that jumped out of the deck because it was another message I needed to hear). The main card was: If you get nervous, focus on service, which says, "You drew this card because you've been called into spiritual service, either as a healer or a teacher."

Just when I questioned whether I was going to be able to do this clinical trial to help both me and others, I selected this card. The message goes on to encourage me to give a seminar or write a book so others can learn and benefit from my experiences. The direct correlation to my life was uncanny.

The card that jumped out of the deck was: Crown Chakra. "You drew this card because the angels are asking you to trust and follow the ideas you've recently received, as they are the answers you've been seeking for your current situation. You already know the truth and the best course of action to take. Trust this knowingness, and take appropriate action."

I got chills reading the message on that card. It reinforced I was doing the right thing by participating in the clinical trial and indicated I was going to be able to stick with it. That afternoon, I got some antacids so I could continue to take Olaparib.

I don't do a card reading every day and I have some difficulty with some of the cards I draw, but I try to keep an open mind. If these cards make me reflect on my situation or life in a different, more peaceful way, that's a good thing.


Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Needs adjusting

I began this blog yesterday and then blogger went down. I couldn't access it for the rest of the day, so I couldn't post. I didn't forget about those of who read regularly to ensure I'm doing okay.

I think the pharmacological cocktail I'm currently consuming needs to be tweaked. It works quite well for the first six or seven days to control the acid, nausea and bone pain. But on day eight or so - during the weekend - my body went a little wonky.

I think the stomach acid starts to overpower the Prilosec I'm taking to control it and merrily sloshes around in my belly. It makes my stomach hard, produces stabbing pains and makes me long for a really good belch to relieve some of the pressure. I walk to get the gases moving. I pop Tums or Gaviscon. I moan a little bit.

I know the Olaparib is the culprit. But not taking it isn't an option. Instead, I'll mention my symptoms to the research team tomorrow to see what they recommend. Perhaps the doc will whip out his prescription pad to provide me with an additional or different medication to provide relief.

I'm now done round two of chemo and Olaparib. I now have 10 days to recover, eat when and what I want, and build up my blood cells (although my white blood cells are probably approaching their lowest levels in the next day or two so I have to be extra careful about germ exposure).

I also get to cut down on the amount of pills I swallow. I've gone from taking approximately 25 a day to five pills - four of those being vitamins I take even when I'm not in cancer treatment.

This week my mom starts her LAST round of chemotherapy. She has the big infusion tomorrow that consists of three types of chemotherapy. Then next Wednesday she'll get her last little infusion with the one chemo that causes minimal side effects. Yay!

So I'll feel fine for the long weekend and my mom will be going through her yucky days. But they'll be her last ones.

I should be able to enjoy the long weekend. While I'm still a little tired, my stomach is starting to recover and I'm able to do more. I get to go out and enjoy life.

On the agenda today: lunch with some friends, perhaps a Reiki appointment at Wellspring and teaching my son how to make a meal from beginning to end. Not a bad way to spend a summer's day in late July.


Friday, July 23, 2010

The forgotten aches

As I've mentioned before, patience is not high on my list of virtues. I guess the learning-from-past-mistakes processor in my brain was malfunctioning yesterday too. I felt so good in the morning compared to earlier in the week, so I rubbed my hands together and said, "now what?"

When I emerge from the chemo fog, I immediately notice some of the little things I let slip. This time, it was the laundry. The overflowing hamper and lack of clean shorts directed my Tina sesnses (not quite as good as spidey senses, but you work with what you've got) to the laundry.

I'll admit, it felt really good to get that washing machine going, and I had my first load on the clothesline in my backyard before 9 a.m. Even mid-day, when I was hanging up the fifth load in the blazing hot sun, with sweat dripping down my bald head and into my eyes, I enjoyed the sense of accomplishment.

But when I was plucking the clothes off the line and folding them in the late afternoon, it all caught up to me. An overhwelming sense of weariness decended.

Of course, the storm clouds were marching their way to my vicinity, so time was of the essence. In the end, the heavy moisture dancing in the air didn't allow all my clothes to dry and some of them had to be carted inside and tossed in the dryer.

By this time, Michael was home and he helped me. To be fair, Noah did help carry baskets full of heavy, wet clothes into the backyard. He was willing to help when asked, but, stubborn me, didn't always make a request.

Again, I forgot the bone pain comes back if I do too much. I also forgot the overall body ache that creeps in after the intensive bone pains leave. So last night, my whole body felt as though I'd tumbled down a bumpy hill in some strange picnic game, leaving me sore all over. Michael tried rubbing the aching muscles, but to be honest, I could use another good massage.

Lesson learned (again): You'll feel really good, but take it easy. The overall body aches are still to come.

I know if I didn't try to beat the laundry into submission yesterday, the pain wouldn't have been as bad. Extra-strength Tylenol was my friend last night to enable me to go to sleep. Today, I feel better and promise to take it easier.

Needless to say, I have a big basket of clean clothes to put away today. But at least I have something to wear.


Thursday, July 22, 2010


The capacity for hope is the most significant fact of life. It provides human beings with a sense of destination and the energy to get started. 
- Norman Cousins

I feel hopeful today. Perhaps it's because I feel so much better than I did earlier this week. Maybe it's due to the encouraging appointment in Hamilton yesterday. Or possibly, it's because I have lots of great people in my life and some fun events to anticipate. Whatever, the reason, the soft, yellow halo of hope surrounds me today.
Feeling fine
My tastebuds are back, the bone pain is now only a minor inconvenience and the nausea is retreating. I even enjoyed a cup of coffee this morning, with only minor stomach discord.
A trip down highway 403
I really like my clinical trial doctor and nurse in Hamilton. They inspire confidence in me. They seem very upbeat about this clinical trial and are watching me carefully to make sure I don't suffer any undue side effects. Angie and I left my appointment yesterday feeling it's worth the drive to Hamilton to be part of this study.
I think my doc laughs a little at the supplement I take to boost my immune system. He called it salad in a powder yesterday. But I don't think he necessarily understands how difficult it can be to eat some foods when your stomach is churning. The thought of eating salad some days post chemo makes me want to hurl. So I try to get all my nutrients another way - even if it's in powder format. It may be psychosomatic, but I believe the gritty, green powder that's chock full of fruits, vegetables and vitamins boosts my immune system. And we all know the power of the mind. If I believe it, maybe it's also making it true.
Yesterday, I also discovered my mid-point CT scan is scheduled for Aug. 24. Optimistically speaking, that's when they're going to find out the Olaparib is kicking the ovarian cancer's butt.
Where oh where
My goodness, it's already the end of July. The upheaval, appointments and craziness in my life is making the summer fly by. I feel I haven't done anything fun for or with my kids. We haven't planned any cool vacations. We haven't scheduled any fun adventures. I know I'm being a bit unrealistic given the time constraints and the heavy appointment schedule, but it still induces a bit of guilt. So my list of to-dos includes trying to find some additional excitement for my kids' summer.
Then again maybe I'm being a little too ambitious and placing my expectations of what summer should be on my kids. They, God bless them, haven't complained. Maybe they're perfectly happy being little, summer lumps.

A little bit of fun
That's not to say we don't have some fun events planned. We have a corn roast at the beach this weekend (and I can swim in the lake!) and are looking at a jaunt to a cottage for a few days. I'm also eagerly anticipating a visit from an old friend and her family in August.
I also envision some lazy, summer days in the backyard with the pool and the BBQ. Aaahhh.
I love summer. I love life. I love the sunny, hopeful glow. Capture it, like a firefly on a warm summer's evening, and hold it in your heart. It's an awesome feeling.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Out of control

I don't know if it was arrogance. Did a little touch of ego lead me to believe experience makes one whit of difference? Or maybe I was forgetful, blocking those nasty memories from my mind. Lord knows, I was foolish, thinking I had any control over how my body responds to the chemotherapy side effects.

Yesterday, reality butted me right in the head, reminding me I have absolutely no say in my physical reaction to the chemicals. I wanted to be strong. I hoped it would be easier. But in reality, I once again sat like a lump with a foggy brain and depleted energy level.

Maybe I had some illusions these treatments would be different because of the clinical trial drug. During the first round of chemotherapy, I was so busy fighting off the nasty side effects of the Olaparib, the regular, old chemo ones took a back seat. I guess it's hard to focus on lethargy when you need to continually reach for the puke bucket.

But now the Olaparib-caused drama seem to be under control (thank God) and the bone pain, skunky mouth and inertia have returned.

I miserably mentioned my lack of control to Michael yesterday and he reminded me I can't expect to define anything about my physical experience with chemotherapy. I have to ride the swells as they crest and crash in this stormy sea. But he promises to be with me every moment of this journey.

My wise husband also reinforced that sometimes I can only control my attitude. Luckily, I'm fairly optimistic most of the time, which may help when the waters start to swirl.

I feel a little better this morning, so hopefully the waves will start to abate today, day five post chemo, and I'll be able to enjoy the sunshine and beauty this summer's day has to offer.

I once again head down the 403 to Hamilton today to get my blood drawn and talk about my experiences and side effects. This time, the sisters decend upon the unsuspecting city. As usual, I'm sure we'll have some laughs and perhaps a treat or two to while away the time. (Hopefully my tastebuds will continue to come back.)

I hope you enjoy your beautiful Wedneday.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Grey Tuesday

I knew it was too good to last. Yesterday, some of the post-chemo symptoms came knocking and took over my body. I feel lethargic, have a skunky taste in my mouth and have little energy. Then last night at bed time, the bone pain arrived to squeeze my feet, and beat on my shins and thighs. My legs were restless and I had difficulty falling asleep.

The grey, rainy weather is reflective of my mood. A book, some naps and lounging around the house sounds perfect for today. I have little energy for much else.

Considering it's already Tuesday, I'm quite lucky. Hopefully, the side effects will dissipate quickly and I'll be good to go again.

But until then, I bide my time with less active pursuits.


Monday, July 19, 2010

Weekend fun

I swam in the lake, lounged and visited at the spa, shopped for riding clothes for my daughter, saw a horse show, watched a movie with my family, almost bought a scooter, read the newspaper and sipped coffee outside, and had a yummy steak dinner at some new friends. Considering it was the first weekend post chemo, I had a busy, productive and enjoyable one.

Sure, I was moving a little slower and drank 7-Up instead of beer. And I'm still on the intensive pill regimin. But I was out living and having fun. That's what it's all about.

The prescription antacid seems to be doing the job and the Olaparib isn't causing unnecessary pain and vomiting. That's a reason to celebrate!

I suspect today will be worse, but I'll take each new side effect as it comes. As I mentioned to Michael last night, after this week's symptoms are over, I'll be 1/3 of the way through the treatment. How's that for optimism on a Monday morning?

Hope your day is great.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

The fight continues

My time in the chemo suite yesterday, from start until finish, took five hours. At 9 a.m. I swallowed the four Olparib capsules, and the nurse pulled the needle out of my arm at 2 p.m. At the end, my arm with the I.V. started to burn and I didn't get the full saline flush, but the nurse said it really didn't matter. The burning wasn't due to an allergic reaction, even though I'd been warned I could have a reaction with my eighth dose of this chemo drug, but because my vein started to collapse because it had enough.

I was lucky because it only took one needle stick this time around. Maybe my positive attitude worked. I think it also helped us avoid the two accidents that happened on the 401 and 403. We heard about them on the radio before we left. But the one was after our turn off to the 403 and the other was past our turn off in Hamilton.

But I've adopted a new title. I've determined I'm now the medication queen. In a little over 24 hours, I swalled 34 different tablets:

The evening before chemo:
1 Prilosec - to prevent acid
5 Dexamethasone tablets - for nausea
1 lorazepam - to help me sleep

The morning before chemo started:
5 Dexamethasone tablets - for nausea
2 calcium D tablets - to keep my bones strong
1 vitamin C - to boost my immune system
1 flax seed - for heart health
1 Prilosec - to prevent acid
1 Ondansetron - for nausea
4 Olaparib capsules - the clinical trial drug
1 Benadryl - to prevent allergic reaction
1 Ranitidine - to prevent allergic reaction and stomach acid

The evening after chemo:
1 Dexamethasone - for nausea
1 Ondansetron - for nausea
1 Colasce - to help with constipation (caused by the Ondansetrone)
1 Ducusate - to help with constipation
1 Prilosec - to prevent acid
4 Olaparib - the wonder drug that kills the cancer
1 Lorazepam - to help me sleep

For the next week, I'll continue to be the queen of pills. Hopefully they all work, and this round is much easier than the last one. My research nurse told me to call if I experience anything too painful and she'll help me manage the symptoms wherever possible.

Despite taking my Lorazepam last night, I slept terribly because of the steroids (the dexamethasone). Hopefully, the tiredness will win tonight and I'll sleep like the dead. My tastebuds have started to retreat a little and my water is even starting to taste a little funny. Oh well. I can't do just about anything for a week.

I can also feel the little stealth ninjas going to work in my abdomen and on my omental cake. They're attacking those damn cancer cells, and while they cause a little bit of stomach discord, it's worth it to know the battle has begun.

While I was off at chemo, angels made and delivered food to my home. Now me and my family have wonderful meals and treats to eat while I'm recovering from this latest chemo blasting. Thank you, my friends. I am very grateful.

So, in short, I'm doing well considering all my body is going through. The best part, the fight has once again begun.

Your cancer slayer friend,

Friday, July 16, 2010

Sneaky, black ninjas

Shorly after I was diagnosed, I received a surprise package in the mail. My cousin, Margie, sent me a t-shirt to help with the fight. It says, "I'm kickin' ovarian cancer's butt."

I'm wearing that shirt today with pride as I head to Hamilton for round two of chemotherapy. I wore it while during my first fight with cancer, and received many positive reactions from the staff at the cancer centre. But when I went into remission, I felt I couldn't wear it because I'd already kicked it's butt. And then with the reoccurence, the cancer had kicked mine. I didn't feel I could even touch it until now; until I had at least one round of chemo killing chemicals working in my body.

Speaking of chemo, a good friend, who has traveled the cancer journey twice, talked to me about my attitude towards the chemicals this week. She helped me see that while I consider the work they do as ninja-like, I'm still using words like toxic and nasty (and the strength of those feelings intensified over time as I endured each treatment). Even though those words accurately describe what those chemicals are and what the horrible things they do to my body, this friend reminded me I need to think of those chemicals as my friends.

So I'm going into treatment today with a different attitude, hoping it will help my mental well-being. The chemotherapy is the delivery system for my stealty, black ninjas who enter my abdominal cavity and fight the cancer with their razor sharp swords. These determined little fighters damage the cancer cells (and the pain is due to the battlefield bloodshed). The Olaparib gives the ninjas reinforcement weapons with which to damage those eveil cancer cells. With all the damage inflicted, the cancer cells have no choice but to DIE!

As you can see, my positive, cancer slayer attitude has returned and I'm optimistic the process will go smoothly. Oh, I'm not under any illusions the next week  is going to be easy. But I know I can get through it with determination, probably a few tears, some moans, and the support of an amazing husband, kids and village.

I'm not alone. I have my talented, stealthy ninjas and my compassionate, loving support system. How can I not be okay.

Love you all. I'm off to see the wonderful wizards of Hamilton.


Thursday, July 15, 2010

Ready to rock n roll

Chemotherapy is on for tomorrow and I'm ready to go. At my appointment yesterday, my research nurse, C, said my white blood cells recovered amazingly and they're now 3.9. (Remember, they were 0.3 last Wednesday and 1.6 on Friday. I need at least 1.5 to get chemo).

I also had over 2-1/2 L of ascities drained out of me, so I feel better. It didn't all come out and I still have a spare tire circling my belly, but I suspect some of that's just pudgey ol' me. But I don't look like Santa any more, complete with the jiggling belly. The doc and C said the second round of chemo should convince the tumours to stop secreting fluid and dry up what remains.

I asked why I was experiencing so much fluid this time, and C said some tumours are protein based and therefore produce ascities, which is full of protein. I questioned whether the type of tumour made a difference in its response to treatment. She quickly said no, but then paused and revised her response to say, "I don't know." Perhaps that's something else that could be studied.

Speaking of studies, while I was being drained C and the doc were talking about the results of two of the women who are participating in the Olaparib study. They've completed three rounds of chemo with the drug and had their mid-term CT scan. The results showed the cancer is responding very, very well to the combined treatment. They were very impressed and pleased with the results, using encouraging words like "complete regression." I was pumped after hearing that. I'm on that drug!

The study itself is almost closed to participants in Hamilton - they had six spots. Talk about fortitous timing on my part (even though it meant I had to experience a reoccurence within nine months). Participating in this study was meant to be - and it's meant to work to keep me around for a long, long time.

I had a wonderful day with my friend, Rachael. We talked and talked. She didn't even get much of a chance to enjoy her book because I talked her ear off.

So today, I take care of a few chores, get some yummy groceries for at chemo, and gather my mental strength for tomorrow and the days ahead. I'm ready to fight again.

Die cancer die!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


I believe in angels.

These heavenly creatures execute their works in many ways. Sometimes they act through others. I've been fortunate to see the work of the earthly angels a lot in the last year and a half. Despite their mere mortal status, the members of my village perform the work of angels regularly.

Today, my friend Rachael, is dedicating her whole day to whisking me to Hamilton for a series of appointments (and my friend, Amanda did the same thing last week). Today, I have an ultrasound at 10 a.m. to mark the biggest pocket of ascites in my belly. Then we have to wait around until my blood draw at 1:30, where they'll discover my white blood cells climbed even higher.

At 2:15, I meet with Dr. M (Dr. H is still on vacation) and my research nurse, C. They'll talk about my experience over the past three weeks and then Dr. M will perform paracentisis (draining my belly with a long needle). Is it wrong that I'm anticipating the relief the procedure is going to bring?

So it's going to be a long, tedious day. I gave Rachael the chance to opt out of all the trekking around the hospital and plunking our butts in waiting rooms, but she gleefully insisted on accompanying me. She explained this task gave her the opportunity to do something, be part of active duty, rather than sit cheering on the sidelines as I fight cancer. So she's my driving/company angel for today.

I have lots of angels, offering help, bringing food, touching base and praying for me. I am so blessed.

Your thankful friend,

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Good news

I forgot to mention my good news in my blog this morning. I got carried away with the story of my hair loss.

My research nurse, C, called yesterday to see how I was doing. During the phone call, she mentioned the results of my blood draw on Friday. My white blood cell (WBC) count rose dramatically in two days. As of Friday afternoon, it was 1.6 (remember, on Wednesday it was 0.3 and I needed a minimum of 1.5 to get chemo). So chemotherapy is on for this Friday at 9 a.m.

I'll get my blood drawn again tomorrow and I suspect the WBCs have been increasing exponentially over the last few days.

C said this dramatic drop and increase may be typical, but because blood tests between chemotherapy treatments aren't done, they don't know. There's lots of learning to be done during this clinical trial and most of the time I don't mind being the guinea pig.

So I get to kick some ovarian cancer butt again on Friday. Yippee!


It's only hair

Right on schedule, my hair vacated my scalp in clumps in the shower yesterday morning. I knew it was coming. I'd been shedding like our golden lab on a hot summer's day, leaving my shoulders, the bathroom sink and the tub covered in little AWOL hairs. And over the weekend, I could grasp chunks of hair and pull them out easily, with no pain or tugging.

Rather than sport very thin hair that left little souvenirs of itself everywhere I went, I decided to shave it off. Tara wielded the clippers and gleefully buzzed what was left of my hair last night. Unlike last time, I've decided not to shave it, but instead have a bristly brush cut, with small bald patches. Sounds lovely, no?

I'm surprised at the dark colour of the remaining hair. The last time I had a brush-cut was when the hair was growing back after all my treatments. It came back in white. So this almost-black hair seems foreign. Don't get me wrong, I like it a lot better than white, but it makes the bald patches stand out a little more.

Last night after the shaving, I dug around in my closet for my trusty ball caps. It's back to wearing them when I venture out in the world. Once again, I'll have to get used to the stares and the double takes of strangers. While I'll become immune to them, I'm not looking forward to the Oh, you have cancer reactions. These responses can range from pity to sympathy to discomfort to avoidance. I sometimes get the impression some people think they can catch cancer by being close to someone who has it. Get real.

But, I won't be alone in drawing surprised stares. My wonderful husband, in support of my fight with cancer and my baldness, got a mohawk on the weekend. He's uses spiking gel to colour it teal - the colour of the ovarian cancer ribbon. Once the dye arrives in the store, our friend is going to use semi-permanent colour on it so it remains teal for about six weeks.

He gets double takes, and fields strange and insensitive comments, but he doesn't care. He's doing it out of love for me. What a great guy. I think his hair will draw the attention away from the lack of mine.

Our friend Pete also went bald again on Saturday night in support of my fight. He sported a bald pate during my entire treatment last year and I think he was eagerly anticipating doing it again. Of course, he looks good bald. There's no doubt, it's easier.

I'm not as devastated this time about the hair loss. I know it comes back - and it came back thicker and nicer than before. But it bothers me when I lose my eyebrows and eyelashes. However, the whole hair-loss experience isn't a surprise this time. I know what to expect. I know how to use make up to artfully create the illusion of the missing facial hair. Most importantly, I know it comes back.

Until then, I'll sunscreen my head, sport my hats and scarves, and save a small fortune on shampoo.

Your (almost) bald friend,

Monday, July 12, 2010

Confirmation of hotness

Last June, when I had my hysterectomy and oopherectomy, the menopausal hot flashes started immediately, and with a vengeance. When I began experiencing these annoying little bursts of heat, many friends commiserated with me because they understood the experience of surgically induced menopause. But I somehow knew mine were slightly different.

I suspected the chemotherapy enhanced the hot-flash experience. While the quantity of a dozen to 15 hot flashes per day tended to be consistent, those following the week of chemotherapy seemed to be more intense, producing almost nausea-like waves of heat.

But my treatment ended and I carried on with life. Over the months, the hot flashes lessened in number and intensity. I almost didn't notice them any more and experienced only half a dozen or so per day.

Then I was diagnosed with my reoccurence and the chemotherapy started again. Treatment brought the return of the hot flashes from hell. When they happen, I feel as though my body turns into a furnace that could heat a small room on a cold winter's day. Often, I have to sit directly in front of a fan so the cooling breeze can whisk away the sweat and waves of heat. Michael will sometimes comment on the beads of sweat that form on my forehead and under my eyes.

Yet, a week or so after treatment, when the chemo flushes itself out of my body, these annoying events return to the calm and gentle hot flashes of old.

While I suspected chemo-laced hot flashes are worse, round one of treatment confirmed my hypothesis. I wish I weren't right. I was ready to let those suckers fade into the sunset. But I guess I'm just too hot for them to loosen their hold on me just yet.

Your hot friend,

Sunday, July 11, 2010

As good as it gets

I'm slowly getting better and as a result, my mood has improved. I'm not exactly where I'd like to be five days prior to round two of chemo (hopefully), but I'll be thankful for what I've got.

My tastebuds are back. I am enjoying coffee and food again. Yay! Last night we barbequed a beautiful pork tenderloin for dinner. It was fabulous to be able to enjoy the smoky, sweet meat. I also managed to quaff a couple of beers, with no ill effects. Aaahhh, cold beverages on the patio in summertime. That's what it's all about.

But I still have a bit of a cough, which triggers my weak stomach. As a result, I've brought up that first cup of coffee the past two mornings. But it's a minor blip and I carry on. No sense lamenting regurgitated coffee. Or is that, crying over spilt milk? Whatever.

My mood is better and my stomach is less upset. If I could get rid of the phleghm and the cough, I think my gastro issues would be gone. It's about time.

My other major problem is the ascities. My poor abdomen is so full of fluid again, it looks as though I'm going to give birth within the next month. I seriously look pregnant. The fluid is pushing on my ribs, which at times generates great pain. It's getting to the point where I'd welcome the long needle that drains my belly and provides relief.

So, ironically, I can now taste the food and eat, but my stomach is so squished by the fluid that I can't consume much. Just my luck.

The big belly creates a whole bunch of uncomfortable issues. Standing too long is difficult. Sitting in certain chairs or car seats makes my back hurt. Certain tasks are more challenging.

But thank God for my mother-in-law. She stopped by yesterday to drop off a present for me (a kind gesture in itself). I was complaining about my ascities and talking about how I had to dust and clean the bathrooms. And God bless the woman, she volunteered to clean the bathrooms. It felt a bit weird, but she insisted and did a fabulous job. I was so thankful I could have cried. (In fact, I'm sure I would have cried if I had to scrub the tub.) So Jessie was an absolute lifesaver yesterday and I can't thank her enough.

Kindness comes in many forms. I'm constantly reminded I'm surrounded by thoughtful and loving people because of the unselfish acts I receive. I'm humbled, honoured and thankful.


Friday, July 9, 2010

A dip

I'm feeling a little low this morning.

My back really hurts because the ascities is back. I haven't felt well in weeks. I thought I'd have a reprieve once the side effects of the first chemotherapy wore off. I truly believed I'd have a few days when I could feel good and revel in that wellness before it started again. That's all I need, a few days.

But I'm beginning to doubt I'm going to get that. With my struggling white blood cell count and expanding belly, I suspect I may feel okay, but not great, as I head into round two.

And the consistent, nagging discomfort tires me out and makes my mind slither into the dark areas of my mind. Then I start asking myself, "Will I ever feel good again or is this the beginning of the end." Argh.

Then of course, I chastise myself for not being stronger. For not fighting enough.

Too bad I couldn't start skipping down the yellow brick road, off to see the wizard for my shot of courage. Oh, I know I'll find it again. But on this rainy, Friday morning, it seems to have slipped into the shadows and I'm too tired and sore to go looking for it.

I guess I could look at the bright side. I am sipping coffee this morning and it tastes pretty good, even if my tastebuds aren't back entirely. I still have my hair. Although, if I tug too hard, chunks come out and a strand just blew on my keyboard. So bald Tina is going to make an appearance soon. I also have lots of people who love me and support me. For that, I'm truly grateful.

Don't worry about my current state of mind too much. I will be okay. I'm just on a dip in that emotional roller coaster. It's to be expected, even if it makes my stomach drop to go here.

When I get like this, I get introspective and then I'll start reading something inspirational. Often, I'll turn to Kris Carr's book, Crazy Sexy Cancer for guidance. She's made a career out of living with incurable cancer. She lives with hope, sassiness and gusto. I'm sure she can put me back on the right path.

Thanks for allowing me to wallow a little this morning, my friends. On this Friday morning, may your beverages be hot, your conversations be interesting and your hugs be plentiful.


Thursday, July 8, 2010

Go white

Danger, danger, Will Robinson.

Okay, some of you won't get that Lost in Space reference because you're too young. But I couldn't resist.

I went to my weekly blood check appointment in Hamilton yesterday. After the vampires, oops, lab techs, drew my blood, I saw the nurse and doctor (both new faces to me because my regular ones are on vacation). I went over my laundry list of medications and symptoms I'd experienced over the past week, including my cold and cough. I mentioned my experiences seem to be short but intense. For example, I sneezed alot and had sinus congestion for only two days before the cough moved in. Hopefully, it'll move on quickly too.

Then, I asked about my ever-important blood levels. Apparently, my white blood cell levels have dropped too low. The nurse explained the minimum they'd like to see is 0.5 and I need 1.5 to get chemo again. My level is currently 0.3. Yikes!

I've never had a problem with my white blood cell (WBC) count before. But then again, I've never had my blood drawn two weeks post chemo before. Maybe these cells recover rapidly over the next few days. I'm pretty sure the Olaparib and my cold contributed to the low count. In fact, I probably got the cold because my white blood cells are low.

So what can I do? The doc said to avoid crowds and touching objects. I'll admit, I haven't been nearly as vigilant as I should be in using my hand sanitizer and being aware in potentially germ-infested situations. While letting my guard down may not have contributed to the low WBC counts, it could have prevented this cold.

My complaints about my cough, which sometimes produces a little rattle in my chest, prompted a requisition for a chest x-ray. So off I trudged to the radiology department in the Henderson Hospital (attached to the Juravinski Cancer Centre). Luckily, it didn't take long.

I also have to visit the vampires again tomorrow for another blood test. Luckily, I can do that in London. On Wednesday, I go back to Hamilton for yet another blood test (the fifth in four weeks) and a visit with the doctor. They've booked me in for chemo on Friday under the assumption my WBC count will increase enough by then.

It dawned on me yesterday they're watching me like a hawk because I'm a guinea pig. They don't know all the potential side effects and ramifications of giving a person this combination of chemotherapy with Olaparib. They have to be very careful to ensure my safety. What they learn from me will help determine how this drug is used in the future.

This particular clinical trial studying Olaparib in combination with carboplatin and paclitaxel will involve only 150 women in 50 countries around the world. That's a pretty select group. It's actually a miracle I'm in this study and got the drug. Now it needs to work to kill the cancer cells. Just think, I could be the new poster girl for Olaparib.

Despite the slightly distressing news about my WBC count, I had a good day yesterday, My friend, Amanda, drove me to my appointment and it gave us an overdue opportunity to catch up. Thanks to her, I didn't have to attend my appointment alone.

My mom started her fifth round of chemo yesterday and is doing well. Go mom go! Angie and her occupied the London cancer centre while Amanda and I hit the one in Hamilton. Thank God we have such amazing health care facilities within driving distance to home.

So, I'll be a bit of a homebody over the next few days, mentally coaxing my body to recover. I want chemo next Friday so I can continue to kick this blasted disease.

Praying for white blood cells,

Tuesday, July 6, 2010


As long as I can remember, I've loved food. I love shopping for it. I love preparing it. I love crafting new recipes and I love eating it.

I regularly crave some item of food or another, and have been known to visible gulp when describing a particularly mouth-watering dish. I could never pick just one favourite food because I love too many.

Foods concocted at my house could range from meaty spareribs with a smoky-sweet BBQ sauce to angel hair pasta sauted in a creamy herb sauce with zucchini, mushrooms and sweet bell pepper to a juicy burger on a chewy ciabatta bun with garlic mayo and a thick slice of tomato to chick peas simmered in a carefully crafted combination of Indian spices and served over hot, basmati rice.

I could spend hours happily chopping, sauteeing, basting and whipping in the kitchen, trying a new recipe or making up a dish of my own. At one point in time, I actually considered becoming a chef.

I love to bake from scratch too. I've been baking for as long as I can remember. Baked goods are one of my weaknesses too. Some people crave salt, I crave sugar. My grandmother was a fabulous baker, often whipping up her chocolate cake as we arrived to visit so we could enjoy the warm treat before we left for home. Mmmmm. So I think a little bit of baking powder and sugar runs in my blood.

I also enjoy going out to dinner. I think food is an integral part of entertaining. My plump body bears witness to my love affair with food.

As a result, I've never understood people who showed a disinterest in eating. I didn't believe individuals who claimed they only ate for sustenance, not for the pleasure the consumption of food provides.

But I now understand - and I don't like it one bit.

I think the Olaparib, probably in combination with the cold, left me with no interest in food other than as necessary fuel for my body. I seem to lack tastebuds, which makes almost no food appealing. For a while, the acid reflex made some items sound like torture rather than food. Imagine contemplating a juicy orange, a glass of bubbly Coke or a spicy sausage when your throat is burning from residual acid.

I haven't consumed a cup of my beloved java in over a week. Me! I find it shocking (and sad) that I don't even miss it. I loved my coffee. I certainly don't get the same satisfaction from the occassional cup of tea I now drink. But, it's easier on my poor little tummy.

Anorexia, is a potential side effect from the Olaparib. The definition of which is, chronic loss of appetite. I guess I'm experiencing that side effect. Anorexia nervosa is the eating disorder, and I'm not even going there.

I'm hoping my tastebuds will return in the next day or two, since I'm now on my Olaparib break. Then I'll be able to enjoyably feast on some of my favourite meals and desserts, before it starts again.

When you enjoy eating something particularly tasty today, take a big bite and think of me.


Monday, July 5, 2010


This week I haven't felt very much like a cancer slayer.

I went into chemo 10 days ago with a kick-ass attitude, determined to beat cancer into submission. Buoyed by the news I was randomized to get the clinical trial drug, Olaparib, I eagerly headed into treatment.

Yet instead of visualizing through the pain, imagining little chemo ninjas were attacking the cancer cells with their razor-sharp swords, I let it all get away from me. Instead, I felt like a unmoored rowboat, floating adrift on the stormy seas of pain and discomfort. The waves tossed me in all different directions - perhaps we should try this antacid, now let's switch to this medication, try sitting up for an hour after taking the pills, etc. - and left me feeling directionless.

I know the drugs were eating away at the cancer despite what I did, but I believe my attitude makes a difference. I need to be a lean (okay, maybe not), mean, cancer-fighting machine.

Then again, maybe the drugs were working even harder at killing that cancer scourge and my feelings of well-being were the victims in the battle.

Regardless, I hope to take the next 10 days, when I'm Olaparib free, and get my body back on track and ready to fight again. First, I've got to get rid of this cold. I've never had a cold like this. No exaggeration, I violently sneezed at least 200 times yesterday. With ascities still in my belly, those sneezes can sometimes really hurt the ribs.

Then I need maintain my antacid and anti-nausea med repitoire so I can get my stomach in tip-top fighting form. If I'm lucky, I'll get my appetite and tastebuds back so I can enjoy eating.

Of course, during this time, I'll also lose my hair. So by next chemo, I'll be ready to kick some cancer butt again as the bald, cancer slayer. Won't that be a pretty picture?


Sunday, July 4, 2010

Quick update

I know some people will be checking to see how I'm doing, so here's a quick update.

I think the acid and the nausea are now under control because of the prescription medications I'm taking. Yay! Yay! Yay!

When I take my Olaparib, I don't feel as though I'm eating acid and I haven't thrown up in over 24 hours. So, it's good.

But, I've now got a cold. I have mucous in my chest and a cough (that brings it up). If my stomach was as weak as it was a couple of days ago, every cough would have been a stomach lurch. So, to look on the bright side, it's a good thing my cold arrived when it did.

I haven't had a cold in a couple of years. I believe it's because I take barley every day, which boosts my immune system. Of course, with my problems over the past week, I haven't been able to take it. Compounded by the fact that both the chemo and the Olaparib are killing off white blood cells (and attacking those cancer cells), I was wide open for germ attack.

My sleep has also been haphazard. I'll have a good night's sleep (which means I wake up a lot but go right back to sleep) followed by one where I'll be up most of the night with fitful dozing in between. Last night I slept great. The night before I hardly slept.

I take my last dose of Olaparib tonight and then I can get back to taking my vitamins and eating regularly. My body will have time to start repairing itself and building up white blood cells.

I go to Hamilton on Wednesday so the doctor can check my red and while blood cells (among other things). They should be at their lowest by then. If they're satisfactory, I'll get the date for my next chemotherapy.

This lack of a definitive schedule is a bit disconcerting for a planner like me, but I guess I'd better get used to it.

Enjoy this beautiful Sunday.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Pharmacological experiment

As I slowly crawl to the other side of treatment one, I conclude this long week was very different than any of my previous six experiences with chemotherapy. I blame the wonder drug, Olaparib.

Isn't it ironic that when I can't keep anything down and writhe in pain from the drug, I call Olaparib a hideous beast? Now, the side effects are almost manageable, I almost affectionately dub it a wonder drug.

I feel like I've been a pharmalogical experiment this week. I've got a giant basket full of drugs to treat a plethora of maladies. With my doctors and nurses, I've been juggling different combinations to hit on one that works for me. Each new medication brings its own issues to the table. For example, the anti-nausea medication I started taking last night causes constipation. (This same, very expensive drug is part of my pre/post chemo repitoire.) So out come the prescription laxatives and stool softeners.

With all this fanfare around the Olaparib side effects, those from the chemo almost took a back seat last week. They were very pretty wallflowers at the prom. Noticable in their jewel-coloured dresses and making their presence known with their shiny hair and captivating giggles, but not nearly glitzy enough to steal the show from the prom queen, who demanded attention.

Eating is a trick with so many medications. For example, I can't eat anything and drink only water for one hour before my Olaparib and two hours afterwards. So most nights, I take the capsules around 9 p.m. and then retire to bed an hour afterward. So my stomach sits empty all night with the drug breaking down and infiltrating the cancer camps. That's good for cancer killing, but probably not so good for my tender belly.

I need to take my new twice-a-day anti-nausea medication by itself and then wait half an hour. I also take my antacid, Prilosec twice a day. Throw in Tums, Tylenol and Lorazepam and I'm a walking drugs store with a scheduling issue.

The vitamins I used to take daily have fallen by the wayside, for now. I haven't found the space to fit them in yet. But I will. I have confidence this whole drug disaster will be straightened out so I can concentrate on the real job of all this - slaying the cancer.


Friday, July 2, 2010

Getting better

This afternoon, I finally feel as though I'm on the road to recovery. I feel better than I have since last weekend, and I feel hopeful.

This morning didn't have a great start. For some reason, I'm waking with a sore throat and a lot of gunk in my throat/chest. I had the strange combination of a voice like a 1-900 sex kitten, and the cough and phleghm (isn't that a gross-looking word?) of a 30-year chain smoker. Unfortunately, my poor stomach isn't stable from the acid washes of the last few days so I ended up throwing up my Cheerios. So much for breakfast.

But as the day progressed, I've felt better. The overall muscle aches, that feel as though I've been kicked around a bit, are almost gone. I'm experiencing horrible headaches, but the extra strength Tylenol is taking the edge off them as well. So all-in-all, I feel not bad.

I've been able to visit with a friend from work, eat a decent lunch, do some laundry and supervise the chores I assigned my kids today. I still feel tired, but I'm so much better.

Just to make sure these new symptoms were acceptable, I called my research nurse today. She talked me through my symptoms and consulted with the doctor. They've decided to switch up my anti-nausea medication to something stronger, for longer, starting tonight. I don't know if this is status quo from now on or whether they'll reassess its need in a cycle or two.

Personally, I think my body has gone out of whack and it'll take some time to get it back on track. But like I said before, I'm sure they'll come up with the right combination of meds to make this work for me.

So I have five more doses of Olaparib until I'm done for this cycle. I take it for 10 days with chemotherapy and then have 10 or 11 days off. So my body will get a break before I have to try it all again.

I continue to be amazed at the support of those so many around me - family, friends, colleagues, neighbours. The thoughtful folks who organize the Run for Ovarian Cancer continue to be supportive and I'm truly grateful. I sometimes feel overwhelmed at the generosity of others. I'm proud to call you my village, because I think it takes a village to beat ovarian cancer.

It's a difficult, lonely road alone and I'm so very fortunate to have your company as I tread its path.


Thursday, July 1, 2010

Not quite fixed

I was so hoping this mess that has become my body would have righted itself by today. I had such high hopes walking out of the clinic in Hamilton yesterday. I'm suffering a severe form of acid reflux, which my research nurse says is somewhat common among the study participants. The fix: a prescription antacid that's stronger than my Maalox.

I think the acid reflux contributes to the nausea. But I have pills for that too. I just don't take them as regularly as I should. I don't know why. There are no medals or badges for the number of pills I leave in the prescription bottle. The label indicates I can take them every four hours, and I now plan to pop them more often.

I had a promising start to the morning. Even though I woke up a lot, I managed to sleep fairly soundly last night. I got up and didn't feel the immediate need to hurl acid sitting at the top of my stomach. A step forward.

But about 15 minutes after rising and taking my prescription antacid, my stomach started to hurt again. "Oh no", I thought, "This is what the medication is supposed to prevent."

So I crunched a few soda crackers, hoping to sop up the offending acid. I quaffed an anti-nausea pill. I crunched some Rolaids. I walked around, praying for a release of gas. But the acid continued to sit at the top of my stomach, making it as hard as a rock. Of course, it also feels as though it wants to come out, which would involve retching and general bad feelings. I'm trying to avoid that.

The closest sensation I can imagine is the morning after a night of heavy drinking. After starting with beer, you got into the shooters part way through the night (tequila, B52s), ate some funky street meat and then collapsed into bed after puking around 3 a.m. The dog woke you four hours later and you can still smell the alcohol seeping out of your pores and there's a mess of leftover liquor bottles creating a bad smell in the kitchen. Then your buddy asks if you want a little hair of the dog and sloshes a scotch in front of your nose. Ugh.

So, I'm currently sipping a ginger ale with the hopes the bubbles and the calming properties of the ginger root will work their magic. And at 9 a.m. I swallowed my four Olaparib. (Stay down, stay down.)

On top of the acid, my nose is super sensitive - and most things don't agree with my delicate stomach. The waffles Noah made for breakfast smelled too sweet and got the stomach acid revolting. Some delicious-looking pecan tarts Angie and I got in a bakery in Hamilton are sitting on the kitchen counter. Their smell currently repels me (and I love pecan tarts).

I am having trouble eating, which probably makes me feel bad, which causes me to have trouble eating . . . (a silly little cycle, eh?). This is not the weight-loss plan I had in mind. But the last couple of days, I'm lucky if I get one good meal in me.

After my blog yesterday, I felt like a whimp, so I went online to see if others who are in the study are having similar issues. The literature talked about how well tolerated the drug is, how the side effects are minimal, how it seems to be the next wonder drug.

Reading that was like a kick in the teeth. What's wrong with me? I'm not a whimp. I have a high pain tolerance. I have proven myself to be able to withstand some pretty awful side effects. Yet, here I was staring at nights of crying and moaning just to participate in the study.

But the research nurse assured me that quality of life IS possible while on the clinical trial. We just have to find the right combination of prescriptions that allow me to take the medication and chemo without making me feel as though I'm going to die. We want to kill the cancer, without too drastically affecting my life. (Don't get me wrong, I know the chemo is still going to kick the crap out of me. That's its job.)

So I'm hopeful my situation will turn around. (In fact, I'm starting to feel a wee bit better as I finish this blog. Thank you ginger ale and cleansing burps.)

Your hopeful friend,