Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Day four

The great art of life is sensation, to feel that we exist, even in pain.
- Lord Byron
We could never learn to be brave and patient if there were only joy in the world.
- Helen Keller
It's day four post chemo and these quotes sum up my feelings. But hopefully, this day will pass quickly and tomorrow will bring back wellness and optimistm. Then I'll be on the road to recovery once again.
Since this is my fourth round, I expect the compounding side effects to be worse, but I seem to be doing okay. The bone pain and the tiredness are my biggest complaints. But I now have some Tylenol #3 to help with the relentless bone pain. When I asked for a stronger pain killer at my appointment last week, my research nurse expressed amazement I'd lasted this long on extra strength Tylenol. So at least I know I'm not a whimp.
But I only want to take this stronger medication when absolutely necessary. Besides, it can cause constipation, which brings its own set of lovely side effects.
Last round I asked for some suggestions on what the bone pain could be in my ninja scenario. My mom came up with a good one. These ninjas need sustenance to keep fighting and killing, which they obtain from the bone marrow in my legs and feet (and a little in my arms and hands today). So the pain is these ninjas munching on what they need to keep slashing away at the cancer. Okay, do what you need to do, my little black friends.
So while my ninjas work, I'll once again have a low key day. But I can anticipate a long weekend with the side effects of round four behind me.
Here's looking forward,

Monday, August 30, 2010

Descending the stairs

Don't worry if I don't respond to your email, text or phone call very quickly over the next couple of days. It's day three post chemo, so I'm anticipating the the side effects will really start today.

Luckily, the air conditioning is on and I have some good books to keep my mind occupied. I'll nap, periodically check my computer and take it easy.

I'm hope you;re enjoying this last week of summer before the kids head back to school. Vacationing, perhaps? Hitting the beach? Enjoying the quiet commute for one more week? Gathering school supplies? Whatever it is, I hope you do something fun and take advantage of its warmth and promise.


Saturday, August 28, 2010

Cottaging, needles and chemo

It's been a whirlwind of a week. I've experienced some enjoyable events and then some medical tests. I've had some good news and then some concerning news. It's been a bit of a roller coaster, but I'm really no worse for wear at the end of it all.

Thanks to some wonderful, generous friends, the highlight of my week was spending 2-1/2 days at a cottage up near Wiarton. It was beautiful, restful and exactly what the family needed. I am so thankful we had the opportunity to get away for a few days as a family.

Of course, that getaway was surrounded by medical appointments - with an extra one thrown in for good measure. Now that I'm not trying to post on my Blackberry, which is quite difficult, I can go into more details.

Bright and early Tuesday morning, I did my CT scan. I drank the peach flavoured tang-like CT juice, chatted with an interesting woman, got my scan done, went for bloodwork and visited my doctor. He showed me a hot read of the CT, which are small and somewhat smudgey. According to his reading, and as I posted, all the cancer appeared to be gone.

But I got a copy of the radiologist report yesterday when I had chemo and the bigger, brighter picture showed the tumour they're tracking for the clinical trial shunk slightly, but it's not gone. Imagine my disappointment. I almost teared up right there in the chemo suite.

So, back in May, I had a 2 cm tumour in the right lower quadrant of my abdomen, along with abdominal caking and significant ascities fluid. My CT scan on Tuesday showed the peritoneal deposit is now 18.3 mm (shunk by a whole 1.7 mm - yes, that's a bit of sarcasm). The report says the ascities has decreased in volume, the additional deposits in the abdomen and pelvis have decreased in volume and there are no new lesions. There are also no aggressive bony lesions.

Overall it's good, but I had digested the news from Dr. H on Tuesday and assumed cancer no longer made its home in my abdomen. I was doing the happy dance.

C, the research nurse, reassured me the news is good; especially after only my third treatment. She also pointed to my CA-125 reading, which is now 130, when it was once 659.

She said, the treatment is working. So why do I feel a little dissapointed? I guess it's my impatience showing again. And the fact that I felt like I was slightly mislead on Tuesday. I want it all gone - NOW! Sigh.

I asked about the Olaparib and whether it helps remove the cancer now or whether it's more for keeping it away after I'm done treatment. C said it helps kill the cancer with the chemo, but it's real function is to keep new tumours from forming after I'm done the chemo treatments because it prevents those cells from repairing themselves.

We talked about how miraculous the timing of my reoccurence and getting into the study - and getting the drug. It really is quite amazing. I have to believe it will work simply because of the sequence of fortunate events.

I also had a blood work glitch this week. As I blogged earlier, my hemoglobin on Tuesday was only 98. While this would be perfectly acceptable for chemo, if I weren't in a clinical trial, the Olaparib protocol says my HgB must be 100. So I had to go give blood at the Wiarton hospital on Thursday morning to see if it had risen enough for us to make the trek to Hamilton on Friday. We were partially hoping for another day at the cottage and partially hoping to not screw up the chemo schedule set.

C called on Thursday afternoon to say whatever I'd done worked because my hemoglobin was 104 (I didn't drink much (according her her instructions) because a slightly dehydrated blood stream can boost the red blood cell count).

Yet, I had to give blood again on Friday morning because the trial protocol dictates I have complete blood work done within two days of chemo (and they C didn't request all the tests from Wiarton because different hospitals do them different ways). So yesterday morning, I had blood drawn for the third time this week. Along with the CT needle and my chemo I.V., I was stuck five times in four days!

I'm a little concerned my hemoglobin dropped so low after my third treatment. That doesn't bode well for the last two treatments. When I asked C about it yesterday, she agreed we'd probably have to investigate ways of increasing these red blood cells before the last two treatments. She mentioned three options:

1. A drug that I'd inject into myself to boost the HgB. It's downside is it also affects creatin levels, which are also carefully monitored. Personally, I cringe at the idea of having to give myself needles. I don't even watch when the professionals stick needles into me. How could I do it to myself? Argh.

2. Postpone treatment by a week to give my body longer to recover. As someone who wants to get through this process as quickly as possible, this option doesn't necessarily appeal to me - especially when it doesn't mean an extra day at a lovely cottage. Of course, I'd do it if I had to, but I want this done, over, finito, complete.

3. Give me a blood transfusion. This sounds like the best option to me.

We'll discuss the plan of attack at my next doctor's appointment on Sept. 15.

I got my chemo yesterday with one stick. It was on the back of my right hand, which made playing Uno a bit difficult, but do-able. I'm done round four and am 2/3 of the way through my treatment. I'm a little tired today and my stomach is a bit upset from all the drugs, but overall I'm doing well. I just have to get through the next four or five days and I'll be on the right side of this treatment.

Then only two more!

Thanks for all the wonderful congratulatory emails. I feel like I misled everyone a bit, but as C said, the news is still good. The treatment is working and I'm on my way to killing the cancer.

The cancer slayer,

Thursday, August 26, 2010


Good news. My hemoglobin this morning was 104. I can get chemo tomorrow. That's great for attacking the cancer and staying on schedule, but we wouldn't have been sad to stay at the cottage another day. We're having a great time.

Instead, we head back to Oakville tonight, where the kids will stay tomorrow while Michael and I head to the cancer centre. In the whole scheme of things, I'm happy my red blood cells rose. But I'll be sad to leave this evening. It's been a nice little retreat for the family.


Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Slight glitch

Get this. According to the clinical trial protocol, my hemoglobin must be 100. On Tuesday, it was only 98. So I have to go for another blood test at the Wiarton Hospital, where I am vacationing, for another blood test tomorrow morning. If it's risen those two measly points, I can get chemo on Friday. If not, it'll be delayed by a week.

My clinical trial nurse will call me tomorrow afternoon with the results.

The chemo lowers red blood cells and the Olaparib contributes to their drop. So my poor blood gets a double whammy. If my hemoglobin is too low after round three, I suspect I'll need a blood transfusion after round four.

But I didn't let my low count stop me. I hiked up a steep incline with my family this morning, explored the Bruce Caves this afternoon and went swimming twice. Yes, I huffed and puffed, much to my chagrin, but I did it. (Low hemoglobin makes you very tired and breathless).

Here's hoping for 100+ in the a.m.


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Great news

Just a quick blog to share the great news. My CT scan this morning showed the spots of cancer that appeared on my previous scans have disappeared. Yippee! Now we're still waiting for the radiologist's report, which will be far more detailed, but the initial news is awesome.

Now we're headed to a cottage for a few days before my chemo on Friday.

But blogging from my Blackberry is difficult, so you won't hear from me again until Saturday. But I had to share the news!


Monday, August 23, 2010


After a whirlwind of a birthday weekend, we now start our vacation week. We'll be out and about, doing a multitude of activities. The week will involve a lot of driving, some fun activities, some medical appointments, a relaxing getaway and a chemotherapy treatment. Whew.

I have my mid-cycle CT scan tomorrow and I'll do my best to write about the results afterwards. But I'll be posting from my Blackberry and the screen is small, so the length of my blog and the number of details may be compromised.

If I get access to a computer or feel ambitious on my Blackberry, I may post. If not, don't worry about me, I'm out enjoying life.

Chemo number four is on Friday. Once that's in me, I'll be 2/3 done my treatments. Michael and I've got some cool new teal shoes (the colour for ovarian cancer awareness) to sport during my medical appointments this year. If you've got to be in the cancer centre, you may as well make a statement or two.

Mine are: Down with ovarian cancer, Ovarian cancer research rocks and Die cancer die!


Saturday, August 21, 2010

My little Leo

Her nails are painted a shiny red and her long legs stretch out from under her shorts. She's grown a lot in the last year, both physically and mentally. But freckles still sprinkle her nose, her laugh is infectious and her eyes sparkle when she's amused.

She cares more about her hair these days (thank God), which means she doesn't always just scrape it back into a messy pony tail. Sometimes, she actually applies some mousse, styles it and looks especially beautiful. Or she lets me braid or fashion it in some much neater style.

She's a chatterbox. She likes staying up late. She loves her books. She's also turning into an amazing horsewoman (horsegirl?).

It's an amazing process watching a child grow up. My son is turning into a man before my eyes (deep voice, acne) and he's taller than me. My daughter, with her strong personality and beautiful smile is well on the road to becoming a young lady. They challenge me and make me proud.

Today my baby turns 9 years old. Right before our eyes, our little girl is growing up.

Happy birthday, Tara.

Mom (Tina)

Friday, August 20, 2010

Sweet nectar

A bothersome thought has been stewing in my subconsciousness these past few weeks. When it finally broke into my conscious mind this past week, I was too busy to dedicate much time to the hodge podge of ideas and figure out how I felt and what I thought. But yesterday, I saw my therapist, who helped me sort it out.

My cancer experience this time feels different. I'm not as anxious nor as consumed with trying to understand what I'm going through. Last year, my mind was constantly churing, processing the shock of the diagnosis and the treatment, contemplating what was happening to my body (and finding ways to explain it to others), reaffirming my faith, contemplating my death, evaluating my relationships and wondering what I could/should be doing.

All that activity in my mind had me coiled up pretty tight sometimes. When I was busy figuring something out, I probably looked like a deer in the headlights. Many times, I'd wake in the middle of the night and my mind would view it as an opportunity to once again work on figuring out my cancer experience. As a result, I had several restless or sleepless nights.

But this time, after the initial shock at the news the cancer was back and a few steroid-induced sleepless nights, my mind is, for the most part, mysteriously calm. While at times I'm still contemplative about my situation and my future, thinking about them doesn't make my mind swirl. I'm sleeping well and don't think about cancer all the time.

I was more fearful and anxious during my remission when I was worried the cancer would come back. But I have it again, and one of my worst fears has been realized, and I'm composed?

This mysterious calm bothered me because I wondered if I'd given up; letting cancer have its way with me. As a result, I thought I wasn't actively and consciously fighting the cancer any more. That worried me because I felt I needed to actively fight in order to survive.

Or perhaps, this calm is because I've been in cancer treatment long enough, the disease has become "normal" in my life. This idea bothers me because I don't want cancer to be considered normal. It doesn't deserve that status.

While it would make sense that I'd be more relaxed if I were going through treatment in London again, because I'd be familiar with the processes, the people and the hospital, I'm in a new city with a new set of variables. I travel quite a distance from home to an unfamiliar city with a new cancer centre, doctor, nurse, chemo suite and set of processes. To top it off, I've got all the different protocols and experiences related to the clinical trial drug.

When I presented this idea that'd been bothering me to my therapist yesterday, she provided a new insight to my reaction. She explained that perhaps because I mentally, physically and spiritually worked through the cancer experience last time, I've become a master at it. Since I'm a logical thinker and write this blog, I had to fully understand what I was going through and make sense of it all. As a result, I understand myself better, learned a lot of lessons, reassessed my life and cancer's place in it.

That's not to say, I don't have more to learn, but like a karate master, I've been through the experience, learned the lessons and uncovered some wisdom to personally draw on, and hopefully share with others.

So, my mastery of the cancer experience provides the calm I'm experiencing. I don't have to spend the same energy learning the valuable lessons I gleaned last time. Oh, I still have lots of learning left to do and I'll continue to be contemplative (because that's what I do), but I can draw on the strength of the knowledge I previously discovered.

That interpretation of my situation made me smile. Being a master (it's still hard for humble me to say that) allows me to focus on the living part of being in treatment instead of the cancer portion. That's a good thing. I only hope that by not focusing on the cancer, I don't lose sight of some of the lessons its taught me. I think I've incorporated many of them into my life - making me a better person - but the insights were hard won and worth keeping.

Examining my situation another way, perhaps I've also learned to let go of my cancer, over which I have no control, to a higher power. Let go and let God.
My therapist, S, recited an interesting poem yesterday about a child bringing broken toys to God to fix. But the child wanted to help and didn't let go of the items. But God couldn't fix them when the child would not relinquish control. Perhaps, I've learned to let go of the cancer and place it in God's hands.
As for the perceived idea that I need to fight cancer to beat it, I'm not sure that works for me any more (and for many cancer patients). It's so difficult to just get through the physical side effects of, not only the disease, but the treatment, that the idea of fighting becomes overwhelming. Yet that's what society says we should do.
But it's hard to figure out how to fight. Then there's the fatigue if the cancer battle is too long. In addition, there's the sense of failure if the cancer doesn't go away or comes back. I asked myself, "What did I do wrong? What didn't I do? Why did the cancer come back so quickly? Didn't I fight hard enough?"
But perhaps it's not about fighting at all. Maybe it's a peaceful fight, like Ghandi. It's tolerating the side effects, taking care of myself both physically and mentally, surrounding myself with loving, supportive people and creating peace in my life. I'll let the drugs do the fighting. I'll do the living.
S shared another interesting story yesterday about some monkeys. Scientists needed these monkeys to conduct some research, so they set up a serious of traps in the jungle to catch them alive. These contraptions used a rare, sweet nectar the monkeys loved to entice them to put their hands/paws up into the trap. Once the monkey groped inside to retrieve the nectar, their hands became stuck, allowing the scientists to capture them.
If only the monkeys stopped reaching and grasping for the nectar, and instead calmed down and squeezed their fingers together so their hands could slide out, they'd be free - and they'd still have the nectar to lick.
Moral of the story: Perhaps if I stop fighting the cancer and struggling, I can be free to enjoy the sweet things in life. Interesting concept.
I don't know how many days I have to live (then again, none of us do), but I do know that I want to experience the sweet, rare nectar my life has to offer. So perhaps my calm, more accepting attitude towards my cancer situation will allow me time to enjoy more experiences and make the most of life.
May you find the sweet, nectar in your life.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Summer fun

As I quickly slide down the slippery slope into the chemo trough, I am busy, busy, busy. I should be taking it a little bit easier because my blood cells are reaching their lowest point, which increases my risk of infection and feelings of tiredness, but I am having fun.

I celebrated a friend's birthday for a couple of hours while sitting in a backyard on Saturday night. That was after Michael and I had a dinner date. The evening consisted of good conversation and lots of laughs with many of my favourite people. I really needed that because I had a horrible Saturday.

We cleaned up the toy room in our house, which was a disaster. Normally this job, while unpleasant, wouldn't reduce me to tears nor elicit rages from me. But I was suffering from Ondansetron withdrawal. It was horrible. I was unbelievably psychotic.

I felt as though I were losing my mind, swinging from overly critical to irrationally angry to unbelievably sad. I yelled, banged things and collapsed into crying jags. It was awful. I don't even like me when I'm like that so how can I expect others to like me. Luckily Michael loves me and knows it's not really who I am. I apologized to my kids the next day.

I'm thankful it doesn't last long.

On Sunday, I had a mini-reunion with two wonderful university friends and their families. One, who was my roomate and partner in crime for three years, is visiting from Portland (and is now at my home for a few, fun-filled days). I'm meeting her boyfriend for the first time and our kids are hanging out. It's good to have her here.

This is just the start of a couple of whirlwind, summer-fun weeks. Our vacation, along with my mid-study CT scan and chemo, is next week. But we're going to fit in as much fun as we can around the necessary medical stuff because that's what living life is all about.

Get out and enjoy yours.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Full bellies, grateful hearts

“If you can't feed a hundred people, then just feed one.”

The generous souls from my work are once again personifying this quote from Mother Teresa. An abundance of delicious dishes and tasty desserts arrived on my doorstep last night. Michael and I are overwhelming thankful for the generosity and kindness. There aren't enough words to express our gratitude.

The fact that people think of me, pray for me, send me food, stay in touch with emails or phone calls, take me to appointments and come to visit is heartwarming. I am continually asked, "What do you need? What can I do?" People I barely know touch base to see how I'm doing and offer words of support. Wow!

Last summer, I was amazed at everything others did for me and my family. When I got sick for the second time, I never anticipated being treated so well again. (Once and done? Everyone had done so much already.) I know that's not the way it works. Life doesn't dole out equal portions of benevolence. It radiates based on situations, circumstances, individuals and giving spirits.

Others ask, "Wouldn't you help, if you could?" The answer, of course, is yes. But it's different being on the receiving end - not once, but twice. I sometimes bashfully ask myself, "Why?"

Somewhere along the line, I must have done something right because I am continually showered with goodness. I have somehow surrounded myself with amazing people. For that I am grateful.

Thank you to all the friends in my village. You make my life richer, fuller . . . and tastier.


Thursday, August 12, 2010


I play tricks with myself. It helps me deal with the side effects of my treatments a little better. It's also a way of trying to be positive and fight, when I feel like crap.

Last night, when my abdomen and stomach hurt, I used my mind to envision the stealthy, black ninjas stabbing the cancer. I tell myself battles aren't painless and these aches are part of the overall war.

I envision the smoky side effects of the blasting - because war is messy and full of debris - as the culprit behind my upset stomach. Of course, it could be my belly's way of protesting all the drugs I drop into it, including the Olaparib.

The bone pain is a little harder to gussy up in my mind. My cancer isn't in my bones, so why on earth would the battle affect directly affect them? I can't come up with a logical, battle analogy so I stick with the facts.

Chemotherapy targets and kills rapidly-dividing cells, like cancer. But the chemicals aren't sophisticated enough (yet) to target just the cancerous cells, so other rapidly-dividing cells - in the bone marrow, digestive tract and hair follicles - are also affected. Their death causes some of the most common side-effects of chemotherapy, including decreased production of blood cells, inflammation of the lining of the digestive tract and hair loss. I think it's the decreased bone marrow that causes the pain.

So I'm asking for help coming up with a scenario of how the aching feet, legs, shins and thighs fit into my ninja battle scenario. Making pain positive, or at least productive, will help me get through this.

I probably should try less violent vision therapy. Perhaps I could get one of those guided-imagery DVDs to help. But for now, I like thinking the cancer is screaming in pain as my ninjas slice and dice. Die cancer die!


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Leap of faith

For most people, my recent decision wouldn't seem like a big deal. But to me it was a small leap of faith.

Yesterday, I got a Blackberry, with all its bells and whistles. I figured it'd be easier to keep in touch with people while in chemo suites and on the road if I had the little gadget. While cell phone texting is forbidden in hospitals, apparently email or messaging via a smart phone doesn't interfere with the equipment.

I also wanted to be able to communicate with my sister and friend in the U.S., who have Blackberries. Texting them costs money, but Blackberry Messenger does not.

Part of me also wanted newer, cutting edge technology. My antiquated, old cell phone was falling apart and I felt I deserved something cooler. (Yes, I know it's not the new iPhone, but this serves my purposes.) It's also a little bit of excitement in a life full of appointments and medication.

But why is getting a new phone such a big deal? It's the commitment. I had to sacrifice a goat, write my name in blood and sign us up for a three-year contract. Three years! Given that I'm currently battling cancer for the second time in two years, part of me is afraid I won't be able to live (literally) up to my end of the bargain.

Then what happens? Can Michael play the sympathy card down at the local Rogers store and get out of the contract? Does he let one of our kids use the fancy phone? I don't know. I guess at that point, it won't matter to me. Every once in a while, I worry about that kind of scenario and the reprecussions of decisions and life/death. I worry about Michael and all that he'd have to face.

This fear, while strangely not as acute as it was during my first battle, affects a lot of decisions. I just can't plan too far in the future. I just don't know what will happen.

While no one knows what tomorrow will bring, I consider my new phone a little leap of faith this treatment will extend my expiry date to allow me to call, text, surf and send messages far past the expiry date of my new phone contract.


Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Lack of control

I hate feeling like I'm out of control. It's the sensation that life is merrily chugging along while I'm stuck in one place. This horrible feeling gets worse when I enter the terrible chemo days. It's almost as if my mind shuts down and refuses to deal with the issues of everyday life. Simple questions, decisions and problems become amplified in my head and bombard me.

Sometimes there are important decisions to make during these types of days, which makes matters worse. But when I try to concentrate and make my usual logical decisions, I feel antsy and anxious. Almost any decision feels wrong.

For example, right now, Michael and I are trying to sell our motorcycle. It's a beautiful bike and we love the way it looks and rides, but it refuses to work properly. It's a 25-year-old bike and even though we've put various new parts on it and brought it in for the skillful ministrations of several mechanics, it refuses to work properly. So we've decided to sell it and cut our losses rather than sink more money into the machine.

A man came over to see it last night. He is very interested in the bike and is actually making an offer. While part of me wants the bike sold and out of our hair, it all happened too quickly. We posted the listing on kijiji on Sunday and we had two offers last night (one online, sight unseen).

I think part of the reluctance is I wish we didn't have to get rid of the bike. Yes, it makes the most sense logically and economically, but it's fun. Even though I haven't been able to ride it the past two summers because of the weakness associated with treatment, it is an exhilarating, scary, exciting experience to ride a motorcycle.

Another part of the problem is I feel we're getting rid of all our toys. The scooter, which was super fun to drive too, died earlier this year and we decided not to replace it at this time. The bike is going to a new home and we have no immediate plans to replace it (although I know which type of bike I'd like next). We're left with a mini van. How boring.

While Michael and I have been casually looking for a good used car over the past few months, we haven't seriously considered anything. If I'm off on leave, we'll probably need a second car for when the weather gets bad. We'd like a little, fuel-efficient, economical car that's reasonably priced. Yes, there are some out there, but need to find the right one.

Well, Michael had a minor accident on his bicycle in the rain last night and stopped by our mechanic to wash the blood off his hands. While there, he mentioned our car search and our mechanic just so happens to have a car for sale. It's bigger than we'd like and not as fuel efficient, but it's in good shape and a good price. So now we have this to think about. At a time when I'm not good at making decisions.

To add to my feelings of being out of control, the pain in my legs was incredible last night. I couldn't get comfortable and moved them around restlessly all night. At one point, I even considered taking a Tylenol 3 to numb the pain. I usually have a better handle on the discomfort, but not last night.

I slept terribly, with disjointed, strange dreams about motorcycles and cars. So now I feel tired, cranky, sore and out of control. Not a good combination. Michael and the kids should feel lucky they're not around me today.

Yet, ironically when I drew an angel card this morning - something I haven't done in quite a while - it focused on regaining control of my life and my decisions. It was an eerie feeling reading that card. I'm not quite sure how to do that right now, but I'm sure I'll figure it out. Maybe in a day or two when I'm out of this chemo funk and am thinking logically again.

Until then, I'm going to postpone decisions or let Michael take the lead. Sounds like a plan.


Monday, August 9, 2010

The breakfast of chemo champions

It's thick, greenish-purple and doesn't look very appetizing. But luckily, the taste of my morning smoothie is sweet and chuck full of goodness to get me through the day - one where eating becomes more of a chore than a pleasure.

The base of my breakfast is a packet of vanilla Carnation instant breakfast mixed with milk. It gives me the protein I need, as well as lots of other additional vitamins and nutrients. Besides, it tastes good too. Then I added a couple handfuls of frozen blueberries, a nice ripe banana, a splash of juice and a heaping teaspoon of the barley greens I take to boost my immunity system. It's this almost tasteless green powder that muddies the colour of my meal of champions.

My breakfast smoothie's thick liquid also makes it easier to swallow the many pills I still need to take first thing in the morning. Very helpful. Of course, everything must pass my lips by 8 a.m. so I can start my fast for the Olaparib.

It's going to be a quiet day here in the Bratscher household. I plan to sit in air-conditioned comfort and listen to the messages of my body. It's the best course of action on day 3 post chemo.

Here's hoping you have a great start to the week and that, like mine, it improves as its days trek on.


Sunday, August 8, 2010

Early start

My computer boots up a little earlier in the Bratscher household on this Sunday morning. There are probably a couple of reasons for that.

I'm still taking dexamethasone, that anti-nausea, steroid drug. While it does crazy things to my body - like preventing sleep and intensifying bad moods - it's a necessary part of my cancer treatment.

According to Wikipedia, dexamaethasone augments the ondansetron to prevent the nausea and vomiting chemotherapy can cause. It also acts as an anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressant. Its potency is about 20-30 times that of the naturally occurring hormone hydrocortisone and 4-5 times of prednisone.

Yet, the two drugs didn't quite do the job, because at 1:30 a.m. I awoke feeling like I was going to vomit. Not good. I got up and took a prochlorazine, the little orange pills my doc prescribes for breakthrough nausea, and chewed a Gaviscon to prevent the feeling of acid and nausea crawling up my throat.

Luckily, after my middle-of-the-night pill raid, I was able to go back to sleep.

But shortly after four, I woke for the second time. Of course, I had to hit the bathroom again. My body is still trying to expel the abundance of fluids pushed into it via I.V. But after the noctural voiding, I lay in bed, listening to Michael breathing beside me, remembering the strange dreams I had and trying to ignore the oh-so-loud crickets.

I tried returning to the land of slumber for about an hour, with no luck. It was then that I realized I didn't take my lorazepam before bed last night. That's probably the reason for my restless night, strange dreams and inability to return to sleep. I hate it when that happens. In retrospect, I slept better than I would have thought considering the dexamethasone and absence of lorazepam.

So I decided to arise, brew some tea and have a little snack. And of course, get an early jump on my blog.

I'm not sure exactly what the day will bring. I anticipate my feelings of well-being will start to head downhill later. But for now, I feel good. I do suspect I'll try to squeeze in a nap later though to make up for my early morning. Sounds like a plan.


Saturday, August 7, 2010

Round 3 done

One stick, done a by two, a grilled veggie sandwich and salad for lunch, and very minimal pain. It was a good chemo day yesterday. The only complaints I can even mention is a numb bumb from sitting so long and that I couldn't nap, despite trying twice.

But round three is in me and those stealthy black ninjas are doing their work. I'm back on my excessive pill routine and strict non-eating schedule for 10 days. I feel pretty good this morning, although the skunky taste is already starting in my mouth.

I have a big list of things to do today before the oppressive side-effects start. Don't worry, I have Michael to help me. And I will stop if I get too tired.

Thanks for all the good wishes and emails (Don't forget, you can still leave messages on my blog). You have no idea how much they help me. It may be a small, insignificant action for you, but they give me strength and make me smile.

It's going to be a beautiful weekend, make sure you do something for you this weekend. You'll never had this weekend again.

Die cancer die!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Round #3

I've got time for only a quick blog today before I get my butt in gear. I have to be out of the house between 6:45 a.m. and 7 this morning, and I'm still sipping my coffee and munching my bagel. I haven't even showered yet! Good thing it's a streamlined process without any hair.

I've taken my 10 Dexamethasone tablets as anti-nausea preparation and I'm ready for the pills and infusions that will help me fight. Yup, another troop of those stealthy black ninjas are getting ready to launch an assault within my body. The Olaparib will give them extra munitions to bomb, blast and bombard the cancer cells.

My appointment is a half hour earlier this morning - 8:30 a.m. - so I should be out of there in the early afternoon. I may nap during my treatment.

As always, pray for only one needle stick (I know I do), no reactions and a quick, event-free transfusion.

Good thoughts,

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Up, up, up

Everyone likes to be praised. I was told yesterday by Dr. H, that I'm doing really well on the study. Of course, most of the factors involved are completely outside my control. But the compliment means so many things to me: I can stay on the Olaparib clinical trial, I'm tolerating the side effects fairly well, this drug could actually work for me and they like me, they really like me. Okay, so I'm pushing it with that last one.

But seriously, one of my deep fears is they discover something to disqualify me from the study. Perhaps my lack of tolerance to the drug, my blood cell counts drop too low and don't recover quick enough so as to put me in danger, I get an infection that eliminates my participation, or I injure myself in some other way, which would take precedence over the clinical trial. As I've mentioned before, this study drug gives me hope and I don't want that confidence jeopardized.

That being said, a little part of me is fearful this won't work. Despite two women aleady responding exceedingly well to the Olaparib, I'm afraid I'll be the exception. If two of the four women in Hamilton who are taking the drug show significant improvement, statistics say that I could be the one for whom the big, white pills don't work.

But as I mentioned before, I have absolutely no control over any of this. My body will respond to the combination of the chemo and the Olaparib in uncontrollable ways - of course, the extra drugs to alleviate the side effects do help. The cancer will be beaten down (and eradicated) by the lethal combination or not. I cannot simply will it to work.

Don't get me wrong, the news yesterday was really good, but a small part of me still worries.

But on to the good news. My absolute neuts (part of the white blood cells) rose from 0.9 last Friday morning to 3.8. Whoo hoo! Dr. H and my research nurse, C, were thrilled. As a result of my body's quick recovery during both the first and second round of chemo, I don't have to have my blood drawn during the weeks in between treatment. I just have to be careful during my chemo trough, around day 15, and stay away from sick people and crowds, watch for signs of infection or fever and use my hand sanitizer. I promised I'd call if I had any worrisome symptoms.

My CA-125 is dropping, which indicates the treatment is killing cancer cells. It's now 198. On June 22, when I started, it was 632. It rose on July 14 to 659. It's still a long way from the <35 that it needs to be; but at least I'm now heading in the right direction.

Dr. H examined me yesterday and can't hear any fluid in my abdomen. Now it's just all me (too much of me, but all me). Other than the pesky cancer, I still seem to be healthy. No mouth sores. No tingling in my hands or feet. No lingering side effects from the chemo. So far, so good.

My other blood levels also rose to acceptable levels. My red blood cells and platelets are good. So, I'm good to go with chemo treatment #3 on Friday at 8:30 a.m.

I also got a copy of my CT scan that was done before I started the study. It seems to be radically less ominous than the one I had done in London in May. In fact, the doctor reading the scan had to go back to find a "measurable target lesion" so I could participate in the clinical trial. He chose one of the lesions in the lower right quadrant measuring 2.0 c.m. Most of the cancer seems to be in the omental cake.

In fact, my hernia, which measures 6.5 cm and has "a knuckle of nonobstructed small bowel" and "some ascitic fluid" extending into it freaks me out almost as much as the cancer does.

Sometimes I wonder why they can't just operate, scrape off all the omental caking, remove any noticable tumours, shove my small bowel back in my abdomen, sew up the hernia and remove my gallbladder, with its gallstones. In other words, fix me up. Of course, that would probably exclude me from the clinical trial. Oh, I'm sure one day, I'll get the hernia and gallbladder fixed. But not today.

Today, I prepare for chemo tomorrow. I gather the snacks, swallow my anti-nausea medication, get my prescription filled (I'm back on Prilosec because the new antacid didn't work and I was getting terrible pains when I wasn't even taking Olaparib.) organize my life and try to rest.

I'm eager to complete my third chemotherapy treatment. Wish me luck tomorrow.


Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Bring on the rabbit virus

Last fall, I got super excited when I toured the research labs at the London Regional Cancer Program. I blogged about the Translational Ovarian Cancer Research Group's work developing new and exciting ways to detect ovarian cancer earlier and treat it differently.

One of the areas of research that excited me involved using rabbit virus to prevent ovarian cancer tumours from forming. Last week, The London Free Press featured an article on this exciting research.

After the tour - and even now - I say, "Give me the rabbit virus."

Now I know this treatment is years away from being tested on humans. The article states Dr. Shepherd is applying to the Canadian Research Society to fund pre-clinical testing. But, it gives me hope.

I know this stupid disease usually returns again and again. While I'm hoping Olaparib prevents it from making its home in me again, I realize that's somewhat unrealistic. The goal of Olaparib is to lengthen the periods of time a woman is disease-free. Even though I hope those cancer-free periods are long, I don't have my head in the sand about the aggressiveness of ovarian cancer.

Any research, any new treatment, any hope is reason to celebrate. That's why I strongly support the Run for Ovarian Cancer. Those dollars fund this type of research. Its participants who raise money allow women with ovarian cancer to believe that maybe one day this silent killer can be eradicated. It helps support the brilliant researchers who toil to find innovative ways to stop ovarian cancer.

I will continue to believe these new treatments - like Olaparib - will work. Faith, hope, my fighting spirit, and all those who continue to love and support me are what's going to get me through this - one day at a time.

Thanks again for standing beside me.


Monday, August 2, 2010

So much fun

The water was warm and wavy, the ribs saucy and meaty, and the flower girl dresses beautiful and princess-like. This weekend has been a good one.

Despite the cool wind on the beach at Port Franks, we cavorted in the warm waves and had an amazing time on Friday night. After we ate our dinner of sausages that we barbequed on the beach, most of the other visitors had headed home. But we went back in the water and played in the waves. They were so strong, my do-rag came off. So I was the bald, laughing woman in the water. When it was time to go, my kids protested and reluctantly dragged their butts onto shore.

On Saturday at the bridal shop in Port Huron, Tara chose and tried on four flower girl dresses. She looked beautiful in every single one. She proudly modelled them while wearing little white, high heeled shoes with just a bit of bling while I snapped photos and my mother-in-law ooohed and aaahed. Tara's favourite got the nod of approval from my sister-in-law, Margaret, who also picked up her gorgeous wedding dress on Saturday. Everyone is going to look stunning at the wedding next June.

Since we were across the border, we visited a few stores for some American deals. I made a few successful purchases and we enjoyed lunch at Chili's. But by the time I got home, I was beat.

Yesterday, the entire family enjoyed some smoky, saucy ribs courtesy of Pistol Pete's Smokehouse. They were absolutely finger-licking delicious. Of course, I got rib sauce on my shirt (neither of my kids did, but I managed to make a mess of myself). Go figure. But luckily, the colour matched the pattern, so no one was the wiser.

My son, Noah, started to let his hair grow at Christmas. Over the past seven months, it transformed from a brush cut to a thick mop of long, scraggly hair. While long hair works for him, it curled up in odd places, was hard to keep clean and was hot. So, my friend, Jacqueline volunteered to give him a current style.

Yesterday afternoon was Noah's first experience in a salon. He got his hair throughly washed as he leaned back in the sink. He then sat in the adjustable chair in front of the mirror where he could watch big chunks of his hair fall to the ground. Jacqueline trimmed, layered and thinned his mop of unruly hair into a style similar to Daniel Radcliffe or Aston Kucher. She blew his hair dry and showed him how to use the styling wax. He looks so handsome. I love his hair, and luckily, so does he.

With all the activity so far this weekend, I've experienced moments when I've been utterly exhausted. I know it's because my body is still trying to recover and build my blood levels. I got a message on my machine on Friday from my research nurse informing me my absolute neuts did improve to 0.9, but that's still way too low. While she reassured me they're moving in the right direction, I need at least a 1.5 to get chemo on Friday - which will make them drop again. So I'd like their starting level to be much, much higher.

I'm also still experiencing some stomach pain and acid, even though I'm off the Olaparib this week. I'm concerned the new antacid medication isn't working for me. Sigh.

My plan for today is much more restful. Maybe a little laundry, which continues to multiply like rabbits (but I have Michael to help me). I also need to organize the kids for camp tomorrow. But other pursuits should be more relaxing, such as reading a book, sitting outside or playing cards.

It's been a great long weekend, filled with a variety of fun activities. What a great way to live.