Monday, April 30, 2012

A little earlier

I'm hoping that since I seem to be sinking into the basement a little earlier this week that I will climb out quicker too. I'm praying I am not getting Michael's cold, which would also make me feel yucky (and account for the earlier post-chemo symptoms).

I can't get sick on top of the depression. That would be just too much. And a cold would interfere with my trip to Myrtle Beach on Friday. So I'm going to rest a lot, sleep a lot and do a whole bunch of nothing with the hope my body responds favourably and fights off the cold.

But boy is it boring. Once again, I'm bored but don't feel like doing anything. I have no energy, stamina nor drive. Nothing appeals to me - not books, activities, food nor drinks. But I have to fill my days. I have to cope. It's not easy.

But, as usual, I will do the best I can. It's all I can do.


Saturday, April 28, 2012

Chemo 2C

Well, my blood levels were good yesterday, in fact better than the previous week, and I got my chemo treatment in the afternoon. All went well. The port  and Emla cream worked like a charm with no pain upon needle insertion and I was off to the races.

Now I'm taking my anti-nausea medication and trying to enjoy the relatively good feelings I have on this Saturday. We have some errands to run and I've been in the hot tub. We're also going to see a local high school production of Oliver tonight because the neighbour's kid is the lead. I may have to have a coffee this afternoon to give me that extra boost of energy to get me through the evening, but it's an event to anticipate, which is good.

I'm feeling a little restless and antsy. I also feeling tired. A nap may also be in order - before the coffee, of course.

I talked to the chemo nurses and my Dr. W's nurse about my feelings of depression yesterday and they've suggested hospital social worker and spiritual worker referrals. I figure it can't hurt and these are discussions I can have when I'm in for chemo. Then I don't have to go into the cancer centre more often to take advantage of these services. I'm also tossing around other ideas in my head that may help me cope better. I will have to talk to Dr. W about them to see if they're possible.

For now, I'll see how the anti-depressants work. I've also received suggestions from friends about acupuncture and checking to see if I have a vitamin deficiency. I am grateful so many people are looking out for and care about me. Thank you.

So now I'm off to get those errands done so I can rest before the big night excursion.


Friday, April 27, 2012

Only last night

Last night around 8 p.m. I started to feel somewhat normal. Now that's my new normal, where my mind is engaged, my mood has (almost) fully climbed all the stairs from the darkness of the basement, I have more energy and I can eat a bit more. I'm still restless, tired and weak, but I'm better. And while it's not the that state I'm hoping to achieve as I get better, I think it's the best I can hope to expect right now.

When I get to this state, I feel like I can continue with the fight. I feel like maybe I can be brave enough to face the side effects again.

But it was only last night. I get chemo again today. I haven't had the good feelings long enough to build up my reserves and prepare for the onslaught again. Hopefully, I'll have good days today, tomorrow and at least part of Sunday where I can capture just a bit more of the strength. I'm keen to get more ninjas circulating through my system to kill the tumours, but I cringe at the idea of going through the yucky, mucky side effects again.

Speaking of ninjas, I got a new one from some good friends visiting from England this week. My blue ninja sits on my desk besides my stealthy black fighter, ready and willing to kick some cancer butt.

Above I added the caveat almost when talking about climbing out of the depressive basement. That's because I don't think I am fully able to do it on my own with all that's going on with my cancer, the treatment, the side effects. That's why my family doctor, when she heard me describe the feelings of of being pursued by dementors and having all happiness sucked from my life, prescribed an anti-depressant.

I've suspected I needed an anti-depressant for a while now, and mentioned it to Dr. W. He was reluctant because it's a full-time medication that I would be on for quite a while. But I really think I need it - and full time. The whole world, even on my good days, has lost some of its brightness and zest. I don't get super excited and squeal in my head in excitement about good things in my life anymore. I don't have the same interest in the simple joys I used to relish. The whole world has a steel blue film to it.

So I'm glad to be put on this anti-depressant. It will take a few weeks before I feel the full effects, but the pharmacist said I should be able to feel some of its mood-lifting properties in about a week - just in time for my trip to Myrtle Beach with my sister.

And maybe, the medication will help make the post-chemo depressive days a little less dark. Hopefully, these little white pills will help me cope so I can continue to follow the best route to make the cancer die.

If you can spare some good karma or are inclined to say a few prayers, please send a few words to the Big Guy about successful treatment today and strength for me to deal with the side effects coming next week.



Thursday, April 26, 2012

So very weary


I woke this morning feeling tired and lethargic. That reality makes me mad because this is supposed to be one of my good days. One of my few good days to enjoy.

Michael is sick. He has a sore throat and a nasty cough. Luckily, I seem to only have developed a slight sinus congestion, but still, it's dragging me down. Michael is extremely worried - to the point of being agitated - that his illness will drag down my white blood cells and prevent me from getting chemo tomorrow.

To be honest, I wouldn't be disappointed if I had to skip treatment tomorrow (and then have a treatment holiday the following week). That's a bad thing to say. It's a bad attitude. But it's honestly how I feel. I would like a break.

I shouldn't be feeling this way. I should want to continue getting the cancer-killing chemo and continue down the road to remission. But I'm tired. I'm so very, very weary of feeling awful most of the time. I'm tired of trying to gear myself up for yet another round side effects.

Then I feel guilty because I have to keep fighting for all I love, want and believe in. But I don't want to fight. I'm tired.

Your weary friend,

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Trying to be patient

Probably more often than I should, I find I get impatient with myself. Today is one of those days. This is the day I'm scheduled to feel better, to improve and start to be able to enjoy life again. Yet, as my hands shook this morning while eating my Cheerios, I got frustrated. I want to feel and be better so bad, I get impatient when it doesn't automatically happen at the scheduled time and place.

Then I feel I'm disappointing the other people in my life who desperately want me to feel better and rejoin them. I lament when I'm still not strong enough nor cheery enough to take advantage of the "good" days. Maybe it's because there are so few of these so-called good days that when I'm not at my best during one of them, I feel cheated and I feel I'm robbing my loved ones because we count on them to get a semblance of "normal" Tina back and use the time to rebuild strength to go do it all over again.

Don't get me wrong, I do feel better today, as I usually do on Wednesday. It's not as if I feel awful this morning. As I sit here typing, the sun is shining in my office window and I feel the slight stirrings of a smile on my face. So the dementors are fading in the streams of the golden sunlight. I think these mythical dark creatures also started vacating my body as I went back into the warm waters of the hot tub this morning. It was the first time since the doc inserted my port almost two weeks ago. I figured the area had healed up enough to allow me to enjoy the therapeutic touch of the pulsating waters.

I'm cautiously optimistic the darkness has been swept away for another five or six days. I need these days to recharge my batteries, reconnect with my loved ones and gear up for the next round of cancer-kicking chemo on Friday.

Then I have a rest week, during which I'm heading south for my third-annual Myrtle Beach trip with my sister. While I'm a bit nervous about the jaunt and my stamina, I'm sure the change of scenery and relaxing time with my sister (without treatment) will be good for me.

So the goal for today is to once again try to focus on all the good things and be thankful the darkness is dimming. But I'm also going to try to be a little more patient with myself, so I don't get so frustrated when timing doesn't go exactly as planned. I have so little control on this roller coaster of a journey called cancer. I have to try to be more satisfied with the best I can do. Considering the situation and the fact my health seems to be improving, I'm not doing so bad.


Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The good, little things

It's Tuesday. The day I sink into the basement of depression and the blackness rolls over me. It's the day I get mired in the muck, with no tow rope in site.

But I'm trying to change my attitude slightly this week. I'm thankful because yesterday wasn't too bad. I kept myself busy with some computer work, reading, napping and television. With only approximately 24 hours or so to get through, I'm attempting to be positive this morning, saying I can make it without breaking down and allowing the darkness to pervade my spirit.

In the past, I've used the dementors from the Happy Potter films to describe how this state feels. They're the dark beings who suck the happiness from all those with whom they come into contact. Harry and the gang say the dementors make them feel as though they'll never be happy again. That's how the bleak, post-chemo day(s) feel to me. But I have to remember, they're short lived, then I'm through and I can face life with my (sometimes wavering) optimism again.

A friend recently wrote me an email about her strategies during some dark days - and ones I've used myself with some success - of focusing on the small, good, little things in life. I've even said in my blogs that if I focus on the good, I diminish the power of the bad. So I'm going to try to take that advice a little more to heart today and perhaps it will lessen the inky blackness and instead leave me with a less heavy, hazy grey where I can see the end of the tunnel and plod my way to it with determination and a (little) bit of patience.

So I sit here at my computer, thankful my mind can be creative enough to string thoughts together, sipping my coffee with the Cinnabon-flavoured creamer in it and planning some not-so-taxing activities for the day. Perhaps if I have some minor tasks, I can distract the dementors enough.

I'm also thinking about how thankful I am that my homecare nurse declared my wound healed enough to head back in the hot tub (although with the yucky snow/rain that is pelting the pavement right now, I'm not exactly keen on shedding my jammies for a bathing suit this morning). Most of all, I'm extremely grateful for all those friends in my village who sent words of support and love over the past few days in preparation for this round of post-chemo yuckiness. I love all your support and encouragement.

As the day progressess, I'll try to keep remembering the good things in my life and perhaps they'll be enough to produce a patronus (another Harry Potter reference) to shed light on those dementors and keep them far enough away their icy grip doesn't have a chance to invade my heart.

Then tomorrow is another day.

Here's hoping you don't encounter any dementors nor need your patronus today. Despite the cold and snow here in London (and whatever the weather is in your locale), I hope you find sunshine and light.


Sunday, April 22, 2012

A brief update

For those who want/need it, here's the latest update:

The port worked like a dream. While there was some slight pressure and very minor discomfort when the needle was inserted, I think it is because the site isn't healed up entirely. The port has been placed in a pocket under my skin and I think it's that area that hurt (because it also hurts when I press on it now) and it wasn't the needle going through my skin. So the good news is the very expensive Emla cream does its job. It will be excellent moving forward as the site heals up.

I can also see/feel the tubing that runs from the port up into my major vein. Its prominence is decreasing and the chemo nurse said that over time, I won't even notice it. I guess the area hasn't healed entirely and the swelling will go down as it does.

My bloodwork came back good enough for the chemo (obviously) although my red blood cells and platlets are both dropping at a slow but steady pace. But as long as they stay in the acceptable range, I'm okay. I do know that lower red blood cells make me feel tired and weak, so I don't want them to drop too much. But I know Dr. W will keep a close eye on them to make sure I'm safely receiving my treatments.

I'm done two out of the three chemo treatments for this round. I feel tired, but overall okay today. I managed to have about half an hour of fun playing wii Fit this morning and I've been reading and relaxing. Yesterday, I had a few stomach pains but I'm attributing those to the ninjas fighting away in my abdomen. I notice my tastebuds aren't as active as they could be too, which is unfortunate since I have a lovely steak and baked potato planned for dinner.

But it could be worse and I know I'm heading to those days.

I'm not looking forward to the depression that I know is coming. I just have to work my way through it. It's ironic, when I'm in the depths of it, I feel the depression will never end and I can't cope. Then I get through it, get a couple of days away from it and I get the mental strength to face it again. I hope I can be stronger when I'm in it this time. I was a bit weepy during the last round.

Overall, between treatments, I'm feeling better. I haven't thrown up in over a week, I can eat, I'm having bowel movements almost daily. They're small victories, but ones I have to celebrate because maybe, just maybe, this means these weekly paclitaxel treatments are working to make the cancer shrink.

I can hope.


Friday, April 20, 2012

Chemo 2B take two

I'm almost afraid to say it, but yesterday, I felt better than I have in quite a while. Michael took the day off and we spent it together, which was extremely nice. We did some wii Fit together, we had massages, we watched the London Knights game side by side. The memories of having such a low-key, yet enjoyable day makes me smile this morning. I wish we could have more of them - or ones even better (as my health improves).

My stomach cooperated for the most part with only some relatively minor discomfort in the evening. But I ate a decent dinner, so I think I was too full. I think perhaps the tumours are shrinking, but I may need to stretch my stomach out a bit. And, knock wood, I haven't thrown up in a week.

My home care nurse came over yesterday afternoon and took the dressing off my port. One week after the procedure, I can now shower again - no more sponge baths - but she advised me against heading for the hot tub or swimming pool just yet. She comes back on Monday and hopefully then she'll proclaim the area healed up enough to start to enjoy some of those activities for which I had the port put in.

Today I head back to the chemo suite for the second treatment of the second round of the taxol. Hence the treatment 2B in this blog's title. While I've already done five rounds of the other chemical combination of cisplatin,and gemcitabine, I feel with the taxol regimen, I'm starting all over (which is quite disheartening). So the numbering starts all over.

To prepare the port site for the special needle that connects the IV tubing, I purchased some very expensive numbing cream, called Emla. It's a lidocaine/prilocane combination that numbs the skin so I won't feel the needle go in. A 30 g tube of the magic ointment, which is smaller considerably smaller than a regular tube of toothpaste, cost me $68. Yikes! But I'm sure it's better than the pain I'd experience without it.

So wish me luck as I head to the chemo suite today and pray I have a couple of days post-treatment to enjoy before the side-effects come rolling in. I'm steeling myself for them and praying I will be strong. I know it's only a couple of days, but it's all quite overwhelming. Until then, days like yesterday and hopes of more like them will help keep me going.


Thursday, April 19, 2012

A longing to eat

I used to love getting a new issue of Chatelaine magazine in the mail. I'd flip almost immediately to the food sections to peruse the recipes and plan meals based on which ones appealed to me. I'd critique each one, assessing whether it would be a tasty treat for Michael and me. I'd examine each to see if I could actually get my kids to try something new and consume one of the concoctions featured (usually the answer would be no). I used to love to cook, eat and try new foods.

But since I had surgery for the perforated duodeum, and my stomach has been squeezed by the tumours and ascities things have changed. My adaptation of a (somewhat) low-residue diet has also affected my fascination and love of food. In addition, during each round of chemotherapy, I go through a few days where my tastebuds change/diminish, lessening the pleasure derived from food. Nourishment often doesn't have much taste and so I search for more flavourful options. That, of course, means I'm not getting the right balance of types of food in my diet.

It's hard to get excited about food under those conditions. It's challenging finding pleasure in whipping up a delicious meal when you don't really enjoy it. It's difficult to want to try new recipes when you aren't supposed to eat half the ingredients used in its assembly. As a result, my fascination and love of food has waned.

You would think with the reduced capacity and reduced desire to eat, I'd be super skinny by now. But my weight, much to my chemo nurse's delight, remains stable. When you're in cancer treatment, losing weight is a bad occurrence and they'd rather have you too heavy than too light.

I miss the enjoyment food brought - the taste, texture, social aspect. I loved eating, cooking, rewarding or consoling myself with a delicious tidbit. I've realized, I'd rather be a fat foodie than skinny and not enjoy the pleasures associated with eating. Food is such a pleasurable and social event. It centres holidays, celebrations and gatherings.

I long for the days when I can eat until my tastebuds and mind are satisfied - not just my belly. There's a big difference. Oh food, how I miss you!


Wednesday, April 18, 2012


I received an email from a friend the other day, asking how I am able to cope with the bad days. Since I'm not getting any medical help for the feelings of depression, she wondered about my strategies for dealing with the overwhelming emotions.

She shared she uses exercise and food for days when she's not on top of her game, but realized those options aren't available to me right now; at least, not to the same extent. Exercising is difficult and I'm so out of shape. We got Wii Fit on the weekend at a garage sale and I've been playing a few of the games. But I'm so out of shape I feel the exercises in my shredded stomach muscles and some of the actions make my healing port site ache. (But to be fair, Michael feels some of the exercises in his body too so perhaps I'm not as wrecked as I believe.)

Then yesterday, my worst depressive day, I didn't even have the energy nor inclination to attempt any of the fun exercise games. I complained of the soreness I felt in my body from the day before's activities and avoided the calls of the little green wii fit board.

So how do I cope? I realized yesterday, not very well. Yesterday was a bad day - one I would have liked to have simply slept through. I did little activities like sew Tara's Girl Guide badges on her sash, watched an episode of The Good Wife on Rogers on Demand and finished a book. But by the afternoon, I was beside myself with bad feelings and I was crying about the unfairness of this whole situation, how terrible I felt and lamenting the need to continue to experience this over and over again while allowing the chemotherapy to attack the cancer.

I don't feel strong. I don't feel happy. I don't feel like I can cope. I'm a bit of a mess, really.

I want to scream, "I can't do this!" But of course, I have to. I have no choice. I want to live.

Then I tell myself, it's really only one day that's really, really bad (I hope today is better), and that I can suck it up and be strong. But on that one day, the badness feels eternal.

It's so hard to explain the overwhelming emotional garbage that swirls around my body and mind. It's a feeling, not a physical symptom, and it's impossible to describe. It's almost unbelievable a feeling can affect me so profoundly that I feel like all hope has been sucked out of my world. Then this feeling becomes physical because it's so heavy. Like I said, hard to describe. And I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy.

Today, I have to take my darling daughter to the dentist and our house is woefully short on groceries, so I have things to do. I haven't been able to fully assess my state of mind quite yet - the coffee is still trying to chug its way through my system - but hopefully I'm climbing out of the cold, dark basement to a sunnier place.


Monday, April 16, 2012

This and that

I don't have enough thoughts roaming around in my head for a full blog so I'm going to fill you in on little tidbits of information:
  • My hair hasn't fallen out like I expected. It's gotten thinner in spots and grown in others. So it's just really, really short. I guess I didn't need to use the #2 clippers on it and then I could have had a more "normal" short haircut for at least this past month. I guess I made a hasty decision. I have no idea what's going to happen now that I'm getting the second round of taxol in my system. It could start coming out in chunks. But regardless, I have to deal with what little hair I do have right now. There's no going backwards when it comes to hair.
  • My port is now itchy instead of painful. That, of course, means it's healing. The pain was minimal the day of the procedure, peaked on Saturday and subsided yesterday. I'm required to take sponge baths and not get the area wet for seven to 10 days. So far, it hasn't been so bad, but I will enjoy that shower and the hot tub when I am allowed to submerge my body again.
  • The hole where the PICC line was inserted into my skin for the past six months is healing up nicely. I can barely see it. The body is an amazing healing machine sometimes.
  • My stomach seems to be cooperating a bit more and I'm able to eat more regularly and a bit larger meals. I also don't seem to have stomach pain most nights any more. Now I've been on the steroids from the chemo on Friday, so perhaps that, as usual, has been helping. But for some reason, I do feel a little different and I'm hoping it's because the chemo is doing its job.
  • I'm still fighting this nasty head cold. My nose wouldn't stop running yesterday and I went through dozens of tissues. Tylenol Cold is now one of my new regular medications. Hopefully, sleeping and resting will help both my cold and the chemo side effects. What a nasty combination.
  • When I said I emailed everyone I know about sponsoring me for the Run for Ovarian Cancer, I didn't mean that literally. First, my memory isn't that good. I also didn't email a lot of folks from London Life; especially from the Marketing Communications department. I'm sure they've seen the fundraising events and are well aware of Team Tina. I contacted some of my work teammates, but not all. It got to be way too unwieldy. For those I didn't email directly, it isn't a slight in any way, I know you're all doing what you can - and I thank you.
  • Speaking of the run, Team Tina is in third. That rocking TD team is amazing and there's no way we can catch them, but the Sunflower Sisters have only raised a few hundred dollars more than us. So join the team and get fundraising. We need to make our positive yellow presence known again at the event this year.
It seems a shame I'm going downhill mentally and physically just as the weather here in London is improving (even if temporarily). Maybe I'll feel up to getting out into the warmth and sunshine a little later today. I hope you find a way to enjoy this Monday. It's a new start to a fresh week. Make the most of it.


Sunday, April 15, 2012

Post taxol chemo 2A

Everything went well on Friday when I started my second round of paclitaxol chemotherapy. The port worked like a dream, with the drug transfusing smoothly into the vein with no sticks and no pain. I was once again told how I'll like having a port so much better by at least two chemo nurses.

Now I know there could be some pain involved with inserting the needle for future treatments (it was left in after the procedure on Thursday because I was getting chemo on Friday) because I got a prescription for a topical anaesthetic called Emla. This cream is to be applied at least an hour before the nurses puncture the porta cath.

I understand this cream works like a charm to freeze the area. It should be a miracle cream considering it cost $60 for a small tube, and it's not covered by any drug plan. But apparently, you don't need a lot and it's got to be better than suffering from the pain. If someone developed this strong numbing cream to prevent the discomfort associated with accessing the port, it has to hurt. So I purchased the Emla cream for next Friday and we'll see how well it works.

So the chemo went well. Afterwards, I went out for lunch with my friend, Carrie, who accompanied me to the hospital and then came home for a good nap. I was tired from the treatment and from sleeping propped up. Yesterday was a pretty good day too. The port site fluctuates between being slightly uncomfortable to itchy, which is a good sign because it means it's healing. But the discomfort is minor and I only had to take two Extra Strength Tylenols yesterday.

My tastebuds are starting to make some foods taste funny and skunky, but I'm still managing to enjoy my deliciously warm coffee this morning. The stupid sinus cold is also making a bit of a return, much to my chagrin. I don't want to have to deal with both a cold and post-chemo symptoms at the same time, but it will be what it will be. I guess sleeping is good for both of them.

So we'll see what today brings, because usually the side effects start on Sunday afternoons. I've got some homework to help supervise with the kids and some movies to watch. Hopefully distractions will help me focus on something besides the after-effects of the chemotherapy.


Friday, April 13, 2012

Three-year cancerversary

As I posted my other blog this morning, I glanced at the date and noticed it's my three-year cancerversary. Three years ago today, my doctor broke the news I have cancer.

Any survivor will tell you, they remember the exact place and time they received that dreadful news. A cancerversary dredges up some pretty strong memories of shock, disbelief, anger and helplessness.

I remember I was sitting in my cubicle at work, getting ready to head down to the gym to run when I got the phone call from my doctor. While we didn't know it was ovarian cancer yet (the initial suspicion was uterine), she did know it was the big C.

After the phone call, I sat in shock at my desk, wondering what to do. I called Michael. I called my sister. I rallied some of my closest friends from work to ask for their support and help (and they've come through with flying colours). But mostly, I tried to absorb the news that would change my life.

And change my life it has. Mostly, in bad ways because cancer is not a gift, but it can - and has - brought about some good changes through the ways its opened my eyes to what's important in life and the wonderful people its allowed me to meet (or get to know better) and incorporate in my life.

While I recognize my cancerversary, I'm certainly not saying Happy Cancerversary. It's a date to recognize because I'm still fighting and I won't give up. I hope to celebrate many more cancerversaries because it'll mean I'm still here.


Port in, PICC gone

I have to admit, I was a tad bit nervous before my port insertion yesterday. It didn't help matters that I didn't get wheeled down to Interventional Radiology until about 1 p.m., after being told to show up at 11 a.m. I think the nurses were having trouble with the computer system and I didn't get registered properly, which caused a bit of a delay. So I laid on my stretcher, covered with warm blankets, anxiously waiting for a procedure . . . that wasn't bad.

Yup, you read right. The idea of the surgery was far worse than actuality:

The procedure: Cut a 1-1/2 to 2 inch incision in the upper chest to insert a round loonie-sized (about an inch) device under the skin and then thread a catheter tube up into one of the main arteries (usually the superior vena cava) in the neck. Then sew it all in place.

They gave me some drugs to relax and calm me (although I never got drowsy enough to fall asleep and instead listened to the conversation of the doctor and nurses). They also gave me local anaesthesia to numb the site, which the doc had to inject more of part way through the procedure because I started to feel pain. But mostly I felt pressure and dabbing (of blood).

Last night, I had surprisingly little discomfort at the site. This morning, I'm more sore, but it's not unbearable and I'm sticking to the extra strength Tylenol to take the edge off instead of getting into the big guns of the Tylenol 3s. I took one T3 before bed last night as a precaution, but I'm not sure I really needed it.

The biggest inconvenience so far was sleeping at a 30 degree angle last night. I'm a side sleeper who snuggles down into my pillows and blankets. So to be propped up on my back with three pillows under my head just wasn't natural feeling for me. But somehow, I managed to dose off and stay asleep in that position until about 3:30 a.m. Then I rolled on my side (still all propped up) for another hour of shut eye. By 4:30, I was done with the strange sleeping positions - hence the early blog.

I'm now sipping on my second cup of coffee and munching on some blueberry muffins a friend from work generously provided for my family.

Coughing seems to hurt the most and unfortunately, I have a touch of the stupid cold that seems to be making its rounds. Feeling sinus pressure and snuffly didn't help my disposition while waiting yesterday either. All I wanted to do was nap. But perhaps the cold was a minor blessing because it may have helped me sleep last night. It's all how you look at it.

Today is chemo day. I start the second round of three treatments of the weekly Paclitaxol. While I did enjoy having a chemo vacation this past week because it meant no depressive side-effects, I'm relieved to start blasting the cancer again; especially since its work seems to be lowering my CA-125 and therefore working on the tumours. Yippee!

The radiologist left the needle in the port so I could get my chemo through it this morning. Usually, the nurses in the chemo suite would insert a special curved needle into the port each treatment, but because that would be painful right after the port insertion, he left it in for chemo today and then it will be removed. I've got a prescription for a special numbing cream that I'll put on an hour before each treatment to make the needle insertion less painful.

The radiology nurse also removed the PICC line yesterday. So for the first time since last August, when I had the drainage bag inserted to collect ascities fluid, I am without a device sticking out of my body. Once the port heals and the swelling goes down, it will be completely underneath my skin. I may have a slight bump, but I'll have no tubes or bags dangling from my body any more!

Yesterday, I heard from at least three nurses, "Oh, you'll like having the port so much better." That only reinforced I made the right decision. Not that I had much doubt. For me, it's about quality of life. I want to be able to enjoy the activities I love like swimming, the hot tub, the beach, so when the port is an option, I certainly had to go for it.

I have to do more of that "going for it" in my life to ensure I'm making the most of the energy, time and opportunities I do have - even while underegoing treatment. As hard as it is some days to see past the side-effects, I have to take advantage of the good days to simply live life the best I can.

Happy Friday everyone!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Update to the update

I just got good news and I had to share! My CA-125 is now 115, down from 223 in early March (and it was 435 - and remained there for quite a while - before that). While "normal" is less than 35 - I'll probably never get near there again - but at least the number is finally heading in the right direction.

My nurse called with the good news this morning, and it makes me feel so relieved and happy the new chemo seems to be working. Now I just need to get more of it into me to shrink these nasty tumours so I can feel better.

Woo hoo!


Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Check-up update

After a long weekend of activities, this week continues to be a busy one. It started early today with an update appointment with Dr. W. He walked in and said it felt like a long time since we'd seen each other last. I told him it had been a month since our last appointment when we changed up the chemo regimen. This was my first check in to let him (and my nurse who keeps the great notes and answers most of my questions) know how things are going.

I talked to him about my heavy, depression days and asked whether there was anything I could take. He said the anti-depressant medication takes a while to kick in and then once effective I would be using it consistently - days I was depressed and days when I wasn't - which isn't ideal. I take enough medication as it is. So anti-depressants aren't the answer.

I even asked about medical marijuana, which comes in a pill format. He said many of the people who aren't used to the effects of the drug (I'm not) finds it makes them spacey. I don't need that either. So, basically I need to suck up the 2-1/2 to three days when I have the oppressive, heavy, listless feelings. But given that's every week - so almost three out of seven days - he said we need to monitor that so the treatment doesn't become unbearable.

The plan is to do another round of the weekly taxol (so three weeks on, one week off) and check my CA-125. He'll look at that number from today (it wasn't available during my apppointment) and compare it to the one in three weeks. It should be going down. It better be going down. Die cancer die!

We (he and I) are cautiously optimistic about this treatment. I can eat a bit more than I used to. I seem to be vomiting less often and my stomach actually makes gas rumbling noises/movements, which is an improvement. So maybe those bands of tumours surrounding it are loosening their hold a little bit.

I did ask about next steps if this doesn't work. The next treatment would be a intravenous chemotherapy called Topotocan. If that doesn't work, we'd try a oral chemotherapy called Etoposide. I find it reassuring he's thought through a back up plan - even if I don't want one to be necessary.

On Thursday, I get my port inserted. Friday is chemo day. Busy, busy. I suspect I won't be feeling the greatest on the weekend either, recovering from the double whammy, but who knows. As usual, I'll take it one day at a time.


Saturday, April 7, 2012

And so I ask . . .

If I don't ask, I definitely won't get.

That's been my philosophy over the past week or so as I've communicated with more than 100 people via email, Facebook message or in person to ask for donations for The Run for Ovarian Cancer. It's the 10th anniversary of this event and we're hoping to reach the $1 million mark. That means raising $160,000 this year alone. That's an ambitious number, and I'm doing my part to make it a reality.

I ask because I truly believe in this cause. All the money raised goes to directly to the talented researchers right here in London - not to administration nor advertising. We could be on the edge of an amazing breakthrough for detecting, treating and hopefully eradicating this horrible disease. The ovarian cancer fatality statistics of horrifyingly high. They scare me because I'm coming up on my third-year cancerversary. Sixty per cent of women diagnosed don't make it past five years. But I have to remember, I am not a statistic and new treatments are being discovered all the time to change this heartbreaking number.

A penny for your thoughts
The amazing members of Team Tina are also doing some great fundraising at London Life. One of the events is a penny drive. So, if you're in the London area and have a jar, flowerpot, bag or collection of pennies you'd like to donate, just let me (or any other member of Team Tina) know. Each penny is only a cent, but pooling them together to raise money for research just makes sense.

These hardworking fundraisers also have been working on a few other great ideas, including Starbucks runs to deliver delicious coffee and treats to co-workers and selling a teal nail polish with the cool moniker of "Teal the Cows Come Home." My daughter, Tara, and I are both sporting the funky shade on our toes right now.

Stepping outside the comfort zone for a good cause
Quite honestly, while I've been busy with my solicitations, asking for money makes me feel slightly uncomfortable. I would never make it as a working as a fundraiser or at a foundation for a charitable organization. I envision all the other things people have to spend their money on and all the other good charities out there and envision a "no." I know that's the wrong thing to do, but it's how I feel.

But this cause is near and dear to my heart and soul, and selfishly, it may even help me and so I ask . . . ask . . . ask . . .

I'd be honoured if you'd consider helping the fundraising efforts for this run - and in the end, helping the many women and their families this disease touches.


Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Capture the feeling

Over the past few days, I've received some emails from some cancer survivors, telling me they read my blog and applaud me on the ability to capture some of their thoughts and feelings. I feel honoured I can also reflect the emotions of others who are also fighting the battle.

For example, one woman, wrote she can understand my desire to focus on the here and now - the joys in life - but has also prepared for dying. She understood my funeral planning and discussions with my family wasn't purposefully trying to focus on death, but trying to make the possibility of it a little easier on those we leave behind. Like me, she's a planner. We're all going to die. Those of us with cancer just have it smacked right in our face as a truth. It's hard to be in denial when you're fighting and putting up with all kinds of crappy side effects just to stay alive.

Another woman praised my writing and commiserated with my depression. She shared deep, dark feelings also prevent her from doing things or tackling projects. She felt the inertia of the depressive feelings. It's one unlike any I've ever known and when stuck, it's so hard to figure a way out. It's like being smoothered in a black, scratchy, heavy, uncomfortable cloth. It entangles and refuses to let go.

I'm thankful for my gift to express my feelings and those of this journey. I hope those who read, glean a little more about the trials of this through my words. Although, I have to admit, sometimes I need help identifying the feelings I do have. I'm not constantly asking myself, "So, how does this feel? What do you think about this?"

Yesterday, with my social worker, she helped me realize I'm very angry. I'm furious with the cancer and its perpetual hold on me. I'm livid at how unfair this disease is and how I want to live - and not only live, but the in the way I want. Not existing, stuck in some holding pattern waiting for a day when things are "better." I'm agitated my hands are tied and feel as though I have to simply accept the feelings, treatment and side effects. I'm maddened the treatment regimen is going to continue on and on until I get a positive response. I'm enraged I may die way too young, way too soon.

My therapist also pointed out that depression is anger turned inwards. Yup, I know that. I just don't know what to do about that.

The good news is, I'm coming out of the dark hole. I can feel the veil lifting and my interest returning. I did a little shopping this morning, which made me feel productive and I have some lunch plans with good friends tomorrow. Now if I could only get my stomach to cooperate . . .


Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Crawl out of my skin

A new, unpleasant sensation overtook me last night and I wanted to crawl out of my own skin. I felt so yucky and I had such a headache that I wanted to float above my own body and escape for a bit. The sensation made me antsy and irritable.

I went in the hot tub to try to alleviate the yuckiness (that's the best word), and it helped a little. But by the end, I got restless and had to get out to try something else. Luckily, a distracting television show helped pass the time until I could drift off into slumberland and escape.

This morning, I feel yucky again (less than last night). I'm trying to keep myself busy and distracted so I don't focus on it so much. I know things tend to get worse as the day goes on, so I'm a little nervous about this afternoon, and especially, this evening. But I have an appointment with my social worker today, which should divert my attention and my home care nurse visits later, as well. I also have to make dinner, get Tara to Girl Guides and provide direction for my kids when they get home from school. I've also got a book on the go, which I hope will capture my attention enough.

A soak in the hot tub and a nap may also be in the plans.

Today is the day I expect my hair to fall out, but it still seems pretty secure. Maybe because of the lower dose of chemo, the follicles aren't releasing as quickly. I think it'd be great if I keep my very, very short style for a little longer, but I'm psychologically and physically prepared for it to come out at any time. It's only hair. It will come back . . . eventually.

I know today is going to be a bad one, but I'm going to make the best of it. As you go about your day, please think about how good you feel, the fun things you get to do, the food you're enjoying and the events you're anticipating. They're little - but oh so important.


Monday, April 2, 2012

A little rougher

It is the third straight week of chemo in a row and I'm finding my reaction to the treatment a bit more severe.

Saturday was generally okay with just some general tiredness. Yesterday morning was also quite tolerable. But my stomach started to hurt mid afternoon and continued to ache until I vomited last night. I suspect it's a chemo side effect and the amount of anti-nausea drugs prescribed might not be cutting it. I will have to talk to Dr W when I see him next week. I'm not sure what, if anything, we can do.

So my plans for the first few days of this week are pretty low key. While I felt okay when I arose this morning, I can already feel myself going downhill. Unfortunately, Tara's tummy also hurts and so she's also home lounging in bed. Hopefully I don't have or get whatever she's got. That's the last thing I need on top of post-chemo symptoms.

Blogging, surfing, reading, napping are all on the agenda. Nothing taxing to the brain or body. While this probably sounds appealing to those stuck on the hamster wheel of a too-busy life, it gets boring. And unfortunately, it will soon be joined by the post-chemo depression I hate so much. Then I'll be wishing to sleep away the days so I can get to a new and better one.

But, as usual, I need to take them one at at a time.

So that's the update. Nothing too unusual, nothing too exciting.