Monday, April 30, 2012

Wah. Poor me.

Okay. It's official. I've been a major grump the last couple of days. I'm trying to stay positive. I really am. All in all, I think I've done a damn good job of it, too. The fatigue/lack of sleep is annoying. I did take the Ambien on Thursday night and it was basically a non-event. Nothing crazy. Nothing inappropriate. I slept like a normal person. I'm afraid to take it more frequently, but I'm glad it worked on chemo day.

I'm going to list my chief complaints (in no particular order) - and I realize that I will sound like a whiney crybaby, but dammit, this is my blog and I can do whatever I want, right?

1. The fatigue/lack of sleep. I've covered this above. Imagine being awake 36 hours straight - but all the time. Most of the time I'm okay, but all of a sudden, I feel like I could fall asleep standing up. It's exhaustion that smacks me in the chops with a 2x4. I know it will continue to get worse and I do try to snooze when I can, but I've faced the fact that feeling "normal" is a luxury I won't have for quite some time.

2. My HAIR - or lack thereof. I was more than ready to hack it off. It was fun to rock the 'hawk. It was liberating to buzz it. I now have a pretty rash that itches like a motherfucker and it's all broken out. What am I - 12? I realize that it's likely a side effect from the chemo coupled with the fact that it's really never been exposed to well, anything, and now it's been all touched and rubbed. (Heh, heh.) It still gets sore from my follicles opening up. I just want to be bald but I can't use a damn razor for fear of nicks and potential infection. For the love of God... I read today that some people have used a lint roller at this stage to help remove the stubbly nubs. I am SO doing that later! I wore a scarf today that made me look oddly like Little Steven. NOT cute. At all.

3. Weight gain. Look, I realize that it's fruitless to be vain right now. I know that this steroid is the asshat of a culprit here, but geez... I'm pretty sure I could pass for a 5-month pregnant woman. With no hair. And BIGGER BOOBS. Seriously? I do not feel pretty or feminine in any way. Yes, I feel strong and empowered, but definitely a frump, too. I've noticed that my eyebrows are thinning. My Uncle Fester look is nearly complete.

4. Bloody nose. With all this hair loss, I'm also losing the hair in my nose, which means that my sinuses are especially susceptible. I'm not normally prone to bloody noses - in fact, I've never had a gushing flow come out of my schnoz. When I blow it now - look out. Yuck. I also have a runny nose most of the time - again, because of the lack of hair. I've asked Matt and the girls to check periodically and let me know if it's blood starting to run out. Isn't that fun?

5. Chemo Brain. This seems silly, but it's a real phenomenon. I liken it to the sieve brain that many experience after having kids, but foggier, I guess. I lose my train of thought easily and can't recall simple words or names or whatever. It takes me longer to dig through the old school DOS recesses of my brain right now.

6. Did I mention the fatigue?

There. I'm done. I know this stuff isn't that bad and I count my blessings each day that it isn't worse. It's just all at once and I still have no idea what will happen any given week. Things I could still encounter with this particular chemo? Losing my fingernails/toenails. Neuropathy (tingling/burning sensation in your hands/feet). Mouth sores. Muscle/bone aches. Vomiting. Diarrhea. Let's not forget heart failure or getting cancer from the chemo. What the fuck?

Sigh... I feel better. Thanks for listening. I told you it was real and no holds barred. I can't sugar coat this. Cancer is a fucking bastard that I'd love to kick square in the taco. Well, wait. If it's a 'bastard', it likely won't have a 'taco', but work with me here.

Tomorrow is a new day and hopefully, I'll be a bit less crabby...

And she's... Bald.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Chemo Treatment #4

Happy Friday!
Yesterday was a pretty damn skippy good day overall. I decided to let my freak flag fly and rock my 'hawk in all it's glory one final day.

My first appointment was to get my blood drawn. The tech opened the door and gave me the "holy hell, she has a mohawk" look and handed me the clipboard. I signed in, smiled and went back to my seat. You'd think in a cancer wing, they'd have seen it all but perhaps not.

Having my blood drawn is basically a non-event. We marvel and joke about my pretty, juicy veins and after a stick and two vials later, it's over.

We headed up to the MD Anderson oncology suite afterwards. Today was the day that I meet with my oncologist as well. While in the waiting room a man in his 70s sitting a few seats away said "I like your hair!" and took off his fisherman's cap to reveal his shiny bald head. He said "I wish I could pull that off but I just don't have enough hair!" His wife echoed similar feelings regarding her hair, too. It was nice banter.

Next stop, vitals and then the quick nurse visit. My nurse this time was Mark, who is a big, burly dude. He's way cool. The first thing he said when he walked in the door was "I've heard about you!" I said "Me?? Uh oh..." He laughed and said "They told me that there was a lady with a Mohawk here today!" He loved it. I even let him take pics with his cell phone. Was it the most appropriate thing? Likely not, but it's only my head and not like he asked for a nip shot or something, right?

After a rather long wait, Dr. Nelson finally came in. He laughed when he saw me and said "Wow! That's great!!" I told him that it was likely my last day since it was falling out so badly and that I had bald spots and everything. He told me not to actually shave it and to not use a super close guard because the risk of infection should I happen to get nicked is too high. He said "You wouldn't want foliculitis". I'm not even sure what that is but it sounds yucky.

He pulled up my blood work and said that it's very rare that he sees blood work as good as mine at this stage. I didn't have any Hs or Ls (highs or lows). He told me that I was doing "awesome". That's great stuff!!!

From there, he did a quick exam of my heart and my breast to see if the tumor had changed. He believes that it's actually begun to shrink a little. Yippy-kie-aye!! I will have an ultrasound prior to my next visit with him to confirm but this is such great news!! He also had a prescription for Ambien called in since I haven't been sleeping at all on chemo nights. Oy. Ambien. Will I try to drive to work at 3am? Make a sammy? Consider inappropriate things with my lab? I told Matt that he may want to lock me in the bedroom to keep any drug-induced shenanigans at bay.

From there, we headed back into the waiting room since my chemo room wasn't quite ready yet. My PIC (partner-in-crime), Jenny, was coming to visit me during chemo. Yay!! Matt waited until she got there and then he left to give us some girl time.

I was told that I would be in room 14 today. As I walked past the nurse's station, I got many compliments on my 'do, so I did what any self-respecting woman should do... I did my slow walk and princess/Queen Elizabeth wave.

I had a new nurse today, which saddened me a little since Lilli was there! I had Angelette, who is very nice. As she got me all hooked up, several of the nurses came in to admire my Mohawk and several suggested pinking it out. Hey, I DO have my limits, people! Haha...

The premeds went as they usually do. The Benny is awfully fun still but I'm decidedly more coherent now. Only mild slurring, etc. Slowing the drip down helped immensely.

I asked Angelette if my current reaction was any indication of things to come. She said that it can be; that it's very likely that I'll continue to tolerate it well, which is great to know. We also talked about the next chemo cocktail
that I'll get, which is known as the "Red Devil" or "Red Death" for a variety of reasons. I hope to fare pretty well on those treatments but I know that they're brutal and I expect to be pretty sick. One day at a time...

After chemo ended, Jenny and I met Matt at Panera for lunch. All I wanted was a desserty treat after watching some show about cakes. DAMN that steroid! I chose a carrot cake muffin AND a brownie. Why not, right? Yes, I had "real" food but these were the highlights. Delish. Yes, Jenny and Matt followed my lead but they showed more restraint and had just one dessert each. Needless to say, my tummy was a little upset afterwards but it was soooo worth it.

After we parted company, Matt and I headed to get his wig busted in solidarity. I couldn't be more proud. His took less than 20 minutes - and that included the beard trim and streamy towel and scalp and back massage. (Oh, get your mind outta the gutter. I was right there. Kinky-free zone!) He totally rocks it and looks all kinds of badass. The girls and I love it!

Later in the evening, I let Matt and the girls buzz my Mohawk off. As fun as its been, it was just so messy and itchy and sore with all that hair continuing to fall out. I went from a punk rocker to GI Jane in about 20 minutes - well, minus the buff body and Ashton Kutcher connection. He went slowly with various sized guards to not irritate my scalp. It feels weird but I do love it. I may never want hair again!

I'm also pleased to report that I got a full, very uneventful, night's sleep with my friend, Ambien. I could have slept more, but I did wake up on my own (no alarm). I didn't drive anywhere or cook or call/text random people. Life is good.

Bottom line: Even with this poison in my veins, I continue to be very healthy so far. I have a new 'do (x2) and wonderfully supportive family and friends. What's not to love about that?

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

My week with a Mohawk

I'm a grown-ass woman. I have a husband and teenaged children and a white-collar job in the corporate world. Oh, and I've had a mohawk for the last week.

When I told my girls my plans for shaving my head, they wanted me to get a mohawk. I was all for it, since when else would I have a reason to be so ballsy and crazy with my hair at this stage in my life?

Getting the mohawk was much more liberating than I expected. I felt strangely empowered. THIS, I could control. I have not shed one single tear. Sure, I'd rather have my hair and no cancer but I'm way too far past that point. The wind makes my scalp tingle in a really weird and tickly way. Water in the shower has a similar effect. I really dig it.

I've definitely gotten weird looks. I'm sure people can't decide if I'm sick or a freak or what. I certainly don't want to be made fun of but quite honestly, I couldn't give two shits if they do. I tend to avoid eye contact in crowds so I've been blissfully ignorant.

Friends, family and coworkers that have seen me or my pics have been enormously supportive and as huge as that is - I really did this for my girls. End of story. I did it to show them that I'm a cool mom but also that I'm strong and won't let this hair thing freak me out or dampen my spirit. Cancer is a bitch, but so am I. They love it.

I've had strangers ask if I lost a bet, tell me "cool mohawk!" and even pull the I'm-pretending-to-stretch-in-my-chair-but-I'm-really-turning-around-to-gawk-at-you move. (I called the guy out on the last one. I pointed to my head and smiled.) I think that Hannah is sensitive to people staring at me and is fiercely defensive of me but I've explained that it's okay. I'm not worried. I'm taking it in stride and she can, too.

My hair continues to fall out like crazy. It's on my pillow, all over my shirts, towels, etc. It makes me nuts. I shower with a wookie every day still. I'm also the proud owner of a pretty bald spot. It doesn't upset me; it makes me laugh. I normally have a shit-ton of hair but now I have a bald spot? What. The. Fuck.

I plan on sporting the mohawk to chemo tomorrow - mostly because I feel like it's almost like a rite of passage. I'm no longer the "young" one with a full head of hair. I'm officially part of the fighting elite now. Once I get home, Matt has offered to take on the dubious honor of buzzing the last remnants of my hair off. I cannot wait. It'll be heavenly. No, really.

By the way, for you curious types, yes, it's falling out everywhere. Some areas are more obvious than others. My hair on my head is pretty obvious, of course. My eyebrows and eyelashes appear to be pretty normal right now, fortunately. My arm and leg hair is thinning out. My armpits are nearly completely smooth; however, I continue to shave daily only because I've done it for the better part of 30 years and it seems odd to stop.

Yes, THAT hair is falling out, too. It makes for a special bathroom experience. Don't roll those eyes at me. You know you've been wondering!

Hats and scarves are convenient but I'd really rather just wear nothing. It's far more comfortable overall. When I do wear a scarf, I look like my Bubbie. Not a bad thing!

On this final evening of mohawk-dom, I can relish in the fact that the girls will have a story to share with their children someday. "Grandma had a mohawk. She was cool as shit."

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Friday, April 20, 2012

Is there a Wookie in the house?

I took a shower with Chewbacca today. Who knew that he was living on my head all this time? My shower looked like I had snaked the drain. Pretty. I opted for a baseball hat today so as not to have it all blow off with a strong wind. "Sorry for that hair that was in your lunch, sir..." Oy!

I'm so thankful for my buzz appointment tomorrow!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Chemo Treatment #3

Happy Thursday!

Today was my third chemo treatment. My appointment was at 10:30 and the waiting room was absolutely packed. After 30 minutes, I went up to the desk and asked, "Are things running slowly today or was I forgotten, maybe?" The receptionist (someone I've never dealt with) said in a snarky, slightly annoyed voice, "It's every day. EVERY DAY." MMMkay. Lighten up, Francis. I went back to my seat and waited another 15 minutes before I was called back. The general chaos and noise and number of people in there were unnerving to me. Even the big ass goldfish in the tank seemed to be saying, "shut the fuck up - all y'all!" with their big-eyed stares. I needed calmness and serenity and clearly would not find it out there today.

Once I got called back, I had the obligatory weigh-in and vitals checked. I had gained a pound. It's only a pound but I still shook my fist and said "CURSES!" Yes, really. The nurse was totally on my side and said, "I know. It lies. Lies all the time." I liked this chick. She told me that she was going to be my nurse for today's treatment. WHAT?? Where's Lilli??? Matt and I exchanged, "No!" looks. This nurse's name was Sarah and she walked me back to room 12 - which was a large corner room that had to be accessed via another room. Kinda awkward.

Sarah was a funny nurse and while she doesn't replace my Lilli, she's an excellent stand-in. We joked about the show that my neighbors were watching about the lions in the Serengheti that kill cheetas not for food, but for sport. Damn show offs.

I didn't have my dance fever legs today until towards the very end of the Benny in a Bag portion of the show. She explained that the normal infusion time is 10-15 minutes, but if it's drawn out to 20-15 minutes instead, that effect seems to be lessened. It really helped. Duly noted! I also wasn't quite as stoned for as long but yeah... Dazed and slurred for sure! I fell asleep to the point where I was dreaming during the chemo portion. When the alarm went off to say that it was empty, it scared the shit out of me and I snapped awake.

Once the chemo infusion itself got started, Matt and I talked about my hair. I have been told all along that it will start to fall out around weeks 2/3. This is week 3. The follicles have started to open up and my hair is basically just laying in there. If I run my hand through my hair, I can pull it back out with a good 10-20 strands. I've been trying to salvage it by washing my hair every other day (and quite frankly, it looks better on day 2 usually anyway), but I'm a little nervous about what's going to come out tomorrow when I wash it. I'll be gentle, but let's face it. It's a losing battle.

Given this shedding situation, I reached out to my most favorite hair dude, Brian, and told him that the time had come. I have an appointment on Saturday afternoon for my official shaving. I'm not really nervous at this point, but am certainly less than thrilled. I do want to get it over with. Maddie and Hannah will be with me but Matt won't be. He has to work an all-day show and won't be able to escape. It's okay - we'll take video and pics and will stop out to see him. It's an alternative rock festival/radio show, so I'm pretty sure there will be bigger freaky deaky people there than me. Hardly the Moody Blues set. I know it'll be oddly empowering. THIS, I have control of and no one can take that from me. The girls want me to rock the 'hawk. I am very seriously considering sporting one until it all actually falls out. This is the time for a little personal rebel yell, is it not??

Right now, I'm not sleepy at all but I still feel some mild residual Benny buzz. I'm not slurring or fighting to stay awake or anything. I did ask the nurse about my all-nighter last week and she did confirm that it's from the steroid. Yay for me. She also told me that within the next two sessions or so, they'll begin to reduce the amount that they give me. That original push was just to get me through the first few weeks and as long as I'm tolerating things well, they can begin to back off of it. Woo hoo! No more desires to eat EVERYTHING. Seriously. I'm nearly at a tree bark phase. Birch, anyone?

I am not one of those productive people that will get up in the middle of the night and do laundry or pay bills or bake pies. (Translation - WAY too lazy for that.) I'll lay in bed and toss and turn. I did download a couple of books to entertain me. One was from a vampire porn series that I really dig. (Hey, don't judge. It's good stuff!) The other was the first book of the Shades of Grey series. I've heard that it's equally as naughty. Yeehaw!!! Anyway - back to the story.

I know that I can begin to expect some muscle/joint pains with this treatment. I haven't had the stiff neck since the first treatment, which is good. It's all a pain in the ass - I don't need a pain in the neck too. (Yeah, that was lame. You can laugh out of embarrassment for me.) I'm going to hop on the ellipical shortly to help keep my legs calm when I go to bed. Matt and I walked about 1.5 miles last Thursday but we had basketball and college night so we didn't get home until nearly 8:30.

Many of you have commented to me about this blog and it's so very helpful. You all know I'm a terrible (or awesome? your call...) attention whore, but this is much bigger than that. It's a true outlet for me. Share it with your friends, your family, your coworkers. I don't mind. I try to make things funny but it's real and I don't tend to sugar coat. I've had trouble finding a good balance on the internet. People are quick to discuss the horror stories OR over-glamorize it. I needed real. Feel free to comment if you'd like. I enjoy reading the comments (cough, cough, Cindy R on sleeping pills... cough cough). Haha.

Thanks for listening. Thanks for being so encouraging. You people are the shit.

Ciao...

Monday, April 16, 2012

They're real and they're spectacular!

There is a fine line between wanting to be well informed and simply freaking the hell out of myself. I decided it was a good idea to look at mastectomy pictures last night. Wow. There are all shapes and sizes and drains and tubes and bruises and stitches and scars and blood. You can't forget the blood. Understanding what's going to happen and having a visual to attach to it are two different things as well. I've still been mildly freaked out today. While I know it will save my life, it's not like I WANT to hack my boobs off. I don't WANT implants. I don't WANT a tummy tuck... SCREECH. Wait. Yeah, maybe I want that last one.

I won't lie... I love my rack. I've earned it. I went from a 34B pre-children to a 36DD in my current state. Yes, you read that right. I didn't stutter. I've always prided myself on the fact that they're mine and they're pretty damn good for a 41-year old woman. I gained 85 pounds between my two pregnancies and ultimately got up to a 38F - as in FABULOUS. Am I a boob woman? Yep. Guess so. I don't want to be flat-chested. I don't want a reduction. I want what I have now. See what I get for that bullshit?

I have felt fake boobs once. It was at a strip club in Vegas. (A story for another blog, perhaps...) They felt just like I expected them to; balloons filled with sand. Will mine be like that? I'm all for being firm and my nipples ceasing to make sparks on the pavement when I walk down the street but will I be like Barbie? I'm not down with that. High and tight - that's for military 'dos, not my boobs. I can deal with change - but I don't want to feel misshapen or disfigured or worst of all, unfeminine. My boobs don't define me but they're a huge part of me. Pun kinda sorta intended there. I can live without them. It's not like they're an arm or a leg or my eyeball where I'd have to adjust my way of living. They're just ornaments. Ornaments that sometimes do get unwanted ogling by people. Ew. But, I digress...

I read a book by a breast cancer survivor that talked about Amazon warriors. According to her, these women would slice off their own boobs so that they could pull the arrows back further - thus making them more efficient (and way more badass) warriors. I like that. Maybe slicing my boobs off will make me able to reach back further and really be more powerful, too? Oh, good lord. That's too deep for me. Must be the lack of sleep.

I'm going to sleep and dream about boobies. MY boobies. Peace out.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

D'oh!

I am not a thin girl. I've got curves. Once the two main curves are gone... What's left? I realized last night that once I've lost my hair and have had my boobs removed, I will look not unlike Homer Simpson. Oh my GOD. I guess I know what my Halloween costume will be. Hope Matt's okay with a big, blue wig...

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Mushy goodness

It's Saturday morning and other than being tired, I feel great. No aches. No pains. No nausea. Hair is still present and accounted for. What on earth do I have to complain about? Cancer is an asshole. There's no doubt about it. I refuse to be a cancer victim, though. I look forward to the day that I can say that I'm a cancer survivor. How does "survivor in training" sound? :)

Happy Saturday to you and yours!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Chemo Treatment #2

Happy Chemo Day!

We got to MD Anderson at 9:30 so that I could have my blood drawn. This will be a weekly event to make sure that my counts are in a good range do that I can proceed with chemo. Even though I have a port, only a nurse can access it. My choices are to suck it up and let them draw blood from my uber juicy veins in my arms or go upstairs to have the line started by the nurse,
come back down, have blood drawn and then go back up for chemo. Um, no. Maybe if/when my veins get yucky but for now, it's in the arm.

After my blood was drawn, I headed upstairs for the real fun of the day. I got weighed in and had my vitals checked. No weight gain or loss. I'll take it. I need all my chunk reserves not only to keep me from becoming emaciated but I'd like to use it for the new boobies! Hello!!!

The nurse led us back to the chemo rooms. As I've mentioned before, there are 14 private rooms. She walked to room 13. Really? Can't this be like hotels? Couldn't they go from 12-14? Haven't I had enough bad luck? Oy. Fortunately, she just had us hang out there while she cleaned up room 9. Whew!!

Prior to leaving the house, I put a big 'ol glob on lidocaine on my port. It hasn't completely healed and still has the medi-strips. It's healing very nicely but it appears that I have a slight allergy to the tape from the dressing. I had Saran Wrap over the glob to keep it in place. It sounded like a diaper when I moved. Ha!

I found that lovely Lilli should be my nurse each time for the most part. She prepped the port and got my IV started. First came the steroid, then the Xanax, Pepcid and Benadryl. The Benadryl nearly knocked me out. I'm such a wuss. It also made my legs feel like I needed to kick up my heels and dance. All over Houston. In an hour. Crazy feeling. My stupor was much stronger this time - perhaps because I wasn't feeling sick like I was last week or because it's accumulating in my system. Who needs alcohol or drugs when you can have Benadryl?? That shit is awesome!

Next came the Taxol. Thankfully, that was uneventful. As expected, the infusion took an hour. The IV machine screamed alarm bells several times due to air on the lines. The nurses would come in, flick the line, and get it started again. They explained that it's not uncommon for that to happen with Taxol. Okie dokie. Good to know.

The last step is to flush the port with saline/blood thinner to keep it clean and free of clogs. All that gave me was an extra special delish taste in my mouth that was kinda like rubbing alcohol meets paint. Nom, nom.

Sadly, there was no singing today, much to my dismay. "Don't Forget the Lyrics" wasn't on. Dammit! I did doze off here and there but with that IV machine blaring and having the shit scared out of me each time, a nap wasn't really going to happen.

By the time I was done, it was noon. I was starving and wanted Chuy's. I realize that I won't be able to stomach it for long so I plan on enjoying while I can. Once my stomach boycotts, I'll be done. And sad. No creamy jalapeƱo? Someone hand me a tissue!

By the time we got home, my speech was still slurred. Thankfully, Matt drove. What if I had been pulled over? Would I got arrested? Would the cop laugh when he found out it was only Benadryl? Ugh... I did sleep for quite a while. Now that it's nearly 6pm, I'm thinking how good curling up in bed sounds. I don't feel sick and am not in pain. I'm just tired. We'll see what tomorrow brings!

2 down, 14 more to go. How ya' like me now, Cancer bitch?? :)

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Cancer schmancer

For the first time in five or so weeks, I actually felt "normal". I wasn't worried. I wasn't stressing. I wasn't afraid. I felt good. Sure, normal life things still happened - some good, some not so good - but my main focus wasn't this rotten boob of mine. That's good stuff.

I had a great chat at lunch today with a coworker that also had the same type of breast cancer that I do. She's a survivor. To all of you other survivors that have offered to lend an ear and have shared your stories, I thank you and appreciate you. You're my heroes and inspirations!

On that sappy note, I will share a totally crass and inappropriate boob joke:

What did one saggy boob say to the other?

"If we don't get some support soon, people are going to think we're nuts!"

(Wait for it. You'll get it.)

Adios, amigos!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Happy Saturday!

Yesterday was a pretty good day. I woke up feeling much better than I expected to. Oddly enough, I think that all the premeds actually helped to kick some sinus infection ass, too. My ears had been ringing since prior to treatment on Thursday and I hoped that would pass soon. As the day progressed, my port site became swollen and sore. The skin around it - that had been red and itchy from the tape - was healing well, but the actual incision was worrying me. I didn't have a fever and am already on antibiotics, but it didn't stop me from being complelely paranoid about it. "What if my body rejects this thing?" was at the top of my worry list. Matt got me an ice pack and I chilled (literally and figuratively) while we watched a movie. (If you must know, it was the remake of "Fright Night". Not great. Amusing. Moving right along...)

I slept fairly well, which is a rarity these days between stress and being sick and just uncomfortable in general. Our big plans for today were to go to a wig shop that a friend had recommended. When I got up, I felt a bit nauseated, which, quite honestly, pissed me off. I hoped this round wouldn't bother me like that and after only two days? Come on! That's not very tough of me! It wasn't enough to sideline me (well, except for a few mad dashes) and I could continue with my day. I was bound and determined not to need any of the anti-nausea medicine that I was prescribed. Sure, I'll take it when I really need it, but mind over matter, baby...

While I was getting ready to take a shower, I ran my hand through my hair and a bunch of strands came out, too. Now, keep in mind that I do have thick hair and I shed like a golden retriever, but this wasn't like that. It wasn't a clump, but enough to smack an expected, but certainly not wanted, reality in my face. I am officially losing my hair. When I was pregnant with the girls - especially Hannah - I lost hair around my temples. It wasn't enough that anyone would really notice, but I obviously did. It didn't stress me out but I thought it was strange and figured it would grow back, which it did. What I experienced today was not unlike that - but the fast track version. What I didn't expect at all was my reaction. I cried. I laughed AND cried. I knew this was going to happen, dammit, so why the tears???

I've always said that once that happened that I'd shave it right away. I don't want to be traumatized by watching my hair come out in patches. I'm not at that point yet, but I know that it's likely only a matter of weeks before it's gone. I'll enjoy my short, sassy 'do for a little bit and will make plans to buzz it off. (Side note: the girls want me to go for a mohawk before I take it all off. I'll happily oblige and of course, will take pics!)

All four of us went to the wig shop. I told the girls that we may want to make this a silly, lighthearted visit, but there may be others there that are not interested in being silly and we have to be respectful of that. (Was I saying that for my own benefit? Perhaps...) Maddie's first words as we walked up? "Mom, this place is creepy with all those heads!" Ha. She was right.

The woman that helped me was very friendly but I really don't think that she appreciated my brand of humor. Go figure. I definitely didn't make fun of anything and wasn't rude or inappropriate BUT I also wasn't downtrodden or sad or serious. Not by a long stretch. She pointed out a variety of styles and I said to just go for it. I was open to trying anything.

I sat in a beauty salon-style chair in front of a mirror and the first wig she tried on me looked a bit too much like Kris Jenner. You know - the Kardashian sisters' mom. Oh, HELL no. It was a lovely wig but not on me and I looked a good ten years older. The girls and Matt gave me kinda cockeyed grins and I suggested that we try another; that it was maybe too short for me. Put that one on the NOOOOO list.

The seccond wig was about the same length and style as my hair was prior to my cut last week. Interestingly enough, the color was nearly spot on, too. Matt and the girls really liked it. "It's YOU!" was their unanimous response. Sold! I set it aside so that I could be sure and tried on others. I tried on a short bob that was very cute but also made me look older and a longer version of the one that I liked. It was fun, but not really me. I got the wig, plus wig shampoo and spray and a stand, which set me back about $350. My insurance should cover most, if not all, of that cost of the wig itself. She tried to talk me into buying two - so I could rotate, but I really don't believe that I'll be wearing it that often. It is a synthetic wig rather than a human hair wig. She said that real hair lasts longer, but the cap inside can wear out at the same rate either way. Wait. Back up. I'm actually talking about buying a WIG. For MY head. I'm the one that was once told by someone cutting my hair, "You have enough hair for a small villiage, don't you?!" Ugh. Such is life. in the grand scheme of things happening, this really is the least of my stressors, but it's still shitty.

I may be silly and joke a lot but I'm still trying to understand what's happening. I'm pissed. I feel like I did something to deserve this somehow. I wonder what I should have done differently to avoid it. I realize that stuff doesn't matter at this point, but it's just how my mind works. I've said it before and I'll say it again - I don't want people to feel sorry for me. Not at all. I want to raise awareness and give some shred of insight into my world in the hopes that someone can relate or will go to the doctor when they may not have otherwise. So many friends and family members have told me about their mammogram appointments that they've recently made and that's the best part ever. I hope to stay the same goofy, obnoxious, kinda (or very) inappropriate Nancy that I've always been but will just look a bit different.

I love my friends and family. You guys will keep me sane. xoxo

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Chemo Treatment #1

Today was the day that finally made it real. It wasn't the phone call. It wasn't the numerous test results. It wasn't the meetings with doctors. I have officially begun treatment for cancer. It's still baffling.

As I've mentioned a few times, I've been sick with a nasty sinus infection. Because I haven't had a fever, they could proceed with the chemo. I still felt a bit crappy today but much better than yesterday, which is great. Prior to leaving, I did a quick naked, just peed, no food in my tummy weigh-in (all women do this, right??). While I have lost about three lbs this week (LOTS of fluids!), I was not too pleased to notice that I currently weigh one pound more than I did when I was nine months pregnant with Hannah. Did I mention that I gained 40 lbs then? Holy frumpiness! I had to just laugh... It is what it is!

Matt and Maddie went with me to the hospital. Matt needed to drop Maddie off at school but wanted to get me situated. She was clearly unnerved but didn't gripe or anything. I did tell her that it wasn't like going to grandma's nursing home and she wouldn't have to pass sick people on rooms or anything. I told her that I'd likely be the youngest one there. She was a bit relieved.

I got checked in, said goodbye to Matt and Maddie and sat down in the waiting room. I realized that I was shaking. I was scared shitless. I won't even pretend that I wasn't. I maintained composure and answered texts and messages to distract me.

Shortly thereafter, I went in to see one of my many nurses. Her name is Candy and she's as sweet as her name. (Okay, that was so lame that even I gagged...) She went over what I could expect today and said that Dr. Nelson would be in to see me in a few minutes.

A few minutes turned into 20. Normally, I'd be annoyed but today? I was about to scale the ceiling from sheer nerves. I was alone and feeling sick and needy. Pooooor me. Dr. Nelson came in and told me that he was pleased to report that I was not pregnant. WHEW! What a relief! Given the fact that I haven't had a period in over six years and Matt's been nipped and tucked, it would be an immaculate conception and let's face it... That ain't happening. I'm a heathen. Duh. We discussed that all of my scans were clean and that my BRCA test also came back negative - so I didn't have the mutated gene and wasn't a carrier. Hooray for keeping my ovaries! It's also huge news for my sister and girls. Their risk is still higher but not AS high as it would be if it had been positive.

He gave me a quick exam (listened to my heart and looked in my ears, etc., and asked how my sinus infection was). From there, he gave me the green light and told me that I could head back to the waiting room to be called back for chemo. I will see him every three weeks.

Matt got back minutes after I went to the waiting room. Several minutes later, I was lead back to the chemo room. They have 14 rooms. They're pretty small and have a regular chair and a big ol' reclining BarcaLounger. There's a TV and wifi. I guess if you're going to get poison pumped through your body, you might as well be comfortable, right?

My nurse for the session was Lily and she smelled as lovely as her name. (Okay, now I'm just making shit up. I didn't smell her. That's kinda creepy.) She took the dressing off of my port and my GOD did it feel good. The tape was irritating my skin like crazy and it itched so badly. She cleaned me off and plopped on a dab of lidocaine then covered it with some plastic wrap. Once it set - about 45 minutes later - I was ready to have the IV started.

The numbing cream is some great stuff. She went right into the port, which looks like a small, round doorbell under my left upper chest. I felt only one, small pinch and that was it. I had to be medicated with several meds to help prevent any side effects. The first on tap was a steroid. Oh, yippy. The last time I took a steroid (Prednisone - ew), I could eat anything in sight and was worried that tree bark might start to look appealing. I gained 10 lbs in a week, too. Unfun. I realize that I don't have much room for vanity right now but geez!

The next two meds were Xanax and Pepcid. Nice! Lastly, Benadryl. I realized with all this stuff, I could likely leave feeling better than I felt coming in. Clearly, that wouldn't happen often! It took about 30 minutes or so for the premeds to finish going through my system. I was a little sleepy from the Benadryl, which wasn't a bad thing, in my humble opinion.

It was finally time for the big show... Lily started the Taxol IV. The only things I experienced were a slight metallic taste in my mouth and towards the end, restless, uncomfortable legs. She told me that was from the Benadryl. Keep in mind that besides the drip today, I've had a bit of Benadryl the last few days, too. The total infusion time was an hour.

During chemo, we watched "Don't Forget the Lyrics". Anyone that knows me knows that I have to sing along. I just have to. If that show is on each time I have chemo, I'll either entertain the socks off of the others there or annoy the living hell out of them. Much to my surprise and delight, Lily came in and sang along, too. I like this woman!

I did doze off a couple of times, which was nice. During that period of time (approximately 2.5 hours), I peed like a racehorse three times. THREE!!! I normally have a major camel bladder. Matt told me he hasn't known me to pee like that in 20 years!

All told, it was a non-event. Ironically, I feel better today than I have in days. Go figure. I know that I have some ugly, rough days ahead but I will certainly appreciate these good days - even if they're few and far between as I go. I prayed for strength and it appears that someone heard me.

I got a lot of notes, texts, wall postings, and even some fun tshirts and flowers from friends and family and it meant the world to me. Many people at work wore pink in my honor today, too. You are some incredible people and I'm very thankful. :)

Peace out... Xoxo

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Port of Nancy... Installed

Today, I went to the hospital for an ECG to make sure that my ticker is nice and strong and the minor surgery to insert the medi-port. Normally, you're told that you have to refrain from eating or drinking after midnight the night before surgery, but since mine wasn't until 1pm, I was allowed to eat breakfast. Yay, me!

We got to the hospital at about 11:15 today for an 11:30 appointment. As with everything, I had to register and provide insurance info, etc. The woman registering me slides a form over to me to review to make sure that all my info was correct. I notice that my work number is wrong and keep looking, realizing that the last time I was there was 7 or 8 years ago when I went to the ER with an allergic reaction to some medication. Then I noticed my job title. It was an old job. In one spot it said "Payroll Analyst". Further down, it said "Payroll Anal". How lovely. While most of my payroll experiences were very good, it's true enough that some were a huge pain in the ass. It took all I had not to lose my shit right then and there. I couldn't look at Matt or this woman in the eye. Payroll Anal. Wonder what those job requirements are??

Shortly after registering and correcting my info, I went in to have my ECG done. Because I have a mitral valve prolapse, I've had ECGs before so this was no big deal. It was nice and cool in the room and the tech turned off the lights. I could have taken a nap right there. Ahhhhh. The process took about 20 or so minutes and from there, I was sent to another room to be prepped for the port insertion.

While in the second room, an IV was started as my blood pressure was taken. I filled out an assload of consent forms and the nurse outlined all the cool and exciting "these things could happen" items. You know, things like the chance of my lung being punctured and the like. Groovy! Shortly after, she wheeled me into the operating room.

I climbed up on the table and three nurses (including the one that started my IV) prepped both me and the room. My original nurse (Jamie) explained that they weren't actually putting me under, but we're giving me a sedative to make me nice and relaxed. In other words, I'd be stoned. Given the fact that I've never partaken in recreational drugs (true story!), this is the closest I have!

I cracked jokes with the nurses and made fun of their choice in music. "This is some serious country you've got going on in here!" They told me it was some old Garth Brooks. Hey, whatever works. Enjoy.

They finished prepping me and the doctor came in. He cleaned the area again while Jamie gave me my "margarita" (as she put it). Minutes later, I felt like the walls were moving. Cool!

The only pain I felt was the pinch of lidocaine to numb the areas. After that, it was just slight pressure here and there. As badly as I wanted to fall asleep (again), I didn't. I just laid there in my drug induced stupor. Once the procedure was done, I was wheeled back into the other room to have my IV taken out and recover for a bit. I had to be leave via wheelchair since I did have a sedative which was okay by me because - hello - how often do you get to have a ride out of a building? I'm pretty sure that with my normal grace plus my new drunken swagger, I would have fallen and broken something anyway.

We left the hospital, grabbed lunch and ate it when we got home. I have been in the same position on the couch for the last 5 or so hours. I've slept very little, oddly, but I'm still in a bit of a stupor. I still don't feel great with the sinus infection, but all things considered, it's the least of my worries.

I will be able to remove the dressings on Thursday afternoon, but I have chemo that morning, so they'll have to redo it afterwards. It's sore now so I'm curious if it'll be healed enough or if they'll have to use my arm this first time. Either way will work, of course.

I'm in good spirits overall today and as overwhelmed as I am, I'm very anxious to get this process going so that I can declare victory that much sooner! Woot!!

By the way... The picture is from a tshirt that my OSUBFF, Kristi sent me. Pretty much sums it all up!


Monday, April 2, 2012

One step closer

Earlier this afternoon, Dr. Hubbard called to tell me that my bone scans came back clear. He said "all of your scans are squeaky clean!" I cried from sheer relief. It's sure is nice to get some more good news! The final piece to the puzzle - the BRCA test - should be in this week. Hoping that's all clear, too!

I got a prescription for antibiotics today for a sinus infection. (Yes, really. WTF?!?) According to my oncologist, I can still have my surgery to implant the medi-port. I'm curious how this will work since I can't breathe but hey - whatever. Maybe I'll put a little Vick's Vapo-Rub under my nose. That would be cute. Better yet, perhaps my sinuses will unleash and my nose will run and no one will wipe it off. I'll wake up to crust down my chin. Oy... The shit I worry about.

At this point, chemo is also still a go on Thursday. It seems that the swing vote is whether or not I have a fever. Fortunately mine hasn't gotten higher than 99.3, so it's still very low grade. 100 is the point of concern, I believe.

Send good juju for tomorrow. I'll be honest - I'm not crazy about going under with a bit of the funk going on.. The thought makes me oddly claustrophobic. Wish me luck!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

One more thing!

Oops... Forgot to mention one thing that I realized I hadn't included so far. I also have a breast cancer subset called triple negative breast cancer. This means that it's estrogen, progesterone and HER2 resistant. (Hence the triple negative.) Approximately 10-20% of women with breast cancer have this type, so it's not particularly common; however, it does tend to impact younger women more frequently. (And yes, at 41, I do fall into this category.) It's aggressive and has been known to spread more quickly and lead to recurrence. It won't respond to traditional hormonal treatments, but apparently does respond very well to chemo. This is why they chose the treatment plan that they did. This is also why I'm frustrated that of ALL times, I'm under the weather now and could face a possible delay.

Dammit, couldn't these odds have worked in my favor for the lottery instead??

In happier news, I believe that someone in my house is making brownies and I think that may help a wee bit with the grumpies! Yummm...

Going, going, GONE...

In anticipation of my upcoming chemo treatments and expected hair loss, I visited my hair dude, Brian, this past Friday to chop my hair off. I'm not one of those people that freaks over haircuts. It's just hair and will grow back. I found a style that I liked and went in. He ended up cutting off approximately 4-5" from the bottom. The shortest spots are only a few inches long at the top. I do like it, but honestly hate the reason that I did it. Sure, I could have just let it thin out and/or fall out in clumps, but this was ONE thing that I could still maintain some control of. Cancer wants to take my hair (via chemo)? Yeah, well, fuck that shit. I beat that douchebag to the punch and took most of it myself. At the first sign of it coming out, the clippers and razor will come out. I've said it before and I will say it again. I bought several scarves and hats this past weekend and will get info for wig places to get my "cranial prosthetic". (That makes me laugh every single time. It's so absurd.) I'll post some before and after pics, but I'm feeling lazy at the moment and will add them another time. It's weird to feel my hair on my neck. It's weird to not be able to wring it out. It's fantastic to wake up with Kate Gosslin hair. That's all kinds of hot.

While I rarely get sick, seasonal allergies seem to be kicking my ass the last two days. The pollen counts are really high, so I'm hoping that's all it is and doesn't turn into a sinus infection or anything. It could push back my medi-port surgery and chemo this week, which would really piss me off. In case you can't tell - it's making me a tad grumpy. I just want to get this show on the road. Stupid trees and grass. I need a damn bubble. I could hang out with John Travola and have his girlfriend jump over us with her horse and everything. Maybe I could even borrow his spacesuit-thing and take a stroll over to the football field. (My GOD - I've lost it. It's official.)

Okay, that's enough rambling for one night. I'll provide an update tomorrow on whether or not I'll still have surgery on Tuesday and chemo on Thursday. Keep your fingers crossed...

Peace out.