March 21, 2017

It's been awhile..

Where to start.. I apologize in advance for the length of the following post!

I have to admit my brain is a bit foggy when it comes to the events over the last few weeks.  Chemo brain is real - combine that with the various pain medications that I'm taking and time and events all seem to blur together.

I spend most of my days sleeping. However, I have finally returned to work.  My last day was February 6th.  I returned March 17th!  At first, I was told I'd probably want to take off during my brachytherapy (internal radiation) and that's exactly how it worked out.  There came a point when I just could no longer sit for any period of time and had to admit to myself that I needed to stay home.  I was in a lot of pain.  I had radiation burns on my bum and by the end of my external radiation I had even developed burns on my lower stomach.  Spending  any  time on the toilet was tear inducing.   I didn't want to eat or drink because that just meant a trip to the bathroom. 

Each trip to chemotherapy also turned into a blood transfusion. I believe I'm up to 8, by now.  At some point, my magnesium took a dive and I was also getting magnesium infusions.  My potassium was dropping and was put on a prescription supplement.  I was taking Vicodin and ibuprofen around the clock and I also had a narcotic pain patch on, at all times.

As far as brachytherapy went....  The first session was horrifying.  I was in so much pain.  I was put to sleep during the insertion and then woken up to complete the rest of treatment.  From the insertion I would go for a CT Scan.  It was through that test they could see the placement of the device and formulate the plan for the placement of radiation.  That time frame ranged from 1-3 hours.  Then, I was wheeled (in my hospital bed - I had to be flat on my back during the entire procedure) to the radiation room, and the radiation was placed for a period of about 12 mins,..then I was taken to recovery.  Some days in recovery, I was free to go within 30 mins or so.  Once, I was there for an extra 4 hours!!!  (my oxygen levels kept dipping too low)  Thankfully, each following session seemed to get easier.  They finally found a medication combo that helped keep the pain to a minimum and I was actually able to sleep during those 1-3 planning hours.

I completed treatment on March 16th!!  I wish I could say that everything is back to normal and I feel great!! But, that's just not reality.  Chemotherapy and Radiation does lasting damage to the body.  My cramping has returned, my stomach is so upset because of the ibuprofen, and my bladder and digestive tract may never return to "normal".  I am still dealing with bowel/bladder issues.  I do think they are improving, but it will take some serious time.  I'm still pretty exhausted all of the time. I mentioned returning to work - I make a point to only put in about 4-5 hours a day.  I'm wiped out by then and head home for a solid nap. 

I've been thrown into menopause because of treatment.  So far, the only complaint would be the hot flashes and intense night sweats.  Just miserable!  I'm so cold one minute and the next I'm a sweaty mess.

My white blood cells are still low so I have to be careful when I am around the public.  I definitely do not want to be around many germs!  Having said that, Saturday was the first time I attempted dinner out with my brother and sister-in-law, in months.  We also went for a Target run.  It felt great to be among the living again!!  After all that excitement, I fell asleep about 8pm and didn't wake up until about 9am Sunday morning.

The final verdict - as of the start of the 3rd brachytherapy I was told some amazing news!  The tumor originally measured 7cm.  At the beginning of brachytherapy they did a MRI and it showed the tumor had shrunk to about 4cm.  Right before the 3rd session they did another MRI and the tumor measured about 1cm.  YES!!!  I had 3 more brachytherapy procedures, so I can only hope and pray it's gone!!

I'm on the calendar for May 22nd for a followup PET scan to check to see how treatment worked.  Then, on the 23rd, I see my doctor for the results.  I'm trying to stay as positive as I can.  It's not always easy when I'm dealing with a particularly painful day.  But, during those times, I just take myself to bed for a nap.  Worrying won't change anything, but, a nap  will  improve my mood. :)

Thank you to everyone that has shown support for me during this time.  A wonderful group of women joined together to help me - emotionally, mentally, and even financially.  Women I've never even met sent me gift cards, uplifting greeting cards to keep my spirits up, ordered my beloved popcicles to ward off nausea and had them delivered to my house, and even money when I was struggling so much with not working and still having to pay the bills.  I can't say thank you, enough.  My nephew, woke up every Thursday to take me to brachytherapy.  And not just woke up..but woke up very early - we had to be there by 5:30 am!  He also made the drive to pick me up afterwards.  The Demon has stepped up beyond I ever imagined he would.  He would do all the dishes, make sure I was fed, make countless grocery runs - basically ran the house for the last 3 months.  My brother saved me from a broken sump pump.  It was spraying water everywhere and he ran right over to help fix it...more than once.  He went with me to some appointments as support when I was waiting for diagnoses and treatment.  And, my sister in law provided (and offered) rides to and from appointments as well.  She also has brought me back from my dreaded grey roots to my brown locks!

If you've stuck with me throughout this whole post - Thank you, too.  ♥

February 6, 2017

4.

Okay, I must warn everyone that the following post will not be filled with pretty details.  If you don't want to read about a sore bum... then click out now.  I won't be offended!






Monday - Of course, radiation is first on my agenda and man, did I need to talk to my doctor.  I see her once a week and Monday is that day!  Over the weekend my rear end issue was getting worse.  I had been using every cream and ointment I could get my hands on, nothing was helping!!  She took one look and said "Well, that's one angry hemorrhoid!"  Ahhh, my only response was "I KNOW."  She gave me a prescription that I was hoping would be the miracle cure.  Off to work I went.



Tuesday - I woke up after a long night of bathroom trips, even more sore than the day before.  Before I even left for radiation I knew there was no way I was going to be able to sit for hours at work so I called off for the day.  I thought I would lay around, catch up on my sleep, and heal up!


Wednesday - Seriously, each day you think you can't possibly hurt worse but you do!  I got myself ready for work, drove to radiation and cried the whole way there.  Now, I'm not normally a crier, but I was so frustrated.  I  needed  to go to work!  I love my job and blessed to have such flexibility with my schedule, but I am not getting paid for the time I've had to take off!!  I called in as soon as I got to my appointment.  Again, there was just no way I could handle sitting for the next 5 hours.  My plan for this day was to sit, on and off, on my sitz bath.  It was NOT comfortable, but I struggled through it 3 times... overall, I saw little improvement.  I did, however, find an ointment that seemed to work on the pain and I've found ibuprofen to help most with the pain (when compared to the Vicodin I was prescribed for pain).


Thursday - I woke up and felt just a little better!  The routine with the new ointment and pain meds seemed to keep my pain at bay, long enough to function.  Off to radiation and work!  Next Thursday I start internal rads, and will have 5 treatments (each on Thursday).  I'm so anxious about those!  Hopefully, I'll be drugged up and everything will be uneventful.




Friday - Chemo day!  I hit radiation and made it to chemo on time, for once.  When I get there they take blood to check my levels and this particular time my count was low.  Argggh!  I know it's likely my fault because I've become so lazy with my iron pills.  Truth be told, I'm TIRED of taking so many pills.  It was one that I just didn't care too much about. Anyway, that lead to needing a extra dose of blood during this treatment.  Not a huge deal, but it did add an extra hour or so to my appointment.  I didn't get out of there until nearly 5pm.  Was a very long day, but I made it through.


Saturday - I went to work!  I know it doesn't sound like fun (and really, fun isn't the word I'd use to describe it..) but, I needed to get some hours in, and it was a quiet day at the office.


Sunday - I finally got out for a short walk!!  Note to self:  with an extremely sore bum (and yes, it has gotten worse.  I think I'm dealing with radiation burns at this point..) walking any amount of distance isn't necessarily a great idea.  I took my camera and as you can see, got some fun shots.  It was windy, so it wasn't as easy as I had hoped..but the short time I was out was worth all pain it brought me.  I got home, took some pain pills and got ready to watch the Super Bowl!


Not a horrible week.  I know I've been blessed with no nausea or super body aches.  But goodness, I need to heal up the bum or I may be spending the last weeks of this treatment horizontal!

January 30, 2017

Three.

First things first, I didn't get out and take any photos over this last week.  It's not that I didn't want to.. it's that I just didn't have the energy to get up and walk about.  I sure miss walking my baby!

Monday - I've been battling the side effects of radiation.  The worst being intestinal disturbances...thankfully those disturbances involve the lower region vs being nauseous. I'm fortunate Imodium seems to be holding the main issue at bay. I did manage to lost 4lbs over the week. Very weird since my appetite really seems to be going strong.  Although, it could very well be due to the GI issues of which I've been experiencing.  Also, it's about this day of the week that my body is reminded of the fact that I had a dose of chemo on 3 days prior.  By evening, I begin to feel pretty puny.

Tuesday - The chemo side effects are in full force.  Body aches, fogginess, basically just an overall feeling of YUCK.  I find it comparable to flu symptoms.  I hit radiation in the morning and barely make it through work.  Each day, I normally go home and nap for a couple hours, have dinner and then head to bed.  This night, I was struck with serious stomach spasms and another round of the above mentioned "disturbances".  It was rough.

Wednesday - The first day since treatment has begun that I had to miss work because of the side effects of radiation.  I just couldn't push through the day after the night before.  I did make it to radiation, then went straight home and slept the rest of the day.  

Thursday - I was back with the living.  Hit radiation and went into work.  I was slowly feeling more like myself by this day.  Each day at work I really have the desire to get out and go for a walk when I get off for the day.  That just usually never pans out.  I really push for a solid 5 hour day and then am exhausted.

Friday - Chemo!  First thing this morning I get a call from my radiation office informing me that the machine isn't working correctly.  They want to push my appointment back an hour, however, that conflicts with my chemotherapy for the day.  I hit chemo, and my plan is to run by radiation afterwards.  I get to my appointment at 10 am, they draw my blood to double check my levels before starting (everything looked great!) and by 11am they are pushing fluids.  By the time my final bag of fluids is starting (the process is fluid, pre-med 1, pre-med 2, chemo, fluid) I call radiation and let them know I'll be by before 4 pm.  I get home around 5.  Whew.. this is by far the longest day of the week for me.

Saturday/Sunday - I straightened up the house some (with the help of the Demon) and lay around the rest of the time.  I am feeling great (beyond my booty issues that still won't go away thanks to the "disturbances").  My weekend included loads of Roseanne and Psych - not a bad way to spend my time!

All in all a pretty basically normal radiation/chemotherapy week for me.  I do hope these updates aren't all too boring to read. Most of these recaps are for me and my want to look back on these, months from now, and see how far I've come.  However, I want to also pass my personal experience on to anyone else that could be going through a new diagnosis. (or God forbid may ever have to in the future..)

I hope everyone has a great week.