Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Chemo #3: Red and white counts are down

Thank you so much for your e-mails and your positive thoughts and prayers. I can't say how much they mean to me. I know that a number of you are climbing your own personal mountains right now, so I suspect you know what I mean when I say that your prayers carry me when I feel like I am dragging. Thank you so much. I'm sending all that right back at you, too. You are awesome for hanging in there with me.

Because I had a hard time writing after the last chemo, I'm writing the first part of this message prior to chemo, and will finish it when I return.

The Countdown:
A few people asked about the countdown, how many chemo sessions there are. It is a bit unclear. The schedule looks something like this:

Chemo: 4 - 6 sessions, one every other week. I'm not sure what determines whether it is 4 or 6 sessions, and no one seems to be able to tell me. They say that they will know when they are done. Okay.

Radiation: This part is pretty fixed. After the 4 -6 weeks of chemo, I get radiation M - F for 5.5 weeks. During those same 5.5 weeks, I will have have continuous infusion chemo (and wear the pump), M - F. I get weekends off!

Then I have a few vacation weeks. Woo hoo! Except, I am told that my body will need these to recuperate. Hmmm.

After that, chemo again, this time, 4 - 8 sessions, every other week. Again, don't know what determines the length, though they tell me that most people don't last that long. That scared me, but they reassured me that it wasn't because they were killed by the chemo, but that they were just tired of the whole thing and asked to be done if they could. Again, not something you really want to hear, but I'll cross that bridge later.

The whole thing takes about 8 months overall. So -- I'm on this program until the end of August or so. Are you thinking "ugh -- that is alot of emails!"???


Last week, I saw the hematologist (aka The Vampire Doctor, according to my four-year-old). AMAZING guy. Smart, compassionate, caring, good listener (probably a survival skill). And attractive, which helps any situation.

Anyway, I was scheduled to see him because my white cells weren't rebounding as they should (and I'm now on injections for that, plus acupuncture). He was very interested in why I have had two cancers in three years. In my mind, I file that under "Stuff happens", and figure that I am just lucky that it was found. But it is nice that someone is looking at that.

He recommended about 10 million blood tests, which I got. He was so great that I agreed to anything he said. By the end, I even agreed that he could take bone marrow and bone, but that is another day.

Of course, the blood draw was not uneventful. I hate blood draws, and the first nurse started out by saying, "Wow, he wants alot of blood." Then, seeing I was nervous, said, "It's just a blood draw!" Okay, not the nurse for me. I basically staged a sit-in until my regular chemo nurse could come and draw my blood.

Some results came in, and I'll hear about the rest soon. So far, so good; the two major ones:
White blood cell count was high. Yay.
Red blood cells -- well, I'm anemic, but no surprise there. That is how we found the whole cancer thing to begin with. More pills to remedy this. And the acupuncturist recommends "bone soup."

I kind of prefer the Chinese doctors who can look at your tongue, take your pulse, and know everything there is to know. But, I still go the Western med route as well....

Hard parts:
Taking so many pills. As someone who didn't take an aspirin or Tylenol before all this started, I am having trouble adjusting to that.

Other hard part: Really believing that this treatment will work. I am low-risk for this kind of cancer in the first place, so why should this treatment work? My chemo nurse assures me that those are completely disconnected events: It doesn't matter if you were supposed to get this or not, the treatment is for what you actually have. So, since I don't really have much else to hang my hat on, I'll hang it on that. And that logic makes sense to the logical part of me.

Other than that:

It has been a great week. Energy level was awesome. Randy, you were right that I would be able to roughhouse with the kids and lift them again. I didn't get to do e-mail as much as I would have liked, but that is true in general.

You know how you get a song stuck in your head and it can drive you nuts? The lyrics weren't so bad, except that it made me crazy to not be able to figure out the song. See if you can do it:

The blues they sent to meet me won't defeat me
It won't be long till happiness steps up to greet me.

Not bad lyrics, but I couldn't name that tune. To try and get it out of my head, my four-year-old advised that I sing Twinkle Twinkle or hum something from the Nutcracker. Yes, he is really learning alot at his supercalifrangelistic school -- I wish I could even THINK of something from the Nutcracker! But, not bad lyrics to have swirling around.

Post Chemo:

I can feel the neuropathy starting so I'll type fast. Chemo went pretty well today, pretty smoothly, no real stress. Because of my blood counts being funky, the doctor recommends three months of chemo (rather than two) because they are afraid that the radiation will drop the counts too low to do chemo later. I'm kind of relieved to put the radiation off as long as possible.

On other cancer fronts: Next Monday, I have a mammogram. Wish me luck!

Much love to all of you and thank you for your support. I don't really know how to express my gratitude but I hope to find a way.

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