Saturday, December 17, 2011

On the rebound

I had my first chemo session at Dana Farber and all appears to be....pretty good! Not that it was a walk in the park, but I haven't vomited yet so that is good, and I feel like I am on the rebound.

Thank you for all your good wishes and prayers. It definitely got me over the hump. 

When I initially learned that I needed chemotherapy, four years ago, I didn't want to go to Dana Farber. Everyone there had cancer - I really wasn't ready to identify with that group, or to regularly see people in various stages of disease. In the past couple of years, I must have adjusted my self-image. So, I didn't have to gear up much to go, and I was even looking forward to a new environment.

Or so I thought. On Tuesday morning, prior to leaving, I was snapping at people more than usual, but hey, they deserved it. And maybe I was impatient with the kids, but perhaps they were taking too long to get ready for school. 

BUT, when I started to tell my mother how to cook, I realized that I crossed the line into insanity. Or stupidity.

If you have met my mother or been graced with her cooking, you know that there is nothing I can do to improve it. For those of you who don't know my mother, here are two bits of information that might give you a little context:
1. She was born and raised in Italy
2. She cooks almost all day long, stopping only to clean up, and she makes everything from scratch

I eventually got off her back and into Dana Farber. Again, everyone there was extremely kind and patient with me. I didn't even mind going into the building. I had a surprise visitor who has become a friend (woo hoo - Thank you!) and met up with another friend who is also doing chemo there. 

Usually I feel so nauseous just going into chemo that I can't swallow the anti-nausea meds. But this time, for the first time in a long time, I was able to hold that at bay and swallow the pills they gave me. Thank you again for your prayers for this! 

The pills knocked me out and I slept through chemo, then got wheeled out in a wheelchair because I was still very out of it.

Ugh - just writing this feels gross.

My chemo regimen is the same: I went home with my own little personal chemo pump, that I wear for two days. They gave me one that is smaller than the one I had been using for the past few years, and that was nice. Maybe that is a very thin silver lining, but I'll take it. 

After about 48 hours of wearing this pump, I can opt to disconnect it from my body at home. I prefer to have the nurses do it in a medical institution. I'm not good at it, and, I want all the medical stuff OUT of my home. 

So, a friend drove me into Dana Farber, and they gave me a seat while we waited for the machine to finish transporting the last few drops of chemo. Then I got an injection to boost my white count, and went home to shower the whole experience away.

Now I'm on the upswing. That doesn't mean that I feel great, but I am out of bed and walking around. I got to attend the boys' Holiday Assembly at school. And my stomach and mind are finding their way back to normal. This process may take a few days, but I'm happy to be on my way.

I get three weeks off until my next chemo (January 3), so I can enjoy the holidays with my family. I am really looking forward to the downtime! 

Thank you for your prayers and thoughts and smiles and warm wishes! Have a warm and wonderful holiday spent with those you love, and laugh when you can.


Monday, December 12, 2011

Chemo on Tuesday...

Calling on you again - my first chemo session at Dana Farber will be tomorrow, Tuesday, December 13.

I arrive at 2:00 for a blood draw,
2:45 is my doctor appointment, then
3:30 is the scheduled time for my drip to begin.

Thank you for any and all prayers and positive vibes that the chemo is effective and that the anti-nausea drugs are, too! Even just a two-second prayer right now would be huge. Thank you!

With lots of love and gratitude,

Sunday, December 4, 2011

No chemo on Monday!

I would normally have chemo tomorrow (Monday, December 5) but my schedule shifted again and I will instead have chemo next Tuesday, December 13. If you were keeping track and about to send prayers and positive energy, thank you. Last time around, your prayers and thoughts made for a much smoother chemo week - thank you for that. I was able to get out of bed and although I still felt quite nauseous, I could function. And then, it just got better from there! So thank you for your very positive impact on my life.

As a group, my daily life changes because of the positive energy from you. When I started down this path, I had large reserves of my own energy and hope, larger than I knew at the time When something happened, I unconsciously dipped into my reserves to bring myself up. But since September, it seems that my reserves are slim and sometimes none. 

Without these reserves, two new supports shone through. One is the power of God. I realize I am carried by this on a daily basis, but sometimes my awareness is stronger than others.

The other is the power of a group of people who are praying and sending good energy my way. The difference you make is tangible.

I know you can feel varying energies with friends and colleagues. Being around some people can pull you up, and being around others, however much you love them, can pull you down. Being in some environments is life-giving, while other environments suck the lifeblood right out of you.

I started to notice this more and more when going in for chemo. For whatever reason, I got depressed even walking into MGH lately. There was no one specific reason; it is more of an intangible feeling. My oncologist is caring, very smart, and knew my history. Though my rock-star chemo nurse switched working days, the others nurses were there for me, and the institution itself is top-notch. But when I entered the building, my entire body sank.

Still, it took about a year before I had the energy to change the situation. It is much easier for me to stay stuck in the way things always have been, especially when I can rationalize why I am staying. I know, though, when I start to do that, it is indeed time to make a change.

Fortunately, we live in an area with several great options, and, last week, I rallied and got to meet with an oncologist at Dana Farber. From the start, things felt better. When my friend and I drove into the parking garage, we planned to self-park but accidentally drove into the valet line. No problem - the valet moved the cars so we could drive through, with a pleasant tone of voice and without eye-rolling or eyebrow-raising. We entered the new building, where people cheerfully directed us to the right floor. And when I asked for a bottle of water (not noticing the sign in front of me that said "Refreshments"), a gentleman got one for me with good cheer and no sarcasm. The patient sitting next to me asked if they had Scotch, too. 

The oncologist was easy to talk with, knowledgable and direct. He shared his positive energy and gave all the time I needed. I left the building feeling pretty upbeat. Of course, I didn't actually have chemo that day, but that's a detail.

I am fortunate that all my doctors, at MGH, Dana Farber and Beth Israel, know each other well and work seamlessly together. Even if I am not working routinely with the doctors at MGH, it helps my emotional transition to continue to consider them as part of my team. 

To remain on schedule, I should have chemo this week. But, the boys have two weeks of vacation at Christmastime, and I'd love to spend it with them if I could. The oncologist was comfortable jiggering my chemo schedule for December to make that happen. So, rather than chemo ever other week, the next two sessions will be at every three weeks, and then, in January, I start every other week again. I know this sounds convoluted; don't feel like you need to follow it. 

The plan is to keep doing chemo and see what happens before determining a next step. This is more uncertainty than I would choose to live with, but I guess I don't get to choose. So, I'm along for the ride.

If you don't mind, I'll send out a reminder for prayers, etc. before December 13.

In the meantime, please know how incredibly grateful I am to have your support. You are a huge part of my healing team, even if I don't see you very often. It feels a bit like I have fallen backwards without knowing whether I would be caught, then felt a zillion hands catching me. Thank you. And I send out all my positive energy your way.

Much love and light,