Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Update on my blog

For your reading pleasure :>)

Doing ok at the moment, eating a salad of spinach, fried squash ravioli, goat cheese, sauteed Fuji apples, grilled chicken and spinach.  I think this qualifies as an iron/protein-packed meal!

Thanks again for all your well wishes! 


Round Two - Unremarkable!

I am home relaxing after having my second infusion of Adriamycin and Cytoxin, along with all the pre-meds (steroids, Aloxi, Emend and one other little pill...maybe it was a Compazine.  And I had already applied the scopolamine patch.  I'm feeling OK but I find my "monovision" is not working so well, so I took out the contacts and put on the glasses. 

Today's process was, again, a 5 hour deal.  Nurse Lisa was extremely busy today - there were lots of patients and some staff on vacation.  So everything just took a while.   First things first, she took my vitals and weighed me.  Lost 3.5 pounds.  That's not going to help with getting DIEP reconstruction. I'm getting to be a "flyweight" and am now down to what I was in 1971 or so!  She thoroughly cleaned the port area and inserted the needle.  It was just a little stick, so that means I don't need to use the numbing cream.  She made sure everything was working properly, then she drew blood for the labwork.   They process their own labs, so I waited about 30 minutes, then I went in to see Dr. Walsh, my medical oncologist.  In the meantime, Rick got a call and had disappeared for a few minutes.  The nurse found him and Joe wandering, so she brought them to the exam room.

The meeting with Dr. Walsh was really just a conversation.  She asked about the side effects I had experienced and how I was doing.  I introduced her to my new set of cold sores...yup, my autoimmune system fires these up once or twice a year and they made their appearance last night.  So there's a pill for that, what a!  I now have a 6 month script for Valtrex, an anti-viral that will probably keep these things in check for the rest of the treatment.    She looked at my lab report and said everything was good.  And I asked her for a referral to Physical Therapy for the lymphedema that is not going away.  I've got very good range of motion on both arms (actually played a few holes of golf last night) but I've got a pocket that continues to form a couple times a day on my back in the area of the lymph node removals.  And I will be fitted for a compression garment in case I need to take a plane trip!  Paris, here we come!!!

We went back to the infusion lounge and Nurse Lisa showed up with my pre-meds and bag of saline for extra hydration.  Meanwhile I sent the guys off for lunch.  Rick and Joe had D'Angelo's (again) and they brought me some really good clam chowder and a salad.  I ate the chowder, the salad is in the fridge.

At about 1:00, Lisa came in and pushed the Adriamycin - 3 syringes full.   Then she flushed the line and I had a few more minutes of hydration before she added the bag of Cytoxan, properly mixed with saline this time.   The Cytoxan drip takes just about an hour.  So it was done just before 3:00, she flushed the line, removed the needle, applied a small bandage, and we were free to go.

Earlier I had asked Lisa for a copy of my lab results.  I noticed lots of "H" and "L" notations, yet the word "Unremarkable" was printed in all caps.  So I was pretty sure there was nothing to be worried about, but I wanted to know what it all meant.  The bottom line is that my white blood count was a little higher than the top of the range (that's not a bad thing) and my red blood counts were a tad low, although not much lower than they were before my first treatment.  Actually, my whites were high before the first treatment, also.  And surprisingly, my protein level was a tad low.  Lisa went over everything, line by line, and we talked about how to boost the protein level.  She stated that "everyone" has a low protein score and mine was just 0.2 below the low end of normal, so she said that was actually really good. 

My goal for the next two weeks will be to stay ahead of the nausea, as I did last round, and try to bump up the protein and iron-rich foods so I can keep my red cells close to normal.  Anemia breeds fatigue, and I really don't want to add to that problem.  Luckily, adding those types of food to my diet is not a problem.  I just sent Rick off for takeout - a spinach salad with grilled chicken.

But the bigger question is, what can I do to prevent additional weight loss?  I haven't missed a meal, I had ice cream 3 times in the past two weeks - that's a major big deal because I will usually have it 3 times in a whole summer, I am eating a few chips with my sandwiches, etc.  More popcorn, perhaps! 

And maybe one of my darling children will whip up a batch of  homemade Chex party mix using whole grain Chex and Cheerios, lots of nuts, please skip the pretzels but if you can find those sesame seed sticks, you can throw those in the mix. 

And oh, the head is starting to tingle, a few strands have shown up in my hands, and I'm expecting the hair to go any time now.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Looking Good Feeling Better, Weekend Fun, and Better Weather on the Horizon

Last Friday I attended an American Cancer Society "Look Good Feel Better" session at Elliott Hospital in Manchester. What a great service by the ACS!  The sessions are conducted by volunteers, the ACS gets donations from some very, very high end cosmetics companies (think Chanel, Clarins, Clinique, Estee Lauder) and they put together tote bags full of cosmetics and skin care products for each participant.  Any woman undergoing chemo can attend a session by just making a phone call.  My session was conducted by a licensed cosmetologist (a survivor herself) who demonstrated each and every product so we all got makeovers, she gave us great ideas on how to make headwraps out of the bottom of a tshirt, and showed us how to tie scarves.

At the end of the session we were provided a listing of all the ACS wig banks in the state.  We were encouraged to take advantage of the offer for a free wig.  So on Saturday, I called a salon on the list that was ten minutes from me.  The salon owner answered the phone, I told her why I had called, and she said she had one wig that she thought would be perfect for me, and that I could stop by any time before 2 p.m. to see if it would work.  So I found my way to the salon and Penny, the owner, directed me to the wig salon.  She came in, pulled out a wig and helped me get it on.  She told me to play with it for a few minutes, then she would come back and see how I was doing.  Well, the wig was a perfect fit, it didn't require any trimming, and I was out of there in less than 20 minutes sporting a short little blondish-brown summer do!

On Saturday afternoon, Allison and I headed to WalMart where Regal Nails has a nice salon, and we got manicures and pedicures.  I went way out on a limb with my toenail color, and Alli opted for Smurf blue.  Then we hit Rockingham Mall for a little shopping.

We woke up this morning to another grey, foggy morning.  It has been raining since Wednesday and we have all had just about enough of the dreariness!  I feel bad for anyone who rented a vacation spot anywhere in New England this past week.  It has been rainy and chilly with almost no relief until today.  By noon, the skies started to make way for some peeks of sun, and the day ended with a beautiful array of colors on the lake.  We had dinner on the patio of Brookstone Grille, a beautiful property with a 9 hole golf course, driving range, mini golf, ice cream shop and restaurant.  The landscaping is impeccable and we found out that the owners of the complex also own a landscaping business.  That explains a lot!  I'll get some pictures next week, there is a pond full of lily pads just about ready to blossom.  We walked the golf cart path so we could earn our ice cream cone.  It really is a pretty little course, and I think we'll try to play on Tuesday evening. 

Then we came back home to a beautiful sunset on the lake. 

The colors of the night

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Hope Patrol Will Roll - July 9th in Hanover, NH

"Thirty(!) years ago, four Cancer Center nurses rode 100 miles through New Hampshire’s White Mountains. They rode to honor their patient, Audrey Prouty and raised $4,000 for research at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Norris Cotton Cancer Center. For this year’s 30th Annual Prouty, 5,000 participants and 1,000 volunteers will come together in the Connecticut River Valley to pay tribute to the many, many people, like Audrey, who’ve battled cancer; and to continue the important work of bringing an end to cancer. Join your neighbors, friends and the community- come PROUTY!"

And my family will be there!  My son's girlfriend Christine (and girlfriend is just not an adequate term!) is a physical therapist and tri-athlete who has participated in this event for a few years.  She lost her own mom to cancer, so this event is dear to her heart.  This year, she has managed to get a few more family members to ride along with her, at least for part of the way!  If I am able, I will do the 3k walk in Hanover.   And now we are a team - the "Hope Patrol." 

If you would like to participate or donate to this cause, you can find Christine's page at

Thanks for your support!


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

One week out, staying strong

Sitting here, enjoying my DunkinDonuts coffee this morning, and appreciating the fact that so far, my side effects have been relatively mild.  I did not have any bone pain from the Neulasta shot - maybe the Claritin did the trick.  My funky chemical mouth taste has mostly subsided and I can drink my coffee and Diet Coke.  My mouth is a little sore so I have been swishing with a salt/baking soda solution in an effort to ward off the mouth sores and thrush.  My appetite has been good but I cannot eat spicy food as my esophagus seems to be overly-sensitive; and I am taking Prilosec to keep the heartburn at bay.  We learned that charcoal lighter fluid was a nausea trigger and solved that problem with a new gas grill, which was in the plan anyways.  So far, so good.

Yesterday Rick and I got a laugh as I had an "ah ha" moment.  He had been working all day, continuous conference calls.  His office is not yet set up (a must do this weekend!) so he has commandeered the living room, which puts him right in the middle of anything I am trying to do.  So at about 6 p.m., I cut up some lean sausage from our local butcher shop (yeah, really lean as it turns out), peppers and onions to throw on the grill.  And as I walked by him to start cooking, he looked at me and asked if I felt well enough to be doing the cooking.  I gave him the "of course I am!" answer, then laughed and said "geez,  I am really stupid!  I am not milking this for all it's worth!"   Gotta give the man a break...he did, after all, pack up our entire household and drive it 1500 miles.  I think I can manage a little cooking right now!!!

We are loving our lakefront home.  Even though it's tiny, we are finding ways to adapt, make use of every square inch of storage, and best of all, really use the outdoor living space.  We've eaten dinner lakeside almost every night and it is just so pleasant and relaxing. 

Couldn't ask for more!


Sunday, June 19, 2011

Happy Father's Day!

It is a beautiful morning on Arlington Pond, could not ask for more! 

I want to wish Happy Father's Day to all the "dads" in my world, but especially to my husband who married me more than 31 years ago.  He got an instant family that included three kids, and then we had one of our own.  He has taught our kids,  among other things, playfulness and spontaneity that have provided many giggles and laughs along the way.   He is 60 going on  And I wouldn't want him to be anything different.  I love you, Rickie!

I am feeling pretty good for this 4th day after treatment.  I actually went to the Red Sox game last night with my son Ron.  Fenway Park is such a perfect place to watch a game (with all due respect to Kauffman Stadium in KC) and it was a beautiful evening even though the Sox lost the game.  And the popcorn tasted pretty good! 

I am noticing a funky taste, and I had to dump my Kona coffee down the drain.  I've also noticed that my beloved Diet Coke doesn't taste very good.  So in the interest of avoiding caffeine withdrawal, I am sipping iced tea this morning.  Icy cold drinks seem to work best, so I'll just go with that for now. 

I seem to have a little shortness of breath when trying to walk fast.  OK, so the guys had to slow down last night when walking to and from the parking lot.  Rick and I tried to take a walk after dinner a couple of days ago and we had to turn around after 10 minutes.  I needed to make sure I could make it all the way without making him carry me piggyback!

One other important observation - my morning blood sugar levels have been very good - upper 90's to just barely over 100.  I think the strategy to reduce the pre-med steroid dose worked very well.  I didn't have the usual steroid rush and crash, and I have been able to sleep.  I understand the need for some steroids, but I wonder why some oncologists use a 3 day protocol and others give steroids only on treatment day.

Time to get moving!


Friday, June 17, 2011

Day 2- Starting out Good

It's a pretty morning here on Arlington Pond, although there are showers in the forecast. I love being able to sit outside, drink my coffee and watch the lake.

I'm feeling OK this morning, a little better than yesterday actually. I had my Neulasta shot yesterday afternoon and so far I am not feeling any pain. Not sure how long it takes for those side effects to kick in. Here's a link to the official Neulasta website if you want to learn more:

I may not have the common bone pain that accompanies Neulasta because I'm already on an anti-inflammatory. That would be a nice gift from the chemo!

I did have a bit of nausea late yesterday afternoon, and I am thinking that the charcoal lighter fluid was the trigger. We will have to pick up a gas grill - we had a natural gas grill in Missouri but we left it with the house. There's no natural gas at our house. And if charcoal lighter is going to be a nausea trigger, it needs to be banned for now.

After a light dinner last night, we went for a short walk. We didn't get very far - maybe 10 minutes away, then we turned around. I noticed I was a bit winded and tired. I had taken Compazine before dinner and its sedative effect may have been the cause of my fatigue. I fell asleep on the couch at 9, then we went to bed at 10. I took an Ativan just to be sure and was asleep in seconds.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

First chemo day - one down, seven to go

I wanted to turn and run the other direction, but I put one foot in front of the other and made it  through the front door and up the stairs right around 9:00.  I’m not brave, but I knew I had to show up.  Rick was with me and Christine was there waiting for me. 

A nurse brought me to the infusion suite and we picked out a window suite with a nice view.  Then my new best friend and chemo nurse, Lisa, sat down with us and explained the order of things for today.  She removed the bandage on my port, flushed it out and took blood for a CBC.  There was no need for a Complete Metabolic Panel today as I just had one done last Thursday.

There was a bit of a wait as I had to be seen by Garrett, the Physician’s Assistant.  He trades off with the oncologist, so next time I’ll meet with Dr. Walsh.   Garrett did a quick exam and we discussed anti-nausea meds to supplement what they will give me as pre-meds.  I’m getting Emend and Decadron in pill form, and Aloxi by IV.   For supplemental support, I have scripts for Compazine and the Scopolamine patch (which they will also apply prior to the start of chemo, and the “standard” for breast cancer patients, Ativan. 
At 11:30 Lisa hooked up a bag of saline – to ensure proper hydration.  I had that pretty well under control, too.   About 14 ounces of coffee, my morning glass of water with my usual meds,  8 ounces of V8 Fusion Lite, 20 ounces of diet Ginger Ale, and 20 ounces more of water.   So with just saline for about an hour, I shoo'ed Rick and Christine off to get lunch. 

Eating lunch while Lisa pushes the Adriamycin.

 They came back about 12:30, with lobster roll in hand.  I ate all the lobster and about half the bread along with my homemade soup while Lisa pushed the Adriamycin – 3 syringes full of red stuff.  It took about 30 minutes to complete the dosage.    She flushed the line and then started the Cytoxan.  I noticed that it was a 5% dextrose solution...oops!  I asked if it had to be concocted with sugar and Lisa said she would check on that.  I don’t need to add insult to injury – sugar water on top of steroids.   My internet research says it can be mixed with Ringer’s Lactate – need to ask about that for the next time.  I’ll need to monitor my glucose levels a little more closely for the next couple of days.
Yep, as you would expect, they have internet access and I was making good use of it.  I think this is when I researched how they formulate the Cytoxan and found the options that included solutions other than dextrose.

It took another hour for the cytoxan infusion, then a few more minutes of the saline drip and I was finished.  Lisa unhooked me, flushed my port and applied a light dressing, and we were done at just about 2:00. 
Christine's shirt says"My Mom's Battle is My Battle.  Supporting Her Until She Wins.

Christine stopped at the pharmacy and picked up my drugs, we came home and I relaxed for a few minutes.  She and I took about a 30 minute walk, then we helped Rick who was sorting out stuff to be donated.  He put the goods in the uHaul truck and took it to the Salvation Army.  The truck needs to be returned tomorrow .

Then he made dinner - boneless pork chops  and hot dogs on the grill, tossed salad, and decent cole slaw from the grocery store.   

So far, so good.  I have a slightly woozy head; otherwise I am doing OK.  Need to check blood sugar in about an hour.  I tested before dinner and it was 160, a little high but not unexpected considering the dextrose-based infusion on top of the steroids. 

Check out the kids swimming...I would think the water would be just a little chilly today.  But not for these hearty New Englanders!

Just another day in paradise!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Hair today, port tomorrow

Today was a huge emotional day.  My daughters Christine and Allison and my best friend Ann went to Silk Day Spa in Manchester, where Amanda Maillet  opened up especially for us to get our new "do's".  We started with a little liquid courage, cheese and crackers and strawberries.  Then Allison's long ponytail was cut to be donated to "Locks of Love" and Amanda gave her a beautiful haircut and style.  WIth the girls taking turns holding my hand under the cape,  I took my place in the chair and Amanda took the clippers to my hair, revealing a hair color I've never seen - my own at this stage of my   I think it's been 20 years since I've seen it.  That "do" made me laugh...not sure I'll be showing it in public too much, despite everyone's encouragement that it looked really good.  After the clipping, Amanda styled my wig and well, I'm glad I like it and I think it makes me look a little younger than my "natural"  color.  It was fun to notice that the color of my wig was almost a dead ringer match with Allison's hair. 

I want to thank my good friend and sister breast cancer survivor Donna Brookhart for sending me to Brian Joseph's Salon in Overland Park, KS.  Patty, the owner, is also a 17-year breast cancer survivor and she did a wonderful job helping me select the right wig, then styling each and every strand so that it worked for me.  

Tomorrow I must be at Parkland Hospital in Derry, NH at 8:15 to prep for my port insertion at 9:45.  I'm currently drinking lots of liquids and will eat some yogurt and berries before bedtime.  You know the drill, nothing after midnight...


Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Fill 'er up...not

I am finished with fills, yeahhhh!!!  That drive to Boston is insane; actually, the drive out of Boston was the worst - getting there wasn't so bad.  I flew solo today so I relied on my phone GPS, which did a great job getting me right to the valet parking area of Brigham & Women's Hospital.  The plastic surgery office is almost just inside the doors, so it was perfect.  The route from the hospital back to Acton took me right up to the Citgo sign near Fenway Park.  It was really, really busy around there and traffic crawled for about 30 minutes.

I asked Dr. Hergreuter if he thought I had enough "fat" for the DIEP reconstruction that I really wanted to have in the first place.  He took a look, felt around, and stated that he thought it was very possible if I would be happy being the size of my current expansion.  I said yes, that would do just fine.  So, I had one more fill today.  I won't go back for at least three months.  Then I'll go for a consult with a DIEP surgeon who will be able to make the final determination.  If it can be done, it would be about this time next year.  I'll need a few months to heal after radiation, which should be finished around Christmas.

I really like the idea of reconstruction that doesn't involve foreign objects in my body.  Implants last, on average, about 15 years.  I don't want to be in my 80's and have to consider having a leaky silicone implant removed! 

So, I must not lose any weight during chemo.  This will be my mantra.  Most people do gain a few pounds and hopefully I'll be in the majority.  About 5 pounds.  That's all.


Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Chemo plan

Today I met with my new oncologist, Dr. Jeanna Walsh, at the Dana Farber satellite clinic in Londonderry.  I must say that she is, by far, my favorite of the four onco's I've seen in the past year.  From the moment we walked into the reception area, everyone was very  pleasant and welcoming.  Kinda funny, people sometimes think New Englanders are a bit "cold" but nothing could be further from the truth  for everyone we encountered today. 

After the usual weighing (lost a couple more pounds), measuring, and gathering of the usual vital statistics, we went to a consultation room where Dr. Walsh, Christine and I discussed my previous treatment and the timeline for chemo and its accompaniments.  I had a few questions which she addressed, and she immediately made some adjustments to the steroids so that I would get just half the usual dose.  So, with all this, here is my schedule for getting treatment underway:

June 8th at 4:30 - consultation with general surgeon in advance of having port inserted
June 13th - surgery for port insertion (time TBD)
June 14th at 2:00 - echocardiogram at Eliot Hospital
June 14th at 3:00 - chemo training at DF clinic
June 15th at 9:00 - bloodwork and first chemo at DF clinic
June 16th at 1:30 - Neulasta shot at DF clinic

Chemo will continue every two weeks until I have completed 4 rounds of Adriamycin and Cytoxin, then 4 rounds of Taxol.

The good news is that we will be somewhat settled in our new house before the craziness starts - move-in will be Friday, June 10th.  We'll have the weekend to get unpacked and organized.   I will pick up the keys on Monday, June 6th; new sofa is scheduled for delivery on June 9th, and Comcast is scheduled for Friday, June 10th. 

I've got a busy couple of weeks coming up!!!