Thursday, September 26, 2013

Get Outta Here

Last radiation treatment this morning. I can't pretend that it wasn't a little bittersweet. I had such high hopes that these tumors would be gone - or at least considerably smaller - after 20 days of being zapped full strength. But, they're still there & they're still big. The docs & I speculate that they're shrinking, but by millimeters instead of centimeters. It's disappointing. Of course, both Dr. A and Dr. G assure me that they'll continue to shrink, especially in combination with IPI. It's just hard to wait. I want to wake up one morning and wonder where those nasty buggers have gone.
Yesterday was the long, exhausting day of both radiation & IPI infusion No. 2. The weather was gray and gloomy, spitting rain and cold, and I couldn't get comfortable during the four hours I spent in the
 Infusion Center. I read my latest library book, watched an episode of "Call the Midwife" on my iPad, scrolled through Pinterest, watched the clouds scuttle over the valley, held Putter (the therapy doggy) & talked to his owner, and waited to be done. Even had to hold back the tears when I realized the patient across the way from me, stretched out the full length of the recliner & sound asleep while chemo dripped into his veins, was just a boy, probably high school age - and the woman sitting next to him, playing games on her purple iPad, was his sweet mom. My heart ached. What if that was MY high schooler? I'd much rather be the one hooked to toxins. 
I was grateful that my favorite UCS tech, Mary, was on duty this morning for my last day. She has been so sweet & kind to me, treating me with the utmost dignity, in spite of having to see me indecent from the front & the back. Always eager to hear how I was doing, how my day was going, what I had planned to keep life as normal as possible. At the last minute, I decided to make a "last day" sign & take my camera to document the day, and Mary was happy to do that for me. There's a tradition to ring a bell to celebrate finishing treatment & the office staff and techs all applauded when I rang the bell. Dr. A said to ring it loud to scare away the "cancer demons". I rang it long & loud!  I also loved how she always ended each exam by telling me to "get outta here and have a great day." Every time, the same thing. Today was no different - "get outta here..." and have a great life. That's what I pray for. That's what I hope for. That's what I'm living for.

Monday, September 23, 2013

It's Okay

This week, I will most likely finish up the 20 radiation treatments Dr. A wanted me to have. Today was No. 17. I have felt a bit of change. The tumor in my back seems to be smaller - Dr. A agreed. The tumor in my groin seems unchanged, other than the "softness" described at our last visit. I don't know what to think. I wanted it to be "abracadabra" magic and shrunk to nothing by now. I'll probably meet with Dr. A after tomorrow's treatment, so I want to ask her if one more week would make any difference or if that's even a choice. I also see Dr. G on Wednesday before my 2nd IPI infusion. I'm interested in his take on all this, too. I just want them gone. What about surgery... and why would I even consider surgery? Sometimes cancer makes me feel like I'm grasping at straws, hoping and praying the good outweighs the bad. So far, it has. But what happens when it doesn't... While waiting for my brief meeting with Dr. A last week, I read a cute article on her bulletin board. It was written by a little boy battling cancer. I didn't have anything to write on or with (after all, I was still in a hospital gown, mostly naked from the waist down; I feel so dignified during treatment--NOT!!), so I tried to remember the highlights. I love his words. "Jumping on the bed is exercise. Don't worry about anything that isn't happening today or tomorrow. Erase bad things in your past with ice cream. It's okay to throw a tantrum five minutes before you leave to go to the hospital. Scars are your badge of courage and can help you look like a pirate or a Superhero." Such wisdom from such a little boy. In spite of my "slow responder" status, I still feel that I have gained strength in the past few months. Remember in the summer when I wasn't strong enough to stand up from a sitting position without pushing myself off the chair or couch? I can now! Yesterday at church, I held my friend's baby while she filled out some sign-up sheets, and since he was a little bit fussy, I stood up to bounce him. Before I even thought about it, I was using my leg strength to stand up! Little blessings. I can climb stairs. I can put on my pants without balancing against something. I may need a nap every day from the effects of radiation, but I have energy to do other things, like fix dinner and do the dishes and clean bathrooms and vacuum with my way-too-heavy vacuum. More blessings. I don't know what will happen next. Dean's company changes insurance the first of October and I'll need all that new-found energy to "fight", I'm sure. Ugh. Not at all happy with that situation. But, I'll finish the IPI infusions scheduled for September 25, October 16, and November 6. After that is a big question mark. But, it's okay. I have the holidays to look forward to, Janessa's 17th birthday, the birth of a new baby grandSON (Aaron & Lindsey), the celebration of 3 years as a melanoma survivor, and everything after that. I'm grateful that I have great, caring doctors who are always one step ahead of this wicked disease and ready to give me those straws to grab with both hands. I also have great, caring people who surround me with love, encouragement, service, and prayers every single day. And of course, I have a great, caring, loving, kind Heavenly Father who whispers to me through his gentle Spirit that everything is for a reason and He holds me in his arms through it all. It's okay. How could it not be?

Tuesday, September 10, 2013


I had my 8th radiation treatment this morning. Everything seems to be going well, though I don't feel much of a change yet. Only 12 more treatments to go. The time spent on the freeway to Salt Lake every day is twice the time spent on the radiation table...
After the treatment, I met with Dr. A. She asked how I was doing & I told her there were no terrible side effects or pain - yet. Maybe there won't be any this time. She looked at both tumors and felt them. "I hope it's not my imagination," she said, "but they both feel softer to me." Softer would mean the tumors are breaking down! I like that thought. We're going with it, Dr. A & I. Gives me a lot of hope.
I definitely feel the fatigue part of radiation's effects. All I want about 3:00 is a nice, cozy nap, and I can usually get one. Summer is waning & fall will be here soon. Snuggling up with my soft blanket & warm puppy is a gift. 
I've been able to keep up with housework & cooking, but other than that, radiation & IPI infusions fill my head & schedule. It seems a pretty selfish life right now, but all in all, it's a good life. I have wonderful moments - even hours sometimes! - where I feel normal & healthy. I feel stronger than I did earlier this summer, and if I didn't have these tumors that I can feel & can't deny, I would feel healed. Hopefully there will come a day when the tumors will be gone, inside & out. That will be a miraculous day.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Gone. Lost. Forever.

Yesterday I wrote a huge, long, detailed post that I literally worked on ALL day. I was almost finished. Laid down my iPad & next thing I knew, it had been picked up and closed...without saving the post. I screamed. It was not pretty. I was already emotionally exhausted by writing & re-living all day. I knew I couldn't do it again. So, it is gone & won't be repeated. Here is my very abbreviated version:

Lagoon day with kids & grands was wonderful.
Walking all over Lagoon on a sore knee was torture. Possible blood clot.
Ultrasound shows no clot. INR is (barely) normal at 2.0.
"Mapping" for radiation involves 8 tiny black dot tattoos, 4 around each tumor. Tattoos HURT!
IPI infusion cancelled again. Still no approval from insurance. I cried.
LOVE my radiation team. Sherry handled all the insurance calls & got instant approval for treatments. I cried again.
Have had first two radiation treatments out of 20 already. I flip & flop from front to back for a total of 15 minutes per day.
Infusion rescheduled again for Wednesday. We'll see. My confidence isn't very strong right now.
Jax's blessing day today. Will be surrounded by family again. It fills me up. I'll need it for the coming week.

Done. Hurry & save. Lagoon pic below... Precious.