Friday, October 26, 2007

The End of a Cycle

Yesterday marked the end of the A/C cycle for me. And I am thrilled. In case you didn’t know the A/C cycles are the “big guns” of chemo therapy—4 cycles, one every two weeks of very powerful drugs; reference my last post for more details of that. And my “chemo fantasy” came true—I was in a semi-private room, alone and able to meditate, journal and listen to a relaxation tape—at least until noon when company arrived.

For the most part the side effects of the medication have been pretty minimal for me; I did lose most of the hair on my head and this week you can see a picture of me in a wig! I won’t scare you with bald Deni, though I may make a picture for my personal file. And I do get tired, especially the evening of the chemo and for several evenings afterwards and a little foggy in the brain. I told the doctor it felt like “being on drugs”! But, that all passes fairly quickly, and I attribute this to the fact that I exercise, do yoga, meditate, pray, relax and am following a healthy diet for which my lovely and wonderful neighbors are still contributing meals on a daily basis. (oh, and I went square dancing this past week too).

Doctor Borgen examined me and the prognosis seems good at this point. The tumor appears to be shrinking. There are two possibilities with this—the tumor can either end up looking like swiss cheese or it can shrink to a smaller, less invasive operation. Option one is a mastectomy and option two would be a lumpectomy. Two weeks from now I start the 4 cycles of taxol and the other drugs that go with that. Then there’ll be an MRI at the end of this cycle. It looks like surgery may be at the end of January or in February. We won’t know that until after the MRI.

And, the kindness of people is still amazing to me. Not a day goes by that I am shown how kind people are. Friends and family continue to send me cards with well wishes; my aunt sent me a card and a package with bandanas and a head scarf and a catalogue with wigs in it. My mother sent a “fun” package full of interesting things to use. My neighbor picked up the packages the drug company sent. Other friends send articles regarding various cancer related topics—diet, well being and the like. My neighbors still bring food. Other friends shop for me. I’ve even done laundry at several neighbors’ homes. Many people have offered to do something and I have them on a list in case something comes up. My friend from New Jersey continues to be my health care advocate. My sisters, my aunt and my mother sent me money recently. I’ve talked with some at the American Cancer Society, another person who teaches therapeutic yoga and gotten information about various classes and free things thanks to my friends at the Integral Yoga Institute. Another friend works with me for a reduced rate. Several of my clients give me extra cash. I get allot of info at cancer care through my social worker there. It really does take a village.

And, of course the staff at Maimonides makes an otherwise unpleasant experience bearable. It goes without saying that I have a great doctor and great oncologist. And, the gals at the front desk are so kind to me and I love their sense of humor. All the nurses and technicians are fun to be with too.

Four down and four to go!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Chemo tales from the trenches

A friend of mine recently asked me about the chemo experience and I thought I would share some of how that all goes down.

Fantasy: I read some sites on the internet about what to expect during chemo therapy and had this fantasy that I would be in a quiet, softly lit, separate room. In my imagination I would be able to journal quietly, reflecting on my life. Then I’d listen to nice quiet music and my relaxation tapes and perhaps meditate. This experience was going to be a kind of zen experience

Reality: It’s really more like going to the barbershop or the beauty shop. It’s one large well lit room with the nurses’ station in the middle. There are two main areas on each side of the nurses’ station with several semi private spaces off to the sides of one area. Those semi private rooms are more like the spaces at the emergency room—side by side separated by curtains. The chairs look like barbershop chairs. One area has 4 chairs arranged in more of a square; the other area has six chairs in a semi circle. An I/V tower and a t.v. and one guest chair is located near each chair. You can see everybody and hear their televisions and/or conversations loud and clear. And the place is a buzzing with lot’s of noise and lots of activity. I do journal a bit and listen to my relaxation tape when my friend goes and gets a sandwich from the deli/gas station. Otherwise we hang out and talk and hope to see the doctor.

Technical Info: About 10 or 15 minutes before I arrive, I take Emend—anti-nausea drug. We (my very good friend and volunteer health care advocate) arrive around 10:30 and we’re actually seen right away. First the nurse checks your vitals—blood pressure and temperature. Following this, the nurse attaches the “gripper" to the port. It’s a small device with a hose on it so that the intravenous drugs can go in. Then they take blood to make sure everything is ok to go ahead and send it down to the lab. If everything is ok the lab mixes the chemo meds.

First I am given a saline solution intravenously along with the first dose of dexamethasone. Then the chemo drugs are administered. Today I finished the third cycle of what they call the A/C cycle. It’s Adriamycin/Cyclophosphamide. The Cyclophosphamide is administered very slowly by the nurse via a very large syringe type device through the port that was installed in my chest; and, Adriamycin is administered intravenously through the same port. That takes about 2 hours. So between all these procedures and chatting up some of the other clients and chatting with my friend and eating lunch I usually get out between 2:15 and 2:45.

Follow Up: To avoid nausea, I take a lower dose of Emend and dexamethasone the following two days.

Side Effects: I am sure there are many, and I have a fairly good idea of what they may be, and a list, if I want to look at it; but for the most part, I don’t ask. Why make it worse, right? So for me, I am a little tired in the evenings after working physically harder all day than most folks. Oh and maybe I get that bad taste in my mouth occasionally. I think the oncology staff at Maimonides is great from the receptionist all the way up the line. And, I am here, have great friends, family and neighbors and can still pay my bills, so what the heck.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

good people in the world

Reading Deni's posts helps to give me perspective, and reminds me that there are good people in the world.

Found this today, it is pretty funny. Pokemon Cards on EBay.