Let me tell you about my birthday. When my birthday is coming up, EVERYONE KNOWS. I make sure of it. And it’s always been that way.
Copyright 2011, Amy Rauch Neilson
This is Week 2, Round 8 of chemo. That means I’ve now sat through 30 infusion days — and 120 total infusions — since chemo began Feb. 1, 2011.
Ugh. Yuck. Blech. Ewww. That’s how I feel after today’s chemo. I often have trouble with word retrieval in the hours following my infusions. My Chemo Buds notice this on Tuesdays — my hard chemo days — as the second infusion, Gemzar, makes me go pale and honestly, a little loopy. I sometimes slur my words and feel like a drunk who never had the pleasure of the cocktail — the chemo cocktail, yes, but not the Whiskey Sour that’s my standard order.
It feels like a bout of the flu coming on — headache, body aches, nausea. But I slept for a couple of hours this afternoon after I got home and it recharged me enough that I could eat a few slices of bread and a couple of peaches along with the antioxidant green tea that is super good for me and that I am drinking by the gallon daily. This little hiatis won’t last long — I need to hit the sack shortly. But first, some silver linings to share with you. A few of my favorites:
1. Support of Friends and Family. I keep waiting for chemo to be fun (I’m the eternal optimist), but so far, it’s disappointed me. I CAN say that it is really reassuring and supportive to have the many loving family and friends in my life who show up on time, drive me to chemo, sit there beside me, drive me home and tuck me into bed. Today, my Chemo Buddy was my bff Elaine Schultz. I enjoy the conversations with each of you and treasure you and your friendship. Not only that, studies PROVE that cancer survivors who are surrounded by a loving network of their peeps have much higher rates of long-term survival. Thank you.
2. Positive Test Results. My tumors have remained stable and/or shrunk every time since February that I’ve had a CT Scan. The latest one taken in the hospital mid-July showed the same results. That’s a LOT to be happy about!
If that isn’t enough, the way I FEEL is! The coughing linked to the tumors in my lungs stopped two months after chemo began; three months later, Don noticed that my stamina had dramatically improved, and honestly, I am feeling terrific. People have been noticing — people who haven’t seen me in two or three months. They’re surprised.
“You look really good,” they say.
I shrug it off and say, “Maybe it’s the tan?”
I mean, that seems like a reasonable explanation.
Nope. They’ve already taken that into account and they are sure I look better, healthier than just two or three months ago. Waaahhoooo!!!!!!!!
3. Amazing Blood Counts! This is a biggie. For the first time in many, many months, my blood counts were SO good today that I don’t have to do those awful, painful Neupogen (white blood cell booster shots) this round! They are worse than chemo, as I’ve said many a time. Very painful side effects in my bones (think rib bones that THROB) that last for 24 hours per shot, and the regimen calls for five days of shots. So, hooray for a small victory that is actually quite BIG!
My doctor attributed it partially to my changeover to a more healthy diet. It’s a slow but sure process, but I’ve already whacked most of the refined white sugar from my diet — replacing it with natural Blue Agave (available at most health food stores and quite good) that does not cause blood insulin levels to spike. I’ve got to keep my glycemic index in check. (For more on the glycemic index and cancer fighting foods, etc., see David Schreiber’s book, Anti-Cancer: A New Way of Life. I can’t recommend it highly enough.)
I’m also eating tons of fresh peaches now in season from our local orchard, raw veggies, whole grains, tomatoes and fresh green beans (raw) from my garden, and EEEK! I ate a mushroom yesterday. For those of you who know me, I’ve had a lifelong hate-relationship with mushrooms. They are one of the only foods I cannot stand to eat.
But they are extremely beneficial cancer fighters — lots and lots of great, healthy properties. So, I’m gonna find a way to get them down. Eww. Ick. My close friend and Theo’s godfather Ken Bagnall tried to lessen the pain of my palate yesterday by covering a raw mushroom in spinach dip.
Still yuck. I nearly hurled. I compare it as being on equal footing with the one time I ate a huge, garlic and butter sauted escargot. That was 20 years ago and I swear, I need to bring it up in a counseling session sometime.
4. Back on Track. It is a victory in and of itself that I was finally able to get through a full round — four sessions — of chemo after all these weeks. I’d been off since the end of June due to low blood counts and the infection that hospitalized me. I am so grateful that I am back on my regimen. That really is a silver lining!
5. The End of Chemo is Near. Nope. I’m not holding out on you. I still don’t know when the end of chemo will come. No one but God knows that. But I do know that getting back on schedule means that I’mmmm bacccckkkk and heading in the right direction, AKA The Finish Line.
Let’s get this chemo thing over and done with ASAP so I can return to my regularly-scheduled life, shall we?
Copyright 2011 Amy Rauch Neilson
I’m just now back from a day of chemo. Tuesdays are always the long day of the week, with three back-to-back-to-back infusions. My blood counts were well within range, no fever, all vital signs were good. Whew!
I’m so very pleased that I was able to return to my chemo regimen and get back on my schedule of fighting and beating this beast. I’ve been off/unable to have chemo since the end of June. We are back on track!
My bff Jennifer Amprim Wolf just dropped me off at home. She sat beside me all day and I shared a new-found secret with her: there’s a room in the chemo infusion center with heat/massage chairs…today was a “slow” day, so we were able to snag that room — and the chairs! Score!
Jennifer is walking the Susan G. Komen Three-Day for the first time this weekend in my honor as well as for others who have fought or are currently fighting the breast cancer battle. Go Jennifer! She has trained long and hard for this weekend. Please send prayers of sustanance and good fellowship her way. What a trooper!
Someday very soon, I hope to be at a place where I can do the Three-Day alongside her and my many other friends who take on this challenge every year. I will be touching base with Jennifer over the weekend to see if I can pop in and walk beside her for a short distance. Seeing a sea of pink is always uplifting and inspiring, if not downright euphoric!
But until then, it’s off to bed for me so I can recover from today. If I get a few hours in, I may feel well enough to spend some time with Don and Theo this evening. Low-key time. Maybe Theo and I will be able to watch the second half of Scoobie Doo and the Lake Monster, which we began watching last night.
Thursday’s chemo will also knock me down, but not quite as hard. Rest, as difficult as that concept is for me, is what I must do now.
Copyright 2011, Amy Rauch Neilson
Soooo excited! After months of research and saving up, we got our tree frogs yesterday! We did not end up with a red-eyed tree frog…yet. The pet store, House of Pets in Garden City, did have three that came in Friday. When I called Friday and heard they had some, I was jumping up and down telling Don, “Honey! We gotta go get them before someone else does!”
“Like there’s going to be a run on red-eyed tree frogs,” he said.
Well, now the joke is on him, as there WAS a run on red-eyed tree frogs! There was only one left when we got there yesterday and he had an abrasion on his nose – - a sign of certain, impending death for many frogs as they easily succumb to infection and red-eyeds are particularly fragile. That one was not expected to live through the night.
So there I was, in front of the tank, having just gotten the news, telling Don, “See? I TOLD you so!” Now this has become the new family joke and I’m sure Theo and I will be razzing Don for years. “Watch out! There’s gonna be a run on red-eyed tree frogs!”
So, onward to the other aquariums and that’s when we found them. A pair of marble tree frogs that had just come in – so rare that the pet store (specializes in amphibians) hasn’t had them before in their 32-year history!
I have read extensively about Marble Tree Frogs and they are one of my uber-favs that I didn’t think we’d have the opportunity to buy.
We also ended up with a beautiful Monkey Tiger-Legged Frog — named so because they are the only tree frogs with opposable thumbs, so they actually climb rather than hop!
Both species are full grown at about 1.5 inches!
Theo came running downstairs to get me this morning as soon as he got up. “Mom Mom! You gotta come see!”
Our little nocturnal babes were still up, so Theo and I got our cameras and were taking pictures of them, trying politely to push each other out of the way so we could get THE shot. That’s when Don walked in. He shook his head and said, “If I told people this is what you were doing at 7:30 a.m. on a Sunday morning, they’d never believe me.”
Or would they?
These little precious tree frogs are gorgeous and cute, with their big eyes and bright colors and teeny tiny size.
I told Don I felt a bit guilty spending money on the tree frogs and their habitat when I know I’m headed for pull-out-all-the-stops chemo and won’t be able to log as many hours at work. But he said, “You will be home and sometimes, so sick you won’t be able to do much besides gaze into their cage and watch these beautiful little creatures. It’ll make your heart happy when the rest of your body isn’t feeling so good. And that’s worth it.”
I’m with him on that one.