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Cancer Warrior - A Bit Of A Surprise

April 18th, 2014

StLouisYesterday was my chemo day. Normally I see Dr. Mac just before for a general checkup and to make sure my bloodwork is good to go. Before seeing the doctor, I go over a thousand and one questions with her nurse. You know … the usual. How are you feelin’? Any fevers? Any swelling? And my personal favorite … am I regular?

These answers all tend to be good, none, a little and yes, I’m regular. When we get all the questions out of the way, we then go over my med list, etc. Yesterday Dr. Mac was out of town, so I met with her Physicians Assistant, Meg. Very nice. — very thorough.

The thing I found surprising, though, was when she asked how I was feeling overall. I had to stop and think about it for a moment. I felt good. Actually felt good. Anyone going through chemo treatment knows how unusual this is. Despite the fact that I rarely react adversely to my chemo cocktails, I’m usually left with a general yuk feeling. A kind of out of sorts, not hitting all cylinders feeling. This is something that usually comes on over the course of months, if not years and you just become so used to it that you no longer notice it.

Well, yesterday I felt damned good. On a scale of one to ten (with ten being “I cannot endure the pain another second”) I normally gauge my pain level as being around a three or a four. I rarely, if ever go above a five or six. After giving it a bit of thought, I told Meg that I could probably come in at a one if not a zero, pain-wise. Nothing was hurtin’ at that moment, which is a surprise. Between my hip, the neuropathy and my general state of health, I’m always at some level of pain. The curious thing is that I haven’t been taking my Vicodin. For whatever reason, I stopped taking it about a week ago and make do with Advil if I begin to get a headache. Even then, I don’t think I popped more than two or four Advil.

Now comes the question of whether there is some connection between the Vicodin and my new well-being? Shouldn’t be. After all, Vicoden is a painkiller. If anything, I should be feeling better taking it. I’m still on the Fentynal patch, so I haven’t gone cold turkey with my pain meds.

I plan to continue avoiding the Vicodin and we’ll see if this continues.

And remember to repeat after me …“YOU ARE A CANCER WARRIOR”

Cancer Warrior - Preachin’ To The Choir

April 11th, 2014

StLouisY’know … when you talk to people about cancer, some of them immediately go in how grandma, or Aunt Katie, or their sister had cancer and how they died. People seem to think that hearing the big “C” is an automatic death sentence.

Not necessarily true.

After all, I’m about to enter my eighteenth year of fighting cancer. I cannot say that I’m a survivor yet. To me a cancer survivor is someone who has had cancer, overcame it, and is now either in remission, or no longer being treated … other than seeing their oncologist once a year to make sure nothing has recurred. I’ve been actively fighting cancer for the past eleven or twelve years … with a brief lull of almost seven years after I was initially diagnosed, to when I had a recurrence, which continues to persist. One of these days I’m gonna go back over my blogs to see how many different types of chemo I’ve been on. I’ll bet I’ve pretty much run the gambit of all the chemo cocktails out there. Some more than once.

Just sayin’ that I enjoy hearing the stories of people who have fought and won their battle over cancer. My mother in law was one of them. She has since passed away from an unrelated cause. My sister in law is another. Edie, who frequently comments on this blog is a fighter and when I’m at the clinic I talk to numerous people who are just there for a checkup. Sure, there are those who are under treatment and look like hell, but they’re fighters. They don’t give up.

And neither should you. If you’re going through the Great Cancer Battle, you need to go in with a positive attitude. If you’re gonna beat the big “C” you gotta be a fighter.

Okay, sermon over.

But remember to repeat after me …“YOU ARE A CANCER WARRIOR”

Cancer Warrior - Better Already

April 4th, 2014

StLouisIts amazing what one little pill can do for you. Last week I mentioned that I was going through what I’m calling my Blue Funk. The meds that Dr. Mac recommended is called “Escitalopram”. Hell … I can’t even pronounce it. I’m just calling it my “Happy Pill”. The effect is accumulative, so it’s taken awhile to kick in, but I gotta admit, I do feel better. There’s more interest, more awareness, and just a general feeling of well being. We’ll see how this goes.

Dr. Mac also called me last week with my tumor markers. Went up a little bit … only around 45 points, but I’m not concerned. I’ve had spikes in the course of this chemo treatment, and since this one isn’t a large spike, I see no reason to be worried.

The walking is still slow going. Getting used to the cane, but not enough to trust myself with it outside the house. I’ll admir that it is lots easier to walk when there are things I can hang onto when using the cane.

I’m gonna wrap this up and head for bed. Pretty tired right now. G’night … and remember to repeat after me …“YOU ARE A CANCER WARRIOR”

Cancer Warrior — The Blue Funk and Personal Achievements

March 27th, 2014

StLouisI believe that half the battle of recognizing you’re dipping into a depression is your awareness of it happening well … because I’d never considered myself to be in a depression, I didn’t see the signs. I do now. Just never occurred to me that I could fall into a Blue Funk.

This past Saturday I woke with an epiphany. Was just laying there on the sofa (where I’ve been sleeping for nearly a year) and sorta took stock of what I’m doing, where I’m at and where I had planned to be by this time. — And I wasn’t happy with what I saw. Hell, I had my second surgery on the hip in April and broke my right leg in September, yet I don’t feel like I’m making much recovery toward any sense of normalcy. I’ve been letting things slide. Things I should have addressed and handled with ease. Reading and responding to emails is one example. I used to promptly deal with anything that came through my emails, yet I am now letting days, if not weeks pass without any interest. Half the time I wouldn’t even check my email for days at a time. Not good right there. My writing is suffering. I sure as hell shouldn’t have taken better than two years to finish this urban fantasy I’d been working on. Haven’t contacted my agent in ages … you get the picture.

I’m still using that stupid walker (which I’m beginning to loath), even though I was determined to be weaned off of it by now, and my strength just doesn’t seem to be coming back. Granted I’m not as young as I used to be and bouncing back tends to take a bit more time, but I’m used to getting things back to normal in the least amount of time.

So, I decided (during the above referenced epiphany) that I was going to take charge again. I’m done with physical therapy, but there are exercises that I can (and should have been) doing. I plan on using my cane more often … around the house to begin with and then expand. Get my ass off that sofa and into my own bed. The only problem with that was the fact that the bedroom is on the second floor and stairs were a problem. Well — stairs it is. May be slow going, but I can do them.

Well, I’ve already managed a couple of my goals. Now comes the achievements —

I’ve been sleeping in my bed (yes, upstairs) since last Saturday. The first night was uncomfortable, but the subsequent nights have been amazingly restful. I’d just conk out and pretty much sleep straight through to morning. I’ve been doing my exercises … I won’t say religiously, but more often than I had been. And I’ve been using the cane around the house with some pretty good results. The bathtub has been successfully converted into a walk in shower and it looks terrific. I’m more than pleased with the end result. And taking a shower on a regular basis? — Sheer bliss.

I’ve also spoken with Dr. Mac about my depression and she put me in touch with an organization (Stillwater Services) here at the hospital. They’re a free service that is more of a support group than anything. I spoke with Christine of Stillwater today while doing chemo and did some unloading. Not sure if it did me any good, but I’m willing to give them a chance. Dr. Mac also prescribed “happy pills” for me to try out to see how they work. Don’t recall the name off hand but it’s a low dosage so we’ll give them a shot.

Will keep you posted on this whole Blue Funk business.

And remember to repeat after me …“YOU ARE A CANCER WARRIOR”

Cancer Warrior - More Good News

March 14th, 2014

StLouisWell, I did my twelfth bout of the Kadcyla last week and still feeling little, if any, side effects. What’s not to like about this stuff? I asked Dr. Mac how long I was likely to be on this stuff, and she said probably for the rest of my life. Some cancer patients use Herceptin as a maintenance to stave off the cancer and we’ve pretty much determined that Herceptin doesn’t do squat for me, so Kadcyla it is. And why am I not surprised? Still, going in every three weeks for an infusion isn’t a huge inconvenience … particularly when you consider the alternative. Ain’t gonna sweat it.

The main good news is that my tumor markers have dropped again. This time by nearly 40 points. I believe that puts me at 907 or thereabout. That puts me lower than I’ve been in ages. Here’s hopin’ this downward count continues. I’d love to see it drop below 50 points. That would definitely be cause for dancin’ in the streets.

The hip is still manageable. I have good days and I have bad days. Hadn’t been doing my exercises for about a week and couldn’t understand why I was hurtin’. Duh. Do the exercises. They really do make a difference.

The bathroom is getting renovated next weeks. I think I mentioned that we’re converting the bathtub into a walk in-shower … complete with handicap bars. Cannot wait. I’d worked myself into quite a phobia about using the shower here at home. Forced myself passed it and actually took showers. I did always have John or Erin within shouting distance. Paranoid … much? The only way I could make myself use the shower was because of the fact that I felt grimey and I was probably beginning to stink. Those sponge baths could only go so far.

And so, on that note …

And remember to repeat after me …“YOU ARE A CANCER WARRIOR”

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