Friday, February 16, 2007

Friday, February 16, 2007 - I'm in Love!!

Yes... Cupid hit two days late! I'm going to have to now dump Anderson Cooper as my love interest and am back to being in love with Hugh Grant!! ::: Swoon :::

Greg and I were going to go see The Painted Veil, in our quest to see as many of the Oscar nominated shows that we could see. According to the online listings, there was suppose to be a 4pm show at the Fifth Avenue cinema, but when we got there, they said on Fridays it's not until 6:50pm. It was only 3:30pm... so we gave that one a pass and headed downtown to the Paramount theatres on Burrard... to catch the 4pm show of "Music and Lyrics" with Hugh Grant and Drew Barrymore. Hahahaha... it was most enjoyable!! No, it's too late for this year's Oscars and even if it wasn't, highly unlikely it would be nominated for any awards, unless there's a category for Gorgeous, Wonderful, British Actor (grin). It is a typical romantic comedy but how can you go wrong with the two leads being Hugh Grant and Drew Barrymore?? I highly recommend anyone who wants to just be entertained, to go see this one.

After the movie, Greg and I went for dinner at The Keg on Thurlow St. We found parking about a block or so away, so after dinner we were walking down Robson St... and stopped in a couple of stores. We were looking for head scarves and hats/caps. Robson is the place to shop for something kind of funky and I figured that it would be a good idea to pick up a hat or two, and a scarf or two, just in case I'm going to need them in the near future. No one can tell me if I am going to lose my hair or not once we start the Chemo and I don't want to be taken by surprise and not be prepared. So we checked out an accessories shop (coincidently, it was called Accessories) and came up with 3 cute cap/hats and a great black/white scarf that can be tied properly to be worn by itself or under one of the hats. Heck, even if I don't lose any hair, the hats are really cute!! :)

I went to see my GP (Dr. Fay) today. I have had to stop taking Ibuprofen because (surprise, surprise) it's considered a blood thinner... I'm not allowed to take any aspirin, Ibuprofen or any blood thinner medications because they will react with the chemo. So I figured I better stop now. Mind you, the Ibuprofen really helps with the joints and muscles. I tried some Tylenol 3s with codiene and although they don't work the same way as the Ibuprofen, they did help a lot. So, Dr. Fay gave me another prescription of the T3s.

There's still a mixup with the booking of a home care nurse... so I'm back to just having a dry dressing over the healing incision. I'm sure it will get straightened out soon. Now Dr. Fay is involved and wanting to know when I'll be attended to by a home care nurse... all because the nurse at Dr. Brown's office didn't book the home care nurse because she didn't think I needed one, but could go to a walk-in clinic instead. Ooops... not a good idea, since they don't do wound dressings .

Ok... it's now the bewitching hour!! Time for me to get some beauty sleep. Tomorrow, I must go to the dentist and get my cleaning and whatever maintenance done since I am not allowed to have dental work while on the chemo drugs. So off I go to get the maintenance work done now, before we start :)



Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Wednesday, February 14th, 2007 - Valentine's Day

Dear Babbling Blog,

I hope, everyone who celebrates Valentine's Day had a day full of love and surprises. Me, I have to admit I've never been big on this day of hearts and cupids. The way I look at it, if you are in love, or you want to show love to your loved ones, then this should be a year round celebration, not just one day in 365! Does this sound like I've been single too long??? (grin)

Anywho, I had a wonderful chat with Steve O. today. We both are very much into "The Secret" which is all about the Laws of Attraction. It is how I want to live my life and although the concept is very simple, changing old habits/ways of thinking is sometimes not as easy as one might think! But hey, it's all part of the learning process and I realize that I have been given this challenge/hurdle in my life to actually help me live my beliefs the way I really want to.

Hahaha... no, I am not on any kind of drugs (grin) and no, I'm not going to give sermons. But what I am going to do is change the focus on what this journal is all about. As we all know, one can look at a glass as half full or half empty... both are correct, but it all depends on how one see things and what they focus on. With the Laws of Attraction, whatever you focus on, you will receive in abundance.

After all the various medical appointments I've had in the last 2 weeks, I started focusing on the symptoms, the statistics, the fear, the doubt... and in some ways, started to obsess about them. This in turn causes anxiety and worry... and the more you think about something, the more you will receive that something in abundance.

From now on this journey is about GOOD HEALTH! I know I'm a strong person, both physically and mentally. I still have my health and although it is being challenged right now, it is just a way I can show myself and the world that GOOD HEALTH overcomes medical hurdles every time. It's when you start doubting that you have good health that you run into problems. I've always had GOOD HEALTH and now is no different!

Along with GOOD HEALTH is a GOOD SENSE OF HUMOUR. I have always used HUMOUR to help me out of some of life's tough spots and it has never let me down. I'll be the first to admit that when a situation requires one to be solemn and serious, I have a real hard time. I do try to be a mature adult and do what is required, but in all honesty, being serious is not one of my strong points. Maybe I need to work on that, although I prefer to change a serious moment into one that can be dealt with with HUMOUR.

Let's see, what are some other traits I am grateful that I have? A SENSE OF ADVENTURE! Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not one to go jumping out of planes, or do extreme sports. Not that kind of adventure, but I love to try new things, to learn, to organize, to take a problem and see if I can come up with a solution. I love the romance of travel... seeing places that are new to me. Heck, I like seeing places that I've seen before and enjoy seeing repeatedly.

CONTROL is another trait that I have. Now this can be seen as a good thing or a not so good thing, but it's one that I see in myself and has done me well in the past. By CONTROL I mean that I can take on a project and I must have CONTROL in getting the project done. Whether it means coming up with a plan, implementing it, then following it through until the end, I have a hard time delegating or giving the control over to someone else. But because of this trait of CONTROL, I can get things done. CONTROL is not to be confused with DISCIPLINE. Hahaha... I do not have much in the way of DISCIPLINE, although I'm sure I confuse myself and think I may be disciplined, when in fact I'm just being a CONTROL freak (grin).

Throughout this blog, I will be calling on more traits and gifts that I might possess... traits that define me as a person and traits that I have yet to learn I possess. It is all these traits that make me who I am, for better or worse. There will be some that I have to let go of... to make room for new ones.

We all carry baggage from the past, and I am no different than anyone else. I've held on to some of that baggage for years. I can probably come up with all kinds of excuses as to why I'm still holding onto a grudge or why I really, really don't like something. Well, it's time to let all of that baggage go... who really needs it? What good has ever come out of holding onto old baggage from the past? By letting it go, this leaves room for what is really important in one's life NOW... not what may have been important in the PAST.

I am putting it in writing right here and now... I am a HAPPY person who LOVES to LOVE, who LOVES to LEARN, who deserves to be HAPPY, HEALTHY and yes, WEALTHY. WEALTHY in LOVE, FRIENDSHIPS and COMFORT. I put this out to the universe and because of the Laws of Attraction, I will attract more of the above over the course of this journey I am traveling on.

When I write about my days, the focus will be on how my HEALTH, HUMOUR and DESIRE TO LEARN will overcome any hurdles thrown in my path!

So, how did my day go today?? Well, it started out with frustration and I didn't see it as part of the learning process. I had gone to a walk-in clinic around the corner from me to have the packing/dressing on the part of the incision that has not healed, changed. This clinic does not do wound dressings. How strange is that? So I was frustrated, came home, and that's when Steve called. Our conversation brought me out of the frustration... sometimes one just needs to have a good old discussion with a friend :) This evening, I went to another walk-in clinic up the street from me, a little further away, so I took the car (besides being dark out, it was raining, so I felt lazy (grin)). This time, the doctor at this clinic DID change the packing/dressing, but he admitted that he doesn't do very many of them and suggested that I have my surgeon arrange for home care nursing since they do these all the time and know exactly when to change from a wet saline packing to a dry packing.

I know Dr. Brown had said that home care nursing could be arranged, but when his nurse did the packing/dressing, she said I didn't need home care nursing, that I could just go into a walk-in clinic at my convenience. Well, lesson #1... it looks like this might not necessarily be the solution since these walk-in clinics are not prepared to do wound dressings. So, I will call the office tomorrow and see about arranging for a home care nurse to come out and then we don't have to think about it and that will be the perfect solution :) Problem solved.

I received a few phone calls with a few more appointments. Now that I have an appointment at VGH (Vancouver General Hospital) for next Thurs (Feb 22) to have the Hickman Subtaneous Port put in, the Cancer Agency could go ahead and make my appts. to get the lab work (blood work for a baseline) and the appt. with Dr. Sharlene Gill (oncologist). The appt. with Dr. Gill is for March 16 and I can go to the lab up the street in my neighbourhood beforehand (March 14) to get my bloodwork done. Once she has seen the bloodwork, then we can start the chemo. This will be the start to getting rid of any potential stray bad cells, and back to confirming my good health.

I am actually looking forward to starting. I have all kinds of information now compartmentalized in my head and I'm ready! I am reclaiming my health because I have soooo many things that I want to do and now have given myself permission to go ahead and do them! World, look out!!! :D :D


Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Tuesday, February 13, 2007 - Chemo School

Dear What's Her Name,

Here it is, only Tuesday, and I must admit I feel like I've put in a full week. But it's only been two days!! Ok, yesterday's blog entry described the two appts. I went to, the first being with Dr. Brown and the second being with the Radiation dept. at the Cancer Agency. I have to admit, I was pretty wiped out by the time I got home... and this is BEFORE I start on any treatments.

Today, was what Jo, Steve and I called "Chemo School". Hehehe... it wasn't really a class, but where we met with a Cancer Agency Nurse who went over in detail the chemo drugs I'd be taking as well as the meds I'd be taking to counter-act any of the possible side affects the chemo drugs might give me. Jo met me on the 2nd floor where we were to meet with the nurse (Jo was working at the Cancer Agency today), but Steve was still on location for Smallville so couldn't make it. I told him not to worry... I'm a big girl, and Jo would be there too, so we'd be fine. Here is a brief summary of the drugs I'll be taking and we went over them with the nurse and a few things I learned today:

When I first recorded what kinds of chemo I'd be getting, I said there were two different types that they'd be giving me... but, I found out today I'll actually be getting 3 types of chemo:

1) Oxaliplatin (OX-ah-le-plat-in) is a drug that is used to treat cancer. It is a clear liquid that is injected into a vein.

2) Leucovorin (loo-koe-VOR-in) is a drug that is used with anticancer drugs to treat some kinds of cancer. It is used to "rescue" normal cells (but not cancer cells) from the effects of an anti-cancer drug called methotrexate. This helps to prevent harmful side effects. Leucovorin is also used to increase the anti-cancer effects of a drug called fluorouracil. It is a clear liquid that is injected into the vein.

Both these chemos (1 and 2) will be injected through the IV port that will have been installed just under my collarbone. Both bags will be inserted into the IV at the same time and will take approx. 2 hours each session to complete.

3) Fluorouracil (flure-oh-yoor'-a-sil) is a drug that is used to treat many types of cancer. It is a clear liquid that is injected into a vein. This is the drug they will start while I'm at the Agency, but they will hook it up to a portable little pump (about the size of a small baby bottle) that can be carried in a fanny pack type container and it will stay with me for 2 days.

All three drugs can cause burns if it leaks under the skin (one of the main side effects of all three drugs), but I won't have to worry about that possibility because I get to have the IV port installed, rather than them install an IV in my arm each session.

I will also be given a prescription for two meds that is used to prevent nausea. I will be taking these 30 minutes before the chemo session and then given instructions how often to take them for a few days after the chemo session (usually twice/day, 12 hours apart). The nurse explained that it would be good to take them at 7am and then 7pm because if I took them any later (say 9am and 9pm) then I would NOT be able to sleep at night. Apparently they can make you quite "speedy" ;) These two drugs are:

1) Dexamethasone (for premedication) is a drug that is usedto prevent or reduce nausea and vomiting caued by cancer chemotherapy. It is also used to prevent allergic reactions caused by some chemotherapy drugs. It can be given by injection or taken by mouth.

2) Ondansetron is a drug that is used to prevent or reduce nausea or vomiting caused by cancer chemotherapy. It can be given by injection or taken by mouth.

Ok... so there we have the chemo and side affect drugs that I'll be taking. Keep in mind, that depending on what kind of cancer a person has, the kind of drugs and for how long can be very different.

The nurse did confirm that, in my case, we are assuming that all the cancer was removed when Dr. Brown (surgeon) did the complicated surgery... but there is no way of knowing if there are stray cells left in my system, whether from the surgery or from the lymph node system. Because 1 lymph node of 17 tested positive for cancer, it could mean that was the ONLY lymph node, or there may have been others that were not included in the sample 17 nodes. Even if there was only 1 cancerous lymph node, it could have started spreading cells into the lymph node system. That being the case, the chemo should be able to zap any and all individual cancer cells that might be floating about.

The radiation, on the other hand, will only benefit the one area it focuses on, which will be the area of the abdominal wall where the abscess was stuck to. Again, that is in case any cells from the abscess managed to escape the abscess and are thinking of making their home in the abdominal wall. IF they were to do that and we didn't use the radiation, then that cell(s) would eventually grow into a tumour. Even if we found out there was a tumour starting to grow, I'd be in big trouble because the abdominal wall is not a part of the body a surgeon can cut out. So radiation becomes important to zap this area... but the this radiation we are doing doesn't benefit any other part of the body, since radiation focuses on one area.

The one thing I did learn today that I had no idea and it sort of threw me as far as my planning goes is... they recommend that I do NOT drive myself to/from the chemo or radiation sessions. I just assumed that, as long as I'm feeling ok, that I could drive myself. It never entered my mind that I couldn't. But, as the nurse said, they have no way of knowing how I'm going to react... whether from the first session or maybe the 10th session. Everyone is different. But if I do drive myself and then find I am having a tough time, I would have to call someone to pick me up, meanwhile my car would be left in the parking (which would end up costing an arm and a leg). So she highly advises that I get someone to drive me to/from both the chemo and the radiation sessions.

Soooo.. hehehe... I'm looking for volunteer drivers in the area (grin). Actually, I know I have a wonderful support group that all happens to live fairly near by, so I don't think it will be a problem. BUT, if it turns out that no one is available, then the Cancer Agency does have a Volunteer Driver Program. You just have to call them 24-48 hours ahead of time, so we shall see how that goes. The worst case scenerio, I could always take a cab to/from sessions. I think that between friends and cabs and, if need be, the Volunteer Program, I will get there when I have to

I felt MUCH better today when our appt. was over. After talking to the nurse and going over "my treatment drug plan", it took away some of that anxiety that was creeping up after yesterday's appt. where I was getting more information than my brain could handle.

Soooo, I'm in darn good spirits today/tonight. I'm back on track with my original thinking that I can handle this, even if it does get a little rough at times. The nurse did say that if there are things I enjoy doing... taking walks with the dog, going shopping, the theatre, movies, etc... then by all means DO them. The exercise, the fresh air, and the distraction will all help to get me through this. I'm just not to take on things that would require hours because when I get tired, then I'm not to push it. Naps are fine and will be needed... but people who end up staying in bed are doing themselves a total disfavour and making it harder on themselves.

Ok... this is it for tonight! Tomorrow I have to go to the walk-in clinic up the street to have my dressing changed and re-packed, but then I get to give my brain a rest for a couple of days.

Ciao for now!


Monday, February 12, 2007

Monday, February 12, 2007 - Radiation

Dear Journal,

Ok, my head is officially spinning. I could give The Exorcist a run for his money!!

I had an appointment with Dr. Brown (surgeon) today for him to look at the part of the incision that is not healing. He said that it was not that bad and that it was actually better than he was expecting. But, he said to speed things along, he will have the nurse pack it, then bandage it. Now I have to go every other morning to a walk-in clinic in the neighbourhood to have the dressing/packing changed.

After the visit with Dr. Brown, I headed off to the Cancer Clinic and actually got there 20 minutes early. Jo met me there. We met with Dr. Chung (female radiation person) who explained to us what they came up with as a suggestion for my case. First she wanted to know what I understood of my case, and had me tell her my understanding of how the surgery went. She said that I was well-informed and correct. She then explained that because the abscess (which had cancer cells) was stuck to the abdominal wall and had to be peeled off. They normally would cut a wide area around the cancerous tumour/abcess but in this case, they couldn't cut into the abdominal wall. They are pretty sure they got the whole abscess intact, but one can never guarantee that some of the cancer cells from the abscess didn't escape out to the abdominal wall when they had peeled it off. Hence, that is the reason for radiation. They would zap this area on the abdominal wall, where the abscess was. Dr. Brown was very clever and when he got the abscess off the wall, he put in clips so that SHOULD I need radiation, the cat scan will show the Radiation Oncologist exactly where on the abdominal wall the abscess was.

I could have said I don't want the radiation, but the risk of not having it is that IF there are cancer cells on this area, then they will develop into cancer on the abdominal wall. By radiating the spot, it reduces the risk of cancer being there.

So, this now means that I will be getting radiation for 5 days/week for 5 weeks. While I'm getting the radiation, they won't be giving me the 2 kinds of chemo in the port because that would be too strong and I'd get very sick. Instead, while I'm getting the radiation, I'll be getting some chemo in pill form (not the same strength as when done via the port, but the pill form works well with the radiation). Once the radiation is finished, I go back to chemo through the port. So the treatment has just been extended another 5 weeks.

I'm not exactly sure yet what day I will be starting the chemo. I am waiting for them to call me with the first date. Once we start, I will probably only do 2-4 treatments of chemo through the port before we start the 5 weeks of radiation.

Gang... it is going to be a LONG road ahead. There is no way anyone can say how the chemo and radiation will affect me. Dr. Chung gave me all the possible side affects, but she, obviously, could not tell me which ones I may get.

It's a lot to absorb... now I will check around to see if anyone I know has had radiation for 5 weeks and if so, how did they fare. It's all new territory to me... as is the chemo.

Time for me to crawl into bed and get a good night's sleep :)