Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Tuesday, Dec 21, 2010

Hiya Bloggies! And a very Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to the lot of you! :)

So, my last post here was Dec 5th... not even a weekly post. But that doesn't surprise me. So much has happened, what with the latest on the health front (will get into that in a minute), getting ready for Christmas and a few odds and sodds on the personal front (not sure I'll get into that here since I really have no idea who all drops by and reads this... and there's nothing worse than gossip starting up from something that was misinterpreted).

WARNING: LONGER THAN USUAL POST!!

Now, before I start, I must add that I have a newly groomed doglet who is, right now, swearing at me. I'm not sure what she is wanting but whatever it is, I'm obviously not giving it to her and she is not amused. It's a little early for her to be wanting to go outside, but maybe that is what she's complaining about.

Uh huh... she did seem to want to go outside to for her last pee of the evening. Not that she really needed to go but the routine is we go outside for a quick trip to the back lane, then back in, up on the bed and she gets her cauliflower floret... then she curls up and goes to sleep for the night (with or without me) ;) That is where she is now.

Hahaha, so where are we? Dec 21? That means only 4 more sleeps until the day that all this preparation has been for. Shopping, shopping, wrapping, wrapping and baking. Lots of baking, although, as of tonight I still haven't done all the baking I had planned on doing. Still, I think I'll have enough for my "gift tins" that I'll be handing out to friends and family. Meanwhile, my apartment is in a bit of a shambles! It's one thing if you have one room set aside for wrapping, bags and stuff. But when in an apartment, it seems to just take over... Arrrrrrgh! Bailey, my cleaning gal will be over on Thursday, so I'm hoping to have all the gifts wrapped, the tins packed and everything stacked up ready to put in the car by the time Bailey gets here. Then she will be able to gather all the Christmas paraphanalia and take it back downstairs to my storage locker.... packed up for another year :)

Now... where are we on the health front? Well, I suppose it's not the worst case scenerio... I have to keep reminding myself that someone always has it a whole lot worse than me... on the other hand, there are just as many (if not more) who have it a whole lot better than me. So, I guess this means I'm not better off or worse off than anyone else, right?

So, if we go back a few months... back to last September, that was when I had my last CAT scan. It was the CAT scan that was taken after the first 3 months or so of being on the oral (pill) form of chemo. That chemo (Xeloda or Capacetabine) was good in that I didn't have a lot of side affects. No nausea or diarrhea or major fatigue which are the three common side affects of any kind of chemo... and of those three, they can vary from very mild to very severe. What I DID have was extreme pain in both my heals... which was a side affect that was not common. Hand and foot syndrome is common with that chemo, where the hands and feet can blister and be anywhere from uncomfortable to very painful... but I didn't get that. I got a severe pain deep inside both my heels, which made it very difficult to walk on two feet that already suffer from pretty severe neuropathy from the first nasty chemo I was on. Well, we adjusted my medication (Lyrica) that I take for the nerve damage and by increasing that, it did seem to help with the pain in my heels... which leads one to believe that that was also nerve damage pain. The results to my CAT scan in September were actually quite remarkable (and made the heel pain worth it). Not only had the chemo stopped the growth of the tumours in my lungs, but the larger ones shrunk by 30% which was better than my oncologist was expecting. So I was on cloud 9! I was willing to put up with the pain and major challenge of walking anywhere, if the payback was the tumours in my lungs were shrinking at a good speed :)

Now, fast forward to December when I got my second CAT scan to see how the tumours were responding. I just naturally assumed that if they shrunk 30% during the first 3 months, then I would get another good 20% or more the second 3 months. Wrong :( Not only did they not shrink anymore... there were about three of them that have started growing, even while I was on the chemo! That means the cancer is not responding to this chemo... so it was a very short run where it was responding and responding well.

As my oncologist said, we are still better off than when we started the chemo in June. Although they are starting to grow, they are still 30% smaller than what they were at the beginning of June. So now we have stopped that chemo and I'm on a 8 week break so that my system can have a chance to recover from the chemo as well as have the chemo leave my body. We will need to start a different chemo... unfortunately, that was the only chemo that comes in oral (pill) form. At the end of January, I will have to go to the hospital and have a port surgically inserted where the original port was placed. I have to be honest here... I am NOT looking forward to this. It is not because of the pain/discomfort of having one of these inserted. I know that will just be a matter of a week or so of being bruised and not being able to us my right arm for much ... as for any pain, that can be taken care of with Tylenol 3s and/or Ibuprofen. No, it's more the reality of the thing. While I was taking the pill form, it was just another medication... I had to take it twice/day, so in the morning I took it with my vitamin pills, in the evening I took it before going to bed when I'd take some ibuprofen for my arthritis. No big deal.. and not something I had to dwell on. But the port is a whole different kettle of fish... no one has a port to take vitamins. No one has a port inserted just because it might come in useful some day. No, the reason you have a port inserted is to administer chemo intraveneously.

You might ask, well, if you are having chemo infused intraveneously, why not have it put in via an IV in a vein in your arm? Yes, for some chemos they will do it this way. But other chemos, when you are going to have to take it over the course of 8 or 12 cycles, it's possible one's veins may not be able to handle that much ongoing pokes. Because not only is it the intravenous, but you also have to have blood drawn the week before each session so they can keep track of your platelets, white/red blood cells, etc. to see if you are strong enough to handle another round of chemo. My veins are problem children at the best of times... if they think they see a needle coming at them, they roll over or collapse. So, having the port is definitely much more convenient... it means they can infuse the chemo without abusing my veins. Also, if I have my blood work done at the Cancer Agency, they have trained technicians who can draw blood through this same port. So, ok... I agree the port is the way to go. But I kind of panicked a bit when she said that maybe we would leave the port in, even if we stop the chemo after the standard 12 cycles... because we may need it again down the road, or if this chemo doesn't work, we'd have to change to a different chemo again. It's just a reminder to me that this cancer is not going to go away... whereas if one doesn't have the port, and you aren't on chemo, then it's very easy to convince yourself that everything is fine.

So, the chemo I'll be going on is irinotecan (for those of you up on your chemos). This is a standard chemo that is used for Stage IV colon cancer and some people have really good results from it. The side affects can be the standard -- nausea, diarrhea, fatigue (all in varying degrees and some people don't experience one or all of them at all). A high percentage of those who get this chemo will lose all their hair... which is something I have not had to deal with before. My hair "thinned" when I was on the last intraveneous chemo, but I never lost all of it, or chunks of it. But the amount of people who DON'T lose their hair on this chemo are few and far between. So, between now and Feb I have to figure out how I'm going to handle this. Do I look for a wig that I can see myself wearing? Do I just go with the hats/scarves? Do I wait until it starts falling out, or do I get it shaved off before so I don't have to witness it coming out in chunks? I know, I know... it's only hair, but it's amazing how when you are given the "What if you were to lose your hair, what would you do?" it really hits home when it now becomes "You are going to lose your hair" rather than "What if?" I don't think I really care about the hair per se... but it's about the fact that I lose control. I can't say "Ok, I'll take the chemo, but I want to keep my hair"... that's not an option when you are going to take these heavy duty toxins. And the stronger the chemo, the more it reminds me that the cancer is a strong bugger and the Chemo "Lite" isn' working with it.

I know, you all are probably thinking, "What IS she going on about??" I think those who have had cancer or are currently fighting the battle themselves understand that the whole fight is very complex. There are no easy answers and obviously the fight is ongoing and one has to fight this monster with some pretty heavy duty artillery (read toxins/poisons) to try and kill it, or at least control it.

Ok, enough of that... I will just have to figure out my plan of action pre-chemo and then while I'm on it if I do have symptoms, then how I will work around them or actually just accept it as part of the treatment and have some "at home" days where I will laze around the apartment watching PVR'd shows, catch up on reading or whatever :)

Hmmm... there were other things I was going to talk about but this post is already way too long for a blog entry. Christmas is literally 4 sleeps away, so things are pretty hectic getting ready. Tomorrow I'll be putting together toiletry packages and then making up a kajillion (ok, maybe about 20-30) sandwiches. Mimi and Nathan will be driving around handing them out to the homeless and street kids. We aren't fighting the snow and cold that Europe is, but still, we do have people out on the streets this Christmas season, so a free handout will probably be appreciated.

Christmas Day I will be spending with family in the morning and afternoon... then I will be going with my friend Steve out to his family's home in Maple Ridge for Christmas dinner. Bridget has had her Christmas grooming, thanks to Auntie Toby and she will be coming out to North Delta with me Christmas morning/afternoon. I'm not sure that she will come out to Maple Ridge. It will be pretty hectic there and she always just makes a beeline for a bedroom and we don't see her all night... so she will probably be happier to be in her own home and Auntie Toby will take her out before I get home.

I wish all of you a Christmas filled with warmth, love and friendship and a New Year of hope, happiness and health! I hope to get back here between Christmas and New Year's but otherwise, I may not type at you until 2011!!

Cheryl

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Sunday, December 5, 2010 -- Nothing new

Hi Blogmates,

Ok, nothing new to report but I did want to just check in because otherwise there's a long period of time between entries. Not that there isn't anything happening... hahaha... my goal in the New Year is to slow down somewhat so I'm not feeling constantly like I should be somewhere, doing something, finishing off a project, etc. It's gotten a little out of hand and for someone who supposedly is retired, this is crazy!

Well, yayayaya (I think)... I have now finished 8 Cycles of chemo. For the most part, I've done very well on them and have not had too many side affects other than the ongoing reaction with the bottoms of my feet. OMG but that is not something I want to have to put up with for the rest of my life!! I don't know WHY this particular chemo attacks the bottoms of my heels, I haven't heard of it doing that to anyone else, but suffice it to say, it does and it is NOT fun.

I did a very stupid thing this week. On Thursday, I thought I needed a new battery for my iPhone. Even when I had it plugged in for a couple of hours, it was not showing the battering was holding the charge. So downtown I went to the Apple store. Argh! Turns out I just had to turn it off and then back on. Just like a computer, when things start slowing down, reboot. So, since I was downtown I took advantage of it and did some Christmas shopping. For the amount of time I was down there, I didn't get much done... but I did get some done.

Well, that was probably one of the more stupid decisions I made. I KNOW that the chemo really does a number on my feet the last couple of days of the cycle. Friday was the last day. Sure enough, by the time I got home, I knew I had done a stupid thing! Last night I met Nelli and Blake for dinner at the Keg on Granville Island... and then we went to the opening of Seussical the Musical at the Waterfront Theatre on Granville Island. It literally was around the corner from the restaurant so of course we walked (cars were already parked)... and then walked back. I knew I was going to be in trouble with pain, but by the time I got home, I also knew I didn't have to go anywhere today. HA! Not a chance could I go anywhere... I literally was in bed for 24 hours. Only got up and could drag my foot from the bedroom to the bathroom... didn't even have an appetite all day, so didn't have to go to the kitchen. Thank goodness for Toby, who came and looked after Bridget's needs... out for all her walks, etc. I did get up, finally, at about 10pm... and although my foot is still very tender, it is much better than earlier today.

Poor Bridget is also not a happy camper. She had a little surgery on her leg (not the bad leg from weeks ago) and had a lump removed. So she has stitches... and since she's obsessed with them, she has to wear the cone collar... which she hates. The good news, the biopsy came back benign (yayaya)... and the stitches will come out on Tuesday. Phew!

Not a happy camper!




Toby holding Bridget up, but not rescuing her from the dreaded cone!


Oh, and I forgot to mention... it's about the mall downtown. It just goes to show how long it's been since I hang out downtown and for all I know, this is the norm everywhere. But it was news to me! Ladies... have you noticed the newest hand dryers in the public washrooms?? No more is it the paper towels or the cloth ones that forever get stuck in the roller.. or even the wall ones that blow air on your hands but you still leave the restroom with your hands wet. Now they are super dryers... where you stick your hands in... move them up and down and your hands will be dry in 12 seconds... and they are!! Soooo weird!!

Weird-looking, no??



It even comes with it's own instructions and pictures of where to put your hands


Ok... that's it for now!. Time to treat myself to a cold cold Japanese mandarin orange (not the dry, yucky Chinese ones that Safeway tries to fool you with, but the original Japanese mandarin). They are like candy!! :) I love this time of the year!! :D

Hugggggggs,

Cheryl

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Sunday, November 21st, 2010 (Although it's 5 minutes until Nov 22)

Hiya Blogmates,

Yep, it's been awhile again, but it's because I have been busier than usual. I'm not even sure why, but when I stop to see what's on my agenda, it does appear that I am juggling a bunch of things at the same time. For instance, I am doing the Publicity for Metro's season, which means the current show that is on stage (SPIRIT LEVEL by Pam Valentine) and the January show (HERE ON THE FLIGHT PATH by Norm Foster). If you recall, Norm Foster was here in town last spring and we had a wonderful experience meeting him, driving him to/from two rehearsals of another one of his shows (OPENING NIGHT) that we were doing back then and then we had a Talkback Session with the audience after one of the matinee performances with him. It was a big success, so it just happens that we are doing another one of his shows in January. Norm has been described as "Canada's Neil Simon". ;)

Anywho, I'm also doing a Christmas show with a different company. This is an Equity Co-Op (Mountain Theatre Collective) and Pacific Theatre (at 12th and Hemlock). There are 5 brilliant performers in this show -- Diana Kaarina, Damon Calderwood, Seana-Lee Wood, Lalainia Lindbjerg and Benjamin Elliott -- and for any of you in the lower mainland, you may really want to seriously think of taking in this show (Dec 10 - Jan 1). Pacific Theatre is a small venue, only 126 seats, so you might want to reserve your tickets early (604-731-5518)

I also want to mention that earlier last week, my old gang from my government job had a wonderful Retirement Party for me, even though I retired back in February. Because of my health at the time and the possibility of kidney surgery, then I got busy with the summer theatre down at TUTS, we finally all found time in the Fall ;) It was lovely and so nice to see the gang again. Although I have been able to visit now and again, since my diagnosis, I have been off work for 4 years! Can you believe it, it's been that long? So I'm surprised anyone remembered me .

Speaking of health... I'm a little concerned. Hopefully, this too shall pass when we figure out what's going on. As you all know, I have been on chemo (pill form) since June. In September I had a CAT scan and the results were very good... the largest of the tumours had shrunk by 30%. That made me very happy... and makes it very worthwhile to continue with the chemo. The next CAT scan would be 3 months later, which will be December 7th... and obviously, we are hoping for another good result. We won't know until my Dec 9th meeting with my oncologist. Now, considering the Sept scan was so good, I was really not too concerned about the Dec one other than it will be nice to hear that the tumours have continued to shrink. The side affect I've been feeling with this chemo is pain in the heel of my left foot (the first round it was severe in both feet, but I have increased my nerve-pain med, so now it's just in my left foot), and of course, the painful neuropathy in both feet, but I had that before starting this pill form of chemo. I am really looking forward to being able to have a break from the chemo just to give my foot a running chance at getting over the chemo and being normal again (as normal as a damaged foot can be).

Well, the concerning part has been that although the CAT scan was great, the CEA (tumour marker) readings were not going down. At first, they went up by a fraction... then in late October the reading was 6.9. Now, just the blood work I had done this week, the CEA is at 8.5. This is a slow climb, but so far, the CEA readings have been very accurate for me and when it shows a rise, then usually there's a reason for it.

Sharlene (my oncologist) sent me an email tonight at 11pm (does that lady never go home to sleep??) to say send me the CEA results because she knew I was concerned about them and we didn't have them on Thursday when I was there to see her. She said that they've gone up again but this does not change our plan which is that I will finish this 8th cycle of chemo (which I start tomorrow) and then have the CT scan on Dec 7th. It will be that scan that will determine what is causing this rise in CEA... if there is something happening in the lungs (existing tumour(s) that may not be responding to the chemo, or new tumours that have cropped up and are not responding to the chemo), or if it is the "lesion" (tumour) in the kidney that may not be responding to the chemo and is growing. Those are the two areas she is concerned with... if it is the kidney, then after this CT scan we will see when the kidney surgeon can fit me into his schedule and do the RFA procedure to zap that tumour out of the kidney. If it's the lung tumours, then it may mean changing chemo from the oral chemo (which we thought was doing so well) to an infusion chemo, which means getting the port put back in my chest and doing the chemo by IV and pump. Please send your thoughts my way that the oral chemo is still working and that we don't have to go to the IV chemo... and not that I want there to be a problem with the kidney, but if that is what is causing the problem, then send thoughts that this procedure to zap the tumour in the kidney will go as smoothly as it did when the radiologist in New Westminster zapped that tumour in my lung.

It just is never ending, is it?? Meanwhile, yesterday, the weirdest thing happened to me and this has not happened since the few months before I was diagnosed. I felt just fine and off I hobbled over to Davie Street (1 1/2 blocks away) to the hair salon that my guy works out of every two weeks. I got my hair coloured/cut and was feeling great when I left the salon. I got home and was about to sit down at the computer when I started feeling queasy in my stomach. So I decided to lie down and have a bit of a nap, even though I had a ton of stuff I needed to get done. I got up about an hour later and really felt sick to my stomach. Now, I knew it wasn't food poisoning because the only thing I had to eat since the night before was 2 pieces of toast and a cup of tea. But sure enough, I got sick to my stomach. Nasty, quite violent heaves. When I was finished, I felt a little weak, so went back to bed... but within 10-15 minutes, I was feeling just fine. And have been fine ever since. So it's not food poisoning and I think that eliminates a flu bug since a flu bug would last at least 24 hours.

Now that I know my CEA has gone up, I'm even more paranoid as to why I got sick to my stomach out of the blue. Like I say, that happened before they knew what was wrong with me... mind you, at the time, I had a large tumour that was more than 3/4 blocking my intestine. I don't have any tumours in my intestines... at least, not in September when we had the last scan.

Ha! So as you can see, even when one is feeling good, there is always something going on and always something to worry about. Heck, I think if all the tests/scans showed that all tumours had shrunk down to nothing and the CEA was back down to 1.0 - 2.0, I would end up worrying wondering "Why?? When does the next shoe drop!?!?"

Well, I think I better head to bed. It's now 12:30am and I am getting up in the morning to head off to the BC Children's Hospital. I am volunteering at an event to bring awareness to their "Shaken Baby Awareness Program" and to bring awareness to new parents about "Purple Crying". Purple crying is when a new infant cries so hard his/her little face turns purple. This is not normal, but there's not a lot of awareness out there about this... and when a baby is crying that loud and that long, that's when tired parents are susceptible to shaking their babies. But when the crying is this bad... it could be a serious problem. They are finding more and more often that babies who die of SIDS have had this Purple Crying syndrome. So there is an event tomorrow where they have had a bunch of volunteer knitters knitting little purple newborn caps to give to ALL parents of newborns for the next week. There are something like 3000 of them that need to be sorted and tagged, as well, there will be knitters on site, and the media will be there.

So there you have it. Not much else I can add until we have that scan... and now, when this was going to be a scan that was more just a formality, I will be on pins and needles from Dec 7th when I have the scan to Dec 10th when I see Sharlene.... and that wait in the waiting room will be incredibly anxious. Of all the things one has to go through, that is what I hate the most... the waiting.

Cheryl

Monday, October 25, 2010

Monday, Oct 25th, 2010 It's been a long time!

Hey Bloggies,

It's been a long time since the last entry. I'm thinking it's because so much has happened, but then again, there's always something happening, so that doesn't make it a good excuse. I guess since I keep up with folk on Facebook, I have to admit I slip on the old blogging. Don't get me wrong, I really do enjoy blogging and just babbling away, but it's the old story of finding the time! Right now, I have the 11pm News on in the living room... even though the plan was to be in bed by 11pm and I could watch it there. Once again, that didn't happen ;)

I was NOT feeling well today. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised... I've just finished Round 6 of the Chemo. That's 6 two week cycles of chemo (aka severe toxins) being pumped into my body, with a one week break between cycles. Actually, I had a 2 week chemo-free break before Round 6 because I had come down with a nasty cold/bronchial/flu bug that was really nasty for a whole week. I thought that was really bad, but then I have heard of others who had the same bug and it has lasted 3-6 weeks, so the fact it only lasted one week for me and supposedly I have a compromised immune system... I think I did pretty good. But my oncologist decided it was worth giving me the extra week break.

So, I finished Round 6 on Sat morning and this week is my "break" week of no chemo. You would think that the break weeks are the best, but I swear my body no sooner gets used to the chemo and then we stop it... so it has a bit of a rough time adjusting for the first 2-3 days after I've stopped the chemo. Last night I came down with what I think is an intestinal bug... and felt pretty crappy all day today. It's quite possible it isn't a bug at all but just a side affect of the chemo. I was feeling crappy enough that I cancelled my plans for this evening. There was a Sondheim fundraiser for one of my favourite young Vancouver theatre companies - Fighting Chance Productions. They were having a fundraiser tonight where they would have 25 performers perform songs by Stephen Sondheim. They are also running a production of Sweeney Todd, which is selling out and they've added 2 performances. So if anyone living locally in the Vancouver area is reading this... try and get to see Sweeney Todd at the Jericho Arts Centre! Highly recommend it :)

It's also been a very sad week. My dear friend, Denis Simpson, passed away on Friday (Oct 22) morning after suffering a major brain aneurysm on Oct 20th in Toronto. He had recently flown to Toronto to do a couple of projects, one of them being in a production of Frog and Toad which is a wonderful children's theatre production. Some of you who have adult children who are now in their 20s and 30s, may think he looks familiar... and probably he is. He was on the children's television show, the Polka Dot Door, so many Canadian children grew up watching the show every morning.

This was taken just last year. It is a publicity shot for a production of The Full Monty which he was amazing in.

Another fun publicity shot of Denis at work.

I'm not exactly sure which year this was taken... about 30 years ago, I would say, give or take a year or two. That is Chris Conti (RIP), me (gee, I actually had legs and feet that worked back then!!) and Denis (RIP). Chris passed away some years ago now... very, very sad... and now Denis has left.

Denis Simpson (1950 - 2010) Rest in Peace, my friend.

I'm not sure when his Celebration of Life is going to be held because there will be one in Toronto and one in Vancouver. Den lived here in Vancouver, so they are going to have to have it at a pretty big venue because I would imagine there are going to be hundreds of people who go to it. It looks like the Arts Club is going to organize it here in Vancouver and are coordinating it with family members of his in Toronto. But it's a real wake up call when friends are passing away unexpectedly... a little too close to home for me. On the other hand, if one has to go (and no, I am NOT ready to go yet), if one believes in an afterlife, then there will be lots of people I know on the other side!

Ok... so what else has taken up my time this last umpteen weeks? The TUTS office is undergoing some pretty hefty renovations... well, hefty to us. We are getting new carpeting, walls fixed and painted, and all the electrical is going to be done up to code. So our little dungeon in the most gorgeous park is going to have a facelift and it will no longer be a dungeon! Pretty kewl!

Bridget is doing pretty good now. Her sprained/strained/whatever was wrong with her foot is all better now. The anti-inflammatories seemed to work and there's been no limping or screaming since. But the one thing I have noticed is that she seems to have lost her hearing... or most of it. She can still here high pitched noises (we know she can hear the squawks of the parrots across the hall) and every now and again if I hit my keys on something, she jumps. But she can't hear voices. When I come home, or Toby comes over, she does not wake up because she can't hear us. Yet, if she's awake, and I get her attention... she totally understands my hand signals, which I have used with my voice commands ever since she was a puppy. The loss of hearing doesn't seem to bother her. She will still act like a puppy... loves playing the game of "Chase Me", either around the apartment or in the carport. She certainly knows how to tell me when she wants something. So the hearing has not interfered with our daily routines.

Her eyes are a little more of a concern. Definitely, she has the starts of cataracts. But when we were at Emergency for her foot, the vet noticed that her left pupil is not responding to stimuli. They can't tell if this is because of a cataract or if it's something else. Whatever it is, it doesn't seem to be causing her any pain or discomfort... but if it's going to, we need to find out. So yes, Miss Bridget, is going to see a doggy Opthomologist.. a dog eye specialist/surgeon who will check out what is or isn't going on.

Haha... meanwhile, a couple weeks after Bridget's appt, I get to go see a people's Opthomologist too! It was one of those things... I was at the Capilano Mall and there was an eyeglasses store. It dawned on me that I really should get a new pair of glasses and a new pair of prescription sunglasses. At that time, in the mall, I only was THINKING I should get some, I hadn't actually made that decision. But you know how these stores are.... next thing you know I have picked out frames for my plain glasses and decided NOT to buy sunglasses. As it is, with no special features, the one set of glasses was going to cost around $300. But, before they could make them, I would have to see an Optometrist to see if my prescription had changed. So, I made an appt. even though before that time in the mall, I hadn't even thought of getting new glasses!

Well, the optometrist checked my eyes the next week and supposedly, my prescription has changed a little. But, she also said that the optic nerve in my right eye is larger than the optic nerve in my left eye. She's pretty sure that it isn't glaucoma and more than likely it is just a side affect caused by the chemo, but to be on the safe side she would like me to see a glaucoma specialist/Opthomologist. If it is caused by the chemo, then we would need a baseline to compare to in future exams. Sheesh... all this just because I walked by a glasses store?? I'm going to be afraid to go to malls from now on!! LOL!

Oh, and I didn't mention, before I stepped into the glasses store, I was actually walking through the mall from Visions Electronics, to get back to where I had parked my car. The reason I was at Visions Electronics (hmmm... Visions... and an eyeglass store all in the same visit?), I decided to upgrade my televisions. I figure, there's no point in upgrading one when I have two. The one left behind would constantly be compared to the new one. But buying two televisions when the two I have work perfectly fine, it made me feel guilty. The good news, one of my neighbour's tv's just went on the fritz so he was more than happy to take one off my hands... and another neighbour had a daughter who was moving out to her own apartment, and she would LOVE to have a television. So that relieved my guilt... I could make two people happy with my perfectly good televisions :) So, I bought a 26" flat screen for the living room (anything bigger than 26" would not fit in my entertainment unit), and a 32" for the bedroom. Of course, then I had to buy a PVR (sort of the equivalent to a TIVO in the States), so I could get the High Def stations and of course all the PVR functions for recording, pausing, etc. Oh, what the heck, I've already rung up the bill, so I also bought a Blue Ray DVD player. The high def tv, all the cable stations, the HD stations, digital music, etc. is in the bedroom, along with the Blue Ray DVD player for watching movies. The living room has the new TV and the old cable box so it gets all the television stations, including all the cable ones, but no PVR or Blue Ray player. Hahaha...maybe one day, but right now I can't justify having a PVR in the living room and a PVR in the bedroom ;)

Suffice it to say, if the severe winter that they are forecasting actually comes, then I certainly will have plenty to keep me entertained in my little cozy apartment. Computers, PR work, television, movies, books... I don't need to face the elements!! LOL!

Ok, it is going on 1am and I am now officially tired... so I'm heading off to bed. Nitey-night!

Cheryl

Friday, September 24, 2010

Friday, September 24th, 2010 - Poor Bridget having a rough time

Hiya Blogsters,

I'm not sure how many folk are reading this blog who are or aren't on Facebook. If you are on Facebook, then you probably already know about my poor Bridget's bad adventure in the last 12 hours (has it only been 12 hours???). It feels like days!!

Yesterday was a normal day for us. We stopped at the Vet's clinic, on the way to the TUTS office, to pick up a stock of her new favourite bedtime treats... the medical dental soft chews, which are great for keeping the teeth clean and free of tartar. I have tried her on various chew treats like this in the past and she wouldn't have anything to do with them. But the other week, we had "Davie Day" on Davie Street... sort of like a street fair where all the businesses on the street had booths or tables out. The clinic had a table out with goody bags for dogs and cats... with lots of free samples, pet tooth brushes, plastic lids for pet food cans, pens, etc. One of the goodies in the bag was a bag of these dental soft chews... lo and behold, Bridget LOVES them, so this is a new bedtime treat. We had used the last one Wed night so we had to stop at the clinic to get more so we did this on the way to the TUTS office for the afternoon. Bridget was fine, in good humour, and fully recovered from her sore paw of the previous week when she had a "grass on" (burr) in the flesh between her toes and pad of her right foot, which had caused an infection.... which she needed to be put on antibiotics. So this trip to the clinic was purely to pick up treats and say hi to the staff and show that Bridget was back to her normal diva self.

The afternoon was spent at the TUTS office where we are undergoing major clean up/new carpeting and soon new paint, etc. Nothing out of the ordinary for Bridget other than the totally different look to the office... looking bare and like we are in the middle of a move!! First the chaos.. then the bareness:

Here is my desk at the TUTS office, in the middle of chaos as we were cleaning up after the closing of the 2010 Summer season. Instead of a "Spring Cleaning", this was more like a "end of season/Fall cleaning". Time to get rid of stuff that just accumulates and one always thinks they will get around to cleaning it out and never do. Notice behind the desk is my blue desk chair, and behind that is a pink'ish chair... that's Bridget's chair, although you can't see her and her pink basket on it in this picture taken by my iPhone.

Here is my desk yesterday (Sept 23). When Bridget and I got to the office, imagine my surprise!! Jill has been working extremely hard getting rid of all the excess "junk" and had the help of Robin and Bill to get rid of the shelving on the wall behind my desk. Hahaha... it now looks like a bad "interrogation desk" from a B rated movie!! :D

Here is a picture of Bridget... as you would have found her all summer! With all the comings and goings in the office... crew, Front of House staff, volunteers, staff, designers, us regular office staff, Live Nation staff, etc ... there was always people in and out of the office with phones ringing (both land lines and cell phones), printers, faxes... a buzz of activity when producing two full length Broadway musicals, and Live Nation producing concerts. Does all this activity both Bridget? Not in the least!! She is perfectly content to have her own chair and office bed... and she just sleeps through all the activity. She knows she's not allowed to go out the door by herself, so may as well just sleep :)

Hey! What happened to the office?? Even Bridget's pink chair has disappeared!! Is she freaking out about how the office has disappeared, even the shelves with all the office supplies? Nooooo... just give me my office bed and I'll sleep anywhere :) This picture was taken yesterday (Sept 23)... and she had a perfectly normal afternoon sleeping in her pink bed, while Jill and I worked in our very bare office.

Bridget and I left the office about 6pm and got home between 6-6:30pm. Again, nothing out of the usual... it was raining so she did a quick pee on the grass before we went to the car and drove home. When we got home, Bridget was acting totally normally and she went right for her pillow on the couch, while I went to the kitchen and put together her supper. When I came to the living room, I told her... "Up you get, it's supper time!" and she sort of just looked at me, but made no attempt to get up (again, not unusual... she is not one of those dogs who lives to eat... she loves her food, but it's not something she is obsessed with). So I put it down then I went to get her to move and go eat. Now, she did seem to struggle a bit to get up, which was unusual, but I wasn't too concerned... I figured she was just sunk in between the pillow and the arm of the couch but all of a sudden she started screaming... as if she was in severe pain! Yes, it freaked me out and I dashed to her side to see if maybe her foot was caught, or a toenail caught... but nothing seemed out of the ordinary. But she screamed and panicked. I picked her up and cuddled her and soothed her, but the screaming didn't stop. It seemed like forever but it probably wasn't that long... then the screaming turned to cries and whimpering. So I put her down on the ground ... maybe she had a cramp and just needed to walk it out. But she was walking very strange... she would not put weight on her right paw (which, coincidently, was the same paw she had the burr in the other week, which got infected). But it wasn't that she was just favouring the paw, it was like she was hunched over with her right shoulder... and still crying.

So I picked her up, grabbed my cell phone and purse, went across the hall and told Toby something is wrong with Bridget and I'm taking her to the Emergency Clinic (of course our own clinic had closed the hour before all this happened). Toby came with me to hold Bridget in the car... as well, if we had to carry her anywhere, it would have been difficult for me with my own arthritis/goofy back.

Long story shorter... the Emergency vet gave Bridget a pain med injection to relieve any pain, while she did her exam of her. All Bridget's vitals were normal.. nothing out of the ordinary. The physical exam was normal... nothing to indicate what was causing the pain. So I had them take xrays to rule out a fracture, arthritis, bone infection, etc. Xrays were perfectly clear... no sign of anything.


Here we are at the Animal Hospital... and that injected pain medication really worked... she can't get much more relaxed than this ;) She was shivering, even though she was much more comfortable... but as the Doctor said, she was definitely showing signs of distress/pain... so it was good to see the med working. But, in case she was cold, we put one of those reuseable, canvas shopping bags that Toby happened to have in her shoulder bag, over Bridget like a blanket. She LIKES to be under blankets, coats, etc. :)


So, the Doctor, having ruled out all these potential problems, was leaning towards it being a sprain or strained wrist, which of course nothing would show up on any xrays or tests. I don't know... she allows me to touch her paw, to feel the wrist and doesn't wince or cry... yet she won't put any weight on the paw. The doctor gave her another pain med that will last for about 24 hours, then gave me meds to give her every 12 hours for three days... as well as the 24 hour pain med that I will give her tonight. This is to give her relief while the paw recovers if it is a strain.

But even with the pain meds, at 4:30am she woke up screaming... and all I could do was soothe her and talk to her calmly. Again, the screaming only lasted about a minute, but it felt like forever. I can not handle seeing her in pain or afraid. I couldn't give her more pain meds because she had only had them 6 1/2 hours before... so it was way too early to give her more. She did calm down and I got her settled again on the bed. She has been sleeping ever since (3 hours now) and seems comfortable. Me, not so comfortable... and couldn't sleep.

I am waiting for our own clinic to open. Dr. Joan is in Ontario and won't be back until Tuesday, but there will be a vet covering for her. I'm not sure what she can do, but with a second pair of Doctor's eyes, maybe they can figure out what is going on. I, of course, with lack of sleep, have an imagination that is going wild. I'm wondering if it could be a seizure, or stroke or something that is in the brain and not really related to the foot. I'm not doctor and hopefully this is just a very tired imagination running amok.

I just want my little darlin to be better and back to normal!! Especially since I have no idea what has caused this!

Cheryl

Friday, September 17, 2010

Friday, September 17th, 2010 -- Part II (sorta)

Hello Blogsters,

Ok, I wasn't right back like I said I would be, on the other hand, it hasn't taken me a month to get back so things are looking up .

Yes, I wanted to post Part II but it was a matter of finding the time... and now, here it is almost 1:30am... see what I mean about never having the time?? When I'm still sitting at the computer at 1:30am, about to drag this tired body to bed and remember, "Oh no... another day has gone by and I haven't blogged. If I wait until tomorrow, it's going to have to be after a Dr's appt, and then after I have to do the work I am behind in, and then of course, after a much needed nap and then, if I have the energy, I have tickets for two Fringe shows and then... well, next thing you know, weeks have gone by :D

So, without further ado, I must give you all the news... and it's GOOD NEWS!!! I'm so excited!! Still, the days of getting results from tests and scans really need improving. There is just so much friggin' waiting around. I mean, they want the blood tests done on the same day the oncologist is going to meet with you because that same day they will have the most up to date blood work which they need to see if the platelets have regenerated enough that it's safe to start the chemo again. Some people have a real problem with regenerating their blood platelets and if they are not high enough, then the chemo must be delayed until they are... which of course is only giving the cancer a chance to fight back.

So, I went in the morning and had my blood work done. Oh, the joys of giving blood when you have veins that run for the hills. Apparently I have a really good vein in my right arm, but over the years, so many pokes that there is scarring tissue so now, it's hard to get the needle in, plus the vein twists, just to add to the challenge. Oh sigh. But finally the gals got the blood they needed for three vials... a test for CEA, a test for liver function and a test for seeing the levels of my blood platelets.

Now I had an hour and a half to kill before I was to come back for my scheduled oncologist appt., which of course is never on time which means waiting some more. I, who are usually a fairly calm person (give or take), get very anxious when I'm at the BC Cancer Agency. On the one hand, I am mesmerized by what all goes on in that building, the things they are discovering, the research that is going on in the huge new building across the street, the amount of people the building sees on a daily basis, etc. On the other hand, reality hits and I'm not there because I'm supporting a friend or family member... I'm there because *I* am the patient. Ack! That must mean I have cancer! Double Ack! The comfort of my world of denial is stripped away from me when I am in the building.

So I decided to take myself out for breakfast at one of my favourite restaurants not too far from the Agency. There's one in my 'hood too but this one is closer to the Cancer Agency and I will have to go back for my appt. So off to deDutch Pannekoek House on the corner of Oak and 16th. Normally, I always have the same thing... Ham 'N Hash 'N Eggs (basted). They have a lovely huge menu and their Pannekoeks (a combination of a huge crepe/pancake) are to die for... but I always seem to end up with the same thing. But this day... I decided to throw caution to the wind and I ordered their Amsterdam Eggs with Spinach... which normally sit on two "Rusks" but I know those are sort of like English Muffin Melba Toast, so I asked for it to be on Sourdough toast instead. Hahaha... wow, where have I been???? This breakfast was absolutely, without a doubt, the most amazing breakfast in the world!! It was so amazing, I had to take a picture of it so I could blog it for you all :D

Does that not just look absolutely divine?? Well, take it from me, it IS!! And when you hear me say on Facebook that I'm at deDutch, then you know that this is probably what I'm ordering from now on :D

Ok... so I had my delightful breakfast while playing on Facebook using my iPhone, but then it was time to go back to the BC Cancer agency to meet with Sharleen, my wonderful oncologist. Except that she was running behind. Arrrrgh! So it meant sitting and waiting, and waiting, and waiting. Hey, don't get me wrong... I totally understand that she and other oncologists get behind schedule. When they have to give bad news to people, they don't want to just give them the bad news and then say, "Well, you have to leave now, I have another patient waiting". These oncologists are absolutely amazing, and Sharleen in particular (well, that has been my experience because she is my oncologist and I know how wonderful and compassionate she is). So, I do try to be patient... on the other hand, anxiety builds just the fact I'm in the building. It's a double edge sword.

When I finally got in to see her... almost an hour late (and yes, she was very apologetic and knew that I was probably almost crawling out of my skin by this time since I've had all this time to sit and worry about what the CAT scan may have found. But she gave the biggest most gorgeous smile and said that the results far surpassed what they were expecting after 3 months on chemo. Best case scenerio that they were expecting would be that the tumours in the lungs had stopped growing and might even show some indication that they were starting to shrink. But the main thing to make the good news bucket would be that they had stopped their growing. Well, not only had the two problem tumours that showed the most growth STOPPED growing, they had shrunk by 1/3 their size 3 months ago!! Sharleen said that was incredible... there was no way they could expect that drastic of a difference no matter what kind of chemo I was on. But for some reason, these two tumours in the lungs that we were most concerned with had responded so well to the chemo. Also, the tumour in the kidney had responded and started shrinking. So it was definitely an exciting time... and its not often you get really excited when you are a cancer patient.

Soooo, now I had to wait some more, because she gave me the prescription for the chemo which I had to get filled up on the 6th floor where the pharmacy is. Chemo in BC is paid for by the BC Cancer Agency, so I can't take the prescription to a regular pharmacy ... I'm not sure if people realize but when you hear of all these cancer awareness walks, and fundraisers, and concerts, etc. etc.... one just assumes that the money raised is going into research and what not, but I don't think people realize that a lot of this money goes to the Cancer Agency so that they can pay for the chemo for all cancer patients. And as I have mentioned in past blogs, chemo is NOT a cheap medication!! For me, I am on 3-week cycles, which means I take the chemo pills twice/day for 10 days, then I have a 7-9 day break from chemo. That is considered 1 cycle and it cost $8000 for one cycle. At this point, I will be doing 8 cycles, but if the tumours are continuing to shrink, then we will be on it longer if need be.... and I do not have to worry where the money is coming from to pay for these cycles, extra or not. It also does not come out of one's medical insurance coverage, so it's not as if one is using up their "allotments" of any kind. Anywho... just thought I'd mention that... when you have the opportunity to pledge or support someone who is running for cancer or holding a silent auction/fundraiser for cancer... it's nice to know that if you or a loved one ever finds them in this situation, the chemo is covered with the help of everyone :)

Soooo up to the 6th floor I go, turn in my prescription, then down to the first floor to the cafeteria to get a coffee while I wait for the prescription to be filled. All said and done... I got there in the morning, around 11am and by the time I got home it was just after 4pm. I had wonderful news but even still, it is tiring to spend that much time in a building that causes me anxiety. So you can imagine what it's like to be there that long and you get bad news.

Meanwhile... my little darlin' has her owie foot that has to be taken care of too... so she had her little foot surgery and got a new red bandage... of which she was very proud to wear the next day into the TUTS office. Of course, she is perfectly content to just sleep in her office bed because that is what she does in the office :D

See her little red club foot? :D All protected from the owies of the real world.

And do you think she has her Auntie Toby twisted around her little red bandaged paw? She most certainly does!! LOL! I can not believe how she knows that she can milk this for all the attention in the world :)

This is probably the funniest one. We are now at the clinic. Char had cut her little bandage off and although Bridget could not feel any discomfort, she yodel/screamed her little heart out... until Char showed her the scissors and that they were nowhere near her foot. Then we went into the examining room and up on the examining table. Dr. Joan lifted her paw to the lamp she has so she could see the wound and how it was healing. Well, Bridget was sure she was about to cut her foot off and she screamed and yodeled and carried on as if she were being killed, until Joan told her, "I haven't touched you yet!" It took Bridget a second or two to realize, "Oh, right. Yes. Well, I knew that" and then was perfectly fine. Here she is, obsessing with the front door ... on the off chance it might magically open and she could get out of Dodge and go back to the car without me ;) Too funny!

Anywho... so there you have Part II. Both Bridget and I are doing fine and although, yes, I'll be on chemo until at least December if not longer... the reason I'm on chemo is because it is working... and hopefully will continue to work as well as it is right now :) :) It's amazing the difference in attitude when it is working vs when you don't know if it's working or not. Chemo becomes a bad word if you don't know, or if it's not working.... but is just a miracle med when it is working :)

Now, it's 2am... I must go to bed!!! Ciao for now! :D

Cheryl

Monday, September 13, 2010

Monday, September 13th, 2010 -- Part I (the saga)

Hello Bloggy-mates!!

I know, I know!! I was going to say you don't have to remind me that I lied when I said I'd be coming right back to do a proper blog entry and then didn't come back... but 4 people since the weekend have done just that! And they are right!! Not only did I not come back, but August 2nd was my last entry??? That's OVER a month ago... almost 1 1/2 months ago!! Sheesh... how the heck did that happen??? And now, in 6 weeks there's so much to chat about that if I typed it all up, you readers would have to have a spare 10 hours or so just to read the babble. You see, it never rains but pours!!

So, where to start... and where to end?? Hmmmm... I think I'm going to do this particular entry in two parts. Part 1 will be my evening babble that I'm typing tonight... and hopefully a few pictures. Then Part II, I will do tomorrow night or Wednesday morning... except I do need to go into the TUTS office Wednesday afternoon, so I hopefully will get it done tomorrow night (unless I go to a Fringe show, but that's a whole other topic) :D

Hahaha... sooooo away I go! The first thing to report is that I feel fine, I feel healthy, considering I am on chemo again (did I mention that in any of the last posts?? Oh well, I think most of you knew that), and have been since I believe it was early July, I have surprised myself with just how much energy I have had. You see, living in a world of denial does have it's benefits. I mean, if you deny you have a problem, then you can't very well be lying around in bed feeling sorry for yourself and having a lack of energy because to have that then you have to admit there's a problem . Of course there then are the moments when chemo fatigue hits... think how you feel if you've gone 48 hours without sleep plus you've taken a sleeping pill by accident instead of an aspirin.... can you imagine how tired/exhausted you would feel? Well, that's exactly how chemo fatigue feels but rather than growing on you as you get more and more tired, it hits you out of the blue. You might be perfectly fine and busy doing a chore and BAM! You can't put one foot in front of the other and you really need to lie down.... and that lie down turns into a 3 hour deep sleep nap. Lucky :::knock on wood::: that hasn't happened to me too often this go round with the chemo, but it has happened. And since I'm in a world of denial, when it does happen it throws me for a loop... I get annoyed with myself and ask, "Why the heck are you so tired? It's not like you've been all that active, physically... are you really that lazy?? Ever since you can't walk more than a block, you've become sluggish and lazy!" Nag, nag, nag... guilt, guilt, guilt! Hahaha... then it dawns on me, "Oh, wait a minute... ok, yes, you are on chemo, so that might explain the lazy, tiredness... ok, never mind. But have a nap and then can you make sure you get XXXXX and XXXX done?" Gee, I sure would hate to be my own nurse!! LOL! No compassion for me, whatsoever!!! LOL!!

Ok, so what has this lazy, no good for nothing, person in denial been up to this summer? As most of you know, throughout my journey with chemo and fear and more chemo, I have been keeping myself busy with all things theatre. For my favourite love, Musical Theatre, I'm involved with TUTS all year long. This year, we did two productions... "Singin' In The Rain" and "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat". These two productions ran in rep with each other meaning that one night it would be Singin' and the next night it would be Joseph and the next night it would be Singin' and the next night it would be Joseph, etc. This went on for 7 weeks... every day. Now, I had my office administrative work to keep up on, as well, one of the very kewl, neat things we do in the summer is we offer three Musical Theatre workshops 1) a two week, Mon-Fri, 9:30am - 4:30pm Advanced Musical Theatre camp, ages 6-19. Participants for this camp have to have had some training already, as well as experience performing in front of an audience. 2) a beginner's KIDS (ages 6-12) one week, 1/2 days camp... no experience needed. 3) a beginner's YOUTH (ages 13-19) one week, 1/2 days camp... no experience needed. All camps ended with a performance done in front of a Friday night TUTS audience, before the actual TUTS performance that night. It was great for the kids, the parents of the kids and pre-show entertainment for the TUTS audience. This was my baby project in that I got to totally organize the registrations of all participants, communicate to the parents, take the payments, organize how many TUTS Camp t-shirts were needed and in what size, etc. It's one of my favourite administrative theatre tasks that I do... thoroughly love it! Here are a couple of pictures of this years' kids:

There are the kids in their camp t-shirts with a good size audience to perform in front of... even though the audience was still arriving :)

Oh, here's a better one that shows the audience that these kids get to perform in front of. It really is a fabulous experience for them!

Of course, every summer Vancouver also has it's Fireworks competition between countries. Now, as much as theatre is my love, even I have my limits. With the fireworks literally being across the street from where I live, and they totally shut down the neighbourhood to vehicle traffic, I do NOT work the theatre on Fireworks nights. The reason being, since I usually get to the theatre in the afternoon, getting my car out of the 'hood wouldn't be a problem... but coming home?? No can do!! We do the shows an hour earlier than normal because, even though the fireworks are a good kilometre or more away from the theatre with a park between us and them, they are SOOOO loud that they would totally interfere with the show. So we start the show early on Fireworks nights so that the performance is over before the fireworks actually start at 10pm. Hahaha... soooo, yes, I would be ready to come home just as the Fireworks were starting. Absolutely no way I could get my car home... and if I were to wait until the crowds disappeared and the neighbourhood roads were to open up again, it would mean hanging out in the park, just me, the dog, and the raccoons until 1am or so. Naaaaa... not my idea of a good time :D Sooooo, I stay home... and actually, during the day I work on publicity stuff for Metro Theatre (Theatre #2 that is on hiatus in the summer while I'm doing TUTS).

This year, I went to my friend, Doug's apartment for one of the fireworks nights (or was that 2 of them??). He lives right across the street from me and whereas I live on the second floor of a 4 storey walk-up building, he lives on the 21st floor of a MUCH higher building, and he faces the water. So perfect place to watch the fireworks from:

The people started gathering about 4pm, even though the fireworks don't start until 10pm.


My friend, Adam, actually took this picture. People get down early to get a great spot for watching them... and what better spot than in a hammock?? :)

Another picture of the gathering crowds, this time taken from inside the apartment and through the window.

The boats started gathering around the same time. Here you can see there is still a fair amount of room between boats, but they are all close enough that the become a little party community :)

A good night for fireworks... clear skies and just a hint of a breeze. Notice there is quite a large berth between the gathering boats and the actual fireworks barge (which are actually two barges put together... the length of about two football fields) and the police boats make sure none of them come too close.

And so the fireworks start... keep in mind, we are on the 21st floor, high about the crowds :)

Ok, this one is interesting and I hope you can see it in the smaller version of the picture on the blog, but notice how much area the fireworks cover? That is why the boats have to be back so far, otherwise there could be a few boats that end up going down (?) in flames :)

What can I say... even though we got through this every year, and 4 countries compete, so there are 4 nights of these fireworks... one can't argue that they aren't pretty... because they really are pretty and in a beautiful environment.

Of course, I do have to come up with an artsy shot or two... this was one of those huge ones that just seem to explode above us all and I was really pleased with the effect I got on this one.

Ok... I think you get the hint... these nights are a lot of fun and a good excuse to socialize with your neighbours. All of the fireworks are actually done/choreographed (?) to music... so each country has it's own theme music. They do have the huge speakers down on the beach, but it is also simulcast with a local radio station, so all the apartment/condo buildings will have their windows wide open, or speakers out on the balconies and everyone tuned to the same station... so you definitely can't miss the music :) Hahaha... so, when you get the question, "So what did YOU do on your day off??" I have pictures to show what I did with a few of my closest friends . Now, if you actually thought you were going to go to bed early?? Hahaha... good luck! It literally sounds like World War III as the fireworks themselves are soooo loud and the sound echoes by bouncing off all the buildings, not to mention hundreds of balconies have their stereo speakers turned up loud to catch the music :)

Ok... note... you have been reading for how long? And I've covered about 3 days of summer activities . There would be so much more to talk about and show pictures but seriously... I'm not going to do that to you :D

Let's jump ahead to this week (Sept 12/13). Right now I'm on a week's break from the chemo. The way it works is I do Mon-Fri, then a two day break, then Mon-Fri, and a 9 day break. The reason for this is that the chemo doesn't differentiate between good, healthy cells and abnormal (cancer) cells... it just goes in like a bulldozer and kills off everything in it's path. It is "systemic" meaning it travels through my blood system and lymph system... everywhere in the body! When you stop the chemo, the good cells will regenerate their number of cells, replacing the ones that have been killed, whereas any cancer cells that have been killed, can not regenerate. Ideally, they would like to get you as close to "death" as possible, killing off the most cells they can without actually killing you. I don't think they get me that close because I'm still running around doing stuff like above and all my theatre stuff... if I was that close to death, I would not be able to do that. Still, I was having a real bad problem with pain in the feet because the chemo was attacking all the damaged nerve endings... so my oncologist did have to adjust the schedule to give me the weekend break. Mind you, as soon as you have a break, the cells start regenerating and when cells regenerate it takes a lot of energy, hence why I get very tired (aka chemo fatigue)... only to start the chemo again. I will be starting the chemo again tomorrow night if the blood tests show that I've regenerated enough blood cells that it's safe to be attacked by the chemo again ;)

Meanwhile... poor little Bridget!! She started obsessively licking her right front paw last week. Well, long story short, she had an infected paw... more than likely because of a very tiny grass burr. So she went in today for her surgery.... so had to be put under with a general anesthetic. This scares the heck out of me when a small dog has to go under a general... it is so hard on our systems, even harder on theirs since they are so small. Miss B is only 12.6 pounds!!

We went in to see Dr. Joan on Saturday, so she applied an antibiotic goop, then wrapped her foot. Bridget always loves her big bandages... but she was mad at me this time. It hurt her for Joan to be poking around on the tender foot that was so swollen because of the infection. So here she is, refusing to look at me with the camera:

Miss B. was very upset with me at this point... I made her go to see Dr. Joan and she did not like having her foot poked at (and I don't blame her, it was very inflamed and sore!). But she LOVES her bandage... we can't figure it out but she loved it a few years back when she had to wear one because Joan thought there must be something irritating the skin. So lots of antibiotic goop to draw out the problem and then the foot is wrapped). Whatever, it worked and she was fine after that... but meanwhile she would prance about and raise her bandaged paw to show people.

Here is a classic Miss Bridget "I'm mad at you, Mom. I'm not going to look at you or the camera!" Whereas usually, she is such a poser when the camera comes out :)

After today's surgery, she was re-wrapped, this time with a red bandage. So here Auntie Toby came over to check on the patient... and Bridget was now not quite so groggy and was a bit more interested in her surroundings. She was VERY happy to come home... but even still, she was a little confused from the anesthesia and would look at one of us and give these pathetic little cries. It was so sad, but we knew she was alright and that it was the meds talking :)

Ok... I have no idea how long this has taken me to write... but I'm ending the Part I blog entry. Tomorrow, whenever I get home, I will write Part II which will be a MUCH smaller entry. Part II is going to be reporting on what the results of the CAT scan and blood work are showing. I'm not nervous yet, but I will be tomorrow on the way to the Cancer Agency. If all is going according to plan and the lung tumours are responding to the chemo, then I am going to consider this GOOD news. If the growth in the kidney is NOT responding to the chemo, I'm going to consider this GOOD news. Ok, it may mean that it's a new primary (Kidney) cancer, but to me the good news is that the colon cancer has not spread to the kidney. If it is a Kidney cancer, then I figure we have caught it in it's early stages and we will treat it with either a RFA procedure or whatever... but the good news will be that the colon cancer has not spread. If it has responded to the chemo and is starting to shrink, well, that will be good news for a bad situation. But what the heck... no sense jumping the gun here until we know what we are dealing with.

Now... it's just after midnight and I've spent most of the evening getting this entry done, so I really must go and do some more work on Metro before I head to bed :) Until tomorrow... ciao!!

Cheryl

Monday, August 2, 2010

Monday, August 2, 2010 - Happy PRIDE and BC Day!!

Hellooooo Bloggies,

Ok, this is not really a blog entry because I'm literally on the move! Today is the first day of our TUTS Musical Theatre Advanced Camp, so I've got to get there early to sign in all the kidlets. Then I'll be working on memberships/administration type chores, before the show tonight where I'll be hanging out at Guest Services.

Granted, my mornings don't normally start this early and yes, I did have to get up at 6:30am to give my joints the 2 hours they need to get mobile... but now I'm running late :)

As most of you reading this know, I am totally involved with Theatre Under The Stars again this year, plus working on the Publicity prep work for Metro's upcoming season that starts at the end of this month. What this means is I'm usually busy 10-13 hours/day... so blogging has fallen wayyyyy behind!

It's not that I don't think of it... and every now and again one or two of you remind me that there hasn't been a blog entry in forever (I get the hint, really, I do!). I realize this is one of those times... so I figured I'd just come in here and tell you I know and I really do plan on writing a chatty one, with pictures... SOON! :D

But... I'm late! Ack! So I must dash.... but I'll be back hopefully really soon :D

Happy PRIDE and BC Day!!

Cheryl

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Tuesday, July 13 - Round 2, Day 2 & the Opening of Joseph!

Hi Bloggies,

A quick entry (hahaha... is there such a thing in Cheryl's world??). Today is Day 2 of Chemo Round 2. So far, so good... but then, in Round 1 I didn't start feeling the feet until Day 3, so tomorrow will be a biggie day :D Of course, I am running late (read: slow) today... and I really don't have a good excuse other than I'm running late :) But, I'm not too concerned. After all, my hours down at the TUTS office have kind of changed now that we are opening the shows. Instead of being down there from 1-6pm or 7pm, which is pretty standard... I'm now down there until 10:30pm - 11pm, depending on which show is running. Joseph goes until about 10pm, and Singin' goes until about 10:30pm... so give or take half an hour after the curtain comes down.

Tonight is the opening night of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. We are doing it with a twist which makes it quite different from all the other productions of Joseph someone may have seen before. We are sticking to the story, and of course, the music... but the show is set in the 60s. We have a bunch of hippies helping a bunch of young kids put on a show. Meanwhile, they are missing a "12th brother", so every night a child is selected from the audience and the show is built around including this child as part of the show. It is going to totally make some child's night! They will be a star for the night and integrated into the show, even though they have never been to any rehearsals. Very clever. At intermission, the child will get his/her very own dressing room that the parents can come and visit the child in. The set designer of both Joseph and Singin' in the Rain, has designed/dressed up the dressing room to make it a magical room for any child. It has the mirrors and makeup lights, etc. But there are also shelves full of candy jars, lollipops, etc. And of course, there's a big STAR on the dressing room door :) At the end of the show, the child is actually dressed in a gorgeous "coat of many colours" just like Joseph's... and the child gets to keep that coat as a keepsake of their magical experience when they were part of the Joseph cast and show. As the cast hands the child back over to the parents, it's a very touching moment... which I'll explain after closing night. I don't want to give it away for anyone who is reading this blog and will be coming to the show :)

So tonight is Opening night of Joseph... tomorrow is opening night of Singin' in the Rain :) We shall see how the feet are doing by Thurs... if they are still doing well, then YAYAYAYA!! It means I think I can survive this next 5 rounds of chemo... and still keep up with my theatre activities :)

Ok... must go and get dressed, pack the car with the dog and our dinners, then must go pick up flowers for some of my kids in the show :)

Happy summer!!

Cheryl

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Sunday, July 11th, 2010 - Cycle #2 begins on Monday

Hiya bloggies,

Well, it certainly has been an interesting Chemo Cycle #1... not one that I wish to repeat again. At least, not one I wish to repeat with the same intense pain in my heels that I experienced this go round. I'm still amazed that the side affect was that it attacked my heels I (not a known side affect) and that it happened so quickly. I had taken the first pills on the Wednesday night and by the Friday, I was feeling the pain to the point that it was uncomfortable and I knew something was up. My oncologist wasn't sure that what I was experiencing was actually related to the chemo because she figured if I was going to have any side affects, they probably wouldn't show themselves until the third or fourth cycle... not less than two days later. But, sure enough, it was the chemo because the longer I was on it, the more intense the pain became (by about Day 8 I didn't think it could get any more intense, but I was wrong). I did make it thru until Day 14, but on the 14th day, I couldn't even walk around my carpeted apartment without being in tears.

Anywho... as soon as I stopped the chemo, within 24-30 hours, the pain had totally disappeared. That spoke volumes to Sharlene (oncologist). It proved that the pain was definitely caused by the chemo and was probably related to either the dosage or the length of continual time I was on it. If you all remember (if I remembered to log it in the last blog entry) we lowered the dosage from 1650mg twice/day to 1500mg twice/day. Well, we don't want to lower the dosage anymore to the point where it becomes ineffective. That wouldn't make any sense. And my other option at this point, if we decide to stop the oral chemo is to go back on the infusion, which would mean the surgical procedure to install another port in my chest, just below the collarbone. I would then have to go to the Cancer Agency every two weeks and sit in the chemo chair for 4-5 hours while they infuse me with a big old dose of liquid chemo directly into my blood system. I would them be switched over to the portable chemo pump which would be attached by IV to the port and I'd have to wear the chemo pump for 3 days. I am trying to avoid that at all costs. In the summer, it is so inconvenient to wear this pump, which you can't get wet, making showers a real challenge. Even getting dressed is a real challenge because of the IV and pump.

So, we are going to give the oral chemo another try. Only this time we are going to change the scheduling of it. I will be taking my 1500mg twice/day, Monday - Friday this week. Then I'll have the two days on the weekend off for a break. I will then go back on it for Mon - Fri, then be off for a week for recovery. Although that week will actually end up being 9 days because the last pills will be Friday night, then I get Sat/Sun, Mon-Fri, then Sat/Sun off before starting up again on the following Mon. We are hoping that with having the weekends as a break, the pain won't be quite as intense. There's no doubt that there will be pain but with having the 2-day break, it may go away over the weekend, then will hit sometime again when I'm back on the chemo, only to go away for the weekend and the 9 days off will let me have time to regenerate my red/white cells and NOT be in pain :)

What's a girl to do? I obviously have to give it a try and if it's doable, then this is a good thing because it will keep me off the IV version :)

Meanwhile, TUTS opens this week! Oy vey! Both shows are going to be very good but as is always the case the week or so before the shows open, you can cut the tension in the air in the office. People are running around checking and double checking that everything is in place. There is sooooo much to do just before the shows open that we don't have to do once they are up and running. There are glitches to be ironed out, there are invitees for opening night and did we catch those that need to be invited vs those that should never have been on the Opening Night guest list but have been for some years. Tempers are short and I won't even get into the micro-managing that goes on, which I absolutely hate! But opening night(s) happen on Tuesday and Wednesday and once both shows are up and running and once we can hope to have a long run of good weather, everything should calm down and we can just enjoy the summertime experience.

I, of course, will have to play everything by ear on a day to day basis. Like I say, if I can walk with minimal pain, then I will be spending my summer down at TUTS. If there are days where the pain makes it too difficult to walk, then I'll have to stay at home. I'm not sure how many cycles I will end up having to do. We won't be getting a CT scan until probably sometime in Sept/Oct and that CT scan will show us whether or not the chemo is having any effect. If it is, then great we will probably finish the standard 6 cycles. If it isn't, then we will probably have to go on the infusion chemo.

Meanwhile... everyone think wonderful thoughts that the pill form will work... and the sun will be out until August 21st . It can pour with rain on Aug 22nd.... but we need sun and/or dry weather until Aug 21st :)

Cheryl

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Thursday, July 1, 2010 - Happy Canada Day!!

Happy Canada Day to my Canadian blog-mates... and an early Happy July 4th to my American blog-mates!!

Well, it has been a while since my last blog entry... and that's because I've been trying to adjust to my chemo treatment that I'm back on. I was soooo hoping that this oral (pill form) chemo was going to be just great. I was pretty confident that it would be because I have been on it before... back in May 2007 when I was on 6 weeks of radiation. I don't remember having any problems with it and if I did feel tired, that would have been the combination of radiation and chemo.

So it did come as the biggest surprise that this time on the oral chemo I had a horrible reaction... where it totally attacked the bottom of both my heels. It's hard to describe the pain but for anyone who has had Plantars Fasciitis at the bottom of your foot, think of that pain X 10 and in both feet at the same time. Next to impossible to walk on. Well, not "next to" but actually impossible. I did attempt to shuffle from the apartment to the car and the car to the apartment. But in the 2nd week I realized this was going to be a huge problem when I was in absolute agony to just walking the few feet and few stairs to the car in the carport. Forget going grocery shopping or any errands/tasks!

In this second week I have been put on Oxycodone along with the Tylenol 3s (very two hours) and Tramadol. My oncologist told me on Tuesday, my last day of chemo for Cycle 1, to not take the evening dose. I now am in my "recovery week" which is the week with no chemo so that my red/white blood cells can regnerate. Amazing... by missing that evening chemo, the next day, with the help of the Oxycodone and Tylenol, my feet did a rapid improvement. I could stand on them! I could walk around the apartment with no tears! I could take Bridget out to the back lane for her late night pee! It was like a miracle.

Today, I cut waaaaay back on my Tylenol 3s, and Oxycodone. My feet are still way better than when I was on the chemo, but more painful than when I was on the meds yesterday. So I'm thinking I'm going to have to taper off the pain meds a little more slowly and not just stop cold turkey.

Meanwhile... I will have my appt. with Sharlene next Thurs, July 8th and we are going to have to go over any other options we have. There is no way I'm going to be able to go through with 6 cycles of this chemo... I can't handle that kind of pain. For any of you who want to know what it's like (sans the pain)... from the moment you get up in the morning and put your feet on the floor from the bed... try this exercise. DO NOT let your heels touch the floor. Try to get around your home/outside/work by using any part of your feet, as long at the heels don't touch the ground. That is what it has been like for me. The minute you put your heel on the ground, even just to rest your foot, the most excruciating pain will shoot up the heel... and it's the same for both feet.

Hehehehe... another thing that I totally forgot was how you can get so tired with no warning. Here it is Canada Day today and although I had no committed plans, I wasn't expecting to be soooo tired! But most chemos work this way... the "fatigue" or "tireds" don't really hit until you are off the chemo for the "recovery" week. It means the chemo is doing what it's suppose to... which is killing off cells (good and bad). When you kill off your good cells, you get incredibly tired. Well, I was feeling so good "physically" for the two weeks I was on the chemo, except for the painful feet, that I totally forgot at some point I was probably going to feel "tired"... really tired.

Hehe... all the better that today is a holiday and I'm not expected to be anywhere :) And sooooo good that I stocked up on a couple of books that I want to read. I'm reading one right now called "Glitter Baby". Just a big old summer reading novel, but I'm really enjoying it!!

Tomorrow afternoon, Bridget and I will be going to the TUTS office. Both shows/casts are now down at the park on the stage at Malkin Bowl. We haven't opened yet, but they are there rehearsing and doing their tech weeks. Both shows are going to be fabulous!! Seriously, if any of you reading this blog are in the Vancouver area this summer, you really should take in the magic of watching a Broadway musical in the middle of the most gorgeous park in the world. To be watching a musical under the stars and surrounded by huge evergreen trees... it really makes for a magical evening. Just remember to bring a jacket and blanket, no matter how warm it may be during the day. It does get chilly in the Bowl surrounded by all those trees. I don't think I can even pick favourites at this time... they both are going to be wonderful -- Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat will be brilliant for those of you who want to bring the whole family and Singin' In The Rain is going to be brilliant for all of you who love the classic movie.

Soooo, I think that's about it for now. I'm sure there must be other things to talk about but today is a "tired" day. I figure I wanted to get a blog entry up and as for pictures and things, I'll do that in another entry :)

Have a wonderful long weekend EVERYONE, whether you are celebrating being a Canadian or celebrating being an American!! It's all good :)

Hugggggs,

Cheryl

Friday, June 18, 2010

Friday, June 18th, 2010 -- Day at home :)

Good Friday evening to one and all!

Where did this week go? It appears to have gone by in a blur... so hopefully I'm not going to repeat myself in anything I've already mentioned. I totally forgot that syndrome that I may be hit with again... the infamous -- CHEMO BRAIN!! Run and hide!! Then again, no, don't do that because if I find you I may forget I knew you and will think I'm making a new friend .

By Chemo Brain, I think a lot of gals... those who have gone through pregnancy and those who have gone through menopause, will be able to relate to it. Chemo is a systemic treatment, meaning it goes throughout your body, even if it's been prescribed for one particular area (IE: my lungs and kidney)... creating havoc and chaos wherever it goes. Including the brain!! It can be very frustrating where you have just put something down and then forget where you put it even though it's right in front of you. Or, like today, telling myself, "Ok, in 10 mins I have to go down and take the load of laundry out of the washer and put it in the dryer". 30 minutes later I think, "Gee, since I'm home, I should do a load of laundry!" only to go and get the laundry hamper from the bedroom and find it's not there. Why? Because it's downstairs with the laundry already done and waiting to go into the dryer! Arrrrgh!!

Well, the first three days on chemo haven't been too bad. Today is the first day I've felt out of sorts. Nothing specific... nothing I can really pinpoint, just an overall feeling of the "blahs" and lack of energy. My neighbour, Toby, who is an amazing support for me (she has totally taken over making sure Bridget gets two fabulous long walks every day... in the morning and then when we come home from the office), mentioned that it is possible that maybe my body is also just tired, since I rarely slow down. So add chemo to the ongoing schedule, perhaps my body is just saying "slow down the pace a bit". I told her that this pace is nothing exceptional... it's always been my normal pace... and she said , "But you aren't as young as you used to be." Hahaha... valid point!

But today, the one thing I did notice is the pain at the bottom of my feet. One of the common side affects of this particular kind of chemo is "hand and foot syndrome", which is where the skin peels, cracks and/or becomes blistered. Well neither of my hands or feet are doing that, this is more of an internal pain which makes it very uncomfortable to walk. My oncologist did say it's possible this chemo will aggravate any joint pain (oh great... me with severe arthritis, this is not something I need as well), so I'm wondering if it will also aggravate any existing nerve damage pain? That would certainly explain the feet issue today.

Anywho... I had already decided that I was staying home today and did think I'd catch up on all my laundry. I'd like to get it done and then just do little loads as needed. But, it wasn't meant to be. I did a load last night and got a load done today. That leaves one load to do... maybe tomorrow or Sunday.

So far, the nausea/queasiness has been very minimal and I've been able to control that with good old gravol. So if gravol can keep it at bay, then we know it is only a minimal reaction and let's hope it stays that way.

Fatigue? I don't think I'd rate it as fatigue per se, but definitely I've been tired today and lacking in any bursts of energy. I lay down around 3pm with my book and must have fallen asleep because I woke up when Toby came in to take Bridget for a walk around 5pm. So, while they were gone I was going to get up to put Bridget's dinner in her bowl for when she came home... but I must have fallen asleep because they came home around 7pm and I didn't hear them. Toby fed Bridget and I woke up when Bridget had finished her dinner and came to snuggle up with me on the bed ;)

I'm up now... and wondering if maybe I should just curl up in bed with my book, or stay up and play on the computer? Hmmm... decisions, decisions! I guess I'll just play it by ear and if I feel particularly sleepy, then off to the bedroom we go.

So that's my Day... Day 3 was the first day of noticing that maybe there is something to being on chemo, but nothing severe enough to be worried. The good news (at least this is the theory), the tireds and various odd pains is an indication the chemo is doing what it's suppose to... which is kill off cells. The blood test that I'll have to get after I finish the 2 week cycle of pills will determine if the good cells are generating fast enough to keep up with the killing of the good ones... and the dosage of chemo will be adjusted accordingly.

Onwards we go!! Tally-ho!!!

Cheryl