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!!!


Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Tuesday, June 15, 2010 - Holy Kaka! $$$

Yes, it's me again... I just had to pop in to correct something I said yesterday that wasn't quite right. Yes, I am starting the oral chemo tomorrow morning and yes I take it twice/day for two weeks each cycle (a cycle = 2 weeks of pills + 1 week of no pills), but for some reason I thought I would be popping 1 pill in the morning and 1 pill in the evening. At $75/pill, that would be $150/day. Well, I was wrong. I picked up the pills today at the BC Cancer Agency pharmacy and I will actually be taking FOUR pills twice/day. So that's 8 pills X $75 = $600/day in chemo. So one cycle of this chemo costs $8400. If my system can tolerate it, I will be going through 6 cycles, which will take me to the end of October 2010. When you are looking at figures like this in $$$'s, then I can only thank the universe that I live where I do. The BC Cancer Agency is recognized around the world for their research and drug trials and it's because of this that they cover treatments prescribed by the BC Cancer Agency oncologists. If they didn't cover it, then I suppose BC Medical would pick up part of the costs but I've never questioned that since my cancer treatments have been covered by BC Cancer Agency (my arthritis pain meds have been covered by my Extended Health Care insurance up to 80%).

But I really have to wonder how people who don't have healthcare insurance, can afford to be treated for cancer? Cancer is NOT a cheap illness... it cost mega-bucks and appears to be ongoing. When first diagnosed, there can be surgery involved as well as various diagnostic and ongoing testing/scans/etc. I know that a PET scan costs between $7000 - $9000 for one scan. I'm not sure how much a CT scan costs, I know they are much cheaper than a PET scan but then they serve a totally different function. But since Dec 2006, I must have easily had 25 CT scans. Then there were the surgeries, hospital stays, chemo sessions at the chemo unit, follow up care, home nursing care, ongoing followup monitoring, etc. Now, here we go with a new treatment of chemo, this time it will be for 4 1/2 months (vs the 8 months the last time) and it will be less intense in that I can take the pills myself without needing followup nursing care. But even so, this less intense treatment is going to end up costing over $50,000 and that's not counting any CT scans, the blood work, the oncologist appts, etc.

I just am so very, very thankful that I live surrounded by excellent doctors, researchers and specialists who are looking after my health, while also surrounded by the most incredible friends who surround me with so much support and help. It really and truly is amazing when you stop and think about just how blessed I am!



Monday, June 14, 2010

Monday, June 14th, 2010 - Getting ready for battle!

Helloooo bloggymates!!

Well, I'm sharpening my blogging pens/pencils/fingers and just going to have to settle down to writing more frequent blog entries. Once again, I'm heading into battle with these stew-pud cancer cells! They actually have had the gall to rear their ugly little cells and think they are going to go to battle and come out winners. Well, I have news for them... that is just not going to happen! I'll put on my war paint and go in and battle them single-handed if need be, although, I'm kind of hoping all you blogmates will join in the battle as well. We have fought this before as a team and came out victorious, so I see no reason why we can't again! :)

I had my appointment with Sharlene Gill, my oncologist who I adore. Sharlene had been on sabbatical from client practice for the last 6 months and was working on cancer research, but she is back now. And just in time!! As has been pointed out in a previous blog entry, there has been some concern about a growth in my left kidney. Also, since around Christmas, my CEA readings have been fluctuating. CEA readings are not necessarily an accurate tool for a lot of colon cancer patients but in my case, they have always been spot on. If my CEA rises, then this is usually an indication of active cancer somewhere... and each time we have found it and removed it.

Well, the CEA from last week registered at 5.2... up 2 points over the last couple of months. And the CAT scan I had done on Friday showed that the growth in the kidney has grown a couple of mm, as have two of the tumours in my lungs!! Wouldn't you know it... one tumour is at the top of one lung and the other tumour is at the bottom of the other lung. So it's not a matter of going in and zapping them, since it would mean two different sessions... with each session being a high risk of collapsing a lung. And this still wouldn't address the problem that these indolant tumours in the lungs have started growing.

Soooo... we need a plan, and my wonderful oncologist has one which she went over with me. At this point, we have no idea if the tumour in the kidney is in any way related to the tumours in the lungs. It's quite possible that the lung tumours, which we know are the spread of the colon cancer, so their origins were in the intestine/colon. The kidney tumour could actually be a new primary cancer -- kidney cancer. So, what she suggests is that I go on an oral (pill form) chemo that is known to work well on colon cancer cells. The hopes will be that this chemo will shrink the colon cancer tumours in the lungs. Meanwhile, if the tumour in the kidney IS colon cancer (it would be very unusual for colon cancer to have spread to the kidneys), then this chemo will affect it as well and could quite possibly shrink the tumour in the kidney. Not to mention, the chemo will go all through my system (systemic) so it could kill off any potential solo cells that might be floating about, looking for a place to land and take root. If the tumour in the kidney does NOT respond to the chemo, then we will know that this tumour is a new primary cancer and will have to be treated with a different treatment. What we would do then is go in and zap it with the RFA procedure. But if the chemo DOES work for it, then that would save an RFA procedure for another time when it might be needed. So we are sort of covering a couple of scenerios with this chemo plan... and this is a good thing.

Tomorrow (Tuesday), I go back to the Cancer Agency to pick up my first two week cycle of chemo (in pill form). The chemo I will be going on is called Capecitabine (aka Xeloda in the US). This is the one that I took while getting radiation therapy every day for 6 weeks. At that time, I was on the IV chemo 5-Fluorouracil. Since my oncologist wanted me to still have chemo while going through the radiation, she switched me to the Capecitabine for comfort and convenience. Taking the pills would be a lot easier on me than being hooked up to my chemo pump and IV for 6 weeks straight. But, my extended health insurance (Blue Cross) didn't quite see it that way. They figured, because of the high cost of the pill form, I should stay on the IV form, so wouldn't pay for the oral form. It got a little tense because I felt like I was getting the runaround. I called my employer in Victoria at the time and I don't remember what all happened but the employer told Blue Cross to pay for the chemo... and so they did.

I was thinking, "Oh no... am I going to have to go through this all over again, since now I'm a "Retired Employee" and no longer a working employee. I still have the Extended Health Care coverage... but, you know how private insurance companies can be ;) But alas... I don't have to worry. I have not been on any kind of Chemo treatment for almost 3 years. So this is a new round of treatment that my oncologist is prescribing for me. I do not need to go and have a port placed just under my collarbone for an IV, so I won't be going through the process of going and sitting in a chemo unit for 4-5 hours every two weeks. My chemo plan will just be to pop a pill twice/day... and for that treatment, the BC Cancer Agency will cover the costs. Phew! These pills cost upwards of $75/pill and since a treatment is given over a course of 12 weeks, that works out to 112 pills at $75 a pop.

Anywho... it is getting late, so I'm going to call it quits here for this entry. I am totally planning on carrying on as normal. TUTS is getting super busy and I plan on being down there as often as ever... and if I have to take some down time should I get tired easily, then so be it. But I have worked the two summer shows in the past when I was on chemo so I don't see why that would change. Of course, this time I also am involved with Metro Theatre as well, as their publicist. The majority of my work for them is done at home on the computer, so that shouldn't change either. The way I look at it, the more I keep my life and lifestyle "normal" as in continuing my everyday things... then the more normal this time on chemo will remain.

I'll be back with more babbling but right now I need to get a few things done before I go to bed :)

Ciao for now!