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


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!!