Thursday, December 1, 2011

Thursday, Dec 1st, 2011 -- Pain, pain and Pancreatitis!

Heylloo blogmates!

Yes, you know its more than time for a blog update when so much has happened in such a short period of time, even I don't remember what and in what order! :)

So, may as well just get to it and report on what I do remember! Since we are talking about "pain" in this entry, let's start with the theatre, in particular, Metro Theatre. Many of you may or may not have heard, I resigned from Metro Theatre as their Publicist and Webmistress at the end of last month. I'm not sure what it is with community theatre groups, and if it happens with amateur sports leagues or any other "community" type events, but when they are Board driven, are there always so much politics involved and individuals who have to have their 15 minutes of showing off how important they are?? I don't know the answer to that, obviously, because I have never been involved with amateur sports or necessarily ALL community theatre groups. But what transpired at Metro is something that fiction is made up of and it is still hard to pick my jaw up off the floor.

I have been the webmistress for Metro's website for the past 14 years. I have been the editor of their eNewsletter for the past 12 years. And I have been their publicist for the past 2 seasons, although this 2011/2012 season is not over yet. I have done all three things for the simple reason, I love theatre and although I will never be an actor, director or designer, I do know where my skills lie and I have been offering them to Metro because this is the one theatre that has been in my life since I was in high school. Call it loyalty, call it stupidity... Metro has always had a soft spot in my heart. So tell me, how can a 15 member board be dictated to and run by a small 3-4 person team who wants to control the theatre and run things they don't even have any experience in? If someone could explain that to me I'm all ears... not that I would ever reverse my decision to leave a theatre that shows no loyalty or appreciation for those who have been loyal for years and would prefer to listen to busybodies who have nothing to add to a conversation but hearing their own voice... I still would love to hear an explanation.

Basically 3 people decided to take what was a wonderful thing, a "Supportive Committee" and change it into a "Micromanaging Committee", which would micromanage topics that had absolutely nothing to do with the committee itself. Micromanaging, in the worst definition of the term because, alas, they don't even know how to micromanage properly, nor do they have enough information on the topics they want to micromanage. It's a nightmare in the making. But then when they decided to take on the website, that's when I knew that the theatre was soon to be in big trouble. They did not take into account just what is involved with not only creating/designing a website, but what does Metro already have in place. They figure that it's time Metro had a "professional" design the theatre's website...having no idea that the person who designed the website, my friend Christina Gillespie, IS a professional and has been designing websites for the past 15 years. This is what she does for a living, but these nimrods never thought to ask about the history of our website. Somehow, they managed to convince the Board that Metro NEEDS a professional to take over... and no one ever thought to ask, "Is there a problem with the current website?" "Are we actually missing something that all the other theatres have but we don't?" "Have their been any user complaints about the website, besides from the board member who wants the work of creating a website and charging for it, and his friend who also happens to be on the board?" Nooooo, no one even thought to ask the question. Yet these three people seemed to think it was imperative that Metro change to a professional company FROM the person (moi) and her friend, Chris (who is a professional), who have both been doing Metro's website work PRO BONO (that's "free" for anyone who might be sharing the same IQ as these three board members) for the past 14 years. Free also equals "Volunteer"... and this is another fine example of how one can expect to be treated as a volunteer... you CAN be replaced by someone they would prefer to pay. Oh, but here's the biggest joke... just how much are they going to pay someone to do the work they've received for free for the past 14 years. Well, the so called "professional" board meeting can't actually give them a quote... because he doesn't actually have an example of what he'd be presenting. There are no two or three potential designs and something the board could look over and decide, and then how much it would cost for ever little add on (IE: Calendar of events, customized ticket sales, Twitter Feed, Facebook Feed, etc)... he didn't have ANYTHING to actually show them, nor did he have any price ranges. The response, "Well it all depends on how many hours it will take to create it." Well, duh!! And those hours will depend on how much he wants to bill, right??? Needless to say, when I got the call from the President of the Board to tell me that the board had made a decision to go with a professional for the website, I said "Fine. You will have my resignation that evening... from the role of Webmistress and the role of Publicist. As far as the eNewsletter goes, the Dec 1st issue will be the final one but I will be continuing with a new redesigned Vancouver Arts Community eNewsletter that will have nothing to do with the focus being on Metro, other than any mentions of what they are doing SHOULD someone be reliable and send me the information. I will no longer be getting the content about Metro on my own, as I have with no help from the Board for the past 12 years. As such, I highly doubt anyone is about to start now, so Metro will be left out and the other theatres in the Lower Mainland will benefit." She was surprised that I was going to resign from the Publicist role. Why the surprise, I have no idea... I obviously wasn't doing it for the great amounts of money to be made at Metro, so that left I was doing it out of loyalty to a theatre company I thought respected and appreciated all I did for them for the love of theatre... but in reality they couldn't care less and would rather pay one of their "own", even though I have been one of their own since high school. Unbelievable!!

But enough of that... you'd almost think the theatre and people on the Board had some sort of importance, and they certainly don't. I have no respect for stupidity. Ignorance I could understand, but there is no place for stupidity in my life and they all have proven just how stupid they can be. It's a shame really, but not worth losing any sleep over.

I have bigger things to focus on. Besides taking a much needed break for the next few months, let's talk HEALTH! Hellloooo? What a roller coaster I've been on this week! Last Friday, I had plans to meet my friend, Alison Jopson for lunch. We had decided on the White Spot on Georgia Street and I was looking forward to meeting with her and catching up! Oh the joys of the retirees... the ladies who lunch, etc :) Well, I woke up Fri morning and I was just not feeling right... nothing I could really pin down just not feeling all that hot. I thought it could be a bug I might have picked up, or maybe a touch of indigestion. And just as a joke, I mentioned it probably was a heart attack only because I was having a pain in my left side that sort of filtered to the back. I wasn't sure if I should cancel lunch, or just suck it up... so I sucked it up and off I went to meet up with Alison.

I got there before she did but low and behold if I didn't run into two old friends from the past! -- Alex McLeod and Roma Hearn! Since we all had arrived at lunch time (bad timing on our part), the place was packed and there was a lineup for tables... so we placed our names for two separate tables. Alex and Roma got their table, then Alison showed up and we got our table too. Once we sat down, I was still feeling off and thought maybe it was because I had been standing for too long (ok, just making up reasons at this point). We ordered lunch and had oodles to talk about and catch up on... with Alex running over to tell us a few more tidbits he had forgotten earlier. I had gotten through about half my sandwich and had to excuse myself. That was the first I knew that I really wasn't feeling that well.... I lost that sandwich (and it was so good... but I had not had an appetite for sometime by this point). So we called lunch short and I got home in time for a 12 hour marathon of vomiting. That was really weird since I had only had a half sandwich. I had started feeling sick before eating so I knew it wasn't food poisoning... it had to be stomach flu. But to tell you the truth I was too sick to give it a whole lot of thought!

The vomiting stopped about 12:30am Sat... and for Sat and Sun, I slept around the clock. I don't recall how often I got up... maybe 3 or 4 times the whole 48 hours. Monday, I went to my GP and he had me do blood tests and a urinalysis. The results of those came on Tues and there was a possibility of a urinary infection but it was not conclusive... so we decided to try and let it cure itself. Besides the pain and vomiting obviously had nothing to do with a urinary infection... those just aren't the symptoms.

Yesterday, I went for my 3-month CAT scan. The purpose for this scan was to see if the tumours in my lungs were responding the the chemo. We were pretty sure they were since my CEA levels have come way down... but we wanted proof. Well, the radiologist called my Oncologist yesterday afternoon and said that he was concerned that the CAT scan was showing that I had an inflamed pancreas (pancreatitis). This is an extremely painful condition (yes, I know... I felt it) and can be very dangerous. The pancreas creates hormones, insulin and enzymes for aiding in food digestion. When the pancreas gets inflamed, the enzymes turn on themselves and actually start eating/digesting the pancreas!! We only have one pancreas and we need it for the functions it does. So my oncologist called me immediately and although I still had the pain, it wasn't as bad as Fri night... or Sat/Sun. So he wanted me to be very careful and if it did get worse overnight, I was to go immediately to Emergency. As it was, it didn't get worse... and off I went to an appt. with oncology today, as well, more blood tests, this time tests for some measurements of things to do with pancreatitis. These levels are, unfortunately, high... so we have to be very careful.

The plan, as of today, is that we are going to take a break from the chemo while the pancreas heals. There is no documentation/indication that the chemo I'm on causes pancreatitis, but chemo is so hard on all the organs of the body so no one knows what it's role in this has been. So, to be safe, a break from the chemo.

Now, it's not all doom and gloom. Remember the CAT scan's original purpose was to show us how the tumors are reacting to the chemo. Well, they are responding very well! The CAT scan has shown that not only have they all stopped growing, they have all (except for one) started shrinking!! Yayayaya! I'm thrilled about that! The one that is being stubborn, they are not too concerned with... it could be something as simple as there are "slow starters" and this one has not started responding yet. This break from chemo should not make much difference. IE: the tumors are not going to start growing because we are taking a short break. At this point, we aren't sure how long the break will have to be... it depends on how quickly the pancreas inflammation calms down and the pancreas gets back to healthy functioning. That might be two weeks... it might be 6 weeks. Either way, you can be rest assured they will be monitoring and deciding what our next plan of action will be.

I have a CAT scan scheduled for 2 weeks from now and that will be to show if the inflammation has calmed down. Meanwhile, I will have to go in for pancreas blood work every two weeks... as well, I need to go in for the 3 hour magnesium infusion every two weeks. Just my luck that not only does the chemo deplete one's magnesium, pancreatitis eats up the magnesium as well! Arrrrrgh!

So, I must stop being hard on myself. I keep saying, "Suck it up... it's only a little bug!" when in fact, maybe I'm actually suffering a lot more than a little bug :)

Hahaha... all this typing has worn me out so I'm calling it quits for now... time to go lie down. But I wanted the info to all be in one place so everyone gets the same info and I don't have to wonder who has been told what :) :)

Happy World AIDS Day!!

Cheryl

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Thursday, November 10th, 2011 - An overall update

Hellooooo Bloggymates!

And staying true to form, I'm once again late with an update. Oh well, one can always look at the bright side... it must mean I've just been a little too busy to get back to the blog. It saddens me that this is always the case because I really do enjoy blogging and babbling on... but it seems I just have so many different projects and STILL no one has come up with a day that holds more than 24 hours! Go figure, eh??

Anywho... if I waited until I had the time to report on all that has been going on, it would be yet another month. Those of you on Facebook get a more daily kind of reporting... by keeping up with my status updates, or if you are following me (@hiyacher) on Twitter, but the rest of you... well, I try to get here as often as I can :)

So, let's start with a Health update. All is going very well right now. As we know, being staged as Stage IV, there is no cure for my cancer, but what we work on is keeping the tumours small (if possible) and stable (IE: no growth of existing ones or new ones). Back, gee, 1 1/2 years ago (?), the tumours in my lungs started to become more active and started growing. So that's when we started up with the chemo... and I'm now on my third kind of chemo since these beasts started becoming active. The good news, there were no new tumours started, but the existing ones were starting to wake up. The first chemo I went on was the oral, pill form (Xeloda)... and it worked for about 3 months, with some side affects, especially with my feet... but then in Dec 2010 it stopped working. My feet were a mess in that it was very painful to walk on them. So we had a break from chemo and started up again in February, this time with a chemo that was new to me called Irinotecan. Yikes! That has been the nastiest one yet! Most people who go on it don't really have that many side affects, but it hit me really bad. Bad nausea as well as breathing problems. As time went on, I developed Bronchialspasms, bronchitis and asthma. When I ended up at the ER of St. Paul's Hospital, then that was time to take me off that chemo. Besides, it wasn't really doing that much good anyways. Because of the breathing problems I had to be off chemo for all of the summer to try and fix the breathing. Just getting off the chemo, got rid of the asthma. It took pretty much the whole summer to get rid of the bronchitis... and only now, in November, have I gotten rid of the bronchialspasms. That meant, the third chemo was started in September and I have just finished my 5th treatment of it this week.

The good news... it seems my system is responding really well to this one!! When we started the chemo in September, my CEA reading was at it's highest at 52.0!! (my normal reading when everything is stable is 1.0 - 2.0) So 52.0 is pretty darn scary for me... especially if the chemos were not going to be working. But this one is (yayaya). My CEA has gone, in the 4 treatment sessions from 52.0 down to 12.0. At this rate, since I've now had my 5th treatment, it could be back to my normal within the next two weeks!! We will know for sure how well it's done when I have my next CAT scan which is scheduled for Nov 30th... and I'll get the results the following week when I meet with the doctor. But if the CEA readings are any indication (and they have been very accurate for me in the past), then I have a very good feeling about this upcoming scan :) :)

The downside... this chemo does an incredible number on one's skin. We've all had days where we've had dry skin, whether it's from getting too much sun or just your skin is dry and needs moisturizing. But what I'm going through is a head to toe skin that is sooooo dry, layers and layers and layers dry! I have never experienced anything like it and moisturizing only lasts for seconds then you are back to starting all over. Besides the dry skin (or because of it) is the incredible itchiness. It's horrible!! And nothing seems to calm the itch :/ Unfortunately, I can't even scratch because my fingertips (also peeling layers and layers around the nailbeds) are so sore, so sensitive... again, a known side affect of this chemo... so I can't even scratch when I really need to! And I'm having a heck of a time typing... I'm a touch typist, but right now 7 of my fingers are not able to be used when typing. Makes typing very awkward with lots of typos that I try to catch... but you all know how much I rely on the computer and/or my phone keyboard. So this is a challenge and one where I have to take lots of breaks to give my fingers a rest. Yes, they are sensitive, but it's the pain that I have a problem with. The skin has, or continues to peel and it feels like the nerves are all exposed. So think of it as typing on exposed nerves! OUCH!!

Ok... speaking of a break, I've had a couple while typing this up... but now I really have to walk away from the computer for a bit, so I'll end this entry now. I can always do a social chit chat one later :)

I hope everyone will take a few moments to remember both our fallen armed forces and our veterans who came home safely. To those I know and love who have served in the Military, and those I don't know - It doesn't matter what my opinion is on war, or defences, or what we do or don't do or should(n't) do. The fact of the matter is you provided a service that I directly benefited from in one way or another and you probably made sacrifices I have never had to make. So Thank you - Thank you so very much. ♥ ♥

Adios for now!

Cheryl

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Sunday, October 9th, 2011 - Thanksgiving Weekend

Hello Bloggies and Bloggettes!

First... a shout out to all my Canadian friends and family -- HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!! I hope you all have a wonderful "gobble gobble" weekend, full of feasts, family and friends :) :) Me, I'm going to have a low-key weekend because it is a chemo weekend. I got my Thanksgiving dose of chemo on Friday and so far (knock on wood) all is going really well!! My new anti-nausea meds seem to be doing the trick... I have had absolutely no signs of nausea. I'm being careful and not waiting for the nausea to show up before I take the meds... I figure, for the first 4 days, if I take one pill every six hours during the day, then we will keep that up since it seems to be working :) :) What I have noticed (and this is to be expected and totally normal), I get a bag of gravol in my IV before they hook up the bag of chemo. So I have this IV gravol PLUS my anti-nausea pills PLUS the chemo... so guess who is very tired the first day or three?? But hey... I much prefer being tired and just taking it easy for about 3 days than to have the chronic nausea feeling for 5 or so days :) :)

Soooooo, Saturday, I spent the day lazying around. I really didn't do anything that I can say accomplished a lot. I did put a couple of announcements up on the theatre's website and hopefully today (Sunday) I am going to get myself organized for the coming week. I have lots of little computer jobs that need to be done. None of them are serious, big time consumers, but there are a bunch of them that I just need to put my nose to the grind and do them. I also have a few schedules that need some adjusting, so would like to work on them and get them out to the people that are affected by them. Once I have those done, I will feel like I've been productive :D

Meanwhile, this morning, my friend Michel LaFleche stopped by for a quick visit. We both are soooooo excited!!!
As of Dec 1, he is going to move into an apartment that is 10 steps up from my apartment, in the same building! We are going to be neighbours in the true sense of the word in that he literally will be living next door to me :) Michel and I have been friends for eons... but for the past 20+ years or so, he has been living in Toronto and Stratford, Ontario. And it's really only recently that we reconnected on Facebook... so now he's moved home, was looking for an apartment that was pet friendly (he has an adorable little terrier named Cody) and lo and behold we are going to be in the same building. I love it when things all fall into place like this!! :D

Meanwhile, speaking of reconnecting with people on Facebook... another reconnection of old friends!! My friend, Peggy... we also have been friends for years. She lives locally, although not in the city... I want to say Langley, but she will correct me because she's on the other side of the river from Langley and my mind has gone blank as to where it is she lives. Anywho... Peggy and I actually met each other a kajillion years ago in Hawaii. For YEARS we would only meet in Hawaii and we'd have the time of our lives. Two crazy chicks does not even begin to describe us . It wasn't until I became sick that we broke our pact of only meeting in Hawaii... and Peggy would come in to visit me in the hospital. After that, we also met for dinner or an evening at the Casino.

Again... due to all sorts of things, Peggy and I had lost touch. And we don't go to Hawaii anymore because I can't fly and have to stick close to home because of my chemo treatments. But Peggy recently joined Facebook and she found me there! So of course we reconnected and have been talking non-stop since. The other night, we met for dinner and to catch up in person. Can you tell the two of us were having a good time???



Yep... crazy whacky chicks in their own little world! Peggy had her iPad2 with her, hence the pictures... but we were laughing so much, they aren't totally in focus and something about the artificial light at Boston Pizza... I have no idea why but we both came out very orange with the background being very orange as well... alas, I removed the colour because they definitely look better in black and white than in orange .

I know I have more to babble about, but it is now 1am... so I'm thinking I'll just save this entry but not publish it yet. I'll finish it in the morning then will publish it for all of your weekend reading enjoyment LOL!!

tick tock... tick tock... tick tock... tick tock... tick tock... (sleeping while the clock is ticking away)

Ahhhhh... morning, people! Ok, more like "'Afternoon, people!" :D It's now officially Sunday... and between the dark gray clouds, the sun keeps poking her head out. I have a funny feeling the clouds are going to win in the end, but for now, Sunday definitely is having some sunny moments :D And I'm feeling good enough that I'm going to actually go out this afternoon. Pretty neat to be able to do this only the second day after chemo :)

Meanwhile, sleeping beauty is taking advantage of the sun on the bed. Can you find the dog on the bed??



Wait! I think I see a back leg and thigh :) She certainly does love her sleep!! ;)

Well, there certainly is a amazing selection of musicals going on in the city right now! And all of them are worth seeing!! There's "A Light at the Piazza" which is a gorgeous show with a gorgeous musical score. It has never been done in Vancouver before and Patrick Street Productions has done a fabulous job with it!! I believe it only has one more week left in it's run and you really should try to get to see this show if you haven't already! At the Arts Club Stanley Theatre, there's the musical "Next to Normal", which opens their season. Again, a very well done show and they handle the topic of mental illness with sensitivity and awareness. This isn't your typical laugh and sing the songs in your head along with the cast kind of musical. It is actually quite intense, but intense in a good way. For lighter fare, there's Fighting Chance Productions' "A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum", which is one heck of an entertaining evening at the theatre. This show is being run down at the Jericho Arts Centre. Then, last but not least, there's "Ride the Cyclone", a wacky crazy FUN new Canadian Musical from a group in Victoria who are set now to tour the show in various cities across Canada on their way to Chicago and then perhaps to "Off Broadway" in NYC. What a fabulous cast and fabulous musical that is! Imagine that, 4 musicals going on at the same time... never a dull moment in Vancouver!!

Then we have our show at Metro. Right now it is a murder/thriller - "Making a Killing" by John Nassivera. This show opened last weekend and will be running until October 29th, to be followed by the comedy, "My Three Angels" which will be running the month of November. So I'm doing publicity for all the season shows at Metro which, let me tell you, it keeps me hopping non-stop!! :D

Hahaha... now usually, part of my non-theatre day is spent going over recipes and deciding what sorts of things I'd like to try out. Of course, with this chemo, most all day I don't have an appetites so to make anything fancy or time consuming is kind of out of the picture because I won't be able to enjoy it. Hence, I look for casual recipes. Here is a pot of clam chowder I whipped up the other day. The problem with making chowder is, by the time you've added everything, it makes for a rather large pot! Luckily, I've been in the mood for soup because it seemed to last forever!! LOL!

Nom, nom, nom!!

Wow...it's now 1pm on Sunday.... a mere 12 hours ago I was saying it was 1am!! LOL! Where DOES the time go? I guess I better get off the computer, have a shower, get dressed and by then hopefully I'll know where I'm going. I think I need to get out to pick up some milk and maybe some veggies. Hahaha... I KNOW the rains are on the way so it's a matter of getting out and getting some errands run before they hit. I hate going out anywhere in the rain. Of course, when they are here for days on end you just have to grin and bear it... but I'd just as soon stay home when it's monsooning out :D

I'm so hoping that this feeling good after chemo is now a sign of what it's going to be like. Like I say, I can handle the fatigue... that's what having a comfy bedroom is all about. It's the nausea, split fingers around the nail beds, and itchy rash that I hate... but one hurdle at a time! Looks like we MAY have the nausea mastered :D

Ok... that's it for now.... next blog remind me to talk about my newly married oncologist who is taking a year off to go to China with her new hubby. I'm not sure what he does, but I'm assuming he's in the same line of work (or something similar) and he has taken a position in China for a year... so of course she is joining him. I do not deal well with change and I am a little nervous since I totally trust her and what our plans are. But supposedly I will be getting an oncologist while she's gone and he is a favourite with the staff and patients alike. We shall see... and I have to find out if, when she gets back, she will be my oncologist again. One step at a time!! :)

Ciao for now!

Cheryl

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Tuesday Sept 13th, 2011 - Health Update

Hi bloggies!

Yep, it's me, the late one, reporting in again much later than I had planned on doing. I really should do a two-parter tonight but something tells me if I can get just one entry done tonight I'm going to be ahead of the game . I have to sort through a bunch of photos for the "social" entry on the blog and if I wait until I've got that done, then the health update will be even later than it already is :)

We sort of have to go back to last week with the buildup to starting the "new" (to me) Chemo called Vectibix. As those of you who have been following for some time, I have been through various chemos and the last one which I was on from Feb - June, I really did not react well to it. Ended up with severe breathing problems and for someone who has had nothing worse than chronic bronchitis of which the worst part was the tight, painful chest, I had no idea what "severe" breathing problems meant until going through this chemo. When I ended up in Emergency, that was when it was decided that enough is enough, I had to come off this chemo. They weigh the risks vs the benefits and my risks had outweighed any possible benefits the chemo was doing.

So, not only was I taken off the chemo, I was given the summer off to try and regain my strength and breathing. No one knew how much I would regain, but I'm happy to report the bronchial and asthma problems are gone! I still have the bronchialspasms, which is that "wheezing" when you exhale. I was only getting them in the mornings and late at night, but since starting this new chemo, they just sort of are always there. So we are going to have to be on high alert watching if this is going to be a problem or not.

Anywho... lots of "chemo anxiety" as we got closer and closer to Sept 9th, which apparently is totally normal... especially after having such a bad experience with the last chemo. So, Friday, Sept 9th, was my chemo infusion day.

The chemo technicians/nurses at the BC Cancer Agency are fantastic. I only wish I could remember each of them! There are quite a few of them and every single one of them are wonderful... but because of my very very faulty memory, I can not necessarily remember them individually... whereas they all remember me, even if it's been over a year since they last saw me. That is one little pet peeve of mine with the chemo... the havoc it's played on my memory, then add to that just the general middle aging process.

Anywho... when I got there, my tech told me that she was going to give me an hour's infusion of magnesium since my blood tests showed my magnesium was a little on the low side. Oh, that's another thing... I had an appt. to get my blood work done last Tues because I was seeing my oncologist on Thurs and it would be determined by the results of the blood work as to whether chemo was a go on the Friday or not. Well, lo and behold, even though I had it in my calendar, I totally forgot all about the blood work appt.... and didn't remember until the next day. So, I went on the Wed, but again... curses for not only forgetting but forgetting even though it was in my calendar!! But, they got enough of the results so that chemo could go ahead on the Friday as planned.

So the first hour was actually getting topped up with Magnesium. The second hour was the actual chemo. And then I was free to go. I found I was really, really tired... almost felt like chemo fatigue although that seemed way too soon to have hit.

Here's my friend, the IV... that is used both for a bag of Magnesium and a bag of chemo (Vectibix), but not at the same time.

And here I am, hooked up via my port, getting the chemo. Hahaha... notice the difference in picture quality? This one was taken with my iPhone, the IV pole and machine was taken with my real camera :)

So I figured, I should stop somewhere and get a bite to eat because it was really warm and chances are I wasn't going to be in the mood for making something when I got home. I went to one of my favourite breakfast restaurants... The Wooden Shoe... and had some breakfast:

Comfort food Plus!! Under the ham are two basted eggs, with hashbrowns, some hollandaise sauce, raison toast and a small dish of apple sauce. Oh, and a cold glass of orange juice. I couldn't eat all of it, but what I did was soooo comforting!!

Then, if I thought I was tired after the chemo, I really noticed I was tired after eating, so time to head home! No stopping to run errands or pick up anything... time to go straight home.

This is Cambie Street... I just need to go straight down this road towards the mountains, over the Cambie St. Bridge (which you can't see in the photo) and then to the left which takes me through Yaletown, along the water's edge until I get home. Probably a 10 minute drive from here to home, if I get all the lights right. Mind you, it was about this time when I took this picture, that the west coast of BC had the 6.4 earthquake. Go figure? I didn't feel a thing and when I got home, no one mentioned a word because they hadn't felt anything. This is a good thing!! Very little, if any, damage done in Vancouver. And that's the way I like my earthquakes :)

So, I got home, and lucky for me one of my neighbours was coming in at the exact same time, so he opened the carport gate for me and I just had to drive in, lock the car and then walked in with him. He went up to his apartment, after asking if I wanted him to go pick up anything from the store, which I reassured him I had done all of that before that day... and I went on to my apartment and crawled into bed with my Bridget :) She is the PERFECT dog when you don't have any more energy other than to just nap... her favourite thing :) :)

We are now on Day 5. As the home care nurse said, the first week can just be blah... and the second week should be better. Well, I'm still in the first week and although I have to admit, the side affects have been MUCH more mild than the last chemo... still, there are a few that I can't deny. The "tireds". I can't really say it's chemo fatigue because when that hits, you literally have a hard time putting one foot in front of the other, and going out is not an option. No, this is just having the over all feeling of being really tired and although I feel pretty darn ok at home (after all, it's not that far and I can have a nap if need be), I have not had the energy to actually go out and do things. I start off in the morning thinking I can, but by the time afternoon rolls around I'm feeling a bit drained... and then I get really impatient with myself. Yesterday and this morning I really started having the queazy nauseaus feeling. This morning I took a "dex", which is a steroid that was prescribed for past chemos, but not for this one because one really shouldn't get nausea with this one... so I took one and the nausea went away. But, I forgot, although the "dex" works great for the nausea, you can (and I do) get a nasty headache as it's wearing off.

Soooo, hopefully tomorrow I won't need anything for nausea or anything else. And hopefully it's not going to be a full week of being under the weather, even if it's a mild under the weather.

Ok, next entry will be a 'social' entry! Life is not always all about health issues and what one has to go through! Hahaha... I'm even starting to bore me, so yikes, I can only imagine what it's doing to you bloggy readers :) :)

Hugggggggs,

Cheryl

Monday, August 1, 2011

Monday, August 1, 2011 - Chit Chat and more Chit Chat

Happy BC Day for those living in BC and Happy Aug 1st for those living elsewhere :)

I've been busted!! :D I was reminded in person by a friend this weekend that twice now I have promised to follow the Health Update blogs with the fun, chit chat and pictures blog. And I have failed on those promises TWICE now!! OMG! Caught red-handed!! What is really funny is the health updates are the harder ones to write, both from an informative perspective and from a "how the heck do I make this interesting to read? I mean, who really wants to hear about someone else's health problems??" Soooo, I figure writing the Chit Chatty blog entries will be the most fun because they don't have to have boring health bits... and I can put lots of pictures (assuming I've taken pictures) and basically just add free-form writing and call it a blog entry . But just when do I think I'm going to get started?? Hahahaha... my excuse to myself has been... oh oh, now I've done it! I've got all these pictures to share, so I have to organize some way of writing in order so the pictures make sense. Well, the longer I put it off, the more pictures I get and the bigger, more daunting the task becomes!

Off I go to the kitchen to get a nice cold glass of orange juice and I shall begin this daunting task of doing the first chit-chatty blog entry. I have tossed out the idea of writing in any sort of date order, or order the pictures were taken... I will just insert pictures when I feel like it, discuss them (or not) and move on to the next topic... whether it makes sense or not! Those of you who know me in person know that I'm a chatterbox but actually having rhyme or reason to my chatter is not necessarily relevant .

In no particular order... I love doing "day trips" around the city and plan on doing a lot more. Sort of like being a tourist in your own city. Going to places you've always taken for granted, only to find out how truly wonderful they are. In particular, I love going to places that off photo opportunities. I have been wanting to get more into my photography. For the most part, I tend to be a "People" photographer... hence why you always see me at rehearsals or opening nights, or events where I can take pictures of my friends. But more and more, I've been enjoying taking pictures just for the sake of taking pictures. I try to take it with a slightly artistic viewpoint... it may be because a bunch of colours have attracted me such as, look at all the colour in this photo:

Colours of the rainbow is an understatement!! All this colour is ALMOST overwhelming, except it's not because it's all so pretty! And soooo striking!! This was a table set up on the sidewalk where you could (and I did) buy one of these tubes for $20. In it was a pink "Gay for a Day" t-shirt, with the definition of the word "gay" on the back, a pair of colourful sunglasses (yes, I got pink!) where the frames would light up, a whistle on a wrist band and I think there's a rainbow flag as well. The $20 went to a charity... a different one every day. The day I bought mine, the charity was for MS, the next day it was going to be Covenant House. Hahaha... I wanted to support both!! And you can find in all the crowd pictures during Pride weekend and the Pride Parade... a lot of people were wearing "Gay for a Day" pink t-shirts :) :)

Oh, but I do want to go back some... I believe this was in early June when my friends, Mark and David, and I went out for dinner and then to a play. Here's a picture of Mark and David at the restaurant...that was when we went to Society, right you two??

Hahahaha... ok, Mark has his eyes closed and it looks like he's praying! Chances are, he's praying that David and I don't make a scene and get us in trouble ... then again, he could be praying to find the extra room for all of us to finish the dessert that we got. It's a "sampler" for two... and yet, there was way too much for the three of us!!

I dare anyone to go with a friend, have dinner, and then order the sampler dessert and see if you can get through it. I don't know if we stopped laughing about this even when we got to the theatre!! LOL!! But yes, a restaurant that actually makes cotton candy on the premises!! :D

Ok... back to the "day trips". One of the day trips I did on my own was back on the July 1st long weekend. I was feeling pretty darn good and rather spunky, even though back then I was having a problem with my breathing. It was a gorgeous weekend and I figured maybe an afternoon out in the sun and fresh air, down by the river, would do my lungs good. So off I went to Steveston, BC. For those of you not familiar with Vancouver and the Lower Mainland (the municipalities surrounding Vancouver), Steveston is actually connected to Richmond, a municipality where the Vancouver International Airport sits. Anyone flying to Vancouver actually flies to Richmond and then you drive over the river into Vancouver. Steveston is on the south side of Richmond and has always been it's own little village. Lots of history there... Steveston has history steeped as being a Japanese fishing village. It is right on the river and also has the Cannery there so the fish was brought in right from the boats to the Cannery. Here are some of my photos I took while down in Steveston:







As you can see, the tide was very low on this day, so I didn't even attempt to go down the ramp. Hahahaha... going down wouldn't have been a problem, what with having my cane and holding on to the handrail... but one would have to come back up and that looks like climbing a mountain :D

So those were some pictures from down on the river in Steveston. Another day, I went to one of my favourite haunting grounds, Granville Island. My only complaint about Granville Island is the one everyone has... parking!! :D Yes, there is parking, but finding it can be a bit of a challenge, especially in the summer when every day is tourist season, rain or shine! I have to admit, having the disabled parking permit does help big time... but even those spots can go very quickly. But once you find parking (or if you come via transit, water taxi, aqua-bus, etc.), then it's all worthwhile! Especially on a sunny day! Here are some pictures taken while down at Granville Island:









Hehehe... this is a fantasy picture! Can you imagine owning a boat like this white one? And you can just come and go as you please, or sail off to other cities and their harbours? I wonder what that would be like?

Ok... let's move on.... after all this time in the sun, whether in Steveston where it was sunny that weekend, or Granville Island, where it was sunny the day I went there... time to pick up a snack :D So these next pictures are going to be all of food... I know, I know... cruel of me! I hope you've had something to eat prior to reading this blog entry :D

Siegel's bagels!! Many, many varieties and the ones that aren't shown are the cream cheese filled bagels that are soft and sweet! They also have meat filled bagels but I haven't tried those ones.

For anyone who has a sweet tooth, this bakery will drive you crazy!! They have all sorts of treats. I find that these fancy treats never seem to taste as good as they look, but then, anything with chocolate can't go wrong :)

Cherries, cherries, cherries!! You know it's summer when the Okanagan cherries are ripe for the pickin' ... and eating!! :)

Peel me a grape!!! :D Oh yum... nothing better than big, fat, juicy grapes, kept in the fridge so they are ice cold!! :D Yum!!

This lady makes her own homemade jams and jellies. Now, there's nothing too exciting about that... I mean, so many people make their own and have their own recipes. But what she made that was to die for is a homemade ginger jelly, made from young, organic ginger. That is the key... finding the young ginger, because what a difference it makes in taste!! She also makes her own "candied ginger" from the same young organic ginger and for someone who has never liked the taste of candied ginger, what an eye opener to try this. It was lovely!

Unfortunately, strawberry season is over now. Oh sure, we can get the imports, but the local strawberry season is over. It either went very quickly or it was during the time I was having all the breathing problems... needless to say, I didn't buy lots of berries to make jam with! So no homemade strawberry jam for me this winter!

Hehehe... ok, this picture was not taken while down on Granville Island... this was actually taken right downtown. Yes, there are lots of restaurants downtown, but there are also LOTS of people, especially at lunch hour. You've got all the workers in the kajillion downtown buildings, as well as the tourists and just people downtown for the heck of it. So there has been this huge competition of sorts of "food vendors" with their "carts" on the streets/sidewalks. Amazing food from all countries and cultures can be found on the streets of Vancouver. This is just an example of one of those carts... Dim Sum to go! :D

You know, I'm getting hungry just putting up these pictures!! LOL!! Nothing I'd like more right now than some Dim Sum or Shrimp Spring Rolls :D And no, I'm not about to get dressed at 11pm at night to go on a search for a place that is open this late that serves either :D

Hehehe... but now that I think about it, even a lot of my posts on Facebook all centre around "food" :D Whether it's me baking, creating new recipes, making single dinners or whether I'm getting together with friends and we go out for lunch/dinner... isn't it amazing how food always seems to sneak in there? Ok, so we all need food to survive... that's a given. And some have much heartier appetites than others, so that dictates what kind of food. I have found with all the various meds I am on at any given time, sometimes I have a ravenous appetite and other times I have no appetite. Rarely do I find myself somewhere in between. So when I DO have an appetite and I feel like chowing down on something hearty, this is what you quite often may find me making at home:

Ahhhhh! The good old toasted Beef Dip sandwich au jus. Very easy to make and very filling because of the meat.

Another favourite of mine is breakfast... and if I'm not making it at home, then one of my favourite morning restaurants in my neighbourhood is De Dutch Pannekoek House... yep, you guessed it, a Dutch Pancake House. They have the most incredible thin, thin pancakes. Everything from savory to sweet. But when I go there, I rarely get one of their pannekoek (pancakes), mainly because, by the time I get through one, I am uncomfortably full for the rest of the day ;) I usually go for the Ham Hash 'n eggs, where the eggs are basted:



Mind you... when I go through the phase where I have no appetite, I could very easily go all day without eating and I wouldn't notice... as long as I'm getting plenty of liquids. I make a point of having two or three kinds of juice in the fridge, milk, and usually a diet soft drink. When I'm on a no appetite phase, I have to remind myself to eat a little something even if I'm not hungry. Those days I find hard to go out with friends to restaurants... it's not that I'm sick, I'm not, but if you have no appetite, it sort of is a waste of money to be ordering anything off a menu when you know you are only going to pick at it. Hahaha... especially if you are given a menu such as this:

Hahaha... not sure if the picture is too small on this blog page, if you can read it or not... but that is no accident of missing decimals . It's true, that one type of abalone would cost $398!! The cheapest abalone is the Australian abalone at $88. Sheesh... I wonder how often any of these dishes get ordered? Like yes, I know, I'm making fun of the dishes and the prices, but would they actually be in the menu if they weren't ever going to be ordered?? So someone must be ordering them... and that just blows me away that anyone (I don't care how much money you have) would order one dish of food for basically $400!! And for dishes of those prices, do you not think it ironic (or is this just my warped sense of humour) that when they took the picture for the menu, they took it and there is a fly on the plate!! How the heck could the photographer have missed that???

So let's leave food behind for the time being. I think I've mentioned it in previous blog entries and of course on Facebook that this summer Metro Theatre offered a 6-day Intensive Musical Theatre course. There were two levels... Level I for those just beginning or who was interested in what all was involved in performing in a musical and then Level II for those who have had some experience, both in training and in performing and they would get more intensive training. The students would be so lucky because this 6 day intensive workshop was being led by Jeff Hyslop. For those of you involved in musical theatre for some time will already know who Jeff is. For those of you who are not involved, Jeff is one of Canada's treasures. He WAS the Canadian "Phantom" in Phantom of the Opera... which he did for 900 performances. He also was the one who originated the role of "Mike" in Broadway's original Chorus Line. He went on to perform that same role in London's West End's original production of Chorus Line.

So for anyone to have the opportunity to get training from this wonderful man, it is a real privilege... and for our very first workshop at Metro with Jeff (and two other fabulous instructors, Mark Carter and Caitlin Hayes), we had the very best group of young people. They were incredible!!

Clockwise from left to right Jesse, Allie, Mark, Caitlin, Jeff, Julia, Tyler, April, Kayla, Vanessa, and Destiny.

Now, I really think I should close this entry. It's been a wonderful long weekend (BC Day) and for once the weather has finally decided to show us some summer! Still cool for this time of the year (although, if truth be known, I quite enjoy this cooler weather rather than the hot, humid stuff). This long weekend has been particularly busy, what with the international fireworks (Celebration of Light) with China starting the competition with a magnificent display Saturday night. It really was incredible, and incredibly loud!! Wow... I mean all the countries every year, their displays are loud and living here in the West End, across the street from the barges, it sounds like we are in the middle of a huge war zone. But last night was even louder than normal... so loud, you could feel the building shaking. Now, I know Bridget is hard of hearing so figured she'd only get a muted version ... but I really was surprised when she didn't even flinch! She had no idea they were going on around her. I'm sure she must have felt the building shake but she was on the bed eating her cauliflower and quite content to just munch away. If she did feel any movement, she probably just put that down to like when the bed is on "massage" mode, which she has finally gotten used to and doesn't mind at all. So, I guess we have to accept, the little darling is deaf... not that you would ever know it. Other than you would think she is being a princess and ignoring you, if she is looking at you, you'd almost think she was reading lips . She certainly knows how to communicate to Toby and myself when she wants something... and likewise, she knows what we expect of her. Of course, she was "hand signal" trained, as well as command trained so she can still read hand signals ;)

But, I really don't think the little princess is too hard done by, even if she has gone deaf in her old age (she will be 14 in November). Obviously the noise from the Fireworks didn't bother her, and on Sunday, with thousands lining the street of the Pride Parade route, she didn't hear the cheers, whistles and hollering. I couldn't ignore them and once the parade started and made it down to our end of the route, the cheers of the crowd got much louder... so as much as I had NOT planned on going to watch the parade this year, of course I ended up going. Nowadays, I'm a little (ok a lot) leary of crowds. I don't have the balance I once did and I do have this fear of being swept along with a crowd, when I really can't walk that far. So I went across the street to the building there and up on one of their levels (where I ran into my friend/neighbour, Doug). So the two of us watched from a great vantage point, ABOVE the crowds.

Here you see some of the crowds lining the parade route. Where I am taking the picture, I'm on the second level. You see the first level right below us, and then there's the street level below them.

Here are a few pictures from the parade...















Tradition... at the end of the parade, the crowd follows, starting at the beginning of the parade route, then they pick up more and more as they go along. By the time they get to where we are, you can see they've got quite the following.

People... for as far as the eye can see!! And they are all following the parade down to Sunset Beach (which is about 6 blocks from where we are)... and that's where the Pride Festival will continue for the rest of the day.

Ok, it's now the bewitching hour... the clock struck midnight 6 minutes ago!! Time for me to pack it in and head to bed. Of course, although I've shown a lot of pictures, I've missed so much. But, there will be new pictures and new adventures to report on in the upcoming days :D I hope everyone has a great short week... and rumour has it, the sun is going to be out for some time now!!! YAYAYAYAYA!!

Happy BC Day... and Post-Pride!!! :D

Cheryl

Friday, July 29, 2011

Friday, July 29th, 2011 - Part 1: Health Update

Hellllooooo Bloggies! It's me again!!

Yep, as usual, behind in what I wanted to do, but still plugging along :) You will notice that tonight's entry says Part 1: Health Update. That's because it's time for another health update even though I promised to do a separate entry last time about social, chit chatty type activities and what I have been up to. So not only did that one not get done, we are now on the second Health Update... so you can only imagine how long the social one is going to be. I have so many pictures and things for the next entry... oh dear, where am I going to find the time but even more important, how long can that entry be??? LOL!!

Ok... not to mix up the two... this one is the Health Update, so away we go :)

First, I better clear up a little misunderstanding from the last blog post. I think I may have led everyone to believe that Baby Blood Clot has been the cause of my difficulty with breathing and also causing all the wheezing, coughing, etc. Also, I seemed to think that when I started the blood thinner (heparin) injections, the breathing seemed to get better. Wrong. The blood thinner had nothing to do with helping get rid of any of my problems. It's purpose is purely to prevent any new blood clots from forming, while we hope that Baby Blood Clot will eventually be absorbed and disappear.

So back to the problems with breathing, etc. Turns out that my poor system was/is fighting 4 problems at once. All of these conditions were separate (bronchitis, broncialspasms, asthma response to the chemo and the blood clot). So back to my GP I went because I just couldn't continue on forever having to live with this ongoing wheezing and laboured breathing. It was wearing me out... and that's without even doing anything! I was also exhausted and had no energy, which I did blame on the chemo and why I needed a break from it.

Well, my GP changed my meds around. He added a third puffer to the two I already had, put me on a week's supply of antibiotics and gave me a prescription cough medicine. Within days I could feel a total difference!! I could breathe again!! The wheezing is down to a minimum... only really affects me in the morning and sometimes in the evening before bed. The coughing is totally under control because of the prescription cough medicine. I'm sure the antibiotics have helped with the bronchitis because bronchitis is an inflammation/infection of the bronchial tubes... but I don't think it's cleared it up totally because I can still feel some rattling around of fluid/phlegm deep into the tubes. But compared to what it was like... it feels so much better!

Now, the blood clot treatment is to be taking blood thinners (Heparin, not the rat poison, Warfarin). Warfarin is the oral, pill form, whereas Heparin is the injections. Warfarin and chemo don't get along well... chemo tends not to work as well if there is warfarin in one's system. So anyone who might have to be on chemo, gets the injectable Heparin. I will be on it for about 6 months and then we will re-evaluate and determine if I should be on it or take a break. Sharlene is saying that she will probably insist on a break after 6 months unless there's reason to suspect we have to stay on it.

So now, that brings us up to today where I met with Sharlene to go over the results to the CAT scan I had done on Wednesday.

Yep, this is my good friend, Mr. CAT scanner. Every three months we get together to go over pictures, take new ones, etc. I have no idea how many pictures of me he's taken in the last 4 1/2 years, but I expect there will be many more to come. Now if only my veins would cooperate... when they see Mr. CAT Scanner, they run deep and hide! They don't want no steenin' IV set up in my arm so that the technicians can put contrast dye through them ;)

Anywho... today, I met with Sharlene to go over the results. Interestingly enough, the tumours in my lungs, compared to the CAT scan we did in May, have grown ever so slightly. BUT, they have grown and back then I was on that nasty chemo. Didn't stop that until June 21, so it's possible the chemo held them at bay and then they have started to grow since being off the chemo. Either way, the growth has been minimal and that's with me having had a 5 week break from the chemo.

Another interesting thing is my CEA readings. I gave up asking about them because they were starting to freak me out. Well, the reading for the week I had the emergency CAT scan (keeping in mind, I was also suffering big time from the bronchitis, the asthma response and the bronchialspasms), my CEA reading was the highest it has been since I was first diagnosed back in Dec 2006. It reached 68!!! When all is under control and the tumours are not being active, my average reading is 1.0 - 2.0. So this is pretty huge. BUT, having done nothing with the tumours since then (IE: am not on chemo, did not start up a new one, etc), I only have been to see my GP and he gave me the new meds mentioned above to try and aggressively kick these bronchial problems in the butt... and it seemed to work pretty good. So this week's CEA reading, only 2 weeks since the last one, had a major drop and is at 36. From 68 to 36 is a pretty significant drop and highly unlikely that cancer activity has changed that much in 2 weeks.

So, that has got me to thinking... CEA is also very sensitive to infection/inflammation. Well, for the past how many months have I been suffering from the bronchitis, bronchialspasms, asthmatic responses to the chemo, which in turn has irritated the bronchial system? And then my GP changes the meds which seem to be working? If the bronchial infection/inflammation has gone down, then it makes sense that the CEA has dropped... and dropped that quickly since the meds were only given the week before this latest CEA test.

Anywho... other than working on getting rid of the nasty bronchitis and making sure it doesn't come back... I have been off the chemo for the 5 planned weeks that we had set up for having a break. Our ongoing plan is to still start the Vectibix treatment, but Sharlene asked me how I was feeling. I told her that, since being able to breathe again, I feel much better... and since being off the chemo for this past 5 weeks, I've actually noticed my energy is starting to come back. She said the plan was that I would start the Vectibix on Tues and I asked her... if we must, then of course I will... but would I be putting myself in any kind of danger if we took a few more weeks off? Actually, if we took the rest of the summer (August) off and didn't start until Sept? She said that she felt I wasn't putting myself in any kind of danger. There are no "new" growths and the ones we know about, although they are showing they are growing, they are growing extremely slow and will not have made any progress over the next month or so. Meanwhile, it would work in my favour if I had that much more time to get over the bronchial stuff and another month to work on resting and bringing my energy level back up to par. Soooo, I'll be starting the Vectibix in Sept.

Oh, and just as a little explanation... Vectibix is NOT a chemo. Vectibix is an antibody that fights a particular protein in colon cancer tumours. That is why she had me tested (well, actually my primary tumour that was removed in Jan 2007) for the KRAS gene. If you have this gene, then your tumours have this protein so you would be eligible for trying this Vectibix treatment. The antibody will attack the protein in the tumour, which in turn will then starve the tumour...hence, hopefully, will shrink the tumour and life will be good :)

There are a few similar side affects with the vetibix to chemo, but not nearly as pronounced or severe. Other than the one that most people get and that is a rash... which can vary in strength from annoying to severe/painful. It will go away over time as your body adjusts to having the infused antibody every two weeks but it could be a very uncomfortable couple of months with this rash. We, of course, will be pro-active and start a round of antibiotics just before starting the treatment... which has been known to be helpful for some. Also, keeping the skin well moisturized so it doesn't dry and crack. But hey, if it works and we can shrink those tumours down to nothing, then a couple of months of discomfort, whining and bitching will be worth it :) But I won't think about that until closer to when I have to. For now, despite the weather Gods being cruel and not giving us much of a summer (on the other hand, thank goodness it is not unbearably hot... I can't handle the heat), I get to have the whole month of August to enjoy, rest and regain my energy so I can start the fight over again in September :) :)

Tally ho... pip pip and all that Jazz!!

Let's see if I actually get Part II: Trying to Have a Social LIfe and Breathe started tonight or if it will get started tomorrow. I have SOOOOO many pictures and things to put up!! :)

Blogger Cheryl, signing off :)

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Sunday, July 17th, 2011 -- Part I: Health Update

Hello Blogees and Blogettes!

So much has happened in the last 17 days, I truly get confused as to what people know and what people don't know. For those of you on Facebook, you may have been following the ongoing Health Journey... but a lot of you are not on Facebook, so you've only been getting the blog updates, which the last one was 17 days ago! Then there are the few emails, but those are mostly just family emails... and they are very disjointed because when I try to keep too many places up to date, I end up only confusing myself and everyone else because all three places have updates only as time permits. So I really and truly want to get back to one spot for Health updates and I'll be more conscientious of making sure the title of the blog entry specifies when it is a health update. That way, for those who are only interested in the medical stuff, they'll know which blog entry contains it... and those who also enjoy my babble/rants/chats, they can read both :D

Soooooo... this first Sunday entry is a health update! I have lots of pics and chit chat for the second one (Part II) but may not get that one done until tomorrow ... we shall see how the evening goes :)

Last you all heard from me was back on July 1st.... Canada Day! The Sunday before, I ended up at St. Paul's Emergency because of the difficulty breathing. They managed to get things back to some form of normal, so I left the hospital in way better shape than I had entered the hospital. I also had seen my oncologist the day before and our new plan was to take a break from the chemo. She wanted to hear from me in a week and hopefully the wheezing/whistling/breathing problems should all be cleared up now that I wasn't on chemo. This was because we now realized that the wheezing/asthma like symptoms were a sensitivity to one or both chemos (most likely the one that I started back in February since I had been complaining about bronchial symptoms, etc. since we started that chemo.

Ok, so now starts the continuing saga of the health update. A week after my appt. with Sharlene, the breathing/wheezing/asthma symptoms still hadn't gotten better. At least, if they were getting better, I couldn't say that I noticed a real difference. I still got tired easily, I still had problems with the breathing going up/down my 8 steps from the floor my apartment is on to the carport level, etc. So, Sharlene said she was going to see about arranging an emergency Chest CAT scan (different from the 3 month Abdominal/Chest CAT scan that we do to monitor how/if the chemo is working and that I have an appt. for on July 27th). Now, when she asked to have the July 27th one bumped up, it wasn't possible... so I'm not sure what magical words she used, or if she used her "pull" but she managed to get one right away for me. The reason she wanted me to have this now is, she wanted to rule out the possibility of Blood Clots

So, this past Wednesday I went in for a "spiral" Chest CAT scan and blood work. Well, lo and behold, they found a Baby Blood Clot. I say "Baby" because it is very small and there's only one. OMG! One small blood clot can cause this much difficulty with breathing??? For the life of me, unless others react differently to blood clots in the lungs, I can't see how anyone could possibly not report them until they are too big to deal with... I'm having a hard enough time just being able to breathe and get some air in my lungs! I can't imagine how much worse it can get!

Sharlene explained that we have caught this one in it's very small stage and the treatment is to go on Blood thinners. The idea is that the blood thinners will break up the clot and then the body will just absorb the pieces. She says this clot is so small, the body may just absorb it without it needing to be broken up. Meanwhile by being on the blood thinners, that will prevent anymore from developing (and prevent Baby Blood Clot from growing). Standard protocol will be to be on the Blood Thinners for 6 months... so yes, I had to go the next day to the Thrombosis Clinic at VGH (Vancouver General Hospital) to see a Hematologist and to have a nurse teach me how to give myself a shot since I'll have to do this twice/day.

Sharlene also explained that in a healthy, non-cancer patient, if they were to get blood clots in their lungs, it would be a big deal and they would need to go under rigorous testing to find out WHY they have blood clots. But for cancer patients who have been on various chemo treatments, it doesn't come as a surprise to find blood clots. That is quite a common reaction to everything the body/system is going through and going through it with a compromised immune system.

Sooooo, of course I had questions. I have been complaining since the beginning of Feb when we started the new (to me) chemo, Irinotecan. Even from the first treatment of it I was complaining of bronchitis symptoms that started almost right away and never really did go away. I was pretty sure it was bronchitis since I know the symptoms very well, but thought it was ironic that I haven't had bronchitis for some time but as soon as I started this chemo, I was hit with it immediately. But no, both Sharlene and my GP, Sean Fay, both assured me that chemo does not cause or trigger bronchitis. The fact I'm susceptible to it, chances are I was exposed to it and came down with it quickly because my immune system is compromised and not 100% in fighting order. Ok, that made sense. Well, as time went on, the bronchial symptoms seemed to take on the new symptoms of the "wheezing" when I would exhale. Now I had NEVER had that when I had bronchitis, but apparently this is not uncommon with those who suffer from chronic bronchitis. Ok, I can buy that, but I just know I have had chronic bronchitis for YEARS and I have never ever had the wheezing. In medical terms, the condition is called bronchialspasms and people with chronic bronchitis, asthma or COPD are susceptible to this condition. Ok... but it never did go away. If anything, it became worse and the wheezing started happening when I inhaled, not only exhaled. Well, apparently if you get the wheezing on the inhale, then you should seek medical attention immediately. I didn't know this but it was shortly after this happened that I ended up at St. Paul's Emergency because it was hard to inhale or exhale... and breathing normally just wasn't close to happening.

It was at this point that I think Sharlene had decided it was time for a break from the chemo and I had decided to tell her that I NEEDED a break from the chemo. Her reasons were probably different than mine... she realized that my immune system was not keeping up with the stuff I was being exposed to. I told her I needed a break because with this difficulty in breathing, I just didn't feel I had the strength to go through another chemo session. Of course, it was at this time that she said she wanted to hear from me within a week to see if the breathing had improved... if the breathing (aka asthmatic response to the chemo) was not having to deal with the chemo, then it should show a marked improvement. As I mentioned above, the breathing didn't improve in the one week so Sharlene wanted to rule out blood clots in the lungs. When I had the emergency Chest CAT scan this past Wed, Sharlene had 3 radiologists go over it to make sure absolutely nothing was missed.

The first question I asked was, "If blood clots are common with cancer patients, why wasn't that one of the first things that we checked for when I was complaining of bronchitis? then the bronchialspasms? then the asthma response?" Well, with each of the complaints, they all checked out as being what they were (Bronchitis, Bronchialspasms, Asthma Response to the build up of Chemo and then the breathing getting worse indicated possible blood clot(s). It is not unusual for a cancer patient to have multiple conditions showing up... but what is unusual was that I had all four at once. Considering I have a compromised immune system, my system was actually doing very well having to fight 4 conditions at the same time. I doubt anyone with a strong immune system would be able to do any better than I did... so that somewhat pleases me.

The plan now of course is to get rid of the small blood clot, hopefully it will just end up being absorbed and the blood thinners will prevent any other blood clots from forming anywhere in my body. At first, it almost seemed like the blood thinners were clearing up the breathing. I have to admit, it is a lot better in that I'm not going into that panicky feeling I was getting when I just couldn't get enough air in a breath. That is all gone and I can breathe quite normally now. The wheezing is still there but the annoyance now is the cough. It's like a bronchial cough once the tight chest has broken up. With bronchitis, that cough sounds horrible but is actually a good thing. I'm not sure what I'm dealing with now... before there was a dry cough where I wasn't coughing anything up, so I wasn't sure why I was coughing. Now it's a loose cough, so I have no idea if this means it's on the way out.. or ??

Tomorrow I have to go to the Blood Lab at St. Paul's. The Hematologist has ordered some blood tests, I think to determine if there's enough blood thinner in my system or if the dose has to be adjusted. NEXT week (July 27) I will be getting the regular CAT scan so we can determine what's happening with the tumours in the lungs. Did the 5 months of chemo actually stabilize them? Let's hope so because now that I'm on the blood thinner med, I can't be on chemo. Meanwhile, if the tumours start growing, then we have to weigh the risks vs the benefits... stick with the blood thinner so no new clots form and hopefully we get rid of this single clot and hope the tumours don't grow quickly... or, go on the new (to me) chemo (Vectibix) and stop the blood thinner, hoping that no blood clots form.

Oh well, we'll deal with each thing as it comes up... no point worrying about the "What ifs..." when we don't know what will happen next until it happens. As my GP has told me since we started this journey... one step at a time, one hurdle at a time. We aren't going to worry about all the possible hurdles that can come up, only the ones that do come up and with those, we'll fight them one at a time.

So there you have it!! It's now 11:15pm and I managed to get PART I: Health Update done. The chit chatty, fun entry, I'll see about getting it done tomorrow or Tues. Give folk time to read this one first before I do the 2nd one :D

Have a great week, everyone!!

Hugggggggssss,

Cheryl

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Friday, July 1st - HAPPY CANADA DAY and Update!

Happy Canada Day, my fellow Canadian Bloggettes! And an early Happy July 4th for my fellow American Bloggettes! Hmmm... and for my fellow Aussie Bloggettes... I guess it's just a Happy weekend, right?? No long weekend for those of you down under?? :)

Anywho... still 15 minutes to go before it's actually July 1st and Canada's birthday... but I figure by the time I have typed up this blog entry, it will be July 1st!! Sheesh!! JULY??? How the heck did that happen??? I'm thinking we are still facing April weather.... not exactly sure when we are going to get our real summer weather!!

Ok... let's start with the babble about the health update. As most of you know, I've been really struggling to be able to breathe. Last weekend (June 26) the problem came to a head! Starting the Fri night it became apparent that this struggling for breath was not getting better and if anything, it was getting much worse. By Sat, I was getting scared... how could something so common be so scary? There was no way I could go out anywhere because just walking around the apartment had me gasping for breath. Come Sunday, even my neighbour, Toby, said enough is enough... there's something wrong here. Not only was I wheezing and whistling and gasping for breath... I was very lightheaded... which made me think I'm not getting enough oxygen! Duh! ("Hey, but don't worry... there's no relation between the chemo and the fact I can't breathe! LOL!)

Soooo... off I went to St. Paul's Hospital's Emergency on the most gorgeous, sunny, summer Sunday. It was BEAUTIFUL out and I'm going to spend the day in Emergency! Oh joy! I figured, since the hospital is literally just up the street about 8 blocks, it would be best to take a cab. I wasn't about to call any friends, in my building or elsewhere, to have them drive me the 8 blocks to the hospital then feel obligated to stay with me (which we all know could be hours) and totally ruin their Sunday... and yes, I've heard from some of them about that, but really... I'll save my "favour cards" for another time :)

Yes, I ended up being at the hospital for about 3-4 hours. They took me in right away... something about not being able to breathe makes the Emergency staff a little nervous. They immediately put me on one of those Nebulizer breathing machines where you have the mask on and are breathing in oxygen and a medication that is similar to the Puffers. They then hooked me up to an IV and gave me the steroid Prednisone and a big old bag of Magnesium which was infused over a couple of hours. Within minutes of being on the Nebulizer machine, the panic left, I could actually breath air into my lungs and could talk again. Of course, the also took another xray and ran the gambit of blood tests. Heart and organs are all fine. Lungs are clear, no sign of inflammation or pneumonia. Everything is just tickety-boo except I couldn't breathe... how weird! The emergency doc explained it that, since I'm on chemo, my immune system has really taken a beating and of course it is compromised, meaning it can't fight off even the simplest of infections or problems. So the breathing problem appears to be more an asthmatic reaction that the bronchitis. Of course, I have NEVER had asthma in my life, so this was new to me. The difference between a bronchitis reaction and this asthmatic reaction... with bronchitis, it is inflammation or infection in the bronchial tubes, causing the congested cough and difficulty in breathing. But I didn't have the cough. With the asthmatic reaction, it's more like the bronchial tubes are spasming, hence the difficulty in breathing. Oh joy. When will this go away? Well, the bad news, it might not... as long as I'm on chemo, then my immune system may be compromised and I'll have this problem ongoing. This is NOT good news... because I could see many trips to the ER each time it flares up badly!

Ok... jump ahead to yesterday, Thursday. I had an appt. with my oncologist. This was not a regular pre-chemo appt, but an extra one for us to talk over "options". I don't like the "options" talk because that means the current option is not working and now we have to re-evaluate and see what's left for us (IE: we might be running out of options). Soooo we discussed this trip to ER and Sharlene (oncologist) is now agreeing with me that she thinks the asthmatic reaction is not just a normal, run of the mill condition that just happened, but is more likely a sensitivity to one or both of the chemos. Yes, the immune system is not able to help since it's compromised and that contributes to the problem but it could also be that at this time I've been on the chemo for 5 months and I may have developed a sensitivity to it. It could be if we had another combination of chemos with either one I was on, I would not react in the same way. Either way, I told her that I'm really not sure I could handle another chemo session with these two chemos because the breathing problem is not under control and I feel it's only going to get worse. I need a break to 1) clear up the breathing problem and 2) regain some strength and energy that I seem to have lost big time. Of course, there are a bunch of other side affects that I would just as soon have a break from as well

SOOOOO... after all of that... here's the NEW PLAN!! TA DA!!!

1) I am now officially on a 5-6 week break from chemo!! YAYAYAYA!! I'm so excited about that!! I now do not have to plan for these two week cycles where I'm apartment-bound for 6-8 days and then have about 6 decent days. I am going to be able to feel good for the next 5-6 weeks and regain my strength and energy!!! YIPPPPEE!

2) Sharlene is applying for/doing the paperwork for me to be put on a new (to me) drug called (ready for this?) "UGIAVPANI" aka Vectibix ;) From what I understand, Vectibix is not a chemo per se, although it is used as one. It is a "monoclonal antibody, a type of protein designed to target and interfere with the growth of cancer cells"

Intended Benefits:

- This therapy is being given to destroy and/or limit the growth of cancer cells in your body. This treatment may improve your current symptoms, and delay the onset of new symptoms.
- It may take several treatments before your doctor can judge whether or not this treatment is helping.

This treatment is NOT cheap! It costs approx $30,000 for 8 weeks of treatment. This is where we Canadians really must count our lucky stars and not take our medical for granted. Now, the cost of cancer treatments are not actually paid for by our Canadian healthcare, but through the provincial Cancer Agencies. So BC Cancer Agency actually pays for the chemo treatments/therapies of BC residents... and for anything they don't cover (IE: surgeries, procedures, prescriptions (non-chemo), etc., then BC Medical kicks in. The end result... other than paying my co-payment for regular prescriptions, I haven't had to pay a cent for these incredibly expensive treatments. And no , the Canadian taxpayer is not paying for them either... that's where all the fundraising for bot BC Cancer and Canadian Cancer agencies come into play. So when someone is doing a bike ride for Conquering Cancer, or any of the numerous cancer fundraisers... dig into your pockets and spare a couple of dollars. Everyone is affected by cancer, whether you have it yourself or know someone who has it ;)

Ok... so it looks like this darn blog entry is all about medical stuff! Go figure?? It's just that I'm sooooo excited that I get a break from feeling rotten and when I do start the new therapy, I may not have to feel as rotten as I have every second week for the past 5 month!! WOOT! WOOT!! Oh, then again, the one major side affect of this new therapy is an incredibly annoying/itchy/possibly painful rash on the face/neck. We are going to take preventative measures/prescription to hopefully keep it somewhat under control, but everyone is different as to the severity. SOOOO, if I do end up being one big old face rash, then I'll probably be in hiding and you all won't see me for about a month until it calms down . Of course, my two dates tonight, Mark and David, did suggest I could wear a burka for the whole time I have the rash... I'm beginning to think that might not be a bad idea :) :)

Hehehe... soooo, here I babbled on and on, and never did get to anything else!! I still wanted to talk about the Vancouver Stanley Cup riot... even though that is now old news! But alas, I'm going to have to put that off again... it's really going to be old news by the time I get to it! LOL! Maybe I'll just have to bring it up to remind everyone of it, in case anyone has forgotten or tried to put it out of sight, out of mind :)

Oh, and I'm still in the glow of having won the Jessie Award back on Monday, June 20, 2011! Not only was that night truly awesome, but it's amazing how I'm now running into people who were either there that night or have heard of the awards since... and so many people are so supportive. There are no words to describe it! Mind you, here are the words that were said when announcing that I had won the award:

Mary Phillips Award(presented by Sasa Brown):

On Behalf of David and Louise Philips, I have been asked to present this year’s very deserving winner of the Mary Phillips Prize. I should mention that the Mary Phillips Prize from this year on, will now be known as the Mary Phillips Award, and the winner will now receive a Jessie Statue. This has been a decision from the Phillips Family, in order to secure the longevity of this award and make sure that each year someone who is rarely recognized for their hard work behind the scenes, gets to finally take a bow.

This year’s recipient has been a dedicated and tireless volunteer in the Vancouver Theatre Scene for quite some time. She can often be seen volunteering in the box office for a wide variety of productions. She passionately champions the plight of small theatre companies by helping with publicity and personally getting the word out about shows. She is seen at every opening, often helping with raffles or baking for those involved in the show. If someone is in need of a pick me up, she is the first to step in and lend an ear, have a laugh or share some of her baked goods. Her generosity of spirit and enthusiasm for theatre has touched a wide spectrum of people in this community, and those who meet her, cannot help but be struck by her infectious spirit and her genuine care for everyone around her.

She is a staple at the TUTS box office every year with her little dog Bridget by her side.

This year’s recipient of the Mary Phillips Award for Behind the Scene Achievement is Cheryl Hutcherson.


Do I remember doing this? No! Do I have any idea what I said while I was up at the podium? No! :)

Meanwhile... there's Bridget who also got a mention... and what was she doing on this glorious night? Well, take a look :)

Yes... well, ok, so she wasn't really paying attention to what I was telling her :)

Ok.... I'm stopping here because now my brain has turned to mush!! Which is not unusual when I finally realize I should have gone to bed an hour or so ago . I don't know how many of you are Twitter fiends... I have basically become obsessed with Tweeting away, as well as Facebooking. Of course, it is a double whammy when I'm using my Twitter app and I can Tweet and post to FB at the same time... I feel like an obsessed thrower of stones :) :) Anywho... if any of you do have Twitter accounts... look me up and follow me @ hiyacher (or http://www.twitter.com/hiyacher)

Ta ta for now!!

Cheryl

PS: Sheryl with an "S"! I saw your comment on the last blog entry.... yayayaya.... but I don't think I have a recent email address for you!! Do send it to me (hiyacher at gmail dot com or shaw dot ca) :)