Saturday, March 19, 2011

Saturday, March 19th, 2011 - The ongoing catch up :)

Helloooooo Bloggies!

Yep, it's me back in the blog. I have to confess, I did have to go back to the last entry to see what I wrote and where I left off :) Chemo Fog aka Chemo Brain (not to be confused with Blog Fog)... plays havoc with one's memory! So, it appears that the last entry went into quite some detail about the first round of this new chemo. Still makes me shudder and cringe when I think of the rough time I had with that! Suffice it to say, the second round, went much, MUCH better. Still, not a walk in the park and not something I would choose to do for the fun of it... but compared to Chemo #1, Chemo #2 was much more manageable. The side affects I did get were just not fun... but not deadly like the first round. That is because we are now on half-doses of the chemo and I go in every 2 weeks instead of every 3 weeks... so I end up getting the same amount but spread over more time. Phew! I had Chemo #3 this week, on Tuesday and Tues - Thurs was excellent! No side affects at all! But then the Chemo Fatigue hit on Fri and today (Saturday), which is to be expected. I'm hoping that the fatigue only stays around for 2-3 days maximum... because then that means starting Monday I can build up my energy again before we have to do this again on the following Monday.

But... there is good news that goes with all this chemo nonsense! Some of you know, or have heard me talking about the term CEA. This is just a blood test that they do and for some people, it is a very good tool to help with understanding what's going on. Unfortunately, it doesn't work with everyone, so it's not the be all and end all of tests. I've been very lucky so far in that it's been a very good indicator for me. When everything is stable and there's nothing going on with the cancer nodules in the lungs, my CEA reading hovers around 1.0 - 2.0. But when there's any activity, the CEA readings start to rise. Because it's always been a good indicator for me, when/if it starts to rise, even if it's only rising a small amount, that puts my oncologist on guard and we start doing other tests to see WHY it's starting to rise. The numbers aren't really important... what is important is if the trend is that it's just going up, up, up. Obviously, we want it to come down and stay down. Well, it was going up, so that is why starting chemo. After that horrible first round, which I thought for sure if it was making me that sick, it had to be killing off the cancer too... so you can imagine my disappointment when, the CEA results after the first round went up even higher... to 25.0!! YIKES! Tumours on the loose!?!?! Now we were going to go to half doses? Yes, I was more than a bit concerned, I have to admit.

Well, had to have the blood tests again before I went on Chemo #3. I have to have the blood tests done before EVERY chemo treatment because they need to know how my WBC (White Blood Cells) count is doing. Every time you get chemo, it kills off good cells as well as the bad cells... pretty much kills everything in it's path and since it's systemic, it goes through my whole system (blood, lymph, arteries, veins... everywhere) killing off whatever it can. That is why I have two weeks between treatments... so that the good cells that have been killed off can regenerate, and the bad (cancer) cells that are killed don't regenerate because dead cancer cells can't be brought back to life. So, before they hit me with another round of chemo, they have to check my good blood cells and make sure the counts are up high enough that I am ready to take on another round. When they do that blood work, they also take blood to do the CEA test. Sooooo.... drum roll please.... I had my CEA test done last Monday (before Tuesday's Chemo) and YAYAYAYAYA!! The reading was 15.0!!! In one treatment, it came down 10.0 whole points!!! Well, it may be a combination of the three treatments, but suffice it to say, between tests it came down 10 points which is excellent! What this means is, the chemo is working... obviously it is killing of cancer cells so that hopefully, it has stopped the nodules in my lungs from growing, and if we are really, really lucky, the nodules will now start shrinking. The goal here is... to obviously stop any growth, to stop any new growth, and to shrink any tumours that are already there. The first CT scan that I will be getting will be 3 months after starting this chemo... which will be sometime in mid-May. So I am really keeping my fingers crossed that all these chemo treatments that I will have been taking will show some real shrinkage and change come mid-May :)

Ok... so that's enough about the catch up on Cheryl's health journey! Let's see what else is in Cheryl's world? Oh, I forgot to include a picture in the last blog entry. This goes back to mid-Feb sometime, when 2 friends (Mark and David) and I went to a movie and then out for Chinese food afterwards. Always fun to have a movie/dinner night with friends, but what was different about this is... mid-February in Vancouver, cherry blossoms are thinking of popping out on the trees, daffodil shoots have come up from the ground, and yes the crocuses are up here and there.... AND... we get SNOW??? Hello??? It was snowing on us!!

Left to right: Mark, Cheryl and David in the snow :) I have no idea what was up with the hair... I left the apartment and I had bangs... where they are now is anyone's guess :)

Oh.... and have I mentioned how I love flowers? Be them plants outside in the garden, or indoor plants that blossom, or flowers sent just because someone is thinking of me... I am thrilled with them all! Well, my aunt Cathe sent me this gorgeous plant that is a tropical plant that thrives in Hawaii --

Hehe... ok, I did try to crop out the background since it's on my kitchen table that happened to have a lot of clutter around it the day I took this picture. But it is gorgeous and I just love it!

Ok... moving on... what have I been up to while being home an awful lot of the time. Well, it's kind of twofold in a way. Yes, I must admit that I tend to stick around home a lot more than I used to... back in the days when I was all over the place. Working out of the TUTS office, doing Publicity/website/eNewsletter for Metro, and taking in as many shows as possible because I just love what everyone is doing in theatre these days. Vancouver is so wealthy in creative talent... if ONLY we had a bit more support from both the public and the government. I don't mean just theatre (although that is one of the arts I hold near and dear to my heart) but everything from theatre, dance, music, art, web design, any kind of video/online design... because whether people think the electronic age is just a phase and this too shall pass... I'm afraid that's not the case. If anything, our world is going to go more and more digital, entertainment is going to go more and more digital... and combining the traditional arts with the new digital world is going to be huge and we have the talent here... underpaid and under appreciated, but they are here!

Ok... where the heck did that come from and why was I bringing it up??? Hmmm... there was a reason... but alas, it has slipped into the fog . Oh well, it was going to be a brilliant statement... hold that thought until I have another brilliant one :D

Moving on... film. Hmmm... I'm sure the above had something to do with this next topic, but I have no idea what the connection was going to be. Oh well. A couple of weeks ago, I was at the opening night of a brilliant little show called "The Story Of My Life", a 2-man show, that was done soooo well by two wonderful actors, Stephen Aberle and Jonathan Holmes. I love going to shows like this where I don't really know what I'm going to see, but am going because of friends that are involved and of course, I want to support all my friends. Well, this show was being held at the Revue Stage on Granville Island. When I got there, lucky me found a parking spot right beside the theatre (unheard of)... but when I got out of the car, it was basic chaos ;) There was movie equipment EVERYWHERE! Not just your regular run of the mill movie, which we are used to in Vancouver, since someone is filming somewhere at any given time... but this was obviously a major, major film company, because they had not only taken over the Granville Island Public Market (outside at the back), but the two bridges (Granville and Burrard) as well. Well, sure enough... the movie was Mission Impossible 4. Those aren't my kind of movies but even I know they spend a heck of alot of money on them and since they are on the 4th one, it has basically become a Tom Cruise franchaise!

The following are pictures I took before and after the show that I was there to see. Yes, Tom Cruise was there on set, but no, I didn't get any pics of him. As far as I was concerned, you'd never really see him because he was surrounded by so many people. What I found MORE interesting was... this was an outdoor shoot, at night... and how much lighting equipment they had to light up the area they were shooting in. I mean, the area they used was just a small area outside at the back of the market. BUT, across the water were the buildings and of course, the two bridges... so since these were obviously in the shots, they had them all brightly lit up!! Hahaha... imagine if this was your condo and you are now ready to go to bed... but your windows and condo is lit up with bright movie lights shining in!! So the following pics are the ones I took where I was fascinated that there was so much light for what is probably a couple of seconds of film...

You can see the dock at the market where the "set" is... with one of the huge lights on a crane, and Burrard St. Bridge in the background. I am standing just outside the Arts Club Backstage Lounge door.

Papparazzi... and people trying to catch a glimpse of Tom Cruise (and people just walking around Granville Island checking out what's going on).

See what I mean about equipment everywhere? To the right of the white screen is the front door to the Revue Stage, so to get to the show, you had to climb around equipment. I'm not sure what light this screen was being used to bounce because the action is around the corner of this building and all the way across the dock. YET... 4 of us were talking right at the spot after the show, in normal voices, and one of the PAs came over and asked if we could keep it down since we were being picked up on the mics. Mics?? Where? What mics?? They weren't filming here, but obviously had the whole area wired for sound.

Here's a good example of what I meant about the buildings being lit up at night. Notice the bridge on he right, which is also lit up (and you can see one of the big movie lights on top of the bridge). Now imagine living in one of these condos :) This picture was taken, probably around 11pm at night :)

So striking! I have to admit, it is a very pretty effect to see these buildings lit up like this at night. It's a lovely picture normally, but all lit up, it's quite magical.

Ok, I'm on my way home at this point. Must be getting close to midnight, so I'm now on the other side of the water. If you look across to the brown building (Arts Club), I was taking the above pictures pretty much from under the green sign on the side of the building. I am now over on the side where the lit condo buildings are. From this side, you can see the very brightly lit dock where the filming is taking place. Notice the rather largish boat on the right? This is part of the film... but whether they were using it in the shoot they were doing that night, I have no idea. I didn't stick around to watch, but it looked like it was going to be an all night shoot.

Ok... not sure you can see it, this picture might be too small. But on the wall, behind where the three tents are, there's a sign that says PIER 17. This is no Pier 17, this is the Public Market , but obviously, in the movie they are at Pier 17. So anyone who sees the movie... if you see Pier 17, this is where we are :)

Hehe... I had to take another picture of the lit up bridge. This is the Granville Street Bridge and I'm taking it from the side where all the lit condos are. This is a rather large bridge as far as lighting it and lighting all these condos... and you can see some of the lights that they are using. This is what fascinates me with these big productions... imagine being the lighting designer. It's one thing to say, the size of the stage/sets are XXX but to design lighting two bridges and a heap of condos and the water and the "Pier 17" set for a ... oh who knows, 1-2 minute scene?? I'm sure Tom Cruise will be running off the dock an hopping into a boat... and that will be the scene. I just find the whole technical set up to be the fascinating part of a movie :)

So, a little more recent... this past week has been an interesting and slightly worrisome week. Like I mentioned up above, it was the first week of Chemo #3, so I pretty much stay close to home on the Week 1's. Wouldn't you know it, Chemo on Tuesday and Bridget ends up with a Colitis flareup on Wednesday. Yes, even doggies can get colitis and it is not pretty. No one wants to see their pets suffer and colitis is every bit as painful for dogs/cats as it is for people. Mucho diarrhea that comes with cramping and intestinal spasms. But the worst part is when the output turns to blood. VERY VERY scary! And you know the poor little darling is suffering. Of course, just like people, the last thing you are thinking of or wanting is food or water... so now there's also the worry of dehydration. The smaller the animal the harder it is on their system and dehydration can set in so quickly. When I realized this was not just a little tummy upset, off we went to Dr. Joan's. Luckily, the clinic (which is just up the street from us) is open until 8pm on Wednesdays (at least the timing for this flareup was good). So, at the clinic, she got rehydrated and a shot to stop the nausea. We also got an oral syringe of medicine/paste that I would have to squirt into the back of her mouth morning and evening... and that would help with stopping the blood/diarrhea. Lucky for Bridget (and me), these meds worked pretty quickly. On Thursday, the diarrhea had stopped (there was nothing left in her!!) and by late Thurs afternoon, she was showing interest in drinking water on her own. She wasn't too interested in food, but later in the evening, if I had fed her the special fibre food Dr. Joan gave us to stimulate her appetite, she took it. But she was not interested in eating on her own... she wanted to be hand fed. ;) Yesterday she was eating more on her own, although I was keeping her meals very small. By last night she was letting me know she was much hungrier than what I was feeding her . So today, we are pretty much back to her normal amount of food... but I'm mixing half of her regular food with half of the special food and she gets three small meals/day rather than two larger ones. Needless to say, I'd say she's on the mend and doing fine!

Of course, she was pretty stinky after her ordeal... so today, Toby (friend who lives across the hall and takes her on all her walkies) gave her a bath. Yes, I know she is so long overdue for a grooming and that was on the agenda that I make her an appt. for this week... but then she got sick. Now, I don't want her to go to the groomers around other doglets until I know she is 100% better and won't have a relapse. So she got a bath at home... and the poor ragamuffin looks like an orphan now! She certainly doesn't look like a well-groomed schnauzer!! LOL!

Bath Time:

"I'm really, really not impressed, Mom! You know I don't do water! I don't do rain, I don't do swimming, and I don't do BATHS!!"

Seriously, have you ever seen anything more pathetic?? She looks like a drowned rat and you can tell by her body language that she is NOT a happy dog. Her little back is hunched over... you'd never know by looking at this picture that she has the perfect schnauzer straight back and holds her head up high, with ears sticking straight up. ;)

Ok... this is post-bath. After running around like a tornado, rubbing herself dry all over the apartment, hopping up and off the furniture and wanting to play "Chase me!"... she finally was dry and worn out. Here she is curled up like a cat on her pillow on the couch, as if nothing had happened :)

Hehehe... had to take this one. She is NOT going to pose for the camera no matter what I try to get her to do :) But I wanted a picture to show just how ungroomed she is... hair falling in her eyes, a beard with no shape... but is she ever soft and does she ever smell good!! :D

Ok... I think that's about it. This is not an entry... it's a saga!! But I figured it was time I added a few more pictures to go with the babble. So, until the next time... enjoy the pictures and for those of you who live close by... I THINK we may be seeing our Spring arrive soon! I need a couple of days where it's sunny so I can actually go out with camera in hand and get some proof that Spring is here :D

Ciao for now!



Anonymous said...

I'm so glad Bridget is on the mend. You too!! I'm so happy about the blood work! Keep that trend going.

Oh, The antherium your Aunt gave you we call the 'little boy plant'. I leave it to your imagination why.

Love to you and the fur baby,
Susan S. Issaquah

Anonymous said...

Yeahhhh, I'm so happy this round of chemo is much better than the last. Give Bridget a hug for me, poor baby. I'm so glad she is feeling much better.

Hugs, Maryann

Anonymous said...

Hi Cheryl
Glad to hear both you and Bridget are doing better. Chemo not fun.
WOW....your pictures reminded us what a spectacular city you live in!! Yes we will get off our little island and come and see you. Don't give up on us! Thinking of you lots!!
Hugs Doug & Marilyn

Truly Low Carb Karen said...

Oh, that's GREAT news about the CEA, absolutely made my day!!!
"Hi" to Bridget from Rogue (woof) too.