Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Wednesday, March 2, 2011 - Catch up and update

Hello Blogmates!

Yes, it's me... and in case you are wondering why you haven't heard from me since Feb 12th, there's been a good many reasons! The same reasons I'm way behind in email too... although I have managed to post some Status Updates and links to various things on Facebook, so everyone on Facebook has known I'm alive .

But, the last entry I did here in my blog was Feb 12th... 6 days after my first "Iri" chemo infusion. At that time, I was saying how I had quite the reactions to the chemo and was not well for 6 days, but that I was starting to feel a little more human on Day 6. Well, I was wrong. The worst was still yet to hit me... little did I or my oncologist know. My system, I suppose, is very, very sensitive to this particular kind of chemo... and the schedule/dosage I was on played total havoc with me. The next 6-8 days were horrid! I have never ever been so sick in all my life, and I thought I had had a few adventures with various illnesses, which I'm sure we all have at some point or other. OMG... there are no words in the English language that can describe how horrid the side affects to some chemos can be. Heck, I think they all can produce them, but since everyone is unique and have their own immune system, we all react differently to the chemos and the various dosages/schedules we are given.

For this first one, I was on a 3-week schedule, meaning that I go into the Chemo Unit for 2 hours one day, and then have 3 weeks to let the chemo do it's thing. The idea is that if one does have some side-affects, there are medicines to treat the side affects and hopefully, you only will have mild symptoms and they will only last for 2-3 days where you are fine, you just feel a little off, or you find you are way more tired than usual and have to allow yourself time for naps. That was what I was expecting... WRONG!! I'm not going to go into detail of the symptoms/side affects, but suffice it to say, not only was I apartment-bound, I was pretty much bed-bound for almost 2 weeks. To the point, I knew that something had to change because there is no way I could do this for 8 rounds, meaning I would be deathly ill for 2 weeks out of 3 weeks for 6 months.

During the second week, there was a production of [title of show] that was opening at the Arts Club Revue Stage that my friends had formed a co-op company to put this show on. I soooo wanted to be there for opening night. I'm not sure if this was the wisest idea but mind over matter, I did go. After all, Grandville Island is only a hop, skip and jump away for me and it would do me good to get out of the apartment (this was during the cold snap we had for a couple of days). I drove myself there, but considering I hadn't eaten anything more than a mug of broth here and there for the past week, I was feeling pretty dizzy and lightheaded... and more than likely was somewhat dehydrated ;) But I LOVED the show and for 90 minutes, the magic of musical theatre which I love so much, totally erased any of the symptoms I was experiencing. It was wonderful to feel like a normal person again! After the performance, I could only stay long enough to say hi and get a hug from everyone (and take a couple of pics) but was feeling a little on the weak side, so it was time for me to head home. Here are a couple from that night and although I was a happy camper, you can see where I'm looking a little on the tired side:

This was actually just before the performance... me and my buddy, Jay Brazeau.

The cast of [title of show] a musical about two guys writing a musical about two guys writing a musical! Funny, funny show... very well done by everyone involved!

After two weeks of being horribly sick, not being able to eat and even having a hard time drinking anything, everything magically went away and I was back to my old self. It literally happened overnight!! So I had a full week of no symptoms, not even being tired! But still, no matter how great I was feeling that third week, I was terrified of having to go through another 2 weeks like this again. But my oncologist assured me, now that we know how I react to this chemo, we will change things up.

During this third week the expected happened (although I wasn't really expecting it to happen until the 3rd or 4th treatment). My hair started falling out. When I was on the other chemos, my hair would thin quite a bit, but since I had so much of it, most people didn't even notice. I did... but hey, it didn't come out in clumps... it thinned pretty evenly all over... so I didn't have to do anything other than get it trimmed. But I could tell during this third week that it was coming out a lot more than just "thinning". Luckily, I was prepared... I had an appointment a few weeks back with a wig consultant. I picked out two wigs that I really like the hairstyles and then left it with her and her wigmakers to customize two wigs to fit my head. Yes, these aren't cheap... but in the long run, I think it makes all the difference in the world to have a wig that actually fits and doesn't slide all over. I picked them up this third week since I was not able to leave the apartment... and it's a good thing I did!

Towards the end of the week, I could literally grab a chunk of hair and I wouldn't even have to tug on it... it would come out as a chunk of hair in my fingers. And for any of you who have cats or dogs who shed and it drives you crazy because there is pet hair all over the furniture and everywhere the pet goes? Well, that was what was happening with me only it was MY hair. The final straw came on the weekend when I was in the shower and decided to wash my hair. I knew to be gentle since it was coming out so easily... but I put a little shampoo in and then gently using my fingers, massaged the shampoo onto my hair... and both hands were covered, literally covered in hair. That's when I knew, I could not pretend it was just going to thin. I gently towel dried the hair, just to get the excess water out and my left side was now mostly bald.

On Monday, I had my appt. with the oncologist and to get my blood work done. I wore one of my wigs to the appts. and as soon as I was finished, I went to City Square Mall to the nearest hair salon, and had them shave the remaining hair off. I am now bald, folk... one of my worst nightmares come true. It's not as bad as I had imagined but I think that's because I did prepare ahead of time. I do have two wigs that I like and can feel comfortable going out in public. I also found some hats (caps really) that I have had over the years... and they actually look cute on my bald noggin :) So when it might get too warm for wigs (in the summer), I can wear one of my caps.

Here are some of my looks (warning... not for the squeamish . Imagine me having to warn you all not to get squeamish looking at me!! LOL!)

I really like this one... this is the picture I use as my Profile Picture on Facebook and when my hair does eventually grow back in, it would be wonderful if I could get my own hair cut in this style. But alas, my hair refuses to be tame, so it would be a lot of work of flat ironing it every day.

Me as a blonde! This one, I had a problem with when I wore it over my own hair... it kept slipping and felt uncomfortable. But now, with no hair underneath, it actually fits really well.

Yep... I now resemble an alien!! I don't think there's any way us females can get used to being bald, whether we had long hair, short hair, thick hair or thin hair. I really don't care what strangers think if they were to see me walking the streets bald... if they have a problem with it, it's their problem not mine. On the other hand, I'd just as soon strangers didn't stare at me, or go out of their way NOT to look at me because "she has cancer!!". So, chances are, unless I totally forget... you won't catch me out in public without a hat or one of my wigs :D

Here I am with one of my soft, ever so comfy hats... and I think it's not a bad look at all! :) I can live with it!

Ok... back to the report. So as I mentioned, I had an appt. with my oncologist, Dr. Sharlene Gill, who is the best oncologist in the world :) For those who haven't seen a picture of her... here's one from back when I first went on chemo 4 years ago...
Check out the frizzy mop of hair I had back then... oh the shame, the wild look! :D

Anywho... Sharlene is the head of my medical team and she coordinates everything to do with my treatments, care, etc. Since I had such a horrid time on this first Iri treatment, she says we are going to make a couple of changes. Instead of coming in once every three weeks, she is going to cut the dose in half and I will come in every two weeks instead of every three weeks. I'll end up getting the same amount of chemo but split up so that I don't get it all at once and it bombards my system. That should cut the side affects way back. I also have a different anti-nausea med, that so far has worked wonders. I had my 2nd chemo yesterday (Tues) and have been on the new to me, anti-nausea med (Emmend) and both today and yesterday I'm doing totally fine. So keep your fingers crossed that this is the answer! If I'm still doing fine tomorrow, then it's off to another opening tomorrow night... down at Granville Island. "The Story of My Life" at the Arts Club Revue Stage :)

And yet another reason why this blog update is so long in coming, besides all of the above... I had to get the Metro Theatre Community Theatre eNewsletter created, formatted and sent out. I had totally forgotten March was around the corner so hadn't started on it until last week. I was too sick the previous two weeks so I was busy, busy, busy working on it right up until I sent it out last night :) For anyone interested in seeing what this eNewsletter is all about, you can get it here -- Metro Theatre Community Theatre eNewsletter - March 2011

Hahahaha... lucky for all of you, Chemo Brain Fog has crept in and I'm sure there was going to be lots more that I was going to comment on... but I've totally forgotten what. Besides, I think this update is plenty long enough! I didn't mean for 3/4 of it to be all about the fallout from chemo... on the other hand, unfortunately this past 3 weeks have been hopefully the roughest and it will be clear sailing from here on in.

Ciao for now!

Cheryl

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hmmm, are you from France? I can't remember the name of the show but it was on Sat. Night Live I think too. Anyway, YOU LOOK BEAUTIFUL! Do you remember the Star Trek movie where the computer generated a bald woman? After the initial shock, one could concentrate on her actual beauty (in and out) not get side tracked with hair. I'm so proud of you that you shared this with us. I'm actually feeling privileged to know you. As you know, I've had the worst year of my life these past 8 months. Knowing you has helped me remember the good things and how important it is to keep on living. Thanks, Love!

Susan S. Issaquah

Kathie Hiatt said...

Cheryl, you are gorgeous - with or without hair! If you get bored with the bald, though, you might try some fancy-schmancy henna design. I know a woman who did the same thing, a few years ago when she was going through chemo. And I knew of another woman who went wild with the bindi jewels... Almost made me want to shave my head. Almost.

Truly Low Carb Karen said...

Oh, the wigs are both DIVINE! And they will keep on behaving, unlike my hair and your old hair.
When it comes back in, it may be different, I hear, so you'll have something to look forward to again with that. Maybe your next look will be a vibrant redhead.

Here's to the side effects getting lots more bearable. *clink*

Anonymous said...

Hi Cheryl, It's me Sheryl with an "S"...I was just checking in on you and I just wanted to say how adorable you look...with wig AND without! You have perfectly shaped head! Just like my friend Diane....you girls look great. Even though it's a tough time for you physically...have fun with those wigs...use them for fun. I actually went to the African American Beauty Shop and bought her a couple of "cool black girl wigs" and she loved those more than her expensive ones. They are only about $30 bucks and you can be straight black, black with a purple streak, curly blonde...all sorts of looks and it doesn't cost a lot. Please take good care of yourself and know that you are doing the right things so you can heal!! Kiss the Diva for me and know that you are in my thoughts and prayers!
Love, Sheryl Biermann

Anne said...

Hey Pod'm! Long time since we emailed let alone had dinner together! I am soooo impressed that you took the bald photo and put it on the blog, AND I agree with Susan, you look beautiful with no hair!! The wigs are good too though. Great to have options!! I hope you are feeling much better. Lynn is setting up a dinner for us. Good for her! See you soon!!
XX0 Anne