Thursday, June 23, 2011

Thursday, June 23, 2011 - The highs and lows of one week

Hello Bloggers and Blogettes :)

Well, what a week or two it has been... seriously!! I think you all have heard, heck has anyone NOT heard of the horrendous riot the was downtown Vancouver after the 7th Game of the Stanley Cup where the Vancouver Canucks lost to the Boston Bruins. Now I mention the game, but in reality, the game had nothing to do with the reason for the riot... that was just an excuse where, because of the street parties set up every night for fans to come down to celebrate...this gave the thugs and troublemaker a great way of blending in, wearing the Canuck Jerseys and t-shirts and just blend in with the crowds. The riot was going to happen no matter what the outcome of the game. Anywho... I have a whole lot to blog about the Riots, so I'm going to save that for a separate blog. Instead, I'm going to write about this week, which is why I call this blog the Highs and Lows.

May as well start with the lows... always best to get the bad stuff out of the way. It seems my life is on a roller coaster ride. It has been since I was first diagnosed in December 2006. I think everyone who either is fighting the cancer battle or is a caregiver for someone who is, definitely understands what I mean by the roller coaster ride. Just when you think you have a handle on what's going on, it changes. And that's the strangest part... it can take forever to change so you are waiting for the other shoe to drop, or it can change very quickly and the last thing you want to hear is, "Oh, well that sure took a change very quickly!" Or, the one that gets me very nervous is, "Well it appears the tumours are growing and this chemo you are on right now doesn't seem to be working, so how about if we make an appt. and you come in next week so we can talk over your options". Hearing those words makes me think more that there are fewer and fewer options so we should talk about them.

Anywho, I'm getting a little ahead of myself. This week is a chemo week. On Monday, June 21st which was a great day (more on that below), I went in for my pre-chemo blood lab, as well, for a chest xray. The pre-chemo blood work is a given... have to do that the day before or day of chemo every two weeks. They actually do a bunch of blood tests, checking my wbc (white blood count) and a part of that is checking something called "neurifils" which are the white blood cells that fight inflammation and infection. Both of these were totally in the normal range... which just goes to show when the chemo kills off the good cells and hopefully the bad cells, my system can regenerate the good ones very quickly. So these tests showed that there was no reason for delay in the chemo the next day. I was ready to go. The CEA test takes another day or so to get the results. This is the test that measures how much CEA is in my blood and that reading will determine if there is active cancer in the body. This test is only a diagnostic tool and unfortunately, it doesn't work accurately with everyone. So far, I have been one of the lucky ones and it has been extremely accurate for me. When the tumours were being lazy in my lungs and not growing, not doing much of anything, my reading would be in the 1.0 - 2.0 range. Last spring was when we noticed it starting to rise... enough that it indicated something was going on and a couple of the tumours in my lungs were starting to grow. So, I was put on a pill form of chemo and that worked really well for 3 months.. Shrunk those puppies by 30%.... but then the next 3 months to Dec 2010... the pill form seemed to just up and stop working. The worst side affect was it really did a number on the inside of my heals (as if I don't have a hard enough time walking!)

So, over Christmas we had a break from the chemo and starting in the New Year (Feb) we would start on a new chemo. Well, new to me, not an actual new chemo. This one was called Iriniotecan. Now to tell you the truth, I can't remember what the CEA reading was when I started it in Feb... I could look back in some of these Blog entries but no big deal. What happened with the Irinitocan was that I lost all my hair. That was to be expected but still it was really freaky when it actually happened. I was on the Iriniotecan for three months but then when we had the CAT scan, there was a sign of growth. Not a huge growth but the trend was they were growing, not shrinking. Now, I know at one point my CEA reading was quite high (25.0) but then when I started the Irinotecan it went down to 15.0 which is good in that it was showing a downward trend. But, alas that was short-lived... it started climbing again. So, we added a second chemo... 5FU and that comes in the 46 hour pump you have to be attached to. So, off to the chemo unit to get my 2 hours if IV Irinotecan and then get hooked up to the 46 hour pump which means I'm free to go home since it's portable and I can take it with me anywhere. The hope was that the 5FU chemo would give that extra boost, with the Irinotecan. Now, having the two of them, did give me more side affects... mostly the queasies and of course the fatigue. Then, usually by the weekend there is some intestinal cramping. By Monday I'm feeling back to my old self.

Well, today I got the results back from the CEA test that was drawn on Monday. To my great disappointment, the reading is back up at 25.0. Now granted, I've only had the two chemos for 2 sessions, but that is a month.... and if there was going to be some trending, we would have seen it by now. So, it looks like the cancer is on the growing spree again. How much/how fast, we won't know until the CAT scan at the end of July. So, my oncologist, Dr. Sharlene Gill, would like me to come in next week (my off week). Either Mon or Tue I'll be going in for a CEA blood test, then on Thurs I'll go in and see her so we can talk about our options.

So, there you have it... the roller coaster ride where I have no idea if we are going to find an "option" that does what we want it to do, which is shrink the tumours in the lungs and then, if real lucky, make them dormant and stable. Meanwhile, for the last umpteen months (since Feb?) I've also been battling this weird bronchial bug that seems to be making the rounds. It is very weird in that there's not a lot to cough up, but you get this incredible wheeze when breathing out... and almost any physical exertion gets you out of breath. I was concerned this all had to have something to do with the chemo and the bronchitis infiltrating the lungs, but apparently not. My lungs are clear and this crud is all in the bronchial area. But between the chemo and the ongoing fight with the bronchitis... you can imagine I'm not always the most happy of campers ;)

Ok, lets change it to some good news!! We all like good news!!! And for those of you who are on Facebook you KNOW what my fantastic news is!! On Monday this week (June 21), it was the Annual Jessie Richardson Awards. This is sort of the equivalent to Vancouver's Tony Awards celebrating the achievements of Vancouver's Professional Theatre Community. I'm lousy at guessing numbers but the Awards Ceremony was held at the Commodore Ballroom which holds a lot of people. I figured there were 500 - 700 people there but someone reporting on one of the television shows says there were close to 1000 people. Suffice it to say, there was a good turnout from the theatre community and those who support the theatre community.

WELL! You can imagine my total surprise when the Mary Phillips Award for Best Behind-The-Scenes Achievement was brought out. This was one of the special awards and as the presenter was giving the speech about the winner of this award, I was setting up the next "Tweet" to go out to both Twitter and Facebook... so only had half an ear to what was being said. I do remember thinking, "Ahhhh yes, there are quite a few of us who dabble in various fields in theatre from box office, to publicity, to photography, to supporting, to administration to... and the list goes on and on. I still hadn't put anything together because I know there are a lot of people who do this... but then she said that the winner had a little dog, named Bridget who would come to the office with her. Ok, now that SHOULD have been my clue, right? But inside, I guess I was in denial that I would be getting such an honour, I thought, "WOW, Who is this girl who had a dog by the same name as mine... why don't I know her?? That is just too weird that there are two of us, involved in theatre, each with a dog named Bridget!!" It wasn't until just after mentioning Bridget that she mentioned something about Metro or TUTS that it hit me... and that's when I knew, "OMG!! She's talking about ME!!" When she then said my name, the room broke out in applause and a standing ovation! Somehow I made it to the front of the stage where there were stairs that I had to go up (but they did have helpers, thank goodness!). Seriously, I don't remember climbing the stair but even worse, I don't know what I said in my acceptance speech!

Here are a couple of pics from Monday Night:

This is a glimpse of half the room at 5:30pm when the doors opened. I had gotten there early to save seats for my two friends, Mark and David and my self, only to find we were already reserved to sit at the media table. So I didn't really need to get there that early, but better early than late :)

I really like this picture!! From left to right, moi, actor Jay Brazeau and my friend David Hannigan! Mark was taking the picture. Now what was really interesting with this picture is, he took it with my camera and we didn't have the flash on but it looks like we are overexposed even though thre was no flash. Weird, huh?

Ok... here we go... this is me up on the stage at the podium giving an acceptance speech. But can someone please explain why my shoulders are up past my ears, giving me a triple chin and a wig that's seems like it's slightly askew? I was totally in shock and had no idea this was going to happen so I didn't have anything prepared. After the fact I had so much I could have said that would have been very appropriate to how surprised I was to get this award and yet, how much it meant to me to receive it. So, I'm thinking I'm going to have to write a proper acceptance speech and post it as a note on Facebook and here. There really are no words to describe the feeling of being so totally accepted by the theatre community... amongst all those people I look up to and in awe at their talent. To have them, in turn, see me as part of the community, it's amazing!

Ok, this is a much better picture, with the shoulders down somewhat and the wig looking like it's a bit more centered ;) I am NOT used to wearing wigs, unlike the gals who perform on stage and can be wearing up to three or four wigs in one performance! I don't know how they do it!! But in this pic, everything seems to be in place and here is the lovely Jessie Award for the Mary Phillips Best Behind-The-Scenes Achievement.

Isn't she a beauty? What makes her so special to me is that this started with one person submitting my name and reason(s) why I should be considered for this award and what make me an unsung hero... and then that goes through the Committee process. I don't know too much after that but at some point votes happen and someone comes out the winner This just blows me away to get acknowledged and recognized for something that is an absolute passion for me. Not only do I love the Arts (theatre in particular) but I've fallen in love with every single person that is involved in all the productions that are done in Vancouver. Fickle that I am, I can go from one production to another and am in love with everyone in that production too. It's not a bad life at all :D

Ok, one more picture... I really like this one. Julie MacIsaac, Samantha Currie and myself. Julie and Samantha do a lot of acting/directing with Carousel Theatre for Youth... and this is one of my favourite theatres that encourage youth from the very very young to teens working with Shakespeare :)

So, as you can see... it's been one of those weeks with the highest of highs.... and maybe not the lowest of lows (it could be lower), but kind of scary stuff with the thought that we are going to have to come up with a different plan for fighting the tumours in the lungs.

Ok.. so that's it for this blog entry. I do still want to write a blog entry about the riot from June 15th. I know people are calling them the Stanley Cup Riot which makes it sound like Vancouver Canucks fans just can't handle not winning when it comes so close to getting that Cup and keeping it on Canadian soil. Yes, it appears Hockey is Canada's #1 sport... who would have thunk it?? I have never paid much if any attention to the game. I would have said it was probably a tossup between Football and Hockey but I stand corrected... Hockey in Canada far outranks the other team sports. BUT, as much as I know next to nothing about the game, the one thing I do know and have observed through these semi-finals and final Playoff games, Hockey fans are not out to destroy their own city and throw temper tantrums because their team doesn't win. Yes, they will be severely and depressingly disappointed because we were so close to getting the Cup, but destroy our city??? Anywho... I will have more to write about that later. But for now, it's going on 11:30pm and since I did get the pump taken off this afternoon, any time now I should either get the "oh oh, insomnia! I'm going to be up all night!" or "do I have to walk all the way into the bedroom? I'm never going to make it!! zzzzzzzz!"

So, nighty night!!