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

Ta ta for now!!


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) :)