Monday, January 26, 2015

The Port

While I'm sure there will come a day that I'll be grateful that I have this hardware in my chest (and I'm pretty sure that day will be seven days from today, actually...), today is not that day.

Nor was yesterday.

Or the day before that.

Or the day before THAT.

(You get the picture.)

I"m so grateful for modern medicine. (Both the part of it that made it possible for me to have an outpatient procedure that will make my life easier when I do the chemo thing AND the drugs that are keeping me alive - albeit metaphorically - while my body heals from said procedure.) But still.

This port has been a misery.

I'm five days in and I can finally move my right arm without burning pain, but there is still an ache and a heaviness in my chest that wasn't there before I had a wire and tubes threaded through my veins and a little chunk o' metal sewn into my chest.

Did the nurses tell me that the pain would be manageable with Tylenol the next day? Yes. Yes, they did.

Did Dr. G write me a prescription for five solid days of narcotics that led me to believe the nurses may have been a little off in their calculation of my expected pain level? Yes. Yes, he did.

So, the nurses are liars. (The Pollyanna part of me wants to call them "optimistic", but the part of me that had a tooth pulled this afternoon wants to call every single person in the medical field way worse things, so I'm settling for "liars".)

It will get better. It HAS gotten better. ... But it has hurt like the devil, and it has been a misery, mostly because the heaviness in my chest feels very much like a panic attack. And while I know it isn't a panic attack, it still feels like one, so as soon as I start to come out of my narcotic-induced-haze and feel the weight of the hardware, my body associates the weight with anxiety, and before I know it, I'm in a full force panicky vacuum. Which, in turn, makes the pain worse.

It's been a real party, is what I'm saying.

But I am super glad that I was able to get it done before I started chemo. I can't even imagine how hard it would have been to have this pain, and deal with this new weight in my chest, while my body was also reeling from the side effects of chemo.

I don't know what I'd have done without the bed that allows me to sleep like I'm sitting in a recliner, and a bottle of vitamin P to keep the pain at bay.

Some other day - a day when I'm not sitting in front of my laptop with a wad of gauze stuffed up into my mouth where my tooth used to be - I'll write about this weekend with Julie. It was super fun to have a (erm... literal, actually) partner in crime  and a designated driver on hand for two and one half days

Until then, know that I am surviving.

I have a chunk of metal in my chest where there used to be nothing, and a gaping hole in my mouth where I used to have a tooth. It seems that I've traded one big, poky, hard piece of matter for another. The good news is that I really do prefer room temperature water over most any other drinks and I can open my mouth wide enough to shove both pain pills AND stool softeners in there. It could be worse, right? ... Oh, and I'm pretty sure the sun'll come out tomorrow. (Take that, Little Orphan Annie! ... I'll "out-positive" that spunky little kid - and her little dog, too - if it's the very last thing I do!)

Thursday, January 22, 2015

It takes a village

Do you see that?

There's a TV in my bedroom. AND IT WORKS!

It's been quite the journey, kids.

Quite. The. Journey.

I won't go into all the harrowing details (you'll just have to trust me when I say this has been an experience, full of all kinds of pitfalls and miraculously lucky breaks). At the end of the day (this very long and not-super-fun day, specifically), I'd just like to do a shout out to the village that brought Downton Abbey to my bedroom.


Jeff, the Dobson WalMart store manager
Jake, the Chaparell WalMart store manager
Jo (again)
Genevra Lynn
Jo (one last time, because she came with her husband)
Uncle Robert

You all are my favorites!

Thanks for making a reunion with Lady Mary (and her many beaus) possible.

I wouldn't have been able to watch TV from my hospital-bed-like-bed without you! (And, boy, am I glad that I can!)

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

When it rains, it pours

So, yesterday afternoon, MD Anderson called. Like... at 4:45. (Turns out, they'd been trying to reach me all day, but my phone was off because my aunt and uncle were here and I was hiding from reality.)

It seems that the only time Dr. G had to put my port in (prior to 2/2) was... uh... tomorrow.

That's right. TOMORROW.

Tomorrow, I'm porting up.

(Gag me with a spoon.)

For real, I am horrified at the thought of having a hole in my chest that goes right to my bloodstream. It is completely disgusting, and I start to cry and gag simultaneously every time I think about it. But that's alright. ... Because the alternative to a port is a picc line that would leave tubes sticking out of my veins. (If there's anything grosser than a port it's a picc line. ... And that's saying something!)

I kept it together through the entire call with Michelle (my favorite MD Anderson nurse), and then fell apart for about three minutes... then I gathered all my gumption back up, picked up a pen, and wrote "port - 2:00" on the calendar that's stuck to my pantry door.

Anyway... that was yesterday.

Then, today... I went to the dentist.

Remember how I really wanted to make sure there wasn't anything that needed to be dealt with before I started chemo?

Uh, yeah. Good thing I went to the dentists, kids!

I have a root canal that's gone wrong. As in, there's an abscess between #3 and #4 and my jawbone has been rotting away. (Gosh, I love it when the medical professionals in my life say things to me that make me want to throw up.)

Awesome possum.

So, next Monday, I'm having a tooth pulled. (Is it still a tooth when there was a root canal and it's mostly just a crown? I'm not sure...) That will give me seven days to get a head start on healing... before they start pouring poison into that hole in my chest that's gonna kill my immune system and wreck my ability to heal.

I also collected a handful of fun flyers when I was at the dentist about what to expect to happen to my mouth when I'm on chemo. (I'm soooo looking forward to that, btw.) I won't go into all the gory details (I'll just say that you can trust me when I say it is gory), but I will tell you that I made a stop at WalMart this afternoon to pick up two prescriptions (antibiotics to kill the abscess, pain meds for the same), some all natural mouthwash that's supposed to help my mouth stay hydrated when I'm doing the chemo... oh, and a baby toothbrush (literally, a BABY toothbrush... as in, it's recommended for babies 5-18 months) because, per the hygienist, I won't want to touch my gums with anything firmer than a sponge or a super soft baby toothbrush. For the next six months.

(I'd have bought a sponge toothbrush, too, but WalMart wasn't that fancy.)

As much as I so do not want to have a tooth pulled next week, I'm choosing to be grateful that I'm aware this is something that needed to be done before I started chemo. As much as I hate that the dang tooth extraction is going to limit my bacon and soda consumption next week, I'm really glad that it's something I can get done before I start treatments. Having that week to start the healing process will go a long way towards that hole in my mouth getting better before I start puking. (I figure that vomit cannot be good when you have an open wound in your mouth.)

I feel like my spirit and my body are at war. Again. ... Still. (Whatever.)

There are so many things that my mind wants to do in the next two weeks, but what I'm learning (again... still... whatever) is that my body has other plans. Bloody and disgusting ones, actually.

I was talking to Jo today (I had called to ask her if she can be my designated driver next week for the tooth extraction) and I told her, half jokingly, that I'm starting to wonder if my body isn't working overtime, trying to break my stubborn spirit. She laughed, then told me I needed to just give in already, so the cancer will go away. ... The thing is, I'm pretty sure it's my stubborn spirit that's kept me alive thus far.

And, once I pointed that out, she agreed that was probably true and we decided it was probably best that we not call a truce with my disturbed and broken, sick and twisted, prematurely old body.

So, it is war.

Tomorrow, I get a hole cut in my chest. ... It's completely vile and totally disgusting to me. (But, really, it'll be better than blowing veins with IV's when I'm in the hospital for my treatments. So, there is that.)

And next week, I'll have a tooth pulled. (I can only hope this will be less traumatic than when I lost my wisdom teeth and it took 6+ weeks for my jaw to heal, so I could open my mouth wide enough for a hamburger. I have big plans for eating in the next 14 days and can't bear the thought of being on a mashed-potatoes-and-gravy-and/or-soup meal plan for that entire last week leading up to chemo.)

Hooray for pain pills and an iron will, right?!

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Down the rabbit hole I go...

It's official, kids.

It seems that Tumor #9 (aka: JPII and/or The Possible Remnants of #6 and/or #7) has hit a growth spurt. What was 5.6 x 3.6 cm at the beginning of October is now 7 x 6.4 cm.

Which, really, all things considered, isn't all that big of a tumor for my body.

The problem with this pesky little dude isn't so much his size, as his location and his fairly rapid growth rate.

Dude is very close to my abdominal wall. (As in, I've been able to see/feel him for about three weeks now. I'd thought he was a new hernia, what with how much he pokes out when I'm standing, but the fact that I can also feel him when I'm lying down has had me a little concerned that he was a new tumor. ... Nope, not new. Just growing.) He's sitting on top of my small intestine, which means we run a risk of the tumor growing into my bowel and creating blockages if we leave him alone in there. (I know everyone loves it when I use the words "bowel" and  "blockage". This fun and special cancer of mine is the gift that keeps on giving when it comes to poop jokes. ... You're welcome.)

Anyway... this is not a tumor that we can continue to let grow.

So, we're gonna hit it - and the rest of my body - with some hardcore poison, in the hopes of shrinking - or at least stopping the growth of - this nasty little dude.

Chemo commences Monday, February 2nd.

The good doctor wanted to start my drip on Tuesday. As in, January 21st. That's right. In four days.

I ixnayed that plan. Fast. ... Mostly because I have a dentist appointment on Tuesday that I want to make dang good and sure I keep. (I have a friend who started chemo w/o having her teeth looked at first. Insert a sad tale of woe about a cavity that turned into an abscess because she lost her immune system and her mouth couldn't keep up with what was happening to the rest of her body. As for me and my house, we believe in learning from the experiences of others. No freaking way am I starting chemo w/o knowing that all is well with my upper right molar, thanks.)

Dr. H and I wheeled and dealed our way through the next two weeks to find a start date we could agree on (I need time to have any dental work done, obviously... oh, and I'm in a dead panic about having to deal with getting a port and passing an EKG and cleaning/organizing my pantry and getting the TV in my room online and finding a wig maker and deciding whether or not I want to cut my hair off before my first treatment, etc.) and ended up settling on Feb 2nd. (Which was, coincidentally, the very last date he was willing to extend my timeline to. Ha!)

As much as I loathe and despise the thought that it's really come to chemo (be looking forward to future posts that will detail some of the awesome side effects I have to look forward to), this is where I am.

Not one single cell in my body wants to do what I am about to do. ... But I'm alright with it. I need to know that I have done everything I can do, and this is the next thing on that list.

I am scared out of my ever-lovin' mind. ... But come 2/2/15, I am all in.

In the meanwhile, I'm so incredibly grateful that, not only did I get Christmas... but I was able to wrangle two additional weeks out of my cancer doctor before I have to hit the chemo wall.

Here's to fifteen more days of drinking all the soda and eating all the bacon that I can fit into my misshapen belly!

I'll be taking exactly no prisoners when it comes to the consumption of pork products in the next two weeks, is what I'm saying. (Viva la bacon-loving vida, peeps!) ... Let me know if anyone wants to get together for a BLT or a Cobb salad or some candied bacon. ... Or all of the above. ... I am most definitely in an "Eat, Drink and Be Merry" phase, and any and everyone I know is invited to play along.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

The 7 Day Countdown

I've been fielding texts this week from a few of you, asking the following questions... so I thought I'd do a shout out and answer them all, just in case anyone was wondering but didn't have my cell to contact me personally.

1. When do I start chemo?

Good question. ... I don't have an answer yet. I'll need to have my next scan first. Then, depending on what's going on in there, I'll either get a start date or another 6 week bye.

2. When IS my next scan, anyway?

Seven days. One week. Next Thursday. (Gulp.) And, as always, I'll get the results the following afternoon.

So, what I'm saying is... give me a week and I'll have a more definitive answer to the first question.

3. How am I feeling these days?

Listen, I'm not gonna lie to you.

I'm feeling... not awesome.

I mean, I've felt worse.

But I've also felt better.

I've had shooting pain off and on for a few weeks, but it got a little more insistent the week of Christmas. The 29th was the first day that I felt like there may be a shiv twisting its way through my left ovary. (The pain hit around 2:00 in the afternoon, and at 3:00, I had a coworker turn and look at me and say, "It must be bad... because I can SEE the pain in your eyes." ... Awesome.)

For those of you (I'm talking to you, Judy) who may not watch enough television to know what a shiv is, I've included the following:

Urban Dictionary: SHIV

Urban Dictionary
shiv is a weapon made out of an commonplace object often in prison, also perhaps the origin of which is as a acronym a Self Honed Implement of Violence (SHIV). 

(You know me. Always looking for a way to increase the vocab...)

Thankfully, the shiv effect hasn't been constant. (It's been more of a day-on-day-off thing.) But there's something going on in there. And it hurts like the devil.

Give me a week and I'll know if it's a displaced organ (anything is possible with this body!), a growing tumor (or two), new hernias (always a possibility), or something else altogether. 

Meanwhile, I'm drinking all the diet soda I can (listen... I already have the cancer, what's aspartame gonna do to me at this point?!) and enjoying the crap out of all the delicious food I can eat. 

I'm hanging in there. Getting as much done as I possibly can. (That's right. I've done four loads of laundry this week. Also, I vacuumed.)

Speaking of, here's a fun little true story from my real life: I had a friend come over tonight to help me deal with the TV situation in my bedroom. Before I'd even had time to process the thought, it came flying right out of my mouth, "Ya know how pregnant women start nesting before the baby comes? ... It seems that cancer patients are hardcore nesters when they know chemo's coming. I've got to get this place set up!" Bless his heart, because dude didn't miss a beat. Just nodded, and then stayed long enough to make sure everything was fully functional. (Which may or may not have included taking apart the remote and flipping the batteries so they were right-way-up. ... I'd put them in upside down. Because I am adorable like that and all kinds of challenged when it comes to electronic devices.)

My body is a little broken, but life is good. 

I am SO looking forward to my dinner plans tomorrow night with a friend from home and her husband who is also fighting the big C. Aaaaaaand my sweet friend Genevra Lynn is coming into town and will spend the weekend with me.

The pain isn't constant... and the source of it is still unknown. It'll either sort itself out (displaced organs usually do) or it'll need medical intervention (tumors and/or hernias... story of my life). We'll see. Time will tell.

And as soon as I have answers to any/all of the three questions above, I'll fill ya'll in. In the meanwhile, know that I love you about 10,247 times more than I love my guts. (Which is to say: a lot.) 

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Happy New Year!

Anyone who knows me even a little bit knows that I don't go in for New Year's Resolutions.

Never have. Never will.

But what do I go in for? ... LISTS.

Man alive, I do looooooooove a list. 

And this is a good one.

Even though I'd have to buy a new bathtub to make that bubble bath line come true (at this point in time, I doubt my bathtub could hold ME in all of my glory... let alone, me, several gallons of water, and a bunch of bubbles), I am all over making this list my mantra for 2015.

Starting, of course, with eating the damn chocolate cake. 

Happy New Year, ya'll! 

Much love!

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Two days after

I saw this on the FB this morning, and I thought... "I know it's not the day after Christmas anymore, but this is still true, so I'm putting it on ye olde blog."

Seriously, you guys... This has been, hands down, the best Christmas ever. (And when I say that, please know that I'm not talking about the presents I got. It's not like anyone's keeping track, but for the record: a book I didn't want, a movie I already owned (so I gave it right back to Judy), and a real awesome pirated version of Mr. Boogedy - that one is a real treasure, but only because I remember really loving it when I was in jr high.)

I know I've said this over and over again, but... I can't tell you how grateful I am for the time I have been given. I had been prepped by my doctors to expect chemo to start at the end of November/first of December. With a round every three weeks, I would have spent the last week in a hospital.

I had absolutely no reason to think I'd get Christmas. ... But I did. And I'm so grateful!

In the last week, I've:

Been so happy that I was literally bouncing. (If my body was still in a position to jump up and down, I would have. But, since I can't jump, I bounced on the balls of my feet. Seriously. I stood in my living room and I bounced, like Tigger. It was kind of ridiculous.) I cannot remember the last time I was that happy. What a gift!

Been so worn out by all the love and the hugging that I fell asleep, sitting up. Ha! Last Sunday, I went to church in the ward I grew up in, and saw dozens of people whom I love more than I can say. After church, there were people literally standing in a line, waiting to hug Judy and me. And then, I had people stopping me in the halls to talk for a good 30-45 minutes after sac mtg. I made an appearance at my parents' ward afterward, but was too tired to stay there for more than half an hour. As soon as I got home, I sat down with a book and promptly fell asleep. I remember that my last thought was, "I am beloved in 8th ward". (Ha!) Who knew that there could be such a thing as hug-induced overstimulation? (Figures that it would be me who felt like she was gonna die from being hugged too much. We all know that I am NOT a hugger, by nature.) But man alive, it was awesome to see all those people from my past. I love them!

Baked (and frosted) three batches of sugar cookies, for (and with) people I love.

Sung until I couldn't hit the high notes in Hark, the Herald! (And those "high notes" aren't even high!)

Been full of so much emotion that I can't help but cry. ... In a good way.

Walked at least a mile, on four separate occasions. (I know it's sort of lame to be so happy about taking four walks in a week, but listen... It's a big deal when I feel well enough to do that. And that I could walk for consecutive days - up and down hills, because I was in Taylor - is pretty huge right now.)

The last month, the last week (who's kidding who... this day of hanging out at home by myself, catching up on TV, thanks Amazon and Hulu!) has been a gift!

I'm so grateful. Probably more grateful than I've ever been.

I sort of hate what the cancer has done to my body, but man alive... do I love what it has done for my life.

My emotions run deeper, my attachments to the people in my life are tangible, love is a real force in my life.

I'm so grateful. For the people I love, and for the time that I get to spend with them. That my health is as good as it is right now. For more time, to clean my pantry. (Or, you know... watch the last three seasons of Gilmore Girls.)

Life is good, kids. Real, real, good.

I fully intend to have a merry rest of the year. (Heck, I'll probably even carry it to 2015!) I hope you do, too.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

Listen. Watch. Feel the true spirit of Christmas, which is love.

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

A Christmas Hallelujah

I've always loved Cohen's Hallelujah. It's one of the most beautiful, haunting, songs I've ever heard. (Do I have flashbacks to instrumental version that was cast over The West Wing season three finale every time I hear it? Yes, I absolutely do.)

I mean... I looooooooove Cohen's Hallelujah. I love the music, and I love the lyrics. He tells stories with a twist. The language is gorgeous, the music is mesmerizing, and I love it.

But this year, Cloverton did a cover with new lyrics specific - and obvious - to the birth and life of Christ. It is glorious, and a thing of beauty.

Facebook was flooded with videos/links to this song about a month ago. It took me too long to cave to the peer pressure and actually listen to the new version, but I finally did, and it has stayed with me ever since.

Today, because it is Christmas Eve, because I love ya, and because I love this version of the song more than just about anything I've ever heard in my live long life, I give you...

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Angels from the realms of glory...

My goodness, I don't know that I've ever heard such a gorgeous version of this song. Ever. In my whole, entire, life. (And, I'll have you know that I've been enjoying the heck out of different versions of Angels We Have Heard on High for decades. Like, four of them.)

I must tell you that it's important to watch this video, not just listen to the song. It's a beautiful collaboration, and you won't want to miss a second of the Christmas beauty.

The 2-3 minute mark (okay, I'll be specific, at exactly 2:23 minutes) is where the magic starts, and at the 3:00 minute mark, the choir of angels fills me with so much joy that I can't not get all teary.

Oh, man. This is awesome. I love it! ... And I hope you do, too.