Monday, June 29, 2015

"My" cat

Have I told you about my cat? She's not really mine, but she thinks she is. ... Sometimes.

Judy and I have been watching her for months, Rear Window style, because there's not much else to do when one of us is living through chemo and the other of us is taking care of the chemo patient, and we can't, for the life of us, figure out who her real people are. She's very friendly and goes in and out of several apartments in my little courtyard.

Every once in a while, she's on my doorstep when I come home or she follows me up the stairs and just waltzes in like she owns the place. (I love that about cats!)

Today, I came home from work and she was lying in front of my downstairs neighbor's door. As soon as she saw me, she came running, and then proceeded to follow me home.

I used to not think cats followed people, but this crazy girl has changed my mind.


After a grueling three hours at work this morning (I know that three hours shouldn't be grueling, but I'm more tired than I've been since that day that I woke up early to be at the airport and fly halfway across the country a couple weeks ago), it was a perfect day to have a furry little friend for a few hours.


There are few things in this world that make me happy in the same way that a purring kitty does.

I know that weird little cat isn't really mine, but this afternoon, she was. ... And then, at dinner time, I opened the door and she walked right out and I got to enjoy my fiberlicious spaghetti without an animal trying to get into my lap.

I have a cat, but I don't have to feed or clean up after a cat. It's the best of both worlds, for sure!

Life is just a bowl of cherries

I'm sitting in bed this morning, watching Covert Affairs (I'm in season five, so it's almost over) and eating a bowl full of of cherries, feeling a little upside down and inside out about this day, when I thought of this old Mary Engelbreit picture.



I'm going back to work this morning. It's very part time, and I'll be doing admin projects for the CFO rather than going back to my department and working with lending. I am incredibly grateful that the bank has been so supportive of me wanting to reinstitute some normalcy in my life, and I'm looking forward to figuring out if my brain still works. (Chemo brain is the bane of my existence. It's better than it was, but I still get surprised by my memory lapses and/or the inability to find the right word(s).)

I'm excited to go back to work. I'm also a little nervous about how my body will react to getting put back on a schedule. It's going to be so great to see my work friends again on a regular basis. That said, I'm a different version of me than I was just six months ago, and I can't help but wonder if/how things will/could be the same.

Like I said, I'm feeling a little upside down and inside out. Grateful, excited, invested, anxious, concerned, curious, committed. I am all of those things, and some more that I can't quite put a finger on. (Again, with the cursed inability to articulate.) But I am full of cherries and I am full of hope, and I've got to think that's a winning combination.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Project Chia Pet - Week 1

I've had a lot of comments on my hair growth in the last week, and today I had the thought... "What if I documented how fast it's growing by doing comparison shots every week?!"

And then I picked up my phone and took a selfie to do just that. Don't worry that I'm wearing my pink flowery robe and my glasses instead of actual clothes and my contacts here, so it's not an EXACT side-by-side.

But still... Would ya look at that?




It's darker.

And it's longer.

This time last week, I could barely grab onto the hair on the top of my head. Now, it's long enough that I can actually PULL it! ... It's very exciting. (Possibly also a little masochistic, because I yank on it about twenty times a day (uhhhh... because I can!), but mostly it's just exciting.)

My plan is to do a selfie side-by-side every Friday so all thirteen of you who read this ridiculous blog can have a visual of my new Chia hair as it comes back in. You're so welcome.

*Answers to questions I get asked all the time:

Yes, it's super soft.
I can't tell yet whether it's curly or straight.
It's very close to my original color, with maybe a little more gray mixed in.
No, I'm not shampooing it. (Some things never change, right?) But seriously, it doesn't need to be washed. It doesn't get greasy or dirty feeling. At all. If anything, my scalp is still so dry that I feel compelled to rub moisturizer into the top of my head twice a week. It's so weird.

Flora and fauna

I've been home for almost a week, and I'm finally posting some pics from Houston.

 I've been tired. Too tired to open my laptop. (But not too tired to marathon Covert Affairs on Amazon.)

Don't judge.

Anyhoo... we didn't get out much (I'm tired enough here, in my own home, living on my usual schedule... you don't even want to know how tired I was in Texas after traveling and not sleeping in my own bed for days on end), but last Friday... we DID get out. My mom's cousin, Jan, came and picked us up and took us to lunch and then drove us around town for a while so we could see some of Houston.

It. Was. Gorgeous.


For real. How amazing is this house?!


And the trees.

Oh, my. THE TREES. Leaves growing on the branches and trunks of trees.


These next two pics were taken in the courtyard of the restaurant where we had lunch with Jan.






Suffice it to say... the view from the MD hotel was substantially better.


And these were the trees in front of the MD Hotel.

They were super awesome. Very delicate flowers, both bright and soft pinks. 





The landscaping was incredible. Lush, almost tropical. Not what I was expecting to see in Texas. AT ALL.

And then Judy and I took some selfies in front of the pink trees, because as much as the trees were super pretty... we think we might be even prettier.


We crack ourselves up.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

I don't look like Voldemort anymore!

Behold:


The pic on the left was taken May 24th, the pic on the right was taken today.

My goodness, the difference a month can make (post-chemo, anyway) is astonishing!

Those are my real eyebrows and my real lashes. I'm not wearing a stitch of makeup in either shot. Which, as we all know, is not my usual MO when it comes to pics I post on the www (or even let people take in the first place), but I wanted a true side by side.

While I know my eyelashes will have a relatively short shelf life - they'll just fall out again the next time I restart chemo - I have a couple good months of mascara ahead of me!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Cancer's so freaking sexy

Some days (like when I have to get blood drawn, and the nurse has a guaranteed stick without having to try and hit a vein), I think my port's about the coolest thing ever.

And other days (like today, when I look down and happen to see the a vein literally popping right up and out of my chest), I think it's pretty vile that I have foreign matter imbedded in my chest, and a freaking tube stuffed inside one of my veins.


Don't worry about how my coping skills sometimes include taking a picture of the stuff that grosses me out...

But seriously, how nuts is that vein that pops up/out when I am in a reclining position?!

I'm grateful that it doesn't pop when I'm sitting/standing upright, and that it's only when I'm at an incline that I'm reminded that I'm sort of part robot now, but still... it's like my body couldn't get any weirder if it tried. 

Friday, June 19, 2015

Friday


So... there's good news, semi-good (which is actually sort of bad news, but I'm choosing to call it "semi-good") news and totally awesome news.

Good news: the tumor wrapping itself through and around my large and small intestines is roughly unchanged since my last scan in May (side by side above - left is my May CT, right is the CT portion of the PET/CT done yesterday)

Semi-good news: there's a spot in my back that lit up hot in the PET. That it's hot is a fairly good indicator that the spot in my back is de-differentiated. So, I have two different stages of cancer growing in this body right now. Awesome possum.

Totally awesome news: the hot spot was graded as 4.9, and they don't officially recognize de-differentiated liposarcoma and begin treatment until it's over a 5. Soooo... yesterday's scan just bought me another 2-3 months chemo-free. Wahoo!

Dr. Z will get me scheduled here in TX for a scan in two months. She wants to bump my every three month schedule up to two, so she can watch what's happening between rib #9 and #10 very closely. As soon as that little dude hits anything higher than a 5 on a radiologist's report, or breaches any major systems, or starts causing symptoms, we'll talk chemo. Until then, my hair and my lashes are greenlit to keep growing!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Thursday

It's been a crazy morning, buuuuuuut...


The PET is happening. Today. Woot!

I check in at 1:00. I'll be injected with radioactive matter around 1:30, and the scan itself will happen at 3:00. And since 3:00 is before 4:00, this should give Dr. Z enough lead time that she'll be able to prep my case to present it to the board for additional opinions tonight. 

Halle-freakin-lujah!

I don't have my follow up appointment with her scheduled as yet, but her scheduler has assured me that they'll figure out a way to squeeze me into her already full day tomorrow.

*Deep breaths.*

It's all coming together. Last night, even though I knew there was still time, I was in a little bit of a panic. (Don't believe me? Ask the friend and cousin I was texting, frantically.) But it's all falling into place, with basically perfect timing.

Once again, I have been shown that there is A Grand Design for my life. Especially when the things that matter the most to me are completely and totally out of my control, and they still fall miraculously into place, I am aware that I am loved and watched over. 

Today is going to be fine, and tomorrow I'll have some answers.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Wednesday

So... this is what I did most of today.


Yeah, that's my very fancy view of the parking lot through a rain streaked window.

It's been raining off and on all day. Judy and I had been mocking Hurricane Bill's "heavy rain and strong winds" (listen, we've lived in Taylor, where 50 mph winds aren't all that rare, and we've weathered many a crazy monsoon storm in the great state of Arizona), but then we went for a walk this afternoon and saw this.




So maybe there is something to these tropical storms after all. Or maybe we could insert an analogy here about how the Arizona trees don't fall in a mere 20 mph wind because their roots have had to grow deep all their lives. Either way, consider our mocking of this storm retracted, because it turns out 20 mph winds can cause all kinds of damage when the ground is soaked. Those upended trees are downright scary!

Meanwhile, back at the hotel... I'm still waiting for an insurance approval before MD can schedule my scan OR my followup appointment. Ugh.

I know it can take time for the insurance approval to come through. Please. It's wrecked my schedule more than once when I'm on my own home turf, so I'm not surprised that it's taken 48+ hours. But still, I am bugged. Oh, well.

There's still time for an approval and a scan tomorrow. The doctor will need to have the scan done by 4:00 for her to get the results in time to present my case at the board meeting tomorrow night, but I have hope that it'll all work out for a round table discussion Thursday night and a treatment plan to be presented on Friday. And if it doesn't... then I'll look into moving the return flight and extending my stay through the beginning of next week. That's not what I want to do, but it's in the realm of possibilities, and it's not really all that bad of a worst case scenario.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Tuesday

It's Tuesday, and Judy and I are holed up in the hotel, waiting for a call from MD that my insurance has approved the scan and I can come back. As I didnt get out of there until 4:00 yesterday, and it's noon-thirty as I type this... my money's on the scan happening tomorrow, not today.

Which is fine with me.

Because, A) We're watching Tropical Storm Bill happen outside our 3rd story window. Ten feet of rain's a lot of water, and while it hasn't all come down yet... the city's on flood warning and we'd rather not be out in that. Also, B) I've been up and about way too much over the past two days. It's been great to have a day to stay in bed and off my feet.

Also, this is the reason I'm here for six days. I know that nothing is fast or easy when it comes to getting answers. I have cable TV, a fridge full of snacks that I can eat without having to leave the room, and a Sonic that's directly across the street if I have a sudden need for a giant soda. Win/win/win.

Texas is gorgeous. The people have been awesome. Every person I interacted with in the first 24 hours here was perfectly lovely. I'm so glad that I'm here, that Houston was my #4. I don't know that they'll have a TON of options outside of what I was presented with in Arizona, and it will most likely be chemo again... but they have access to different drugs here that I might be a good candidate for.

A lot of people are asking how I'm feeling, so I'll adress that here. Right now, I feel fine. Pretty normal, actually. My body was completely wasted by the end of the day yesterday, but after a little Panda Express and 8 solid hours of sleep last night, I woke up feeling more like myself this morning. Still bone tired, but my legs aren't swollen and achey anymore, hallelujah!

Emotionally, I'm also fine. I'm sure that a lot of that is that I'm in an emotional holding cell until I can actually get more information. Four weeks ago, the 3-6 month timeline was incredibly hard to hear, much less believe. And it's not like my body actually feels any different than it did 4 weeks ago, but I've had time to sit with that information and accept this as my new reality. This doesn't mean that I'm giving up or giving in, but I am accepting that this tumor is a threat in a way that nothing else ever has been. It's wrapping itself around an organ that I can't live without, so surgery isn't an option. The doctor talked yesterday about a couple different chemos she thinks might do something. ... We'll see. She needs the scan before she can formulate a real opinion (and get a timeline for when we'd have to start), and then I'll have to make some hard decisions. But for now, I am feeling pretty good and am emotionally stable. I know it's just a lull in the storm, but since Judy's here with me and we're in a hotel, it's SORT OF like a vacation.

Of course, I'll continue to post updates as I learn anything new. Or maybe I'll just post pics of the flooded streets. Either way, check back tomorrow and there'll be something here.