Sunday, August 28, 2011

How Does Chemo Feel?

If you ever get the chance to take steroids just say no :).  They’re not all they’re cracked up to be – LOL.  I take 2 for the first 3 days after Chemo.  I am glad that today is my last day to take them for this 4th round of Chemo - yeah!  I have been feeling completely wired the past couple of days but at the same time very tired and not much of an appetite.  It’s a hard feeling to describe. 
I have stayed in for the most part since Thursday, but tried venturing out last night with a couple of friends to eat and go to a play.  It didn’t work out so well for me so I returned home before it was over :(.  I don’t dare drive right now and so friends and family have been kind enough to transport me.  I have hopes that tomorrow will bring a better state of overall well-being with it.  I never would have made it as a drug addict – not only because I hate needles but I also can’t stand the feeling of not being in control of my body.  This loopy-ness has got to go :).  
I did go out for a walk tonight and enjoyed chatting with neighbors, I also had fun with my nieces who came over and continued their fascination with my hairloss - LOL. 
I guess this isn’t the most uplifting update but I have been told that I need to share even the more challenging moments on my blog.  So there you go :).  Ok, but I can’t help but end on a positive note – a short paragraph from a talk by Paul V. Johnson + a repeat of a previous quote I have shared:   
“Recently a nine-year-old boy was diagnosed with a rare bone cancer. The doctor explained the diagnosis and the treatment, which included months of chemotherapy and major surgery. He said it would be a very difficult time for the boy and his family but then added, “People ask me, ‘Will I be the same after this is over?’ I tell them, ‘No, you won’t be the same. You will be so much stronger. You will be awesome!’” – Paul V. Johnson
CAN'T WAIT FOR THAT PART - just sayin'!
Elder Orson F. Whitney: “No pain that we suffer, no trial that we experience is wasted. … All that we suffer and all that we endure, especially when we endure it patiently, builds up our characters, purifies our hearts, expands our souls, and makes us more tender and charitable. … It is through sorrow and suffering, toil and tribulation, that we gain the education that we come here to acquire.”

Friday, August 26, 2011

Chemo Round IV - Update

This time has had its own uniqueness that’s for sure.  I’ve been feeling a little sicker the past couple of days than I did the first 3 times – so I’m thankful that this was the last round of the A/C drugs.  Thursday I had my sweet cousin, awesome sister and amazing mother there to support me through the process.
It started with accessing my port and Rachel, the wonderful CNA who did the job was so good that I didn’t even feel it and had no weird reactions.  I even snuck in a photo shoot with my Dr, Nurse Practioner and Social Worker who all gave me a gold star for my blood cell and platelet counts :). 
Unfortunately my luck changed when I got to the infusion room and they tried to use the port to start Chemo.  Because of some issues they had to use some extra potions to get me going and I ended up feeling a bit sick, so I was lucky enough to get my own private bed! 
I ended up closing the place down when I left around 7:30 last night.  The cravings this time haven’t been as bad – so I guess that’s a good thing.  But out of habit we stopped at In N Out for a Double Double.  I slept most of today and did acupuncture + a little work but didn’t feel too productive. 
Now I am at home pondering how just how soon is too early to go to bed on a Friday night :).  I just listened to this beautiful song that really hits home by one of my all time favorites – Martina McBride and wanted to share it with ya’ll: http://youtu.be/WxIt70j_SPk
Thanks to all of you who have loved me through this, even when I don't feel too loveable :)!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Halfway There!

Tomorrow marks the halfway point to the finish line for Chemo - yahoo! I have had several times throughout my life when it has been hard to keep going during a difficult time.  During these times I picture myself running a race and hear in my mind my friends and family cheering “go Amy go!”  One of my greatest cheerleaders has always been my mom.  She has literally sacrificed everything for the happiness and comfort of her children.  If my life has amounted to anything good it is because of her.  My dad is pretty great too :). 

A marathon runner recently gave me the advice that when you reach the last 6 miles of the race you should consider that your halfway point.  Otherwise the last 6 miles seem like an eternity.  Perhaps these words of wisdom may apply to my situation.  Even though I am now halfway, there are some bumps in the road that have been difficult lately. 

“I can do hard things”

This was the sweet note I got tonight from the Chemo Countdown Chain that my cute sister made for me.  It was a good reminder after a challenging couple of weeks.   I think losing my hair and gaining a few pounds have affected my psyche – apparently most people gain not lose weight on Chemo.  Really?  I thought maybe I would be puking my guts out and get some kind of side benefit in the process :).  But instead they give you a bunch of anti-nausea medication and steroids that puff you up and make you crave junk food . . . for some reason being bald and fat does not appeal to me :). 

I do have a trainer at Huntsman that I am working with twice a week and he is good at reminding me that I need to pace myself and take things a little more gently than normal, given my situation.  I know in my head that things will work out and I will be able to get back to my normal self in just a matter of time but the delayed emotional reaction seems to have finally hit me head on.  So I am working through the grief cycle in accepting my situation and once again acupuncture is proving to be very helpful.

Even though I have my moments of insanity when I feel so alone and unlovable, I know that I am truly blessed to have such wonderful cheerleaders as I continue the journey.  Thank you to each of you who have been there along the way.  I would love to hear from you as I continue to move ahead and know that you play an important part in helping me finish the race.  Tomorrow is the last round of Adriamycin and Cytoxan.  The last 4 will be a different drug called Taxol. I pray that I will respond as well to it as I did to the first 2. So keep the faith and prayers coming.  I have no doubt they have made all the difference!

I came across this quote by C.S. Lewis tonight as I was pondering my experience:
“When you are happy, so happy you have no sense of needing Him, so happy that you are tempted to feel His claims upon you as an interruption, if you remember yourself and turn to Him with gratitude and praise, you will be — or so it feels— welcomed with open arms. But go to Him when your need is desperate, when all other help is vain, and what do you find? A door slammed in your face, and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside. After that, silence”

It is during those times when God seems silent that real faith comes to life.  I know He is there and that He continues to have a hand in my life. 

“We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.” - Teilhard de Chardin

Keep the faith my friends - no matter what you are going through, we are all in this together! 

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Stress and Healthy Recipes . . .

To start off, I’d like to take you up on those offers to help me out in some way.  If you have any great recipes that involve chicken and some kind of sauce that are also not too high in calories AKA healthy, I would love to have you send them my way to: amy@utahsmatchmaker.com – Chemo makes it really hard to stay fit but I am not giving up on that goal.  Your help with new meals that taste good would be greatly appreciated! 
It has been a challenging week so far but a good afternoon/evening.  Today I went to see Dr. Clements for acupuncture and it was very helpful in releasing some of the stress that has been bottled up.  I have felt stress plenty of times in my life, but what I feel now is more physical than just emotional warfare.  My body is reacting to both the Chemo treatments as well as the withdrawal from some supplements that I was advised by my Nutritionist to stop taking. 
It may sound like an oxymoron with the cancer involved, but I have always been quite healthy and taken pretty good care of myself with nutrition as well as avoiding unnecessary medications by using supplements when possible.  Many of them have worked much better for me than medication for things like digestion, low blood sugar, anxiety, etc.  But I learned from the Nutritionist that you can actually “over” supplement your body and some of them can even feed tumors. . .
. . . so I have been learning about how to approach this new dilemma and working with my Dr. and other health care professionals to figure out what I need to do in order to avoid complicating my health situation.  Monday and Tuesday were both pretty challenging days as a result.  I was able to work and see friends both days but by Tuesday night I had hit an all-time high on the anxiety scale. 
Driving home last night I felt like I was on another planet and almost called someone to come and help me get home.  Somehow I managed to make it and I was thankful when I drifted off to sleep and then awoke to a new day with a fresh perspective.  After my acupuncture appointment I made it to work and thanks to some generous accommodations by my employer and co-workers, I had a really great afternoon and felt more like myself again.  I had a nice dinner and am now sitting with my cute 87 year old grandma in my backyard, listening to the waterfall and looking at the amazing view of the mountains.  I just read an incredible parable that reminded me how much the challenges I have faced have come to mold my character and generate strength that I didn’t know I had.  I’d like to share that with you in closing:
"Siddhartha Guatama was a historical religious figure believed to have been born around 563 BC. He was a sage who became Buddha. One of his stories tells of a journey he had hiking with a monk in the bitter cold of the Himalayas."

"On their way up the mountain, Siddhartha and his companion find a man who is seriously injured and cannot walk. Siddhartha tells the monk they must help the man, but the monk tells Siddhartha that because of the cold and their lack of supplies they will die if they try to carry the man. They must first save themselves. Unconvinced, Siddhartha stops to help the man while the monk goes on ahead. Siddhartha continues on his journey, physically exhausted from the chore of carrying the injured man on his back, but continues out of sheer will power. As Siddhartha approaches camp, he finds the monk frozen to death in the snow. Siddhartha and the man he saved, however, both make it to camp alive. A universal truth overwhelms him when he realized his life was only spared because of the extra energy exerted while carrying the man on his back. If he had not had the extra weight, Siddhartha would have perished along with the monk. He concludes that blessed are those persons with challenges, for it is only by working through those challenges that they will arrive at their ultimate desired destination." - Be Still by Victoria Anderson, PHD & Lois D. Brown, MA

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Chemo Round III - A Palace?




Today I have been a little under the weather after Round III of my Chemo treatments. Knowing that I am 37.5% done helps!  I feel pretty tired and so haven’t really done much today except sleep and eat a little.  My appetite is not what it normally has been with the other post-chemo days. But I guess that can be counted as a blessing so I don’t end up looking like the girl from Willy Wonka who was a giant blueberry – LOL.  I often joke that I feel like her when I am on the steroids they give me for the first 3 days after Chemo.
So much to my chagrin, I took it easy today.  Thinking of my friends and family and the many warm thoughts and words you have blessed me with over the past few months have helped carry me through the days like this when I can’t be up and about the way I normally would like.  A kind friend came to visit and brought me my favorite Skinny Cow ice-cream bars – yeah!  Since I was struggling with my appetite today, I decided to make a list of my Top 10 Post-Chemo cravings:
1.       Arby's curly fries
2.       Red Mango pomegranate or white peach yogurt
3.       In N Out double double with no sauce but extra ketchup
4.       Pizza - Rock Creek with extra sauce
5.       Cafe Rio chicken salad 
6.       Cafe Rio coconut shrimp tacos with strawberry lemonade
7.       Sweet Tooth Fairy chocolate chocolate Cupshake
8.       Kodiak Cakes
9.       Jamba Juice - low carb strawberry banana
10.    Skinny Cow caramel truffle ice cream bars
Yes, making lists of good food helps nudge me to eat. To give you the run down on the last couple of days:
Thursday at Chemo the day started with my most challenging aspect - when they access my port – that needle thing still gets to me!  It took some time but with a few extra prayers and just the right angle, they were finally able to draw blood without too much pain.  I didn’t even feel queasy this time!  AND my red blood cells were higher than normal – yahoo!  Before starting chemo they check out 3 things to make sure your body can take it:
·         Red blood cells – provide oxygen to the tissues
·         White blood cells – fight infection
·         Platelets – cause blood to clot
After sending my blood to the lab, I got the go ahead when I met with the nurse practitioner Rosey, since Dr. Ward was out – maybe he took the day off knowing I might be a little too much for him today ;) – LOL.  Rosey was great, and she even let us get a snapshot! 
Then it was on to the infusion room where we waited awhile for the infusion, because they wanted more blood to check out my “chemistry” – hmm, I joked that it would be nice to have some kind of blood test that would check your chemistry with the opposite sex, and then you could save a lot of time and effort with dating – I guess the matchmaker in me thinks about those things :).
It was another party with my 2 friends Tahna and Heather – we go way back to high school, and it was fun to reminisce and just get caught up as well as distract me from the various things they were infusing into my body.  They came with my favorite Café Rio in hand and waited on me hand and foot.  I got a little crazy with my hair coverage options and so we had some fun with the camera at my expense :).




My cousin Laura showed up and took me for a post-chemo craving at Asian Star.  It’s fun to have people there to pass the time and it also seems to infuse some happiness into other patients there who may not have family and friends there or are struggling with their various circumstances.  I am lucky to have people who are able and willing to come and share their optimism through the process.  I get a bit loopy by the end, so thank goodness we are all friends :).   
Even with my fogginess, I was lucky to have a good friend come by Thursday night to bring yet another post-chemo craving by and watch the Republican debate.   He was patient with my constant turning of the air conditioning lower and lower as I tried to control my post Chemo “hot flashes” – luckily I had lots of blankets on hand!
Friday I went back to Huntsman for a fitness evaluation with an Orthopedic Dr. and signed up for a bunch of free sessions with a trainer.  He promised to get me on track to reel in those extra calories from my cravings and even help me get into all kinds of fun activities – groups for marathons, biking, rowing and just about everything you might want are available at no cost to cancer patients.  I’m looking forward to taking advantage of those soon.
After the Dr. appointment, I got my Neulasta shot that boosts my immune system. The wonderful girl who gave it to me had the technique down – I didn’t even feel it!  After Huntsman, my dad and I stopped by and got my favorite Costa Vida salad!  Then I went to acupuncture and even felt good enough to drive.  The evening was topped off by a new favorite Chemo craver – the chocolate cookie “cupshake” at The Sweet Tooth Fairy.
After sleeping most of today and feeling a little less productive than I like to be, even when I’m sick, a little quote by C.S. Lewis cheered me a bit:
"Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of - throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself."
I pray that the Lord is doing something more extraordinary with my life than I have imagined.  I guess I’ll sit back and enjoy the ride :). 
With Love!
Amy

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Chemo Round III


Tomorrow is Round III at Huntsman.  I’m excited to have some fun friends from high school and my cousin come, in addition to my cute mom + my favorite Café Rio lunch :). They are taking shifts to make sure I don’t get too loopy ;).  Should be another party in the infusion room – LOL. 

It’s hard for me not to start counting myself as halfway through already, since I tend to think ahead.  But one step at a time.  What crazy questions will I ask my Dr. tomorrow?  I really need to keep him on his toes . . . hmmm!  Feel free to send in your suggestions!

Tonight I was thinking again about how blessed I am to have so much support during this journey.  There are so many people out there – you might be one of them, who are suffering very hidden, silent trials, that almost seem unbearable.  I wish I could take some of the blessings that I feel and give them to you. Please know that whatever you are going through, whatever you are feeling, you can get through it. 

This trial is less difficult for me than others I have been through.  I have learned that this life is not about what we go through but how we allow it to mold our character and become who we are capable of becoming. I know that many happy days lie ahead for me but even now, I am truly enjoying my life.  A few highlights of my week: 

  #1 I went back to work part time this week and was reminded how fun it is to do my job and to interact with the great people at Regence.  I have a fun new co-worker who has strengths that I can learn from.

  #2  I got to see the cute ladies at Creative wigs, who helped me embrace my new options for head accessories and wigs.  I have a short and a long one now + lots of hats!  So many choices.  Yesterday, a woman who doesn’t know what I am going through told me she liked my new haircut – LOL!
 

#3  I heard from several wonderful friends who gave me kind words of encouragement and love.     

      #4  I know, and was reminded yesterday through a special experience that there are amazing blessings and promises that we do not even comprehend.  Regardless of your faith or religion, this is true and will come to pass.  
     I am thankful for the depth of understanding I have come to know through my suffering. In closing, I’d like to share the quote on my chemo countdown chain that I just removed:

    “I testify to you that our promised blessings are beyond measure. Though the storm clouds may gather, though the rains may pour down upon us, our knowledge of the gospel and our love of our Heavenly Father and of our Savior will comfort and sustain us and bring joy to our hearts as we walk uprightly and keep the commandments. There will be nothing in this world that can defeat us.  My beloved brothers and sisters, fear not. Be of good cheer. The future is as bright as your faith.”  Thomas S. Monson

Monday, August 8, 2011

Balance

Tomorrow is my first day back at work since May 6th, the day I found out about the cancer.  I’m excited but also a little nervous since I was going at the speed of light before this all happened. 
One thing I am trying to learn through this journey is balance.  I am a very passionate person and I have a hard time “walking away” from things that I am engaged in.  Therefore, for me, going back to work is something that I have given quite a bit of thought to in terms of how I can balance my passion for serving my business partners with my increased need for balance and a lower stress lifestyle.  Luckily I am blessed with a boss and employer who have been very understanding about my situation and are working with me on a plan for this to happen in the best way possible.
I had a great weekend get-away to Newport Beach, where I attended an LDS singles conference and did some socializing.  I even made it to Disneyland for a few hours.  The roller coaster rides were a bit too much for me, so we stuck to the lower key shows and attractions.  I even got special treatment as a cancer patient and got to go to the front of the line on several occasions.  It was fun to be at “the happiest place on earth” and I enjoyed just being on vacation for a couple of days.
I have been feeling very good for the past week and have only had minimal headaches from the hair loss.  After shaving my head on Wednesday, I have tried wearing my wig each day but am not really loving it the way I had hoped.  My head still hurts a bit and it looks too obvious to me that it is a wig -  it’s amazing how much the little sideburns we have make a difference in the overall look of the hair.  I’m wishing I hadn’t shaved those off.
As a side note, I still have stubble vs. the smooth, no hair cancer patient look you normally see.  I was told by so many people that it would all be gone by now, so perhaps that prayer to save my hair worked after all?  I guess there’s no turning back – I don’t think it is growing, just not falling out completely.  On a positive note, I haven’t had to shave in about a week – so I won’t complain about that AND I still have my eyebrows and eyelashes :) – very happy about that!
So overall I am very happy with my minimized side effects.  I am doing acupuncture 3 times a week and I credit this and other alternative therapies in  helping me have a better experience.  As I prepare for Chemo Round III on Thursday, I pray that things will continue as well as they have. 
Here’s my favorite quote for the week:
"The more we know the Savior, the longer becomes our view. The more we see His truths, the more we feel His joy. But it is one thing to know that’s the right answer in a Sunday School class and quite another to experience firsthand a cheerful outlook when current circumstances are far from what we hoped. If we would
develop faith to apply the Atonement in this manner and not merely talk about it, awareness of imaginary finite boundaries, inadvertently placed on the Savior’s infinite sacrifice, can be meaningful."  Camille Fronk Olson

I’m thankful for the perspective the gospel of Jesus Christ gives to my life.  I know it is real and has touched my life deeply.  Thank you for your faith and prayers in helping me learn these truths even more powerfully through this journey.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

I’m having a “no hair” day


After having my short style for less than 2 days, I decided it was time to take the plunge and just get rid of the rest since it was falling out and my scalp felt like a million pins pricking it – especially when I tried to sleep.  So I had the lady at the wig store shave it off and then put my wig on.  I didn’t look until I got home tonight. 
I felt like Darth Vader, peeling the protective hat off that was placed under the wig.  As you can see, I have a lovely 2 tone look with my white scalp and darker face.  I think Chemo is good for the skin because my skin is more clear than ever.  It was short of shocking but also liberating to know that I am still me without my hair and that I can do this :).  I was so afraid of the unknown, and in some ways those unknowns are still to come – but now that I have taken the first step, it is a relief to know that I could get through this part. 
I am yet to experience awkward moments when I might not have a hat or hair to cover and come to know how others might react.  But really, it doesn’t matter what they think or say.  This is a necessary part of the healing process to kick this cancer completely out of my system and I am thankful for the modern advances in medicine that allow this to be possible. 
Today is 6 weeks since my reconstructive surgery and it is looking quite good if I do say so myself :).  I did acupuncture again and am feeling great today!  I'm looking forward to a fun weekend in California before I venture back to work next week - starting out part time to see how things go.  I had a nice visit from one of our VP’s today, who was in town from Portland.  It helped me remember what great people I work with and how much I miss them all!
I am touched by the many friends and family who have shown their support and love for me at this time.  I realize more each day how much I have been given during this interesting journey.  At difficult times it may be tempting to ask "why me?" but truly, I counter with the question - "why am I so very blessed?" 
I pray that you are also blessed to feel the love of the Lord that I feel at this time.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

No More Bad Hair Days . . .

After discovering that my miracle leave in conditioner was no longer going to hold up against Chemo hair, I finally took the plunge and chopped it short last night.  Even though I filled a shoebox full of it, I still had plenty of hair left to cut.  I want to thank my sweet friends and family for joining me in welcoming my new “look”.  Each took a turn taking a chop at my locks and then we finished it off with a Halle Berry style.  It should last a couple of days before I go completely bald and give me a good idea of how it will be when it starts to grow back after October.
It’s been a weird day with my new “DO” and quite honestly, I am about ready to shave the rest of it off because the scalp becomes very tender as the hair follicles are dying.  I’ll be glad to have this week behind me and come to know much more than I do now that my hair and the rest of my body does not define me.
My cute friend shared this little verse as we cut:
Cancer I did not give you the right,
To invade my body and take a bite.
This is my body and with all my might,
I will prevail with one hell of a fight.
To the cancer inside, I will battle and kill.
For that is my body's God given will.
To my cancer, these words I do send.
Your life is short and near the end."
I know that I have a much greater power on my side – here’s to my fight!  I hope you enjoy the snapshots of the adventures :).  http://youtu.be/jO4vBU-qRf0