Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Cancer Takes Slowly

My lack of energy has brought me to a lonely place.  It prevents me from actively participating in my life.  I float instead, still breathing, but barely.  And, the floating is occurring too far away.  Yes, I am present, but I am not.  I want to participate, but I am too tired.

My vim, my vigor is gone. 
My eyes are open then they are closed, just resting.
I am so sad.  My once active life is so different now.  I will never be healthy me again and enjoy the days where I had so much to do I felt I could not get it all done. And, then would find such satisfaction when somehow I “did” get it all done.

Now, I sit home on my couch.  Sometimes dizzy when I stand.

Do I cut-back my treatment, allowing the cancer to grow, all for a little short-term invigoration?    

This will only get worse.

Self-pity consumes me.


Move forward two days…

Forty-nine…I am 49 years old!  I am so thankful to be able to celebrate my 49th birthday today. 

Self-pity does not consume me as it did when my body was lost to fatigue.  I feel content again.  My energy level is better today allowing me to mop the floors of my home.  Wow, amazing how two days can make such a difference in the way I feel.  I know those dark, lonely, exhausted days will come again, but today, I am happy.    

I am happy I will leave this world four wonderful people, my children.  They are the most important product of my life.  No other aspect of my life has brought as much joy to me.

A wonderful friend, Sandie, made potato soup and brought it to me for my birthday.  I wish my stomach could hold more.  The words she wrote on my card made me feel special bringing forth tears that I didn’t expect.  Her thoughtfulness is appreciated more than she will ever know.

Cancer will continue to take from me all the things I love.  Today, though, I still have them.  Today, I am grateful to have lived.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Cancer Stable, Same Treatment Continues

The CAT Scan (computerized axial tomography- a type of x-ray scan) results showed the cancer is stable!  The treatment is keeping the cancer from growing.  My chemotherapy treatment with the drug Taxotere, and my targeted therapies of Herceptin and Perjeta will continue to occur every three weeks.   (Taxotere attacks all fast-dividing cells including cancer cells and normal cells.  The Herceptin and Perjeta attack just the cancer cells.)  

With that BIG question answered and out of the way, Doctor R. and I were able to discuss the little issues of how Taxotere is making my life a bit unpleasant.

Usually by the third week after treatment, I am able to regain my energy level to a point where I feel close to normal.  But, over the past three treatments I have seen a decline.  I just don’t have the desire to get up and do a lot of the physical aspects of taking care of a home.  Sure, I still throw in a load of laundry, vacuum the floors, and wash the dishes when I absolutely must, but much of the other items I have been leaving until the day I am motivated.  That has happened with the help of the steroids that I start taking the day before chemo.  Those steroids give me back much of the lost energy.  Dr. R. said unfortunately the reduced energy is the result of chemotherapy and most likely will be the trend as chemotherapy continues.  When my energy level worsens to a point that my daily have-to-be-done responsibilities are compromised, then she would cut-back on the Taxotere or cut it out altogether.  The daily must-do-activities for me would be the taking care of my last remaining child at home.  If I can’t take her to her extra-curricular activities or her schooling at home is jeopardized, then something will have to change.   If that is done though, I would not get to return to that drug as a treatment.  That scares me because once a drug can no longer be utilized for treatment the list of drugs to use will be shorter.  Once the last one is used, there is nowhere to go.  The list of drugs for Her2 neu breast cancer is longer than once was the case, but it isn’t that long.

Next, we talked about my lovely fingernails.  Taxotere again is the problem.  With this drug, it attacks not just the fast dividing cancer cells, but also the fast dividing normal cells.  Those include your hair (this is why patients lose their hair), your digestive tract cells (diarrhea, stomach issues, mouth sores), and your fingernails (which get such attractive horizontal ridges plus can turn black from the blood resulting from the nail separating from the nail bed).  I have four nails, two on each hand that have separated partially from the nail bed.  Two have minor nail-bed infections.  I soaked them yesterday in soapy water and then pressed the fingernail to push-out some of the clear-yellowish fluid trapped underneath.  Dr. R. didn’t like my approach of pressing on the nail bed because this can cause more inflammation, but it did made my fingernails hurt less.  She decided to give me an antibiotic to help my body combat this nuisance.    

I have also noticed I am having difficulty finding foods that I want to eat.  Not a whole lot seems appetizing.  I feel hunger, sit down to eat, and within a few bites I no longer want to eat.  Or I will look in the refrigerator, the cabinets, the pantry, and nothing in any of those places seems appealing.  I am also feeling more nausea symptoms then have been noticed by me in the past.  This is just another aspect of the drug Taxotere adding yet another obstacle to my life.  The cancer is a much greater obstacle and Taxotere is helping me keep this beast under control.  So for that, I want to keep it.  And, if the only thing I want to eat is split-pea soup every day with some fruits in between then that is what I shall eat.  

Dr. R. then listened to my heart and lungs.  All sounded normal.

Now, on to the discussion of my scan results…  As I said, all tumors appear stable.  To add some interest to those who enjoy reading such reports I will include pieces of that report here:  “Infiltrative soft tissue in a 2R station measures 1.8 cm.” This is the mediastinal tumor in my chest between the lungs.  The “R” means right-side.  It was 2.8 cm in July, 1.9 cm in April and 1.6 cm in March.
“Subcentimeter  hypodensities are again noted in the thyroid gland, stable.”  These are not supposed to be cancerous, but a being watched.

The right lung has several nodules.  Since they have not been biopsied they will not be confirmed cancerous until growth is noted.  I know one is not cancerous because it had been followed for several years with no change.  Because it is calcified it “most likely represents sequalae of prior granulomatous disease”. Sequalae is caused by a previous disease or injury.  Granulomatous Disease could have resulted from an infection such as tuberculosis or from a bacteria or fungi.  “A peripheral 0.9 cm nodule is stable since 3/29/13. Several other scattered subcentimerter nodules are also unchanged.”  Nothing in the report noted anything seen in the left lung.

“A tiny hyodense lesion in segment VII of the liver is too small to characterize but is unchanged since 3/29/13.”  Not confirmed as cancer at this time. 

“There is a nonenlarged para-aortic lymph node in the upper retroperitoneum, previously described as a paravertebral lymph node.”  The retroperitoneum is the area between the two kidneys.  Located between the two kidneys is a vein (blood to heart).  There is also an artery (blood away from heart).  Along the vein and the artery are lymph nodes.  There is something suspicious about this lymph node, but I am not clear as to the why since it is indicated as non-enlarged, but for now it remains stable.

Nothing was found in the scanned part of the neck.

So, there is my report.  Nice 49th birthday present for me!  Yes, I will be 49 on the 19th of this month.   

Today was a fun chemo day.  Not usually how I would describe infusion days, but today was different.   A good friend from high school came to visit me.  We talked the entire time.  I must have over-done it because this morning I am more than hoarse. I have totally lost my voice.  My one working vocal cord will need to rest today.  But, my voicelessness is a testament to the good time that I had spent with an old friend.  She was the very first person who introduced herself to me at my new school when my family moved back to North Carolina in 1976 after living in Louisiana, Kentucky and Indiana.  We have been friends ever since.

My next scan will be in February.  Like all cancer patients, I keep hoping for some reduction in the tumors, but I will take stability over growth any day.  So, it was a great day for me, and a very happy day for my family.