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Dec 2, 2008

I fell out in the kitchen the other night... scary

So, its Sunday night and I'm trying to get a little something to snack on. I heat up an enchilada and just as I'm getting the sour cream to put on top.... I start feeling really really dizzy.

I never lost consciousness and I was aware that I was falling... but I couldn't stop myself from hitting the floor. Once again, my voice failed me... and I couldn't (or wouldn't) shout out to let my mom know that I was falling out. She was watching tv in the family room -- just across the way. And it wasn't until I was laid out on the floor for a few moments and I realized that I couldn't get myself up, that I spoke to her and asked her to get my dad from upstairs.

You know... it is amazing to me, that even in the midst of something happening to my body, I still have these thoughts of not upsetting folks or disturbing them. I think I need to call my therapist so we can discuss it. :)

At any rate, my mom started screaming at my dad to come and help me and while I was woozy down on the floor... I was trying to stay connected to the scene. After he helped me up and got me a warm washcloth for my face... I refused to go to the hospital.

It seemed illogical to me to go to the hospital because I was woozy. I was still breathing, nothing was bleeding... so... I figured I was okay. Maybe just tired, or hungry or something. When I called the boyfriend to let him know... he wanted me to go to the hospital too. But I just didn't want to spend hours and hours in the emergency room when they probably wouldn't know what was wrong with me (like before) and I would just be sitting there taking up space. I just wasn't trying to end my holiday weekend that way.

I decided to call the oncologist's office on Monday when they opened, to let them know what happened and to see if this was something that was expected or if it was unusual. I finally talked to the nurse today, after she talked to my oncologist.

And... once again, my logic is totally wrong. I should have gone to the hospital on Sunday night, and if it ever happens again, that's what I will do.

I was just sitting here thinking about how I feel like a visitor in my own body. I know that I have cancer. I know that I'm in chemotherapy. But I feel... like Nic. Nic who is totally healthy and doesn't have to worry about whether or not something is major enough to warrant a trip to the hospital to be checked out all the time. I know that people don't pass out all the time, but it happens enough that most folks don't have to go to the hospital for it. You get up, you get a warm or cold compress for your head or neck... and then you take it easy for awhile. That's it. It doesn't require a team of ER doctors to check you out.

But now I know... that for me... it does.

Last night I stumbled on a video on Google video ... about transitioning from being a cancer patient to a cancer survivor. It was a good video and I really had not thought about what it will be like when all this treatment is over and I'm back in the real world again. You would think that life would resume as usual... but what's usual isn't usual anymore. Normal healthy people can get a small fever and keep doing their normal activities. But I can't do that. It just doesn't compute in my head.

I keep trying to understand how I'm different now. And how to reconcile that I am different and none of the standard rules apply to me the way that they used to.

I'm sure that Dr. Siegel will take a few moments to chat with me on Thursday when I go for chemo. And I don't know what to tell him. I fell out in the kitchen. I never lost consciousness... and it never occurred to me that this was something drastic that I needed to go to the hospital for. It never occurred to me.

I think I keep trying to make chemotherapy this very small part of my life. And it keeps letting me know that it is a huge part of who I am right now. I keep trying to retain a piece of me, that's still "me". And it feels like "me" is shrinking more and more every day.

Today is one of those days... where I'm just left to wonder.
http://fabulous-boobies.blogspot.com/p/new-here.html

Nov 29, 2008

My fabulous boobies... will always be flawed

I've spent most of the day laying down, my legs and back have been hurting something awful today. I did walk around the house a little and I even cooked a late dinner (enchiladas). But generally, I've been in a really relaxed state today.

I took some time and reviewed the entries in this blog. I took note that I didn't write much in October -- only 4 posts. I think that was because I felt particularly bad then -- chemo was really kicking my butt and I didn't know how to deal with it. And also, I was emotionally in a really dark place. It was tough to keep my spirits up while I was feeling so bad. But even when I was re-reading the entries, I couldn't think of more to add.

November has had a few more entries... but so far, nothing compares to September. That was when everything was in full flow, there was so much to think about, examine, make choices about... so much swirling in my head. Now... there is still a lot that I think about everyday, but most of it I've already shared with you. The thoughts just stay on rotation in my mind... as I try to map out the future and get myself emotionally strengthened to deal with it.


I am getting my mind wrapped about the mastectomy and the reconstruction surgeries. In a few short weeks... everything will change again. Like I said before, I am happy that the two surgeries can be done at the same time. That will really help me handle my emotions about losing my breast. But... I've been internet surfing tonight and the pictures that I've seen of mastectomy patients before and after their reconstruction surgeries.... are scary. No joke.

aaahhhh.... yeah, Nic is gonna need some more hand-holding to get through this part. FOR REAL.

The precautions, side effects, whatever... are crazy.

-my new breast won't have any sensation (wow).
-it won't look like the other one, but close
-the healthy breast will have to be reduced and lifted so that it looks similar to the reconstructed breast
-um... I might not have a nipple when I get up from the operating table
-a nipple might have to be TATTOOED on, a few months down the line (aaacckkk?)
-if I have the DIEP procedure... I might have to get a new belly button too (wha?)

-(this one is a doozy)... they can construct a nipple out of tissue from my labia (yes, part of my vagina)

I mean... I love my breasts just like I love my entire body, flaws and all. I have enjoyed my very full breasts, even when they embarrassed me. However, in considering the future with breasts that won't have any feeling, where the nipple/areola is tattooed in place, or the nipple is plastic and I stick it on when I want the look of a nipple (??)... and so forth... I am literally stunned into no emotional response at all. I'm not mad, I'm not sad, I'm just flat.

God-willing, I will have a child in a year or two. And, what's funny... though I have considered having a breast reduction in the past, I always changed my mind because I wanted to breast feed my baby. Now, (yet again) it seems that my waiting was in vain because I won't be able to breast feed my kid after all. Not a huge tragedy -- anything could have happened to prevent me from breast feeding actually, but wow. Still a blower.

Our bodies grow and change and we're never the same year after year. And getting older has it own set of physical and emotional changes due to changes in your body. But this thing is taking it too far... lol.

**HOT FLASHES ARE REALLY A PAIN IN THE ASS!! Lord.. why am I STILL itching from the chemotherapy interaction a few days ago? Pure Hell! Real sick of scratching and digging everywhere.... ugh! **

Nov 27, 2008

Today is Thanksgiving... and I am so very thankful this year

Its Turkey Day! oops... I mean, Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

I have been in a holiday mood for a couple of weeks now. It hit me just after Halloween and hasn't let me go yet. I am not normally this holiday happy. Usually, I get into the swing of things just after Thanksgiving... or maybe just a week before Christmas.

This has been one amazing year. Really amazing. God has moved in some hugely miraculous ways in my life... and I am so thankful for that. I got a new job that seemed created just for me at this time in my life. It was exactly what I had prayed for -- even though it is off my career track a bit. I wanted a job that wasn't too stressful, that would allow me to go back to school and that had an excellent benefits package. I started that job a few days after my birthday this year and it was good. Nice people, great location... just nice.

This year, I had also decided that I was going to open myself up to having a good, solid relationship. A real boyfriend, lol. It may seem weird to say..."I decided"... but I really did. I didn't know who he would be, or where he would be... but I knew that there had to be one guy out there who would look at me and see the prettiest girl in the world and want to be with me. So I decided that this year, I would be open to letting him find me and being in a relationship. I was also open to not finding him and continuing to be single too. God worked it out that I found a boyfriend in a friend I had known for many years. Like pow!

I had hoped that this year, I could finally make a decision about whether or not I was going to have a child, adopt a child... something with a kid and me. My age was starting to freak me out about the whole "mommy" deal... and this was the year that I had to face the decision head on. (That was why I prayed for good benefits) And, circumstances have made that decision for me. At least for now. But even though this cancer may delay my ability to have kids -- it is not over for me yet. I was talking to one of the ladies who works at the cancer center last week about having babies (she's about to have her second one any day...) and she told me about two patients from the cancer center who have become pregnant after their illnesses. One lady got pregnant for the first time at 49 (I think!). Now that's amazing. I don't want to do that...lol. So, I'm keeping hope alive that I'll still get my little bundle of joy at some point in this life.

What else did I want for this year...? Oh! I wanted to travel this year. I didn't do that. I had started my plans though. I will be travelling next year -- no doubt. I am fortunate that my really good job, has really great vacation days. So, I am really excited that when I return to work, I will be able to go on a few nice vacations next year.

I think the reason why I got hit with the holiday buzz so early this year... is because I have so much time on my hands right now. I'm not as caught up in the hustle and bustle of everyday living... so I've had lots of time to reflect on my year, and my life.

There are two things that I am extremely grateful for this year... My daddy's amazing recovery from his aneurysm tops the list though. My dad has never been really ill. I can't even remember him having the flu or something like that. He's just an ordinarily healthy guy. With the exception of really bad allergies... he never seems down or out of it. When he got sick and I saw him in the hospital with all the tubes and machines... it wore my heart out. My dad is a really good guy. He can make you smile in a minute by telling you some long drawn out story... lol... that you'll swear he made up but he'll swear its the truth. He has an opinion on EVERYTHING... especially politics... and he's more than happy to share it with you. He loves kids and kids love him. He's just... Lorenzo. And I couldn't love him more if I tried.

Seeing my dad in the intensive care unit was really hard. But seeing him now, back at work and functioning like nothing ever happened is amazing. I can see a shift in his eyes now... I think he's much more aware that he's fragile (something I can relate to myself) but he's still here and he's still daddy. That is a huge blessing.

The last thing I am super-thankful for -- is me. I don't say that lightly because I am sure that few of us are ever so self-focused that we are simply thankful that we're here. Providing something to the world that no one else can or does. I have pouted, cried, wailed, shouted... and more... about this breast cancer. It has taken me through pain, nausea, diarrhea, loss of appetite, weight loss, hair loss, skin peeling, skin darkening, mouth sores, and more. I have been in the hospital for days... getting blood transfusions and other things. I have been to the cancer center getting chemotherapy more days than I'd like to count now. I have made friends with nurses, and medical staff in several medical facilities in the city. I have carried cd's of my sonogram -- where my enemy Fred was located -- in my purse for days. I have shipped films of my mammograms across the city -- hoping for a different answer. But in all of this... I am still here. I am still smiling and I am able to have dinner with my parents today... and say a short prayer of thanks to God that I am able to still write down my thoughts and share them with the world.

I know that Thanksgiving isn't a big deal to a lot of people. And I know that many folks don't celebrate it, or see the need for a special day to say thanks. But I am not that person -- not today, not this year. God has been too good to me, for me to take this day in vain and not say..

I am so thankful... for everything in my life. Good and bad. Because what seems like bad... can also be seen as good. There is really a blessing in everything if we open our eyes to see it.

I don't know how many people read this blog on a regular basis... but I am thankful for your listening ear. I am grateful for your prayers, and good wishes and gifts. I am so blessed that you care enough to listen and watch me go through this process of healing and growing. I cannot say thank you enough...

But I will certainly try.

Thank you. And have a great Thanksgiving Day!!

...and if you're wondering how I'm feeling... its a typical second day after chemo... I'm achy and I'm itchy (that's the reaction to the medicine...) and I'm okay with both. (smile...)

Its time to eat!

Nov 25, 2008

This post will be all over the place... but I'm excited today!





I'm going to start by talking about something TOTALLY non-related to breast cancer.

Tina Turner is an ICON!! Oh my goodness. That lady is fabulous... personified. I was blessed and fortunate to be invited to see her concert on Sunday night. Amazing is the only word that I can use. To be 69 (she had a birthday this week)... and able to rock it out for hours, belting out songs, kicking, dancing and generally having a grand old time -- shifted my paradigm for living.

This "thing"... can't stop me. Tina got beat by her man... overcame all of that... reinvented herself and her career, retired from touring, came back and she's still just as fabulous (if not more so) than she ever was. I mean... THAT'S what it has to be about. Starting over and doing it way big each time... that's my new outlook on life.

I was a little tired just watching her. I purposely wore comfy flat shoes to the show because I didn't want my feet to hurt and cause me to be distracted from the event. Meanwhile... Miss Tina rocked some shoes that were so fabulous I had to post a picture of them for you to see.

Yes... for those who know about shoes. Those are Christian Louboutin's (you can tell by the red sole) and yes... these mere shoes rock out at about $1000 per pair. I'm guessing that Tina's were slightly different, possibly customized because her had a real sparkle to them. My girlfriend and I were trying to guess whether they were studded with rhinestones or if the lighting from the stage was just catching the sequins. Either way... I was mesmerized and dumbfounded for most of the show. (she wore those shoes... with that outfit)

Just wow. She pushed the bar through the roof. I have to do that. I have to. (I think I'm starting to get some of white girl, blonde hair, blue/green eyed ambition about life now.... lol)

So after that concert, I started my week with a new standard of "excellent lady living" etching its way through my brain...

I moved on to... "time to kick it in gear for the next phase"... meaning that I needed to focus my attention on my mastectomy surgery and the reconstruction surgery that I will need to have in the next month or so. Yesterday, I spent a few hours researching the procedure and getting my emotions in check around it. I won't lie... I was freaked out a bit -- even though the procedure seems like a great option -- and I cried for awhile last night. No matter how much I grow and learn... this is all still really overwhelming. Admittedly, the overwhelming moments are coming in longer and longer intervals, so I know that I'm doing pretty well trying to handle this. But I still have moments that are deep and core shaking at times.

Also, yesterday was the day before chemo day -- which is usually very emotional for me. My chemotherapy treatment was early this week because of the holiday. It took me most of the day to realize why I was feeling out of sorts. But chemo today was really interesting.

Let's see....

First... my doctor and I had a good chat (mostly about Tina Turner...lol) about next steps and what I can expect for the next phase. He was really happy with the way that I handled the chemotherapy -- even with the little hospital set back, I did really really well comparatively speaking. He would like to see me in surgery two weeks after my last chemo treatment on December 18th (yeah.... Merry Christmas Nic!).

I made a call to the recommended plastic surgeon this afternoon -- he cosigned on my general surgeon's recommendation and from my research last night, this lady is pretty doggone good at what she does. So I'm more than thrilled with that. My appointment isn't until December 22 (again, Merry Christmas)... but hopefully someone will cancel earlier and I can slide in to see her before then.

While in chemo today -- guess what? I had another bad reaction to my medicine! Ugh. It was funny though because my god brother came to hang out with me today (yay Tony!)... and just after he had gotten there and we were chatting.... suddenly... I was itching all over like I had just rolled in some hay or something. It was CRAZY! Seriously. Turns out that I was having an allergic reaction to something that was mixed with the medicine... so they had to get me off of it and fast. That itching was like FIRE ANTS on my skin. Whewwwwww... not fun.

Today was a long chemo day. I was anticipating being at the cancer center for about 5 hours getting all my medications. Just this one drug that I was reacting to... takes 4 hours to drip. Sometimes longer. Well, when they had to change drugs... the new drug they gave me took.... (wait for it)...

30 minutes!!

Can you believe that? The replacement drug was hella faster than the regular drug. I'm sitting there like... well, dang, why didn't ya'll give me this stuff in the first place? I'm going to ask my doctor tomorrow what the difference is in the two drugs because as much as I like the ladies at the cancer center... spending 5-6 hours every other week there, isn't the most fun I've ever had in my life. Wow. Though the plan is to give me the new concoction next time -- just so I don't have to go through the reactions again. But still.... you have to wonder... why?

So... I got to leave much earlier than I had planned... then I had lunch with my godbrother -- something we really don't get to do too much (though we used to do it all the time)... and then... his younger brother joined us. It was like the 90's had a come back (that also could have been because my god brother was rocking the old school Fila sweatsuit with the Fila sneakers...lol).

We ate and laughed and laughed some more... it was a good time. I needed that laugh today.

I'm having slight itches... but nothing that some cortisone can't help. I feel okay today. But tomorrow's injection may make me feel rather achy and sore -- yay neulasta! -- but I'll take it because its almost the last one.

I am hopeful (and my oncologist really wants this for me)... that I will be having my surgery the first week of January, hopefully as close to New Year's as we can get. That means, no inauguration parties for me. Honestly, I'm not that sad about it. I had already made up my mind that I wanted to watch all the festivities from my house. And now, I know that I will definitely be doing that. (also saves me money on dresses and accessories... )

Its about that time for me to start reviewing my year and thinking about my goals and resolutions for next year. Somehow, I don't think I made my goals this year... but I'm not going to beat myself up about it.

As my friend Chellee told me...

"I'm just happy to be here... "

~Nic




http://fabulous-boobies.blogspot.com/p/new-here.html

Moving on to the next step in this journey

I have only two chemotherapy treatments left. (not counting the herceptin treatments that continue for another year) Tomorrow is the next to the last one... (yay!) But that means that now its time to prepare for surgery.

I already have a general surgeon, Dr. Lee. Interestingly enough... she entered the scene quite early and has been really helpful and supportive throughout the process. She explained to me awhile ago, that it is possible to have the mastectomy and reconstructive surgery at the same time. I had no idea.

In the past, many woman had their breasts removed first, and then months (or even years) later, they had follow up reconstructive surgery. Isn't that crazy?

Naturally, I have lots of reservations about this whole process but the more I learn, the more I'm calmed. Well, calmer. :)

There is a surgical option that will also allow me to have my breast reconstructed from my own body -- rather than have an implant shoved into my body. I'll be honest, I was not pleased with the thought of losing my own breast and having to replace it with a bag of salt water. Just not happy with that thought at all. But after Dr. Lee mentioned this procedure that can take fat and skin from my abdomen and use that to construct a new breast -- I've been really interested in it.

Also... what's even more fabulous is that the reconstruction can happen while I'm in the operating room having my breast/tumors removed in the first place.

So, I can (if things go well)... go into the hospital with two breasts and 4 tumors... I can come out a few days later with two breasts, no tumors and a tummy tuck.

Wow.

I've spent a good portion of the day, researching the plastic surgeon that my general surgeon recommended and also looking for information on this procedure. It is called the DIEP Flap.

DIEP (Deep Inferior Epigastric Perforator) flap sounds like a pretty intensive procedure... but I am really hoping that I am eligible for the procedure. (and that my insurance will cover the cost)

Here's a link to a medical facility in Wisconsin that performs the procedure: http://healthlink.mcw.edu/article/1031002690.html

If you want to read more about how its done and all that.

My goal this week, is to get on the plastic surgeon's calendar for a consult right after the holiday and hopefully coordinate with her, my general surgeon and my oncology team -- so we can keep this ball rolling.

Honestly speaking... I do not ever want to wear a prosthesis. Of course, I will if I have to. And if I have to endure having a body with just one breast -- even for a short time -- I'll do it. But I'm praying everyday that neither of these options are in my future.

~Nic

Nov 23, 2008

A writing contest entry that I'm sharing with you

Essence magazine and Ford had a short writing contest (it closed last night at midnight)... about breast cancer.

The entry requirements were simple: 250 words or less about how breast cancer has touched your life. I just decided to share my entry here -- not that I think its good because I really don't -- but because it represents a shifting in my heart about how I'm looking at myself, this disease and my life in the future.

There are a couple of other writing contests that I am going to enter before the end of the year -- and one of them is related to breast cancer. But the fact that I'm back to writing -- even when I don't like what I've created -- gives me a joy that you cannot probably understand.

I hate being sick but I love my life. :)

Let me add why I don't like the entry -- its too doggone short. lol... I could have spun this into something awesome with another 2000 words or so. But, for something brief, it will do.

------------------------
Thursdays are special days for me.

Breast cancer changed what Thursday meant to me. I used to believe that Thursdays were for celebrations. I was born on a Thursday in May years ago.

I grew to embrace that Thursdays are for cocktails. Happy hour on Thursday was how I looked forward to ending a stressful work week.

Now, Thursdays are for chemotherapy. I was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer in July of this year. I am 39 years old. I have never been married and I do not have children.

The cancer center on Thursday isn’t often a jovial and happy place. But it is becoming an extension of what I think my life’s purpose is.

This summer I was diagnosed with breast cancer. By my 40th birthday – I will be a breast cancer survivor who will have had one breast removed. My heart still aches when I hear myself say… breast cancer.

I’m still a bit of a party girl in my heart. The adjustment to my new Thursday cocktails has been a difficult one. However, I suppose that in my growing and aging… I have learned that Thursday – even with breast cancer – is still about celebrations and cocktails. Now, I celebrate life and its fragility and I take a cocktail of medicine that will allow my life to go on.

Thursdays are still special to me – just different now.

I feel GOOD!!

I feel good y'all. Really good. Like my old self.

I have energy. I'm not aching. I can eat. No diarrhea, no nausea, no vomiting. My skin isn't peeling like a snake either...

And I think I have two strands of hair on my head. (I'm shaving them off tonight, but right now... they are there!)

WOWOWOWOWOWOW!!

I am loving this feeling. :) Hope for the future...

==========

So, the other day... I was chatting on-line with a buddy of mine and she mentioned to me that I needed to get off refined sugar. She's one of those science people -- she does some sort of research or something and she's really ridiculously smart. There is some sort of connection between cancer cells and sugar --and she felt that if I worked on eliminating refined sugar from my diet, it would give my cancer cells less food to munch on.

Okay. Seems easy enough, right?

I purchased a book that she recommended (I got it on my new kindle -- I'll get back to that wonderful surprise gift in a sec) and started reading more about nutrition and cancer.

First of all... wow. We eat some garbage in this country. And while I didn't need a book to tell me that -- since I started doing a little research the other day, I have been alternately disgusted and angered by what I've been putting in my body. Second... the garbage is in EVERYTHING.

After talking to Chellee for a few emails... and reading a little bit (guess I'm going to have to go back and read that crazy sexy cancer book too....grrr)... I accepted that I need to give up refined sugar and white flour. This is going to be my new challenge (on top of getting rid of cancer) for life because ... I love pastry, pasta, bread, etc.

Right now... since I've only been thinking of this and trying to figure out how to incorporate these changes into my life... I'm focusing on getting off white sugar and white flour. I talked with my mom about the things that Chellee told me and she agreed that I needed to do whatever it took to make myself healthy. Neither one of us realized just how deep this could get. lol...

Friday morning, my mom and I ventured to the closest Whole Foods grocery store. I wanted to look around and get an idea of what they had there -- that was different from what was in the regular ol' Safeway around the corner. I had a couple of things that I wanted to pick up and I wasn't sure that I would be able to find them at the Safeway but generally, I didn't have much of an agenda.

I think that Whole Foods is a cult or has a cult following. The store was ridiculously crowded. But more than that -- their prices are outrageous. I couldn't believe the prices on the food. It was insanity. Seriously.

As I walked the aisles, trying to read labels so that I was buying food that would fit into my new mindset, I quickly became overwhelmed.

My frustration is that while I can cook, I typically don't. And I don't because cooking for one is .. well, dumb. I came to the conclusion many years ago that cooking for one is pretty wasteful and its time consuming. My habits when I lived alone were to cook one or two meals a week and then eat the rest of my meals out. Unless I had a taste for something specific, there wasn't a need to stand in the kitchen for hours fixing a meal for just myself. And if I really wanted something special or particular -- I often made more than I could eat alone and ended up either giving away my food to someone else, or eventually throwing away the food because I wasn't going to eat it.

Now, typically... I love going to the grocery store. I enjoy good food and the grocery store is filled with really good food. But I hated being in Whole Foods. I was so frustrated and upset -- it was like someone had dropped me in a foreign land and I didn't know the language.

I was frustrated because it seemed like the only things I could eat would be salad and protein. And while I enjoy a good steak and a salad... or some chicken and a salad -- I know I can't maintain a diet that limited. I'm accustomed to eating a wide variety of foods. As I thought about different meals and snacks throughout the day -- I realized that even in Whole Foods, I still reached for convenience foods.

For example... I did purchase regular fruit. But I also found myself reaching for fruit cups when I was on that aisle -- because they have been a snack that I've reached for many times since I've been sick. But its the difference in tastes and textures between eating a fresh pear and having a fruit cup of peaches -- that started to upset me.

Changing my diet isn't going to be easy. In fact, its going to be really really quite difficult. Not because I don't eat good wholesome food -- but because I am also accustomed to eating lots of convenience foods and they satisfy a different taste for me than plain food.

I have a lot of questions and I'm back to being annoyed that George Washington University Hospital's Cancer Center doesn't have a nutritionist.

I will be on trial and error time regarding food -- for some time it seems. Its not going to be as simple as buying something sugar-free now, or buying the whole wheat version of something else. Our foods are labeled misleadingly. Our foods -- even the ones that seem so very basic -- are filled with different chemicals and sugar alternatives that it becomes a real challenge to figure out what you can eat and what you can't.

For me, the one good thing is that I'm not allergic to these food items. Meaning, if I do consume white sugar or white flour, I won't die. So, that takes a lot of the urgency and fear out of the situation for me. However, knowing that I am really trying to change my lifestyle around food, I know that I will really have to be diligent about what I put in my mouth from now on.

No more McDonalds, no more sodas, shoot... no more cheetos! Dangit. But its even simpler things like... oatmeal. I love oatmeal -- have loved it since I was a kid. I love cereal for that matter -- and have since I was a kid. I eat a lot of both. But now... I have to buy it differently. I'm used to buying the instant packets of oatmeal - but I don't think I can continue to do that. There is the sugar issue and the refined flour issue as well. Making that change to my oatmeal -- also throws me into the kitchen for 20 mins instead of 5 -- because I have to cook my oatmeal rather than microwave a quick packet.

With cereal its weirdly complicated as well (and these are my EASY foods... grrr). I have to search for new cereals that I enjoy eating, that don't have the refined sugar/flour issue going on. I am lucky that I do enjoy pretty natural cereals (or what I thought was natural anyway) so I'm hoping that I can find something that doesn't taste like tree bark but still satisfies that cereal comfort for me.

Ooooohhhhhh... let me tell you about BACON! According to the book I read, I'm also supposed to stop eating cured meats, smoked meats, bacon, etc. Now, I really enjoy bacon and I like to eat pork period. Sunday w/out sausage doesn't make sense. But its going to have to start. I made the critical error of buying some "non-cured" turkey bacon at Whole Foods. First, the price was outrageous -- but I paid it. The darn stuff tasted gawd-awful. I was too mad. Momma just laughed and laughed. But it was horrible. Really horrible.

I don't know if I'm going to have to switch to meatless bacon (and/or other meat products) because they will likely taste more like what I'm used to. Or if I'm going to have to torture myself into getting to like this crap. Ugh. I'll spare you the story about the gluten-free frozen waffles I tried. Let's just say... somebody needs to hand me an Eggo waffle and quick!


I'm going to go on and put it out there -- I'm going to eat like there's no tomorrow on Thanksgiving. But I'll be back on the internet and going to the bookstores to find books to help me with the transition on Friday.

I want to eat well, and I don't want it to feel like I'm punishing myself or putting myself on a really restrictive diet. Because I will stop entirely if I feel like I'm depriving myself of anything. And I can't stop this -- its a lifestyle change.

I'll keep you posted about the food changes. Bleah.

--------

My new kindle. :)

Some really kind person sent me a surprise gift about a week ago. It is a kindle. And it is AWESOME! If you don't know what a kindle is... go to http://www.amazon.com/ and check it out. It is an electronic book reader and it is simply phenomenal. I had been thinking about getting one for months... actually its been a year since I saw an in-store ad for the Sony book reader. I hesitated for a few reasons. One being the price. The other, I'm not that much of a gadget girl. I wasn't sure how I'd like reading on a machine all the time, or how easy it would be to get good books to read etc.

Well.... I'm loving the kindle. I don't read it everyday, but I do use it fairly often. It won't keep me from buying regular books -- but it will help me to limit what books I do buy. Because I love books so much, I will always have books around me. But now, I can reserve my book buying to those books I know I want to keep for my library. And I can use the kindle to buy other books -- like the nutrition books for my cancer.

It is awesome. If you are into gadgets, or if you read a lot -- it might be something you enjoy as well. And you can subscribe to blogs through the kindle as well.

Okay... that's enough for now. Just wanted you to know that I feel good, I'm re-learning how to eat, and I'm reading a lot these days.

Now... I've got to get ready.

I'm going to see TINA TURNER tonight!! Woo hoo.
http://fabulous-boobies.blogspot.com/p/new-here.html

Nov 15, 2008

Oh, I hate the days after chemo... I am sore all over

The days after chemo, specifically after I get my neulasta shot -- the shot that is supposed to boost my white blood count -- I feel awful.

Right now... I feel like I was hit by a bus, or I just ran two marathons... I'm just a ball of ache. I am hungry but moving to go downstairs to the kitchen seems like pure torture.

Can somebody bring me a pizza?? lol...

~Nic

Nov 12, 2008

went to the movies with my baby... and laughed and laughed

Every post can't be a complaint. :)

Last night I went to the movies and saw Soul Men (with Bernie Mac and Samuel Jackson). If you need a good giggle -- and I mean a hearty, from the bottom of your belly kind of laugh -- hurry and go to this movie.

My goodness... I laughed so hard that I had tears in my eyes. I nearly lost my breath a few times... just because I was laughing so much. This movie was so good, even I started wondering if I could find a bootleg copy on DVD so that my mom could see it. I don't buy bootlegs at all. But since my mother doesn't go to the movies... I was seriously wondering for a moment, if I could find a bootleg copy of this movie to share it with her. (and possibly to watch again during chemotherapy)

I needed to laugh. I needed to be outside of myself and my own misery for awhile. When the movie was over, I wanted to sit and watch it again... I just enjoyed it that much.

I will say this though... it was rather chilly last night. When we were heading home, I was totally taken by surprise at how cold it had gotten last night. Down into the 40's. (WHAT??) Its not winter yet... I wasn't ready for all that.

I have to really get myself together for this weather change. My blood is thinner now than usual -- and I usually get cold easily. I need hats, scarves, gloves... man! Its crazy.

I have chemo on Thursday... I'm already thinking about what I'm going to wear because I have to make sure to dress warmly enough.

Ain't that a blip? Its only November. Sheesh.

lol... but in the grand scheme of things... if making sure that I dress warmly is the biggest concern that I have... I'm definitely doing ALRIGHT.

Go see Bernie Mac. His last movie is a really good one. Plus, Isaac Hayes is in it, playing himself. Black Moses! (head bowed, fist in the air.) Don't do like the folks at the movie theater here though -- this is NOT a kid-friendly movie. The language in this sucker is horrible. The script must have been 80% profanity... just one curse word after another. (but I promise you... it is soooo funny)

No kids. Dress warm. Be ready to have a good time. :)

~Nic

If you have any movie recommendations, please share them. I really could use some laughter...

Nov 10, 2008

disclaimer for my last post

Folks, please don't take any of my posts -- but especially this last one -- personal. They are not meant to be attacks on any one in my life. Its just ranting... Just a way for me to let go some of the stuff that I carry around with me every day.

I don't think that people are rude or mean. In fact, its the opposite problem. I am often overwhelmed by how much people care and want to show me, tell me that they care.

I don't take any of it for granted. I honestly don't.

But if I don't purge myself of the negativity or the stuff that stresses me out from time to time -- then the alternative is to stuff the feelings down inside. And let them do their damage there.

I try to be respectful of everyone's feelings. I try to be respectful of everyone's time and attention. I am not trying to be rude or mean spirited.


My last post was just my way of saying... yet again... I'm really sick of being sick, of thinking about being sick, of dealing with the ramifications of being sick.

You... are perfect just the way you are. And I thank you for taking time out of your life to walk with me for a little while.

~Nic

Nov 9, 2008

next lifetime... i wanna be a blue/green eyed white chick...

Thursday's chemo hit me so hard emotionally... that I've been sort of cocooning with myself and just trying to figure out why the tears are flowing so much. Since today is Sunday and the start of a glorious new week of life... I decided today was the day that I got off my behind and started getting it in gear.

My room needed cleaning, laundry needed washing, sheets needed changing... etc. You know... regular old weekend chores that I needed to do before Thursday came again. (remember, chemo is now every week, instead of every other week)

Of course, I took lazy breaks as needed so that the work didn't feel so much like... well, work. During one of my first breaks... I finished reading "Kindred". (it was a very good book, not what I expected but really really good)

So... when I decided to take another break later on, I needed something else to read. I tried to revisit "A long way gone: memoirs of a boy soldier"... but it was still a bit too much for my spirit right now. The second book I picked up, "Crazy sexy cancer tips" was recommended to me by quite a few people. When I received it (I think I ordered it from Amazon)... as soon as I looked at it, I regretted the purchase. Couldn't bring myself to read it.

It has a foreword by Sheryl Crow... and while I think her music is fine, and I know that she had her own bout with breast cancer... I just couldn't see myself gaining much from her words. (Yes, I do realize how snarky that sounds) But this afternoon, I figured that enough time had passed and that I was far enough along in my treatment that it might be okay for me to read this book and not feel weird.

For those who don't know... I have a very short "book attention span". It could be the writer in me, or maybe I'm just a snob for no reason... but I give books a really short window to grab me before they end up on a shelf collecting dust. The reason is simple. If I have to force myself to read it, I'm not likely to gain much from it. It just might not be my time for that message. So, rather than torture myself... I put it away and just allow myself the option to read it when I'm in a better place mentally. Especially if its a book that I suspect is a good one.

So... you'll be interested to know that by page 26... I realized that I too... should have been born a nice white lady with blonde hair and blue or green eyes. Why? Because for some reason... these chicks seem to just have it all under control.

Sheryl Crow's introduction made me want to barf. Literally. She goes on and on about how devastating her cancer diagnosis was, and such things. (I am really being a bitch) But then she shares that her cancer was found really early and she had microcalcifications but no tumors.

Uh huh. Focus on the first part of that word... MICRO. That means that without a microscope, you can't see it, you can't feel it. It basically barely exists at all... except that it does. I felt really angry at that. Sure... its unreasonable of me to be pissed because someone else's tragedy isn't quite as tragic as mine. But I really was annoyed.

I pressed on. Kriss Carr... the author of the book... was diagnosed with stage IV of some super-duper rare liver cancer, that had spread to her lungs. She had 10 tumors on the surface of her liver.

So... I thought... "damn, that's horrible... let me read on to see what she has to say about this thing... she must know something good"....

... well... not really. I mean, sure, I'm only on page 26 and so far, she really hasn't said much except how blown she was about her diagnosis. (I bet she was... that's a damn doozy right there) But then... she reveals that...

...there's nothing they can do about her cancer. She's not in treatment. The cancer isn't growing, isn't moving, isn't spreading... Its just... there.

And while I know... I really do know how devastating it must be to just know that you have something in your body that doesn't belong. Something that changes who you are... from normal girl, living her normal life... to... "cancer survivor"... is nothing small.

But again... dammit.

These white chicks seem to have this thing down pat. They just skip through life, la-la-la! happy go damn lucky..

"damn, I have cancer... woo... let's have a party or start a movement...yay, let's change the world!"

I do not feel that way. Maybe its just too early -- though it already seems like four forevers have passed since I learned I have cancer. But when I talk to other black women (the few that I have actually allowed myself to communicate with -- more on that later)... none of them have this happy-go-lucky attitude.

They tell me that what I feel is normal. They tell me that writing my blog is courageous. They tell me that I will get past all of this and life will go on. But they never ever make it seem like... "Yay... today I have cancer and ... I'm gonna make a movie, and write a book, or start a class... blah blah blah."

Is perkiness something that only comes to blonde haired white women with blue (or green) eyes? And if its not... is it even something I want to have?

I'm going to try to read more of this stupid book. But I'm a little pissed at the moment. Why do I want to read about a chick who changes her eating habits etc. for a disease that she can effectively live with? I can't live with Fred, Ted and Jim -- even if I wanted to. Those greedy bastards are sucking up the estrogen in my body like red kool-aid... and they are growing like fat kids who eat cake every day.

If they aren't stopped... they could literally burst through my breast and explode all over the place. And that's not even thinking about what other damage they could do to other parts of my body. Since Jim is already laid up in my lymph nodes... it would be nothing but a thing for him to jump on into the lymphatic system -- sorta like jumping on a subway train -- and just travelling on through my body and stopping off at my bones, or some other organs along the way.

What I'm saying is that... my cancer... REQUIRES treatment. Aggressive treatment. Chemotherapy that is draining all my energy, my good spirits and such. I know that everybody's cancer is different -- and I'm sure that I'm dead wrong for comparing mine with theirs and everybody else's who has mentioned to me that they (or their relative/friend) has/had cancer...

I'm also sure this post will probably earn a lot of boos from from the crowd... I'll have to take that today. Right at this moment (which I know will pass) I am pissed.

If I don't stop this thing... I could die. Period.

Meanwhile... she has cancer that is just... laying there. At one point she writes...
"Why couldn't I have a popular cancer? No, I had to get a rare cancer that only affects about 0.1 percent of the population. There would be no groups for me, no walks, no ribbons, no sisterhood bullshit, nothing."

Well... (picture the neck swivel...and the hands on the hips)... let me tell you as one of those sisters with a "popular" cancer... All that bullshit she just named... is just that for me. BULLSHIT.

I could give less than a damn about a pink ribbon, an awareness campaign, a grand public display of sympathy forced into a walk or a marathon.... I don't want to participate in any support groups, or go to classes to teach me how to wear a wig or put on makeup.

I don't -- dammit!! -- want to do any of it. I don't want any parts of it. I truly don't. I want to be back to normal. That's it.

I am too tired of feeling like a monkey in a cage. I promise you -- it is not fun, in any way, to be part of millions of people with a disease that could kill you. It is not fun to feel like you're a symbol for someone else's fear -- while you're struggling with your own fears.

In fairness... there were some things that she mentioned (in these few pages) that I could relate to. Like the ongoing mind chatter that's all about death or dying... the stuff you can't mention to people when they ask how you're doing because they will probably think you're out of your damn mind. And in even more fairness... I probably will glean some goodness from her book. She was diagnosed with her cancer 5 years before me. I hope that she's learned something from her journey that is relatable to other folks.

I don't want to go to any support groups. I do not want to feel like I'm any more on display to the world that I'm some sort of "freak"... than I already feel with my bald head, my darkened hands and feet, and so forth.

I don't want to go to classes to teach me things that I learned when I was 15, like putting on makeup. or stuff I am just not even remotely interested in -- like how to wear a wig. (bleah)

I'm just not that interested. Not now.

Maybe I will move to that place where group activities will feel more like a normal thing for me... but right now, it feels forced. I have been finding myself either saying yes when I want to say no... Or making excuses because I'm too chicken to just flat out say no.

NO. NO. NO. NO. NO.

If this is a time for me to learn how to put myself first, to focus on what's good for me... etc. and so forth... then I have to grasp that saying no comes with that territory.

No.

No support groups. No prayer circles. No visits with small children. No. Just no.

I will admit to enjoying some of the attention that "I have cancer" brings out in people. But most of it is really uncomfortable. People get these weird looks on their faces, or these odd ass silences when you're speaking with them. Or they ask dumb questions that they don't realize are dumb. Or they offer you unsolicited advice for some odd "cure" that you just have to try. Or they ask for details that you know they really don't want because when you give it to them -- you can see/hear them just glaze over. And you know what has happened is that they have leapt out of what's happening to you and right into their own imagination about.... "what if this happened to me". Its understandable... I just don't like dealing with it, over and over and over again.

And that's what I'm not ready to deal with on a more public level. Even in a support group, there has to be a level of sharing that I'm not quite ready for.

To start with... I am not...

stage 3a breast cancer, HER2 positive, 4 tumors,
lymph node positive...


My name is Nicole Valencia. And somehow... in all of this "disease and treatment" crap... she has completely gotten lost. Nicole had a whole life and a bunch of dreams mapped out prior to July 28th. Now... its like none of that matters.

All I ever hear... over and over and over again...

"how are you feeling?"

Which is really not the same as ... "how's it going?" or "how are ya?"

How are you feeling is very specific and goes right to.... "you have cancer Nicole". I am really being a bitch and I'm sorry but I'm tired of all day, every day... cancer cancer cancer!

(see, what that book did to my happy mood?)

Even my boyfriend doesn't talk to me the same way anymore. He asks me how I'm feeling before any conversation can take place. It was okay for awhile, but now its smothering me. Making me constantly remain stuck in this awareness that my body ain't quite right.

Its rude of me to say any of this... but I can't shake this feeling that for the rest of my life every time someone asks me.... "how are you?" ... I'm going to hear.... "is your cancer better today?"

Imagine if... you had a really painful, hot, bright red, pimple on your nose or your chin. And everyday... everyone asked... "wow, does that hurt?"... "damn, that looks painful"... "how does it FEEL?" And so forth... its a little bit like that.

There isn't a remedy for what I'm feeling. And I know that as soon as I finish this entry... I'll go right back to pretending/believing that it doesn't bother me. I can't tell if it really doesn't bother me or if I'm just so accustomed to being on the surface of my feelings... that I don't know if it bothers me until I force myself to focus on it. Like... reading a book about someone else's cancer struggle.

"Inspirational stories of black cancer survivors"... that's one more book that I'm going to read at some point. I'm just not ready for it right now. I appreciate the gift and the thoughtfulness that inspired it. But I just want to be me again. Not me with cancer. Or me dealing with chemo side effects, or emotional baggage caused by fear of my early and/or painful death. I'm not ready to be inspired by black people struggling with this pain.

I'm pissed at the moment that I won't be "me" ever again. At least not a "me" that I really am comfortable with, yet. It took me about 35 years to get comfy in my skin, to feel like I knew who I was... and then just when I was getting into the groove -- BAM! -- now you're a totally new chick with a whole bunch of new problems. Ta-da.

I apologize right now for being rude and obnoxious. My mother did teach me better than this. I do have home training. And I know that its not nice to be so sour with people who have nothing but good intentions for you.

I was having a pretty nice, lazy day Sunday... washing clothes, playing games online, etc. But then I made the bad decision of trying to learn more about how to deal with this cancer.

Well... (full disclosure)... I was hoping for a remedy for all this damn gas. I am about to blow my room right outta my house. It is HORRIBLE over here. That's another reason why I'm avoiding people -- I'm not really fit for human consumption over here... and to top all of that... I have no shame about cutting one loose. (and now I know my momma taught me better than that!)

See? I'm back to giggling at myself. I'm already over it...

...thank goodness.

Nov 7, 2008

My adventure with herceptin

Thursday was my first treatment with herceptin. I will be taking this medication every week for an entire year (yay... more chemo!). My cancer is HER2 positive -- which has something to do with estrogen fueling my cancer. This medication is supposed to slow and/or stop that growth.

I went to the cancer center expecting to be in and out in about an hour... ended up being there for a few hours. The first dose is 3 times as long as the weekly dose. So, I had to take this IV for 90 minutes. My favorite oncology nurse, Theresa, warned me that herceptin causes some random side effects -- not for everyone of course, but for some of us. I listened to everything she said and thought that I would probably be one of the folks who didn't have a reaction. I'm typically that girl. Guess my typical days are over because 60 minutes into my drip... I started reacting.

Let me put this in perspective for you.

I completely forgot about that this appointment was scheduled for 830 am. (I am really not a morning person) I remembered that I had to be at the cancer center at 1 am. I mentioned it to my mom -- wasn't sure that she heard me or if she was sleeping. I contacted my boyfriend, who was just ending his work night. He said that he would take me if I woke him up.

Interestingly enough, my mother did hear me and she got up in time for us to make it to the doctor. Worked out well because I couldn't get in touch with my boyfriend -- phone difficulties -- and by the time I did reach him, my mom was ready to go. Here's the thing... my mom was willing to battle rush hour traffic to get me there on time but she couldn't bring herself to come upstairs.

So... when it seemed like I would only be upstairs for an hour, she was willing to sit in the car and wait. When I called to tell her it would be more like 2 hours, she still didn't want to come upstairs to the cancer center. I shrugged it off, I sort of knew that she had a problem with watching me take the chemo so I tried not to be upset that she would rather sit in her car (nice car that it is, mind you) than sit with me.

But I wasn't very happy about it. What can I say? I can't force someone (even my sweet loving mother) to deal with something this harsh if she's not capable of it. Its good enough that she was willing to get up so early, on such notice and take me down there. She didn't have to do that -- especially when you add in the misery of rush hour traffic.

I sat in the cancer center, like I said... getting yet another chemo drip, feeling really lonely and scared. I know all the nurses that work there (I see them all the time), I trust them, I know they will look out for me... and yet... I felt so absolutely alone. My mom was really only a phone call away -- she was just a few feet from my side when you think about it but I swear... I felt like I was alone on a deserted island.

Let me add... lots of folks go to the cancer center alone and take their chemo like a champ, all by themselves. I honestly don't get it. I don't know how they do it. Even if my boyfriend and I don't talk at all, his presence by my side comforts me in a way that I cannot put into words. But we do talk, and laugh and generally transport ourselves out of that dreary-trying-to-be-cheery place and the hours just fly by.

So... my mom didn't want to see me hooked up to the IV and she stayed in her car, listening to the radio and probably working on her puzzles. Meanwhile, I read my book and kept stealing glances at the chemo bag trying to wish it to go faster, so I could go back home and get some sleep. And then... an hour into the drip, I started feeling really really cold.

One of the side effects was getting rigors (fancy medical term for the shakes you get when you're really cold). I was dressed warmly and I had one blanket... but I started to feel like the temperature around me was dropping.

I was determined to leave on time. I didn't want to keep my mom waiting and I wanted to go back to bed. I looked at the bag and guessed that I had only 30 more minutes... so I didn't say anything. But dammit if those doggone shakes didn't just fall on me hard within about 5 minutes of me deciding that I wasn't going to say anything. Theresa had also told me that if I did experience any side effects, they would have to slow down the drip and give my body a chance to adjust to it. Unlike with other medications, they weren't likely to stop giving me the medicine just because I reacted -- it was going down, regardless. So, like I said... I weighed my options and figured I could just hang in there for a few more minutes.

I'm always so wrong in my estimation of what works for me now. And I was wrong in this case too. Within 5 minutes I thought my teeth would fall out of my head from the chattering... I finally got the nurse's attention and told her that I needed another blanket.

It sounds silly to my ears... but when she looked at me and saw how cold I was, I started to cry. It defies reasonable explanation... but I was terrified and I was alone and I was actually too afraid of shouting out loud that I needed help, to even get her attention. I honestly sat there, shaking and shivering like a nut... waiting for someone to move near enough to me that I could catch their eye and let them know I needed help.

The area where we get chemo treatments is a big open area filled with lots of seats. There isn't any real privacy in there. I didn't want to disturb anyone else... especially when I felt that whatever I was going through just couldn't be that serious.

I cried. I was alone and if someone had been sitting there with me, I could have leaned over and asked them to get a nurse. But because I was alone, I could either struggle to get up and walk to their desk, shout out loud... or wait (I chose the latter)... until someone saw me.

I was afraid. It doesn't make sense -- so if you're thinking to yourself that my actions didn't make sense, you're right. Keep in mind that I was really tired (didn't get much sleep the night before), I was hungry (it was too early to eat so I didn't), and I was disappointed (like a child) that nobody was there with me. So, I guess my reaction could be considered a tantrum. I don't know.

All I know is that without realizing just how scared I was... I was balling my eyes out while my nurse worked on my IV, adding this and that... stopping the other thing, trying to get me balanced out. And I was ashamed of it. That part really makes little to no sense as well. There wasn't one soul in that room who did not understand what I was going through or how I was feeling. But I felt like such a baby for not being able to deal with it alone.

I'm getting it together... even thinking about it makes me a little misty-eyed. On the ride home, my mom and I danced around the conversation (in our own way...) and she confessed that it was hard for her to go with me to chemotherapy. I knew that, even without her saying it... and it made me feel worse for having to ask her to take me. And before you even think it, I know she doesn't mind, she told me she doesn't mind... and I get it. But I also know that I don't like asking her to deal with this when I know it breaks her heart the way that it does.

She asked me to give her time to prepare herself mentally to go to the treatments. I will do that. And I might ... just might, mind you... have to ask a couple of you to come and hold my hand from time to time. Just to give her a break. (She's trying to give my boyfriend a break... because he's been doing it all for a long time now)

If I call... and you can't do it, or you don't think you can handle it, just tell me that upfront. I won't be upset. I truly understand. I just don't want to ask someone to do something that is too much for them, and they do it out of a sense of obligation and then have to deal with the emotional aftermath alone.

Just keep praying for me. It seems like it would get easier... but in some ways, its not.

------------

I wanted to add... I'm a really private person. You probably can't tell that from all the personal things I've shared here on this blog. As much as I can't stand being alone in chemo, I know that its going to happen again and again... as I go through this process. It is simply something I'm going to have to get used to. I may have been hormonal, and that's why I cried. Or it could be just as simple as ... I missed my mom. I don't know. What I do know is that it is really hard for me to allow anyone (including my mom, my dad and my boyfriend) to see me while I'm getting my chemo treatment.

It is such a vulnerable position. I can't really explain it. I feel naked there, even though I'm fully dressed. All that to say... If I don't ask you (or take you up on your offer) to sit with me during chemo please don't take it as a personal affront. I don't think I can articulate this well... but what I'm trying to say is that, I only feel comfortable with a few people seeing me in my total nakedness.

Nov 4, 2008

hot flashes are just mean....

I've been up all night... alternately sweating and shivering. I went to bed with just a t-shirt... hoping that I could make it through the night. Of course, that would have been too easy. So... I have a fan going -- directly on me. Somehow, the hot flashes laugh at that direct blast of air... so I find myself grasping for any piece of paper nearby to assist with the breeze.

I keep rotating my pillows because they too... are suffering from the hot flashes. When I raise my head up... so that I can fan the back of my neck... I realize that my pillow is soaking wet -- much like my t-shirt was before it got tossed to the floor.

What is this about? I mean... seriously? Is it not enough that my joints are aching... do I have to also suffer the indignity of sweating like a pig all night too?

ugh.

If you talk to me today and I'm either cranky or quite silent... it is because I am tired. I don't imagine I'll get much sleep tonight. Considering its 4am and I'm still awake... I guess I can wrap that up.

.... a good night's sleep, that's all I want tonight.

Nov 3, 2008

3 days in the hospital... and the week after...

I'm going to try this again. Seems like the entire post I just typed... disappeared. Ugh! Now I have to try to remember what I wrote the first time. Bleah.

Sorry that I haven't posted since October 22nd. Long story short, I ended up in the hospital on the 24th. I was feeling lousy for a few days... and it didn't occur to me to take my temperature until Thursday of that week. I had a fever. When I spoke with the nurse on Friday and told her that I had had a fever for the past couple of days... she told me to go to the emergency room. I thought that maybe she was being extremist but... nah. She was way smarter than me.

Turns out... having a fever when you're in chemotherapy is a very very bad thing. It is a sign that your immune system is very weak and you're probably at risk for getting an infection or a virus or something awful. Now, in an ordinarily healthy adult, your body fights off infection with no problem and you're okay in no time. But... of course, since chemo tears down all your fast growing cells, you're susceptible to having an infection wreck havoc on your body.

Went to the emergency room on Friday afternoon... didn't leave the hospital until Monday evening... and practically had to beg then to be released. Spent 12 hours in emergency (so much fun) and then the next few days in a little room on the 5th floor. My white blood count was extremely low... according to one doctor, my blood work showed that my neutrophils were at .9 -- that's an issue when normal is like 4000. I was fortunate that I had not (that they could tell) gotten any infections but they pumped me full of antibiotics for days to make sure that I was okay. And they gave me lots of saline (seems like I was dehydrated too) and also 3 blood transfusions. I was rather anemic too.

All in all... I was a bit of a mess. But, I came out on Monday feeling much better. I actually felt about normal -- pre-cancer normal that is. I had chemo on Thursday... and this was the first of four cycles of Taxol (a different chemo drug). Actually, I ended up having chemo on Thursday and Friday -- a mix-up that the nurses made. However, today... I feel awful. I got through the weekend okay but now I feel so achy and sore that I'm hoping tomorrow when I go to the cancer center, they can tell me how to ease this feeling.

Since my neutropenic fever the other week, my doctor is taking extra precautions and I get to have 3 injections this week, instead of getting just one the day after chemo like I normally do. Also, this week, I start my hormone therapy (herceptin) which I will continue every week for the next year. (can you believe this??) Basically, I will spend one day each week for the next 52 weeks tethered to an IV being pumped full of medicine.

fun.

Anyhoo... my taste buds aren't as jacked up as they have been. I remain hopeful that they will come all the way back -- I swear I don't want to go through the rest of my life with food tasting this way. Even though today its better than it was -- its still not good enough. Not for a girl who likes food as much as I do.

My knees, my hips, my back, my ankles, my arms... all those joints... HURT LIKE HELL. But, what ya gonna do?? It came on slowly -- a little bit last night but today, it came down on me like hard rain. By the time I finished lunch today... I wanted to crawl, literally, back to bed.

Before the achiness came on me... I was worried that I wouldn't be able to stand for hours (if necessary) to vote. Now... I really don't know what's going to happen. I'm going to pray that God works it out that there isn't a line when I get to the polling place because I will literally sit on the ground if I have to stand for more than 2 minutes. And it will be hard work getting up -- believe that.

Since my immune system is so weak, its not likely that many of you will be seeing me over the next couple of months. I really can't risk any germs, infections, etc. In fact, I probably won't be able to see my family for Thanksgiving for the same reason -- and man, that really sucks. But I promise you -- I do not want to spend another 4 days in the hospital getting pumped full of medicine and getting blood transfusions. The food is just too horrible to risk it. lol...

All in all... achiness and hospital visits aside... I'm doing okay. I'm in reasonably good spirits. Though, you all know... I will cry from time to time. In fact, I made a friend with one of the nurses while I was in the hospital and I ended up crying on her shoulder for a long time on Sunday night. I was glad that she was there and understood (or empathized with) what I was feeling.

I wish I could explain to you how my mood will shift from upbeat and happy to sad and confused in a matter of moments. But I haven't identified any triggers that precipitate the change in outlook. All I know is that... every now and then... I get upset and sad that I'm going through this and that I'm taking my family and friends through all this emotional stuff.

I'm going to bed now... gotta get up and vote tomorrow. I love you and I thank you for sticking with me on this journey. Your prayers and your good wishes... are really keeping me going. You have no idea.

~Nic

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