Third chemo

I did not make this cool word cluster, I lifted it from medimoon.com

I did not make this cool word cluster, I lifted it from medimoon.com

Chemo number three, the actual chemo part, was OK. What wasn’t OK was my newly inserted Power Port, meant to make needle pokes and digging in my arms for blood return a thing of the past, when actually it caused digging and concern among the chemo nurses with three of them trying to access it and get blood return, but no, no blood return, way too much resistance, everyone squeezing it and touching it and it still tender and bruised (yes, I said that surgeon was amazing because he left no bruises, but the bruises showed up days later, looking not unlike the boot of Italy extending down beneath my unmentionables—hahahaha, it’s breast cancer, what can possibly be unmentionable in this milieu???? beneath my bra and looking yucky. The they stuck a vial of TPA (a protein Drano of sorts) in there, and launched a IV in my arm after all, and proceed with chemo. Sigh. Now I have to go to radiology and have dye injected so they can trace what the hell has gone wrong and certainly there will be an incision and you will hear me shrieking my demands of 4-6 mg Versed all over downtown Toronto. I cannot face that procedure again.

I brought a plate of Valentine cookies for the nurses, and they were gone when we closed down the chemo suite. I hope that made up for the pain in the butt my port was to them. They do these accesses all day, five days a week, so when one doesn’t work, it is frustrating for everyone, not just me (I am trying so hard to be mature here, can you tell?). Next visit, on Feb 11, I will bring a plate for nurses, and a plate for patients too. Any smiles that can be had there will be a good thing.

And Dr. Brezden says my lymph nodes are noticeable smaller, and that the chemo is doing its job. Yay!

Side effects of chemo so far

I think I am doing pretty well.

I had my first daytime nap last Thursday, and another one yesterday, Monday.

No pain (thank you Claritin).

One day of nausea (stupid me stopped anti-nausea meds too soon: NEVER AGAIN).

Mouth sores: flaring up on day 6, ending day 12.

Sense of taste: going haywire. I couldn’t discern any flavour in a bowl of chili today, it felt like my tongue was coated in Vaseline; the icing for my Valentine’s cookies tasted so bitter, I needed the kids to taste it repeatedly. It tasted so bitter I had to stop tasting it. I hope this side effect passes.

No shortness of breath.

No neuropathy.

No depression (thank you SSRIs!).

Look Good, Feel Better

Tessa and I are attending this seminar tomorrow morning at Princess Margaret. I am hoping to find a way to fix the greenish-grey tinge my face has, as well as what to do about disappearing eyebrows, some recommendations on moisturizers, and a lip balm that won’t burn. Report to follow.

Have good counts, will travel!

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Clover is a one-trick pony when it comes to blending in with his surroundings, so we like to celebrate his season with photos of his winter camouflage. Without the leash, you might think he was simply a cute arrangement of little lumps of coal…

The weekend before my chemo, which is every second weekend, is the best time to do things, hence the trip to Continental Hair on Friday, to the dentist the same day, the pharmacy and grocery store, all Friday, and a trip to visit my family in Stratford, Ontario, on the same day.

     I grew up in Stratford, which is in the centre of the Lake Huron snowbelt that stretches from the lake eastward, and dumps phenomenal loads of snow on town and the surrounding plains of the countryside, making for drifts across the highways and low to no visibility when the winds are blowing, as they were Friday night. A 1 hour, 45 minute drive took 3 hours 15 minutes. SUPER TIRING! But I love driving in the snow, secretly, so it was OK.

     We—all five of us, me, Tessa, Graydon, Luka and Clover—stayed at my sis Heidi’s house, in her fully finished attic with three beds, a davenport, and enough room to play touch football. We visited my dad twice, took Clover once, drove Luka to London in crazy-ass snow conditions again for a sleepover with his friend-since-junior-kindergarten-who-moved-to-London-last-year-leaving-a-big-hole-in-his-circle-of-friends Michael. They had a great visit. We visited my Mum at her house and ate Mexican (my mum is an east-coaster, the Mexican was takeout). My other sister Juli and one of her sons, Nic, came to Heidi’s Sunday morning while I was baking sugar cookies for Valentine’s Day (pics to follow). We had a great chat, and did not solve the problems of the world. Tessa crocheted 18 roses for a scarf she saw on Pinterest, and I helped by deciphering the pattern and crocheting the first one. I did a few more too. I taught her to crochet last week, and now she is mad for the craft! We checked out a sweet wool shop in town, and were disappointed by the proprietor—I think she had been outside too long, frozen, and did not know how to thaw out her icy attitude. Too bad, since Tessa could have been parted easily from her money if that woman had even tried to hold a convo with her! We watched Les Miz, six episodes of Canterbury Law, three episodes of Fringe, six of Arrested Development and more I cannot think of. Heidi made a sirloin tip roast, roasted potatoes, big, meaty sautéed mushrooms and onions, and brussels sprouts with lardon (I ate them, I confess, lardons and all, meaning I even choked down the mini-cabbages to get the bacon!).

     Come our departure time of 5 on Sunday, heavy snow was dropping, the plow filled the driveway again, and out the highway, the blowing snow was insane. So, we stayed another night.

     My rating for accommodations and food at Heidi’s Heavenly Hideaway: A++. We will return!

I have 99 problems, but my hair ain’t one!

I might start a list of 99 things on this blog...

I might start a list of 99 things on this blog…

Thank you, Jay-Z, for the title of my blog this morning (I hope he sees this, despite preparing for the Grammy’s on Sunday night), albeit with a little change. 

I do have 99 problems, but after my visit to the wig centre yesterday—Continental Hair, Toronto—my hair is not on that list; instead, it is on the top of my list of good things that have happened and are happening to me. The stylist gave me more highlights, all very fine and hyper-natural looking. She then glossed them down a tone or two so there was no chance of brassiness. She feathered some of the weight out, added piecey bits to frame the face under the main, longer hair so as to hide the edge of the wig if I decide to wear it up.

It was an amazingly busy morning there, with Elfi slipping back telling stylists of more and more appointments and assignments, but still, the atmosphere was chill (attitude), warm (how are you? can I get you a coffee). attentive (are you sure you are warm enough?) and like hanging out with a new group of girlfriends. Because many clients leave their hair behind, stylists get to sit and style hair on a wig stand without a client to chat with, and I was in the enviable position (for someone who likes to listen to and tell stories) of having two stylists and Elfi to chat and laugh with. We went through what styling wigs is like, the responsibility they feel to their clients because of the special emotional situation many of them are in with regards to losing their hair, industrial tech music in Germany, ’80s bands, boyfriends, good boyfriends, bad boyfriends, new boyfriends, good people who randomly come in to donate their hair to Continental’s Wigs for Kids program (free wigs and partials for kids under 12 with any medical hair loss), alternate realities, the X-Files, Fringe, how red wine and black pepper heated together and taken at bedtime will help you sweat out a cold, and about 20 more topics. All while they worked away, and while I blogged!

Maybe this will be my last post about my hair.

I cannot say enough about my new hair. Have you noticed?

Blogging while getting my hair washed…

Here’s a new one

I am blogging from the third chair from the left, while getting my hair washed, at Continental Hair. Warm water is cascading down my hair, while I sit and tap away at a laptop. Am I worried about water falling on the keyboard? Hardly. My hair is in the sink four feet to the left of me.

I am here this morning to have highlights put in my new hair, and maybe have a few more bangs cut. I am also going to get my head shaved, because I’m finding that the amount of hair that is falling out is actually freaking me out more than the thought of a bald head. I have reached that tipping point. I do quite like my faux-hawk, but the bald patches are increasing, and if I have to buy another bottle of Drano for the tub I will feel like an environmental terrorist. I will keep my eyes closed, and they’ll put the wig on, so any emotional reaction to being bald can safely be had later tonight in the privacy of my own bathroom.

I’ll post photos of my of my bald head when Tessa takes them, and only if I am not to spooky-looking.

Friends

Last night, my ex-manager and still extremely good friend Leslie Ann came over after work and we had a great visit. Clover barked and went nuts, which he did all over again when James arrived, we had pizza and gabbed and laughed and caught up. I’d like a visit like that every Thursday night, LA. Make a note of it!

Dentalwork on chemo

I have a dentist appointment to have a crown fitted today. When I told my oncologist I had to have a root canal, and I hoped that it wasn’t a problem, she said, “No problem. No dentalwork on chemo!” But I needed the root canal, because the whole two months’ time I was running around having umpteen tests done for my cancer, my mouth and jaw was killing me and I was popping pain relievers rather than going to the dentist. So I raced to a new dentist who saw me the next day, and got me a root canal referral the same day, all the day before chemo started. Today, I go get a crown fitted, because that kind of dentalwork can be done on chemo.

The C5000 Power Port

The day after my surgery (some may call it a procedure, but when you cut through my skin and fat with a scalpel, I call it surgery) this hurt like fire. Two days after, it just felt weird. Last night, Tessa cleaned the two incision sites, as per instructions from the hospital, and applied new dressings. I didn’t look, but she reports the incisions are tiny, clean and there is no bruising. He must be some doctor, because with all the blood and pushing and pulling and shoving and wiggling, I figured I would be one giant bruise. I ran my finger over the dressing, and it feels HUGE. Tessa says it’s riding a little high under my skin. Blech!

Buzz time (and I’m not talking weed)

Looks like it’s time for my buzz cut. Goodbye hair, goodbye friends and reader friends. See you later!

Falling hair is making me gag, or, haircut number three courtesy of Graydon

My thanks to Tessa, ace photographer and today, my guest blogger. Which means I copied this from her private blog.

My mum’s hair started falling out (merci beaucoup chemo) so she decided to just say “f*** it” and shave it off. My middle brother is decent at cutting hair so my mum got him to make good on his offer to shave her head when she decided it was time. When he finished one side I realized that my mom had the opportunity to get a mohawk. I thought it would look sick, and since her hair on top down the back wasn’t thinning too much there wasn’t much reason to get rid of it. So now my mom has a mohawk and she likes it, she’s smiley, and it looks f***ing awesome. 

     The last picture is with her port she got put in yesterday. She was not a happy camper. I wouldn’t be either if I had a foreign object inserted into my chest fat and my jugular. Yes, the interventional radiologist who did the surgery actually said “go for the jugular, ya know?” which was not super comforting for my mom who was lying on a stretcher in a cold ass hallway where people were milling about doing office printing and apparently walking by and checking out my legs. My mom may have just been flattering me, but I’ll take it. Anywho, that’s where a port goes.

hairfauxhawk

Around lunch, Tessa completed her once-a-day assessment on the state of my hair loss. She said it was actually looking bad, and offered to take a photo so I could decide for myself. This is the shot, bald spots painfully obvious, that launched the third haircut in as many weeks.

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Graydon goes in for the cut.

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Who knew this Christmas present would be pressed into service on the gift giver?

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Port insertion day, or, WHERE IS MY FREAKING SEDATION?!?!?!

I’ve let 36 hours go by since having my port placed so I could get some distance/perspective/wine between me and the procedure. I was led to believe there would be conscious sedation, which in my limited understanding means I will be sedated until I’m barely conscious. I am weirded out by many things concerning my body—I cannot insert contact lenses, I cannot take my own or anyone else’s pulse, can barely apply mascara—so the thought of having a little mechanical box inserted under my skin so nurses can stick a needle right in my chest FREAKED ME OUT. The fact that the doctor would be working inches from my face freaked me out. I was so panicked as I talked to him before the procedure that I thought I might not actually be able to do it. I apologized for being so nervous, and asked for all the medication he could give me. As it turned out, I was given two milligrams of versed, which I barely noticed. I asked for more, and the nurse said OK, but I felt nothing different. I talked all the way through it—we discussed his work as an interventional radiologist, his education, our kids, the purpose of doing a degree in philosophy, how people are all terrified of that procedure (I think he was being kind). 

     It is my personal weirdness that made the whole experience intolerable. The reasons for getting a port (mine is called the Power Port, and came with a nifty patient info pack that included a key fob and an alert bracelet) far outstrip the reasons for not getting one, and now it’s in, so I’ll never get another two-inch bruise in indigo to remind me of fun times digging for blood return. The chemo nurses will be relieved. And I’ll be weirded out for the next six months.

     Note to self: ask for the type and dosage of the meds I got for the upper and lower GI series, and have my doc write an order for the same when I come back to have it removed. 

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I think this photo shows why one should wear this port thingy as a piece of jewellery ON your chest, instead of IN your chest.

Any port in a storm

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I cannot sleep. Yesterday, so much hair came out of my high and tight G.I.Jane haircut that I clogged the tub, and had to drive to No Frills at 8 a.m. to buy Drano. Then drive Luka to school, because he miss the bus. Then drive to St. Mike’s for pre-op bloodwork that is different than the bloodwork I just had done six days ago. Then went grocery shopping and went to buy a winter hat to wear to the hospital today, Tuesday, when I have to be there at 7:30 a.m. to have a port-o-cath inserted in my chest, and it is going to be ass-biting cold, and I can’t wear a wig as magnificent as mine (hahaha, I don’t think you wear any wigs into surgery, just like you don’t wear nail polish to surgery). 

Because of the number of bruises and failed blood draws, IVs, tracer injections, etc., my oncologist says I need a port-o-cath put in my chest. I’m fine with people poking around my arms and hands looking for fresh veins, but that’s because I like to hold my trips to surgery to a bare minimum, and this one doesn’t seem like a real necessity to me. But, I am not a doctor. She says that the chemo is very strong, and can cause scarring and blocks, and a chemo burn is a real possibility with the looks of my bruising. 

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Graydon had a port. Now I will have one too. 

The procedure takes less than an hour, and after the port is placed, a catheter/wire is fed up my neck!!! Aaaarrraagghhh. That is the worst. She says there’ll be tugging when I move my head, but that I’ll get used to it. Oh good Lord. Why can’t having cancer be easy?

Tessa and I will drive to the hospital for 7:30 a.m. This means that Graydon will be getting Luka up for school for the first time ever. If this happens without a hitch, I will have to do something huge, and I mean HUGE.

My man is coming to pick us both up afterward—apparently this is another procedure after which the hospital staff will not let you drive home. Once again, he comes 80 kilometres to pick me up and bring me home to my house. That is devotion and kindness and chivalry, all rolled into one. I honestly don’t know what I would do without him.