Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Shampoo, shampoo - glorious shampoo!

Yes - I used shampoo yesterday for the first time since November. Did I really NEED to use shampoo?? probably not.... But I definitely have hair now.

I watched the American Idol finale tonight (I guessed wrong...) - but it will probably only be a couple or few weeks before my hair could be worn like Janet Jackson wore hers tonight.... although I might skip the trashy jumpsuit - that whole thing was a wardrobe malfunction...

I might be starting to feel some fatigue from the radiation - or I just might be lazy as all get-out again. Maybe a bit of itchiness beginning ( that was ITCHiness.... and not a typo like Drain your Dragon ) sheesh! But no red skin so far.

I managed to go the entire time away without getting a cold sore - which I was fully expecting to get since I always do in the sun - but now that I'm home, I've been hit with one full force - spreading on my lip - worse than I usually get. SO attractive! And it is painful too - but thanks to a nice angel who provided me some mouth sore stuff for prior side-effects, I have something to battle it with.

I have finally gotten serious about eating properly and making good choices. We were at a flyball tournament on the weekend and were out for dinners. At the Keg I ordered Ahi Tuna with asparagus, and replaced the rice pilaf with a baked potato that had only salsa on it. Then at a Thai restaurant, I got a Hot and Sour prawn soup instead of a creamy curry. Then last night I went to a pub and ordered the salmon dinner but asked for NO white cream sauce, and again replaced the rice but this time with salad. I feel very healthy and guilt-free! Tonight for dinner I made a white-fish with a bit of rice and some asparagus. Cam raved over it and it was mostly guilt-free too. The scale does seem to be cooperating as well...

Gee, I thought I had a ton of stuff to write about but I can't think of anything more...

Oh yah - at radiation the other day, the machine rotated too far to one side and shook the bed. I was calling out to let them know because they take very careful and precise measurements to make sure the radiation hits the right spot. Because the machine shook the bed, I was concerned that the bed had moved but no one answered my call and then the zapper came on so it was too late anyway. AFTER the zap, they intercommed me to ask if I was alright, and THEN I was able to explain what had happened. So they came in to check and assured me that nothing had moved out of place, and if it had, they would have seen it on the monitors so I don't have to worry about getting zapped incorrectly. Well, that's a relief.... But it was a little disturbing, nonetheless.

I guess I could give you a detailed description of how my radiation process goes. They have a small yellow appointment card where all my appointments for the upcoming week are written out the previous Friday. The times change every day - although this week they've been between 1pm and 2:15pm. I drive to the hospital, find a place in the free 2-hour parking I discovered across the street, and carry in my bag of 2 hospital gowns plus something to kill some time with. Once I arrive, I put my yellow card in a bin, then get changed into the gowns (I take them home with me every day - saves the hospital laundry costs), then I wait for my turn, they call me in, I hop on the bed, they spend about 5 or 10 minutes adjusting the bed and the machine and then spend 2 or 3 minutes zapping me. When it's all over, I get changed again, and zip back home. Usually from pulling in the car to pulling out it's between 30 and 45 minutes long. Everyone is very friendly, as per my usual experience with the cancer center here in Surrey.

That's all I can think of for now!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Back to reality....sigh

I started radiation on Monday. The worst part of it is having to hold my arms over my head for 15 - 20 minutes. The first day it was more like 40 minutes.... it was torture! I kept telling myself that I was Parvati from Survivor and I was in an immunity challenge. I got through it - but I didn't win a million bucks either.....

So I get 28 treatments daily except weekends and holidays (cancer takes the weekends off, apparently). I am to expect fatigue, and red sunburned looking skin. Plus a whackload of other potential symptoms that I have decided I'm not willing to consider.

Today, I met with my plastic surgeon. He says that surgery cannot happen for at least 2 months after radiation ends and that it could be anywhere between 2 - 6 months before the surgery takes place. The bad news though is that he is unhappy with the location of my tissue expander and so has warned me that he may not be able to put in an implant after all, which would mean he would have to build the breast from my own tissue - tummy or back.

This was an option offered to me at the beginning which I declined as it involves WAY more surgery, recovery time and pain. I am still not thrilled about this option and so will have to await another assessment after radiation finishes to see how my skin fared and if he thinks it will stretch any further to get an implant in there in the correct location.

Since I have indeed gone through the weight gain promised by the oncologist, I also have to work my buns off (literally) to lose some weight before surgery so that I will have an added incentive to stay skinny. If I lose weight, then he matches my fake boob to the real one at a lower weight, then my real boob will gain weight if I do and won't match the fake one anymore. So if I want to look as even as possible, I will be required to maintain the weight that I'm at when I have surgery - and I definitely DON'T want that weight to be the one I'm at now, that's for sure!!

My hair is well on its way to growing back - most exciting though is that I have eyebrows and eyelashes again! Also, my underarm hair is returning (not so excited about that....) But it had been so long since I had to worry about underarm hair, that I showered the other day before my first radiation appointment and didn't bother to even check the pits - but when towelling off, noticed I could really use a shave. But I had run out of time so I had to go to the hospital like that where you sit with your arms up over your head for all the world to see your hairy pits.... and to make matters even worse, I was told that I wasn't allowed to shave my left armpit during radiation....! WHAT! Of course, I did it anyway.... Because I'm a rebel.... I didn't even ask why - but I think they feel that if the radiation irritates the skin under there, shaving it won't help. And if that is the case, there will become a time when it is obvious to me that shaving would be a detriment and then I won't do it.... Nobody is allowed to point and laugh when they see a braid coming out of my left armpit in 5 weeks time.

I think I mentioned this before, but I still get intravenous chemicals every three weeks until January. So the cell-killing chemo is over, but I'm still on the same schedule getting the same injection until next year - so technically, I'm still undergoing chemotherapy, although this drug are not as harsh as the others were.

After radiation finishes, I have to start taking a drug called Tamoxifen for 5 years. Every day for five years.... They say it's for pre-menopausal women. So I asked what happens if five years go by and I'm still pre-menopausal (since I'll only be 45) - I guess they will re-judge then - who knows - I may be on this drug for longer than that.... ugh. On the side-effect sheet it says 'may cause weight loss or weight gain'. Well, I already know which direction MY body likes to take.....

I yearn for the days when my weight struggle was only against me, myself and I. And now I have to fight the drugs in addition to me, myself and I. They say it gets harder to lose weight as you get older - plus it's hard to lose weight when you are on drugs that can make you gain weight. Plus it's hard for me anyway because I have sporadic willpower (or won't-power as my mum-in-law calls it).

That's all for now. Cheers!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

I'm home!

We pulled in around 3pm yesterday. Then we went for late lunch early dinner, had a short rest and then went out to see How to TRAIN Your Dragon in 3D. It was really cool.

Tomorrow I start the radiation process. I'll be making daily visits to the hospital for 5.5 weeks... (weekdays only). I guess cancer takes the weekends and stat holidays off...

I expect I will feel tired - that is what some radiation recipients have told me. I've also been told that my skin might get quite 'burned' like a bad sunburn - but it is cumulative, and also continues on after the radiation finishes for some weeks.... hmmmmm. After all that heals up, I will have reconstruction surgery but at this point I have no idea when that will be. I might know more after Wednesday when I meet with the plastic surgeon.

Back to the real world of hospital and discomfort.....

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Preparing to think about leaving...

We are starting our trek home on Wednesday, but we are going the scenic route for the first half of the trip which will take us through some mountains..... the weather forecast shows it to be COLD in the mountains.... We will be dragging the 5th wheel and camping on the route home so it will take us a day longer. We expect to be home on Sunday morning.

Today it was very windy and so it was much cooler than it has been. Still beautiful sunshine, but seriously windy. Sandie and I did some 'retail therapy' but we didn't hit any jackpots for shopping. We actually entered and exited Costco with 'plus $$' since I returned and item for a refund and we didn't buy anything else. It was an occasion worth noting.... a zero dollar Costco trip!

On Thursday night, we had gone to the street market in Palm Springs and I bought a t-shirt for Sandie there. It has three progressively empty wine glasses on it with the caption '3 step program'.... ha ha

I am quite tan despite my best efforts and 50 block sunscreen. That's what spending so much time in the pool will do for you. My eyebrows are finally making an appearance!! My hair is growing like wildfire and does seem to be a little curly although it's a bit too soon to tell. The gray hairs either grow faster, or else just don't curl as much because they stand out like beacons.

I went to karaoke on Friday night, and one of the ladies I went with begged me to sing 'White Rabbit' with her. It was not pretty... but we had a good time anyway. I sang other songs by myself where I didn't embarrass myself so at least the people in the bar didn't have to listen to me brutalize ALL the songs....

I think today is the first time I haven't gone in the pool. Although there's still time.... I went to bed early last night, woke up at 7 this morning, got up at 8, then went back to bed at around 9 to sleep another few hours. Just feeling really tired today. I was also tired and sluggish yesterday. I think it's just sun and pool and waterball making that way, but I hope I'm not coming down with anything.

I see the weather forecast is for rain at home on the weekend. Great. I hope the sun comes out at home soon. The transition will be a tough one!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Desert Hot Springs trailer...

Shaw says you can embed video links into your website, so I'm trying it.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The best recuperation!

For those that never have had a situation like mine, I hope to goodness you never have to.... but I do know there are some who read this blog who ARE going through it and for all of you, if you ever get an opportunity like I have to disappear for awhile and forget your troubles back home...TAKE IT!

I am doing the right things like chemo and radiation and surgery and positive attitude etc.... but I am SO relaxed here that I really am beginning to feel that THIS might be the most effective part of my healing process for beating cancer! Not only am I having a wonderful time, I am having the opportunity to get to know my inlaws even better than before and it has been GREAT! I know a lot of people who would shudder at spending 5 weeks with their inlaws - I am not one of them. I am one of the lucky few with fabulous inlaws which I have always said even before they bought a place in Desert Hot Springs and invited me down... LOL

Switching topics, even though I am on hiatus from working until my entire process is complete and the brain starts shifting back into 'the real world' where one has to start believing that the cancer is history and hence you gotta move back to the world of working & earning your keep, I do have work on my mind from time to time. Like today, for example, when we took a 'windmill tour' of a windpower farm.

The Palm Springs area lies between two mountain ranges that make a kind of funnel from the ocean near LA toward the inland. THe hot air of the desert heats up the land causing the hot air to rise and then a draft is created which sucks the marine air from the ocean and because of the mountains, the wind travels the path of least resistance between those mountains and through the valley. And that is why there are a gazillion wind turbines in this area.

Since I work in Crown lands, and one of the types of uses for Crown land that has started to get really popular in the last few years, is the use of windpower. OK - the applications for these at my work are a bit of pain in the buttocular region, especially because the process is newish and we aren't fully experts yet (or should I say weren't when I left - perhaps they are now). So obviously this topic interests people for a variety of reasons since our bus was full and none of the others work for FCBC.... but I was especially interested because of work. It was FASCINATING. Before I go recommending everyone to take the tour, I should explain that it is about 90 minutes long - is mostly a bus tour in which the bus is poorly air conditioned, and the guide spoke a mile a minute spewing hundreds of interesting facts that were boggling our minds. So perhaps this tour isn't for EVERYone, but if the windmill producing electricity thing piques your interest, THEN I would say that you should take the tour. If you're not really interested in them to begin with, then you probably won't enjoy it.

But I feel like I know a lot more about windpower now than I ever learned dealing with applications for Crown land that want to develop wind farms! (the tour is a mere $25 - perhap I should approach my workplace about financing trips to Palm Springs for 'training'.... HA HA HA)

On another note, I told someone the other day that I feel as though my 'chemo brain' is improving as I don't seem to be forgetting as much.... OR... it has progressed so far now that I don't even notice what I'm forgetting..... either way - it's an improvement!

There is a guy here and he takes care of his mother who has dementia. They live near the pool area and he is usually with her, but sometimes he arrives alone at the pool for waterball. Yesterday, during the game, someone said something about the 'flag'. I didn't know what they were talking about but this guy leaped out of the pool and someone said he was going to look for his mom. So when I walked by his place, I realized that he has rigged a system where there is a rolled up flag sticking up which he can see from the pool. When he leaves the house with his mom still there, he closes the door and rolls up the flag. If she opens the door, the flag unrolls and he knows that his mom is 'on the loose'. Quite ingenious! And everyone in the park knows the drill so they will let him know right away if the flag is out and he didn't notice first....

Oh yah - on Saturday night, we took the aerial tram up the side of a mountain and had dinner at a swank restaurant at the top. It's a gondola type thing - yes- it's a little scary - but I managed to do it without crying (unlike the ride at Disneyland) and also without freaking out (unlike the ferris wheel at California Adventure). I asked the tram driver how the tram was affected by the earthquake several weeks ago. Turns out he was ON the tram during the earthquake and he didn't feel a thing. He found out about the earthquake via radio from other workers on the ground. But they shut the thing down for about 1.5 hours while they inspected all the towers and lines and important things that keep it running. Of course, I didn't remember about the earthquake until I was already on the gondola.... I wonder if I would have agreed to go on if I'd remembered first. It would NOT be pretty to be in the gondola when 'the big one' hits. Which everyone is talking a LOT about these days down here.....

Lots of tangents in this post. My mind is going everywhere! Alas, I'll sign off so as not to bore anyone. (or should I say bore anyone further)