Wednesday, March 25, 2009

How Did I Get Here?

March 16 - 17, 2009

This round of chemo was better than the last. I received my treatment on Thursday and went to work on Friday. On Saturday about 2pm it hit me. My body and bones just ached Saturday evening and all day Sunday. Monday I had to wake up early and then went to work. No matter how much I tried to push through the day, I couldn't make it. I called Chris about 2:30 to come pick me up. My stomach hurt, my breathing seemed labored and I was getting dizzy.

Tuesday, I called in to work from home. I called the nurses at my Dr. office because it just seemed like my heart was beating was really hard. I felt as though I had to consciously breathe to get in enough oxygen. They told me that I was probably dehydrated. Which makes sense since I was having digestive issues too. Okay, so I drank more... a lot more. By 8pm that night, my breathing hadn't gotten any better. I asked Chris to listen to my heart and listen to my pulse. He did and said that my heartbeat was irregular. It would beat too fast and then skip a beat. He told me to call the Dr. K's office and tell her. I did, she told me that the chemo drugs I was on could cause blood clots and arrhythmia, then she told me the last thing I wanted to hear... I needed to go to the emergency room.

Chris' parents drove up and stayed with the kids while we went to the E.R. I cried the entire time in the car. Between my sobs, I kept apologizing to Chris for having to go. Of course he told me don't be silly, but as it was getting harder to breathe, I just kept thinking, "I'm going to die from this. Maybe not tonight, maybe not tomorrow, but in the end... I'm going to die from this."

As soon as we walked in, I was swept back to triage and they set me up with an EKG and I thought, this is going to be quick. Well, I guess once they figured out that I wasn't having a stroke they could drop me in the waiting room and left me there until 1:30am. When I was finally brought back to the E.R. I was exhausted (hadn't anyone ever told the ER docs that you cannot keep a chemo patient up that long)? The doctor came in and said that she wanted to order some tests to rule out blood clots, not long after she left the nurse came in and hooked me up to the monitors and got my IV (on the first shot no less). After finally taking my pulse (nobody had until then) said that I had a "skip in my giddy-up". I think Chris felt vindicated! I DID have an irregular heartbeat.

I was in the ER until 4:45am when they decided to keep me for a 24 hour observation. In the mean time, I had x-rays, lung tests, and blood tests. I think they wanted to let me go, but Dr. K said that they needed to keep me because of the chance of arrhythmia due to the chemo drugs. At 5:45am I was finally moved into my room in the IMCU (Immediate Care Unit). I was so tired, poor Chris still had to drive home. Once settled he left me to go home and try to get some sleep. I fell asleep and between 5:45 and 8am, I was woke up 4 times for blood pressure and blood work. By 8am I just decided to stay up, oh my gosh it was SO FRUSTRATING!!!

I was taken for a chest CT and that was the weirdest test! The tech explained that they were going to have to push the contrast very fast and could hurt (it did). But instead of being cold like the other contrasts I have had, it was warm/hot. The tech told me that it would warm me all over and I would feel like I would pee my pants. WHAT?? Don't worry, he told me, nobody has... Yet. Oh that makes me feel better. And oh my goodness, it does make you feel like you are going to pee all over the place, it only lasted for a few minutes, but talk about uncomfortable!!

I also had an heart echo done. That wasn't as uncomfortable, but my heart was so erratic while they were doing the test. Even my nurse came in to see what I was doing because my heart rate was so high. My blood pressure would go from 150 to really low at 90. Finally about noon, my pressure finally leveled out to my normal 110.

Chris' parents came to visit me at about noon, and Chris came around 1pm. The attending physician came into see me and pretty told me that I either have diabetes or anxiety. Uh... Okay, well I don't have diabetes, so anxiety?? That was just crap. He returned only a few minutes after leaving and said that there were some abnormal spikes in my heartbeats and requested a cardiologist to come see me. The cardiologist came in, maybe stayed a whole 5 minutes (please note that my words are dripping with sarcasm). He was there long enough to basically say that there is nothing wrong with me (of course other than the cancer). He said that people get heart palpitations all the time, yes they can even last for a few days.

I really think that because I am so young (I was the youngest one in the IMCU, every other person was over 76 years old) nobody took me seriously. It really pissed me off. They still wanted me to stay overnight again, so after Chris and I talked about it, he went out to the nurses station and told them that there was no reason for us to stay here. He told them to get my discharge papers ready because he IS taking his wife home. Sabrina (my nurse) was awesome and got all my paper work ready for my release.

On Thursday, I had an appointment with Dr. K. After reviewing all of my tests (and there were a lot), she said that some people react to chemo with heavy heart palpitations. Guess that would be me, crap!!

Chris took a few pics of my while I was in the my hospital room. I didn't look at the pics until I got home and it was so hard. I just cried, how do you go from this...
To that... in just three months?
It is just not fair.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Loss of a Good Friend....

First let me say that my second session of chemo was a lot better than the first. On the day after my second session, I woke up, got into the shower and when I ran the my hands through my hair I pulled out a full handful of hair. You know that it is going to happen and you think that you are emotionally ready for it... But you know what? You aren't.
Friday night I had Chris use his electric shaver and shaved my head. Everyone got into the excitement, even my three year old help make mommy "bode" (bald). Then she wanted Daddy to shave her head too! But I said no to that, her hair is just too pretty. Even I got into the action, I wanted to do the top myself and pull a "Britney Spears". I still felt cute, that is until I would look into the mirror. Then I just felt like I looked like Robert Irvine from "Dinner Impossible" on the Food Network.

I wore it like that for two days but there was little hairs falling out everywhere, it constantly felt like you had just gotten a haircut so by Tuesday I put my head under the bath facet and rubbed my head until the hair stopped falling out and when I looked in the mirror I probably had only 100 hairs left. It looked so sad... Like I had cancer....

On Wednesday night, I had Chris shave my hair the rest of the way down to bald. Just when you think it is bad, it just gets worse. So now I look like a cue ball.

I think the hardest thing about having cancer has been loosing my hair. I still can't talk about it without crying. My husband still loves me and thinks I'm beautiful. My baby giggles when she sees my bald head, my thirteen year old doesn't say much, and my 3 year old loves to have me take off my hat and kiss my "bode" head.

Your hair is like a good friend. Sure, it might not always work for you, or have the same opinions as you (bad hair day), but it is yours, it is a part of you good days and bad. And just like a good friend you don't realize how much you miss it until it is gone... So right now, do me a favor, no matter how long or short your hair is toss it around for, run your fingers through it for me and tell it you are glad it is there! Come on.. Do it for me!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

My Messenger, Sent From God

I met a woman today, I think she was sent from God... let me explain...

I am feeling a lot better ( a few tummy aches here and there, but that is it), but I was not looking forward to what was coming... The wigs are just pissing me off, my port (which everyone said is so wonderful) sucks and hurts! So I just knew that something was wrong with it and me.

I had an appointment for physical therapy today and started at 12 noon. At 12:30 this woman came in (about 35-38) in with below the shoulder blond hair. She was on the arm machine and I heard her say something about radiation to my physical therapist, Kelly. I assumed breast cancer. She must have opted for the the mastectomy and radiation with no chemo cause she still had her hair (or she was one of the lucky ones). Well, we ended up getting e-stem (this is where they put the pads on your shoulder and turn on the electrodes) at the same time and I (horded) my way into the conversation. I told her that I had just finished my first chemo round and it was hell. She said that she had been through it and onto her seventh radiation appointment.

"Oh," I said, "you didn't loose your hair? that was nice."
"Oh my god yes," she said, "none of this is mine."
"WHAT?" I said, "It looks great! I would have NEVER known. Every wig I try on scream CANCER!!!"
"This one did when I first put it on, but when they were finished thinning it and trimming it, it was great. I wear it everyday. I don't even take a day off on the weekends." She told me more about "Amy of Denmark" a wig shop in Wheaton, she was raving about them.

Then she told me that she HATED her port. She said don't get her wrong, she knows it is a necessary evil, but she hated it, it was in her bra strap and everything I'm going through. She said she had it removed the minute she could. Thank God I'm not an idiot!!! Then she bitched a little about Radiation.

It sounds stupid, but it was so nice to talk to a lady that is one step ahead of me. I think she was sent from God to let me know that I am not the only one bitching and complaining, and... I can do this!!!
Well, that and the Shamrock Shake I had after PT helped as well.. hahaha

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

My Mom's Taco's

Oh, I figured we have had enough doom and gloom to last a while. I wanted to give you a highlight of my week.....

My Mom's tacos...

Oh how I love my Mom's tacos! There is nothing like them. Last night when I got home, exhausted from work. I came home to the sweet smell of frying corn tortilla shells and the meat, I like to think of it as a nectar from the gods. She had it all ready for us. The meat in beautiful crisped shells (but soft enough to envelope the meat without breaking the shell), the crisp lettuce, the chopped red tomatoes, and shredded cheese.

Whether you eat them meat, cheese, lettuce and tomatoes (as my Daddy says is the correct way) or meat, lettuce, cheese and tomatoes (as the rest of us at the table eat them), they are heaven.

I ate three tacos and enjoyed every bite, and when it was over she packed me up three for lunch. Words cannot describe how the love and warmth filled through me.

One plus to having cancer, my mom and dad are here and I get..... TACOS!!

Oh, I wonder if I could get her to make some enchiladas before they go.....

Monday, March 2, 2009

Chemo - Day 5

March 2, 2009

Believe it or not, I am at work today.... There was a terrible snow storm, but I got up at normal time. I got in the shower (had to have two crackers while IN the shower) but I got dressed and I'm friggin' here. I feel very hazy and foggy. I cannot concentrate on any thing fully, I just feel like I'm kind of blowing in the wind. They call this "Chemo-Brain". It is very irritating and I want to just scream to make it go away, but it won't. I do feel better today. The pain in not so bad. My stomach is jittery, but that is it. My skin feels a little numb to the touch. It feels funny.

I have also decided that I know why nobody talks about chemo treatments... It is because nobody wants to relive being in hell. Hurting that way. There are not words that can express how bad I felt. I don't want to do that again, ever. Yet in just 11 more days I have to start it all again. I am praying that maybe that port and the IV sedation made it a little too overwhelming for my system. I am praying that that is the reason I had such a bad time this go around. But I can tell you now, that the idea of being in that chair and doing it again.... Oh god, I don't want to... I am going to make it through today and tomorrow will be a little better. Baby steps right?

Oh and since it is March, McDonalds has it's Shamrock Shakes on sale and I'm going to try to talk Chris into taking me there on my way home so I can have one.... I have wanted one ALL DAY!!

Chemo - Day 4

March 1, 2009

Today I am suppose to be getting better. I only have medicines to take in the morning and at 4pm. Nothing for evening. I don't feel any better. I still ache everywhere. I think I would feel better if I could take some ibuprofen for the bone and muscle pain (which normally I would be able to), but I cannot take ibuprofen or aspirin right now because of the port surgery, and the chance of bleeding out. So I'm stuck with frickin' Tylenol!! Just doesn't seem to cut it!!

I have decided that I don't think people with small children should get cancer. It is hard enough on you to go through treatments, but having to go through it with little ones and the guilt you have that you cannot be there for them is excruciating!!!! I have had to limit my contact with them for my sake (the pain) and theirs (my patients). But I'm hoping that it will get better.

My Chemo calender is down. It sounds great, to have someone with me supporting me when I am going through this... But to be honest, and I don't want this to sound bad,mean, or ungrateful but I don't want to see anyone or have anyone here with me when I am in this much pain. That is how bad if feels. I just want to be left alone for days 1-4. At least for right now. If it should change, and I can make it through a weekend with out wanting to slash my own wrists, I swear I will put the calender back up. But not right now. I'm sorry. (Mom and Dad, that DOES NOT INCLUDE YOU!! YOU ARE A GODSEND RIGHT NOW TO ALL OF US!!! THANK YOU)

Chemo - Day 3

February 28, 2009

I will just call this day HELL!! Oh my God could it hurt anymore???!!!

My whole body hurts. I don't know where to start....

First, I swear I have to roll over in the morning and eat a cracker, just to have something in my stomach. I think even with the medicines, my best day with chemo-nausea is my worst day being pregnant with morning sickness. Then, my skin burns, it feels like a have a horrible sunburn through out my body from my inside out. Especially on the back of my neck and where my hair line is. Oh, I think that when you loose your hair it must hurt, because every hair follicle on my head hurts right now. I think your hair follicles must just give up the fight and let go.... God I would love to just let go....

My bones hurt. When I went into the bathroom, to get undressed to take a shower (like an idiot I thought it would make me feel better) I tore off my clothes and looked at my body. I knew that every bone in my body, my ribs, sternum, arms, pelvis, legs had to be bright red from the burning...nope nothing. Chris came in to help me wash my hair and I just started crying because it hurt so bad to have him touch me. New rule in my house during days 1-4, no touching Laurie Jo!!! Hell, no breathing on her either...that hurts too!!!

The rule wouldn't be so hard to adhere to if you didn't have a 1 and 3 year old. My poor babies!! I try so hard not to let this affect them, but all my baby wants to do is be on Mommy's lap. She will get on my lap and just lay with my (on my port side so she is killing me) push herself against me to get off, and the minute she does she cries to be back in my lap. I am trying to love her, but her tears match mine as I have to pass her off to my mom and go upstairs to cry and eventually fall back to sleep. I think my 3 year old is just scared. She knows Mommy doesn't feel good (I never lay down or nap) and she just wants so bad to hug me and love on me. It is so hard to try to take care of them when I cannot even take care of myself.

I still cannot eat very much, if at all. I believe I had a scramble egg (protein) for breakfast and had a cheese quesadilla for lunch. Nothing tastes good, just metallic. I went upstairs to lay down and Chris came up a little later to see if I wanted to come for dinner (3 hours later). My days are passing into one another and I am in a little of a fog. Nothing seems right to me....

Chemo - Day 2

February 27, 2009

I thought today was a pretty good day. I woke up feeling less nauseated. I have to take 3 or 4 medicines in the morning, at 4pm and at bedtime, so I'm sure that helped. At about 1pm my Mom and Dad took me back to Dr. K's office for my shot of Neulasta. Neulasta is a drug that I receive the day after my Chemo treatment (on day 2) and it revs up my white blood count. The side-effects (other than burning when being injected into my stomach) are bone aches. Which makes sense... It is making you bone marrow work overtime to bring you white blood cells back up in a shorter amount of time.

Normally, my white blood cells would get back to their normal amount in about 20-21 days. That is not good if my treatments are every 14 days. With Neulasta, it will take 5-7 days to bring my white cells back up. Okay, what is a little bone pain right??

After my shot, I went up to the next floor in the same building for physical therapy. It was a little tiring, not so much because of the chemo, but because my power port was killing my shoulder. I did that for about an hour and slept on the way home.

Later that night, I could feel my long bones aching (my hips, femurs, sternum). I could tell that this was not going to feel good at all. My muscles were also starting to become very sore and ache (that is a side-effect from the chemo). I went to bed a little early.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Chemo Day 1

February 26, 2009

When taking chemo medicine, you are on a 4 day cycle. So I think that that is how I will write this.

Day one - The day of Chemo.
We showed up at about 11am. We had just come from the hospital and I had a needle still sticking out of my power port, so it would be easier to start chemo. I chose a chemo chair (recliner) that had a couch and another chair beside it for my husband, Mom and Dad. The first thing they had to do was take some blood and check my blood counts to make sure I would be ready for the treatment. There were two other ladies there, older, bald, and by themselves. The first IV packet they gave me was called Emend. This was a anti-nausea medicine. It took about 30 minutes to run through. Then my nurse Jennifer (a wonderful woman) hooked me to a saline bag and let that run for about 3-4 minutes. Then she took two LARGE syringes of red drug (this is the actual chemo drug called Adriamycin. She does this as an IV push. I remember tasting and smelling some kind of alcohol, but that was about it. Jennifer told me that it would come out in my pee as well. Wow, I should really start taking all of these pee pictures, I will probably have peed the rainbow after it is all over.

After she was done pushing in both syringes. She injected the second chemo drug (Cytoxan) into the saline bag and just let that drip. After that dripped in, I had one more bag of anti-nauseau medicine and then she flushed out my port with hepparin. It was pretty simple and took about 3 hours all together. I felt pretty good, and Jennifer told me that I would probably not feel any nausea until Friday night. I made my next appointment for my neulasta shot (this is the shot that boosts my white blood cells) and then I made my appointment to meet with Dr. K the next week, and my next Chemo session (March 12th). We decided to leave and go get some lunch cause we didn't know how long it was going to be before I got nauseas (if I did).

We decided to go to Cheeburger, Cheeburger for lunch. I was still feeling good. Thank goodness I thought. I am going to be one of those lucky ones that don't get a lot of side effects (yeah for me). I ordered my lunch, my mom, dad, and husband ordered theirs, and as I was looking at the menu, it was like a 10 ton brick landed right on me.... You know when you go out drinking and you have a "good" drink that you cannot taste the alcohol in, so you drink too much? Then after you leave the bar, you go to a little dive to eat and it hits you all at once? THAT is exactly what happened. I started to have hot flashes, cold sweats, I left for the bathroom and ended up sitting on the floor, draping my body across the toilet. My Mom came in to check on me. I finally made it back out to the dining area, the rest of my burger (I was able to eat half before the melt down happend) was wrapped up and I was helped to Chris' truck.

I thought I was going to vomit all the way home. I just rode in the passanger seat, trying to keep everything down. When we got home, I went up to my room and laid down in the dark until dinner. I took the pills that I was suppose to take at 4pm. My 3 year old came to see me and told Chris that all she wanted to do was lay with Mommy. Her Mommy was tired and so was she. So she quietly laid beside me in the dark room until dinner was ready. Then she went down stairs to eat and when they were finished, made sure that I had dinner brought up to me (homemade chicken noodle soup). She fed me a couple of bites, but the nausea was so bad that is all I could eat. Chris brought all the girls in to say good night to me before they went to bed and about 8pm I called Dr. K. I had already taken all the anti-nausea stuff and the extra compazine as well. She told me that I had to REALLY eat bland and that crackers or rice should be the only think on my plate right now. I ate a few crackers, took another pill and found some energy to go down stairs and sit to watch TV for a few hours.

Putting in the Power Port

February 26th, 2009

I had set our alarm to go off at 4:45am so that Chris and I could get showered, dressed and out the door by 5:30am to get to my appointment at Suburban Hospital by 6:30. Unfortunately when I was fixing the alarm clock, I didn't take it off weekend mode, so at 5:30 in the morning I woke up and started freaking out.... We were going to be late!! Chris and I both took very quick showers and were able to run out the door at 5:45am. My Mom and Dad are hear and were going to help get the kids dressed and to daycare at normal time.

We got to the Hospital at 6:30am and after admitting, went to radiology. We were brought back pretty quick (since we were the only ones there). Once there, I got the gown on and we waited. I was doing my physical therapy exercises for my shoulder while we were waiting. Finally a nurse came to take some blood and do my IV. She tried once and didn't get it. It hurt so bad!! She told me that she would only try once and got another nurse to help. The other nurse, a gentleman, found a usable vein in my wrist. Chris was sitting in the chair next to the bed. During the commotion of trying to get the stick and taking blood, Chris disappeared. After it was all over, I asked the nurse if I could use the bathroom. "Of course," he said. I asked him if he knew where my husband had gone? He said that maybe the IV was a little to much for him and he needed to lie down...
I explained to the nurse, that my husband is a volunteer firefighter, he is fine, I am sure that he just needed to use the bathroom as well. As the nurse was escorting me to the restroom, I almost tripped over Chris' feet in the next room, he was laying on the ground!!!

"I'm fine," he said, I just cannot be there when blood is being taken. I thought I was going to pass out. So I excused myself, and decided to lay down here until I felt better."
I started to laugh! I love that man!!! He is so funny!!

They took me to the Operating Room, and I met the Dr. that was going to put in the Power Port and the Interventional Radiology Tech that was going to close up. They both were very nice and got a kick of Jordan coming to the O.R with me. I didn't have a lot of IV sedation. I would come and go. I felt the sticks of Lidocain. and the pressure of sewing it up. But that was about it. I had some really funky dreams though with the IV sedation. I felt like I was a body from CSI Las Vegas!

They brought me to recovery after I was done, and my Mom and Dad met us there. Next stop... The chemo suite.....
One down, one to go!
Here are some pics of the Power Port.