Monday, November 22, 2010

Giving thanks. Goodbye, hair.

Our Thanksgiving was a very good one. Andrew and I visited my sister on the east coast of Florida, and had a cozy dinner with her family. I was delighted to be able to taste most of what I ate, since altered taste sensation is one of the more annoying side effects of my chemo regimen. For about one week, I was unable to taste salt. Not even V-8 juice or dill pickles tasted salty. At the same time, sugary foods tasted super-sweet. Fortunately, that effect had mostly resolved by Turkey Day. We had an abundance of food: shrimp cocktail and baked brie to start, followed by the full turkey dinner with sweet potato casserole, pole beans cooked just right, and corn pudding that we brought. Mmm, corn pudding. Well, it was all good.Between us, we compiled at least 6 different desserts. We finished dinner, sat around chatting while we let our food digest, and then went for a cruise on their pontoon boat to see Mosquito Lagoon and the beautiful sunset.

Relaxation, good food, and the company, love, and support of my husband and family. Talk about thankful.

And, thankfully, by Thanksgiving a lot of the chemo unpleasantness had passed. There were 2 days where I had absolutely no appetite, and found it hard even to drink water just to stay hydrated. My appetite improved, but the altered sense of taste made some foods unappealing. But, other foods, like oatmeal, yogurt, grapefruit and fresh pineapple always tasted good. Then there was the chemo fog. The chemo fog lasted about the first 8 days. How to describe the fog? I can't really describe it except to say it was a funk, almost an out-of-body feeling. The fog hung around, even when other symptoms were not bad. As for the neuropathy, whatever symptoms I had (tingling in my fingers, heaviness in my feet, and, once, a shooting electrical pain across my face that lasted for about 2 hours) were transient, and are now all gone. Weird! I had exactly 2 episodes of nausea. I never threw up. Not bad for somebody who hates to throw up. I took my anti-nausea medications, and that went away, too. Aches and pains came and went. I gobbled ibuprofen round-the-clock some days. The pegfilgrastim injection 3 days after chemo gave me those dreaded "flu-like symptoms," as expected, but even that was manageable with more ibuprofen. I was able to work every day. Not a day missed, except for the day of my infusion. Incredible. Bottom line is: the chemo made me feel pretty lousy some days, but not so lousy that I wouldn't do it again. One cycle down, 5 to go.

I did have one minor chemo-related complication, a skin infection called cellulitis. A few days after my first chemo, I noticed a painful dime-sized abrasion on my elbow. Only I had not injured myself. I ignored it, and just put some Neosporin and a Band-Aid on it. After 2 days, it had not gotten any better. By 3 days, it was getting worse, and seemed to be spreading outward in an expanding circle. I was concerned, but didn't seek my doctor's advice. The last straw was coming home from work one day, with my elbow aching, and peeling off the bandage to reveal a black crater surrounded by angry red infected skin. Oh, crap. Cellulitis. Of course, this revelation occurred at 6 p.m. By then, I didn't think it would be wise to wait until morning, at which point I imagined needing to come to the Emergency Room to be admitted to the hospital for IV antibiotics. So, I call my oncologist's office, left a message with the answering service, and got a call back. My regular oncologist was out of town, but his partner was great. My chemo home pharmacy includes a supply of "as-needed" antibiotic (ciprofloxacin) to be used in case of a chemo-related fever or infection. We both agreed that Cipro isn't the best antibiotic choice for what was probably a Staph infection. I took one, anyway. Next morning, I saw him at his office, and a more effective antibiotic, a sulfa drug, was prescribed. It's been about 6 days on the new antibiotic, and my elbow looks much better. Lesson learned: don't ignore bad stuff from now on. I knew better. I know better. It won't happen again.

The weekend after Thanksgiving, we hiked 8.5 miles at the Goethe State Forest. This was important to me, since I haven't been cycling since my surgery, due to activity restrictions aimed at allowing internal sutures to heal. My 6 week post-op recheck is tomorrow, and I'm expecting to be given the okay to go back to doing anything I want.

We saw the biggest living Bald Cypress tree in Florida, the Goethe Giant. Andrew is looking up at it. All 105 feet of it. It's about 10 feet in diameter, and around 900 years old! I was tired after the long hike, but being outdoors and the gorgeous day were just perfect.

The oncologist told me that I would lose my hair "3 weeks, almost exactly to the day" after my first chemo. Only, he was wrong. Unless, of course, what he meant was that I would finish losing all of my hair at about Day 21. Because, today is only Day 18, and this morning my hair started to fall out! I knew this would happen, but seeing 6, 7, 8 strands of hair come out in my hand with each pass still came as a shock. I had actually gotten my already short hair cut even shorter on Saturday. It's now a pixie-like and very cute 'do. Not wanting to shed everywhere, I wore a pretty scarf over my hair at work today, to prevent fallout. People at the hospital who know about my cancer smiled and nodded. Those who don't yet know looked at me curiously. Thanks to wonderful friends, I have soft, cuddly blankets to snuggle up with in my chemo chair or at home. And, I have a growing collection of stylish hats and scarves. Thankful? Oh, yeah.


Anonymous said...

You are amazing. I know you probably don't think so, but I do. I wondered if you were still working every day or not. I worked with a couple of people on chemo. One took a leave of absence the other one had hers right before the weekend so as not to be out. i don't know if I would do as well as you are, but I am so happy that you are doing as well as you are. The fact that you are able to focus on what is good in your life rather than what is not helps I am sure. I am happy that Andrew is there with you. I would hate for you to be going through all this on your own. No one should. I think of you every day and wonder how you are and hope that this is all behind you soon.

Smuggler said...

AdventureClub Jere here... I do feel for you, so very much. Two things I wish I'd done: When out in public, wear a face mask. They suck, but..... not nearly as much as inhaling someone else's germs. They also help you keep your hand away from your mouth. And, always (now and forever) wipe down the handle of the grocery cart. Chemo is horrible to go through, but even worse would be an infection that you can avoid. I know you've heard it all, but these are so important. I pray that you'll keep your spirits high and move a little bit forward between each treatment. We're all pulling for you. Sending love your way.

Heather said...

Thinking of you, my friend.

Caryn said...

I'm just so happy that you are blogging! I could kiss you! (But I won't, for your sake!) I am happy, though! It helps me feel connected to what you are going through. We're thinking of you, and know that Big A is taking excellent care of his love!

superman said...

I enjoy reading your post!
And the photo above there looks beautiful!

Nice post!

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