As Day 19 comes to a close, I figure an update is way overdue. The chemicals that were pumped into my system on April 24 made me feel pretty crappy for several days after, but it’s been just like Tim predicted; a few “tough days… followed by better weeks.” Two weeks and four days out, and I’m feeling somewhat normal. I suppose it takes that long for the body to flush all that out — but a few other things have happened that really helped as well:
- Got the stitches out of my mouth; the sutures from that first biopsy on March 25 were still in place, as were the ones from the second dig on April 4, and they were all driving me crazy (yeah, I know; short trip.) They are supposed to fall out on their own within a couple of weeks, but after five weeks… Time to intervene. I stopped by Dr. Stanos’ office on April 30 after another appointment in the same building to ask about it, and was able to be seen by Laurie Gromer, the office PA, right away. She was familiar with my case, and happily pulled out all the stitches. Felt so much better…
- Finished the last of my Prednisone doses. The Prednisone is prescribed as part of the chemotherapy (it’s the ‘P’ in R-CHOP) and helps the other drugs work more effectively, but one of the side effects is restlessness. I started taking the Prednisone on Day 2, and I didn’t sleep worth a hoot the whole time I was on it. Since my last dose on Sunday I’ve been sleeping better and better each night, and that makes a world of difference. Not to mention the fact that those pills are the nastiest tasting things on the planet… Reminds me of the times I’ve tried to chew regular aspirin tablets. Gah! I did figure out that the best way to deal with the nasty taste is to bury the tablets in a spoonful of yogurt, and just swallow the whole works down. What doesn’t touch the tongue isn’t tasted. (shudder)
- The tumor seems to have stopped growing, and my jaw seems to have stabilized a bit. My lower front teeth still interfere a bit with the uppers, but the fit doesn’t change like it did just two weeks ago, and they aren’t nearly as sensitive as they were, which means I can actually chew my food! Seems like a minor thing, but just being able to pop something into my mouth and be able to mash and grind it up with my teeth is huge. The gap on the left side where the teeth were removed is still pretty tender, but is getting better. Because of that, chewing on that side is awkward, but I might eventually get the hang of it, provided it’s nothing too crunchy and doesn’t break into sharp bits. My lower lip is still numb, but I still get occasional “zings” that give me hope that it will come back. I asked the PA about that during my visit to Dr. Stanos’ office, and she said that the tumor may be putting pressure on that nerve as well, and as it shrinks (I hope) that should be better as well. Again, that’s the hope.
- Spring has finally arrived in the Dakotas! Seeing some sunshine, even though I’m not supposed to spend much time basking in its glow, helps a lot. We got a couple of really-late-season snowfalls in April, but the snow didn’t linger very long. Now the grass is greening up, the flowers are blooming, the trees are budding, the birds are back… We’ve even seen a couple of pairs of rose-breasted grosbeaks at the feeder in the back yard. Very cool!
- Prayer. I’m amazed at the crowd of people who have offered to pray for me over this whole cancer adventure. I’ve always tend to be one who is eager to help others in whatever way I can, praying for them as well, but don’t always feel comfortable asking for help or for prayer. Over the years I’ve learned though that as much as I enjoy helping others, others enjoy helping me as well. Same goes for praying; asking others to help pray my way through this is far more difficult than offering to pray for someone else, but God blesses those we pray for, and blesses us through our time with him, so who am I to deny a blessing to others by not asking them to pray for me or accepting their offers to pray for me? It’s difficult to explain how the praying helps because I don’t know exactly, but what I do know is that the peace I feel through this whole situation can’t be explained in purely naturalistic or psychological terms. Yes, I have some confidence that the oncologist knows what he’s doing, and the cancer center staff know what they are doing, and that the drugs will be effective… But still, through all of this, I haven’t been worried a bit.
The last two weeks haven’t been terribly eventful, but they haven’t been uneventful either. The PICC line is still there, and is still a pain in the neck.
Click here for a photo of my PICC line, but be warned; it’s not pretty.
I’m supposed to keep it dry, which means I either take a bath or cover it thoroughly in order to shower. The dressing needs to be changed once a week (thank God for that!) and last week the nurse who changed the dressing gave me a suggestion for covering it that is pure genius; Glad Press’n Seal cling wrap. It’s a fairly stiff material that has a light adhesive on one side. The adhesive sticks lightly to most everything but itself; it sticks tightly to itself. To cover my arm I pull off about 24″ from the roll and wrap it around my bicep, making sure to completely cover the dressing top to bottom, but leaving my elbow free to flex. The length ensures a double layer of protection over the top of my bicep and keeps water from intruding through any gaps. Works perfectly. I’ve also used Press’n Seal for other projects, like painting mirrors on my car; far easier than trying to apply masking tape to an area.
My appetite has pretty much returned to normal also. I never did feel terribly nauseous, but my eating habits changed pretty drastically after chemo. The nurse explaining things told me I would crave a lot of strange things; although I wouldn’t necessarily call them strange, I would call them “high calorie”; lots of sweets and rich foods. I don’t remember exactly everything I ate — I should keep a food diary next go-round — but I don’t remember being hungry either, and I do remember enjoying the things I was eating. Neither have I lost any weight through all of this. I think that’s a good thing.
That second week, I was feeling pretty good, and got a little cocky maybe. I had been really good about avoiding large groups where the risk of catching a cold or flue was greater, but that week, Bryce graduated from tech school, and I went to the ceremony. The next day I was having lots of cold symptoms, and boy was I kicking myself. I stayed home from church for the second Sunday in a row, and skipped BSF the next Monday as well. I miss both of those groups. I took several vitamin supplements trying to get over that quickly, and somehow it worked; by Tuesday I was feeling much, much better. I did go to church this weekend, and am planning on BSF tonight. I managed to skirt past the large crowds at church, and had contact with only a few people; planning to do something similar tonight as well. It’s the last night for BSF, and… I’d hate to miss out on that & miss seeing the guys in my small group.
Last week was a little difficult; my hair started coming out. After getting through the first week without losing any hair I was hoping that I wouldn’t, but then last week I noticed a lot more, um, short & curlies laying loose in my undershorts when they were down, and others would come loose without much provocation. That made me wonder about the hair on my head; looking in the mirror I could see little tufts that weren’t laying down against the head with other adjacent hairs; a light pinch and pull was all it took for them to come out of the head 20-30 at a time. I decided to take charge of the situation; Yvonne buzzed my hair down to a basic training crew cut, then I went after the remainder with a razor. It took a few days to get used to the chrome-dome thing, but after several days and a second shave, it’s feeling pretty natural, albeit a little cold when the weather isn’t warm. Doesn’t take much to need a hat!
Now that it’s after midnight and officially Day 20, that of course means that the second infusion is only 50-some hours away. And that means the feeling of normalcy and health will be going by the wayside once again. I don’t look forward to the treatment or its side effects, but I do look forward to the impact that it will have on the cancer. Kill it. Kill it dead.