Monday, February 23, 2009

Long Time No See...

So....I'm alive. I'm actually feeling quite well. I've had a bit of difficulty, but things seem to be improving. I was scheduled for eight rounds of chemotherapy, spaced at three week intervals. So far I've had seven. The first four treatments were with Doxorubicin and Cyclophosphamide. I had an unexpected reaction, the doctor saying "That's not a side-effect with these drugs". I don't blame the doctor - everyone's unique and I guess I'm no exception... I spoke up right away, telling them that I felt I had 'swollen like an over-ripe tomato'. (How can I say this delicately? I can't. ) I experienced pretty severe internal and external fissures and suffered quietly for close to four months before I cried in public. Then they finally believed me!! I must say, I was amazed by the reaction. I'm not a crier, so it really took me by surprise. Talk about TLC! It was almost embarrassing, the attention I got. They called a specialist who came from his office to meet me at 'Emergency' within the hour. The nicest man! Love him. His name is Dr. Ahmer Karimuddin - young enough to be my son, but absolutely confidence-inspiring. Anyway, God bless him, his parents, his brothers and sisters and his descendants for all time. He diagnosed my problem and put a treatment plan in place that helped immediately. After that meeting things were definitely looking up....until...

The fourth through eighth chemo treatments are with Docetaxel and Trastuzumab. They're the ones with the side effects. The doctor cautiously started me on a seventy-five percent dose. They seemed to be expecting the worst because they had adrenaline, etc. loaded and ready to go when they started the I.V. I was fine - none of the reactions they were looking for. Seven days later, though, I obediently phoned the on-call emergency oncologist, as instructed, because my temperature had spiked. My white blood count was "dangerously low" - down from a normal 4.0 , below an acceptable 1.0, to .02. They admitted me to hospital and put me on intravenous antibiotics every eight hours (to combat any possible infections) combined with daily Neupogen injections to stimulate the bone marrow to produce white blood cells. It wasn't a horrible experience, but it wasn't pure joy either. A hospital's no place for sick people. And the food is disgusting!

I recovered nicely from all that. And I'm pretty good right now. My dear little neighbour, Rose, is a nurse and she volunteered to come over after chemo treatments six, seven, and eight to give me Neupogen injections on post-chemo days four through ten. It sounds gruesome (in the stomach), but actually it's not bad at all. It seems tummy flesh is nearly senseless. At least mine is!! The Neupogen causes some aches and pains (so far easily handled with Ibuprofen). The pain to the pocket-book is something else, but I'm lucky there too with our excellent medical coverage.

There's more scary stuff to come. I'm nervous about radiation. There'll be twenty-five treatments I think, five-days a week for five weeks. I'm warned that my phosphorescent Irish skin makes blistering a distinct possibility. Then radical surgery. And a lung biopsy via my throat.... Doesn't sound like a lot of fun, but "Yard by yard, life is hard...inch by inch, it's a cinch". I'll probably get through this o.k. I have wonderful support.

I'll tell you some nice stories soon, but tonight I'll just show you my arm! It doesn't really look so bad in the picture, does it? The larger bruise is from the latest chemo i.v. The big scratch is from rose pruning (I'm not to go near roses anymore, warned that I could get blood poisoning at this stage.). The mark near the elbow crease is the remains of an improperly sterilised hospital i.v. and the small red spot in the middle is a piece of flesh removed by the clothes dryer (I have no idea how that happened!)