June 30, 2010

Doxil day 3

Although I really overdid it yesterday, I am satisfied with the way I feel so far on Doxil. The Emend has successfully prevented any nausea. (I took the last pill today.) I'm experiencing a little tingling in my right palm, a possible early warning of hand-foot syndrome, and have called the naturopath to ask about taking vitamin B6 pyridoxine to treat and/or prevent this from worsening. I am a touch paranoid about getting hand-foot syndrome in my left arm due to the potential impact on my lymphedema.

The orthopedist said yesterday that I had increased extension in my left arm from 50 degrees to 35 degrees, a significant improvement. We don't know if this is due to sleeping with the plastic brace gizmo for the past three weeks; NOT wearing it on Monday night with the lymphedema bandaging as part of hand-foot syndrome prevention; or the 8 mg of Decadron steroids I received on Monday as a chemo pre-med. Evidently steroids have some positive affect on joint issues. At any rate, Dr W is allowing me to stay out of the brace for two weeks to see if I continue to improve.

I wish I could say I slept better without it, but at least I wasn't forced by the gizmo to extend my arm as straight as possible all night long. I still awoke several times with severe hot flashes, the kind that leave sweat standing on my head and neck. And having Bobka's furry dog butt pressed up against my back may not have helped. But he is so cuddly.

June 29, 2010

The morning after

Either my anti-depressants have really kicked in, or I am still getting benefit from yesterday's steroids, because I slept well all night (except for three hot flashes that were borderline night sweats at 2 AM, 5 AM and 7 AM).

I have no nausea this morning; took my second of three Emend tablets and they seem to be doing the job. I even asked Dr G to give his hopefully positive opinion on taking our planned beach vacation, if I continue to feel well.

I feel back to my normal routine today. Walked the dog (sigh... only one dog), hope to be able to see the orthopedist, meet with an estate planning attorney, and attend an afternoon meeting. That would be a lot for me on a regular day, much less the day after chemo.

Even my left arm feels more extended after NOT sleeping in the black plastic orthopedic gizmo. We'll see what the orthopod says about that. Remember, I'm not bandaging for three nights to prevent hand-foot syndrome from starting.

Say it with me. Doxil will be::
Very effective
Manageable side effects

June 28, 2010

First Doxil

Today I received my first treatment of Doxil (doxorubicin). First they gave me a new anti-nausea drug called Emend (given by IV), then i took Decadron (a steroid) and Ativan (for anxiety) orally. Then they finally set up the Doxil. Two chemo nurses sat with me to monitor how well I reacted and to make sure there were no problems. They gave it very slowly at first, then began increasing the speed. It took about 90 minutes - two hours for the whole infusion.

Doxil is a bright peach color, or as one nurse put it, exactly the shade of peach Jello. I don't eat too much Jello but I liked her softer imagery.

I felt quite chatty, especially compared with my morose behavior of the past few days. Either the Zoloft (anti-depressant( is kicking in quickly, or the steroids gave me just enough lift. D and C came to visit and I was able to have good interactive conversations with them both. D called me "perky." Either way, I rose to the occasion and provided the nurses with information they needed.

One bit was about the interaction of lymphedema with hand-foot syndrome. Evidently, if you get this, it comes on for a few days immediately after treatment and then eases. You can help prevent it by taking tepid showers; not using knives or tools; not kneeling or leaning on your arms. So far none of the providers recalls treating anyone with hand-foot syndrome who also has lymphedema. I have left a message with my physical therapist asking about her experience and I'm sure she will call back if she has a solution to offer.

Meanwhile we have decided that for these first three or so days post-Doxil, I will cease all lymphedema management to avoid putting undue pressure on my palms, and then return to night-time bandaging more loosely (if I can do this). At least I have a plan.

We came home with two prescriptions: Emend is given via IV on treatment day, and then via oral pill on each of the next two days. I have oral Zofran to manage additional nausea, should I experience any. And despite his not wanting to order me additional Ativan last week, Dr G wrote a new scrip for Ativan today, so I am covered for both anxiety and nausea.

It all went very smoothly. I was surprised that my counts were high enough to permit starting this treatment, but Dr G thinks it's best to start asap and he's the boss of my cancer. And last Thursday he said in plain words, "Your cancer is going to get better."

June 25, 2010

Help for depression

Today I was diagnosed with moderately severe depression and I start sertraline (Zoloft), an anti-depressant tomorrow morning. I also had an echocardiogram to discover if my heart is healthy enough to tolerate the Doxil.

I realized how fortunate I have been to have bone-only disease for the past seven and a half years which responded well to aromatase inhibitors and other anti-estrogenic, oral meds. How quickly I forgot that I felt well most of that time. (Aside from the pain of a broken leg, new bone mets, back pain...)

Chemo freaks me out and yet I read every day that so many of my mets-sisters manage to live well on it long term. Still, having Abraxane fail after only two months scares me.

This evening I suddenly realized that I have dealt with cancer for 20% of my life -- 11 years. I barely remember the other 80%: it flew by when I wasn't paying attention. Or maybe that's the depression talking.

June 24, 2010

Liver lesions

Yesterday's CT scan revealed seven liver lesions which did not appear on the last scans in 2008. We have no way of knowing how recently they appeared. I have no symptoms, but these are the first active soft-tissue mets since one lung met at time of diagnosis in 2002.

The plan is for me to switch to Doxil, scheduled for Monday. It can be hard on the heart, so I am having an echocardiogram on Friday. Usual side effects of hair loss, nausea, low blood counts, etc. plus a risk of hand-foot syndrome. I immediately worried about the impact on my lymphedema. Both Dr G and Dr B basically said we'll deal with that if it comes up. I should get Doxil every 21 days. It is both more powerful and more toxic than Abraxane.

After finishing with Dr G the oncologist I saw Dr Bufi the naturopath, who came up with a plan for keeping me healthy while on Doxil.

Dr G made a joke: "Sometimes the first boyfriend (meaning Abraxane) just isn't the right one." We laughed out loud. Who among us had the right first boyfriend?

I coped as long as I could and got into bed for a few hours, then ate a bowl of cereal. (I wasn't hungry all day long.)

Say the medication mantra with me (note the new prioritization and phrasing):
Very effective
Manageable side effects

Depression update

Although I am still as deeply depressed, I have taken some steps in both directions (including some back into bed).

I contacted my former shrink, who called me immediately and offered to speak with Dr G about anti-depressants. I guess I will hear the results when I see him today and find out about yesterday's scan.

The CT scan required me to drink a bottle of barium solution, then get my port accessed, then drink another bottle of barium solution. Sometime in the midst of being accessed, I vomited up a portion of the barium. The taste was awful, my stress level is sky-high, I had a hot flash and the nurse couldn't quite get the needle in the right place in the port. POOF -- vomit. The nurse then walked me back to the radiology department and confirmed for them that I had indeed vomited and should not drink the second bottle of barium.

From there the scan went smoothly and was over quickly. I asked for a place to lie down for a few minutes and was given a pillow and blanket to soothe me. I practiced my yoga breathing for a while and then was able to meet a friend for lunch.

Lunch was just the opposite of what Dr G has requested in terms of low carb diet. I wanted something gentle on my upset tummy and what could be more bland than noodles with alfredo sauce? I wasn't hungry but forced myself to eat anyway. L and I took a short walk in the sunshine and I went home to crash.

I tried to contact Pacificare Mental Health and get a referral to a psychiatrist who specializes in chronic illness, but was again thwarted. There is only one such doctor contracted in the entire city of Seattle. The one who didn't return my call from Monday. The Pacificare "care advocate" offered me an appointment with someone in Bellevue, but I explained that I have so many medical appointments already, I didn't have the time or energy to drive to Bellevue once a week.

As soon as possible, I wrapped my arm, put on the plastic orthopedic gizmo, took a milligram of Ativan, got undressed and into bed. I got up occasionally, once to take a call from my primary care doc. She insisted that I call her office today and get in to see one of her colleagues while she is on vacation. So on Friday I have rearranged my schedule to see yet another doctor who can hopefully assess my situation properly and begin prescribing me the right medication to treat this depression.

I also contacted my naturopath to get his take on this situation. A friend from my online support group mentioned that when you wear fabric (scarves, hats) over your bald head, you prevent any UV light from reaching your pineal gland. I must ask him about this.

So far it's not affecting me to eat only two meals a day. Skipping dinner three days in a row has not impacted my weight or made me particularly hungry in the morning. I will eat because I know I have to, not because I want food.

June 22, 2010

What's new

I was reminded today by a good friend that I haven't posted here in a few days. Things are generally okay but when piled together, I find I am in need of professional support.

1. Treatment with Abraxane continues to be very tolerable with minimal side effects. I have a CT scan tomorrow (and get the results on Thursday) which should indicate any response so far. Dr. G's plan is to treat me until he sees a response, then add two more months. I think that puts us at re-scanning in three months, getting the hoped-for response, and maybe ending treatment in November. You can see how so many months of chemo appears daunting to me.

2. Lymphedema continues to bug me in the same way -- too much edema in the hand, which is exacerbated by wearing the sleeve and glove. I've been taking a psychological break by not wearing anything during the day, and wrapping at night. This has gone on for about a week. I was measured for new custom sleeves last week. This new brand is supposed to be worn with a glove of the same brand; together they presumably put less compression on the wrist. A regular sleeve and glove, when worn together as appropriate, put MORE pressure on the wrist, thus giving the potential to increase edema in the hand by forcing more fluid there. More stress from this.

3. The left elbow continues to be stuck at about 40 degrees of extension. Even after wearing the black plastic brace every night for two weeks, over my lymphedema bandaging, I still have only 40 degrees of extension. My therapist worked with me to position the brace in a more effective spot on my arm, which may result in additional extension. Or not. I see the orthopedist next week. I do not sleep well at night while I wear this gizmo and yet it seems to be the only thing that will return full extension to my elbow joint. Again, more stress.

4. Pumpkin's death continues to hit both of us hard. He pops into mind at odd moments. It's hard to close my eyes and not visualize him looking back over his shoulder to see where I am. Having Bobka helps a lot but still...

5. Eating the low carb/low sugar diet that Dr. G recommended is very fatiguing. I am tired of having to think about every bite, having to plan my carbs each day. Yesterday after my low carb breakfast of cottage cheese, fruit and a latte, I was hungry again at 10 AM. A coffee and half a piroshky helped, as did the (rather dry) tuna sandwich later supplied by the Cancer Institute. I didn't eat dinner last night (read on). Today I ate bread at breakfast, which pretty much consumes my carbs for the rest of the day. But at least I felt full.

I feel so overwhelmed by all that I am managing that last week I decided to seek professional help. I had lined up an appointment with one of the two psychiatrists associated with Swedish's Cancer Institute only to discover that neither of them is part of my mental health benefit network. I found this out yesterday, after spending six hours at the Cancer Institute, and was given one name, in all of Seattle, of a psychiatrist who specializes in treating people with chronic illnesses. He has yet to return my phone message from yesterday. I feel I am in serious need of anti-depressants but would prefer this kind of drug to be managed by a mental health professional rather than my oncologist or even my primary care doc, who is not in this week anyway.

When things are too much for me, my preferred method of coping is to go to sleep. I got into bed at 3 PM, with instructions to Rik to wake me if the one shrink called. I did get up a couple of times, but basically I self-medicated and spent 18 hours in bed. I woke up this morning, not exactly refreshed, but feeling more ready to take on a new day. That lasted until now, when I started writing this post.

Long story short, if you don't see a new post from me, it doesn't necessarily mean all is bad. In the past week I also chaired my first meeting of the synagogue board as president; went shopping for makeup with a friend; and laughed through an animated movie. In coming weeks we may go out of town. I appreciate that you all care and I promise will keep up on my blogging as much as my energy permits.

June 16, 2010

Pumpkin's theme songs

When we first got Pumpkin I was so goofily in love with him that I decided he needed theme songs. Not one, but three. Who couldn't benefit from a song that defines you?

(Sung to the tune of Hava Nagila)

He is a Cocker
A Cocker Spaniel
And a King Charles Cavalier (2 x)

Pumpkin’s a happy dog
He has a wiggle butt
He is a shmoopy boy
With a wiggle butt. (2 x)

Pumpkin is a doggy!
Pumpkin is a happy doggy
With a very wiggle butt.
Pumpkin is a happy doggy
With a very wiggle butt.

Pumpkin IS
A Cocker Spaniel AND
A King Charles Cavalier.

(Sung to the tune of Tzena Tzena)

Pumpkin (7 times) He’s a dog, a very happy doggie.
Pumpkin (7 times) He’s a dog, a happy dog.

He is better than the other Cockers
And the Cavalier King Charleses too.
You should see him wag his little tail
To Jill and Riki he’ll be true!

Pumpkin (18 times) He’s a happy dog!

(Sung to the tune of "The Lion Sleeps Tonight")

A wiggle butt (16 x)

In Seattle, in grey Seattle
There lives a little dog.
His name is Pumpkin
He is a Cocker
And a Cavalier King Charles

Has a wiggle butt (he does)
Is a wiggle butt (a dog)

When Pumpkin was just a little puppy
His fluffy tail was cut.
When he’s happy,
He wags his stump and
He shows his wiggle butt.

Has a wiggle butt (he does)
Is a wiggle butt (a dog)

Oh --
A wiggle butt, a wiggle butt!

June 15, 2010

More Pumpkin memories

Pumpkin came to us in 2003.

He had been abandoned at a "kill" shelter and was rescued originally by a woman specializing in cocker spaniel rescue. (A "kill" shelter is one where, if no one claims the abandoned animal after a certain number of days, it is euthanized.) This wonderful woman took him home, had him checked out by a vet who estimated his age at seven and neutered him. She named the dog Pumpkin, groomed and socialized him and then advertised on Petfinder.com for a "forever" home. We passed her inspection and Pumpkin arrived during Passover, dressed in a blue bow and looking like the perfect dog.

My parents happened to be in town for a visit and friends with a dog who had a good grasp of doggy temperament came over to check out Pumpkin. Arturo Tosca-bow-wow gave Pumpkin his approval and we took to one another immediately.

We three went to obedience training and Pumpkin learned to walk nicely on a leash without pulling, sit, stay, down and come when called. He was very motivated by dog cookies to excel!

That summer, when we moved into the current house, Pumpkin loved exploring the yard and the neighborhood. The fence wasn't complete and he would frequently roam at night. We would have to go after him with a flashlight and his leash to make sure he wasn't hit by a car. We usually found him a few doors down the block, eating the cat food left out by our neighbors. We quickly finished fencing the yard completely.

We started going to the beach and Pumpkin loved to romp in the sand, chase birds and even swim a little in the ocean (as long as I went in with him). On one trip with friends, both dogs got caught up in the mighty Moclips river current and were in danger of being washed out to sea before we could leash them and pull them to safety.

After Pumpkin came into our lives, three sets of friends also got dogs. Pumpkin was a good example of how a loving, friendly dog can become part of your family.

For the first five years he was with us, I was still limited in mobility and Pumpkin worked as my service dog. He could go to a cafe or restaurant, to the movies, to the doctor (but not the dentist). Dr. Judy, Arturo's person, used to say that Pumpkin had the uncanny ability to become a piece of furniture and not call attention to himself. Once I brought him to a large benefit luncheon of more than 1000 people. He went quietly into a down under the table, which had a floor-length cloth. I had neglected to warn our server that there was a dog present, and he unknowingly stepped on Pumpkin's protruding foot. The dog yelped, the waiter startled, and the whole banquet room full of people looked around for what caused the noise. I don't know who was more mortified, the waiter or me.

After the field near our house was turned into a housing development, we went to the nearby off-leash park. Pumpkin would romp around, be the dog police and bark at other dogs if he thought they weren't playing nicely. He particularly loved running between Rik and I, back and forth, over and over again. He refused to chase a ball more than once or twice in a row and then he was done playing. After one play session, I went past a dog show and on the fly, Pumpkin was able to qualify for the AKC's Canine Good Citizen award. He wore the patch proudly on his little doggy service vest.

More recently Pumpkin lost his hearing, although he always knew when I moved around the house and would follow me from room to room faithfully. In this respect he was truly a velcro dog. He had separation anxiety issues and would drool and pant if he was left alone in the house. It didn't matter if it was five minutes, five hours or five days, Pumpkin hated being alone. I think this was due to being abandoned and it is common among rescued shelter dogs.

In some respects, Pumpkin was the child that infertility, cancer, and failed adoption attempts prevented us from having. If we appear to mourn his loss more than some would expect, now you know the reason. As much as we saved him, he saved us.

Several of our friends who were here on Sunday to celebrate Rik's birthday sent beautiful messages to us yesterday:

Pumpkin played a very special place in my life and in the life of my family. I am speechless and at the same time I have so much to say. I saw so many shades of love through all those that loved and enjoyed Pumpkin. His lovable doginess started a movement with our dog and changed our family life!

Pumpkin was very lucky to have you during the second half of his life. You showed him consistency and love and care - you went to all lengths to give him a safe and comfortable life, and he brought a lot to your lives. I will miss his little wagging tail.

You were so good for Pumperdoodle and he was so good for you. Our son's love of Pumpkin was one reason we got a dog ourselves.

What I am sure of is that Pumpkin is thanking you even now for making a difficult but wise quality of life decision.

Pumpkin had a place in all of our hearts. We share your loss.

June 14, 2010

The Rainbow Bridge

Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge.

When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge. There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together. There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.

All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor; those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by. The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.

They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent; His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.

You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.

Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together....

Author unknown

Remembering Pumpkin

We had to euthanize Pumpkin around 6 PM.

It turns out that for a couple of weeks he had been walking around on a pathologically fractured leg (sound familiar?). He saw the vet last week but did not have an xray taken, was given anti-inflammatories. Yesterday he came down hard on that bad leg, yelped in pain, and today's xrays revealed cancer and the fracture.

The vet suspected the cancer had already metastasized and that even with surgery and chemotherapy, or an amputation, Pumpkin would only have about six months. The vet could not manage his pain other than with intravenous opiates which we could not administer at home. A fentanyl patch would have taken 12-18 hours to be effective with no way to make him comfortable at home in the meantime. So rather than have P spend his last night in distress at the clinic, in order for us to have one more day with him, we made the right decision, which all pet owners have to face at some time or another, to take care of his pain in the only way left.

The vet was extraordinarily sympathetic. He brought Pumpkin out to us for a last cuddle and P was very stressed, even with morphine to ease his pain. The vet administered an overdose of anesthesia and P relaxed and was dead within moments.

Yesterday Pumpkin was running around the yard, sniffing out his turf, and willing to sit on everyone's lap even after he was hurt. This has been a really tough birthday for Rik.

We are both very sad. Pumpkin was a very good dog. He was about 15 and we were lucky to have him for eight years.

Down and up and down and up and down

The past few days have felt like being on an out-of-control elevator: down and up and down and up and down again.

The lymphedema therapist listend to me kvetch about my continued frustration with lack of elbow response and edema issues and recommended I choose not wearing compression garments either for a couple of days or nights. I chose daytime and went without a sleeve and glove for the remainder of Thursday, Friday and Saturday. This was an UP.

Because I had a naked arm (one of only a few occasions in the past eleven years), I overdid things. I took the dog to the vet, had a morning meeting, went to my yoga class, ate a quick lunch, bought groceries, picked up Rik and got the dry-cleaning. By the time we came home I was prostrated with exhaustion from running around for more than six hours straight. I immediately went to the sofa but was unable to sleep. I also couldn't move, so there I lay until evening. We ate a bad frozen pizza from Trader Joe's for dinner, and Rik went back to school for a meeting. DOWN DOWN DOWN.

I woke up feeling refreshed enough to go to synagogue. (I am also constitutionally incapable of being in the house for 24 hours.) I cam home and despite the bright, sunny, warm day, again had to lie down but was unable to nap. My arm began to show not having been in a daytime compression garment for two days. DOWN.

I put on the compression sleeve without the glove in hopes that the sleeve alone would be enough. Went to the grocery store to pick up a pie for Rik's 50th birthday. UP. Tried to pull some weeds from the yard -- couldn't. Stupid elbow! DOWN. Decided to accomplish something within my capabilities and did some ironing. Definitely UP. Put out pie, bubbly and freshly made lemonade for our friends. UP.

Not five minutes after the first people arrived, Pumpkin came down on his bad left rear leg and yelped. HUGE DOWN. We called the vet, they told us about the nearby emergency clinic. In the meantime more people are arriving and everyone has to know what's happened. In this barely controlled chaos, N intervened, suggested we celebrate Rik's birthday by toasting him and eating the pie; we could always go to the emergency clinic later if Pumpkin didn't improve. N sat on the chaise outdoors with Pumpkin on her lap, where he relaxed and we began to as well. After toasting Rik, eating strawberry-rhubarb pie and vanilla ice cream, we all felt better. More UP.

Later, after everyone had left, N came back with some doggy anti-inflammatories and Pumpkin ate one with his dinner. He finally relaxed enough to sleep. I wrapped my arm (my hand was very puffy from being in the sleeve but no glove all day) and was very cranky from all the stress. DOWN. Tried to nap, again couldn't sleep but couldn't move from the sofa. DOWN.

Rik ordered Chinese food for dinner but didn't realize the restaurant had given us someone else's order. Instead of tea-smoked duck and steamed vegetables with rice cakes. we received two containers of unidentifiable fried food which were covered in chili peppers, noodles (but no vegetables) and white rice. Is this how the rest of America eats? DOWN. One container appeared to hold pork, the other perhaps fish. I was tired and hungry and disappointed but not energetic enough to insist Rik return and get our correct order. He ate the noodles and fish. Since I'm eating a low carb diet and had already had pie and ice cream, noodles were out for me and the "fish" was inedibly spicy, even for me. Rik offered to make me something, but I had already eaten eggs that morning. I tried but could not summon the energy to even open the jar of peanut butter. DOWN DOWN DOWN DOWN.

I gave up and went to bed. After dropping the pills on the floor twice and roaring with rage and frustration, I took a sleeping pill and some ativan and pulled the covers over my head at 7 PM. DOWN.

Monday - Rik's 50th birthday
I slept until 5 AM with brief lucid periods when I heard Rik bring Pumpkin in the bedroom and talk on the phone. I never did hear him come to bed.

Chemo went fine today. UP. I again tried to nap afterwards but couldn't sleep. Maybe I need to try a different location.

At 3:00 we took Pumpkin to the vet. He is still there, being sedated for an xray and given IV pain meds for an examination by the doctor to determine what's wrong. Apparently his knee is injured but that's all we know now. DOWN. More later.

Haopy birthday, Rik. What a way to celebrate.

June 11, 2010

A new cancer dream

Last night (or probably very early this morning) I dreamt that I was somewhere with people I knew. But they didn't resemble themselves and they were chasing me. One was spreading all sorts of nasty rumors about me. Another was trying to drown me. I fought back with a broom, screaming and shouting for them to stop. And I didn't drown but clung to a railing and pulled myself out of the water.

After I woke up it became clear that this was another cancer dream. The unrecognizable people were my metastases, and they were trying to kill me. My broom weapon was the Abraxane. And pulling myself out of water too deep for me? That represented my body's ability to heal itself.

I've had these cancer dreams before. I think this one means that I am worried the cancer will get the upper hand, but that I feel strong enough to fight it back into submission. In this household, I am the alpha dog!

June 08, 2010

Heavenly Hats

About two months ago I learned about Heavenly Hats, a foundation "donating brand new headwear free of charge to medical patients and hospitals nationwide." On their website I completed a hat request form. The form has a place where you, the patient, can ask for specific styles, colors etc. as well as give demographic information (age, gender). I asked for low crown, upturned brim hats in bright primary colors. Voila, a few months later, I received a package in the mail with the following headgear:

1 black cotton baseball cap (the kind that is open in the back and adjusts in size)
2 tie-on kerchiefs (one black printed with gold smiley faces, the other pink paisley)
1 black fleece cap
1 red "wool" cap

Nothing is quite the proper size, but everything is new with tags still attached. Although it's been cool in Seattle, it's not cold enough to wear fleece or wool in June. (I might still be bald in October.) The baseball cap would come in handy except that the rear opening reveals a fair amount of bald head - contrary to the purpose of wearing a hat when you've lost your hair to chemotherapy.

I have contacted someone at the foundation, thanked them for the service, and hope to be able to return the seasonally and age-inappropriate items.

But if you want to help people with cancer who have lost their hair to chemo, you might consider buying some new hats to donate --


ATTENTION: Anthony D. Leanna
2325 Pamperin Rd. Suite 3
Green Bay, WI 54313

June 06, 2010

Zofran recall

I was given IV Zofran (ondansetron) at my last two chemo appointments and experienced heart issues after each. Could that be related to contaminated product? I will ask the nurses tomorrow. It's a good thing that since I have had so little nausea, my oncologist is letting me try Abraxane without IV Zofran as a pre-medication.

Pfizer recalls IV antibiotics, nausea medications

Mon, May 31 2010

(Reuters) - Pfizer Inc said on Thursday it is recalling two intravenous antibiotics and an anti-nausea medication after floating matter was discovered at the plant where they are manufactured.

Pfizer is recalling the antibiotics metronidazole and ciprofloxacin and its drug, ondansetron, used to treat nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy or surgery. The products are supplied in plastic IV bags.

The company said non-sterile products administered intravenously could result in infections, which could be fatal, especially in patients with weak immune systems.

So far it has received no customer reports of quality problems, but it is closely monitoring its patient database for any safety concerns.

The products are manufactured by Claris Lifesciences, one of the largest generic sterile pharmaceutical companies in India, and distributed under a nonexclusive license in the United States by Pfizer.

(Reporting by Toni Clarke; editing by Andre Grenon)

National Cancer Survivors Day

I read this yesterday on Facebook, as posted by ChemoBabe, am reprinting with her permission:

If you ever had a cancer diagnosis and you are reading this, you are a survivor. Happy National Survivors Day. I look forward to the day when everybody with a cancer diagnosis survives. And then the day when nobody gets cancer.

Support research. It saves lives

I couldn't agree more!

June 04, 2010

A small fall

Yesterday after eating lunch with a friend I tried to get up from the bench I was sitting on. My left hand (in the glove) slipped out from under me and then my legs went flying. I landed on my left hip, may have knocked my left elbow, but didn't appear to do any damage to it. My friend helped me up and a waiter came to make sure I was okay.

For weeks now, in the back of my mind, I have worried what would happen if I fell again. Now I know. There's something satisfying about facing your fears.

After my original cancer and lymphedema diagnosis, I was petrified that I would have an emergency admission to the hospital and not be able to tell anyone about the lymphedema. Then I fell and broke my leg and the first thing I said to Rik (after "Call 911!") was, "Go get my bandages."

Now I have faced the fear of falling and it wasn't as bad as I expected. My hip is pretty bruised, but some arnica gel will help that heal. My elbow seems to be fine. Thank God for the Zometa, which has strengthened my bones so that I can take two falls in nine weeks and not break anything.

Too much stress

Today started out as a nightmare -- literally. I was dreaming and realized that in the dream I was wearing the wig. Uggh. Not the way I want to see myself.

This was followed by Bobka the dog needing to go out to pee at 5 AM, and my inability to fall back asleep after getting up to let him do so. Even taking half a vicodin didn't relax me enough to sleep again, possibly because I knew I had to get up at 7:00.

Rik woke me before he left the house and I struggled to get started, including a walking the dogs only up the block and back. I had to leave the house at 8:45 for a 9:20 appointment with the orthopedist.

I sat in bumper-to-bumper traffic in the I-5 express lane (!). There must have been something at the Seattle Center, because the traffic cleared up just after the Mercer Street exit. By this time I was already 10 minutes late to the doc and had made an (illegal) cell phone call from the car to let them know. Well, since I used the speaker phone I guess it was legal, but I still had to dial. No worries though; the traffic was completely stopped. It took me an hour to drive about five miles.

By the time I arrived at the office I was out of breath, experiencing high blood pressure and rapid heartbeat. A little ativan calmed me a bit, but I was seriously stressed.

Dr. Wagner the orthopod wants me to try wearing a plastic splint over my lymphedema bandaging at night. I had to approximate the bandaging by wrapping my arm with the cotton-like padding they use under casts. (It took five rolls.) The splint is a piece of black plastic, warmed in 150 degree water to make it pliable, and molded to the shape of my arm. It extends from just below my shoulder to halfway down my forearm. The intent is to relax my arm over the course of eight hours in bed.

Now I have yet another gizmo to deal with. At least I only have to wear it at night. After yesterday's tumble, I told Dr. Wagner that I was seriously maxed out with everything medical in my life and could not promise to be compliant in the daytime. He actually understood, part of what makes him such a great doctor.

I got home eventually and am about to crash on the sofa. Hopefully some extra sleep, followed by cooking a nice dinner for friends, will help me recover my equilibrium. Right now my perpetually half-full glass feels more empty than usual.

June 02, 2010

Right on (comic) target

The May 31, 2010 comic strip of Between Friends really speaks to me. I have "every intention of overtime!"