Thursday, November 26, 2015

The Holidays ... and Hope.

This is my third holiday season with cancer. The first one almost doesn't count. I was diagnosed the day before Thanksgiving with late-stage cancer. Needless to say, that Thanksgiving was a somber one, at best. But we pulled together as a family and enjoyed the Christmas to follow, even though I had a brand-new port and was dealing with my new life as a cancer patient and #3 of #12 chemotherapy treatments.
The second holiday season was much better. I had finished a grueling 12 Folfox6 regimen, had a cancer-free PET scan, and had started maintenance chemo. I was feeling okay. The Xeloda was hard on me, but for the most part, my day to day life was good.
Now, in 2015, my cancer has come back. My right lung has spots. My left lung has spots. My CEA is very high. My liver is sickly. Mid-year, I tried a new treatment called Folfiri that I did not respond well to. Things have been looking bleak. My attitude has been so negative and I have felt very little hope. Doc W basically seemed to be out of options. (At least that is how I've seen things). So, at the prompting of my husband, I went on the search for a second opinion, and some hope.
At the beginning of autumn, I ended up at Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI) where I was introduced to Dr. Shamir Sharma and his team. My life hasn't been the same since.
After reviewing my case, Dr. Sharma signed me up for an aggressive but amazing clinical trial just this last October. Basically, it's Folfox coupled with immunotherapy. Along with over a hundred other stage 4 colon cancer patients, I've signed up to participate and finalize Phase III of this trial. From what I've learned, read, heard about what I'm doing, it's a really REALLY good treatment. Cancer doesn't stand a chance against this chemo. I feel blessed to be a part of it. Blessed, lucky, nervous, excited ... but mostly blessed.
I also feel blessed being a patient of Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI), and I feel blessed to be a patient of Dr. Sharma. He has great bedside manner. I really like his approach--he's optimistic, almost arrogant, but very genuine and so full of palpable hope. I believe what he says to me. I feel I'm in very good hands with him and his entire staff. Soon, I will talk about his team. Each of them are awesome!
I had my first of 12 treatments last week and I have to brag for a second--I kicked some serious chemo butt. I slept all day Wednesday, came home with a little "5FU death ball" that I had to carry around for 46 hours, slept for a couple of days until the ball was removed by my hub, then had what felt like 300 liters of fluids pushed through my port to flush my body of chemo. When the nurse removed my port needle on Monday, I was doing pretty okay. I'm serious. Not great, not bad, pretty okay. I'm not seeing any Folfox side effects yet. They will come but maybe my awesomeness and the fluids my husband runs after chemo will keep them at bay for longer than imagined. Neuropathy-free fingers crossed, yes?
Most importantly for me right now is that I have hope. I haven't had hope for a very long time. Weeks. No months. It's hard to live without hope, especially if you're sick. I can honestly say that I like having hope. I'm a hopeful person in general so it was almost like a part of my personality had been stolen or broken before meeting Dr. Sharma and having my hope wells filled.
It hasn't been easy getting hope back in my heart. It wasn't a quick thing either. There was no switch, "Oh hey. I'm going to be just fine." It's taken me so much time to recognize that my attitude was in the pits and that it needed to change so my treatments can be the most effective they can be. I've been clingy with my family at times. My poor husband, daughter, son, and sister can attest to this. I've been weepy. I've been quiet and reflective, but slowly and surely, I found the hope for myself that I once had but had lost.
I can and will beat cancer. I can and will take care of my children, my body, and my husband. I can and will live a happy, long life. This is the hope I have for myself. As I enter the third holiday season of my life with cancer (3 of many) I pray that others suffering from hopelessness can find a little hope to hold on to through the holidays. And for my family and friends that inspire me and encourage me with love and hope, THANK YOU! It means the world to me.

Carry on,

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

"My heart is broken."

I am so sad that Afton Wallace has passed away. She was a vibrant, beautiful girl from back east, someone that I've never met but has touched my life in ways no one else ever has. Afton inspired me. She motivated me. She made me smile on days when I didn't think I could smile. She made me get out of bed on days when I didn't think I could move. I love this girl, like she was a part of my close family. I am just heartbroken that she lost her fight with stupid cancer! I'm mad, too. She was too young to die!
I am thankful for Afton's life. I am beyond thankful to her family and my friend Becky for sharing Afton's story. I'm happy that she is no longer fighting but is pain-free and probably swimming or singing or dancing around in Heaven. Afton, thank you for being a big part of my life. I won't live a day without thinking fondly of you.

Carry on,

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

"Maintenance chemo, please do your job."

My update: I'm currently on maintenance chemo. While I'd love to say it's been a walk in the park, I can't. I've been sick, burned, tired, and achy on this chemo, much like regular Folfox but not as bad. I don't know what is worse, though. Being really sick, sick enough to take pills and sleep for hours upon hours, or to feel just crummy enough to want to sleep and take pills, but coherent enough to know what around me needs my attention.
I still have a family, a household, two great kids, a wonderful husband, parents, siblings, nieces and nephews, extended family, friends by the dozen, and a career I need to take care of. But on this maintenance chemo, I'm sitting on the fence between feeling really horrible verses feeling just ok enough to try to live my life.
I'm now officially back to the old, "Quantity vs. Quality" mindset. Alas, that is a topic for another day. Until then, maintenance chemo, since I'm coherent enough to ask, please ... will you do your job and keep cancer from returning to my body? A big thanks in advance.

Carry on,

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

"Pinterest, one of my healthy diversions."

I love to browse Pinterest. It has been a very good, relaxing diversion from my cancer. I used to watch TV to escape. But there are a lot of cancer commercials on TV now. I used to like going for rides. But so many billboards are covered with cancer messages. I can't seem to escape seeing or reading or hearing about the big C, where ever I go.
Pinterest is a little bit different. I get to select what I look at, what I chose to waste my time on. And even though most of the time I don't browse Pinterest for anything "cancer" related, sometimes I find a cute, inspiring picture or quote. Enjoy.

Happy pinning,

Thursday, January 22, 2015

"Scanxiety ... you sa-huuuck!"

This is so real. I can't stand it. I can't get my brain to think about anything aside from the scan that I'm scheduled to have tomorrow.
I was supposed to have my scan last Friday. Instead, I was admitted to the hospital the afternoon before. I'm thinking that I worked myself up in to such a tizzy that my only coping mechanism was to physically sicken myself. I feel pretty weak admitting that, but it's the truth. I've got a four day hospital bill to prove it.
There's a lot riding on my scan tomorrow ... my future treatment plan, my future traveling plans, my future physical well-being and emotional well-being. My future. Maybe because I'm much more coherent this time around, the results feel so finite. It's either going to be a good, clean scan and I'll be jumping for joy, or it will be dirty and I'll be forced to stay in Cancerland for another 6 months, maybe longer.
Either way, tomorrow can't come and go quickly enough. Most terminally ill people don't think that way but I'd dare say us cancer warriors all feel that at some point before a scan.

Carry on,

Thursday, January 8, 2015

"300 Days, huh?"

The 300 days I initially thought I'd be actively using this cancer blog have come and have long since gone. 300 days, my foot! Let's shake things up a bit and maybe I'll post more often if I don't completely resent the title of my blog and the fact that we've blown by 400 days of this crap like it was scripted.
Having said that, I give you, "Cancerland ... Welcome."
You don't have to be a cancer patient/victim to enter, nor a certain height to ride the rides with me. If you are like me and my sarcastic mockery of cancer suits you, please make note that Cancerland land is much like the Hotel California. You can check out (mentally) anytime you'd like but you can never leave.

Carry on,