Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Sharing this from my friends at Patients Against Lymphoma

Feel free to print this out and give it to an especially close friend who can share it with your other friends.
How to Talk and How NOT To Talk To A Friend Who Has Cancer

If you feel nervous about talking with your friend, here are some pointers from cancer patients.

Be yourself and don’t be afraid. 
Your friend doesn’t expect perfection. Some people have a knack for expression, some people are lost. Your friend sees that you care and that you are doing your best. A warm hug can communicate everything.

Don’t push advice. 
You probably don’t know enough about your friend's case to really be useful. It can be tiresome and confusing to hear recommendations that may contradict the advice from one's oncologist. Each case is different. What works for one patient may not be appropriate for another case with slightly different features. So no need to say, “My friend Paula had your cancer and she said that her doctors recommended chemo every week…”

When in doubt, email an offer of help or companionship.
Unreturned phone calls can be a burden on your friend. Also, the phone ringing might wake him or her up from a much need nap after a sleepless night or a difficult treatment.  Or a call might force your friend to think about cancer during a time when he or she is taking a mental vacation. Always end a voice message or email  with “No need to reply; I am just thinking about you.”

Listen more than you talk.
You are there for your friend, the cancer survivor. Give him or her some runway to talk about whatever’s on their mind …an annoying insurance problem, an insensitive staff member at the oncologist's, a funny card they got, an aching back, an old car that isn’t selling, the kids, their parents, their spouse...anything.

Don’t force the cancer conversation.
If she’s trying to talk about her husband’s nasty boss, and you came to get the latest update on treatment, stick with the nasty boss stories. Cancer isn’t the only thing going on your friend's life.

Don’t expect her or him to follow up on every suggestion.
Many people will suggest that the friend with cancer call another friend who had cancer or read a new article about an ongoing clinical trial or natural remedy. These can be very helpful, but can also feel like another thing for the To Do list. Just pass the info along in a card or email and leave it there.

Focus. Take off your coat, sit down, turn off your cell phone. If your friend starts to open up and vent, stay with them. It helps to tell your friend up front how long you can spend so she or he doesn’t worry that their mood sent you packing.

Don’t rush your friend through the hard stuff. Your friend is sick, scared, bald, uncomfortable, and tired. Try not to quickly stifle these truths with platitudes like, “You’ve got to stay positive” and “This is going to be over soon” or "It will be OK." Let your friend complain and cry and feel a little self pity before you start to help her or him put themselves back together again.

Mirror your friend's feelings to show you understand, such as, "It sounds like you feel overwhelmed and low right now. That's got to be normal. Nobody can keep positive all the time," or "That must have been frustrating." Whatever is appropriate and real. Then give your friend some time to express how they feel. By letting the person feel it and saying something supportive in response, rather than contradictory or "balancing" you can help more. It's like driving into a skid in the rain. Going with the flow and turning into the skid is the best and fastest way out and back into control. Contradicting or trying to force the bright or positive perspective only makes your friend feel isolated and unheard.

Respect your friend's experience. Don’t say “I know how you feel” unless you actually do. Don’t say “My friend had the exact same thing and she’s doing great.” Every cancer case has unique elements.

Skip the bad stories. Your friend's mention of cancer is not your cue to launch into a story of someone you knew of who had a horrific experience. Just as you shouldn't be the cheerleader of denial (Stay strong. Attitude is everything. You're gonna be fine!), you shouldn't be Debbie Downer full of dismal news, either.

For Heaven's sake, don't ask how long your friend has.  Stage IV blood cancers are often reversible and many stage IV solid cancers can be managed.  This also goes for cards from estate lawyers and links for do-it-yourself wills!

Adapted from Circus of Cancer

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Final Round of R-CHOP and Post Treatment Game Plan

Final Round of R-CHOP with the great staff of GHCI!

So it is now Day 3 post last round of chemotherapy.  As has been the case with the last few rounds, I've spent most of the last few days sleeping and semi-watching dvds.  Side effects seem to be the same, no better, no worse.  More hot flashes but I have a feeling I may just have to get used to those. 

I wish I had more energy for a nice long post but maybe in the next few days I will get there.  I did want to update you all on my post treatment game plan.

On December 30th, I will be having CT Scans of all the areas where there was cancer: Neck, Chest and Abdomen. Plus, my oncologist wants a post treatment baseline mammogram of the breast. I will do a follow up with him middle of January and if blood work, scans and mammogram all look good, we will just do blood work every 3 months and PET Scans every 6 months for the first 2 years. He wants me to keep the port in for at least the first 6 months and I told him “I love that thing and I have no problem leaving it as long as possible” .

Saturday, November 27, 2010


We have survived Thanksgiving 2010.  20 people for dinner went smoothly.  We actually had plenty of room and could have easily sat another family or two.  We divided into two big tables.  The parent table and the non-parent table because we couldn't really call it the kids table,  Crystal and Juan are over 18

I enjoyed the fellowship if not the food this thanksgiving. I told Gary this morning too bad I wasn’t able to taste and enjoy all the food this year. I might as well have been shoveling in cardboard and Styrofoam. The good news is some things tasted delicious. My sister in laws pumpkin crunch was excellent with a glass of chai tea for breakfast and the smoked ham was perfect with the glass of Zinfandel. All in all considering the chemo mouth not a bad celebration.

Now I know what I want for Christmas.  My taste buds back to normal. 

Monday, November 22, 2010

Round 5 Update

I wish I could say that chemotherapy following a normal PET Scan is in some small way different than my other rounds of chemotherapy but it really wasn't.  My body has become accustomed to the 21 Day routine of R-CHOP so that the nausea begins a few days before the next treatment.  "Ritual Poisoning" is what one of my cancer buddies calls it and she isn't fair from the truth.  After a few rounds of chemotherapy, your body begins to brace itself for the next round, anticipating the poison. 

My friend, Jean, was my chemo buddy for this round.
I feel blessed to have had so many friends willing to sit with me through the long day of chemo.  This round, my friend, Christine, dropped by for a visit.  It worked out perfectly because Jean could head out for lunch and keep the smell of food from my queasy stomach.

This round wasn't any faster than the rest.  Mainly because it was a very exciting day at the cancer center.  It was a very busy day in the chemo room and then there were two adverse reactions right in a row. Not for me, I’m a model patient. Plus, I’ve learned what symptoms to speak up about and which ones to just keep quiet because if you speak up they will just slow down your drip and you’ll be there until the cleaning crew comes in for the evening.  The other big news is the shortage of Adrimycin.  I guess it is a nation wide shortage. So for this round I received an alternative drug. Nurse says the side effects are similar so shouldn’t have any big changes.

The side effects this round seem to be the same old, same old.  The good news is that I did switch out my anti emetic.  Instead of Zofran, I am now taking Zytril.  Although I still had quite a bit of nausea this weekend, I did not have the excruciating headache that usually accompanies the Zofran.  I slept almost all of Saturday but was up and around most of Sunday.  Just three little naps.  I plan to enjoy the next couple of days before my steroid crash by preparing for Thanksgiving.  We are looking forward to having a visit with Gary's family and hosting our Canadian friends with a dinner for 20 on Thursday. 

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Thankful Thanksgiving!

I will praise you, O Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonders. I will be glad and rejoice in you: I will sing Praise to your name, O Most High.  Psalm 9: 1,2

Thanks to all of my prayer warriors.  My PET Scan results are normal.  No new disease and no active cancer cells.  I was praying to be cancer free by Christmas but this is beyond my wildiest dreams.  Not only will I be cancer free for Christmas but with my last round of Chemo scheduled for December 9th.  I may actually be feeling pretty darn good by then. 

Friday, November 12, 2010

To Write Love on Her Arms

Posting today in support of this great organization.
As a survivor of suicide, I can tell you that it is not something from which you ever fully recover.  The statistics are terrifying.

Quick Numbers

-121 million people worldwide suffer from depression. (World Health Organization)
 - 18 million of these cases are happening in the United States. (The National Institute of Mental Health)
 - Between 20% and 50% of children and teens struggling with depression have a family history of this struggle and the offspring of depressed parents are more than three times as likely to suffer from depression. (U.S. Surgeon General's Survey, 1999)
 - Depression often co-occurs with anxiety disorders and substance abuse, with 30 percent of teens with depression also developing a substance abuse problem. (NIMH)
 - 2/3 of those suffering from depression never seek treatment.
Untreated depression is the number one cause of suicide, and suicide is the third leading cause of death among teenagers. (NIMH)

Treatment can make a huge difference for a person suffering from depression.  Drug therapy is an option but it angers me when general practitioners prescribe these drugs without requiring psychotherapy.  I personally believe this borders on malpractice. I hope that someday treatment for mental health issues is afforded the same protections as any other chronic condition.  Can you imagine a person with diabetes being told their insulin is limited to 20 per year?  How about a patient with emphysema being limited to a certain amount of oxygen?  The public wouldn't stand for it.

If you are reading this blog and are depressed, please seek treatment.  I can highly recommend the book "10 days to Self Esteem" by Dr. David Burns.  I just purchased Joyce Meyer's book "Power Thoughts." It appears to put a spiritual spin on cognitive therapy.  I will try to write a review when I finish the book.

In memory of my dad, who is loved and missed daily.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Danell's Official Side Effect Power Rankings

I haven't blogged much about the side effects from chemotherapy.  Some of that is because I don't really want to give much power to them.  Plus, every cancer patient has a different experience with chemotherapy and every patient experiences side effects to differing degrees.  I joked early on that it seemed like each round of chemo brought a new and exciting side effect.  That really has remained true.  Part of me wonders if that is because as each new side effect appears, I learn how to cope or deal with them so the next time I actually notice the new ones.

So, I decided to give my side effects power rankings.  The higher the side effect is ranked the more desirable a side effect it is.  Imagine if you could pick and choose your side effects you'd select the ones ranked highly.

#1 - Hair Loss, by far, not a bad side effect to have.  Sure, it is a hassle and a half some days to decide what I'm going to put on my head and it is the most obvious sign that I have cancer but it really doesn't bother me much.  I'm actually excited that when chemotherapy is finished I will find out what color my hair is ...I've been highlighting or coloring my hair since I was about 16 so this should be very interesting.

#2 - Weight Loss - Hey, as a woman that has dieted longer than I've been coloring my hair, totally self explanatory.  The only reason it doesn't rank higher than hair loss is because I'm also losing muscle mass.

#3 - Fatigue - I really can't complain about the fatigue since I am still able to sleep quite well.  Now that the Steroids don't give me the manic high anymore, I actually am enjoying the rest.

#4 - Vision changes - Blurry vision and dry eyes still bother me about 5-7 days out from chemo but aren't really much worse than typical allergy eyes.

#5 - Mouth Sores - the Ann Arbor/Magic Mouthwash really does make a difference.  These would be ranked higher if it was a persistent problem but like the vision changes they peak around day 3 and are usually gone by day 7.

#6 - Constipation - Not fun at all, I have finally learned to just start the Senokot-S on day 1 but still the first week is never good and makes me feel like a grumpy old woman.

#7 - Dry mucous membranes - I'm really talking about one particular area in general, which let us say is drier than the Sahara desert.   I guess this is a perfect time to prepare for menopause.  I've found some relief with a product called Liquibeads, it is hormone free which was a requirement given to me by my Cancer center.

#8 - Peripheral neuropathy - Which is just a fancy way of saying I have tingling and numbness in parts of my hands and feet.  It has really gotten worse with each round and bothers me even more now that it seems to have taken hold of my right hand.

#9 - Nausea/Headache post treatment - these tie because unfortunately they are closely related.  The nausea is bad despite the Emend and Zofran and the Zofran and Emend cause the intense headaches.  This round I am going to talk to my doctor about switching the Zofran out for a different anti emetic to see if it can make these side effects a little better.

#10 Chemo Brain/Chemo Mouth - Another tie because these two are my absolute most hated side effects.  Confusion, distraction and memory loss are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to chemo brain.  I love to read and chemo brain has made that a chore.  Chemo mouth is just as bad because it makes it so much more difficult to get the nutrition and hydration needed when going through chemotherapy.  Favorite foods are no longer appealing.  Water tastes horrible.  These take away some of the best pleasures in life.

So there you have them the latest and greatest chemo side effect power rankings.  I actually had a discussion recently with some fellow cancer patients about chemo side effects.  We decided forget about water boarding, chemo would probably be a more effective interrogation tool.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Post Round 4 Update

So Round 4 is officially in my rear view mirror.  Here is a video from that day...some of you have wondered what the cancer center looks like.

I slept almost the entire weekend.  Saturday was definitely my worst cancer day so far.  I told Gary no way no how was I doing any more rounds of Chemotherapy.  I guess that was the cumulative effect of all that chemo.  It really isn't surprising when you see my blood count.  Although the Neulasta is keeping my white count in the safe range, I have almost no lymphocytes left.  Which when you have Diffuse Large B Cell Lymphoma, you really are trying to get rid of lymphocytes.  Luckily, Gary had Friday off and was available on Saturday to handle Shelby's last volleyball tournament I was sad to miss it but boy did the hours and hours of sleep feel good.  Saturday night, our friends Jim and Lisa brought dinner for the family.  I was feeling well enough to visit during dinner and watch a few innings of the World Series before heading back to bed.

Sunday was not only Halloween but another day of mega-sleeping.  Although in order to mix it up a little, I napped in three different spots.  I was awake long enough to see the kids dressed for trick or treating.

Monday found me feeling more like myself.  I told Gary I guess I'll put up with two more rounds of Chemotherapy but will just plan accordingly.  Hibernation isn't such a bad thing anyway when it is getting chilly.

Next up for me is my Restaging PET Scan which is scheduled for November 9th.  I discussed it with Dr. Black at my last appointment and best case scenerio is two more rounds of chemotherapy.  That means that even if there is no evidence of disease, I will still complete the 6 rounds of chemotherapy. 

Friday, October 29, 2010

Round 4 of Chemo

Since I never fully regained 100% after Round #3, I am combining a few of my posts from a cancer patient website for this blog post.

Night before:
So I’m ready for round #4 – as ready as you can be. I actually was nauseous the last couple of days and I know it is my body bracing for this round. Stupid Round #3 was so nasty I’ve been really dreading this one. Luckily, last night I had a nice long Reiki session. First, I feel blessed to have found a Reiki practitioner only 7 miles from my house. Plus, she has a lot of experience dealing with cancer patients. The session really zapped me – which has always been the case for me. I just seem to be very receptive to Reiki. I’m hoping that all of the clean eating this week added to the Reiki might help me cope with Round #4. I’ll definitely let you know.

Evening of:
I actually do think that the Reiki made a difference. The nausea wasn’t near as bad this time. Still there but last time I wasn’t even sure I’d make it through the premeds. 6 hours this time so not bad but still a long day. I enjoyed watching Evil Dead – it had been a long time since I had watched it and was giggling nonstop at the “Zombies.” Let me tell you my Zombies are much more fierce. Now I plan to relax and pray for sleep. I’m going try the two valium trick and hope to sleep till time for my Neulasta shot.

Morning after:
Thank goodness the 2 valium trick worked again. I slept for 10 hours straight last night. Now it is the battle with nausea…wee! my favorite part. Take the Zofran and the Emend but still nauseous and added bonus the Zofran headache. Thankfully my husband is home today so I have a ride to the doctor for my Neulasta shot and someone else to deal with all the food smells. Talk to you all soon.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Cancer is nasty but I've met worse.

I have a lot of people who comment on my great attitude and praise me for staying so positive in the face of cancer. It makes me feel like a fraud.  Cancer is an evil nasty disease but I've met much worse face to face.  At least cancer is a thing...a disease...a faceless, emotionless, entity.  Imagine that cancer was a person and not just any person but a parent or a caregiver. 

I've met those people.  Parents who care more about their own selfish desires than about the well being of their children.  Caregivers who would rather be drunk, high or stoned than take care of their sons or daughters.  People who think children are property and have no rights other than to serve them.  Cancer is a domesticated pet compared to these people.

Most of you know that I worked and volunteered with the CASA program. I know that many people would prefer to believe that child abuse and neglect are not problems in their own community.  It doesn't take much to know that isn't true.    Listen to your evening news.  Last week on mine there was a report of two toddlers, scalded and drowned by a caregiver.  Open your newspaper.  In my local news, there was a story about teenagers sexually assaulting children in their own neighborhood. 

I am confident that with advances in science eventually there will be cures for most cancers. This may even happen in my lifetime.  Do I think child abuse and neglect will end during my lifetime?  Unfortunately not.

I know this sounds rambling but I'm sorry.  Last week, I heard so much hateful speech directed toward the GLBT community by so called Christians that I started to wonder.  What would happen if instead of judging others, the all powerful Christian right movement used their time, energy and money on protecting our most defenseless, the abused and neglected children in our country,  Maybe then I could envision a world where all children are loved and safe.

We love because he first loved us.  If anyone says, "I love God," yet hates his brother, he is a liar.  For anyone who does not love his brother, who he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen.  And he has given us this command; Whoever loves God must also love his brother.  1 John 4:19-21.

For if every man were to regard the persons of others as his own person, who would inflict pain and injury on others? Hillel, first century AD rabbi.

If you are interested in learning more about CASA, please check out If you want to understand why this is so important to me, I recommend you read the books by Dave Pelzer, "A Child Called It," "The Lost Boy," and "A Man named Dave."  These are honest accounts of his life as a battered child.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Another busy weekend

The Duff family has another busy weekend planned.  Another volleyball tournament today followed by Brandon All Sports Bingo tonight.  So I'm sharing a quote from my facebook friends at the Lymphoma and Hodgkin's Disease Awareness and Survivors Club.  Enjoy.

Life is an opportunity, benefit from it.
Life is beauty, admire it.
Life is bliss, taste it.
Life is a dream, realize it.
Life is a challenge, meet it.
Life is a duty, complete it.
Life is a game, play it.
Life is a promise, fulfill it.
Life is sorrow, overcome it.
Life is a song, sing it.
Life is a struggle, accept it.
Life is a tragedy, confront it.
Life is an adventure, dare it.
Life is luck, make it.
Life is too precious, do not destroy it.
Life is life, fight for it.
~Mother Teresa

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Life as normal is a good good thing.

Sorry I haven't posted in a week.  Believe me when I say that can be a good thing.  This time it was a sign that life this week was busy and back to normal for the most part.

Gary had Monday and Tuesday off because of his birthday.  He believes and I totally agree that when you have vacation days left you really should never work on your birthday.  This year was much different than last year's Las Vegas birthday trip.  Monday involved going out for lunch at Max and Erma's and then hitting Costco to purchase food for the Varsity volleyball team dinner.  I know Crazy Cancer Mom hosting 12 girls and their coach at my house 4 days after Round 3 of Chemo.  Honestly, I knew Gary was going to be home and I had no intention of doing anything more than buying lasagna, salad and garlic toast at Costco.  One of my favorite lessons from cancer has been there's nothing wrong with taking the easy way.

Tuesday was Gary's birthday and I treated him to lunch out at Harvey's right here in Ortonville.  We joked that it was a far cry from dinner at the Strip House and tickets to Peep Show that we had a year ago.  Harvey's does offer a great breakfast menu and breakfast foods continue to be one of the things I can tolerate quite well.  The rest of the day involved baking goods for a bake sale for the varsity tennis team and heading out for the last home volleyball game.

Wednesday was as usual a very low energy day for me.  Even though I did not get the steroid high this time, I did feel the withdrawal.  I treated myself to a day on the couch watching all of my recorded shows on the DVR.  You know your week has been busy when you are just watching Desperate Housewives on Wednesday.

Thursday it was all about varsity tennis.  I was so proud of our tennis team for qualifying for states two years in row.  I had volunteered to be one of the parents staying with the team in Grand Rapids the night before the event.  These are a great group of boys.  Thursday afternoon we all headed to Grand Rapids for an early start to the MHSAA championships the next day.

Friday morning bright and early we had the boys to the damp chilly tennis courts.  By 10 in the morning, play still had not begun and I made the executive decision that Zach and I would be staying another night in Grand Rapids.  I was tired and knew that as the day progressed it would only get worse.  Despite the chill, it was enjoyable watching our boys compete.  This definitely was another level of tennis play but our boys gave it their all.  We were even able to celebrate one win for our #1 singles player, a great accomplishment.

2010 was a great season!
Zach and I enjoyed spending the evening with another family that decided to remain in Grand Rapids. We did dinner and movie seeing "The Social Network."  A very interesting movie about the creation of Facebook.

Driving back Saturday morning was not bad at all, despite MSU and U of M both having home football games.  Interstate 96 seemed to be a mix of both State and UofM fans.  When we reached I-69, the spartan flags were everywhere.  So glad they had great weather for a homecoming win.

When we reached home, I started the laundry right away because we had fun plans for the evening.  Our friends had invited us to attend a Thor Ramsey comedy show.  Their church was bringing him to town.  Zach and I were especially looking forward to it because we are fans of the "Thou Shalt Laugh" DVDs.  Check them out on Netflix, great clean comedians.  Thor Ramsey did not disappoint.  You know it is a good comedy show when you are digging for Kleenex because of laughter tears.

So now you have the Lymphomanic week in review recap.  Today will be a lazy day for the most part.  We may do a little yard work since the front lawn is a sea of pine needles.  I am looking forward to a week of feeling good and more life as normal.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Round 3 update

Sorry this is going to be short but quite frankly round 3 is kicking my ass.

I'm pretty sure I had more energy after running my first full marathon than I have today 3 days post chemo.

Luckily, right now the side effects are confined to a little sore mouth (which the Ann Arbor mouthwash is helping with), nausea (which is good because eventually I will learn how to spell that stupid word) and extreme fatigue (napping is good).

Positive news:  Zach and I had ice cream and a nice drive in the country today.  The trees in Michigan are looking amazing. Gary has the next two days off so I will have plenty of help at home.

That's all she wrote because nap #3 of the day is calling my name.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Recap of Round 3

Since I wasn't blogging live from my chemo chair, you can probably tell that Round 3 was different from past rounds.  First, I was nauseous right off the bat.  Murphy's law: I had not packed any saltines so I was happy that I had a nice thermos of ginger tea and baked lays chips.  It seemed to help a little but definitely wasn't feeling good this time.

I feel sorry that my good friend, Lesly was with me and I have no pictures to commemorate the day.  The camera was in my bag but trying to think happy not gaggy thoughts took all of my energy during this treatment. 

Things went  much faster this time.  Premeds took the normal amount of time but Rituxan and Cytoxan seemed to go much faster.  Lesly left for a trip home to let Sydney (Duffy's girlfriend) out and Gary came for the afternoon shift.  The good news was I was almost finished by the time he arrived at the cancer center.  From start to finish it was just about 5.5 hours.  So I was home napping by about 3:30.

The couch has definitely been my friend this time.  Lots of napping to deal with the fatigue and soup and saltines to deal with the nausea.

Thankfully, I was able to sleep last night and really am not feeling the manic effects of the Steroids today.
The guided meditation is working wonders for calming me down and relaxing me enough to allow me to rest.  More good news is that I have found a local Reiki practitioner and will be adding that therapy to my healing practice.

Have a great weekend and Happy Thanksgiving to all my Canadian friends.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Ready for Round #3

I'm up early this morning doing final preparations for Round #3 of R-Chop. Which really means last minute cleaning just in case this is the round that really knocks my feet out from under me.

I know that Round #2 was just about twice as bad as Round #1. I developed new side effects and some of them were not fun. I joked with the doctor this week that I'm just working my way through the list of possible side effects and by the time I reach Round #6, I will have experienced them all.

The good news is that most of the side effects can be controlled with either prescription or OTC medications. My least favorite side effect cannot. That is the vision problems. Luckily, last round it only lasted about 4 days and this time 2 of those days, Gary has scheduled vacation for his birthday. So no worries about trying to drive blind.

I am also happy to announce that my mediation/prayer room is finally decorated for my healing quiet time.

Thanks to all of you for the beautiful cards and a special thanks to Maddie and Sophia, my nieces, for the wonderful artwork.  It makes me smile when I'm not feeling good.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Healing Power of a Good Cry

I had a really big powerful cry the other night.

How it started was not pretty, just a simple comment by my wonderful husband that I took as a personal attack on my parenting skills. Mind you, I was exhausted. Our fall schedule is busy enough to make a non-cancer patient a little tired. Plus, this week I have been experiencing a nice steady stream of pain.  Nothing too extreme but a constant dull ache in my kidneys.  On a good day, I can remain positive and envision the zombies destroying cancer cells and that the pain is a result of that battle.  On a day when I'm exhausted and worn down from the pain, I just know that it is a sign that the chemo isn't working and the cancer is spreading.  To make matters worse on that night, my daughter was also emotional. Her schedule is insane right now. She leaves home around 7am and most nights does not return until 9pm or later.  We both were needing a good cry.

A day later and we both felt great. I know it was due to the healing power of a good cry.

So I was thinking maybe we should schedule time for a good cry each week. Best way to do that…sad movies right? So mom and I tried to come up with a list of movies that are guaranteed to give you a good cry.

Big Problem…how do you find one that isn’t all about cancer or a mom dying?

Terms of Endearment - No  
Beaches - No
A Walk to Remember - No
Steel Magnolias - No
Bambi - No

Help! Any suggestions for a good cry fest movie that doesn’t involve a parent dying or the big C….

Right now my list includes:
The Notebook
An Affair to Remember
The Way We Were

If you are going to have a cry fest, might as well have some eye candy too. 

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Homecoming 2010

A little scrapbook creation that I made last night around 1:30 am.  Special thanks to Aunt Jane for the gift of a smilebox membership.  Another example of life as normal while being a cancer fighter.  Although I will admit that yesterday while sitting at Amedae Salon, I teared up looking at my beautiful daughter with her hair all done.  I deserve to see her on all of her big occasions: homecomings, proms, and on her wedding day.  I will not let cancer take that from me.  It made me fighting mad.  My zombies heard the rally cry and are continuing their destruction of the nasty ninja cancer cells. 

Click to play this Smilebox scrapbook
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Digital scrapbooking design created with Smilebox

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Having Cancer is like being Pregnant: A list of similarities

I started musing about how cancer is like pregnacy right before my first round of chemo.  At that point, I swear I was cancer nesting.  Running around like a crazy woman making sure everything was ready for the eventuality that I was going to feel crappy after chemo. 
Here is a rambling list:
1.  You don't tell people until you are positive it is true.  Why get them all excited or upset?
2.  You think about it all the time.
3.  There are hundreds of books you can buy all about it.
4.  You reach a point where you can't hide the fact anymore.  Big Belly or Bald Head
5.  Strangers have advice or a story they just have to share with you.  Horror stories or helpful tips
6.  You feel tired a lot of the time.
7.  Morning Sickness
8.  Constipation
9.  Your brain is in a fog most of the time...Chemo brain or Pregnancy fog
10. You get special treatment.  Friends and loved ones spoil you

Next, maybe I'll start a list of cancer items I wished I had when I was not having to shave your legs ;-)

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Post Round 2 Update

The doctor is right, there is a cumulative effect to the chemo rounds.  The morning after was especially hard. I told Gary I am not sure if on the next rounds if I should drive myself in for the post chemo shot.  I was very weak that morning.  Poor Zachary ended up with instant quaker oatmeal for breakfast.  I spent most of the morning on the couch listening to the Top Chef finale.

The Neulasta shot, the steroids and a nice afternoon of napping/relaxing made a big difference.  I felt well enough to go to the home football game that evening.  It was a beautiful night for football and I was able to get some good pictures of Shelby during the half time show.  Unfortunately, I used her camera and don't have the ability to load those on my computer right now.  As a band parent, I left after the half time show and was home in bed by 9pm.

Nausea was bad Saturday morning but thankfully, I have a big hunky husband who took over the kitchen duties for me and I was able to enjoy a good breakfast without any prep work.  Zach and I headed out for a tennis tournament in the rain.  We knew that it was going to be a car day.  I brought magazines, a book and my lap top.  The tournament was cancelled by the time I read one magazine and barely got the season finale of True Blood started.  Zach and I decided on the way home from tennis that it was like getting a free day in school.  What a great way to spend a Saturday.  We enjoyed lunch and Survivor on the DVR.  Then, I headed upstairs for preBingo relaxation.  It consisted of the season finale of True Blood, 1 meditation session with Belleruth Naparstek "A Meditation to help you fight cancer" (I ordered it from and an one hour nap.  I awoke feeling really good, at least good enough to work bingo for the Brandon All Sports Boosters.  As a stay at home mom, my volunteer duties are important because it is one of the few ways I get to interact with other adults on a consistent basis.  Plus, I like my team and most of the patrons.   The bonus from Bingo, I came home tired and slept straight through the night, that is no small fete when you are taking 100mg of steroids each day.

Sunday morning and I am feeling really good - not pre-cancer good but good nevertheless.  Tonight I will work poker for the sports boosters so I plan another afternoon of relaxation.  Plus, I may take the wig out for a test run.  I'm guessing pair that wig with my skinny jeans (an added bonus of chemo) and maybe we will get a few more tips.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Chemo Round 2: The Gleeked out one

Sitting by me so we can watch GLEE!
It may be hard to believe but I was actually looking forward to Round 2 of R-CHOP.  My BFF, Lisa, was making the drive over from the Grand Rapids area to be my chemo buddy for the day.  I know it was slightly selfish of me.  We haven't had a good visit since Spring Break even though we talk weekly and she was the only person other than Gary who knew what was going on medically pre-diagnosis.  God thought it was an excellent choice, as well, because my 2nd round conveniently landed on Lisa's husband's birthday and he currently lives in Flint during the work week.  Bonus, a birthday dinner for the happy couple of 20 years. 

I think Lisa was looking forward to the visit as well.  She beat Gary and I to the cancer center.  Although in our defense Duffy was a difficult dog in the morning.  He doesn't do rain and getting him to poop was an ordeal.  Ah, the joys of having a furry member of the family in your life.  Gary stayed long enough for the nurses to get me hooked up and preMeds started. 

Just like last time all the set up and preMeds took until about 11am.  This treatment because I had handled the Rituxan well I did not have to be on a pump.  It made my 99 trips to the bathroom much easier.  After the Rituxan was started we decided to watch the last two episodes from season 1 of GLEE, less than a week until the new season and all.  GLEE, lunch, a chemo drip and your BFF - Life is Good!

Tired after Round 2
Rituxan was faster by about 2 hours so it was finished up around 3pm.  My reaction to the medicine seemed better this time.  Headache not so bad and no low back pain.  The nurse pushed the Oncovin and the Adriamycin and then started me on the Cytoxan drip.  All in all I finished up right around 4 pm.

It sounds like my next rounds will all be between 6 and 7 hours.  Better than that first 9 hour day but still a long day in the chemo chair.  Judy the nurse who encouraged me to run in the Crim gave me a nice warm hat to sleep in and to generally keep my balding head warm.  Lisa and I packed up all our entertainment.  Chemo makes you feel like a toddler with ADHD.  I pack a lot of stuff just in case I get bored.  I am actually starting to wish the Benadryl did knock me out for a little nap.  Because it was getting close to 4:30pm, we decided to just meet Gary on his way home from work and headed that way.  We decided to camp out at Panera. It gave us a chance to talk a little more and for me to pick the kids up some of their favorite bagels.  It was a long day but a good one.

Going our separate ways and my new hat.
We were home in plenty of time to attend the Varsity Blackhawk Volleyball game and God must have known I needed some rest because the team lost in 3.  As you can tell from the time stamp, the Prednisone has made rest a little difficult.  Right now the side effects seem a little different from last time.  More nausea but headache isn't as bad.  No diarrhea but stiff and sore finger joints (a good excuse for editing errors).  No energy with the Prednisone just not able to sleep and new this time very dry eyes.  Hopefully, my shot of Neulasta will help with some of the energy.  Plus, Duffy is headed to kennel for the weekend due to hectic life schedule and his desperate need for a grooming.  I plan to sleep, nap, relax.  Oh yeah, and blog or Facebook any changes.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Look Good, Feel Better

Just wanted a short post to sing the praises of the Look Good, Feel Better program from the American Cancer Society. I went Monday and had a blast. I met 3 amazing cancer fighters in all different stages of their journey with cancer. The make-up you receive is quality stuff. I’ve never been a big make-up person but even my face lit up when I saw a Chanel lipstick compact in my bag. You never know what you will get but there was stuff from Bobbie Brown, Estee Lauder, MAC, Elizabeth Arden, Mary Kay, Aveda, Avon all in my bag plus some excellent skin creams. I even came home with a free wig. I wasn’t planning on doing the wig so I decided if you are getting a free wig – Go Big or Go Home ;-)

Worldwide Lymphoma Awareness

I received this as an email and am posting it here for all of my friends and any patients who stumble across my blog searching for information on Non Hodgkin's Lymphoma.  I have learned that 1 in 50 people will be diagnosed with Lymphoma in their lifetime.  There is no screening for this form of cancer.   
September 15th is Worldwide Lymphoma Awareness Day. GET INVOLVED!
This is an annual event to help bring awareness of lymphoma to the world.
Lymphoma is the 5th most common cancer in the western hemisphere, and it
is one of the few cancers that is increasing in incidence over the past 50
years. Download the Excel spreadsheet graph at the bottom of our Oak Leaf
Awareness pin page. (Order a pin and support the cause while you are at it)
Teach your friends about lymphoma and have them take the "Know your Nodes"
quiz from the Worldwide Lymphoma Coalition. ( )

Monday, September 13, 2010

A little more fun with cancer...or how to enjoy a head shave!

I know some people with cancer hang on to their hair as long as possible.  I could tell days ago that I would not be that kind of person.  I hate hair around the house.  I'm always complaining and swiffering and that was just with normal loss of hair.  It really is difficult to explain in words the hair loss.  I ended up yesterday showing everyone in my family and my good friend Lesley because it really is easier to understand when you see it in person. The closest example I can come up with is a Kleenex box.  Picture yourself pulling tissues out one right after another.  That is how easily my hair was coming out.  Touch a few hairs and there they went.  No pain, no tug just a nice little clump of hair.  Actually, the amount would have made a nice little moustache if I wanted to glue it on my upper lip.

Shelby and Zach seemed the most upset about the loss of hair.  I think it was probably harder for them to comprehend because I have been feeling so good.  I can definitely tell that the week before the next round will be a strong week for me.  Even showing them how easily my hair was coming out didn't seem to help.  Zach said, "Just don't touch your head."  I offered them each the chance to help with the head shaving but neither wanted to take part or even help with the photographing.  That explains the quality of the shaving photo.

Gary and I had a lot of fun with the head shaving.  I knew he was the right man for the job because I'm married to a perfectionist.  Sometimes it can get on my nerves but when it comes to your head and clippers you want quality.  So first we did a little punk rock mohawk.

Shelby thought the mohawk was high fashion/editorial so that explains the dress.  I tend to agree with her. There is something about a girl with an edgy hairstyle wearing a girly outfit.  The lump is my mediport.  Which I still think is the coolest thing ever invented.  I will miss it when it is gone and hope they leave it as long as possible. 
Finally, we decided on the #2 head shave.  Thank goodness, I have nicely shaped ears and an adorable head.  This could have all turned out a lot worse.  Instead, I'm loving the shaved head look and will probably even like the all over bald look too.  As my darling cousin reminded me this weekend..."Who loves you baby?"  I love you all.  Thanks for keeping me in your thoughts and prayers.

My biker chick #2 shave: Spring Awakening shirt goes perfectly with it!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Losing My Hair and Keeping it all in Perspective

There is a ticking time bomb when it comes to cancer treatment and it is all about the hair loss.  The literature explains that if you get the red stuff,  Adriamycin, "almost all patients will lose all of their body hair."  You know that this side effect is coming your way.  I've been in contact with other cancer patients and through them I learned that most patients experience the hair loss in the 14-21 day range. So by day 10, you hear that time bomb ticking.  Every hair on your brush makes you wonder if today is the day.  You keep hoping that "almost" isn't every because you hear stories from family and friends of their aunt, father, grandfather who went through chemotherapy and never lost their hair.  But you are just waiting for the bomb to explode.

For me, it was a nice reliable time bomb.  Day 14 and I started to notice that I was losing body hair.  It was Friday and I had a busy weekend planned.  I just kept thinking "please just a few more days with my hair." I want to go to the Football game and Volleyball tournament with hair.  I made it through working at the concession stand fine.  I was on the cash register so I was busy almost the entire night.  No time to think about my hair.  I noticed a few strands but nothing shocking.
This morning I noticed the first clump of hair, when I say clump I mean a group of about 30 hairs all in the same area of my head.  I am sitting at the volleyball tournament trying not to touch my hair.  It isn't like my hair is just dropping out but if I run my fingers through my hair or scratch my head, clump.  For me this is difficult. I'm always running my fingers through my hair or sweeping my bangs out of my face.  Don't touch your hair, Don't touch your hair, Don't touch your hair is running through my mind on a constant loop.

Then my husband gets a call, his cousin at the age of 49 has had a massive heart attack and died.   He has a girl close to Shelby's age and 2 little boys.  It made losing my hair seem like nothing.

Maybe tomorrow I will have some more fun with losing my hair.  Maybe I'll  have a Mohawk with some bright color or maybe I'll shave just half of my head.  I do know that as long as I'm here, it doesn't matter if I don't have hair.

Friday, September 10, 2010

What You Can Do | Stand Up To Cancer

Tonight, most of the major networks will be airing: Stand Up 2 Cancer.  If you want to support this cause, text STAND to 40202 for a $10 donation.  100% of the funds received will go to cancer research.  I have already sent my text and will be wearing my "In the Fight" shirt while working in the concessions stand at our home football game.  I will try to add a photo later.

After a long night in the concession stand.

What You Can Do | Stand Up To Cancer

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Having a Little Fun with Cancer

Just a short little note and update from our labor day weekend.  Here in Michigan, it did not feel like the end of summer break.  It felt more like fall break.  Perfect weather for the man of the house to do yardwork and the little lady to make a big batch of tomato sauce with tomatoes my neighbors have been giving to me.  We also celebrated the 3 year mark in the house and hung pictures in the two basement guestrooms and our formal dining room.  Most of the ground floor is still not decorated but when you move as much as we have in our 19 years of marriage it takes awhile before you think it is worth the effort.

Sunday was actually warm and nice.  I did a 10 mile training run in 2:04 and am considering going ahead and participating in the Brooksie Way Half Marathon that I'm registered for in October.  The guys really wanted to go to the Bucaneer Beer Feast at the Michigan Renaissance Festival but were disuaded by the crowd.  Instead, they played tennis where Zach was schooled by his dad and Gary was exhausted from the effort.

Monday, the weather was chilly and overcast.  Zach and I headed to Rite Aid to get our flu vaccinations.  While at the Rite Aid, I decided to have some fun with my hair while I still have it.  I bought a box of Loreal SuperBlonde.  The great thing about knowing that your hair has maybe a week or two left is you don't even have to follow the directions.  PreTest? Who cares!  I'm loving it.  I think it is a cross between Billy Idol and Draco Malfoy.

Now it is back to school and a very full week.  Gary's parents are visiting and we will be watching 3 tennis matches, 1 volleyball game, 1 home football game and an all day volleyball tournament. All of it hopefully finishing up in time for the U of M vs. Notre Dame football game.  A perfect reward for a long week.

Monday, September 6, 2010

A dog's point of view.

Hi, I am Duffy Duff.  I thought maybe you'd like to know what I think about my mom having cancer.  I think it stinks.  It really is affecting my play time.  Mom still takes me on walks but sometimes I feel like she is rushing me.  I don't understand it.  Would it really hurt to let me stop and sniff out that rabbit?  I guess I'm stuck in the anger phase.  It just isn't fair that I don't get all the mom time I want right now.  So I try to show mom that I want a little play time by grabbing socks, shoes, or stuffed animals and running through the house with them.   Mom doesn't think it is fun.  The one good thing about mom having cancer is I do get to cuddle with her and nap a lot more.  This weekend mom bleached her hair and now we really do look like blood relatives.  Of course, she told me not to get used to it because she won't have hair much longer but for now we're having a little fun.

Friday, September 3, 2010

MIA - One lump

Last night I noticed the lump on my thyroid is gone. Not sure if it is really gone but I can’t see it when I look in the mirror and with the weight I’ve lost it should be really standing out. I tried to palpate it and still could not locate the mass. Is this really possible after only one round of Chemo? I know the doctor informed me earlier that having intensely hypermetabolic masses can work in your favor with chemo because sometimes they shrink as fast as they grew. But wow – I am a little amazed.

What I really find amazing is that in doing my visualization during my 10 mile run – the thyroid mass was really throbbing – almost like the battle was taking place right there as I was visualizing the destruction of the cancer cells.  I told you those Zombies could destroy the cancer Ninjas.

The breast mass is still there – I can feel it easily but now when I visualize I’m moving on to that one.  I am also going to have to figure out exactly where my liver and pancreas are so that I can move on to those tumors next.  Luckily, after years of kidney stones, I know where those are.

Today was my post chemo doctor's appointment.  I am happy to report that my blood work is once again excellent.  My white blood cell count is well above the healthy range which is very important for a mom with kids in two different fall sports and marching band.  I hate to miss a high school sporting event.  It is the stuff parents love.

The doctor cautioned me that each round of chemo will become progressively more difficult.  I think he was trying to make sure I was prepared for the road ahead.  Right now my only real side effect is falling asleep early in the evening.  I'm not complaining about it at all.  I've meet a lot of cancer patients who cannot sleep or require Ambien for a good night sleep.  I am sleeping great.  It must be all the energy it takes for my zombies to eat up those cancer cells.  

So this long weekend, I will be destroying cancer cells and sleeping.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Je me souviens: Sugar Pie and Divine Intervention

Being diagnosed with cancer especially when you are an otherwise healthy person can be mind boggling.  As I mentioned in an early blog post, I had a physical in May and everything looked great.  I have a copy of the bloodwork.  I look at it in amazement.  All of my numbers are in the healthy range.  Even my bloodwork after I found the lumps is all good.  I ask myself all kinds of questions.
How can you have a blood cancer and all your bloodwork be good?

How can you walk around feeling healthy and actually be walking around with aggressive tumors invading your body? 

What if I had not found the lumps? or why did I find the lumps?

Today on my walk with Duffy, I started thinking about what I have learned about cancer.  Cancer loves sugar.  It gets so worked up about sugar it glows all pretty on the PET Scan for the radiologist to read.  I am normally not a sweets person.  Anyone who knows me knows that I'm more the beer and nachos kind of girl.  But I started thinking about our trip to Quebec at the end of June and I remembered the sugar pie.  This dessert is amazing and I became a huge sugar pie junkie during our visit.  I think I ate sugar pie everyday we were there.  So on my dog walk this morning, I decided to blog about the power of sugar pie.  Maybe that sugar pie feed the tumors in such a way that they just kept growing.  Growing so much that a week after we returned from Quebec, I felt that lump in my throat.

And then I remembered my trip to Sainte-Anne-De-Beaupre.
I visited a lot of cathedrals during the trip.  I am personally drawn to them.  I believe there are definitely spots on earth where God's presence is felt more easily.  New age believers call them spiritual vortexes.  I've felt that pull in many places in nature; Sedona, Yellowstone, and even the sunset over a corn field. I've always believed that a church or cathedral can be a man made version of those.   My trip to Sainte-Anne-De-Beaupre was different in that I went alone.  Gary and the kids were tired of cathedrals and they headed off to the honey museum.

Pilgrims from all over the world travel to Saint-Anne-De-Beaupre because it has a history of healing miracles.  Pillars in the front entrance are covered in crutches from people who have been miraculously cured.  I was not there to seek healing.  I was drawn to St. Anne because of our connection as mothers.  It is a beautiful basilica.  While there I lit a candle and prayed for the health of my children.  I wish I could remember with more clarity my actual prayer.  It was more of a plea for their health and safety.  I may have prayed to keep our family healthy.  I now believe my prayer was answered.  I may be one of the miracles of Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupre.  What I know for certain is that on June 19th I donated blood to become part of the American Cancer Society's cancer prevention study having no clue that I had cancer.  On June 25th, I lit a candle and said a prayer at the basilica.  On July 4th, I developed the sore throat lump that would lead to my diagnosis.

If not a miracle, I am still blessed.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

So long steroids, hello naps!

It has now been 48 hours since my last dose of Prednisone.  So technically, I'm in the valley of the lows for my immune system.  I will bottom out and then slowly begin to improve until time for my next round of Chemo.  Gary and the kids will probably enjoy this period.  Okay, I admit it. I've been a little like the energizer bunny around the house.  It is  probably part cancer nesting and part what if I don't feel up to it tomorrow.  I noticed the low coming yesterday.  I would compare it to feeling like you are coming down with the flu.  Solution - Netflix, the recliner and China Fare for dinner.

I am happy to report that my mouth sores are still quite manageable.  The nurse offered to call in a script for magic mouth wash but I really want to avoid it if possible.  I'm already ingesting huge quantities of drugs and toxins and would prefer to keep side effect management as close to natural as possible.  Right now it is working.  I am hydrating, eating nutrient rich foods, exercising and gargling with the salt water. I feel blah and nauseous in the morning but it passes quickly after I take the dog for his walk.  I think it is the fresh air and exercise.  It also gives me the peace and quiet to work on my ninja destroying visualization.  There is nothing a zombie likes more than a long walk.  Did you ever notice in Zombie movies that they are always on the go?  Never a down moment, they just keep coming - just one more advantage Zombies have over Ninjas.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Ice Chips, Ice Chips - I scream for Ice Chips!

Well, I guess it is the official beginning of nasty side effect season here at my house. Saturday night, my tongue started feeling like a big sore throat. I honestly don’t know a better way to describe it. What is really amazing is it doesn’t really look too bad – kind of like there are now a couple of landing strip lights on both sides of the tongue. I know I’ve been having a hard time finding things that I can tolerate to eat maybe cancer is trying to help me to remember - Hello this is where food goes!

It also signaled a perfect time for another good cancer cry. This is real… this is happening… you can feel good for few days but I’m still here and the battle is going to be a fierce one. Nasty red stuff (Adriamycian) thanks for the mouth sores – I know you are coming for my hair. I guess I better start making some real plans; so, today I registered for the Look Good, Feel Better class provided by our local American Cancer Society.

Sunday, we took the kids to the mall for some back to school shopping.  I grabbed my 20% coupon for Bed, Bath & Beyond and splurged on a beautiful satin pillowcase.  I hear from the cancer blogs that it helps when your hair starts falling out.  Back to School shopping is just about as much fun with cancer as it is without cancer.  I went through 3 bottles of water keeping my sore mouth hydrated and then was happy to see that sore tongue or not I can still tolerate Olga's.   The snackers weren't the best but my normal creme of broccoli soup with spinach pie was a nice treat, even if I did leave most of the phyllo behind. 

Now it is Monday and life as normal is a wonderful treat.  Zach to a Brandon Tennis Match, Shelby to volleyball practice and all of us trying to stay cool on a hot summer day.  What a perfect reason for more ice chips!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

The 2010 CRIM: A Zombie finishes strong!

I had been really looking forward to running in this year's Crim 10 mile race.  I ran the Crim for the first time last year and had a great time.  Plus, this year my tempo and hill paces had been much faster than last summer so I was crossing my fingers for a personal best time.  Then cancer called and training stopped.  Crim fever was strong in Flint and I had been spending a lot of time there for tests and treatment.  It was like rubbing salt in an open wound. I wanted my Crim Race!

Thursday during treatment I was whining and complaining about missing the race.  One of the nurses encouraged me to go ahead and participate.  She explained that my white count would still be good this weekend and if I felt up to it I should just go and run.  She planted a seed.  Why was I letting cancer call all the shots?  I am the one living this life.  What made me think I couldn't run the race if I couldn't run my best?  I like to run and I know I'm never going to be the fastest.  Sure I like to challenge myself but really it is just about the run.

The side effects from Chemo improved on Friday, possibly due to the shot of Neulasta to help stimulate the bone marrow to produce more white blood cells.  I actually felt well enough to attend Shelby's first marching band football season performance.  So the race was on.

My shirt for the race
My friend Laura had been having a difficult time training this summer.  She wasn't happy with it and had been thinking about being a no show for race day.  Well guess what, now she was going to be my running buddy. Despite the normal craziness of starting a race with 10,000 runners, we found each other shortly before crossing the start line.  I'm pretty sure it was another one of those "God Things" either that or Laura is just a hard person not to miss ;-)

As I ran, I remembered learning that cancer doesn't like oxygen.  So with each deep breath I envisioned the oxygen taking the powerful R-Chop Zombies to all the little spots where the Ninja cancers were hiding.  Cancers cells were being destroyed with each breath.

At about the halfway point, we were doing quite well, all things considered.  Running at about a 11.5 minute mile pace, when Laura hit the wall.  She wasn't happy about holding me back but I tried to tell her it wouldn't hurt me a bit to just hang back and enjoy the run.  Finally, she convinced me to just keep my pace and run.  Well, that didn't last long.  Maybe a mile more and my IT band decided to remind me that it likes a brace sometimes for a long run.  I had worn one last year for my long runs but hadn't made it past 9 miles in my training runs so honestly I never thought about it.  So I found a good spot off course to stretch and along comes Laura.  She is looking better and I'm running a little like a Zombie, you know how they always seem to have one limp leg they drag behind them.

So we walked more than we ran those last 3 miles but we enjoyed every minute of it.  At the back of the pack, the people talk and laugh and encourage each other.  Not to mention, you can be passed by a woman dressed like wonder woman and man as Mr. Incredible, that definitely put a smile on my face.  The best part after 2:24:39, we crossed the finish line.

The Crim Bricks Finish Line!

The medal is nice but knowing that ninja cancer cells were destroyed in those 10 miles is even better!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

A Successful Round 1 of R-CHOP

What a long day at the cancer center.  8:50am-5:15pm is really too long to be reclining even if you are on a beautiful beach in the tropics.

Today was a great Chemo Day.  They started me off with Benadryl and Zantac.  Next came a nice big dose of the wonder drug for nausea, Emend.  Then, the biggie was started, the Rituxan.  For my cancer attack visualization, this is the drug that wakes my army of zombies and prepares them to do battle with the ninjas.  I've had this argument with Shelby and Zach and maybe even a couple of their friends.  They say zombies cannot win against ninjas.  Oh yes they can, all that they need is the super power that Rituxan gives them.  Then watch out! 

True Blood requires a nice corner chair :-)

Cancer buddy/Cabana boy
No adverse reactions to the Rituxan.  The nurses only slowed it down once because I was having some back discomfort.  At that point, I had been in the chair for over 4 hours.  My hunky cancer buddy, Gary, found me a little pillow perfect for the small of my back and problem solved.  Full speed ahead.  He did an excellent job as cancer buddy and was even able to get a little work done.  An hour long conference call in the cancer center isn't nearly as bad as you'd think.  Worst part for him was the seating.  My chair was definitely better.

I was all finished with the Rituxan by about 3:30pm.  When the angels in scrubs push, the next two you get a nice little time for talking to someone other than your hubby, Facebook, text, etc.  Today, she pushed the red stuff first, Doxorubican (the H) and then the Oncovin (the O) and then I finished with the Cytoxan which seemed like a very slow drip but the nurses guaranteed me that the headache I had would only get much worse if they sped it up.  Finally, at home I took my Prednisone, the P.

So now my army of zombies are not only super powered, they have an arsenal of weapons at their disposal.  Guess what one thing zombies like to eat more than brains - Yep, it's nasty cancer cells, especially ones pretending to be ninjas.  They will be victorious and even if it means I end up spending a small part of my life walking around looking like one of them - who cares!  It sounds like a great excuse to visit the Zombie walk in Grand Rapids this year.

As for my reaction to Chemo - as I said before today has been a good day.  Headache seems to be my biggest side effect.  I have a little upset stomach this evening but I took an anti-nausea pill and am sipping tea.  It could be from the Chemo or it could be a side effect of a DVR that decided not to tape Project Runway even though it was scheduled.  Thank goodness, the Prednisone is keeping me awake.

Special thanks to all my chemo buddies today - Robin for the yummy food and the hands on prayer time; Jean and Patty for help with driving Zach; Laura for being the parent on call today; my family for helping when needed and all of you for the prayers, light and love sent my way.  It was felt.

Cancer Beware!

Morning of first round of Chemo and I am ready to get this started. Cancer has me angry and I am ready for a fight. So I say go ahead you nasty cancer sneak around and hide in all your favorite spots but I’ve had a PET Scan. I know where you are and I’m gonna be armed with R-CHOP and I will find you and tear you apart bit by bit and cell by cell until you’re history. You picked the wrong person. My life is now an action movie and you're the bad guy. Hasta la Vista Cancer!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

My treatment: R-CHOP

Tomorrow morning I will start Chemo.  My treatment is called R-CHOP.  I think it sounds like a 70s kung fu movie with cheesy English voice overs.  Which is actually probably appropriate because I've decided cancer is like a Ninja.  Oh so sneaky, you don't even see it coming.  Give me Zombies any day.  They are nice and slow.  Hello! If you can't see them coming, it is your own fault.  They are always moaning and probably stink like crazy since they are the undead.  Sorry, a bit off topic I know but I love Zombies.  Most of you already know that.

Drug Therapy Treatment R-Chop (courtesy of Leukemia and Lymphoma site)

Many drug combinations are used to treat NHL The drug choice depends on the type of NHL and the stage of treatment. A number of drug combinations include Rituxan - a monoclonal antibody therapy. Monoclonal antibody therapies kill certain types of cancer cells. They can cause side effects but do not cause many of the side effects caused by chemotherapy.
R-CHOP: Rituxan, cyclophosphamide, doxorubicin (hydroxydoxorubicin), Oncovin® (vincristine) and prednisone.

From what I understand from the wonderful chemo nurses, they will start with the Rituxan.  It is administered very slowly due to some pretty nasty reactions that can occur the first time you receive it.  It is because of the Rituxan that I will be at the cancer center pretty much all day.  They push it slowly and carefully while doping you up on Bendryl and monitoring monitoring monitoring.  The good news is that after the initial treatment of Rituxan subsequent treatment times will be cut in half. 

I can't remember the exact timing of the next 3 drugs but I know that it isn't in the CHOP order.
C - Cytoxan it will take about 1.5 hours by IV and it's the one that requires me to drink a lot of water.
H-  Doxorubicin (hydroxydoxorubicin) It's the red one and it is the reason I'm having a MUGA heart scan today.  It can cause heart damage so they need a baseline heart function test to compare.  Thank goodness, I've been running for almost 5 years now.  Yeah! Strong heart!  This is also the one that will more than likely be responsible for hair loss.  I think they focus on the heart damage so when you see the Red you don't think stupid Doxorubicin you took my hair.
O-Oncovin  It has its own set of side effects. I think mouth sores are the big one with this drug.
P- Prednisone - The steroids - this is the only one in pill form.  I take it for 5 days following the IV chemo.  I've dealt with prednisone in the past.  It was part of my treatment for shingles and there was the experience of having a 4 year old on prednisone at WDW following a nasty asthma attack.  Talk about crazy!

Dr. Black has also put me on Allopurinol because of my history with kidney stones and the involvement of my thyroid.  It is a preventive measure to combat the levels of uric acid that can be produced from the dying cancer cells.

So now you all know about as much as me.  I'm nervous about starting the first round but want to get this treatment started.  The next blog entry will probably come from my recliner at the cancer treatment center. So please ignore typos, bad grammar and ramblings :-)