Where am I in my treatments:
Cycle 5 Update: Cycle five proved to be a challenge, my symptoms afterward were harder to recover from, and lasted longer. Arm pain at the infusion sight was really challenging this time. My suspicion is that since a smaller vein was used for this infusion, one in my left hand, it forced the chemo drugs through smaller and more delicate veins. The pain spread up the hand and into the arm and lasted a couple of weeks. Other challenges included a nasty stomach upset, which took a couple of days to get past, with associated lingering issues that took another 8-9 days to mostly resolve. Pain and steroid use usually cause sleeplessness, so all of this probably contributed to a greater amount of fatigue than normal. Interestingly, the fevers that I usually get around a week after infusions never rose above 100 degrees, so one small area of improvement to note for cycle five. Overall, I simply did a lot less, slept more when I could, and distracted myself with movies and other quiet, easy activities when I couldn't.
Clycle 6 Update (WED 6/30): Cycle six was my last cycle of CHOP-R! I'm so excited! The infusion was long as usual, 8 am until 5 pm, but uneventful. Nurse Cathy got the vein on the first try (others needed up to four attempts to get the IV started), so that put us off to a great start. The day flowed on by. Due to the late day on Wednesday, I had my Neulasta shot on Friday morning, July 2, that's the one that gets my white blood cell production kicked back into production. Easy, peasy! Jessica and Gary, who do all of the shots and blood tests at the Enloe Cancer Center use teensy needles and are so good at what they do, that I'm in and out and hardly notice anything has happened. Love those folks! Cycle 6 is doing it's thing, and all I have to do is manage symptoms and avoid infection.
Emergency room: One of the items on my "Report Immediately to the Emergency Room" list is rash. Unfortunately, on Saturday morning that's just what I discovered. So, (after coffee and breakfast), we headed to the ER. Rash confirmed, on-call oncologist consulted by the ER doc (cause everything's more complicated with chemo patients), prescription written. We were out the door in just under 2 hours, and that's got to be a record for any ER. It was empty when we came in, but I was still impressed. Thanks to the folks at the Enloe ER, every one of them. Both times I've had to report in, they were professional, patient with my questions, and thoughtful of my condition and immune system. I'm very grateful, but hope I never have to go back. You get that, right?
Changes: Believe it or not, I still have some fuzzy hair on my head and I have maintained my eyebrows and eyelashes. Based on conversations with other chemo patients, I could well have lost those by now. For some reason (so far) I seem to have been spared that. I am really hoping that means I will have a little jump-start on regrowing my hair. I should start to be able to use Rogain soon. I'll be checking my notes to see when that's feasible. I know I'm repeating myself, but I'll be so much happier when I can sport at least a minimally socially acceptable amount of my own hair. That will be a huge day for me. I wonder what it will look like? I'm told to expect it to be different...
One other note on changes, I'm looking forward to getting all of the steroids out of my system. They puff me up, make me hungry and disrupt my sleep. It will be so nice to have that behind me.
Testing and upcoming appointments: CT Scan is scheduled for July 8 at UCD in Sacramento, which will help us know where I have ended up after all of these treatments. Follow up appointments with both oncologists (Chico and UCD) come after that, which will restage my cancer. I expect to hear the "R" word (remission) for now. Hopefully, finally, a truly long one! Not sure about the possibility of more Retuxin maintenance. It didn't seem to help after the Bendemustin chemo I did the year previously. Jury is still out on that one.
What I'm doing to stay busy: I'm working on back to school plans here and there (not too hard). Teachers at our school report back on August 1, so it is nice to have some organization done before hand. Bob and I are making plans for our trip to San Diego and Palm Springs to be with family. Super excited about that. Consequently, I'm making a little travel journal to take along. Bob has finished the retaining wall in the back yard, although the really hot weather these last couple of weeks has delayed the back filling of the dirt. We've been working in the veggie garden, we canned a bit of peach jam, and attended a fruit tree growing clinic at Hodges Nursery (great inspiration as our tiny back yard starts to take shape). I've been continuing with walking and yoga as pain and other impairments allowed. I must say that I'll be looking forward to some more normal energy levels. Walking has become a bit of a challenge, so we've shortened them down, but tried to stay regular.
Reading: I finished reading a great book, called The Philadelphia Chromosome, and just this morning finished one I also enjoyed quite a bit. It's Survival of the Sickest, but Dr. Sharon Moalem, about the evolution of illnesses and how they can sometimes convey an evolutionary advantage. Fascinating read!
Thank yous: Ashley, Josh, Andy and Cristi for the beautiful flowers! What nice surprise! Stacy, sister Chris, and Mom for constant checking in and sending love. Sister Trish for the loooooong phone chat on a busy day. Karen Chandler for crafty days that are such nice diversions, Karen and Ted for company, good dinner companionship and DVD and book loans. Students and parents who still keep in touch and send such uplifting thoughts as well as share their own awesome summer activities (either via this blog or through emails). You all have helped me work through these challenges and lightened the more challenging days, for which I am eternally grateful. Can't wait to get back into 'normal' life again!