26 September 2010

crushed toez and picklez

This week, I wrote a new chapter in my Cancer Book: I started chemo. The BIG chemo. My mom and I trekked out to Dana-Farber at 5:30 Tuesday morning. We arrived late for my 7:30 appointment because of the can’t-believe-it-till-you-see-it Boston traffic. I got whisked through seeing Dr C, bloodwork, vitals - with a long pause for breakfast - and then off to the 10th floor for the infusion. The over 7-hour infusion!

I was hooked up at around 10:15. Got a big dose of fluids for hydration and pre-meds to head off any reactions the chemo drugs might cause (Benadryl, Decadron, Xantac, Aloxi, Emend). Then it was time for chemo:
3 hours of Taxol
30 minutes of Mannitol
30 minutes of Cisplatin
90 minutes of Avastin

I spent most of the day in varying degrees of recline. My mom sat with me and we chatted some, but mostly read or watched TV. If you can imagine how boring it is to be hooked up to an IV drip for that long, imagine being the person sitting next to the one hooked up to the IV drip. At least I was in a recliner and could get comfortable. My mom was just sitting in an ordinary chair. Waiting.... Waiting..... Waiting.........

I finally got unhooked at 6:00. I was amped up enough from the Dex (Decadron) to drive home, but when it wore off the next day, baby did it WEAR OFF. I was (to use Pops’s phrase) wrung out. Tired from the effects of chemo, but compounded by coming down off the Dex. And then, the pain began.

My old neuropathy was simple. I felt like I was still wearing socks after I’d taken them off, and my feet were always cold. This time, it hurts. The bottoms of my feet are numb. But the tops of my feet feel like someone is standing on them (and no, that isn’t because a wonderful Rottweiler has parked herself on top of me). My knees and ankles feel like they are being squeezed in a vice. I had trouble sleeping the first night of that, but then my Mom put on her Mommy Hat and rubbed my legs and feet before bed and it made the pain go away. (Thank you SO MUCH Mom!!! You’re the best!!!) (And yes, I do know how spoiled I am!)

What I had been dreading the most - the nausea - hasn’t been too bad. I have had moments here and there, but MO Leo taught me the pickle trick. Apparently, there’s an old naval remedy for seasickness which is, basically, eat a pickle. I’ve tried it and it seems to work. So far, my nausea has been very minor and not lingering. I’ve had a few pickles here and there, a few anti-emetics here and there, but so far no puking. So far.

Today is a good day. The neuropathy isn’t too bad, mostly numb, no real pain. I did some chores and walked the dog and I might even go to the movies tonight. Tom’s coming to visit so I’m sure we’ll play some cards. And the best part? I still have two more weeks before I have to go do it all over again!

And see? I’m still smiling!

17 September 2010

a cog in the mazhine

Tuesday morning, I set out for my third trek to Dana-Farber. I did the driving, and my Mom and MT Bee came too. During the week prior, I had received a 20+-page document detailing the clinical trial that I came here to be part of; I had poured over it several times, highlighting my questions as I went. I brought that with me, along with a stomach-full of apprehension. Oh, and I also brought my Java Blue Maggie Vera Bradley that I bought at Goodwill for $3.

We arrived with enough time to take the scenic route through the city, and still enough time to eat lunch in the D-F cafeteria. My turkey and ham sandwich with mustard, lettuce, tomato, and pickle was tasty, but it had to share room in my tummy with the aforementioned apprehension. I was quite full!

I again met with Paul who took my blood, and then it was off to see Dr C and Nurse C. My Mom & MT Bee came in with me so that they could have the chance to ask their questions and give voice to the apprehensions filling their stomachs (though neither of them really asked much). Dr C did much to allay my fears (albeit while giving rise to new fears) and I felt comfortable signing on the dotted line.

There was still some checking that needed to be done: bloodwork, urinalysis, EKG (which I actually had to go back today to redo).


Congratulations! I am now a cog a participant in the GOG-0240 Clinical Trial:
A Ramdomized Phase III Trial of Cisplatin Plus Paclitaxel with and without NCI-Supplied Bevacizumab versus the Non-Platinum Doublet Topotecan plus Paclitaxel with and without NCI-Supplied Bevacizumab, in Stage IVB, Recurrent or Persistent Carcinoma of the Cervix

How’s that for a mouthful?

I have been randomly selected to receive regimen 2: Cisplatin, Paclitaxel, and Bevacizumab. On day 1, I will get the Paclitaxel (hereafter referred to as Taxol), and on day 2, I will get Cisplatin and Bevacizumab (hereafter referred to as Avastin). It is a 21-day cycle of treatment, so I’ll have
treatment every third Tuesday and Wednesday starting this coming Tuesday, September 21st.

And I even got a prize for my participation - MT Bee gave me an exclusive Dana-Farber Cancer Institute Crystals of Hope bracelet. Isn’t it pretty? Each color represents a different color cancer ribbon: cervical is teal. So now you know what color ribbon to wear on your lapel when you give your Academy Award acceptance speech!

And that, dear readers, means that the next time you hear from me will be after my first treatment. I hope I’m still smiling :-)

Oh - I almost forgot to mention my adventures in purple. Hair, that is. My roots were growing out, and for those of you that haven’t seen me in a while, my natural hair color has taken on a decidedly, shall we say, smoky flavour. So I had the bright idea to dye my roots purple - after all, my hair will fall out soon. Well... much of my scalp is bright purple. Most of my hair is still black. My roots are still gray. And only a very small bit actually turned purple like it was supposed to. Live and learn!

Until next time...

12 September 2010

three peepz and a cow

The day of my CT scan, I dealt with three people.

First, I had to have blood drawn.  The man called me in to the Blood Draw Room and had me sit in a comfy blue chair.  He wasn't just drawing blood - he was putting in a Huber needle so that during my CT scan, it would be ready for them to inject the contrast dye. There was some confusion over the paperwork: he needed a report from when the port was put in that would indicate where in my jugular vein the tip of the catheter was placed.  The ID card and paperwork I had with me didn't say anything about that.  So he made some calls, I made some calls, he made more calls, and finally the report was faxed and I could get my Huber.  And I almost forgot to mention - this guy complimented me on my shoes.  Love that!

Second, I had to have the CT scan.  In preparation, I had to drink Barium.  Now you might remember from earlier posts, I have had to drink Barium before.  It was chalky and gluey and made me gag.  But now, there is a new liquid Barium (new to me anyway) that comes in a little vial.  You pour it into a bottle of Crystal Light and aside from a slight aftertaste, it is really easy to drink.  I had two of them and I was ready to be scanned.  The technologist brought be in to the CT scan room and had me lie down.

Third, a nurse in the CT scan room hooked me up to the contrast.  I had two images taken before the contrast, then the nurse came back in and actually injected it, then I had two more images taken.  And that was it.

And do you want to hear the weird part?  The CT contrast nurse was named Jeff, the CT technologist was named Kim, and the blood draw guy was named Paul.  So for my first day of stuff happening at Dana-Farber, I dealt with Jeff, Kim, and Paul!  This made me happy :)

The other thing that made me happy was this inexplicably hand-printed cow.

I go back to D-F on Tuesday the 14th to meet with Dr C and Nurse C (Nurse C is the Research Nurse in charge of the trial I am going to be part of) and we will go over all my questions and get all the papers signed. And if everything goes to plan, I should start chemo the Tuesday after.

I'll let you know...

06 September 2010

somethingz different...

...I can't quite put my finger on it...

I heard voices when I woke up this morning. Voices of my Mom. And my MT Bee. And it was cold outside. In the 50’s, I’m told. This doesn’t feel right. This feels like.... And sounds like.... New England!

Surprise! Surprise! It IS New England! Yes, I am here in Ye Olde Andover. Sitting in my 2nd floor room with pitched ceilings. Got my favorite books. Got some warm clothes. Got my giant red pillow. Got stuff to keep me busy. Got work. Got knitting.

After having a WHOLE LOTTA help packing from my family, my MO Leo drove me and my stuff here safely. We had two nice visits on the way up: one with the Tall Man, the other with MT Marie and the Boys-and-Boys. I was glad to arrive on Tuesday and get settled in.

My first appointment at Dana-Farber was on Friday at 7:30 am. When the nurse called to schedule it, I was told to be there by 6:45 in order to have time to fill out the requisite paperwork. Dr C, I was told, likes to be prompt. And so, we woke up in the middle of the night and were on the road by 4:30. My cousin-in-law Bill was our driver and after umpteen hundreds of trips to D-F with Pops over the years, we trusted that he would get us there safely and on time. Which he did - we even had enough minutes to spare to fit in a quick breakfast first!

Turns out, punctual Dr C was running late! But no bother. I immediately liked her; she was personable and thorough in her questioning. When the subject of the clinical trial came up, she felt it would be a great fit for me and was extremely pleased that I hadn’t had any treatment before coming up (if you remember, there was a possibility of a “boost” of radiation - lucky for me I canceled that). I had done my research, and she was impressed with my tendency toward compulsivity. Click here to see a short video - I bet you'll like her too!

Tomorrow I go for a CT-scan and blood work. Then the following Tuesday, I go back to meet with the person running the clinical trial. The trial drug is Bevacizumab, which I can for some inexplicable reason just this moment remember how to pronounce (bĕ və sĭ´ zō măb), that also goes by the name Avastin if you’re in a Google sort of mood.

I don't know how soon after that appointment I will begin treatment, but I'm ready to get started like right now! C'mon, Dr C - let's get a move on!

Before I go, I want to send a big warm HUG to all the people in Florida and other southern states that I will be far from over the next however long. The tears may have dried, but I am still missing you terribly!

Until next time.... ♥