Entering a New Phase of Life

 
 
Given I am a year + out of treatment and am on the six month cat-scan plan, I decided to share a little bit about some of the changes I have experienced.
 
 

twingAs mentioned in a previous post, I weaned myself from sertraline (for anxiety).  It’s amazing what an itty bitty dose of some drugs can do to a person.  I would have never survived being a drug addict.  Good grief.  I have pretty much conquered the “aggressiveness” my husband person had to endure.  There were times I was like a frayed rope.  Oh my!

~~~~~

So now I am down to just taking synthroid (for hypothyroidism) and some extra calcium and vitamin D for my bones.  Yea!

Last visit to the PCP, had a BP of 117/80.  Yea again!

And hairs are growing like crazy!  Mostly gray now, small price to pay for being alive, eh?

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Those who read previous posts know that I developed “chemo brain.”  To say I was fuzzy-brained would be the understatement of the decade.  Memory loss, inability to engage in complex thought, etc were part of my norm during and for a period of time after the chemo treatments.

And today?  I still have a little of the chemo-brain.  I get things mixed up once in a while, especially when it comes to time and remembering small tasks.  But I don’t leave the stove on any more 🙂

However, I am able to add small groups of numbers in my head now.  I also have regained most of my ability to analyze language as I used to do.  Hurrah.

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One of the unexpected consequences I experienced during and after chemo was weight gain.  So many folks lose weight.  I actually gained weight while in treatment and for several months afterward I just kept gaining.  Go figure.

So here I am looking like an overgrown pumpkin.  Now before all this happened, I wouldPumpkin have become depressed and really crawled in a hole.

Times have changed and so has my attitude.  Instead of just berating myself, I have opted to simply tackle the issue as I did with the treatments.

I have set about to lose the weight one ounce at a time.  That may sound silly, but I can easily envision losing 2 – 3 ounces a day.  Just like killing cancer cells one at a time.

I also turn to others for advise and ideas.  For example, one of the visitors here, tannngl, has a site that is helpful.  You can visit her site HERE.  She discusses nutrition, exercise and includes her faith as well.  I recommend it. (You can also access it on the sidebar under Health and Well-Being.)

So that is where I am one + year later.

If you or someone you know would like to share experiences relative to life after treatment for cancer, please encourage them to do so.

As always …

I Are Here

I Are Here

And Every Day is a Holiday


Every Day …

HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY

Every day is an opportunity to love and forgive.

Every day is an opportunity to serve others.

Every day is a holiday.


Interesting Turn of Events

First, my appointment on the 6th of February was positive.  The Onc was satisfied for the time being that my lungs were indeed “clear” of communist cancer cells.  I only had a lung x-ray for this visit.  He did the usual poke, prod, lung listening, etc.  My next check-up is a cat scan in May.  It will have been 6 months since the last one.  Yea!

The visit on the 6th was different in two ways.

First, I had not taken sertraline for a little over a week.  I was on the low dose anti-anxiety med and it was very helpful while I was undergoing chemo and the initial check ups after the last treatment.  It just took the “edge off” and permitted me to remain focused on the tasks at hand.  However comma I needed to come off of it such that I learn to cope without this med.

I experienced a small amount of withdrawal.  It was only a 25 mg dose, but I am very sensitive to any med.  I was a bit jittery and, as my husband person/caregiver would tell you, I was a bit aggressive at times.  Shorter fuse. These symptoms appear to have subsided as of the writing of this post.  Now to be candid, I have battled a temper for my entire life.  And that battle will resume as “normal” — haha.

The second thing that made this visit to the Onc’s office was how I was treated by the personnel at the center I go to in this area.  During the treatment phase, I was encouraged, etc.  My husband person said I was a “rock star” given my ability to tolerate the treatments.  I am sure it was encouraging to the staff that I completed all 6, given it was “unprecedented.”

When I visited this time, I was treated “normal.”  I was basically a visitor to the office, not a “patient.”  It felt weird.  I wasn’t quite sure what to think for a very short time.

Then I had a “I coulda’ had a V8 moment.”  I am now a visitor.  Yes, I have follow-up appointments, but the folks at this center have patients with which to deal.

Wow.  Changes happening and I am adjusting.  The Lord is patient with me.  I just hope y’all in the blogosphere can be patient as well.  All my not-so-cute idiosyncrasies are going to come back out.  All this said …

I are here.

I Are Here


Guest Post – Courage

*** From time to time I hope to have others post their thoughts relative to the broad issues raised on this blog.  Below is one such article.  I know you will enjoy it.  (Should you have some thoughts to share, please just let me know via a comment and I will contact you.) ***

THE following is written primarily from the perspective of a Stroke Survivor. Having been the survivor of motorcycle accidents, auto accidents, a couple of aircraft incidents, snow tubing accidents, and two massive heart attacks, in addition to being a stroke survivor, I would have to say that it pretty well defines the survivor of many if not most medical maladies.

I AM The BridgeWalker

The Most Courageous Individual in the World.

You sit there, or stand there, and you ask yourself, “What the hell is going on here?” My dear Friend, you’ve have just joined a rather unique, closed society. You’ve just had a trauma, of some degree of severity, that will affect you the remainder of your life. The consequences of that trauma will be variable, but very definite.

I am not a doctor. I have no medical training, other than the most basic first aid that all humanity somehow manages to achieve. So, I will caution you right now – don’t expect a definitive, medical treatise on stroke and its effects. Rather, I am a stroke survivor. I am a writer. I am a human being, with the anger of a human being whose life became derailed from its arguably smooth boredom.

Stroke recovery is far from being boring, I can promise you that!

Before you even go to the hospital, you know something’s up. Maybe your legs collapse on you. Maybe your speech slurs, or your vision suddenly changes. Maybe your arms won’t function properly. Maybe your mental functions are all skewed up. Maybe you don’t remember what you had for breakfast, and that breakfast was eaten fifteen minutes ago. Maybe you have lost the words you want, to express the feelings you feel. Maybe you have all of the above, or only maybe one or two of the consequences and / or after effects. And it all seems to happen without any warning whatsoever. Well, guess what~!

You, my beloved friend, have entered the realm of the most courageous individuals in the world. You have joined the Legion of the Stroke Survivors, and / or, the Realm of the Physically Challenged.

“So, what do I do now?” you ask.

Realize you are going to run the gamut of emotions like you never have before. You are going to be the strongest person in the world one moment, and you very well could honestly say, “I’m feeling very down and vulnerable! I feel fragile.” the next moment. Both are equally valid, and proper. Frustration will run rampant and be a major attribute in your life for a variety of reasons.

Be honest with yourself, and with those around you. Don’t be afraid, and don’t be ashamed, to admit you are feeling less than robust, or angry, or confused. You’ll find your wings, soon enough.

It is OKAY! But to heal, or to regain as much as is possible (and even more than is possible!) is going to require the most intense integrity and the most honest evaluation of yourself you have ever undergone. That is the only way you can take ownership of your malady. Only by taking ownership of your challenge can you begin to work with it, and to overcome it. When you take ownership, you take control. And that which you control, you can work with to heal.

Love and respect the medical professionals around you, who work with you in all the necessary capacities. But do realize, as well, that you are in charge. You are the one who has to evaluate and work with the information and assistance they can give you. They are professionals, yes, but they are not gods. They are humans who love and respect other humans who are facing life changing, traumatic experiences. And you are definitely in a life changing circumstance or event, of indeterminate duration. By accepting that fact, by owning that fact, you can control your emotional, mental, and intellectual response. And when you do that, your physical response will be much the greater and much more positive and powerful. Don’t be afraid to question, but do honor and respect the response, even if you dispute it, or disagree.

You are not a handicapped person. You have become a person with a physical and mental challenge. When companies and individuals encounter challenges, they go into problem solving mode. They take ownership of the situation, and in that way they can freely confront the demon in front of them. And yes, it can be a demon. You have all the tools to overcome that demon, and all the assistance you can ask for. But you are the one who has to take control, and ask for that assistance. Remember, we tend to perceive challenges as stepping stones, but we see problems as stumbling blocks. There is a vast difference in how we approach the situation, as well as a vast difference in the resolution of the situation ahead of us.

There may be individuals who cannot handle the challenges you face. There may be individuals who have no empathy or understanding of what you are going through. Harsh as it sounds, let such individuals depart from your environment. You don’t need negativity in your life, nor in your environment. You need the strength to admit, “I Hurt.” Or, “I feel frail.”Those in your environment need to have the empathy and the strength to say to you, “I’m Here for you, what can I do?” and yes, they also need to have the ability to read your situation, and take independent action in your benefit, on your behalf, in your support. Realize, indeed, you are the most important individual in your world. Without you, you could not live. You cannot live without those around you, either.

Never forget that you are an individual, unique and powerful in your own right. You are, indeed, a Child of the Universe. You are a Child of the Most High Supreme Deity, however you believe in God. God does not, indeed CANNOT, forsake His/Her own.

Maintaining your sense of self worth is one of the biggest factors in stroke recovery. I could type this a hundred times, and it would not be enough. You are the same person you have always been. The only thing now is, you have to find and develop new tools to accomplish the same challenges you have always faced. Actually, you are not the same person you have always been. You will find you have become much more than you were, though the indications of that will not always be visible to you or to others. You will find you have grown and matured into a marvelous Being of Strength, Integrity, and dare I say, Power~!

It doesn’t matter what your passions are, the accomplishment of your artistry, of your crafts, will change. The manner in which you perform your professional responsibilities will change. You need all the tools you can muster, to regain the level of prominence, of competence you had before your stroke. In other words, you have to go back to school, but not necessarily to a structured classroom.

In today’s world,  much of what we do is computerized. Yet, always, we need to use our minds and our bodies. Writers will need on-desktop icons of assistance, such as thesaurus’ or dictionaries. Don’t be ashamed to use them. Artists and craftsmen will need to develop different strategies to accomplish their chosen tasks. Don’t be afraid to develop new and unique ways of doing things. After all, there are painters who have no arms, and hold the brushes between their toes!

One thing is very important here, and is often overlooked. The depth of your accomplishments will very probably change. Be aware of that possibility, and accept it. In fact, because of the slower pace of your life, you will find they have deepened and possibly become much sharper and more focused. This will be to your benefit.

Be Honest with yourself. Take Ownership of your Challenges. Don’t relinquish your Spiritual faith. If you don’t already have it, develop a sense of humor, a sense of the ridiculous. Don’t be afraid to laugh at yourself.  Learn to laugh at yourself, and the situation you find yourself in. Develop a sense of the ridiculous, and don’t let anyone put you down or attack your self-esteem.

Write notes to yourself as memory joggers. And don’t be afraid or ashamed to laugh at yourself when you forget where the heck you put them. Realize that humor and laughter are the grandest forms of medicine and therapy.

Develop organization, if you don’t already have it. Yes, I know that it is very important, and will have benefits that are difficult, if not impossible, to measure. Just don’t ask me! if I am organized. I would have to admit that being organized is not in my environmental parameters. I’m working on the idea, when I take the time to remember to do so~! Seriously, being organized will be of great assistance in your therapy and recovery. It will permit you to remember and possibly regain a lot of the mental functions you may have lost on a temporary basis.  Just remember the old saying: “Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach.” There’s a lot of truth in that statement.

Love Yourself, and be gentle with yourself. Be understanding of your challenges, and the steps, the work that is needed to overcome those challenges. Develop your support network. Realize that there are times when you will need mental, emotional and spiritual support. This is in addition to any physical assistance or support and therapy you may be undergoing. Utilize the support organizations that are available to you.

You may feel that all you are doing is taking, taking, taking. I would beg to differ with you, and inform you that what you are doing is giving, giving and teaching those who are in your social and cultural and family environment. Join or attend regularly the various stroke survivor groups in your residential area, or that you are familiar with. What you take from those meetings will be invaluable to you, just as the contributions and insights you offer will be invaluable to those who are your meeting mates.

Always,,, Always and Always and ALWAYS, Love yourself. Love the person you are, and the person you have become, and are becoming, You are unique, and are a very important thread in the Tapestry of God’s Creation. You have a job to do and a mission to accomplish.  God has not given up on you, so don’t give up on yourself. You have a lot to offer to the advancement of humanity,

Only those who have the inner strength and power are given the challenges that make strong people  weep and wail. You, Beloved Friend, are among the divinely chosen, as to set an example in Courage, Strength and Integrity for all humankind.

You are among the Most Courageous Individuals in the World.

I will grant you that this is written from the perspective of a Stroke Survivor. Do not feel, however, that it would only apply in that case. Those who have perfect health have little or no understanding of the challenges the medically impaired face on a continuing basis. For the most part, such individuals go about their daily tasks, without complaint or making a big fuss over what they cannot do, that they used to do. The medically challenged of any aspect are actually the most proficient in finding ways to achieve what it is they so choose to achieve. And if they don’t satisfy another’s standards, well, that is just too bad, isn’t it? ~! ~?

The following credo is one that may be of great use to you, in your dealings with your new relationship to your environment, and the challenges you face in your future:

“Get over it, World ~! I have a goal I will accomplish. And that is to suit myself, and to live to my own standards. Yours no longer apply. I will do what I can, to the best of my ability. And if you don’t like it, well, Nancy Sinatra, years ago, had a statement, in response to a different situation, that fits this one quite well. “Hmmm, Sorry ‘bout that~!”

“I may not remember now, as I did before. I may not find the words that are missing in my lexicon, my vocabulary, as I did before. Maybe my typing is slower, and letters are missing,,, Get over it. Take me for the ideas that I am trying to convey, the explanation of the concepts I perceive.

“Maybe I don’t walk as fast as I used to,,, or if I do, maybe I tire much quicker, and don’t walk as far. Maybe I don’t see as well,,, or maybe I see some things more clearly, though you may not see them at all. Or, maybe I don’t hear the words you speak so well, anymore,,, but then, maybe the music I hear is beyond the belief and ability of a human to express, or even to comprehend.

“Grow into my world, even as I attempt to exist and live in yours. My dignity has not diminished. Only my capabilities have changed. In some arenas, they have expanded. In others, they may have contracted. The goal is to achieve a workable balance. The goal is to realize what is important, what is relevant, and let the rest of it land where it needs to. The goal is to recognize that all are worthy of being loved, just for what they are. And when they are accepted and loved for what they are, you’ll find that you have a Polished Gemstone in the Crown of God. No more, and no less.”

Revised and Copyright 20 April 2011
© The BridgeWalker


Treatments 4-6 and Then …

Some issues regarding the last three chemo treatments were covered in previous posts.  Just to recap some of the happenings.

My blood counts were being taken for a real ride during this process. I received two units of  blood  for very low red count and, a $10,000 shot for very low white count.

My memory faded tremendously and during these last 3 treatments it really took a holiday.  Looking back, that was a good thing.  I was actually fortunate.

The humor for my husband person (Mr T – teacher) and myself continued.  And it had to as I would react negatively to any little potential negative that I heard or imagined.  Can you just fathom what my caregiver husband person went through.  Actually, some of you who read this blog can relate to what he experienced.

So treatment 6 was completed, though by white count was a little iffy.  Fortunately, I had a Doctor and Nurse who allowed # 6 to happen.

At some point after the last treatment (I can’t remember how long), I had another cat scan.  Then the big day approached — the outcome and potential next steps of radiation and surgery to remove the tumor (radical hysterectomy was my understanding). To say that I wasn’t nervous would be a bold-faced lie. I was taking a very low dose of sertraline so that helped with anxiety, but I was still nervous as a cat.

The Doctor came in and pronounced a good result. No further treatment necessary. To which I responded, “When do I begin radiation.” The response, Mrs Al “there is nothing left to treat.” So I thought for a moment and then asked, “What about surgery?” Response from the Doctor who was a patient with yours truly, Mrs AL “there is nothing left to treat.”

I had a bit of trouble making sense of what was being said to me and then it finally hit me … “REALLY?”  The Onc told us that what I experienced was unprecedented.  And he appreciated the fact that there were so many folks praying me and Mr T, praying for him, my nurse and the staff at the center where I was being treated.  While we did not delve deeply in our faith, it was clear we were all Thanking and Praising the Lord for this outcome.

The subsequent cat scans (every 3 months) were also positive.  In fact, the Onc indicated about 3 months ago that I was “stable” and that he was going to stretch out the cat scans to 6 months.

My function now is self-examination for nodules and other indications of a recurrence.  I cannot be declared “cured” as the history of my particular case indicates recurrence at some point.

So now what?

February 6, 2013 was treatment # 6.  On February 6th this year I go in for a lung x-ray and consult with the Onc Doctor person.  The lungs are of concern as they too developed tumors filled with communist cancer cells.  And it is my understanding that treating lung cancer is particularly difficult.

As I continue this blog I would ask a favor of each of you … if you know someone who would like to share some of their experiences as either a patient or caregiver, please encourage them to post their comments here.  If interest develops, I will create a separate page for posting experiences in a comments section.  Every single experience is unique.  And the more we share with one another, the better.

 

I Are Here

And Every Day is a Holiday!!

I Are Here


Treatments 1-3

I have discussed some issues surrounding the chemo treatments in previous posts, and will try not repeat myself here.

The Onc explained that after 3 treatments I would have a cat-scan to determine the degree to which the treatments were effective.

Just a reminder, I don’t recall a huge amount about this process so I rely on my husband person/caregiver/teacher (aka, Mr T) to make sure I am relating my experiences accurately

# 1 was a humdinger.  We met the nurse I would have for the entire process, she explained the ins and outs, procedures, etc.  And then we finally got to “the chair.”  These recliners were in pods of 4 chairs each.  So there were plenty of people with which to visit if one was so inclined.  Now I must admit, this first time in “the chair” was kind of weird.  The entire area was quiet as a morgue.  I kid you not.  Fortunately, it wasn’t like that for the subsequent 5 treatments.  In fact, it was the laughter by others getting treatments, their caregivers and, nursing staff that made the whole experience delightful.  But I digress …

My nurse (I will call here Melissa) was great.  She was a younger lady and was quite adept at balancing objectivity with compassion.  She never, repeat never gave me the “oh poor you” attitude.  That was very helpful.  Did she care?  Absolutely she did!  But she had to stay focused on the task at hand.  She was handling several of us at any given time.  In fact we were packed in there like sardines.

I opted to have the needle in my hand the first time.  The vessels in my hands were just asking to be stuck.  They were bulging and the needle went in very easily.  I will say, the advantage was that when I needed to use the bathroom, it was much easier if the needle was in my hand.  When it was in my arm, it was more of a pain.

My four bags consisted of anti-sick schtuff, Benadryl to fight allergic reaction, the BIGGIE bag with the really nasty chemical and, a smaller bag of chemical.  (I don’t count the last bag as it was just some saline solution to wash out the line).

First bag emptied … cool beans.  Second bag hung and drip started and wonder of wonders, one nurse took a look at me with my eyes swirling in my head and asked, “Are you ok?”  “Absolutely,” I said.  I was high as a kite.  I felt no pain.  Melissa commented to Mr. T at one point that I was “drunk.”  They had a good laugh.

And then came the core of the humdinger experience:  I suddenly felt very hot.  I was feeling really bad and we called the nurse over.  She took my temperature and then the game was on.  Folks moving quickly, doctor called.  I was having a bad reaction to the BIGGIE bag of chemical.  Not good.

The process was stopped for 10 minutes.  They then began the drip again at a slower rate.  It was necessary that I get this schtuff if I was to survive as the communist cancer cells needed to die.  A lot of folks were taking time to pray for me throughout this entire period of time.  The result … the slower drip did not produce the allergic reaction.  My treatments took 5 hours as a result.

And that was # 1.

Now the next two treatments did not produce the excitement of the first one.

If you have read the previous posts you know that humor was essential for me and Mr. T.  It was necessary to have some fun.  For example:  the day the dealibob on which the bags hung was not cooperating when I had to use the bathroom.

I would take a step or two and the crazy wheels would go in three different directions.  Now this isn’t cool when you have a needle stuck in your hand or arm.  After about the third or fourth step I blurted out loudly to the dealibob, “HEEL!  HEEL.”  The nurses started laughing and even a couple of patients were amused.  We all had a good laugh.

Mr T and I decided the dealibob needed to be named.  After some discussion I said to Mr T, ‘The name is Camshaft.’  So from that point on, I would instruct Camshaft on how to behave when I needed to use the bathroom.

The Cat Scan Results

We were praying for a positive result, meaning that the chemicals were doing their job at a decent level.  The report back to us was that there was an approximate 85% kill.  The Onc told us that while not unprecedented, it was unusual and was very pleased.  Evidently, I was the only lady person with cervical cancer this far advanced that had tolerated 3 treatments.  The Lord showed us mercy.


HAPPY NEW YEAR – 2014

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My husband person and I trust that 2014 will be a peaceful and joyous year for you and yours.  We must always “trust in the Lord.”

Oh, and this is also our wedding anniversary.  We married on the first of January assuming we would not forget our anniversary date, and you know what?  So far it has worked!