Friday, August 20, 2010

It's Finished

I had my last chemotherapy infusion this past Weds. That means I'm all finished!! YEAH!!! I made it. My gynecology oncologist wants to see me back in 6 weeks for a follow up exam and visit. I'm still on the Coumadin for the blood clot I got in my right arm from the PICC line. He says that he wants to check another ultrasound after the follow up appointment to make sure the clot has gone away. If it has, then he will consider discontinuing the Coumadin. If that happens, then he can release me to try to get pregnant. I'm not in a super hurry to get pregnant, but I am looking forward to knowing that I'm healthy enough to try.

I've had a good couple of days since my last chemotherapy. I've mainly been trying to help around the house and getting my car ready for transferring to a Virginia title and registration. Basically this means that I've been trying to help Jonathan as we sift through this 'water leak' ordeal and working on getting my car inspected. The water leak issue is that we have a leak somewhere between the water meter, which is located right in the middle of our driveway, and our house. Jon is looking into plumbers and options so we can make the most cost effective decision. The water company says we're leaking about 1,000-4,000 gallons per day, and guess who gets to pay for it. Yes, we do! Yippee (note the sarcasm) As for my car, turns out I need a new pipe that connects to the muffler. Tried to take care of it today, but they have to get the part in from somewhere else. So, it ends up that every day I am not scheduled to work I have something else scheduled to take care of.

Otherwise, tomorrow is my first day of work at Carilion. I work 7:30AM-8:30PM. I hope it goes well. It's been a while since I've last worked. I hope all the medical stuff comes back quickly. I'm also hoping that whomever is orienting me does a good job cause this hospital is huge and I don't know where anything is. I have no experience with their electronic medical record. My hope is to basically just shadow tomorrow and see how they do things.

Wish me luck and keep me in your prayers. This blog is otherwise now becoming: Life After Chemo.

Monday, August 16, 2010

New Job

I'm feeling better! Just in time to start Orientation for my new job. I went to orientation today at Carilion. Surprisingly it was the best orientation I've been to to date. The staff was very nice and they did a lot to make the day interactive. Therefore, it wasn't boring and didn't feel drawn out and long. I was impressed.

Tomorrow I will spend the whole day training on EPIC, which is Carilion's electronic medical record program. I've heard from staff that EPIC can be frustrating to use. But, in the end, it is a benefit to the patients in the area. I hope the day goes well.

Then, I have my official first at the hospital on Saturday. Hopefully whomever I'm with will do a good job orienting me to the hospital. It is a HUGE hospital and I'm scared of getting lost. I need a map. Plus, I hope they orient me well to how they do things here. It'll be a long first 12hr shift.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Emergency Room Visit

I thought I was getting better...but, I wasn't. I woke up on Tues morning feeling dehydrated. I honestly hadn't been drinking too much. I was doing the best I could. It's very difficult to drink when you just feel like you will reflux it back up. After managing a shower, I had a nice discussion with my mom (how has been my main caregiver at home recently) about going to the infusion center for IV fluids. She had legitimate concerns that I wasn't drinking enough and she wanted me to go. I, however, did not want to leave home. So, we called in the tie breaker. Jonathan got a phone call and gave me an ultimatum...I had to finish a 32 oz of Powerade within the next 2 hours or he wanted me to go. So, without putting up a fight I managed to the family room recliner and started my fluids consumption. I did pretty well too. Even moved on to the next clear liquid beverage and even had some chicken broth.

Then what do you think comes next...I have to go to the bathroom. Yeah good working kidneys. Only then did I realize how heavy and tender my right arm felt. Plus, with better looking lighting in the bathroom, I noticed a slight discoloration. So, I say to myself "keep an eye on it". I mainly said this because this wasn't the first time my right arm has hurt since I had the PICC line put in on June 2nd. Plus, the chemo makes my fingertips feel numb with less sensation. So, I didn't know how much was chemo related, slept on it funny, or something else. However, it didn't get better. It got worse and continued to hurt. Now, I'll be honest and tell you why my concern. I was worried about a blood clot from the PICC line.

Now my DVT (deep vein thromoemboli) awareness:
Signs of a DVT: redness, swelling, pain, tenderness, fever, warmth
Most commonly found in legs, can can occur anywhere there is a foreign body (something that is in your body that shouldn't normally be there, ie picc line). Diagnosed with an ultrasound and treated with blood thinners. Please more at risk are those with poor ambulation (hence why you may find it in your seat back brochure on airplanes), post surgical patients, any patient hospitalized, cancer patients on chemotherapy, patients with blood clotting disorders, patients on hormone therapy, and patients with a foreign body.
*Please excuse any missing information as I have typed this off the top of my head and not used any formal resources.

So, off to the emergency room I went last night with my 'high index of suspension' for a blood clot. The Carilion staff was great. (Shout out!!) We got blood work drawn and I received a much needed liter of IV fluids after the nurses got a great IV in my left arm. (Yes, mom won out in the end with the IV fluid battle.) Then, we found out that the vascular lab that does the ultrasounds had left for the day and they don't take call. So, I was given a dose of Lovenox and sent home to come back today for the ultrasound.

I awoke this morning with my arm still hurting and discolored, but no worse for wear. Went to the infusion center. Had my next to last chemo infusion through my left peripheral IV and had the right picc removed by the doctor there. Yeah!! I'm so happy it is gone. Then went to the vascular lab to confirm that yes indeed there is a nice size clot sitting at the junction of my subclavian vein. So, all in all the morale of the story is to have a good 'index of suspicion'. Know the signs and symptoms of DVTs.

My only frustration know is the need to be on Coumadin (commonly referred to as rat poison) for the next 3-6mons. The worst part of being on blood thinners is needing routine lab monitoring to make sure your getting enough and not too much or too little of the medicine. Plus, you gotta protect yourself from any accidents or injuries that could cause bleeding. I'm not really wanting to have to limit my lifestyle right now. But, you do what you gotta do and this is what I gotta do.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Into the Weekend

So, I made it through Friday. Got the last of the week long chemo. Now I feel crummy. No appetite, not eating, forcing liquids, fatigued, and laying around. That pretty much sums up the past 2 days. Thankfully, I have a great husband and great parents here to take care of me and help me along the way.

I'm also thankful for a good book. I'm reading The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. It's quite interesting and I can already see that I'm going to want to read the author's other 2 books.

Otherwise, I'm thinking and dreaming of the days when I'll be feeling better. I can't wait to be healthy again. I can't wait to eat again! Man, there are so many things I'd like to taste when I'm feeling better. Nothing like not being able to eat at all to make you want GOOD food. I'm also looking forward to spending sometime away with my husband at Virginia Beach for a long weekend in September. So, the dreaming has started with that vacation planning. All in all, it's enough to preoccupy my mind while I'm feeling horrible.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Last of the 5 day stretches

Yeah! Friday will be here tomorrow. That means that I will have my last of the 5 day stretches of chemo. Boy, I can't wait. I'm starting to feel really fatigued again. But, at least I know there is an end. I'll probably sleep through most of tomorrow and the weekend. Which isn't such a bad thing. Cause with all the GI upset, I'd rather just sleep through it all anyways. Then, I come out on the other side feeling a little more human again. By next Wednesday's Bleomycin infusion, I'll start feeling better.

I can't thank all my friends and family enough for the immense amount of support you have all provided. The prayers, encouraging letters, wishful thoughts have been greatly appreciated and received. I am truly blessed to have such a great support network and extended family. I hope that by my sharing my experiences with you all that you have learned about how we all are weak and we depend on others for so much. Sometimes I feel bad having my parents help with my pets, but on days like today and into the weekend, I can't even take care of myself. So, to everyone: THANK YOU!!

I also want to give a shout out to the awesome nurses and staff at both St. Mary's Medical Center in Huntington, WV who got me started on this chemo journey and to the staff at the GYN Oncology infusion center here in Roanoke, VA for making me feel comfortable transitioning to their care and making me feel like welcome family. I'm always amazed by the amount of medical knowledge our Lord has given us to fight these battles and by the amazing compassion of the health care workers who are by our sides throughout the fight. They are truly a special breed and don't get thanked nearly enough. Thanks ladies!!

So, I'm off to bed and will be praying for continued strength through tomorrow's treatment and a restful weekend with limited side effects.

P.S. On a happy note, Jonathan completed his first day of call at the Veterans Medical Center here in Salem, VA last night. He said that night was busy, but went well. He has one under his belt. He was also given tomorrow off. So, he'll get to spend some time with me in the infusion center tomorrow on my last day. Yeah! He gets to watch me sleep. HEEHEE.

Monday, August 2, 2010

The Beginning of the End

Today was day 1 of cycle 3. Which means that it was the first day of my last cycle. Yeah!! My counts were low last week, so they had to check my blood work before being able to proceed with today's chemo. My counts came up nicely and we were able to proceed as scheduled. Yeah!! The infusion went well in the sense that my body handled it well. I did have a minor accident where my IV became disconnected while one of my chemo meds was infusing. I felt a little wet on my arm and noticed that the tubing was on the floor leaking. Wow! Then my nurses took speedy action with the chemo cleanup kits. They got out the heavy duty gloves, masks, gowns, bleach, yellow chemo trash backs, and yellow trash bins that look the same as the sharps containers only yellow. They cleaned everything up quickly, moved me to a new chair, and did it all with a smile and under approved safety measures. I was impressed. It made me even happier knowing that I brought them brownies as a treat today. I felt bad for the spill.
After chemo, I came home and napped for about a 2 hours. Then I ate a good dinner. I made Jon some homemade salsa since he couldn't come to the Lake. So, mom made fajhita chicken. It was yummy. Then a short walk with Tundra and Jon after dinner.
I also got my work schedule for August, September, and October. Looks good. I have a long weekend off the weekend after Labor Day so Jon and I can plan a short vacation. We're thinking maybe Vegas. Any ideas are welcome. We are looking for something on the cheaper side.
I hope the rest of the week continues to go well.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Great Day

I'm having a great day. My twin sister was here for a visit. She brought me home from the Lake and took me to chemo this past Wednesday. It has been great having her here and spending time with you. We did manicures and pedicures together yesterday. Today we ate breakfast together and then took Tundra, my Siberian husky, for a walk. It feels great to have the energy to go for a walk. It was a nice morning and wasn't too hot or humid. I know Tundra really enjoyed the walk too. I'm glad I have this energy today and for the weekend because I start my last cycle of chemo on Monday. This means that by next Friday I'll be down for the count again. I'm not looking forward to next week, but I know it is the beginning of the end. I can't wait to get all this over with and get back to a normal routine of living. I'm looking forward to getting back to work also. I had my pre-employment physical, drug test, and got my photo ID badge made this past week. So, if everything goes as planned I should be on schedule for starting orientation on August 16th. Yeah!!

My blood counts were on the low side on Weds. So, I was instructed to try to stay away from public places, i.e. restaurants, grocery stores, snotty kids. This is all because I am at a greater risk of getting sick. So, I'm putting off going to the grocery store till tomorrow. I hope my counts come up. They warned that if they didn't come up by Monday, they may need to delay my next cycle of chemo. I don't want a delay because this will then delay me getting back to work. I want everything to stay smooth. So, prayer request would be to pray my counts come up and I can receive chemo as scheduled on Monday.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Support Group

I went to a support group meeting today in Roanoke. The group is called Whispering Hope and is for women battling ovarian cancer. We met at the Golden Corral where there is a meeting room named in memory of a ovarian cancer patient. It is also reassuring because a lot of the nursing staff from the infusion center and physicians office participate in the group as well. The staff is a great support system and they express great love and care for the patients they serve. I also greatly enjoyed meeting the other ladies who are patients. We may all have different types and stages of our cancer, but we are all fighting a similar battle. It doesn't make what chemo meds your on or what your regimen is, we all have to deal with side effects. It doesn't matter what side effects we get, but I can assure you that it isn't a pleasant experience. It is also encouraging because the group has a great Christian faith basis. Some of the ladies may also be recommending local churches to try. It was a good night and I look forward to getting to know the ladies better and continue to encourage each other as we fight.

Saturday, July 24, 2010


Setting goals in life is a great thing. You have a sense of pride and accomplishment when you set a goal and work towards meeting it. While I have been feeling ill, I have set little goals for each day. These goals have been as simple as just getting out of bed and changing my clothes on bad days. To goals of going out to the store on days I'm feeling better. Each time I accomplish one of these small goals, I feel better. Setting theses little goals has also spurred me on to thinking about setting some longer term goals after chemo is over.

First off, I want to feel healthier. I've decided to set the goal to make myself physically healthier after chemo. This includes eating better and being more active. I'd like to fulfill this goal by participating in the Relay for Life within one year of finishing chemo. This goal is also 2 fold because I would like to be healthier before being a mother. Which leads to goal #2. I'd like to have had a child or be pregnant within one year of finishing chemo.

This adventure of health problems started with the scare of possibly losing my ability to ever have children by the possibility of losing my ovaries. (If you don't have the parts, you can't have a child.) This has led me to realize how much I truly want to be a mother and to be able to have a family with my husband. If God is willing to give us the opportunity to have a child, we would feel most blessed. It will continue to be a prayer of ours.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Starting to feel better

I guess I'm starting to feel better today. I'm still exhausted. But...
I did get out of bed. Clean my bedroom, including vacuuming. Take a shower. Walk outside to the mailbox. Help split green beans for dinner (I wonder if I'll be able to eat any of them). Took care of some paperwork. Granite, most of these activities were separated with a period of rest. But, I still did it!!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Bad Days

In an effort to express what I'm going through in a manner that won't gross out everyone, I have developed a couple definitions to explain my last few days.
Bad Day = going only from bed to bathroom
Very Bad Day = going only from bed to bathroom, repeat pattern over and over
To put this in better perspective, my bathroom is a mere 4 shuffle steps from my bed.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Cycle 2, Day 3- Halfway point

I'm feeling more of the chemo side effects today. The reflux is back with a vengeance. It doesn't burn like acid reflux. It just refluxes and makes my chest hurt and then I feel nauseous. However, it's not really nausea. I guess it is sorta hard to explain the sensation. I slept through most of chemo today and then came home to have another 2-3 hour nap. Plus, I'll probably head to bed early too. My appetite is going to. I try to eat when I can and I always eat what I want. It sure gives me an appreciation for food. Most of you who know me, know I like to eat. This chemo experience has given me a new appreciation for food. I'm not used to MAKING myself eat.

On a good note, my dad pointed out that today is officially my halfway point!! Yippee!! I'm halfway finished. I'm very thankful to be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I give major props to other chemo patients who fight everyday without know when their last day will be. I feel like it is a blessing knowing when my last day is. I will truly celebrate with much thanksgiving on that day.

I have also purchased some ovarian cancer awareness t-shirts this week. I got 2 for myself and I ordered one for my mom. If anyone is interested, please feel free to let me know. I'd be happy to order one for you or point you to the website where I ordered them. I feel like I want to proudly exclaim that I am an ovarian cancer survivor. Many people in the public who see me when I'm out and about assume I have breast cancer. I believe this is because breast cancer is well know. Not many people are aware of ovarian cancer. It is rarer and most women aren't diagnosed until it is in later stages because the symptoms are vague. I had an even rarer form of ovarian cancer that effects younger people and has better survival rates. On a side note, I found a cute mini pin to wear on my lab coat when I go back to work. It says "Cute Bald Chick Fighting Cancer" with a cartoon picture of a woman wearing scrubs and a bald head.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Cycle 2, Day 1

Today was a long day at the infusion center at Carilion. My nurse Janice checked me in and changed my dressing that covers my PICC (peripherally inserted central catheter) first. The PICC had a white cap that needs to be removed to draw blood work for my labs. Otherwise, I will get an inaccurate result. The white cap was unable to be removed 2 weeks ago because of all the sticky goo from the dressing. If it is unable to be removed, it could be a cleanliness issue. However, Janice got it off!! This small detail is a huge answer to prayer. If she couldn't have removed it then they would have to draw blood work from somewhere else with a sharp needle the 'ol fashion way'. Plus, we might have needed to looking into other options for cleanliness. But, now we don't have to consider any of those options. YEAH!!

Then we went to the infusion center. There is more privacy here with each patient getting a divided room with a draw curtain door. Each 'room' has a great window view, private TV, infusion chair that opens flat (for napping), and chairs for any accompanying family or friends. Then started the waiting. They waited to get all the chemo patients checked in before starting any of the infusions, including my premedications and fluids. I also received my Bleomycin today with the other 2 chemo meds. So, it was a very long day. We were there at 8am and left at 4pm.

I'm feeling ok. I can taste the metallic taste coming back already. Yuck! I can feel the reflux being a little worse than yesterday. My biggest complaint is the fatigue. I slept for several hours during the infusion and I'm still exhausted now. All I want to do is go to bed. It'll be an early night tonight.

Otherwise, I've ordered some nice T-shirts. In case anyone is curious, ovarian cancer is represented by the color Teal. Similar to how breast cancer is the famous pink ribbon. So, I encourage all to wear teal in honor of ovarian cancer support.


My regular followers will notice my new badge. I have received an award as one of the top Physician Assistant Medical Blogs. I didn't really win anything except the recognition that I'm doing a good job blogging and the privilege to display the badge. I thought it was a nice gift. I didn't realize I was doing anything all that great, except sharing my mind, heart, and experiences with my friends and family.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Eve of Cycle 2 Day 1

I start the first day of my second cycle tomorrow. It is also my first infusion day at the Carilion facility.
I guess it is good that I sorta know what to expect since I've done this once before. However, I'm not sure if my body may respond a little differently. I'm expecting it may be a little worse this time since my second and third cycles will be so close together. I expect the toxicity to be more since there won't be as much "off" time between the cycles. I feel the reflux, nausea, and anxiety getting worse just thinking about it.
My parents are here staying with Jon and me. Jon is working; so I need my parents to drive me back and forth to chemo. I'm very thankful for them and their help.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Date Night

My chemo was delayed till next week to give the insurance company time to get my new policy and paperwork approved for my 2nd and 3rd cycles to be paid for at Carilion. I've had a good week. I've looked at furniture, bought things for the house, and settled in nicely. I've made some nice meals for my husband. So, tonight after a nice week, we decided to have a date night. Jon brought me a nice bouquet of flowers after he finished work. Then he took me to a nice Brazilian restaurant called Carlos. The food was wonderful. It was so nice to eat a delicious meal before I start my 2nd cycle of chemo on Monday. I'm just now getting over the reflux just in time for it to start all over again. I won't be eating any yummy sea bass for the next 4 weeks. After next weeks chemo, I'll be fighting to eat anything again.

For tonight, it was great to be out with my husband. Feeling pretty and good and having great company again. It was nice and romantic and a great way to celebrate before starting cycle 2. Thanks honey. I love you.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Meeting Carilion

Yesterday I met my new primary care physician. He is a nice young family practice physician. He liked to talk. However, I was a bit disappointed that he didn't touch me. He obviously noticed I'm a cancer patient (I think the lack of hair gave it away). He commented that he didn't want to touch me...'because of the sick patients I have seen today'. Meanwhile, I'm thinking "My white count is good and I feel fine." Either way, he gave me my prescriptions for my as needed medicines. Thanks to chemo, I'm now taking a bunch of different medicines to help me with the side effects.

I met my new oncologist today. His office is in a very nice new building where Carilion has been doing new development. The facilities are very nice. The doctor himself knows this type of malignancy. However, it still felt cold there. The people were nice. But, they don't know me. I don't know them. It just felt different from St. Mary's. I miss St. Mary's. So much so that it made me cry today. St. Mary's made me feel like home. I had family there. Carilion makes me feel like a patient and I feel like they rush through as if healthcare were more of a business and not as patient oriented. Hopefully the feeling will go away with time and as I become more familiar with them.

I just miss home.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Last Week of Work

I have officially finished my last week of work at St Mary's. I was very glad to be able to return to work for several reasons. 1. I actually like my job and like working. 2. I was sick of being the patient and happy to be the practitioner again. 3. I've loved working at St. Mary's. I have great co-workers that I consider family and really wanted the opportunity to say Goodbye. Many of my co-workers haven't known what I've been going through over the past 2 months. I had a lot of questions to answer. So many thought I had already moved. It was nice to see everyone and have some closure.

I can't believe it has been over 2 years since I first started working at St. Mary's. When I first started, I was scared. Scared of medicine (I had a general surgery background) and of how large St Mary's is (approx 350 beds). I took the job cause I thought it would help expand my knowledge base and because there weren't any other great opportunities. I am so glad I've worked here. I have worked with great physicians and nurses whom have taught me so much. I have made great friends whom I will never forget. I definitely feel like I have a work family. I have also worked for a great supervising physician. He has taught me so much about medicine, the business of healthcare, and life. I have appreciated the autonomy he has given me. He has entrusted the care of his patients to me on many occasions and we have worked well together. I also appreciate the way he has respected me and my opinions has a professional. He has listened to my recommendations and actually used them!!

I joined the hospitalist when the program first started and I feel like the team as a whole has grown a lot of the past 2 years. Yes, we have had tough times when we have been under staffed and worked long hours. We have had growing pains. As a PA, my role and job function has changed more times than I can count. However, I've worked with great people and taken care of good patients. I feel like my comments, recommendations, and advice have been listened to and contributed to our improvement.

I did well this week. I had been off for 6 weeks. After day 1, I felt 'back in the saddle'. My energy level has surprised me. I have only napped 1 day this week and it was Saturday. I made it through each 12hour day impressed that I was still going.

I am enjoying my going away presents of a St. Mary's polo shirt & St. Mary's pens! I will also enjoy my St. Mary's golf umbrella to keep my wig dry when it is raining and my head free from sunburn when it's sunny. I thank all of my St. Mary's Family for a great 2 years!! Good Bye!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


Today was the first day I wore my wig to work. It felt great on my head and looks good on me. My coworkers all agreed that it is very natural looking. Several co-workers who weren't aware of my treatment commented on how nice my hair looked today and how they liked my new hair style. Little did they know it isn't my hair at all! I'll definitely continue to wear the wig even as my hair grows back.
Meanwhile, my hair is still falling out. I now understand why men complain of itchy necks when they come home after hair cuts. Those pesky little hairs like to hide under shirts and on the back of your neck and even on your head. Then they itch all day long. I joke that I traded my hairbrush in for a lint roller. But, the lint roller really works. It feels good catching all those stray hairs and helps cut back on the shedding. I think I'm more bald then hair now.
I also am happy I cut my hair. I'm sure other women who have gone through chemo will agree that it is nice to have a little control in an uncontrollable situation. I'm glad my hair shortened in phases. Plus, it is so much easier having it all come out when it is an itch long instead of itches or a foot long.
Kinda cool thought: the God who created us loves us and knows us so well that He knows the number of hairs on our heads. Seeing all those hairs going reminds me how much He loves me. He knows how many I've lost and how many are yet to go. Plus, He'll bring them all back when this trial is over. Amen!

Monday, June 21, 2010

First Day Back to Work

I returned to work today for the first time in 6 weeks. The day went well. Thankfully we weren't too busy and it made for a good day to ease back into things. I didn't want to come back to Huntington after moving into my new home in Roanoke. However, I'm happy to have an opportunity to say goodbye to my coworkers. Many of the nursing staff had thought I had already moved and finished working since I had been gone so long. Plus, many of them didn't know about my diagnosis. I just wore a scrub hat and scrubs today to hopefully induce questions today. That way I could get all the questions and talk over with and get on with work the rest of the week. We'll see how it goes. So, at the end of my first day I'm beat and ready for bed. Hope tomorrow goes as well as today.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Hair loss

My hair is falling out. Like, a lot. I first really noticed it when I showered. I'd shampoo and end up with a handful of hair. Yuck! It would clog my shower drain. It made me cry. So, I had my husband buzz it all off. He didn't like the job, but I needed someone to do it. He wouldn't take me to nothing so I got a buzz cut at level 3. Well, it's still falling out and now I have bald patches. However, it feels so much better not having it. At least now when it falls out it is only about 2-2.5 inches long. I now understand why men say their necks itch after a hair cut. My neck itches by the end of the day from all my short hairs that have fallen out.
I go without head coverings when I'm hanging around the house. I wear a hat when I go out. I have some really cute ones thanks to my Aunt Terry. (Shout out!) I also have a really nice wig. I have my bases covered when needed. My father-in-law is also a great sport and jokes with me that at least my hair will grow back after treatments.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Welcome to Roanoke!

The movers came and packed our house up on June 10th. We traveled to Roanoke that evening. The drive was long and even longer thanks to me not feeling well. The drive down was the longest I have been in a automobile since my surgery. We eventually made it and had a nice couple of nights at the Roanoke Sheraton.

On June 11th we closed on our house!! Yippee!! I was still very tired from chemo and was unable to help much with preparing the house for the movers to unpack. Once again, I am thankful for a husband that is full of energy. He scrubbed the carpets in the house the night before the movers unpacked. The movers came with our stuff on June 12th and my in-laws arrive later that day to help unpack. That evening we quickly learned that we had no cold water to either of the showers in the house. So, what do you do in a new town where you know no one on a Saturday evening?? We called our realtor who knew a local plumber who was willing to come to our house and fix the problem at a very good rate. (We'll keep his phone number in our back pocket for next time.) The next day we learned that the storm door to the garage was rotted. So, off to Lowe's to buy a new door and all the other supplies for making the house our own home. We've had several days of unloading boxes and putting things were I'd like them. My mother-in-law also surprised us with some nice decorations for our kitchen to match my color scheme of cobalt blue/Santa Fe feel.

After a nice evening out to dinner and trip up to the Roanoke Star tonight, I am preparing to travel back to Huntington tomorrow for my weekly Bleomycin infusion. I'm not eager to go. In fact, I don't really want to go. I'm thankful for in-laws who are willing to drive me to Huntington and bring me back to Roanoke to spend more time at my new house and with my husband. So, off to Huntington in the morning.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Cycle 1, Day 5

Yes, today was the last day of cycle 1 infusions of VP 16 and cisplatin. Yeah! Plus, I felt good today. I ate a good breakfast during the infusion. Had energy to help around the house when I got home. Packed, did laundry, washed dishes. I even ate lunch and dinner.

So, I have to go back to the infusion center tomorrow for my first infusion of bleomycin. This chemo medicine was delayed because I had to have the lung tests done first (I did those on Sunday). This infusion will only take about 10mins instead of the typical 5 day run of 4hours. It should be a quick in and out. I'm scheduled to receive this infusion every week. I'm told that it shouldn't make me feel as badly as the VP 16 and cisplatin. So, hopefully I'll start feeling better over the next couple of weeks.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Cycle 1, Day 4

I'm not gonna lie...yesterday sucked. I felt horrible. I was nauseous all morning. I couldn't throw up cause there wasn't anything in me. If it weren't for Jonathan I would have never made it to the hospital yesterday for my pulmonary function tests (ie breathing tests). We made it and I got it done. I spent pretty much all of yesterday in bed. Better sleeping then trying to be sick.

Thankfully I feel better today. I've been going to the infusion center at the hospital around 9am cause it takes about 4hours for me to get all my medicines. This way we can come home and eat lunch. I wasn't nauseous today. Yeah! And, no hiccups...yet.

I'm starting to get to know some of the other patients that are getting chemo while I'm there. Some of them have sad stories. I start to feel lucky. They are all such nice people. The nurses in the infusion center are also great. They are upbeat, cheery, and joke with us. There is always someone to check in and 'see how you're doin'.

On a good note, we found out that we were approved for our mortgage and will be able to close on our new house on Friday. Jon called and movers to confirm the pick-up date and it turns out that they had us down for a 'complete pack'. Which means we don't have to worry about packing anything else!! One less worry is a blessing right now. I still have a lot to juggle with getting fully licensed and credentialed for my new job. But, that will come in time and is mainly out of my control.

So much is out of my control right now. I'm letting God do it all cause there isn't anything I can do. It's times like this that you fully realize that you are nothing without Him. I pray He builds me back up to be the woman He wants me to be. Like the Jars of Clay song "Worlds Apart", He has taken my world apart and I am on my knees.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Hair cut

I'm really lucky to have a good friend who is a cosmetologist. She is great at cutting hair. So, last night, she cut my hair. I have a cute new hair do! I'm hoping to post pictures soon. After my hair cut, we enjoyed a nice dinner out at O'Charleys. It was good friends and good times.

Otherwise, I'm doing ok. Everyone keeps asking me, "How do you feel?" I feel ok. I'm tired all the time. I have hiccups for 3 days in a row and thus far that is the worst side effect. Appetite is less. I just don't feel myself.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Cycle 1, Day 3

I thought I would take a minute to explain what actually happens when I go for my chemotherapy infusion. I arrive in a open room with comfy chairs around the parameter of the room. Each chair is paired with an IV pole. First, I get my vitals taken. Then I start my IV infusion with half a liter of IV fluids to keep my kidneys well hydrated. Then I get all my premedications: 1mg Ativan, Alloxie (anti nausea medicine) every other day, tablet of Emend (anti nausea medicine), IV Pepcid (to protect my stomach), and an IV bag of benadryl and decadrone. That is a lot of medications and most of them make me really sleepy. I usually fall asleep afterward and end up sleeping through the infusion of VP 16 and cisplatin (the chemotherapy medicines). After the chemotherapy medicines, I get the second half of the liter of IV fluids. Then I'm finished. However, I'm usually fatigued throughout the rest of the day. I usually come home, eat lite lunch, and then take a 3-4 hour nap. Other than the fatigue, the only other major side effect I'm experiencing is hiccups. I've had them for the past 2 days in a row. The PharmD recommended adding thorazine today to help relieve the symptoms. Well, I'm getting tired. Time to sign out for a nap.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Cycle 1, Day 2

Some thing today as yesterday. I slept through the infusion of both chemo meds. Came home and ate lunch. Still tired and eager for a nap. On a good note, Jonathan is getting alot of chores completed while I'm asleep and since Tundra is with his parents. I feel otherwise pretty good. I'll keep you all posted on the updates.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

First Day of Chemo

Today started with having my PICC line placed. A peripherally inserted central catheter (PICC) is a fancy IV line. It is usually inserted by an interventional radiologist. I work closely with a Physician Assistant and a Nurse Practitioner who work for the interventional radiology team. One of these fine gentlemen placed my PICC line this morning. It was a interesting procedure and didn't hurt accept for the "pinch and a burn" of the numbing medicine. My line is in my right arm. It doesn't hurt. I'll have to monitor if for signs of infections and keep it clean. I can't shower with it, so we will have to cover it with Saran wrap to shower. Jon and I will also have to flush it regularly to help prevent blood clots.

After having my PICC placed, we went to the infusion center in the outpatient building. It will become my home away from home. The nurses are very nice. There isn't much privacy. Picture a room measuring approx 12x50 feet filled with comfy recliners for patients, IV poles to hang medications, and typical office chairs for family members organized around a circular perimeter. Since it was my first day, I had to do a little paperwork and met with the PharmD who specializes in chemotherapeutic medications and the PhD counselor. I know both of these doctors from working with them to care for inpatients. They were both nice and explained their roles and gave me recommendations. It's just odd being in the patient seat when I'm used to being in the care giver seat. The PharmD also explained the medications ordered that I would receive prior to transfusions to help minimize side effects.

So, here is my chemotherapy regimen: 5 days in a row I will receive VP 16 and cisplatin via IV infusion in the infusion center. Since I'm getting a late start this week, I'll receive infusions on Weds, Thurs, Fri, Mon, Tues. I believe the next cycle will start on a Monday so I can get all the infusions completed in 1 week. I will also receive an IM injection of bleomycin (my 3rd chemo medicine). I have to have pulmonary function tests completed prior to starting this medication because of the risks of pulmonary disease with this medication. I'm scheduled for those tests on Sunday and will have my firsts bleomycin injection next week ( hopefully on Weds).

Today's infusion went very well in my opinion. Prior to the infusion of my chemotherapy I received half a liter of IV fluids to keep me hydrated, IV pepcid to protect my stomach, IV antinausea medicine, IV ativan for relaxation, and an IV infusion of benadryl and decadron (a steroid medication to help reduce risk of infusion reactions). The combination of pre-treatment medications made me very sleepy. I basically fell asleep through the infusion of both chemo medicines and my post treatment half liter of IV fluids for hydration. I still felt tired at home afterwards and took a nice nap. The good news is that I don't feel any side effects except fatigue. I don't have nausea and I've been able to eat ok. I still don't have a huge appetite, but I'm eating well. I'm assuming my side effects may get worse with more treatments because I assume they compound. I'll keep you posted on how I'm doing.

Meanwhile, it's time to get ready for tomorrow.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Greenbrier Relaxation Prior to Chemo

Jonathan and I decided to have an overnight stay at the famous Greenbrier resort in White Sulfur Springs, WV since we are unable to vacation because of my chemotherapy. The Greenbrier resort was extremely relaxing. The hotel was beautiful. The food was delicious. The spa services were the relaxation services that the doctor ordered. Jonathan enjoyed a soak in the healing sulfur spring water and a massage. I enjoyed an antioxidant scrub and a massage. Afterwards, we both felt completely relaxed and at ease. We highly recommend the spa services of the Greenbrier resort. I feel emotionally prepared for the start of chemotherapy tomorrow.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Graduation Weekend

The highlight of my Memorial Day Weekend was my husband's graduation from the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine. After 4 long years filled with tons of work, memorization, clinical skills challenges, and fond memories, he is now a physician. I can't put into words how proud of him I am. He is a wonderful man, friend, husband, and now doctor.
As I prepare to start chemotherapy after this great weekend, I am thankful to have my own 'live-in' physician to help me with all the ups and downs. He will be able to help me with questions and all the health issues that will go into the side effects of these medicines. This journey will also help him relate to his many future patients and their family members.
This weekend also included time with family and friends. It was great to have my parents, parent-in-laws, grandmother, aunt, sister, and brother-in-law together to celebrate. Jonathan and I also enjoyed catching up with some old friends of his from medical school. We shared many fond memories of our times over the past 4 years. Our weekend also included great meals. The food is absolutely delicious and we highly recommend any of the restaurants in the Lewisburg/White Sulfur, WV area.
We had a great time getting away and celebrating prior to starting the chemotherapy.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Everything else going on

So, having to go through chemotherapy is stressful enough. Well, I can't do anything easy. Guess what else is going on in my life right now?
1. Jonathan is graduating from medical school!! 4 long years of hard work is paying off. I'm so proud of him. I don't want my health issues to make people overlook the amazing accomplishments he has made. Plus, he is starting residency on June 16th with orientation and July 1st for full time work.
2. We're moving!! We are scheduled to move our household over the weekend of June 11th. We're moving to Roanoke, VA.
3. We bought a house! We are first time homeowners. We close on our house on June 11th.
4. Jon and I are both going to be starting new jobs! As stated above, Jon will be a intern resident physician at Carilion Clinic and I have accepted a position at Carilion Clinic with their hospitalist.
Any one of these things would be stressful enough, but when you add them all together and put chemotherapy on top...I'm just thankful that God is providing for us.


Hello Friends and Family!
Many of you are visiting this blog to follow along as I go through chemotherapy. For those of you who I haven't shared much with yet, this is how I got here:
I had a benign cyst called a mature teratoma or dermoid removed from my right ovary when I was 11 years old. That surgery also took my right ovary. I had been living my life like any other normal female over the past 16 years. I stopped using birth control medications in December 2009 secondary to the headaches. I then went approximately 3 months without having a period. Compounded with have diffuse GI symptoms concerned me. So, I went to see the doctor. I had some tests done. And...they found another teratoma on my left ovary. (I thought that was my good ovary??) My original thought (after the tears ended) was concern as to whether or not I would be able to keep my only left ovary. I need it to have children. So, all the fertility questions quickly went through Jonathan and my minds. We met with a gynecologist and a gynecology oncologist to see who would be the best to do the surgery. Both doctors agreed that the tumor could be removed and leave my ovary behind. Yeah!! So, I had surgery on May 11th and my surgeon was optimistic that everything was "A OK". During surgery that take a small sample of the tumor and look at it under a microscope- called a frozen section. My frozen section looked benign. So we all thought this was the same thing I had 16years ago-rare. Then I got a phone call from the doctor saying I needed to see the gynecology oncologist. Turns out that when the doctors looked at all of my tumor under the microscope, it was an immature teratoma which is malignant- even rarer.

To clarify, I had a immature teratoma removed from my left ovary that is a rare type of malignant ovarian cancer. It has been removed. However, this type of malignancy is very aggressive when it recurs. But, it is highly susceptible to chemotherapy.

So, the next step is to start chemotherapy. At this point, I'm scheduled to start chemo on June 1st. I will be receiving 3 different medications via infusions. The schedule is to receive the medications over 3 days and then off for 3 weeks. The multiply that x3 (for 3 cycles). Then I'll be finished.

Join me here for my thoughts as I go through this process.