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.