2.22.2012

Bloody Good Time

I go for blood work every week for now. They're checking my "complete blood count" or CBC, since chemo is known to essentially ruin all things good and pure about our blood. At least my blood.

Gotta make sure my stellar numbers stay stellar.

And like any good restaurant or popular lab, they give you a pager while you wait. Beats yelling out your name on a busy day. Sometimes this place has a longer line than the ladies room at a Tim McGraw concert.

At least these get cleaned all the time. Can't say that about the dirty ones at restaurants.
 And this is a one-stop shop. Give blood and 10 minutes later you have your results in hand. Literally.

And I got an A+ at the top of my report. Still stellar after all these years weeks. I told Kyle it must be because I'm popping the gummy vitamin Cs like they're candy. Because they are candy.

2.21.2012

Genes in My Jeans

I'm about to get all sorts of Wiki on you people.

Several genetic test have been run to see if I have the colon cancer gene.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Clause colon cancer gene. Because of the HIGH unlikelihood that someone under 50 would get colon cancer, they have to consider that I might be a carrier and thus explain why I got it at such a tender age.

It's referred to as Hereditary Nonpolyposis Colorectal Cancer (HNPCC) or Lynch Syndrome.

I got to swish a little Scope at my last colonoscopy and my DNA was sent off for testing. $3000 worth of testing.

Props Nancy!
My surgeon's patient care nurse warned me that the lab may call and tell me that my insurance doesn't cover the test and to "JUST SAY NO!" Nancy Reagan-style if they want to proceed. Apparently it's not worth the bill I'd get, but it's a non-issue because it was covered.

I'm assuming I'll get those results when I see my surgeon for a follow up next month. It makes no difference to me now as it doesn't impact my current treatment.

Last week when we saw my oncologist, he said he'd run another genetic test and I don't have something called Micorsatellite Instability (MSI). Surprise! According to him, that would mean I don't have HNPCC. Can't have one without the other! He didn't blatantly say it, he just implied it. I think he'll let my surgeon confirm it.

I'm still trying to wrap my mind around the basic idea of DNA, so they lost me pretty early on. Clearly I need to watch more CSI: Miami to better understand genetic sequencing. We rented Contagion this weekend and I didn't follow all the DNA talk in that movie either. Something tells me the actors were acting like they did, too. I think I need to get out my VHS tapes from the OJ Simpson trail for a refresher course.

This is good news on several levels. People with HNPCC have an 80% chance of getting colon cancer in their lifetime. Since I can check that off my bucket list, let's move on to other facts.

They also have an increased risk of getting cancer of the endometirum, ovaries, stomach, small intestine, brain, skin, urinary tract, and on and on and on. So yes, that is a sigh of relief you heard.

People with HNPCC have a 50% chance of passing it to their kids. It would have meant genetic testing for the boys and a prospect of getting colonoscopies starting when they are 18. Merrick doesn't really know how happy he will be about that yet. Then again, this is the kid who saw a thermometer at Target and loudly said:

"Mom, look! There's a thermometer just like the one you stick in my BUTT to tell me how much my BUTT hurts!" 

"BUTT hurts" = rectal thermometer usage and temperature taking.

Merrick also won't know he doesn't have to get them starting at 18. I'm going to keep that little tidbit of information in my Secret Pocket of Parental Lies (SPPL) in the event he turns out to be a total turd of a teenager. Then I will dangle it above his head as a threat for any unwanted adolescent behavior.

In reality, the boys will both start getting colonoscopies 10 years prior to my diagnosis, or 24. I'm hoping by 24 they will be more willing participants than they might be at 18.


*The SPPL includes but is not limited to the Tooth Fairy, Santa Clause, the Easter Bunny, girls having cooties, Jesus making aliens, broccoli giving you muscles, cats being evil, Mommy having naturally blond hair, etc.

Wear Blue

 Friday, March 2nd is "Dress in Blue Day."

As taken from the Colon Cancer Alliance website, the mission, vision and purpose of dressing in blue is this:

Raise awareness about colon cancer, celebrate survivors, and help patients in need during National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month by participating in the Dress in Blue program. We urge you to get out and get people talking about this disease. Colon cancer is often beatable when caught early, yet it is still the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States. Join the more than one million survivors, patients, caregivers, and others who have been affected by colon cancer by wearing blue and getting involved in the fight against this terrible disease.
Together, we can work toward a future free of colon cancer.

On March 2nd, I'll be waking up with my pump and heading to get disconnected.

Sadly, wearing blue will probably be the last thing on my mind that day. I'll be focusing on the bigger goals like brushing my teeth, washing the crust off my face and covering my greasy hair with a hat before walking out the door.

So if you wake up that morning and happen to have something blue in your closet, put it on. Someone might notice, you might start a conversation, you might make a connection and you might make a difference.

2.20.2012

I'll Have a Side of Effects

I've read countless stories of how colon cancer chemo affected those blessed enough to experience it.

Some were a little fatigued but went on with life. Others were down for the count the entire 6 months.

I'm definitely rolling right down the middle of the road with these top 3:

Fatigue
The fact that I spent the first 48 hours after my first infusion in a "chemo coma" is an understatement. I was fatigued to the point of crust forming in weird places on my face. This time around it was just as brutal, with a little more nausea factored in and a longer recovery time. I might have emerged after two days for my pump disconnect, but I was not ready to reenter society.

I think today is the the day I might actually brush my teeth and take a bath!

Just kidding.

Kinda.

I think I'm going to be milking this malaise for days as the rounds go on.

I'm still likening it to a hangover, and I have to ask myself who would go out and willingly drink so much knowing that they're going to feel like this every other week. Then I remember my early twenties and I take that all back.

Self-inflicted illness is sadistic.

Cold Sensitivity
My doctor said this would take upwards of 5 months to come in to play as the drugs built up in my system. Yet when I read various message boards, it seemed to be the top side effect everyone mentioned.

It means anything from drinking cold water to touching things in the fridge feels like a million tiny needle-wielding men attacking. It took two rounds to hit me, so cold beverages are no longer an option. In the mean time, I'll commence the further staining of my teeth with lots and lots of hot tea.

Neuropathy
This is anything from a tingling to a loss of feeling in hands and feet. The first time I was hooked up to my pump, my fingers felt weird. The second time it was immediate. As I was trying to type future appointments into my phone before I left the infusion room, I found it impossible and finally gave up and took the appointment card from the scheduler. My hands did not work. My fingers crinkled up. I was useless.

Don't worry, it took my about 20 minutes to master texting with my working pinky fingers, but don't ask me to do anything that require opposable thumbs. The only thing I can liken it to is when you get those weird toe cramps. If you get them, you know exactly what I'm talking about. If you don't get them, skip down to the next paragraph. My thumbs just get that weird cramp and move in a direction for which I am not asking them to go. And they stay there.

As the days pass, the neuropathy is lessening in frequency. No doubt it will last longer and get worse with each treatment. If you see me walking around with my hands shriveled up, try not to stare too hard.
This is going to make pushing my cart at Target very awkward.
It's like my little thumb gets scared and hides in its cave. 

2.18.2012

European Man Purse

For the last 4 years, the only pump in my life made me feel like a cow.

Thanks to 5 days on my exotic tropical all-inclusive vacation in the hospital, my mammary glands were forgotten and Lachlan moved on to milkier pastures. All the best as it would be inevitable with chemo in my future.

Goodbye that pump. Hello this pump.


I get disconnected from my chemo-in-a-bag and get immediately hooked up to my chemo-in-a-box. A box that I wear in my European Man Purse. A box that is hardly an inconvenience since it sleeps in the middle of the bed, doesn't shed and doesn't have bad dreams.

Walking around with the pump isn't much of a burden because there's not much walking to be done during those first 48 hours after my infusion. He just comes over for a slumber party and we take him home when it's all over.

So cuddly. He's like a big teddy bear!
Returning to the real world and waiting for the end.
"Low" just means it's almost time to return to the real world.
Glorious. It can only go up from here. Until next time.

2.17.2012

Bossypants

This is what I consider a visual book review. It speaks volumes.

Trying to verbalize some passages to Kyle through my tears.
After we stop talking about the dermatological intervention you're planning for my crow's feet, let me say that while I tend to swing a little to the right, I also hang some of my laundry to dry on the left.

That essentially means I'm hard to offend and found most of the content of this book hysterical. Some of you may not. That's my disclaimer.

2.14.2012

Chemotherapueutic Waste


Oh where, oh where does the infectious and chemotherapeutic waste go? 
Oh where, oh where does it go?
With its biohazard symbol and its hazmat warning,
Oh where, oh where does it go?

Because I know you've always wondered, now you can say you know.

I was sitting next to this truck in some traffic last night.

2.11.2012

Virginia is for Lovers

Merrick and I headed down to cheer on our mommy running friends and check out the latest in Valentine running fashion at the Virginia is for Lovers 14K. No holiday race is complete without those few brave souls who take holiday running attire to the next level.

We were in desperate need of a Mommy/Merrick date day to make up for a trying week of head butting, patience testing and four year old induced Chinese water torture.

Unfortunately, Merrick not only inherited my looks, but he also got my dashing and impressive personality. Kyle is so lucky. One of us is manageable. Two of us can get ugly. All that incessant talking, hardened opinions and infinite knowledge of all subjects can make for some parenting disasters.

I was a good day to reconnect at an event I knew he'd enjoy. We even managed to squeeze in a trip to Target. Shocking, I know. Someone should give me a medal for that!
"Mom, I can't wait till I'm 'growed' up enough to run this race with you."
Looking a little cold after I made him walk about 2 miles.
Freezing Cupid.
Sitting at the mile 8 marker.
To Port-a-Potty or not to Port-a-Potty? Apparently he doesn't have to ask himself that question.
Cheap date.

2.08.2012

The Gym

Hello gym.

It's been what, 8 years since I've belonged to one of you? You're still as universally dirty and stinky as I remember. And your rows of monotonous equipment are uninspiring. You would think they would have invented something new by now, but it's pretty hard to top the elliptical. It's just rad.

But considering that breathing in cold air during a winter run may soon feel like razor blades and some days I might only have the energy to sit on a recumbent bike with no resistance and search the amazing Nordstrom App for new boots peddle, we should make peace and move on.

I started with the treadmill because I didn't want to look too trendy or eager to jump on the elliptical. I needed to assess the situation and scope out the joint from the safety of something boring and borderline archaic. The treadmill just seemed so safe and predictable.

I climbed on and tried to visualize the sweaty guy before me actually using the cleaning solution provided and wiping down this very machine. I then created a mantra in my head about hand washing and started to stare at buttons. When I went to find a place for my phone, I noticed what looked like half of a rotting plum in one of the cup holders and realized I had to take my health in to my own sanitized hands. My weakening immune system cringed, I repeated my hand washing mantra and pressed start.

I now know why everyone calls it the "dreadmill." It only took me .25 painfully boring miles to find out. I thought I'd been on for at least a couple of miles, or maybe a couple of hours when I moved my towel and saw I'd only made it .50 miles. Half-a-mile? I almost tripped over myself and collapsed in defeat right there.

And that's the source of the dread.

I couldn't just drift off into my usual daydream, talk to myself and lip sync to Lady Gaga like I normally do. I had to concentrate. I had to carefully place every step. I had to think about not falling. I had to maintain the exact same pace lest I get flung off.

I trip walking down my own hallway, so a treadmill is like a concentration nightmare. Not only was my body having to work, but now my mind? What kind of running is this? Not the fun kind, kids. Not the fun kind.

I do concentrate when I'm on the street, but at least there are exotic things to look out for like broken sidewalks, hypodermic needles and and other items I shan't mention for the sake of those of you reading this out loud to your kids. If you knew where I lived and where I normally run, you'd know exactly what I'm talking about

How Skinny Runner does this for 10 miles with no music I hope to never know.

I gave up after a mile and a half and went looking for a dirty elliptical.

Don't worry kids. I didn't get all crazy like a honey badger and take this while running.

2.04.2012

Dating Chemo

I'm going to be spending 4 hours alone with my chemo infusion every 2 weeks. That's 12 hot dates with a guy that just wants me to sit down, relax and read all the trashy magazines I usually only get my hands on at the salon.

That's almost as romantic as a guy asking you out on a date and taking you to Target. Take notes single men, no woman will be disappointed if you take her on a date to Target. It's our favorite place. Ever.

You start her out at Starbucks and spend the next two hours walking up and down every single aisle, taking turns pushing the cart, checking end caps for clearance stuff. You romantically link arms and drink your lattes as you wander around and pretend there's something romantic about mood setting florescent overhead lighting.

We won't notice if we briefly lose you in electronics, because you can just catch up with us on the magazine aisle reading People, Teen Vogue and Us Weekly Runner's World, Newsweek and Real Simple.

The problem with dating chemo is he doesn't take me to Target. He knocks on my door, brings me flowers and tells me I'm pretty. And just when he has me suckered in, he drops the gentleman act, takes me to some dive bar, buys me cheap beer by the bucket and leaves me with a hangover that last for days.

After 48 hours of consecutive sleep that can only be likened to a bad night out on the town, that bucket of beer ran its course, my pump ran out of drugs and I started to open my mascara-encrusted eyes again.

Perhaps it was a tad bit psychosomatic, but I started to feel normal within an hour of my pump turning off and drugs ceasing to enter into my body. Headache gone, fatigue gone, desire to lay in bed motionless and drool gone. I didn't care that I hadn't showered in days, had makeup all over my face and no eyebrows on. I was ready to see some sunshine, face the world again and get disconnected from my European Man Purse.

I have survived my first infusion. I'm sure it only gets worse from here.

Laying the ground work with some anti-nausea drugs.
Drip, drip, drip go the drugs of choice.
Expanding my mind and broadening my closet.
Don't worry, this little pump will get his own blog post.
 *On a side note, for those of you have have never experienced a hangover, think of it as the flu, only self-inflicted.