6.29.2012

Fashionably Naked PICC

Because I'm walking around with a very obvious elephant in the room every single day when time I go to Target, it's about time to devote another entire post to my beloved PICC. I've gone into detail about some other fun aspects of colon cancer and chemo, so why not strip down and show you what else I've been hiding.

I had my on little internal debate before starting chemo over getting a PICC line vs. a Mediport. I obviously opted for the PICC because it was the right choice for my vanity me. I knew vanity would be set aside during this season, but in the long run, I liked the idea of not having another scar on my body and being able to bare my abnormally bony clavicle for the summer without having that bulging port staring everyone down like my absorbed twin.

I'm sure I'll end up with a very tiny scar where the line goes in, but it's on the inside of my arm and will be no bigger than a well used pencil eraser. Unless you're staring at the biceps I plan to replenish when I'm done with this chemo bit, you'll never notice.

We are one now, me and my PICC. It's like I was born with an extra toe or a miniature arm. We are so tight that I'm willing to show off her nakedness. In the raw. Out in the open. My secret little friend. Since it made a semi-nude appearance more than a few blog posts ago, I might as well let it all hang out and let you see how dressed up it likes to get. Then maybe you won't have to stare next time you bump into me in the dollar section at Target.

I refer to it as my danglies. Merrick calls it my noodles. My infusion nurse calls it pigtails. All are perfectly suited and I embrace this thing like my third child.

That doesn't mean I pretend it's not there. I still have to play dress up and treat it like its own person sometimes or it starts slapping me around, but my life has not been drastically altered because of it.

I gave up the rubber waterproof cover pretty early on. It was taking more time to get it on than it was to actually take a shower. It finally dawned on me that if I turned the shower head towards the wall for that half-wet effect and mastered the art of bathing with my left arm in the air, I could survive.

It's now summer and my sleeves are up. There's no hiding anything anymore, so here's how I make it work.

Baby Legs
This worked with long sleeves, but I really only need about half of a Baby Leg to cover my little partner so it's gone to the wayside with the warmer weather.

No need to bring me Krispie Kreme, I've gain 1.5 whole centimeters in my upper arm since this was taken.
Wrist Wallet
Made to make your clubbing experience easier, the Wrist Wallet is meant to go on your wrist (or abnormally thin arms) and has a little pocket perfect for an ID, cash or your Target Debit Card. This enables you to leave your European Man Purse at home and enjoy dancing uninhibited all night long.

Yes, I'm still in my jammies at 11:30 in the morning.
Medical Mesh
Not sure what to call it, but it's standard issue any time they mess with my arm.  It's very wash-and-wear friendly and so breathable for all that summer humidity! I also have a whole roll of it compliments of my home care nurse. Ideal for sleeping, when I don't need to be fashionable, when I don't care or if it's hot out. At this point in the process, I don't care 80% of the time and wear it with no regard for what anyone at the mall might think. Nothing says: "Something is wrong with me!" like medical mesh! If you've had a baby in a hospital recently, you'll recognize that mesh from those special undergarments they give you in recovery. One size fits all!

The mesh gets two one thumb up!
Knee Socks
My friend Karen started getting overly crafty with her sewing machine one day and making DIY Baby Legs for her pending baby girl out of women's knee socks. Knowing I was using faux Baby Legs, she ofter to make me some. That means I had an excuse to go to made haste for Target and their bright and colorful knee sock selection. She was able to customize them to a short fit and now I'm rocking some socks in public. I've only been busted once, when a friend pointed out that she had bought the very same socks.
Some people like to take self-portraits looking all sorts of sexy. Clearly I just like to take them of my arm.
And then there she is, in all her naked glory. My PICC nurse comes every Tuesday to change all my bits and pieces like a pair of dirty underwear. Given that it is a constant unnatural opening directly into my body, it needs some artificial protection. Infection is the big, scary monster in the room and we must guard against it. You can also see why it's best to keep this little missy under wraps as to not scare away small children.




6.13.2012

And the End is Even Farther than Before

Two chemo words I'm going to teach you today that pretty much run my life:

Neutropenic: Having an abnormally low number of neutrophils in the blood making susceptibility to illness extremely high.

Anticipatory Nausea: Nausea occurring before a new cycle of chemotherapy in response to conditioned stimuli, such as the smells, sights, and sound of the treatment room. It usually occurs after the person has experienced acute nausea and vomiting. Or in my case, any time I'm within a half-mile radius of the oncology building regardless of treatment.


I was relieved a few weeks back when it finally seemed we'd found the combination to get me through treatment in the two week intervals I'm meant for. At this point I'm totally fine with the reduction in dosage and willing to tolerate the 4 Neupogen shots and their side effects. If it means getting to the end faster, than I'm willing to suffer. Spoken like a true champion, right?

Actually, spoken like someone who wants to finish in time to make it to the Minnesota State Fair at the end of August. I'm still bitter I picked a strawberry malt from the Dairy Barn over some deep fried key lime pie to meet my dairy-item-for-the-day requirements. I need to return and rectify the situation while listening to Rascal Flatts from the Grandstand.

I digress.

Last week I was scheduled for the same routine: 4 days of shots. But for whatever reason, the nurse saw my post-shot normal counts, said I didn't need a shot and called my doctor to confirm. By Wednesday, my counts were dropping but still normal, so once again he said I didn't need a shot. I didn't think it mattered that they were normal. Of course they're normal. I just got a shot to make them normal. Give me the shot to help keep them normal.

I've been down this road before. Get a booster shot and my counts are off the charts. One of my kids could puke in my lap while the other stuck his snotty fingers up my nose and I would be so super charged with white blood cell counts I wouldn't get sick.

But as the week ticks on, the counts tick down. So last Wednesday I was dropping, but merely dropping from the high to the normal. I knew the normal would keep dropping to the low. I've got the track record to prove it.

Sure enough, yesterday's blood work was bad. Things had not only dropped, but in comparison to all my other labs, my neutrophils and my platelets are the lowest they've been. I wonder if I should be walking around with a mask on Michael Jackson-style.

I rounded up my miniature blond date in the waiting area outside the infusion room (no dirty little germ magnets allowed) and we headed for the car. I was devastated. I was frustrated. I was pissed.

And with Merrick taking his sweet time to bucket up as usual, I had the time I needed to quietly cry. Not sure why it struck me in that moment, but a mini-meltdown was in order. I rarely have them in general, but I've been a bit more prone during treatment. I didn't realize how failing another round of blood work was going to take it's toll on my mental prowess.

Chemo is the great destroyer of all things. We hope it destroys the bad, but we know it will also destroy the good. It's a small price to pay in the end, if one can really put a price on life. I think I get frustrated with my own body and its lack of control. I went from knowing how to control my health through diet and exercise and now I can't control it no matter what I do.

I've learned that it doesn't matter how many whole foods, super foods or power foods I put in, they are no match for what the mighty chemo can do. I'm eating nutrient dense foods and getting no where in my fight to keep myself well on the inside. I just try my best to look well on the outside.

I just want to be done and I want my life back. I want this cycle to end and my trips to that building to taper off.

I had the privilege of meeting a fairly new patient while waiting on my lab results in the infusion room yesterday. She asked if it was my first time there for treatment as she'd never seen me before. I explained that I'd been at it awhile and usually came on Wednesdays. She was surprised because I still had my hair. Like most people, she assumed that all chemo patients lose it. Though it has thinned to my liking, I told her that my particular treatment did not cause major hair loss most of the time.

She probably also noticed how radiantly blond it looked since I finally got around to getting those 3 inch roots done. It only took 7 round for me to accept that I wasn't going to lose my hair and it would be worth maintaining.

I know having my hair makes me look less sick. But when I look at the sheet of lab results handed me yesterday, I know otherwise.

I could see her eager yet nervous anticipation of her own road ahead. She was 12 days in to her treatment and knew in a matter of days what was left of her hair would be gone. She was already starting to see clumps come out and was debating a cut just to beat it to the punch. She was upbeat.

Though I'm not in her shoes, I suggested she shave it off as a power move. You be the one responsible for your hair leaving your head, not chemo. It's like beating chemo to the punch. You know it's going to happen, so perhaps being the one to control the event will empower her a little over the inevitable.

I don't know how long she has to go, but I could see that optimism I once had. I still have it, it's just a little beaten down at the moment. I was staring at the light of the end of the tunnel. I could see the end date on the calendar. And for now, that date as moved on to another month not quite in view.

And speaking of dates, I so enjoy being the third wheel on Kyle's dates with his iPad.





She's younger, she's thinner and she clearly looks better under florescent lights than I do.

6.08.2012

Carpe the Normal

When feeling normal isn't the norm and you wake up feeling normal, you must drink your fake iced latte and sieze the day!

We can all agree that being sick sure makes you appreciate feeling well. And don't I just love to feel well!

After having some very unexciting quality time with me on Monday, I decided that Merrick needed some very exciting quality time with me on Wednesday. We've been having some killer dates at all the hip medical buildings around town, but I felt it was time to step it up a notch.

My mornings just wouldn't be the same without adding to the ever present bruise in the crook of my right arm. So off to blood work we went. It was normal, my Neupogen shot was skipped and I went on my merry way.

Merrick is starting to feel at home in the oncology building like no 4 year old should. I'm sure seeing a cute kid brightens some dreary days around there, so I parade him around like he's my therapy dog. Only he doesn't listen, won't do anything on command and never comes when I call his name.

And you know those nurses fawn all over him because he's so cute. Sure, he's cute for those first 40 seconds in the morning before he first starts talking. Then I just feel like I'm succumbing to a bad case Chinese water torture as the barrage of endless chatter, questions, facts, needs and expert opinions begin coming my way in rapid fire.

I once read a quote that said having children is like being slowly pecked to death by chickens. Some days I have to agree.

8:30am
Blood work!
We glow. I told him to strike a pose and all I got out of him was a zombie ballerina.
 9:00am
Airplanes!

10:00am
Summer Camp. Freedom!


2:00pm
To Granddaddy's beach to see the tall ships moored for OpSail 2012!

As another day dawns, we're off to make the most of it again.

6.05.2012

Round Ocho

It's Tuesday morning and for the first time in days I woke up feeling normal. When you feel normal, it makes the idea of tackling only four more rounds seem inspirational.

Because you're probably getting the general idea after the previous 7 rounds, I'll give you my week-in-summary in 40 words or less: round 8, nausea pill, sleep, sleep, nausea pill, Bravo TV marathon, sleep, Nordstrom Half-Yearly while half-awake, nausea pill, nap, Neupogen shot, blood work, Man Store, 3 month follow up with surgeon, Chick-fil-A.

Merrick accompanied me for most of the day yesterday and I'm not going to dip into my subsiding anger and go into details, but Chick-fil-A was his reward for surviving 3.5 hours in the waiting room at my surgeon's office with dead iPhone and iPod batteries. You can lecture me about rewarding my kid with food later. Even a grown man should be rewarded with food after what we endured.

Come July, Chick-fil-A will be my reward when they start making those seasonal peach milkshakes.
Ironically, he asked why someone left their basket of dirty clothes behind (basket of volunteer-knitted beanies for those that lose their hair) but never noticed the wigs sitting on the table next to him. And yes, I do believe he was picking his non-existent boogers as usual.
Narcissist or supermodel. Is there a difference?
Man Store glory!