Saturday, May 06, 2017

Ugh...round 2 done...

Everything was going so smoothly until about three weeks ago...

With my white blood count at a rock bottom 250, I developed cellulitis in my right leg.  One minute I was fine, and the next I was wondering why I was so cold and why did my leg hurt so much.  By the time I got home from work (of course I was at work), I had a raging fever and chills, not to mention the fact that my leg was red and painful.

A quick trip to the doctor the next day confirmed my Google diagnosis.  I was given both IV and oral antibiotics and sent home.  My leg got better until precisely a week later when the infection--evidently only playing possum--came back worse than ever.  My right leg was a glowing red inferno of infection, while my left quietly developed red petechiae (dots, if you will).  More IV and oral antibiotics followed, and my second round of chemo was postponed.

When my infection finally subsided, the doctor divided chemo into four days this time, with the Rituxan on a day all by itself.  Days two through four were the administering of the Fludarabine and the Cyclophosphamide.  

Last time I had some "gastric" upsets but it wasn't too bad.  This time?  This time I felt like I was going to die, or maybe just wanted to die.  In addition to the stomach issues, I just felt generally awful.  Like, I haven't felt this awful in a lonnnnng time!

I'm on the upswing now, although I'm not going to be doing anything more strenuous than couch surfing for a while.  If it was this bad with round two, I'm not looking forward to rounds three through six!  

Saturday, April 08, 2017

Round one of chemo--DONE!

I completed three consecutive days of chemo, and was released with a follow-up appointment for the next Wednesday.  Chemo itself wasn't awful, I guess.  It was a lot of sitting around and watching movies/television while they pumped me full of drugs.  

I receive three drugs that are the "chemo" drugs themselves:  Rituxan, a monoclonal antibody that targets cancer cells; Fludarabine and cyclophosphamide, both cytotoxins that tend to kill cells indiscriminately.  In addition, they give me some steroids just to pep me up (I guess) and iron.  The Rituxan and the iron take quite a while to drip, but the other drugs only take about 45 minutes to an hour each.  The first day was long--seven hours, the second, only about five, and the third, a short three hours.

I didn't feel sick to my stomach, but something that they gave me upset my GI tract.  My stomach just didn't feel good and I ended up with some other "issues" (to put it politely).  It's quite the diet; this morning--10 days after beginning chemo--I am 30 pounds lighter!  And I am eating--although my dear Dr. Pepper doesn't taste good to me anymore.

When I went to the doctor on Wednesday, he ran a quick blood count.  My white blood count plunged from 140,000 to 2,000!  Even he was shocked at how quickly my numbers had dropped and he didn't like the rapid weight loss.  Good news is that my hemoglobin (the part of the blood that carries oxygen to the body) is up!  For the first time this year, I can breathe enough to walk to my car from the doctor's office!  

So, until my next chemo appointment in April, I continue to make weekly trips to the doctor so that they can monitor me.  This next week I'll get more iron to boost my hemoglobin further.  

I am now forced to wear a mask in public so that germs stay at bay.  So, if you see someone rocking a "Cancer Sucks" mask, you'll know it's me. 

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Cancer Sucks...

As most of you know, I was diagnosed seven years ago with Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia.  For most of the intervening time, it remained quiet and uneventful.  Lots of blood tests and doctor's appointments and not much else.

Then last year, between May and December, my white blood count more than doubled and I was getting more and more easily fatigued.  After the first of the year, I had a bone marrow biopsy, a CT scan, and a lymphedectomy (removal of a lymph node), and the implantation of a chemo port.  The doctor had mentioned back in January that chemo was probably 6-9 months away. Well, last week when I went for an appointment, to my shock and surprise, he told me we couldn't wait any longer.  

Leukemia causes a proliferation of white blood cells that are "broken."  Over the course of seven years, my white cells have grown so numerous that there's no room for my red blood cells.  Due to this, I am extremely short of breath.  Since Christmas, and maybe even before, just walking a short distance makes me sound like I've run a race.  If we were to wait any longer on the chemo, my numbers would just get worse.

So, I found myself at Texas Oncology in Allen bright and early this morning, hooked up to a machine!  I am receiving a combination treatment of Fludarabine, Cyclophosphamide, and Rituxan.  Medical advances are amazing--Rituxan (a monoclonal antibody that targets specific cancer cells) was only in the testing phase when I was diagnosed!

At any rate, so far all is well.  I'm so worn out, though--now whether that has to do with my treatment or the nerves leading up to it, I don't know.  

I hope you follow along with me on this journey.  As my dear friend Nicolas said, "I promised you a life of adventure, dear.  We just didn't know it was going to be this kind of adventure."  

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

The Down Under Chronicles, part 2

Forget my hosts--these are the faces I really flew 19 hours to see!  These are Lisa and Ray's girls.  As I've mentioned, they are long-coated Alaskan Malamutes.  The youngest is nearly two and is shown in the top photo.  The older is on the bottom and is eight. 

Aren't those the sweetest, furriest faces you've ever seen?  (Don't tell Juneau, Sitka, or Poquito I said that!) 

Now you can see why I fell in love with them through their photos! 

Don't you just want to hug them and kiss those furry snoots?  It's very obvious that they are the apple of their parents' eyes, too.  They have tons of cute nicknames for them, but I think my favorite is "cheeky bears."  I can just hear Lisa saying it to them!

Everywhere they go, the girls have their own fan club.  In Australia, it is permissible for dogs to be at outdoor restaurant seating--and a lot of restaurants have outdoor seating!  Because of this, the girls were able to go with us several times when we ate out.  Each time, a crowd developed in record time!  They are celebrities; everyone asks about them and wants to pet them and take pictures of them.  The girls handle their celebrity with aplomb, and still manage to find time to beg sweetly for a taste of the meal du jour.  

I love these girls just as if they were mine.  I hope someday, I'll be able to visit them again!  

All that celebrity wears a furry body out

Monday, October 06, 2014

The Down Under Chronicles, part 1

I would like to take this opportunity to thank my incredible hosts--Lisa and Ray Luscombe, and their girls!  My trip to Australia wouldn't have been half as enjoyable without them.  I truly felt like a Melburnian for the duration of my visit.

Lisa and I met online through Flickr several years ago.  We were initially attracted by our mutual love for and ownership of Alaskan Malamutes.  At the time, Lisa had just one dog.   Her baby was long-coated and I had never seen such a gorgeous dog!  Every time Lisa posted a picture of her dog, I quickly "favorited" the picture and commented.  Pretty soon, she started commenting on my photos of Juneau and Sitka too.  Even though Lisa lived in Australia and I lived in the US, we became friends.

Years passed and we remained friends even though we only knew each other online.  When my mother died, Lisa was so kind and understanding--I could feel her compassion and friendship from half a world away.  Our friendship moved from strictly being on Flickr to messaging each other on Facebook.  We wrote frequently, learning about each other's lives, our dogs, our hobbies, and our other friends.  Not too long after my mom died, Lisa said, "You know, you should come visit sometime!"

Visit Australia?  Now that was something I'd never really considered.  It seemed so far away--and it would be expensive too!  I thought about it and thought about it, though.  Finally at Christmas 2012, when I visited my parent's grave, I made it official.  I told them, "I am going to visit Australia!"  I told Lisa too.  I gave myself plenty of time to prepare, planning the trip for September 2014.  For a  person who hasn't travelled in years, it was going to be a big undertaking.
In the meantime, Lisa and her husband got a second dog--another long-coated malamute.  The second was just as beautiful as the first and I joked that it was a toss-up as to who I wanted to meet more--Lisa or her dogs! 

Over the next 15 months, we talked more and more about the trip and what I'd like to see and do while I was there.  I created a Pinterest board for Melbourne/Victoria and Lisa and I both added things to it that looked interesting.  I bought my airplane ticket in the spring of 2014, and then the trip became "real."  Lisa and I kept in close contact, learning more and more about each other as we talked over Facebook.

With my ticket purchased, I then applied for a passport.  Mine had long since expired, since the last time I was out of the country was my honeymoon in 1988!  I quickly discovered that you also need a visa to visit Australia.  Good thing I did my research on that one!  Who knew?

In September, the official countdown started.  And on September 17th I left the US at 10pm and didn't arrive in Melbourne until about 12:30 pm on September 19th.  Those international flights are killers!  Melbourne is 15 hours ahead of Dallas, so I basically lost an entire day in transit! 

Lisa met me at the airport.  Even though we'd never met in person, she looked just like her photos--so lovely!  I spent the next 12 days getting to know her and her husband.  And I can truthfully say, I've never met any nicer people.  They were so generous in allowing a virtual stranger to stay in their home, but it made my experience so wonderfully personal and I felt so well-connected with the city. 

Lisa is the art director for the Royal Auto Club's magazine, and not only is she amazing at the work she does, but she is also a super talented photographer and a virtuoso cook.  Ray is just a darling too--and he and Lisa have the most awesome relationship.  Even after 24 years of marriage, it's obvious they adore each other!  

 Our friends asked us, "Aren't you nervous going to stay with a total stranger?"  "Aren't you nervous letting a total stranger stay in your house?"  Both of us were completely relaxed with our decisions.  "Sometimes you just know about a person," we said to each other--and meant it!  I just knew in my heart Lisa was a wonderful person.

Well, I'm running out of adjectives and superlatives for my friends the Luscombes.  I hope you enjoy the tale of the adventures that is to follow!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Down under here I come!

I leave tonight for a vacation in Melbourne, Australia!  I've been dreaming, planning, and anticipating this trip ever since 2012, when my friend Lisa Luscombe invited me.  And today, it's actually happening!  

I will have plenty of pictures and stories when I get back.  I fully expect to have an Aussie accent by then as well!