Time for Plan B

Yesterday I went to get my second infusion of my new cocktail (shaken, not stirred). Labs were good, premeds good and Gemzar (the first part of my cocktail) good. Then came the fun, I started on my desensitizing doses of carboplatin. Carboplatin, while extremely toxic to ovarian cancer, is also toxic to the body. So they give it to you in small, incremental doses to avoid an allergic reaction. For some people this works, but for others not so much.

Unfortunately, I ended up in the “not so much” group yesterday. Despite all the precautions, I ended up with a severe allergic reaction yesterday. Now, I’ve had allergies my whole life, with asthma to boot if I get around too much mold, so an allergic reaction for me isn’t a huge deal. But when I start with an asthma attack, intense itching and a body that suddenly is the shade of a just picked vine ripened roma tomato, there’s a problem Houston. Fortunately, my Angel in Blue was right there and started pumping me full of Benadryl, Prednasolone and a whole host of other drugs to offset the reaction. The Lovely Liz even had to call Dr. Downer in surgery to be sure they’d thought of everything. In the end, I was finally able to go home. Exhausted from the Benadryl and Atarax, but racing from all the steroids. Life can be grand at times.

Just a side note, if you get too much Benadryl, your legs will twitch – BAD. It lasts about two hours and it’s not fun – at least for you. My hubby and the nurses enjoyed the show.

So today I’m in flux. It’s a bad place to be. The Lovely Liz called to check on me this morning and assured me that she will be working with Dr. Downer to get a Plan B in place. She’s hoping to be able to call my Angel in Blue next week to give her the plan so she can review it with me. I tend to take things better from my Angel than anyone else. Maybe because I trust her more than anyone else. She NEVER lets me down even when down is the only place I have to go.

I’m worried about the next drug. What will it do to me? Truth be told, I think I can handle anything except losing my hair. How vain is that? I like the way my hair looks now. I don’t like the way I look bald. One of the drugs on the agenda is called Doxil. While I would get to keep my hair, I would get other lovely side effects like mouth sores (we’re talking liquid diet here), rashes and peeling skin. Sounds lovely, huh. Wondering if this is a valid trade for killing ovarian cancer, my life for the cancer’s.

I’ve come to realize that cancer doesn’t kill people. It’s the chemo, or rather it’s side effects. Nerves are damaged, kidneys fail, hearts become less effective, asthma gets worse, blood becomes anemic. It sucks! While I really want to believe that the chemo will put this cancer back into remission and I will be happy dancing with NED again. However, what’s the collateral damage to my body and my family? I dream of watching my boys grow into strong young men and become parents themselves. I want to walk with my husband well into our 80’s. I used to take that for granted. Now I can’t.

So while I wait for Dr. Downer to create his new cocktail (again, shaken not stirred), I will spend time with my family. I will play with my kids as much as my body will allow (Gemzar makes you very tired), I will date my hubby, I will enjoy co-op, I will visit with friends, I will be creative, and I will try to find something that I find hilarious every single day. Mostly, I will do my very best to trust that God has me tight in His hands. Early today, I posted on Facebook that I felt like I was dangling from His fingertips, just barely able to hold on. I will trust that He has all ready put the Plan B in front of Dr. Downer. I will trust that what little Gemzar I’ve had is killing cancer cells, even if it’s just a few of them.

Plan B wasn’t on my radar. Now I have to rearrange my life to accommodate something I don’t know yet. Until then I will do what I have to do; put one foot in front of the other and just go with the flow. And while I’m at it, I’ll make the most of the moments. And maybe just start that book.

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What’s Your Color?

I promised myself I wouldn’t go there this year, yet here I am. I told myself I have to immerse myself in my own battle and not try to fight any others. Yet, here I am. I know I’m too tired to really fight effectively, but I will try. Someone has to.

In case you haven’t noticed, it’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Despite the brilliant reds, oranges, yellows and tans of the leaves and the gorgeous sunsets, all I see is pink. Bubble gum, Pepto-Bismol pink. The Ultimate Bengal Fan commented the other day that orange and pink should not be worn together, and this is the kid who would wear stripes and plaids.

It seems that cancer has been boiled down to a color. What color is your cancer? Are you pink, blue, teal, yellow, purple, green, white or some combination thereof. Are you saving the ta-tas or some other body part? A fellow teal sister on a Facebook group I’m a part of commented on the tasteless “Go Braless” campaign to promote breast cancer awareness. She thought we should go commando to bring awareness to gynecologic cancers. Actually, guys could join in with this as well. Prostate and testicular cancer are below the belt as well.

I think the people who come up with these “campaigns” mean well, but they don’t think things through. When you’re fighting for your life, you aren’t thinking pink, teal, purple or any other color. You’re trying to figure out when you can take your next anti-nausea pill. You’re trying to decide how you can hide the overwhelming fatigue from your family so they don’t worry. Some days you wonder how you’re going to haul your butt out of bed to go to the bathroom, then you hear some perky AM news host talk about how they’re painting the town pink with bras. Hey, I would gladly go braless, but as a former boss of mine used to say “You’ll take your eye out ” (I’m rather well endowed).

I’m tired of hearing about moms who have breast cancer and take care of their families. Lots of people with cancer go through therapy and take care of their families and never receive one bit of recognition. I certainly don’t blog about my journey for the recognition. Truth is that the vast majority of cancer patients deal with their families and some have to work to keep their insurance or a roof over their head. Those are the real heroes. The ones that go through treatment and keep life going. They should get a gold crown. They deserve the recognition. Not that the mom with breast cancer doesn’t – she does. She’s doing the toughest job imaginable while fighting cancer. She just shouldn’t be singled out when there are so many others who do the exact same thing.

Cancer isn’t a color. It’s a wretched disease that destroys your body, mind and spirit and leaves families shattered. If you’re lucky, like I am, you have an incredible support system that holds you close when you can’t do it on your own. I have a God who is immensely powerful to save and holds me close. I have friends who will gladly stay with my children so I can get my infusions. Yesterday I discovered that I am in need of fluids on the weeks I don’t get chemo. This means a 90 minute infusion of saline, along with some extra steroid and anti-nausea meds. My quick 45 minute trip has turned into a “3 hour tour.” Fortunately, the 3 hours I spend affords me a few days of actually feeling good before I descend back into the depths of feeling lousy.

It just seems wrong to try to limit cancer to a color. It’s as if tying a deadly disease to a color makes it less threatening. How can something pink or blue or yellow take lives every day? I guess it’s like a tiger in the wild. They are majestic to look at, but I certainly don’t want to meet one up close.

Fortunately, we’re about halfway through the “pink month.” Then we can get on with life again. Until then, I will politely decline when asked if I want to give to a another “pink ribbon” charity. I will explain that pink doesn’t represent all women’s cancers. And I will laugh at the lack of color coordination on the part of the NFL. Pink shoes with football uniforms just doesn’t do it for me. And don’t even get me started on how much of what’s raised actually goes to patients. That’s for another rant on another day.

The color of cancer is reflected in the eyes of every patient, male or female. It’s reflected in the color of their skin since cancer is an equal opportunity destroyer of lives. Cancer is the plague of the 21st century. The only color I want associated with it is whatever color the cure is. Then, I will proudly wear the color of cancer. The color that caused it’s demise.

Limbo Land

Life has been a mix of whirlwind and waiting these last few weeks.  It’s been a whirlwind in that it was only a month ago when the blood clots in my legs began to endanger my life.  It was those same clots, however, that triggered the alarm that the Beast had returned.  Since my last post, I have undergone a liver biopsy (not the worst thing, but definitely not for the faint of heart) and an MRI of my brain (which showed nothing).  Both were more of a CYA thing for Dr. Downer, but definitely raised my stress level beyond anything I’ve experienced in my life to date.

The liver biopsy was to confirm that the cancer was, in fact, ovarian cancer.  I couldn’t imagine God allowing me to go through another type of cancer, but hey, it’s the oncologist’s party not mine.  The recovery took longer than the actual procedure (20 minutes versus 4 hours in recovery then two days of being a couch potato diva).  The pathologist said the biopsy was a perfect match to my previous one taken at my hysterectomy.  I’m always glad to oblige a doctor.  Makes both our lives easier. So once we had that, Dr. Downer confirmed his treatment plan with one caveat.  Get an MRI of my brain on the very, very, VERY low risk outside chance the cancer went too far north.

If you’ve ever had an MRI, you know those tubes aren’t huge.  Having a plate over your face and not being able to see out can be distressing.  Fortunately, the tech put a washcloth over my eyes so when I opened them (despite my hubby’s urging not to) I couldn’t see how I was crammed into the tube like a sardine.  Thirty minutes later, including the contrast IV, I was done and happily returning to my regularly scheduled programming.  A few hours later, the Lovely Liz called to tell me I had nothing but a brain in my head.  Good to know the brain is there.  Now I’ve been given the green light.  Let the poisoning commence!

I will say that I’m completely tapped out.  Coach Cathy and I were talking yesterday and I told her I was way overdue for the massive breakdown cry that should have come by now.  I have shed tears, but mostly because I feel like a lousy Mom because my kids are having to face the fear of losing Mom for a second time in three years.  I feel like an awful wife since Hubby has to deal with the worse and sickness part of our wedding vows rather than the better and health.  I feel like a moocher friend since I am always asking people to take the kids, go with me to appointments, pray for me and my family, and all the other stuff that goes along with being a cancer patient.  But right now I’m so tired I can’t even sleep.  I can’t focus.  My tank just ran completely out.  The last fumes are gone.

Yet tomorrow I will walk into Good Samaritan Hospital yet again.  I will go to the 4th floor to the Cancer Institute and begin bonding with my Angel in Blue again.  We will go through the labs, the premeds, then begin the hours long infusion process.  At least I know what to bring this time.  My laptop (for Netflix and Hulu), my grown up coloring books and nice pencils (no kid stuff for me) and some cross stitch.  Also my Lovenox injection, some Tylenol and the blanket my wonderful Mother-in-Law sewed up for me.  The look is casual.  PJ pants and a T-shirt with funky socks.  No make-up, but I generally do my hair (hey, when you haven’t had it, you tend to want to take care of it).  Oh and let’s not forget the wonderful lunch fresh from the hospital cafeteria.  Tomorrow is 1 of 12 infusions.  After I complete the first six, I have a scan to ensure the poison is doing more than killing off white blood cells and platelets.  If the scan looks good, then we go for 6 more infusions.  I’ll end in mid-March – again.  Actually, it will be very close to the end of my first chemo which was March 15, 2013.

I’m ready to say goodbye to Limbo Land and move on with life.  Today, though, is for hanging with my boys and having fun. It’s probably the last time I may actually feel good (relatively speaking since I’ve been so hyped up and overstressed the last few weeks) in quite a while so I need to enjoy it.  It’s about living in this moment and not the moments to come.  It’s about loving and living and embracing all that’s good in life.  Because even when it’s bad, there’s always something good in life.  Limbo land makes you appreciate that.  It makes you realize it’s the journey, not the destination.  It’s time to move on.