2nd Chemo

Yesterday was my 2nd round of chemo, this time at the Main Building, instead of at the Mays Building, where I typically go for all of my gynecological services. MD Anderson is huge, but seems very well marked, so it is not TOO intimidating to find one’s way. So, I am 1/3 done with chemo; almost 1/4 of the way through radiation. Yippee!!

This week I am staying with long term, dear friends, Laura P. and Bill W. They live in a lovely neighborhood near the Medical Center, so it is very easy to get back and forth. My compadre, Anita, joined me at chemo. The only difficult part was that my veins were not cooperative, and it took 3 tries to get the IV started. I felt just a titch “off” but not bad. We read and played Canasta, and danged if she didn’t come from behind to beat me! We then joined Laura and my fabulous friend, Lynda B., for a great lunch before returning for radiation.

As a funny aside, the girl who “attempted” to take my blood for labs on Monday failed miserably. She went for help, and when the supervisor came in to take over, she said, “Honey, what were you trying to do? Looks like you were trying to hit her with a saber!! I’m not sure what you were going for here!” Oh well, everyone else has done better. C’est la vie!

Today I feeling pretty decent. I am supposed to drink at least 2 to 3 L of water after chemo, and I think I did a pretty good job on that yesterday. I took a bottle of homemade ginger lemon tea with me to drink during the four hour process, and I think that helped a lot. Last night, I had a wonderful dinner with Bill and Laura, and both for lunch and dinner ate like a pig. This morning, so far so good. Will have dinner with an old friend, Michael K. and his wife, this evening. Last night, Wheeler, Laura and I took a long walk around their neighborhood after dinner. That lifted my spirits, and I saw one of the most beautiful trees I think I’ve ever seen. I’ll take a picture and send it along another time.

Today is my slow day- just radiation. So, I may swim here at the Wheelers’ pool, nap, write thank yous, and start my long, overdo baby quilt for Mr. Wyatt. It is a little weird not to work or have other pressing matters to attend to. However, Mondays and Fridays are taken up with driving back and forth from Houston and radiation. Tuesdays and Thursdays are full of either chemo and radiation or doctors appointments and radiation Wednesday is my main down day.

The cool thing is that my brain feels a lot more clear on this chemo regimen. Not so foggy and my body doesn’t feel so “logey/heavy”. Last Thursday was when I noticed more nausea, but I am trying to head that off.

Still waking up a little disconcerted–patting what should be Michael’s side of the bed to figure out why he’s not there. What a miracle iPhones are for staying in touch!!

So, onward Jewish soldiers!! And anyone else, who wants to march along.
M

Home Again

Reid greets family
Reid greets family

Reid in drag!
Reid in drag!
Home again, home again, jiggety-jog! Aah, it is so WONDERFUL to be home again! I am so incredibly fortunate to have such fabulous friends and family to shelter, support, comfort, and transport me, but it feeds my soul to be at home. I knew I was happy to be home yesterday, but this morning when I saw my cat and started crying, I realized the full extent of my relief. There’s no place like home, Aunty Em!

The week was a good one. I visited and had dinner with several beloved relatives, and my special envoy, Anita, was with me for every appointment except for 2 radiations, which were easy peasy. After being treated for chemo previously, I really didn’t know if I would need someone to accompany me to all appointments, but having Anita there has made my week at MD Anderson so much easier, even though she did beat me at a word game during chemo! It is emotional and physical support, at a time when I don’t always realize that I am stressed or tired.

Anyway, my really good news was that my MRI from a week ago looked great! There was no evidence of other cancer in the rest of my abdomen, which has been of great concern to me. The MRI defined the area to be irradiated more clearly, and Dr. Klopp was very pleased. It did appear that there was evidence of some more solidified tumor cells along the perimeter of the original cyst, but that was to be expected. She said that the treatment we were doing was PERFECT! The radiation and the chemo will do the job, without the placement of an additional radiation cap that we had discussed at one point. (I would not have been thrilled, but I will do what I need to do.)

I have felt a little queasy, particularly Thursday, and somewhat Friday, but that is to be expected from the chemo. I take medication as prescribed every 8 hours around the clock for the first 3 days. A lot of food does not sound appealing to me, so I am punting right now on my strict diet and eating whatever I feel like eating that’s palatable. Driving home was ok, but honestly, I am wondering how I will feel next Friday. One day at a time. I have already begun the day feeling better.

This weekend started out with a bang! My brother, Reid, came in from Vancouver, Washington to be with us for the weekend. My son, Nathaniel, graduates from University of Phoenix today in San Antonio, so my oldest son, Travis, and his wife came down from Dallas to attend, along with my daughter, Arielle, her husband Ryan, and son, Wyatt. Travis and Reid have similar weird humor, so we dressed Reid in one of my larger dresses (he is 6’3″) and gave him my former wig. Travis and wife, Dani Ray, had quite the surprise when they walked through the door. I needed a good laugh! Anyway, Becky, Nathaniel’s pregnant wife, and possibly my sister-in-law Sandy, will be there also, so I will be surrounded by lots of love and a happy occasion to celebrate.

So, one week down, 5 to go. Thanks to all of you who have supported me in this journey, one way or another. Enclosing ridiculous pictures of Miss Reid!

First Treatment

Melanie w/ IV
Melanie w/ IV

So, here I am in Houston, and treatment has begun in earnest. On the last 2 trips home to Dripping after appointments at MDA, I have been hit full force with the reality that I am not just in Houston to visit my friends Anita, David, Wheeler, Laura, and precious family members. I am being treated at MD Anderson, by G-d!! MD Anderson, the place I had refused over and over again to seek out for evaluation. This is SERIOUS stuff!!

Typically I have been somewhat of a cheerleader, particularly after coming up with a plan I like and can believe in. I act almost as if this is just a gallbladder or other minor medical problem. I feel good, with a few abdominal aches, but nothing “to write home about.” Everybody gets funky sensations at times. However, after many long days of appointments, and the little niggling thoughts at the back of my brain, the reality of how serious this situation is hits home! When I read notes about how I am fighting for my life, I have to acknowledge that this is actually true. It doesn’t seem fair or possible at times–I have always exercised, eaten extremely healthy, love what I do, and am surrounded by fabulous friends and family. I have always tried hard to be a better, happier human being–whether that means being more patient with parents, children, Michael, friends, or strangers. It also means looking at ways to decrease my stress level and be kinder to me, Melanie.

But, it is what it is. So, here I am. A great deal of stress has been relieved by my precious daughter starting a GoFundMe account. Originally, my bigger concern was not, how am I going to treat this problem, but how in the world can we survive another financial hit? So thanks to all of you who advised Arielle and spread the word!! It is weird to be on the receiving end of charity, but I am extremely grateful!

My 2 days of treatment have been truly much easier than expected. The daily radiation treatments last 20 minutes, and the technicians play whatever music I request in the background. I have felt absolutely nothing, and probably will not experience noticeable ill effects for a few weeks. The chemo yesterday was SO much easier than 3 and 1/2 years ago!! Cisplatin does not cause neuropathy nor hair loss, just more nausea, which they try to circumvent by anti-nausea meds, both IV during treatment and orally for days following chemo. I felt a little “off”, but nothing dramatic. Anita and I even managed to get in a walk around Cetennial Gardens, with its lovely waterfalls and flowers, (and then some fabulous lemonade) before going back for radiation. After resting, David (Anita’s very sweet boyfriend/husband) and Anita took me out for a fabulous dinner at True Foods. Yum, yumm! All I feel this morning is a slight headache.

So, enough for now. Keep sending those positive thoughts and prayers. I take great solace wrapping myself in them before, during, and after treatment.
M

MDA

Dear friends,
I have not started my blog yet, but I thought I would give you a quick update. Yesterday I drove into Houston and went to MD Anderson for three appointments. I met with my regular oncologist, Dr. Shafer, and his nurse practitioner. Dr. Schaeffer is brilliant, kind, and actually called my integrative physician, Dr. Lavalley, last week to discuss my protocol. I am super excited that they are conversing!

The other two appointments were for blood work and an MRI. I have to say the MRI was grueling. I was in that tube with my arms clamped to my side with a band for about an hour and a quarter. It sounded like there were jackhammers, telephone busy signals, and emergency warning clanging sounds going on the entire time, with just a few reprieves. If you haven’t ever experienced this, it is quite nerve-racking! I just had to keep breathing and telling myself I could do it, and picture myself being on my back porch with a cup of hot tea or swimming at Blue Hole. After the initial hour and a quarter, they pulled me out for a few minutes to make sure my IV was all right to inject the radioactive tracer, and they allowed me to pull my arms out and just rest them on my chest, which made things incredibly better.

I am staying with my friend Anita, and it has truly been wonderful to just be in her presence and know she is there for me. I have really been feeling pretty up beat, not depressed, and not panicked. We will attend a chemo class and tour this morning at 7:30, and then after a nap and breakfast I will go home, to return Monday morning. I’m hoping to take in some museums, and maybe do some other fun stuff while I am here in Houston, as long as I feel well on my radiation days.

Will let all of you know when I start my blog, and I so appreciate all the love and tenderness that has been sent my direction. I know Michael so appreciates it, also. I have not perfected my group messages, so if I have missed somebody, please extend my apologies and fill them in on my news.

Much love,
Melanie

Radiation

Dear Friends,
I am hoping to get a blog going, as suggested by my cousin, Eric, but for now I thought I would send this update on my treatment. I went to Houston yesterday to have an appointment with my Gynelogic Oncology Radiologist, Dr. Klopp. My dear friend, Anita C., went with me and attended all appointments, as she has for the last month. It has been fabulous to have her along as my driver and support person. Dr. Klopp went over the biopsy of my cyst, which held similar tumor cells as my original cancer, discussed the Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy I will be receiving, and also the possible side effects of both it and the weekly chemo I will be taking. I went thru a simulation, where they gave me 3 small tattoos (ooh, I’m so trendy!) to help set landmarks for the radiation, 2 CT scans, and a had a cool mold made for my legs so they don’t move.

I will begin radiation on Monday, June 19th. Radiation treatments will be 5 days a week for 6 weeks. I will have 1 chemo drug, Cysplatin, every Tuesday after the radiation. I am told that this drug will not cause me to lose my hair, but may make me more nauseated than last time. I weathered that storm fairly well previously, using homemade ginger tea (thank you Pam F.), peppermint tea, and other non-pharmaceuticals. Other possible side effects were discussed, most of which will hopefully disappear not too many weeks after treatment ends.

I have chosen MD Anderson because they are the most skilled, most experienced in treating this cancer in a way that will not destroy my immune system, but will hopefully destroy the cancer once and for all. I do not wish to repeat the stress or physical damage to my body that this diagnosis engenders. I will be living in Houston during the week, staying with friends and family. I am planning on resuming work here as soon as I am able. The drawback of being in Houston, of course, Is that I will miss Michael terribly, as well as my other friends and family. However, the pros outweigh the cons, and survival is the name of the game.

I am sending this email because it is impossible to speak personally with everyone of you that I love and adore–too much time, too depressing to go over details time and time again. If you are on Facebook, my daughter, Arielle, and son, Nathaniel, can probably keep you posted. If you want to reply to this email, I may be able to reply. Arielle has set up a care calendar, so that I am not inundated with food, and many friends have offered to drive me back and forth to Houston. For the time being, I will be driving myself on Sunday or Monday, returning on Fridays.

I do have to go back to Houston this Thursday for a few more appointments, but I am planning on working the first part of the week, as I feel absolutely normal. Please know that I love your concern and appreciate your love. However, I do not wish to have my persona be a “cancer person”. I will be honest with you. If I feel good and say so, do not treat me as a debilitated person. I am still me.

Much love,
Melanie