Final Chemo today

After 3 sticks, I have finally begun the last of my 6 Chemo treatments!! Wahoo!! My veins have become more and more difficult to find, but this is expected after 6 rounds of chemo from my treatment 3&1/2 years ago plus the Cisplatin I’m currently receiving. Ironically, I almost feel better during chemo than on the following days–but they load me up with all kinds of drugs and fluids to make me tolerate the chemo better.

I now have 10 radiation treatments left. 2 extra “Boost” radiations were added last week. I think I have 9 Boosts total. My understanding is that they are not more intense radiation, but they are slightly more specific. The area that the IMRT has been targeting is at the Vaginal Cuff, where the vagina was sewn shut after removing the uterus. It was a more general area, including surrounding lymph nodes. This will specifically target the cyst in the cul-de-sac. I still need to ask a few more questions, and will do that this Thursday when we have my appointment with Dr. Klopp.

I think the chemo, plus the radiation, the E Coli, and just being away from home leave me emotionally fragile. When the radiation techs told me last Friday that my treatment had been extended by 2 days, I started crying. But then, I cried when my friend, Angie McDowell brought food over that night. As it turns out, they can schedule me for 2 treatments a day, separated by 6 hours. So, I will still be done on the afternoon of the 2nd. Yay!! I want to go home and not have to repack to return.
I do think about all the people that are here from other countries, or other cities, that live too far to go back-and-forth. I’m lucky in that I have such a great support group of family and friends in Houston!

This past weekend in Dripping Springs was so crazy that it is almost laughable. I had started on the Cipro, giving up on the thought that I would be able to get over the E. coli by myself. However the side effects of the Cipro are the same as the symptoms from the E. coli-diarrhea and nausea. Our toilets were having a problem flUshing, so was spending quite a bit of time working on that. Then on Sunday, we had a big thunderstorm that knocked out our electricity, which also meant we had no water. After four hours of waiting for the electricity come back on, we finally went to my daughter Arielle’s, to take a shower for the first time for the weekend and to do some laundry. About the time we arrived, one of my neighbors texted to say her electricity had come back on. We drove home, only to find that everyone’s electricity UP to our house and across the street, had come back on. Ours was not on! So, I had another major meltdown! My poor husband! He has been very sweet, but I know it’s been difficult for him to see me crying all the time. PEC, The electric company, did send someone out shortly there after, so we did regain electricity within the next 20 minutes.

The good news is that I have improved Michael’s cooking skills. Sunday evening, cheese tortellini sounded good to me, so Michael bought some of that, and because I was such a basket case, he was forced into making pesto sauce himself. He did a fabulous job!
So, enough for now. I haven’t written for several days on this blog, because I just was feeling so yucky. I think the E.Coli is gone, and I am in the homestretch. Thanks to all who have tried to keep up with me and have sent prayers and thoughts my way. It all helps, just to know I am surrounded by so much love! Promise to write again soon.

End of 4th week

Melanie @ treatment
Melanie’s little helper
So, my fourth week has come to a close. 4 Chemos down, 2 to go. 13 Radiation treatments left, ending Aug. 2. The good and the bad news is that my digestive problems were partially caused by a food borne bug found mainly among children in developing countries, Enterogenic E. Coli. I have no earthly idea how I contracted this. No one that I have stayed with or have been exposed to, (including Anita, who attends the majority of my chemos, meetings, and radiation treatments) has shown any of the same symptoms.

I found this out after taking my 3rd specimen in. I showed up for radiation Friday morning, and they immediately put me in an isolation room, so that I wouldn’t mix with the other women, who also had lowered immune function. My Oncology Radiation nurse came to give me the news that there was indeed a reason for such severe diarrhea. This is somewhat comforting, as I wasn’t really sure how I might endure the next 2 and 1/2 weeks, if it was simply a problem caused by radiation and chemo. The bad news is that MDA is not sure how they want to treat it, as antibiotics might cause more problems. As it is right now, they are hoping it will just run its course. Infectious Disease Control was contacted for discussion.

I do think yesterday was a better day. Less meds, less trips to the bathroom. Some of the post-chemo nausea and malaise gets mixed into the pot. I asked for this particular treatment, which means chemo weekly. Unfortunately, about the time I’m feeling a little better, I have 1 day before chemo starts again. However, I still believe 6 and 1/2 intensive weeks is a heck of a lot better than MAJOR surgery–with a 6 week recovery time–followed by 4 and 1/2 months of chemo that also kills brain cells.

The medication that seems to really help is Tincture of Opium. There was a big snafu with People’s Pharmacy last weekend, so I wasn’t able to pick it up until I got to MDA on Monday afternoon. I was hesitant to take it, but Anita convinced me that there was no better time to try it then while I was in the hospital getting chemo, where they could oversee any problems. Actually I did not notice much at all, except that I might’ve been a little bit more relaxed, and it definitely calmed my digestive tract.

Enough about that subject!! I stayed with my “Aunt Alice”. She and my Uncle Jerry transported me to appointments, babied me, and provided emotional support. Wednesday is my light day, with just one radiation appointment, so Jerry and I took the opportunity to go visit two Jewish cemeteries. My father, paternal grandmother and grandfather, as well as some uncles, were at Temple Emanuel Cemetery, which is a gorgeous, soothing place. We placed stones on their graves and said Kaddish, a prayer for the dead. Then we went to a separate Jewish cemetery, where my beloved grandmother, Sophie Robins, and my cousin, Leslie is buried. We did the same there. Also, Jerry is a Emotional Freedom Technique Practitioner, also called tapping,so I had a long session with him. The idea is to stimulate certain acupuncture points while bringing up strong emotional issues, to release/downgrade/change those feelings that get stored in your cells’ memory. I think it was very helpful. I also got to spend an evening with my special Aunt Jeanne, the sharpest 93 year old, incredible co-publisher of the Jewish Herald Voice.

Through the course of this disease over the last almost 4 years, I have tried to examine all stressors, negative thoughts, any self “unlove”, as I think that causes “dis-ease”. There are many subtle and not so subtle ways in which we don’t exhibit enough self love. I am a caregiver. That’s what I do. I love making people feel better. However, talking with Jerry, I realized the great extent of the stress I have been under for probably 10 years or more. First, going back and forth to help my father, who lived in Abilene, had dementia, and allowed multiple women to take advantage of him until he was deeply in debt. (I always said I needed to write a book, “Life with Jack”, because every week there was a new trauma!) At the same time, Michael and I were trying to help his 85 year old parents in Bryan, cleaning out their house, writing bills, and helping his Mom, who also had dementia. Throw in feeling responsible for my fabulous, but intense Mom moving to Dripping, and Michael’s youngest brother in Blanco, who has considerable mental problems, and was sheltering several people running from the law. We were always the “go to” couple, although my siblings and Michael’s tried to help when possible. When one is going through hard times,the only thing you can do is put 1 foot in front of the other. Who knows how much we internalize?

I do have more love and support coming my way than is imaginable at times. My friend, Lynda Burger, drove me to Houston on Monday, and stayed with her daughter all week in order to pick me up on Friday. Anita hung out with me all Tuesday, once again beating me at Canasta. I am taking the Vonlane Bus back to Houston (VERY LUXURIOUS!) courtesy of Judy Carter. It’s like a First-Class airline seat. And, I will be staying with my kind friends, Laura Pang and Bill Wheeler, this week. Way too many people to mention contributed to my mind-boggling Go Fund Me, so that I don’t have to worry about how to afford this time off or past medical bills. Todah Rabah, Muchos gracias, Thank you!!

Until next week, signing off.

Rough week#3

The 3rd week is over, which means I am ALMOST 1/2 way through treatment,  as the last radiation treatment is actually on August 2. It has been a rough week, as I have had great difficulty having food just sail through my colon, unimpeded. I don’t think anyone anticipated the radiation affecting my gut so severely so soon.

After a bad day Monday, Tuesday was a really decent day, just relaxing poolside at my cousin, Elisa’s home, beating everyone at Gin Rummy, napping, and generally being  coddled. Michael left to go home Tuesday afternoon, leaving me in excellent hands.  However, Wednesday morning, the diarrhea began in earnest again. Anita and I had made appointments for Reflexology appointments before radiation, which I thought would help everything. During my previous chemo 3&1/2 years ago, I had acupuncture the day before and massage the day after. The “Reflexology” here was actually more of a Chinese or ThAi style massage, with a little Reflexology, but it felt divine!  Afterwards, I thought Egg Drop soup might help my stomach, so we had Chinese food; but honestly, I thought the Hot and Sour sounded better. It’s hard to limit all spice after living in Texas most of my life!

Anyway, by the time I finished radiation, I was really in trouble again. The radiation nurse sent me to the Radiology Resident, who sent us to MD Anderson ER. What a zoo!!  I don’t think I would ever go back there again!   All of our care at M.D. Anderson has been so fabulous, that we expected that care to be the same. Not so! We were there from six in the evening to three in the morning, finally being released and going home to Anita’s. My labs surprised everyone with how good they were, and I was not dehydrated, as I had been taking in fluids like a maniac. I was given a prescription for Lomotil, which typically acts like a cork to stop everything up, and told to take it AND the Imodium.

When I saw Dr Klopp, my radiation Oncologist,on Thursday,  she was a little alarmed, but felt like the radiation was truly affecting me. She said that if things didn’t improve, the next step was Tincture of Opium and discussed diet. I did take in a stool sample to rule out any serious infections. So, yesterday started out a little better, but deteriorated by evening. (My personal nurse and beloved friend, Molly Hinds drove me home, so that was reassuring!) My philosophy had been to “limit” spicy, fried, or rich foods, and to eat whatever sounded appetizing, which had been a challenge. My new philosophy is to strictly stick to the BRAT diet for a few days–bananas, rice, apples, and toast–to see if things improve. So far, nice improvement today.

I know I’ve lost weight, but if I can just get this gut under control, I think I’ll feel ok.  I’m not in pain, I don’t have a lot of nausea, and people have been coming out of the woodwork to be kind to me! I’m going to try to work on my daughters baby quilt this weekend and just take it easy. My friend, Lynda Burger, will pick me up on Monday and take me back to Houston. I have a book of Jewish prayers for healing that are a source to uplift my soul, a book my sister gave me to daily remind me of my many blessings-and to remain open to the great, DIVINE good, and I always wrap myself in all the prayers and good thoughts that are coming my way–especially during chemo and radiation. I will make it through the next 3 1/2 weeks, and never have to treat this problem again.

so, to all who read this and have been my great support, thank you!

Rough Day

Yestwrday was a little rough. The morning started fine, with sweet Michael accompanying me to Houston for treatment. I drove and felt pretty decent! We arrived early, had labwork done (all good), radiation, and then went to lunch at Salata. We both needed soup, me for my slightly queasy gut.  Michael had dental work done the week before, and he needed soft food. I had a soup and a lovely salad. Boy, could we use a place like that in Dripping–huge salad smorgasbord that they fix for you.  Kind of like an upscale Subway, where you tell them what you want added. All kinds of salad mixes, veggies, cheese, condiments-heavenly.

Anyway, immediately after eating, my intestines rebelled. I spent much of the day in the bathroom, worried I might not make it on time and dreadfully embarrass myself!  I tried taking the anti-nausea medication, Zofran, knowing it had some constipating qualities, but that wasn’t enough. Took Imodium, took  more Imodium, consulted my chemo nurse about how much I could take safely, and we finally called the doctor on call. Of course, just as it seemed I might not have to jump out of bed, disconnect the power plug for IV, race around the corner, and pray no one else was in the bathroom, things slowed down. Thank G-d!!

The Dr was very concerned, came up with a plan to try simple first-Pepto Bismol-and or more Imodium if that didn’t do it. Worst case scenario, if problem continued, I was to contact him and meet him at ER. As it turned out, after taking 1 round of Pepto, I was able to eat rice, some stewed chicken, and green beans at my cousins home. I had no more problems and slept great

I am staying at my cousins home, Elisa and Yaron Pacht. They live in Meyerland, which is a very familiar, comfortable area, with lots of family. It was part of my bus route, when I lived in Houston as a teenager and worked as a counselor at the Jewish Community Center. I will just take it easy and hang out for the day, maybe swimming, reading  and working on Wyatt’s baby quilt. Michael will drive my car home later today. The Pachts are incredibly sweet and accommodating. Elisa’s Dad is my Moms brother, and she and I share a lot of similar traits.

My dear friend, Molly,  will come up to drive me home on Friday. My beloved friend, Lynda Burger, will drive me back on Friday. A lovely client and friend, Judy Carter, gave me gift certificates for Vonlanes, which is a luxury bus line. I will take it back and forth another time.

So, as you can see, I am well taken care of, as I have been through this journey.