Tuesday, July 31, 2007

I had such a good day yesterday. Jackson and I went back to work for the first time in a few weeks. He fell right back into his routine. Helped me set up his bed and fan and napped happily for 3 hours while I worked. Yesterday was the first day of the 4th summer camp session, so there was a big ol stack of registration forms and payments from the hundred or so kids in this session. I had such a good time just sorting through the stack and taking care of it. A little data entry and filing work has never made me so happy. It was great to be back. After work I managed to cook dinner even. I don't remember the last time I did that. It was a good day and I went to bed exhausted.

Today, however, has not been so great. My body was really tired and sore last night and I started to feel my bones hurting. I got a shot of Neulasta last week that makes your bone marrow kick out as many red blood cells as it can to help fight lowered immune system from chemo. I was told that one side effect that a lot of people get is bone pain. They are working hard to keep up and that makes them sore. I am not sure how to describe it other than my bones throb and ache pretty bad. Especially my hips and thighs. I took a Darvocet and it helped a lot - let me sleep, but after only about 3 hours the pain was back. I took another Darvocet at 3 am which helped the pain, but made my empty stomach queasy. So I woke this morning sick to my stomach and really hurting in my bones.

David was able to work from home today and I have spent most of the day on Darvocet and Advil in my bed. I am disappointed that I couldn't go to work today. After such a good day yesterday, spending today in bed really stinks.

Monday, July 30, 2007

This morning I woke up feeling like I had a little energy for the first time in a few weeks. Of course, I quickly burned up that energy by not paying attention to how fast and much I was doing. I have such a hard time remembering to move slower and just be chill. I made Jackson something to eat, threw in some of his laundry and just started picking up a few things around the house. It felt good, but as I said, I quickly burned up that spark of energy. It isn't totally gone, I feel like I can go to the theatre today and be fine. I just gotta remember to move slower and stop being so ambitious.

So I switched to computer and phone work. Made an appt to get my carpets cleaned on Friday because the atrocious state of them makes me ache just sitting in my living room. The simple act of watching TV is made less relaxing because I can't stop staring at the Jackson-induced juice stains and tracks everywhere. It is bad. And I know that I will feel so much better when it is done.

Also made an appointment with my gyn doc. Usually takes a few weeks or even a month to get a yearly exam appt. but I have found that the C word changes things a lot. "We have an opening in September." "Um, I have cancer and desperately need to consult with her about birth control while on chemo." "OK, how bout next week?" So yeah. That is nice. And I really do need to deal with it fast. Chemo may or may not interrupt ovulation, and it almost certainly interferes with birth control pills, so we need to really look at it and make the best decision because getting pregnant while on chemo is not something I want to deal with. All I can ask right now is WHERE IS THE PILL FOR MEN? Can we make some breakthroughs please?

I really wish I had not had a glass of orange juice this morning. The chemo side effect(besides fatigue) that has been bothering me the most is my mouth. Seems that chemo likes to kill fast growing cells and those in your mouth and stomach are very susceptible. So my mouth has just hurt and been uncomfortable for days. Not terribly painful, just throbby and annoying all the time. I keep rinsing with a baking soda wash as they said and it does help. And I don't have huge canker sores like lots of chemo patients get, but I am pretty tired of having a bad taste and feeling in my mouth all the damned time. I am chewing gum or eating something all the time to combat it, but that just masks it for a little while. This morning it seemed much better. So like a dummy I went back to drinking my usual glass of orange juice. Bad, bad move. My mouth complains now and so does my stomach. Too much acid. What was I thinking? Sigh. It is the little things that bother the hell out of you sometimes.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

So hair. Hair, hair, hair. Hair. All this focus on my hair. I have just about run the gamut with it and can perhaps (almost) say that I can handle the loss of it. In fact, whether I lose my hair or not, I have just about made the decision to cut it. The truth right now is that I am finding it hard to care for it. After one chemo treatment, the amount of energy it takes to wash, rinse, comb, dry and care for it is too much. I have had help the last three washes and while that is nice, I don't want to need help with it. And the reading I am doing about caring for your chemo influenced hair is daunting. Baby shampoos every 3-5 days, pat dry, no dryers, caps to bed to prevent hair loss through friction, etc. Geez. I am starting to feel that cutting it is the right thing to do simply becuase I will feel worse if I can't maintain it. It will take way more physical and emotional energy to baby my hair and study every follicle to see if it is showing signs of falling out. I am tired of it already and it hasn't even started. And with this fatigue, I have to let something go. And I would rather spend the time with my son than with my hair dryer.

So the tentative plan is to go to some expensive salon after Steel Magnolias closes Aug 5th (cause I am still hanging on to the thought I may perform next weekend - let me deal with one delusion at a time please...). I am thinking of some cute low maintanance pixi cut. Layers and spiky? Natalie Portman boyish? Whatcha think? Chin length? I have never contemplated a short do for myself and I am hoping to make it an adventure. I am not promising not to mourn my hair for a bit, but I think I am already thru the worst of it. And I am tired of feeding it energy. So there.
Poor Jackson. His normal life has been so disrupted the last three weeks or so. Being away from home, having house guests and babysitters, not going to the theatre, etc. And we have let him develop some sleeping issues with all the turmoil. Like wanting to get up in the middle of the night to "sit me" on the recliner and watch late night tv. We decided after yesterday's 5:00 am yellfest that we simply have to go back to what worked for us in the first place. Stop going in when he yells. It doesn't calm him down if we go in to reasure him. He wants what he wants and he yells all the louder for thinking he might be getting it. So last night, he woke up about 1:30 and chanted, yelled and cried "Get up, get up, get uppppp mammmmaa" for an hour. Then at 2:30 he took a 10 minute break before starting back up again for another 30 minutes.

David has a hard time with it. He wants to go in and comfort him. But from experience we know that if you go in, it will only piss him off when you leave again. So we let him chant and yell about getting up and wanting the 'yellow paci'.

I have to say it is harder to do this time than when he was one. This time he has words and uses them. Hearing 'Mama, sit me" is bittersweet at 2 in the morning. But his sleeping has been disrupted for a few weeks and I can tell the difference in his behavior when he sleeps and when he doesn't.

On another note entirely, J and L visited a few nights ago and brought me a book. I glanced at the book when they gave it to me and was a bit confused as to why this book. It is called "Of Monkeys and Dragons; Freedom from the Tranny Disease."

"Tranny disease?" I thought. Is this a memoir of a transexual coming to grips with the reality of his/her life? And what of the Monkeys and Dragons? Is he/she a monkey and wants to be a dragon? I was confused, yet interested in a Maury Povich sort of way. I thought "Hey, I trust my friends to bring me something worth reading."

And then last night I took another look at the book laying on my counter and noticed one Key error. The Y. In Tyranny. As is Freedom from the Tyranny of Disease. A perfectly appropriate book to give a newly diagnosed cancer patient. Much more appropriate than the transvestite memior I imagined. Um. Yeah. Tyranny.

And yet, oddly, I wonder about the monkey/dragon he/she and how that memoir would have read...

Saturday, July 28, 2007

It is not quite 8 pm on Saturday night and I am almost too tired to blog. I could go to bed right now, but I am not ready to give in and go to bed before dark yet. I decided yesterday that I was not going to perform this weekend and that is turning out to be a very good thing. I feel ok. Just very, very tired, like I am slogging through molassas to get my legs to move. I am slow. And I can't seem to get moving any faster and for me, that is very hard to take. I am a person who moves quickly from place to place, with a focus and a purpose. I have always been impatient walking (or driving) behind the slowpokes. And now I am having to come to grips with the fact that I can't control everything. That I can't speed up and walk faster just because I really, really want to. And purpose be damned I will get there when I get there. But it sure is difficult. My mind is still going as fast as ever, it's just my body that simply won't keep up.

Luckily I am with understanding people mostly. Today David and I went to the Theatre to help a bit with Cats! auditions. Jackson came along and took his afternoon snooze in his accustomed place in the handicapped bathroom. He slept like a log all afternoon while the auditioners sang and danced. It was good to get out of the house and see friends and just be around the theatre and the normalcy it represents for me.

I was a bit afraid I would get there today and feel disappointment or pain to see the Steel Magnolias set waiting for tonight's show in which I will not be performing. But I think the fact that I could hardly climb the steps to the stage made it perfectly clear that I did not really decide not to do the show, I simply cannot currently do the show and I can't change it. If I got there and felt great and got that energy you get before a show and then had to say, "I wish I was going on..." But nope. I am ok with it. I may be up for it next weekend or I may have done the last of it I can, and I have to just accept it.

It was nice to step into the office for a minute. I found a whole stack of cards on my desk with my name on them. People have dropped off little notes to me. It is so wonderful to know that even though this really sucks and isn't what we planned for my 30th year, I am surrounded by people who care about me and don't hesitate to say so.

I actually had a minute or two yesterday when I simply felt happy. Well, content, I should say. How weird that I should feel contentment now. But there it is. We have been dealt this hand and I am proud and happy at how well we are going to be able to deal with it. We are blessed with good health insurance that is widely accepted and I don't have to work full time to keep it. We have family nearby who can and will take as much slack as they can. And tight as things may get, we aren't going to lose our home to pay our bills. If you have to be diagnosed with cancer, geez, there isn't a much better position to be in.

I do worry that this may mean David and I cannot have another child. Heh, we were well into the planning of baby #2 when I got Lasik done and put it off for a few months. Who would have known what a good thing that was. To have gotten pregnant and then be diagnosed with cancer would be...well I don't even want to think about that. It is just another bonus that it didn't happen.

Friday, July 27, 2007

I got my appetite back yesterday. Spent most of the day grazing on the homemade beef stew my dad made. I was pretty weak and shaky for much of the day, but in the afternoon Dad, Jackson and I went to the grocery store. I had been told that walking and getting even a little excercise would make me feel better. And it sure as hell did. I was weak and slow and shaky when we got there and after about and hour of walking around my legs felt better and stonger and I just felt more myself. I was tired afterwards, weary, but not as weak it seems. So yes, getting up and moving around even when I don't feel like it has to be part of my daily life after chemo.

Jackson is having a serious language explosion. He is repeating everything and even coming up with independant thoughts. "where's mama?" he'll ask and they say "Mama sleeping?" And he just talks up a storm all day now. You folks at the Palace aren't going to believe it when you see him next. He is turning into a little boy.

My hip bone is sore from the bone marrow biopsy. I have not heard any results yet and am hoping to get a phone call today. I may call and harrass them this afternoon if I don't hear anything.

And since today is Friday I have some decisions to make about the show this weekend. I just don't know yet if I want to do one, some or none of them. I have a hard time letting the show go on without me, but I also have to face the reality that I have an illness that is taking my energy and attention. Not to mention the new port on my chest that isn't quite healed and the hip bone recovering from the biopsy. I don't know why I feel the need to push myself further. The show will go on whether I am there or not. SO I need to just relax and let my body decide and go from there.

Oh, on the good news front, we read up on my health insurance benefits and they will pay up to $500 for a wig if I want one. Heh, I can get a kick ass wig if I want and Aetna will pay for it. Yay Aetna.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The last two days have been quite eventful and full of surprisingly enjoyable moments and some not so enjoyable ones. Some of which I have chronicled here. It is a long one so feel free to get bored and stop reading at any time.

9:00 yesterday morning, Mom and I arrived at the cancer center for my first round of chemotherapy. The lobby volunteers offered us juice and refreshments and made us welcome. We didn't wait long for the nurse to bring us back to the chemo infusion center. It is a big open room with a nurses station, lots and lots of windows and three separate infusion areas. Each area has about four to six vinyl recliners with a pillow in each one. They are arranged in a circle, so that patients can interact and talk with the others. Pretty good idea to prevent isolation. The nurses area is nearby and open to the room. They can easily see if someone needs something or calls for them. Infusions can take hours so it is nice that the environment is so comfortably laid out.

My nurse, Jennifer, is in her early 30's and really savvy and nice. She sat with me, mom and Andrea' for half an hour discussing the drugs I would be receiving and what to expect from each one. She was so kind and thorough and spoke with me as a peer in intelligence, if not in knowledge. She told me to pick a spot and recommended the back corner where you can see everyone coming and going and still see out the windows. So I set up residency in the back corner. Mom and Andrea were allowed to stay with me as long as the chairs weren't needed.

Heh, I was sitting in the corner facing the whole room, with my visitors and the nurses and the American Cancer volunteers spending lots of time just talking with me. I felt like I was holding court from my throne. Made me laugh. Mom said that the nurses and volunteers were so interested in me because I am a youngster, rather than their usual elderly patients. I have more conversation fodder and I tend to get chatty when drugged. They started the drugs with IV Benedryl to prevent severe allergic reactions and I was high as a kite for a while.

All in all, my first chemo session took about six hours to complete. And it was a surprisingly enjoyable experience. Having the port implant meant that there was no one digging around in my arms to get an IV started and without an IV in my hand or arm I had both hands free. I had the company of my mom and my best friend, a great nurse, and great conversation with people I will be spending lots of time with in the next several months.

I didn't start feeling queasy until about an hour after I got home. I took one of the phenergan they gave me for nausea but it didn't help much so I took a second an hour later. You are allowed two at once, but I like to start with lower doses because of my weight. I battled the nausea through the night, waking up to eat some fig newtons and take more medicine. Poor David, I woke him up at 5:30 this morning crinkling the fig newton wrapper so loud for what seemed like 5 minutes, because I couldn't get them open in the dark.

When I got up this morning I had the worst cotton mouth ever and my body felt really really heavy. Like my limbs were wrapped in cement. But after a bit of breakfast and juice and my anti-nausea big gun (Emend), I started to feel a little better. The nausea subsided, and I was just left with this odd weakness.

You know that is what is really surreal to me about this whole thing, the times when I need to use a wheelchair to get around and have someone help me get into the bed or to the bathroom. It just doesn't feel like I am me at those times. I am a strong, vital person and I am tough. I do pain and illness well. I handle it with minimal drama and understand that simply relaxing through the pain and knowing that it isn't going to last forever, makes it easier to endure. So when the tough girl can't walk from department to department in the hospital or can't manage to get into the bathroom without help, I start to feel really weird. Who is this person I have become? Personal Long-term illness simply isn't in my plans. It isn't supposed to be part of my life story and I am having a hard time assimilating it. But perhaps my inability or refusal to define myself as a sick person will help in the long run. I won't wallow in this. I won't be a victim. To do so would mean re-writing my entire internal story of who I am. And I am not willing to do that.

Of course there is one thing that I am unable to take quietly - the hair. I am going to lose my hair and there isn't anything I can do to stop it. When I was feeling the ill effects of the chemo last night, I indulged in a hair meltdown. I cried and sobbed about it. I don't want to lose my hair. And I am not interested in being positive about it. Yet. All the well-meaning "It'll grow back" responses I get do not make me feel better. Yes, I will eventually have hair again. But not for quite some time. As long as I receive chemo - 6 to 8 months, my hair will not grow back. When it does start growing again it will be fragile, possibly and probably a different color and texture. And it will grow slowly. Maybe 6 months after I stop chemo I may have something I won't be embarrassed to be seen with. My hair as I know and love it is about to be gone and I refuse to take it in stride. I am mad about it. Pissed off. Sad. And I think I deserve to be. So while I appreciate the caring motive of the 'it'll grow back' crowd, all that I truly wish is for co-misery. I'd much rather you tell me "I think it really sucks ass that you are losing your hair. That pisses me off too!"

This afternoon I had my bone marrow biopsy - the last big procedure to determine my stage of cancer. David and Mom went with me to Georgetown hospital to get it done. One perk of being a Cancer Center patient is that I don't have to go through main admissions and the waiting room gauntlet to get registered, etc. The Cancer Center registered me and took me strait to my prep room.

I had to get some lab work before the procedure so we got to test the amazing port for a blood draw. Yesterday, accessing the port was pretty painful - because it is new and still tender and also because the needle is like a push pin that they pop into your skin to the port below. Today, I went prepared. I got a prescription of Emla cream (mostly lidocaine) and put a gob on the port site and covered it with a small piece of Saran Wrap. By the time the lab was ready to access the port, I was good and numb. Didn't hurt at all. And once again I had my hands free and no stress about how many tries it would take to get an IV started. Yay ports!! If you ever have the unfortunate luck to get cancer, you simply have to indulge in this must-have accessory. It is all the rage in the Cancer Center.

The biopsy itself went well. It was done on the CT scan table. They took the biopsy from my pelvic bone, accessed through my butt. I had to lay on my stomach and using the CT scanner, the doctor located the exact trajectory for the needle. He marked the spot on my ass with an X (of course) and that told him the best path into the bone. It was a ten minute deal. Pretty painless since I got the mighty Fentanyl/Versed cocktail for the third time two weeks. Of course I needed the drugs for more than just pain. Because I had to lay there all covered up - except for one thing. My ass. I lay there on a skinny little CT table facing the wrong way to see the team in action, with my tush quite perfectly on display for any and all comers. Yes, the nice nurse pushed the drugs at about the same time as a stranger began drawing with a marker on my ass. All I could think was "Am I back in College?"

I have to say that I am having a bit of a problem with these doctors who begin performing their little procedures on me with not so much as a "Hi how are you? I am going to draw on your ass now." First Dr. Cain, who didn't say boo to me before the WD-40 attack on my nose and now the Radiologist whose face I never even saw has intimate knowledge of my ass, but didn't introduce himself to me before or after the biopsy.

I am just glad that Dr. George and the nurses at the Cancer Center are so wonderfully human. And I would like to know what the hospital plans to do with those CT scan pictures of my ass. If I were a state beauty pageant winner they would be posted to the Internet by now and Donald Trump would be defending my honor.

Oh man, I am rambling. Sorry.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Just had to post these pictures of Jackson on his second birthday on July 14th. Elaine took them and I just stole them from her blog. http://stillrunningamuck.blogspot.com/

She is really getting good with her camera. The first picture is the perfect moment when we brought out the cake and Jackson got a look at it. Cake is one of his very favorite things. The second picture is the after pic of the sated little boy. He sure loves chocolate cake.
The shows went well on Saturday and Sunday. I was feeling well enough to perform. I kinda pooped out Sunday afternoon, long about intermission though, and had to finish the last scene on sheer force of will. But I did it. We performed to very full houses, almost sold out both shows. That was really nice. My Dad got to see the show on Saturday night and though the irony of the role wasn't lost on him, he enjoyed the show.

This morning I had an eye doctor visit to check on my lasik healing. I confess that I have not been as diligent with the tear drops to combat dry eye as I should have been. Guess I just had other things to think about. So my left eye is still a bit behind my right in terms of dryness and visual acuity, but all in all the lasik was a success and I can see 20/20 without contacts or glasses.

I told Dr. Miller about my lymphoma and we talked a bit about what chemo means for my eyes. She said that chemo can exacerbate dry eye, so we need to keep using the gel drops at night and I will continue with monthly check-ups to make sure this doesn't mess with my eyes too much. She wants me to consult with her before I get any radiation, cause that can cause some damage depending on the type or placement of it. But that will be later down the road and she said that as long as we watch it, cancer should not mess up my great lasik results.

I am sure glad I got it done. With all these procedures they sometimes don't like you to wear contacts and that means glasses, which you can't wear during a procedure, just before and after it. So you end up blind and wondering where they put your glasses when you are already vulnerable from the drugs and procedures and those breezy stylish gowns they give you. It is definitely nice to not have to worry about my sight while undergoing all this shit.

This afternoon I got the Portacath placed in my chest. They were really nice and even pretty much on schedule today. I was not supposed to eat after 8:00 this morning, but after experiencing on Friday just how sick I could get going NPO all day, Mom and I decided to ignore that order. She's an RN and felt that while it is imperative to be NPO for a PET scan like Friday's, it is simply not necessary to be NPO for conscious sedation, like today. They don't want you to get sick from the drugs and puke all over them or yourself or aspirate it into your lungs. But I had these same drugs last week. We know they don't make me sick. So we decided that it was in my best interests to eat a light lunch. And when they asked me when I had last eaten, I was a bald-faced liar and told them what they wanted to hear. I wish I didn't have to do that, but after Friday, I am not going to go without eating without a really, really good reason.

The port is just under the skin above my left boob. You can't really see it under there unless you are looking for it. Right now it looks kinda scary cause I have two incisions and pen markings all over. But when the incisions heal, I think it won't be very noticeable. It is pretty tender and sore right now. I am not looking forward to the nurses touching it tomorrow when I get my first round of chemo. But in the long run this will be so much better than having to get an IV all the time. I will not miss the techs and nurses multiple attempts one bit. Today the guy got in on the second try. No I won't miss that a bit.

While I was having the port placed, Dr. George called my cell and left a message for me. He has the results of Friday's PET Scan and it is very good news. The scan did not turn up any other areas of lymphoma. So what we already knew about in my chest/lung area is all of it. The lymphatic system is all over your body and they are all connected to each other somehow, so it is possible for the cancer to travel to other parts of your body where there are lymph nodes.

But in my case, they all decided that living in my right lung was the way to go. So they are all concentrated there oblivious to the fact that we plot their death even now. I picture the bugs in those old Raid commercials. You remember, they're all sitting around the kitchen partying and having fun til one sniffs the air and yells "RAAIIDD!" And they all explode in a cloud of dust. Well that is my lung: Party central today, but the sunsabitches are gonna get it tomorrow!

Heh, I think the darvocet I took for my tender port is making me silly. I better go to bed.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Yesterday was a tough day. I was tired and short of breath from the getgo. It is amazing how little activity it takes to make me feel like I just ran around the block. I can't carry Jackson anymore.

We had a wellcheck at the pedi for Jackson in the morning. My mom came and took us to that. Jackson was having a rough time. Crying cause I wouldn't let him play in the water in the toilet, crying cause I wouldn't give him ice cream for breakfast, and refusing to eat the waffles that I did make him. My mom wrangled him into his clothes so I didn't have to. I was just hoping he wouldn't be getting shots at the visit. He didn't. Apparently he is done with shots till his 4-year-old visit. So that was good news. He is still small. Still only 21 lbs. That is less than 5%. But he is sure getting tall. He is 34 in. plus a little and that is the 50%. Which means that he is taller than half of the boys his age. So he is going to be tall and thin like his dad was. Dr. Unite was wonderful as usual. We told him about my diagnosis and we talked a bit about it.

My Dad recently suggested I find a part-time preschool for JAckson to give me more rest and flexibility with Doc appts. I thought it was a great idea, but Dr. Unite and my mother quickly put the kabosh on that idea. Chemo severly lowers your white blood count and weakens your immune system. If I send Jackson to preschool he is going to be constantly bringing home colds, viruses and other illnesses. While it would be nice to have the Jackson break, the risk to my health is too great. So Jackson stays with me. I am ok with that. I have a ton of people who would watch him if I schedule things well. Instead, we discussed a housecleaning service. I want to find someone to come in and clean several times a month, both so I don't have to do it and so the environment gets de-germed more often. I think that is a great idea and am going to look for a service right away. If anyone has a recommendation I am open to it.

In the afternoon yesterday I had my PET/CT scan done. This is what made the day so damn hard. I wasn't allowed to eat all day in preperation for it. Normally I could probably handle it, but now if I don't eat I feel terribly sick. I started feeling weak and light-headed from no food around 10:30 and it only got worse from there. We arrived at ARA at 1:15 as sceduled and waited in the lobby for over an hour. I felt myself becoming weaker and I turned to my mom and asked "So what happens if I pass out in here? Do we have to reschedule?" Mom felt my pulse, which she called 'thready' and was about to have me lay down in her lap when they called us back. Finally. I had a hard time walking unassisted so they brought out a wheelchair for me. Tells you how sucky I felt, I let them push me around in a wheelchair like an invalid.

After 2 tries with the IV start they finally got one in, but it was too small for their comfort. They watched it constantly while I got the radioactive sugar infusion. This is what makes the PET scan work, something radioactive. After they gave it to me, they made my mother wait behind an iron sheild and I'm thinking "this stuff is so bad you can't even be near me, but it is ok to shoot into my veins? Alrighty." They put me in a warming room to percolate or whatever for about 45 minutes. They were also nice enough to leave me with a cup full of barium to drink. Nice white chalky liquid lightly flavored with coconut. Yuck. But the actual scanning only took about 20 minutes and was not uncomfortable. I just had to lay there.

On the way home Mom picked up a pizza. It was 4:15 when I finally was able to eat something, and you'd think I'd pig out, but I didn't. I ate as much as I could which isn't much right now. I am having a hard time eating sometimes. It feels like the food gets stuck in this one specific spot and it hurts. Mom thinks it is an affected lymph node pressing in where it shouldn't be. It makes things uncomfortable sometimes.

I was just so wiped out yesterday that I couldn't do the show. Steel Magnolias went on without me last night. Joni says they did well. I am glad. I am disappointed that I couldn't do it, but I was pretty sick.

Today I feel great in comparison. I have eaten and not had to run all over to appointments. I am going to be able to go on tonight. My Dad has come into town unexpectedly to see me and he is going to the show if I go on. And it is 2pm and I feel good. If I can get a nap in and eat another couple of times today, I should be fine and dandy to go on. Yay!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Today I had my first appointment at the Southwest Regional Cancer Center - Georgetown branch. I met with Dr. George there along with David and my Mom. We had all my records faxed to him from Round Rock and from the Pulmonologist so he was able to read all that and take over my care. Looks like I have Large B Cell Lymphoma. But I have to have several more tests and scans to determine what stage of cancer I am in. That information will determine exactly what kind and duration of treatment I will undergo. Short course of chemo followed by radiation or long course of chemo with or without radiation. Most likely the latter - 6 to 10 courses of chemo given every three weeks. Radiation down the road if necessary. Dr. George assured me that lymphoma is not only treatable it is curable. We will talk about my specific prognosis when we have established in what stage I am.

Dr. George was great. He was informed, seemed very with it and organized. He was determined to get my tests and scans done right now, not the end of next week and he made that happen. And above all he is a human being. Warm and caring. That is such an improvement from Dr. C, the Pulmonologist.

Dr. C did my biopsy on Monday and I swear he didn't even say hello to me before he squirted the most foul concoction up my nose and down my throat. Not even a smile. "This is really gonna burn." He said as a form of greeting. And it did. This was the numbing medication prior to the bronchoscopy. It was in an aerosol can and had that long little tube on it like a can of WD 40. And it tasted like WD 40 - OK, more like paint thinner. Er, I mean it tasted and burned like I imagine paint thinner would. I haven't actually tasted paint thinner so I can't say for sure. But if it is anything like this anesthetic, I certainly would not recommend it.

Back on topic though, I really like Dr. George and he sure got everything moving very quickly. He doesn't want to delay my treatment very much at all. Says we don't have to start chemo tomorrow before we get some test results, but we are starting early next week.

I have a busy, busy week scheduled. Tomorrow I get a PET/CT scan of my whole body to pinpoint any lymph nodes that are affected - could be more than just my lungs. On Monday I am getting a port put in my upper chest, above my breastbone. A port is basically permanent IV access - or permanent til we are done with chemo and we take it out. This is something my mom recommended and the doc agreed. This way I don't have to get an IV every time I get chemo and they can also get blood draws from it. It goes into a bigger vein than what is in my skinny arms. Otherwise I would risk damaging my arm veins and enduring countless sticks and do overs from nurses missing. Pretty practical I thought, so I am getting one. Tuesday we start the first round of chemo. I am supposed to plan on being there 4 - 6 hours as they give you the first dose really, reeeaaaallly slowly to see how you react to it. Then Wednesday I am having a bone marrow biopsy taken from my hip bone. This will make sure the cancer isn't so systemic that it is in my marrow. I hope not.

So things are moving rapidly. And I feel better having something to do and plan. I just want to get started even though I know we are looking at a long road and I really, really don't want to lose my hair. Sigh. The doc pretty much destroyed my hopes that I would not have to be a baldy. But alas, the hair is doomed. That is really gonna hurt. I am sure that I will get over it pretty quickly cause I don't enjoy moping (too much). But man. Sure wish cancer didn't have that one-two punch.

I did request one perk today and got it. A handicapped sticker for my car. If I have to go through all this and do it without the comforts of my hair, I am damned well gonna have preferential parking.

I am going to try to do some if not all of the Steel Magnolias shows this weekend. I think I can do it and I would like to do it. I may find my energy is simply not enough to do all three of them and after chemo next week I may be too sick to any more of. But I am going to try. Wish me luck!

Monday, July 16, 2007


Thanks to everyone for your thoughts and wishes. Just wanted to post a quick update for everyone, since I don't really feel like answering my phone.

I had my procedure this morning where they attempted to look around and get a biopsy of the mass in my lung. We are not sure if they were successful or not. The doc said that I was bleeding from the biopsy sites too much for his comfort and he stopped before he really got a good piece. What he got may or may not be enough for a diagnosis. If not, I will need a different kind of biopsy that will require them to go into the lung from between a couple of ribs on my chest - a sugergical biopsy instead of an endoscopy. Needle biopsy would not yeild enough of a sample either.

But the long and short of it is that the two docs who treated me today agree that whatever it is appears to be malignant. Yup. I said it. The Big C.

The question now becomes what kind of big C. They are guessing and hoping for Hodgkin's Disease, Lymphoma or a Germ Cell tumor. Any of these things are very treatable and even curable and tend to show up in otherwise healthy young adults like me. If this is the case we are looking at chemo and radiation, not surgery. It's not how I would prefer to spend the next year (or however long) of my life. But nobody asked me.

If this is not some form of lymphoma, but is instead a true lung cancer, I will need surgery to remove most if not all of my right lung. The docs feel the chemo is the lesser of the two evils, so that is what our hope is right now. Hodgkin's, or similar and chemo/radiation. Funny thing to hope for, but that is the plan.

On a different note entirely, I was able to open Steel Magnolias this weekend with little difficulty. We had three good solid shows and pretty damn full houses. Opening night, in fact, we had 230 people which is the largest opening night of a non-musical at the Palace ever. And the biggest opening, musical or non, since Beauty and the Beast two seasons ago. The crowds were appreciative and seemed to really have a good time.

Nikki Z. starts rehearsals tonight to take my place as Shelby. And it looks like she will definitely be needed. I know she will do a fabulous job. And I will try not to be sad if I cannot perform in the rest of the run. I got bigger fishies to fry right now.

Friday, July 13, 2007

It's Friday the 13th. Tonight we open Steel Magnolias to a full house at the Palace. On Friday the 13th. Some people call that unlucky, but I was born on Friday, August 13th and David proposed to me on Friday, December 13th. I happen to like the date.

But it is interesting cosmically that I should be opening this particular show on Friday the 13th. In this show I am playing Shelby, a woman dying of disease and determined to live anyway. This at the same moment in time that my health is in such a questionable state.

This week all the signs and symptoms of illness I have been experiencing converged and made themselves known. My mom took me to the ER on Tuesday because I was short of breath for no reason. She is an RN and knew that was not normal and shouldn't be ignored. Turns out my chronic cough is not allergies as I and my doctor kept assuming, and all the allergy meds in the world can't fix it. Instead, the x-ray and CT scan show that I have pneumonia and some kind of mass or growth in my right lung. Monday morning I go in for a bronchoscopy - where they go in with a camera to look around and get a biopsy. The hope is they will be able to figure out what it is before I have surgery to remove it. Things are pretty obstructed, though and they may not be able to get a biopsy. In that case, I will simply have to have surgery without knowing what it is.

So here is to hoping that they can get a successful biopsy and it turns out to be something cool, like my twin sister, and not something less cool like the big C.

But tonight we open Steel Magnolias. We already have an amazing actor learning my part so they will be covered if I have to have surgery right away, or if I simply become too out of breath to go on. As it is, I feel like an invalid. I feel as if I ran around the block after wrestling my son through a diaper change. Be nice if they can fix this and give me full breath again.

Heh, I just have to laugh now at all the shit I got during Robin Hood about projecting and being heard over the kids. I would just like it to be known that I did the best I could given that half of my right lung is obstructed! So there. And I am grateful to be mic'd in Steel Magnolias so I don't have to waste energy on being heard.

The cast is wonderful. They have cough drops placed all over the set for me. Last night, I was about to have a coughing fit and Jan handed me a cough drop. I didn't even try to hide it, simply made it common place. And it sure helped me get through. Just eased the terrible tickle in my chest and I was easily able to talk without sounding like I had something in my mouth. Hopefully tonight will go as well. I am getting that opening night excitement now and am pleased that nothing can dim the performer in me. Yeah, I am possibly very ill and unsure of what the next few weeks will bring, but goddammit, I am an actor. And tonight the show goes on.