Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Chemo Round 4

Hair status: Gone. I’m not big about having a bald photo of me floating around. But, maybe it’s the journalist in me, I feel like I should put it up to tell the story better.

Nails: I’m going with Halloween couture as their new color name. There are now close to three pinky-purple stripes stretching across some of them. Naomi, the other day, asked me why I painted them white. For style, sweet little girl, I said. Actually that’s not what I said. But my original answer was so much more boring.

Friday Feb. 11, 2011: It’s been 3 weeks since my last chemo treatment. Normally I would have gone in for another dose on Friday. I’m so glad for the break until the baby is born. Instead of a pre-chemo date night with the kids at the grandparents, we’re all sleeping in one bed. Or I should say everyone else sleeps. I feel like nights are my personal torture time. I keep staying up late, thinking that will help me sleep (and old habits die hard). It doesn’t. I wake at 1am, 2am, 3am, 4am, 5am, 6am, 7am. I wake at 8:30am, finally getting more than 45 minutes of sleep at a time. Every morning Steve tries to let me sleep till the last possible moment before he has to go to work. Thank goodness he can do some of that work from home.

Normally, I get to skip this part of pregnancy till the last month – the part where I wake every hour because my hips and leg joints hurt so bad that it wakes me until I struggle to turn my huge belly to my other side. The chemo made it start early this time. It’s been going on for weeks already but I’m so tired I can’t really remember how long.

I stagger downstairs as Naomi is getting ready to go to preschool. Her grandpa is taking her. Then he’ll come back and get Henry until Naomi comes home.

After they leave, I sit with Henry on the couch and tears just start dripping down my cheeks. I’m so frustrated. I thought I would be feeling better from that last dose by now. I’m so tired. I feel like I’m missing Naomi’s last year with me before school. I wanted to have more one-on-one time with Henry before the baby came. When is this going to end? I shout in my head. There have been some beautiful things I’ve seen and received during this illness that make me so grateful. But today, right now, I hate cancer.

Henry looks at me and says, “Mama, you sad?”


“Why?” he asks.

“I’m tired of being tired.”

“You do stamps with me. That make you happy,” Henry says with his uncanny ability to speak at two-and-a-half. We go to pull out his dinosaur stamp set. I can’t believe he remembers. That is what we did last time I had one of these melt-downs. I kept telling him then how happy it made me to play with him. It makes me smile.

Henry leaves soon afterward with Pops, and I take a short nap. Later on, Michele comes to help me clean. I get up to help put things away. Someone recently told me cleaning with young kids is like shoveling snow during a snowstorm. So true. But it’s nice to see things somewhat back in their place, at least for a few minutes. In an hour, the house is looking much better. Wow, I’m thinking, I am feeling better. Then about another hour later I realize I’m wiped out again.

That night it’s the same waking routine. I get up around 9 am Saturday morning. Tiffany and Wendy are coming to help me paint Henry’s new big boy room. Actually, they paint the entire thing while I scoot a step-stool around to sit on and help paint some green stripes. I thought I’d be able to help more. But my breathing issues kicked in that morning. I can only stand for a couple minutes before I get out of breath and start to feel light-headed, though I do a little better in the afternoon.

On Sunday, by some miracle, I sleep for a couple hours in the morning. We miss church. But it helps so much. The kids help us pull down the tape in Henry’s room. They hit the baseboard tape. I push the step-stool around again and pull off the stripes. Steve hits the ceiling tape. The room looks beautiful.

On Monday, I see the OB-Gyn. I see her write in her notes that the patient feels fine except for fatigue. Fine is a little bit of an overstatement, I think. But I don’t bother to correct her. Maybe I shouldn’t have smiled so much while talking to her. Whatever, I don’t care. She’s not going to tell me anything different if I had said something, I figure. As long as my lips and nails aren’t turning blue from my shortness of breath, I’m considered to be tolerating the chemo well. Go me.

I think about the people that don’t “tolerate” it well and wonder what that must mean. I feel grateful.

More importantly, this conversation helps me see the light at the end of the tunnel. I’ll get some steroid shots next week to help Kilean’s/Kilian’s (haven’t decided on a spelling yet) lungs develop faster. Then I’ll meet with her on Feb. 28, to pick a date to be induced. Right now, if it’s up to me, that date will be the next day, March 1, about 5 weeks early. Sorry Kilean. I’m holding out as long as I can. I’m hoping this treatment will be easier on me when I’m not pregnant any more.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Random Updates #2

Hair remaining: About 3 pct. Those patches in the back of my head are pretty small to non-existent now.

Number of Doctor Appointments to Date: At least 67, including many all-day appointments. This number would be compared to my normal doctor visit rate of about 1 time per year.

Treatment Remaining: 3 more months of chemo, 4-6 weeks of radiation. Then, most likely, 5 years of a hormone therapy drug, which is supposed to have a lot less side effects than all the other treatments and is supposed to be the most effective weapon against my particular cancer type.

General blabbing:
I think I'm finally starting to feel better and get some energy back after that last round of chemo. Happy face. (Although don't quote me on this statement when 5:00 pm gets closer). During the last couple weeks, we finally got a good mug shot of Flicker. The ultrasound technician had to get a weird angle because his feet were in his face. To make the feat more difficult, his feet had locked the umbilical cord in front of his face too. But the technician finally got a good one of what appears to be a winking baby.

During the ultrasound on Jan. 24, the technician estimated him to weigh 3.3 pounds, which put him at the 46 percentile for growth even with the chemo. Hopefully the Jarboe trend of bigger size babies will help him out with what is shaping up to be an early exit. I like to say that if Henry was 8 lbs 12 oz at 40 weeks, maybe Bobblehead #3 will be just a little lighter than some people's full-term babies.

Due dates?? We're looking at having the baby anywhere from 4 to 6 weeks early so I can get back on my chemo program sooner. Without the baby, chemo would have resumed last Friday. The longer you wait, the more you risk that the chemo won't be as effective. Then again, we know from a genetic study of my cancer that chemo is not the most effective tool at fighting my brand of cancer. But it is THE tool available at this stage of my treatment. This next round of chemo will introduce a drug we were somewhat hesitant to take while pregnant since there was so little data on how it impacted the human babies, and the animal studies didn't look promising. The good news is that I just found this study that said pregnant women, when treated early, didn't seem to fare any worse when it came to cancer recurrence rates 5-years later than non-pregnant women.

So, to the baby likely to be named Kilean, which can mean brave little warrior in Irish, get ready for your early exit sometime during the last week of February or first week of March. You'll soon have a chance to earn your name some more.

PS1 - The lovely new family photo was taken by my friend Jeri the day before my surgery.
PS2 - Here are the lyrics to a song that my brother Eric wrote me for Christmas. I really liked it. My favorite part are the first two lines.


Flicker on a screen,
you saved me.
A mother and her child
Caught candidly.
With that belly full of love
God intervened.
So call it fate,
But i say I'm free.

If they say that it's different for everyone
Then I claim this one as mine.
Dare try cancer to take my bobblehead from me.
Dare you to give me all the fines you would please.

Flicker on a screen,
You saved me.