I was diagnosed August 6, 2012 with Stage 3COvarian Cancer and now almost 4 years later (3.789 years but who’s counting?)…I am watching my son graduate. Two surgeries, countless chemotherapy infusions (Carboplatin, taxol, Gemcitabine, and Avastin), and 25 radiation treatments, but our family finally made it. There are no words that can completely describe our joy…so I’ll do it with pictures.
Friday, May 27, 2016-Baccalaureate Service Central Union Church
May 28, 2016, the Big Day arrives-“light” showers and then sun on campus
In the words of AJR….”I’m Ready”
The stage is set….to hear “Benjamin Robert Roley”
Finally, the fun!
and more friends…
And sister Rachel
Mom and dad…
Traditional Lei giving Post Graduation….Grandparents…
Warning: Not for the squeamish. Step away if you have a weak constitution. Migraine sufferers will agree that migraines are no ordinary headaches. Unlike a broken arm, there is no visible indication that your pain level is through the roof. Taking regular pain relief for migraines (for me) is like putting a dropper full of gas in the car and thinking it will take you somewhere . Migraine relief is a much more complicated dance than that. A careful combination of prevention and treatment is my only solution. I should have known the stress of this week was going to trigger a headache, but I always naively believe that this time it will be different. (Remember the movie 50 First Dates? I am like the Drew Barrymore short term memory loss character.) I shouldn’t be surprised when they happen and the route they will take, but it always catches me off guard. I choose to not think that it is stupidity, but rather optimism. Every migraine trail I take leads to the porcelain dumping ground. (I was going to add a vomit image, but that would just be cruel to all of us, so instead, I’ll add the movie poster) When the headache ends, it is like a long journey completed.
I should be happy that I’ve only thrown up three times in January. One of the side effects I appear to be having from the Avastin treatment is sporadic migraine headaches. The first sign of the headache is a piercing high pitched frequency pain in the back of my head. (It feels like the frequency only dogs can hear that drives them crazy) Then the pain shuffles from back to front and back again. I sit with an ice pack on my head and I speculate how long it will take till the vomit train begins. Today, I made it 45 minutes. Something about vomiting is cathartic (haha! Really! At least I made myself laugh) It’s like my body realigns and resets itself after that. The trick of getting the pain to go away lies in a careful distribution of Migraine meds, anti-nausea meds, and vomit.
Last time, it was after a fantastic meal of Baked Ziti (which I used to love…I’ve attached a recipe in case you still love it.) That time was the first time that I threw up through my nose. I had a noodle come out my nose. I guess there is a first for everything.
My sister was visiting us that time, and the next morning she asked if I had been coughing during the night. Yes, I “coughed” a lot that night. It really was good ziti, more so going in than going out. Sadly, I don’t see myself eating anymore Baked Ziti in my near future.
I have recently swapped out Imitrex for Maxalt in the quest to find more effective pain relief. I think the Imitrex works for me, but when it gets thrown up so soon, not as much. Maxalt can dissolve under your tongue and sneak up on the migraine before the vomiting begins (but dissolving pills under my tongue is slightly nausea inducing too). I always wonder at what point does the pain medication count. In other words…If you take a pill and throw it up 15 minutes later, has that pill been ingested into your system enough to work? Or, do you assume it hasn’t and does again.
Today’s headache infused my dreams and woke me with a jolt this morning.
Won’t you take me back to school…I need to learn the Golden Rule. This song was rolling through my head this morning as I drove to school. Remember the Moody Blues? It feels good to be back to work and teaching once again. Students rolled in on Tuesday, and their energy motivated me as it always does.
Fall Summer is in the air at Mid-Pacific! After a week of preparation, the real work began on Tuesday. In addition to making sure students are ready for college, I have the added challenge of Friday chemos.
The students are like a shot of adrenaline to the system! One of the things that I love about students is that you always know exactly how they feel about things. There is no holding back!
After a week of school, I am exhausted but happy. I went to bed before 9 o’clock every night and up by 515 each morning. Add the 45 minute commute both ways, and it is a challenge, even for a healthy person. I know that next Friday will be the real test of my mettle. Mega chemo (Carboplatin, Gemzar, and Avastin) followed by a all-too-short weekend and then back to school on Monday.
Today after reviewing Scientific Notation with my students, one of the boys said, “I finally get this.” That is enough to keep bringing me back every Monday-chemo or not!
Remember that song from the Gin Blossoms called Hey Jealousy? That was rolling through my head when I failed my blood test today-low white count and low neutrophils. My body is forcing me to take a break. It’s bad when you’re jealous of the person sitting next to you getting chemo when you can’t. Pretty pathetic actually. My neutrophil count was too low to even think of getting chemo. Normal neutrophil numbers are 1.5-7.5. Last Friday I was at .4 and Monday .7. Today, I was sure the numbers would reach that magic 1.5, but no. The neutrophils are just barely .8. White Blood Count was 1.5 and normal range is 3.5-11.0. The white blood cells and neutrophils fight against infection. Simply put, I don’t have the defenses to fight against bacteria and infection. I’m a hugger, and there will be no hugs! You’ll have to get your hugs elsewhere this week. So what now? I wait until next Thursday and we try again. This is messing with the whole schedule in my brain and will most likely extend chemotherapy into October. But, as I was reminded, it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon. My husband observed last week that I am completely up to speed with the positive thoughts aspect of fighting cancer, but my body needs to get with the program and catch up to the mind. Time to listen and do what needs to be done. Rest and allow time for recovery. We will try again next Thursday. I wish it was like school and I could just study hard! I’m such a “head down and power through” type of person, so you can imagine my frustration with all of this. I need a zen moment.
I was just listening the 80’s song…Here I Go Againby Whitesnake (nice rockin hair)…It starts out, “I don’t know where I’m going, but I sure know where I’ve been.” This chemo ground is not new in some ways and in other ways will be completely different. Does knowing about childbirth make it easier the second time, or do you just dread it more because you really know what it is? The song diverges from my path when it gets to the lyrics “here I go again on my own, going down the only path I’ve ever known.” I am not alone, so it should be “here we go again together,” but clearly that doesn’t rhyme as well. It’s a lonely trail going by yourself, but I have family, friends, and faith traveling along with me. Today when I walked into the chemo room, all my favorite nurses were there and a few old-timers too. My friend Izzie has been getting chemo there since 2012. One friend called, another brought me flowers, and another sent pictures of a bunch of my teacher friends waving “hi.” I never felt alone. I told someone that I feel like I have 10,000 hands holding me up and carrying me as I start back in chemotherapy. I couldn’t do it without YOU! (yes YOU!)
2. If I tunnel through the earth, where would I be?
3. Side effects from 13 radiation treatments?
4. Time to travel to UH from Aloha stadium in traffic?
5. Who said, “Every great mistake has a halfway moment, a split second when it can be recalled and perhaps remedied”?
6. Who sings the lyrics, “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end”?
Today marks crossing the halfway point of radiation! Side effects are mostly mild nausea and fatigue. When radiation ends, chemo begins. This patient is less than patient. Still have side effects from the surgical incision that keep cropping up. My fascia is not cooperating the healing process. Evidently, it has never had me as a teacher before. “Fasten your seat belts, it’s going to be a bumpy night.”
I am contemplating things that I would want to do for 25 days straight (minus weekends) and radiation was not one of them. Things I would definitely want to do for 25 days: walk, teach, read, play Scrabble, watch Scandal, eat Twizzlers, and drink Diet Coke. Instead, I will begin my journey with radiation treatments on April 8. The nurse warned me that even if I was sick, or had a flat tire (is this a common problem in Hawaii, because it’s happened to me recently?), or fill-in-any-other-excuse, I am to come every day. I wanted to ask her if she was willing to help me get the flat tire changed, but she didn’t seem like that type.
Right now, it’s the calm before the storm. I am feeling better post surgery, tooling around my block without gasping for breath, and I made it through three seasons of HBO’s Girls. I have one more week before the 25 days start. I finished my last Arixtra shot, but I still have more painkillers left. So, for now, it’s one day at a time….
The Urban Dictionary defines “Loaded for Bear” as to be prepared mentally and physically for extreme opposition; typically used in reference to an aggressive or potentially violent situation. Yesterday, as I prepared for my blistering .71 mile walk, my mother-in-law used this phrase-Loaded for Bear- to describe me (…except she said “ready for bear”). This devolved into a family discussion about whether this phrase actually exists. It does, and I am. (I also spent most of the evening using the phrase in various sentences until I’m pretty sure everyone was tired of hearing it.) Which leads to the activities of this morning. Today, I bent the needle taking the cap off my daily Arixtra shot and just went ahead and gave it to myself anyway-Loaded for Bear.