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Done not done

Do the words “on the edge” connote something good or bad? I am hopeful as I take my first steps into unknown territory that is the start of something amazing.  Today will mark (assuming all my blood work is in order) the last of the frontline chemo. If anyone was counting (me), there have been 28 treatments in total (16 in 2012 and 12 in 2014). Twenty eight infusions of chemicals into my bloodstream and 28 mini-battles to get myself back together again. But now… NO MORE Carboplatin and Gemzar….only Avastin.  As Ross says, “I’m no mathematician,” (he is) but that is a 66.7% reduction in drugs. That is definitely worth a celebration!

Stepping out over the void
Stepping out over the void

 

The good news is that the weekly grind of treatments will disappear, but in its stead, is an extended regimen (while not as physically debilitating) which will extend for a full year. Done, but not done. The last time I did this, done was done, until it came back. This time, we are hoping that the Avastin will keep any new tumors from developing and growing.  This monthly every three week therapy is one of the hot new cancer treatments that they are using on me. The word on the street  The nurses are telling me that it will be much easier to bounce back from these infusions.

Celebrating the New Year!
Celebrating the New Year!

Even though 2015 is around the corner, this is my own personal New Year’s Celebration! The “journey” isn’t over by any means, but hopefully, it won’t be as rigorous. I am excited to begin exercising without catching my breath, drinking a glass of wine without getting a headache or vomitting, and spending more time with friends/family instead of crashed on the couch.

The next hold-your-breath moment will be at the end of this month. Doctor has ordered a PET scan to make sure that done means done.

 

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Get out of the Car

Wet, muddy, and humid. Not-so-perfect conditions for the weekly cross country meet, and yet the parking lot was packed and the runners were enthusiastically warming up. I spent a good 10 minutes motivating myself to leave the climate controlled car to find the Mid-Pacific tent of runners and fans. One of my students, after asking why I was wearing white shorts, thanked me for coming out to see the meet. (I have no excuse for white shorts in rain and mud-none.)

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Kaiser High School Cross Country Meet

Before 8 am, most of the runners were soaked and muddy and the races hadn’t even started yet. I was surprised how cheerful and full of laughter they were. I told my son afterwards that I always love talking to Student X because she laughs at all my jokes. His response: “Yeah, she laughs at a lot of things that aren’t funny.”

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Runners from Hawaii Mud Run

The meet today comes on the muddy heels of a really junk week.  I realized that I have thrown up more in the last 4 months than I have in my entire life. On Tuesday, I spent most of the day in the hospital getting IV fluids, Potassium, and Phenergen, trying to get my system back in balance from the previous chemo. I rallied for Wednesday and was back in the classroom again. I wasn’t actively vomiting, so I figured I should be at work. It is not just a duty concept that brings me back to school every day.  Today’s events really captured it for me. Despite their  own “Struggle Bus” of conditions, kids just get out of the car and get going. No one complained, they just did. That is what energizes me!

Even though I see them in the classroom every day, it was fun to see them overcoming the elements and enjoying each other’s company.

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Physics Test Bank

 Monday, it’s back to Physics!

No Evidence of Disease (#NED)

The words that every cancer patient wants to hear-No Evidence of Disease! I was sitting on the exam room table when the nurse came in with the report and flopped it open for me to see. At first, I had no idea what I was seeing, but then, the words jumped off the page-NED!

Radiologist's Report
Radiologist’s Report

A special girl, Morgan, brightened my day with a bouquet of Star Lillies. And yes, I want to keep “filing batter” for a long time.

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“Congrats on your filing batter”-Love Morgan

What’s next for me? Three more chemos to knock out any remaining or developing cancer cells. Then, monthly (and by “monthly” they actually mean every three weeks) chemo for a year. I still have a long haul ahead of me. Blood pressure is too high (from chemo, of course) and platelets keep dipping (from chemo, of course), WBC (White Blood Count) is all over the place, and RBC (Red Blood Count) is dipping into transfusion land.

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Tripler’s Chemo Room

BUT, I am blessed! I feel lucky every day I get into work and am able to do my job and see those students. I’ve been through the ringer-surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, but because of friends like you, my battery is recharged. I can officially say I am a two time cancer survivor!

NED-No Evidence of Disease Movie poster
NED-No Evidence of Disease Movie poster

Endurance

I always go back to distance running when I think about my cancer journey.  A long, long time ago, I ran track, and then for a time in my 20’s I tried/and successfully completed a triathlon.  The route ahead of me is arduous and somewhat reminiscent of my younger training days.  I have a total of 25 radiation treatments that will launch immediately into 4 months of chemotherapy (with a few weeks off for good behavior in July).  So, what does it take to do an endurance event?  First, the right state of mind.  When my children were little I would read them a book called Those Can-Do Pigs.  The message of the book is that there nothing that is impossible!  When I teach Physics, I tell my students that we have so much information that it is almost impossible to cover it in our course, but that it can be done one step at a time.  I tell them  that we will eat that elephant one bite at a time….and we do (Refer to the man who ate an airplane). Your belief in your ability to finish is key!  If you think you can’t, you can’t.

According to my daughter’s 1500 meter track coach, Coach Jimmy, you need to set the pace right off the blocks.  As I am 8 radiation treatments into 25, I can say √…to that.  My side effects at this point are some fatigue and nausea, similar to training days of the past but nothing unmanageable.  In a cancer race….good nutrition, rest, and exercise are all part of the training process.  Sounds easy, but not always so. It also helps to have some motivational quotes and faith to bolster your race. The hardest part in a triathlon (for me) was coming off the bike and then running.  I love this quote…”Running after riding a bike is different from running on fresh legs. Prior activity makes you feel heavy-legged and uncoordinated when you start running.”   My guess, and it is a guess at this point, that chemo directly after radiation is harder than just going directly at it.  I have a bonus in that my doctors and chemo nurses are amazing!  Plus, this is not my first time in the cancer race.  Race experience in both traithlons and chemotherapy is a bonus.  Just like in traithlons, it pays to have a race strategy!  I am pretty sure Coach Jimmy also said to end strong!  That’s the plan!

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