Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Chemo #3

Third chemo is over and done with!

I was a little concerned that since I had a cold I wouldnt be able to have treatment today. But as Dr. Rowland said my counts were "perfect". I still had a normal white blood cell count, my liver was behaving and everything else was great!

I was so excited to tell him how much better everything had gone this time! And he was so glad to hear it! We went with the same amount of dosage this time for all the drugs, but he mentioned that next time we may need to up some. Slowly, just to make sure the cancer is dead and gone but also to make sure I don't get really sick again.

For those who are keeping track next chemo is Number Four! That's halfway through!!! I am getting excited about being on the downhill slope of this. After the number four chemo we also have our mid way PET scan. That will tell us a lot. Dr. Rowland felt my neck this time though and said he couldn't feel any swollen lymph nodes. That is a great sign!

After this chemo I had more trouble with being tired, but the steroids that they give me during treatment kept me going through the afternoon. We went to Michael's and bought a TON of doo rags so I have more scarves to wear for school. Then I came home and crashed for an hour and was up like a shot and cleaned and did laundry. Then....I crashed again. I managed to eat some really yummy lasagna that a parent had dropped off for me. And now I am getting ready for bed.

I will continue to drink an insane amount of water tomorrow at school. Which isn't the easiest when I can't really go pee any time I want, but there is no way I'm not drinking. I don't want to test out the theory that this is why the last chemo went so well. Nope. 
I'll just keep drinking a heck ton of water thankyouverymuch.

Meme advice made by Dan

I am excited about the new scarves I bought and getting back to school. I missed being busy today! This weekend Dan is gone the whole weekend on a big wedding gig so my parents are coming over to hang out with me. Then on Monday we are having a little cookout with some friends. Hopefully Hurricane Isaac only wants to dump 6 inches of rain on us on Saturday and Sunday and leave us alone on Monday.

By the way, thank you for all the lovely texts and emails you sent me today! As always they are greatly appreciated!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Chemo positives

There have been a few positives that come from doing chemotherapy:

  • The money I am saving on hair care products is amazing.
  • I also haven't had to shave in 2 weeks. TMI I know, but I'm sure the ladies can appreciate it.
  • I have ridiculously smooth skin as well. No lotion required.
  • I've been paying a lot more attention to what I am eating and drinking. I haven't had any coke since my diagnosis. Since I used to not be able to live without a big gulp of Diet Mt. Dew everyday that's big for me.
  • I can drive with my windows down! No more dangerous amounts of hair flying in my face or into my mouth.
  • It's brought my family closer together. We talk more often and see each other more. That has been nice.
  • I have learned how many people care about me. A lot of people never get to know that. Some people even have fantasies of dying and coming back and seeing what people say at their funeral. I have no desire to know what my obituary will say but I know I am cared about and prayed for and that will always make a person feel good.
  • I have started this blog and realized I enjoy writing. I am still working on improving as a writer, but I enjoy writing about my experiences. So far it has been very therapeutic for me. I also enjoy meeting the people who have stumbled upon my blog. Unfortunately they are usually looking for more info about lymphoma because someone they know or they themselves have it, but I enjoy being a resource whenever I can.

So there are the positives I've found in chemo so far. We go in for treatment number 3 on Wednesday. I am getting my sub plans ready as I write this. I am excited to be almost half way done with chemo. Now I get to start worrying about the mid-way PET scan which will really tell us if the chemo has killed all the cancer.

We are praying for complete or even partial remission so I will not have to go through radiation. Radiation has a bad habit of bringing on new cancers and since the largest tumors are in my chest this could cause breast cancer in a few short years for me. So we want to avoid that at all costs.

Right now, however, we are focused on having a good chemo treatment like last time. We are going to do everything the same: dosage, insane amounts of drinking water and taking all my meds for 3 straight days regardless of how I feel. Hopefully everything will go just as well as before!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012


I realized this morning after I got to school and drank half of my coffee that I was feeling pretty good. Still feeling pretty good.

I then realized I hadn't even thought about taking any of my anti-nausea meds since Sunday. So since Sunday I have been completely off meds.

It is Tuesday and I feel great! I even texted Dan during my lunch today and told him that I felt 100% today! Completely normal-before-cancer 100%. 

Ok, maybe I still get a little dizzy if I sit on the floor and stand up too fast, but really I am getting old, so that could just be an inner ear thing.

I am saying right here and right now, 1 week out of chemo number 2 that I feel awesome!

And I can't even explain how happy that makes me feel.

This cancer thing is going to get kicked to the curb and we are moving on with our lives as quickly as possible!

And because I didn't have a picture for this post, Dan made me a meme:

Dan also approves.

If you are new to the blog (Hi, Gifford parents!) you can subscribe to my posts so you don't miss any. Just put your email in the "Follow by Email" box and you'll get an email any time I post.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Feelin' Good

I have been feeling pretty good so far after my second chemo.

A little heartburn, a little mouth soreness, but really NOTHING like it was before. After my first chemo by this time I was calling the nurses begging for something to help with my mouth. Barely able to talk or eat. 

So overall I see this as a fantastic improvement!

Unfortunately I went from having a very "chic" crew cut, ala Natalie Portman:


To a more Yul Brynner look:

Le sigh.

I got a few patches still left on top of my head, but I am pretty bald. It still surprises me when I look in the mirror, so I am trying not to do that as often. Luckily my eyebrows and eyelashes are still hanging on. I hope, hope, hope (!) they don't go away. It will get frustrating drawing them on each day, and I think the no eyebrow/eyelash look really screams cancer!

On Wednesday I went back to school for our teacher institute day. Thursday I saw a few kids in the hall, but didn't have any music classes. Friday I had my first full day and talked to each of my classes about what was different about me this year.

Here is my outfit/wig from Thursday:

I fooled most of the kids into thinking it was hair, and even some of the staff!

On Friday we have purple and gold day and I wanted to try to wear a scarf for the day at school to see how it would do, so here I am in all my purple and gold glory:

The purple scarf was actually a pashmina so I was able to wear it kind of 
in a ponytail which was fun.

I had sent home a letter to the parents of my kids on Thursday so most of them had already talked about it at home. The kids took everything really well, of course. Children are resilient and confident in happy endings. They know that the bad guy always loses and that the good guys always win.

Most of them didn't even bat an eye when I talked about how I have lost my hair and how I would need to miss school every other week to get treatment for the cancer. Only two classes asked to see me without my scarf, and though they did have some shocked looks, a lot of the boys liked comparing their summer crew cuts with my new "doo"!

We talked about how my head gets cold, so I will always wear some sort of scarf, or hat, or wig. We also talked about my new "Sanitation Station" where I have Germ-x and encourage kids to use it when they come into my classroom each day. I had a few kids sneeze today in music and they immediately got up and used the hand sanitizer! YAY! Here's hoping I don't get sick!

I have had parents stop in to see me and email me, saying really nice things. I have to say it is so nice working in a small community. Especially when you are going through something difficult and you need a pat on the back or a helping hand. I am so very grateful for the job I have and the school I work in. It has helped a lot to keep my mind off things as well. School keeps me very busy and then when I get home I am usually passed out on the couch by the time Dan gets home from work. Though tonight (Friday) I was able to stay up late (10:00!) for a bonfire with friends and had a lovely evening hanging out and feeling pretty good.

It was so perfectly cool out! Perfect for a fire!

This weekend is the first weekend Dan and I have both had off since our wedding anniversary in April! APRIL! Crazy! Now that I am no longer working at the Orpheum I have my weekends free again, and for once Dan doesn't have any gigs this weekend! Woo hoo!

So if I continue to feel good we will hit up the farmer's market on Saturday morning, come up to school to install my new instrument cabinet that Dan and Will built me (YAY!) and have a nice lazy weekend together!

If you can't tell I am very excited about that!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Second Chemo Done!

I am officially two chemos closer to be done!

The second chemo went well. Dr. Rowland changed some of the dosing of the drugs they give me. He has really high hopes that everything will be better this time. As we were leaving he actually said that "if this happens again like last time, neither of us are going to make it through this". He is very concerned about me, and that helps to know that my doctor really cares how I am doing.

I now have shots to take at home for the white blood cell count production. Dan is used to giving me shots from the fertility treatments we went through so it won't be a problem. And these don't hurt!

I also got some Ativan to help with nausea and sleeping. This is what another doctor recommended to me when I told him I couldn't fly, so we'll see if it works!

Meme made possible by Dan

I go back tomorrow for teacher's institute but I have till Friday before I really see kids. I am pretty nervous about how all of this is going to go down. I have a letter ready for the parents and I will talk to each class I have on Friday just to let them know. There are also (I think) a few teachers that don't know, so that will make for an interesting faculty meeting.

I think what I am most worried about is upsetting my kids. I don't have kids of my own, but I see each of my students as one of mine. The students love to ask me how many kids I have since I always reply with 200! They think it's hilarious, but that is truly how I feel. 

I just really don't want things to change this year, but after how badly the first chemo went I am worried I won't be able to hide when I feel bad from my kids.

 I also don't want to scare them. I am sure many of them have had family members with some sort of cancer. I don't want them to think that I am going anywhere. I am young, I am strong, and dammit, people like me! ;)

So...thats what is on my mind before my first day back. I have a TON of stuff to do tomorrow since I haven't been back to set up my classroom at all. I also feel bad that I haven't really thought about school much this summer. I am usually just as excited as the kids about going back. I LOVE school! That is why I became a teacher! Duh!

Wish me luck!

I'll post photos of my first day of school outfit later this week. I am going with a scarf for tomorrow and probably my wig for the rest of the week. Luckily it won't be too hot and my room is air-conditioned!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Hair today, Gone Tomorrow

Here it is. The post we all knew was going to happen sometime during my cancer journey.

The "Shave it off" Post!!!

Tuesday night my hair started to fall out in the shower. I panicked since I didn't have a chance to get my wig yet. Wednesday I pulled my hair in a ponytail and tried not to touch it too much. Thursday Dan and I went on an emergency wig trip to Indy to pick up the wig I had ordered.

Luckily I liked it and it looked like good, almost like my real hair.

By Friday when I got out of the shower, my hair had become a huge dreadlock. I couldn't get my fingers through it or even a comb. It was awful. I put a scarf on my head and headed to work. 

We had already alerted a few of our friends that we were having a head shaving party on Friday night. I made some dips when I got home from work and our friends brought over pizza.

It was a GORGEOUS night so we sat out on the deck and enjoyed ourselves. Then we got to work.

(Our friends T &T took pictures for us and edited them. I love the way they turned out!)

You can make the slideshow full screen if you want. Or skip through the crazy shots of Dan and I kissing! ;-)

It wasn't that hard to do really. My hair had become my enemy and was very annoying. I had my friend Jackie cut off most of it with scissors first since it was completely dreaded in the back. Then Dan took his trimmer and cut it down to an inch. We decided it still looked a little too uneven so he took it down to half an inch. I put my wig on for a bit afterwards just to show everybody what it looked like. I look a little weird (very cancer-y) without my wig, but you can see how the wig looks in one of the shots above in the slideshow.

I wore the wig today at work and it was a little warm. Tomorrow I am going to try a scarf at work and see if I feel more comfortable. I am worried the wig looks like a wig, but I haven't worn it around enough people enough to really decide.

We had a great rest of the night hanging out and playing CATAN!

I think I look a lot more like my sister now, with my short, short hair. :-)

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

New Plan

So today we went to see Dr. Rowland about why the first chemo had ended up so badly and what the plan of attack was for the next chemo.

I had blood drawn and my white blood cell count was now high and my liver functions were almost back to normal.

Dr. Rowland was concerned about one of the chemo drugs I am on, Adriamycin, the "A" in ABVD. It is very toxic and it is also the reason Dr. Rowland thinks my liver got out of control. He was going to do some more research about it and see if we could have less of that drug next time without delaying my remission from cancer.

So my next chemo will now be on Tuesday. He wanted to schedule it Wednesday but that is our first day back at school and I didn't want to miss it. He agreed to come in early and do chemo on Tuesday even though he likes to do it Monday, Wednesday, Friday.(Editor's note:  He is actually at a clinic in another city on Tuesday and Thursday)

There was also talk that I may have to wait longer in between treatments to recover more. So instead of every other week, I would go in every 3 weeks. Again, we just have to wait and see how the next chemo goes.

I will also be getting the bone marrow shots for a few days after every treatment now. Since my white blood cell count was so affected by the chemo Dr. Rowland just wants to stay on top of it so hopefully it won't get too low again. This is especially important since I am going back to school and will have lots of new germs to contend with.

On a sad note, my hair started to fall out last night in the shower. I knew that around Day 14 my hair was supposed to fall out, but I thought since I wasn't having my second chemo that maybe I would keep it a bit longer. 


I don't have any bald patches yet, but it is already starting to drive me crazy with pulling lots of hair off my shirt and trying not to run my fingers through it. So it looks like Friday night we will have a shaving party!

We are inviting a few of our close friends over, have some beers, sit out on my nice new deck, and shave my head. 

Dan and I are taking an emergency trip to Indy tomorrow to pick up my wig that I ordered. Hopefully I will like it. If not, I may be rocking the hat and scarf. I was hoping though to look "normal" to my school kids at least for the first couple days of school. Then once I have told them my story I'll see how comfortable I feel going "bare".

I will post some pictures with the next post. Sorry that I have nothing to really show at the moment.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Home again, home again, jiggity jog

I'm home!

After spending 3 1/2 days in the hospital, I am finally home and it feels so good!

I had my blood work done first thing this morning, which in hospital terms is 4am. Dr. Rowland came in to see me at 8:30 and started to explain my counts hadn't gone up that much and he thought I should spend another day in the hospital.

Well I burst into tears. I didn't want to be in the crummy hospital anymore. The bed hurt my back. I couldn't sleep. The food wasn't that good and I missed my family!

After I sucked it back up, Dr. Rowland agreed that maybe it was better if I went home. Though I wouldn't be able to go anywhere with crowds and he would give me a BIG bone marrow shot before I left to hopefully boost my white blood cell count even more.

So my white blood cell count had gone up to 2.1

I was wrong before, they didn't want my white blood cell count at 0.5 more around 5 (!) Normal is 4-11. When I went in on Wednesday before the first chemo, my white blood cell count was actually high at 15.95. Crazy!

So chemo had completely wiped me out of white blood cells and Dr. Rowland wasn't happy with all the other symptoms I had been having either. He was worried at how badly things had gone. I tried to explain that I didn't think I had drunk enough water after the chemo because I had felt pretty good, but he said we needed a new "game plan". So Wednesday we meet with him to start a new game plan. 

Have I mentioned how nice it is to have my oncologist back?! It is crazy trying to get an on-call oncologist (say that 5 times fast) to make any decisions on my behalf. Which I understand since they aren't my doctor, but man! It was frustrating!

It is just nice to know that possibly this WON'T be the way all my chemos will go, that I will make it through this crazy cancer journey and that I am once again surrounded by my family.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Hospitals are not fun.

So I have to say sorry again for such a long delay between posts. Unfortunately I continued to not be able to eat and on Wednesday began to throw up anything I tried to eat.

By Thursday night my stomach was in immense pain, I hadn't eaten since Saturday, I hadn't slept in two days, and I begged Dan to drive me to the E.R. (Editor's Note:  I didn't make her wait that long)

After an x-ray that didn't show enough and a CT scan that showed everything was pretty normal and A LOT of pain and anti-nausea meds I could finally sit still.

Before they gave me pain meds I was rocking back and forth in pain, not able to sit still due to my insides feeling like they were burning through my stomach wall. (Sorry, just thought I could give you a taste to what I was feeling)

After I was finally relaxed and sleeping and ready to go back home since nothing looked wrong and I could finally sleep and possibly eat, they stopped me. The doctors had done some blood tests and they came back very "off". My liver functions were through the roof which could be from the chemo and my white blood cell count was really really low which was definitively from chemo.

They had to admit me.


By now it was 6am on Friday and Dan had to go to a gig in Charleston for the day. He called his mom to hang out with me till we figured out where my room would be.

I was doped outta my mind and didn't care where I was as long as everyone would just let me sleep. 

I got to my room and called my mom to let her know what was going on. I am afraid I didn't make much sense on the phone and may have scared her a little. Luckily she quickly called Dan and figured out what was going on.

I felt so good after I woke up from the drugs that I ate breakfast and then even lunch! 

By Saturday though I realized I was still going to need some pain meds and took it a little easier. 

By Sunday I was completely off all the meds and I was ready to go home. Nope. My white blood cell count numbers had actually dropped.

I started out on early Friday morning at 1.2, Saturday at .07 and Sunday at 0.00.


My view since Friday morning. At least they have cable!

So right now they are giving me shots in my hips to help produce more bone marrow which helps produce more white blood cells. That is all they can do right now and I am not allowed to go home until my numbers are back past .5.

We knew that my white blood cell count numbers would get really low, but we didn't expect to worry about my immunity system being gone until school started. It was just by chance that I happened to go the ER that night and happened to get blood work done.

I don't feel bad, at least not anymore. I wish I was home, but I know my parents as well as Dan can relax knowing I am being taken well care of. I wish I could have gone to Indy this weekend and found a wig, but I still have 10 days before school starts and probably around 5 days before my hair falls out, so I have some time.

I actually feel more comfortable too. I was scared on Thursday night that something was really wrong and I didn't know what to do. Now I know this is all part of the fun ride of chemo.

I just really wish I had a few "normal" days before my second chemo happens on Wednesday.

I am wearing my new t-shirt though!