Tuesday, June 29, 2010

No Taste

Now my taste buds are rebelling. At the beginning of my chemotherapy, I couldn't get enough of sour or Mexican food taste for weeks and weeks. Today, I realized through deduction that I can't taste sour.

For the first time during chemo, I have no real appetite. I mean -- I am hungry, but I don't have a "taste" for food. Nothing really is appealing at the moment with the exception of salty and sweet. It is the oddest thing.

It was first noticeable on Saturday and is still noticeable. I woke up with a craving for waffles and sausage which luckily I had this morning. Although I worked from home today, my boss and new director picked me up for a Greek lunch and I couldn't taste the tang of yogurt on the tzaziki slathered on my lamb gyro.

A couple of hours later, I had a specific craving for jelly doughnuts. I don't eat jelly doughnuts. I instant messaged my boss that I had to go to my apartment complex office for several minutes. Instead I drove to the nearest doughnut shop. The two pillows of doughnuts stuffed with strawberry jelly were like ambrosia. I felt guilty.

For dinner, I decided to get a famous chicken sandwich. Their chicken is marinated in pickle juice and their sandwich has pickles. Too bad the sandwich tasted bland today. I usually have their waffle french fries dipped in mayo and ketchup. That tasted bland, too. So no sour taste for Sprinkles.

I hope this doesn't last long or I will be losing weight for sure. This normally would be good, but I'd like it on my terms. I may need to pack an extra protein shake tomorrow for work.

Craving salty/sweet things,
Sprinkles xo

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Coming of Age

It was the day after my last chemo and I was feeling like other 'Saturdays after chemo'. I needed some assistance driving to attend my goddaughter Cristina's 18th birthday. She and her twin were celebrating across town. Tawny was kind enough to drive us. (Everyone needs a friend like her!)

Here is a pic of gorgeous girls:

(Crystal and Cristina)

It seems like yesterday I held them each in my arms like little burritos. Ha! I am so proud of them. They have one more year of high school. They inherited a learning disability that affected them until about the age of five and held them back one year. With intense education and help, they are up to speed and are smarter than their classmates! They will be attending college for pre-med. This summer will be spent volunteering at their local hospital as part of their scholarship. Like I said, I am very proud of them...

Am I coming of age, too? My chemo is done. I just have some follow-ups to make sure everything is clear -- God willing! I am starting to really take a look at the second half of 2010 since the first half was spent with two surgeries and six rounds of chemotherapy. I feel an intense need to perform and give back. I do have some plans. I just have to get my strength back up to be able to really give them life.

My 40th birthday is coming around in January and I want to be able to say I did something significant or the start of something significant. Yes, I know, I have influenced many people already in my life. I am talking about something special borne out of the ashes I will rise from this year. Can you understand what I am trying to say? I don't want my cancer journey just to be a blip in my life's radar. I want it to end up a beautiful adventure for me and for others. I can't explain it yet maybe. All in good time.


Last Love Infusion No. 6

My last chemotherapy was today and I almost could not believe it. I can take down the countdown counter I've had for almost three months on the right hand margin of my blog. It was a day for extra adventures for sure!

I got up at 5am, got ready and wrapped the cake pops I made for my surgeon before making breakfast for my aunt who stayed over and Tawny who came at 7:30am. As we were walking out, my aunt was distracted from the large leaf plants outside my apartment and then took a tumble on the pavement. She nearly gave me a heart attack! She was okay and mainly felt bad because I gave her such a worry that I was raising my voice at her (with curse words) on the way to the cancer center. Tawny was the referee and told me to pipe down as I drove us which was only less than 10 minutes away.

My blood was taken for the tests results my doctor would see an hour later. We went to get my refill for aftercare meds and then we sat by the cafe for a few minutes before the research worker found me and said if I checked in early I could get done in time so that I could have my stress test in time. She admitted she had to go a wedding a few hours away that evening and had to be on a time schedule. I didn't mind because so was I.

Off we went to check in early. A nurse soon whisked me away for vitals and then let me back in the reception area with the girls. We didn't have to wait long for me and my entourage to be escorted to a bigger exam room. A different doctor asked me questions and did the physical exam. She pressed against my lower lymph nodes and I giggled a lot because I am very ticklish which made her giggle, too. For a woman, you'd think she'd be more gentle on parts she has, too! My surgeon has really big hands and I have never felt any discomfort with his physical exams. AND AND AND -- she used latex gloves before I realized it. Guess who is allergic to latex?! She left to get my surgeon so I could complain to the girls.

My surgeon received about 30 cake pops. My aunt helped me make mine with chocolate cake and frosting mixed together, rolled into balls and chilled. Lollipop sticks were then dipped into melted chocolate and inserted into the balls before chilling again. They were then dipped into more melted chocolate and placed into mini-cupcake liners. I found four different colors in a polka dot pattern. These were on a tray to let set overnight.

In the morning I packaged them in to cellophane bags and put silver twisty ties on them. I also added another layer of mini-cupcake liner before packaging them for aesthetic reasons.

This is the end product my surgeon received. I placed some red crinkly paper inside a red tin before placing 30 cake pops inside. A giant cellophane bag for baskets was then wrapped around the tin and then adorned with the red with white polka dot satin ribbon. My surgeon loved it!

Tawny and I had stopped at Ikea on Wednesday night to get an apple-flavored sparkler drink for our faux champagne toast today. I had to take this picture after we got back home. Sometimes the big events in your life is about creating an "experience". I know today I created an experience for me and perhaps for the first time for my surgeon. How many patients would think to bring faux champagne and plastic champagne glasses to celebrate her last chemo? He did the honors of toasting us. I loved it!

I had my stress test which went well. My entourage looked on while I was hooked up to various electrodes and breathing masks Afterward, we picked up lunch from the cafeteria on the premises to bring back upstairs outside the chemo section. We wolfed down our lunch because we were hungry and everything was good. I was happy to not to have to rush my lunch for once before my chemo. You may recall that I am usually rushing against the anti-histamine drugs before my chemo cocktails. It makes me sleep no matter how hard I fight it.

Here are some views I will not miss:

This is the area of my port on my upper left chest. A one-inch needle is inserted and connected to tubes that is connected to other tubes for my chemotherapy.

These are my actual chemo cocktails. Two bags come before these for pre-meds. The total actual drip is 4.5 hours except today. More on that later.

These machines keep track on how much time is left and beep if there is anything wrong or when the bags are empty.

This was a view from my chemo chair as evidenced by my running shoes. The chair across the way is what the chemo patients sit in. I need two pillows to sit comfortably -- one for my lower back and one for my head. The chairs recline to give your legs support, too.

Halfway through my last bag of chemo, I had an allergic reaction that could have been really serious had my nurse not come by for me to ask about the temperature of the building. I was felt hot. I then told her I felt like I could breathe through my nose, like I had a cold. My chest was heavy. She asked me if it was getting better and I said no. She stopped my chemo and gave me oxygen tubes for my nose.

My nurse ended up calling my surgeon and he said to stop it completely and give me some more of my pre-meds for the allergic reaction. (This particular cancer drug shows some allergic reaction in some patients during the seventh cycle. Super overachiever that I am, showed it in cycle six.) I told her I needed to empty my bladder which she said would give her enough time to get another IV bag set-up. Another nurse escorted me to and from. When I got back my aunt was sitting in the chair with a worried look in her face. (I could only have one guest at a time so Tawny and my aunt took turns keeping a vigil or sat outside together why I slept through my chemotherapy.)

My face had been swollen and flushed. Within minutes of receiving the anti-inflammatory drugs, I was relieved to breathe some and the heaviness in my chest was gone! Wow. It was amazing and almost instant relief. The bag was only for 15 minutes. By this time, my aunt had gotten Tawny who was allowed to sit by me. Tawny knew I was getting better when I was giggling again. We stayed an extra 10 minutes just to make sure I was back to some kind of normal.

Tawny drove my car to a Mexican restaurant where we met her husband Jeff for dinner. Jeff left after our dinner to deliver something downtown and us girlies went to my favorite place for boba drinks, slushy fruit drink smoothies with tapioca pearls at the bottom we brought home.

This day went very quickly. My aunt and I talked about the whole day after Tawny left. She spent the night again on my couch. I made it to bed determined to get seven hours of sleep and to take my medications in time in the morning.

My lovelies, I am relieved. I have a CT scan for my chest and abdomen in three weeks to see if there is any cancer left lingering within my body. Another week after that is the appointment with my surgeon to discuss the results. Before that, next week, I receive the results for the thyroid biopsy from this past Wednesday morning. I don't anticipate anything wrong with that. My nodule is 1cm large. When you're a cancer patient and anything else crops up, you can guarantee there will be some kind of further investigation to rule out anything. This is my story and so far I am okay with it.

Thank you for my love and support! I am wickedly blessed.

Sarah xxoo

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Feeling Good

Changes at work and my feelings of fatigue have kept me from updating my blog. I thought about it each night, but I knew I just had to rest to manage my energy...

Our temp is gone now; her last day was Tuesday. She was re-hired temporarily because I was going through my chemotherapy. I now find myself busier than ever. I would love it extra if my brain and fatigue would cooperate, but I just do the best I can.

For the past three days, I've felt so much better. My good energy has been extended in the evening. You can't imagine how wonderful that is! Yesterday I left work at 7:30pm and still had enough energy to go grocery shopping by myself until 9:30pm. Dinner was served at Sprinklesville at 10pm. Not too bad...

This morning I made the resolve to see my hairdresser Tania so I could get a couple of packages of Korean brand faux eyelashes. She was ecstatic to see me judging by the long hug she gave me. As we talked and I updated her on things, she couldn't keep from hugging me. She ended up giving me four boxes of eyelashes and trimmed my wig a little to her satisfaction for free.

Tania is a very Christian woman. She kept telling me how great I looked and how she could see an inner glow about me. I told her I was wickedly blessed and she agreed. I was humbled when she told me that I have a rare heart especially when I can go through what I am going through and still find a way to give to others. She had no doubt I would receive continued blessings.

My next trip was to the craft shop to buy some components for the gift for my surgeon next Friday, my last chemo. Oh -- I didn't tell you -- Tawny is coming to my chemo along with my aunt. I am very excited to have both family and friends represented. Tawny is working extra hours to make-up for taking the day off. I appreciate her sacrifice for me.

For my last chemo, I am buying some sparkling cider and some plastic champagne glasses to toast with the girls and my surgeon. I can't wait to complete my last chemotherapy, but I am reticent to see how I will feel the following week as the chemicals work through. Sigh. I just have to get through it.

I also have to get a biopsy on my thyroid next Wednesday morning. My primary care determined to rule out anything that may be there. I had my ultrasound at a separate facility last Tuesday morning and in the afternoon I received a call from my primary doctor's office with the recommendation. Many people have benign nodules on their thyroid. I am releasing my feelings on the outcome whatever it may be. There is no reason to worry about something I know nothing about right now. I just make the necessary appointments and show up.

This evening was time for some fun. Jeff and Tawny came over for dinner and Scrabble. I made a creamy lemon garlic chicken with pasta and broccoli and some garlic bread to go along. We feasted like kings! Oh my gosh was everything good. For dessert, I scooped some fudgey chocolate ice cream and for a lame attempt at healthy, I topped each heaping bowl with fresh raspberries. Hee.

We went two rounds of Scrabble. Tawny and I each got to start the board. For some reason, when we start the board we are actually able to branch out, but when Jeff starts the board, we get pigeon holed into a corner of the board. Next time, we are playing with nine tiles each instead of seven to make it more interesting.

This coming week is jam packed with stuff but I will try to update you with something even if it is just with pictures. I am doing mighty fine thanks to your prayers and support.

Sarah xxoo

Thursday, June 10, 2010

No Denial

Today was the worst day of my chemotherapy history. I woke up with my limbs feeling like they were on fire and movement felt like I was wading through gelatin. I was in pain and I was disoriented. I cried.

I looked at myself in the mirror thinking that today would be the first day I wouldn't put on make-up and eyelashes because of the pain. One long look and I said to myself, "Hell no!". I would do everything I could to dig within myself for the strength and I did.

My first order for the day after struggling to get dressed and made-up was to see my therapist. I had to tell her that I wasn't up to par with my health. She walked with me slowly and allowed me time to get situated. I felt disoriented and extremely exhausted. The session went well and, yes, I cried. We talked about the major hurts or key moments in my lift that affected me. It felt great to unburden myself...to let it all out. Emotional freedom is priceless. I was reticent about checking my make-up in the mirror after our session --- it still looked fabulous! No messy mascara or eyeliner painting me with raccoon eyes.

I drove to work instead of going home as a normal person would have. I just kept digging for Divine Strength. Being at work was difficult. I suffered from pain, exhaustion, dizziness, hot flashes, a buzzing in my brain when I didn't have dizziness and vision impairment akin to having flashbulbs going off in your face. I walked along walls with one of my hands hovering over them in case I lost my balance. Chewing my lunch was painful but I managed to finish. I could not deny I was feeling unwell and put up a brave or sunny face. At some point, I had to ask Michelle in front of me to get me water. I couldn't believe my body was reacting to the chemo coursing through my body this way. Thank God the afternoon progressed for the better before I picked up Tawny at her work at 5pm.

Why is it I am always surprised when I feel unwell? I guess I am used to being a force majeure where I just do things without thinking of limitations...when I am of my right or confident mind, that is. Truly -- it is always news to me when I wake up feeling extra unwell or feeling exhaustion just by walking from my car in the garage to arriving at my desk on the 8th floor of my building. My friends remind me that I am going through chemotherapy for Stage III Ovarian Cancer. It is not that I forget -- believe me! -- I am just not allowing it to run my life. I am not it and it is not me. My mind is a 'go' even if my body is protesting along the way. Some time very soon my body will be mine again.


Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Worth It?

I looked at my face this morning with dismay. It was literally a white canvas. My porcelain features blurred among each other. There were barely any telltale signs of my eyes other than two dark brown eyes staring back wondering what the hell had happened. You can't imagine how much eyebrows and eyelashes matter in outlining your facial expression. My skin was so pale from lack of sun and the chemo was probably not helping. I almost cried at the effort it took to reveal the face that is mine through powdered colors, kohl and faux eyelashes. My body tired easily and my vision a bit strained. I wanted to break the mirror in front of me.

Like I always do, I managed to keep my composure and finish dressing. No one would guess I am a cancer patient at first or second glance. No one would guess at the effort it took to not look like that now. I often wonder how my friends who don't wear make-up would handle having an anonymous pallor. Would they give up? Would they try to find themselves in the mirror? Would they just not think about it all? I think about it all the time. For me, I am still a vibrant woman inside and I want to show it. GLAMcer. There is something to be said about sex appeal even if it is only for yourself...

Our network has been intermittent at work for a week now and today it was confined to my side of the 8th floor. The first half of the day was wasted not doing much but trying to get connected. Just as well. I kept getting dizzy spells and my brain was fuzzy still. Managing my energy was a challenge. When I went to the restroom, I walked close to the walls for fear of falling. People were supportive and knew I had just gone through my fifth chemo appointment last week. They, too, were happy that it is almost at an end. I am just happy I made it home okay and was able to make dinner for myself this evening.

I am dizzy right now and may not be able to proofread this post well. You'll pardon the errors? On top of that, I am now experiencing a hot flash as I type. Goddammit -- as difficult as today is, I know this is all worth it. In a couple of months, I will have a ghost memory of how I feel at this very moment.


Monday, June 07, 2010

Mindmeld Monday

Listen, my lovelies: I cannot wait to not take any of my aftercare chemo meds again in my life. We have one more round to go at the end of the month. Even though I did not work today at all, my brain was still in a fog. That didn't mean I was lazy -- I vacuumed, did five loads of laundry, cooked for myself, made some calls/appointments, cleaned the refrigerator a little, took two bags of trash out, and ran the dishwasher. I'm battling cancer -- what's your excuse? Ha.

I spent Saturday by myself just chillin' and managing my energy to rest from the chemo. On Sunday, my aunt and uncle drove me with them a couple hours away to my cousin Frankie and Brenda's house in Port Charlotte to spend time with more family members visiting. Counting all the adults and children, there were 17 of us. Most were in the pool playing. Several of us were enjoying the view of the water and the family in the pool. Grilled out with kebabs and other goodies. I ended up taking a nap on the couch for a spell.

On the way home from the festivities, I begged my aunt and uncle to take me to a quick grocery shopping trip so I could buy some almond milk, raspberries, oranges, vitamins, etc. since I won't be able to drive until Wednesday. I could cry to Tawny to take me earlier I suppose. Hee. This morning I made a smoothie using almond milk and fresh raspberries! Yummeeee.

Pardon me if this post is a little wacky. Like I said these meds make me crazy. There is mindmeld going on but I am not sure exactly how that is working. If you know, please clue me in.

Okay....I did have a breakthrough today. My spiritual adoptive sister in Canada gave me one part of the words I have been searching for during my cancer treatment. We have similarities in life things and that's all I can say. What I can say is that it came to me after reading her response to my specific query on my partial lack of emotional connection to cancer...that no matter how I dress things up in cancer or other unpleasant things in my past life, they were or are still unpleasant.

I cried uncontrollably for a good part of the morning and again in the early afternoon. While the tears fell, I could hear the pure hurt emanating and leaving me in my sobs. It didn't sound like me. It was alien like an animal left in the clearing in the woods by wolves who had taunted it by tearing bits of pieces of its flesh, but never killing it before leaving for real game. It was awful and cathartic. God -- I cannot wait to tell my shrinky dink this Thursday morning. My doctor will be happy to hear this.

SIGH...I want to write more, but my brain and these damn drugs are making it difficult. That's it for now. Thanks for your support. Your love around the world is helping me become well to the astonishment of many. Love does make this Asian Goddess of Love go around or at least sparkle!

Sprinkles xxoo

Friday, June 04, 2010

Love Infusion No. 5

Unsure of how I felt today, I continued as if I were sure of myself and how I would deal with my fifth and second to final infusion of chemotherapy...

I got up and took my water pill before getting online to read a bit and getting on facebook to update "my status". For my breakfast, I ate a chopped avocado like cereal by adding almond milk and two tablespoons of agave nectar (low glycemic sweetener). Then it was time to take a shower.

At 6:30 I received a knock on my door. It was my uncle who had come to pick me up. He was an hour early! OMG. My aunt told him the wrong time. I still had to put my make-up on, get dressed, vacuum, and make sure I prepare my bag for the day. Sigh. No worries. I adjusted. I decided to skip vacuuming and made my uncle some fresh coffee instead. He drank coffee and watched the news while I got myself together.

My uncle was not spending the day with me at the cancer center -- just giving me a ride. This would cause me great stress as I would worry if he was entertained enough or was eating enough. I turned down Tawny's husband's offer to take me, too, as I would feel the same way. I was stressed when he took me for Love Chemo #3. He was working part of the time during the day and I got worried if he was missing something important when we moved from one part of the building to the next as we progressed through my day at the cancer center.

Men get bored easily and need constant forms of stimuli as well as usually have some form of Attention Deficit Disorder. I don't want them to feel like martyrs or taking one for team. This is ingrained behavior from childhood...to wait on men. Jeezus -- sometimes I wish I didn't fully nurture this gene, but that's the way it is. Why? Because it is stupid. Good for the men in my life though. Bastards. Ha. OKAY TO BE FAIR -- I treat all my friends/family this way. More on this later...

I carried this basket of cookies as a gift for my surgeon and his staff:

Eight designs and everything on the cookie is edible:

I had the nurse who took my blood draw pick one out. She was working the check-in desk, but took time out to draw my blood at my request. We've gotten to know each other and she gave me a spontaneous hug before I left. It made me smile as I made my way to pick up a refill prescription before a small break at the cafe. My surgeon appointment check-in was 30 minutes away.

Like last time with the bakery box filled with chocolate ganache cupcakes I made, I got curious stares and a worker was curious enough to ask and show the other workers at the cafe. One of the ladies behind the counter wanted me to make one that said CANCER SUCKS. Why the hell would I do that? Yes, we all know it does, but why feed others words that are negative? I am all about moving away from fear and moving towards joy. It can be a difficult journey so I am not adding that ever.

Actually seeing my surgeon was later than I had hoped. I don't like delays. There was no student doctor or any other doctor to see me before my surgeon. He was it and my favorite nurse attending me. (I told my nurse who happens to be Russian all the Russian words I knew and was complemented on my pronounciation -- yay!) My surgeon is very pleased with my progress and seems surprised at the low presence of side effects with the exception of increasing fatigue. He doesn't fully understand how I've taken it on as a project to mitigate the side effects as much as I can through diet, supplements, sleep and behavior modification. I am a research fanatic.

I asked him some questions like:
1) Can I consume alcohol? Yes -- I can have a glass of wine if I want.
2) How long are the chemicals in my system after my last chemo? Six to seven weeks. The fatigue could last much longer. Grrr. I intend to be the exception not the norm thanks to the overachiever I am.
3) Did he enjoy my chocolate ganache cupcakes from the last visit? He looked at me with a half smile and said he very much enjoyed them and said that I definitely have a talent. Gawd..If he only knew the craziness I am capable of at any given moment! He seemed a bit embarrassed which I took as he ate a few too many even though he shared with his staff. There were about 30 of them. LOL

I was worried about my food intake today because it is advisable to have a full tummy during chemotherapy. I had a protein with fiber shake before my exam and ate a special granola bar while I waited to be called for my chemo. Serina didn't come to take my lunch order as she's done for all my treatments so far. I found out later when she came to see me that she was swamped at work. It was no big deal as the infusion center provides bagged lunch choices.

There was a delay for my chemo which I suspected because my surgeon was delayed as well as the floor was short of staff. This both upset and pleased me. It upset me because I wanted to get out at 5pm and pleased because I didn't have to rush through lunch and it had some time to digest. This must be key for when the Benadryl drip was administered, I wasn't as immediately sleepy.

Before my "chemo cocktails" were facilitated, I wrote my friend Jill a note and placed it on the counter next to me with a bottled water, one of my cookies and a small piece of chocolate. It was waiting for her when she arrived at 1:30pm when I was already asleep. (See what I mean about nurturing????? I always think of ways to make feel people appreciated and special. What you give out to the universe is what you get back. I get back a ton!)

After a bathroom break during my chemotherapy, I was able to see my fellow GLAMcer friend sitting in one of the infusion chairs. I visited for about five minutes. She gave me her professional card and added her e-mail and cell phone number. We are going to make walking dates after work since we work around the same area AND we live near enough. Talk about cool bananas!

During Jill's visit, I managed to stay awake longer than previous times. We laughed a lot. She was stunning as always. She left at 4:30pm to pick up her kids. It was like the changing of the guard. Serina came for a short spell at the same time. I urged her to go home and wash the day off with a shower. She looked exhausted and frustrated. Serina received two cookies to take home.

All my drips were finished by 5:30pm. My aunt and uncle were waiting for me outside. They drove me home and stayed a little over an hour. My uncle looked tired from waking up too early and from his exercise at the gym. My aunt brought me some food so I wouldn't have to cook that night or a few more meals. She is very sweet. I brewed them coffee and gave them a piece each of the cookies I made which makes the amount of cookies Sprinkles has in her home to zero.

I spent the evening reminiscing about the day and just relaxing. Ended up snoozing on the couch for a few hours before washing the day away. I wholeheartedly recommend taking a shower at night every night to wash any negative energy you've taken on throughout the day whether that is contact with other people or of your own doing. Why would you want to take all that crap to sleep and marinate in it? Of course, I take a quick shower in the morning, too. It just makes me feel good.

Overall, my day was great! Thanks for all your facebook comments & facebook private messages and supportive e-mails, my lovelies. Every bit helps me get through the day.

Hugs and Kisses,
Sarah Sprinkles

PS...My friend Jill said something more unusual than she does. When she opened the package of cookie and tasted it. She said it reminded her of me. Huh? She said she could close her eyes and immediately knew it was me. The flavoring she was tasting were vanilla and almond extracts. The cookie itself was not overly sweet because of the added royal icing or hard sugar icing on top, but there was definitely butter. Hee.