Respite

Respite

I have spent the last month attempting to keep all things “cancer” out of my mind. Apparently, that included posting to this blog, as I realize it has been over a month since I’ve updated everyone who follows me here. Cancer treatment is a long road and can consume all of one’s time, energy and thoughts. Clearly, it is a road worth taking, but like any long journey, sometimes it is necessary to step back and gain a different perspective before continuing. This month long break between chemo and radiation was just the respite I needed in order to rebuild the strength and determination I need to finish stomping cancer out of my life.

The last round of chemotherapy brought some challenges, but my focus in July was to push through and enjoy as many fun summer activities as possible before the start of radiation, which will impose some limitations on me.

I think I did fairly well during this break in treatment. My returning energy levels and diminishing side effects allowed me to take a couple of camping trips (one by motorcycle), I did some hiking, spent a week at the family lake house, attended state fair (I even went on a couple of rides), and hit some outdoor music festivals. Sadly, I was unable to participate in the Riverwest24 (a great neighborhood 24 hour bike race), but I was able to observe the event as a spectator, which gave me an opportunity to see friends and share the event with my kids. All of this was punctuated by weekly doctor appointments which served to remind me that I’m not over this yet.

2014-07-16 20.46.18

2014-07-22 19.43.52

2014-07-26 17.46.27

By the end of July, I had a final appointment with the medical oncologist, during which she told me that I was doing great and my blood work proved that I was ready to move on to radiation. She passed me on to the Radiation Oncologist, with whom I met on Friday, July 29th. He seemed confident that I would tolerate radiation without problems. He assured me that it would be a breeze compared to chemotherapy. I was told to expect fatigue, and localized damage and burning to the skin at the site of the radiation. I was also told to stay out of the sun and no swimming. This was, perhaps, the hardest pill to swallow, as August is my favorite month specifically because I love hot weather, the feel of the sun and swimming (things that are cruelly limited in Wisconsin). After the meeting with the doctor, I went in for radiation mapping. The mapping involves a CT scan, lots of measurements and small tattoos to mark the precise location where the radiation will be targeted. After this appointment, I was scheduled to start radiation on August 6th, which allowed me one more weekend to escape.

I took the opportunity to combine two of my favorite things for the first time. Motorcycling and camping. Both are also a huge passion of my boyfriend’s – so much so, that he has several books on the topic (traveling250.com for more). We had a campsite reserved north of WI Dells, but a last minute change allowed us to meet up with some of Andy’s friends, an Australian couple traveling the world by motorcycle. Their travels brought them to the EAA fly-in in Oshkosh, so we left Milwaukee a day early so we could join them. It was my first time to the fly-in. I was completely blown away by the magnitude of the event.

2014-08-01 07.16.55

2014-08-01 11.46.25

The ride took us through some significant storms and we arrived, late, to a soggy campground, where we had to set up the tent in the dark. It was worth it, as we got to share some wine and travel stories with some fascinating travelers well into the night. The following day, we walked all over the elaborate grounds of the EAA, attempting to squeeze way too much into too little time, as we wanted to leave early to beat the rain to our next campsite. We didn’t quite make it, and we arrived at Roche-a-Cri state park just as the hail hit. The ranger let us hang out in their shelter until we got a clearing in which to set up camp and cook dinner. The next two days were beautiful and we filled our time with hiking, relaxing and a couple of motorcycle meet ups with a group of friends, which took us through the dells, and a trip on the Merrimack ferry on the way home Sunday.

2014-08-03 09.10.13

2014-08-02 11.07.18

2014-08-02 11.30.08

2014-08-03 13.49.13

Back to my current reality after the camping trip, I went back to the hospital (Andy wouldn’t let me run away and extend our trip indefinitely…). Wednesday, August 6th would be my first day of radiation, which actually involves simulating the treatment with x-rays and further measurements and fine tuning to make sure everything is correct before administering the radiation. It was torture! Still not properly healed from rotator cuff surgery, I found it extremely difficult to lay still with my arms up over my head for such a long time. First, my arm went numb. Then it progressed to pain, then my arm started to shake from the pain, at which time I was reprimanded for moving and told that if I wasn’t completely still we would have to start from square one again. That was enough to make me push through, but I was nearly in tears by the end and not sure I would be able to hold this position 33 more times (yes, 5 days a week for 6 and a half weeks). They told me that the simulation would be the longest one and that subsequent sessions would not be that bad, so I went back again on Thursday to start radiation. Again, there was some fine tuning and double checking, and my arm went numb again, but did not have time to progress to pain by the time it was over. Friday was shorter yet, and my kids were with me, so they got a chance to see what I would be going through, which removed some of the mystery for them. They got to see the machine that gives their mom super-powers. And they got chocolate. What more could you want?

Last Round. Done.

2014-07-01 13.10.59 2014-07-01 14.56.24

Tuesday, July 1st was my last round of chemotherapy! A huge milestone, no doubt, and I am happy to be able to say that the experience of chemo is behind me. Never again (I pray) will I have to sit for hours with these chemicals coursing through my body. But, I’m not cracking the champagne yet. Realistically, it is merely the last hurdle in an event that is not yet finished, and there are additional events still looming on the horizon for me. As in track and field, the last hurdle needs to be taken cleanly and the runner still needs to land firmly on their feet and sprint across the finish line.

With the hurdles behind me, the final sprint is proving more difficult than I had imagined. I have cleared many hurdles and fought for my strength between them, seemingly just in time to clear the next hurdle. But the cumulative effect of the hurdles, chemo with its side effects, has left me weak. I was prepared, mentally, for the last round to end on July 1st, but that is just the first part of the last round – I still need to land and make it to the finish line. The drugs, along with their debilitating side effects will remain in my system for another four to six weeks, at least. I did not mentally prepare myself for that, and then, yesterday, that reality made me falter.

Going into the last round, I was already anemic, on the verge of needing a blood transfusion, and profoundly fatigued. I guess I had prepared myself to breathe a sigh of relief and move forward at this point, but the side effects hit me hard again this time, throwing me off balance.

Physically, I have never felt weaker. Small tasks sap any remaining energy I might have been able to summon. I have to stop to catch my breath halfway up a flight of stairs. The long list of things I want to do each day seems insurmountable.  Digestive problems have made it difficult to eat properly. Nothing tastes right, and my appetite is off. If I chose to eat the wrong thing, I become extremely ill. I also find it really difficult to keep hydrated, which further weakens me. Body aches and bone pain make getting around a struggle, too. Lately, I have been sleeping, hard, for fifteen or so hours a day, and it’s still not enough. Unfortunately, each round requires steroids to lessen the side effects, and with that, disruptions to the sleep I crave. Without sleep, and nourishment and water, I am finding it hard to rebuild the strength I need to cross the finish line.

Emotionally, it is taking a toll on me, too. I was not prepared for the physical effects of the final round, nor their effect on me emotionally. Chemo throws the body into sudden menopause, with its accompanying emotional moments. This week, the sleeplessness, chemo-pause, dehydration and negative external forces have been more than I was ready to handle. This weekend has been particularly hard for me and a low point on this journey.

It is the Fourth of July weekend. It is perfectly beautiful summer weather, yet I feel like I’m in someone else’s surreal life. It feels like a haze is over me. Surely, I did not just go through chemotherapy. This can’t be my body struggling to do simple things. None of it seems real. I am sad to be missing the usual celebrations that I have always shared with my kids on this holiday. There will always be an empty gap where there should have been more. Andy, who has been there for me when my own strength waivers, reminded me that missing this year’s memories to focus on getting healthy will ensure many more years of memories to come. I have to keep that thought clear in my mind when I’m feeling down. My priority right now has to be on my recovery and health, so that I will be here for all of the happy memories to come in my future.

I have a month to get back on track, rebuild and recover from the hurdles of chemotherapy before tackling my next event – radiation. I’m confident that I will be ready. Today is a new day, and I feel like I am back in my own life again and ready to reach the finish line.

 

 

 

Immunosuppression’s a Frustrating Mess

With a nod to Jimi Hendrix and Shel Silverstein. Really.

Every round of chemo has given me different side effects, including some odd symptoms that I have never experienced before. It brings to mind a Shel Silverstein poem from my childhood entitled “Sick”. My list of ailments over the past few months is almost as preposterous as Peggy Ann’s. Chemotherapy attacks all fast growing cells, including beneficial cells found in the digestive tract, mouth, hair and nails, so it throws everything out of whack. About a week post-chemo, I find myself with neutropenia, an abnormally low count of neutrophils, a type of white blood cell that helps fight off infections. This has left me susceptible to all kinds of sickness. Here are of some of the things I’ve faced:

Side Effects
Chemo has been quite a ride.
I’ve fought back with strength and pride.
Neuropathy gives my toe tingles.
I came down with a case of shingles.
Boils, pains, insomnia, and rash.
Nasty gastrointestinal distress.
Exhaustion and anemia.
Bronchitis, cold sores, and alopecia.
Flu-like symptoms, extreme fatigue,
All these things I just don’t need.
Low white blood cells cause infection,
Low red blood cells cause exhaustion.
Dehydration.
Taste sensations.
Hot Flashes! Chemopause
is their cause.
One eye twitches, one knee aches.
Now and then my fever bakes.
My lymph nodes swell where cysts dwell.
I am not well!
But all this amends
when chemo ends.

On Tuesday, I went in for my weekly labs, and we discovered that my slowly dropping red blood cell count had dropped to a level at which the doctor recommended a blood transfusion. Short on time, because I had to pick my kids up, I asked if we could postpone. I also wanted to learn more before I underwent a blood transfusion. I scheduled it for Friday and went home to ask questions. I learned that the chemo has been attacking my blood cells (as it does all rapidly growing cells). A low red blood cell count causes weakness, shortness of breath and extreme fatigue. I knew chemo was causing me fatigue, which has crept up on me cumulatively over the course of my treatment, but it has become extreme lately. I live on the second floor. I can only make it up half way before I start huffing and puffing and slowing down. I wake up after 10-12 hours of sleep needing a 3-4 hour nap. I think I could sleep all day, in fact.

I went back to the Vince Lombardi Cancer Clinic on Friday, fully prepared to spend five or so hours receiving a blood transfusion, but my labs came back showing a slight rise in my red blood cell count, taking me out of the critical zone. The doctor advised waiting on the transfusion since my body is trying to recover on its own and I only face one more round of chemo. So, armed with the information that my body is fighting back, I went home and took a three hour nap. Guess I’m just going to have to deal with extreme fatigue a while longer. Excuse me, while I take a nap.

And now, a real poem…

Sick
Shel Silverstein

“I cannot go to school today,”
Said little Peggy Ann McKay.
“I have the measles and the mumps,
A gash, a rash and purple bumps.
My mouth is wet, my throat is dry,
I’m going blind in my right eye.
My tonsils are as big as rocks,
I’ve counted sixteen chicken pox
And there’s one more–that’s seventeen,
And don’t you think my face looks green?
My leg is cut–my eyes are blue–
It might be instamatic flu.
I cough and sneeze and gasp and choke,
I’m sure that my left leg is broke–
My hip hurts when I move my chin,
My belly button’s caving in,
My back is wrenched, my ankle’s sprained,
My ‘pendix pains each time it rains.
My nose is cold, my toes are numb.
I have a sliver in my thumb.
My neck is stiff, my voice is weak,
I hardly whisper when I speak.
My tongue is filling up my mouth,
I think my hair is falling out.
My elbow’s bent, my spine ain’t straight,
My temperature is one-o-eight.
My brain is shrunk, I cannot hear,
There is a hole inside my ear.
I have a hangnail, and my heart is–what?
What’s that? What’s that you say?
You say today is. . .Saturday?
G’bye, I’m going out to play!”

Port Support

I am sitting in my quiet house, remembering a special moment with a smile on my face, so I thought I would share this happy moment. Prior to my first round of chemo, I had an appointment to meet with the radiation oncologist. The wait was especially long that day, and I was nervously anticipating my first experience with chemo which was scheduled immediately after this appointment. Finally, it was my turn to head to the exam room with the nurse. We went through a long list of questions, and then it was time to get a gown on and wait for the doctor. As the nurse was leaving, I decided to show her the love notes that my kids had drawn on my skin surrounding the port where the drugs would be infused. That morning, I had asked them to write something there for me. It was my attempt to ease some of the fears they were having about their mom heading off for chemo. I told them it was “port support”. The nurse said she’d never seen anyone come in with love notes written on them before. She told me that there are special things that she sees only occasionally. Things that will forever remain in her memory. This was one of those things she said she would never forget. She was so moved that she nearly came to tears, and gave me a great, big huge. I left the appointment with such a warm, happy feeling.

Can you guess which of my creative, artistic kids wrapped the love all the way around my back?

port support

Love notes surrounding my port

port support

Bad Breaks, Set Backs, and Side Effects

That feeling of well-being that I had on Sunday morning, when the sun was rising beautifully and the birds were singing, and I momentarily felt like all was right with the world, was short lived. By Sunday afternoon, a whole new set of side effects hit me and I was right back to feeling awful. I’ll spare the details, but Sunday night was one rough night. Somehow, Monday morning I managed to wake the kids up for school. I shouted occasional commands from bed now and then to make sure they were actually getting themselves ready for school, and, miraculously, they got out the door on time. Thankfully, my wonderful next door neighbor drove them to school all week while I was down and out, and my other friends took turns shuffling them to various after school activities. I simply would not have been able to do it.

Monday afternoon I was scheduled for physical therapy. I debated about canceling, but I decided that sometimes just the act of getting out of the house and walking around in fresh air can help. I am glad I did. I definitely felt better walking out than I did walking in. Afterwards, I checked in at the Vince Lombardi Cancer Clinic to let them know how I was feeling. This was another good decision. They drew blood and found that my white blood cell count was 0. They set me up with an IV so I could rehydrate. I managed to pick the kids up on my way home. Then I collapsed on the couch. Luckily, I had a friend with me who handled groceries, laundry and dinner preparations.

Monday and Tuesday were definitely low points. I was so sick, weak and dehydrated that I could barely handle the walk from the bed to the couch and back to bed. I had to force myself to eat and was encouraged (repeatedly) to keep drinking water and gatorade. I slept a lot.

Wednesday, feeling a little better, I called and scheduled to see the oncologist. She walked into the exam room with the list of symptoms I’d been having, and said, “well, looks like you have all the side effects”. She was apologetic because, prior to chemo, she had pretty emphatically assured me that many patients don’t have any side effects, and that she would do everything possible to preemptively counter any side effects. She then went on to say that we could change up the regimen, but in her experience the best survivorship is with the current regimen. So, needless to say, I’ll have what they’re having….

We determined that it may have been a mistake to stop the steroids early (because I wasn’t sleeping). That could be the reason I experienced so many side effects. Learning from round one, we can tackle round two with this knowledge and do a couple things differently to, hopefully, make it smoother. I’ll keep up with the steroids, but add sleeping pills so I can get my beauty rest. I will get additional IV fluids for a couple of days following chemo, and I’ll stay ahead of the anti-nausea drugs. Other than that, now I know what to expect. I can do it. I know now that I will need to take offers of help from my friends the week of April 8th for round two.

Today is Thursday and, like the gloomy, cold rain outside my window, it is unpleasant. But rain, sometimes gloomy and unpleasant, is also a necessary part of any spring. The rain is here to wash away the dirt and grime of a difficult season.

rainy day

Round One – Ding

The day had arrived, Tuesday, March 18th, for round one of chemotherapy.  Part of preparing for, and, hopefully, countering the effects of chemo, involves taking steroids, beginning the day before chemo and continuing for 5 days.  I had no idea what that little pill would do to my life.  I am normally a very mellow person, falsely propped up by a nice cup of coffee each morning to get me through the day. I love my coffee.  Well, no need for coffee when steroids are involved. Steroids make me hyper.  To say the least.  Monday was productive, my most energetic day since surgery.  I cleaned the house, made dinner, prepared the slow cooker for Tuesday night’s dinner, and then, stayed up most of the night.  On the bright side, staying up all night did give me a chance to get on a discussion board to have some last minute questions answered regarding what to expect from chemo.  I figured, surely, I’ll sleep during the 4 hours chemo session.

I arrived at the hospital at 9am, and made my way up to a couple of pre-chemo appointments, that, in my opinion, could have waited.  After that, it was time to check my blood work to be sure I was really ready.  Being relatively healthy (otherwise), everything looked good.  With the IV line secured in the port, I made my way back to, as I’ve (affectionately?) named it, my “chemo-cave”.  In addition to having a great staff around me, I have to say, the facility is nice.  They have included everything one could think of to make chemotherapy a comfortable experience.  Each “cave” is fully enclosed by curtains, though I left mine open so I could look at the photographs of beautiful beaches that line the walls.  I have a reclining, heated, massage chair, personal TV, heated blankets, snacks, and a volunteer art therapist and massage therapist at the ready.  I also came prepared with a favorite blanket from home (per middle of the night advice from the discussion board), snacks, books, and my phone; complete with music, audio books, social media, etc.  But, I wouldn’t need all of that.  Surely, I would take a four hour nap.

The first med up into the IV – Steroids!  So, never mind that nap….

I got my books out and settled under my blanket.  Every so often, new things were added to the IV.  Anti-nausea meds and various other things to ease the impact of the chemo drugs.  After about an hour, the first of three chemo drugs was added to the mix.  I am getting the full package, the works, as the nurses are calling it.  TAC.  Taxotere, Adriamycin, Cyclophosphamide.  There was nothing to it.  I had anticipated more sensations, tastes or something, based on the long list of potential experiences expressed by my “chemo coach”.  I really didn’t notice anything.  So, I read my book, colored with the art therapists’ supplies, listened to some music, and had the nurse whip up some popcorn.  Time passed.  It was time to go home.  I walked out, feeling good.

mandala

My dad gave me a ride home from the hospital, but I feel that I would have been fine to drive.  My mom, my kids, and my slow cooker dinner were waiting for me at home.  Dinner hit the spot, and we went on with our usual school night routine.  Later that evening, I started to feel slightly off.  I think I may have been okay if I had been able to sleep. The minute I got in bed, my heart started pounding, my mind racing and a general crappy, nauseous, feeling started to take over.  Reminiscent of my morning sickness days, I lined up crackers and water by my bedside, and tossed and turned all night.  The day started with an overwhelming exhaustion, queasiness and a touch of wired energy.

Wednesday afternoon, it was back to the hospital for physical therapy and a shot called Nuelasta, which is given 24 hours post chemo, to boost the bone marrow to kick up production of blood cells.  The side effect of the shot is bone pain.  I am involved in a study comparing a couple different options for managing this pain. The option I am taking, apparently, is not working.

By Thursday, all of the symptoms were hitting me. This was not unexpected.  Based on everything I read and learned from the nurses and discussion boards, day 1 and 2 are controlled by the steroids, anti-nausea meds and all the rest.  Day 3, 4 and 5 are expected to be the worst.  Thursday was day 3.  On top of the exhaustion from lack of sleep, I generally felt dizzy, queasy and when the bone pain hit, it made me feel like I’d been run over by the flu.  I would compare the pain to Dengue Fever, which I had in the 90s, courtesy of a rendezvous with a mosquito in Jamaica. I’ll never forget that pain.  It felt like all of my ligaments were removed and my bones were left to clatter against one  another.  Imagine the achy joints and pains associated with the flu.  Multiply by 5.  Add a smashing headache, with a distinct pain behind the eyes, and that is Dengue Fever.  Moving hurt.  Everything hurt, actually.

Friday everything peaked.  In a nutshell, on Friday I felt like I had Dengue Fever with morning sickness, exacerbated by sleep deprivation and the pain of recovering from major surgery. It was also pizza and movie night with the kids.  I managed to make it through the movie and tuck the kids in before collapsing on the bed.  Thankfully, the kids had a fun weekend planned with their cousin, so that I can rest and rebuild.

As I write this, on day 6, I feel like I’m over the hump on my first round of chemotherapy.  It is early Sunday morning.  I am sitting on my couch, watching the sky change from black, to blue-green to pink and orange, the birds are singing, and I’m feeling alright.

Chemotherapy, Physical Therapy, Oncology and Cardiology.

Milwaukee Lakefront

I found myself facing another full week of doctors appointments leading to the tentative chemotherapy start date of March 12.  The first appointment would be on Monday – “chemo coaching”.  Monday also was the first day the temperature reached nearly 60 degrees.  Believe me, after this brutal winter of the polar vortex variety, it felt wonderful.  Those of you who live in Wisconsin know the implications of these warm, “teaser’ days in early spring.  You have to get out and enjoy any taste of warm, spring-like weather at every chance, because, if you pause, it will be gone.

I wasn’t going to miss it.  I headed straight for the beach.  I found the serenity and balance I needed while strolling up and down the lakefront.  It felt so good to take a first long walk after surgery.  The feel of fresh air filling my lungs, the sight of the beach in it’s strange transition from winter to spring; with ice flows and melting water creating rivers and waterfalls on the beach. To actually feel a touch of the sun on my face after such a long winter was delicious.  If I can balance myself like that every day, I might just sail through this…

When it was time for my appointment, I was fearing the stark contrast of the chemo ward to my calming beach experience.  Though, I quickly found a comfortable rapport with the staff, and the discussion of what is to come flowed easily.  All of my questions were answered, and I got a sense of the place.  It is quite comfortable.  I will have my own little curtain enclosed chemo-cave, complete with a reclining massage chair, roaming massage therapists, and cable TV, though I plan to bring books, music and audio books to pass the time.  I can bring a blanket and snacks and anything I need for the 4 hour treatment.  I can even have visitors, so if you’d like to help me pass the time, stop in and say hi.

Tuesday, I was sent to have an echocardiogram, because the chemo regimen I will be doing can be hard on the heart.  This was the most unpleasant experience.  Two and a half weeks post bilateral mastectomy is not the time to do this test.  It involves getting images and sounds from the heart via ultrasound.  What this entails is pressure, as the ultrasound wand jabs into my chest, ribs, and sternum to get angles on the heart.  It was excruciating. Thirty minutes of excruciating.  To add to the negativity of the experience, my friend had his cell phone stolen right from under our noses in the waiting room.  A woman came over and asked him to help her understand a paper she was reading.  He set the phone on our coats, took the paper, and helped her.  In return, she took his phone (his new phone, by the way).  Honestly?  Robbing someone in a hospital waiting room is a new low.  I hope she really needed that phone…

From there, we drove to Mequon to see the plastic surgeon for the first injection of saline into the tissue expanders.  This is a whole separate blog post in and of itself.  In a nutshell, the doctor uses a huge syringe to inject 100ccs of saline into the expander which is in place under my chest muscles.  The purpose of which is to expand (hence the name) the muscles, skin and tissue gradually so that, in the end, there will be room to perform a breast reconstruction.  I would compare the sensation to doing 5,000 pushups with bruised ribs, swollen tissue and stretched stitches; maybe. Though, I’ve never actually done that.

Tuesday night involved a pre-chemo margarita with some close friends.  Again, I’m taking all the breaks I can fit in to laugh and enjoy each day throughout this journey.  Besides, my “chemo-coach” gave the thumbs up to a pre-chemo margarita.  There was even some joking about making it a regular part of the preparation regimen.  I like this idea… Margaritas on a 20 day cycle, TAC chemo cocktail on a 21 day cycle.  I left Corazon (shout out to my favorite, little Riverwest restaurant) feeling happy, loved, and mentally prepared to take on chemotherapy.

Wednesday’s appointment schedule was packed.  It involve Physical Therapy (PT deserves its own post, as well), followed by a visit with the surgeon to get her thumbs up, blood draws, and the final meeting to get the go-ahead from the medical oncologist.  With that, chemotherapy was set to begin that afternoon.  They shuffled me around to these various appointments, and all was going well, all hurdles were being cleared…

…until the final hurdle with the oncologist.  Apparently, based on the echo, the oncologist wanted to postpone chemo until I could meet with a cardiologist to make sure that my heart could stand up to chemo.  Hmmmm.  This threw me.  I have always been really athletic and in pretty good shape.  My blood pressure has always been low, so I panicked a bit when I heard I needed to see a cardiologist.  Luckily, they got me in right away for a Thursday appointment.   The hardest part in all of this has been the waiting.  While waiting for information and answers, my mind naturally goes off thinking things it has no business thinking.

After adjusting my mind set to accommodate the change to my first day of chemotherapy, I now had the rest of Wednesday free.  Happily, that meant I could go to my kids’ parent teacher conferences.  It’s always good news at their school.  My kids do great at school and their teachers always love having them in their classes.  I got lots of hugs and support from other parents and teachers who are aware of my situation.  This conference was one of my proudest moments.  My 10 year olds’ teacher said some of the most positive and uplifting things about the strength she sees in Kaylei with all that she is struggling with.  Kaylei is a sensitive girl who does not like change. At. All.  Yet, she is taking this with such grace.  I couldn’t be more proud of both of my daughters.  They are so young, and have had to face some really difficult times, and they are doing well.  I am glad to have them on my team.  They are going to be tough forces in this life!

cards from school

Thursday, it was time to see the cardiologist to find out what kind of heart issue an active, healthy person could possibly have.  It turns out I have an ejection fraction of 52%, putting me in the low-normal range (normal bottoms out at 50%, but for TAC chemo, they like to see 55%).  What does that mean?  Ejection fraction represents the volumetric fraction of blood pumped out of the left and right ventricle with each heartbeat. What I took away from the description is that my healthy, active heart works so efficiently that it functions smoothly without having to work too hard.  That sounds like a good thing.  The problem is that the chemo will be an additional strain on my heart, and they want those numbers up.  The cardiologist prescribed a medication that will increase my heartbeat, and the volume my heart puts out, and cleared me for TAC chemo.  My heart will need to be further monitored during chemo, meaning more echocardiograms… Yay!

Friday, back for PT.  From there, I went to the Vince Lombardi Cancer Clinic to find out when I would begin chemo now that all of the additional hurdles were cleared.  All set to start, again, this Tuesday, March 18th.

Mental preparations will continue this weekend.  I got in some roller derby last night (spectating, not participating.  Thank goodness, because there were ambulance calls on the floor this time…).  Tomorrow is the big day for hair cutting, decorating and coloring with the kids!  And then, Milwaukee, I have a St. Patrick’s Day to tend to before Tuesday.  Friends, where are we celebrating?