Saturday, April 30, 2011

A Very Belated Health Update

My apologies for being silent for so long...while there has been no shortage of things going on over here, I have experienced a blog-deadly combination of intense fatigue and intermittent internet problems. But I am here and all is well!

For those of you who want a detailed update on my condition, read on. For those who don't, you can stop right here secure in the knowledge that I am still alive and kicking, and happily so.

I completed two weeks of daily radiation to my rib last week, as well as a single high-dose zap to my spine. I stayed with a friend in Glendale during my treatment so I wouldn't have to drive back and forth, and that was a nice break for me. I took the two little girls with me as I could not bear to leave them. This made for a heavier load on my friend who watched them while I was treated, but eased my conscience greatly about leaving my family unattended for so long. I am truly grateful for her help and for nurturing my spirit as well as my body while I was in her care.

The daily radiation, while certainly inconvenient, was really not that bad. Each appointment only took about 15 minutes and didn't hurt at all. I have a little skin discoloration where the beam passed through my skin but it doesn't bother me. The same cannot be said of the stereotactic dose to my spine. That single shot of radiation sent me into a spiral for no fewer than three days and caused me discomfort in my kidneys and on my abdominal skin. This, happily, passed in a few days and all is now well.

With some notable exceptions.

The pain in my spine and rib, which by all accounts should be gone now, has not abated. In addition, a large and very suspicious mass has developed in my breast exactly where the original cancer was, and I have a strange tenderness in my abdomen. When I showed these things to my doctor, he immediately ordered scans. We all expected them to come back showing that the cancer had continued its march in my breast and liver, and my doctor assured me that I should not worry if that was the case, that there were many tricks left in his arsenal. Needless to say, this time of waiting and wondering was very stressful.

The scans came back last week showing nothing. Absolutely nothing. Instead of being happy about this, as any normal person would be, I was incredulous. I went back to my doctor and asked that the NP do another physical exam to assure me that I am not imagining the mass in my breast. She concurred with my findings completely and could not understand why it didn't show up in the PET/CT. She ordered an MRI to see if we can get some more information on what is going on. That will be on Tuesday of this week.

So, the waiting and wondering has not ceased for me, even after all these weeks, but I am more peaceful with the state of things. As far as I can tell, there has never been a large active cancer that has not shown up on a PET, since cancer is by definition metabolic and the PET measures metabolic activity. Therefore, I have concluded that it has to be something else and I am wasting these precious nine weeks of happy scan results with needless worry. I tell you, the emotional roller coaster of cancer has been, for me, far worse than the physical insult. It is very difficult at times to get my head around living and dying, living and dying, and preparing for both simultaneously. But I am still a basically happy and peaceful person. That's the faith and prayers part!

One more minor thing to mention, if I'm coming clean. For the past nine weeks I have been receiving iron infusions to bolster my sagging hemoglobin. This has done wonders for my energy level and I have begun to feel more like a human being as my numbers have crept up. I am still below normal in my iron saturation, about half of what I should be, but double from where I was, so it is definitely working.

Just after my iron infusion on Thursday I nearly passed out. I had an intense bout of nausea and dizziness that almost flattened me. I alarmed the nurses, who called for my doctor (who was there in a flash and very reassuring) and kept me for awhile, giving me Benadryl and waiting while my blood pressure returned to normal. I have no explanation for this, and my doctor has called it a bad reaction to the iron, which happens occasionally, but rarely after so many infusions. Needless to say, he has discontinued the iron so I hope that my blood can find its own way from here on out. Just another piece of the puzzle. Truly, the entire episode was nothing short of humiliating for me, as I do not relish losing control over myself for even a moment. Especially in an infusion room filled with other patients.

So, there you have it. The up-to-the-minute update on my ever dramatic health situation. I am very fortunate to have children to distract me from all of this, because otherwise I might be in danger of becoming totally self-absorbed in my own health. But as it is, each day remains relatively normal for me, as I am pulled along with the tide of my family life. Thanks be to God.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Congratulations, Julia!

Julia made her First Holy Communion yesterday. She was a vision in her dress, and the day was a joy for us all. For the first time, we made it through a first communion mass without having to evacuate small children to the crying room, so I'd say it was an unqualified success!

As this day fell on the weekend between two weeks of daily radiation treatment that have me spending more time with doctors than with my family, I was simply grateful that we were all together.

Julia, may you never stray from the Holy Eucharist, which will always be your source of grace and strength. Congratulations!