Tuesday, March 03, 2009
Today is the day of my once every 4 weeks appointment with Dr.Pawl, my oncologist, and my treatment day. I thought today would be a good day to explain a little about my cancer, and how it is being treated, for some of my newer friends here that haven't known me since the "beginning."
I'll try to stick to just the facts for now; the emotional and mental part is a whole other blog, which I plan to blog about soon; I just don't want to make this post too terribly long.
First, a little background. I had a lumpectomy in April 2003 after finding a lump in my breast; the pathology report came back that it was cancer, and I actually had two lumps, one behind the other lump that I could not feel. After discussing it with the surgeon and Dr. Pawl, because of my age (I was 39), and a strong family history of cancer, I opted to have a bilateral mastectomy. I had that done in May 2003. That lead to my diagnosis of stage 2 breast cancer. From June to December of that year, I went through chemo, and had radiation in 2004. That was followed by about a year and a half of Tamoxifen, then I was switched to Arimidex. I also started getting Lupron injections in Feb. 2004, every 3 months, to stop my periods.
In April of 2007, I was diagnosed with bone metatasis, or "bone mets" as they are also called. What that means is that my breast cancer returned and went to the bones. Most of the mets were in my pelvic bones and left hip, those in the hip being the only ones causing me pain at the time. I had radiation to my hip that spring, not as a cure, but to relieve the pain. Bone mets are automatically stage 4. That means that while they are not curable, they are treatable; and much easier than treat than cancer that has spread to an organ, so in that respect, I was lucky, it could have been a lot worse.
So, this is the monthly treatment I have been on since April 2007. I get Zometa through an infusion. It's not chemo, so I didn't lose my hair this time or have most of the bad side effects of the chemo drugs like I did in 2003. It is a drug to build up the bones; the biggest danger with bone mets is the possibility of the bones weakening and breaking. Sometimes, bones mets are not even discovered until a woman breaks a bone from a fall or an accident. Mine were discovered through a PET/CT scan followed by a bone scan. The first two infusions were the wost; they caused very bad widespread bone pain for two days afterwards, but by the 3rd or 4th treatment, the side effects begin to lessen. Now I just feel mildly achy the next day.
After the Zometa infusion, I get my Faslodex injection. That is a treatment for the cancer itself. It hurts going in; it goes into the hip, and they have to use a thick needle and push it in slow. It also causes me to have a migraine. I had to go the ER a few hours after my first shot for that reason. After that, my Dr. Pawl gave me a prescription for Fioricet to take after my treatment. It makes me very sleepy, but it prevents a migraine at least. It's a pretty strong pill; you can only take one every 12 hours, but all I ever need is just one. I get a prescription for 10 pills at a time, and it last me most of the year.
I still have my Lupron injections once every three months.
So, this is what it is like for me typically the day of and the day after a treatment. My appointments are always on Tuesdays; Dr. Pawl's office is in a bigger city out of town, he comes to the Specialty Clinic at our hospital on Tuesdays. I usually spend quite a bit of time just waiting in the waiting room, very rarely are things right on time there, but I am still thankful not to have to spend that time on the road traveling to see him. My mom brings me, because I feel a little light headed after a treatment so I do not want to drive. I bring my bag packed with a book to read, and my Nintendo DS; along with a little snack and a bottle of water. I see Dr. Pawl first, then I go into another little room, and my mom is there with me, and get hooked up to the IV for my Zometa. That takes 20-30 minutes to drip through, then I get my Faslodex, then when I leave, I get my appointment to come in get my blood drawn through my port for my lab work, then a week after the labs are done, I come in for Dr. Pawl and my treatment again.
I take my Fioricet as soon as I get home, which is usually very late in the afternoon. My appointments are usually around 3pm. I get into my pajamas, and just relax and take it easy for the evening. Sometimes I get on the computer til the pain pill starts making me feel a little "fuzzy", then I move on to the recliner in the living room, and just veg out in front of the tv for the night, until I feel ready to go to bed for the night.
I sleep in Wednesday morning, then I spend Wednesday not doing much of anything, not anything strenuous anyway. I'm always a little achy that day from the Zometa, and I feel little wiped out from the pain pill. By Thursday, I'm usually back to feeling normal. So, knowing what to expect, and knowing that the worst of the side effects are only for a couple of days, makes it easier to tolerate. It's not nearly as bad as the chemo I had in 2003, and I have it pretty easy right now compared to the treatment many other people living with cancer have to go through.
As for my hip/leg/knee pain issue, I have been seeing a pain specialist, Dr. Basch, for that since November. After many test and different injections, the problem has finally been narrowed down. I learned last month that I have scar tissue on my femoral nerve, which is most likely a result of the radiation I had on my hip. Dr. Basch just started me on treatments with nerve blocks, and I had my first nerve block a week ago. I am starting to feel a little improvement with that; I still have the hip pain, but most of the pain in the rest of my leg and knee is gone.
Monday, March 02, 2009
I was just looking at the calendar; do you realize we have 5 Mondays this month?
Also, if you live in an area that does the Daylight Savings Time, we "spring ahead" this Sunday too.
Once again I didn't get going and out of the house as early as I wanted too. I got up in plenty of time, it just took me awhile to wake up. I wasn't as sore this morning though, as I was when I got up during the weekend. And I didn't even take a pain pill last night; the only one I had was the one I took yesterday morning. So far, I haven't felt I've needed one today yet.
I made the pierogy lasagna for dinner last night; I like how it turned out! Made more servings than I though it would; I was thinking I'd get 3 out of it, but I ended up with 4. But that's ok; I had one serving last night with a small salad, and I'll save another one for my dinner tomorrow night. The other two servings I put in the freezer. I posted the recipe in a separate blog entry. I tried to do it through the recipe calculator, but it was just too complicated for me.
Maybe I'll try it another time when I have more patience.
I did my weekly grocery shopping today; my hip hurt, like I thought it would, but I did ok with my knee, just some very mild pain. It's still an improvement from the way I felt the last few times I went shopping. I bought ingredients to make some muffins from a recipe I found here on Spark, but I think I will wait another day to make them, I'm going to give my hip a break the rest of the day and take it easy. Tomorrow is my Zometa day so I don't want to go to that appointment not feeling good.
I'll also be trying a new chicken recipe; I'm planning on that for Wednesday. Tonight's dinner is going to be something easy I've had before, I'm making the taco salad from the Hungry Girl cook book.
Monday, March 02, 2009
I tried to enter this into the recipe calculator to get the nutritional stats, but it was just to complicated for me. Anyway, this is what I made for dinner last night.
makes 4 servings
This is based on a recipe from Mrs. T's Pierogies. I made a few changes to mine, using some different ingredients and reduced the size of the recipe to make fewer servings.
I made mine in a 6 inch square baking dish, but I had it filled to the top and had 3 pierogies left over that wouldn't fit, so you will probably want to use a slightly bigger dish.
12.8 oz package mini perogies
9 oz. package chopped frozen spinach, thawed
1 1/4 cup pasta sauce
1 1/4 cup Boca crumbles or other meat substitute
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
Place frozen pierogies in boiling water 5-6 minutes until hot; drain.
Heat Boca crumbles in microwave until thawed.
Add any additional seasonings you may like, such as garlic, oregano, etc to the pasta sauce.
Pour half of sauce into a baking dish lightly coated with nonstick cooking spray.
Layer with half the Boca crumbles, half of the spinach, half of the pierogies, and half of the cheese. Repeat layers.
Bake at 400°F 30-40 minutes
Sunday, March 01, 2009
Once again, my Spark Friends were there to lift me up and give me a confidence boost when I needed it. I want to thank you for that, I took all the comments to heart, and your words were very wise. That's one of my favorite things about Spark; besides just focusing on physical changes, it also helps us to be a better person on the inside too.
After I posted my blog about "Sally" yesterday, my best friend Donna called me and we had a long talk. She was very supportive too, and made me realize that I did what I could, it's Sally's problem and not mine. But I think it's good I'm going through the mourning process now. Even though it was not a death, it was still a loss; a loss of a friendship. I think maybe that is why it came back to bother me again; I never gave myself the time to grieve over it, I chose to push it to the back of my mind and ignore it instead.
I believe that God puts people in our lives for a reason, and when we need them. Sometimes things don't work out where those people stay in our live permanately, but that is ok; it doesn't mean we have failed. I believe those situations are the ones we really learn from and make us better people.
It's not quite noon yet here. I got up around 9am, and had a nice, relaxing breakfast and just took my time waking up. I decided on a couple of new recipes I'm going to try this week, and I have my shopping list made for my weekly grocery shopping tomorrow.
My hip is hurting a little more today, but I took a pain pill and it's helping a little bit. I can't take them if I'll be driving, because they make me sleepy, so I am going to get to the store as early as I can tomorrow so if I do need a pain pill, I'll take it when I'm back home. There is a Subway in the store where I shop, and I'm trying to decide if I want to have breakfast there before I shop, or eat something at home. I know they have some breakfast items there, but they don't post what they are on the company website, so I don't know the nutrition info on those items. But I thought it might be nice to do just for something different, and it would enable me to get going out of the house a little sooner.
Tonight I am going to experiment a little with a recipe I found; it's for a pierogy lasagna and the recipe came with some Mrs.T's Pierogies coupons I got in the mail. It's made with perogies, pasta sauce and frozen spinach, all ingredients I have on hand. It also calls for peas and carrots, but I don't like those in tomato sauce, so I'm going to leave them out and have some veggies as a side dish instead. I'm also going to make a smaller amount and add some Boca Burger crumbles to mine.
Saturday, February 28, 2009
I snapped this picture yesterday, it's on of the hanging decorations on my porch awning. We had freezing rain the night before. Today it is sunny, but still cold.
I was feeling blue last night, thinking about an old friendship lost. It was someone I had been friends with for about 15 years before my first cancer diagnosis. At first she was there for me, but then I started avoiding her when instead of positive support, she was dwelling on all the negative aspects of my disease. I think what finally made me realize that the friendship wasn't health any more was the day I completed the radiation treatments to my hip in May 2007. At that time, I was very tired and worn out, so my parents were driving me to my treatments and back. On that last day, they weren't able to wait to drive me home, because my dad had a doctor appointment that was out of town, so my friend, (I won't use her real name here, I'll just call her "Sally" for the purposes of this blog,) offered to pick me up.
It was long 4-5 weeks of treatment for me, fighting fatigue and nausea most of those days. It was only a 15-20 minute drive to the treatment center, but it still felt like a struggle to me, to get myself ready to go and have to cope with carsickness at times, but I made it through to the end. After my last treatment, the nurse gave me a certificate and a really nice mug with a saying about hope on it. I felt so good walking out of there, like I had just won a battle, and felt like I was walking on clouds on my way out. But then Sally had to start talking about how the radiation is no garantee that the cancer wouldn't come back, that it could still kill me. That made me feel just like a little kid whose balloon had just been popped; I didn't say much on the ride back home, it was all I could do to hold back my tears til I was back in my house.
I already know about the uncertainties and the possibility that one day my current treatments may quit working, I don't need to be reminded of that from other people, especially if it's a day I am feeling good and full of hope. It was that day that I gradually quit calling her and finding excuses not to see her.
I still talked to her via email for awhile, and I included her in my updates I sent out to close friends and family about my health condition, and other family news. She stopped responding to those eventually, and I don't know why. I know she had internet, because she has 2 kids still living at home and they are on Facebook and other sites. The last email I sent her was in November, when I let her know of my decision to quit working and go on disability. Still no response.
I had thought I put all this behind me, and moved on, but for some reason, it started bothering me a lot last week. I don't even know what triggered it. She hurt me, but I know I am probably partly to blame too. But I decided today, that I am not going to beat myself up over it, or keep analyzing it. If her choice is no longer be part of my life, so be it. I can't control who likes me and who doesn't, but I can control how I react to it. I still have friends who I know are my true friends, through the good and bad times that I can count on. I don't hate Sally, or dislike her, just some of her actions. But it's time to accept that she is no longer in my life. If we are meant to be friends again someday, God will lead us back to each other.
It's really true what they say about having a serious disease, such as cancer; you really do find out who your friends are.
To end this on a positive note, my pain is still at a very tolerable level, not really any change from yesterday, but still much better than before I had the nerve block, and my knee is not hurting today either. I'm not healed yet, I know it will take some time, but I feel things are at last moving in the right direction for that.
I made plans to get together for lunch on Thursday with a few friends from my former workplace, looking forward to that.
I also cleaned out and organized a couple more cupboards this morning. I still have a cupboard full of plastic storage dishes to sort out and organize neatly, and I need to straighten out the cupboard under the island where I keep my pots and pans, but since they are low cupboards, they will have to wait until my hip is healed more and it's easier to bend.
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