Joining the Living

WHEW. I can’t believe it’s been so long since I’ve posted!! I had a run-in with some side effects, and man they knocked me down. HARD. I’m just now coming back to life.

I had my second infusion of the Ipi/Nivo combination May 6th, and everything had been smooth sailing. Then I began having mouth sores. Very uncomfortable to eat when your mouth is raw. You find out very quickly what foods are acidic due to the burns they inflict (apparently strawberries are more acidic than I previously thought, for example). This was uncomfortable, but totally do-able. Then came some diarrhea, which was (mostly) controlled with Immodium. Again, not fun, but I could work around it.

The first strawberries from the greenhouse! Hope my mouth is healed before they ripen!
The first strawberries from the greenhouse! Hope my mouth is healed before they ripen!

But then the whammy…nausea. UGH the nausea! It was like what people describe with seasickness, just minus the dizziness. A constant uneasy, stomach churning feeling, and I must have been vomiting or dry heaving 5 times a day. I didn’t want to eat, I couldn’t eat, and everything I ate left my system extremely quickly from all exits. I lost about 7 pounds in a week and a half. I wouldn’t suggest this as a diet, though, unless you want to severely punish yourself. But I trudged onwards.

The final straw was my blood work. My liver enzymes came back as 7x the normal limit. Oops! So FINALLY they decided to delay my 3rd treatment and put me on steroids. 2 weeks of torture, but I made it! And I’m now feeling like a whole new woman. I’m full of energy, hungry for the first time in weeks, and ready to take on the world! This could be the ‘roids talking, but hey, I feel great!!

It’s so hard to be so incredibly sick for an extended timeframe…you feel like you’ll never be healthy again. Your energy drains and your whole body is racked, so tired that your SOUL is tired. So tired you’re not sure how much more you can mentally and physically take, to the point where you contimplate “am I OK with taking a nap and not waking up?” Enduring so much physical hardship is incredibly difficult, and I have a new respect for my body and what it can handle. Cancer is no joke, but the treatments available are even more brutal. If one doesn’t get ya, the other one will.

Frankie helping me heal on the couch
Frankie helping me heal on the couch

So everyone out there – show your cancer buddies some love. You don’t have to understand all of the side effects to understand that your significant other/family member/friend is going through some physically tough times. Bring them soup. Offer to mow their lawn or take care of their pets. Take over funny movies to watch together. Just helping in the tiniest little ways makes a huge difference in their healing process, and that’s what we all want. We just want to heal.

The Bee’s Knees

There is something about spring. I’m not sure if it’s the sunshine, the weather, everything blooming, or that I feel like I’m coming out of hibernation. But I feel sooo much more alive! Like the fog has lifted, and I can see clearly now (cue the music!)

It has been a week since my treatment, and I’m feeling great! Aside from dry mouth, I have no side effects. My oncologist predicted the first week would be the most quiet. I’m grateful I’ve had a few weeks to get the Sylatron out of my system before going on Ipi/Nivo. I was constantly tired before, and now I’m up and getting stuff done. This along with the spring weather has really made me quite the busy bee.

The Hive!
The Hive!

Speaking of bees…we are now beekeepers!! I can’t believe it!! We got our bees last Sunday, and I have been AMAZED at what they can do. Our package came with a separate queen bee, and we did everything by the book to get the hive started. But when we opened it up today, we found that the bees had built a huge burr comb off one of the frames. Of COURSE I hadn’t seen this in my readings, so to the internet I went and did my research. Based on advice from the magical internet, I scraped off the comb and rearranged the frames.

Burr comb from the bees
Nature at its best. Burr comb from the bees

The burr comb is amazing though…it’s like holding a miracle in your hand. It’s incredibly delicate, perfect, and yet somehow sturdy. Every bee has its place and its role, and they all work together to create this amazing thing. How do they do that?!? Plus, they make honey. And who doesn’t love a little sugar in their lives? 😉

Good vs Evil
Good vs Evil

On another note, the kitties are beginning to get along. Frankie is such a love. He just follows Tamarin around wanting to cuddle. She, however, has other plans, and tends to run away. I caught them getting close the other day (much to their dismay). I’m sure time will improve their relationship and increase the cuddle time!

New treatment, new addition!

Hello all! I’m so terribly sorry I’ve been MIA. I needed a get-away from the craziness that is life, and a trip to Florida was just what the Doctor ordered! There is something about warmth and sunshine that heals the soul. And a few margaritas don’t hurt, either 🙂

It is always Happy Hour is Florida!
It’s always 5 o’clock in Florida!

As you all know, the Sylatron treatment was pretty tough. It really limited my ability to do…well…everything. I mentioned before that nothing has spread systemically, which is still great news. However, I’ve had a few localized mets that keep recurring. There is one presently a few inches from my origional melanoma that we have been watching, and unfortunately, it keeps growing even on Sylatron.

So I met with my onc and we had a long discussion about the possibilities going forward. I absolutely LOVE my oncologist – he’s so cerebral about the whole melanoma process. The science behind the research is confusing at best, and he really helps to clarify everything. Plus, he’s the kind of Doctor who never treats you like a case number.

Anyway, so he gave me another option that I hadn’t considered. He mentioned that since the Sylatron has been tough, and the in-transit is growing, we can potentially move on to more potent immunotherapy (Ipi/Nivo Combo) if we don’t resect the most recent met. This is kind of bending the rules to our advantage, because the therapy we’re moving to has a much greater efficacy rate. But hell, cancer doesn’t play by the rules, so why should we?!?!

Thank you SlideShare!
Thank you SlideShare!

I’m excited, but nervous. I swear, most days cancer is more a mental battle than a physical one. The waiting, the researching, the waiting, the doctor’s appointments, the scans and more waiting…it’s all mental prep for the physical fight. But we are fighting the good fight!!

On a very different note, we have a new addition to the family! Please meet Mr. Frank Sinatra, aka Frankie. He’s beautiful, isn’t he?!? A big ball of fluffy love!! He was at my volunteer humane society for over a month, healing from an autoimmune disease called pemphigus.

Hello Ol' Blue Eyes!
Hello Ol’ Blue Eyes!

He was so sweet and so sick! He is healing up nicely now, but will likely be on medication for the rest of his life. I feel so connected to this kitty – we are both in need of consistent medical attention! Haha it’s true fuzzy love!!

He and my other female cat (Tamarin) are still in the introduction phase. Tamarin is turning 11 this summer and has been an only child for quite some time, so it will take awhile for her to get used to sharing. There has been some hissing and growling on her part, but no fights, so I think they just need some patience and time. And lots of kitty treats 🙂