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.

Mom Love

I met a wonderful lady today who reminded me of myself.

I was sitting in the oncology waiting area, and she was nearby sitting by herself, reading a book. She was probably in her 70s, thin, small, and wearing a Red Sox baseball cap. She commented on my blue and white Sperrys, and we instantly bonded over shoes (how typical, right?). She said “I only wear Docksiders. Once you have cancer, who cares how you look. I want to be comfortable.” A woman after my own heart!

She was incredibly friendly and before I knew it, we were chatting about all kinds of things….shoes, the Red Sox, weight loss and nutritionists, her grandkids, surgery and cancer. She talked about her Wipple procedure, which means she probably has pancreatic cancer, which is one of the most deadly cancers. And yet she was so matter-of-fact, so calm talking about everything. It was almost as though she had already been there, done that, made it through, and still had a smile on her face.

We started talking about Mother’s Day, and she began to tear up a bit. She had called her son in Wisconsin the week before, telling him she didn’t want to be alone this Sunday. She asked him to visit over the weekend. All the appointments, all the surgeries and treatments for her cancer she’s undergone without her family nearby, but she drew the line at Mother’s Day. She didn’t want to be alone.

He didn’t make it.

We all have to be tough as nails to endure this beast. We all have to make sacrifices and endure physical and emotional pain. But we absolutely CANNOT do this without our loved ones. My husband has propped me up more times than I could ever imagine. My family is my rock to lean on, my safety net. I don’t tell them everything I go through because I don’t want to worry them. But they know and they care.

Please, go hug your family right now. No…not tonight, not tomorrow…now. We couldn’t get through this without them. So give them a little extra love every now and then.

Happy Mother’s Day.

My broccoli flowers for the bees!

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 🙂

Rainbows and kittens!

Today was a great day! A great day in ALL KINDS of ways. I mean, a great day that I want to share with you all from the ROOFTOP it’s so great!!!

You wanna know what has me tickled pink? What has me all red and rosy?

The orange Subaru is ALL OURS!!

Are you green with envy yet?

The title - it's official!
The title – it’s official!

OK, sorry, I’ll stop with the color puns, I mean it. Anybody want a peanut?! DAH!!

OK, so how did we do it? Carl got his bonus (better late than never!) and we put every penny towards paying it off! We’ve been putting in extra when we could to pay it off early, and now we are proud owners of a (practically) new car! We were like little kids, giggling around the phone as Carl called the bank. We also did a happy dance around the car afterwards.

Happy Dance!!
Happy Dance!!

Since my diagnosis, we have taken a long hard look at our finances, and we decided to really try and become debt free. Something about a life-altering disease to really make you look at life differently. We are taking a snowball approach, so the money we WERE putting into the car, we will now be putting into the mortgage to pay IT off faster. I feel better knowing that we have a financial plan and my husband won’t be left high and dry. If I die knowing I’ve left him with a pile of bills, it’d make me incredibly…


It feels so good to have a little victory in your life every once in awhile! No more car payment, no more interest, and it’s only a 2013! Here’s to many more years and miles on the orange Subaru!

There’s good news and bad news…

Whenever there’s good news, it has to come with bad news. It’s the Ying and Yang of life. One step forward, two steps back. Karma always has a way of showing us what life is all about!

So, the good news is my scans were (mostly) clear! Woohoo!! There are 2 questionable in-transits near my primary melanoma, but nothing systemic, so I’ll take it! We are going to watch the 2 spots in the meantime, and if there’s any growth, a biopsy will show us what path to take. But no spread into any organs means I’m still stage IIIC! I’m a happy girl 😄

And the bad news. My liver enzymes have skyrocketed with the Sylatron treatment. I’m over 5X the normal range! Yowza! My platelets are down a little, as are my white blood cells, but nothing compared to the changes in my liver. So I have to skip a week to try and bring my enzyme levels down.

Who needs normal liver enzymes?! Seriously...
Who needs normal liver enzymes?! Seriously…

I’m torn as to being glad and upset on skipping a treatment week. I really wanted to push through the tough first two months of the treatment and get the most out of the cancer – killing high dose of immunotherapy. I imagine the Sylatron like a whack-a-mole, killing the cancer cells as they arise. But without the treatment, I imagine the cancer cells popping up with no whacks! There isn’t a mathmatical efficacy calculated for skipping doses, so there’s no telling what skipping a dose means for the cancer returning.

Yet, inwardly I’m glad I get a break. I’ve been exausted the past few days and the nausea comes in extreme waves. One second I’m starving, the next I could puke. I have headaches, I cant focus, my teeth hurt, and my jaw gets tired from chewing (I know – weird, right?) My body is tired from its constantly heightened cancer – whacking state. I know I’m stubborn, but I don’t know how much more my body can handle.

So I get a break from the immunotherapy for a little while and celebrate my clean scans from the couch with the kitty!

I can only hope to one day strive for this level of contented laziness!
I can only hope to one day strive for this level of contented laziness!