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Sunday, May 08, 2016

I've got you under my skin

That is my song for Erbitux today. It is definitely under my skin, and not in a good way. Today I am going to indulge in a little (or a lot of) whining. The nasty Erbitux rash has spread from my face down to my neck and beyond, itches and burns like crazy and  my skin is unbelievably dry and flaky!  Mr G says it looks much better today than it did yesterday, but it sure doesn’t feel any better!

We had grand plans yesterday to go to Pepper Place Market and then do some grocery shopping and pick up some herbs for my herb garden, but decided it might be a better idea for me to stay in out of the sun, since sunlight exacerbates the rash. I’ve been slathering SPF30 sunblock on my exposed skin, wearing a hat, sunglasses and long sleeved shirt when I’m outside, etc., but maybe I should just become a nocturnal creature and venture out only after dark. I guess gardening is on hold, too, which is a big disappointment.  I’m not sure that gardening after dark is such a good idea.  There’s no telling what the neighbors might think if they looked out their windows and saw me wielding my spade and digging holes in the back yard! So we’ll just wait and hope the rash subsides within the next few days.

I’ve been using the Clindamycin gel the doctor prescribed, and it did seem to work after the first and second Erbitux infusions, but doesn’t seem to be doing much good this time around. The itching and burning woke me up  last night and the night before, and I was unable to  get back to sleep, so took a Benadryl.  I don’t know whether that was a good idea or not, but it did let me go back to sleep. If the rash  hasn’t improved by tomorrow I plan to call the clinic to see if there is something else I should be doing for it, but in the meantime, I’ll just gripe and complain.  I’m getting really good at it, too- just ask Mr. G!

Here’s a pic Mr. G took this morning of my “looks much better today” rash.

Thursday, May 05, 2016

Three Treatments Down

Yesterday we left for the clinic at 8:45 AM and arrived back home at 3PM.  Five of those six hours were spent in the infusion chair. It was a LONG time! I watched other people come and go, get hooked up and unhooked.  Only my fellow infusee in the next chair was in there almost as long as I was and we chit-chatted a little when both of us were awake- although we both drifted off a few times.  He has pancreatic cancer and has been  on chemo for almost a year, too. He said he'd lost about 70 pounds  since his diagnosis and lost all his hair at one point, although most of it has grown back now. He couldn't believe I had lost neither weight nor hair. He is a fairly upbeat person, although most of the people I've talked to who come in for treatment the same time I do are philosophical about the whole thing and are pretty upbeat.  My chairmate told me there was no family history of cancer, but that he had already lost a son to cancer several years ago, before he himself was diagnosed. His son left behind a four year old and a five year old child. We commented how hard it is to watch a young person with  his or her whole life ahead of them be struck with this devastating disease, and it does seem that an increasing number of younger people are being diagnosed. I sometimes wonder whether it’s because diagnostic tools are much more precise and are able to detect disease earlier, or whether there really is an increase caused by environmental factors.

Yesterday was my third treatment with the Irinotecan and  Cetuximab. I did have one mishap.  On one of my trips to the restroom, (and after all that liquid is pumped into one there are many trips, believe me) I managed somehow to  pull the needle out of the port.  That was  quite a shock and I didn’t have the presence of mind to close the clamps on the tubing so I leaked a little of the chemo, but I’ll know to do that if it happens again. Fortunately, the nurse was close by and got me rehooked straight away. Except for the fatigue and the skin rash I’m tolerating the treatments  well so far.  I did go to sleep when we got home yesterday and slept most all of the evening and into the night, with frequent wake up calls by my bladder. I still feel tired this morning, and the rash and flushing are spreading down my neck and onto my chest. Most of the acne-like pustules that formed during the first and second treatments have pretty much cleared up, thanks in part to the clindomycin gel the doctor prescribed- at almost $100 a tube. I also had some eye problems that developed after the first treatment- my eyes were crusted shut when I’d wake up and then start running and itching.  That cleared up after a few drops of the prescription eye drops. Now I am  left with very red, very rough, very dry and flaky patches of skin.  I feel as though  tightly stretched alligator hide has replaced my skin! I have switched from coconut oil to emu oil- I figured a bird might be a better adversary for an alligator than a coconut would be and so far, so good.

I have been able to remain active, for the most part,  attending events and   working in the garden. On the Friday of the off week between the first and second treatments I attended a wonderful performance of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony performed  by the Birmingham Symphony Orchestra  at one of their coffee concerts. These concerts, held in the morning, are less formal, less expensive than the evening concerts and are not as crowded.  I have  been lucky in being able to get my favorite seats in the Dress Circle very close to the exit and   almost in touching distance of the bass  section. I also get a wonderful side view of  our marvelously dynamic conductor, much better than looking at his back for the whole concert!

Our forty third anniversary fell two days after my second treatment, on Friday, April 22.  I slathered on some SPF 30  sun block,  donned my hat and a long sleeved shirt and we celebrated by attending the Magic City Art Connection, a wonderful  three day  show of arts and crafts held in  Linn Park in downtown Birmingham.  The weather forecast hadn’t been too promising but  the rain, except for a few sprinkles, held off for the duration of the show. It was great to   visit  some of my artist friends  who had work for sale, to enjoy the live jazz music, and to run into two of my favorite street photographers and a few other friends while we were there.

My gardening efforts are ongoing, but there is still a lot of work to be done. We’ve had a few rainy days, which seemed to give a lot of slow starters the impetus to get going. I t also   gave the weeds a  growth spurt, so there’s always some  good and some bad effects  when it rains.  The beans are coming along nicely and  will need to be thinned out, I think since the seeds seem to have drifted and  they look quite  crowded in spots. I  planted out some of the calendula I’d started from seed, some strawberries in the tub planter and  Mr G dug up and moved a clump of Echinacea, some Tagetes lucida, a couple of thyme plants and  I re-potted some of the plants that go on the deck, so it does look as though something has been accomplished.  Today it’s quite windy, sunny and a little chilly, so in between the weather and my fatigue I won’t even try to get out and work in the garden today.  Maybe tomorrow, because, after all, to plan a garden or to plant a seed is to believe in tomorrow.