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Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Pancake Day

Today is Fat Tuesday, Mardi Gras, Shrove Tuesday. It is  also known as Pancake Day, but we didn't have pancakes today, we had scrambled eggs and smoked salmon because I forgot what day  it was until after breakfast. Today is also the last day of February. I'm not sorry to say goodbye to February since  the end of February means we're closer to  spring.  We'll soon be able to work  in the garden without worrying about frosts nipping everything in  the bud.  We've had some wonderfully warm days,  tricking  buds and blooms into popping up everywhere and tempting me to  jump start my   outdoor planting. But February is a big tease,  and there is always that unsettling threat of a late frost so I have resisted the urge and  puttered about in the greenhouse instead.

Yesterday began as one of those rainy, drizzly, gray Mondays but the forces of sunshine prevailed and the sun broke through the clouds in the early afternoon. The struggle between sun and clouds kept up most of the day, and I was kept busy turning the light over my seed box off and on.The seeds have been a little slower to germinate this year, due in part because my soil heating cable in the seed box decided to pop its clogs and I had to order a new one. Once the new cable arrived and was plugged in the seeds had just the right amount of heat to make them wake up. They began popping their little heads up quite quickly. I need to begin moving some of them, particularly the arugula and lettuce seedlings, into some plug flats or other containers.

I  did get some of my energy back yesterday  so decided to go to yoga last night. There were only two of us doing chair yoga, but my goodness we're getting better at adapting  some of the  positions to  the chair. I'm still finding some of the poses and  exercises irritate the port or at least make me   aware it's there and kicking, and my  s-shaped spine and bum hip don't always take too kindly to some of the stretches, but I may  work at home on some of the poses that  are known to  help with scoliosis like those   mentioned here: National Scoliosis Foundation, yoga

Today is another gray day and   a little windy so I'll put off  working at the potting bench for a day or so.  Today is the last day of February and it looks as though March may come in like a lion this year, a very wet lion, at that! The temperatures today and tomorrow are predicted to be in the mid seventies, but there's a chance of thunderstorms both days, so it will probably be Thursday before the  seedlings get a new home. Meanwhile there's plenty to keep me busy inside where it's warm and dry. It's just a matter of deciding what to tackle first and whether I'll need to rent a bulldozer to clear out some of the accumulated junk! 

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Back on Track. More or less

I  was back at the clinic for my  17th Erbitux/Irinotecan treatment bright and early Wednesday morning. We anticipated  some delays because of roadwork, so decided to leave a little early and take  the  long way round to avoid the construction. There wasn't as much traffic as we'd anticipated so we arrived  at 7:45 AM for my 8 AM appointment.

I signed in, paid my co-pay and was almost immediately called back  to the lab.  I stepped on the scale and discovered that I  have gained weight- and am now a whopping 90 pounds! My blood pressure and temperature  were normal and the  port was working for the  blood draw- thank goodness! I was sent to an examining room to wait for the doctor, who came in after a few minutes.  We discussed how I was feeling, talked about the woes of pollen season, she checked me over  and we waited a few minutes for the results of the blood work to come in. They still hadn't come in after a few more minutes. She sent me over to the infusion room to  wait since we can't start a treatment until she's sure my bloodwork is in order and my counts are high enough to proceed.  I picked out a chair, got settled in and waited. And waited. The nurses apologized and told me they'd get me started as soon as the results came in. Finally word came that the machine had broken down  and they had sent my  blood upstairs  to another lab in the building. More waiting. Finally one of the nurses said they had gotten the machine working but hadn't gotten the  results back from the other lab so they were going to take more blood and test it. I finally got hooked up   for the treatments at about  ten minutes to ten. Needless to say it had been a long morning, but as I told the nurses, I really didn't have anything else planned. The treatment  continued uneventfully and we were finally on our way home  by 2:30 that afternoon.

As usual, after eating some lunch I slept most of the afternoon and have been  lacking energy ever since. I've usually recovered pretty well by Saturday after my Wednesday treatments, but for some reason, maybe because of the cumulative effect of the treatments, maybe because of the extra  blood that was drawn, I've been dragging after this  treatment.  I did cook some lovely flash roasted pesto salmon, saffron spinach risotto and a  raspberry pudding cake on Friday, though, and we took the  dogs to the groomer on Saturday and picked up some odds and ends of groceries, but  for the most part I've played a lady of leisure for the last several days.  I'm planning to  make some baked chicken Milanese for supper tonight, then relax with an episode of Midsomer Murders on  the Kindle Fire. I'm still trying to decide whether to  go to yoga  class tomorrow night or give myself another day off to regain my energy. Decisions, decisions.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Catch-Up Number 3

My chemo treatments for December were timed perfectly! I had a treatment on December 14, with the next treatment not scheduled until Dec. 28. Oldest son Brian announced he would be coming in from Illinois on December 20 and would stay until Dec. 26, which meant I had plenty of time to recoup my energy from the 12/14 treatment, decorate the house and have everyone over for dinner just as we’d always done without having to worry about chemo side and after-effects.

And decorate we did!  The snowman and reindeer were set up outside to greet visitors, then we got the tree up, the mantel decorated and the stockings hung by the chimney
 with care- even though it’s an electric fireplace and there is no chimney, but you get the idea.  We even had snowmen cavorting in the kitchen window.

Brian arrived safely, we had family come down from North Alabama for a visit and soon it was Christmas day'  I cooked our traditional Christmas roast beef and Yorkshire pudding with crispy roasted potatoes and veggies.   There was a  delicious cranberry eggnog trifle for dessert, and I had baked some gingerbread men and gingerbread reindeer cookies for the kids to snack on.

Jeff, Tonya and the grandkids, Kaitlyn and Brandon, couldn’t come up from south Alabama this year since Jeff was recuperating from surgery, and Heather  didn’t make it  home from Australia, but  Misty and the boys, Nicholas and Bradley, came from Hartselle and Jonathan, Sharil and Abby came from just up the road in  Mulga. We  popped our Christmas crackers, put on our paper crowns, read the silly jokes from the crackers out loud, and had a  happy family at the table in our little kitchen to enjoy the  food before  opening our presents.

One of Brian's old friends from high school was visiting from Texas, and he, his daughter and another  old friend stopped by Christmas evening for a visit. I finally remembered to have Mr. G take a picture of Brian and me before he left and here it is-I wish I'd remembered to take the tacky green sweater off, too!
Next morning Mr. G drove  Brian to the airport for the trip home to Illinois, and the house got quiet again.  Agatha and Victoria missed all the company, I think and moped around for a while. My chemo treatments resumed on December 28 and we were back in the old groove again as we closed out 2016.

I had two more treatments in January and another on  February 8 with no problems from the port. And that brings us up to the present, finally.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Catch up- Part 2

I met with the vascular surgeon on  November 21.  He asked when I would like to have the surgery.  I told him the sooner the better. He said he could do the surgery the next morning, which was a Tuesday, and that way I could  have  my chemo treatment on Wednesday,  11/23 using the new port.

We arrived at the out-patient surgery center bright and early and I had the preliminary blood work,  x-rays, etc. I  was wheeled  to the operating room, given  anesthesia and promptly went to sleep.  I woke up in the recovery room with several young doctors hovering over me. One of them asked if I knew what a pneumothorax was.  I replied that yes, I did- it was a collapsed lung. Turns out that’s what I now had in addition to the new port. I was told the port  placement went well that the new port was placed on my right side with a subclavian approach.  Turns out that means my new port has a  catheter that runs  on top of my  collar bone and  up into my jugular vein. In the process of placing it, my lung got nicked resulting in a 20% pneumothorax.  After calling Mr. G in to tell him what was going on, they said they were going to  place a chest tube and admit me to the hospital.  So much for out-patient surgery and having chemo the next day!

The young resident placed the chest tube while I was still in the recovery room and I was taken up to a room and told I’d probably be there for several days.  I told them I had no intention of being there over the Thanksgiving holidays so I began to think positively, visualizing my lung fully inflating as I practiced some yoga breathing.  Oddly enough, the lung didn’t hurt when I breathed and had it not been for the tube, which was quite uncomfortable, I’d not have known anything was wrong. I spent the night and had several visits from various medical personnel the next morning.  My breathing and positive visualizing efforts were working! After a series of x-rays showed that my lung was fully inflated, they said they would remove the tube and if everything checked out I could go home later that day. The young resident who had placed the tube and an intern came in at around 2 o’clock to remove the tube. That was quite an interesting experience. First they took a big piece of gauze and covered it with something resembling Vaseline. They placed the dressing over the tube and snipped some sutures that held the tube in place.  The young doctor told me they were going to apply some pressure and when they did I should take a deep breath and hold it. Which I did, and as I did one of them said, “pull” the other one pulled and out came the tube.  They taped the dressing in place and said they’d need to check for a few hours to make sure everything was OK.  That meant several more x-rays.   My oncologist stopped by to check on me and told me to call the office on Monday to reschedule my missed chemo session, and I was discharged   at 7PM on Wednesday.  So I didn’t have to stay in the hospital over the Thanksgiving holidays after all and we were able to eat Thanksgiving dinner at  Jonathan and Sharil’s house as planned!  Yippee!

My chemo treatment was rescheduled for   Wednesday, 11/30 and the new port worked well for both the blood draw and the treatment, which was quite a relief.  The port and catheter were quite uncomfortable for quite a while afterwards, though, whenever I turned my head or moved my arm a certain way, and the dry skin   across my chest did not help. A post op visit with the vascular surgeon confirmed everything seemed to be healing well and there haven’t been any problems with blood draws or treatments since the surgery.

I had a CT scan on December 12 that showed a decrease in the size of the ablation focus in the liver and there was no evidence of new metastatic disease, so that was a relief and meant I could enjoy the Christmas season without worrying about what the latest scan  would show. And now we’re almost caught up to the present- one more blog entry should do the job.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Catch up Post

I guess I’ve been so caught up in political discussions for the last several months that I haven’t thought to post  any updates about what’s happening with my health and in my  life. Quite a bit has happened since  last June as it turns out. This   account will catch   me up to November.  I'll try to  get it all up to date in the next post, so please bear with me.

I had a CT scan  on June 22 that showed the  mass in my liver had decreased in size, so  my oncologist set me up for an appointment with a liver surgeon for a possible resection or ablation. The surgeon  ordered an MRI, PET scan and ultrasound, and decided to do a radiofrequency ablation rather than a resection. I was hoping   we could get it done  right away, but he wanted to wait until after my next appointment with the colorectal surgeon to get his input. Finally we got a date set and I checked into the hospital on August 16 for the procedure.

If you’re wondering what’s involved in a radiofrequency ablation, it can be done either surgically,  percutaneously or laparoscopically. Mine was done laparoscopically.  The surgeon made five incisions, then using  ultrasound imaging as a guide, he inserted  a needle electrode into the tumor.  Since there were several small  cysts that  may or may not have been  cancerous, he  attacked them too. Once the needle  is in position in the tumor, high-frequency electrical currents are then passed through the electrode to ground pads placed on the body, creating focal heat that destroys the cancer cells surrounding the electrode. It may take several  zaps with the needle in different positions to destroy the tumor. I understand  the surgeon went in eight times to zap mine. I was pretty groggy when it was all over and once the anesthesia wore off I was pretty sore too! They kept me overnight and I was discharged the following day.  It was a few days before I could actually walk upright in comfort!

I was scheduled to resume chemo two weeks later, but when I went in on August 31 they were unable to withdraw blood using my port. I   got the blood drawn from a vein and  got a shot of a declotter through the port, but still no draw and chemo was cancelled.  It was cancelled again  on Sept. 14 for the same reason, but   miraculously,   the port  was more cooperative on Sept. 28, and while   they were still unable to draw blood, they were able to go ahead with the  chemo, the first  one since the ablation. When I went in for Chemo treatment number 8 on October 14, I had a nasty  pain in my neck and shoulder as soon as they hooked up the  chemo.  They stopped the treatment and I was sent to radiology for  a fluoroscope to see what was going on with the port.  Turns out that a fibrin sheaf had built up around the catheter, blocking the end,  so chemo was cancelled for  the day.

The docs decided that the port needed to come out and a new one placed. The colorectal surgeon who had  done the  surgery to place the port  did the removal surgery on  October 25. All went well but he  said he would rather have a vascular surgeon  place the new port, so   that was scheduled  for 11/22.  In the meantime  my chemo treatments  were given  via  a needle in my arm.  Oh, how I missed that port!