Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Good news for a change!

After a relatively unpleasant week overall, I finally have a serious bit of great news!

Had my blood work run yesterday, to check on my heart's reaction to the poison (yeah, yeah, healing joy juice) flowing through it 70-80 times a minute. One of the major problems with this chemo regime is cardiac toxicity.

I received a gold 'super star' sticker on my chart! My white blood count is very high, and particularly my NE# count (NE - neutrophils, a
type of white blood cell containing enzymes that digest bacteria and other microorganisms. This process is known as phagocytosis. Neutrophils surround "intruders" in blood and "eat" them, thereby destroying potential infections - a very important part of the immune system. Neutrophils are produced in the bone marrow. This means the Neulasta shot is working!) which is excellent at this stage of the game, and my red blood platelets are plentiful and small, also an excellent sign! This means that we supposedly do not need to worry about me having problems with toxicity, meaning changes to the protocol and whatnot. Yes!!! And as a good friend said, she always knew I had a good heart! :o)

So my mood, at least, is a tad bit improved. Which is definitely welcome after this past week. A tabulation, a week into chemo, with 5 months ahead, plus the balance of the Herceptin for a year. . .

Horrific screaming headache - under control now, and presumably under control in the future by taking a pill prior to chemo.

Dry eyes - fairly easily controlled with drops.

My nose runs like a faucet all day, then dries up and bleeds all night - dry nose is under fair control with KY Jelly, but the runny nose is making a mess of my poor nose during the day. Vaseline hasn't yet made any headway against the red raw tender skin. I'm looking for some stuff Mama always recommended - A&D Ointment - but so far haven't found any.

Very painful muscle ache in upper chest, neck and shoulders - the recommended Clariton or Benedryl plus Tylenol didn't touch it. Surprise. Vicodin helps, but I really don't want to have to take more pain meds, unless absolutely necessary. Shoulder exercise has helped some, but not enough. Maybe in time. The best relief has come from wonderful massage, but my Silver Fox is leaving for the summer in just a couple weeks. Oh well.

Mouth sores - those delightful little blisters/ulcers - so far, I'm thankful they only show up on my tongue, and that Miracle Magic Mouthwash appears to be just the thing. Works well and quickly. I'm told a baking soda/salt rinse a couple times a day is a big help too. I'm guessing the sores find the areas of weakness to attack - the two largest, fastest in appearing, ulcers appeared where I bit my tongue when I had a seizure years ago. Nothing I can do about that!

Taste buds are pretty much gone - this one really hurts - I LOVE TO EAT. Basically, my mouth has a constant bitter taste. My tea, with demerara sugar (which I learned to love in Hawaii), is tasteless - bitter. They say this will last for 'who knows how long'. And 'they' recommend against heavy seasoning to bring out taste, because that will disrupt my current delicate digestive system even further. So far I can still enjoy bacon (don't eat too much bacon, it's too fatty), grapefruit (don't eat too much of that - it'll hurt your mouth), good tomatoes (don't eat too many - too much acid), a good steak (that's probably OK, you don't want to get anemic - I suspect it's the jalapeno salt I use as seasoning that makes it taste so good). Grumble. Oh, yeah, some really serious 72% cacao chocolate still tastes like chocolate. So how's that for a diet!

The runs - at least I'm told it's OK to take Imodium every time I experience a 'loose stool' - as in all the time? No more than 8 a day, please. 8 pills, that is. Picked up the economy size double pack at COSTCO yesterday. Because if I have it now, I'll have it for the duration. Something especially nice to look forward to. (At least I don't have to worry about 'solids' clogging up my RV's black tank!!) Another cancer surviving friend suggests I stock up on Baby Wipes and Preparation H. Ducky.

Then Monday, day 7, I was hit with muscle spasms in my back that had me in tears. You hear about a football player being helped off the field with muscle spasms - Freddy Couples has dealt with back spasms on the golf course for years, that keep him from competing. I never thought much of them until I broke my hip a couple years ago and a few months into recovery suffered muscle spasms in my leg that dropped me straight to the ground. I could not weight bear at all. They're no fun. All I could find online was a suggestion to lay flat on the floor with knees up, cold then warm compresses, and NSAIDs. I spent most of the day on the floor, and took a handful of prescription strength Naproxen (Aleve). That helped. The Fox's magic hands helped more. Tuesday wasn't as bad, and today, they're just twinging to remind me they might be there.

Almost forgot - the chemo is also making my potential skin cancers erupt! And I'm not supposed to use any kind of treatment on them, except to help them heal when they reach that point! I've had about 30 basal and squamous cell skin cancers sliced of me to date, mostly on my legs, and have used Efudex on actinic keratoses, the potential skin cancers, for years. It's very effective, very unpleasant and really rather ugly, but it beats waiting for them to develop and require surgery. Now I'm not supposed to attack these little beasties as they erupt. This doesn't please me.

But all in all, life is grand. I only need nine new medications to deal with the side effects of the joy juice. My poor body is going to disown me.

Today is also eight weeks from the mastectomy - I've regained much of the feeling in my chest, with just a couple spots still tender. It's lumpy and bumpy and wrinkly and squishing in places, and will allegedly take many months to return to anything resembling normal. My upper arm and shoulder area still 'feel' very swollen, but that swelling appears to be much in the 'mind' of the nerves on that area, because the swelling doesn't appear that bad to the eye. The area around the port is still tender, and I laugh when I think 'they' said it really wouldn't be all that noticeable. The picture below shows how I look after eight weeks (seems like years!!), and I think you can spot the lump rather easily on my upper chest!

And, again, my dear friends and readers, thank you for your continuing support and good wishes and caring thoughts!

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