Friday, April 27, 2012

Perhaps being a bald lady does make you more badass!

Hey guys! Round 3 is in the books.

They got a vein on the first try, thank you Jesus, and it actually went faster this time. Done after 2 hours and 45 minutes instead of over 3 hours. I did get a headache like my first time, but Jason ran to a CVS across the street like my knight in shining armor to get me Tylenol and that remedied the issue.

Yes, that is one of my sweet new wigs and an AMAZING blanket 

a friend of ours' sweet mom made for me! <3

Now I wait for the onset of fatigue/appetite loss/dry mouth for the next week, but at least I am nearing the finish line for my first round of treatment!

Did I say first round of treatment? [insert HUGE sigh here] YES, that's what I said. I asked one of my oncology nurses point blank today what would be next for me. I had been browsing my original regimen outline my doctor had given me. I noticed 4 treatments with the meds I've been given, and then another 4 with a different one. It's not 100% certain, but pretty darn likely.

I have a follow up with my oncologist doc after my last treatment (which will be May 11th).  I assume he'll be setting up a PET scan with me then or maybe even prior to that? Regardless, that will answer a lot of questions on how well the chemo has been working for me. We know the tumor is near impossible to find by touch now, but hopefully that damn lymph node is cured too.

Next? I can safely assume I'll be meeting again with my surgeon and plastic surgeon. How soon will that all go down? Well, that's a mystery to me at this point. My second chemo treatment, if needed, will be after I've had surgery. This much I know.

Something that slipped my mind with my last post I had intended to mention is that I got the results back from my first genetic test. I was tested for the BRCA1/BRCA2 genes. My genetic counselor was shocked to report that it had come back negative. She was convinced, considering my age and lack of direct female relatives aside from my mother and grandmothers, that it would come back positive.

She urged me to consider getting another version of the test. I'm not sure if I understand it completely, but it had to do with rearranging the gene DNA to see if I had some mutation of either I believe? I got results back from that today. Guess what? Negative! Beyond strange. She thought that'd be positive too. Lol... so now I am going to get more blood drawn to send off to the labs for testing of some P53 gene.

Happy news out of this? Well, without carrying the BRCA1/BRCA2 gene, I don't believe my nieces will need be concerned for an increased risk of breast cancer. If Jason and I are blessed to have a child one day, we don't need to be concerned that our child carries the gene. Also, this means I'm not at an increased risk myself for ovarian cancer! I'll take what I can get when it comes to good news. The problem is, they can't tell me how likely my chance of breast cancer returning would be, or whether I might get it in my other breast. Still hoping for my double mastsectomy regardless though. I want to eliminate the risk altogether.

So, I'm bald now. Like, save for a few hairs I am legit bald. It was much more disheartening to me than I originally anticipated. I've broken down a few times over it. Especially when it really began to fall out. I'm at peace now. In fact, as I write this, I'm rockin' my bald head in all its glory. Haha.

This does mean more hats, more wigs, etc. Which is okay. I'm getting used to it. ^_^  My parents came to visit us last Saturday, which was very very nice. I had missed them a lot. They bought me a couple new wigs, and my new long one is seriously fabulous. I wish my hair could be that full and gorgeous naturally! Check it out. I'm wearing it in my chemo pic, but this shows the color in it so much better --

Otherwise, I keep on truckin'. After my treatments, I usually don't seem to have the strength to return to work until the following Thursday. Even then, it's a bit straining for me. Then I work a couple more days to finish out the week, and work every day leading up to my next treatment. It's helping to keep me sane I think. Too much energy, anxiety, thoughts to deal with if I'm left in my own company too long.

That's why it is best for me that I have the hubby while I get and recover from my treatments, and some loving family and friends to step in on some in between days he can't be with me. Work and my friends at work to help me cope the rest of the time. So grateful for everyone. :)

This time around, I'm going to work on building my stamina to see if it helps at all. I still plan to rest when I need rest, but my nurse suggested trying to get up as often as I can throughout the day to walk around for at least 10 minutes. I think I need to. This time I've been experiencing more anxiety for whatever reason. Possibly just the anxiety that this first part of my journey is already complete? Who knows. Jason and I got out to a community park across the street from our place to walk for a few minutes earlier this evening. Felt good to get fresh air and a little light exercise. So hoping to repeat that for sure.

My SIL Marylou is participating in the 3-Day Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure in my honor, bless her heart! And she's officially signed up for it. Now my other SIL Briana just set up a team to walk in my honor as well for the November 4th San Diego Race for the Cure. Team Pwn Cancer for the win, bitches! Hahaha. Seriously though, I registered Jason and I to walk as well. I plan to win this fight so I registered myself as a survivor.

I mention this because I'd like to urge anyone reading to donate to this beautiful cause. Any amount is deeply appreciated! And if you're interested and able to walk, come join us and our team! If you're unable to, but still want to help, please please donate on Marylou's page first as her donations are required for her to participate in the walk!

Song time! In a Nine Inch Nails mood and found two that work for me. Can't even begin to describe how emotional this has been. I'm always positive about my situation, but it wears on you and breakdowns come at random moments. I believe this first one sums up those breakdown moments and how I feel.


I've got another one for Jason and I...


Forgive me for bombarding you all, but music soothes the soul! Last of all, and not at all NIN, like not even remotely the same genre! Lol. It's originally by Young the Giant, but I love Daren Criss' voice from Glee. So here's a good one for me and and the feeling of enduring chemo.

Okay. I think I've written enough to make up for 2 weeks without a post hopefully. ;) I shall leave you all with my daily devotional for this day from my Jesus Calling app. It was so perfect I could cry.

"Come to Me with empty hands and an open heart, ready to receive abundant blessings. I know the depth and breadth of your neediness. Your life-path has been difficult, draining you of strength. Come to me for nurture. Let me fill you up with My presence; I in you, and you in Me.

My power flows most freely into weak ones aware of their need for Me. Faltering steps of dependence are not lack of faith; they are links to My presence".

"He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and  young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint" Isaiah 40:29-31

God bless you all! Have a splendid weekend, and as always, thanks for joining me on my journey. 

Friday, April 13, 2012

Stand and fight

So round 2 is done, and I've now got only 2 to go!

This go-round was much easier. I didn't have the anxiety I'd had the first time. I knew what to expect,  how long it would take approximately, etc.

The only hiccup we had was in the beginning. I had tried to get my blood drawn on the arm opposite where I'd been getting my IV for chemo put in so I could save that vein. First time I'd gotten my blood work done, she was able to tap the opposite vein. This Wednesday, I was still bruised from the previous week in that spot. She tried, but couldn't get it. So she had to draw from my chemo-arm. I was assured it shouldn't be an issue, but of course it was. My nurse at the oncology office tried to insert the IV in that spot and was unsuccessful. So she tried lower down my arm, in between my wrist and elbow. Seemed to go in fine, but started to swell as soon as fluids went in. Sooo... um, no bueno! Thankfully she found a juicy vein on the side of my wrist.

I have petite veins apparently. Haha. I'm seriously praying I can avoid having a port-a-cath put in throughout this. There was another patient today who had gotten one put in 3 weeks ago. I was watching her face when they put the IV in it and she had tears in her eyes! I was thinking to myself, "PLEASE hang in there veins o' mine!!". >_<;

So far so good. Usual tiredness. I know it won't kick in until tomorrow. I found out there's a good possibility I may experience the fatigue for as long as last time. There's also a chance it won't be as long. I am quite grateful that I am not scheduled to work until next Thursday though, just in case.

Speaking of work, I was able to go back last Saturday. My parents came by and visited me for a few hours afterwards that day, which I really needed. They brought me all kinds of goodies, being the sweethearts they are. Love them so much!

I'm also proud to say I worked everyday this week leading up to my treatment. It was great! I actually felt more like a my normal Anj-self again! I love my co-workers too, so that helps.

When I came in last Saturday, I was greeted with all my fellow work buddies donning pink ribbons pinned on their aprons. I was grinning like a fool as I went to the back, and then noticed a little Ziplock baggy full of these pins with a note on it: Support Anj :) . I teared up. All this time I'd been SO worried about my job. I know maybe some people might wonder why I'd be concerned about keeping a barista job as I battle cancer, but I sincerely love working at Starbucks! As I mentioned, my co-workers are awesome and the job just feels right for me. So seeing this gesture one of them (which turned out to be the lovely and sweet Ms. Rebekah O. ^_^) had taken for me helped me feel some relief. Like, oh hey! Maybe I am wanted there, yay!

I'd learned my lesson on the cabin fever that sets in shortly after being shut in while my immune system  recuperates last time. So I had asked my SIL Briana if she would mind going with me on Wednesday after I got off work to take me to get my blood work done, and then to get some pedicures. We might have also had some crazy delicious lunch at Lucille's BBQ as well, hehe. It was so nice and a much needed few hours of relaxation. I was much appreciative to her taking the time to go with me. :)

One of my best friends Shalysa came to visit me yesterday too. We just hung out, caught up and got yummy lunch at my favorite Mexican restaurant. I needed those couple of days to feel normal and relax, so I certainly appreciated her visit too. :D

Rewinding a bit... Easter Sunday was the first time I was able to go to a family gathering at all since this whole ordeal began. I'd unfortunately missed my niece Lexi's birthday party because I was in quarantine mode after my first round. So we were invited to Jason's sister and BIL's (Erin and Ryan) place for the day. It was awesome to see all of them. Jason and I got these seriously perfect and amazing t-shirts my dear friend Katie pointed us in the direction of, that have Star Wars stuff about being against cancer. Anyone who knows either of us know that we're all about geeky stuff, and more specifically, Star Wars. Need proof? Our entrance into our wedding reception was set to the Imperial March, Jason had Darth Vader cuff links with his tux, and we own 2 force-fx lightsabers. Yep.

We decided that would be the perfect day to wear them out! So, here we are modelling them!

And here we are with our beautiful niece Isabella, having found one of a few things that was truly relaxing us for the first time since all this began. This was my inspiration for wanting to go for that pedi! Lol. I fully intend to return just so I can hang out in that spa in the near future hopefully!

So, you may have noticed my absence of wig in these photos. It is very cute... but in combination with my glasses? It's horribly uncomfortable. It squeezes my head like a vice. ;( I've only been wearing it to work so I don't have explain anything. Ironically, I've gotten a ton of compliments from customers, regulars included, on my new "hair style". Haha. :) I just thank them!

My hair has become steadily more patchy, but I'm surprised I still have as much as I do. At least I was smart and got myself some Head and Shoulders anti-itch 2-in-1 shampoo to help with the itching. That stuff works too! So any other people who may unfortunately have to go through chemo who end up with itchy scalp, I recommend that for sure.

Other than that, I need to get myself some new hats. Maybe some scarves? Hehe. It's kind of fun doing something different. Even if I do feel like I look like a total goober. It's nice and easy to get ready in the morning! I don't miss doing my hair. AT. ALL. I'm pretty sure the hubby doesn't miss that extra bit of time it takes for me to do it either!

Since I haven't in a while, my song of choice for the moment --

"Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you."  1 Peter 5:6-7

May God bless you all with an extraordinarily wonderful weekend. Enjoy every moment, and never forget to count those blessings. Even if things seem bleak, there's a reason it's been placed in your path. :) Always keep up the fight. 

I plan to. 

Friday, April 6, 2012

Hair today, gone tomorrow

Before I set off into my rambles, I'd like to wish all of you a blessed good Friday. Thank you Christ for the ultimate sacrifice. Whenever I suffer (and especially during this time in my life), I recall that you know better than any other being the true sufferings of this human form. You loved us so much that you were willing to endure it all and overcome death. So, if Jesus can power through the weight of all the sins of the world... I can totally pwn my cancer! Even if some days it seems MUCH harder to. >_>

Alrighty then! Now the ramblings may commence as normal. :)

I did make it in to work this past Wednesday. I don't know that that was the best idea for me at the time however. I made it through my shift, just barely, and had to stop 10 minutes early. I did do it, but felt worse for wear due to it. I was in a cold sweat, nauseous and dizzy beyond words when I finished. I went straight home, foregoing my stop to get blood work done. As soon as I got home and had a good sob from a mixture of frustration/exhaustion, slept for several hours.

I was so concerned with still being so fatigued, I was worried it might be anemia. I had read that anemia can often be a side effect of chemotherapy, and I have had slight anemia in the past. After playing phone tag with my oncology nurse, I discovered she didn't think this was the case. She explained to me that my first treatment was very aggressive, and often times leaves patient experiencing the tiredness and weakness far longer than a typical chemo session.

Hmm, good to know NOW! Haha. I was just so relieved at the thought that I had one less complication I needed to address that I didn't much care I wasn't informed sooner. 

I questioned whether I could take supplements or do anything to help my system recover. She said I could, but it wouldn't help with the fatigue. Ughhh. I have a lot of energy regularly, so this stuff has been killing me. The only thing suggested to work was to make sure the nutrition I was getting into my body was filled with plenty of protein.

The next day I found to be pretty taxing on my body as well. I called in for my morning shift on Thursday, as I knew I wouldn't be ready for it physically. Tried to rest some more and recover. Jason took me to get my blood work done that morning, which praise the Lord they were able to use a different vein. Lol... Hubby made me a yummy protein-rich egg burrito and then went off to work.

I was still super tired the rest of the day, but it was the first day I didn't need to take a nap since my treatment. So hey, I see that as improvement!  Today can also go down as being one without a nap needed as well so far! :D

Last night I had made the decision that since my wig would be ready for pick up today, I was going to go ahead and have my wig lady cut my hair. Hubby and I went down there today and told her my plan. She was pained by the fact that I was willing to do it already. I hadn't had any noticeable hair loss so far. I explained I had come to terms with it, and would rather lose large amounts of short hair when it starts to go. Seems way more depressing to be in the shower and have my long strands come out in clumps if I had waited.

She didn't fight me after that. And come to find out as she was chopping it off, I did have some patchiness already. I wondered, because my scalp had been insanely itchy the past 2 days. Something to do with the hair follicles something something? Haha.

Either way, my hair is gone now. I also have my cute wig, so I can still look like a girl when I go out at least. ;) And since it's been requested of me, here's the proof:

Well then, I guess that about does it for now guys! Thank you all again for reading, and I hope you all have a beautiful and most holy Easter!

"I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well."   Psalm 139:14

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Finding strength in weakness

Beginning to feel human again. I can only safely assume that, Lord willing, my side effects from chemo have been very tolerable. I won't even begin to tell you it's a fun experience, because it's not. But I think I'm blessed to get off as well as I have.

It's like having an icky, achy-all-over type of flu for 3 or 4 days.  I had a lot of anxiety accompanying it too, which didn't help matters much. But next round, I'll know what to be prepared for. Make sure to fit in some daily gentle yoga and evening relaxation focused baths. My nerves + being in a constant state of uncomfortable + being shut in for days on end = no bueno.

God bless my husband. He really has been my angel through this mess so far. Without him taking care of me,  I don't know how I would have managed. I was so weak and helpless. Each time I think I can't appreciate him an ounce more than I already do, he surprises me. He must seriously love me to put up with all this, that's all I can say. :)

So I still have crazy dry mouth, can't taste all that much, and some hot flashes. However, as unpleasant as it's been, allow me to share some happy news! Ready?? My lump is ALREADY smaller! Talk about miraculous!

Tomorrow I will try to return to work and see how I fair. A bit nervous about my stamina, but it's a short shift. I also need to stop and get my blood work done to see how my blood count is doing. I think it will do me some good if I can try to live my life as normally as I can if only for a week or so until round 2.

Lessons so far? Chemo sucks, yes, but that stuff works! Know what works but doesn't suck though? Prayers! :D Which, by the way, I am SO so looking forward to being able to get to church. I have some thanking to do.

Apologies for a brief and flighty post today. Just wanted to let those of you still reading that I'm alive and have made it through okay! Thank you once again for the prayers and love. I'm not quite sure I am worthy of it, but I'm ever so appreciative.

 "Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you."  Deuteronomy 31:6