Saturday, March 13, 2010

Today I Fought the Dragon. And He Did Not Slay Me

My blog is eclectic if nothing else. Rather like my decor.

I like to write. I'm usually a klutz at face-to-face but in writing I can back up, edit, rephrase, try to make my words say what I really want them to convey. And so I write. About numerous subjects.

Today I'm writing about my chemo. I won't be offended if you click elsewhere. You have my permission to do so. Not everyone wants to read about cancer.

My ovarian cancer was diagnosed a year ago during routine gall bladder surgery. Mine is stage III-C which means cells occurred throughout my abdominal cavity but had not yet metastasized (invaded) into bones, lungs, brain. Which, believe you me, is a good thing.

That month I had one major surgery and two minor and was in the hospital a total of 13 days. One of those minor surgeries was placement of a Power Port just below my left collar bone. It's a marvelous thing. Many hate their ports. I love makes accessing for chemo or blood draws easy.

A year ago in February I began six sessions of heavy-duty chemo every 3 weeks. During that time I was on a double-blind clinical trial (GOG-218) using a third drug (or placebo) in combo with the carbo/taxol. After six sessions the protocal was that my group was to continue with only the trial drug Avastin (or placebo).

By December mild symptoms of discomfort and a rising tumor marker in my blood told me that I was recurring. A PET scan January 8 verified that my intuition was right on. By protocol my recurrence meant I was dropped from the trial. My doc was able to unblind my records and tell me that I had been on the placebo and not the trial drug Avastin. Again, my intuition had been right. I had never believed I was getting the Avastin for I had none of its symptoms...high blood pressure, bloody nose, etc.

With the recurrence I am back on chemo. This time I'm taking the carbo/taxel along with Avastin. This time my treatments are weekly but with lower dosages. I get the three-drug combo on Week 1. Weeks 2 and 3 are taxol only. Week 4 is free, no chemo. Then we start all over again with Week 1. That was today. Doc says I will probably continue this for six months provided blood tests and scans show this drug combo is working.

I still have my Power Port and it is my friend! The nurse inserts a short needle thingy (I don't know what it is called!) through the skin into the port. It's as simple as plugging an electric cord into the wall socket. Just like that! It's done. There is a momentary sting...hardly enough of a sting to even say "Ouch!" And then infusion begins. The session is usually several hours long because different drugs go in at different times. Decadron. Benedryl. Zantac. Aloxi. Carboplatin. Paclitaxel. Avastin. Saline flush. (not necessarily in that order) I usually spend the first hours reading or chatting. Until the benadryl is administered and then I take a nap. I asked them to lower the benadryl and they did, but it still makes me sleepy and I can't hold my eyes open any longer.

I like to get the recliner next to the window. I can see Nurse Diana's door from there. And I can chat with whoever is in the window chairs for blood or shots or blood pressures. That is, if they want to chat. I'm careful about invading personal space.

Lesser dosages mean no more than a couple twinges of bone pain with Week 1. No symptoms whatsoever on Weeks 2 and 3. Other Than Hair loss! Yep. Hubby helped me buzz my head this week after it had thinned to patches. My curls were gone. My scalp hurt. It was a mess. I just wanted to be rid of it.

No, I won't complain about hair loss. At least until the eye lashes fall out...which I figure will be within the next three weeks sometime. Then I might complain. A little. A tiny bit. Eye liner will help but only if you stand at least six feet away from me and have poor eyesight and are deluded into thinking eyeliner looks like lashes!

This year cancer seems not so traumatic. I'm not stressed about it. I'm surprised, really, that it does not psych me out. It's as if the trauma of it all occurred last year. The shock, the struggle to sink this into my brain...the statistics, the possibilities, the what ifs, the whyfors, the why me? I've already gone through all of that and come out on the other side. I'm quite aware of the possibilities ahead of me...I just am not going to spend every waking moment obsessing about it.

I'm come to grips with it, really. I've said my prayers. I've done the tears. Now I continue in prayer and thank God that I feel well today. And presumably tomorrow. I'm convinced that the Creator God, who made us all, has my days mapped out for me (Psalm 139:16). Whatever the purpose of all this, I know that it is for my good (Romans 8:28) and for His glory. Right now, in this world, we do not see all of it to its fullness. It's as if we look through a dirty stained glass and see only dimly, but when all is said and done, when we arrive in God's presence, we will see it all clearly (I Cor. 13:12) and we will see that God's sovereign will is perfect, always and forever.

In the meantime we live. And we enjoy the step in front of us, the task in front of us, the people beside us, the world around us. I do that with joy. I hope you, too, are looking at the joy of life. And living it well in the knowledge of the goodness of God.

The dragon? You have to go here to read about the dragon and about my meeting Sven the Dragon Slayer.



Kathy C. said...

I'm not sure what to say here, because I want to be sympathetic, but I was so struck by your strength and your trust in God and His plan for your life, that I really just want to are blessed. Does that make any sense? I pray that if something like this should happen to me, I will always keep my eyes on Him and trust Him in the way you do.
Blessings my friend.

Linda said...

Praise the Lord! Our Lord is stronger than any dragon--you have walked the valley once and found the other side. He will take you through again!

Debby said...

You are a winner. I've known this since I 'met' you. I have to say this one thing though. It still shocks me stupid how a simple series of pictures makes my own chemo experience uncomfortably 'real'. (Isn't that stupid?) Reading your post prompted my own memories of chemo, and WhiteStone? I gotta say, chemo is tough stuff. I am sorry that you have to do it all again. I am sorry about the hair. I'm sorry about the benedryl. I am glad that I found you, though.

Gregg said...

Praise God! Thanks for sharing. I am sure you are an inspiration. My prayers are with you!

Mrs. Spit said...

You are one of the toughest ladies I know. I'm sorry this is hard. I'm sorry it's so monumentally unfair.

I'm just sorry.

S. Etole said...

So glad you know the dragon slayer ... stand firm!

Kelly said...

I try not to shy away from the more difficult posts because so often we find our inspirations from those difficult times.

You are a remarkable woman and I find your faith and attitude very inspiring!!

Our older daughter is one of the RNs that administers chemo at our local hospital. I bet she can tell us what that "short needle thingy" is!

Forrest said...

Lifting you up in prayer, sister. And you're is all working together for good to those who love God and are the called according to His purpose!

May you "see" Christ with eyes of spiritual understanding in the midst of your fiery trial.

Pilgrim Mommy said...

Praying for God's continued grace to uphold you. He is being glorified through your testimony.

melissa said...

You say, "In the meantime we live." and how right you are. Whether we're dealing with illness or the mundane, it's all a gift.

Btw, seeing your hair in your hand made me cry. Just stung.

Hope your weekend is restful and full of blessings. :)

Tina said...

Chemo is never easy, and I'm sorry you have to go through it again, but thankful that you don't go through it alone, but with Jesus by your side.
Everyday is such a gift. I'm still trying to figure it all out, but I'm determined to not waste whatever time God has given me.
Thank you for being an inspiration to me and others! And may God bless you abundantly!

Caroline said...

I had a love/hate relationship with my port. I hated it under my skin but I loved how much easier it made chemo. I think the first time around is our chance to do everything wrong and stress out over cancer. But the second time, we get the privilege of learning from our experience and handling it better. The hair loss is tough no matter what. The its the attitude that counts and gets us through the days.

Laurie M. said...

"I like to write. I'm usually a klutz at face-to-face but in writing I can back up, edit, rephrase, try to make my words say what I really want them to convey. And so I write. About numerous subjects."
I could have written this about myself!

Sorry about the curls - and the chemo. I'm inspired by your continued hope in Christ, and your good cheer.

Glenda said...

What an inspiring testimony! What peace and strength your words reveal! May God continue to touch you as only He can.

Elle Bee said...

Thank you for sharing this. I love your attitude and your trust in God. Went to read about Sven and the Dragon Slayer. Great post. And also, now I know what cogitate means. Dah. How I've gone 30 years without incorporating that into my vocab is baffling.

Anonymous said...

Great post. Keep up the positive attitude. Keep trusting the Lord. He will see you through!

Karen said...

WhtieStone, so many memories crashed into me as I read your post and viewed your pictures: the hair loss, the port, the reclining chairs. Before I had chemo, those images would have frightened me, probably would've made me sick. Now, they remind me of how fragile life is, and even more, they show me that God is always right by our side, helping us traverse along the rough roads of life. We are never alone.

Your strength is like a rock.

Hang in there, friend, for I am praying for you!

ce_squared said...

You are an inspiration, dear White Stone! Thank you for sharing your story. I'm glad that you don't feel defeated, even though you're fighting it again. I'm rooting for you. (So sorry about the hair loss and the pain and aches of chemo though)...