Thursday, August 9, 2012

Whereupon I Almost Obtain a Medical Degree and Also Extol Bag Balm

Sometimes I think I should have a medical degree.  I kid you not. In the three and a half years since being diagnosed with ovarian cancer I believe I've Googled every symptom under the sun and also every drug combo available for treatment.

I've learned that caffeine may slighty inhibit the efficacy (I love that word) of topotecan.  I didn't know that after my first dosage.  But by my second, I had come across that little tidbit of information and for the duration (of the topotecan treatments) I gave up my morning coffee which consists of two or three cups of instant Folgers.  I'm not a caffeine fanatic as's the ritual of selecting a cup, scooping and stirring the coffee granules, nuking in the microwave, sitting down with my Bible or sometimes yesterday's newspaper still lying unread on the table.  I love that morning ritual. But I gave up my coffee for the duration until the topotecan, like all my previous chemo drugs, stopped working.
Palmar-plantar erythrodysesthesia.
Day 28 of Cycle 3

Thanks to Google I'm quite well versed on peripheral neuropathy, ocular migraines, palmar-plantar erythrodysesthesia (PPE), and other side-effects of chemotherapy. PPE, otherwise known as hand/foot syndrome, is a widely known side-effect of the chemo drug Doxil. I'm not on Doxil, but I am on its virtual twin, a drug called Lipo-Dox imported from India.  (Doxil, the American drug, is currently unavailable.)

I've learned that the lowly Bag Balm, a veterinary product originally intended to soothe the udders of milk cows, is a soothing balm for hand-foot syndrome. I buy mine at the local farm store on the edge of town and the past three weeks have slathered it twice daily on my poor, tender, reddened feet.  Thanks to Bag Balm my toes healed and are now merely "red and tender" this time round.

Thanks to an online forum for ovarian cancer patients I've become knowledgeable about various treatments, supplements (some advised, some not advised, some ill-advised), the importance of staying active, and maintaining a positive attitude.

Bag Balm, the farmer's friend (and mine)
It's that last one that is difficult. Some compare attitude to the half-full/half-empty glass.  But frankly, at my age, and with my diagnosis, I don't see the "half" as quite accurate.  I figure my glass, in terms of future longevity, is nearing "empty".  Yes, I may have a few years left. Three? Two? Four? Seven?  Who knows. My cancer can metastasize...any time!

Lipo-Dox is my fifth chemo regimen (sixth if I count the few weeks of tamoxifen taken jointly with my third regimen).  I use one drug until it stops working. When my tumor marker begins rising quickly, we know the chemo is no longer working. And we try the next drug.

Frankly I'm amazed.  I've been on carbo/taxol, carbo/taxol/avastin, carbo/gemzar, topotecan, and now Lipo-Dox.   I'm amazed my body is still in decent condition.  Up until recently I've been walking two miles several times a week.  Last month's hand-foot syndrome put the kibosh on walking. At least temporarily.

I'm trying to remain positive...not that the drugs will cure me. I know they won't. Not after so many recurrences, not unless there is a miracle from God Himself.  Nevertheless, I remain positive that treatment will keep me stable for a good while yet.

Some of my online friends have achieved long months or even years of remission.  But more of them are like myself, going through one chemo regimen after another, hoping for a few months in between to rest up for the next drug.

Many of these friends are Christians and recognize that the Bible tells us that God knows our every day before we are even born (Psalm 139:16).  They know that Christians, like everyone else, go through the ordinary travails of life in this world, including cancer.  They know, too, that God is the giver of courage and of faith itself (Ephesians 2:8-9).  As Christians we know that God is with us as we walk through the fire (Isaiah 43:2). We will not be overwhelmed. Instead we will praise God until that very last drop of water in that proverbial half-full/half-empty glass is gone.

May your day be full of good things. As is mine.


Debby said...

You might have considered yourself a Folger's girl, but I personally will always see you as a Maxwell House drinker: "Good to the last drop." Yes. Life is good to the last drop." That's something that everyone's grandma should teach, and a lesson worth learning.

I've no idea why I have tears in my eyes either, but I am really proud of your faith, and your ability to let it shine.

Persis said...

I'm glad you're getting some relief with the bag balm.

And I'm thanking God for your grace-filled and God-glorifying attitude.

Tina said...

I am amazed at you too! Your positive attitude and faith are positively amazing! :) God is amazing also--glad you are walking with Him through this, and leaning on Him. Sorry you have to take yet another chemo drug. I will be keeping you in my prayers--I'm going to go write your name in my prayer notebook right now. Thanks to chemo brain I might forget otherwise! :)

Karen Ingalls said...

You are an amazing woman and I always look forward to reading your blogs. Your attitude, sense of humor, wisdom and spirituality are beautiful.
God bless you.

Laurie M. said...

I want you to live forever...and you will! But I also want you to stick around for us to have coffee together at the kitchen table, my friend! You can have coffee and I'll have a Diet Pepsi!

I love your joy and humor.

jim said...

You are an amazing women and I love being your husband. God has blessed us greatly!

Debby said...

Aw! That is so sweet! Sounds like the two of you deserve each other...and that is meant in the best possible way.

Servivorgirl said...

Awe is right. What a sweet response from your hubby....

S. Etole said...

Bag balm is such a useful product for so many things.

What a sweet comment from your husband.

elaine @ peace for the journey said...

Well, hey there... just checking in. Sorry to read about your continuing neuropathy and how it's deterred your walking. I have neuropathy as well and had to trade to in my running for walking. Some days this is particularly painful, but I'm dealing with it.

Special prayers for you tonight, for courage, strength, stamina, and enough fight to see you through the morrow.

Blessings, sister.