Cancer Journal

April 2006

April 1, 2006:
(Happy Birthday, Kelly Ciez!!!)

We traveled up to DC early this morning to watch the Ringling Bros./Barnum & Bailey Circus! Caught the Metro from Huntington and found our seats at the MCI Center. Our toddler son, Andrew (3) was wide eyed the entire time, so excited to see his first circus! And our daughter, Armani (15), reminisced about all of the times I'd taken her to see the circus every year they went to Jacksonville, FL during her younger years. What fun we all had! I think I was oooohhh-ing and ahhhh-ing more than the kids, to be honest with you! Hahaha! We then walked a block to eat lunch and then several more blocks thereafter to find our next Metro station to hit the Tidal Basin and walk amongst the the beautiful Cherry Tree Blossoms. Unfortunately, my right hip started hurting and the pain was shooting down my leg. So we decided that I wouldn't be able to walk much longer and headed back under the MCI building to catch the Metro back to Huntington.

We drove to Mt. Vernon, VA -- about a 20 minute drive from DC -- to stay at David's parents' place for the remainder of the weekend. Ate dinner, played a cool board game that lasted until about 11pm with the whole family, and hit the sack. We decided we'd drive to the Tidal Basin on Sunday morning. And we did. And man-oh-man was it packed full of locals and out-of-towners to enjoy the beautiful Cherry Blossoms at its peak and also to enjoy the Cherry Blossom Parade, which we decided against due to the tremendous pack of people. So we went to lunch at the nearest Hooters in China Town of all places. Hahaha! I LOVE Hooters wings -- breaded, hot sauce, and blue cheese with their curly fries and a pint of Amber Bock, though this location didn't serve Amber Bock, so I settled for Sam Adams. Ahhh. Got my monthly fix of Hooters chicken wings. Yummy! I could eat their wings every night and never get sick of it. Hahaha! Too bad I won't be eating Hooters wings much longer, because after I'm able to start working out again, I'm going on a clean diet. Gotta lose the excess weight I've gained from the pre-meds I receive prior to each chemo treatment!!! And I tell ya, I am ready to look like ME once again.


April 2
(Happy Birthday, Billie-Jay du Preez!)

Early this morning, David had to cut off my Ming pearl-clustered ring off of my right ring finger. My finger was puffed out like a puffer fish from beneath my ring band. There was NO WAY the ring was going to slide off my finger. I tried everything the night before -- soap and water, lotion, even Windex, which a jeweler once recommended to remove rings off a stubborn finger. And so, I decided to also remove my wedding ring before IT got stuck and had to be cut off my finger also. I feel very "naked" without my engagement and wedding rings which are sautered together. I'm wearing a very blinged-out looking ring right now on my wedding ring finger. It is an emerald-cut, four-carat "diamond" ring.

Hopefully, once I stop taking the steroids and start losing the weight, my rings will fit me once again. As for the Ming pearl-clustered ring, we'll just get it re-sautered. I cried when David cut the ring off my swollen finger because it means so much to me. The ring was an unexpected Christmas present from David. I eyed the ring ONCE when we were at one of my favorite boutiques when we lived in Hawaii. I had no clue he even noticed that I was admiring the ring. Sneaky!

We made it back up to DC to see the Cherry Blossoms in full bloom! How beautiful!!! I'll have to upload a few photos for you all to see what I mean!!! And oh does the air smell so fragrantly! After lunch, we headed back to my in-laws in Mt. Vernon just in time for the community Easter Egg Roll which included an egg hunt, egg coloring, petting zoo, and a pony ride. Again, I'll post photos from the Egg Roll. Afterward, we headed back to the house for the family cookout on Dad's new grill. Unfortunately for me, I missed out on the fun because I extended my nap directly after the Easter Egg Roll and didn't wake up until it was time to eat. Well, I was very tired and my hip and leg hurt tremendously from standing all the time we were at the egg hunt. So I ate dinner in bed (tired of meals in bed!) and before we left for our hour-and-a-half trip south for home, gave hugs and kisses to all who attended the family cookout and said my good-byes.

Home at last and unable to sleep. Everyone else is upstairs passed out from the fun-filled weekend. No worries. I'll just sleep in tomorrow. :-)


April 3

Apparently, not only did I sleep until almost 9:00 this morning, so did Andrew! Yay! I am still tired and sluggish, but I'm doing laundry now. Loads of it. LOL. Not fun for me, but when I fold the clothes, I'll just sit in front of the TV next to Andrew and before I know it, I'll be through with the first load.

My right hip and leg still hurt from the weekend's activities. I am hoping the pain will diminish and eventually disappear soon after I finish chemo this Wed-Fri. I'll bring it up to the doc and see what he says.

MRI results are still pending, but the retinal photography done last Thursday came back normal. No Glaucoma for me! Yay!

And for those who are wondering about my surgical site -- the lower part of the site finally closed up and is completely healed as of this past February. After five months of having a hole the size of tiny pea and wearing sweat pants because jeans were very uncomfortable to button and wear over the hole -- I am now able to wear my favorite jeans without any pain or discomfort. FIVE MONTHS it took for my surgical site to fully heal. That's what chemo will do -- major delay in any healing of any surgery.

Soon after my last chemo treatment, I believe I will be getting yet another surgery -- just a minor one -- to remove the medical port that was surgically inserted just below my right shoulder. Won't be able to lift weights for a while thereafter. Can't wait tilil ALL surgery is behind me and most of the chemo side effects dissipate within the year!


April 5

Today's my last day at the local hospital's OPIS (Outpatient Infusion Service Center) to receive my final dose of chemo!!! Yay!!!!!!! Of course, everyone at OPIS knew today's my last day of chemo. They gave me a bunch of heck, including my oncologist! Haha! I did mention my hip and leg pain to the doc and I got x-rays taken prior to chemo. The results came back quickly, and I learned that I have arthritis in my hip and leg. It's yet another side effect from the steroids I receive pre-chemo. The doc assured me that soon after I finish this last chemo treatment and start to lose some of the weight I've gained (also from the steroids, lots of sleep and general lack of inactivity), my pain should dissipate. He didn't say it quite like that. He knows how fat I feel already. So he made his diagnosis in a humorous way that made me laugh the entire time

Mrs. Perrin, I absolutely hated to get your x-ray results because I know what you're going to say right off the bat when I tell you the results -- "I'm fat and I told you that all these problems are due to my being so fat ". You are not fat. You look "normal", unlike how skinny you were to begin with! So , here's the diagnosis . . . and no saying you're fat now! You'll be back to yourself in no time!

All this said in that awesome Jamaican accent!

I'm checking the meds that were hung up toward the last few hours of my stay at OPIS. One of the nurses saw me and announced to the other nurses that I was pushing the meds to go down faster so I could get out of the hospital sooner! Hahaha! That's Ms. Rose for ya! Always trying to stir trouble where there's none to be had! Hahahaha! And later that afternoon, before I left, she handed me a beautiful gift bag that was filled with 1) a framed poem about being a strong woman, reminding me that it's about me! 2) a bag full of homemade buttered toffee pecans (yummy! all gone now!) and finally 3) a homemade tote bag sewn by a local artist.

I am going to miss all of the medical staff at OPIS so much! But maybe not so soon. . . I have to go in on Monday to drop off my portable chemo pump, get more bloodwork done, and then receive my last dose of Neulasta to increase my white blood cell count one LAST TIME! And I am going to drop off my application to volunteer my services to other cancer patients. It's the least I can do to assist my services to others in my situation in any way I can! If only to hold their hand and say that everything will be OK. I plan to volunteer at least four hours every Sunday soon after I give myself a few months' time to recuperate from some of the chemo side effects I've endured these past six months. Maybe I'll be lucky enough to work side by side with the OPIS gang. Keep your fingers crossed for me!

I have quite a bit of energy today, even though I am a bit tired now. Dinner in bed. Leftover fried rice and Kalua pork (Hawaiian-style pulled pork) that I made for dinner last night. Yum. And loads of water to drink. Thereafter, I'm going to sleep.


April 6

I woke up at 6:00 a.m. when David's alarm went off. Great. LoL. I decided to make breakfast for me and Andrew so when he woke up, his breakfast would be ready for him and Grandma won't have to deal with it. :-)

Here I am, done with breakfast and ready to hit the sack yet again. I'll probably read a bit before nodding off. It's now 8:18 a.m. I have photos I plan to upload soon from this past weekend's events. I promise that once my energy level is up, I'll post the pics for you to see.

To those of you who have been so thoughtful and kind enough to send emails my way, please keep them up! I enjoy reading and replying to all of your messages. They make me smile and keep me going throughout the day.


April 7

It's official! As of 11:48 a.m., when I disconnected my portable chemo pump from my port and flushed saline and heparin through the tubes, I am done with my chemo treatments! YAY!!!

Don't have any energy at all today. Sleep, sleep, and more sleep is on my agenda for the entire day and night. NIghty-night.


April 8

Tired, but am out of bed to update my journal. There's a community Easter Egg Hunt at 1pm which David will take Andrew if it doesn't rain. Looks a bit overcast and seems to me, it rained earlier this morning as the roads are wet. I hope it doesn't rain. If it does, however, there is a rain date of next Saturday, but that's the same day that David and I plan to celebrate "Life After Chemo"!

On Monday, I will be going to OPIS one last time to drop off my chemo pump, get my bloodwork done, and receive my last shot of Neulasta. Then, I'll head over to the Volunteer Director's office to drop off my volunteer application.

Thereafter, I will no longer be going to OPIS for anymore treatments. I will be going back to my primary oncologist up at the National Naval Medical Center (NNMC) in Bethesda, MD -- a four-hour roundtrip drive for me -- 4x/year for checkups. I only hope I don't have to get a colonoscopy each time I'm up there. That would really be horrible.

I am indeed looking forward to moving on with my life -- with chemo treatments behind me.

I'm getting very tired now, so I will end my entry here. Please know that your emails are very much appreciated!


April 11

I woke up this morning with my entire body aching. As usual, effects from the Neulasta shot I received yesterday at OPIS to increase my white blood cells. My bloodwork results were great. I was instructed to get bloodwork every week for the next month. And I thought I'd be through with my visits at OPIS! Oh well. The staff at OPIS are FANTASTIC, so I really have no qualms about visiting them while getting bloodwork done.

I feel very exhausted and more than likely will continue to feel tired for weeks to come. I haven't started cardio workouts because of my low energy level, though I have started my diet today. I won't start carb-depleting until next year. My main goal is to eat clean and healthy. I think I'll start a fitness and diet section on my site. In fact, I'll start my diet journal some time today! Dieting doesn't have to be an awful experience -- in my opinion, eating in moderation is key to a successful diet!

My jaws still cramp up with each bite I take of any type of food. Kinda like when you bite into a lemon -- it makes my mouth pucker up and leaves a cramping sensation up my jaws. You know the feeling I'm trying to describe? Imagine that feeling each time you take a bite of food.

Cold sensitivity still persists. I can't drink anything cold. I even have to nuke lemonade in the microwave for 20 seconds to take away the chill. And ice cream? Well, um, err . . . hehehe . . . I did have a small cone last night. But remember, I DID say that I started my diet TODAY. Hehehehe. The ice cream was hard for me to eat, but I managed. I felt like I was eating pins and needles whenever I took a lick of the darned ice cream. So I ate it very slowly so as to give my tongue and mouth a bit of recuperation time in between each bite or lick.

Neuropathy (new-ROP-athee) is still lingering as well. My fingertips and feet are numb all the time now. I wear socks 24 hours a day, and most of the time, I have to wear gloves just to take the laundry out of the washing machine and into the dryer because it hurts to handle the cool, damp laundry. Chalk it up to cumulative effects of chemotherapy.

I am no longer bald, though the top is still very thin. I have about an eighth of an inch of hair covering most of my head. As soon as it reaches an inch, I plan to stop wearing a wig in public. I hate wearing a wig. My head gets hot and irritated by the cap. I'd just as soon go "bald", but I don't want to LOOK like a cancer patient. I saw a lady wearing a baseball cap yesterday. It was very obvious she was bald. In fact, she looked familiar to me. I bet she's a patient at OPIS. I am not a hat nor baseball cap person, but from time to time, I used to wear a cute baseball cap when I hit the gym -- especially on bad hair days when I'd gather up my (once-long) hair into a ponytail and poke it out the back of the cap. And whenever I would jog, my hair would flip and sway, making me look even more bouncier than normal. I miss those days (sigh). Soon though . . . I WILL be back to my old self once again -- but better (wink).

I started practicing my acoustic guitar, even though I can hardly feel the strings because my fingertips are numb. That's probably why I'm playing better! Hahahaha! I have a beautiful Fender Mini-Classical Guitar with nylon strings that's almost fit for a child to play. The 3/4 size guitar is too large for me to handle. My fingers are small, and they don't stretch too far -- I can, however, at least reach one octave to another on a piano, but I'm still awkward with finger positions when I play chords on the guitar. Not only am I learning how to play chords, I am also learning to play finger style. So my self-teaching goes quite slowly. Thank goodness I can at least READ music from taking piano lessons when I was just a kid!

Easter Sunday is just five days away! What do you have planned? Family picnic? Community/Neighborhood Easter Egg Hunt? Or is it just another day for you? My family and I have a community easter egg hunt on scheduled on Saturday. It rained LAST Saturday, the original date of the egg hunt, so this Saturday is the rain date. Hopefully, the day stays clear, sunny, and warm like it is today here in Southern Maryland. But on Friday, Ms. Luz is having an egg hunt just for the kids she cares for during the week, including my little Andrew. So at 3:30 p.m., Andrew and I will walk down to Ms. Luz's house and enjoy his SECOND egg hunt of the month! He's getting away with lots of beautifully colored eggs and other treats!


April 17:

It's been a little more than two weeks now since my last chemo treatment. My finger tips and toes are still numb. Sometimes, my feet get completely numb and I tend to be clumsy and trip because I can't feel my feet on the ground. The cold sensitivity seems to have decreased quite a bit. My tongue is numb, but not as numb as my finger tips and toes. Weird sensation, really. Oh, and fatigue. Let me tell you about it! I am still tired every day. I tend to sleep in and go to bed early. Sometimes, if I have a really full day, I try to sneak in a nap. My hip still contribute to my pain level, and I have been taking 800mg of Ibuprofen each evening to ease the pain. Let's see . . . oh, my hair is really growing now. It looks just like when David first clipped my hair. I started using Nioxin follicle booster on my bald spot. It is supposed to aid in new hair growth, and I've heard from former cancer patients that it really works! Once my bald spot becomes covered with hair, then I will stop wearing my wig out in public.

I started my diet last week, and so far, I've lost 4.5 lbs. Yippee! And from time to time, I try to do stretches and work out my abs -- lower, obliques, and upper abs. My diet isn't about cutting out carbs just yet -- it's about eating less while still eating what I desire. Eventually, carb-depletion will be a part of my diet, but that won't be until sometime next year if I actually enter in a figure competition. Otherwise, I won't be carb-depleting at all. I should be eating about 5 or 6 small meals a day, but I just don't really have much of an appetite right now.


April 19:
12:00 p.m. - I went to OPIS this morning where they again drew blood. All seems to look well so far! I don't get bloodwork done again until 3 months from now and every 3 months thereafter. I will be getting a PET/CT scan on May 22 at 8:15am. Thought I'd have to drive the four-hour roundtrip to NNMC, Bethesda, MD but Dr, Cross said I could just continue going to OPIS for all of my treatments. Thank goodness for that good news.

The "bad" news is that the nurse practitioner, Ms. Dana, wants me to fight my fatigue by forcing myself to do cardio workouts starting next week. Gotta listen to her. Gotta muster up all the energy I can to work out! I'm actually going to start cardio and weights today -- within the next hour, to be exact! That's when Andrew should be down for his nap. Wish me luck! And I'll tell y'all how my workout went!

1:26 p.m. - Whew! I'm beat from doing cardio, abs and weights (upper body: back, shoulders, biceps, triceps)! But I'm feeling quite well! I guarantee you that I will be feeling the pain from today's workout -- TOMORROW and the following day! I will plan to do cardio again and workout my legs (quads, hamstrings, calves, glutes) tomorrow.


April 21:

I'm in great spirits today and am feeling energetic for a change!! Yay! My fingers and toes, however, remain numb. Hard to get my debit card out of my wallet or button up my son's shirts. Sometimes, tying shoe laces can be difficult as well. But it helps when I play the guitar! Well, maybe not, as I can't differentiate between the upper strings from the lower ones. I need to get going. My son is hopping into my guitar bag and trying to zip himself in. Hahaha! Ahh, the joys of motherhood . . . Peace.


April 27:

I'm sore today from doing supersets the past couple of days. I'm definitely not as strong as I was before cancer surgery and chemotherapy, but hopefully as the days pass, I'll be able to regain my strength and endurance. Some days, not only are my toes numb, but also my feet get numb and I can't feel the floor. I end up stumbling and looking like I had too much to drink. Haha! I hope the numbness in my extremities disappear soon. I doubt it. I have heard from some former patients who still suffer from neuropathy even after a year since their last chemo treatment.


April 29:

Hi All! I was wearing my newest wig the other day while I was cooking dinner. Opened up the oven door and "WHOOSH" -- out comes hot air. Silence. Then a sizzling sound and stench in the air. It was the front of my wig that was sizzling and stinking up the kitchen! No, it was not the dinner (garlic and soy sauce roasted chicken -- yum!)!

So, yesterday after having tea and lunch at The Tea Room with some gal pals, I went to the wig store and bought the exact wig I burned, but in a lighter color with highlights. Plus, I bought yet another wig -- a shorter, jet black wig with a bit of wave to it at the ends. It's very stylish and makes me look very polished. Very sophisticated.

I wore the jet black wig last night when David and I went to Ruth's Chris Steakhouse in the DC Convention Center area where we celebrated Life After Chemo and our anniversary (May 1st) with his parents, his brother Mike, and Mike's girlfriend Jenn. Jenn actually passed right by me at the bar because she didn't recognize me with my new wig and probably from being dressed up too -- black halter top with white polka dots, black sweater/shrug to cover my shoulders, slightly flared-slinky velvet pants, and black strappy high heeled sandals -- pearl and gold beaded necklace, pearl cluster ring, 4 carat "diamond" ring and multi-diamond studded wedding band, gold watch. I haven't had a reason to get this dressed up in ages! I felt...pretty. And oh, we had a blast.! Well, at least Jenn and I did. We got a bit tipsy after she downed three different drinks and I sucked down three Grey Goose Martinis straight up, a little dirty and extra olives (wow!). I think the rest of the family's eyebrows were stuck at the "up" position with wide eyes and fake smiles and gutteral laughs here and there while Jenn and I were talking and laughing all night long. I didn't have to drive, so I wasn't worried about my giddy and tipsy state. Hehehe. It's been a while. Slept well. That's for sure.

Thanks Mom & Dad, Mike & Jenn for meeting us and sharing in our celebrations last night! I had a fantastic time!


April 30:

Feeling great after an awesome workout today. Missed yesterday's workout and felt guilty as hell. I was busy all day yesterday -- lunch at The Tea Room, a look-see around the large, adjoining antique shop, a trip to the wig store. Dinner up in DC. But sometimes, life's just that way (big smile).

Getting ready to head upstairs and take a little afternoon catnap with the cutest little boy in the world -- My Andrew.