Cancer Journal

Feb. 2006

Feb. 1:
Hi all! I'm feeling MUCH better today, thank you for asking! My bones and joints aren't hurting anymore, and I'm starting to feel like myself again. Still don't have the energy or desire to workout today. Maybe I'll feel up to it tomorrow.


Feb. 8:
Today's my 8th chemo treatment! I have four treatments left, so I should be done by the end of March. Yay!!!!! As usual, I went to OPIS to get infused with my pre-meds and FOLFOX for six hours -- 8am-2pm. I left with a chemo pump which will infuse 5-FU (Fluorouracil) for the next 46 hours -- basically, until sometime Friday morning. I'm home now, and completely exhausted. My son Andrew (3) is with my mother-in-law who is staying here until Saturday morning when my husband David can take over household duties. It's 2:45 p.m. and I'm going to bed now. I'll write more tomorrow.


Feb. 9:
My daughter Armani (15) has a 9am doctor's appointment and a 10am orthodontist appointment. Thank goodness Mom-in-Law is here to take her to these appointments! I don't know what I'd do without family, really. I rely on Mom Perrin and hubby so much these days. It's a major heart-break for me to have to rely on anybody. I feel guilty for having to do so, but in my case, I have no other choice. Thank you SO MUCH, Mom and David!

I'm extremely fatigued, as usual. Same side effects from the beginning, and one more to add to the list: when my eyes tear up, they hurt my eyes very much. The sensation is much like putting ice cubes up against my eyeballs. OUCH! It's part of Oxaliplatin side effects--sensitivity to cold. In my case, it's extreme -- as usual. That's why hubby calls me "The One" -- I get all of the side effects that are experienced maybe by 1% of patients who take Oxaliplatin. Hahaha! THE ONE. Yeah. Hurrah for me. * NOT * OK, back to sleep I go -- for the rest of the day and night!


Feb. 10:
Hi y'all. It's a little after noon on Friday. I'm back in bed from flushing my port witha dose of saline and Heparin, disconnecting the chemo pump from my port which entails pulling out a 1.5-inch needle from my shoulder (port site), and taking a quick shower. The shower took all of what I had for energy.

David says we are going to be expecting about 4-6 inches of snow by this evening. My kids will be so excited! Well, I'm going to sleep now.


Feb. 11:
Armani's state cheerleading competition is cancelled because of the snowfall. From what I hear, there's not too much snow on the ground just yet, though we are expecting much more snow to fall throughout the day and into the evening. I hate to sound like a recording, but I'm still so tired, so I'm going to go back to sleep (again).


Feb. 12:

Snow! My kids are outside this morning playing in it. Fun for them!!! Yippee! Wish I could be out there with them, but my face, fingers and toes would completely cramp up. Just the thought of cold air hurts me. Owwee.


I had a pity party earlier this evening. I was the only one invited. I could have used a shoulder to cry on, but I hate wetting my husband's shirt from my tears. I cried between bitefuls of my dinner-in-bed as I caught a glance of a photo of me and my best friend Kelly -- back when I was healthy, fit and had a head full of luscious locks.

I cried as I heard my husband, son and daughter conversate, laugh and move about downstairs as they had dinner together. I cried even harder when I felt pangs of guilt and envy because I couldn't be downstairs with them. Then, my daughter came upstairs and overheard my sobs as she walked by my bedroom.

She gave me hugs and kisses and told me she loved me very much -- before she headed out the door with hubby and son to go to the movie theater with her friends.

I cringe when I see myself in the mirror. Vain, isn't it? But when vanity played such a big part of my career, and always will, to a certain extent -- where do I go from here? I mean, I've never had a problem with keeeping my weight down to between 100-105 pounds; never had a problem with being and looking physically fit! It's very distressing for me to see this metamorphosis take place in just a matter of months.

Right now, I just don't look like the girl you see in all of the photos on my site. I am balding at the top of my crown, and my hair in general is thinning. My hair is very short. I am about 40 pounds over my normal weight of 105 because of the steroids in my pre-meds and also of the lack of exercise due to my lack of energy. This photo of Andrew and me was taken on Feb. 4, 2006 at Armani's regional cheerleading competition:

I was hoping I'd be the cancer patient who'd lose 7 pounds a week. Better to be thin than fat, I think. Instead, here I am gaining a pound a week on average. I will more than likely hit the 150 mark (I'm only 5'1") at my last weigh-in. That's 20 pounds more than I was when I was pregnant with my daughter! But 10 pounds less than I was pregnant with my son. Ha!

Nurse Rose reassured me that the pounds will start dropping once I complete my chemo treatments. I know the pounds won't melt away on their own, so I am looking forward to training harder than ever at the gym once my energy level is par for the course, so to speak. And hopefully, soon,I will look and feel like myself once again -- the person you see on my website! Yay!


Feb. 13:

I'm off to OPIS where I will drop off my chemo pump and endure another painful shot of Neulasta to boost my white blood cells between treatments. My energy level is up a bit today, but I am feeling a bit dizzy and my fingers are hurting -- they just feel very raw. And they look it too. :-(

Until next chemo treatment -- next Wed., Feb. 22 -- aloha for now!


Feb. 14:


I'm now having to wear a wig because the bald area on my head is very noticeable now. Even the four or five hairs that I use to do my combover isn't working out for me. Here I am with my shorter wig. I want to look decent for my hubby when he comes home from work on this Day of Love.

I am due to begin menstruation today, but I have no signs of it. I have learned that irregular or loss of menstruation is yet another possible side effect of chemotherapy (I am on FOLFOX-4).


Feb. 16:

My bald spot on the top of my head is now the size of my hand, from my wrist to the tip of my middle finger. I actually wore my shorter wig for the first time today. It actually looked good on me! I miss my real hair -- long, lush, and usually full of volume -- SO MUCH! I can't wait to get back to looking like ME again!!!

I picked up Armani from school last night after she got back from cheering at an away basketball game. She was standing around with some of the other cheerleaders, waiting for their ride home. Armani took one look at me from outside and started laughing off her head. I laughed just as hard -- we both knew I was wearing a wig. Hahaha! She got into the car and laughed even harder, all the while hugging me and telling me that I looked pretty. She makes me laugh so hard sometimes!. I love her so much!


Feb. 17:

I feel extremely tired this morning. I went to bed at a reasonable time last night (10:45pm) and woke up at ten minutes till 8am. Must be the cumulative effects of chemo setting in.

The skin on the palm of my hands and fingertips are cracking and peeling. My hands feel extremely raw. They hurt. My feet are the same way. I have to wear gloves just to get the laundry out of the washing machine and into the dryer because the wet clothes feel very cold to me and sends jolts of what feel like electric currents or severe pins and needles poking through my fingertips and palms.

I get dizzy throughout the day. I am starting to fall frequently. I feel like I'm on a hike when I climb or descend our stairways to go either upstairs to our bedroom or down to the basement -- where our family room, laundry room, arts & crafts room, mud room, 4th bathroom, and our 5th bedroom are all located. Besides the kitchen on the main floor, the basement is the hub in our household.


Feb. 20:

I woke up this morning to a pillow covered with hair. OK, it's time to shave the noggin. My long hairs aren't covering up my bald spot, so I think it's best to go ahead and get a shave so all of my hairs can at least be the same length when it starts growing out. Don't want to look like a Ch-Ch-Ch Chia Pet (sing to the tune of the Chia Pet commercial)! Can you imagine my bald spot growing little tufts of hair amid the longer hairs surrounding it?! Gross! Hahaha!

David was very somber as he pulled out his clippers and shaved my head. Andrew cried as David continued to shave off my hair. That was this morning. It's about 5pm now, and I think little Andrew is getting used to my new look. Armani hates my shaved head. Oh well. I'm actually thinking of going bald. I'll let you know what I decide later tonight.

I hope you don't gross out when you see my head. I'm posting the photo of my bald spot so you all can see why I feel so horrible about what I look like these days. I know, I know. The hair will grow back. But in the mean time, I'm going through quite a bit of emotional turmoil having to deal with how I look! I look like an Auschwitz survivor!

I have a longer wig that's at the salon right now. My hairdstylist, Janet, will be styling my wig for me. It should be ready sometime this week. I'll have Armani take photos of me wearing it. :-) I probably won't pick up my wig until next week since I'll be getting my 9th chemo treatment on Wed.

As far as the loss of menstruation side effect, I believe I am experiencing it. I know for a fact that I'm not pregnant. However, I hope it's not a sign of menopause. I would love to try to be a mother for the third time! However, if my loss of menstruation is indeed permanent, then I will just count my blessings -- to have two wonderful children and a loving husband!


Feb. 21:

My tongue went numb several times today as well as my fingers and toes. The tip of my fingers, palms, toes and bottom of my feet are getting more raw as the days go by. It's very painful for me to handle most anything, especially anything that requires steady, complex finger movements, like getting a credit card out of a wallet. I have actually had to ask the cashier to please take out a card out of my wallet! I get dizzy on and off throughout the day. I'm very fatigued. I no longer seem to bounce back between chemo treatments. It's common, however, for those on chemo to get more and more tired after each chemo cycle. Still no menstruation. I'll be damned! It's nice not to have to deal with it, to tell you the truth!

Chemo Cycle #9 of 12 starts tomorrow. Countdown to the end of treatments begins for me now! Yay!


Feb. 22:

OPIS was full today, so my treatment was delayed for about an hour. I didn't get home until around 4:30pm today. And as usual, I hopped right into bed for the rest of the day and night.

I didn't wear my wig today for my 9th chemo infusion. The nurses and Dr. Cross liked my new 'do! :-) Dr. Cross is completely, smoothly bald. I told him I'd more than likely end up looking like him in a few days. He had a pretty good laugh, and so did I. Unbeknownst to him, I was dead serious!

I do not have any new side effects to list today, thank God! Let's do a recap of all the side effects I have experienced to date:

  • Severe Fatigue -- I did not have much energy to spare during chemo treatments. In the beginning of my treatments, however, I was able to recuperate between treatments. I felt good by the 6th day. But by the 7th treatment, I noticed my fatigue lasted for more than a week. Finally, by my 8th treatment, I realized I was not recuperating between treatments any longer. I am constantly tired. It takes all of my energy just to do every day chores around the house.

  • Low Counts of Red Blood Cells (Anemia) -- This only lasted the first or second chemo treatment. I was given a shot of Procrit. Let me tell you, Procrit hurts. It has to be administered very slowly -- over a two minute session. And I'm not a baby when it comes to getting shots or giving blood on an every-other-week schedule.

  • Low Counts of White Blood Cells -- A shot of Neulasta subcutaneously was administered approximately 24 hours after each and every chemo cycle (every other week).

  • Extreme Sensitivity to Cold -- I have to wear gloves to get anything out of the refrigerator and freezer; my face hurts (cramps up in the cold!) and my hands and feet cramp up from the cold too.

  • Neuropathy -- My fingers and feet feel like they are being stabbed with pins and needles; sometimes, they go numb. My tongue gets numb too, though I didn't experience this until around my 8th chemo treatment.

  • Skin Discoloration -- My hands and feet turn a reddish-brown, almost purple, each time I start a new cycle of chemo. My knuckles are almost black. The reddish-brown color diminishes between treatments, but the knuckles remain almost black. I understand this is a common side effect and will disappear after treatment is completed.

  • Cracking and Peeling Skin -- The tips and cuticles of my fingers are constantly in a peeling state. The skin on my palms are constantly in a cracking state. The bottoms of my feet are blistering and cracking. I have to constantly rub my hands and feet with my most favorite lotion in the world: "Look Ma, New Hands" by Bath & Body Works. The lotion contains Paraffin, so it really relieves the crackly and peely look of my hands and feet. And it feels good too.

  • Thinning Hair / Balding -- It's quite common for patients on FOLFOX to have thinning hair. I, of course, experienced this side effect PLUS I also have baldness right at the top of my head. I initially got my hair cut in Nov. 2005 into a cute pixie-style cut. At that point, I was not balding. Last month, I started to experience balding at the top of my head, so I got my hair cut even shorter. Just last week, my husband shaved my head at my request. And today, I decided to go completely bald so ALL of my hairs will be about the same length as those growing on my bald spot. And yes, I wear a wig in public so I don't call too much attention to myself: "Ohh, poor darlin's got cancer. Lookie at her bald head." That's probably what I would hear. And then I'd more than likely notice all the looks I get from people, not because I look good, but because they rarely see bald women and then they'd just KNOW I have cancer! Don't want anyone's pity, thanks.

  • Slurred or Jumbled Speech -- This occurred early in my treatment but seems to have disappeared.

  • Dizziness -- After treatment 8, I would get dizzy almost once a day.

  • Nausea -- During and after each cycle. I just pop a Phenergan pill right when I notice just an inkling of nausea. If I get too nauseated, Phenergan won't really do its magic. It only works at the onset of nausea.

  • Clumsy Falls -- I have fallen down stairs several times and not when my feet were numb. Weird, I know.

I think that about sums up all of the side effects I've encountered. I am glad I have not experienced bouts of diarrhea as most patients on FOLFOX tend to experience.


Feb. 23 - 24:

Sleep, sleep, and more sleep. That's all I was really able to do. I would wake up for meals in bed, and then I'd hop onto my husband's Notebook to read and reply to emails for a short period of time. Then I'd fall back asleep.

Armani left for Ocean City, MD this afternoon along with the rest of the cheerleading competition team to compete at the Nationals tomorrow. I wish I could go to show support! But it can't happen. Go Hornets, Go!!!!!


Feb. 25:

Today is Armani's National Cheerleading Competition! I hope they fare well! She has plans to dance the night away at an underage night club known as H2O. My daughter, 15 going on 21! Hahaha! Wish I could be there with her!


Feb. 26:

I'm bored. I've been in bed now for four days straight. I actually cooked lunch for David, Andrew and myself, but found myself exhausted after such a simple task. Back up to bed I went for the rest of the day and night (sigh).

Armani got home around 3pm. I watched her competition on DVD. To be honest with you all, the team's cheers and stunts were very weak . . . too many falls . . . sloppy all around. But hey! They looked pretty and had fun! :-) And they have next year to prepare for yet another competition! And of course, Armani had fun spending the money we gave to her. Teens. Yowza. Can't wait till she's in her 20's when all this craziness hopefully dissipates somewhat. :-)


Feb. 27:

OK! I'm a bit more energetic today than I was yesterday! I washed our linens, cooked breakfast for me and little Andrew, cleaned up the toys from the family room down in the basement, cooked lunch, prepared dinner (yep, I'm good like that!), and tucked Andrew into bed for an afternoon nap. That failed -- Andrew ended up fiddle-faddlying around and said it was too hard for him to go to sleep because he wasn't tired. Hahaha! He makes me laugh even when I try to get mad at him. What can I say? I'm a sucker for my little lovie-dove! Then, I decided to do a very daring thing --

I shaved off the rest of my hairs so the new hairs growing in my bald spot are as short as the rest of my hairs. How -- um -- startling! Andrew laughed and said I looked funny, but at least he didn't cry and run away from me this time! David just smiled and called me "Vger" (VEE-jer). He's not a Trekkie, but he says Star Trek fans will know what he's talking about. Whatever. LOL! After my "shave", I hopped in the shower and dressed before heading out the door for OPIS where I dropped off my portable chemo pump and received yet again another dose of Neulasta to boost my white blood cell count.

Ahhh. Nothing like feeling the aches and pains in my bones and joints from that darned Neulasta shot! Actually, I'm feeling fine right now, but I expect to start hurting by the end of the night. David and I have plans for a date tonight -- we're going to try a seafood restaurant we haven't yet tried -- and it's just down the road from our home. The dinner I prepared earlier today will be dinner for the kids tonight and dinner tomorrow night for me and the kids since David will be flying to Jacksonville, FL that evening and won't return until the following day. No worries. An overnighter is nothing compared to being separated for the usual Six-Month Deployment! You military wives know what I'm talkin' about!

Wore my short wig to OPIS. But as soon as I got home, I yanked it right off. I think I need to adjust the wig band. I got a headache wearing the wig for just a short period of time. Hmm. Maybe it's just the nylon cap that was too tight rather than my wig. I think I'll not wear the nylon cap when I go out on a date with my love-bug tonight.