Friday, June 28, 2013

Word of the Day: Induration

3rd round of vaccine shots are complete.

Wednesday at work I ran around and saw some patients and then changed into a tshirt and workout shorts. It's always interesting to do the reverse Clark Kent at work. It's fun to then walk back through the halls to get to my appointments and get many a confused look and the occasional "Are you going running?"

The clinic was packed with people and their families and everyone was in a chatty mood. Usually in the oncology waiting room there are a couple of people who like to compare what therapies they are on and what they have for cancers. On Wednesday everyone wanted to talk. When I moved into the smaller waiting room for blood draws, it was packed. I was the youngest person in there by 30 years-which meant everyone wanted to talk to me. However, in the blood draw waiting room the topic of discussion was Aaron Hernandez and they were all interested on my take on it. Our waiting room consensus was that the proper word for the situation was "a waste". This conversation seemed especially poignant to me because here you had a group of people who had either fought and won or were in the process of fighting to extend there lives. You betcha the agreement was "a waste" and it made everyone a touch mad.

After making new friends and giving more urine and 6 tubes of blood (more good luck with the left arm veins, they are making a comeback!) I had a brief physical exam where we discussed my good looking blood work and the results of my MUGA (heart) scan. My first scan gave me an ejection fraction of 78%, which the Nurse Practitioner told me she has never seen-in a good way. My oncologist said that it was super excellent. The results of my second scan 3 months later revealed the my ejection fraction was now 69%, which is still super excellent (usually it's 50-65%). My oncologist explained that these tests aren't calibrated to test the super excellent hearts and she did not think the vaccines were effecting my heart. She and the NP told me not to worry. The NP told me I didn't need to run more because I in my sarcastic manner told her that it was probably from missing 3 weeks of cardio. I assured her I had no plans to work out more.

After all of that I was deemed perfectly healthy are ready to get injected! Yay more sharp objects poking me in the name of science. This time the nurse who does my injections brought in the other research nurse so in case she was sick or on vacation there would be a back up. I assured the new nurse that I had yet to hit the nurse injecting me and she need not fear. She paused and looked at me for a minute, and then got on board with the sense of humor. She especially got the sense of humor as one of the injections was particularly painful and burned a little bit longer than all of the previous injections. This injection site would turn out to be the biggest sweller of the bunch.

Over the past 2 days the 4 spots have swollen a significant more than before and been a little sore. Also earlier and larger than previous was the onset of INDURATION. Induration is the hardening and thickening of the skin. Yes, it is as pretty as it sounds. Now for the study I was given an induration bullseye which I previously did not have to use and laughed with the research nurse at the size of the bullseye because it goes up to 10 cm. 10 cm a piece which would be pretty hard because my 4 shots would then have to overlap each other because my thigh is just not that big.  I wore shorts into work because I wanted to share with the research nurse my 5 cm in diameter hot big hard bumps on my thigh. (Painting a pretty picture...). She confirmed that it was induration and finds it equally fascinating that the reactions seem to be getting larger,  as a cumulative effect. Hopefully, they don't get 10 cm large!

The ladies in the office looked at my splotchy leg and were concerned. I explained that it was in the name of science! One of my colleagues looked at me and said "Yes, but your testing it on your body".


Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Having fun in the hot summer sun

I am back up and running! 3 weeks off from bronchitis and projectile vomiting was a lot easier to get back into then time off for cancer treatment;thank you Captain Obvious. Even with the short hiatus I am realize how much fun running is even in the heat.

I also have been cramming a lot of fun in between tests and appointments. Friday I had 3 month heart scan to make sure everything is ticking like it should. There were many major wins here. First, they didn't need to call the IV team and were able to gt my left arm all injected! My veins are starting to get better. Second, while having my heart scanned I noticed the EKG hookup and spent the 30 of the 40 minutes of scanning watching my heartbeat. Or I should say scrutinizing my heartbeat. I don't really know how to read these things, but I do know what they should looked like. And mine was textbook. It looked like this:

Also, I know that all my working out is paying off because my heart rate is back down to 58 beats per minutes. More wins! 

After having my MUGA scan completed I packed a lot of friends and fun into the weekend. I danced the night away to our favorite 80's coverband, had lunch with a friend, did a little bargain hunting, had brunch with friends and celebrated another friends birthday! Fun filled 5 days to kick of summer and getting it rolling. 

Tomorrow is vaccine day. That means urine, blood, poking and being observed. All worth it to prevent recurrence.

Right now I am obsessed with this song and it's pretty dominant in my head right now. I love the video. I doesn't have anything to do with the rest of this post, but trust me it's awesome!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Revenge of the Ginger Chews

I can't imagine what would have happened if I didn't do baking soda rinses 4 times a day during chemotherapy. I went to the dentist last week and found out that I had 3, THREE, cavities. All on the right side of my mouth. All in my back molars. All where I kept a ginger chew 4 times a day to alleviate the metallic taste. Oops.

Sometimes when I go to the dentist, I wonder if they forget that your lips are attached to your face. Or if they ever get tired of hearing "Open Please". As I am writing this the right side of my face is still numb. The appointment started out with the Dentist numbing the lower and upper right side gums. The dentist is concerned because I don't even flinch when he stabs me with the needle. "Sara, are you sure your numb?". Drool. Yup. At this point I have been stuck with so many sharp objects it doesn't bother me. He drills all three holes and asks me if I am ok while there are no less than 4 instruments in my mouth (drill, suction, mirror and unknown other metal thing) and I decide thumbs up is appropriate communication. The drilling was the easiest part of the appointment.

Next up was the fillings. The bottom molar; easy peasy. The top two molars that are touching and the dentist had to drill deeper than he originally thought he would need to, not so much. These fillings involve separate process of tiny little teeth vices that go on the tooth and then are tightened up with little little hand screws. Now I can see the metal portion sticking out of my lip. The assistant decides to tell the dentist that other dentists at this office would do both teeth vices at the same time. The dentist explains to her that it was not possible given how close my teeth are. At this point I have had my mouth open with other people's hands inside it for 45 minutes and have one more tooth vice to go and do not take kindly to the assistant attempting to correct the dentist. Franklly, I would appreciate not having the man with a drill annoyed while he works inside my mouth. I spend the rest of the appointment cussing her out with my eyeballs (that are under protective shades). It is very effective as she is completely unaware of my annoyance.  After an hour I am the proud new owner of 3 fillings. I get to keep the numb face for another 2 hours. The cold sensitivity for the next 2 weeks is just an added bonus.

I think this calls for some Dr. Teeth!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

I got a Haircut!!!

Another step towards normal (well as normal as I've ever been and what has become my new normal). I paid someone to cut all my hairs today! My hair, like the plants in New England, has been growing and curling like a weed. I really needed the sides cut down and the unruly-ness of the back of my head fixed. The woman who shaved my head was more than happy to give me my first real haircut post treatment. She was impressed with it's thickness and texture. She was amazed by the curl too. She has permed my hair twice (when I was in the 5th grade) and knows how my pre-chemo hair would never take the curl.
This is my attempt at a "selfie" with my iphone post hair cut
Post hair cut my mom and I noticed that there are more and more straight hairs returning (now that their curl has been cut off). I told her I am relieved. I don't know what to do with this curly hair and I am happy to have had this adventure and I will take the added texture, but I want my hair back. 30 years of stick straight hair makes it hard to learn what to do with a totally new type of hair.

Also, I forgot how much fun it is to get a haircut!!! My mom wanted to come because she is still traumatized from the head shaving. She was amazed by the amount of hair on the floor once my trim was done. I feel like a new woman with my haircut, always my favorite part of having one. The photo doesn't do justice, but there is a smile on my face.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Happy Father's Day

Today we celebrate a man, who like an ogre and an onion, has many layers. Today we celebrate the man who gave to me my coping mechanism; my sense of humor. My dad found almost every post funny and would try to explain to my mom why things were funny. His favorite video posted was after surgery, and when I could hear him watch the video and laugh, every night after I had surgery and was staying with them. Hearing him laugh helped me heal faster. 

My father has his on special brand of encouragement. He will tell you that "It's not that bad." and "You'll be fine". It somehow always makes you feel better. You know when you've really turned a corner because he will say "That's old news". Even when bald and pale my father would say "You have cancer? No, that's last weeks news". It made me feel wonderfully normal at a time needed.

My father is extremely difficult to stress out, it's a quality we've all been thankful for. He's who you call when "your a donkey on the edge" and he'll talk you down every time. He knows you just need to come up with a plan and "You'll be fine". Then he'll help you come up with a plan. Or when your being totally irrational and are ready to chew the head of the genetic counselor who is doing her job and trying to help you he'll shoot you the look to know you should knock it off.

Happy Father's Day! And in your honor one of our favorite songs (and a place Mom thinks we should go)

Saturday, June 15, 2013

This post is kinda gross

Last Friday I had to skip dinner with a friend because I was coughing to much to carry on a conversation. This Friday I thought I was feeling better. You would think getting immune boosting vaccines and being a cancer free individual would mean you didn't catch every bug that rolled it's way through the hospital. But, alas, when I sat down to have dinner I start to feel a little nauseous (red flag #1). We were at one of my favorite restaurants and I ordered my favorite meal. I ate about 1/3rd of it (red flag #2). As we were paying the check I started to get really hot and for a minute thought maybe this was all hot flash related (red flag #3). I hurried out of the restaurant and did something I have never done before. I vomited for a solid 10 minutes into a sewer grate at a busy intersection. In public. At 8 pm at night. I wanted a really large sign that says "I am not drunk and this is not a reflection on where I just ate".

As it is well documented on this blog that I am, as my mother would say "soft as a grape", I immediately thought of this gross SNL video.

I'm happy to report I woke up feeling better this morning and hoping to go for a run tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Everyone should have a Big Brother

Big brothers are the best. They teach you     how to be tough. Their method of practicing WWE wrestling moves on you may be a little unorthodox, but it makes you tough none the less. They teach you to be quick witted, by communicating only through insults and bickering. This also proves to continue to be the best way to drive your mother insane.  
Big brothers are your constant protectors, regardless of your age or the size of the enemy. They are your cheerleaders and always dream big for you. They send you a Patriots breast cancer tote bag so you have something to cart your stuff to and from chemo. They make tshirts and run road races in your honor. They embrace that you don't drink alcohol and find special soda just for vacation. And big brothers may live clear across the country, but when you see them you bet they will try to squeeze the life out of you with a bear hug. 
Today is the birthday of my one and only awesome big brother. Happy Birthday!

Monday, June 10, 2013

Writing About Running

Our track club was putting out our quarterly newsletter and the theme of this edition was resilience. Our spring newsletter is usually about the Boston Marathon, but given this year's events we wanted something upbeat.  I decided to write a piece about how running got me through cancer treatment and is helping keep me in the survivor category. You can read the piece here.

Also, you may note that the writing quality and grammar is much better than that found on this blog. That is because the newsletter has an editor and my brain does not. 

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Happy She's in My Corner

Stacey, the MICU nurse who passed along the bear has a TV commercial out showing just how much she kicks ass! She is now the Nurse Educator at the hospital, a role I know she is perfect for as she taught me so much during my breast cancer fight. She also offers great prospective as she was diagnosed while out on active military duty. It's nice to see other breast cancer survivors regaining strength lost during treatment and working hard to fight off recurrence.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Back to Life, Back to Reality

Isn't vacation nice? Don't you hate the wake up calls you get to remind you that your are no longer on vacation and have to function like an adult human being.

Acclimation to normal life started with the plane landing. When I was in Elementary school when we came back from April vacation this song was really popular and I remember it torturing my mother every morning for a week it played on our ride to school. Naturally I serenaded her and my father with it upon our plane landing.

back to life, back to reality
back to the here and now yeah

Friday after getting home from the red eye flight was a series of wake up calls. First, I had to clean my own bathroom Second, it was back into maintaining cancer survivor work. It was 93 and humid so me and my geri curl took the bus to the hospital. The bus was not air conditioned and was crowded. Yay real life! At the hospital I had to give urine, blood and then some extra blood. The RN in charge of the study let me know that she didn't know what two of the extra tubes of blood were for but that the study required them. Fine by me. Apparently my body can just make some more (my blood work showed that I am not anemic, so I am confident I will make some more blood. My oncologist was out sick so one of the Nurse Practitioner's that I had not met did my physical exam. She asked me a serious of questions, such as "Any changes in appetite" "Any fatigue" and in 12 questions I answered "No" to all of them. She also asked me if I only answered "No" to questions. My sleep deprived brain found this hilarious which resulted in a a suspicious look. After the exam it was time for the 4 injections in my right thigh. Just like the previous injections the first 2 were fine and the last two stung like the dickens. I squirmed in my seat so much that the RN doing the injections said to me a little nervously "You know I always get worried that one of my patients is going to hit me when I torture them with the injections.". I responded "Yeah, I'll sit on my hands". No large amount of swelling just redness the size of quarters at each injection site. The bus got stuck on traffic on the way home and took 80 minutes to make the 30 minute trip.

back to life, back to the present time
back from a fantasy

The pollen count has been exceptionally high and I am looking forward to the washing rains that are supposed to be coming. I started loosing my voice Sunday night and officially drove home the laryngitis by going to see this:

Let's just say they still Got It: The Right Stuff and I like every other woman my age at the concert screamed like a 12 year old girl for 2 hours. It was awesome. 
However, waking up without a voice and some chest congestion was not. The pollen count remained high and I think a combination of allergies and plan rides resulted in some bronchitis and laryngitis. I got this confirmed on Wednesday and I am on an albuterol inhaler and have run since Saturday.The nurse practitioner at the general medicine clinic was very impressed with my chemo perm. I told her that I was a little anxious about my lungs hurting because of the 4 mm of inflammation on my CT scan 1.5 months ago and I wanted to keep my lungs clear. She ignored that I obviously had my crazy pants on and calmly let me know I had done the right thing and if I wasn't feeling better to come back in a week and we'll add some antibiotics into the mix.  

back to life, back to the day we have

Today I'm really congested and I like to think that I sound like this: 


In reality I sound more like this: 
With a lot of hacking. But, that's why they gave me the cough medicine with the codeine, that and for the technicolor dreams of being back on vacation.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

The Lahey 5K

I am writing this sitting in my coveted survivor t-shirt from today's race. The Lahey Health 5K Cancer Walk and Run is a great event. They have lots of food, tables under a giant tent, bouncy houses (which we did consider going on) and even better lots of people! The organizer's said that this year had more participants than ever and were very close to hitting their goal for fundraising. People were very generous with there donations and my awesome co-workers decided to put the money from our bake sale under my name, so my official total was over $3,000. Amazing. My goals was $400. Part of the money goes toward survivor programs, so you could say I had a personal interest in it.
Here is me and my parents. I have already put my survivor t-shirt on. Mom and Dad are post walk. 

Last year, I ran the Lahey 5K to support the organization I didn't know that much about and it poured rain the entire time. I went by myself. There were only 120 people running and I ended up winning; running 20:32.

This year I ran to support the Cancer Center and all it's programs and the life it has given me. It was 85 degrees, humid and triple the amount of people running. I came with an entourage; my parents, my friend from the 3rd grade who ran with me through chemo, her fiance, and one of my friends who is a high school/GBTC teammate (I think we've been teammates for 11 years).  I ran ONLY 4 seconds slower than last year! 20:36 (6:39 min/mile) pace. I would have beaten it too, but apparently the heat training I did in Arizona did not pay off. I had to stop for a few seconds to dry heave half a mile from the finish line and ended up getting passed by another woman.  I regrouped I ended up 4th woman overall! I will take it. I am really excited about how well my body has recovered and the fitness that I have gained.  I ran into my oncologist and nurse practitioner at the walk. The were both really happy to hear that  given the year I nearly ran the same time.

Thanks to everyone who donated and offered encouragement, it was greatly appreciated. I'm off to drink more water and dream of the pool I swam in everyday on vacation.

This is often a song in my head why I run. I definitely need some Warriors Code with half a mile to go.