Monday, March 29, 2010

Meeting the man

I almost passed out this morning when my IV was being put in. I was terribly light headed. The IV was put in my left arm this time, but on the top lower part of my arm. This is nicer than last time because I can type and use both hands freely. My nurse was Laural. She was very nice.

I fell asleep in my chair with Craig by my side. At some point, Laural changed my chemo bag and Craig had to confirm it. So, when I woke up, they were changing the third bag! It was nice.

Craig and I didn't bring anything to do - we just sat there and talked. It was also nice.

When I was nearly done with my last bag of chemo, I noticed someone walk into the infusion room and go to the nurse's station. Then, he walked right over to me because when he turned around, he could tell I knew exactly who he was. Jon Huntsman Sr. Yes. This is the same man for whom the Huntsman Cancer Institute and Huntsman Cancer Hospital are named. He built these facilities in honor of his mother who died of cancer.

Mr. Huntsman was there in a well-tailored white Nordstrom dress shirt and casual slacks. His sleeves were rolled up and he had an IV in his right arm. It wasn't too obvious, but I could see it. He talked to us for a few minutes about what he was doing there and that he had to go in for surgery in 45 minutes to get rid of some melanoma. I heard him talk to the guy next to me about how he never thought he would be a four time patient in the facilities he helped develop.

I am very grateful for Mr. Huntsman and his efforts. They have given me the confidence to be treated locally. His facilities have brought in so many wonderful doctors dedicated to healing and discovery. When I found out that I had cancer, there was no question in my mind as to where I wanted to go for treatment.

Thank you Jon Huntsman Sr. for all that you have done for everyone afflicted with cancer. You can never know how you have affected our lives.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Turning 36

I turn 36 on Sunday. I have a certain infatuation with the 80s. Thinking back to when I was in high school, I remember loving the 80s then too. My favorite band - Duran Duran. I don't have one of their albums and I've never seen them live. I do have a few of their songs on my iPod, however.

Speaking of my iPod - I love it. I love my iPod. It's the 16G - red. I love my car, too.

I use the free valet parking at the hospital each day when I go for radiation therapy. I love seeing my car come back to me. It's gold with darkly tinted windows and it's fully loaded. If the skies are dry, my sun roof is open. If it's freezing, I just crank the heat. I can tell the valet's like my car too by the way they drive it back to me. Also, they always park it backwards (backed in). It's the most beautiful gold Honda Civic EX - and it's odd because it's a 4-door automatic. I love it. Plus, I only have to fill my tank every other week. Super good on the gas!!

It's crazy to think that I have spent my entire 35th year dealing with this stupid illness. I was thinking about where I was a year ago. Manhattan Beach, CA. I've spent a lot of time with my mom over the last year. She's taken care of me quite a bit. Each surgery, every major test, etc.

My parents are on their way to visit me right now, driving from California. I'm excited to see them. My mom will come with me to radiation Friday. Tomorrow I have to take a midterm after radiation. Then I'll get to see my parents! Yay!

My dad has wanted to take me fly fishing for my birthday for the last few years. Last year, we said that it would have to be next year. Well, here we are and now we have to say it again. Next year.

Birthdays make us think about life - past, present, and future. Like the realization of the passing of time, birthdays mark a specific day in our lives that present the most significance to us personally. It's our day, mostly unshared. A day that makes me thankful I'm getting one at all based on my most recent history. And I am. I am very grateful just to be having another birthday. Truly a blessing.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Nausea is evil. That's what evil is. Nausea.

Three days of chemotherapy and radiation. No problems at all. The first day, the nurses gave me few prescriptions for Compazine and Ativan for nausea. They said to use it when I felt like I needed it. I'm tough. I was feeling pretty good. They had just loaded me up with a mega dose of steroids via IV. Nausea was the furthest thing from my mind. In fact, I felt good enough to eat, which was amazing after how I had felt the few days before.

Well, here is some sound advice - some I need to take from myself.

1. You will not know when you need to take anti-nausea medicine until it is too late.
2. Do not wait for signs of nausea - this will make taking the anti-nausea medicine actually harder to take.
3. Don't try to brave through the nausea. You'll go crazy and think you need to be taken to the hospital for IV fluids and mental help. This is not worth it.
4. Take the medication like they suggest - but do it that afternoon. You will hopefully feel a lot less nauseated and be able to eat and drink.

These the things I did NOT do. I thought I would wait it out. I felt fine. Why should I think I would get nauseated? Plus, I have been nauseated before and made it through. By the time the nausea hit on about Saturday night (day 4), it was too late to take medicine. I felt like I would throw it up.

Yes. I wanted Craig to take me to the hospital so they would fix me up. By Sunday, I could barely walk. I just wanted to sit or lay - mostly lay. I cried. I worried. I ate ice chips and finally got to the point where I could take a pill for nausea. I started eating a few dried apricots that night. By Monday morning, I was still feeling nauseated and throwing up quite a bit, but never what I had eaten or drank. It was always the stomach bile, yellowy stuff. I started taking the pills as suggested and then, after Craig took me to radiation, where I was wheelchaired in, I was actually craving something to eat. KFCs mashed potatoes and gravy.

I continued to take the pills as directed. Craig asked what I wanted for dinner: mushu vegetable from Dragon Diner. So, that's what I had. Dessert? Lemon sour cream pie from Marie Calendar's. Later: frozen bean and cheese with green chile burrito.

Today, I've been eating and drinking almost like normal.

Here's the deal: just take the medication from the beginning. That's what I'm going to do next time to see if it works and I never have to go through this hell called nausea.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

My hand looks like a specialty fruit in the grocery store.

It's 4:17 a.m. I should be sleeping like any normal person. Of course, I'm not normal - I'm Heather Rasmussen.

I had my first day of chemotherapy followed by radiation. All went well. The IV is still in my right hand and covered with a little netting glove. It looks like a prickly pear found in your local grocery store. All the padding underneath makes my hand appear poofy and rounded.

Craig was with me yesterday all day. Today I will be on my own.

After days of feeling crappy, I felt pretty good yesterday after chemo, as I was told I would. I ate lunch, snacks, and dinner yesterday. Not bad for someone who again woke up feeling nausea and coughing pretty intensely.

The nurses confirmed I will lose my hair in about two weeks. They provided a binder chocked full of everything you'd ever want to know about chemotherapy. In there, it recommends shaving your head before the hair starts its departing from your head. This is supposed to increase the feeling of control and release some of the anxiety associated with losing your hair. We can't use a razor, only a shaver, because my scalp will be sensitive and I won't heal well from cuts.

I think I will have Craig do it this weekend to get it over with. I really don't want to go through seeing my hair all over the place again. Depressing.

My boss has offered me the opportunity to take a medical leave of absence and they will maintain my health insurance for me - including the cost I would had normally paid out of my check each month to maintain it. He has also offered me the opportunity to work from home, which I think I will take. The most difficult part of my day, physically, is getting to and from work and traveling around to classes. It wears me out tremendously, and that was BEFORE I started these therapies. I can only imagine what they would do to me now.

Today in chemo, I should only be there for a few hours I guess. I'll do some homework I think. There isn't much else I have going on. I have a short paper and a PR Press Kit to put together, due tonight via email to my professor. I have two midterms next week on Monday and Tuesday to study for. The review sessions are today and tomorrow, of course. Hopefully I will get the class notes today so I can study tomorrow and over the weekend.

On another note: after being so sick for a few days, I did hit that golden marker in my weight I hadn't been able to drop below in over a year (200). I've been stuck at above 201.5 lbs for so long, I thought I'd never drop below. Of course, it took being so sick I couldn't really eat for a few days to make it happen, so I'm not really considering this a breakthrough or anything. It did feel good though to see the scale read 198.5 yesterday morning. The day before it teetered between 201 and 199.5 depending on the time of day. I'm pretty sure after my ability to eat had returned yesterday that I am now comfortably above 201.5 again. That's okay. It took about 5 years to put on. I can't expect it to all shed off in a matter of months.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

I must be crazy. I don't think that's a symptom though.

For the last two days, I have woken up coughing. I cough so much that it causes me to throw up. I went to work yesterday, where I was told by my boss, and others insinuated through looks, that I looked ill. I soon went home. Craig brought some food home for lunch: tacos. After he left, I slept.

This morning I coughed so much, I again threw up. In fact, I threw up in my bath. Have you ever done that before? Well. Let me tell you it is gross. Luckily, I haven't been able to hold much solid food down, so it was just liquid-y. I drained the tub, refilled, rinsed my hair and got out.

I had to go to the hospital this morning for a radiation treatment verification. Basically, they drew all over my chest, which was bared to whomever walked into the room, and took a bunch of pictures. (Don't go looking for these suckers to show up on my facebook account!)

At least my cold, which is causing the cough, won't stop my starting chemotherapy tomorrow. I thought it would, but I was told that if they had to hold off doing chemotherapy on people that had a cold, people would never get therapy!

I'm missing a lot of work from being sick. I don't have any more sick or vacation leave left. I'm already set to work only 30 hours per week. I have three classes I barely attend. I'm dealing with a legal issue, my 11 year old daughter is growing up and I'm missing it, I'm trying to find a job, and with all of this - I'm trying to get better.

I'm trying to figure out what I can do to make life easier. Craig keeps telling me that if he were in charge of me, I wouldn't had started this semester at all. But he admits he doesn't know my full ability for what I can handle. In a lot of ways, I agree with him. I shouldn't had started this semester at all. But now, here I am, eight weeks into it, and really I only have five left (after my two midterms next week and spring break). I'm passing my classes. I know I can do it - but will it be worth it? After all, what good is a degree if I'm too sick to use it? But will I go back if I stop now?

I can't afford to miss any more work. I have to keep my insurance (don't even start talking to me about socialized medicine!!). I have no choice there.

I have help in my classes. If I can make it through and finish these classes, I'll be done.

I need to feel better. My endocrinologist said we could not taper so much this quickly. I think I need to taper back up so that I feel good while I'm going through this. I'm losing weight and looking better. My jeans can slip right off without unbuttoning or unzipping.

I think that until I finish chemotherapy, I should stay on the 60 mg hydrocortisone. I will ask and let you know what he says.

Monday, March 8, 2010

My body doesn't like me anymore.

I don't want to be hurt again. I don't want to be stuck with another needle. I'm afraid. I don't want to do this anymore. I want to quit. Please let me quit. Please stop it from hurting me. I hurt. It hurts. I don't like it. Please make it stop. I hurt all over. My body has stopped working. It said it doesn't like me anymore, so it is quitting. I just don't want to hurt anymore. I don't. please please

please. make it stop hurting.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Progress is always good

I drove up to the Huntsman Cancer Hospital yesterday for my radiation planning session. There were so many people taking care of me! I couldn't believe it and there is no way I could remember all of their names, although I can remember most (Heather, Jane, Matt, Josh, Ruth).

At my appointment I was poked eight times. I needed an IV for the CT scan, but the first two IVs didn't take. (I have such horrible veins!) I laid on the CT table with my gown open to the chest. To ensure some amount of privacy, they covered each breast with a cloth.

My doctor came in and gave me some great news: the results of my octreotide scan last week was negative! This means there is no cancerous tumor-like anything left in my chest, abdomen, or pelvic areas. Now we can proceed like planned! Thank goodness. I don't think I could had handled another hurdle in this race.

After the scanning, I was tattooed with little dots in five places. These dots, combined with the mold we created yesterday for me to lay in, will make the radiation treatments consistent, quicker, and more effective. I'll start radiation and chemotherapy one week from today.

On the Cushing's syndrome end of things, I haven't lost a lot of weight yet, but I think the weight may be redistributing. I can now take off my jeans without unbuttoning or unzipping them. My face is showing some changes too. This is all very encouraging!

Now, if math was not part of learning how to compile and analyze research, I would be a VERY happy person right now. My Quantitative Analysis in Communication class is tough. With all of my contacts in mathematics, you would think this should be easier for me! Or at least I could get good help with it.

Anyway, progress is always good. That's the direction I'm going in - forward. Now, I just need to get through therapy, graduation, and move on to our future!