Friday, February 20, 2015

Random Thoughts for a Friday Night

I love serving. I especially love serving in the temple. Tonight as I worked, I felt loved. I felt peace. I felt my Heavenly Father teach me profound principles - about how much He loves His daughters, about how He answers prayers, about being an instrument in His hands to bless others. It was pretty neat. These kinds of experiences help me feel less self-conscious when I'm the only one wearing a head scarf. They help me forget I have cancer for a little while. (I like those minutes best.) And I am grateful.

I had my blood drawn again yesterday. I wanted to get my blood drawn through my port, since I really only have one good vein for drawing blood, and it has been poked lots of times in the past few months (and is consequently kind of painful when it gets poked again). Last time, they told me to go to the hospital instead of the freestanding lab and that they would be able to do it, but the doctor didn't write the exact thing on the order that told them to draw blood from the port, so they wouldn't do it. This time, I made sure to get the order exactly right, and after I got to the hospital and went through admitting, they told me there wasn't a nurse available who could do a port draw. And that they didn't know how long it would be until there was one... and then they told me I should have had them call for the nurse before I went through admitting. (Why doesn't admitting know this? Who knows.) The whole thing is silly... you can't make an appointment to get blood drawn, but if you want it drawn from the port, you need a specific kind of nurse. That nurse may or may not be available when you come, because there are only about 3 people on the shift who can do it, but they service the entire hospital. What do they think I'm going to do? Come and wait to see if the nurse is available and then go away again if not? Come and then hang out for hours until there's a nurse available? Nope on both counts. I'll just go back to getting blood drawn from the arm next time, and not at the hospital. It's easier to go to the freestanding lab. On the plus side, I'm getting better about not freaking out around needles - mostly because I'm getting lots of practice. :-)

The other good news is that my blood work still looks good (yay! mini-celebration!) and that means I don't have to worry and I can go do all the things I need/want to do next week before I have Round 3. And by the way, when Round 3 is done, I am HALF DONE with chemo! Then we can have another mini-celebration. Said celebration will likely involve chocolate.

But not applesauce - that tasted too much like metal last time I tried it (right after the first round). Happily, though, I haven't had too many problems with food tasting weird. I prefer simple and bland foods for the first 4-5 days after chemo - things like club crackers or wheat thins and lightly seasoned meats and plain yogurt - but that is less about my taste buds and more about how the spicy/acidic/sugary/fancy foods make my body react. Then, once I get through the first week, things go back to normal. Normal is good. Especially when it involves dark chocolate and lemon sorbet. (Just not at the same time.)

(Actually, maybe I should try that. It sounds kind of delicious.) :-)

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Sunday Meanderings

Did you know that if you mix a little soy milk (instead of regular milk) into your scrambled eggs - even original flavor soy milk - that it makes them taste weird?

For the record, I used to eat them this way regularly. People looked at me funny, but I was used to it and it didn't bother me. (People look at me funny when I put cinnamon in my scrambled eggs, too, but that just tastes like french toast batter without the toast!) After a while I stopped putting any kind of milk in my eggs and just scrambled them pure. The other day I thought I'd try soy milk again. They tasted weird. I don't recommend it.

That's probably the most entertaining thing I've learned recently. And it gives me a reason to laugh at myself.

Other interesting things I'm learning...

This week has been kind of tricky, because now that I have a job, I actually have to get up and going at the same time every morning. Getting back in to a routine is tricky even when you're healthy, but doing it during chemo recovery has presented a few extra tricky minutes. I have wanted to be well enough to work all day and still have energy to accomplish something after dinner, but what usually happens is that by dinner time, I'm pretty wiped out and really should either be sleeping or sitting in the recliner with my feet up. (This is not to say that I actually did that any night this week, but I should have. It turns out that pushing yourself to the outer limits of your physical capacity is also not the wisest way to try to counteract the potential insomnia associated with ending the prednisone cycle. But it was worth a try.)

Needless to say, I felt a little discouraged more than one night this week because I couldn't do all I wanted to. One particular evening, I knelt down to say my prayers, and what came out of my mouth was "I don't feel particularly grateful tonight. I feel frustrated and discouraged ..." and the answer that came back was "That's OK."

It's OK to have minutes where we don't feel very happy about things. And when we turn to God in prayer and tell Him about those minutes, something really interesting happens. We learn more about ourselves and we learn more about our Savior. Our expressions of frustration or anger or sadness or discouragement activate His grace, and with His help, we get through that minute. Sometimes those minutes come back more often than we'd like, but each time they do, we can invite Jesus to help us. And He will.

Those kinds of prayers, for me, also make my relationship with God more real. I don't always have to be happy and positive. Sometimes I can be mad, or sad, or discouraged, or lonely. And when I tell Him about those times, invariably His response is one of love and compassion.

I'm not perfect and that's OK - God loves me exactly the way I am. What a wonderful thing.

This weekend I have been trying to take it easy, resting and reading and not cleaning and not working. It turns out that I'm still exhausted by dinnertime even when I don't do much. So I will keep resting until that changes. It occurred to me last night that perhaps some of the things Father wants me to learn from this are how to slow down and how to be content with doing less. (I'm not very good at that.) Thankfully, I have good people all around me who pick up the slack when I can't do all I want to be able to do, and they do it cheerfully and willingly because they love me. That is a great blessing.

And one last happy thought:

My lovely, wonderful visiting teacher came over last night with two bags of grapefruit, freshly picked and still warm from the 75+ degree sunshine we had all day yesterday. It smelled like heaven. So I juiced three and drank it with dinner. Happiness in a glass!

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Chemo, Round 2

When I was diagnosed with cancer, I looked for blogs written by people who had a similar diagnosis to see what I could learn. I found two kinds of blogs - the kind where the person posted about their entire experience after the fact; and the kind where the person posted at the beginning of their cancer experience, and then again at the end after they were in remission. I didn't find much out there about the experience in the middle. So I decided I would try to fill in that gap.

First, though, some reflections on the three weeks that made up Round 1. Psychologically, I like saying the "round" is over after I've had the chemo infusion, but that's not really how it works. The infusion is just the beginning, after which there are seven to ten days of recovery, wherein I experience all manner of side effects of varying intensity and obnoxiousness. Once I start to feel good again, though, things go really well!

My oncologist was happy when he heard I didn't have much nausea, and told me the first round is the hardest so things should get even easier in future rounds. I will believe him after I've been through a few more. :-) It's better to be prepared for the worst and then be pleasantly surprised, in my opinion, than to expect a good experience and then end up having a not-so-good one.

During my feeling-good days last week, I accepted a job. I'm really excited about it, and in truth, it's a miracle it happened at all. The best part is that it will give me something to keep my mind off the chemo side effects on the less good days, as well as keeping me occupied on the days I feel great. And when I beat cancer, I will already have a plan in place for what's next! After ten months of unemployment (and job hunting, and - in some minutes - wondering whether I was physically well enough to work), having work to do and being able to contribute to the general good in the world makes me really happy. Plus I get to work with some really awesome people - double bonus!

The first few days of work (at the beginning of this week) were great. They also happened to coincide perfectly with the hair on my head starting to thin and fall out... so that was an adventure. I could run my fingers through my hair and pull out a small handful at a time, over and over. (Don't worry. I didn't do this at work. Just in the evenings after I was home.) By the third day of hair-falling-out-ness, there were patchy bald places on my head, what was left was thin and static-y, and I was ready to be done with it. So I got out my hair cutting kit and cut what was left all down to 1/4 inch. Now I get to wear hats and head scarves - yay! (I might not love it once it gets hot, but I do now.) The hair that is left will fall out on its own over the next week or so, most likely. But now I don't have to worry about what to do with it.

Round 2 started on Thursday. I busted out my laptop and worked on some projects during the infusion. It was a little harder to focus for the first few minutes after the Benadryl kicked in (part of the pre-medication regimen), but other than that, I felt like I was really productive, and it made the time go by pretty quickly. Round 2 didn't take as long as round 1, since they didn't have to dose up the monoclonal antibody this time, so I was done in just under 4 hours. It will take about that long for all the other rounds, too. Two down, four to go!

So far, the side effects seem to be the same as last round, but I'm either handling them better or they are slightly less intense. Probably some of both; it helps a lot to know what to expect. That said, the worst of the recovery days will start tomorrow if the pattern continues, so I'm not to the hardest part yet. Keep an eye out for another post if you want to know how it really went. :-)

Special thanks to all my friends who are taking care of me this weekend. I couldn't do it without you. The visits, balloons, rides, and conversation make my cancer adventure more enjoyable.

In other news:

I bought a book today by my favorite 10-year-old author. I'm excited for it to come in the mail so I can read it. His last one was pretty neat, and I have heard good reviews on this book as well! You can find it on Lulu here.

And... the sun is shining! (It does that a lot in Arizona...) I love the feel of warm sun on my back. It makes me happy.