I finished up my chemo on January 27th and not a moment too soon because it was really catching up with me. I was exhausted and had developed what they call hand and foot syndrome as a side effect of the one chemo drug I was on. The skin on my hands and feet became red and rough and it burned my feet to walk. My fingers and toes were also becoming numb, another side effect of the chemo. So, I was plenty glad to be done with it all!
Only, a week and a half after finishing, I wasn't really feeling any better. I couldn't understand it. Then, two weeks ago from yesterday, the alarm woke me up to get ready for school and I literally couldn't get out of bed. Luckily, for me, there are two wonderful teachers who have retired in the past couple of years from my school and both of them have offered to be on call for me on a moment's notice. I ran a fever all day Friday and then it broke in the middle of the night and I woke up Saturday feeling better. Then, in the middle of the day, my port started to become tender and by eight that night my whole right chest was red and the area over my port was inflamed. UGH! Off to the hospital we went. Joe said to me, "Should we bring a bag?" Me, being naive or just not wanting to acknowledge the seriousness of it said, "No, they'll just give me some antibiotic and send me home." Wrong! Five days in the hospital on IV antibiotics, surgery to remove the port, and then placement of a long term IV line called a PICC line. It is in my upper right arm and goes right into the superior vena cava, just like my port did. The only difference is this line is external and the port was internal.
So, I am home and back to work. Joe helps me administer my antibiotic each evening. He is amazing! First he had to learn to give me the shots to keep my blood counts up and now he is giving me my IV antibiotic each night! I will be on it for a total of two weeks at home, but really started to feel better the day after they removed my infected port. My energy level is almost back to what it was before all of this started. I still tire a little more easily and am in bed most nights by eight, but it is nothing like the exhaustion I was experiencing. I have also have a voracious appetite and am eating all the time.
Joe had wanted to buy me a bike for Christmas and at that time I told him absolutely not. At that point, I was so feeling so bad, I wasn't sure I'd ever have the energy to get back on a bike. Well, last weekend, Joe took me shopping and bought me a beautiful red bike as an early Valentine's Day present. I am up to riding about three miles a day! It feels great to be able to do things again! I went today and restarted my gym membership and signed up for twice a week, half hour personal training sessions. Everything I read stresses the importance of exercise for people with cancer, but up until now I just haven't had any reserve energy.
My family and friends, as always, have been an amazing support through this latest adventure. I was pretty depressed in the hospital and Pam picked up on that when she talked to me on the phone. So, she did what she's done since this whole experience started, jumped on a plane and surprised me with a visit. Her family (and that seems like a weird way to word it because they are my family,too) is just amazing and all pull together and make everything work at home while she is gone. Joey also surprised me by coming down from Flagstaff for a three day weekend when I got discharged from the hospital. Janaya and Michael came and played games and watched TV with me at the hosptal so I didn't get too lonely. Joe's parents were already out here to help him celebrate being installed as the president of Arizona's Builder's Alliance.
So, I am in a really good place right now. I will be having tumor markers drawn next week in preparation for going to see Dr. Livingston in Tucson on the 22nd. It is hard to keep the knowledge that they were elevated in December out of my mind, but I've decided to adopt the attitude of a dear lady, my principal's Aunt Teresa.
Aunt Teresa was diagnosed with breast cancer eleven years ago, had a lumpectomy, and was fine. She was recently diagnosed again with breast cancer and underwent a double mastectomy at 87 years old. There was no sign her cancer had spread beyond her breast. She called me just a couple of days after her surgery to thank me for a small present I had sent her. During our conversation I told her how glad I was that her surgery had gone so well and that the outcome was so positive. Her response was that she has always been an optimist and that she just knew going into the surgery that everything was going to be ok. I think of those words every day and it really helps me to keep the right attitude. I am usually a very positive, optimistic person, too, but the constant barrage of treatment over the past fourteen months had started to get to me. Aunt Teresa's words to me were a wake-up call. I am going to Tucson on the 22nd with a positive, optimistic attitude that everything is going to be all right. Thank you, Aunt Teresa!
Here are a few pictures taken last weekend.
These top three are of me with my new bike. They only had a black one in the store, but Joe asked and they sent us to their other store so I could get a red one. My favorite color! Joey is in the top picture with me with his long board.
The weekend after I got out of the hospital, we all went out to The House of Tricks for dinner to celebrate my feeling better.
Joe's Mom and Dad.
Joe's Mom and Dad.