Bald 'n Sassy

Life is for the living. Live simply. Expect less.

Archive for the month “June, 2011”

Round 2 of chemo put to rest

Today is the first day in five days that I have fully regained my energy. I must say in comparison to the first round, the second round was a little better.  Even from the time I stepped into the clinic, the usual tasks of drawing blood before the actual chemo was good.  I had my favorite nurse from the pathology lab to do it. This time, my oncologist ordered a full blood test to show the platelets, red, white blood count etc.  That means I have to wait at least an hour before the results are ready.  A good time for me to have home-made egg and cheese sandwich for breakfast.  Breakfast of champions I say! ha!

When the results were in and the overall results indicated that it was ok with the exception of my low white and red cells.  From what I understood of this particular drug I am trying, it would not have a huge impact on my immune system.  But of course anything can happen.  Overall I felt pretty good and didn’t meet anyone with virus or colds.  The other indicator that I am always keen to see are the CEA markers.  Comparing to the previous blood work, there is no change in terms of absolute numbers.  It is good from the perspective that it has not increased.  On the hand, it hasn’t decreased.  My oncologist says that it will decrease after 3rd or 4th session of chemo.  Cross my fingers as downward trend is the way to go.

I was sharing with the doctor some of the side effects that I had from the first round.  I mentioned that the headache is rather strong and lingers on for at least 4 to 5 days.  Even taking ordinary Panadol tablets to relief the pain didn’t help. The doctor asked if I had the same discomfort from the very first time I had chemo. She concluded that it is likely the anti nausea tablets that I take prior to the start of each chemo was the underlying cause of the headache.  The meds are great to control the nausea but not so good with headache.  My doctor did ask me if I wanted to try alternative medication.  However, there is a “but” in the sentence.  The alternative could reduce the headache but it doesn’t control the anti nausea very well.  Hmmm… so there is no magic pill???  Meds to help with nausea that comes with headache or lesser headache but feeling nauseous.  Choices, choices??  Nausea vs headache – not a great choice if you ask me.  I opted for the meds that controls the nausea.  I can tolerate the headache.   Given the headache is a real pain in the butt, my oncologist prescribed a much stronger paracetamol to handle it.  Phew!  there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Happy with the prescription, it was time to start the chemo.  I have been a good patient by exercising my veins with my stress ball.  For round 2, I chose to be poked on my right hand.  The nurse was quite happy to see that my veins decided to co-operate.  It didn’t take her long to find a good vein and poke me.  Yes, it did hurt from the initial poke until it needle went in deeper.  Although the needle was successfully inserted, it can’t be declared that it is ok to start the drip.  There is always a saline test to make sure my veins are ready to accept the real drug.  I can happily report my veins passed the test and ready to administer the drug.  It may sound so boring to what I just described but each step has its purpose.

A few days after the chemo, I noticed that my hand developed a bruise from where I was poked.  It has happen before from past sessions.  It looks like someone has taken a light green crayon and shaded around the needle hole.  Yes, I am delicate and have sensitive skin.

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Ok, that’s my round 2 of chemo.  10 more sessions to go!

It’s that time again

At the blink of the eye and it is 2 weeks ago that I started round 1 of chemo. I have been awake since 6.30am and taking my time to get ready.  Pottering the kitchen preparing my simple egg and cheese sandwich for breakfast later.

There are 2 essential items that I must bring with me to each chemo session.  First is my red heart-shaped stress ball to squeeze each time I get poked by a needle.  This is the same stress ball I use to “exercise” my veins. The second most important item is my iPad.  It takes 2 hours to administer the drug and what a better way to occupy my time by either reading a book or catch up on my favorite TV series.  Most likely I will do the latter.  At the moment I am watching the last few episodes of Criminal Minds (Season 6)  – one of the great psychological crime shows.  My niece loves the show too but her primary reason is because she likes the actor Shemar Moore.  She finds Shemar “so cute” and I kinda have to agree with her. The second series that was highly recommended by friends is Flash Forward.  I have only watched the first episode and I do like the story line.

It’s 9am.  Time to sign off for now and leave the house for the doctor’s.

Let’s get physical for cancer patients

It such a great feeling when the rush of endorphins is released into the body. Other than day-to-day walking and pilates , it has been over 4 months since I did some form of regular physical exercise.  I broke the spell and decided to start swimming again.  Over the last 2 days, I eased my way and swam some laps.  Boy, it has been too long and I loved my time. Today, my arms are sore and I don’t mind it one bit. I am not the greatest swimmer nor am I training for the next Olympics.  I take my time in between strokes and I even stop for a minute every few laps before continuing. Swimming relaxes me, clear my thoughts and purely focusing my strokes.  The other benefits is that it helps strengthen my lower back and help me to cope better with side effects of chemo.

Fatigue is a very common side effect of chemo.  For me, this is one side effect that hits me quite hard.  For cancer patients, it is encouraged to include some light exercise like walking to help battle the fatigue, it boosts physical functions, and just makes the quality of life a little better.  There is an abundance of reports encouraging cancer patients to avoid inactivity. What a better way to get some natural Vitamin D by taking a walk around the park with family or friends. I know it is tough even on better days to muster enough energy and get yourself moving. The key message is to listen to your body. As a former gym rat who did squats with at least 100 pounds weight and ran 5km quite comfortable, I had to change my overall workout.  I tried to do a light jog after completing my first batch of chemo.  I couldn’t jog comfortably without feeling some aches in my knee-joint. I know that the chemo drugs had some impact on m physiological functions. Hence, swimming is the best workout for me.  Pilates is my other favorite workout.  It helps to build my core muscles and a perfect way to do some strength workout without the heavy weights.

Having said the above, the mantra of exercise and eating right to prevent or reduce the risks of cancer has been over publicized .  I have yet to come across any campaigns whereby medical professions encouraging cancer patients to exercise during and after treatments.  Why is that? I need to dig into this topic further.

Time to get some shut-eye.  Tomorrow is chemo round 2.

Round 1 is done and dusted

Ok, I am guilty for not sharing my post any earlier on this.  My energy level was so low that I had to muster myself out of bed, take a shower and eat when I am hungry. So here is the low down on what happened on the day.  Having a pretty good idea from the first batch of chemo, I knew the drill as soon as I stepped into the clinic.

First task is to get a blood test done.  Blood drawn and sent to the lab to test for cancer markers so fast that I didn’t have time to leave my butt imprint on the seat.  Normally I would have to wait at least 2 hours for results to come back but it wasn’t necessary this time.  I went in to see my oncologist so she can do her normal checks before I start my chemo.  She shared the expected side effects once again and answered my questions I had.  The drug will take 2 hours to administer.  I was ready to start but not before I had a quick bite of breakfast.

For those who remember from my earlier posts, I have very small veins and I knew it might take the nurse to hunt for one again. Tap! Tap! Tap!   I love the way the nurses keep telling me that I have such nice skin but pity that my veins is not the same. Ha! Even with the tourniquet in place, it took a good few minutes to find a possibility. Note to self –  I must resume my “squeezing the ball” exercise to bring out my veins.  She found one vein and a quietly confident to poke me with the needle. I felt the first prick and that was ok.  She pushed in a little further and it hurt a little but tolerable.  As she pushed a little further into the vein she stopped concerned that there was no blood coming through.  A little further nudge of the needle and a sign of blood trickled through.  Phew! With tape to secure the needle and place, the drug started to drip into my system.  For comfort, lights were dimmed in the room and I kept myself occupied by watching some TV series, “The Mentalist” on my iPad.

Over the side effects, I was ready to deal with the side effects.  Fatigue and waking with a headache the following morning was the first signs to crop up.  Then the nauseous feeling started to creep later in the day. Imagine waking with a hangover feeling that last for days.  Took a couple of Panadol hoping to relieve the symptoms.  I guess the drug in my body is not reacting as well to such medications.  I endured it. There was a glimmer of hope 2 days after chemo when headache subsided a little and some energy picked up in the evening. But it didn’t last for very long. By the 3rd and 4th day, my energy level was all time low and the headache returned.  I slept for most of the day. The best Rx for I could give myself is pure rest.

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6 days on and my energy is back to normal.  Looking forward to step outside of the house to get some fresh air and some natural vitamin D.

Chemo – bring it on!

Chemo Princess - that's me!

The date is set.  Friday, 10 June will be the first of my chemotherapy treatments. After the last hospitalization episode of intestinal obstruction, I wanted to wait for the approval from the surgeon that it would be fine to go ahead with the treatment.  Shared the news with the oncologist.

I have opted for a different drug this time round.  A Japanese produced drug called, Campto.  It will be administered once every two weeks, a total of 12 cycles.  From the doctor’s feedback the side effects are not as bad in comparison to my first course of chemo.  Of course I would expect my hair to be thinned out. This doesn’t matter to me so much given that I am already sporting the bald look.  The chemo drug will just save me the effort of having to trim my own hair.

The other known side effects diarrhea.  My oncologist explained that this may kick in a few days after the chemo.  This can be manageable.  I had to deal with similar side effects after the first chemo and radiation. My white blood cells (WBC) may not be affected from the drug.  This means that I would need to inject myself with some drug to help me increase the WBC – phew!  However, each person may react or face different side effects.  Based on my research via the internet, there are other possible side typical chemo effects such as fatigue, nausea and vomiting, brittle nails, sore mouth, weight loss/gain, etc.  I will deal with them when it happens.

Only 3 sleeps to go before the next chapter of chemo begins!  Wish me luck!

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