Bald 'n Sassy

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

Archive for the tag “cancer”

Missing in action – NOT!

I have just taken out my ruler and slapped myself on the wrist!  Ouch! I deserve that.  I just looked at my blog dashboard and it has been almost 3 months since I posted with what has happened. Of course there are excuses but I am sure you don’t want to hear about them.   

Well, I am still here.  It’s time to share on health progress.  Overall, physically I am feeling very good.  Since I have switched my diet to a gluten-free and dairy menu, my body is good shape.  I am still going back to my oncologist every 6 weeks for check up.  I have had 3 blood test since the start of the 2012.  My CEA and CA.A 19.9 markers are on the upward trend.  From double digits, it is growing to 3 digits.  Here is a snapshot:

Feb 2012: CEA – 63;  CA.A 19.9 – 61.2

March 2012: CEA – 121.2; CA.A 19.9 – 135.6

April 2012: CEA – 192.9; CA.A 19.9 – 384.8

No cancer patient wants to see such numbers.  I always remember that my oncologist telling me in the past that it is the trend of the markers versus the absolute numbers.  It is an indication on the “active” cancer cells in my body.  Despite the exponential growth, I am feeling well.  There was a slight scare for me when I started losing weight in between check up.  I lost 2 kg.  Ordinarily I would be happy to lose that weight but given my situation, losing weight is another element taken into consideration in my progress.  I haven’t not made any further changes to my diet and I exercised less.  I was perplexed.  I asked my oncologist  and she wasn’t too concerned about it.  Her feedback is because I exercised less and losing my muscles.  Good consolation.  I am still monitoring my weight and now I have resumed my swimming, it will interesting to see if my weight continues to fluctuate.

So what does it mean with all the numbers going up?  Theoretically, I should be resuming chemo.  My oncologist did hint if I want to do chemo.  I jokingly replied “who would be anxious to do chemo?”.  She didn’t force on me that I should do it.  The wait and see approach still stands.  With all my other vitals looking good and no major symptoms, I choose to defer treatment. The oral chemo option is still on table.  I am still looking into alternative treatments which I will share in another post.

The fight continues!

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Getting use to Gluten-Free living

I have a weakness for food.  I love food.  Ever since I started my chemo back late 2010, I have always closely monitored my diet intake.  I was adamant to fight the cancer through food.  I adjusted my food according to what I felt I wanted to eat.  During the chemo treatments, my taste buds went haywire and craved for more savory food.  I ate as normal as I can enjoying my breads, pasta and the occasional cake as a treat.  Although I may not have eaten a large portion, my tummy does feel a little heavy and at times uncomfortable when I eat anything that has wheat.  4.5 months ago, I decided to cut out wheat products from my diet.

It is tough to not to eat gluten because 99% of the foods contain some form of wheat.  Even soya sauce,  a staple condiment in chinese cooking has gluten.  When I share this fact with many of my friends’ they were taken aback.  Their immediate reaction is that “Isn’t soya sauce made of soy beans only?”. Gluten or wheat based products is an inexpensive stabilizer used by food manufacturers.  I haven’t not done a medical test to see if I am allergic to wheat/gluten and diagnosed to have celiac disease.  Since I am much more prone to having stomach cramps, it only makes sense for me to cut what could cause the pain.  Many who have symptoms such as bad stomach cramps or skin rashes may not realize it could be the wheat that is causing the discomfort.

So how do I manage with all the temptations?  For me I have to visit health shops to buy some of my grocery items such as pasta, baking flour and even chocolate.  Like most specialty shops, the items are much more expensive that non-gluten based products.  Even shopping at supermarket chains here in Singapore, they are slowly introducing some gluten-free products.  This is great news! Of course there are natural foods that are naturally gluten-free like fruits and vegetables, tofu.  Being a foodie, I am always searching of new recipes or find creative ways to tantalize my taste buds.  I don’t want to miss out on breads, pasta, pizza. The challenge for me is when I dine out. I have to scrutinize the menu and see which dishes I can eat.  I even have to ask the waitress to check with the chef to make sure no gluten is being included.  Restaurants in Singapore are not as always up to speed to have alternative dishes for those gluten intolerant.

While I am writing this post, I am already thinking of what to have for breakfast.  I am craving a good slice of pizza with all of  my favorite toppings.  Mind you I am still looking for the perfect substitute for mozzarella cheese – I can’t have dairy products either.

The question is to Oral Chemo or not Oral Chemo

I know, I know.  It has been a long, long while since I updated my blog.  I am not going to give any excuses either. Since my last chemo in October 2011, I have kept myself busy looking for work.  Plus I took another short break to visit my homeland of Australia.

Anyway, coming back on to chemo or not chemo.  I have gone for a regular check up – 6 weeks to be exact.  In the last blood test just before Christmas, my liver was good.  I always look out for the red numbers in the report.  They show if I am below or above the normal range for various elements.  The December blood test was a little more colorful this time.  There were at least half-dozen indicators glowing in red.  But my oncologist reviewed that the key elements are my liver, my haemoglobin, white and red blood count cells.  Not forgetting the cancer (CEA) markers.  Liver was good but the haemoglobin, white and red blood count cells are still below the normal range.  The doctor mentioned that my white blood cells may not recover to the normal range for the pure simple reason of past radiation treatment coupled with chemo.  Basically my body has taken a good beating.

My CEA marker for Dec crept up to 30.  I was a little alarmed but I stayed calm. The doctor did ask if I was feeling under the weather in the week leading up to the appointment.  I didn’t have any major symptoms like cramps or flu. I did have diarrhoea but nothing serious.  Believe it or not having the tummy runs does spike up the CEA markers.  l learnt something new. Even though my markers increased again, it was still too soon for any next steps in terms of treatment.

Last Friday, 3 February it was my second follow-up post chemo. This follow-up was a little unconventional.  The nurse from the pathology lab took an extra vial of blood.  My oncologist rushed into the treatment room explaining that the extra vial will be tested on a separate machine.  The lab introduced a new machine and the readings for CEA Markers plus Cancer Antigens 19.9 is vastly different.  This is a major concern for my oncologist because she is not able to decide if her patients need further or not.  The “discrepancy” was discovered through another patient. I am so happy that she found out about this soon enough.  I hate to think that patient’s having to continue chemo unnecessarily.

The blood tests took longer this time round. I zoomed in on how my cancer markers were performing.  I got a real shock when the CEA doubled from 6 weeks ago.  The doctor asked the same question if I had any symptoms.  She reminded me again not to focus on the number.  If the trend is going up, then it  just indicates that the embryonic cancer cells are active once again.  Since that I pose no symptoms, she would not recommend any treatment.  I did ask about oral chemo.  I recall from earlier consultation that there was an oral chemotherapy yet to be introduced in Singapore.  She shared the oral chemo drug is now available. From the trial, the drug has 40% to 50% success of keeping the cancer cells from producing.  That is not too bad of success rate.  Of course with oral chemo, you would need to take several tablets per day everyday for up to 4 weeks.  Then a 2 week break and then you resume.  The beauty of the oral chemo is side effects are much less severe in comparison to traditional intravenous chemo.  diarrhoea and low white cell blood counts are the reported side effects.

So the question now is to whether switch to oral chemo. I am trying alternative treatment via diet and exercise to bring down the markers.  At this stage it is good to know that I have the oral chemo available.  Furthermore, at least I don’t have to spend hours at the clinic and not be sick for 1 week.  I am going to do my own research on this oral chemo.

Time to wrap up this post.  Till next post.

Not quite ready for Round 3

Today is my scheduled day for the 3rd round of chemo but it just didn’t happen.  The reason lies within my blood.  Yes, my blood test result is the determining factor if I my body can cope with chemo.  In my case the 2 key criteria that was the show stopper are my haemoglobin and total white cell count.

My oncologist asked if I am including red meats or other good sources of iron.  Since my last hospital visit and based on dietitian’s advice, I have kept to a low fibre diet.  Mind you I have consumed more fish and white meats like chicken and pork.  I only eat red meats maybe once in a fortnight.  I do take iron supplements on a daily basis but it seems that it is not enough.  My doctor says that I should be consuming at least 200mg of iron per day.  I just checked the over the counter iron supplement and the real dosage of iron is 18mg plus 10mg of iron in my multi vitamins .  In total I am only consuming 14% of the recommended daily intake – yikes.  Here I am thinking that other iron in the natural foods that I take should be enough.  I guess not.  This is not the first time I have been told that I am iron deficient. Hence, I self prescribed to take store-bought iron tablets.  As of today, my doctor has prescribed higher dosage of iron tablets to take over the next few days to boost my levels.  Of course the alternative is to eat more red meats like beef and liver.  Isn’t that a great reason to go out and eat a thick slice of delicious prime roast.. Ha!

As for the total white cell count, it was one particular cell called polymorphs that was particularly low.  Based on my understanding it is this polymorphs in your body that fights any infections or bacteria.  The blood test indicated that it is below the normal range.  If my doctor proceeded with the chemo, she has to administer a lower dosage of the drug which means less effective to kill the cancer cells.  It also means that I maybe more susceptible to catching infection post chemo.  The doctor strongly suggested that to postpone the treatment a few days after taking the prescribed iron tablets.

This is the first time in my chemo treatment plan where I had to wait for a few days till my body is ready.  I rather be safe and have the drug work effectively. Wednesday, 13 July is the D Day.  My body will be ready then.

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.

How would you say farewell to the world?

If you have the chance to bid farewell to the world, how would you do it? Maybe having a big fanfare with your family and friends celebrating life or travel around the world to leave your footprint. Perhaps doing charity or work for a non-profit organization. Each of us has their own way to bid adieu to the world. A friend of mine shared a link about a blogger, Derek Miller, Blogger announces own death after battle with cancer.

The article had me thinking on several levels. Firstly, I could relate myself to Derek as a fellow cancer patient and what he endured during his treatment days. Secondly, how would I would announce my death. To be truthfully honest I haven’t given much thought to this topic. My family is mostly likely have the traditional church service. Knowing me, I would plan on how and what is to be done on the day itself. All it would need is someone to execute it. Finally, how would someone else remember you summarized in 10 word or less. I might just introduce this “remember me” game at my last party. This would be very interesting!

So coming back to the main topic of broadcasting your death, I have to admire for Miller’s friend to agree to undertake the role of updating the blog. If I had to ask someone who would the same, I could only shortlist a few names. That person would not only have to know very well but also comfortable to able to close the last chapter of my digital life. I would select a different friend to carry out my other wishes like reading my eulogy. By the way whoever the person delivering the eulogy, he or she must possess charisma, keep the audience captivated whilst articulating my best personality traits. It is a fair to only want the best. After all, it would be my last hurrah on earth!

It is a short piece tonight, folks!

Chronicles of Chemotherapy – Cycle #1

Oh my! I have been neglecting my blog lately. It is not a deliberate act but I have been spending some time researching and planning for my next vacation. But I am back. The chronicles of chemotherapy ended at last week when I completed my sixth treatment. But the chronicles is not complete without sharing cycle number one. So here we go.

After three rounds of consultation with the oncologists, the date for the first chemotherapy treatment is set for 7 October, 2010 at 10am. I have been mentally preparing myself for this day. I attempted to sleep by midnight but I kept looking the clock. It was past 1 am when I last looked. Perhaps feeling anxious and a tad nervous about chemo. I was awake by 7am and started to get ready at a steady pace. I was ready by 8.30am. I sat down on the lounge catching a bit of the news whilst waiting for my sister to return from dropping her kids off at school. I decided to skip breakfast this morning. I just didn’t know what happens prior to start of the session.

We left the house a little by 9.15am just in case we encounter traffic jam on the highway. True enough it was a bumper to bumper traffic along the way but at least it was moving albeit at a snail’s pace. Arrived at the Mount Elizabeth medical centre 10 mins to spare before my scheduled appointment. Checked in at the receptionist and the two nurses greeted me with a smile. First task of the morning was to record my weight. Followed by signing some paperwork for insurance claims. Meantime, a phone call was placed for a nurse to come up to the clinic to draw some blood. A blood test is performed prior before the chemo drugs are administered.

The nurse arrived five minutes later and she showed to what I call the “lounge”. Just like when you imagine business lounge at airports, you sofas, music to rest before boarding. Well this “lounge” has three sofa seats and one single bed. This may not sound very sexy like the business lounge but the sofas are very comfortable and soothing music to relax patients. The nurse took out her toolbox of needles and tubes. I am not a huge fan of needles. I looked away when they poke. The nurse was nice enough to let me know when she is about to insert the needle and to take a deep breath as this happens. Ouch! I still felt the sting when the needle when in. I am just glad that this blood test process took less than 10 minutes to complete. My blood test was sent to the lab and the results are expected to return within 1.5 hour. The nurse cum receptionist suggested that I go for a walk and come back to see the doctor when the results are ready. Since I haven’t had breakfast, we walked across to the shopping mall to grab something to eat.

The results were back and my oncologist sat down to explain the objective of the test. Firstly, the blood test shows the tumor markers present in my blood. The CEA results for a normal person should be in the range of 0 to 4.7 ug/L. In my case, the CEA level recorded 28.4; almost six times higher. Basically, we need to stop this number from going further north. The oncologist shared that the CEA as a tool to see how the chemo progressing but in no way will it show that the tumor has reduced in size. The major goal of the chemo is to kill active cancer cells spreading any further. Ok, it was time to start the chemo.

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The nurses prepared the drips while I get comfortable in one of the sofas. I wasn’t looking forward to be poked again for the second time in the matter of hours but I have no choice at all. For a large body frame, I have small veins and this always poses a challenge for medical teams to find a suitable vein. She taps my left hand first to “wake up” the veins. This tapping continues for a good five minutes. One vein is located and attempt number one is progress. I looked around the room to find something as my focal point to distract me. One of the tricks I use to help me during this prickly moment is to think something funny or happy. She pokes me and I cringed with pain. Unfortunately when she tries to poke further into the vein, it wasn’t good enough and I let out a small cry. Damn! She had to try my right hand now hoping it would be better. The second attempt on the other hand worked. Mind you I still felt the pain… sigh!

A separate syringe filled with some saline solution was injected into the needle to do a test run to make sure I don’t feel any pain when the drugs are flowing through the veins. Test run was successful. Now they can begin the drip. This first session is expected to last at least three hours. I was prepared to keep myself occupied by reading. I was reading “The Time Traveller’s Wife” by Audrey Niffenegger. My sister walked into the “lounge” to see me how I was and she helped to take photos of me all hooked up.

I started feeling a little drowsy an hour into the session. Not sure if it is the drugs or waking early this morning that made feel tired. I couldn’t keep my eyes open and I surrendered to a nap. I fell into a deep sleep that I had to be woken up by the nurses to tell me it was over. Still dazed I checked my watch and it was almost 3pm. It took almost 3 hours to complete. I took a good 5 minutes to compose myself before walking out to collect my post chemo medication. When I reached home, I was still feeling the after effects and climbed into bed to nap again.

I was hoping that I would feel a little more rested after sleeping during and post chemo sessions. It was quite the opposite. I was physically drained. My body is trying to adjust itself. For the next seven days, I was house bound resting and having to deal with the side effects.

One cycle completed. Five more to go!

So my chronicles of chemotherapy is complete. Thank you for stopping by to read this. My life adventures continues and I shall share with what I am up. Keep a look out.

Chronicles of Chemotherapy – Cycle #6 (The Final One!)

I woke up with feeling nauseous and suffering a hangover. And the hangover lingers on for at least 4 to 5 days at least. It’s an expensive way to have a hangover.

Anyhow… I made it! Yep, I have crossed the finishing line. I had my sixth and final chemotherapy session on Wednesday, 9th Feb. On the day itself, I woke up at 6 am, a good 1.5 hours earlier than the scheduled alarm clock. I put it down to anxiety together with the movements of my niece and nephews getting ready for school made it more challenging for me to catch extra 40 winks. I decided to wake up and slowly get myself ready for the 10am appointment.

Arrived at the clinic on time and I saw my favourite nurse from the external lab waiting at the receptionist. I couldn’t be more happier to have her draw my blood for the last time – it was fated. I happily made my way to the treatment room and sat in one of the sofa chairs ready for the test. A few minutes later, a different nurse was assigned instead. I tried to keep my disappointed look as subtle as possible. I wanted to ask, “Where did the other nurse go to?? I demand that she comes back and to take my blood!”. I had to accept that it wasn’t to be. I forged on and let the other nurse do her job.

I looked away as usual while the needle is being inserted and adopt my “happy thoughts” at the same time. I felt the poke and it hurt a tiny bit. Glad that this part of the treatment is over in less than ten minutes. Now, I just have to wait for 1.5 hours for the lab to turn around the results. Meanwhile I step outside to feed my tummy some breakfast. I was craving for an egg sandwich. Walked across towards the food basement of Takashimaya shopping centre and grabbed my egg sandwich in a Pomodoro bread roll from the Peck bakery. It really hit the spot. Walked around the atrium investigating the post Chinese New Year sale with my sister. The 1.5 hours flew by and time to head back to the oncologist’s office.

I didn’t have to wait for long before the lab faxed in results. Found out that only half of the report is ready but my doctor proceeded to ask me the usual question if I had any side effects from the last chemo session. She also checked for any physical signs such as swelling in my legs and around my neck for lumps. All good so far but she did notice the my tan lines on my back. She commented that I was burnt but I replied that I diligently apply sunscreen with SPF50 when I swim. She wasn’t overly concerned and mentioned in the past that the chemo drugs can darken the skin a lot faster than a normal person. I was also advised to reapply sunscreen every 15 mins instead of the 2 hour rule as I have come to learn. However, I should return to “normal” a few months later when the drugs are out of my system.

My haemoglobin is low which is expected. Other vitals such as red blood cells are also in the low range. What I am keen to know are the tumor markers/CEA results. It is this number is that will decide if I need more treatments beyond the six cycles originally prescribed. If the number increases or decreases by more than 10%, this indicates there are active cancer cells in the body. The ideal result we are looking for is within the 10% mark. In cycle five, my CEA markers recorded 6.7. The results for cycle 6 is 6.4. A huge sigh of relief for me. My sister shared the same sentiment. My wish for not wanting to endure another two cycles has come true. The oncologist is happy as well. Let the last chemo session begin.

Made my way to the treatment room and sat down ready for the nurse to poke me again (for the last time.. yeehhaaa!). She looked at both my hands and decided to use my left. Once again, the hunt for a good vein commences. Tap, tap, tap the hand to wake the veins and successfully finds one. Sprays a numbing agent before she inserts the needle. In all honesty, the numbing agent doesn’t work for me. I can still feel the pain when she sticks the needle in. First prod – ouch! Waits a few seconds before she pushes the needle a little more and I could feel my vein being enlarged (yes it did hurt). Low and behold, she wasn’t done and poked a little further in to make sure she gets the needle all the way in (ouch again!). Overall, I am delighted that she managed to find a vein within the first try.

Got my book ready to keep me company for the next several hours. Reading a police mystery this time called “The Ritual Bath” by Faye Kellerman. I wasn’t sure if it was the drug or waking up early that made me feel drowsy into an hour of the treatment. I didn’t fight the feeling. Closed my book and closed my eyes. It only felt like a few minutes when I dozed off but when looked at my watch, I woke up just a few minutes just as the last few millilitres of drugs was administered. I developed a hiccup not longer as soon as I woke up. I found it very odd. The nurses gave me some water but the hiccup persisted. The senior nurse did mention that hiccups could occur because of the drugs. This is the first time this has happened. As I have shared in my other posts, there is always something new crops up in each cycle. So, the hiccup was my last surprise.

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What is the next step? Well, I have to do a PET Scan in 4 weeks time to check if the tumor has reduced and any further signs of cancer still visible. In the meantime, I will use the next few weeks to rest and spend sometime researching on my reward – another vacation! I so deserve it!! I was toying an Asian country like Japan but I am more inclined to visit the Middle East & North Africa – Israel, Jordan and Morocco. Egypt would be a great place to see but given the political unrest, I have to strike it off the list.

Despite not feeling one 100 percent well right now, I wish I could show a dancing emoticon here in this post to illustrate how I am happy not to be poked again for a very long time.

The Power of Attitude

Over the last 6 months, the most common feedback received from family and friends is my positive attitude.  Though at times such as after each chemo session where I am sick and lethargic for at least a week, the positive attitude comes to a halt. There are times that I tell ask myself, I don’t like being sick every few weeks.  However, I kept reminding myself that this one week is temporary and that it will get better.  As you’re reading this, you must be thinking “How can you have the courage to keep up that positive outlook all the time”.  To me, there are two choices available. The first choice is to take each day in stride and knowing things will get better.  Second choice is expected failure and nothing will work.

Well, for me I made the conscious decision to choose the first option.  During my many visits to the clinic, I do see some other patients who has share the same chemotherapy schedule as myself. We do have small chats with one another for a few minutes and had the opportunity to meet another woman who is in her early 60’s diagnosed with breast cancer.  I am going to call her “my cancer buddy”.  Her daughter openly shared with my sister and I about her mother has coped with the big C.  My cancer buddy has been crying everyday since her diagnosis.  She even cries when visitors’ pay her social visits. She prefers to stay home even if she is feeling well.  I completely understand how she feels.  I have shared with her how I have dealt with the cancer and chemo.  Despite the strong encouragement and support she receives from her family  together with my stories, it seems that my cancer buddy has predetermined herself to allow the cancer become the focus of her life and how she choose to live with the cancer.

I am by no means a psychologist or psychiatrist nor am I trained as one but I believe that each of us has the innate ability to program ourselves to possess a positive attitude regardless whether you have cancer or not.  When I’m starting each chemo session, I visualize that the drugs entering my body are attacking killing all the cancer cells.  I also tell myself after the 1 week of being unwell that I can go out and do what I want to do. Simple things such as catching up with my friends dinner/coffee, and resume my swimming.  I am planning to reward myself for completing the chemotherapy with a trip somewhere. Not sure of the destination yet.  These are the simple things that motivates me from one chemo session to the next.

There are so many ways positive attitude can be manifested.  I tend to use visualization, hearing/reading inspirational stories as my motivation.  But my best motivational tool are my family and my closest friends.  They are my foundation block and they are the ones who keep me sane and a good part insane too!  For now this works for me.  Maybe I will find something new and I can incorporate that too. I just take day to day right now.

The best way I can summarize is with a quote from Bill Clinton:

“If you live long enough, you’ll make mistakes. But if you learn from them, you’ll be a better person. It’s how you handle adversity, not how it affects you. The main thing is never quit, never quit, never quit”


Chronicles of Chemotherapy – Cycle #2

Oh my!  It has been 4 days since my last post. It has been a very active 4 days.  I had a follow-up appointment with the surgeon to see how my wound has been healing and any problematic symptoms since I started my chemo.  So far so good and the next follow-up will be in 4 month time.  Phew – one less doctor to see for now. Resumed my swimming exercise and squeezed in a lunch with some ex-colleagues.

I am going to reflect back on my second chemotherapy.  Initially, the scheduled date was 28 October but I didn’t want to be sick for my birthday.  It was my 40th and I had plans with family and friends.  The doctor agreed to allow me to postpone my date with the drip to 2 November 2010 🙂 . I was awake by 7am but didn’t crawl out of bed by 7.30am.  All dressed by 8.30am.  Prepared my cooler bag with ice pack to hold my 3 boxes of Neupogen injections.  Neupogen is a clear liquid prescribed to cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy to help stimulate white blood cells production.  It is very common for patients white blood cells to be very low when chemo drugs are administered.  Hence, our body immunity is very low in the first week post chemo session and susceptible to catching colds or fever.

Arrived at the clinic before my appointment time.  The nurse called for the external lab to send a nurse to draw blood to conduct a tumor marker/CEA test.  It was a different nurse this time.  Will she be gentle with me and not make me pull “that hurts” face.  Thinking of happy thoughts to distract me and I braced myself as soon as she straps the small belt around my arms.  She forewarned me that she is about to insert the needle.  Took a deep breath while it is being done.  I could feel the pinch into my skin and needle sliding into my veins.  It was bearable pain.  She filled 2 test tubes with my blood, applied pressure on the wound and put a band-aid.  All over in less than 10 mins.  So the waiting for the results begins.  It is supposedly take around 1.5 hours to complete the test.  Since I skipped breakfast that morning, I left to fill my tummy with some food.

My sister and I were back at the clinic waiting to see the doctor and study the results.  One of the first data the oncologist scans for are the CEA markers and any abnormality numbers in white/red blood counts or liver functions.  These abnormality would be highlighted in red.  My CEA markers has reduced by 10% from 28.4 to 26. Always happy to see the numbers reduce.  A normal persons CEA markers is between 0 to 4.7 ug/l.  As you can gather my markers are almost 6 times higher than an average non cancer patients. From my understanding at this point, the cancer cells were very active multiplying.  We have to put a stop these cells breeding!  Once the doctor checked my blood pressure, any other physical signs of side effects, I was given the nod to start the chemo.

Being the second session, I was fearing that the nurse would have a tough time with my small veins again.  It was a different nurse who attempted to poke the needle.  She tried with my left hand first.  A vein was found that could be good enough perhaps.  Sprayed the antiseptic and she attempts to poke me.  Felt the first poke but when she tried to push in a little further, I yelped! Sigh, that hurt and a failed attempt. The nurse panicked.  I should be more nervous than her.  Another nurse stepped in to help!  She had to pull out the needle and stop the bleeding. I will have a bruise from this 😦 .  Time to switch to other hand.  The second nurse attempted and tried a few minutes to find a good vein.  She felt a few and now deciding one would be the ideal one to use.  She is hopeful that it would the one.  Needle goes in.  The nurse waits a few seconds before she tries to push the needle in a little more.  No screams of pain from me means it’s good.  Alas, it was a success.  Everyone breaths a sigh of relief.

Whipped out my Kindle to read my book.  Around an hour into my treatment, I was feeling drowsy, barely keeping my eyes open.  After hearing about the vein expedition, the doctor came in to check how I was. Not long after that, I dozed off.  It was a deep 1.5 hour sleep.  The nurse had to wake me up to tell me that it was over.

When I reached home, the tiredness feeling was still lingering.  Climbed into bed and napped for a few hours.  I am happy to have cycle number 2 ticked on the calendar.  The next 7 days is when I am confined to home nursing the side effects of the chemo.

Thats it from me for tonight.

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