Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Day 19 - First Chemo Cycle

The hair is continuing to fall out more and continually all day.  By tonight, it was very, very thin on the back of my head and I've lost some of the length on the neck.  In a way, it will be good to lose the hair completely so I won't be shedding all over the computer and throughout the house.

I'm tired today.  I had a nap this afternoon but it hasn't really helped that much.  I'm struggling to stay out of the doldrums today for some reason.  A good friend called late this afternoon and it did help lift my spirits.  I've been knitting some more today, but I'm slow as my fingers are clumsy.  I'll most likely head to bed earlier tonight.  Tomorrow I have a doctor's appointment just to make sure I'm OK to start the second round of chemo on Thursday.

Monday, 30 January 2012

Day 18 - First Chemo Cycle

I slept really well last night.  I managed to take down some of the Christmas decorations.  There's still lots more to put away but a little at a time, I guess.  My hair is still coming out in clumps but I still look like I have a full head of hair.  It bothered my daughter today.  I thought I had picked up all the hair from combing it this morning but I guess I missed some.  Anyway, my daughter was down in the dumps and leaned on my shoulder crying because I was losing my hair.  I took this opportunity to remind her that beauty really comes from the inside.  I will lose my hair.  I will go really pale and look sick.  I will lose some weight.  But that is all on the outside.  The part that is really me is on the inside and that is not changing.  I may look different but I'm still the same person.  My hair will grow back.  My skin colouring will return.  I'll be able to put weight on after the treatment.  But all these things are "cosmetic" and not the real me.  The real me is not going anywhere throughout this process.  It seemed to make her feel a little better.

I was still able to knit today, but I'm knitting more slowly because of the clumsiness of my fingers.  I am also a little unsteady on my feet at times.  We went out to the mall to look for square scarves to cover my head once the hair is all gone.  As I was putting my shoes on, I stumbled a little.  It was the first time that Scott had seen me stumble.  At the mall, it was a bit of a challenge to get on the escalator and keep my balance.  I did find one scarf that I think I can handle putting on once I have no hair.  It will also go well with my suede coat once I no longer need it for my head.

On the way home from the mall, we had a discussion about people coming into the house and the guidelines regarding friends and colds and flus.  I'm insisting that people who come to visit must be healthy and have shown no signs of a cold for at least a week.  If people have a scratchy throat, cough or sniffles, they can come and visit me when they are totally healthy.  If I catch an infection, it will delay the chemo treatments and I want to get this done on schedule.  As a result of this discussion, I feel like I am an annoyance and an inconvenience.  I'm finding it doesn't take much to feel like I'm spirally downwards emotionally. Sometimes it is a real struggle to face each day with a "normal" demeanour.  I would much rather not have this cancer.  I would much rather say "Yes anyone can come over!"  Unfortunately, this isn't the reality and I need to be selfish and put up some boundaries to protect my health, such as it is.  The shock to my family is that I'm being selfish.  I have not been selfish all along and this is a huge adjustment for them.  I've been praying for my kids every day asking God to help them understand and adjust.  I guess I need to keep praying.  It hurts to see how this cancer affects my husband and my kids.

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Day 17 - First Chemo Cycle - More Side Effects

I'll begin today by talking about side effects.  I'm continuing to lose my hair although it still looks normal but is much more thinner.  The hair brush is starting to hurt my scalp when I brush my hair, so I have to be more gentle.  My hair is normally so thick that this is a new experience.  I've never had a hair brush be able to reach my scalp before.

I awoke during the night and got up to get a drink of water.  I lost my balance in my first two steps which has started to happen more as they day went on.  One of the side effects of the chemo is nerve damage that will not be permanent.  It will affect my feet and my hands.  Anyway, once I'm up and about I don't lose my balance anymore (at least today).  However, today I was having more trouble knitting the socks and also typing.  Even as I type this tonight, I'm hitting a lot more mistakes.  It's as if my fingers will not listen to the signals being sent to them from my brain.  My fingers are also feeling a little stiff.  The doctor warned me this would happen and he even asked if I had noticed any change when he saw me on Wednesday.  There was no change on Wednesday but I do notice it today.

A friend from church came by briefly this afternoon and dropped off today's bulletin from church along with a batch of chocolate chip cookies.  The kids and Scott (and me too) really appreciated the cookies.  They were really good and disappeared just like when I make some.  By tonight there are none left.  The kids really liked them.

It was a glorious sunny day today, so Scott and I went for a walk.  It was nice to be outside but I was noticing the cold a little more so we came home so I wouldn't get chilled.  I watched one of my favourite movies today too.  It's called "The Lakehouse" and stars Sandra Bullock and Keannu Reeves.  The movie is very romantic and moving.  It also mentions Valentine's Day.  It has left me feeling a little low because there is a heightened possibility that this could be my last Valentine's Day.  Whenever I have these kind of thoughts, I normally can talk myself out of the dark thoughts with the odds that the doctor quoted me on being cured and also with the thought that anybody could be killed by a car or some kind of accident and life is not a given.  Tonight, these thoughts are not helping to lift me out of the doldrums.  Maybe it has to do with losing my hair and struggling with my fine motor skills.  It doesn't help that the current advertising campaign for the heart and stroke foundation is "Make Death Wait".

I think I will reread some of the wonderful emails and cards that I've received from friends and family.  These normally lift my spirits.  Another friend gave me a bracelet with some stones that signify the things in life that I like to do.  After writing this, I'm going to put on the bracelet to help lift my spirits.  Another friend from far away sent me a bear to cuddle with and signifies her giving me a special hug.  It's sitting beside me to help comfort me.  Just writing about these blessings has already helped lift me a little.  I truly believe God/Jesus will carry me through these dark times.  See you tomorrow.

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Day 16 - First Chemo Cycle - "Hair Loss"

I have had really good energy today and feel "normal".  We decided to go downtown and take a walk up and down Princess Street and go window shopping.  This morning was a little disconcerting as I washed my hair.  My eyes were closed so I wouldn't get shampoo in them, but I could feel hair throughout my fingers.  I cracked open an eye and was somewhat shocked to see a fist full of hair in each of my hands.  I finished rinsing the shampoo out of my hair and looked down and noticed the drain was plugged...with my hair.  It was the most that has come out yet.  All week long, it's been a number of strands together to look like a piece of yarn.  Today Scott said it looked like a tumbleweed.  I still look like I have a full head of hair.  I guess I'm fortunate to have very thick hair because right now, it still looks like I just had a hair cut.  The doctor did say on Wednesday that there would be a big change between then and Tuesday coming up.  I just have to remind myself that my hair will grow back.  I read today that it may come back grey at first until the pigment has had time to rejuvenate itself.  So, I guess, if it grows back in grey, it won't be grey permanently.

Anyway, we went downtown and I made sure I had a touque to keep my head warm.  I enjoyed our hour long leisurely walk throughout the downtown.  We stopped to watch people skate at Market Square and it was a beautiful day.  While we were walking, I couldn't help but think of the number of people we passed who were exhaling their cigarette smoke into the air.  All I could think was I hope they are not also exhaling flu/cold germs.  Whenever we walked into any of the stores, I kept my mitts on because I didn't want to touch any public surface and contract any germs.  I mentioned to Scott my anxiety about germs and hope that I am not becoming a germaphobe.

This  led us into a discussion regarding our fears.  I had a dream last night which made me realize I have a subconscious fear of another more severe allergic reaction to the Rituximab at my next chemo treatment this coming week.  In my dream, I suffered anaphylactic shock instead of just hives and that I pressed the help button to summon the nurse and it didn't work.  In my dream, Scott had gone for a walk and the nurse wasn't around.  I told Scott about my unconscious fear and he assured me he would be right by my side.  He also said we would tell the chemo nurse my fear and why.  This may give her the heads up to start the process slowly again like last time.

Our daughter approached us about having a sleepover tonight.  When we said "no", she let us know in specific terms that this is totally unfair and it's her house too and she should be able to have friends over and have sleepovers.  You know, she's right in a way.  Scott was very good to remind her that we all have to make sacrifices for the next several months.  This did not placate her at all.  I didn't let on I felt guilty, but boy do I ever feel some guilt.  It isn't fair to the kids.  It's not fair to Scott.  They all are having to carry more responsibility and find creative ways to get to places.  This is when I wish I could just magically make all this go away and continue to pull my weight around the house and in the parenting arena.  I know that right now with exams and being teenagers, the kids are under more pressure.  This is when they need their friends and distractions.  My illness is putting an obstacle in their way.  It's hard for Lindsay to understand the necessity of keeping our house as germ free as possible.  The problem is I don't look sick.  I still have pink cheeks, I haven't lost much weight, I still look like I have all my hair and I've only once gone to bed really early because of not feeling well.  Basically, I look as normal as ever and it is easy to think I'm healthy to look at me.

It's a very confusing time for all of us.

Friday, 27 January 2012

Day 15 - First Chemo Cycle

Well I'm apparently supposed to be on the upswing now as far as my blood cell counts.  I was restless today.  I'm getting a little bored.  I'm still knitting socks for "In From The Cold" and I am reading and I am doing my sudoku puzzles.  I'm watching a lot of tv but I really have only 2 maybe 3 shows that I like to watch.  I haven't even seen many good movies on the tv guide.

I want to clean my kitchen so it sparkles and I want to clean my bathroom so it is squeaky clean.  But I've been told that I really shouldn't be doing these things because of the germs and the possibility of getting an infection.  It's a little frustrating to have energy and want to help out around the house in this way so that Scott doesn't have to try to cram it into his weekend.  I've also been told to expect that I won't have this energy in subsequent cycles.  So tonight I've managed to do 2 loads of laundry and I'm continuing to knit.

My hair is falling out although I still look the same because I have such thick hair.  It feels like I've been to the hairdresser and had her thin my hair.  Lindsay has realized that she needs to sweep (her chore) the bathroom daily in order to keep ahead of the red hair that's on the floor.  My scalp is a little tender and I'm assuming this is part of the side effect.

I'm feeling a little bit like an old lady who sits and knits and looks out the window as the world passes by.  Oh well...we'll see what the weekend brings.  Now I'll go back to knitting and watching, on tv, the Kingston Frontenacs host the Oshawa Generals.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Day 14 - First Chemo Cycle - Baked Spaghetti Recipe

After having a great day yesterday with energy, I was quite tired today.  So I didn't do much although I did continue my knitting.  With my personality, this is a huge step forward to accept that I'm tired and to adjust what I do accordingly.  So perhaps at the end of this whole journey, I'll know how to slow down and enjoy life a little more.

On another positive note, I received a few phone calls this morning and was able to talk for 2 hours before my voice started to fail.  I truly believe this is due to the smaller size of the lymph node in my neck.  Again, I'm connecting with good friends from afar with whom I hadn't talked to in many, many years.  I was asked to post my baked spaghetti recipe so here it is:

Baked Spaghetti

2 Handfuls of raw spaghetti noodles
1 pound ground pork
1 onion, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
2-3 cups sliced mushrooms
1 can diced tomatoes
1 stalk celery, diced
1 carrot, diced
1-1/2 cups red wine
1 cup water
Italian seasoning
Salt and Pepper to taste
3 slices of bread, cubed
olive oil
grated parmesan cheese
grated cheddar cheese

Cook the spaghetti noodles to almost tender.  Drain and put the spaghetti in a deep casserole dish with a little bit of the pasta water and set aside.  Brown the ground pork until done and drain the fat off.  Set aside and season with salt and pepper.  In a large saucepan, heat some olive oil over medium heat and saute the onion, garlic, mushrooms, celery and carrot until the onion, garlic and mushrooms are tender.  Add the can of tomatoes, red wine, water, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper.  Bring to a boil.  Then reduce the heat and simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.  Add the meat to the sauce and continue to simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.  Put the cubes of bread in a bowl, drizzle with olive oil and mix until all cubes are coated with oil, adding more oil if needed.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  When the sauce is finished simmering, pour it over the spaghetti noodles in the casserole dish.  Layer the bread cubes evenly over the sauce.  Combine the cheeses together and spread evenly over the bread cubes.  Bake, uncovered, for 40 minutes until the cheese is fully melted and the bread cubes are browned.

I think this would also go well with a caesar salad.  Anyway, there's the recipe for those who were asking for it.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Day 13 - First Chemo Cycle

I've had another great day!!  I awoke with lots of energy and feeling refreshed.  I woke up from a dream last night where I had been experimenting with making dinner and in my dream, it was a successful experiment.  When I woke up at 1:00 a.m., I went out to the living room and wrote the recipe down so I wouldn't forget it.  Then I went down and pulled out the ground pork to thaw so that I could make this "dream recipe" of baked spaghetti for dinner today.  I spent my morning making the meat sauce from scratch and cooking the spaghetti.  I had a doctor's appointment this afternoon and wanted to have everything ready for the baked spaghetti to be put together and thrown in the oven when I got home.

After preparing the sauce and spaghetti, I got ready for my day out at the cancer clinic.  While getting ready, I noticed I was leaving more hair in my wake from the bathroom, to my hairbrush, to even the laptop.  I guess I wouldn't make a very good burglar right now as my DNA would be everywhere.  My humour helps me to deal with this.  At least I have good energy and am feeling "normal" today.  My gut isn't even achy today which is nice.  So after getting ready, I checked my email and there was a warm email from a very good friend who I haven't talked to in years.  Instead of replying, I felt I would call her tonight.  The mail arrived before I left for my appointment.  There was a card for me from another good friend and did it ever make me feel loved and cherished.  I have been keeping all my cards, emails and voice messages to help buoy my spirits when I'm feeling down.  So far it has been very easy to find something positive everyday.  Even the days when I've been challenged physically and/or emotionally, I find the positives by rereading the cards and emails or listening to the voice messages.

Yesterday, after I posted, my gut started to gurgle and feel a little nauseous.  So off I went to bed at 8 p.m. to just lie down and read or fall asleep while reading.  My daughter came in to express her anxiety and concern for my well-being.  She said "I'm not used to seeing you go to bed at 8:00.  You always go to bed around 10:30 or 11:00.  Are you OK?"  The last bit was said in a fearful manner.  I got her to lay down beside me on the bed and explained to her that I have to go through this chemo regime so that I can be cured of the cancer.  Unfortunately, the chemo makes me very tired or feel ill sometimes.  I then told her again that my hair is beginning to fall out and that it is already thinner.  I will go bald and that she does not need to be afraid of the side effects.  We hugged and I told her how much I love her.  She then got up and bounced out of the room, already focussing on her next distraction.  I feel so sad that she and my son have to deal with this reality at such a young age.  They shouldn't have to.  I know that they have some good support networks with their friends and their friends' parents, but it's still not fair.  On the other hand, this may give them some tools to help handle their own crises throughout their coming lives.  That's the positive in a difficult situation.

So I went to the doctor today.  It was just a check up to make sure my CBC counts (red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets)  were in an acceptable range.  They were.  The counts are down as expected but are still in a normal range.  It will be worse in subsequent cycles apparently.

While at the clinic, Scott and I met a friend of our's with her parents.  We had a very nice visit with them and were able to enjoy some humour and seriousness with them.  After they were called in for their appointment, I started to question whether it was appropriate to laugh while waiting in the waiting room.  You don't know what other patients' experiences are and maybe there is not much hope to be positive about.  I don't want to hurt other people with my reality and joy of living.  I mentioned this to Scott and his response was "How would you feel if you were just getting chemo to extend your time on earth but not to cure?  Would you feel negative emotions when confronted with positive energy from someone else?"  I thought about this and have decided that if I was indeed in that position, I would want to be surrounded by people who could laugh and help me enjoy every single moment left on this earth.  Thanks Scott for helping me think through my worries again.

So I got home after being at the clinic and made my baked spaghetti dinner.  It turned out really well and I had seconds.  It is sitting well with me at the moment.  After dinner, I was tired and rested for a bit.  Then I called my friend that sent me the email this morning.  What a wonderful visit I had with her on the phone.  I am so blessed to have such caring friends and family who are helping to support me throughout this journey so far.  Every moment in life is so worth living!  This lesson has been reinforced if nothing else.  I'm looking forward to the next few days where I should continue to feel well and even be on the upswing.  Then I'll have my second injection of chemotherapy next week.  I'm off now as it's been a great day but now I'm tired.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Day 12 - First Cycle of Chemo

I'm really happy today.  I had a good day.  This morning I awoke with a sense of things to accomplish.  Without pushing myself, I was able to make blueberry cornbread loaves which were really good.  Hopefully they will provide some fibre to keep me more balanced and regular.  I also received a nice phone call from a friend from church.  After doing the baking and having my lunch, I was weary.  I did rest for a bit this afternoon while I did some reading and ignored the telephone.  After my rest, I had a small visit with a friend who dropped by with some green ginger tea for me to help settle my stomach when it's upset.

I even made a nice dinner for the family using a new recipe.  My life has really changed when a good day is based on accomplishing only two activities instead of a multitude.  Slowing down has been a big challenge for me so far.

The gut is still rumbling and a little uncomfortable.  Hopefully the cornbread will help.  Tomorrow afternoon I return to my oncologist for a check up.

Monday, 23 January 2012

Day 11 "The Bird begins to Sing" - First Cycle

I woke up this morning without a lot of energy.  I believe my red blood cells are decreasing.  The good news is that this morning I was able to sing a few notes with a good solid voice!!  I haven't been able to sing since November.  I've missed singing a great deal.  I have also been afraid that the voice would never come back.

The other good news is the milk of magnesia is working....although by tonight it was working too well.

I was hoping today to be able to make some muffins for the kids.  I was also hoping to be able to do some dusting.  The lack of energy just meant I wasn't able to do these things today.  I'll see if maybe tomorrow I can try doing one of them.  However, today I did have a really nice chat with a good friend on the phone which always lifts my spirits.  All in all, today was another good day.  Maybe tomorrow I can try playing my flute.  Again, I haven't been able to do that since November.  But again, it will depend on how much energy I have.

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Day 10 - First Cycle of Chemo

Another great day of feeling good!!!  I even got out and went for a brief drive.  It's wonderful to get the fresh air.  The gut is still a little sore but seems to be getting better.  I'll be hitting the bottle again tonight....bottle of milk of magnesia that is.

I had a small cup of coffee today and that seemed to sit just fine.  That's the first coffee I've had in over a week.  I haven't wanted any at all.  I normally like a glass of wine with my supper but again I've just not wanted any.  It still doesn't appeal at the moment.  My appetite seems to be slowly returning.  I really enjoyed the ribs that Scott made for supper tonight along with the rhubarb cake he made from scratch. I splurged and had two pieces.

I was a little tired after being out in the van so went for a nap and woke up just in time for supper.  After supper, I helped my daughter study her french.  The voice still gets tired and raspy when I talk too much.  Anyway, let's hope that this next week has more great days. 

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Day 9 - First Cycle of Chemo

Well I'm into my second week and this where the red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets (clotting cells) are supposed to be at their lowest.  I felt pretty good today although I did get tired in the afternoon and went for a nap.  Who thought that I would be self-satisfied in getting 2 loads of laundry done in a day?!  I'm still not all that hungry (not like I used to be).  I'm going to start taking some milk of magnesia and maybe that will help keep me more regular so I'm not so achy in my gut.

I now understand why I'm supposed to try to be kept stress free.  When there is stress/anxiety/frustration then my gut hurts and there is more gas and less hunger. At that point, there's also more pressure in the area of my neck lymph node.   I've had a meltdown this evening which encompassed the strong emotions of anger, frustration, feeling sorry for myself and then tears.  That's fine to say we should avoid stress but unless you live in a lonely cocoon, then there will be stress as you deal with life with teenagers.  I'm supposed to be focused on getting better, but how can I focus when I'm still a mother.  I can't just cut that role out.

It's not been a good night emotionally.  And then I opened up my email and another Godcidence occurred.  Not one but two different friends felt the need to contact me tonight just to let me know they were thinking of me.  This occurred right at the time of emotions running high and when I had a moment of wondering if this chemo is all worth it.  It's amazing to me that the emails would be sent right when I needed them, although I didn't get them until later.

Hopefully I feel physically well again tomorrow.  At the moment, I feel emotionally weak.  I find it ironic that now when I'm starting to feel physically well, I'm restricted from being around people because of the low immune system.  IT'S NOT FAIR!!!!!!  I'M TOO YOUNG TO HAVE CANCER!!!There, that feels better.  I'm going to have a cup of green ginger tea and maybe that will help with settling my innards and emotions.

Friday, 20 January 2012

One Week Ago Today - First Cycle

It was one week ago today that the chemo was pumped into my veins.  I didn't sleep as well last night and woke again with night sweats which I haven't felt in the last week.  The night sweats were one of the identifying symptoms in diagnosing my lymphoma.

I slept in today until 9:30 and woke up not very hungry.  I ate a small breakfast and had my green ginger tea.  By 10:30 I was feeling good.  Today has been a great day.  It was sunny outside but cold.  I feel good enough that I wanted to go for a walk today.  Unfortunately, I'm starting the second week of the cycle where my immune system will be much more compromised.  So I should be hanging around home more.  Great (sarcastically)....I've spent this last week not feeling so good and therefore not wanting to go out.  Today I want to go out and I can't or else I will compromise my immune system more.  I even considered shovelling the driveway (one of my outdoor activities that I actually like to do).  So, instead, I visited with a really good friend from afar by phone.  I think the phone is going to be my link when I shouldn't be going out.

My appetite really improved today as the day went on.  I'm looking forward to eating the leftover lasagna from last night.  I will keep myself to one piece though as I think the second piece is what woke me up during the night.  But, boy, it was really good!!  I'm motivated to cook today and experiment in cooking.

There really wasn't a down side today which is why it was such a great day.  The sun even shone all day.  I'm so pleased that my kids and husband are able to enjoy a normal day and evening with friends today.  It helps me feel good when I see them be able to carry on in a normal fashion.  Cheers and let's hope there are more of these kinds of days.  I've had 2 great days so far.

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Day 7 - First Cycle of Chemo

Finally...a full night's sleep!!!!  Woo Hooo!!!  I woke up feeling refreshed but within 30 minutes was back to struggling with my sore gut.  I knew I had to eat some breakfast but nothing was appealing.  I'm tired of cereal and I was considering oatmeal but with my gut in discomfort that was too heavy a breakfast.  I was looking for something with protein and the thought of even a boiled egg didn't agree with me.  I settled for a piece of toast with peanut butter.  I hate peanut butter but knew that I needed to get some protein into me.  Yuck!!  By noon the discomfort had worn off and food was starting to appeal to me again.  I had half a bowl of turkey/lentil soup which I had made and froze before starting chemo last week.  It tasted good and didn't cause my tummy to gurgle.

I'm so tired and drained today that I've had moments of dizziness.  I was able to do some knitting but in a much slower fashion.  I also noticed that my left forearm is tender.  I worried throughout the day that maybe I've got phlebitis.  I had this when my son was born by C-section and at that time, I didn't even know I had it.  The nurse, at the time, caught it when she checked my temperature and found I was fevered.  I spent the afternoon today checking my temperature every hour because I'm afraid of coming down with an infection or phlebitis. The good news was there was no raised temperature today.  I also had an internal dialogue with myself about phlebitis would have shown up long before today.  I talked with my husband about my fears.  He reminded me that the doctor and nurses did tell me that I would end up having some bruising around the intravenous insertion area because of side effects of the chemo.  I guess another side effect is coming along.  This side effect is bleeding/bruising easily because my platelets will be low to non existent in the next week.  It's a good thing Scott comes to the appointments with me because he seems to be remembering things that I must have missed along the way during the appointments.

I really dislike not having control over my body.  Today I am feeling a little bit invaded by side effects.  I shouldn't be complaining because I didn't get the nausea too badly with the chemo.  But the constipation, heartburn, fatigue, bruising, hair starting to fall out, sleeplessness, and racing brain are all out of my control and I can't do much about them.  It's like I'm along for a reckless joyride and can't get off!  If I'm feeling this way now, then how on earth am I going to feel around the fourth or fifth cycle of chemo!!!  Oh yes, the doctor yesterday did say that I would feel "blah" today after stopping the prednisone.  Perhaps that explains my current state of mind.  Another side effect out of my control.

I did have a nice visit with my minister this morning and I could feel a surge of positiveness during her visit.   My spirits were raised when I received a card from my aunt in the mail today.  Although it also brought tears as I seem to be extra teary lately too.  The really good news was that my appetite came back during the day and tonight I was able to enjoy a lasagna with caesar salad.  I even tempted the stomach gods by having seconds of lasagna.  Then I immediately had some green ginger tea to help digest and settle my stomach just in case.

I'm happier this evening because I was able to be useful and help my daughter study for her french exam tomorrow.  It was an enjoyable experience for both of us.  By the way, she says "Hi".  She asked me to include that greeting last night and I forgot.  Maybe I can blame forgetfulness on "chemo brain".  I don't think I have that side effect yet.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Day 6 - First Cycle of Chemo

I had another sleepless night last night.  My stomach gurgled all night long as the Exlax I took was trying to do its job on my constipation.  I spent all night up and down and finally stayed up until 6 a.m. this morning.  I did sleep until 8 a.m.  I'm quite tired.  I don't like the side effect of the prednisone which isn't allowing me to sleep either.  I know I'm tired at 1:00 a.m. and I'm lying in bed with my eyes wide awake and my brain racing.  At that point, I just want it to calm down!!!

Anyway, I got some breakfast this morning and then had my shower and got ready to go for a follow-up appointment with my doctor.  He wanted to check me out after having the chemo injection.  When I came out of the shower, I noticed quite a bit of hair in the bottom of the tub.  I guess the next side effect is getting ready to happen -- loss of hair.  Thank goodness I have lots of hair and you can't see the difference yet.  When I mentioned this to Scott in the car on the way to the Cancer Clinic, it looked like the reality hit him.  He's very visual and so the fact that hair is starting to slowly fall out bothered him more than he thought it would.

While we were waiting for the doctor to come into the examination room, it suddenly hit me like a ton of bricks. I actually have cancer!!! I'm in the Cancer Clinic because I have cancer! I've been getting through the last while just one step at a time and living moment to moment, appointment to appointment. I guess today is a day of realizations for both Scott and I.

I just got home with some good news.  The constipation will subside by the weekend.  The sleeplessness will be gone tonight.  And the tumour in my neck lymph node is already down 1/4 of the size.  My doctor feels it should be half the original size by next Wednesday when I see him again.  It's almost like his news unlocked the bowels for me because didn't I have to run for the washroom after the appointment.  Thank goodness it didn't happen in the appointment.

On the way out of the clinic, I met a parent of  two of my students.  It was nice to be out and about and to see people today. When I got home, I checked the mailbox and was again overwhelmed by the support of family and friends who mailed some cards in support of me.  That support is well appreciated and according to my doctor, I will need that support in round 4 and 5 when I'm tired of the chemo and just want it to end.

I'm tired now, so I'm going to take a nap and catch up on the sleep that I missed last night.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Day 5 - First Cycle of Chemo

This post may not be as upbeat as some of the others.  Beware.  I'll try not to be too graphic :)  It seems like the side effects of the drugs chemo is starting to kick in.  Constipation is starting to be a worry.  It kept me up last night along with the "revving" of the prednisone (another side effect).  Scott mentioned to me this morning that I was rather irritable in an unreasonable way last night which is another side effect of the prednisone.

Because of lack of sleep last night, I am dragging today.  I had an early lunch and then went back to bed for 3 hours.  I felt a little more refreshed after the nap, but the constipation is still causing discomfort.

I posted on my facebook that I was struggling with side effects today and the immediate response and encouragement from my friends was quite comforting.  As one friend, Shelly, succinctly put it..."the side effects of the chemo is better than the side effects of not having chemo".  Thanks Shelly.  It made it a little more bearable.  I am still afraid this is just the tip of the iceburg of side effects and that what is to come is going to be a whole lot worse.  The fear of the unknown.  I'm not really very strong...it is my faith that keeps me strong.  I'm feeling my steely will is being challenged already and feel a little weak (determination wise).  I guess this is where my God keeps me cupped in his hands with wings wrapped around me.  The wings are the love and support of wonderful friends and family.

I must say that a student called last night and left a voice mail where he played his Christmas piece for me.  It had been a very difficult piece for him and when it came time to play at the Christmas Recital on December 22, he was ill.  It made my evening to hear his performance over the phone.  Another layer to the wings that are surrounding me.

I did receive a late Christmas present from my sister which was a calendar with family pictures.  The first picture I saw was a group casual pic of my sister's family and my brother's family on the beach at Sauble Beach, Ontario, Canada on Lake Huron.  This is one of my most favourite places in the world.  Another Godcidence that I see that picture just when I'm feeling the lowest in the cycle so far.  It lifted my spirits.

I'm alert enough to help my daughter study for her french exam.  The positive of this is on Tuesday nights, I would normally be teaching in my home studio and lose the opportunity to help her learn.

I'll end with what my abdomen is doing....gurgle, gurgle, gurgle.  See you tomorrow.

Monday, 16 January 2012

Day 4 of the First Cycle

I woke up this morning feeling very sluggish and not hungry.  It was a challenge to eat some breakfast so that I could take the pills that needed to be taken.  I took the last of the anti-nausea medication.  This was after a night of on and off sleep due to stomach gurgling and rolling.  Not sure if this is actually nausea or the other side effect of constipation.  Anyway, have started another medication to help with that.  I did find myself counting pills so that I can look forward to in 2 days of being finished with pills!!

After breakfast, I checked my email and there was a message from the community we lived in 10 years ago.  The warm message lifted my spirits and has me looking forward to when I can arrange to have a couple of ladies visit maybe during my second cycle when I know I'll be feeling good and able to enjoy my visit with them.  This message gave me the boost I needed or maybe it is a side effect of the prednisone.  Whichever, I ended up having some good energy today but didn't overdo it.  I made a really nice salmon salad sandwich for myself at lunch time.  Because I'm getting tired of water, I switched to green ginger tea this afternoon and have quite enjoyed that too.  My appetite today was much better today.

I knew Scott was going to be busy running the kids to activities and appointments after school today.  So I pulled out some frozen turkey broth/soup and added left overs from the fridge.  I let this simmer all day.  Then I made some stuffed mushroom caps.  I felt good in that I was able to make a meal for my family and have them well-nourished so they could go to the next round of activities this evening.

I also managed to do quite a bit of knitting again and even talked with a really close friend in California.  I may have overdone that as I don't have much of a voice left tonight.  One of my students' parents called and let me hear my student play a piece that he had been struggling with.  I didn't get to the phone in time, so they played it on the voice mail.  I'm saving it because it put a real smile on my face.  I'll replay it when I'm having a down turn.  I'm off in a few minutes to do a load of laundry and then I think I'll be done for the night.

The one disappointment is I received an invitation to a wine and cheese event with people that I haven't seen in 10 years.  I'm going to have to decline as the date of the outing is right in the middle of my weakest immune period during the second cycle of chemo when my red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets will be at their lowest.

All in all, it's been a great day today.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Day 3 of first cycle

I'm so tired today.  I've knitted.  I finished reading "The Help" by Kathryn Stockett.  It's a very good book by the way.  I have no energy and it's been a chore to make sure I'm eating small meals...I don't want to eat anything.  I've been forcing myself to drink lots of water but I'm tired of water.  I did have some weak green ginger tea which was a nice change.  My sense of humour isn't quite here today.  Scott made a wise crack about making sure the toilet cover is down so we don't have a "chemo kitty".  I somewhat see the humour, but am not engaged in the laughter over it.

My stomach was rolling a little this morning but seems to have settled down.  My skin and lips seem to be drying out.  And I'm not sure, but I may be starting some canker sores in my mouth as a side effect to the chemo.  I'll keep an eye on that and rinse with a baking soda/water rinse.

I'm wondering if the rough stuff (side effects) is about to become the next phase.  We'll find out soon enough (too soon?).  My cat is giving me some extra attention and cuddling on my lap.  It's almost like he knows I'm not myself right now.

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Day 2 of the Cycle

Well, I woke up very refreshed this morning.  I took my 2 Prednisone pills (part of my R-CHOP chemo cocktail), my zyloprim, and my ondansetron (anti-nausea med).  All this needs to be taken with food and lots of water.  I felt really well today.  My face was flushed as a side effect from the prednisone and I'm beginning to have some high energy as another side effect of the prednisone.  Scott is keeping me in check to make sure I'm not doing too much.  I'm having a wonderful visit with my sister from London this weekend.  Overnight, I had to supplement the anti-nausea med with an additional one as I was feeling queasy.  Today I've managed to eat normally and use only the anti-nausea pill (no supplemental ones).

Last night, friends from church dropped off a some leftovers from our church pork supper that we were not able to attend.  We had that for dinner tonight and it was really good!!

At the beginning of this post, I referred to R-CHOP.  This is an acronym of the drugs that are pumped into me.  The "R" refers to Rituximab.  This is used to treat Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma.  The "C" refers to Cyclophosphamide and again is used to treat lymphomas. The "H" refers to Hydroxydaunorubicin which is also known as Doxorubicin.  This was a red liquid and is used to treat many different cancers.  The "O" refers to Oncovin which is also known as Vincristine.  It is often used to treat leukemia, lymphoma and other cancers.  The "P" refers to the Prednisone which I'm taking in pill form.

The chemo nurse did tell me that I would be toxic for the next 2 days.  So, no one can come in contact with my bodily fluids.  Good thing I've not been sick. :)  Sorry that's my odd sense of humour coming out.  We've been encouraged to place a hand sanitizer at the front door so that everyone who comes into the house sanitizes their hands first thing.  I can't catch any bugs or else it will deter the next round of chemo if I'm infected with anything.

I can't tell you enough how much the support of family and friends from both near and far have meant to me so far.  I've received 2 flower arrangements and numerous emails, cards and comments on this blog.  All this support has helped me when I've become anxious.  Everyone mentions how strong I am.  I get my strength through my faith in God, my faith in my doctor with his knowledge and experience, my support of family and friends.  If it was just me, I know that I would have many more down times than I've had.  So thank you to all my friends and family.  The next challenge will be when my system starts going downhill after the prednisone pills are no longer being taken.  Stay tuned.

Friday, 13 January 2012


I survived my first treatment.  The nurses were wonderful and caring.  They were aware of my concerns of nausea, so they gave me some anti-nausea medication before they even started pumping the chemo into me.  It was a long day.  I did not get sick.  Woo Hoo!!!  I did have an allergic reaction with the rituximab.  I didn't feel it happening but I went off to the washroom and noticed hives on my thighs.  I looked in the mirror and I had a band of hives all the way around my waist/abdomen area.  It wasn't itchy until my clothes rubbed against them after I saw them.  I noticed this when I was almost all the way through the rituximab being injected into me.  This was the first drug of the day.  They had to stop it and inject intravenously some benadryl into me to counteract the hives.  This caused me to feel drowsy and sleepy.  Anyway, after the hives subsided, we were good to go for getting the rest of the chemo into me.  It all went smoothly except for the hives.

I have anti-nausea medication to be taking here at home.  I have had some supper but just a small amount.  I'm really tired and think I'll lie down now for awhile.  My anxiety is gone and I feel empty.  Will blog more tomorrow.

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Get Set.....

I woke up this morning feeling refreshed.  What a nice change!  I think I was able to sleep better because the beginning of treatment is set for tomorrow.  We're just waiting for the phone to ring today with the confirmation time to be at the cancer centre.  More waiting...I'm not a patient person and waiting is a challenge for me.

I, typically, have not been one to take medications and blessedly, I've never had to take too many.  This is about to change.  I had to take my first pill related to chemotherapy this morning.  I have to take zyloprim this morning and again for the next 6 mornings.  This is to prevent gout which could be caused by this first dose of chemo tomorrow.  I know there's the saying "the cure is worse than the disease".  At this point, the side effects of the cure are going to worse than what I've been experiencing with the disease, just because we found it early.  I know though, without the cure I would have a life expectancy which would most likely end in June or July.  Instead, my chemo should end in June.

I'm nervous about the chemo because I don't know how my body will react.  Some people are able to sail through without any nausea.  I'm hoping I'm one of them.  I don't like getting sick and have always had a challenge supporting my kids when they were younger and sick.  You think after almost 18 years of being a mother that I would have gotten over this.  Oh well, I'll find out tomorrow.

I made lentil soup yesterday for supper and there was lots of left overs.  I've had some for lunch today and have froze the rest in single or double servings.  I hope this helps out the family so that when Scott is going to be running kids to activities, there's something in the freezer for them (or myself) to eat.

I'm distracting myself today by blogging and also by knitting.  I'm going to also spend part of this afternoon putting together a bag of "stuff" (books, knitting, sudoku book, prayer shawl) to take with me for my chemo treatment tomorrow which is supposed to last 5 to 8 hours.

It will be nice to see my sister tomorrow who is arriving for the weekend from London.  It's been a long while since we've spent time by ourselves.  I hope I'll be well enough to reconnect with her.  I've missed her.  So far the cancer is reconnecting me with many friends.  I'll try to post tomorrow but it will depend how I'm feeling.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

On Your Mark....

Today I saw my oncologist again.  Good News!!!!!  The bone marrow biopsy is clear!  The bone itself is clear!  Now we can almost get started on treatment.  Some more good news was that the lymph node in my chest is fine.  After re-reading the CT scan, my doctor recognized that the throat and chest CT scan were combined and what he thought he saw in my chest was the lymph node in my neck.  There are still the enlarged lymph nodes in my abdomen but not an enlarged lymph node in my chest.  Regardless, the treatment is the same and I will start my chemo on Friday morning.  I have to take a prescription to block the dying cells from entering my liver and causing gout.  I start those pills tomorrow (Thursday) and will continue them for 7 days.  I feel like another bit of weight has been lifted off my shoulders.

I woke up feeling well this morning. Well, maybe a little tired as I had trouble sleeping last night because I was thinking the "what ifs".  Anyway, I managed to make some soup for us to have at supper tonight (before I went to my doctor's appointment).  Scott and I had a nice brisk walk to the appointment and it was really nice to get some fresh air.  This seems to be when we discuss the disease and the possible outcomes.  Our conversation today started to explore the possibility of what if there is the need for a funeral home and services.  The conversation then went on to which cemetary would we use.  At that point, I said I didn't really believe that we will need to go this far in preparation.  Basically I said "I'm sorry, but that is one decision you will have to make at the time".  I'm not ready to go down that road and I truly believe we don't need to make that decision at this time.

I am tired now as we did go to the mall and the pharmacy to get my new prescription filled.  I do find that my neck lets me know when I've done too much.  I get a pressure, not necessarily a pain, in the area of the large lymph node and it affects the muscles in my neck.  The doctor mentioned today that this is happening because the lymph node is growing and there is a lack of space for it to fill.  I should notice a difference in its size by the time we are finished the second cycle of chemo.

I ran into a few friends from church at the cancer clinic this afternoon and it was comforting to see familiar faces.  I was also sad to hear some of they're updates.  I almost made me feel guilty for feeling so good about my own prognosis.

I came home to find several cards in the mailbox with uplifting thoughts, prayers and again offers of help.  I truly do feel like God is carrying me thus far.  I believe God is surrounding me with the positive outpouring of thoughts and prayers from not only family, friends and acquaintances but even from people that I have never met.  It is overwhelming the number of business colleagues that are supporting Scott.  Tomorrow will be "Get Set" as we prepare for Friday.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012


Tomorrow is my doctor's appointment with my oncologist (lymphoma specialist).  I will be receiving the results from my bone marrow biopsy and my hip bone biopsy.  I know that my doctor told me last week there was a very, very slim chance that the cancer would be in the bone or bone marrow but...there is a slim chance.  This has made me a little anxious today.  All I could think of is how can this cancer be growing inside me and spreading inside me and I didn't know.

This morning I had tea with a really good friend who has been by my side emotionally and with her support just 1 day after I found the lump back in November.  She again helped me keep a positive attitude today as we talked about the cancer.  She is a great friend because she didn't let me dwell on the cancer.  We discussed other things as well and after my visit, I felt normal again.  It was nice to be out and about and driving the van.
I also had tea with my minister today.  This is a new friendship/relationship which is developing.  I guess the cancer has helped to accelerate this friendship as the minister is fairly new to my congregation.  I guess there are always positive aspects to every situation we have to deal with.

Another positive, is my 14 year old daughter decided to make supper tonight.  This is one of the first full meals she has made.  She made chicken burgers from scratch with homemade (from scratch) breading.  Her gift of a meal was well received by the whole family and was very tasty.  She did get some help from her dad as she worked with hot oil.

My anxiety over tomorrow's results has shown up as impatience with myself for not being able to help out with cleaning up supper or putting Christmas decorations away or doing laundry, cleaning the house, etc.  All because I get breathless and fatigued.  Although it was well worth going out and visiting and feeling normal today, I'm paying for it tonight.  My neck feels more swollen and I'm quite tired.

I'm feeling guilty, lazy and useless as I watch my husband (who is quite tired himself from not sleeping) spend the evening busily taking down the Christmas decorations.  It is really hard to be selfish and not "do" and "go" all the time.  I think this may be a real challenge during my healing time.

It was nice that my daughter had a brief conversation (as only 14 yr. old daughters can) with me today.  It saddened me that my 14 yr. old should have to be dealing with the possibility that her mother may not make it.  She should be carefree, visiting with friends, doing hair, shopping....not worrying about whether cancer is going to steal her mother away too soon.  The word "saddened" does not quite show the depth of emotion I felt and feel when I think of my children having to deal with this terrible disease.  I guess there's also some anger mixed in there too.  Good....the anger will be used as determination that this will be beaten.

I'm going to close for today on a positive note.  Scott and I have received so many best wishes, good thoughts, prayers and offers of help and support from friends close by and from afar.  I don't think our friends and family know the wonderful glow of warmth and love I feel with each and every offer and comment.  Many of these have been done through email and I'm saving each and every one so that when I get down (like I was briefly tonight), I can pull myself out of the doldrums and feel everyone's positive vibes and prayers.  Thank you all for your support so far.

Monday, 9 January 2012

Coping with the Diagnosis

I've just handed off the last of my students.  My professional responsibilities are wrapped up for the next 6 months.

Coping mechanisms for dealing with the stress of waiting and diagnosis is a very individual thing.  For me I love to keep busy...this is a challenge as I'm very fatigued a lot of the time and I have breathlessness which is another symptom.  So I've kept busy by knitting.  I'm knitting socks which can be worn  like slippers.  I have made socks for family and friends.  I'm starting to stockpile socks as I don't know who else wants them.  So to make myself feel productive, I'll be donating them to a homeless shelter called "In From The Cold".  Who says we can't make a difference when we're challenged!!

Last week, I googled "In From The Cold" to find out if they would accept warm knitted socks as a donation....maybe a bit of an odd donation.  Anyway, I wanted to find out where my husband could drop them off (sizes small, medium and large).  Wouldn't you know it...I found the website and the program manager ends up being a friend!!!  What a Godcidence (instead of coincidence).

Another way I'm keeping busy and distracted while waiting is catching up with friends and family on facebook and through email.  I've also been talking on the phone quite a bit although this is a challenge as my throat aches and the voice is hoarse.  I'm also reading and have loaded up on books for this journey.  I'm currently reading "The Help" which was recently shown in the movie theatres.   I had wanted to see the movie but didn't get around to it.  If anyone has good books to suggest, please drop a comment by for me.  I also like doing sudoku puzzles, so I purchased a large collection which will see me through the next while.

Some new symptoms have started to show up such as indigestion and a feeling of fullness.  Today I also felt a lymph node around my stomach area as I was getting dressed.  This was never felt before...not even last week by the doctor.  I'm not panicking as the chemo will reduce and undo these new advancements of the disease.  I'm quite tired today and my neck has more of a pressure feeling in it which seems to have moved up higher in the neck in the last couple of weeks.

I love the outdoors and do like to go for walks.  My husband took me to the shore of Lake Ontario on January 2 as I was feeling cooped up.  That is where my profile picture was taken. To help cope with being indoors, I listen to the nature channel on our digital cable while I knit.  It helps as I look out the window while knitting.  A friend suggested today that I have bird feeders out front in view of the window so I can see the squirrels and birds throughout the next while.  I think this might be a great idea to follow up on.

I am so thankful that my husband nagged me.  I sometimes don't listen too well to him but I made the appointment back in November just to get him off my back.   Thank you Scott!!!!

I'll sign off for today.  Tomorrow I may talk about how my 2 teenagers are handling it (from my perspective).  Thank you for everyone's good wishes, prayers and positive thoughts.  I truly do believe that prayer works.  As one friend has said already a number of times..."This too shall pass".  Thanks Shelly.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

January 8, 2012 Take 2

Well after many phone calls, I can continue....

On Friday, November 25, 2011 I went for my throat ultrasound and chest x-ray.  I did see something on the screen of the ultrasound but, of course, not knowing what I'm looking at, I just assumed it was the "thing" I was feeling.  After the ultrasound, I went for the chest x-ray.

Then came the waiting and a weekend with my husband watching our son curling and then a dinner out.  All the while, we were thinking "Did I have lung cancer?  Am I dying?"  My father died of lung cancer.  It was my turn on Sunday, November 27 to "do" the coffee hour after church.  This was my first Sunday of sitting in the congregation and not singing in the choir.  It was very difficult to field the questions from friends in the choir and congregation who were wondering why I wasn't singing in the choir.  I was able to handle all the questions.  What got to me emotionally were the comments "We really missed hearing your voice and seeing you in the choir".  When my minister came by with her coffee in hand and said the exact words, my eyes welled up.  I became speechless and was obviously in distress.  My minister offered to meet with me right then, but I couldn't because I had to clean up and get on my way as I also was scheduled to serve snack for 25 youngsters at my daughter's curling club.  I got through my day.

The next while until December 5 was a terribly long wait for my husband and I.  Our children had no clue of what was going on.  They thought I had the phone on call forward to my cellphone because I was being a strict mother and punishing them and checking up on them.  I actually was waiting to get results from the tests and a referral to a "throat specialist".  My husband and I had many morbid conversations where we talked about funerals and all sorts of odd and wonderful things during this time.  The blood test results came in around November 30 and they were negative/normal.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011, I received a call from my doctor with a referral to the next doctor.  When I asked what kind of doctor, I was told an oncologist/cancer specialist for a consultation.  I hung up and called my husband and gave him the info.  After I hung up from speaking to my husband, my hands were shaking.  I had to pull myself together and then teach a full afternoon of piano lessons as if nothing was wrong.  My throat was scratchy and sore, my neck was achy and I was struggling to act normal.

Friday, December 2, I had my chest CT scan done.  Monday, December 5 I went to my family doctor again for my regularly scheduled physical appointment.  My husband came with me and the appointment became a follow up appointment with good news that the chest CT scan appeared clear.  It was confirmed.  I did not have lung cancer or thyroid cancer!!!  Woo Hoo!!!!  But.....I did appear to have lymphoma and he wanted me to have an abdominal CT scan.  All I could think was "What's lymphoma?"  We went home and googled lymphoma.  Seeing all the information out there, I realized that I could not look this information up until I knew what kind of lymphoma I had.  I was back to waiting until Monday, December 12 to see the new doctor for a consultation.

In the meantime, on Saturday, December 10, I had to act totally normal at a Christmas party.  Friends and acquaintances would ask "How are you?"  "Are you all ready for Christmas?"  I wanted to scream "I'M NOT OK!!  I HAVE CANCER!!  I'M NOT EVEN THINKING ABOUT CHRISTMAS!!!"  But instead I acted normal and answered as I normally would.  I also received my appointment for my abdominal CT scan which was for Friday, December 16 at 1:45 p.m.

On Monday, December 12 I met the "new" doctor for the consultation.  He checked me over and looked at the CT scan of my chest and my throat.  He showed me the mass at the base of my neck.  He poked and prodded me and then announced that it seemed to be just in the neck.  He did a needle biopsy of the lymph node in my neck at that point.  He told me he would get the results either Wednesday or Thursday but that he would be out of the office.  He asked me to come back on Friday, December 16 at 11:45 a.m. to be the last patient seen in the morning clinic to discuss the results and perhaps fill out forms for surgical biopsy.  I remember him saying "Bring your husband".

Friday, December 16 came and my husband and I sat in the waiting room watching all the other patients being called in.  I was getting more nervous especially once it was down to 2 other patients before me.  Finally our turn came and we found out the results.  Yes, I had lymphoma cancer.  This kind of cancer is very curable.  If there is a cancer to get, this is the one.  There needed to be a surgical biopsy done of the lymph node in my neck so they could determine the kind of lymphoma which would then determine the treatment plan.  We filled in all the necessary paperwork to be put on standby for the Operating Room on Monday, December 19.  It was now between 12:30 and 1:00 p.m.  My husband went back to work, I went to the lab for more blood work to be done in preparation for the surgical biopsy.  After the blood was taken from me, I then had 1/2 hour to wait to have my abdominal CT scan done.  By the end of the day on Dec. 16, I had 2 sore arms from blood work and CT scan dye insertion needles.  I was starting to think I looked like a drug addict with all the needle marks.

The weekend went by and we filled our time watching our son curl competitively and also watching high end curling live at the local large arena.  Monday morning (December 19) around 11 in the morning we got the call we were waiting anxiously for.  "Come immediately to KGH for your surgical biopsy operation."  Into the car my husband and I went.  He dropped me off and then went to park the car.  I made my way to Same Day Admissions.  As I waited in the waiting room for my turn to be admitted, my oncologist came through and saw me.  He came directly over and initialled the sight where surgery was to happen.  I said "You mean I'm not special enough to receive a full signature?"  He smiled and we enjoyed a little bit of humour in a difficult situation.  I was whisked through admissions and all the preliminary things very quickly.  My husband hadn't even arrived yet from parking the car.  All went well and we were back home by 4 p.m.  Lessons were cancelled for that night.  I taught Tuesday, December 20 and Wednesday December 21 in preparation for the students to put on a small recital on Thursday, December 22.  In all this I had to act normal and pretend nothing was wrong...that my hoarseness was just a cold and wish my students and their families a Merry Christmas and I would see them in the New Year.  I knew I was not going to see them in the New Year.  I just knew it.  Friday, December 23, I received a phone call that I had an appointment at the Cancer Centre to see my new oncologist who is a lymphoma specialist.  I would receive the results of the surgical biopsy at that time as well as the results of the abdominal CT scan.

We went into Christmas feeling somewhat upbeat about how quickly the health care system worked with me.  I was feeling very thankful for my family doctor and how quickly he moved on getting tests and referrals done.  Being it was Christmas and the Advent Season, I also was able to draw links between my situation and Advent.  The first week of Advent was Sunday, November 27.  We lit the first candle of the Advent wreath.  This candle signifies "Hope".  Hope that it wasn't lung cancer.  The second week of Advent was Sunday, December 4.  We lit the second candle of the Advent wreath which signifies "Peace"  For me, the connection of peace of mind.  As the results came in that week, I had a feeling of peace.  The third week of Advent was Sunday, December 11.  We lit the third candle of the Advent wreath which signifies "Joy".  This was a real challenge to find joy in the midst of my medical crisis.  Eventually the joy became the joy of family and friends who started to recognize something was terribly wrong and were giving me some spiritual, emotional and physical comfort.  The fourth week of Advent was December 18.  The fourth candle represents "Love".  At this point, my extended family knew I had lymphoma cancer and I was beginning to feel the love across the miles as we don't have family nearby.  My father-in-law was visiting and I definitely felt his love and support.  Friends were offering support from many miles away on both sides of the country.

Christmas came and I was surrounded by my in-laws and their love and support.  At this point, I was very tired and fatigued not just from the cancer but also from the surgical biopsy earlier in the week.  My family all stepped up and took over.  They made the birthday luncheon for my daughter who turned 14.  They made the turkey dinner.  They did the clean up.  They did everything.  It was such a blessing and truly was a wonderful Christmas with the meaning of family and love being in the forefront.

Waiting for January 4 to come along was a very long wait.  I couldn't make any arrangements for my future such as what to do with all my students.  I just had to sit and wait.  I didn't have a lot of energy.  By Tuesday, January 3, I was antsy.  I couldn't focus on any kind of activity.  Finally.....Wednesday January 4 was here!!  I got to meet my new oncologist.  He told me that I have Non-Hodgkins Diffuse Large B-Cell Lymphoma.  I would have to do chemotherapy.  I also had to have a bone marrow biopsy done as well as a piece of my hip bone taken out to test just to make sure cancer is not in any of those places.  That is an uncomfortable procedure.  All our questions were answered and we will see the doctor again on Wednesday, January 11.  He is hoping we can start chemo as early as Thursday, January 12, 2012 or later at soon as the nurse can get me booked in.

I've spent Thursday, January 5 and Friday, January 6 contacting other piano teachers and parents of my students to give them the news that I will not be teaching in the next 6 months.  My emotions have been swinging from shock, to anger, to grief, to fear, to being overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from friends.  I'm amazed at the amount of people who are offering to help us out.

I received a prayer shawl from the church where I grew up in Kitchener.  This is a shawl that is crocheted with prayers offered up before it was started to prayers offered up in every single stitch.  When I have it on me (as sometimes I feel the cold when I'm fatigued), I feel surrounded by the love of family, friends and God.

So now we're up to date on where I'm at.  I'm tired. It's 10:19 p.m. on Sunday, January 8.  I'll sign off.  Tomorrow I meet with a friend who is taking over some students for me.  We'll meet for tea.

January 8, 2012

Welcome to my first post of my first blog.  I have started this blog as an opportunity to share with family and friends my journey as I fight and heal from Diffuse Large B-Cell Lymphoma.  I am a private music teacher and teach voice, flute and piano.
I had been visiting family and awoke on Sunday, November 20, 2011 with an achy neck on my left side.  I also had a scratchy throat similar to what I get when I have a cold or my throat is extremely dry.  My thought was "Oh no, I hope I'm not coming down with strep throat!".  I got up and visited with my family and then continued on with our day of packing and returning home.  I started coughing violently during the drive home.  By the time I got home, I felt normal again and just put it all down to being tired and maybe sleeping in an odd position.

I taught on Monday, November 21 and noticed during a voice lesson that it was difficult to sing and again the scratchy throat showed up.  I put it down that I was tired from the long trip on the weekend.  I drank lots of water (like I always do) and continued to teach through the rest of the day.  My voice weakened as the day went on and by evening, I could not talk over the piano during piano lessons.  I felt a pressure at the base of my neck on the left side and it felt like the beginning of a boil or pimple.  I looked in the mirror and couldn't see anything or feel anything.

I taught again on Tuesday, November 22 and again my voice weakened througout the day and by evening was soft again.  That night, I felt a small lump at the base of my neck where the pressure had been the night before.  I asked my husband to feel it.  He immediately wanted me to call the doctor the next day and get it checked.  My thought was to delay and deal with it at my regular physical which was booked for Monday, December 5 (in 2 weeks time).

My husband nagged me again in the morning of Wednesday, November 23 and I just said I would have it looked at during my phyical in 2 weeks.  Again, on that Wednesday, November 23, I taught and my voice weakened as the throat continued to be scratchy.  I went to my chamber music session with some friends that night to play my flute.  I played for only 45 minutes and my left side of my neck was very achy in the muscles.  I was breathless as well.  While we stopped to discuss the music, I realized my voice was almost completely gone and my throat was quite scratchy and sore.  I announced that I needed to take a leave of absence for a bit until I got this under control.  I left early and went home.  I then called the choir director at my church and withdrew from the choir for a short period of time as it hurt to sing.  My husband continued to nag me to see my doctor.

On Thursday, November 24, 2011 (just 4 days after waking up with an achy neck), I called my family doctor and got in to see him.  I told him I had a goiter or a cyst or something going on in my neck.  He checked me over and poked and prodded me.  When finished, he said "This is not a goiter.  This is abnormal."  He went on to explain how lung cancer tumours can grow up into the neck.  He also explained out thyroid tumours can grow.  And he also mentioned lymphoma and I had never heard this word ever before.  He then gave me requisitions for blood work, an emergency throat ultrasound, an emergency chest x-ray and an emergency chest CT scan.  I went immediately from my doctor's office to the imaging lab to get my appointments made for the ultrasound and chest x-ray.  This was still on Thursday, November 24.  They were not able to book anything for me until Monday, November 28 at 3:25 p.m.  I indicated that my doctor wanted this to be an emergency matter and that was still the earliest appointment they could get me.  I asked the receptionist if I could be put on a cancellation list in case anyone cancelled on the Thursday, or Friday (Nov. 24 or 25).  They assured me that there would not be any cancellations as they had already confirmed all the appointments for the following day.  I was insistent and left my cell number for them to reach me if there was a cancellation.  I then left and went to the lab to have my blood samples taken and tested.  While I was teaching that afternoon, I received a call on my cellphone from the imaging lab and they had a cancellation for Friday, November 25 at 11:40 a.m.  I took it!