Monday, 30 April 2012

Day 5 - 6th Chemo Cycle

Today was my last day of taking my 100 mg of prednisone.  Thank goodness!!  I'm so tired from having sleepless nights due to the prednisone.  The oral thrush decided to take up residence again so I'm taking my Nystatin again.  This medication really makes me feel nauseous even though I take it after eating my meals.

I did go to the chiropractor this afternoon in order to keep on top of the constipation that wants to make itself known.  Just that errand was enough to knock me down.  I've been cold ever since I got home.  I'm wrapped up in 2 afghans, a hoodie and a warm touque which a friend crocheted for me.  My cat is also laying on my lap as he seems to know when I'm not feeling well.

A friend from church came by with supper tonight.  I couldn't even get the energy to meet her at the door.  My son was so helpful.  He answered the door, took the food, set the table and served us all.  Then he cleaned up everything too.  I know that I've said this before, but my family and friends in town are truly God's angels and are helping to keep me in their warm care.

I know that I only have about 5 or 6 more days of feeling poorly.  Then I'll be on the upswing for good.  This is what is getting me through the low that I'm currently in.

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Day 4 - 6th Chemo Cycle

Last night I had trouble going back to sleep after taking my ondansetron (anti-nausea medication) at 1:30 a.m.  I tossed and turned as I couldn't shut my brain off.  This is the side effect of the prednisone.  It gives lots of energy and creates insomnia.  On top of that I was plagued with night sweats again.  While I couldn't sleep, I was pondering what sort of foods I could eat that wouldn't encourage the growth of thrush (oral yeast infection).  So far I've been able to keep the thrush at bay.  I discovered that if I drink water with lemon juice, it helps to stop the thrush from progressing.

I found out in my fifth chemo cycle that eating fresh strawberries and cantaloupe help deter the yeast from growing. I read on Friday (2 days ago) that apple cider vinegar is better for preventing thrush and that other vinegars actually encourage the yeast to grow.  On Friday, I also read that milk (the lactose sugar) encourages the yeast to grow but that no-fat unsweetened yogurt is full of the good bacteria that combat thrush.  Since thrush showed up  in my 4th chemo cycle, I've learned that tomatoes, carrots, ginger, garlic, onions, celery, peeled cucumbers, green peppers, apples in small amounts are all good to eat and don't add to the thrush.  All this information was swimming in my brain while I couldn't sleep last night.  So the next step in my reasoning was, "What kind of salad dressing can I make?".  Most salad dressings contain the vinegars that encourage the thrush to grow.  So I had a whole conversation with myself mentally.  "Why not mix together some plain no-fat unsweetened yogurt with apple cider vinegar?"  "But will that cause the yogurt to separate?"  "What spices can be added?"  "Sugar can't be added."  "So let's see....apple cider vinegar originally has apples which makes cinnamon a possibility."  "Then what about cardamom?  This is an eastern spice that is used in sweet things....like apple pie?"  "Since there could be celery in the salad what about celery seed in the dressing?"

Then I thought about eating a quinoa salad. Quinoa is a grain that is grown in South America and is full of protein, lowers cholestrol and is not heavy on the stomach. It is cooked like rice and then can be used in a cold salad just like rice. So as I couldn't sleep, I thought about what vegetables I could mix into the quinoa salad.

Finally I fell asleep.  Much too early, it was time to get up and have breakfast so that I could take my prednisone so it doesn't affect my sleep at night too much.  I had my breakfast and went back to bed.  I fell asleep immediately and then woke up late in order to take my ondansetron.  The nauseous feeling woke me up a half hour later than I was supposed to take the last pill.  So up I got running for the medication.  I don't know if I've mentioned how much I hate taking pills even before this whole journey began in January.  After I take the ondansetron, I always need to stay upright for about 1 hour so that it settles and my stomach isn't rolling.

This morning after taking the ondansetron I started looking up quinoa and thrush on the computer.  I wanted to see if quinoa would contribute to the thrush or if it is allowable to eat.  I was so excited to find out that quinoa is one of 3 acceptable grains/carbohydrates that can be eaten when you have thrush.  Just this small activity combined with being tired already, exhausted me and so back to bed I went.

When next I awoke, it was time for lunch.  I had a little bit of leftover turkey chili which was very mild.  Now that I was awake and fed, I was excited to experiment with making the salad dressing that I had thought about during the night.  It was a little tart because I can't add any sugar or sweetness to it as this would encourage the yeast to grow.  So I used yogurt, apple cider vinegar, cinnamon, cardamom and celery seed.  My husband cooked up the quinoa.  It's just like cooking rice with a 1:2 ratio (1 cup quinoa to 2 cups water) for 20 minutes.  I diced up celery, tomatoes, peeled cucumber, green onions, green pepper and apple (skin on).  I also included some whole blueberries.  I mixed it all together with the quinoa and then added enough dressing to moisten the dish.  I let it sit for 2 hours so the flavours could blend together well.

Again, this burst of energy drained me and so I laid down and read a book for the rest of the afternoon.  For my supper, I put 2 romaine lettuce leaves on my plate.  I used the romaine leaves because I had also read that they are good for thrush.  I then put the quinoa salad on the romaine lettuce leaves and rolled them up.  I thought it turned out very well but my taste buds may also be off.  Anyway, it worked for me.  The quinoa salad was light on my stomach and helped to settle it.

Tonight, I've watched a preview program on the Relay For Life event on June 1-2.  After watching it, I'm sure it is going to be a very emotional night.  The program showed clips of last year's Survivor's Walk (which I will do this year) and also clips of the Luminaries which line the track.  Luminaries are bags with messages in memory of family members or friends that have lost the battle to cancer.  There are also luminaries with messages in honour of survivors.  They have a Luminary Lighting Ceremony at dusk.  I hope that I will continue to have the emotional strength to get through the event.  I struggled just to watch this program tonight.  As my husband pointed out, I will be surrounded and supported by my team members which will help me get through the night.  I will also be supported emotionally from afar by my family and friends who have donated to me.  I'm looking forward to the event and I'm just glad to be able to help raise funds for research and the programs that support cancer survivors.

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Day 3 - 6th Chemo Cycle

Today has been not so good a day.  I've been feeling nauseous and very tired.  While I was napping this afternoon, I missed seeing some very good friends from out of town who dropped by.  Thank goodness my husband happened to come home while they were still in the driveway.  They dropped off some bird seed to brighten my days when I feel good enough to be on the patio again.  They also brought a beautiful plant to brighten up my day.  It did lift my spirits but physically I'm still struggling today.

One more day is crossed off the calendar.  One less day to feel lousy.  One day closer to being better for good!

Friday, 27 April 2012

Day 2 - 6th Chemo Cycle

So on the journey goes.  I slept well early during the night (8 p.m. to 1:30 a.m.) because of the benedryl and the anti-nausea medications that I had taken earlier in the day.  After taking my ondansetron pill (anti-nausea) at 1:30 a.m., I was plagued by night sweats and just not able to go back into a deep sleep.

My day today was spent watching the clock to make sure I didn't miss any doses of medications.  The good news is I have not had to use the supplemental anti-nausea medication yet.  I do feel the beginning of thrush developing.  So I've adjusted what I eat today to include more of the foods that combat thrush.  That includes lots of fresh fruits and vegetables and I'm drinking water with lemon juice in it as lemons are supposed to be good for fighting thrush as well.

I've been tired today but also have bursts of energy due to the prednisone.  I've done well not to do too much.  I use the excess energy to work on my knitting while I watch television.  I've also had multiple hot flashes today so needless to say I'm dressed in layers that can come off quickly as the hot flash begins.  Then the layers go back on once I'm cooled down and too cold.

My taste buds seem to be working well today and as a result my appetite is good too.  I just find that I'm eating smaller snacks and meals.  This helps with keeping the nausea under control along with the medication.

So one more day crossed off the calendar until I can feel better for good.  I remember in December a friend telling me that she got through her own cancer treatment by going appointment to appointment.  I find it has been a similar process for me too.  I seem to have been getting through this journey physically and mentally with the help of going from appointment to appointment, from moment to moment in the rough times.  I should start to feel better around May 6 or 7.  Today I received the date of my CT scan which will tell my doctor that everything is clear and back to normal.  My CT scan happens on May 11 and then I'll see my doctor on May 16.  My prayer is that everything is clear.

I'm receiving pleasure in the amount of support that people are showing for the Relay For Life.  The link for donating online is:

http://convio.cancer.ca/site/TR?fr_id=10558&pg=pfind

People can donate using my personal name or people can donate to the team name Cathy Conquers Cancer.  If you don't want to donate online, feel free to go to your local Canadian Cancer Society office and indicate you want to donate to the Relay For Life event in Kingston.  If you know me well, you may contact me by email or phone and I can instruct you how to get a donation to me.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Day 1 - 6th Chemo Cycle

Finally!!!! I had my last chemo injection this morning.  My veins have always been large and easy to insert needles into.  In the fifth chemo injection, they had trouble getting the needle in as the vein rolled away.  This morning for the sixth chemo injection, they tried on my right arm (as it was always in the left arm) and again the vein rolled away and it took a while to get the IV put in.

Once the IV was in, I took my pills which I always take before the chemo starts flowing.  I took 2 benedryl, 2 tylenol, 2 prednisone, and 1 ondansetron.  Then the chemo started.  The benedryl really made me tired today.  I kept falling asleep throughout the session.  It finished about 1:15 and it was with great satisfaction that I rang the bell clearly and loudly to announce to the world that I'm finished my chemotherapy....at least going to the chemotherapy lab.  I still have to take the ondansetron and prednisone over the weekend.  My last pill of prednisone will be on Monday.  When I rang the bell, the nurses all clapped and cheered.  The lady that always booked my chemotherapy appointments waved and wished me well.  They all invited me to drop in for a visit but not for chemotherapy.

I was home by 1:30.  On the way home, I even fell asleep in the van.  At that point, Scott pointed out that I looked like I have cancer.  I was very pale and waxy looking.  I've had an afternoon of quiet resting.  I ate some soup for supper.  I can feel a headache coming on which is a side effect to one of the chemicals.  I'll be taking a tylenol to dull it and then off to bed.

When I first woke up this morning, I felt like I was heading to the gallows.  But a really good friend called me and gave me a pep talk.  By the end of the phone call, I was smiling and laughing again.  So now I just have to ride out this next week or so and then life can only go up.  I'm finding that watching my tomato plants and red pepper plants grow continues to lift my spirits.  It also lifts my spirits and gives me a sense of satisfaction to see the online donations that are coming in to our team "Cathy Conquers Cancer" for the Relay For Life.  Once I'm feeling better in 10 days, I'll be able to use the pledge form I have to look for donations face to face.

The nurse I had today was telling me that people have bbq's at the event and fun activities such as games to participate in.  There's also supposed to be live bands and music playing all night long too.  It sounds like a fun time.  If anyone's interested in donating online just click on the link below.

http://convio.cancer.ca/site/TR?fr_id=10558&pg=pfind

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Day 21 - 5th Chemo Cycle

So today is the last day of the 5th chemo cycle.  I'll be going in for my LAST chemotherapy treatment tomorrow morning at 9:30.  I had a checkup at the doctor this afternoon.  I mentioned to him the swelling near my collarbone on the left side.  I mentioned that my voice is more hoarse again just like in November.  He asked me if I have developed a cough.  And yes, I've had a nagging cough since Friday (5 days).  I've been really tired again since Friday.

My doctor checked me over and is positive that the lymph node in my neck has not gotten bigger.  My blood levels were all well in the normal range.  He said that my body is just showing the effects of all the chemotherapy it's been receiving.  I have been cleared to receive the chemotherapy treatment tomorrow.  My doctor wants to see me again in 3 weeks time.  He is hoping that I will have a CT scan in about 2 weeks time and he will have the results when I see him next.  He reassured me that the lymphoma is gone.  It only has a 15-18% recurrance rate and that would be in the first 12-18 months after treatment.  He is convinced that we have it beat.

This morning my minister came to visit me.  I was honest with her and stated that I was full of anxiety.  Anxiety about tomorrow's treatment, anxiety about what I thought was the lymph node possibly growing, etc.  While visiting with her, I felt a real cloak of peace fall over me and it has stayed with me throughout most of today.

I'm very pleased with the generosity that has been shown so far in my team's quest to raise funds for the Relay For Life.  If you're interested in donating online, just go to the following link:

http://convio.cancer.ca/site/TR/RelayForLife/RFL_ON_even_?px=4345136&pg=personal&fr_id=10558

Here's hoping we can all celebrate the end of my treatments with donations. I'll be remembering all who donated as I walk on June 1.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Day 20 - 5th Chemo Cycle

Today I registered my team for the Relay For Life.  This is a fundraiser for the Canadian Cancer Society and the money goes to support the programs for those living with cancer.  Some of the money also goes towards research.  For those who may be interested in donating on my behalf you can go to the following link:

http://convio.cancer.ca/site/TR/RelayForLife/RFL_ON_even_?px=4345136&pg=personal&fr_id=10558

All I can think is that the donations in the last 20 years helped fund the lymphoma research.  If I had been diagnosed with lymphoma 20 years ago, my husband would be attending my funeral and adjusting to life as a widower at much too young an age.  Because people have been generous with their donations in the past, I am looking at a 80% cure rate.  My hope is that I can help raise funds so that somebody in the future is given the good news that their cancer is curable.  Just think what it would be like to live in a world where all cancers were beatable!

Today, I was also very anxious about my upcoming treatment.  What if the lymph node in my neck is growing again.  I have been fighting some hoarseness since Friday.  There also seems to be some puffiness in the area where the tumour was orginally located.  Logically, I tell myself this could be caused by the trimming of the hedge.  I was using manual hedge shears.  The fearful part of me says it could be the tumour getting ready to grow again.  I'll be mentioning the hoarseness and the puffiness to my doctor tomorrow.

My husband remembers the doctor telling us that if there are still enlarge lymph nodes after the sixth treatment, then I can still have two more chemotherapy treatments.  The extra treatments would interfere with my being able to participate in the Relay For Life and also another weekend that I have planned as a reward for myself.  I don't want to have to go through anymore chemotherapy treatments.  My anxiety has been causing me to feel a little nauseous again.  I've also had trouble sleeping although that is being caused by night sweats.

I'm feeling grumpy and out of sorts.  I'm tired of the treatments.  I know that this is probably the last one but I really don't look forward to next week when I'm tired, nauseous and food tastes sour and terrible.  I also don't like seeing the IV bags hanging on the pole and watching the chemicals go down the tube into my arm.  The worst chemical is the third one that is red.  I hate seeing the red liquid come down the tube and then into me.  That's why I bring a book to read so I don't have to watch such unnatural chemicals pump into me.  I don't like how my body smells of chemicals afterwards.  I want my body to be back to normal.  I want to be able to have energy to work in my garden.  I want to be able to go for long walks and not be exhausted.  I want to be able to talk for hours and not have any hoarseness.

The good news is that my team Cathy Conquers Cancer is now able to start raising funds online and offline.  I managed to get this organized and registered before my next treatment.  People can be fundraising while I'm recuperating from my last treatment.  Hopefully, I'll feel better in time for my birthday.  That would be nice.

Monday, 23 April 2012

Day 19 - 5th Chemo Cycle

I'm so tired today.  I did transplant my tomato plants and red pepper plants into bigger pots so that they can grow and be healthy before I harden them off in a couple of weeks.  I didn't do anything else today.  I just sat and relaxed.  I mentioned yesterday that the water was going to be shut off today.  It didn't happen.  I think that was because it snowed and then rained all day today.

I'm still a little afraid about a recurrance of the lymphoma.  I'll be seeing the doctor on Wednesday and will be looking for reassurance that everything is fine.

Tonight I signed up my team for the Relay For Life.  I'm too tired right now to  figure out how to put the link onto my blog so that people can donate to either myself or my team.  I'll be putting the link up on another night when I have more energy.  I do like the name that I came up with for the team though.  We're called Cathy Conquers Cancer.

After I did that, I went to relax and the phone rang.  It was a friend who I haven't talked to in ages!  She was reassured to hear my voice and realize that I sound "normal" and that I'm heading into my last chemo treatment.  She knew something was amiss when she didn't receive my yearly Christmas card and family newsletter.  What a nice visit I had with her on the phone tonight though.

I'm done now for tonight.  Hopefully I will have more energy tomorrow.  I don't like feeling so dragged out.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Day 18 - 5th Chemo Cycle

I'm tired today.  It's been a busy week although very enjoyable.  I took it easy today although I did get out for a walk at the local conservation area.  After the walk, my husband took me for a drive to extend our outing.

I noticed yesterday that there is a little bit of swelling near my collarbone where the tumour had been.  It was still there today.  I'm hoping it is because I exercised it using the hedge shears.  I also noticed today that my stomach was a little queasy and I was burping more again.  I'll be keeping a close eye on all this in the next few days.  I'll be mentioning this to my doctor on Wednesday when I go for my check up.  As always, the thought of my upcoming chemo session also makes me a little nauseous.  I have noticed in the last couple of cycles that there is a chemical smell that always seems to emanate from me.  I really don't like that smell.  It is faint but it is there.

I've been a little fearful about the "what ifs" during the last couple of days.  I have to constantly remind myself that I don't want to be robbed of the enjoyment of the present by worrying about things I can't control in the future.  The walk at the conservation area helped to distract me.  Reading also helps to distract me.  Knitting used to help distract me but doesn't seem to at the moment.

Tomorrow I'm hoping to transplant my tomato plants and pepper plants into bigger pots.  This might help lift my spirits.  Our water is going to be shut off for the day as the utilities company works in our area outdoors.  I'll have to make sure I fill our 5 gallon water jug with water along with some other jugs so that I have enough water to use in the transplanting as well as for drinking water and making tea.  I think I'll fill the bathtub with water and keep a bucket nearby so that I can still use the toilet throughout the day.  This will be a little like camping as I'll have to heat my water up for washing/sterilizing planting pots.  So tomorrow will be an adventure that will help to distract me from my fears.

Here's hoping it will be a challenging enough day to keep me distracted.  I'm not looking forward to being hooked up intravenously again for chemo.  Although on the bright side, in 2 weeks time I'll start to feel better and I won't have to worry about having anymore chemotherapy done (I hope).

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Day 17 - 5th Chemo Cycle - "Surprise!!"

This morning I woke up with a massive night sweat at 5 a.m.  I was so hot and drenched that I got up so that my sheets could dry and air out.  I played some card games on the computer for a couple of hours and then got tired again.  I headed back to bed about 7 a.m.  I intended to just rest for a bit.  The next thing I knew, my husband was shaking me awake to make sure I was not ill.  It was 10 a.m.  I was still feeling bone tired but I got up and sat around in my housecoat.  I had a cup of coffee and was reading the paper when our doorbell rang.  I thought it was representatives from the local Kingdom Hall or the Mormans.  I let my husband answer the door.  The next thing I knew, a very good friend from PEI (a 15 hour drive) was coming up the stairs into the living room!!  What a wonderful surprise!!!!

We had a 2 hour visit filled with tears, laughter and heartfelt love.  She and my husband had been in contact and arranged for this visit.  I had no clue!  What a wonderful way to start my day.  What a great lift to my spirits.  I had been a little down because after a conversation late yesterday, I had been struggling with the possibility that my chemotherapy may not work and I could be facing death in 6 months time.  My friend's visit came at a most opportune time.  I consider this another Godcidence because I was struggling emotionally a little bit this morning.

After my friend left, I took it easy as we also had plans to have a couple that we are very good friends with over for the afternoon and evening.  I haven't seen them since before I started chemotherapy.  Everyone who sees me all make the same comment about how well I look.  I still look healthy because I still have pink cheeks.

Our friends had been on vacation in Florida a couple of weeks ago and it was really nice to live vicariously through them as they relived their trip for us.  We visited and watched NHL hockey.  We visited and ate a fulfilling meal of lasagna, caesar salad and cake for dessert.  We continued our visiting while we watched the evening edition of the NHL.  Time flew by and before I was ready, they had to leave to go home.  What a great day this was even though I was very tired when it first started.

I'm still struggling with the possibility that the lymphoma could return or that it is still in me.  I would truly like to believe it is gone and that I have beaten this thing.  My fear is that it could return within 6 months time.  When I see my doctor on Wednesday for my check up, I'll be asking him what sort of things I need to watch out for.  My fear is that cancer could start growing inside me again and I won't know about it.  I don't want to become a hypochondriac, but I want to know what to watch for and when should I be running to the doctor.  Should I be concerned about constant colds?  Should I be concerned if my voice goes hoarse again?  Could the cancer come back in some other part of my body (not as lymphoma)?  Do I need to be totally educated about all the symptoms of the various types of cancer?  I really don't want to go through chemotherapy ever again.  I can't control this.  What gives me any kind of peace is the belief that I can hand all my worries over to God to handle for me.  And to pray for a remission and cure.  I have a little statue of God's hand holding a small child.  I find comfort in believing I am the small child and I am being held in God's hand for safe keeping.

I have 4 more good days ahead of me before I start my last round of chemotherapy.  I will be ringing the bell to show that I am finished the chemotherapy!  But for now, I want to enjoy my next 4 days.  As with my other cycles, I have very special, warm memories from today to get me through this next cycle.  Imagine, a surprise visitor from PEI!!!!

Friday, 20 April 2012

Day 16 - 5th Chemo Cycle

Finally my body is back to normal and working as it should.  So I should feel great for the next 6 days.

This morning I found it harder to get out of bed.  I was very tired, my muscles were achy from trimming the hedge and for some reason my leg muscles were also very achy.  Perhaps that was from all the bending and carrying the waste from the hedge.  I was so tired this morning that I decided early on that the hedge would get a break from the trimming today.

By 11:30 though, I was feeling much better.  It stopped misting outside and the sun started to shine.  So outside I went to enjoy the great outdoors.  While I was trimming the hedge today, I listened to the various birds singing and enjoyed the warmth of the sun.  It was a beautiful Spring-like day.  I even saw a killdeer flying overhead today.  I normally haven't seen killdeers in the area.  This is the second day in a row that I've seen it flying around.  When we lived in the country over 10 years ago, we used to have a pair of killdeer nest in our yard which was 1 acre large.  I love the sound of the killdeer as it flies around.

I didn't do much trimming of the hedge today because my forearm muscles are achy and tired.  I filled the 2 boxes that I've been using to collect the waste and then I took them to the city's composting site.  After I returned home, I just sat outside on the patio and read a magazine.  After I finished the magazine, I was going to read a book that I've just started, but I got distracted by the birds visiting our bird feeder.  A friend of mine takes amazing pictures of the animals that visit her backyard and I was inspired to attempt this myself.  I managed to capture the male cardinal visiting our feeder.  I snapped pictures of mourning doves, grackles and sparrows.  I tried to capture the droplets of sap dripping from my grapevines.  I could see the fat drop expanding and getting heavier.  I wanted to capture the sunlight glinting off the sap droplet but the pictures didn't capture it quite the way I wanted.  Oh well, I had fun snapping pictures.  I even took a picture of our cat, Frodo, sitting on the patio watching the birds.  He is a timid cat but likes to pretend to be the mighty hunter when he's on the patio.

I have always loved nature and it never fails to make me feel calm and peaceful.  Since being diagnosed with lymphoma, however, I find that nature and the animals that inhabit it are even more fascinating and beautiful.  Everything has more colour than before.  Or maybe I'm just paying more attention.  I am always reminded of a hymn that I first learned in Sunday School as a little girl called "All Things Bright and Beautiful, the Lord God Made Them All".  Everything is bright and beautiful.

My husband took me out for dinner tonight to our favourite pub and I really enjoyed my Harp lager along with my honey garlic chicken wings.  He took me to Dairy Queen for my dessert.  I'm back home now and tired but in a good way.  Today was another great day.  I have a friend coming by shortly to deliver a cake that she made for me today.  I am so blessed to be surrounded by so many caring friends and family.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Day 15 - 5th Chemo Cycle

Today was a fantastic day!! I woke up early this morning after having a full night's sleep.  A night sweat woke me up at 6:00 a.m.  So up I got and I put in a load of laundry.  Then I made a pot of coffee and brought in the newspaper.  By 8 a.m., the laundry was out on the line, my coffee and breakfast were done, the paper was read and my sudoku puzzle was finished.  I still had lots of energy and felt wonderful.

Our hedge was calling my name, so out I went to give it a hair cut.  The top needs to be trimmed down so that the wood doesn't get so thick we can't trim it in July.  As I was working on the hedge, I realized there are lots of dead wood in there too.  So out it came as I worked.  I filled 2 large cardboard boxes and then took them to the city's composting site.  Now I was tired.  So I rested and had some lunch.

Around mid afternoon, I was full of energy again.  I'm pacing myself and only doing a little bit of work at a time.  So back to the hedge I went.  Next thing I knew, my 2 boxes were full again.  This time I rested by sitting on the patio in the sun.  There were some wispy clouds in the blue sky and I decided to sit back and watch them.  I used to do this when I was a little girl.  I can remember laying on my back on the grass during a hot summer day and I would try to see shapes in the clouds.  This afternoon there weren't that many clouds but I did see a whale and a seal.  I closed my eyes for a bit and enjoyed the warmth of the sun.  When I opened my eyes, there wasn't a cloud in the sky.  Gone were the whale and the seal.

At this point, I realized I had better go back to the city's composting site and then go pick my son up from baseball practice.  We had soup simmering in the slow cooker and when we got home, supper was ready.  After supper a very good friend came by for a visit.  I always enjoy her company and she brought a beautiful bouquet of pale pink tulips.  We had a such a nice visit and it filled my heart with warmth.

Throughout this whole journey, my philosphy of life has been affirmed.  I have never cared overly much about having lots of material "things".  If you were to look at my home, my style could be described as minimalist.  This is because, in my opinion, the important elements in life are the warm relationships of friends and family.  It is really important to be surrounded by people who exude warm, positive and generous vibes/auras.  If we are surrounded by positive people, then our lives are made richer by knowing them.  I try to limit my contact with negative or perpetually unhappy people as they tend to drain my energy.  This doesn't mean that I don't care when people are suffering.  I do care and I try to make people feel better.  The people I limit my contact with are people who habitually complain but refuse to do anything to change their circumstances.

My body is tired tonight.  I'm feeling some muscles that haven't been used in a while.  They are a little achy but not too much.  It makes me feel so good to accomplish things again.  I really am feeling "normal" again and I love it!  Let's hope this week doesn't go by too quickly.  I want to continue to enjoy my normalcy.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Day 14 - 5th Chemo Cycle

I had more night sweats again last night which interrupted my sleep.  I found I was able to go back to sleep fairly easily.  I think this is because my body was physically tired from working in the garden.  I like being active and especially if it helps me sleep well at night.  Anyway, this morning I was dragging when I woke up.  I was surprised that my muscles weren't sore because I haven't been physically active for the last 4 months.  So my plans of working on the hedge today were postponed.  I laundered all the bedding for my family which sapped my energy.  I hung it outside so that we all have nice fresh smelling bedding to sleep in tonight.

This afternoon a very good friend came by for a cup of tea and a visit.  As always, I enjoyed our time together and it went by much too quickly.  I'm tired tonight.  I'll have a quiet night of watching the NHL playoffs and the Toronto Blue Jays game.  I'll probably knit my socks while I watch television.  I'm hoping tomorrow I will have more energy again and I can work on the hedge.  It will be an ongoing project which I'll tackle when I'm feeling well and energetic.  As I mentioned to my friend today, I'll trim the top of the hedge because I really want to and not because I "should" do it.

I'm hoping to register my Relay for Life team this coming weekend so those friends who have indicated they want to walk with me need to check their facebook tonight.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Day 13 - 5th Chemo Cycle

I woke up this morning after a glorious night of uninterrupted sleep!  I felt so fresh and full of energy.  It definitely felt like Spring.  I went to the chiropractor this morning for an adjustment as I've been constipated for the last 4 days.  What a shock I got when I stepped from the van to walk to the office.  It was so bright and sunny that I thought it was warm like yesterday.  I definitely did not have a warm enough jacket on to fight the cold wind this morning.

After I got home from my appointment, I put on a thicker hoodie and started working on cleaning up our hedge that I didn't work on in the Fall.  I'll just work a little bit at a time according to what my body and stamina can handle.  I think I'll be taking a slow approach but at the same time taking out some of the dead spots that I normally just leave in place because I'm in a hurry.  So today although I didn't get a lot of area cleaned up, I did get some done and I did remove one dead area.  I got tired and I stopped.  I spent the rest of the afternoon watching television and knitting.

In the late afternoon, a friend dropped by for a visit and a cup of tea.  She also picked up the socks that I have knitted for the shelter.  They are going to homeless shelter for families called "Lily's Place".   I had a great visit with her as she showed me pictures of her recent trip.  The time went by very quickly and before we knew it, she had to leave.

After dinner, another friend came over for a visit.  I had asked her to bring her hair trimmer set as I've had wisps of hair that never fell out.  In preparation for when my hair will start to grow back in, I want it all to start from approximately the same length.  Because I had such very thick hair, not all of it fell out.  I had wisps that were down to my shoulders but not enough to make a tress.  I had some wisps still on the top off my head as well.  So my friend came by and we had a wonderful visit full of laughs as she shaved my head.  Once she was done, we enjoyed a cup of tea as we continued to visit.  Again, the time went by much too quickly.

I'm now tired.  I was glad that I didn't have anymore hot flashes today.  Let's hope that I'm physically tired like last night and I have a full night's sleep.  I'm hoping tomorrow will be another beautiful Spring-like day.  If it is, I'd like to launder all the bedding and hang it out to dry.  Then maybe I can work on the hedge again tomorrow.  Or maybe I'll invite another friend over for a cup of tea.  I'm enjoying not working and being able to spend my day in my gardens.

I have mixed emotions about my next chemotherapy treatment next week.  I really detest going through the treatments now.  So part of me wants to delay the next treatment.  However, part of me wants to just "bring it on" and get it done.  I have a T-shirt that says "Hop to it!"  It also indicates how I feel because this is my last treatment coming up.  Anyway, I just have to enjoy the next 7 days.  Let's hope the weather cooperates and I can spend my time outdoors in my backyard with the sun warming me while I putter away in the yard and listen to the birds singing.

Monday, 16 April 2012

Day 12 - 5th Chemo Cycle

I had good energy today.  I hung out some laundry, did some household financial stuff, started to put together my Relay for Life team and then I did a little bit of gardening.  I cleaned up some of my flowerbeds which didn't get done last Fall or earlier this year.  Then I was very hot, tired and weak.  When I went inside, I realized it was lunch time which may have explained why I felt weak.  I was surprised that I felt so hot.

I had my lunch, checked my emails and then went back outside.  I finished my flowerbeds and even started on some weeding.  There's still lots more weeding to do but at least I got a start on it.  I like working outside in the garden because you get to feel the warmth of the sun beating on your back and at the same time hear the birds chirping and singing away.  Once I was tired, I got very hot again and when I looked in the mirror my face and neck were very red.  I wondered if I had overexerted myself.  I then had to go to an appointment and while I was waiting in the lobby, I again felt myself get very, very hot.  My husband was with me and I asked him if my face was red.  According to him, it was very red.

When we got home we had a delicious supper of meatloaf, mashed potatoes, corn and gravy.  A generous lady from my church had called this morning to see if I would be home in the early afternoon for her to drop off a meatloaf as she was making some for her family too.  My son put it in the oven while I was at my appointment and we had supper ready when I got home.  While I was cleaning up from supper, I got very hot again.  I looked in the mirror and again my face and neck were very red.  I realized that I have been experiencing hot flashes all day.  I've only had a couple of them before today.  I get night sweats very often.  So the chemotherapy has pushed my body into menopause.  My doctor warned me that this could happen.  It is irreversible.

I'm tired tonight.  I can feel some muscles aching already which is a good thing.  I had read somewhere that gentle exercise helps cancer patients cope emotionally.  To be honest, I just like being outside and enjoying the fresh air.  When my energy allows, I can't keep myself from puttering around the yard.  I enjoy it and it is relaxing.  We had a couple of rain showers and I was reminded how much I like the smell of fresh rain.  It all brings renewal which seems very appropriate as I head towards my last treatment next Thursday.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Day 11 - 5th Chemo Cycle

Today was a wonderful day but I realize that I don't have the energy to deal with teenage tempers.  It's too bad when that wonderful phase (sarcastically written) of the teenage years affects my ability to sleep and stay stress-free.  Oh well, this is another opportunity to try to learn more patience and learn to ignore bad behaviour.

However, today was an overall great day.  We delayed having our Easter dinner until today so that I could enjoy it.  My taste buds are almost fully returned after this last treatment.  So this morning I had fun making the stuffing.  My husband stuffed the 7 pound chicken, cooked the potatoes and the corn.  I made the gravy and mashed the potatoes while he carved the chicken.  It tasted so good!  I even had a glass of white wine with my meal.  Although, the truth is that it still didn't taste quite the same so my taste buds aren't totally back to normal yet.  We ended with a homemade apple pie that a friend had brought to us back in March.  It was very difficult to save the rest of the pie for dinner tomorrow night.  We were all tempted to have a second piece.

While the chicken was roasting, we  played a family game of euchre and then played a game of dominoes.  I love having family game day!  We haven't had one in years.  Oh yes, early this afternoon, I sat under the umbrella in the rain on our patio with our cat on my lap, watching the birds visit our birdfeeder.  The male house finch visited us for the second day in a row.  He is so beautiful with his red neck and head.  It reminded me today of when house finches and wrens used to visit my grandmother's farmhouse where they would nest in grandma's bird houses near the eaves of her house.  As a little girl, I used to watch them flit in and out in the spring and summer.  I haven't seen a house finch in years, so I'm really pleased to be seeing it so far this year.  Hopefully, he decides to stay in the area for the summer.

I'm tired tonight as my stamina still isn't very good.  But it has been a great day and I am stuffed just like that chicken we had for supper.

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Day 10 - 5th Chemo Cycle

Finally I'm on the upswing in this cycle!!!  I woke up and felt great.  I did a load of laundry and hung it out.  Who knew that one day I would rejoice in doing a mundane chore such as laundry!  I went shopping for about one and a half hours with my husband where I got to visit with merchants that I haven't seen since November.  Unfortunately, part way through I ran out of energy and got dizzy and weak.  We were at the local mall and my husband had to go get the car and drive to the nearest door to collect me.  Then he drove me to the other end of the mall so we could finish our shopping.  It's frustrating that I can't even walk the length of the mall.  But at least I got out and did some shopping!  My husband and daughter dropped me off at home and continued the shopping and errands.

I had some of my carrot ginger soup for lunch and rested for a while.  By the time my husband came home in the mid afternoon, I went out and, with his help, finished pruning the grape vines.  We rewarded ourselves by sitting on the patio and watching the different birds visit our backyard.  We saw our first house finch this season visit the bird feeder.  He then flitted away but I could hear him singing from whatever tree he landed in.  We had black-capped chickadees, sparrows, grackles, mourning doves and red-winged blackbirds.  The highlight was seeing Mr. and Mrs. Cardinal come to the feeder.  I wished I had my camera with me but I didn't.  Mr Cardinal arrived and sat on the feeder.  Then he gently chirped and along came Mrs. Cardinal.  She was more  reserved and sat in our red maple a little while before joining her mate on the feeder.  From our view on the patio, they ate together and it looked like they were embracing each other in a hug.  After a bit, Mr. Cardinal flew away to the big oak tree in the corner of our yard.  Mrs. Cardinal flew to our hedge which is located just under the oak tree.  We could hear Mr. Cardinal chirping for her to join him.  She didn't immediately, but when he flew away to another yard, she wasn't to be left behind and off she went.

My husband decided to make dinner at this point as our entertainment for the afternoon appeared to be over.  I was getting cold, so I wrapped myself up in our warmest afghan and continued to sit outside with our cat on my lap.  We watched and listened to the sounds of the neighbourhood which were the birds singing and dogs barking.  My cat's ear just swivelled as he relaxed on my lap.  At one point, I heard a noise to my right and slowly turned my head to see what it was.  There was a plump, healthy grey squirrel slowly meandering down the length of our yard.  I watched him get to the chainlink fence at the bottom of the yard.  He quickly scampered up and ran along the length to our neighbour's yard.  He then disappeared from view.

My husband made a wonderfully delicious dinner of double baked potatoes, BBQ-Honey Garlic Marinated Steak and caesar salad.  My daughter made the caesar salad.  I'm so glad my taste buds are back and my appetite is back.  Our dinner was great!

Both my husband and I are very tired tonight.  I haven't done very much and he has extended himself again and did all the errands and cooked supper.  Unfortunately, I spent too long on the patio as I'm now feeling a little chilled tonight.  It was worth being in the fresh air though.  So as I write this tonight, I'm wrapped up in my afghan and prayer shawl as well as wearing a warm hoodie.

The only drawback tonight is that I'm still taking my Nystatin for the thrush.  It seems to create less nausea if I take it after meals.  So, unfortunately, the taste of my dinner was short lived and was overpowered by the taste of the Nystatin.  At least I enjoyed my meal while I ate it though.

Tomorrow we will be having our delayed Easter Dinner.  I'm looking forward to that.  We delayed it to this weekend because last weekend I would not have enjoyed it.  It is supposed to rain all day tomorrow so I don't know what else we'll do but it will be enjoyable just because both children will be home and it will be a "family" day.

Friday, 13 April 2012

Day 9 - 5th Chemo Cycle

I awoke with my first morning of feeling "normal" since my chemotherapy injection last Thursday.  By saying "normal" I mean I have energy and clarity of thought.  I feel happy to embrace the day ahead.  This morning I was happy to be coming out of that first week.    I always feel like I've lost a complete week in my life.  It is a week that is spent just surviving and going one breath at a time.   The week gets dropped from my memory which is rather disconcerting.  Today I did some laundry and hung it outside to dry in the sunny and breezy day.  I love the fresh smell that comes from clothes being hung outside.  That is a smell that cannot be imitated or bottled.  I was also planning to try pruning some more grape vines.

After having done the laundry, it was lunch time.  I made some carrot ginger soup yesterday so I reheated a bowl and enjoyed that.  Then my day changed.  I started having some stomach cramping.  My diarrhea returned.  It lasted for one hour which is an improvement to earlier in the week when it would last for 2 hours each day.  Although it was only an hour, I was back to feeling chilled, weak, dizzy and exhausted.  I'm wondering if it is being caused by the senokot and stool softeners which I use to keep from being constipated.  When I didn't use them on Wednesday night (Day 7), I was not afflicted like this yesterday (Day 8).  I took the senokot and stool softeners last night because I was afraid of becoming constipated.

Anyway, this afternoon I went with what my body told me and I didn't do anything else.  The grape vines will have to wait for another day.  My thrush is still here.  I've been using the Nystatin (swish and swallow) for the last 3 days.  I really don't like it.  I always feel nauseous after taking it and I have to take it 4 times every day.  It is less nasty if I take it after having eaten a meal.  Having said that, my appetite is coming back so I see that the good days are going to be arriving over the weekend probably.

It's helping me emotionally to remind myself that there is only 4 weeks left of this process.  This reminder is what got me through this last week.  I'm so tired of doing the chemotherapy.  I've lost 4 1/2 months of my life to this.  I know it is so I can have a full and healthy life ahead of me which is why I'm enduring it.  Although, now that I truly think about it, the last 4 months have also been incredibly blessed with self-knowledge, a deeper faith, renewed friendships, affirmed relationships, and a sense of being completely surrounded by love.  So I guess the last 4 months or so have not been a waste.  I just can't wait to "do" things in life again and enjoy them.  I'm looking forward to relaxing on my patio with a glass of wine (or two), camping, visiting with friends, eating anything I want and not worrying about how it will affect my stomach or my thrush, watching my son play baseball, shopping with my daughter, wandering downtown while window shopping, walking along the shoreline, hiking in the conservation areas and eating at my favourite restaurants.

I will be doing some of this in the summer but I will have to pace myself and see what my body's stamina is capable to doing.  I'll continue to listen to my body.  People have often asked how did you find the lymphoma.  What were the symptoms.  All I can say is that in order to catch something early, you have to listen to your body.    If you're tired all the time, ask youself why.  If there is any change in your body, emotions, energy levels, etc. pay attention to them.  If something doesn't "feel" right, go to your doctor.  Press for answers.  As my family doctor said at the beginning of all this, "we'll run tests to see what it is not".  Listen to your body.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Day 8 - 5th Chemo Cycle

I didn't sleep well again last night.  This time it was because my sleep was interrupted by dreams.  I don't remember the dreams but I do know that I woke myself up by hearing me yelling out and thrashing in the bed.  As a result, I was very tired again today.  I know what triggered the dreams and as the day progressed, I was finally able to start to put aside the anxiety and worry.

Today I finally recognized the amount of energy I have wasted over the years through worrying and fretting about situations that I have no control over.  As the realization dawned, I began to move to a place of acceptance and peace.  Over the years I've heard that you cannot control other people's emotions, reactions and to just move on.  I had accepted that I could only control my own reactions and actions.  What I hadn't fully learned, and today I took a small step to finally learning, is that it doesn't help to fret about upcoming events and the fretting is wasted energy.  I need this energy focused on my healing right now.  I can't afford to fret about something that is 2 or 3 months away.  This is another example of one breath at a time, one moment at a time, one step at a time.  I have started to look too far ahead.  I NEED to not worry about what is going to happen in the future due to someone else's emotions, reactions or actions.

Today I was embracing the idea of an encircling prayer to keep me safe and give me peace.  It helped.  I had started to use this method of prayer in January and into February.  Then I forgot.  I need to establish the habit of this type of prayer.  I believe that the encircling prayer actually has its roots in the Celtic/Druid tradition.  The one I've been using is actually a Christian one.  It goes:

 "The Sacred Three my fortress be
Encircling me.
Come and be round
my hearth and my home."

I found this at www.northernway.org/cpprayers.html

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Day 7 - 5th Chemo Cycle - "Waiting"

Today was a little better than yesterday in that I had a tad more energy, but not much.  I am still plagued by diarrhea, thrush, fatigue, dizziness and weakness.  So again, I've listened to my body and have rested most of the day.

Throughout the day, I felt like I was waiting.  I'm waiting for the first week of side effects to pass.  I'm waiting for strength to return so I can organize my team for Relay For Life.  I'm waiting for a return to full health so I can LIVE!!!

As I thought about all this waiting, my first reaction is waiting seems to be a waste of time.  But I'm in a situation where all I can do is wait and think so there is no time being "wasted".  This quiet waiting that I'm being forced to endure makes me look deep into myself.  As I rested in bed because I was too dizzy to sit upright, I waited  quietly and silently.  This made me look inside and re-evaluate what is important.

I have always tried to live my life by "doing the right thing" even to the detriment of my mental and physical health.  Not having family live nearby, means constantly weighing choices between extended family functions against activities that our children have been involved in.  Often there seems to be scheduling conflicts and I have tried to juggle and "do the right thing".  This has meant making very long trips by car for a weekend visit (2 days of travelling, 1 day of visiting) when the children were very small.  Sometimes "doing the right thing" has meant carrying out volunteer obligations that maybe didnt' need to be fulfilled all of the time.  After mulling over how I can continue to juggle and balance all the demands, I came to the conclusion that I still think it is admirable "to do the right thing" but not always at the expense to my physical and mental well-being.  This is a huge step for me to acknowledge this.  My process of re-evaluating is ongoing for the moment.  No firm decisions have been made yet.

As I continued to contemplate "waiting", I realized that waiting quietly allows us to reconnect with ourselves (inner self, soul, etc.).  Our society is always so busy with rushing from one activity to another that we don't take the time to quietly wait.  I know I haven't.  I'm just now quietly waiting because I've been forced to do so.  Quietly waiting allows us to take stock of our attributes and our flaws.  The next step is trying to improve on the flaws.  I've been doing this throughout my journey through cancer.  Identifying what needs to be improved is somewhat easy.  It's implementing the change that is very, very difficult.

But....this all starts with quietly waiting.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Day 6 - 5th Chemo Cycle

This has not been a good day.  It is probably because it is my first day off of the prednisone and I seem to "crash" for two days.  Today I've felt chilled, dizzy and weak.  This is also my third day of diarrhea.  I'm trying to keep up my fluid intake.  I don't like the taste of water and tea is too hot for my thrush.  I've resorted to drinking lukewarm or cold water that has been steeped with fresh ginger.  I seem to like the taste of that.  I can't stand for long at all today.  Even sitting is difficult.  It's time to just sit or lay down and roll with the waves for the next 2 days.  In my mind I imagine myself being a piece of wood bobbing along as waves roll underneath me and I'm adrift.

Monday, 9 April 2012

Day 5 - 5th Chemo Cycle

Again, I had a sleepless night due to being on the prednisone.  As a result, I was very tired today.  But again, being on the prednisone, I couldn't sleep or nap today because of the excess energy they create.  So I spent the day watching tv, knitting and reading.  The prednisone also makes me restless so even though I'm tired, I'm up and wandering around.  I'm glad today was my last day to take the prednisone in this cycle.

I did go to the chiropractor today to help keep my bowels in line.  The thrush is still just in my mouth and not down my throat, so I'm continuing to do the swish and spit rather than swish and swallow.  Even swishing and spitting leaves a terrible taste in my mouth from the Nystatin.  I've struggled the last couple of days with nauseousness immediately after using the Nystatin.  I'm also struggling to keep the fluid intake going because it doesn't go well with the Nystatin.  I have to make sure that I drink enough water or tea so that I'm hydrated and the chemo can continue to be cleansed from my system.  I know that the chemo is gone after 2 days but I always emit a chemical smell until almost the third week.

While I was at the chiropractor, I realized that in 3 weeks time I will have finished my last chemotherapy treatment and will be on the road back to normalcy!!!  This was such a bright light to my day.  I realized that I've been getting through the last 5 months by plodding along one day at a time.  Plodding and plodding.  Not getting too excited and trying to keep myself out of the doldrums.

A couple of days ago, I had one of my few days where I was feeling sorry for myself.  I was in a complaining and whiny mood because I was getting tired of the whole process.  I hope that I never have to go through chemotherapy again.  I like food.  I like to eat.  I like to have a glass of wine with my meal.  I like to visit with friends and watch my children do their activities even though it makes life a little hectic.  I've really missed doing these things.  I can't wait to enjoy a turkey dinner with all the fixings and not worry about mixing bread with meat or starch with meat because it will increase and irritate the thrush.  I can't wait to sit with friends or my husband on the patio and enjoy a glass of wine.  I can't wait to just see friends again and not worry about pacing myself or tiring myself out or wondering if I'll catch some germ or bug from them.  I can't wait to go shopping with my daughter and not run out of energy.  I can't wait to buy my son a suit ensemble for his prom.  I can't wait to go shopping for paint swatches with my daughter for her room.  I can't wait until my body is back to normal.  I'm not complaining.  I'm just looking forward to the activities that I'll be able to start to do again.

I have to thank all my friends and family again.  I know I repeat myself in my blog at times.  This is because there have been many times when I've been feeling down or weak and you have all loaned me some of your strength, your faith and your encouragement.  This has helped me through the last 5 months and I have realized the importance of being weak enough to lean on the strength of those around us.  It is through this weakness and then the sharing of others' strength that relationships have grown in depth.  It is also through weakness that our faith is strengthened.

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Day 4 - 5th Chemo Cycle - Easter Sunday

The prednisone kept me awake last night until about 3:30 a.m.  After a night of not sleeping well, I woke up early this morning as always in order to eat my breakfast and swallow my pills.  We had forgotten to put out the chocolate bunnies and scatter the chocolate eggs last night.  After my breakfast, I had a nostalgic time hiding the chocolate mini eggs for our children to find.  I put the chocolate bunnies at everyone's place setting on the table.  This brought back memories of setting up the house on Easter Sundays when my children were quite young.

My stomach was rumbling and rolling again.  The bathroom was my "room" for about 2 hours.  After that all settled down, it was time for my last anti-nausea pill.  I was going to head back to bed because I was already tired but at that point my son awoke and I wanted to see my children participate in one of their last Easter Egg Hunts.  I gently shook my daughter awake.  She is not a morning person and is slow to respond.  That was until I said "Your brother is already awake and will be getting all the eggs."  She jumped out of bed and grabbed one of the baskets.  The race was on!  It brought joy to my soul and a smile to my face to watch my teenage children enthusiastically participate just like when they were little children.

We then sat down and watched the Men's World Curling Championship game where Canada won the gold!!

I found my stomach responded better to smaller healthy snacks instead of breakfast, lunch and supper.  I'm still fighting thrush and I read that fresh strawberries, cantaloupe and carrots help.  So I had a mid-morning snack of strawberries, a lunch of leftover carrots from last night's supper and then a combination snack later on of carrots and strawberries.  I did break down and have a good serving of supper which consisted of pork roast, yorkshire puddings (done on the BBQ), mashed potatoes, gravy and salad.  I had read that if you combine meat with starch (potatoes) and if you eat white bread it encourages the thrush.  I had no restraint and ate all of the supper.  I did pay for it as I could feel the fizziness of the thrush working.  So out came the Nystatin as a rinse and spit solution.  It has helped.

Early this afternoon, my husband took me out for a drive down to Lake Ontario.  It was windy down by the lake and our attempted walk was aborted because I was getting cold.  We then went for a circuitous drive home so I could enjoy some different scenery as well as get some water views.  Once we got home, I sat outside on the patio in the sun for a little bit.  I was bundled up as if it was mid winter.  I had a touque, 2 hoodies, jacket and 2 afghans wrapped around me to help keep me warm.  I didn't last that long outside as I was getting chilled.  So I carried the afghans inside and they kept me warm while I sat on the couch and watched The Masters golf championship.  It took me several hours to warm up.

It's been a good day although the prednisone is giving me excess energy.  I was wanting to help with the laundry but I seemed to just create tension because I didn't just sit down like I was told.  When I'm on the prednisone, I can almost feel a hum of energy buzzing inside of me.  I know my body is not up to doing much at this point and so it is very frustrating to be "humming" and not able to use the energy up.  However, if I do too much at this time in the cycle, I get light-headed and dizzy.  I feel useless when I'm like this.  I see my husband trying to carry the whole load and I feel very torn as I know that I should be taking it easy but also have this extra energy that could be used.  It is frustrating to say the least.

Overall, this has been a good day though.  I loved watching my children this morning and I loved being out for a drive in the sunshine.  It was nice to get outside and down to the shoreline.  On top of it all, I noticed that my asparagus is sprouting up.  I should be able to cut some for eating this week.  I love asparagus!

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Day 3 - 5th Chemo Cycle

It was another quiet day today.  I awoke with my stomach rolling and rumbling.  It ended up being as a result of my bowels.  The thrush is making its presence known.  I've tried to keep ahead of it by rinsing with the water/baking soda solution but around 12 noon I had to capitulate and use the Nystatin.  The thrush is only in my mouth and not down my throat yet.  So I've modified using the Nystatin by using it as a swish and spit rinse.  If it ends up feeling like it is in my throat, then I'll have to swish and swallow.  That's what caused me to be sick last cycle.

I was very tired today.  I've sat and watched television today.  I watched the worlds men's curling this afternoon and as well as the Blue Jays baseball game.  It was also the OHL (Ontario Hockey League) draft today so I kept checking the computer to see who was drafted.

My husband is trying to tempt my appetite with different foods so that I will want to eat.  Tonight he made some boiled carrots and then returned them to the pot and mixed them with butter, lemon juice and chopped parsley.  It was really good.  They are supposed to be good for combatting thrush too.

I will be watching the Toronto Maple Leafs tonight.  I was hoping to watch the Kitchener Rangers play in their second round of playoffs (in the Ontario Hockey League) on television tonight too, but I can't find the game on tv.  Oh well, the Leafs will get my full attention.  While I've watched tv, I have been knitting too.

I'm hoping that I will have the energy to sit on the patio tomorrow as it is supposed to be warm again.  Maybe we'll be able to make a brief trip to my favourite parking spot near Lake Ontario tomorrow afternoon.  It all depends on my energy levels and my stomach.

Friday, 6 April 2012

Day 2 - 5th Chemo Cycle

Today was a quiet day.  The prednisone interrupted my sleep last night along with having to take the anti-nausea medication at 1:30 a.m.  As a result, I slept on and off throughout the morning and afternoon today.

I am trying to be aware of how I'm feeling.  Am I feeling the beginnings of a rolling stomach?  Is it because of nausea or is it because of bowels?  Or is it because I'm tired?  Do I feel the beginning of fizziness in my mouth to indicate the beginning of thrush?  In order to keep ahead of being sick, I need to recognize when to take the supplemental anti-nausea medication.  I'm hoping that I can avoid the awful Nystatin which caused me to be sick last cycle.  That is a rinse and swallow solution.  I read that thrush can be kept at bay by using 8 oz. of water mixed with 1 tsp. of baking soda as a rinse and spit solution.  So as soon as I've felt the fizziness of the thrush starting, I've been rinsing and spitting with the water/baking soda.  It seems to have worked so far today.

I hate the smell of chemicals that exudes from me.  It seems to come from my pores and definitely after I've been in the washroom.  In the last cycle, I thought I could even smell it on my clothes even after having washed them multiple times.  I hope that smell will not linger in my nostrils after all the treatments are done.  I hate it!!!

I found my appetite started to dwindle as today went on.  I normally like caesar salad, but tonight the caesar dressing tasted too vinegary (if that's a word).  I had a little bit of spaghetti and some meatballs.  I liked the taste, but I was afraid of having an upset stomach if I ate very much.  Again, I'm just trying to manage and avoid these side effects as much as I can.

When I wasn't sleeping today, I read a novel, did some knitting and watched some television.  I also used some of my quiet time to reflect on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday.  This is the first Good Friday that I haven't been involved in the morning church service in a very, very long time.  I missed singing in it.  Certainly, I've been carrying my cross throughout the Lenten season.  All I could think about today was the other friends that I have who are also carrying their own crosses (cancer) at this time.  Some of these people do not have very good prognoses.  I was always taught that Christ's journey to the cross and his ultimate crucifixion allowed Jesus to experience all human emotions and suffering so that we would feel comforted as we experienced our own crosses.  I continue to be very blessed and fortunate to have so many friends and family supporting me in their prayers and thoughts.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Day 1 - 5th Chemo Cycle

I didn't sleep well last night.  Between the multiple night sweats and anxiety about today, I was up many times.  My chemotherapy treatment was booked for 8:30 a.m.   When I arrived, I was surprised at the amount of people in the waiting room.  I have never seen that many people in the waiting room before.  There were not enough chairs and many people were standing wherever there was space. 

I was called in at 8:50 a.m. and was given a "window" seat.  I looked out over Lake Ontario today.  I've been fortunate because out of 5 treatments, I've looked out over Lake Ontario 3 times.  Anyway, I found out that it was extra busy today because they are closed tomorrow for Good Friday.  They will busy like that again on Tuesday as they are closed for Easter Monday.  The poor nurses were run off their feet.  But they kept their pleasant and humourous demeanors throughout the morning.  The Easter Bunny came through with baskets of mini chocolate eggs, so she dropped two off for me to enjoy.  I ate them immediately because I wasn't sure how I would feel about eating chocolate later.  They were good!  While I had the chemo drip into my vein, I read my current novel.  There is a bell at the entrance/exit of the Chemotherapy Clinic that patients can ring at the halfway mark of their treatment and/or at the end of their treatment.  I heard the bell ring three different times this morning.  I don't know if people were only half way through and ringing the bell or if they were finished their whole chemo regimen and ringing the bell.  Whichever, it encouraged me emotionally and I am glad that there is only one more treatment to go.  The next time I'm in the Chemothereapy Clinic, I'll be ringing the bell when I walk out!!!

So far this afternoon, I've been tired and cold.  I slept most of the afternoon.  No nausea has shown up yet, although the stomach was gurgling when it came time for my next dose.  I ate a 6 inch turkey sub for lunch.  I normally like onions and green peppers among other things but I have found in the last treatment cycle that the onions and green peppers repeated on me.  I don't want to give my stomach any ammunition to ambush me, so omitted those items off my sub.  For supper, we had chinese food.  I have always eaten everything because I never wanted to teach my children to be picky eaters and, honestly, I like most foods anyway.  However, I did pick around the green peppers and onions again.  My appetite was pretty good tonight.

The last few days, I was struggling with my attitude toward the chemotherapy.  Then yesterday, I heard about two people that I know who do not have good survival rates.  As the chemo was going into me today, all I could think was that although I don't like to do the chemo and I dont want to do the chemo, the chemo is curing me.  The fifth and sixth round of chemo are used for the long-term cure.  This put it all in perspective and the ultimate goal is to cure me completely.  I never want to go through this again.  So bring it on!  I'll get through this cycle and then only one more to go.

After my treatments, I will get stronger and then we will begin the Cathy Conquers Cancer Tour!  I'll blog about that later on when plans are more confirmed.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Day 21 - 4th Chemo Cycle

Today was a busy day in a way.  I had my doctor's appointment at 12:30 but I had to be there early in order to have my blood taken and tested.  The doctor was running late and I didn't get in to see him until close to 2 p.m.  I'm content to wait because he spent a very long time with me at my first appointment in January and answered questions I had.  He has never hurried me through appointments.  I took advantage of the waiting time by reading my current book.

My blood work is looking good which is why my cheeks are still pink.  My white blood cell count is just a nominal amount below normal.  My doctor is very pleased with my progress.  My hips started aching yesterday and continued today.  When I mentioned that to my doctor, he said it is a side effect of the prednisone.

My doctor reinforced the fact that we are in the home stretch.  After tomorrow, I only have one more treatment to go.  I treated myself to a visit with a friend over a cup of tea after my appointment.  As always, our visit went by very quickly and it was time for me to get home and make some supper.

I'm a little grumpy tonight as time marches along and tomorrow's treatment gets that much closer.  It was great timing then to receive a phone call from a neighbour informing me that she is part of a prayer chain and has them praying for me.  This brought me some comfort as I've continued to struggle to find peace heading into tomorrow.

Each night before a treatment, my husband tries to treat me to something out of our routine.  Most often, it's been bringing our dinner in from a take out place or something.  Tonight, he brought me a decaffeinated Tim Hortons coffee.  The coffee is special because after tomorrow, my taste buds will not allow me to have a coffee for almost a week and a half.  He got me a decaf coffee so that it won't interfere with my sleep.  Although, my sleep has been interrupted every night by night sweats.  Last night I was awake two times but the night before that, I had 4 night sweats throughout the night.  It makes for a long night.  Let's hope that tonight I have a good night's sleep so that I am well-rested when I wake up tomorrow and start my chemotherapy treatment at 8:30 a.m.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Day 20 - 4th Chemo Cycle

Today was a day of gearing up for my next chemo treatment on Thursday.  I visited my chiropractor in preparation for the constipation that hits right after the chemo.  In the last 2 chemo cycles I have found that if I visit the chiropractor before my treatment and then a few days after the treatment, it helps to alleviate the constipation.  Or at the very least, these adjustments help the constipation medications to work better and faster.  I also spent some time today, quietly settling my anxiety and fear of the next round of chemo through prayer and meditation.  I find it very soothing to listen to nature sounds combined with soft music.  This plays in the background while I think.  Once I feel more calm, I continue to listen to the soft sounds of waves, birds, wolves, thunder, rain, and music while I knit my socks.  The repetitive motion of knitting is very soothing and distracting.

It was a sunny day but it was cold.  However, there was enough of a wind that my towels dried on the line outside.  I get pleasure watching them flap away in the wind.  I always like the fresh smell from clothes that have dried outside.  They say "small things amuse small minds".  I must have a small mind because I've always like watching my clothes dry on the line.  When the kids were babies, I used flat cloth diapers and they always looked so good lined up neatly with the clothes pins and flapping away.  It's amazing that the thick towels dried on the line today as it was chilly outside.  The sun is close enough to earth now that when it is combined with a breeze, the clothing on the line dries although it does take all day.

This afternoon, I enjoyed a cup of tea with a friend that I hadn't seen in a while. The visit went by too quickly.  It really touched me when she brought it to my attention that my blog is reaching so many people in so many ways.  I discovered that it is touching people in ways that I wasn't aware of. 

After supper my husband and I went for a nice walk.  It was good to go for a slow, long walk and my muscles are aching to show that they needed the exercise.  I love the fresh air although I was cold when we arrived back home.  I warmed up over a tasty cup of Blue Mountain coffee all the way from Jamaica.

Tomorrow I go to the doctor for a check up.  I expect it to go well as I'm currently feeling well physically.  Throughout this whole journey, everyone is surprised about how well I look.  I still have pink cheeks.  I've lost some weight but not a lot.  If I hadn't lost my hair, you wouldn't know that I'm not well.  I'm coming into the home stretch.  After Thursday, I only have one more treatment left to go.  I now have to give myself pep talks to get up for the next treatment.  I'm getting tired of them.  It does help to know that many, many people are helping me to carry this burden.  I am very, very blessed.

Monday, 2 April 2012

Day 19 - 4th Chemo Cycle

I had a fairly quiet day as I'm tired from my wonderful weekend.  I'm also tired because I am having multiple night sweats each night.  I get so hot that I drench my bedding and my pillow.  There's not enough hair on my head to soak my hair but if I did have hair, I would look like I've had a shower.  I can thank the chemotherapy for pushing my body into menopause.   Even though I was tired today, I did hang my bedding out on the line to dry and managed to a little bit more pruning of my grape vines.  It was a beautiful sunny day and warm as long as you were in the sun and sheltered from the wind.

It was 21 years ago today that my dad died from lung cancer.  Other years, I remember the date and I miss him but this year I find myself struggling with stronger emotions.  It could be because I'm tired today but I also think it hurt more this year because of my own battle with lymphoma.  Ever since I watched my dad struggle with his lung cancer, I've hated this horrible disease.  I hate it even more now that I have lymphoma.

I detest going through the chemotherapy even though I know it is curing me.  I'm finding that the thought of having the chemo injected into me now makes my stomach clench and become nauseous.  I'm trying to drink lots of water this week so that I am fully hydrated for Wednesday when I have blood samples taken from me and for Thursday when they put the line into my vein for the chemo.  I used to like drinking cold water from the fridge.  I'm finding that it tastes different now.  This is probably a psychological  residue from when I feel nauseous in the first week of treatment and I have to drink lots of water to flush my system.  I also found in this round that the ginger green tea didn't taste as good either even now when I'm feeling more normal.  I know that after Thursday I only have one more treatment left to go.  I'm getting really tired of it.  My oncologist warned me that I would start to feel this way during the third and fourth cycles of treatment.  I'll be going in on Thursday for my 5th chemo treatment at 8:30 a.m.  I've been trying not to dwell on the next treatment but it is always there in the back of my mind.  As like the other cycles, I have an underlying anxiety building as the date gets closer.

However, having stated all of this, I've also been very blessed with wonderful visits with friends and family as well as the numerous emails, cards and food that have helped to lift my spirits throughout my journey to renewed health.  I've been trying to play the piano a little more often and it is providing me with an opportunity to express myself through music.  I hope that the next week and a half will be warm and sunny.  The nicer weather seemed to help me through the rough first week in this fourth cycle.

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Day 18 - 4th Chemo Cycle

Today was another great day.  My family members continued our visit with them.  We met for breakfast and the men sat at a booth on their own and the women sat together in another booth just because the restaurant was so busy.  What a wonderful visit we had as we ate, laughed and talked!!

Once we were finished breakfast, my uncle and I switched places in the cars.  He joined my husband so he could hear the commentary of what we passed as we toured the city.  I shared my commentary with my aunt, my cousin and her fiance in their car.  We visited a plaque which included the name of a special uncle, James Russell Martin, that died in World War II at Arnhem.  After visiting the plaque, we continued on our tour of the city and showed our relatives the house that Great-Uncle Russell lived in from 1941 to 1944 as well as other points of interest.

It was a meaningful afternoon where we shared close family ties, beautiful scenery and wonderful memories. All while we created new memories.  As we were in a local arena, my uncle mentioned how proud he was when I was much younger and sang the national anthem on a regular basis at the Kitchener Rangers home games.  For some reason, this touched a chord deep inside of me and I felt very special and loved.

Before we knew it, it was time for our visitors to begin their trek home.  The weekend went by much too quickly.  I had a great time and the memories will again help carry me through the next week or so as I start my 5th round of chemotherapy on Thursday.  I'm not looking forward to it.

I'm very tired tonight but I'll be able to rest up for the next few days before I go back into the Cancer Clinic.  Sometimes this blog easily writes itself and at other times, like tonight, it is a struggle to get my thoughts and feelings written out.  Perhaps it is more difficult when I am tired.  I do notice that I have moments of impatience with myself as well as those around me tonight.  It's probably due to the fact that I am tired.  Perhaps it is also a sign of the latent anxiety that simmers just under the surface as my treatment day advances.  After my treatment on Thursday, I will only have one more chemotherapy treatment to go.  I'm conflicted as I want this all to be over soon but at the same time, I really don't want to have to go through any more injections!  I really do dread the first week when I feel weak, sick and miserable.  Those are the moments when faith and the love of family and friends carry me through.