Saturday, May 12, 2018

Solving the puzzle


On some of those "fatigue" days when no energy is to be found, even for a fighter like me, I let the body rest and try to keep the mind from falling apart.
Enter: Sudoku!
Sudoku puzzles are very engaging, easy to learn and have escalating levels of difficulty. There is a unique solution to each puzzle and all the pieces (numbers) fit together in just ONE way and are all interdependent on three dimensions: rows, columns and boxes. I'll get back to them in a sec.
Note I'm up to the Super Grand Master section!

Oncology visit

So my oncologist was cautious to say anything extremely positive about both the results of my PET/CT scan and the latest blood work. Here I've been trying like the devil to raise my hemoglobin and he points out my white blood cell (WBC) count is too low. Well, heck, man! shouldda said something earlier...
Also apparently he didn't experience the thrill that I experienced upon looking at my improved PET scan. Well humph...I liked it...
Seriously, apparently I'm progressing "in the right direction" (how bland is that for enthusiasm) but  I'm in grave danger of catching some bug that will put me in the hospital, as I am currently unable to fight infection with much might. Sigh, double sigh.

The trick is to get the right amount of cancer fighting poison in the body without killing the patient, let's not throw the baby out with the bathwater. As I have learned, every patient is different and the balance is very delicate. The end result is that the oncologist lowered my dosage of Don Quijote pills (as in the legend, Sancho Panza is largely harmless and a good companion, so no change there).

I had not experienced harsh side effects from the higher dose and I liked my progress on the scan, but the boss says what the boss says and I'm a good soldier. Apparently WBCs are very important, he's sort of a blood-guy so he knows his stuff.

Back to the Sudoku puzzles, there is really only ONE solution and there's no use going forward once a conflict is found because only the right number in the right place will solve the puzzle. Every number is dependent on every other number.
Back to the blood problem, there is ONE delicate balance that will work in my case and only the right dosage will solve my pesky cancer problem.

I suppose with the lower dose I'm looking forward to my rash going away!? Still blood letting weekly, sigh...

Monday, May 7, 2018

I'm really new at this cancer thing

PET/CT Results show...

Progress! I had to read the report two or three times. The first time seemed gloomy, second time I saw the progress, third time I was pleased. I still don't know how fast I'm supposed to be shrinking my tumors and metastases or how fast I'm supposed to be rebuilding my eroded bones.
January 2 2018

May 3 2018
I like to say to nurses and doctors when they ask me questions, "I'm really new at this cancer thing." I guess I'm a bit less "lit up" which is the whole point. The brightness corresponds to metabolic activity, which corresponds to cancer cells "getting busy" and reproducing. I will see the Oncologist in two days and ask if the progress is appropriate.

So the spread has diminished, the activity is a bit less, especially around lymph nodes and the original "mass." Hallelujah! Also the report says nearly all the metabolic activity has been cut in half. Or in doc lingo:
"There continues to be axial and appendicular osseous metastatic disease less intensely hypermetabolic overall when compared to the prior evaluation consistent with positive response to therapy."

I'm focusing on the "positive response to therapy" part!


This morning I had an insight that I am getting stronger. Few times these past days I had gotten discouraged off and on, and I just have to keep thinking about that word and what it means: "strong." Strength of body is important to me and I am regaining quite a bit of physical might.
But the main thing is to be mentally and emotionally strong. I refuse to be a burden to anyone, mostly, even to myself.
Strong, stay strong...strong.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

You just have to laugh...

Chemo brain and a rash?

I have learned a ton about cancer and why I probably shouldn't have it, but that's just my opinion. The reality is that the beast is lurking still, probably, I don't know really. But Thursday is PET/CT Scan day! So I'm jazzed about that in a terrified sort of way. What if the cancer isn't going away?
What if the chemo-brain I have at the end of each chemo-pill cycle is just killing my brain and not the beast? Ah, inquiring chemo-minds want to know...

Chemo-brain is just another name for fuzzy-stupid-brain, kind of like a hangover with fuzzy vision and teary-eyes as if I had horrendous allergies. Did I mention lots of snot? Hey I'm feeling a bit "realistic" so I'm taking you with me down this road of humorous side-effects. I have praised all the gods daily for NOT giving me horrendous side-effects, aside from a bit of nausea and THIS RASH!!!
Was that really necessary? a side-effect, I mean
Yeah, like I really needed a rash. Fortunately just on my arms, a bit on my face, some on my shoulders, leg...but just the left leg, oh and chest. Attractive, I must say and it doesn't even itch, except all the time. I'm thinking of coloring each dot a different color with permanent marker. Or maybe drawing a maze between the red blotches, I don't know, chemo-brain makes me feel artistic.

Sigh, well, the chemo-brain made me write all that. Tomorrow I take the last chemo-pill of this 21 days and then I get a week to recover that other Maria. And I get to go blood-letting...


Blood-letting is going well and I haven't had anemia for about 3 weeks now. I feel stronger and more energetic. I have hiked the pines, I have walked the park, I am enjoying the bit of rain today, refreshing and renewing. I am using my fuzzy brain as an excuse to just sit outside and enjoy the cool weather and rain-music on the driveway. Desert plants love the spring rain more than any other plant, and will later reward me with countless blooms.
Turkish glory-of-the-snow

Gamble oak

Papi's cactus

mountain mahogany
Thursday the PET/CT follow up...did I mention I'm terrified in a very good way? Stay tuned and wish me luck.

So what's up with the rattlesnake?

Monday November 27 2017 Rattlesnake story There I was...surrounded by ferocious diamondback rattlesnakes hissing and rattling and slith...