Thursday, August 29, 2013

A Tribute to My Chemo Sensei

Let me tell you about one of the strongest people I've ever known, my Chemo Sensei, Tracey:

Tracey with her new husband, Nate
In February of this year, Josh's cousin Tracey was diagnosed with Stage IV colon cancer.  They told her she had 18-24 months to live.  Tracey said "f- you" to cancer and her diagnosis.  She got married in May, just shortly after beginning chemo.  Tracey looked stunning at her wedding and danced the night away as if nothing had changed!

The thing I love most about Tracey, is that she is determined to beat this stupid cancer of hers.  They said she's terminal, she said "screw you!"  I fully believe she will beat this and will live a long and happy life with her handsome and sweet husband!

Since my own cancer diagnosis last month, Tracey has been a huge support for me.  I'm fortunate to have many people supporting me, but it's so nice to have someone who's been there and that I can relate my experience to.

Tracey checks in with me almost every day, just to make sure I'm doing ok and to see if she can help me out with anything.  She's become my "Chemo Sensei" :)  She gives advice when she can and always offers an empathetic ear.  I honestly don't know what I'd do without her.

So here's to my Chemo Sensei, Tracey.  Love ya cousin!


Saturday, August 24, 2013

Chemo #1 Day 6: Hospital Visit and Pizza!

If you've been following along this week, you know that my biggest problem from the chemo has been mouth and throat pain.  It started a couple days ago and has been really painful.  I don't have mouth sores (which is good), but it feels like my tongue is being stabbed with a million needles.  It's worse when I eat, drink, or brush my teeth.  It's like the nerves are super-sensitive, it's not fun!

Because of this pain, I haven't been able to eat or drink much the last few days.  I've been living on popsicles and smoothies, and even those have been painful.  This morning I woke up with the same mouth pain, plus nausea, and a headache.  I just felt icky.  We assumed the nausea and headache were due to dehydration - since I haven't gotten much fluids the last few days.

Josh finally talked me into going to the hospital to get some IV fluids.  For some reason I thought I would try to "tough it out" and didn't think I needed the ER, but luckily my husband knows me well and convinced me that there was no shame in getting the help I needed.

So off to the ER we went.  They pumped me full of fluids (which they said I definitely needed).  They also gave me IV anti-nausea medicine and some morphine to help my mouth.  When I left the hospital, I felt a hundred times better!  The doctor encouraged me to eat and drink as much as I could tonight while the morphine was still working and my mouth wasn't in terrible pain.  So we stopped by Taco Bell and got some cheesy potatoes (just to test it out).  I scarfed those down (hey, I was starving!!) so we picked up some Hungry Howie's pizza on the way home and I ate two pieces before we even pulled into home :)

I've been home from the hospital now for about an hour and still feel decent.  My throat is getting a little sore again, so I'm trying to drink as much as I can while I still feel ok.  The good news is that the chemo should be working it's way through my system, so the pain in my mouth and throat should be getting better in the next day or two.

Unfortunately I had to miss the 2nd Annual Adult Field Day with all my friends last night :(  But my cousin (who has been getting chemo for a few months now and is always full of great advice) said "Relax, Little Miss Do-Everything" and so I took her advice!  I hope to be feeling better soon and can catch up with my friends next week!


Thursday, August 22, 2013

Chemo #1 Day 4: Mouth Pain

Well this morning I woke up around 3:00 a.m. with some horribly unpleasant mouth pain that hasn't gone away all day.  It feels like a million little needles are sticking into the sides of the back of my tongue.  Eating and drinking make it worse.  I don't have any mouth sores which is good, but this is extremely uncomfortable!

I tried ice cream in the morning thinking that would help, but for some reason it tasted terrible!  I guess chemo messes with your taste buds, so I guess that's why....  I was able to eat watermelon - it hurt a little at first but it was cool and wet and ended up soothing my tongue after a few bites.  I literally ate a half of a watermelon today!  I also ate a couple of popsicles - the cold seemed to numb the pain for a little while, which was nice.  Thanks to my friend Nikki for bringing those to me today!

I finally called the Nurse Line at my oncologist's office a few hours ago.  They prescribed me a mouthwash that's supposed to help.  It's called First Mary's and is literally neon yellow and thick and gross.  I swished it around my mouth for only about 6 seconds before I spit it out - it really hurt :(  I'll try it again tonight.

My gastritis is back too.  Gastritis is an inflammation of the stomach lining, usually caused by prolonged use of anti-inflammatory drugs, such as aspirin.  In some cases it can lead to stomach ulcers.  I've had gastritis twice in the last year due to aspirin use (I get a lot of headaches).  Both times it was easily cured with a 2 week treatment of over-the-counter antacids (Prevacid is what I used).  Chemo can cause bad acid reflux and can affect the strength of the stomach lining, which is likely what is causing my gastritis this time. It's hard to explain what it feels like - it's like a burning inside your stomach just below your breastbone.  I slept sitting up last night and it helped.  I'll need to stay on top of my antacid prescription to try to keep this from getting too bad.

The problem now is that I don't feel like eating or drinking anything since my mouth hurts so bad, which will only make the other side effects worse (headache, constipation, nausea, etc.).  I'd say Day 4 has been the worst so far.  It's not completely unbearable, just uncomfortable.  The feeling of the day is just "blah!"


Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Chemo #1 Day 3: Tummy Troubles

When I left you last night, I had a migraine and felt all around kind of icky.  I took prescription migraine medicine (Maxalt) and laid down for awhile.  My super sweet massage therapist saw my post and went out of her way to drop off some Cryoderm last night, which she thought would help with the headache.

My husband rubbed the Cryoderm on my neck (it feels kind of like Icy Hot).  The neck massage from him felt great and the Cryoderm really helped with some of the neck tension from the migraine.  I took some Zquil (a sleep aide) and was able to get a decent night's sleep!

This morning... no headache!  Well, almost no headache.  It was still there but barely noticeable!

Around lunch time today, I noticed a little more queasiness in my tummy.  My brother brought me some soup and that with some ginger ale seemed to help.  Again, just a little discomfort, but definitely manageable and I was able to work a full day of work from home!

It's a little after 7:00 p.m. as I'm typing this and my tummy is feeling a little more uneasy.  Josh just warmed up my leftover soup from lunch and the smell about made me barf!  So I'm munching on some Special K crackers and so far so good!

This is totally TMI, but one of the very common side effects of both the chemo I'm on AND the anti-nausea medicine I'm on is severe constipation.  Like, really bad as I've been warned.  I've been taking Benefiber (a fiber supplement) for the last two days to try to help prevent this unfortunate side effect, but it seems as if my efforts haven't been enough.  I'll leave it at this: I'm feeling a little backed up.  Doc says to take an herbal laxative before bed tonight and hope for the best.  Ok, enough talk about poop (or lack there of)...

Now on to some fun stuff....

The massage therapist I mentioned earlier in this post, Sarah, had a little surprise for me yesterday - she cut her hair short and dyed it red!  She did it in honor of me and some others she knew who are also battling this hell that is cancer - how sweet is that?!  Here's a before and after:

And if you're in need of an extremely talented massage therapist who truly cares about each and every one of her clients, please check her out at Corrective Muscular Therapy, LLC.

One last picture before I go.  Here's my "chemo survival kit"

Senna (herbal laxative), Zofran (anti-nausea), Prevacid (antacid since I'm prone gastritis),
sleep aide, migraine prescription, thermometer (temps above 100.5 can be dangerous),
Benefiber (to help with pooping), and numbing cream (for the port before chemo) 

I'll update again soon and let you know how I'm feeling!  Thanks to everyone who's reached out to offer support and check in on me!

Love, Melissa

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Chemo #1 Day 2: The Never Ending Headache And Why Dogs Are The Best

Hey everyone, just a quick update on how I've been since last night's post.

My headache got progressively worse over the evening last night.  I can only take Tylenol (no aspirin) or my prescription migraine medicine.  It never really got to migraine status, just a bad headache, so I stuck to Tylenol.  I felt a little queasy, but I think it was from the headache (that's normal for me) and the Tylenol.  A glass of Ginger Ale seemed to help.

Around 9:30 p.m. I laid down to try to sleep... and surprisingly fell asleep fairly quickly!  But unfortunately I was up 3 times to use the restroom and each time it took me awhile to get back to sleep, mostly due to the headache.  By 3:00 a.m. I was up for good.

I laid in bed for a little bit, and finally gave in around 3:30 and went downstairs and had some Ginger Ale.  My sweet dog Lucy came down a little later and wanted to snuggle and give some love.  I swear dogs know exactly when you need them.  I guess that $3,000 we spent last year to save her life was worth it :)  For those of you who haven't met Lucy, here she is:

She's a 3.5 year old, 115 lb. Great Dane - and a giant baby :)
I made myself some breakfast around 5:00 and started on my fluid intake for the day (doc recommends at least 64 ounces every day to help fight nausea and constipation).  Although I wasn't happy about being awake this early, I was actually able to get a couple hours of work done!  Finally around 6:30, I tried to go back to bed.  I did fall asleep for just a bit, but was up again by the time Josh left for work around 7:30.

Not knowing how I'd feel, I asked my dad in the morning if he could bring me some soup for lunch.  I didn't know if I'd be up to driving or not - I probably could have, but was glad he was able to bring it to me!  He brought be over some yummy Panera soup, which was delicious and went down just fine!  And the company was pretty good too :)

Most of the day I felt pretty good aside from the headache that doesn't seem to want to go away.  The nurse said to call tomorrow if it's still there - maybe they'll give me some good stuff :)  But really, I just hope it goes away!  I'm a bit tired, but I'm guessing it's because I've been up since 3:00!  I was able to work a full work day (plus an extra couple hours early this morning!), so I'm happy about that.

Around 5:00 tonight, I hit a wall.  My headache is now really bad and I started to get kind of queasy.  I took migraine medicine and an anti-nausea pill.  I just ate a little bit of soup and some pretzels.

Signing off for tonight, will update soon.

Love, Melissa

Monday, August 19, 2013

Chemo #1: Let the Cancer Killing Begin!

I've just recently gotten home from Chemo treatment #1.  Apparently they were short a nurse and a pharmacist (that fills the chemo prescriptions), so we ended up being at the office from 9:30 a.m. until about 4:15 p.m.  Whew!  The nurses kept apologizing and said it normally won't take nearly that long - I hope they're right!

I feel fine now.  I have a slight headache, but the nurse said that's normal.  I get migraines, so apparently I'll be more susceptible to getting headaches throughout treatment :(  But my prescription migraine medicine is fine to take, so hopefully it will at least be manageable.

Ok, so here's how the day went:

We woke up around 8:00 a.m.  I put on the shirt my sweet Mother-In-Law got me (purple is the color for Hodgkin's Lymphoma):

Here's what my port looked like first thing this morning (it looks red because I just took the bandaid off):

 The large circle is where the actual port is - you can see it raised from my skin slightly.  The arrow points to the internal tube that connects the port to a vein in my neck.  The small circle just highlights the small incision they made to attach the tube to the vein.

Around 8:30 I put the numbing cream over the port site.  They have you cover it up with saran wrap to keep it from getting on your clothes.  Here's a picture:

I've circled where the port is (same circle as the previous picture), you can see a little of the white numbing cream through the saran wrap.

Here we are on the way to our appointment around 9:00:

Apparently the oncologist's office was really backed up this morning.  It was almost an hour and a half before I even saw my doctor.  But it was all really good news!  My heart test was above normal (anything about 50% is good - I was 60%!).  My lung test came back showing 107% lung function!  My PET scan showed no indication of cancer in any other area of my body (although apparently my tongue had some highlights on it, but she said it was probably just because I moved it too much before the scan - read my previous post about the PET scan here - it's something we'll look for on the next scan).  The bone marrow biopsy was negative.  So the OFFICIAL diagnosis is Hodgkin's Lymphoma Stage I - woo!

And here's the best news of the day:  I may only need 4 treatments of chemo and a month of radiation!  They had originally said I would need at least 6, but since my tests were all so favorable, they're going to start with 4 and then do another PET scan.  If that scan shows the cancer is gone, we can stop the chemo!  So 4 treatments is actually considered 2 rounds/cycles - each cycle is 2 treatments, if that makes sense.  So I'll hopefully only need 2 cycles, which is 4 separate treatments.

The doc measured the enlarged area of my neck (you can see it here - on my left):

It currently measures 8.5 cm by 4.4 cm.  We'll be watching this over the next several treatments.  The doc said by the second or third treatment it should be completely back to normal size!

Ok, so after all this good news from the doctor, they sent me out to the infusion room.  I didn't take a picture of the infusion room because it was full of people and I didn't want to be known as the "weird one."  I was hoping to find a picture online of the room, but didn't have any luck.  Here's another cancer center's infusion room that's similar to mine:

There are several big comfy recliners with "guest" chairs next to them.  Lots of windows and lots of sunlight!

We waited almost an hour before they even got me "plugged in."  It was really cold in the infusion room, so I put on my new Mario Lemieux sweatshirt that my dad got me for my birthday (all proceeds go to the Mario Lemieux Foundation which supports Leukemia and Lymphoma research):

Finally at noon, they got my first few prescriptions filled at the pharmacy and plugged me in!  Here's what it looks like once the nurse has accessed my port:

They started out with two different kinds of anti-nausea medicine - Emend and Aloxi, then a steroid to help the anti-nausea medicine.  These drugs take awhile to go in - they're done by IV drip and go in very slowly.

I was getting really cold and snuggled up with my new quilt:

In case you missed yesterday's post, my friend Tisha made me this quilt to bring with me to chemo.  Here she is with the quilt:

At 2:00 p.m. they started my first chemo drug.  I'll have 4 separate chemo drugs each time, which is called ABVD (each letter representing a different drug).  I plan to write a more detailed post about ABVD later this week (hopefully!), so check back for that. 

The first chemo drug is the "D" - Dexamethasone.  This is a clear liquid that is given by IV drip, so basically they hang a bag and let it slowly go in.  It took about an hour and 45 minutes.  While we were waiting, Josh decided to try to take my picture...  We were bored.

Here's an acceptable one :)

During this time, I met another woman with Hodgkin's Lymphoma (she noticed my sweatshirt and we started chatting).  Her name is Sandy and she's incredibly sweet!  She's much older than I am (probably in her 60's) and she's Stage IV and on her 6th treatment (she'll have 12 total).  She gave me some good information on what to expect along the way.  Aside from my next treatment which will be moved due to Labor Day, she and I should be on the same Monday schedule, so I'm happy I'll get to see her again!

Here's some more good news - Sandy still has most of her hair and she and the chemo nurse both said I may not lose all of mine!  They said I'll definitely thin out, but I have a smaller dose and will (hopefully) only need 4 treatments, so I may not be bald after all!  Of course everyone's different, so I'll have to see how things go in the next 2-3 weeks.  Crossing my fingers!

At 3:45 p.m. they started the next chemo drug.  Each of the next three are done by "pushing" the drug in through a large syringe.  All three of these took about 15 minutes total.  First was the "A" - Adriamycin, which is a deep red liquid that makes your pee bright orange!  Josh said I should take a picture, but I thought that would take it a bit too far :)  Next was "V" - Velblan, then "B" which is Bleomycin.  These two are clear liquids.  

I didn't notice much of a bad taste when the Dexamethasone was going in, but as soon as the nurse started pushing in the other 3 drugs, I could taste it and stuck a Jolly Rancher in my mouth.  It wasn't a terrible taste, but it wasn't very good.  I think I'll try a Lemonhead next time - something a little stronger!  Because they injected me with so many fluids (combined with drinking a bunch of water), I peed 4 times while I was there!  Apparently I should get used to that....

Once all the drugs were in, they flushed out the port one last time (more icky taste in my mouth) and pulled out the needle.  You can see the spot where the needle went in here:

It's right around 7:00 p.m.  as I type this and I feel fine.  I have a headache as I mentioned, but otherwise good!  I ate lunch around 2:00 and just had a bowl of brown rice.  I'm trying to drink as much water as possible as that will help with the nausea.  The nurse recommended at least 64 ounces per day.  She also expected that I wouldn't sleep great tonight due to the steroids.  I already feel kind of antsy from that - it's kind of like that feeling when you just finished running... lots of adrenaline.  It's weird, but should only last until tomorrow.

I'll post an update tomorrow and let you know how I'm feeling then.  One last picture - I have hung all the nice cards I've received on a door in my house.  I read through those cards often and you are the ones who keep me going.  So thank you again to all who have given such amazing support.

Love, Melissa

P.S.  Feel free to ask questions if you have them!  I'm more than happy to share!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

'Twas the Night Before Chemo...

Well, this was my week "off" before chemo starts tomorrow (Monday, August 19).  I thought I'd have a relaxing week, but it turns out it was a super busy week - there's lots to do before starting chemo!

Before I bore you with all of that, I wanted to share about an amazing gift I received this week:

My dear friend Tisha is an extremely talented quilter.  She entered in a quilting competition this summer and made this beautiful quilt pictured above.  At the conclusion of the contest (which she totally should have won, I think she was robbed!), she gave the quilt to me to take to my chemo treatments.  Please read about it here, you won't regret it (although you might need a tissue).

Here's a little peek into my week:

Once I start chemo, I'll be extra susceptible to infections, so they recommend not seeing the dentist during treatment.  I had a cleaning on Wednesday and had to go back Thursday to have a couple cavities filled and a filling repaired.  It was a LONG appointment on Thursday (my cavities were of course all on different quadrants of my mouth), glad it's over!  Note to self: floss more.

I'm really not sure how my work will be affected once I start treatment.  So this week was crazy busy trying to get as much work in as possible.  I traveled for two days, had conference calls and meetings out the wazoo, and worked my hiney off as much as I could!

I also had to get my benefits figured out.  Thankfully I have Short Term Disability I can use for any days I need to take off due to treatment.  I'm hoping I won't have to take many, but glad to know they're there if I need them.

We got most of the "deep cleaning" done last week, but needed to finish up this week - you know... because of the infection thing.  Josh was a huge help and between the two of us, we got it done in just a few hours.

Again, that infection risk means no gardening during treatment.  So I pulled weeds and tried to spruce up the garden as much as possible since it will likely go neglected for the rest of the summer/fall :(

Unfortunately I don't mean fun shopping.  I gave that up a couple weeks ago (having cancer is expensive!).  This week I had to hit up the pharmacy for my many prescriptions, I had to get to the grocery store to stock up on healthy foods, and I had to pick up as many "anti-nausea remedies" as I could (ginger ale, ginger cookies, Gatorade, etc.).  I've been researching blogs and message boards about squashing chemo side-effects (nausea, fatigue, constipation, etc.), and found many recommendations - I'll be trying all of them :)  I'll report back on what did/didn't work.

A tiny bit of fun
Josh and I went to a baseball game Thursday night.  We packed up a cooler (smuggling in some adult beverages) and headed downtown.  A nice man came up to us and said he had two extra tickets and offered them to us for free!  It was so nice!  We're trying to save as much money as we can, while still doing the occasional fun thing together - this saved us $24 and we were so grateful!

Friday night we went out for a nice romantic dinner and Saturday we went to our local radio station's Cancer Sucks Party to support the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of Indiana.  It was a great weekend!

But not too much fun
I had the sad realization this week that cancer and chemo will affect my life.  I am determined to NOT let it dictate every aspect of my life, but Josh had to sit me down and tell me that I am, in fact, not invincible and that I would have to give up some things in the next few months.  Some due to money and some due to my health.  We'll likely have to cancel our trip to Philly to visit family and we probably won't be able to attend a few Pirates games we had planned on attending (in St. Louis and Cincinnati).  But we'll find some fun local things to do that aren't too expensive and that aren't a risk to my health!

Packing up the "Chemo Kit"
I'm not really sure what to take with me tomorrow...  I'll probably bring waaaay too much, but oh well! I've packed up my new quilt, some warm fuzzy socks (gift from friends), iPad, Lemon Heads and Jolly Ranchers (to help with the bad taste that is common with chemo), snacks, and water.  And I'll probably throw in a few other things to keep me busy - notebook, Sudoku book (also a gift), etc.

Tomorrow Morning
Tomorrow I'll be up at 8:30 a.m. to put the numbing cream over my port site (which is supposed to me on an hour before treatment).  I'll have a about a half hour to get dressed and packed up and we'll be at my oncologist appointment at 9:30.  I'm guessing the appointment will just be a few minutes and they'll get me started on chemo around 10:00.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: THANK YOU!!
I can't even begin to express enough gratitude to each and every one of you.  I'm so thankful to have such great friends and family.  I've received many cards, gifts, emails, Facebook shout-outs, phone calls, and text messages.  These truly keep me going - a simple "thank you" doesn't seem to express my appreciation.  I love you all!


Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Light The Night

Unfortunately it's taken me getting cancer to really realize how important it is to support groups such as the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society - groups that fund cancer research and support cancer patients and survivors.  It's time for me to offer my support and I invite you to join me!

The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS) has a "Light the Night" fundraising walk in Indianapolis on October 12, 2013.  Josh and I will be participating in this walk and I hope to have a huge group of friends and family join me!

If you'd like to join the walk, follow this link to register.  My team name is Holy Walkamolies, please be sure to join this team when you sign up!  Once you're signed up, you'll get a link to your personal fundraising page - this is the link you can share with your own friends and family to raise money for the walk.  There is no minimum fundraising amount to walk, but I'd like to challenge each person to raise at least $25 with our team goal being $1,000.

I'd like to ask all Holy Walkamolie team members to wear orange the day of the walk, which is a color I've chosen because it's bright and happy, and to me it represents strength and healing :)

Kids are welcome and strollers are permitted!  The walk is approximately 2 miles and begins and ends at Victory Field in downtown Indianapolis.  Before the walk, there will be food, entertainment, and fun stuff for the kids.  Gates open at 5:00 p.m. and the walk begins at 7:00 p.m.  Visit this link for more information.

I would LOVE to have a huge group of people show up wearing orange to support me in my battle with Hodgkin's Lymphoma and to support LLS and cancer research.  Too many people are being   affected by cancer, and it's time it stopped!  I hope you can join me!

For those of you who live far, can't participate, or wish not to, here's the link to my personal fundraising page - feel free to donate if you'd like:  Melissa's Fundraising Page

More info to follow, in the meantime please sign up and mark your calendars!


Saturday, August 10, 2013

A New 'Do And My "Choose Your Own Adventure" Birthday

The Surprise
Yesterday I promised a surprise, so here it is...  Since I'm going to lose all my hair in a few weeks, I decided to dye it a fun color!  I called my amazing stylist Teddi, and she helped me pick out something fun an different.  On Thursday I had it colored and I absolutely love it!!  What do you think?!

The Party
Since today's my birthday, my super amazing husband threw me a party last night.  At the beginning of the evening, he gave me a little booklet:

I named my cancer Karl, so the book was a "choose your own adventure" story about killing my cancer, Karl.  Here's an example:

So the whole night, I read through the book and got to choose what we did next.  Our first stop was dinner at Moe & Johnny's (a bar/restaurant where we had our first "date" and that we love to go to).  When we got there, a big group of my friends were there - seriously, like 25 people!  Best. Friends. Ever.

The rest of the night we went to different bars and had an awesome night.  Here are a few pictures of our adventures:

My good friends Brian and Mandy

Some of the greatest gals I know - Holly, Erin, and Brett Michaels

This group of people makes me so happy. 
My friends Neil and Ryan (who came all the way from Northern Indiana!)

Obligatory birthday shot with Lee and Ryan.

And my FAVORITE picture of the night with the love of my life, Josh.
Thank you to all who came out to celebrate.  It was such a fun way to end the long week of tests I had and a perfect way to kick off my 30s!  Thankfully I felt pretty good all night.  I got a little sore right at the end of the night at my bone marrow biopsy site and am feeling it this morning, but overall I felt great!


Friday, August 9, 2013

Dear Bone Marrow Biopsy: I Hate Your Guts

So, I'm not trying to be dramatic here, but my bone marrow biopsy (BMB) today was possibly the worst 10 minutes of my life.  The good news is that it was only 10 minutes and I should never (ever, ever) have to do it again.  Hallelujah for that!

Oh, and in other good news - my PET scan is back and it shows NO cancer anywhere else but in the left quadrant of lymph nodes in my neck!  This means that as long as the BMB is clean, then I'm considered Stage I Hodgkin's - woo!

The Procedure
If you're squeamish or easily grossed out, you might want to stop reading now.  Josh couldn't come in the room with me, so I don't have any pictures of my procedure, but I'm going to share some photos of what the BMB is like - you've been warned!

I was really sad that Josh couldn't be in the room with me, but apparently it's pretty common for family members to pass out during the procedure, so they stopped letting them back in the room.  Understandable.  Here's an idea of what a BMB is:


Once back in the room, I had to lay on my stomach and pull my pants and underpants down just a little to expose the back of my hip area (just above the booty).  This is where they will penetrate the bone (except the did they other side on me):

The first step is to numb the area with lidocaine - a local anesthetic.  They go in three times with the lidocaine, going deeper each time.  This isn't terribly painful, but the nerves and anticipation got to me and I started crying as soon as they stuck me the first time.  Gosh, what a baby :)  The third round of lidocaine was the worst because I could actually feel the needle on my bone, the doctor kind of taps the needle all around that area of bone.  Ick.

The Marrow Aspiration is next.  This is when they suck out the marrow from my bone.  Yes, it's as bad as it sounds.  They use a needle that looks like this:

It's kind of like a corkscrew that they twist into the bone.  Then they use a syringe to suck out the marrow and that super sucks.  Thankfully that part only takes a few seconds.

The last part is the actual Marrow Biopsy, where they take a piece of the solid bone marrow.  A larger needle is used and is twisted further into the bone:


It's sort of like doing a core sample of the earth - remember your high school science class?  The needle is screwed into my bone and then pulled out with a bit of force.  Honestly, I thought that was the worst part.  But that was also the last part.  Thankfully the doc got a good sample the first time and didn't have to go back in - I may not have let him even if he didn't :)

I'll admit it was pretty painful, but it's over now!  And my long week of tests is over too.  I have next week mostly off - I have to go to the dentist (can't do that while on chemo) and we need to finish doing a thorough cleaning of the house (chemo makes you extra susceptible to infections, so we have to really clean everything before I start), but it will be a fairly relaxing week before chemo.  Josh is having a birthday party for me tonight and I'm really looking forward to having some fun and catching up with friends!  What a great way to end this week!!

Ooh, and I have a surprise too - will share tomorrow :)


Thursday, August 8, 2013

Can I Inject Wine Into My Port? (Port Placement)

My port went in yesterday.  Of course Josh and I were joking about putting wine into my port, hence the title of this post.  Don't worry Mom, we're only joking :)

A lot of people have been asking about the port and want me to share pictures.  Bandages are still on, so you can't see anything.  I can take them off in a couple days, so I'll share pictures then.   Here's what it looks like now:

I have a Power Port, which is shown below.  When I get chemo or have blood drawn, the nurse will stick me through my skin where the purple part (the catheter) is.  This purple part is under the skin but you can see a lump where it's located.  The tube is attached to a major vein (again, under the skin).  There's nothing outside the skin, but once the bandages are off you'll be able to see where the catheter and tube are under my skin.  You can Google it if you want to see more pictures and I'll post some once I take the bandages off.
The procedure took about an hour.  Here I am anxiously awaiting for surgery:

How sexy is my hospital gown?!

They let Josh into my room to keep me company.  I had to wait about an hour in here with the IV in my arm.  But The Price is Right was on, so I was fine :)  Except I was starving!  I couldn't eat or drink after midnight, so by this time I was SO hungry.  Every time a commercial came on for food, I'd tell Josh "I want that."

I was completely knocked out for this surgery.  When I woke up I wasn't too sore, but it did hurt to swallow - not from the breathing tube, but the muscles you use to swallow were sore.  I was in recovery for about 30 minutes or so, and by the time I left I was pretty sore.  Josh stopped and picked up my Vicodin prescription and then I slept the rest of the day!  I woke up a couple of times to eat, that was it!

This morning I'm still pretty sore.  My neck muscles hurt a little, but most of the pain is around my collar bone (where the tubes attach to the vein) and my upper chest (where the catheter is located).  My surgeon said it will be sore for a few days.

My sweet husband took great care of me yesterday.  He made me food, brought me drinks, and even got me flowers (gladiolas - which remind me of my Gram).

Tomorrow's the dreaded Bone Marrow Biopsy.  I'll let you all know how that goes tomorrow.  But today, I've got nothing to do (except work, of course), so I'm going to enjoy it!


Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Tests, Tests, And More Tests

I had three tests done today: MUGA Scan (heart test), Pulminary Function (lung test), and a PET scan. The worst part about the day was that I couldn't eat until all the tests were done!  I couldn't eat after 7:45 a.m. and the last test wasn't done until 3:30 p.m.  By the time I was done I was about ready to gnaw my own arm off!


The chemo I'll be on can damage my heart (slim chance, but still a chance).  The MUGA Scan tests my current heart strength and looks for abnormalities.  Read about it here.

First they stuck the IV into my arm (for the last time - port goes in tomorrow!).  I had this same IV in all day for my tests.  I have really tricky veins, so they had to poke around for awhile before the finally found it - not fun.
They inject me with a radioactive solution and let it sit for 20 minutes.  Then they took me back to have the scan done.  They injected me with more radioactive stuff, stuck heart monitors all over my body, and sent me through the machine.  My dad was with me and was able to snap a few pics:

Here I am getting ready to go into the machine.
This is me in the machine.  That monitor above me is my heart (although it just looks like a bunch of white dots, the doc swore it really was my heart).
The test took about 15 minutes and the whole thing was very easy.

PET Scan

The second test was the PET scan (which included another CT scan).  These scans produce a 3D image of my insides.  Read here for information on these scans as they relate to cancer.  I couldn't take any pictures of the test, but here's what the machine looks like:

I read up on what to expect for a PET scan and discussed it with my doc.  Everyone made it sound terrible - having to lay completely still for over an hour, no reading, talking, or moving of any kind.  Luckily it wasn't that bad.

Basically they shoot you up with a radioactive solution that is loaded with sugar.  Cancer loves sugar and will suck up as much of that sugar solution as it can.  So then the PET scan shows where that solution is congregating and the docs can tell all the places the cancer exists.  If you move around too much, there's a chance that solution will collect around muscles you're using and can show a "false positive" of cancer.

So they shot me up with the solution and had me sit in a recliner chair for an hour and a half.  But they let me bring my iPad and phone and I could get up to use the restroom if needed.  Not nearly as bad as I expected (I don't sit still well).  So I curled up in the warm blanket they gave me and read a book on my iPad - surprisingly the hour and a half went by pretty quickly.

Next, they brought me into the room with the machine and literally strapped me onto the table - even strapped my head down.  The scan took about 45 minutes, which was BORING!  

This test will determine what stage my lymphoma is in.  As long as the cancer hasn't spread outside of the group of lymph nodes on the left side of my neck, I'll still be in Stage I (which is good).  I should have these results on Friday when I go see my oncologist for my bone marrow biopsy.

Pulmonary Function Test

The last test of the day tested my lungs.  The type of chemo I'll be on also has the potential to damage my lungs (again, not likely, but a possibility).  So they wanted to test my lungs to make sure they were strong enough to undergo chemo.  Read about it and see more pictures here.

Again, I couldn't take pictures of this test, but here's what the machine looks like:

I sat in a little enclosed booth and put my mouth around a piece that was just like a mouthpiece to a snorkel.  Then the nurse put a clamp on my nose had me inhale and exhale at different speeds, sometimes holding my breath, or completely exhaling so my lungs were completely empty.  

The test took about 30 minutes and was pretty easy.  Although it did make me a little light-headed, but then again I hadn't eaten in almost 8 hours, so maybe that was why :)

Overall it was a good day.  Long, but all the tests were easy and now they're done!  Tomorrow is my port surgery.  I'll be knocked out for the surgery in the morning and on pain killers the rest of the day, so I'll try to post an update (and pictures) tomorrow, but no promises :)