Friday, February 29, 2008

Hair growth

Last Friday my dear sister in law and special friend, Marietjie popped in for a whistle stop visit. A glass of water and off she was again. During this brief stop she was overawed by my head hair growth. Since the beginning of the year a few very blond curly hairs have started growing on the top of my head. They are really ‘die hard’ hairs that have not fallen out with the chemo’s. Then about a week ago very thin sparse brown hairs have make their appearance on the top of my head (not the sides…). The only problem with the very fine blond curly hairs is that they are confused which part of the anatomy they should be growing on. This gives me hope though I know I will lose these brown hairs again with the chemo routine facing me, but 6 weeks post the last chemo I will start sporting hairs!

Feeling ‘normal’ for three days post chemo. Yucky!

Monday, February 25, 2008

Marvellous human body

For the past few days I have really marvelled at the human body’s ability to recover. When I had the hysterectomy I gave full credit for my quick recover to my gym routine thinking that my level of fitness really paid off. It was the first time I was really grateful for sticking to the routine of rising at 05h30, gym 06h00 until 0h700 with my personal trainer, rushing back home to take the kids to school (they stood waiting outside in the driveway so that we could depart for school at 07h10), back home to have a quick shower, get dressed and start work for the day. Every morning was a complete rush and I would get anxious if the schedule was late by one minute! I was fortunate to have the arrangement to work from home until the traffic died down a bit. This way I could easily do one to two hours at home in total silence with no telephone or people interruptions. Then off to work for the day, around 18h00-18h30 was back home again (when the worst of the traffic has gone), supper, clean up kitchen, watch a TV program, help the boys with homework every once in a while and then bed… what a boring life when one relays it in this manner. I have regressed off the subject. With the operation earlier this month I have astounded myself in that I was walking with a nurse on each side of me about 18 hours after the operation, 48 hours after the operation I was independently mobile with my IV trolley as support and 5 days later I walk out the hospital unaided. All this whilst I have not been to gym in 5 months, so I cannot give all the credit to being fit – the body heals itself in leaps and bounds when one measures progress in 24 hours chunks (I know that Eileen will agree with me when looking at Adam’s recovery from major heart surgery earlier this year). And the spirit to live is so great that one just cannot understand where it comes from. Many people have told me in the past months that I am a strong person, not physically but mentally and after my experience of myself in the past two weeks I must agree with you all. My spirit is very strong…. Even surprising me!! We all need to be grateful for our human body’s ability to recover – a blessing which is truly amazing.

I am ready for chemo tomorrow and the stash is waiting for me (I must just remember to use it)!!! I am going to have a glass of bubby tonight to celebrate my recovery to-date! You are all welcome to have one on me!! I sound like a drug and alcohol addict. hahahahaha

Friday, February 22, 2008

Chemo Round 5 - confirmed

The oncology unit phoned me yesterday afternoon to share that the medical aid has approved the next batch of treatments. Chemo cannot happen on Monday as they don’t have all the toxic drugs in stock so I am confirmed for Tuesday. The oncologist appointment (which occurs before each chemo) is nice and early (9h00) so I should be done by 16h00.
Today I am going to try to get through the day without any painkillers. I just need to give my body a bit of a breather and it is not feeling too bad (at this stage).

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Post operation recovery

I had a very quiet relaxing week-end with zero visitors. Monday Dr V phoned me after he had a discussion with Dr L in terms of where we are with my health. Dr L had already submitted all the details to the medical aid for approval and the plan is to start chemo this coming Monday 25 Feb. Must admit I had to take a very deep breath to stop myself from bursting into tears. I had mentally prepared myself for 4 weeks off which would have allowed for a really nice recovery from the operation and now I am faced with just 14 days between the operation and chemo, exactly the same as what happened with the operation 15 Oct and first chemo 29 Oct. So next week I will be feeling really shitty as I have been quite nauseas these past 10 days so the chemo will just add to that! As at this morning I have still not heard from the oncology unit so I phoned them. Guess what… seems there is a delay is getting the medical approval because they have a new lady doing the work. I told them “well, I am quite used to delays from your unit as there is always some or other reason for this, but a bit of communication from your side will do wonders rather than the deafly silence!!” I am now more accepting of the fact that chemo will occur next week.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Post 11 Feb operation

Firstly, thanks to Ian for writing the great blog updates.

I am going to give you the full account of the last week or so. Last Saturday was a very quiet day and we spent all day at home. The gardener was meant to arrive and I had great plans to remove some bushes and plant some new plants, but alas, that did not happen as he did not arrive. Dylan and Sean promised me that they would remove the bushes but with teenagers you need bucket loads of patience as everything only happens when THEY are ready.
Sunday was a strange day. I felt calm but was dizzy and felt ‘outside’ my body. Difficult to explain when you feel your head and mind are not quite with you in the physical body. Around 2pm I just could not ‘relax’ at home anymore and convinced Ian that we needed to take a drive to a nursery a few kilometres away. There we strolled and browsed through the various plants and water features for sale. That did not make me feel any better as it was hot and humid. At the nursery we shared a toasted sandwich and had two drinks! Now, that make me feel better! Came home, prepared supper and the whole family was in bed, lights out, by 9h30pm. Even if Ian had some hacky packy on his mind for the evening, it would not happen because Sean snuck his way into our bedroom and camped out for the night. The air conditioner ran all night (one on the most humid hottest week-end we have had in Cape Town).

Monday morning I had toast and low fat cheese for breakfast and then relaxed and meditated in a lavender bubble bath. I felt totally calm and in control, no dizziness or giddiness. Ian and I dropped by the shopping mall to kill some time, arrived at the hospital at noon for blood test and checked into my room. The nurse arrived to do all the admission questions, screening and checking. The nurse asked if I had shaved and I answered “I don’t need too”…. It took her a moment to realise what I have said. :) Then Charlotte arrived – she was the nursing sister who was such a huge emotional support when I got the news 18 Oct of my cancer – and I just could not control my emotions anymore, lots of tears and hugs (Charlotte did not recognise me initially with no hair). How do you explain to anybody close to you how scared you are for what the doctors may find. Post the admission Ian left and I was alone with my own thoughts and prayers. The minister who confirmed me over 30 years ago surprised me with a visit, he did a small bible reading and a special prayer. The porter came to fetch me just after 4pm, so now the show was on the road. Inside the theatre area Dr V came to chat to me and asked if I had any questions about the procedure. We had to wait a few minutes for Dr H, a specialist oncologist gynaecologist, to arrive and during this time I got kitted out with a bright orange bandanna to keep my head warm. My 2 special doctors wheeled me into theatre. I must add that I have two of the very best doctors looking after me. I have the greatest respect for both these men.

I don’t remember much of the balance on Monday. I remember seeing Ian, telling him that I was sore and then saying that he may as well leave as I am not much to talk too. Tuesday I spent the whole day and night lying on my back, getting IV feeding. No food or liquid was allowed to pass my lips until the intestines started acting normally again. The omentum was removed, this is a layer of fat that lies between the intestines and the skin across the front hip area, and the way I understand it is that the omentum protects the intestines from infection, so for example, my left ovary was still cancerous and the omemtum will then grow a protective layer around the ovary to protect the balance of the abdomen from infection, in the process getting infected itself. My guts were in shock because the caretaker has been removed, so they lay there rigid and unwilling to do anything. Dr V popped around to update me that they removed 10 bottles of various goodies from my abdomen. They removed the left ovary, the omentum, a small growth from the bladder, quite a bit of scar tissue where the right ‘extended’ ovary was, abdominal fluids, etc. All this has been sent for histology. I did a small walk around my bedroom and sat in a chair for 30 minutes – shew !! that was enough for the first day.

Mr V phoned me Wednesday morning elated with his news. All the histology was negative with the exception of my left ovary. I was so drugged and my tongue was so thick that I could not even respond to him properly and somehow did not feel the elation in my heart. I was still ‘nil per mouth’ lying on my back. By the afternoon my guts started moving inside my tummy like a big lazy python, but this was not enough for the nursing care to remove the ‘nil per mouth’ restriction. Late afternoon Dr H and Dr V popped in. Dr H sat on the end of my bed and Dr V on a chair on the other side of me. Dr V had to find another vein in my right arm as the IV drip had started seeping into my soft tissue. The nurse had tried 4 times and just could not find a vein in the right arm and the left arm is totally buggered from chemo. Dr H explained that at this stage all visible signs of cancer have been removed but that I do still have cancer at a microscopic level and that I will have to undergo more chemo to kill each and every one of the cancer cells. If just one little cancer cell remains alive it will grow and within 6 to 12 months I will have visible cancer again. The recommendation is 2, probably 3 more rounds of chemo but Dr H would discuss this with Dr L (my oncologist). My visitors Wednesday were elated with the news, but still I didn’t feel it. Wednesday evening my catheter was removed and I could walk to the bathroom with my IV trolley are support. Freedom!!

Thursday I got started on a liquid only diet, chicken broth and jelly for breakfast, lunch and supper! Once deprived it is amazing how excited one can get about chicken broth!! Friday Dr V pops around, says the IV can be removed and if all goes well, I can go home Saturday. Friday afternoon Dr H phones me post a discussion he has had with Dr L regarding my health. Their combined recommendation is four more rounds of chemo….. shit shit shit shit shit…. I cannot believe that I need to go through the last 4 months again!!!! How does one feel happy that there is no visible cancer when you have 4 rounds of chemo facing you. It actually just fills me with emotion, crying as I write this… I just don’t feel the happiness that everybody seems to think that I should have. I still feel like a cancer patient and I am one…. Four more months of nausea, of aching joints, of no hair, of feeling exhausted, of low white cells, of neutrophils that need boosting…..

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Post op 13 Feb

I can’t wait for Alida to get out of hospital so she can relate in her own words what she is experiencing and what is going through her mind! In the meantime you’re stuck with me, so bear with me and she will soon be back in action wowing you with insight and wit.

It has been an up and down couple of days for us. After contacting the doctor the next day (that’s another thing – I am always a day late with my postings!), I needed to hear that the operation was a resounding success, only to be told that there were a good couple of spots removed that were sent off for to histology. We had to wait for the results before any further plans of action would be undertaken. A couple of stressful days later, we were advised that most of the results, bar one (the remaining ovary), were negative. Long story short – 9 negative and 1 positive does not mean that she is clear of cancer, so 3 more chemo sessions, the first one of which will be in three and a half weeks time. (Not new news, we were told up front that more chemo session would follow the op)

On a more cheerful note, I am pleased to announce that Alida is bouncing back strongly. Not even 24 hours after the operation, she took her first walk to the door and back to the lazy-boy where she sat for a while before going back to bed. And tonight she walked off the toilet on her own, came back and asked us boys if we heard her. Pleased to say we did not and neither did the rest of the ward. She also was allowed her first cup of tea this evening, the first thing across her lips since 10:00 Monday morning.

I’m rambling now, so I’ll say cheers. One last thing – it looks like she will in the hospital until Monday, so feel free to pop in if you’re in the vicinity.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Road to Recovery

Well, after my Blogging 101 course this morning, and on Alida’s instruction to listen carefully when Dr V calls to give feedback after the op, I can report that what I remember hearing was that all the bad stuff was removed, including the remaining ovary. On the positive side, the lymph glands were 100% normal so were not removed, and all vital organs came up clean. Wasn’t thinking clearly enough to ask about the hip, further chemo sessions etc. so I will be contacting him again first thing.

The day was a bit of a blur, Alida did not want to hang around at home, so we went down to the mall, did a little shopping, then hit the hospital at 12:00. Blood drawn AGAIN, then booked in and went straight to the ward to wait! Outwardly she looked pretty calm, but believe me the emotions were in a turmoil. What an incredible, brave person and I cannot express adequately in words what she means to the boys and myself.

At this point I would just like to thank the circle of family and friends who have been such incredible pillars of support. Thanks for the prayers and positive thoughts, without you it would have been so much harder to cope. I feel that the next hurdle has been successfully negotiated and we are looking forward to healthy recovery.

Until next time!

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Happy Birthday

Today is my birthday – need to update my profile – another year older and 50’s just round the corner.

This year I have been blessed with many text messages, emails and phone calls. Thank-you for all who remembered and made me feel like a princess today! We have the family and a few friends coming around tonight with Karen, my stepsister, doing all the catering.

C from Dr V’s rooms phoned me yesterday at 17h00. The assisting doctor cannot make Monday’s theatre timeslot due to a change in his schedule. The option to postpone is not favoured by Dr V and I agree with him, I personally would not like to delay anymore either. So, operation has been rescheduled with all the necessary medical approvals for Sat 9 Feb. Around 15h00 today C phoned me again, the assisting doctor has changed his schedule and the operation is back on track for Monday. The doctors prefer a normal working day as all staff are available. C kindly offered to phone the hospital and medical aid to change the dates (again).

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Neutrophils down again

The oncology clinic phoned me yesterday afternoon with my blood test results. The overall white cell count is a bit low, but once again my immune soldiers are way below any normal range. I got a prescription emailed to me and am on medication for a week. I just hope and pray that the body recovers in the next week so that the operation can continue as scheduled. I really want the operation behind me as soon as possible. I am not looking forward to the procedure at all.