Monday, April 27, 2015

Quieter day

Just read thru the bits of this site on anticancer herbs.

Had a long work day.
Wasn't very thrilled with being at work. Couldn't fake it... Counted down the hours til I could leave and go to my oncologist appointment. Not sure why.
Found out that the operation and radiation has made me susceptable to bronchitis and other lung related bugs. Know I was warned this Oh boy. So... I'll get through this. Coughing sucks but at least I will work on strengthening my immune system.
May 9th is "the last day" of chemo. We'll see. The last week in May is PET scan week.
My oncologist said today, "I know this has been hard on you but you've been strong, you're handling chemo well and you can finish this." Why, yes I can. Never doubted that. Just want to get there.

So I'm feeling quiet today. Reserved.
I read about a new app the other day and added it to my iphone. Think it is interesting, reminded me a little of Headspace app. It is called Happify. I didn't appreciate the bits of it that asked me to upgrade/spend money but I appreciated the intentional positive parts... games that are focused on making you think about positive words. Especially, I enjoyed watching a few of the videos that it had on the rainbow button, those made me chuckle...

Snuggled with kiddo. Co-wrote a story with him (it is terrible but at least I'm writing again) and I fell asleep around 4 times while reading him his bedtime story, poor thing, he kept reading aloud to get me back in place to finish. Finally he said, "Mommy, just let me read aloud this page so we can finish, I think we both need to go to sleep soon."

I know it is nuts but around 9pm I wake up. So, sigh, going to read and chill for a little while.

Taking the up days and down days. Appreciating waking up and all that jazz.
Thanks for journeying with me as always...

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Just a quick check in...

Weekends are helpful. Healing has been my focus.
This morning I got up early and volunteered thru midday at a tournament of the minds competition. My son attended as part of his school team but I didn't get to see him compete, just got to judge a bunch of other teams which was just fine, I like helping out...
I came home after a long walk with my son through Kowloon to Mong Kok (30 minutes, humid day) and then an MTR ride home and pretty much rested for the afternoon focusing my energy on this paperwork I committed to reviewing and providing feedback for online... So. Tomorrow. Rest. Grateful for a playdate and a patient husband who wants me to rest. And a kiddo who's excited to go for a playdate, etc.
I missed yoga today, sad but part of life when you have activities. Hoping to go next week.

Went online and found an interesting article on healing chakras...
I know this is my chakrah I need to heal:
Location: Heart/center of chest
Sanskrit: Anahata/”unstruck sound”
Color: green
Element: air
Issues: love, friendship, kindness, forgiveness, devotion, generosity
Associated with: thymus gland, lungs, hands, heart, blood; immune and endocrine systems.
Governs: love, compassion, unconditional acceptance
Malfunction: high blood pressure, respiratory problems, heart and lung problems, feeling heartbroken
Healing Techniques
Music: classical, heart chakra playlistAffirmations: I am fresh. I am clean. I am unstruck. I am unstuck. I am loving. I am loved.
Poses: standing back bend, camel, reverse warrior, triangle, bridge, wheel
Connect with: the heart, the breath, the wind, maitriPranayama: full yogic breath
Practice: Bhakti yoga, yin yoga, restorative yoga
Meditation: forgiveness, Metta/loving kindness

A dear friend just got through surgery and I'm so relieved. It was six months of waiting for a surgery and she's been on my mind heavily. So happy for a successful surgery.

Waking up every morning and still feeling grateful. Appreciating life. Happy to be here on earth... I'll work on those affirmations though. Not certain about the yoga poses...
Will work on forgiveness as well. Dealt with a little disappointment with someone this week and working to refocus on forgiveness vs. feeling anger... plus feeling pity...
Been appreciating practicing qigong breathing exercises this week. Morning and night I've been giving time to it.
The coughing has not eased up yet. Annoying. Really annoying. Taking meds, being patient.
Going to see my oncologist on Monday. He's taking blood, checking on me, etc...
Then I'll find out when my next/last chemo round is... 8 more hours... I started doing art in focus of that day. That last day.
Going to refocus on reading and blogging for a little while. Sleep and rest as well. My sweet dog is still a little off, we're not certain what is wrong but think it is a little more than old age so probably bringing her to the vet soon.
Fridge seems to be working still, grateful for that. Plus it is nice to have a new washing machine...

Pretty quiet post.
Thanks for journeying with me...

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Chemo reactions, careful monitoring

Was feeling a little styling... Tuesday.
Second to last time I watch my body react to chemo. While I was getting the infusion, I felt more and more fuzzy in the head but still cognitively with it, just slowed.

Tuesday I felt still somewhat hopped up on the steroids, allergy medication, and anti-nausea meds but I did take the prescriptions I was told to... Tuesday afternoon I hopped in a taxi after working a full day and rode to the ferry terminal. I met up with my wonderful friend Megan and we headed to Discovery Bay for a librarian's meeting. It was an interesting one but my eyes struggled to stay open at certain moments to be honest. I enjoyed discussing books and making new agreements for the Golden Dragon Book Award program we're organizing and also eating dinner and chatting with wonderful people.

Wednesday I got thru the day but barely. I came home to a refrigerator that was broken. Oh, did I mention that last Friday our washing machine was broken? We got a replacement on Tuesday. No rest for the weary. We tried different things out and are hoping that the fridge will last the 2.5 months we're still here in the apartment, shall see. I napped and watched shows and calmed my mind.

Thursday was a little rough on the coughing. I thought it was easing up but not quite... feeling better this evening though I think. Worked all day and then hopped in my friend's car and headed to another school. Met up with my wonderful friend Tanja and we co-presented at an IB PYP session on author inquiries. It was fun to co-present and bounce off one another's ideas. Grateful I had the energy for this.

And now... Friday. I'll get thru it. I'm missing a writers group Thurs. evening that I really enjoy but had to draw the line and be wise. Friends are looking out for me. Megan made sure I we rode a taxi home both Tues. and Thurs. Smart woman, I was dragging...

Side effects have been expected and then honestly a little surprising as well. Stomach issues abound as always but aren't as terrible as chemo week #7-12... Pains are there from coughing but I think the anti-inflammatory is really keeping things in check. My brain was really foggy on Wednesday. One student who is brutally honest (but caring too) told me "Mrs. Alvarez, I notice that you're making mistakes and are a little confused today, you must be tired." I simply said, "I am tired, you're right..." (I couldn't remember a student's name-- remembered it the next day no problem though!) So... taking things gently. Day by day. But honestly, I don't feel like I'm acting like I had another dose of chemo for the most part. Getting along. Living life. Having fun. Seeing friends. Working. Appreciating what I've got. Snuggling with my kiddo and husband. Dealing with a dog getting older (sob). Waking up grateful for another day. Doing qigong breathing exercises in the morning and night. Missing yoga but will get back to it... Grateful for this life.

My sister shared an interesting article.

Thanks as always for journeying with me... Appreciating the support.

Monday, April 20, 2015

A spin for the positive

Well. I was a little upset this morning having to go for another chemotherapy round. But after an hour, I was feeling pretty positive. This week I didn't have to get blood drawn which is always lovely. I saw my oncologist and talked with him about all the pain and coughing I've been having. He poked, prodded, looked at my bruise, listened to my lungs, tapped me in all these different places and concluded that I had bronchitis but that my lungs were surprisingly clear. I have to be on a few medications to clear things up but that's ok... It is bearable to swallow pills that could stop me from heavy painful coughing. That's all I needed to hear from him, deep breath in, out. Reassurance.
I am so glad that I got to do these last two rounds of chemo with my oncologist. I'm comfortable at the clinic. I like and trust the nurses. They make me feel valuable and cared for. There were 6 patients all getting chemo today. I got to the clinic a bit early at 8:10 and saw my oncologist at 9am. Then at 9:30 am they started the heating pad on my hand. Then around 10:00am I got the line in my left hand. My veins are recovering from the last rounds of chemo. I can heal. At 10:30 I started getting the pre-drugs- allergy and antinausea medication. At 11am I got Taxol and it took 3 hours to get it in me. It is normally 1 hour but since I'm only doing two chemo infusions for the last two rounds, I get the triple dose. Then I got Avastin at 2:00pm and Carboplatin at 3:00pm. Then at 3:40pm they started pushing saline into me to clear out my vein, this lasted til 4:30. That's a long time overall. Like a full time job.
I shared with my nurses about an interesting new invention that lessens the complications some have with their veins, the ladies thought it was good to read about:
They were also excited to talk with me about the lyphodoema specialist I saw... I felt useful and able to share a little knowledge, made me feel more at ease...
I had a book to read, it was good. I am enjoying an audiobook called You can change your life by Louise Hay which is really helpful. I had magazines and games to play as well. I even got to Skype with my wonderful parents until my mom noticed that I yawned a few times within a minute. I did nap on and off, didn't fight it but there were so many people around me I didn't deeply nap/sleep. I finished with a smile.
I walked back to the MTR feeling at peace. I found a place to sit down. I got back to Causeway Bay and visited the pharmacy. As I was walking to the pharmacy I tried out what Louise Hay mentioned in her book, that you can have positive intentional thoughts... so I thought "I'm going to have a good visit to the pharmacy and they will have what I need." I went to the pharmacy where they recognize me and are really helpful and friendly. I talked with the owner who asked how I was doing and feeling. He looked at my list of medication (8 drugs in one prescription sheet, sheesh) and said, I am giving you a discount today. So I got reasonably priced medication. Then he said to me, please make a copy of this receipt and then when you visit again, I will match with the same price for the prescription you buy. Ok, done. That was certainly a good visit to the pharmacy.
I enjoyed the visit with my son when I got home even with a few glitches in our interaction and then had a delicious dinner and a really helpful qigong session packed with breathing exercises which was just what I needed. The anti-inflammatory has really helped me plus I think I'm feeling mentally better about things so the pain in my lung, side and back has lessened. I'm so relieved about that...
Getting thru the days. Will see about tomorrow. Take the day carefully. Take my anti-nausea medicine. Not push myself. Looking forward to it. Think it can be a good day. My husbadn has asked me to take taxis for his peace of mind as a journey around for the next week. I can certainly respect his wishes. I did take the MTR home but that was because the appointment was in Mong Kok and it is a new place for me and I felt calmer just taking the elevator down and going into the MTR to go home vs walking around buildings looking for a taxi stand, felt like I was protecting my energy...
As always, thanks for journeying with me, visiting on my ups and downs, for a chemo treatment day it had a few downs but I'm just really surprised how many ups I've had... One more and then I am done with chemo. Wow. I can take it all day by day but "one more" makes me smile presently.
Still can't quite smile at first in these sessions but I got my bottom to the seat.

Drugs working their way into me...

I appreciate that the needle is mostly covered...
Heat pad underneath me to ease the pain and stinging as the medication went in...
Was ok, not terrible pain, just eased with a little heat.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Going ahead, going ahead...

I've been in a tailspin down down down this week even as much as I knew better, I couldn't refocus my brain. I have been dealing with heavy coughing this week. It is really annoying. I also am dealing with some new pains that really upset me. My brain surprised me. I hadn't thought cancer when dealing with pains in the past but this time I freaked out. I haven't talked with my oncologist yet but I'm now down off the cliff, mostly. I noticed an odd bruise in the lumpectomy area which was worrisome and my scar tissue under my armpit felt terrible. Additionally my right lung returned to having that butterfly thump when I breathed in/out and some sharp pains in other areas of the lung. I know I'm acutely aware of my body and the signs it is giving me. I'm also aware that I have a lot of nerve damage after surgeries and radiation as well. So. Shall see what my oncologist thinks on Monday. Hoping that I actually sleep tonight. It didn't help that this week has been abysmal for sleep... with the coughing, pain, and more I've been a bit miserable. I think the anti-inflammatory has helped lessen the amount I was dealing with on Monday. The worst was Wednesday when I couldn't hold up the book I was reading to students with my right arm and I had to pause at times to deal with the pain spasms. Coughing randomly throughout the day doesn't help matters. I've taken cough medicine and no, it doesn't help. Lung pain might be an infection although I haven't had a fever... will find out soon.
So... yeah. Dealing with that.
The local hospital situation is over. My husband went in for me on Friday to talk with the oncologist who said the team of oncologists discussed and decided on option 1- wait and see. Heck no. That's not our plan. That's not ok with us.
I never cancelled my chemo appointment with my oncologist so that's on for Monday. Told the insurance company and the other person who encouraged me to check with the options at the local hospital the results. Done with one unknown. Gonna get thru this.
Really enjoyed the conference I attended with friends. Had a fun bbq fancy dinner with Megan the night before. I feel amazed at how lucky I am to have wonderful friends, professional development that inspires, and can't believe that I live here, in Hong Kong, where I can hop on a jet boat with a few hundred people and travel to another region... just a Hong Kong id card and passport and hello Macau. I'm not a gambler so bright lights and glitz simply make me chuckle. Serious security guards in banana yellow formal jackets make me chuckle as well.  Had a fun time there.
Thanks for journeying
My friend I've met thru a cancer support group sent me this. So true.

I liked the lighting at the hotel we stayed at...

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Yup One of THOSE weeks

This week has been a struggle for me to be honest. I disliked Monday's visit with the oncologist at the local hospital. Tuesday and Wednesday I dealt with a lot of pain in my right lung and scar tissue under my armpit and more. It is limiting my range of motion, etc. Not sure why it is happening but riding the waves of pain and trying to refocus on healthy breathing even though it hurts. Funny enough, I'm certainly noticing my breaths while I go through the pain and realize when I'm breathing shallow, etc. Not sure if I slept wrong, slipped something out of place, etc. Just know I have pain. Shall see how the rest of the week goes. Started taking an anti-inflammatory and will see what my oncologist says. The pain is a tiny bit more bearable today- Thursday. Still finding it a little odd/disconcerting but working hard to staying positive and not worrying about one more thing.

So we are waiting for decisions from the local hospital still but can't do anything about that presently, sigh. I've made good decisions so far with my oncologist and I trust his plan.
I went to a cancerlink support group meeting Wednesday and the guest speaker talked on energy healing. She led us through two meditations- one was specifically on breathing and bringing energy in and the other was visualization. Interesting woman. Interesting process.
I appreciated this breathing exercise for people with insomnia, tried it last night, certainly distracted me into sleep. Reminded me a little of yoga nidra.
Breathe in 4 counts, hold breath 7 counts, breath out 8 counts. Sure. I can do that.

I apologize to any friends who became concerned after the last post. I'm trying to stay confident and positive about the plans ahead. The fact that we're exploring the local hospital doesn't mean I'm changing any plans. The local hospitals here are good. Just not what I'm quite comfortable with. BUT if they are willing to provide the exact same chemo plan my oncologist has made, then we would go with them. Otherwise, I'll go ahead with the chemo with my oncologist. This would mean beginning on Monday. I will not be going with the local hospital if they say "wait" or "only 2 of the three chemo drugs". As I mentioned, perhaps not clearly in my last post, I refuse to compromise my health. Gotta have Faith.

The days are good at work. I love the kids. Appreciate my time with colleagues. They make me laugh, think, reflect... such a kind, wonderful bunch of folks.
I'm looking forward to going to a technology conference on Saturday. I'll be going with my wonderful friend Megan and then see my friend Dianne make a keynote speech at lunch (I love her presentations, such a talent.)
I posted about the library job I'm leaving here in Hong Kong and am really hoping that my admin can find a good fit to replace me. Hope they find someone who can grow into the role, shall see.

Thanks for journeying with me...

Monday, April 13, 2015

Being Incredibly Controversial

My oncologist warned us. He said, "I know I've gone on what others consider a very aggressive route with your treatment. If you talk with an oncologist at the local hospital, I know this will come up as controversial."
Why yes.
Yes it did.
I haven't heard someone say the word 'controversial' that many times in the space of 20 minutes before. The local hospital oncologist said that my oncologist has gone the extreme route all the way through... including radiation, etc. The local hospital oncologist flat out told us that there are three choices that they could make to support me:
1. Do nothing and watch how I'm doing simply with scans, etc.
2. Treat me with chemo only partly with Taxol and Carboplatin
3. Treat me with chemo cocktail that my oncologist planned and gave me before: Taxol, Carboplatin and Avastin.
The oncologist said that in most cases they would only select #1. After further discussion with my husband about finances, our choices, and our plan, he said that he needed to get back to us.
He is going to meet with a panel of oncologists on Thursday and see what they suggest. Then my husband is going to go to my appointment on Friday (as my proxy) and find out what they say, possibly with me on the phone.
My husband said: "You don't need to form and opinion or think about this until Friday."
Ok then.
In waiting mode but grateful that there's an option we're exploring and that we're also in complete agreement that we are not compromising with my health plans.
If we go with the private oncologist I've seen the whole time I'd start chemo next Monday. But shall see what comes of the local hospital first.

Some interesting points this local hospital oncologist shared:
1. I reacted well in the past to the chemo but there might be new worrisome side effects
2. Taking more of the chemo cocktail might make the chemo less effective in the future if (god forbid) I need chemo again.
3. There's no proved research that says that more chemo is effective, many oncologists are doing one of the three options above without any collective data.

Just want to live day by day appreciating life, thank you. Trusting my oncologist at this point but forcing myself to be patient til Friday since money is a factor. Sigh.

Thinking about Bali, roof of one place we stayed at...
Today at work I received many compliments about how good I'm looking, healthier, etc. Some mentioned how nice it was to see the curls coming in. Sigh. I joked with one person "Just in time to get more chemo" and startled her. My sense of humor is still twisted a little tight I guess.
Glad I can see where I'll get back to hopefully by August/September/October (maybe I'll have curls by my birthday this coming year, that'd be a heck of a lot better than the past two birthdays) after this next round of chemo. I do feel a little whiny and have thought over the past few days how it just isn't fair. But what is fair in life at times? There are terrific wonderful days and there are tough days, riding those waves... Bearing up, dealing, and not thrilled but coping.

Thanks for journeying with me as always...

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Reluctantly returning to chemo

Thanks Megan for joining in on our Bali adventure! So grateful...
Knew it was coming. Doesn't soften the blow though mentally I guess. I'm not worried about these last two rounds of chemo. I know what to expect, what is coming, etc. I'm just not looking forward to the experience for these last two times. It feels like I'm signed up for two more rounds of poisonous torture that must occur. I probably have one more week before the first round of chemo goes in. Looking into local hospital information still and also I need to talk with my administration before I can have an official appointment.

I know I'm going to lose my hair again. Not going to shave it off this time though. Will just deal. I'm not thrilled by this and am honestly quite concerned about what to do since I'll be working full-time during the last two rounds but shall play it by ear. My principal has given me permission to wear "hats" to work, probably will go with that. I'll transition from headbands that I'll wear for the next few weeks to hats. Don't want to go back to wearing a wig.
Learned about something interesting on a blog I follow today about a castor oil combo you can use to help your hair grow, support your skin/scalp's health. Shall look into it further when necessary.

Have had chats with my husband and son today about the information my oncologist shared earlier.
My oncologist said that it would be best if I continued with the same chemo combination for the last two rounds/doses... My kiddo was not thrilled to know that I'd have more chemo. I think he was watching my hair grow out and told himself that I was getting better. We talked for quite a while about how the medication would have the side effects we don't like/enjoy but that the hope is to get rid of cancer cells and have me around for a long time. He's accepted it and knows the door is open for more conversations. Never fun when tears come to my kiddo's eyes. My husband is stoic and there with me every step of the way. He also just got through another scuba certification course! So proud of him...

We had a fantastic family trip to Bali, not everything went as planned, but we enjoyed time together, time with our friend Megan, and many adventures. I'll share those on my Styling Librarian blog. Often it was way too hot for me but that wasn't too big of a surprise since I prefer happy-medium weather. I'm starting to think about moving back to Oregon more now. Mentally packing, picking what I will/won't need, and thinking about what we can ship ahead of time. When we move, we're not bringing back any furniture or anything like that, just 2-3 large suitcases each when we fly. I think the largest thing we'll have is our Dulcie dog's carrier. Will see about that. It was wonderful to see her after two weeks away, she's such a sweet good dog.

Shall see what happens in the next few months... grateful for my increased strength and appreciating the days my brain is sharp... will be especially patient with myself the next month and a half. Surprising how fast time has flown this year already. I look forward to the last 11 weeks of work. Feel lucky to be supported at work, with friends, and home as well...

Thanks for journeying with me...