Thursday, September 26, 2013

Off Week

I cannot express the happiness that comes when your physical ailments and maladies hit the road. There was such excitement in knowing that I didn't have to take the Xeloda for a week. I felt so much more energy, I could eat more things, I could stand more smells, I could drink water again, the sores on my feet didn't hurt...

There was this urgency to get as much done as possible. I tried to switch out my kids summer clothes for their fall clothes, do several loads of laundry in one day, meet people, clean the floors, vacuum... but then I realized that I was doing too much. Pushing myself too hard. This body is not the same. Exhaustion would catch up with me. I would eat a meal thinking that it would give me more energy but it didn't help. My speech got slurred, answering questions took too much energy, couldn't keep my eyes open, just wanted to lay down.

It is all about pacing. I'm still trying to pace myself with this new body of mine.

Oh yeah, that thing on my outer arm, near my armpit, seems to be a spot like those that are supposed to form on my feet. The nurse had never seen them form in the arm area. She actually called another nurse to take a look at it. I have been putting lotion on it, and the time off of the Xeloda seems to be helping it go down. Not very pretty. Thankfully, its not little, round spots. That, my friends, would freak me out.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Weirdest Thing

You would think that I would lose some (or all) hair during chemotherapy. It is the expected thing, right? After hearing from Dr. K that I would have to undergo chemo, I braced myself to expect to lose all my hair. It isn't an easy thing for a woman. It isn't an easy thing for a man. I cannot tell you how thankful I was to hear that hair loss with Xeloda is not very common. I had to ask the oncologist and the nurse several times before that fact got processed in my mind. Who would have known? God's grace once again!

As I started taking the Xeloda, I had to stop taking my daily hormone, cancer drug: Letrozole (Femara). This is where is gets really weird. I am experiencing less hair loss while taking the Xeloda than when I was taking Letrozole. I couldn't believe it at first. As I showered, blow dried, or brushed my hair, not as much hair fell out. No clumps. I thought that it was some freak thing - for the day, but, it continued like that. Those baby hairs that had been trying to grow back and kept falling back out, now, have a chance to grow!

All these months on the Letrozole, this hair loss had been unexplained. I visited my endocrinologist because I had thought that it might have been due to my thryroidectomy. Nope. Couldn't find anything in my blood levels or exam. I asked my oncologist and she couldn't find any explanation either. There is relief in finding the answer to your perplexity.

I am so thankful to God for this grace that has been given. Time and time again, I see His hand in this life of mine. I am still overwhelmed by the fact that He chooses to show such grace to such a sinner as me.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Thursday, Thursday, Yeah!

I cannot tell you how much I was waiting for Thursday to come. I was counting down the days like a little kid counting down to his/her birthday. Thursday was the last day of my second cycle on Xeloda (an oral chemo drug). Before taking my meds, I said a prayer, like I usually do. After taking them, I was jumping up and down and throwing my hands in the air.

The last week "off" the meds was so nice. I could eat most foods again and had so much more energy. I am praying for the same type of "relief" this week.

You wonder if things will ever be normal again with your body. My hands are starting to hurt and it is getting a little more painful to walk. I have brown spots all over my face, hands, feet, and body. I actually got some red, dry patches near the outer parts of armpits. They look like the spots that are supposed to form on my hands and feet as you continue the Xeloda. I had to call the nurse because the area is really itchy and is starting to feel sore/hurt a bit. My nurse said that she has never seen that reaction in that area of the body, so I have to go see her today. Hopefully, she can tell me what it is and help me to manage it.

I broke down and started taking the Prilosec for my acidic pit of a stomach. This has helped a lot with my stomach and the burning in the back of my throat. Although I always feel like I just ate a Halls cough drop. I'm also noticing an increasing problem with diarrhea, which is another side effect. I had my husband get Immodium for me, but I haven't gotten myself to take it yet. My nurse will probably get very frustrated with me, for not taking it, but you know me... Maybe tomorrow, but this time it might really have to be because of the increasing uncomfortableness and unpredictability of the matter.

There was continued frustration with food during this second cycle. I craved red meat one week, and then hated it the next. I felt extremely refreshed with watermelon one week, and then was repulsed by the thought of it the next. My poor husband keeps asking me what I want to eat and all I can say is: "I don't know." I abhor certain smells that used to make me go "Yum!" I have always been a water drinker but now I need to force myself to drink it because it makes me think of the meds which makes me feel queasy. I find something to eat and then wonder if I will abhor that food the next day. Tiring? Pray for my husband and children.

But despite all of the physical discomfort, I am continually reminded of how blessed I am to be able to take oral chemo pills vs. intravenous chemotherapy. There are so many who have gone ahead of me and have suffered so much more physical pain. God has placed many around me. That gives me perspective and strength. Sometimes my eyes do get cloudy and I stray a bit from this, but God always brings me back ever so gently and lovingly.

Thank You, Jesus.

Friday, September 13, 2013

I Remember You

When we first moved to Chicago from Argentina, we went to church for the first time. There weren't as many Koreans living in Chicago at that time, so church was a central meeting place. People came to make connections, find out information about the area, and to be comforted by other Korean speakers. Our family first went with those intentions, but God had other plans.

It was at this church that I met this young mom. She had three children: a girl and two boys. She was always busy with those children but she was always calm. Once in a while, I would run into her because my parents were in a Bible study or some meeting.

I remember this mom because she always had a kind face. She never seemed flustered. Her daughter, who was the oldest, always had some type of caste on. She had some type of disorder that caused her bones to break easily. I remember the little girl limping around with her caste(s).

One day, this mom gave me a small bag of candy. I remember. I felt so happy that she singled me out and gave it to me. Back then, people didn't have bags of candy at home. You didn't buy a container of 40 packs of candy at Costco. You bought one bag at a time. That candy was a treasure to me. I think that I might have even kept the wrapper for a while, just to remember.

My mind gets foggy, but then I heard that that mom was sick. Very sick. And then she was gone. She had died, leaving her husband and three young children. I remember being really sad and remembering how kind she had been to me.

I never forgot about her.

Over the years, I've asked my mom about the father and children. I heard that he became a pastor and never remarried. The children are all grown up now. I've wanted to write to them. I've wanted to paint a beautiful picture of their mom. I'm not even sure if they have any recollection of their mom. They were so young.

Her smile. Her kindness. Her peaceful and calm face.

I still remember her.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Viruses and A Sour Stomach

The week off of the Xeloda was so nice. I didn't have to worry about any nausea. My sense of smell wasn't as sensitive. I could look at certain foods and not get grossed out. I even ate some Korean food. I could even drink water again without having to think twice about it.

Last Friday, I started my second cycle of the Xeloda. I wasn't sure how my body would react the second time, so I went into it with some fear. Memories of the first week of my first cycle loomed over me. Would my body go into nausea/fatigue mode and then ease up during the second week?

The first day went well. The second day went well, so did the third and the fourth. I was getting things accomplished and running errands. Then, it hit. My stomach went sour or shall I say that it became an acidic pit of trouble. I felt like the back of my throat was radioactive and that I might spew out a few things. Thankfully, it didn't.

On top of this, this never ending virus won't leave our house. My oldest (A1) had it, my husband had it, my daughter (A2) had it and the lymph nodes on her neck got enlarged, my youngest (A3) had it, and I had it with each of my children... The first two times weren't as bad, but this time it is a little stronger (headache/hot flashes/runny nose/needing sleep). Thankfully, no fever. I don't get fevers. My husband gets fevers, but I never really did. One of those interesting facts about me.

But, please pray.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Wonderful Week

My week off of Xeloda was wonderful. The nausea was gone. The funny taste in my mouth was mostly gone. We had an in-church family retreat. My energy levels were higher. My husband asked me to share my life story on the last day of the retreat. I could eat (most things) without having to think twice about it.

I did become aware of some mouth sores but they are manageable. My hands feel better. I had some diarrhea, but it is better.

Yesterday, I had to go to Dr. K's office to check my blood levels and to see what symptoms I was experiencing. My blood levels are good but my white cell count is going down-as expected. But, it is good enough for me to continue my treatment. My doctor asked me about the nausea and kind of chastised me for not taking the prescription (anti-psychotic, schizophrenia) medication she had prescribed. I still prefer to eat ginger candy.

My nurse (I have an assigned nurse) urged me to try Prilosec (if I wasn't going to take the anti-psychotic drug) for the nausea. I guess acid builds up in your stomach during the chemo (which explains my aversion to acidic foods). She said that some people said that that helped. Oh yeah, and Immodium for the diarrhea. BUT, you know me, I would like to try eating more bananas first.

I got the second shipment of Xeloda for this next cycle. Friday is the big day. Pray - please. I believe that God has used your prayers to lift me up in so many ways.

Here is a song that we sang during the retreat. It keeps resonating in my heart. It is an old song made new.

by AngelofLordJesus