Chemo & a Canine

My life has taken an interesting turn in the past week. Last week, I wrote about adopting little (big) four-legged furball named Josie. The past week together has been exciting, heart warming, and challenging all at the same time. Josie is a very special pup and I can see why the foster coordinator at Big Fluffy Dog Rescue and her foster mom were so enamoured with her. josiegirl

She looks deeply into your eyes (and possibly into your soul) with such love and purity it is hard not to melt looking at that face. She had such a tough life leading up to being brought into Big Fluffy, I am shocked that this sweet girl can still love and trust so deeply.

Truth be told there have been a few times over the past week where I felt a little overwhelmed/stressed but generally her transition has been good.

Funny story about a particularly challenging evening:

Cory was concerned that she would drag me down the street on walks due to her size in comparison to my size (she weighs about 45 lbs. and I am clocking in at about 100 these days. THAT’S right! I finally tipped the scale!) I can handle a 45 lb. dog but when she is pulling and lunging at small dogs, cats, bikes, and squirrels, it takes some manpower to keep her in check. So on a night where she was particularly overstimulated, I figured I would try and burn off some energy by jogging with her on our last outing of the night. Imagine us in the streets of Providence off of Broadway. We’re running at a pretty decent pace, and I think to myself, “I’m totally going to tucker this girl out, I’m a geni-HOLY SHIT!” Suddenly, I hear a large German Shepherd bark behind a chain link fence to our left and Josie comes to an immediate dead stop. In that moment I run full force into my goddamn dog, trip over her, and land flat on the pavement, hard. It turns out that my demise ended up being my stationary dog acting like a speed bump.

On the bright side, Cory was wrong about this particular concern…

Yes, yes I am. Sorry your honor.

Anyway, this mishap aside, Josie has been pretty great even when I’m at work for the day. I mean, if you left me with a cozy bed and AC all day I’d be pretty psyched too.

There are dog mama perks aside from all of the awesome puppy snuggles and kisses I get everyday. In taking care of Josie it has forced me to be more purposeful with my time and provide better care for both of us. Now I’m not saying every cancer patient should run out and get a dog. Trust me, just a few months ago I was NOT in a place where I was up to this. I will say though, she has nudged me to make some positive changes in my daily routine. Not only do I take lots of walks, but I soak in my neighborhood and the people in it. I wake up earlier, plan mealtime better, and thoroughly clean everyday (she sheds like a fur monster. Thank goodness she doesn’t go on the bed and couch).

This routine has oddly given me energy even though I’m putting in more “work”. I think that these factors can only aid my recovery. Plus that unconditional love and care is just plain good for morale.

Now onto the chemo nitty-gritty.

I am going into my fourth cycle of Taxol/Avastin. Friday of this week will be the longer day where I get both drugs. It has been generally tolerable but I am seeing some annoying side effects start to creep in more and more:

  • Hair loss- No surprise here. I would have thought that I would have shaved by now but the back of my head is still full, it’s just the front that is mega thin. With some strategic combing and headband placement I have been able to dodge the razor for the time being.
  • Dulled taste buds- I am not experiencing the metallic taste that some other patients describe but food last lost it’s luster. I can taste food but everything is much more bland. I find myself gravitating toward stronger flavors and spices than before so I can really enjoy what I’m eating. My appetite is great though!
  • Hand rash- I have a rash on my hands that itches like crazy constantly. Any other cancer crushers out there experiencing this from Taxol? Use, Hydrocortisone cream and cool compresses. It helps although nothing but tapering off the Taxol will make it go away.
  • Sore fingernails- I’m not even kidding. This is actually a thing. My nail beds feel constantly inflamed. After all this time you’d think I would stop googling my medical concerns. All I found were horror stories about people’s nails falling off during/after cancer treatment. So help me I will STAPLE my nails to my fingers if I have to. (Not to worry, my nails are intact). I’ll just deal with it.

This list of complaints in comparison to my list of complaints from previous treatments is nothing. This is living the good life! I’ll take sore finger nails and bland food any day over a daily ride on the puke train.

I can safely say that I’m pretty happy right now. Things will only keep getting better, I’m sure of it.

We are keeping the positive energy going as I get my weekly blood work done tomorrow. It’s a CA-125 week so I’ll be getting an update on my tumor marker Friday.

bigmoneynowhammy

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Welcome home Josie!

I should warn you in advance that if you’re not a dog person, skip over this entry because it is basically 99% animal related.

I am pleased to announce that after much consideration and searching, I found my (almost) perfect four-legged companion. As of Thursday, I have adopted a beautiful pup that I have re-named Josie from Big Fluffy Dog Rescue. (True life- her name was Prada before…ehhhh). She is a three year old Welsh Corgi/German Shepherd mix. A true mutt with the best features of both breeds (but I’m her mommy so I’m biased).

Josie spent the better part of her live in Tennessee tied to a tree by a heartless, neglectful owner. Eventually he stopped feeding her. She was a growing puppy and as she grew her collar became badly embedded into her neck. Luckily she was rescued by Big Fluffy, given stellar vet rehab care, and sent to the east coast for foster care. Now she’s mine to love and spoil!!!

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Making the decision to take on such a dependent living being should not be taken lightly, and I didn’t. I went back and forth, obsessed about making the right choice, but in the end I could not imagine myself not adopting this particular little/big girl. When I first met her in her foster home she initially barked when I walked in the door as if to say: “HEY! I don’t know you! What are you doing here?!” the barking quickly turned into a big grin as I sat down the kitchen floor of her foster home. She trotted over to me and licked my face all over. My heart melted immediately.

There was a lot to consider here and I didn’t take her home that night (even though the ID in me really wanted to). Good thing Cory was there to help me show some restraint. As I spoke with non-dog owners and dog owners alike to seek clarity- I took in horror stories about houses being destroyed, separation anxiety, and $16,000 dollar vet bills. In contrast I also saw how people lit up when they spoke about their furry companions and shared how they couldn’t imagine life without them. One woman I know at the hospital was reduced to tears when she reflected on her experience with her Boxer. She has gone through some tough times and she confessed that it was her dog’s unconditional love that helped her through. Ultimately I knew I had to listen to my own intuition. That being said I have no regrets.

Despite the excessive shedding, Josie is a dream. She is constantly smiling and wagging her tail. She took no time at all to warm up to me and showers me in kisses and affection. She is housebroken, barks minimally, knows a few commands, and listens fairly well. She doesn’t jump on the couch or sleep in my bed, nor does she try to. She doesn’t beg when I am preparing or eating my meals in front of her.  With some training, I am sure that she will be even more amazing. We need to work on leash skills and learn a few more commands.

I am just so in love. Braggy mommy picture time.

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So since this is a cancer blog after all, some of you may be wondering:

“why did you take on such a major, long-term responsibility being that you’re sick and in treatment?”

I asked myself the same question continually. When I considered NOT adopting her for that reason, it cut me to the core. The mantra of Stupid Cancer is to Get Busy Living and I have been determined to do just that. When I was on the clinical trial I was merely existing and truly felt so broken. I wasn’t really living. Now that I am under a more tolerable regimen and feeling mostly-normal enough to lead a “normal” life, I am back in headspace that allows me to believe that I WILL get better. In that spirit, I was able to look in the mirror and say: “I will be strong and healthy enough to care for another living being for the next 12ish years”.

Looking that far down your life’s timeline is a little scary especially when the past few years have been so varied and in some cases tumultuous. Now that I pulled the trigger and adopted I’m not thinking about the “what if’s?”. As my mom so wisely reminded me, you cannot predict the future, and you just can’t be that calculated. You roll with the punches and ebb and flow of life.

In the past couple days of caring for Josie, you would have to pry the grin off my face with a pair of plyers. She has brought immense joy into my heart, even when we’re circling the neighborhood in the wee hours of night waiting to go poops. She actually has encouraged me to take care of myself better because I have no choice but to give her the best care. All in all Josie and I are so fortunate to have found each other. Going to work all day on Monday is going to be difficult. Stay at home mom’s- I get it now.

Thank-you to all that guided me as I grappled with this decision, Desiree from Big Fluffy for her kindness and patience, Kayla for being the best foster mom to my baby, and Auntie Sarah for all of Josie’s great new gifts!

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Continued love and gratitude from Jess & Josie.

Writer’s Heaven

I’m currently sitting in the Bryant University library on a break from the writing retreat that I’m participating in today and tomorrow. The retreat invites interested faculty and staff to come together to work on personal/academic writing projects. The group consists primarily of professors working on research for textbooks and research papers for conferences. I was surprised to see that there were a fair number of faculty and staff working on creative projects, novels, poetry, etc. I thought I would be the only one working on a creative project as I’m focusing on narrative non-fiction.

The structure of the retreat it pretty liberating. We have from 8am-9pm today and 8am-4pm tomorrow to work totally independently and undisturbed on our projects. A full day of uninterrupted writing during the work day is what dreams are made of! As an added bonus there is a continuous flow of meals, coffee, and snacks. You really can’t beat it.

I had the opportunity to sit down with one of the writing faculty today to consult about my writing project. She was incredibly encouraging and had some great insights to increase the reader’s connectedness to the story I am telling. I felt that after that meeting I really went outside of my comfort zone and incorporated elements into my writing style that enhance the piece without losing my voice. Writing in a way that I wouldn’t otherwise. So far this has been a pretty transformative experience.

It’s funny that I hit a writing wall and decided to use my break to write in the blog…

Go figure.

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Overall this experience has been a reminder how cathartic written expression can be. I ventured to write about subjects that have not yet been introduced to the blog and may never even be seen here. I forced myself to deconstruct experiences that have otherwise been shoved to the back of the mental closet.

I can’t wait to see what comes of it. You know, like Ellen inviting me on her show to discuss my New York Times Best Seller (a girl can dream right?).

Drip Drop

For those fellow Empire fans out there, as I told my boss, seeing my IV immediately triggers “drip, drop, drip, drippity, drop” In my head. You’re quite welcome for now getting it stuck in your head.

So a couple brief updates:

1.) My cousin Sara gets married TOMORROW. I’m even more excited because my one and only big broski is not only going to be there but he is also officiating the wedding. ❤

2.) I volunteered again for The Izzy Foundation in the Izzy Room at Hasbro Children’s hospital last night. They had an ice cream party/improv night and it was a blast!

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I’m glad that Chris could see the Izzy Room in action because he is running a 1/2 marathon and chose The Izzy Foundation to raise funds for. Here are your donation dollars at work!

Now that I’m functioning under a more tolerable trestment, I’d like to spend more time in the Izzy Room. There is no amount of money that could equate to how happy I am when I’m there. Being in a hospital blows, period. I’m so glad that the children’s hospital has a safe, fun, space for kids to just be kids. A great refuge for parents as well!

3.) My CA-125 is down another 1000! Currently sitting at 1184 after two full cycles (6 consecutive weeks) of treatment. I started at over 4000 prior to treatment plan #3 starting.

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This benadryl fueled selfie (benadrelfie?) Semi-captures my excitement…OK or maybe it just captures a doofy stare and a VERY overtired/medicated cancer crusher. Tomato-tomahto.

I’ll leave you on an entertaining note by recapping a conversation with my trainer because it made me giggle:

Matt: if you could have any super power what could it be?

Me: Um, time travel I think. What about y-

Matt: SPATULA HANDS

…may you all be blessed with a great week and spatula hands.