Because nothing is easy

Because nothing is easy, my “wimpy” little bacterial infection actually landed me in the hospital for eight days and seven nights. My last entry was a week ago and that day I was SURE that I was going to be discharged the next day but because it’s me, I had to complicate things a bit.

A few factors that delayed discharge:

Vancomycin  (vanco) gave a mild skin reaction. Due to that the doctors had to play around with the rate in which it was administered and the dosage. With this drug you also need to draw blood just prior to the next dose to see exactly how much vanco is in you. It can’t be too much to too little. Pretty much every blood draw I had except for the last missed the mark on either end. In short there was a lot of tweaking that had to go on before they could send me home with the drug.

-Daptomycin (Dapto) is a much better antibiotic that can be used as a second line treatment if vanco is not working or an allergy exists. Switching to this drug took a few days because your blood cultures need to be sent to a lab with a sample of Dapto and they watch it to see if the bacteria is sensitive to the drug. The results took 48 hours to yield but luckily it came back in my favor and we could make the switch. With Dapto, I was required to do one infusion in the hospital to monitor me for any reaction. We did that yesterday and after that I was cleared to go home. I didn’t even think it was real that I was going home (this is how jaded I have become in regard to my own health).

-My port appears to be the source of the infection which means that we had to be aggressive and consistent with antibiotic that would flow through the central line. The goal is to save the port. I will have blood cultures again in a week and if the sample from the port is still coming up positive for bacteria then the port may need to be removed and replaced. I am very much hoping this isn’t the case and honestly don’t think it will be.

Right now I feel okay but not as well as I felt last week before going to the hospital. A week of antibiotics, antihistamines, and other necessary medications can kind of knock you down a little. The antibiotics have torn up my stomach so I’m slowly getting my appetite back. I do have TPN at home that I have returned to so at least I’ll get the appropriate calories and nutrients while I build up my food by mouth. In short I’m just really fatigued.

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That said, I’m grateful for the care I received at WIH. From the ER to 4East I was in the hands of people who know me, provide the best care, and care greatly about the work that they do. Despite how much longer I was inpatient than anticipated, we could find comfort through frustration that everyone was working as hard as they could to find a solution to the various challenges that arose.

Thank you as always to my parents and Cory who made many a long drive to be with me in Providence and help me keep my head on straight.

So I’m home now. Again, writing this from my back yard with the chirping birds and the abundant garden.  Thank goodness.

From here on out the plan is-

1.) Administer IV antibiotics through my port at home from now until June 30th

2.) Continue TPN until further notice

3.) Start chemo again June 30th after a check up with Dr. Robison. That day I will receive Taxol and Carboplatin in the infusion center in Providence as I would normally.

and most importantly…

4.) STAY OUT OF THE DAMN HOSPITAL!

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There’s no place like home (even if you’ve only seen it once before)

We are approaching one week since I have been discharged from the hospital. This is (sadly) shattering my record from the past month of yo-yo hospitalizations.

Initially, I thought it would be uncomfortable leaving the hospital and moving into the new place. I didn’t even say goodbye to my old apartment. Like magic, with the help of a lot of friend/elves, I was just moved. Luckily the new house is a great place to recover and slowly but surely Cory and I are making it into a home.

What a stress-free environment. It is this little house with a perfect back yard and a garden. There are constant sightings of vibrant cardinals, bees, and hummingbirds. This morning I took my yoga mat into the grass and did some makeshift gentle yoga/stretching to get my body moving (after a month of being nearly sedentary). A bright red cardinal was perched on the tree above me the entire time. I couldn’t possibly be more “one with nature” in this moment unless I transformed into Bear Grylls and was dumped out of a plane into the Amazon.

Overall, my experience home has been the right prescription emotionally. I love our little town, the house we’re renting is comfortable and coming together, and my roommate is pretty easy on the eyes ;).

Since I didn’t actually write about getting discharged, I’ll keep it brief and stick to the important bits. They took incredibly good care of me there and kept the NG tube in up until about 30 mins before I left to be as precautionary as possible. But at some point your guts are going to do what they’re going to do and Dr. Robison felt it was best to get one more round of chemo in the hospital then go home and be normal*.

*”Normal”- not to be confused with ACTUAL normal living, but operating in a way that makes you feel somewhat free and human. Let’s call it normal light.

Going home was the best gift and the correct decision at that point. Dr. Robison also knows me all too well and probably anticipated that I would try to go back to work too soon. Just like a surgery, the body needs time to heal and repair itself especially after the added trauma of septic shock. That said, until I’m medically cleared I will be home for a little while and fondly thinking of my friends at Bryant from afar.

Unlike other discharges from bowel obstructions I’ve had, this time I was sent home having not even advanced to clear liquids. The only thing by mouth that I had in the hospital were Dum Dum lollipops (thanks to Sheila and Shakay for supplying). No, this time we were going to to sllllooooowwwwwwwwww as molasses to prevent ending right back up in the ER yet again. For now I’m still on Total Parenteral Nutrition (TPN) where I receive all of the calories and nutrients I need for the day over a 12 hour period right into the blood stream through my port. I’ve been supplementing this with tiny amounts (2-4 oz.) of watermelon Italian ice to reintroduce something into my system by mouth but that’s it.

Starting tomorrow, with the blessings of Sheila/my case manager/dietician, I am going to try small amounts of blended soups (like butternut squash) and pureed foods. Stocking up on baby food basically. I was advised to listen to my body and slowly reintroduce foods into my diet working up to solids (low in insoluble fiber). I miss real food but we are getting there slowly.

You can imagine how brutal it is when Cory (a very talented cook) is making dinner for himself. I awkwardly ask him to let me smell it and pretty regularly shove my nose in the direction of his food to at least pretend like I know what it tastes like.

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But Cory isn’t the only wizard in the kitchen. Watch the TPN master prep tonight’s dinner (with the help of some “muscle” to spike the bag). I made this video to take some of the mystery out of what is actually sustaining me and how I manage it (and cranked up the speed 15x as to not kill you with boredom).

What you’re watching:

  • Sterilizing pretty much everything with alcohol wipes
  • Injecting the TPN bag with additional vitamins and Zantac
  • Having Cory spike the bag because it’s not easy. You really need to jam it in there.
  • Hooking up the tubing to the bag and pump and priming the tubing to push out any air in the line.
  • Sterilizing the end of my already accessed port (the little tube hanging from my chest) and flushing it with saline.
  • Connecting the primed line to the port tubing and starting the pump. It’s all pre-programed so all I need to do is sit back and let dinner run through my bloodstream for the next 12 hours.

What you don’t see: 

  • The big white bag stays refrigerated but needs to be left out for about 2 hours prior to use.
  • I washed my hands thoroughly before starting the process, promise.

 

So what’s next?

Chemotherapy continues on Thursday bright and early in Providence. This is a Taxol only week so it shouldn’t be too bad. Oh by the way we are back on the weekly chemo regimen- every Thursday now. No breaks, no week off, no chemocation. We can’t afford to not be aggressive after all of this hospital business.

Put on your game faces folks.

As always I will keep you posted with a progress report. Thanks for continuing to send warm thoughts and wishes for improved health 🙂

I hope everyone is enjoying this gorgeous June weather and since I cannot- please eat double at barbecues and have some sort of boozy frozen drink on my behalf. (nom nom nom, in spirit).

 

“You’re up for parole!”

“You’re up for parole!” my nurse exclaimed as she waived my discharge paperwork in the air. I was ready to twirl and prance out of that hospital room this afternoon when I found out that I could go home.

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Yesterday wasn’t too bad, just long and monotonous. I was thrilled when I got my first tray of clears after just being on an IV for a few days. The honeymoon period was quickly over after the 4th tray of the same chicken broth, juice, tea, and jello/”orange ice” arrived this morning.

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One of the doctors on rounds pointed to the tray of clears that had arrived for breakfast and said “you don’t want that, do you?” I gave an enthusiastic heck no and she gave me the green light for solid food. After a successful breakfast and lunch with no snags. I was able to go home.

As I’ve said before, bowel obstructions are not at all uncommon for people like myself that have had invasive abdominal surgeries, especially when the intestine has been resected. To date, I’ve had four obstructions since 2013 that have resulted in a hospitalization of no less than five days. It makes you wonder to what extent you can be preventative and how much you can really control.

So why is this continually happening? Well, we can’t be certain but we have some guesses. Two major reasons that bowel obstructions could occur (and no one reason is not that I’m just “full of shit” as my lovely nurse Sheila likes to say):

  • Tumor pressing on the intestine
  • Adhesions formed that cause the intestine to kink up

The most likely cause of obstruction for me is probably the adhesions because I have had two major, invasive, abdominal surgeries. Naturally there is going to be a ton of scarring. Unfortunately they cannot be seen on a CT scan so it’s hard to tell for sure. If we really got to a point where I was in the hospital every few weeks for obstructions, they could do surgery to remove the adhesions. That; however, would also lead to new adhesions that would form later on so it’s not the best solution unless totally necessary.

So that part is really out of my hands. What I do have control over is what I put in my body and the best course of action is a low residue diet. This means limiting the amount of insoluble fiber I’m eating and making food choices that will digest well and quickly.

Unfortunately this means no raw fruits or veggies, beans, seeds, nuts, hard cheeses, and whole grains. Even soft cooked cruciferous veggies like broccoli are really not good for my guts right now. In order to make sure that I am getting the nutrients I need to stay well and fight this disease it will be on me to find other ways to pack in those nutrients.

That means: Drinking my veggies through blended soups and green smoothies, packing in protein, and supplementing my diet with Ensure*.

*Sidenote- thanks to my loving parents that go above and beyond the call of duty always, I now have about a month’s supply of Ensure in every flavor.

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To all the employees that work for the company that makes Ensure, consider this job security.

Anyway, I really hope to stay out of the hospital. There are so many incredible things on the horizon in the next few months and I want to be out enjoying all of them fully.

I would be remiss if I didn’t speak to the high touch, loving, level of care that I received on 4 East at Women and Infants Hospital. With the exception of one nurse and one CNA, I had been taken care of at least once before by every other nurse and CNA assigned to me. They all remembered me and very specific details of my life. These people just have so much heart, I am lucky to be cared for by them. It matters so much when you are feeling pain/scared/frustrated/sick/vulnerable/all of the above.

Finally, I need to give a special thanks to Cory and my parents for making so many sacrifices this weekend to make sure I was not alone and in a good position to transition back to “normal life”. No mother should have to visit their daughter in the hospital on mother’s day. I love you guys more than I can even say.

Thank you to everyone else that called, texted, commented and left warm words of encouragement. I can imagine after over 3 years of this “I’m in the hospital again” bullcrap some would think “Ugh, again? Get it together Sultaire”. Every well wish and display of kindness means so much and has kept me going all these years. Thank you all ❤

 

 

 

 

Cinco de ‘laudid

It is nearly 3am and 4 East is quiet. My IV is slowly bringing me back to life as it compensates for the hydration I have lost over the past day and a half. My guts are finally at peace for now. The last push of Dialaudid has slowly helped them to settle and unclench.

No, this is not a flowery description of a recent memory. I’m in the hospital, AGAIN for the same issue- bowel obstruction. This means my small intestine is all kinked up and unhappy. To resolve, no food or drink by mouth (NPO), IV, and painkillers as needed to ease the pain and discomfort. Yet again we play the waiting game.

All I can say is that this is nothing short of frustrating having happened so recently. Especially because everything else has been going so well! I’ll admit when I saw my oncologist today I couldn’t hold back those tears of frustration. She gave me a reassuring hug and reminded me that I don’t need to feel strong and upbeat all the time. Sometimes our circumstances just plain suck. But just like the others, it is temporary and life will go on.

When I told Cory what was happening he didn’t even think twice. Hopped in his car from New Haven and drove straight here. As I write this he is curled up asleep next to me in a hospital room recliner that can’t possibly be comfortable. He’s been a trooper through beeping IV pumps and nurses and CNA’s in and out through the night to take vitals and administer meds. Boyfriend of the century award goes to Cory Tysoe for infinite patience, selflessness, support, humor, and good looks 😊

I’ll also look forward to seeing my parents tomorrow. I’ve been dealing with this particular obstruction since Wednesday afternoon so they have been wonderful coaches/cheerleaders over the phone.

Thanks to friends and family that have gone out of their way to lend support already. For what I lack in intestinal function, I make up for in incredible friendships.

That’s it for now, I’ll keep you posted as we make progress toward drinking/eating/returning home.

Cautiously Optimistic

Chemocation, oh sweet chemocation. You sure have been good to me.

Since holding the Taxol my hands have returned to their original size. My appetite is much improved and the consistent nausea is all but gone.

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I am grateful for this break to rebuild my body as it has been taken a slow beating over time.

Well folks, let the good times roll because we have decided to continue to hold Taxol and only pursue Avastin for the foreseeable future. I believe I touched on this a few weeks back when I mentioned that we would do a CT scan and “re-evaluate” come summertime.

Ultimately it seemed silly to go back on Taxol for one cycle knowing we may hold it again shortly after. So here is the new plan-

  • Avastin (the antibody) infusion once every three weeks
  • Check up with the oncologist every six weeks
  • CT Scan on May 13th

If the scan shows improvement or at least no new disease, we can stick with this plan. Otherwise, I have the option to go back on Taxol. In any case, there is really no harm in just seeing if Avastin could be enough to keep me well.

One might be asking, “if Taxol has been working, why would you voluntarily drop it?”

My answer lies in faith and trust. I have faith that Avastin (alongside nourishing food/exercise/holistic practices) could be enough to give me the quality of life we have been striving for and slowly achieving after all of this time. I have trust that should this plan reach a point where is must change, we have safety nets in place. As Mom so perfectly stated today, it is perfectly okay to be cautiously optimistic.

So with that, let’s get excited for what is to come. Hopefully improved health, a new home, and a fresh chapter.

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Chemocationing & Making MOVES

There are three major things that I want to talk about: one piece of news is “eh”, the other is good, and the last is fantastical. Let’s dive in in that order and get pumped up.

 

1.) CA-125

My CA-125 was tested this week and made about a 300 unit jump to the mid 700’s. Not surprising considering the inflammation that likely exists in my body post bowel obstruction. Also my hands have been pretty swollen recently so that never helps the numbers either.

 

Overall I’m not concerned right now. I’m going to start taking the steroid Decadron regularly and see if that helps.

 

2.) Chemocation!

Since I have become “Mr. Balloon hands” we decided that a little break from chemo could be beneficial. I did receive Avastin as scheduled today but I didn’t have to get Taxol. I’ll also have the next two weeks off from it as well. Woo hoo!!!

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and the best for last…

3.) Roommate

I am the most thrilled to share that as of June 1st Cory and I are going to be roommates! (He hates it when I call him that)

Let me rephrase- we are going to be venturing into a new and exciting chapter of our relationship as we just deposited on a house for rent in Pawcatuck, CT. I couldn’t be happier. The house is everything we wanted and more, it’s just 2 minutes down the road from downtown Westerly, 15 minutes from Misquamicut beach, and our landlord is incredibly kind and down to earth. The house is also a commutable distance to both of our jobs so aside from a longer drive, no job sacrifices had to be made.

Finding this house this week was especially timely because it is also our two year anniversary. I am grateful every single day for Sam Favata introducing us at that beer fest. I had no idea on that day I would find one of the greatest support systems on the planet. Remember- I was already very much cancer-fied when Cory met me and he still signed up for this wild journey in spite of it. We have faced a lot as a couple in dealing with this illness and the relationship hasn’t wavered.

I look forward to building a home life together which includes but is not limited to: Back yard BBQ’s, Cory cooking amazing food, eating said amazing food,  aggressively competitive board game nights and a lot more Nerf wars (I think we’re actually children).

 

That’s all for now! I’m always happy when I can share some positive updates. I hope everyone has a delightful weekend 🙂

 

 

Recovering as George

First, I must thank you for the outpouring of support over the past week while I spent four nights in the hospital resolving the obstruction in my small intestine. The words of encouragement mean more than you know especially when you feel like much is out of your realm of control.

I was discharged on Wednesday and have been trying, successfully I might add, to proceed with a high level of self-care. I pretty much needed to fight all of my natural instincts. So basically I’m operating on the “Constanza Principle”…

 

  • Instinct #1: I haven’t been at work in many days and I have to go back on Thursday or the world will explode
    • Opposite action: I was strongly encouraged and well supported by my supervisors and colleagues to return on Monday when I was feeling better. I was admittedly starting to feel anxious as my inbox piled up with questions that I couldn’t necessarily answer from home so I made a compromise with myself. I slept in on Thursday and at my leisure went to my office for an hour MAX, closed my office door, knocked out enough to feel less anxious, and went home.
  • Instinct #2: I am discharged which should mean that things are improving. There is nothing to talk about.
    • Opposite action: The night I was discharged one of the first things I did was email Dana, my social worker, at the hospital and ask for an appointment this week to “debrief”.
      • I will write more about this next week but one thing I have learned time and time again and not properly addressed is that when you are hospitalized you have experienced a trauma (anyone who truly understands what it’s like to have an NG tube placed while you’re awake can give me a chorus of “amen sister!”). Trauma’s are not all blood and gore- you are in a vulnerable position, you are not in control of what is happening to you, it is a trauma, period.
      • I went into my appointment not fully knowing what I wanted to talk about. Truly, I walked in there feeling pretty stable. As I anticipated there are issues that bubbled up that started with the hospitalization and weaved into other concerns both medical and non-medical. This appointment was the best gift that I gave myself this week. To express certain concerns out loud, to validate feelings, to have a good cry in a safe space where I don’t feel inclined to edit my thoughts- it was truly healing. I’m glad I nipped this in the bud.
  • Instict #3: Resting = Sitting in pajamas and binge watching TV
    • Opposite action: 
      • Ok fine I totally binge watched The Wire and old episodes of Veep on HBO. BUT I honored myself in other ways too!
      • I invested in my body by booking a massage at the Alayne White Spa. I didn’t truly know how many knots existed in my back until I got on that table. At one point I was face down and was so relaxed that I dosed off. I woke up to my mouth gaped open like an idiot and I was totally drooling on the floor through that little face hole. I’m 99.9% sure I didn’t drool on the massage therapist’s sneakers. Fingers crossed.
        • Funny aside: As I was on my way out post-massage I ran into Heather (infusion center nurse manager) and Nancy (4th floor oncology nurse). They were there for facials that they won at a silent auction. One would think that any reminder of the hospital the day after a hospitalization would conjure up negative feelings. I was just so happy to see these lovely faces outside of a medical setting I had to fight back happy-tears.
      • In addition to the massage I also treated myself to some time in one of the more peaceful venues in Providence, The Duck and Bunny. I enjoyed a quiet snack of crusty break drizzled with olive oil with Narragansett  Creamery ricotta and a pot of chamomile tea. It was calming and so good for the soul.
  • Instinct #4: I’m out of the hospital which means I’m capable of doing things for myself
    • Opposite action: Sucking it up and letting people offer their help because it just makes life easier
      • Mom and Dad cleaned up and did my laundry so I could come home to minimal work (seriously, gems). Also after arriving home after 15 minutes of me trying to convince them that I’d “figure out” something for lunch, I gave in and let them indulge me in a sandwich from Olga’s. I would have probably made a PBJ so they called my bluff.
      • Katie “Mamamamamabear” Carlson gave me a ride to Beth and Brendan’s house to dye easter eggs with her family. Sure, I could drive myself but it was very nice to have a ride. (p.s. I’m not very good at dying easter eggs #jewishkidproblems)

 

So there we go, trying desperately to practice self-care that I speak so highly of but don’t often practice.

Off to spend the weekend with my parents and back to work on Monday, hello sh-normalcy!

 

 

 

Maximizing Chemocation

As I sip on a delicious Rhody from Vanuatu Coffee Roasters I soak in the last 40 minutes of normalcy before heading into a new chemo cycle. Today is the big one- Taxol and Avastin. I expect to be pretty beat this weekend but as always I am hoping for the best.

To quickly recap last week’s chemocation I REALLY packed it in. I joined Aaron, the Director of Advising, for the 2016 NACADA Region 1 Conference in Portland, Maine. It is always refreshing to see what other schools are up to, absorb new best practices, discuss issues in higher education, and to also see what we’re doing well. As my Instagram account reflected, Aaron and I were pretty damn gluttonous in Portland. You just can’t not be. Our highlight was certainly tasting the tomato fennel soup, poutine, and salted caramel milkshake from Duck Fat.

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Needless to say, my return home has resulted in compensating with a lot  of fruits and vegetables.

Just when I returned home I pretty much unpacked just to pack again. My handsome, intelligent, mancrush everyday- Cory Tysoe had a birthday! He has now reached the ripe age of 28 which means that I am officially no longer a cougar (until January when I turn 29). To celebrate we utilized a holiday present from my parents and headed to Vermont to Mt. Snow. Unfortunately the weather wasn’t totally cooperative so Cory didn’t get much time on the mountain before getting pelted by hail.

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We spent a good majority of our time testing our relationship through Farkle and Risk. Anyone who knows me knows that I am generally not at all competitive. Like for real I bowled a forty the other day. FORTY. And that was better than expected. That said, there are a few things for which I am fiercely competitive- Scrabble, Risk, and Farkle.

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I was happy to cozy up by the fireplace and toss some dice around while ruthlessly talking shit to each other although next year I may join the toddlers on the bunny hill and give skiing a shot. We’ll see…

So that brings us to St. Patrick’s day, yesterday. Sarah, my former coworker Krystal, and I threw a St. Patty’s party in the Izzy Room at Hasbro Children’s Hospital. We decked out the room in festive green, Bob and Timmy’s donated SIX pizzas, and we offered crafts and cookie decorating. Although the party only yielded three physical attendees I would still call it a success. There were several children that were too sick or not allowed to leave their rooms. What we ended up doing was essentially creating a “party on the go”. We delivered pizza and some craft supplies to a mother of an 11 month old in the PIC unit. We also packed up pizza, cookies, st. patty’s swag, and crafts for parents and nurses to bring back to the rooms of families that wanted to be at the party but couldn’t. In any case the Izzy Foundation was able to bring a little cheer to people going through tough time.

The three of us had a blast 🙂

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^ Mine is the one with the fuzzy eyebrows 

Last but not least, I met with Dr. Robison yesterday for the usual chemo exam. She was pleased with the outcome of using the steroid and gave me the green light to keep taking it in line with the chemo cycles if it is helping.

We won’t have an updated CA125 until later today or Monday so I’m not sure where that stands right now but she said that if it made a significant jump upward she would be inclined to scan me. If it is a small increase or lower/unchanged the plan is to scan this summer as we previously discussed.

Soooooo that’s all folks.

I hope everyone has a safe and happy weekend!

 

 

 

ROID RAGE! (or responsible use…either one)

Holy 180! Since I last wrote I feel like a totally different person. Mainly because I’m ‘roiding out right now.

Let’s be perfectly clear-

Not this kind of ‘roiding:

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More like starting a low-dose, short-term steroid treatment to curb concerns regarding fatigue/poor appetite/nausea/vomiting. Thanks to the brilliant Donna MacDonald, a case manager at WIH, we put into action a 10 day dose of Decadron (Dexamethasone). Decadron also helps to treat inflammation in the body which, if the CA-125 is any indication, I have a boat load of.

Sidenote: Doesn’t Decadron sound like the name of a fictional planet from some sort of Sci-Fi novel? It does to me. Oh well, I digress…

I am to take two pills in the morning for the first five days then will taper back to one pill in the morning for the remaining five days. So far the magic is working!

  • I haven’t thrown up once this weekend
  • My energy levels are unparalleled. I am usually clinging to life on Mondays, today I feel as if I slept 10 hours and drank a cup of coffee in comparison to the norm.
  • I’m hungry! The thought of food is enticing instead of stressful/nauseating. For lunch today I craved a balsamic-pesto-grilled chicken wrap and housed over half of it (which is substantial for my eating patterns of late).

It’s amazing what one simple change can make. It is really just a testament to the support at Women and Infant’s Hospital. Between Sheila (nurse navigator), Rosa (chemo infusion nurse), and Donna (case manager) they had three different reasonable recommendations to assist me in the nausea/vomiting/appetite issue. All three contacted my oncologist right away and have put plans into action. They’re the best. Seriously, people who are genuinely concerned and get shit done. Period.

I’m especially grateful for this help because yesterday was one of my best friend’s. Katie Carlson’s, baby shower. It meant the world to me to feel well enough to enjoy her special day. As you can imagine, it’s hard to stay present and soak in the special moments when you’re nauseated/throwing up/exhausted. I felt pretty optimal for most of yesterday and seeing this face (and belly) was perfect.

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Go team!

La Vida es Buena

I have a lot to report on so you should probably grab a snack and a cocktail and get comfy.

So far 2016 has brought some great energy and experiences. I could probably ramble on for a few thousand words but you have lives to get back to so I’ll try to condense as much as possible.


 

Quick Thanks to Choose Hope Inc. for seeing Emily Nason sport their headband at the NOCC walk and reaching out to her. As a result of that they sent me a TON of merch and a beautiful handwritten card for encouragement. They are fantastic champions for cancer research and support so please check them out.

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Health Update:

Prior to departing for La República Dominicana, I received the BEST news that my CT scan was stable and one of the pelvic tumors had even reduced in size. It was like getting an elementary school report card with comments like “Your tumors have been very well behaved and much improved! Plays well with others.”

When I returned from vacation I had a routine check up with Dr. Robison. Much to my surprise she wanted to talk to me about next steps and potential treatment modification for the near future. So here is one possibility to consider:

-May-ish would mark the one year point of being on this treatment plan. She is going to scan me again around that time. If the scan is still stable (unchanged) or tumors are shrinking she is willing to let me make the decision to opt out of Taxol (the chemo part) and just do Avastin (the antibody) once every 3 weeks. That is an AMAZING prospect!

She is leaving this in my hands. We know Taxol works so if it would make me feel more secure to stay on it, that’s fine. From a quality of life perspective I’d be interested in testing the waters with just Avastin. If I become symptomatic again we can just throw me back on Taxol, no problem. She assured me that it would not impact Taxol’s ability to still work if I go off and on again if we needed to. Sounds pretty good to me! The next few months will be critical.

After this past scan I wasn’t even going to bother to ask about my CA-125 because I figured it would still be high. Sheila texted me today to let me know it went down from 785 to 723. What a pleasant surprise 🙂3478638


Vacation:

¡Ay dios mío! We had a REAL vacation! Cory and I spent the last week in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic and it was 1000x better than I even imagined.

We initially hit a few snags. We had a flight from Providence to Newark that was delayed by several hours due to a mechanical issue. For that reason, we missed our connection in Newark to Puerto Plata and could not leave until the next day. After a lot of fighting with United Airlines (that had the most atrocious customer service) they begrudgingly sent us to Newark that day and put us up in the airport Ramada for the night with a couple food vouchers.

Thank GOODNESS I was with Cory who totally kept his cool because I was so frustrated with United I flew into a blind rage and had to walk away. To be clear, I have the true inability to “pop off” on others, especially people in service positions so “blind rage” translates to me hysterically crying and trying to pull it together crouched behind an ATM.

It wasn’t so much the disappointment about losing a day, it was truly the rude way in which we were spoken to and lack of problem solving on the part of United that drove me over the edge. The first woman we spoke to had an attiude that translated to “Well, not our fault. Go home.” Additionally, when I’m at the airport talking to United I should not have to CALL A CUSTOMER SERVICE NUMBER to resolve a problem only to be told that we shouldn’t be calling and need to talk to the ticket counter.

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On the flip side, Expedia’s customer service was unparalleled. I called while Cool-Calm-Collected-Cory dealt with United.

Expedia was totally apologetic and didn’t put the burden back on us. They not only called the resort for us but they also refunded us for the night we missed. They were unable to re-schedule our shuttle from the Puerto Plata airport to the resort so instead they gave us a $50 credit which was more then the value of the shuttle. After this experience I would 100% use Expedia again. Here’s to you Expedia-

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In a nutshell once we got there, the vacation was great. Our resort was small and had a nice community feel. We even made friends with a few of the other couples there. So I should thank Gabby, Alan, Nicole, Paul, Brian, Jen, Rob and Rachel for enhancing an already great experience (and being the best cheer section- explanation to come).

Highlights:

  • The fact that we asked of a king sized bed but were instead given two queens pushed together to form a MEGA BED! Sprawling commence! Cory hated it, I loved it.

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  • They also stocked the rooms with a gallon of water every day so people wouldn’t get sick from the tap water. Restaurants and bars also always had water from a jug, never from the tap.
  • Parasailing for the first time. How unreal! Incredible views of crystal clear ocean, mountains, and reefs. We were the only ones that went at that time so we had an extra long ride. I’d say we were in the air for at least 30 mins. I must do this again stat. I highly recommend the Seapro company for anyone visiting Playa Dorada in the near future.
  • Getting a $10 massage on the beach while I sipped on a piña colada and stared at the ocean.
  • Full day catamaran trip to two reefs in Sosúa for snorkling
    • Side note: It is the beginning of the whale migration! We not only spotted the first whale of the season but it came right up to our boat. It was like standing next to a school bus. Simply breathtaking.
    • Below are Cory and I soaking in the sun on the front netting of the catamaran on our return trip back to Playa Dorada:

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  • Sea kayaking (total redemption from my last attempt in Australia when Matty K and I capsized and nearly drowned)
  • Winning 2nd place and a bottle of rum in the Blue Bay Villas Doradas Ideal Couple Contest with Cory. Basically we were dragged on stage and had to do four “double dare” like challenges. It was a close race but we lost ever so slightly to a Slovenian couple. I thought we crushed it. I was also so happy to look into the audience and realize our new friends were all there cheering us on. Totally unlike Cory and I to do something like this but it was ridiculous and memorable for sure.

Yes, photos exist. Will I be posting them? Jury is still out on that one.

  • Our general routine of wake up, read a little and sip on a coffee by the spa pool, breakfast buffet (with our favorite waiter Rafael), beach time until 2 or 3ish, open air lunch, pool time/swim up bar/contests/activities around the pool until about 5:30, nap, dinner, show, bed. (So remind me again why we came home? Do advising positions exist in Puerto Plata? Surely they need a lighting salesman with all of those resorts. Hmm- Cory- let’s bone up on our Español and rethink our living arrangements…)

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  • The service as a whole- The Animación Crew (entertainment crew) was amazing. They constantly were hosting games, contests, dancing, and engaging all of the guests. Huge shout out to our boy Alfredo (the most enthusiastic dancer I’ve ever seen), Coca Cola, James Bond, Veronica, and Barbie. It felt nice that everyone from the entertainment crew to the servers to the bartenders got to know you personally.

Cory has at least 700 pictures/videos to sort through so unfortunately I don’t have many more to post right now but hopefully this will give you a little taste of the paradise we were so fortunate to experience over the past week.

I’m oozing with gratitude to be in a position to have this experience. I feel that my batteries are totally recharged, I am relaxed, and I am ready to take on the next few months.

¡Adios amigos y amigas!