Unnecessary Excitement

It wouldn’t be a true Jess Sultaire day at Women and Infants hospital if I didn’t cause a little bit of trouble.

Today began as your average weekly chemo day would. Day 1 of another 3 week cycle: steroid, Pepcid, Benadryl, 1 hour of Taxol, and 3 hours of Carboplatin.

A little background surrounding Carbo. There is a risk of allergic reaction therefore you are required to take 20 mg of steroids the night before and the morning of chemo on the Carbo days. I was pretty confident that I wouldn’t have a reaction. I still took the steroids as a precaution but mostly because I’m a rule follower.

Even so, I was confident that if I was going to react to Carbo, it would have happened already.

Fast forward to the beginning of hour 3 of 3 for Carboplatin.

Amparo, our medical assistant, happened to walk by my room. It was nearing the end of the day so she popped her head in to say goodbye. Mid-sentence she interrupted herself to say: “you are all red!”. A look of concern came over her face. Of course, not realizing how I actually looked, I responded (perhaps a little too casually): “Nahh. I’m fine, it’s just hot in here.”

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With growing concern in her voice she called in the first infusion nurse she could find.

It turns out it was a potentially far more serious situation than I knew. All of the sudden EVERY chemo nurse had surrounded my bed. I’m not joking- there were 8 medical professionals crammed into this room. Everything happened so fast. I was having a reaction to the Carbo and the protocol is to act quickly.

*I should clarify before you get too concerned that luckily my only symptom of this reaction was turning Heinz ketchup red from head to toe. My airway was not restricted and I did not experience itchy palms.*

They swiftly hooked me up to the blood pressure cuff and pulse oximeter to continually monitor my blood pressure, pulse, and blood oxygen. I they pushed a dose of steroid and Benadryl directly into tubing to reverse the effects of the reaction.

Even though I was physically okay. Something happened, in my mind I was triggered.

The sudden rush of nurses and their collective looks of concerns tapped into a buried trauma. It was so reminiscent of the fear and confusion I felt when I went into septic shock earlier this past summer. I didn’t have a visual “flashback” but I very intensely tapped into that deep seeded fear and confusion where I didn’t know what this all meant. I began to experience an involuntary physical reaction to that fear- increased heart rate, shortness of breath, tears.I can’t be sure because I don’t believe I have had one before, but I think this could be classified as an anxiety attack. They placed oxygen under my nose to help me catch my breath while Betsy and Caryn rubbed my back and reassured me that I was okay.

I know I speak incessantly about the stellar care I receive at Women and Infants but it cannot go unacknowledged just how well they support their patients. In addition to every single nurse coming to my aid and knowing just what to do, they were incredibly warm and compassionate. One of them even ran upstairs to get Sheila because she knew we were close and thought she would help to make me feel comfortable.

If this blog ever ends up in the hands Mark Marcantano (President and COO of WIH), the following infusion staff deserve a massive raise and recognition as a result of this  particular incident: Amparo, Betsy, Caryn, Ann-Marie, Ivone, Beth, Susan, Sandra, and of course Sheila.

(Sidenote: Unsuccessfully tried to find contact information for Mr. Macantano to email him directly. If anyone has it, send it my way. Between GYN onc, the 4th floor of the main hospital, and the infusion center, senior leadership NEEDS to know the level of care that is being provided by these angels)

Anyway…

Over time the redness came down, I was able to catch my breath, and the fear subsided. Betsy told me that she would stay as late as it took for the redness to disappear. By about 6pm I was back to normal.

So after all of the months that I’ve receive platinum based chemotherapy dating back to 2013, why now? Why would I react all of the sudden?

While I had assumed (wrongly) that the more exposure to something, the more your body gets used to it, that is not true in this case. Over time your body can start to view the Carboplatin drug as an antigen, meaning a toxin/foreign substance/allergen. As a result, your immune system reacts by sending antibodies to fight against the antigens.

I kind of see it going down like this:

What now?

The next two weeks of my chemo cycle is fortunately only Taxol. When my new cycle begins we will likely do a “desensitization chemo”. This protocol is considered when a drug is seemingly working but a patient reacts like I did to it. Instead of going to the infusion center I would receive the treatment in the main hospital oncology floor. I wouldn’t be inpatient (I can go home when it’s done), but the infusion would be incredibly slow.

~1 hour for predrugs: steroids, Pepcid, Benadryl

~1 hour for Taxol

~6 hours for Carboplatin (normally it is 3 hours)

It’ll be a pretty long day but it’s a safer way to infuse and reap the benefit of a drug that could be working under close supervision.

Now, if this desensitization chemo still causes me to react, we will probably have to break up with Carbo. We could potentially just continue with Taxol only or maybe Dr. Robison will have another chemo up her sleeve to try.

So that’s that. I’m totally fine. Aside from feeling fatigued, I’m feeling okay today.

I will need to have Cory bring me to Providence to pick up my car from the hospital. I ended up needing so much Benedryl yesterday that they told me I couldn’t operate heavy machinery for 24 hours. Sarah Breen is an incredibly selfless human and no questions asked picked me up from chemo and drove me the 45 minutes home even though she worked all day (an hour away as it is). THANK you Sarah. I love you more than you will ever know for all you do and all you are.

I’ll end on a less dramatic, happier note:

My CA-125 dropped from 843 to 642 🙂

Progress.

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All Things Hair

Hair and I have had a complicated relationship over the past few years. Or perhaps all my life. How many times have we been guilty of looking in the mirror furiously straightening/curling/blowing out and announcing to no one “I HATE my hair”? Well that was before I started systematically poisoning myself and it all fell out. Now I kinda miss the little buggers. Imperfections and all.

Before I started writing this I went back in time to 2013 and 2015, the two other years that I was treated with Taxol (the chemo that makes your hair fall out) to remember how I felt about the hair loss events.

To recap:

2013– It was an emotionally challenging process. Working out your identity as a chronically ill person is not something that comes easily or happens quickly, and it’s never really “complete”. Losing my hair made the illness visible. At that time, I needed the wigs to reclaim my femininity (which I felt robbed off sans hair and all reproductive organs). I didn’t look or feel like myself so wearing wigs was necessary for my comfort.

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2015- Let’s be honest. I was SUPER sad to lose this hair. It had grown back darker, curly, and it was adorable. That said, I didn’t have the same emotional response to losing the hair. I had my head casually shaved by my girl Emily at the salon and went on my way.

Aside from work where I would wear a hat or scarf, I generally went bald most of the time and was very comfortable with that. I got the occasional second look from time to time, mostly because you don’t often see women with cue ball heads. It didn’t bother me. I had already done a lot of “emotional work” so this wasn’t as emotionally taxing as the first time.

What is strange is that even though I was on taxol pretty much all of last year, my hair randomly started growing back in the middle of it. Bizarre.

PRESENT DAY- After a short taxol hiatus we started up again in late spring. To be expected, my hair started to thin. I didn’t bother shaving it in hopes the same “growing back miracle” would grace me again.

No such luck.

I’m not emotionally attached to having hair. I’d rock a buzz cut again no problem (do you see how round my head is! My saving grace). But hair is just fun! It’s like an accessory. So in seeking out said fun, back to wigs I go…because- why not?

The talented Ky Michaels of The Ky Michaels Salon in Providence agreed to take on the challenge of updating my wigs. Actually I asked him to do one and he’s doing all three because that’s just the kind of gem he is!

I went in to see the finished product for the two that are ready and per usual Ky did not disappoint. I know he spend a lot of time and energy, at home no less, to make sure I ended up with hair that made me feel polished and pretty.

Mission accomplished. The wig pictured directly below used to be the length of the first picture. I love it. It’s bouncy, full, and I feel great in it.

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Look #2: A little longer for variety.

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In short, I’ll be sporting some new looks and now Cory has 4 girlfriends.

 

Port on the Starboard Side

Holy insomnia. I actually did sleep for a few hours last night but it was one of those sleeps where your dreams are so intense and bizarre that you don’t feel rested. Full disclosure- I don’t fully remember all of the details but it was some combination of being part of being a newly retired olympic gymnast and Big Brother contestant. Neither of which I’d be very good at in real life (can’t do flips, bad a comps, not competitive). Although it beats my Stranger Things inspired dream from the previous night that left me a little hesitant to find my way to the bathroom in the dark (note to self: string Christmas lights and befriend Eleven for protection).

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I’ve been awake from 3am-6am to embrace the weird/non sleep and get caught up on Big Brother.

Non-fans of any of these shows…just move on. Clearly the sleep deprivation is not conducive to a clear and concise actual treatment update.

Anyway, I’ll keep the rest semi-short and sweet.

Monday I had the new port placed. I was told it would likely go on the left side of my chest but they did an ultrasound beforehand and determined that despite scar tissue from the previous port they would still have no problem placing it where it was before on my right.

The port was placed under VIR (vascular and interventional radiology) at Rhode Island Hospital. It was the same place where the first port and PICC line were put in so I had an idea of what to expect. I was under conscious sedation so although I was awake sterile barriers prevented me from seeing what was happening and IV drugs prevented me from feeling it.

I will be honest, leading up to that day I wasn’t nervous or concerned but when I was in the waiting room after check in I had a mini-moment where I was feelning pretty overwhelmed. Cory was with me and talked me through it like the champ he is. I don’t even think it was the procedure itself that freaked me out, I just felt triggered by simply being there. Remember, my only experiences at RIH have involved getting ports placed or the ICU for septic shock. Not a great track record for fond memories.

The night after surgery I didn’t sleep at all. I was in a lot of pain and nothing seemed to take the edge off. I can best describe it like Conor McGregor slugging you in the collarbone as hard as he can. 513972668-conor-mcgregor-punches-nate-diaz-in-their-gettyimages

I returned to work the next day, which happened to be “moving day”. Our office was renovated over the summer so we were moving back in from our temporary space in the library. I couldn’t have been more useless on moving day. As always, I’m fortunate to have such compassionate co-workers. Shout out to Doug Hillis for moving my boxes for me. I was able to slowly but surely get unpacked and I am so thrilled with the new space. The office layout will be a little different to get acclimated to but my actual office looks phenomenal.

The pain has subsided over the past few days and luckily I can say it’s no longer sore. At chemo yesterday, Rosa removed the big bandage and revealed that it’s healing nicely. We were able to use the port with no issues for my Taxol infusion.

New Port…not Newport.

Final notes-

Thanks to Stacey for the chemo visit (I owe you a better hang out…Eskimo King stat). Double thanks to my parents for the post-chemo surprise visit yesterday!

Anyway, it’s a decent hour and I need to get ready for work.

Happy Friday!

Eat, Work, Chemo

Knock on wood…

I’ve managed to stay out of the hospital for over two weeks now.

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Let’s let that one sink in for a minute.

I’m grateful for every second that I can live my life on the outside. We take slow, incremental steps to reestablish a sense of normalcy. It’s not easy…but it’s lightyears better than where I was just weeks ago.

1.) Going back to work

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Although have been working remotely throughout medical leave on projects, reports, etc. I’ve been transitioning back to the office little by little since mid-July. Part in person/part telecommuting. The nature of summer in undergraduate advising (after orientation of course) involves some sparse phone appointments but mostly administrative work to gear up for the next academic year. Degree audits to make sure your rising seniors are on track for graduation (and to light a small forest fire under the ones that aren’t), adjusting freshmen schedules to account for their AP/transfer credits, finalizing study abroad course contracts, prerequisite reports, and general ‘i’ dotting and ‘t’ crossing. It’s pretty low-key stuff but keeps me busy and isn’t terribly draining. That said, my return is well timed.

The fall semester is full on. Two straight weeks of walk-in’s during the add/drop period, classroom presentations and workshops, probation meetings, study abroad advising, registration advising, collaboration with other departments on projects/events and “other duties as assigned”. Student contact is high and this is where more of the student development piece (my favorite piece) comes in. It can be intense, but it’s truly the part I love the most.

Part of living with chronic illness is having to make tough choices about your limitations. As someone who fiercely cares about the work I do, I don’t like “scaling back” or not taking advantage of opportunities to grow in my role. One tough choice came recently when I decided to take a step back from a teaching opportunity in the fall. To be clear, no one at work made me feel as if I had to do this. I’ve gotten nothing but support to take on this additional role. I just knew that in light of this summer from hell, I didn’t want to put my students or the rest of the staff in a tough position if these secondary health issues were to persist. It’s just not fair to anyone.

For now I’m going to keep focusing on my advising role, partnership with the Honors Program, and advising the Colleges Against Cancer club. That keeps me plenty busy.

2.) Om nom noms (…eating)

Reteaching your body anything that is supposed to come naturally is nothing but frustrating. When you’re a baby learning how to eat solids you aren’t worried about the capacity of your stomach or if/how certain foods will digest. Babies eat, poop, occasionally throw up, and move on quickly into hysterical laughter when someone blows a raspberry on their belly.

When I say relearning how to eat, in this case, I don’t mean relearning how to chew or swallow. I’m referring to my atrophied stomach slowly growing to increase food intake and the intestines absorbing nutrients and passing the food without obstruction. It is easy to get in your own head and stress yourself out. There is a sense of urgency to gain weight because I’m super underweight but you also walk a fine line of taking in calories but not so much that you exceed the (very small) capacity of the stomach.

I have been off of TPN for just over a week now and luckily, I didn’t lose weight. I thought that my dietitian would be concerned that I didn’t gain this week because she really hammered home the importance of a 1400 calorie per day diet. Knowing that I didn’t even come remotely close to 1400 calories per day or even 1000 for that matter, I put myself in a tizzy and shed some involuntary tears when she asked how the week went. She was incredibly encouraging and reminded me that this is a process and that I have a lot to be proud of. Getting off of TPN and not losing more weight, actually digesting the food I can take in, eating at a restaurant, are all victories. I felt a huge weight lifted after that conversation.

So things I’ve mostly been taking in that have agreed with me: Stonyfield whole milk baby yogurt, blended fruit/vegetable pouches (yes also for babies), smoothies, cottage cheese, rice cereals, milk (cow or coconut), soft fruits without skin or seeds, very soft cooked vegetables without skin or seeds, bagels, grilled chicken, rice, noodle dishes (lo mein, pad thai), hummus, pita chips, soups, ice cream…

Oh and I was able to eat half of an insanely good reuben (sans saurkraut) the other day. I was in love and proud of myself for keeping it down.

I am fortunate to have a damn good cook in the house so it’s nice to enjoy Cory’s creations as tolerated in small portions. This week I actually ate a small helping of braised short ribs, crispy polenta, and mushrooms:

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Not bad for an architectural lighting salesman, eh?

I’m sure most people could house the above meal in two bites but that’s just about how much my stomach can take right now. It was perfect. I look forward to my stomach normalizing even more to take advantage of Cory’s natural culinary talents.

3.) Getting rid of the PICC

The PICC line was supposed to come out yesterday and I was supposed to have the new port placed this coming Tuesday BUT a scheduling miscommunication has pushed both back. I won’t have the port placed until August 15th which means I need the PICC for another week to receive chemo.

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I was disappointed but in the grand scheme of things, living with a PICC line for one more week is nothing in comparison to anything else I’ve had to do this summer.


So that’s it for now. I have a big weekend lined up with both Cory’s parents and my parents coming to visit. Should be a lot of fun to get everyone together 🙂 It’ll be good to see family after having a slightly emotionally challenging week.

Perhaps next week will turn around as flawlessly as Meyhem Lauren.

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Six Days Strong

Almost a week has passed since I was released from the hospital for the most recent bacterial infection. I can’t believe I even need to qualify that with “most recent” as if it is totally normal to go into septic shock then a few weeks later acquire two other infections. I don’t know if I should be terrified that this has happened on top of the other ailments or super impressed that despite it all I’m back home doing relatively well. In any case, I digress…

The point is, I’m home and all things considered I’ve had a pretty decent week. I was fortunate to not have to go home on continued antibiotics this time. I actually had a chance to slowly start to feel human at home without added intensive medications.

On Thursday it was back to chemotherapy. Prior to chemo I had a check up with Dr. Robison and it held some promise!

I had expressed that I was very ready to be finished with TPN. Due to the fats/lipids/dextrose in TPN, it isn’t hard to unknowingly create a little petrie dish in your port/PICC that bacteria thrives on. It just worries me to continue putting myself at risk for infection if we continue. I understand that TPN was necessary, especially given the issues I had with intestinal obstruction, but I’m at a point where my guts are improving and I’m ready to try to nourish myself the good old fashioned way…

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Now-

I was expecting my request to be met with some resistance since:

1.) I have easily lost 10 lbs since all of this nonsense began in May (at a point where I was already under weight)

2.) TPN provides nutrients that I cannot fully get by mouth while I work on slowly increasing calorie intake

Dr. Robison was in agreement that if I felt ready, tapering off of TPN would be our next move. That said, TPN has been reduced by 50% this week which means that I only need to infuse TPN every other day.

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I’m certainly not able to house over 1000 calories at this point (or anywhere close to that) but a small victory is that I have had a few small meals each day and without nausea or vomiting. This is a massive deal. In fact, I haven’t even needed to take nausea medication since Thursday when I had chemo. WIN.

Assuming the remainder of the week is equally successful, no TPN would mean no further need for the PICC line. That could potentially come out in the next week or two. That also means that a new port would be placed in my chest in the next 2-3 weeks.

Again, all of this is dependent on continued progress of eating by mouth and keeping it down. Let’s hope this vessel is up for the challenge.


On a final and unrelated note, many have asked me how I’m settling into my new home. It has been great! That is, when I’m actually home and not living at the hospital…

It’s a comfortable, cozy place to melt into when I’m feeling my worst and a cute beach community when I’m feeling human enough to venture out. One of those rare “feeling human” nights happened last night so we decided to capitalize on it with a beach picnic just minutes from our house.

 

Cheers to many more beach picnics, feeling like summer is actually happening, and for the love of all that is holy- STAYING OUT OF THE HOSPITAL.

 

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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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 🙂

 

 

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!