Tired & Wired

It’s possible that I’m still recovering from the excitement of the Izzy Gala and NOCC walk and that was almost two weeks ago. I don’t think my body has quite caught up. I have had another round of chemo since and feel perpetually tired and amped up all at the same time.

Sleeping well has been challenging for a combination of reasons. I lay in bed thinking about what I need to do that next day at work, what chores sit undone, what I’m going to eat, treatment schedules, how the new season of Empire will unfold, my hopes, my dreams, my goals… Over and over and over I have these rapid fire thoughts until I finally fall asleep. My weird dreams take over from this point. It’s as if there is a dreamland director saying: “Okay folks, I’ll take it from here. Okay Sam and Diane from Cheers, are you here? GOOD. I need you to make an unexplained appearance in the chemo unit while Jess panics to review a degree audit for a student before the Hamburglar enters the room to stuff Pad Thai in her socks.”

Okay, that’s totally made up but if you’ve ever had a stress dream you get the gist of how you feel when you wake up- totally and utterly unrested.I t’s not that I am even “stressed” in a negative sense, just rapidly thinking. On top of the endless thoughts, eternal acid reflux wakes me up roughly 3-4 times per night.

The reflux should subside soon because Dr. Robison agreed to switch me back to Omeprazole. If anyone reading this suffers from chronic heart burn listen up. YOU NEED THIS IN YOUR LIFE. Omeprazole is a medication that has been sent down from the heavens on a silver platter by actual angels. Your life will change and soon mine will too. If I’m going to have insane stress dreams, without reflux I’ll at least be more likely to ride out the madness until morning.

It is clear that I have quite a bit going on and need to work on quieting my mind before bed. I know what works for me: Hot shower/bath + chamomile tea + no electronics at least 30 minutes before bed + a  Sleep Sonic CD to drift off to = Slam dunk. The key is doing this every night. I’ve had my tea so far tonight so it’s a start.

Aside from regulating sleep and managing fatigue, things are actually pretty good right now. Actually, being the medical anomaly that I am, some odd things are happening to my benefit…

Despite lingering soreness, I am pretty sure that my fingernails have stopped lifting. There was a point over the summer where I couldn’t even scratch my head for fear of losing a nail. Despite the discoloration (they’ve turned blue/black/green/gross) they feel stronger. Why? No effing clue. Not questioning it. Additionally, my hair is growing back! All of it! Even the chunks that totally fell out earlier in the summer. I’m looking forward to growing out my locks again. Hopefully in a few weeks I’ll feel comfortable enough go sans hat to work!

Over dinner last night I told Sheila about these strange occurrences and half-jokingly asked her if they are swapping out Taxol with a placebo. That was answered with an emphatic “NO”. So again, I’ll just be happy that my hair and nails are pulling through and not ask questions.

Final report of the evening is my personal favorite!

At work I have the great fortune of interacting with college students every single day. Every one of them unique, passionate, and engaged in their own way. It is my greatest joy to see students develop as each semester passes. It’s nearly impossible not to feel connected to many of these young adults as their undergraduate advisor.

As of this week, I get to experience that connectedness in a different capacity (don’t worry I’m not changing jobs!). Bryant’s Colleges Against Cancer has approached me to co-advise their club with the magnificent Amanda McGrath. I couldn’t be more excited to use this crummy experience and channel that energy into a campus community that has served me so well through this difficult time.

I’ll chalk that up to another cancer silver lining 🙂

I hope everyone is having a wonderful week. I’m off to fend off some more stress dreams. G’night and continued gratitude.

All systems go: A new treatment plan in motion

What a day, nay- what a week.

At work we are in the midst of the course registration frenzy. During this time there are a lot of time sensitive concerns, a high volume of varying needs, and general stress. On top of that all I can think about all week is:

1.) I need to stop hacking a lung or I might turn myself inside out.

2.) What treatment plan will provide for me the best quality of life

3.) Pizza (because pizza is usually at the forefront of my mind).

My supervisors and colleagues have been very sensitive to my recent and ongoing challenges and stepped up in a huge way to ensure that I could rest my body and ease my mind. I didn’t realize just how necessary it was to just decompress until I got home, got into bed, and felt all my insides just ache.

STILL Fixing a Broken Squeaker:

Today was a big day. First of all, the coughing has gotten out of hand and although I had some relief after the thoracentesis, I underwent a second this morning. After performing an ultrasound on both lungs they determined that the left side was STILL worse than the right side and they again drained from the left side.

No Farva, that’s not Liter-Cola, it’s another full liter of my tumor juice.

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Sheila, my now fancy nurse-navigator, was a doll and went with me to observe the procedure and wiped the tears from my eyes and goopy nose while I periodically whimpered. The PA that performed the procedure was VERY good and although it was still a difficult procedure to endure, it wasn’t as traumatizing as the first time.

There is still some fluid boppin’ around in there but I can certainly breathe even better now. Slowly, we’re making progress. I just pray to the good heavens above that I don’t have to have this procedure done again anytime soon. Two in one week is enough torture.

The Treatment Plan:

Prior to draining the pleural effusion from my chest, I met with Dr. Robison to carefully weigh out all of the treatment options we have in front us. After great consideration, we agreed that we would try pairing Avastin (an antibody) and Taxol (a commonly used chemotherapy that I’ve had previously). There is research to suggest that Avastin in combination with Taxol yields more promising results than Avastin alone. The decision to start with a chemo-combination as opposed to Avastin on its own was also heavily influenced by the amount of fluid that has been collecting in my chest. The Taxol should do a good job of drying that up. Eventually we will be able to taper off the chemo and only use Avastin. I do not have a timeline for this.

The up-sides:

  • Will provide good quality of life
  • Minimal side effects
  • I DON’T have to take it at home (it will be an outpatient infusion)
  • Treatment will occur at Women and Infant’s in Providence (less than a mile from my apartment)
  • I already know that I tolerate Taxol well

Moderate-Bummers:

  • At least for the first few months I will need infusions once per week (still not as bad as the first time)
  • I may lose my hair again. But even so- I know I have a nice round head and in the grand scheme of things feeling well trumps having hair.

With all of that being said we are wasting no time! My first treatment begins next Friday and I plan to be there with the ever handsome and delightful Cory Tysoe. Little does he know that he will just have to just watch me pass the eff out once they toss some Benedryl in the IV (Benedryl naps for life!). Cory- you should probably bring a book…

So in short, it’s been a BIG week of mixed experiences and emotions but I’m still full of fire and will do everything I can to claim my life as my own and NOT cancer’s chew toy.

Mom, Dad, Adam, Cory, family, and friends (I’d be typing names for decades, sorry). Thank you for always having my back, always believing in my ability to be well, and helping me to navigate and endure the ups and downs of this disease.

So much gratitude…

Jess