Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Recent doctor's appointments

I saw my oncologist yesterday for my quarterly visit. My CA 15-3 tumour marker for January and April is staying steady at 40 and 39, respectively, and the rest of my bloodwork looks good. I have my annual scans coming up in the next two weeks but we expect them to be fine.

In barely-related to cancer news, about two weeks ago I developed severe stomach pain. I couldn't stand up straight, I couldn't eat, and I was exhausted all the time. I went off the Celebrex I've been taking for seven or eight years and saw my family doctor about a week ago. He put me on Dexilant, which reduces the acid in my stomach, and it's helped: I can eat normally. I can also try going back on the Celebrex today although there's no guarantee that I'll be able to stay on it.

The reason this is tangentially related to cancer is that I've been taking the Celebrex to deal with the joint pain caused by the Femara I've also been taking for years and years as well as the lower back pain I have. Since I've gone off the Celebrex, that joint pain in my hips and shoulders and the pain in my back has returned. I have a hard time sleeping because of the pain. Percocet can help me get to sleep but I'll usually wake up when it wears off. Sigh.

I talked with my oncologist about this and we've agreed that if I can't stay on the Celebrex to try some non-drug techniques for the pain. She's recommended Chinese acupuncture (apparently that kind has been shown to have a beneficial effect beyond the placebo effect) and cardiovascular exercise. I'm still carrying extra weight (not eating for a few days appears to have made no difference) and I know I'm out of shape so I'll see if I can set up our exercise bike again. I don't know what I think about acupuncture but I figure that it's unlikely to do me harm so it's not a bad idea to try it. All I have to do is find a suitable practitioner.

Monday, June 08, 2015

Lymphedema update

I finally picked up my new set of lymphedema compression garments. I wear a compression sleeve and glove whenever I fly on a plane, when it's above about 20C outside, or if I'm doing physical labour with my hands (like gardening) as my hand and arm swell up under those conditions.

I have two previous sets: one that didn't fit well and that I used for gardening, and another set that fit well and that I wore daily. It's looking pretty ratty, though, and I wasn't happy with the compression I was getting from the gardening set so I thought it was time for a new set. I think they're supposed to be replaced every six to twelve months or so anyways as the garments become looser over time. When I ordered them, I discovered that I had to get new Ontario Assisted Devices Program (ADP) approval, which required my family doctor's and my physiotherapist's signatures. I didn't want to go through the hassle of getting the signatures but I'm glad I did: the program pays for 75% of the cost of the set, which in my case works out to them paying $450 and me paying $150. 

I was given a list of physiotherapists in the region who could complete the form but I decided to go to the cancer centre because that's where I received my initial lymphedema treatment and they have me on file. It turned out that I couldn't just make an appointment since it had been a couple of years since I was treated there; I had to get a referral from my oncologist. The waiting period is usually about five weeks but my nurse worked really hard to get me in within a week and a half. Yay for helpful nurses!

Anyways, while I was there this morning getting the paperwork signed, the physiotherapist measured both my right and left hand and arms. Because I'm right-handed, my right hand and arm should be slightly larger than the left. When I first received treatment, my left hand was 0.5cm larger than the right and my left arm was more than 1.0cm larger than the right at each point. This time, my left hand and arm measurements were all less than 0.3cm larger than the corresponding right hand and arm measurements. This is a fantastic result! It shows that my lymphedema is well-controlled at the moment. I'm very pleased.

To be honest, things aren't always great with the lymphedema as I've had some trouble with pain and tingling in my left thumb. I told the physiotherapist and she said that this happens because the swelling is pinching a nerve, which is what I had figured was going on. When this has happened I put on my compression garments and stretch and massage the area. I'll even do my lymphedema exercises if I have to, and all of that seems to help. If for some reason all that stopped helping, I'd go back into the physiotherapist for treatment.

After I saw the physiotherapist, I picked up my new set of compression garments and I'm good to go now. I don't love the look of them or  that they can be hot to wear or that my arms get an uneven amount of sun... but I'll continue to wear the garments because not having a sausage arm and hand is just so much more comfortable than having one.

Monday, March 23, 2015

My visit with my new nephew

I just got home yesterday after spending almost two weeks in Manchester with my sister, her husband, and their new baby Warwick. I had a wonderful time; much better than I expected to have.

In the past I've had mixed feelings about babies, including thoughts of irrational rage towards them, and even though I've had quite a bit of therapy to deal with those thoughts and feelings, I was worried that they would resurface. As it turns out, the therapy has done me quite a lot of good, and I didn't have any of those thoughts or feelings. In fact, I loved spending time with Warwick! I loved cuddling him, standing and rocking back and forth, showing him the window (his favourite thing to look at), and snuggling with him while he slept.

In fact, I was happy to take him anytime so that his mom and dad could do stuff like work or shower. I was quite proud of my ability to put him to sleep and read his facial expressions to figure out how to position him so that he was comfortable and could look at something he liked (aka the window). I don't actually think this is a special ability but I'm someone who had never spent any time at all around babies and didn't know much other than to make sure his head was supported when I held him. So anything that resulted in him not crying was a win as far as I'm concerned. And the fact that I could reproduce that win over and over was something I'm proud of.

I really enjoyed spending time with Chris (Vicki's husband) as well, and getting to know him. I'd only met him the one time before, at their wedding, and I didn't really know him. Getting to spend some one-on-one time with him and listening to him talk about the things he was passionate about was a part of the visit that I really enjoyed.

One thing I also noticed while I was there was how completely, utterly comfortable and at home I felt while I was there, both in the city and at my sister's place. The city reminds me very much of Edmonton, where I grew up, at while I was at my sister's flat I felt like I had returned to the familiarity of my childhood - but better, because it was without all the tension and trauma that were the hallmarks of our childhood. It was so comfortable and so warm and so wonderful.

Leaving to come to my actual home was really hard. I felt like I was leaving home, and I'm homesick now. And while I missed Gozer and Ian while I was gone, I wasn't homesick for them the way I usually am when I travel. I'm happy to be home but I feel like I left my other home to come here, if that makes sense.

Now for some pictures of me with Warwick!

Monday, March 02, 2015

My portacath is out

My port-a-cath has been removed, finally. I'd only been using it for bloodwork four times per year at the cancer center and they were balking at doing bloodwork without chemotherapy. I decided to have it removed a few months ago but it took a little while to get the appointment made. It's an elective procedure after all, and there's no rush to do it.

I was nervous beforehand and babbled to anyone who would hear me. Apparently I babble when I'm nervous - who knew? (Ian did) The procedure was straightforward. We started with bloodwork; when it came back about an hour later, I changed into a gown and got on the table. They sanitzed the port area with whatever stuff they use, applied local anaesthetic (which burned, like it always does), and cut through the original scar.

The pulled the catheter part that went up to the neck vein out first. It hurt a bit because apparently after so long - 7 years - scar tissue forms a tube around the catheter tube. That scar tissue broke in places as it was pulled out and that caused an unpleasant tugging, painful sensation.

After the catheter was out it was time to take out the reservoir. That, too, was completely encased in scar tissue. I already knew that because when the port went in, it slid around and it's been stationary over the last few years. It took quite a bit of snipping and tugging and snipping and pulling and snipping and yanking before the thing came out.

It took about half an hour to remove the port and once it was done, I was stitched up with dissolving stitches and sent on my way. Ian took me home and has stayed with me since.

The freezing is only now starting to come out, nearly 8 hours later, and the area is starting to throb and ache. The area by my neck hurts a bit, too. I'm quite tired because being nervous takes up a lot of energy.

Home care will be coming tomorrow and again Friday or Saturday to change the dressing. I can't get the dressing wet until I'm all healed up so I'll have to wash my hair over the tub and take sponge baths.

My oncologist and the nurses all said that I would be able to travel next Monday, which is good because I'm going to Manchester to see my sister and her new son, Warwick, who was born February 8. (surprise!) That's as long as there's no infection or anything - I don't want to go to another country if I'm sick. I don't expect there to be a problem.

2015 Academy Awards Red Carpet

Finally I've finished the red carpet post for the Oscars. The dresses worn to this event weren't as interesting as those worn to the Grammys, probably because this is a much more formal occasion. The Grammys are formal but people attending take more risks with the outfits they wear there, and tend to show off more of their bodies there. Oscar red carpet dresses are a little more staid and subdued (and covered up) in comparison.

There were a whole lot of nude-coloured dresses here: clearly that's a trend that isn't going away. Lace and embellishments are still everywhere, as are metallics. Interestingly, there aren't many black dresses: reds and navies are much more prevalent, after the nude/white/blush trend. Thankfully, the trumpet skirt (which hugs the hips and knees and flares out at the knees) trend appears to be pretty much over, and the strapless trend is also on its way out.  

Anyways, enjoy the dresses after the jump...

Monday, February 16, 2015

2015 Grammy Awards Red Carpet

For the first time in ages, I've finished a red carpet post for you! This one is for the 57th annual Grammys, held on February 8, 2015. There were a whole lot of sequins and sparkles, a  lot of cleavage and under-boob, and a lot of sheer.

One thing I love about the Grammys is that it's a formal occasion but there's an edginess to the outfits so they aren't all the same. I also love that so many of the singers aren't super-skinny like Hollywood actresses; these women have bodies that are more like regular people and they clearly don't fit into the sample size. Anyways, without further ado... enjoy the outfits and my assessments after the jump!

Friday, February 06, 2015

Oncologist appointment

Gozer seems to be doing much better on her new food. Her urine is a good colour, she loves the food, and she doesn't seem to be licking any more than usual. The food does make her drink a LOT more so we have to be sure she gets lots of chances to pee during the day - at least every three or four hours. I'm very happy that she's doing ok.

I saw my oncologist this week and we're taking out my portacath. It comes out on March 2. I've read that the surgery is quite easy - even easier than going in. That's good because I had a hard time when it went in because my pain wasn't fully under control. And I'm a bit of a wimp. It feels strange to think about it taken out because I thought I'd never be without it. Honestly, I didn't think I'd make it this long -  I'm definitely one of the outliers, survivor-wise.

Not having my port will be nice because it won't show anymore and I won't feel it in my neck (the catheter part loops up by my neck). The healing will be a bit tricky because I won't be able to life anything for a few days (including Gozer) and I won't want anyone jumping on me (including Gozer) or touching it (including Gozer).

My tumour markers were at 36 which is still good. So... good news all around!

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Gozer update and more

Gozer is doing much better now. We took her and a sample of her urine in this week and the urine had a pH of 6.0. She's pretty well stopped bleeding when peeing, too, so I think she's over the worst of the problem.

Clearly the food is working, and although she's showing some signs of itching she's responding well to it. The vet said that we could easily feed her another food while we were visiting Ian's parents so that we don't trigger his mom's allergies with the fish oil. So I guess that's what we'll do for now.

Speaking of itching, I've been incredibly itchy since last night. I woke in the middle of the night scratching and scratching and scratching and I've been scratching today, too. I took some Benadryl, which helped, but I'm still itchy.

I'm thinking I'm itchy either because of the flowers I bought for the dining room or the people we had here last night. Ian hosted a pinball league night here and we had about 20 people (some of them smokers) here. I bought the flowers to brighten the (newly clean) dining room. The night went well; everyone was respectful of the house and they weren't too loud or anything. Apparently there was a problem with one machine but the others all worked just fine so we're calling the evening a success.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Adventures with Gozer

We have had quite the week with Gozer. Sunday morning, Ian noticed that her pee looked orange, like it had blood in it. Her pee was a normal colour in the afternoon but we decided to take her to our vet on Monday morning.

We took a pee sample in to the vet's and they did an analysis which showed that it had magnesium phosphate (struvite) crystals, a pH of 7.0, bacteria, and red and white blood in it, with no sign of bile salts. They did an xray to see if she had stones but it was inconclusive so we set up an ultrasound for the next day. The vet gave Gozer an antibiotic shot because she has such a hard time with antibiotics.

The ultrasound showed no stones but a LOT of sediment from the crystals and signs of anaerobic bacteria. Fortunately, the antibiotic shot should treat that kind of bacteria as well as aerobic bacteria.

The main treatment is to get the pH in her urine down, which will make the crystals re-dissolve in her urine, and that's done by changing her food to lower the amount of protein she's getting. The vet prescribed Royal Canin Urinary SO but it has corn and chicken in it, which we think she's allergic to, and fish oil, which Ian's mom is allergic to. I contacted Gozer's dermatologist and she said to try to keep her on this food for 2-4 weeks to clear up this problem and if Gozer shows allergy signs (lots of scratching and licking and hotspots) then I need to make an appointment to take her in so that we can figure out her food.

I figure that if we do take Gozer to Ian's parent's place while she's on this food, we can just feed her squash and rice instead of the food while we're there. That way, we don't have to worry about Ian's mom's allergy - but this isn't a great long-term solution. I suspect Gozer may end up with allergies to the food before long anyways.

Unfortunately, I don't think there are many (if any) commercially available low-protein foods that meet the non-allergy requirements out there so I suspect that we will end up having to cook her food at home.

For now, Gozer is doing ok. She has varying amounts of blood in her pee from passing the crystals, which are sharp and cut her: sometimes there's none, sometimes it's all blood, and I know that when there's blood it hurts her. However, she's as happy and cuddly as usual and she's not straining to pee or anything. The ultrasound day was tough as they didn't take her out to pee afterwards (she went in not having peed in the morning) and she peed in the cage she was in :( She's bounced back since then.

Poor girl. I hope she's going to be ok.