Monday, March 27, 2017

Back to normal?

I've been taking it easy and feeling pretty good lately. I haven't felt as tired as before abd I've been to the studio again. Yay! I'm still working on my earrings and I haven't given up even though it got difficult at one point. So that's something, right? I did post a picture of the earrings in progress over on my @gozermom Instagram page (Gozer has her own @gozerdog page. I know, I'm worse than some parents).

It's good that I'm feeling​better because spring is coming and there's lots to do in the yard!

I was supposed to see my radiation oncologist last week but she was away so my appointment will now be next Tuesday, April 4.

Anyways, theres not much going on but I thought you'd want to know that things are pretty well back to normal.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Not quite as better issue I thought

You know how it is when you've been sick and you think you're better so you overdo it and relapse? That's me today. I loved being in the studio yesterday but however many hours I was there - four? five? - was way, way too many. I slept hard last night but was exhausted when I got up. I ended up sleeping all afternoon and would still be asleep if Ian hadn't woken me for dinner. Looking back, I've been asleep for about 15 or 16 of the last 24 hours.

I had planned to go to the studio again today to see my friend and to work on my project but I was just too tired. I was also supposed to go grocery shopping but didn't get up from my nap to do it.

I expect I'll be better soon but I think my next visit to the studio will be only two or three hours.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

At the studio today!

I went to the metalsmithing studio today! I haven't been there in over a month because I'd been so tired. Well, and also because when I'm not feeling creative I have a hard time figuring out what to work on when I'm there. Because my creativity hasd only recently returned, I figured I'd be better off figuring out a project and working on that while I was there. 

I looked through my stone collection (I have lots, all sorted by colour) and picked out two pairs of rhodochrosite stones to​ combine into earrings. One pair is a 6mm diameter round cabochons in a transparent medium and the other is a pair of 20mm x 8mm ovals in the more usual pink and white banded pattern. I didn't take any pictures do you'll have to wait to see what they look like.

Anyways, I spent the bulk of my time making bezels for these four stones. A bezel is a strip of metal that wraps around the stone; to set the stone, the top edge of the metal is compressed against the stone. This is a very secure setting.

I could tell it had been a long time since I'd been at the studio because it took me a long, long time - 2 hours! - to calculate how long you make each bezel. It should have taken 30 minutes... 45 minutes tops. For round stones, all I do is calculate how long the strip should be by calculating the circumference of the stone and bezel. The way to figure it out for non-round stones is to cut a narrow strip of masking tape, wrap it carefully around the bottom of the stone, and use that as the base length. I needed to add enough metal to account for the thickness of the bezel strip and this is where I ran into problems.

Typically I pretend the circumference comes from a round stone, then figure out the diameter for this pretend round stone, and then recalculate the circumference by adding the bezel thickness to theatdiameter. It's not an exact method but it works pretty well. For whatever reason, instead of working with circumference I was working with area... Which did not give me the results I expected. Worse, it took me a while to figure out what was going on. Oops!

In the end I got my bezels cut and soldered closed. I'd hoped to do more in the hours I was there but at least I got something done.

Now I'm very tired. All this thinking has left me sleepy.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Definitely better!

I can now safely say that I'm doing much, much better. I don't know if I can say for certain that the side effects are completely over, but the worst has definitely passed.

The pain has been unnoticeable for some time now although it flared up when Gozer launched herself off of me using the radiated area (we were at the vet's and she was sitting up on me with her butt on my neck; when she jumped off, one of her back feet was in the area of the spot and she pushed against it). As quickly as the pain flared, it disappeared.

Fatigue-wise, I'm doing great. I'm waking up feeling well-rested both in the morning and after my naps, and my naps are back down to a reasonable length. I've always been a napper so having to take naps each day is normal. What wasn't normal was having naps lasting hours and hours long and not feeling rested afterwards but all that is over.

I'm also starting to feel engaged in the world around me. Since treatment I've been feeling somewhat depressed and uncreative. I felt like the world around me was grey and dim and that time was just passing me by. Now I see colour!! I'm excited to see the sun and to see what each day will bring. With the lifting of my depression I'm also starting to feel like I need to start creating things. I look at inspiration pictures and I actually feel inspired to design and make things. This is so exciting!

So yes, whether all the side effects are over or the worst has passed, I'm feeling good.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Getting better

I think I'm feeling a bit better. The extra pain is gone and although I'm a bit tired right now, I don't feel as exhausted as I did last week. I also stayed awake all day yesterday even if I did have a two hour nap in the evening.

It would be great if my side effects were done and over with because I'm tired of being tired. Honestly I'd be thrilled if the side effects were markedly better even if I still have to have naps sometimes. I was napping in the late afternoon before radiation treatment so I'd be surprised if I didn't nap after treatment and after the side effects​are over.

We also think we've figured out where the mice were getting in. We set six traps last night and caught zero. So the mouse problem might be over, too!

Things are definitely looking up.

Friday, March 10, 2017

A visit with my oncologist

I saw my regular oncologist today. I'll see the radiation oncologist in about two weeks for my final radiation checkup.

Anyways, my regular oncologist was surprised to see that I have zero skin damage or problems from the radiation. I'm not quite sure what she expected to see; super-burned skin? Festering sores? Either way, she's happy I'm not experiencing that side effect. And that I'm not experiencing any esophageal side effects. I'm doing great, apparently.

Well, except for being exhausted. But that's normal and should pass in a couple of weeks. I hope. I really do hope that's true because I slept for three hours after I got home this morning, got up long enough to take Gozer for a walk, and then slept two more hours, when Ian got home. I'm sooooo tired. It feels like sleep doesn't even help; that I'm walking around in an exhausted fog even when I'm awake. At least when I'm asleep I don't know how tired I am because I'm asleep.

Anyways. Back to the oncologist. She was very happy with how I'm doing. She's going to scan me in June to see if the radiation treatment worked. She also said that normally, when one of her patients experiences progression (my uptick in scans is little and in one place but it's still considered progression), she has to think about whether the systemic treatment has failed. In my case, that treatment is Femara, or letrozole. She decided that since I've still only got the one spot that was just treated, the Femara may be protecting me against progression in a new area. So she's keeping me on the Femara and we'll reassess after the scans in three months.

Oh yeah, and my CA 15-3 tumour marker is holding about steady at 42; going back through previous results, it was last 40, before that 38, and before that 44. Normal is below around 30 or 32. So mine has been above normal for a while but steady, which means it's unlikely that there's any other active disease going on other than what was recently treated.

So that's today. We were waiting for a person to come and sell us a new fireplace because ours is broken but the weather is bad on the other side of the city so he's coming tomorrow. And we had shingles go flying off the roof a couple of days ago (since fixed). And Gozer hunted down a mouse and ate part of it yesterday. And I trapped two more last night. Sigh.

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Is that light way over there?

I'm feeling ever so slightly optimistic that the worst of the pain is over. It doesn't seem to be bothering me so much now and I've reduced my use of supplemental painkillers. Yay!

However, I do seem to be more tired than I was before. Today has been a bit better, but the last two days have been tough. Each activity has been preceded and followed by a nap so doing anything requires some planning on my part. I could never do all that much in one day but I can do so much less than I could do before.

I have been continuing to walk Gozer because I've read that exercise helps to deal with radiation (and chemotherapy) fatigue. I can barely imagine what things would be like if this fatigue is better than it could be because it feels endless and overwhelming now.

For all that, emotionally I'm in a pretty good place. I'm feeling ok, mostly, and I know things will get better. I am still prone to being overwhelmed and stressed if stuff starts happening - like, for example, the shingles that went sailing off our roof today - but all that still seems to be manageable.

I am definitely stressed, anxious, and overwhelmed because the roof needs repairing and those feelings are stronger because I'm exhausted since I didn't get a nap today. However, I know that the roof will get fixed eventually (hopefully before it leaks), I'll feel better after a rest and some food, and the world is not ending. I don't feel like I need to curl up in a ball and hide (my usual reaction to house- or bureaucracy-related stress) and I'm not bursting into tears for no reason. I'm also aware that I've got a delicate emotional constitution at the moment and am keeping a close eye on myself and trying to take care of myself.

The fact that the pain is decreasing is definitely something to celebrate :) And although I'm napping a lot, I'm still leaving the house and doing what I can. Finally, although I have reason to be stressed, I'm not falling apart which is a huge victory.

I think there's light at the end of this tunnel!

Saturday, March 04, 2017

Me and my side effects

Well, I'm still hanging in there. I've been so very tired over the last couple of days: after walking Gozer I've been crashing into sleep. Gozer doesn't mind this because she gets to snuggle up to me when I sleep, as long as I'm on the chair downstairs. It reclines to be almost flat and is quite comfy for sleeping, even if the dog is taking up lots of room. And even if I have to wait for her to finish licking my face and hand before she settles in.

I've also done my lymphedema exercises each of the last two days because I've been feeling that heaviness in my shoulder that goes with lymphedema. I don't love these exercises because some of them make my lymphedema-affected areas feel weird. For example, in one of the exercises I have to sit or stand with my back straight, keep my neck and arms relaxed, and raise my shoulders up, and then lower them as far as I can. The lowering part feels weird.

Still, I know the exercises work, and because they're performed slowly and deliberately they're very meditative and a good exercise in mindfulness for me. I just hadn't planned on having to do them every day.

Finally, I am still experiencing the sternal pain. I know that the pain will peak at some point and I hope that point comes soon.

Thursday, March 02, 2017

Hello there, side effects

Up until yesterday I thought that I might possibly get off easy with respect to side effects. I thought that maybe, since the treatment was so targeted, I wouldn't have too much pain or fatigue. So much for that; I'm definitely noticing side effects today.

It could be that I overdid it yesterday (Gozer decided that she needed a 4km walk in the rain yesterday afternoon), or it could be that the mild lymphedema swelling which extends to my chest and side is increasing the side effects, or it could be that this is naturally when the side effects really start to show up. Or it could be a combination of these or other factors; whatever the immediate cause, I'm noticing a marked uptick in sternal pain. My sternum is now achy much of the time and gives me occasional sharper pain. The pain is somewhat dulled because of my regular painkillers but it's definitely there.

To manage the pain I'm taking additional painkillers, which increases the fatigue I'm also experiencing. As I write this I'm thinking I'll need to make dinner soon and the thought of getting up and doing all of that - including all that standing - is exhausting. I don't know that I can sleep but I want to try... Even if "trying" is just zoning out in front of the TV.

I did do my lymphatic massage exercises this afternoon. Hopefully that will diminish whatever impact the lymph fluid buildup is having on the side effects.

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Side effect update

I hadn't realized that it's been so long since my last post - the days have just flown by! I've actually been feeling ok overall. Of course I'm taking it very easy and I'm not really pushing myself; at the slightest hint of pain I take painkillers (it's better to deal with it early than try to treat it when it's raging) and I rest if I feel even a bit tired. Honestly, though, I haven't had as much pain or fatigue as I expected and my esophagus isn't bothering me. My lymphedema is acting up a bit which is no surprise, but the swelling is mild and easily controlled.

Ian's been so supportive also and has sent me to rest if I even look tired. He's also spent some time doing some of the things I normally do so I don't have quite so much on my plate. I really appreciate his help and support; I would have a tough time without it.

My sisters asked great questions that I think most of you will be curious about as well. One asked how long the doctor said it would be until I feel like my old self again. The answer is that the bulk of the side effects should be gone after a month or so. The fatigue can linger longer than that but I should be feeling pretty normal after a month. I'll be seeing the radiation oncologist for a follow-up on March 23 (four weeks after treatment ended) to see how I'm doing.

My other sister asked when will they know if it worked as well as they hoped. We'll know whether the treatment worked when we do my regular scans in the summer. There's no point in doing scans right now because things tend to get worse before they get better, and I don't mind waiting that long to be sure. We may see other indications that the treatment worked before the summer scans: for example, the pain and my tumour markers will decrease after a possible initial increase. I see my regular oncologist next week and I've already done my tumour marker bloodwork already so we'll see where it is.

If you have questions about any part of this, please ask them either in the comments or by emailing/texting/messaging me. If you're wondering about something, someone else will also be wondering