I’m Still Here…

Hike 2 (54 of 93)

Hello friends, it’s been awhile.  A lot has happened, and I have been busy, but I have not forgotten you.  Where to begin…  I finished up Doxil chemotherapy in May.  I was stable, some of the tumors were even starting to shrink.  But the doctor wanted to save my last eight infusions for another time.  Desperate times call for desperate measures, and we are not quite at desperate measures.

In June, we moved.  We left Florida forever (I will visit, but I will never live there again).  I was regaining my health, and I found my new sanctuary in Colorado.  Florida was beautiful in a tropical way.  There were tropical smelling flowers, calming beaches, and thick forests.  Colorado is beautiful in a mountainous, rugged way.  There is wild life walking through our yard, song birds of every variety, and hummingbirds galore.

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We got settled and used to our new surroundings.  I sat out in the cool evenings and watched the sunsets.  In the mornings, I drank coffee and watched the sunrises.  Then things started to brew.  A few months into moving, I had my first bout of illness.  Easily explained– it was the coffee.  I was not used to drinking coffee, and coffee used to make me sick.  I had a biopsy, too.

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In July and August the storms started.  The illness struck again, but this time it was Kale.  I was trying to change my diet, and it had to be kale.  It was too rough on my digestive track.  The numbers on the scale were starting to creep up, despite me being a little more active.  I decided I was going to hike the Bar Trail next year (13 miles walk, 7000 foot elevation gain).  I had started to even run.  I was accepted into Camp Mak-A-Dream.

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Then in August, the poo hit the fan.  The first week, I was sick, then I had a week where I felt a little better, then the next week I was sick.  I had an appointment with my doctor on the 21st.  The evening of the 20th, I got really, really bad.  I had lost control of my bowels, I lost control of my bladder.  My hands and feet contorted, and I could not move them.  I had soaked a shirt in sweat.  I stripped naked, and sat on the toilet for nearly three hours.  I alternated between vomiting and having diarrhea.  I didn’t know if I should go to the ER, or wait.  Finally, the Zofran, Imodium, and Tylenol took affect, and I was able to put on a Depends, and go to sleep.

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The next day it was confirmed.  My cancer was no longer stable.  It was growing, and producing fluid in my abdomen.  I had gained 20+ pounds over the summer.  I went from a size 10 to a size 14 by the time I saw the doctor.  The fluid is called Ascites (pronounced- A-CEE-TEES).  I was going back on chemo stat.  The new regimen– Gemzar, Cisplatin, and Avastin.  Three days after my first infusion, I checked my weight.  I was down over 15 pounds!

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The side effects weren’t bad.  They were there.  I got my second infusion on Labor Day.  Yes, the nurses in Colorado work on Labor Day.  Nurses are my heroes.  A few days after my second infusion, I left for Montana!  I was a little bit nervous.  There’s forest fires in the area, but I had fun.  I tried a lot of new things– horseback riding (I hadn’t been in over 20 years), archery, photography (next time I’m bringing my “nice” camera), writing, painting, and I could go on and on.  The biggest thing for me is I made life-long friends that I would never imagine I could make.  You see I have difficulty making friends.  But the women I met there “got it.”  The complaints I had about family and friends, who didn’t “get it” were the same.  They understood that since my surgery I tend to fart loudly, that there are certain things I don’t enjoy anymore, and understood the time I wrote ten checks, because I could NOT remember how to write a check (chemo brain is no joke).

 

After four glorious days of forgetting I had cancer, enjoying the company of my new sisters, and just an amazing time.  I came home.  On Tuesday (the 12th), I started to have cold symptoms.  It was just a cough.  On Wednesday, the cough turned into a deeper cough, fever, and dizziness.  I drove myself to University of Colorado Memorial North Hospital late Wednesday.  I was admitted into the cancer-ICU ward (it’s combined).  Several blood tests, infusions, oxygen, and fevers as high 103.6 later, I was diagnosed with influenza a.  I posted on the group Facebook page, and we discovered over 20 women had similar symptoms, six of us with the full blown flu.  I’m the only one still in the hospital.  My platelets are recovering, my white blood cell count just went up.  My bone marrow is non-existent.  I’m on anti-viral medication, anti-biotics (even though I don’t have a bacterial infection, they are keeping me on it because I have no immune system), and some other medications.  I am hoping to go home on Tuesday, but who knows.  My chemo on Monday is cancelled.

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The silver lining, because there is always a bright side, I get to catch up on my blog.  I have edited some photographs, read a novel, done word puzzles, watched football, binge watched USA Networks Movies, and decided that I am going to play with plastic pumpkins and glitter, paint a few of my sunset pictures, do a mountain mosaic, and brainstorm on how to open an online gallery called “Teal Expressions”.  There isn’t much sleep to be had in the hospital though.  But anyway, you’ll be seeing more of me later.

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Teal Expressions is an idea I have been playing with for a long time.  I would like to have an online storefront gallery with women, who are battling (or have battled) ovarian cancer.  It would be an opportunity for artists to earn money, raise money, and express their art.  You can submit anything from visual art (prints, wall art, postcards, greeting cards), wearable art (jewelry, scarves, blankets, shirts), or media art (self published, poetry, self-published prose, produced music).  If anyone is interested in assisting me on creating Teal Expressions, please comment below.  I am in the planning stages right now.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dogwood Photography Challenge Week 2: Landscape

In 2011 we moved, yet again, to Florida.  This was our fifth home in seven years.  I had a love-hate-love-hate relationship with Florida.  Florida is a place of endless summers, beautiful vistas, and wearing flip flops in the middle of January (and pulling stickers out of your feet after you take a picture of said vistas).  I was excited to move to Florida, what’s not to love– Disney, oceans, and lots to do.  But after we got here, my son was neglected at school, and we ended up pulling him out of school after a heart wrenching experience.  My parents moved down here, and I fell back in love with Florida.  In 2015 and the early part of 2016 was disaster after disaster starting with my dad passing away, and ending with me being diagnosed with cancer.  Now that we are leaving again, I am in love with Florida and I’m going to miss it.  That being said, I’m ready to leave.

I had a tough decision regarding my picture submission for week two.  I was tempted to take my camera with me to my doctor’s appointment this morning, but wondered if I would be in the mood if I got bad news.  I did not receive bad news, in fact I received some very good news.  I thought about going out after I got back, but I was sleepy, and there were some showers in the area.  At about 3:00 PM the showers cleared out, so I decided to go to the park near our church and capture the orange hues of a setting sun against the emerald backdrop of our beautiful bay.

landscape

Bald Is Brave

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When you have cancer there is not much in your control anymore.  It is especially frustrating when the treatments make you sicker than the disease. I had no symptoms before my diagnosis (in retrospect I had a few symptoms, but they were not anything that I couldn’t be explained by other conditions).  I have completely recovered from the surgery 6 weeks ago– with the annoying exception of the effects of my bladder/kidney stent.  I was by the doctor that under no uncertain terms that I would be losing my hair– the degree of hair loss is not certain.  I could maybe keep some of my hair, and have it thin, or I could be completely bald.

On the 12th, my first strands of hair came out.  There were a few strands on the pillow, and a few strands while I was washing my head.  I decided that my hair was something that I would control.  I wanted to take one thing in my life/health back.  My hair was the one thing I could control.  One Saturday night we had a little party in my bathroom.  My daughter did the honors.  I think she had a little bit too much fun shaving my head.  I think it was her little bit of revenge.  What daughter wouldn’t want to get back at their mother by shaving her head.

I thought I would cry through it, but I laughed.  I honestly had fun during the hair cut.  I felt free.  It was the first time in the last two months where I felt free and strong.  I posted the picture on my Facebook, and instead of getting comments confirming that I looked sick– like a cancer patient. I heard compliments like– “you look beautiful,” “you look fierce,” and “you look strong.”  I expected pitying looks when I went shopping, and there was none of that.  I feel so empowered, so strong, and I feel brave.  I am one step closer to getting my health back.