On Monday, April 16, 2012, I will run in the Boston Marathon as part of the Dana Farber Marathon Challenge team.
While this will be my third Boston, it will be the first without Sarah cheering me on from the sidelines. I last ran in 2009, and I remember running through Wellesley close to the half-way point, seeing her there with our boys. I yelled out as loud as I could, “I love you, Sarah.” I remember the pride and love I felt as I saw them there together. And I remember my tears, knowing we had a battle ahead of us that was not going to be easy.
As I trained throughout this winter, I’ve thought long and hard about Sarah. I’ve thought of things we used to talk about, or things we did together. The way she used to encourage me. There were so many wonderful things she did for us. An integral part of our family that made us whole.
I’ve also thought of her strength and how she just kept going, on and on with all the surgeries, chemotherapy and trials to see if we could find something that would work. She never gave up. And this is a lesson that I take to heart. She’s with me every day. Every time I go running I find a deep strength knowing she is there.
I made a short film about running and training for Boston over the winter. But, it’s really not about me. It’s about Sarah and all she did for our family. It’s about that amazing strength she gave us.
When I run on Monday, I will be running for Sarah. I will be running for our boys. I will be running for all our friends and family. I will be running for our friends who have died from cancer over the past year. I will be running for our friends who are still fighting and surviving. And I will be running for a future without cancer. If you would like to support my run, please watch this short film. It’s only 3 minutes long. And if you can make a donation to the innovative research program at Dana Farber, please visit my donation page. 100% of funds raised go directly to cancer research programs.
Lastly, please share this with your friends. Let’s remember Sarah, the Carcinista, as we approach May 3rd.
Quickly, before it falls off the current-events list: The Carcinista’s Oscars Red Carpet Review! Who hit, and who missed? Which actor had the worst tux? And, most importantly, how many collagen injections has Nicole Kidman gotten since the Golden Globes? Stay tuned, faithful readers, for the latest…hot…umm…news…
It appears I have missed a few days on the calendar. Where on earth have I been?
Riiiiight, sick. Started last Monday with my crack-of-dawn PleurX catheter insertion, followed by a surprise night admitted to the hospital. They wanted to drain me for 24 hours, then get an X-ray, so I spent the WORST night of recent memory not sleeping for more than 45 minutes at a stretch (roommate fell asleep with TV on; nurse turned it off; finally fell asleep, then shift-change vitals check; took 2 nurses to untangle my hoses so I could go pee, etc. etc.). I swear, those women get paid by the depth of the shade of the dark circles under your eyes the day you leave.
Tuesday I was raring to go home, and after some false starts (and one out-of-order X-ray machine), they sprung me, and Mr. W dragged my carcass home for a nap. Pain was under control with Dilaudid, left lung had been drained; I was tired, but SuperMom was in da house and taking care of business for me. I slept well, ate little, thought I was recuperating.
Went to see my oncologist (Dr. A) for a treatment revision on Thursday morning. Cancel the clinical trial, start chemo again. This time: Navelbine (“nav-” as in “navigate”, “-bine” as in “coffee bean.” It’s Fransh). All members of the team were “go” with the chemo; we’d start on Tuesday, no waiting. Great – I love a plan. Home to rest for the weekend.
I felt so decent (i.e., not in pain) on Saturday morning that I decided it was time to quit the dilaudid. I had started to get twitchy at the end of my four-hour dosing schedule, and I hate that. I thought Tylenol would get me through, with Tylenol PM for the evenings. Ooooh, was I wrong.
I lay awake twitching most of Saturday and Sunday nights, moving from the bed to the couch and back in search of a comfortable position. (I’m a side sleeper, and once my right side gets bored, I usually rotate. Only I had this big hose hanging out, and two incisions. Ow.) I tried propping my left side on pillows; lying flat on my back; lying on my stomach with pillows propping me up. Child’s pose. Happy baby pose. Nothing was comfortable. Not to mention that I felt like I wanted to crawl out of my skin.
Fortunately, when my home nurse arrived on Monday morning, she chided me that it was “way too soon” to stop taking pain meds. Thank heaven. Took a big, fat Vicodin and a three-hour nap. But you can’t take narcotics and drive, so…
…When I arrived at The Cancer Factory for my new chemo on Tuesday morning, I was pain-med free and eager to talk about it. My fantastic NP was so empathetic — the first thing she did was order me a quick-acting (and quick-ending) dose of morphine so I could relax. Then she set up an appointment for next week with the pain-management and palliative-care specialist doctor to work out a plan, which will probably include a Fentanyl patch for 72 hours of continuous relief.
Stop freaking out — “palliative” doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m on the way out; it’s a specialty that focuses on the quality of life of patients with chronic illnesses, and on easing their pain issues as manageably as possible. I can work with this doctor for YEARS.
So, short story long: lung tapped and putting out about 25cc (3 Tbsp.) every other day. Tube uncomfortable, but tolerable with Oxycodone and Tylenol. New chemo is okay (side effects: constipation [woo hoo] and fatigue [oh, yes]); I’ll get it once a week provided my blood counts stay healthy. Dragging the oxygen hose around my house is like a bad Keystone Kops sketch, what with the 50 feet getting wrapped around the dog, the kids, my legs, stuck in doorways and over dresser drawer knobs. And despite advice, I have yet to Beadazzle my Casino Canister (thanks, Pateeta!). Possibly I will wrap it with feather boas. To match each outfit.
And we watch and wait. Hope you’re more patient than I am.
WARNING: The following blog post contains a fair amount of selfish kvetching.
Last Friday morning, I had a CT scan scheduled for 12:00, which meant I needed to arrive for my delicious contrast (don’t forget to ask for Gastrografin in Crystal Light instead of the thick banana shake!) at 11:00. Now, as frequent readers will surely recognize, this runs into my inviolate naptime of 12:00, which allows me to get up at 2:35, get a parking place in the pickup line, and get my kids when they’re sprung at 3:00.
In the spirit of taking the bull by the horns, I left home at 9:45, which would normally get me to The Cancer Factory by 10:30 – nice and early, in hopes of pushing the whole process forward a little and getting me home for some vestige of my dear, sweet slumber. (It didn’t help that the cat was snoring peacefully under her paw and the furry nap blanket when I left.) Unfortunately, the universe had other plans.
Traffic was a nightmare. Pursuant to our drubbing of snow in the recent weeks, there is nowhere to put it, any of it. Thus people pulling off the interstate were unable to find parking places, meaning surface streets were jammed. As a result, the interstate was jammed, too. FOR EIGHTEEN MILES. So my quick little jaunt in town got me to the radiology department promptly five minutes late for my 11:00 appt. Thus I started my contrast drink at 11:15, and didn’t get my scan until 12:30.
While I sat and sat and sat and sat waiting for my scan, I couldn’t help but notice that not only did everyone else in the waiting room have a friend with them, but they were all placid and peaceful and walking slowly. I, on the other hand, was tapping my foot, looking impatiently down the hall, and checking the time repeatedly (why? So someone would notice and move me up the list? Bitch).
I was starving (and fuming about how I wouldn’t get home until 1:30) by the time I left, but as they’ve recently opened the new treatment building here at TCF, the cafeteria had moved there and it was too far to go for food; I’d have to wait until I got home.
And the people in front of me as I was leaving the building were walking too slowly. And the nice attendant who showed me how to use the new parking pay-station was helpful but clearly not going anywhere. Neither were the parking attendants who made me park FIVE floors underground, even though there were plenty of empty spaces above that. Neither were all the twits who were obviously out for a lunchtime scenic drive as I was trying to get back to the highway.
I know that most cancer patients tend to be older people, often retired, and that they have nothing to do that day but their appointments and possibly some liver ‘n’ onions at the Early Bird Special. I know that cancer patients, whatever their age, are worn-down and tired beyond comprehension. I know it’s uncommon to be a five-year cancer warrior who has to pick up her elementary school kids but sneak home for a nap first. I know that I’ve had a bit of a speed-demon issue (stop laughing) since I first learned how to drive. But seriously, I don’t have time to waste in traffic anymore! I can’t shuffle slowly into the elevator and whistle cheerfully while it hits every. floor. on. the. way. down. My life is SHORT, people, and I think I oughta get a special sticker or a dome light or something, at least a special parking place, to indicate that while I am a cancer patient, I’m also BUSY, and way too cute to be stuck in this hospital any longer.
At least I had a good excuse all lined up for the statie who never pulled me over: CT contrast creates a vigorous urge to be near your home plumbing. NOW.
Oh, the scan results? STABLE DISEASE. A little fluid around my left lung, but only 10% tumor growth since 12/15. I’ll see a thoracic surgeon
in the next 10 days Thursday to see about tapping the fluid, but it appears that the drug is doing SOMETHING. I’ll take it.
I bought ’em.
Thanks, everyone, for your support. I’m going in for my stent tomorrow afternoon (probably won’t wear the boots since I’ll be mostly in a super-sexy hospital johnny, freezing my butt off), but you bet they’re going to go with me to The Cancer Factory as soon as they arrive in the mail. Hopefully by Monday, but I’m not holding my breath. GO, UPS!!
With apologies to Mr. Clooney (and if he’d like to drop by, I’d be happy to deliver them in person), this week has been the definition of “up in the air”. I’ve been to The Cancer Factory three times looking for a plan, and each visit has given a teensy glimpse of what my upcoming schedule could be, but also another question or two that need answering before any decisions can be made.
So if there’s any truth to that “chronic-stress-causes-cancer” thing, I’m fooked.
Today’s downtown journey revealed another medical truth: no matter how much iron you consume the night before, you cannot pass a failing hemoglobin test. (Although if you’re looking for an excuse to eat grilled grass-fed buffalo rib-eye and sautéed spinach with pancetta, garlic and shallots, which I HIGHLY recommend, I won’t blow your cover.)
Wednesday I met with the urologist, who aside from being a nice guy, said he could fit me into his schedule for my left stent any time, all I had to do was figure out when the Phase I gang wanted me to have it done and call his nurse to book it. But I couldn’t get an answer from the Phase I gang until my hemoglobin was re-tested; 8.9 was not the 9.0 the “sponsor” (Pfizer) needs it to be for me to start the trial.
Yesterday, despite the fact that I hadn’t called to schedule it, I got messages during my nap from: the urologist’s office, the anesthesiologist’s office, and the admissions department at New England Baptist Hospital (where the procedure would be done) all telling me that I was to arrive this morning at 10:30 for my stent insertion. So I had to scramble and check with Phase I – no, they wanted me to get a transfusion (for my pitiful hemoglobin) before I had the stent placed, and I couldn’t start the trial within two weeks of a transfusion, so “no-go” with the stent procedure for today.
TODAY, I had a re-check of the hemoglobin, in hopes that my yoga, steak and spinach had helped it rebound from chemo, but no luck. Still 8.9. SCRAMBLE again to find Mr. W (and get him to answer his phone) to pick up the boys from school this afternoon, so I can get a two-hour transfusion (starting at 3:00 PM, yaaaaaawn), so I can start the trial two weeks from Monday. Which, in case no one has noticed, is the 21st of December. I’m sure I’ll have TONS of time that week to be down here three days in a row.
What I still don’t know is when I’ll be having my stent placed, but now that I’ll have a transfusion on board, I hope they can fit me in next week. But not too early, so I don’t miss Mr. W’s company Christmas Party, the only one (pathetic!) we’re scheduled for this month. And not Wednesday, ’cause Mr. W’s in an off-site meeting all day. Guess it’ll be Thursday or Friday… maybe?
It’s still up in the air.
Clooney? On second thought, I’ll meet you in Como.
Photo credit here.