Sunday, June 28, 2015

Exciting Improvements!

So much has been happening since my last blog a month ago.  I’ve had many improvements in my health.
·         I’ve been gaining weight.  I’m triple digits now, baby!!
·          I’ve been able to cut down on using supplemental oxygen.
·          I’ve been going out more.  Mostly for errands, but I did go to dinner when some friends invited us over. 
·         The tumor markers have continued to drop.  Two tumor maker tests are done with each lab draw and the markers indicate the spreading of disease if they increase or the decline of disease if they decrease.
·          After about a five week period of having no fluid around my lungs some fluid has been accumulating again.  I’m glad my pulmonary doctor advised against removing the pleural catheter back then.  I’ve been draining 200-500 mls (approx. 6-17 ounces) of fluid about every five days recently.  Back in October 2014 when we first discovered the fluid on an x-ray I went to the hospital and had two liters drained off.  Imaging the trouble I had breathing then by thinking of a two liter bottle of soda lying on your lung as you try to breathe!  I’m thankful I’m able to drain the fluid now if any accumulates. 
·         Lastly, my recovery time after chemotherapy has been decreasing.  At first it took about eight days for me to recover, but now it’s down to three or four days.  Side effects I’ve experienced other than losing my hair are muscle/bone soreness, flushing, numbness in my fingertips, mild loss of taste, hot/cold flashes and emotion overload (this one is always fun for my husband!).  I did have nausea the first time and one instance of diarrhea also.

Some of the improvements I mentioned may not seem like much, but now I recognize how much I took for granted when I was healthy.

We’ve added hyperthermia to my treatments each time.  Hyperthermia is a form of radiation but can be done two ways.  One uses micro-waves and the other uses hot water.  I have the latter.  I lay on a table and six temperature sensors are taped to my torso and chest.  Then a large 18”x18” plastic bag filled with water (similar to a hot water bottle) is placed on top of the sensors.  Tubes are attached to the bag and are connected to a machine that heats the water and regulates the temperature to 109 degrees.  Once the sensors read a temperature of 109 degrees the clock begins.  The table is inverted (to help situate the water correctly over each sensor) and I stay that way for one hour.  I can pick a movie to watch or I can sleep or choose some soothing music to listen to.  Except for being inverted (it’s not much), it’s mostly a calm, soothing treatment that’s warm and relaxing.  What if you have to pee, you ask?  That was my question too.  I’m supposed to drink at least a couple quarts of water each day!  I was about 40 minutes in when I asked that question.  We had to take off the water, unhook the sensors, level the table, get a gown on and walk down the hall to the bathroom.  Then redo everything to hook me back up and wait for the sensors to reach 109 degrees again then start the clock for the remaining time.  The procedure isn’t supposed to be broken up like that so the nurse said I’d have to use a bed pan next time!!  In the future, I’ll cut my water intake that day!  Hyperthermia is done within 24 hours but preferably right before or right after chemotherapy.  It heats up the cancer cells making them more vulnerable to the chemo toxins.

I leave soon for my fifth treatment at CTCA.  My doctor has several tests and scans scheduled prior to my scheduled chemo, which he’s actually called ‘tentative’ depending on my results.  We will discuss future treatment options this visit.
Last visit I finally did something I had been longing to do on the previous trips…BINGO!!  Yeah!  There are always activities going on at CTCA that anyone can participate in.  I’ve seen Bingo going on several times (in the dining room) when I’ve been eating and I’ve wanted to play but I’ve been too tired.  I finally decided to jump in and have some fun!  I ended up winning twice.  I got to pick my prizes.  There were some really nice prizes.  My husband didn’t stay to play.  He went back up to our room instead.  After I had been gone for a while he came back down to bring me my room key so I wouldn’t have to wake him up if I came in late.  But when he got to my table I was nearly falling asleep over my bingo card!  He kept pointing out calls that I had on my card but wasn’t seeing because I was deliriously tired! Haha!  It was 8:30pm.  Earlier that day, I had chemo and included in the ‘pre-meds’ that I was given was Benadryl.  I’m a lightweight when it comes to medication so it was all I could do to stay awake.  I had so much fun playing and met two couples also.  It’s easy to meet people at CTCA.  Most people are very friendly.  We met another man on the elevator who shared his amazing story with us.  We ended up praying with him and rejoicing with him over his healing progress.  CTCA has such a positive and supportive atmosphere.  I get excited to go before each trip!

We’ve received many gifts from you.  Financial gifts and other gifts too…protein powder, clothes, books, hats, scarves, visits, meals, etc.  Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!  You’ve blessed us so much.  Last trip there were a few people who gave us some money or made a donation using Go Fund Me right before we left.  It turned out to be the exact amount we needed to pay for lodging, gas, supplements and meals!  God is so amazing to supply for what we need! 

In closing, I thank you for taking time to read about my progress.  I appreciate the messages I get with questions or congratulations.  You really make me feel special to have so many that care about me.  I’ve included a few pictures for you.  I wish you could all come with me to CTCA and experience these wonderful things I’m writing about.  The next best thing is sharing pictures instead.  Shown below are the cafeteria and the reception desk at the Infusion Clinic where I go for chemo and vitamin infusions.  Lastly, is a picture from a friend that brought a huge smile to my face.  I don’t support Relay for Life for personal reasons, but my friend participates each year celebrating her mom’s VICTORY over cancer.  Below is a picture of my friend’s contribution to the relay in my name.  I love what it says.  If you talk about me, use words like ‘winning’, ‘healing’, ‘fighting’ and ‘overcoming’.  The Bible says the tongue has the power of life and death, so use your tongue to speak ‘LIFE’ for me!! 

Upon returning from this upcoming visit to the cancer center, I’ll try to update you sooner rather than later.

Love, Darlene

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