Popsicles and Tae Kwondo

A cool beautiful evening here.  We just got back from dinner (Mexican) and the kids’ tae kwon do test, in which they earned the next color belt.  My son surprised himself by actually breaking his first board ever (with his foot).  To pass the test, all he had to do was try, and the look on his face when it actually broke was priceless.  My daughter went about her test with her usual aplomb.  The girl is formidable in sparring.  God help anyone who accosts *her* in a dark alley.  And then there’s that wicked grin she gets on her face after the battle is over.

The doc’s appt. was about 2 hours this morning.  First a blood draw.  My husband was actually glad to see the white and red blood cells slightly below normal.  He was thinking that, since I’m not sick (yet), the medicine wasn’t working.  The lowered blood counts reassured him. Odd, but true.

The oncologist asked how I felt.  He said the fatigue will be setting in slowly, and laughed when I told him about riding roller coasters. “Taking Cytoxan and riding roller coasters? Cool!” was what he said.  He also predicted that my hair would start to come out soon.  When I asked if he could estimate a time, he said “about 19 days” after chemo starts.  “About?”  Gee, could ya be any more specific?  Would that be 18 and 3/4?  19 and 1/2???  I started chemo two weeks ago.  Guess I better enjoy my hair this week.

I spent part of the afternoon searching websites for how to make a turban and how to put on a hajib — the scarf that Islamic women wear.  Turns out there’s a variety of turbans.  I don’t think I’m up to winding one on my head  like the Sikhs wear (17 yards of fabric!), but the one in Vermeer’s painting of the Girl with the Pearl Earring might work.  Look what it did for Scarlett Johanssen!  With either style, it’s the closest I’ll get to taking on a different religious practice.

Speaking of religious practice, I spoke yesterday with one of the monks, a colleague who teaches at the college I’ve been teaching at.  He has taken up praying for me, and tells me I’ll pull through this.  That prediction sounds good to me.

The weekly infusion has already taken on a predictable pattern. After checking in, I’m assigned to one of the vinyl Barcaloungers in one of the “pods” of chairs comprising the infusion center.  The nurse then asks me my birthdate — a question I have to answer often for these medical appointments — then brings me 5 pills: 2 antinausea drugs and three steroids. (I don’t care to think what my blood is comprised of currently.)  Today’s nurse was especially informative.  She told me the steroids can give some people a burst of energy (good to combat the fatigue later, I guess) that makes them do things like want to clean the house for 3 days.

I don’t think I’ll have THAT particular problem.

Then she hooked up the bag with saline and threaded it into the port on the right side of my chest.  After letting that drip in for awhile, she switched to the Adriamycin, and for the second time I watched that red liquid (the color of KoolAid) snake its way into my chest.  She brought me a popsicle to eat during the infusion (also red).  Apparently sucking on that helps reduce the chance of mouth sores, a hallmark of Adriamycin.  So I sat for about 10 minutes watching the red stuff going in my chest, and sucking on the red stuff I put in my mouth.  Nothing like color-coordinated medical treatment.  She also recommend doing a saltwater mouth rinse several times a day to prevent the mouth sores.

So my daily routine includes taking an anti-nausea drug first thing in the morning, taking my temperature, waiting half an hour then taking the Cytoxan, making sure I eat enough and drink about 2 liters of fluid during the day, doing the arm exercises, monitoring myself for anything unusual, recording input/output (to put it delicately), and now doing the mouth rinses. Another antinausea before bed, and ginger tea and peppermint tea periodically throughout the day since they’re both known to aid the tummy. Too bad I can’t get paid for taking care of myself.

On Wednesday, I’ll be meeting with the naturopathic doctor associated with the oncology clinic. Naturopaths are fairly common out here on the “left coast”.  They’re N.D., not M.D., but can function as a primary care doc and deal with alternative types of medicine — herbals, supplements, diet, etc.  This one specializes in oncology naturopathy and is spoken of highly.  I’m hoping he can help me sort through the confusion about what to take/not take during chemo and to fight cancer.  Should I eat soy products or not.  Should I take a daily vitamin or antioxidants, or not.  Is alcohol OK (now that my spouse has perfected his martini technique)? What about Coenzyme Q10? I’ve stopped researching a lot of this on the web because there’s confusing evidence on either side of the issues, and what applies to one breast cancer patient (say, a postmenopausal woman with hormone receptor-positive disease vs., oh, say, a perimenopausal 48-year-old with triple negative disease) may not be appropriate.  Too much to make sense of.

Then on Friday I’ll see a physical therapist for my left arm, to work on getting it back to pre-surgery range of motion.  I’ve regained a lot and the odd tweaks, pains and numbness have decreased considerably, so I’m happy about that.

Time to put my little warriors to bed…