Monday, September 21, 2009

What is normal, anyway...

My "new normal" continues to be quite a bit more worn out than tired than my "old normal" -- but things keep improving bit by bit. While I'm still quite forgetful and absent-minded thanks to the chemo brain, my energy levels are improving and so is the tingling in my hands and feet.

My half workdays still wipe me out, but now I only need to nap for two to three hours afterwards and not for the entire afternoon. Tonight I even managed to make dinner. So that's progress on several fronts, even if I'm really tired now.

This weekend I even resumed my strength training, if only at a reduced intensity. Nonetheless, this was my first workout since before my diagnosis this past March, i.e. in more than six months. It felt good to be moving again, and it was especially nice since DH also worked out with me (he hadn't worked out since my diagnosis either, so it was about time for him as well).

Thus things are going pretty well for me overall. I often get frustrated by my hotflashes and my chemo brain, though. Since I am back at work it has reared its ugly head more, and I often struggle to express myself. Writing something takes me a long time as I hunt for the right word and then forget my larger train of thought in the process. I am easily distracted and no longer able to multitask.

These are all things I used to be able to do, back in my "old normal" days. Before I went back to work I used to notice these changes a lot less since the demands on my brain were much lower. After all, I mostly napped, watched TV, or read all summer long. Now I have to engage in much more sophisticated and cerebral activities, though, which showcase my decreased mental capacity far more clearly. 

I guess I have to learn to let go of my "old normal" and to accept my "new normal" -- but I find that very hard to do. Yes, I know, it's only been a week and a half since my last chemo. So I have hope that my brain will recover once all the good poison is out of my body for good. Plus, what is "normal," anyway? I really never have been "normal" in the first place...

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Part-time work week done!

It's hard to believe, but I made it through my first full part-time work week. I stayed a little longer at work today and chatted with a co-worker whose mother-in-law is about to start chemo. After that I came home and the phone rang off the hook. A couple of phone calls later I was more than ready for my afternoon nap. Ah, I need those naps so badly these days, particularly since I rarely sleep more than four or five hours before those hot flashes wake and keep me up. 

Still, I can feel that I am beginning to get stronger. The neuropathy also continues to improve bit by bit. It is so much easier these days that I may actually get my life back in the foreseeable future. Next week will be better already, and the next week after that will be better yet. 

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Three days down

Yay, I made it through another workday! Once again I came home super-tired after my half-day of work and napped all afternoon, though. I can still feel the fatigue from the chemo, even if the side effects from the Taxotere were more bearable than the ones I experienced while on Taxol. I did receive a round of chemo less than a week ago, after all...

Luckily, my neuropathy also seems to be improving. I still have considerable numbness and tingling in my feet and hands, but unless this is just wishful thinking, I think each day it gets a tiny bit better. I still have a far way to go, but at least I can see improvements. Getting better feels good, particularly when combined with the knowledge that there is no next round of chemo about to hit me.

Once those side effects are gone, I think my main challenge will be not to focus too much on the various aches and pains, while remaining sensitive to real changes in my body that might indicate a return of the cancer. I've been experiencing some strange pains in my reconstructed foob, but I'm wondering whether that is just my overactive mind imagining things, or whether I can and am really experiencing pain (could that be more nerve damage? Are there even nerves left in there?). If so, does that mean anything? It is difficult not to fear the worst and to obsess about it, as well as to assess those kinds of things neutrally. 

Oh well, one more thing to work on in the future: how to balance fear with vigilance, and enjoy life at the same time. For right now I'll focus on getting over the fatigue and neuropathy.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Two days down

Somehow, I made it through another workday. Got the two back-to-back presentations done half-way reasonably, and then dragged myself to my car and back home. What an effort! And imagine this, I'm only working half days Monday through Thursday. I don't think I could face full work days right now, as I crash and need to rest/sleep all afternoon when I get home. 

My hands and feet are still numb/tingly/itchy, but overall they feel a tiny bit better. So I got brave and drove myself to and from work today. Just to be safe, I traded DH my stick-shift car for his automatic transmission vehicle. With my numb feet I'm having trouble managing the clutch. 

Just two more workdays for me this week, yay. Gotta get a report written by Monday, too. But maybe I'll have more energy as the week goes on...

Monday, September 14, 2009

One day down

My return to work has brought another set of issues for me. Although I'm lacking energy and struggling with numbness/tingling/neuropathy in both my hands and my feet, I need to be able to be on my feet for quite some time and be energetic in my presentations. I manage to do that for the shorter presentations, such as the one today, but I am slow-- and the effort wears me out completely. The last round of chemo still has me in its grip, despite the lesser side effects this time around.

Actually, the neuropathy was bad enough that even though I didn't take any painkillers this time around, I didn't dare drive. In the morning, DH drove me in to work, and after I was done my boss was kind enough to drive me home. It just felt safer that way.

Tomorrow I need to make two back-to-back  presentations, which will be even more difficult. I'll need to find a way to sit more during presentations, and to make sure I can give them fast enough. But my brain is still to chemo-foggy to make it up to the speed I need. Hopefully that side effect will wear off soon, too. 

Overall things are going pretty well, though. Particularly when you consider my crazy escapades from last week, everything has worked out pretty smoothly so far. 

I still need to make the appointment with the radiologist to make a final decision, though. It's an issue I've been avoiding...

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Last chemo!!!

On Thursday, I had my last chemo. Eight of eight treatments done -- I can still barely believe it...

For my very last round of chemo Dr. V switched me from Taxol to Taxotere, however, since I had been experiencing quite a bit of numbness and tingling in my hands and feet. Whereas the tingling had subsided before I was due for the next chemo during rounds five and six, round seven brought unrelenting tingling for me. That raised the specter of permanent nerve damage, which I was eager to avoid. So I made sure my poison man knew about my still-tingling hands and feet -- and in response he switched me to Taxotere. Supposedly, this different formulation of a taxane (it has a different solvent, I believe) is less damaging for the nerves. 

Since my friends no-l and 1l were in town, we went out for dinner Thursday night and celebrated all kinds of things, including my last round of chemo. They had given me the chemenorah, so I thought what better occasion to light the last candle and let all eight of them burn down? Although I know my measly eight rounds of chemo pale by comparison with the endless rounds of chemo the brave stage IV ladies endure (kudos to you!), they nonetheless made for quite a dramatic display of fire:

So far, the Taxotere hasn't been too bad for me as I have (so far?) been spared the excruciating joint, muscle, and nerve pain that accompanied the Taxol in rounds five through seven. Friday I was feeling pretty good and even managed to venture to the mall with some friends after I went to get my Neulasta shot. Saturday and today, however, once again brought worsened numbness and tingling in my hands and feet. I get the 'dropsies' quite a bit these days as my fingers don't do their job as I want them to, and I stumble quite often as my feet lack their usual nimbleness. Unlike in previous rounds, though, I was able to accompany DH and the doggie on their morning walk. For the Sunday after chemo, that is unheard of for me!

Other than that I am bothered mostly by unrelenting and quite severe hotflashes that make me break out in sweat countless times a day. I so hope that once the chemo is over the chemopause will not turn into premature menopause. Those hot flashes really suck, as they prevent me from sleeping and/or wake me up several times a night. 

Tomorrow morning I have to get up and go to work again. Hopefully my neuropathy won't be too bad and my energy level will be a bit higher than today so I can do what I need to. 

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Catching up with myself

Well, I've had one crazy week, let me tell you. This time, however, it was mostly of my own making rather than some strange chemo complication. 

I've had this nagging feeling throughout my chemo treatment that I am missing out on life around me as I couldn't go places and do things I would normally do because I lacked the energy and/or was too nauseated for it. Lately, in particular, I had missed our niece's wedding in Ohio and wouldn't have been able to see her parents (who live abroad but had come to the US for the wedding) if they hadn't made the trip out to see us last Wednesday and Thursday. 

So when my weird new nausea finally abated on Wednesday morning, I saw one last chance to attend my brother's wedding party. But of course, that event required overseas travel. It's what happens in globalized families such as mine... Since I felt well enough, however, DH were crazy enough to book tickets for Thursday night, returning on Labor Day. 

We flew out, and had a lovely time with family and friends. The wedding was lovely, the bride stunning, and we were so glad that we got to meet her family, which had flown in from the other end of the globe. So I finally got to dance at my brother's wedding after all! Mind you, I could only muster the energy for a slow dance or two, but despite the odds I made it to at least one of the many weddings I had been hoping to attend this summer.

Time flew, though, and before we knew it we were back home. This was a good thing, as I had to start working again on Tuesday. Since my mastectomy in April I had been off work, but now those lazy days are over and I have to learn to get back into the swing of work-related things. Jetlag didn't exactly help with that this week, but that's how crazy I can get if I just have enough energy.

The rest of the week I didn't have enough energy left for posting, however, as I spent it all trying to catch up with myself and my crazy ideas. Oh yeah, and then I had my last and final chemo on Thursday -- but that'll be the topic of a separate post. 

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Getting better?

Yesterday and today brought more pain, and unfortunately more nausea, as well. At least I managed to avoid closer acquaintance with the porcelain bowl. Maybe my theory about the cause of the pain was incorrect, though. Although I didn't take any pain meds today, I still felt nauseous. So much for that theory... Who knows, anyway.
Today I feel as though things are getting better, thankfully. I had a touch more energy, and managed to make it through the pain without medical help. Since I am still hoping to travel on Thursday night, I figured I'd better start getting my rear end in gear. So I accompanied DH and the doggie on their morning walk. While I may have slowed them down, it felt good to be moving again.
Tomorrow, DH's brother and his wife will come to visit. This is a special treat, as we do not get so see them much ever since they moved abroad. They had come home to the US this summer since their daughter got married. I had hoped to make it to the wedding, which took place last weekend, but given that I was in the throes of the chemo side effects, I couldn't go. So if they weren't coming out to see us, we would not have seen them this year.
As you can see, I have big plans for the rest of the week. Hopefully I will have the energy to do most of the stuff I am planning. It sure would be nice to have at least the semblance of a life again. I just wish that nausea would subside...