Thursday, January 24, 2013

Low counts, but tumor markers lower too

This cycle of chemo has definitely made me glad that it is the last one, for a while at least.  I got a fever and some skin problems again this weekend.  My doctor had given me an antibiotic to have on hand in case there was a problem which I started, but it wasn't doing much.   This was probably due to my  white blood cells being too low again making me moderately neutropenic.  So, I'm having to be extremely careful and limited again about being out and around people.     The doctor put me back on steroids  to see if that would help, and it does seem like that broke my fever.  Unfortunately, the skin stuff hasn't really improved as much or as quickly as in the past. I was also given a different antibiotic to try if things didn't get better within a couple of days, and it looks like I'll be filling that today.  We are rechecking blood counts tomorrow, and hopefully, those will have gone up.  I just need to get & stay as well as possible, and have those counts  be high enough over the next week and a half to have the surgery on the 5th.  It will be so wonderful to actually be able to be back around people and shake hands, hug, remove my invisible 3 feet protective bubble, etc. without worrying about my blood counts soon!   After 3 1/2 months of worrying about the counts, waiting out another week and half sounds like such a short amount of time, but if you'd include my getting/staying well for that in your thoughts and prayers, it would be appreciated. 

The tumor markers that we did last week showed a decrease in both tests.  It was only about 5 points down for each, but anything down is in the right direction!  Also, I had to be reminded that the tumor markers are measuring proteins that are released from both live & dead cancer cells so even a little jump up during active chemo can be normal.  Since these last tests were done during chemo & before the last shot of it, hopefully, we'll see a bigger decrease a little further down the road.    

My petscan is Wednesday of next week, and I will get those results on Friday.  I'm nervous for those results, but the tumor marker decrease does put me at ease that things are still moving in the right direction.  I have to keep reminding myself that this scan may still not be the full picture, like the tumor markers, because the chemo continues to work for a bit of time.  Since telling the exact number hasn't been definitive on either scan and sizing the actual spots was a problem last time, I am expecting that we will primarily have to go by the SUV, how brightly the places light up or are active, again which could be impacted by dying cells as well.  

I would so love to hear that there is no evidence of the cancer anymore, but while I definitely believe all things are possible, I need to  remember that all things are in His time so that I don't get too hung up on being happy with only complete elimination when things are still working. 
I feel like I just need to add Matthew 6:34  -  " So do not worry or be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will have worries and anxieties of its own" and Isaiah 41:10 - "Do not fear, for I am with you" to the repeated loop of Psalms 46:10 - "Be still, and know that I am God" that plays in my head and brings me peace and calm.  

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Last chemo completed today!

My white blood cells were just high enough to be in the normal range today, and I was able to get my last chemo treatment completed.   Yeah!  Hopefully starting that little bit higher will help me to not go so low countwise this time.   I will still have to be careful about going out and being in big crowds the next couple of weeks since it is still flu season, but that light at the end of the tunnel is really bright now.   I am just so happy to be able to say that chemo is done for now, and hopefully, for a very long time!

The tumor marker tests were repeated today, and I should get those results on Friday.  That blood was taken before my chemo today so that could still fluctuate in the weeks after chemo as well.    We will also be doing another PETscan in two weeks.  Hopefully, we'll have a pretty good picture of how things are looking before my hysterectomy on Feb. 5th.  After that, I will be put on one of the aromatase inhibitors drugs to suppress any hormones that could still be produced through adrenal glands, etc.    If there are still tumors in the liver, the AI could also reduce the size, but it just works a bit slower than chemo does.

I asked the nurse today about how to expect certain things to take after this last chemo.  I knew that it could take 3 months for hair to start regrowing, but I was surprised to hear that it might be up to 6 months for things to start tasting normal again.   I am excited that once my white blood cell count comes back up after this chemo I will be able to eat raw fruits and vegetables again.  I have never craved salad as much as I have these last few months.  While they had said that you can eat it on your high white blood cell days if  you wash it with wash, etc., my white blood cells have been on the low side so much that I have been pretty nervous even to wash & eat salad at home.  The days I tend to crave it the most are of course my low days when I can't eat it even at home.  So, if you see me stocking up on lettuce at Publix in about 2 weeks, you'll understand why.

In the next few weeks if you could keep me in your thoughts and prayers for the following things, I would appreciate it:
1. that  I stay well over the next 2-3 weeks and my white blood cells come back up to the normal range so that I can have surgery as scheduled on 2/5.
2. that my  tumor markers show a decrease preferably to the normal range.
3. that my PETscan will show a decrease in size and/or the standardized uptake value (how bright/active the tumors show up) again preferably to the normal range.

Thanks so much! I hope everyone has a very good week!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013


 I am going to be quarantined to my house for a few days.   When my white blood cells started out this cycle at just 3.8, I knew that I would probably go too far down again this time which was confirmed today.  My white blood cells were only 1.4 today, and I was moderately neutropenic. With all of the flu nastiness going around, they stressed avoiding crowds and children even more than normal, and indicated that it would be in my best interest to stay at home.

 I just want to be able to complete my last chemo next Tuesday, and if quarantining myself will make that happen successfully, then I can do it....right?   I know it sounds like it wouldn't be that hard to stay in, but when you already have had and will have multiple days that you physically can't drive or leave the house, it is a little easier said than done...... especially when I am actually feeling pretty good like today.  It is strange to me that the chemo cycles were I've gone the lowest white blood cell wise are the ones that I've  actually felt the best.   Just one more oddity in this whole cancer weirdness!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

5 down, 1 to go....

I can see the light at the end of the tunnel for chemo now that #5 is in the books and there is only 1 to go.  Hopefully, the last chemo will be on Tuesday, January 15th as long as there are no complications this cycle. Woohoo!   At some point after the 6th chemo, we will be doing another PETscan to see what that shows.

I got some good news this week.  One of the things that they can use to track the progression of cancer is tumor markers.  There were 2 tumor markers that indicated increased cancer activity before my chemo began.  When they ran those 2 panels 2 weeks ago, they were both down by 50%.  That was especially good news since they were run right after the 5 week cycle when I had to do the surgery, etc. I had been worried that that amount of time off would possibly end up with the cancer growing so it was such a relief!!!  The tumor markers are a "follow the trend" thing rather than an exact number that correlates to how much cancer is in the body, but it is a good indicator that things are doing what they are supposed to do.    I take a lot of hope in any small victory!

Tumor markers do not always elevate in all people, and the nurse yesterday told us that mine being sensitive and reacting to the cancer being there & to chemo is a really good thing for future tracking.  If we can get those into the normal levels with chemo and/or the hormonal suppression therapy to come, then that can be the first thing to check to determine whether cancer has come back or begun growing again.  For my wallet, it would definitely be helpful to have a test to go to first before the very expensive PETscan as we track progress, etc.

Since I haven't posted a picture since the hair coming out/ wig selection, I decided to post a couple pictures taken this past week at Lettuce Lake Park and on Christmas Day.  The third is just a bonus shot of my brother, David, playing around with one of my wigs.   In the wig, he looks a little more like me again like he did in his baby pictures, but  I think he could fit right into a Monkees album cover in that look, lol!

Hope everyone's first week of the year is good and no resolutions are broken yet!