Archive for August 2nd, 2009

I’ve just gotten a few friendly messages along the lines of “more blog posts please” and “ok, how are you doing now?” I was about to reply that there isn’t much to say as I’m currently in a kind of calm before the storm – but I guess that’s exactly the thing to write about.

It’s been about ten days since my last medical appointment. I’ve been grateful to have some time to get work done, tend my garden, and organize my life a bit. (Oh, who am I kidding, that’s not nearly enough time to actually accomplish organizing my life!) In a few days I’ll begin a series of procedures and appointments in preparation for the daily chemo/radiation treatment that’s scheduled to start on August 19th. Since I don’t really know what to expect once I’m into the full-fledged treatment, I’m trying to make the most of my time now – while I still feel pretty good.

This Tuesday I begin the cleaning-out process for the Trans-rectal Ultrasound on Wednesday. It’s a special kind of internal ultrasound that will determine the extent of the tumor and help “stage” the cancer. It requires prepping almost exactly as you would for a colonoscopy. So, I’ll be back on clear liquids for the third time in a month and drinking that delicious “GoLytely” once again. My dear friend Shawn is driving me down to UNM in Albuquerque early Wednesday morning where I’ll be sedated for the procedure. I don’t expect to be given much info about the results immediately, but I should hear something within a few days.

Then, on Thursday, I’m on an all new diet plan! In preparation for Friday’s PET scan, I’ll be deprived of glucose for 24 hours beforehand. An hour or so before the scan they’ll inject me with glucose. Apparently, cancer cells really like glucose and will suck it up rapidly after lacking it for a while. The PET scan will reveal “hot spots” wherever glucose is concentrated. So, if the cancer has spread to other organs or tissue (besides where the known tumor is), the scan will reveal those areas. I’d appreciate your prayers that there’s no cancer elsewhere, please!

Those two tests are supposed to give Dr. Fekrazad the info he needs to determine what stage I’m at.  The stage will tell us what the prognosis is. I’ll meet with him on the 12th to review everything and to discuss the protocol for my treatment. That same day, I’ll have a “Chemo Teaching” session with one of the nurses at the Cancer Center. I assume I’ll learn all sorts of things I never wanted to know during that hour. Following that, I have a “CT Simulation” which I understand is when they make a mold of my pelvis for use during the radiation treatments. I’ll sit in the mold for each treatment so that I’m in the exact same position every time. And I’ll get these nifty little tattoos that they’ll use to aim the radiation at the correct location.

The following Monday, the 17th, I’m scheduled for out-patient surgery to have the chemotherapy port installed. For some irrational reason, this is the thing that terrifies me the most. I guess it’s because it requires inserting a tube in my chest that will go directly into an artery – and leaving it there for the duration of my treatment! Plus it means another anesthesia (which we all know didn’t go so well last time I was supposed to have an “out-patient” procedure!). But nearly everyone who knows anything about this stuff has said, “Yes, get the port.” And, after the difficulty they had trying to draw blood from me recently, it could be a fiasco if they have to stick me each time I have a chemo injection. Not to mention the very unpleasant problems that result if the vein collapses and the chemo gets into the tissue in your arm (apparently it’s very painful and the affected arm tissue will die).  So, I’m getting the port. Dear Natasya has agreed to be with me for that ordeal.

Two days later, on the 19th, I’ll experience my first chemo and radiation treatment. They’ve blocked out 4 and 1/2 hours for that first treatment since I’m “chemo naive” and they’ll be administering it very slowly.  My friend Mary Anne has bravely accepted the challenge of spending nearly that whole day holding my hand.

My long-time pal Alison is flying in on the 20th for the weekend following that first treatment. I hope I get to spend some time with her that doesn’t include leaning into the toilet. But I know she’s coming to hold me and help me through this…

So, as I said, I’m in that calm space before the hard stuff begins. One thing I’m doing with this time is saying many, many prayers of thanks for all the amazing people who have reached out to let me know they care, who have offered their help (both near and far), and who are saying their own prayers on my behalf. I am filled with awe at the many ways I’m being shown how much I’m loved.  Thank you to each and every one of you.

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