Sunday, April 29, 2007

Good News

First off, I forgot to post some very good news from my chest x-ray results: my tumor is already starting to shrink. Yay! I forgot to mention it with all the other craziness at the hospital last week.

Today my brother, Michael, and his wife, Shaunda, called and offered to bring steak and sides over to grill. Michael wanted to spend time with me and cook out at the same time, and I couldn't say no to an offer like that. Michael and Shaunda brought over steak, marinade, corn on the cob, and corn tortillas. He cooked a typical Guatemalan feast for us in honor of his trip a couple of month ago (to look at some land for his cows - long, long story). He invited Mom and Dad over too for some good family time. The other part of Michael and Shaunda's reason for coming over was because their washing machine is still broken and they hoped to use ours. I still didn't mind since he did bring food and cook it.

Earlier today, Mike and I ran some quick errands and we stopped at Smoothie King. I've never been there before and didn't know that it's kind of a health food store and a smoothie shop combined into one. I ordered something called the Hulk because of the amount of protein since I need some, and the clerk warned me that it's a "weight gaining" shake. I just smiled at him because that was exactly what I needed. I checked out the calories on the shake, and there were almost 1,000 calories in it. Perfect!

Mike also was busy getting our garden back in shape this afternoon. He spent several hours outside pulling weeds and repositioning our plants that had been trampled by the weeds. I spent a little time outside watching him while he worked and drinking my 1,000 milkshake of goodness. I can't do any garden work because of the dirt and pollen in the air, so Mike sweetly took on this chore by himself without complaint. He had a little help from our friend Sophie. The garden looks really nice now and I really appreciate his effort.

Mike returns to work tomorrow for the first time in three weeks and must navigate through rush hour traffic alone, without his HOV buddy in the car with him. We carpool to work every day and since there are two of us in the car, we can use the HOV lane. Mike drives in the morning and I drive in the afternoon (while he naps). Now he's got to go it alone. He'll be stopping at Starbucks first thing in the morning for sure, but it's a rough commute by yourself. He's been really great to me these last three weeks and has been an amazing pillar of support when I was certainly at my lowest. He probably got less sleep than me because I usually dozed off in the daytime after being awakened all night by the nurses, but he usually stayed awake. All my strength and courage to get through the dark times, I owe to Mike because he's picked me up when I've been down and made me laugh when I was crying. I'm going to miss him all day while he's at work, but I'm glad he is able to return to work this week while I'm relatively healthy. He will be there with me on Friday when I start Round Two, but at least he can hopefully work a full week and return to some sort of normalcy. I'll call him a lot so he knows I'm okay.

Michael is taking me to NIH tomorrow for a newly-scheduled monthly respiratory treatment while Mike is at work. I'm allergic to one of the key steroid drugs in my protocol so they had to come up with an alternate method and this respiratory treatment is it. I'll also get my twice weekly blood drawn while I'm there to see what my white counts look like now. Aunt Anne is taking me to NIH on Thursday to meet with my Irish Team where they'll examine me again to see how I did with Round One and then decide what course of action for Round Two (increase or decrease the level of drugs in my chemo cocktail). Friday is when I actually start Round Two and wear the fanny pack every day until the following Tuesday. At least I have the next few days to eat and get stronger before the whole vicious cycle starts again.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

A Tale of Two Patients

I checked out of the hospital yesterday afternoon because my white blood counts finally hit the lottery and won me a ticket home. I still wasn't feeling all that well so I wasn't overly excited to be home, but at least I would get a decent night's sleep without a nurse coming to check on me every two hours or the 6am lab tech call to draw blood. Remarkably, once I got home I continued to feel better and actually ate two bowls of Diane's delicious homemade matzo ball soup (thanks, Diane!). I also continued to drink my Gatorade because I learned my lesson about dehydration. I also slept soundly throughout the night, even though I kept imagining my own bed had hosptial rails on the side.

I continued to rebound today and even ate steak with vegetables for dinner. It was really good. Sophie taught Mike how to make this excellent sauce for the steak and I enjoyed every bite - even though it was on the spicy side. I miss spicy foods a lot, but I have to tone it down so I don't upset my already-sensitive tummy. Dinner was heaven for sure.

I noticed that my hair is starting to fall out so I probably will schedule another visit with Rhonda this week to trim it down even shorter because I'm starting to shed worse than Riley (my dog). I'm still not looking forward to being bald, but it's coming soon. I told myself today that I should only be bald for five or six months and it's not forever. I'm trying to remain strong. Maybe I should start watching Demi Moore in "GI Jane" or Sigourney Weaver in "Alien" just to get in the spirit of things. Bald is a fashion accessory! I can be ready to go out in minutes and I don't have to spend 10 extra minutes in the shower shampooing and conditioning anymore! At least I have lots of scarves and hats with which to accessorize.

The other patient is home from the hospital as well after his nasty tumble down the stairs Thursday. Dad didn't break or sprain anything, but he's really sore and has crutches to hobble around with. My brother, Michael told me about the trip home from the hospital. Hopefully I can capture the humor of the situation. They wheeled Dad out to Michael's truck and helped him climb inside, but when Dad tried to move his leg inside the truck so Michael could close the door, Dad was in so much pain that he couldn't move his leg. Michael reminded Dad that he didn't break his leg so he should be able to suck up the pain and move it, but Dad insisted that it hurt too much. Then he tried to convince Michael to leave the door open and drive home. From George Washington Hospital. In Washington, DC. Can you imagine Michael driving through rush hour traffic in the city and then on the highway with the car door open? I hate to admit it, but I laughed at the thought of them wheeling through town trying to avoid every parked and double parked car in the city. Thankfully, they got the door closed and drove home safely. However, Michael had a difficult time helping Dad walk up the steps to get into their house. Once inside, Dad headed for the couch and stayed put until Mom came home. I think he's taking Monday off from work to recover. He sounded better on the phone today, but he can't come over to visit until he's walking a bit better and I know he feels terrible about that.

To my other family members: no hospital visits for the next six months, please. I'm serious when I say that only one Erickson, Jandrew, or King at a time. Stay well and keep your eyes down when you take the stairs.

One last thought. I start round two of chemo next Friday. Get your boxing gloves ready; Angela's got some more cancer to fight. I need to eat and rest up this week to be prepared for the next low white count phase because it's probably going to be a little rougher than last time. Ugh.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Donate Your Pounds Here!

I see I created quite a stir with my last post so I guess I'm going to have to start the new Donate Your Unwanted Pounds Club. It'll be better than the Red Cross bothering you to donate that pesky blood or WETA asking you to donate to their annual membership drive - you donate something you don't want or don't need so others may benefit. I really only need about 10 pounds back (sorry Sue, you are excluded completely from donating because you're too darn skinny), but just think you could be the ones who save the Hollywood Starlets and stop Lindsay Lohan from wasting away or those "adorable" Olson twins from disappearing completely (hmm, maybe that wouldn't be such a bad idea?) I see a national trend starting right here!

In other news today, my father called me from...the hospital. It seems he was thinking about me while walking down some stairs, missed a step, stumbled, grabbed the railing, and fell. He was with some people at the time and they tried to grab him, but didn't quite catch him when he fell. He doesn't think he broke anything, but he was taken to the ER at GW Hospital. They tried to send him to SE General in DC, but their ER was full. He's being checked out with x-rays right now and my brother is there with him because Dad doesn't carry his medical insurance card with him (everyone, please carry your insurance card with you) so Michael had to bring it to him since Mom's at work. I told him that there can be only one family member in the hospital at a time, but I guess I should have told him that yesterday. I wonder if they had to hook him up to an IV for the x-ray? I hope not because he hates needles worse than me!

I feel about the same as yesterday, which means I haven't eaten much again. I had jell-0 for lunch and some Gatorade, oh and a vanilla shake. I'm going to try froot loops for dinner tonight since I don't seem to have a problem eating breakfast cereals (they have All Bran on the menu, but I hated that stuff before I went into the hospital so I'm not about to eat it now) or drinking whole milk. Maybe my McDreamy search is really for a Strawberry McShake from McDonalds? I see the truth clearly now.

Today's Irish Team consisted of my young Dr. DunLevey and four female doctors, who Mike says were not much to write home about. However, he continues to prefer the nursing staff. Today's nurse for example, Amanda, is definitely young and cute and talked about her scuba diving certifications and other outdoors-y things she likes to do. Her last day is tomorrow because she's moving across the country to California to get married. I really like her chipped black fingernail polish and how she wears her hair in two pig-tails, kinda like when I was a kid. She is a good nurse and makes good eye candy for Mike!

My counts have continued to rise and the doctor's are hopeful that I may go home tomorrow, but they also said maybe Saturday. It does sound like I will home for sure by Saturday. I don't know if I mentioned that I had a rash when I checked in, but the nurses (go nurses!) thought it might be a delayed reaction to the surgical tape from my IJ line last week. The rash is definitely getting smaller and everyone can see an improvement.

If someone makes Gila's cookies, maybe I can actually eat one when I get home. The recipe sounds delish, I just hope I get over this nauseated feeling soon because I miss eating.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Doctor McDreamy

Blair suggested that I came back to the hospital because I'm looking for my own McDreamy. Sigh, I wish that was the only reason I'm here! I experienced another day of nausea and back pain, but today I got two massages - one from the massage therapist and another from my night nurse. I really, really, really needed it. I think all this lying and sitting around has made my back really tight. I've been taking oxycodone for the back pain and they increased my dosage to 10mg from 5mg and that seems to be helping and I've started taking walks around the hallway and doing some physical therapy exercises that I learned when I did hurt my back several years ago. I'm trying not to rely on the oxycodone, but it really helps. I just don't want to be like Rush Limbaugh and become an addict!

My Irish Team comes by to visit me every day (usually when I'm in the bathroom-how embarrassing to walk out of the bathroom to find 12 doctors standing around waiting for you) and they said today that I probably won't be home now until Friday or Saturday because my white counts are still low and I'm still running a fever. I am anxious to be home, despite the numerous doctors and nurses who fetch me juice, water, or Gatorade. I won't miss the daily blood draws, though. :-)

The nurses continue to weigh me every few days and I've lost about 5 pounds since my previous hospital stay (down a total of 14 pounds since January or February). I've been trying to eat here, but I'm just not hungry and nothing tastes good. I had chicken noodle soup for lunch yesterday, which I promptly threw up. I've been reduced to eating ice cream milk shakes and italian ices. I manage to eat my fruit loops for breakfast just fine, but any meal after that does not sit well with my stomach. I hope I can eat something tomorrow as I can't stand to lose another pound.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Update from the Hospital

I'm feeling better today, but my white counts are still low. I will probably be here until Wednesday at the earliest so they can keep an eye on me. Whenever I leave the room I have to wear a mask and these purple surgical gloves. My mom commented that I looked like Miss Piggy. All I needed were the pearls!

They've been pumping me with so much saline (1 liter every 4 hours) that I was up every hour to hit the restroom. Mike stayed with me last night so I probably woke him up whenever I dragged my IV unit in with me. My nurse also came in every two hours to check on me, including at 4am to draw blood - not fun. I was still able to get some sleep, but it was difficult. My bed here is not as nice as Fairfax Hospital: my bed there automatically repositioned itself every few minutes to eliminate bed sores and here I have a standard hospital bed.

After one trip to the restroom, I came back into my room to see my entire team of doctors and nurses (at least 12 people) waiting to talk to me. I call them the "Irish Team" because a lot of them are Irish (and I adore their accents!). They came to check on me and to let me know that I'll be here for a few days. I have some funky rash on my neck, which they think might be an allergic reaction to surgical tape, but they have to fully investigate. I had a room full of people checking me out and examining me - it's a good thing I've gotten over any shyness I might have had!

My morning nurse, Amy, was shocked to learn that I'm Jan Erickson's daughter. They used to work together and she knows Mom well. There are a lot of nurses and other staff here at NIH who know Mom so I get treated a little bit like a rock star whenever I mention her name. Of course, I have to be careful what I say about Mom too! Both Mom and Dad are stopping by this afternoon to see me.

I finished watching disc 1 of "North and South" and I'll watch the other disc soon since I have no place to go and plenty of time on my hands. Visitors are welcome, but anyone with a cold has to stay away. With my current neutropenic status, I encourage everyone to wait and see me when I get home. I also can't have any outside food either. I'll get better and be home soon - I promise.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Back in the hospital again

Today Angela wasn't feeling well again, but things just seemed a little worse than normal. Around 2PM we decided to take a trip back to NIH for some saline - to rehydrate her. That quick trip turned into a overnight stay (at a minimum). the NIH staff discovered that she had a fever and a temp. of 101.5....NOT GOOD! After some blood work they found that her white blood cell count was REALLY low, which means she is neutropenic. This is common after receiving chemo treatments. However, it also means that she is very vulnerable to germs, infectious diseases, and colds. Thus far we have received good care from the NIH staff and after several liters of saline and some antibiotics she is feeling better and looks forward to a good nights rest. Of course I will be by her side the entire time.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

The North and South

Anyone who knew me back in high school would remember that I was a total John Jakes, "North and South" mini-series FANATIC. Every day at school we would dissect the episode from the night before. I swooned over Patrick Swayze and Monica swooned over the curly dark-haired guy (I can't remember his name right now). I even posted pictures from the tv guide in my locker at school.

I'm reliving a little bit of my 80s past today with disc 1 of the mini-series, thanks to my brother, Mike and his Netflix subscription. I had no idea he was a fan too! I guess I made him watch it with me back then so he developed an appreciation for the show. Bring on Orrie Main, Madeline, her evil husband (David Carradine), the evil Bent, and the rest of the gang. I think I'll sit back, make a faux mint julep, and enjoy the show.

I wonder if Netflix also has my other 80s mini-series, "V"? That will be my next movie request.

I love the 80s!

Friday, April 20, 2007

Ad Nauseaum

I haven't had a chance to blog in the last couple of days because I haven't been feeling too well since Wednesday afternoon. I've been a little nauseous and have been trying to eat and drink, but nothing either stays in me or tastes very good right now. I called NIH just to check my health and they said to stay hydrated and chug sports drinks. When I went for the first of my bi-weekly blood work yesterday, I ended up staying for a saline IV drip because I was a little light-headed and dehydrated. I felt better afterwards, but still not 100%.

Yesterday we went to visit the NIH vendor who provides one free wig to all NIH cancer patients. I got my hair cut the night before and it's short and curly (and kind of cute, if I say so myself) and my new 'do kind of matches what my hair looks like today. I also picked up some hats and scarves too. I almost fell on the floor when she said how much the wig I picked out would normally cost me - $1,1oo! I am so thankful that NIH provides this service for free to me and other patients because it is traumatic enough to go through cancer without worrying about your looks on top of it.

The results of yesterday's lab work were good and my white cell count is fairly high today. I will see what happens on Monday when I return for my next check. I also haven't been running a fever, which is something I have to monitor very closely for the next few months. Unfortunately, I've started feeling the side effects of my daily nupogen shots so my joints are a little sore and tender. The nupogen is used to keep my white cells high, so I guess I won't complain too much about it.

My office delievered a hugh bouquet of mylar balloons this afternoon and I thought my dog Riley was going to faint from fright! I could see the balloons on the front porch through the front door and Riley was staring really hard at them too. When Mike opened the door, Riley crouched really low and started barking at them. Riley doesn't bark at anything! Then Riley ducked behind my legs and hid from the balloons. Mike managed to get them in the house, but Riley won't be going near them! I haven't laughed that hard in a while - thanks, DI!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

All Done with Round One!

Everything went well tonight. We were there about four hours and I ordered dinner while I waited. It's pretty cool - they have an extensive menu that's free for patients. I just pick up the phone and tell the operator what I want and then they deliver it right up to my chair. Tonight I had grilled cheese, potato salad, canned pears, and carrot cake. Yum.

Greg Jasper works at NIH on the 6th floor so he came down to visit me on the 3rd floor while I waited for the end of this round of chemo treatment. I met Greg in the Jaycees and I've known him longer than I've known Mike. Greg works in the lab at NIH and was able to tell me a little bit more about my specific protocol treatment. He had only good things to say about my NIH doctors and said I'm in good hands.

The nurses and my mom were right about removing the IJ line. I didn't even feel it and I'm very glad. I took my glasses off just in case so I wouldn't see anything. We have to return tomorrow because Mike has to receive training on how to give me my next shot, which will control any nausea. He's been really good so far with the other shot, but they are pre-filled shots so he'll need training on how to load up this kind. I'm sure he'll be fine. I also received a "schedule" of when I can expect to hit my low white-blood cell count, which could be as early as next Wednesday. This is the period when I really have to be careful about going out in public and it's when I could become really exhausted. At least I know when to expect it.

I meet with my local oncology doctor on Thursday, Dr. Walmark. He's going to be my local point of contact in case I have any issues and I'll need to visit his office twice a week for blood work, except when I need to start chemo again at NIH. His office is only 10 minutes from my house so it'll be a bit closer thank trekking through rush hour traffic to NIH.

Thanks again for all of the cards and comments to this blog. Please keep them coming.

Angela & Mike

Today is the Last Day of the First Cycle

We head back to NIH this afternoon for my last day of chemo treatment for this first cycle (out of six). It's going to be another long day, but not as long as last Friday. They'll wait for my current bag of chemo to finish and then hook me up to another drug that I don't remember the name of right now. After that, they'll "clean out" my system with saline and then unhook me.

I'm most nervous about them removing my semi-permanent IJ line. The nurses say they don't sedate patients at all for this procedure and "even children" can handle it just fine without medication. Unfortunately, telling me that kids don't have a problem doesn't really make me feel any better. I will eagerly admit that I'm squeamish about this stuff and telling me that I'm a "big girl" doesn't make me feel any more grown-up! But I said I'd trust her, especially after my mom confirmed that it's not that bad. I plan to take my glasses off and look away so I don't see anything. My dad's offered to come with me today, but he may pass out on the floor since he's about as bad as I am!

I finally caught up with my hairdresser and I'm getting my hair cut tomorrow night. I am a little sad about cutting my hair because I like my curls and I don't know if I'll see them again. However, I'm trying to mitigate the drama of seeing a whole bunch of hair hit the floor after washing it one day. I'd much rather do this first. My friend Robert says that his mom cut her hair really short because it was the last thing she had absolute control over before she started her chemo and I'm going to try to be as brave as she was when she went through this nine years ago.

Mike took me to JcPenney yesterday for a photo shoot of me "before" and I hope to document my story over the next six or so months so that years from now I can look back and really see that I fought this and won. I am an avid scrapbooker and while I may not feel up to it now, I know I will want to scrapbook this journey someday.

Everyone keeps asking what they can do for me and today I can't answer that question. Steve and Sue brought lasagna, Nancy and Ron brought brownies and a casserole, Sophie and Frank brought up some soup, and I have lots of munchies that people have sent or brought over. We thank you so much for all the food and please feel free to keep that coming in the months ahead. I won't be able to eat any raw fruits or vegetables and I can't honestly tell you what my appetite will be from one day to the next, but Mike appreciates a good meal too. I've stocked up on applesauce, pudding, and Boost supplement drinks for those bad days when I can't eat anything.

Mike has a very difficult job of being my primary caretaker and as much fun as he has giving me my daily injection, he needs to get out of the house and do normal stuff or have a conversation not about me. Please feel free to golf with him or ask him to take you out on his boat. He needs you guys as much as I do, so please kidnap him and make him get out of the house. Our dog Riley could also use a little attention, so feel free to take him out for walks. He really enjoyed his time with Blair and his dog Wiley at "Camp Barkalot" while we were in the hospital.

Keep the good thoughts coming!

Sunday, April 15, 2007

A Shot Through the Tummy

Mike did very well this morning giving me my daily Lovinox shot (to stop the blood clotting). Mom trained him yesterday morning, but I was getting a little light-headed while they discussed how to do it. I was a little nervous this morning, but after being stuck daily for the past nine days I handled it a bit better than I would have last week. Mike was better than some of the nurses at the hospital because this stuff can have a little burning effect if you push the medicine too fast or too slow. He did it just right.

Next week he gets to jab me with a different medicine that will help control the nausea. Oh joy, just what I need, more shots.

I'm very squeamish about needles, but I'm getting somewhat better at dealing with it. I did almost pass out a couple of times at the hospital last week after the lab technician drew blood so that part is still difficult. I hope to get over my squeamishness soon!

My cancer timeline

I realize that some of you may not know the history behind my recent cancer news so this entry is just to provide you with a general time line.

Back in January or February I noticed that I had some shortness of breath and wheezing when I exercised, but since I had my yearly asthmatic bronchitis back in October and then a nasty cold in January, I didn't think much of it other than my cold was coming back. My symptoms started getting a little worse, but I didn't sit up and take notice until about seven weeks ago when I was at the rock climbing gym trying to scale a relatively easy wall that I had climbed before. I had to stop about two feet up because I couldn't breathe and my heart was pounding pretty rapidly. I managed to make it to the top anyway, but it was a slow and difficult climb. Later that night, I had dinner with my parents and mentioned it to my mom and she suggested I see a doctor. I made an appointment for the next morning and my doctor referred me to Dr. Collins, a cardiologist, because she was concerned about some noise from my heart murmur.

It took me a couple of weeks to make the appointment with Dr. Collins and she took an EKG and said my heart looked fine, however she ordered me to come back for a stress test and an echocardiogram just in case. Another two weeks went by before I could schedule those appointments and last Wednesday, April 4th I went for the tests. A different cardiologist in the office that day reviewed my initial results and said everything looked great for my heart, but the echocardiogram was a little hard to read since my heart was pushed a little to the side, but he said that was normal for someone thin like me.

Little did I know that my life would change the very next day. Dr. Collins called me at work and said they found a "mass" pressing up against my heart and sent me to the nearest hospital for an emergency CT scan. She was very concerned that I go immediately. I raced to Mike's office and we went to Fairfax Hospital in Virginia where I work. The emergency CT scan revealed that I had a large "fist-sized" tumor pressing up against my heart and I was admitted to the hospital. On Friday, April 6th they took a biopsy of the mass and several hours later they confirmed that it is lymphoma and then they did a bone marrow biopsy to make sure it was not in my bone marrow.

The "good" news in all of this bad news is that it is a b-cell lymphoma, which is the best kind of lymphoma to get and it is highly treatable with chemotherapy. Because of where the lymphoma is, they can't operate so they have to shrink it through chemo, which I started on Friday. It's called a large diffuse b-cell lymphoma if you want to google it or also called PML lymphoma.

Today was another good round of chemo. I didn't sleep as well last night because the prednisone is such a high dose that it keeps me a little hopped up (and gives me a very good appetite). I asked for some Ambian to help me (and Mike) sleep tonight since my tossing and turning kept both of us awake last night. I go back to NIH tomorrow to replace my chemo bag and then my last day on this cycle is on Tuesday. Tuesday is the day they remove my IJ line and stop chemo until the next cycle in 17 days. I am excited not to be wearing a relatively heavy chemo bag around my waste for a few days, but I'm not looking forward to the potential drop in my white blood cells in about 7-10 days from my last day of chemo. This is the time when I have the potential to be neutropenic, which means I'll be more susceptible to illnesses so I have to be very careful and wash my hands a lot and possibly wear a mask or ask others to do the same.

Here's hoping I have another good day tomorrow (and that I can sleep tonight!)

Saturday, April 14, 2007

It's a beautiful day

Today was a much better day than yesterday. The combination of adavan ("anxiety reliever"), pain killer for the IJ line, and the benadryl before I started chemo knocked me out completely for the entire day. My first drug, rituxin, is a pretty serious one so they kept me at NIH all day to keep an eye of me for fever, chills, or any flu-like symptoms. I drifted in and out of consciousness all day and could not seem to wake up for anything. A Nurse Pracitioner from NIH came up to talk to me because someone at my rock climbing gym told him that someone in the "rock climbing community" had gotten cancer so he came to introduce himself. Wow, I'm a member of the rock climbing community! I'm pretty sure Jeff C. told the person who told me because I don't really know the person who told him - it was pretty amazing nonetheless.

We finally left and came home where I drifted in and out of watching some of my old TV shows on the DVR. I finally gave up fighting the sleep and went to bed around 10pm and sleep really well for the first time in a week. My nerves have been shot since I was first diagnosed and I've been anxious ever since. I woke up at 6am this morning refreshed and ready to go do something.

Mike and I took a walk today and it felt so good to be outside and moving around. I also did a little light housekeeping and Shuk-Kwan and Andy came over this afternoon. Oh, and Mom came over to show Mike his new chore of giving me a shot every day. I was relieved that she didn't cause me as much pain as some nurses did. Now the pressure's on Mike so I guess I should be nice to him!

We headed back to NIH to replace my chemo bag, which was a quick snatch-n-grab type of thing: for you NASCAR fans it would be the equivalent of a pit stop. I head back to "pit road" tomorrow for another replacement. I'll make the trip every day until Monday and then for my final day on Tuesday (this cycle), I will have another long day at NIH because I have to stay for the duration of that day's medication and they have to remove my IJ line until the next cycle. I must remember to beg for pain killers before that experience because I'm still squeamish about all of this stuff.

I hope I'll feel just as good tomorrow and will have a few more good days before I experience any bad days. Thanks for all of your thoughts, prayers, gifts, and support. Just knowing that so many people care about me is a tremendous help that will carry me through the next 180 or so days of this treatment.

Love ya,

Friday, April 13, 2007

What a day...

Angela had her first chemo treatment today at NIH.

We arrived at 7:30am, and after waiting 2 hours, the doctors installed a "line" This line is used to install a the drugs required to KILL the tumor. Normally, this type of line used is a PICC line. Which runs from the elbow joint to just above the heart. However, due to the size and location of the tumor, the doctor had to install a Internal Jugular (IJ) line. With her extreme fear of needles they gave her a sedative that put her in another universe.

Around 11:30am we began the actually chemo treatment. This was a long process (5 hours) of IV treatment under constant medical supervision. Of course, since she was still in outer space somewhere, she slept during the whole thing!

While Angela was busy getting healed, the nurses didn't forget about me. Oh no, I got all kinds of "parting gifts". Since, I have to give Angela a shot EVERY day, I was granted the opportunity to watch a 10 minute film on the finer points of injecting medicine via a needle. Somehow, that makes me an expert. Then I was instructed how to diagnose and repair this pump device that is a critical part of pushing the drugs into her body. Man, is it getting hot in here? This is a ton of pressure!

But on a more serious note, this is not about me...rather Angela! Seriously, she did great today. It was a LONG, 11 hour day, where she was stuck, poked, and jammed with enough toxic chemicals to light up NYC on New Years Eve. As for me, I could only hope that I would be that strong during such difficult times. However, if you are in need for a bio-hazardous spill kit, I can hook you for Angela, well I am still awaiting her to land on this planet again.

The latest news is that I'm being transferred tomorrow morning to NIH to participate in a clinical trial chemo treatment called EPOCH. I was supposed to start chemo this afternoon, but my doctor found out about this treatment and spoke with the doctor at NIH, who happens to be the only doctor in the country who follows this protocol and he has admitted me to the program. Apparently, getting into this program is a major deal because they don't just admit anyone and I guess I'm in good physical condition to where I'm a good candidate. So I guess it's a good thing after all that I herniated my disc in my back a couple of years ago and started all that physical therapy. I will hug my trainer when I get a chance!

I have been officially diagnosed with diffuse large b-cell lymphoma, and there's a technical name but I can't remember it offhand, but it's the GOOD lymphoma if there ever was one. I do not have any cancer in my bone marrow, so that's also good news. I will be at NIH all day tomorrow talking to the doctor and the nurses and meeting with the social worker there for information about the program and then hopefully start this show on Friday. My chemo will be administered through a continuous 24-7 IV with medication that I'll wear in a fanny pack for 5 days and then I'll have 2 weeks off before I start the next round. It should take about 6 months for the whole program. I'll have good days and bad days and I could lose my hair, so I've decided to cut it short next week so I don't have to face the trauma of seeing large clumps fall out in the shower. Plus, I really don't have to want to deal with maintaining it in the months ahead.

If you want to come visit in the weeks ahead, just please call first in case I'm not up to company and Mike is playing gatekeeper for me! No flowers since they could have germs, but I might appreciate some chicken soup now and then. I have no food restrictions so bring on the Krispy Kremes. :-) A dear friend is setting up a blog for me where I'll post updates when I can and you can also include comments, so look for information about that soon.

Thanks for all of your prayers, well-wishes, and thoughts. It has really meant a lot to both Mike and I in the past week. It's been very hard, but I think it'll get better now that we know what we're dealing with and can fight it with knowledge and the proper treatment.


Thursday, April 12, 2007

I have known Angela & Mike for years and they have always been dear friends. They are the most fun loving, rock climbing-ist, bungee jumping-ist, volleyballing-ist, helicopter ride over volcanoe-ist couple I have ever known.

I know that the Lord will heal Angela from this sickness and give Mike strength to be there for his wife. I just want to let you guys know that I and my family are praying for you and will continue to do so until Angela is healed.

Mike and Angela, you know where to reach me when you need me.