Thursday, May 31, 2007

Back to the Hospital Tonight

I went up to NIH today for my monthly pentamadine treatment and since I was feeling a little light-headed earlier today, I went to the day hospital to ask about getting some saline hydration. My blood pressure was really low (in the 80s) and they jumped to hydrate me quickly and I ended up needed more hydration than I thought. I stayed for several hours, they checked my white counts, and sent me home. Well, the doctor called a few minutes ago and asked me to come back for an overnight observation because they don't feel comfortable having me at home tonight because of my "age" and history of ending up in the hospital. Mike's at volleyball tonight - just started playing - so he doesn't even know. Melissa came over to hang out with me so she'll drive me back. Luckily, I already have an overnight bag packed so after I'm done with this quick blog, I'm heading back to NIH.

The funny thing is that I feel really good after hydration, but if they want me back for observation, I'm not taking any chances. I hope I won't need another IV tonight, but I probably will. Sigh...

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Round Three is Coming to an End

I head up to NIH today in about an hour to finish up day five of my chemotherapy round. They pump me full of saline and then cytoxin for a couple of hours. After that they pull my IJ line out. I've been through it twice now and I'm still a little nervous, but I can handle it. Removing the line is pretty easy (and thankfully quick), but then they have to put compression on me for 10 minutes so I don't bleed to death. That part is not fun because the pressure kind of hurts.

After today, I start getting my G-shots to keep my white counts up and hopefully keep me out of the hospital this time. I also have to really, really stay hydrated this week and that may mean some trips to outpatient for saline later this week. It's okay because it helps me feel better in the long run.

I'm really, really hoping I can attend the American Cancer Relay for Life this Saturday. It's on the verge of when I don't feel well, but I want to attend for at least an hour so I can see all of those luminary candles I finally agreed to let people do for me. I better bring plenty of Kleenex because I know this is going to be difficult, but it's important. My original goal was to raise $1,500.00 but because I have so many wonderful friends, family, and colleagues, I've blown that out of the water. Mike has set my new goal at $3,000.00 and I'm about $400.00 short today. I better drum up some serious donations if I want to meet this goal by Saturday. :-) If you want to donate, my direct address is:

Monday, May 28, 2007

Last Day of Round Three - Tomorrow

This is Ron. I was joking with another friend last Monday about how I consider my chemo cycles like rounds on a boxing match - any chance I can get to knock Priscilla down for a TKO. I said that I needed someone to parade for me before each round like those girls do in a boxing match. Ron has this old elephant thong that he bought as a joke for a Jaycee convention a long, long time ago (that he always wears over shorts). He retired the elephant thong years ago, but I begged him to pose for me as my "ring dude" and his wife actually let him do it just for me. Ron came over to the house last week and we took some pictures. We even posed bald together (once I get those off my camera, I promise I'll post so you can all see me in my bald glory). So, here's to Ron and Round Three!

I found out today that I have another cancer sister and I'm sad to report that it's my old college roomie from Munich, Germany. Kim and I met freshman year when we shared an apartment together with six other girls. We were all 18 and now she's just finished her last round of chemo. We were so young and invincible and now we're "bald sisters" fighting the same disease. It never ceases to amaze me at the number of people I learn about who have or have had cancer. Kim, I'm glad you're done with chemo. I know you're still on your journey, but at least we can share thoughts and experiences so we are not alone. Keep fighting and keep facing your fears. Together, we are strong!

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Round Three Status

So far, round three is going just fine. The prednisone is giving me some appetite so I'm eating all the time and it feels really good to eat. I felt so good yesterday that I drove myself to NIH for my daily pit stop.

I've spent the last two days cleaning out my parent's house to get it ready for Dad's surgery on Thursday. If you've ever seen that television show, "Clean Sweep" where they clean two rooms of a cluttered house, that's what I've been doing. We hauled 21 bags of pure mixed paper to the recycling center since yesterday, much to Mom's dismay. She doesn't handle people coming in to clean her house very well, but it's absolutely necessary if we want Dad to be able to move in the house. What's bad is that we only cleaned the living and dining rooms and there's so much more we could do, but those are the most important rooms since Dad will be living on the first floor while he recuperates. What's amazing is that we can see the dining room table for the first time in years. We also cleaned off a small table and organized all of Mom's music so she can easily access it now. It's amazing what a difference we made.

I made dinner tonight for the first time in a long time - that's how good I'm feeling. Nothing fancy, just spaghetti and meatballs with garlic bread. Next week I'll feel really bad so I want to take advantage while I still feel good. I just hope I don't end up in the hospital next Sunday - that is my goal. I've already packed a bag full of pajamas in case I do go. I'd rather be prepared than try to pack a bag when my temperature's 104 degrees and I'm neutropenic. I tend to get really weak and cranky when that happens.

Friday, May 25, 2007

If you Like Chemo Coladas...

Today's title is a throw back to the 70s. Think back to that classic tune, but just change the lyrics:

"If you like Chemo Coladas, and gettin' caught in the rain
If you're not into yoga, if you have half a brain..."

Yep, I started round three of my Chemo Colada this morning and slept most of the time, as usual. I'm just now waking up a little bit, but I could use another nap (after I eat my Ben & Jerry's). I hope Priscilla enjoys her Chemo Colada cocktail and shrinks a whole bunch more - drink up, sister!

I ran into my "buddy," Steven and another guy who both have lymphoma. Steven's on the same cycle of EPOCH and we exchanged war stories. The lucky duck only ended up in the hospital after round one. He was surprised I was in the hospital both times. I only hope I model Steven on this round and stay out of the hospital. The other guy, Ryan - I think, has been off and on various chemo regiments, including some I've never heard of before. He worked for a company that handles chemicals and worked there for 11 years. He's trying to file workman's comp, but the company is claiming that his handling of the chemicals has nothing to do with the cancer. Ryan is five months younger than me. He's got lawsuits going and still has debts from his previous chemo rounds. He's not on my protocol and is doing something different. I hope he gets cured this time. His tumor is so large, they can see if from outside his body. He had a ton of tests yesterday and today. I hoped to say goodbye to him, but I didn't see him when I left.

I was glad I ran into Steven and Ryan before my turn in the special procedures room. They really took the anxiety and the edge off of my getting the IJ line put in today. It was also nice talking to people who have been through it and are going through this with me to exchange stories and discuss different medical treatment options that I can bring up with the doctor.

I'm home now and will probably take a little nap. I'm hoping to go to a Jaycee get-together tonight. It'll be fun! Have a happy Memorial Day Weekend, everyone. I'll be getting chemo coload pit stops all weekend.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Let's try this again

Thanks to Blair, I now have a picture of me climbing in the right direction: up not sideways.
Thanks, Blair
I'm off to NIH this morning to meet with my Irish team. They'll draw blood, weigh me, take my blood pressure and my temperature, and otherwise inspect me to see how I'm doing.
Tomorrow is ROUND THREE and I suppose I should be "happy" since it's the halfway point, but I know what lies ahead in the next week. Ugh. Oh well, this will all help get rid of Priscilla. I want her evilness banished from my life and FAST.
Gotta run, don't want to be late.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007


I've always been afraid of heights. I don't even like being on a balcony of a tall building. My brother once tortured me by gently shaking the bridge I was standing on that looked straight down into a canyon with a waterfall. (Remember, Michael, we were on that bridge near Neuschwanstein castle in Germany. You were really funny shaking that bridge.)

(Sorry, I can't figure out how to turn the image the other way)

In 2006 I became the Gaithersburg/ Germantown Jaycees Individual Development VP. I thought a great activity for the chapter would be to go rock climbing. I wouldn't go, but I thought others might be interested. I asked Mike if he would organize it because he likes doing really physical activities. Mike looked into it and found that we could save the chapter money if at least two people became certified belayers (the person on the bottom who holds the rope for the climber) because the climbing center charges per climb otherwise. Then he talked me into doing it and I agreed. I don't know why, but I thought, "what the heck?"

We signed up for two classes and a month of climbing at Earth Treks in Rockville, MD. I was very nervous, but Mike was confident that I could do it. We arrived at the first class and learned how to tie the basic climber's and belayer's knots and basic safety techniques. Then it was time to hit the wall. Mike climbed confidently to the top and then it was my turn. I started climbing and made it up a few feet off the wall the first time, but the instructor pushed me to climb all the way to the top on my next climb. I did it! I felt exhilarated because I had done something I never imagined I would be able to do. I conquered a fear and climbed!

These days, I've climbed higher walls and even climbed outdoors at Great Falls. I'm still afraid of heights, but I push myself each time I climb to keep reaching, to keep climbing, to overcome my fear. Mike pushes me to succeed and constantly cheers me on to reach new heights. He encourages me to keep on climbing when I want to quit. It's hard work and every muscle aches, but when I reach the top I am exhilarated and triumphant and he is excited for me.
Each time I think about my cancer, I remind myself that it's just like rock climbing. I have to push myself past the fear to conquer this beast. I will be stronger because of my cancer and I will not let myself give into the fear. I am strong and capable and with Mike by my side, I can do anything - even something I never thought I would be able to handle.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

My Shopping Cart

I like/hate shopping these days. I hate that I don't know what to buy because I don't know what I'll be able to eat and I end up shopping like I'm a teenager. For example, today's purchases included: Klondike bars, Ben & Jerry Cinnamon Bun, yogurt, English muffins, Edy's dreamcicles, pudding snacks, jello snacks, cheese, Marie Callender frozen meatloaf, frozen cookie dough (for noshing only - I'm not baking cookies), and bananas. Since I was at Safeway, I stopped at Starbucks on my way out and had a Strawberry Creme Frappachino - whole milk with whipped cream. Not exactly healthy, but food I can eat these days. I'm also going for high calorie foods too. I should be eating healthy, but I'm just happy to be eating anything.

This morning I had a massage. I'm trying to be good to myself when I'm feeling well and this was my way of treating myself. I think I fell asleep too. I won't be able to get a massage before my next chemo cycle, but rumor is that my cousin will be visiting and that's waaaaaaaaay better than a massage.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Shameless Plug

It's not too late if you want to help me raise money for the American Cancer Society. I'm supporting the Relay for Life, which is June 2-3. You can either donate in my honor or in honor or memory of someone you know with cancer. My goal is to raise $1,500 and as of today, I'm only at $1,175 and I'd appreciate your help. Here's my personal donation page:

Thank you everyone who has already donated to this very worthy cause. THANK YOU!

Phlebotomoy Schlebotomy

One thing I have learned in the last month or so is the value of a good phlebotomist. This is the person who draws your blood. I've had amazing luck with the phlebotomists at NIH and one guy is my clear favorite - Raj - because I swear he has the lightest touch with the needle and it doesn't hurt so much at all. Today I had someone new and gosh darn it, she hurt me. I don't ever want her again because that was painful. I'm used to other lab techs hurting a bit, but I could always trust the phlebotomist not to hurt me. I'll have to be more choosy next time. Ha! Like they would let me. They always seem so annoyed when I insist on the recliner chair because they have to drag the stuff from their cube, but unless they want me passed out on the floor of their little cubicle, they better put me in the chair. The chair is not too comfortable, but it reclines.

I spent nearly three hours at NIH today for some blood work and a nurse to look at my mouth sores. At least I got to order lunch (ham and swiss on rye) while I waited and watch a Travel Channel show on Istanbul. Waiting in phlebotomy took nearly an hour and then waiting for the nurse took another hour. At least the pharmacy was quick for a change. I think I scored the lottery on that wait today. I hate waiting. Ugh.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

The Incredible Shrinking Woman

I don't know if I've shared my total weight loss since I was healthy, but I've lost 20 pounds since my last weigh-in last week. I'm feeling much better today, which is why it's critical that I eat really well this week and eat lots of calories. Sue and Steve helped by bringing over lots of soup and Jimmie Cone ice cream earlier today. My mouth is still a little bit beat up and I'm eating softer foods until my mouth gets back to normal. I have noticed that food does taste different, but I'm hoping that's because my mouth is sore. I've heard that chemo changes the taste of food, but I hadn't experienced it until now. My parents brought me a sweet potato from Lone Star, where they had lunch today with a friend, and it didn't taste as good as I remembered. I just hope everything will return to normal when I am done when all chemotherapy.

I'm looking forward to the next few days simply because I know I will feel better and partly because I have a massage on Wednesday. After I find out the results of tomorrow's blood work and if I'm no longer neutropenic, I'm going to do something I never thought I'd do: call and make an appointment for acupuncture. I've heard that acupuncture can help with the nausea and I'm hoping it will help will my stomach issues too. I figure I've been poked an prodded plenty lately; what the heck, try acupuncture. I've got to do it this week, though because Friday I will start round three.

Mike brought his boat home from a friend's house on Saturday and he, Nancy, and Ron helped get it ready for the season. I'm a little sad because I most likely won't be able to join Mike on the boat this year and continue figuring out how to water ski. I want Mike to take it out as much as possible and have fun with friends, even if I'm not there. I'll be back on board next year, you can count on it. He loves his boat and we've taken it out a lot since he bought it last year. We mostly cruised up and down the Potomac, since you don't want to swim in the water. We also went tubing with his family at Lake Anna and I was up on water skis for about three seconds at Smith Mountain Lake with Eric's family. Ahh, the memories.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

New Day

I haven't posted in a while because I think I've been to hell and back. Yesterday was probably the most miserable I've ever been with problems at both ends - trouble eating and trouble keeping food in my stomach. One side effect of all of the chemo drugs is that I have developed mouth sores and they are usually small lesions that can be painful or just annoying. My entire mouth hurt yesterday and felt like I'd licked sandpaper. It didn't matter too much since anything I did manage to eat just went right through me as quickly as it went in my mouth. Food and liquids also tasted horrible, which made it really hard to eat. The worst was that I didn't feel hungry. I felt nothing at all and I didn't think I'd ever feel hungry again. I had a small glimmer of hope when I ate a small potato roll and an image of a nice ham sandwich with mustard on said potato roll popped into my head. However, eating anything yesterday was not meant to be.

I'm feeling better today and started off my day slowly with yogurt, moved on to jell-o, and am now enjoying a strawberry Boost. I have managed to keep everything in me with no problems. I have hope that I will eat a lot more today, even though my mouth is still sore. I will have to work around that somehow. Sophie made me some of her home-made French pureed vegetable soup that she insists must include some whipping cream. I will have to send someone to fetch me the cream because I think I want it today and I need the calories.

I am hopeful that tomorrow will be even better.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Various Ramblings about Hosptial-Land

Since I'm home and I didn't write much last week (not ENTIRELY my fault-we asked for a keyboard and mouse for the Internet on Sunday and true to form, did not receive them until this morning.) After the ceiling flooded on my wing on Tuesday, Mike could have been having fun scavenging with the nurses to find stuff, but I didn't think about that until today. All the patients in that general area had to be evacuated. I was on the far end so it didn't effect me. I didn't even know about the flooding until I left my room to take laps around the win. The nurses all seemed frazzled.

I had another chest x-ray and the tumor has "shrunk dramatically" from the last time! No word on the exact size that it is now, but the techie-guys know the precise length, width, weight, date of birth, and SSN of my tumor. (I'm trying to come up some membership that my big, BAD, mean, nasty tumor would belong to and be a card-carrying member of, but I'm not that funny or creative right now. Luke? Blair? Ron?) I will ask those Irish lads the details next Friday when I see them on my clinic date. Consuming minds want to know.

Gotta love Dad. He and Mom came to visit on Tuesday and I decided to take a shower (it was necessary, trust me) but the nurse has to come in, flush my IV, and unplug me from the machine. Not to mention, I have to finish all the medication in my IV bag before I could go in the shower. Lots of minutes later, the nurse finally came in to help me out. Removing the plug from an IV is the least squeamish of the squeamish stuff and you don't even see anything because there's nothing to see. The IV is hiding under tape. Dad was also sitting across the room and could have averted his eyes if truly necessary, but he hobbled out in the hallway instead. :-) The nurse taped me up and I enjoyed a very long warm shower, even though it takes me maybe 15 seconds to wash and condition my "hair." Ahhh.

Dad went to his orthopedic doctor yesterday, but after calling my brother, Michael, in a near panic about needing someone to drive him home from the appointment because they might want to do surgery the minute he arrives at the appointment. The purpose of the appointment was to review the results of last week's MRIs. I tried to reach Dad before the appointment and he didn't answer his phone. My fear was that he was hiding at home because he didn't want to go! I called Mom and told her that Dad was panicking (I guess he calls Michael now) and suggested he get some of my old friend, Ativan, to handle the anxiety in case he does need surgery. The result is Dad tore a ligament and will need surgery, which is scheduled for May 30. I don't think any of us can handle waiting that long and we may all need some Ativan to survive! How the heck did I get so calm?

May 30th is the day after I finish my next round of chemo so I should be okay for that day because Mom doesn't need to worry about two people on the same day. Send your flowers, plants, and fruit baskets to Dad since I can't have anything! You might want to send him the Operation Game too as a little joke from me. ;-)

Other Mishmosh of Information
Yes, I'm home and my counts are still low, but I'm here. I'm still a little tired and worn out. My behind is sore from all those "road trips" to the potty. I've got a new rash on my hands that might be from a lotion or from washing my hands a gazillion times. I took a great, warm Epsom bath as soon as I got home to alleviate the "bottom pain" and I have some regular hydro cortisone cream from the drug store for my hands. Riley and Shelby are ecstatic to see us and I bet as soon as I curl up for a nap, I will find a furry small friend curled up beside me.

I thought prednisone makes you wacky, however oxycodone is worse. Woooo. I ended up taking Ambien last night because the oxycodone "brain flashes" in my head were pretty violent and I couldn't handle it. I had these mini "flashes" of some gross, violent image that just popped in my head. I finally hugged my teddy bear and the violence diminished, but then I had 5-10 mini-movie dreams but I would wake up startled. I did that for an hour and asked for the Ambien. It only happens after taking Oxycodone for 3-4 days straight because it must build up in your system. I might take a smaller dose tonight, but if my back doesn't hurt I'm skipping it. No wonder people go crazy on that stuff.

She's Won a Ticket to Ride!

I'm going home-white count just hit 760 and my absolute neutrophils are 502. I'm skating out of here just barely as the threshold for neutrophils is 500. Gotta go pack.

Songs about modes of transportation for your amusement:
  • Yellow Submarine
  • Magic School bus
  • Little, Red Corvette
  • Mustang Sally
  • Little GTO
  • Sloop John B (Mike has a boat. I can choose a boat song).
  • Greased Lightning
  • Little Deuce Coup
  • Leavin' on a Jet Plane

What the Heck is Today's Date?

I've lost track of so much time while I've been here. Is Jerry Falwell President or one of the 16 other candidates I saw lined up on one of those pre-pre-pre-pre-pre-pre Presidential Election Candidate forums the guy? I like how one guy (say McCain) will say something nice about how one person handled something in his state, and the other guy will turn and bite the hand that just fed it. Not much of that happening really, just a bunch of Republican (can also be Democratic) Presidential hopefuls all making sure they each get in their potshots about the other candidates to make themselves look better. When I'm conscious, this is what I do all day: I watch TV.

I believe today is Thursday (American Idol results was last night, right?) and I've been in NIH all week with my temperature ranging from about 99.6 degrees to 102 degrees. I've also experienced flu-like chills and extreme heat where I had to ask for ice packs to make me feel better. I'm probably one of the only people who threw up after just looking at the NIH menu. It's true, I didn't order anything and the thought of eating made me hit the toilet. I've really, really struggled with eating, despite my good intentions because absolutely nothing sounded good; whereas last time I could eat applesauce. On Tuesday, Mom was supposed to be here between 9:30-10am while Mike went to work so I wanted to wait until she arrived so she could place my order in case I got sick looking at the menu again. However, she was a couple of hours late, so I finally gave the menu a quick scan because I knew where the Popsicles were, and placed the order. It was tough. I hid the menu immediately after I placed the order. I ate a lot of Popsicles on Tuesday and Wednesday but couldn't keep any mandarin oranges down.
Yesterday I ate most of my cream of wheat, so I've been making progress. I'm waiting this morning for breakfast to kind of cool down and see if I can eat a little bit more than yesterday. I actually feel a little hungry, which is progress indeed.

I also experienced my first blood transfusion yesterday because my hemoglobin was so low. It went well, but I was nervous about receiving blood. If you want to donate blood, donate through the Red Cross of come to NIH in Bethesda and donate to their blood bank - they need the blood too. You can even donate in my name at NIH.


Monday, May 14, 2007

Change of address?

Well folks it has been a few days since Angela has had the strength to post , so I thought I would sub in. I will try to keep it short.....

On Saturday morning , Angela's family was supposed to come over to our house to celebrate Mother's Day. At the last minute, Angela told me she just didn't feel up to it - so we cancelled. At that time we also decided to take a trip to NIH to get some more hydration because we believed that was the cause of her not feeling well. After NIH she felt great! She had a good size dinner and managed to keep her stomach problems at bay!

On Sunday, she was scheduled to go back to NIH for some labs and other stuff. Unfortunately, I had to work, so her Dad took her. At NIH she got MORE hydration and finished her lab work. Angela was back at our house around 4PM. Her Mom and Dad hung out for server hours until I got home from work. Angela spent the rest of the night resting on the coach. As we were getting ready for bed she noticed she had a temp. of 101.9. We all know what that means.....back to the hospital. The nurses got us all checked in and ran more blood work on her, gave her more hydration, and other broad-based antibiotics to fight whatever was causing her elevated temp.

At 6AM this morning, her temp rose to 104! But otherwise she was feeling fine, other than running to the bathroom. The doctors came in around 10am and told her that her WBC (white blood cells) were really low again and we would be here until Wednesday/Thursday or until her wbc's were at acceptable levels.

Otherwise, Angela is spending her time here at NIH resting and getting medications. Her family will be visiting her tonight.

We hope to be home soon.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Un-dizzy Blonde Now

There is no cure for the dizzy blonde, but maybe a temporary fix? I'm glad to see that Mike is searching for a cure because there are others out there who really need to find the cure.

I'm back from "hydration" and feel much better. My "limo driver" and his new wife, Shaunda treated me to lunch and I was really hungry after spending most of the day at the doctor's office. One negative about the local doctor is that they don't have a machine to program how fast the drip goes and it took about 4 hours to complete 2 liters of saline. I wasn't prepared to be there that long so I didn't bring any snacks, but I brought plenty of books and magazines. My white counts are excellent today (29,000) versus 200 when I was in the hospital and I'm excited about that, especially going into the weekend. I must still keep an eye on my temperature over the weekend, but at least I'm starting off with a high number.

Dizzie Blonde


This morning Angela had a routing doctors visit for blood work and such. Her brother (also named Mike) is taking care of the limo (driving) services. THANKS MIKE!

She called me while at the doctors office and said that she was really dizzy and light-headed when she tried to get out of bed this morning. Since she is already at the doctors office she will be receiving a saline drip (iv) while she is there to help with hydration. Hopefully this will help cure some of the dizziness, at least the out-of-normal dizziness that we all love about her.

If we are unable to raise her blood pressure and keep her hydrated we will be spending more nights at the NIH hospital. :(

Thursday, May 10, 2007

So Tired

I was so tired yesterday, I didn't even know Mike had posted on the blog. He was right, I was really wiped out yesterday. I'm still pretty fatigued today and I've really got to watch my fluid intake because this is what set me on my downward spiral last time. I'm feeling restless, but I'm tired. I don't even feel like watching tv or reading a book because I'm so tired I can't really focus on anything. I hope this gets better today or I may have to take a trip to the doctor's for some fluid. I hope not, but I'm going to keep an eye on myself today and call someone if I need to get to the doctor's office. I am not taking any chances.

My dad is having (or had by this time) an MRI on his leg. The orthopedic doctor thinks he may have torn his ACL, which may require surgery. At least we know why he's still in so much pain still and it probably explains why he passed out from the pain the day he fell down. I'm a little surprised that they didn't detect it at the ER. This can't be good for Dad - surgery. He needs to hang in there to get through that ordeal. We are both dealing with our worst nightmares - needles and blood!

Shot Again!

Since Angela is wasn't feeling well yesterday and today is not looking much better, I thought I would update everyone.

Yesterday, was a lack lusted day for Angela. I believe she spent most of the afternoon sleeping while Shelby (cat) kept her company. Which is good because I think she needs her rest. When I got home, Sophie, Riley, Angela, and I went for a short walk. I was nice to get her out of the house, even if it was only for 15 minutes. Afterwards, I made dinner and it was good to see she still had a pretty good appetite... especially with my cooking! Then around 8 o'clock or so she was back to sleeping on the coach. She kept trying to stay awake and I finally convinced her she needed the rest. She curled up on my lap and went back to sleep. That was nice!

Off all the nasty things that poor Angela has had to endure through this process, I would guess the worst began again last night. The daily shot! Yes, she hates them and probably more so since they are coming from me? We will continue this routine for about the next 7 days or so to help her blood counts rise.

As for other interesting news.... Angela's Dad may need surgery resulting for his falling down last week. We will update everyone as those results become available.

Lastly, a personal note from me. During this absolute crazy time over the last few weeks Angela and I have received SO much support from ALL of our family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, both of our jobs, that I wanted be sure to acknowledge this. THANKS!

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

End of Round Two

Today is my last day of the second round of chemo. I felt pretty good yesterday, but the nausea is setting in a little earlier than the last go 'round. I picked up some anti-nausea pills and they seem to be pretty good at keeping some of my symptoms at bay. Earlier today I went grocery shopping and nothing looked good on the shelves - not a good sign. I sat outside for a bit and I think the sun helped because I'm able to eat some mac-n-cheese now.

I had quite the experience at my "Look Good Feel Good" program I attended yesterday at NIH. Someone from the American Cancer Society explains how to put on makeup so we ladies can feel better while we're going through this horrible ordeal. They also give you a big bag of free makeup with products that include Chanel, Estee Lauder, MAC, Origins, and some other brands. The lady who taught the class does a lot of the local theatrical products around Montgomery County and she's a sweet older lady who has volunteered for the American Cancer Society for at least 14 years. There were only three ladies in the class, including me, but I think we all had some fun and got to enjoy a day of putting on makeup and playing with wigs.

I met my friend Greg for lunch at one of the NIH cafeterias since he works in a lab in the same building. I truly enjoyed my hamburger and onion rings, but I did cast longing glances at the salad bar. I'm not to eat raw fruits or vegetables and right now I'm starting to miss them. I never thought I'd say that! We had a very good lunch together, even though some of his co-workers looked confused that he wasn't eating lunch with his wife! Ooh, scandal!

Later in the afternoon, I went up to the day hospital for my daily pit stop. I got there early so I called my office, took a nap, and watched some TV (no Golden Girls, but I watched Full House). I should have gone down to the pharmacy to pick up my shortage of prednisone pills, but I wasn't thinking straight at the time. The pharmacy shorted me six pills and I had asked the nurse on Sunday to call it in for me, but she didn't so I had to wait almost an hour for the pills on Monday. On my way down to the pharmacy, I ran into the nice lady who had run the "Look Good" program in the morning. She has a patient staying with her and on their way out in the afternoon, they had gotten into a terrible car accident. The nice lady was fretting about being able to get home, and since she only lives a couple of blocks from NIH, I offered to drive her home. I felt bad for her, because she got stuck sitting in the pharmacy with me. She told me all about the accident, and I think she's very lucky she wasn't injured. Some car hit her and ran and pushed her car into a telephone pole and a tree. Luckily, no one else was hurt but her car is totalled.

Since today is my last day, I need to leave for NIH a little earlier than normal because they have to draw blood (the vampires), push several different medications, and then complete the cycle with a saline drip. I think it takes a couple of hours to complete, but I can't quite remember from last month. I need to make sure I have Mike's Ipod and a book. After today, I will have to take my temperature several times a day, try to eat, and drink plenty of fluids so I don't end up back in the hospital. I enjoy time away from home now and then, but I've had enough hospital stays, thank you very much.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Good for the Soul

I finally felt well enough to attend church this morning and it really was just what I needed, although every little thing brought tears to my eyes. The sermon was the most touching and it was tough for me to get through because the topic was "In Remembrance." Pastor Charlie talked about how Martin Luther King and John F. Kennedy have been remembered over the years. I started thinking about how I would like to be remembered years from now and that was really tough to think about. It's not about spending your life sitting at home watching TV, watching the world go by. It's about your actions and how you treat other people. I want to be remembered as someone who has made a difference, even in small part, in someone's life. Maybe that's why I joined the Jaycees so I wouldn't be forgotten and that someone would remember something good I did for him or her. I don't need to be a famous movie star or an athlete. I just want someone in this world to think about me with kindness and remember something good I did for them after I am gone - hopefully many, many years from now.

Pastor Charlie mentioned something one of John F. Kennedy's friends said about that tragic day in Dallas as he was grieving for the President. He said something like, "One day this will all have happened a long time ago." Those words spoke to me personally. One day my fight with cancer will have happened a long time ago. I can't wait for that day.

Blubbering Fool

One thing that this whole experience has done is to turn me into a "blubbering fool." I cry or tear up at everything and anything, much like my dear friend Sue. Sue cries at everything and I always joke with her and other friends that we'd need to bring Kleenex to certain events with Sue because it was guaranteed she'd cry. Now I'm Sue.

On our way to NIH today, we saw a large group of women and a few men walking up Route 355 wearing a lot of pink and wearing bandannas or baseball caps. It dawned on me that today is the start of the Avon 3-Day Walk for Cancer and I started crying. These dedicated people are taking the time and the energy to walk for three days in the hopes that they could cure cancer. These people were walking for ME. I saw a bald woman walking in the crowd when we left NIH and I started crying again. I don't know where she is in her fight against cancer, but I know she's somewhere along a similar journey. I wanted to yell out the window, "You go, girl!" but I didn't. We drove up I-270 and saw another group walking on the overpass above us and Mike beeped his horn at them and several women waved. These women are my sisters and I am awed by their generosity and spirit.

I honestly don't know if I could walk for three days, which is one reason why I participate in the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life. I don't like begging for money, but if you would like to donate I have a web page set up to take online donations. You can donate money in my name, but right now I don't know how I would feel if I saw my name on one of the luminarias that are set up all along a large track. At dusk, all of the candles are lit and it is a moving, beautiful sight. I have donated money in memory of Uncle Neil, Grandpa King, and Caroline Beall - all people who have lost the good fight against cancer. I have also donated money in honor of several cancer survivors. I just don't know if I am ready to see my name. I have told my Jaycee friends that they can put my initials, "AJ" or simply "Angela," "a Friend," or "a Jaycee" because I will be a little spooked to see "Angela Jandrew" and will need more Kleenex than Sue ever did to get through the experience. Next year I am sure I will be able to handle it better, but not now since it's too new. If you would like to donate, go to and then look for "Donate to Participant" on the left-hand side of the page. Type in Angela Jandrew and my page comes up right away. My goal is to raise $1,500 and I'm off to a good start with a $700 donation from my scrapbooking pals. I just have to send in the check. THANKS!

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Prednisone and Ice Cream

I started taking my first dose of prednisone last night, but didn't have enough in my prescription bottle for this morning's dose because we forgot to go to the pharmacy yesterday. I took my next dose while I was getting my "pit stop" at NIH and I believe the prednisone kicked in really good tonight because I ate all my dinner, including the vegetables, and still had a craving for ice cream! I talked Mike into going to Marble Slab and we also talked our friends, Frank and Sophie, into coming along with us to satisfy my ice cream craving. When we returned we played a rousing game of "Outburst," which Frank and I won. Frank is a scientist at NIST and we really cleaned up in the scientist category and we also really knew our winter Olympic sports. Mike did know his heavy metal bands, but it wasn't enough to be victorious! Frank is German and Sophie is French and Mike really, really likes how they make coffee. Frank and Mike enjoyed french press coffee while Sophie and I enjoyed a blueberry/strawberry decaf tea. We had a very enjoyable evening with them.

Tomorrow we are celebrating my brother's birthday with my family. I hope Grandma Erickson and Aunt Anne are able to come because the last time they came over, I unexpectedly left before they arrived and ended up at the NIH hospital for a week. I also hope Aunt Carol is able to join us for dinner to so I can see the whole family. Frank and Sophie have also been invited and Sophie has made a very delicious French cake that will be topped with whipped cream tomorrow. While I am receiving chemo, I am relatively "safe" because my white counts have not had time to go down yet, so I should be here tomorrow. I do have to go to NIH at 3pm for my daily pit stop, but it doesn't take long for my "pit crew" to change my bag, replace the batteries in my battery pack, and change my dressing.

I love the nurses at NIH because they are always glad to see me and always laugh and joke with me about anything under the sun. I missed seeing Vanessa, but she must have been off today. Leslie stopped by briefly and said I was looking much more awake than Friday (when I slept all day). When I was in the inpatient hospital at NIH, the cleaning lady came in to my room when I was feeling really lousy and told me how beautiful I was. I saw her again today at the day (or outpatient) hospital and she remembered me and was very happy to see me. She is so sweet and she knew just what to say at just the right time. Sondra is another nurse who is always in a good mood and she joked with me and Mike today about how prednisone turns me into Pac Man that eats everything in front of me. The nurses really know how to take care of both of us and are always willing to help with any little thing or answer my "silly" questions. They definitely helping provide me with the courage to get through this ordeal with a little humor that I so desperately need. Laughter really is the best medicine. We are really impressed with everything NIH has to offer.

Wig Sighting

Mike and I decided to do a little shopping today while I still feel good enough to go out and I took my new 'do for a test run because I was a little tired of the stares. We went to Target, Dicks, and Macy's at the Mall. I'm looking for some yoga-type pants or some comfortable pants that aren't jeans that fit me with my smaller size and that don't cost a lot. Instead, I bought some cute tops to at least help me feel better. Shopping is therapeutic, right?!

After shopping, we were hungry so we headed over to Panera's for lunch. I have to be careful what I eat since I can't eat raw veggies or fruits so I had a plain ham and cheese sandwich with spicy mustard. I never really cared for lettuce on my sandwiches before, but now I really miss it! We ran into Jaycee and friend, Steve, and he saw Mike first but didn't recognize me right away with my new 'do. I look different that I did before, that's for sure! Steve sat and chatted with us while he waited for another Jaycee to meet him there.

I will say that I am not used to wearing a wig and I started to get a headache. I must wear a stocking cap on my bald head underneath the wig to protect my head because it is a little sensitive. The stocking cap looks like pantyhose without the legs attached. I jokingly asked Mike when I put it on if he was ready to go rob a bank with me. Once I got home, I took the wig off and put on my scarf. Ahhhhhhh, relief.

I head back over to NIH around 3pm for my daily pit stop and I must remember to swing by their pharmacy to pick up my truckload of drugs I'll need for the next couple of weeks. I'm so thankful that NIH is free because I can't even imagine to cost of the drugs I take each day. The price is probably enormous. I continue to be thankful that I have really good health benefits because I received a bill from Fairfax Inova Hospital yesterday for my week-long "visit" there at the beginning of April. It was a very large bill, but my cost was $0. I can't even imagine how people without insurance or not very good insurance pay for treatment. It breaks my heart. I think when I am all better, I am going to research some agencies who help families offset medical costs due to cancer and see if I can rally some fundraising support through the Jaycees. If we can even help one person offset some medical costs, that would be amazing. I want to turn my experience and knowledge into something good and help someone else going through a similar experience. It's a tough road already without worrying about how to pay for it later or even postponing treatment because one doesn't have the money to pay for it.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Round Two - Ding Ding!

I started round two this morning and Mike said, "Round Two - Ding Ding" like I'm Rocky Balboa off to fight Clubber "Cancer" Lang. Maybe I'll just be Laila Ali, since she is Muhammed Ali's daughter and a good fighter (as well as an excellent dancer on, "Dancing with the Stars).

We arrived at NIH about 9am for my appointment to put in a PICC line and the guys who work in that lab are comedians. When we arrived, they glanced hungrily at Mike's coffee and muffin from Au Bon Pain and told him that he had to pay either a $5 co-pay or hand over his goodies Mike smiled and calmly ate his muffin and then told him that the $5 was pro-rated since he had already eaten most of his muffin. They were all giving each other a hard time and making jokes, which made me a little calmer. I hadn't been able to eat breakfast because of the procedure so I pointed out to the guys that Mike was also making me jealous with his food. I also mentioned that I used to stop at Starbucks every morning for my Grande Skim Chai, but now I have to limit my caffeine so I haven't had any chai in a long time. One of the techs suggested a nice Persian decaf tea that they get from this deli in Gaithersburg (Zam Zam's). I pressed them to find out where it is and found out it's in the same strip mall as Zio's Pizza (which they had never eaten at). I love me some Zio's Pizza and just ate dinner there with Mom and Mike tonight thanks to my reminder this morning. Yum, margherita pizza with lots of tomato, basil, and garlic!

I mentioned to the tech that the reason I couldn't have a PICC line in last time was because of a blood clot above my superior vena cava leading into my heart and asked what made it different this time. He immediately said he didn't feel comfortable and wanted to talk to my team about this. The outcome was that he really didn't feel comfortable with the procedure so he and my team sent me down to special procedures so they could put in another IJ line like last time. This one is a little more uncomfortable because I developed a rash on my chest and they had to go slightly above the rash. I had taken my Adavan (anti-anxiety drug) already so by the time I got down to special procedures, I was definitely a little loopy (Mike enjoyed that).

This time I knew what to expect and they had my records from last time so they knew what to do. I also asked for a mild sedative during the procedure. As a result, I was awake during the procedure but kept dozing off and on throughout. One serious side effect of being home more often in the afternoon is I watch such classic TV shows as "The Golden Girls". This came back to haunt me today because while I was dozing during the procedure, I kept dreaming of recasting "The Golden Girls" with today's starlets, but I couldn't get past Lindsay Lohan playing Blanche Devereaux! I could not think of a single young star to play Rose or Dorothy and it was making me crazy! One thing for sure is that one of the Olsen twins can play Dorothy's mom because those girls are so tiny.

Once the procedure was over, they wheeled me upstairs to the Day Hospital so I could receive chemo. Mike thoughtfully carried all of my stuff for me and stayed with me throughout the day. He was there to fetch the telephone so I could order breakfast and he moved the TV so I could watch more "Golden Girls" episodes. After I finally ate breakfast (more Froot Loops in case you were wondering), I took the benadryl and tylenol PM that they gave me prior to starting chemo. I knew that I would fall asleep pretty quickly so I wanted to eat something first. Sure enough, they started chemo and I tried to read my book for a few minutes, but I soon fell fast asleep. I slept the entire four hours, and woke up right before the bag of rituxin was empty.

We came home and then my high school friend, Mary and her husband, Steve came to visit. I've known Mary since I was either 15 or 16, so about 10 years now ;-). They are in town because Mary's mom has been really sick and is currently in the hospital. Mary is pregnant and due in July (yay, Mary!!) and she has a lot on her mind with the baby and her mom. Please say a prayer for Mary and her family, especially as she heads home to Colorado tomorrow. I'm really glad I got to see her with her baby "bump" and before her life becomes a little more hectic. She's going to make such a wonderful mom, I just know it.

Mom came over to see me since she didn't make it to NIH before I was done and we decided to have dinner at Zio's while I still feel well. Dad stayed home because he's still a little sore from his fall last week. At dinner, we planned the menu for dinner on Sunday with my family since my brother's birthday is May 8th. I have one evil idea for a gift for Michael, but I'll need to borrow some accessories from NIH tomorrow to pull it off. I'll tell you about it here later if it works out, but my cousin, Gina gave me this genius idea for Michael's birthday that I simply must do.

Mike and I plan to do some shopping tomorrow. We need some groceries for next week when I become neutropenic again and I'm going to stock up on some Froot Loops, milk, yogurt, jell-o, pudding, and Gatorade so I have something to eat when I don't feel well. We also plan to go clothes shopping because he needs some new clothes for work and I need some track pants or something with a drawstring so I can hold up my pants. I've lost so much weight that I have to wear a belt with some pants and other pants I can't wear at all. Before I was sick, I weighed myself in January or February and I weighed 152. Today, I weigh 135. I am truly thankful that I did weigh 152 because I'd probably have lost even more weight. I plan to buy a couple of new t-shirts and track pants, but I'm not going crazy because I hope to gain my weight back.

I am adapting to my new hair-less look, but I still haven't looked full-on in the mirror without my glasses off. It is a lot quicker for me to shower now and I don't have to use a gob of shampoo or conditioner anymore, which I do appreciate. I have worn headscarves, but I haven't played with my wig yet. I may do that tomorrow when we're shopping just to see how it looks. While I was at the Silver Diner yesterday afternoon with my aunt, I did encounter a lady who stared at me when I walked by her table. I seriously wanted to yell, "Yes, I have CANCER lady, what's your problem?" I refrained of course, but I did notice the stare. Mike says she was staring because I have a shaved head, but I look healthy otherwise.

I have some good news. I finally looked at my chemo schedule for the next four cycles to completion and with any luck, I could finish my last round of chemo by the end of July! When I think about it that way, it doesn't seem nearly so bad. That thought alone gives me so much hope and a lot to look forward to in the coming weeks. My high school friend, Tara is getting married in October in NYC and now I feel a lot more confident that I can attend and celebrate her milestone AND my own milestone. These next few months are going to be hard and filled with some difficult days, but as long as I see that light at the end of the tunnel, I know I will be okay. I will also plan on massage days during the small "window" of opportunity when I feel really well to help me survive the worst of it all. I feel really good about it right now.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Exercise is Good and Hair Loss

My white counts are up so high that I feel really good today, although I had a rocky morning with some queasiness. I decided to take advantage of the good weather and my good health today and took Riley for a nice 30 minute walk. It felt good to be moving and outside and I truly appreciated the green grass and flowers everywhere after our long winter. Riley seemed to appreciate it too and examined nearly every blade of grass along the way. He actually needs the exercise because he's gotten a little chunky and I just need to move.

I've decided to shave my head tonight because my hair is really starting to come out now. This is a hard decision to make, but I know it's the right one. While I was getting my blood drawn yesterday (I'm getting much better at it), the phlebotomist who also works with Mom and at NIH, Ronnie, sat down with me and said it would be better to shave it than to have it fall out. She assured me that it will grow back and, "be lovely." I am not looking forward to shaving it, but it is necessary.

I had a weak moment yesterday when I looked in the mirror and started to see a little bit of a bald batch coming in up front. I realized that it's definitely happening, but I had hoped I had a little more time before it came out. I can't stop my hair from coming out, but it's still hard to actually get to that point where it is really happening to me. Tonight will be difficult, but it has to be done. I'll either let my brother shave me or Mike. My brother has experience using the hair clippers and I used to shave his head when he was younger, so this could be his moment. I put away all my hair products and hair gels for now because I don't need any additional reminders. Mike keeps telling me that I'll be a beautiful bald woman and soon he'll get to see what that looks like on me.