Monday, July 21, 2014

Tales of Woe, Tales of Triumph And The Limits of bareMinerals

As I write this, I'm technically cancer free, which is weird because I didn't even do the hard part of my treatment yet.  What does that even mean, Nella?  I've finished two rounds of ICE chemo and I will not need a third.  I had a CT scan and a PET scan and they came back negative.  All good news.  Great news.  I've begun the shots that will get my stem cell production into overdrive and then force them out of my bone marrow and into my bloodstream.  I'll get a special catheter/line placed in my chest this Tuesday and they will begin to collect the stem cells.  This is such a whirlwind.  I'll be admitted the 31st of this month for the GIANT chemo and transplant.

I'm gonna do the rest of this post in reverse chronological order or maybe just weird disjointed stream of consciousness order.  Cut me some slack...I've got Chemo Brain over here.  I'm sure there are more literary ways I could do a post in reverse chronological order and I'm pretty sure I would be capable of conjuring them up and executing them but that's too tall an order right now.  So here we go, you know the first part, currently in remission and starting Phase 2 of treatment...

Tales of Woe:

I just came home after spending 2 1/2 weeks at my parents' house.  TWO AND A HALF WEEKS.  I came home from my last chemo on a thursday and our 7 year old Madeleine woke up throwing up that following Sunday.  Next thing you know, 2 1/2 weeks had passed as some kind of bug worked its way through the entire family, including poor Michael.  Michael has been, as usual, a hero.  He's been sick himself, working during the day, taking care of sick kids at night and in between bouts of sickness he's taken ALL SIX KIDS to THE BEACH and STRAWBERRY PICKING ALL BY HIMSELF.  Now I'm home and it's glorious.  I get tired really easily so I can't get much done, but I'm in my own house and the kids are just happy I'm around.

This past Friday I had a Bone Marrow Biopsy which is my fave (lies).  They did it right in the Lymphoma Clinic at the hospital, so I got my good news about my scans from the nurse practitioner and the oncologist and then they got me set up for the biopsy.  Last time I had one I was pregnant and I couldn't have any kind of medicine to help me relax.  I just had local anesthetic.  This time I had Ativan on board and they gave me a Fentanyl Lollipop.  I'm not kidding.  That is a thing.  Schedule II Controlled Substances in lollipop form is an actual legitimate thing.  I thought this was going to be great because Bone Marrow Biopsies really hurt and I thought this was going to help it hurt less.  I'm not sure if it worked, because it still hurt, which--whatever that's fine.  I kept eating the stupid lollipop because I didn't feel like it was working.  They don't really give you any guidance, they're just like "Hey, here's a Schedule II Controlled Substance in a lollipop, have at it."  So, anyway I didn't think it was working.  Until the biopsy was over and I tried to get up.  It was working.  I felt pretty loopy, but I gathered myself and I had Michael to lean on.  They sent us down the hall towards the reception desk and as I was chatting with the receptionist everything got sparkly and weird and I said "I think I have to sit down".  Then ALL the nurses in the whole clinic came out of nowhere to get me into a chair and give me emergency apple juice.

Even though I'm supposed to be going in reverse chronological order you can't have a proper laugh at my expense if I don't tell you that exactly 2 weeks before this I passed out in the exact same spot, so when we came into the clinic this time I was joking around and talking a big game about how there'd "be no shenanigans."  Thud.  <---That's the sound of me falling off my high horse.  AGAIN.  I perked up from the apple juice and they let me go and then I was going to have lunch with Michael!!!  I didn't really feel right but I thought I'd shake it off in the car, because this was the first time I'd seen Michael in a week and a half and I wasn't cutting it one minute short.  We went to Wegmans and I was going to get Chinese Food but I thought better of it when I got there.  I should have told Michael to take me home right then, but I powered through it because I missed Michael so much and I wasn't messing up our Bone Marrow Biopsy Date Goshdarnit!!!!   I worked really hard at keeping my eyes open, eating my soup, and being conversational while we were at Wegmans and then poor Michael drove me home to my parents' house.  Poor, long suffering, patient Michael.  We got about 2/3 of the way there and suddenly I realized something was NOT RIGHT.  VERY NOT RIGHT.  Thank goodness we're not very good at keeping our vehicles tidy because I quickly located a bag and THREW UP IN THE CAR.  Into the bag in the car but still.  Ugh.  It was really bad.

Michael pulled over and helped me and cleaned the whole thing up and put me in the back of the car where I'm pretty sure I promptly went to sleep.  I hope I did.  Otherwise I was super fun half conscious Nella who doesn't know how to just ZIP IT because there's nothing she can do to fix anything.  Half conscious Nella would have been slurringly apologizing to Michael over and over and OVER and Michael would have been within his rights to wish half conscious Nella was straight up UNconscious.  Michael is a gentleman and won't admit which one I was.  We finally got back to my parents' house and Michael put me to bed, where I stayed for 5 hours.  That night I ate some dinner.  Threw it up.  I slept hard the whole night and woke up to a revelation.  Fentanyl and I are not friends.  I might have had a hard time figuring this out except that I had the exact same pukey sleepy reaction to it when it was in my IV pain button after I had the biopsy on my lymph nodes a couple months back.  They said "hey, no more Fentanyl for you we think it's making you sick." and I was like "no problem I hate it."  I didn't remember the name of it because I thought it only came in pain buttons.  I didn't know they give it out in lollipops because WHY WOULD I EVER THINK THAT!?!?!?.  So Fentanyl is the devil and I hate it.

What other gross things have happened that I can tell you?  OH!  I'm part midwesterner now!  I have one liter of red blood cells from Davenport, Iowa coursing through my veins, I also have one liter of locally sourced blood because I'm trendy like that.  I also have one bag of platelets that are not my own as well.  Oh my gosh you guys it is SO GROSS.  Everyone acts like it's so casual: "Dum dee dum putting someone else's blood in you no biggie." but let me tell you it is NOT CASUAL.  You can see the whole thing--you can see the bag of blood just hanging there on the IV pole being bloody, you can see the blood going through the line and INTO YOUR BODY--and I'm here to tell you it's disgusting.  Miraculous, and smart, and life saving, and DISGUSTING.

So remember up there where I told you that Bone Marrow Biopsy day was the 2nd time I sent the nurses running for the emergency apple juice?  Well, here's the story of the first time.  You see, it turns out that IF you go and get chemo for three days straight and can't swallow anything because air is gross, water is gross, opening your eyes is gross, food is obviously gross, rolling over in bed is gross and almost impossible, etc., getting up at 6:30am the day after you are discharged to go back to the hospital so you can get blood drawn is not the best idea.  I mean, you have to go back to the hospital for your lab check.  They have to check your blood, but 7am is not the best time for it.  You can't go get blood drawn if you haven't eaten anything in 24 hours.  You definitely can't walk around the hospital unaided after having blood drawn and then wait in a waiting room when you JUST finished 3 days of chemo and haven't eaten for 24 hours, but this jackass typing right now thought she could.  It was on the schedule so I thought I should.

I woke up that day, sort of.  I ignored that I could only walk short distances without feeling lightheaded and that I had to sit(slump) on the toilet to do most of the getting ready.  I managed to get dressed and put on my bareMinerals.  I've written before about how much I love bareMinerals.  LOVE.  I put them on like armor (very sheer natural armor) before I head out in public (which is the hospital 95% of the time these days) so that everyone can exclaim over how "not sick" I look.  Particularly at the hospital I feel like it's a subliminal message to everyone there about what abysmal fail-y failures they will be if they don't get me better.  Overall, it works great.  Unfortunately even bareMinerals have their limits.  It turns out that if you turn gray (or grey), begin to sweat profusely, and then lose consciousness--bareMinerals can't hide that.  Don't write angry letters to Leslie Blodgett.  Essentially bareMinerals can't camouflage arrogance and stupidity.  I'm sure they're working on it.

Luckily I turned gray (or grey), began to sweat profusely, and lost consciousness in my clinic where all the nurses know me.  I ended up having to get fluids through my port and ended up breaking a streak I was pretty proud of.  This was the first time I threw up as a cancer patient.  As you learned in the tasteful missive you've just slogged through, it wasn't the last.  I have a tendency to puke when they flush my line while using my port.  I found out if I sniff an alcohol pad that sometimes I won't puke, so if you're a fellow cancer patient who forced yourself to read through all of this for useful information...sniffing alcohol pads when they flush your port might help you not puke.  More importantly, if you're a cancer patient you just read through all of this looking for useful information, the alcohol pad tip is useful, but this one is more important:

Listen to what your body is telling you and stop being an arrogant stupidhead who thinks they can somehow will themselves into being impervious to the effects of their treatment.  You'll end up saving yourself some humiliation and discomfort.

Tales of Triumph:

You know who I haven't told you about lately?
Remember me?

It's hard to believe that Avery Hope will be ONE YEAR OLD next week.  It's hard to believe that baby was on board when I started my first treatment but it's true.  She is doing great!  She's a chubby little trouble maker as you can see.  I'm amazed that just one year ago she couldn't eat, maintain her temperature, or BREATHE on her own.  Look:
Chubby Trouble Maker
A year ago she couldn't eat or she can rifle through the changing table:
Breathing, obviously eating well, and STANDING UP
So, anyhoo, we keep plugging away, taking each day as it comes.  We appreciate your prayers so much.  Sometimes, truth be told, I feel pretty low, but I continue to be amazed at the peace and joy that can underlie even the yuckiest of circumstances.  This situation stinks, but we are so incredibly blessed and surrounded by so much love.

How can I feel low for long when one of my oldest and dearest friends, Joelle, who is a doctor, wife, and mother of two small children is TRAINING FOR A MARATHON--THE MARTHON--the New York City Marathon actually, in my honor, to raise money for the  The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s (LLS) Team in Training.  Please consider supporting her.  If she reaches her goal by August 1st, she and her husband will be donating $500 to Roswell Park Cancer Institute, which is where I'm being treated.  Isn't she amazing?   She could lose a toenail.  Do you know that sometimes happens to marathon runners?  *JOELLE*  Please please do not lose a toenail.  I can't have that on my conscience.


  1. Never would I have expected a cancer treatment update warm my heart as much as this one has. You all are troopers, Michael, Avery, and most especially you. The frequent thoughts and prayers continue.

  2. You are an amazing woman, Nella. Thank you for continuing to share your story with us.
    And Avery??? Oh my gracious! Just the cutest!
    love, Theresa

  3. Thinking of you always.
    Happy Birthday Avery! She is so adorable!

  4. You have been in my thoughts lately, so I thank you for your update. Continued prayers for you...and I will put the event on the 31st on my calendar for a special rosary prayed for you.

  5. Nella, you continue to amaze me with your courageous battle. Your daughter looks like such a sweetheart. You are in my prayers and thoughts. Stay strong!

  6. Oh I am so jealous of your baby's chubby rolls!! She's awesome! She must learn that from her mother :) I'm so glad that you are so hilarious even when describing your gosh awful treatments. When you are clear on the other side of this whole mess, I hope you get a huge book deal about beating cancer with humor. Team Nella!!

  7. I'm so glad to read your update! So sorry about he puking and the fainting and the not being with your family for 2.5 weeks, though. I'll continue to keep you in prayer and I hope Avery has a very happy birthday next week!

  8. Yay Nella! Especially that last part. She's so cute!

  9. Always and forever in our hearts and prayers. You are a trooper as always Nella! Good to hear you remain so positive and strong through these yucky ordeals. Lots of love and kisses to everyone, and Happy Birthday to Avery!


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