Friday 20 April 2012

Check Your Boobs!

It's the 20th of the month again, and time to remind you all to "Check Your Boobs!"

It is also the third anniversary of my grandmother's death.  Luisa Bertolo (nee Mattioli) died April 20, 2009, just days short of her 99th birthday.  She thought God had forgotten her down hear here, and by the time she passed away, she had forgotten much of her own life.  Nevertheless, until she was hospitalized days before her death, she continued to be the best grandmother that we could every ask for.  Her own mother died in her nineties as well, and the family joke was that the women in this family just don't die -- you have to shoot them.

I was counting on that.  I just plain old believed that if my grandmother lived so long, so would I.  And I didn't check my boobs.  I took my life for granted.  But I don't want you to.  Please do a monthly examination of your breasts.  It could make the difference between life and death.

You can find information on how to examine your breasts at the following sites:

My PICC Line Made a Break for It

As I have explained in a previous post, I have a nurse come in every week to change the dressing on my PICC line.  Over time, I have noticed that the length of the line sticking out of my arm has gradually increased from 6 cm to about 7.5.  Yesterday, as the nurse was removing the old dressing, we both saw the PICC line jump out a bit.  When she measured the line, it was at 11 cm!  Time to call the hospital's PICC Team.

This morning the PICC Team called back and scheduled me for a 9:30 chest X-ray.  It showed that the line had indeed moved.  It was good enough to be used for my 10:30 chemotherapy today, but not good enough to keep using.  Once my chemo finished this afternoon, the nurse just pulled the line out.  My Sweetiepie had to move away for this -- it wasn't something he wanted to see.  I thought it was kinda cool.

Now I'm waiting for the hospital to schedule me for a reinsertion of the PICC line, since I still have a fair bit of chemo ahead of me.  In the meantime, I will enjoy the luxury of showering without a plastic sleeve.  That left arm is going to get a good, long scrubbing!

Friday 13 April 2012

Approaching Normal, One Step at a Time

Geoff and I look back at last fall and are amazed at the progress I've made.  Frankly, I didn't realize how sick I was -- well maybe once I was admitted to hospital in November.  I was more than a little scared I wouldn't make it out of there.  Today is a different story.

I'm driving again, in the minivan.  The low seats of the old Civic are too hard on my lower back.  It is great to be able to head out when I want to and do some shopping.  It's also nice for Lena that I can take her to Brownies.  I'm feeling like I'm doing my Mom job again.

I'm walking much better too.  Most mornings, I take Lena to her bus stop a few houses away.  The other day, I even forgot to bring my cane with me.  Lena noticed; I didn't.  I generally don't use the cane in the house, except for the first few steps in the morning, when I'm always pretty stiff.  I need the cane when I go out, for extra support.  When I walk a long ways or have to stand, my lower back gets pretty sore.  The cane helps a lot.  If I go grocery shopping, I lay the cane in the shopping cart and use the cart to support myself.  For a shopping trip to the mall, I'm still best to use the walker, at least in part because it can hold coats and packages for me.  I now have the strength to get the walker in and out of the minivan.  I couldn't have done that a couple of months ago.

Hair is growing again.  My eyelashes, which disappeared very suddenly earlier in the year, came back just as quickly.  My eyebrows are still thin in spots.  I've been using eyeliner to fill them in some days.  On top, I actually had to head back to the hairdresser's before Easter to trim things up, particularly around the hairline, where I was worried the longer strands would be visible under my wigs.  The haircut helped a lot.  I think it will grow in much better, having had the trim.  Unfortunately, the hair isn't growing in evenly.  It's quite thin in the front at this point.  I hope that changes pretty soon.

Being able to stand a little longer has allowed me to make supper here and there, to take the load off Geoff.  I'm finding that I'm a little rusty.  My stew the other night was a huge disappointment.  I'm sure I'll get better with a bit of practice.  I come from a long line of very good cooks -- on the Italian side anyway.

I've got a ways to go to get back to normal.  The doctor wouldn't even talk about when I can go back to work.. And they've told me that because of the fractures in my spine, I'll never be as agile as I used to be, not that "agile" is a word that was ever used to describe me.  But day by day, step by step, I'm getting better.  And your support and good wishes, soups and cookies, hats and blankets, have helped me make this progress.  Thank you.

Thursday 12 April 2012

Oncology Update: April 12, 2012

Yesterday, I had an appointment with my oncologist.  I was hoping to get the results of last week's CT scan.  Unfortunately, given the Easter holiday, the results were not yet ready.  I have an appointment with my GP next week where I should be able to get my results.

In the meantime, oncology is sending me for an echocardiogram to make sure my heart is bearing the chemotherapy well, and a bone MRI to see the status of the bone tumours across my body.  We had an interesting chat with the doctor about the tests.  She said that in the fall, because I was so sick (see Geoff's blog on that), I got the Cadillac of Cadillac of tests.  Now, it's important to repeat those tests to be able to adequately compare the results.  She also explained that the CT scan is their best tool for assessing the tumours on my liver.  She's conscious of the risks involved in the CTs use of radiation.  Once my liver tumours are more stable, they may transition to using ultrasounds, which do not use radiation.  For the bone tumours, the CT isn't as effective and the doctor will use and MRI, which they will compare to the ones done in November.  MRIs do not use radiation, neither does the echocardiogram, which is essentially an ultrasound of the heart.

We also talked to the doctor about going back to work (actually she wouldn't talk about that) and vacations.  She was concerned about my hope to go to Ireland this summer.  She suggested we start with some shorter, closer vacations and reminded me of the potential stress of unfamiliar beds and uncomfortable restaurant chairs.  I think a trip to Montreal is long overdue.  We'll try to go once our lovely niece there finishes school for the year.  Perhaps we'll head to Oakville in June to see my brand new lovely niece, once she arrives.  After I told her I expected I shouldn't go on roller coasters or ride a bike at this point, she looked at Geoff and said something to the effect of, "I can see what you're going through."  I guess she thinks I'm pushing too hard to return to a normal life.  Geoff cracked up after we left when I complained about the two of them ganging up on me.  But really, if I want to get back to normal, I have to start doing normal things!  I don't want to spend the rest of life on the couch watching daytime television.  I've had enough of that.

Back to chemo on Friday.