Friday, 30 August 2013

Stage IV Snapshot -- Emergency?

None of us wants to go to the Emergency Room, but Tuesday night I was pretty sure I should. A sore erupted on the edge of my Port-a-Cath. That's not just unsightly. The catheter could take the infection straight into my bloodstream. I've been septic before and don`t want to risk it again. (Can you guess I spent some time with Dr. Google while waiting for a home care nurse to return my call?)

I have had persistent bruising at my port site, particularly to one side. It just wouldn't disappear between treatments, which are every three weeks. In fact, at my last treatment, I'd discussed it with my chemo nurse. She didn't have any advice for me. Earlier this week, I noticed that there seemed to be a small sore over the bruised area. I showed it to my Sweetie and we both said "hmm?" We were on our way to Montreal for a short visit and thought nothing more of it. Then when we returned to Ottawa I took a closer look at it after getting out of the shower. It was now clearly infected. The home care nurse wasn't sure what to make of it and wouldn't be able to see me until midnight or later. I called my family doctor's after-hours service and that nurse was more definitive: I should have a doctor examine it within the next four hours. Great.

We asked my daughter to hastily repack her backpack for a spur of the moment sleepover at my mom's and off we went to the hospital. Four hours later, the ER doctor assured me that I had no signs of sepsis, but certainly needed antibiotics, starting with an immediate double dose. He also suggested I give the Cancer Centre a look at it the following day. The nurse dressed the wound with antibiotic cream and gave me enough Cloxacillin that we didn't have to stop at the pharmacy on the way home. Instead we were allowed a few hours of sleep.

The next day, my Patient Designated Nurse put me in touch with Sheryl of the hospital's Port Team. She was able to meet with my when I came early for an unrelated specialist appointment (verdict of that after three months and two hours of waiting: no hip surgery). Sheryl has arranged for daily nursing to change the wound dressing. And she broke the news that my Port-a-Cath probably needs to come out. I now have an appointment next Tuesday to have it examined. It sounds like the infection needs to have subsided before they will risk the surgery. Whether they will put a new port in at the same time, I don't know. All I can tell you is that I`ve learned a few things in my ten months with my Port-a-Cath:
  • The ones on the left side have more problems.
  • Bruising isn't normal.
  • And sometimes they erode the skin over top them.

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Stage IV Snapshot -- Bad Girl!

We have been talking about getting a dog. So when we found out our neighbours were going away, we agreed to look after Lily. She is one of the most lovable dogs on the planet. Although it is certainly a big adjustment having a dog in the house, I see the upsides to the extra work.

Lily is a young dog, a one year old Golden Doodle. She loves to play. Sometimes, all it takes is to toss the ball for her. She even does this crazy dog thing when you make a sudden movement. But Lily also likes tug of war. The other day, I made the mistake of trying to play tug of war with her. I lost. I also hurt myself. I hope I didn't cause a new vertebral fracture. With the amount of pain killers I'm on, it's hard to tell. Not good. Bad girl!

Paying the Price for My Vanity

Vanity isn't the only reason I didn't bring my walker to lunch today, but it was a part of it. I feel like I look so much older and sicker with my walker. Then there's convenience. I would rather use the stairs and escalator than go around to the ramp and elevator. There is another reason. My back. I hurt it the other day (ignoring my limits) and didn't think I should lift the walker in and out of the trunk.

So I went to lunch downtown with my cane and had a great visit with my friends from work. After lunch, I stopped to chat with most of them in their offices. I didn't sit down often enough. That's why I should have had the walker, for the seat as much as the handholds.

Before I even got back to my car, I was wiped out and had to stop and sit down. I called my Sweetie on my way home and asked if he wanted me to pick up any groceries for dinner. Then I begged him to say no. I just couldn't face the grocery store. Accelerating and braking were painful. Sigh. By the time I got home I needed to drag myself inside. Straight for the couch.

I suppose that it made matters worse to have taken the dog for a walk, again with cane not walker, this morning. I'm not very bright, am I?

Honestly, There is a bright side to my foolishness. I won't shut myself in the house and wither. My nature is to regularly forget or ignore my limits. I just like to know where they are.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Update: It Doesn't Get Better Than This!

I got my CT results this morning, and as the doctor said, "it doesn't get better than this." I usually like to see my medical oncologist when I get CT results, but when they are this good and don't require a treatment change, I am quite happy to see the GP that works with him. She was very pleased to see me looking so well and to give me the good news.

While there still appears to be one significant tumour in my liver, the CT report describes it as a "treated metastatic lesion." There are no other tumours in my abdomen or chest. My bone metastases are all stable. As I understand it, they will continue to show up on the CT for a long, long time. There is something on one kidney that has atrophied. I need to read more about it. This may explain why my creatinine has been elevated, though not so much that my Pamidronate treatment has to be cancelled. I did more blood tests today in advance of treatment Friday. I'll have another look at the creatinine then.

At this point, all I can really say is: whew! While I am feeling well, I always get a little nervous after each scan, afraid that this disease has tricked me and is progressing. There has been too much bad news among the breast cancer community of bloggers and tweeters (tweeters? certainly not "twits"). I feel for my friends that are coping with bad news and painful but unsuccessful treatment. But I must give thanks to God and to all of you who have sent me prayers and good thoughts. I may still be Stage IV, but this is as good as it gets.

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Making Memories

There will come a time when I won't be here. It may come sooner than we think. There will come a time when I am hospitalized or bedbound. How long will it last? Today, although pain and fatigue set limits that still surprise me, my focus is on making memories for my young daughter.

Since I got sick (I was diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer from the beginning, after a short, steep decline), we have been to Disney World, a family wedding out West, Niagara Falls, and many family get-togethers. This summer, so far, we have been to Montreal's Jazzfest, Ottawa's Bluesfest (where my daughter performed), the Diefenbunker and several other local history museums. What I haven't done is blog.

I have missed many posts, tweets, articles and the BCSM Monday night tweet chat. I have thought of my blog and you my readers often. The day she started day camp, I even started a post about what has kept me busy... That was last month. I have just been too busy to blog. I am sorry that some of you may have been worried I was unwell. Nothing could be farther from the truth. After busy days, I have crashed on the couch in front of the television most nights. Some nights I've gone to sleep at the same time as my girl.

I may not have been active in social media, instead I have been making memories. I'm not just talking about outings and photo ops. I have been spending time with my daughter doing our special things:
  • like making triple M: Mmmm Mommy's Macaroni and Cheese.
  • cuddling in bed at bedtime, not to mention afternoon family cuddles.
  • soft kisses before bed.
  • movies and our favourite Family Channel shows.
  • our secret handshake.
  • reading the 39 Clues series.
It's not all sunshine and roses. At ten, my girl is developing attitude. Mommy's suggestions aren't always welcome. But there are more hugs than shouts. There are many reminders that I love her more than she can know.... until she has a child.

I have missed my social media friends. However this summer, and every day I am blessed with, I will work to make strong memories that will have to carry my girl through the depths of future grief.

Stage IV Snapshot -- Soccer Mom

I haven't done it nearly enough this summer, but today I went out for a two kilometer walk. My daughter joined me and brought her soccer ball. We stopped at a park and kicked the ball around for a bit. I was able to kick with both legs. My right leg didn't fall off. That's good. I did need a Dilaudid and a lie-down after I got home. Still, I'm very glad we went out.

Stage IV Snapshot -- Tooth Fairy

What is life like with Stage IV breast cancer? This is the first of a series of snapshots of my life, my "new normal."

Yesterday, when my ten year old daughter's tooth fell out while we were out for lunch, I wrapped it in paper and put it in my pill box for safekeeping.

That's life with Stage IV breast cancer. It's about living.