Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Log: 2009.04.23

Activity: Swimming
Time: 20:00

Notes:
I felt great in the water but exhausted afterwards. I wasn't sure if I had enough energy to make it from the locker room to my car. Of course, it doesn't help that I'm still on crutches so walking that distance is twice as hard. But I did it!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Log: 2009.04.22

Activity: Pilates, Stretching
Time: 20:00

Notes:
I got sick AGAIN. So annoying. Well, at least I got some activity in.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Log: 2009.04.21

Activity - Swimming
Time: 12:00

Notes:

MY FIRST REAL ACTIVITY IN A MONTH AND A HALF!!!!! Ok, it was only 12 minutes but I felt human again. Pure bliss.

Mile 4 of my Cancer Marathon

Mile 4 of the marathon is the start of the “easy” miles. It’s only called the easy miles because the pace is comfortable. But heck, you are still running a marathon, and that’s not easy! It’s important to be careful during this period to not push the pace too much or you will feel it later. And of course, be on the lookout for any hills or other obstacles that might pop up.

I had my first round of chemo on March 26. After each chemo infusion, you get a 3 week “rest” period. I use quotes around the word rest because it’s not like you are sipping pina coladas by the pool during this time.

The first few days afterwards you get predosone, a steroid pill, to boost you up. I was really hoping the ‘roids would give me the sprinting speed of Marion Jones or the capacity to go all ‘roid rage on annoying clients at work, but I really didn’t notice their impact at all. Bummer.

You are supposed to feel progressively better over the three weeks. I did not and actually felt worse as time went on. I probably did too much and caught a bad cold from my germ monsters, I mean children, which turned into a sinus infection. Normally, these maladies would be an inconvenience but due to the circumstances they knocked me on my butt.

The impact was both physical and mental. The physical can be dealt with with good drugs but the mental is a little tougher. I’ve had several minor illnesses since my diagnosis and they have all been really tough to deal with mentally. I think my mind is an all-out war with the cancer and there’s just not much more fight for anything else. So even a minor setback can send me in a tizzy.

The week I was diagnosed with cancer I also got an unrelated eye infection. Here I was dealing with cancer but the only thing I was dwelling on was the fact I couldn’t wear my contacts lenses. I was a total spazz for the two weeks I had this minor eye infection.

My hair started falling out about 2.5 weeks after my first treatment. I had got it cut short a week or so before so it wouldn’t be that traumatic when it started showing up in the sink. When it started falling out, it did so rapidly so I just shaved it off. All in all, not nearly as emotional as I would have guessed.

As I tell people, it’s my Britney Spears look, circa the crazy years. I’m sporting a wig for work and ball caps for when I am just out and about. Interestingly enough, my leg hairs continue to grow. Of course, the one place where you want to lose hair you can’t.

The only other major symptom I am feeling is fatigue. It’s cumulative, so it gets worse every day. This has been the most frustrating for me. Maybe if I had been sick before it would be easier to embrace. However, I was full of energy, training for a marathon, chasing after two small kids and working. But now, I spend most nights on the couch, can’t work a full day and have to take breaks after spending short periods of time with my children. Annoying.

I watched the Boston Marathon yesterday. It’s hard to imagine that two years ago I was making the trek from Hopkinton to Boston. I wasn’t sure how watching the race would make me feel. However, if anything I was more determined than ever afterwards. I can’t wait to get off my butt, get back in shape and make that journey again. It really lit a fire in my belly and I can’t wait to beat this cancer into submission.

I am embarrassed to say that it has taken me 4 miles before I thanked all my supporters in this race. In all honesty, I have been so overwhelmed and humbled by the outpouring of love I haven’t known what to write. But the words came to me at 5AM this morning, and here they are:

THANK YOU to:
- Friends and family near and far, for letters, emails, phone calls, prayers and glasses of wine. Some of you I speak to daily and others I hadn’t spoken to in years, but the common thread is that your words uplift me every day.
- Chagrin Valley Mom’s Running Club for the meals every Monday. Each and every member has an amazing story and is an awesome woman, mom and runner.
- My neighbors for meals, babysitting and friendship. I live in great neighborhood and I know if I ever needed anything a half dozen hands would fly into the air instantaneously.
- My coworkers for letting me say I don’t need any help, pretending that I don’t need any help and then filling in for me when I do need help.
- My inlaws for their prayers and constant encouragement. While they live far away, I know they are with me in spirit. And they packed our freezer with food during Easter – score!
- My brother and sister-in-law for the babysitting, yard work and ice skating lessons for Dominic. They also live far away but have been with me every step of the way.
- My parents for laundry, babysitting, installing lights and being my personal slaves. They should be on a beach somewhere enjoying retirement. Instead, they are making weekly trips from Columbus to help us out.
- And lastly, but certainly not least, my incredible husband. It’s not easy caring for a sick, whiny wife, managing two small children, keeping a house running and working a demanding job. But he is getting it done with grace and ease. I am in awe.

Keep the focus!
Carmen

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Log: 2009.04.14

Activity: Pilates/stetching
Time: 20:00

Notes:

Whoo-hoo! Almost a real workout. I always consider 20 minutes as my "real" threshold. Less than 20 minutes of anything isn't considered exercise in my book. Of course, the 20 minutes I did today was a far cry from a 20 min tempo run, but I will take small wins when I can!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Log: 2009.04.13

Activity: Pilates/stretching
Time: 15:00

Notes:

I stepped it up today using the stretch band for some resistance.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Log: 2009.04.12

Activity: Pilates/stretching
Time: 10:00

Notes:

After the bone biopsy surgery my left knee swelled up a bunch and I lost most of my range of motion. So the orthopedist sent me to a physical therapist. However, I had a round of chemo before I went to PT and that magically cleared up my knee issues overnight. The day after chemo #1 I had full range of motion back.

I still went to PT and she basically confirmed that my ROM was totally fine. However, she did give me some exercises to strengthen my leg since I haven't used it since being on crutches. They were kind of lame so I asked her if I could do upper body lifting and pilates (non load bearing) which she ok'd. I also got ok'd for swimming.

So this was my first foray into any sort of exercise in over a month. I'll start slowly and hopefully get some muscle tone back soon.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Mile 3 of my Cancer Marathon

Mile 3 of the marathon is all business. It’s time to take off and throw to the side of the road the crappy old long sleeve t-shirt you were wearing to stay warm at the start. You are now flaunting a brand new technical-tee and a crisp race number and that instantly makes you feel like a real runner. You’ve successfully navigated the first water stop and hopefully managed not to spill too much Gatorade on yourself. And most importantly, you’ve settled into your goal pace and your legs are starting to respond to the familiar rhythm. It’s time to get serious about running this race.

I had my first chemo treatment on March 26. The basic routine is you get blood drawn at the lab, you go see your doc and then they move you into a private room where you will be the rest of the day.

The one thing that scared me the most about chemo was the chance I would have to sit around all day looking at sick people. I know that sounds both ludicrous and mean considering (a) I am sick (b) you are supposed to be nice to sick people (my mother taught me well). But, frankly, I’ve put myself in the mindset that I am happy and healthy and I didn’t want anything to shake that. So I was greatly relieved that I would have a private room for the day. No sickies for me :)

It is pretty cheesy but I ordered a yellow “Livestrong” Dri-fit shirt to wear to chemo. When I was in high-school and college I remember how good it would feel to put on a clean jersey on race morning. It would make me feel strong and capable and I wanted to replicate that feeling for my treatments. So my Livestrong shirt coupled with my Boston Marathon jacket has became my “Chemo uniform”.

Getting Chemo was very similar to the inductions I had for my sons’ births. They hook you up to an IV and you wait around for something to happen. It was actually better than an induction in that you could eat whatever you want instead of the ice chips and Valu-time popsicles that are the required staples of labor and delivery.

I had a great nurse who explained everything to me and made me feel very comfortable. Vince and I spent most of the day reading, watching tv and surfing the net. Other than the whole cancer part, it was like a mommy’s dream come true. Relaxing all day long with no temper-tantrums, bottles to make or floors to sweep – sign me up!

I never got sick, just a little queasy when we got home. However, they have great meds nowadays and that nipped it in the bud. I even rallied and hit book club later that evening.

The next day was a little tougher. The best way to describe it is “hung-over”. Not a half dozen shots of Tequila at a dive bar hung-over, more like 3 or 4 glasses of wine with girlfriends hung-over. My head was foggy and my stomach felt a little off and I had a compelling need to eat greasy foods and watch dumb shows on tv.

The second day I felt much better. I was a little tired but still very functional, my head was clear and my stomach was almost back to normal. I probably pushed it a little too much that day as I crashed that night. But all in all, it could have been much worse.

I returned to work on Monday with no problem. I am definitely more tired than usual but not crazy tired. Once again returning to the maternity analogy, it’s kind of a pregnancy tired. I can function during the day but I am whooped by the time dinner rolls around.

So that summarizes my first chemo treatment and the following week. I will write another installment soon detailing the “recovery” weeks between treatments, hair loss and other burning topics.

I started out writing about my experiences for several reasons including:
1. Communication with friends and family near and far - People have been asking how things were going and this has proven to be an effective and efficient way to reach people.
2. Therapy – As I write this, first in my head and then later on the computer, it’s really helped me understand my thoughts and feelings. I’m not a support group kind of gal so this has been very helpful to me.
3. History – My sons are too little to understand all of this now. However, some day I hope to share it with them so they can understand their mommy has another side than PB&J maker and time out giver.

One unexpected outcome of sharing my story is hearing from others who have also experienced major challenges in their life. The challenges range from raising twins (which still scares the hell out of me!) to having major heart surgery to dealing with the loss of a spouse or sibling.

All of these people were ordinary people who never thought they would have these obstacles in their life. But when presented with the challenge, they dug in and they overcame. It truly inspires me and gives me courage.

I’ve always felt that you never knew what you were capable of until you were presented with a challenge. I still believe that and now see that challenges come in two forms – those you choose (like running a marathon) and those that choose you (like having cancer). No matter the origin of your challenge, you ultimately become a stronger person by taking it on.

Keep putting one foot in front of the other!