Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Cheers to the beginning of Cycle #3

CHEERS - "Sometimes you want to go
Where everybody knows your name,
And they're always glad you came;
You want to be where you can see,
Our troubles are all the same;
You want to be where everybody knows your name."

How very different 3 months can make. I am now part of the Cancer family at the Grand River Cancer Centre. A place that I never envisioned I would visit so often. A part of a group that I never thought I would be apart of. I so vividly remember the fear I felt walking through the large wooden doors and lining up to register back on that cold March day. No clue where to go, or what to do. I was spinning and lost. 

Fast forward to this week. I am greeted with "Michelle!" and a huge smile. Joking with the familiar faces, "I'm back again." Up the stairs, check in with my on-line symptom reporting kiosk, wave to the nurses at the registration desk in the chemo suites, back to the PICC line blood draw, sign in, wait for the time it takes to process my bloodwork. Waves to my favourite nurses, a hug from one in particular. We bonded the day that I wasn't able to receive treatment and she held my hand as the tears of disappointment came. It is such apart of my life right now, this special place. The place that is healing me. I need them. There are usually the same amazing volunteers who work in the chemo suites, never stopping, always checking in with us, do we need juice, water, icechips, gingerale. Offers of hard candies or crackers are always there, let me get you a heated blanket, tucking it around my feet. I have learned the comforts from home to pack. A larger cup so that the volunteers don't have to get ice for me quite so often, a pair of cozy socks to keep my feet warm, healthy snacks, change for parking, my stack of magazines, my i-pad and of course my phone. Texting back to my friends who are all checking in on me knowing that it is treatment day. 

Monday I was at the Cancer Centre for my bloodwork and my appointment with Dr. Stevens. Tuesday, was my 5th chemotherapy treatment, technically called Cycle 3A. My appointment with the oncologist went very well. Dr Stevens, exclaimed, "look at how slim your neck is!" The lumps in my neck are barely palitpable, they have shrunk significantly. We go through my side effects, how I am feeling. He continues to say how great I am doing. I can tell he is quite shocked that I still have a pretty full head of hair, he assured me that it does not indicate whether the treatment is working or not.  Everyone responds differently to chemotherapy and in time I will most likely lose all my hair or most of it. I can atest that it is coming out all over my bathroom floor on a daily basis, but not in clumps like I envisioned. I will ride this out as long as I can. We discussed my blood results and most tests are in the normal range. My neutrophils continue to hover around zero but his plan is to continue status quo as I am feeling well and do not have a fever. He said that recent studies indicate that putting me on Neuprogen (the injections for white blood cells) is not advisable with the type of Chemo drugs I am receiving (ABVD) - the B drug can cause lung and breathing issues (which I don't have) but the chance of problems increases x20 with the Neuprogen shots. I was thankful for this, as the daily Heparin injections are enough for me. There are two other tests that indicate that my liver is slightly inflamed but this is also normal for my type of chemotherapy. Platelets and red blood cells are perfect in the normal range.

I have two appointments coming up that I am looking forward to but also cause me a little bit of "scanxiety". I have a CAT scan of my chest and neck on June 30. This test is a repeat of the CT scan I had before I started treatment so they can compare the size and swelling of the lymph nodes in my neck and the mass in my chest. Then on July 8, I go to St Joseph's in Hamilton for a PET scan. You will remember back that I had a Gallium scan, this is a similar test but thankfully doesn't take as long (holding arms above my head for 45 minutes) This scanner is more up-to-date, Grand River doesn't yet have a PET scan machine. This test will show with a radioactive tracer, where cancer cells still appear in my body. I see Dr. Stevens on July 11, for the results of these tests. I am excited to hear that the cancer is leaving me but understandably anxious. 

So while I realize that my new "normal" involves being on a first name basis with the staff of the cancer centre, it has become my new family. The rooms in the chemo suite are filled with others whose "troubles are all the same". I look forward to the day down the road where my visits become less and less but I will be forever changed by this experience. 

Thank you to my amazing staff who continue to check in with me and send me pampering treats in the mail, the Straus family for cooking for us, they inspired Jason and I to bake our own rhubarb loaf, with rhubarb from the cottage. My dad and my mom who is recovering from a cold and will hopefully be able to take me to a chemotherapy treatment in July.  Jason's parents for taking care of us this past weekend at the cottage and giving so much love to the kids. Jordan got to spend the weekend with Grandma, they both needed some grandma love this weekend. Angie from Hopespring who calls to check in with me to see how I am doing. I also need to give a shout-out to our ETFO representatives, I am so grateful for the support and immediate assistance I have received with every question. Stay tuned for my wonderful experience with Cancer Care Path. A service available to ETFO members that is unbelieveable.

Michelle 5 Hodgkins 0 - almost half way there!! Love to you all. xoxo 

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