The on-going, first-hand tale of a journey through medical oncology... and what happens after.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Candle in the wind

I am unabashedly swiping a theme from a fellow blogger - Jeanne Sather - and companion on the chemically-assisted cancer trail. If you want to see her post on this, look here (

As you know, I have been struggling with my feelings about cancer and its treatment lately, and the image of a candle in the wind is perfect. I am not referring to the idea that a life might end too soon, like the wonderful tribute created by Bernie Taupin (and sung by Elton John) to Norma Jeane Mortenson (Marilyn Monroe). I am seeing a flame, wavering back and forth, sometimes so close to being out that it is almost dark, sometimes flaming large and bright. A small flame, softly pushed to and fro by a breeze, working past the pool of wax surrounding it, finding fuel in odd places, burning firmly but tossed here and there.

My current experience of chemotherapy is like that - wavering, dimming, flaming - rarely feeling steady and warm. I struggle to sleep, to eat, to not be king of crankyland. I fail and triumph each day. My energy and focus flags at odd times, and I have a memory like Swiss cheese. I recover every couple of weeks, only to intentionally slam myself down again. Though I am honored and lucky to have so many people near and far sending my their energy and love, my flame often burns low.

Only three more treatments. Seems short enough and impossible at the same time.


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Chemo, Round Three

I am sitting in my preferred chemo recliner at the oncology clinic. I have endured the port access and blood draws, have chatted with the physician assistant, and learned that my white cell counts are still low (neutrophils are at 1.21 and they need to be above 1.0 to allow me to be treated). I am getting chemo today, and will also get the five day treatment of neupogen again starting when they disconnect my pump. But I am not optimistic that I will be able to be treated in two weeks. Oh well. Maybe that extra week of recovery is more important than whatever schedule I have in my head?

I have also discovered a sensory reaction to the smell of the chemo clinic and the antiseptic swabs that they use to disinfect my skin prior to accessing my port, and also use to wipe the ends of the plastic connectors for the tubing. Me no likee that odor any more. And I am pretty sure that I will not miss it.

One final note about the chemotherapy process... and how it is somewhat depressing. The spaces that I inhabit during treatment are clinical and sterile, the sounds of the place include electronic bongs (signifying something must be done with someone's pump(s)) and a litany of medical terms explained to everyone around me, and the view from the windows is of treetops and sky - with a growing mass of spider webs that trap dust and cottonwood seeds. Most everyone around me has a dull look of resignation, and today I am the youngest patient in the place. The nurses are very competent and helpful, but they are so busy hurrying from patient to patient - summoned by the incessant bonging of the transfusion/treatment pumps.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but I am not liking this day's work.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011


I am borrowing a page from another blogger tonight - and will keep this update very brief.

Yesterday was Chemo #2 (out of 6). Red and white cell counts are OK (low end of normal) but my neutrophil counts are low. Not low enough to miss treatment this time, but low enough to cause concern. We are going to start five days of neupogen injections to stimulate my bone marrow. Very slight change that this will cause some bone ache - but that did not happen in 2007 (last time I had this issue). We will know more about that in two weeks when I go in for the blood work prior to treatment #3.

We also got a lower dose of the steroid dexamethasone... went from 12mg to 4mg. This will help with the days of hyperactivity and hopefully with the nights of sleeplessness. But the nausea yesterday was palpable, and not even a little bit fun. But today was a lot better, and I hope that tomorrow will be an even larger improvement. Maybe next time we go with 6mg?

Namaste. Ed