Sunday, June 28, 2009

Patchwork of color

Mini rollerMost of the rooms in our house are currently off-white. We'd like to repaint them all with somewhat brighter colors; it makes sense to start with our new room.

My husband and I discussed paint chips and agreed on a color. The painters came, and now our new room is the color we agreed on. Neither one of us is completely happy with it.

We don't agree which direction to move, though, so we've bought a couple of samples and are doing test patches.

Five test colors

I think one of these colors will do quite nicely.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

EPOCH+R, recovering from round eight

My platelets were low again the week following my last chemotherapy treatment, but I had no bleeding or bruising: not even the minor issues I had after cycle seven. Also in the first week off the chemo, my hemoglobin dropped to 7.9. Below 8.0 is the normal cut-off for needing a blood transfusion. However, my oncologist had noted in my chart to not transfuse me unless I was symptomatic (which I wasn't), so I got away with no treatment.

Someone from my local blood bank left a message on my answering machine two weeks ago. I had called them and left a voicemail in December, canceling my appointment to donate blood and asking them not to call me: I had lymphoma. It was shortly after I was diagnosed; I was pretty upset. When I returned the call from two weeks ago, I got sent to voicemail. I'm not sure if they were calling to see how I was doing, or to ask me to give blood. Just to cover both bases, I told the voicemail that I was finished with chemotherapy and also that my hemoglobin had recently been 7.9.

The hot flashes had subsided somewhat the first two weeks after cycle eight (still multiple times every day and every night, but less often and less intense). This week, though, they came back at full strength. I've had some minor leg pain (a symptom of neuropathy) a few nights (including last night), but no bone pain, no tongue pain, and no hand-foot syndrome this time. I do have a new pain symptom: since about a week ago, both of my big toenails are tender if the end of my toe is pressed. Each nail also has a big red splotch in the middle of the nail bed. I'm not sure what this is called, but when I asked one of my oncology nurses about it, she said it's a common side effect of chemotherapy.

Recently, I've had trouble trying to sleep for more than a few hours at a time; not every night, but many nights I get to sleep rather easily, only to wake up a two or three hours later. Fall asleep again without a problem, but then wake up again an hour or two later. It's hard to tell how much of this is chemotherapy side effect, and how much is due to my crazy work schedule (three weeks of 3am to 11am, then two weeks of 5am to 1pm, and now they've laid off the night shift entirely so I started 6am to 2pm this week).

My hunger and thirst both came back to normal; I even tried eating some jalapeno potato chips last week, which I hadn't done for several months. It was somewhat painful, though; looks like I need to let my mouth heal for longer before trying more of the spicy foods I used to love.

My pants have been looser (although my weight is still the same); I think I've had water retention for several months that I just recently lost. This week, I'm trying reducing my Metamucil fiber cookies to Monday-Wednesday-Friday. So far, my intestines have not complained. My heartrate has consistently been in the 80s recently, which I find reassuring. I did a workout tape today, a tape that a month ago sent my heart rate up to 200: today it only went up to 170, a much more reasonable range for exercise. Interestingly, I was more out of breath today than I was with the higher heart rate: I'm guessing the faster rate, while hard on my heart, was more effective at delivering oxygen?

I feel like I'm recovering. It feels good.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Cockatiel feng shui

For several weeks, we've been working on the window in our current living room. This required moving the birdcage next to the bookshelves.

Our cockatiel, who loves small spaces, discovered he could crawl behind a row of books. It was quite neat to watch him scoot into and pop up out of that space. The tap-tapping as he pecked against the bookshelf, the sounds of paper we'd given him being chewed up, and the long strings of happy "awk-awk-awk-awk" were really cute.

However, he was overcome with a fierce need to defend this space from all comers. Since he accessed the bookshelf from the top of his cage, this was also an area he defended. If he was in the cage, we could handle him normally; but on top of the cage, watch out. Whenever we walked near (not even necessarily intending to interact with him), he would jump onto us and bite any exposed skin he could find. Hard.

A few days ago, we finished our work on the window and moved his cage away from the bookshelf. Since then, neither of us has even been threatened with a bite. He spends much less time looking angry (somewhat skinny, crest laid flat) - not just with us, but with the parakeet, too - and more time looking contented (fluffy, crest halfway up). We miss the entertainment of his time behind the books; but he's now picked up an old habit of falling asleep on us. It's a good tradeoff.

It's amazing what a little furniture arrangement can do. Then again, perhaps we shouldn't be surprised that parrots are affected by feng shui. After all, some argue that they invented tai chi.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

EPOCH + R, round eight

Three weeks ago (right when I finished round seven), my company laid off our only night shift inspector. To try to get product ready to ship out on our trucks in the morning, I have been starting work at 3am. I have been leaving work at 11am, which is nice, but makes for a weird sleep schedule (nap when I get home, wake up for the afternoon, then have a short sleep before work). This coming week my boss is having me try a 5am to 1pm shift; it would be nice if that ends up working so I can stop having to wake up at two o'clock in the morning.

At the end of the first break week, my blood tests came back low on platelets. I noticed several times that idle scratching of a scab produced, not a lot of blood, but much more than would have normally seen. My eighth Neupogen shot left me with a bruise, something that had not happened before. It worries me to have my blood cells becoming more affected by the chemotherapy. On the bright side, though, my hemoglobin levels have been hanging in there. Below 12 is anemic; below 8 requires a blood transfusion. The past four cycles, I've squeaked by at 8.3 to 8.4.

I was not hungry or thirsty for most of my first break week. My thirst started working again on Thursday, but the hunger came back more gradually. It wasn't until well into my second break week that I felt I was eating normally again. I must have been making myself eat enough, though, because I did not lose any weight. It's reassuring to be at the same weight I was when I started the chemo.

The break from round seven, for the first time during my treatment, I never felt a need for pain relievers. No nighttime leg cramps, no tongue pain: it was wonderful to be pain-free for so much of the time. That said, I did have some occasional minor irritations. One was similar to lower back pain/cramps I have typically had on the last day of Neupogen shots. This cycle, however, I had cramps along my entire spine (usually when I was leaning forward to look at something) that persisted several days after my last shot. I had been attributing this to the "bone pain" side effect of the Neupogen, but now I think it must be something else.

Also, the palms of my hands and soles of my feet were very sensitive for a couple of days during my second break week (e.g. standing on an uneven surface barefoot was painful). I believe this is called hand-foot syndrome. Having it for a long period of time can cause a person to lose their fingerprints, which apparently upsets U.S. Customs officials. This isn't a risk in my case (since I plan on being done with chemotherapy now), but I thought it was interesting.

My eighth week of chemotherapy was very similar to the past few rounds: sleeping about ten hours a day, toward the end of the week everything started tasting really nasty (on Friday I had the nurses give me IV fluids). The hot flashes have continued. And of course, the torso swelling this weekend that makes it painful to be touched (I think is inflammation caused by withdrawal from the steroids). The lack of hunger and thirst has started, and I know I'll have the low energy/steroid crash in a couple of days. But I'll get through it, and this time, I get to stay feeling normal! Yay for chemotherapy being done!