Thursday, February 28, 2013


Someday I will go back and update this blog to include all the details that I leave out...sometimes to protect the guilty :)

Let's just say that this is a week where I am constantly reminded of the need to breathe. 

Deep breath in...

Deep breath out...


And I hope that the teenager pulls it together.

I am going to start looking into yoga.

And massage.

And definitely a vacation.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Biggest Loser in Reverse

The weight gain continues...Friday's scale reckoning saw a 3 pound weight gain in the last week. THREE POUNDS in seven days. That's what some Biggest Loser contestants LOSE in a week. Add that to the 5-6 pounds that I've gained since Christmas and that's NINE pounds gained in 8 weeks. 

So tired of hearing that it's because I'm not active...or my system is all messed up...once I start exercising it will get better. NOT TRUE! I have been getting out walking this week (and saw a three pound increase in spite of it). I drink more water than any person I know. And I don't actually eat all the "bad" things I used to because they don't taste good anymore. There is clearly something else going on here.

But no one takes me seriously when I complain that none of my clothes fit. My concerns are dismissed because I "look healthy." Here's the thing though, if I was any normal person with concerns about gaining 3 pounds in a week, my doctor probably would take me seriously. That's quite a bit of weight for someone my size to put on in a would take a LOT of effort to do it.

I am convinced that the steroids I am given play a huge (ha, ha) roll in this. If there is one more week of weight gain, I might go postal on someone...stay tuned...

Monday, February 25, 2013

Music Monday

Another Music Monday brought to you by students clearly much cooler than I am.

I'm not actually sure what it is about this song, but it just works for me. Thanks!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Allergic to Tape? Of Course I Am!

Because it has become quite a comedy of errors on chemo days, I thought I would post about my latest adventure.

Friday was my second round of Taxol, which is honestly WAY better than the AC dosing that I was getting. It is SUPPOSED to take about an hour for the infusion, plus 15 minutes or so for pre-meds, plus about 30 minutes for lab work. So, all told, I am only supposed to be there for two hours TOPS. At least, that's what they keep promising. Hasn't ever lived up to that. This past week was the kicker: arrived at 10:30am...left the hospital at 4:15pm. I wish that was a joke.

One of the biggest snafus that day was my allergic reaction to...medical tape? Band aids? The infusion needle stabbed into my port? I'm not sure, but it was immediate and painful and caused MASSIVE delays as I threatened to rip out my port.

Here's what I looked like about 10 hours after the reaction:

You can't really see the port in this picture, but it was so red it appeared to be on FIRE! And here I thought I'd have to save Allicia Keys' "Girl on Fire" for a Music Monday during radiation. Maybe not, because I was truly on fire.

Thanks to several people who have offered suggestions to solve the problem this week. Will let you know what works!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Claritin is Worth It's Weight in Gold

Compared to the AC chemotherapy I was getting for 8 weeks, Taxol seems like a breeze (at least right now...KNOCKING ON WOOD). The only real side effect is that I'm a little more tired. Trust me, this is something that I can deal with!

However, one of the other side effects is neuropathy (a numbing/tingling/or loss of function of some nerves, usually in the hands and feet). Well, I think I'm getting this on an intermittent basis right now. It started on Sunday and does come and go. It also seems to be accompanied by joint pain (shoulders, elbows, knees, ankles...are those all joints? I've forgotten my anatomy). Just when you think you're feeling all good and you might actually survive this batch of chemo...WHAM! You've got to have something go wrong!

I have taken to trying the "cure" that worked for the bone pain with the neulasta shots: Claritin. And it works! And I still haven't figured out WHY (which scientist me really wants to know). But I have done enough reading to realize that I'm not the only one it works for, nor is my doctor the only one telling people to try it. I still don't get how anyone came across this remedy. Seriously, who first said, "hey, let's try Claritin. It's awesome for my stuffy nose." Doesn't really make sense...but I don't care. I do wonder if the drug company knows this, because it seems like a whole other market they could be making large sums of cash from.

And before you say that this pain relief is all in my head, a mind over matter type of thing, I DON'T ACTUALLY CARE. Because Claritin is my new favorite drug right now. Thank God they sell it at Costco!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Music Monday

In the latest entry that proves I'm not clearly as hip as I think I am, I was sent a late night email from one of my favorite former students with a long list of songs that I needed to check out. Haven't heard of one of them, that's how cool I am. Now, I had heard of most of the groups (thank God), but not of the specific songs that were recommended.

Here's the first one, which just seemed to fit with my mood this week (if you read all the posts coming up, you'll understand).

Thanks for the recommendations, and keep them coming!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

In Which I Hate Everything I Heard at the Doctor

I swear I'm trying to be a trooper through this whole process. And I do still have my sense of humor, I promise (keep reading for proof of that). But talking to the doctor on Friday before my latest round of chemo, I kind of hated everything that she was saying.

(1) My impending mastectomy and reconstruction sounds like it's going to SUCK for me because as we all know my cancer is "special." Traditional strategies for reconstruction probably aren't an option, and probably won't even work. And it could take up to a YEAR after radiation ends. Which will put it into another school work year...and insurance calendar year...(don't get me started on either of those right now). Yeah, more money and more sick days...

(2) Even though I think that the steroids they are giving me is actually what is killing me, she is still going to give them to me. I swear the migraines are steroid induced, and I know the weight gain is. UGH! However, on the plus side here, she says if I still get the migraine this go-round, she will agree with me and reduce the amount I'm given.

(3) Finally asked the big question: How do we tell if this treatment is working? Kinda wished I hadn't asked it. I'm the kind of gal that wants ANSWERS! TESTS! DEFINITIVE PROOF! Bring on the numbers people. Yeah, apparently it doesn't work like that. Basically it boils down to, if I'm still alive in 5 years, that's how they know this treatment worked. That's a pretty sucky answer folks! (Of course, there were so many funny responses to this, I promise you that Keith and I were saying all of them. Like, "And if you die within the year, then Whoops! My bad." Had the doc physically LAUGHING so hard, she had to stop her explanation. We won the day's prize for humor, so that was a perk I guess).

So no, there are no blood tests, scans, etc. that give me an "all clear" immediately following treatment. They are doing the best possible treatment based on my angry cancer and the positive results in others with similar cases. I totally believe this, and believe in them and the process. I have no doubts that this will work. HOWEVER, I'd like a little proof! Other than, "you come to the doctor every six months and we talk about how you're feeling and go from there." Because guess what folks? I was feeling pretty good before this whole process started and then these lumps (which no one thought was cancer) appeared and by that point I was already Stage 2-3.

Now, the one thing that I do have going for me is that I will get some scans right after these treatments because of the "unusual" lymph node and the spot on my liver (WTH? I don't remember anyone saying ANYTHING about the liver) that were "lighting up" in previous scans. They will check to verify that those areas aren't showing up anymore, so that will at least give me some sense of relief. 

But still! Sucky answer!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Cancer Pros and Cons

As I'm starting my second stage of chemo, I thought I would take a moment to reflect on the Pros and Cons of this cancer diagnosis...

Cons: These seem kind of obvious, so I'll focus on the ones that annoy me the most right now, and not on the life-altering, you could die ones. Because I'm pretty sure that you could imagine what those are. And I also won't bring up the kind of gross side effects that you don't really want to hear about. There are many posts that I write but never post here, guess you'll have to wait for the book. (Which would be cool, and which AJ wants to help me write).

(1) I'm calling it Perma-cold. I'm not sure if it's the chemo or the steroids (yes, I'm on a mission to blame everything on the steroids...just keep reading), but my nose is ALWAYS running. I have resorted to carrying Kleenex in my purse, in my car, there are boxes on the nightstand, in the kitchen, and on the family room coffee table. I even bring my own box of Kleenex to chemo because the tissue they supply is worse than sandpaper. "Don't leave home without it" has taken on new meaning.

(2) Migraines. Again, I blame the steroids, but there's the possibility that this was the A/C chemo making me feel like this. Let's hope, because after the last round I was laying in the dark with a killer migraine for 6 days. 

(3) Insomnia. Blaming the steroids again. The one nausea med (yes, there's more than one) that I was given was supposed to help with that, but it doesn't even come close. And since it's probably not a good idea to take the whole bottle, I have finally been convinced to get a prescription for Ambien to see if that helps. The doctor says I might actually start feeling better if I get more than 3 hours of sleep at a time. What? You mean 5 hours of sleep a day, and not all at once, is a bad thing? Whoops. Of course, I still haven't stopped by the pharmacy to fill said prescription, so it might be awhile until I let you know how it's working.

(4) Weight gain. I don't care if I'm a sloth, it's got to be the steroids. I also don't care that no one else seems concerned over my gaining 5 pounds in 5 weeks. But I only have one pair of pants that fit right now. I'm going to need to buy new clothes if this keeps up. Can you imagine? Forget "fat pants," I'm going to need "cancer pants." Terrific!

(5) Chemo brain. And it's so bad right now that I almost forgot to mention it. If you aren't familiar with chemo brain, this is a fun side effect that basically makes you stupid. Or at least makes you feel stupid. You forget things, like what you were just about to type, and you definitely can't remember the right words at the right times. It's a little like dementia. I think I've only forgotten each child's name once or twice, but there are many times where I look like a lunatic waving my arms around or snapping my fingers hoping that this will help me come up with the right word. And I've been told that this takes AWHILE to go away, and is sometimes permanent. God help me. This one is my biggest fear because it's pretty hard to teach when you can't remember what you want to teach them.

(6) Hot flashes. I hate to say it out loud, but I think this is chemo-induced menopause. Shhhh! Don't want to think it. Moving on...

(7) Taste bud obliteration. This sucks! God forbid if you ever have to go through chemotherapy, PLEASE call me first so I can tell you how not to have this happen to you. I am slooooowly getting them back, little by little, so it's possible this isn't permanent, but still a monumental pain in the ass.

Pros: Yes, there actually are some. Though, let's be honest, the cons definitely outweigh the good things. But if pressed, there are a few "perks" if that's the word you want to use.

(1) I'm saving money on shampoo, haircuts, and coloring the horrible gray. Although it's possible the cost of the wigs offsets this, but we won't think about that. Mainly because I'm really fond of the Katy Perry wig now and might just be wearing it for every school picture day from here on out.

(2) I don't have to clean up kid puke. When the daughter had the FLU with a capital "F" last weekend, I didn't have to clean it up. Or come anywhere near her. Now, I felt bad about not being able to comfort her (and that she was basically locked in her room), but didn't really miss cleaning up kid puke.

(3) I don't have to go to the dentist while I'm going through treatment. I think there's several reasons for this, but I don't really care. I just heard the "no dentist" part and that was good enough for me. Oh, and I don't have to floss either, but who's kidding who? I don't really floss anyway. Shhhh!

(4) No shaving my legs. Even though the hair on my legs was the last to fall out (and by falling out, I mean that I finally shaved it off), it has not grown back. Cutting this and the shampoo out of the morning regimen means more time to sleep in. Sadly for my energy-conscious husband, this does not mean less time in the shower because I've discovered it is nice to just stand (sit) in the warm water for as long as possible.

(5) People are awesome. It's nice to see this in action, and I do on a regular basis. So many people taking care of me and my big and small ways...we are so grateful!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Music Monday

Today's Music Monday is brought to you by one of my 8th grade students. They recommended this song to me. I love this group, but for some reason had not heard this one yet. 

Thanks for the recommendations! I love it!

Any other songs that I need? Comment here and let me know...

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Taxol Takes it's Toll

Friday was Chemo, Stage 2, Round 1. The first of my 12 weekly rounds of Taxol. This is where you will find me every Friday from now on: sitting in my chemo chair. Today was kind of nice because the sunshine was streaming in through the windows and it felt a little like spring (at least until the sun went behind the clouds).

So the first 8 weeks of chemo (A/C) were designed to kill me, and I have to admit that there were days when I thought it was going to. But I have come out the other side, and have been promised that these next 12 weeks are going to seem rather mild by comparison. FINGERS CROSSED! KNOCKING ON WOOD! Whatever needs to be done to make that come true!

Now, please don't think that Taxol is going to be a breeze. There are rumors that I might lose my finger and toe nails by the end of this process (doesn't that sound like awesome fun?!). And another fun side effect is that I will get even more tired than I already am. For example, the doctor warned that somewhere around day 3 every week I could suddenly feel a desperate need for a 3 hour nap in the middle of the day. I'll let you know!

And there is also the possibility that you could have a horrible allergic reaction to call the ER and shoot me with an epipen allergic reaction. Sounds great! But, I managed to make it through the dosing without that, so strong possibility that won't happen. Again, FINGERS CROSSED!

But because of this possibility of allergic reaction, I was dosed with massive quantities of Benedryl as part of my pre-meds (saline, steroids, Benedryl...and probably something else...I stop paying attention sometimes). So. Much. Benedryl. Quantities that caused me not to really remember what else happened on Friday. Keith left and came back with lunch. I ate it. I got a visit from my favorite pharmacy gal (maybe I'll just start calling her FPG). And then, I passed out. For an hour and a half until it was done and Keith came back to pick me up. Thank goodness I brought my comfy blanket.

And when I got home? I slept some more. Because I was super groggy and a little loopy. Had planned on posting this last night, but friends don't let friends post while hopped up on Benedryl.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013


This video clip is making the rounds, but I still wanted to post it here because:

(1) It is a good reminder for all, 

Monday, February 4, 2013

Music Monday

CRAZY weekend in the Yusko household. CRAZY! 

There were incredible highs...alternating with incredible lows. I promise to post more about our weekend not actually about cancer.

But today, I needed a little pick me up. And this song seemed to fit the bill. And she's my new namesake, so I guess it makes sense!

And if you have any other suggestions for inspirational music, comment here...