So many of you have sweetly requested an update on my visit to MD Anderson on October 17th, so thank you for continuing to care about my journey. Before I do that, however, let me back up just a bit to report on how I fared in the weeks following chemo #4…
All in all, my fourth round of chemo was better than my third. Hallelujah! I was more tired and weak on this round, but I wasn’t nearly as nauseated. And I call that a win. In fact, my sweet friend Ashley had flown in from Florida to be with me (as well as my friend Jenn from Tyler) and I was able to hang out with her the day after chemo (which is totally abnormal for my typical ‘day after chemo’). I even wrote the following in the spiral that I keep to record my meds, any atypical symptoms, and how I feel each day.
I think the Lord allowed that gift, and I took full advantage of it. 😉 I love my friends Ashley & Jenn but only get to see them about once or twice a year. THAT IS NOT ENOUGH. Our husbands all went to med school together and we became close friends during those 4 long years. I started crying when I saw them at my chemo appointment because I’m overwhelmed at how good ALL of my friends have been to me on this journey. Taking time out of their busy schedules to really try to understand what I’m going through. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!! Now I’m crying again!
Not only did I feel good the day after chemo, but I felt good for a FEW days after chemo. I couldn’t believe it actually. I’m sure mentally I was SO relieved to be finished that my mind tricked my body into celebrating early! Whatever it was, I was jazzed and wasn’t going to question it. And I’m sure receiving my little front porch goodies didn’t hurt either.
Around October 8th, however, I started developing a huge red mark that covered my right forearm. The next day it was even worse and was extremely hot to the touch. You know the phrase, ‘Feel the Burn’? Yeah, that. Knowing that’s not a good sign, I called my oncology nurse. She told me that it was probably what they call a “TC Burn”. The two drugs I used during chemo were Taxotere and Cytoxan (aka “T/C”). Because I received these drugs via an IV and not a port, somehow the connection between the needle and my vein wasn’t air tight and some of the drugs leaked out. Excuse me?! The nurse who administered my IV better be happy that I was SO DARN TIRED or else I’d have marched back up to Baylor and given her a talking to. Now if you get squeamish with this type of thing, I suggest you don’t look at the following pic.
SO GROSS. I’m so happy I had chocolate to comfort myself because it HURT. And the kicker????? My oncology nurse made the comment, “Well, just be glad this happened on your 4th round.” To which I obviously replied, “And what if it hadn’t?” She went on to explain that if this had happened in my previous rounds, I would have had to get a port (which is put in surgically) because they couldn’t have put an IV back in that arm (and my other arm is out of the question because I’ve had lymph nodes taken from that side). Let’s just say I might have gone over the edge if that would have been the case. Even my amazing stash of Hershey Kisses and Ghirardelli Sea Salt Assortments couldn’t have made this okay in my book.
Thankfully, I already had an appointment with my Dallas dermatologist on Oct. 10th and had her look at this unsightly new development on my arm in addition to my skin cancers. She gave me a steroid cream and healing ointment for my arm, which is working beautifully. Can we all just take a moment to PRAISE THE LORD that cold weather is on the horizon because between the skin cancer on my leg, this burn on my arm, and my sparse head of hair, I feel the need to be FULLY covered from head to toe these days.
In regards to my skin cancer, she took two more biopsies (one on the same leg and one on my left arm) during that appointment. The one on my arm was just a precancerous spot, but the one on my leg was also a squamous cell carcinoma. So, to help you keep track, I now have 3 spots on my left leg that need to be treated. My dermatologist suggested Efudex cream twice a day for 6 weeks. The downside is your skin looks N-A-S-T-Y for the duration until it heals. That’s so unfortunate because I am seriously feeling SO ATTRACTIVE these days. #totallysarcastic #cancermakesyoufeelugly
After my appointment, my dear friends from San Antonio, Mel and Gulley, came into town and we got to hang out which ALWAYS makes me happy. If ever you have a bad day, Mel and Gulley are the people you want in your presence. It’s virtually impossible to be sad or mad when they are around. They are like a traveling circus in that they entertain you, make you laugh until you cry, and always leave you wanting more. Even Dodger got sucked in.
I’ve known these girls for almost 30 years and love them more with each passing year. Mel was in town for a book signing (oh yeah, she’s a New York Times Best Selling author – no big deal) for her new book, Church of the Small Things. But what’s important to me is that we sat on the couch for hours, talked life, and had a mini slumber party. That’s the church of MY small things.
A few days later, I flew to Houston with my sisters and my mom for my appointment at MD Anderson.
We all laughed when the guy at the ticket counter cheerfully asked, ‘So are y’all going on a girls trip?!’ Never mind that we only had our purses with us and no luggage whatsoever. (WHAT FEMALE GOES ON A GIRLS TRIP WITH NO LUGGAGE?) He was so excited, however, that we just said, ‘YES!’. (We concluded that saying ‘No we are heading to MD Anderson for a cancer check up’ might be a bit of a buzzkill).
Let me just say, though, that if we had a dollar for every time we commented on how nice it was to travel so lightly, we’d actually have enough money to go on a girls trip.
We arrived early in the morning (thanks for driving us to the airport, dad) and uber-ed (or buber-ed) to MDA. Our driver was awesome and Karen proceeded to get his life story on the way to the hospital. My mom never misses an opportunity to be social. It’s in her DNA.
We got to MDA a bit early and headed up to the waiting room to check in. One or four hours passed then finally our name was called. We laughed because one man in the waiting room said, ‘You know what the ‘MD’ in MD Anderson stands for?’ MOST of the DAY.
I was one of the lucky patients to have a Fellow come examine me before the actual dermatologist came in. (Does anyone smell sarcasm?). And to preserve some sort of dignity, I had my sisters and mom get behind the curtain while I changed into my flimsy gown. It’s hard to take anything seriously (even at MD Anderson) when this is your support group.
Trevor always says my family has personal space issues. I have no idea where he gets that.
Both of the physicians conducted their exams and were in agreement that either excising the spots surgically or using the chemo cream would suffice for treatment as the spots were superficial and hadn’t invaded beneath the skin. It was a great affirmation that my physician in Dallas was on the right track, and we all felt good about their conclusion. Seems like either option is an easy fix and thankfully this type of skin cancer is not dangerous.
SO…I have one more visit with a plastic surgeon next week trained in Mohs surgery (thank you, Joni!) to see how I feel about having the spots surgically removed. I’m buying a little more time until my body is able to heal properly before I choose either of these options (maybe just a week longer). I will definitely keep you posted!
For now, my little family is just enjoying life and taking advantage of all the fun opportunities that come our way. Trevor and I keep joking that cancer has made us totally irresponsible because we keep doing things we’d never do before my diagnosis (unexpected gift of this dreaded disease for these two type A folks). We had the chance to go to game 2 of the World Series in LA this week, which was such an incredible experience. Despite the 100 degree weather (yes, we FELT THE BURN here too), we had a blast. If you haven’t heard about this game, click here. It was an incredible thrill of back to back home runs and extra innings. And even though our beloved Dodgers didn’t win, it will go down in the books as one of my family’s favorite memories.
And just like Game 2, I’m learning that life is really just one big contrast of highs and lows. A roller coaster of emotions. And whereas before cancer I was able to stand at the gate and watch the ride, I am now strapped in the back row and fully experiencing each and every peak and valley. There is so much sadness in this life, but there is also SO MUCH JOY. And although I’m forced to endure the lows, I’m also blessed to experience the highs in a whole new way. Life on the other side of chemo is BLISS, and I am beyond thankful for all of your support.
Please continue to keep all of those who are fighting cancer in your prayers. It is a brutal, tiring road to travel. Much love to all of my cancer friends – WE CAN DO THIS!
Until next time…much love to you all & make every day count,
“This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:24