Thursday, January 2, 2014

Goodbye 2013, don't let the door hit you on the way out

This last year has been hard.  I am so glad it is finally over.

I should have taken the very beginning of the year as an omen.  It started off with my docs freaking out because my scan showed that my cancer was growing back again.  This is when I decided to give the Y-90 radioembolization a try.  After an angiogram (they went through my artery in my groin to get images of all of the blood vessels/veins etc in my liver) where they placed 5 or 7 platinum coils (chemo brain cant remember this stuff) in my liver to block flow to the left side while they radiated the right side.  This procedure took place on Valentines day.  Through my research and conversations with my radiologist my understanding of how I was going to feel after radiation was not exceptionally terrible.  Apparently most people who undergo this procedure usually feel like they have the flu for about a week or so, then it is back to life as "normal".  Needless to say this was not the case for me.  I literally felt like I had a bad sunburn inside my body.  My body even acted like it too, with skin sloughing off my esophagus and from inside my mouth, just like a sunburn but I would have welcomed a bad sunburn in trade for what I was going through.  The next two months were nothing but a blur to me.  Everyone had to be at least 6 feet from me (especially my kitty girl) because I was literally radioactive.  I couldn't eat or drink anything at all because my stomach felt like it was on fire.  Water was just about the only thing that passed through my lips for weeks.  After a while I was able to hold down some yogurt and that soon became my only meal for the next couple of weeks.  The pain I felt from this procedure was very literally THE WORST pain I have ever experienced in my entire 42 years of life.  The days lasted an eternity and the nights were even longer.  It seemed that the pain got even worse at night and I cannot even begin to count the hours that I spent crying, groaning and suffering at night in the dark of my bedroom wondering how I could hurt so much and not be dead yet.  There even came a time where for about a week I was welcoming death and felt myself giving in/giving up because it was just too painful and too much for me to handle any longer.

One day I realized that my thoughts had begun to slip into this dark realm and that I was very dangerously close to dying.  I realized that my thoughts of welcoming death and giving up were steering me even further into having this become my reality and at that moment I realized that I wasn't ready to give up yet.  I still have a lot left to do here in this life.

By June I was beginning to feel a bit better (remember the procedure was back on 2/14 so by now it had been 4 months of feeling horrible).  My mom had been spending a lot of time in Portland taking care of me, hell, she used up every single bit of her vacation time from work taking care of me and the year wasn't even half way over yet!  We were utterly and completely physically exhausted and mentally and emotionally battered and raw.  We sorely needed a break.  An anonymous gift sent us to Mexico for 10 days and during the time I was there I began to feel better and better as each day passed.  I honestly don't know how my mother or I could have ever made it through the rest of last year without that much needed release.

Upon returning home I started hurting again although not consistently which I was thankful for.  I started chemotherapy in July and also started getting high dose Vitamin C infusions.  Chemo was two week on and one week off until I got to the point where my blood cells/marrow and kidneys couldn't handle it and now I get chemo every other week unless my counts are low then we postpone it again for another week.  I also get Vitamin C IVs three times a week.  So this means that I am usually sitting in an IV of some kind or another for, on average, 4-6 hours three or four times every single week.  When I get out I am usually very tired and unless I have an errand to run or have to pick up groceries I usually just go home and assume the position on the sofa effectively ignoring the laundry, vacuuming, cooking, or any other household chore I really need to do.  My kitty girl would always come and snuggle up to me and make me feel better with her soft, lovey, cuddly, little kitty self.  She always knew when I felt bad and would always come to comfort me without fail.

This schedule continued for about 4 months and the area around my port became extremely sore from being accessed repeatedly.  I thought about just leaving it accessed overnight on several occasions and even the nurses and docs asked why I didn't just do that.  The problem is that I sleep on my right side, well not so much my side as on my chest, even now when there is a sore port there I still cant seem to stay on my left side or on my back all night.  I thrash in my sleep and just knew that if I had been accessed, I would most likely rip it out in the middle of the night.  Gives me the queasies just thinking about it.  ICK.
The schedule was interrupted when mom ended up coming down with pneumonia.  I hauled booty up to Seattle to take care of her.  She had already taken herself to the ER (luckily she lives across the street from it) earlier in the week and had been released.  The night I arrived we ended up back in the ER and this time they kept her overnight.  This is when we found out that she had developed bacterial pneumonia.  She was wiped out, I don't remember ever seeing her so sick in all my life.   I rescheduled my chemo and IVs and stayed in Seattle for a couple weeks to take care of her.  She still didn't feel wonderful when I left but she insisted on going to work for at least a few hours every day.  She had cabin fever by then and she is not one who just likes sitting around.  Not even a full month later I was back in Seattle once again to take care of my mom after a surgery.  It took a couple weeks for her to get her strength back and I didn't mind because by this time my port was growing very weary of being stabbed repeatedly, not to mention that my mom needed my help and was most definitely my top priority.

I arrived back home on the 2nd of December.  I had a lot to do before Christmas.  Since I don't have much money I made most all of my gifts and as a result spent days on end scrapbooking.  I had my regular appointments to go to for my IVs and filled my days before Christmas being busy every minute.  I noticed that in just the short weeks I had been home from Seattle my kitty girl had started a very visible decline in weight.  I could tell that she wasn't feeling good because I could always see it in her face and her eyes.  I hadn't heard her purr in a very long time and she never made biscuits anymore.  She became less interested in things (even looking out the window) and eventually got to the point that it seemed like she really didn't even want to be touched much.  I think she just was very uncomfortable.  I could hear her little tummy rumbling and gurgling around at any given time of the day.
Mom came down to Portland for Christmas and as we just got the car packed to go to Gramma's house that little kitty went over to the door and laid down right in front of the door so we couldn't even open it.  For her to do this was entirely out of character for her and both mom and I knew she was trying to tell us that she didn't want us to go.  A few weeks earlier as PotPie and I were sitting on the couch watching tv she got right up in my face, literally only a couple inches from my nose and just stared directly into my eyes forever, at least 15-20 minutes.  She told me then that something would happen around Christmas, she literally communicated it to me.  She was telling me in advance that something was going to happen.
Mom and I knew something was not good.  PotPie had lost so much weight since Dec 2 (it had only been 20 days and she was literally wasting away in front of me) that her head was larger than her body.  When you petted her all you could feel were pointy bones.  She could still walk and jump but she just had no interest in anything anymore.  Life and living was just becoming too hard for her to handle anymore.  Ultimately after some unpleasant vomit sessions and her looking like she just felt so bad I called the vet who instantly told me to take her to the emergency vet.  It was at this moment somewhere in the back of my mind I knew that the time had arrived.  PotPie was right, it was Christmas eve and something was happening.  She had told me this was going to happen.  I know my kitty girl held on longer than I think even she wanted to just so she could take care of me throughout this crap year.  She knew I needed her and that I wouldn't have been able to handle losing her back in the spring or summer.  She held on for me and because she knew mom was coming for Christmas.  My mom and I were the only people PotPie ever loved or trusted.  So when she saw us packing up the car and knew that we wouldn't be home soon she couldn't let us go without taking care of her first.

We put her in the carrier and drove to the emergency vet.  During the drive there I still had that nagging feeling in the back of my mind about how this visit would end but I just so badly did not want it to be so.  After an initial exam the vet confirmed my most dreaded fear.  Her organs were beginning to shut down and her heart rate and breathing and body temp were declining steadily.  If she was in pain she didn't let on or didn't want us to know.  She just laid there with her head on the table not moving and not caring what was going on around her.  I couldn't even get her to look at me, she was just too tired and weak.
I held her in my lap and sang to her while mom petted her little kitty head and gave her kisses when she left this world.  I still can remember every vivid detail.  I know the very second she left her body and went to join the stars, I could feel it.  It was very peaceful and full of dignity.  I am so glad she is not secretly hiding her pain and discomfort any more.  I miss her so much.  I lost my best pal of 17 years on Christmas eve.  I know she is still with me, every day I catch a glimpse of her and every night I can feel her walking on my bed.  She is saving me a place next to her up in the stars and watching over me until I get there to be with her again.

I finished off 2013 by getting my port-a-cath replaced.  The old one was really getting worn out.  Most who get ports usually don't get replacements because they usually never get worn out.  Either people enter remission and get their ports removed or they do not last long enough to wear one out.  Even my radiological oncologist told me and my father as much.  To be truthful I was not looking forward to getting another port.  The first one hurt for months after they put it in.  BUT I got to have one of my favorite doctors perform the surgery and already less than a week after port placement it is looking a thousand times better than the last whack job and I can even use my arm and turn my head.  Last time took over 3 months to heal.  This one is already healed better than the last one ever did.  I am glad that I got that out of the way in 2013 and that I can start off the new year with all new parts.

I have had a lot of company to visit with ever since the 24th and that has been keeping me from being so incredibly sad.  I have only been home alone twice for a few hours each time.  It is beyond hard to be in my apartment without the presence of that kitty girl.  I know that it will hurt less with time and I have so many good memories of her that it is hard to stay sad for too long but it doesn't make me miss her any less...SO I went to moms in Seattle for the new year.  I couldn't stand the thought of being in my house completely alone on NYE and with how shitty the entire last year had been I figured I needed to start this one out on a better note than crying alone at midnight wishing I could be snuggling with my kitty girl.

I don't know what will happen this year and I definitely am not one to begin speculating about it, I have learned that speculation really isn't worth the energy.  I just hope it isn't as horrible as last year was.
I am glad that it is finally over.  I don't know how much more I could have handled.

There have been the good times though, few and far between sometimes but still nuggets of beauty and love that are just enough to keep going even though sometimes it may feel hopeless.  Those are the things I hold onto tightly and that light that flame that keeps me going and gives me energy to keep fighting the good fight.  If it had not been for the support of every one of you I might not even be here right now.  It is because of you all giving me strength that I am still here and for everything you do I am forever and eternally grateful to each and every one of you.

Because of all the awesome things you do for me my last scan report was pretty darn good!  I still apparently have one stubborn tumor that decided to start growing but everything else is shrinking and becoming less active so that is a good GREAT thing!  The Vitamin C IVs are simply kicking booty!!!  They also keep the nasty chemo side effects to a minimum as well and that is a huge part of the battle.  I cannot even begin to express my gratitude for the help with those IVs.  I still have to get them 3 times every week but I have been cheating trying to make the $$ stretch farther and getting them only 2 times a week.  It is like miracle juice!  Killing cancer and complementing the effects of my chemo making it more effective in killing cancer AND it helps with chemo side effects.  The most awesome stuff ever!

I really need to order some vitamins and supplements but don't have enough money to get what I need. I have included a link to my Amazon supplement wish list in case any of you out there can lend a hand.  Right now I am in dire need of Shark Liver Oil, Berberine, Riboflavin5-Phosphate, Artemesinin, and Resveratrol.
If interested in donating to help provide more vitamin C IVs here is the contact info for my clinic.  Any donations can be just applied to my account there.

Amazon Supplement Wish List
The Center for Traditional Medicine

I am just glad that 2013 is over.