Cancer’s Parables

by Debbie Twomey on August 29, 2017

 

I said when I started this journey that I would be as honest as I could, even if it meant some gory details. I don’t believe a warrior always puts on a happy face because that is just unrealistic and for others to truly understand just what this feels like, I think they need to see all sides.

It has been a very rough summer for me. The side effects have been severe constipation or diarrhea, outbreaks of yeast and MRSA infections and bone, bone tiredness to where functioning is a chore. But I manage to face each day and hope for a better tomorrow which I pray includes the cancer being gone. But because I had to remove one of the more aggressive drugs from my chemo and go to the lowest dose so my body could handle it, we are not sure of the end results. So, there is prayer.

Today I want to share some of the stories of those cancer warriors I have met on this journey. They too face challenges and pain and worry and come to chemotherapy, hopeful and often times, very upbeat.  Since I began in May, I know of two of these warriors who lost their battles. This cancer is a daunting foe so never think someone gives up or did not fight to the best of their ability if they succumb. It is not a level battleground, trust me.

There are my Facebook friends like Judy, Jeanne, and Kim who were all diagnosed with breast cancer and are at various stages in their treatment. And there is Emma, a motivational speaker who even after living a very healthy lifestyle and ate healthier than most people, is now in hospice with her breast cancer in Stage 4. She has been an inspiration to many prior to becoming ill and now, is so on whole new level.  She even managed to fly to her home country in the Philippines, for a week. despite the late stage and pain of her cancer. Words cannot express my admiration for this woman and all she has shared with us.

There is Kathy who always has a smile. She was doing chemotherapy to shrink her breast cancer before surgery; unfortunately she had complications, most notably extreme neuropathy so she is now going to have her mastectomy in a week. This is her second bout of cancer; she had ovarian to start with. She seems to understand what is expected and ready to face it.

There is Rosemarie, a new patient. She has the same type of breast cancer as I do and just started her rounds of the “red devil”. She is a very cheerful and loving Grandma who comes with her husband and is so friendly to everyone there. We have become good friends but I see the changes in her already. She shaved her head (her hubby did too) and now she sleeps through her chemo. I know that her taste buds are pretty bad as mine were and that she is often quite tired. But she always leaves the treatment room with a smile on her face.

There are a few men who are not as chatty; they sleep through most of their treatments so I do not bother them. A couple of other women are facing their protocol with strength and positivity but there are some days when fatigue or feeling crummy just make the treatment room a bit quiet. We respect each other’s feelings and if quiet is required, that is what is shared.

Last week I met the most amazing woman and I cannot stop thinking of her. Her name is Laura and she is 83 years old (almost the age my Mom would be had she lived). She was sitting in a chair saying the rosary. I told her she reminded me of my Grandma Ceil who said the rosary every single night. Whenever I stayed overnight I went to bed hearing her whisper the prayers. Laura was saying them for all those suffering with cancer but it is her story that really got to me.

She was there with her 52 year old son Dan. He is on his third round of esophageal cancer and was sleeping in the seat next to me. He is not doing well and cannot eat or hold down anything so he is going to get a J-tube inserted to take nourishment. He had been there since 8:30 for his chemo.

Laura just sat quietly saying her rosary and here it was now 2 pm. I started chatting with her and she had such a tale. Her daughter, who was my age, discovered a mass on her liver and though, initially she was told it was not cancerous, she died three months later from liver cancer. Laura’s husband also died within months, from cancer, So her son moved in to help her and he then was diagnosed. Now she has to drive him to all his appointments and keep track of vital information. This is such a burden on a woman who should be the one being cared for at this stage of her life.

I just could not imagine cancer’s destructive path in this family’s world. And here sat Laura, quite calm and seemingly at peace in prayer. I envied her the comfort she had from her faith but I was angered that such a decent person could be put through so much. We talked for about an hour and she left me with a promise to include me in her prayers and I gave the same promise to her.

My heart bursts with love and pain for all of these new friends who I only met because of this damned cancer. I pray daily for all of them and that they find peace and comfort, but most of all, healing.                    

Live Laugh Love

Debbie

 

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I Made it to the Couch Today

by Debbie Twomey on July 15, 2017

 

I was hoping to be writing a positive or funny blog this week but just getting this one written has taken me 2 weeks. I was so excited to be off the “red devil” that I let go of the possibility that I could have other side effects that were just as bad as the sickness and constipation. Silly me.

I am now on my 3rd round of my newest chemotherapy cocktail (Heceptin, Taxol and Perjeta) and as was expected, I get the terrible side effects. I have had serious diarrhea for over two weeks now and no sign of letting up despite the Imodium I am taking to counteract it. My new normal is waking up (when I manage to fall asleep which is still a major issue), getting sick to my stomach so my Ondansetron and Prochloperazine, and Young Living Peppermint with Digize roll on are always right next to my bed and waiting till they calm my stomach. Then it is a mad dash to the bathroom for the first of at least three and up to seven episodes of diarrhea. Sound fun?

I start to feel human about 1-2 in the afternoon after I finally stop and get to shower and face my day. Luckily, I got to attend a family picnic last Saturday because the runs stopped about 1 pm and I had a free afternoon, free of that drama anyway. I got to see my siblings and let McKenna play in the pool with her cousins. It was like a vacation for me. And of course the next day I was out for the whole damn day but it was worth it.                                 

My reality is not the same as others going through the same treatment plan. We all have different side effects but the other ladies I have met lately usually only have the general fatigue or as we call it—bone tiredness. I just happen to be one of the fortunate ones who has to experience all of it, I am just so thrilled with it all.

 

 

Here is what just one of my drugs do for me * marking my side effects.

The most common side effects of PERJETA when given with Herceptin and docetaxel for treatment of breast cancer that has spread to other parts of the body (metastatic) are:

  • Diarrhea *
  • Hair loss *
  • Low levels of white blood cells with or without a fever
  • Nausea *
  • Feeling tired *
  • Rash *
  • Damage to the nerves (numbness, tingling, pain in hands/feet) *

 

I am now on Gabapentin for the neuropathy in my feet (where it is the worst) and for the first time in weeks I can lay down and not have the severe pain and numbness but of course it comes at a cost too. There is some controversy surrounding this drug which they want to classify as an opiate because addicts are finding ways to get high with it. Well, addicts are finding a way to get high with cocoa but you ain’t seeing me give that up to them. This is working for me and I am not an abuser so I resent any interference with its success for myself. I have so little that helps me right now.

Some of the more common side effects that can occur with use of gabapentin include:

  • Dizziness *
  • tiredness or drowsiness *
  • loss of coordination
  • fever
  • jerky movements
  • nausea and vomiting *
  • trouble speaking
  • double vision
  • unusual eye movements
  • tremor
  • swelling of legs and feet

The RA is still dominating my joints and if I do not take the Predisone it will do the same to my lungs. I do not take painkillers and even if I did, because of the addicts, having it prescribed takes an Act of Congress. I would rather avoid but I am not thrilled that the options are taken away because of the rampant addiction culture we are now in. For me, having the choice of using painkillers short term should not be prevented because of the actions of addicted people but it is.

You know as I read this back I see I now find myself on many drugs which I had hoped to avoid. I always read the labels and wanted to stay away from those drugs with so many serious side effects and stick to holistic options. I use my oils religiously and eat healthier when I can eat. I add supplements and drinks that provide the vitamins and nutrients I am losing being so sick but it is not enough. And I know I kind of went into panic mode when I got my diagnosis because I have heard successes and not so successful stories utilizing one or the other or even both methods of treating cancers.

But, I know my mind and my heart and my goal is to be here so I chose to fight with the drugs they presented because I want to fight this battle well armed. I have a little girl depending on me and every night I pray that all this will get me to a quality of health that allows me to enjoy McKenna as much as possible and eventually be back to my normal self and plan many special outings with her and her baby sister Leah. Disney World comes to mind.

For now, feeling as crummy as I have lately, some days all I can say is “I made it to the couch.!” On those days I wonder if I am doing all I need to in this battle. I do not want to get discouraged and lose sight of the long term goal—no more cancer. And then Disney here we come after which I would love to go to Hawaii and just chill on the beach and visit dear friends. But for today, the couch looks best, just sayin’.

 

 

Live, Laugh, Love

Debbie

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The Nitty Gritty of Chemotherapy

June 27, 2017

Tweet                                                                               Boy I wish I could get off this roller coaster it is making me so […]

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It’s Just Hair

June 12, 2017

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The Blessings of Cancer

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A Day in the Life

May 13, 2017

Tweet Once again the idea I had for this week’s blog will have to wait. It was about the blessings of a cancer diagnosis and yes, there are blessings you never knew. But this has been a rough week and I want to share the moments for one major reason; so when all of this […]

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Insurance Impediments!!!

May 5, 2017

Tweet What the hell— my insurance company has high jacked my chemotherapy treatment! I am so livid that I do not even know how to begin this blog. My gripe is regarding the insurance companies’ power. It is out of control. In the 1980’s I was part of a group who lobbied in Albany NY […]

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Fuzzy Cancer Brain

April 30, 2017

Tweet Anyone dealing with cancer of any form knows what I am about to write is so very true. We are bombarded with advice, well wishes (please do not take this as a negative because it is so welcome), information, tests, treatments and endless APPOINTMENTS. If we are fortunate we have partners that will help […]

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Cancer Speak

April 22, 2017

Tweet  I am learning a new language at this late age of my life. No it isn’t French or Spanish, it is Cancer Speak. This is a language and use of terminologies that I only knew at a surface level and to be perfectly honest, never wanted to know more. I was content to know […]

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Queen of Complications

April 13, 2017

Tweet      Well, one waiting game is over just as a couple more begin. I have discovered that this is typical but a bit more complicated because of my other diagnosis and let’s face it—my rotten luck. My Invasive Ductal Carcinoma (IVD) is Stage II which is pretty decent news considering how large the […]

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