Seeing the light again

The brain-gut connection is real. I can attest to that. My 5th day of nausea took me to a sad, lonely place.

With a new nausea med, I can see the light again. Food still doesn’t sound good. It’s a fact that chemo/radiation changes your taste buds. Things I used to crave and eat regularly, my favorite chocolate/peanut butter bar, salads, popcorn do not appeal.

This article from the MD Anderson Cancer Center gives some suggestions on how to manage nausea. ie: eat small through out the day, ginger candies (thanks to a dear friend), and staying hydrated. I’ve always been a water drinker and have continued with that. The doctors have been impressed that my electrolytes have remained good throughout treatment.

With the nausea somewhat resolved, I can acknowledge what I am thankful for:

I am grateful to still be enjoying my morning coffee. That taste bud has remained intact. It’s a ritual for me, a cup of coffee while either reading or writing gets my day off to a better start.

In gratitude for friends who have reached out to say they are thinking of me. The Power of Casual Check-In, NYT

Thankful for my high school friend who sent me taffy from the Mississippi state fair, the best taffy ever.

Thankful for the constant companionship of our house kitty, Brenda, even when she sneaks a bite of whatever I’m eating!

Grateful for the friend and his eight year daughter who brought me plants yesterday and stayed for most of the afternoon.

Thank you to the friend and ex co-worker who encouraged me to set up a Mealtrain during treatment.


Thank you to the friend who recommended Anderson Cooper’s podcast, All There Is. Cooper begins a series of emotional and moving conversations about the people we lose, the things they leave behind, and how to live on – with loss, with laughter, and with love.
 
And most thankful next Friday will be my last day of radiation. Chemo ended last week. Woohoo!

We had our first snowfall of the season in Missoula last night. It was beautiful and peaceful.

Thank you all for reading. Enjoy your Sunday.

Relaxing weekend after a stressful previous weekend

This past week I have been cat sitting. It’s been a nice reprieve, relaxing and very quiet. My cat sit is just a few minutes from town, with a creek running just feet from the back door. I brought all the foods I eat lately: banana, peanut butter, bread, butter, rice, baked potato (I bought a little steak, steamed the hell out of some broccoli, that went down pretty well) and crackers so I was set. Oh and ginger tea. The only thing I had to do was drive to my radiation at 2:00 each day.
Next week I’ll be at a cat sit near downtown just feet from the Clark Fork river. The week after that, back at home and my second week of the chemo pack strapped to me 24/7. Now that I know what it’s like I am so not looking forward to it. But hey I can do it! My radiation doctor laughed when I half jokingly, asked if we could check to see if the cancer was gone so maybe I don’t need another round of chemo.

I needed this week in a house by myself with such a peaceful setting and sweet kitties. Last weekend, I wrote about the birthday celebration but left out the out unfolding stress of that weekend. Living downtown sometimes brings it’s challenges, parking being one of them. Last Saturday as I drank coffee I suddenly remembered I had not moved my car from the street where the farmer’s market happens. Of course, it was gone when I went outside, in its place was a lovely family selling produce. A phone call to the towing company brought some relief as they told me my car had only been moved a few blocks. “just walk around and you will find it.” After walking two blocks east and two blocks south, I needed a rest before walking more in hopes of finding my car. I called back to ask if they keep track of where they move cars to. That would be too easy. No they don’t.
It wasn’t until Sunday that I walked around some more with no sign of car. Now I was stressing. My appointment with the chemo doctor was first thing Monday morning. It took several more phone calls for me to find out my car was at the Red’s towing lot. They are closed on Sundays but the answer service found out there was someone there. One of my favorite housemates drove me over there. We immediately began our improv act. I was his sick mother and by God my “son” was going to make things right. The young man behind the counter asked for $350 to release my car. “T’ put his arm around me, “we can’t afford that, she has medical bills”
I piped in, “I called several times yesterday and was told it was only moved a few block, now you are asking for the daily rate.” Red’s employee asked for proof, so I showed the call history on my phone. After telling him I had an appointment with the chemo doctor first thing, he asked for proof. I pulled up Mychart on the phone to show proof of the appointment. T, sticks up for me, again, “she does not need this stress right now.” Employee did start to feel bad, trying to get hold of his boss. Finally the employee assured us he would call once he heard from the boss. There was never a phone call.
Monday morning, I picked up my car just minutes before my appointment. They charged me $275, the towing fee, removing the daily rate. Unhappy, I frowned and left with my car.
I’ve since learned a few things about Red’s and towing companies. During Covid, Red’s would not allow people in to pick up their car if they were wearing a mask! Also, towing companies have free reign to tow a car from anywhere that has signs that parking is not allowed or not allowed at certain times. It seems it should be illegal to tow on a Saturday and not be able to pick up one’s car until Monday. They should have someone at the shop on Saturday’s and Sundays. It’s a scam. There could be numerous situations that would make life miserable, what if you were flying out that day or had an emergency? At least folks need to be aware of this scam and the way Red’s treats their customers. If I have the energy and can figure out who in the government to talk to, I will.

Today, I’m not going anywhere, staying put with the kitties, reading and listening to the creek (no radiation on the weekends). The kitties’s owner is a retired English teacher, books adorn several shelves. She offered for me to read any books while here. I’ve started two, enjoying both very much, The Marriage Portrait, a novel by Maggie O’Farrell, author of Hamnet and Never Simple, a memoir by Liz Scheier.

Enjoy your weekend and thanks for reading.

Peaceful sound of the creek
Emma in the sun

Side effects came pretty quick

The first day of chemo and radiation left me exhausted and a bit overwhelmed. Lots of information to take in. They sent me home with folders of information, a good thing since my eyes glazed over and my thoughts traveled as the nurses talked. I wanted my mama! After chemo/radiation I was sent to Partners in Health to be adorned with a fanny pack carrying my chemo. We will be be together 24/7 sans the weekend.

Yesterday as nausea set in, the thought of food repulsed me. I reminded myself this is hopefully for only six weeks. I can do this. The strawberry popsicle for dinner hit the spot and I got a good night’s sleep. Meantime, I’m to drink eight glasses of water a day, brush my teeth at least three times to help ward off mouth sores, eat small amounts of nutritious food, cut back on fiber. Other precautions are to wear gloves if gardening and change the water in flower vases daily as it can harbor bacteria. Stay away for sick people – all the things we do to protect a weak immune system.

This morning I popped my nausea medicine immediately and it seems to be working. I was able to get down a breakfast bar. It’s a sunny fall day here in Missoula. At 2:00 I’ll walk the few blocks to St. Pats for radiation. That will be good medicine and plan to do that daily (radiation is at 2:15 M-F) A friend is coming for a visit this evening bringing soup. Another friend is bringing some foods to have on hand, ie: sausage which sounds appealing, something I can cook, cut up and nibble on when needing some protein.

Thankfully I’m at home until mid-October, then to a peaceful cat sit for the rest of the month. I won’t be taking on any dog sits, just kitties, until I am pass the treatment.

I’ve always had compassion and respect for those going through the cancer journey but that is even greater now.

Thanks for reading and all your support. Love, Frances

Keep a look out for love

Port has been implanted. It is a miracle that medicine has come this far, that I will not have to go get poked on regularly for chemo. For some reason, I was really nervous about the procedure. I’ve had a few surgeries: appendicitis, c-section, hysterectomy, knee surgery. For all those, I was out, under anesthesia.

I was awake for the port, given valium and numbed at the site (near right collarbone). The “cocktail” nurse was right by my side offering up any cocktail that might be needed. Another attending nurse, asked if I wanted music, “sure” I said. I was smiling, rocking my feet back and forth, taken back to good times with my high school/college sweetheart as Earth, Wind and Fire sang September. No telling how many times we danced to Earth, Wind and Fire even seeing them live in Memphis. My sweetheart is no longer alive. Maybe it was the valium, but I sensed he was with me, letting me know it would all be OK. I trust him, it was all fine.
Cancer has made me hyper aware of when love is present. Friends from as far back as elementary school have reached out offering support, my community of local friends check in regularly offering any help I may need, house mates take me out for a high protein meal before the pet scan. Packages of goodies show up from an out of town friend. Our house cat who prefers to sleep at the end of my bed (no snuggling) has been making a habit of laying right next to my bum.

Yesterday, a sunny fall day, I walked a few blocks to pick up my car at the hospital. From the middle of the crosswalk, I heard my name blaring out of a car. The boys I occasionally watch were waving arms, yelling, excited to see me in this random place, sharing they had been in the homecoming parade earlier. A couple of more blocks, I ran into a dear friend’s son. We hugged while he announced he would be bringing me houseplants to purify the air.

It’s another clear fall day. I think I’ll take a stroll, watch for love, feed a cat and head to Fact & Fiction at 5:00 for Second Wind reading with Chris LaTray and Mark Schoenfeld.

Chemo/radiation begin tomorrow. I’ve been told side effects may not take effect for a week. Maybe they won’t be too bad.
I have some low key cat sitting gigs lined up. They will be a welcomed distraction.

Thank you all for reading. Watch out for love out there.



Brenda healing my bum

Diagnosis

A couple of weeks ago, I discovered I have something in common with Farah Fawcett and Marcia Cross (red head from Desperate Housewives) – anal cancer.
Marcia Cross has become a spokesperson for this becoming more common cancer. It stems from the HPV virus which 80% of us are walking around with. She speaks openly, encouraging others to do the same after learning that many hide their true diagnosis due to embarrassment.
I knew something wasn’t right for a few months. Thought it was hemorrhoids but the pain kept getting worse. My primary care doctor sent me to a surgeon after attempting to do an exam but I almost flew off the table. She did feel a little something. I almost flew off the surgeon’s table too. He scheduled to put me under in order to do the exam.
After the procedure, the person who phoned my friend, who was picking me up, told her the doctor would be talking to me saying, “he did a biopsy and it could be cancer.” Whoever he was needs to read up on his HIPAA – yes I will let the doctor know this happened. The doctor did not speak to me before I left. My friend felt terrible after telling me this. The results I received via email one evening confirmed it. Dr. Acher, the surgeon, phoned the next morning. In his compassionate doctor voice he let me know the treatment is a combo of radiation and chemo. No surgery since it sits right on the sphincter. “The oncologist will be calling to set up your appointment. I will see you for your follow up mid September.”
I’ve met with the chemo doctor, I had her for my iron infusions a year ago. Love her. Later the same day met with my radiation doctor. Love her too. In her southern accent, we discussed dogs, the complexities of the South and photography as much as we talked of treatment.
This Wednesday I have a pet scan with results on Thursday to assure the cancer is contained.
Radiation begins the next Monday, every weekday for about 25 treatments. A port for chemo will be implanted in my chest receiving continuous chemo. (not sure for how long)
There is great success with this combination. Since learning my diagnosis I am learning of others who had this and came out the other side. Though, they all say the process is brutal: digestive issues, fatigue, maybe mouth sores and loss of hair.
I’m getting my ducks in a row in order to rest when needed.

Before my diagnosis, I had registered to hear Mark Nepo speak on his new book, Surviving Storms this past Sunday online. Almost everything he said I needed to hear.
Conversation with Mark Nepo, Surviving Storms

Mind as a Keyhole by Mark Nepo

Beneath the cloud,
everything is grey.

Above the cloud,
everything is light.

Calling the cloud unfair
is being a victim.

Trying to conquer the cloud
is being a hero.

Calling the cloud a cloud
is the beginning of peace.

May we all love each other forward as Mark suggest.
Thanks for reading, Frances