Monday, August 30, 2010

Testing, three four


More tests on the horizon for ol' Shelldogg. Not outta the woods yet.

Yes, the colonoscopy showed "all normal", but since the PET scan showed "something", they are now going to really dig in and see if they can find and identify that elusive "something".

SO! It's another fun colon procedure for me this Thursday. I will have a flexible sigmoidoscopy and a endoscopic ultrasound. In this procedure, they send out ultrasonic waves to try to find the problem area. If they find a problem area, they will take a biopsy. Then we'll know what it is. It could just be a garden variety infection. It could be a tumor (though that would be "unusual", given that the chemo has melted away all my other why would there be this one hold-out spot?).It could be something else.

In any case, I am nervous. Because once again, I have to wait for test results, and so much is at stake once you've been diagnosed with cancer. Any test like this makes you nervous. You try to remain positive, but your mind does tend to wander...

Pending the results of this, I may or may not have chemo on Friday.

p.s.- Today, Neil and I celebrate 7 years of wedded bliss.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

What a glorious colonoscopy that was!

My colonoscopy yesterday went great. OH MAN WAS THAT A FUN COLONOSCOPY. I don't have any "official" results other than the piece of paper my doctor gave me. Under the comments section, he wrote, "Normal" and circled it. AND CIRCLED IT. That must mean, "Big-time normal." As in, I rocked "normal" very hard.

He also took me aside afterwards and said he wasn't sure what that spot on the PET scan was. Sometimes spots just show up. Irritation, now gone? Perhaps it was on the outside of the colon? In any case he wasn't visibly worried, but he would confer with my oncologist in the next few days and someone will call me with official results and next steps. My only real question is: does this mean I can finally stop my freaking chemotherapy? COME ON, PEOPLE. CANCER'S LONG GONE. SHELLY'S GETTING TI-TI OF ALL THIS CRIPPITY CRAP.

Some other details about the c-scopy:

1. I got a fake spray tan this week. (Hey, we got a great deal on Groupon. It was going to expire. They came to our house and everything.) HOWEVER, though she did a fine job on the overall tan, there are some telltale fake dark areas and also some completely white areas on my very, very "upper legs", in the back. I figured, "No big deal. Who's going to see that?" OH WAIT. MY COLONOSCOPY TEAM IS GOING TO SEE THAT. I felt like such a vain dork, on that table, a team of men staring at the shoddy fake tan, probably thinking, "Women. I'll never understand why they do the things they do."

2. I've been through enough medical procedures in the last 10 months that I figured I'd really have a rip-roarin' time with this one. I decided to test myself, Shelly vs. medicine. When they went to inject the pain medicine into my IV (fentanol and some other medicine that "makes you forget"), I announced to the team of medical professionals, "Just so you know, I am going to do a little test, just for fun, to see if I can resist the power of this medicine and stay completely awake."

The nurse nodded at me, and said, soothingly, "OK, now. Just lie back."

So I opened my eyes really large and concentrated REALLY HARD. I said, "I'm still awake.......................Still up.........................I'm still here..............I'm being bionic..........I'm still conscious................."

And the thing is, I DID stay up. I remember the whole 20-minute procedure. I watched it on the screen. I got to see my colon up there, in all its twisty glory. I asked them questions about what that thing was?, where are they going now?, are you going to cut that little nubby thing out?, etc. (I have thought about all of this since it happened, and I really do think I was concious for all of it. I don't THINK I have memory gaps from the "forgetting" drug, though I concede it's possible.)

When it was over, I was able to walk out, unassisted, and I was alert. (No, Mom, I would never drive after such a procedure, nor would I sign legal documents.) My friend/driver Julie and I went to Geraldine's Counter and I ate a corned beef sandwich with fries and two large Cokes. (They said to go with broth or something light, but that did not jive with my whole "Bionic Shelly vs. medicine -theme"). I got home and did all kinds of productive activities around the house.

So the way I figure it, I conquered that colonoscopy in every possible way. If you ever have to get one, don't dread it. It's not so bad. It can even be, dare I say it, kind of fun.

Haiku #2

Prepping is such glee
For my colonoscopy
Lucky, lucky me.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Somewhere between good and bad

When listing off the potential results to my PET Scan, I didn't realize there might be Option C. That's what I got.

First, my "chest and lungs and body are clean as a whistle". This is great news. In and of itself, it might have meant the end of chemo!


There is a "spot" in my low colon. PET scans aren't diagnostic, so they only show that something is there, not what it is. It could be inflammation. It could be an infection. It could be a tumor. It could be still something else. The way to find out is through a colonscopy, which I now have scheduled next Thursday at 1:30. (Julie, we are going to have to work around our hair highlight appointments! Let's take that one offline.)

In my favor: it's very near my surgery site, near the suture line, and those tend to get inflammed. Also, after almost 9 months of colon cancer chemo, it's possible that YES, my colon is in fact inflamed! Makes sense to me. Also, if the chemo has obliterated all the rest of the cancer, why would a new little cancerous area be taking hold at this point? It makes no sense and even my doc said it would be "unusual". Still, the bad little voice waay in the back of my head says, "yes, shelly, but everything about this has been unusual from the get-go. 'Unusual' is how you roll. you should never have even gotten this..."

So yes, I cried when i saw there was a new spot. It's such a terrifying experience, I wish it on NONE OF YOU. It's like an awful nightmare that's really true. The first thing I thought of were my kids' faces. Knife in your guts. Then I also got this surge of anger, like, "WHEN THE HELL IS THIS GOING TO BE DONE? I CAN ONLY HANDLE SO MUCH OF THIS CRAP."

But now, a day later, even though I've resumed chemo (dangitall), I am feeling relatively mellow about things. If i had to bet, I'd guess it's just an irritation. And my dear dad, who has had many scares in the past, has always advised me that there is no good to be done from worrying before you know what is really going on. Truly, it might be nothing! Then you'll have worried yourself sick for no reason. He is so sensible. I wish I had a LITTLE more of that gene in me.

So. Til next Thursday. Maybe I'll do a live webcast of my colonoscopy. I really need to up my blog viewership and this may be JUST the way.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Will the groundhog see his shadow?

That's kind of how I view the results of this latest PET scan. Based on the results (which I should get today or tomorrow), I'll either continue with the chemo, or I get to stop, at long last.

I'm not even totally sure what the doctor is looking for this round. Have you ever seen a PET scan image? All these amorphous blobs of different colors, all these insane cross-sectional layers...they could be showing me the scan of a baboon and I'd believe it was my body.

Anyway, I think this scan has something to do with the scar tissue they found on my last, all-clear PET scan, in June. If the size of the scar tissue has LESSENED this time, he'll assume the chemo is still working, and I continue on. Like maybe there were still a few, undetectable cancer cells hiding in that scar tissue, and they're still getting killed off.

But as I told my family today, either way, it will be good news. I mean, think of it. One way, I'm done with chemo. PARTY. The other way, it means the chemo was still doing me good and he wants me to do more. If I need more, better to have it now than to start up again in 6 months. Ick. I want to have a normal Christmas.

In some ways, an oncologist is a bit of an artist. And I am his watercolor paint. Right now a bit muddy and washed out. But I got potential, baby!

So, either way, it'll be ok. It'll all be done in a few months, right? Sometimes, in moments like this, I give myself a little slap (no I don't) and remember that I am actually quite lucky. When Neil and I started this process back in January, we were told that "BEST case scenario, the chemo COULD make the cancer totally go away, all on its own, no surgery." We looked wistfully at each other. Oh, wouldn't THAT be something. In our dreams! It was one of many possible outcomes, and the odds weren't with us. But IT HAPPENED!

To put it mildly, we have reason to be thankful.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Swim Across America

A cancer-fundraising swim race!

A Team Shelly, 5 members strong! (maybe 6, if I decide to do it.)

A touching write-up, by husband, Neil. A dazzling photo of my friends Mark, Heidi and Colleen, sister Laura, and Neil!

Check it out:

Monday, August 2, 2010


I'm sorry I haven't posted in a while. I have written a few drafts, but haven't completed them. Following is one I wrote a while back, but never posted because when I re-read it, I felt like parts were too "happy" and flippant, considering all that was going on. And other parts were too depressing. No one wants to feel depressed. But I think therein lies a strange and interesting aspect of going through chemotherapy. Some days you feel on top of the world, other days you are literally laying on the bathroom floor, moaning. So. Because this entry personifies the mood swings brought on by chemotherapy, I'll deem it post-able.

August is here. I'm entering Q3 of my chemo year. GEARIN' UP FOR A STRONG YEAR-END.

Things are going well, overall. I have no reason to complain. I could be in wretched shape, unable to manage life or to complete my chemo, and this isn't the case. So I'm a lucky dawg.

However, I will share a few observations on how these heavy toxic chemicals are affecting my faithful workhorse of a bod (hang in there, big guy) as we enter MONTH NUMBER EIGHT of this peculiar drug habit I've cultivated in my mid-30s. (Valium seemed too retro. Cocaine? Nah, done to death. But "5-FU"... hmm. Expensive. Obscure. Now we're talkin.)

1. Ick
Because of gastrointestinal mayhem that is starting to follow no particular timeline, I can never be sure if I should bite the bullet and go out on the town, or stay home where I can be sick with dignity. I honestly can go from completely fine to miserably sick within 10 seconds, with no prior warning. (I've timed it.) The result? Chemo IS affecting my social life. (and come on, EGAD. Anything but that. Take my limbs, not my parties.)

2. Oww
"Ok," say the chemo gods. "Your wish is my command. We'll take your limbs. And your little dog, too." My feet and hands are now in a perpetual state of numbness. I have a bit of a hard time typing now, as I hit all the wrong keys. I also stub my toes almost daily. D'oh.

3. Ack
After a hearty start to the year, my exercise regimine has tapered off to... NO EXERCISE AT ALL. The last time I swam, two months ago, I couldn't feel my fingertips or feet, so I got out in a huff and decided to "let it be". (Even though I may feel like "I am the Walrus", I gotta remember: "Happiness is a Warm Gun.") However, I am now signing up for a 2-mile open water swim on Sept 11. It's a cancer fundraiser, and I'm a swimmer. How can I say no? I got in the pool a few days ago for the first time in months, and it felt utterly insane. Shooting needles of numbness (trippy, I know) coursed through the length of my arms and legs, so that I could feel about half of what was really happening. Were it not for my many years of swimming and just inherently understanding how to move through the water, I would have totally felt like an out-of-control aquaspaz.

4. Ummm...
At my last chemo appointment, my doctor let me know that I have "nerve damage" from the drug oxalliplatnin (sp?), and all my insane tingling and numbness is normal. Ahem. "Nerve damage". Does that make anyone else feel a little funny in their tummy? Ah, but don't worry-- once I complete chemo, it should go away, in a year. Should. Year.

He also told me the cold water of Lake Washington would be very uncomfortable for me to race in, due to my neuropathy. I'm now waffling if I should do the race or not. This is depressing to me, as I NEVER miss a challenge like a swim race. Grrr.

On the days following chemo, my brain is really STOOPID. I can't track conversations very well, I don't feel like writing or talking on the phone, and I'm easily frustrated by all of it. I miss the old me! If you met me for the first time on the days just following chemo, you'd think I was an uninteresting bitch. (INSERT JOKES LIKE, "THAT AND EVERY OTHER DAY!" HERE.)

But, my next PET scan is Tues the 17th. Based on the results of that, my doc will let me know if I'm done with chemo or if I get to trudge into month #9. And don't think it hasn't crossed my mind that I was in fact planning to get pregnant this past January. Here we are, almost 9 months is strange, isn't it?

Feel free to donate to my team's efforts, if you like. And check out Neil's write-up about me. Awww.