Thursday, April 7, 2011

Strength in Numbers

While Hillary (my daughter) and I sat at the doctors yesterday, we both reminded each other of the importance of our “buddy” system and our faith in God.  There is not a day that goes by that I do not thank God for her strength/compassion and the ability to share this with her.  I am very blessed!  We both know the importance that numbers play in this game of cancer and Tuesday made me grateful for her being on my side.  As I explained to my doctor that Sunday evening was rougher than I would have imagined, she kept referring back to my daughter to continue the regimen and stay vigilant against infections.  She knew who was in control and who had the persistence in this fight, it wasn't just me, Hillary is my rock.  So today I want to share what my daughter/buddy ensures I perform in the details of chemo with you and please know this, I am not seeking pity or trying to scare you.  I simply want give you a small glimpse into my/our daily routine(s) as to shed light or a ray of hope for those who desire to see the silver lining.  There is always a silver lining and mine is that I am much more closer and appreciative of my daughter because of this disease.  Keep in mind, my regimen is just one of thousands of routines out there and I welcome others input too.  First, one undergoes the usual tests, and these particular tests differ from the routine ones that search for the type of cancer, as these tests offer insight to what is to come in the future: PetScan, MugaScan, BoneScan, Chest & Pelvic X-Rays and or an MRI of the Brain are pretty basic.  I know what you are thinking, that’s not too bad just a couple of tests, however, the dilemma is in that these must all be performed on separate days.  What began as a few tests turns into a weeks worth of unknowing or as my daughter reminds me, my hysterical phase.  In fact, the MugaScan cannot be performed within 48 hrs after any of the other scans because this test measures the functions of the heart and all the previous chemicals (from prior testing) need to be out of the system to ensure an accurate measure.  The only test(s) that are less harmful to the body that one can schedule together are the Chest & Pelvic X-Rays and or MRI but they take up an entire day of testing.  What’s a few days of testing you ask?  It’s not that bad but wait which cancer patient or patient period have you met that has no concerns/issues/problems, that will free him/her up to concentrate on testing?  Who is without worry or fails to have the weight of the world on their shoulders while undergoing the battery of tests that will ultimately shed a glimpse of the future to come?  I have not found one patient and that’s including me, because trust me, my hysteria is just as good as the next person’s is.  We all have dilemmas that could crush those around us, some more than others and please do not forget, what may be my worst problem may only be a nuisance to you.  I for one, will never trade my battles up for yours or anyone else, for fear of not being properly equipped to battle them and of course, the obvious, I will probably make a mountain out of a molehill and then where will we be? Onward past the testing and diagnosing you become aware of the dreaded words chemo and radiation.  Let’s see, chemotherapy is the one thing that can kill the enemy that inhabits our body.  Trust me, I know what you’re thinking, let’s kill it all and get on with life, but its not that easy.  It also kills the good stuff in us as well; it has no distinction between good you and bad you.  It kills the part of you that feels like playing with your kids or grandkids and even the part that allows you to be “Johnny on the spot” after your morning coffee.  Some have the opposite occurrence, unfortunately, not me.  Hahaha, that’s enough to turn nice people like me into real grumps!  To ordinary people this may seem as a blip in the radar or a few inconveniences but I say it is much more than this.  Most women deliver after this type of pain, but I digress.  Fast-forward, to the daily routine of what chemo brings on for all its willing participants.  First, and foremost, before you begin chemo please be sure to look into the following: Have your teeth cleaned; ladies remove your false fingernails (possible infections during manicures), any check-ups that require follow-up please complete them.  Chemo is not for the light hearted, it requires all of your senses and abilities to fight off skepticism, infections, and accustomed physical attributes.  Preparations include cutting your hair down to Army or Navy size and stocking up on all Clorox wipes, Lysol sprays, and hand sanitizers.  On to daily regimens like brushing your teeth after every meal and snack, along with rinsing with a baking soda/salt combination to ensure no sores or breakouts in the mouth occur.  Purchase waxed floss and only floss occasionally as the chemo actually recedes the gum line exposing teeth and therefore you need a little of the dental plaque to protect it.  Only the strong are called to duty!
Back to the chemo, the day after your chemo you must return to your physician’s office for a well-needed booster shot (hopefully only needed once during the duration) given in either the arm or stomach, I chose stomach not painful at all there.  This allows your bone marrow to “expand” or boost up your immune system; after all, it’s the bone marrows function to provide healthy blood for your body.  On the third to fifth day after your chemo and shot, prepare to do some activity if you are not filled with aches and pains in all of your bones from the “boost” of the shot.  Go for a walk or do some kind of activity to keep you active physically.  Meanwhile, in the next three days following every chemo treatment you begin the regimen of pill taking twice a day that assists in helping your body cope with the suppressed system but be sure to stay out of the sunlight or artificial light while on these, they can cause real sickness.  Oh yes, and back to physical attributes, you must wear a mask when out, as if having your hair cut down isn’t enough attention seeking for us, this is for our protection not yours.  We are very susceptible to infections especially when our labs are at their lowest counts.  Continue with the every day regimen of 3 liters of water a day and prepare for the occasional vicodin/nausea medicine that one may need to reduce pain or reduce vomiting.  I needed the vicodin but not the nausea medicine thank God!  Stock up on stool softeners to reduce the strains of taking the actual pain relievers that are supposed to manage the pain but actually stop all the “real” progress.  Kind of feels like congress but you get the picture.  Then while you or your buddy manages to balance this all, remember to keep your family and household healthy and free from germs.  Vacuum daily, use the Clorox wipes, remove your shoes at the door, no eating raw vegetables, fruits with peels, and or salads until you pass the allotted time of three days after your follow-up date, not the chemo date itself, usually eight to eleven days later.  However, look out, one more week in the clear and the cycle begins again from the beginning.  So there you have it, my Curriculum of Cancer.  Did I mention to make sure you have a good personal assistant/buddy or someone who’s very organized to ensure your appointments/tests/regimens run according to plan?  This person may actually have to lure you back off the ledge at one time or another so be sure he/she is strong enough to take you down.  The buddy system is a must-have and in the ecosystem of cancer, we need every mustard seed believer, prayer warrior, and cancer fighter we can get.  Do not fear, for God knows your every need and supplies you with His strength.  Believe me I am grateful for strength but this is not of my own doing, this action/faith requires an inner strength that most of our population may never fathom or worse, I fear that they may believe it to be intangible.  If I can have it, so can you!  So double up, find your buddy and prepare for battle.  Enduring the diagnoses of cancer coagulates a monopoly of tests, procedures, and labs, that will be repeated every 6 months and no matter how much you try to win at this game, eventually, we spend a night or two in jail but with your buddy/fighter/warrior you shall conquer all.  Remember; trust in God that you are exactly where you are supposed to be for all good.  It is up to us to strengthen and lift each other up in the world through the buddy system/individuals and know that each person is battling his/her own war.  One small change compounded upon the big C word is enough to harm our entire system regardless of how small or big we believe it to be.  So I leave you with this: Matthew 18:18-20.  Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.  Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven.  For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”  God Bless you all!  Brenda  - Special thanks to my friends at SJMC/TCH who continue to uplift me daily and my special Angel Hillary!

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