Tuesday, October 30, 2012

From my tired brain

Today was x-ray day again. It turns out that every 5-6 days, x-rays are taken before treatment to be sure everything is still lined up correctly. I'm not sure if it's the radiation or just being away from home, but I've been more tired than usual. Today the girls, Nana and I napped for over 2 hours.

This morning I took everyone to the radiation center with me so they could see where I go everyday. The radiation therapists were kind enough to let everyone into the radiation chamber prior to my treatment so they could see the table and machine.  Kate asked if I was getting "adjusted with Dr. Jason". She also said she wanted to get up on the table and take a nap like Mama does every day!

Then we met up with Lucy R. who works at MDA (I talked about her here when I was in Houston for a consult back in June). We had a good time chatting over tea and snacks and she's offered to send us a list of good place to eat and see in Houston.
It feels like Christmas around here as we keep receiving lots of love in the mail. Yesterday brought goodies from Yia Yia and Pappou, Jackie and another blogger friend, Lynn.

(BTW, Amy from the blog-world, the girls have popped all the bubble wrap and are now making good use of the bowling set you sent!)

The girls had their first taste of peeps which were first closely inspected with their magnifying glasses.
They had a great time making pizza with stickers.
 And we added a little Halloween Tinkerbell fun to our walls.
And a big thank you for the new books to Greta, Lynn and Yia Yia and Pappou. It's so nice to read something new!
Their stash of cards is growing and they love to look at them everyday, rearranging them and peeling off the stickers that are affixed to some of them.
Although the weather is cooler it is slowly starting to get a bit warmer during the day so Len and Nana have been able to get them back into the pool. They are both starting to use their legs and arms more when swimming and can move around pretty quickly now. They LOVE to be thrown up high by Daddy! Here's Kate flying through the air...
And Lucy!
That's it for my brain dump tonight. I'm still feeling a bit foggy and am heading to bed early. I meet with Dr. Zagars in the morning before treatment for my weekly checkup. Other than fatigue all is still going well for which I'm thankful.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Weekend #2 Houston

The weekend started out with a notification that Len now has a jury summons back in Chicago as well. Guess we'll be recycling the letter we sent out for me last week!

Friday I went to yoga and then for treatment. Len and Nana took the girls to the Children's Museum since the weather was too chilly for the pool. Kate spent a lot of time stacking things or lining them into rows.
She got to the cars too.
Len has been taking the girls to the playground when they aren't in the pool. They love the big girl swings now.
Kate is napping about every other day now which is H.E.A.V.E.N.  Len snapped a very rare photo of Kate actually asleep during the day in a bed. Is that not the most beautiful sight you've ever seen??
I could look at that picture all day...maybe I'll make it my screensaver! I showed it to Kate and she looked at it wondrously.

Saturday we were invited to Little Euan's 2nd birthday party. The theme was Halloween so the girls were happy to be Minnie Mouse again. I brought over some face paint so we could bedeck Euan...he was Mickey Mouse and Flossie, their dog, was Minnie Mouse as well (which was completely not coordinated beforehand actually).
Paivi had a children's singer for the entertainment which the girls enjoyed.
Papa Euan got into the action as well!
 Paivi and Euan were really jamming out by the end!
When it came time to sing Happy Birthday the girls were first up, ready to sing! We had been practicing beforehand so they were pretty excited about it.
Either that or they figured that being right up there would get you the first slice of cake. My girls are no dummies.
Today we explored a tiny portion of the Houston Galleria. We went for lunch at Rainforest Cafe (yet another place I swore I would never enter...oh how naive I was!). The girls loved the animals moving around with one giant exception: the frog. Kate was fine with him, actually asking to go over after he left our table to see him again.
Lucy wanted nothing to do with him and actually would not eat because she was too busy keeping her eye on his whereabouts. He finally went to another part of the restaurant so Lucy finally dug in to her fish and chips with gusto.

The balloon guy came around to make ladybug bracelets for the girls. I have to say, people with children are just sitting ducks at these places...
We let them run around for a bit since the play area was closed for a private function. A quick trip for frozen yogurt and fruit before hitting the road to drive home.
Papa and Meme sent some stuffed lovies to the girls so they spent a little while demonstrating proper somersault technique to their new friends.
 Nana is getting a lot of time with her two granddaughters! They were very interested in Nana's new computer.
Radiation treatments start again tomorrow and should be at 9:10am from now on. I signed up for another free exercise class through the Integrative Medicine department so I'll do that right after treatment. Len will be here until Thursday but then heads back to Chicago for work until the 19th. I'm already dreading his departure.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

So far, so good

As the title suggests, all is well here. My treatments are but a blip in the morning routine. It takes me 10 minutes from the time I walk out the apartment door until I am sitting in the waiting area, ready to be zapped. They have free valet parking so it literally is easy breezy to go in every day.

In other news, it seems that traveling makes the girls learn new things. The last time we traveled to FL in July, both girls potty trained themselves. This time, Kate is waking up dry nearly every night (the watermelon snack after supper was her undoing). They have both learned to turn door knobs and open doors, not a skill I encouraged....until now. With Kate moving towards staying dry at night, she'll need to be able to open her door to use the bathroom when she wakes up. Ugh. They just keep growing up!

Both girls are napping. BOTH. Lucy's naps have lengthened to about 1 1/2- 1 3/4 hours. Kate naps for 2 hours and usually has to be awakened around 4pm so her bedtime will not be affected. It's wondrous! I give all the credit to the pool. Len and Nana have been taking them to the pool in the mornings since it's been rather hot at the playground. Two hours of swimming in the morning, followed by lunch and then naps. Then Len takes them BACK to the pool for a late afternoon swim from about 4:30-6pm. Combine that with the super long walk just to get to the pool and you have 2 very tired toddlers. It. Is. Awesome.

We got another surprise in the mail today from one of my blog/facebook friends who adopted from Nepal. And true to form, they both went straight for the bubble wrap.
Yes, we just got back from the pool...seems we only wear pajamas, underwear and bathing suits in Houston!
Tomorrow I managed to get my treatment moved from 7:10pm to 1:30pm so I can be home for their bedtime routine. I also signed up for a free yoga class at 11:30am so it looks like I'll be at the hospital for a good bit tomorrow. I get the weekends off!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

A new bedtime song

It looks like the sickness of the past week has passed through and out of our household. It left a pile of used, sticky, snotty tissues in its wake though. To mark the event, Len made up a song that is now in regular rotation for bedtime. It's to the tune of Puff the Magic Dragon:

Puff the Magic Nana
Sleeps in the loft
She has lots of tissues
And they're really soft

She wipes all your boogers
And all your snot
And when it's winter
There sure is a lot!

Catchy huh? Feel free to use it if you like!

Speaking of their beds (in a rather circuitous way), we received a surprise from Aunt Kathy today. Stickers that won't take off the paint so we could make their room more homey. They love it!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

"You look so radiant"

That's Len's suggestion for this post title. Why thank you, my love! I do feel all glowy and lit up right about now.

Today was the big day. I was scheduled for my first radiation treatment at 6-something tonight but got a call to come in at 4:40pm if possible so I did. But let me back up and start in the morning...

Len and Nana took the girls to the pool after breakfast while I went to a Tibetan meditation class to try to prepare mentally for treatment. The class was full of both patients and caregivers from all over the world. One guy was from the Netherlands and had just had surgery on a tumor in his head. Another woman was from S. Korea and another couple was from China. We spent 1/2 of the class in guided meditation and 1/2 in chanting which was actually quite nice. The room seemed to vibrate with our voices. I came away feeling calmer and better able to focus.

Since the media center was right next door I popped in to see what kind of literature they had and found a rather nice size selection of children's books. I found 4 that I thought would give a good explanation of where I was going every day and why and checked them out. When I returned home the girls had just come back from the pool so we sat down to read our new books while Nana fixed lunch.
The books I checked out were:
Butterfly Kisses and Wishes on Wings by Ellen McVicker
The Invisible String by Patrice Karst
You are the Best Medicine by Julie Aigner Clark
Mom has Cancer! by Jennifer Moore-Mallinos

I self-edited as I read some of it, taking out the parts about losing my hair, chemotherapy, etc since I won't be doing that. Instead I just inserted radiation, talked about what that was, and later this evening I showed them the picture of me in front of the big machine so they would know where I go everyday. They were both pretty quiet and only asked a few questions, mostly about the marks on my body, why I can't swim, and how long I'll be gone every day.

After lunch both girls went down for naps but then Lucy woke up a bit early crying out so I went in to get her before she could wake Kate. Lucy ended up falling asleep on me for another hour while I read a book on my iPad.
4:40 rolled around and I found myself here, sipping my 2 cups of green tea and checking out my new home for the next 6 weeks.
This is my leg mold.
And this is the beast. The two arms on the sides swing around once you are on the table and they take xrays to be sure the lasers are directed correctly. The entire machine rotates all around the table which has lifted several feet off the ground so the top of the machine will clear the floor when it is underneath. After all that has been checked, the side panels swing back and the radiation is delivered by the round dome on the top. It rotates around my body, stopping every now and then to zap me.
I have to confess that my first thought as the machine started firing up was, "I've got to get the hell out of here! What am I about to do to my body?? This is my last chance to put a stop to all of this!" I had to draw on all my reserves not to move (since that is the strongly worded order I received before everyone left the room). So I remembered my meditation class and decided to chant an inner mantra. It went like this:


And I felt much better!

It was over with fairly shortly and in reality, was pretty anti-climatic. I felt....nothing. The technicians made a few more sketches on my thighs and pubic area and then took more pictures. When Len saw them later he said, "Looks like gang signs." I think it's just a form of hazing or a way to keep things interesting in the radiation chamber frankly.

So I received my schedule with all my dates and times of treatments for the entire 6 weeks. I have weekends and Thanksgiving day off. But I still go in on Black Friday so I guess I won't be rushing any stores that morning for the latest hot toy for 3 year olds.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Moving Forward

Got the news today that insurance is approved so I will start radiation tomorrow. Most of my treatments will take place at 9:10am M-F with 2 exceptions. Tomorrow I begin at 6:40pm and on Friday I go in at 7:10pm. With this schedule I am targeted to have my last treatment on November 30. We're still working on our exact departure date as we'll need time to pack up and ship some things home and I'm not sure how I'll be feeling in terms of traveling that close to the end of treatment.

In a mish-mash of other news, I finally managed to make it to the fitness room today while Len took the girls to the playground. I managed 35 minutes on the treadmill before absolute boredom set in followed by stretching and situps. It actually felt good to sweat again and work my dormant muscles. Len called about my jury duty summons and they said I need a letter from my doctor to get out of it which meant another call to the nurse here for that. I have my absentee ballot and will send in my vote after tonight's last debate.

Many thanks to Luke from our playgroup for the Halloween card--Kate and Lucy have it on their nightstand and are trying very hard not to peel off all the stickers! Also thank you to Greta for the new book--"How to behave and Why"! We started reading it tonight before bed and they loved looking at all the pictures and asking questions about what was going on.

A few people have asked about my supplement protocol from my Integrative Oncologist. I have a 2 part program. One is designed to overcome some of the deficiencies that showed up in my blood work which I already covered in this post and in this post.  The 2nd part is designed to support my immune system before/during/after radiation treatment.

These include:

Vitamin C crystals divided up throughout the day.
Drinking 2 cups of strong green tea before and after radiation to increase tumor oxygenation and radiation's effectiveness.
Eating lots of cruciferous veggies which have long been shown to protect against cancer but can also offer protection from the side effects of radiation therapy.
Siberian Ginseng which helps assist in radioprotection of healthy cells.
Ginkgo biloba to prevent DNA breaks and also acts as an antioxidant.
L-Glutamine powder to help protect the gastrointestinal tract lining and to help enhance radiation benefits.
Whey protein which can make cancer cells more susceptible to treatment by depleting them of glutathione.
N-Acetyl-Cysteine to reduce free radical damage.
Garlic extract for immune response.
Mushroom supplements for bone-marrow protection.

I'll keep you updated to see if all of these things are working. I've been given the dire list of side effects and a good many of these supplements are designed to lessen their severity. I'm really hoping this is the case because it is a PITA to take all of these every day! The good thing is that I only need to take these from now until 2 weeks following the end of treatment.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Weekend #1 (Houston)

We had quite a lovely weekend here in Houston. Friday Len and Nana were not feeling well so I took the girls to a park over near Paivi's house. The girls had a grand time exploring a new park, playing with Paivi's dog Flossie and her son Euan. Paivi made us lunch at her house which made the kids happy...
And Flossie, not so much.
Saturday we walked to the Children's Museum for "practice" trick-or-treating. They had stations set up around the museum with little things like pencils, toys, etc. The girls LOVED dressing up and carrying their bags.
Kate filled her bag up with fake carrots.

Saturday evening we went to Olive Garden for dinner thanks to a gift certificate from some of my Chicago mamas.
Sunday morning I made blueberry pancakes and sausage while Kate got in some cuddle time with Nana.
Len and Nana took them to the nearby playground after breakfast while I worked on the menu and grocery list for this-coming week. We then met up with my LSU design studio friend, Melissa. She recommended a really good Tex-Mex place for lunch.

We've fallen into a small routine where the girls go swimming every afternoon after naps. With all the added activity both girls have been napping somewhat regularly for almost 2 hours at a pop which is just divine. Since I am not allowed to swim (grrrrr) Len takes them to the heated lap pool for a couple of hours before supper. The larger pool is just too cold at this point which is a shame as it's much larger and has ledges that the girls could play on.

The upshot of all this swimming is that even with long afternoon naps, they both still happily climb into bed and go right to sleep for the whole night. Their bedtime has been moved from 7pm to 8pm for a few reasons. There are no blackout shades in their room so we need to wait until it's relatively dark. We generally have them in the pool from 4-6pm which means supper isn't until 6:30. By the time we let them play a bit after eating, run both through baths and then do some reading, it's 8pm before we know it!

Enjoy the photos of swim time over the past few days.
 Pee break...
And because her sister did it, she must too...
With an empty bladder, you can jump higher!
Nana reading her Kindle by the pool
The new game: kicking water at Daddy
Daddy makes a great water taxi.
Tomorrow I hope to find out if insurance has taken the hold off my treatment which is set to begin Tuesday evening. Most of my appointments are set for 9am but two of them are in the evening. In addition, I have to meet weekly with the radiation oncologist on Wednesdays for an exam/checkup.


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