Thursday, December 27, 2007

Hi! I'm Alive and Well!

Hey, hey, hey! I'm feeling good and doing fine ... now. I Ativaned up before my last chemo, took a bar of Dove green tea and cucumber to sniff, and I had no anticipatory nausea this time. My recovery from the last chemo was actually a really good one, but it was still frustrating to not be myself while my family was all together for the holiday. I was also sad that I did not partake in the traditional spiked eggnog drinking. I only wanted to for sentimental reasons. At the time, the thought of alcohol turned my stomach. I keep reminding myself that this is only one Christmas, one snowboarding season, six short months in the grand scheme of my long, healthy life. I felt better for Christmas Eve and Christmas day at least. Yeah, Turn Around Tuesday!

I got a lot of booty this holiday including a portable hard drive, a real salad bowl, socks, earings to stand out next to my bald head (I never wore them before), hand towels, CF cards, gloves, Crocks, Dustbuster, sheets, and last but not least Dance Dance Revolution. I am by no means a video gamer, but this one is different. For those of you who don't know about this game, while a song is playing, you step on arrows on a pad when the TV screen tells you to. You get points and grades based on your accuracy and timing. There are oodles of songs and various levels of difficulty. Dennis got two pads so we can compete against each other. Not that I care about that. I just think it's more fun when someone is doing it with you like any workout. And that was the reasoning behind it. It's our home gym. I tell you, a half hour of DDR and I am sweating as if I was jogging on a treadmill, only it's much more fun and painless.

Oh, it was a hoot watching each other try to "dance"! In the beginning, we were all stiff looking and consistently off balance. But we got better. I totally want to have DDR tournaments this winter with friends.

I am still sticking myself with the Lovenox blood thinner and taking Coumadin on top of it until my INR number is between 2 and 3. Then, my blood is thin enough and I can stop the Lovenox. I'm hoping that is real soon for two reasons. I have to go in every two or three days to have blood taken for the INR test. No fun watching them struggle to hit veins. Second, the Lovenox is freaking expensive - even with insurance. I guess I will be on Coumadin until I can be done with the port in five more treatments. My right arm is still swollen, but the doctors say it may take weeks for the excess fluid to drain away from the arm. The doctors also "recommend" that I don't snowboard while on the blood thinners due to the whole internal bleeding thing if I happen to take a good spill or if someone else rams into me. While neither of these things generally happen to me, they are possible I suppose. I could just snowboard with bodyguards.

Not much is going to change between now and my next onc visit January 4th, I hope. Then we will discuss the rest of my treatment and she'll take a look at my arm to see if it is really making progress. If I fail to post before 2008, Happy New Year! Here's to a healthy 2008 for everyone! - Candace

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Maine for the Holidays

Season's Greetings, everyone. I have returned back to the hustle and bustle of NYC from my wonderful trip to Maine for the holidays. Sean and I flew up to Maine from JFK on Delta (avoid doing that if you can - it was not pleasant). We arrived after midnight and the 'rents kindly picked us up and took us home.

I didn't get to see Sis until the morning and I admit when I first saw her, it was a minor shock. Last time I was here - only a month and a half ago - she had quite a lot of hair. True, it was thinning, but still substantial. Now, she barely has any hair - it's kind of like a peach fuzz on her head with a few sprigs of longer hair (grown out from the shave). The family likes to call it her mon chee chee hair... not sure if I spelled that correctly, but the mon chee chee was a little toy monkey with hair standing straight up all over its body ("Mon chee chee, mon chee chee - oh so softy and cuddly!"). Sister looked like she was battling cancer now - before she looked like a rockin' chick who decided to shave her head to make a statement. So that was an initial adjustment.

She also looked exhausted. Her big plan to get chemo on Thurs was ruined thanks to a storm dropping buckets of snow, which shut down the center. She had to go on Friday morning instead, so she wasn't very energetic until Monday night. She was great though, she took naps and then got right back into the thick of things. I got to watch her stick herself with the blood thinner drug (she is an EXPERT - no fear!) .

It was wonderful to hang out with the family - Mom spent much of the weekend in the kitchen baking. There were seven of us for Christmas dinner and Mom made six desserts! She can't help herself, it's cute.

Monday morning Sis went to get blood drawn to see how the thinners were working - end result is her blood wasn't thinning enough, so she needs to stick herself twice a day plus take the pill until her next blood test. Yuck.

We did our gift exchange Monday afternoon when Sis had some energy. The highlight of the gift giving was Dennis giving Sis a Playstation 2 and Dance Dance Revolution with two deluxe dance pads - we spent the rest of the night attempting to dance - we couldn't quite get out of Beginner mode. I accidentally switched it to Basic for one song and thought I was going to have a heart attack! Sister got into the action, too. She was starting to bounce back from her chemo. It was also hilarious to watch Sadie and Sam (the 'rents cat) roll all over the stinky dance pads - they couldn't get enough of it! I think our stepdad took some pictures of us dancing, so we'll post them if he can figure out how to download the images and email them to us. =)

Turnaround Tuesday had Sis back to her old self and we had dance tournaments (Dennis won). It's quite a workout - I may have to get the game for myself! I didn't want to go back home - it was so much fun hanging out with everyone.

Sister's back to work today, but I know she found someone good to help her now, so Sis can focus more on the business end of things. ... and there you have it, you are now all caught up on our Christmas in Maine.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Angioplasty is so COOL!

Thanks to Dennis for keeping up on the posts so everyone stays informed. I have reached a milestone - the halfway point - and a lot has been going on. First and foremost, as you know the PET scan was clean, clean, clean! Woohoo! An early Christmas present for me! My "moment" was spoiled a bit, though, by the fact that my right arm was freakishly swollen because of a blood clot that needed surgery. Yup, I got hung up on that one little word - SURGERY. Just mention that word to me and I start work on building up that molehill. I arrived at the hospital this morning in full nose sweats, feet sweats, shaking, and chattering. It's completely involuntary and has certainly gotten worse the more "medical time" I accrue. Shouldn't it be the opposite? I think of Duane, Morgan, and Jennifer and all the surgeries, transplants, infusions, etc. that they've been through and am embarrassed that simple angioplasty freaks me out.

Now that I know, I can say angioplasty is a very cool procedure that really is simple. My procedure was in a vein which is your low pressure system not an artery which is more serious. He went in on my right arm fairly close to the port which made snaking the catheter to the problem area quick. For my comfort, they put on some KT Tunstall and my nurse gave me a sedative (aahh). I got another dose before he started ballooning, but I was awake. remember all of it, and I am glad. It was so cool to watch the screen and see what was happening inside of me. They injected contrast in my port and I watched it instantly branch out into all the little veins. Dr. Comyn inserted the catheter, I felt it, and automatically said "ouch!". He asked, "Do you really mean ouch or do you just mean weird?" He moved the catheter again. "Oh, I just mean weird," I confessed. He also stripped my port's catheter while he was in there. He used a lasso tool called a snare, ran it up and down the tube, picked it up and moved it all around. Then the test. The nurse injected another shot of contrast in the port and it went in a straight stream this time to the heart. Success!!!! The vein was no longer blocked. More weird as the catheter exited my vein, and I was done. Piece of cake!

My arm is still swollen, but the coloring looks better. It will take awhile to drain the arm of all the blood and fluid. Tomorrow I have chemo and we'll figure out the blood thinner thing. For now I am still sticking myself in the stomach, but this cannot continue or else I will go broke. Sounds like Coumadin is more reasonable. I am also Ativan-ing before going to chemo. One more hurdle before I can thoroughly enjoy Christmas with my family. I can't wait. I won't be posting until after Christmas, so Happy Holidays to all and to all a good night.

Recovery Room

I am sitting in the recovery room with a sleeping post-op Candace and I can report that all went well with the angioplasty. We need to stay in the recovery room for THREE HOURS to make sure she is ok even though she feels fine as they did not use any anesthesia for the procedure. So.... Candace is catching up on some well deserved rest and I am playing on the hospital's wifi network. It looks like she will be on blood thinners for the rest of the time she has her port in just to make sure this doesn't happen again but that is a small price to pay for the convenience of keeping it. Candace has (as her surgeon calls them) "crappy " veins. Every time they try to do a regular IV it takes many attempts and several nurses to get it in so the port really needs to stay. Candace is "back on top" after this little set back. Of course tomorrow is chemo day so there will be a few days of yuck but she hopes to feel fine for the holidays. Candace sister and brother in law will be arriving friday night and the whole family will be together until Christmas. Good fun.
Candace will try to post tonight if she feels up to it so stay tuned for the whole story.
Be well,

Monday, December 17, 2007

PET Results

This just in....
Yes, you read that right. Candace has none of those nasty cancer cells running around in her body anymore. Still three cycles of chemo just to make sure, but it looks good!
Happy day :)

I will post again after the angioplasty to let you all know how it went.

Be well,

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Poster Child Turned Problem Child

Okay, so I was getting a little cocky about the whole chemo thing. I was beating the odds. Doing things on chemo that most people only wish they could do. I've continued working like normal, gone snowboarding, shoveled snow, minimal side effects from ABVD, gone into crowds .... All too good to be true? YES!!! My reign as ABVD poster child is over. This past week humbled me as complications emerged and the true collateral damage caused by chemo began to show. This stuff makes hair loss seem like a walk in he park.

I bounced back from chemo on Tuesday like usual. Went back to work. I have been preparing to take some time off from walking dogs by hiring an employee, so I had interviews set up this week. This was something I had been thinking about from the get go because I didn't know if I would be able to work, but when I found I could still work it got pushed to the back burner. I still worried that, being the only one, if I got really sick, I'd be screwed. Yet, that never happened either, so I pushed on status quo. But more recently, I decided that even though I can work, I just want to step back and reflect for awhile and try working on the parts of running a business that I don't get to do when I am "out in the field" all the time.

No sooner was I actively trying to make this change when on Wednesday morning I noticed in the shower that my right arm was awfully pudgy. Good Lord, was I getting that fat, I wondered?! I looked at my other arm for the answer and it was thin. Then I felt my right arm and it was hard. Comparing the two, I noticed my right arm was purple too. It was time to make my first call in to my doctor since I began.

She was worried about a blood clot in the arm or a blockage in my port which happens to be on the right side of my chest, so she ordered an ultrasound and wanted to check function of my port. Totally not what I had planned for my day, so I went to Pen Bay out of convenience. This is probably the last time I give that place the benefit of the doubt that they are just as capable as anyone else. The ultrasound of my arm showed nothing. Then it took three different nurses to access my port just to find it could draw back blood so it was functioning fine. I know they were working off orders from my onc, but no one thought that maybe an actual doctor should look at it and then he or she could better discuss my condition with my onc. Frankly, I'm a little surprised my onc didn't think of that herself. So, they sent me on my way with a puffy, purple arm and no reason why.

Later that night as I undressed for bed, I glanced in the mirror and noticed how easily I could now see the veins in the right side of my chest. My second call into the doctors office in the same day! Because it was after hours I got a different oncologist, the on call doctor. I explained the veins and he said I definitely had an obstruction. Oh joy! Really, joy, I was just relieved to now have a reason. I wouldn't have slept otherwise. He said it most likely had to do with my port because everything was happening on my right, so perhaps I should call Dr. Curtis, the surgeon who implanted me, in the morning. This made so much sense to me.

Dr. Curtis spoke to me directly the next morning. That's twice I talked directly to the doctors! I really like that. I've only ever "talked" to my onc through the nurse. He wanted a CT scan next. Pen Bay could do a CT scan, but I decided to cancel some appointments and make the drive down to Midcoast Hospital. He was there, my onc was there, I thought I'd get more immediate answers this way.

I went by myself because it was just a CT scan after all. I had aced my last CT scan BEFORE chemo. Well, I forgot chemo trashes the veins, so it took four pokes and a change in staff to insert the IV for contrast. I was beginning to freak out in my typical way - uncontrollable shaking. They piled blankets on me, but it wasn't the cold. Anyway, as I was recovering from the CT scan trauma, tears welling in my eyes, Dr. Curtis appeared to take a look at me. He walked right by me at first. I hadn't seen him since I had long hair, good veins, and less acne. I must have looked pathetic to him because he was so nice to me all day. While he was there, the radiologist came in with his cute, bright red bow tie and declared that it wasn't the SVC (large vein). Then the two of them did some geek speak that I strained to follow, but I understood loud and clear when he said he saw a marked difference in the lymph node in my chest. It is no longer abnormal size. So, some good news amongst the catastrophe that was now unfolding. They concurred that I was to get another ultrasound because it just had to be a blockage in one of the smaller veins.

Sure enough they found it and its location right around the entry point of my port's catheter. A vein intervention specialist, Dr. Kommen, came to speak to me about the procedure called angioplasty. Less invasive than surgery, he will use catheters with scopes and snares and snake them through my veins until he reaches the clot. Then he will balloon open the vein at that point. Problem solved, hopefully. If I clot again there, we'll have to think about finding Mr. Port a new home like in my leg or somewhere. He wants the clot to dissolve on its own before next Wednesday, so I am injecting very expensive shots of blood thinner in my belly daily to give my body a chance to break down the clot. The worry being the clot could break off when he balloons the vein and go directly to my lung where it may or may not cause a bigger problem.

A little plead to my port: My beloved port, you have betrayed me and our relationship will never be the same. I still need you for three more months, so what do you say we put aside our differences for the time being and exist in harmony?

So, there you have it. To use the roller coaster metaphor, I had been chugging up with confidence. Now, I've crested and am falling. I was totally in control of chemo, then getting anticipatory nausea I felt a little more out of control for just that day, now I am lost. Indirectly, The Hodge is in control for the first time since I began. But only temporarily. Once we clear this port-clot thing up, I am back in control because I know the lymph nodes are back to normal size. In addition, I had a PET scan Friday morning. That will tell them whether cancer is still active anywhere. Small size is good, but no activity is better, so we'll be looking for the results on Monday.

After my PET scan I experienced another side effect of chemo. I hadn't left the hospital yet when I realized all the signs on the walls were fuzzy. I could focus my eyes to read a word, but then I would lose focus. I told a nurse and she rightfully wouldn't let me leave. Called my onc on this one and she said it was fairly common for folks on my drugs to have just this vision problem. Eye drops might help. Well sitting still and getting food in my system helped. For a PET scan you have to fast. That was a little scary. My mind jumped to the conclusion that my clot had moved, which was going to require another IV for another CT scan. AHHHHHHH! In this case, I was relieved to hear I was just not handling chemo as gracefully as I once was.

Hopefully I didn't bore you with my longest post yet. You are all wonderful listeners! No one interrupted me ;)

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Half way done with Chemo and the Pavlovian Response

Well, Candace has officially hit the half way point in her chemo and she has a PET scan scheduled for next week to see if any of that pesky cancer is still around. We had a nice meeting with Dr. Chase prior to chemo and were told that if all the cancer is gone and Candace so wishes, she can talk to the radiation oncologist and possibly stop chemo after 4 cycles and get radiation instead. The radiation treatment involves getting strapped in to a linear accelerator and having the area where you have cancer zapped with tachyons until you turn invisible and you wander the star ship thinking you are dead..oh sorry, that's Star Trek. No really, it is called a linear accelerator but they just zap you with radiation to kill any cancer cells that may have survived the chemo and make sure it doesn't come back. The bad thing about radiation therapy is the possibility of secondary cancers and other problems developing down the road. The area of Candace's largest tumors is in her chest so that would be one of the target areas. This area being zapped could bring on many nasty secondary ailments including, but not limited to; lung cancer, breast cancer, heart disease and becoming invisible. The other tumors are in her neck which I believe is close to the brain....sooo, Candace is leaning towards sticking with just chemo because even though it sucks now, there is less of a chance of long term secondary cancers and a very similar remission rate.
Speaking of sucking now....Candace has verified every psychology 101 textbook lesson on classical or "Pavlovian" conditioning. Just going to the chemo lounge and looking at the
nurses, the IV pump, the chair and indeed just smelling the room was enough to get her to loose her cookies, or in this case, her fries (what she herself described as the best french fries ever). This puts us in the unique position of having to deal with her getting sick BEFORE treatment. The funny part of this all is that she feels better when she leaves the chemo center than when she arrives and indeed is doing quite well this time around now that she is home. She says she feels ok and has slept for most of the day, just getting up to eat and youknowwhat. No nausea to speak of and this time around and she has been taking her Ativan regularly so I think that has helped. She hates to take the drugs because they make her dopey, but they work! I have been pushing them a little harder this round to see if they make a difference. So far so good.

"Pavlov's Dog"

Try this fun game about Pavlovian conditioning!!

This is how Candace recovers from her Chemo (Sadie helps)

Thanks for all your great responses to the last post! It is good to hear what gets you all in the Christmas mood.
We will keep you all posted with the PET scan results and with any luck Candace will be cancer free for the holidays.
Look for a post from Candace in the next day or so when she breaks out of the chemo/ativan haze.
Be well, Happy Holidays

Monday, December 3, 2007

Santa Sunday and First Snowfall

Yeah, and in that order too. We go up to the mountain on Sunday to ride and I don the Santa outfit for charity and to get a few free tickets. I'm thinking, I'm glad I didn't pay full price for a ticket because the conditions weren't that great. Then Monday, today, we get over a foot of snow! Arrrrg! Where's the love Mother Nature? Huh? Doesn't she know I have cancer and there are select days I can ride so it'd be nice to have the snow on THOSE days? Ah, well. We did find a little good stuff on Sunday that was fun to play in. I apologize that my personal photographer "spaced" as he likes to explain, so there are no photos of me as Santa. I'd fire him, but he does take a nice picture when he remembers.

We did snap this one the night before when we dug out the Santa suit complete with his white locks. Since I had no locks, I borrowed his for the evening to go out to dinner with friends. They laughed, mission accomplished, and I took it off because it was really itchy.

It was really nice hanging out at home too in the snowstorm. Below is my handiwork from the day. Isn't she a beauty? I'm so proud that I thought enough to drape the silver garland this year instead of mindlessly wrapping it around and around the tree. I guess watching those stylist on the photo shoots be ridiculously precise with placement rubbed off on me a little. It's unclear in the photo, but that's an angel on the top. She is appropriately hovering above the rest of the tree, but somehow it looks odd and I think I might have to cut the top to bring her down a bit. See, the stylist influence.

It seemed so easy to do the tree this year. Normally, we wait until a week before Christmas and then get the obligatory tree. We spend more time with our tree AFTER Christmas, but it's not the same then. Actually, last year we didn't even bother. Bah, humbug. I'm glad this year we got our act together and the timing couldn't have been more perfect with this snowstorm today. I had a "holiday moment" all to myself today hanging the ornaments with my cup of coffee, music playing, and snow falling outside. Substitute hot cocoa with whipped cream and a peppermint stick in it and insert Sadie by my side looking up at me lovingly and I just styled another picture. In reality, Sadie couldn't have cared less and was sleeping on the sofa.

Called my nurse for my blood counts taken last Friday and they are all good. So, I celebrated by shoveling the deck and driveway. I am still being careful with germs, but honestly my counts have been so good and steady, I have backed off a bit. Mom and I ventured out early in the morning on Black Friday before my chemo appointment. A couple hours was all I could take of the madness. Of course, Nintendo Wiis were sold out before 7am. My counts were a bit low that day and my nurse half jokingly warned me to stay away from Black Friday. Ooops, too late. I even thrust myself into a crowd at a gallery opening. Did I mention small gallery? We didn't stay long because it did make me a bit nervous, but it's just nice to participate in gatherings again.

Going in this Friday for my halfway chemo. Wonder if I will need the Ativan again like last time? Probably. I am one of those sleeping chemo receivers now. Camp Chemo has become Camp Sleepo. Heck, the Ativan might put me so out I'm a snorer too.

Speaking of sleep, I need to get me some now. But I will leave you with a question. What do you do at holiday time that makes you stop and say "yes, this is what the holidays are all about"? Is it your community tree lighting? Perhaps you are making homemade gifts? I know it's not the shopping because I've been out there amongst the shopping and I just don't feel it. Unless you shop at the small, local stores, then I'll by that. I'm curious where people find the Christmas spirit.

Just a picture to show you the snow outside and Sadie's favorite lookout spot.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007


Hey all. It's Candace posting under Dennis' alias because I'm on his computer and he hates it when I "mess" with his logins. God forbid he has to take two seconds to type in his password. It's almost midnight and I'm wide a friggin' awake. Today is Turnaround Tuesday, the switch has been flipped thankfully, and I had a good, busy day. Nonetheless, this is what I get for endlessly sleeping the past 72+ hours. Ironic that I can sleep hours on end and not feel the least bit rested one day, and the next day I actually should feel tired but instead I'm killing time blogging until I can convince my restless mind and body that we really should get some sleep. This is a pattern actually. It happens when I'm on the rebound from chemo. My back and neck aches, I can't find a comfortable sleeping position, so I toss and turn, and my mind is racing. When I do finally fall asleep, it's also when I have my most vivid dreams, often nightmares. I have dreamt I was in a flood and once that I chopped off children's legs at the knees because I thought they looked better shorter. When I realized what a horrible person I was to do this, I too had stubs for legs. Typical nightmare, I wake up in a panic, then relief that none of it is real. Chemo drugs are some mighty powerful poisons.

My onc has ordered a pulmonary function test for this Friday. This should have been done in the beginning, but she doesn't do it unless the patient has breathing difficulty, which I don't. We (Dennis and I) were a bit relentless though at the last visit, claiming permanent lung damage would ruin my life because I'm an athlete and activity is so important to me, etc. In fact, I want to drop the Bleomycin if my midway PET scan comes back clear. The Bleo is the drug that can (rarely) cause permanent lung damage. "Rarely" is not good enough odds for me when it comes to ensuring an active lifestyle for the rest of my life. There are plenty of cases where cancer patients developed breathing problems, the Bleo was dropped, and they still went into remission. What I don't know, but there must be a statistic on this, is how many of those cases stayed in remission or had recurrences? Dr. Chase should be researching this for us.

Alrighty, I think I'll call it a night (again) and see if I can fall asleep. Sweet dreams for you and me. - Candace

Sunday, November 25, 2007

My two sick girls

Happy after Thanksgiving everyone!
We had a nice time in Bethel on Thursday with my mom, brother, sister, brother in law and my two nephews. We drove to Auburn after eating WAY too much and stayed with Candace's parents before heading to Camp Chemo on Friday. Candace even got up at six AM to do a little pre chemo Black Friday shopping with her folks. All went well at camp but Candace did say she was getting nauseous prior to starting treatment. It seems that just the thought of the drugs is enough to make her sick now, so she started her regiment with a shot of Ativan and then slept through most of her treatment. One more and she is half done!
Candace was quite sick the night of the chemo and she had to race to the toilet for evening prayers. She almost made it (clean up in isle three please). After a good nights sleep (by her, I had to tend to a sick dog, hence the title) she felt much better and managed to get down a big breakfast of bacon and eggs with an english muffin. Unlike after the last chemo where we had a house full of guests, this time around all is quiet and she has been able to sleep most of the day. Last night she woke up to eat and then to watch a movie before bed and this morning she had a quick bowl of oatmeal before heading back to bed feeling a bit queasy. She woke up when Sadie and I returned from our morning walk at the beach and said she feels better, rolled over and went back to sleep. Ah, the life of a person with poison running through her body. We are both hoping today will be the last day of the blah and we can have a turn-around on Monday.
Next weekend we will be heading back to Sunday River to participate in the Santa Sunday toy drive. It is a lot of fun and Candace will be dressed up as Santa for the morning of snowboarding. The event is to raise money to buy toys for under privileged kids and has the added benefit of three full days of snow boarding for ten bucks for those participating. The mountain donates the passes and the money raised goes to the Bethel Rotary Club to buy the toys. What a deal! Look for pictures next week and check out the SR web site to learn all about it
Be well, and send your happy thoughts!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving

Hello Friends, family, and newcomers. I just wanted to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving and to say that this Thanksgiving I am thankful for all of the support you have given me. I am thankful, too, that the nodes are shrinking and I believe the cancer is leaving. I am thankful for modern medicine, for people who love their dogs, for people who love other people, and for the internet. There is so much to be thankful for, I hope you all take a moment to realize what you've got and be thankful. One more thing I'm thankful for is that my blood counts are all roughly the same and I still feel good.

I have felt great this week! I worried that snowboarding might have been a bit much, but I continued on into the week with normal energy and never looked back. I even cleaned my own house and enjoyed it. Maybe I'm not as well as I think ;) I dread giving all of this up on Friday to chemo and four more days of blech. (I'm thankful I only have four bad days!) We are going up to Bethel to have Thanksgiving with Dennis's family. Leaving tomorrow night. So, until Friday, I will eat a lot, relax with family, walk my dog, breathe in cool mountain air, and love my life. Then, life sucks, but I don't want to think about that yet. There's a holiday between now and then! Yippee!

Sunday, November 18, 2007


Well, it is confirmed; You can fight cancer and still get in some early season turns.
Today we headed to Sunday River for a day of fun on the snow. It was my second day out but Candace's first and we didn't know what to expect. Candace is feeling great but this is the most physically challenging thing she has done since she started chemo in October. Well, I can say without a doubt that she is in full form on snow. It looked like she had just stepped out of a snowboard mag as she headed into her first run and she kept kicking butt on snow all day. We kept riding until we both could barely walk and decided to call it a day around noon. All in all a great day on the hill. It made us both feel like life was back to normal. We hope to get out as much as we can on the "good" weeks all winter long.
Here are a few pics.

Pro snowboarder Candace

Yup, no hair under that helmet.

Our legs are so tired we have to hold each other up!
Be well....

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


THIS TIME post-chemo I have developed a superpower. I now have an all powerful sniffer. Ultra Sensi-shnauz. If there is an odor out there, I will know it and it will likely make me nauseous. My everyday life smells are so strong... and unpleasant! My dogs, my linens, the grocery store among other things turn my stomach now. And another thing ... just thinking about any aspect of chemo makes me have a visceral reaction. Now that's powerful associations, and dangerous. I have too many more cycles to go for this to be happening already. Think rainbows and bunnies, rainbows and bunnies!

One more cycle (2 treatments) and I will get a PET scan. I should know before Christmas if the cancer is gone. (I hope, I hope) The neck nodes have remained fingertip size, a little disheartening for me since they had been continually shrinking, but that could just be scar tissue. It's all in the PET.

Red blood cell counts rebounded and I'm not anemic for the time being. White counts are hovering at 2.6. I'm pulling the VIP card out for a blood count tomorrow at Pen Bay, so we'll see :)

Pretty quiet week, thus far, except Sadie has been sick. Poor baby dog. Hopefully we have her vomiting in control with a bland diet of boiled chicken. She is also limping, thus is on light duty walks until we see improvement. Worrying about her ailments has taken my mind off of my own ailments. I hope to be snowboarding this Sunday though. I absolutely have to take advantage of my good weekends.

Keeping it short 'cause it's late.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

The Fam

I know... I am bombarding the site with posts. Sorry about that! =) Read the two posts that follow this one for a complete weekend update.

As you may know, Candace is doing a photo essay of sorts about her experience and we were taking some photos for that today. We decided to do a shot with the women in our family - Candace, Mom and me. We all had our special necklaces on (Candace's says Courage, Mom's says Strength and mine says Hope) and I think the pictures came out really well. I'll share them with you in a bit. I am also going to include a fun one of sis with our stepdad Bill - they have the same haircut now!

Oh, and Mom did indeed cook for an army... I am so full, have been all weekend. We ate white lasagna, garlic bread, moose steaks, pie, cream puffs, blond brownies, M&M cookies... Mom does love to bake and we gave her a hard time about it for most of the weekend. =) She was a good sport about it though.

I fly back to NYC tomorrow and I am sad to go. I love being with my family SO much, I'll miss them when I leave. I am very content that I was able to experience this with my sister and that she had her best post-chemo reaction yet! We talked a lot, laughed a lot and I even gave her a mini-manicure. Good times. I'll see everyone again in about a month and a half and I can't wait!

Here we are laughing at something - I don't remember what - but I think this picture captures our family dynamic well.

Aren't we cute!?

Matching Q-balls!

My visit to Camp Chemo

Hey again everyone,

Sis has gone to bed, so I figured I'd post about my experience at Camp Chemo. I must say, I wasn't sure what to expect, but it was A LOT more pleasant than I imagined. Everyone was so friendly and they were funny and really great with my sister. We all laughed quite a bit.

I felt a bit awkward at times because my sister and I would be talking and we'd laugh and I felt like I was being too loud. Candace said it was an unusually quiet Friday and sure enough, by the afternoon, it started to fill up.

She did such a great job - so calm about everything and smiling. She did say she felt queasy even before the first drug was given - a Pavlovian response of some sort, I am sure - but she was a trooper! I kept worrying that she was going to get sick or miserable, but she had great energy up until she got half-way through that last bag of drugs. She laughed at me because of all the pictures I took... she got up to go to the bathroom at one point and I asked if I should document her trip. She burst out laughing saying she knew I was going to say that!

Here's a little slide show of my Camp Chemo documentation:

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Shave and a haircut... two bits

We are having a great weekend so far! Sis is feeling the best she ever has post-chemo and it's so wonderful to see her. One of our orders of business this weekend was to shave off her hair. See the fun slide show below:

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Expecting a Visitor

I am eagerly awaiting the arrival of my sister from NY. She comes in at 10:30pm as long as flights out of JFK are on time (crossing my fingers). I have been informed that I cannot go pick her up and should be snug in bed at that time. I feel fine, slightly tired, but my red blood counts went down at this last count. I'm anemic. Unlike white counts, this one affects how you feel - tired and logy. They can't be too much lower because I don't feel like I have less energy than normal. Still, everyone wants me to rest, and they're right so I will have energy to whoop it up this weekend with my sis! Shopping, dining, spa and theatre! Yeah, right. More like movies, napping, and movies, woo-hoo. I only see my sister a few times a year and she comes when I can barley move off the couch. If she had only come on an "off" weekend... but she wants to share my experience and be there for me in my darkest hour. Very sweet, but it will be boring. Don't say I didn't warn you. At any rate, I'm thrilled to see her and we'll enjoy our time having an animated, lucid conversation for the hour drive into chemo tomorrow morning.

I'm excited about our one major planned activity, besides eating (Mom is cooking again for an army), and that is head shaving! Good-bye hair that IS NOW noticeably thinning on top. My natural part has widened into the Grand Canyon. It's time and I have clippers all ready to go. Pictures and stories forthcoming, but give me until Turn-around Tuesday. - Candace

Saturday, November 3, 2007

My Onc Visit, a retrospective

This is a blog entry I started last Friday while I was getting juiced. I didn't finish and then I left the land of the living for several days. It had some good info so I added the last paragraph and decided to post retroactively. For more recent happenings read the next one I posted earlier today.

We are live at Camp Chemo, which happens to be a perfect place to blog because I am stuck in place with not much else to do. I’ll save my movie for later when I get fed up with the snoring coming from the cubby next to me. All is going well. The only different thing today is that I’m getting a flu shot. Unfortunately, I can’t use my port for that too. It has to be injected into muscle. I thought my port was the answer to everything painful.

I saw the onc today and she is pleased with the progress. The nodes I can touch are fingertip sized now. Isn’t that great!? One more treatment and in theory the cancer should be gone. Another month and a half and I will get a PET to confirm that there is no cancer left. Then the following three months are security chemo to make sure the cancer stays gone. I also realized that I am in the single digit countdown now – 9 more treatments to go. Hey, is that a light up yonder beyond that tunnel?

I asked Dr. Chase about white blood cell counts and got the scoop. Before chemo started my WC (white count) was 8.1. The week after chemo was 4.2, then 3.something, then 2.4, and today is 2.5. They are low and will stay low, but not dangerous. The dangerous point is 1.0 or less.

More good news is that Kelly Kane is officially a Hodgkin’s SURVIVOR. Her final scan came back clean and she is now pronounced in remission. Congrats to her! Her blog is listed as a link to the left.

Some other news, neither good nor bad, is that my hair is falling out fast and furious now. Showering takes twice as long because of hair management. I have to collect as much hair as I can for trash disposal so it doesn’t clog the drain every shower. I would have good use for a pocket lint roller if there was such a thing as I leave hair on headrests, jacket collars, my pillow, and, well, just about everything. Something kinda funny was seeing all the strands flying around like a ticker tape parade when I was blow drying my hair. Only funny until I looked at the floor after all calmed down. Grumble, grumble about the clean up. Thank God I got a haircut and the strands are shorter, yet still not short enough for my strained patience. I see Haircut Part II in the near future. I said I’d wait until it’s noticeably thinner but I didn’t say to whom. Dennis and I concur that we notice; although, no one else would. Perhaps when my sister is here in a couple weeks a fun activity would be to shave my head. Are you up for it sis? Anyone want to be an accessory and have clippers I can borrow? - C

In the eye of the storm

Ahhh....sweet weekend. My good weekend. As a bonus, it's a windy, rainy, cold day thanks to Extratropical formerly known as Hurricane Noel. That's why I entitled this entry the eye. It's a perfect day to hunker, collect one's thoughts, and recap this week's events. For me that started with NAUSEA. Once again, the side effects directly after chemo elude prediction. Last time, I had NO nausea. This time, while no vomiting, undertones of queasiness for four days. Yes, I took the Ativan (the stupid, sleepy stuff) and even tried the other pills that scared me because they were known to make people involuntarily twitchy. Freaky. I didn't want to be sleepy, so I took scary pills with a Benadryl chaser which takes care of that weird side effect. I believe that is when I slipped into that marathon sleepfest Dennis mentioned. And that was the alternative to Ativan? Come on!

My parents came up for the weekend and brought food, even if it was moose meat. Yippee! It only cost us a solid day of watching Lifetime network. Dennis escaped to the basement while I was stuck due to my lack of energy to move off the sofa or even utter a protest. Minor price, I say, for their fabulous help around the house. Thanks 'rents. Oh, the moose meat was quite tasty if you're wondering.

Dennis and I were supposed to drive to camp on Sunday, but I felt too nauseous and fatigued to travel hours in a car. On Monday, I still wasn't feeling hot, but we were running out of time. We had to be back on Wednesday and I really wanted to get up there one more time. I decided to go, gambling that I was going to be feeling better at any moment. It was a tough car ride, didn't talk much and tried to sleep the whole way, hoping I didn't just make a mistake.

Everyone has their special places that are worth nauseous car rides and Camp is one of mine. It is at Upper Dam between two beautiful lakes, a place so pristine and untouched. There are no phones, no internet, no noise, and it's darn COLD this time of year. Dennis was my hero, the firemaster, making sure that camp stayed toasty with its two wood-burning stoves. He got up with me twice each night. He stoked the fires and I used the restroom. The place stayed right around 60 degrees while it dropped into the 30s overnight. By Tuesday, someone flipped a switch and I felt 100% better. Ah, finally something that is reliable treatment to treatment - Turning Point Tuesdays. From then on it was a great mini-vacation. I went for walks, cooked meals, and took pictures which are in the slide show.

Mouth sores came and went this week, again. Something else predictable. I got blood drawn locally for a CBC, where I have become a lab VIP. I went to check in at registration like last time and she said I have a recurring account, no need to check in, go directly to the lab. I'm too special for paperwork. At the lab there's a standing order for them to take my blood whenever I show up. So, In theory, I can go in more than once per week and they HAVE to take my blood. Not going to test it, but that's V-I-P I tell you. Next time I'll be aware of others waiting with no paperwork and give them a wink or a nod. And I want my name engraved on a little gold chip and hung on a wooden board with other VIPs. Thanks.

Oh, great job everyone coming up with boat names for our little vessel. They have been good, but nothing has jumped out and grabbed us as yet, so we're still taking all your thoughts. Love, Candace
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Saturday, October 27, 2007

The day after chemo and the Free Boat

Hello all,
Candace is pretty zonked post chemo again so I am filling in and posting for her. She has started a post but has yet to publish it. Stay tuned.
We had a very busy week last week, both with work and a little bit of fun thrown in on the side. Candace and I were given a free boat last weekend and the big move to store it at our house was on Friday at the same time as Candace's chemo. So we had a "ask a friend to drive to chemo day" while Dennis moves the boat. Candace called on my "boat mom" and all around good person Wendy Ford to drive her down to Brunswick at 8:00 am. Here is a shot I took when I finally arrived to relieve Wendy at Camp Chemo.

Blood counts were up a little from last week so that is good. It is the first time we have seen them go up since the treatment started. Her white count is still quite low so still no hugs or crowded places for a while. She also got her flu shot after chemo so lets hope it works. We don't need to get the flu during treatment.
You can see Candace has truly set up camp, complete with stuffed animals, water bottles and lunch.
The chemo side effects seem to be a little different each round. This time she had slight nausea and was very tired right after treatment. The nausea seemed to get better after she took her meds but she slept for 15 hours straight before she got up this morning to greet her parents. After watching her mom clean the bathrooms and vacuum (thanks Carol) we had a marathon watching of Lifetime weekend movies (not for me, I cleaned the basement) and a nice dinner of chicken soup and salad. That was the day for Candace and she went to bed at 8:00 to get rested up for our mini vacation to my family's summer place in the Rangeley lakes. Should be very restful. I am sure we will have some pictures to post as Candace can't go up without her camera.
Speaking of pictures here are some shots of our FREE boat from Craigslist. It was right down the river from our house and fit all our needs for a weekender so we had to go for it. I want to thank Chip for his generous gift and Garth and Carlos for their help getting it home. Candace and I had a nice trip up the river to the public landing but we had no wind so it was the motor for us. We will sail it next year after much cleaning and painting.

Rowing out to pick it up

Boy there are a lot of rocks in this river!

Up the Weskeag River

In our Yard!

OK, so I know all our boat friends are chuckling at us owning a boat like this but I have to remind them of a few things. It was free (thanks Chip), We don't have a boat we can weekend in, It was free.
So the boat is named Oyster, but we are going to go against tradition and rename it. Here is where we could use some help and if your name is chosen you will win a sail with us next summer! OK, you can probably come for a sail anyway but we do want your ideas.
That's it for now, tomorrow is a new day!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Haircut, Part I

"Some people don't lose their hair", they said to me. Well, I can let go of any hope that I would be "some" people. I am officially shedding more than the dog. When I first noticed more than my usually shedding, I decided I would get a haircut and donate to the Locks of Love Foundation while I still had enough hair to donate. I happened to be in Auburn visiting my parents and had time for a haircut so I went to the salon I used when I was in high school. My stylist was Ashley, an ultra-hip, twenty-something who had given the little girl before me big ringlets. Seems appropriate for a little girl, except the girl was actually more like 12 and wearing a polo shirt, khaki pants, skater sneakers, and a big sheepish grin when leaving the salon. Okay, so Ashley is a girlie-girl, but I'll trust that she will give me a haircut for a person my age. We start off great dividing my hair into ponytails of 10 inches for Locks of Love, cut them all off and bagged them. Then she washed my hair and we talked about what to do next. I told her short, very short, otherwise I didn't care what she did. Have fun, I said. I don't think she quite understood that I would eventually not have any hair becasue she was asking questions like how fast does my hair grow. I ended up with a "wedge" haircut, which apparently puts much of the volume in the back of my head, if you style it so, which I will never do. She did though, to the nines. She left it long enough to be feminine and stylish. Not necessary, but fine. I resigned myself to the fact that this haircut will be an intermediate step. That's why this entry is labeled "part I". The important part was Locks of Love and that was accomplished. The gel product and curling iron came out and I simply threw up my hands. All the other stylists were so complimentary, congratualting Ashley on her poofy masterpiece. She had given me, a young woman, the haircut of Hilary Clinton or Nancy Pelosi, 60 year old politicians. I graciously said I liked it to everyone smiling and nodding at me and smiled big when leaving, just like the little girl before me.

I should have taken a photo of the finished product just for kicks, but I didn't . As you can see in the latest Camp Chemo picture, the haircut does not have to look like Hilary Clinton. It does alright as a choppy, bed-heady haircut too. Part II will be a buzz cut when thining becomes noticable. I have a long way and a lot of hair to go first. - Candace

Monday, October 22, 2007

The importance of white blood cells

Okay, so we are post chemo now and I actually went to a wedding the next day. It was no big deal. I rested all day so I had energy enough to go, and nausea was in check this time. The questionable part was being around many people and their various stages of health. See, every week I get a complete blood count, and every week my white blood cell count has been dropping. Your white blood cells are the part of your immune system that fights germs. I don't know exactly what would happen if I got sick, but I know it would be bad. It was frustrating being at the wedding constantly trying to avoid physical contact with my friends and not shaking hands when meeting someone new. I was being a jerk for my own good. I did congratulate and hug the bride and groom. I couldn't be that much of a jerk. Despite that, I am glad I was there. It was a good time.

Don't you just want to hug me? But you can't!

Like Sis eluded to, I was dead tired on Sunday and Monday after chemo. It hit me like a ton of bricks and I was not prepared because I didn't go through this the first time. I got depressed wondering if I was going to feel this way from now on. I slept a lot and felt no more rested. In fact, sleep was not the solution. Even when I was not sleepy I still could not muster energy to get off the sofa. To add insult to injury, mouth sores were getting worse. It was a low point and this was worth crying over, more than once. Dennis was awesome and took good care of me, but I knew he was worried and it bothers him when I cry. By Tuesday I had my mojo back and I went to work, mouth sores and all. I can't recall when the mouth sores eventually went away. I got too busy to notice, but I am free of them at the moment just in time to have chemo again this Friday.

It may seem like it, but chemo is not the enemy. It's on my side and it's helping. Bugs and germs are my enemies right now. Chemo, though, is like the "inside man" sabotaging my fight by keeping my white cell count low. I had such a busy week work wise last week I thought I'd pushed it too far as I felt achy, fatigued, and had a slight sore throat. I'm so hypersensitive to signs of sickness that I worried and fretted until I could get to a thermometer. My temp was normal, thank god. Short of locking myself in the house, I think I am being good about taking precautions to not get sick. I'm drinking lots - fruity waters and echinacea tea mostly. Eating more than my share to keep up strength. I go to bed early. And I swear I could be the poster child for the "Wash Your Hands" campaign. Let's hope these things will keep me healthy (Well, that's relative isn't it? You know I mean germ-free). - Candace

P.S. - I just learned that Felicity Huffman's character in Desperate Housewives has "the Hodge". I don't watch the show, but I may start just to see how they play out the cancer parts.

Let me take you back....

Whoa! What a crazy, busy week it was for me last week. I wanted to post all week, but in the beginning it was severe fatigue keeping me and then when I felt better I had to work. So quickly, let me take you back to two Fridays ago for chemotherapy number 2, then we'll get into more recent stuff.

It was pouring buckets as Dennis and I hurried into the building, our arms full of camp "stuff". In addition to my bag o' blanket and pillow, the computer bag, and my "office" backpack with books and the chemo folder in it, we had a cooler with popsicles this time. The staff must think we are nuts. I also brought my new friend, a stuffed black lab named Porter because he has a port in him. Carissa, a vet, doctored him up to have a port just like me. Speaking of ports, my Borg-like port is a beautiful thing. I was a little nervous about using it, but Mikee the pro told me to take a deep breath...and...e-x-h-a- JAB! The needle was in. Sneaky, but I liked it. I stopped exhaling when I felt the quick prick of the needle and held my breath to take stock of any further pain I might be feeling, but there was none. Short story, I love the port. I did the chemo Ativan-free this time, cool as a cucumber was I. Like sis said, between the popsicles, water, and IV fluids my eyeballs were swimming. From here on out, there's nothing new to chemo and it will be a boring routine. I don't know why my family is excited to experience it. It'll be exciting to them for the first half hour, then they'll want to go shopping at the mall next door.

One more thing, another shout out of thanks to all for continued support through your comments, emails, phone calls, care packages, cards, and now cooking (loved the soup and cookies Cheryl and Erik!) Hugs and Kisses from afar as I have to be extremely careful of germs, which is the topic of the next post. Feast or famine with the blog thing, right? - Candace

This is Porter. Look, matching ports!

Cute Comfy slippers given to me in a care package from Ted and Marjorie (Dennis' brother and sister in law)

A Quick Update

I wanted to give you all a quick update as Candace has been too busy to post! I'll just give you an overview and leave the details for her to post later.

She's more fatigued than ever, but she's in great spirits. Her second trip to Camp Chemo went well. Her port performed swimmingly and she ate popsicles and drank lots of ice water to help reduce the possibility of mouth sores. As a result, she had to take numerous bathroom breaks!

She went to a wedding the next day and ate TONS of food. She got tired halfway through and was so disappointed to leave before dessert.

Her nodes have shrunk even further (yee haw!) and she is starting to lose her hair. She has ridiculously thick hair, so i figure it will be a while before the hair loss is noticeable. As a preemptive measure, she got her hair cut last week and is donating the trimmings to Locks of Love.

Every time I call her, she's working on something or walking dogs... it's great to see her so active and determined, but I hope she takes a moment to rest, too! Anyway, that's the brief update, I hope everyone is well.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Check out this Documentary

Spoke with Sis last night. She sounded so tired on the phone, but by the time we were done speaking she had perked up a bit. She told me about a documentary she watched recently that was really eye opening and I thought I'd share the details with you all. It is called The Breast Cancer Diaries. Here's a blurb from the movie's webpage:

Ann Murray Paige was a successful local anchorwoman in Maine before she put her career aside to raise her children. At age 38, after being diagnosed with breast cancer, Ann returns to her familiar place in front of the camera-this time, however, exploring herself as the subject.

Sis was really struck by the segment about hair loss - probably because she is just starting to notice hair loss of her own. Sis shaved her head back in the day and looked amazing, so I am sure being bald will suit her very well... and besides, family and friends have knit her some rockin' hats!

Anyway, if you are able, you should check out this documentary:

Friday, October 12, 2007

Feel Good Sailing Story w/ Photos

Now for a story completely not related to cancer. How about that for a change? In fact, like I said, sailing made me forget that I was fighting cancer. I planned to go on this trip before being diagnosed and feel a small victory that I kept a piece of my life normal by going. And I savored it all - weather, food, and company. It helped that the trip happened on my off weekend (no chemo) so that I felt well and wasn't taking any anti-nausea drugs. I knew hydration and sunblock would be important so I brought two 20oz bottles of Fruit2o per day to drink along with tea in the mornings and the Neutrogena.

We left last Friday and I was wearing shorts and t-shirt. The temp was gorgeous. Of course I packed for a blizzard becasue October weather in Maine can go both ways...often in the same day. Upon boarding I got hugs from the people that knew and Wendy knit me a portable "hug" in the form of a shawl. It's a beautiful autumn color. After that talk of Hodgkin's was limited and I just figured the rest of the people onboard didn't know. Dennis later told me everyone knew, and I thought they were extremely cool for letting me have this escape for a few days. At the end of the day Friday we ended up off of Calderwood Island where the crew cooked up some lobster and we enjoyed a picnic. My friend Carissa and I hiked up to the top of the island to get some stellar shots of the boat and the beach. It was an awesome first day! I forgot to mention that I took an afternoon nap everyday out on the water (ahh, luxury) .

Saturday was another gorgeous, warm day with very little wind, though. Stuffed myself silly with the good food, justifying the extra helpings with the fact that one of the side effects of chemo is weight loss. Okay, so it wasn't a side effect for me per se, but somewhere I was eating for someone experiencing weight loss. That night the mess cook with the strong melodic voice sang for us and I gave Dennis a licking in Cribbage while the rain came down. By morning, the sky cleared for another sunny day, but the temp was drastically colder and it was breezy. I brought out the blizzard clothes and felt even hungrier working to stay warm. More justification for pounding the extra calories. Great sail that day!

Monday we docked back in Camden and we said goodbye to our new friends. Now all those in the know wished me well and told me to keep up the good attitude. Yes, I was back to the reality. I went back to work that afternoon and skipped my afternoon nap from then on :(

So, here are some of the photos from that trip. - Candace
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Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Yay! Improvement!

Hello one and all,

I really want to share the great trip I had aboard Angelique this past weekend where at times I actually forgot I'm fighting cancer, but some good medical news trumps a good feeling story for now. I saw my onc today and she confirmed what I had been thinking this past week which is that the nodes I can touch (in neck and armpits) are feeling smaller. I needed to hear it from the professional before I started my TAKE THAT CANCER! dance. She said I should start noticing reduction from the first treatment and I was skeptical, but hopeful. I am so relieved that I am responding to the ABVD. On the down side this week, a new side effect...mouth sores. They are not bad right now. Eating and brushing my teeth are still pleasant experiences. Cryotherapy can help reduce mouth sores as the cold limits the amount of chemo drug reaching the mouth. That means Popsicles for me at the next Camp Chemo! Speaking of which, Dennis and I are going back to Camp Chemo this Friday afternoon for treatment 1B. I am not nearly as anxious about this one. I am more anxious about using the port for the first time. They will do another blood count then too, but I am feeling really good right now, so am not worried.

Tomorrow I do expect a big fat headache as I finally have the time to grab the bull by the horns and tackle the pile of insurance correspondence and docotor bills that have started to mount. Ugh! We're talking hours on the phone with the insurance company until I understand where every nickel and dime (more like hundred and thousand) is coming from and going to. I work too hard to blindly pay out, and get this, I already found an office visit that I shouldn't have been charged for. I just want to do my part to keep the system honest and in so doing, hopefully, lower premiums to an affordable level for most people.

When I come up for air after having my head buried in paperwork tomorrow, I hope to share my wonderful weekend of sailing complete with photos of a happy me.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Proud Owner of a Brand New Mediport

First of all, I want to thank everyone, including my new cancer-fighting friends, for leaving comments on my blog. I love them all! It's a great feeling knowing people are with me every step of the way and that others care about my well-being.

Now a caveat: Today is the first day I've experienced real fatigue, so I can only hope this entry makes sense when all is said and done. I'll rebound, no worries. Just over did it a little in the past few days.

On Tuesday I had surgey to implant a port under my skin in my chest that feeds into a major vein. The idea behind it is that chemo drugs can be administered and blood can be drawn without painful IVs constantly in my arms. Frankly, my little wimpy veins would never have held up over time, so I am very glad to have the port. I thought I was going to see my snazzy port in action today because I had my first blood count after starting chemo. Mikee started poking around to find the siliconey center of the port and it really hurt. Duh, it was surgically implanted just 2 days ago! Alas, I wimped out and opted for a prick in the arm (my other arm) this time. Test driving my new toy will have to wait one more week. I have read the owner's manual and am ready to go. No joke, they give the patient an owner's manual for the "hardware" like I chose this Boston Scientific product off the shelves for "installation". These ports can actually stay in people for years, so I guess it's not out of the question that some people self-stab and need the instructions.

The procedure took a whopping half hour. Ah, but I waited in my little johnny, in my little room, with an IV protruding from my hand for several HOURS. Operating room delays and emergency appendectomies (how dare they!) pushed my surgery from 12:45 to the very last one of the day. In the meantime, I haven't eaten a thing since dinner last night and I'm thinking they can save the anesthesia becasue I'm going to pass out from hunger. I kept thinking about the chocolate cake I passed on the way to my room. My nurse brought that in to celebrate her birthday month (and to taunt me). There had better be a piece left for me when this is all over. In addition, there was the strong aroma of coffee wafting down the halls ALL DAY LONG. I imagined the nurses downing yet another cup in between patient visits. Bill went home to be with the dogs eventually and it was just Mom and I playing the waiting game. Finally, my surgeon Dr. Curtis popped in for a visit looking cool and calm despite his crazy day. Okay, here we go. As I was ramping up for my big moment, the rest of the ward was a complete ghost town. I passed empty room after empty room on my way to the OR. I was Curtis's last stand for that day. Ewww, sorry, bud pun.

That means I'm done for now. I'll be sailing on Angelique this weekend, so you all go and have fun too. BTW, my blood counts were excellent! Yay! - C

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Family Field Trip to Camp Chemo

Is it strange to be so excited for my first visit to Camp Chemo? I am heading up to Maine November 8th so I can be there for my sister's third trip to camp. The 'rents are taking the day off and we're going to hang with our "Hodgkin's Warrior Princess" (thank you to Morgan for coining that term).

I am just thrilled to be able to directly participate in SOMETHING. It is so tough to be down in NYC and not be there to help. Sis and I have great phone conversations though, so I suppose that's something. =)

Anyway, I'll let you know how our field trip goes next month. For now, stay tuned for port installation updates and keep those comments coming. They are really encouraging for the entire family and they help to keep our spirits up!

Monday, October 1, 2007

Back to work

Hello all!
Today was Candace's first day back at work after her first chemo treatment and she did great! It was a short day and she is pretty tired but she made it through. Her day started with a Sadie walk followed by four of her normal clients. I will be picking up the slack when Candace can't walk dogs due to treatment and other scheduling problems. Tomorrow is the big day to get the port put in. Wish her luck! For info about ports check out
It is a page from another blog and it has some great shots and illustrations. Be aware they are a bit graphic.
Be well,

Sunday, September 30, 2007

How do I feel now?

I Upon arriving home from chemo on Friday, I lost my Snickers Bar. Perhaps not the best choice if nausea is a worry, but it really wasn't when I left there. I felt strong and happy that I had won the fear battle. Alas, I got increasingly more nauseated on the drive home, walked into the house, and felt this feeling that I haven't felt in years. I tried to remember what to do when you have to vomit. I was out of practice. Running to the toilet was not coming to mind. Bucket was for some reason, and since I was in the kitchen, I quickly rifled through the pots in the cabinet and chose the spaghetti pot. Then, I took it outside and proceeded to use it on the deck, I think becasue Dennis was still outside but not real sure of my thought process on that one. Unmistakeable nutty, chocolatey....

I took an anti-nausea/sedative pill that evening and was dead to the world. Dennis was having phone converstations right next to me and I can't remember him being on the phone. I woke up the next day alert and feeling a ton better. No nausea, but the doc said to take another pill in the morning and so I did and wound up back in stupidville for hours. This is the same drug I liked so much while I was having chemo, but I hated now for how useless it made me. Dennis got me out of the house while still a bit doped to walk Sadie and that help the effects wear off completely. I still have a little nausea now and again, but I'd rather deal with being a little uncomfortable than out of my mind, thank you. And no, just because I'm not using them doesn't mean anyone else can :) More after the surgery on Tuesday to put the port in.

Straight from the Horse's Mouth

Hi, hello. It's me - the butt-kicking soon-to-be cancer survivor. I like the sound of that. Thanks sis for setting up this blog and making it super easy to do. I don't know if I'll be as good at it as Dennis, but one way or another my stoy will get told.

As you know, last Friday was my first day at Camp Chemo. We are calling it that becasue we packed up cards, books, blankets, photos, stuffed animals, and movies like we were going to a fun-filled day at camp. The place where I am being treated is in Brunswick, a good hour and fifteen minutes from home. We started out late of course as we fielded phone calls from everyone wishing us well. The drive started out well, but as I got closer to the exit I started panicking. I got very quiet and nervous - so nervous that my teeth were chattering. It was as if I was going out on stage in front of millions of people. Dennis parked the car and I followed him reluctantly into the building. I didn't want to do this. I didn't feel ready, but I had to begin so I'd know. He held the door for me and urged me into the room. I took a deep breath and went to check in. A beautiful bouquet of flowers was waiting for me at the front desk. They were from Mom and Bill. Oh,no. It was taking all I had to concentrate on being brave. Their sweet, unaticipated gesture broke my concentration and I felt like sobbing, but they were going to call me back there at any moment. I took deep breaths to stop this wave of emotion. Once we started the routine of height, weight, temp, etc. my mind was busy again.

One of the first things Mikee, my RN, did for me once the IV was in place was to administer a sedative. My anxiety was blatant. If I looked stoned in the photos Dennis posted, it's because I was. The first drug was a long-lasting anti-nausea. The next four drugs were the ABVD. Three of them were "pushed", meaning manually injected slowly via syringe. Those went fast. The last drug was a two hour drip. We watched a movie called "Puffy Chair". Then it was over, just like that. I felt nothing but sedated the whole time and my vein held up beautifully (but my IV arm is a bit sore now). Whew! Now the scary unknown is much more known. I can't rest on my laurels though becasue each treatment can be different. Now comes the uncertainty of what my days in between will be like.

In the begining

Hello all,

Candace feels pretty normal this morning and is out with her mom and Bill (step dad) shoe shopping for an upcoming wedding.

I thought I would write a quick note to bring everyone up to speed on Candace's condition as some of you may not know the whole story. I should have posted this first but I was so excited to put Camp Chemo picks up that I forgot you might not have the whole story.

In late June or early July Candace noticed some lumps in her neck and thought that they were stiff muscles and would go away in time. She then noticed swelling under her arms and felt it was time to go to the doctor (if she could find one taking new patients). She found a doctor in Waldoboro named Dr. Love (no joke) who, along with his wife Dr. Webb, MD (also no joke) felt Candace should see a surgeon. Off she went to Damariscotta to meet with Dr. Miller for a fine needle aspiration biopsy. The results were found to be inconclusive so it was off to the hospital for a surgical procedure to remove a part of a lymph node under her arm. The results from this test came back positive for Hodgkin's disease, a very treatable type of lymphoma.

Next came more tests to find how far the cancer had progressed (called staging). It was not a fun time for Candace. If you want to find out how un-fun just ask her. It was determined that she was at stage IIA. The A means that she is displaying no symptoms (other than the swelling).

Candace then interviewed oncologists at different cancer centers before settling on Dr. Trudi Chase from the Maine Center for Cancer Medicine in Brunswick.

For a layman's version of the staging levels, a brief overview of Hodgkin's and to look the site of the center that is treating Candace go to

Check out my first post to look at pics of the Chemo lounge.. I will be posting more photos of the facility and the great staff in the future.

Be well,

Saturday, September 29, 2007

The First Day at CAMP CHEMO

Candace had her first chemo treatment yesterday and she is doing GREAT! She was a tad bit sick last night but we went on a long walk with Sadie this morning and she had a big lunch and dinner and feels normal. Lets hope this is how it will be the whole time she is in chemo. She says she is not ready to post yet but I thought I would show off some pics from her first day at what will be known from now on as CAMP CHEMO.

The stuffed animal is a gift from the private collection of Ava Demer, the Daughter of Sara Gray and James Demer. The Blanket is grudgingly on loan from Sadie the dog. Music is Amilie courtesy of Melanie Kuchinski Rodriguez.