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
Make a PhotoShow Full Size

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,