Monday, September 28, 2015

New drug, new side effects

It's been a while since I posted...I was feeling too awful to even get on the computer for a few days, and then when I did it was to do some work and get off again. I posted about this a bit on facebook, but I thought I should capture it for posterity here on the blog as well as fill in the details and updates.

So almost three weeks ago now I got my first infusion of Taxol, and I've already talked about how it went for the first week or so. I figured I was pretty well out of the woods and on my way toward getting better and better and ready for the next one, scheduled for last Wednesday (the 23rd). Monday night (the 21st), we had some friends over for dinner and games. I noticed I had a couple itchy spots, but didn't really think anything of it; plus, I was distracted by the games and company. As we were winding down the night and the excitement wore off, I started feeling considerably more itchy. After our friends left, we discovered I had hives over part of my torso and on the inside of my thighs. I called the after-hours number for advice, took Benadryl, Michael ran off to the closest 24-hour drug store for some anti-itch lotion, and we finally went to bed.

The next morning, the hives had spread and there were about double what had been there the night before. We called the doctor again, and he prescribed a stronger antihistamine. Michael picked that up along with some other cream since the first two didn't really work. The itching was insanely bad. Torturous, even. That night, we realized I had a fever as well. It got as high as 100.7 so we called the doctor again, but they said to just monitor it and go to the ER if it hit 102. We set our alarm to wake us up every four hours to keep a steady flow of antihistamines going as well as to monitor my temperature.

The hives continued to spread and I continued to suffer. Wednesday we went in for my appointment, and the doctor agreed that I shouldn't do chemo that day. He also said I could up the dose on the antihistamines. Michael went back to the store and this time got Burt's Bees Aloe and Buttermilk lotion, which ended up working better than everything else we'd d tried.

The blood work showed my WBCs were high (good I guess, since I was fighting an infection) and RBCs, hematocrit, and hemoglobin were still slightly low but higher than the time before. I have noticed the fatigue is not so bad and I can do more physical stuff without getting tired or getting my heart racing.

Anyway, on Friday I woke up with no hives. There was still some residual itchiness, but it was very mild. My temperature was back to normal. What a huge relief! It felt so good to be back to...well, the new normal. And I was able to have a good weekend and visit with friends.

As for what caused the rash, it's hard to say. It's not an uncommon reaction to Taxol, but usually it happens in the first 24-48 hours, not nearly two weeks later. We did read that Taxol can create sensitivities to foods you previously had no allergy to, so I could have a new food allergy. Most likely suspects, judging from what I ate on Monday, are pistachios and strawberries. So, I won't eat any nuts or strawberries at least until chemo is over just to be safe.

So, my chemo trip will be a week longer than originally planned. While I'm not pleased about that, maybe this week allowed my counts to bounce back a bit and this treatment won't be as hard on me. Only three more to go...I'm kind of excited to get back on track this week and get a start on the final seven weeks of this leg of the journey. Let's do this!

Monday, September 21, 2015

Cancer survival story: Say goodbye to stage 4!

Ev three months after chemo. With hair
and ready to get back in the saddle! 
Here is another great, inspirational story from a friend of mine who is a cancer survivor. Congratulations to Ev for beating this terrible disease, and thank you for sharing your story! My update below.

If you would like to share your story, send me a message on facebook or email me. You can choose whether to include a picture or your full name or stay anonymous.

My Cancer Journey is a little different than Jennifer’s, but still one that should be shared for educational purposes.  September is Ovarian Awareness Month, so on that thought let me begin my story. 
July of 2011 I started to have some abdominal issues, with gastric pain, bloating, irregular bowels (I have always been very predictable in my body functions), fatigued, gassy, and generally just not up to feeling like myself. Phone calls and visits to my GP led to some regular medications for gas and bloating and pain related to that.  Weeks later, I still had the same issues, was more miserable, and off to the doctor’s office again.  New meds, blood tests, and a wait and see again.  My appetite was not good; if you are bloated, having bowel issues, and gas you don’t want to eat.  
Back to the Doctor again, this time for liver enzyme tests, to see if I had a liver issue, as my abdomen was swollen and painful. That came back negative. Then after having been free of menses for over a year, I started again, more bloated and painful. Off for more blood tests, this time for CA125( Cancer test), and an appointment for an X-ray.
X-ray was inconclusive, as they couldn’t see in there, something was blocking their view. I overheard the tech and the doctor talking about sending me to the hospital for more tests. They called my doctor instead, who scheduled me for an ultrasound. Finally on Halloween, there was a diagnosis. Possible Ovarian Cancer.
I went to a Gynocologist/Oncologist in Salinas. He did an ultrasound. I waited several days for another appointment with him, where he informed me that I had a huge tumor, and he did not have the expertise to handle the surgery for it. He sent me to another Oncology/Gyno doctor in Los Gatos for a consult. During this time, my abdomen continued to grow, gain weight, and my ability to move around and do daily activities without becoming physically exhausted and out of breath became worse.
We discussed surgery dates and prices for for the procedure and outcome potential.  They would not do a biopsy until they removed the tumor, which had grown considerably in size, and I looked like I was carrying twins. Financially, our family thought this was doable.  I hadn’t worked since October 31st; my business still existed but I cancelled all appointments with no idea when I would return. My business landlord was kind enough to not demand rents, but waited to hear what I was going to do and when I would return to open shop. The decision was made for a surgery possibly the week of Thanksgiving. I waited for confirmation of the date for this, but was told by the doctor that if for any reason I was too sick to function or felt the need, to go immediately to the ER at the hospital I was scheduled for surgery at and tell them to call him.
I lasted until the Sunday before Thanksgiving. I was full of ascites fluid, and little known to any of us, including the doctors, blood clots. Saturday night and Sunday morning,  I was having what I thought was congestion due to asthma. Sunday evening I asked to be taken to the hospital.  I couldn’t breath.
The trip took a while. The hospital was in Mt. View, which is quite the drive from Monterey County. On arrival I needed to be wheeled into the ER; I couldn’t even walk the 100 feet from the car to the desk.  They took me to an ER bed and triaged me quickly. After some tests to determine that I was full of blood clots and ascites, they made a room up for me, and the Doctor arranged to see me in the morning. I had specialists for lung, heart, and tumor checking on me, and a surgeon trying to figure out when I would be well enough to perform a much needed surgery.  They put a screen in my heart via my neck to catch the clots, so I would not stroke or die.  I was on blood thinners, which would complicate a surgical procedure for me. The decision was made I would have surgery the day before Thanksgiving.  If I didn’t have surgery, I might die.  
On the way to surgery, the anesthesiologist counseled me and informed me he had a better chance of me dying in surgery than making it, but he would do all he could to keep me alive and my brain alive. He hoped to talk to me after surgery.  I have an allergy to demerol and fentynol,  the two most common drugs used for surgery. The decision was to use polypropynol (the Michael Jackson drug) as that was the safest for me.  I survived the surgery which involved removing a 40lb angry ovarian tumor, which was luckily encapsulated, and 14 lymph nodes. Biopsy came back with positive results for stage 3b/4 Ovarian cancer, It did appear it had not invaded my abdomen though!  I was left in a drug induced coma, for about 36 hrs.  
I awoke after having been not the ideal patient or being very nice to family and friends. I don’t remember what  I did or or said. I was under the influence of some some pretty powerful medications, and eventually weaned over to morphine, which is about the only hospital drug my body can handle without going into shock.  I had fluid on the lungs, and I was on IV and oxygen. I needed two lung taps.  I was moved from CCU to PCU, and then a private room with catheters and tubes to drain my belly, IV and nose tubes. I remained in PCU for a week. I remember being whisked away for CAT scans, ultrasounds, and having other machines for tests brought to my room.
Finally the catheter was removed, but the belly tube remained and they were trying to get me to use the facilities on my own.  I tore a stitch over the second weekend of my hospital stay. The nurses didn’t think it was a big deal, it was a little wound, on the big wound. By Wednesday it smelled like rotten meat and didn’t look right.  I had two huge hematomas in the surgical wound, which burst open and left an open wound the size of a dinner napkin. It was a mess, and it couldn’t be put back together with surgery. They packed it like a field surgical wound. They consulted with a wound vac doctor, and it was finally decided that would fix my issue. A little machine designed originally for combat veterans with battle wounds would be used on me to heal. I had a date I could possibly go home.
However, hospitals being what they are, not necessary staffed by people who use the best methods of cleaning themselves between patients, I got C-Dif, a nasty bug given to patients by people with dirty hands. That prolonged my stay by a week and kept me trapped in bed, weak and helpless.  Finally, a few days before Christmas 2011 I got to go home, with a portable wound vac system attached to me via tube and cords. They drugged me up good and sent me off in my daughter‘s little VW bug, on pillows and surrounded by pillows and blankets. I slept most of the way.
I enjoyed a small group of family and friends for the Holidays. Wound Vac still attached. I had visiting nurses 3 times a week to check my blood, well being, and nutrition, and change the vac bandages and reconnect the machine to me. I could not do chemo until the wound healed and the vac was removed. It would be the first of March 2012 before I was healed enough to have the vac removed completely and finish healing with regular bandages on my belly. Middle of March a chemo port was installed, and a week later I began my chemo of Carboplatin and Taxol. Every third week thru the first of July I received my chemo. Week before chemo it was time for blood draws and waiting for results to be sure I was well enough to do the next chemo.
I had to have steroids orally the day before the first chemo orally, after that it was via the chemo catheter, along with a cocktail of things to relax me, calm my restless legs, and kill the cancer.
Always 24-36 hrs after chemo I would experience excruciating pain in my bones throughout my body. Hydrocodone did not help with the pain. So for 24 hrs or so, I would go to bed with a heating pad and as much pain med as I could handle, in a dark room and in fetal position it until the pain subsided. 
There were a plethora of oral drugs given to me or on hand to handle all the symptoms from the chemo meds, pain meds, and steroids. Everything from stool softeners to sleep aids, to pills for stomach discomfort and vomiting. Eating was a chore. Things sounded exciting or tasty until I got them, and then a few bites later I was done. Going anywhere became a chore. Being bald over my entire body felt foreign and alien.  Being too weak to walk from one part of the house to the other was hard, no concentration to read or watch TV, except light programming like daytime talk shows and such. Not being allowed to touch my horses or go places was hard. Driving was out of the question; someone had to take me to get meds, or to doctor appointments or chemo.
By the end of my chemo program, I was anxious that the cancer would be gone. I didn’t know if I could handle another round, and radiation was supposed to be in my future as well. The first week of July 2012 I was done with chemo. It was determined I would not need radiation. I was, for the time being, Cancer Free! 
It has been an uphill climb to resume my life and gain strength. Today I am still ovarian cancer free. I have had my BRCA tests done, and I am negative. This does not mean I can not get cancer again, or that I will survive another 5 to 10 years cancer free. The statistics for ovarian are not promising, but I feel fairly certain, and so does my oncologist, that I should remain clear.  
I urge everyone to be proactive in their health care. Persist if something doesn’t seem right. Ovarian is a very silent killer, as there are few symptoms, except those I experienced, and most doctors don’t go to that diagnosis quickly.
There is life after cancer/chemo. Things will never be the same, but the time spent slowing down to fight against cancer makes our life more meaningful to us, and our goals more within reach. I have learned who I can trust, who my true friends are, what I want out of life, and that simple pleasures mean more than anything, with those you love. 
--Ev Henry 
As for me, I'm doing OK. I still get tired way faster than I wish I did. I do get out a little; today it was lunch and Costco. The rash on my hands seems to be a little better, and I've slept better the past few nights. My hands are a little shaky, but I think that is part of a general shakiness/weakness I've felt since I started chemo. I sometimes hear it in my voice, and I'm generally clumsier and fumble things a lot. I just hadn't specifically looked at my hands to see if they shook until Michael asked about it today. No numbness or tingling, though, which would indicate neuropathy, so that's good.

Now to make sure I get a lot of protein and fluids in me in preparation for chemo #6 on Wednesday!

Friday, September 18, 2015

She went through all this and still beat it!

Following is a story sent by a friend who has been cancer free for several years. The amazing thing about this story is that she had a lot of unusual complications and still came through. My update at the bottom.

If you'd like to share your story, send me an email or a facebook message!

I had my routine mammogram in December of 2010. I got a call I think the first or second week of January that they wanted me to come in for a repeat. While I was there they said they saw something suspicious and they made an appointment with the surgeon so I could have a biopsy. When the report came back it was ductal carcinoma and while there was some encapsulated area, there was also some that wasn't. 

Surgery was scheduled for late February. I had opted for the lumpectomy on both the surgeon and oncologist recommendation. In my case, chemo and radiation were needed because I had an aggressive form of the disease. I was considered stage 3 because there were 14 lymph nodes involved.
So after I healed from the surgery it was time to start chemo. Since the chemo was going to be pretty strong my oncologist suggested I get a port put in. My first chemo was on St Patrick's Day 2011. And so the problems of my Murphy's Law saga begin. The nurse wasn't used to the kind of port I have and also said I had swelling still because the port was new and she couldn't access it. They had already started an IV for the pre-chemo drugs they gave me. So when it came time to get the chemo drug that is the most caustic, not only did she inject right into a vein, but into a small vein. My doctor was very upset and told her to make sure to flush it well.

My chemo day was Thursday, and I wasn't out of there that week until about 4:30. I felt fine and we went out to eat corned beef and cabbage after. I was supposed to go back in the next day to get a shot. The shot helps to keep your white count up and make you less prone to infections because your immune system is basically shot during chemo. So I went in for the shot Friday at 10:30 am. I still felt fine and went shopping with my friend and out to lunch. Well I am not sure of the cause of it and guess it doesn't matter, but did later find out that he shot should be given anywhere from 24 to 36 hours after chemo. So according to my oncologist I may have gotten the shot too soon, and instead of helping me it could have made matters worse. Or it could have been I was just run down, but later that evening I started to feel flushed and didn't feel good. I ignored it because my dog got sick that night and we had to take him into the vet. But after we got home I started feeling worse and took my temperature and realized I had a fever.

Sunday the temperature was 102 and we went to the ER. They said I had bronchitis and that it was going around. They would have sent me home, but since I was on chemo they decided to keep me. I ended up in the hospital for 9 days. I was getting sicker all the time and my hair was starting to fall out. My husband had gotten sick too and was not coming to the hospital that much because he didn't want to make me sicker. Finally when he did come and saw how sick I was we talked to the doctor. I was crying and told him I was going home because I was losing hair and was not going to do that in the hospital. By this time I now had double pneumonia and my white blood cell counts were barely above 0. i had to go home on oxygen and had to see a pulmonary specialist. Chemo was put on hold until I got well.

Also about this time I ran into a problem with food not tasting good. My husband was trying everything to get me to eat. We finally saw a nutritionist who helped with that and told me to eat small amounts even when it didn't taste good. So I finally got back to chemo about mid April. They cut the dose down some thinking that the first chemo could have been too strong for me. That chemo went fine. This visit I even got them to be able to figure out how to access the port. 
The following visit was probably the worst actual chemo session. They went to access the port and it had flipped totally around. A nurse tried to flip it back, but it hurt like heck and she couldn't flip it. The oncologist said he could flip it. Hurt even worse and it wasn't going to move. Hubby finally made them stop because he could see I was in agony. Went to the surgeon's office a day later and saw a different doctor who flipped it over and I didn't even feel it. But he said it probably wouldn't stay flipped. So I made an appointment to see my surgeon right before the next chemo. He flipped it and put the needle and IV tube in at his office and taped it down for that chemo and had me come to the hospital early in the morning before the next chemo where he had to take me to the OR and re-stitch it in place. 
The last 6 chemo sessions went fine as far as getting the chemo. Port worked fine and staff got used to it. But because of being in the study I was in, I got picked for the strong chemo and this one gave me bad pain all over. From Saturday afternoon until about Monday morning I was useless. Radiation was from early September until Oct. 20, 2011.
The biggest part of my story is that mammograms are super important for women who are at an age to have them. And that even when things go wrong you still need to plug along and fight and not give up. And that a good attitude is super important. And to be your own advocate.
I finished my treatment almost 4 years ago and am no evidence of disease. The advice I got was this: "it's hard and it's scary, but do what you have to do. Read up on things from appropriate sources, ask questions, pray if you are so inclined, talk to people and come to the best decision you can about what you want to do. But whatever happens, NEVER look back and don't question what you did or didn't do." That advice will save you a lot of grief.

Thank you, P.T., for sharing your story! I'm happy to say I haven't had any of these issues. As for my update...

I'm getting a little better each day. My energy is returning, and I can do a little more without my heart going into overdrive. Last night, putting on sunscreen to go out practically did me in, but even going up the stairs isn't too bad now if I don't go too fast. I sat at my computer for much of today and got a lot of work done, even with distracting myself with social media, and that's great. Then we had a visitor and went out to dinner, and by the time we were done, I was DONE. Yet, still ok to get on here and finish up this post.

I had no mouth sores this time, and in fact only had the sort of pulling sensation that indicates they're imminent on one day instead of the normal 3-4. I had a mild rash develop on the back of my hands today. I put lotion with aloe vera on it and it subsided a little. The stubble on my head is getting thinner/patchier, and my eyebrows seem lighter but they still look like normal eyebrows. I think my eyelashes are still intact, too. Definitely better than this point of the last cycle, so I'm hopeful that the next one will actually go a little better.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Swimming toward the shore

Charm bracelet with my treatment #5 charm, "Dancing
Queen." For the role of dancing in my life (when I'm better!),
but also a little shout out to my friend Cindy Mills.
I haven't posted in days because I haven't been able to get on the computer to do it. The past few days were the hardest so far. I felt like I was swimming in the open sea, barely keeping my head above water. Each day, I got a tiny bit closer to shore and I could see the end in sight, but it seemed so far away. So hard to reach.

I was so exhausted it hurt. Getting up to go to the bathroom or brush my teeth and do my mouth rinse, I'd balance on shaky legs and then after getting back in bed I'd pant until my wildly beating heart calmed. Even sitting at the table to eat was almost too much effort. I had little starbursts of pain that would fire off in various joints and bones on my body. The skin on my palms and feet feels thin, and sometimes it aches after touching something. My fingernails ached the day after treatment so I cut them short to prevent bumping them. I was constipated, and the discomfort in my gut added another layer to the mosaic of misery.

In case you didn't believe he was wonderful
already, Michael brings me fresh flowers
every couple of weeks. 
One night, I broke down in tears because I was so tired of feeling weak and exhausted. Having to get help with simple things is demoralizing. I hate being a burden, although Michael denies I am one. I feel guilty seeing him work so hard while I lie here. The fact that being sick gives me an excuse means nothing. I hate being this way. It sucks. I am not weak. I am the strong one. So many things that make me who I am have been robbed from me. Some of them I'll get back. Some I won't.

Today, I feel like I'm in the shallows. My feet can touch the bottom. I went downstairs to get breakfast for the first time in four days and didn't regret it when I got back to my room. I've been able to sit at my computer and type this as well as take care of some emails. My fingernails stopped aching and my bowels started moving again. I'll be able to do some actual work. I'll get a little better each day, a little closer to the shore, until my next treatment a week from tomorrow. It's a relief knowing I'll finally have a few good days. Hopefully my blood counts will improve and the next treatment will be a little easier.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

News from the genetic counselor

If I look drugged up, it's because I am!
Benadryl and Ativan.
 So today was a big day. I started on the Taxol, which is the fifth of my eight chemo treatments and a new drug. I also met with the genetic counselor about my test results. They were very surprising: I had NO genetic mutations, meaning my cancer was not caused by genetics. There are no genetic indicators of cancer risk, of any kind they are currently able to test for! How awesome is that? So, whenever I meet with my surgeon I'll talk about the options. I may only remove the affected breast now. We'll see what she says...I definitely don't want to go through this again should it come back, but I don't want to remove an entire body part if I don't have to. We had an awesome dinner to celebrate.

Love watching that chain get shorter!
Delightfully touristy scarf all the way from
Paris thanks to thoughtful friends.
I tolerated the Taxol well; no allergic reaction as I feared (it's rare and they assured me I wouldn't, but I was apprehensive anyway). No nausea or other side effects so far, but of course I'm still fatigued. The doctor confirmed it's my low blood counts--and my labs showed that my RBCs, hematocrit, and hemoglobin are all still low (but about the same as last time so at least they didn't drop more. The white blood cells were they lowest they've been so far but still well within normal range.

Oh, and the doctor seemed pleased with how small the tumor has gotten. We talked about sleep, and he gave me yet another drug to try (Trazodone, which I used years ago). I'm going to try it in combo with Ativan to see if that helps. At least I can take Ativan at 6am and not have it screw up my whole morning. He suggested not drinking fluids after 6pm, but I'm not ready to do that yet.

That's all for tonight. Thanks for all the support today! You all help me more than you know.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Still so tired

Tomorrow I go in for chemo #5, the first of my Taxol infusions. The first three treatments, I would feel pretty decent after about a week. This last time, the fatigue hit me pretty hard. I'll be OK for a few hours in the morning, but start to fade by afternoon and am pretty useless in the evening. I did manage to go out on Saturday with a couple friends. Got a new wig and had a great lunch. I'll post pics of the wig after I get it styled.

The fatigue is getting old.  It's probably because my red blood cell, hematocrit, and hemoglobin counts were all a little low last time and now they're probably lower. I hope it doesn't become a problem. I'm bummed that chemo starts again tomorrow with no really good days. However, the Taxol is supposed to be easier so maybe I'll bounce back.

I'm still not sleeping enough. Before you give me advice on how to fall asleep, I've already heard it. I've struggled with sleep my whole life. I'm now on my second type of sleep med since starting chemo (first was Temazapam and now Ambien). They don't knock me out but do help me fall asleep. The problem is I wake up to use the bathroom around 6am (sometimes earlier) and can't go back to sleep. I'm trying to get to bed earlier but don't always manage it. I'm sure that's not helping. Sometimes I can nap and sometimes I can't.

Otherwise, things are going along OK. The tumor feels like it's maybe 2-2.5cm now. It's oddly shaped so it's hard to measure because it feels like it's getting flatter faster than it is losing diameter. I'll see what the doc thinks of it tomorrow. My hair is still patchy instead of the pretty, smooth bald. I wonder if the Taxol will cause the stubble to fall out?

The house cleaners are here today so I'll have a nice clean house for the next few days (btw, a bunch of you told me about Cleaning For a Reason--yes I know about them, no they don't service my area, but some generous friends chipped in for a cleaner and she's giving us a deal. Thanks for thinking of me, though).

Thanks for hanging in here with me, and I'll take all the positive thoughts and virtual hugs I can get for tomorrow!

Thursday, September 3, 2015

All the small things

The past few days I've been pretty fatigued and only getting on the computer long enough to do a work project that has a short deadline, then getting off again as soon as possible. When I talk about fatigue, I'm not talking about feeling a little tired. I'm talking about being so tired that it aches sometimes. Walking downstairs to microwave breakfast, brew a cup of coffee, and walking upstairs leaves me sweating and my heart pounding. Sometimes all I feel up to doing is lying down and watching TV. I can't even sleep. Over the weekend, I never even left my room.

Other times I'm able to sit up and play a game or even go out for a bit, but my energy is pretty limited. Generally, I'll be ok on energy and then suddenly crash and be painfully exhausted. Thankfully, this does get a little better each day until the next treatment. I hear Taxol isn't as bad for fatigue (or nausea) so hopefully I won't have a week like this again.

While that's really the worst thing I deal with, there are a lot of little side effects, too. I don't always think about mentioning them because they're pretty mild, although annoying sometimes. I just thought I'd share them all at once.

My taste buds have changed and anything with too strong of flavor or smell, I don't want. I'll think I want something, then taste or smell it. then can't eat it. If someone is cooking downstairs and there are strong smells, sometimes I can smell it in my room and it's nauseating. I think there are some other minor changes to my taste buds, too. We were eating apples the other day and I said they didn't taste sweet, but Michael said his did. I tasted his, and it didn't taste sweet either. Yet if I eat a piece of caramel, it does taste sweet so who knows.

Like with my energy levels, I'll go along for a while thinking I'm not hungry and that nothing sounds good, and then BAM I'm starving. During the first few days of the cycle, there are times when I literally can't swallow, like the muscles just refuse to do it. I have to work the food or water around in my mouth and then can eventually force it down. It's weird and disconcerting. I can't drink anything carbonated or spicy because it hurts going down, and I often have indigestion or heartburn. And I burp a lot.

I've talked about the soreness in the mouth--last cycle I had a sore on my tongue despite the mouth washes I do three times a day, so last week I started taking L-Lysine which is supposed to help. Normally yesterday is when the sores would really start and so far I'm OK, although always in the second week there's this sort of pulling feel in my mouth that indicates they're imminent and I do have that. The rinse I do makes the feeling go away temporarily. I've gotten better at gargling. I used to always spazz out and gag. Now, I only do that about every third or fourth time...about when I start to get over-confident and think I no longer spazz and gag.

The skin on my hands sort of hurts, like it's chapped although it doesn't look like it. I don't know if this is from the chemo or all the extra hand washing, but I do use lotion every day. There is no visible redness or sores or anything. I noticed walking on the linoleum this morning that my feet felt the same way. However, I was told I wouldn't be able to tolerate scented shower gels or lotions, but so far I can still use them. For some reason, my fingernails have never looked better, so there's that.

My nose constantly drips and I sneeze a lot. My stools are either hard as a rock or super loose, or sometimes weirdly both at the same time. Never normal. I have hot flashes...I go from hot to cold and sometimes both at the once, don't ask me how. I sometimes have difficulty focusing my thoughts. I'm clumsier and less balanced than usual so I fumble things a lot.

Anyway, so that's some of the stuff I deal with. I would still say I'm getting off easy compared to some women, but it's not exactly a cake walk over here. Looking forward to getting better and better over the next few days, then I start on Taxol next Wednesday.