Last week was bad.

Slept badly in spite of not feeling guilty about it.

A whole bunch of side effects, which we believe to be from Avastin. My skin has felt hot all week. No temperature or nausea or or feeling hot or anything that is usually associated with hot skin. Just very hot skin. Janet keeps kissing my forehead. I am on to her. She is not kissing me out of love, just wants to make sure I do not have temperature. Faker. Though I suppose that is a measure of love.

We finally bought the shower head you keep hearing about. Drove out into the hinterland that is the Greater Toronto Area, a store run by Iranians. This is as fun as it gets. The better part is making our way to an Iranian store called Tavazo to buy Iranian nuts and stuff. The best pistachios are the ones from Iran. There is no argument there. NONE! We bought a bunch of those, and mixed nuts which include a generous helping of Iranian raisins, and dried mulberries.

My father used to eat the raisins to thin his blood. I have no idea if it worked or not, or how much of these things you have to consume, but he swore by them. Not an issue for me, his swearing by them, I love those raisins. Love raisins in general, but those are particularly good. We lived in Iran between 1963 and 1965. I remember going to the country where we were offered fresh mulberries. These are nothing like the ones that fall off trees here. First of all, I remember these trees as being huge. Whether that was a reflection of my short height, I am not sure. The workers would place huge white sheets at the foot of the tree. A bunch would then climb into the tree and start shaking it releasing all the mulberries. These are almost white in colour, and very sticky. And delicious. You had to eat them with a spoon. It was love at first taste.

We buy the fruit here in a dry state. Not as delicious, but a wonderful second best. They tend to dry up, which is easily rectified with a slice of apple added to the dried mulberries. Keep the lot in a plastic for a couple of days, and you get wonderful moist mulberries. Unless you are my brother who appears to like them dry. No understanding people.

Back to me, which is what this is all about.

The past week was marred by periods of extreme exhaustion, poor humour, and a general feeling of being fed up with the whole thing. Judy tells me I have to brace myself for about 18 months of this sort of stuff. Counting the months down to month 19. We have just finished month 1. Sigh.

We went for dinner at Judy and Arlin’s house on Saturday night. I sent most of the time lying on the couch, and we were there for only 2 hours. Sunday was like a breath of fresh air. Not sure how this all happens. Dying one night, up and at them the next morning. But there we were taking a drive to the country to see Ann and Frank who fed us a fabulous lunch and apple pie. Ann is an amazing cook and baker. I drove out there, and more importantly, felt up to driving back. The trip takes between 45 minutes and 1 hour. Not too shabby.

I am seeing Dr. Kennedy, my surgeon, this afternoon. I am expecting a clean bill of health, specially after the positiveness of Dr. Hedley. You can read all about the amazing Dr. Hedley here. She better not say anything about my hair. Yes, it is still all there. Though my scalp is sensitive to the touch, and I am shedding some hair, but no clumps coming out yet. I am still thinking of having a party at my hairdresser’s. I should maybe talk to him before sending out any invitations.

I tested a new bag this weekend. I will reserve that for its own post. It deserves it. Strange technology, this bag thing. Harder than it looks at first sight. Or second.

Talked to a lot of people over the past few days, all of whom are reticent to commenting on this blog. Apparently, some current commentators are just to insightful. But that is the whole point of the comments. Some insight, some humour. No observation is too slight.

I am glad I am doing better as we head into chemo week. I was dreading going into it feeling the way I did on Saturday.

Felling strong and mighty.

Hair mostly intact.

Onward and upwards.

Surprise! We get Avastin today. Dr. Hedley feels that enough time has gone by for me to have healed. Damn the creation of blood vessels. Full steam ahead.

We searched the web for the side effects of Avastin. It includes just about anything that is not included with the other drugs. name it, and it is a side effect. All of it includes an emergency visit to your doctor or the emergency room.

Chemo Brain is setting in. What do you want for dinner, she says. That takes way too much thinking. I literally sat there looking at Janet wondering why she is asking me that question. What do I want? The answer stopped at the question. Too much. You decide, Whatever you make is fine.

Chemo Tired is also setting in. Cannot be helped. I have to stay awake since my brother is coming in tonight. He should be here in a couple of hours. Chemo tired just means you put your head down and snooze whenever and where ever.

The Avastin was a bit of a surprise. I thought they might put it off till after the CT-Scan. It threw me for a loop. Again the unexpected. The surprise move. The unknown. A bit silly really after all this time. Yeah 2 months and a bit make for all this time. Still, we are becoming veterans. The nurses are beginning to know us. A club.

Went in for blood work in the morning so we would have the latest possible results. Missing chemo last week upset janet and Judith a lot. Ruth put a positive spin on it. Imagine what havoc the chemo is wreaking on the cancer cells if it has that knd of effect on the white blood cells. Not sure I understand the correlation, but it pacified Janet. Good thing.

Went in this morning. They took my blood. Left the thumb tack in my chest. Now we wait for the results. My white blood cell count which had taken a dive over the past four weeks has rebounded to 3.9. The number means we are safe for chemo. Had o wait two hours to be let in. Left the club room at 5:00. Late. Dark outside.

A bit nauseous. Nothing my amazing pills won’t solve. But only if it is nausea. Have a hard time telling.

This too shall pass. We will survive and move on.

Spent a lot of the night reacting to one upset or another.

Got a headache. Took a couple of Tylenols.

Got nauseous. Took my nausea pill. again a bit late since I was trying to sleep and fought it for some absurd reason. Too late to suck on the ginger candy Jill Martis sent me.

Just call me pill popping Papa.

I did some research on the web about side effects of the H1N1 vaccine. Nothing new. But there was a link to what to expect if you get H1N1 and its side effects. below is the table copied straight from the Gov of Canada web site.

Almost Always: Common: Sometimes:
Sudden onset of:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Fatigue
  • Sore throat
  • Decreased appetite
  • Muscle aches
  • Headache
  • Runny nose
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting

I felt better when I saw this list. Not that I have H1N1, but I wonder if it possible to show these symptoms because of the vaccine.

There is a lot of hype about whether to get the vaccine or not, I decided I had little choice. A compromised immune system leaves you feeling,  at the very least, more vulnerable to anything that is making the rounds. It does not help that this thing seems to spread so very easily.

It takes a while for people to start exercising better hygiene. Washing hands is a must. I still see people leaving washrooms without washing their hands. I bring this to their attention once in a while. You almost always have to brace yourself for a fight. One guy called me the hand washing police. I see other people just soak their hand under water. No soap. Useless.

Washing hands is one of the simplest ways of stopping infections. Why is it so hard for people to do that?

We were supposed to visit Janet’s latest project yesterday. You can check it out here. They have created this bakeshop where people bring in their children and they bake these things. The place is booked solid and packed to the gills. We were planning on going there today. Nancy just called to say that the store is packed with people which means only one thing. I cannot go in and risk the exposure.

This is a stupid life.

I am often asked if people can visit. The answer is always the same, call me before you leave home to make sure I am OK. Don’t call me the day before because I will not know how I will be doing the next day. And even then, there will be surprises. Visits are also usually short since I tire so easily. I have written about this before.

My friend Gita wrote me to say she wanted to visit today. I asked her to call me before leaving her house which she did. I was fine and gave her the green light. The situation was dramatically different by the time she showed up.

The first chemo was an unknown. I was not sleeping well at the time. The combination of the two made it hard to handle the series of events that took place.

The situation was markedly different this time around. Diarrhea was expected to hit around Monday or Tuesday, and it came right on schedule. It was expected and not traumatic. Easily handled.

We had Ethiopian food for dinner last night This is the second time I have had spicy food. The first was when my friend Judith brought over some Indian food from my favourite Indian restaurant Utsav in Yorkville. The spicy foods keeps me awake as the stomach works overtime dealing with the unexpected surprise.

I do not get stomach cramps. There are no aches or pains. The only benefit of this bag thingy hanging on me. Gas rolls through the bowels and explodes into the bag with a hissing noise. The system then growls and wheezes and makes all sorts of noises as it deals with the spicy invasion. All of which keeps me awake.

I finally went to bed at four in the morning, and as I have said before, guilt free.

I was fully ready for Gita when she was due. I was peeling a pomegranate, one of my all time favourite fruits. I find the peeling a bit therapeutic. You just cannot rush the experience. So there I am in an apron standing at the kitchen counter peeling away to make sure the pomegranate is ready for Gita.

I was almost done when I started feeling hot. Flushed. Hard breathing. It took me a bit too long to realise that I was feeling nauseous. I rushed, and I use that term loosely, upstairs to take my nausea pill. It is hard to know where to keep all these pills. Took the nausea pill and went back downstairs to wait for the effects to take hold.

I have had nausea a couple of times. I have these wonderful nausea pills that take care of things almost instantly. You just have to take them right away. Which I did not in this case. I sat downstairs, upright, and waited for it to pass. It took a while, way longer than I like. I was not fully recovered by the time Gita showed up. Jill sent me some ginger candy to suck on. They help with nausea. I took one of those as well.

We talked for a while. Devin warmed up some pizza that was in the freezer. Good times. I took a nap after she left and woke up in time for dinner.

I am going to get my H1N1 vaccination in the morning. I am looking forward to this. Here is the issue. The vaccination may result in me having a  temperature for which you are supposed to take a Tylenol. But I am not supposed to take Tylenols to cover a temperature created as a chemo side effect. What to do?

Check list:

Diarrhea: gone

Nausea: gone

Temperature: none

Blood: only in my veins

Hair: intact

The jury is out on the sleep resolution taken last night. Having said that, I slept quite well, if sporadically. But in the new spirit of any sleep is a good sleep, I accepted the vagaries of the night and woke up at some point in the morning in fine spirits.

This boded well for the chemo day. Strong physical being and emotional state are essential to a successful and painless experience. Since sleep and emotional state are directly related to one another, an accepted sleeping experience stood by me in the cancer ward.

Times have changed. I do not recall the level of consultation taking place when my mother was dying of cancer some 30 years ago. The level of consultation and trust that the nurses place in the patient are impressive. The nurse, a lovely lady named Sammy, from southern India, was ready to connect the Avastin drug. I had to stop her and have her consult with Dr. Hedley.

It turns out that Dr. Kennedy had not informed Dr. Hedley of her decision to delay the application of Avastin until the innards are in better shape. I figure we will wait for the CT Scan to reveal whatever it does before making a decision on Avastin.

Devin and I went to the hospital yesterday to do the blood work thingy. The Porta-Cath means that I do not have to have my veins tapped every couple of weeks. We discovered that when we did the blood work thingy two weeks ago. also turns out that it takes a couple of hours to process the vials of preciousness they extract from my poor and sorry body. Doing the blood work the previous day is highly recommended. The Porta-Cath meant that we could use the alternate blood extracting lab, located peculiarly in the Ambulance Waiting Area.

Devin and I made our way to this area which is tucked away down a nondescript corridor that could use a touch of paint amongst other things. There were no signs indicating where we should go. There is a movie in there somewhere. A door is all that gives away the possibility of the lab.

It is a very civilised affair. They smile and let you know that you are indeed in the right place. The waiting period was very short. The connection to the Porta-Cath with the all-too-familiar giant thumb tack was painless and quick. Blood extracted and you are free to go. The best gesture was leaving the thumb tack embedded for use the next day. One prick and you are done for two operations. How civilised.

Once convinced to way lay the Avastin, the other drugs were connected and all went very smoothly. Done in two and a half hours. What a difference from the previous session.

I told you last time about the clubish atmosphere. We met a couple of people who were done last time. Almost had a cup of coffee with everyone. Some of the nurses even recognise you. Not sure if that is a good thing or not.

Devin is practicing the piano as I am writing this. Brings joy to my heart, though I cannot wait for him to become a better player!

And now for the check list:

No nausea

No diarrhea

No blood on urine or stool

No allergic reactions

No temperature

Hair intact.

Sunday night had the predictable sleep schedule. There was a slight variation. I drove Janet to work, then went back to bed. We have an appointment with the surgeon, Dr. Kennedy at 3PM for a look see at various things. I still don’t know how they can tell whether the insides are healing or not. [...]

I have to get a belt in which to carry this stupid baby bottle. You keep forgetting that you are attached and walk away only to have the bottle dangle. Nothing happens, everything is taped to my hairy chest. That is the part the nurses enjoy the most. They make sure the tape is applied [...]

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