Saturday, February 10, 2007

It's time for another installment of: Fun Times with Cancer!

Starring, Caroline! Dell Inspiron computer! Frosted Sugar Cookies! and Many Blankets! With special guests, Cold Hands and Nose!

Warning: Installment may be inappropriate for small children. Contains excessive bleeding and some mild profanity.

So, I'm all set now. Nurse Pam paid me a visit this morning. She drew about 10 mL of my blood, which was promptly picked up by the blood courier and delivered to an undisclosed location for testing. All I know is that I received a phone call a few hours later from a different nurse, name unknown, who informed me that my blood counts are low, so I will be receiving some more of the sticky red goodness tomorrow. (disclaimer: blood may or may not actually be sticky.) Nurse Karen then called some time later and told me she was on her way to my house to draw some more blood. This blood they sent to LifeSource - they supply the blood - who then test it to confirm my blood type. It's called "type and cross." I'm assuming the cross is cross-check, but I could be wrong. So Nurse Karen came to my house, drew some more of my blood, talked for longer than necessary about her family's three roadtrips to Alaska, and eventually left. I then received a phone call from Nurse Olga who will be infusing me tomorrow. She asked when the best time for her to come is, and I'm pretty easy going, so I told her whenever is best for her. Turns out that when is best for her happens to be at 6 in the morning. So it's an early night for me. I'm getting two units of blood and one thingy of platelets. And let's see, just to finish it off, on Monday my usual nurse, Jennifer, will be stopping by, oh wait, to draw blood! And then on Tuesday I head to the hospital for some chemo, and, you won't believe it, but more blood draws! And my doctor wonders why my red blood cell count is low. Alright, she actually doesn't wonder at all; it's because of the chemo. But nonetheless. Oh, the good news is that most of this will be drawn from my line. I think the only time they have to poke me is when I go to the hospital on Tuesday. That's good; no bruises or holes. Incidentally, when the nurses or doctors need to put a needle in a vein, they call it either "poking" or "sticking." Pleasant. "The more you know. (star!)" But anyway, I'm still doing well. Feeling generally good, and my unhappiness of the other night has pretty much receded to the back of my mind. None of this stuff ever goes away, either the happy or the sad, but mostly I can only focus on one emotion at a time. Right now, I'm anxious for this neutropenic week to end and the dastardly cold to go away. But other than that, it's all good. Peace.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

There really is no wrong way to eat a Reese's.

Unless, of course, you're eating a cookie, in which case the aforementioned candy and the various ways of its consumption have no relevance whatsoever. On that note, I have once again confirmed to myself that my reaction was completely right when the doctors first told me my diagnosis, way back in Boston. I broke down on the bathroom floor, sobbing. Not because I had cancer, but because I had to return to a world I had left over five years earlier. The hardest thing in the world for an independent person is to have that all taken away from you. People are expecting me to come out of this whole situation with a completely different attitude, with a new perspective on life. Okay, yes, I appreciate the small things more, and I know cancer will always be a part of my life, along with the unspoken fear that it could return. That definitely constitutes at least a different perspective. But more than anything, this is making me appreciate what I had, and it's killing me that I no longer have it. Most of us discontentedly, unthinkingly go through the drudgery of daily living: bagel and weak coffee for breakfast from the dining hall; rush off to class, struggle to stay awake during the lecture where you wonder if your teacher always speaks in a monotone, or just here; head to lunch for a burrito or a slice of pizza, a sandwich if you feel like risking the often sketchy sandwich-makers; another class only slightly more interesting than the first, except for, "awesome, a project due next week, assigned today. Sweet, thanks." Then work, if you work, minimum wage for college students because businesses can pay that little because there are so many students. Then dinner, maybe some interesting meat product with rather mushy vegetables, then back to your dorm room for a few hours of homework, i.e. Guitar Hero II. If you're lucky, you've squeezed in a nap. If you're me, you've squeezed in a few espressos. Sleep a few hours, awake, arise, repeat. And you know what? I miss that so Damn much. I am trying very hard not to complain about the situation I'm in (I know, sure seems that way, huh.). But it's hard. It's hard living somewhere where you'd rather not be, and it's especially hard when my emotions are pretty much in a constant flux. And I know it's hard on my parents because it's fairly obvious that I'm having a tough time here. I am so grateful that the chemo is going as well as it is, but that's a double-edged sword. It means I generally feel fine, but have nothing to do with myself. At least if I felt like crap I'd have an excuse for loafing around. But you know what? Everyone has tough times, none any less significant than anyone else's. I'm pretty sure a girl I went to highschool with just died, and I can't even imagine what her friends and family are going through. My heart goes out to them because their lives are forever changed. And I've just got cabin fever. I guess it will eventually pass, and it will be replaced by some other dominant emotion to control me for a while. It's how I roll. But I am thankful to be alive, every single day to be alive. And I know it doesn't seem like it now, but I'm grateful to my parents for dealing with me, and I thank even more anyone who's ever called or said hi, offered a brief quip to make me laugh. It's those stupid little things that make every day bearable. Everyone has their own problems to figure out. Hopefully, they'll have someone near and dear to help them through. But if not, from what I hear, things get better. Life goes on. As do my (b)log posts too, apparently. Oh well. Night.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Hear ye, hear ye:

By order of me, I am hereby extending an open invitation to anyone and everyone who needs a break from their lives and would like to visit Chicago. And also see me. I will put you up in a comfortable sleeping space, and I personally will make pancakes in the morning. Or pour your cereal, if you so desire. I'll even give you a choice of juice, milk, or water to drink. We can go downtown, check out the tourist spots of Chicago. I will give you the grand tour of the western suburbs of Chicago, complete with caustic and witty commentary. If lots of people want to come at once, not a problem. Worst case scenario, I'll move my papasan chair into the hallway for someone to curl up in. Hell, I'll sleep in it; you can have my bed. I will offer you treats yet to be determined but which I'm sure you will enjoy. So come, visit the Windy City. And also see me. That is all. We now return to our regularly scheduled blogging.

Today is my ninth day of session two; my chemo started nine days ago. So now is when I start to become neutropenic. The doctors say it takes about 7-10 days for the counts to start falling. It may sound odd, but I actually have a very good relationship with my body. Meaning, I know when something isn't right with me. I might not do anything about it, but I'm usually pretty aware of when something is wrong. Right now, I can tell my blood counts are falling again. I've been getting the lightheadedness that comes from moving too fast or standing up too quickly. I've also been irrationally tired recently. I don't know how it works, living at home with a compromised immune system. Am I allowed to go out? Can I walk outside or go to the store? I feel like I need to get myself to the gym, but that's probably the last place I should go. All those people with their sweating and their coughing and their germing all over everywhere... Meh. Realistically, I'm pretty sure I'll be spending most of the next 7-10 days in my house, how long it takes until my counts start coming back up. I'll probably still be okay outside today and tomorrow, but after that, I think my immune system will be such that I'm really not supposed to be in public much, if at all. So we'll see. I have to confirm all this with my nurse.

Currently, I'm sitting in my front living room, a bright spot with comfy chairs that I think I will make my nest for the duration of the neutropenic stage. I have books and music to entertain me, as well as some work that I should probably at least start thinking about doing. Right around 2:30, the sun starts shining on my chair, warming me up considerably. So it's not too bad here. After this week of confinement though, you can bet I'm going to be outside and happily soaking up the germs of the world. Haha, because I'll be able to fight them! It just sucks for this week. But the last thing I want is to go back to the hospital with an fever, so I'll play it relatively safe for now. Well, enjoy the rest of hump day. I, for one, am going to try. Word.

Monday, February 5, 2007

out of title ideas.

C. Willie Miles. He's a comedian, and I am currently listening to him on the radio. It is just about the freaking funniest thing I have ever heard. I can't ever repeat people accurately, and I'm not going to try, but he's pretty much just making fun of Midwesterners, and it is hilarious. I haven't laughed this hard in a while. Oh wow. Alright.

S'anyway. I went to the young adult support group at the cancer club downtown this evening. It was interesting. There were five other people tonight with five different types of cancer, all in varying levels of health. It was good to go, to hear what other people have/are going through. They were all really interesting, and most of them were at least a few years older than me. They work; they're mostly out of school; but because they dealt with the same thing I'm going through, the rest isn't hugely important. One of the stipulations of joining the group is that you have to go to at least 12 sessions. After that, you can come and go as you please. So I think the group is pretty fluid. There is no set attendance list. You come when you can, and new people join fairly often. The moderator, who I'm pretty sure is a social worker or therapist or something, said today that there are probably about nine people in the Monday group now, but it fluctuates. It'll be interesting to see over the coming weeks who comes and goes and if I'll have anything substantial to contribute. Because, at least today, it seemed like most of the others are either finished with treatment or are in a later stage. Certainly, they've been dealing with it for longer than I have. They've gone through a lot of what I have ahead of me, and I'm sure I'll learn a lot. They certainly covered a wide range of topics during today's 90-minute session though. Everything from working out to dealing with infertility to the fact that people with cancer are considered disabled under the Americans with Disabilities Act and whether or not that means we can get handicapped stickers (consensus: probably). Referring to the infertility bit, that's something I really haven't thought much about. But all of the drugs they give me list infertility as a side-effect. The women there tonight were just talking about how much that screws with your head. I mean, I'm only 20, and having kids is pretty much not in my radar. But some of the others are in their mid, late 20s. It's not such a foreign idea to them. It's just weird to think that you don't even have a choice regarding pregnancy. So that's pretty important and is an issue I'm sure will arise for me in the future. Again, it will definitely be an interesting weekly group.

In other cancer-related news, today is my seventh day of session two of my chemo treatments. This means that any day now my white blood cell count is going to start falling. I'll become neutropenic again, although I'm pretty sure my counts won't be quite as low as when I was in the hospital. But it will be interesting to see how my body reacts to being immuno-suppressed while living at home and interacting with people. Should be a good time. I hope I don't get an infection, although that could possibly be my ticket to a helicopter ride. Is it worth it? All things to consider. And with that, I'm going to go curl up in a ball under six layers of blankets and flannel pajamas and fleece slipper-socks. Oh, and also, just to clarify at least one "caroline quirk", pax is actually Latin for peace. I don't know why I started saying it; I say peace too. It's not that I'm necessarily advocating peace, although a little bit, but more that that's just what I say when I say goodbye, particularly online. So, peace, or pax, or what have you. Enjoy Tuesday.

Sunday, February 4, 2007

It's raining on Sunday.

And it's raining in Miami on the Bears right now. Whatever. I went to a Super Bowl party. I currently have a headache from the diet coke and beer, but hopefully no other lasting effects on my system. Aside from that, nothing is going on here. Absolutely nothing. I feel fine. No nausea, fatigue, side-effects, etc, etc that they say should come with the chemo. Great. Grand. Fantastic. What good is feeling good if I can't go anywhere? I'm trying to stay occupied, but it's hard when you really can't go outside for long periods of time, and I'm not allowed to drive anywhere by myself. I guess I can take a class just for fun, for something to do, to keep my mind occupied. But I'm killing myself for lack of human-my-age contact. And I am so painfully awkward when it comes to meeting new people that that's never a good situation for anyone to be in. But anyway. Hey everyone, it's let's listen to Caroline gripe hour! Okay! No. No, not at all. It's flaming cold here in Chicago, but it's sunny and that's exciting. We're moving into the second week of February, which means only about three and a half left. Um. I don't have to go back to the clinic for any chemo for another week, and again, there have been no side-effects pretty much at all from the "intensification." So there are things to smile about. And even if none of them paid any attention to me tonight, I at least got to look at cute boys my age for a while. As they all got significantly sloppier, which is also never a good situation to be in, especially as they all have class tomorrow. ha ha. But anyway. So, hopefully this week will be a good one. It should be. hokay, goodnight for now. Also hopefully the Bears fans' devastation will be subdued in a few days. Until then, send happy thoughts Chicago-ward. And peace.