Colon Cancer Sucks Ass

Thursday, November 30, 2006

I Wonder What The Street Value Is?

Who goes to the doctor complaining of shoulder pain and has to have blood tests done?

That's right. It's me!

I had an appointment with a new doctor this morning. My primary care physician left UCLA last June so I've just been avoiding any general-type appointments. Unfortunately, my shoulders feel like they are going to fall off. Every time I lift my arms up, I get shooting pains from my shoulders down through my upper arms. Ouch! I would have just taken ibuprofen for a few days, but being on coumadin and with my little platelet problem, I am not allowed to take ibuprofen or aspirin or naproxen sodium (Aleve). All I can take is Tylenol. So I made an appointment.

The doctor was very nice, but he asked SO MANY questions: Do you have any heart problems? Is there any history of colon cancer in your family? Did you know that there is a gross mascara glop in the corner of your eye? Okay, so he didn't ask the last one, but I bet he would have if there actually was a gross mascara glop in the corner of my eye. He was just that thorough.

Then there was the physical exam where I kicked and pushed him. He was asking for it though. Seriously. And he finally concluded that I have too much wax in my right ear. Not that the wax is causing the shoulder pain, but he couldn't see into my right ear. Actually, he thinks that my shoulder joint is just inflamed and it will just take some time to heal... and I have too much wax in my right ear. He ordered blood tests to make sure that there's not a problem with muscle degeneration - there's really a blood test for that.

Until the inflamation clears up, he prescribed Vicodin for the pain. I'm not a big fan of Vicodin. I feel really foggy when I take it, so I avoid it. I could use some extra money though. Hmmm... I wonder what the street value of this stuff is?* I'll send out my broker to sell the stuff.

My Broker

If you squint a little, that kind of looks like my roommate. Interesting.

*I am kidding about this. I will not sell my Vicodin... or my Ativan or my Xeloda - of course, no one actually wants my Xeloda. Chemo is not that attractive for the non-cancerified.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

I Know How To Clear A Room

A perhaps little-known fact - the intestines are so tempermental that after they are handled by a surgeon, they "go to sleep." After a surgery that has required such handling, the doctors will not let the patient eat anything until they have "passed gas" which indicates that the bowels have woken up.

When I had my partial colectemy (removal of a section of the colon) last year, I was not allowed to eat for a week. Every day the doctors and nurses would use their stethoscopes to check for sounds in my intestines. And every day they would say that it was getting close with a look of anticipation. This milestone would be something to celebrate.

Finally, the day arrived. I farted! Now it should have been time for that celebration, but think about this: I released gasses that had been trapped in my intestines for a week. I was in my hospital bed and my mom was standing next to me. As I was slowly overcome by the disgusting smell, I quietly said "excuse me" and my mom's first instinct was to take a deep breath... THROUGH... HER... NOSE! She hadn't noticed the horrific smell that filled the room. Her reaction can only be described as spastic. She visible shook at the foul odor. I couldn't stop laughing and believe me, laughter a week after colon surgery hurts a lot. It was by far my favorite moment (if you can have a favorite moment in the hospital) of that hospital stay.

If you are wondering how the doctors reacted to the news, they applauded.

[And Mom, this is revenge for Saturday's email... you'll think twice before you remind me how long it is until Chrismas again! : ) ]

Sunday, November 26, 2006

One Step Forward, 13 Steps Back

Last Monday, I went in for my weekly blood tests. As you may remember, I am waiting for my platelet count to reach 100 in order to finish up my last few sessions of chemotherapy. The last couple of weeks have shown improvements... very small improvements, but this week was completely unexpected.

Yes, that's right. I went from a count of 73 on November 14th to 60 on November 20th. That is not the direction that I want the numbers to go. On the bright side, that does seem to support the idea that the Avastin is contributing to my ongoing lack of platelets. We have been continuing the Avastin treatments every six weeks because most patients have no problems with their blood counts on this drug. (It is a monoclonal antibody (biotech drug), not a chemotherapy drug.) As a matter of fact, less that 10% of patients on Avastin have problems with low platelet counts. Who's in that minority? It's me! I am having an extra blood test ordered this week for the heparin-induced platelet antibody. I have already been tested for another platelet antibody and the test came back weakly positive so it is unlikely the cause for the low counts. I'll have to wait a while to get the results of this second test. It takes a couple of days instead of 30 minutes like most of my labs.

My INR is still low as well so the oncologist covering for Dr W increased my dosage of coumadin again. I'm alternating between 10mg and 12.5mg per day. She suggested that I talk to Dr W about switching to Lovenox since it has been so difficult to keep my INR levels theraputic. I'll talk to him about it, but I am very much against the idea. Lovenox is a daily injection and I don't want to do it. I have come very far in getting over my needle phobia, but at this point, I do not want to try self-injections. So there.

And I do have to acknowledge that I am a total dork because I really like putting together a graph to illustrate my platelet counts. Seriously though, doesn't it help you get a better overall picture of what has been going on? If I had more time, I'd do more graphs for all different kinds of things, but free time is scarce and Christmas is coming which means there is lots and lots to do.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

I Am Around And Doing Okay

Just a really quick post to let everyone know that I'm doing fine and I am still around. My internet connection over the weekend was spotty at best and out of frustration I stopped posting. I will get back to my regularly scheduled posts ASAP. I have class most of the day today, but I'll try to write an update this afternoon when I have a break. Until then...

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Reconnected To The World

My broadband connection is finally fixed!!! I feel like I have managed to accomplish so much since it started working this afternoon. There were so many little things that I wanted to get done, but I did not have the access that I needed.

I planned to write more today since I can finally post in a timely manner, but then I got sidetracked after posting all of my saved posts. Now it is almost time for bed and I have not written yet. Oops!

I am almost done with my grad school application. I just have to finish revisions on my statement of purpose once I get my feedback. It should be done soon and then I can drop off all of the supplemental materials. Yea!

While I am off to bed. Good night!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

There Are Stupid Questions *

I get very frustrated in my classes (especially Economics) when students can't answer questions when the professor has just given the answer. I also get frustrated when people ask questions that have nothing to do with what we're currently discussing. I don't like it when students interrupt the professor or other students mid-sentence. I have no problem with students who don't understand something the professor says and are asking for further clarification, but otherwise I am pretty intolerant when it comes to other students wasting time in class. I had similar feeling when I was pursuing my undergraduate degree, but not to the same extent. I've become overly judgemental about the other students in my class. I think that some of it just has to do with age/maturity difference. I'm at a community college with students who basically range in age from 18-20.

There are some students in my classes who seem very intelligent, but most of them just aren't taking these classes very seriously. Considering that a large number of them are hoping to transfer into the UC and the CSU systems for four-year degrees, they should probably get their acts together.

(As a side note) Where I grew up, if you graduated from an accredited high school in the state, you were guaranteed acceptance into the state's university system. Here in California, the state schools are actually pretty competitive.

*Written 11/15/06; Actually Posted 11/16/06

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

At This Rate It'll Be May *

I had an 8am appointment this morning for treatment. Ordinarily with appointments from 7-8am, I only need 30 minutes of travel time, but from 8:30-10:00am, I give myself an hour. This morning, I left an hour before my appointment and I was 15 minutes late. Traffic was so backed up. I hate being late for appointments although they are really flexible about it in the treatment center. If it was a surgical follow-up, I could have lost my appointment. When I left the Medical Plaza at 10:30am, I expected to get home in about 30 minutes. It took almost an hour. Most of the time, I try not to let traffic get to me here in the land of the eternal traffic jam, but today it was just grating on my nerves. I was so relieved to get home!

So what are the numbers? First, I did get my dose of Avastin so that was a good bet. My INR has dropped down to 1.4 (we're aiming for 2.0) so I'll have to contact the doctor covering for Dr. W to see about changing my coumadin dose. And now the moment you've all been waiting for...

My platelet count is...

If you're keeping track, it was 72 last week and 70 the week before. It is going up, but very slowly. I need to hit 100 in order to receive chemo and at this rate it'll be almost May before I can restart treatments.

For those of you who prefer a visual display, I'll bring back the bar chart next week. It should be fun. (I might have to spend some time redefining my idea of fun.)

*Written 11/14/06; Actually Posted 11/16/06

Monday, November 13, 2006

Addicted To Code Blue *

I've developed a strange fascination with the Discovery Health Channel - especially the shows Code Blue and The Critical Hour which takes place in various emergency rooms/trauma centers across the country. I'd link to a website for one of them, but they don't seem to be working. I did stop watching an episode of The Critical Hour when a patient came in who had a wrench impaled through his arm. He had been driving and the car in front of him ran over the wrench and it flew up in the air. I don't know if his window was open or if it broke through the window, but somehow it was through his arm. I wish now that I would have watched the rest of the episode though because I want to know what happpened. I'm sure that they'll rerun the episode.

I received my grade today for the test I took last Wednesday and I did really well. I managed to bring my grade up to a solid A, but there is still one more test and it's worth 40 percent of our final grades in the class.

Tomorrow morning I have to go in for a blood draw. Any bets on where my platelet count will be? I think that I'm also getting a treatment of Avastin because although we have put chemotherapy on hold, Avastin is a monoclonal antibody, not a chemotherapy drug. Any bets on whether or not I'll get it? And while we're taking bets, any on where my INR will be? Stay tuned!

*Written 11/13/06; Actually Posted 11/16/06

Sunday, November 12, 2006

I Swear No Kittens Have Died

My internet connection went on Thursday night. They still have not fixed it, but it should be back up by tomorrow night. I have been composing posts, but they are saved on my computer and I am posting from a friend's computer right now. I will post them all as soon as I can with each of them dated back to when I actually wrote them with acknowledgement that I manipulated the dates. If that takes me out of competition for the prizes, I understand, but for myself, I am going to have posts for each day this month.

I have some other things that I have to take care of while I have the temporary access to the internet, but I am very hopeful that the remainder of my posts will be up tomorrow night!

Saving The World From Alien Invaders *

I have an assignment for my Economics class tomorrow. It is an online assignment that is not officially graded, but if I don’t get it done by tonight, the answers post and I won’t be able to do it myself. I find these assignments very helpful to understand the concepts in the class, but MY INTERNET CONNECTION IS STILL NOT WORKING. I have to go out to a coffee shop in order to get this done now. Plus I have several emails that I really need to get sent out, not to mention a bunch of posts that I need to post. I hope that I can get it all done. I’ve finished my first “public” draft of my statement of purpose – meaning I’ve rewritten it many, many times, but haven’t let anyone else read it up until now. I just need to get it emailed to the people who are going to give me feedback.

I had a weird dream last night that the world was taken over by aliens that resembled an octopus. It’s okay though because I was going to save the world, but then one of my oh-so-considerate neighbors decided it was dance party time and I woke up. What’s even stranger than last night’s dream is that it was the second dream I’ve had recently about saving the world from alien invaders. Hmmm.

Now I’m at the coffee shop with the free WiFi, but I can’t get it to work on my computer. It is just not meant to be. I may go across the street to the library, but I don’t know if they are even open today or if they have internet access available. This sucks!!! I could go try another coffee shop, but then I have to pay for another drink that I don’t need and I know that some (Starbucks) charge for WiFi access and I’m not willing to pay for a drink and for access. I think Panera Bread has free WiFi, but they’re always so busy on the weekends. At this time (1:30) on a Sunday afternoon, they are probably packed.

*Written 11/12/06; Actually Posted 11/16/06

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Sleepy Time *

No internet access. Robert called this morning and they are running tests on the line but still no word as to what is wrong and what needs to be done (NOW!). I can’t tell you how many times in the last two days I’ve gotten up to check something “really quick” on my computer only to remember that I can’t do that right now. I’ve become so dependent on the internet for information.

I’ve been sleeping much better this week. Most nights I’ve fallen asleep without taking anything. No Ativan! No Ambien! And I’ve been staying asleep for the whole night. I actually feel rested, I think. It’s been so long that I’m not really sure what “rested” feels like anymore. I wish that I could keep myself on a regular sleep schedule, but I have a really hard time falling asleep before midnight. That’s not bad five nights a week, but the two mornings I have to get up at 6:30 am make it painful. I don’t nap because it makes it too hard to fall asleep at night. My natural sleep cycle is 1am-9am (or 10am). That is what I consistently fall in to when I don’t have to be anywhere early in the morning.

*Written 11/11/06; Actually Posted 11/16/06

Friday, November 10, 2006

I’m Going Through Withdrawal *

Well, still no internet access. I’ve decided to continue to write my posts in Word and I’ll back date them when I enter them into Blogger. I’ll mark each post that is back dated and if that eliminates me from prize eligibility, then so be it.

I saw Borat today. I laughed so hard that my throat hurt at the end of the movie. There were some very uncomfortable and disturbing parts. It makes me sad to see how incredibly prejudiced and racist people can be.

I miss my internet!

*Written 11/10/06; Actually Posted 11/16/06

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Nooooooooooo! *

I’m writing today’s post in Word because I can’t get my internet connection to work. I’ve rebooted the computer… twice. I’ve rebooted the wireless router. I’ve disconnected and reconnected and the browser still says that it can’t find the servers. I’m really frustrated because I really want to complete the 30 day NaBloPoMo challenge and now if I can’t get this connection to work in the next 45 minutes, I won’t have a post for today. I’m too frustrated to even think of a post topic other that posting about how frustrated I am. Except that I’m not really posting, I’m writing in Word and will likely not be able to post this until tomorrow.

Okay, I’m going to try rebooting the router again… nothing. UGH!!!!!!!!!!!!

*Written 11/9/06; Actually Posted 11/16/06

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The One Where I Praise My Own Intellectual Prowess

Bright and early this morning I had an exam in US Government. I had done all the readings and taken notes in lectures, but I didn't start officially studying until last night. [This procrastination has a lot to do with not liking the couse which has a lot to do with the professor - I actually find the subject matter interesting.] Of course, I panicked when I started studying, thinking that there was no way I was going to remember all this information. The test is in essay form and is worth 30% of our final grade. We can write a paper to replace a low test score, so I kept that in the back of my mind, but I don't really want to spend my free time the next few weeks writing a research paper. Despite this, I took a "quick" break and watched Heroes, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, the Simpsons, Family Guy and American Dad with my roommates. I reviewed my notes before I went to bed and then again before class this morning.

I took the test feeling like I probably hadn't prepared enough, but then I started reading the questions. I actually remembered the answers. I know the constitutional standards that must be applied to death penalty cases. I know which parts of the Bill of Rights (and the Fourteenth Amendment) were cited in the Supreme Court decision that established our constitutionally implied right to privacy. I even know the structure of the California State Legislature. I left the class feeling like I did a pretty good job on this exam. The truth will come when I get it back with a grade on Monday.

I'm tired this afternoon and I still have one more class tonight so I'm going to take a risk and take a nap. Naps are risky when you're having problems with insomnia. Wish me luck.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

I Must Save The Kittens

I realized a couple of thing while I was trying to fall asleep last night.

First, I didn't acknowledge how completely dorky it was of me to post a bar chart of my platelet counts. The whole reason that I posted it was because I thought it was ridiculously funny, but then I just left it there without acknowledging it like I was serious which in a way makes it funnier, but also a little bit sad. [And speaking of sad, Books Written For Girls posted the lyrics to Bust A Move. It's okay though, we can be sad together!]

Second, I haven't posted anything about why I'm posting every day this month. I signed up for NaBloPoMo. It stands for National Blog Posting Month which is being organized by Fussy. There are a number of different logos that have been posted, but my favorite is this:

It is from claw-less and it appeals to the sick and twisted side of my sense of humour.

Tomorrow is my crazy schedule day. My first class is at 8am (and I have a test) and my last class ends at 9:55pm. I have some gaps of time off in between, but it is a really long day. I have a test first thing in the morning so I need to study. Since it's almost 4pm, I should stop procrastinating and get busy.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Platelet Spelled Backwards Is Teletalp

Today I had blood test number five in the ongoing chronicle of my low platelet count. As you may recall, a "normal" platelet count is between 150,000 and 400,000. For chemotherapy treatments, a count above 100,000 is necessary.

On October 24th, I was almost there... just a paltry 7,000 away. If only I could have reached a little further. I could have gotten my next treatment. I could have received it before the downward spiral into... into... not being allowed to receive it. I was so close and now I'm so far away. What surprises await me next Monday (or possibly Tuesday) when I take my next blood test? Stay tuned for The Rise And Fall A Little And Fall A Lot And Rise A Little of Christine's Platelets.

Why is it that I seem to spill something on my shirt when I have no opportunity to change it any time in the near future and I have lots of errands to run and people to see and I have to walk around looking like a slob because I'm 29 years old and haven't learned to eat and drink without making a mess of myself unless it's water that I'm drinking because I never seem to dribble water on myself since that wouldn't show anyway anymore once it dried? Do you have an answer for that, smart guy?

[I must be feeling a little antagonistic today.]

If you use the Google search engine and type in any of the following phrases, my blog is one of the first three sites that will be listed:
Stupid Steroids
How to Look and Act Cool
Magical Christmas Tumor

Weird, eh? And someone in Croatia accessed my blog today. Random.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Perhaps There's Nothing To Say

I've tried about three different topics and I have come to the realization that I have nothing to say today. I have lots to do, but nothing to say about it. I need to get all of my studying done that requires computer access because I want to get out of the apartment for a while and study somewhere else. I have a party to go to at 5pm and I'm busy all day tomorrow.

I think my brain is fried!

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Insomnia, Hypertension, and Subtitles

I had a horrible time getting to sleep again last night, but fortunately there was a "Full House" marathon on Nick at Nite. I really did look for something else to watch, but once you hit 3am, most stations have gone infomercial.

A few days ago I was talking to my roommate Jim about the Scottish dialect. For me, out of all English dialects, it is the most difficult to understand. When I studied in France, my program director was Scottish. I didn't have a problem with him, but we generally spoke in French and he was also fluent in German and Russian so I think his Scottish dialect was a little diluted. When we went to Paris, he invited his aunt and uncle to join us. They were very nice people, I think. While riding the Metro, I had a long conversation with his uncle, but to this day, I have no idea what he was talking about. I just smiled and nodded, trying to pull out any words that I could recognize. That converation was probably the most difficult I had in France. I had less trouble speaking French!

Last night in the midst of my insomnia I turned to a movie on the Sundance Channel. Riff Raff is a Scottish film from 1990. This film is in English with English subtitles. They leave out most of the slang and in some places actually "translate" the dialogue. One of the characters referenced "high blood pressure" and in the subtitles, it was translated to "hypertension." Does anyone else think that's really weird? I know that it can be difficult to understand, but a film in English subtitled for English speakers... and poorly subtitled at that.

It reminds me of a French-Canadian film, Jesus of Montreal, that I watched in college. The film was in French with English subtitles. It became weird when the characters started speaking in English which was subtitled into French which was subtitled back into English. At one point, a character said "cool" which was translated into French as "cool" and then translated back into English as "cool." It's a little bit of overkill.

Sometimes I think it would be nice if we could turn on subtitles for the people around us. If you're tired and don't really want to listen, you could mute them and turn on the subtitles. It would be a nice, quiet conversation. Or if you're just having a hard time understanding someone and you don't want them to have to continue to repeat themselves, turn on the subtitles.

"Itslk a snicker vact!"


"Itslk a snicker vact!"

"I'm sorry, I don't understand what you're saying. Let me turn on the subtitles."

"Itslk a snicker vact!"
It's like a sneak attack!

"Oh, I got it now, but what on earth are you talking about? A sneak attack, pshaw!"

And so it goes...

Friday, November 03, 2006

Memorable Gifts

When I was in the hospital this summer, I received a care package from one of my really good friends. My parents brought it to the hospital and helped me go through it, but I only have the slightest memory of this. Instead of leaving it with me, they brought it back to my apartment and it wound up getting stashed under some other things. A couple of days ago, I came across the box and was suprised by the contents. It was an awesome assortment of random things that would total brighten your day. A couple of my favorite items are the Good Vs Evil Unicorns and the Pirate Playing Cards. She rounded out the package with really practical items (that had found their way out of the box) like slippers and lip balm. How can you not want to be friends with someone that thoughtful?!? In case I didn't say it before, thanks Jen!

I was going to post about some of the other "get well" gifts that I have received, but then I realized that I was just procrastinating. Tonight, I am going to immerse myself in my statement of purpose for my grad school application. I want to have a few people review it and have time to do more rewriting, so I need to get this draft done. I'm still not happy with how it's flowing and there's still more information that I was to get in there. It's already almost three pages. Wish me luck!

Link for today:
Great Story!!!

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Focus On Something Else

I have met countless doctors during the last 18 months and I have been impressed with almost all of them. They have listened and treated me like a person. They seem to really care. Unfortunately, I had a really bad experience with one doctor a couple of weeks ago.

As I have mentioned before, I still have an open tract from the infection that followed my surgery. It is tiny, but it's not healing. I went in for an appointment two weeks ago expecting to have the tract fixed. I had been told at my last appointment that if there was no progress in healing, they would go in a take out the stitch at the bottom. Unfortunately, I did not have the same doctor at this appointment. Instead I met with a doctor who I had seen on prior occasions, but I never felt like he took me seriously. I mentioned to him that I was supposed to have the tract fixed. He told me he wasn't going to do anything. He didn't think it was a good idea. Frustrated because I have had an open wound since August of LAST YEAR, I started to cry. He then informed me that I shouldn't cry ever time I come in. I asked how long I would have to wait before he would be willing to do something. He told me that he couldn't give me a time line and the tract would heal by itself and "you have other things going on in your life, like school. You should try focusing on that and not make such a big deal out of this." I was shocked. I have never been dismissed by a doctor like that. I was so upset, I didn't know how to react. By the time I got home, I was angry. I called my doctor's office and left a message saying that I didn't was to see this other doctor again and that I needed to talk with one of the doctors from my surgical team.

I went back yesterday and I met with one of my surgeons who actually sat down and talked with me about what needed to be done. We're still waiting on doing any kind of procedure to close the tract, but there is a plan and he actually listened to me. I felt much better when I left yesterday.

I should do something about the way I was treated. Someone suggested that I write a letter, but at this point, I'm not comfortable with that. I may still run into him in the hall when I go for my follow-ups. Maybe once I've been discharged as a surgical patient. But I can guarantee that I will not be meeting with him again. If he comes into my room, I will demand to see someone else. That's non-negotiable.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

How Generic

I have spent the last fifteen minutes trying to come up with creative ways to say all this crap. I couldn't come up with anything unique (don't even ask about my failed poetry attempt), so I'm doing a top ten list.

Top 10 Crappy Things I'm Dealing or Have Dealt With This Week
10. We watch the movie "Halloween" last night. Not scary!
9. My "service engine soon" light came on. I'm hoping it's due to condensation. If it is, it'll go off in the next couple of days.
8. My rent went up today. Stupid LA with it's high cost of living.
7. I got an "A" on my Economics test from Monday. Good news, right... it is only an "A" because the professor curved the course, not just the test, the ENTIRE course. Anyone who gets about 40% passes.
6. The more time I spend on my personal statement for my grad school application, the more I feel I'm not getting across the points that I want to make.
5. I watched two hours of "Saved By the Bell" reruns last night because I woke up at 2:15 and couldn't get back to sleep.
4. This one sucks too, but I'm not telling anyone what it is.
3. My platelet counts have dropped lower (to 70,000).
2. Because of the continuous platelet problem, chemotherapy is on hold.
1. I still have an extra hole in my stomach.

On the bright side, Wednesday is my Friday and every weekend is a four-day weekend. Now if I could just get the "Saved By the Bell" theme out of my head.

Edit: I forgot to mention that I received my final GRE scores and I'm not all that happy with them. Ugh!

Edit #2: The "service engine soon" light went off!