Category Archives: Medical/Cancer

A Lovely Drive at the Yolo Bypass, 12-09-22

Since I last posted, when I quit chemotherapy, things haven’t changed a whole lot. But I do see little improvements in my condition. I can walk a little further without getting winded; over the last few days the vertigo has receded a bit and only seems to get triggered if I bend over. Every tiny improvement helps.

Today, I was literally in tears when my friend Roxanne took me out to the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area. I hadn’t been outside in Nature for a MONTH, and was getting very depressed about that. We were out for about 5 hours, and because we stayed on the auto tour loop I never had to get out of the car. The vertigo wasn’t as issue as long as she didn’t drive too fast taking turns… and was only triggered when I needed to use a porta potty and had to bend over to lift the lid on the toilet. Hah! 

The other issue for me was that I catch a chill really easily now – I don’t know what that’s about – so I was in my heavy coat and knit cap.  When we’re birding from the car, we keep the windows open so the camera can see out without obstruction. It was maybe 53º outside, but with windchill it felt like 47º.  Luckily, Roxanne has a car that lets you set different inside temperatures for the driver and passenger, so she set her side of the car to 66º and I set mine to78º and we were comfy even with the windows open.

And, oh my gosh, as I said, I was literally in tears with happiness when we first headed out to the bypass. And I was surprised to hear the sound of my own voice laughing over our in-car chatter as we drove along the auto tour route. I literally hadn’t heard myself laugh for over a month. The chemo has taken so much from me, it was nice to get a little joy back. Nature heals…literally. Before I left the house I took my blood pressure and pulse. They were 141/81 and 129. (My pulse has run real fast since chemo.) When I got back home from being out in nature, they were 127/87 and 113.  I needed that sooooo much.

CLICK HERE for the album of photos. I may add more to this as I process more of the photos.

While we were out we saw over thirty different species of birds, but the coolest thing we found were American Bitterns. They’re somewhat secretive birds that usually hang out in the high grasses and tules, so we’re happy when we can spot one. Today, we spotted FIVE of them. I was so excited!  

We also came across two young, “orphaned” Snow Geese in different ponds. There was no flock of Snow Geese anywhere around them, so we surmised the youngsters couldn’t keep up with the flock and either dropped out when the flock was flying over the bypass, or had been left behind when the flock left the bypass. They seemed healthy enough; I hope they’ll be okay. 

We did see quite a few dead birds in the water, and I wondered if they had been affected by avian flu.

As I said, we were out for about 5 hours and got back to the house around 1:30 PM. It was SUCH a nice day; I hope to be able to get out again soon.

Species List:

  1. American Bittern, Botaurus lentiginosus
  2. American Coot, Fulica americana
  3. American Kestrel, Falco sparverius
  4. American Pipit, Anthus rubescens
  5. American Wigeon, Anas americana
  6. Ash, Oregon Ash, Fraxinus latifolia
  7. Bisnaga, Visnaga daucoides
  8. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  9. Brewer’s Blackbird, Euphagus cyanocephalus
  10. Cinnamon Teal, Anas cyanoptera
  11. Common Gallinule, Gallinula galeata
  12. Coyote Brush, Baccharis pilularis
  13. Gadwall Duck, Mareca strepera
  14. Great Blue Heron, Ardea herodias
  15. Great Egret, Ardea alba
  16. Greater White-Fronted Goose, Anser albifrons
  17. Greater Yellowlegs, Tringa melanoleuca
  18. Grebe, Pied-Billed Grebe, Podilymbus podiceps
  19. Green-Winged Teal, Anas carolinensis
  20. Gull, Herring Gull, Larus argentatus
  21. Gull, Larus sp.
  22. House Finch, Haemorhous mexicanus
  23. Least Sandpiper, Calidris minutilla
  24. Mallard Duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  25. Meshweaver Spider, Family: Dictynidae
  26. Northern Harrier, Marsh Hawk, Circus hudsonius
  27. Northern Pintail, Anas acuta
  28. Northern Shoveler, Anas clypeata
  29. Pigeon, Rock Pigeon, Columba livia
  30. Red-Shouldered Hawk, California Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus elegans
  31. Red-Tailed Hawk, Western Red-Tailed Hawk, Buteo jamaicensis calurus
  32. Red-Winged Blackbird, Agelaius phoeniceus
  33. Rose, California Wild Rose, Rosa californica [pink]
  34. Saltbush, Big Saltbush, Atriplex lentiformis
  35. Snow Goose, Chen caerulescens
  36. Snowy Egret, Egretta thula
  37. Sparrow, House Sparrow, Passer domesticus
  38. Sparrow, Savannah Sparrow, Passerculus sandwichensis
  39. Sparrow, Song Sparrow, Melospiza melodia
  40. Sparrow, White-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia leucophrys
  41. Tule, Common Tule, Schoenoplectus acutus
  42. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
  43. Western Meadowlark, Sturnella neglecta
  44. Wren, Marsh Wren, Cistothorus palustris

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Chemo Infusion and Aftermath, 12-3-22

As you probably know I started chemotherapy on Tuesday, November 8th, to try to address my cancer. When Wilson, my tumor, and his offspring first showed up, I told myself I would NOT go through chemo or radiation to deal with them (as I had years ago when I had chemo for breast cancer) because I didn’t want to spend months having the treatment take over my life – with no guarantee that it would accomplish anything. My oncologist, however, kind of talked me into chemo saying it was much different these days than it was when I had it before, so I decided to give it a try.  It  WAS very different from the previous chemo I’d been through, but not in a good way.

I was signed up for 6 infusions of Taxol and Carboplatin, each infusion about 3 weeks apart, with lab tests within 24 to 48 hours of each infusion. Well, I sat for the FIVE HOURS of the first infusion on the 8th, and had taken a buttload of anti-nausea medication beforehand, so the infusion process itself wasn’t bad (although the drip for the second chemical of the cocktail was set so fast it made my hand swell and ache for days afterwards.)

I felt okay for the rest of that day, and really didn’t have much of a reaction on the day after that, so I thought I would be able to tolerate the future infusions. Wrong.

On the 10th, I awoke to lower back pain, and around lunchtime was hit with myalgia pain that struck every muscle in my body. It was like everything had tightened into one big knot of pain. I literally couldn’t move my thighs much at all, so walking was nearly impossible.  The pain persisted throughout the night, so I got no sleep, and then continued through the next day.

I emailed my infusion doctor, and asked if my symptoms were “normal” for a first infusion. He didn’t really answer the question, but said I was probably just “sensitive” to the Taxol. I asked him if he could lessen the amount of Taxol I was given over my protocol, and he said, no. The only alternative would be to come in every day for smaller infusions… which would mean a drive of 30-minutes each way to the infusion center every day, AND lab work every day. Well, I thought that was ridiculous. I wasn’t going to let the infusions take over like that, disrupting not only my life but my sister’s, too. (I also didn’t understand why a cocktail of different chemicals couldn’t be used.) I’d just try to see if I could tough it out, I thought.

Over the next few weeks, the myalgia pain dissipated, but I was then faced with every other symptom known to chemo-dom: vomiting, diarrhea, breathlessness (I couldn’t walk from one end of the kitchen to the next without being out of breath), bone pain along my shins, restless leg syndrome (on a few nights), and vertigo.  I couldn’t catch a break. Keep in mind, this was after just the first infusion. When I had chemo before (in 2003), I didn’t have these problems until near the END of the entire protocol as the poisons built up in my system.  I was shocked by how brutal this was.

On the 16th, I had a Zoom meeting with a social worker and doctor in Kaiser’s palliative care division. They kept trying to tell me I’d get through it, and they’d figure out a pain management system for me, but they wanted me to keep my infusion schedule. They were very nice about it, but I sort of felt as though I wasn’t being listened to or taken very seriously.  I cried through most of the appointment.

Since then, the diarrhea and vertigo persisted, which meant I couldn’t walk or drive anywhere by myself, so I couldn’t get out into nature, and most days it was difficult to get out of bed.

Being so sick in so many different ways had just sucked the joy out of every single day. By the 22nd, I’d had enough. 

I cancelled all of my doctor’s appointments and infusion dates, and only kept the appointment for lab work on the books. As soon as the cancellations started showing up at Kaiser, I started getting phone calls. The assistant from the infusion doctor’s office wanted to know if I wanted to keep that appointment, but do it virtually, so he’d know what was going on with me. I told her, no, I was composing an email message for him, but I needed to gather my thoughts first. She asked me the same question three more times, using different verbiage… which once again made me feel as though I was not being listened to or taken seriously. No means no.

I then got a call from one of the nurse practitioners at the infusion center, wanting to know what was going on. I told her what I’d been going through, and reiterated the laundry-list of persistent symptoms I was having… and she said, “A lot of that sounds like you’re extremely dehydrated.”  And, yes! That made sense to me. Finally, someone who listened to me and offered me some useful guidelines to work with. 

She wanted me to drive in to the infusion center or go to the nearest ER to get some extra fluids to jump-start my body, but I wasn’t going to do that, so I opted instead to focus on forcing fluids myself, and ordered some Gatorade to get some extra electrolytes. She also suggested I get some Imodium to see if that couldn’t squelch the diarrhea. So, I ordered the Imodium along with some packets of electrolytes that I can add to my water bottles and had them delivered to the house.

Oh, and a new symptom showed up around Thanksgiving. While we were eating breakfast, I felt something fall onto my shoulder. I checked to see what it was, and it was my hair.  My hair didn’t fall out during my last chemo until about halfway through the protocol; I certainly wasn’t expecting it after just an initial infusion this time around.  It made my sister wonder aloud if they’d given me way too much of the drugs. I worried about the same thing. My eyelashes have also fallen out and I expect my eyebrows will follow suit.

I believe my hearing and eyesight have also been affected by the infusion, but the persistent vertigo is the next big hurdle to overcome; I can’t do much of anything on my own outside of the house until that’s controlled, or at least goes down to a dull roar. I’m not sure how to do that, so I have an appointment with my GP on December 13th to discuss it.

All of this being said, I’m glad I stopped all of the other infusions, and won’t be subjecting my body to any further plant-based or heavy metal poisonings.  And I’m looking forward to feeling better, reinstating my joy, and being more of a help to my sister as things move forward. 

Hopefully, too, the next post will be a happier one outside in nature.

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Welllllllll, Sh*t, 09-06-22

Cancer is back… and it’s more aggressive this time. I had a biopsy done on August 30th. My friend Roxanne was at the house by 5:45 AM (such a good friend), drove me to the appointment, and stayed at the hospital until the biopsy was done. We were out of there and back home by around 10 o’clock…which was a good thing because Rox had to go to work around noon.

The procedure was slated for 6:30, but of course the nurse (mine was a male nurse named Larry) has to get you prepped, take your pulse, blood pressure et al, stick EKG monitor stickers on you, and put a line in a vein. Larry was great, and was able to find a vein that was cooperative on the very first jab.

The doctor, Brandon Doskocil, came in to say hi and to let me know how the procedure was going to go: they’d give me lidocaine and “happy drugs” before doing anything, and keep me semiconscious because I had to be able to follow the instructions of the CT machine. I’d go into and out of the machine a few times while they found the right spot to send in the puncture biopsy instrument. Then the doctor would extract two samples, one from the lesion and one from an adjacent lymph node. Okee-dokee.

I get wheeled into the CT room on a gurney and then have to transfer over onto the scanner bed. Once they got me situated on the scanner bed the way they wanted me, I asked for a pillow under my knees, but they could only use a shallow one because if my knees were bent up too high in would interfere with the biopsy.  So, once I was settled and feeling relatively comfy, I got shot up with lidocaine in my hip joint, and was given the “happy drugs”. Those drugs were great, I didn’t care about anything…even when, during the procedure, the doctor hit the femoral nerve. I screamed – but then laughed because everyone else in the room screamed, too, and said “hit a nerve” in unison. That whole process took about 20 minutes.

Then it was back to the gurney and into a small area where I could get dressed again. But the drug were making me stupid and I put my shoes on before I put my pants on and basically forgot how to dress myself. Larry helped me pull my pants up. As he was wheeling me out to the parking lot in a wheelchair I thanked him and told him he had done a great job.  He squeezed my shoulder and said, “thank you” in my ear and there was so much emotion in his voice; like no one had thanked him before. Awww.

Roxanne was right at the curb as Larry rolled me out of the hospital, and she drove me back home. Lots of anticipation and anxiety over “nothing”.  We’ll see how I feel when the drugs wear off.

On September 3rd, I got a call from my oncologist, Dr. Suby, letting me know about the results of the biopsy. My cancer is back, and it seems to be in a more aggressive form than it was previously. *Sigh* The cancer cells aren’t well defined, so they can more easily metastasize to other cells. Not what I wanted to hear, but was what I was sort of expecting.

I have a video visit with a neurologist on the 7th, and I should have a PET scan scheduled sometime soon. I’ll let you know if anything comes of them.

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A Short Walk at Effie, 02-07-22

Around 8 o’clock I headed over to Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve for a walk. I hadn’t done any real walking since the day of my surgery, so I chose a place where the trails are all pretty flat and where I know where all f the benches are.

Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus

OMG, it was more difficult than I thought it would be. Because I haven’t been walking much at all, I learned very quickly, I had ZERO stamina. My pack felt too heavy, my camera felt too heavy, I could barely walk a few yards without feeling exhausted. I only managed to walk one loop.

Because I only did the one loop, and because I was too “aware” of my body’s limitations to really pay attention to everything around me, I didn’t see a whole lot: a few bird species, some Fox and Ground Squirrels, and a couple of deer. It was very disappointing… even though I know I have to work myself up to longer walks, and I managed to go for 90 minutes before I collapsed in the car.

CLICK HERE for the album of photos.

Species List:

  1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
  2. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
  3. California Quail, Callipepla californica [heard]
  4. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  5. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis [on golf course lawn]
  6. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
  7. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger
  8. Golden-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia atricapilla
  9. Northern Flicker, Colaptes auratus
  10. Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus
  11. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura [flyover]
  12. Western Bluebird, Sialia Mexicana

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