I’m improving. It’s been a perfectly awful couple of weeks, but I’m improving. Day by day, I claim the smallest accomplishments as I claw myself back to health, or some reasonable facsimile thereof, after spending several days last week in the hospital with pneumonia, preceded by chemo Thursday and oxycontin withdrawal Friday and Saturday as I switched to a different drug. I went to the ER on Sunday night with trouble breathing, and they admitted me due to that, plus low blood pressure, low O2 rate, and junk in my chest that later led to a diagnosis of pneumonia. The doctors watched me closely to catch any sign of sepsis early (there was none!), and, on the whole (meaning except for 1 nurse and 2 technicians), they treated me well. I left the hospital on Wednesday, and, luckily, I didn’t have to go back to the ER all week.
The first day home, I slept, connected all day and night to the oxygen tubes that the hospital sent on ahead and the technicians had to explain to my parents, at home with the kids. The second day, I was able to be downstairs for a few hours with my children, sitting in the lovely chair that Kimberly, a fellow breast cancer survivor and friend of Elaine’s, gave me the week before to soothe my pains as I waited for the new medications to kick in. Sitting in that chair has been perfectly wonderful, as it is heavily cushioned and has one of those automatic controls that positions me comfortably and helps me get up when I’m ready to go upstairs. It’s also plushy, distracting from my portable oxygen container alongside. The third day, I was able to disconnect the oxygen for about half the day, which made me feel more confident being around the kids. They were perfectly wonderful, of course, accepting it with a minimum of curiosity and no fear, but I hated them to see me on oxygen in our home. Before that, we went to my primary care doctor for a check-in, and he pronounced me *much* better than expected based on what I’d been through. Hurrah!
The fourth day, I continued to work on several crossword puzzles and Sudoku, desperate to fight off chemobrain, but not ready yet to blog, and I struggled through the whole day awake and downstairs. We put up the Christmas tree as a family and strung the lights. We’re a little behind on our Jesse Tree / Family Advent time, but we are doing it as we can, and if that means we color the pictures or read the Old Testament stories in the middle of the day instead of after dinner (my original plan! ha!), then that’s just fine. Jess brought me communion again that day, and the whole family participated in the prayers. Jess and I cried together over the loss of our good friend, Judy, who lost her battle just hours after being admitted to hospice Friday night. I admit, I pouted much of the day. It’s just not fair — cancer always wins — and I hate the battle metaphor now, as the truth is that we women who are diagnosed with metastatic cancer are fighting for every day of our life — and there is no way for us to “win” such a battle, no matter how hard we try and no matter what we do. Once you are metastatic, until we find a cure, cancer will win every. single. time.
(Deep breath and new news – did I tell you about the study announced earlier this month? New research shows that 15 of 17 IBC patients overexpress some protein — and if we can now find the drug that hits that protein, THERE IS HOPE that we may shut it down entirely. This is big science and big hope. Especially for me – I was one of the 17 women who donated her tissues for that study! Those are MY CELLS they studied! I am full of hope, when I remember this – it’s just a matter now of the doctors finding the right drugs, and making it through the layers of trials to Level IV. Fast.)
On the fifth day, I gave up the oxygen for good, except when I was too out of breath after coming upstairs — but I did come upstairs as I needed to, which was major, after several days stuck in the chair or with my portable oxygen canister. We decorated the Christmas tree, reminiscing about my childhood ornaments and my husband’s, and the lovely little ones for the children. I sat in the chair again, ’tis true, but I sat all day and it was a victory.
Monday was hard again, as I wasn’t “all better,” and I wanted to be, but today is Tuesday and I’ve been able to sit and work much of the day – just email, and blog posts, and catching up on the bills, but I’m happy, because it’s progress. I pray that my progress continue and that I recover from pneumonia right on schedule this weekend. I go to chemo on Thursday, which will help my overall health outlook, but it will still be tough layered on top of this illness.
My friends are holding a novena for healing tonight and through this week, for me, for a sweet little girl who has cancer well before her time, and for other members of our church who are sick at this time of year. I only learned of it on Sunday, but I am hopeful that their prayers added to mine and yours will bring me strength and peace. I want to live so much. So much.