Archive for the ‘ Donations ’ Category

Big changes: moving, treatment, everything

As usual, I am making this post much later than I wanted. I’ve had family & friends visiting a lot over the last few weeks, have been very sick, and have been inundated with appointments.

Treatment: I’ve gone through 3 rounds of IV chemo (5 days, 10 days, 5 days), and a few weeks of a chemo pill. I’ve had multiple injuries, infections, antibiotics, vomiting sessions…I’ll spare the rest of the fun details. The good news is that I appear to be cancer-free at the moment, though there are likely some “bad cells” hiding out somewhere. I begin a 4th round of 5-day IV chemo on the 18th. I’m also now on oxygen 24/7 after my lungs continued to get worse, partly due to more pneumonia.

After that week of IV chemo, we are moving back to my home town of Pittsburgh, PA! My husband and I are completely exhausted, and we just can’t do this anymore. We are slipping…missing meds, missing appointments, late to every appointment, and just completely unorganized and behind on everything. I have a small army of a family that can take many burdens away and allow us to focus on what is most important: healing our bodies and minds. Switching hospitals at this point in treatment with such a complicated history is a nightmare, but it will have to be worked out. Most likely, I will stay on some kind of regular IV chemo regimen to keep me in remission. I will continue to need treatment for the GVH (Graft vs Host) problems I have.

A huge thanks to my friends and family here in Omaha and in Pittsburgh. My family is trying to raise enough money to make this move happen. Once again, I ask that if you have the ability to make a donation, please do. There is a GoFundMe link at the top of each blog page. I have used prior donations for dental work and specialty lenses, but I really need help getting home within the next couple weeks. I am immensely grateful for everything that has been donated, and amazed at the amount that I have received. Eyes and teeth are very important!

I will post another update as soon as I am able to. In the meantime, stay frosty :)

Been a rough summer

I have not been feeling well and have had an insane amount of appointments. I apologize for the lack of updates during this time.

Skin: After decreasing the prednisone, I began to have problems with my skin. My arms swelled up to the shoulders, my legs swelled from my calves up to the top of my thighs, and my lower abdomen swelled around my entire body. The skin in these areas became hard, tight, and thick, making it difficult to move. The skin is also lumpy. This has caused a great amnount of pain and discomfort. I have been diagnosed with skin GVHD (Graft vs Host Disease). Apparently this is one of the most difficult types of skin GVHD to treat. How is it treated? Photopheresis and anti-rejection meds. We moved me from monthly photopheresis to weekly and started me on Sirolimus, an anti-rejection medicine. The Sirolimus causes urinary issues, edema and abdominal swelling for me. It also gives me very shaky hands/tremors. Photopheresis is usually a 3 to 4 hour treatment, and is given 2 days in a row. In other words, each completed treatment is a 2 day ordeal. Per my GVHD doctor, decreasing prednisone too fast can cause the skin GVHD to spread. I had a very small amount of it unknowlingly prior to the prednisone decrease. I will begin seeing a dermatologist in a couple weeks. I have also just started a new medicine for GHVD called Jakafi. It’s been recently approved by the FDA for treatment of GVHD where prednisone failed.

Strength: I’ve also been going to physical therapy 2 days each week. My range of motion and strength are terrible, and many parts of my body are seized up, especially with the skin GVHD…for example, I can’t straighten my elbows or knees. I will begin occupational therapy in a couple weeks, which will address my hands. I was able to puchase a quad cane, which has been a great help. My knees still continue to give out if I bend them too much.

Eyes: My right sclera lens has been running the eye. I developed a cyst on my eyeball because of this, and have had a total of 3 lenses for that eye now. My warranty has expired, so the next one I order I will have to pay the $400 full price. My doctor is looking into having the lens vaulted in the section where it’s rubbing my eye.

Teeth: Pehaps the best news – I have begun to get dental work done, thanks to the donations that I’ve received! So far I’ve had 3 teeth pulled and 6 cavaties filled. Most of the cavaties were fillings that had fallen out of the front of my top teeth . I am no longer scared to smile. I have a lot more work that needs done, but it’s a good start.

Gut/Food: I’ve also been disgnosed with GHVD of the gut and put on a new medicine for that. It’s a steroid medicine that coats my digestive system. I’m also back on an acid reflux medicine. I feel a little better now that I am on these meds. Fortunately I have been able to gain weight, and I’m at a healthy weight again. I continue to have a very dry mouth and choke on just about everything I eat, so the eating has not been any easier, especially after having 3 teeth pulled.

It’s getting increasingly difficult to manage my meds and appointments. I’m up to about 20 medications, and I don’t even know how many specialists I am seeing. I can’t swallow pills, so they either need to be crushed or they have to be liquid. I have been sleeping a lot, and I’m back on pain pills, mostly for my mouth and legs. I spend a lot of time with my feet up because of the pain and swelling in my feet and legs. It’s quite unpleasant.

Of the donations that I have received so far, I have enough to cover one more set of fillings at the dentist and 1 replacement lens for my right eye. Anything that you’re able to send my way is greatly appreciated!

Weight, weak, many updates

I skipped last week’s update because I haven’t been feeling all that great. I have been on prednisone for almost 3 weeks now. I am very shaky and weak, dehydrated, constipated, and I am having bladder issues (back in diapers again). I am also bloated with abdominal pain and I am beginning to have edema (swelling) in my legs and feet. For all these reasons, I very much dislike steroids. However, they have helped my breathing, my joint pain and increased my appetite…but not completely. I am waiting on urinalysis results to see if I have another UTI. I took my first walk on the treadmill in 2 months, and it was much more difficult this time. My joints and muscles are very sore, and walking helped to stretch things out a bit. 10 minutes was all I could handle.

I had my 6 month follow up appointment with my cancer doctor on the 16th. She is very concerned about my weight, and wants to put a feeding tube into my stomach. I weighed 97 pounds at my appointment. Normally I weigh about 125 pounds, but due to loss of muscle, my new normal is about 110 to 115. The salmonella that I had last month really took a toll, and I am feeling much weaker than I did prior. I have been given 6 weeks to increase my weight. If I don’t, my doctor will be pushing hard for a feeding tube. I have been eating as much as possible, which is difficult with my choking issues and general lack of appetite. A friend of ours gave me some Muscle Milk powder that I mix with chocolate milk. I’ve also been adding peanut butter powder to my morning junk food childrens cereals (CoCoa Puffs & Peanut Butter Cap’n Crunch). So far I have gained about 5 pounds, which I am very happy about.

I also had a follow up appointment with my eye doctor on the 17th. The right contact lens doesn’t quite feel right, and my prescription feels like it needs adjusted. He said the fit looks good but discovered that the prescription is definitely off. He wants me to wear the lenses for another 2 weeks before making any adjustments. Fortunately the manufacturer allows 90 days for any such adjustments. Another pair would be made, so I would be able to continue wearing the current lenses while waiting for the new pair. These lenses have been life changing, and I can’t thank my donors enough for funding them. I put them in about an hour after waking up, and every day my eyes are starving for them by that time. They provide instant relief for my dry painful eyes, and the last thing I do before bed is take them out.

I need to get started on my dental work, but I haven’t had the energy to look into it quite yet. A Red Cross nurse that does my Photopheresis treatment recommended a dental discount program that his church referred me to. I will be looking into a second opinion through that.

Yesterday was my birthday, and it was a beautiful day. I got to get out of the house for a bit, run a couple errands with my husband, and we had dinner with friends. My mother in law and future (this weekend!!!) father in law stopped by to bring me some goodies. I felt decent enough to enjoy the day and it was quite nice. I also received 3 donations through my GoFundMe Campaign, which was a nice surprise! Thanks to my awesome donor friends :)

I have another follow up with the eye doctor this Thursday, and in a couple weeks I have my next swallow test and monthly Photopheresis treatment. I also need to work on getting a couple of prescriptions that either aren’t covered by insurance or are too expensive.

Edit: I forgot to mention that I fell a couple days ago. This is the second time I’ve fallen. The first time was last summer, and I hurt my tailbone when it happened. Luckily I did not hurt myself this time, and my husband was home to pick me up off the floor. I basically stepped forward too fast and lunged forward, putting too much weight on my left knee. The knee gave out, and so did my left ankle, which caused me to slowly sink to the floor. It happened in the bathroom, so I had many close objects to put my arms on while I fell onto my butt in a sitting position. Once I am on the floor, I can’t easily get up. The joints in my hands and wrists don’t allow me to push off the floor. It’s scary how weak I am. I do not trust my legs at all, and would not be safe anywhere without the support of someone with me. It’s a good thing that my husband has the ability to be around most of the time. I am extremely thankful for this!

More upcoming tests, general updates

First, thanks again to everyone who has helped with my fundraiser. Day to day life has been a bit more manageable, but I still have a ways to go on my dental treatment.

The last week has been pretty busy. I had my Photopheresis treatment on Wednesday and Thursday, and I had an appointment with a new doctor on Friday for my choking issues.

Photopheresis went well, and the bloodwork that was done prior looks good. I am low on a few things, which is a result of poor diet and lack of muscle.

My Fiday appointment was basically a consultation. I had an endoscopy a few weeks ago, and a biopsy was taken of some scar tissue in my esophagus. I have 2 tests scheduled for June. One is a esophageal manometry. The tube will be left in for 24 hours to also test my acid levels. I am not looking forward to all this, but I am sick of choking on everything!

My contact lenses are working out quite well. Although I think some adjustments need done, overall I am very happy. It’s amazing to be able to go outside without having to close my eyes and rely on drops every few minutes. I no longer feel like I have a foreign body on my eyes, and they are much less painful.

I have been put on steroids for the next couple weeks. Although I hate steroids, they do help with a lot of things. My breathing has been better, and I have a lot of energy. I will take advantage of this to rebuild some strength.

This week I have my 6 month follow up with my cancer doctor, and I have an appointment to have my contact lenses checked.