Saturday, January 23, 2010

The Return of Meredith

Before you get started... I know... it's been a couple of months since I've updated my blog and you've been anxiously awaiting to hear how I'm doing. Some of you have even passed messages through my mother to tell me to get back to blogging pronto! I've wanted to write, but haven't had a brain that would let me until now.

What took me so long? Chemo... it's powerful... the best way I can sum it up is to quote what my best friend Alyson has told people when they have asked her, "she looks like Mer, and she talks like Mer, but she's not really."

I haven't felt like myself for several weeks. It's not like in the movies... I haven't been vomiting at all (thanks to the anti-nausea meds)... on my worst days I'm just in a deep fog, with no energy, laying in bed all day. The best analogy I can give you is Houston weather... there are lots of days with sunshine, and those clear weather days represent getting to feel, act, and think like the person you and everyone else knows you to be. Everyone's experience with chemo is very different. For me, it's been like a huge storm front with the potential for hurricanes rolling into my life...many days have been at best overcast and dreary as far as the way my mind and body felt... and there have been days here and there with major storm activity... but also days where things seemed to settle down for a bit.

I wish I could articulate it better. I don't want anyone to get too worried... I'm doing well overall and experiencing the side effects that the doctor prepared me for. And I have continued to fully trust God's plan and provision for me... I know I'm going to be okay.

I started chemo on October 8th. I'm on a very common "dose-dense" chemo regimen. For the months of October and November I received Adriamycin and Cytoxan every 2 weeks. Adriamycin in the world of oncology has earned the nickname "The Red Devil" because it looks like red kool-aid (and makes your urine red), and tends to have some of the most bothersome side effects, including hair loss. I started out strong and healthy, so round one was better than I thought, then round 2 was more intense... then round 3 more intense... then round 4 was a doozy and kept me in bed for over a week. It's intentional that they order the strongest rounds of chemo in the beginning... and luckily 4 rounds was all they had planned for me. Then in December we changed to another type of chemo called Taxol, which I was scheduled to have once a week for 12 cycles. Taxol in general is better tolerated by patients... it's main side effect is fatigue. Any form of chemo can linger in your body for up to 6 months, so at first the "leftovers" piled on top of the Taxol, and I continued to spend lots of time in bed. Also, as the weeks progressed, my blood counts continued to drop, which is part of the goal in treatment, but you don't want them to get too low.

We did have to postpone my chemo the week of Christmas to give my body some extra time to bring the counts up and back in the range where chemo is allowed. Although a delay in treatment is not ideal, it turned out to be a great Christmas gift... I started to feel a glimmer of hope about returning to my pre-chemo self. Going back to the weather analogy, it was like glimpsing a few rays of sunshine and being reminded that the storm will eventually clear. So, the next week we resumed chemo and I'm now back on my normal schedule of chemo every Friday. We also this week started "booster shots", which are injections that help to stimulate the production of white blood cells, and therefore bring my counts up. These injections have made a HUGE difference in my energy level this week and I'm so grateful that they are available and covered by my insurance.

So, now I only have 5 more rounds of chemo to go... my last treatment is on Feb 26th. Tears are coming to my eyes all of the sudden as I see that date in print... it's my finish line and I can finally see it in the distance.

So, that's what I have the energy to say for now. There's so many more stories I need to tell. I had hoped that I could keep my blog in chronological order, but storms make big messes sometimes. Then when the storms start to clear the news is filled with updates on the damage caused, but more importantly the stories of survival, inspiration, and people serving one another start to pour in... those are the are the stories I want to be sure to tell in the days ahead. Please pray that I'll have the energy and mental clarity to do so... and that there will be minimal technological challenges when I attempt to upload photos and videos.

Thank you all for your continued support and prayers. As I fix my eyes on the finish line, I feel 2 things: Jesus by my side and all of you cheering from the sidelines, "Go Mer Mer... Go Mer Mer...Go, Go, Go Mer Mer."