Monthly Archives: June 2017

Still here!!

Despite best laid plans, it has been a long time since I wrote a post. It isn’t because i have been too ill that I haven’t been here. I have been too busy living life! Praise God for miracles … and thanks to modern day medicine.

I will be getting Opdivo infusion #97 on Monday. Wow!!! It won’t be too long before we get to throw a centennial celebration! I wish i was better at planning parties, because that 100th infusion of immunotherapy will certainly be worthy of celebration!

I am writing this on my tablet. Unfortunately,  i don’t think i have access to many of my photos. The reality is that i haven’t really taken lots of pictures lately. Occasionally,  i pull out my phone to capture a memory, but i haven’t taken my good camera out in search of subjects of interest in quite some time. I need to rectify that one of these days!

Today, we celebrate the anniversary of Divo and Espy, the twin kitties, coming to live with us. They have been the perfect additions to our family. Cotton tries to terrorize them on occasion, but mostly, they ignore her. Divo is named for the drug that is keeping me alive. Espy is short for Esperanza,  Spanish for Hope. I usually have trouble thinking of names for my 4-legged family members, but these two were easy!

Speaking of 4-legged family members, Cotton, an 8-year-old American Eskimo Dog, and Barney, my 7-year-old Sheltie (Shetland Sheep Dog), continue to add joy to my life. The three of us play dog agility together. I credit them with helping keep me alive. They have ensured that i get a lot of exercise and that i have much to focus on besides the fact that I have cancer. They are not just my teammates, by any means, but it has been incredible playing a sport with them.

As for my health, i have suffered a couple of set backs in recent months. At my last scan, i developed a severe allergy to the iodine contrast they give me. I thought i was having some kind of strange and misplaced panic attack as I could not catch my breath. I was really embarrassed that i would be having such a reaction after having many, many scans since my cancer was diagnosed. So, i didn’t tell anyone how I was feeling.

Fortunately,  when i went to the cancer clinic to have my port deaccessed, it was immediately evident that i was having problems. The chemo nurse quickly diagnosed it as an allergic reaction and got benedryl and lots of liquids into me right away.

It was touch and go for an hour or so (i didn’t realize until later how deadly an allergic reaction can be), but i was much better after several hours. I won’t be getting the iodine contrast in the future unless absolutely necessary. Now that we know i have severe reactions to it these days, i will be pre- and post-medicated before i am ever given the solution again. Whew!! That was pretty scary. Thankfully, it was scarier after i was all better and was reading about it than it was when i was actually going through. I had complete faith that the care team had everything under control, and they did!

More recently, my blood test results showed i might have developed moderate kidney disease. I was really scared by those results because i would have to quit Opdivo if one of my organs started failing. I really thought I might have come to the end of the race after beating the odds for the last 4-plus years.

My oncologist told me i needed to increase my electrolytes before my next appointment. We needed to see if my kidneys could be rehydrated and begin functioning properly again. (I never realized they were not functioning as they should. There was no pain, blood, lack of urine production … the only indicators were screwed up levels of creatinine, LD, and eGFR, as shown by my blood tests.)

Several of my friends and my son bounced into action. They know i am a procrastinator. To combat that, they brought me foods that would help raise electrolytes, all kinds of drinks to try, and provided unbelievable support (sometimes in the form of mother-henning me to ensure I was drinking enough to get those kidneys hydrated). I can’t begin to say how grateful I am to have friends and family who really do care and go to great lengths to try to make sure i stay among the living.

My care team, my friends and family, and I were holding our breath as we waited on the blood test results at my next visit (i go every 2 weeks). I was a little nervous since we had had a 3-day Memorial Day agility trial where i had played hard, worked hard, and done plenty of sweating. Had I drunk enough water and Gatorade to keep my kidneys happy?

My oncologist, nurse practitioner, researcher, and I had a small celebration when the results were in. When you go to the doctor every two weeks for four years, the staff become friends. We were all elated to see that my creatinine level was just above what is considered normal. Close enough … and going DOWN, not continuing up!! Whew!!!

Fortunately for me, my friends won’t let me rest on those good results and return to life as it was before. I am still being brought different sports drinks to try and i am strongly encouraged to keep drinking them. I am one lucky girl to have such awesome and caring friends.

So, despite a couple of scares, my life is full. It mostly revolves around activities with my dogs and my agility friends, but i have recently been fortunate enough to be interviewed for several articles that will be coming out soon about lung cancer and immunotherapy. In August, i get to return to Chicago for a summit on immunotherapy. I am looking forward to that! I had a fabulous time when i was there last time. This time, i will have an opportunity to visit with a friend who lives there before i go to the Summit. I am looking forward to both very much.

So, here’s to living life!!!  Cancer is part of it, but certainly not all of it.