02 December 2009


It seems entirely too predictable that I would be focusing on gratitude at this time of the year. And yet, I believe that given the challenging circumstances that I am facing right now that I would be feeling these same emotions regardless of the season. It just so happens that I am in the middle of chemotherapy during the holiday season.

What I am really trying to express is, I think that even if it were the summer time, and I had hit my halfway through chemotherapy mark, that I would become just as reflective upon the great blessings that have been bestowed so generously upon me.

I had my last of the AC Chemo treatments on Monday. Wow! First round of chemo is done! It was harder on my body this time than the last two. It was more like the first treatment. I could not believe how weak I was. I am not just describing tired, but a frail and weakness through my entire body that makes it difficult for me to walk, lift my arms, well, it is difficult to move my body.

Patti was sick this week, so my daughter Catherine took me to my appointment. I don't know if I have ever met anyone in my entire life who is more kind than my daughter Catherine. She just emits such positive light. I am so thankful for her.

The treatment room was filled with more patients than I had ever seen before. There are probably 20 - 24 recliner seats in the room, and maybe there were two empty chairs. The thing that I noticed is that I was the youngest patient in the room. The treatment area was quiet on Monday, more so than usual. Most of the patients slept or listened to music via i-pod style players. Some were alone, but most, like me had a companion with them who patiently sat beside them during the treatments. My treatment takes about 3 hours, but there are some patients whose treatment regime takes 5-6 hours or more.

I slept more than usual, but when I was alert I just kept thinking about what treatment rooms were like 20 years, even 10 years ago. They were not quiet places. Patients experienced the most violent nausea and were vomiting during the treatments. I just kept thinking of these heros who paved the way so that scientists would earnestly seek to develop medications to suppress the hideous side effects. The side effects that I experience are nothing compared to what they could have been. I am thankful, so very thankful to those who suffered so that I would not have to suffer as much.

Still, today I am feeling pretty nauseated, with the usual Neulasta induced headache. As I have mentioned before, I have terrible insomnia. Last month I had my family doctor write a prescription for Ambien, but insurance companies will not fill more than two weeks of medicine for these "controlled" substances. I had to resort to taking them every other night to make them last. They were too low of a dose, so I would get, at the most, 4-5 consecutive hours of sleep. But, that was way better than the alternative.

When I met with Dr. Singh on Monday he wrote a prescription for Ambien CR, the extended release version, hoping that this formula would help me get a full night of sleep. I took the medicine at 9:15 p.m. so that by 10:00 p.m. I could be fast asleep. I was still awake at 10:30 p.m., not feeling the least bit sleepy. At 11:00 p.m. I went to my bed thinking I at least needed to be in a sleeping position to get things started. I was still awake at 11:45 p.m.

As I laid there, strange things started to happen. I felt my heart rate start increasing. Racing. I couldn't get a deep breath. I was almost hyper-ventilating. Restless. Scared. I went downstairs, as Doug was still up working. I told him how I was feeling. I started crying uncontrollably and described myself as feeling like I was having a panic attack. No sooner than I had said those words, Doug had pulled up on the computer information of a rare side effect from Ambien CR that caused the exact symptoms that I was experiencing. He found a support thread that had individual after individual reporting similar symptoms in various degrees of intensity.

The worst of it lasted about an hour. I went back upstairs and laid down with a heating pad over my head and eyes, which was quite soothing. Doug came upstairs and just sat with me while continuing to work on his laptop, keeping a hand on my shoulder or arm so that I wouldn't feel alone. I felt calmer, but my heart was still beating quite fast. I don't remember when I finally fell asleep, but I remember waking up in the middle of the night, perhaps around 3 or 4 in the morning feeling like I had been run over. I woke up again at 6 a.m. again at 7:30 and then slept hard until 9:15.

Fortunately, I don't have to do anything but rest and sleep today after I post this. Kim is coming this afternoon to work on this weekend's wedding cakes. I am so thankful for Kim. She is always cheerful about working on the cakes. I know it is hard work and it is not convenient for her and there must be something she would rather be doing. But, I don't know what I would do without her. When her twin girls get married, I will make the biggest, baddest most awesome wedding cakes for each of them. I think that after I am well, I will also keep her girls for an entire week so that she can go do what ever she wants to do. I am open to any suggestions of what I possibly could do to repay the incredible service she has provided for me and my family.

One final thought: I appreciate so much every gesture of kindness, every message and note and thought and prayer that you have extended to me. I have not been able to respond to each of you individually, but please know that you mean so much to me. Thank you for your love. I love you too.


carykate said...

Dear Sally, I am glad to hear your spirits are up. You're in our thoughts! I can relate a little to not being able to sleep. When I was on bed-rest while pregnant I could NOT sleep at night -- I'm sure because I wasn't expending any energy during the day. The one thing that made me feel better was some where I read that laying in bed is 70% as restful as sleeping. I told Jared that so many times it has become a family joke. It probably isn't even true (I googled it and couldn't find anything...) but at the time it did make me feel better like I wasn't totally wasting my time.... :) Katie

Anonymous said...

Kim sounds like a blessing you could not live without. I remember when I was on bedrest with Savannah and the entire ward stepped in and took Samuel and Joshua every morning for 6 weeks (and Samuel WAS a handful!). Some things can never be repaid back, nor should they, they can only be paid forward. When you are well again, you can find someone in need of your help and offer it wholeheartedly. After so much service has been provided to you, it is incredibly rewarding to be able to help someone else! I love you Sally! You are doing great! Janine

Catherine said...

I love what Janine said about things not being paid back but forward. This is so true. Mom, for all the service and love you've given through the years, it is time for you to be served and loved. I am grateful for you and the strength continue to exhibit during this. Much love, Catherine

Jo Ann B. Pennock said...

Hi Sally,
That is so true of Catherine--she is the best--and she will be blessed for her loving service to you. You are so lucky to have such wonderful daughters. I'm so sorry about the insomnia. I think sleepwalking is another side effect, the librarian with whom I work once did an entire load of laundry, and made and ate a sandwich in her sleep on Ambien. I think often the hardest and most humbling part of service is letting others be blessed by serving YOU. You will "pay it forward" many times over, I know.
Jo Ann

Mikkelsens said...

Hi Sally,
It was good to see you posting again. If there is a silver lining in what you are going through, maybe it is the inspiration that you are giving to those of us on the sidelines. Your gratitude and selfless attitude humbles and motivates me. Don't forget how much I love you!

Prayers and Long Distance {Hugs},

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