Sunday, November 21, 2010

Long Time, No See

    Okay, so I guess now I know why I'll never make it as a committed writer or blogger....It's been almost 2 months since I've checked in here.  My how time flies when we're having fun!!!!
    All things considered, not much is new.  I suffered from a really nasty sinus/respiratory infection for 7 weeks in the fall, and that threw me for a loop!  I'm guessing my compromised immune system had a lot to do with it, but then again, others I know had the same condition.   The worst part was the inner ear involvement which then brought on severe vertigo.  Never had it before, and hope I never have it again!!  Innumerable dr. visits and 3 antibiotics later, I now realize how bad I reallly felt!
     HCV wise, we're plugging along.  I'm at week 34.  Almost half way to the ideal treatment length, and 3/4 to the minimal treatment time of 48 weeks.  I can't deny that I'm really tired of it!!  I push myself to get through the things I have to do, and am getting better about prioritizing extra stuff.  I've thrown in the towel on a lot of my independence, and let my husband drive me around to do the week-end errands. 
    Symptom wise, I think the hair is the worst for me to deal with.   I still have some, and I admit there are lots of people out there who would be thrilled to have what I have. But my hair used to be one of my very best assets, and now it is flat, coarse, and unresponsive.  I've gone to  a very short "pixie" cut, that still looks awful, and I am seriously considering a wig.  My doctor assures me that it will grow back when this is all done; seems like a long ways away! 
     Otherwise, I continue to be tired, my skin is very dry, but knock on wood, I haven't developed a true riba rash.  I have restless leg syndrome, particularly on the week-ends after my injections, and get lots of aches, pains, etc.  But it is tolerable.  I notice that I have more "brain fog" lately, and try to be careful about what I say and where. 
      I appreciate the support I have from all those who are seeing me through this journey.  I am realizing that it is a long road, and wish there was more recognition of it and support for it in a public way.  For example, I could really benefit from some of the American Cancer Society's resources for dealing with my appearance, i.e. hair loss and make-up needs.  But I hesitate to fib my way into a meeting by projecting that I have some sort of cancer.  That's just bad karma as far as I am concerned.  Most people just don't realize what a full plate HCV and treatment is.
    Wishing you all Thanksgiving blessings.  Thank you for your interest, hope, and prayers.  

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Week 24. 48 To Go

   I guess it's a good sign that I don't feel the need to blog as often as I originally did!  It's been 3 weeks, and I really don't have a lot to comment on! 
   I'm not experiencing any new or changed symptoms at this point.  I am working and giving it my all, very tired when I finally do slow down or stop, and pretty wiped out on week-ends.  My hair loss seems to never slow down, but thanks to a wonderful hair-dresser, and good genes, it's not real noticeable.  I do get a bit freaked in the shower, when I wash it and end up with hair all over my face, like a spider web!  And I try to be aware of my shoulders during the day and brush off my clothes.  I keep wondering how this will end up, and if ultimately I'll end up with a wig or funky hat.  But in the long run, that's now a lot to worry about.
    Good friends of ours came to visit Friday night and brought food with them!  It is so relaxing to be able to stay home and just enjoy the company.  Again, old friendships come with many blessings!
    We went out of town for the 3rd time since treatment began on Saturday. We're used to driving a lot, and usually I can't keep my eyes open.  But I'm finding I can't really relax, and have a hard time sleeping in the car.  Not a good thing if that's the only available time to rest!  We enjoyed checking on our boat at the marina, and went on to spend the night with good friends.  It was good to get away again, but I was wiped out by Monday!
    So I just realized I am 33% of the way through this!!  That's a milestone I can sink my teeth into!  Thank you for all your thoughts and prayers and good wishes!  No news is usually good news with me!  

Sunday, September 5, 2010

No News Is Good News

I realize it's been awhile since I last posted, and I guess that is as good a sign as any that I am getting along okay.  I haven't felt that there was really anything noteworthy to post about!
  We got away for a week in August, and it went well.  My family took good care of me during our visit, and I consciously cut back on making plans ahead of time.  Usually I want to go, go, go, and not waste a minute; I used my time wisely and made sure that I had the energy for priorities such as visiting with my dad.  We took 36 hours away from family and toured 2 Frank Lloyd Wright houses and spent the night in a charming old inn on a mountain side!  And we even managed to pull off a wonderful day of visiting with 2 out of town cousins! 
   Adrenalin kicked in as I spent the next week preparing for the school year.  I amazed myself that I could push so hard and get a lot done.  I worked in my classroom for 4 out of 5 days, straight through the day.  Every teacher knows that organization and planning ahead of the students' arrival pays off hugely for the entire year.  I didn't get it ALL done, but feel satisfied that I'm on the way.  This week I put 2 official days in, met some of my students, but really begin teaching for real in 2 days. 
    I saw the dr and had blood work done, and it continues to hold very steady and strong.  I have been so very lucky that I am responding to and tolerating this treatment so well.  That being said, I've had a tough week-end again.  Very little energy and ambition, lots of heavy duty naps, and not much accomplished.  Tomorrow is Labor Day and hopefully I will wake up bright-eyed and bush-tailed to finish up what I need to do. 
    That's about it.  This is week 19.  Ideally I have 53 more to go.  It is a way of life, but not too exciting at this point.  Thanks for all your thoughts, prayers, and well-wished!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Same Old, Same Old

Well, here we are finishing up week #15.  Not a whole lot has changed since my last post, which is a good thing.  My blood work has remained stable, I have settled in to a workable daily routine, and the beat goes on. 
   I do find that I am running a low-grade fever each day, and typically break out into a sweat, right about noon!  At first I thought it was because I was pushing myself too hard, but now I realize it still happens when I'm not active.  Not a big deal, and again, one of those side-effects that comes with the territory. 
    I'm looking forward to taking our first road-trip on medication.   We'll be gone for about a week, and have planned out each day to allow me to rest and not take it too hard.  We will see lots of family, and work in some sightseeing.  It should be a good break for my husband, too.  He doesn't complain and looks out for me, but life with me must be pretty boring for  him. 
    The following is a list of common side effects associated with this treatment:
  • Fatigue/feeling tired
  • Flu-like symptoms, including fever, muscle aches, and chills
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Feeling anxious, depressed, or irritable
  • Insomnia
  • Hair loss
  • Headaches
  • Dry, itchy, and/or irritated skin
  • Anemia
   So you can see, although I have had some of these, all in all, I am doing really well with the treatment.   Thanks for your interest and thoughts and prayers.  Live each day for the most! 

Monday, July 26, 2010

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow??

    I've been out of school for 3 weeks, now, and am beginning to enjoy the summer vacation I waited so long for.   I totally relish slow, quiet mornings on my deck with the birds and meditation.  I find that I can run 2 or 3 errands in my car, and then get tired out, so I try to do those in the morning.   Most days I schedule in a nap of 1-2 hours in the afternoon, to give myself some recharging for the evening. 
     The "brain fog" created by these meds has set in.  It is difficult for others to understand.  Instead of being able to "multi-task", as I am used to, I have to deliberately think about what I am doing and remind myself to stay focused.  I make lots of notes, and that helps.  Communicating is sometimes a struggle.  I have to really THINK about what I want to say and how to express it so it comes out the right way.   I think that is why I don't like talking on the phone much.   Writing has always come easy to me, but not now.  The words on the paper just don't feel expressive of me, and that bothers me personally.
     I realize that I may be more depressed than I want to admit.  Depression is the number one side-effect of these drugs, and I'm always questioned about suicidal tendencies by the medical people.  I did make it to the Jersey shore last week for an overnight with my good friend.  I knew it would be a physical struggle, but actually it was so good for me to get away and be in a new environment.  I paced myself as best I could, and did take a nap in the house in the afternoon before going to the beach.  Walking on the sand is taxing, but once I got to the water's edge, settled in my chair, it was worth it!!
     The same for being with other friends.  It is easy for me to put off making plans because I don't know how I will feel.   Going out to dinner means getting dressed, spending time in the car, focusing on conversation at dinner when I don't really feel like eating, and getting back home again.  Things we all take for granted in every day life seem like a big mountain to me right now.  But a dear friend understood last week, and came to our house with a bag of munchies for the evening and a bottle of wine (not for me!) and we had a wonderful low key evening of catching up.  Perfect!  All I had to do was go upstairs and get in bed at the end of our visit!
     So the hair thing.   It hit this week.  My scalp began itching like crazy, and I chalked it up to lots of sweating at the beach under my straw hat.  Or maybe a case of sand fleas?  It seemed very full and even my eyebrows were a bit bushy.  (They're blond, so not so noticeable).  And then I realized there was lots of hair falling on my neck every time I brushed my hair.   Went to a scheduled hair appointment on Friday, and she confirmed that she could see a big difference in the volume of my hair.  And my eyebrows have virtually disappeared, along with most of my long eyelashes.  So it goes.   My hair is short, and although I can tell a difference, it still doesn't look real apparent to others.  We'll see what the coming weeks bring.  Amazingly, I'm not as depressed about it as I expected.
      I have to get to my chores!  I am now scheduling in at least one limited chore a day.  I HAVE to get some of my clutter and cleaning done during the summer!  But I give myself a finite boundary.  Only one shelf of the pantry is getting done at a time, rather than the whole thing, which is what I regularly do.  Spending 2 hours on medical receipts and insurance matters did me in on Saturday, but I did get it accomplished!  I love to play in the kitchen and with crafts, but for now, my energy has to go into effeciency and simplifying. 
      Hope I haven't bored you.  Again, thank you for your thoughts and prayers, and I hope this reaches out to someone else who it can help.

A Way of Life

    I am now on week 13 of treatment. Things are settling into somewhat of a groove, and I am trying to establish a pattern of functioning day to day that is compatible with the treatment effects.  
    My last appointment with the main doctor was good, if not a bit disconcerting.  My blood work is going well, and my hemoglobin is back up to 12.2.  He states that I am at an 80% level of my "norm", which is a workable number.   I haven't been back to the gym since I began treatment, and he gave me permission to begin again at an "easy" pace.  Exercise is recommended for a number of reasons, including increased blood circulation to deal with the meds.  It's on my list of "to-dos" for this week!
     I continue to respond well to the meds, and my viral levels are UD (undetectable).  That means it's working!  I questioned him about this current treatment in lieu of the fact that I am now officially gen 1a.  Should I be holding out for the new drugs??  His advice is to continue this regiment, since I am responding.  The new drugs are still a ways away and may be difficult to obtain once they are officially approved.  That's the good news.
    The "bad" news is, the current ideal recommended length of treatment is now 72 weeks.  That means, if I want to give this my one and only best shot for SVR and know that I have done everything in my power to slay this "dragon" in my system, I will be adding another 24 weeks to the original 48 I signed on for.  My face dropped at this news, my daughter looked at me with concern, and when I got home and told my husband, his face visibly dropped also.  
     It's not something that has to be decided now.  I will continue to take it a bit at a time, but the seed has been planted in my thought process.  That's why I am trying to take a new approach to this whole thing as a "way of life", versus a limited time of my life.   That extra 24 weeks takes me through all of next spring, and all of next summer and on into fall.   If I'm going to beat this thing, it has to become a way of life and I still have to function and live each day to the fullest.  That's a big thought for me to wrap my head around, and I'm still dealing with it. 

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Another Year Older.......

   It's been a very busy and demanding 2 weeks, and I guess the good news is, I've gotten through it.   Finally finished up my school responsibilities last Thursday, July 1, and shifted right into preparation for my oldest daughter and grandson coming to visit the next day.  They left this morning, but in the meantime, my younger daughter flew in to surprise me on Friday!  She'll be with us until Tuesday evening, and then life will return to quiet and dull for awhile!
    Physically, things haven't changed a whole lot.  I could actually feel the adrenalin kicking in those last days of school, and I just kept pushing to get it all done.  I guess it's good to know that the adrenalin thing is still available, even during treatment, when you really NEED it.  My blood work hasn't changed much in weeks, now.  I'm maintaining a hemoglobin level of 11, which I give credit to the procrit for.  Last time around it plunged to almost 9, and those 2 points are a big difference.  I'm a little short of breath, but again, not like the last time.  And my skin is dry, but not horrible.  Every time I have an itch, though, the fear of "riba-rash" induced by the ribavirin goes through my mind.  It is horrible, and I don't want to have to deal with that again.  Say a prayer! 
    This past week was a challenge.  With the kids here, I really resent being tired and having to nap. We had a heat wave, with temps up to 102, which actually slowed down our plans.  But we made it to the shore twice, went out to dinner twice, and then had a grand birthday week-end with family and friends at the house yesterday!  And lots of home and pool time with my 2 year old grandson!!  Oh, there was an emergency room visit in there, also, for a breathing treatment for him and a 2 am discharge from the hospital!!  More adrenalin at work!
    I see the main doctor tomorrow morning for a 12 week check-up.  Anxious to hear what he has to say.  My viral levels are undetectable, which means the meds are working, and I expect him to tell me we are off to a great start and keep it up. 
     I anticipate a quiet week with lots of down time and rest to get recharged for the rest of the summer.  My appetite has been effected some, although I haven't changed my weight much.  My husband is very attentive to my food intake, and without him on my case, I probably wouldn't be as strong as I am.  I love fresh fruit/watermelon right now, and Popsicles!  I tried one of those milkshakes with extra protein in it, and couldn't get past the first sip.  It was like drinking metamucil!!  The regular dr suggested protein powder supplement to add to smoothies or shakes, but I haven't tried that yet.  The good news is I have lots of extra body "mass" and I'm not going to shrink down to nothing!
     Thanks for checking in, and keeping me in your thoughts. Good luck to all of you and each one of those personal struggles that we all have to deal with!!