March 19, 2016

Travel and Transition

A very very very belated Happy Holidays and Happy New Year everyone! I hope 2016 is off to a great start for you all. I can't believe it's already March!!! Time really does fly when you're having fun... or sleeping. My apologies to those who follow my blog for my long absence. I'm still alive and kickin'! Two main things have kept me busy the past few months: traveling and preparing for my next line of therapy...

Since my last blog post, S and I have spent quite a bit of time on airplanes.... Yes, more travels! In late November into December, we visited Tokyo, Singapore and Bali. Traveling overseas always makes me forget about life's little woes because, as I realized, senses get overloaded by new experiences (especially in Tokyo). There was no room to notice chemo side effects ... except when I ran that high fever on our 11h flight to Japan (3 days after chemo!). At least it helped me sleep. In a nutshell, Tokyo/Japan was unlike any other country we've been, and as our friend commented after her trip there... It may have ruined all other future countries for us. It was clean, organized, friendly, and delicious! We only had 3 days there but already can't wait to go back to explore the rest of country. We had even less time in Singapore, which was our "layover" country. Overnight was not enough time there but a big thank you to M&R (S's cousins) for their hospitality, for taking us out for yummy seafood laksa (at 328 Katong Laksa), and for getting their Uber driver to take us to the airport. Finally, Bali was not exactly how I pictured it but a cultural and spiritual experience nonetheless. I guess I expected the entire island to be an ideal place to meditate... Ha! The touristy areas (Kuta and Seminyak) were polluted and crowded even in low season. We spent most of our week at Seminyak Beach, battling the waves and sipping drinks :). Ubud (in the centre of Bali) was better suited to our preferences but my lungs didn't appreciate walking the hills. My stomach, however, did appreciate the daily coconuts and the yummy vegetarian food, especially at The Elephant and Earth Cafe :). After a week in Ubud, we missed the beach and spent our last two nights in Nusa Dua at a resort. Some of our favourite pictures from this East Asian trip are below.  If I wasn't a week overdue for my next chemo treatment, we would have stayed longer overseas. Life is always better when you are on tropical vacation... Sigh. 

So we were back in frigid Calgary for a week in December, just enough time for me to have chemo #10 and recover from the chemo side effects, before we jumped on yet another flight for southern Ontario for the holidays. Thanks to mom, my sisters, my aunt, and S's 40th birthday feast, I managed to gain a few pounds while mostly sticking to my diet :). When we finally returned home to stay, needless to say, we were exhausted. But chemo#11 came and went quickly and added to my ever increasing fatigue. I feel like I slept most of January away. 

By February, the west coast was calling me (especially since there was a seat sale!) so off we went to visit our wonderful friends in Victoria. Victoria, not surprisingly, was already experiencing their springtime blooms in Mid-Feb! We love being near the ocean, the warm and humid weather, and the organic, relaxed lifestyle. Makes me want to move there... Sigh. 

At the entrance to Meiji Shrine grounds in Harajuku, Tokyo

Freshly made sushi for breakfast at Tsujiki Fish Market... yum yum!!

Seafood laksa in Singapore... delicious!

Tanah Lot (Temple by the Sea) in Bali

Beautiful sunset at Seminyak Beach

My view from the lounger on the beach in Nusa Dua

Gorgeous crocuses in Victoria's neighbourhoods in February!

It's time for a health update! I had a CT scan in February. It was long overdue thanks to our vacation and the holidays, but there didn't seem to be any urgency since I had no concerns and my blood work was relatively good...  That is, until my tumour markers started to rise in late January. Despite still feeling well, the scan revealed growth in one nodule but improvement or stability elsewhere. The radiation I had to my upper left lung almost a year ago has resulted in scarring, which may be why my shoulder pain hasn't returned but the shortness of breath continues to persist, maybe even worsen?  I continued with two more chemo cycles (that's 14 chemo treatments in total) since that discovery while my oncologist arranged for my 3rd line treatment. In the meantime, new symptoms have arisen: knee and back pain, swollen fingers and toes, and increased frequency of headaches. None of these are debilitating but the achey knees do slow me down on bad days... damn stairs. Dr. B thinks that some of these symptoms could be due to longterm treatment with Alimta (swollen fingers, joint pain) but after our last discussion, he signed me up for a gazillion appointments and, upon my request, started me on Celebrex (shown to improve chemo efficiency and targets the apoptotic pathway in cancer cells, in addition to treating arthritis. Bonus!). SO... this week, I've had pulmonary function tests, consulted a pulmonologist (who informed me that my left lung is "getting smaller" and that I now have about 70% of a normal person's lung volume... explains a lot), got a full body bone scan and will be getting a brain MRI later today. You're probably wondering what my 3rd line treatment is?  Next week, I have an appointment to see a radiation oncologist specializing in stereotactic radiosurgery!! I'm kind of excited about that because I've heard good things about SRS.  Hopefully, I'm a candidate. But that's not the official 3rd line therapy. Dr. B applied me for immunotherapy with NIVOLUMAB.  I signed up officially with the pharmaceutical company (BMS) a few days ago.  As they tell me, as soon as the paperwork is processed at my cancer centre, they'll arrange my first infusion.  With so much hype about how well immunotherapy is working for certain cancers, including lung, I can't help but be optimistic... but always with a bit of caution. Fingers crossed.

In all honesty, I'm feeling pretty darn good and keeping happily active, especially now that my knees are better (thanks Celebrex!).  My oncologist has a great plan laid out for me.  I've learned not to stress over scans; why worry when you can't change it?  I'll just take it as comes...