PICC line removal

At my final chemo session, my PICC line was removed.  It was very painless and exciting.  If any of you have had a PICC line, you can imagine how happy I was to have it out.

Your nurse will wear a gown, mask, and gloves during the procedure.  Your dressing will be removed and your skin cleaned.  S/he will then pull on the line in a smooth motion and the entire line will come out.  I did not feel a thing when it was coming out.

After it is out, the nurse will wrap your arm and you will have to wait a bit to make sure it doesn't bleed.  After about 20 minutes I was free to leave.  I was not allowed to removed the bandage for 24 hrs and was told to not let it get wet.

It's so nice to be PICC free!!


During my course of treatment, I had 30 radiation sessions.

Before radiation can begin you are fitted for a mask.  This is a simple and painless procedure, but might be scary if you have an issue with small spaces.  First you lie down on a table.  A large plastic like sheet with holes in it is given a warm bath, which makes the plastic bendable.  They take it out and place it on your face and start pulling and molding it to you.  Then you sit with it on your face until it hardens.  This process isn't very long.

Radiation to the neck goes like this: you go into a room with a large machine.  You lie down on the table and your mask is put on.  The freaky part is that the mask snaps to the table, so you can't get up until they come and take the mask off of you.  I had two masks made since I lost so much weight during treatment.  My first mask was loose and I could keep my eyes open during treatment.  My second mask was more form fitting and I had to keep my eyes closed.

This machine with a long arm moves over you and a buzzing sound can be heard.  You won't feel anything during treatment, and your team can hear you if you need anything.  The process is quick, lasting up to 15 minutes.  The majority of the time is getting the machine lined up perfectly.  Once they start the actual beam, it's only a matter of minutes.

Your team will come back in and free you from your mask.  I have included a picture of what the mask looks like, but it's not of mine, just a pic I found online.  

Sometimes you will have an imprint of the mask on your face, but that will go away after a bit.

Once a week I was weighed and had to meet with my doctor, who would just ask how I was doing, and my vitals were taken.  After my time in the ICU, I was weighed each visit,because they were concerned with my weight loss.

Other than that, radiation is pretty easy.  It does cause a sore throat and fatigue, so don't expect to not have any side effects.  Because my radiation was only done to one side of my neck, my throat wasn't as bad as it could have been.

Blessings to you all.


Year round schooling

My original plan was to homeschool year round...  but since being sick, I had to let that idea go.  I do have some workbooks she works from sometimes (addition and writing).  I think I'll keep her IXL subscription so I can put her on that occasionally as well.

I have lots of guilt for not working with her more this summer and can't wait to be well again. Mommy guilt is not good!  I fear I won't be well by August and she'll have to go to real school. Gulp!

ER trip and ICU stay

I'm not so sure how I went down hill so quickly, but I did.  My first round of chemo was so easy, but round 2 literally knocked me off my feet.

It was a radiation week and I wasn't feeling well.  Just really tired, throwing up constantly, and my throat was sore.  I wasn't sleeping well because I was having trouble breathing and was drooling all over in my sleep (like you would during a chest cold or severe allergies).  One night I woke up and took my temp and it was 103.  I thought my thermometer was wrong.  My throat was super sore and I hadn't had much to eat that day because of it.

The next morning I had radiation and was going to be checked up at the infusion center.  As soon as the nurse took my temp she yelled for a wheel chair and I was whisked off to a consultation room where I was told by a very concerned RN that I needed to get to the ER right away.

We went downtown to Rush, since so many of my doctors are there.  I tried taking Tylenol to bring my temp down, but the pill wouldn't go down.  I was given liquid meds instead.  The docs admitted me and I was taken to a normal hospital room.  After meeting with the ENT team and seeing how awful everything was in my mouth/throat area, I had to go to the ICU.

I ended up in the hospital for a week and everything got so infected and irritated that I couldn't speak, drink, or eat.  My team of docs said everything that could hit, hit.  The "perfect storm" they called it.  My white blood cell count was at .05 (when it should be between a 4 and 10).  I had neutropenic fever, thrush, epiglottitis, stridor, esophagitis, and who knows what else.

It's been over a week and I'm still recovering.  I can't eat or drink much.  I've lost 16 pounds.  I can't be standing for long or I get dizzy and throw up.  If I sit on the floor, I need help up.  I need help stepping up the stoop to our house.  Every morning I'm extremely nauseous and dry heave until I sit down to eat.

Because of all of this, my doctors agree that radiation and chemo together are just too much.  So I would have been totally done with treatment on July 1, now it's going to be pretty delayed.  I am finishing up radiation, and then I will meet with my oncologist July 6 to discuss starting chemo again.

Good news is the mass on my kidney has not changed, so surgery for the removal can wait.

I appreciate all the prayers I have been receiving, plus the cards and gift packages.  Special thanks to my brother and sister in law for taking Emily for a whole WEEK while I was in the hospital.  So lucky to have them near us!


Chemo and its side effects

The first day I walked into the infusion center I cried my eyes out.  It was terrible. However, the actual treatment was fine.  I wasn't sick at all and was only really tired on Wednesday.  By Friday and Saturday I was back to normal and felt good.

The next week of radiation was fine, as was the following week.  However Saturday and Sunday found me sick to my stomach.  I had chemo Monday and was extremely nauseous and tired.  They upped my meds but it didn't help.  Tuesday was pretty bad too, but not as bad as Monday.  I'm hoping my next two pills will knock this out.  I can't stand being  nauseous.

My hair was falling out in huge chunks, so I took the clippers to my head and gave myself a buzz cut.  I can tell you it is much better than moping around about losing your hair!

This is how your hair falls out-not in a bunch of strands, but actual clumps~

I cut my hair into a short pixie before all this so it wasn't so bad.  But once it started to fall out like that I decided it was time to buzz my head.  So I did!

So if you are losing your hair and are depressed about it like I was, just take matters in your own hands and buss it off.  Nothing to do!


PICC line

When you need chemo, the doctor will either place a PICC line or port in you.  I was given the choice, but I don't think this is always the case.  Since my treatment period is relatively short (I'll be done in July), I decided to go with a PICC line. So what is a PICC line and how do you deal with having one?  That is what this blog post will be about.

A PICC line is like an IV.  You will go to the hospital to have it placed, but you will be awake for the procedure.  They can lightly sedate you if you are nervous, so make sure you have someone to take you there and get you home.  I did not need any medication and the procedure really doesn't hurt.

You will be taken to an operating room and an x-ray machine will be over you.  First they will ask you what hand you use and will most likely place the PICC in your non-dominant hand, if the vein is good.  They will use a doppler (like getting an ultrasound) on your arm to check your veins.  Then you will get a shot of Lidocaine.  That's the only part of the procedure that should cause you any pain. It feels like a bee sting and will hurt for about a minute.  After that your arm will be numb and you shouldn't feel anything from the PICC being inserted.

The line will start in your arm, above your elbow and will be on the inside of your arm (so closest to your body).  The thin line will run up your arm and to your heart.  They will use the xray that is above you to position this correctly.  You may feel some pressure or pulling, but there won't be any pain.  If there is, let the nurse know and they can numb you up some more.  I only felt pushing and that was it.

After the line is placed they will bandage you up.  Ask if they have an PICC line covers, which are like leg warmers for your arm.

Every week the dressing will need to be changed in a sterile setting.  You and your nurse will wear a mask while it's being changed.  The caps to the lumens will be changed too.  You will probably have two lumens in case one stops working during treatment.  Every day you will need someone to flush the line for you.  That's the worst part of having a PICC, because I hate how the saline tastes when the line is being flushed (yes, I can taste it).  First they will push saline through, then heparin.

You can't get the PICC wet, so you will need to wrap your arm in Saran wrap when showering and will need to avoid baths and pools during treatment.  That's one disadvantage of the PICC over the port.

Most likely your oncologist will set up a home health nurse to come over once a week to change the dressing and to just check on the line.  This process doesn't take long, but please make sure they are using sterile techniques when changing your dressing.  The last thing you need is an infection.  :)

The great thing about the PICC is you don't need to be poked at all during treatment.  Any contrasts for scans, the drugs, saline, even blood draws can all be done through the line.

The PICC line is in my right arm, you can see the pink cover over it.  

Getting the dressing changed 

The PICC line and dressing


All my life, I had a lump

Okay, so not really.  But last year, right around Easter of 2014, I had a lump removed from my neck. It was a benign schwannoma, and it was the 3rd one I've had removed in my lifetime.  I have a genetic disorder which can cause these, and sometimes pregnancy hormones make them grow.

The biopsy came back fine, but I had to have another surgery to repair the vocal cord which was paralyzed because of the tumor.  I recovered nicely can was back to work soon after.

Fast forward to this year when the lump returned.  A few tests and scans later they agreed it was another growth.  I had it removed on April 1 and a week later I found out it was malignant.  A type of sarcoma called  "MPNST".  Basically it's a malignant tumor of the nerve sheath.  Scary stuff.  I'll be using this blog again to write about dealing with cancer and still running the household.

Philippians 4:13  I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.