In a fog…

I’m sure we’ve all seen those commercials on TV advertising medications, and of course the list of potential “Rare But Serious” side effects. 

Hydrea is no different. It comes with side effects. Below is the list from the National Library of Medicine NIH Website.

Hydroxyurea may cause side effects. Tell your doctor if any of these symptoms are severe or do not go away:
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • loss of appetite
  • weight gain
  • sores in the mouth and throat
  • constipation
  • rash
  • pale skin
  • dizziness
  • headache
  • hair loss
  • darkening of skin and nails
Some side effects can be serious. If you experience any of these symptoms or those listed in the IMPORTANT WARNING section, call your doctor immediately or get emergency medical treatment:
  • excessive tiredness or weakness
  • fast heartbeat
  • shortness of breath
  • ongoing pain that begins in the stomach area, but may spread to the back
  • pain, itching, redness, swelling, blisters, or sores on the skin
  • pain in the upper right part of the stomach
  • yellowing of the skin or eyes
  • flu-like symptoms
  • numbness, burning, or tingling in the hands or feet
  • difficult or painful urination
  • seizures

Since beginning my Hydrea regimen on 4/29/15, I have experienced several of the side effects listed above. Nausea, vomiting, headache, dizziness, mouth sores, and now hair loss. My vain side would like to say that the worst of these side effects is the hair loss. But in reality, the worst side effect I’m experiencing these days is actually one that isn’t even on the list. This side effect is associated with Antineoplastic/Cytotoxic/Chemotherapeutic treatments in general.

This side effect is a phenomenon known as Central Neurotoxicity. More commonly referred to as ChemoBrain. ChemoBrain causes confusion, cognitive problems, memory loss, disrupts balance, and movement, and can even cause seizures.

Recently I have found myself searching for simple nouns, unable to think of words. Such as…you know, that thing…with the wheels, the you put in your driveway…yeah. Car. That’s it. I have also been having trouble with numbers – for example: at work, each week I have to organize paperwork. Each page has an 8 digit number associated with it. It normally doesn’t take too terribly long to accomplish this task. This week however, it took me over an hour to put 60 tickets in numerical order. It was ridiculous. Normally that number of tickets should only take about 15 minutes, max. It took so long this week because I found myself being unable to remember the number of page in my hand, while I was looking through the tickets in the pile to figure out where it belonged.

I generally consider myself a relatively intelligent individual. Lately though, I am just so fuzzy headed, that I swear my IQ must have dropped several points in the last week or so. It’s almost like that feeling after you’ve had a couple glasses of wine, and you’re a little less sharp than you normally would be,only this is without the benefit of enjoying the wine. I am easily distracted, to the point where during the course of writing this blog today, I have started and stopped about 6 times. Speaking of writing this blog, I tried to start it several times this week, but i just couldn’t come up with the brain power to make myself sit down and write it. This morning, fueled with caffeine and motivation, it has taken me 2 hours to get to this point. I have had to stop, and consider my wording much harder than I normally would have to also. I caught several phrases throughout this entire post that just did not make sense. With that in mind, I do beg your forgiveness if this is oddly worded, or just pain doesn’t make sense.

I already expressed my displeasure at having to take this medication in my last post, but I have to admit that the PegIntron was no picnic either. The side effects of that were certainly not any more fun that what I’m experiencing right now. That leads me to ask: Why are there not more/better options for treatment? Why to the side effects of the drugs we take, often worse than the symptoms those drugs are supposed to be treating? Why should we have to choose between feeling like crap from our disease, or feeling a different type of crappy from the meds? This is another reason we need to increase #NIH funding! With better funding, comes more trials, comes better treatment for #Cancer.

OK, I’ll get off my soapbox for the moment. I think I’ve rambled enough in this post.

Remember, you are your own best advocate. If you don’t stand up for yourself, who will?

Until next time,

Lina

Challenge failure and medical update…

So, quite clearly I failed horribly at the HAWMC. I was hoping that I’d be able to manage it, but unfortunately it wasn’t meant to be. I’d like to say I have a good excuse for my challenge failure…but I really don’t. After working all day, by the time I’d get home, the only thing on my mind would be putting on PJs an relaxing. Pretty pathetic that I couldn’t even work up the energy to write a daily blog 😦 Ah well…enough of my failure. Now on to the medical updates.

I haven’t been feeling too great lately, my platelets have gone up quite a bit, I’m tired all the time, and my belly pain has increased a bit. I had an appointment with my hem/onc on Wednesday. My platelets are 880K, up from 820K at the end of March (normal range is 150-450K). My white counts and red counts are also on the higher side of normal. My ferritin is 50 at the moment, normal range is 11-307. So not terrible, but not great either. Could help to explain the fatigue.

So after discussing my current issues (Belly pain, headaches, bruising, fatigue, dizziness etc) with the new NP, she did a physical exam, had a nice little chat about our mutual disdain for migraines, and then she went out to get Doc. After going over everything, and talking about our options, Doc told me that he would be most comfortable with starting Hydroxyurea again. I expressed displeasure with that, but he bargained with me, and I finally agreed to try it for a few months.

My previous experience with hydroxyurea was less than successful. My blood counts were not very responsive to the drug, it took 2 grams/day before my platelet counts responded. When they did, it wasn’t just my platelets that went down. All of my blood counts came down with them. In addition to this, I basically had constant feelings of nausea, and headache. So you can see why I might be somewhat reluctant to get started with this again. We made a deal though. I agreed to take the meds for 2-3 months. I will go for a CBC to check progress every 3-4 weeks and if we don’t see progress at the end of the 2-3 months, then we will stop. Simple as that. The dosing will be 1 gram/day to start. If he sees fit to adjust it over the next 8-12 weeks, then we will do so. But if by the end of our little experiment it hasn’t worked, then I would like to start the PegIntron again. It was successful, lowered my platelets to a very reasonable level, and despite the side effects, I still felt fairly decent on it. With the Hydrea every day, I had a basically constant feeling of unwell. The PegIntron was at least MOSTLY on the weekends that I felt icky.

Now for some basic info on Hydroxyurea. Hydroxyurea is classified as an antineoplastic or cytotoxic medication (Chemo, if you like) It is known by several names: Hydroxyurea, Hydroxycarbamide, Hydrea, Droxea.or Mylocel. This drug is used to treat many things including but not limited to Essential Thrombocytosis, Polycythemia Vera, chronic myeloid leukemia, melanoma, and ovarian cancer. Side note; some of the warnings on this med indicate that the use of it could eventually lead to acute myelogenous leukemia. Yet oddly enough it is also used to treat leukemia. Weird. Hydroxyurea is very toxic, and should NEVER be taken by pregnant women, heck, the bottle even says pregnant women shouldn’t TOUCH the medicine, much less take it. 20150503_135055 See?

Those warnings really make you want to swallow these suckers, doesn’t it? 20150503_135135

OK, I’ve whined/Vented enough. Now I think I’ll continue enjoying this delightful weather with M, and my two furry writing buddies. I hope you are all having a good Sunday!

Remember, you are your own best advocate. If you do not stand up for yourself, who will?

Until next time,

Lina

#HAWMC Day 5 – BREAKING NEWS!!!

Today I’m supposed to be writing about my proudest accomplishment from the last 5 years. This a tough one, because as a blogger I already share a lot about myself with you all. I’ve told you about the NORD Patient Meeting, and the  OVAC event from last summer, I told you when I got married (It will be three years on April 14th! Crazy!).

I guess there isn’t really a whole lot of “Breaking News” at this point – you’ve been with me through a lot! You’ve seen me fight to get to use PegIntron, you suffered through the side effects with me, we’ve learned about treatments together, you’ve listened to me complain about migraines, and about my spleen.

My Breaking News is that – I’ve come to the realization just how much I appreciate my readers! You are extremely important to me. You help me through tough times, you share stories with me, give advice. I cannot begin to express how lucky and thankful I am to have you.

As always, you are your own best advocate. If you do not stand up for yourself, who will?

Up next, #HAWMC Day 6 – Your Hero!

Until next time,

Lina

#HAWMC Day 4 – Creature of Habit

We all have habits. Some good, some bad. I was having a little trouble starting this one, so I turned to my loving husband, and told him I just couldn’t get going. After I told him the prompt for today his comment was “Well, you habitually change your clothes over and over again before you go to work…”. Snarky, perhaps. But not untrue. I do that. Almost every day. I have always been a little bit self conscious, so I often over-think what I plan to wear. Thankfully my over-thinking extends beyond just clothing – I am equally as anal with regard to my health care.

My binder (about which I’ve written before) is a very beneficial habit, the result of my borderline obsession with my healthcare. With this binder I am able to keep track of my blood results, questions I have for my doctor, the answers to those questions, articles of interest, and copies of my appointment schedules. This binder, has been a great resource for me over the years, and one of my more beneficial habits.

What habits do you have that have helped you out over the years?

As always, you are your own best advocate. If you do not stand up for yourself, who will?

Next up – #HAWMC Day 5 – Breaking News!

Until next time,

Lina

#HAWMC Day 3 – Good Samaritan

All too often I have found myself focusing on the negative things that may have taken place during the day. Bad day at work, a rude comment from random stranger at the store, or whatever it may be. It’s easy to let these things take over. But then there are the random acts of kindness that can really change the course of your day. Simple things like a kind smile when you’ve had a bad day. Or when you’re in line at that coffee place, and you find out the person ahead of you paid for yours, and left the message to “remember how it made you feel, and pass it on”. These simple acts are what helps to restore faith in humanity :).

I’m lucky enough to say I’ve been on the receiving end of the kindness of strangers. The strongest influences coming to mind right now, are the wonderful people I’ve met through the MPN community. I have received wonderful advice, support, information, and love from people who I’ve never even met. There is nothing more isolating than thinking that you are going through your trials/suffering alone. When you find a community of people who know what you’re feeling, not just someone who can sympathize, but someone who has actually BEEN where you are…it is amazing. It is liberating. For 10 years now I have been lucky enough to find comfort knowing that I’m not alone. Knowing that there are others out there who feel the same way that I do, and who are there to share stories, and help lift my spirits. Thank you, Good Samaritans. Thank you, empathizers. Thank you, friends.

As always, you are your own best advocate. If you do not stand up for yourself, who will?

Next up – #HAWMC Day 4 – Creature of Habit

Until next time,

Lina

#HAWMC Day 2. My Key(s) to happiness.

So…One day into the challenge, and I already failed. Yeesh. That doesn’t bode well for the rest of the challenge…but I’m trying to make up for it now. I will not miss another day!!! So today, I am taking advantage of the beautiful weather, and hanging out on the porch with my writing buddies to catch up on the #HAWMC posts I’ve missed…

(There will be 3 separate posts today.)

#HAWMC Day 2 – My Key(s) To Happiness

This is a tough one. I don’t think that (for me) there is a single “Key” to happiness. But sticking with the “key” metaphor…I have a pretty full key ring of things/people that help me to stay positive, and therefore happy.

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My Family. No matter how I’m feeling, spending some time with my family never fails to perk me up. My husband often jokes that in addition to being “solar powered” (more on that later) that I am also “family powered”. That’s pretty accurate. It really is true that I can be practically devoid of energy (spoons) and a phone call from my sister, or spending time with mom and dad will re-energize me, and whatever problems may have been bothering me, just don’t seem as big anymore. This is key number one.

My husband. He is definitely family, don’t get me wrong. But he voluntarily became a part of my family, and made me a part of his. That earns him his own “key”…and also makes me question his sanity at times ;). M is one of my biggest supporters, he encourages me, he loves me at me best and at my worst, he tolerates my occasional rant, and helps me redirect my personal frustrations into my passion for health and patient advocacy. This is key number two.

My faithful writing buddies. At the end of the day, these boys are always at the door to greet me with a wagging tail and slobbery kisses. They don’t hold grudges, they don’t know how. They simply know how to love. As goofy as it sounds, if more people knew how to love like man’s best friend, the world would be a better place. This is key number three.

A good afternoon in the sun. As I alluded to previously, M likes to say that I am solar powered. He may very well be right. Spending a few hours in the sun (with a good sunblock on, of course!) is one of my favorite ways to pass time. Ever seen the movie Wall-e? Picture the scene where he’s using his solar panel to re-charge. That’s me 🙂 This is key number four.

A sense of humor. From the beginning of my diagnosis (well…from the time I decided to take it seriously, anyway…) the best way for me to approach the problems I encountered was with a joke, a smirk, or a laugh. You may have noticed (I hope you’ve noticed…) that a lot of the things I write are a little tongue and cheek. Taking yourself too seriously can be a good recipe for unhappiness. You have to be able to smile. Even if (no, especially if) you’re laughing at yourself. This is key number five.

A good cup of coffee. Don’t laugh. Or do. Whatever makes you happy. (Refer to Key Number Five). Whatever you do, do NOT underestimate the power of a good cup of coffee. This is key number six.

These keys may not be the same as yours, but they certainly help do the trick for me.

As always, you are your own best advocate. If you do not stand up for yourself, who will?

Next up – #HAWMC Day 3. Good Samaritan.

Until Next Time,

Lina