Saturday, October 25, 2008

My Third Chemo, 11 th Nuke

Salam and hello friends,

I wish I could say that everything is smoothsailing. I wish I could say that going through the treatments in battling cancer is just like going for a picnic. I wish I could say that having chemo is also like having ice-cream cone. I wish...

Yesterday, I completed my 11th radiation and 3rd chemo. I am now experiencing a bit of a stiff neck and dry and heaty mouth. I have been forewarned by people who had gone through the journey about dry mouth but just could not imagine how its like. Well, actually it is horrible. My lips started cracking, and my saliva thickened becoming phlegm-like. Everytime I have my milk (still can't eat, ok?), I have to clean my mouth thoroughly and it is a chore because some of the milk would get entangled with the web of stringy, phlegm-like saliva. Usually, by rinsing with water and mouthwash alone will not get the phlegm plus milk out. I have to use a piece of gauze to reach into my mouth up to the throat and gently pull it out. Then, my lips would start bleeding because of the rubbing of the gauze against it and also having to stretch lips wide enough.

After finishing my chemo last night which took about 7 hours, hubby came to take me home. I was so tired because I could not sleep at all during the chemo. After getting home, I got ready for bed but could not have a good sleep because my thick saliva started filling my mouth and occasionally got lodge at the throat. This made it hard to breath and I had to get up often to get the gooey stuff out of the way. That was not fun!

Swallowing has also become painful because my throat has become sore to the point even swallowing water is difficult. But, I have to force myself to consume lots of water to ease the heatiness and dry mouth. It does help. I am now only drinking oxygenated water and so I feel a lot better. I am also taking a lot of coconut water..yummy!

As I am writing this, I am also noticing that my hair is falling off. Not so much yet. Well, that is to be expected but still, its a bit scary. Good thing I had a good sense of cutting my hair real short. Well, my family thinks that I look cuter in short hair. Who knows I might look even cuter without hair...ha ha

Another thing, compared to Penang GH, I prefer Hospital Sultanah Bahiyah anytime! Will tell you more about Penang GH in my next posting...hmm a lot of stories...

Until then...

Bye, for now.

"Life is too short, but intend to grow old gracefully"

Saturday, October 18, 2008

The Oncology Ward-Penang GH II

Salam to all,

Yesterday, marked my 6th nuke. 19 more to go. I have started noticing the tanning of my skin around the neck area. My face is still as cute as before. After coming back from Mt Miriam I started my chemo rightaway.

Since I had that roller coaster ride experience in my first chemo, this time I was not taking any chances. I had a bottle of coconut water with me and a few bottles of oxygenated water. Well, actually I had been drinking those for the whole week. When the cisplatin started going in, I waited in suspense for the wave of nausea to strike. It didn't. I didn't feel uncomfortable at all throughout the whole process which lasted for 7 hours. Syukur alhamdulillah. It was truly a holiday cruise after all. God answered our prayers. I am feeling just fine. My hair is still intact. I am anxiously waiting for the day when it starts falling. Then, I'll become a skin head.

Talked to a lady last night who has breast cancer. She has lost her hair completely. She said that she did not lose her hair until after two weeks. Her just seemed to drop off her head like a wig. After two weeks, her head felt warm and a bit painful. So, she went to the shower and tried to wash her hair. Suddenly, the whole chunk of hair just dropped on the floor. It gave her quite a rude shock. Sadly though, she can't have it operated because there is no lump, just that her breast got swollen by the cancer cells. So, her only option is chemo.

Being in this ward, you have the chance to get to know other cancer patients and survivors. One chinese man I met relayed to me his predicament. He had colon cancer last year. Had it removed. After five months he had a recurrence. This time it attacked his liver. Luckily, it was operable. Now, he is going for chemo. He said that his doctor gave him 6 months to live. He said, well let's see whether the doctor is right. My goodness. Amazingly, he did not look sad at all. He was chatty and laughing all the way. Then, there is another man who is having lung cancer. He is now on palliative care which means that he won't be cured but he is only on chemo to sort of prolong his life. He has a really positive attitude as well. When the doctor asked why he waited so long before getting treatment, he replied in jest that "belum sampai seru" or in other words he had not got his calling yet.

I also notice that about 80 percent of the cancer patients are chinese and most of them have colon cancer. Next in line are malays and most have breast cancer. Indians are the minority here. I can't help wondering why.

Until my next chemo,


"Life is too short, but intend to grow old gracefully"

Friday, October 17, 2008

The Oncology Ward-Penang GH

Salam and hello everyone,

I am now warded in the oncology ward of Penang General Hospital. Here, there are all sorts of cancer patients, majority suffer from colon cancer and quite a number are recurrence cases. I got here on Oct 7 and started my radiotherapy on Oct 10. I am going to get 25 zaps of the nuclear thing. I also have to go through 5-6 cycles of chemotherapy which is administered once a week. This also started on Oct 10.

Last friday, Oct 10 I went for my first radiation. When I laid down on the table, the technician secured my head to the table with a mask. That mask was fitted on my face when I had a ct scan. The ct scan shows the exact position of the cancer tumour/cells which is targeted by the radiation. Thats why its very important to keep my head at the exact position during the treatment as when I had the ct scan. The whole process took around 10 minutes but it felt like forever because I was fighting with the saliva which threatened to choke me...

Right after coming back from Mount Miriam, the nurses straighaway started my chemo. It started around 7 pm. I was put on IV line. There were four bottles of water with sodium chloride and one bottle of chemo drug (cisplatin). The chemo cycle started with two bottles of water. It was alright. I started wondering what the fuss is all about. Then, came the cisplatin which took about two hours. I was still having fun. After, that back to the water. Then, my head started spinning. I began to see a lot of stars. I felt like I was on a roller coaster. It went on for two hours.

There was a lady who had nasal cancer. She started groaning and moaning in pain right after I started the chemo. She also seemed to be gasping for air. Then, she stopped for a while. She was groaning again when I was on my roller coaster ride. After the water finished, amazingly the ride stopped. I was so tired that I drifted off to sleep amidst the groaning and moaning. I think it was around 3 am. I woke up at 6.30 am and was told that the lady passed away at 4.00 am.

Last Monday, another patient succumbed to lung cancer which had metastasized to the brain. She was only 24. She was about to start her career as a pharmacist when she realised that she had lung cancer. It has been depressing but then, you can see how fragile life is. A lot of time, things just do not go as we'd like to.

Today, I am going to have my second cycle of chemo. The nurses are preparing the stuff for me. Let's hope that its going to be a holiday cruise this time....

Will keep you updated whenever I can.

Bye, for now.

"Life is too short, but intend to grow old gracefully"

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Getting ready for the radiotherapy


Raya days are almost over, well, sort of. Schools reopened today. My husband drove my children to school and me to the hospital after that. I went to the dentist for the final check up before the radiotherapy. Then, she gave me the dental clearance and I am all ready to be "nuked"...just learned the word from the oral cancer community at the oral cancer foundation.

Actually, there are a lot of information that I gather from the oral cancer forums. Since I'll go for the radiation, I have posted several questions on it in the forum. I've been informed that the IMRT (Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy) is a type of radiation which only bombards the cancer tumours, unlike the conventional radiotherapy where the radiation would bombard the normal cells as well. I am not sure whether the Mt Miriam where I'll get the radiation is equipped with it or not. I tried to ask some people, docs included, but they don't seem to know what I'm talking about. Oh, well....

I was told by my docs that that I'll have to make sure that my mouth is clean all the time or I'll develop fungus and mouth ulcers. On top of that, my mouth will also be very dry because my salivary gland will collapse. I will also lose the sense of taste..Well, haven't I already? However, they can't tell me what I can use to alleviate the problem. Its like you will face the problem and there is nothing you can do about it.

I got to know from some friends I made in the mouth cancer forums that there are some products available in the US and UK to deal with the problems. I'm hoping that Mt Miriam has access to it. I am kind of nervous to go through the treatment but can't wait to get it over with.

I still don't know how many zaps I'll be getting. I'll find that out on Oct 7 when I see the radiation oncologist. They'll mark the target area on my face and get a mask fitted. The mask, I was told is to hold my head still during the treatment.

So, we'll see what happens next.

Bye, for now.

"Life is too short, but intend to grow old gracefully...."