Tuesday, January 19, 2010

What a Wild Ride!

So, I was an inpatient in the hospital from since before Christmas, until a few days after New Year's (around the 6th or 7th or so). Mainly because they were very concerned about the tumor on my hip, because it was pushing on my organs (specifically my kidney), and the doctor was afraid of Tumor Lysis, after the Chemotherapy. Which I received 4 rounds in 4 days, whereas usually you receive a round every 2-3 weeks.

The day I was let out, they started collecting my Stem Cells for a Stem Cell Transplant, which is a pretty daunting task. They want around 50 million, and I was only outputting around 2.5 million per collection, which takes about 3-4 hours a day to complete. So, even though I was let out of the hospital, I still had to come to the hospital twice a day, to get growth hormone injections (they make your white blood cells produce in an overabundance), get vitals done, and to get blood work. And of course the occasional blood or platelets transfusion.

Finally, I was done collecting this past Wednesday, and saw the Transplant Doctor on Thursday, and his plans are to do more Chemotherapy for the tumor on my hip (to get it as shrunken down as they possibly can), and then a Stem Cell Transplant most likely in the summer. It takes another 3-6 months to recover from the Stem Cell Transplant, so I'm looking at being back to some sort of normalcy around this time next year. Good news is that I'm on a week-long "Mini-Vacation" from going to the hospital. Loving it!

Oh! And my hair finally fell out - so I got it shaved again. And I got a FABULOUS new hat that I'm totally wearing out.

Saturday, December 26, 2009


Here are some pics of the new 'do:


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Something's Coming....

A new look for me :)

I dyed my hair tonight...pics to come tomorrow...try & control your excitement :)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Where I'm Headed

I had a doctor's appointment this morning, and when I went in to get my blood drawn, and vitals - the nurse who told me to go to the ER immediately, said "You threw us all through a loop, Ms. Kim". Hell, I threw myself through a loop. Never in my wildest imagination did I honestly believe that the cancer would come back. I was absolutely positive that I was cured, and just thought that I had a blood clot, which is a little scary itself.

My chauffeur(because my dumb butt left my keys in Illinois - and am waiting for them to arrive in the mail), MB took me there today, and was a really good support system. My oncologist came in, and said "I am so sorry that tumor has come back". I mean, what am I supposed to say? It isn't her fault. My Bone Marrow Biopsy, PET and CAT Scans has all been coming back clear since July. I didn't stop taking Chemo until August, but I guess technically I had been in remission for only five months. I knew that this type of NHL was aggressive, and that your doctor would watch you like a hawk for the first 2 years of your remission. I was getting CT and PET scans every three months. I my last clear scan in Mid-October, and the tumor grew from sometime between Halloween until December 7th. And 10cm x 10cm, too! But how could she anticipate it coming back so fast? My flow cytometry test when I was in the hospital showed that it was unlikely that it would come back.

So, she decided upon Chemotherapy beginning December 29th, a day after I turn 24. I have to do it on an inpatient basis, and I'm not positive, but I believe that it is a more aggressive type of Chemo, to shrink the tumor, because my oncologist wants me to have a bone marrow transplant.

So, it isn't the tumor that's breaking down the bone. It is cancer in the bone marrow again. The tumor has caused both my left hip joint to widen has done damage to the muscle. That, and combined with my left leg still being incredibly swollen, has caused me to be extremely uncomfortable. The hospital in Illinois had me on Morphine in the hospital, and then prescribed Norco when I was released, which is a stronger form of Vicodin which really didn't help all that much. So my oncologist prescribed both Percocet (Oxycodone and Tylenol) AND Oxycontin.

I have a crazy day on Friday. A bone marrow biopsy first thing in the morning, then a cardiac test, and finally a PET scan. I figure she must be concerned if she's already scheduling the treatment before having these results. Now they did do a CT Scan in Illinois last week, but a PET Scan will determine quite a bit, and the bone marrow to see if it is Stage IV. Which from the CT Scan, it shows that the bone marrow in the hip is highly involved.

I'm convinced to kick this thing where it hurts, and until I start treatments, I am not about to sit idly by. I'm going to a play on Saturday night, and on Tuesday night I am throwing myself a party at a Piano Bar to sing publicly and have a couple of drinks for the last time in at least six months. Diva-ish, oh probably. But I really want to thank the people who have been so supportive of me publicly. It's amazing to not be from somewhere, and have such a strong support system.

Since I'm really too sick to travel home for Christmas, I am going to one of my best friend's house for a SOUTHERN Christmas meal. My first ever. I'm so psyched! I've only ever had the Hepworth version of a Christmas dinner. Rib Roast, twice baked potatoes, Broccoli, Fruit Salad, Sauteed mushrooms, and usually some kind of fruit pie for dessert.

And after that, it's getting ready to go into the hospital for however long.

For some reason, although I feel like my body is giving out most of the time, I'm in really good spirits. Maybe its the pain pills, or anti-depressants that I'm on, but I think its mainly because I know what Chemo entails, and I'm more prepared this time to fight.

And fight I will. No matter how long it takes.

Me & Stella Kitty Re-Bonding

Enjoying my hair while I can!

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

Here I was, all ready to take the world by storm again - and this beast comes in to rear its ugly head. And so soon. I've only been in remission for FOUR FREAKING MONTHS...give me a break!

My leg became swollen yesterday morning, and instead of freaking out, I thought it was just hormones or something, so I kept it elevated for nearly 24 hours, and was almost positive that it would go down. It didn't. It kept swelling.

So I called my oncologist first thing this morning and explained that I was out of town, and would she rather me wait to see her when I got in town, or go to the ER here in Springfield - they said go to the ER ASAP to get a Doppler (Ultra Sound) and "other tests". I knew with the Doppler that they were worried about a blood clot, which is quite common with people who have had Lymphoma. They didn't need to tell me what they meant by "Other Tests". They meant cancer tests.

So I did both. Luckily, my sister was with me. You know it's REALLY not a good sign when the doctor begins by saying "I don't have good news". I figured it was a blood clot. Which is scary within itself, but doable. Not me. They found a mass on my pelvis, which is 10cm (which is very large for a mass), and destroying part of the bone which its resting on. AND I have a blood clot.

Here I am in the hospital, on IV Heparin (blood thinner), and preparing for tomorrow. My oncologist is supposed to be talking with an oncologist here to talk about what we are to do. I have to be stable before I can travel back to Little Rock to begin treatment, so it's a real possibility that I'll start Chemo here, and then finish up in Little Rock. All the while preparing for a Stem Cell Transplant.

Man. I thought I was done. Looks like I've got another long road ahead of me. But you had best believe, I'll kick its ass for the 2nd time.

Friday, December 04, 2009

What Have I Been Up To?

Well, it's been a roller coaster of a month. Sort of.

The past 9 months I guess I have been a bit in a haze. Pharmaceutically speaking, anyways. From February 28th until about 3 weeks ago, I have been perpetually in a haze due to beginning with Vicodin, increasing to Percocet and Ativan when I was admitted into the hospital on March 1st, and then changing to Oxycodone (since I was prohibited from taking any sort of NSAIDS (Tylenol, Aleve, or Ibuprofen) and Ativan, and then adding Companzine (Prochlor) and Zofran when I was going through Chemo in Mid-March through mid-August. I stopped taking all but the Ativan & Oxycodone until October, so I have been completely "sober" since then.

So I am sure that not only did this haze I was in was part of the reason why I am feeling a bit strange this past month. As of December 1st, it has been exactly 9 months since I heard my diagnosis. I am realizing what a really scary thing that it was just now. I believe that when someone is honestly really faced with their own mortality, you are truly presented with choice of "fight or flight", and obviously chose to fight. I wasn't sure at the time, but the cancer was really a further more advanced than I once thought, or maybe I knew and my mind just couldn't process that information at that time, for my own sanity.

So, like a lot of people who have had to use this Superwoman kind of adrenaline to fight such a beastly of disease, when I was put in remission I was honestly kind of let down. I had used up all of this energy and now I have no where in which to place it. I was mentally ready to take the world by storm once again, and my body was so not ready for that. Eight rounds of chemo really does crazy things to your body. I thought I was prepared for it. And no matter how many people tell you how bad it is, even when you watch someone go through it - believe me, it's 10 times worse than you could imagine. I watched my mom go through it 20 years ago, so I thought I knew. Man, I did not. When my mom dropped me off at home before my first treatment started, she told me that if given the choice between open heart surgery and chemo, she would choose heart surgery. It was honestly the absolute worst best thing that I ever went through in my life.

Sobering up, and then actually have to deal emotionally with things that you have basically been sleepwalking through is quite a feat. With some survivors, you develop a bit of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I am remembering things in flashes that I have slept through since March. It is all a bit surreal. I am on Celexa now, for the depression - and I think it's really helped a lot. But this week for some reason I've been remembering a lot more, and more vividly as well. A truly scary thing.

I was doing incredibly well - I helped out backstage with a wonderful and moving production at the Weekend Theater in Little Rock, and then I actually was dealt two curve balls in my life that really tested me emotionally, and I think that I handled them quite well. I think the one great lesson that I have learned is that some things now just seem incredibly insignificant in the grand scheme of things.

So, I'm surviving. A survivor. I think that of all things is what I am most greatful for this holiday season.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Look...I Have Hair...

I have gone from this in May:


To this as of last week:


When I think of what has always made me "me", it has always been my hair, and my smile. Chemo made me lose my hair, and thanks to a handy surgeon with a happy hand, my smile is now crooked. This has made me re-evaluate what is truly me. What is on the inside is so much more precious than what would ever be on the outside. I try to push people away who are interested in me, because of my lack of hair, and feeling insecure about my newly "crooked" smile.

Then, who knew that a cashier at Walgreens could help me put things into perspective? She looked at me and said "Your hair is really inspiring. What made you cut it all off?" - I told her that I HAD Cancer, and that it was just now growing back. She asked me to listed to the song "I Am Not My Hair" by India.Arie, and these lyrics really hit home:

"...Cancer and Chemotherapy
Took away her crown and glory
She promised God if she was to survive
She would enjoy everyday of her life...

I am not my hair
I am not this skin
I am not your expectations no no
I am not my hair
I am not this skin
I am a soul that lives within"

Words to live by, for sure.