Introducing Lil’ Bro

I have one super happy family! Check out Daniel’s story of the adoption!

3 days and a ton of bricks post anti-pd1 therapy

I felt so great after my infusion of anti-pd1 therapy on Thursday! Came home and enjoyed the family and got some chores done. On Friday I stayed busy and had a girls night out with some of my besties. This morning, three days post infusion, I felt I’d been hit with a ton of bricks. I saw the signs coming last night, drinking tons of water but it wasn’t absorbing. Then at one point while out with friends, I felt fatigue and a bit of light headedness wash over me. I also didn’t finish my gelato from Frost- a sure sign of impending doom! Once in bed, I realized my leg that swells with lymphedema was very swollen.

So, I shouldn’t have been surprised when I woke up swollen, sore and exhausted! I slept most of the morning and more this afternoon. I’m so glad Daniel is home to carry the load. He takes such good care of us. The family is out on a walk and I am still resting. This is the new normal and I wonder if it will ever really feel normal. I am so thankful that most days now are good days so the bad ones stand out!

Anti-pd1 Cycle 18

Anti-pd1, melanoma, clinical trial
Anti-pd1 Cycle 18

It’s been a month and today I’m back for anti-pd1 cycle 18, week 64! No stripping today, sorry folks.

I’m currently shivering under my blankets in infusion room. Brr! The liter of saline makes me chilly! Of course, there is a “popsicle patient” across from me (TH-302 trial) with ice packs in his armpits and groin. He’s also sucking on ice chips. I’m going to keep my mouth shut about being cold! It’s all about perspective!

Pager for cancer center appointments typos

“Welcome to$uhe University of Arizona Sancer Center N Campus”

I had to laugh at my pager this morning. I doubt this is the message the cancer center wants to send about their competency! Good thing I am an experienced patient and know this is not a reflection of the care!

I had a brain MRI yesterday and it looked good! My trial nurse went out of her way to call me with results yesterday so I didn’t have to face the anxiety waiting for my appointment today. I’m thankful for her understanding heart.

Port-a-cath

Assimilated. Resistance was futile.

Today’s labs included another to-do about how tiny my dual port-a-cath access is and how deep the bottom section is to access… it needs a longer needle… blah blah blah. It’s interesting how much nurses vary in their assessment of my port. I am learning which hills to die on with port access, but when to let the nurse’s instincts and concerns lead the way. A longer needle has never really been necessary, but if they feel more comfortable with it, I’m not going to argue. It does seem to cause trouble if I lie back and they try to access the port. I believe this is because of tissue moving when I’m reclined which interferes with the port access. So, I request to be upright when it’s accessed!

It did eventually get accessed, the seven tubes of blood drawn and after giving a urine sample-which prompted a tweet to the cancer center about needing a hook on the bathroom door, I was on my way! (Imagine me, laptop bag, coffee and urine  sample cup in a room with no shelves nor hooks. Wait. Don’t.)

I saw my nurse practitioner for a straightforward visit. Discussed allergy meds and she said my nose is a little inflamed with the new dog. Doh! She recommended an over the counter nose spray. Allergy meds will not interrupt my immune system. She explained the histamines they treat are not part of the cellular immune process which fights cancer. Oh college Martha, you should have taken cellular biology! 

I’m now finishing up my liter of fluid and about to get my lovely anti-pd1 (MK-3475) Then I’ll be out of here! Dose 18 done! Hi-yah! Take that melanoma!

Cancer center waiting area

Ready to have my port accessed, labs drawn, doctor check in, and infusion! Watch out cancer, here I come!

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My infusion chair had a lovely mountain view

 

Patient advocacy: Port-a-cath (aka Martha’s striptease)

Tales from the infusion room:

The group infusion rooms at Arizona Cancer Center hold four chemo La-Z-Boys, one in each corner. I was sitting on my side of the room during a recent visit and overheard the husband of a new patient asking the chemo nurse about a port-a-cath for his wife.. He was asking where they were placed and for details about surgery to have it placed. (For some reason my inclination is always to say my port was “installed” rather than placed. We are Borg, prepare to be assimilated!) He asked about the benefits and care for the port.

The chemo nurse kindly gave him great information, but sometimes it’s good to hear from another patient. (And sometimes I like to hear myself talk!) So, as this sweet couple in their late 60’s get up to leave her first infusion, I pipe up and get the husband’s attention. I told him that from my perspective, a port-a-cath can really make treatment easier and it’s saved my veins, which were building up scar tissue before I was even diagnosed with cancer. I asked if he wanted to see what it looked like. He was grateful for the input and said sure, he would be interested.

The wife is in the bathroom now, so I am only interacting with this gentleman. At this point, I look down and realize I am going to have to unbutton my henley and pull it down. I know I won’t be exposed, but it won’t appear that way to this man. I look over at Daniel, he raises his eyebrows at me, then I carefully unbutton, and show off my port! Anything in the name of advocacy!

It was worth it. I remained clothed (somewhat) modestly and the man and his wife thanked me for the perspective. Cancer is scary! We have to share our stories!

Here’s another post I’ve shared about my adventures with my Port-a-cath!

Summer School Bishop Style

“Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.” –  Fred Rogers

Not pictured in our summer school curriculum:  swim,  Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood marathons, weekly movies, lunch with Daddy, making jello, crafting, and going on playdates. We love summer!

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Loss of Memory After Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy shown to affect memory in young cancer patients

Well, I could have told them that!

I submit, as evidence, my Facebook status from July 2.

Oh. My. Word. Today I realized I forgot an important errand yesterday so rushed to do it this morning, forgot I’d invited my brother and girlfriend over for dinner until 45 minutes prior, locked the kids and myself out of the house on the way to the pool and left the back gate unlatched while dog sitting so the dogs got out of the yard. Thankful for the end of the day and grace from family. If anyone sees my brain, let me know!

Does Sunscreen Cause Cancer?

Updated July 9 with additional resources

This article claims that wearing sunscreen and avoiding the sun causes cancer. It has exploded on the web today. What do I think? Well, the easy answer is to quote my friend Timna’s (Respect the Rays) response to it.

“Total Fucking Bullshit.”

I alsofind this spread of misinformation sickening. Since my diagnosis I’ve had lots of misinformation passed on to me. Much of the melanoma community is quick to respond “I tanned and have melanoma!” I understand this gut instinct. “Learn from our mistakes, we cry!” But, let’s talk strategy in examining and refuting articles like this. While personal stories are incredibly compelling, we need to be aware of fallacies in our arguments AND in the crap like this that is promoted online. I could name a number of friends who have melanoma and tanned. I am a person who didn’t tan and has melanoma. How do we draw a scientific conclusion based on this testimony?

I could also tell you I have friends who didn’t use car seats when children and they survived. Sure, but are the children who died in car accidents here to tell their stories? No. This isn’t a perfect example for melanoma and tanning but it shows the flawed logic that is sometimes used with personal experience arguments.

Instead, let’s see if we can refute this with a more methods based, scientific approach. Specifically for this article.

  1. First let’s check the source links at the bottom of the article. The source is here.   When we check the link, the article linked doesn’t cite the study. Merely mentions it with an affiliation. IF this is information found in a real study, why is the original study not mentioned?
  2. Is realFARMacy.org an unbiased source? No, clearly based on their URL, they are against conventional medicine, which means they most likely distrust the FDA which regulates sunscreens. This bias should be recognized, especially when realfarmacy.org claims to cite scientific studies. How do they trust some and not other studies? My guess is they are cherry picking their facts to support their claims.
  3. The actual study can be read here.  Good luck. In my reading, I was surprised to learn that the statistics related in the original article aren’t based on death from melanoma or skin cancer. It is based on all deaths without considering cause. The study also discusses vitamin d deficiencies in those living further from the equator (like in Sweden) and that this may play a role compared with high UV areas like Australia and the southern United States. Was this mentioned in the tabloid-like headline of the original article? Nope! All in all the study seemed fairly subjective. Survey based, threw out previous cancer cases, didn’t include risk factors for melanoma such as red hair in some of their statistics. Seem like fishy evidence on which to base a conclusion to you? Sure does to me.
  4. So does sunscreen cause cancer? This study doesn’t mention it. Lack of Vitamin D may contribute to mortality rates, but we can get vitamin d in safer forms than sunbathing and tanning beds.

I am planning on discussing more about how to discern claims about sunscreen and sun safety in future posts. Hopefully this information will be helpful in all areas of your life. I am not against holistic medicine.

I AM living 2 years beyond when I was expected to die because of evidence based medicine.

I will continue to be passionate about educating others to find good information and empower them to make the best decisions for themselves and their families! (This is my own personal testimony, biased based on experience, but meant to show my passion to educate others!)

For a fun video about fallacies in thinking and how our brain likes to trick EVERYONE into seeing patterns which aren’t really there, check this out!


“…maybe you can find some evidence that say’s you’re right, but you’ll have to ignore a whole lot more evidence that says you’re wrong. When we filter evidence to support that conclusion and ignore what disagrees, we are victims of confirmation bias.”
“And that’s why science was invented. A way to fight the human tendency of assuming that what we see is what’s true. Instead of starting with a conclusion, and filtering out all the data that doesn’t agree with it, science starts with an explanation and does everything possible to prove it wrong.”
“Science, above all else, requires a desire to disprove ourselves. It’s a sharp tool that we use to poke holes in our ideas, so we’re sure that they’ll float. And unless we do that on a regular basis, our princess will forever be in another castle.”

Update: Since I posted, other reputable sources have also released responses to the original article. Check them out if you want further information.