Monday, November 30, 2009

Hexalen®, "Hair Chronicles on Canvas" & Art Reception, #14

Hair Chronicles on Canvas was first posted on this blog September 11, 2009. While it was not framed at that time, the progression and significance of the images was detailed. Please go back to the 9/11/09 blog entry.

This photograph includes the container of 84 Hexalen® chemotherapy pills that I will begin taking shortly. My oncologist said I will not lose my hair with this medication. But who knows, if I need to go on to another drug after this one, will my hair drop out? That's what the bottom right image on Hair Chronicles on Canvas refers to--What's in my hair's future?

And now a quick note from Robbie Gluckson, Executive Director of Premiere Oncology Foundation:

We do hope you will all join us this Wednesday, December 2nd for the Cancer & Creativity Opening Art Exhibit Reception from 4 to 6 pm, here at the Premiere Oncology Foundation. We encourage you to bring friends and family to the event, as we celebrate the artistic creations from our Cancer & Creativity workshop participants.

Many thanks to Dr. Esther Dreifuss-Katten, Corinne Lightweaver, Rachael Buchwald, Zizi Raymond and all of the Cancer & Creativity workshop participants for their incredible efforts.

2020 Santa Monica Blvd., Suite 600, Santa Monica, CA Phone: 310-570-1474, Robbie

Hexalen® and Art Exhibit Opening Reception , #13

For over a year I have been attending a weekly art therapy program for cancer survivors.

Art therapy class is helping me explore feelings of fear and comfort, my past and future, as well as a tool to talk about something other than cancer.

I’m an Artist!

The Premiere Oncology Foundation (Santa Monica) and Beckstrand Cancer Foundation (Newport Beach) have made these opportunities available. Teacher of "Cancer and Creativity" class and curator of art exhibit is Esther Dreifuss-Kattan, PhD, ATR.

Opening Reception, December 2, 2009 from 4 - 6 pm OPEN TO ALL

2020 Santa Monica Blvd., Suite 600, Santa Monica, CA

Exhibition closes January 31, 2010

Docent: Robbie Gluckson, 310-570-1474

Must call for limited viewing times

"Mandala: My Siblings"

21 1/2 x 18 1/2 inches

mixed media

My recent genealogy research helped to strengthen the love, value, influence, and support from my living sister and four brothers.

The inner white circle with glitter represents Janice, our sister who lived only two days. The next five circles surrounding Janice Marie, signify my siblings’ creativity, musical talents, environmental passions, dedication to education, and love of food.

My sisters and brothers, and their families, bring me strength and inspiration as I bask in the golden circle of love.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Hexalen® and YEA! note , #12

Over eleven days ago, my oncologist discussed the results of the most recent PET/CT scans with me and my second set of ears, Joyce. The doctor also said that because of the slight increase in my tumor marker (CA-125), it was time to review the options for new treatment.

Since the primary peritoneal carcinoma (PPC) is being treated like ovarian cancer, there are numerous chemotherapy drugs to select from. I feel pretty lucky that science and medicine is at this point today. Heck, when my mother died of ovarian cancer in 1991, two weeks after diagnosis, I would speculate that there were fewer options for her than what I have today.

I have already had significant success with two of my three earlier Chemotherapy drugs, and when the oncologist most recently reviewed the next three cancer-killing drugs that are now readily available for me, I could see hope. Our new drug of choice is Hexalen.®

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Hexalen® and Cirque Du Soleil, #11

It is always thrilling

when Cirque Du Soleil comes to Santa Monica

Especially the year Ed blindfolded me when we left home

for a place unknown to me.

When I was allowed to see I was walking into the

Cirque Du Soleil tents

This year Hexalen® will be my guest

Hexalen® and Black Friday, #10

The day after Thanksgiving is known as Black Friday in the retail business. On this day businesses look forward to fantastic sales, and as a result, they finally get out of the red and can start making a profit.

My photographic contribution to Black Friday acknowledges the difficult job of retail workers. For some employees, it is endless hours of standing on hard floors, making the merchandise look neat and attractive, and listening to the same holiday songs over and over, all while trying to make customers happy with their purchases.

I hope they made it out of the red and into the black!

As for me, there are fewer red and swollen areas on my body because the side effects from previous chemotherapy drug are diminishing. Overall, while there is still some disease in my pelvic area, I feel like I'm in the black--"I feel SOOO Good!"*

*A quote from Dr. Lizard, aka, Kedric Robin Wolfe

Friday, November 27, 2009

Hexalen® and Thanksgiving Flowers, #9

Thanksgiving Dinner with dear friends was an opportunity to voice how grateful I'm for the science, medicine, and individuals who are bringing health and life to me and others.

Since I have not started taking my Hexalen® chemotherapy pills, I felt really good that I could TOTALLY enjoy the chips and dip, soup, salad, etc., etc., etc. Even the left overs are fun to eat.

I'm just wondering and some what anticipating that when I start popping the six Hexalen® pills a day (for 14 days on and 14 days off) that my life will be governed by having the container of anti-nausea within arms reach. Believe me, I hope I won't be getting sick to my stomach!

P.S., My oncologist said to begin taking the Hexalen® within 14-21 days from my last appointment (nine days ago). He gave me some leeway because the mouth sores and cracked 'n dry skin from the previous chemotherapy needed time to heal.

Flowers from: Paul's Unique Creations, Santa Monica, California.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Hexalen® and Forrest Gump, #8

Forrest Gump quotes:

I don't know if we each have a destiny, or if we're all just floatin' around accidental-like on a breeze. But I, I think maybe it's both.

Mama says they was magic shoes. They could take me anywhere.

When I got tired, I slept. When I got hungry, I ate. When I had to go, you know, I went.


Hexalen® and Bubba Gump Shrimp Co., #7

While walking on the Santa Monica Pier
we sat for a moment to reflect
on the many blessings

Happy Thanksgiving Day

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Hexalen® and turkey, #6

To begin my Thanksgiving meal for wellness, I will open several six-pacs of bubbling humor for my guests. We sit around the rotating table of relaxing environments, including the Pacific Ocean, the rice fields of Bali, and the mountains of Telluride, while fresh breezes and tinkling wind chimes refresh us.

Around this table sit my salt ‘n peppered, love-filled friends of many decades, along with the active, little leprechauns from paradise. They are spreading uncontained curiosity and softened kisses of unconditional love. Rays of hope spread an inner contentment upon everyone.

The table seems to be overjoyed as the rainbow of fruits and vegetables in multiple glass bowls are placed in front of the guests. A momentary quiet spreads across the room as people are nourished with hope.

As my guests anticipate the next course, a chain of charming and magical beans are stirred and brought to the table. The presentation is impressive as the hot tureen goes from one person to another. The endorphin-filled steam rises and lifts our dreams of wellness from the ever-present reality.

We take a deep breath, exhale, relax, and appreciate the Thanksgiving meal, and then make our selection from the dessert buffet of rewarding tenderness, endless hugs, and compassionate smiles.

The room is filled with positive energy, as each person says and hears, “I’m so happy we are together on the Thanksgiving Day. Peace be with you.”

This writing is based upon the prompt from the West Los Angeles, Wellness Community Writing Group. We meet two hours on a weekly basis. Thanks to Zena and Michael for being there for us today.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Hexalen® and the Ferris wheel, #5

While on my walk on the Santa Monica Pier, it seemed I could almost hear a conversation with the Ferris wheel and the Hexalen® chemotherapy pills.

If you are new to this blog, Hexalen® will be my next chemotherapy drug. Unlike the three previous cancer-killing drugs which were given intravenously, I will be taking six capsules throughout the day. Possible side effects: nausea.

Okay, back to what sounded like a conversation between the Ferris wheel and the Hexalen®:

"Hi, What's up?" Ferris Wheel asked.

"Aren't you funny! Ferris Wheel, You are up! You are up there in the sky!" Hexalen® said in a somewhat impatient way.

"Guess what? I think we have something in common."

"What do you mean? In my plastic container there are 84 capsules." Hexalen® called out.
"Do you have 84 seats up there?"

"No, actually, I take more than 84 passengers. Good guess! But, what we have in common is that we can both make people sick to their stomach!"

"Oh YES, Ferris Wheel! You are right. My cute, little white capsules, can make want know....barf.
I wish we could have something different in common."

"You are right. I'll think about it and you think about it too," And Hexalen® nodded good bye to Ferris Wheel.

"Bye bye, come back soon Hexalen®. Bye"

Hexalen® goes to the Pacific Ocean, #4

We took a wonderful walk in order to take this photograph. It has been clear and oh, so beautiful in Santa Monica.

The walk was an opportunity to have 'quality time,' and to spend some relaxing moments in the sun and get a dose of Vitamin D.

Finally, while I was not wearing the best walking shoes, I continued this adventure and found, of all things,

my shadow!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Thank you from the bottom of my heart

Hexalen® and the flowers, #3

"What's with this? Today you are taking a photograph of your pills with flowers, and yesterday you took the pills to the Chinese market! You are blowing this way out of proportion! Just take them and shut-up!" I can almost hear 'Person A' say.

'Person B' said that a patient was feeling so good that he stopped taking his pills, contrary to his doctor's advice. His cancer returned.

Then, 'Person C' had so much emotional turmoil in taking the toxic chemotherapy pills that the morning was torture until he finally swallowed the first of the three daily doses.

So I ask myself, how can I recognize my potential difficulties and challenges, and go beyond them, including my most recent fright of actually getting a pill caught in my throat?

I will try to make light of fears and side effects.
I will honor the daily achievements.
I will be grateful. I will be truthful.
I will make art out of my observations, thoughts, dialogues.
I will ask for support.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Hexalen® goes to the Chinese market, #2

In a Los Angeles area Chinese market, it seemed there was a conversation going on between the duck and the yet, unused bottle of Hexalen® chemotherapy pills.

Not knowing just what was going on, I stepped back, took the photograph, and then started to wonder:

a.) what was the duck advising,
b.) what were the 84 pills explaining, and
c.) where will the conversation take us.

Hexalen® goes to the Chinese market, #1

Today I was on a mission to get the recommended ginger candy to help reduce nausea, something I might be experiencing once I begin Chemo #4 in 2-3 weeks.

I already have a fresh prescription of Zofran®, the small pill I rarely used while I was being given Chemo #1, #2, and #3.

But the biggest event of the day was discovering other places my bottle with 84 Hexalen® capsules seemed to fit into the Chinese market displays and shelves.

My future photographic walks with Hexalen® will be patterned after the famous adventures that have been generated from Jeff Brown's book, Flat Stanley.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Suggestions for self-talk when taking pills

We had a very interesting discussion in cancer survivors' group
last night about
taking chemotherapy pills.

1) it is physically difficult to take pills,
2) delaying as long as possible in taking pills,
3) putting pills in special bowls prior to taking the medication,
and finally

4) skipping the pills.

Hello world, what works for you?

P.S., Eight hours after posting this blog
I felt pretty confident and decided to take my
vitamins for the first time in three days. I was
using the technique a friend recommended--
take the pills with room temperature or warm water.

The first three went down okay, the last one
(the one I cut in half) got caught in my throat.
Not a good situation!
Believe me, this scared me as I tried to
figure out what to do, especially when
my tried-and-true methods were not working!
And, WE were talking about just this situation
in group last night.

In memory: May the late O. Carl Simonton, oncologist, rest in peace.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

New treatment plan: Chemo #4--Hexalen®

I'm entering a new phase of treatment for the primary peritoneal cancer, aka, my cancer #3. (It is being treated like ovarian cancer)

In 2-3 weeks, depending of severity of the side effects from Chemo #3 (Doxil®), I will begin taking the Hexalen® pills--14 days on, 14 days off. After three months of treatment I'll get a scan.

Oh yes, I said 'side effects from Chemo #3:' difficulty in swallowing vitamin pills and food, open sores in my mouth, swollen lips and mouth, (and I even didn't receive Botox®, but prescription Lidocaine 2% for the mouth did wonders. For the first time since this mouth stuff began about five weeks ago, this afternoon I felt some relief).

Back to the side effects: red, peeling, dry, and very tender areas of skin on various areas of my body. (But, I keep reminding myself, the Doxil® really brought down my tumor marker so overall it did a good job. "Don't forget-Don't forget" is the mantra). Okay, I finished complaining, that is, until I get so overwhelmed that I have to write about this again.

Now back to new treatment: I feel rather excited that I won't be getting infusions. My oncology nurse was excellent and gentle so my blood vessel just seemed to dance up to the surface of my skin. Nausea is a possibility (be positive), so I just purchased the Zofran® pills with an easy-off top (my hands hurt but hopefully they will be back to normal when I start Chemo #4).

Something I'm going to really miss is the support I received from my ChemoBuddies (CBs). I always had someone to talk with while I was receiving chemo through the vein. What is a cancer survivor to do??

I can't call my CBs three times a day while I'm taking my 6 pills a day!

And then, do I celebrate during the 14 days I'm taking the 84 pills OR do I celebrate during the 14 days that I'm not taking the pills?

What is this cancer survivor to do??

Maybe, I can make some art...

Monday, November 16, 2009

My highs, lows and fears

The side effects of the chemo #3 are stinging, hurting, and spreading to more areas of my body. Sometimes the side effects are calm and quiet, other times they are screaming! Then, sometimes it is difficult to swallow, but other than that, one of these days they will start to decrease. I have received six infusions of Doxil® and will not be receiving any more.

I don't know the results of the PET/CAT scans I had on Friday. One of these days I will.

Sometimes I think I will go great lengths to get a copy of the results, but other times I feel there are more important things to do and I'll get to the doctor's office when I have time. I'm just kind of 'low-key' this time. OH.....emotions are coming up.....

Oh S**T!
I'm afraid of bad news.

Okay OKAY, I hear you. It could be good news as well.....
It's gotta be better than when I was hospitalized!
And right, the Doxil® did bring down my CA-125 from over 6000 to 122! Yah, but, I want all the cancer to be out of ALL of my body.

While I have an appointment with my oncologist to get the PET/CAT results on Wednesday, I have just been invited to the annual Wellness Community luncheon, which is at the same time.
Tuesday: I have art therapy in the afternoon and don't want to miss it, unless the doctor can see me late morning and then I rush to art therapy for support or celebration!
Oh well, I have an opening on Monday, but does he?

Last bit of news: Some of my art work will be part of an exhibition at Premiere Oncology in Santa Monica, California. Opening reception is December 2nd in the afternoon.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Calavera: La Niña

This Day of the Dead mask I created in Art Therapy this week. In case I'm not around for next year's Day of the Dead celebration, this one is ready for the altar.*

The bandage on the side of the mask came off my left, inner arm, the location of this week's chemo infusion. The oncology nurse put it on my arm after she removed the IV stuff.

*This is indeed what the famous Pedro Linares (1906-1992) did with the aid of his family, in preparation of the exhibit "En Calavera: The Papier-Mâché Art of the Linares Family" at UCLA Flower Museum of Cultural History, Los Angeles, California. The exhibit opened in November 1994 and closed July 1995.

P.S., I hope to make more calaveras (in this case, skulls that represent a person who has passed). By the way, the middle name my parents gave me at birth was Niña.

"Calavera: La Niña"
November 2009
mixed media
9 1/2" x 7" x 3 1/2"

Created while in 'Cancer and Creativity Art Therapy Workshop'
Presented by Premiere Oncology Foundation and Beckstrand Cancer Foundation
Instructor: Esther Dreifuss-Kattan, PhD, ATR

Latest CA-125 results


Three weeks ago it was 110. So it is up a little.
I just scheduled a PET/CAT scan for next Friday. And in the mean time the chemotherapy I received two days ago has some more work to do.

Will you be part of my pep squad?
My cheer leaders?
My angels?

You see, the chemo needs to hear and feel all of our support and encouragement! Maybe this extra support will bring the CA-125 down some more.

What do we appreciate!

note: Doxil is a registered drug, ie, Doxil®

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The end of Chemo #3

Yesterday I received the last of six infusions of Chemo #3, aka, Doxil®. Awards! Congratulations! Good Work! and a BIG Thanks to my ChemoBuddy, Bruce.

But as I found out in one of my cancer survivor's group today from another person who received her second infusion of a chemotherapy drug, she too is wondering just what will the new side effects be. For some people, the side effects are cumulative, that is, they get worse with each additional infusion.

My swollen, tender feet and hands have peeled and gone back to normal and then returned to being red and swollen again. The redness in my torso has peeled and is red again. Broken skin around my breast. The red spots are increasing around my thighs. The skin around the joints (especially the knees and elbows) is raw and tender. The inside of my mouth was swollen for two weeks and then I developed an open sore. And that was after 5 infusions of Chemo #3.

WELLLL, yesterday, with the 6th infusion, I'm just wondering, what new sensations will my body harbor AND what old sensations/side effects will get worse?

BUT, as I try to tell myself in a loving manner, This is all to rid my body of the cancer in my abdominal area. There is going to be some discomfort, but HANG IN THERE!

Now, ready for this cancer survivors; After all the side effects, multiple medications, nausea, bad needle placement, some one says, "You look good!"

If they only REALLY knew!