Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Feel it on the First

As a quick update, Nin is doing very well.  She gets a little wrecked a couple days after chemo but overall she is handling everything like a champ.  Today her nurses told her that they concluded "she was the most beautiful bald person they had every seen."  Quite the compliment considering they see bald people all day every day.  She just completed her 6th of 12 chemo doses.  HALF WAY DONE with this final chemo round!

Thanks for the balloons and gift Tori!

The rest of this post is going to be dedicated to breast exams.  I know I did one back in April but I felt it appropriate to post another.  We've been blown away by the number of people close to us that have recently done breast self-exams, only to find tumors.  Most of these lumps weren't cancerous but a few were.  A few too many.

There is a great movement promoting monthly self breast exams called "Feel it on the first."  It simply suggests that you do a self breast exam on the 1st of every month.  I know what you're thinking.  "Well Derrik you done messed up because it's not even the 1st, it's the 7th."  Lucky for us all, your boobs can't tell time.

Take this opportunity to get to know your boobs.  You can even let your significant other pitch in.  As they say "Many hands make light work."  If you aren't comfortable doing a breast self-exam call me, I'll lend you my hands for the greater good.  

A bold strategy, I know.  But in all seriousness I'm no breast exam expert.  For that reason I have copied and pasted some of the key tips from Nalie Agustin's Website below.  Take the time to read them over.

If you're wondering where to start, I'd suggest taking some pointers from my feline friend below.  He looks like he knows the proper techniques.

And yes, I had to Google "cats giving breast exams" to find this gif.  

Here are the tips from Nalie's website.  Happy groping:

Here’s the secret to examining your breast:
It’s not about doing it right, it’s about doing it REGULARLY!
So on the first day of every month, I want you to feel yourself! Yeah girl. Both literally, and figuratively.
Get to know your breasts and remember what they normally look and feel like! Look out for any changes.
Here’s what to look out for:
Breast Changes:
  • Size or shape
  • Deformation
  • Lumps in the breast, upper chest or armpits
  • Swelling of the breast or arm
Skin Changes:
  • Redness
  • Orange peel skin
  • Thickening
  • Discoloration
  • Dimpling, pitting or puckering
  • Localized feeling of warmth
  • Ulceration or wound
  • Visible vein
  • Skin shrinkage
Nipple Changes:
  • Appearance
  • Spontaneous Discharge
  • Inversion
  • Deviation
  • Eczema or ulceration of the nipple
If you find anything, visit your doctor immediately! And from experience, if you find a lump demand an ultrasound! If you’re under 40, remember… an ultrasound, not a mammogram! A clinical examination just won’t suffice!
Keep in mind, that not all changes are breast cancer! In fact, it’s quite normal for our breast to change due to the menstrual cycle, pregnancy, lactation or aging. But it’s better to be safe than sorry!

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Sorry For The Delay

It's been a while since I posted an update about Nin's badassery.  Sorry not sorry.  We've been too busy partying hard in between chemo treatments to type words.  You're probably thinking, "How hard can you party after chemo?"  I'll let our camping/dance party in the dirt video answer that question for you.


Or as I'd say, along with everybody else, in a business email, "Sorry for the delay."

Nin has now completed 4 of her 12 rounds of chemo.  I actually don't know if the term "rounds" is correct.  As far as I know it could be called rounds, doses, acid trips, cycles, infusions, walk abouts, or gentrifications.  I don't think anybody really knows the correct term, and they probably never will. #Mysteries.

Overall, Nin has been doing pretty great.  She got a little greedy after this last dose, which was on a Wednesday, and thought she could attend a work retreat meeting/kayaking on the lake with co-workers day.  Not the best decision. She was worked the next day.

Besides exhaustion, exactly like the anti-drug commercial girl above, Nin has weathered the potential side effects very well.  We're still wrapping her wrists and ankles in ice packs during her chemo infusions of the drug "Taxol" or officially "Paclitaxel" for you medical nerds out there. 

This restricts blood flow, and thereby chemo drugs flowing through her veins, to her extremities. This will hopefully prevent neuropathy, which is the loss of feeling in the fingers and toes.

Obviously, she makes even this look glamorous. I'm afraid that people see her on social media and will think "Oh man, cancer treatment looks so fabulous, I want to try it."  We know it's tempting but don't do it.  Not worth it.

One small thing that has been bugging Nin is the tissue on her gums becoming sensitive and basically falling off.  It's not like she sheds her gum skin like a snake though.  Unless that's what you're imagining.  If you are, keep imagining that.  You do you.  Don't let anybody tell you who to be.

When Nin's gums first started to bother her, she thought it might just be a popcorn kernel stuck under her gum line.  Or "subgingivally" for you dental nerds.  Man, lots of nerds in the house tonight.  Sorry cool kids.

We all went to see "Nana", my mom who is a "gentle" hygienist (according to a little neighbor boy years ago), at work.  I'm not great with grammar or "Englishing" but I just used parentheses inside of a set of commas indicating a nonessential phrase.  Like this: "(___)".  I'm no Leo but I'm pretty sure that is the literary version of Inception.

Guys, I'm sorry. It's taken me four paragraphs to explain that Nin went to the Dentist. I'm out of control.

Make that five paragraphs. Nana didn't find any popcorn in Nin's gums but she gently scraped off some plaque while being very careful to not make Nin's gums bleed.

A lot of people don't understand why I'm so uptight about Nin doing something that could make her bleed, like cutting herself, falling down, or getting shot, as a few examples.  It's a condition called hemophilia...probably, and it is a result of the chemo drugs making some patient's bodies unable to clot blood.  Luckily that hasn't happened for Nin.  In some cases even small things could lead to Emergency Room visits like bleeding gums from brushing your teeth, nose bleeds, and even hang-nails that just can't stop, wont't stop, bleeding.

Another concern is anemia. Chemotherapy attacks and kills cancer cells but it also attacks red blood cells.  This lack of blood cells can cause fatigue and feeling cooler than normal. Nin couldn't get warm the other night and it wasn't even cold.  She bundled up like ET and I piled blankets on her until she warmed up.

Just another fun side effect.

Overall, Nin is killing it. She goes back in for another "gentrification" on Wednesday.  Keep the prayers coming that she continues to do well and doesn't feel tempted to be a bone head and go kayaking the day after.

On a final note of culinary inspiration, and in preparation for the new IT movie that we will absolutely never watch, this makes Nin laugh any time she sees it.  Because it's her.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Making Cancer Glamorous Since 2017

Look at this hot mama making cancer look glamorous!  All the cool kids are doing it.

It's been a couple weeks since I wrote an update about Nin, so learn from this guy and buckle up!

The last update post was right after Nin finished her final dose of her first heavy round of chemo.  At that point she was feeling pretty well.  She drank a ton of water before, during, and after chemo and was fortunate to forego most of the side effects that had laid her out the round before.  Those first few days after chemo were great.  She came home and slept 20 straight hours, you know, as one does.

Then she woke up feeling way better than she had after any of the previous three rounds.  It was a HUGE relief, especially compared to the round before.  I was absolutely dreading her waking up and feeling terrible but she snapped right up and got right back to it.  Like the boss she is.

A few days after her infusion a few side effects caught up to her.  Throughout the four doses there was a high chance of Nin getting bone pain from the Neulasta.  She lucked out for the most part on the first three rounds but unfortunately it caught up to her on the fourth and final dose of the first round.  She described it more as feeling as if the majority of her body was severely bruised.  This lasted a couple days and beat her down a bit but she handled like a champ, like she does.

The second weekend after that fourth dose we were able to spend some time at one of her favorite places on Earth, Bear Lake.  The weekend was filled with a lot of lake time, pool time, nap time, and game time.  Just what the doctor ordered.

Bubba dude was clearly having a good time at the pool with mommy!

We mostly stayed at the resort but we took a quick detour to Minnetonka Cave.

After Bear Lake (two weekends ago), we were dreading the next week. That's when Nin started her second cycle of chemo. We've learned that through this experience, that hardest thing to deal with is the unknown. Not knowing how Nin's body would react was a bit stressful. She received her first infusion last Thursday.  I had to go to Lake Tahoe for a work event from Tuesday to Thursday.  On Thursday morning during our final meeting, as Nin was on chemo, I was pretty anxious. I kept checking my phone, sat trying to pay attention but sat there fidgeting like I was waiting for a call from my favorite drug dealer to deliver some goods.  

One of the common side effects with her new cycle of chemo is an allergic reaction. They loaded her up with Benadryl and monitored her for rashes, hives, etc.  Nin's mom Julie kept me up to date and luckily she didn't suffer any allergic reactions. [Wipes brow]

The next, and more serious, side effect we are concerned about is neuropathy.  Neuropathy is essentially numbness of the extremities or loss of feeling in your fingers, toes, feet, and hands. You know when your hands get so cold that you can't grab or hold on to stuff? It's like that but can be permanent. For-eh-ver.

To combat the neuropathy we uses ice packs around her wrists and ankles which constricts her veins and restricts blood flow to her hands and feet. We used two ice machines that recirculate cold water around her feet, ice packs on her hands, and ice wraps around her wrists. It was a good look.


I'm happy to report that since her chemo infusion on Thursday, Nin is doing GREAT!  She is a little tired but didn't suffer the nausea, extreme exhaustion, blurry vision, or any of the other majorly crappy side effects.  If she can keep this up for the next 11 weeks, we'll all be happy campers.  It's been good to have her back with (a little) more energy.  Penny was so happy to have her mommy feeling great that she offered her a free hair styling. "But mommy doesn't have any hair.  I'll make it pretty though."

Everywhere we go, people come up to Nicole and tell her how brave she is.  Or we'll meet people in public who will recognize her from social media or the blog and introduce themselves and tell her how inspiring and brave she is.  Nin is always flattered by this but at the same time she just thinks that she isn't doing anything special.  From her point of view she just sees the day to day grind but what she doesn't see, that we all see, is that she is a beacon of inspiration, hope, and badassery.  We all see it from the outside but the amazing thing is that she doesn't realize how amazing she is because she isn't doing anything that isn't normal for her.  She's not putting on a show to be an inspiration, she just being Nin, which to me is even more inspirational.  She's not doing it to prove a point, she's not doing it for a social media appearance, she's not doing it to impress other people, she's doing it because she's a champ.  

Nin likes to end posts with inspirational quotes, so I'll leave one:

Be like Nin.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Iceland Day 4 - Glacier Kayaking in Jökulsárlón

Welcome to Jökulsárlón!  We've got glaciers, we've got icebergs, we've got seals, we've got black sand, we've got crystal clear ice, we've got dreams come true, we've got it all!

Every couple's paddles in this picture, except the Crabby's, are in sync (or N'Sync if you prefer).  Get your heads in the game Crabby's.  This is serious business.  Don't you realize that handfuls of people will see this picture on this blog?  Handfuls.  We can't have amateur posing mistakes like that.  We're better than that.

Jökulsárlón was one of the coolest places we visited in Iceland.  No pun intended...  I can't decide if it's more appropriate to say in Iceland or on Iceland.  Tomato, Tomatoe.   

Jökulsárlón is a deep lagoon that is the magical leftovers from a receding glacier.  The lagoon connects the glacier, and the icebergs that break off of it, to the ocean.  It's about 5 km from the glacier to the ocean and apparently 100 years ago the lagoon was completely covered by the glacier.  I guess Jökulsárlón is one benefit of global warming?  You've gotta look for the bright side of everything...  Sorry Al Gore.

We got to wear dry suits and kayak around the icebergs that were floating in the lagoon.  When we arrived to meet our guides they had pretty disappointed looks on their faces.  It had been blowing super hard all morning and they said that the wind speed was higher than they typically allow for kayaking.  Then they saw Nin's shaved head and thought, "Well this chick is clearly a badass so at least whoever is in her kayak will be fine."  Amazingly the wind died down and it became, according our guides to Bobo and Brindisch, one of the very best days on the lagoon they had experienced.  They said the group just a few hours earlier had to paddle as hard as they could against the wind to move just a couple of feet.  For us, there was barely even a breeze.  #Blessed.

See Crabby's, paddle synchronization.  You gotta GTS (get that shot).

Jökulsárlón is a glacial lagoon that connects the Vatnajökull glacier to the Atlantic Ocean through a short waterway.  When we pulled up to the lagoon we were blown away by the size of the glacier.  The glacier went from the lagoon all the way up the mountain and covered the ridges as far as you could see.  It wasn't until later that we realized this part of the glacier was part of the 8,000 square kilometer Vatnajökull glacier.  For those of you who don't hablo metric measurements, that is equivalent to an area larger than 3,100 square miles.  Yeah, it's big.  It covers 8% of the entire island.

We paddled around the icebergs and marveled in their unique beauty.  This was definitely not something you can readily experience in most places on Earth.  We turns some mini icebergs over, made loud noises on our kayaks to attract a seal, and even took a quick plunge.  Crabby led the way and just jumped in.  Kollin and I followed and just "iceberged" for a minute.  We figured that most people wanted to swim in the lagoon on their kayak tours but when we asked if others ever jump in they just said, "Uh, no. Only you are this crazy."  It really wasn't bad at all with the dry suits on.

After kayaking the girls got in the water with us too. 

Then us men partook in a public display of our strength to woo our females.  I think I won.  I think this is one of the main reasons Nin loves me.

As the icebergs calve off of the glacier they float 5 km across the lagoon towards the Atlantic Ocean.  I'm guessing that the icebergs go out to the ocean when the tide changes because there were a bunch of icebergs lined up at the outlet of the lagoon to the ocean.  It was so amazing to sit next to the water and just watch them.  It sounded like a giant bowl of Rice Krispies with all of the snap, crackle, Mitch, and pop.  Pieces of the icebergs would break off and a couple smaller ones even flipped while we were there.  Check out this pano!

On the other side of the short waterway connecting the lagoon the ocean is the Black Sand Beach.  This is where the strongest icebergs end up. The ones that finished their dinners and drank all of their milk when their mommies told them to.  The float down the waterway then get pounded against the beach by the ocean waves.  The remaining ice is crystal clear which makes for an amazing sight.  A long black sand beach that looks like it's littered with precious treasures.  


Nin got a little greedy trying to get the perfect shot.


Nin and I sat on the beach and watched the waves beat against a couple shrinking icebergs.  It was one of the most relaxing parts of our entire trip.  If you ever go to Iceland, this should be at the very top of your must do list.

Here is Nin GTS'ing hard.

After our adventures in Jökulsárlón, we drove to Svartifoss which is a waterfall surrounded by dark lava columns.  The hike was pretty mild and the prize at the end was worth it.

It wouldn't have been a normal day without Kollin having drone issues.  As we left Svartifoss for our AirBNB we passed beautiful fields with rivers from glacial runoff.  Kollin had to GTS and in true fashion he lost his drone.  We were sitting in the car watching him and Crabby fly around.  Then out of nowhere Kollin starts running to the away from the cars.  Then he turns around and runs back to the other side of the cars.  Steph radioed "I think Kollin lost his drone again" without an ounce of surprise.  He lost connection with his drone, as he does, and it was going to auto-land.  He didn't know where it was and because of the area we were in there was a 82% chance that it was going to auto-land in an ice cold, milky glacier river never to be found again.  Fortunately he reconnected with the drone and flew it safely back home.  You might think, oh man I can't believe Kollin had another crazy experience with his drone.  Just you wait, there's more.  

I should also point out that I've only highlighted his crazy drone stories.  Once you see the footage that Kollin gets, I think you'll agree that the NDDE's (Near Drone Death Experiences) are well worth it.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Last Chemo Dose of Round 1!

We've been a little incognito lately, apologies for the absence.  We've been busy with chemo, kids, work, adventures, and more ice cream than usual.  Not too much ice cream, just more than usual.  You can never have too much ice cream.  We don't officially have a family crest or motto but "You can never have too much ice cream" sounds like it could be the beginning of something beautiful.

Right now we're sitting at the Huntsman Cancer Institute where Nin is getting her fourth and final dose of her first round of chemotherapy!

After this she will still have her 12 weekly doses but apparently that treatment is much easier than this one.  These four doses are supposedly much more difficult to tolerate than the next 12 doses.  Nin tolerated the first two doses fairly well but the 3rd dose (two weeks ago) really took the wind out of her sails.  We think the problem was the she forgot to hydrate, which is super important to flush the drugs out of your system.  We hope that was the reason and that it wasn't because the drugs were compounding and becoming harder to tolerate.  This last dose should answer that question for us.  We made sure Nicole drank plenty of fluid the day before, the morning of, during, and after this dose.

Crossing our fingers that drinking a lot of water will help and she'll have an easier week that last time.

The main side effects she suffered last time were fatigue and nausea.  There was a lot of this happening that first week:

and this:

We assume that both of these side effects were intensified by her not hydrating.  After chemo she couldn't even look at water because it tasted terrible.  Chemo can make things taste different for some people.  For Nin it makes things taste like metal.  Mostly drinks.  Because she wasn't hydrated and couldn't drink anything, she became more dehydrated and wasn't able to get the chemo drugs out of her system as quickly as before.  It was a vicious cycle.  She needed to drink to flush the drugs out of her body but the drugs made her too sick to drink.  A real nasty chicken-egg type situation.

Along with the fatigue and nausea Nin has been suffering from blurred vision around Day 3 or 4.  Luckily it only sticks around for less than a day.  She has a hard time focusing on things further away.  So when she has conversations with people she looks like she's squinting while staring into the sun.

We love to have something to look forward to.  We love to travel and try to do one International trip each year.  We also try to do one big trip in the US each year, usually a long distance camping trip with our tent trailer.  Having a trip to look forward to every few months makes for a happy Schweppe family.  With all of the crappy-ness that is cancer, it's treatments, and it's unpredictability, having things to look forward to is so much more important than usual.  Our recent trip to Iceland was a HUGE blessing in keeping us in good spirits through all of this.

This past weekend we took a quick trip up to Lava Hot Springs.  It was a great getaway before this latest chemo infusion.  I wish we had a bunch of awesome pictures to post but we hardly took any.  We spent the entire day swimming, sliding, and jumping off stuff at the pool.  A crazy rainstorm blew in around 4pm so they had to close the pool.  We went back to camp and got in the tent trailer. Both kids immediately fell asleep and we sat back and relaxed as rain drops slammed the top of the tent and wind blew against the walls.  It was just what the Doctor ordered.


Nin's next round of chemotherapy will start on August 3rd and run weekly for 12 weeks.  She will be getting Taxol, Herceptin, and Perjeta.  There are still a lot of side effects with these infusions but most people breeze right through them compared to these past four infusions Nin received.  We're anxious to find out how she does with the next round.  We are optimistic and hopeful that the side effects will be minor.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Iceland Day 3 - Husavik & Fosses

After we left the amazing AirBNB with the foxi and the geothermal hot tub, we hit the road for hours of driving in some of the most amazing, picturesque landscapes ever to landscape.

We had to stop shortly after we left so a family could herd their sheep across the road.  A few minutes after that we passed what I can only assume was an opening scene of an upcoming Western movie. In the middle of a glacial valley ran a beautiful river surrounded by green luscious land. In that river there were people, who I'd assume to be the protagonists of this future film, riding their horses. I bet Steven Spielberg was filming from somewhere, it was that good.  Kollin promptly stood out his sunroof to document the magic. In fact, Kollin stood out of his sunroof taking pictures in most places we went.

We dropped out of the mountains into a quaint little fishing village that was also labeled a "ski town". The ski lift was only a few hundred yards long but what it lacked in skiable terrain in more than made up for with their regulation size ski long jump ramp next to the recreation center in the middle of town.

I'm just kidding.  The jump they had was about 1/100th the size.  Instead of 250 meters, imagine 25 feet.  Max.  It's where Iceland's ski jump legends are born.  In reality it is probably for kids and it made my heart warm.

We stopped to fill up our cars with gas like we did at every gas station. Good thing it was only $27 a gallon! It was actually only around $9 a gallon. See what I did there? After reading $27 a gallon you thought, "oh man, $9 a gallon is a steal."  Reverse psychiatry.

After giving all our monies to the gas pump, we took a breather at this quaint little coffee shop. It was Sunday morning, the sun was out, and a hot chocolate was calling Nin's name.

Sometimes we go so hard on our trips that we forget to slow down and be locals for a minute.  There is so much to see in this world so we try to maximize every trip we take.  When we're older we'll go back to our favorite places to relax. It was nice to sit on this patio, drink some hot chocolate, eat some cake, and just relax in the sun for a bit.

After being quaint we went to check out some fosses.  This one is Glosafoss.

A few minutes away from Glosafoss was a small fishing town called Husavik.  We ate lunch on the harbor at this great restaurant.  They had a lot of really cool looking sail boats.  I know nothing about boats but I know they looked pirate-y.

We made a lot of great memories in Iceland and two of my favorites were made in Husavik and they both involved Kollin.

As we were eating at the restaurant above, Kollin kept itching at his armpit.  He stood up and started to lift his shirt up like it was Spring Break 2004.  He casually said, "I think there is a fly in my armpit."  As our normal thought processes shot into action we all thought it was just a shirt tag, or a down feather, or some foreign fuzzy object stuck in his shirt.  Nope.  Sure enough as he lifts his shirt up, a fly flies out of his armpit.  Like a cartoon.

After Kollin had rid himself of common house flies nesting in his clothing he and Crabby got their drones out. They brought their drones to Iceland and flew them whenever they had a chance.  Kollin is notorious for things going wrong with his drone and it is always entertaining.  While Kollin and Crabby flew their drones around the harbor, the town, and the purple flower covered hillside, Nin, Alex, and I walked around the town.  We gave ourselves a self guided tour of this beautiful old church.

I suspect that we weren't supposed to be in there because a few people cane in after us, likely following our lead, including a guy who kept to himself in the corner on his phone. We were the last to leave and he followed us out, locked the doors, then ran away.  He literally just ran off.  No rush while he was in there but the second he got out, it was go time.

Bless his heart for letting us look around when we probably weren't supposed to be in there.

Anyways, back to the drone story.  Kollin had flown his drone way up the mountainside. He'd gotten a little too greedy with his distance over the ridge and his drone lost service. This happens 92% of the time he flies his drone, it doesn't even phase him anymore.  Steph casually says over the radio "Kollin lost his drone and we're going to look for it.  It might take a while so you guys can go to the next waterfall (hours away) and we'll catch up later."  Yeah right, like we're going to miss out on a Where's Waldo adventure.

When Kollin's drone loses connection it will either auto-land or return home (home to wherever he is standing, not home to Utah). In this case it was returning home. It used sensors to keep it a certain distance above the ground on it's return trip.  What it didn't realize was that the mountainside leveled off before dropping back down again.  So naturally, it crashed.  Kollin had a GPS reading of it's location but the battery was dying quickly.

It should be mentioned that this isn't some entry level hobbyist drone. This drone takes up an entire full size suitcase and it costs what I could only imagine to be dozens of dollars.

So with a GPS location and a quickly fading battery we found a dirt road up the mountainside that we hoped would get us close to the wreckage.  All of us got out of our cars and waded through the thick purple flowers called "vibrant purple nootka".

Fun educational fact about this Vibrant Purple Nootka aka Alaskan Lupine.  It was introduced to Iceland in 1945 to add nitrogen to the soil and function as an anchor for organic matter.  It's crazy that it isn't native because it is everywhere and it's so pretty.

Kollin was standing right where his GPS said the drone would be and he couldn't see it. Steph was literally just two feet away from him and found it.  That's how thick the flowers were.  The crazy part was that it only had 4% battery left.  If it had died we never would have found it.  Nobody would have found it for years, if ever.  It would be added to Icelandic lore and the story would be told for generations.  I bet National Geographic would have even done a show about it.  A lot of missed opportunity there but I'm sure Kollin was glad to have his flying friend back.

After a successful drone treasure hunt, we headed to the most powerful waterfall in all of Europe, Detifoss. It was pretty late when we got there, around 11:30pm, which was nice because we were the only ones there.  The hike it was short and looked like the surface of Mars.


The girls headed back to the car while the guys hiked a little way up river to another big waterfall called Selfoss. We didn't hike all the way but we did hike far enough to get this great shot.

The smaller, more yellow waterfall in the center is called Schweppenfoss.