Monday, December 29, 2008

Guest Blog

Good can come from the bad. We have so enjoyed our trips to the Grand Canyon and to Linda's house. The scenery is beautiful, the people are so nice, and spending time with Linda and Madison has been special. The preventive treatments are hard to endure for Linda, and for us to watch, but the good news was that the no cancer was found outside the tumor. The hard part is wondering what might show up in the future and when, or if. Many of us live with this fear but we trust in God and live our lives the best we can for the years we have left. Linda's grandfather went through a difficult time with cancer 28 years ago and is still doing well. We look forward to our trip to Linda's today and to the last trip for cancer treatment next week. We have so enjoyed the area and all that it has to offer. We will be back often!
Linda's Dad

Saturday, December 27, 2008

The End is Tantalizingly Close

Only six more radiation treatments left. Six. 1,2,3,4,5,SIX! That seems like nothing compared to thirty-three. In November, thirty-three just seemed to be so insurmountable. I couldn’t even imagine making it to the end of thirty-three. Six seems so doable. When I reach out to six, it is right there at the end of my finger tips. Tantalizingly close. But as much as I stretch for it, still out of reach. Six should feel like a number I could do in my sleep with both hands and a foot tied behind my back. But when I start to think that this adventure might be over, six seems huge. Huge mentally. I want to be excited to be finished but I almost don’t want to jinx it. I don’t want to assume that I can finally go back to being Linda and then find out she’s not at all able to come back yet or not at all. I want “normal" not a “new normal”. I wish I could write all sorts of triumphant blogs; “what I learned from cancer”, "what’s next for Linda - a vacation!”, “I didn’t get an A but at least I didn’t fail cancer”, “I am grateful to all my friends and family for being there with me”, etc. I should be able to spend the next month writing happy future facing blogs. But instead every time I think about finishing my cancer treatment I mentally freeze up and physically start holding my breath. I’d like to say that I don’t start to wonder if maybe I’m not done forever or that I don’t worry that maybe I didn’t make the best treatment decisions. But I do. Not much but I do worry. I worry about all sorts of things but mostly I worry about my health in the future. If I have a recurrence and have to go through this again it is a whole new ballgame. Will I have the strength to do it all again? No idea. Seriously – none. I still can’t believe I walked back into that chemo room three more times after I knew what was going to happen. Yeah – just now took my breath away just thinking about it. I just so want this done – wholly totally utterly outright entirely finally absolutely forever done. So, I’ll be sitting here holding my breath for the next week and a half. Six. Such a little number.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas from the Grand Canyon

It was cold, windy, snowy, and cloudy this morning at the canyon. We stopped to look over the edge not really expecting to see much. Instead we got the perfect Christmas morning present - a sight I will not forget. The clouds had opened up just enough to let through the light of the sunrise into the depths of the canyon. The eastern facing walls all covered in snow were lit up beautifully through the waves of snow clouds moving through. I've seen a lot of fantastic scenery in my life but this was as magical as anything I have ever seen. We stood there with the wind at our backs and just enjoyed the feeling of the moment until the clouds moved back across the sun and the light started to fade.
I hope that you and yours were also able to feel the magic of Christmas this fine day.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Only 8 Treaments Left

I have two more this week, four the week of New Years, and the final two the first week of January. I'm starting to get burns and even some blisters. It hurts but it is no chemo. They had me buy some aquaphor to put on it as much as I can. I've also started to get nauseous. I'm not sure what is causing it. I'll have to look up radiation side affects again. Not that it matters. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel now so there's nothing I can't handle.
I'm back home at the canyon. The snow continues but so far we have missed it by going early for treatment today and hopefully going later will work tomorrow. Then I just have to worry about Wednesday morning then it's three days of radiation free joyness.
My hair is starting to come back. It's really short and very dark right now. The top is thicker than the sides. And I have a big swirling vortex all across the back of my head. My favorite niece has asked that I post a picture of my new hair so I'll try to get one in the next few days. I'm just excited that in the next month or so I'll go from looking sickly to just looking like I made a poor hair style choice.
I had a great weekend exploring the area more and taking pictures on Saturday. I would have a great story but apparently what happens at Black Bart's RV Park and Dinner Musical Revue stays at Black Bart's RV Park and Dinner Musical Revue! Sunday I had radiation in the morning and then an afternoon of sledding. We were the oldest people there but the youngest at heart. We showed those young whippersnappers a few moves. My face hurt this morning from laughing so hard.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

I'm 42 and Bald - but it sure as heck beats the alternative

Birthday Flowers

I've been staying in Flagstaff all week due to the recent snow fall. It wasn't the return to the canyon that made me nervous it was getting back to Flag the next day. There was no way I was going to miss having the port taken out. So, here's the snow on the car on Tuesday morning. It has pretty much snowed constantly ever since. I've scraped this much and more off the car each day. It's been fun! Plus I have the world's best boss so I was able to work most of the week out of our offices here.
Everything you need for a successful port extraction. It took only around ten minutes and in the doctor's office. Much easier than when it went in.
The port coming out. I photoshopped out the blood and gore for the squeamish. It was much bigger than I thought. I'm trying to decide what to do with it. A necklace, bracelet, broach? It is sooo nice to stretch my neck out again!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Happy Birthday To Me!

I got the present I asked for - the port is out. It only took ten minutes and wasn't half as gross as I thought it would be. It did hurt though. And best of all they let me keep it! I didn't even get a chance to ask - they offered it first. I think they were surprised when I said yes. It's much bigger than I thought. I'll post pics soon. Anyway, it's nice to be able to stretch my neck again! And my birthday isn't actually until tomorrow so my present was early.

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Promised Weekend Photos

Upper Antelope Canyon

Upper Antelope Again
Cancer Girl Surfs The Wave
The Truck Is Over There Somewhere
(Waterholes Canyon,we started out in the canyon and climbed out to hike on top back to the vehicle)
Chemo Stripes
(and canyon dryness/chips)
Owl Pellet
(cool, huh? We got to see the owl also!)

Tiny Skull
(a little over an inch long, I know I know lots of bone pics but I can't resist and
at least I'm not including the one of the cow hoof)

Sand and Small Rocks(we saw lots and lots of this)

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Weekends Away From Cancer

I can say one thing for radiation - so far other than being inconvenient - it has not affected how I feel physically. On weekends when I don't have to visit my Northern Arizona Cancer Center friends I can actually have a life away from cancer. Unlike that horrible time during chemo. So, for the past two weekends I've left the village and the cancer behind. Last weekend I was in Greer for a friend's birthday party. It was full of friends, laughter, good food, games and lots of fun. This weekend was in Page and included but was not limited to - hiking, exploring, sunshine, even more laughter, a flock of bluebirds, a random balloon, a lack of restrooms, some of the most beautiful scenery in the world, music, quail, owl poop, wind, more laughing....heck, I was even bamboozled - TWICE! Trust me that doesn't happen very often - it was kind of fun. There was a time during chemo I couldn't even dream of ever again getting out and hiking and playing and laughing like I did this weekend. There is life after a cancer diagnosis - and I'm learning fast it's all what you make of it. I'll post some pictures tomorrow.
Thanks My Friend. And I still have to go with Star Trek. :)

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Have I Mentioned Lately How Much I Hate Having Cancer?

It's been over five months since I was diagnosed and the treatments are never ending. I keep saying that I don't want to be "cancer girl" but even I am starting to define myself that way in my mind. I know I just have to hang on and that it will be over in less than a month but those 18 treatments that are left just seem daunting. And then what? I'll still have to wait years to get my long hair back, who knows what side effects I'll have in the long term, and heaven forbid there's a recurrance. sigh........ I think I'm just being melancholy tonight and starting to feel tired from the radiation treatments. I wish this had never happened to me but since it has I'm trying to deal with it as best as I can but sometimes it's hard. I just want to be OK.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Guest Blog

Is it really possible to feel more in the loop when you aren’t with Linda, than when you are with her? I’ve been home for a couple of weeks but was previously with Linda for almost 2 full weeks. I was working while I was there but we had lunch everyday and spent every evening together. As Linda’s blog mentioned, there was talking, eating, movies, laughing, etc. and I didn’t read the blog the entire time I was there…why would I need to since I was there!?!? But when I got home I caught up. I love reading the blog so much that I didn’t want to miss anything…even the stuff I was there for. And strangely enough I learned things I didn’t know while I was there.

I remember going to the Salt Lake Olympics in 2002. It was a phenomenal experience I’d do again in a heartbeat. However, I found this one very interesting occurrence. While you are at the Olympics you barely know what’s going on in the Olympics. I knew about the 1 event I attended each day but there were dozens more I knew nothing about…I didn’t even know they were happening. At home you get all the highlights but at the Olympics I went to medal ceremony and kept saying “that even was today” or “I didn’t know the US swept that event.”

After getting home and catching up on Linda’s blog, I thought about my Olympics experience. I was there yet I was missing out. Maybe we were having too much fun to talk about the less fun cancer stuff. Time loss, always thinking its Tuesday…no clue. Not wanting to go to her tattooing alone…9pm the night before Linda mentioned it, I think by accident though. Coyotes howling…ok, maybe I just sleep through a lot more than Linda can but I had no idea. Of course, I can’t even figure out when Linda had time to write the blog while I was there…maybe it was while I slept through the coyotes and they kept Linda up.

Well, just like the Olympics, I wouldn’t trade my 2 weeks staying with Linda for anything. OK, maybe the work part but not the fun, hanging out with my friend I’ve never spent 2 straight weeks with. How often does work give you a chance to spend 2 weeks with a friend, conveniently stay at their house, and do it between chemo and radiation!! Next time I’ll just remember to keep reading the blog! :)

Linda’s Friend

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Eleven Down - Only Twenty Three To Go!

The massage was a nice treat today. It's been a long time since I felt that good - physically anyway.
I'm starting to show some redness. Sort of like a light sunburn. They gave me some directions for pain and/or itchiness. So far it doesn't bother me at all. It's strange to see the difference in skin color. The radiation is just like an X-ray. I can neither see nor feel anything while it's happening. I guess now I know it's actually doing something. I can see now why everyone else leaves the room while they zap me. Everyone seemed happy to see me today - guess I should have been nice to them sooner!
All I want for Christmas is my port taken out - and I made the appointment. December 17th is the day. I hope they let me keep it!
Just throwing in a picture I took in Arches National Park a couple of years ago. No reason other that it's a nice winter shot.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

A Moment of Clarity

For some reason I could not sleep at all last night. I finally drifted off around 6:30am. No idea what that was about but I had a lot of time to think. I realized I've been a complete idiot about radiation. I'm mentally fighting the treatment and not the disease. I've been angry towards the wrong things and I've taken it out on the nice people at the Cancer Center. I walk in each day, change clothes, sit in the waiting room waiting to be called, I lay down, they zap me, I change clothes and leave. I am not nice to anyone, I answer all questions with one syllables, I don't smile, I angrily tap my foot if I have to wait more than a couple of seconds, I lay there stiffly hating every second of it as I get radiated, and I fume the whole way home. They must think I am naturally a negative person. Then it hit me last night as I lay there thinking about what the heck I am going to do if it comes back. Radiation is my friend. I should be thinking postive healing thoughts while I am undergoing treatment. Plus the folks there do not deserve my attitude in the least. Today I walked in trying to be happier. Right away I noticed a difference. The receptionist who usually doesn't even look up when I walk in was waiting for me. "There you are - I was looking for you." Oh Oh I thought - she's looking for money. Nope - she asked f I wanted to sign up for an hour massage tomorrow. Of course I would. I asked how much it would cost and she said they were free for patients - the Susan G. Komen Foundation pays for them. Sweet - I like this place better already I thought. Then I grabbed a couple of Oreos from the goody box. Before I had a chance to even eat one they called my name. Early even! I have been wanting to ask them if I can come in early this Friday since I am going out of town for the weekend and I have a friend to pick up at the airport that morning. But I have been kind of nervous to ask since they have not been open to my change request before. First thing they say today though is that they would like it if I could come in early on Friday. Great timing! Then for he first time I watched the machine and imagined all those cancer cells being burned to death. I even played with the beams of light on my hand afterwards and got teased by the radiologists for goofing off. I actually enjoyed my short visit today and had my Oreos on the way home. I bet Dad even enjoyed having some conversation on the trip there and back. Instead of my brooding. Tomorrow I go an hour earlier for my massage! I might even smile this time.
Funny Note - as we were walking into the center there was another lady walking in at the same time. She was on oxygen, had one foot in a cast, was all bent over, looked 90 years old until you got close and saw she was probably late 40s, was really struggling with each step. She looked one step from death's door and I felt bad for her. Then as I was walking past she turned to her companion and loudly whispered while pointing at me - "at least my hair didn't fall out".
My hair is kind of starting to grow in but very strangely. There is the last of the old hair which never really fell out and that's growing in very dark and wiry. Then there's the new stuff that is like a very pale red and is very thin like baby hair. The combination is very interesting to touch so I find myself rubbing my head more than usual.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Sedona Sunday

We explored in Sedona this weekend. Lots of pretty scenery and laughs. I actually did a couple of hikes. They were short but one included hiking on boulders. I did better than I thought. I got tired but my legs held up just fine. Highlight of the day - we saw javelinas! It's been a long long time since I've seen a wild animal I haven't seen before. It was really cool.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Oh Shoot!

Remember those eyebrows that I mentioned were starting to grow back in? Yeah - well, they all fell out again. They even took with them the few hairs that had been hanging around. Sigh - chemo, the gift that just keeps on giving. It sure does a number on one's body. It's almost been five weeks since the last "treatment" I would have thought I'd have more hair than this! If you haven't seen me since July you probably wouldn't recognize me. I even ran into an old co-worker and had to reintroduce myself. I was looking in the mirror today - something I have avoided the last few months - I look like the bad guy in the movies - part Lex Luther, part Borg Queen, part Gollum. Oh and I got called a guy the other day - what really stinks about it is I was wearing a skirt! It's annoying that I am finally starting to feel normal but I still look very sickly. I think I'll go out and play tomorrow and at least get some color on that pasty white scalp.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Other Cancer Blogs

I have no idea why it helps to read other people's experiences with cancer but it does for me. I guess maybe it's knowing that I'm in good company and am definitely not alone in what is happening to my body and mind (and hair) that comforts me. I added a new blog on My Favorite Blogs List on the left side of this page. It's called "...Lace Up Your Gloves..." I saw one of Jen's posts on the YSC board and have spent the last couple of hours reading her blog. Jen is amazing - if you have a chance read about her journey and watch her video about why she participates in the Arizona Breast Cancer 3 Day walk. It's a 60 mile fundraising walk benefiting Susan G. Komen for the Cure. It looks like it is in November next year. I hate fund raising but I love to walk. I've requested a brochure. I'll read it over - maybe I'll give it a try next year.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

Some great quotes that were sent to me or that I have read on some of the breast cancer support boards.
"We delight in the beauty of the butterfly but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty" Maya Angelou.I have heard there are troubles of more than one kind.
Some come from ahead and some come from behind.
But I've bought a big bat. I'm all ready you see.
Now my troubles are going to have troubles with me!~Dr. Seuss
We participants in the front lines of the "Cancer Wars" are just ordinary men and women drafted without our consent into this service. We need not be victims. We can turn this experience to ultimate good in service to others. The choice is ours.Gerald W. White, P.E., in Cancer Wars Maars Journey on the cancer healing power of visualisation, prayer and the mind
Courage is being scared to death, but saddling up anyways..- John Wayne
She didn't just survive; she became.
"Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind" Dr. Seuss.Frodo: I wish the ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened.
Gandalf: So do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.
"Courage is grace under pressure."Ernest Hemingway.
"My barn having burned to the ground, I can now see the moon." -Japanese proverb
"What lies behind us,and what lies before us,are tiny matters compared to what lies within us."--Emerson
"The Mountains are calling and I must go." --John Muir
"Feed your faith (spirit) and your fears will starve to death." --Author Unknown
" Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see the shadow. "Helen Keller
Courage doesn't always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I'll try again tomorrow. ~Mary Anne Radmacher.
I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It's when you know you're licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do. ~Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird.
“Promise me you'll always remember: You're braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think." Christopher Robin to Pooh.
" It's snowing still," said Eeyore gloomily. "So it is." "And freezing." "Is it?" "Yes," said Eeyore. "However," he said, brightening up a little, "we haven't had an earthquake lately.”
A friend is someone who knows the song in your heart and can sing it back to you when you have forgotten the words..
True friendship isn't about being there when it's convenient; it's about being there when it's not.."Are you upset little friend? Have you been lying awake worrying? Well, don't worry...I'm here. The flood waters will recede, the famine will end, the sun will shine tomorrow, and I will always be here to take care of you." -Charlie Brown to Snoopy
You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing which you think you cannot do. =Eleanor Roosevelt
"Given the choice between the experience of pain and nothing, I would choose pain”
William Faulkner

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Eight Down - Only Twenty Five Treatments to Go

I'd like to say the time is going past quickly but I can't. It seems that just as soon as something important is happening at work I have to jump in my car and leave for three and a half hours. The days are also longer when I have to add those three and a half hours onto the end of the work day. I work, I drive to town, and I sleep with ten minutes at the cancer center in the middle of it all. Time has to be going by slowly for Dad also. At least I can sleep during the drive. I offer to drive but every day he declines my offer and by the time we hit the park boundary I have my eyes closed and am probably snoring. I wouldn't be able to have the treatments and work full time without him. i would be too exhausted.
Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. I have a huge list of things for which I am thankful. My friends and family are at the top of that list. Thanks everyone!
Blog info I found interesting. I've had visitors to this blog from 37 different states and 18 different countries. I've had 3,591 visits by 570 unique visitors. That's a lot of folks reading my late night ramblings. Thanks for visiting! I'll try not to let it make me nervous. ;)

Sunday, November 23, 2008

A Beautiful Arizona Weekend

The weather here has just been perfect. I finally got out and played again this weekend. We went exploring south of Williams. I was reminded how out of shape I was on a mile and a half hike but I am already working on fixing that. This is a petroglyph we saw on the hike.
Radiation takes 9 minutes from car to car. I had a treatment today - Sunday - so we can all have a four day weekend over Thanksgiving. I have to work most of that time but it will be nice not to make the drive every day.
Not much else going on - unless you watched 24:Redemption tonight. Then we have all sorts of things to talk about. Like Tony Almeida is alive?!?! And how it's always nice to see Jack again. It's reassuring to see what a great shot he is compared to the bad guys. Plus am I right in hearing that Janeane Garofalo is going to be on Season 7? Yep - I'm coming back to life just in time for the next season of 24. I think college basketball is starting now also! It's good to be back. And I've given up on being angry. I'm just excited to get this radiation thing done and over with and I'm looking forward to moving on.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

I'm Angry

I've moved on to a new emotional stage in my cancer adventure. As you know I started out with shock and numbness, I then moved onto complete denial (I still have partial denial). Then during chemo I was just too miserable to even care. Now I've moved onto anger. I'm try to make angry eyes right now to show you my anger but it's hard to do without any eyebrows. I've only been to three radiation treatments so far and I think they hate seeing me coming. Yep - that's right I never knew this but apparently when I am angry I tend to take it out on others. I wish that at least someone deserves it but everyone at the cancer center is being so great (darn them!) Anger is a new emotional state for me. Yeah - I'm still really angry at the stupid University of Michigan for winning the NCAA basketball tourney in 1989, smoke starts coming out of my ears even thinking about it, but in general I am not at all an angry person. Until now. I'm angry I had to get cancer when I live so far from town. I'm angry that I've added four tattoos to my four scars. I'm angry I'm still bald. I'm angry that I've lived here since July and I have not been below the rim once yet. I'm angry that this feels like someone else's body. I'm really angry at my insurance company but that's a blog for another day. I'm angry that I have no control of my life right now. I'm angry at myself for being so unhealthy with my eating habits. I'm angry that an unforeseen project at work is making me work more hours than I should (can). I'm angry at myself for being angry - I have so many blessings and here I am being angry at the world (heck I had surprise champange show up in the mail today, how awesome is that?). I'm angry that in the past four and a half months I look like I've aged ten years. I'm especially angry that after four and a half months of "treatment" - there is still no end in sight. Right now I may not be failing cancer but I am getting a C-. I think I know a sister that owes me a butt kicking and not a lollipop. AARRGGGHHHH!!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

One Down - Thirty Two To Go

Yeah, I'm already over the drive. Any way you look at it radiation will take three and a half hours every day. I was really cranky having to leave work today. There is just too much to do and I'm way too busy for this. Who knew cancer took so much time?! Anyway, once I got there it only took a half an hour or so. Most days though it will take less than ten minutes. This time they had to take a few more X-rays and pictures. They also drew a great big square on me. He said I could wash it off so no idea what they was all about. Interesting note - when I am laying on the table they put a big rubber band on my feet to hold them together. That's the worst part of the whole procedure. We then worked on my radiation schedule. Apparently they are really busy right now (something in the water?) so I didn't get much say in my times. Right now I am booked for 1:45pm every day. Which I will make work. I was just hoping to stay in town at least once a week to avoid a bit of the drive. They said I should ask again later this week and see if we can change Mondays and Tuesdays. As much as I hate it admit it - this was just the last straw. I struggle with this whole feeling of having no control and when I met with the social worker I cried. I didn't cry much but enough that she handed me some tissues. It's been awhile since I've cried over this situation so I guess it needed to get out. I'm just so frustrated. Oh well - it's just one more step in the process. Radiation will be over before I know it and let's face it - IT'S NO CHEMO! Plus now that I have my schedule I can make an appointment to have my port out - that will be a great milestone. And my parents are here so I have someone to drive with. I had a nice nap today on the way there with my Dad driving. I kind of feel bad for them this trip. All of the other trips here they have had to house to themselves as I was either at work or in bed. Now I'm up and around and I'm in my chair where Dad usually is, I'm watching Prison Break instead of the news shows they usually watch in the evening, and I tend to sometimes be messy. Dad's already napping and I heard them earlier wondering what happened in the world today. Oh well - at least this time I have the energy to help with doing the dishes and I now contribute to conversations and I made dessert tonight. I might not be the best company for them but I'm not the worst.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Back to Being A Member of Society

I'm back to interacting with the world rather than glimpsing it through my bedroom window. I'd say I'm feeling 95% of normal - give or take being in horrible shape and getting winded just walking a block or so. I must say I am delighted to be back. I'm not sure the world missed me or even noticed I was gone for the past four and a half months but I sure missed it. Remember the sushi dinner with friends I was looking forward to? I've had two of those now and they were worth the wait. I've had a friend staying here for the past two weeks and it was great for me. We went out, we had friends here, we stayed up late, we talked and talked and talked, we watched movies, we ate lots of cheese (mmmm cheeeeese), and best of all there was lots of laughter. Ah - to be normal again! Phoenix this weekend was a nice break too. I've never lived in a city unless you count Champaign or Toledo. I practically twist my neck out of shape looking around at things and people watching. We got pedicures. I even agreed to having flowers put on my big toes. It has been forever since I've felt even close to girlie so I am smiling at my flowered red sparkly toes right now. I've got all sorts of new hairs growing in on my head. They look pretty dark but that's OK. I've glimpsed one pretty light one sticking up on the top so there might be some grey coming in. The old Linda would have probably plucked it but at least for now every hair is sacred! Another chemo strange thing - my fingernails have four white stripes across them - one for each treatment. Odd. Oh - and I've got a few eyebrows coming in also. I was watching a Travel Channel show on the southwest tonight. Man are there some great places in this area to explore - not to mention the big ditch in my backyard. I can't wait until January to get started. I think that's about it for random thoughts for tonight. It's nice to be back - back home and back to Linda.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Finally - I Am The Wild Rebellious Sister!

I now have FOUR tattoos - that's three more than both of my sisters combined!
Radiation Simulation Day is over. I got there at the appointed hour and to get to the radiation waiting room I had to pass the chemo room. I didn't want to look into it and bring back bad memories but then I had to when I heard the noises that were coming from it. It sounded and looked like a party was going on in there. All of the chairs were full with people that actually looked healthy - there was a movie playing on the big screen TV and there was talking and laughter. I get homeless looking chronic coughing guys with me on Tuesdays (and they were very nice to me). No one told me that the cool kids get chemo on Fridays. It almost made me wish I was in there with them. HA - just kidding. I skipped past the room glad it wasn't me and wishing all of them the best.
I met with my radiation oncologist next. She had all sorts of good news for me. First of all instead of the 30 sessions I was planning on which would get me finished right at the end of the year. (Thereby I would avoid having to pay my deductible and co-insurance payments in the new year plus to top it off my company is changing insurance companies at the end of the year.) I will instead have 33 sessions. 33?! Who comes up with this stuff. Anyway, no matter how I try to count the days I won't be finished in 2008. Secondly she told me that I can't take baths during treatment. Oh heck - that one hurt. I do love a good bath. Then to top it off she tells me that they not only aren't open on Thanksgiving or Christmas, they aren't open on those Fridays. Which you wouldn't think was so bad but instead they are open the Sunday before. Which means I can't go to California on December 20th for my friend's Christmas party. And I was really looking forward to going to it and seeing the ocean and having some laughs with them and their great friends. Did I mention the great food and drinks?! And then there were all the fun side affects of radiation - such things as cracked ribs, lung problems, skin cancer. I signed another release to let them hurt me to save me and she sent me for the simulation.
I was shown the radiation dressing room which has robes and lockers. I'll start here each day and change into a smock and a robe. I was told I would then go sit in the waiting room. I will not need to check in with anyone since there is a camera in the room and they can see that I am there and will come get me when they are ready. That explains the picture they took of me way back in August when I had my first appointment. I look a bit different now so I hope they recognize me and I don't spend hours there waiting every day.
It was then on to the simulation. They laid me down on a table and took a CT scan. I wasn't allowed to move but it didn't take long at all as they sent me through a machine that looked like a large very expensive donut with all sorts of cool red lights. I then got to stay laying there in a freezing cold room as the oncologist decided where I needed to be marked with my tattoos. They didn't hurt too much except for the one right on my sternum. That one really stung. But now that I have been through chemo there is nothing they can do to me that hurts ever again.
We (me and the folks that just tattooed me) tried to figure out my daily schedule. I hope to go late on Mondays, spend the night in Flagstaff, and then early on Tuesday. Then I will go mid-day Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. I figure it is the warmest part of the day and if there is snow the plows will have already been around plus i avoid driving in the dark. Right now I start next Tuesday at 3pm and then we will figure out my schedule for the rest of the time. When I told the oncologist my plan she thought it was a bit too ambitious and thinks I'll end up staying more nights to avoid all the driving (3 hours round trip). She said I could try my way if I was open to adapting the schedule if I got too fatigued as we went along.
I then was sent over to the main hospital for a blood draw and a pregnancy test. I was sitting in the waiting room wearing my tan hat when a young bald kid around 9 years old came in with his mother. I took my hat off and he cracked up at my bald head. We bonded over how silly we looked and how much chemo sucks. His Mom later told me that he had been in the hospital for awhile now and that his prognosis wasn't very good. Sorry - I have nothing on David, he's the brave/strong/positive/inspiring one in this story. In his shoes I would be a crying wreck but he is up walking around in his rocket ship PJs and laughing with the funny looking bald lady and making her day. What a great kid.
Finally I got a nurse who could find one of my veins on the first try. She asked if a student could try to get the blood first. I used my new mantra - I've been through chemo, nothing you do can hurt me now - of course he can try. He felt all over the place for a vein and couldn't feel one. He gave up on me. I told him to try anyway but he just shook his head, he let the expert stick me with the needle. Even she asked if she could try the other arm to see if there was anything better. I told her there was but she could not use it. Just my luck I get breast cancer on the side with my "good" veins.
I then returned for a few hours at work. And now it's the weekend! I'm going to Phoenix tomorrow night to hang out with a couple of friends. I haven't been down there since I moved to Arizona so am looking forward to that and a nice "normal" weekend! I hope all of you also have nice normal weekends.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

What Time Is It?

Seriously - because I have no idea. I have lost all sense of time. During the day at any given time I can't tell you if it's morning or afternoon without having to think about it or look at a clock. For some reason every day is Tuesday to me. I keep dating things as 2006. And the worst surprise of all is that this is November. At least ten times a day I look at the calendar and am shocked to see it on November. Every. Single. Time. To me it is still August. I have no idea what happened to the last two and a half months. I want summer and fall of 2008 back!
Tomorrow is my first day in the radiation side of the building. I'm actually really nervous and kind of wish I wasn't going alone. I guess it's just that nothing new lately has been any fun. Silly, huh? By this time next week I'll be a radiation expert and probably bored with it too.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Next Step - Radiation

“I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.” - John Muir
Most of you know I love to hike, explore, and wander. If I'm out hiking somewhere new it's hard to get me to turn around and head home. I want to just look around the next bend, and the next bend, and the next bend; well you see how I am. There is always something new to see and experience. Who knows if I'll ever be this way again - I don't want to miss anything.

I'm finding I don't have the same wanderlust with this cancer journey. I really would prefer to not see what's around the next bend and I couldn't care less if I miss anything. There have already been a few bends in this adventure - mammogram to biopsy to diagnosis to lumpectomy to port insertion to chemo. Seriously not a fun one in the bunch. Pretty soon I start yet a new bend - radiation. I'm tired /bored/uninterested of/with/in this cancer thing at this point. This Friday I have an appointment with my radiation oncologist and then a radiation simulation. I start the actual radiation on Monday. Then it's six weeks of daily trips to town for a total of three hours of driving every day. While I'm not looking forward to it I know I just have to get it over with. Barring any snow days and hoping they are open the day after Thanksgiving - I should be finished on December 30th. Then I'll be finally done and the Lord willing there will be no more cancer bends to dread. I can go back to my "let's just go see what's around that bend before we turn around" explorations. And I'll never look back.
One good note - the snacks are better on the rads side than the chemo side of the cancer center.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

I am a frayed and nibbled survivor in a fallen world and I am getting along. I am aging and eaten and have done my share of eating, too. I am not washed and beautiful in control of a shining world in which everything fits, but instead am wandering awed about on a splintered wreck I've come to care for, whose gnawed trees breathe a delicate air, whose bloodied and scarred creatures are my dearest companions, and whose beauty beats and shines not in its imperfections, but overwhelmingly in spite of them, under the wind-rent clouds, upstream and down.

- Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

Thursday, November 6, 2008

The Coyotes Are Howling Tonight

It sounds like they have the house surrounded. What a cool sound. The neighborhood dogs are joining in. When we first moved here Maddie would bark along but she learned that they never showed up to play with her so now she just rolls her eyes and goes back to sleep.
So, I am back amongst the living. This last chemo sent me for a loop. I spent Thursday night through Tuesday morning pretty much bed bound. I did go out for the BEST strawberry milkshake ever on Sunday but later that night the pain really hit. I went to work again on Tuesday and don't plan any more sick days - at least for chemo. I am still a bit sore, seem to tire very easily, and have a cold / cough that I can't seem to shake.
My eyebrows held on strong but the last of them fell off over the weekend. My eyelashes though are still 80% there!
I think we had close to 100 trick or treaters at the house. Maddie and I were in the bedroom but the door bell sure rang a lot. Mom had to make up some extra candy handouts.
Once again during the worst of the chemo weekend I had all sorts of trouble sleeping. So, I read instead. I started and finished eight books. It helps me enormously to have my mind somewhere other than this bedroom. Most chemo weekends I leaned towards fiction. This time it was mostly adventure non fiction. I read a book about a lady who walked across half of Australia with four camels, I read about an all female trip up Annapurna in the 70s, there was a book about two ladies who traversed Antarctica, the always interesting book about death in the Grand Canyon (not a cancer death in there!), a book with short stories from Colorado river boatmen, and the book I am just now finishing by the guy who hiked from one end of the Grand Canyon to the other under the rim. I think I am ready to get out there and have my own adventures!
I keep meaning to post on this blog. I know there are a few of you keeping up with my progress through it and you worry when I get too quiet for too long. Chemo just seems (seemed) to take away my ability to not only write coherently but the will to write at all. Now I am just so stuck in my own head and I don't want to be. And I don't want to even give a hint of how low I went mentally. I am disappointed with myself. I want to be able to explain it without too much drama but I want to be realistic about it. Each day I feel closer and closer to normal for longer and longer periods of time. I'm sure in a few days or weeks I'll have a posting with all sorts of thoughts about chemotherapy and my experience with it. Until then I am just trying to find my way back to Linda.
And I so hate being bald.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

It Is Finished

Well there was no big celebration to send me on my way. The nurse did do a "chemo is over" dance for me and made me join in. We also went out for a yummy lunch of seafood Mexican. And I was definitely not heart broken to be walking out of the chemo room for the last time (the radiation side of the building has better snacks). I do wish I could say I am super happy tonight but while I am glad to be finished, the heinous hiccups from hell are already here to make sure I know what is coming. I'll be super happy after the weekend - or soon after.
The meeting with the oncologist went very well. I had perfect blood work yet again. He says he will be the the doctor I'll be seeing for the next five years. He put me on Tamoxifen starting tomorrow. I'll start the radiation treatments in three weeks. I can get the port out in three weeks also! And he used the word "cured".
I was really worried about the cost of the Tamoxifen since I will be taking it daily for five years. We got the presciption filled today and with my insurance co-pay they are only $15 a month. Yippee!
Did I mention I can get the port out in three weeks? And that my treatments should be finished by the end of the year? That my hair should start growing in four weeks? That I only have one more bad weekend ahead of me? That I can afford my meds? That despite all my misgivings wondering if I had the strength to get through it - that I had my last chemo treatment today!?!! OK - maybe I am super deliriously happy tonight! I at least feel pretty proud of myself. Tonight I feel like there is nothing I can't handle.

I Can't Sleep

Probably my own fault for going to bed too early. I'm lying here trying to be apathetic about the day. If I start thinking about it I get either really excited (hair!) or a little teary eyed (this weekend is going to really suck). I feel like there should be a big party or something after they yank the needle out but today is just the beginning of the end. I'll wait a few weeks for the party. I do wish that the end of chemo was the end of this adventure and I could just ride away into the sunset. I know it's going to be the hardest part of my cancer fight for me physically and hope it is the hardest part mentally. I have a bunch of questions for the oncologist this morning. Mainly - when can I start radiation, when can I have this stinkin port taken out, and when should I start taking Tamoxifen. I'm not even sure which doctor I'll be seeing in the long run. It's five in the morning out here and I can hear Dad out there starting a woodstove fire this morning. I know my parents are looking forward to the end of chemo as much as I am. Other than that first horrible weekend they have been here right next to me during the worst of it seeing me at my worst and maybe a little bit of me at my best. It could not have been easy for them and I appreciate it more than I could ever express. And thanks to all of you for all the uplifting emails and cards and prayers sent my way. Seriously this journey would be so so much harder without all of you with me. I hope I can make it up to all of you someday. Guess I should get up and give Dad some company. I do love a good fire. I hope all of you have a great day.

Sunday, October 26, 2008


Sorry I haven't posted in awhile. I'm kind of just letting the last post stand. I'm ready to be done with chemo and at the same time dreading what's coming. My parents get here again tomorrow and we will give this thing one last try. I haven't quite recovered from the last treatment yet and seem to have picked up a cold I can't quite shake. I'm hoping that this one isn't any worse than the others. I won't enjoy it but I'll be able to handle it.
I did have a fun weekend though. I had some friends visiting and my face still hurts from laughing so much. Thanks Girls and Boy! Laughter really is the best medicine.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

I Am Exhausted

And not just physically.
It gets harder each morning to make the decision to be happy and positive during the day. And then once that decision is made, it takes me an alarmingly amount of effort these days to follow through on it. There is no reprieve from fighting cancer – at least during chemo. It is an huge physical and mental effort for me every second of every day. There is always something hurting or feeling very wrong and for me it is taking a huge mental toll. If cancer is not what I am thinking about at any given second, it is affecting what I am thinking about - either consciously or unconsciously. It’s almost easier when “I am fighting cancer” is right at the forefront of my thoughts because when it is not, it comes crashing back pretty quickly. “Yeah – I’d love to go on the trip! Oh wait I can’t right now, maybe next year”. "Let's buy candy for the kids that come by trick or treating, oh darn it that's three days after chemo I'll be curled up sick in bed". I’d give anything for just a short cancer vacation. I want to feel normal. I want to look normal. I want to think normally. And I want to do something normal while feeling/being/looking/thinking normal. It just sounds so normal. I smile and get all misty eyed even thinking about it. I know it’s a cliché but by golly when I am “cured” I am not going to take the good things in my life for granted ever again. Seriously. Like being able to breathe easily. Or having a bad hair day. Or going on a walk around the block with Maddie. Or the drive to work. Or losing my keys. Or going to the Post Office. Or phone calls from telemarketers. Or having a weekend off and not spending it in bed in pain. Or the breeze through the tree tops. Or just sitting on the edge of the canyon watching the sunset. Or, or, or and more ors. How about having a sushi dinner out with friends and being able to afford it? Now that sounds like absolute nirvana! - with a glass of wine! Yeah – I am close enough now that I can practically smell the chemo finish line. If I can just hang on for a few more weeks..... How will you recognize me in mid-November? OK – rather than I’m the only bald girl in the area? I’ll be the one with the big grin on my face.
Until then I can’t wait for the day when I don’t have to make the decision every morning to be happy and I just am.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Guest Blog

Hey Everybody!
Linda has given me the privilege of adding to her blog. She says I can't apologize for not being as witty or as smart as her writings, but I should be myself. What better way to do that in telling how much I admire her.
I admire her strength. She is going through probably the hardest thing of her life, but she is trudging through like a trooper. She may break down at times, but you'll only hear the pain in her voice, you won't hear her complain about it.
I admire her courage. Even though she knows chemo kicks her butt, she still keeps going and doing what is expected of her. It's like she knows quitting is not an option.
I admire her honesty. It is refreshing to know if you ask how she is feeling, she will tell you the truth. It is not that she wants your sorrow or pity, but she wants you to know how weird things can happen. It's almost like it is amusing to her, and she wants to share that.
I admire her openness. I assume you read her blog for the same reason I do - it's funny and thoughtful and informative. She may have started this blog to keep her facts straight for herself, but it has also been a great learning tool for the rest of us. Still, it's hard to let everyone read your innermost thoughts. I don't think I could do that.
I admire her generosity. This is the second time my husband and I have visited her since her diagnosis. Both times have been stressful or tiring. Both times she has made us feel welcome and has been a great host.
Years ago I was diagnosed with my own chronic disease. My health problems have not progressed much, but it does allow me to understand some of what she is going through. A lot of it I do not. I hope I can always keep the same strength, courage, honesty, openness and generosity as Linda has right now. So I guess that's why I admire her most - she's my hero!

Little Sister

Go Illini!!!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

My Little Sister is Visiting Today!

Yippee! Not sure what we will be doing but I'm sure there will be a big canyon and some condors involved! I have lots of work to get done before she gets here so I can take tomorrow off before she leaves on Monday morning. So I don't have time to post much today. Have a good weekend everyone!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Look At It This Way, You Could Have Been Hit By A Bus

Ah- the words that everyone in cancer treatment hates to hear and I got them once again yesterday. I agreed out loud like I always do “you are right being hit by a bus would have really sucked, I should count my blessings”. Inside though I was laughing. HAHA. At this time anything that wants a shot at me is going to have to get in line. I’m busy right now with two things already trying their best to kill me. On one side of the ring is cancer; a silent competitor that hadn't given me any painful side effects so far but he would love to get bigger and spread to all sorts of non-fun parts of my body. On the other side we have chemotherapy; a couple of poisons that I am choosing to drip into my body and they are right now actually slowly and painfully killing me. If I hang out with them long enough they will poison me up to and including death (I signed the waiver agreeing to it). It sometimes feels like being in the bottom of a deep dark slot canyon with both walls (one cancer, one chemo) closing in on me. I’ve done some canyoneering in the past few years and have really enjoyed it. The canyons are beautiful and dark and quiet and almost cathedral like. They test my courage on every downclimb and rappel. And this cancer /chemo canyon is all of that with a hell of a rappel and a big price tag to get into it. And I must admit it does get much darker and colder than my liking at times. But as with every other canyon I’ve been in, I have the tools I need to get out of it before the walls squash me; a long rope, a harness, a few biners, a helmet, a great team, a map, warm clothes, determination, sticky footwear, a smile, and a sense of adventure. I feel right now that this canyon is a bit too narrow and I’m getting caught between the two walls that are trying to kill me. But I know that I’ll find my way out of the canyon into the sunshine just in time for chemo and cancer to kill each other (!) and leave me the last one standing.
Then that stupid bus can have a shot at me. But I’ll be so happy to have my normal life back that I’ll be really tough to catch - and who knows it might have to find me in a slot canyon!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Chemo 3 Linda 0

OK so my new arch nemesis conquered me once again. I get one more shot at him and even if he beats me one last time I will win the war just be out living him. Yesterday I think was one of my worst days yet. I was in horrible pain and having a dickens of a time trying to breathe. I was at work and even got up a couple of times thinking I would have someone call the paramedics. I turned around each time though feeling silly. Mostly I was scared. I left work on time and came right home and went straight to bed. Laying down helped and getting a good night's sleep helped more. Today I'm still not feeling well but I can breathe normally so life is just golden - golden retriever, even!
Good article on today on fighting breast cancer. I hope this link works. I've read it a couple of times and am still learning things - 7% bone loss. No doctor has mentioned that yet. I also liked one of the links in the article - seems interesting.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Another Day - Another Day

Hi Everyone - checking in again. I worked today and seemed to be better as the day went on. Still tired and sore. Got off work at 5:30 and hurried home to eat and go to bed. I was exhausted. But as you can see - here it is 9:30 and I'm still up. I've taken both a pain pill and a sleeping pill and tried laying here for hours - nothing, still up. Watching "Amazing Wedding Cakes" and blogging. sigh... Very frustrating to me that I can be this sleepy but can't sleep. Of course 7:00am tomorrow I'll be sound asleep but will need to get up (Ok won't have to get up until 7:30, one nice thing about not having hair!). Not much else to say - I seem to get writer's block in the throes of chemo. Maybe I'll be more verbose tomorrow.
I did get a sad email today. A lady named Dorit Shapiro lost her brave fight with stage IV breast cancer yesterday. You can see a tribute for her at The video is on on the lower left of the web page - she gave the speech just last week and you can listen to her talk about her struggle and the charity she works with - the gal to gal foundation. She was 38.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Chemo Sucks

OK - here I am restating the obvious. It hit me earlier and harder with this session. I only made it to work for about an hour today. I hate being so weak (mentally and physically) that I couldn't stay there longer but I just started to feel so badly that I was pretty worthless and wasn't going to get anything done. I was hoping it would get easier for me instead of harder but maybe I'll get over it faster this time. The pain is definitely the hardest part. I just can't describe it and it makes it even hard to concentrate as I type this. When I'm feeling good between treatments I forget how hard this is. When I am in the middle of this, it's hard to remember what it is like to feel fine. Anyway, just checking in. I'm going back to feeling sorry for myself and hoping I am able to sleep some this weekend. It must be quite the disease I'm fighting to go through this. Just call me a Cancer Warrior Princess. I plan to kick it's butt so I never have to go through this again. (well except for one more chemo session but after that never again!)

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

It's Been Three Months Since My Diagnosis

Time has gone both quickly and slowly. Three months seems both like a long time and like a very short time. I'm definitely experiencing a new normal. Cancer changed me physically. I have four new scars that I see every time I look in the mirror. I have a big dent from the lumpectomy. I am still numb in my arm pit and the back of my arm which I am still finding very annoying. I have a bump where the port is and a scar at the top of my neck that is visible with about everything I wear. Cancer has changed me financially. I would be doing pretty well right now but the bills have piled up so quickly that I am not sure every one will be paid on time. It's going to make the next couple of years a struggle anyway. Cancer has changed me emotionally and mentally. While I am emotionally exhausted from the struggle I feel like I am getting mentally stronger every day. It's made it much easier for me to see what is important in my life and I've been better able to appreciate the things in my life that are important to me and make me a better person. And I've been strong enough to make the choices needed to remove things from my life that don't deserve to be here and were not helping me be the person I can be. Cancer has brought me closer to my family and friends and has helped me see what phenomenal people there are that surround me, care for me, and love me. I am truly blessed and I hope I can some day I can return the sentiments. Cancer has also made my universe very narrow. I work and I come home. I feel like the world is turning out there without me but I know right now I have to focus on myself and all the things I want to experience and participate in will just have to wait a few months. I'll be back before too long.
It's been a hard day. I am emotionally and physically tired. I don't think I did a very good job recuperating between session two and three or maybe being run down is just the nature of the beast as you continue on in the treatment. The pain and mental fogginess seem to be hitting sooner this time. I'm hoping a good night's sleep will help. It's made me melancholy this evening.
And my beautiful favorite niece of my heart - I don't blame you for not wanting hair like mine. This time I want hair like yours! I think you should have your Mom seal you up in a box and mail you out here. HeeHeeHee!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Pink Pink Everywhere

Outside Cancer Center - yeah like we aren't already aware, but I did get free pink stuff; a bandana, some pink ribbon temporary tatoos, candy, and a pink tennis ball for Maddie!
Just like earlier picture from first chemo session minus hair plus hat.

Before the tears started..
I just saw on the news that the White House is lit up in pink tonight to commemorate Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Wow. Every store I walk in and most of the ads I see in women's magazines has pink stuff everywhere. A lot of the breast cancer blogs and message boards have breast cancer survivors who aren't too happy with all the pink stuff. I'm not sure what I think about it. Part of me is like - hey, I'm in a cool club and we have such a pretty color and I'm glad that so much $ is being used to promote awareness and research for a cure. On the other hand like I have previously noted the color pink seems a bit pretty and fun to represent the realities of breast cancer. Plus these days I personally am obviously pretty aware and seeing pink M&Ms, pink shampoo, pink shoes, pink mouth wash, pink ribbons on printer paper, a pink ribbon on contact solution, pink pages in Shape magazine, pink teddy bears, pink flowers, pink gum, pink pens with motivation sayings (strength to go on), etc, etc, etc only make me more aware than I want to be while shopping. And it seems like some of the companies are just jumping on the bandwagon to make money for themselves. And where is the $ they collect going to - which groups - are they good ones? I also don't remember this much pink last year - maybe I am just noticing it more this year (ya think?). I'll have to think on it a bit more but I guess it's got to be a good thing despite my personal discomfort. And for a full disclosure I did buy the pink motivational pen, the pink teddy bear, and the pink daisies. :)
We got there on time this morning but everything seemed to be slow. Didn't get out before 3pm. Lots of waiting for doctors and nurses. But got a great chocolate chip cookie! To show that for all my talk letting you think that I'm all sunshine and rainbows, I spent a good half hour in the chair sobbing. My parents left for a bit and I don't know what hit me but all of a sudden there were tears everywhere. I guess it was exhaustion, missing work again when I have a million things to do, fear of the future, and who knows what else. I felt bad - the place was packed and I was desperately trying to stop crying before my parents got back. I think I scared my favorite nurse but then she's probably used to it. My blood work came back perfect again. I am blessed with this. The girl sitting a couple of seats away from me is in her early thirties and she just had to have a blood transfusion because of her low white blood cells. My grandmother's cousin was there again and I enjoyed hearing him tell stories about her and my grandfather when they were young. He said that my grandmother was feisty and that my grandfather has always been his hero because of the type of person Grandpa is. He called him his "Roy Rogers". Then I introduced my parents to Thai food. Well, I tried anyway. They ordered sweet and sour chicken and orange chicken. I'll take them to a place a little more authentic next time. Feeling OK tonight - just a little off like usual. I'll see how tomorrow goes.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Here We Go Again

Chemo "treatment" number three tomorrow. I'm not as upbeat as I was for the last one. I'm just tired and wiped out this time I guess. I'd almost look forward to spending next weekend flat on my back in bed except for the pain. It's nothing I can't handle though. I hope the nurse remembers this time to numb my port before she sticks me with that huge needle. And I hope that I don't get the awful painful hiccups on Wednesday again. I thought they were a fluke the first time around but they happened again the day after the second time also. I've taken to calling them the Heinous Hiccups from Hell. Another side effect that has bothered me each time is the numbness in my hands and legs. I read tonight on one of the bulletin boards that there is something I can take for it so I'll ask my oncologist about that. My parents are here again so I have great company for the week. I don't get my blood drawn until 9am so we get to sleep in a little in the morning. I'm packing a book, my iPod shuffle, and a bunch of orange juice. And if I remember a blanket. Getting to be old hat at the chemo thing - no longer nervous, just resigned.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

I Had A Nice Day

I actually got out and did some hiking today. Not a lot - less than two miles - but a pretty big accomplishment for me these days. I am going to be sore tomorrow but it will be a good sore, one that I earned.
Tomorrow I get ready for chemo round three. I'll start drinking lots and lots of water and will start taking the anti-swelling pills in the evening. I will probably have to work a long day again but being busy will be better then having time to worry if I'll lose to chemo yet again by a TKO.
BTW - I know that I really over simplified the choices made by cancer patients with yesterday's blog. I want to make sure everyone realizes that I am by no means an expert on anything really and can only document what's going on with me and can just speculate on what is going on with others who find themselves in this predicament. I didn't even get into the choices that have to be made about the types of chemo drugs that can be taken, the choices made on which medical bills get paid this month and which don't, the choice of what day of the week to have treatment, the choice of which doctor to go to and when, the choice of who to tell and how to tell them that you have breast cancer, the choice of how to respond to a stranger staring at you, etc, etc, etc. It has been frustrating to me to have to make these choices while not being able to think clearly. Cancer seems to give you all sorts of choices while taking so many away.
But that's neither here nor there tonight - I feel great from finally getting out and exploring, and hiking, and being proud of myself, and having a great all around day. Boy did I need it and I feel ready to face whatever is coming this week.

Saturday, October 4, 2008


Being diagnosed with cancer brings all sorts of choices into your life.
The first choices are what to do for "treatment". I guess one choice would be to do nothing. Or another would be to avoid mainstream doctors and do non-traditional treatments. Or do both conventional and holistic treatments. One thing you learn fast as you try to choose what to do is that there are very few "if then" statements in cancer "treatment". It would be great if a doctor could say "if you do this then you will be OK" instead you get a lot of "if maybe then" statements "if you do chemo, maybe then you will be OK". I've been reading a couple of the breast cancer message boards since I was diagnosed and women really agonize over their treatment choices. Once you hear the words "it's cancerous" your choices are many and all of them suck.
Once you decide to go with mainstream treatments, your first choice is what type of surgery you want, lumpectomy or mastectomy. With a lumpectomy comes radiation also. My doctor told me that my survival rate with both is about the same. I'm not a big fan of hospitals or doctors or pain so I naturally leaned towards the lumpectomy choice. It is less invasive with no extra reconstruction surgeries needed. I also was pretty sure it would be cheaper which when your life is on the line seems like a stupid reason to not do something but I'm guessing money plays a big role in a large percent of treatment decisions in the US. Christina Applegate on the other hand chose to have a double mastectomy based on her family history and results of DNA tests she took. I'm sure many other things went into her decision also that she hasn't shared with the general public. Now did either of us make the right choice for ourselves? We will never know. Even if we have a recurrence or if we don't have a recurrence, who is to say it would or wouldn't have happened anyway.
Now if the cancer is caught early, there is no sign of it having spread, and test results come back favorably then the surgery / radiation choice might be about it for treatment decisions. Then there are all sorts of post cancer lifestyle decisions to make but that's a whole other topic. Hopefully I'll get to that point and we can all have a discussion about my aversion to veggies.
But for me and for many like me, we are given the choice of undergoing chemo. While in the end this wasn't a hard choice for me, it was an agonizing choice. The list of possible side effects to chemo is really really long and has nothing good on it. In fact when you start chemo they have you sign a release that has the line "I understand that it is not possible to anticipate all side effects." It then goes on to a list of the worst side effects it can cause up to and including death. It also says "I understand that no guarantee or assurance has been made as to the results of chemotherapy and that it may not cure, control or improve this condition". So, not only can the treatment kill me, it might not even help me with the cancer thing at all. What kind of choice is that? Angel Nurse Nancy told me before the first meeting with my oncologist that he would be giving me a rate of survival percentage if I do chemo. She said that I needed to decide at what percent I would or would not do the treatment. Well, when you haven't had chemo before and have only heard about how hard it is plus knowing it might not help at all, it's hard to make that decision. I tried to decide at what percent I would not do chemo. 20%, 15%, 10%, 1%, .1%? It's your life you are deciding upon. Well, I love my life (but really so does everyone else so I'm not saying if you chose not to do chemo that you don't love your life but that's how I saw it for my decision) and I having not been in chemo before I couldn't imagine it would be worse than dying so I made the personal choice that unless he said chemo would not help me at all I was going to do it. Well, my percent came out at around 10%. If I was to undergo chemo treatments my odds of having the cancer return would be cut by 10%. That number seemed huge to me - of course I would take 12 weeks of chemo over increasing my chances of a recurrence by 10%. But that was me. For the pain, cost, time, and all the other bad things with it 10% might seem like a small percent to others in my position. Now that I am half (!!!) way through chemo would I make the same choice? You Betcha!! Six weeks from now or if the cancer does come back, will I still say that? I don't know. I've read about many many women who have had a higher percent than that and not do chemo and I've read about many many women who have had lower percents and did do chemo. Once again will any of us ever know if we made the right decision? Nope.
Is any decision that we truly believe is right for us the right one? Yep, I believe that is true. I though have been (I hate to use the word lucky or blessed when it comes to my cancer so I just say) I have had it better than some women in that my decisions have been pretty clear cut to me so I haven't spent much time second guessing my choices and if I stay healthy I won't ever have to but so many cancer patients out there have many more gray areas in the treatment choices. I would think it would be very hard to not sometimes think "maybe I should have...........". Once again when it's a choice that has to potential to be life or death - yikes - no one wants to be in that position.
One "if then" statement I have heard from a doctor is "if you get chemotherapy, then you will lose your hair". Yep - as you can see by the picture I've lost my hair. Another choice that is discussed on the message boards is how to deal with this. It seems like wearing wigs or scarves has been the first choice of many. I've seen many women - especially the younger ones - go with my choice though, just going around bald. I just hate having things on my head but I hate looking like this. In the end I went for comfort instead of vanity. Most of the time when I am out around strangers I have worn a scarf or hat but today I just went to town au naturel. Heck it's Breast Cancer Awareness Month and what says breast cancer better then a pink ribbon? Yep - a bald "cancer girl" walking around. I'll scare women into doing self exams or getting a mammogram. Pink ribbons make breast cancer seem pretty and feminine - I've learned it is more like putrid green, pain, and swelling. So, I'm just a walking public service announcement for early detection. Side note and another possible blog topic - why is there so much focus on early detection and a cure but hardly even talk of prevention?
There is one choice I have to make daily though - it's a hard one and it's a very important one that effects my entire life. When I first wake up cancer is not the first thing I think of - I usually have a few seconds of being my old "normal" self. When I do remember it still takes my breath away and not in a good way. I think if I was standing up when I remember, it would take me to my knees. It's that unnatural and disturbing to me, it still deosn't seem real. Right then when it hits I have to make the daily choice. How am I going to handle having cancer today? I could crawl up in bed and not leave it and be all "woe is me". I could be angry / anguished and all "why me?" and take it out on all those around me. I could try to ignore it and shut down, not letting anyone in or showing any emotion. I could be full of dispair and think that I am going to die from cancer. Or I could chose to live life as fully as I can within the physical restraints I have right now; laughing as much as I can, not letting the little things get to me, enjoying the people around me, being thankful for the support I am getting, smiling at my bald self when I catch a glimpse in a mirror, loving my dog, enjoying the sound of the wind through the trees, chasing the ravens out of my yard, having some steaky goodness, reading good books, and just trying really hard to find the positive in the situation I find myself in. OK - so it's not really that hard of a decision for me but I can see how others in a similar physical situation but in a different life situation would choose one of the other choices. Who knows as I get further into my new life with cancer I might pick another view on my day / life and that would be OK but I hope I don't.
We all make the choices that we think are right for us and we hope we get the chance to live with them.
PS - one more item for my "Thank You For" list. Thank you for making fun of my baldness (Charliiieeee). I appreciate everyone who says I look good bald. I know though that you are just trying to be nice. Which is nice but I know better and it was great to have someone finally tease me about it. It's the little things...........
PS again - I just got fabulous news! I hear there's going to be a new baby in the family! WooHoo. I am so so so happy for you two! Now my hair will have to grown back. It's bad enough I scare stranger's kids with my Uncle Fester look, I can't be scaring my cousin's child. Yet another way that Life is Great!