Friday, December 31, 2010
Then, during waterball, one lady invited us all to her NYE party. Then the crowd was growing bigger so she booked a clubhouse room for it instead of having it at her house and asked us to bring appies and to come at 7.
So we got there a little after seven - there was a large crowd in the room sitting in chairs arranged in a circle but some had just finished playing a game. Since we were the newcomers we got dragged immediately into a new game - which was pass the banana between your knees to the next person in line. That is not as easy as it may sound - especially because some maynard thought getting ripe bananas was a good idea. So our bananas got squished and some of us got mashed bananas on our clothes. But it was good for a laugh anyway.
Then we played another game where they tied a spoon to the end of a long string and we had to thread the string through our clothes. The boys had to put it down their shirts and down their pants, and the ladies had to string it UP their pants and up through their shirt. I was the last one in line. Once I got the string through my clothes I thought the game was over - but NO - I had to pull the whole string out...... so I said - HEY - I have to touch the string after it has gone past the crotches of the entire line!!!! Which cracked everyone up - and then the 87 year old (the one with kids on social security) says to me 'oh yeah - and you probably should be suspicious of any banana bread over the next couple of days too......'
There was a game of pass the orange from chin to chin - Cam's sister played that one - and her passing partner looked about 8.5 months pregnant - and he was a man!! And of course, she is 5.5 months pregnant which added to the challenge....
Then we played a beach ball game where everyone had to tap the ball to the next person and if it was dropped, the person who last touched it was out. This game gets progressively more difficult because the circle doesn't get smaller - you just have to hit the ball that much harder and farther to the next person as more and more people drop out. Butch made a valiant effort before he was knocked out - even going so far as to make a diving save and ended up on the floor. Alas it didn't work - however, someone tried to recruit him to play waterball!
So in the meanwhile, the tv with the New York feed of CNN was on. They passed out noisemakers at 8:30pm....... I guess you can see where this is leading....... We got to the countdown of the eastern time zone and we all counted it down and at exactly 9pm we all went wild. The old folks were wishing everyone a Happy New Year and I was wishing everyone "Happy Nine O Clock". Then, immediately after all the 'new year' hoopla died down, everyone gathered their potluck appetizers, cleaned up the streamers, put the tables away and booked it out of there. At 9:22 one of them said - HEY we did pretty good - we got this all cleaned up and it isn't even 9:30! Cam said, 'so, if we'd been a little faster and got this all done by 9:05 that would have been AWESOME as opposed to 'pretty good'????
While it still cracks me up that we attended a 'wild' New Years Eve party that literally broke up at 9:22pm, I can still say with confidence that it was one of the best NYE celebrations I've been to.
After we left there, we came home and played dominoes (Mexican Train - another old folks staple for those of you wondering what being a senior is like). The sad news is that I have developed a cold. I guess it is a combination of being around other people who are sick and also the weather turned quite cold here - even to freezing overnight - who knew? And when I felt like I was coming down with something, I skipped waterball that day - but then we went shopping and I didn't wear a proper coat and got a chill from it.
No, this cold hasn't stopped me from playing waterball (not yet anyway). Cam has become as addicted to waterball as much as or more than me. He announced today that pneumonia is a reasonable price to pay in order to continue playing waterball (clearly at all costs). Although I do feel better when I'm in the pool. It is over 90 degrees in there after all....
So back to the Mexican Train - I had to wear a mask & wash my hands after every time I blew my nose - so I gave up early to get ready for bed, and then the rest of the crew packed it in shortly thereafter.
So that leaves me here now - at 11:40 pm on New Year's Eve, blogging about my ROCKIN' New Years Eve - with a party, and then a game and now off to bed and the New Year has yet to arrive even still......
And since I'm off to bed now, I guess I'll say to you all 'HAPPY 11:41pm"!!!!!!
Monday, December 27, 2010
We missed morning waterball, but I went to the afternoon session. Cam did not join me but on Friday morning he went to the morning waterball with me - and VOILA - he got hooked too! Thank goodness - it locks up our retirement plan - something we agree on finally.... It was funny to watch his progression in learning the game.... It took about 20 minutes for him to go from hitting the ball too hard and politely not 'ball-hogging' but then watching it drop to the water, to progressively 'get' the game and then set the ball high for the front row to spike and himself expertly tipping the ball into the corners that no one is standing.... he grew to be cutthroat in 2 short days!!!
So Thursday was Cam's birthday, then Friday was our anniversary. We have been walking in the desert with the dogs. We picked up our friend's dog to take her with us since our 3 dogs hung out in the summer in Oroville for a weekend. So each time we'd go, my friend would provide us a steel comb and pliers to take in case of cactus. Then we went for a long hike into the desert with the dogs offleash and even climbed some hills. The dogs loved it but I think were really tired & hot. So we headed back and we were almost back to the resort when I realized my 'borrowed' dog was missing. So we all split up and were searching the desert for this dog. A couple of times before she had ranged fairly far but we could always see her & then call her back. But this time there was no sign of her. After quite awhile of searching, I could see that it was getting to be time for the sun to set and I started to panic a bit that the dog would be lost in the desert after dark, so I made the decision to run for the dog's house to get the owner to come out to the desert to help us search - so I started running all the way back thru the desert & the resort to their house and as I rounded the corner, the dog's mom shouted to me that she was home..... Talk about relief! I guess that dog just had enough walking in the desert and booked it for home...... The panic level was high for me - and the sweat was even higher..... I haven't run that much probably since high school..... and the adventure wasn't over for me because I had left 3 people searching in the desert with no plan..... so I had to run BACK to the desert to see if I could gather them & let them know - but I couldn't see them, so I ran back to our house to see if they returned home.....which they hadn't - and so by this time, I drove my car back across the resort to the gate..... and thankfully my crew were returning so all was well and I was able to start thinking about calming down. That was an exciting - if panic-filled - Christmas Eve event.
To calm down & alleviate some space issues, we opted to go into Palm Springs for Thai food for our anniversary (10 years!!!!). But we didn't dither as Cam really wanted to go swimming on Christmas Eve -cause how often can you say you did that ?!? The swimming pools are over 90 degrees here....
On Christmas morning, all 12 of us went to a community pot luck brunch. The food was fantastic - pot luck at a 55+ resort with all that cooking experience.... YUMMMM Cam and I led a guitar/singalong of a handful of Christmas carols - I was proud of Cam b/c he hadn't wanted to do it but he did it. And the folks seemed to appreciate it - even though we started out quite rough. But we got a little better - but we only had practiced these songs for 45 minutes or so the night before so what the heck. We ended with one of our faves - a non Christmas carol - it was Those Magic Changes - and so since we both know it very well, we could leave a decent impression on the crowd as we left and hopefully they don't remember the rough start.
We went back to the house and opened presents. A good time had by all. Then Cam and I took the dogs for a walk in the desert since we didn't get to first thing in the morning. We decided to try a side gate instead of the back, and we were deeply engrossed in a conversation when all of a sudden I noticed Cooper had caught site of a bird or something and was bounding around in a field of cacti. JUST as I was thinking 'that is a really bad idea', Cooper started screaming and leaping around so Cam sprinted over to him to check out his injuries and crouched down beside him to investigate. He really wanted to keep him still and calm so that the inevitable cactus issue that Cooper had wouldn't get worse. So I was staying off the edge, not wanting to lead Molly into the cactus patch. I kept asking Cam to pick up Cooper and bring him out of the cacti but he said he couldn't really do that and I should go and check it out....
So I got over there and saw that Cooper had a cactus ball about the size of a large russet potato stuck to the back of one of his front legs. The opposite side of that SAME cactus ball was jammed into Cam's forearm - locking dog and man together in a awkward, not to mention painful pose. So this walk had been impromptu and we didn't collect my friend's dog and therefore had not collected the tools either. So I was freaking out a bit about what to do because when you tug your limb (or should I say Cam's limb) from the cactus, the skin simply stretches a long long way. And did I mention that after Cooper had the cactus on his paw and before Cam could reach him, he tried to bite it off - so he had cactus spines driven into his tongue, gums and lips...OUCH.
So Cam just kept pulling his arm and I watched in horror and fascination as his skin stretched further and further until finally the cactus ball broke a little and Cooper and Cam were separated. But Cam still had the cactus spines in his arm. and of course, so did Cooper. So we decided the best plan was for me to go and get help - to Skip's for his tools and expertise. So once again, I was running across the resort in a sweaty panic - but this time, I dropped Molly off on the way at home and picked up the car as my poor heart wasn't going to take any more of this running. So I drove over (remember, it's Christmas day) - and I can hear a commotion on their back porch - so I run down the side of the house and see that they have a houseful of company - but I explain what happened and Skip grabbed his Leatherman and I explained in more detail as we were heading to the car.
So off we went to find Cooper and Cam in the desert - then Skip performed the unpleasant task of grasping the cactus & ripping it out of Cooper's leg. That came off fairly easily actually - and then he plucked each spine out of Cam's arm, and then between the two of us, we both plucked out the numerous spines from Cooper's mouth. He was such a good boy, none of us could believe how calm and relenting he was. He flinched only twice when I pulled out the two that were in his gums. Ugh - I can't even imagine. Cam can though, and he said the spines are like needles only worse since needles are SMOOTH and these spines are barbed down the entire shaft.... Cam's arm was bleeding in a bunch of little dots.
So once the cactus spines were removed from Cooper, it was like nothing ever happened for him - back at home, he was ready to play some more. But we needed a break from the adventure so we went swimming.
Then we all assembled for a fantastic Christmas dinner and then went for a short walk - IN the complex on leashes - (the dogs, not the people) to avoid anything exciting or painful.....
Now, to throw back a bit in the story.... remember me running to Skip's backyard to collect him? Well, I also collected a fire ant sting. In my panic mode, I didn't pay much attention - but simply brushed the sucker off my foot. However, once the excitement died down, I remembered the ant and I now have 3 fire ant pustules on my foot - one right between two toes, and one at the end beside the nail and the other one is on the next toe. Unfortunately, I am no stranger to fire ant stings - in 2008 in Phoenix, both my feet were swarmed with fire ants and it is NO JOKE - fire ant stings are probably the worst thing ever as far as biting bugs that don't actually kill you go. The worst part about it is that the sting pain lasts for WEEKS. So in case you're wondering why I'm blogging at such and early hour, it is because my foot was driving me CRAZY and I couldn't stop scratching it - and the more you scratch it the worse it becomes. It is awful. And I keep wishing that I could have been the one with the cactus and someone else could have the damned fire ant sting..... As painful as Cam's problem looked, once the spines were out, his pain was over and he has no lasting aftereffects. I will be stuck with these painful & itchy stings for a long time to come........ I hate fire ants.
BUT, I'm still happy to be here. Yesterday, the waterball crew gathered an 'impromptu' (planned in secret) game of advanced waterball. Normally there is no waterball on Sunday allowed at the park but I think they figured that all the brass was at home for the holiday so we could get away with it. About a half hour into the game, one of the low-level brass wandered over on his day off to tell us he had had complaints. And the complaints were due to noise b/c 2 people wanted a noisefree Sunday to enjoy. So he said we could keep playing if we could be quiet. So imagine 20 people in the pool playing a fast-paced game of waterball - but very little sound. We were whispering 'Service' - and some people mimed that the ball would be served - whenever there was a good play, we jumped up and down and splashed but no one said anything. It was bizarre and funny and stupid all at the same time. Of course there were a lot of 'SSSSSHHHHHHHHHH' if someone got a little too excited. And the ref kept saying 'No LAUGHING' (tongue in cheek, of course). But we got to play for 2 hours so we were willing to put up with the 'no sound waterball'. I'm sure it was a strange specatator sport......
So, my icecube is now fully melted that I put on my foot to try to quell the fire - not sure if it was the icecube or the distraction of typing this blog that has allowed me to stop scratching the bites, but I'm about to try Orajel on them - it has anaesthetic in it so I'm hoping that will help. The Hydrocortisone cream I tried didn't really stop the itching - maybe Benzocaine with do the trick!
Anyway, despite the seeming pitfalls, those were just short blips in an otherwise perfect holiday and we are enjoying ourselves immensely. And yesterday, we popped into town and I dropped Cam and the dogs off at a dog park (no cactus) and then went to Walmart to buy our own desert supplies - pliers and a comb - so we can head back to the desert....
Hope you all are having a wonderful Christmas time and that your upcoming New Year will be prosperous and most of all -HEALTHY.
Monday, December 13, 2010
I also had previously blogged about an 86 year old man whom I played waterball with every day who had breast cancer 15 or so years ago. He passed away in Aug or Sep of prostate cancer....
And I don't think I blogged about her but another lady I met in the spring was killed in a car crash while driving down for the winter.
I know this sounds really depressing - I didn't mean it to - also some other people I know have passed away recently so even though it's a sad time, it is also time to remember to live life to the fullest.
If I ever am to actually die from cancer, let it be when I'm 86 and have already beaten it when I was 40. I would be ok with that!!!
I spoke to a lady in the pool yesterday who is 87. Her kids are on social security. Apparently that is the litmus test in a 55+community - you cannot be considered old unless your children are on social security....
On a lighter note, I am having a love/hate relationship with crickets. They are very noisy but my inlaws cannot hear them. I have learned that crickets tend to be frightened into silence, so while we are all quietly watching tv, I will suddenly leap up from the couch and jump on the stairs.... or earlier tonight, I grabbed a sandal off the floor and fired it across the room. It buys 2 or 3 minutes of silence. They are wondering if there really AREany crickets - but I think I have convincedt hem that I'm not schizophrenic as we have actually clapped eyes on a few of the suckers. But they move quicker than you think so they are hard to kill and I have just grown used to sharing my room with them.
Once again, I am convinced that this place is the ultimate cancer recovery location. I am totally relaxed and happy down here and I have a spiritual friend who tell me how wonderful I am all the time. She says I am a beautiful soul.... or maybe she meant sole.... NAH..... She talks about a light shining from me..... who knows - it might be that one from out of my butt!!!! (some of you will know exactly what I mean!!!) Anyway, regardless, she tells me that I have already beaten cancer and her spiritual guides tell her I will be fine. And that's good news no matter how strange a manner it may be given....
It's probably why I like it here so much - all of these people think I'm wonderful. It is very cool to be introduced to a community who has no idea of your past indiscretions, moodiness, bitchy attitudes or downright rudeness. I find it really easy to be a positive caring person here. And of course, I am much better at this at home these days too but still easier here.
We have all done & said things we regret - and generally we have to live with that regret b/c the people we have hurt are still around us to know. But all the people down here know only 'waterball me' - and don't know how one day years ago when I was in a left turn lane, a lady honked at me JUST as the light turned green - which really irritated me and so to punish her, I waited at that light until the turn light turned yellow - and then I gunned it and left her at the red light...Bwaaaa ha a haaaaa. That's 'evil me'. you can be who you want to be in a place like this!!
Hopefully the 'nice me' isn't just a Desert Hot Springs one.....
I don't know - I think I might just have to stop telling people I work with that there are no stupid questions, only stupid people asking questions.....
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
I am now on the path to seriously considering cancelling my appointment for the uterine surgery as the thyroid medication so far SEEMS to be finally kicking in as far as solving my problem with menorraghia. I hope this remains true b/c the difference is almost unbelievable. I may be a skeptic, but I have some more time to assess this before they perform surgery anyway. I will wait to see what next month brings me before I actually pick up the phone to cancel.
I also have to pick up the phone and call my plastic surgeon at some point to advise him that I have considered his option of slicing off the top half of my remaining nipple to graft it onto my new fake breast. And the answer is NO WAY!!! It won't even work anyway or have any sensation so what is the point? In my opinion, nipples are overrated anyway.
Next chemo isn't until Dec 16 and no other appts until then. (except waterball - yup, I'm in California) But I'm not going to blog a whole bunch about it because this is, after all, meant to be a blog about my journey through recovery from breast cancer. Well, I guess relaxation and recuperation is a part of that too...... well, if anything exciting/interesting happens, I'll post, but otherwise, assume I'm in the pool playing waterball.... ha ha
My next and final reconstruction surgery is scheduled for Jan or Feb.
Catch ya later! It's TOPS day here so I'm off to weigh in.
Thursday, November 18, 2010
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
Anyway, he was going on a spiel about the way the hormone works etc. and talking about progesterone vs estrogen and then I interrupted him and explained that my cancer was estrogen AND progesterone positive... which stopped him in his tracks.
So I explained that, plus the fact that my GP and Oncologist both nixed hormone options for me - and so he moved onto offering me the ablation - which is what I've been expecting all along.
They put a balloon into the uterus and fill it with hot water to scald the lining so that it doesn't build up so much. It's day surgery - but they do have to put me under again.
I'm starting to wonder if being put under general anaesthesia so frequently can be dangerous for me.... I put it in the inquiry of the surgery papers so I guess we'll find out!
Also, today I met with my plastic surgeon who yet AGAIN thanked me for 'pushing' him into the other surgery because it looks so good. He gave me the option today of a gel-like implant or a liquid-type implant. I chose gel. One looks better and one feels better. I went for looks. Plus the gel-type doesn't have any leaking danger.
So that's it for now!
Monday, November 8, 2010
Bouts of dizziness - but no nausea, thank goodness. It is irritating because I don't feel confident to drive since I generally am not walking in a straight line...
If it persists, I will visit the doc to have him check my ears for infection.
We also had our flyball tournament which was a great success. Thanks to those who provided items for our raffle table!
Our website is now easier b/c we bought a domain name: www.flyingsquad.ca
Monday, November 1, 2010
Actually, I did try sleeping already and then I was hearing weird noises that made me think someone was walking around on my back deck. Finally, I cautiously peeked out the blinds in my spare room but - alas - nothing.... but of course, no sleep in the near future now!
So, I can now finally report back that my thyroid medication did not do much to help with my menorraghia. I suspect the level of medication will increase once my results are analyzed by the doc - and perhaps a higher dose will make some kind of impact - but, I honestly am not really expecting it to. Will see the 'lady doc' next week to report this to him.
I was supposed to see my plastic surgeon this morning but they've cancelled all the appointments b/c he got really sick and had emergency surgery. Didn't ask what with and they didn't volunteer. He was supposed to go to Guatamala for 3 weeks and that got cancelled. Must be pretty serious!
Oh good - I'm yawning..... maybe I'll try this sleeping business again!
Sunday, October 24, 2010
Our dog, Molly, is the anchor dog on the Division 1 team - she is expert at running flyball and can run 102 feet in under 4 seconds.
Our team website is www.flyingsquad.ca This is a website I designed (with some help from a kind young woman I found on Craigslist) to help us promote our sport. I realize it is very 'basic' - if any of you readers have an interest in website building and think you can get us something better / fancier / more professional - I will NOT be offended at the offer!!!
Anyway, our team is hosting its annual flyball tournament on November 6 & 7 at the Cloverdale Rodeo in the Showbarn. One of the ways we raise money to support our team is that we have a raffle table at our tournament.
We are in the process of gathering prizes to offer for raffle and I am asking any of you if you have anything to donate for this purpose. The items don't always have to be brand new - second hand but in good condition is acceptable. Personally, I assess my prize choices by asking myself if it is something that I wouldn't mind winning in a basket - even if it's 'second hand'.
New stuff is always preferable - but when you're asking for donations, you can't be picky!!! LOL
Anyway, if you have some items that aren't 'garbage' but that you wanted to get rid of and feel this is a 'good cause' to do it, please let me know and I will arrange to pick up!! firstname.lastname@example.org
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
The receptionist pulled my file to ensure the results were there - and they were and they were signed off by the doctor. She explained that when 'normal' test results come in, they get signed off by the doc and then filed - no specific appointment to discuss is required. So that tells me that the biopsy results were clean and there is nothing for me to worry about.
However, I am not planning on relying solely on that for comfort - I booked an appointment. I want to talk to him about those results. And hopefully report back to him on my other issue now that I have been on the thyroid meds for awhile. And have the opportunity to ask him why the hell he suggested the hormone IUD.
I guess now I'll just be hoping that I don't need to worry about the results of my thyroid ultrasound either....
I saw an oncologist last week (barely since I forgot the appointment and had to race in there almost after hours).... and he said that my last heart scan was good - and also that my mammogram results came back with nothing for me to worry about. So THAT'S good news. Especially since the radiation oncologist had warned me that after my breast reduction, they would probably freak out because everything had changed and call me in for tests etc.
My appointment isn't until November 9 - so I'll probably post to update you guys of the confirmed results then also. I wanted to leave enough time for my cycle to work its way around & have something to report back to the doc on.
Since all my physical ailments are an open book (or blog, I guess), I will report that the first couple of weeks on the thyroid meds had left me with terrible cramping & pooping problems. Excruciating pain daily and requiring an almost full-time hot water bottle for awhile there. But over the last few days that problem seems to have resolved itself. I am REALLY glad about that - because that is the worst pain ever. (that I've experienced).... well, I wasn't really very happy when I got cold in the hospital and started shivering just hours after surgery either - that was also very painful.....
But they say that labour & giving birth is the worst pain - obviously I'm no expert there - however, I'm guessing that severe 'poop cramps' are akin to labour pains. Especially since I had that wonderful experience of using that medication to open my cervix before the biopsy. And the insert on those pills said they were used for inducing labour. And the cramps I had then - and also resulting poop problems again - give me an idea of what labour must feel like. Maybe not full knowledge - but an inkling at least. Which, of course, makes me feel confident that I made the right choice not to have kids. HA HA.
You know, I have been having WAY too many conversations about poop the last couple of weeks. My poor friends. And nevermind my friends....while at chemo last week, I had to report all my issues to the nurse as they always ask if I've been having any problems. And since I walked into chemo with a hot water bottle on my stomach, I had to spill why. And of course, I then had to explain all those other gyno problems to explain the labour-inducing pills and resulting ongoing poop problems and that we're hoping the thyroid meds will solve everything etc. etc. etc. But this discussion was held in the 'pod' - which holds 2 - 3 chairs, which is open to the next pod holding 2 - 3 chairs - and all those chairs had asses in them. So after I gave the rundown, I felt I had to make a comment that the entire chemo room now knows all about my gynecelogical, poop & thyroid issues. What a treat for everyone. Then the lady across from me said 'I could write a BOOK on hypothyroidism'..... as if that was the problem I was most embarrassed about sharing..... ?!?
But then she also went on to say that I should just be thankful that I don't have Graves Disease which makes your eyes bulge out and point in different directions. UMMM - is that a weird thing to say in a chemo room? I think yes. So I said 'like Marty Feldman'? - I don't think she answered me - but of course I couldn't help but look at her eyes thinking she must have said it for a reason. And her eyes WERE a little bulgy - but nothing I would have noticed if she hadn't made the comment - and certainly they weren't pointing in different directions.
So I guess we obviously both had cancer since we were getting chemo, and we both have hypothyroidism since everyone heard everything I said and she could write a book about it (she actually said she was one of the rare cases that almost died and had lost some mental function.... hmmmmmmmmmm LOL) - and so she means thank goodness I don't have Graves Disease as well as the other two like she does.
Just like my own GP explaining hypothyroidism by saying 'put it this way, if I had to pick a disease, this would be the one I would pick'. To which I replied, 'yes, I wish I only had to worry about ONE disease. I would definitely pick that one too!!!!'
But now I can go around saying 'at least I don't have Graves Disease'. That's some comfort anyway.....
Never a dull moment!!!
Sunday, October 17, 2010
So I was Googling how much iron supplement I should be taking at one time. When I was taking 3 pills per day, I would try for morning, supper and bedtime. I can't take it in the morning anymore and then I often forget the rest of the time - so wondered if I was allowed to take all three at once.... (no answer on that as yet - will save the question for my GP).
Anyway, in doing that research, I was learning about the difference between anemia and low iron and low ferritin (I won't bore you with it) - but found it VERY interesting reading low iron can be a result of CANCER cells 'stealing' the iron from your body.
I have always assumed my low iron was due to that heavy bleeding I described earlier. Now I wonder if the heavy bleeding was due to the thyroid and the low iron was because of the cancer.
It's mind-boggling since I have also wondered if the thyroid issue is caused by the cancer treatment, or did I have that before. And since a low thyroid causes more 'thyroid stimulating HORMONE' to be created by my pituitary gland, and since I had a cancer that was fed by hormones, is my thyroid issue the cause of my cancer? Or a contributing factor to the aggressive nature of it?
I never get straight answers from the doctors. I am very happy with all the treatment I have received but one thing that gets me is it is the same for all the doctors - no one will really commit to anything.
My radiation oncologist tells me that taking birth control pills probably did not contribute to my cancer since bcp regulate hormones and so probably kept them more constant than mass influxes of hormone. I told that theory to my GP who felt very skeptically about this theory and is pretty much convinced that the pills were a contributing factor.
I've got the gyno telling me that it's ok to use a hormone-iud, and both my GP and oncologist said NO. The onc tried to 'soft sell' it by saying that 'technically, they don't know for sure the effect of progestin on hormone positive cancers but it is best not to risk it'.
I was once diagnosed with an 'elevated sedimentation rate'. I'm not even sure what the hell that is - but when they retested me, I was told it was ok and don't worry. That was the original doc - the only one that pissed me off - and she was leaving on vacation so I am not convinced that it was NOT something to worry about - but she didn't want to deal with me.....
Perhaps the "ESR" was not an indicator on its own, but combined with my massive mood swings (hormonal????) plus low iron - someone might have thought to check for cancer before I found a big lump, don't you think?
I guess they assume the easy things first. But it is all a little disconcerting. Now I am left wondering that if I had low iron because cancer cells were using it up, when I am taking 900mg of iron supplements, am I potentially feeding/encouraging cancer again? Just like they don't want me taking hormones, maybe I shouldn't be on iron supplements. Then again, your body NEEDS iron.... so I don't know. I have a list started from my GP but I honestly am not expecting any enlightenment... even though I really like my GP.
I know I said in posts way early on to be careful of what you read on the Internet in relation to cancer, as it is extremely scary reading - and my actual experience was never as scary as what can be read online. However, when you finally DO get to the stage of wanting to know things, you can't really get anything from real doctors and so you are left resorting to Internet research and freaking yourself out. I feel like I have gone through all this treatment without really knowing anything much about cancer.
I guess I know a lot more than many other people - but I know more about the process and how things work as far as treatment goes. I don't really KNOW what has actually happened to me. I don't know why Herceptin is supposed to help me. I guess I get a little that Tamoxifen is an estrogen blocker - and if my cancer wants estrogen, blocking it seems like a good idea. But again, what if my cancer wants iron????
I need to get some answers. If I actually get anything useful, I'll let you guys know....
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
They make the mastectomy incisions look like the breast reduction ones so that when all is said and done, you look 'matched' as far as scars go - but ultimately, a 'regular' mastectomy incision is best for the tissue expander.
Anyway, he filled up the expander to 725 CCs. He is not sure if he's going to put any more in there because the largest implant they make is 775ccs and if he fills more into the expander to the maximum, it means that we are committed to using the largest implant. Which probably limits my options of shape & size....
I'm happy as a clam if he wants to use a smaller one. He plans on re-reducing my right breast and 'lifting' it too to match the new one.... Who would complain about that?
He'll have another look in a few weeks - and then assess when my next surgery will be - but he already said previously that it would be January or February and I'm not really expecting that to change.
Thursday, October 7, 2010
It's what I was trying to get dealt with last year before I found the breast lump and it all got sidetracked. And, of course, when chemo put me into chemical menopause, it wasn't an issue. But since chemo is finished, and all has returned as before, it became clear that it needed to be addressed.
So that is why I went to see a gynecologist - and because this is an issue I had been dealing with long before I found cancer, I was very surprised & shocked that his first thought for my problem was uterine cancer. I realize it shouldn't have been that surprising - look for the obvious thing first since I have the history. And hopefully, rule it out (still waiting on biopsy results).
So last summer, I had an ultrasound and the radiologist (?) told me there were fibroids in there. That is a fairly common thing, and no one was too worried about it since the cancer was taking priority. This summer, I had another ultrasound and I was told it was pretty much the same as last year. So naturally, I assumed fibroids were in there causing my heavy bleeding, and looking to have that dealt with by having something called an 'ablation' - which is basically a way to cauterize the uterine lining.
Because the gyno jumped immediately to biopsy and cancer, it was distressing - and he didn't mention ablation, but he did say that if there was no cancer, he thinks a Mirena IUD might do the trick for me. I had done some research on those in the recent past for a friend and so did know a little something about them - this IUD has hormones which get delivered directly to the uterus from that device. Since I'm not meant to having hormones - can't take the pill, can't have Hormone Replacement Therapy when I go through menopause - and hell, I've even stopped eating pomegranates and edamame beans in great quantities because I read they have hormones.... the idea of putting in a device with hormones into my reproductive system seemed extremely WRONG to me. Although, this was only discussion anyway - it's not like the guy had it out of the package and ready to install....
So, I went home and did MORE research, and sure enough, the Mirena IUD does have documentation showing that it will help with menorraghia. However, it ALSO has listed in its 'contraindications' section that no woman who has had, currently has, or is suspected of having breast cancer should be using this product. Cam was with me at the appointment when the gyno told me that this IUD would have NO effect whatsoever on my breast cancer.
I was skeptical even from that second since I had never had a discussion with that doctor about my specific cancer - in that mine was Estrogen Positive and Progesterone Positive - meaning that my tumour had markers that showed that it 'fed' off those hormones. So that doc explained that there is no estrogen in the product, but there IS progestin (a synthetic version of progesterone). So WHY then would I possibly put a product in my body that would feed my kind of cancer? Also, WHY would this doctor think it was okay when the actual paperwork for the product advises against use for anyone with breast cancer?
I know a bunch of you will be reading this and be outraged and advise me to find a new doctor - but I'm not going to do that as yet.... and here's why.... at the same time as the biopsy, I had bloodwork done and that bloodwork is what showed up my hypothyroidism. When the results came back, my GP called me in to advise I needed Thyroid medication - and when I told him what the gyno said about the Mirena IUD, he said "I wouldn't - just tell him no". So obviously, I planned to decline the IUD if that was the actual offer - but it still concerned me that it was even mentioned to a breast cancer patient with the comment that it would be no problem for me.
OK, I'm rambling now.... the point is, when everyone saw that I had hypothyroidism, they had a kind of 'aha' moment, because one of the symptoms of hypothyroidism is menorraghia. So I didn't have to be outraged at the suggestion of the IUD anymore because that option was 'off the table' since now they think my problem will be solved with the thyroid meds.
And another thing is that the gyno looked at my ultrasound reports and said that I had practically no fibroids.... so all this time I thought I DID have some - and he said I don't..... and I guess he would know since not only did he look at the ultrasound results, he also had a first-hand look with a camera in my uterus!!
When I go back for my biopsy results, I believe I WILL put that gyno on the spot and ask him why he would have recommended a Mirena for me when the literature for the product doesn't recommend it for me - and my GP said "if you were my wife, I would not let you have one - in fact, as my patient, I don't recommend you get one".
So, to make a long story even longer, both of these docs were on the same page as far as the hypothyroidism goes. And more dissonance comes into play because my GP told me that this Hashimoto's Disease is unrelated to my breast cancer. Of course, there are lots of people who have it who have not had any issue with cancer whatsoever - however, the literature for Hashimoto's says that if you have symptoms of hypothyroidism and have had radioactive dye or radiation to the head, neck or upper chest, you should get checked out for Hashimoto's.
So while there IS a possibility that I was dealing with Hashimoto's before all this, I find it a little too coincidental that after having BOTH radiactive dye (every 3 months for my heart scan) AND radiation, that now I'm dealing with Hashimotos. Also, I do get Herceptin every 3 weeks - which is an antibody to help boost my immune system for fighting cancer. And Hashimoto's means my immune system is getting too enthusiastic and killing off my thyroid because it thinks it's a foreign body. So, to my medically untrained brain, this also could be something related.....
Anyway, the point is that I am extremely skeptical that the hypothyroidism is unrelated to my breast cancer.... however, there is no way to prove it and it doesn't really matter in the long run since the result is the same anyway - although I guess it could be something they could forewarn you about. Hell - maybe they did, but they forewarn you about a million different side effects from all the treatments and you can't keep track of them all.
I am REALLY hoping that this thyroid medication will help with my menorraghia - although, I have to say that the ablation didn't sound terrible since it basically stops all bleeding. No more periods!!! Although I do know someone who had one already and know that it is not a 'comfortable' process to say the least. But after what I've already been through, I figure I could take it.
I'm not really sure why I posted this - but I think I just wanted to get it out there that you really can't just take what an 'expert' tells you without doing some of your own research and getting other opinions. If I blindly trusted that gyno without checking, I could be having a product put in my body that could potentially feed cancer! Yike!
Monday, October 4, 2010
Detailed info at http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/hashimotos-disease/DS00567
I picked up my prescription and will start my meds tomorrow. As per Suzy, I won't be getting TOO excited about potential weight loss.... ha ha Thanks for knocking my 'bright side' out of the park... LOL
I get monthly blood tests too until they figure out the exact right concoction of drug for me. More needles - yay.
I hope this drug will help dispel my laziness. yah right.
Thursday, September 30, 2010
Then, the other doc phones & orders me in to see him as well. So my TSH is over triple the maximum amount - they really want to get it under control. It means that my thyroid is underactive.
So my GP order a re-test on the TSH just to make sure, and also an ultrasound of my thyroid - although he palpated it and said it feels normal so I'm not really worried about thyroid cancer, but I guess and ultrasound won't hurt just to make sure what's happening there.
The good news about this is that apparently thyroid issues can be a cause of the 'girl problems' I was having - so potentially, getting on the thyroid meds could solve that problem without any surgery of any kind.
The bad news is that you stay on thyroid meds for your whole life.
Gyno says that breast cancer and thyroid issues are not linked at all. However, GP thinks the radiation or chemo might have affected my thyroid. On the other hand, I've been having this lady issues for awhile - long before the breast cancer, so it could be that I've had a screwy thyroid for a long time.... hmmmmmm.
Apparently thyroid meds will give me more energy and will speed up my metabolism so I will lose weight more easily. I guess that's a bright side.
Of course, I didn't think I felt too tired until they told me that I would feel tired. So now I feel fatigued and I don't know if it's real or if the idea was planted by them..... Off for a nap!
Monday, September 27, 2010
He told me that the process can be a little uncomfortable so I might want to take a couple of Advil before coming. So instead, I took two Tylenol 3s with codeine. OVERKILL - that's what I'm talking about - why be in pain or discomfort if you have the means not to be.....
I was light-headed at the appointment since I hadn't eaten anything ha ha. Decided it was a good time to get bloodwork done too - didn't even feel the needle go in. Doc says the T3 won't affect the bloodwork so what the heck.
Time for a nap now, though!!!!
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
So I went there and was completely freaked out and shocked to learn that the first thing he is going to do is biopsy my uterus for cancer. He described how breast cancer and uterine cancer are very similar with similar triggers - and also that the oral drug I take daily increases the risk of uterine cancer. OK - he also went on to describe how there could be many other reasons why I have the issues I do, but since I just had cancer, it seems logical to rule that out first. Of course, I'm no idiot - I am happy to rule out cancer - but after what I've just been through, hearing 'potential cancer' again really put my world into a whirl. Last biopsy for that reason wasn't the result I was hoping for.
During the appointment I was shaky and on the verge of a meltdown. Even though my logical brain recognizes the intelligence of the process - and also recognizes that I had these issues long before any cancer problems - and I have a family history of these issues - and I just had six months of chemo - so I really do KNOW he isn't going to find any cancer in there..... BUT - I think it would only be human nature to have this worrying doubt of 'what if'. So the story is that he puts a camera in my uterus to take a look on Monday (yup - the 27th. he wanted to do it on the 23rd but I have chemo that day....). I apologize for the visual - however, think of it from MY point of view.... UGH! if only it were just the visual for me.....
Anyway, if he sees anything in there that is obviously cancer, I will then obviously require a hysterectomy - and, presumably, all the other crap that goes along with yet another cancer diagnosis. However, I didn't get into that with him as I am confident he is only going to see the problematic stuff that I know is in there from previous ultrasounds etc. (ie, fibroids). Then there are other options but whatever he said after 'cancer' was kind of all a blur to me - I do remember that he said he was throwing a lot of info at me and he would go over it all again another time. So I guess I won't worry about the other options yet until he sees what's going on.
So that was the bad day part. Only because of how I was feeling - I realize that the news he was giving me isn't bad news - it's only smart to check the worst option first to eliminate it. As scary as that sounds.
the Good News part is that after that appointment, I went to see my plastic surgeon. He was visibly SHOCKED with how well my surgery turned out. And he even said that he was not expecting to have this good a result - didn't even think it was possible. Of course, this was a little disconcerting for me but I was glad to hear he was happy..... If you recall, at my post-radiation appointment, he was unhappy with the location of my expander and felt he could not successfully make an implant work with where the tissue had expanded and was going to build me a breast out of my own tissues from my tummy or back. I balked. Or, as he described it 'I was adamant' that I didn't want that. So the option of replacing the expander was really sort of 'experimental'. However, I didn't realize JUST how experimental it was until after I saw his serious surprise at the great result. He actually THANKED me for forcing his hand because now he knows that is actually an option and because he feels that he will be able to create me a better breast now than if he had used my own tissue. Yay - something finally worked out!!!
When I got home, I had to describe both appointments to Cam. I had a hard time describing my day without melting down, but he was very kind and let me take my time & told me that he would go with me to my biopsy next week. After talking with Cam, I felt much better and was able to start focussing on the good news of the fabulous boobs I'm going to end up with.
FYI - final boob job slated for February. (rough estimate - based on expansion time)
Monday, September 13, 2010
Everything happened on time - weird! This time, they didn't IV me in advance - they had me again climb onto the operating table myself (at around 1:30), but this time they gave me gas to knock me out and then put the IV in me. It's good for the IV part, but you taste and breathe the gas afterward - it's yucky. When I came to in recovery, I found it very bright and very loud in there. I was happy to be wheeled back to the surgical admissions area. Then they gave me some apple juice and then I was on my way by around 5:30.
When I got home, I was 'out of sorts'. Sitting down on the couch in different positions and then getting up and wandering aimlessly. Finally, I decided to just lay down and slept for a couple of hours. They sent me home with a handful of painkillers and a sheet of instructions that I only half read. I dug up my T3s from last year as Cam said the new prescription was a T3 only without caffeine - and you may remember I had issues with being able to sleep last time because of the caffeine. so I wanted to conserve those ones for the nighttime and was using my old ones in the day.
So after taking 2 painkillers every 4 hours religiously for Thursday night, Friday and Friday night, I finally read the paper that was sent home with me and read that they are only sending home the few strong painkillers 'just in case' and that really I should be just fine with regular Tylenol or Advil. OOPS - I totally overdrugged myself. Oh well - I didn't feel much pain that's for sure. But on Saturday morning I decided I wanted to go to the bathroom again - yes - same problem as last time - and since I read I didn't really need the painkillers anyway, what the heck.
I was feeling fairly poorly all weekend - either from the anaesthetic working its way out of my system, or my overdosing of painkiller. Cam and I tried to drive somewhere together, and I had to ask him to bring me home a few blocks away as I got nauseous in the car. It happened twice so I gave up trying to ride in a car. So tonight was the first time I drove myself since I'm off the painkillers and had no nausea so I guess I'm ok to drive now. I have no mobility issues for driving.
While today I didn't feel sickly, I was still highly unmotivated and spent most of the day in bed and didn't get dressed until after Cam came home from work. I'll try a little harder tomorrow I think. Maybe. That being said, I DID prepare supper for him, and did a bit of laundry so I wasn't a total slug.
I guess since last year was my only other experience to draw on, I was thinking back to that, but in retrospect, I had BOTH sides operated on last time, and on my left side it was quite extensive since it also included removal of 9 lymph nodes - so this time is easy peasy in comparison. And my whole right side is fully mobile which means I can get myself in and out of bed without help - which was a real problem last year.
I meet with the plastic surgeon in a week so he can survey his handiwork. I believe he will be happy with his work but I'll give you guys an update when I have it.
Thursday, September 9, 2010
I am to be at the hospital for 11:15 for surgery around 1ish, I think it's a short one - maybe 45 minutes or an hour and then probably a few hours in recovery then they boot me out. I'm thinking I'll be home tonight sometime - maybe 8 or 9 or 10? (based on my experience that surgery never happens when it is actually scheduled).
I was trying to squeeze in a bunch of things before I had this surgery so on Tuesday night I didn't get to sleep until almost 2am and then had to be at the hospital for 7:30am for a mammogram - so I was really tired and went to bed last night at 9pm. So I already had around 7 hours of sleep when I awoke at 4am so I've been up and about since then.
Last night, Cam and I went for a latish sushi dinner where I stuffed myself silly since I'm not allowed to eat after midnight and I'm already hungry and can't do anything about it.
I'll try to post something later when I get home - or get Cam to do it - although I'm reluctant after last time..... BTW - if anyone by any chance still has any of my original emails (prior to this blog being made) - or still has Cam's email that he sent out after my surgery, please forward them to me.... thanks!
Thursday, September 2, 2010
Wednesday, September 1, 2010
So she will ask the surgeon about the option of staying overnight but if I really want to I might not be able to go the 9th... So I'm pretty sure I will stick with the 9th regardless of whether they let me stay or not since I would like to get this over with, but I'll see what they say tomorrow.
Thursday, August 26, 2010
Friday, August 13, 2010
I think it started a couple years ago after I took my Level 2 First Aid. They stressed the importance of thoroughly washing your hands with soap and water for 30 seconds before doing any first aid due to the horrific germ transfer through hands.
Then there was H1N1 and the hospitals were really antsy about that and had removed all reading materials and puzzles etc. But they also have stickers above every door handle and toilet flusher that says something along the lines of '4,425 people weekly touch this door handle - please wash your hands' - and they have hand sanitizer ALL over the place.
And with me having been immune compromised during chemo, I did a LOT of hand-washing.
So now I've become more and more obsessed with it and am getting freaked out about what happens around me. So - for example, I not only wash my hands with soap and water before preparing any food, I also will wash them a couple of times during the process as well - mainly depending on what's for dinner and what else I've done.
I always carry hand sanitizer in my ball bag but this past weekend, I wasn't playing so I didn't have my gear out. There are port-a-potties readily accessible between the diamonds or you can walk quite a distance to the flush toilets with sinks. I made the trek - I looked around me at all the ball players who were in and out of those potties with NO hand-washing facilities or hand sanitizer in them, and then they go about playing their game - ie, touching the ball and throwing it to others. And then after the game, everyone shakes hands! And the WORST thought I came across was people using the potty, then coming out and digging their hand into a bag of sunflower seeds (a ballpark staple) which ALWAYS get shared! It grossed me out.
I have made myself a mental note to NOT eat other people's sunflower seeds, and I am going to put my own into a Tupperware container with a pour spout so nobody needs to dig into it.
Bearing in mind, it's not like I JUST started washing my hands only a couple years ago (ew) - but I didn't really obsess on it like I do now. Of course I always wash (and washed) my hands after using the facilities - but now I really spend time on it. The first aid people told us to sing 'Happy Birthday' while washing your hands and that's about the right length of time.
Hand sanitizer is not my favourite thing, however, it is SO much better than the thought of not having an option for cleaning your hands. Of course, then I start obsessing about the germs on the pump handles etc. I think the touchless soap & sanitizer dispensers are going to be a big market for me!!! Plus, I have started bringing Lysol wipes with me so I can wipe off the surfaces that I think could be suspect.
How does a slob like me become a germophobe? I still can't figure it out.
DON'T FORGET TO WASH YOUR HANDS THOROUGHLY AFTER USING THE WASHROOM OR BEFORE PREPARING A MEAL!
This is my public service announcement for the day.
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
He is investigating the option of removing my current tissue expander and replacing it with a 'taller' one, that will stretch the tissue further down on my chest.
When the expander was put in, it is mostly deflated. I'm sure they try to position it as accurately as possible, but no matter what, it is a balloon that gets filled at intervals to stretch the skin and muscle - so of course where the stretch goes the most will also have to do with the elasticity of my tissue. So in my case, it expanded more upward than downward, which pulled the scar out of alignment with my other breast. So if he attempted to put an implant in where the tissue is stretched now, I would end up with a very bizarre rack. Probably not much more bizarre than I'm dealing with now though but hopefully we can improve it.
Anyway, my other option is to skip the implant altogether and have a breast built out of tissue from my stomach. It is an extensive and painful surgery and one I'm not really willing to consider. I think that my ego is in check enough that I would rather have a weird looking boob than hack into other perfectly sound parts of my body to help make up what is a completely aesthetic reason.
Honestly, my boobs didn't look that great before all this cancer stuff started, and so I don't feel the burning need to hack up other parts of my body in order to end up with some perfect rack. I had talked to a couple of other people who've had the 'tummy tuck' option and they both told me that if they could go back and make the choice again, they wouldn't choose it.
So it's kind of drag but it's an extra surgery because I would have to leave the new implant in for 4 - 6 months or so before the 'real' reconstruction. However, I think I would prefer this to having my stomach cut open.
Anyone else have any opinions on this? I know it would be hard to put yourselves in my shoes - but I'd love to hear what you ladies have to say about my thought process. I asked the plastic surgeon if I was being unreasonable about REALLY not wanting the 'other' kind of surgery and he didn't think so especially because he was examining all my other scars and realized that I am not an easy healer - my scars are vivid and wide so he realizes by cutting other parts of my body, I would just really be scarring it up a lot.
On another note, every time I go there, he looks at my remaining breast and pinches the skin underneath and holds it up higher on my chest and shakes his head and laments my giant sagging boob. I wish he'd get over - I'm 40 for God sake! I told him 'THAT'S WHAT BRAS ARE FOR'. Of course, I think he's just worried about me - I think that being a plastic surgeon there is a LOT of pressure on them for perfection as cosmetic procedures are costly and the women having them done demand perfection. I doubt he's used to my 'AH, good enough' approach. Not that I would refuse a lift if he offered it - but I just don't care enough about it.
As long as whatever I end up with fits into a bra that I can stuff if it isn't exactly equal, and my clothing looks normal, I don't really care much about the underneath if it will avoid extensive surgery and scars.
Monday, August 9, 2010
This past weekend, my ball team (the Crazy Dutch Bastards) played in our league's year end tournament playoffs. After an extremely exciting nail-biting game that went THREE extra innings, my team managed to pull off the win even though they didn't have last bats!
I opted out of regular playing this season to allow for my treatment (and travelling
I am kinda feeling like they 'won it for the Gipper'. I didn't know even where that phrase came from until I just Googled it - so I rescind the statement since 'The Gipper' was a professional athlete who died from a throat infection in the 1920s and they didn't even get told to win one for him until after he died...... I guess it doesn't really apply after all....
My team came close to it last September in our Provincials tournament - they were finalists and I was still really proud - but I did not get to watch that effort as I was unavailable. (I'd like to say recuperating, which is SORTA true - but the real truth is that I was travelling in Idaho for a flyball tournament with Cam).
I'm really proud of them and wanted all you blog-followers to know that 2010's Aug 7 weekend kicked ASS on 2009's Aug 7 weekend!!!!
Friday, August 6, 2010
Of course, I had no intention of telling my good friends on their wedding day that I had cancer since it was THEIR show and I didn't want to put a damper on it. So Cam and I attended the wedding - and yes - we had a GREAT time! Of course the cancer was always in my thoughts - it's hard not to obsess. But I did my best to keep pushing the thoughts away and enjoy myself.
What many of you don't know is that I received the diagnosis on my own due to my own stupid stubbornness. Cam had arranged to have the time off to accompany me to the surgeon's office but the night before we had a big fight. About what? I couldn't exactly say - it might have been about vacuuming - but if it wasn't that, it was something equally as mundane. I was livid. I decided that he wasn't coming with me and told him so. He probably said something like 'FINE' - but in the morning he got up and got dressed with every intention of coming with me. I was still angry and would not talk to him. So I went out to the car, and he came out onto the front steps to put on his shoes and I ignored him as I hopped in the car and drove away.
On the way to the surgeon's office, I told myself that no matter WHAT the diagnosis was, I wasn't going to tell Cam. I am not sure why I thought that not knowing this life-changing information was suitable punishment for fighting about vacuuming (or whatever it was - so important that I can't even remember). But there is no explaining the wrath of a woman - especially mine (remember when I chucked Cam's lunch in the backyard??).
So because I am a total idiot, I received my cancer diagnosis by myself with no support on hand. The surgeon didn't beat around the bush and including the 'packet' of breast cancer info she handed me the whole visit was probably 10 minutes. In the packet was a book on breast cancer and she opened it to show me & dog-ear the pages of the photos of mastectomies. I was told that I had to decide whether I wanted a mastectomy or a lumpectomy and both have the same survival rate, but of course a lumpectomy leaves breast behind which would obviously offer more opportunity for recurrence in that breast than removing the whole thing. There was NO guidance on which was better - just the info and the instruction to decide.
So, I wandered out of her office in a daze and got into my car to drive home. Thankfully, my dazed brain completely forgot my prior rage and the first thing I did was phone Cam (who had gone to work - what else could he do when he's stranded at the doorstep) to tell him. He immediately came home to be with me. After that, I called my mom and blubbered into the phone about having cancer - most of which was unintelligible by that point since my emotions were finally leaking through. Of course, this was before the rule about talking on your cellphone when driving came in. I'm sure I was a poster board for dangerous driving that day. I'm sure I shouldn't have been driving at all in my shocked state.
Then I called Cam's mom and dad. All the parents showed up at my house to offer love and support. It was a strange day - knowing but not having any idea what to expect. Of course, it didn't even cross my mind to go into work but my employers were very supportive and understanding - and have been through the whole process.
So there was some amount of time lag between Cam driving home and all the other parents arriving where I was home alone with my new information. In one of my emails, a good friend had asked me to call him - as it turns out, it was to ask if I would dog-sit. Unfortunately for him, I kind of blindsided him when he asked the routine question of 'how are you' - and got the answer 'I have cancer' instead of the more common 'Fine - how are you'. So I have apologized to him about the blindsiding but he has told me that he was grateful to hear directly from me instead of through the grapevine or in an email (which, of course, is the method that most people DID find out).
After everyone arrived, we all talked about it and then I made some phone calls to some support agencies to see if I could get more information - I didn't actually know what I was supposed to do next. So I believe I mulled everything over on the weekend and needing more information, I phoned the surgeon's office again on Monday. The receptionist there was less than helpful. Of course, I was looking for information about my situation and she was just a receptionist (as opposed to having medical knowledge) but her attitude of 'how could I possibly remember anything about you when I have so many other people to deal with' was a little disconcerting. I thought a little more compassion was in order and basically I told her so. In the end she agreed to have the surgeon call me.
I didn't hear back that day, so on Tuesday morning I went to my local clinic doctor (who had been sending me to the diagnosic appointments) to see if I could get more information. Although the whole experience with that clinic doctor is a complete story on its own, I won't go into it at the moment - however, one thing she said to me that I found useful and has stuck with me is "don't be afraid to be pushy - YOU'RE the one with cancer".
So after some discussions with Cam and family, and after talking to the support agency and reading the info in the book and remembering the survival rate information, I had finally made a decision to have a lumpectomy - but I hadn't had a proper MRI as yet, so if the MRI showed anything different, I would go for the mastectomy.
Once the decision was made, things became easier. I phoned the surgeon again and left a message that I had made my decision and what it was. I did hear back from her that day and she confirmed that it was indeed ok to change tactics at the last minute in the same operating slot IF the MRI showed something of concern. The reason this was important is that I found out I had cancer on Aug 7, and she booked my surgery for Aug 26 - and my MRI was happening in between - so we wouldn't have the results of the MRI until just a few days before surgery was scheduled.
As you may remember, the MRI did show something of concern - a second mass - which had only a 20-30% chance of being cancer - but since I had already made the decision to switch to mastectomy if the MRI showed anything weird, it wasn't a hard choice to make. The good news is that I had Cam with me at that appointment - and we had some foreshadowing that I wasn't going to be hearing great news because the surgeon's office had called me in early for my appointment. And it was extremely hot in her office and I almost passed out after she told me - obviously a combination of the heat and the stress.
I was so glad that I had decided to book surgery right away and then deal with the MRI later because the province was shutting down operating theaters in September and operating space was at a premium. I was told I got one of the last couple of operating slots or else I would have waited another 4 - 5 weeks before surgery. I never thought I'd be grateful to be going under the knife - but I was.
Any of you could ask Cam or my parents for confirmation on this, but I was not nervous or scared on my surgery date. I was anxious to get it over with and get the damned cancer OUT. But who knows - maybe I'll do another anniversary post at the end of August on the surgery date itself.
I anticipate this Friday before the wedding weekend to be much better than last year's - and as you can see, I've gotten an early start on it. Generally, I haven't had any problems sleeping like I did during the heavy treatments, but today I guess is an exception.
Thanks for walking down this memory lane with me. I am so happy it IS a memory - long in the past now. All the uncertainty and fear I felt last year on this day has been replaced with confidence and optimism. It's a MUCH better feeling, I can assure you!
Tuesday, August 3, 2010
Last night, Cam and I returned from Oroville where we spent the weekend with some friends that met down in Desert Hot Springs. We had a blast so did the dogs. They have a dog too and Cooper played with her non-stop and he was loving running around in the woods. They live on a mountain on a 40-acre ranch - it was gorgeous - nice view of Osoyoos Lake. Hope to get back there soon to visit again.
I'm a little bummed because the Meatloaf concert was cancelled and we were going. So now we have to hang onto our tickets to see when(if) they re-schedule the show.
I'm also bummed that there is a serious campfire ban on so I won't be able to enjoy my nightly campfire on my next trip to Tulameen.
I guess in the scheme of life, these things are small issues to be bummed about. ha ha
Thursday, July 22, 2010
Last time I was at chemo, there was a young man in my pod who was attempting to get chemo. I say attempting because while I was there 3 separate nurses tried a couple of times each to access his veins. His veins were good, but he is very 'valvy' so they couldn't get the needle in the right spot. Every time they poked him, they were wriggling the needle around to avoid the valves. He was sucking in his breath like all the air in the room would disappear so I KNOW he was experiencing a lot of pain.
It made me very grateful for this weird bumpy thing in my chest. And I long ago grew accustomed to the feel of it there so there isn't much to complain about.
For today's Herceptin, my nurse missed the port. So she poked in the needle too low and so had to pull it out and try again. Lucky me - I got a double poke today. Plus, yesterday they did bloodwork on me so another needle. It is amazing how non-needle scared I am now.
Today I was talking to a 39-year old woman in the chemo room who had a 10cm tumour and was getting chemo before surgery. I am pretty sure that the size of that tumour makes her cancer Stage 3 or more which is a scary proposition. It made me thankful that I found my lump when I did and its 3cm size is nothing compared with hers...
I guess you can always find someone in a worse situation than you, right? Since I spend quite a bit of time at the hospital, I often find myself wondering things - like while I waited to see the oncologist, I saw 2 patients outside in the courtyard enjoying the sunshine with some family. They were in wheelchairs and looked to be fairly severely incapacitated. I may have had cancer, but at least I can walk and move around of my own free will and not be reliant on a wheelchair. Are they looking at me and thinking, "I may need a wheelchair but at least I don't have cancer"? Things that make you go 'hmmmmmmmmm'
I am home for a week - imagine that! Then Cam and I are off to Oroville for the long weekend to see a couple of my Desert Hot Springs pals. I'm quite excited to see them again and check out a new place.
Then I hope to return to Tulameen in August, and then I'm going to Calgary for a week. This summer is WAY better than last summer!
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
Let's face it - last summer SUCKED. From finding the lump in June to having surgery at the end of August - last summer was a blur. I couldn't even remember if the weather was any good. So I am making up for it this summer, and I kind of feel like I earned it with all the crap I've gone through.
So I am taking full advantage of my time off - especially since it won't be long before I'm incapacitated again with more surgery. He told me they couldn't even begin to consider scheduling a surgery until 2 months after radiation finishes to see how my skin is doing & decide what to do. And I've already mentioned that he is anticipating problems with my reconstruction.... dammit.
To Cam's great relief, I stopped buying truckloads of bras several months ago when I realized that there is a very good chance that my 'good' breast will be reduced yet again during the reconstruction. No point stocking up if I need a whole new set.
Anyway, we got home on Monday from our trip to Oregon and then on Tuesday I had my heart scan then jumped in the car with sis to head back up to Tulameen. We had a great relaxing time and the boys joined us on Thursday then headed home Sunday. Shelly & I came home Monday evening. We celebrated her birthday there by going to the Princeton Air Show and then to Dairy Queen - then had her requested birthday dinner of ribs and corn on the cob. The dogs had a blast swimming in the lake & Cooper made friends with almost all the neighborhood dogs.
My travel plans are carefully fit in between all the damned doctor appointments and chemo....
Monday, July 5, 2010
It was so red and hot before that you could physically feel the heat coming off it. Of course, it simply equates to the worst sunburn you've ever experienced so you all know how uncomfortable it can get.
Now that it is to a comfortable stage again, I feel I can move around. Movement and sweating were NOT happy things in that condition so I have been extremely sedentary the last couple of weeks. The odd walk with the dog while in Tulameen but generally a lot of sleeping, reading and campfiring.
Had my 8th Herceptin on Friday also.
Yesterday I had the pleasure of experiencing 4th of July in Birch Bay at a gorgeous property owned by a friend (thanks for the invite!). So I almost bailed out since I wasn't looking forward to a long border lineup but I'm glad I changed my mind at the last minute and endured the 50-minute line-up going down. I didn't come back until 1 in the morning so there was no line-up on the way back.
Americans are CRAZY with their fireworks. And since the cabin is right on the beach, you can see the whole bay and everyone was lighting off fireworks for hours and hours. Of course, this spoiled me for any fireworks display in Canada now, but it was well worth it. Fireworks and giant bonfire complete with wienies and marshmallows. It was probably the best 4th of July I've ever had....
We're leaving for Oregon on Wed night for an extended weekend whose point is flyball - so yes - Cam will actually be with me this weekend!!! It will be like a 2nd honeymoon ha ha. Will be back Monday night. We're taking in the Southern Washington & Oregon coasts before heading in to Salem for the tournament. I'm looking forward to it.
Off to the dentist so until next time!!!
Friday, June 25, 2010
It is difficult to orient oneself in the photo - but I was photographing my own armpit - not as easy a task as it may sound! The raw patch is at the bottom of my pit. It looks even worse now than when I took the pic. And YES, it hurts. I have some other delicious looking spots on my fake boob but thought that this picture was graphic enough already....
So - the good news is that radiation officially finished on Thursday. The bad news is that I have a couple more weeks of suffering as the radiation 'keeps working' (the way we are choosing to look at it rather than 'keeps causing me pain'). I have Flamazine cream for the open raw bits (like the giant blister that formed on the breast part after I stupidly wore my silicone synthetic insert without realizing it would not be good for the delicate skin). Plus that gross raw open bit in my armpit. I also have hydrocortisone cream for the itchy parts, and then I have a thick 'basic' cream for straight moisturizing. This is a very messy venture.
PLUS, they told me that I should be keeping this stuff open to air as much as possible so I've been semi-streaking a lot around the house. Since Cam renovated, the blinds are not up in my kitchen so I have to keep some sort of covering on or else risk alienating the neighbours. So I drape a light scarf-like fabric around my neck to hang in front of the scary bits but leaves the armpit open to the air.
Armpits are 'chafy' places. This isn't the most fun I've ever had in my life. And my skin was doing REALLY well right up until that blister arrived, then the armpit went haywire so I guess it all caught up with me - as they predicted.
I will be much happier in a coupleo of weeks when this horrible raw openness disappears.
To take my mind off the pain, I am going up to Tulameen to meet Suzanne at her cabin there. The gals 'bacheloretting' it for a few days.... plus I'm going to take Cooper with me since he loves his mom the best of all.
Today I went to Costco to pick up one of my numerous prescriptions & it is nearby to my friend's flower shop. I stopped in to see her and lo & behold she was in the middle of doing a giant Indian wedding. They delivered all these flowers there yesterday to be used for some thing or other, and now they were all picked up again to be picked over and redistributed into brand NEW arrangements (using some of the old flowers). Her shop was overrun with masses of colourful arrangements. She insisted I take one of them home & 'repurpose' it. So I did - and it was so big that I now have about 4 or 5 vases of beautiful flowers distributed throughout my house. And I'm not even here for the weekend! I hope Cam enjoys them.....
Lots of lilies (which never were my favourite due to the strong smell - but they are growing on me...ha ha)
Now that radiation is finished, I have to start taking Tamoxifen - which is an oral drug I'll be on for FIVE years..... can't wait to learn the side effects of that one.... (sarcasm)
Sunday, June 13, 2010
I mentioned this to friends on the weekend and rather than the usual small chuckle, I received complete agreement from some people. Of course, others who live in the west end quickly corrected it to explain that if someone were paying attention they would realize that the pink toenail polish and the wedding ring would confirm otherwise. Personally, I'm not so sure. I know I can delve into the stereo-typing, however, I am convinced that there ARE lesbians who wear pink toenail polish. (and wedding rings for that matter)
Anyway, the point is, my hair is growing back quickly. As evidenced here:
As far as radiation goes, I have been developing some redness to my skin and the itchiness persists - but not the drive-you-crazy kind. It's almost more dangerous than that kind because then you KNOW you're not supposed to scratch it. When it's mild itchiness, you forget it's because of radiation and you just scratch it without thinking about it. They don't like you to scratch it.
Had my 7th Herceptin on Thursday. Nothing interesting to report there. Except that I told the nurse some interesting words & phrases my mom taught me. NOPE - not sharing because it will be embarrassing for her.... ha ha - and now your imaginations will run rampant and probably think up things way worse than what really happened. I'm evil.
My ball team had a tournament this weekend. I did not play in it - I only managed it. However, my managing skills are suspect because we can't seem to get past the first round of single knock-out. Grrrrr. Oh well, the team had fun and the sun was finally out on Saturday - although it was pissing down with rain this morning. It was funny seeing everyone out there burnt red from yesterday all glowing in the downpour. (me, warm & dry in the dugout diligently keeping score).
I think I have only 2 more weeks of radiation to go. I've been told that you don't start to feel really tired until the actual radiation is finished. They did warn me that side effects from radiation persist after you finish the actual zapping.
Next weekend is a flyball tournament on the island which I will be watching. Not sure if Molly will be playing as she is limping today and we don't know why.
On Thursday, mom and I got pedicures before all my treatment. The lady offered free threading for new clients. Can you believe it? I actually had enough eyebrows to warrant threading!!! The pedicure was great and it was only $25. She has an at-home spa (Pamper Day Spa 778-855-3333 in Fleetwood). She also gave me a massage on Friday and I thoroughly enjoyed it. http://pamperdayspa.yolasite.com/ She does gift-certificates too - but her only stipulation is that she works only with women.
Well, that's it I guess. Until next time!
Wednesday, June 2, 2010
When 24 hours in a day is not enough;
remember the mayonnaise jar and 2 cups of coffee.
A professor stood before his philosophy class
and had some items in front of him.
When the class began, wordlessly,
he picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar
and start to fill it with golf balls.
He then asked the students if the jar was full.
They agreed that it was.
The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured
it into the jar. He shook the jar lightly.
The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls.
He then asked the students again
if the jar was full. They agreed it was.
The professor next picked up a box of sand
and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else
He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded
With an unanimous 'yes.'
The professor then produced two cups of coffee from under the table
and poured the entire contents into the jar, effectively
filling the empty space between the sand.
The students laughed.
'Now,' said the professor, as the laughter subsided,
'I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life.
The golf balls are the important things - God, family,
children, health, friends, and favorite passions
Things that if everything else was lost
and only they remained, your life would still be full.
The pebbles are the things that matter like your job, house, and car.
The sand is everything else --
The small stuff.
'If you put the sand into the jar first,' he continued,
'there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls.
The same goes for life.
If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff,
You will never have room for the things that are
important to you.
Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness.
Play with your children.
Take time to get medical checkups.
Take your partner out to dinner.
There will always be time
to clean the house and fix the dripping tap.
'Take care of the golf balls first --
The things that really matter.
Set your priorities. The rest is just sand.'
One of the students raised her hand
and inquired what the coffee represented.
The professor smiled.
'I'm glad you asked'.
It just goes to show you that no matter how full your life may seem,
there's always room for a couple of cups of coffee with a friend.'
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
I watched the American Idol finale tonight (I guessed wrong...) - but it will probably only be a couple or few weeks before my hair could be worn like Janet Jackson wore hers tonight.... although I might skip the trashy jumpsuit - that whole thing was a wardrobe malfunction...
I might be starting to feel some fatigue from the radiation - or I just might be lazy as all get-out again. Maybe a bit of itchiness beginning ( that was ITCHiness.... and not a typo like Drain your Dragon ) sheesh! But no red skin so far.
I managed to go the entire time away without getting a cold sore - which I was fully expecting to get since I always do in the sun - but now that I'm home, I've been hit with one full force - spreading on my lip - worse than I usually get. SO attractive! And it is painful too - but thanks to a nice angel who provided me some mouth sore stuff for prior side-effects, I have something to battle it with.
I have finally gotten serious about eating properly and making good choices. We were at a flyball tournament on the weekend and were out for dinners. At the Keg I ordered Ahi Tuna with asparagus, and replaced the rice pilaf with a baked potato that had only salsa on it. Then at a Thai restaurant, I got a Hot and Sour prawn soup instead of a creamy curry. Then last night I went to a pub and ordered the salmon dinner but asked for NO white cream sauce, and again replaced the rice but this time with salad. I feel very healthy and guilt-free! Tonight for dinner I made a white-fish with a bit of rice and some asparagus. Cam raved over it and it was mostly guilt-free too. The scale does seem to be cooperating as well...
Gee, I thought I had a ton of stuff to write about but I can't think of anything more...
Oh yah - at radiation the other day, the machine rotated too far to one side and shook the bed. I was calling out to let them know because they take very careful and precise measurements to make sure the radiation hits the right spot. Because the machine shook the bed, I was concerned that the bed had moved but no one answered my call and then the zapper came on so it was too late anyway. AFTER the zap, they intercommed me to ask if I was alright, and THEN I was able to explain what had happened. So they came in to check and assured me that nothing had moved out of place, and if it had, they would have seen it on the monitors so I don't have to worry about getting zapped incorrectly. Well, that's a relief.... But it was a little disturbing, nonetheless.
I guess I could give you a detailed description of how my radiation process goes. They have a small yellow appointment card where all my appointments for the upcoming week are written out the previous Friday. The times change every day - although this week they've been between 1pm and 2:15pm. I drive to the hospital, find a place in the free 2-hour parking I discovered across the street, and carry in my bag of 2 hospital gowns plus something to kill some time with. Once I arrive, I put my yellow card in a bin, then get changed into the gowns (I take them home with me every day - saves the hospital laundry costs), then I wait for my turn, they call me in, I hop on the bed, they spend about 5 or 10 minutes adjusting the bed and the machine and then spend 2 or 3 minutes zapping me. When it's all over, I get changed again, and zip back home. Usually from pulling in the car to pulling out it's between 30 and 45 minutes long. Everyone is very friendly, as per my usual experience with the cancer center here in Surrey.
That's all I can think of for now!