January 2010

Bonus Silliness: Sexy Chat/ EPIC win

Posted on January 14, 2010 at 9:36 am in

I haven’t been silly in public in a while . . . my thanks to the folks at FAILblog for this.

The Tunnel Has An End

Posted on January 13, 2010 at 12:17 pm in

A bit of an update.

  • I love my oncologist. If anyone wants a recommendation for an oncologist in the South Seattle area, contact me. I’ll gladly give you his  information. He is just plain NICE, with a warm ‘bedside manner’ and truly listens.
  • If I have chemo and Tamoxifen, my chance of having a recurrence of breast cancer is in the single digits. THAT is worth the trauma.
  • I will very likely lose my hair.
  • I’m not happy about this.
  • I will deal. I will buy lots of lovely hats and learn to wear a scarf. It will likely be gone by the end of March, and won’t start returning until late May.
  • There is some evidence that post-chemo hair grows in without gray, and curlier. So I may look 20 years younger (at least until the gray returns).
  • I’m still having some trouble sleeping, but it’s improving.
  • I’m really glad J. is home (he changed his plans to make it home in time to come with me to meet with the oncologist). I have a partner, not a boyfriend.
  • (J’s mom is improving: no more fever, and she’s off the respirator. The medical staff are really positive about her recovery.)
  • I am scheduled for my 2nd surgery next Wednesday (1/20) at ~10:30am PT.

Overall, I am in a fairly good mood. Mostly I think that my stubbornness is turning out to be an asset. I can’t do much other than move forward, so I am. This is the crap part, but it is not forever.

Just When You Start to Hope . . .

Posted on January 9, 2010 at 8:00 am in

I got some big news on Friday afternoon and decided to share it with the world (or at least the 20 of you who read this blog and all future google searchers . . .) so forgive me if I repeat information you already know. Also, I may give you more detail than you really want, and I apologize in advance for that.

As a general update: back in early December I met with an oncologist to discuss how necessary it is for me to have chemotherapy. I am a perfect candidate for a new test that looks at cancer tumors at a genetic level and assigns a percentage of likelihood of that cancer recurring in the next 10 years. A low number means a low likelihood, and therefore a poor candidate for chemotherapy. A high number means a strong likelihood of the breast cancer recurring and making it more necessary for chemotherapy.

While waiting for these results, I’ve been taking care of myself and healing from the mastectomy. At this point I can go back ‘any time’ for the 2nd stage of my reconstructive surgery, which involves putting the implant in. This includes a ‘re-excision’ of several more millimeters of tissue from the inside of my breast to give me a clear margin*, which was not 100% successful during the original surgery. Good news: I’m told that the recovery from this operation is days, not weeks; moreover, I should find the implant much more comfortable and the BLO** will look much more like a breast than an object.

On New Year’s Eve, John’s mother was taken to the local hospital in Charlotte in an ambulance, apparently the victim of pneumonia. She did not respond to the medication, and had a sudden decline in her ability to understand things said to her, became unable to recognize family members, then lost her ability to speak. On Monday she was correctly diagnosed as having Bacterial Meningitis. John flew out to see her on Wednesday night, and will be there through Monday. Although she seemed to improve for a day, as of a few hours ago, she had been moved to the ICU unit in the larger hospital in Charleston. We literally have no idea what her condition or prognosis is or will be.

Friday afternoon my oncologist called me. My test results came back and my number is 42 (on a scale of 1-100). That means that I have a 42% chance of a recurrence of breast cancer in the next 10 years. Even with Tamoxifen my likelihood of recurrence is 28% in the next 5 years. I had hoped for a much lower number, but it is clear that chemotherapy will be necessary. I have an appointment to speak with my oncologist on Monday morning.

Chemo for me will be a combination of 2 drugs, and will be four sessions, one every three weeks. A piece of good news is that he does NOT feel I need to start chemo immediately. I have time to take care of some things first.

At the moment, and keeping in mind that all of this can change in a heartbeat (Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, anyone?) my plan is to have the 2nd surgery within the next few weeks (AFTER Mercury goes direct), giving myself at least 4 weeks to recover before starting chemotherapy. John and I are planning to go to the opening weekend of the OSF in the last week of February. I would start chemo on or after March 2nd, and my last session would be in early May.

As always, your good wishes, prayers, white light, positive vibes, and energy is appreciated and welcomed. I am truly blessed with such good people in my life, and I promise that I don’t hesitate to reach out and ask when I need help.

*the margin is an area from around the cancer tumor that is completely clear of cancer cells. It varies in size based on the size of the tumor. My margins were not 100% ‘clear’ (of cancer cells), so I need to have an additional layer removed.

** breast-like-object

PhotoHunt: Bulky

Posted on January 9, 2010 at 7:00 am in

I almost didn’t think of anything for this week . . .

from Golden Gate Park, in San Francisco, CA. June 2007.

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Things That Get Up My Nose

Posted on January 8, 2010 at 7:56 am in

That is: things that really irritate me.

#1 Guilt, in all of its forms. From the subtleties of obligations and expectations to full blown guilt trips.

#2 Rudeness.

#3 Complacency.

One day I may address points #2 and #3, but today I’ll just share the text of two letters I am sending to, of all places, the Humane Society of the US and the SPCA.

Dear <appropriate person who theoretically sent me the money request>,

I am writing to express my extreme displeasure at <the organizations’> recent ‘fleece <gloves or throw>’ fundraising campaign.

I am an animal lover, an owner of cats and now a dog who strongly advocates enacting laws against animal cruelty, puppy mills, and other forms of animal abuse. In short: I am your ideal donor.

However, the profligate waste of resources embodied in the ‘fleece gloves’ fundraiser is staggering. Moreover, it is based on turning a gift into a guilt trip, and I find that appalling. I have donated the item to the local Goodwill.

Times are tough, for both your potential donors as well as the organizations, like yours, that survive on people’s generosity. I honestly believe that guilt-tripping people into donating is a poor tactic – let your organization’s successes and exquisitely low overhead be a shining example of a good place for us to spend our donation dollars.

Perhaps I am a lone voice protesting a fundraising campaign that raised a significantly larger amount of money for HSUS/SPCA. Perhaps you have received nothing but praise from donors for the thoughtful gift.

Nonetheless, you have lost me as a donor, perhaps forever.

At this time, please see that I am removed from your database(s) and do not include me in future mailings. At some point in the future I will review your organization, its financials and its fundraising tactics. At that time I will make a decision as to whether to make a donation.

Yeah, it made me angry. Mostly because they must have spent an enormous amount of money — even if the item is  incredibly cheaply made-in-China-by-slaves and they got a fantastic bulk discount. The mailing costs alone would have been significant. Moreover, they sent them out, ostensibly as a gift, and then followed up with a mailer asking for a donation “because I’m sure you are enjoying <said item>.” So, it’s a waste of money and resources AND a big ole guilt trip.

Grrrrr.

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It’s been an Exciting Week

Posted on January 6, 2010 at 4:53 pm in

I’m still trying not to type too much . . . but life requires it, so I’ll just be brief-ish.

J’s mom went into the hospital last week, I believe on NY’s Eve. They thought it was pneumonia, but antibiotics didn’t seem to work, and then she started to have physical issues, including not being able to communicate and unable to eat. THEN she began to not recognize family members. She’s in her early 80s, so this is not good. He made plans to fly out there (there = South Carolina) Thursday morning. Yesterday they diagnosed bacterial meningitis, which is VERY NOT GOOD (25% chance of mortality). This morning his dad called with good news, she’s able to communicate again, and recognizing people. He’s still going . . .

Except that his flight was canceled. So he called me and I suggested going tonight instead. So he’s leaving on a red eye tonight through Monday.

That means I am alone for the weekend. With Sasha. Fortunately, I have good friends and a couple of them are going to come over and go with me to the lake to swim her. I can manage the rest. J. has put gas in the car, is doing a foodshop so I have supplies on hand, and I’m making sure that anything I might need help with either doesn’t need to be done, or we’ll do now.

Because while my meeting with the pain specialist went well, and I have high hopes . . . at the moment I am still in some amount of pain. (Note to self: I think ‘post hypnotic suggestions’ don’t work well on you.) More on that in another post. Short version: it WILL help, and I already feel comfortable recommending this specialist to others.

In the end, I’m a bit freaked out. I’m reassuring myself that I will be fine, that I can call on others for help, and that I can do this. What is  . . . freaking me out . . . is that these will be the first days since my surgery (8 weeks ago tomorrow) that I will be absolutely on my own.

I’m not going to dwell on that now. Instead I am going to change the subject.  Today I found my dream house (although I can’t have it).

It’s perfect. Want to see?

PhotoHunt: Lick

Posted on January 2, 2010 at 10:11 am in

This week’s picture is this:

And there is a little story behind it. You see . . .

Our dog, Sasha (2 yr old, pure Lab) *loves* to lick our faces. She is known to climb up on top of my sweetie while he’s watching TV or reading (or sleeping!) and lick his face and head until he’s soaked. So a picture of that seemed like an easy one for this week.

Except that she didn’t want her picture taken. So I have a lot of pictures that look like this:

And the best one, is this:

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ok . . . ok . . . I get it

Posted on January 1, 2010 at 2:06 pm in

I swear, I do listen to y’all. More important, I act on your advice.

It seems like everyone ‘yelled’ at me yesterday, both here and via email. I was taking action even then:

  • I met with my therapist: I am not crazy, I am in pain, I need to get on top of the pain as my first priority.
  • I called my plastic surgeon. His MA thinks this is ‘just’ nerves healing, and not much can be done because it isn’t an emergency. In any case, I’ll see him 1st thing . . . Tuesday morning.
  • I have an appt on Wednesday with a clinical psychologist who specializes in pain mgmt using hypnosis.
  • I had a lovely dinner with friends last night and it was a marvelous distraction from the discomfort. I had 2 glasses of wine and although it still took awhile to get to sleep, when I did I slept well. (A really good sign.)
  • There are periods of time when I do not hurt, but a lowering of medication produces pain, so we’re working with that.
  • If I do not get an alleviation from the pain by this afternoon, we’ll start adding in some of the leftover prescription meds I still have on hand.

I truly appreciate your advice and support. As you can see, I continue to explore all of the options and am doing my best to work all of this out.

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