Monthly Archives: March 2010

BRCA Test Info

Every woman, by virtue of being a woman, has a 12% chance of getting breast cancer in her lifetime, and a 2% chance of getting ovarian cancer. For 90% of women who get cancer, it is not genetic.

There are, however, six genes that — if mutated or damaged — indicate a 40% chance of getting breast or ovarian cancer. Four of these genetic mutations produce visible signs, the other two can be found with a blood test.

Since I got breast cancer, it may be that I am one of the 12% who have a genetic mutation. If I do, this has implications for everyone I share blood with. Particularly scary is the ovarian cancer, because that is an extremely lethal form of cancer — mostly because they can’t spot it until it is a Stage 3 cancer, and there are few options at that point.

So I am normal, with a normal chance of getting a new cancer. YAY.

more info:

Post Chemo #2 Update

Yesterday (Monday) was 5 days post-chemo, and so far things are going remarkably similar to how they went the first time ’round. Saturday evening I started getting the achy bones, so I went on Dilaudid right away. When I woke up yesterday no painkiller was needed. Yes, just like that.

I was quite tired all day — not the same as the enervating lassitude of Saturday (the worst day) — but a literal tiredness. Chemo, and the steroids, upsets my sleep cycle — I keep having to get up in the night, about every 90 mins-2 hours. I rest, but I don’t get the really good REM/dream sleep.

Last night I went down for a good 4-5 hours at a time. Heaven.

In other good news: I got the genetic test results back from my counselor. (OOPS. I never mentioned this. OK, upcoming post.)

For now: I am not mutated. I am normal. Seriously, this is the FIRST good health news I’ve gotten since late August. It is VERY good news.

Chemo #2

I’m on day 2 post-chemo #2 and its going about as expected.

First of all, a recap of the day. Had a great meeting with my oncologist — have I mentioned before how much I like him? I do, very much. He’s really happy with my progress and we’re feeling good about how this is all going.

We had drama this time during the actual session. My first vein tap (right wrist) was apparently right on top of a nerve, so it was very uncomfortable for me.  Even with the hypnotic work I’ve done fairly recently, I couldn’t re-tune the discomfort sufficiently. More worrying from the nurse’s POV, I developed a bright red patch in the skin about an inch all around the prick.

So we switched to the left forearm, which is where the first chemo had happened. Much better, no pain, all is well. But it set me back about an hour in terms of timing.

Then, much more dramatically, I had a very strong reaction to the Taxotere, which did not happen to me the first time.  I felt nauseous suddenly and then very hot, and apparently my face went bright red. Then I felt light-headed. Their response was immediate. I had two nurses drop everything and come over to me, my main lady turned the Taxotere off right away and they got a blood pressure cuff on me and an oxygen monitoring device as well. then they just backed off a bit and watched, checking in  on how I felt every minute or so. I stabilized almost immediately, which was a relief. My oncologist was there within 5 mins, too.

Apparently they thought they could lower my liquid steroid to 8mg (it was 20mg last time) but now we think that is too low. So they upped that and re-started me on the Taxotere and all went well.

My mom came in on Wed afternoon and I was still in chemo, I think that was a bit upsetting for her. She got to see the bald head and needles all at once. But what can you do?

That night we went for dinner — I’ve got good energy at first. I walked Sasha then, and also the next morning.  Thursday we went into the city and saw an exhibit of Alexander Calder’s works at the SAM as well as an exhibit of Imogen Cunningham’s photographs. Both were great exhibits and killed about 90 minutes of the day in a nice way. Then we got J. from work and went home. A nice dinner and a bit of TV, a walk with Sasha, and it was a lovely day.

Today I am tired. A bit light-headed, and the sore mouth thing is just starting. I’ll be starting my medicated mouthwash to (hopefully) stay ahead of that discomfort. No walk tonight, I bet. Probably not much other than TV and reading today. We’ll see.

Garden Walk!

Yesterday I got a chance to go outside with my camera and capture what is going on in my garden. It’s terribly exciting!

First of all, do you see this:

It’s a rosebud! One of three on the plant. So early in the season is really astonishing. It means that (relatively) soon, I’ll have sweet perfume again.

My Japanese Anemone made it through the winter and is blooming happily:


But this, THIS, is really exciting:

Those are BUDS on my Lilac bush. I thought my lilac dream was a goner, but no! We have hope once again!

My ivy plants are blooming:

and so are the tulips (a legacy from the previous owners):

It’s an exciting, colorful, time in the garden. It feels great.

Losing My Hair

First off: my fever broke Wed night. I took it easy yesterday, but am back to work today (tho’ likely not for the full day). Things are starting to get a bit critical and I’m needed on site.

Most importantly: on time, and unmistakably, I am losing my hair.

My advice for anyone who may read this because they are in a similar situation: if you think you are losing your hair, you aren’t.

My scalp has hurt for a few days, but that so easily could have been the fever. This morning I got up and into the shower and stepped under the water. Hands running through my hair pulled out bunches. Even though I was (sort of ) expecting this it was a very bad moment. A freak-out kind of moment.

I cut my hair short in expectation (dread) of this. I am so glad I did. Losing your hair is — and I recognize that this is entirely a me thing — losing your hair is MESSY. Seriously, it get s everywhere. Long hair would have been unbearable. Not because of the loss, but because I would have hair in my eyes ALL THE TIME or look down to see a clump just lying on my sleeve. Ugh.

Yes, this happened 30 mins ago. Mourning will occur later. For now, I am glad I listened to my intuition and prepared for this . . . I have so much hair it is going to take a bit for it all to go. I feel ‘safe’ going to work . . . but they’ll be surprised on Monday.

Astonishing Art

This video shows the winner of “Ukraine’s Got Talent”,  Kseniya Simonova, 24,  drawing a series of pictures on an illuminated sand table showing how ordinary people were affected by the German invasion during World War II.  Her talent, which absolutely defines ‘off beat’ is mesmeric to watch. The images, projected onto a large screen, moved many in the audience to tears and she won the top prize of about £75,000.

Kseniya Simonova’s Art

You can go and watch it and come back here to find out more about the images shown, or read this first. Either way, I promise you that you will not regret the eight minutes you give to this woman’s art.

  • She begins by creating a scene showing a couple sitting holding hands on a bench under a starry sky, but then warplanes appear and the happy scene is obliterated.
  • It is replaced by a woman’s face crying, but then a baby arrives and the woman smiles again. Once again war returns and Miss Simonova throws the sand into chaos from which a young woman’s face appears.
  • She quickly becomes an old widow, her face wrinkled and sad, before the image turns into a monument to an Unknown Soldier.
  • This outdoor scene becomes framed by a window as if the viewer is looking out on the monument from within a house.
  • In the final scene, a mother and child appear inside and a man standing outside, with his hands pressed against the glass, saying goodbye.

The Great Patriotic War, as it is called in Ukraine, resulted in one in four of the population being killed. In real terms, this was nearly 11 million deaths. I was struck as much by her music choices (and recognized the final song).