A recipe for living with cancer.

Archive for November, 2012

Dandelion Cancer and Medical GPS

When I saw the tumor on the mammogram for the very first time it reminded me of a dandelion, round with kind of furry wispy edge all around innocuous enough but deadly. And ironically if you do not pull up a dandelion completely by its roots and kill it–before the flower turns into the white poof ball–a little giggle, a slight touch, a bird doing a low fly by knocks it, or best of all my grandkids picking them and blowing as hard as they can….and that poof ball is out spreading dandelions everywhere in the neighborhood. Cancer is similar, kill it or pull it out before it spreads.   Any leftover seeds or root pieces a little pesticide takes care of that dandelion….cancer longterm chemo and radiation to kill that.

My surgery has been scheduled in January so today I am going through a battery of tests, mammo, ultrasound, MRI and ct scan to see where I am and give the surgeons and docs a roadmap.  Medical GPS if you will.

I was pretty optimistic going in today with a “you are doing awesome” from my last oncology PA exam.  She had trouble finding the the tumor during the exam and in my lala land brain I envisioned it minute,  1/10th the size or less, on it’s way to extinction and the surgery is just sweeping up the crumbs (food reference!). I got my mammogram and although not “scheduled” they decided to do an ultrasound. No worries I half expected that would be the case.

I asked questions during the ultrasound and told them it was 2.7 cm originally and how did it look now.  “it’s smaller,” said the Fellow, but I wanted to know HOW much smaller. Click, click, click as he moved the slimy cold wand around on my breast.  Finally he told me 1.3cm.  What?!  1.3? You sure?   I expected a response more like, “hmmm really to small to measure, I can see it but tiny…”

Then I had to lie there and ask myself what exactly were my expectations from chemo…actually I expected it to ideally disappear, or be a shrinky dink and curl up to nothing.  Based on what information, you ask,  NONE, i never asked that question- what can I expect the chemo to do to the tumor size?   I was somewhat devastated, the questions swirled, does this mean more chemo, does this guarantee radiation, had the chemo not worked, crap do all my lymph nodes have to come out?  Did I go through all that to get a 50% reduction in the tumor…..yikes we can fall off the mental cliff really fast.  I didn’t bother to ask the radiologist, they won’t have the answer that is a surgeon and oncologist answer. I will see them both in two weeks and ask much BETTER questions.

Then a stupid over sight by the staff completely changed my focus from all these questions and turned it to a staffing issue in the unit.  After talking with the unit coordinator and detailed what had happened I completely calmed down and moved on.

I now wait for the MRI and CT scan and have restored my calm.  The chemo did exactly what it was supposed to do, get rid of much of the cancer cells.   Until they remove all the tissue and look at it they/we won’t know what the MRI, CT scan and ultrasound show.  Is all the tissue dead, is it just debris at the center, the pathology is the only thing that can answer those questions.  And I guess if like the dandelion, we didn’t get the root we will just have to work on it some.  I remind myself I have surgery, possibly radiation, a year of herceptin infusions and 5 years of the estrogen blocking drug.  So the chemo was just the beginning and  Medical GPS will tell us more and I will move on to the next phase!

 

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Each Day a Blessing

I was reminded today of how lucky I am and how each day is a blessing.  A friends sister in law died quite unexpectedly last week and I was stopped in my tracks.  She was not ill that we know of, she was an integral part of the family’s life and business and she just passed.

Each day is a blessing and I hope not to forget this moving forward.  Many times a tragic accident or illness or death reminds us how lucky we are to be among the living, to wake each day enjoy the sunshine, blue skies, rain or snow, but to be in the moment.  We try to hold on to this feeling as long as we can, this appreciation for things we more often than not take for granted, wishing time away, being miserable in a situation or just not taking the time to be thankful. We usually hold on to this for a few weeks, sometimes a few months but most of us then get mired back into the minutia of life, the trials and tribulations, the complaints, the complacency and the everyday hassles of work, family and life.  I don’t want to lose it this time.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and millions of us will sit around tables groaning with food surrounded by friends and family and outwardly give thanks for all that we have.  We will stuff ourselves silly and moan about eating to much and not having any self control and later on sneak back into the kitchen for another bite of stuffing or pie, or perhaps even a sandwich with all the goodies piled high.
I hope to hold on to this thanks, this realization I am blessed each day to open my eyes and spend time with those I love, to experience, enjoy and appreciate.  I find I am rising above the pains and aches of this last round of chemo.  I am getting up and doing things and the fatigue be damned, the itching and pain so what, the numbness-phooey, the kids are calling me a rock star, I call it  the end of one journey.  I don’t have to anticipate any more of the infusions, I don’t have to fear the pain and side effects because in three weeks they will be gone, I don’t have to stay awake the night before an infusion anxious about the blood test, the exam and the IV, I don’t have to put on a happy face and joke and be positive about the poison flowing into my veins…I can just be.

Everything may not taste right tomorrow, I may get a bit of indigestion, I may be exhausted after I bone the turkey and make the stuffing.  But I am here, I am alive, I am fighting breast cancer and I am thankful, each day is a blessing.

I wish you all (all 18 of you who read my blog!) a happy and healthy Thanksgiving, filled with joy and family and may the peace and warmth you find tomorrow continue with you each and every day.

Laughter is the BEST

Tomorrow is my last “killer” chemo

And all I chose to do is laugh.

I’ve cried and worried, feared and prayed

While traveling down this path.

 

As this portion comes to a close

And the steps next loom ahead-

I breathe a sigh and “gird my loins”

And leave the fears unsaid.

 

Watch a funny video with me and laugh.  Laughter is by far the best medicine.

 

When I Feel Better I am Making These!

As soon as I feel better, I am making these!!!

Vegan Chocolate Walnut Biscotti

A slightly dry, crisp recipe from Recipezaar.

Time: 59 min | 10 min prepYield: 24 Slices

Ingredients:

1/2 cup margarine, softened

2/3 cup sugar

1/4 cup cocoa powder

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 cup applesauce

 

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour

1/2 cup white flour

 

1 cup chopped walnuts

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Grease a cookie sheet and set aside.

Beat the softened margarine with a fork until it has a creamy consistency.

Stir in all of the ingredients, leaving the flour and walnuts for last.

Shape the dough into two approximately 9” long rolls.

Place these rolls about 3” apart on the greased cookie sheets and flatten them until they are about 3” to 4” wide and 1½” thick.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center of the biscotti comes out clean.

Let the biscotti cool completely, and remove it from the cookie sheet.

Turn the oven down to 325 degrees F.

Re-grease the cookie sheet.

Cut the long biscotti rolls widthwise into ½” strips.

Place the biscotti strips on the cookie sheet, cut side down, and bake for about 7 minutes.

Turn the biscotti over and bake for another 7 minutes.

Cool completely.

The Rare Purple Owl

The rare purple owl in Jackson, WY recently seen trick or treating.  If this peanut doesn’t keep me going on chemo…she was here for a week and was more restorative than anything.  Between she, Zelda and Oz and the kids, friends, I am a very lucky lady…Tom and Sophie too!

16 Hours in the Hospital

In the mass of paperwork and information ones receives during chemotherapy is a pesky checklist:  drink fluids, eat, ,take meds, nail care, skin care, bowel care, fatigue, avoid this, avoid that, eat lightly, blah blah blah oh…and if your temp goes over 100 degrees call your doctor’s office immediately and get to the hospital.  That last one is the one I desperately wanted to avoid at ALL costs, the very last place you want to be when on chemo is in the hospital, you can catch things and get sick there!

Sunday night our wonderful friends Marge and Rich came in from New Jersey to help out.  Tom was going away and they agreed to come and take care of me during my bad week.  They live on the Jersey shore so the timing was perfect, they could sit out the storm at our house at the same time, two birds one stone.

Sunday was a tough day during which I could barely manage to get out of bed, but Taxetere comes with fatigue so I was not concerned.  Tom  was concerned and got out an old thermometer…100.6, CRAP.  Long and the short of it I ended up in the ER at 7:30 on Sunday night with an IV of saline in my arm awaiting the results of blood tests.    My white counts were high, infection, but  there were no symptoms or indications where or what the infection might be.  They admitted me and at 2 am I was poked and prodded and examined by a doc and then at 3 am I was drained of copious amounts of blood to see if they could “grow” anything, and at 4 am they game me a broad spectrum antibiotic through the IV.  By the by I never had a fever in the hospital, none of the 14 times they took it along with my blood pressure.  Think we need a new thermometer??

Oh yes I was getting rest and healthy in the hospital, ha!

By 8:30 am the attending physician came in and said, “can’t find any infection, must be a blip, a virus, and your white count is coming back down so how about we send you home.”  I was home by 11 am.

My goal was to get through chemo therapy without making a visit to the ER.  I didn’t reach that goal but only 16 hours in the hospital, that will do!!

One more infusion, I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.

Thanksgiving will be very special this year, I will be giving thanks for life, for family, friends and relations and for only spending 16 hours in the hospital during chemo therapy…only one more to go!!!

I Can Pinch My Hair

 

This is a photo from the Grodanz Wedding.  There is Stuart with not a hair on his head, Ang far right with just a little growth, me in the turquoise with a shiny head and Stu’s sister Ellen with a bit more hair.  A handsome quartet of minimal hair!!!

Everyone keeps telling me my hair is growing back. They all say, “wow look at all the fuzz” and I just look in the mirror and don’t see much of anything. Then last night I was sitting there rubbing my head as I oft do now and I tried to pinch the hair. Until now I couldn’t pinch a thing, there was a small growth of stubble but nothing more to indicate the hair is actually GROWING. Last night I grabbed hair I actually got a grip and pinched my hair. What a revelation — it is actually growing back. I rushed into the bathroom and got the magnifying mirror and yes there is a smooth even fur all over my head. If it could just keep me warm…

Having no hair has been a life altering experience. I jump in the shower shampoo my scalp jump out, get dressed and I am ready to go. No bad hair days, no worries about hat head, no scheduling haircuts or dye appointments, no cost, no hair in the sink, in the drain, in the brush or in the eyes, no hair stuck in bands, no blustery day hair, no hairdo ruined from rain or snow. I love it. The downside is I am cold. Sitting in the house if the heat is not high enough I walk around with a cap or a hood. Going out without something on my head now is unthinkable, to cold. Not only cold but even if I wear a hat the cold goes right down my back.

Doesn’t matter, none of it, because I can pinch my hair!

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