Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Report from the Front

As Polly is currently asleep in an ICU unit in the Virginia Hospital Center, it falls on me to post the update. If my prose isn't as snappy and delightful as I'd usually compose, I hope you'll forgive me, as I've spent most of the day watching soap operas and staring at a screen that took great delight in informing me over and over that my wife was STILL in the OR.

Polly is doing well. The surgery took 9 hours in all. The mastectomy itself took around an hour and a half, and dreamy Dr Weintrit was pleased with how it went.

Good news to go along with his positive assessment - the Sentinel Node biopsy came back clean, which is a positive indicator that there is NO cancer in Polly's lymph nodes. Yay! That's a great sign that we did indeed catch the cancer as early as we thought and that it hasn't spread past her breast.

Dr. Venturi was similarly positive about his section of the surgery when he came out to talk with us. We didn't have an extensive conversation, but after 7 and a half hours of surgery behind him, I was more than happy to get the thumbs up and let the man go home.

Polly was awake when I went back to see her in the ICU, but very groggy. I doubt she'll remember our conversation but she was at least lucid and clearly not in any pain. One thing I found interesting: since she's going to be immobile for a while, they have her legs encased in special wraps that pump the skin and muscle to ensure that no blood clots happen. They say they'll try to get her up and walking as early as tomorrow. She pretty much wanted to go to sleep, so our visit was short, enough for a kiss and an "I love you." and a big sigh of relief that everything seemed to go so well.

On a final note, my thanks to the wonderful nursing and cancer staff at Virginia Hospital Center, they were fantastic throughout the whole day.

More tomorrow if I get the chance. Good night!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

On the Eve of My Masectomy...Some FYIs

By the time most of you read this, I should be out cold and in surgery. Sentinel Node Biopsy is a 8am and surgery is at 9am, EST.

I am assured by the really cool breast care nurse, Jean, that the biopsy is "not going to lie to you, it's unpleasant." Which I figure is nurse-talk for "Damn that hurts!!!" And I'm awake for it. Goody. Pain and no breakfast....starting to sound suspiciously like childbirth.

We have to be to the hospital at 6am. Let me put that in bold, so you can figure out my opinion-6am. At least I don't have to do anything after that...

Just wanted everyone to know that despite the miscarriage in January, Elizabeth's constant stream of colds and ear infections culminating in tubes, putting a cat down, and THE CANCER, it really hasn't been such a bad year. I've had worse, Hello, Adolescence!!!

Seriously, I've had some really wonderful and interesting experiences this year that I wouldn't trade. While I don't view breast cancer as a "bump in the road of life;(the bump will be reduced to a cute "C" or "D" cup tomorrow), I haven't stopped filling my life with joy, when possible.

Night, guys. See you tomorrow!! (Or Thursday, whichever one has a more sentinent me.)

Why You Shoud Never "Just Say Nothing" If You Don't Know What to Say

Just had this discussion with my MIL, Betsy.

I certainly know the old Miss Manner's piece of advice:

"If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything."

While this certainly is a good adage to follow if you are upset at someone, this is wholly inapropriate to someone with cancer. Why?

Because saying nothing can be taken as a rejection and/or distancing of oneself from the person with cancer.

Just tell them you don't know what to say.

What to Say (And Not Say) to Premenopausal Women with Breast Cancer

I get many wonderful, heartfelt, and most importantly, funny, things said to me about my breast cancer.

Here are the things I like:

1. "I'm sending good vibes/healthy thoughts you way."

I really appreciate this. Not on a New Age or politically correct basis, but on a truth basis. If I know you are either an athesist or agnostic, it is really weird to hear that you are praying for me. It's a "Hail Mary" pass, in the truest sense of the phrase. (I merit a suspension of your religious beliefs?)

2. "I'm praying for you." I DO LIKE THIS. If you are a believer, any kind of believer, I appreciate it.

3. "What kind of meal can I bring you?" This is a direct action offer. I know what kind of help you can give; you know that I might not be up to my normal gourmet-cooking status.

4. "Do you need help with cleaning your house/gardening?" Haven't heard this one yet, but there is always hope. AND THE ANSWER IS ALWAYS YES.

5. "Let me know what I can do to help." OK, let me clarify the problem with this-it's great to want to help me. A better way to put is to give an exact suggestion, i.e. like, "Let me do your laundry."

Things Not Say to Someone with Cancer

1. "The Lord Giveth and the Lord Taketh Away." I got that from a lady at the grocery store. (I talk to people in line; so sue me.)

Um..I'm not quite sure what to do with that one. The Lord gave me a breast and is taking away. OK. See that. But then He is also giving me a new one, made of abdominal fat and tissue. Does this mean the Lord giveth and taketh away my love handles? I'm a little confused here.

2. "Everything happens for a reason." Even if you believe this, it's one of the worst things you can say. CJ & company were with my at Hooter's for my "Farewell to My Ta-Ta" outing last Saturday night and this is what our very nice waitress said.

I just really wanted my spicy boneless buffalo wings, not a debate on fate, predestination, karma, etc. Especially since my response to this theory is usually: "Really, everything happens for a reason? Is that why children get kidnapped and raped? Thanks for clearing that up."

3. Which brings me to #3. If you don't know what to say to someone with cancer, any kind of cancer, it's OK to tell them, "I don't know what to say that will be comforting." In fact, I've never met anyone, of any age/generation, that didn't appreciate emotional honesty on this subject.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Oink Alert!! How Swine Flu is Already Knocking Me Down

Oh, H1N1 vaccine. You elude me like a football does Charlie Brown. Just am I close to finding a vax clinic I'm eligible for, it gets canceled.

Now, I'm not a particulary germ-phobic person. I was raised by a mother who....Let Me Eat Raw Cookie Dough! And batter! I have tried to pass on this noble activity to the next generation but have thwarted by Samonella. (Don't worry, Eleni. I always made sure the kids didn't lick the spoon when I was your nanny.)

But as I am about to have pretty serious surgery, I will suck it up and get the shot. (Or the nose spray; I'm not going to be picky.)

The other reasons I'm fairly irritated by swine flu are the new visitor restrictions that all DC-Metro Area hospitals are adopting. No child under 18, even siblings. (Which really sucks for folks in the Maternity Ward, too.)  Virginia Hospital Center H1N1 Visitor Policy

I can't have Elizabeth visit me in the hospital. It's depressing the hell out of me. But I understand. She goes to preschool. Which, next to public bathrooms at any mall at Christmas-time, is the filthiest, germ-iest, place on Earth.

I worry about how she will handle my absence. Yes, we plan to Skype. Still not as good as hugs.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


I'm heading out to the plastic surgeon this morning for our last appointment before surgery. Dr. Venturi will measure me, take photos (LIVE!! NUDE!! BOOBIES!!)

I have a bunch of questions about what can be done:

1. How much will the new one weigh? I know this a weird question but in the words of Bubbles on the old BBC series, Absolutely Fabulous, I've been living with "great, big, pendulous breasts," since high school. I already have back problems and was planning on getting the "girls" reduced after my final spawn issues forth.

2. Will the newbie be perkier? Really, if I'm giving up all the nerves and sense of feeling in my breast, I'd better be getting something this points up in return. (I think of it kind of like  children's bakery birthday cakes-the inside isn't that interesting but the outside looks great. Especially when covered with those impossible-to-eat rosettes.)

3. Yes, the new one will be smaller. Like a cup size smaller. (Since it was already bigger than rightie, is not a problem.) Oh, and I did figure out that they will not match after surgery. I BE SMART THAT WAY.
But I want them to match under clothes, bathing suits, or wearing a bra.

4. Can Dr. Venturi make the new one jiggle like the current model? I don't want it move like the heavily-implanted porn stars. Which means, not at all. Creepy.

5. My last and totally selfish question: Does this mean I need all new bras now?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Breast Cancer + Cat Euthanasia= Bad Karma?

With all of the other crapola I've had life dump on me lately, killing my kitty was the one I was the least prepared for.

My cat, Lilith, was almost 11 years old. She's always been a fat kitty, from the day we adopted her from the animal shelter.

She finally went into full-blown diabetes these past months. Lilith left no carpet un-peed upon in our house. (CJ's basement area rug is taking an extended vacation outside until enough Nature's Miracle kills the remaining "Men's Bathroom in a Stadium" smell.)

The vet-suggested insulin treatment course for Lilith would have only extended her life for a little while; and the chances of her going into insulin shock would get very high if we started her on it and then, due to cancer/chemo circumstances beyond our control, weren't home in time to give her the next injection.

The decision to put her down was not one that I felt I could make by myself right now (Thank you, CJ. You are a rock.) I just keep wondering if this will come back to bite me on the butt in the Karma sense...

Friday, October 9, 2009

Shrooms for Cancer!!

Cancer clinical studies are interesting. I wonder who comes up with these ideas. Take for instance, the study that Johns Hopkins is doing, named, "Psychopharmacology of psilocybin in cancer patients" , in which "Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine is seeking volunteers with a diagnosis of cancer who are experiencing anxious or depressed mood to participate in a scientific study of states of consciousness brought about by the entheogen psilocybin, a psychoactive substance found in mushrooms used as a sacrament in some cultures, given in a comfortable, supportive setting."

YES!!! 'Shrooms for Cancer!!! I like the idea that I can eat a 'shroom and trip in a "comfortable, supportive setting." What does that mean? I start having a bad trip and there is someone with me, patting my hand and murmuring, "It's OK. You really aren't being chased by an army of women, in pink, demanding money."

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Most Breast Cancer Books Have Stupid Covers

Finding a fresh, funny/unique approach to any non-medical study book written about breast cancer is about as easy as finding a condolence/sympathy card without sunsets, flowers, or shells.

It's a bewildering marketing wilderness of pink (ooooh....shocker.), flowers, and women's bodies (which are either pre or post surgery.) How can you judge a book by it's cover when they are all the same covers?

Granted, many people do not have the tongue-in-cheek sense of humor about breast cancer that I write about in this blog. (Or my artistic love for all things Edward Gorey.)

I'm thinking something along the lines of the the Grim Reaper getting it's butt kicked or a Grim Reaper Whack-a-Mole for a cancer book cover....

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Evil Ways to Have Fun When You Have Breast Cancer-Part 2

Ha! I thought of a few more..

1. When people lower their voice and ask sympathically, "How are you?" Respond with, "You wouldn't believe how having the Clap burns!! I really dred going to the bathroom. OH!!! Wait! You meant THE CANCER?!?"

2. You can also cough delicately into your hand a la consumption. "It's THE CANCER. Ha! Kidding!!"

3. When people ask if you are bothered by the fact that having chemo might reduce your ability to have children, respond with, "But that's the great thing about being bald, frail-looking, and at the hospital all the time. No one would ever suspect you are planning to swipe a few babies from the Maternity Ward. I can scope out the ones that look good."

I'm looking for some more evil (pronounced E-Vile) suggestions to have fun when you have breast cancer. Just submit them via "Comment."

Evil Ways to Have Fun When You Have Breast Cancer-Part 1

What can I say? I have somewhat sadistic sense of humor.

1. Ask people who are enjoying a cigarette for a smoke, then tell them you have breast cancer.

2. Have a "Save the My Ta-tas" Farewell party at Hooter's. Make sure every person in the party wears a "Good-bye to My Breast-The Masectomy Tour 2009" T-shirt to the bar.

3. After losing your hair due to chemo, forgo the wigs, hats, and scarves. Wear horns like this instead. Especially when picking your kid up from preschool.

If you are uncomfortable with this option, there is always the ski-mask look. Going into retail shops and the bank might be a problem, though.

4. Stuck at the hospital for your masectomy on Halloween? Dress-up as the Grim Reaper. Make sure to wander the halls with your scythe, offering to do any reaping. "It's a Mr. Death, dear. He's here about the reaping." 

5. Wear Lipstick to Your Masectomy?  Go one better and freak out your surgical team. Crotch-less panties make a nice alternative. They won't know until after you are out cold.

6. Show up to your chemotherapy session sporting a marijuana leaf T-shirt like this. Of couse, I like this one, too.

I think bumper stickers on your car would work just as well. Just put on a pink ribbon Breast Cancer sticker and a medical marijuana sticker. Roll down the windows, crank up the Bob Marley and Grateful Dead when driving through nice, suburban neighborhoods.

7. Make sure the your chemo tech catches you reading  Final Exit.

If I can think of any more, I'll post a Part Two. Until then, have fun!!

Negative for the Breast Cancer Gene!! Darwin Would Be Proud...

Yay!! I don't have to worry about Elizabeth's gene pool!! Or not adding to my own by spawning again..

My  awfully expensive (and fully covered under my health insurance!!) BRCA-1 and BRCA-2 tests for the genetic mutation that can predispose a woman or man (yeah, you read that right. It happens.) to develop breast cancer were negative.

Which I figured as the first person on either side of my family to develop breast cancer.

What does this mean?

1. Elizabeth's chances of developing breast cancer are lowered.
2. My chances of having a reoccurance of breast cancer on the right side are lessened. Otherwise, a double masectomy would have been suggested.

Oh-and sorry for not updating sooner. It's been a heck of a week, in the non-cancer sense.