Wednesday, December 1, 2010

My Grandmother's Christmas Tree

Here is a picture of my favorite decoration. It was my Grandmother Antonides. She made it in the ceramic class that everyone's grandmother was required to take in the late 1960s. (Speaking of which, I still want the popcorn bowl set she made in the class. It's among the missing from my parent's move from my childhood home.) 

My Grandmother's Christmas Tree

My grandmother made three trees. One for my mom, one for my aunt, and one for herself. Good thing, too. There are three Antonides grandchildren; one for each of us. 

I inherited the one she made for herself. Unfortunately, it needed more than just a spit-n-polish cleaning. The base was shattered. 

CJ, my hero, spent hours with a bottle of Krazy Glue and put it all back together. I had a new plug and light bulb base put in so that it wouldn't catch fire.

Note the cracks running through the base and the small hole near the light bulb.

Fully restored, ready to be Elizabeth's favorite decoration someday.

"Bring On the Christmas!!"

This is how CJ describes my instant attitude transformation after towards Christmas right after Thanksgiving dinner is over.

I don't like hearing Christmas music until after Thanksgiving.  I feel that proper attention is not paid to Thanksgiving if I listen to it beforehand. I'm cheesed that one of the DC radio stations started playing Christmas music two weeks before Thanksgiving. Especially since I just KNOW that the station will stop playing holiday music at noon on Christmas Day. Which annoys me the most. It's like saying, "Well. Done with that holiday. No more money to be made off of people. Let's get back to playing easy listening."

But since Thanksgiving is over.....I'm busting out the decorations!!!!!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Ooops! I Didn't Blog About My 6 Year Wedding Anniversary

This does not mean, however, that CJ and I didn't celebrate it. We did. I did not have time to post because I spent most of the 17th of July in my car, with my mom and Elizabeth, driving to Ludington, Michigan. We met up with CJ, my dad, Andy, and John. (Who got to fly to Michigan, lucky bastards. I especially appreciated Andy texting me pictures of his time that day spent in the First Class lounge for Delta in Detroit, enjoying free mimosas and Bloody Marys. Grr.......)

CJ and I did get to go out for an anniversary dinner that night. Andy and John came with us and my parents babysat Elizabeth.

We enjoyed dinner but the after-dinner drinks were more fun! A nice, relaxing time. Thank you, Blu Moon! The food was much better and for the quality, the innovation and price were just right. (I dislike mainstream American seafood and steak places that deliver basic, OK-tasting food and expect to be paid a small fortune.)

CJ and I have been together.....are you ready? FOR 13 YEARS!!! Dating 7, married 6. Eeek!!

Here is the closing prayer we had read at our wedding. It says everything, perfectly.

Now you will feel no rain,
for each of you will be shelter for the other.
Now you will feel no cold,
for each of you will be warmth for the other.
Now there is no more loneliness.
Now you are two persons,
but there is only one life before you.
May your days together be good and long
upon the earth.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

It Will Be a Year This Friday That I Was Diagnosed

So, I'm going to change this blog to be more inclusive of life. Makes sense, since there is more to life than having or living through cancer. (I don't think the word, "survivor" is accurate. At least not until the cancer patient dies of something else.)

Plus, I'm lazy. If I don't start blogging about daily things here, I'll never get round to doing it anywhere else.

As for the anniversary....I still maintain my "You've got Cancer!" (I always think of it in the tones of AOL's famous, "You've Got Mail!" voice) moment will never be a Lifetime movie. I said, "Fuck!" too many times. And while I found my mom's reaction to hearing I had breast cancer almost comical (hey-don't judge me. It was 11:30am and had been a long day already. Crying and hiding in the bathroom so Elizabeth wouldn't be scared, calling CJ at work and Jo at home. Long day.)

Polly: "Mom, my gyno just called back with biopsy results. I've got breast cancer."
Mom: "NO!"
Polly: "Yes; now I've..(interrupted)
Mom: "NO!"
Polly: "Yes. Do you think you could (interrupted again)
Mom: "NO!!!!!!!"
Polly: "Yes."
Mom: "NO!"
Polly: OK, this is getting us no where. I. HAVE. CANCER. Can you hurry up with Denial phase and just move to Anger?"
Mom: "I'm coming right over." (hangs up and is at my house in 20 minutes.)

It had to have been one of the stranger weekends in my life. My parents spent all Friday, Saturday, and Sunday with CJ, Elizabeth, and I. Took us out for dinner, went to our pool, etc. I kept feeling like everyone was watching me, like they were waiting for the Big Emotional Cancer Breakdown or something equally mushy. Drama, I'm good with-mushy, not so much. (At least to anyone over the age of 4!)

My first phone calls to spread the Un-happy news were to CJ, at work, and Jo, at home in Minnesota.
CJ said, "Oh, shit." I quite concur-it really was an OSM. (Oh Shit Moment.) He snapped into asking questions about the biopsy and said he was coming home immediately. I can't remember if I was crying then. I think CJ was trying to do three thing at once:

1. Not freak in his office
2. Comfort his wife, over a phone
3. Try to start getting cancer/medical stuff DONE!

I'm sure he wanted to indulge in a momentary mini-breakdown. I wouldn't have blamed him. But he's CJ. He keeps it together, asks the right questions, and come home immediately and made me fresh, homemade crabcakes.

You never really think you'll be putting those marriage vows of "in sickness and in health" to use so soon. To put it simply; he is the best person I know and the best decision I've ever made.

I called Jo next. I think that's when I started crying. Told my BF and sobbed, "Will you come out if I have to have surgery?" (sob! sniffle!) I felt so much better-there didn't seem to be a moment of hesitation-"Of course, I'll come!!" Thank you again, so much.

The hardest "I've Got Cancer" phone calls were to my mom (see above) because I knew I would have to emotionally take care of her and I was feeling already overextended; and to my friend, Bill. Because his father died from cancer back in 2005. I get the feeling (and I could be wrong-it does happen occasionally!) that people who lose someone they loved to cancer have more of a visceral reaction to your cancer news. It ain't pretty. And they know it-they have a better idea than most people in the world of what you'll be facing. They ask the more pointed and specific questions right off the bat.

I still just feel horrible for calling Bill on his vacation. I remember that when I finally got in touch with him, he was giving his kids a bath. I said, "I was just diagnosed with breast cancer today." And quiet, except the splashing of Lilibet and Charlotte in the water.

Made it through the horrible (because after a while, I was just exhausted from having to repeat/relieve the story of my diagnosis yet AGAIN) phone calls.

Told my in-laws. Knew right away that Betsy would be do everything she could and would take care of Elizabeth for us during surgery. She did more than that-she kept my child HAPPY, in a truly crappy time. I can never thank her enough.

Good. I've now recorded it for Posterity. Now I can move along to this year.

I'm hoping that this year brings:

1. No cancer return trips. Gee, I think that's a given.
2. I'd like to have another baby, when my Herceptin is finished in December. We can start trying in March.
3. My long hair. I want it back.

Peace, prosperity, health. You know the drill.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

I Want a New Drug

In the words of the famous 80's singer, Huey Lewis. I'm having sleep problems. "Brought to you by the cancer wonder-drug, Tamoxifen!!"" Tamoxifen is an antiestrogen.  Antiestrogens bind to estrogen receptor site on cancer cells thus blocking estrogen from going into the cancer cell.  This interferes with cell growth and eventually leads to cell death."

That's all well and good but I wake up like clockwork at 3am, too hot to sleep. It's not a hot flash-I'm just perpetually warmer. 

I'm taking Black Cohosh to reduce the symptoms. Nothing is happening. So, I talked to my oncologist about it. She prescribed Rozerum, a sleeping med. Well, NOW I'm tired. At 3am, I was hot and awake. Bummer. 

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Two New Cancer Articles to Scare the Poop Out of You

I'm not surprised, in the middle of the recession, that this is occuring. "Study: Millions of Cancer Survivors Put Off Care."

But the second article really got me thinking. Especially since I already have "issues" with estrogen on account of the PCOS. My Inconvenient Truth Sense is tingling...... is it all connected? Or did I just have too much coffee this morning?

BPA Exposure Much Higher in Canned Food Than Plastic Containers

So, I'm not buying Diet Coke in cans anymore. In fact, I'm now totally paranoid and trying to avoid using canned food unless necessary. (Which is really unfortunate, as canned food is cheap. And I've never seen sweetened condensed milk in a carton.)

Why the sudden healthy hissy-fit?

BPA and Breast Cancer Link

Now, I realize it's a day late and a dollar short to prevent me from getting breast cancer. But, gee, I'd sure as heck like to stop it from making a return trip. And I'd like Elizabeth and any future children to have less of chance of getting it.

Thus, my spaghetti-O boycott begins...

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

One Headlight....and Other Cancer Fashion Decisions

You know, like the Jakob Dylan song from the 90's. Only I'm talking nipples. Tonight at my Breast Cancer support group I found out that I have the reconstruction option (when the time comes) to either have a new nipple created by either a tattoo or a skin graft. The skin graft option leaves you permanently "on," or your breast is constantly thinking you are in the frozen food aisle of the grocery store with just a tank top.

I have no idea what I'll decide to do. I'm still trying to figure out what to do about my hair.

Now, as I've said, I didn't lose all of it. But I lost enough that it is looking scraggly. Especially below the ears. So, should I buzz it off or just Mia Farrow it? Sorry to go against conventional wisdom (but since I do it all the time anyhow) but I think I'll just chop it short. Why? I've had a bob before, back in the early 90s. My best friend looked at it and asked, "Are you trying to look butch?" Actually, no, I wasn't. And to be politically correct, butch is A.OK. with me. And my friend. But since I am a girly-type person when it comes to make-up, fashion, my friend was doing her best Miss Manners to let me know that that look wasn't working for me.

I was going for Louise Brooks. Clearly, not what it ended up looking like on me. Sigh.

This is why I fear the Short (or is it Shorn?) Haircut on me. Cancer really doesn't do much for your looks to begin with-and I think I got off easy by the fact I had already decided to have the girls reduced. Lefty is much more manageable now. And so darn perky!! But the rest of cancer doesn't help. I didn't even lose weight from chemo. I gained 5 lbs. from the steroids. Life is cruel. Actually, life wasn't cruel-people are weird. They can't reconcile plus size, young women as chemo patients. We don't "look" the part. I guess my life will never be a Lifetime for Women movie. (This and many other reasons. The first being my response when told by my Gyn that my biopsy had come back positive. Instead of the typical Lifetime music playing in the background and the dignified sniffle and welling tears, I sounded pissed and said, "Oh, SHIT." And some other four letter words.)

I don't want to look any uglier than I have to-so, I'm avoiding the buzz cut. I'll post what it looks like when I get it done. For now, I have my uber-expensive, hand-tied, European human hair wig to keep me looking good and feeling itchy. (I just tell people it's a bad case of head lice when I scratch in public.)

Possible Breast Cancer Vaccine?

Crossing my fingers on this one!! (No, not for me.) For Elizabeth.

US Developed Vaccine Could "Eliminate Breast Cancer"

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Cancer Transmitted to Man Through Transplant

Or, why I'm not allowed to be an organ donor or blood donor anymore.

I wonder if I should have my driver's license changed?

Admittedly, this is a bizarre case.

NY Man's Kidney Transplant Gave Him Uterine Cancer

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

When You Didn't Lose All Your Hair, How Do You Know When It's Growing Back?

Everyone tells me I should see some peach-fuzz but how? Especially since I keep my hair colored? (Yeah, I am that vain. I do use vegetable-based hair color so I don't kill my hair.)

I Wore the Wig...And Prefer Being Little of Hair

I wore the tre-expensive wig  for CJ's office party. (The party was supposed to take place at Christmas time but was postponed due to the Snowpocalypse '09.)

Sorry, I just got tired of having very thin hair. I feel like my high-school English teacher, Mr. Letnitch. That man had the most interesting way of arranging his comb-over.

Hey-I can pin it up or back, but face it. The old grey mare she ain't what she used to be.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

"It is Finished."

My chemo, that is. Twelve weeks of weekly infusions of Taxol and Herceptin, with lots of lovely pre-meds.  Now I just have a year of Herceptin, which is a hormonal therapy. I'll be getting infusions of Herceptin every three weeks.

The season of Ostara, Passover, and Easter is especially poignant to me this year. New beginnings for me because of Divine Intervention (in the form of an early mammogram and my raging hypochondria.) I have been Blessed.

Blessings come with responsibilities; I must remember to humble and grateful, else I waste what was given to me from Above. I take inspiration from Jo-perseverance, Kristen K.-remember to be humble, and Jess's tatoo of the old Shaker song, "Tis a gift to be simple, tis a gift to be free."

By the way, when my mom took me home from chemo yesterday, I had a surprise waiting at home. CJ and Elizabeth had filled the living room with pink balloons and blue crepe streamers!!!! The loves of my life!!

Sorry for the unusually soggy and uber-sentimental nature of the this post.

OK-now I'm off to garden, heal, and grow back the half of my hair that did fall out.  

Friday, March 26, 2010

Study Confirms Pregnancy Safe for Breast Cancer Survivors

Woo-hoo! It's official. Pregnancy is safe for breast cancer survivors!

BARCELONA, Spain - Women who survive breast cancer and have childrenafterwards don't appear to be at any higher risk of dying from cancer, a new study says.
Doctors have long worried pregnancy might spark hormonal changes in breast cancer survivors that could spur the disease's return, and many breast cancer patients are counseled against getting pregnant after they recover.
In research presented Friday at a European breast cancer conference in Barcelona, experts said pregnancy in women who have been treated for breast cancer is safe and does not seem to be linked with the disease's recurrence.

Well, guess I know what we'll be doing a year from now....

So, Polly, How's Chemo Brain Treating You? fuzzy. But I really don't mind. (Must be a side-effect. That and not having a full-time job doing anything that requires precision.) Wheee......

Actually, so far it's not bad. I'm just....spacey. I think I seem anti-social when it hits. (Although, when it hits with fatigue, I do get pretty monosyllabic.)

Chemo brain makes everything fuzzy and OK.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

I Heart Steroids..on Saturdays

Ah...the day after chemo is steroid day. I'm totally hyper. So far this morning, I've de-molded CJ's shower, done laundry, cleaned two bathrooms. Next, I will be painting the front door. (Because we live in a HOA that has assigned colors for each house and it's a new door.)

I'm FINALLY going to put down my compost. (Now that the pile has un-frozen.)
The corn gluten is also going down on my front lawn, now that the snow is gone. (Natural way of avoiding the germination of new crabgrass.)

Now, let's see if I can get all of this done before the 'roids wear off.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Time vs. Hair

I seem to be in a race of time concerning my hair loss. I keep losing about 8-10 strands at one time-hey, you should see my hairbrush!!

I talked to my oncologist last week during my check-up about the hairloss. She was also surprised that I hadn't lost much hair but said that many people on Taxol only see thinning.

I have a theory on that-I AM HAIRY!!! Meaning, I have more than the usual amount of hair growing on my head. Whether due to genetics or the PCOS heightened androgen levels, who knows?

Am I freaked? Yes and no. I don't want to be bald. But at the same time, I find it curiously interesting-the process of chemotherapy and it's effects on my body, in a very abstract type of way. Kind of like how I viewed my changing body during pregnancy. I AM MY OWN SCIENCE EXPERIMENT.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Study, Part: How Does This Apply to Moi?

First, you really need to read the whole darn thing.

Second, I am not part of the first generation or second generation in the study.

I'm part of the third generation, participating through US Oncology, a national oncology firm that runs Fairfax Northern Virginia Hematology Oncology where I receive weekly Taxol-only chemo. I also receive Herceptin, but that is not chemo, it's hormonal therapy.

Here's what the first and second generation parts of the study have shown that has effected me:

Much has been learned about the optimum dose and schedule for administration of paclitaxel and docetaxel from trials in patients with advanced disease. CALGB 9342 demonstrated that increasing the paclitaxel dose above 175 mg/m2 every 3 weeks did not improve the response rate, time to progression, or overall survival.54 CALGB 9840 and the Anglo-Celtic IV trials established that paclitaxel 80 mg/m2 once per week was more effective than paclitaxel 175 mg/m2 every 3 weeks.55, 56 With regard to docetaxel, increasing the dose from 60 mg/m2 to 100 mg/m2 every 3 weeks was associated with an improved response rate and time to progression, at the expense of increased toxic effects.57 The TAX 311 trial by the US Oncology Group demonstrated that 100 mg/m2 docetaxel every 3 weeks was more effective than 175 mg/m2 paclitaxel.58
In the adjuvant setting, once-weekly paclitaxel at 80 mg/m2 or docetaxel every 3 weeks at 100 mg/m2 is superior to paclitaxel at 175 mg/m2 every 3 weeks following four cycles of AC.59 Two other studies by the MD Anderson and US Oncology groups also support the superiority of once-weekly paclitaxel over paclitaxel administration every 3 weeks. In the MD Anderson study, once-weekly paclitaxel followed by four cycles of FAC was associated with an increased pathologic complete response rate compared with paclitaxel 225 mg/m2 every 3 weeks followed by FAC (28% versus 16%).60 However, improvements in the pathologic complete response rate have not always been accompanied by a long-term benefit in DFS or overall survival.61 Similarly, the US Oncology Group trial demonstrated superior 5-year overall survival with doxorubicin and paclitaxel followed by once-weekly paclitaxel (AP→P1) compared with standard AC→P3 with paclitaxel administered every 3 weeks (90% versus 87%, HR 0.74, P = 0.04).62With regard to sequential or concurrent administration, the BIG 02-98 trial demonstrated an improvement in DFS with sequential but not concurrent administration of docetaxel and anthracycline therapy.47 Whether the timing of taxane therapy in relation to that of anthracyclines is important remains an open question, as most of the available sequential taxane trials administered a taxane following anthracycline therapy—the MDACC, FinHER and HORG trials are notable exceptions.

Here's the Study I'm In...

Taxanes: Optimizing Adjuvant Chemotherapy for Early Stage Breast Cancer

Please click on the link if you to read the study. This is just the abstract and key points.

Philippe L. Bedard, Angelo Di Leo & Martine J. Piccart-Gebhart  About the authors
Taxanes are among the most widely used chemotherapy agents for advanced breast cancer. Results are now available from 21 trials that randomly allocated nearly 36,000 women with early-stage breast cancer to receive first-generation taxane-based adjuvant chemotherapy versus non-taxane-based adjuvant regimens. Three recent meta-analyses suggest that taxanes are beneficial in the adjuvant setting, irrespective of the patient's age, lymph-node involvement, hormone-receptor expression, and HER2 status. Nevertheless, the optimal role for taxanes in the adjuvant management of early-stage breast cancer remains controversial. We review the results of the first-generation taxane trials and discuss possible explanations for the differences observed in these studies, including variation in the 'strength' of anthracycline therapy in the control arms; suboptimal timing, dosing, or schedule of the taxane regimen; a masking effect of trials that included patients with relatively chemotherapy-insensitive luminal A disease; and decreased representation of the putative taxane-sensitive disease subset. Inclusion criteria for future clinical trials must be revised to account for the molecular heterogeneity of breast cancer and further optimize the role of adjuvant taxane therapy in early-stage disease.
Key points
  • Recent advances in genomic profiling have highlighted the molecular heterogeneity of breast cancer and the differential responsiveness to chemotherapy according to molecular subtype
  • Cumulative anthracycline administration is associated with rare but serious long-term toxic effects
  • The activity of taxanes in metastatic disease, partial non-cross resistance with anthracyclines, and unique mechanism of action of these agents provide a rationale for evaluating taxanes in the adjuvant setting
  • Existing meta-analyses are limited and no clear conclusions regarding the efficacy of taxanes in various patients subgroups can be drawn
  • Determination of ER or HER2 status alone is unlikely to reveal which patients are likely to benefit from the inclusion of a taxane as adjuvant therapy
  • Incorporation of novel biomarkers into clinical trial designs combined with improved classification of molecular subtypes may help to predict which patients are likely to benefit from taxane treatment

Friday, February 12, 2010

Halfway Through Chemo...And I Know What I Want to Celebrate When It's Finished!

I've now had 6 of the 12 weekly chemo sessions with Taxol and the hormonal therapy drug, Herceptin. YAY!!!!

First, I'd like everyone to know:

1. It doesn't hurt. Like, at all, going in. At least not if you have a medi-port/Power Port . The IVs inserted into a vein can really smart.

2. I keep having to take more medication, for the side effects of the medicine/chemo I'm taking. Which got me thinking of the old HBO program of the 80s, Not Necessarily the News. They once had a mock commerical skit in which one of two women having lunch, complains to her friend about having a headache.

The friend pulls a bottle of headache medicine out of her purse for her friend.

Headache woman responds, "But doesn't that give you internal bleeding?"

"Yes, but that's why you take.....(reaching into her purse again) this!! It relieves the internal bleeding caused by -----."

"Oh, I've heard of that. Unfortunately, it can gas and bloating, right?"

And so it goes. By the end of the skit, there are sixteen bottles of medicine on the lunch table.

So, I've been thinking about what I'd really like (it's expensive) to celebrate the end of chemo/this phase of getting rid (hopefully) of breast cancer and reclaiming my body, blah, blah, blah, celebrate my womanhood, yadah, yadah, yadah, reward the "girls."

Really expensive lingerie!! (A shoutout to Hips and Curves store for plus size women!)
And you know, after what I've been though...I want the matching hat, too!!

I'm hoping CJ won't mind.

What Amazing Chemo Weight-Loss Plan?!?

Tell anyone you are getting chemo when you are still hairy and overweight and you get this look of total disbelief.

"I thought people lost weight on chemo."

Well, apparently not all of them do. In fact, I've put on 5lbs. in one week. (I have a feeling that is due to being more sendentary because I'm becoming more fatigued.)

People have trouble imagining that you still look "normal."

If you took my picture right now, placed it in a book with snapshots of thin, bald people, you could play a  sick game of "Where's Waldo?"  finding the chemo patient.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Things I'm Learning as I Go Along

I wish I could get more advice on how a weekly Taxol-only chemo regimen can effect you. Unfortunately, since I'm part of a study, it's just me at the ole' chemo lodge.

Here's the damage list so far:

1. Really Dry Skin
I thought my normal, painful dry skin in winter sucked. At least it's limited to my face.

I started to peel so I invested in an organic mirco-scrub. Then some heavy organic Vitamin C night cream, plus Royal Jelly creme for my eyes. Why all the organic? I found that SLS and parabens (especially those used for fragrance) HURT LIKE HELL. So, thank goodness cheap organic products.

I love:

1. Burt's Bees
2. Dr. Bronner's-my old fav.
3. Alba
4. Jason

These actually cost less than non-organic products.  This goes for all make-up products, too. I love Bare Escentuals.

2. I think my hair is thinning. It falls out at a normal rate only there is no normal replacement. I'd better invest in some mousse.

3. Chemo brain. It's not bad or sad. Just kind of floaty. And hampers my ability to carry on an interesting conversation with CJ or other friends. Never before have I been so on my 3 year-old daughter's conversational wavelength.

4. Fatigue

Oh, boy. When it hits, it hits like I'm back in the first trimester of pregnancy, only I'm loopy, unemotional, and single-minded-get me to bed!! Then the house can burn down, for all I care.

5. As the weeks pass, I'm getting a bit weaker and more tired for longer durations. Exactly as I expected. I'm almost halfway there. Tomorrow will be my 5th infusion.

The Right Time to Get Cancer?

The cliche answer is no, there is never a "right" or good time to get cancer.

Horse hockey. I feel incredibly blessed to to have good timing/recent advances in science just happen this past year, for me to benefit from:

1. Digital Mammograms. They weren't around 10 years ago and they saved me for much worse. The digital mammogram was able to focus in on little rice-grain-like specks in my left breast. Specks that I naturally assumed stemmed from two burning cases of mastitis.

2. DIEP Flap Breast Reconstruction Procedure. A tummy-tuck and a new boobie rolled into one. But it really is all you. So I can still claim, like Teri Hatcher's character on Seinfeld, "They're real and they're fabulous!!" (And now they won't end up heading south, like two giant rye loaves.)

3. The FDA expanding the use of Herceptin for early stage breast cancer after primary therapy. My survival rate just shot up 46%. Thank you, Goddess. With all my heart.

Of course, technology will keep advancing and maybe one day lasers and pills will be able to take care of everything. Then everyone will stay healthy, disrupt the natural order of things, and the planet will impode, utterly out of resources. For now, I'm pretty glad I was diagnosed so early and at the current forefront of mondern medicine.

I'm still not going to be "Pink Warrior" or do any Breast Cancer Walks. I feel more committed to other charities. But they keep calling me....and they know who I's getting creepy. I wonder if there is some "Pink Warrior" hit squad for recalcitrant breast cancer patients who refuse to buy pink stuff?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Things I Wish I Could Get Done at Chemo

If I've got time to burn (about 5 hours) at chemo, there are some things I'd really like to be able to do....that you just can't. Either it's inappropriate, a public WiFi, or it might come out incorrectly due to the loopiness caused by the drugs. But these would save me some time at home and help me de-stress. Life is just not fair.

1. I'd really like a manicure and a pedicure. (I wonder if it's possible to have a manicurist make a "house call?" Eh, I just don't think I could get away with her being my "support person" for the day.)

2. I'd like to pay my bills, online. However, I don't know what other deviants are receiving chemo and also using the public WiFi, at my oncologists', so I can't.

3. Work out. It just seems like such a waste-I've got all time that I there, trying to get healthier, right? I see how my Walk Away the Pounds DVD might rip out the IV from either me or a neighbor, but one of my tinkly-music-relaxing Gaiam Yoga tapes should cut. I just won't do a downward dog.

4. Work on my homeowner association's quarterly newsletter. It's my job on the board. I tried writing last week during chemo. Again, the drugs interfere. I had to stop when I realized I had consisently reversed some letters. I don't think my neighbors would have appreciated the reminder to "dick pup their dog's doop."

Hair Paranoia

I'm getting really paranoid about losing my hair. It hasn't happened (yet-oh, please Goddess, let me be one of the lucky, hairy ones.) but I've actually been losing sleep over it.

Take Sunday, for instance. You'd think I'd be absolutely exhausted from chemo on Friday and still fighting off bronchitis, and taking care of the sick (and very snotty) kidlette. Nope. CJ and I watched the Vikings-Saints game (Go Saints!) and I made spicy guacamole and my favorite dry-rub ribs. With lemon bars.

I found out very quickly that I will have to cut back on the spicy foods. Apparently, the chemo-body responds differently to spice; my skin started to hurt all over, even my eyelids. And my scalp. I became convinced that I was about to lose my hair. Every time I started to fall asleep, I'd start thinking that I felt it falling out and I'd wake up. I had maybe 4 hours of sleep, tops.

This just drives home the point of how vain I am; other women in my support group worry about dying and I worry about temporarily looking like Charlie Brown.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

I'd Like to Start a Poker Group at Chemo but....

I'm getting bored during chemo and there seems to be about 4 other folks my age at the Chemo Infusion Suite on Fridays so I thought I might start a card group. Unfortunately, I realized that:

A. I don't know how to play poker. This is probably a reaction to CJ's love and devotion to watching the World Poker Tour on ESPN. (In fact, the only thing I'm certain I know about poker is that many players like to wear sunglasses during the game.)

Which led me to the second thought-

B. The card games I'm most familiar with are children's. (Anyone up for Go Fish or Old Maid?)

C. I also don't know how to play Bridge or Solitaire.

So where does this leave me?

DRINKING GAMES! Which I learned during college.

I can play Asshole or Up the River, Down the River. I'm trying to figure out how to adapt those games for chemo but haven't come up with any ideas yet...

Friday, January 22, 2010

"The Other Patients Must Think I Slipped the Nurse a $20 for the Private Chemo Room"

Well, clearly I spoke too soon about being well. I have bronchitis. I was developing a sore throat last Friday before chemo and I think massive amounts of adrenaline (in preparation for my 36th birthday dinner party) convinced my body not to get really sick until Sunday.

Which it did. I spent two days with a hacking, dry cough, in bed with my industrial strength humidifier going full blast. (I was so tired, I don't remember most of Sunday.) CJ and my MIL, Betsy, took care of everything. Thank you SOOOOOO MUCH!!!

I knew it was bronchitis right away. Years teaching, you pick up everything. (Except the chicken pox. But that's because I had it back in 1982. You know, before the chicken pox vaccination days, when you just caught the darn thing and got to spend two weeks at home?) Anyhoo, dry, unproductive cough = bronchitis.

Unfortunately, bronchitis + chemo patient = calling the oncologist. In case your white blood cells aren't up to the task and you die. This upsets the doctor. So, you call (because you are a good little patient, not because you are really worried) and the oncologist's nurse wants you to come in right away. In my case, I called from the road, when I was dropping off Betsy down outside of Fredericksburg, Virginia. (About an hour and half from the DC metro area.)

After I told the nuse that:

1. I was in Fredericksburg at that time (2pm, Tuesday)

2. And I had my 3 year-old with me and there was no one I could drop her off with if I raced back to DC to see Dr. Dendalouri

the nuse said, "Oh, crap."

Yeah, sorry. An appointment that day wasn't happening. An anti-biotic prescription was called in to the Target pharmacy as a precaution.

Moving right along to today. Yep, I'm blogging from chemo again. Hey, I view chemo as quiet, catch-up time. At least until the massive amounts of benedryl kick in and make me loopy.

As you might have guessed from the title of today's blog, I am back in a private room, due to the bronchitis. Placed in the luxurious (for chemo, at least) confinement.

The other patients look like they are torn between shunning my not-bald-and-still-looks healthy self who occasionally coughs and wondering if I gave the chemo nurse a $20 to score one of the few private rooms, complete bed and flat screen TV.

Trust me, other chemo patients. You are not missing much. Except the TV and  the porn DVDs I brought with me. (Oh, just kidding.)

Here are the pics of my swank room.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Soooo Sleepy.....Thank You Benedryl and Ativan

Today was my second chemo treatment. Therefore, the "push" aka the rapidity in which the IV machine pushes in the medicine was much faster today. And then I got sick to my stomach. (Yes, I'd already had an IV of an anti-emetic.) So, my nurse hit me up with Ativan in addition to copious amounts of Benadryl earlier. Woooo-Hoooooo!!!!

I texted CJ at his meeting laughing my butt off. "You can't come and get me now. I'm like...soooooo high." "OK. Umm.. what did they give you?"

He drove me home and I slept like a rock. I was so disoriented that I woke up and thought I was at my parent's old house.

What My Hook-Up Looks Like...

I haven't been able to adequetly describe my catheter port and how it works with the IV.

 So, I took a picture. Note the needle. It's attached to a butterfly clip that looks like a telephone jack. I take a deep breath and the nurse locates the silicon entry part of the port with her finger. Then she inserts the needle. The only thing I feel is when the needle pierces the skin.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Not Sick Yet

Really, there's no easier way to put it. I'm feeling exactly the way I did last week before I started chemo.

Sorry to disappoint everyone but I don't think the "fussing over me" phase should commence until I feel like poop. Not that I don't appreciate it but I'm sure there will come a time that I will really will need the help.

I'm assuming as chemo continues and the Taxol prevents more of my cells from replicating, I will not feel so hot. As I'm only in my first week, I've only been exposed to 1/12th of the prescribed poison.

However, I am getting paranoid. Every time my scalp itches, I wonder if my hair is about to go the way of Mr. Clean.

So, I'm handling this the only way I know how-cleaning the house in case I do get sick.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Fun with Wigs

My posse and I finally ventured out to get a wig for my soon-to-bald head. We went to Bravadas in Fairfax City. Very nice people. Especially when faced with a three year old kid shrieking, "I wanna try THAT ONE!"

I found a human hair wig that looks like my current hair. Not bad, just a little lighter than my hair is during the winter. The shop will darken it up for me and trim it when I start losing my hair. (It will fit differently after I lose my hair so it's not recommended to do it beforehand.)

My women in my support group have told me that I should consider a synthetic wig because you never need to style it. That's just it-unless I'm doing something fancy (right...I'm a SAHM and co-op pre-school parent-helper. The need for hair perfection just isn't there.) I don't style my hair. I stick in a clip or a pony-tail. Wearing a styled wig would certainly tip off people who know me that I'm wearing a wig. Which is not what I'm going for.

CJ as Wayne Campbell, from Wayne's World

Friday, January 8, 2010

This is How "Lefty" Rolls....

This is my answer to the  "gone viral" Facebook survey, "Bra Color as My Status" . For Breast Cancer patients, it's what goes in the bra that counts.

This is "Lefty," dressed up and ready to party.

Welcome to Chemo-Land!! Mom and I Blaze a Trail of Destruction in Our Wake...

I started chemo today. It was much easier than I thought it would be. However, I'm chalking that up to fabulous anti-nausea and steroidal drugs. Oh, and I'm relatively healthy. Unlike almost every other person in the infusion room. Is this how I'm going to look in a few weeks? Moony-faced? (Crap. I'd better start eating watermelon now-which is a testament to how vain I am-I loathe and despise all melons but they do have great diuretic properties.)

In other news, my mom (who took me to chemo because Elizabeth's school went to a Tiny Tots concert today and the parents had to drive.) and I lived up to my expectations at the Infusion suite.

When we were shown to the "comfy" chair....with pillow(!) and the hard-as-a-rock support person chair, my mom was putting her piles of stuff down and tripped, almost knocking the IV out of the patient behind us. (In my mom's defense, the treatment areas are really close together. Note the picture below. The guy right in back of her was unfortunate almost-popped-IV victim's support person. Said victim gave us a scared look and went back to reading a Korean magazine.)

Next, we both had to use the bathroom. Support people are segregated/punished for being healthy yet again, so she had to hunt for the Ladies Room in the hall. Which she flooded. Right away.

Meanwhile, I went inside the nearest infusion suite bathroom and flushed the tissue paper someone else had thrown in that toilet. It flooded.

So, we are 0-3 now. I think it might be an infusion suite record for how many problems we managed to cause in under 5 minutes. Nurses with plungers can really look angry.....and dangerous.

At this point, I called Jo. Who laughed her butt off. Clearly, she and Dave possessed more hospital dignity and coordination than I will ever have during their sojourns to the PICU. And I bet the other patients didn't jerk their IV's closer when they walked past the infusion areas. (Hey-I now realize you don't push your IV back from the bathroom like you push a stroller when you are jogging. My bad. I didn't know the IV wheels would snag the pharmacist's med cart. )

After being given the fabulous "don't have an allergic reaction to chemo and die drugs" that made me sleepy, loopy, and then wired, Megan, my nurse, finally started the chemo.

The only reactions I had were hot flashes when I was given the Herceptin. Oh, and I also had a reaction to the stupid adhesive on the non-latex tape used to keep my IV in place. (It's getting to the point where nurses look at my chart and ask me, "Is there anything you're not allergic to?" I'm allergic to latex, codeine, all codeine derivatives, percosette, darvasette, sulfa based drugs, and ethyromayacin. My pharmacist hates me, too.) So, feeling good for right now. I'll update later when the fatigue and physical ugliness start to kick in. Here is my basket o' poison, aka the bags of chemo medicine.

I did learn that my medi-port/ Power Port rocks. The regular IVs in the arm vein not only looked painful, but I saw those patients had ice packs on the insertion site. Ouch. I'm glad that (so far) the port is comfortable and I don't look like a heroin junkie.

IT TOOK FOREVER. I arrived at 10am and didn't get our of there until 4pm. Next time, I want to score one of the cozy private rooms that seem to be reserved for the octogenarians. I think that might be safer for us....

Thursday, January 7, 2010

You Really Can Buy Anything on eBay....

Everything for the web-surfing chemo patient.

1. Wigs

2. Scarves and Do-rags

Although, I'm thinking I want one saying, "Why, yes, I'm a chemo patient. However did you guess?"

3. Breast Forms

4. Chemo Hats

On day, we will just order chemo drugs on ebay, too....

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

My Last Haircut and Color

Tomorrow I will have my hair cut, colored (come on-I don't even know what the natural color is and I'm too old and vain to find out now), highlighted. (By Monsieur Christophe. Highlights are a necessary evil when you color over the age of 30 and want to make it look semi-natural. My days of flat-colored "red" ended in my mid-20s.) And yes, CJ does all the highlighting. (I try to tell him that it's a practical application of art. Like the Bauhaus. I don't think he's buying it.)

Am I sad? Well, duh. Yes. I love my hair. I've never been bald. I was born a monkey. No, not kidding. According to my mother and her meticulous Baby book, I had to have my first haircut at 3 months. Apparently, my bangs had grown down to my mouth.

So, I'm kind of viewing these last few days before chemo starts on Friday morning as my last few days of normalcy.

I'm getting a wig. But I've decided to not do the scarf thing. It's one thing if it's because you are cold; but if you think you are fooling anyone, think again. A scarf + no eyebrows = chemo. If you are going to try and fool people, don't do it half-assed. I've decided to get a really nice wig or bald it.

Why am I doing chemo, even though the one bit (.4 cm of invasive cancer) is gone and anything under 1 cm is not usually recommended for chemo? To lower my chances of recurrence. And adding the hormonal therapy, herceptin, to help with the HER2 Neu helps, too.

I was given 5 choices of treatment by the great oncologist I (finally!) settled on. I picked the one that told me what I wanted to hear. I'm simple that way. Kidding. Dr. Neelima Dendalouri was highly recommended and my age (Wow. When did I get to be that old?) She takes into consideration the fact that I have PCOS and can't wait 5 years to have another child.

I chose the one-chemo drug treatment, Taxol. I'll be part of the final phase of a clinical study. (Which apparently is mandatory when you are diagnosed with Breast Cancer. You must volunteer for a medical study and participate in buying Breast Cancer Awareness items and fundraising for the Susan G. Komen Fund. Otherwise, women in pink shun you.) I still haven't given a dime to the Komen Fund and have zero interest in any Race for the Cure. Consider me shunned. (I'm not cruel; I just prefer Habitat for Humanity.)

My chemo treatment is weekly, from this Friday to the last Friday in March. A low dose with higher frequency.

I'm not looking forward to the next few weeks; but, if I'm going to be ugly (and please, hairless makes everyone look like an egg, no way around that) it might as well be during the ugliest time of the year. Same thing with being sick. If I'm going to be sick, I rather be sick now so I can play with Elizabeth outside in the summer.