Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Over the past two years, a lot of crazy things have happened.  First, I want to write the series of events as a series of negative statements, but then describe the same events as a series of positives.  Why am I doing this?  I don't know, but I know that I got a fax today from my father that made me want to write about all of this.

In the summer of 2007, my husband was working for a hedge fund that traded sub-prime mortgages.  I was pregnant with our third child.  I knew that the market was crumbling, because my husband told me so.  I was worried about health insurance for the baby that would be born in a few months.  It turned out that his company went under a few weeks before the baby was born but signed on with a new company days before the baby was born.

In January 2008, my brother, who was morbidly obese (6'2" and almost 480 lbs.) decided to have elective gastric bypass surgery.  He suffered a number of complications from that surgery and he died in March 2008.  He was my only sibling.

In the Fall of 2008, I got pregnant.  I was not prepared.  When I became prepared to have a fourth child (at the time, my oldest was 4, the next 3, the next not even 1) I had a miscarriage.  I had not been to a primary care physician in about 4 years, and the miscarriage made me realize that it was time to start taking care of myself and make sure I was in optimum health because I wanted to be around for my 3 children.

In October 2008, my husband's aunt had a lumpectomy from a breast cancer diagnosis over the summer.  She subsequently went through chemotherapy and radiation.  Another cousin, we found out, had pre-cancerous breast cells and she had a double mastectomy in 2006.

In November 2008, my husband took a package from his company and was laid off.  By doing so, he received a decent settlement package and health insurance coverage through January 31, 2009, after which COBRA would pick up starting February 1, 2009.

Sometime in December 2008, in the middle of the night, I felt a pinch in my left tricep muscle.  It woke me up and made me fearful that something bad was wrong, though after that moment, I never had a pain again.

In January 2009, I met a wonderful primary care physician who sent me for a barrage of tests, from a colonoscopy, to a dermatologist, to a baseline mammogram because I had lumpy breast tissue.

Late January 2009, I had my first mammogram.  I was told that there was a calcification in one area, but not to worry, that happened to alot of women at their baseline mammogram, and a follow-up sonogram would be no big deal.

February 26, 2009, I went back for my follow-up sonogram and mammogram.  They saw a spot.  I was not nervous.  They said they wanted to do a fine needle aspiration biopsy and I would know the results in 30 minutes.  I was not nervous.  The spot was only 5mm, smaller than a grain of rice.  I was not nervous.  30 minutes later, I was told I had invasive ductal carcinoma, I had cancer.  Then a nurse told me that my options were double mastectomy or lumpectomy with radiation.  Finally, I was nervous.

April 8, 2009, I had a double mastectomy and over the next month I had tissue expansions to get my breasts to about a small C size (from the 34DD size I was before).  My surgeon called two weeks later to tell me that the cancer had not spread to my lymph nodes so the chances of having to go through chemotherapy were very small.  Though my older daughter told me she didn't like me because of my drains that came out of my body that she could feel and for the fact that I could not pick her up. 

In early May 2009, my cancer surgeon informed me that I would have to go through chemotherapy because I was Estrogen positive and Her2Neu positive (which meant that my cancer would grow aggressively if it somehow got into my bloodstream).

June 3, 2009 would start the summer of chemo...and not chemo-lite, but chemo that made all of my hair all over my body fall out, made me lose my taste for anything sweet or tomato based, made me sick to my stomach 24/7 for the first round of treatments and then suffer from intolerable bone pain and some toe numbness for the second round of treatments, made me so exhausted during certain days where I could barely rouse myself out of bed...I could not stand the way I looked.  I would change outfits 4 times a day because I felt that nothing looked good on me.  I never went out without a scarf or wig on because I just couldn't stand the way I looked...and if I tried to exercise, my heart felt like it was jumping out of my chest and I was going to pass out at any moment...

I still have an IV drug (Herceptin) that I have to receive every 3 weeks through August 2010 that is the miracle drug for Her2Neu positive patients.  I opted not to have a port put in, so every time I have a Herceptin treatment or had to have chemo, they had to poke my veins each time.  I have such bad scar tissue in some areas that I cannot even have needles put in there.  I cringe every time I have to go back for my Herceptin treatments...

November 11, 2009, I had my exchange procedure (temporary breast expanders to final silicone implants).  I am coming upon the end of the six week recovery period.  I cannot wait to pick up my kids.

I cannot believe this happened to me.  I am still trying to figure out what I did that was so bad that I would have to suffer this pain, from my brother to my own pain.  What did my parents do to have one child die one year and then less than a year later, have the other child diagnosed with cancer.  What did they do wrong???

The positive spin:

In 2007, I gave birth to our third child, a beautiful little girl.  Despite the fact that my husband's company was defunct, he got another job and we had health insurance coverage with no problems. 

Sad to say, but I cannot find anything positive in my brother dying, except that he was finally trying to do something positive for himself, but unfortunately, never got to see the fruits of that labor...

In the Fall 2008, I had a miscarriage.  I am not sad about that because I never would have been able to manage four kids age five and under.  I joke that you would have read about me in the newspaper killing myself and my four children because I truly would not have been able to handle the madness!!!

In November 2008, my husband took a package and was laid off from his company.  Thank goodness he got a settlement that was decent enough that he has been able to stay at home during my entire cancer treatment and we are not worried about health insurance or how we are going to survive financially.  He has even been able to take on some pet projects and finance those on his own.  He is so much happier out of the industry though he does wonder why we live 12 minutes from Manhattan if he's not working there...

In December 2008, I think my brother's spirit pinched me under my arm.  I have no other explanation as to what caused that sharp pain that sent me to the doctor in January.  I know, there are numerous other explanations, but I'd like to think my brother's spirit, less than a year after his death, came to me and alerted me as soon as possible to get my ass to the doctor because something bad was a-brewin' inside me!  When I tell my dad this story, it brings him to tears.  That pinch helped save my life.

In January 2009, I went to a doctor who felt my boobs and said I should have a mammogram.  In subsequent conversations, she told me that she never felt anything, but that she thought my lumpy breast tissue was reason enough for a baseline mammogram.  I had been to the OB/GYN for  years prior to that and he felt me up all the time, and he never felt the necessity to send me for a baseline mammogram.  My primary care physician saved my life!

February 26, 2009, I was diagnosed with an aggressive but garden-variety type of cancer.  Thank goodness I found out before it had a chance to travel to my lymph nodes or become such a large tumor that I could have felt it myself.  I WAS SO LUCKY TO FIND THIS CANCER!  I had one doctor tell me that this had been growing for a matter of months...unbelievable!

March 2009, my husband and I take the kids to Disney World so that we could all have some fun before the tough stuff began.

April 8, 2009, I got rid of almost all possibility of the cancer ever coming back by having the double mastectomy.  I mean, although there was always a small chance of cancer coming back because the surgeon could not guarantee every breast cell was removed, my thought was the less tissue the less chances that the cancer would return.

May 2009, I am told I am going to have chemo.  I was told that although the tumor was less than 1 cm (9mm all in) and I was under the age of 40 (diagnosis at 37), if a microscopic cancer cell got somewhere else in my body, it would grow very aggressively, so the chemo would hopefully take care of that.  And while there are very few positive things to say about the side effects of chemotherapy (I still have not gotten my period back - is that a positive or a negative?) this made my chances of having cancer again that much less.  In fact, I have to believe if there was something else growing in my body, this poison got rid of that!!! 

September 2009, Chemo is finished!  While my hair didn't fully fall out until it was over, I am happy to say, three months later, that my hair is as long as Annie Lenox and I have had to have eyebrow and bikini waxes and I have all of my tastebuds back so I am eating sugar and tomato sauce like a madwoman (is that a positive or negative, I am not sure, my tight pants say bad, but since I was not able to eat food for so long, it's all good!)

November 11, 2009, I had my exchange procedure.  I now have my perky silicone implants.  I won't have to wear a bra when I'm 80 and, because the cancer is gone, I have a good chance of living a long healthy life!  I am also free to pick up my kids and throw them around.  Life is good!

The end of the year is near.  While I don't wish the time away at all, I am glad this year is over.  A Happy and Healthy New Year to all!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Let Them Eat Cake!!!

I have one more week to go before I can have the unlimited ability to pick up my kids and throw them around!  My six week recovery period from my latest surgery will be over on Wednesday and that just cannot come soon enough for me!

I just have to share this story from a 2 year old birthday party I attended a few days ago.  Talk about someone who needs to get a life...my 2 year old daughter was at a birthday party.  She had a great time at the gym-themed birthday party, climbing on the balance beam, swinging from swings, and bouncing on the trampoline, but what I think she liked best was the icing on the birthday cake.  She sat for about 20 minutes daintily picking at the icing with her fork, she didn't need my help at all, and that was fine with me (as I was enjoying my own piece of cake!)




But as I am standing there watching my daughter with her icing, I see a mom of twins next to me, icing all over her fingers, throwing the icing in the garbage.  I asked her what she was doing and she said she was throwing away the icing from her kids' cake because she didn't want them getting messy...she didn't want her two year old kids getting messy with cake at a birthday party.  Is it me or is there something wrong with that?  To her defense, she does own a kids clothing store boutique, so I guess that she always wants her kids looking their best, but it's not like the icing doesn't come off in the wash!  I really felt badly for her kids, as one of them was looking at my daughter's cake longingly, and wondering why his cake didn't look the same.

I just found it so surprising that someone could be that anal with a two-year old having cake.  I thought that two-year old's were synonymous with messes but maybe that's why my house, while clean, always looks messy.  Maybe I am the one who's wrong on this situation, but couldn't she have just brought a change of clothes for her kids if she was that worried about them getting ruined???

In reality, thank god that messy icing is the worst of her concerns.  I hope that continues to be the worst thing that happens to their family.  But for those of us who have much greater concerns, I have to say, "get over yourself, lady!!!"

Thursday, December 10, 2009

This too shall pass...

Four weeks today since I had my exchange procedure (for those of you wondering what that means, I am talking about having my tissue expanders exchanged for final silicone implants - the ladies who will continue to defy gravity when i'm well into my 80s!).  It is amazing how uncomfortable I felt just four weeks ago.  How the stitches would pull and ache underneath the implants when I would stretch my hands above my head.  I thought I was never really going to get full mobility because they ached so much!  But now, I can put my hands over my head with no problem!  I can also walk for 50 minutes and feel no pain afterwards.  Things are good!!!

Where am I going with this rambling?  I know, I do that often.  But I am just realizing that throughout this whole ordeal I can remember thinking that I was never going to feel better, never get through the pain, never get through a night without pain/anxiety medicine to help me sleep, but it passed and now I'm at a much better place.

I even forgot how awful I would feel on my bad days during chemo, and my middle daughter, just shy of 4 years old, would lie down in bed with me and take a nap with me, just because she was worried about me.  It was so wonderful to have her near me and not afraid of me.  She wasn't like that a few months before, when she told me she didn't like me (when I had my drains in after the mastectomy).  So it felt very nice to have her near me...

I guess I just want women who are diagnosed with breast cancer and who are waiting to talk to their doctor, their cancer surgeon, their plastic surgeon, their oncologist, worried that they are going to lose their hair, that it all goes away, it does get better, it is temporary.  And while it is real and it is really awful while going through all of it, this too shall pass...oh, and by the way, I finally got a bikini wax!!!  I know, I know, still too much information, but I am glad to say that I finally needed one!!!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Paying It Forward

Well, I had my first real post-surgery mentor conversation with a woman who had a double mastectomy a month ago, and is just starting the tissue expansion, and knows she has to go through chemotherapy soon.  I tried to be as positive as I possibly could, I spent most of the time telling this woman that "this too shall pass." 

I wanted to tell her that the rest of her tissue expansions (she just finished her first) wouldn't be uncomfortable (painful is the word I really wanted to use); instead, I told her that the expansions might get more uncomfortable but that it gets more comfortable (when the tissue expanders come out and the final implants are put in...no, seriously, about a month after my final expansion I finally stopped taking pain pills to sleep).  I did tell her how I would wake up in the middle of the night and bolt upright from the pain, but that was only seven months ago and now I've got my final implants so that "discomfort" is over.

I tried to tell her that chemo isn't as bad as one might think, but that would have been a lie.  Instead, I told her that chemo sucks when you are going through it, and that's when you need to have a good support system to help out on the really awful days, but that it all ends and your hair does grow back and you start to forget how awful you felt and that your energy really does come back.  I told her to try and remain active, even though it was difficult to get out of bed on the worst days, and to keep focusing on the positive.

Funny, the silver lining for this woman, as it remains for myself, is that we get new perky boobs.  I didn't tell her that they don't feel like the other ones did, that even though these implants feel more comfortable than the expanders that they really don't feel like breasts to me.  That sensation is gone. 

But that is not what matters.  What matters is that I am alive and that I will be alive to dance at my childrens' weddings.  What matters is that the surgeons and the chemo got all of the cancer out of my body (well, I'm 99.9% sure of that) and that I am at a good hospital and the chance for recurrence is so small that I try to leave that fear in the very dark recesses of my mind.  What matters is that after a year of total crap, I am still fairly normal...and fairly healthy.

I am glad that I have people to talk to about my experience (ordeal?) and while there are too many other women whose names I was given to call and talk about their experiences, sometimes it does get too much.  I still find myself emotionally exhausted after a breast cancer-reconstruction-chemotherapy conversation, though the conversations are priceless and I appreciate every minute someone will spend talking to me.  And so, begins my paying it forward and helping out those people who are a few steps behind me...it's just there are more and more women with breast cancer and it shouldn't be that way...

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Making Excuses

I really hate making excuses as to why I don't write every day.  It's not like I don't have much to write about, but I swear some days I just cannot find the time to write.  Or sometimes, when I sit down to write I just cannot figure out how to get the words out...but that is another blog for another time, I guess.

Three weeks since I had the "exchange procedure".  I am feeling better every day, though sometimes at night, when I try to sleep on my side, the stitches really hurt, but other than some nagging pains every once in a while and the fact that I have to wear very supportive bras 24/7 for 6 weeks (half way there!) I am really feeling pretty good!  I don't even need to take pain meds at night and haven't taken anti-anxiety medicine since the night before the exchange procedure!  Nice to know that the surgery is over with and only 3 more weeks to go until I can pick up my three kids and swing them around a bit.  Here are some cute pictures of them from the year:


And these picutres are part of the reason I haven't been writing much.  I confess, I am not very good at putting photos in albums for my kids.  I have a shopping bag FILLED with pictures of them from the past 5 years, and while I'd like to say that I've been kind of busy (with 3 kids under the age of 5 and a husband who for 4 of those 5 years left for work before they woke up and got home after they all went to bed, and spending the last year in crisis mode with a breast cancer diagnosis and the year before that, my only sibling dying...but there I go making excuses again!)  and haven't had the chance to put the photos in albums, I'm tired of excuses.  So why is this preventing me from blogging?

I've decided that I am going to make the kids photo books for each year and just put the best pictures of the whole family in the books.  So, I have spent the past few weeks uploading pictures to Kodak Gallery and am now in the process of making the family album.

I just hope I can keep up with this every year...but before I end my blog, I want to write a quick summary of what I meant to post a week ago for Thanksgiving:

I am thankful for my health.  I am thankful for the ability to get up and move.  I am thankful for my beautiful young children who don't give me much time to feel sick or sorry for myself.  I am thankful for the most wonderfully supportive husband who tells me how proud he is of me on a regular basis and who is not only the man that I love but a person who I really like and admire.  I am thankful for both of my parents who have always been supportive in my life but have really stepped up to the plate over the past year without freaking out in front of me at all.  I am thankful for my other parents, I hate calling them in-laws, who treat me like a member of their own family, and who have also been so incredibly supportive of me and have been so helpful to our family.  I am thankful for family on both mine and my husband's side for showing us so much love and support.  I am thankful for friends, both old and new, who have come out of the woodwork to give us their support through this past year.  I am thankful for so many other things, but one thing I think I have made known through this blog is I am thankful for hair growth and the fact that I finally need that bikini wax!!!  I know, I know, too much information, but I've been talking about it so much over the past few months, I thought I'd add that in for comic relief!!! 

Friday, November 27, 2009

Happy thanksgiving! I am greatful for my family & friends & feeling well! Oh yeah, and to hair growth!;)

Friday, November 20, 2009

Finally showered! Feels great! Yeah!

Over-the-shoulder-boulder-holders


After you get your final implants, you have to walk around 24 hours a day wearing a bra to make sure that the stitches heal well.  Okay, that's fine, but it's not so easy to meet all the other requirements:  no underwire (because you don't need it and it will rub the stitches underneath the breasts), the bottom of the bra cannot touch underneath the breast directly (because that will hurt the stitches underneath the breasts) and it cannot too tight (because they said not too tight).

I was going to spend this post bitching about how hard it was to find these types of bras and how I felt lost going into a number of stores unable to find what I needed, but I just got off the phone with my cousin and all those mild complaints went out the window.  (Plus, I was able to go online and buy some bras that will work, so really no reason to bitch).

My cousin just recently learned that her teenage daughter suffers from bulimia.  They decided to put her in a facility for a month to help her deal with this issue.  While all seems to be going well in the facility (so my cousin says) she had an awful phone call with her daughter yesterday where her daughter told her she hated her, and that she was conceited and looked down on other people.  My cousin sounded so distraught while telling me about this.  She said she was sad.  Oh, and might I add that this is the same cousin who went through a double mastectomy with reconstruction a few years before me?

You never know what is down the road, and, unfortunately, even though you might think your situation is horrible and couldn't get much worse, you don't have to look far to find someone in a more difficult situation than you!  So, I'll continue to focus on the good things in my life, be thankful that my dad was in town this week to help out with the kids so I could recover and be grateful that I felt well enough today to take a nice long walk with my dad.  Things are looking up!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

My many faces of breast cancer


Okay, at the risk of never leaving the computer and never sleeping again, I am going to just post some pics the old-fashioned way.  I really wanted to show you the many faces of me during the cancer treatment process via a slideshow, but I'm having a hard time doing that (I just cannot figure this blogger thing out!)  So, I'm just going to try and post some pics in a regular posting.

This first picture is sporting the dude-rag, schmata, bandana...whatever you want to call it...I still hate having no hair.

Here is me in the height of my baldness.  I just could not go out in public looking like this.  I cannot go out without something on now and I have a substantial covering all over my head...


Okay, so I'm not wearing any make up, but disregard the face and please notice the hair.  I just still cannot go without a wig...I just hate myself without hair.  Have I mentioned that before???


Do blondes have more fun?  Well, I thought if I had a few wigs to use, I could change my look according to my mood.

This is the brunette wig...at first, I loved this one, but lately I've been all about the blonde...and now, the piece de resistance:

Which one do you guys like the best???

And they're out!

Just wanted to let you all know that the drains came out!  I will be able to shower in 36-48 hours!  You will not have to smell me any longer, New Jersey!!!  (Or New York or Connecticut!) 

I have to say, I am totally shocked that when I went in to have the drains taken out and to see my plastic surgeon this morning, he didn't even TOUCH me. He barely looked at my scars, just said everything looked good, told me that I shouldn't do anything "high impact" for  the next five weeks and he'll see me in two to three months.

As much as I wanted more information about my next steps, I don't think you can get much better than "everything looks good, see you in two months".  Less is more with this guy, I know that about him.  He is not known for his bedside manner.  In a previous blog, I referred to him as "the troll" because he is short and grumpy and has a bad bedside manor, but I have to say, everyone I spoke with about him said he was so wonderful and did great work.  My boobs look good.  That's really all that matters now.  Maybe one of these days I'll get him to smile.  Now that's a good goal for the next visit!!!

Hit Me With Your Best Shot


This is me doing live band karaoke at a cancer benefit this fall. My husband kept showing the video that he made to the kids and asking them if they wanted to see their "rockstar mommy"...what a sweet guy!

My husband took this picture of me during a chemo treatment over the summer...he said, "maybe you'd want to post this on your blog?"  So, here's the good the bad and the ugly...

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Uncomfortably Numb?

I think I have spent the last 9 months in a weird sort of haze and now I might be coming out of it.  Ever since my diagnosis, I have been on cruise control, or crisis control, just getting stuff done that needed to be done without really figuring out how all of this new information I'd been inundated with was affecting me.  I think that I was just happy knowing that I was facing the cancer head-on and wasn't questioning my decisions, I was just going with my gut reactions.

But now I sit here at my computer, drains waiting to be removed from the tissue expander exchange procedure, stitches poking me uncomfortably under my new breasts (that I have yet to fully examine because I'm waiting for the doctor to tell me that he thinks everything is healing well and to tell me they are really sticking around before I start to relish in their perkiness!!!) I am starting to wonder what I do now?  Especially in light of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force's (USPSTF) new guidelines, I feel like I need to do SOMETHING.  I have started looking on websites and blogs of fellow breast cancer patients and survivors to get some grounding, get some guidance and get some support.  There are a bunch of incredible women who have been through and are going through what I am going through, it just amazes me.

While I am searching for my own answers, I am comforted by something a friend's mother told me a few weeks ago.  When I was first diagnosed, my friend told me that if I want to talk with someone about what they went through, her mom had said she would talk to me.  At the time, I didn't call her because I was looking for women my own age, in a similar circumstance, to try and find some connection and support.  AND it was so tiring, and so draining to have a conversation with a current patient or recent survivor because I'd be on the phone for an hour with some stranger (with whom I now shared some awful bond) to try and find a parallel story and digest the information, I just didn't talk to that many people.  I found that too hard for me to handle during this period of crisis.

About a month ago, my friend's mother died.  My husband and I went to pay a shiva call and I sat and spoke with this woman about everything else BUT cancer - how her father was doing, about her new grandson, about my friend's kids - and then she went to talk with her other guests. 

As I was getting ready to leave, she stopped me and just said, "I just want you to know that I never thought there would be a day that I didn't think about breast cancer, and then, a few years after my treatment, I noticed I didn't think about it every day.  It got less and less."  (She is a ten year survivor.)  I just stood there as tears welled up in my eyes and said, "thank you".  It is hard to explain how wonderful it was to hear her say that, to know that while right now it seems so all encompassing, that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and that life really will go on.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Task force opposes routine mammograms for women age 40-49 - are they for real???

I just read this CNN article tonight.  I cannot believe what I just read.  Some task force, under the umbrella of the US Dept of Heath and Human Services, just said that mammograms aren't necessary every year for women age 40-49.  This changes the previous guidelines which recommended mammograms as early detection for women over age 40.  The article goes on to say, that "...[W]hile roughly 15 percent of women in their 40s detect breast cancerthrough mammography, many other women experience false positives, anxiety, and unnecessary biopsies as a result of the test, according to data."

Please, provide me with the percentage of women who experience false positives, anxiety and unnecessary biopsies as a result of mammograms.  Is it more than the 15 percent who saved their lives by detecting breast cancer?  And, even so, having a mammogram didn't kill them.  Neither did the anxiety or unnecessary biopsies.  But what would have happened to the 15 percent of women who detected breast cancer had waited until they were 50?  What data shows how many of those women had a history of breast cancer in their families or felt a lump?  What if they just went in because they knew it was good to have a baseline for future mammograms and were surprised with the fact that something did show up on the mammogram and that they did find out earlier rather than later?  What percentage of those women were able to, or decided to, save their breasts and just have a small lumpectomy?  What percentage of those women who had mastectomies and were able to prevent the recurrence of breast cancer?  What percentage of those women who detected breast cancer in their 40s were able to avoid chemotherapy because the cancer had not yet spread to their lymph nodes or, worse yet, some other part of their bodies?  OR, worse yet, what percentage of those women STILL had to undergo chemotherapy because the type of breast cancer they had was so aggressive that it would have spread, even if it had not yet done so?  What percentage of those women were able to save their lives because they went to doctors who trusted these guidelines and sent these women for mammograms accordingly?

This is a very hard article for me to read given the fact that I am still undergoing treatment for breast cancer at age 38.  For those of you unfamiliar with my blog, go back to February & March 2009 articles which discuss my breast cancer discovery ON A FLUKE because I met a new doctor who gave me a breast exam and said I had lumpy breast tissue so I should go get a mammogram.  She felt no lump, I had no history.  In fact, my OB/GYN who I had seen regularly for two years before then never even MENTIONED a mammogram because there was no reason for it.  When I read an article like this, it is hard for me to FATHOM what I would have gone through if the guidelines were set for a higher age to begin mammograms.  If the recommendation is to wait until age 50, would my internist still have thought to send me for a mammogram?  I highly doubt that. 

This doesn't even begin to discuss what health insurance companies might decide to do based on this task force recommendations.  Okay, while I want to believe that insurance companies will still fully cover mammograms, who knows?  Everyone is cutting costs.  Maybe insurance companies will deny mammograms for women who do not fall under a "high risk" category.  I don't know, I don't want to think about that.  Because I assure you, if the test had not been covered by my health insurance, I GUARANTEE you that I would not have gone for a mammogram.  No way, no how.  Before my diagnosis, I would have told you I was 100 percent healthy.  Some tests might be considered unnecessary, but I just don't see how this task force just pushed back the age for women to get annual mammograms to age 50...oh, and I know this isn't well thought out or well written.  I am still recovering from my surgery of having breast tissue expanders exchanged for final breast implants.  Not even a week old.  I am still on pain medication and have drains running out from under my arms.  This just hit a raw spot.  More to come later when I can properly articulate how PISSED OFF I am.  Congress, here I come!

I just saw it on CNN.com: Task force opposes routine mammograms for women age 40-49

 
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Sunday, November 15, 2009

Welcome Ladies!

Well, the new ladies are in! The expanders are out and my new high-tech tear-drop shaped silicone ladies have made their debut! Had the surgery on Wednesday and to be totally honest, it has not been as bad as I had expected! Well, given the fact that after the last surgery I was not able to lift my hands above my head, this is much better! I have much better mobility and the drains aren't bothering me half as much as they did last time! I'm sleeping much better at night, and can move pretty well during the day. I am taking it easy though, because I don't want to screw anything up with the new ladies. I have uncomfortable internal stitches that bother me more than anything else to the point where I have to lie down every few hours to get more comfortable. BUT as of day 4 after surgery, I can go during the day without serious pain meds and only save those for night time! I know, I know, why not take the drugs, Dali Mamma Lama, isn't that why the doctor prescribed them? Trust me, I take them when I need them and if I need them during the day, I take them. But they make me tired and it makes it harder to sleep at night, so I'd rather save them for night time!

My 4 year old still wants to see my boo-boos. I have told her no. She asks, "Why?" and I tell her that I don't want to scare her. Honestly, I am so glad that I had to go through this when she was 4 and not 10...I don't really want her to remember this ordeal, but I am glad she has a place to go back and read about it (if she ever wants to) and know what this was all about! My 2 year old is pretty clueless except that I don't pick her up right now when she cries. No, I don't leave her on the ground laughing at her expense, but soon enough I'll be back to picking her up so I'm not too upset about that. And, my 5 year old boy still gives me hugs and treats me like nothing has changed. That makes me very happy!

Having said all of that, am I thrilled that the heavy duty surgery is over? Yes! Am I excited to have the rock hard expanders out of my chest? Yes! Am I excited that one more phase of this ordeal is over? Yes! Am I excited to be able to work out and get back into shape in a few weeks? Yes! Do I wish I had nipples? Yes! Will I get those soon? Yes! I know, I know, too much information, but it's true, I have no nipples and the doctor will have to make those for me. Again, I am hoping he'll use some of my c-section scar tissue, but we'll have to wait and see. He's not the kind of guy who likes to be told what to do so I'm not sure how this will all pan out, but enough of that for now! But seriously, if it grosses you out to hear about it, imagine how I feel. The whole thing FREAKS me out, but since I don't have a choice, I'll just tell it to you like it is. But, please know, the fact that someone has to "make" nipples for me is truly disgusting.

So, now I will heal. I cannot wait for this Thursday when the drains come out and then 2 days after that, I will be able to take my first shower since surgery. Yeah, I know, another gross one. Good thing you can't smell me...yet!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Twas the night before surgery


Twas the night before surgery to get my new boobs
Both my parents came up to help keep me subdued
But my mother was complaining of her little finger ache
But at first said, "Don't worry, it's fine, it'll be great!"

All the backpacks were ready for a few days to come
Cause I won't be focusing, I'll be sleepy from drugs!
Me, with my Ativan, was keeping me calm
And not a bit worried of all else going on...

Suddenly, my mom was not feeling so sure
Her finger was hurting and hurting some more
Away to the ER we went in her new beemer
And I dropped her off to come back a bit later.

The new ER facility was really top notch
Made me feel a bit better about dropping her off
When on the dashboard it appeared, all alone
My mother had forgotten to bring in her iphone!

But I was busy, had a quick job to do
My eyebrows growing back had to be waxed, oh, it's true!
so the iphone would wait, and so would my mother
In the lone waiting room (while I bought some Godiva:

Got extra dark truffle, got peppermint too
Got dark chocolate raspberry and one key lime goo)
Then back into the beemer I rushed back to the car
And dashed away dashed away straight back to the ER!

I just wanted to run in and give her the phone
But then thought better that she not stay alone
So hesitantly, I gave the valet my keys
And ran into find what was my mom's disease...

And then I heard her talking to the radiology tech
Wonderd what they'd done to her just yet
As she drew her head in from the talking she'd done
And come from the X-ray she had on her pinky, not thumb!

She was feeling some pain from the way they had turned it
The nice black and blue becoming more prominent
We had to sit and wait a bit more
But sitting with her is never a bore!

Then the nurse came in mumbling "hand specialist"
And we knew that it wasn't the best
A little fracture and perhaps a tendon torn
She might need some surgery, but that you can't bet on.

"You need to go see a hand specialist tomorrow
To find out what is wrong with your pinky" (what a bother!)
We said that's not possible 'cause it was my turn for docs
And then we told her about my little boob op

She said Thursday would be fine and then was away
And mother and I did not know what to say
So, back to the beemer went Mom and me
What a way to spend time the day before surgery!

New boobs!!!

Okay, here's the latest update: T minus 6 days until I get my stylish new more natural-feeling silicone implants! I cannot wait to get these rocks out of my chest! When I went to the plastic surgeon's office, I had the opportunity to molest the sample they had on the desk. I have to say, they felt very natural! I'm hoping they feel that way when the surgery is completed!

Good news is that I will not lose mobility like I did last time. Here's the only positive thing about not having much hair...last time I had surgery and lost the ability to raise my hands over my head, it was very hard to take a shower and wash my long hair...now, I don't have to worry about that! And, though I'll smell a little bit since I cannot shower for a week again, at least my hair won't look like a nappy mess. I can just throw on a wig and feel a bit better! Yeah...I think? Okay, so if you are in the vicinity, please do not come too close. Let me be appealing from afar!

People keep asking if this is the last big haul from the whole year's ordeal. The answer in short is yes, the really hard part is over. The long answer is that I continue to take an IV medicine every three weeks and I still have a "procedure" to get nipples made...I know, gross, huh? I have no nipples now (my husband calls them "frankenboobs") so they will somehow make ones for me. It sounds totally gross and disgusting, but perhaps the doc can take some of my c-section scar tissue for that...get a little tightened around the belly for a teensy weensy bit more upside? (I'm always looking for more bright side of things).

Sorry if I gave you so much information that you now want to barf, but that's my story and I'm sticking to it! I just cannot wait for life to return to normal. What is normal? I don't even know anymore...but I know that all is well and I have things very good and I am lucky and blessed. 2009, while full of wonderful things for my friends and family cannot end soon enough for me!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Why I Love Tom & Jerry Cartoons

So, it's come full circle (well, probably many circles) that my kids love Tom & Jerry like I loved Tom & Jerry. It's a cartoon that needs no words. Just the wonderful orchestral music of Tom chasing Jerry and Jerry always getting away!

My daughter is so in love with Jerry (as are some of her friends) that she is dressing up as Jerry for Halloween. She wants to wear the costume everywhere and I love it.

When my kids fight me to brush their teeth, sometimes I can coerce them to brush their teeth while I sing the theme song to Tom and Jerry (I know, there are no words, but I sing the tune...)

I've had a room full of kids laughing their heads off at the show. I talked to a neighbor who said she had the same phenomenon in her house!

Each morning when my kids wake up early, my husband and I send them down to the TV room and our 5 year old turns on pre-recorded Tom and Jerry episodes for him and his sister...we just have to make sure we only record the thirty minute shows and not ninety minute shows...just too much TV at one time!

In any event, Tom and Jerry is great. I love that the kids enjoy it. I still enjoy it. My dad still sits and watches that with them. Do yourself a favor: watch Tom and Jerry and let the memories come flooding back!!!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Pink Eye!!!

So, I forgot to mention this and, in retrospect, it strikes me as funny!

I went to my 20th high school reunion two weeks ago. I was not quite sure I was going to attend because of my current health situation, but I decided to go. I had a great time and it was so wonderful to see everyone there!

But, you know how I feel about not having hair...I hate it. My eyelashes fell out and, for the most part, are tiny little stubs at that. But I decided to see if I could get eyelash extensions to make my eyes look more normal for the reunion. They weren't bad (I should have had a picture of them, shouldn't I?) but since I had so few lashes to begin with, the woman who did the work could only get on about a quarter of what she would normally do. My eyelashes still looked sparse, but it wasn't so bad. The lashes were affixed on Thursday and we headed to the reunion on Friday and Saturday.

The woman who fixed my lashes told me not to rub my eyes too hard or the lashes would fall off. So, I am sure I didn't clean off my eye makeup as well as I would normally do. On top of that, I left my contact lenses in all night that Saturday night (too much fun at the reunion, I guess) and by Tuesday, my eyes were totally gooey and pink and totally infected. I went to the doctor and got a prescription to fix the pink eye and I am happy to report it is gone. Actually, it was almost 100% better after one dose!

But it serves me right for being vain!!!

Open Mouth, Insert Foot, Take 2

I said something to my mom tonight that I just shouldn't have mentioned. I tried to avoid her earlier in the day because I knew I could not keep my mouth shut, but she just really didn't need to hear this.

What brililant thing did I say? Well, it all started almost 2 years ago...my brother had elective surgery and had complications from that surgery. He died from complications but they think what ultimately killed him were 2 contaminated batches of a blood thinner called Heperin. My parents are still working on a lawsuit against the drug manufacturer, but they still have a lot of hurdles to get through to prove the Heperin killed him.

So, fast forward a year from his death and I am diagnosed with breast cancer. Not fun for my parents, I assure you, as they only had 2 kids: my brother and myself. Now, after all I've been through (I know, I know, it could have been worse), this little thing happened today and I told my mom about it:

I was having a Herceptin treatment today (Herceptin is the miracle IV drug for Her2Neu positive breast cancer patients) and later in the day I was going to have a MUGA scan (to make sure the Herceptin has not f-ed up my heart). The kindly nurse with a foreign accent (from the Herceptin treatment) offered to leave the IV needle in my arm so that I wouldn't have to be poked again for the MUGA scan, as both procedures required IV needles. Not only did I appreciate her help with that, but I understood her to that point. Then, she says that she has to "flush the IV line" with saline and something else (that I couldn't quite understand) to make sure the IV was prepped for the MUGA scan. "Okay," says the stupid patient. I always assume the nurses know what they are doing. While she is putting the unknown substance in my arm, it finally hit me what the other stuff was besides saline..."Did you say, 'Heperin?'" says me. "Yes," says the nurse. Then I started freaking out, after the shit was in my body. I told her the story of my brother and thus, the reason for my concern. She assured me over and over again that this was fine and different than the stuff given to most patients, that this Heperin is specifically for port flushes...

Needless to say, that put me over the edge today. Not only do I get smacked by breast cancer, but then I get slapped with this shit that might have contributed to my brother's death? Ugh!

I just cannot hide stuff like this from my mom, but I think I put her over the edge tonight when I told her what happened. I mean, for once, I couldn't have kept my mouth shut? How stupid was I to think that she'd be able to handle news like that. I'm going to have to call her back to make sure she's okay, but I know I should have kept that quiet...oh well.

I kept telling her everything is fine, everything is fine, but she still just didn't need to hear that. Neither did I need to be subjected to that crap today, either. 2010 cannot come quickly enough for me! Oh, and have I told you before how much I HATE not having hair and eyelashes???

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Open Mouth, Insert Foot

Have you ever said something and realized how stupid you were to say it? Because I would not want to offend my friend, I won't tell you what I actually said, but it's one of those comments that most people KNOW you shouldn't say, like, when you are talking to a couple who has been married for a while, and you say, "Why haven't you had kids yet?" Not knowing whether or not they have been trying and are having problems conceiving...well, this comment ranked up there.

But I said it, and after it was out, I thought to myself, of all people to make that comment, the woman with no hair, eyebrows, eyelashes who still looks exhausted from going through chemo should know better than to ask anyone ANYTHING personal! Oy vey! And I was very upfront with my friend (we're not that close, but I do consider her a friend nonetheless!) and said, the comment should not have come out of the chemo patient's mouth. I know people look at me all the time, especially since I interchange my wigs daily and sometimes wear hats where you can see there's no hair, and if they aren't that close to me, I know they wonder what's going on, but do they ask questions? No, they only mention that they were curious what was going on after they've either heard my story from me or someone else...So, the fact that I opened up my mouth and made a bonehead comment just made me feel like such an ass...although I did feel better after apologizing and telling my friend that I am an actual bonehead (so my friend wouldn't feel badly if she was thinking that without actually saying it).

Ah well, what can I say? I am so glad that chemo is over and I am starting to feel human again. Really, I haven't had time to digest that it is truly over, and I guess I realize it more on Friday when I don't have to go back for a treatment, but I am so happy that chemo is over! I just want my body to heal and get back to normal! Okay, so I still have one major surgery in November to get the rocks out of my chest, I think I've mentioned that before, but I am anticipating a MUCH easier recovery from this one! But the fact that I will no longer have poison running through my veins is so AWESOME!

Now I have to start fighting with the insurance company to have some things covered...I'll get on my health care high horse another day, but let me just mention that this system is broken. And I am thankful every day that we have enough money in the bank that health insurance and all of the extraneous expenses we have had to pay out of pocket have not caused us financial distress...but how to fix it? I'm not sure I know enough to make an educated decision...

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Can someone help me get into a routine with my family??? Ugh! I am done with chemo. So thrilled that I am done with chemo, but I just don't feel myself yet. I am trying so hard to act like everything is normal, especially around people who don't know me that well, but it is so freaking hard to do!

All I want to do is get my kids routines for school down, but with my 5 year old just starting kindergarten and trying to make friends for my 4 year old (who I have been so bad about making playdates for) and my almost 2 year old starting transitional twos, I cannot get my shit together. And, when I meet people and want to plan all of this stuff, I am so freaking tired right now that I don't know where my head is!

I know, I know, I don't need to do all of this stuff right now, but I think I am so desparate to get into a routine and get this cancer crap behind me, that I am making myself nuts in the process!

Oh, and I was trying to be inspired by Christina Applegate's struggle with breast cancer, but then I realized that she didn't have to go through chemo (which is truly awful and humiliating, especially with the hair loss and I don't care what anyone else says, I still hate the hair thing) and she also didn't have a family to worry about. She just had to worry about herself. I do not like feeling jealous of her fortunate situation, and I know there are too many women in a worse situation than I am, but I cannot find solace with her cancer story. Will I find solace with any story? Yes, I have and I do. Working on finding a support group because I cannot deal with this in my head anymore. I am working on the support group, but haven't found it yet...I'll let you know when I do...See, so I'm not always positive and happy. Maybe tomorrow I'll have a nicer attitude for the readers at large. Tonight, I just feel like bitching. Thanks for listening...

Friday, September 11, 2009

I am done!!!!

Well, today was my last day of Taxol chemo. I am SOOOOO glad it's over! I was very emotional this morning but now I am just happy and proud that I was able to get through this drama of my life!

When we finished the chemo drip was finished, I was in the room with the nurse, my husband and another chemo patient I had just met, and when the automatic pump beeped to let us know the chemo was finished, we put on Michael Jackson's "Thriller" and shook our booties and screamed, "Wooo Hooo!" It was great! Everything else that I was worried about last night went out the window!

It is amazing what the human body is able to withstand. I never could have expected this, and I still don't know the lesson from this, but I know that it is over. My kids and husband bought me a bunch of balloons and that was the celebration I needed! Okay, maybe I'll throw a big party at the house and invite anyone who wants to come...as long as they're willing to shake their booties!!!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Today is the Greatest!

Well, okay, so I'm writing this before midnight, but I'm already thinking it's tomorrow ('cause I am usually asleep by now!) I am SO psyched that tomorrow is my last chemo treatment!!! I never thought this day would come and now that is has, I wish tomorrow were already over!

Although I will still have to go every 3 weeks through next summer to have an IV medication delivered, and I still have the final implants to be put in, I don't think I have ever dealt with anything as challenging as these past few months! I am feeling myself starting to cry because I am finally getting over the crisis mode of getting everything taken care of to this complete daze of what I've been through. I don't even think I've had time to process it all. Now, as I try to tackle that challenge, I know I need help!

Wow, I thought this blog was going to be all about how excited I am that I will be finished with chemo, but what I am really finding out is that I am emotionally spent. I am very proud of what I have been able to withstand, but, HOLY CRAP! I had cancer. I didn't feel anything, and one day, my life changed! I know it will eventually get back to a more normal functioning, and I still know that things could have been so much worse, but, HOLY CRAP! I had cancer!

Okay, okay, gain composure. Go to bed. Tomorrow is a big day of sitting and falling asleep and I still have to wake up in the middle of the night to take my pre-chemo medications. Wait, I think this overwhelmed feeling has been replaced with tears of joy because it is over tomorrow and now I just have to get my hair back. Did I mention before how much I HATE not having hair???

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Hit me with your best shot...

An honest kid really knows how to hit your sore spots. It all stems from my insecurities about NOT having hair right now and wishing very much that I did. Usually, I wear scarves on my head (especially with summertime heat 'cause those wigs can be very HOT), and I have been wearing wigs for the past two days for a few reasons but most importantly, I didn't want to bring my son to Kindergarten wearing a scarf on my head and have people wonder what is going on. I don't want/need to be that person. I want to go the new school and meet new people and the teachers knowing I look pretty good. I am not saying the wigs make me look like a super model or anything, but I will have to post pics with the wigs on for examples. I just feel so much better when I have hair. That's all there is to say about that. But I digress...

So, I was wearing the wig while I was reading the kids books during dinner tonight and my five year old tells me, "Mommy, I miss your hair." Ugh! Did he really have to go there? My biggest chemo insecurity...So I told him, "Yeah, I know. But do you know who misses my hair more than anyone???" "Daddy," my two older kids said. "No, I do," said I. While I appreciate their honestly, it just hit me below the belt. So, I told them all that once my hair grew back, I was going to grow it as long as we all liked it and then I'd stop growing it. "Longer than it was before, Mommy?" they asked. And I said, "As long as we like it!"

So, as much as I'd like to admit that my kids are not at all phased by what has happened to me, I am glad they acknowledge that something happened, even if 99% of the time they act as if I am not someone on chemo, just their mommy...

Monday, September 7, 2009

My big boy starts kindergarten tomorrow!

I am so excited that my son starts kindergarten tomorrow. It's not that pre-school isn't exciting, but I just had such fond memories of public school that I am excited for him. Okay, don't get me wrong, I've had my share of not-so-fond memories.

For instance, when I was in 5th grade, I was starting to develop more than most of the other girls, and that was hard enough. But I have this memory of having an outfit that was all white, from my white polo shirt and pants to my white belt...but maybe I had a pair of brown Docksiders...in any event, I was very proud of this outfit. However, some of the boys made fun of the outfit. One boy told me I looked like a milkman (that one wasn't so bad) but some of the kids were reading a book called the White Mountains. Guess what? One of the boys told me I looked like the white mountains...I was devastated! So I guess I've always had issues with my chest!

But I digress. I hope tomorrow is alot of fun for him and that he enjoys school as much as I did...and that his least fond memories are really just good for a laugh!!!

Friday, September 4, 2009

My left one takes a road trip...and perspective

It has been too long since I've posted anything. Well, I guess that means I am doing pretty well. I wanted to write while I was away last week to say how happy I was that I was away, despite still days of bone pain, but I'm tired of the same old same old.

Instead, I'll talk about how excited I am that I only have ONE more chemo treatment next Friday. Then, my hair will start growing back, I'll get rid of this nasty taste in my mouth (seriously, the WHOLE summer with a gross feeling and taste in my mouth...I couldn't even drown my chemo sorrows in junk food!), no more bone aches, no more exhaustion, no more depression from the medicine. I am totally looking forward to getting back to working out and yoga classes. I am looking forward to November's surgery of having these awful tissue expanders out of my chest and to get some implants that don't feel like I always have rocks in my chest.

But here's a funny story that I forgot to post: I was at the mall two weeks ago, trying to find something to wear (story of my life, right?) and I went into a dressing room and looked at myself in the mirror with a new shirt on and noticed something off...one of my boobs looked about an inch or so lower than the other. I looked so OFF. Now, the thing that caught my attention, besides being FREAKED OUT, is that I look at myself in the mirror all the time, or so I thought. I mean, you think I would have noticed if one boob was hanging THAT MUCH lower than the other, right? I guess I look like such a freak show to myself naked that I kind of do one of those looks where I'm not looking directly at myself, but I can get a general look at my body and that's enough, so I just quickly throw clothes on. I guess I never really looked at myself. So much so that when I was in the dressing room, I was FRANTIC that something was wrong. When I called the doctor's office and spoke to the nurse, she just kept saying, "Hmmm, hmmm...well, it's not under your underarm, is it?" And then I was thinking to myself, "What kind of crap happens to people??? I thought an inch was bad!" I mean, could you imagine adding that insult to injury? It's not bad enough that you had breast cancer and decided the best option was to get rid of your real breasts for total implants (and as cool as I like to make it sound, these expanders suck and there is nothing that I would like more for my chest than to have my old breasts back), but THEN, while you are going through chemotherapy, you boob decides to take a road trip under your arm??? What the flibbity flop is that crap? And, as the nurse informed me, even if there was a severe problem, they WILL NOT perform any sort of procedure while you are going through chemotherapy. So, if my expander DID go under my arm, I'd just have to live with it hanging out there??? OMG! I did go see a reconstruction surgeon who confirmed mine was just fine, but I also feel so much better knowing it COULD be so much worse. It's all about perspective.

Which is why today, while I was in the waiting room waiting to be called to have my IV treatment of Herceptin, and I talked with some women and heard their stories of how they had asked for mammograms and found out after too long of asking that they had breast cancer and bad, and saw the woman sitting near me suffering from lymphadema (she has to wear a supportive sock on her arm because she has no lymph nodes, or very few, and has problems with circulation and such) I was so glad my situation just wasn't that bad in comparison. And I have great, happy, healthy kids and a husband who actually wants to be around us and wants to help us and tons of family who want to help out anyway they can, and friends who are constantly checking up on us and helping us out...what more could I ask for? Only that I am not so strict with the kids about playing in mud and let go a little bit more...so I am doing VERY well. AND, did I mention I only have one more chemo treatment and then I'm done with that??? Oh yeah, party time (when I get my taste buds back!!!)

Monday, August 31, 2009

Long time no write. Have one more treatment, outta sight! Pains are a bother I don't want. But still enjoying vacation in vermont! Achy but doing well!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Bone Pain is Not Fun

Well, just to update my recovery, bone pain really sucks. I feel it in my joints and it is not cool. While I am so happy because this is SO much better than I felt on the other chemo, I still feel quite uncomfortable from the pain, so I take Advil during the day and something stronger at night so I can sleep. I am just so frustrated that I cannot wake up with the kids at 6:30 to feed them because I am so tired from the sleep medicine.

I know, this too shall pass, and I will focus on the good things. Like running around all day yesterday and getting to the pool and going out to dinner late with friends to celebrate my husband's birthday and our anniversary. Oh, I should write about our 2 1/2 week start-to-finish wedding...it is so much better than talking about chemotherapy and feeling sick! Maybe tonight...

Monday, August 3, 2009

I've got to admit, it's getting better...

Well, I started the second type of chemo on Friday. I had to sit in a chair for 5 hours while stuff was pumped into my veins. I was totally freaked out beforehand, but now that it is over, here's the scoop. So far, I have been really tired one day, yesterday, when the kids were home, of course, but now the exhaustion has been replaced with bone pain. I had never experienced bone pain, but it isn't as bad as I thought it would be (when I take pain meds). My body feels like a pinball machine, with radiating pain that comes and goes and then goes to another part of my body: my ankles, my knees, my back. Thankfully, it is kind of centralized in my lower body, and I am okay with that. Hey, but as long as I take Advil or something stronger for sleeping, I am okay, so that is good!

I was able to play with my mom and the baby for the morning, take my mom to B&H (cool electronics store in the city) for the mid-afternoon and go food shopping, and make a bday cake for my husband (on the grill because our oven wasn't working) and make dinner...I think I've had a full day! I hope I can keep it up and that's as bad as this round gets, but we'll wait and see.

I still think The Ellen Show should have a special for chemo patients where she gives us freebies (who doesn't like a freebie???) but I guess that might be too depressing for the viewers? Oh well, I can dream, right?

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Time for a cool change (only this is not so cool)

Half way there and gearing up for the next type of chemo. The good news is that this next chemo side effects aren't as bad as the last - no nausea at least and I shouldn't be quite as exhausted - but these sound like fun: potential bone pain and numbness or tingling in my extremities. Fun, huh? Well, I am hoping that I don't feel those side effects and the rest of the summer is uneventful. Also, I don't like the idea that I have to sit with an IV for 5 hours each treatment, so I am trying to relax about it. People keep telling me that I should just bring things to take my mind off of the treatment, books, movies, etc., and I know I'll be fine once I actually have the first of these long treatments, but I don't care what anyone tells me, I am FREAKED out to have a needle in my arm and sit there for 5 hours while poison is put in my body!

And, after hearing from another survivor who had cancer much further along than I had, but who didn't have to have as much medicine as I do, when they got EVERYTHING (all of the cancer) out and the cancer hadn't even spread to my lymph nodes, I get pissed off! I KNOW the reason that I'm doing what I'm doing is because one of my hormone receptors came back positive and that IF a microscopic cancer cell got somewhere else in my body, this receptor tells the cancer to grow stronger, faster, harder (like the 6 million dollar man, but not nearly as cool as that) but I can still act like a pre-schooler and stomp my feet and say it is not fair, as long as I continue with the treatment, which I know I will do.

Okay, enough bitching for today. I'll post after Friday and let you know that everything was fine, because I know everything will be fine. But, just like it took my 5 year old until this past Monday to put his head underwater at his swim lesson without crying, so it will take me until I have my first treatment with this chemo before I will feel comfortable. I know, bad analogy, but when your 20 month old wakes you up at 5:00 am screaming, sometimes the pen doesn't flow as smooth. Bright spot - tomorrow we head to Sesame Place and all the kids are psyched (and so am I!)

Friday, July 24, 2009

Why is it that I am so touched by the outreaching (is that a word?) of friends & acquaintances that I find myself in tears by their support? So touched...

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Can You See the Real Me?


Well, ladies and gentlemen, I finally got the guts, so here it is...I guess if my kids aren't afraid or upset to see my bald head (they sometimes request to see it) then I shouldn't be embarrassed...even my husband shaved his head in solidarity. No kidding, my son was more upset (he was almost in tears) when he saw his dad's bald head, but he does not do that when he sees mine!

I can honestly tell you that I hate what I look like without hair. My clothes don't look as good, I feel fat, it is really embarrassing. So why am I posting this picture? I guess I just feel that some day I am going to look back on this time and regret not taking a picture. Maybe my kids will want to see this strange time in my life. A blip on the screen, as one of my good friends puts it. But here's the proof that I have some real crap going through my system. You can't make this stuff up...Good news is that as of this time, my eyebrows and eyelashes have not fallen out...though I was right in waiting on a bikini wax (too much information, I know).

But my title isn't correct. This isn't the real me...this doesn't feel like me at all. Ever since I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I haven't felt like me. I've just been this "being" going through the motions to get rid of the cancer forever. And my cancer was the size of a grain of rice, yet I STILL have to endure the pain and humiliation of not just having foreign objects in my chest but poison in my body that makes me sick just thinking about it. And I hate that, while I only have 8 more weeks of chemo, I still have a year of having some IV medicine every three weeks AND I have another surgery in November to get final implants and then another surgery to create nipples...yeah, you didn't know that, did you? It doesn't just end with a double mastectomy, even if you don't have to go through chemo! Sometimes it is truly hard to feel positive and thankful for all of the good things when there is such angst in my own body...but outside of writing this down, you will not hear me speak such things. I know there are too many other women who have to suffer this without the help of a spouse, supportive family and friends. I cannot sit and feel sorry for myself because I DO have it good! It is just so hard, when your body feels so crummy, to remember the good things. So I am thankful every day for my husband who takes care of the family when I do need to lie in bed and for my three young kids who don't allow me much time to lie in bed or dwell on this stuff...and who really love me for just being there for them and being their mommy and not someone sick with boo-boos...

To my children's credit, I must mention the important things that happened today: I listened to my 20 month old sing "We are the Champions" with the radio, got to sing into a princess radio and make up song lyrics for my almost 4 year old, and got to make Lego houses for some Clone Troopers with my 5 year old. That's what matters and that was fun. We laughed today all together and separately and I got them to bed all by myself tonight. My house may be a mess, but my heart is happy and full!

I am so thankful for my good fortunes in life. I know I thank my friends and family often, but it is not often enough. I will never be able to write thank you notes for all the kindness that has been bestowed on me, not in my lifetime. All I can do is look forward with a smile on my face and remember the important things in life.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Accentuate the positive

Well, I haven't written in a week, more so, and so I've missed all of the good things that happened. Like, taking some long power walks both before and after chemo sessions, taking Sarah (20 month old) and my dad blueberry picking up in New York (never heard my dad laugh so hard from watching Sarah devour blueberries up and down the aisles), going to Jacob's camp visiting day (he was so happy to have us there and even wanted to hold our hands to take us from the different activities), to going to the beach with the kids this Saturday and watching them bury Rob in the sand...

I was too busy the last few days focusing on how crummy I have been feeling from the chemo. This stuff can really mess with your mind! I mean, I literally got home from the afternoon at the beach and laid down in bed...I barely moved for the next 36 hours or so. The energy literally stripped from my body. I started feeling so sad about all the crap I've had to go through...then, I stopped myself again and thought about all of the good things that I have going on through this ordeal:

I have the most amazing husband, who, thankfully is successful enough that he can be at home to support us all without having to actually work right now. I mean, I know this is so incredibly hard on him, I cannot imagine how, but he is not only amazing to our children, but he is so caring to me. Words cannot express how greatful I am to him. My actions will just speak louder than words.

I have three wonderful children who very rarely make mention of my hair loss and energy loss. We talk every now and then about my boo-boos and how I take medicine so they won't come back, but they honestly just want to play with me and be with me. It makes my heart feel so at ease to know they just want me to keep being their mommy and be with them.

I have both of my parents who come up at various times during the chemo process to help me and the family get through this. I am so thankful that they live close enough and have enough flexibility to make these trips...I know they have been through enough themselves and I am sorry to have to put them through any more pain, but it means the world to me that they can come and help when I need them.

And my other parents, my in-laws, who want only what is best for us as well. They treat me like a daughter and I know they truly care for me, and not just because I am the parent to their grandchildren and wife to their son. We have a good relationship and they are here with me every step of the way. I could not ask more from them.

And my family who calls and checks in on me and I don't get back to...I hope they understand that I truly mean to reach out to them. I just get lost in all of this sometimes...

And my friends who call constantly and check up on me, even if it is just a phone call they know I might not return, or a text message to route me on...I could not get through all of this without them as well.

So, as I praise, and forget to mention so many other people who have randomly sent me messages because they heard the news, I wake myself from this depressing fog that the chemo leaves me with each week.

I still sit here and wonder what this lesson is supposed to do for me for the future. I cannot believe that god would plague people with stuff like this without some special lesson to learn from it. I know I want to smile more because my family and friends deserve it...and so do I. I also know I should get a nice rack after the final surgery in November, but that is a long way off and I have a bit more agita to endure before that pot of gold at the end of that rainbow...but I digress.

It is good to feel good. I think I appreciate it even more, especially after I go through the down times that are so rough for me (though probably lots better than other people fare). I have now finished 4 of the 8 chemo sessions. I am halfway through. I hope these last 4 sessions are easier, like I have heard they should be. I just want to feel like I can go out with the kids and just have fun...of all the summer lists I made earlier, I think I just need to focus on the one thing - smile.

To everyone else, feel strong and push yourself just a little harder tomorrow...one thing that you didn't think you could do before the end of the day...I did about three of those today and now I finally appreciate that I did them. I am ready for bed!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Don't stop believin!

So, after a week of playing some tennis, and thinking my heart was about to jump out of my chest, and power walking, and walking to town to run errands and thinking my heart was about to jump out of my chest, I decided to call my doctor's office to see whether I was okay or needed to go to the ER. So, I speak to the nurse and tell her that after strenuous workouts (though not like I used to and not for long periods of time) I feel like my heart is working overtime and popping out of my chest. After we get past the fact that I am not having chest pains and need to go to the ER, she informs me that I am "not the typical chemo patient that they see". That most of their patients don't take power walks and don't play tennis with their husbands. Most of them "take it easy". She said that while my blood counts are still in the normal range, they have been tending downward. 14 in May, 11 in July. Red blood count, I guess. I asked her if having more iron in my diet would help, and she said this is not that type of anemia. So, at the end of the conversation, I asked her if I was supposed to take it a little more easy and she said, "yes". So, while I am ultra proud of myself for doing all of the things that I am doing, I guess I need to listen to my body more and do a little less these days. That's okay, this will all be over in 60 days, at least the chemo part of it, so I can handle that! I'm not sitting on my duff all day, but maybe a little more yoga and a little less tennis...though I was hitting so well that day!

On another note, I am reading the book "Twilight" right now. It is easy to read, but I am on the fence as to whether I really like the book. I think it is a bit too teen-oriented for me. But, I am reading it nonetheless! In fact, with my husband out of town celebrating his sister's 40th bday and my in-laws in the TV room, I am headed upstairs to read until I pass out. Now that sounds like a hot Saturday night, does it not???

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Chemo be damned!

I am very proud to say that for the first time in over a year, and since I had reconstructive surgery and am taking chemo, I went and hit tennis balls with my husband today! Yahoo! I was TOTALLY out of breath, and I'm not sure if that's from the chemo messing up my body, my pectoral muscles just being tight across my chest because I haven't really worked them out since my surgery or I am just out of shape (hoping that's the one, sadly), but I did it and had lots of fun! I am going to try and do that again before my next treatment, because it is really good exercise, but today, I'll just revel in the glory of hitting tennis balls with my husband!

Still feel a little nausea, but for the most part, I am back in the swing of things and apparently ready for exercise! No more total exhaustion like Sunday. Man, was that rough!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Just to bitch

You know when you start writing something and after you read a few lines you realize what a whiny complaining person you can be when you don't feel well? I was just going to complain about something that is so unimportant in the grand scheme of things I felt petty and stupid, so I decided to try again.

I was going to complain about how jealous I am that my husband, who is totally the rock of our family right now, went off to play golf all day today and is turning around and doing the same thing tomorrow. Where as I feel like the only true rest I have right now is so chemo-induced that it's not even an enjoyable event to nap...But honestly, he is such a good guy and does so much for us around here, I cannot feel jealous that he wants to go play a bit of golf. I mean, I just need to pick up a good hobby post-chemo and I won't feel so bad. It's just now, during it all, when I cannot feel anger anywhere else, I can just be angry about something stupid.

Weekend was okay. Saturday afternoon I thought I was going to pass out, and pretty much did and didn't recover until Monday morning, but I think eating protein has gotten rid of some of the nausea issues and if I'm tired, I try to sleep, so that covers the exhaustion issues.

Just promise me, that when this is all over, someone is going to buy me a dozen cupcakes from Buttercup Bake Shop in NYC, 6 chocolate with vanilla icing, and 6 vanilla with vanilla icing, and those will just be for me to devour with some sort of ice cream shake to boot. Yes, from all that sugar, I just might boot, but I miss that devil, sugar, so much, I just don't know how I can last until this is over. I will have a sugar OD for sure, but it will be worth it! Oh, and it's not that I have been forbidden to eat sugar, I just get such a nasty after-taste from sweets that it really defeats the enjoyment of eating them. And, then I get nauseated...blah, blah, blah...it's just not worth the effort sometimes...

Well, I have gone from here to there in this blog. I love my husband and I wish I was stronger and didn't feel jealous of his one true pleasure, but I guess sometimes, I am just a bitch! Maybe a bitch who really needs a sugar fix...now I understand why drug addicts have problems...

Thursday, July 2, 2009

What am I doing up now???

It is the middle of the night. I had a treatment yesterday. I took medicine that should have knocked me out all night, yet here I am, eating saltine crackers 'cause my stomach is upset, writing on my blog. There is something wrong with this picture!!! Though, the crackers were mighty tasty, I might add!

Yesterday's treatment went okay. From the last time, I mentioned I had some tingling sensation on my scalp and ears, the nurse freaked that I was having an allergic reaction, so she prescribed benadryl for this session. Same thing happened but this time, I had a weird sinus sensation in my nose. I don't know why, this stuff is poison and just does things to me, I guess. Felt pretty crummy, but still managed to get in a walk into town with my husband and back, so that's good, right? But being up at 4:30 (up for about an hour before that) is just not right. Thankfully, my dad is here to help get the kids off to camp so I can sleep in a bit? Oh, and let me not forget that the red chemo makes me pee red...but I forgot so the first time I went to the bathroom I freaked out for a bit until I remembered that the dye comes out...how soon they forget!

I had some funny thoughts I wanted to share, not just the mundane chemo crap that always pops up (But remember, this is also my diary so I need to put in some of this information) but now I cannot remember any of it. Except I did have thoughts of music running in my head at 3:30 this morning that made me want a catwalk and dance. Hair or no hair, I need to boogie! On a week when I'm feeling well, not poorly, because that wouldn't be much dancing but more curling up on the floor with a blanket not moving - not the image I had in my head. I think I was dancing to George Michael's "Freedom"...always a good catwalk song!

Of course, Michael Jackson is still in my head, with my favorite song, Thriller, running as background music. Sorry to say, my friends, but when a song is stuck in my head, I can have a full conversation with you, but that song is still playing like a radio in my mind. My station just switched to "Getting in Tune" by the Who. That's a good song and I need the kids to know that one. Time to make more CDs for the car! I wonder, for anyone who does read this blog, tell me what songs young kids should get used to from our youth (or before)? If you could put 5 songs on a CD, what would they be? Give some current, classic, country, pop...I wanna know!

Well, I am more awake than before, but now I have "Pulling Mussles from a Shell" by Squeeze as my background music so that ain't so bad! Keep that funky music playing in my head! I'm going to pretend to go back to bed...or I could just surf the computer instead...hey, I'm rhyming!!!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Just checking to see if mobile logging really works...if so, that's cool!

Summer is here!

Okay, I know it officially started last week, but tomorrow starts camp for my two older kids. They will be out of the house all day. I am conflicted because while I am looking forward to the full days without them to go through these bad chemo weeks without worrying about entertaining them (or my poor husband having to do that) I hate the fact that they will be gone for 8 weeks all week. I know this is really best for them, and they are going to have the best summer, and there are still plenty of times when we will play, but I just want to say for the record, that I will miss having them around.

Okay, so let's make the list of things I am going to do while they are in camp all summer, even though I still have one kid at home who will require attention (when you have 3 kids and 2 are gone, 1 seems like you could rule the world blindfolded with one hand tied behind your back) here goes the list:

1. organize each room in the house and keep it clean for at least 48 hours
2. put photos in kids and family photo albums from the past 3 years (no big deal, that should take a few hours, right?)
3. start ordering photo books for the kids for each year of their lives, including family pictures, because there is no way #2 is ever going to get done unless I hire someone to put them in an album and since I'm not doing that for a number or reasons (mostly I think that's too lazy) #2 is a pipe dream
4. work out every day on the good days through chemo so the bad days are fewer in number (this one, I might be able to pull off...)
5. do something crazy with my husband during some of those days, and that does not include our bi-weekly bonding treatments at the chemo lounge
6. smile as much when my kids are at camp as I do when they are home

Well, that about does it for me. Today was an almost nausea-free day. Yay me! I really think eating some protein when I feel queasy helps me out. Better get started on my to do list...tomorrow!

Friday, June 26, 2009

He shaved his head for me...

Seriously, my husband came home from playing golf yesterday and his hair was shorter than mine. I know he did it for me. He says it's his summer do, butI know he did it for me. And I love him for it...I loved him before that, but this just solidifies what a totally awesome man he is.

It makes me feel more confident about going bald when all of the hair finally falls out (very soon, very soon). Right now, it is falling out in patches on my scalp, not a pretty look, but I still have a lot of hair to go. I've been told it will all be out within the next 4 weeks. Back to my awesome husband, I know, he's just saying that it's no big deal, I know that. And I love him for that...and that he looks really good with no hair!

Today, was an awesome day. No nausea, no naps, went to the beach with the kids for the last hurrah before camp and even made it out for a full dinner date with my husband. I know each day will continue to get better until next treatment, and I will take every minute of it with gusto. When you feel good, you feel good!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Play that funky music, white boy!

I'm watching the news, all about Michael Jackson dying. It is sad, I know. But the news of his death brought me to the music of his life. It made me and a good friend of mine go through his music (and sing lyrics together on the phone and laugh) and I was not only amazed at how talented he really was, but how great his music was. I don't think I've sat on the phone reminiscing about music, and singing songs, since I was a teenager, but we really had fun on the phone!

I guess I should be sad about this, but I am sitting here singing songs in my head (go back to one of my original blogs, January 2009, called Songs in my Head and you'll understand me more) and I am totally smiling. We need more music that makes us smile. I need more music to make me smile. Again, when depressed, I can launch myself into "Comfortably Numb" and "How Soon Is Now" but I could just as easily think about "Thriller" and "Boys of Summer" and change that mood around. Seriously, I need to find my Thriller CD and play it for the kids, even if they scream for "Squeeze Box" and "Orange Crush" and play them what will soon be known as "their music". No kiddie music in our car, only the "classic" stuff we give them, and then the kids call it their music, and I love it!

Well, I am off to the attic to search for some of these CDs and torture my husband and kids on our way to the beach tomorrow. I don't care how much they scream, I'll be smiling!!!