Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Yearly mammogram

Tomorrow, I have my first routine mammogram of my remaining breast since my mastectomy back in October.

I have to say, the word routine connected with anything to do with my breasts sounds wonderful.

I was going to wait until after my reconstruction surgery to have the test, but since that seems to be put off indefinitely, I decided to do it now while I'm off work.

I wonder if my insurance will get a discount for only having one side to do?

Many women fear these tests after their original traumatic experience, but I'm quite sure it'll be fine. I don't feel any lumps, and by now, I know what they feel like.

But, wouldn't it suck if the results came back as anything but benign?

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Things you only hear in Sacramento

I just heard a radio news person say, "Highs today will be only 98. It looks like our heat wave is over, at least for now."

Okay, I love me some heat, but even I never said "only" 98.

No doubt, it's summer in Sacramento. It was 112 yesterday at 11:00, according to a thermometer outside my house. Summer always been my favorite time of year, precisely because of the delicious heat. (And, also the tomatoes.) I never even minded that I live in an older house with no insulation, and my air-conditioning never cools it down below 85.

Until my life was plagued with hot flashes, that is.

Things have changed. Is there anything worse than very high heat and a hot flash? (Okay, maybe the chill you get after a hot flash ends and -20 degrees would be worse.)

They should have a hot flash heat index and publish that in the newspaper.

98 degrees today, but the HF index makes it feels like its 122. Get those fans and spray bottles ready, ladies.


Monday, June 28, 2010

Dick and Jane Get Cancer

When you are undergoing breast cancer treatment, you get handed lots of brochures, and not all of them are about HIPPA privacy laws.  (The majority are though - I have quite the little collection.)

We get handed brochures about mastectomies with cartoon drawings of women who have two breasts before and a little line across the chest for "after."  We get reconstruction materials with little graphs and happy faces showing our expected emotional level as we recover.  We get pink booklets called "chemo and you"  filled with photos of vibrant young models who look not only incredibly healthy, but fabulously chic when bald.

I will be taking a new drug called Zometa in early July. This is a bisphosphonate infusion, traditionally given to people whose cancer has metasticized to their bones to help shore them up. But, there is some research that bisphosphonates are useful in the adjuvent setting to protect against the spread of cancer, although it's not given routinely for that use yet.  Because I have osteopenia, my insurance company will pay for me to get Zometa, so I am lucky.

And, of course, to help me understand this,  I was handed a Zometa brochure.

Most of these pamphlets and "Patient Education" materials are designed to be understood by the broadest possible population. Which means, they aim for a 6th grade reading level.  Which also means I typically throw them away and search Medscape, Medline or other medical sites for the medical information I want.

It's almost insulting how stupid they think we are.  Almost, I said, because I suspect in most cases, they may actually be right. I've seen Leno do his "Jaywalking" segment before.

The Zometa brochure captured my hard to capture attention.  First, when you open it up, you see this lovely photo of a couple.  Here is a close-up of the man:

Tell me that doesn't look like Dennis Haysbert.  I've had a crush on him for the longest time, and was pleased to see him in my cancer materials.

Kind of gives you something to live for, you know?   I might be more accepting of Tamoxifen if Josh Holloway would model in their pamphlet.

Aside from tall, dark and handsome models, this brochure struck me for another reason:  it reads exactly like a Dick and Jane primer. It has the same cadence, and even the illustrations have a familiarity about them.

Here's a story from my youth:  I was always an advanced reader, and by the start of first grade I was reading books such as Little House on the Prairie and Little Women.  On my first day of school, I was assigned a Dick and Jane primer by my teacher.  I eagerly took it home, wanting to be a good student.  I read the thing right away, from cover to cover, and was proud of myself and was sure my teacher would be too.  I was done with the book. I could get a new one.

For you youngsters who missed out on Dick and Jane, some of the text of the book was as follows:  See Spot! See Spot Run!  Run Spot, Run!

I was surprised to discover that we were to read that book all year, when I had finished it in less than 15 minutes.  And, because I refused to open it again  (even at age 6, I didn't think it merited reading twice)  I was put in the Busy Bee reading group instead of the Floating Butterflies. Which, as you guessed, meant I was put in with the slow kids.

Thus began my long, slow hatred for school that ended with my refusing to go to college (a decision I do not regret).  I find it deliciously ironic that my abhorrence for school led directly to a lack of higher education which in turn led me to taking a job -  working in a school.

It also may explain my ADD tendencies.  When you are forced to turn your brain inward and entertain yourself for long periods of time, as I had to do in school, it becomes harder to focus when you need to.

Back to this Zometa brochure.  It was, clearly, written for the Cancerous Busy Bee group:

Imagine that your bones are a house that is under construction  It is being rebuilt with 2 teams of workers.  One team takes down the old walls.  A second team puts up brand new walls in their place. When these 2 teams work together, the house stays strong.  
When the 2 teams stop working together, the house becomes weak.  One team works too much and makes holes in the walls, which can weaken them.  The second team also starts to work too much, but it gets confused and builds walls in the wrong places." 

While I do wonder why one team would get confused and build walls in the wrong places, I imagine that is because they can only read at a 6th grade level and can't follow plans.

And, we get this illustrative photo:

 Just for comparative purposes, I present you with a photo from the Dick and Jane series:

Tell me you don't see a resemblance.

To be honest, I actually think it's good that these brochures are super-dumbed down.  Because, simplistic as they are, they do explain difficult concepts to those who probably need it the most.  Not everybody reads the Merck Manual for fun, as I always have.

The rest of us,  we know how to get the information we need.  Medscape and a medical dictionary are a good starting place.

Jane gets Cancer.  Run, Jane.  Run!


Saturday, June 26, 2010

Life, Listeria, and Legislation in California

Living in California has its blessings:  relatively warm weather, undoubtedly beautiful scenery, and plenty of things to do and places to go.

There is always a dark lining to every silver cloud. By now, even non-Californians know our state government is dysfunctional - which is the only non-swear word I can use describe them.

When I say dysfunctional, keep in mind that there are levels of dysfunction: you have grandma and grandpa sniping at each other about the best road to take each time they get in the car, or you have pedophile Uncle Harry drooling over what's under the diaper of 2 year old nephew Johnny.

California's dysfunction is decidedly on the Uncle Harry side of the scale.

Maybe I'm being too kind.

I have a personal stake in this disastrous governorship - my husband is a state manager.  Over a year ago, we took a 15% pay cut (while legislators gave their staff members raises) due to the budget crisis.  "Furlough Fridays" came right at the time I began cancer treatment. My salary dropped, my husband's salary dropped, medical expenses rose - and the legislature fiddled.

(While the paycheck of my hard-working husband was cut by a significant amount,  it was discovered this week that all along, welfare recipients have been allowed to withdraw government assistance money at casinos - and have done so to the tune of almost 2 million dollars  in the past 8 months.)

It's budget time again.  Guess what?  These good men and women, these honored public servants sat down, worked together, focused, did their constitutional duty and passed a budget.

Um, no. They didn't.  I'm funnin' ya.

They continue to fiddle while Rome burns, and so Arnold has stated that state workers are to be paid minimum wage until the budget passes.  Which, historically, takes months.

I guess that's our punishment for having elected a rapist like Uncle Harry.

You would think at this point that the legislature would drop everything to pass the budget - after all, that is the sole reason we elect them.  That's why there are legislators in the first place.

You would think.  They don't.  

They are elected to manage the finances of the state of California, but in their minds, their jobs have morphed into passing more and more nanny laws to control our lives.  They are on a huge power trip; thinking they know more about our health and safety than we do, taking our freedoms away bit by bit. 

So, the budget deadline passed - what are they working on this past week?

They are deciding whether to boycott Arizona, which is laughable since they can't get their own act together.  Can't you just see stoned Dad slurring as he lectures his kid on the dangers of drugs and alcohol?

They have implemented a tax fine for anybody under 18 who doesn't wear a helmet snowboarding.

They want to limit juice in daycare centers to one glass a day.

And of course, the very important topic of changing our official state rock came up. "No, Ann," you are saying, "that can't be true.  Your state budget hasn't passed, people are suffering - they wouldn't take valuable time to debate what the state rock should be!  Not even California is that bad."

I give you Senate Bill 624:
SB 624, as amended, Romero. State rock.
Existing law establishes various animals, vegetables, and minerals as emblematic of the state and provide that serpentine is the official state rock and lithologic emblem.
This bill would remove serpentine as the state rock and lithologic emblem.

They used staff time to write this document, they amended it three times, debated it in the Assembly and Senate, and it's coming up for a vote.  In the meantime, in the midst of a recession,  tens of thousands of California's state workers are faced with the very real possibility of not being able to pay their bills.

Given all that,  I wasn't surprised when I read today's article in the Sacramento Bee about another bill being discussed by the legislature and supported by the 2nd worst governor in history,  Arnold Schwarzenegger, which would ban paper and plastic bags in grocery stores.  Plastics will be gone entirely, and we will have to pay a tax for paper.

Not being a control-freak in power, I am of the opinion that people should be able to decide for themselves if they wish to choose plastic bags or not, based on their own belief about recycling and harm to the environment. Maybe instead of banning books, I mean, bags, we should implement a program educating people about the harm - if any.
But, we have already established that the legislature doesn't trust the people to make good decisions; I mean, we can't be trusted to give the right fruit juice to our children anymore. 

Paper bags though?  What harm does paper do to the environment?  Why can't I put my groceries in free paper bags, as I have for years?  Why can't the store decide, based on their customer's needs, whether they want to charge for paper bags or not?

What's next?  Are we going to ban wrapping paper?  Copy paper?  Newspaper?  (Well no, newspaper is declining the way those plastic bags would once people discover better ways to do what they want to do).

How about Senate Bill paper? Can we ban that?

"I'm with you, Ann," you are saying.  "They are clearly crazy.  But, what does this have to do with breast cancer?"

I'll tell you.

And, it has to do with the law of unintended consequences.  In the legislature's Utopian vision for the future of California, we will all be carrying around fabric or reusable recycled plastic bags for our groceries.  (Except people with ADD, such as myself, who will never in a million years remember to bring them and who will be throwing loose cans in the back of her truck.)

At the very end of the Bee's article, there is this paragraph, which caught my eye and caused this rant:

Opponents counter with a study by university researchers, funded by the American Chemistry Council, which suggests that reusable bags pose health risks. Ninety-seven percent of reusable bag users fail to wash them, and 51 percent of bags carried food-borne bacteria, the study found.

Speaking as somebody who has just gone through chemotherapy and spent months with no immune system, this gives me the willies. A low white count doesn't keep you from needing to go to the grocery store.  You do your best (unlike our elected officials), you wipe down the cart, you bring your hand sanitizer.  And, I suppose, you'd wash your own bags if they can even be washed.  (Many I've seen wouldn't hold up.)

But, other people won't.  And, the thought of thousands upon thousands of bags infected with e-coli, listeria, salmonella and other food-borne diseases, placed in grocery carts, sitting on counters, in the hands of the clerk who will then handle my items -  creeps me out.  There are some people in the grocery store that you know have never and will never wash those bags.  You've seen them shop - they use the bags not only to carry things to their car, but also to carry things inside the store.

And, they change their minds and put things back.

Maybe an ADA lawsuit is in order so we can have our nice, clean, sterile paper bags for our groceries.

I won't even get into the idea that the people who run California's government this way could be in charge of my healthcare.  It's just too frightening.

I know you are wondering:  what is my vote for the official state rock?

I can't choose just one.  I think the heads of every one of our public officials qualify.

Don't you?

Friday, June 25, 2010

Off for the Summer!

One of the joys of working for a school district is time off in the summer.  Unlike teachers, we Principal's Secretaries only get five weeks off.  My last day was yesterday - I am now free to enjoy myself until August 2nd.

What do I have planned for myself?

July 1st:  Mammogram.
July 7th:  Herceptin and Zometa infusion
July 12th: MUGA
July 27:  Plastic surgery consult
July 28:  Herceptin

So far.   

You could call it a hypochondriac's dream summer.

I'd rather go to Maui.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Four Best Shows for Breast Cancer Patients

So, you are doing chemo or recovering from surgery, and you don't have a ton of energy.  You want to veg on the couch and watch TV.  So, what shows and movies does this breast cancer patient recommend to help get you through the days?

I thought you'd never ask.

1.  Deadliest Catch. 

What?  A show about hard-bitten crab fisherman working in the Bering Sea?  Why would that show be good for those undergoing breast cancer treatment? 

I'll tell you why.  We have all had that experience of feeling like we just can't do it one more day. Can't do chemo, can't climb the stairs to the Oncology ward.  It's too hard.  Well, watch as Sig's crew battles thousands of pounds of ice forming from spray on the boat at 4:00 a.m. in the middle of the Bering Sea - for 20 hours straight.  Do your bones ache from Tamoxifen?  Watch as Phil skippers the boat with a severe backache - year after year.    Feel like you don't want to see one more doctor, ever again?  You'll see the boys pull their hundred thousandth crab out of icy water - and then do it again.  Fear death?  Watch as they climb on crab pots in hurricane force winds, watch as the coast guard does heroic and dangerous at-sea rescues.  Watch as some don't make it.

The boat heaves, the guys get no sleep for days, weeks on end, they do the hardest physical labor in the most grueling conditions for 30 hours at a time - if they can do that, well, I know I can sit in a barcalounger and let somebody hook an IV up to me.  The stakes are a bit higher for me too - they only get money.  I get my life.

(This is also the most beautiful HD show on TV)

2.  Sex and the City.

Sometimes, people get tired of hearing about cancer.  Sometimes, you get tired of talking about it.  Sometimes, friends aren't there for you in the ways you'd hoped, and sometimes you don't have the energy to be there for them.  You may be exhausted, sporting bags under your eyes, never getting enough sleep.  If you are like me, you might have even kept your pajamas on for days.  You may have no breasts, no hair, no energy.

The antidote is Carrie and friends - always beautiful, always supportive of each other.  Of course, they always look fabulous and the fashion holds up decades later - but the writing of the show is warm, funny, meaningful. It's about friends, and mistakes, and love.   I have seen the complete series dozens of times and still don't get tired of my girls.  No matter how exhausted I'm feeling, after watching Sex and the City, I feel better.  And, an added bonus - Samantha got breast cancer in the 6th season and had to do chemo.

One of us!.   

3.  A Man Named Pearl

My favorite film style is documentary.   This movie is a lovely story about a man who wanted to win Yard of the Month in his small town and ended up learning to create topiary from thrown away plants.  He created the most magical topiary art in his yard, and it pretty soon took over the whole town.  Those dealing with cancer will enjoy it, because the lesson is life can be meaningful in unconventional ways.  Out of his hobby and talent, Pearl learned art, has helped generations of kids by allowing them on his property for tours, beautified his entire town and even became a college teacher.  You will also admire the intelligence and work ethic of Pearl, a remarkable man.  Aching bones will feel better after watching this uplifting movie, I promise.

4.    Groundhog Day

This is my favorite movie of all-time.  What's not to love about a man who lives the same day, over and over, and eventually finds meaning in the mundane?  No matter how long or short our lives are, the lesson is it is those little, quiet moments where you are fulfilling your promise or promise to others that make a life.

What movies or TV shows have been inspiring and comforting to you as you went through treatment?

Saturday, June 19, 2010

DD Delightful

Being abandoned by my plastic surgeon and not being able to see a new one until the end of July - and hearing that her surgery schedule is already pushed back through October - means one thing:

Something had to be done.

About the boobage, I mean.

Since it is World Cup season, let's imagine a soccer ball. Next to the soccer ball is a half-deflated water balloon. You can imagine them both with a checkerboard pattern, if you like.  Now visualize them sitting on my tiny chest. But, not side by side, oh no, that would be too easy. Pretend the soccer ball is just under the collar bone, and the half-deflated water balloon is sitting a few inches above my waist.

Now you know what I look like.

Sure, walking around completely uneven has been acceptable in the short run. Cancer isn't for wimps.  At first, I was doing chemo and too tired to care about uneven boobs. I wasn't working and my couch and my dog never complained. Then, chemo was over, life began to edge towards normal, and I went back to work.  Getting dressed with this body was frustrating, but it was only supposed to be for a month or two.  Everybody knew what I'd been through.  So, rather than the skirts and slacks and pretty blouses I was used to wearing, I put on my old bras to try and get a semblance of evenness and wore jeans and baggy tops to hide myself.  (And, be comfortable.)

Surgery was coming.

Only, now surgery isn't coming -  for months.

So, it's time to think prosthesis.

The irony is I need a prosthesis for my real side, to match the blown-up skin on my mastectomy side.

Did you know that Nordstrom has women who specialize in helping mastectomy patients get fitted with prosthesis (prosthesi?)  They even take certain kinds of insurance.

So, today, after I met a friend for lunch, I stopped at Nordstrom to see if there is some way to make me look at least a little even. Summer is coming - summer in Sacramento often means 110 degree days. I want to wear tanks and camis, not high necked, structured blouses.

Can you imagine 110 degrees and hot flashes and full coverage clothing?

I can't.  I'm not a Saudi woman.

The fitter (Rita at Arden Fair; ask for her) was wonderful. She measured me, brought in some bras in my size.

Which, by the way, is now a 32 DD.

Yes ma'am.  A  DD.

I weigh 98 pounds.

Just sayin'

Of course, that is the blown up size but there is nothing we can do -  we have to match it.  So, Rita brings out some prosthesis (prosthesi?) and bras and we get to trying stuff on.   The prosthesi are these floppy silicone forms that come in different shapes. We tucked one in my real side to help push me up and try and make the roundness in the same general area -  and guess what?


It worked.  The water balloon now almost matches the soccer ball, even from a side view.   Unless you inspect me (and with DD's you might) nobody is going to know the difference.

These prosthesis forms are flesh colored (although not my flesh colored) and malleable and sticky.  Unlike cotton padding, these won't fall out.  They almost feel real.

I guess like my eventual silicone reconstructed breast will, now that you mention it.

The prosthesis is $200.00 and has to be ordered. I almost whipped out my credit card and bought it outright, thinking my insurance wouldn't pay.  (They wouldn't cover a wig, and because I am undergoing reconstruction,  paying for a prosthesis is a long shot.)  But, I figured since I couldn't walk out the door with it anyway, I'd take the time to call my insurance company and see if I can get reimbursed.  I was going to call her Monday and let her know.  In the meantime, I bought the bra ($80.00).  I figured I could pad it with my old friend, my cotton foob, until I found out about insurance.

I left, happy there was a solution.

I was still in a mall though.  Walking along, bones aching (I hate you Tamoxifen)  I saw a brand new store called "As Seen on TV." Well, you all know I love me some TV (as long as it's not daytime TV and I'm forced to watch it in a doctor's waiting room) and I love junky gadgets - so I went in.

And, guess what I found? Our Secret silicone breast forms.

$25.00 for two of them.

They were very close to the prosthesis's I was trying on. Similar shape, same consistency.   I am not sure they would work as a real prosthesis, but they certainly work for what I need them for.

So, I bought them.  That, in case you weren't counting, is about $188.00 less than I almost paid.

Meet my new boob(s).

The little nipple is a nice touch, but since I'm using them more for push-up purposes, it ends up on the side of my breast.  I hope nobody notices, although I understand many people have extra nipples.

And, if you think about it, I guess I would still have the right amount.

Anyway, since I saved so much, I think I'll go back and buy another $80.00 bra.

I don't know how long I'll get to ask for a DD so I might as well enjoy it.

Friday, June 18, 2010

"I want a new drug"

Remember the old Huey Lewis song?

I want a new drug
One that won't make me sick
One that won't make me crash my car
Or make me feel three feet thick

I want a new drug
One that won't hurt my head
One that won't make my mouth too dry
Or make my eyes too red

One that won't make me nervous
Wondering what to do
One that makes me feel like i feel when i'm with you
When i'm alone with you

I want a new drug
One that won't spill
One that don't cost too much
Or come in a pill

I want a new drug
One that won't go away
One that won't keep me up all night
One that won't make me sleep all day

One that won't make me nervous
Wondering what to do
One that makes me feel like i feel when i'm with you
When i'm alone with you
I'm alone with you baby

I want a new drug
One that does what it should
One that won't make me feel too bad
One that won't make me feel too good

I want a new drug
One with no doubt
One that won't make me talk too much
Or make my face break out


Yeah, indeed.

I had my herceptin/oncology appointment Wednesday, and I spent the bulk of it complaining about tamoxifen.

I really want a new drug. The bone pain, the nearly continuous hot flashes and the lack of sleep from tamoxifen is doing me in. And, I told him. Intensively, and apparently, sorrowfully.

Since complaining isn't my normal style, and my funny bone seems to be dysfunctional too, the doctor said to me, "You seem depressed."

That startled me out of my whining. I ache, I am tired, I'm sick of cancer treatment and am ready to feel better - but depression isn't part of my world.

I opened my eyes wide. "No, no, I'm not depressed. I'm disappointed and frustrated because of a bad experience."

Let me backtrack and discuss my oncologist with you. I had a problem with his office at the start (and posted about it here.) I almost switched, imagining dire side effects from chemo and not being able to call to get help. But, my doctor called me personally and resolved that problem, and in fact, has turned out to be one of the most caring doctors I've ever had.

I worry about naming names in this blog, but when somebody is outstanding I don't see any harm, so if you get Dr. Blair as your oncologist, consider yourself lucky.

When he asked me why I was disappointed and frustrated, I got the impression he really wanted to know. So, I told him about my situation with my plastic surgeon; how I'd been dumped like a 40 year old wife - for somebody younger with fake, not reconstructed, boobs. I also described the whole hospital fiasco.

I told him who my new plastic surgeon was going to be but that I was still hoping to find somebody who could see me faster. He made me feel better immediately; he told me that I would likely get a great result from her, that she was very skilled and had a great reputation and I should stick with her. He almost said I was better off with her than Dr. S, but of course, that was only in my fevered imagination based on revenge fantasies - no doctor would ever say that about a colleague. He did talk up Combat Doctor though, and I believe his respect for her is real.

Combat Doctor does have a good reputation with both the medical community and patients (several people have mentioned her to me) so I am now satisfied in her as my doctor, and accepting of the fact that I am going to have to wait for surgery.

Since I'd mentioned the expander hurt, and that was part of the reason I was so upset, he did an exam. He checked out my expander and the skin and said the wound had healed very well, but added, "It seems ready to blow."

I had to laugh because that is exactly the way it feels.

We discussed the results of my DEXA scan, which showed that I have moderate Osteopenia. I'm very slight (okay, super skinny) and at risk for osteoporosis, and chemo can leech calcium from the bones too, so he decided to give me an infusion of Zometa at my next appointment. This is a drug usually used in people who have bone mets but he said they are now starting to see value in the adjuvent setting, and it may be another tool in the arsenal against a recurrence of cancer.

As is the dreaded tamoxofen. As much as it has diminished my quality of life, the only other drug in its class has the same side effects. He said all the symptoms I'm having are symptoms of estrogen depletion, which is what tamoxifen is supposed to do.

Still trying to weasel out of the drug, I mentioned that I had heard that some HER2+ cancer patients don't get benefit from it, and I knew there was a blood test to tell if I was one of them. He explained that some don't metabolize it properly. But, because I was having the symptoms I was - it's unlikely that I'm one of them. If you don't metabolize it - no side effects.

He said, "Cancer is sneaky and likes to live, and if we block the HER2 pathway with herceptin, than it might want to take the estrogen highway unless we block it with tamoxifen."

I liked the imagery enough to continue to take it.

In the end, he spent about 45 minutes with me. Pretty impressive for a physician.

So, while I didn't get to dump the drug I wanted to dump, I did get new ones. Zometa in three weeks. He strongly suggested I take calcium and vitamin D for my bones. And, I ended up with a prescription for percocet for the bone pain.

I've yet to fill it, and I didn't ask for it. But my nurse - to whom I also complained about the bone pain - went back and asked for it for me, which was kind of him.

Once my surgery is done, maybe I can take a yoga class and maybe it will help this bone pain. Maybe we can get a hot tub to ease the aching.

But for now, pain medicine will have to do.

So, I got some new drugs. That's the life of a cancer patient.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Nominate a Pink Power Mom here!

A few days ago, I posted about Bright Starts™ and how they will donate a dollar to breast cancer charities that are run by moms if you "like" them on facebook.

Today, you can nominate your own Pink Power Mom by using the comments feature on my blog.

Bright Starts™ wants to honor eight women who have led an inspirational fight against breast cancer. These amazing women have persevered through their battle and have gone on to make a difference in the world, motivating and inspiring those around them. What does it take to be a Pink Power Mom? Read about our former winners at The eight winning Pink Power Moms will receive:

- A $5,000 Donation to the breast cancer charity of her choice

- A weekend of pampering with all 8 of the Pink Power Mom winners

- A chance to be selected as the Bright Starts™ Pink Power Super Mom and to receive additional charity donations plus appear in a Bright Starts™ print advertising campaign

Nominate your Pink Power Mom today by sharing your stories about that amazing woman in your life. Recognize and empower these amazing women by submitting stories about your Pink Power Mom to Breast Cancer? But Doctor, I hate pink, and don’t forget to submit your stories to In October, we will announce the national winners and the blog winner. This very special mom will receive some of her own Bright Starts™ products.

Also, don’t forget to Become a Fan of Bright Starts on Facebook and Be a Giver. Through the month of June, Bright Starts™ will donate $1 for every new fan that joins us during the campaign to benefit Pink Power Mom charities. Your Pink Power Mom will appreciate your help and support

Hey, I also get something. If the winner is chosen from my blog, I get to go to Atlanta for pampering too. After my rough week, I need a little pampering (although with my luck my surgery will be scheduled the day of this event.)

But, it's not about me. Tell your friends to post here about a mom doing something fantastic for the breast cancer community. And, don't forget to fan them on facebook.

I did!

Monday, June 14, 2010

You can't fire me, I quit!

My plastic surgeon called me this morning. He, once again, apologized for the error that caused me to spend four unnecessary hours waiting for a surgery that did not take place.

Then he shocked me. He wanted to see me, not because he was changing the size of my implants, or because he wanted to switch from silicone to saline.

He was firing me.

Apparently, a while back he had decided he no longer wanted to do reconstructions. I was his last patient. With the error that happened and the fact that there would be a delay, he figured it would be a good time for me to start over with another doctor. I will need several revisions and surgeries down the road and for continuity, he thought it would be best for me to find somebody I can stick with since he won't be doing them.

Ann's Translation: The hospital fucked up, he's sick of it, doesn't want to deal with it and insurance companies anymore, doesn't need to financially - and I got caught in the middle.

He gave me the name of a plastic surgeon who still takes insurance. I googled her, she seemed experienced. She was a combat doctor and has gone around the world reconstructing the faces of injured and disfigured people - sticking a boob in a piece of skin should be a piece of cake after that, right?

Dr. S.'s office had sent the referral, and the scheduler said she'd just talked to them and they could fit me in quick.

So, I called.

Now, I don't know if the scheduler made that story up, but there is no "fitting in quick." In fact, Combat Doctor had suffered an injury over the weekend and was rescheduling all her surgeries, and she was full until October. She can't even see me for a consultation until July 29th.

I go back to work August 2nd.

I want this expander out of me. It hurts. It gives me shooting pains in my chest. I can't sleep on it, and I can feel it rubbing against my ribs and the inside of my skin. Having it in for over a year - when I didn't even have radiation? It's unimaginable.

I made the appointment with Combat Doc, but I also wanted to look around. I called Dr. Lee, listed in my last blog post.

He no longer takes insurance patients.

In fact, several people listed under my insurance plan have changed their minds - they don't see insurance patients.

Can you blame them? If you can charge a vain woman $7,000 for fake boobs and do it in your own basement surgical center, and be in control of the entire process (including ordering implants), and schedule 3 or 4 of them a day ($28,000), and end up with a happy patient - why would you do difficult reconstructions that never come out perfect at hospitals under the rules of petty bureaucrats who just might forget to order your implants and leave you and everybody else hanging?

You wouldn't.

I wouldn't.

So, now I'm stuck. My new doctor is injured and can't operate. None of the others listed on my insurance plan actually takes insurance. There is one exception: my only other option is a person who is over an hour away by car (if I'm lucky enough to have no traffic.)

Considering that it's out-patient surgery and I will have to drive straight home after it, and then go to his office several times in the next few days for wound checks and drain-removal, I don't want to have to go that far, especially when there are two hospitals within 15 minutes of my house.

I don't live in a rural area - I should be able to find a doctor closer.

One would think.

I'm beyond frustrated that I can't get medical care. Now, everything that I didn't want to happen is going to. I will have this painful and ugly expander in for the summer, and the next school year will be impacted. It will cost me money since I'll have to take more time off work and have no sick leave left and won't for a while. Not to mention how patient my coworkers have been with all the time off I've had, and I wanted to begin the school year as if it was normal.

Emotionally, it's difficult. While I'll still have herceptin and oncology visits and some minor surgeries, the end of my cancer treatment - in my mind - was this surgery. This was the final big thing, and I've been telling myself that when this surgery is done, I could finally start to put it behind me and get back to my life.

And, that won't happen for quite a while.

I just hope Combat Doctor doesn't see the light and decide to give up insurance patients before my consult.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

My Plan for Monday

1. Call my insurance company to explain my phantom hospitalization and make sure I'm not billed - and they aren't either.

2. While I'm on the phone with them, I'm going to request a referral for a second opinion from another plastic surgeon. I think this guy might be good. He trained at Moffitt Cancer Center and has done many breast reconstructions.

3. Wait for call by Dr. S. Depending on what he says to me, either fire him or put him on reserve pending the second opinion. I am guessing he won't even call but we'll see.

All hope for a surgery-free summer is now gone.

I'm extremely disappointed.

Pink Power Mom

Now that I am a world famous blogger, I get people asking me to promote their stuff. Most I ignore - my intent is not to turn this blog into a spam outlet - but a few are worthy. So, when I was contacted with a way to honor moms with breast cancer who have tried to make a difference in the lives of others, I knew this was right up my alley. My only beef is the word "battle" in the text they sent me. Can we PLEASE drop that cliche?


Each year, Bright Starts™ honors and rewards eight women for their inspirational fight against breast cancer. Not only have these women persevered through their battles, they have become inspirational leaders and role models for their families and communities. Whether they have started their own breast cancer foundation or have taken on an active role in existing charity organizations, they have made it their goal to make a difference in the world. You can read about these women at (One of last year's winners was from Sacramento!)

Bright Starts™ wants to help these women and support their cause. They are inviting you to Become a Fan of Bright Starts™ on Facebook and Be a Giver. Through the month of June, Bright Starts™ will donate $1 for every new fan that joins them during the campaign to benefit Pink Power Mom charities. These moms will appreciate your help and support.

A bit later, I'll tell you how you can nominate somebody too. Now, go fan them!

Friday, June 11, 2010

How I am feeling

It certainly seems like the boob fairy is passing me by. My doctor canceled my Monday appointment. Which keeps his record going - they have canceled every single appointment I've had.

In fact, when they asked me to come in on Monday, I said I would but to please not cancel it, and they said they wouldn't.

And, they did.

I left a message and requested that he call me on Monday.

And, I think it's time to seek another opinion.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Breast Reconstruction Confusion

I'm so confused.....

Did my new foobs abscond on me permanently? Are they being held hostage? Are they a discontinued brand?  Have they been recalled?

Something has changed - and I don't know what.

Today, I called my plastic surgeon's office to get a new surgery date. After some back-and-forth (I insisted that I have some input this time, considering how much I'd given up the other day) the scheduler said she'd talk to the doctor and call me back. My main goal was to keep my recovery from impacting my fourth of July celebration, as well as an annual visit by my niece and nephews.

I made plans, based on that original June 8th date, that I'd prefer not to break.

A few minutes later, I hear my Sex and the City ringtone, and I pick up. It's the doctor's office, and instead of getting me hospital time - they want me to come in on Monday to talk to the doctor.

I was nonplussed.  I'd just had my surgical consult, photos were taken, 20 pages of papers signed, prescriptions filled; the plan was a go.

I asked, why did I need to see him again?

I was shocked to hear her say that the doctor wanted to talk to me about my "gels.' (I have no idea what gels are but that's what she said.) He's apparently changed his mind about what he wants to do and what size I need.

I don't know what to think. We've had a plan for a couple of months: A 275 cc Mentor silicone high profile implant on my mastectomy side, and a 125 cc saline implant in my real side.

What has changed, aside from the fact that my decided-upon boobs didn't arrive?

It makes me wonder:  what if they had arrived, and I'd had the surgery two days ago? Does that mean it would have been a mistake? Only now - with Fed Ex dropping the ball - comes the enlightenment on how to give me good results?

Or, perhaps, the original plan can't be followed for a production reason? And....I'll be getting inferior boobage?

After all the mental preparation I went through to have this surgery - I can't describe how unnerved I feel right now.  There is no way a person can imagine how they are going to look after this kind of surgery.  I have had to put my trust in this doctor, more than any of my other physicians.  I understand the cancer, the oncology, the chemotherapy and my odds.  I really can't get a grasp on the plastic surgery part of it and how it relates to what I will end up facing.

I felt as if at least one person - my doctor - understood what was going on, and had a plan.

Now?  I'm not so sure.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Bone Marrow Registration Drive - Sacramento

I have worked at a couple of schools over the years.  Back in '06, one of our students was a girl named Katie Cramer.  She was a pretty young thing, and her mom was super nice. 

Katie had cancer.

It  hasn't been easy for me, a grown woman, to do chemo and walk around bald - imagine how hard it would be for a 12 year old in middle school?   Yet, Katie came to school every day that she could, cheerful, and in darling hats. I never one time heard her complain.  I admired her strength back then, long before I knew how much strength it really takes to get through cancer treatment.

Now, I'm in absolute awe that a child had the grace to handle it so well.

I got a promotion working for another school before her time there was done, but I'd heard she'd recovered.

My son will be attending high school next year, and in anticipation, I signed up for their email notifications.  Imagine my surprise when I got one about Katie, who is attending that school.  She has apparently relasped and is in need of a bone marrow transplant.

Katie is of Asian descent and there is a shortage of Asian doners.  If you are in Sacramento and are Asian, please attend this drive and try to save Katie.  If you are not Asian, attend anyway and get yourself on the registry.  And, even if you are not in Sacramento, please join the bone marrow registry in your town - I think you can even do it through the mail now.. 

I have been on it for over 20 years - I signed up at a drive very much like this one, for an Asian child who had the same disease. That child didn't make it and even though I never met her, I still remember her face.  I want Katie to recover.  You can give her that chance.  

And, you should.

For more infromation, here is the letter I received.  Let's have this go viral so please forward it to your friends, family and facebook status.  :

My name is Sherrie Cramer.  My daughter's name is Katie Cramer; she is 16 years old.  She (and her two siblings) were adopted from China. We live here in Sacramento. Katie was treated for AML (acute myeloid leukemia) in 2006 and has, unfortunately, relapsed.  She is in need of a bone marrow/stem cell transplant.  We are working with the AADP (Asian American Donor Program) and the NMDP (National Marrow Donor Program) to find a match for her; so far, we have been unsuccessful in finding a perfect match. 
You would do this for a loved one, why not pay it forward for someone you do not know? And, there are other Katies out there. Please Help!
 So, I am asking for your help. We need people who are willing to be tissue-typed. The best possible matches will come from people of Asian descent. Time is of the essence! The Asian American Donor Program is sponsoring a Donor Drive this Thursday, June 10th. 

Here are the details: Drive Name: AA State Capitol

Location: State Capitol Address: State Capitol Room 112 Sacramento , CA 95814 

Date: Jun 10 2010 

Time: 9:00AM - 5:00PM
Please forward this email on to your friends, family, co-workers and organizations.
What to expect: No needles required! Only a swab of the inside of your cheek.
Joining the Be The Match Registry is easy. Patients need donors who are between the ages of 18 and 60, meet the health guidelines and are willing to donate to any patient in need. When you come to a donor registry drive, we will explain what it means to join the registry, help you understand your commitment, answer your questions and help you through the process.
All you need to do is: Complete a registration form with contact information, health information and a signed agreement to join the Be The Match Registry. To help you complete the form, bring along: · Personal identification (such as a driver's license or passport) · Contact information for two family members or friends who would know how to reach you in the future if your contact information changes.

We'll use the results to match you to patients. Please also consider making a financial gift to the Be The Match Foundation. The total cost to add a new member to the registry is about $100. Your generous contribution in any amount is tax-deductible and helps make it possible for others to join. That's it! You'll be listed on our registry where patients turn when they need a matching donor. National Marrow Donor ProgramToll-free number: 1-800-MARROW-2 (1-800-627-7692) Web site:

Please forward this email on to your friends, family, co-workers, and organizations.
Please pray that a match will be found for Katie.

National Marrow Donor Program - Be The Match Marrow Registrywww.marrow.orgInformation and resources for donors, patients and physicians about bone marrow and umbilical cord blood transplants, Be The Match Registry, National Marrow Donor Program and Be The Match Foundation.

National Marrow Donor Program - Be The Match Marrow Registry

Information and resources for donors, patients and physicians about bone marrow and umbilical cord blood transplants, Be The Match Registry, National Marrow Donor Program and Be The Match Foundation.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

"I have some bad news"

Apparently, my new boobs have gone missing.  Perhaps they realized they couldn't reach their full potential in my tiny, aged chest and would prefer to wait for a 20 year old's augmentation.  Perhaps they got caught by Sheriff Joe Arpaio in a border run in Arizona and are doing time in a tent city.

All I know is they aren't in my body.

My exchange surgery was scheduled for 7:30 a.m. today, with check-in at 5:30.  This is the last week of the school year for teachers and students, and it was the worst possible time to have my surgery - but I was told I had no choice.  It was now or in August - after the new school year began.  So, I picked now, to get it over with.   I wanted to work next school year with nothing major hanging over my head.

Yesterday afternoon, I got a call from Dr. S's office saying that the hospital had forgotten to order my boobs, so they were pushing my surgery back to 9:30 (arrival at 7:30).  They were going to be overnighted from the company and would arrive at 8:30.

In preparation for the surgery, I filled my prescriptions, I put my scopolamine patch behind my ear, had my last glass of water, and went to bed at 11:30 p.m, after watching Breaking Bad.  (I felt like seeing people who have it way worse than I do.).

I got up this morning dizzy from the patch but prepared..  I arrived at the hospital at 6:30 - early because my husband had to go back and drop my son off at school.  I checked in, was placed in a room, an IV was inserted, and I waited.

And waited.

At 8:30 my husband showed up and said he saw an electronic board saying Dr. S had another surgery that morning and mine wasn't scheduled for 10:30.  I just listened to Armstrong and Getty on the radio and dozed off and on; that scopolamine drug really affected me.

My iPhone battery died.

At 10:00, Dr. S showed up, and said, "I have some bad news for you."

I knew what it was.  "My boobs didn't arrive?"  Nope, he said, and he apologized.  It's why he prefers to do surgeries in his surgical center (which my insurance won't pay for), so he can have everything ready and not have to rely on the hospital.

So, the nurse removed my IV and I went home and took a nap.

I'm exchange-less.  I still have a large plastic turtle shell in my chest.

I still don't have a glimmer of idea of what kind of permanent ruination my body will face, but I was prepared for the finality of what I was going to see.  My doctor has warned that  he can't make them even, and I would still need a prosthesis or padding, and I was just ready to get on with it and face whatever my new body will be.

Now, I have to do it that mental preparation all over again.

They'd better not make me wait until August. Or, mess with my fourth of July, my favorite holiday.

I wonder how much that little fiasco cost the hospital?  Four hours of nursing time, an IV bag, tubing, an antibiotic medication,  and a bed.  For nothing.  Not to mention both my husband and I took the day off (and i worked over the weekend to do work I couldn't do this week.)

Whoever you are who is responsible for ordering those implants - you messed up, big time.

I wish I could sic Sheriff Arpaio on you.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

I (heart) boobies

Maybe you heard the controversy a few months back about a middle school that reportedly banned students from wearing breast cancer awareness bracelets that say "I (heart) boobies." This happened when I was in the throes of chemo. I remember it because, not only do I have breast cancer, but I work in a middle school.

I snorted reading all the outraged comments online about the oppression of the evil school administrators in the face of these good-hearted 12-14 year olds who just wanted to combat breast cancer.

Speaking as somebody who works around hundreds of kids that age daily, I would like to impart this little secret to you: If a middle school boy is wearing a pink "I love boobies" bracelet, it is, in fact, because he loves boobies.

Or desperately hopes to.

It has about as much to do with cancer as my carrying a Coach bag has to do with supporting under-funded basketball programs.

Let me clue you in on the middle school brain. They are wearing these because:

a: Their friends are
b: It's subversive - they can openly say they love boobs and then when questioned, pretend to support a cause. (13 year old kids think that kind of thing is hilarious.)
c: Their friends are
d: They hope they'll get in trouble and maybe get on the news and all their friends will think they rock
f: Their friends are

Now, does that mean that middle school children are incapable of working on causes and feeling like they want to do something about an issue? Of course not! But, for the most part, this age group is intensely focused on their friends, their peers, their enemies, and their status within these groups. Most are not yet community-minded; it's not until high school that they developmentally begin to broaden their perspective.

After reading that controversy, I knew it wouldn't be long before these bracelets spread like wildfire throughout the country, and ended up at my school.

And, they have.

I recently saw one on a boy, and to test my theory, I asked him why he was wearing it. He said, as I expected, "to support breast cancer." I then asked him how wearing the bracelet did that. He paused. He couldn't come up with an answer. I prodded, "Did any of the money of the sale of the bracelet go to breast cancer research?" He said he didn't know. "Then, how does wearing that bracelet support breast cancer?" Silence. I asked him how much he'd paid for that bracelet, and he said, $8.00. (An astounding amount for a rubber bracelet.) I then told him that I have breast cancer, and next time he wanted to help somebody with the disease, I'd be happy to take his $8.00. Cancer treatment can be expensive.

Having me on his arm would, however, ruin his reputation as a playa who loves boobies.

The company that started the trend, Keep a Breast, says they are doing it to promote awareness among young teens about "toxic chemicals" in our environment that can cause breast cancer. Almost none of the money from the sale of these bracelets goes to any kind of cancer research; almost all of the profits are funneled back into awareness campaigns which, presumably, also include making more $8.00 bracelets.The last year they published their finances, out of $500,000, only $5,000 was given in grants to cancer research.  The rest went to more bracelets, tee shirts and salary and travel costs.

Whether a 13 year old girl needs to be worried about self-checks for breast cancer is debatable - breast cancer is statistically unheard of in this age-group. I won't quibble with their idea though - girls should grow up knowing what feels normal in their breasts so they recognize the abnormal. However, a 13 year old is too young to even have a normal as they are still developing.

Because of that, I think that the "check your breasts" message should be reserved for older girls, high-schoolers perhaps. On breast cancer boards, I've seen many panicked posts from 13 year olds who are afraid normal adolescent changes are cancer-related, and I wonder if these early detection efforts are doing more harm than good.

I don't know that the science is there to declare our environment toxic enough to cause breast cancer either. And, if so, what is a girl that age supposed to do about it anyway? And, how does wearing a bracelet help, particularly when the money is funnelled back to "awareness" and not a fix?

In any event, the bracelets I'm seeing are knock-offs and not even the ones made by the Keep a Breast Foundation, so whether anybody agrees with their premise or not, these bracelets have just become a for-profit fashion statement.

That means, in the end, kids are walking around wearing clothing that says they love boobs without their being any tie-in to cancer.

So, what is our school doing about it? We do have a dress code and like all schools, we walk a fine line trying to cater to a diverse population. A section in the dress code says nothing deemed profane or sexually suggestive is allowed. Profane, admittedly, is in the eye of the beholder, and while I wouldn't consider the word "boobies" to be profane on its own, it can be argued that it is inappropriate for a 6th grader to wear, and that other 6th graders (and their parents) might find the statement "I love boobies" offensive or sexually suggestive.

So, on our morning annoucements, the school population was told that the purchase of these bracelets didn't support any kind of cancer cure research, that the wording was not appropriate for school or their age-group, and then they were told about alternative ways to support breast cancer research, including an upcoming event held by the Susan G Koman Foundation. One of our teachers is very involved in the American Cancer Society and the kids were told they could talk to her for ideas.

Now, when somebody sees the boobies bracelet, they take it to the office and the child can pick it up after school, as with any dress-code violation. It's not a high priority but we do have high standards that we hope our kids will live up to, both in behavior, grades and dress.

Middle school kids are fickle and by next year, this fad will be gone. I only hope a colon cancer awareness group doesn't jump on the trend with an "I (heart) assholes" bracelet.

But, if they did, I guarantee you it would be popular.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

More on Tamoxifen Side Effects

In a previous post, I shared with you that I was experiencing a little tamoxifen rage, euphemistically called "mood swings" by my oncologist.

Let's describe some of the other side effects that have popped up since then, shall we?

Along with the aforementioned tamox-rage, I also seem to be experiencing the inability to, shall we say, STFU. I don't know what's happened, but I've turned into that little old lady who says whatever the hell is on her mind without regard to how anybody else is going to take it. My thoughts come straight out of my mouth, without any stoppage. That might be cute, even admirable, when you are 95 and non-threatening in every other way. Hearing granny say, "Hey you fucking kids, get off my lawn" is cute.

Hearing your school secretary say it? Not so much.

Speaking of a little old lady, a few months ago I was a vibrant middle-aged woman who looked younger than her age. Now, I'm a hag. Literally. The skin is starting to hang off my bones. My arms look like they are melting. The tamoxifen is sucking me dry, and I've even gotten an (ahem) lady infection.

I've aged ten years in two months and am afraid to see what will happen in another two. I used to look at old-fashioned, 50's era photos of women my age and feel pity. They dressed like old ladies, they looked like old ladies. You know that your grandma, when she was my age, was wearing sensible shoes and a baggy housedress and baking cookies. Not me. I was glad to live in this age of Kim Catrell where I could still wear 3 inch rise jeans and five inch heels and eat salads with my girls. I now can't wear heels (more on that later) and I am seriously considering a pair of elastic waist jeans.

The tamoxofin may be sucking me dry, but it's also making me sweat. The hot flashes are not really flashes of heat; what a misnomer that phrase is! I just don't feel hot - instead, my brain seems to have a complete inability to regulate my body temperature. One second I'm freezing to death (and it's 80 degrees outside) and the next second I am boiling and sweating. I've never been a sweater so it's very disconcerting to find sweat running down my plastic cleavage (and my shins, and my forearms). All day long, every 15 minutes, I switch from boiling to freezing. One second I'm huddled in a blanket and the next second I'm ripping off my shirt. (Oh, THAT'S why it's called flashes!) It's like season five on Lost, where you flash from year to year uncontrollably. Only, without Josh Holloway.

Because of tamoxifen, my poor brain won't regulate my mouth or my temperature.

Why can't I wear heels, you ask? You know how I love them. Well, I ache. I ache all over. I ache from head to toe. My bones hurt. My hips hurt. Walking in heels makes my hip bones feel like they are rubbing up against each other. Even my ribs hurt.

The muscles around my bones hurt and my back really hurts. I have one spot in my back that is particularly painful, and that seems to be the part of the spine that holds you upright. So, sitting and standing - hurts. The pain is like those growing pains you had when you were a kid - you remember lying in bed and feeling that deep, horrible ache? And, your mom would put a towel in hot water to warm it up and wrap it around your legs? I have that everywhere, all day long.

I take a hot bath each morning to ease the pain and get my muscles loose enough to move. I am still on part-time hours at work precisely because it takes me so long to move in the morning. I fear for the day I have to leave the house at 6:30 a.m.

Getting up won't be a problem though, because I can't sleep. Who needs sleep anyway? Certainly, my cat is happy with my insomnia because she gets to be petted all night. I'm sometimes so tired I fall asleep after dinner but even then, I can't get a real nap in. I wake up in ten minutes like I had a night's worth of sleep and then, you guessed it, it's hard to get to sleep at bedtime. If I do sleep, it's in brief increments and I wake up throughout the night, typically when I try to rollover and all the sheets are stuck to me because I've sweated through them.

I can't shut up, regulate my body temperature, or sleep and I hurt all over. Thank you, Tamoxifen.

Tamoxifin is an anti-cancer drug given to pre-menopausal women. It is an estrogen blocker. My cancer "feeds" on estrogen and this medicine takes away the ability of any remaining cancer cells to grow. I am supposed to take it for five years.

I can tell you after two months, that I won't make it those five years. Something is going to have to change. Dr. B, you are warned.

And these days, when I warn somebody - they'd better watch out.

Oh, and by the way, after reading this post, can you tell?

Tamoxifen is making me just a tad cranky.

Hey you kids!! Get offa my FUCKING lawn!!!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Human Target

I took my 13 year old son to Johnny Rocket's for a greaseburger the other day. We were talking about a show he likes called "Human Target," and he wondered if the character who plays Guerrero (Jackie Earle Haley) had been in anything else. I handed my son my iPhone so he could look the actor's bio up on IMDB.

On the show, Haley has a flowing head of collar-length hair (not to mention a seriously impressive case of bad-assedness.) On IMDB, there was the above picture of him bald. My son showed me that photo and innocently said, "I wonder if he's bald in that picture because he had cancer?"

Up until that moment, I hadn't thought my having cancer had affected him at all.

He was 12 when I was diagnosed, and from the very beginning, I told him what would happen and that odds are I would be fine. I made cancer jokes (you would be amazed at all the opportunities you can find if you try) and let him know he could say or ask anything, and I'd be okay with it. It was not a taboo subject, nor a depressing one.

I figured he was a good age to have to deal with a parental illness.  Early teen kids are very self-absorbed, yet also young and trusting enough enough to take their cues from an adult. If you don't worry, they won't, I thought. They are too busy.   His grades stayed high, he participated in extra-curricular activities and life went on as normal - because it mostly was.

Despite my belief that he would emerge unscathed by my experience, his comment made me realize that something did change in him. Another kid would likely look at that picture of the bald actor with penetrating eyes and a hard stare, and think about how tough the man looks.

My son thinks he has cancer.

It shows how the insidious nature of this illness not only invades the body, but the mind. A malignant cell will break out and show its nature, even during an innocent conversation about a bad-ass actor.

I do not think my son has been tragically scarred by my disease, nor do I think he has been overly worried.

But, in some small way, he has been changed. He thinks a little differently than he might have before. In a sense, he, too, has become a human target in cancer's disease path.

And that is sad.