Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Final Chemo

That, my friends, is the certificate that states I have completed chemotherapy.

I have so many people I would like to thank in this once in a lifetime experience. I would like to thank the Academy (of clinical oncologists), for without them, I would not be who I am today: weak, bald and shaky. And, I wouldn't be who I will be in the future - alive.

I would like to thank my oncologist, Dr. Blair, of Sacramento Sierra Hematology, for amusing me with his weirdly funny ties. And, oh, that keeping me breathing thing. I would like to thank my oncology nurses, most of whom were nice and some of whom were indifferent, but all of whom could get a needle in my vein. 

I'd like to thank my agent....wait, I don't have an agent. Why don't I have an agent? If anybody should be famous and making a speech somewhere, it's me.

Lastly, I'd like to thank my family for well....not moving out.

Man, they make a certificate for everything, don't they?

Last Chemo Haiku

Toxic poison drips.
Killing the last cancer cells.
Life begins anew.

Soon, aches will be gone.
Life and energy will bloom.
Cancer defeated.

Hope blood is stable
so can have my last treatment.
I think that I'm done.

Herceptin goes on.
Needle sticks through the seasons
But the side effects are mild.

Today is the day
Chemotherapy finished.
The heart rejoices.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

It's Your Fault

You did it to yourself, you know? Gave yourself breast cancer, I mean.

For the past few months, I have received daily breast cancer news updates, and the only logical conclusion one can reach is that it's all our fault.

You did it by taking all those vitamins.

And, by trying to stay hydrated.

You like your cookies, don't you?

And, you like to sit?

Did you smoke?

Or, did your parents?

Were you a party girl?

It's that night shift that got you.

You live in the big city?

How dare you shun the sun.

In case you don't want click all the links, the causes of breast cancer include taking vitamins, drinking out of plastic water bottles, being overweight, not exercising, smoking, second-hand smoke, drinking alcohol, working a night shift, living in a city with bright lights, or having a vitamin D deficiency.

(If you can't take vitamins but need vitamin D, does that mean we are allowed out in the sun again?)

But, wait! You can fix it!

Take an aspirin.

Or, if you prefer a prescription, take a beta-blocker.

Good news: you can eat whatever you want!

As long as you put tumeric on it, that is.

And, don't forget your mushrooms and green tea.

I can't wait to see the study called "Feeling Guilt Linked to Breast Cancer."

And, the counter study, "Paying Attention to Health News Releases can be Hazardous to Peace of Mind."


Friday, March 26, 2010

MUGA scheduled

I'm not one to whine.

I promise. As long as you don't ask my husband, my children, my friends, or read my facebook updates, that promise holds up.

Okay, maybe there is a tiny amount of whining.

I've looked back on my blog and there isn't a profound amount of complaining, or else I'm in denial. To my way of thinking, I've remained true to my nature - I don't like whiners, so I try not to be one. There are enough people out there who complain contantly and my goal is to let people know they can get through this.

So, please indulge me for a moment:

This shortness of breath is really, really hard. Frustrating and hard. A pain in the butt and hard. Exhausting and hard.

I have bone aches that make me want to sit in a hot bath all day and note to self: update that hot water heater if I get mets. Better yet - get a hot tub. I have no appetite and have to force food down my gullet. Mostly candy, yogurt and bananas, which is weird and not anything I ever wanted to eat before, but it's something. I have fatigue. I'm dizzy and I have wobbly spaghetti legs.

But, it's the shortness of breath that is really bothering me. It's been the worst thing so far. It's what is keeping me sitting in one place all day. Day after day, I stare at a pattern on the wall where my wet dog shook mud off and don't have the breath to clean it. It keeps me from having a conversation. I have to take a breath in the middle of a sentence. It's what's keeping me from eating much. It's hard to eat and not breathe. People keep asking me why I'm sighing.

When you can't catch your breath, life is very uncomfortable.

I have a renewed sorrow for those lung cancer patients I sit next to in the infusion room. Their coughs are disgusting and irritating but it's gotta be hard to live forever with lack of breath.

My red cells are low which is probably causing this symptom, but it could also be caused by herceptin-induced heart failure. A very significant number of people on herceptin get heart failure and have to discontinue.

I have a heart test April 1st.

Oh, don't worry, if it comes out I have heart damage, it's reversible. I won't die of it. But I'll have to quit herceptin.

Herceptin is an insurance policy I don't want to give up.

Chemo is over next week and if it's simple lack of red blood cells - I'll recover soon. So, think bad blood and healthy heart thoughts for me.

Okay, I'm done complaining now.

At least, until my husband comes home.

A Nice Story

In the interests of full disclosure: I'm suddenly being inundated with SEO/Social Media companies wanting me to post information for their clients. I don't know what list I got on - this is, for the most part, a personal blog and has little authority with google. These people also offer nothing in return for posting their stuff, not even a backlink that might make me famous, so I say, if it doesn't help me, why should I?

I'm selfish like that.

But, the clip I'm going to post today, sappy as the production value is, also shows the goodness of human beings and it did "touch my heart." I thought what is happening in this community only happened in Amish communities,where they really have nothing else to do.

With all the negative news we are subjected to, with all the anger and distrust in the world as many of us experience it, especially right now, I thought this story might give some of you a feel-good moment.

And, as the news babe says, "Giving is its own reward."

So, here you go. My apologies to kindle readers:

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Snippets from the Penultimate Chemo

I had my second to last taxol infusion yesterday. Remember, I still have herceptin for a year, but it's the Taxol that is hard on me and I'm ready to be done.

As I got out of my car and walked through the parking lot I noticed two 20-something girls facing away from me, and I admired their ability to wear cute tanks. It was in the low-70s but I'm wearing long-sleeved shirts, sweaters, jackets, scarves and boots still. I get cold. My bones ache, and I'm leaning on my car to catch my breath and gather strength before the long walk to the hospital entrance. (40 feet)

One of the girls turned around and sized me up. She had sores all over her face that I recognized as being the clear signs of methamphetamine use. She says, "Hi, we were wondering if you had any spare money?"

That pissed me off. This tweaker chick was looking at somebody who obviously had cancer; who was fighting for her life. I was struggling to even breathe, and yet she decided I was a good candidate to help her poison herself and throw away her life.

I gathered what little breath I had left, made a wave gesture encompassing me and the hospital and said, "Do I LOOK like somebody who has spare money to hand out right now?"

To her credit, she looked a little embarrassed and said, "Oh, sorry" and walked away.

Like The Carcinista wrote about yesterday, I encountered somebody endangering their life just as I am doing everything to keep mine. As I commented though, I realize they can't understand, so I didn't bother to make the comparison to the tweaker. Maybe that girl will wake up in ten years with her teeth and youth gone, those sores now deep pits, her brain destroyed, having hurt everybody she ever met, and decide to change. Maybe she won't. Maybe she'll live her whole life chasing the next high.

The one thing I know is you can't teach anybody anything - addicts will use, alcoholics will drink, smokers will smoke - they never think anything bad will happen to them. Until, it does.

Sadly, even then many don't change. And, I'm not the one to try to get them to. But, I am also not enabling them.

I don't have patience for elevators. I take the stairs. Even if you've never met me before, you will recognize me next to an elevator. I'm the one punching the button 20 times and muttering under her breath about how freaking long the elevator is taking.

The place I get my treatment is a doctor's office wing of a hospital. You walk in off the parking lot straight into the stairs. My oncologist is on the third floor. My first visit, I bounded up the flight of stairs to find myself facing an elevator on the second floor. I walked all up and down the hallways trying to find the stairwell - I checked all unmarked doors only to find them locked. To this day, I don't know where that stairwell is, so my habit became to take the stairs to the second floor and the elevator to the third.

About halfway through treatment, taking one flight of stairs got hard. That's the first sign that chemo was affecting me. Before, I'd run up the stairs, push the elevator button 15 times to get where I was going. Then, I got winded walking up the steps and had only enough energy to push the button three or four times. At that time, I vowed no matter what happened, I was walking up those steps. And, it has gotten more difficult. Yesterday, I took each step deliberately on wobbly spaghetti legs, and paused on the landing to catch my breath. I made it up, but my heart was pounding, my breath was so short I had to rest to catch it, and when I finally made it to the elevator, it took me a few minutes to be able to push the button - one time.

But I did it.

Small victories.


My hemoglobin is low. 9.0. That is likely why I am so breathless. I was told that they would do a blood transfusion if it got below 9.5, but the nurse called the doctor and he said no. I'm to call them if I get worse.

I guess that means I'm to call if I stop breathing entirely. Got it.


The American Cancer Society delivered daffodils to cancer patients in our oncology infusion room. It's a nice thing they do - each spring they give the gift of hope to those facing a life-threatening illness.

Here are mine:

When I got home, I cut off the bottoms and gave them fresh water.

This morning, they look shriveled and dead.

What does it mean when your cancer flowers don't bloom?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Hair Growth

Ten days ago, I posted a picture of the sprouts on my head, along with a picture of grass I grew for my cat.

Here is the progress we've both made in just ten days.

Yes, I drew an eye on the grass container, just in case you didn't get my subtle analogy.

Almost looks like hair, doesn't it? (Me, I mean, not the grass.) It doesn't feel like hair - it feels like that synthetic fuzzy stuff inside a pillow when your dog rips it up and spreads it all over the living room.

As soon as I can dye hair without dying scalp, off come the scarves. I'd rather be bald then grey.

I really should put on makeup before I share pictures. But, cancer isn't pretty.

You know what else isn't pretty? The barf my cat pukes up after eating some of that grass.

I'll spare you a picture of that.

Sunday, March 21, 2010


Never let it be said that I am capable of learning a lesson.  Quite clearly, I'm not.

A month ago I accompanied my thirteen year old son on a field trip. Two days later, I got sick.

Yesterday, he took part in the Science Olympiad Northern California Regional Competition. The regional's were held at Sacramento State University, from 7:00 a.m. to 5:00. p.m. Team pizza party after, win or lose.

Not only did I go, I volunteered to assist at an event.

Three days after full chemo.

There is only one word for what I did yesterday, and that is endure.

I have never been known for my physical strength. I am afraid of balls hitting me (because they hurt), so I don't play sports. I was blessed with a great metabolism so exercise never became part of my life. Why move and make your muscles hurt when you can sit and read a good book? Holding my arms up to blow-dry my hair, or wearing four inch heels is about as challenging physically as I ever wanted to get. I will suffer for beauty.

And, my son.

Only those of you who are going through chemo, and especially those who are at the end, like me, can understand the physical challenges I faced yesterday. They say the effects of chemo are cumulative, and they are right. I am more debilitated than I was a month ago and am ten times worse than when I started 3 1/2 months ago.

Yet, for 11 hours I sat in the cold weather, outside, all day. I walked around a college campus to various events. I was on my feet for several hours at least, cold and shivering most of the time. Neuropathy and 60 degree temps made my hands completely numb. My feet too. My head hurt and my bones were aching, and I was nauseated.

On a normal day, getting dressed and taking a shower requires a long rest and recovery period. Yet, there I was.

By the time of the awards ceremony, I didn't think I'd make it through the presentation, much less a pizza party. My chest hurt. I was beyond weary. I was in pain. But, seeing the bright faces of the kids as their teams were called to pick up medals kept me going.

And, the thought of my son, maintaining As, participating in community service, and staying after school 2 hours a day to study for the Olympiad - for months - kept me there too. If a 13 year old can do that much, certainly, I can put up with discomfort to watch the fruits of his labor.

So, I did. I wanted to give up and go home, but I wouldn't let myself.

My son's team won, and he and 15 other kids will be going on to the State Competition in central California next month. That will be 3 weeks after my last chemo, and my plan is to feel better by then.

If I don't, it doesn't matter. I'm still going. I will still volunteer to help.

Today, I feel like a contestant on the Biggest Loser after they finished their first week on the ranch. Aching, bruised, weak, sick, damaged, wondering how I can possibly continue.

Yet, knowing I can, and will.

After seeing those talented young scientists and the camaraderie and good sportsmanship exhibited by all, win or lose, I am hopeful for the future: both theirs, yours, and mine. In that group of shining kids may be the one who solves the problem of cancer. And, I will be there to cheer them on.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Why the Chemo Infusion Room is So Cold

The room where I get my chemo infusions is very cold. They have blankets all around, which kind of grosses me out as they are used by everybody, and who knows how often they are washed? I bring my own but it's not enough, the chill requires two or three blankets and throws. Not to mention that the bags of chemo they hang seem to come straight out of the fridge and chills your veins.

I imagine the room is set to a low temperature because the chemo nurses are always on the go and moving - but for those of us trapped by oversized barcaloungers and chemo poles with cold liquid dripping into our veins, it's really quite uncomfortable.

Miserable, in fact.

Then I read this headline:

Breast Cancer Treated by Freezing Tumors

Wow, who knew?

I guess the room temperature is part of my treatment.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Chemo Brain, Treatment Changes and EMS.

I had a post planned for today. It was going to be my "last chemo" post, and I was going to describe my relief that I got through this phase of the treatment. I was going to admit that I knew I still had a long way to go, with herceptin infusions continuing until December, and further surgeries and of course, tamoxofen for five years and MRIs and cancer checks forever.

But, my main description was going to be about the joy I felt that these toxic chemo sessions are done, and that I will be able to recover and soon feel better.

My bad.

You are going to have to wait for that post, as I still have two more treatments left.

Why didn't I know that, you ask? You certainly would know the exact date when your chemo was over, right? Of course you would, everybody would.

But me.

There's a constellation of excuses reasons for this miscalculation, but I'll pick out the three biggest stars: Chemo Brain, Treatment Changes and EMS.

Halfway through my six rounds of Carboplatin and Taxotere I started getting neuropathy. My oncologist thought it was too early in the treatment for the severity of the side effects I was feeling, and that I wouldn't recover after it was over. So, he switched me to weekly Taxol. Different drug, smaller doses, more often. I went from Taxotere/Carboplatin every three weeks to Carboplatin every three weeks and Taxol weekly.

During that time, the office went to an Electronic Medical Records system. So, while it has been entertaining hearing the colorful language coming out of the mouths of chemo nurses as they learned the system, those of us who started with paper and got put into the system later meant it was harder for them to look up our old treatment schedule.

The nurses thought my last day was today.

I believed them, sort of, but also thought something was amiss. So, I sat there over the course of days, literally, trying to figure it out. As many times as I sat there and counted up the dates I'd thought I'd been, I couldn't remember or make it come out right. Not with a calender in front of me, and not with my iPhone. That kind of high-level thinking (counting weeks) is way beyond me now. I relied on an older post where I said it all comes out the same in the end, which would be today's date, and hoped for the best. Chemotherapy causes short-term memory loss and processing problems in many people and sadly, I am one of them.

I lost my date.

(I might have been like that before and have finally found the perfect excuse for why I can't remember anything, but if so, I'll never tell.)

Oh, by the way, if I owe you an email or something, I'm sorry but I forgot. Chemo Brain. The check is in the mail too. Chemo Brain. Was I supposed to come to work today? I'm sorry, I forgot.

Chemo Brain.

The moral of this story is: don't count your chickens before they hatch if your brain is pickled with chemo drugs and the people you rely on to hatch said chickens switch from paper to electrons.

I'm really not feeling the joy at the moment. To continue with the lame metaphors (Chemo Brain) I thought I was crossing the finish line after a marathon, and I find out I'm only at the 20 mile marker.

Making that last six miles is going to be awfully hard.

My happiness post is now postponed.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Spring has sprung

Blooms are on the almond trees. Daffodils reach their sunny faces to the sky. Birds sing and here in Sacramento, the temperature has reached 70 degrees. New plants are poking their way through the warming earth.

I've planted some cat grass so my indoor cat can also experience the pleasures of spring.

And, that is not all that is coming up.

No, it's not pretty. It doesn't really resemble hair yet, but it does resemble that freshly seeded cat grass. If you look at the container straight down, all you can see are bald spots and cold earth. However, look at it from a different angle, and it's a sea of green.

(Or, in my case, white)

At the same time my hair is struggling to come in, my lashes are brows are falling out. I still have some, but about 1/4 of what was there before. I hear it's common with chemo to have them fall out towards the end, right when your hair starts coming back. Having black eyebrows has helped because although there are fewer hairs - you can still see them. Even as they fall out, I see new growth coming in, so maybe I won't lose them completely.

Spring is here.

I hope by summer I can get the lawn mower out.

But not before I bring out the dye bottle.


Friday, March 12, 2010

Playing the "Cancer Card"

Being the kind of person I am, almost the first thing I thought of once I heard the words "you have cancer" was what an interesting sociological experiment having a visible illness that invokes the specter of death would be. Of course,  friends and family would naturally be worried, sympathetic and want to help.  My main interest would be studying the reactions of strangers to my illness.  Would there be any advantages?

I wanted to play the Cancer Card.

I pictured myself going out in scarves, pale skin and eyelash and eyebrow-free, and having perfect strangers see me, seeing the hand I was dealt, realizing I have CANCER, and allowing me to go in front of the grocery store line or perhaps give me a seat on the bus (not that I'd ever take a bus, but you get my drift).  Just in general be nice to me because I have CANCER.

I figured sympathy from strangers was part of the deal, and even as I still had my hair, I planned how I would weakly smile and be ever so grateful for these small kindnesses and nod at the person who got their good karma for the day for helping out the sick and, for all they knew, dying.

Hey, something good has to come from this, even if it's only the fact that strangers find their humanity and are nice to me.

I forgot it wasn't 1952.

Wednesday, after chemo, my husband and I went to register my youngest child for high school. (Short detour for a mommy brag: he's an A+ Super Student in a rigorous program, and at age thirteen, he will start his freshman year taking Honors Biology, Honors World History, Honors English 4, French 3 and Algebra II.  His choice. With a student like that, I am not going home to rest after chemo.  If he can work that hard at his age, I certainly can be strong enough to sit there when he hears about the beginning of his high school years, taxol flowing through my veins or no.)

So, I am in the MP room, wobbly from chemo, wearing my scarf and earrings and layers of clothes to keep the chill off, tissues pressed to my nose and eyes, with a room full of coughing parents. I'm thinking about the germs flying and my low blood levels, and then it's time to go sign up for IBO parent groups and the like.  I walk back to the computers and get my hand sanitizer ready for when it's my turn for data entry.  I lean over and start to punch in names, email addresses, and my eyes are watery, dripping really,  and my nose is running and I can't see the keyboard and it's a damn Mac and where is the damn backspace key, and I'm wiping my eyes and wobbling around and feeling faint.  I turn around to see if my son is behind me to finish for me, and the man in line behind me who has been staring at the back of my scarf, now looks me in my hairless face and snarls, "Are you freaking done yet?" 

Um yeah, I am.  So what if Sacremento is spelled wrong?

That is pretty much the reaction I get everywhere.  People still cut in front of me at the grocery store line, they still try and steal my parking space, not a soul has offered me a chair or a one-up.  I have taken my son to  appointments where there were two waiting room chairs only, and a mom and her kid sitting.  Both looked at me, neither moved.  (I can no longer stand for long periods, so I sat on the floor, I'm not proud.)

Maybe it's me.  Maybe I just don't look sick enough.  Maybe it's California.  Maybe we have so many people with "individual senses of personal style" that a scarf on the head, super pale skin and no eyebrows doesn't signal cancer anymore.  Maybe we are just an uncaring and rude culture.  Maybe we are just completely unobservant. 

Maybe I expected too much.

Anyway, no matter where I go, I don't get treated any differently than I had before.  Nobody turns away from me, and nobody turns toward me.  They are just indifferent.

It would seem that the cancer cards are are a bust.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Cancer Made Me Beautiful

You know how I can tell?  Because, everybody who sees me tells me how good I look.  That didn't happen before I got breast cancer.

I don't know if it's the mastectomy, the chemotherapy or the baldness that garners me compliments, but I highly recommend doing any one of the above if you are feeling a little low on appreciation for your loveliness.

Here is a little secret you cancer-free folk don't know - these compliments, which are universal,  are actually a bone of contention in Cancer World.   Some of the more peevish cancer patients tend to interpret that statement as "You look good compared to the way you used to look when you were healthy."  Honestly, there are 20 page rants on cancer boards started by patients complaining that they  know they look bad compared to their old selves, and yet are still receiving compliments.  "How can people be so insensitive?" they ask.  

They are, apparently, surprised to realize they were formerly ugly and confused and angry that cancer made them look good.


I can only imagine what these people would say if somebody looked at them and burst into tears.

Me, I know what that statement means.  It means, "You look good compared to what my idea of somebody undergoing cancer treatment looks like." 

We get a lot of our understanding of cancer from the movies or articles about people who have or are about to die of this disease. Their pallor, their vomiting, their weakness, the extremely dark circles under their eyes, their hunched thinness, their baldness and of course, their luminous eyes with long lashes - that is what a person with cancer looks like in our collective cultural experience.  Cancer means death.

Death with eyelashes.

So when people are presented with a version of yourself that generally looks the same as before; maybe a bit paler and certainly with less hair (and no eyelashes), but mostly looking like you, they match that vision with their cultural expectations, and are surprised and relieved.  Wanting to be nice, they tell you how good you look.  Meaning, you don't look like you are at death's door.

(In fact, I'm still feisty enough so that the next person who complains to me about receiving a compliment will be a little bit closer to that metaphysical door than they know.)

I am paler, and I do have dark circles.  I am missing hair and a breast.  And eyelashes. But, although it takes me longer and a lot more thought, I dress well. I put on makeup.  My scarves match my outfits.  I am weakened but not out, and I smile.  A lot.

I like it when people tell me I look good.  You know why?  Because,  I do.  Cancer made me beautiful.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Who ya gonna call?

For the past two months, my right nipple has been itching like mad.

Of course, it's a phantom sensation as I no longer have a right nipple.  

Even back when I did, a nipple itch is an awkward thing to deal with. If you are out in public, you can't just reach under your shirt and start scratching, at least not without attracting mulleted guys driving '73 El Caminos.

The only place a public nipple scratch is acceptable is Walmart, and then you are in danger of appearing like this.

All ladies know that the secret to scratching a nipple itch is misdirection.  You might casually reach over to your opposite shoulder and pretend to massage an achy muscle.  What's really happening is your bicep is secretly rubbing against the itching area.


Fortunately, I don't recall this kind of itch as a problem that happened often. (If ever - I might just be making all this up.)   But now that my breast is missing, that phantom nipple itches 24/7.

It's beginning to drive me crazy.

I know what you are thinking.  Why can't you just scratch the expanded skin where the nipple used to be, you ask?

Well, that area is completely numb.  Dead as a doornail. You could take a screwdriver and plunge it into my right breast, and like Locke on Lost after Sayid stabbed him,  I'd just stare at you, pull it out and say, "Now, what'd you go and do that for?" 

There is no sensation there to cause itching.  I am numb from my cleavage around to about the scapula area, where feeling starts to come back in spots.  I do have sensitivity under the expander, so if I push the skin on top, I can feel pressure inside my chest muscle on the ribs, which is quite strange.  But the skin is completely numb.

Except for the itching.

In the nipple I don't have.

Even though I can't feel anything, I try to scratch anyway. Who wouldn't?  Since I can't feel the area where I experience the itching sensation, I find a spot nearby that I can feel and scratch that.  You might see me gently rubbing my decolletage, hoping that somehow over cut nerves, the gentle scratching will transmit to the sensation of itching in an area I no longer have, and will provide me relief.

But so far,  no such luck.

Where's the Ghostbusters when you need them?

Friday, March 5, 2010

Another fill

I had another fill in my right "breast." and I now have the official baby head expander look I predicted after my first one.

First let me describe the feeling of having this latest fill, and then I will let you in on the extreme fashion dilemma I am facing. Just to give you a hint: it'd be like putting a hat on that baby's head.

None of my other fills were really painful, and this time, they did the exact same amount of saline they always have - 80ccs. And what a difference another 80 cc makes, both to looks and discomfort. I think we are getting near the end of what my skin can take.   It was as if the doctor had dug one hand in my cleavage and the other on my mid back, and just pulled and squeeeeezed those areas together, stretching to the limit - then tying it off with a big rubber band.  My back is tight, my chest is tight, even my arm to the elbow is tight   The insides are also tight - and sore.  The muscle that was split in half that the expander is under stretches outward too and that causes the pain.   It's a strange feeling and not a pleasant one at all.

Let's just say, I"m not taking it as well as the child in the picture.

For you gals coming up in the ranks, let me assure you it's not painkiller worthy either. At least not vicodin, maybe a little motrin.   Just make sure you open all your jars before you need them and figure out a comfortable way to sleep.

So now, for the fashion dilemma:   My body is half Pamela Anderson and half Kate Hudson. Not an easy look to master.

That's in clothes. Naked, my chest looks like a large hard turtle shell sleeping next to a small soft pear.

Honestly, how on earth do you dress around that?  The scarf look is in, and wrapping a scarf around my neck and chest to cover would be feasible. Except that I'm wearing scarves around my head. Scarves on the head and the chest is a fashion that you might get away with in New York, or maybe Maine, but it isn't one you can do in California.

We just don't approve of that much scarfing around here.

The layered look is a good one, and that has been my strategy. I  wear a tank, a tunic, a sweater, leggings, lots of necklaces and I hope everybody is distracted by all those layers and my head scarf to even think about  what is really going on.

To achieve some semblance of symmetry, I resurrected my foob and put it to work on my left side, where my real breast is. I stick the foob under the left side and haul that bra strap to the limit to try to create equality.  (Remember when we used to burn bras to create equality?)

If they only made a one-sided push-up bra.

It kinda works if you don't look at it too closely. The problem with the expander is it's hard. Immovable. Like a rock. Inflexible, fake cleavage up to my collarbone.  My real side is soft and lower.  It's not any easier to camouflage in sweaters either,  as the heir and the spare aren't on the same scale.  Lots of colors, pattern and movement in clothing is all I can think of to try and combat this problem.

Unfortunately, the majority of my winter wardrobe is black and brown.

I have at least one more fill to go - my plastic surgeon likes to expand it 20% more than I'll need. He'll know how close I am next time, and then we'll start talking surgery, which has to be at least six weeks after chemo is over.

I am not looking forward to the next jump in size - especially since the weather will be warming up.  Sacramento is often 90 to 100 degrees in May.  How am I supposed to cover it then? I'll bet not even Stacy and Clinton have a solution to this problem.

My next tissue expander fill happens April 1st.  An appropriate date for looking the fool. 

Is that baby laughing at me?


Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Trend in Breast Cancer Medicine

I keep up with my interests, so I subscribed to google alerts using these two words: "breast cancer" and I get all sorts of emailed articles - some of them even relating to breast cancer.

First, I must complain that not once has my breast cancer blog ever come up on one of those alerts. Are you telling me that "baby head expander" or "cyst farm" aren't important enough key words that would lead to the serving of my blog posts to all who care? I'm seriously insulted and think you are all wrong in how you choose to get important content to people, Google. Fix that.

It's not that I haven't gotten other odd posts. I get medical alerts, saying that cannibis stops the spread of breast cancer (not going there). I get horribly written blog posts by an NFL fan who is tracking sales of breast cancer items with NFL logos and who uses the term "butt cheeks" liberally. And, of course, I get all sorts of conflicting information about my future health: what to eat, what to drink, and what to do, which changes daily. But, there are times when I do get real medical information.

Today I got an interesting article discussing a study that is being published in Lancet Oncology. The study, led by a team at Cancer Research UK’s London Research Institute, found that measuring the activity of six particular genes could forecast whether a breast tumor was sensitive to Taxol. As they are learning more and more about cancer, the trend of care is becoming more about personalized therapy. The herceptin I take is part of this trend - made just for us HER2+ girls and our particular cancer. It'd be nice if they could take more detailed cell samples and do a personalized therapy for each patient like they do for us HER2+ cancer patients.

Then I started thinking about what personalized therapy would really mean for me if I could decide. Why let the researchers have the fun? They can play with their chemicals and grow cells and come up with genius ideas - doing their part to cure us. But, I want my own form of personalized therapy too.

So here's what it would look like:

I'd go to the infusion room to get my designer drugs made just for me.  As I sat there in the chemo chair (which would not be a pleather baraclounger, but an Italian Leather Eames Lounge Chair), the nurse - who is a male and who looks just like that guy in the Old Spice Commercial, you know, the "Man your man could smell like" guy - would, before he stuck a needle in me, bring me a rolling cart with electricity so I could plug in my netbook. I'd be in a beautiful atrium with lots of natural light and tons of flowers. And, I would have free fast wifi and an iPhone dock. As the needle was placed in my vein, my feet would be plunged into hot bubbly water in preparation for the perfectly sterile pedicure I am about to get. Once I picked my color and my nails were dry, it would be time for lemon water and then the facial. Old Spice Nurse would check on me frequently and even rub my back if I'd been in the chair more than an hour. Once my infusion was over, I'd be taken back to the special "closet" to pick out a pair of Jimmy Choo boots or a Marc Jacobs bag, just because I'd had chemo. When I reach the end of my designer infusions, the nurse would take me for a ride on his horse and give me a Tiffany necklace to congratulate me for completing treatment.

That's what I call personalized therapy.

Just to see if I can get this post to show up in my alerts, I'm going to say, breast cancer, breast cancer, breast cancer, breast cancer, breast cancer, breast cancer, breast cancer, breast cancer, breast cancer, breast cancer. There, that should do it.

And, just in case you have never seen the Old Spice Commercial, meet my new nurse:

Monday, March 1, 2010

I have a matching set!

No, it's not what you are thinking.

I received a card in the mail the other day - and stunningly, it was from yet another "chemo angel."  She says she is my "card angel."  That means two people will be supporting me from afar.

Below my shoulders I may have one breast, but sitting on top of them I have two angels.

How lucky am I?