Saturday, January 17, 2009

At 3:45 a.m. Cancer isn't funny

I woke up at 3:10a.m. and haven't been able to fall back asleep. I'm thinking it's the fettuccine Alfredo I had for dinner (on top of the quarter pounder with cheese I had for lunch; what bad eating habits??). Or perhaps, cancer isn't funny and I may have a little anxiety. Mixed with indigestion. I moved into another room to give Chris a chance at sleeping.

So here's what I'm thinking about as I tossed and turned... surgery is the 28th and I'm pretty comfortable with what will happen and with my doctor. But my sister calls today (she's an OR nurse at UCI) full of UCI does this and that information and asking if my doctor has talked to me about something called "mammosite"--apparently this is something they can insert at the time of surgery that is then used to direct the radiation later on. The radiation then takes less time and has less side effect (which, I suppose is burned breast, right?). She also asks how many hundreds of surgeries Dr. Karam has done because "even a resident has done a couple of hundred surgeries." And all I can think is, I can't get my head ahead to radiation, I don't really want something "stuck in me" for the next 5 or 6 months before we even get to radiation, and a couple of hundred surgeries is good enough for me.

By coincidence, Dr. Karam called shortly after so I asked him (besides, Shawna can be like a pit bull about these things so it wasn't going to go away). He had a perfectly good reason why the mammosite wasn't a good idea for me---but don't ask me what it was. Something about the highly invasive nature of my particular cancer that makes it best we stick with the traditional treatment and not the new technology. And something that made me think "give it all the radiation we can." Did I mention "highly invasive"? There's too much information right now and if I don't need to store it in my head, I throw it out. (That loud clunking noise is the "mammosite" falling on the ground). But somehow I need to explain this to my sister. And there's no way I asked "how many hundreds of surgeries have you done?" I'm comfortable with the surgeon. Chris is comfortable. My dad is comfortable. Why do I want to make myself uncomfortable? Besides, "my" cancer is "highly invasive" seems to be the reason for everything and that's what's driving the treatment. These are not words that say "slow down, take some time, explore options."

Then I got an email from a breast cancer survivor who is a friend of a friend. Lots of helpful information and I started to read the web page journaling her treatment. May have been more gory detail than I was ready for. And again, there was the suggestion that I need a second opinion and all too much evidence that doctors screw up (her case was initially not handled well). But I have a PPO (she, sadly, had an HMO) and UCLA was my second opinion. And I don't want to find out if there is an alternative to surgery. I want the highly invasive little bastard out!!! Besides, it's not even a general anesthesia, no reconstructive surgery needed, and I'm home the same day. Sure, I have a scar and an ice pack on my right boob, but I'm home and the cancer isn't!

Things that are not keeping me up: I do not ever feel like "Why me?"; Mostly, I feel like "oh, of course this happened to me!!" (These are probably two sides of the same coin). And I do feel like this isn't something Chris should have to put up with (he's 33!). I have not spent any time trying to figure out what caused it. It doesn't run in my family (but I do feel a little bad that now my niece will have to answer that question with "yes"; maybe it will allow her to get mammograms covered by insurance sooner rather than later), and "my" cancer isn't hormone based (my score was 0% in that regard. 0%. I don't think it gets any more definitive than that). That's apparently not good news because it means the anti-hormone medications won't work on me. But I'm okay with not taking medications for years on end and because it isn't hormone based, drinking wine isn't an issue. That's as far as my analysis of how I got cancer goes (and some of it isn't even my analysis--the 0% part). I don't really see the point in figuring out the how or the why.

What I do need to figure out....I can only take Tylenol during this countdown to surgery. Can I take Tylenol PM??


  1. Teresa, you are an incredible writer! I think this blogging thing is a great idea. I would imagine it is good therapy to write about your thoughts. As I said before, this could be any one of us AND probably will be. I find it to be funny, sad, scary and appreciate reading about your experience. Thanks for letting us in. I remember seeing a documentary called SEXY CANCER or something like that. Have you heard of it? It was really good and had alot of humor in it.

  2. It is great therapy. After I finished blogging, I went back to bed and fell asleep almost immediately! I will look into Sexy Cancer. Hey, if I get to pick a cancer, I pick "sexy"!

  3. Teresa, if anyone can do sexy cancer, that would be you. Look, you already had your initial tests done in 4" adorable strappy shoes. In fact, I think you should arrive for the surgery completely decked out - Versace or Very Wang maybe?

    On a serious note, thanks indeed for letting us be a part of the experience. I will be scheduling a mammogram this week since I'm one of those "You know who you are" chicks.

    PS. Can I come out for the birthday bash??

  4. Absolutely! Everyone's invited to the Friday the 13th birthday bash! And you now have first dibs on one of our couches since we have no guest bedroom and you'd be flying in from Colorado. But you only get a couch if you go get a mammogram!!!

  5. Correction - its called CRAZY, SEXY CANCER. Check out the website of the same name.

  6. Good to know. Chris says I have at least two of those things already. I am not asking for any further clarification. Especially since my mother was here visiting today.


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