Tuesday, March 31, 2009

And the Blogbos Award Goes To....

The polls have closed. The votes have been tallied. The first annual (and probably only) BLOGBOS (Blog Break Out Star) award goes to (drumroll please....) .....CHRIS KERN!!!!! Cue the orchestra! A standing ovation! Hugs, kisses, tears! (Camera close-ups of the non-winners!?)

Could it have gone any differently? Well, yes. Rory and Restaurant Omakase ran quite a campaign. Seamus is still cursing his lack of opposable thumbs (makes the computer keyboard a little tricky for him). Dr. Karam remained dignified and continued his run as America's only non ego-centric surgeon by not running a campaign and in fact casting his own vote for Seamus. But in the end, it was Chris. It had to be Chris.

Because you are careful and sensitive readers and you too realize that it is Chris who has moment to moment, hour after hour, day by day been there for me through all of this, taking care of me, taking care of Seamus, making me meals, staying up at night with me, making me laugh, encouraging the little bit of exercise I do manage, making the phone calls to friends and family post-surgery/chemo/ and myriad other emergencies, picking up prescriptions, smoothies, weird food requests,and my spirits, battling health care receptionists, calling in reinforcements where needed, making sure I take all my medicines at all the right times, pretending I look not only normal but good, sitting through chemo and keeping not only me but everyone else in the "infusion room" in good spirits, and a million other things with grace and humor and unconditional, unwavering love and total devotion.

Some of you probably don't know this (and I like to think you can't tell) but Chris is a few years younger than I am (Ahem. Twelve.). So while I am a tad young to be going through breast cancer, Chris is astoundingly young to be the caretaker and significant other of a breast cancer patient. And yet he's been perfect. Absolutely perfect. And while I'm sure it hasn't been easy for him, I can honestly say he hasn't complained, hasn't snapped, hasn't said no to anything and hasn't even remotely let on that this is in any way a burden to him or even slightly tiring. He hasn't even lost his sense of humor (and believe me, I've lost mine a time or two). We probably have his parents to thank (they did raise him after all). And he had an example to follow--his mom had breast cancer 15 years ago and apparently his dad was quite the trooper then too. So thanks go to Jim and Trudi Kern. But mostly, my thanks, my love and my eternal gratitude and devotion...and of course the Blogbos, go to Chris.

And you can help me thank him too. Believe it or not, Chris actually has a life of his own and has managed to keep that going through this all too. Besides being the primary organizer and President of our Words & Wine tours, he writes a wine column for Area 9 (formerly 951) magazine. And this Thursday, April 2, 2009 he'll be launching a wine website and blog of his own. The site is Friends of the Forgotten Grapes Please check it out! You'll learn a lot. It's funny, entertaining and very informative. If you enjoy wine at all, you'll enjoy this site--whether you know a little or a lot about wine. It's an irreverent look (hey, it's Chris writing--that shouldn't be a surprise) at some of the lesser known grape varietals--something beyond your cabernets and chardonnays. A great way to expand your wine horizons. He'll feature a different varietal every Thursday. And yes, there are that many of them. The wine tastings have already been underway in our house (remember the one I was pretty useless at a week or so ago?).

Chris's website launch was even mentioned in the current edition of Area 9 magazine--and so was my blog!! (What? You thought I'd get through this whole post without making it about me??). The site will also include some tips on pairing foods with the wines mentioned--the food tips are from none other than Chef Brein of Restaurant Omakase. (They were gracious in their blog defeat.) So, it's off to a great start, but Chris needs your support.

Please join us in a virtual wine tasting party Thursday April 2, 2009 to celebrate the launch. The details are on the site. Which, again, is www.forgottengrapes.com ! Basically, it involves pouring yourself a glass of wine (hey, pick up a bottle of something you haven't tried before...that's the spirit!) and sipping it while perusing the Forgotten Grapes site and maybe sending in a comment or two--on the site or the wine you're drinking or something you'd like to know more about. Who knows, maybe you can become the next Blogbos award winner!

Monday, March 30, 2009

Looks Like We Made It (knock on wood)

Cue Barry Manilow...
Day 12 post chemo #2...no white blood cell crash. Or red for that matter. In fact, I feel pretty good. I am hopeful that the worst of chemo round 2 has passed and I will get to be a fairly normal person (oh, shut up) at least until chemo round 3 (April 9--yep, right before Easter).

I spent Sunday trying to stay in my happy place--they say it's all about the attitude (and believe me, "they" say this a lot. I hear it all the time. I'm not sure if that's because people think my attitude sucks or is good. I just know it's all in the attitude). I found three separate "happy" places were involved. I felt well enough Sunday to go into work. I'm not really a workaholic. But I like my job. I like my clients. I love my office. And it felt good to get in and get a few solid hours of productivity in (it's also good in the "oh good I might not starve and I might be able to pay the office rent and my mortgage" sort of way). So I was happy. For a few hours. Then I started feeling not so hot. Back home I went. And back to bed. Which is where the second happy place was found.

No, no, not like that. I spent couple of hours napping and reading in bed. I decided to go with a little more serious reading but also sticking to the fantasy/fun theme. I'm reading "A Day in Tuscany" by Dario Castagno-- an English speaking Italian who gives tours in the Chianti region. I spent more than a few moments daydreaming of past and future (just not this year) Words & Wine trips to France. The common denominator is wine, in case you are wondering. But also, just the joy of travel (the photos are from our 2007 trip; and those are our friends Rich Gold and Gary Berg), which is definitely a happy place for me. It just so happened Rachel (our friend and partner in France) posted to her blog about spring in Provence starting to arrive--so you should check that out. This Provencal Life. You can find a temporary happy place there too.

And then, happy place number 3 came to our house. Walked right up to our gate. Our friends and neighbors Dave Wright and Vince Price stopped by with their new family member....a beagle!!! They adopted a beagle (prior name Snoopy; may be named Rusty now...it's a work in progress)!!! That's him over to the right--he's a good looking dog. Seamus loved him! And Seamus hardly ever cares about other dogs (except Michelle Ouellette's dog Will. Seamus heart Will. Totally.) Seeing two beagles run around playing and knowing another beagle was rescued and found a good home--that's a happy, happy place for me to be. So we had a mini "Beaglefest." And Chris did point out that we were at Beaglefest on Day 11 after chemo round 1 as well. Things went well today though--so we can't blame the beagles for the crash. That's my scientific test and I'm sticking to it. Beagles = happy place and all good things.

I did have a killer sore throat by the nighttime and had to resort to Nyquil for that and the cough that was creeping up. That meant I slept well. By this morning, I was good enough to go to work. And by coming home for lunch, steroids and a nap, I was good enough to go back to work and then make it to the Inland Agency's "Shop to Stop Breast Cancer" at the Marriott with Valerie Zucker and a few hundred other folks, mostly wearing pink. I opted to be subtle in my purple "Cancer Vixen: No Breast Left Behind" T-shirt and black and purple and several other bright colors head scarf. More on that event tomorrow. I've got to pace myself, you know.

Sunday, March 29, 2009


The hives covered my hands. Need I say more about why there was no post last night? Seriously. Hand hives. Who does that happen to?? Me. Of course.

Allow me to describe my Friday night post-posting to you. I played a fun little game we'll call Misery Slots. See, I had three things going wrong intermittently all through the night, any one of which was enough to keep me wide awake. First, of course was the hives--which periodically would flare up and make me want to tear at my skin. Then there was the hot flashes--see, among other charming things about chemo is that it sends you (well, me, in this case) into early menopause--which may or may not last. So hot flashes, night sweats, all those lovely things, are common. And then there was the indigestion--which is what I suppose is the common name for the elephant stepping on the middle of my chest. Every so often it would feel like a tennis ball got lodged in my esophagus, and all I needed to do was swallow it. Right. Because that's comfortable. So sometimes one of these things would occur. Sometimes two, and if I hit the misery jackpot, all three were up together and the bells would ring, the siren would go off, and ....there was no jackpot payoff. Except total misery. Did I mention I didn't sleep? Well, I did...the first two hours after Benadryl, but then I was wide awake and thrashing about.

The steroids take sometime to take effect, so it was hydrocortisone cream, Calamine lotion (seriously, when was the last time you had to use Calamine lotion? I was desperate) and Benadryl as often as possible. Finally morning came. Steroid dosage!!! I started to feel a little better around noon on Saturday. Which is also when my dad called. My dad is a chiropractor--with a lot of medical background and always has really good medical advice. I just sometimes forget to call and ask (I'm not all that good at asking for help, it turns out.). But he had the perfect, simplest, quickest solution to the indigestion (and honestly, the indigestion was killer--I probably would have made it through the other two if I could've gotten rid of that sooner). So here's the magic solution: two teaspoons of baking soda in a glass of water. Honestly. It worked like a charm. Way better than Zantac!! It doesn't taste so hot, and sure, in a matter of minutes I was burping like an entire beer hall filled with truckers, but that was music to my ears (Chris may disagree, but he probably preferred it to the groaning. I haven't asked). Gone, resolved, over, elephant off the chest within the hour!! After dinner it started up again, and I drank more baking soda water and nipped it in the bud almost immediately. Amazing. Who knew?? Well, dad did. Father knows best. Must remember this.

So Saturday was a day of recovery, once again. I slept. I read. Hey, I finished Dogs & Goddesses--and for a quick, fun, easy read, I highly recommend it. Funny, entertaining, no deep-thinking required, dogs don't die (they talk instead), kind of paperback fun. I tried not to scratch, and I took steroids 4 times throughout the day. Then I took an oatmeal bath to try to reduce those red welts on my body. That was really good in one way--it was soothing. And really bad in another--there's a mirror in the bathroom.

I stepped out of the tub and came face to face with Chemoenstein in the mirror. There she was: bald, grey bags under her eyes (no sleep), red welts all over her body (made much more vibrant by the warm water), red scratches streaked across various spots, a two inch scar across the right breast (another under the right arm, but I wasn't stupid enough to lift that arm and "enhance" the view; I just knew it was there), and a nice steroid bloat already started. Pretty. But I must have been feeling better, because I laughed. No other choice. It was appalling. What the hell else could happen?? I have hives on my hands--no, really, the palms of my hands!! The next time you think you are having a bad day, or a bad hair day, or you don't look good, or you are annoyed at the extra 5 lbs you've put on--I offer you that image. If you can still be down on yourself and not say "oh hell, at least I'm not Chemoenstein"-- you need professional help. Or just call me and I will come over and slap the silliness out of you.

The rest of the evening was spent with fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies and milk, cuddling on the couch with Chris and Seamus (neither seemed to notice my monster like qualities) watching movies. And trying not to scratch.

(The cute little monster in the photo was a gift from NANCY MOURGUET--something to pound on bad chemo days. I think it's too cute to pound. And it's way, way cuter than I was last night. )

Friday, March 27, 2009

Red Blood Cells need Love Too.

I have no luck. None whatsoever. Just when I started feeling better...Wham.

If you read yesterdays post you may recall that I mentioned my head was really itchy. Yeah, um, it's not alone. When I woke up I noticed a few red blotches on my wrist and arm. Then I got out of the shower and eeeh gads!! I had what can only be described as welts in patches all over my body (although Chris suggests "hives")--and yes, on my head too. I went to the handy-dandy "pages stapled together" booklet that passes for my guide to chemo care and became concerned that I had several of the side effects that may indicate a red blood cell count problem or a platelet problem. Either one is of course, not good. So I called the oncologists office...and right, it wasn't 9a.m. yet so no people are available. I self-medicated with hydro cortisone cream, which helped keep me from scratching all the skin off my body until 9a.m when I got a hold of a nurse (doctor must have moved to Switzerland and the nurse practitioner was in the Pasadena office). The nurse had me take two Benadryls and go to bed. First of course I had to call my office and have them cancel my appointments for today. Then I did as instructed and yeah, no kidding about going to bed. The two Benadryls knocked me out. On the bright side, I don't think I've slept that well in a long, long time.

When I woke the spots were somewhat smaller and not neon angry red. They were a nice breast cancer ribbon pink. But definitely still there. Nurse called back, asked questions, suggested another round of Benadryl. Rinse, Repeat (more good sleep). By the next call the nurse practitioner had been contacted and they were calling in a steroid prescreption, since it appears I'm having an allergic reaction to something or other--apparently it's not a red blood cell or platelet problem, although I'm not convinced they know for sure. So, yey, hooray, more steroids for me. Ugh. 6 days worth--start with 6 a day, drop to 5, then 4, and so on. And of course, much like chemo day itself, I have indigestion too. The really fun part is that it's the weekend now, so if anything else occurs I'll be dealing with Urgent Care (at UCLA!!). And I missed a day of work. This was just not in my plan! Cancer's little buddy chemo is so rude. Completely inconsiderate. Just leaves me quite literally, scratching my head.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Chemo--the Gift that Keeps Giving

I can't decide if I'm like a really old person or a baby. I pretty much want to sleep and eat all day--although it turns out I'm pretty fussy about what I can eat. And I wake up several times a night. Generally between 4 and 5:30 a.m., I'm just tossing and turning (and getting up to get Tylenol). So which does that describe? Great grandma? newborn? Or, chemo patient? Why would those things have anything in common? Discuss amongst yourselves.

I think toward the end of this fun chemo thing I'm going to have to catalog for you all (fair warning) the side effects they say are common, less common, and rare--and then list the ones I had. There's no point in doing it now, because I get new fun little side effects all the time. Today, my hips were hurting. And if I move just wrong, I get a severe lower back shooting pain. Stop, drop, pop-off shooting pain. I suppose this is the Neulasta joint/bone pain (they say it affects the large bones and um, my hips certainly qualify). And my head is itching like crazy--I'm guessing the fuzzy bits of hair are now wanting to abandon the cranium as well. It's amazing the numerous ways your body can be affected by poison. Or, well, maybe that's not so amazing.

For your sake and mine, I do not want to focus on the craziness. There was a lighter side today. I worked from home. Chris and Laureen handled the office, so I could stay home. Which worked out really well. I got plenty of work done, but could easily take a nap as needed. And 2 naps were needed, but that allowed me to put in a full day of work. Work is great for keeping my mind off "things." But it also meant there was no real reason for me to wear make-up or gussy myself up in any way. So I spent more time than I have before bare-faced and bald. And pretty much sloppy in yoga pants and a t-shirt (Save the Tatas!). I didn't feel bad. It was kinda freeing. Not surprisingly, this does cause one to examine ones face and skull--especially since I've never seen the skull quite like this. I wasn't horrified. This is good news.

I do have two scars on my head that are more visible than before--they are at what used to be my hairline and is now a tan line (face is several shades more beige than the top of my head, as it turns out, not at all surprisingly). One is from falling down my grandparents back door stairs as a kid, and one is from where my older sister stabbed me in the head with a fork (ah, sweet childhood memories). But all in all my skull is in pretty good shape. It's not oddly shaped and doesn't have too many bumps or protrusions. This is chemo's gift to me. I know what my skull looks like--most of you don't.

And of course the face becomes more noticeable without hair. I've heard several times that I'm lucky because I have a "pretty" face and thus will look fine bald or can "pull off" just the scarf look. This cracks me up. It reminds me of when I was first diagnosed and people would say "You are a really strong person. You'll do fine." It's nice and all, but both are statements with zero credibility. Because really, you can't say anything else. If a person isn't strong or doesn't have a pretty face, what are you going to say? "Wow. You are never going to be able to handle this. You'll fall apart. And oh good lord, with that nose of yours you'll look horrific. Best of luck!" No, no you are not. You are going to say "You'll do great. You're a strong person. And you have such a pretty face." You're going to lie! But thank you anyway.

Today, examining my new look with no make-up, I came to the conclusion that I'm lucky my face is just sort of plain. So nothing really stands out--which is good now. And really, I mean that in a good way. I don't have any outstanding features (okay, I'm 5'10", and that's hard to miss, but other than that) one way or another--no particularly great facial feature (or hair when I had it) but no particularly bad one either. Most people have one or the other or several. I don't think I do (feel free to point out what I'm overlooking. I'm totally kidding. Don't say anything.) To test my theory, those of you who know me, quick...what color are my eyes? .....waiting.....waiting......Right. See? They're blue. But not the sparkling, baby blues of literature and song (and Chris). They're a really dark, oceanic blue. Almost non-descript. But they're a normal size and situated normally in my face. So basically, they're just eyes. Plain and simple. My mouth is kinda small, but my teeth are gigantic, so that averages out to a normal smile/mouth. Nose is just a nose. Chin could be stronger, but the cheekbones aren't bad, so hey, once again, bone structure is average. I'm telling you, this makes "no hair" a bit easier--I don't need it to compensate for anything in particular (except, you know, my bald head). I had time to analyze this today (ironically on the day after excoriating the hapless author who had his character analzye himslef in a window reflection). No reason, it's just really--how often am I going to see myself bald and clean-faced like that? (The answer is, well, several more months, but I'm sure I'll get over this very soon. Like now.)

There were other chemo gifts today too. I got another card in the mail (thanks Christine) and Eliza and the staff at ADV sent the beautiful flowers in the picture. That was a very nice surprise. I like that it was just to remind me they were thinking of me. Very kind. And TERA HARDEN, criminal defense attorney supreme, is going to get my jury duty summons kicked to...well...as far as we can get it kicked! Thanks Tera! And Chris brought me home the highly recommended Strawberry Banana smoothie from Jack in the Box-- Thanks for that tip TC BOND!! Works perfectly for "chemo mouth."

I also got a little love from Luxembourg. Someone checked the blog. That brings total countries to 24! To wit: US, Canada, France, Germany, Australia, Belgium, Indonesia, South Africa, India, Finland, Switzerland, New Zealand, Pakistan, Serbia, Poland, Japan, Sweden, Czech Republic, Lebanon, Ireland, Russia, Luxembourg and Hungary. Crazy isn't that? Great job spreading the word!! Anyone know anyone in Uzbekistan?

Of course, Wisconsin still hates me. Don't know why. I love their cheese. But Wisconsin, Wyoming, South Dakota, Kansas, Oklahoma, Mississippi, Alabama, Indiana, Delaware, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine and Alaska have all been too busy (shoveling snow and dealing with tornado warnings?) to check the blog. We're working on them though.

So yes, chemo is the gift that keeps on giving. Even if I'm making up some of the fun myself (Google analytics is endlessly amusing). But you'll be happy to know we have no big plans for this weekend. We are thinking we'll have a nice relaxing weekend...in anticipation of Day 12 on Monday. Will she crash or won't she?? I'm thinking postively. I'm registered for the Shop to Stop Breast Cancer at the Marriott Monday night. And my Cancer Vixen t-shirt arrived just in time.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Dogs & Goddesses

I'm feeling better. I should start with that. Seems that many of you worry about me when I don't post--and since I missed both Friday night and Sunday night, this was apparently cause for concern. That's very kind of you. I was mostly just too tired and perhaps feeling too boring to have much to say. So I thought I'd spare you. You won't be so lucky this time.

Today I believe I had my first incident of the phenomenon known as "chemo-brain." It's pretty much what it sounds like--a temporary Alzheimer's brought on by chemotherapy (or the stress of chemo, I'm betting). I've read about it and heard from other cancer folks that it's real. You forget the stupidest things or can't remember a really basic word. A sort of brain-freeze. Luckily, the brain returns to fully functional status post-chemo. Another thing to look forward to. So, here's what happened. Since my energy is down and chemo #2 didn't go anywhere as nicely as chemo #1, I want to be sure to replicate the chemo #1 prep-time experience. Chris has pointed out that we were like first time parents with chemo #1--we read everything, I took vitamins, exercised, did everything "they" tell you to do and chemo/child 1 was "perfect." By chemo/child number 2 I was drinking wine and forgetting the kid. (I'm a middle child. Have I mentioned that?) So we'll try to learn from what may have been mistakes before chemo kid #3 comes along. Starting with the vitamins/ anti-oxidants my dad had given me and I dutifully took initially. I kinda fell off that wagon with the crash day, and it's confusing because you have to stop the anti-oxidants 2 days before and after the chemo. Who can chart all this stuff?? So I probably didn't drink as much of it as I did before chemo 1.

Yesterday and again this morning, I got up, got my coffee and a yogurt and then mixed up a Gatorade with antioxidant powder (Mega-reds one day, mega-greens the next). This morning it was green. I drank about one-third of the bottle as I carried it around with me during the morning. Then I grabbed my lunch and a snack and left for work. I realized as I was driving that I left the Gatorade mix at home, so I called Chris to bring it with him when he came to the office. He searched the house but couldn't find it. I looked in the car but couldn't find it. No green anti-oxidant Gatorade machine to be found anywhere. Chris mixed a new one and brought it to me, but of course it sat on my desk and I forgot to drink it (it's really not that appealing, so it's not terribly surprising). Then later I got in my car to go home...and there was the bottle from the morning. Just sitting in the cup-holder. You know, exactly where you would put a bottle as you got in your car in the morning. It was like the concept of a cup-holder in a car was entirely foreign to me. How I didn't see that or even think to look in the cup holder can only be explained one way...chemo brain. This is going to be fun. And you just know Chris is looking forward to more of this as well.

All was not lost today though. I made it through three client meetings --one with a favorite client who is 86 and just exactly what one wants to be at 86 (healthy, happy, independent and so adorably well put together--my hair and make-up should look so good. Well, you know, when I had hair). And a new client meeting but client's daughter is a blog reader (Hi Judy!!) and thus, no explanations were necessary (I think they liked my blonde with the hot-pink Coach scarf look anyway). Plus, Judy G brought me the Turning Heads book I mentioned before and she even brought Chris a bottle of Orin Swift's The Prisoner Cab blend wine (I don't think she meant anything by the label choice! It's just a really good Napa wine; and that's a link where you can order some yourself from Napacabs.com). But after three client meetings and pre-margarita get together a nap was definitely required.

And then it was time for Dogs & Goddesses! Yes, that does happen to be the title of the book BECKY WHATLEY brought me (and I'm excited to read) when she met us at Caliente Bar & Grill, but it also fits the evening. Caliente Bar & Grill donated 25% of the food sales proceeds to the Riverside Humane Society Pet Adoption Center tonight. So, many goddesses joined me in ever-changing shifts for two good causes (RHSPAC and margaritas!): DENISE PERRY, BECKY WHATLEY, CHRIS CARLSON, KRISTIN TILLQUIST, ZEE BEARD, VALERIE ZUCKER and BARBARA MARAMOUR. And then a few "gods" showed up too: ROD PERRY, MIKE EASLEY and, of course CHRIS KERN. The dogs and I thank you all. It's possible that more money would have been raised if they donated 25% of the margarita proceeds, but we still made a good showing. And it was good for me to be among friends and enjoying a night out. Mexican food remains tasty and tequila can cut through the metallic taste of chemo, so this was a good good thing. Let's hope I've turned a little corner here. And that I'm not horribly confused and lost around that corner....

Monday, March 23, 2009

Wig in the Wind

No posting Sunday and I've barely got the energy tonight. But that might be the wine. There was at least wine tonight.

The cement in my veins has subsided a bit. My upper arms and rib cage are still sore, and oddly so is my throat. And of course, my nemesis "dirt/metallic taste" has returned and is insisting on having things his way. I'm still fairly tired, also. I lasted at work only until 4pm. It probably would have been wise to take a nap around 2 and keep going after that, but it just didn't work out that way. So by 4 pm I was all but asleep at my desk. Oh, and it was windy today and I had to think about the hair (uh, yeah, that would be the wig) more than usual. It was all too easy to picture it just blowing off and down the parking lot as I tried to make it from my car to my office. Maybe I should carry back-up wigs in my trunk? Would this be a normal thing to do? Okay, probably not. But a back-up scarf is probably not a bad idea. Especially since the late afternoons find me itching to take the hair off. I don't think I'm going to last long with these wigs. I'm liking the scarf look more and more.

I got home a little after 4 and went straight to bed. I napped, soundly, until 5:30. Then Brein and Roryann Clements (Omakase, you remember, yes?) came over to do some wine tasting with Chris (it's all in the name of Chris's new wine website/ blog...which you'll hear about soon enough). I participated a bit--even "healthy" I can normally taste only the whites, as I'm allergic to American reds. Some of the wine still tasted good to me, and some of the cheese and breads did as well.( Which was a good thing because that turned out to be dinner!) Normally I have a decent nose for wine and I'm not too awful at identifying the particular characteristics (even if I do occasionally say "smells like dirt" and Chris has to gussy that up to "Earthy on the nose"), but I was no help this time. "Metallic taste" really had no credibility. And "earthy in the mouth" is not really what one looks for. So I was really "cancer girl" just pretending to participate. I was also a lot less drunk. Damnit.

All of this is to say, I have to admit that over this past weekend and today it has occurred to me that...I'm tired of cancer. Sure, it was fun while it lasted, but um, can we move along now? It's been 3 months. That seems like enough time. (It was in fact three months ago exactly that I received the "highly suspicious of malignancy" phone call.) There's just so much to think about and really everything changes. Not much gets to stay the same. Which is annoying. It's hard not to be a "cancer person." This past weekend I kept apologizing to Chris for his having to go through this too. Not that I chose it, or it's my fault, but I just felt bad for him. He assures me that cancer or no, he would have been home watching the March Madness all weekend anyway. I know (from years past) that this is true, so I also know that I was just in a weird/bad/sad/tired place. And that's what cancer does--it finds a million little ways to push you to those places. So now it's time to push back. I'm through with the meds, the Neulasta shot cement effect is wearing off, and I've got more than two weeks before I have to go back for more chemo. Time for margaritas with my friends.

Oh, and I got a jury duty summons today. Yep. Of course I did. For April 20th. Which is....day 12 after the next chemo round. I sure hope they let me postpone that. Did I mention I have cancer?

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Cement Trucks and Gravy Trains

Cancer Vixen described it as a cement truck unloading into your veins. Yep, I'm gonna say she was right.

Yesterday at about 4:30 I had the Neulasta shot--the one that will help prevent the white blood cell massacre that occurred on day 12 of the last chemo round. Not a big deal getting the shot. I'm getting surprisingly used to needles and shots (I'm sure I've lost count at this point). And I felt pretty good afterward. Just a little tired, but I'm sure that had everything to do with the pre-Neulasta cocktail. Which, sadly, is not what you are thinking. It was a "cocktail" of Claritin, Benadryl and Tylenol. Washed down with Gatorade. Mmmm. Yummy. I didn't have nearly as much energy as I had on day 3 of the last round, and I have to say, I was a little disappointed with that. I keep searching for the slightest silver lining with this whole cancer thing. (Did I mention my weight was exactly the same at the second visit, by the way? So no weight loss either!!). I napped, I watched TV with Chris for a bit and then I zonked out. Notice there was no blog post last night? Too, too tired. But of course, I'm taking the steroid medication and drinking a lot of fluids, so naturally I have to get up and head to the restroom a couple of times a night. Which is when the cement truck hit.

The first time I got up it felt like somebody was pushing me back down. It wasn't painful, so much as, just, wow, each of my limbs now weighed 200 lbs. How was I going to lug all four of them to the restroom? I managed, swinging them along into some kind of momentum, and then took a little more Tylenol while I was at it. Then I quite literally fell back into bed, ever so thankful I didn't cause the bed to crash down to the bottom floor. I stayed in bed most of the morning, and no, I didn't make it to Walk with the Animals. Somehow I knew the "Walk" part was going to be a bit difficult. But Chris and Seamus represented and Chris dutifully had folks say hello to me anyway, so I felt not quite as left out. I think this may be the first Walk with The Animals that I've ever missed--and this is the 17th one! But here's what I would have seen in person:

That's Brein and Roryann, (drumming up votes for the blog poll), and then RHSPAC's new Executiv Director Denise Perry,
and the folks at Ruff House Doggie Day Care who take care of Seamus when we have doctor's appointments and the like. And then just a general shot of the festivities. I told you, Chris was just keeping me in the loop.

It has taken most of this day for the heavy feeling to mostly leave my legs. But my neck, shoulders and arms are still pretty "heavy." And I have a hard time swallowing--and my tongue is swollen. Yeah, I didn't know a tongue was "bone" either, but there you have it. Maybe that's the antihistamine effect. I don't know. I just know it needs to stop.

So the cement truck arrived, but so did the Gravy Train. Yesterday (pre-cement shot) Stacey Aldstadt came by and brought lunch (Subway sandwiches and Lay's potato chips!). She also drove me around on a few errands so Chris could stay home and watch the March Madness (he deserves this). Oh, and I went out in public with just the "exotic scarf" look. It was a little warm for a wig, I thought. Plus, come one, the scarf is Coach. Then after we got back from the cement shot (2 hours there and back), Barbara Abel came by with dinner (California Pizza Kitchen) and a few girlie gifts for me. And today, post-Walk, Kristin Tillquist came by with lunch (Simple Simon's!) and a bag of totally indulgent magazines for me. Which is perfect given that my limbs are trees and I need to stay in bed until they return to their normal-ish state. Kristin even brought a magazine of short hair-dos, which was totally clever. Lots of styles I'll be able to try out by the end of this year (fingers crossed). So yeah, there's my silver lining. I have good friends and they continue to show up bearing food and gifts. My dad and my brother both checked in on me today by phone too, so that was also nice.

By the Sunday following chemo round 1, I was able to go into my office. I don't think that's happening this time. But, I am hopeful the stack of files and mail that I brought home and that my ever-loyal and hardworking paralegal Laureen Pittman dropped off on Friday can be attended to in the comfort of my home office. There just isn't room in there for me and the cement truck anymore. Or the tree-limbs. Always room for the Gravy Train though. Just ask Seamus. The gravy train has not gone unnoticed or unappreciated by Seamus.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Ducks in a Row and a Sacrificial Lamb

The day started nicely enough. I decided to rock the Sienna blonde/hat look for chemo round 2. And of course, the periwinkle wrap. Seamus did his snugly kiss goodbye thing ("Chemo is nothing, mom. Stay strong") and we were off. Yeah, remember in my last post I questioned that the doctor was cutting back the steroid anti-nausea medication--actually cutting it in half? And I was thinking "Why mess with a good thing?" Yeah. I should be a doctor.

Here's me getting started--still looking "up" and ready to go. The nurse is getting the IV feed needle in and situated. I was still game, but uh, the needle was "dull"--and let's just say it took a few trys. Nice start. She put the IV needle on the side of my wrist. I don't think I prefer that, although I appreciate that they try to use different veins (I still have a bruise on the back of my hand from the first one, so I can hardly wait to see what this one will look like). And she asked if I wanted the sedative again, and I, thinking "less meds the better" said "Nah, it went fine last time, so let's skip it" (Hint: don't ever pass on pro-offered sedatives when you are getting a medical procedure. Just don't.)

There was a very nice lady in the chair next to me. She has leukemia and basically will have chemo the rest of her life. But she was so positive and calm. This is her third round of chemo...not third treatment, the start of the third time she's gone the whole round of chemo. Her hair had grown back from chemo round 2, but now she was going to start 3 and it was going to fall out again. I can't imagine. She has a "port" in her chest and gets the chemo fed through there--her veins can't take it anymore. And she had bruises all over (because leukemia, among other things, causes really easy bruising) from their St. Bernard! And again, she was just so cheerful!

Some familiar characters you may recall. The beanie babies are still there, but some have been changed out and some were "hung" a bit less shockingly. I had the same chair in the same corner, but new beanie babies. This IV poll featured two Mighty Ducks (ducks in a row, get it?) and a sacrificial lamb. Charming, right? But this also gives you a nice view of my office set up--see the books, the writing notepad and the snacks and Gatorade? All set.

Elizabeth and her mom were there again. This was her mom's last treatment. She got a "graduation diploma" at the end, and some applause--because we all want to be her. Here they are at the "end" of her chemo (mom's still in the chair, awaiting the check out).

And yep, Chatty Cathy was back and seated next to Elizabeth's mom. But she was less chatty and I eventually had quite a bit of empathy for her when I learned all of the following: she was very ill post chemo (although I could have done without the vomiting in the shower story), she can't drink anything cooler than room temperature or it feels like glass shards in her throat--even opening the refrigerator and breathing in cold air had that effect on her!), and she takes chemo pills for 14 days after the chemo infusion, which keeps her pretty sick, without an appetite, and means she has to flush the toilet at home after use twice for 14 days (she has little kids at home, so this becomes extra important). And, she's 34. With colon cancer. And most of her family has died of or had some form of cancer. A crazy bunch of them. All of that allowed me to get over the fact that she was reading a book called "When God Breaks Your Heart." (Okay, I'm not totally over that; I'm just refraining from totally mocking it. Sort of.) She did get this one break though--she's getting the kind of chemo that doesn't cause hair loss. So she still has her hair. Not sure that's such a good trade, but at least she got that break.

I did learn from the chatting in the room, that scraping my tongue will help deal with the metallic taste. Hmmm. And also, many of the chemo patients were patients at San Antonio Community Hospital and were quite pleased with their care. Good to know. In case of an emergency, we had always planned on driving straight to UCLA (no matter how many Riverside hospitals we passed on our way). But now we have another closer option. One we hope we don't have to use!

My chemo started at about 10:30. Chris stayed until eleven and then left to go do some errands and pick up some wine necessary for the wine website/blog he'll be launching soon. Because, you know, all had gone so well before we thought I'd be fine. So, he missed all the drama. You may recall in chemo round 1 I mentioned an older gentleman that had some sort of reaction and all the nurses were huddled around him? That was me this time. I think I made it only about an hour into the chemo when I started feeling "tingly", and a little warm, and slightly sick, and I was thinking "Maybe I should tell the nurse" so I flagged her down and before she even made it over to me two things happened: 1) everyone in the room went "oh my god, you're all red!" and 2) I got a very sharp pain in my lower back. As you might guess, none of these things are good. They immediately stopped the infusion, pumped in some Benadryl and more Decadron (the steriod they had cut back the dosage on...right, the decrease I was worried about). Then gave me a saline solution. All of that took about another hour. An hour I wasn't getting chemo. She started me back on the chemo again, but with a slower drip. First twenty minutes went great. Then she increased the drip speed and "Houston, we have a problem" again. Stopped again. More Benadryl. More Decadron. More saline. Start me up again. But slowly. We kept the drip going slowly.

Chris returned and got the update. The one that meant, yeah, we're gonna be here awhile. And by then, all the others were starting to finish up and head out. Next up for me...chest pain! We had to stop again and they gave me Tagamet (in the IV). By the time we finally got all the Taxotere (the chemo) in me it was nearly 4:30pm. Yeah, it took over 5 1/2 hours. It was supposed to take 2, maybe 2 1/2. And there was still Cytoxan to go. The Cytoxan takes another hour or so.

That's when I slept. I'd had enough. Then I woke and read The Widow Clicquot (great biography of the woman who made Veuve Clicqout champagne what it is today) and I'm only about 20 pages from finishing. Plus, somewhere in this day I got a few thank you notes written as well (if you get one, and my handwriting is a mess--you'll know why). So I eeked out a little productivity. At 5:45, here's what things looked like:

Yeah, that's me getting the IV needle removed (it hurt a little, I'm not gonna lie), and then the empty, empty rooms. There was one other patient left. She was new, but her chemo didn't even start until about 2, so she was only 3 1/2 hours into it. As opposed to my 7+. Long, long day.

We left, got a pizza, picked up Seamus, ate said pizza, I took all my meds (Decadron and Tylenol) and zonked out for about an hour. Hey, I had to be awake to watch The Office and 30 Rock. And type the blog. Can't forget that. Because you were worried right?

Tomorrow I have to go back to the doctor's office for the Neulasta shot. The one of "30% of patients get mild to severe bone pain." They give me a shot at 4pm tomorrow. An hour before I'm supposed to take the "Neulasta cocktail"--Tylenol, Benadryl and Claritin. Good, good times. But again, we're looking forward to smooth sailing on day 12. No white blood cell count crashing. Oh, and I now know how bad the crash was. My white blood cell count on crash day was 16. Now it's at 3,800+ Those 16 worked really, really hard. We're calling in reinforcements this time. Ducks in a row and all. More ducks. Less lamb, please.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Phantom Ponytails and Chemo Cocktails

Today was a good chemo day. Which is what I've been told. You start feeling really good and almost back to normal, just in time for the next round of chemo...in just about 12 hours from when I'm typing this. So, I had a nice, normal, productive day at work which included a new client meeting where I didn't feel like there was any reason to explain that I'm "cancer person." I just got to be "lawyer person" (redheaded lawyer, which totally eliminates any blonde lawyer jokes!) And hey, it's nice to focus on someone else's issues! I even felt good enough to go to my Riverside Humane Society Board meeting at lunch. My "public debut" of the red wig. People were able to recognize me, but it took a few double takes (but just for those who aren't reading the blog; blog followers were all clued in). And they gave me a round of applause--you know, just for being alive and showing up. It was silly, but fun. When I got home there was another card in the mail (thanks Barbara Moore; and yes, Chris is fantastic. But I knew that already). Chris, Seamus and I took a walk (that's 4 out of the last 5 nights I've gone for a walk, for those of you counting; I know I am). And then Chris made a "chemo-prep" dinner: steak with a little bleu cheese and spinach. Don't tell, but I also had a little glass of wine. Very little, since I'm back on the steroid/ anti-nausea medicine again as of tonight. Gearing up for tomorrow. So I feel reasonably prepared . I know a bit more about what to expect. Well, except that new medicine to prevent the white blood cell crash. I'm just going to hope for the best on that. It's got to be better than that crash day. Right?

Now, about that phantom ponytail...so even though I have no hair, or very, very, very little hair, I still have these phantom ponytail moments where I reach for my hair to push it back or gather it together in the back. This particularly happens in the shower. I'm used to shampooing my hair, rinsing it and then using my hands to slick it all back and squeeze it out. Well, um...that doesn't really work so well now but I keep trying. And even when there is nothing on my head (no wig, no scarf) it feels like something is there and every so often I will reach to take out the ponytail...the phantom ponytail. One more thing to get used to. Of course, post-surgery it took me a very long time to learn to put on a shirt or a robe from my right side first, instead of left first and then having to reach my right (surgery side) arm around behind to find a sleeve. I learned it just about when it didn't matter any more. I think I might be able to get over the phantom ponytail a little more quickly. I like to think I'm learning.

And chemo cocktails? Yeah, they're giving me one tomorrow once again. But that's not what I'm talking about. One of the great things I learned at the Humane Society meeting has to do with margaritas!! A chance for post-chemo cocktails!! The Caliente Bar & Grill (Alessandro and Fredrick in Moreno Valley) is having a Fiesta Fundraiser for the Riverside Humane Society! On March 23, 24 and 25th 25% of total food sales generated by supporters will be donated to the Pet Adoption Center!! By the 24th I'm done with meds again and should be feeling pretty good. So guess where Chris and I are going on March 24th for dinner? And it just so happens they have margaritas and margaritas were the one thing that still tasted good when I had the whole metallic mouth thing going on. So even if it comes back...it won't defeat a margarita. Who wants to join us?? Come for a drink, chips, dinner, whatever. But join me for a "2 chemo down 2 to go" toast and in raising some funds for the Riverside Humane Society Pet Adoption Center. We'll be there at about 5:30--happy hour, here we come! You need to bring a flier to get the 25% donation--so let me know if you can stop by and I'll send you a flier. Chemo cocktails with all my friends! But, you know, in a good way.

I'll post tomorrow post-chemo. We'll give you the beanie baby update. How many have survived? And do we think chatty Cathy will be there with me again?? And what wig will I choose for chemo? So much mystery!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

My Quest Fulfilled!

You guessed it--things went well at Quest today! I feel like I found a secret little lab that functions well and no one knows about. Seriously, I'm afraid to tell you which one I went to since so many of you are Riversiders also. Then you'll all start going there and suddenly my little oasis will be...well, it will be like the Raincross one. Oh, wait. You all don't have to have your blood drawn weekly. Okay, so you can know. 6926 Brockton. Don't blink or you'll miss it. It took me longer to find parking than it did to get in and get my blood drawn. And yes, I made my appointment online. 11:50a.m. And I was in my car finished up and heading to Starbucks before noon (yes, coffee tastes good again; and is necessary again). Halleleujah! Something went right with healthcare in Riverside. Gosh, I wish I could just quit now.

Of course, I can't quit this cancer ride. It just keeps going. I'm getting ready for chemo #2 on Thursday. This time I take less anti-nausea/ less steroid medication (before the chemo starts and the morning of) and I'm wondering why that is. It seemed to work great last time, so why change? I have to trust in the doctor...but uh, yeah, that's hard (is she even back from Switzerland??). And then there will be this new medication to help avoid the whole white blood cell count crash. The new medication causes mild to severe bone pain in 30% of patients. Great. Is this a good trade? Well, yes, I suppose (105 temperature is decidedly not a good thing). And of course we have big plans for this weekend. Involving lots of dogs and people. Sound familiar? No, not Beaglefest. It's the Riverside Humane Society Walk with the Animals at Fairmount Park on Saturday. If I'm feeling good (um, no bone pain please) we'll stop by. Me, Chris and Seamus of course. But only if I am up for it. Seems like I can't really get used to one thing before the next obstacle gets thrown up. It's like it's a journey or something?!

But the obstacle I'm currently working on is this hair thing. So the red wig. I'm not sure I like it as much now (notice no picture postings). And I really can't handle the hair falling in my face all the time (the wig has no real "part"). If I'm feeling okay on Friday I'll be taking the wig and my newly bald head to Diane the wig lady to see if she can style it. I may need bangs cut--which is scary because of course, they don't grow back. Oh, and on the bald thing--not quite totally yet. But close. It's really strange how much hair can fall out without being bald. And the weirdest part is the hairline up front. That's holding strong. Odd.

So here's my competition. This is Jayden Pierce. My assistant Michelle had her baby on March 7th and she brought him by to visit. See how much hair he has? I have just about that much now. Only I'm just a lot less cute. And my head is a lot bigger. But he's the one I'm having the hair race with--whether he knows it or not. Who will have a full head of hair first? It's good for a baby to be involved in a competiton before he's even a month old isn't it? I like to think I'm inspirational like that. Or, that is just another reason it's a good thing I don't have children. (As though the stellar job I've done with Seamus wasn't proof enough). Chris also points out that the baby also probably has more white blood cells than I do. The photo on the right? Yeah, that's how I feel about the bald thing too.

Another fun surprise today--Stacey Aldstadt sent me flowers. Another beautiful creation from Flowerloft. She knew I was having a bit of a tough week. Thanks, Stacey! I also got a card in the mail at work (thanks Ricki!) and then another at home (Thanks Trudi!). Seems I get about one or two a day...and that's really nice too. It's good when the cards outnumber the meds....not all of you can say that.

Monday, March 16, 2009

It's Getting Messy

Today was the first day out in public with the new hair. I'm not thinking this will last long. It's hot, it's scratchy, and the "hair" keeps falling in my face. It's a little hard to tuck behind my ears--bangs aren't quite long enough, the construction of the wig kind of prevents it, and it looks fairly unnatural. I may have to go get the red wig styled (and shorter bangs cut). But I'm getting the sense that scarves and hats will be my friends. Mostly scarves. Especially the warmer the weather gets. I did meet a new client today and thought, oh, this is the first person ever to meet me as a redhead. He'll think of me as a redhead. Probably right up until the next meeting where I'll be wearing a scarf. I forgot to pay attention to whether he "talked smarter" to me though. So I may have to try harder and extend the "how the other half lives" experiment.

And the hair fall-out continues. I now definitely have patches of bald spots. Actually, I sort of have male pattern baldness. But these little hairs that my head have been shaved down to just drop off everywhere and all the time. It's quite annoying. What's left is useless to me, so I'd rather all hairs just leap from my head and be through with it!

So it's fair to say my grumpiness/ edge of depression remained in precarious balance today. Cancer can be tedious. I don't recommend it. You know, in case you were thinking about it.

But in my small ways of amusing myself, I do have this to report: Head to the Save the Tatas website soon. The pictures Laura's husband took in Iraq of the soldiers with the Tatas bumper sticker should be showing up soon. And in my plot to take over the world, or the Google map, whichever occurs first, the blog is now up to 16 countries! After Ireland joined the fun, Switzerland, Russia, India, New Zealand, Finland and Japan jumped all over it. And I know someone checked in from Prague, but Google isn't counting that for some odd reason. Unless Prague is in Japan and I somehow don't know that. So 16 countries, but I still can't get Wisconsin to check in. And Montana and Wyoming are apparently closed for the winter.

Oh, and Chris and Seamus and I went for a walk tonight. That's 3 days in a row. 3 days. In a row! It's like I'm healthy or something.

Tomorrow I'm back to Quest for more blood tests to make sure I'm in good shape for them to poison me up with chemo again. Is this a test I want to pass? At any rate, the quest for healthcare in Riverside should yield interesting stories again. So I'll chat with you then.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Hanging with Seamus on a Sunday

Chris headed down to San Diego today on a much earned reprieve from caretaking to join BRIEN and RORYANN CLEMENTS (Restaurant Omakase but you must know this by now!) and JULIE and BOB DE KORNE (of Ciao Bella--another very good Riverside restaurant with excellent martinis;) to attend the California Family Winemakers tasting event in Del Mar. I still can't be around crowds; I'd never last that long and I darn sure can't drink that much, so rather than be a wet blanket I stayed home like the ugly step-sister. And I'm even red-headed now! That's Julie in the picture with Chris. Roryann is sending Facebook updates every so often. It's almost like I'm there, but without the wine and the food, so really, not at all. After my day of medical bills and taxes yesterday and then missing out on such a fun event today and instead staying home and working (you know, to pay those medical bills), it was hard not to launch into a full blown pity party. I came close. More than once. I hovered in the yellow/orange zone. But luckily I had Seamus and he abhors pity parties. If you suffer from depression, get a beagle. Then get some food. You'll be endlessly amused and laughing in no time. Seamus even convinced me to take him for a walk (this is when I was explaining to him that I am fat, and ugly, and now broke; he was sure a walk would cure all of that. He wasn't far off. My perspective returned.) That's two days in a row of walking! For me, that's like a full-blown exercise routine. I'm sure I even worked off the Lay's potato chips I ate at some point during the pity party (because come on, what's a pity party without potato chips? And Lay's is the perfect food--oil and salt with just enough potato to hold it all together. Perfection.) I'm thinking keeping busy is somewhat key to this positive attitude thing. Just maybe not busy with a bag of chips.

And speaking of more positive (yeah, I'm stretching to connect things here) an interesting email from a stranger reading my blog arrived the other day. The author was reaching out because of reading Chris's rant, and then mine, about our horrific experience at Quest Diagnostics last Monday. She offered up some useful information on how to make it go better the next time. Apparently Quest takes appointments and this can be done even in an emergency. And she gave me a website to go to to make the appointment which also helped me find a much closer (and fingers crossed--less crowded) location. The website was simple enough: www.questdiagnostics.com and there was also the Quest Diagnostics Patient Services Center link. And then interestingly, Quest has partnered with Google in a service called Googlehealth which will allow you to keep your medical records online all in one place, easily accessible for future use. Unfortunately, that's not available in California yet. Finally, there is a way to get lab results online (that'a a link I hope) if your physician is signed up with Quest. I have to get my physician to sign up first, but there's a handy little letter I can print out and bring to her to discuss that possibility. Now, none of that is going to make Ms. Bryman recent grad respond any faster should my white blood cells disappear again, but the appointment may shorten the wait, I now know to ask for the lead person in the Patient Services Center to explain my situation (dire), and that I can give them my cell phone number and go wait in the safer, warmer, more relaxing car until it is finally my turn. I will test some of this when I go in on Tuesday for the blood test to make sure I'm okay for chemo on Thursday. Starting with making the appointment. At any rate, I thought it was awful nice of a total stranger to reach out like that. Thanks!

And last but not least, my father called to agree that I look like my brother with my new shorn look. He also thinks I look like my mother in the red wig (they are long, long divorced and I didn't dare ask if the similarity was a good or bad thing). I think I look like my mother in the wig a bit too. My mother, who declined to comment, did say she would get my brother to read the blog to see what he thought. No word so far. But this will prove my point:
This is me with my two sisters and my brother (in age order oldest to youngest left to right). Note how none of us look alike. My brother looks exactly like our dad, my older sister looks like our mom, and my younger sister looks like her mom (this being my family, my sisters do not have the same mother; you probably figured that out). I look like nobody--when I have hair. Or at least blonde hair. A little from dad, a little from mom, a little from those Vikings that pillaged Ireland 100's of years ago, but no one in particular. And it's always been that way. Now, look again at me with no hair. I finally look like somebody in the family! Okay, so it's my brother, but at least I know I wasn't left on the doorstep of some random people. It took cancer to know this for certain. And since my brother and I actually have the same two biological parents (trust me, this is also uncommon in the mix that is my family; only partially shown in this photo), this makes some sense. Jay totally needs to start sporting the hoop earrings.

That's it for this Sunday. I think I may have to do a little wine tasting of my own this evening. Judging by Roryann's latest update, Chris will not be home for a long, long time. Something about a wine list with 2500 selections. And it's 10:15pm and she sent this "live" photo of the meal they are having at Pamplemousse. Okay, now I am depressed. This was Scallops and truffles!!!! They didn't even save a bite! Even Seamus is depressed (he loves him some scallops and truffles). Lay's potato chips cannot make up for this.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

My Breasts are Big in Iraq...(Is that wrong?)

My step-sister from a former life (her mom was married to my dad up until her mother passed away), Laura Ballantine, sent me a great "Save the Ta-Tas" t-shirt (pictures later--I have to select the appropriate wig). She also sent her husband Jayson, currently serving our country in Iraq, several of the bumper stickers. And he's apparently handing them out gathering support in Ur and Camp Victory, Iraq among the Engineers who are there helping to rebuild and currently building a medical station in Ur. The ones in full gear are on alert for mortar rounds coming in. I thought this was awesome. And it looks like it brought smiles to their faces too.

My battle with breast cancer has quite an army behind it, eh? And sadly, my battle will likely be all over before Laura gets her husband back from Iraq and safe at home with her. So special shout-out and thanks for everything to LAURA and JAYSON BALLANTINE!! (And Michael, call your sister. She misses hearing from you.)

In other less fascinating news, I was able to get ready in under 20 minutes today. Seriously, you men have it so easy! I had nothing to shave, nothing to shampoo, nothing to comb, style, brush or blow-dry. Crazy! A quick hot shower, throw on some make-up, throw on a scarf and voila' I am ready to start my day. I'm going to like this! Of course, make-up was a bit of a trick. My hair color is different and well, there's not much of a hairline. And you know, you are supposed to blend your foundation into your hairline (you know this right? If I teach you nothing else on this blog, it's the importance of blending your foundation!!). I managed. Plus, now my hairline is movable.

I meant to spend the day getting used to the wig. That didn't really last. I had things to do. So I went with the Coach scarf look--even when Chris and I took Seamus for a walk around the neighborhood. It just seemed stupid to put on hair to walk the dog. But I'm sure I was quite the sight, in my pink scarf, pink "Save the Tatas" shirt and white and pink "Beagles for Boobies" sweatshirt. You think anybody would be able to figure out my situation? We went to dinner at JANE and FRANCIS CARNEY'S home with RICHARD and CINDY ROTH and I wore the dark and mysterious wig, because that was Richard's favorite. But it only made it about halfway through the evening and then it was just easier to go "aerodynamic" (which is what Richard calls my "hair" as it is naturally now; he's an Air Force guy). And here's some additional good news--the metallic taste is disappearing!! And even better--wine tasted good again!!

Of course, I would have drank wine if it still tasted like dirt since I spent the day organizing insurance "explanation of benefits" payment statements, reviewing medical bills, matching the two up and then paying the damn medical bills. The stack of damn medical bills. And because that was not fun enough, I then got all my tax stuff organized to take to my accountant on Monday. Isn't that the perfect agenda for my first day as a nearly bald woman? You'd think I was trying to launch myself into a depression. I wasn't. And it didn't happen. I'm just happy to get that stuff all done.

And speaking of bald...which I find myself doing a lot these days. I found this great book of beautiful and inspirational portraits, Turning Heads. The author, Jackson Hunsicker, is a breast cancer survivor. She wanted portraits that were "...truthful about what really goes on with the disease, not the angst or the painful stuff, but pictures that say were still out in the world, doing things, going about the business of life." I'm not big on inspirational stuff, but I kinda like this. And the portraits look great (I found it online, so I haven't seen it in person to read through it yet).

Earlier in the week (pre-head shaving), when I was driving home from work I saw two women out walking. One of them had what is so easily identifiable as a chemo crew cut. Really short (she's probably just starting to grow it back, or just shaved it). I was on the phone with Chris and I said, a little sadly, "There's my future." And he said, "Really? Future Teresa goes walking??" That pretty much cracked me up. But yes, as it turned out, only a few days later a newly shorn Teresa went out walking. Okay, I had a scarf on...but give me another 24 hours or so. Maybe I'll be turning heads with my fuzzy head.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Not Tonight Dear, I Have a Head Shaving

Yeah. I did it. It became completely obvious the hair wanted to go. Thursday night, when I wrote the last posting, things still looked good. But when I woke up Friday morning with a bunch of hair in my face, I moved it out of my way and realized....it was no longer attached to anything. Then I brushed it and oh yeah. Sheets of it were falling out. And it didn't stop. So I did. I wore the cute little Sienna hat for the day at work and just left the 26 or 27 strands of hair I had left to fend for themselves until Kelly, my hair stylist for nearly 20 years now, came over to do the deed. We had margaritas to get ready (it's not like you can screw up this kind of "styling"). Chris did the bartending and photographing.

At Kelly's suggestion, we did not shave it down to nothing. We just buzzed down to little boy or 70s era feminist (you choose). And it turns out...my hair is kinda dark!! Well, darker than I was expecting. I've "highlighted" it blond for years now, but never had to do the "dye the whole thing" kind of coloring. My hair is a dark blond and gets a lot lighter with sun. Clearly what's left hasn't had any time in the sun! And, in the top left picture, I happen to think I look like my brother Jay. Wearing hoop earrings. And eyeliner. (He doesn't read the blog, so we'll never know if he agrees. Or is insulted.)

So on to the more fun portion of the evening (although, I have to tell you, it wasn't that bad. Now, maybe tomorrow I'll feel differently, or Monday, or a week or a month from now, but right now, I'm good. My morning routine just got cut in half, easily). First up, the winning wig:Yeah, I went with the red. In person, I liked it best (that's me with the "winner" on the day I bought it...which was actually even before the poll went up; but hey, thanks for playing!). The winner of the poll was the Ash Blond, but it was also the human hair wig and kinda grey in person. Plus, I know that hair falling in my face like that would make me crazy. I'm even worried about this one. But I like it. I just now have to reconsider all my clothing and make-up color choices. I hadn't thought that one through.

Second place in the polls was dark and mysterious--and that surprised me. But, since it got second place there's a dark and mysterious option for me too:

I did also get a blond wig, and another strawberry blond one that we sort of cut to look like the ash blond one, but I can't ruin all the fun in one blog. Those wigs will wait.

The last option, and likely one I will be exercising a lot, is of course the scarf/bandana/ do-rag look. (Don't I just sort of look like a surgeon? Okay, one in a women's center where everything is pink, but still.) Coach scarf on the left was a Christmas gift from Trudi (Chris's mom), even though at the time she didn't know I'd need it for my head.

I feel like I've cleared another major hurdle. Phew. Thanks for clearing it with me. It's now been nearly three months since I first walked into a doctor's office with the "I think I feel a lump." I'm not quite halfway through this "journey." I calculate the halfway point as just about the first week of April. Even so, I've "journeyed" through a lot and this was one of the big "moments." And, eh, not so bad. I'll take this over the white blood cell count crash any day.

Now I get a nice weekend at home (yeah, with a little work thrown in) and then next week--chemo round two. Thursday. Think the beanie babies are still hanging out?

P.S. (can you do a P.S. on a blog?) Remember to vote on the "Break-out Blog Star" poll over to the right; and to have your friends in Wisconsin and North Dakota log on to the blog. Ireland showed up today!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Wolf at The Gate

So it occurred to me in an odd, rambling way (which is how things tend to occur to me) that cancer treatments are in many ways all about keeping the wolf at the gate away or at least on the other side of the gate. I'll get to why that particular image occurred to me in a moment. But this week, as I think we're all clear on now, has been all about dealing with the side effects of the chemotherapy, which is all about keeping the cancer-wolf on the other side of the gate. There was the white blood cell count crash. That's mostly under control. I have some energy back, my temperature has returned to normal but still tends to creep up slightly right around the 4th hour after I've taken Tylenol and I've still got to avoid being around crowds or sick people. I have three more days of antibiotics. And I'm just not a good sick person. Unless it's completely obvious I'm sick (see Monday), I tend to forget. So today I forgot the antibiotics and the wolf started licking it's chops. I took them with dinner. The antibiotics, not the wolf. I also took a nap at work for the first time. I have a little fold up mattress, blankie and pillow stashed away. And since I had two long meetings with new clients I knew my energy would be zapped if I didn't nap. So between meetings I closed my door, closed my blinds (I'm on the first floor) and took a nap. I thought I'd feel pretty silly, but I was too busy sleeping.

Then there is the hair. It did get up with me this morning, much to my surprise (and it got up with me after my nap, but don't think I wasn't worried about that!). It's still falling out but it's taking its sweet time. I'd say less came out today than yesterday. And I can't really find any bald patches. At the same time, I can't really go on not blow-drying or styling it. So the big dilemma--shave or not tomorrow night? It's a tricky one.

Then there's the mouth problems. I have no taste buds anymore. Well, I do, but they are mostly programed to "under the car hood" and "dirt." Of course, this doesn't stop me from eating. It just means I eat a little of everything trying to find something that tastes good. Then I try to remind myself that I'm supposed to eat for nutrition not taste. Then I laugh at myself. Then I berate myself. Also, now my gums and mouth in general are so tender the Sonic toothbrush is a no-go and I have to use an extra-soft bristle brush. I was already using special toothpaste and mouthwash designed for dry mouth and to increase bacteria fighting. It's called Biotine and it was recommended by my dental hygienist when I went in for my final cleaning until after chemo (right. that's another thing you can't do during chemo). The mouthwash in particular is very soothing. So now I am completely a special needs dental care person. I brush my teeth completely differently than you do. I also take a lot more Tylenol. (And chemo. Well, except for a few of you, my fellow cancer journey-ers.)

So how did I arrive at the Wolf at the Gate image? Well, when Chris got home from work today he found a little surprise at our gate. No, not a baby wolf with a note from its mother to please care for it. I know that's what you were thinking. It was a bag with two bottles of Cakebread Chardonnay! There was a card that explained that apparently Seamus has co-horts and he imposed on one of them enough that said secret friend went out and granted Chris's wish for some Cakebread Chardonnay. The card is mysteriously unsigned and only identifies the giver as a secret friend of Seamus's. Well, that hardly narrows the field! Seamus has thousands of friends. And he's very good at getting people to do his bidding. Very, very good. My first thought was Bob & Helga Wolf. They're wine people, they're very generous, and I thought the writing looked familiar. But I don't know. At any rate the "Wolf at the Gate" popped into my head and the blog post was born. A huge thank you to Seamus's secret friend who dropped off the Cakebread (and don't think I didn't review each and every card I've received trying to compare handwriting...I'm no expert is all I can say). I also got 2lbs of See's candy in the mail from a client in Washington. Here's an irony--I don't usually eat chocolate. It made me sick as a child so I never had a taste for it. But I had a piece of the See's candy....and it tasted good!! Apparently my world is just flopped upside down.

Some other fun (probably only to me) updates. 12 countries have now lit up on the blog Google map: US, Canada, England, France, Germany, Indonesia, Lebanon, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Switzerland and South Africa! (Thanks Bevin for checking in from South Africa and becoming a blog follower. And gosh yes we hope to be wine tasting in Cape Town with you and Delein when all "this" is over!)

There are also 30 states (well, 29 states and DC) checked in. We're doing well. Wisconsin, Montana and North Dakota remain hopelessly out of touch, as does Nevada of all places. Is no one going to Vegas anymore? No, actually, they aren't.

On a final note--there is a new poll over to the right. It's time to answer Chris's question. Who is the break-out star of this blog?? Vote early, Vote often.