Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Treats!!! Sweet!!

Yeah, Chris's birthday celebration went a little bit long. Definitely no time for a blog post last night. (I'm almost too tired still tonight!) But there's lots going on--and pretty much all good stuff. Today was radiation #24 and while my skin in the treated area is certainly starting to show signs of what it's been through (I have a very obvious "reverse sunburn" going on and it's getting pretty itchy), I am now in single digits--only 9 remaining treatments!

I also called today to schedule my appointments with Dr. Glaspy at UCLA--the oncologist I should have done my chemo with but was worried about the drive. Long time readers will remember him as the River Boat Gambler doctor--also the one who called me the "poster child for chemotherapy." I'm going to return to him (and the great and good Dr. Amer Karam) for my follow-up care. My radiation will end July 14th (The Machine willing) and then on August 14th I'll be headed into LA, seeing Dr. Glaspy first and then Dr. Karam. And then Chris and Dr. Karam and I are headed out to check out a wine bar or two in LA (at which point Dr. Karam becomes just Amer). Doctor's appointments should be fun like that, don't you think? And speaking of follow-up care, even though I only said "I don't think I'll be coming back here" to one nurse late on my last day of chemo at the Rancho Cucamonga facility, I've never heard a single word from them. I was never told to make a follow up appointment or anything at all about any follow-up care. So if I wasn't planning on going back to UCLA, and if I wasn't able to email all my questions to Dr. Karam, I'd have no idea what I was supposed to do next!! I find that strange. Very strange.

In other (actual) good news, when I was done with my turn at The Machine this morning and came back into the waiting room, my Blue Gown BFF (Ms. 9:15) was there with her two granddaughters. The girls had made treats for everyone. That's what the picture is of--the pink ribbon pop the girls made for us (me and the radiation therapists)! Isn't that cute? They also made chocolate and peanut butter dipped pretzels. Looks like RORYANN CLEMENTS and her Boobie Pops have some competition! And I'm not really good with kids ages, but I'd say they were like 10 and 12 years old, which is like an entire decade younger than Roryann!

I also emailed with a friend who is also battling breast cancer. She's recovering well post-surgery and gets to avoid chemo and radiation both. Phew! More survival to celebrate on July 19th! (Glad you are well, D. ;-)

That's part of the "treats" in the title. The other treat was the meal that Brein and Roryann made for Chris's b-day celebration last night. Fabulous!! (Seamus even got to come to the party and also enjoyed the bones he was able to steal from the trash merely because Roryann didn't believe me that Seamus can open cupboards--this is why we have babylocks on our cupboards at home; he's a beagle, people. Beagles will stop at nothing to get food.). Here's Chris with his cake--made by Roryann of course. And no, he didn't turn 43. He turned 34. Roryann has just made it her responsibility to torture Chris--first with the hair voting and now with the horrible thought of being in his 40's. Have I mentioned that she's barely 30 and Brien has not even turned 30 yet??? They probably thought 43 was quite an insult! Have I mentioned I passed 43? Um, awhile ago? See what I mean that my friends are back to openly mocking me? These are all signs I'm recovering. And they're recovering.

But wait until I tell you about food servers being insensitive to Radiation Girl and the loss of the Super Scarf powers last Friday... That will have to wait though. Radiation Girl needs her sleep (I am after all, trying to grow hair...and this takes energy).

P.S. (Can one do a PS in a blog?) I've been asked several times for this link (probably because I keep telling people about it) but here is where one can get the "No They're Not Real. The Real Ones Tried to Kill Me" shirts: CafePress (yes, click on those words--it works; I promise).

P.S.S. don't spend all your t-shirt budget on those shirts though--you will want one of our spectacular "out-chemo/ out-radiate/ OutLive" Survivor t-shirts! (coming soon...I think.)

Sunday, June 28, 2009

This and That

It's summer, definitely summer. Over 100 degrees here today. I went to work for about 6 hours or so. Then I came home and Chris made shrimp tacos with an avocado, jalapeno, grilled corn and cabbage topping. And there was a nice rose' wine--perfect for a summer evening on the patio watching the sun go down. I love summer.

And on a summer evening like this, a little simple chatter seems appropriate. No traumatic cancer talk. No polls. No scary photos. Just pull up a chair (these are in Michelle Ouellette's fabulous backyard--you know the place where the the Cancer Survivor party will take place!!!), and I'll tell you a few things I've been meaning to share but didn't warrant their own blog post. In no particular order:

1) Now that I've pretty much lost all modesty when it comes to taking my top off, topless sunbathing is medically off-limits. Oh, the irony. (Seriously, I've got to medically flash so many people it's not even an issue anymore. It happens at least 6 times a week. You do the math.) So much for those French beaches next summer.

2) If I've done nothing else with this whole cancer thing, I have taught my friends how to be perfectly comfortable around a person with a serious illness. They're so comfortable they've returned to mocking me, relentlessly. And I'm thankful for that, if not just a little worried about how they might treat the next person they know who is diagnosed with something starting with a "C."

3) One of the reasons I gave up the wigs is that twice I caught the Britney wig in my car door when I got in the car and closed the door. There are no nerve endings with this hair, so I didn't notice the hair was caught. I'm wondering how it looked to folks to see long blonde hair streaming outside my car door as I drove to work. Imagine the blonde jokes.

4) My left foot is still numb on the left side. And my eyebrows are still itchy.

5) It's only just starting to dawn on me that it will be years--YEARS!!!--before I look the same, since it will take years for my hair to grow out. And then of course, I'll be older, so I won't look the same. And maybe too old for long hair (when is that age cut off?? Let's ask Cher.). So, weird, but I guess there really is no going back. This occurred to me because I had arranged for a photograph of my whole family at Christmas (yeah, yeah, the irony. Whatever.) and I'm only just now getting around to ordering the enlargements and sharing the proofs with everyone. (In my defense, in case you are unclear, cancer disrupted all of my plans). And I realize how very, very different I look in just six months. Okay, sure, Chris looks really different too, but he'll be able to cut his hair back to its usual look...in just about 6 more months. (By the way, Roryann--Chris's mother is NOT happy with you for orchestrating that!!)

6) The Inland Agency folks actually asked me to be the Honorary Chair of the March 29, 2010 Shop to Stop Breast Cancer event (check out their website by clicking HERE). Seriously. They knew better than to ask Cancer Dork to be the "Inspirational Chair." I like what they are doing (raising funds to pay for mammograms for women who couldn't otherwise get them--including young women), and hey, some good should come of this odyssey of mine, so I said yes. Let the fundraising begin! And it will--we're going to sell the Survivor T-shirts to start the ball rolling. Here's more on the Inland Agency event if you are interested in contributing, donating items for the shop, or, of course, shopping!! Click here--SHOP TO STOP BREAST CANCER.

That's it this evening. I hope you all had as nice of a weekend as I did.

Tomorrow is Chris's birthday. He'll be a beautiful 34. So tomorrow is, of course, all about him. As it should be. Chances are good there will not be a blog post. But you can always leave a comment wishing him a happy birthday. Or better yet, stop by his Forgotten Grapes site and send him a birthday toast. Just click here: FORGOTTEN GRAPES.

Saturday, June 27, 2009


Friday morning at about 9:05 a.m there was another monumental Cancer Occasion: I am 2/3 of the way through radiation!! 22 down, 11 to go. 4 this week coming up (thanks July 4th, for the 3 day weekend!), 5 the following week and then the final 2. Assuming all goes well with The Machine. And then it's party time!!! And the party planning committee has been hard at work--sampling wines, food, more wine, some beers, more wine, more food... yeah, they're a hard-working committee. And they claim they're doing it all for me. They did manage to come up with the spectacular party logo/invite on display here (and oh yeah, t-shirts will be made! I think my blue-gown ladies need parting gifts!). Credit goes to Mike Easley of Vital Excess who is an awesome designer and photographer--and manages to keep working while the rest of us,um...well, ...don't so much. (If the logo looks red and pink to you, it's not--that's my least favorite color combination ever. It's actually purple and pink, with black outlines--not sure what's happening with that).

It's the weekend now, so that means a radiation break. I notice that as Friday approaches each week, I'm definitely ready for the break from radiation. And it's nice to have a weekend like this. Last night we were in Corona Del Mar with Chris's family (his uncle was in town, plus Chris's birthday is Monday, plus Father's day was last weekend and we were with my dad so Chris's dad still needed to be honored--and dad's get honored by picking up a dinner tab for their entire family, right??). Today I managed to sleep in until 9:30. Medical necessity? Sure, I'm going with that. I don't know where the day went, but there was reading, writing, a few household projects and now Chris is in the kitchen making shrimp scampi (and I believe there is corn on the cob on the grill...ahhh, summer!). Dinner on the patio as the sun goes down. Oh yeah. Tomorrow I'll head in to the office to finish up moving into the new space and just to get a little work done. In other words, once again, I'm taking time off from cancer. I'm kind of a flake like that--I just refuse to give cancer my full time attention. I'd rather enjoy my weekends.

Don't you just love summer?

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Beware: Shocking Photos

Okay, I've had some pretty shocking photos on this blog. Some have made you wince, some have made you laugh, and some have made you cry. This posting's photos should make you gasp.

Why? Because I'm holding a baby!! I'm generally too frightened to do this until about the age when the baby can actually ask to be picked up. I'm always convinced their heads will fall off when I'm holding them. Yeah, you could say I have natural instincts. As a lawyer.

Jayden (he's my assistant Michelle's baby--born March 7th) doesn't really know this, but I challenged him to a hair growing competition. And since I haven't done a hair update in a bit (yeah, it's been all about Chris's spectacular hair) I figured he could help me model the progress. Seems Jayden has me on length--well, where he actually has hair. But I think I've got more "coverage." (And have I mentioned I have eyebrows now? Yeah, I'm pretty sure I do.)

Jayden didn't really care whether he was winning or not. He cared only that his mother was nearby and food was available shortly. And to emphasize that he spit up in a very projectile manner shortly after the photo session. The kid's got personality.

Really, the challenge should have been which one of us would cover the red irritated mark at the base of the skull first. I understand on babies they call this mark a "stork bite." But Jayden's mark looks just like mine and no stork has been near me in, uh, um, well...let's just say many (many) years. And I'm telling you that pictures of chemo haired women all show this mark. So what is it about the back of the head in this lower spot that it gets all read and irritated? Check out our "stork bites":
Okay, those are maybe a little hard to see--especially Jayden who definitely wins the "neck rolls" competition (thank goodness!!). Take my word for it, we both have this rash looking thing in the same spot.

My far simpler hair update is just that, simple. The hair is making a valiant effert--it's getting there, it's way darker, my eyebrows are pretty much in and my eyelashes are trying--they just aren't long enough so that mascara really matters yet. I'm still a little scary looking, so the magic super scarves will still be in action for probably a few more months. We go to Chicago in August...it be nice if I didn't have to pack scarves and wigs. Oh, and now I know I have a weird cowlick on the back of my head. Huh.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Growin' It Out for Cancer: Month 5

For the record, I have no idea what that is either, but it's there, it flips up like the feathers on the hats Margaret DuMont used to wear in Marx Brothers movies, and I'm stuck with it, so I do what I can.

Greetings, fellow cancer blog enthusiasts! Chris here, subbing in for Teresa tonight. And since it's been about a month since my last Growin' It Out for Cancer posting, we're dropping Month 5 on you tonight. And what a month it's been in hair growth. As you'll see below, we're sneaking up on 4 inches (that little piece you see in my fingers is clearing 3-3/4 inches the same way Sergei Bubka used to clear 14 feet) and we're definitely racing headlong into hair helmet territory.

In fact, we may have already sprinted through helmet territory and are moving right into a full-on lion's mane. Suffice to say, if you look back at the photos of my hair from Month 4 to Month 5 (and even Month 3 to Month 5), you'll see that there was a whole lot of growing going on this past month, as my hair suddenly began to take on the same shape and form of Miss Havisham's garden. The hair around my ears (around, people, around!) can now be stretched all the way down over my ears if I so choose (I don't), and I'm starting to get worried that soon, there won't be enough room behind my ears to keep the massive amounts of hair I have on the wings proerly tucked and stylish (teach me your secret, Barack. Please!). I fear that soon, the only look I'll be capable of is Donny Osmond circa-1972, and even he didn't have to deal with that, that, that THING undulating and breaching and pluming across my forehead. Seriously, the natural waves forming in the front and back of my hair would make Jacques Cousteau gasp in awe and would send thousands of Indonesian coastal dwellers screaming for higher ground. I mean, check out whatever that is going on in the back, those little Fancy Dan girls starting to U-turn back toward my neck. That's not natural. Hair's not supposed to move that way, right? I'm not getting a mullet, right? RIGHT?

Can you tell I'm desperately wanting for a haircut, or at the very least a trim?

Sadly, I may not get that option. Scores of you voted in Teresa's "When Should Chris Get His Hair Cut Next?" poll, and I'm sorry to announce that the winning selection -- and by a country mile, I might add -- was "Just Before Chris and Teresa Leave for Hawaii (December 15)." Six more months of this. SIX! And 26 of you voted. Clearly I do not have as many friends as I initially thought, and I also learned that many of you out there have a rather vicious sadistic streak, especially when it comes to follically and tonsorially torturing another human being. It's almost freaking July, for crying out loud! And we haven't even reached the hottest part of the summer yet! Do you have any idea what this is actually going to do to me, heat-wise? Do you?

On a side note, I'd like to personally thank Roryann Clements for orchestating the "Vote for December 15th" movement and motivating the other 25 of you out there (and you know who you are and thanks to technology, I do too...) into voting for prolonging my hair's stay and allowing this Incredible Bulk to multiply even further. As you may know, Rory promised "Boobie pops" to all of you out there who read the blog if her selection of December 15th won the poll (apparently this is payback for my winning the earlier "Breakout Character of the Blog" poll), and I expect and encourage each and every one of you to seek out and collect on this promise. In fact, you should tell all your friends and have them inform Rory that they too are readers of the blog and they would like their free Boobie pops as well. Hell, just go ahead and make up names or taken them off of gravestones like Boss Tweed and Richard Dailey used to do, and tell Rory that they are readers too and are demanding their Boobie pops. My goal for all of this is that Rory is forced to spend so much of her own time, energy and money fulfilling her Boobie pop obligation for all of you (and your friends and relatives and fictional friends and relatives too) that she is ultimately (And hopefully very quickly) forced into bankruptcy (both financial and moral) and has to fake her own death to flee and go into hiding lest others continue to find her and demand the Boobie pop retribution they so rightfully deserve. Be careful what you promise the people, Rory, because you may have to back it up. Oh, and it's not nice to mess with The Hair.

Feeling sympathy for me yet? Good. Then you can drink off your guilt and make it up to me by coming out to the first-ever ForgottenGrapes.com "Getting Friendly with Forgotten Grapes" wine tasting event. It's going to be held Thursday, July 9th at 6:30 p.m. at Restaurant Omakase in downtown Riverside. We'll be tasting five Forgotten Grapes and letting you know everything about them, and Omakase's own Chef Brein (whom you may know from his third-place finish in the "Breakout Star of the Blog" poll earlier) will be serving up five small bites that pair perfectly with each specific wine. It promises to be a lot of fun, you'll learn a ton, get to try some wines you may not be familiar with, snack on some outrageously awesome food, and if you've polite and ask nicely, I may even let you touch the hair (though I promise you it will be gelled to within an inch of its life that night, as I WILL NOT let the hair overshadow me or my presentation. I get enough of that with Teresa and Seamus in my normal day-to-day life.) Cost for the event is $35 per person (which is a total bargain when you consider the awesome wines and Omakase food you'll be getting), and you can make your advanced reservations by calling Omakase at (951) 788-8820 . Please note, though, that they really only have room for 40-50 people, and we've already had quite a lot of sign-ups already, so make your reservation as soon as you can so you won't be left out. You really do not want to miss this event, especially now that The Hair is involved.

And don't forget to visit ForgottenGrapes.com every Friday morning, when our newest update is posted. This week, we're answering your wine-related questions in our First-ever Bota Bag Mailbag. And we're not at all mocking you or making fun of you for asking those questions. Nuh-uh. Not at all...

Okay, I need to cut this short (ha, ha...waaaaaaaaah!). I have to finish filling our my application to UNESCO asking that my hair be declared a natural wonder of the world, or at the very least a World Heritage Site. Hey, if you people are going to keep forcing me to grow this thing out, the very least I can do is make some money off of it. Now just how much do you think a Chris' Hair/Growin' It Out for Cancer souvenir pennant or paperweight would go for on the open market?

Until (gulp) July, this is Chris signing off and praying every night that some sudden movement doesn't trigger an avalance of my hair and suffocate me in my sleep.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Radiation Girl and Her Super Scarf

A Day (Monday) in the Life of Radiation Girl....

6:31 a.m. the phone rings. Radiation Girl grumbles "who the hell is calling this early?" Chris, sharper and more awake in the mornings, says "It has to be the radiation place." And he's right. The Machine is down and they are canceling my 9 a.m. appointment. But all is not lost; they re-schedule me to the noon slot. I go back to sleep...kind of. I wake, email to move my lunch plans to 12:30 at Back Street (conveniently located a couple of blocks from radiation place). I shower, examine my head for any new hair growth and contemplate how long until I have something resembling hair rather than fuzz. Then I commence with the dressing ordeal which involves a) selecting a two-piece outfit to facilitate the blue-gown routine, so that starts with finding pants that I can wear with flat shoes to accommodate my neuropath-etic left foot (lingering side effect from chemo), b) selecting top that can be easily taken on and off and won't cling and stick to the aloe vera that will eventually be spread all over my right chest area, c) find flat shoes that will match the selected outfit and that I can still get my foot into, d) find scarf head covering that comes close to matching all the other orthopedic clothing I've now put on, and e) add jewelry and accessories that don't make me look too much like a pirate, a gypsy or a hippie. Then I rest. It's an ordeal. (All that time I save not having to do my hair, is completely used up trying to dress myself in a manner that resembles normal and office-appropriate).

I work (sort of) until 11:45. I show up for radiation promptly at noon and there's a whole lotta blue gowned people in the waiting room, so I don my blue gown and join them. I had plenty of time to inform other blue-gowned hatted ladies that there is an amazing sale at Gottschalks and it includes summer hats--80% off. Radiation Girl knows her audience and the audience is thrilled with the news. But then, Mr. normally-at-9:30 goes in for his turn with The Machine and comes out 5 minutes later and says "The Machine broke again." It stopped working in the middle of his session!!

We Blue Gowns stare at each other in disbelief. The Office Manager explains The Machine is down and we'll all have to wait 30 to 40 minutes but she'll take Blue Gowns in the order we came in that afternoon. I'm pretty sure the Blue Gowns scheduled for 1 to 2pm are not going to be happy. I let the office manager know that I'm going to lunch and won't be back for an hour so if need be others can go before me in line . I went to lunch, others went to Gottschalks.

I order my sandwich at Back Street (turkey on sourdough with butter, mayo and cheese--which I call the "diet plate") and the guy making my sandwich (who is an owner) says "How are you doing?" and I say "with my diet?" before I realize he's said it in "the voice." The tilted head, lowered voice, slightly more intense "How are you doing" that sometimes is accompanied by squinted eyes as well. Ah, the scarf. He realizes I'm a cancer patient. So I say "Oh, I'm doing well. Thank you for asking." He asks if I'm in treatment down the street. I say yes and that in fact I just came from there and I'm going back after lunch because The Machine broke down. Turns out his wife, down the counter at the cash register, is a former radiation therapist and worked at my radiation place. Next thing you know there's a slice of banana cream pie on my tray and I didn't order it. It was "on the house." Very, very kind and very, very tasty. The wife told me that days when The Machine goes down are bad days for the patients and the therapists. So when my lunch was over I asked to buy a whole banana cream pie to take back to the therapists. They gave it to me "on the house" again and told me to tell the therapists hello from them. How nice! Again, this kindness of strangers thing. It's amazing. I may keep wearing the magic scarves that make everyone so kind!

I and the pie were back to radiation at 1:30. Let's just say the waiting room was crowded, there was lots of confusion about what order patients were to go in. They did, wisely, I think, group people by types of treatment--so they wouldn't have to keep rearranging the machine and it's many "accessories." Jane (Ms. 8:45) was already done by the time I got there, but Ms. 9:15 wasn't and had offered to drive Jane home (they live in the same adjoining town) so Jane's friend didn't have to hang out all afternoon. So we all sat around chatting. Radiation BFFs in the making. Basically, it took almost an hour. Lots of time for us all (including Mr. 9:30) to discuss our various treatments and diagnosis and prognosis and again--it's just a comfortable group. (Oh, and I think we'll all be fine. We decided we didn't like the other option.)

By the time I got to back to work, I was a little tired. Not like I was doing much, but all that "yes, no, wait, no, yes, wait, no" and stressing about whether we'd get the radiation or not was kind of tiring. When I got home at 5:30, Chris, Brien and Roryann Clements (and their adorable dog Harold), and Laureen Pittman were all at our dining room table wrapping up the Forgotten Grapes tasting and about to start the "Party Planning" committee meeting. I joined them. Stacey Aldstadt joined us. Becky Whatley joined us. Wine tasting and party planning turned into dinner (Chris whipped up some chicken and steak fajitas), which turned into more wine tasting on the patio where eventually Scott Peterson joined us (no, not that Scott Peterson, that would just be weird...and so wrong). So basically we had a pre-party to plan the Cancer Survivor party.

Eventually though it was midnight--18 hours after Radiation Girl first woke up to the phone ringing from radiation central command. Party over. No time to blog Monday night. A very tired Radiation Girl removed her super scarf, laid it carefully on the dresser to preserve its unique powers, and fell into bed. I made it--19 radiations down. 14 to go.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Talking Cancer to a Kid

This weekend Chris and I went up to Lake Arrowhead for the Art & Wine Festival with my dad, his wife Nancy, my sister Shawna, my brother-in-law Eli, and their kids: that's Natasha on the left and Elisha Jane on the right (she shares my middle name, so I'm including it!). Natasha just turned 3 and Elisha will be 5 in September. Right, so Elisha is old enough to wonder what was on my head...you know, where hair belongs. A simple answer like "it's a scarf" does not work for an inquisitive and bright 4 year old. Neither did "it covers my head." Eventually we got around to the fact that I have no hair (or, well, not much and certainly a lot less than the last time I saw her). My nieces have another aunt (not my sister, but that's a long and complicated story) that frequently has blue hair--like royal blue hair--so I could have just gone with "I shaved it" and they would have just laughed or maybe asked one more "why?" and I could have said "I felt like it." Which is a half-truth. But I'm not around kids that much and tend to be pretty matter-of-fact with them. I told her "I got sick and the medicine they gave me to make me better made my hair fall out. But it will grow back." And my sister of course said, quietly, "Teresa, now the next time she's sick she'll think her hair is going to fall out." Great. Okay, not really what I was going for. I worked around it (realizing that I couldn't say that it was a sickness that only adults get because, sadly, that's not true) and said it was only a certain kind of sickness and I'm all better and most people don't ever get this kind of sick.

Of course, her next question was "How did you get sick?" And isn't that the question everybody wants to know, no matter how old they are? My sister is a nurse, she answered the question with "lots of people are trying to figure that out, honey, but nobody knows." That did the trick. For me. Unfortunately the conversation turned to Father's day and eventually to Elisha's questioning why Grandpa Mac was my dad and was my sister Shawna's dad but not the dad of Debbie (the aunt who sometimes has blue hair). This proved more difficult to explain to a 4 year old than cancer. But hey, I was off the hook. I think Shawna resorted to candy.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Hanging with My Peeps

Thursday. "See the doctor day" at the Radiation Oncology Center. That, combined with the fact that The Machine (it's like a proper noun now, don't you think?) went down yesterday, caused a bit of a back-up in the blue gown waiting room. When I arrived, the woman who gets radiated right after me (she's 9:15) and Jane (8:45) were both in the waiting area, and Jane had a new friend with her (Jane is a popular lady; lots of her friends seem to be taking turns driving her, she rarely repeats a friend!). I learned from the radiation therapist that the day after The Machine goes down is always a stressful one--apparently a lot of patients have anxiety about this (will it work right? will there be problems? Is the radiation going to go on forever???) and the radiation therapists spend a lot of extra time dealing with more emotional issues. Except with me. We talk about shoes (from behind their metal doors and windows, and from the angle they're at, that's mostly what they see "live" of me; the rest is on the video camera). And shoes can be an emotionally charged topic, but not such that it slows down radiation.

At any rate, before I got to the shoe of the day discussion (and you know I pulled a denim and burgundy stripe pointy-toed Coach heel out of the repertoire today; oh yes I did), I was hanging with my peeps in the blue gown zone. We got to chatting as we do and I learned a few things. First, there's definitely a cancer shorthand language. If you are going through treatment you can learn everything about someone else's cancer and treatment in about 2 minutes flat. And it's pretty easy to talk about it since everyone in the room is dealing with the same thing. There's no one cringing or bursting into tears or feeling sorry for you. It's just straightforward and, well, kind of supportive (I am not in a support group!! Not!!!).

So Jane's cancer is "lower down" than mine and she did not have to have chemo. Her friend is also a cancer survivor and did not have chemo. So they were interested in what Ms. 9:15 and I were discussing--which was of course, hair! 9:15 is the lady that I taught the scarf-tying to (and she looks very cute in her scarves!). Her hair was previously strawberry blonde--it's growing back white! My hair was previously blonde and probably a dark blonde if I wasn't in the sun and adding highlights, but it's growing back brunette. Really brunette. Neither one of us has enough hair to know if it will also be curly. Heck, my eyelashes aren't long enough to even have an upward bend to them yet (right--they stick straight out). They were surprised to learn I was "normally" blonde--they see me in a scarf or in the red wig all the time. And I realized there is a whole group of folks in my life now who've never once been tempted to call me "Blondie" or make a blonde joke, or assume I'm a ditz!!

Eventually Mr. 9:30 arrived with the same friend who's been bringing him everyday. We were discussing chemo (and the fact that I kept working through mine) and Mr. 9:30 joined in (he's normally pretty quiet)--turns out he just finished chemo on Monday. 3 days ago!! He's doing chemo and radiation at the same time. He had throat cancer (and yeah, I'm using the past tense--and hoping that's true). So that's why he doesn't join in much--kinda painful to talk. He hasn't eaten solid food in two weeks and is learning to hate Ensure. He is on radiation #31 and thus will be the first of us to graduate. He looked pretty good for what he's been through. He also didn't get nauseous from the chemo. And thank goodness because that would be brutal!

And finally, I learned that Ms. 9:15 had a 15cm tumor! That's 10 times the size of mine. The biggest her doctor had ever seen. We were comparing the number of radiation treatments we each had to have. She and I are both breast cancer patients and both get 33 radiations. But my last 3 are the "power boost" targeted to the tumor bed. Her last 5 are the "boost." We decided that must be because of the size of the treated area--and then of course cracked up laughing because that sounded like we were saying she had bigger boobs than me (She doesn't; she had a masectomy). But, we did compare where size does matter--the tumor size. That's how I learned she had basically a baseball in her boob. Yikes!! No wonder her hair went white!

I suspect that the two friends who were not the cancer patients are not sleeping well tonight--you probably don't want to be in a room of cancer patients all telling war stories about chemo and radiation side effects and tumor growth and surgeries. Unless you are a cancer patient and then somehow, you kind of start to feel normal. For the most part, we were actually laughing at the absurdity of it all.

But of course eventually it was my turn at The Machine. When I was done Mr. 9:30 told me he'd always noticed that my radiation treatments were much faster than his--funny how we pay attention to these things. Then his friend paid me a very nice compliment. He said that while I was getting treated they were all discussing that I had such a nice "persona" and cheerful affect on others. He thought I should know that and know that it was appreciated. I think I blushed. I did however remember to say thank you. I don't really think of myself as a cheerful person (particualrly in the morning!), so I was caught offguard. But I kind of liked it!

Anyway, I did see the doctor. The sharp shooting pains are normal and I can try taking ibuprofren/ anti-inflammatory medicines. The pressure pain is not so usual. So now I'm thinking it might be too much caffeine. I was nearly off caffeine during chemo and have slowly crept back up to my many, many cups of French Roast a day (not to mention those trashy Mountain Dew binges). I backed off it today and didn't have the pressure pain. Hmmm.... further study is necessary.

So ends treatment 16. Tomorrow marks the halfway point. 50 yard line, folks. Goal in sight.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Like a Snow Day

I've never lived anywhere with snow and certainly never had a snow day that caused me to miss school, but I think I understand the concept. And today was like a snow day.

I got up at 6:30a.m. and went downstairs to make my coffee (I've been having my coffee and breakfast downstairs while doing my lawyerly continuing education reading for an hour each morning pre-radiation). I didn't even get the coffee started when the radiation office called and told me their machine was down and I didn't need to come in. They said they'd call me if/when it was back up.

Woo Hoo!! No radiation today!! So I went back to bed. Only I couldn't sleep. I realized they were going to tack that day on to the end of my treatments. Now instead of ending on July 13th, my treatments will end on July 14th. Woo Hoo no school. Boo hiss they add it to the end and cut into my summer. This is like a snow day, right? I can only have 3 more "snow days" before my "end of treatments" party on the 19th is premature. 15 treatments down, but there are still 18 to go. I suppose statistically my odds are good--the machine was only down once in 15 treatment days, so in theory (!!!) will only perhaps be down one more time before I'm through. Friday will get me past the halfway point--if the machine is back up!! [Note to self: ask how old this dang machine is!!]

I suppose the other good part about getting to skip a day of radiation is that it gave the treated area (such a nice euphemism for my right breast, isn't that?) a break. I'm starting to get those sharp shooting pains more frequently and then this weird pressure pain that actually causes me to gasp and take deep breaths to get past. Luckily both are short, quick pains, but pains nonetheless. The pressure pain lasts a little longer and freaks me out a bit (if it were more to the left, instead of so obviously where they are treating, I'd probably think I was having a mild heart attack--you know, if I were a drama queen or something). 18 more treatments should make this a good time.

If you wouldn't mind, could you send some good vibes to the radiation machine? Surely it responds to vibes, right?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Kindness of Strangers

I can't say I've ever depended on the kindness of strangers. Or really of anyone, actually. Have I mentioned I'm a pessimist at heart? (I have very low expectations and they are generally met but not exceeded. Looking on the bright side...I'm not usually disappointed! Hey, that's as bright and cheery as I get!) So I am marveling at a recent phenomenon... the kindness of strangers.

As you careful readers will recall, I've pretty much switched to wearing just scarves and no "hair." This is a look that apparently, however "nice" or "stylish" I and my friends might pretend it is, screams "CANCER PATIENT!!!!" I realized this after a few days of experiencing the rather baffling kindness of strangers. Now, don't get me wrong, it's not like strangers are normally rude to me, or even oblivious to me, they're just strangers who sometimes are polite and sometimes not. No, I'm talking about strangers, or relative strangers, going out of their way to be really kind to me, or just very solicitous of anything I might need. For example, I went to Gottshalks going out of business sale (and man, what a sale!! 60% off of stuff I had no idea I needed until it was 60% off!!). This is a sale that has turned a decent department store into a Marshall's on a bad, bad day. There aren't many salespeople, the displays are a mess, the clothing is everywhere and no one is really concerned about customer service (they have the "what are they going to do, fire me?" attitude like I have the "what's it going to do, cause cancer??" attitude). Yet as I carried around my piles of things I didn't know I needed, two different salespeople came up to help me carry things and then the woman at the check-out counter told me how beautiful my scarf was and how "lovely" my look was. Okay, I realize I've joked that friends say that and it makes me laugh because it (along with "you're strong" and "you have a pretty face") is a comment without credibility (because a friend can't say anything else--"you're a basket case" and "you have really disturbing facial features" are comments that disqualify one from friend status.) But I'm going to admit it was rather heartwarming to have a stranger say that--because she didn't have to say anything at all (I mean after the " that will be $152.99" for the three bags of stuff I needed). When I mentioned the cancer and the chemo, she said "Oh, honey, I assumed that was the case. But you look beautiful." I'll admit it, I was kind of touched by her kindness.

Then, Saturday morning was the big moving day at my new office expansion. Chris, as I mentioned, was spectacular enough to take the morning shift and be at the office at 8a.m. to let in the guys doing my computer and phone network wiring, and the computer guys who do...whatever it is that computer guys do. Everybody had agreed to work a Saturday and everybody was on time. I arrived at 11a.m. with Seamus (that's him, chillin' in the office) and a dozen donuts. Chris eventually left and I was working in my conference room while they guys (4 of them) were doing their respective wiring/ networking/ technical/ guy stuff that makes my office run. They each kept stopping by to see how I was and if I needed anything else and promising to be done soon, and explaining things and asking exactly where I wanted my phone, my computer, the fax, the printers, offering to move things around, drill holes, change things out, get new parts...heck, the computer guy even ran to Home Depot to get an extra long phone cord so my phone could be on the side of the desk I wanted, and then apologized because the cord was white and not black. I kept thinking, man, these guys really like donuts! They were done, cleaned up (seriously, he asked me where the vacuum cleaner was!! Um....I don't even know what a vacuum cleaner is!) and gone by 12:30. And...wait for it...he discounted the bill from the original quote he gave me and I had agreed to already!! These were really good donuts, but eventually it did dawn on me...they were being nice to me...cancer patient me. Nobody said anything specific, and of course guys don't say "beautiful scarf" but I'm pretty sure that's what was happening--they were helping and solicitous of "cancer person." Which is very nice and very kind and considerate. I just tend to forget that I'm the "cancer person."

The whole experience is just a little funny to me now, because now is when I feel the least like "cancer person." Other than my little detour in the mornings (to flash the radiation therapists), I feel close to normal again. I've even gotten used to myself bald-ish. So I forget that others may perceive me as "sick." But I'm not going to object to the extra caring and thoughtfulness. I'm just going to say "thanks!" See, I might be learning from this experience after all.

And speaking of me baldish. I did forget the Sunday update on the hair growth. But we did take a picture. I definitely have a 5 o'clock+ shadow. And it's definitely darker hair. And that is definitely not a big 'ol glass of white zinfandel. Perish the thought. It's a big ol' glass of a beautiful Tavel rose' on a lovely June evening (note pretty sunset and ignore that smog causes all the pretty colors; come on people, work with me on the "glass half full" thing!!).

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Chemo Brain?

I don't really think I have chemo brain, but I did forget two things last night. One, these were our fantastic seats at Angel Stadium:

Thanks to GUY and LAUREEN PITTMAN who have fabulous season tickets.

And two, you only have 3 days left to vote in the hotly contested "when should Chris cut his hair" poll. If you like the Jay Leno look, well you may be in luck since RORYANN CLEMENTS seems to be running a successful campaign to keep Chris in curls until December. If you prefer the Vince Gill look, well, you should start voting so Chris can cut his hair sooner. (He saw two friends last night who both greeted him with a command: "Haircut!!" Way to keep up on the blog, guys.)

Vote on the sidebar to the right (you have to scroll down a bit). And vote right.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

An Angels Anniversary (it was all A's)

Be warned--if you are looking for some sad, crazy, or even funny cancer treatment story you've got the wrong blog today. Yeah, sure, this is a blog about my cancer "odyssey" but I took the day off from cancer. Instead, it's a happy little post about Chris and me celebrating our five year anniversary. June 12, 2004 was our first date--at an Angels game. So, June 12, 2009 found us back in the Diamond Club at an Angels game (that's why we are dressed alike. We don't normally do that. I promise. And wow, isn't Chris great at those arm in the air self-photos?) You can tell it was a special occasion because I'm in drag (hair and eyelashes! This was big!)

Our first date was a lot of fun (yeah, um, that's why we kept dating) and it also marks the anniversary of me learning the term "cougar." (I've now perfected my knowledge. Ahem.) There were a pair of cougars in the seats in front of us at that first game. This time, there was a family of four (note back of heads; ladies--do not do this to your hair. And this is coming from a woman who has no hair). Both times however, there were obnoxious drunk guys behind us. Ah, public sporting events. But the Angels were kind enough to win for us, and Angels Stadium set off a bunch of fireworks--just for us, we're sure. I like these times when I get to return to normal, however briefly. And nothing says normal like bad dye jobs, drunk guys and fireworks at a baseball game. I may have been a little more tired than normal, and "in drag" but it was a great night out with a fantastic man who doesn't care if I'm in drag, or bald or fighting cancer, or cranky, or any of those things I've been in the last several months. Which is why mostly what I've been for the last five years is lucky.

Oh, and Chris didn't even mind that for the second time in 5 days a stranger came up to him and commented that he looked like Jay Leno. He didn't even mind when drunk Angels fan asked him to do a Jay Leno impression (yes, he did it and yes, it's very good). When his hair is long, people think he looks like Jay Leno. When it's short, Vince Gill. You decide. To me, he's all Chris. And all mine. ;-)

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Wrapped Around My Head

Some good stuff...some not so good. Where to begin?
Okay, the not so good. I mentioned to the doctor yesterday that I was feeling pretty tired. I was still thinking (hoping) that it was just tired like normal people--work, stress, all that. But no. He said I am definitely at the stage where I'd start to feel the effects, and that the fatigue will increase before it gets better. As he explained, much like chemo, the radiation attacks "good" tissue along with the bad. So my body is exerting a lot of energy battling that. Makes sense. But so why isn't my body burning a lot of calories???

Then this morning post-shower it was very easy to see where I'm being radiated. Exactly where. There were "tan" lines forming. But it's sort of tan lines in reverse. I'm darker in the area that is usually covered by a bathing suit. I could see the diagonal line across my upper chest wall. Then after this morning's radiation (12 down!! Lucky 13 tomorrow) the treated area was a little sore. Like some one punched me there. But also, there are little shooting pains. Nothing unbearable. And it isn't persistent. Just enough to let me know the side effects are beginning. Luckily, there is a weekend right around the corner and I'll get a couple days break from the zapping.

On the brighter side, I decided I'm not liking the wigs too much these days so I may just switch to the scarves when I can. So I wore just a scarf today--which also allowed me to conclude my scarf-tying demonstration at the radiation center with a live demonstration (hey, we're all bald; no one is shocked if I take the scarf off and tie it again...step by step.) Later I went to a luncheon at the Convention Center (Leadership Riverside graduation) and was still wearing only the scarf (no hair). Turns out a lot more people can recognize me in the scarf than can in the red wig. And there is a new standard response to chemo/cancer patient that gets added to my collection. Right there with "You're a strong person, you'll do great" and "You have a pretty face, you'll be fine when you lose your hair" we can now add "It's not a look everyone can pull off but it works on you." Which really sounds a lot like a back-handed compliment doesn't it? But three different people said a variation of that to me. I kind of like the scarf look. If it doesn't remind me too much of living in chemo-land, you may still find me doing that even when I have hair.

And speaking of hair...which I do a lot these days, I know... I had to shave my legs today!! I noticed that there actually was hair there, not just stubble. But it was mostly blonde so not totally obvious. 6 or 7 weeks post-chemo and it's growing back. Also, I bet you never knew that eyebrow stubble is itchy. Yeah, I didn't know that either. Now I know.

My head (on the other hand?) is just about at 5 o'clock shadow stage. It's fuzzy. Chris and I both tend to rub it and we are ridiculously prone to quoting various versions of "Fuzzy wuzzy was a bear...."as we do so. I consider this progress.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Radiation Ramblings

1/3 finished with the last 1/3 of my cancer treatment!! Woo Hooo!! Okay, yeah, so I need to find little markers along the way to make myself feel like this will end soon. But that's a pretty good one don't you think? I see this "odyssey" as 1/3 diagnosis and surgery, 1/3 chemo and 1/3 radiation. So now I'm through with 11 of my 33 radiations--the final one-third. In just over 3 weeks, I will be through this! (Have I mentioned there will be a party?)

This morning, I have to say, was kind of fun at the radiation center. Fun? Yeah, it was. They were a little backed up so there was some back-up in the waiting room. The usual crowd, minus Mrs. 8:45 (I suspect she got in and out early and they took a little break because um....I was...um...barely on time). So I took a seat in my hot blue hospital gown and very quickly was joined by Ms. 9:15 and then a woman I've seen several times before who is always in a blonde wig but doesn't seem to have a "normal" appointment time. (Oh, and for the record, I can't tell if the 9:15 appointment is the woman there this morning--who is usually in a newsboy cap only--no wigs for her-- and very friendly, or the guy who wears a type of hat I always associate with fishing; they both seem to always be there by the time I get done with my appointment). Anyway, we three women were in our lovely blue gowns when newsboy cap and I struck up a conversation about our matching attire, which led to why the women were all in gowns but the men weren't. After a little discussion we discovered we were all breast cancer patients. And that allowed us to quickly realize that the men were getting radiated a little bit lower and that the hospital gowns would create an entirely different issue for them. And um, for us. We're kind of grateful they aren't in gowns.

Next, newsboy cap, blondie and I (I was a redhead today) discussed hair choices and eventually newsboy cap asked me how I tied the scarves the way I did (i.e. like a pirate, or a gypsy, or a biker...depending on your viewpoint). I spent a few minutes trying to explain it--with quite exaggerated hand movements combined with bad directions as I am wont to do, and she kept laughing and saying "stop! wait! I have chemo brain!" We actually were laughing quite a bit. Unfortunately, they came out to get me for my radiating time before I could be sure she understood and a scarf-tieing fashion show does not slow down the radiation machine. But I told her I'd bring a scarf next time and we'd go over it again. Frankly, I'm thinking she has the right idea--scarves and hats sure, but I am tiring of the wigs. Especially as my little tiny hairs start to poke out on my head. It's getting a little itchy!

After radiation (where the therapists once again commented on my shoes--they don't think they've seen the same pair twice. I'm not sure I can keep that up....but darn it, now I'm likely to try!!), much to my surprise, it was time to see the doctor. That normally happens on Thursday. But my doctor is on vacation so there is another doctor covering for her and he's in on Wednesday. Turns out he was also a really nice guy. And he gave props to my surgeon. Yep, he was super impressed with the scar from my surgery. Once again, kudos to Dr. Karam!! This is pretty much the only time a woman can take her top off (speaking of pairs) and be happy when the first response from the man in the room is "Wow, nice scar!!" He said he'd seen a lot of surgery scars and they can be a mess, but mine was nice, clean, straight and looked like it would fade away nicely. Oh, and so far my skin is tolerating the radiation nicely. He wasn't even too bothered by my excess suntan. He just said "We like to do the suntanning around here, so try not to beat us to it." So noted. And I gave the sunburn an extra dose of aloe vera. The doctor and I chatted for so long eventually the nurse came to break it up. It makes such a difference when the doctor actually cares.

Sure, I'd rather not be there, but if I have to be in a medical appointment every morning, it's good to have such nice, funny and interesting people there with me.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Double Dogs Double Digits

Alright so the photo is double dogs, but you have to admit that's cuter than double digits. That's Seamus and Nellie (Michelle Ouellette's dog; both dogs are rescues from the Riverside Humane Society Pet Adoption Center)--they terrorize and totally deserve each other. And they both love Will. Who is not in the photo. He was likely just trying to catch a break from these two.

But back to the double digits: I've now been radiated 10 times. And as Holly noted in the comments, apparently that's much like when a kid turns 10. It's just a number with some significance. I feel like I've accomplished something, even though I'm not yet 1/3 done with the last 1/3 of my treatment (that will be tomorrow!). The sweet little old lady who is radiated before me (you know, Mrs. 8:45) came out and said "That's 10 down!" So, apparently we all think it's a big number. (By the way, she "only" has 25 radiation sessions--8 less than me, so she's even more excited about getting through 10.)

I was pretty tired this afternoon and seriously considered a nap. There was just too much going on in my office. And I had a strategic planning committee meeting for the Humane Society also in my office at 5, so there was no time for a nap. I can't quite tell if this is tired from the radiation or just general tired that I'm feeling. It does feel vaguely like the "hit the wall tired" chemo-fatigue, but who knows. Nothing I can do about it so I won't trouble myself thinking about it. I mean...more than I just did.

Here's more Matt Lauer for you. This is the link from this morning's Today Show cancer coverage: The Financial Cost of Cancer. And speaking of that...I got a call yesterday from the chemo oncology place I was going to. Turns out they owe me a refund. I knew they would. I knew they were off in what I would owe as my 20% since I knew I'd hit my maximum with the surgery. It took them a couple of months but they figured it out too. So, they've put a check in the mail for a few hundred dollars. That'll cover a mai tai or two come December. Alo-ha-hahahahahahah!!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Bad, Bad Patient.

I thought for a moment that they were going to refuse to radiate me. I thought I was going to have to add one more day at the end (July 13th hung in the balance!). See, once I was in my blue hospital gown, or, more to the point, once I was on the radiation table with the gown off and my top half exposed, it became very obvious that I had screwed up. I'd violated one of the "must not" rules. The one were I must not be in direct sunlight. Yeah, ouch. Sunburn. And it was such an amateur mistake--of course I can get sunburned on an overcast day. Of course I can. I know this. I just was way too relaxed enjoying the nice day in Michelle's beautiful backyard garden on Sunday wearing a t-shirt that was more scoop necked than it should have been and not at all thinking about being radiation girl.

The radiation therapists were not amused with me. They pointed out that I had gotten a little sunburn in the treated area. And just to make their point, once I was lined up in the green laser lines, they then drew on me again. Not-so-little dashes so I could see how big the radiated area is. Suffice it to say v-neck, scoop neck, tank and of course strapless tops are completely out for the next couple months. I learned the hard way. But they did proceed with the treatment. I have a feeling though that if it had been later in the treatments where my skin was damaged more, they may have made me wait. I have the damnedest time remembering I'm a patient.

Before I left for radiation this morning I did catch a bit of the Today show (big Matt Lauer fan, I must admit). They had a segment on, basically, what to say to a friend or family member who's just been diagnosed with cancer. Turns out I'm not very original. The cancer patients they interviewed all said pretty much what I'd said in an earlier post. So much for my brilliant insights. But here's a link to the segment (or just to Matt Lauer, if that works for you). Today show: Reaching Out to Someone with Cancer. They are doing a series on cancer topics this week. Tuesday morning will be a look at the financial cost of being diagnosed with the disease. Oh yeah, that'll be a good one. I'm just stacking up all the insurance notices at this point because I somehow think someday I'm going to add up the cost of treatment, both what insurance covered and what I covered. I'm well past my deductible and co-pay maximum. I'm sort of "lucky" that my diagnosis came when it did--all of my treatment will be in the same year, which means only one deductible and one co-pay maximum. Phew.

Anyway, now we are at 9 radiations down, 24 to go. Tomorrow I hit double digits!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Hairy Sundays

As promised...the hair watch continues on Sunday. No, not Chris! My hair. Yep, I have hair. Okay, well, like two hairs, but it's hair!! I like to think of this as a five o'clock shadow, but Chris says it's more like a noon shadow. Still, there are signs of hair growth. It's at a stage where it's hard to stop rubbing it. There's just something about the fuzziness. Chris seems to like rubbing it too--so of course I have to then worry that we'll rub it off. At any rate, things to note besides just the general appearance of hair stubble: first, it's definitely darker, and second, no signs of "curliness" yet. Too early I'm sure.

Oh, and if you ever wondered what eyebrow stubble looked like, well, now you know. The part of the eyebrow closest to the nose, that looks like a shadow or a bruise? Yeah, that's new hair growth. It's hard to get a
picture of that and it's even harder to get a picture of eyelash stubble, so you'll just have to trust me, it's happening!

So other than the ever fascinating hair watch, how are things going? Well, not bad. Thanks for asking. I feel pretty good and so far haven't felt the effects of the radiation. I did sleep in until 9:30 Saturday morning, but that's a good thing. I needed that! I don't think it was so much from radiation fatigue as just fatigue from getting up and getting to radiation Monday through Friday. Anyway, after an early afternoon visit from my dad, I went into the office for all of Saturday afternoon and on into the evening. Sunday (today) was a nice day at MICHELLE OUELLETTE'S in her beautiful newly landscaped Provencal-like backyard for our writer's group meeting, which is not really what's important about Sunday. What's important is that Seamus got to run and play with Will and Nellie. Seamus heart Will (and Seamus tolerate Nellie; they have a dominance battle going on). The top photo is of the boys--Chris, Seamus and Will looking on. It's days like today that make me almost forget I'm a cancer patient.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

So Much for My Timeline

I was right to worry about the lightning when I was being radiated.

Today was the first time I had to really race out the door to be sure to be at my 9a.m. appointment. And when I got to the little waiting room outside the changing rooms, I saw that it was full. At first I thought perhaps someone had brought their entire family to their radiation session but then I realized an awful lot of those family members were attired in those little blue hospital gowns I've become so familiar with. Huh. Backlog of folks in need of radiation has occurred. No need to have rushed. I went ahead with my little drill--changed my clothes, slipped on the sexy gown and locked my belongings in my locker (I always choose locker #2). But then the routine changed. There were no chairs available! I had to stand, backed up against a wall. And I don't know why, but it seemed sort of pathetic (and just wrong) to be in a small room filled with hospital-gowned folks, standing up against a wall.

I had noticed previously that in chemo everybody chats. Well, that makes sense since we're stuck together for hours and pretty much staring right at each other. But in radiation, you're there for such a short period of time that most people just grab a magazine or just sit chatting with whoever drove them in, but there isn't a lot of talking with strangers (i.e. the other patients). This morning there was plenty of time to chat. Turns out the lightning had zapped the machine overnight (0kay, well, it affected the electricity; close enough) so when the nurses got in they had to get the machine going and apparently somehow there is water involved and the water had to be warmed up. So in the waiting area with me was the 8:15, 8:30 and 8:45 appointments (I'm 9) and by the time I went in (at 9:40) the 9:15, 9:30 and 9:45 patients were there as well. Because as fate would have it, today was Thursday which is also the day all the patients see the doctor. So each of us had not only the extra wait time, but the extra time with the doctor. So this time, I definitely wasn't at work by 9:15. More like 10.

At any rate, there was chatting amongst the inmates. I learned from Mr. 9:15 that he has twice had to miss radiation altogether because the machine was down for some reason or another. That means he picks up those two days on the end.

What??? This means my perfectly scheduled "radiation ends on July 10th" edict may not be. And sure enough, I asked the nurses if the office was closed on Friday, July 3rd. It is. Good news is I get a three-day break from radiation, bad news is that's one day added at the end already. As of today, my finish date is July 13th. And that makes perfect sense--there seem to be a lot of 3's and 13's involved with my breast cancer odyssey--including for those of you with really, really good memories, the fact that I was research subject #13 back at UCLA in January when I volunteered for a study, and that the post-op pre-chemo boobie bash was on February 13th, my head-shaving was on March 13th, and my first meeting with the oncology radiologist was on May 13th. Ending the radiation on July 13th makes perfect sense (I really don't want to extend it by a day or two, so I'm hoping that there aren't any more machine malfunctions!).

In other news, Save the Tatas had a link to an ABC report on the 10 year old girl who was diagnosed with breast cancer and had a mastectomy. I have mixed feelings about this report--first, Save the Tatas posted the link because the little girl is wearing one of their shirts in the video and I don't know, that seems rather mercenary on the Save the Tatas group's part--they point out that it's their shirt so you feel like maybe they wouldn't have been supportive--or noticed?--if the little girl had been in just a regular shirt. And then again, as usual, the reporter is quite focused on getting a tear-jerker story and pushes the little girl about "why" she's sad when it's clear the girl is barely holding back tears--having just shaved her head because of the chemo. I don't think the reporter needed to question why the girl was sad and make her vocalize it (and hence, cry). The sadness was all quite clear in the story. Even I (not a hugger; really, really not a hugger) wanted to hug the poor little girl. Forget the adults around her the little girl is a winner and I will admit it....I teared up. Just a little, but I did.

Here's the link directly to the ABC video. Get your tissues ready.


PS. Remember to vote in the sidebar to the right (and now choices 1 and 3 are actually only 6 days apart given the new timeline, but hey, it's still important!).

PPS. Then remember to check out www.ForgottenGrapes.com for the new posting on a wine you may not be too familiar with (you can just click right there on the address and voila' you will be there!).

PPPS. That's it. I'm done. You're on your own now.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

A Cup of Sugar

6 Down. 27 to go.
Yeah, this could get monotonous. Radiation doesn't have the same death-defying excitement of chemotherapy. Maybe in a couple of weeks when my skin starts to burn and turn ugly colors and textures. Then the excitement will return. Instead though, it's Wednesday, so I've made it in to radiation by 9a.m three mornings in a row and hence, I'm tired. I even took a nap at work today--and I haven't done that in several weeks. Perhaps I'm not ready to be back to a reasonably full schedule ( I went out with a friend Monday night and then last night was at a "Citizen of the Year" banquet, and I'm pretty much working at least the full eight hour days).

I do however have more things to tell you about my radiation. Folks keep asking what the radiation dosage is, how long it takes and whether it's "low dosage." And, um, I don't know. I'm sure they told me but I'm also sure I decided it wasn't information I needed to keep in my over-crowded brain right now. As long as the doctor knows, I'm good. I tried to count (one Mississippi two Mississippi three....) how long each zapping was but they seemed inconsistent to me, so I finally asked. And the radiation nurse told me it isn't about the time, it's about the dose. So I'm zapped for as long as it takes to get 180 ....um....I think she said centigrams. (Dad...I know you'll let me know the correct measurement; and then demand repayment of some of that tuition money you wasted on me). She said to think of it like pouring a cup of sugar. It's not how long it takes, it's just done when you get to a cup.

Today I was hoping my cup would fill-eth quickly. It was raining, which is weird in June in southern California, but okay. But then the really loud freaky thunder and lightening started. And I'm sure they are prepared for things like this and have generators and I don't know, shields, or whatever, but I have to say I found it a little creepy to be laying all alone exposed on a radiation bed being zapped by green lasers shot from a giant machine while the sky lit up, thundered and rattled outside. I expected to be turned into a hamster or a mewing little kitten. As far as I know, that didn't happen. We'll see if I howl at the moon tonight.

In other really monotonous but totally exciting to me news--I now have not only skull stubble and eyelash stubble, but eyebrow stubble-- which is actually pretty ugly. It looks like I have dirt where my eyebrows should be. I'm looking forward to getting past the stubble stage. No telling how long that will take. I will of course, keep you posted.

Tomorrow's radiation visit includes a visit with the doctor herself. And my first exam to see how the breast is weathering this attack. I think it's okay so far. A little tender at the incision site (oh! I now know that the area "inside" the breast where the tumor was removed is referred to as the tumor bed. Which just cracks me up for some reason). And I'm, as I mentioned, tired, but so far so good I think.

And the radiation nurses always love my shoes, so there's that.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Too Good to Post

Okay, don't worry about me. I didn't want to go two entire days without posting because that seems to cause folks to worry about my self-absorbed and wordy self, but I'm also tired and don't have (thankfully!) much to post about. I had radiation number 4 today (29 to go!!) and I was even a few minutes early (8:55a.m!). Not bad for a Monday morning. We've got it down to where I'm in my office by 9:15 all radiated and everything. Not bad at all.

But I also went out with a girlfriend tonight after a busy day in the office and I've got to be up early and back on the radiation table tomorrow, so I've got nothing left for you. The good news is that's because in a way, I'm feeling too good to post to the blog tonight. Because there is no crisis and no complaints and not really any news....

Except this-- I officially have "skull stubble"!!! The hair has definitely started its comeback. Not that you could tell, but I can definitely tell. As can Chris. We asked Seamus for his opinion, but he honestly doesn't care. That's part of what's so great about dogs.