Saturday, May 30, 2009

Just How Long Does it Take??

I seem to be on a roll with freaky pictures. So be warned. These next ones (after this first one) aren't pretty either. And unlike the last few, they actually are of me.

See, sometimes when I'm online looking for photos and information for the blog I find myself surfing around and learning things I didn't even realize I wanted to know...or I did, but I never took the time to find out until I sat down to post to this meandering and wordy blog. Last night I eventually began looking for information on just when hair starts to grow back post-chemo. Here's a shock...there's not much info out there. Just the standard "it's different for everyone" response (trust me when I tell you that everyone who goes through cancer treatment learns to hate that phrase; it's the doctor's equivalent of the lawyer's "it depends." Both are true statements and both are entirely unhelpful.) Then of course I ran across some postings and inquiries on websites from women whose hair never grew back or did but it was really sparse!! That's when it was time to get off the internet (and curl up in a bottle of wine....). From what I gather, the "norm" is for hair to start growing back 4 weeks to 3 months after chemo stops. My last chemo was April 30th. So as of today (May 30th) I'm one month out--or to be precise, I'm 4 weeks and 2 days. And here's what my head looks like from the back:
The hair you see is not growth. Those are the little troopers that never fell out. There are actually more than you can see in this photo, it's just that they're blonde so they're a lot harder to photograph. Another interesting little fact--I never found a photo of another bald chemo patient who didn't also have that little rash looking spot at the bottom center. I suspect that's from the wigs.

And yes, you guessed it, I'm going to document the hair growth and see just how long this really does take. Now, it won't be as fascinating as Chris's hair growth but let's be real, he's a genetic freak in that regard. Mine is more a contribution to science. Right now, I'm thinking it will be the Saturday night (or Sunday morning) post each week. Oh, and it's not a hair watch without the eyelash/eyebrow close-ups (gory though they are). Did I mention my eyebrows fell out shortly after the eyelashes? Not all the way, but again, just enough to make me look freaky. Here's what I mean:

Okay, that's with no make-up, so you can tell several things besides the fact that I have like 6 eyebrow hairs and no eyelashes (actually I have two,but you can't see them in this photo). You can also tell I seriously require foundation, I'm tired enough to have dark circles, and yes, see, my eyes are a really, really, really dark blue but they are in fact blue. Also, I have eyelash stubble now. It ain't much, but it does seem to indicate they are coming back in. Fascinating, no? Chris and I both think maybe I have head stubble, but it's hard to tell if that's new growth or just those little warrior hairs. And in keeping with that...apparently my nose hair also fell out. It never occurred to me to check that or that such might happen. Because, um...who cares? But yeah, last night I read where somebody else was complaining about that. So of course I had to check, and yep, it's true. You lose that too! (By the way, the same person who complained about losing nose hair also lost her fingernails!! That is a possible side effect...just not one that happened to me; I know, I know, you thought I had them all. Trust me, I didn't.)

Now that you've seen this, is it any wonder that when I get ready for work in the morning I feel like I'm putting on a costume? First I take a shower--where there isn't much to wash, nothing to shave, and I can only use "mild" soap (because of radiation)--then when I step out there is almost nothing to dry, then I have to paint myself a face, then draw in some eyes and eyebrows, if it's an extra special occasion I need to glue on some eyelashes, then I must find shoes that my swollen and painful feet will fit in, then an outfit that coordinates with said shoes (and if it's a radiation day, the top and bottom must be separate since the top comes off; so no dresses), then find hair or a scarf that matches all the rest. Oh, and then it all melts off during the hot flashes anyway. Cancer Dork is quickly becoming Cancer Clown.

Again, as your reward for reading this far, I have saved the happy part for last. Today I had my first mani/ pedi since all this crap started. Wow did it feel good to sit in that massage chair soaking my feet in the hot, bubbling water and then let them work away getting my hands and feet in summer shape. And despite the fact that my left foot is still having trouble and tends to swell oddly, my hands and feet look so pretty! Which is good, considering how the rest of me looks....

Friday, May 29, 2009

3 Down 30 To Go

It's Friday and that means I've finished my first week of radiation. Sort of. Monday was a holiday and Tuesday was the test run, so really I've only had 3 of my 33 treatments. Only 30 more mornings of dragging my butt out of bed and heading down to the oncology center to be zapped. I get weekends off though which is nice for two reasons. 1) I get to sleep in tomorrow and 2) that gives a nice symmetry to my treatments as the 33rd and final treatment will occur on a Friday. I should be done at 9:30a.m. on Friday July 10th. Yeah, don't expect to see me in the office that day. There will be some celebrating to do. If I can stay awake for it.

I'm not supposed to be tired yet, but I am. I'm pretty sure it's because the office has been extremely busy--both with actual work (this is good; food on the table is good) and with the construction for the expansion of the office. And also it's because these darn hot flashes/ night sweats/ crazies keep waking me up. I have two temperatures these days: freezing, and rip-my-clothes-off-sweaty-hot. All of that combined with the fact that I have to get to the Oncology center before 9a.m and well, you have yourself one grumpy tired cancer patient. Probably not anything to do with the radiation just yet.

I did do a little more reading up on radiation and side effects. It may have been best if I hadn't. I don't need to worry about things I can't control. But if any of you are interested, here's a link to a pretty good summary from And here's a lovely photo of what happens to the radiated area. I picked a nice one, there were many photos of much more serious skin damage. I took this one to be the normal amount of damage. And see how large the radiated area is? That's the part that's supposed to stay out of direct sunlight. So now you know why I'll be in turtlenecks for the summer.

On a brighter note (although it's hard to get brighter red than that), I'm illuminated! Er, um, no, I'm a luminary! No, that's not it...I'm all lit up...okay, well that might be misconstrued...
What I mean to say is that my friend and fellow dog lover Katie Wider is participating in the Relay for Life on June 13 and 14 and she's lighting a luminary in honor of me and Seamus (he who totally kicked cancer's butt, even as it attacked his). Thanks Katie! That lightens things up nicely.

(Keep voting on the poll over to the right. Chris is anxiously awaiting the outcome. And Roryann Clements is running quite a campaign to make sure he doesn't get to cut it until December!! What does she have against Chris??)

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Radiating Me

That's not me in the photo. You know how you can tell? Because he's wearing black socks. Oh, and because he's a man. But that is very much like the radiation machine that I'm spending intimate moments with every morning for the next five weeks. And that's the position I assume.

Here's how it's gone: Tuesday morning was the last day of the treatment "planning" sessions and what I call the "undress rehearsal." Not too big of a deal--just me practicing the "walk in, check in, grab a gown, strip down to the waist, throw on the gown, put clothes in the locker and report for duty in the waiting area with similarly attired folks" routine. Once the radiation nurse comes and gets me, she has me lay down on the "bed" that is very much like what you see here. The tricky part is that they manipulate you and move you around by pulling on the sheet underneath. It's hard not to lift up and let them pull the sheet out, but that's not the point of it. Once I was positioned they commenced with the artwork.

See the photo on the right? Yeah, that's not me either. Know how you know that? That's a left breast and as we all know by now "my" cancer was "right breast 10 o'clock." But that is a very good photo of the type of artwork they created on my body. Only my ink was purple. And they circled each of my little "freckle" tattoos. Luckily this drawing stuff was only done on the practice day and won't be done every day. Thank goodness, because the ink was difficult to get off and the office wasn't well prepared (or, prepared really at all) to help me get the ink off so I could get dressed and return to work without turning my top purple. She gave me little alcohol swabs--and by little I mean 1" by 1 1/2" --to dab at the ink in my dressing room but all that did is get it wet enough to smear it all over the place. Of course there was no tissue or paper towel available. (This will just be our little secret--I used the hospital gown to wipe it all off. Hey, they should have given me something reasonable to clean up with!!). I always get the feeling that I'm the only person who returns to work after treatments. How exactly does one get 6 months off for cancer treatments??? I don't understand why the treatment offices aren't more prepared to deal with things like, oh, I don't know, the fact that not everyone is headed home to a shower after their appointment?

Anyway, so on the undress rehearsal after the drawings are done they do a dry run of the radiation. But that's boring, so I'll tell you how the actual radiation this morning went. See the black and white photograph? That gives you a good idea of how the patient lies still and the machine moves around the patient. In my case though, my arms were above my head holding on to a little bar and of course, the right breast is exposed. The other thing you can tell from that photo is that it's a pretty big room. Once things are positioned everyone else clears out. The two nurses are kind enough to explain though that I am on camera and there is an intercom if I need them. These are slightly scary things to say right before they leave the room. Because for a moment I'm just lying there alone in this big room, partially naked, with this machine pointed at me and everyone else has fled to safety behind a very thick vault-like lead door and concrete walls. So naturally I'm thinking, why would I need them? Why a camera? Jeez, how serious is this?? Of course that's when the machine starts and the green rays become visible--across my chest. It's a little noisy and lasts maybe 10 or 15 seconds. Then the machine moves, shoots out another laser and radiates again for a short interval. This happened 4 times and basically the machine rotates from my left side around to my right--radiating the breast from different angles. And then, that's it. I didn't feel anything (physically; mentally it's a little weird). I was in and out in probably 20 minutes and most of that is the changing in and out of my clothes. I was in my office by 9:30.

The first few of these aren't going to be difficult. It's after the skin starts getting sore that it gets tougher. And the fatigue will come back after a few weeks as well. Right now, I'm just tired because I'm getting up earlier than normal and I haven't been sleeping well--which may be because the construction has started on my office expansion (yeah, I know, life isn't exciting enough right now) and there's a lot going on there too. Busy, busy times.

Several people have asked me, and you may be wondering, why I have to have radiation even though I had chemotherapy. The way it was explained to me was that the chemotherapy was to save my life; the radiation is to save my breast. Okay, fair enough. I'd like both of those things saved. I'll keep going back. And I'll keep you posted, of course.

PS. Remember to vote on the new poll on when Chris should cut his hair. And while you're at it, remember to check out Chris's latest Forgotten Grapes posting.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Growin' It Out for Cancer: Month 4

Yowza! That's some hair right there, ain't it? You'd have thought I'd just finished skating the third period against (and that's ah-gaynst, not uh-genst) Hamilton or Moose Jaw or Moncton with a coif like that. No, friends, that's just what my current 'do looks like after it's been gelled into place all day and I step out of a steamy, bubbling hot tub. Summer may be here already and Teresa's treatment may be nearing completion (yaaaaaaaaaaaaay!) but that doesn't mean the Growin' It Out For Cancer bandwagon slows down. Not as long as there isn't a single hair on her head...

Hi everyone. Chris here with another Growin' It Out For Cancer report, currently entering month 4. I know we forced you to wait a bit longer for this update than you've had to wait for the others (and judging by the amount of mail both Teresa and I have been receiving, you all are just chomping at the bit for another one of my hair posts), but believe me, it's well worth the wait.

As you can tell from this photo, we're inching closer (inching...get it?) to the mythical 3-inch mark, clearly the longest I have ever worn my hair. Honestly, some days I feel like Richard Marx when I'm brushing back my long, flowing locks after a shower. Other days, I feel like that homeless guy who lives under the Mission Inn Avenue overpass here in Riverside. It's the hair on the back of my neck that's really getting to me. That, and the hair falling down over my ears. Teresa says if I give it another half an inch, I'll be able to push my hair back behind my ears and slick it back like Sexy Ramon or my friend Frank Gutierrez, but I don't know. I don't think I'm swarthy or ethnic enough to pull off that kind of look (and all respect to both of those guys for being able to rock it and rock it well). I feel like if I slicked my hair back like that I have to start growing a goatee or a full beard, and to be quite honest, I just can't do that (not that I don't want to...I think I'm physically incapable of growing a thick, full beard or goatee. Honest, all the hair on my face is on my neck, and let's face it, neckbeard looks good on no man).

Fortunately, I may not have too much longer to suffer. Much like Big Brother when it sucked (first season...well, okay, that whole winter season debacle during the writers' strike was pretty heinous too) and American Idol (which in and of itself basically turned into a "who's hair do you like better" popularity contest), Teresa has elected to put the power in your hands. She's put up a poll which you can find to the right asking when you think I should finally get my hair cut. And don't worry; there will be pictures of that too (unless thanks to the Patriot Act, Homeland Security, the Smoot-Hawley Tariff, and Proposition 8 [ed. note: BOOOOOOOOOO!] Supercuts no longer allows you to bring cameras into their establishments). So please vote early and vote often. And might I suggest that you vote for sooner rather than later. Because the full force of this fully armed and operational White Irish Afro may eventually cause a shift in the earth's gravitational fields, rendering the moon off its orbit and sending the planet as we know it into horrible, burning, screaming, melting your flesh off catastrophe. Honestly, trust me, you don't want to see...

No, please, believe me, it's too much for you too handle.

No, seriously, I'm warning you. Stop. Turn back now. Before it's too late.

You really don't want to do this to yourself. Believe me. You've got to hear me. You're just going to...



Okay, don't say I didn't warn you...

Behold and tremble before the WIFRO in all of its power

(Shut your eyes, Marion. Shut your eyes!)

Monday, May 25, 2009

The End of the Decadence

Even Seamus got in on the weekend of luxury, leisure and decadence (not the debauchery though, he wants to be clear about that). Why use just one pillow when you can have five?

My weekend of debauchery (i.e. my weekend with no medical/cancer/chemo/radiation restrictions) has come to a close. As a practical matter, it ended Monday morning. But it ended with a bang. I slept in until almost 9:30 and then Chris made us a fabulous breakfast (served in bed, of course)-- a prosciutto egg nest on a round of french bread, with sauteed mushrooms, scallions, creme fraiche and parsley baked in muffin cups. Fantastic!! See for yourselves.

But after breakfast I had to go into the office. Time for me to get back to work in a serious way. Plus, the painters were next door getting the new expanded office space painted up and looking good. After work I went shopping--for Radiation Girl supplies. Now you'd think that would be a cape, or a shield, or, you know, a stun gun or something. But no. Radiation girl needed bras with no under wires in them, aloe vera, and "natural" deodorant (no aluminum---who the heck knew deodorant had aluminum in it in the first freakin' place???). Since these are not things I want to spend much money on, I took a shot that Target would have all of the above, and they did. Unfortunately, they also had bathing suits, cute sundresses and t-shirts and what not. All of which made me realize that I'm basically missing summer this year. It will be August before I can go in the sun (I think; and I bet they scold me and try to banish this as well) and hence all that attire is out of the question. Summer is my favorite season. Followed by late spring--in Riverside. Followed by late spring--in the desert. In other words, hot. I like the weather hot. And I like to be by the pool, in the pool, in the sun, at the beach, and um, tan. Not ghostly gray. Ah well, that is not to be the case this year. I know, I know, it's only 6 weeks. And I will get a sunburn. On my right breast.

Tomorrow is undress rehearsal for radiation. I expect I will know more about the process then. I'll report in as always. Tuesday night's post however will likely be Chris's hair update--because it's getting a little out of control (watch for the new poll soon where you can all help decide when Chris should cut his hair). I'll post on the radiation after I've had the "real thing."

A little housekeeping for family & friends. Regarding the celebration of the end of all this--First there is a prize for whoever comes up with a name for this party;The POPC Boobie Bash worked for the first one, but this one is post operation, post chemo, post radiation and we hope, post cancer once and for all. Celebrating "The End"sounds a bit morbid. Second, the date has been moved to July 19th. (See countdown clock in the right corner? Cute huh?). We need a Sunday so the restaurant folks in my life can attend (I seem to know a lot of restaurant can that be??) Chris, Roryann and Stacey are officially in charge (although Stacey may not know that yet!) and they'll follow up with details--like where it will be. Probably not at our place again due to all of those stairs which precluded attendance by some of my friends previously.

And finally, it has occurred to me once again that there are "telephone" people and there are "email" people. I'm definitely in the latter group. During the day I pretty much see clients and doctors and try to get my work done. Thus, my time for personal communication is morning (and I'm generally non-communicative in the mornings) and night (and I mean late; so other folks are generally non-communicative). This is why I love email. If I owe you a phone call, sorry, it will probably take awhile--especially as I head into daily radiation treatment. Now, if you just emailed me instead....

Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Nose is Back!!

The weekend of debauchery is well under way. The hot tub is getting plenty of use and yesterday Chris and I participated in two back to back wine tastings. How's that for figuring out if I'm back in fighting shape? And the answer? Um...not so much.

The first wine tasting started out well enough. See how together and professional Chris and Brein look at the beginning of the Forgotten Grapes tasting at Omakase? We were tasting Viogniers, Roussannes and Marsannes. Nine bottles. One turned out to be corked, so we only actually tasted 8. Right. We were going slowly. See the digression in the photo of Rory and me? (We're kidding, of course).

The best thing I learned (besides that Cass Vineyard makes a pretty good Viognier! Check out Forgotten Grapes June 4th posting for more info) was that my pretty-darn-good-if-I-do-say-so-myself nose for wine scents is back. I believe I mentioned before that chemo gave me a really strong sense of smell for some reason. But not in a good way. I could smell bad scents really strongly and many smells made me a little queasy (a scented candle on my desk at home--not even lit--had to be hidden in a cabinet). But as of yesterday's tasting the nose had returned to normal and I was once again easily able to sniff out fabulous wine scents like cantaloupe, apricot danish, macadamia nuts, and lemon meringue pie. No, really. It was wonderful

Wine tasting number two was at Ciao Bella--summer wines and food pairings. Mmmmm. Tasty all around. Our dining/ drinking companions were ZEE BEARD, SUE MITCHELL, RORYANN CLEMENTS and Ciao Bella owner JULIE DEKORNE. Chef Ryan prepared a wonderful summer salad with melon, mint and prosciutto in a watermelon dressing, shrimp tacos with a mango relish and lime creme fraiche, and barbecued ribs (a delicious honey bbq sauce!). All were good, but the shrimp tacos were the decadence I was looking for. Wine pairings included prosseco, a Toad Hollow rose, a Lambrusco, a Now and Zen Alsatian white, At some point I lost track. You can see how that might happen right?

And the food and wine just kept coming--we moved outside to the patio eventually. Let's just say the debauchery continued and there was a general decline in behavior. I think these pictures explain it all.

We made it home safely, participated in more debauchery, and then I promptly fell asleep. At 9:30 pm. I don't think I've fallen asleep at 9:30 since....ever. But then I woke up at midnight. With a searing headache. And let's just say that when 9:30a.m rolled around...I was still in bed. Hmmm. I might not be back in fighting shape. But I sure had fun finding that out. Chris is now making us lunch (Bacon, lettuce and avocado sandwiches and milk...back to the basics folks). I expect a return to normal shortly. However, there may be far less decadence and debauchery today. Except for the hot tub. I will return to the hot tub. I just may be drinking milk.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Our Regular Programming has been Interrupted

The regular blog postings have been interrupted due to the following circumstances:

a) the end of chemo restrictions;
b) the presence of a fresh, clean, refilled jacuzzi tub;
c) Chris, and
d) a nicely chilled Qupe' Chardonnay.

Enough said.

The regular posting schedule will resume over the weekend of debauchery. Spelling and grammar may decline rapidly. For those of you locally, you can catch us live at Ciao Bella for the summer wine tasting Saturday from 3:30 to 6pm. Let the decadence begin!

(and the bottom picture is actually a quilt! That one's for my mom--who quilts, a lot like that actually.)

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Tattoo Tuesday

I'm going to start with a pretty picture. That's ANDY and VALERIE ZUCKER, who hosted us for a very nice dinner Monday night as we closed out our long La Jolla weekend. Things to note in the photo: high chair, big glass of wine, baby monitor, big glass of wine. Now that's parenting done properly. (And yes, Andy wanted to have me over because I have less hair than he does). Valerie is also wearing the top she bought at the "Shop to Stop Breast Cancer" event. She just didn't, you know, buy it in time to stop mine.

So now on to the less pretty pictures. Today was the CT scan at the radiation oncologists and much to my surprise it was also tattoo day. Yep. I'm tattooed. I thought they'd be tattooing me with the "radiation alignment" points next Tuesday, but I was wrong.

It was an interesting appointment. I was at least able to figure out the parking (last time I parked in the parking lot and then had to walk all the way around the building and the ambulances to get to the entrance; the trick is to park on the street). I started the little routine I'll be doing each morning--check in with receptionist, head to the changing room, strip from the waist up, put on ever-so sexy hospital gown (open to the back), put belongings in the locker and take the key, wait in the little waiting room with other similarly attired people...and their spouses (and yeah, that's just weird; when I'm in my hospital gown I want other hospital gown people and medical personnel only please). I had a little time to get caught up on People magazine (8 babies? seriously? She had 8 babies?) and then the radiation tech came out and got me for my CT scan. I've never had one before.

Not surprisingly this involves me laying down on a table, exposing my already over-exposed breasts and then reaching up over my head to hold on to a bar while the doctor draws on me. Yeah, draws. With a marker. That's what you see in the photo (and yeah, the marker came off on my bra afterward; nice). Then the doctor leaves, the technician draws a little more and then--the tattoos! She said it would be like a bee sting. The middle one? That's quite a bee. For those of you with real tattoos that you actually chose to do, all I can say is wow. Really? Wow. And why??? The needle for these tattoos apparently goes deeper than with a "normal" tattoo (I didn't ask why; I assume it's to make it darker?). We'll see when I wash off all the marker, but I don't think these look like freckles. And did I mention I bled? From all three "tattoos"? I've been stung by a bee. It did not make me bleed. So, what you are looking at in the photo is all the accrued external damage from the treatment for cancer (after all, the cancer is, we hope, you aren't looking at that.) Top scar is from the sentinel lymph node surgery; the one just outside the bathing suit top is from the actual lumpectomy (and no, it won't show normally when I wear a swimsuit; I adjusted for the picture; and remember these scars are "only" four months old, so they'll look better eventually), one of the blue markers is also shown (it should go away soon) and then below in the cross shape is the markers for the tattoo and the middle dot is the tattoo. Here's a closer view on the left. I happen to have a mole right below where they did the tattoo so it's confusing, I know but there you have it. That's the tattoo on my right side, then there is one in the middle just below the breast bone, and of course one on the left. That's my alignment.

The CT scan itself wasn't much. They move you back and forth under the scanner tube and there's something spinning around me (scanning, presumably) that made me feel, oddly, that I was in a washing machine without water, or yeah, I don't know why that's what I thought. Not a big deal really. My appointment was at 10 and I was back in my office by 10:40. With just a few little bandaids over my new tattoos for my trouble

I get a blood test Thursday and my appointments are now set for the actual radiation. 9a.m every morning starting the Tuesday after Memorial day. So there we have it. I am officially no longer chemo girl. I am now Radiation Girl.

OH! And my assistant Michelle did the eyelash research for me. Apparently it's common that they fall out after the 4th or 5th round of chemo! Wow. Wish I had known that before. And it takes two months for them to grow back after chemo stops (so for me, that's two months from now). I'm pretty sure my eyebrows are giving up a few as well. Mid July really will be the end of all this. I should be done radiating, have some eyelashes and have about maybe an inch of hair. Super excited about all that. Aren't you?

Monday, May 18, 2009

NOW I look like a Cancer Patient??

On Sunday evening we went out for a walk on the beach. We've been lounging around, writing, relaxing and spending way too much time on our computers, so we decided a walk would be good. Of course, when that's the kind of day one has been having one does not really feel like getting all prettied up. And then throw in the fact that I have no hair and no eyelashes and well...yeah, I think this may be the most I've ever looked like a cancer patient out in public (save perhaps, the white blood cell crash day--but I had hair and eyelashes then, so I doubt anyone was thinking "cancer." (They were just thinking "RUN!! I don't want whatever she has!) Putting on a wig to go for a walk on the beach seems just stupid, as does false eyelashes, or really, any make-up. So here was my look. And yeah, people stared a little (or I was paranoid; either one). But it was so nice to be outside and at the beach that I really didn't care. Oh, and I'm wearing the "Feel Your Boobies" t-shirt under the "Beagles for Boobies" sweatshirt so people could either figure "breast cancer" or "breast fetish."

We're winding up our La Jolla weekend slowly. Heading to the village for lunch and a stroll around (love the art galleries down here) and then up to VALERIE AND ANDY ZUCKER'S home in Murrietta for dinner. I'm telling you this "Cancer Wins/ Cancer card" thing comes in really useful. This was a nice weekend away where mostly I didn't feel like Cancer Girl. Special thanks to SUSAN MEDEL for the use of her beautiful condo! Wonderful, relaxing, cozy place! I even got an outline of the possible "Everything I needed to know about cancer I learned from my dog" memoir done. Sort of. We'll see--it seems a bit overwhelming at this point. A blog is different than a memoir. I'm way less self conscious about the blog (for better or for worse!).

I'm hoping that this week at work can also be a highly productive week--never mind the CT scan Tuesday morning and the blood test again on Thursday. I signed a lease to expand my office to more than double its current size and my first associate will be starting with me in just about a month. (Under the circumstances, is this crazy or brave?? Discuss amongst yourselves.) I've got to get my practice kicked back into high gear!! Enough of this relaxing weekend stuff! Well, until next weekend and the weekend of no restrictions debauchery. By the way, don't you think that post-cancer treatment the prize should be one of these homes? Just one. Is that really so much to ask??

Sunday, May 17, 2009

For My Writer Friends

Great website with a fun contest--you can win a free website design. Check out You post this on your website/ blog and leave a comment with the link to your post on their blog and voila', you're entered. Kinda like I just did. The QueryTracker blog gives more details (and that's where you leave your comments to enter).

This has absolutely nothing to do with cancer. Isn't that refreshing? It was for me.
Okay, now keep reading below and you'll be back to all the cancer stuff (although I'm doing a lovely job pretending cancer is no longer in my life for the weekend; after all, this was supposed to be a writing weekend for Chris and me).

Loving La Jolla

Chris and I have been in La Jolla since about 4pm Friday afternoon. I absolutely love it down here (San Diego, for those of you not familiar with Southern California). So I'm happy happy happy.The weather is nice--in the 70's--but there's that typical beach marine layer for most of the day. I suppose that's good since I'm not supposed to be in the sun. And frankly, we haven't had time. I seem to be feeling almost back to normal and my taste buds have returned. No more metallic taste. Which tastes good again. Really good. So we went to Bernini's Bistro Friday night (seafood stuffed prawns and asparagus risotto, with black cherry chocolate chip gelato for dessert; and an apparently bottomless glass of Viognier since the owner refilled it quite liberally without ever charging me; maybe he recognizes the scarf/chemo look!). Saturday we had a leisurely morning and then went to Azul's and met up with my college roommates. That's us--clockwise from upper left KATHY KARNES GARCES, MARTHA DORSEY, Yours Truly, and SUE GRALOW. Nice ocean view table we had, huh? Lunch was a ginger chicken salad and a nice Tavel Rose' wine. We couldn't remember exactly when we were all together last but it may have been at Kathy's baby shower-- her 13 year-old daughter and only child stopped by the table briefly to demonstrate just how long it had been!! We swore to do better and not wait for something like cancer to get us together again. We will at least get together 5 years from now to celebrate my officially being in remission; but Sue is in charge of getting us together earlier than that at her home in Murrietta so we can go wine tasting in Temecula (yeah, there's a theme here). Sue, it's in writing now, so you're "officially" on the hook. Although, I think perhaps the "I made it through the treatments" blow-out bash on July 18th might inspire them to visit Riverside.

After the 3 hour roommate lunch, I needed a nap (I'm not totally back to normal yet). Then we headed to downtown San Diego and the Wine & Culinary Center (theme? what theme?) to meet up with JOHN & CARRIE SCHUTZ and BARBARA ABEL for what Oh, and put John in the camp of people who find my blog "wordy." What?? This from a man who is retired and spends most mornings on the computer and forwarding emails and awful lawyer and blonde jokes (there are no other kind). Wordy must be code for "boring." Huh. (Okay, maybe I see his point. Maybe another white blood cell crash will spice things up!).

Dinner at Morton's (got my steak fix, and a fabulous iceberg lettuce wedge smothered in bleu cheese and bacon!!) with John and Carrie, but I did have to switch to Pellegrino water...I have my limits still. You see where I didn't have time to blog? It takes hours to put together these wordy postings!! But now it's Sunday morning and we have nothing planned more stressful than lounging around, a walk on the beach and a little writing. Or a lot. It depends on our moods.

And speaking of writing... there was a clear winner on part one of the Epiphany poll. Seems you all think I'm most likely to have the "Good Friends and Good Wine are Good Enough" epiphany. And I tend to agree with you. 25 out of 54 votes went for that, with the "she will remain clueless and epiphany-less" coming in second with 16 votes. You were as unclear as I am about which epiphany I SHOULD have. The winner, by a little, tiny nose was "She should write that book and head out on an inspirational book/speaking tour reaching out to her pink clique of dark humor gals in her "Back Off People, I had Cancer!" black t-shirt" with 16 votes, but very close behind at 14 votes was "Good friends, good wine, good laughs are good enough, especially for a cancer (free) dork. (As a bonus, she'll also more easily recognize the aforementioned)." And in a close third place position with 13 votes, much to my horror, was "Her body is a temple and she should give up wine, eat right and start exercising religiously." I can't tell if 13 of you hate me or are just worried about me. Or maybe you just don't know me and thus don't know the impossibility of that statement. So, even though it was barely a winner, I like the idea a little bit (I am, at times, a writer after all. Yeah, yeah, a wordy one. What. Ever.) and I will see if I can outline a full memoir out of this blog and my notes, journal, etc. from when Seamus had cancer. The Dog Lived (and So Will I) isn't a bad title. Is it? I realize my dying might make for a more dramatic arc to the story (Last Lecture anyone?) but I'm not willing to sacrifice that much for my craft. Besides, that would make an "inspirational" speaking tour a little difficult. More difficult than me attempting to be inspirational even.

As a reward for those of you able to read all the way to the end of my wordy blog posts, I will leave you with this image in the travails of Cancer Dork. I mentioned that most of my eyelashes fell out. So yesterday I tried false eyelashes for the first time ever. In the end, it looked pretty normal and they were comfortable. But it takes some practice. And it became very obvious: Bald Head + Long Fake Eyelashes = Drag Queen.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

In the Blink of an Eye

Quick quiz: Why is it good to know Michelle Obama wears fake eyelashes?
Answer: Because she's sophisticated, super cool and a trendsetter. Oh, and because my eyelashes fell out !!! Just when I thought the side effects were ending. I guess the poor guys hung on as long as they could, but they'd had enough. When I washed my face and took off the mascara, a whole lot of eyelashes came out too.

Not all of them, just enough to make me look really strange. On the left eye, the upper lashes from about the middle to the inside corner only have about 3 lashes left. On the right eye, several upper lashes came out randomly and just about all of the lower lashes. Mascara is useless, it just gives me like two long random lashes sticking out like mini horns. Not really a good look. In my preparing for chemo I bought fake eyelashes, so I suppose now I have to find them and then I have to figure out how to apply them. This will be good. That, or I'll just use more eyeliner and fake it. (Time to wear the "Back Off People, I have Cancer!!" shirt again.) Anyone know how long it takes to grow eyelashes?

In other news of my chemo appearance, I went to a business/ charity/ awards luncheon yesterday (The Athena Luncheon) wearing my red wig but otherwise looking like me. I thought. Almost nobody recognized me! Not even people who read the blog and have seen all the photos. I'm thinking had I just shown up bald they would have recognized me. But now I have this odd feeling that way too much of my identity is "blonde." Most people didn't recognize me until I talked (for those of you who read this but don't know me personally, I have a deep voice. Fairly recognizable I'm told. No, I don't smoke. Or drink whiskey. I just sound like I do). If I waved at someone from across the room or several feet away I got those half-hearted "are you waving to me and if so who are you?" waves in return. Now I'm thinking I'm going to go to more events in different wigs and just eavesdrop on conversations. I need a co-conspirator though, someone who can start the conversations going with great openers like "Did you hear Teresa has cancer? Don't we all hope it's terminal?" and see where it goes. You know, just for fun. Because that's fun, right?

And on a final note for this evening (must get downstairs for Chris's fettuccine in a sun-dried tomato Alfredo sauce with Italian sausage, and must-see TV--aka, The Office and 30 Rock!!), I had a wonderful lunch with my good friend (for 25 years now) JOHN GOODMAN on Monday. And he drove all the way down from Sebastopol. Okay, not just to see me, he had business down here. But he drove so he wouldn't be on a plane and thus wouldn't be sick when he saw me during my "danger zone" time. Sweet, huh? We got to talking about how folks handle crisis and basically how a crisis causes people to become more of what they already are (kinder, stronger, or, um, more self-absorbed, more of an emotional train wreck, etc. you get the point). And at one point, as I was going on ad nauseum (as I do) about people who had surprised me one way or another, John, who has had no shortage of life crises himself, said "Wow. I feel like you're giving your friends grades. I wonder how I did?" Which is just a really nice way of saying "Hey, Teresa, maybe be a little less judgmental of people!" For the record, if I were giving grades, John would get an A+, in part because of his tactful way of smacking me like that (and because you gotta hand it to someone who can still be straight up like that even when talking to chemo-girl, who totally deserved it). And he makes a good point. So later I got to thinking about what kind of grade my friends would give me. And I probably have a little work to do. Not quite an epiphany, but I think after going through this, I have a better idea how to respond to a friend in crisis. For what it's worth (or not), I'll share a little.

Lots of people say to me "If there is anything I can do, please call." Or some variation of that. It's hard to know how much people really mean that (because, um, I might be a little cynical). And, I find that hard to do--just pick up the phone and say "Can you X, Y or Z?" Unless I really really needed something, which didn't happen that often, I just can't do that. I think a lot of people are that way. Plus, with something like chemo, planning ahead is difficult, it really is a day to day thing. What I found really great(and I found that the authors of many of the cancer memoirs I read said the same thing) was when someone was specific and just jumped in. Like my Leadership Riverside gals who just said "We're bringing you dinner, pick a night" and then called on that night for my dinner request. Or all the many, many people who just sent a card or called or sent flowers or whatever, especially as time wore on (hey, I get it, I'm tired of this too!), just to say they were thinking of me and routing for me. I think I probably have fallen into the "if you ever need anything" group before--and I meant it. But I hope in the future I'll just figure out something nice to do and just do it. I hope I'll remember that the person in a crisis situation isn't really thinking about much more than getting through it. So, John, I'll do better in the future,I swear (although I hope you have no more life crises). Thanks for the kick in the seat! ;-) And the margarita.

Friday afternoon Chris and I are off for our long-awaited, much-anticipated long weekend in La Jolla, courtesy of SUSAN MEDEL!! Saturday we'll be having lunch with 3 of my my UCSB college roomies and their other halves. I haven't seen them in over 10 years, despite the fact that one lives in Murietta (about a 40 minute drive from me) and the other two are in San Diego (a two hour drive, but still, Chris and I are down there several times a year). Cancer does draw people together (even as it causes me to draw on eyelashes and perhaps eyebrows!). Should be a great weekend all around. And if my roommates don't recognize me, I'll be able to pretend it's because of the wig and my lack of eyelashes, and not at all because my weight is any different than it was in college, or my face is any more wrinkled. It's totally the wig.

(Oh, and yeah, that's the campus. We went to college there. And occasionally, we went to class there. The lower photo is where our apartment was--Del Playa in Isla Vista. Tough, tough times.)

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Eyes on the Prize

July 10th.
July 19th.
These are important dates. July 10th is when I will be done with radiation, done with all this cancer stuff, done with being a patient, and (fingers, toes, limbs, hairs, and minds crossed) done with all this cancer shit!! Except the follow-up for, you know, the rest of my life. But done!! Let the return to normal begin.

July 19th? Yeah, that's the day I'm thinking is the blow-out celebration of, well, all of the above. And I'm thinking big summer barbecue...not that we have a yard that accommodates that, but those are just details. Food, drink, friends, fun, no fatigue. That's the goal.

Okay, so that's the happy stuff. There are a few things I need to do between now and then. Just a few. I met the radiation oncologist today. Nice facility and it really is pretty close to my office. I liked the staff and I liked the doctor. So I think this will work out. The facility is pretty nice too, sort of calming. But I did get my first glimpse of why some folks find radiation psychologically tougher than chemo. For one, some of the patients are delivered by ambulance. There's reserved ambulance parking out front. Two spaces. And two of the patients I saw there were in wheelchairs. (Okay, and I'll tell you this part too-- when I was searching for the picture that I used in yesterday's posting...I came across a picture of a young girl getting radiation to her brain for a brain tumor; the picture came from the family's blog and I got sucked in and read it. She died at 15 years old.) Radiation is really serious and some people have really really serious stuff going on. My breast cancer seems to just pale in comparison. I feel a little like I'm in the emergency room for a common cold. Only, you know, more serious.

Turns out I'll get 33 treatments. 30 to the entire breast and then 3 that they call a "boost" to the specific tumor area. That's right, I get a "boob boost." (The doctor said in all her time doing this no one had ever called it a "boob boost." How is that??? It's so obvious!) And it's just not as good as it sounds. At all. Before I start, I need to get a CT scan--that will be next Tuesday. Then Thursday I get yet another blood test. (Insert weekend of debauchery here; and now you can see why.) After the Memorial day weekend, I go in for a "simulation" radiation session. They will mark me in 3 spots with "tattoos"--yeah, tattoos. And yeah, permanent. Just three little dots (apparently they will look like freckles...sure, sure they will) so they can line up the radiation exactly the same each time. The tattoos aren't on the breast. Which is kind of a relief, although I suppose those would at least be more hidden. They are sort of across the rib cage, right above the waist. I'll keep you posted on that, but suffice it to say I have no tattoos currently. I don't even have pierced ears. I'm kind of a wimp (yeah, that's funny now; but it's true). I'm not liking this part.

The day after the simulation session (so that will be Wednesday, May 27th) I start the radiation. And I go every weekday for 33 days. 33. Days. Which gets me to July 10th. Yep. Every day. Every. Single. Day. Until July 10th.

And here's how it works: Basically, each patient has the same time slot. So I will go at the same time every day. I'm thinking 9a.m. or, um, 9:15. That way I can be radiation girl, and then head into my office and be Lawyer Lady for the rest of the day uninterrupted. You know, after I stop at Starbucks. When I come to the oncology center I just walk in, make sure the receptionist sees me so she notifies the techs that I'm there, and then I go into the changing room area, slip out of my clothes (waist up), don the ever-fashionable hospital gown (open to the back), put my clothes in a locker and then sit and wait out in the little waiting area until the tech comes and gets me. Which shouldn't be too long, since they schedule appointments 15 minutes apart. Apparently the whole appointment takes only about 15 minutes. The radiation itself is very quick, most of the time is spent aligning me. See, I lay on this table thing, arms above my head, holding on to a bar, while they position me to the exact spot. Then they leave the room, zap me, and that's it. I return to my locker, get my clothes, get dressed and get to work. It sort of reminded me of a spa--without the eucalyptus and well, any other luxury. The way you walk in, greet the receptionist, change clothes, use your locker, and then head out to a little waiting room to wait for the masseuse/ manicurist/ facialist/ radiation tech to come get you. They even had a water cooler (I'm supposed to drink a lot of fluids during radiation. Shots anyone??)

And then of course there are side effects. Of course there are. Although in my consultation the nurse went through a whole list of questions about my health and what I'd experienced in chemotherapy. And jeez, once I listed out all of the side effects I had experienced, it seems the radiation can't help but be a breeze by comparison. See, from the things I've heard and seen, this may surprise you, but my chemo experience wasn't that bad. I was still working, moving about, going out, etc. Lots of people have it worse. Still, when I had to keep saying "yes. yes. yes." to all the "have you had....[insert horrible side effect]" it seemed pretty nasty. (Bear in mind, my general impression is that chemo isn't as bad as I thought it would be!). Okay, so, the things to know about radiation therapy:

1. Yeah, they call it "therapy."
2. I have to stop the anti-oxidants and vitamin supplements that were so helpful during chemo. Radiation is an oxidant. And in order for it to work...right, I can't "anti" oxidant it.
3. I see the doctor every Thursday. Every Thursday! (Take that chemo oncologist "Absolutely not" woman!!)
4. Fatigue is common (especially with chemo preceding radiation)
5. bone pain can occur
6. the skin in the treated area (right breast, in case you really haven't been paying attention) will get dry, and "burned" --like a sunburn. On my entire breast.
7. I'm to wear loose clothing, no under wire bras, cotton preferred;
8. No temperature changes! (no ice packs--which I can live with; but no jacuzzi??? Again??? They're killing me. Expect me not to leave the jacuzzi over Memorial Day holiday weekend)
9. no lotions, deodorants, creams, ointments etc. But I can and should use Aloe Vera on the treated area.
10. Treatment area may not be exposed to direct sunlight. (Okay, so no topless sunbathing. I and my neighbors can live with this. But the "treated area" includes a part of the chest normally exposed when wearing a bathing suit. Oh, right, they suggest I wear a t-shirt when swimming or out in the sun. Because I'm not attractive enough these days. Maybe I'll wear socks with my sandals too.)
11. No shaving the underarm. But apparently that's okay since the hair won't grow there during the radiation (as it hasn't in two months of chemo).
12. Breast may swell and become painful.
13. Sexual desire or performance may change during treatment. (they don't say what the change might be; we're totally hoping for the best here!)
14. I will not be radioactive (so good to know).

And then they give a bad news/good news post-treatment note: The breast may be smaller (the bad news) and firmer (the good news!) after radiation. I'm sure that's just going to look totally normal--one bigger, flabbier breast and then one little perky one. Great.

Then when I get through all this (party, party, party...hey, it helps to keep my thoughts on something happy in the future), I still have lots of follow-up. I'll be at UCLA every 3 months and at the radiation oncologist two to four weeks after and then every 3 months or so as well. You'd think I had a serious disease or something! Sheesh. Have I mentioned that I'm really squeamish and generally can't handle pain, doctors, needles, hospitals, blood, or pretty much anything medical? Maybe I have to start using the past tense. I couldn't handle those things. Until I could.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Part IV Begins

So that looks like fun doesn't it? That's not me (I don't have that much hair, remember) and that's not the breast being radiated (you do remember your biology don't you?) but the picture does sort of launch us into the mood for part IV of my cancer odyssey wherein I become Radiation Girl. If you're wondering why I say part IV, I break it down like this: diagnosis, surgery, chemo and then radiation. Believe me, getting to the diagnosis is it's own stage--do I need to remind you of the nightmare of trying to get a doctor's appointment, the ultrasound, the mammogram, the biopsy, the MRI? Yeah, it's its own stage.

Tomorrow I have my first appointment with the radiation oncologist. They told me it would take an hour to an hour and a half. Yeah, expect a long post to read on Thursday. I feel ready for the appointment, but in my mind (and I hope I'm not delusional) I'm not starting the actual radiation until after my weekend of debauchery (aka Memorial weekend).

As I head into phase IV, it occurs to me just how long this has all been going on. Almost 5 months now, from my very first doctor's appointment. I haven't really had time to stop and think about that. There's a way in which the time had gone quickly and there's a way in which it feels like a very long time that my life has been consumed by this battle. Today I went back to the very beginning of this blog, when I was first getting diagnosed and letting folks know, and I read for a little bit. Wow. What a long, long "journey" this has been. Reading it now, I can "hear" more fear than I thought I had originally. It's interesting to see how overwhelming the diagnosis (heck the very idea of cancer!) was then-- and now I feel like an expert on breast cancer. Not the medical part of it so much, but the practical aspects of dealing with all the diagnosis entails and all that goes on after. And I was also reminded how many of you have been reading this and commenting this whole time. Thank you all for that. It means a lot. And hang in there with me-- radiation is going to be a long haul too (6 or 7 more weeks).

I'm feeling pretty good by the way. I had a hideous hive breakout on my face last night, but I took two Benadryl, had a great night's sleep and it was almost all cleared up by the morning (but uh, yeah, I'm thankful for foundation and powder). Tomorrow is the end of my "danger zone" time. In my usual fashion I'm sure I will be expecting to instantly feel better and have more energy first thing Thursday morning. A girl can hope. We leave for La Jolla and a fabulous weekend Friday afternoon, so I'd like to feel good. Is that really so much to ask?

Oh, and it seems many of you found the photo of Chris and me (and my bald head) to be quite touching. I do too but I worried about posting it (and the other bald one). I decided though that really, it's cancer we're can't really be a cancer blog or any kind of cancer narrative without showing the most obvious effect of the chemo. So, given where we are (Chris, me and all of you reading this) in this cancer odyssey, that's now the photo over to the right in the "information/ about me" section. Until we move on to the next stage---which I like to think of as the return to normal.

Sunday, May 10, 2009


This was a big weekend for baldness. Or, well, semi-baldness. See, in continuing my attempts at positive thinking I'm figuring the hair will start growing back any day now. Okay, okay, any week now. So I won't be bald that much longer. Now, I'll have stubble, and then a serious crew cut and other sundry short-short styles. And of course, there's the "it will be darker and curlier" phenomenon. But the point is, I won't be bald for that much longer and since I don't ever plan on being bald again (not that this adventure was planned...or virtually any other part of my life as it is today...let's not think about that for too long....), I decided we needed photos to preserve for posterity exactly what my skull looks like. And, you need an update on how Chris's hair is looking too. So here you have both of us.

Not a bad photo considering Chris is actually the one taking the photo (yep, it's the arm out with camera pointed in the general direction of our heads do-it-yourself shot usually seen in vacation photo albums). So you will likely notice two things. 1) Man, does Chris have a lot of hair. A lot. I will never catch up to that, and 2) I didn't lose all of my hair. Sure, 95% of it, but there are some strong little guys just hanging in there. We had buzzed it down to about a 1/4 of an inch back on March 13th, just before it really started falling out. So now those hairs have grown to be about an inch long. No reason to shave them, and I kinda admire their fortitude. When I get out of the shower and dry my head, these hairs stand straight up. Chris calls it "little hair, BIG attitude."

The second big baldness-ish adventure was that I went out in public in just the head scarf. Hey, it's hot out. I do have the hives/ allergy issue and I just couldn't see bothering with a wig just to go to Target and my office (even though odds are high I'll run into someone I know at Target). So, I just went with the scarf. When I'm on a project (like shopping!) I forget what I'm wearing and what I look like, so it's not really that big of a deal. (I probably would however, be acutely aware of it were I out and about bald...and somehow I expect there'd be stares to remind me. A nearly 6 foot tall bald woman is not likely to slip by unnoticed in too many places). But I did notice at one point that the scarf is a "cancer sign" and that certain women can recognize it. I'm sure I would never have given it a second thought prior to my diagnosis if I had seen a woman in a head scarf like mine. Just as I wouldn't have really noticed the super short, dark hair as anything other than a very practical hair style choice. Like sensible shoes (Hey, not my choice, but I can see the appeal for others). But today, twice, I noticed women--both in their 60s or so-- looking at me with this sort of knowing, kind smile. I didn't quite understand it the first time, but the second time, the woman made eye contact and I suddenly realized--ah, she recognizes the "cancer sign." She's "been there, done that" so to speak. It was actually a nice feeling. There is a good side to the "Cancer Club." I felt oddly supported, and she didn't even say a word. Just smiled.

So there's a photo of the head-scarf look. Just so you are in the know and can be supportive when you see "the look" too. The next photo...well, it's unmistakably the Chemo Coif.

All in all, this was a good weekend. Physically, I'm not back to 100% (and not just because of the hairdos) but emotionally and psychologically, I felt really good this weekend. Lots of energy and productivity. In many ways I just felt normal. And normal, like the five loads of laundry I did, has never felt so good.

Friday, May 8, 2009

The Definition of Insanity

I know, I know...doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. That's the definition of insanity. I get it. But here's the thing...I wasn't actually expecting different results. I got no further than "Hey, this martini tastes good" (Wednesday night) and "Hey, this wine tastes good and it's an Italian restaurant, how can I not have wine???" (Thursday night). So I do not expect you to have sympathy or be surprised when I tell you of the hives breakout. There are hives. They've broken out in the usual spaces--chest, face, legs, stomach. It's as pretty as it's been the last several times it's happened. But hey, this should be the last time. Let them have their fun.

I'd be more concerned about the hives, if I didn't have to concentrate so hard on walking on the only 2 square inches of my feet that aren't painful. My right foot appears to have ballooned to the size of your average neighborhood cat, while my left is more in the range of a German Shepherd. I can barely put shoes on these monsters. This happened last time and I recall it lasted several days. I'm hoping to return to normal by Monday.

This weekend should be exciting as well. Saturday starts the chemo "danger zone" for the very last time. The next four days are when my white blood cell counts are lowest and I'm most susceptible to all the bad things in this world. In the past three sessions this has meant horrific white blood cell crash, extreme hives outbreak, swollen feet, sore/heavy bones, digestive insanity, and general very tiredness. Woo hoo!! You gotta love the weekends! At this point we have plans to simply take it easy tomorrow and then Sunday I'll be heading into the office to get caught up on a few things. That's the plan, subject to change with any outbreak, inability to get out of bed, fever, or well, sudden rage. But again, I must point out...this is the last time!!!! These next four days are key, but I am 12 days away from being officially done with chemo and off all restrictions. I can't even decide what I want to do first. I think it will likely involve a jacuzzi and a bottle of champagne. And we may have to throw in some of those very dangerous strawberries as well.

In the meantime, some updates... 35 countries and 43 states (plus D.C.) have now been subjected to this blog. Finland, South Korea, Serbia, and Bulgaria are all over it, but do you think South Dakota or Rhode Island can be bothered? No. No they can't. Alabama is also playing hard to get--it's like they're Delaware or something. Don't even get me started on Mississippi.

Also, the epiphany blog is still open and needs your help. There appears to be a clear leader on the votes for which epiphany I will likely have...but it's a three horse race as to which epiphany I actually should have. And I have to say, I'm surprised at the results so far. If you haven't voted, or you have and you've changed your mind, scroll down on the right side and place or change your vote. Remember there are two items to vote on so keep scrolling to get to the second one. I can't be left to my own devices on this epiphany thing. A three-way tie is not going to be helpful!

(oh, and that picture to the right? Google search for Epiphany brings up this photo--apparently there is an Orthodox Epiphany celebration on January 19th each year and it involves ice water. But this sort of seems like me being lead to an ephiphany. Totally comfortable.)

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Spoiled Brat

Okay, so now I feel like a brat. And a spoiled one at that (actually, I sort of look a lot like that picture right now too--that's me in the reddish wig, swollen, bloated, flat shoes on my puffy sore feet, trusty dog at my side. Yep. That about covers it). But, I believe I have shaken my 48 hour rage so I am hopeful, as I'm sure you are, that the ranting has ceased. Although, I'm shocked how many of you thought my meltdown with the gardener was funny...perhaps picturing it was funnier than living it, but trust me, I was woman on the edge. I was probably dangling over it, actually. I'm wondering if the gardener will even come back or if I have another chemo casualty on my hands. First it's the hair, then the wine, then the gardener....

So how did I shake my rage? Well, with help from all of you of course. First, I appreciated all the comments and emails. I assume those of you who found my behavior completely deplorable were at least tactful enough to keep that thought to yourselves. And I think the pink clique long ago stopped reading this blog, so they don't even know how truly disappointing I was this week. The rest of you though seemed okay with my raging. Perhaps even amused. Then there were the phone calls--my dad, brother, younger sister and several friends were brave enough to risk life and limb to unwarranted verbal attack by attempting to speak with me. I haven't actually returned most of the calls though, because I've actually been busy (and sleepy) and I wasn't....well...feeling sociable.

And then there were the surprises. DWIGHT TATE truly risked life and limb by stopping by my office in person to check in on me today. Now that's bravery. Then CURT KNUDSEN also dropped by to check in on me and he came bearing gifts! (An excellent tactic to be sure). He brought me a beautiful giclee print by a friend of his that depicts three hands holding glasses of wine clinking together in a toast. It is very appropriately called "To Life!" How can I not smile at that? Then, in perhaps the bravest move of the past 48 hours, JANE and FRANCIS CARNEY had Chris and I (and Seamus!) over for dinner. The ultimate rage defeater was put into action--they pulled out all the stops by offering up food, a fabulous martini and a new book (which is not a cancer memoir--it's T.C. Boyle's new one "The Women"-- really hoping one of the women does not have breast cancer!!). They even responded to my odd craving of vegetables with a pesto tortellini, julienned veggies, a salad, asparagus risotto and then, because they care about Chris too, a steak! The bonus news is that all of the food tasted good to me, didn't cause queasiness, and the martini was just perfect! First one I've had since a few days after my surgery (3 months ago now). Yeah, yeah, so there may be hives. Maybe. But I'm thinking not. See that? That was positive thinking right there. Yeah, who's back, baby?

I also now have an appointment with the radiation oncologist. May 13th at 10:30 a.m.. Hey, at least it's not a Friday the 13th this time! That's my initial consultation which apparently takes an hour to an hour and a half. Wow. That's a lot of consulting. My right boob isn't even really that big. But I assume we'll have a plan at that point. I further assume it will not disrupt my Memorial Day weekend of debauchery plan (which really isn't a plan so much as a concept at this point). The only slight problem was that the office is no longer located where I thought it was (and where their website still says it is). They've moved further away. Still closer than anything else I found, but not quite the quick little trip with drive-thru Starbucks bonus I was planning on. Eh, it's only for 5 weeks.

I will warn you ahead of time so no one worries I jumped off the ledge I've been hanging out on--- there will be no post tomorrow (Thursday) night. Instead, you should all be reading All his postings are good, but I'm quite fond of this one (the grape and the pop culture icon). Chris and I will be in LA meeting with our LA Writers group for the first time in quite some time (we're slowly attempting a return to normalcy here), so I know there's no way I'll have the energy to blog when we get home. But I didn't jump. I'm coming around. Heck, I've got a fabulous weekend in La Jolla coming up in just about 10 days. I'm all kinds of happy.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

I'm Trying

Yeah, that's not really how I'm feeling. But I'm trying. My funk continued through the hot, sweaty, insomniacal (new word; but it works) night and right on through the morning. I even attempted to take some of it out on the unsuspecting gardener. Because really, is the "Dog in Yard" sign on the gate not enough of a reminder to close the freaking gate??? No, no it isn't. But the bald hysterical woman screaming "shut the f*&^ing gate!!!!" from the upstairs window? This is enough of a reminder to get the gate closed pronto and just before the banshee beagle was unloosed. Unfortunately, the gardeners were also enough to set Seamus off on a howling frenzy that was going to explode my already fragile and tenously contained head, and he would not be dissuaded from his fury (after all, he had my lead to go on). There was nothing for me to do but go to work and vent and vent and vent to my poor friend Laureen--who is also my paralegal and therefore at least gets paid to listen to all my crap. Then we did the adult thing and drowned our moods in Wendy's cheeseburgers. That actually helped. Maybe it was the venting, maybe it was the cheeseburgers, or the Dr. Pepper, or all of the above. But it helped. I felt mildly better. Enough to at least get some work done. And a client called, just to check and see how I was doing--which was really nice and totally unexpected.

When I came home this evening, I tried to be more judicious in my choices. So I did nap (an hour and a half). Chris made a nice gazpacho for dinner (I've been craving vegetables; don't ask. I don't know.). And rather than read or watch anything that might set me off, we watched American Idol (love me some Adam) and then Dancing with the Stars. Pretty innocuous stuff. And yet, they had this dance performance by Macy's Dance Stars and I found myself watching it and thinking "yeah, whatever. A bunch of talented, pretty, perfectly diverse, young healthy, beautiful kids in yet another showy performance. Who the hell cares? Why does this matter? Get off the stage. Stop wasting my time." Right. 'Cause I was in a hurry to get to the substantive and intellectual celebrity dances?? Yeah, I don't know where I was going with that, but I can tell you I was bitter! I did at least recognize it and laugh at myself a little. So this is progress, right? Maybe? Anyway, sorry for the rant. And um, this rant too.

But in medical news, Dr. Karam has checked out and given the "okay" regarding the radiation oncologist conveniently located by both my office and a Starbucks (very key for daily radiation). I'm in the process of getting my records faxed over to her so we can set up the consultation and I can learn what I need to do for phase three of this cancer odyssey. Yip. Eee.

Monday, May 4, 2009

I Hate Cancer

Have I mentioned that before? That I hate cancer? I don't think I have, actually. And maybe I'm a little slow with this, but I have to say, I was pissed off at cancer all day today. I've been pretty honest on this blog, so I'm not going to lie now. I was not happy today. Not at all. I think I was probably a big baby all day long (at least in my internal monologue; luckily I wasn't dealing with too many people today). Maybe because I can see the light at the end of the chemo tunnel and I'm just all kinds of anxious to get there, everything that's in my way is just really, really annoying. I'm tired of being tired, I'm tired of having to figure out what wig to wear and how long I can stand it, I'm tired of only being able to wear two pairs of shoes (swollen painful feet), I'm tired of not looking normal, I'm tired of medications, tired of soreness, tired of not being able to eat or drink what I want, tired of not being able to do things, tired of sweating like an animal all night, tired of insomnia, tired of being a "patient" with special needs and restrictions, and I really, really feel bad for Chris having to put up with 1/2 a girlfriend these past six months; he never complains, but he's got to be pretty darn sick of all this too. I'm sure he'd like a normal life back soon too. So I just keep apologizing to him, and probably, that's even more irritating, not to mention pathetic. (I'm also sure the pink clique would be extremely disappointed in me for venting all of this. Cancer dork again.)

And I think I need to give up Facebook. Otherwise, I'll probably really go over the deep-end reading about everyone else's vacations and meals and drinking binges and health and happiness!! Instead I'm posting passive aggressive status updates about my bone pain. Take that, happy people!! (Don't worry; I'm sure tomorrow I can return to being a well-balanced non-selfish person who is happy for her friends' happiness. It's just not happening at this moment. Sorry.)

Continuing my spiral this evening, when I got home instead of taking a nap (which would have been the smart and necessary thing to do) I picked up the book I've been reading and finished it. And what was I reading? I was reading "What Remains" by Carole Radziwill. You know, the widow of Anthony Radziwill who was Jackie O's nephew, JFK, Jr.s' cousin and best friend, polish prince and guy who died of cancer at age 39, three weeks after John Kennedy, Jr. and his wife Carolyn died in that plane crash. Yeah, that's what I was reading. And they die. They all die (okay, not the author; she's left to pick up the pieces after losing her husband and losing her best friend within the space of 3 weeks). It's actually a beautifully written book, but probably not one of my best choices under the circumstances.

So I put the book down and turned on the television. Hey, American Idol winner David Cook's brother died from cancer yesterday. And Eva Longoria was at a Kids with Cancer fundraiser! Enough.

Dancing with the Stars...take me away.

Out on my Limbs

That's Meagan over there. Meagan was the last person I saw at the Rancho Cucamonga/Upland oncology place. That's because Meagan is the nurse who gives me the Neulasta white-blood cell building shot on the Friday following chemo. So this was Friday, May 1 at just about 4:45pm (notice it's empty again). Meagan was lots of fun (she always enjoyed and commented on my hair and fashion choices; I believe the "Britney, Bitch" and purple Cancer Vixen shirts scored the highest.) So we can't really blame Meagan for the effects of the shot afterward. She wouldn't have wanted me to suffer.

Notice there was no posting for two days? noticed this right? You were worried? Okay, good. I was doing okay on Saturday morning, but by the afternoon the queasiness started. Saturday night was nothing but queasiness, serious nightsweats and a skull ache. I know, you're thinking "that's a headache, Teresa." But no, my skull hurt--like to the touch. Plus, I could hear my blood pulsing throughout my head, loudly. The Neulasta bone pain, which heretofore had really only been a "heavy limbs" feeling, was starting in my head (HA! They say it happens in the larger bones!). Sunday I actually had a client meeting in my office. Ironically, my clients are both doctors and their schedules are difficult, so we agreed to meet on a Sunday. Yeah, the Sunday after my chemo...what was I thinking? I was thinking "It's over!! I'll be fine. Must get back to work. Must earn living." I was okay for the meeting-- 2 1/2 hours, and I was tired but okay at the end. Until I got home. Then I just needed a nap and I had a pretty bad sore throat. By the time I woke up from the nap the bone pain had creeped out to my shoulders and down my back to my hips. Then once again I have the weird foot thing going on--especially in my left foot. The whole outer side of my left foot feels like I ripped a muscle. No cute high heels for me for a bit. [Plus, how cute would it be anyway, limping around going "ow, oh, ow, oww, ohh, ohh, oww" since the bones in my feet hurt too!]

So between the nightsweats (which have come on with a fierceness Tyra Banks would envy) and the bone pain, I wasn't exactly sitting at the computer typing away. I was hanging out in bed reading. Probably, I should have been in bed all day. But that's just not my style. Unless of course I wasn't sick. Then, I'd gladly hang out in bed all day. Isn't it funny how that works?

I'm headed into the office this Monday morning. Mostly, I think I'll be seated at my desk. And popping a lot of Tylenol. Tylenol is my new BFF.