Thursday, January 28, 2010

One Year Down...the rest of my life to go

I am now "officially" a one-year survivor.
the picture on the bottom is me (in case you've gotten really used to my new look) one year and one day ago at the Hotel Angeleno the night before my lumpectomy surgery. The photo on the top is me this morning, one year later, cancer-free and on may way to work. And you know what's really important about that photo? Right, Seamus. Well, and I'm cancer-free, but no, really, really important?.... Look at those cute shoes!! I can get my no-longer-swollen-no-longer-really-too-very-much neuropathetic feet back into my cute shoes! It's enough (almost) to make me forget that my hair has reached some really weird hard to deal with stage.

I had just mentioned that I was pretty much over the whole cancer thing. Move along cancer, nothing to see here. But last night I had a really weird cancer dream. Not so bad I'd call it a nightmare, but definitely weird.

In the dream, I was having surgery again. Only I was on a table in someone's house. Basically, my surgery was going to take place on a coffee table in a living room of an old house. With a bunch of crazy looking scientist or professor types sitting in chairs around the room. I started asking the crazy bearded men who they were and what their role in my surgery was and they answered in really nonsensical ways and were basically making jokes. Which was, you know, upsetting. The surgeon came over to the coffee table and I said "I find this really disturbing. I want to know who these men are." And he said "I know. They're here to help." And I said "But they won't tell me what they're doing. It's really bothering me." And the surgeon said, "I know. That's why I'm doing this" and he proceeded to give me a shot to my brain!!

Dream Teresa was quite clear that this shot was going to knock her out and she was quite upset about this, but nonetheless out she went. Then Dream Teresa woke up (real Teresa was still asleep and're following that, right?) and the crazy bearded men were all gone except one of them who was asleep in a recliner. Now awake, Dream T saw that her bare legs were covered in what looked to be black felt pen drawings--sort of like vertebrae drawn on my legs. And then Dream T noticed that the sleeping bearded man had bare legs with orange drawings on them. Suddenly (because that's how things happen in dreams) my mom was there and I was asking her where the doctor was. She told me he was upstairs (remember, this surgery took place in a house!). I asked what time it was and then said I was worried because it was so late and I hadn't had the surgery yet. And my mom said, all sad, "You did have the surgery."

Just as Dream T went to look under the blanket at my chest, the gurney that I was suddenly (it's a dream!!) on, started rolling out the door, down the walkway and onto the sidewalk. How embarrassing! I had to grab a tree branch to keep from rolling away. Luckily, my mom came after me and wheeled me back into the house before the imaginary neighbors glimpsed me in my hospital gown (you know, in case they aren't used to surgeries being performed on their block of craftsmen style homes).  Back in the house, bearded man was wide awake and my dad was suddenly there but leaving for his own doctor's appointment. (Giant hint this is a dream: my mother and my father haven't been seen in the same house together since about 1977). Dad assured me that I'd be okay and left. Mom said she go look for the surgeon and left. And there I was, alone in the middle of a strange house, on a coffee table in a hospital gown, with drawings on my legs. But...I was healthy. So that's when real Teresa woke up and decided coffee was a good idea. (Wine maybe less of a good idea.)

And yes, the surgeon in the dream was played by the good and great Dr. Karam. I just didn't want to put his name in the actual story in case somebody read quickly and with low comprehension and didn't realize it was a dream. We don't want his stellar reputation besmirched with rumors of coffee table operations and shots to the brain.

See what a difference a year makes? Last year's surgery was very real. This year...not so much!
Happy Anniversary to me!

(In celebration I had chips and guacamole for lunch and the girls in the office gave me a celebratory cupcake too. How's that for an "F you, cancer"?  )

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Seamus Really is Famous

Hey, we're the featured blog over at Dog Health Blog Awards! Check us out...I'm sure it won't last long!
Click here.

Seamus thanks you! And obviously he is super excited about this....

Friday, January 22, 2010

It's Over...sort of

 [No, no, I don't mean that Chris and I are over. That's just a cute New Year's Eve picture I'm sharing (and what a shocker, we're at Bistro O at Omakase!!).]

An interesting, and I think very good, thing has occurred. I think my mental state as a "Cancer Survivor" is over. I actually forget I had cancer...and I only finished treatment 6 months ago. I forget that when people say "How are you?" and they tilt their head and squint their eyes slightly, they don't mean "hey, how's it goin'" in passing. They mean "you've been through an awful lot and I really do hope you are okay but I'm a little afraid to ask." I forget that it was only a year ago I was headed into surgery and looking chemo straight in the eye. I still forget that I have short, dark hair (my reflection has startled me more than once). Heck, I'm even forgetting to blog. I forgot to blog when I had my 6 month check-up and found out I'm still Ned (No Evidence of Disease). I forgot to blog even when they scared me momentarily at my mammogram by telling me I had to come back in for three more "special" shots. That cannot be good---but all was okay. I even forgot to blog that we went for drinks with the good and great Dr. Karam afterward and he got carded! My surgeon got carded!! He took it with good humor (apparently it happens a lot) and I threatened a blog caption of "My surgeon got carded". But I forgot! I forget to blog and this was something I was obsessively doing daily not too long ago. More on that in a moment...

I had dinner the other night with two friends who've both recently been diagnosed with breast cancer and it felt odd to be the one on the other side of the "journey" (yep, still hate that word in this context).  I had to work to remember what it was like at the stage they're now in. It really seems like a long, long time ago. Of course, much of it comes back immediately in conversation and I am oddly proud to be a "Survivor." But at the same time, other than the fact that I can help others when they get diagnosed (or, well, I hope you found it helpful ladies!), or help raise funds for The Pink Ribbon Place breast cancer resource center and the part where I still go for check-ups every three months, well....I think I'm just back to normal. I don't really give a lot of thought or time or energy to the whole "breast cancer" thing. That should be a good thing, right? I never really did have that epiphany, so I don't feel compelled to walk 3 day walks to raise funds; I'm not part of an ongoing research study, and "my" breast cancer was triple-negative (not hormone receptive on many--well, 3--different levels) so I don't have any continuing treatment. So where does that leave this pretty pink blog?

Luckily, the name of the blog is The Dog Lived. And boy has he. So I'm thinking that's what this blog will become. Just a blog about living post cancer (breast for me, mast cell tumor for Seamus). And living well, I hope. We have climbed/walked/ hiked Mt. Rubidoux twice now (Photo is Chris and Seamus on the last walk; then me and Seamus on the Humane Society monument about 1/2 mile up) and will for a third time tomorrow if the rain lets up; I am writing the "everything I needed to know about cancer I learned from my dog" memoir (126 pages so far!) and I took a memoir writing class (see where I've been in the 10 days since my last post?);  and I am launched into my duties as honorary (but I hope also hard-working) chair of the 2010 Shop to Stop breast cancer event. I'll update on those things but also, I'm going to just feel free to blog about whatever's on my busy little mind whenever I want to...and it may or may not be about breast cancer. It also may or may not be funny, but we can all hope. I'm mostly funny in a tragedy (see chemo blog posts) and I'm sort of hoping that's held at bay for a bit.

I also think, however, I will be asking my two friends who've now started their own "breast cancer journeys" and joined the C club to guest blog from time to time. No, this won't be at all confusing!

January 28th  (ha! my original post said 27th but I checked my blog and it's the 28th--see, I'm forgetting everything!) will be the one year anniversary of my surgery. Thus, it will be my "one year" cancer-free mark. They start counting from the time there are no signs of cancer detected and for me that was post-surgery (the chemo was just a little extra insurance, as was the radiation). I think I'll post that day...and then I think I'll change the look of the blog. No more pink.

Your thoughts? Comments? Hopes? Dreams? Prayers? (Totally kidding on those last few; get your own blog for that stuff!).

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

D-Day, One Year Later

One Year Ago. Yep, one year ago today was the day I was "officially" diagnosed with cancer. Now, you'd think that would be a big deal and I'd remember it all so clearly and horrifyingly. But actually, I was at my desk at work, quietly working away, when the good and great Dr. Karam called and said "It is what we thought is was." Which is easier to hear than "you have cancer" (I actually don't think he ever said those words...gee, do you think this has all been a giant misunderstanding??).

A few days before he had answered my "you seem to be acting as those this is definitely cancer" inquiry with "it walks like a duck and talks like a duck..." So when he said "it is what we thought it was," I said, "It's a duck?"

And he laughed and said, "It's invasive ductal carcinoma."

Duck, ductal...close enough. (I made a joke about his accent being stronger than I thought it was. Yeah, I'm like that.) Then I called Chris to let him know, since it meant we'd be going back to UCLA the next day for an MRI, and then I went back to work.  I don't think I even mentioned it to my assistant that day (but I might have; I tell her everything).

I think that I was just really well prepared for the diagnosis and the upcoming treatment. Well, as prepared as one can be. Dr. Karam had done a great job of leading gently but firmly to what would be going on and Chris and I had talked enough to figure out how we'd handle this. And, of course, I'd been through this once before with Seamus. And he lived. (The Dog Lived. And so did I. Remember?)

This last weekend, Seamus and I went with a friend and her dog (Judy and Champ, respectively) on a walk/hike to the top of Mt. Rubidoux (see photo).  A beautiful 3 mile walk. I was amazed I could do it. I not only did it, I enjoyed it and have plans to go again this Saturday. Call it a victory lap.

P.S. Here's how well the dog is living...yesterday our friends dropped off their dog Harold for us to dog-sit for a few days while they're off on a cruise. Seamus managed to grab the bag that held one week of Harolds food plus a few Greenie chew treats. He pulled it down off the counter and proceeded to eat about 1/4 of the bag and several Greenies. Then he coughed and choked and looked miserable, so Chris picked up both dogs and rushed to our vet. By then, naturally, Seamus was acting fine. So $50 lighter, Chris returned home with the dogs. Seamus's belly looks like a python that swallowed a meerkat and he's burpy and gassy, but he'll recover. He just didn't get dinner last night and isn't terribly interested in breakfast this morning.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Another Anniversary

This time-- January 8-- last year we were headed into UCLA Medical Center, ultrasound and mammogram reports in hand, to see the good and great Dr. Karam for the first time. Of course, we didn't know he was the "good and great" just then. That took a few minutes after meeting him.

This time last year I did not know definitively yet that I had breast cancer. That took a few minutes after meeting him. (Okay, it still wasn't said definitively to me yet--that took a few days--but he knew.)

This time last year was a very stressful time. And  a strange time. And an overwhelming time. And I remember actually, very little about it. I hadn't even started the blog then, so I don't have that to remind me either. I supposed I was a little numb, a little on auto-pilot (I get like that--very focused on "what's the problem and how do we fix it immediately").

I have a friend going through this very same thing right now, and she had an appointment with the good and great Dr. Karam yesterday (she also thinks he's good and great). Talking with her has made me reflect back on this cancer odyssey a bit. Wow, does it all seem like a long, long time ago. I think that's good though, right?

I go back to UCLA January 14th for my 6 month check-up (another mammogram, back to Dr. Glaspy the oncologist, the annual "woman" exam--which was delayed because apparently post-chemo you get funny results, so you have to wait a bit). Funny, January 12 was my "official" diagnosis day last year and January 13th was the MRI. I guess January is just my UCLA month.

UCLA did send me an anniversary gift last week. A bill for $480 (supposedly my share after insurance) from the biopsy on January 9 last year. Gee, thanks. I guess paper is the appropriate 1st anniversary gift.

P.S. I've mentioned to you how other BC bloggers tend to be much more uplifting and positive and eloquent than me the cancer dork (I might just be the Cancer Crab! But don't get me wrong, it's not like I was Mary Poppins before all this.). Here's two posts to show you what I mean. Both of these women have actually been through much more than me...and wow, what spirit they have! With deep admiration, I give you:

Stephanie at Bah to Cancer


Deborah at Love, Cancer, etc.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

2010: Worst Year Ever?

I know, I know, I'm supposed to  be thinking how much better this year will be than last year. And I'm reading all the blogs I follow from other breast cancer fighters (beginning, in the middle of and all through with the battle) and they're all so eloquent and full of thanks and happy for the new year. But hear me out...

At the end of 2008, looking at 2009 (pre-BC, as will become apparent), Chris and I were feeling all smug about ourselves. I had spent all of 2008 working diligently getting my new solo law practice up and running and doing pretty well, especially considering the economy. Chris had finished his middle-grade fiction manuscript "Seamus the Famous" and sent it out to about 20 agents, getting a pretty good response and several requests for full manuscripts. Foolishly we said, more than once, "2009 is going to be our year. Things are really coming together."


In an effort to not jinx 2010, Chris and I have officially declared 2010 the worst, most horrible, terrible, disastrous, nasty year ever. Ever.

The good news is, that means 2009 was not, in fact, the worst, most horrible, terrible, disastrous, nasty year ever. And in large part that was due to all of you.

So thanks to those of you who sent cards and flowers, who stopped by, who dropped off wine (!!), who watched Seamus for us, who made me laugh, who saved my life, who continued to act normal around "cancer girl",  who fed me, who emailed, who read the blog (and particularly those of you who commented), who kept my office running, and most of all those of you who cared, however you showed it. Special thanks to the good and great Dr. Amer Karam, who quite literally saved my life, somehow managed to make cancer funny and delivered the "you have cancer" news as directly and kindly as it could possibly be done; to my dad who went to the initial surgery appointments with me, continued to learn more about breast cancer than I'm sure he ever wanted to, kept me supplied with anti-oxidants and supplements, and medical research and information, and worried tremendously while taking great efforts to hide that he was worried; and to his wife Nancy McElhannon, who followed the blog and printed it out or left it on the screen so he could follow too, commented on the blog regularly  and had an infectious happy attitude all year (and for as long as I've known her!); to my mom, who learned what a blog was and then read the blog (when she could stand it and after my nephew showed her how), sewed head scarves for me, sent me little surprises ("to help a girl get along"), hosted the Missouri Survivor party and worried so much she got shingles; to my step-dad Ted Terbeek who got me my first "pink t-shirt" (the fabulous "Pink Heals" stiletto shirt) and helped so much to keep the calm in the initial diagnosis days; to my brother Jay McElhannon who called constantly, but not too much, who wanted to fly out, but listened to me when I said I'd come out there when I could travel again and who ran interference with the parental units when necessary ;-) ; to Chris's folks Jim and Trudi Kern who I got to know better and who sent cards and great, soft cotton wraps (perfect for the chemo chair) and then sprung for our hotel on the big island; to Corby Rhodes and her mom Donna Montgomery for coming out to visit me post-surgery and making me laugh like a teenager again; to Valerie Zucker and Stacey Aldstadt for the world's funniest "day after chemo" wig party, and a fantastic POP-C birthday bash (and to Stacey in particular for getting me to Dr. Karam in the first place!); to Laureen Pittman and Michelle Pierce, for keeping my office running smoothly, for pretending my wigs and my scarves and my short, short hair looked perfectly fine, for not nagging me to "take it easy" and for being the best "support staff" a girl could have; to Brein and Roryann Clements for incredible food, friendship and outrageous humor, but mostly to Roryann for letting everyone know the proper response to the news "I have cancer"; to Becky Whatley for countless humorous cards, a few drinks, much humor and again, for treating me the same with or without cancer; to my writer's group gals Barb Abel, Kristin Tilquist, Michelle Ouellette, Barbara Shackelton, Susan Brennecke, Patti Pettis and Dulce Pena for your encouragement  throughout (and continuing as I try to tackle this memoir writing); to Trai Cartwright who stayed in touch long distance, made me laugh and kept me tough; to Tera Harden and Brian Pearcy, devoted blog readers, suppliers of great wine and champagne, and even some really great lotion potions during radiation and especially to Tera for getting my jury duty bumped back; to Michael Easley for his friendship and his brilliant Pop-C and Survivor party logos and invites and because he found it too hard to look at the bald photo; to Zee Beard and Sue Mitchell--Zee kept the wine coming (she was the secret Cakebread Chardonnay fairy) and Sue kept the cards coming, but they both kept the friendship and support coming; to Jane and Francis Carney who had Chris and I (and Seamus!) to dinner at several key points (including the very night I shaved my head!) and always made me feel not only normal but strong (Jane sounded perfectly sincere when she said my shaved head looked fantastic!); to Barbara Ryan who sent me cards and flowers regularly and also learned about blogs; to Michelle Ouellette who watched Seamus on several occasions and hosted the fabulous Survivor party in her beautiful yard--allowing me to share her birthday celebration at the same time; to Jane Gideon who I think I saw more during the cancer battle than in the years before then, for coming alll the way down from San Francisco to celebrate my survival and for staying close and making me laugh; to Lori Lacefield for making the trip all the way from Denver and for reminding me that Bitter really is Better ;-); to Rich Gold and Gary Berg who also made the trek down from the Bay Area and celebrated with me after staying in touch and supporting me throughout; to Laura Ballantine who got back in touch and I'm pretty sure was the first one to read the blog and comment each morning, who sent me a Save the Tatas shirt and spread the "tatas" word in Iraq!; and who was a staunch supporter and defender against all the many stupid things many stupid people say; and to Michael Wakefield, who supported and loved and hugged and emailed and worried and finally just flew down to celebrate the end of treatment and enjoy that bottle of wine we'd been saving; to the blog followers who actually figured out how to join as a "follower" and weren't embarrassed to do so--it's nice to see those faces and comments so I don't feel like I'm talking to myself (in an unhealthy way) and of course, to Chris for...well, for all the love and for all of the above.

Here's to a no good, horrible, really bad, truly awful, 2010.

P.S. Inevitably I will have forgotten someone I had no business forgetting. I therefore reserve the right to update!