Archive | February, 2010

A day at the beach, one year later . . .

20 Feb

One of the things I did while spending part of the day at the beach

Feeling Better, Compliments of Dana the Torturer :)

20 Feb

The pain that I woke up with yesterday morning subsided and I am feeling much, much better. The pain was from the preceding day’s physical therapy. It was pretty intense (the therapy) and I really love my therapist because she is so good and really works hard to make progress for me. It is a painful process, but, when I see the results, it is so incredibly worth it. She is really amazing. Anyway, I am sore still, but it is not too bad. And, I look forward to getting worked on again this coming Tuesday.

In the meantime I have to keep up my exercises and stretches so that I do not lose the progress made thus far and so that I can make more progress. I am excited by how much improvement was made in just Thursday’s appointment and it is all because of Dana, my physical therapist. I wish I could have a video tape of one of our sessions – she has such a great sense of humor and I am so eager to make progress, that every time she applies pressure (pulls, stretches, pushes the areas that need the work) and she asks me if I am okay, I always say yes. But, then pretty quickly after I say yes, I am involuntarily crying out in pain. I know this sounds horrible. But, it isn’t. And, the reason why I wish I could get video of it is because it is kind of hysterical. We are laughing heartily one minute and then the next minute I am expressing – well – reacting to the pain she is inflicting and then right back to laughing.

I guess you kind of have to be there to see the funny side of this, but it truly is funny. I was apologizing to her last time for my “sound effects” (just my reaction to the pain) because her next client is usually waiting within hearing distance – so I was joking with her that no one is going to want to work with her after hearing me. ย My “sound effects” are what just involuntarily occurs when she pushes me beyond that point – but that is EXACTLY what I need as it is the way to break up the scar tissue that has formed in my shoulder – the work she does on me literally breaks up the adhesions of scar tissue to the bones in my shoulder and as a result increases my range of motion (and yes, it hurts, but it IS working). And, the goal, of course is to get to the point that I regain all of the range of motion by working out all of those adhesions, breaking up all of that scar tissue.

Part of the cause of this frozen shoulder in my right shoulder is actually due to the radiation treatment. I had no idea that it would or could cause this problem. But, when I saw my surgeon the other day she explained to me that the pectoral muscle was much worse on my right shoulder because it had been damaged (just like your skin is affected) by the radiation. Duh, of course. But, I never thought about it. I mean here I was getting radiation to a large area, including the supraclavicular lymph nodes (so right above my collar bone on the right side). Well, the radiation went right through to my back and caused burning there on my back – amazing. So, of course everything in between would have been affected as well (muscles and whatever else is in there) ๐Ÿ™‚

I just never thought about it. And, as my surgeon explained, since my muscle was shortened (became more tight) from the radiation, it caused my shoulder to pull forward, me to lose my range of motion and that led to the frozen shoulder – not being able to use it causes adhesions and scar tissue to build up. Anyway, it helps me mentally to understand all of these things because now I see how I can make progress. AND, I AM seeing progress.

It is tough, but so encouraging. I was so depressed about losing so much of my ability to move about, do things that required both of my arms, even little, simple things were either impossible to do or I could do them, but there was a lot of pain when I did it (for example, opening a window or my sliding glass door – do-able, but really painful).

But, now I have really improved and I feel extremely encouraged by this. I still have a lot of work to do, especially on the right shoulder. And, with two more surgeries in front of me, I need to make this progress as quickly as possible. I am going to do everything I can to make that happen.

I am so grateful to have Dana. And, I do wish I could get a video of her working on me (or as she puts it – “torturing me”) because it is really funny – pain, laughing, pain, laughing. It is just very funny. And, I really look forward to going into physical therapy both because of the laughter and because of the pain (no, I am not a masochist) but this pain is what is leading to my healing. So happy about that.

Ouch . . . no pain no gain?

19 Feb

Well, yesterday was busy and wow, am I feeling it now. I had two medical appointments (one in the early morning and one in the late afternoon). Since both were in the same area, I decided to stay in the area (the area being Newport Beach, so that was nice). After my first appointment, I went down to the beach, met a friend who was about to go surfing and sat on the beach for a while. It was a beautiful day. Then lunch and then some errands and then back for my next appointment. This last appointment was for physical therapy. I have been going for close to a month now to work on both of my arms and shoulders. My right shoulder is in pretty bad shape – what they call a “frozen shoulder”. I guess what happens is scar tissue forms around and in a pocket (that normally has fluid and allows for your shoulder to rotate). There are what they call “adhesions” where this scar tissue adheres in such a way that you simply just cannot rotate your shoulder. Well, that means that I can not lift my right arm up, or behind my back or, well, a lot of things.

Anyway, as I have said I have been going to physical therapy for a little while now and it has really helped my range of motion. But, on one occasion, I had a physical therapist who did some really deep (and painful) work on me and the next day I noticed the greatest improvement in my mobility. Plus, I really enjoyed her, she is bright, is also a cancer survivor and lost her best friend to breast cancer (very sad, the woman was only 39 years old, she had inflammatory breast cancer – which is aggressive and also not generally curable). So Dana (this physical therapist) was/is someone I can relate too. She also spent a lot of time with me the first time I worked with her. The only thing is that she works just two days a week (Tuesdays and Thursdays). I was originally supposed to go to PT on M, W and F. But, I feel I accomplish much more with her – she spends a lot of time manipulating (which equals pain, pain, pain) my arms and shoulders – stretching them into positions that I could never do on my own.

So, because I saw such good results with her in that first session, I have switched my PT days to Tuesdays and Thursdays to have her as my therapist. Well, yesterday, again she spent a lot of time with me. But, wow, am I in pain now. I know it is necessary (what she is doing) but, oh my gosh, the pain today is pretty intense. Wow. Normally they ice people down after treatment to help with inflammation and the pain that results from the work they do on your body. But, I can not have ice because of the lymphedema risk. I have to avoid extreme temperatures in my arms – no super hot water for example and no super cold water – certainly no ice. Bummer. But, I will try some aspirin maybe. I don’t know. Hopefully the pain will lessen over the course of the day or just soon.

I have some pictures and video from the beach to upload here, but, will probably do it tomorrow . . . stay tuned.

Please keep up the prayers for my healing!

L.

Noodle Clarification and Good News from My Surgeon

17 Feb

Hello All,

Just a bit of clarification – the “noodle” I am trying to find is one of those pool toys, it is a long cylinder shaped floating toy that is made out of some kind of styrofoam or foam – it floats, they come in different colors . . . I think it is called a noodle. Anyway, that is what I am looking for. Unfortunately, these seem to only be for sale before and during the summer. My physical therapist – who is wonderful – wants me to get one to use in my physical therapy. Anyway, if you have a pool, you may have one of these lying around and if so, maybe I could borrow it until I can by my own on the open market? Maybe there is a noodle black market?

I know, I am being very silly. It is the combination of a lack of sleep (for many weeks now, only getting an hour or two per night) and feeling very optimistic about my prognosis and well being (despite the fact that I have two surgeries looming over my head). Still, I feel the cancer has left. I believe it is gone. I’ve been through chemo, surgery (where they took out what cancer they could see that was still remaining after the chemo did its work), radiation and Herceptin treatments for nearly a year now. And, as my surgeon (who I saw yesterday) said, when I was asking her about chances of recurrence etc: “I think you’ve had enough cancer, I think you’re done with that now”.

I will write more about my meeting with my surgeon later. It just takes too much energy to do right now. But, let’s just say it went very well, the news was very good and she was extremely encouraging. Contrast yesterday’s meeting to my first meeting with her about a year ago where she basically told me (because we didn’t know yet how advanced the cancer was – only that it was of a very aggressive type) that the best thing I had in my favor was that I was young and strong and that this was what was going to give me the best chance of survival . . . and that yes, it was possible the cancer could kill me.

It was a horrifying day last year. We didn’t yet know if the cancer had gone elsewhere and as a result I was either in the category of having a disease that could be cured or could be “treated”. The latter would mean treatment for the rest of your life – simply to stay alive.

But, after many tests, it appeared that the cancer had not spread to any other organs and so I was in the first category – having a cancer that could be cured. And then the fight, which continues today, began. And, my life will never be the same – I will always be a cancer soldier, vigilante, dedicated – and not just to my own battle but, to help others do battle. I feel that now this is my lot – to forever be a cancer soldier. But, I am so grateful that it was caught early enough to be curable. I will never know, I suppose. I will always have tests.

But, to see her yesterday and compare yesterday’s meeting with our first meeting nearly one year ago – well, I am blown away. Blown away by how much time has passed, how much work has been done and how far I have come. To go from that incredibly solemn, frightening (horrifying, really) first meeting one year ago to yesterday’s appointment, laughing and joking about my cancer – laughing and joking about anything for that matter, well, it was just surreal, and . . . very uplifting to be on this end of things. I still have a lot to do. But, I know that I can do it.

And, I have (as I have always said) every intention of surviving this disease. I am going to kick cancer’s nasty, little butt!

Please keep up those prayers!

L.

Kale, Beautiful Kale

16 Feb

Above: Foods I have not eaten in over a year, and definitely no fast food, fried food, and I went mostly organic. Confession: went almost a year without any refined sugar, only occasional honey, once in a great while, (not a big deal as I am not into sweets much). Then, in the past couple of weeks I broke that rule and had lemon meringue pie twice in the same week and some chocolate here and there too, bad girl ๐Ÿ™‚ In my defense: My oncologist up at UCLA told me to live a little . . . ๐Ÿ™‚

One of my new "fast foods" - Chopped Kale Salad - (my own creation) ingredients: organic chopped kale, organic hearts of romaine lettuce (takes some of the bitterness of the Kale out), wild salmon, organic green beans all chopped up & mixed in with balsamic dressing, prep time, about 15 min.

New Pictures Added and Anybody Got a Noodle I Can Borrow?

16 Feb

Hi All,

I added a page (see along top, right) for “More Pictures”, the most recent of which is December 2009 (I look a lot different now, stronger, more hair, healthier – at least I think I look healthier – will try to post more recent pictures to this page soon).

So, I have a strange request. I need one of those noodles – those pool toy noodles. Anyway, they aren’t in season yet, so I am having a hard time finding one. But, my physical therapist wants me to get one to use in my physical therapy. So, if anyone out there has one that they could loan me, please let me know. And, please, I am only asking local people, if you are out of state, please don’t go to the trouble of shipping me a noodle – I am sure I can find someone locally who can loan one to me.

Keep up the prayers & positive thoughts,

Much love,

L.

Herceptin weekend ended well . . .

15 Feb

Friday was my Herceptin Treatment – of which I only have a few more left YAY! ๐Ÿ™‚

This weekend my parents stayed with me (from Thursday through Sunday morning) taking me to my Herceptin treatment on Friday and then taking care of me through the worst of the Herceptin aftermath.

I never noticed that the Herceptin caused any side effects before as I was always either getting it during chemotherapy, post surgery or during radiation. And, I just was not able to distinguish the feeling sick and weak from the other treatments. But, now that I have completed the chemo and radiation and have recovered from those treatments, the Herceptin weekends stand out for certain. It is nothing compared to a chemo + Herceptin weekend, but it isn’t a lot of fun. In any case, it is only temporary and I got through one more this past weekend with the amazing help of my parents.

During the past two Herceptin treatments I was alone and just thought I was having a really bad flu. But, being alone, I didn’t eat and the recovery was much longer. However, thanks to my parents staying with me and looking after me and making sure I ate, I recovered in record time – even in time to have a Valentine’s Day. I had a wonderful day and evening on Sunday. Sunday during the day I had brunch with my parents and brother Paul, his wife Marcella and their boy. With the weather being so nice, we ate outdoors. It was really a great day. Then in the evening, after a bit of rest, I went out (as in at night)!!! I haven’t had much energy for that until just recently. Anyway, I had a wonderful evening with a very special friend and hearing live music, dancing a little (but mostly, watching the real dancers dance to a live swing band – in fact, one of my friends is the bass player for this band). It was just a very special Valentine’s Day. And, if you’ve read a couple of posts back, you’ll know that last year’s was not so easy.

I guess anything would be an improvement over last year. But, this past Sunday was a very special day for me. So thank you for everyone who I got to see and spend time with – you made it such a wonderful day and night). And, of course, without my parents having been here since Thursday, I wouldn’t have even been up to doing really anything on Sunday – they take far better care of me than I am able to myself post Herceptin.

I have a couple of doctor’s appointments this week and more physical therapy – see, it still is like a full time job ๐Ÿ™‚ I have an appointment with my surgeon (it is just a follow up type of thing from my last surgery) and then on Wednesday I see my radiation oncologist for the first time after completing radiation treatment this past December, 22nd. Again, another follow up to see how I am doing.

Well, that is it for now. Please continue to keep me in your prayers and to send positive thoughts out my way. And, always feel free to leave me a comment on here or to drop me a line. It does me a lot of good to hear from friends.

Peace and Love,

L.

Me and Dad Playing at Bistro 400

15 Feb

This was, I think, the last time we played at the Bistro 400 – it was last summer and I was about 2/3 of the way through chemo, bald, but with a loaned hat. We had only tried out these two songs the night before at home, but decided to do them anyway – even though I didn’t know the words, what the heck. That is one of the things cancer gives you – the courage to not care what others think. Even though it wasn’t rehearsed or practiced – so what, it was fun. The first song is “Frim Fram Sauce” and the second is “Gee Baby, Ain’t I Good To You”

Hope to get out to do it again soon.

One year ago today . . .

14 Feb

Last year, on Friday the 13th no less, I received a phone call, instead of a letter, from my doctor’s office about my last mammogram results. When I had the mammogram, my doctor told me that I would either get a letter in a couple of weeks or, if anything showed up, then they would call me. He conducted a physical exam first, told me he didn’t feel anything abnormal in either of my breasts (and neither did I, by the way) and that most likely I would hear in a couple of weeks by mail – meaning nothing to worry about.

Instead, I got a phone call late in the day on Friday, February 13th. I was feverishly grading exams that had to be returned to my students by our final class to be held that Sunday. So, since I didn’t recognize the number, I let it go to voice mail and kept grading.

I checked my voice mail the next day, it was a vague message (naturally), but, I had a pretty good idea of what it meant. The doctor’s assistant actually gave me her cell phone to call her back. So, the next day, on Valentine’s day, I called her. We played phone tag until she finally reached me back (I was on the phone with my brother Steve at the time, telling him that I didn’t get the letter, that instead I got a phone call and that I was worried and so on and then she called). I spoke with her and she told me that the mammogram showed a mass and that I had to have a biopsy.

As much as I hoped that it would be one of those things that turned out benign, I knew that it wouldn’t. I just felt it, I can’t explain it really. I just knew it.

So, I went back to work, finished grading my exams, taught the last class of the course the next day and then on Monday scheduled my biopsy. ย They wanted me to do it as soon as possible and so to speed things up, I was told I could pick up the mammogram films and deliver them to the facility where I would have the biopsy.

I of course did this. I remember walking down a long, cold corridor, looking for the room to pick up my films. I remember signing for them. I remember the woman at the counter sealing up the oversize envelope that contained the pictures of my breasts and telling me I was not supposed to look inside, that the information was for the doctor.

I remember walking back through that cold corridor and feeling the weight of the films growing heavier and heavier in my hand, and, as I left the building and walked through the parking lot to my car . . . heavier and heavier still.

I of course opened up the envelope as soon as I got back to my car. I didn’t look at the films, I didn’t want to touch them, as if in doing so, somehow it might spread. I know that sounds weird, but really, I was terrified to even touch or look at the films. But, I did look at the one white piece of paper and I read the typed letters: ” . . . biopsy ordered to confirm malignancy . . . ”

I put the paper back in the envelope, sealed it up and drove it to the facility where I would come back a few days later for a biopsy.

I never shared those words with anyone then. Why should I have? What for? No doctor was going to tell me that it couldn’t be benign. No radiologist, no person, no one was going to take away the hope that I would carry for the next weeks that the biopsy would show that the mass was just a benign cyst. And so I went about my business, albeit in a little bit of a fog, but truly hoping for some miracle. For some OTHER explanation than cancer for why I had been so tired the past many months, nearly a year now – for why I just didn’t seem to rebound the way I used to after a long day or week of work.

I promised myself, whatever the outcome, that next year’s Valentine’s Day would be a better one. And I know it will be. I did not get the news that I wanted last year. But, I have learned a lot about life in the past 12 months. I have learned a lot about myself, about regrets, about not having regrets in the future, and about how to live. I have learned how wonderful and beautiful people can be, how near strangers can become some of your most steadfast supporters and cheerleaders and I have gained so much strength from all of you, my family and friends and . . . I am here.

I watched a movie a couple of days ago called “Crazy, Sexy Cancer” (got it from the library). It was supposed to be an upbeat film/documentary about a woman who was diagnosed with cancer. It was, I enjoyed it. But, here is how it started: “Happy Valentine’s Day, you have cancer.” Apparently that was the day that the woman, whom the documentary was about, found out she had cancer.

My Mom and I were watching it together and I turned to her and said THAT was the day, last year, last Valentine’s Day, when I knew I had cancer. Bizarre. Anyway, it’s been a year now. And, assuming all is going well, I am nearly done with treatment (at least all of the IV type of treatment). There are still some medications to take or at least one to take – but, that is to be worked out still. I will have a bunch of tests in May to see where I am at and will have tests forever I guess (since I plan on being around a very long time).

Well, another ramble during another sleepless night – but the night isn’t quite over yet, so maybe I will go get some sleep now ๐Ÿ™‚

Please continue to keep me in your prayers and send positive thoughts my way, I still very much need it. And, Happy Valentine’s Day.

Much love,

L.

Days & Nights Are Upside Down

11 Feb

I am still trying to turn my days back into days and my nights back into nights. Although I have been off of the Tamoxifen since Sunday night (it is now Wednesday) night, I am still having trouble with sleep getting to sleep, staying asleep – sleeping at all in fact. So, I hope that tonight will be a better night for me. Especially since tomorrow is another Herceptin Treatment. These knock me out pretty good – I get extremely tired and then usually spend the weekend feeling like I have the flu (aches, fevers – that kind of stuff). But, here’s to hoping the treatment does not cause these side effects this time around.

Either way, I will get through it.

I feel good about the fact that my oncologist at UCLA is so responsive – I called with complaints of the side effects I have from the tamoxifen and she immediately said to stop taking it for two weeks and to have me come in after the two weeks (have an appointment already) and then we will discuss other options than Tamoxifen – or the possibility of resuming Tamoxifen with the assumption that my body will eventually adjust to it.

I know that she wants to have me off of the drug to make certain that the side effects that I have been having (dizziness, nausea, unusual pains etc.) are from the drug and not from some other cause.

So, that is good. I am pretty confident that the side effects are in fact from the drug. i hope so. If not, then it is a battery of other tests – one which ย I can not even have yet – a Brain MRI. So say some prayers for me on that. I am keeping my fingers crossed that all of the side effects cease (most have diminished significanyly since I have stopped taking the drug). ย Well, wish me luck for tomorrow’s treatment!

Lisa