Archive | April, 2010

Bizarre . . .

30 Apr

I found a classmate from high school last night on Facebook (well, actually a classmates younger sister). Her older brother was in my class, we were on the swim team and on the year book staff together in high school – eons ago. Anyway, his younger sister – she would be two years younger than me – was just diagnosed with breast cancer. What is bizarre is that she was diagnosed with the same kind of breast cancer – HER2+ breast cancer – at about the same age as me.

HER2+ breast cancer is not especially common. And, the typical onset of this type of breast cancer is in women who are in their sixties. It is unusual to be diagnosed with it before 60 and, pretty uncommon to be diagnosed with it under the age of 45.

This woman and I probably spent most of our childhood within 5 or 6 miles of each other. Interesting . . . I played in orange groves when I was a kid – it wasn’t named Orange County for nothing. At one time there was a lot of agriculture here and with it . . . a lot of pesticides. Women golfers are known to have higher rates of breast cancer – presumably due to the pesticides used to keep golf courses the way they are kept – green and weed free.

When I came upon my former classmates blog, I was saddened to see that such a lovely, bright and happy child grew up to have breast cancer. And, she is not my only classmate from high school – that I know of – to be diagnosed with breast cancer. Breast cancer is pretty common. But, when I saw that she was getting Herceptin treatments (meaning that she was also diagnosed with HER2+ breast cancer), I was floored.

She has a great attitude and a great spirit – at least that is what I see from her blog. She is going through chemo now and will have to go through everything else I have gone through – bilateral mastectomy, radiation and a year of Herceptin treatments. My heart goes out to her.

And, hearing that someone who probably spent most of her childhood within a few miles of where I spent mine was diagnosed with the same, pretty uncommon type of breast cancer, well, it makes me kind of numb.

I will be praying for her and for her family.

Love and peace,

Lisa

Lettuce Brain . . .

30 Apr

I feel like my brain just came out of one of those salad spinners . . . you know those things people used to have to spin dry lettuce after you washed it? Well, that’s what my head feels like it has been through. Maybe it is chemo on the brain or maybe it is just being mired in a medical maze all day long that has done it to me, I don’t know. But, I am fried.

I have been on the phone, essentially non-stop today from 8:30 am to nearly 4:00 pm – didn’t even set foot outside today. Just one phone call after the next. If it isn’t someone collecting from a procedure that was done over a year ago (and supposedly paid in full) then it is trying to get authorizations pushed through for a second opinion I need and just calls from one place to another to get one doctor’s office to fax their orders to another location so that I can schedule pre-op tests. It is, as I have said before, crazy making. Dizzying.

I literally was told today that I could not have a copy of a bill unless I first agreed to pay it in full . . . what? I told the woman that I wasn’t stupid – that I would not agree to paying anything that I did not see and have an opportunity to review first.

Nice try.

I have found out over this past year that my insurance (which provides excellent coverage) has both over paid and under paid claims. Sometimes they just pay claims more than once . . . if you can believe that. And, then other times they don’t pay at all, even though they are supposed to pay. So, I have to research it for them, get an explanation of benefits and make sure that if it is something they are supposed to pay, that they pay it.

It is just one of the many jobs that a cancer diagnosis drops off at your doorstep.

It is like trying to walk through quicksand sometimes . . . and their is nothing quick about it. It is frustrating to spend time this way. And, it is seems so unnecessary, I mean there has to be a simpler way of handling these things. There seems to be a major disconnect in the way all of these medical locations communicate with one another. But, what do I know?

I think once things go digital – as will be required by the health reform bill – it may (I said may) make this stuff easier. For example, a significant amount of my day today was spent calling to get a fax number from a doctor’s office, or Hoag’s radiology department, or their cardiology department and then calling my oncologist at UCLA and asking them to fax their order to the appropriate fax number. There is nothing central about anything.

It seems to me if my doctors were able to input their orders into a system of some sort, that could be accessed by the hospital or other provider, then this 24-7 phone tag that I get to play would slow down. Oh wouldn’t that be nice . . . but, no 🙂

Instead, I get to have lettuce brain.

Happy Birthday Mom, I love you . . .

30 Apr

Hello all,

Today is my Mom’s birthday. Please wish her a happy birthday!

Last year we didn’t do a whole lot to celebrate Mom’s birthday. I was just a few days out of my second chemo (and the anaphylactic shock that went along with round two – fun times!) and so any party plans were scrapped.

But, this year is different. I get to be a normal (okay, I know that is a bit of a stretch, but, you know what I mean) daughter and bake a cake!

Words can not even begin to express how grateful I am for my Mom and Dad. There is no way I would have survived this past year without my Mom and Dad.

Happy Birthday Mom, I love you so much!

Love and peace,

Lisa

Gym rat I am not, but . . .

29 Apr

Well, I went to the gym today – for the first time in a very long time. I have been exercising – walking mostly. But, this was the first time back into the gym in quite a while. Now that I am off of Herceptin, my white count should be on the way back up and so I figured it was time to get back into the gym . . . can’t use a low white count as an excuse anymore . . . YAY!

I made it through a one hour class without passing out, so that is good 🙂 Woo-hoo! (I did not expect to pass out, I am just kidding). Still, I was not sure if I wanted to brave a whole hour at someone else’s pace. But, I got through it fine.

It is so wonderful to feel stronger. I dread the post surgery weakness and recovery as I am just getting used to having some energy again, and I really like it. But, I figure the more I do now, before surgery, the more quickly I will get back to things after surgery. That is the plan anyway.

I am very excited to be on this end of things.

Now the rest of my day will be dedicated to medical stuff (scheduling pre-op stuff and getting my place ready for after surgery – lots of chores to do) and fighting my stupid landlord. Fortunately, I have someone to fight on my behalf. So, that is good. I just have to get everything I can get done before surgery.

Here’s to a beautiful sunny day, it is beautiful outside today!

Love and peace,

Lisa

Four Weeks Out of Treatment . . .

28 Apr

I had my last cancer treatment four weeks ago today. This is the first time I have been out of treatment for more than 21 days in over a year. Amazing. I can feel the difference. I am still tired, get tired easily. But, I have so much more energy now that I have been out an extra week from my last treatment. Of course, it causes me some worry – being out of treatment. The reason being that Herceptin presumably kills any cancer cells that might be floating around in your body, waiting to wreak havoc. Now that I am off of Herceptin I know longer have that protection. So, it makes me nervous. At one point, my oncologist considered keeping me on Herceptin longer than a year. She said that it would depend upon how much cancer was found during surgery.

I was terrified to go off of Herceptin. But, I am also glad to be off of it, glad to have completed the year of treatments. Hopefully it was enough and I will not have any recurrence. That is what I pray for now. I made it through this first hurdle – getting through a year and a month of treatment. So, that is definitely something. And, it was possible that I would not. But, I did. So, I think that speaks well for how I should do in the future. At least that is how I am looking at it.

Thank you for your prayers, and for your continued prayers.

Love and peace,

Lisa

Another Pre-op Hop . . .

28 Apr

I have surgery on May 11th – two weeks from yesterday. So much to do before then. I have the usual stuff I have to do before surgery (bloodwork, EKG, chest x-ray and echocardiogram). And, then I have some unusual stuff – the most unusual is that I have to prevent myself from being evicted from my apartment.

My landlord gave me an eviction notice – no reason stated, just that I have to move out – nice, huh? I am not behind on rent. However, I was given notice just a week after the City informed him of a code violation. I had been trying to work out a solution with my landlord for nearly two months, but, he refused to make necessary repairs. He installed – without a permit – an exhaust for a dryer that runs right through my patio – adjacent to my doorway and below my bedroom window. The dryer fumes come right into my unit and make me really sick.

I have had to stay with friends and have even stayed in a hotel to escape the fumes while my landlord slugs along with claims that he is fixing it, has fixed, and finally that he can’t fix it. Once he told me that he was not going to fix it, I called the City. The City came out, found that it was in violation of their code and told the landlord that he had to repair it or tear it out. One week after the City told him this, he evicted me.

There are laws against this kind of thing. It is called a retaliatory eviction – when a tenant avails themselves of a legal right (like calling the health department or, in my case, code enforcement) and is then evicted as a punishment. Anyway, there are laws against this sort of thing.

I can not possibly move two weeks before surgery and I will not be able to move after surgery until I am well enough to make the move.

In the interim, the dryer has been shut down by the City, so no more fumes, fortunately. However, my landlord has a for rent sign in my front yard and expects to show my apartment to prospective tenants – all of this while I am about to have surgery – and presumably while I am recovering from surgery.

To say the least, I am quite distressed by this situation. As much as I know that he can not do this, he is doing it. And, by the way, he is aware that I am having surgery, is aware of my medical diagnosis, knows I have been going through cancer treatment. Let’s just say, he is a real prince.

Fortunately I have lawyer friends – one in particular, who is taking this on for me. But, still, I have to do a lot of leg work, get a hold of documents from the city, write letters, put together a time line for my lawyer, and be available to discuss the whole situation.

It is very time consuming and rattling. My brain just does not work the way that it used to, especially under stress. It takes me longer to do things and it takes a lot more effort to write in a cohesive and logical manner than ever before. Some of the most routine things elude me these days. I know it is temporary – at least I hope so 🙂

But, until it gets better, these things are kind of debilitating. Or, at least more debilitating than it would normally be. It underscores for me how far I have not come . . . don’t get me wrong . . . I have come a long way. And, I am grateful. But, I also know my limitations and they are still fairly prominent.

It is just a headache I do not need, but, who ever needs a headache, right?

I would just rather focus on my health than putting energy into this stuff. But, as my lawyer says, this landlord needs some schooling. Mostly, I just need to be left alone. If I could move before surgery, I would. But, it is not feasible – not physically or financially.

My lawyer is planning on filing an injunction to prevent the landlord from evicting me and to prevent him from filing an unlawful detainer action against me (that would be bad as it goes on your record, win or lose – good luck trying to rent anything after that). He also intends to sue on the basis of retaliatory eviction. I swear I am not a litigious person. And, I do not want to be embroiled in some law suit. But, my lawyer assures me that he will get a protective order preventing me from being deposed until I am well. At the very least, this will prevent me from being evicted and allow me the time to move out when I am ready.

This landlord is really stupid. This is a classic case of retaliatory eviction. And, I am protected by both the ADA and special rules regarding cancer patients under the Fair Housing Council as well as under federal laws. It is nutty. I feel like I am living out a law school hypothetical. They don’t even write them this clear cut.

And, it is not something I look forward to dealing with. However, I am not going to be bullied by this guy and be pushed around. I am stronger, getting stronger every day. I do have surgery to recover from. But, I am not going to be forced out of my home. Not now, especially not now, when I am trying to get ready for surgery and prepare for my recovery from surgery. There will be a second surgery as soon as I am fully recovered from the May 11th surgery. So, moving is just not something I can do in the next three or four months, at least not without a lot of hardship.

Probably the most upsetting thing about all of this, aside from the great stress it is causing me, is that it has prevented me from having a chance to just relax in between treatment and surgery. There are so many people who have helped me through this time and I would so like to be able to just sit down and call friends and family and thank them and enjoy this time – this first time since this whole thing began – now cancer free.

I am very aware of how I spend my time now. That is something cancer does for you, or to you, depending upon how you look at it 🙂 I have very little patience for aggravation anymore, or even just things that I don’t enjoy. I see it as something that is taking up time that I might not have again. And, really, that is true, no matter how much time left any of us has . . . any time that passes is time we don’t get back. But, somehow, I see it very differently now. I can’t stand wasted time. It is both a blessing and a curse at the same time. The curse part is that I find myself very impatient about certain things. The blessing part is that I work to try to enjoy every day. I guess, since most of today has been spent dealing with this landlord situation, then I have to take joy in the fact that I am not letting him bully me – it is all in how you look at it right?

I know that I have clear scans now and I also know that I might not the next time I have scans. I know that the odds have not been in my favor, that the statistics for survival rates a year out, five years out, are not good. But, I am here and my scans are clear. Still, those pesky little statistics, and just what I have been through, do really color how I look at time; how I spend my time.

But, there are medical advancements coming out all of the time. In fact, there is already a new protocol for the first line of defense for the kind of cancer I had (yes, had, damn it). And, as a friend of mine, and fellow cancer patient, always says – the longer you are in the pink, the more likely there will be something available for you should you not be in the pink. We are both in the pink right now. Incidentally, my friend, who was diagnosed in 2007, and had a recurrence since 2007, is now working and enjoying life . . . and that is what I intend to do – enjoy life. And, besides,  I am not a statistic and I refuse to be defined in that way.

I guess my point, (or one point, anyway) was that I don’t have the patience for certain things anymore. But, I know that I need to not let this landlord tell me when I am moving. I need to stand my ground. It is important that he not be allowed to do what he is attempting to do . . . not to me, not to anyone.

Surgery . . .

25 Apr

Well, it has been quite a weekend . . . such good news. Now I plan for the next step – reconstructive surgery in just two weeks and a couple of days, so much to do. But, being able to go forward with the surgery with clear scans is such an incredible relief!

So, I have two major goals right now – 1) do everything to keep the cancer at bay, and 2) get ready for surgery. There is so much else to do – like figure out how I am going to start making an income again, I have to catch up on so many things, getting a book done and getting another one updated (I just found out that the law school that is using my books as a text book for one of their elective classes has just made the course mandatory – so, every student will have to take the course, and consequently, will need to buy my book. This is good, but, I need to update the soon) the list of things that I need to do is just really long. So much has had to be on the back burner for more than a year now and things are just seemingly out of control.

But, I have to focus on getting completely well and that will require that I take on each thing in due time. And, in the meantime, stay focused on getting through this next surgery, keeping the cancer away and gearing up for the next surgery (I have two reconstructive surgeries in front of me . . . no pun intended :))

The first surgery is in a couple of weeks and the second might be as soon as July, or could be August or September, I am not sure yet. There will probably be another surgery after that, but it is minor and will be done probably as an outpatient.

Well, I think I am still numb about all of this. The waiting for results this past week was so hard.

I played bass and sang Saturday with my blues group and with my Dad. I will post some pictures soon.

It was a lot of fun, but, I am really beat right now, so tired, so sore from playing . . . but, it was worth it.

Thank you to everyone for your prayers, I greatly appreciate it.

Much love,

Lisa