Archive | December, 2011

Santa Monica . . .

19 Dec

Hello all,

I want to thank everyone for their support, kind words, messages, prayers, positive vibes and love.

I saw my oncologist today. It was a quick appointment. I had hoped that I could see the nurse so that I would get more of a physical exam done (the nurse does a more extensive physical exam and I was hoping she would do that and give me some reason to allay my fears a bit, as in, well, I don’t feel anything suspicious). But, I knew that my oncologist would order a breast MRI. It is the only way to tell if there is something going on there. So, my appointment pretty much went as expected.

Menopause Three

Seriously? "Menopause, the Musical"??? (Image by David Jackmanson via Flickr)

I was also chastised for not petitioning my insurance company’s denial of the genetic testing (to determine if I have the Braca gene or not). I will get on that tomorrow. It is so stupid that my insurance company denied it when both my oncologist and the genetic counselor requested it. There is no basis really for my insurance company to deny it. But, they did. Anyway, it is nothing new, battling with insurance companies. But, it is something I decided to take a break from doing (since at one time it was pretty much a full time job – back during chemo – it was a constant battle to get meds approved – the same meds each chemo round would get denied . . . as if I was no longer in need of the medication . . . very odd). I would love to some day make a change in that, I don’t know how someone who is elderly or sicker than I was copes with all of that during treatment. But, I digress.

I need to get off my butt and file the petition and make my insurance company do what they are getting paid handsomely to do.

The other concern my oncologist has is that I am still ovulating (or at least that is what she thinks given I still have pretty regular menstrual cycles despite all the chemo, despite taking Tamoxifen) . . . I know, aren’t you all thrilled to hear that?!! TMI, right?!!

The point is that I am still pre-menopausal, still producing estrogen (the hormone that the cancer I had loves) so that is a concern. Tamoxifen often causes menstrual cycles to stop (as does chemotherapy). When a woman goes into menopause from chemotherapy it is called “chemical menopause”. Some women never come out of that chemical menopause. I had that during chemo. But, as soon as I finished chemo, my ovaries kicked right back in. At the time I thought that was a good thing, thought it was a sign of my body being resilient. And now that I have been on Tamoxifen, but, am still having menstrual cycles well, it is not something my oncologist is very happy about I guess.

I am not really certain about that actually. Except that she keeps asking me “are your ovaries still kicking?” (which kind of bothers me a little bit, sort of, okay, maybe I am being ultra sensitive . . . I LOVE my oncologist, she is so great and I owe her so much, I really believe that I owe her my life. BUT, this whole, why-aren’t-I-in-menopause-yet thing is really getting kind of annoying.

Her concern is well placed . . . the more estrogen the worse my chances of a recurrence since the cancer I had was fueled by estrogen (and by HER2 gene expression – if I am even saying that right, don’t know that I am, so don’t hold me to it, I am too tired to look it up). Premenopausal women with estrogen responsive breast cancers do not get as much of a benefit from Tamoxifen (Tamoxifen is more successful in post-menopausal women as are the alternatives – aromatase inhibitors). Still, Tamoxifen is shown to help reduce the risk of recurrence in pre-menopausal women too, it just isn’t quite as effective.

Anyway, I am rambling. I’m thinking I should wrap this up.

Okay, so the upshot of my appointment was exactly what I expected: get an MRI. Hopefully it will show that everything is fine. The pain I am having can be due to surgeries and the redness can be from the radiation I had to that area (skin changes can occur for many years to the areas that have been radiated). Anyway, that is the latest.

It is unlikely that I will be able to get the MRI before the end of the year . . . which is just fine with me.

So, now it is back to planning Christmas dinner . . . going to repeat the Tapas Christmas dinner I did last year (although different dishes).

No turkey here . . . unless I decide to go for turkey empanadas . . .

I am so over cooking Turkeys, Hams or Crown Roasts . . . don’t think I will ever do that again. We had so much fun last year doing the Tapas dinner that we decided it should be a new Christmas family tradition. So there we are. I plan on thoroughly enjoying the holiday and putting all of this cancer crap out of my mind.

This morning I visited a friend of mine who had breast cancer surgery today. This is her second time through breast cancer and it will hopefully be her last. She is strong and beautiful and courageous and I am grateful to know her.

I don't know anyone who can rock a surgical hat like this woman 🙂

I will go see her tomorrow (her surgery was today). I am hoping and praying that the pathology report is good. Some women have what is called a “complete response” to Herceptin and chemo treatments prior to their surgery (meaning that when they get to surgery there is no more active cancer left). I am hoping and praying that she gets good news.

Please keep me and my friends (who are still waiting on results) and my friend who is currently having surgery for breast cancer in your prayers. This cancer stuff seems like an epidemic some times.

Well, all is well for now. I am sitting in a cafe in Santa Monica waiting for the traffic to improve before I make my way back home. I have to say the people watching here is great!

Third Street Promenade . . . one of the things I enjoy about my oncology appointments . . .

Thank you for your continued prayers and support.

I wish you all a wonderful holiday, peace and health!



Cancer’s Grip . . .

17 Dec

I want to preface this post with this: I am grateful everyday that I am still here.

English: A busy day on Third Street Promenade ...

My oncologist's office is near here . . . Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica. I always stop here at a favorite lunch spot . . . try to turn oncology appointments into a fun outing . . . 🙂

And now . . . something I don’t like to talk about . . . that fact that I experience pain everyday. Ever since chemo and radiation and all of the surgeries it has become what is normal. So now, it is just simply a matter of degree . . . it is either a bad day or a not so bad day or one of those days where you are so distracted by something beautiful or wonderful or fun that you forget your pain. That is what “post cancer” is like for me. At least right now. I have great hopes that I will be better with each passing day, week, month. And really, so much suggests that will happen. But, it is progress that feels very slow. I don’t know if I will be pain free one day, but, I hope that is possible.

But, until then, there are many things that help.

Laughter makes me forget the pain. It is truly good medicine.

Breakfast with a good friend makes me forget (thank you for that today, my friend).

Playing music and singing makes me fo


But, tonight I am worried. Tonight I am experiencing another type of pain from cancer: it is called FEAR.

A few weeks back a family member had a cancer “scare”. It was skin cancer, but, thank God, not the “bad” kind. And so a little surgery, a little reconstruction and a few weeks later he is all healed up and no one would be the wiser.

But, now this week, another person very dear to me was diagnosed with skin cancer. We don’t know yet whether it is the “good” kind or the “bad” kind. And, so we wait.

And just today I found out that someone else very dear to me, is waiting on test results for what might be cancer or might (hopefully) be something else.

I fear cancer more now than I ever did. I know what chemo is like, what radiation is like, what being made sick in the hopes of one day being made well, is like. And I know what life is like after cancer. And so when I think of someone very dear to me having to possibly go through that . . . I can not bear it. I am not saying that I wouldn’t be worried about it if I had not been through treatment myself. But, knowing what cancer can visit on a person makes it a whole different worry . . . to actually think that someone I care about might have to endure all of that is painful, frightening.

And, then there is my own fear for my own self. The fear I feel guilty for having . . . the fear of a recurrence. It is something that comes and goes . . . some days it is on my mind and some days it is not. I feel guilty for having that fear because I know so many people who have had a recurrence, who have terminal cancer, who will never end their treatment because treatment is what keeps them alive.

So my fears seem pretty petty when I look at it from that lens. But, these are real fears to me and yes, I feel guilty for feeling that way . . . almost like I feel sorry for myself. I hate that. I don’t like feeling sorry for myself. But, fearing a recurrence seems somehow akin to self pity, feeling sorry for myself, feeling like a victim . . . and that, to me, feels wrong. And, it definitely feels like a waste of time. But, sometimes it is just there, that fear, and there is little that I can do on those days to get rid of it.

Monday I see my oncologist because there is something on my right breast that does not seem normal. Some red spots. Maybe it is a rash. There is also a new pain in my right breast. Which, if you think about it, seems really odd since I don’t have breasts any more so why would I feel pain inside, where my breasts used to be . . . both were removed and replaced with implants . . . and as far as I know, implants don’t feel pain. So I don’t get it, don’t understand why I would have pain there where there is nothing that belongs to my body in that place. But, it hurts. And there are some red spots. Hence Monday’s appointment. (Oh, and just as an explanation for those of you reading this who have had breast reconstructive surgeries . . . I am used to the pain at the scar sites, but, this is different. Maybe this new pain is even normal. Who knows).

Maybe it is just a rash and maybe the pain is from something I did physically different this past week. I don’t know. But, my oncologist, who is going out of town for ten days, wants to see me before she leaves. She told me to either come in today or on Monday. I am angry and I am afraid. On the one hand, I am grateful that she is so accommodating and that she is able to see me before she goes on vacation.

On the other hand, I am alarmed that it can’t wait ten days. Or, why can’t it wait until my next scheduled appointment in February? Nope. I see her Monday.

A friend of mine has offered to drive me to Santa Monica on Monday (my oncologist is in Santa Monica). At the time she offered to drive me, I almost turned her down as it really didn’t seem necessary. But, now, as Monday looms and I have had a chance for my oncologist’s apparent urgency to see me to sink in, I believe that by Monday I may very well be a basket case. So, I am taking her up on her offer of a ride. And, we will make it fun. Santa Monica is a nice place to visit. We have a few favorite spots to eat, to window shop etc. There are some good distractions at the Third Street Promenade.

A rash. What a bunch of nonsense this whole cancer fiasco is . . . that some pain and a rash cause such a degree of alarm. God, I hope it is a rash.

That is what I hate the most about cancer . . . the fact that what might just be a rash stirs up all of THIS. A rash. Pray that is a rash, will you?

And pray that my friends waiting for results both get good news too.

Damn, fucking cancer. Fucking cancer.

I know, not the best language. But, sometimes that is the only word that works.

Thank you for your prayers and positive vibes.

Love and peace,