Thursday, April 19, 2007

April 20, 2007 Just gotta ask . . .

I have learned a lot about myself lately and a lot about the world around me (my ecosystem, I like to call it). I am aware that I have fears about this cancer and about the effect it's having on me, my family, my friendships, and even my adorable little puppy, Rex. Poor thing hasn't been walked in forever. He's definitely suffering along with me as I moan on the sofa.

I saw my oncologist on Tuesday before chemo and she didn't have enough samples for me of the "good + expensive" antinausea meds. She cheerfully wrote me a script, telling me that my co-pay would only be $50 or so. What???!! Later I had it filled at my local Walgreen's, and she was right. I asked the pharmacy clerk, "What is the regular price for this pill?" He said, "About a hundred bucks." I was stunned and said, "Last time you told me it was a THOUSAND bucks a pill." He politely said, "Nope, three pills, $320, without insurance." And I had been fretting about this for weeks, wondering where I was going to find some more free samples. Boy, am I glad I asked, and asked, and asked, instead of giving up. I just couldn't believe the pharmacy company would gouge cancer patients for $1000 a pill.

Another fear, another moment of Zen:
I'm lying on the exam table, arms above head, as my oncologist examines me and measures my shrinking (yes!) tumors, and I say, "So . . . I have this fantasy. " She and I both laughed (I'm glad she didn't run from the room). I went on to say that my fantasy is that the chemo will shrink all the tumors so much that I don't have to have the axillary lymph node dissection. We had a long discussion about what would happen in surgery, my prognosis, and other things I had been wanting to discuss for a long time but was afraid to. While the news wasn't all good, it was heartening to know that the surgeon I had been referred to (Linda Smith) was highly skilled and I could expect an excellent result. Another fear -- zapped!

Thursday was rough. Two days post chemo #3 and I hadn't eaten much, had more nausea than I could stand, headaches, and body aches from the Neulasta shot. By 10 pm I felt a little bit better. I had a half a banana and a little rice for dinner!

Here's good news: I have discovered the worst weight loss diet ever: chemotherapy! Darn it, it works. I'm down ten pounds. I wouldn't recommend it.

During my chemo #3 I asked the nurse, Kellee, what she wanted other women to know, something I could share in my blog. We talked about the latest research, about uses of new drugs for different cancers, and other newsworthy items. But the most startling thing she said to me was that of all the breast cancer patients she sees, the overwhelming majority of women find their cancers themselves through self-checks. Well, that's how I found mine, but I thought I was in the minority. Kellee reminded me that we can do self checks anytime, and once a month is recommended, so it's more likely that you'll find a lump than with a once-yearly mammogram.

Aren't you glad I asked?

Thanks to all the fabulous females and sweet-as-candy men (you know who you are) who helped me this week. Sorry I've been incommunicado lately but it's hard to talk when I feel so horrible. Today I feel much better, and I think I'd better go walk my dog and get some sunshine before he revolts! and bolts!

WHAT I KNOW FOR SURE: Living with fear is a lot worse than living with cancer.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

April 11, 2007 Struggles and laughter

I have had an interesting week, to say the least. First, let me introduce you to my lovely Bunco nursing team who has reached out and helped me every step of the way. From top left, it's Barb J., Di T., Trixie, Jayne, Barb W., Colleen, (bottom row, left) Debi, Karen, me (in black), Dee-Dee, and Di C.

They are an illustrious bunch of women, and I thank them all for the wonderful gifts of emails, food, laughter, and time they have shared with me over the past couple of weeks. When this picture was taken in February, we had gathered together for a cancer exorcism. I can say with a measure of certainty that the tumors shrunk after this! The pomegranate martinis helped!

This group is just a part of my ever-widening circle of support from friends and family. Without you all, I can't imagine how depressed I'd be right now.

I often neglect to mention the male friends in my life that have offered me support. I am impressed by the knowledge they have about breast cancer, my diagnosis, my treatment, and what the emotional rollercoaster is like. It's because they've all experienced it with someone else in their families. Thanks for all the support and laughter, guys! Today I went to a baseball game with a couple of male friends from work. We laughed, booed, cheered, swapped stories, and had a blast. Just like regular people. It made me feel great to be alive.

I have decided that I need at least one belly laugh per day in order to beat this thing. I know it's a stretch goal, but it works. You should try it.

About my struggles, I wasn't as strong this week as I had hoped to be. I found out that my white blood counts were drastically low. My throat felt sore, I had a headache, and ached all over. I decided to take it easy and rest and recover. It was probably the smartest thing I could have done.

All I need now is fresh air and sunshine. Bring it on!

Thursday, April 5, 2007

April 5, 2007 A head start . . . .

The picture you've all been waiting for. Amanda came over to do a professional job, for which I am eternally thankful. I am smiling in this picture because I am happy! Happy not to have hair falling out all over the place. Happy that I've passed another major milestone towards recovery. Happy that I had friends and family with me at this moment. Nope, didn't cry. Still haven't. A bald head feels very, very tingly and fresh.

It's the second day post chemo and I'm pretty sick. The new meds are working but I still don't want to go anywhere, see anything, cook anything, or eat anything. I sipped on some broth earlier, and that was okay. I just want to crash on the sofa in a quiet house, no music or movies or Oprah.

On Tuesday my oncologist gave me some free anti-nausea meds -- I thought $9000 worth! But as it turns out, it was just $4000 worth. Just four pills. I thought they were in a three-pack, but they were just singlets. Oh well, I am not going to complain! I'm still counting my blessings that she gave me free samples. I am very lucky.

Yesterday my friend Debi met me at her friend Lorenzo's salon, and he styled my wigs. Lorenzo is the best wig artiste in town and we had a blast! But here's the deal. My scalp is still tender and the wigs bug me. I'm much more comfortable in hats and scarves. I'll keep trying the wigs, and I hope I can get used to them.

Thanks to everyone who tried to make this week tolerable for me. Karen H., you are a nut! Thanks for taking Kurt's Easter basket to the Post Office for me, and for all the goodies you brought. The tulips from your garden are divine. Trixie, I felt like a parade queen in your grandma-mobile! Colleen and Tim, thanks for hangin' with me during the Red Devil Drip! DeAnna, the Easter goodies are so cute! To the large contingent of chauffeurs for Rachel, she and I both are grateful. She was on time all week! And to all the people who took the time to call or write or bring food over for my family, I really appreciate it, and I'm sorry if I'm not able to keep up my end of the conversation. I'll be back to normal in a few days!

Have a great week everybody! Wish I could be enjoying all that chocolate!

Sunday, April 1, 2007

April 2, 2007 Spring fever!

For the last couple of days I've felt really great. Last week I worked all week and felt like I was productive. Each day I felt better, but by the end of the day I was usually tired and ready for bed. I think my biggest complaint was plain old allergies! My sore throat is gone. My headaches are less frequent and less debilitating. My appetite is better. My mouth sores are better. My white blood cell counts were drastically low on Tuesday and the shot they gave me should be kicking in now. I felt great all weekend and tried to keep busy, walk the dog, and generally be productive. Just in time for my next chemo on Tuesday April 3!

I have pretty much stopped drinking (my liver is working overtime anyway) and limited coffee, and I've tried to drink a lot of water. That seems to help. I'm so thirsty all the time. I'm supposed to be drinking quarts and quarts of water a day. Catherine, please have a mojito for me. You'll be doing me a favor! and for those of you who prefer pomegranate martinis, do your part!

I know my hair is going to fall out by Tuesday, and I'm sort of ready, but every night I have nightmares about it falling out at inopportune times. Like in the middle of church or something. I'm planning on shaving it all off just like Britney (you go, sister!) When I'm bald, I am going to go for the biker chick look with a do-rag and get a couple of fake tattoos. Leather vest? You bet. Then again, the pirate look is in. Argggggghhh.

I couldn't have made it this far without my hilarious friends. They've helped me by sending funny emails, driving Rachel everywhere, meeting me for appointments, bringing me food, sending weird things in the mail, or calling me throughout the week. It's incredible! I have talked to a lot of women who have survived breast cancer or who are going through chemo now. All those conversations have been so informative and uplifting. I figure, I can do this! Still, sometimes I get terrified thinking about the upcoming surgery. I know, I'm a wimp. A chicken. A pansy. So . . . .today I planted pansies so I could stop being one. Yay!

My biggest help has been my mom, Pat. If you have a chance to thank her for all she's doing, please do. She's a breast cancer survivor, too! I'm so lucky to have her close by.

I've included a picture of me in a hat sent to me by my friend, Jim, whose wrestling name is "Buck Naked". Yes, Jim, I'm wearing the hat and not much else! He writes: "If you are feeling at all self conscious, and you need to get up and go in a hurry and you don't want to draw attention to yourself, this little hat might just do the trick to help you blend into the crowd." He is such a thoughtful guy. What do you think, people? Can I get away with it?

Thanks Jim! And thanks to everyone who has made an extra effort to help me these past few weeks. Tougher times await, I know. But so far, things are going just the way I'd hoped.

Up next: head shaving party! (I might consider having a mojito)