Friday, November 30, 2012

today

Regis put on our first and favorite Christmas CD this morning. Christmas on the Moors which we always refer to as Christmas on the Moops.


I had coffee with Shannon and Gretchen at River Rock. I was running off at the mouth due to the alien baby related Percoset. They didn't seem to mind.

I went to the Pulse and walked on the treadmill and talked to Rachel about my exercise plan. Good to get that back in my routine.

I got a call from Judy. I will be in Arm 1 of the clinical trial, the one I was hoping to win. What the hell. If you can't win the Powerball why not win the chemo lottery. More drugs more often. What they call dose dense. We're good to go for the 11th.

Jill is picking me up at noon for lunch. We always have a lot to talk about and we're going to a favorite spot...low lights, friendly service, good food, only two televisions.

Ella is coming over tonight for our head gear style show.

It will be a fine day.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

and the alien baby is delivered


I saw a couple of my doctors today and they examined my armpit alien baby and deemed it ready for delivery. I have never been so glad to have a doctor come at me with a couple big needles and a knife. They drained 100 ml out of that sucker in the first five minutes. The downside is that I'm back to dragging a drain around and I'm back to wearing the Ace bandage but it's still better than that alien baby.

I also signed the informed consent for the chemotherapy clinical trial. I bet that sucker kept a team of lawyers busy for a good long time. I only had to sign my name one time, eleven times less than I had to sign it to get an acupuncture treatment yesterday.

I'll get randomized tomorrow which is not nearly as interesting as it sounds. It means that they will put my number into the computer and I will be randomly assigned to Arm 1 or Arm 2 of the study. The arm determines the kind of drugs and the cycle, 14-day or 21-day.

Chemotherapy starts Tuesday, December 11th after the port installation. This involves Versed which is my favorite drug if I have to be sedated. My biggest worry about it is this: Will they dress me to transport me from one part of the hospital to the other or will I have to stumble down the hall in a blue gown dragging an IV pole?

Regis told me I need to travel light from now on so no boots. They get a little heavy to tote around a big hospital. I always worry about footwear it seems. I also worry about food and drink so I'll pack a little cooler. I hate to count on cafeteria food.

At first one of my fears was hair loss, but baldness lost its hold on me. (Sound like a bad country song?) I asked Regis today what he would think about shaving my head before my hair got a chance to fall out on its own.

I'm thinking of this as another fashion opportunity. Ella is coming over tomorrow to do the Head Gear Style Show. I dug out all my wigs, hats, scarves, and other sundry head coverings. We're going to try on a variety of things, Regis will take our pictures, and we can peruse the pictures and decide which look we like the best.

Well, that's enough about cancer. Sometimes it's hard to segue from that to another topic so I am going to sign off then start another post.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

dreams of the weird

I had a dream last night that, in a six block run, involved an evil event, a houseful of guests for whom I had forgotten to prepare, uninvited guests in the attic, bowls full of wet cookies in the yard, a lost cellphone, and a lane on 169 full of drunk people with their lights off as I tried to navigate my way to the SPPD. This is about as much of a plot as my dreams get.

Regis had a dream the other night that I was wearing a Smearth Hat. When he first told me the dream, I thought he said Smurf Hat so I had quite a different impression. The Smearth Hat had an elastic strap under my chin and an opening in the top. Bubbles would fly out of the opening to land on surfaces around the house where they issued sarcastic comments and insults like, "Oh look, Uncle Alfred...if he had another brain it would be lonely." Eventually the bubbles would cease their insults and burst. I was the only one wearing the Smearth Hat. Of course.


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

alien baby

It was a long day, my friends, but much was accomplished. I am feeling much better this evening and hope that I am ready to go forward without holing up in the bedroom. At least for now.

I woke up this morning with a monster ugly swelling under my arm, right where the incision was made. It looked like an alien baby about to emerge so I called the clinic and told them to prepare for delivery. Then I had Regis wrap me up real tight so I didn't have to feel it.

On the way to the appointment, I told Emily the story. Alex says in this soft little voice from the back seat, "Nana, do you really have an alien baby at your house?"

No alien baby was delivered. No needles were used. No need to use the Ace bandage anymore, sweet relief. It will dissipate on its own says the doctor.

So, the upshot is that my treatments will probably start December 10th or thereabouts. I will be a part of the clinical study (no disadvantages and many advantages). I have a few appointments between now and then...port installation, blood work, and I can't remember what else. Very hard to keep track of all of this stuff. I wonder if my insurance company would pay for a secretary for me.

This is what the port looks like. It's called a Power Port, a title I like. The tube goes down into a vein near my heart so the medicine can be pumped in the right places. The purple part is about an inch across. I'll have a plastic card, a key chain tag, and a purple bracelet to identify that I belong to the Purple Power Port Club.


This is where it goes. The doctor makes a little incision in your skin and they tuck it underneath. The other part, the PowerLoc connects without making a hole. The medicine gets pumped in via the PowerLoc. This is a non-medical person describing a medical procedure. Ask to see my Purple Power Port!


It was quite disconcerting to listen to all the known and unknown side effects. It reminded me of a list I saw years ago of all the things aloe vera was supposed to cure... I wondered how it could cure diarrhea and constipation both. Same with this stuff. In the end...be careful of almost everything. Go in a zig-zag pattern when you trot down the sidewalk. Always look over your shoulder.

Regis and I stopped at a new place in Mankato on our way home. They have 42 televisions. I won't be going back there soon.


Well, here is the day brightener of the day. This is my Aunt Jean who lives in Washington...all dressed up for Halloween. She is going to be 90 so I say, here's to that! Great spirit, Aunt Jean!

little by little...coming out from under the cloud

I wrote the other day about feeling immobilized. I felt that way yesterday, too, in spite of having coffee with a lovely friend of mine. Her home is in the woods and I felt calm and peaceful going there to see her, but I came home and crawled back into bed.

I stopped at the coop to buy something for dinner and came home with the weirdest assortment of things. I made a lot of trips around that store, too, picking up chicken breasts then putting them back, picking up ham slices then putting them back. I should have had a list.

Mary sent a message later saying that after she had a game plan, she felt much more able to manage her disease. I think she's right about that. Friday, I expected to leave the clinic knowing something. When I only left with a fistful of more appointments, it was disappointing so I holed up for a few more days. I am optimistic that today will be better.

We had planned that Regis would stay home today as there was no point in him sitting for 6 hours while I just did appointment after appointment. He told me last night as we went to bed that he plans to take Gus to the Paw for the afternoon so he can join me. He wants to know what's going on and he wants to help me through it. Bless his heart.

I have done a ton of reading lately because when you lay in bed that much, you have to do something. I read both of Will Thomas' books, The Hellfire Conspiracy and Black Hand. Both easy reads but very good. Yesterday I started Love is a Mixtape by Rob Sheffield. Amanda, if you haven't read this book, I think you would love it.

Just got off the phone with Nancy. She has the same kind of cancer, the same oncologist, the same number of lymph nodes involved, and she was also 60 when diagnosed. She is dropping off a book and she gave me the name of a chiropractor for some additional care. I have an appointment tomorrow. That's a good sign.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

a very large cloud of ennui has descended on us


We are not unhappy or discontented. We are listless and languid. The back of my neck is sweaty and my hair is flat. I think I've had three naps today although the last two count as only one since I didn't get out of bed between them. I finally decided to get vertical so I walked out to the living room where Regis had just assumed the nap position. Sigh.

It's only one o'clock and I've had three naps. I could take another one which I may disguise as reading.

This has been my favorite meal this weekend. I call it the Thanksgiving Parfait. I put a spoonful of apple pie in the bottom of the glass, then dollops of potatoes, stuffing, yams, and green bean casserole. Top with cranberry sauce. No heating. Easy to eat while slumped over in a napping position. Toss glass and spoon into trash when finished. No dishes!


I've been wrapped in a giant Ace bandage for four days. It makes me hot and cranky and is probably going to cause a yeast infection the size of Rhode Island. Its purpose is to compress my chest so that my body rids itself of fluid and I don't swell up like a giant grape cluster. It's hard to get the right amount of compression so you don't wake up unable to breathe or digest your food. Thanks for listening to my complaint.

I also have nerve issues on the back of my arm, namely that I can't feel the back of my arm. I am going to take special care not to get my arm wiggles near a fan because I could get mauled before I knew what hit me.

I go back to the doctor on Tuesday for a fleet of things which I don't recall but have written down. The nice lady who scheduled this for me was kind enough to write the names and times but I grabbed the paper and started noting the place, as well. It's easy to get confused. If I didn't think it would make me depressed, I would add up all the hours we have spent at doctor's appointments in the last nine months. It's a lot.

I think I have time to take one more nap before we go to wish Tom and Betty bon voyage. The are wintering in Texas again this year.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

qualifying for a clinical trial by wearing a crown

Yesterday, I had an appointment with an oncologist. An oncologist. Regis and I joked that we were going to see an oinkologist...a specialist for people who really like bacon.

I don't think I had thought through, in my head, where I was going and why so this was a day of reckoning.

We walked in and there are posters for cancer support groups, brochures about wigs and scarves, and chemo chairs. What the hell. I thought it odd that the nurse asked about my appetite. I ran into Bonnie, a woman I used to work with...who has cancer...and no hair. Baldness could be my future.

The oncologist asked if I would be interested in being part of a clinical trial. It's a Level 3 trial where they decide based on patient outcomes, if this protocol should be the standard of care. He made it sound like a very exclusive club so I asked about the criteria to qualify. He said this and that, this and that but in my mind, you qualify by wearing ass kickin' boots to appointments, by photoshopping crowns onto your pictures, and by using fuck three times or more in a single paragraph.

I'm trying to find a balance between attention to all the details that this seems to require and a healthy sense of life goes on in spite of all this shit. I don't want breast cancer to be all I talk about or think about and I don't want pink to be the only color I wear!

Enough about that.

Regis and I are making a plan for the day. Make yours a good one!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

the peace of morning

I love retirement because mornings are so peaceful. No rushing to get ready for work and planning the whole day before the sun even comes up. We sit in our chairs, dog at our feet, fireplace pumping out some heat, cups of coffee at hand. So much nicer to move gently into the day.

One of the things I gave up in the medical madness of the last few weeks is Thanksgiving dinner. We're still having it here but it's much modified from the affairs of the past. Regis has planned the whole meal with a little help from the binder. Tom, I even allowed Reddi-Whip on the grocery list. I don't care about the damn Reddi-Whip anyway. What I like is lots of people and lots of good food.

We'll have lots of help. Ella and Peter are coming Wednesday to help with cooking. Peter loves the cornbread and sausage dressing and said he would make it. Tiffany and Amber are coming early Thursday to help. We have paper plates and plastic forks. Side dishes will be cooked in aluminum throw-away containers. I plan to sit on the couch wearing my crown, holding a long-stemmed wine glass and dispensing advice.

You may have read that I have a lazy tumor. This did not surprise me at all. Any other kind of energetic tumor would have quickly been shunned by the rest of my cells and forced out through the nearest orifice. A lazy tumor could probably be tolerated. Easier to track down and decimate, too, which is a good thing.

I probably will have a host of scans to make sure we know about any cancer encampments outside the perimeter. PET scan, bone scan, CT scan...it will be like Star Trek. Pretty soon, I'll have as many medical reports as our old dog, Bert. He had every medical complication known to science. They would unroll the blood work report for me and I would start to laugh. I told the vet I raised two kids and never got that much information about their inner workings.

I haven't worked much in the past two weeks but I feel now like I can reboot my brain and possibly do a few things.I'm not sure if it's the meds, but I have had some difficulty thinking. Any more than a two-step process and I'm in trouble. I still seem able to put forth my daily does of drivel here, though, huh?

Ok. Getting my lazy butt up and finding some purpose.

Monday, November 19, 2012

i wrote this in my head but now it's gone...

Regis and I went over to meet with the surgeon this afternoon. He said the margins, between tumor and healthy tissue, are fine and there is no need for more surgery. The tumor is negative for HER2 and postivie for both hormone receptors. That means basically, I have a lazy tumor. I would expect as much. He said the oncologist will likely recommend (he may have said "offer") chemotherapy as well as radiation but it sounds much more positive than the picture I was getting on Friday when the PA made it sound horrible. He said no, it does not look horrible. He likes the oncologist I'll be seeing, he gave me his email address, and said I should come in anytime there is something I need to know or don't understand. He also cautioned me about reading things on the internet, something I have discovered on my own. I still have the drain but that should come out Wednesday.

Fireworks! Champagne! Celebrate!




waiting...for what I'm not sure



It's Monday and today we'll go meet with a surgeon and maybe with an oncologist. Maybe today this will turn into one of Regis' dreams, with a plot and characters, instead of being like one of my dreams, an amorphous blob that scares the shit out of me for unknown reasons.

I've gotten used to saying the word cancer although if I am caught off-guard, I say something else. Someone at the Pulse yesterday asked me if I was hurt because I was snoozing on the couch instead of exercising. No, I said, just lazy.

If we had implemented my idea where people have a small virtual projection over their heads telling you the information you need to know, then my problem would be solved. I thought of this once at the Mayo Clinic. I like to think of it as curiosity and not nosiness but it could be nosiness.

So, if people were curious...or nosy...they could read it in blue lights over my head. I have breast cancer. (It would probably also say I am a drama queen.)

Ella came over yesterday. She went to the Pulse together and we exercised for 30 seconds at a time on each and every machine they have there. When we came home, I took a nap and she played with Poppop. Later, she gave me a shoulder massage, a scalp massage, and then a hand and foot massage with lotion. She is an angel.

Emily came over later and we did our usual dinner and a movie. This week, we watched Dancing Outlaw for which there are not words to describe. You have to look it up for yourself.

The sink is full of dishes, I need a shower, and I have some other tasks to do this morning. One more cup of coffee, one more paragraph, one more minute of bliss.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

the good, the bad, and the mundane

I was sitting at the table eating my lunch when I saw the pathology report. I had read through it with the PA on Friday but only about a tenth of it stuck with any meaning. Like a flock of little moths in the garden. Since it's three pages of mostly unintelligible medical lingo, I skimmed through it and tried to absorb some more of it today. The PA had highlighted a few things and written down a few notes but it only made sense in a general way. So, I started putting words into google. Words like metastatic. 

Words like metastatic crawl around the outside of my head if doesn't pertain to me. If it becomes personal, all of a sudden it's like a darning needle in my brain. Right in the ear.

Then I started looking up survival rates. Oh, holy shit. This is a concept of which I would rather not be aware.

I'm not reading anymore...at least until I see Dr. Deaconson and the med onc. That's what they call the oncologist...a med onc. I'm learning a whole new language and I think I would rather be learning Urdu. No, I know I would rather be learning Urdu. Whatever the hell Urdu is.

I took two naps today. Both right after my Percoset for pain and Benadryl for itching. It's like falling into a deep hole...I cannot keep my eyes open. Such a blissful sleep for such a shitty reason.

Friends came and took Gus for a two hour walk today. He came home filthy and exhausted so we call that walk a major success.

Last this afternoon, we met Nikki and Scott at the winery. We shared a couple pizzas, a bottle of wine, and some stories. It was a cozy evening by the fire and very good for my soul.

We stopped at River Rock for a couple cookies on the way home. The very sweet baristas hugged me and offered to do anything we needed done. Such nice people.

Regis and I are going to buy groceries in the morning. I usually am way over-prepared for Thanksgiving. I have a binder, I have to-do lists, I have the list of groceries, and I have the timeline. This year, Regis is in charge. We have a list on a piece of notebook paper and we have assigned our offspring to bring a variety of things. I am not worried about the food...I am only worried about the commotion. I may need a nap in the middle of it all.

So, there it is. The good, the bad, and the mundane. Your real life doesn't stop just because you're traveling through a shit storm of medical issues. The dog still needs a walk and a bath, you still need to buy groceries and do laundry, and somehow the dishes continue to accumulate in the sink. I guess the trick is to find things to make you laugh and friends to hug you. And once in a while, go bowling.

sigh



Regis and I met with the PA at my surgeon's office yesterday. I was irritated that they hadn't returned my phone call about the pathology results. Once she started talking, I could see why they hadn't. Poor Jan who talked to us must have drawn the short straw. There are three pages of medical lingo which the oncologist will explain but which means possibly more surgery, most likely chemotherapy, and for sure radiation.

They were not cells that escaped during the biopsy. They were cells that had deliberately gone there and set up camp. Angry cells, bent on destruction. About to send more troops out to distant locations. Scouts with orders to set up more camps. I could say something about catching them before that happened, but I have learned this about optimism: It only goes so far.

It was a stunning conversation. When the medical professional gets tears in her eyes and grips your hands, you know you're in for it even if you don't know what IT is yet.

I did wear my ass kickin' boots even when I wore the lovely blue gown. I'm staring at the ceiling. It would be a nice picture if I weren't posing like a damn corpse. The crown helps, of course. I had to take it off because it was hard to get the boots and the crown in the picture...not enough space in the exam room.


I'm trying to mold my attitude. Lots of people get this and lots of people are fine later. I feel lucky that they found it and I feel lucky that I have such competent folks taking care of me. I feel lucky that I have such good family and so many good friends to support me. Regis is a saint. He empties my drain, makes me eggs, and has offered to cook the Thanksgiving dinner.

I hope some day I'll look back on this and think, "God, what a drama queen!"

As we left the hospital yesterday, I told Regis I wanted to pretend like things are fine until next week. I wanted to dodge questions and avoid the subject and not write about it on my blog and on Facebook. By the time we sat down to lunch, I had changed my mind. Not realistic at all. I decided to just be honest about the uncertainty and about my fears. I think it was the best decision.

So, all in all, this sucks but not as bad as some things suck. Day by day, we have decided. Regis has two good knees that should stand him in good stead as he waits around for my appointments. We have good insurance. We live close to great medical care. We have kids and friends around to help us. We have good food, a cozy house, and a sweet dog. Today...my favorite day.

Friday, November 16, 2012

waiting becomes an art form


WTF.

The plan was for the doctor to call me BY Thursday with the results of the pathology tests. BY Thursday, not sometime after Thursday. I started carrying my phone everywhere I went at 7 am yesterday because you know, the minute you take a bath, the phone will ring. I carried that damn phone, in my hand, everywhere. I took a nap with the phone on my pillow and I ate my lunch with the phone right next to my plate.

At 2 pm, I called and talked to a nurse and asked her to remind my doctor's nurse and the PA that I am waiting for a call. Nothing. 

And you know how your mind goes right to the worst case scenario? You start thinking the cancer has spread everywhere, you have two weeks to live, and they're going to amputate both legs in the meantime.

Dramatic over-reaction? Maybe. Whiny and self-involved? No doubt.

I have great respect and affection for my surgeon. He is on vacation in California so I know I am not first on his list of priorities as he is most likely walking the beach and visiting wineries but I also know there is a special kind of hell for people who make a guy wait for medical news.

I have an appointment at 11 to have my alien embryo nursery removed so I will demand answers then. Harrumph.

Ah, hell. Finally, at 6 am, I realized that this monumental news (to me) is already written down somewhere. The waiting is over, really. It just hasn't gotten to my ears yet. I plan to relax. This is not good for my juju to be so upset. If they call to schedule my leg amputation, then I will worry.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

oh, the sleep we take for granted

I know it's probably an anesthesia hangover and the effects of Percoset but I love the way I sleep now. It's like falling into clouds and there's nothing I can do to stop it. I have fallen asleep in the middle of conversations. I have dropped my book to my lap and fallen asleep with my glasses on. I sleep so hard that it takes me a while to wake and I am always confused about where I am. The end of the nap is a little disturbing but the rest is bliss.

Since I lurch from one nap to another, it's hard to remember what day it is.

This will end. Tomorrow, I go in to see the PA who will remove the drain. Have I written this before? I'll be glad to get that thing out of there. Alien embryos and all.

I read over my last few posts. I notice I repeated myself several times. I don't know if it was unintentional or if I thought I was using a sophisticated literary device.

Regis is off to therapy and I'm going to take a shower. I requested a trip to River Rock for a latte later this morning.

Here comes the sleep monster. I better either wake up or go to sleep as the median is not good. I'll post here when the doc calls with the news.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

dreams and sucking out the bad stuff


I don't really know what kind of drugs I was on during surgery. I know they gave me Versed right before I was wheeled down the hall. Just a little something to take the edge off, I guess. It also does a good job of erasing the memories. I recall seeing the OR but then the lights go out. The next few days have been like this Van Gogh painting...lots of starry naps and dim memories.

I've been taking Percoset since I came home. It does a good job on the pain but today it created some nausea. It also makes me fall asleep in the middle of conversations which some people find disconcerting. I skipped my 2 o'clock dose but decided about 6 that a little nausea is worth the pain control. I am not a hero when it comes to pain. I don't even like a hint of pain.


This is an interesting part of my post-surgical experience. It's a suction drainage thing. The tube end disappears into my skin under my arm and is fastened there with a couple of Frankenstein stitches.It operates by suction...you squeeze the bulb flat and all the bad stuff gets slowly sucked out of me and into the bulb. The stuff that collects in the bulb end looks like watered-down blood and floating alien embryos. It's probably not something you want to see (or hear about) if it isn't hanging off of you but I like it. It looks like a lava lamp.


This is a lava lamp in case you are too young to remember them. The alien embryos are not this large in my personal lava lamp but you get the idea. Regis has to help me dump the contents every few hours because I can't see the point of origin. This is a wonderful invention because if I didn't have this...where would all that crap go?

Tomorrow my surgeon should call with the results of the pathology whatever you call it. They took the lymph nodes and are growing them or examining them or something. What they find will determine if I only need radiation or if I have to have chemo therapy. There's that therapy word that makes this sound so...innocuous.  I'm not fooled.

Every time I wake up from a nap, which by the way, is frequently. I had three naps today. Two were about two hours each and one was a little more than an hour. I've slept more in the past three days than I have in the past two months. I swear. Oh, yeah. Got distracted. Every time I wake up from a nap, I have to lie there for a long time thinking about where I am and what day it is.

That's it. Big day tomorrow. I'll keep in touch.

after I wake up but before the Percoset kicks in

Day two. I had a good night's sleep, waking only one time to take the Percoset and read for a while. Then back to sleep.

Percoset is a good drug for pain relief but it has a few side effects. It makes my brain fuzzy for about 3 of the  4 hours. By the last hour, the pain is creeping back in but my brain feels better.

Funny how my brain will distract me from the cancer shadows by thinking about my fashion look when admitted. By thinking about the Thanksgiving menu and especially the dessert. By thinking about how Percoset makes me itchy and hot. By wanting to review every detail from the last few days. Poor Regis is probably getting tired of telling the same stories because I either can't remember or I can't remember all the details and how it fits with something that came after. Something that came after.

I'm sitting in the office. It's dark and chilly outside and it's dark and chilly inside. I'm drinking coffee and thinking about to think about the real thing. I will get a phone call today or tomorrow. I know this happens to people all the time...they are left poised on the edge of the cliff, waiting for the rest of the news.

This cancer could be a thing that is just sitting there in one spot, not allowing cells to escape and ravage other parts near and far. Or it could be that the tumor has allowed cells to escape and make a run for it to other parts of my body,

Then I would have possibly more surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. Adjuvant therapies they call them. All of these words I had no personal relationship with before last week. Now, I can spin off estrogen receptor, progesterone receptors, and markers.

I wish I didn't have a need to know these words. My vocabulary building exercises should come from a good book, not from a booklet handed me at the cancer center. I don't want to see any more drawings of breasts and lymph nodes. I don't want to know about this and that and the next thing. I don't want to think about a future that is unknown.

My surgeon, bless his heart, said his sense (valuable) is that it is early and there is no mad dash to deliver cancer packets to distant locales. I am hoping that all of his years of experience are  guiding him to the right path. No false hopes but no dismal prognosis either.

I took two tabs of Percoset forty minutes ago, hence my thoughts are a bit scrambled.

The nursing care at the Mayo System Hospital in Mankato was superb. They were all very kind and accommodating.

I struggled to remember their names while they were in the room. The primary nurse and the assistant nurse (?) always wrote names on the white board. That helped.

Speaking of the white board, I was remembering that white board at St. Mary's. The primary nurse would makes notes on it like: Teresa walked the hallway today! +++. I really liked the report card and reminded them a few times to jot down my medical milestones. I loved the +++'s and the smiley faces.

I'm going to take my fuzzy brain and go back to bed for a while.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

musing the day after

I slept most of the last 24 hours. Good thing about the good drugs...they reduce pain and help with sleep. Bad thing about the good drugs...they mess with your memory. I introduced Tiffany and Peter to Eleanor three times.

I feel rested and ready to go home. There are some things to learn before they give me the boot, like the drainage business.

The food here has been fine. I ordered scrambled eggs for breakfast. There is a seemingly endless supply of coffee. Not great coffee but drinkable. I have had worse.

Everybody who comes through the door wants to know what else they can do for me. I suggested a cheese plate and a glass of wine but I couldn't get anyone to go for that. Harrumph. What kind of hospital is this anyway?

I haven't looked at the actual surgery site yet. The nurses peek from time to time and maybe I will look next time.

Round #1 is almost over. The pathology report will be back by Thursday and that will determine the course of action. I am resigned to radiation but I hope the conditions are right so I can dodge chemotherapy.

I like the language of illness. Surgery is called a procedure and treatments are called therapy. I know I heard other examples yesterday but today, I can't remember.

The nurses tell me I am a rock star patient. The fluid in my drain has improved in appearance and I am putting out grand amounts of fluorescent colored urine. That would be the radioactive stuff they injected into me. Not that any of this has been through my efforts so I am not bragging...just providing information.

Later...

Regis came to pick me up about 11. It took a while to get checked out so we didn't get home until 1. I went right into bed and slept for two hours. Thank you, Percoset.

Here's hoping for a good night's sleep.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Teresa in Recovery

I just spoke with Teresa's doctor. The surgery was more extensive than originally anticipated because of the positive results in the first node. They ended up taking 8 more nodes, I believe, which means there was more tissue disturbed under her arm and thus a longer recovery. The best case scenario is that in doing the original biopsy a cancer cell was dislodged and ended up in node #1, the natural filter. If this is the case it will be considered a false positive. They took the additional nodes because they can't take the chance that this was the case.
Now comes more waiting. Teresa won't know more until perhaps Thursday morning when the pathology comes back from the lab. When we know the tumor size, the hormone receptor types etc an Oncologist will make the determination as to further treatment. It will be radiation at a bare minimum perhaps followed up with chemo. Keep your fingers crossed.
Regis

Sent From My iPad

Teresa in surgery

Teresa has been in surgery for about 90 minutes now. The surgical nurse just called out to the waiting room to tell me that one of the 4 sentinel nodes that they removed came back from pathology as being positive. So there is more work to do and she will be at least another hour. Keep her in you thoughts.

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the hospital look

My hospital look is important to me. Regis rolls his eyes but I tell him you can't walk in there looking all downtrodden and mopey and shit. You have to look like you could be walking into a party. He suggested wearing bedroom slippers when I was at the part where I had to decide footwear. My turn for the eye-roll. I wear slippers to the Pulse some mornings but I do not wear them out of the house to other places. I suppose that would be acceptable...they're like moccasins...just not chic.

Like pajama pants. I have seen people actually wear those in the grocery store. Please. It doesn't take that much effort to put clothes on, people.

I've decided to wear my ass kickin' boots as a statement. I am sorry if someone has to tote them through the hospital because they are a handful but it's important to me. In the HyVee gift shop (which I love) yesterday, I bought a long, asymmetrical hooded vest with big pockets. It's very hipster. The only problem is that I would call the color taupe. What the hell is taupe anyway? Does a guy wear black or brown with taupe?

I am ready to go an hour early. That is a lesson from my dad.

Remember Regis is guest blogging today so do not be surprised by anything.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

the whisk that found me


I think someone has been after me with the metaphysical whisk of life. Yesterday, I was busy all day but didn't seem to get much done but make a bigger mess. Today will be better. I have a long list of tasks for this weekend and the first job will be to write them down so I remember what they all are.

My sweet friend, Amber, gave me a bottle of Big Ass Cab for my birthday. Over the last few days, it has disappeared. What a nice red wine for a November evening. Cabernet, pumpkin candles, and my honey across the table from me. I am a lucky woman.




You can tell I have been brain scrambled as I didn't even post any Halloween photos. The party at Tom and Betty's was a blast, as parties at their home always are. Elliot and Alex are waiting to get trick or treating. Ella is probably playing with the puppies. Great ideas bringing puppies to a party with small children and adults who are imbibing. Ha! Jan is onto something. Could be like a Tupperware party only for finding homes for puppies.


I had lunch with my friend, Kris, last week at River Rock. As I turned to scan the deli case, I saw these amazing little darlings...local maple pots de creme. Perfect size and delicious. Good thing the glasses are small because there would have been some licking going on, let me tell you. Sweet little pleasures of life.


So, here is what I have spend a lot of time doing in the last week...organizing medical information. I am rarely sick and have had only two surgeries in my life so the prospect of this on Monday, and the paperwork, is daunting.


I've tried reading things but even the booklets they gave me or sent me are too overwhelming. I think I might take them with me so after surgery I'll be able to read about the specifics, although reading on morphine can be tricky.

Regis and I went to Mankato yesterday where I bought some things I will need and some things I won't need. Ah, retail therapy. I found a teal sweater at TJ Maxx that I could not resist. It's my new favorite color. 

I have been perseverating on some stupid details like my footwear for Monday. I told Regis that I am worrying about that kind of thing so I don't think about the rest. I checked the weather report for Monday...temps between 20 and 30. Brrr. But I don't want to wear boots because someone will have to tote them through the hallways of the hospital. But they are my ass kickin' boots and kind of important for my mental well-being. I am also worried about my hair. But...you can see where this is going.

My biggest problem the last week (ha!) has been that I can't remember who I told what and now that I'm writing this, I think I have even written this before dammit. Stop reading or tell me to stop talking if you have heard any or all of this before. Regis calls it the pall of idiocy.

Funny how when something occupies so much of your brain, you forget momentarily that other people have shit going on, too. Lots of it. Many of my friends are in pain or healing from their pain and that they take the time to think about me is gratifying. Have I always been so kind in the past? This is how we learn our lessons.

I've been awake since 3 am again. Not worrying, just stewing. It makes a guy look forward to sedation and anesthesia. Just a little something to take the edge off.

Friday, November 09, 2012

for updates

Regis will be posting here for me on Monday until I am able. For updates, because neither of us will be able to remember who likes email, who likes texts, and who is on Facebook, and who likes phone calls...so this is the universal landing pad for information. I still don't have a surgery time but they should be calling soon with that. You can sign up for email updates on this site. Check the sidebar to the right...past all the poems and pictures of me in wigs.

Thank you to everyone who has written called, posted encouraging words on Facebook, and sent big checks. Haha! Just kidding about that last one. I appreciate every funny, profane, and sympathetic message I have gotten from my friends and family. You all rock.

i've been let out of the cage

The first few days after the diagnosis of breast cancer, I was angry and terrified and sad. I went from thinking about dying to thinking about my first and worst fear, puking. We all see things differently and hey, throwing up is not my thing.

After talking to my doctor yesterday, I was almost giddy. He is so calm and reassuring and conveyed the sense that he was going to help me through this. It was liberating. I don't have to deal with alone! Here was this strong, handsome, professional man who is going to cut me up and put me back together. I felt great!

Today, I feel like I have been unleashed, let out of the cage. I have plans and lists to make. I'm not going to sit around all weepy and shit.

I read the most inspiring blog this morning, sent to me by a long-distance friend, Di Keller. I said I was ready to talk about "support" but this blog is amazing.

Back to the support thing for a minute. I wasn't ready for support, or to talk to most people, because it felt like that would make it too real. That would be like signing up for the club of which I did not want to be a member. I don't want to know about carcinoma, sentinel nodes, or estrogen receptors. Well, you know what? Whether I want to or not, here I am.

Ann Marie's blog, Stupid Dumb Breast Cancer, is raw. She posted pictures of herself after a double mastectomy. She uses the F bomb liberally and she wears pink stiletto heels...in the hospital.

This is another powerful blog by a strong woman. Here's a warning, though. This one does not end happily and the pictures, again, are stunning. I'm drawn more to blogs than medical sites.

They told me to bring comfortable clothes and slippers to the hospital but I think I'll wear my ass kickin' boots and some sparkle. I'm not even sure I own what they might consider comfortable clothes. Oh, yeah...I have some sweat pants but ugh, not in public. Gross.


Eff cancer. Yes...in all it's many putrid forms.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

my doctor rocks

I had an appointment with Dr. Deaconson this morning. He's a saint and he rocks. He is so calm and reassuring and even though he was going to be on vacation next week, he is coming in Monday to do my surgery. He said his gestalt is that this is early and the outlook is good. He will do a lumpectomy with some exploration of the lymph nodes to see if it has traveled. I will have radiation because that will help ensure that cancer cells have not strayed from the one site and stirred up an unwanted ruckus. I''ll be in the hospital overnight if all goes well.

All the pre-op stuff is done.Chest x-ray, blood work, EKG, medical history. I don't know why I always feel compelled to confess to smoking for one day when I was in college. The PA said the statute of limitations has run out on that sin and I can erase it from my card. I feel so much better except that I have a headache and I'm tired.

I think I'm going out to sit in the sun.

“Tell me what it is you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”- Mary Oliver

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

this one is not about the C word

I'm feeling much stronger and more peaceful this morning. I slept well, took Gus outside at 4:30 and I think the sun is going to shine today. All good signs!

Regis and I went out for dinner last night, seeking comfort food. He had a pot roast commercial and I had ribs. The pile of ribs was like a meat tornado. We'll be eating those for the next three days. We came home early, watched some Arrested Development, and went to bed. No election returns for us.

I was almost too nervous about the outcome to attend to it. I avoided the articles in the paper and I refused to think about the possibilities. Regis woke me in the middle of the night to tell me Obama had been re-elected so we don't have to move to Poland. Ha!

I'm on my way to River Rock to work which means I take photos, gab with people, and enjoy a latte while I stroll around. A good job, eh?

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

morning...and then afternoon

I was awake from 3 am to 6 am. I slept from 6 am to 8 am. Regis woke me up with the promise of coffee. I'm sitting here staring out the window. Then I slept again from 10-12. I woke up at noon, thinking it must be later than that. I don't believe it's good to sleep in little patches like this.

I talked to Jackie, a friend in Wyoming. She had a double mastectomy 13 years ago and is here to tell the story. I can't talk about it to everyone but I could talk to her.

I knew this would happen because it's my way. I am writing my way through this. Thoughts I cannot articulate in spoken words can be written.

Here's how you know that life goes on....bad shit keeps happening but we continue to celebrate that we are alive and for the most part, happy. This is my journey but other people are traveling their own paths at the same time. My brother Bruce attended the funeral for his little grandbaby, Piper, today. She died of SIDS last week. This is more manageable than that, I know.

In the mail yesterday...a lovely card and letter from one of my oldest friends. So good to read that again this morning. Linda and I made doll houses out of cardboard boxes when we were kids. We walked back and forth to each other's houses through the hedge. Her house fascinated me because it was quiet, unlike mine where four boys lived. I loved playing in her basement..it was like a refuge from the world.

I was doing some reading online about breast cancer but it's too complicated right now. I know so little and the range of possibilities is endless, or so it seems. I'll know a little more after I meet with the surgeon and I will know more after the surgery.

Ah, well. We'll get through it.

I am sorry for causing such a ruckus. I meant to keep this to myself until I had more details but it's just not how I roll.

Thanks to all my friends and family who have responded in my time of need with email, phone calls, comments here, prayers, positive energy, and cuss words. It all helps!

It's 6 am and now what?

I'm on my way to bed....again.

I don't know how to deal with this. Who do I tell and what do I tell them?

I don't want to be dramatic and scared and freaky but that's where I keep going. Scared, creeped out, dramatic. Freaky.

I imagine these feelings morph over the next few days.

What do I do until the meeting with the surgeon?

How do I keep moving?

rain and early morning

I can hear rain against the window. I am going to bed again.


writing my way through cancer

It's 3:45 in the morning. I am awake.

I had a mammogram on October 15th and then an ultrasound on October 26th. Then a biopsy on November 1st. Today a nurse called to tell me I have invasive ductal carcinoma.

There's something that will fuck up your day.

Carcinoma. What the fuck.

I wrote a few notes, looked up from my notepad, asked Regis to take me to Patrick's to start the wine therapy.

As we talked, I said I would write my way through this and I will. It's 3:30 am and here I sit, glass of wine at my side, numb from the wine and numb from the news.

There is no history of breast cancer in my family. I thought I was immune. I have regular mammograms. I thought I was immune.

I read this several times.

What the fuck. Mastectomy? Radiation? Chemotherapy? This is my 60th year?

I wanted to stop saying shit so much in my blog posts and instead I have progressed to saying fuck. Multiple times.

I am going to wallow in misery for a few days then I will buck up and carry on with my life.

For this moment, I am miserable. How can this be?

My first thought was that I am not so attached to my breasts. They can both go if it will protect me from the other bad shit. The chemo and the radiation.

I am not a sick person. I rarely get colds. What the fuck. How can I have this crap? Cancer. I have to put my head down on my desk for a minute to weep...long and deep sobs.

I appreciate my cousin's email with the subject heading s.o.b. That's it. Son of a bitch.

My brain is banging from one side of my head to the other. One minute I am feeling optimistic. I can beat this if I buy enough pink stuff. The next minute I am picturing my own funeral.

I don't want to talk to anyone about this right now because that will make it real. I don't want a support group or counseling. I appreciate your concern but I can't call you back. I can only write here.

I know this can be fixed. Maybe. But I have a dear friend who died from breast cancer. What the fuck.


Monday, November 05, 2012

impending sense of doom

One night, several years ago, I woke up in the middle of the night with a terrible pain between my shoulder blades. I got out of bed to check my symptoms on the internet, as any modern woman would do, and found that pain between the shoulder blades, and an impending sense of doom, are common symptoms of heart attack in females. Whoa. I didn't have an impending sense of doom until I read that. I had Regis get out of bed and take me to the ER. Turns out I had a bad case of heart burn.

I get that impending sense of doom sometimes and I don't know if it's a true feeling about the future or just a hidden anxiety poking its head out of the closet. Dusting itself off, turning on its faint light, and stalking me in the predawn hours. When I have insomnia, I'm never sure if I am awake because I'm anxious or if I'm anxious because I'm awake. Usually the latter. What else are you going to do at 2 am except watch the gray-faced men march around the bed?

Regis has had trouble sleeping lately. We know this is a side effect of his knee replacement surgery so we aren't too concerned but it gets tiresome. He moves from the bed to the couch several times throughout the night. I get up at 4:30 to sit quietly in front of the fireplace and read. He comes out to sleep on the couch and I move so the lights don't disturb him. We're like two cats slouching around the darkened house.

I can hear him out there now so I know he still isn't comfortable.

Yesterday, I packed up all the Halloween decorations and set out some Thanksgiving and fall things. I love holidays. Not only did I pack up the Halloween stuff but I hauled the three tubs to the basement and put them back where they belong. A miracle. My tendency is to let them sit in a stack by the back door for weeks. Hurray for me.

I took Gus out to the back yard about 5 this morning and there is a misty rain with a heavy cloud cover. Oh, lovely. A day like they have on the moops...perfect for the impending sense of doom.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

saving time

I can't figure out how the time change saves anything. I can't even figure out if it just ended or started. Seems like we should find a way to save some daylight in the winter but if there are only 8 hours available, I don't think it matters what you do with the clock.

Some people think they get an extra hour of sleep but for me, it only means that I wake up at 3 am instead of 4 am. I woke up early yesterday, was tired early so I went to bed, and woke up at 9:30 thinking it must be morning. What the hell.

I'm not a fan of the short days of November and December. I only survive with strings of party lights, lots of candles, and extra Vitamin D. I'm trying to get outside a little bit each day to absorb what little light there is. I'd like to get Gus to wear a string of lights like this dog, but I'm not hopeful that will work.


Regis and I went to Pappageorge for dinner last night. He had the London broil and I had scallops. Both were quite delicious. We decided we were celebrating, in spite of all the bad news, that we are both healthy enough to rake leaves and enjoy a cold beer at the end of it. Be sure to read the poem Gratitude in one of my recent posts.

I was hat shopping this morning. I have to return a pair of boots so I decided with the money I'm saving I'll buy a couple hats. Hats can be very expensive...these are not. I realize the economics of this is not something they would practice on Wall Street...well, then again, maybe they would.


We're going to the Pulse this morning, then doing our Sunday night dinner and tv with Emily. It's gotten to be a tradition and is something we look forward to at the end of the weekend.

I meant to take a picture of all the leaves we raked up yesterday. The city is coming around to pick them up tomorrow and I always wait until the last minute, thinking some of them would blow away. I think more blew in than out as a lot of those leaves were not from my trees. Anyway, it's a nice pile the whole length of our lot and gives me some yard cred with the neighbors. We're sorely lacking in that department as we don't water, fertilize, trim, or blow. And we don't mow nearly as often as some. I tell them wee're making oxygen in our yard.

Off to Sunday. Won't someone come and do the dishes I have allowed to pile up disgustingly?

Saturday, November 03, 2012

gratitude

I was raking leaves...then came in to read an email from our friend, Bob, about his wife Marilyn who just had heart surgery on Wednesday. They are both doing well and that is wonderful news in a week of mostly bad news!

The two things, raking and Bob's email, reminded me to be grateful...and that reminded me of this poem. I have it posted on the sidebar but I'm going to paste it here again. If you're reading this, find someone to read this poem aloud to. Or go to your favorite coffee shop and read it aloud to yourself. Maybe somebody will be listening.

Gratitude
by Barbara Crooker 

This week, the news of the world is bleak, another war
grinding on, and all these friends down with cancer,
or worse, a little something long term that they won’t die of
for twenty or thirty miserable years—
And here I live in a house of weathered brick, where a man
with silver hair still thinks I’m beautiful. How many times
have I forgotten to give thanks? The late day sun shines
through the pink wisteria with its green and white leaves
as if it were stained glass, there’s an old cherry tree
that one lucky Sunday bloomed with a rainbow:
cardinals, orioles, goldfinches, blue jays, indigo buntings,
and my garden has tiny lettuces just coming up,
so perfect they could make you cry: Green Towers,
Red Sails, Oak Leaf. For this is May, and the whole world
sings, gleams, as if it were basted in butter, and the air’s
sweet enough to send a diabetic into shock—
And at least today, all the parts of my body are working,
the sky’s clear as a china bowl, leaves murmur their leafy chatter,
finches percolate along. I’m doodling around this page,
know sorrow’s somewhere beyond the horizon, but still, I’m riffing
on the warm air, the wingbeats of my lungs that can take this all in,
flush the heart’s red peony, then send it back without effort or thought.
And the trees breathe in what we exhale, clap their green hands
in gratitude, bend to the sky.

From Line Dance (Word Press, 2008).

one thing then another continues

I always think about how much to share here. I wouldn't want to read a long litany of woes on a blog but sometimes things happen that take over my thinking and it's not possible to go on unless I write them down.

It's been a long season of bad shit, some way worse than others. I think one thing is bad, then another comes along to change my definition of bad shit.

Thursday, my niece Cybil and her family lost their sweet, two-month old baby to SIDS. It's been an awful trauma for my family. This morning, I ordered flowers for a baby's funeral. Something seemed wrong about that.

I had a breast biopsy on Friday. There was a major CF with the imaging clinic again and when I got to my appointment he said he couldn't do the biopsy because they hadn't sent the mammogram and the ultrasound. Good grief. He could tell I was about at the end of my rope, so he called and made some special arrangements so I could get it done that day. Bless his heart. Just when you get cynical and cranky, someone does a kind thing and you feel better about humanity.

Not the first time this surgeon has done something nice for me. He was scheduled to do an endoscopy for me but when I got to the hospital I found out it was someone else. My doctor had been awake doing surgery all night and wouldn't be able to come in for my thing. I started weeping. They must have called him because thirty minutes later, he showed up. What a nice guy.

Our friend, Marilyn, is recovering from heart surgery. They knew it was coming but it's still disconcerting to have surgery on your heart. Miracles of medicine...she will be going home on Monday. I wish her well as she continues to heal.

Regis is sleeping on the couch this morning. He has had more muscle pain with this surgery and seems to be more tired. We think it's his low iron so I bought Total cereal yesterday. We're heard about it and read several places that it can do the trick. This is not a scientific study but we will keep you informed as results come in.

The good news is that today, we have no plans. No plans to do anything or go anywhere so whatever we do will be a nice surprise. I might take Gus for a walk. I might rake some leaves. I might put away the Halloween stuff and move on to election night decorating. Red, white, and blue. Thanks, Mom!

I must go have a latte this morning. I have been doing the Facebook posts for River Rock and all the luscious photos of lattes make me thirsty. I'll miss sitting outside like I did this summer. One of my favorite things...sitting on Minnesota Avenue with a blueberry tart and a latte.

My goal for the week is to say shit less often. Or maybe my goal should be to have less bad shit happen. Agree?