Wednesday, November 30, 2005

The end of Radiation Autumn

'Twas the winter of our discontent...........

oops! that is another story entirely. Back to this one.

Radiation autumn ended today with the last of my 28 days of treatment. I have to say that it was very emotional for me after seeing the same team every morning for six weeks now. They gave me a diploma and there were hugs all around. I have to admit that I had tears in my eyes. They said they would miss my treats and that I could come back to visit. I agreed but only if I didn't have to lay on the radiation bed anymore. My skin weathered it fine and they told me it still looks good. The peeling and rawness have stopped and I should be better soon. Thank you Mom and Dad for the good genes.

This is one more milestone down and now only the next 10 months of Herceptin and reconstruction to go........

Monday, November 28, 2005

This is not goodbye

This is so beautiful, I just have to write it here. This goes out to all of my family and friends who stood by me through chemo and especially to my Dad, who had to see me go away so many times:

Bravely you let go of my hand
I can't speak yet you understand
Where I go now I go alone
This path I walk is days of stone
And the angels are calling
I must go away

Wait for me here
Silently stay
And don't ask me why
Only believe
This is not goodbye

All of my strength
All my desire
Still cannot melt this breath of fire
I go to meet some kind of test
Bury the truth that scars my chest
And the angels are calling and calling and calling

I must go away
Wait for me here
Silently stay
And don't ask me why
Only believe
This is not goodbye

I gathered all my courage
I shaved off all my fear
With this banner on my shoulder
I hold your essence near
And the angels are calling and calling and calling

I must go away
Wait for me here
Silently stay
And don't ask me why

Only believe
This is not goodbye
Only believe
This is not goodbye

Melissa Etheridge, "Greatest Hits, The Road Less Travelled", This Is Not Goodbye

and one more that she wrote for one of the breast cancer walk/runs. This is for anyone out there who has been touched by cancer:

Its been years since they told her about it
The darkness her body possessed
And the scars are still there in the mirror
Every day that she gets herself dressed
Though the pain is miles and miles behind her
And the fear is now a docile beast
If you ask her why she is still running
She will tell you it makes her complete

I run for hope
I run to feel
I run for the truth
For all that is real

I run for your mother, your sister, your wife
I run for you and me my friend
I run for life

Its a blur since they told me about it
How the darkness had taken its toll
And they cut into my skin
And they cut into my body
But they will never get a piece of my soul
And now I am still learning the lesson
To awake when I hear the call
And if you ask me why I am still running
I'll tell you I run for us all

I run for hope
I run to feel
I run for the truth
For all that is real

I run for your mother, your sister, your wife
I run for you and me my friend
I run for life

OOOOOOOOOoooooooohhhhh. OOOOOOOOOoooooooohhh. OOOOOOOOoooooooohhhh.

And some day if they tell you about it
If the darkness knocks on your door
Remember her
Remember me
We will be running as we have before
Running for answers
Running for more

I run for hope
I run to feel
I run for the truth
For all that is real

I run for your mother, your sister, your wife
I run for you and me my friend
I run for hope
I run to feel
I run for truth
For all that is real

I run for your mother, your sister, your daughter, your wife
For you and me my friend
I run for life

I run for your mother, your sister, your wife
I run for you and me my friend
I run for life

Melissa Etheridge, "Greatest Hits-The Road Less Traveled", I run for life

Thank you Melissa for saying it so well.

Happy Thanksgiving

I'm back after a relaxing hiatus. So much has happened. Where do I start?

First of all, I had a wonderful Thanksgiving! The Smithwick family and all spouses and childern were there except Mom and Dad and we were fortunate enough to have grandma from the Fisher side there as well. The food was varied and delicious. I made chocolate, pumpkin cheesecake which was a hit even with the babies. I had a piece on my plate and Riley, my 18-month old niece came over to me and said, "up" which meant she wanted me to pick her up. Foolishly, I thought she wanted to snuggle with her aunt Cathy but she had other things in mind. Once on my lap, she took her fork (which she had brought with her) and stabbed the biggest piece of cheesecake and, to everyone's surprise, stuffed the whole thing in her mouth and ate it. My plate was now empty so she wanted down and went off in search of other treasures. The evening was topped off with my nephew, Steven, playing "I'll Be Home For Christmas" on the guitar. It was a wonderful day and I am so thankful that all of the "kids" were there to enjoy it. Just wish Mom and Dad could have been there as well.

I also brought along my first painting which I had completed on Tuesday evening. On Wednesday, I went to Michael's to find a frame and was fortunate enough to have the one I chose be on sale for half price. I was trying to figure out how to keep the painting in the frame and thought I would ask the framing guy for advice. He started to give me some and then said just a minute and took the painting and the frame into the back room where I heard the sounds of an air stapler - pop, pop, pop........... Soon, he came out and handed the framed painting to me - no charge. I thanked him profusely, thanked my lucky stars for people like him, paid and left the store. It was nice to be able to show the painting to my family. Susan and Stace really liked it. I am looking forward to painting more.

Friday dawned bright and sunny and I was relaxing after Thanksgiving when the phone rang and it was my younger brother, Jim. He was coming over to do some work on my house. What a great brother! He changed my faucet in the master bathroom so that I no longer have to go through the drip, drip, drip of chinese water torture every evening. Then, we went over to Susan's for him to do some work there and have a few drinks with Bill and Susan. My SIL Debbie came over with her son, Steven and Jim's son, Eric and we had another nice dinner. Debbie, Susan and I retreated to the living room to "plot" out Debbie's quilt. It was fascinating for me to watch since I have never seen the background of quilt making - only the finished product.

Saturday evening, my friend Diane picked me up and we drove over to Santa Cruz to visit one friend there and then go to our friend, Susan's party and meet her new boyfriend. It was a fun party with very nice and friendly people. I enjoyed it.

Sunday came along at last and I just hung out making a "Cancer Journey" tape with some of the tv shows that were particularly interesting, helpful or inspiring while I was going through surgery and chemo. I cried when I watched the Melissa Etheridge special and especially when she sung, "This is Not Goodbye" about her travels into the chemo haze. It reminded me of my own trips to chemo world - trips that are only made alone - in which you leave your family, friends and the normal world behind. Your mind and brain disappear into the haze leaving you unaware of what is happening around you and forgetting what happened only seconds before. Reading and tv viewing are impossible much less anything more complicated like having a conversation. My dogs were feeling so lucky because I couldn't even remember if I had fed them and would keep feeding them just so they wouldn't go hungry. The only reason I knew I ate myself was because I set a schedule and ate breakfast when I got up, lunch at 12 noon and dinner at 6 pm. I knew if it was 6, I had to get up and eat my dinner, even if I didn't remember eating by 6:30. At least I knew I had done it. My friend, Kathy, called me once in the chemo haze and told me later that she doubted if I even knew what I was saying. I barely even remembered the call and there were others I don't remember at all. Anyway, the song reminds me of that time and makes me cry because it is so meaningful and right on about my experience.

This morning, I went back to my "job" - radiation. Had to meet with Dr. McDreamy first so he could check out my armpit (eat your heart out all you romantics) and give me the okay to continue. The radiation techs told me that my skin was looking really good! I was also met with enthusiastic thanks for the chocolate pumpkin cheesecake I brought them for Thanksgiving the week before. Today, I brought the recipe and they were all so excited, they made copies for everyone as they continued to rave. Dr. McDreamy came out in the midst of this and said how much he loved the cheesecake, not knowing I had made it. The techs told me that he ate most of it and he agreed but they said that everyone else did get a piece. I was glad they liked it. They work so hard and deserve it.

Afterword, I dropped by Target and bought the Melissa Etheridge cd and some shelves for the house. Then I hung my painting in my study where I can look at it often. Also, hung a few other paintings that had been waiting months to get hung and did some cleaning up - not much, but some. Looks like I might be getting some of my motivation back. I certainly hope so as there is a lot of work that needs to be done around here.

That should get me all caught up to today. Maybe a boring read but was certainly a "good feeling" weekend for me.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Dr. McDreamy

For all of you that were wondering, Radiation Oncology definitely has the best looking doctors - male and female. This seems to hold true at every medical center I went to (and there were a few)

Today, I thought I woke up as an extra playing a patient in Grey's Anatomy. In walked Dr. McDreamy with his clear, blue eyes and curly, black, tousled hair. Suddenly, I realized that I wasn't dreaming and that this was real life and this really was my doctor. And, here I was talking to him about my peeling armpit. What a pickup line, eh?

Anyway, I finished my 25th treatment and now have to put on some other kind of over the counter medicine for my peeling armpit. The doctor said it still looks better than most people and that my skin is doing really good.

And they weren't just saying that because I baked a chocolate, pumpkin cheesecake for them for Thanksgiving. But they did love the cheesecake!

Radiation #25 - 3 more to go!

I am now off to radiation number 25. Only 3 more to go after this one. The burn is finally here. Yesterday, my arm pit peeled. Yes, you read right - my armpit. You know what happens when you get too much sun (although, with all of the sunscreens, few of us do that anymore) and then it peels. Well, that is what is happening to my armpit. It will probably be the only time in my life that this happens since I don't usually go around exposing my armpit to the suns rays for long periods of time.

Anyway, they say that I am still lucky. The rest of the radiation site (my chest) is a healthy pinkish brown, starting to look like a dark tan but not peeling. I am diligently applying the Biafine, a cream for 3rd degree burns, to my chest and armpit 3 - 4 times daily. This doesn't leave much room for going out of the house but will just hang for about a week or so. Three more days of this and then about a month of healing.

Monday, November 21, 2005

And now for a positive update ;)

Today was my 23rd radiation treatment. Only 5 more to go. It was also my 3rd Herceptin treatment. Only 15 more (and 10 months) to go.

My chest is now starting to look like I have a dark tan and is a little sore under the arm where the skin rubs against itself. I am still holding up well and just want to make it through the next 5 days without any serious consequences.

Herceptin went fine. Nurse Ora took it slowly (1 hour) since I seem to be having a reaction to it. I felt fine, though tired afterword. Went to the grocery store and after I finish here, will go kick back, eat my salad and read my people magazine since I feel pretty tired. Will watch for signs of fever and take my tylenol should any appear. So far, so good.

Things to be thankful for today. My nurse Ora, NP Daum who saw me today instead of Dr. Mason and is always up and supportive and my wonderful family who were all concerned about me doing this on my own today. I am the luckiest person in the world!

And Ora and NP Daum both loved my hair. They think it is very stylish. :)

follow up to yesterdays blog

Dear Friends and Family,

You have all been wonderful. In your own way, each and every one of you has said the perfect words and given the perfect support to me as I have gone through this event in my life. Yesterday's blog did not in any way refer to any one of you (except for the last paragraph) and I hope that none of you thought it did. You have all been so hugely supportive and I can feel your love in every word you say, every action you make. Not one of you has said anything even remotely like what I discussed in my blog. Thank you for keeping me up, truly positive, feeling great and going for the last 8 months.

Yesterday's comments were a result of 8 months of well-meaning outsiders. It was not aimed at them but rather a commentary to let people know their well-meaning comments do hurt. I am not alone in this. A large number of books on cancer also address this topic. I happened to walk into radiation today and pick up a random book called The Human Side of Cancer by Jimmie C. Holland, M.D. from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. The second chapter is titledThe Tyranny of Positive Thinking and addresses exactly what I discussed yesterday but perhaps in a more elegant way. (I admit I did lose my sense of humor for a while there).

Some excerpts:
"Several years ago, Jane, a forty-nine-year-old woman with breast cancer, came to my office at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. She had recently completed her treatment and her doctor had given her a clean bill of health, meaning the doctors had found no evidence of cancer in her body. Indeed, the glow of good health had returned to her cheeks.

But as she entered my office, Jane looked agitated. Her body was tight and tense. As she sat down, I said, "I've heard the good news from your doctor. I hear you're doing well."

"That's what he says, " she replied despondently, "but I feel like I'm losing the battle."

Puzzled, I asked her, "What makes you feel that way?" She responded, "Well, my sister gave me a book on how to survive cancer, and it says it's critical to keep a positive attitude. I've tried to stay upbeat through the treatments, but now that they're over, I'm more afraid and worried than ever. I'm sad, and I can't feel positive about anything."

I said, "It must have been hard to stay positive all the time over this past year, because I remember how crummy you felt during those first days after each of your six chemotherapy treatments."

"Yes, it's been hard when I've felt so washed out and tired," she said. "And sometimes I've been so scared and frightened, I wondered if I could get through it. Other times, I've been down and sad and angry that this hit me when I had wanted to do so much for my kids..."

"That sounds right on to me, " I said. "I can't imagine how you could have been positive all through this last year when you had to slog through so many difficult tests and treatments."

Jane started to relax a little. "You mean it's okay, and I haven't kept my cancer from being killed off by chemotherapy because I couldn't do what that book said?"

"No, you haven't," I said with a smile. "You're not superwoman, you know. You're wonderfully human and normal. Most people experience the same reactions you've had at some time."




The Human Side of Cancer, Chapter 2, Jimmie C. Holland, M.D.

That's the last I will have to say on this subject (I hope). I keep smiling when folks say that to me although I cringe inside with the hurt of it.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

This is about Harry Potter but first I have to say.

FIGHT ON SC! Great game with Fresno State and so glad and relieved that USC won. My school. My team.

Good going to CAL also carrying home the axe for one more year over Stanford.

Ok, Harry Potter.

Went to see that new movie today. The director has changed since the last films and you could definitely tell. The movie moved much better, carried you into the fantasy and swept you along to the end. It is definitely the best one so far in my opinion. Well spent Sunday morning.

What not to say to a cancer patient (or anyone else for that matter)

It happended again yesterday. I know that people mean well but still it is annoying and insulting. I had a call from an old work acquaintance. Her first comments after hello were, "you sound much more positive and happy than last time I talked to you. You have to be positive."

First, let me say that the last time she talked to me was in my last week of chemo. I was dead tired, sick, in pain, neuropathy of the hands and feet and more. I was very "out of it". What a time to expect me to by "up and happy". I am not here to entertain you. Wouldn't it be kinder if you cared about my well-being.

Second, I have not met one cancer patient or survivor (and, believe me, I now know many) who is not annoyed by the large number of people that feel they need to tell us to keep a positive attitude. Why is it that suddenly when you become a cancer patient, you lose all of your rights as a human being to experience the full range of human emotions. Would you tell someone with a cold or flu or who had just lost their favorite pet to "keep a positive attitude"? I would rather think that you would console them and let them feel miserable or cry. Why then do cancer patients not have the same rights.

Believe me that we know of the research that says a positive attitude can help you to live longer but we also know that frustration and anger can counteract that and help you die sooner. Suppressing and hiding your feelings and emotions in order to entertain the people around you and show a "positive attitude" is stressful and depressing. Even if you mean well, do not say it please.

And finally, do not say, "you will get through this and be back to normal again. You will be fine". I have been tempted to say that myself. However, we will never be "normal" or "fine" again. This is an experience we are going through and don't try to deny it. We will always live with our cancer and the follow ups and health scares that go along with it. Rather than deny our condition, be supportive and understanding, particularly when we are going through the most hellish times.

I am sick of the cancer, sick of "being sick" and just want to get past this. Afterword, I hope to resume my life again and be "normal". However, at the moment, this is happening to me and I need to make the most of it and do my best to get through it - good and bad. I don't think about it everyday and really do feel like an outsider to my body and the disease most of the time. Still, it has already robbed me of a year of my life and will take another by the time the treatments are done. I can never get those back.

Finally, as an end to this rant, let me just say that I am happy. I am positive and I know that I have beat this. Just have to go through the treatments as a health exercise. I am also doing other things nutrionally, mentally, physically and through chinese thought and medicine to make sure that it does not come back. I am so thankful for my family and friends who have been so incredibly supportive through all of this that it makes me cry (out of love and happiness).

Friday, November 18, 2005

A really purple car

Yesterday, I was coming back from radiation and pulled in right next to a purple car. This wasn't a "I'm blue but look purple if you see me in the right light" kind of car. It was truly a "I'm purple if you look at me in ANY light" kind of car. It was a dark pinky, purple pastel car and to top it off, there were 3 large, matching, furry, stuffed animals in the back window. I felt like I was driving next to a giant Good and Plenty. Eat your heart out Susan! ;)

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

19 days and counting

Have finished 19 days of radiation and only 9 more to go. So far, skin is fine. Keeping fingers and toes crossed that I can make it all the way through with minimal damage.

Next week is the anniversary of my first biopsy which I had the day before Thanksgiving last year. I also have my 3rd in a long string of Herceptin treatments and hope to keep the fever down.

It is still hard to believe this is happening to me. I feel more like a bystander who is just managing this for someone else. It is too unreal.

The art of downloading

Here it is Tuesday afternoon and I am just finishing running the Norton scan on my computer. I am so tired because I worked on it until 2:00 this morning trying to get the download to work. Finally got it to work and then the updates wouldn't work. Cleared out more room on the disk and got some to work. This morning started in again and after my "job" came home and continued. Finally got all of the updates to work and the scan to run. Whew! what an effort and a load of hours. 2005 must be much larger than 2003 and surely puts more of a drag on the computer as it runs. Anyway, looks as if the whole thing got done without managing to infect my machine. Now I can get on to other things.

Did play a lot of Out of Order and Know It All on Boxerjam while I was waiting for the files to load and during the initial scanning. That is all too addicting and I am going to have to turn this @$#@#$# thing off so that I can get other stuff done!

Painting tonight. Yippee! Maybe I will learn to paint something besides mud.

Monday, November 14, 2005

A funny thing happened on the way to the spa....

Today started like every Monday lately. I got up and showered so that I could make it to my "job" at the radiation plant by 9:15. As with everyone else, my weekend was too short and Monday came too soon. Even though my job is only 60 seconds long, it is a very tiring 60 seconds. I do love my team, Lydia, Steve, Teresa and the others but they do wear me out. Anyway, since it was Monday and I was tired, I skipped my Quigong class and came home after a trip to the grocery store.

My phone was still out so I called SBC and they informed me that my phone would be out about 5 days. Then they forwarded it to my other phone. The bad phone came back on line about 1 hour later (after I saw the SBC van parked in front of my house and heard all of the neighborhood dogs barking like crazy for about an hour). Now I had a phone that forwarded since SBC forgot to reverse the order. I called back and finally got all of my phones back to normal.

Next, I decided to update my antivirus from Symantec since my subscription was expiring. I soon found out that Symantec doesn't support the 2003 version any longer and I needed to upgrade. The website suggested 2006 but 2006 does not run on Windows 98 so I had to go to a "special" page and order 2005. I ordered and paid and then came the download part. The website suggested saving to your computer and then downloading so I did. However, that was a disaster since I didn't have enough disc space. It also didn't uninstall the 2003 since, technically, it wasn't an upgrade. I decided to free up disc space by unistalling 2003. I found the program and clicked on uninstall. The computer nicely (or so I thought) uninstalled 2003. What it didn't do was uninstall Live Update and in fact left it running. I tried installing 2005 and it wouldn't install because it kept seeing Live Update as running. I tried for a couple of hours to figure out how to turn it off. Since 2003 had uninstalled itself, all of the visible mechanisms for dealing with Live Update were gone. I finally searched for Live Update and just deleted the files. That seemed to work and allowed the 2005 install to go forward.

Just about that time, at the height of my frustration, my cell phone rang. It was my friend, Susan, telling me that she had "won" a mini-spa day for today and couldn't go and would I like to go? I said, "sure" and she told me I had to leave at that minute. The appt was for 3 - 5 and it was 2:59. Fortunately, I was clean since I had to go to "work" this morning but I was dressed in sweats. Oh well, I thought. It is a spa. Sweats are okay. When I got there, I found out it was actually a group event and there were many women there all in their work clothes. Ooops! And I had to be Susan. (Yes, Susan I walked a mile in your shoes today - at least your name's shoes). Everyone was calling me Susan and asking me about my job. I finally had to give in and tell them that I was really Cathy (but only after about 1 1/2 hours). Anyway, the group was fun and the spa was great. I got an awesome foot massage, wonderful mini-facial, great chair massage and topped off with a little make-up design. They had fruit and chocolate truffles and gave us a little bag of products and chocolate to take home. Can't beat all of that for free!

And one more thing. I was sitting there in all of my buzz-haired glory since it is just starting to grow back and one of the women says, "I really like your hair. I want to cut mine like that." A couple of the others chimed in with the same thing. Then they all proceeded to discuss how easy it is to take care of, etc., etc. One of them finally asked me if people were shocked when I cut it short and I just said, "no" and smiled. I never let the chemo cat out of the bag. It was all too humorous and a little flattering.

Next, very relaxed, I went over to Stanford for my enery healing session (also free - thank you cancer) and got even more relaxed.

After finally getting home, I saw that my Norton still hadn't loaded and there was some other problem. Will I ever get this loaded, get my protection and my $29.95 worth? Lets hope!

Things to be thankful for today. Spas of course!

Sunday, November 13, 2005

So how wierd is this?

The same day as my "husband" dream, my mother calls me to tell me about a Sat. morning 'hiking and coffe' group for singles of a certain age. How wierd is that? I tell her about my dream and ask her if I can hike barefoot since my dream requires me taking off my shoes to meet my husband. That gives us both a good laugh. Anyway, I skip this Saturday since I have to wait for the phone company to come out and fix my phone (they came out but didn't fix it) and I am tired. The week has once again taken it out of me.

One more thing, I managed to learn something new about blogging and added my sister's connection "delirious mind". Click on it for interesting reading and some really cute baby photos.

Today I am thankful for USC winning yet another football game (fight on!), seeing my brother Jim and my whole family in general.

Good Night and for Rich, Guten Nacht!

Friday, November 11, 2005

meeting my future husband and do I have gremlins?

There were two other events today that provide entertainment if nothing else. The first was a dream I had this morning. It was very vivid as many of my dreams are. In it I found, or rather should I say, my future husband found me. No, he wasn't Joe Montana but he was a quarterback and a friend of Joe's although I don't know which friend or what his name was. Anyway, I was off at some retreat, event or something of that sort. For the daily activities, you had to take off your shoes. I went to the activity, took off my shoes and saw Joe Montana. Did the activity and returned for my shoes but one was missing. (My friend Mike said it was nice how I worked the whole 'Cinderella and the glass slipper' thing into my dream). Anyway, I commented to the coordinator that one shoe from the activity the day before had also gone missing. This strange, nameless quarterback friend of JM came over to help look for the shoe. We never found it. He offered to ride back to the hotel on the bus with me. When we got back, he gave me a sweatshirt with signatures of all of the participants all over it. There were also green handprints - not quilted but actual handprints in green paint, ink or the like. He said he had chased my family down for them and that he had been in love with me for a while. So now he is a stalker and I still don't know his name. Funny thing though, I also felt like I was in love with him. I noticed the sweatshirt was inside out and turned it right side out. It was quilted and had beautiful flowers embroidered into the shoulders. I asked him if he intended for me to wear it that way or to wear it inside out with all of the signatures. Before he could respond, I woke up..............

The other story is true. Before I started chemo, I heard that knitting and crocheting were supposed to be "mindless" things that I could do with "chemo brain". Since I didn't know how to do either, I decided that I better try them out before starting chemo. I bought a knitting kit to knit DOG TOYS for my dogs. It came with pattern, needles, yarn. One day, Rebecca came over to help me get started. I pulled out the kit but there was only one knitting needle. Even I know, it takes two to knit! I looked high and low but could not find the needle. I never did find the time to go to the store and get another one so the kit still sits there even though I am through with the "chemo brain" chemo. This morning I closed the door to my study like I have done so many times over the last 6 months and saw something laying on the floor. I almost didn't pick it up because I thought it was a garden plant tie back. But, my mother taught me right and I have to pick up things from the floor so I picked it up and it was the missing KNITTING NEEDLE. How or when it got there, I do not know. I can only conclude gremlins because if the dogs had had it, there would certainly be teeth marks and it wouldn't be in the pristine condition that I found it. Now, if I could just find that million dollars that I lost............

Do I have a Kick Me Sign on My Back?

Ok. So today was supposed to be a new day and everything. But seemed like the bad just kept coming. I didn't sleep well because of the accident. Got up tired and went to radiation. Came home and intended to call State Farm before my friend Mike came to walk the dogs. Picked up the phone - static, no dial tone. Picked up the other line - static, no dial tone. The DSL worked however. SBC has had a number of trucks out in our neighborhood all week long and I suspect they knocked something around and then the rain came. Anyway, I called SBC on my cell phone. They checked both lines and then offered to send a technician out tomorrow betwee 8:00 AM and 7:00 PM. Nothing like an 11 hour window. As we were talking the dial tone came back to first one line and then the other. There was this awful static though. Soon, still while we were talking that got a little better. I hung up and called my insurance agent. The static was so bad that I had to call back on my cell phone.

At this point, I decided to go walk the dogs so Mike and I took them up to their running place and let them run to their hearts content. They were very happy. Then we went to Krispy Kreme and McDonald's to see if we could get copy of the video from the night before. KK told us that only the police could have access to that and McDonald's told us to call back later. I am hoping the police report comes out in my favor and I don't have to worry about any of this.

We had lunch at Garden Express, a vegetarian restaurant that does a pretty good simulation of sweet and sour pork and beef broccoli along with other vegetarian "meat" dishes and the price is right - $5.95 for lunch. Debbie and her mom joined us.

When I got home, I checked the phones and found the static gone on one but the other one was not working at all. When I tried calling the number, I got a busy signal. SOOOOOO...... I called SBC back and filed another report. They said they definitely see a problem on the line and scheduled the same Saturday, all day appointment along with the admonition that if it is my problem, I have to pay them $55 since I haven't paid their extortionate internal wiring fee...... aargh..... why don't they just keep their own lines fixed so that I don't have to call them out several times per year and hang around waiting for them.

By now, I am tired and think I will just take the rest of what is left of the day off. Too tired to do anything else.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

How to cure your fast food habit or Crunch Crunch Bang Bang

Today was a very long day. Started off with radiation. Then WW. Then on to Kaiser to get my blood drawn. The lady was very good but, of course, it was still nearly impossible since I have no good veins anymore. She looked at the crook of my arm and said she saw one. I looked and looked but couln't for the life of me see one where she was looking. She stuck the needle in and I think it just about went through to the other side. No blood. Wiggle, wiggle. "I see blood", she said but she might as well have said, "I see dead people" because I sure didn't see any blood. She attached the test tube and said, "just one more wiggle. sorry. sorry" and after what seemed forever of excrutiating pain, the blood came roaring out. The tube was filled and I was done. "That was hard", she said. I thanked her.

Then came lunch with my friend Susan and then off to Melissa for an eyebrow wax. Two weeks before, I had no eyebrows but they had grown in with a vengeance and I now looked like Groucho Marx. Melissa said that she wouldn't recommend chemo but that it seemed to have helped my eyebrows to grow back and fill in much nicer than before the chemo. oh boy! She had to do a lot of waxing, plucking and trimming but finally tamed the wild things back into place.

Finally, I had a meeting this evening and being too tired to pull anything together, I decided to run by McDonald's and pick up something. Fatal mistake! I ordered my food, went through the drivethrough and into the exit lane for the parking lot. There are 2 arrows here. One goes in and the other goes out. I was sitting on the out arrow with my right blinker on. There were lots of cars coming down the street, including some that were turning into the parking lot. If I was sitting in their lane, they wouldn't be able to turn in but I wasn't. I was in my own lane so they turned in just fine. I waited a long time. Maybe 3 minutes. Maybe 5 or more. Finally, there came a break in traffic. I checked both ways and pulled out. Next thing I knew, I heard crunch, grind, crunch on my right (passenger side). There was a car there. This woman had decided, she was going to try to squeeze between me and the curb and make a right turn. There was no lane there. Not even room for another car. What was she thinking? I turned off my car and walked around to her. I asked her, "Why did you hit my car?" She said she thought I was turning left and thought she could get in there. I said, "Didn't you see my right blinker on?" and she said no. Her car was running this whole time. I told her she might want to turn it off, all the while thinking her front end was still glued to the side of my car and not wanting a fire on top of everything else. She turned her car off and called her husband. I called the police. I asked for her insurance and license but she told me she had to wait for her husband to get there. Her husband came before the police and he gave me the insurance and license and took mine. The police came and asked what happened. The husband did all of the talking until he finally admitted that he wasn't there and the policeman told him he had to talk to the wife. I told the police my story and then she said that we both pulled up at the same time. The policeman told her that he didn't want to say she was lying but didn't see how we could both fit side by side. He asked who got there first and she said she didn't know. He said that Krispy Kreme and McDonald's both have cameras they can check and she still said she couldn't remember (totally different story than before her husband came). The policeman checked my blinker to make sure it was working. Then he told me that he wasn't sure how it would be decided but thought it would come down to who was there first and it appeared to be me so would probably go my way. I hope so but don't think I will be going to McDonald's again anytime soon.

To top things off, I got home and Thomas had decided it was time to re-decorate the house again. His toy basket was all torn up (it was only 1 month old) and the toys were all over. Somehow, he had gotten a book out of the bookshelf and torn that up too. The kitchen rug was half dragged into the living room. I knew the minute I walked in the door that something was up because he was slinking along on his belly instead of running up to be petted. I told him he was bad, picked up a few things and then called him over, gave him a bone and said good dog, hoping that he would associate "chewing the bone" with "good dog" and not think about house decorating again. Good luck!

So now I am sitting here thinking of what I have to be thankful for today and I have to say that I am thankful for lunch with my friend, Susan. I am thankful for having a talented "blood drawer" and I am thankful for Melissa who made my eyebrows beautiful and told me I looked sexy like someone from LA with my newly growing in hair.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

They caught me

As you can imagine by now, I really am not too excited about getting stuck with needles anymore. So, I was pretty pleased with myself that I hadn't been getting my weekly blood tests for radiation. I figured if I kept telling the Doctor that I wasn't tired, they would just forget about it. The nurse called me today and said that they were checking my records and saw that I had never gone for a blood test since starting and could I please stop by tomorrow to pick up a slip and go get a blood test. Busted! Darn! Drat! and other words I can't print here.

And, finally, today I am thankful that I finished ATW's October close and 2006 Budgets. I am also thankful for the warm sunny morning while I went to my Quigong class although I am not sure what happened this afternoon. And also thankful that my hands seemed much less numb today. Okay. That is three things but some days just have more to be thankful for than others.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

I'm really good at painting mud

Tonight, I went to my first painting class. It is offered to cancer patients over at El Camino Hospital. The class is free and the materials are free. Can't beat that deal.

The teacher is this very funny French lady with a name I can't understand but will try to get the next class. She is also very patient and a good teacher so far.

There are so many people in the class - about 12 or 14 - all women and one man. They are so friendly and funny. I felt comfortable right away. They got me set up with an easel, paint brush, canvas and paints. The first thing I had to do was paint the canvas tan. I was really good at that. Maybe I have some talent I thought? I can paint a canvas tan. I discovered that this was because our teacher likes the impressionists and they were poor and couldn't afford bleached linen canvas so painted on unbleached "tan" linen. Now we have bleached, white canvases and paint them tan to similate being poor. hmmmmmm.

Everybody is painting the same picture - a beautiful landscape of river and trees with autumn coloring. How can I paint this I thought? The teacher assured me that I would. She came and helped me draw an outline with chalk on my tan canvas. Then she mixed up a very dark, murky blue and painted in part of the river and a very dark, deep green and painted in part of the forest and a very dark, grey-black and painted in the trunks of trees. I think that you are getting the idea that we have to start with dark. Next, it was my turn to try. My dark green turned yellow. My dark blue turned light blue and my tree trunks diappeared altogether. Pretty soon, everything started looking mud color. I think I forgot to clean my brush.

Never fear, my trusty neighbor, Reiko, who has been doing this a very long time helped me re-mix my colors and soon I was painting my tree trunks and bushes back in. Before I knew it, the 2 hours were up and it was time to go home.

Next week, I will see if I can paint lighter colors like orange leaves and yellow bushes. This is all so much fun. I am just wondering how much creativity you will need to understand my impressionist painting.

14 days and Autumn Leaves

14 days of Radiation down. Only 14 more to go. 1/2 way. Yippee! No real redness or fatigue yet. The Dr. says that may be yet to come. Saw the Doctor today instead of Thursday and was a different Dr. I asked if the Dr. visit day was changing to Tuesday and the techs said they don't know either. Next week it could be Thursday. Anyway, the Doc just asked me if I have soreness, redness, fatigue, any thing else I wanted to ask him. No examination and told me I was his easiest visit all day. Lets hope it stays that way.

Although I haven't mentioned it before, every day I try to be thankful for something. Some days I forget but most often I remember. Today, I am thankful for the beautiful red, yellow and orange autumn leaves on the trees that line the streets I drive down every morning to radiation. May I always remember the beauty of El Camino Real and Grant Road in the autumn with the leaves turning colors and the peace they brought to my life during this time.

Sunday, November 06, 2005


I am learning the hard way that WW is not always a good thing. During one of our recent meetings, someone mentioned boxerjam, the game site. I decided to try it out and found it very addicting. Don't go there! I warn you! They have many free games - not the sort that are played by diehard "gamers" but the kind we grew up with - crosswords and wordgames, sudoku, etc. I have now wasted (enjoyed?) way too many hours there.

Don't go there!

Seeing the surgeon and future plans

On Friday, I went to see my favorite doctor and surgeon. She checked out my port and then did a complete exam on my breast and scar. All was well. She told me that I could start thinking about reconstruction now - yeah! and helped me set a plan. I will go back to see her in February and she will check my mammogram and we will decide if an ultrasound and MRI are needed for the other breast. She will do another complete diagnosis on the other breast just to make sure that there is no cancer there before I do the reconstruction. I am so thrilled with her plan and always feel safe when she is managing my care.

She gave me a sheet for the mammogram and I didn't know what to do with it. I asked her if I should just call myself and schedule an appt and she said yes and that I am just starting the new procedures for breast cancer patients and that I would get used to it. Instead of the doctor, I schedule the mammogram and take in the sheet before I see her so that when I see her, she will already have the results. From now, I will start to see her every 6 months and have a mammogram once a year.

I am supposed to contact my plastic surgeon after the first of the year to start scheduling plastic surgery since it is a long procedure - about 5 -6 hours- and takes a couple of months to schedule the OR. My reconstruction should take place about May if all goes well and if he doesn't decide it has to wait for the Herceptin to end.


It is weird seeing the changes every day as my body recovers from the devastation of chemo. My hair is rapidly growing back on my head although the color is still of some question.

The interesting thing is the bits you don't normally think about, like hair on your face and no, I don't mean beards and mustaches. I am talking aobut those little tiny blond hairs that cover almost every part of your body for warmth. I never really noticed the ones on my face, either before the chemo or when they went missing. However, I do see them now that they have grown back. It is that strange feeling of glimpsing in the mirror in the morning when the sunlight hits you just right and you see a glint off the little hairs rather than just a smooth, shiny face.

My eyebrows have also come in with a vengeance, black, thick, long and bushy. No more drawing them on. In fact, I will have to see Melissa, my eyebrow lady, next week for the first time in about 6 months to do some waxing, shaping and clipping.

Somewhere along the way since Sept. 12 (my last Taxol chemo), I have stopped having the hot events (too long for flashes) from 8:00 - 10:00 every evening. These were periods when I could have warmed the house all by myself. Just had to grin and get through it. Occassionally, I still have one in the night or sometimes in the morning when I first wake up but nothing strong, serious or even very noticeable.

The balance has yet to come back and I still wobble a lot as I try to find my space in the universe of things. Will keep working at it.

This week has also shown a marked decrease in the neuropathy that has plagued my hands and feet from the Taxol treatments. Neuropathy is a very annoying tingling of the hands and feet - not just fingers and toes- and numbness at the ends of the fingertips and pads of the feet. It makes it difficult for me to hold things, tie bows, pet the dogs. Imagine your arm or leg falling asleep and that horrible sensation as feeling comes back. I have that all day and night. I am hoping that it is finally going away but, just when I think it is gone, I have a new recurrence. This week has given the longest periods of relief so I am keeping my tingly fingers crossed that it is finally going away.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Lemony Snicket

On Tuesday, Nov 1, took my nephew to a Lemony Snicket book signing. A lovely (don't tell LS that) event with 1000 people, most of them screaming kids. It was hilarious and I highly recommend it if you ever get the chance to go. He spoke and sang (yes sang while playing the accordion) for about 40 minutes and then proceeded to another room to sign books. Needless to say, signing all of those books took HOURS. We went away to dinner, lost my nephew to his parents and sleep and returned to stand in line another hour and a half (it was by your ticket number) before getting to him. He was hilarious as he talked and interacted with all of the kids. Still, I was glad to get out and my ears are still ringing! Fun.

Not for the faint of heart

Well, radiation continues............

and continues.....

No bad affects yet but did have a little incident with a mole one day. It puffed up really big and then the top fell off. Bottom is still there. The Doc looked at it today and said there are a lot of things it could be but there are two things it is not - skin cancer or breast cancer and that is what is important to know. The other is probably just a side effect of the radiation.

They are now putting the Bolus (fake skin) on me every other day now because the doctor changed the prescription. Not sure why.

Today, I had x-rays. That happens once a week to judge the relative distance of your arm and body in case you are tensing up, gain or lose weight, etc. - just to make sure the radiation is going to the right place.

A little shadow of tan starting to show but still no real redness. 11th day done. Almost 1/2 way there already.