Saturday, December 31, 2005

Oh Peaceful Night

Last night, it rained and it rained hard and long right up until this morning. I had given Smokey a Xanax earlier in the day after coming home from the vet. He was not panicky but still not completely relaxed so I gave him another one (the vet told me it was okay). He was one happy dog then, his normal calm self, coming over to get petted, laying on the bed while I read. No panic attack. After awhile, he got down on the floor (his usual sleeping place), laid down and went to sleep and slept through the night despite the rain, thunder, winds and all of the other interesting weather conditions. I love storms and so I laid there happily listening to the rain on the roof while he slept, finally going to sleep myself. What a wonderful night! Thanks to the animal behaviourist and thanks to the vet and thanks most of all to xanax. For Smokey's sake and mine, I hope this continues to be the result.

Friday, December 30, 2005

My dog takes Xanax

Normally calm, relaxed Smokey Bear had full blown panic attacks from rain on the roof, thunder, lightning, leaf blowers and fireworks. This is not a reaction to loud sounds. Lawnmowers, power saws, pots and pans, trains, planes - all seem to be fine. He developed this at the age of 4 years old as a result of some unknown thing I suspect my rear neighbor did to him (since he also had panic attacks when he heard her in her yard) after her and I went to court over a dispute. Smokey's attacks, though intermittent and far between are very distructive when they occur. He hyperventilates and shakes uncontrollably and then tries to find a "safe" place which he thinks is anywhere behind a door. He has detroyed 5 doors this way - 2 of them, solid wood. The behaviourist says the destruction can't be trained out since a panic attack is as uncontrollable by dogs as it is for humans - and more so because they don't understand - so the idea is to use Xanax as an anti-anxiety drug to try to break the pattern, make him happy during rainstorms and such and change the way he feels about them. He went to see Dr. Maxwell at Adobe today and Dr. Maxwell agreed and wrote him a prescription. I will try this and hope it works.

The disturbing thing today is that Smokey ran and jumped in the car to go to the vet. When we got to Adobe, he excitedly jumped out of the car. He was very happy in the office and a couple of people commented on what a calm dog he is. Afterword, he jumped back in the car. When we got back home in the garage, he didn't want to get out of the car and go in the house. :( It made me feel so bad. I finally coaxed him out and in to the house, gave him a Xanax, and now we are waiting for the rain. Lets hope this works. (fingers crossed).

One Month Radiation Follow-up

One month already! I can't believe it. Yes, I finished radiation one month ago now. The time has passed so quickly.

My appointment today was with Dr. Young, the first radiation oncologist I ever saw. It was good to see him again. He is very good at what he does and very good at answering all questions. We were able to chat for about an hour and reminisce on our first meeting. He told me that he really felt for me at that time because I was obviously unprepared to hear that radiation would be recommended for me and it sounded like I had already been through a tough battle to get good care. He was right on both counts. I had had a tough battle and switched doctors several times and the diagnosis on radiation was truly a shock. I cried when I got home after the first meeting with him. That meeting left him unsettled also, so unsettled in fact that his concern about my youth and the size and extent of my cancer prompted him to immediately go and discuss it with his colleague, Dr. Lisa Boohar, the wonderful radiation oncologist that finally sent me over the edge into deciding I would do radiation. Dr. Young also said that he couldn't understand how my cancer could have become so widespread and advanced without previous diagnosis. His relief that I chose radiation was obvious. We continued to discuss my journey and the doctors I had seen up until now, sharing opinions as we went. His opinions mostly mirrored mine and for the same reasons. Some things he said were off the record and not to be repeated in a public forum such as this but they will go into my private journal. Basically, he confirmed that my early treatment and surgery had been mishandled. He is the first doctor to actually say it aloud, although I have seen it in many of the other doctor's faces. He also read me the letter he had written to Kaiser regarding my diagnosis and said he had received a call from a certain Oncologist there telling him that they thought he was overreacting and shouldn't have come across to me with such a strong opinion! At that point, he could understand my confusion even better and felt strongly that Kaiser had only referred me to cover their------ and that the Oncologist(s) he spoke to did not support the radiation. I agreed with one exception. Dr. Kutner, my surgeon, who I trust the most had recommended that I speak with a radiation oncologist. He was glad to hear that. I felt very good after speaking with him and left with high spirits. However, once more, I do keep in mind that it is important to research and question every step of this process in order to make informed decisions and find the best care givers (Doctors, Nurses, NPs, etc) to help me make a successful journey and permanently overcome this disease.

And, oh yes, Dr. Young told me that my skin is doing very well and there is no sign of recurrence. He also said there is a possibility that I may be able to have reconstruction sooner and was happy that Dr. Milliken is my plastic surgeon. woo hoo! I am so excited. Hopefully, I can have the reconstruction sooner and get on with this and alleviate the stress of wondering where the next house payment is coming from. I was also happy to hear Dr. Young's praise of Dr. Milliken and felt better about my choice of him as plastic surgeon. All around, a good morning.

My next follow-up is on April 24 with either Dr. Young or Dr. Boohar. Originally, I was scheduled for April 28th but it is just before Dr. Young's April 29th wedding. I said, "oh come on. why don't I just go to the wedding? You will have time to see me there, won't you?" He laughed. Since Dr. Young is no longer at the hospital I took my radiation (El Camino and Sequoia share resources), I will move over to the other hospital for my follow-ups. Drs. DY and LB are the best! :)

Tuesday, December 27, 2005


Wow! Is it already the 27th? The last few days are all a blur. Christmas eve was fun christening my sister's new billiards room. Lots of good food and family. I had a great time playing PacMan which was my Mom's gift. She almost didn't get to bring it home. I just love that game.

On Christmas, I woke up feeling quite satisfied and peaceful. The dogs were content and we all just hung out while I downed Advil to try and get rid of my migraine. Later in the afternoon, I went over to Susan's for some nice Christmas dinner. A few days earlier, I had been reflecting on the last 9 months and all of my family members who had been great supports each in their own way and who had shared in the tears and laughter. Yes there were some funny times. I decided to write a toast to my family listing each one separately and a few of the things they had done to support me over the last year. There would never have been enough time to list and read everything. I started off Christmas dinner by reading the toast and was surprised when I looked up to see everyone in tears (despite the fact that there were many laughs during the toast). It was a very emotional time for me and for everyone else.

The dinner was wonderful and we followed it up with a trip to see Christmas lights.

It was a rainy day and when I got home and opened the garage door, my oldest dog came running out to meet me. I immediately new something was wrong and thought the worst. And rightfully so. He had chewed and clawed his way through the outside garage door. Molding was ripped from the stucco and the bottom of the door was destroyed. Why he did all of this is a mystery since his dog door was open and he could easily have gone through it into the house. The best I can guess is that the rain caused another panic attack and he was looking for a safe place. I was furious and upset but what could I do. I got busy and nailed a panel to the door to keep out the rain, raccoons and any would-be intruders and called my Dad to see if he could help me out with it the next day. Did I mention this was a solid wood door?

It rained furiously that night and Smokey started having another of his panic attacks. I put the metal wire crate in my room next to the bed and put him in it or I would never have gotten any sleep worrying about him going in the computer room or destroying something else. He didn't like it and cryed and pawed for a while but then settled down and went to sleep. Needless to say, my sleep was disturbed and I didn't get a good night's sleep.

The day after Christmas dawned bright and sunny - thank goodness. I got my self dressed and prettied up (that one is for you Rich) and went off to my date. Well, ever have one of those days where all goes wrong? Welcome to my life. I got going a little late but still with enough time. Made it to the right turn off but then what? I had no idea where I was going. Some mall in San Jose. Do you know how many malls are on Blossom Hill Road? A lot. I turned into the wrong one. Day after Christmas traffic. Packed. I realized I was in the wrong place and made it to the other side and onto Blossom Hill. At long last, I saw the right mall and drove in. The place I wanted to go was to the left but I could not turn left due to the valet parking. Had to turn right. The choice was then to go into the parking structure or drive all the way around the mall. Traffic was at a standstill so I entered the parking structure. Soon it came to a standstill there too. There was nothing I could do but wait. Finally, I got a parking spot and ran across the mall to meet my date. I was 20 minutes late and he was gone. I was bummed and a little perturbed. He knew that I didn't know where it was and that there was a lot of traffic. Could have waited. Who chooses a date in a mall the day after Christmas anyway? I am trying to keep an open mind and chill but........

I drove home and spent the rest of the afternoon and evening with my Dad repairing the door. Thank goodness for Dad!

Today was more work on the door - sanding, priming, spackling - and not finished yet. Also, replaced a molding in the house he had chewed up and sanded and spackled the various doors and moldings he had scratched and chewed in other panic attacks. Tomorrow will be a good day of painting inside and, if the rain holds off, painting the outside of the door. Could have thought up better uses for my time.

Well, that gets us all caught up for now. Hopefully, the week will get better!

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Merry Christmas!

Its Christmas Eve and seems like a lot of our friends have things to celebrate this year. I know of 2 babies and 3 upcoming weddings. Woohoo! Merry Christmas everybody and health and happiness all around!

Thursday, December 22, 2005

i have a date!

I am publishing this mostly for Rich. I have a date. He doesn't really look like Joe Montana and come to think of it, he doesn't play football. I don't even think he is a friend of Joe's. I guess he does go barefoot since he is a Scuba diver -- oops, they wear flippers so even that doesn't fit. hmmmmm........ well, I guess he isn't like my dream at all. Oh well, he is alive and warm (I hope) and I am looking forward to it. More later if things work out.

And, btw, congrats to you and Angelica on your news. Read it on some other website. Which one? hmmmmm......delirious something or other. I guess you know the one. Congrats again and looking forward to hearing more about Dot.

Letter to Santa

From Frogie's Website

Dear Santa,
I have been a good girl,

It really wasn't my fault what happened at Cathy's Office party. It was Susan who spiked the punch with too much Gold Greyhound. I can't help it if I drank 13 glasses. It was so good ---smelled and tasted just like lavender.

I thought it was funny when I put Debbie's shirt on my head and dance the salsa on the chair while singing 'Where are you Christmas?'. I didn't mean to break Cathy's phone and don't know why Cathy would accuse me of shoplifting.

I don't remember calling Mike's wife a pretty pig---even though she looked like one with purple eye shadow and green lipstick!

And when I threw up on Carol's husband's leg, it was only because I ate too much of that oysters.

After all that fun, I admit I was a little tired. So I fell asleep on my way home and drove my car through my neighbor's bedroom. I don't think that was any reason for my neighbor to call me a awesome dog and have me arrested for petty theft!

So, Santa...here I sit in my jail cell on Christmas Eve, all positively and outrageously. And I'm really not to blame for any of this hunky stuff. Please bring me what I wan the most---bail money!

Sincerely and quickly yours,
Cathy (Really a nice girl!)

P.S. It's only 13 bucks!

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

My MUGA scan - I do have a heart after all

Yesterday, I had another MUGA scan - my third and fourth. As usual, it was an ordeal because of my oh so uncooperative veins. It wasn't as bad as the last one with blood all over the place, plugged IVs and bruising. This one wasn't a horror show. Just took time. The technician tried and successfully accessed a vein but, alas, the vein was too weak to give a good supply of blood and had to be abandoned. No other veins even looked like candidates so I made a trip down to the infusion room to have one of the nurses access my port. Then, with tubes hanging, I traipsed back to the hospital and up to the 8th floor to have my blood drawn, radioactivized, processed and re-injected. Finally, I lay down and the MUGA scan was done on the old machine. Then, it was done again on the brand new machine for comparison. Once more, I traipsed, with tubes hanging, back over to infusion and they flushed and removed the access tubing. All-in-all, took 4 hours. It normally takes about 2. Bet you wish you could spend your day like that, don't you?

And now for the good news! My baseline ejection fraction for my heart was at 65% and after review, raised to 72%. What does this mean? The MUGA scan measures how well your ventrical is pumping the blood out of your heart. The ejection fraction measures the strength of that pump. Average or acceptable is at 50% (or so I am told). So, initially, my heart was doing really well (the doctors also told me this).

After Adriamycin (Chemotherapy), my heart muscle was damaged and the ejection fraction dropped to 50% (a 15% or 22% drop depending on how you look at it). This was very scary for me especially since Herceptin was expected to do even further damage. To continue Herceptin treatments, the EF needs to remain above 50%. 49% and your treatment is discontinued. My Oncologist didn't seem to be alarmed or worried about the drop but did make sure that I got scheduled for my next scan at 3 months. That was yesterday.

With much trepidation, I lay quietly for the 10 minutes of the scan, hoping the technician would give me the preliminary results. Sometimes they do and sometimes they don't. This time he did and the results were..............59.8%. Yeah! I do have a heart after all and it is increasing in strength! I had recovered almost half of what I lost even while taking Herceptin. The technician then asked if I would mind testing out the new machine so that they could compare the results. I agreed and, after another 10 minutes, the results were.......58.5%. He informed me that this was not statistically significant so I guess that overall, I am at about 59%. Wonderful news!

I was so excited and up that I went right home and closed the books for ATW - something that was way overdue but that I had been too exhausted to do over the last week.

Then, I went to my painting class where, I am pleased to say, I have learned to paint more than mud. I finished my second painting, a still life with beautiful purple and yellow hydrangeas in a glass. I took the wet painting and went right to Michael's for a frame. The painting was a 6x8 and I soon discovered that there are very few frames in that size and even fewer mats. I finally found one mat with a 6x8 opening that fit a 9x11 frame. Couldn't find a frame that size so bought an 8x10 and then cut the mat down to fit it. Overall, it turned out well and now, the painting is beautifully framed. Can't wait to paint the next one!

So, what am I doing today? Still in my pajamas and catching my breath after all of the excitement yesterday! :) Gotta get going.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

LA is a great big freeway but 152 is a parking lot

On Thursday, I drove down to LA for a party event that evening. Got going late and then hit traffic for my last 13 miles. The first 380 miles or so went fine. Didn't see any CHP and made good time despite the fog that was socking in I5. The last 13 miles, though, were killer. Traffic slowed to a crawl and it took me 1 1/2 hours to make it through. This made me late to the party which was not a good thing because I wasn't dressed for it and it was being filmed by USA Network. I snuck in just as the filming was to begin and made a beeline for the bathroom, pulled out my clothes and makeup bags, did a quick change and put on my makeup and jewelry. All the time, I could hear the camera crew instructing guests to go out in the hallway and ring the doorbell, then, excitedly say, "Merry Christmas", when the door opened as if they were just arriving. Group by group, I could hear the guests coming in as I was changing in the bathroom. I came out of the bathroom just as the last guests were "arriving". I then had to make my way upstairs past the camera crew to stow my stuff. While I was doing this, Ted, one of the hosts, decided to start the party by giving thanks to God for Christmas. As Ted was giving thanks, you could hear me clomping across the wooden floors upstairs in my boots. I was really trying to be quiet but it wasn't working. Ted said it was funny like God was communicating with them.

The party went well. There was a baby grand piano and a clarinet player, several good singers (don't count me amongst them) and musicians and a comedian. We had some dynamite Christmas tunes sung live. Each of the performances was opened with a short gay commentary to support the theme of the party since it was Drew's and Ted's Christmas celebration. The acts were a showcase of gay talent and I would say they were a showcase of talent of any kind. The comedian was happy to give a good ribbing to the 5 of us straight friends that attended. After the entertainment, there was cookie decorating and a prize for the most creative with 2nd and 3rd runnerups. I didn't win but finished a respectable 4th, much to my surprise. I'm sure the judging was fixed. The cookie decorating was backed up by snow created by a snow machine. It looked so real and, since the temperature was about 48 degrees, felt real as well. So we had a white Christmas in LA!

Friday, I woke up nice and early to go make a visit to my house and check on the painting being done inside. While I was there, I was able to visit my good neighbors and say thanks for their support over the past year. My nasty neighbor was also there and, I must admit, I took small pleasure out of yelling at him to get off of my lawn, to which he responded with a very exaggerated gesture but removed himself from my lawn.

I called the auto body shop to check on my car which is still being repaired after the accident. The shop notified me that my car would not be ready since they were having "technical difficulties" getting the hardware to fit the new door. This is a bit scary to me and I am hoping to have a fully functional, normal, new looking door and car when I get it back. Since I didn't have to rush back home, I decided to drive down to PV for a nice sushi lunch with my long time friend and college buddy, Beth. It was great catching up on that beautiful sunny day with great views of the ocean.

Finally, I headed back up I5 to come home. Just as I was coming across 152, I heard a blurb on the radio about a 12 mile backup but couldn't tell where. Soon, I came to a dead stop on 152 and realized that is where the backup was. Realizing that I had just passed the 156 junction, I turned around and headed back to cross over to the 25 and finally the 101 - a 28 mile detour but better than sitting for who knows how long on 152. As I was driving, I heard the updates on the report. A big rig had turned over about 4:00 (It was now 8:30PM) and they were still getting it cleaned up. Then another big rig turned over. Who knows? Those people might still be sitting there. I was just too tired for that.

And now, happily, I am home after an eventful and enjoyable 2 days.

The dogs did fine while I was gone although Suzie informed me that she had to do the Heimlich maneuver on Thomas when he choked on his food. All in all, they loved her since she gives them lots of play time and love. They were happy to see "Mom" and I was happy to see them when I got home.

New Photos!

I have finally finished another roll of film. Yes, I am old-fashioned and still buy those little roll things that go in your camera and make negatives. No digital camera for me. But, fortunately, Long's puts them on cd's so I can upload them. The new set covers Radiation Autumn, the time between starting and completing radiation.

The photos are in backward order because that is how I uploaded them. They start with the trip to Monterey Bay Aquarium. I now have hair and, more importantly, eyebrows! What a wonderful thing eyebrows do for a face!

Next come the ATW Leadership team. What a wonderful group and a wonderful organization. hmmm..... I use that word, wonderful, a lot....but it really is a wonderful word! ;)

This is the Dec meeting. Many of the women on this team provided food and company support for me after my mastectomy and all of them have provided support in some form during the last year. They put on great events for women in technology every month. And the price is reasonable. This year, we auctioned off time with about 20 executives including Carol Bartz of Autodesk and next year, Guy Kawasaki will be speaking. The website is atwinternational.org and look for the Silicon Valley Chapter.

Going backward, there are the photos of my first painting - the one that started out as mud! Then come the Halloween shots with me in my witches hat. That was the day that I had a double whammy - radiation in the morning, following by Herceptin in the late morning. Then, I visitied the twins in the afternoon to help get them into their Halloween costumes - unfortunately no photos of us together and finally a Healing treatment in the evening. I was exhausted that night! The Kitties in a Basket were a big hit and all three teams - radiation, oncology nursing and infusion - loved them. My oncologist got a big kick out of the witches hat when I went for my visit with him. I even wore it out to lunch with Mom and Dad!

Going even further back is a photo of me and my friend, Michelle celebrating the end of Taxol and the beginning of her new job and other exciting things.

And, finally, are the photos of me in Bear Valley (yes, the ski resort) when I went for an interview the day before going into surgery and starting radiation treatments (yes, I did both on the same day). I didn't get the job but had a nice trip up with my BIL Sean and it was a beautiful day. Look closely, I have no eyebrows and hair. The hair is a wig and the eyebrows are drawn on. What a way to go for an interview!

That is the end of the new photos. Most of them relate to stories already told so for more detail, I will have to go back and read a previous post.

It was a fun and active fall, as you can see. All of this and radiation, surgery, court cases, car accidents and herceptin, too! How lucky can a girl get?

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Just another day

As you may have noticed, I have been a bit slack about my blogging. Just seem so darn busy lately. Can't imagine what I have been doing. Watching strange people parking in front of my house? Remember, this is also the neighborhood where I had to call the post office because I wasn't getting my mail (and we do have to pay our bills). It seems that the mailman would come out here, park his mail truck across from my house every day and then get into a car with some woman who didn't live in our neighborhood and leave for 3 hours or so. The mail might or might not get delivered after that. We got a new mailman and I don't know what happened to the old one or his girlfriend.

On another note, I went through another round of Herceptin yesterday. Nothing really newsworthy. Just the usual feeling of living in a slightly different dimension - as if my body had shifted about 1/2 cm out of itself so that I am here but not really here. I got very tired around 9:00, fell asleep and slept until about 10:00 this morning. My dreams were very strange including a very gory "pound of flesh" section starring Ronald Reagan. Go figure! That last bit ought to be enough to put anyone off of biological therapy just in case everything else I have told you doesn't.

From the number of people who have asked me about it, I am assuming that most folks have seen the news on the proposed reduction in usage of chemo for certain breast cancer patients. I do not fall into the category for the new protocol. It is for ER+/PR+ breast cancers which means that the cancer is Estrogen and or Progesteron positive meaning that the cancer is fed by those hormones. Mine is negative. Those BC patients with receptor positive tumors may bypass chemo and go straight to Tamoxifen or one of the aromitase inhibitors such as Arimidex or Femara. This is mostly the case for post-menopausal women since pre-menopausal women are less likely to be positive and more likely to have more aggressive BC. The interesting side note to this is that Herceptin, which has just been released for general use this year, may ultimately produce the same result for Her2 positive BCs such as mine. I had spoken to my oncologist about skipping part of my chemo since the Herceptin should wipe out any rogue cancer cells I might have had floating around in my system. He agreed that probably in the future, the need for chemo would be reduced due to Herceptin but acknowledged that the data wasn't in yet so we couldn't tell for sure. The data may also show eventually that I didn't need to do radiation either. Some preliminary data is already leaning that way. So.........5 years from now, when you hear that Herceptin has reduced the need for chemo and radiation, remember that you heard it here first. :) Unfortunately, for me, it is too late. I had to go through the devastating effects of both the chemo and radiation including the long term damage to my heart, mind, nerves and who knows what else. Good for anyone else out there who may have to face this in the future.

After all of that, let me just say, that despite all I have been through, it has still been a great year. I have been able to spend more time with my friends and family and have been amazed by the amount of support I have received from all sides.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Ok. so this is weird

This morning, I heard the dogs at the window growling and thought they were growling at the neighbor's cat again. However, something was weird about the noise they were making which prompted me to look out the window. They were right. There was something wrong. A car was parked across the bottom of my driveway with two strangers in it. As I watched, they got out of the car, kissed and the woman got back in and prepared to drive off. The man went and got in a car that was parked in front of my house. That car had been parked there all weekend and I had wondered about it since none of the neighbors have a car like it. He got into the car, stopped, got out, took something out of the trunk, got back in and then, he too, drove off. I don't know either of these people and am sure they do not live in this neighborhood. Apparently, they did spend the weekend together since his car was in front of my house all weekend. Besides that, hmmmm......the imagination can run wild. I have all kinds of thoughts. Just curious, anyone out there have any thoughts or good stories to go with this?

Wednesday, December 07, 2005


It is too cold. I am a sunny California girl, born in sunny California on a sunny August day. This cold is very unmotivating for me. Can't get anything done. Just feel down and dreary. Yesterday, I had a bad headache and scratchy throat and just slept all day - after I took my car into the body shop, picked up the rental car, bought dogfood, bought printer ink and went grocery shopping of course. Some things just have to get done whether you like it or not.

Thought I would have lots of energy after finishing radiation but instead just feel blah and draggy. The house is a mess. The yard is a mess. The dogs need walking. When will I feel up to it again?

The body shop called and they are replacing my whole passenger door since the damage was too deep into the door. Will take 3 days for parts to come in and another 4 days to repair, plus weekends. Might get my car back by next Friday. Might not. At least, it is getting fixed. And I continue to be paranoid of parking lots.......

Monday, December 05, 2005

Wonderful Weekend

Had a great weekend. Started off early Saturday with a drive to Monterey. Thank goodness the weather was bright and sunny. Couldn't have asked for a better day. Met up with my friends Alisha and Andy who were up from Pasadena and went to the Aquarium - one of my favorite places in the whole world. Spent hours of fun watching the jellies, sharks, penguins and sea otters and, of course, shopping in the gift shop. I bought a really cool starfish to stick on my shower wall. Then, we went to lunch and then, to my other favorite thing, wine tasting. What a great day. I came home exhausted and happy.

On Sunday, ATW had their annual holiday recognition brunch at the Left Bank restaurant. It was a great crowd and a lot of fun. I actually wore a dress and nylons - something I haven't done in years - literally. Didn't make it to the Santa train but would have loved to go see Santa and the Marines, and, of course, those two charmers, Riley and Samantha but, just kicked back at home for the afternoon.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Resolution of crunch, crunch, bang, bang

Today I spoke with the insurance company of the "other party" and gave my statement. At the end, she told me they had already decided fault and were accepting liability. She gave me the go ahead to get my car fixed next Tuesday. Yeah!

One more thing to be thankful for and a great way to start the weekend!