Friday, March 31, 2006

PGE, rebates, doctors and other stuff

As usual, here I am with my random meanderings......

It is rainy today. Nothing new there. And April showers do bring May flowers don't they? Hope I have some flowers out there after all of this winter flooding........

And the rain is supposed to continue through next week....The upside is that my water bill stays down as long as nature keeps doing the watering for me. :)

Last night, for a reason that is still unfathomable to me, I decided to go through my PGE bills from the last 7 years. I think it was prompted by the fact that PGE offered a 20% rebate to anyone that could bring their gas bill down this winter by 10% over last year. Being the thrifty person I am, I was determined to get that rebate. In Jan, my bill was down by 20%, without my doing anything. I then had the smart(or so I thought) idea of calling PGE to ask what more I could do to save on my already low bill. They recommended turning the heat off when I was not home and at night. I took their recommendation and only ran the heat for 3 - 4 hours at night. My bill went up! and was up again in March! It seems that more energy was required to heat a cold house for those 3-4 hours/day than to keep the thermostat at 68degrees constantly. Ugh! Not only did I pay more due to this bad advice, but I was constantly cold and I missed my rebate. Bad all around. Double Ugh!

After that, I reviewed my bills and discovered that I had been incredibly consistent over the years. My average usage of gas had gone down since 2002 (seems that 2001 and 2002 were cold winters also) until this year. This year went up a little but really not significantly since the starting usage number was already low. It didn't reach the 2001/2 highs. My electric has been even more consistent - the average exactly the same for 4 years until I got DSL and then went up 3KW/day and stayed at that average the last 3 years. I am now turning my computers off more often and have dropped the usage slightly but, perhaps, I should wait and not do that until an electric rebate comes around so that I could actually have a chance of qualifying for it.

Well, enough on PGE. I am sure you all have your own stories to tell.

This fun exercise took me until 5:00 in the morning. How time flies when your having fun (or doing something stupid?)?

I was supposed to go to lunch today but my lunch date had a sick child - more of the nasty cold going around. It was just as well since I was pretty tired anyway.

Already being awake and at the computer, I decided it was a good time to schedule all of my new Drs. appts. I know. I know. You thought 91 days at the doctors' office last year was enough (not counting hospitalizations, surgeries and days that had more than one appointment) but, no, I am not done yet! I am sure that set of Ginzu steak knives is out there somewhere if I just keep going to more appointments. But wait! If you order now, you can have a colonoscopy too! Oh boy!

So, what did I schedule today? An appointment with my gynecologist who I have never seen since before I started this whole process. She happened to be on vacation when I first went in with my "breast complaint" and so never had the oppportunity to be a part of this wonderful party. Dr. K, my breast surgeon, recommended I make an appt with my gyn to explore and answer questions I had related to my hormone levels now that I have finished chemo and natural balancing of the estrogen/progesterone/cortisol/testosterone. I am not talking about hormone replacement therapy but rather a natural balancing to put me back where mother nature meant me to be. I am not even sure if Kaiser recognizes or supports this but will sure fight to find out. If not, I will be off to an outside doctor but want to avoid the cost if at all possible.

Next appointment was with my primary to follow up on my blood tests, cholesterol and detailed thyroid levels (my thyroid appears fine but women should get a more granular check of T4 to show any potential problems). I also sent an email asking if he could schedule my colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy (same thing?) or whatever the heck it is they do to check colon cancer since it is recommended to do immediately for all breast cancer patients regardless of age.

Thank goodness for Kaiser's online system. I was able to make my appts. and send my emails right through their system without having to hang forever on the phone.

Next, was an appt with my dentist. Annual, x-rays, teeth cleaning and follow-up to see what damage the chemo has done. With any luck, everything will be okay.

And finally, an appt with my eye doctor since it is now 2 years since I have had my eyeglass prescription updated and think that I can't wait any longer. Oh, to have the money to do Lasik or some other kind of surgery to fix this astygmatism. For now, just have to die the death of the many cuts by spending a little less (comparatively speaking - it is still a lot of money) at a time while spending more than the Lasik in the long run. I don't mind the look of the glasses. Its just the pain of carrying them around, cleaning them, putting them on and paying for new lenses every year.

I am thinking that took care of all the new appointments except for the follow-up with the plastic surgeon which I will be scheduling real soon now.

And, on another topic, why didn't anyone tell me that the first class postage rate went up 2 cents on January 8? Like a fool, I have been mailing bills, bills and more bills, legal documents, etc. since then using my old 37 cent stamps. So far, it seems as if the post office has been very forgiving and delivered my errant letters. After a shower, I am off to the post office to buy 2 cent stamps and cure my cheating ways! Thank you Uncle Sam. Thank you USPS for getting my bill payments to my creditors! Could you just manage to get my social security approved and my check to me so that I can pay this nice, new, higher postage rate along with my higher PGE rates and all of my other nice bills? I would be so grateful!

And on a sweet/sour note, I learned yesterday that my eyebrow lady, Melissa, is moving to Boise, Idaho. I am so happy for her but so sad for me. Now, I know that it seems quite frivolous to have your eyebrows waxed regularly but it was such a necessity for me. I have the kind of eyebrows that need to be plucked daily and the shape, much as I tried was never quite right and the hairs too long. Melissa shapes beautifully, waxes, plucks and trims and makes my eyes and eyebrows look like a movie star. Others have tried before her but not with the results she produces. She is truly talented. If only I could find a hairstylist as good as she is at eyebrows. I feel beautiful every three weeks after seeing her. I Don't do anything else regularly but the eyebrows are a must. I will miss her. And she is a wonderfully good-hearted, truly nice person. :(

And, on other happy/sad news, a friend and good supporter of mine through this breast cancer journey has received some bad news herself. Her radiated breast has started scarring up and shrunken to 1/3 its size. The scarring has moved under her arm and she can't lift it anymore. The doctors are working on it but, ultimately, are thinking mastectomy is the only solution. Understandably, she is depressed, scared, confused, frustrated and angry. Losing a breast is scary and reconstruction even more confusing and scary. I sent her the book Reconstructing Aphrodite which my sister, Susan, had given to me (not the same book - another copy) when I was told I needed a mastectomy. It is a beautiful book with wonderful, artistic photos and stories of women and their reconstructions. My friend emailed me that she loved it and was able to sit with her husband and go through it and for the first time understand reconstruction, the process and how beautiful it can be even with all of the scars. It helped cheer her during this difficult time and, for that, I am happy and thankful.

And, that, is all I have for the moment. Never fear, there is always something more to come. :)

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

taxes done and feeling better

Whatever illness I had proved to be very short-lived. Thank goodness! I rested all day yesterday (no taxes) and then went to see Gypsy last night. I managed to make it through the entire play with only a few sneezes and no real sniffles except for those caused by the heavy perfume of the woman sitting next to me.

This morning dawned clouded and rainy. I started right in on the taxes which took me all day. This was a particularly laborsome year because of the number of doctors' visits (91) and the need to go through all of the medical receipts paid in cash and add them up with those paid on credit card. Not difficult - but laborsome. Throw in the court case and all of the additional related travel, legal and administrative expenses and it made for quite a day for me. I finally got it all together about 1 hour before my appointment time and have now handed it all over to the accountant to work his magic and, hopefully, grant me a return that is bigger than his cost!

I am so relieved that yearly chore is over and can now get onto the other bazillion things that need doing. But first, a little R & R this evening. I am feeling deserving. :) :)

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Doing taxes and feeling crappy

Okay. So it seems that what I have is a cold. Still no fever but runny nose and generally feeling bad. Didn't sleep well last night because I couldn't breathe and kept getting hot then cold then hot as the dogs decided it was a good night to sleep really close. So close that they nearly knocked me off the bed. I finally had to push back but do you know what it is like to push back against 140 lbs of solid, sleeping dog?

Today, I need to do my taxes and feel like doing anything else - especially crawling under a warm blanket and just sleeping since my eyes, head, nose, ears all ache - but. And, believe it or not, this is better than I felt yesterday. I am hoping it eases up before I need to go out tonight.


Monday, March 27, 2006

9th Herceptin treatment

Today was my 9th Herceptin treatment so I have officially passed the halfway mark. I woke up sneezing and sniffling. Cold or Alergies? Hmmmmmm.... No fever and no cough so decided to go get my treatment. Tried my best not to sneeze or sniff when I was in the Doc's office.

I was glad that they sat me back in a corner of the Infusion room. I would feel really bad if I got someone else sick and everyone's immunity in there is low. Fortunately, it wasn't very crowded. I only sneezed a couple of times and don't think I contaminated anyone. Lets hope not anyway. It is so tough making these decisions. I don't want to miss a treatment and mess up my health but I don't want to jeopardize anyone else's health either.

After treatment, I went and got my ritual non-fat, decaf with whip Mocha and headed to the car. All of the sneezing, sniffling, runny-nose really kicked in then. Headed over to American Cancer Society to drop off wigs and scarves (letting go - yeah), then went to Costco to return a top (more letting go - oh boy) and do grocery shopping for some healthy food. A final stop at Mom and Dad's to deliver their daffodils ended my journeys for the day. I am happy to be home and getting warm and cozy and just nursing whatever this is that I have so that it doesn't get worse and make anyone else sick.

Need to get my strength up to do more letting go this week (and also to do my taxes but that is a whole other story)

Letting Go

Letting Go.

This is the most difficult thing for me to do. I am sure that it started way back in my childhood but, exactly how and where, I do not know. Yes, there were 5 of us but my parents always worked to make sure we had our own things and didn't have to share everything. As I got into high school, money got tighter, and buying clothes and shopping became a luxury. This continued through college and into most of my early adult life after I bought my first house. I really didn't have any disposable income until I went to work in Japan. It was so nice to buy things but I never wanted to let anything go because I didn't know if I would have money to buy anything else.

So, I kept things........ Among the things that I have found as I have been trying to clean out my house and organize - a daunting and seemingly endless task:

- One pair of shoes, dyed green, from my first bridesmaids experience 25 years ago. These were water-spotted and worn. I am sure that neither I nor anyone else would ever wear them again. Why did I still have them?

- One summer, used to be white, now yellowish dress from 25 years ago and probably not worn in 25 years. Why did I have this?

- My Capri which you have already heard about in other blogs

- phone bills from 1986. Now what would I do with these?

- my first laptop computer. Hasn't worked in at least 10 years and is useless. Sitting out in the garage.

- my first typewriter from college - 27 years ago - not even electric

- endless numbers of shoeboxes

and the list goes on. I can't throw out plants until I am really sure they are dead and only after trying endlessly to revive them and bring them back to life. Its hard to throw out food, although for weight reasons, I have become better at that.

I save everything - bags, boxes, wrapping paper, shoe boxes and never use them again. This weekend also yielded many shoe boxes that will now go to the recycling.
pots from plants I have long ago put into the ground, old bathroom fixtures, pens and pencils that don't work. Some things are sentimental. Most just junk.

Letting go is just so difficult and emotional - not that I am so attached - not at all - don't love these "things" - just can't let them go - they may have some value. I may be able to recycle them. Someone may want them. These are the thoughts that go through my head. But really they are just junk. Get rid of them my mind says. I have come up with a partial solution. Now, I send them to garage pergatory. They go into a garage sale box awaiting my SIL next garage sale or they go to a charitable organization or some days, I go out and throw just a few of them away or put them into recycling. It is working but ever so slow.

This letting go extends to "friends" also. I have many good friends and love them dearly. I will never let go. This makes me a good and loyal friend. However, there are also some toxic folks in my life and I haven't been able to let them go. This is not a good thing. It is not good to be a steady, loyal friend to someone that is poisoning your life any more than it is good to hold on to 20 year old empty shoe boxes. Fortunately, there aren't many of those in my life and I am learning to let them go (both the "empty friendships" and the shoeboxes). Most have disappeared on their own. Gone to greener pastures. Happy Trails to them............ As for me, in the case of my friends and family, I am happy that I can't let go. I love you all.......You are my keepers and I hope I am yours.

As for the other junk......... I will keep working on it! :)

Good day everybody! Enjoy springtime.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Health 2, Social Life 0

I haven't been motivated to blog recently. Really haven't been motivated to do anything at all. What's that all about? Dunno.

Got some more good news. My MUGA scan that they were so mysterious about actually came back with a "good" score. I was at a 60%LVEF (Left Ventricular Ejection Fraction) before and was at 59% this time. A really insignificant difference. The machine and test can vary by that much easily. So now, two bits of good info in two weeks. No visible cancer in my left breast and a good MUGA scan.

Wish I could say the same about my social life. Bachelor#3 (Mr. SeemsNormal) and I did finally hook up. Had a nice dinner at PFChang's - good company, good conversation, perfect gentleman, pulled my chair out, paid for dinner, walked me to my car. Both of us expressed the desire to have a second date and our dislike of the whole "dating" experience. I've spoken with him twice since then but seems like the second date is unlikely to happen. Sad but have to let it go. Back to the drawing board - ugh! 0 points for that one.

And, on another note, had a call from an old friend that I hadn't heard from in about 1 1/2 years. Was good to speak with him and catch up on what he has been doing. Strongly suspect that may be the last time I hear from him, too. Sad but have to let it go. 0 points for that one, too.

Double 0 on the social life. Why does this have to be so hard?!

Things to be thankful for:
1. It rained, no poured last night and, although he did get up, Smokey did not have a panic attack - and this without Xanax - Yeah! Not to say that he won't have any more panic attacks in the future but it was a breakthrough.

2. I was selected to be a Calla model in the fashion show. My outfit is very nice. Eileen Fisher - Purple, free form jacket, White, shear, fitted, collared blouse, Brown/Gray wool slacks. I must say that I love it. I was disappointed at first not to be a Nike model but, after I saw the Nike outfits, was really happy that I am doing Calla. The colors and styles were all wrong for me in the Nike line.

3. The daffodils given to us in Creative Expressions - the painting class for cancer patients - by El Camino hospital and the American Cancer Society. And, as a double bonus, the daffodils given to me by my sister, Linda. I really love daffodils and look forward to ACS daffodil days every year.

4. Taking the time to see two movies yesterday - V for Vendetta, surprisingly better than expected and very different from the commercials, much more emotional and Inside Man with Denzel Washington - supposed to be a thriller but I found it a little slow and was left wondering at the end as to what really happened. Who really had the info on box 392?

5. Two days this week with the comedy act of Riley and Samantha. What a hoot and completely wore me out. Thanks girls!

6. The date with Bachelor#3. Even though it didn't lead to a second, it was still a nice date and I am glad that it finally happened.

7. Thomas and Smokey are doing better on their walks. Thomas even managed to let a dog walk around him - about 10 feet out - without going completely crazy and us or the other people having to cross the street. That was a big breakthrough and step in getting him more "dog socialized". He loves people and quietly sits next to me whenever I stop to talk to someone. It is just dogs!

Friday, March 24, 2006


Here are a few of the "Crush" photos from the day my beloved Capri traveled to that great raceway in the sky. You can probably imagine my pain as the big letters "CRUSH" were written all over every side. Take a close look. You can see them in the photos:

Friday, March 17, 2006

Wonderful News

Yesterday, I went to see Dr. K to discuss my breast MRI and figure out next steps. She read the radiologist's report to me and gave me her own assessment. The MRI showed many lumps and bumps clearly but they all appeared to be cystic or just tissue or, in one case, a fibroadenoma. A fibroadenoma can be worrisome or lead to other developments that may be cancerous but in almost all cases is simply a fibroadenoma. Almost every woman gets one in her lifetime. It is funny because it is one - not two or three- just one. It seems to last for an average of 15 years and, in most cases, resolve itself. In my case, my MRI didn't appear any different from my previous one and didn't seem to show anything cancerous. Dr. K said that she didn't see anything to be concerned about but it was up to me as to how worried or nervous I was and that the decision whether or not to have a prophylactic mastectomy was up to me. I told her that I had pretty much convinced myself that I wanted to do that but then thought about it some more. If she and the radiologist don't see any cause for cancer concern, then I really don't want to lose my breast.

She said that she agreed. The DIEP reconstruction is already an intense surgery and I had already gone through a major surgery losing my other breast. She didn't see any reason to subject myself to another major surgery along with the increased seriousness of having two breasts reconstructed. Together, we made the decision that I would have a unilateral (one breast) reconstruction and keep the other breast. That was really good news. Of course, every year, I will have mammogram, ultrasound, MRI for the rest of my life - unless, like Dr. K says, I decide at some point that the stress is too much and decide to have a prophylactic mastectomy or if I get cancer. As for me, I don't feel stress from what "might" happen. If it does, I will figure out what to do at the time. As for now, I am glad that we are monitoring it. We have good pictures and good history and it is being watched much more closely than my other breast ever was. If a cancer does appear, hopefully we can find it early enough that a lumpectomy will take care of it and I won't need to lose the breast anyway. Dr. K also examined me and said that, even though my breast is lumpy, it is soft and there is nothing that feels like the mass in the other breast that contained the cancer. I had to agree with that as I had observed it myself. It is still scary that we could miss something in the future but removing the breast is not the solution for me. The bigger scare and risk, as Dr. K confirmed, is that my primary cancer (in my other breast) could spread to other parts of my body (bones, brain, liver, lungs). So far, there is no evidence of that and we will keep watching to make sure it hasn't happened.

Overall, a great report - no biopsies or further testing of the other breast for the time being. Just more CTs (full body), blood work and, of course, Herceptin treatments to go through and then the surgery. October should bring an end to all of it and a return to "normalcy" - whatever that is.

I had a great day. It was a great high!

The only downside - Bachelor #3, who had seemed so promising, didn't call as planned to schedule our date for this evening so I guess I will need to write him off. Back to the drawing board. This whole dating thing sucks! A part of me feels sad despite the overall relief and happiness of my "good news".

Thursday, March 16, 2006

What type of weather are you?

Ok, I had to go try out the link from delirious' blog with following result:

You Are Rain

You can be warm and sexy. Or cold and unwelcoming.
Either way, you slowly bring out the beauty around you.

You are best known for: your touch

Your dominant state: changing

I would have rather thought I was sunshine since I am such a hot weather girl. But what do I know?????

Interesting.....hmmmm.....When I put in my number two choices, this is what came up:

You Are Sunshine

Soothing and calm
You are often held up by others as the ideal
But too much of you, and they'll get burned

You are best known for: your warmth

Your dominant state: connecting

So, how well do we really know ourselves?????

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Definitely a full moon

Ok. Today was not one of those days that I would recommend Kaiser. This happens every once in a while and when it does, it is a really BAD day.

Today I had my MUGA scan. This is my 4th one since I have to get them every three months to check my heart and make sure that I can continue chemo (which is damaging to the heart). At my last one, I did very well which was a relief since, at the one before, my heart had shown severe damage and I was told that I would most likely not recover. With the help of Quigong, Yoga, healing and nutrition, I did recover. My doctors were amazed and kept asking me how I did it.

With that in mind, I didn't give much thought to today's test. Just another routine test in nuclear medicine. All my appointments were set up and confirmed so I thought I would be just fine. My first appointment was at 1:00 in the infusion room to get my port accessed. That is when they stick a needle into the port in my left chest to get a line into my vein. The needle is connected to a line with two other needles ports on them for injecting "stuff" or drawing blood. I feel somewhat like an alien walking around with these lines hanging out of my chest. I arrived at 1:00 and signed in. The nurses kept coming out and calling people but they never did call me. 35 minutes later, I asked one of the nurses when I would be called. She told me just to go on back to the infusion room. I walked back to the infusion room and, of course, the nurses there asked me why I was there. I said that I had a 1:00 appointment to have my port accessed. They looked around and found that my paper and card had been put aside on the counter because they "didn't know what to do with me". If I hadn't asked, I might still be sitting there. Anyway, finding the paper didn't solve the issue since they did not have a referral from my doctor and therefore couldn't access my port. I told them that I was in the computer and carrying my port card but they only said that I didn't belong to their facility so it didn't matter. I had to sit while they called my doctor and got him to send over a referral. His response was they same as mine, "I thought we could all handle the same patients" but he sent over the referral right away. At long last, one hour later, at 2:00, my port was accessed.

I then hightailed it over to the hospital tower to Nuclear Medicine for my MUGA scan. This will be the easy part, I thought. I arrived at 2:05 for my 2:00 appointment. The admin checked me in. There was no one else there except for the 3 Nuclear Medicine techs who were, within my sight, talking, laughing, joking with each other and stocking the office. I sat and sat and sat for 1/2 hour. No one said anything to me the many times they walked by. I finally asked when they would be ready for me and they told me that they were still setting up. As far as I could tell, they were still waiting for the punch line on the last joke. No one was setting up anything.

At long last, one of the techs called me in and then didn't know what to do with the port lines to draw my blood. This wasn't the first time I had come in with my port and they were the same techs. She had to go get permission and directions to draw off my port line. Of course, I heard the entire conversation. Finally, she came in and began to draw the blood. I cannot explain her movements during this whole process except to say that the word molasses comes to mind. After drawing, I asked her how long it takes for the blood to process (they inject a radioactive substance into it). She said 20 minutes, no maybe 25. They don't know?

I sat and sat and sat again. 35 minutes - presumably with my blood "processing" the entire time. Finally, she called me in and, ever so slowly, opened my port and injected my blood back into me. I then had to put on one of those evil hospital gowns, front forward so that half of your chest is hanging out and go lay down on the, very cold, scan table. I asked for a blanket as I lay there shivering. They strapped me in and in I went to the machine. I lay there half asleep. This machine is very quiet. You don't hear anything. The scan was run which takes about 3 minutes. I continued to lay. At last, she came in and said they needed to take another picture. Back I went into the machine. In the background, I could hear the three of them talking. Something about the processing time, the angle of the machine, the level of the bed I was laying on. Anyway, it sounded like a big discussion over a big mistake. Finally, they pulled me out of the machine and told me I was finished.

I asked how I did and the tech told me that they couldn't tell me and that my doctor would talk to me. He then asked if I was already checked in as a patient to the hospital. I said no.

Then, I told him, "Okay, so now you have me worried. Can't you give me a preliminary number? I always received one before." He told me that they weren't authorized, then asked me what my number was before. I told him that it was around 60 and he just said oh and nothing more. Then, he told me again that my doctor would be contacting me. By this time, I was really worried. The girl who had done the injections and run the scan just sat there looking at me with a sad, guilty face.

At this point, whatever the scan says, I am not sure that I will believe it - especially if it is bad. I will request another one because I don't have confidence in how this one was run. Lets just hope it turns out good and I won't have to give it another thought.

I finally left the hospital 4 hours after I entered it. And my friend, Debbie, reminded me that today was a full moon.........

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Another day, another blog

Yes, I realize for anyone reading that I have not blogged in 5 days! Life has just suddenly gotten so busy. For the last 2 weeks, I have had Doctor's appts. 3 times per week and had to throw in one more, for the dogs to get their shots, just for fun. This week, I also have 3 Doctor's appts. That is just the way life is right now. It isn't much more fun for me to do it than it is for you to read about it.

In addition to the Doctor's appts., I closed the books on ATW - Alliance of Technology and Women. Check out their website. www.atwinternational.org. The website is pretty crummy due to the fact that it is created and maintained in Dallas (National HQ) by non-technology folks who don't have any sense of the embarassment it causes those of us here in SV to say that we are a "technology" non-profit and can't even manage the technology of our website. Nevertheless, don't let the website (or my poor grammar) put you off. Check out the events. They really do have good events, workshops, etc. and the price is reasonable.

Anyway, as I was saying, I am the Treasurer and on the board and have to close the books once a month. I did that last week, as well as attend the bi-monthly board meeting.

Over the weekend, I went to the shelter where I volunteer taking care of the dogs - walking them and showing them to prospective adoptive owners. At the moment, we have 2 Staffordshire Terriers (pitbulls to some) that are the sweeetest doggies around. Just roll right over and want their tummies rubbed. Walk right by your side (wish I could get my own to do that regularly). It is sad. Other dogs with worse personalities and behaviours have come and gone but the pits remain. If they weren't tagged with such a bad breed name, they would be the first ones gone. They are so sweet. So, any of you out there that know of someone looking to adopt a pitbull, just let me know. I would love to see these two go to a good home.

On Sunday, a friend who I thought was long lost, called so I went with her to see two movies at the Stanford Theatre on University. It is such a beautiful theatre - restored to the old style with a balcony, nice cushy seats, wide wood floors, each row elevated high above the previous row so there is no problem seeing the movie, beautiful painted wood mouldings and chandeliers. The price is right - $7.00 for a double feature and $1.50 for a medium popcorn. An organ player plays live between features. They only show classic movies. I saw a double feature of The Thin Man and Top Hat (Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers). Both black and whites and amazingly racy. I got a kick out of both. It was a nice way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

Monday brought back another week of Drs. visits. Went to Quigong and am happy to say that my SIL and her Mom joined me there. I wish everyone could have the experience. A great breakfast (complete with Chocolate milkshake - mmmmmmm!) at Los Altos Coffee shop afterword and then off to the Docs to get my one remaining stitch removed. I am now stitchless - ha ha! Or rather, not in stitches - hee hee! Ok. Ok. That was really bad.

Spent the rest of the afternoon and evening working on FieldDay Solutions. www.fielddaysolutions.com another startup that I have done work with off and on over the last few years. Currently, I am heading up their support efforts and also managing the accounting/finance side of things. This makes for an interesting duality as I prepare support documentation - customer information sheets, installation instructions, FAQs, etc. and then turn to numbers and preparing monthly financial reports and yearly tax forms. It is an interesting experience and I am learning a lot as I go through this. At the moment, we are working on a collaboration with Salesforce.com.

Yesterday evening, I had a pleasant call from Bachelor #3 (yes, I do realize this has seemingly been going on forever but it is really only 1 month tomorrow). We are still trying to arrange our first date after a series of unfortunate events which befell him over the last month. We have agreed on this Friday (St. Patrick's day - hmmm). Keep your fingers crossed that this time we can actually meet and that all goes well.

And finally......drum roll......Today is my dear sister's birthday! Happy Birthday Sis! You might know her as Delirious Mind (her blog). I hope she has a great day! As for me, I am painting today after doing some more followup with Soc. Sec. (still no answers and Kaiser dragging its feet on the paperwork), LA County Recorders office (records for followup on my BC), paying bills and just general catch up on emails and.........

oh yeah.........

writing this (circle one) a. extremely exciting
b. just so so
c. I have nothing better to do so might as well read it
d. better than a kick in the pants
e. would rather have the kick in the pants

That is about it. You should be well into a nice snooze by now if you got this far. Remember no news is a good snooze! or something like that.

Have a great day!

Thursday, March 09, 2006


Today, I made the trip to the basement of Kaiser Santa Teresa for my Breast MRI. For some reason, I woke up with a terrible headache that didn't get any better by the time I had to go for the MRI. In preparation, I carefully removed all of my jewelry - necklace, medalert bracelet, toe ring, earrings - before leaving home since no metal objects are allowed in the MRI room. The machine is a big magnet and wearing anything metal could be potentially devastating.

Once there, I removed my watch and all of my clothes except my underpants and socks and put on the oh-so-lovely, 3 hole hospital gown. This is a significant advance over the open in the back type. With this gown, you put one arm in the first hole, bring it around back like a jacket or sweater and put your other arm in the second hole. You finish it off by wrapping the last piece around your front and sticking your first arm through the third hole. In this way, you are completely covered yet still fully accessible when necessary.

I was escorted into the room by two kindly gentlemen, one of whom then proceded to put an IV into my still battered hand. He got it in at the first sight he tried, although he did have to do some wiggling and hard pushing to get it far enough into my thin, depleted little vein in order to get good blood flow. I gritted my teeth and tried not to cry out too much. Then, he hooked me up to the contrast machine and flushed with saline. Oh!!!! The burning........ It was all I could do not to sob. I just cried out loud. The pain was shooting all the way up my arm half way to the elbow. I asked if he could slow it down and he said no, he was sorry but the contrast has to go in at a fixed speed in order to work. I feared that my poor little vein would blow out right then and there.

After the IV, I laid down on my tummy, opened the gown and let my breast hang through the hole out into nothingness. The two kind men gave me a pillow for my head and one under my legs and put a blanket on my back - all to make me as comfortable as possible while my breast was dangling through this hole.

The pumping machine was hooked into my IV and I was motored into the big, white MRI machine. This is about my 4th MRI and 2nd Breast MRI. This machine is new and not near as claustrophobic as the others. It is still close enough in to pin my elbows to my head but not as long or dark so you feel more like you are out in the open. Once you are in it, you cannot move. I could have moved my head but lifting it would only result in a bump from the top of the machine. My arms were laying up on the pillow beside my head with towels padding them as they were pinned in by the sides of the machine.

Now, I was ready to go.

Don't move came the disembodied voice over the microphone. I tried. Whoosh came the cold air blowing over my face and naked breast. Then, it started - knock, knock, knock - like some scary monster from a horror movie trying to get in your house - whose there? The answer -- RRRROOOOOAARARRRRATTTATTTTATTOOOARRR- like a jackhammer working on the street. I wondered why they hadn't given me earplugs as I was slowly going deaf from the sound. This repeated for a long time - slide to move the position of the bed, knock, knock, knock, RRROOROOOARRRR and sometimes DADADDADADADDADA like a machine gun. In one particularly long sequence, I suddenly got some particle of dust in the back of my throat and had a coughing fit - the kind that wracks your whole body. So much for not moving. I was left drooling and teary-eyed. And still the sounds continued. At one point, the knocking continued so long, I thought I was listening to a scratched recording of "The Lion Sleeps Tonight". A-Wing-O-Witz, A-Wing-O-Witz, A-Wing-O-Witz - on and on and on. I am sure that at some point, I dozed off.

After an interminable amount of time, the voice came to me again and said, here comes the contrast. At the same time, I felt this excruciating, burning pain in my hand and up my arm. I didn't think I could bear it and cried out again. The voice said I was doing good, hang in there, it was almost over. Then, it told me to lie very still, that this was the most important part and the longest part - 7 minutes for this segment alone. I counted the roars and bangs and knocks that followed, thinking they might be one per second. There ended up being 840 of them - about one every half second. My headache was not feeling much better and I was freezing. At long last, after 45 minutes inside the big, white beast's belly, I was hauled out and the scan was over.

The nice man removed the IV (bless him) and held a towel up so that I could put my gown back on. I said that with breast cancer it is hard to remain modest. So many doctors had already looked at me. He said that was all the more reason to hold the towel and give me a little privacy - that I deserved it. What a kindly soul.

He said the pictures had turned out very nice and that I was the best patient they had - that I had stayed more still than anyone. Flatterer. I asked about the coughing fit and he said they had enough duplicates from that segment that they were able to by pass it and the pictures came out great. He even said that the night tech came by and asked him how he got such good pictures. I guess I am really good at staying still!

And that was the MRI experience. I am sure that you would love to have this wonderful experience also. Sorry, it is only for special people. :) Now, just have to wait until next week to see what the results show, if anything.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Rain, rain, go away....

Ok. I've had enough rain. Don't get me wrong. I do like the rain. It makes for nice snuggling up on the couch with a fire and book and glass of wine, keeps the flowers and grass watered and my water bill down and is especially peaceful now that Smokey has his Xanax and doesn't keep me up all night with his panic attacks. But, enough is enough. I want to go out and walk and enjoy the sunshine. The dogs want to go out and walk and enjoy all of the smells. I am starting to feel a little house bound since I don't like walking in the rain and the cold. My body is tired out with the craving for a little exercise (beyond the yoga and quigong). Could we please have some sunshine and warmth for this sungirl? PLEASE?!?

On another front, the doc took a look at the missing stitch yesterday and said that I am healing nicely and quickly. Yeah! He didn't want to put another stitch in because of the fear of infection so just steri-stripped the hole shut. I sure hope I don't get an ugly looking scar. I know that sounds vain but really would like to minimize the amount of scarring on my body and the 1 big and 3 little ones on my chest are already enough for me. If this keeps up, I might have to get a tattoo! jk

I asked my OncDoc what a normal follow-up schedule would be once I finish all of these chemos I have left. Just for the record, no. 8 was half way through. I have 8 or 9 more to go. He told me that I would see him every 6 months for 5 years and then once/year after that. I asked about tests - bone scans, CT scans, CA125 blood tests, lung x-rays, blood tests to check the liver - all measures to check for early metastasis. He said that there is no evidence that those tests find metastasis earlier than a patient's own sense and feelings and, therefore, he would not be performing them as a matter of course but only if I showed symptoms. I am not quite sure how I feel about that. Other survivors I have spoken to definitely have fixed courses of tests and somehow that seems to me the conservative way to go - can't be too careful. I know that if I request them, he will run them but not sure if I should have that burden. I have time to think about it since it is in the future. In the meantime, all of the tests are being run on me anyway since my plastic surgeon has requested them prior to doing the reconstruction.

After that rather long morning, I decided that a movie (or two) was in order. I arrived at the theater and checked what was on the schedule. The only thing starting near that time was Munich, so Munich it was. I bought my ticket, got two scoops of Dreyer's ice cream (Rocky Road and some peanut butter, chocolate concoction) and grabbed a seat. Just for the record, Century theater (or CineArts Century as they are now called) in Mountain View gives really BIG scoops of ice cream. The two I got were more like 4 scoops. Good for the tummy and taste buds but bad for the weight. The movie was not what I expected but okay. I should mention that several hours later when talking with my friend, I totally forgot what movie I had seen or even what it was about. That could be the chemobrain or it could be that the movie just wasn't that good. hmmmmm...

After Munich,which was a double feature with 'the 3 lives of somebody', which I wasn't interested in seeing, I decided to slip into another film. This one was 16 blocks with Bruce Willis and Mos Def. Mos Def was extremely annoying, which was what his character was supposed to be, so I guess he did a good job. The film wasn't bad - just an action flick - and I did remember it several hours later. Hmmmm again. Maybe it is just me and maybe I am demented. Who knows.

This brought me back home again where I spent a quiet evening, spoke to Bachelor #3 and another friend of mine, did a little needlepoint (still the same darn one - will it ever get done?) and went to bed only to be woken up by Smokey when the rain started pounding on the roof. I popped him a Xanax, made him lay down and drifted off to a peaceful sleep on my $5 Costco pillow.

Monday, March 06, 2006

8th Herceptin Treatment

Today is my 8th Herceptin Treatment. That is about all there is to say about it. Nothing exciting there. Just go to the doctor. Wait. He asks how I am doing. Fine. Get my Herceptin prescription. Go to the infusion room. Wait. Sit in the big comfy chair. A nurse sticks a needle in the port in my chest. Wires hanging out everywhere. Look like something from the Matrix. Hook one of the wires up to a bag hanging from a rod. Turn on the pump. Pump, pump, pump for about an hour and a half. At the same time, hook up the blood pressure cuff. Take the blood pressure. After, inject Heparin through the wires to clean the port and eliminate any potential for a blood clot. Remove the needle and wires. Put a bandaid over it. Get a Mocha coffee -non-fat, decaf with whip. Get in the car and leave. Pretty simple.

At least, the rash has finally gone and I can sleep without scratching all night. Seems like the cortisone cream helped and/or it just ran its course. The docs never did figure out what caused it.

The only small little problem I have today is that one of the stitches they put in last week after removing the cyst tore out yesterday. I have to go back in today to have a new one put in. It is right on my chest and I don't want an ugly scar there (besides the 3 big ones that are there already).

Thats about all of the news for now. Have to run!

Friday, March 03, 2006

Finally some new photos

I have posted here today some new photos which come courtesy of my sister, Susan. Thanks for taking the pictures!

There are two photos of me with my nieces - Samantha and Riley where you can get a nice view of my new hair (and of course the nieces too). This hair is still the grow out from the chemo. I haven't done anything else to it.

The other two photos have a story. Our friend Rich whose blog is referenced to your right under American in Germany http://onlyingermany.blogspot.com/wrote a very moving story of his life and first meeting with the twins. The story left me in tears. Rich also posted a photo with the story that showed his first meeting with Samantha - one of the twins. I was so inspired that I just had to paint it. The picture you see was painted for Rich and is the result of that inspiration. Rich is in Germany so it may take some time before the actual painting is delivered but, rest assured, he will eventually get it. I hope he likes it.

As for other news, my CT scan came back with no unusual blips or shadows. Just showed that I do have a brain after all! Yesterday, I had two cysts removed and now have two little stitches to show for it. They will be biopsied but don't really expect to find anything.

The trials with Social Security continue. Kaiser, Santa Teresa didn't help by delaying sending my records over to the SS office. They say they are supposed to go out in 7 - 10 working days but it is taking them 16 working days (they won't send them until next Wed) to send them over! Apparently, none of those people understand what it is like to have billls to pay! Kaiser, Redwood City hasn't sent theirs either and I couldn't even speak with them because they were "out to lunch". Aargh! At least things are moving.

Oh! I almost forgot. I have a date with Bachelor #3 (Mr. SeemsNormal). He is still seeming normal and we have a lot in common. I am really looking forward to this date. It is tomorrow - drinks and.......maybe......dinner.......if all goes well during the drinks phase! PFChangs.

That is all of my news. Just enjoying not having to be out on this rainy day.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

You can all thank me for the sun today!

Today was a good day. I got up this morning, ate my breakfast, showered and dressed - just like every day. But that is not the good part.

I got into my car (The Sebring, not my *sob* soon to be crushed Capri) and drove over to Hayward to Kaiser Hayward. That is not the good part either.

I only got lost 3 times on the way - once while trying to find my way into the parking lot. That is not the good part either.

Here it comes. Are you ready for this? This is the good part so if you aren't in the mood for something good, then stop reading now.

I saw my new Plastic Surgeon to talk about DIEP flap reconstruction. I was so nervous. She asked a lot of questions and listened attentively and sympathetically to my answers. She listened patiently to my questions, answered them all and then asked if I had more. There was none of that arrogance that I had become accustomed to when talking to Plastic Surgeons. She explained to me that the only kind of reconstruction she does now are DIEP flaps and that she loves doing them and I could see the gleam in her eye as she said it. She carefully explained the the risks and concerns and then related them to my specific case and then, she said the words I was holding my breath to hear. I was a good candidate for this type of reconstruction and that she would put me on the calendar for June! Yippee! I was so excited. She also said that she was going to speak with my surgeon and oncologist to check on the schedule for me getting all of my follow up tests for the rest of my body just to make sure there was no metastasis due to the serious nature of my cancer. That means more CT scans for my whole body this time and chest xrays and blood tests, etc. etc. etc. but I don't care, I can get my reconstruction! No more crying under the blankets in the middle of the day! (The dogs are jumping with joy).

Of course, there is still the small issue of the suspect shadow on my left breast and discovering whether it is cancer or not. The tests continue on that one and it will have to be resolved before making a decision on the reconstruction. The good news is that, if I decide to have the other breast removed, my surgeon can come to Hayward and do it at the same time as the reconstruction, or, if she is too busy, there is another breast surgeon there who I know and trust from my previous ventures on the other breast. So, I am feeling comfortable all the way around.

She told me that I definitely have enough tummy fat for one breast and, if I want two, have enough for two B cups. I asked her if that was two that are the size of the one I have now and she said, yes, or slightly smaller but not bigger. I said that was good since I didn't want bigger but was quite happy with what I had and would like the same, thank you very much, in the new pair. I asked her about what would happen if I lost 5 - 10 lbs and she said they would be a little smaller but still B's. She told me not to lose 30 lbs though. Yahoo! that was good to hear since it seems to take me about 2 years to lose 5 lbs but I am hoping to reduce that to 2 months and know that there probably isn't a snowball's chance in hell of me losing 30 this year.

We also discussed the option if I had one done and ended up with breast cancer in the other in the future. She said that we can't go back to the belly but that she could take from my butt or thigh. Well, I would like to keep my butt but she could take some of that wobble from my thigh. Anyway, there is an option for the future should I need it.

So, all was good and just need to figure out what is happening with the other breast before June rolls around.

So, you see, that is why the sun was shining today despite the weatherman's predictions that it would be poring rain again. I was so happy that my energy just brought out the blue skys and sunshine. :D

As for the poring rain we are experiencing as I write this, I am not responsible! Hey, my happiness couldn't hold the weather up forever, could it!

Anyway, all joking aside, I am so happy to have found this doctor and so happy all went well and so happy to have reconstruction set for June! WooHooo!