Monday, October 30, 2006

stuff, stuff, stuff

Sometimes you don't know that something is bad until it stops being bad. That is how it was with the Herceptin treatments. I had gotten so accustomed to the random muscle cramping - the arch of my foot, my calf, my thigh - that it had become a part of life. It wasn't until last night that I was laying there thinking "when was my last muscle cramp" and I couldn't remember because it was more than a few days ago. The muscle pain in my buttox is now nearly gone too. Needless to say, the cramping and pain probably meant that I wasn't sleeping near as well as I thought I was. It seems that I may be sleeping better now and the fatigue is subsiding a little. Which is not to say that the fatigue will not continue to be a part of my life for a while but it is not so overwhelming now (at least today, at this moment).

What else is new? Well, I have made some more trials at a semblance of a job hunt. Sent out some resumes on Friday to prospective companies. Today, I received one phone call from a recruiter, got an email from another and spoke to her on the phone and received an email directly from a company with a specific job opening. I am hoping to speak with them tomorrow. Called today but there was no answer.

Other than that, did some baking, did the budgets for ATW, went to Quigong and the rest of normal life. Never a dull moment (yet). Still working at getting the dogs back out for a walk. Mornings have just been too hectic lately.

Friday, October 27, 2006

job searching

I have just gotten hooked on a jobsite called indeed.com that consolidates job listing from just about every other job site you can imagine and spent an inordianate
amount of time applying to jobs this morning (and,
now, afternoon), gone through the frustrating process
of registering on alternate job sites which was
required to apply to most of the jobs - BA Jobs,
Monster, Yahoo, etc.

If the job listing had a company email, i just
by-passed the job site and went directly to the
company email and then had to go through each company's frustrating process of registering. One big question.
Why, when already uploading a resume, do most of the
sites also require you to fill out detailed
employment, education, etc. information? It is
already on the resume! And why do the sites allow
uploading a Word resume and then bastardize it into
txt anyway? And why is the sky blue? Oops, that
would be another conversation wouldn't it.

And while we are asking Why... or at least I was anyway. Yahoo sent me a notice to upgrade my IE to IE7. I did not knowing that it was Windows Internet Explorer provided by Yahoo will all of this unnecessary stuff taking up the top of my screen and making the usable portion much smaller. I have tried to find a way to shrink the top but none of the usual stuff works - and worse, it took off the main menu that I use so that I have to go through a whole clicking process every time I open my browser just to get my menu back. ugh! How do I reverse this process?

Thursday, October 26, 2006

More doctors

Today, I had my follow-up with my surgeon - the one who removed my breast and put in my port, along with doing an awesome job of helping me to plan my treatment at a time when I was desperate, frustrated and scared. She took a look at my reconstruction and checked all of my scars. Everything looked good. We chatted for a while about my recovery and life in general. No news is good news and today's visit was a no news visit. Yeah!

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

And so it starts........

Yesterday, I was happy to visit my Radiation Oncologist, Dr. Young, at Sequoia. He is one of my favorite doctors and always has something interesting to say. This was my 1month, then 4 month, then 6 month follow-up which is how it came to be 11 months instead of 1 year. It is hard to believe that it is nearly one year now since I completed radiation! I am a 19 month cancer survivor. How time passes.

During the exam, we talked about Herceptin. I mentioned that I had some muscle pain, weakness, fatigue that cumulatively got worse over the year I was on Herceptin. I expected him to say the same as everyone else, "but Herceptin doesn't have any negative side effects". Instead, he told me about another patient of his that experienced the same symptoms but to a much worse degree. She had to be on pain killers the whole time. Her comment was that she had not had much problem with AC/Taxol (the chemo combo that makes most people, including me, so sick) but had terrible problems with Herceptin. As sorry as I was to hear her dilemma, I was also happy that someone else had acknowledged difficulties with Herceptin.

Back to the exam. Everything went well. No new developments. Dr. Young checked out my reconstruction and commented on the elasticity of my skin (a good thing) at the radiation site. He said it was good that most of the burn was gone. I thought this to be normal one year later but guess that my healing was going better than normal. I go back to see him again in 6 months and then start on a once/year schedule after that.

Last night, I also went for another SCIOS session to try to balance my hormones that were put so out of whack by chemo and potentially reverse the unnatural menopause that I have been forced into. Because the treatment program can multi-task, I also received treatments for my stiff neck and anemia and various other adjustments that needed to be made to my system. It is amazing that just being hooked up to the machine could relieve my stiff neck that Quigong and stretching could not do all day long. The funny thing is that the treatment system also evaluates your chakras, meridians and auras - all manifestations of energy and therefore quantifiable by a system that is measuring energy movement such as the SCIOS. The operator said wow, you have to see this. I was wondering what was wrong and she showed me that I was emanating a strong purplish, pink aura which meant that I was surrounded by love and positive energy. I guess I have all of my family and friends to thank for that. Anyway, we will see if this has any positive effect on my hormones and reversing this unnatural menopause.

I returned home and found TIVO recording "Why I Wore Lipstick to My Mastectomy". I thought it would be another of those light, fluffy breast cancer dramas that white washed over and minimized everything so as not to "scare" the public. It was refreshingly surprising to find that it was a pretty direct, hard hitting presentation of the emotions and difficulties women go through in being diagnosed, having to make the decisions and managing this disease (and was handled with some humor). It is a true story and the author was only 27 when diagnosed. She talks about finding the lump, about the doctors saying it was probably nothing, even her doctor-surgeon husband saying it was probably nothing. Her own gynecologist missed it until she pointed it out. Unlike mine, they were actually able to see hers in the mammogram and sent her to ultrasound. Still unable to conclusively tell, they sent her for a needle biopsy. Her first oncologist cried and recommended lumpectomy. The second one recommended bilateral mastectomy. The third recommended lumpectomy because she was so beautiful and neeeded to keep her breasts. All kept telling her it was her decision. She was confused and frustrated not knowing which way to turn. At that point, she began doing her own research and finally, confidently decided on a mastectomy. Through it all, she describes her emotions, her fears - Is her life over? Is she going to die? I could go on and on (and already have) but really want to say that it is a good movie. Glad I watched it. Thank you TIVO. It is on Lifetime and will be showing again this month. Watch it if you get a chance.

And finally, what is coming up? Thursday, I see my surgeon for a follow-up. I forget which one but think it is a 6 month to 6 month to 4 month follwo-up. Next week, I see my plastic surgeon to take a look at the new breast and decide whether or not to do revision surgery.

And, in the middle of this, I am still looking for a job and trying to move on to the next phase of my life (post-cancer).

Whew! (Know I have said that before, too)

Monday, October 23, 2006

11 month follow-up

Can you believe it? Tomorrow is my 11 month follow-up with my radiation oncologist. I finished radiation on Nov. 30, 2005. How time flies.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

I feel sad

I have seen my family, seen my friends. Their is joy, peace and love around me. Yet I feel sad. Why?

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Just call me Baby....

Another one of nature's great wonders. How is it that I can get numerous infusions and blood tests from my arms, even watching as the needles go in but I can't even stand any needles in my mouth?

Yes, you guessed it. Today, I went to the dentist for 2 fillings - 12year molar on the lower right and 6year molar on the upper left. The assistant had to numb my gums twice and give me laughing gas (nitrous) BEFORE the dentist could even give me the needle to administer the anesthetic. And, believe me, I was not laughing. Then came the needle to the upper left - OUCH! A second needle to the upper left - still OUCH! Finally, a third needle to the upper left and no feeling. The bottom right took only 2 doses - thank goodness. The dentist said I seem to have a very low tolerance for pain in my mouth. I would agree.

Now, 2 fillings later, I am home, tired and good for nothing for the remainder of the day. Just me, the dogs and Survivor tonight. With a little Dr. McDreamy thrown in for the fun of it.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Bear Valley Fun

Last weekend, needed some R&R so decided to go up to Bear Valley for a girls' weekend. It was great fun.

We did some wine tasting on the way up. Twisted Oak where we found all of the rubber ducks in the trees by the road. I bought one that was dressed in a bikini and made a real funny squawk. We had a lot of fun with it over the weekend and I gave it to Thomas when I came home. He loved it and had so much fun with it until the squawker broke.

We also went to Chatom where they have yummy snacks with the wine tasting. The owner's name is Gay and they gave us buttons that said Our Owner is Gay. Not sure if I have any use for them but they were entertaining at the time.

Finally arrived at the condo and ate munchies and watched Men in Trees before heading out to Base Camp for some pool and fun.

Got up early - yes early - the next morning and went outside to do some painting. This was my first time to paint outdoors from a live subject. It was interesting to say the least. The day was sunny and I donned my trash bag (to protect my clothes from paint) and set up my easel to paint. Didn't finish the picture so took some photos to finish it later.

Next was hiking, a trip to Alpine lake for more hiking, shopping in the ski shop and yummy eating. What a life. So relaxing and fun. More pool and drinks at Base Camp and home to bed.

Sunday and Monday were more of the same. The whole time we had beautiful weather and sunny, blue skies. The photos are above if you want to have a look.

Now, I am back to the old grind of trying to clean out the study, let go of things, etc. Cleaned out and caught up on my emails, trying to clean my desk. Ugh. Dentist tomorrow along with a few hours of merchandising work.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Life has been hectic

Last week was a busy week indeed. It was one of those weeks in which things were piled on top of each other and then on top again. Tough choices had to be made between people and events that I thought had equally high priority - pretty much had to toss a coin. It was one of those weeks in which I wanted to ask everyone, "Do you know that the rest of the time, no one calls and I don't have any where to go?" Really, I am not complaining, just wishing for more sanity.


- Merchandising for Swank - started this seasonal position - 10 hours per week. Doesn't seem like much time but it wore on me and wore me out. Thought that I was back up to speed but this showed me I wasn't. Still, I am willing to go back to work and make a decent living so if anyone out there knows of any finance jobs, give me a holler.

- Visiting my old junior high school friend. Hadn't seen her in 6 years (or so) though we had kept in touch. It is a 2 1/2 hour drive each way but well worth it. I had a very nice time seeing her and meeting up with some of her kids again.

- Visiting with two other friends from my former company. All of us now former employees.

- Attending the christening of the one and only Val. Don't worry Val. The dunking wouldn't have been my cup of tea either and I would have screamed even louder. You were exceptionally good through the whole thing as were my two girls (nieces) - an exceptional feat for 2 year olds.

And lastly,

- an email today from one of my old flames of 9 years back - coming to California and wants to visit. It will be fun to see him but don't even think about any new sparks getting started here. He is one that I have moved on from though we stayed friends.

That is about it. Busy procrastinating rather than getting the million and one things done that I need to be working on. Better run and get started.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

The end of the road

At long last, I have reached the end of my treatments. Tomorrow is my last Herceptin infusion. I already had my last MUGA scan for which I can proudly say I scored 66% (up 5% from the last one). That means that my heart, too, has come through the treatments successfully. I will miss my wonderful infusion team. 16 months we have been together now and they have performed amazingly. However, I will not miss the reason for being there every three weeks. At this point, the doctors cannot detect any cancer. Lets hope it stays that way for many, many, many more years (or forever).

Just a couple more operations to complete the reconstruction and I will be truly done. When those will happen is unknown but there is no rush on them. At this point, I just need to think about moving on, finding a job, making a living.

It is amazing to look back and think of what I have been through. I look at the pictures of me bald, hooked up to IVs, wearing a wig and think, "Is that really me?" . I can't believe it. All of it seems like a dream that is quickly fading away. Sure, the scars are there to remind me but they have become such a part of me now that it is hard to imagine what caused them to be there. I can't really explain it, this feeling or non-feeling that I am having. Guess my mind has pretty much moved on, although I can still cry like at the Dragon Boat races last week when there is a celebration of cancer survivors. I feel proud to be part of that group even though I know that I had no choice but to go down the road I had been set on and to survive. There was nothing else I could have done.

I am thankful for my family and friends who have supported me so much on this journey. I am thankful for the new friends I have made and the opportunities to model in a fashion show, learn to paint and to paddle in the Dragon Boat races along with other adventures that I would not have had if I hadn't had cancer.

Although I wouldn't choose to have cancer, nor would I wish it on anyone else, I also would not trade the last year and a half of my life either. It is hard to explain but, in many ways, it has been a wonderful adventure. If you asked me a year ago, I would have told you that you were crazy, but now I can honestly say that it has been amazing.

Did it change me? I don't think so. Did it give me a new perspective on life? I don't think so. Did it present new opportunities to grow and learn? That it did and very well. I am hoping that I can continue to learn and grow as a person as I re-enter the working world and this experience becomes a distant memory.