Saturday, March 24, 2012

Chemo for a Cure

Let's not get all dramatic now - been there, done that!. But it looks like this gal is going to join the chemo club and the bald ladies society!

As of Monday, both my UCLA and Santa Barbara oncologists handed down the final verdict after a couple of rounds of Herceptin testing on the mastectomy tissue. Getting the call was surreal to say the least as I held it together just long enough to play big-girl on my end of the phone conversation with Dr. G. But the second we said our goodbyes, I lost it! And by lost it, I mean I wailed and sobbed so hard and loud I'm sure my neighbors were ready to call 911 from three blocks away.

Now, I don't tell you this so that you can throw a pity-party in my honor, but I tell you this bit because let me just say, that when you think you're coming out of the woods with this whole round-freaking-three of breast cancer this is not the news that one desires to hear. And while again, I had that gut feeling about the strong possibility of chemo, hearing the words brings new light to the phrase "fighting for your life!"

After I hung up, I slowly looked at Hil in the eyes as she stood by the side of my bed when abruptly that primal cry from beyond took over both me and my body. Trying her lovingly best to console me, I felt that I had no control over what I intuitively knew was long and coming. Calling my mom to see if that would calm me down, I still couldn't stop the wailng as Hil simultaneously held the phone to my ear while clutching my body with her free arm so that I could hear my mom's calm, and loving voice on the other end.

Fast forward five days and suddenly it hit me! Wait a minute, chemo is my CURE! Hellllooo! This is what I've wanted - a final chance to kick cancer's a$$! Forget the pink culture, race for the cures and breast cancer awareness month (October in case you were wondering), this is grassroots, people! Me. I'm it. One breast cancer fight at a time (insert Rocky music here).

So, I'm pulling myself up by my bootstraps, prepping my pre-chemo body with herbs and getting myself in the best mental and emotional place I can in anticipation of April 3rd. Next week I'll be getting a portacath ('port') placed into my upper chest to make the next year of chemo and Herceptin treatments easier on my post-mastectomy veins and I'm ready to roll.

I may not always have my current kick-a$$ attitude, but I'll really try my best. It's a humbling experience to say the least and I may (ahem) actually have to ask for some help from some of you. But if I'm down, I just ask that you be gentle with my spirit and body and let me work through it. I'll come out of it, no worries - I promise. Because after all, I'm a Sagittarius AND genetically unstoppable!

Peace out.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Behind the Wheel Again!

After 12 weeks of riding in the passenger seat with my 'pillow buddy,' I finally put my big-girl pants on and hopped into the driver's seat (BY MYSELLLLF!). I felt like a newly licensed 16 year old (circa 1976), that was finding any excuse to run an errand for her parents. First stop, an acupuncture visit, then a quick stop to the post office, chiropractor and back to the acupuncturist to pick up my herbs. Whoa, what freedom! I cranked up the music, sang my heart out and hit the open road (ok, so I only drove the surface streets and mostly left handed!), but the point is, I drove!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Goodbye to Caregiver #4: Ode to Jane

A few weeks overdue but not forgotten, is my last nod to a caregiver (#4). This time, an ode to Jane (AKA, 'Janie, Jane, Jane'/'JJJ'). The cousin to Caregiver #3 ('Aleesh') whom we have known for many years and are so fortunate to not only call her a dear friend, but we consider her family as well. 

Jane contacted us to volunteer her time and vacation days to drive down from the Bay Area to care for me while Hil went back to work. And at such a pivotal time, Jane came during my first attempt to return to work by taking me to a two-day conference in Santa Barbara after Hil dropped me off the first morning. Then she was off and running with driving me around, juicing, cooking dinners, getting our van smogged and even had time to schedule some play time with Romeo! We talked, napped, laughed, cried and honestly, she just renewed my spirit.

In usual Jane style, she had the calm, loving essence that I so needed during the week that she came. And also in her Jane-Pisces groove, she went with the flow, laughed along the way, and approached her caregiving with the finesse, serenity and peacefulness that was so needed. I have always felt such a sense of tranquility whenever I'm in the presence of Jane which I always treasure. But on the flip side, I never laugh and giggle so much as when I'm around her!

'JJJ' brought a warmth and balance into our home that both Hil and I needed along with a playfulness that was long overdue. Cut from the same cloth as her cousin Aleesh, they both intuitively know what needs to happen and exactly when! And just when I thought I couldn't handle being out, Jane swiftly engaged me in conversations about matters of life that bring me joy like poetry, dogs, travel and creativity.

One of THE most creative and artistic people I know, Jane brought her innovative mindset into our home and left us with the gift of inspiration. So to that Janie, Jane, Jane - I thank you, Hil thanks you and Romeo pants a warm dose of love your way (he still wanders by your room at night and first thing in the morning, looking for his pal Jane! He's so dreamy over you!).

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Expansions #2 & #3: Really?!

Dr. Soares & the 'Magnet Port Stud Finder'
My inner Sagittarius decided to combine these previously two separate posts into one, because quite frankly, it's pretty much the same gig. Or do I mean gag - because this is most definitely a joke gone bad. And since the saline expansion process is such oodles of fun, why relive these patient pilgrimages twice?

Feeling like a VooDoo doll experiment from a 1970's slumber party, I headed into my plastic surgeon's office in Santa Barbara on Monday with my hopeful and ritualistic frame of mind in tact (AKA, Nervous-Nelly Mentality). Sleek yoga attire-check. Meditation-check. Word inspiration of the day ('calm')-check. Half a valium-check. Film crew/chauffeur (AKA, Hil)-check.

I arrived and walked through that office door with my brave-patient-attitude and ended up waiting for 45 minutes in the waiting room due to the backlog of cancer patients flooding into the office. All at different stages from pre-op to post-op and saline fill-ups to post-mastectomy graduates, I watched the patients roll in and out like a ping-pong match. As for me, I'm halfway through my journey yet not new to the breast cancer arena all the while starting to nod off due to the now, poorly timed valium I took on the drive up from Ventura.

Finally, the nurse took me back to the room to prep me for my bi-monthly 'fill-up' and proceeded to talk my ears off for at least 20 minutes before the doctor came in.  I did my usual peruse of the room through squinted eyes at what I've previously tried to avoid - the metal tray. Syringe-check. Three inch needle-check. Pictures of my old breasts-check.

As I'm directed to sit in the reclining patient chair, in walks my sweet plastic surgeon with his usual smile on his face like we're heading into a fun cocktail party. Yet again, I cannot find the mini-bar in the room that I desperately need as that damn valium is all but out of my system now as evidenced by my renewed nerves.

140cc's later, I felt as if I had two new water balloons inserted into these bad-a$$ expanders. "Are you full?" he keeps asking me through his serious doctor expression. As always and through my bubbly grin, I say an emphatic 'YES!' and act like I can handle it like a champion cancer survivor. But underneath it all I can't help but ponder - 'me thinks this ain't so fun here in Cancerland.'

And then the surrealness of it all hits me as I smile, say my goodbyes and shuffle back out to the car while thinking that I can hardly believe the reality show that I've been dropped into the middle of. Trying desperately to distract myself, I read the Facebook newsfeed on my iPad about how my friends are going on beautiful bike rides, hitting top-notch concerts and sharing travel pics from around the globe. All the while, I'm holding and massaging my new water balloons in the hopes of relieving the fullness on the 45 minute drive back down the coast to Ventura. But by the time we pull into the garage I can barely get out of the car due to my newfound pain!

The past two expansions went fine but that night, I found myself asking what the hell just happened with this expansion and final fill? The 'overfill' as I've heard it called, is supposed to give the final implants the proper room and space. But, it just doesn't feel right and the memories of that night 7 weeks earlier starts flashing in my mind. Is it supposed to hurt like this? Are 'they' too full? Should 'they' feel this hard? Can 'they' explode? Someone, please answer my urgent line of questioning!

Well, as you can imagine, the evening didn't go as expected or planned. After attempting to eat left handed downstairs, I was finally hand fed until I was fed up. Shuffling my way upstairs to bed at 6:45, all I wanted to do was to lie down with a box of kleenex. I couldn't get in or out of bed by myself and was moving like I was 2 weeks post-mastectomy and 98 years old. So, we examine the bedroom tray of meds to decide what might help me through my Monday night misery. We pull out the big guns and hit the pain pill reserves and Voila! - we settle on a pain relieving cocktail (thank you leftover Norco!).

Eight hours later and two slightly settled water balloons, I woke up able to get out of bed with only a little assistance as the pain was on it's way back down from being the 10+ level of agony it was the night before. And, glimpses of my previous hopeful attitude began to show up again as the light at the end of the very dark tunnel was finally lightening up.

So, even though I've missed a full week of work, I'll suppose I'll just chalk this up to a blip on the cancer radar screen. Next plastic surgeon post: 'The Implants are In!'

One could only hope.