Thursday, February 28, 2013

Brain Tumor Crisis Averted!

I repeat, brain tumor crisis averted! Yep, you heard that one right. For over 2 weeks now, I have had many sleepless nights, butterflies in my stomach, a few grouchy moments and 'Google-itis' (see below):

[goo·guhl·ai·tIs ]  a pathological obsession with internet researching until all hours of the night about (in my case), brain tumors and metastatic cancer to the brain.

So, let me cut to the chase and break it down for you. I began having symptoms and side effects consistent with metastatic brain cancer a few weeks back so my oncologist took me off my new estrogen blocker meds, blah, blah, blah, wanted me to wait it out to see if the headaches diminished and VOILA! They didn't go anywhere.

The conversation that ensued next with my oncologist during my last treatment then went something like this:

ME: Hey, Dr. G., I'm still having those headaches.
DR G: Did you track them over the last couple of weeks?
ME: Yeah.
DR G: And?
ME: I still have them.
DR G: Well, then we need a brain scan to see if your breast cancer has metastasized to your brain and if you have a brain tumor.
ME: (Saying nothing but thinking... Did he just used the words 'brain' and tumor' in the same sentence?)
ME: Okaaay. (Insert deafening silence here)

So, fast forward a couple of weeks and one brain scan later, and now a new conversation with Dr. G. over the phone yesterday and....

DR G: Well, we got the results and the good news is that there are no signs of metastatic breast cancer or any brain tumors. But...
ME: (Thinking again...AWESOME!!....uh....what? "But?")
ME: Oh good!  (insert brave voice here)
DR G: But, your brain looks older than your age
ME: (Thinking.... he must mean WISER, not older! Duh.) Ooookaay?
DR G: And...
ME: (Still thinking....And? There's more?)
DR G: There are some white spots that look a little suspicious and might be consistent with MS or a stroke
ME: (Thinking yet again... Who the hell cares about a damn stroke, I don't have a brain tumor!!)
DR G: So, I am calling my best neurologist now (can't for the life of me recall his name - still celebrating in my head about no metastatic cancer and brain tumors!)... so I can get you an appointment with him so he can figure out your headaches and these white spots
ME: Ok! Great! Thanks so much! Bye-Bye!

So there you have it. My celebration of the week. No brain tumors - CHECK. No metastatic cancer - CHECK. White spots - CHECK. Stroke - WHATEVER! MS? - YEAH RIGHT!

In the meantime, enjoy the pics, the video and me on Ativan for the brain scan!

Nighty Night!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Herceptin #16: Just Another Day at the Spa!

My friend and sister-in-cancer Carla, suggested that we should call our trips to treatment 'A Day at the Spa.' She goes to a spa in LA called City of Hope while my spa further up the coast, is called the Cancer Center of Santa Barbara.

After my brilliant friend advised that we use this new terminology, I quickly mulled it over and agreed, this is totally like a day at the spa! I get to sit in a lounge/recliner chair, I'm brought warm blankets to snuggle in, I'm greeted and pampered like I'm an A-list celeb, I get to hang out with some pretty awesome peeps (Martha, Debi, Kimba, Socorro, Amber), a lady comes around offering tea, coffee and treats and if I'm lucky, I get to sneak in a short nap while I relax. So yes, this is indeed a day at the spa!

I also had the lucky chance encounter to sit next to a new day spa guest and her groovy husband, which added greatly to my spa treatment experience. Being around others in this....uhm....'sisterhood,' makes my day at the spa even more meaningful.

So hats off to all of my fellow spa guests because this signature treatment left me with a more settled feeling that I really needed as I am still making every attempt to make friends with the side effects and this journey. Now if they could only serve up a little champagne to go with that Herceptin infusion bag, it would round off the whole spa treatment experience ever so perfectly!

Lastly, it goes without saying, that I think the Cancer Center of Santa Barbara ROCKS! Thank you to my wonderful Purple, Chemo Angels along with Dr. G., Amanda, Martha (who always takes 2lbs off my weigh-in!), Christy, Sam, Tammy, Joanna, Elvira and all the gals at the front desk. You make my treatments at the spa, well.... faaaabuulous little darlings!

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Stupid Dumb Breast Cancer

Stupid Dumb Breast Cancer is right! And when Ann Marie Giannino-Otis wrote to me, telling me that she would love to share my journey and blog on her Facebook community page, I said, "hells yeah!" I wrote her back immediately and thought, this uber spunky gal has got it going on. Great attitude - check. Passionate - check. A breast cancer sister with a cause - check.

Fast forward, she posted a profile of me on her Facebook page and there you have it. Two total strangers who have never met before, live on opposite ends of the country, but are distantly and immediately connected by this Stupid Dumb Breast Cancer! She calls me 'Momma' and 'Sweet Thang' and I call her 'girlie' - enough said.

So check it out, check out Ann Marie's blog, LIKE her Facebook page (she's VERY likable!) and buy one of her Stupid Dumb Breast Cancer t-shirts which are very cool just like her!

Most of all, support her, support me and support finding a cure to this very stupid disease!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Lent 2013: Bite Me Side Effects!

Still falling back on my pre-Hindu, Catholic days, I have decided for the second year in a row, to give up something substantial for Quadragesima (Lent). Last year, I made the commitment to give up cancer, so this year, as you can imagine, my giving-up process is yet again, related to the Big C. So let's get to it shall we?

Still struggling through these blasted side effects and days on end of spending full days and time in bed, that's exactly what I have decided to give up. Not to go against Father O'Neary and the nuns that pressured my young Catholic girl, but screw you pile of side effects! Bite me nausea, joint ache and migraines!

And there you have it, no more side effects! That's what's for Lent. So thanks to the big guy (or gal!) upstairs. I am praying to the side-efects-Gods as I perform my Signum Crucis (that's good 'ol Latin for crossing/blessing oneself on the chest, Catholic style) as I kick off Lent 2013.

So, in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, let's rock 'n roll Lent.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Herceptin #15: On The Homestretch

I can hardly believe that I'm on the homestretch of treatment as this part of my life has become my new 'normal,' my routine, and in some ways, my salvation. As I now see an end in sight, I enter each treatment in the chemo room with newer, fresher, wiser eyes. I suppose that my 'new life' as my cousin and I often call it, continues to provide me with a fresh perspective. Life is fragile, short and full of pay-it-forward moments as we often experience in the chemo room.

This treatment was no different as it sent Hil scanning the room for opportunities to help other patients with their technology as there is always someone in need. And Herceptin #15 provided her with yet another opportunity to be a personal technical assistant. This time, she helped a male patient during his chemo treatment so that he could hop onto the Cancer Center's Wi-Fi and his iPad during his 5 hour stint. Mission complete.

Me on the other hand, well, I connected with a fellow breast cancer survivor who is also what I term a 'repeat offender.' On her second diagnosis now and in the treatment room for her first chemo, I sat down next to her for a bit on our way out as we discussed how to keep our spirits and bodies moving forward. Yoga? Cancer Center classes? Walking? Naps? Whatever it takes.

Whatever the case, we know it's good for our souls to help others, pay it forward and be there for someone else. And even though this treatment knocked the wind out of my sails, I'll still keep going back for more. Why? Well....why not? I'm still chasing my cure and getting ready to cross the finish line soon.

Herceptin #20, here I come!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Doctor's Check-ups & Check-ins

I suppose one could say that these gowns and doctor's visits are now considered a new hobby of mine. I wear the gowns often and see my surgical team at regular intervals, and according to my journal, I seem to be partaking in this activity way more than any exercise program so far. So, there you have it, an official hobby.

But all new obsessive hobbies must come to an end or at least, taper off as I learned during these two recent surgeon's visits. And only weeks apart, both of my surgical docs (Dr. Grafton - Mastectomy Surgeon & Dr. Soares - Plastic Surgeon) broke the news to me that they didn't need to see me as often. I made every attempt to stay strong and wear my grown-up face, but I'm not sure I pulled it off.

I don't see Dr. Grafton until June and Dr. Soares told me to "just make an appointment some time after you finish your chemo/infusion treatments." WHAT?! I'm getting downgraded to longer stretches of check-ups?!

Yeah, yeah, I know this is great news to you, but what most of you will never understand is just how very much I have come to rely on my surgical peeps. They're my backbone, my personal support group, my sources of inspiration. Now what? Even Hil gasped once we got back in the car. How would Dr. Soares get on with his new iPhone 5 without her technical help?

Well, dare I admit that I will now be forced to seek out an official hobby like swimming, roller-blading, or collecting refrigerator magnets like my sister-in-law? Man, what a brutal transition this is turning out to be.

Any thoughts or suggestions? I think I may need some assistance and reinforcement on this one.