Friday, February 20, 2009

The Chemo Cometh

Week 17: Wanted to let you know that my chemo is set to start next Wednesday, February 25th. It so happens that it's also Ash Wednesday, but I won't get into any of the religious significance for me at the moment. Rather, in the spirit of taking things "one day at a time," I need to focus on Fat Tuesday first. Cocktails and beads, anyone?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

I'm So Done With This Already

Week 16: I went to see my cancer surgeon. We went over my pathology report. They removed a piece of skin and underlying tissue that measured approximately 2-2/3" long x 1-1/2" wide x 1/2" deep. The tumor itself was about 2/3" x 1/2" x 1/4" in size. I don't recall the details, but I think the smallest dimension was about 3" with my original cancer, so this one was relatively small by comparison. That's the good news. The bad news is that my "Nottingham Score" is 9: Architecture 3 (out 3), Nuclei 3 (out of 3), and Mitoses 3 (out of 3). When the numbers are added up, a sum of 3 to 5 is Grade 1, 6 to 7 is Grade 2, and 8 to 9 is Grade 3. The higher the number, the more aggressive the cancer. That being said, because the Nottingham system is subject to a given pathologist's opinion, it's an imprecise method of categorizing the cancer. A high score doesn't mean I'm doomed, nor would a low score mean I'm off the hook. The grading is simply a tool to try to quantify tumor characteristics. After we talked about the report, my surgeon asked me, "so what does Dr. Felice (my oncologist) have planned?" I told her the names of the drugs I'm going to have and she shook her head in agreement. I asked her point blank what she thought of it. She stroked my arm and said, "it's really what you need at this point. It's the best thing for you." Reassuring while at the same time, ominous. Week 17: My central-line surgery went fine, except that, "IT HURTS LIKE HELL!" As soon as I'm done taking a little more pain medication, I'll tell you more about it. Four hours later... ...okay, where was I? Oh yeah, "IT HURTS LIKE HELL."

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Twilight Ain't My Time of Day

Week 16:   Nothing new to report other than I'll be visiting my cancer surgeon tomorrow for a follow-up and review of the patholgy report, and I'm scheduled to go under the knife again on Monday, Feb 16th.   As with the cancer surgery, I have to be at the hospital for check-in at 7:30am. These early morning procedures are getting annoying. They'll be putting my central line in using local anethesia and some other drug to render me semi-conscious rather than putting me totally out with general anethesia. Should take about three hours. I'll let you know how everything goes.

Saturday, February 7, 2009


Week 15: This week I went to see my oncologist for the "what's next" report. I was reminded that before I begin the chemo, I have to go back to the hospital sometime next week for another minor surgery. They need to put a medi-port/central line into my chest. Then we have to allow time for it to heal, so we're looking at the end of the month before toxins start filling my bloodstream. The infusions will be once a week, for 3 weeks, followed by 1 week off. I'll have to repeat this 4-week cycle six times. For you non-mathematicians out there, that's about a six month therapy period, provided there are no delays along the way - which would be a miracle. I'll be given only two chemo drugs this time. The first is Taxotere, which attacks cells while they're dividing. The other drug is Carboplatin, which attacks cells while they're at rest. By teaming-up the two, there should be an assortment of cells being killed at all times.   Lucky me.

Looking Good My Friend

Week 14 -   Took a quick trip over to my plastic surgeon's office for a follow-up. I can't see the actual incision through the bandage, but from what I can feel and see elsewhere, my new boob looks pretty good! The doc put in a silicone implant after the cancer was resected, and I have to say, I'm pleased with the result. They only only had to cut me open about 3-inches this time. It was more than twice that length with my original mastectomy and lymph node dissection.   The silicone implant is smaller but it feels SO much softer and natural than the saline one I had before. I had some swelling and tenderness, but no bruising and no dibilitating pain.   I went with Tylenol, so i still have several Percocet tabs leftover from my prescription.  Alas...I have no desire to abuse them.   Gone are the days when I probably would've taken them just for fun.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

It's All Good

Week 14: I'm still not in the mood to write, but suffice it to say I'm feeling good, I've rested-up, and I'm ready to tackle the next thing on my treatment list ...although I don't know what that will be precisely. In the meantime, I want to give a shout-out to some special people who've gone out of their way for me (in no particular order). I'd be remiss if I didn't extend my sincerest appreciation for your support, gifts, cards and prayers:

My Husband and Daughter My Siblings (David, Joan, Dan, Paul, Joe, Beth and Jen) My Mom Mrs. [Helen] Brewer Michael Blevins Val Dollard My Uncle George Lisa Maloney Deidre Howard Kelly Wyche Alyssa Alban Mary Savia Cheryl Judd and Doug Rinker Araceli Baker Mrs. [Maria] Bua Mrs. [Cindy] Revaz Mr. and Mrs. Beahm (Joan's in-laws) Troy Sloper, Kara & Jenna Sweeney

Many thanks also to those who continue to keep me and my family in your thoughts and prayers. So far, it's working!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Forget the Surgery, What about the Dream?

Week 13: I thought the day would never come. I finally had surgery this past Wednesday, Jan 28th. By all accounts it went very smoothly. But I'll tell you more about it later. Right now I need to write down what I can remember of the strange dream I had while I was coming out of my post-surgery haze. I have no idea why these random, out-of-order memories from the past spilled into my sleep. If anyone wants to analyze my dream, I'd love to hear your theories.

First, I'm a few thousand feet above the earth, in a freefall … gravity having its way. One way, no choice. Now the chute is open, I’m alone, adrift. Out before me are patches of green, patches of brown, fields, trees, buildings, roads, rays of sun, shadows cast by the clouds overhead, all representing tiny, fragmented pieces of my life. Over there, next to the train tracks, is the old, one-room church where my youngest sister, Jennifer, was baptized. Just about a mile away from that is the Catholic school I attended, and where the new church was built. That was where I made my first Communion, and where I nearly fainted during my Confirmation. I had to be taken outside for air in the middle of the ceremony. I returned there years later to get married, and now it's become the place where I said good-bye to my father. Now I can see the rented school bus that took us from the church to our wedding reception. My reception was the last time I ever saw my cousin, Mike K, alive. It was the first time I danced with my Dad and the only time I accused my sister of ruining my wedding during my post-reception meltdown. A little further off is the meadow where me and my husband, Mike, ran into his sister, Michelle, at a wine-tasting festival one very hot afternoon. It was there she announced to us that she was pregnant with her first child, who came to be my niece, Victoria. It’s the same meadow where my friends and I watched countless Gold Cup steeplechase races, where there were many tipsy moments when we acted like a horse’s ass, patted a horse’s ass, or danced on cars. I can see the outcropping of rocks where a group of us used to go to hang-out when we skipped school. We’d hike up the mountain and spend the day enjoying the view, smoking pot and watching birds of prey ride the wind. There’s sunlight reflecting off the lake where my husband spent time as a kid, where we returned to visit his grandmother, and ultimately, where my father-in-law died. Off in another direction is the neighborhood where I had a paper-route and where I crashed my bike straight into a parked car when I wasn’t watching where I was going. That gravel road over there... that’s the road I was taken down when I was abducted and raped. There’s the intersection where I had my first accident. I was driving my Dad’s green, Datsun B210 on the way to a summer job interview. I didn’t get that job. And you see that tree? That’s where I got stung by bees on the way home from one of our daily, sometimes twice daily, walks to the shopping center, back when we were kids wasting time on summer break. There is the drugstore where we’d go to eat French fries and smoke cigarettes, keeping a look-out for our mothers the entire time. We never actually spotted them, but we believed they had spies. How else could they know we'd been smoking? Well, duh... we never realized how much we reeked of it when we went home! The tiny Volkswagon I see off in the distance is my first car, bought with a loan from my Dad and paid back in full from my job at IBM during my senior year of high school. Near the IBM is the Mall where we spent our weekends loitering. That was during a time in our lives when we listened to everything from BeeGees pop music to Black Sabbath heavy metal. It was also when both my twin sister, Joan, and one of our friends, Cheryl, fell in love with an Andy Gibb look-alike named John who worked in the Roy Rogers. Unfortunately, Andy Gibb is now dead by his own hand, and sadly, the look-alike was murdered about a year ago. Our friend is still our friend some thirty years later. There’s the glint of a jet overhead, the one that often sped me to the west coast for conferences at Cisco. Beyond the mountain is a stretch of valley where my precious nieces, Taylor and Elise, are growing up. I can see a Cessna passing below me. It’s the puddle-jumper we took to the Outer Banks one weekend. I was in the back seat sleeping next to my then-infant daughter, and my then-greatest fear, but forever my greatest treasure. Mike was our pilot. Our whacky but so-sweet German Shorthaired Pointer, Suzie, flew shotgun. The farmhouse off in the other direction is where, during my later years in high school, we went to field parties, listened to bands and drank under-age. The little brick rambler I can see is the first house I ever bought, and the house that I eventually fled to escape an abusive relationship. The hedge of trees down below is where I hid from the cops when they chased us for lighting-off firecrackers in the alley behind the shopping center. The bend in the road over there is where a friend crashed her car violently into a ditch and hit a tree. One of her passengers was air-lifted to the trauma center. Joan was also in the car that night, but she survived, thank God. I was at a movie with my then-boyfriend, Bobby. There’s a river snaking down the valley. I can see the rapids we rode during a whitewater rafting trip. It was the time when Joan, my future brother-in-law, Mark, and my then pre-pubescent nephew, Michael, ventured out of their comfort zone and came along for the adventure. Joan showed up ready to paddle wearing white shorts, a white jacket and lipstick. "Novice," I thought to myself as shook my head in disbelief, smirking at the humor of it. Miraculously, ours was the only raft out of eight to make it past Dimple Rock without capsizing. A few years later, I went down the same river on another memorable trip, the time that I first “noticed” my future husband. Near that is the hospital where my sister, Beth, was born, and where I coached her through her own labor and delivery when she gave birth to my delightful nephew, Jackson. Now I'm looking out at the whole of what's before me. All is calm. The wind is quiet. 'Not sure where I’ll land. I just hope it’s soft. And I don’t know what direction I will walk.

Then "poof," that was it. End of story. The memories in my dream stopped abruptly, leaving me to drift with only those last thoughts in my head as I looked across the landscape of my life.