shaved head

shaved head
Channelling GI Jane

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Wednesday, Dec. 29, 2010: Erich's birthday

Today is my husband's 43rd birthday. When did we get so old? Just yesterday we were 25. I feel well, a little stronger everyday. I was brought down by some horrible perfume and now I have thick, raspy air stuck in my throught wanting to enter my lungs. I'm trying to drink lots of fluids and lay low. I can't get sick or aesthmatic now. Yesterday I made doctor appointments for Erich and I to renew our medication prescriptions. The Nurse Practitioner we saw gave me a quick look and heard an irregular heartbeat, so she gave me an EKG, which turned out: IRREGULAR. I contacted my oncologist as well as my surgeon this morning. Although noone is concerned about my having a heart condition, we are all concerned that any aneasthisiologist might refuse to put me out for surgery, which is! Oy vey. Thank God my parents are connected to the medical community in Santa Monica. My mother made a phone call to a steller cardiologist (who worked me up in 2002 for anxieety provoked irregular heartbeat) and he agreed to see me on Monday. Just when you think all the balls are rolling smoothly straight ahead!

Meanwhile, I have lost 4 pounds. My hair is coming in fast, however, I cannot say the same for my eyelashes and eyebrows. My skin disorder on my hands has returned with a vengence as well as a nasty case of athlete's foot on both feet (which I have never had before). "Chemo Brain" has set in and I find myself forgetfull and unable to sequence events well. I often forget to take my anti anxiety meds, which make my foggy headedness even worse.

My month home alone with my boys has been delightful. I'm not saying they have been angels, quite the contrary, but I have enjoyed playing and snuggling with them daily. They are challenging, but I love them more than I can express. They have been through alot the past few months and they now spontaneously curl up on my lap and shower me with hugs and kisses. I will be very happy when this next big phase is over. I am content having spent the Christmas holidays with family and I look forward to spending New Year's with friends. I am also bursting with happiness for my girlfriend, Eileen, who became engaged over the holidays. Miracles really do happen that she was able to find someone as gracious, generous and with as huge a heart as she.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Wed., Dec. 22, 2010

Erich and I met with my plastic surgeon yesterday to go over surgery details. When I asked Erich what he thought of her, he replied, "She's hot." Very well then, glad he was paying attention to the important stuff. He did manage to ask her all the questions he had concerning my surgery and any complications that might occur. She assured him that she performs my surgery, a double DIEP trans flap reconstruction, about every other week. This surgery lasts anywhere from 10-16 hours and I will probably not be in my ICU room until midnight. Obvious concerns are with the anaesthesia and clotting in the brain or heart, but that is the worry with any procedure in which one is put under. She told us I would be put in leg compressors and that the nurses will move my limbs since I will laying still for approximately 12 hours. She told us that the nurses would get me out of bed to stand on the first and second days in ICU. Once I'm on the women's floor I may eat, shower, and walk to the bathroom. I will have 6 drains in me, 2 in my tummy and 2 in each breast. The nurses will teach us how to empty and record the amount of fluid before we leave the hospital. It sounds like I will be on my feet in 2 weeks. I can't drive for 5 weeks, but I can begin mild excercise in 2-3 weeks after surgery. I'm still so excited. Then of course the 2nd surgery, which will be done as an outpatient, will make me look pretty. I think Erich felt much better after talking to Dr. Grunwald. I don't think he's convinced he's gonna loose me on the operating table anymore. Hell, I'm not going anywhere now that I will have the body I always wanted.:)

Monday, December 20, 2010

Monday, Dec. 20, 2010

This would have been a chemo day, but I'M THROUGH! So starts a 4th week without chemo. I haven't experienced that since August. Everyday is a challenge with my kids at home, but a happy challenge.:) I love my boys even though they are uber energetic and stir-crazy without school. I heard from my surgeons that they will take out my power port during surgery. I am so happy that I can be asleep for that. Today I saw my oncologist for a pre-op appointment. I had multiple blood tests and an EKG. All were fine and I was cleared for surery. Tomorrow I see my plastic surgeon for her pre-op. My hair continues to grow longer, it now blows in the wind (like baby chick feathers-again). I continue to get stronger on my feet. Although, today I had another nap attack at 2:30. I had to tell the boys not to answer the door and stay in the house as I passed out on the couch for an hour. Thank goodness Erich came home early.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Thursday, Dec. 16, 2010

Been living La Vida Loca since my last chemo. I love growing stronger knowing that next Monday won't be another round. Yesterday my family and I were treated to Disneyland courtesy of Eileen & Mark, the Storms, and the Pattersons. We had a blast! It is most assuredly the happiest place on earth. The boys ran until they fell from exhaustion. Evan fell asleep in line waiting for the tram back to the parking lot. And it turned out that my "Scuz" and her family were there and so were the Lostraccos. I must admitt I used the "c" card big time and got a pass from Guest Services, which allowed all of us to walk straight to the front of the line for every ride. We rode every ride you can imagine starting with Pirates of the Carribean, Haunted House, Indiana Jones, Thunder Mountain, Small World, Tea Cups, Matterhorn, Peter Pan, Mr. Toad's WIld Ride, and Space Mountain. I think I giggled and howled louder than my kids. I ate a corn dog, cotton candy and a hot fudge sundae for dinner. This morning I can hardly move. We stood and walked for 9 hours. But I don't care about the pain, it was worth it. A great big thank you to my dear friends for such a generous gift! I contine to play with my kids every day they are on Winter vacation. It is both fabulous and painful at the same time. MOnday is my EKG and blood tests for pre-op with my oncologist. Wednesday is my pre-op with the plastic surgeon. I heard yesterday that both of my surgeons agreed to remove my power port. Thank God I can be asleep when they pull it out as I'm just sure it will feel like slurping up a noodle as it snakes out of my main vein leading to my hear and back through my chest and down my arm. Ick and willies just thinking about it. Haven't lost any weight. In fact I haven't been drinking enough water so I've gained a few pounds. Give me a break, will ya? I met with my Jenny Craig consultant yesterday after a 4 month absence. I'm back on the diet until surgery. I have to lose some of this weight. I'm snoring so loudly Erich has to sleep on the couch. Every day I walk alot to rebuild my stamina. Oy! And everyday it knocks me out. WIll I ever gain my strength back? Ah, but life is good. Soon I will be cancer free and this will all be a fading memory.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Dec. 7, 2010

I'm horrified and sad at the passing of Elizabeth Edwards. It's easy for me to forget that breast cancer can be leathal. I am lucky and I am blessed.

My MRI went well this morning. I sat in my panties wearing a thin cloth gown that opened in front and barely went around me, thinking again that one size does NOT fit all, for about 15 minutes before I was given an IV line and ushered into the scan room. I was asked to climb up on a table, lay on my stomach and thread my breasts through 2 circular openings, while the tech held up a blanket under his chin (who's fooling who?). The indignities women go through! The MRI showed nothing we didn't already know; no tumors in the right breast or the lymph nodes, and the tumor in my left breast looks like swiss cheese after the chemo. It still measures 6cm. I will ask my oncologist what exactly that means tomorrow.

I met with my oncology surgeon, Dr. Chung, who met me with a hug. I just love her! We discussed her part of the surgery. We talked about 4 drain tubes stitched into my incissions (oh yuck). I chose to focus on the part about the "WOmen's Floor" I would recooperate in. Large private suites with flat screen TV's and WiFi. Yah baby! I like to think of it as a week away at Club St. JOhn's for rest and relaxation.:)

Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2010

I recovered quickly and quietly at my mother's house. I think the calm, warm waters of my parents' saline jacuzzi helped me through. There was no pain and night sweats. Yesterday I had my first day standing on my own two feet. My boys are out of school for Winter break and Erich worked a 12 hour day. Staying home with the boys was the easy part. My husband coming home proved to be the trying part. He is so angry. I think he dreads my surgery, where as I can only look toward it with excitement. He says that when his father was dying from lung cancer every surgery took an emotional toll on the family. I'm trying to "feel" for him, but it is hard when he behaves like such an ASS. Today I go for my chest MRI at 9:30 and then I meet with my oncology surgeon at 1:00 to go over the results. I expect only great news! My hair continues to fill in at a rapid rate now. I expect to have a full "felt GI Joe head" soon. I don't mean to complain, but for the love of God, why does it have to come back all grey? That reminds me, as soon as I get a free moment I'm coloring it. My eyelashes and eyebrows are not falling out anymore, but they sure aren't filling in as fast as I would like. That reminds me, I see my oncologist tomorrow; I will ask for a Latisse prescription. My leg hairs are fewer, but are growing in just fine; same with my under arm hair. I am filled with happiness these days, there is a lightness in the air (at least for me and the boys). I am thankful for the month to regain strength and play with my kids. I plan to hold and hug them as much as I can now because for 3 months I won't be able to. I will write later about the MRI results.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Day 4: Hello Last Round

Today is Thursday and I am beginning to descend into the "fog" state. Chemo went well on Monday. I almost fainted when I got home, but recovered. I had Erich drive me to fluids on Tuesday because I was still shaky, but the 2 liters of fluids I received helped a great deal. Yesterday I sat with my girlfriend at the hospital while her husband underwent surgery for the removal of a cancerous thyroid. What the hell? Why are so many people being affected by cancer? I thank God that my friend's husband will be cured, as will I. We are the lucky ones. I am forever grateful for my support system of friends and family. Never in my life have I experienced the love and kindness that I have known in the last few months. I am so excited to face surgery. I want the cancer out of my body AND I have dreamed of smaller breasts my whole life. I feel as if I'm getting stronger every day, but I'm worried about Erich. I feel like he is at a breaking point. I'm encouraging him to take a few days to himself at the end of December. I hope he will.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Day 22: Day Before Last Chemo

So, here we are the day before my last round of chemo. I'm excited and so happy. BRING IT ON! I have had the most wonderful week beginning with my cheerful meeting with the oncologist (on Wed), then Thanksgiving, and my cousin Mike's wedding on Friday. I am feeling the love for my family and for the holidays. I hear my grandmother's words in my head, "Life is short," and, "What good is a large family if you aren't close?" I have never felt closer to my extended family than I do today. Illness has taught me to love, accept, and cherish my family for who they are. I feel I am a gentler, more accepting Riquel. I cannot look at my boys without welling up. They are still rambunctious hooligans, but they are my blessed hooligans and I love every crazy, energetic moment with them. I am happy and blessed to have a disease that is cureable. Thank you, God. I know this journey is not over yet, but for me the worst part is coming to an end (chemo). This round my sister-in-law will pick up the boys from school on Friday and keep them with her until Sunday. Erich is out of town from Friday until SUnday. My mother is picking me up on Thursday and taking me to her house until SUnday. I'm looking forward to the jacuzzi when my bones hurt. After the bad week I have the MRI and meet with my surgeon. Next Sunday at this time will be a happy day.:)

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving: Round 5 Chemo

I saw my oncologist yesterday and I have to say it was the best meeting I have had with him yet. My mother, Jeffrey, Erich and I all met with him and left smiling. His criteria for radiation therapy is if any of my lymph nodes show positive for cancer cells. He plans to speak with my oncology surgeon and ask her to biopsy several other nodes besdies the centinal node. But, he feels that the need for radiation therapy is probably nil. He also said to have the full surgery. I won't find out if I need radiation until a week after the surgery. I f I need radiation it won't affect my reconstruction. He has had women go through this before. We also spoke about tamoxifen (anti-hormone pills) follow-up. Taking this drug for 5 years decreases my odds of developing cancer again by 5-10%. He feels that weight gain can be managed well with diet and excercise, and other side effects are really minimal. If I began tamoxifen and found that the side effects were so awful I couldn't live with them, we could re-address the situation. So, when I'm healed from surgery I will start ani-hormone therapy for 5 years.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Day 15: Round 5 Chemo

I'm less bitter now and really happy to be facing my last chemo a week from tomorrow. I'm in deep thought considering nipples or no nipples. My second reconstruction surgery is in part to build nipples. I kind of like the idea of always having high beams as I walk around braless.:) These are the thoughts that keep me going. Next Wed. we talk with the oncologist. Dec 7th is my MRI appointment and follow up with Dr. Chung. I had a message from my plastic surgeon's office that they had a surgery date set, so I need to follow up on Monday. I'm so excited! Today I have a cold so I'm laying low. I do not want to get sick.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Day 10: Round 5 Chemo...Follow Up Appointment With the Plastic

Met with my plastic surgeon again today. She took pictures of me in my underwear, oy. That's not a visual I wish on anyone right now. So, her assistant is looking for the first Friday available in January for surgery. A few kinks in the plan...1. If I need radiation therapy I cannot do the reconstruction. 2. I will need two surgeries to reconstruct my breasts, three if I need radiation. My understanding is that if my tumor after chemo is 5cm or larger, I will need radiation therapy as well. On a good note, however, according to the report of my last Cat Scan a few weeks ago my tumor was "non-existant." I have an MRI scheduled on Dec. 7th, oredered by my oncology surgeon, and that appearantly will tell us exactly what size the tumor is and where it is located. The second surgery is a follow up to the tummy tuck/breast filling surgery. In the second surgery Dr. Grunwald creates a nipple, pulls in the areola section even smaller, and lipos & restiches the ends of my tummy tuck scar so the result is flat and smooth. That's right, bring on the lipo. I'll take what I can get and I might just commission a tad more while she's there. I asked her today if it was possible to cover scar tissue with tattooing, she said it is it just takes more passes of the needle to get the ink dark on scar tissue. I'm thinking of a long thin vine, or mayan snake along my scar. I will confer with my friend Mike about this. Erich once forbade me to ever tattoo my body while married to him. My first reaction was to run out and do it then. Who tells me what I can and cannot do with my own body? That may be a juvenile response, but it was my first reaction. I brought up the possiblility of tattooing my scar and he didn't immediately say no. I want to wait and get comfortable with the end result of a scar that goes from hip to hip before I decide on the tattooing.

I'm pretty much back to normal. I will start excercising tomorrow. The plastic said eat lots of protein and work on my stamina. I gear up to go round 6 a week from MOnday. Oh baby, bring it on!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Day 9: Round 5 Chemo...Who Am I?

Had a heavy day today. I saw my shrink and came upon a picture (pre-chemo/cancer diagnosis) that the kids took on my phone. When I looked at the picture of me, before my world was turned upside down, I immediately took a current picture of me with my phone and compared them. All I could think of was, "I wanna be that girl again!" My face is changed with the weight gain and the roundness you get when you are on steroids, but more than that, the light is gone from my eyes and my smile. In addition, my therapist asked me how Erich and I were answer: we occupy the same space but we haven't connected in weeks, maybe months. We don't have sex because I'm out of commision physically, mentally and emotionally. And our lives revolve around my chemo sessions, that's all we talk about. Fuck! I'm so done with cancer. I don't wanna be the chick undergoing chemo anymore. Who else am I? I don't know anymore. My final chemo round can't come soon enough, although having just completed the hell of round 5 I'm not exactly counting down the days til round 6. Everytime I think about the final round being less than 2 weeks away it makes me cry. Of course my eyes tear pretty constantly anyway from the Taxotere and lack of eyelashes. But it feels good to know that the end is in sight. And thank God because I only have a few eyelashes and eyebrow hairs left. I'm not feeling the chola drawn in eyebrows much. It feels strange to be looking so forward to a major surgery and all that it entails, but I am. It is the silver lining in my melodrama. I have dreamed of smaller tits since I was 12 years old and I developed over night from flat to a "D" cup. I look forward to playing (and losing weight) in December.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Day 7: Round 5 Chemo

It's Sunday morning and I have come out from under the "haze." This round was kinder and gentler than the rest, I think. I cannot tell you how happy I am that I have only one more round of chemo left. I sit here tearing up just thinking of it. Step-by-step one can deal with anything, but I can't describe the relief that is beginning to wash over me at the thought of the end. We have all suffered so much in the past four months, my kids especially. December will be a celebration month, after chemo and before surgery. I woke up this morning at 4am with body aches and rolled over every 15 minutes. Finally I thought to stretch in bed and that helped my body relax and sleep until 6:30. Next round I think I will stay with my parents and try getting in the hot tub to ease the body aches. I'm left this morning with what feels like a mild sore throat and swollen glands. My head is clear, no headache, and I have energy. I will rest today. :)

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Day 6: Round 5 Chemo

Last night hit medium hard. My day was good, but my evening was rough. I went to sleep around 8pm with night sweats and body soreness. I woke up once to pee and found I was shivering with cold. Erich had to wrap himself around me until I stopped shaking. Then I slept until 6:60am. I'm drinking coffee and getting ready to eat breakfast. I feel like I'm slowly coming out from a sleeping drug. Evan is still at his auntie's house and Fred has been enjoying his stay as an only child. The kids have soccer games today. I will take it easy.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Day 5: Round 5 Chemo

Wow! Maybe I have become a pro at this as my girl, Jax, has said, because I did not go down hard this time at all. I was awake all day yesterday and alert, and in no pain. I drank all of my water. I went to bed at 8pm and slept through the night with only minimal leg pain this morning. My head is full and heavy, but I can lift it off the pillow and do stuff. Oh thank you God for this little reprieve for round 5. May round 6 be this easy as well! Time for breakfast...:)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Day 4: Round 5 Chemo

Feeling really well this morning. Slept 12 hours last night. Jumped out of bed, took a shower, ate breakfast, and got dressed. TiTi will be checking in on Fred and I this morning and Lupe is bringing me Costco food around 11am. My mother is due around 3pm. I think we will be alright. Erich took Evan to his mom and sister, he will stay there until Sat. Heard back from Dr. Chung's office. I have an MRI follow up appointment with her Dec. 7th at 1pm. Lets get this party rollin!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Day 3: Round 5 Chemo

Feelin good this morning. Fell asleep around 9:30pm, woke once in the night to pee, but woke this morning after 7am. I am now currently perched on the couch with my remote, phones, coffee, water and meds. All I'm missing are my bon bons.:) Yesterday my blood was low in potassium, so they added some to my IV, I took only 1 steroid on Sunday, but went back to 2 pills yesterday. Hopefully it will help with the symptoms and give me some energy. I also managed to call Tower Imaging for an MRI appointment Dec. 7th at 9:30am. I'm waiting for Dr. Chung's office to call me back and OK an afternoon appointment with her on that same day. I see Dr. Grunwald next week to go over details about my new body! Yeah.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Day 2: Round 5 Chemo...Couldn't Fall Asleep Last Night

What the hell? I could not fall asleep last night. After reading til 11:30 in my own bed, then tossing and turning until 1:30, I finally moved myself to the couch where I read until 3:30am, then woke up at 7am. I feel pretty good except that when I got up to walk to the bathroom I kept bouncing off the walls. I had no equalibrium. I seem to be better now, which is good because I need to drive to Beverly Hills for fluids and Neulasta shot in half an hour. Erich had to get the boys ready for school and drop them off. Time to take my meds.:)

Monday, November 8, 2010

Day 1: Round 5 Chemo...Here We Go Again

Wow! Round 5 administered today. Only .5 liters of fluid intravenously. I will get 1 liter tomorrow. Took only 1 steroid tablet yesterday and I will take 2 tomorrow. I'm tapering off my steroids so I stop retaining water & bloat and stop eating everything that isn't bolted down. I weighed in today and I have put on 15 pounds since starting chemo. My nurse practitioner tells me it only gets worse with hormone therapy (Tamoxafin). What the f**k? I mean really talk about adding insult to injury. So as soon as I can I will excercise every day and subsist on boiled chicken and a green vegetable. Tomorrow I go in for fluids and that nasty Neulasta shot. Mom is coming to stay with me Thurs. late afternoon until Friday night. Evan is going to his auntie's house Thurs. morning until Sat. afternoon. Fred is staying with me and my mom. The kids have Thursday (Veteran's Day) off and Friday is a furlough day. Erich is working. I asked my NP if I could start coloring my stubble because it is coming in all white. She said I could if I used a natural hair color, but I really should wait until after my last chemo. Damn. I met a very nice man in the cubicle next to me today. He was getting his second round of chemo and complaining about shaving his head because his hair was falling out. He said to me, "It takes a very strong and beautiful woman to go bald." I immediately deflected his compliment by saying I didn't think I was either of those I just couldn't be bothered to do anything else. He assured me that I was indeed both. He has no idea how good that made me feel. I had decided weeks ago that anytime I saw a woman clearly bald from chemo that I would make sure to pay her a positive comment. You walk around feeling like a biological defect. Most people stare at you and then turn away. I think our reptilian brains are still programmed to flee from those who are sick/damaged. I have a defferent perspective now.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Day 17: Round 4 Chemo...Oncology Surgeon Consult

Wow! Do I have a fabulous surgical team. Dr. ALice Chung is amazing and wonderful. Her bed side manner is the best. The whole time she spoke to me she patted my shoulder, laid her hand on my leg, and smiled constantly. My initial consult started at 10:15am and lasted until 1:30pm. During that time I was examined by her fellow (another doctor learning from Dr. Chung) and her, given another breast & lymph node ultrasound, and another mammogram. Dr. Chung thought she mmight have felt something in my lymph nodes, hence the extra scans. Thank God the ultrasound confirmed what all other scans and doctors have shown all along...No swollen lymph nodes! She does want a breast MRI to get a better idea of the exact location, size, and make-up of the tumor before surgery. So, I will make an appointment for an MRI after my last chemo and another visit with her to consult on the MRI findings.

I learned that once she cuts into the breast, she puts a blue dye in it which will run into the main node and into any subsequent nodes if they have cancer clusters in them and glow bright blue. She will biopsy the first node (and any others that might show up blue) and send the specimin to pathology. If all of the nodes turned blue and she had to remove them (not at all likely in my case) we could still proceed with both surgeries in one day. If the specimens came back with a high content of cancer cells several days later, another surgery to remove them would be necessary (again, highly unlikely in my case). Dr. Chung thinks radiation therapy will be necessary after surgery if the tumor is still 5cm or larger in size. I will speak with Dr. Rosenbloom about that at my next appointment.

Meanwhile, I continue to wake all night long. My neck and shoulders hurt, so I roll over every hour or so. My snoring is not only keeping my husband awake, but is waking me up all night too. AND if that wasn't enough...I'm drooling with my nightguard and wake to turn my pillow around because it is so wet! This whole experience has been one lesson after another in humility. I must make an appointment with an ENT now for my snoring. And, while we are on the subject of secondary ailments, wire my jaw shut so I stop gaining weight. I'm the Michelin Man! Steroids suck big time.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Day 14: Round 4 Chemo...Halloween

Happy Halloween! Physically I'm feeling good. I am tired and worn out most days. I can't even imagine working out next week although I need to. Shaving my head again helped. My hair is growing in thicker and is filling in all around my head. I'm not sleeping through the night. I wake up every hour and roll over, but I don't know why. SNoring is still a problem. I think I will see an ENT I found who specializes in snoring. Tuesday is my big meeting with the oncology surgeon. I'm hoping she can tell me the differences between my two CT scans in detail. I can't believe this nightmare is actually coming to an end. Thank God.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Day 10: Round 4 Chemo...Appt With the Plastic Surgeon

OMG! I love my plastic surgeon. Dr. Tiffany Grunwald has the nicest bed-side manner and her work is beautiful. I am definately a candidate for tummy tuck (use my leftovers to make breasts), otherwise known as an abdominal DIEP procedure. She recons I have enough belly fat for two size B-C cup breasts. That made me feel good because I was afraid I may have enough gut to fill in my old sized breasts (DDD). I am not a candidate for nipple saving. It's a long story, but it has to do with the fact that the distance between where they are (somewhere near my belly button) and where they will be (high up on my ribcage like a 19 year-old) is too great. Appearantly they are very fragile and the matter of blood flow is an issue. Anyways, I will have reconstructed nipples and tattooed ariolas. How does one reconstruct a nipple? I now know. Imagine if you will a napkin laying flat. Put a small round object in the center and pull up the napkin sides around the object and tie the gathered napkin in a bow. The fringe on top of the bow is formed into a small mound and voila, a nipple. And believe it or not the tattooed ariolas are shaded and colors are mixed to create a 3D effect. It is very creative and looks very natural.

Now, given that I am not at my optimal weight for reconstructive surgery (I would have liked to drop another 20 pounds) I was given the option of a 2 step surgery process. A small breast surgery right away and the tummy tuck whenever I was ready. I have decided to do it all in one surgery. If I lose weight after the surgery I can always touch it up later with a little lipo. The surgery will take about 12 hours. The plastic surgeon begins with the tummy stuff while the oncology surgeon removes my breasts. The oncology sugeon will take about 4 hours an the rest of the time is the plastic surgeon's work. I will stay in ICU for 2 days while they watch me for blood clots in the arteries leading from my chest to the ones that were harvested from by belly to supply my new breast tissue (from my belly) with blood. I will then stay an aditional 2-3 days in the hospital, a atotal of 4-5 days in the hospital. I am then faced with a hardcore 3 month recovery period. But now is the time for it, it's not like I have a job. The funniet part of this surgery is that my tattoo on my bikini line is precisely the strip of skin harvested to cover the hole left by my areola. So my tattoo will be removed from my bikini line and moved to my areola! However, it will be erased in the process of giving me new areolas. I can't wait to meet the oncology surgeon. That appointment is next Tues.

My oncologist left a message that my scan looked good. I meet with him next Wed. to hear how much the tumor has shrunk. Good news. Today was a happy day.:)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Day 9: Round 4 Chemo...2nd CT Scan

I'm home from the spa where I had a second CT scan of my torso. My oncologist wants to compare the first scan before chemo to this one after 4 rounds. I am radioactive until tomorow morning so Erich has to pick up the boys and bring them home. I will stay in my bedroom once the kids come home so I extremely limit the radioactivity that they are exposed to. I tell the kids I'm like Spider Man when they ask why they can't come close to me. They think that is funny. I'm slowly feeling better, except for my stomach, and feel more energetic. Tomorrow is my first meeting with the plastic surgeon. I am so nervous. So much rides on this appt. I know I am being incredibly vain, but I feel I've earned it. The surgeon I have chosen is excellent and she will do a great job of removing my breasts. But the pastic has to reconsruct my entire torso and make me into a goddess!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Day 8: Round 4 and Pissed Off

Today finds me in a really pissy mood. I can't stand to look at myself anymore. I don't know who the person in the mirror is anymore. I am puffy and round and bald and I lost a chunk of my eyebrow. FUCK! I meet with the plastic surgeon on Wed. and I feel like I've waited years for this consult and now I'm forced to undergo these surgeries at my fattest and bloatedness. WHat will that mean to my surgery? And I still don't feel normal a week later. I hurt. I'm done with this chemo round shit. ANd what the fuck, husband? He just fell to pieces this round. He was no help to me or the kids. I'm pissed that his baggage is interfereing in this process now. That's why I always say, deal with your issues. Waiting just makes it suck more for the person and all of those around. This round I could see it taking its toll on my boys. Frederich wouldn't come near me during my worst days and Evan wanted to sit on top of me and rub my hand. It broke my heart and I have been dreaming about the boys being kidnapped and hurt since. Erich suggested that he take the boys camping during my worst days next round and I think that is a great solution. He will have to be present for them if he's alone. My last round he will be out of town for the weekend and that may also be best. I'm just having a bad day. I don't have them often, but when I do watch out! Underneath all this attitude is a woman very thankful for the love and support of her friends and family.:)

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Day 7: Round 4 Chemo

Yesterday ended with a movie marathon on the couch. God bless Netflix instant view on my new TV. Erich and I watched 3 movies in a row. My bones ached last night. The back of my head, My neck and lower back bones felt like some one hit me with a sledge hammer. They still ache this morning. I slept in fits and starts. Every hour I woke up to pee and when I came back to bed I was plagued with a racing heart and a super strong heart beat that felt like a bass drum. I laid in bed and slowed my breathing until I fell asleep. I'll ask my doctor about that. Also, I had the craziest, vivid dreams. They came to me like movies and were filled with anxiety, conflict, and running. I had 3 last night. The first was a dream that Erich and I were preparing for the BIG California quake by stocking our travel trailer with goods and parking it at Eileen's building. Somehow it ended with her mom and dad leading me through the tranformation into some Scottish super-powered mystical diety. Crazy stuff. Normally I would chalk a dream like that up to taking my Cymbalta too late at night, but I forgot to take it yesterday. The boys are still at my in-laws and Erich and I continue to relax in the quiet of our home. I woke up with the desire to wite this morning, after so many vivid dreams. I have an idea for a story, a kind of super-heroine tale of a woman who is "changed" after chemo. A sort of "Chemo Girl" if you will...:)

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Day 6: Round 4 Chemo...Out From the Haze

It is Saturday morning 5:45am and I just sprung out of bed to make coffee and spend some time on the computer. The chemo haze lasted much longer this time because my steroids were cut down. I have been sitting or laying on my arse since Wednesday. It feels good to have some energy. I went down hard on Thursday late afternoon and all day yesterday. My mother was again a great help. She cooked for me and the family. She ran out to the Mexican market to get ingredients to make me a torta with papas fritas and pan dulce when I asked for it. And she massaged my aching body all day. Oh thank God round 4 is over! I'm so glad there are only 6 rounds in total because I'm not sure how many more I could take. I do not look forward to the next 2 rounds, I loathe them. But I am lookig forwaard to this weekend. The kids are spending the night with my sister-in-law and my mother-in-law and my neice, so I will spend a little alone time with Erich, who seems to need a little nurturing himself.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Day 4: Round 4 Chemo

Fell asleep at 8pm last night. No sleeping pill. Woke up starting at 1am every hour until 7am when I got up to help Erich get out the door. Managed to make myself eggs and toast because I was really hungry. Fell asleep again and woke up at 10:30am. I was hungry again so I made pancakes. I have a little bit of energy, enough to stumble through the house and take care of my needs. I'm sleepy, but I'm able to stay awake between naps. Mouth soreness has started as well as body aches. I will rest on the couch today. My mom will be here this late afternoon. Craving cheese, bread, and sweets.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Day 3: Round 4 Chemo

Fell asleep at 7:30pm last night. Slept well. Snored so loudly that poor Erich was relegated to the couch. I woke up this morning at 7am feeling very weak. Erich tokk the kids to school and had to pick them up as well. I managed to get out and shop at Costco for a few itwms and it just about killed me. I have been on the couch all day watching TV or playing on the computer. No pain, no symptoms, just weakness and light-headedness. Tomorrow my mom comes to stay until Saturday. I must feel less energy due to less steroid and perhaps build up of chemo sessions. Who knows.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Day 1: Round 4 Chemo

Yeah, round 4 complete. Although the hard part has yet to begin. Spoke to NP about hair growth serum (Nioxin or Rogaine) and Latisse for my eyelashes and eyebrows. She suggested I give my hair a chance on its own and if it isn't growing in nicely in 3-6 months then I could try those medications. I'm already looking ahead to hotness. I feel fine. The oral medication, Mesna, I now take to coat my bladder tastes like hair dye. It's awful, but it does the job. Tomorrow my gal, Stacey, will join me at the spa for my hydration and Neulasta shot just in case I need a ride home. These meds are beginning to affect my head more. That's all for now.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Day Before Chemo Round 4

Holy crow! Round 4 is almost here. I slept in til 9am this morning. I took my steroid, my glutamine, and I'm forcing down 12 cups of water, which I have not been doing for 2 weeks. I'm packing my chemo bag and getting the house ready for chemo week. Damn! I do not want to do this, but I know when it's over I'm another step closer to the end. It's like the flinch before a shot in the arm. I've grown to hate and resent this process, so it's time to think about the positive side. #2 on my list of chemo pro's: I have more energy than I have had in 15 years (with exception to the 5 days I'm in bed sleeping). #1 on my con list: My sense of smell and taste has weakend, whcih should mean that I eat less because I can't taste so well. Instead I find myself craving Cheetos and other extremely salty and sweet foods. So much for the chemo diet.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Day: Friday Before Chemo Round 4

Feeling great. Can you tell? I haven't been writing. I've lost count of what day it is. I've been remiss in drinking my water and taking my glutamine, so I may pay this round. I will start today. I'm going to start keeping a list of things on my person that chemo has changed; for better and for worse. #1- for the better: It has erased a horrible malady I have sufferred from for 15 years or more on my hands. The doctors would tell me I had dishydrosis (whatever that means) and that there was no cure and no thoughts as to the cause. One doctor eleborated a bit more and told me that the sweat glands in my hands did not work corectly. So, how would chemo change that? It pulls out all the moisture in the body. Hmmmm. Anyways, for the first time in many years I have beautifully smooth hands. I just cry when I look at them. Even Erich remarked, "Oh honey, they are so soft," and he just held my hand. I pray this fix lasts forever.

I finally found some books to pull me away from reading Sookie Stackhouse for the 10th time. I'm reading Bram Stoker's Dracula and The Bible (old testament) & Rashi's Daughter. I'm into them. I'm glad to have the distraction for I am beginning to feel anxious about chemo on Monday. That feeling of anticipation; wanting it to come so it is under your belt, but also fear of the pain and the horrible side effects. This last round came and went very quickly it feels and I can't believe I'm facing it again. But, then round 4 will be under my belt. My second CT scan will be at the end of the month and I will be happy to hear some real stats on my tumor. Will also consult with plastic reconstructive surgeon that week. I will rest a little easier after meeting with her. I have never liked the appearance of my breasts and how wonderful if she gave me a new pair that I loved! Never in a million years did I think I would be considering saving my old nipples vs. manufactured ones, and using belly fat vs. silicon implants, etc. What a crazy fucked up time! Although the chemo diet was yet another I have failed :) I am happy that I continue to stay very strong (and maintain my weight going in). Everyone is extremely pleased with how well I have come through this (my doctor and nurses). I'm not sure I have an idea yet as to how chemo has changed my life, but I'm sure it will come to me, maybe as I'm healing. My children are getting restless and I wonder if they too are anxious anticipating Monday's chemo. They act out like wild animals, of course they have been known to do that before the cancer. We try to be patient and show them even more love when they act up, but some days I've been known to threaten to put them on the curb with a "for sale" sign on them. I don't have much patience some days. We are off to the pumkin patch today.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Day "I've lost count" Round 3 Chemo

I haven't written in a long time. Finally feeling better and I don't want to think about next Monday when I start this all over again. Met with my oncologist and he is just pleased as punch that I am going through this process so well. My tumor has definately shrunk. I have another CT scan of my entire torso on Oct. 26th. He will then compare this current scan with the one he took before I started chemo. After much research and contemplation I have made an appointment with an oncology surgeon in Santa Monica for Nov. 2, her name is Dr. Alice Chung and she comes highly recommended. AND she takes insurance, which believe it or not, not all surgeons do. The 2 highest rated surgeons at Cedar Sinai do not take insurance. I also found a lovely woman plastic reconstructive surgeon, Dr. Tiffany Grunwald, in Santa MOnica, whom I have a consult with at the end of Oct. She also takes my insurance which pretty much made my head swoon. No one takes insurance anymore for plastic surgery.  I am so pleased with my choices so far. The end is near! I can't believe how quickly time goes by. My kids have proven to be so resiliant. They are amazing.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Day 7: Chemo Round 3

My mother came to stay with us Sunday, Monday, spent the night, and stayed with me Tuesday as well. She helped get the kids to bed and she helped Erich get them off to school. During the days she cooked for me, made sure I drank water, drew hot baths for me, washed my hair, and spent the day massaging my feet, legs, and back. While I slept she did my laundry, she pulled the boys' beds apart and washed everything including the mattress. She even pulled everything out of my very large, very deep, and extremely scary hall cupboard; made me sort through it, throw excess away, and re-organized it so that we could actually see what we had stored in there. By Tuesday I feeling the need to be alone, but I forced myself to stay in the "mothered" moment. It is really hard for me to allow myself to be mothered. In my memory, I wasn't mothered and/or did the mothering. I always say that situations occur for a reason. My mother was a house on fire while she was here. Her presence made me, my kids, and Erich feel more at ease. It was so important for her to mother me and my family, and it was just as important for me to be mothered. Life's lessons always sneaking up to nip you in the ass. Oddly enough, cancer is teaching me about life.:)

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Day 6: Round 3 Chemo

Night 4 went very well. I knocked myself out and slept through the night without any pain. Day 5, yesterday, was a little rough. I slept all day, only waking up to eat. I cycled through chills and hot flashes, crazy dreams, and hallucinations. Because I slept all day I didn't drink all 12 cups of water. I will work on that today. But at 4am this morning I felt the malaise lift. Normally I would of popped out of bed and come into the living room, but I though Erich was on the couch. So, I stayed in bed until 6am when the alarms went off and popped out of bed with everyone else. It always amazes me how I go from incoherent coma to back on my feet in about 36 hours time. Alrighty, now I can really say round 3 is behind me!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Day 4: Round 3 Chemo

I woke up with boobs on my mind. I have been researching breast reconstruction all morning on the internet. Every survivor you meet loves their doctors and want to show you their "boobies." So the referrals are beginning to pour in. It's difficult to process all this information. For me this is perhaps the most important part of the process. I have never liked my breasts. I have always dreamed of reducing and reshaping them since I was a girl. And then there is the mother told me the other day that one of the top guys in Santa Monica charges 50K and does not take insurance! Holy crow.

I'm feeling about as unattaractive as possible these days. My hair continues to grow longer in soft feather-like plumes, but not en mass over my entire head. The steroids have made my already round face even rounder and I am retaining water even though I drink 12 glasses of water a day. My rings don't fit, my clothes are tight, and my scale shows weight gain of 6 pounds. This sucks!

On the other hand, I am now half way through chemo and that is cause for celebration! Only 3 more rounds to go. The Mesna my doctor gave me for bladder pain seems to be working. The very large doses of Ibuprophen for these few days also seem to help, however, the real test comes tonight. My plan for tonight is Ativan, ibuprophen, Uristat, heating pad, and anything else I can think of. Ativan has become my best friend for sleepless nights I just hope it holds up through the painful one. I have faith it will.:)

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Day 3: Round 3 Chemo

This morning three of my girlfriends came to visit and bring my family food and me a few little gifts. Again I feel surrounded by so much love. I slept well and woke up at 6am. Spent the morning puttering around feeling a little amped, but by the time my girlfriends left I was feeling tired. Took a nap. I'm on my way down now I can feel my head getting heavy and foggy, and my stomach getting heavy and full. Tomorrow and Monday will be tough, but I'm armed with even more meds and drugs this time. Half way point. Half way point. I can do this.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Day 2: Round 3 Chemo...Half Way Mark

Spent the day at the spa yesterday. The nurses maeveled at how cute my port had become after 3 weeks of healing and reduced swelling. It's still the "alien" to me and my peeps. I read my book, I read trashy mags, I watched a little TV, and I even closed my eyes for a little while. Erich and the boys came up for a look around. I showed the boys the waiting room, the lab, the radiology area, and lastly the chemo room. I didn't take them long to notice the reclining chairs and indiviual TV's. They smiled and agreed that it looked like a nice place to get my medicine. Then my family left for a day at the La Brea Tarpits.

Our vacay in Yosemite was breathtakingly fun. I didn't take too many long hikes; my legs have lost much strength and I was tiring easy. Got overly excited The night before we left at the Willy Nelson concert and had a beer-paid for it dearly. So, again no drinking til I'm done. On another note, I am so touched that my girlfriends; Noele and Eileen will be running in different "raise-money-for-breast/ovarian-cancer" runs. Noele has raised money and enticed some of our other Sassies to join her this Sat., Oct. 2, in Long Beach. I'm so profoundly moved by the support I feel from all my families and friends. As I write this morning, I am wrapped in love and comfort in the most plush full-length robe sent to me by my Aunt's, ex-husband's current wife. As crazy as that may sound it's all love now. Forgiveness is the key to life.

This round I opted to take Ativan (one of my anti-nausea meds) for sleep because the steroids wake me up in the middle of the night for 3 days. Let me tell you, Ativan is a little slice of heaven! And I thought I was a good sleeper already. Whoa! Little side effect...They knock me out so hard that the first night I had an accident and wet the bed. You can imagine my family's surprise when I stripped the bed next morning. Erich wanted to know which kid had an accident and I had to tell him it was me! NO worries...a pair of adult diapers last night and I once again slept like a baby til 5am.

At 10:30 I have my second trip to the spa for more fluids and that damn Neulasta shot. This round I'm packin mega amount of Ibuprophen for pain, Ativan to sleep ( and a night-night- chonie), a 55' TV with Netflix streamed movies, and medical edibles for the next 3 days. BRING IT ON! I have 3 girlfriends bringing my family food and my mommy comin to stay with me. What more does a girl need? I thank God for my life.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Day 15: Round 2 Chemo

I'm shocked and amazed to report that those "few standing soldiers" (my remaining hair) have multiplied and lengthened! I pull on them everyday thinking they will come right out, but they don't. I still look like a baby bird, but I'm amazed that my fuzz is getting thicker. Wouldn't that be something if I stopped loosing hair? I have noticed other areas growing back as well and my arm, leg & underarm hair never fell out (just stopped growing more). Several of my fingernails have changed color and my big toe toenails have stopped growing.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Day 14: Round 2 Chemo

Continuing to feel good; lots of energy, no stomach funk, and no pains. I have been hitting the gym and excercising on the bike or eliptical. Today I had the urge to run. Ha! I managed to run a few minute intervals and my legs almost collapsed beneath me. Guess I'll have to build up those muscles again. I've put on 3 pounds which worries me. I'm supposed to be losing weight, not gaining it. My husband bought me a 55" TV and Blue Ray DVD player for those days when I can't get off the couch. For those of you who know my husband and his feelings toward television (not to mention how he feels about parting with large sums of cash), you know this was a big gift. I can't get enough of True Blood on the big screen! The first night we installed it we watched Lord Of the Rings on Blue Ray. This was also the night I decided to sample medicinal marijuana so that I know how to dose myself next chemo. Let me tell you watching Lord of the Rings on a 55" TV (my previous was a 27" dinosaur) with Blue Ray was an experience I will not soon forget. I think I watched for 3 hours with my mouth hanging open. Cool.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Day 11: Round 2 Chemo

I had my port bandage taken off so I can shower and swim now. I refer to my port site as the "alien" because I have a 3 pronged bump in my arm. I was lifting weights today at the gym and as I watched myself in the mirror I got the heeby-geebies watching my alien ebb and flow as my muscles flexed. I saw my doctor and nurse practitioner on Wed. to check my white blood cell count and to check in. Appearantly I am able to take everything from Aleve to Vicodin for pain. What the hell? Why did it take them this long to tell me that? Cause the Claritan did not help the bone pain at all. I am also clear to take pyridium or any over the counter bladder pain control pills to fight the burning from the chemo. I'm feeling good. I pop out of bed at 5 am and start my morning. Anyone who knows me well knows that is so not normal for me, but I love having alone time in the house before my family wakes up. Next week we leave for Yosemite on vacation. Can't wait!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Day 8: Round 2 Chemo...Another Bump In the Road

So, it all became clear to me last night why I was feeling so badly this round. Why even yesterday I had stabbing pains in my lower back and got tired by the end of the day. As the little pieces began to add up I found myself huddled in a ball on my bed, under a heavy blanket, and shiverring. I had a fever of 100.3, low grade. A damned bladder infection! I just knew it. Sure enough the doctor on call agreed and called my pharmacy with a prescription. Wow! Bladder infections for the normal gal are hell, but bladder infections on chemo are a whole different animal. This morning I'm a different woman. I will have to take the meds for a week, but already I can feel them doing their thing. I want to scream, what the hell? Will I get pummelled by every little thing along this journey through cancer? But, alas I know the answer to that question...yes. That is what chemo does. It strips the body of all its own defences. I'm adding to my list of NO's: No sushi, No shaving, No teeth cleaning...NO SEX! That's a big one for me, sorry Erich. But its time to battan down the hatches (no pun intended), hunker down and fight, fight, fight. I have been complaining a lot these last few days, so I am going to have a long overdue pedicure today with Stacey and Lupe. I'm excited to smell toxic nail fumes and flip through trashy magazines while kibitzing with a couple of my gals. Then, if I have the energy, I am taking my van to be washed inside and out. Those of you with small children understand what a luxury this task is. I am cherishing the little things today.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Day 7: Round 2 Chemo Kicked My Ass

Round 2 went to the chemo. I was not prepared to hurt so much, feel so utterly alone, and wonder if I could ever be the same after all of this. For me I can tell each chemo will build upon the previous one. This time around the mouth pain and GI pain was better. The bowels were good. Day 6, I need to remember just not to eat. But, damn that bone pain that just radiates, well...from the core of your bones, is just merciless. And, this time for added fun my bladder condition sparked up. Like butane flowing through my bladder. Night 4, and days 5 & 6 will be my hurdles. I will consult with my doctor about a bladder pain pill. In addition, I'm thinking of suiting myself with an adult diaper and consuming an entire "green edible." I'll wake up when it's over. Erich doesn't think he can watch me do that. The only thing I wanted was my mommy. I just wanted to crawl in her bad and put my head in her lap. I was already having my own pitty party by this time, wondering if anyone really needs to be so sick that they can't wipe their own ass at our age? But then I though about my mom and the fact that she no longer has a mommy to soothe her in times of need. And I cried even more. I am stronger today. I'm out of bed and will pick up the kids from school today. Round 2 over, 4 more to go. I can do this!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Day 6: Round 2 Chemo...I Spoke Too Soon

I was blindsided Friday night and Saturday. I went dooowwwnnnn. The Claritan D doesn't help the bone pain enough. It feels like I have been beaten, but I need to move quickly all night long. Mom suggested a hot bath in the middle of the night (remember that for next round). This time my bladder fell apart. Imagine butane flushed through your bladder. That can't happen again. I will ask about pyridium to knock out bladder pain. So, Friday night was pain and sleep and sweats. Saturday was sleep from having been in so much pain Friday night. I must watch the 4th night and the 5th day and have lots of help. Erich fell apart alone, it's too big a job to care for me and care for the kids. I'm so happy to feel like I can sit up! I'm gonna watch soon television.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Day: Round 2 Chemo

Wow! What a difference steroids make. They make me loopy and wake up at 3am, but they really help with the fatigue. My mouth, throat, and GI system are much better also; same symptoms but to a lesser extent. Wed. I spent running around like I was on crack. I just love the effects of one of the anti-nausea meds, it's the only time I feel like I really have pep. So, amped on meds, I hit Target, TJ Maxx, and Kohls in about 2 hours swooping up all their cute hats. Afterwards I was off to the "spa" for fluids and Neaulasta shot. Sat between one woman who has been fighting lung cancer for the past 8 years and another who needs to be fitted with a feeding tube because she won't eat. My heart goes out to these warriors.

Yesterday and today I am on the couch resting, but pleasantly this round. My mother came to care for me yesterday and I gotta say it was wonderful to spend my day with my head and my feet in her lap. Since I became a mom I've forgotten what it feels like to need my own mommy. I learned you are never to old. Today a few of the Sassies are coming over to visit and bring my family food. I am so thankful for all my loved ones near and far who continue to want to help and send good wishes. I feel like the richest woman in the entire world.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Day 1: Round 2 Chemo

Good news! The BRACA (genetic testing for breast cancer) tests were negative. This is very good news for me; not so large of a chance I could get cancer in the other breast or in my ovaries. ALso good news for my mother, her sisters, and their daughters. I will discuss statistics of getting cancer in other breast anyway with doctor next Wed. Spent 5 hours today at the spa (chemo lab). I reclined in my lazy boy, draped my hand knitted prayer shawl around me drank 6 cups of water even though I received 2 liters through my IV, and read & watched tv. This time the Benedryl has made me sleepy and I was nauseated on the way home. I'm in bed now ready for the decline. My white blood cell count continues to be high, which is good. As long as I respond well to the Neulasta I will stay healthy through this process. Port hurts. In order to insert tack into it the nurse had to press down on my 1 week old incision. Ouch. By next week it will be healed and I can get it wet and lift weights. No hair loss to report today. I will go back tomorrow for 2 more liters of fluid and the Neulasta shot.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Day 22: The Day Before Chemo Round 2

I have found myself anxious and a bit depressed today. I'm not looking forward to another round of chemo but I have faith that it will be even easier this round because I am prepared with a few more preventitive meds this time. For instance, today I started Miralax, which I will take daily until day 9. This will prevent stool impaction, which took me down big time on day 3 last round. I also started a steroid (Decadron 4mg) that I take twice in the morning and twice at night the day before and the day after chemo. And, my nurse pratitioner, Mary Grace, added Protonix (Prilosec) 40 mg daily day before chemo until day 9 for acid reflux, which appearantly is to blame for the painful swallowing and digesting of food day 4 through day 7. So, I may not experience the GI Blues this round! Ah the little things. My port is no longer hurting unless I bump it in just the right place. Ooww. This is good because tomorrow they will stick what looks like a large tack into the skin covering the flat round drum to administer chemo, IV fluids, Benedryl, Xanax, and to draw blood. My head is basically bald now with a few strands of hair left. Erich wanted to shave it all off, but I just couldn't. Let the few soldiers stand til they fall on their own. Arm and leg hair still securely fastend. So, tomorrow at 10am Erich and I hit the "spa." I really love the down time and the attention my nurse and nurse practitioner lavish on me. It really isn't bad. Tomorrow at this time I will be 2 rounds down and only 4 more to go. The end is in sight! Tonight Frederich had another bad sinus headache where he cried himself to sleep. I dosed him with medicine, put him in my dark room, climbed into bed and rocked him to sleep. I'm so glad I was well enough to do that. It's times like this I am most thankful. :)

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Day 20: "Like a Hairless Chiuaua..."

Wow! Losing my hair at a rapid rate. I have huge patches of bare skin on my head. It's less like Sinead O'Connor and much more like Kojack. My eyelashes are falling out and that makes me really sad. A woman I was talking to the other day confirmed what I had been thinking for a few weeks: It's almost imposible to get fake eyelashes to stay on your lids if you have none of your own to brace them. Shit! Eyebrows are thinning but hanging in there. My nether region is barer than I've ever seen it. Why the hell isn't my leg hair falling out? I can't shave in case I cut myself and bleed to death. hey just get longer and darker. Not fair! Kim Kardashian was quoted as saying she waxes her entire body and is "like a hairless chiuaua." Now I understand what she means. The creepy port in my arm is slowly feeling better. Pretty much it hurts only where the incision is healing. When I raise my right arm I no longer feel the catheter wiggle in my chest. The site is still sore and I'm not thrilled that they wll use this port on Tuesday for my second chemo round. Otherwise I feel good, lots of energy, sleeping well, eating too well (I've put on 4 pounds-hope round 2 takes care of that), and feeling very happy and lucky. Today we are celebrating Frederich's birthday, so, gotta go. Who loves ya babe?

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Day 17: Vanity

Today's writings are all about my vanity. I broke down and bought 2 wigs yesterday. I'm trying to channel Demi, but she just had a different shaped head. My long oval is only made longer and more oval with lack of hair and the thought of pure skin soon only made me wanna cry. Great news on the plastic surgery front! I was doing research yesterday because mastectomy scars are horrific and reconstruction surgery left even more ugly scars and takes a year to complete. The thought of reconstructed nipples and tattooed areolas was really bringing me down. So, I came across a doctor in Beverly Hills who works out of Cedar Sinai with oncology surgeons who have mastered cutting around the areola and pulling out the breast tissue/tumor through the hole. They give you a tummy tuck and use the fat from that procedure to fill the breasts, and then if possible they save the nipple and areola and sew it back on. The result is a natural breast, no appearant scars, real nipples, and you wake up with breasts and a flatter stomach. Hot damn! Not quite the way I imagined I would get my cosmetic  surgery wishes fullfilled, but I'm looking on the bright side. Now if only I can find a way to sneak my eye lift surgery in.:)

Monday, August 30, 2010

Day 15: Port

Still feeling great! Spent the weekend in Santa Monica with the family. This morning Erich and I were at Cedar Sinai by 8:15am for my port insertion. The port, it turns out, is a titanium device the size of a quarter and 1/2 an inch thick with a catheter line. So, they gave me a local anaesthetic, sliced my arm open and threaded a small hose through a vein up my arm and down into my chest not far from my heart. Appearantly I don't have the best veins and chemo tends to make them shrivel up and disapear. A port is an easy way to administer chemo, draw blood, and administer IV fluids and meds. I had no idea what it all entailed and it was probably better that way. Feeding the catheter into my chest reminded me of my epideral with Frederich. That sensation of pushing a tube through a part of your body is strange to say the least.

After Cedars we went to visit my oncologist. No BRACA gene results yet. That test will tell me if I am at super high risk for developing cancer in the other breast and/or the uterus. I have already decided that if I test positive I will have the surgeon take the entire other breast as well, and basically obliterate my ovaries. My tunor has shrunk significantly already, which is a good sign, however, my doctor informed me that the plan will not change: Six rounds of chemo (which means the end of Nov) and then surgery.

I woke up today to clumps of hair falling out as I brushed my teeth. So, tonight I had Erich shave my head with a number 4 catch. I'm chanelling my GI Jane now. I feel kinda bad ass. I like it.:)

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Day 11: Blood tests

Checked in with my nurse practitioner today. Drew my blood. White blood cell count is 14,000 (great), hemoglobin count 14.3. Blood platelettes at 308,000. My counts are high which means the drug Neulasta (the shot I receive the day after every chemo infusion) is working really well for me. I have been cleared to have my teeth cleaned on 9/30. 2nd chemo set for Sept. 7, and 3rd chemo set for Sept. 30. I'm told that I will receive another scan after the 3rd infusion to see how much the tumor has shrunk. As soon as it is small enough I can have surgery to remove the breast, maybe both, and reconstruct them. Again, I feel great today. Chances are I will continue to feel great until my next chemo. Tried to color my roots this morning cause as long as I have hair it won't be gray! Color didn't take. hhhmmm and grumble.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Day 10: It's a Miracle

OK, so I opened my eyes this morning and took a deep breathe and waited a few  minutes, then hopped out of bed feeling almost completely "normal." Oh please let me feel this way until my next transfusion. I have energy, I can eat, and I don't hurt anywhere. I spent an hour layng on the couch luxuriating in feeling so well. While I'm feeling so peppy I would like to take a moment to wish a Happy Birthday to my favorite actor, Alexander Skarsgaard, who turned 34 today. Shwing! I'm running out to watch Evan play soccer.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Day 9: Glued to the Couch

I got up and took the kids to school this morning. I didn't brush my teeth, didn't put on a bra, threw on some clothes, put on my Prada shades, and slowed down just enough in the drop-off circle to let my kids out. I turned around and came home, plopped on the couch and napped until 12 noon. Wow! The sleepies came out of nowhere today. There goes my one errand I set for myself. I have just enough time to brush my teeth, put a hat on my crazy hair and go pick my darlings up from school. I'm keeping food down today (the little bit I have eaten). I have developed light sensitivity. I can't sleep with any light coming in to my room. It's like the sun is blazing through my eyelids. I must pick up eye shades. Chemo is turning me into a diva!

Day 8: Scrap Diet From Day 7

Today, all bets are off. All the foods I thought were friendly yesterday came back to haunt me today. No cottage cheese, and no yogurt. Appearantly I have developed some sort of lactose intolerance. Great, I'm left with carbs. I had saltines and a cherry Icee for lunch yesterday. However, I was able to eat 4 small bites of grilled chicken breast and an apple. Looks like its Atkins for me! I was in a lot of gut pain this morning and afternoon, but by the evening I felt pretty solid, but tired. I laid in bed and re-read 8 chapters from my favorite book series. I noticed today that my fingernails are hot. The literature I was given speeks to nail color change, but didn't mention heat. What else, oh yes, I have a sore in my nose and I'm fairly certain I an starting to get a cold sore on my lip. But, hey no hair loss yet.:)

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Day 7: More G.I. Blues

So, it's not nausea so much as it's painful to eat, followed by stomach cramps, and nausea/car sickness. I actually got sick smelling my kids' bread toast. Out of my tummy troubles have emerged some favorite foods that sound tasty and go down well (of course that's all relative), malt 'o'meal with a little milk and touch of brown sugar, toast with smidge of butter (but I can't be around while it's toasting), bagels with cream cheese, apples and cheese, cottage cheese with peaches, oh and cottage cheese burritos with avacado. Wow! Kinda sad, BUT, I'm very pleased that I can eat something. Eating a half cup of cottage cheese with peaches feels like a whole large pizza going down (yah I've done that. That's how I know what it feels like). Today I went to the beach with Erich and the kids for a few hours. For a little while I actually forgot about the cancer and felt "normal." It was beautiful.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Aug. 21, 2010: Day 6

I woke up feeling so much better. My energy was almost all back and my aches n pains in my limbs were at a minimal. About an hour after I leapt out of bed I realized why God gave me some strength back...It was to run to and from the bathroom.  Ah, the G.I. blues; nausea, stomach cramps, and of course the runs. I took my first anti-nausea medication, Zofran. Made me feel so good I actually ate cheetos at Evan's party. My son's 6th birthday party was an amazing event put together by my Long Beach Mommy Friends (The Sassy Seven). All I had to do was show up with the camera and my check book. Nothing like a little cancer to make you realize how much your loved by family and friends. And I do feel the love from you all. I am the luckiest woman in the world to have such wonderful people in my life. My Mama who just passed a week ago told me two things before she left this world...1. Life is short. and 2. What good is a large family if you aren't close? I hear you Mama.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Aug. 20, 2010- Day 5

Five days after chemo I am slowly gaining strength and I'm able to stay awake. Dove picked me up this morning to have coffee with Stacey, Lupe, and Jax. I really didn't want to move from the couch, but I'm glad I did. It felt good to get out into the daylight. Today is Evan's birthday, he is 6 years old. Tomorrow I will drag myself to his party that my girlfriends arranged. Thank God for friends and family, and my husband who has become a saint in my eyes. Do Jews worship saints?

Aug. 19, 2010- Day 4

I woke up with slightly more energy than yesterday. I managed to drag myself to the couch and watch TV. My mouth and throat hurt alot today. I never stated the glutamine supplement. No mouth sores, it just feels like swollen glands. Stacey was kind enough to pick up the supplement and bring it to me. After she left is when the real terror began. I had not given my bowels much consideration. I assumed they were just fine, but when I ran to use the tolilet and realized it couldn't come out I began to panic. I hadn't pooed in three days! I don't want to get to graffic for any poor reader beside me who may be reading this journal, but let me just say you do not ever want to encounter impacted stool. I was able to remedy the situation after 3 hours of intense pain. I crawled into the shower and then passed out for the night. I have a new bes friend: stool softner.

Day 3 Took Me Down

Day 3 I spent in bed sleeping. When I got my strength together I moved to the couch. My appetite is down. Greek yogurt is my favorite right now. And I drink about 12 glasses of water daily.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

More Fluids

Aug. 17, 2010- Back to the center I went today for 2 more liters of fluids and a shot to increase production of white cells. No nausea or fatigue yet on day 2. Experiencing mild mouth and throat pain. I go back in 9 days for labs on my white blood cell count.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Aug. 16, 2010: First Day of Chemo

I started chemo today. Actually in my case it is called neoadjavent therapy. I have a 3-5 year old cancerous tumor in my left breast. The doctors tell me it is about 10cm in diameter, which means it is too big to operate on right now. I am to receive a lovely cocktail of Taxotere and Cytoxan (referred to as TC by those in the "know") every three weeks until the tumor shrinks to an appropriate size for surgery. My doctor tells me 4-6 doses should do the trick.

I arrived at my appointed time and was led to the chemo room which is large with approximately 50 chairs and a couple of private rooms. Each chemo recliner is equipped with two side tables, a television, WiFi, a telephone, and an extra chair for any company you may bring. As I reclined; holding my book in my left hand and being infused in my right arm I was offered drinks and snacks. Maybe it's because I have 6 and 7 year old boys at home, but I had to keep reminding myself that I wasn't at a day spa. Is that taking my positive perspective too far? I spent 4 hours in the office today. While receiving liters of fluids, benedryl, xanax, and TC intravenously I was educated on my chemo; the process and the side effects, and on nutrition. Prevention is the name of the game! It is important to stay healthy, stay away from sharp objects, raw food (that means NO SUSHI!), and sick people. I will return tomorrow for more intravenous fluids and a shot to boost my white blood cell count. So far, so good.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

A Diagnosis

July 28, 2010 was to be a regular yearly mamogram. My doctors and I had been following what we thought was "cystic tissue" since March. My radiologist didn't like the results of my mamogram, so he performed an ultrasound, and then a biopsy. He braced me for bad news which came the following day. My biopsies had tested positive for breast cancer. I am 42, married with two small children. I had just graduated from my master's program in school psychology and was looking for work. I had no idea I was to embark upon a 12 month journey following in the footsteps of too many remarkable women before me.