Saturday, February 28, 2009

Gifts

People have made some incredible gestures that I have found so moving since I have been diagnosed.

Sweet Gesture 1
Most of you know that I spent part of my senior year in Brazil attending PUC in Rio
de Janeiro.
A friend of my mothers lives down there, Kdu, and he took incredible care of me during my stay (got me a cell phone, made sure I was situated), and when Paul and I went down a couple of years ago, he let us stay in his apartment right on the lagoon. Here are some pics:

He sent a very sweet email to my mother letting her know that he had gone to his candomble priest about my situation. Now, Kdu (the gentleman), is Catholic, but Brazil is much like Hawaii where people can be very Christian but have no problem bringing Pele an offering. It isn't really contradictory actions or beliefs, more, complementary or parallel. For some reason, the Catholicism and Hawaiian polytheism don't really get in each other's way, and so it is in Brazil with Catholicism (or Evangelicalism) and Candomble. The general consensus in both cultures is: Might as well cover all your bases, right?

So his candomble priest spoke to the orixas (a type of spirit), and the orixas say that everything is gonna be alright with me:) Here is a candomble ceremony for those of you who are interested:


Sweet Guesture 2
A girlfriends mom wrote me an email and told me that she had send me a priority package fromwhen I opened it up it was a beautiful handmade wreath made from plants that grow in my hometown,
Hawaii. It arrived right after my chemotherapy treatment, and Waimea! She had driven up to my old house, along Saddle Road, and even got plants from Lalamilo Farmlots and created a beautiful wreath. It is amazing, because my town is very wet and very rainforesty, and Waimea just has a certain smell, which I now have had delivered direct to my home in freezing Texas!

Here is a picture of it hanging up in my kitchen:
3rd Gesture, last, but DEFINITELY NOT THE LEAST:

Ed
Akman, his wife Wendy, relatives and Kathy Peterson (who sold my parents their house in Russell, NZ) made me amazing music video, with an original song and lyrics! Ed wrote the words and played the music, and it is an exquisite homage to my optimism and love of vicodin! I laughed so hard and I wanted to share their original song with you. Please enjoy!

video

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Dog


So in the beginning of January I rescued a dog.

Seemingly off topic, I know, but as I feel like vomiting (had chemo yesterday) and every time I reach up to scratch my head my hair sprinkles all over my desk, I thought I would focus on this.

Ever since we got to Texas I have been searching on Craigslist for a dog. I think it got started after I read Marley and Me. I never really even thought about a dog before. Luis hates dogs, so the looking wasn't serious, but I was just seeing what was out there.

I was going through the listings (95% are pitbull or pitbull mixes) and I saw a rescue group that raised funds and did other such things. Since Luis wouldn't allow me a dog (the stink, demand to much attention, we already have two cats, etc etc) I thought that was a way I could be involved with canines.

I then got a list of dogs that were going to be euthanized THAT afternoon at Irving Shelter at 5:00 pm. While on Craigslist, I had seen a lot of people that acting as foster homes for dogs to give them a little more time, so I decided to give it a try. Next thing I knew, I had Chomsky.

Chomsky had been found at a construction site tangled up in a bunch of wire. He was brought to the pound and was there for three weeks, but the shelters fill fast, and it was his turn.

I brought him home and adored him. Luis had been gone for weeks with different conferences, a trip home to see his family, and it really made my day to have someone(thing) that was always waiting for me, always happy to see me, and always up to hang out when I wanted to, or content to chill out when I didn't. I love my cats, but it isn't as so they act completely stoked to see me every morning.

So I got used to having a dog. Luis came home, and didn't kill me after I promised it was temporary, but then I posted him up on Craigslist, and all the people the contacted me were kind of nuts or wanted a 50 lbs dog in a studio apartment or wanted a really aggressive dog, which he is not.

And then I got my diagnosis, and then mom came, and now I had pressure from two sides to get rid of him quickly (I was taking my time because I enjoyed Chomsky so much), so I posted him to Craigslist again, and got an overwhelming response, and it three days, Chomsky was with a new family. I am bummed out because I miss always having someone to snuggle with on the sofa and having someone who doesn't care if I shower or not, but Luis enjoys me much more because I don't smell like dog, and I am happy because Chomsky is going to much happier in a home with a yard.

So anyway, here are some photos of me and Chomsky.

A Friends Son and Chomsky


Sunday, February 22, 2009

Everything Hurts! Makes me want to break something!

I have luckily never been afflicted with back pain, migraines, or any of those chronic really painful problems. This is my first bout with constant pain.

I had said in my blog before I was taking shots of Nuelasta. I misspoke.
They were shots of Nuepogen (vs. Nuelasta) to boost WBC production. Neupogen also causes bone pain. I mean, hard core bone pain. Since it isn't joint pain, but an actual ache coming from the depths of your bones, and the bigger the bone, the more the ache.

Lower back, femur, pelvic bones, the big bones in your back called the scapula (just learned that term for this post), and they all ache and if you get up to fast or move to quickly throb like you had a heart of pain pulsing in each one of them. And then this big wave of pain screams up your spine and sinks its claws into the back of your head causing a massive headache that won't let go and you just want to fall to the floor.

And listen,
I am not a sissy. I ran cross-country for gods sake, I can take a lot of pain over extended periods of time. But this is a whole new thing. This wakes me up at night and I feel like I was involved in a serious car accident where I was hit from the side and all the airbags went off and everything just hurts. It makes me want to be mean to everyone I come in contact with so they can share in my misery and feel like shit too. Doesn't that make you want to come visit me:)?

I get the shots in the morning and the pain doesn't hit me until the evening, where I crawl up to my mom's bed and moan until she gets me a vicodin. Hot baths seem to help, so I am taking advantage, regressing to my childhood, adding bubbles, and I make my mom read to me (she is reading Fluke).

The vicodin is amazing, I take it, and 20 minutes later there is a
complete cessation of pain and a slight feeling of euphoria. Since I can't drink wine, it is a great substitute. I heard it was a narcotic, and I know that House loves it, so I looked up vicodin addiction on Google.
Vicodin addiction affects the mental, emotional, physical and spiritual aspects of a person's life. In addition, vicodin addiction can tear apart families, ruin relationships and leave lives in shambles without proper vicodin rehab. Many people who are addicted to vicodin want to stop but find that they are unable to live without the drug and must enter a rehabilitation center in order to stop. By understanding the devious nature of vicodin addiction, helping yourself or someone you love is a much easier task.
All well and good, but honestly, worth the risk to stop this pain.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

my weekend as an invalid

I went back today, and my WBC is still low: 1.6.

I can't get chemo on Monday unless I am a 5. Although I have a limited sample, the shot seems to double or triple my WBC. So I must go back tomorrow to get another shot. If it triples it, I am on for chemo. But if just doubles, I might have to put it off chemo until Tuesday. My hip bones hurt, but Vicodin Vicodin Vicodin!

Tuesday would be a bit better anyway. The Wogster (Paul, my bro) flies in from LA on Monday where he is filming a movie, and I know he is pumped to document my cancer experience (for posterity?), so at least I wont have my face in the toilet the WHOLE time he is here.

Many of you have commented on my upbeat attitude and such. It isn't hard because #1, I have an amazing husband, #2, my mom is here, and #3, I love my doctor, #4 I think it might be fun to get breast implants, and #5 gonna be an interesting experience I can draw upon later, and #6 I realized just how many wonderful people I know and everyone has been so incredibly sweet and supportive and great about getting in touch again.

So received a good suggestion. Since it is going to be very rough at points, and I am feeling happy now, make myself a pep talk video I can show myself later when I don't want to get out of bed, and feel all ugly and skinny and bald and that this is never gonna end and I just want to give up. I think it is a great idea! I will do it when Paul is here an post it up:)

My Aunt Michelle forwarded me an AMAZING SITE, and if ANY of you have family or friends with Breast Cancer, you need to take advantage of this, and when it is over, sponsor someone of your own. It is called www.CleaningForaReason.org.

From their site: Fighting cancer is difficult enough, but living with it is even tougher - and that's where the Cleaning for A Reason Foundation steps in. This newly formed nonprofit offers free professional housecleaning services to improve the lives of women undergoing treatment for cancer. FREE HOUSECLEANING SERVICE!! OMG I love the idea! I signed up, and will let you know how it goes!

I love news aggregators. I think the aggregator is the best thing ever, and I found a medical one that I really dig called Medical Cavity. So I scan it for articles on cancer and tumors, and they range from CNN and BBC articles to medical journals. Here are some that I found that are incredibly interesting to me.

Breast Cancer Biology Changing - BBC
Women are now more likely to have hormone-dependent, slow-growing tumours, a comparison of tissue samples from the 1980s and 1990s shows. Damn, not me, mine is EXACTLY the opposite!

'Normalizing' Tumor Vessels Leaves Cancer more Benign - Science Daily
Now this study blew my mind. Blood vessels to cancer are pretty retarded. All over the place, badly formed, and this starves them of oxygen. Which you might think is a good thing, right? However, as a tumor becomes more oxygen deprived, this spurs it to metastasize and go to other parts of the body. It also makes the chemo less efficient because it needs oxygen to perform. When the blood vessels were normalized in mice, that more regular vessel structure improved tumors' oxygen supply, leading to physiological changes that counteracted the overall malignancy of the cancer. Pretty interesting, huh?

Okay, gonna get some R&R. I'm keeping a close eye on my temp. It is at 99, and if it gets higher, I have to call my docs and go to the hospital. Sucks.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Under House Arrest

Leukopenia. Ever heard of the word?

I certainly hadn't. But like
rhinovirus is to the common cold, leukopenia is to low white blood cell count. For those of you who remember, white blood cells are made in bone marrow, which the chemo attacks because it divides quickly, so my white blood cell count goes down.

This might be a bit technical, but for those who are interested the normal range for
WBC count is4.3 to 10.8 x 109 cells per liter.
So normal is 4.3-10.8.

I got tested
last Tuesday and my WBC was at 3.8. I had mild leukopenia, so they gave me a shot of Neulasta, which boosts by WBC production.

It gives you
mild bone pain, which makes your back ache like you have been on a 14 hour flight, but without the cool exotic vacation payoff at the end. But hey, any excuse to take a Vicodin, right?

When I came retested this Tuesday I had a
WBC of 12. Booya! So I went back again today, all confident that my WBC would still be elevated, getting ready for an Oscar Par-tay this weekend . . . . .and man, I completely failed my test!

I scored a 0.8, which basically means I completely bottomed out and have to wear a
SARS mask.

Pista, my cat, has been sneezing so he has to wear one as well.

So I am under house arrest. I have a bit of a sore throat, no WBCs to fight it, and I have to Purell my hands every two minutes.

No one can come near me, lest they infect me with not even a cold(
rhinovirus;), but just normal bacteria on their hands which will lead to my spleen shutting down or something.

I even have to boil my toothbrush each night,
but that could also be my mom being OC.

So, now that I have illegally or legally
watched all Oscar nominated flicks besides Frozen River (you are all thinking to yourself, what movie was that?) and Changling (watching it tonight on a legal rental from blockbuster). I have settled back today and just watched other movies on my "to-see" list. I would normally watch TiVoed TV shows, but fricking Jon Stewart has been on vacation, no idea why my TiVo didn't record The Office, and my TiVo fizzed out on Monday night my for 24 and House. so I have to wait 8 days until those episodes appear online.

So I watched Towelhead. Has anyone seen this movie? Aaron Eckhart (who is one of the only blonds I think is just adorable), Toni Collette, and bunch of other people I sort of recognized. Great acting, but it made me so uncomfortable I almost fast forwarded scenes.

The actress is 19, but plays a 13 year old, and she looks like a 13 year old, and Aaron
Eckhart plays, a man, who well, hits on her, and she flirts back, and things lead to things, and, well it really makes you squirm. A lot. It is obvious that the writer and director is the same of American Beauty.

I also have season 1&2 of the Tudors, which looks pretty hot. It is going to be hard to do better than Rome, but I am looking forward to it!

Back to the doctor tomorrow. Hope this shot works. If my
WBC doesn't get back up, the my chemo dose will be modified or postponed, and I really need this baby to SHRINK!

Okay, back is killing.
Where is my Vicodin?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Tea and Cancer and Giant Snowballs


It was recommended to me to drink a tea brewed from red clover (see image at left if confused at Red Clover) to aid my cancer recovery. Red Clover is a pre-chemotherapy if you will, and according to Dioscorides, one of the most important figures in the history of Roman medicine, a plant called red clover may have been used in the treatment of certain forms of cancer. Red clover can aid the body to break down and to use—that is, to metabolize—certain proteins, and thus have a medical benefit. Over 33 cultures to this day use it as a cancer fighting agent. So I got the tea, brewed it, and started drinking it.

Just the other day I decided to do a bit more research and found
this: Women being treated for breast cancer with the drug tamoxifen should avoid red clover because tamoxifen prevents estrogen from reaching a tumor, and phytoestrogenic compounds in red clover could undermine that action. In this case, it's possible red clover could feed, not starve, an estrogen-dependent breast tumor.

Oh shit. Was I feeding my tumor instead of starving it?

Upon re-reading it I realized I hadn't done myself harm, because the pathology of my tumor showed that its is NOT fed by estrogen or progesterone (hence the Er-Pr- of my diagnosis). However, I realized that no matter how alternative the remedy, I really need to do my research before I ingest.

Just to reiterate: Red Clover is NOT okay for 75% of breast cancers that are
estrogen-receptor-positive or progesterone-receptor-positive. But it IS okay for me.

Yesterday I went to
Central Market (which is like Whole Foods, but way BIGGER and Badder-ass), and I picked up some green tea. I know about the whole anti-oxidant thing, but my question was, how does green tea react with my type of chemotherapy? Again, I did my research, and I found an interesting study from School of Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of Shizuoka, Japan. FYI, Doxorubicin is the generic name of Adryimcin, the A in my Chemo Cocktail.
Biochemical modulation has played an important role in the development of cancer chemotherapy. We have directed our attention to the intake of common beverages and investigated the effects of green tea and tea components on the antitumor activity of doxorubicin. We carried out the combined treatment of toxorubicin and green tea on Ehrlich ascites carcinoma tumor-bearing mice. The oral administration of green tea enhanced 2.5-fold the inhibitory effects of doxorubicin on tumor growth. The Doxorubicin concentration in the tumor was increased by the combination of green tea with doxorubicin. In contrast, the increase in doxorubicin concentration was not observed in normal tissues after green tea combination. Furthermore, the enhancement of antitumor activity of doxorubicin induced by green tea was observed in M5076 ovarian sarcoma, which has low sensitivity to doxorubicin. These results suggest that drinking green tea can encourage cancer chemotherapy and may improve the quality of life of clinical patients.
Basically, Green Tea makes Adriamycin work 250% better, even in tumors that have a low sensitivity to it.

But then I wondered, will that make me sicker? If it makes the chemotherapy more effective in
destroying quickly dividing cells, will it also kill the "good" quickly dividing cells 250% as well? From what I understand, the answer is no. When the cut the mice up to study the tissue, the concentration of the chemo therapy was not noted in normal tissue, just the tumor. I don't know if the specifically studied the normal tissue of hair follicles, but I am going to keep on researching.

Okay, away from the heavy stuff.

What am I reading?
Yesterday I started
An Arsonist's Guide to Writers' Homes in New England, and I am loving it! I am trying to read books that make me laugh and keep my mood light.

Amazon says: the quirkiest title for a book since
Special Topics in Calamity Physics, Brock Clarke lights up the page with the chronicle of a man who, as a teenager, accidentally burned down the Emily Dickinson House in Amherst, Massachusetts, killing two people. ("It's probably enough to say that in the Massachusetts Mt. Rushmore of big gruesome tragedy, there are the Kennedys, and Lizzie Borden and her ax, and the burning witches at Salem, and then there's me.") After serving ten years in prison for the crime, Sam Pulsifer moves on with his life, but the emergence of a copycat who's turning New England's literary landmarks to ash puts Sam back in the spotlight and on a quest for the truth.

It's hysterical. I am really enjoying it, and it is very intellectually sophisticated, so not exactly mindless reading.

What am I watching? Giant Snowballs. I'll leave you with this. Enjoy.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Did you Leave Your Lymph Nodes At Home?

"Did you leave your lymph nodes at home?"

"Huh?" I had no idea what he was talking about.

Dr. Khan looked at my eyes. "Have you been feeling your lymph nodes?"

Uh . . . I wasn't sure what the right answer was. So I told him the truth. "No, I have been to scared that I will, you know, push the cancer around and into other parts of my body."

He gave me a smile. "Your lymph nodes in your neck are no longer palpable. Except for the one we biopsied, which will be enlarged because of the needle. You have had an excellent reaction to the chemo therapy, and it has only been six days. And your tumor in your breast is no longer outwardly visible, it seems to have been reduced as well . . . you remember, I told you I was hopeful about you."

What, wait, wait, wait? What? Was this actually a bit of good news?

Dr. Khan scribbled in his notebook, and muttered, "I think we can downgrade you to a Stage III, as the cancer is no longer in distant lymph nodes."

I looked at my mom, whose eyes were wide and mouth was open.

"You mean," I cleared my throat. "It shrunk already?"

Dr. Khan nodded.

WOOOHOOOOOOOOOO! So I did a little victory dance, did my blood work, and then proceeded to call my husband, my father, and my brother, Paul, whose typically tepid reaction was. "That's cool."

I am so excited. I haven't been this happy since, well, I can't remember.

So not to get all metaphysical on y'all (the Texan in me), but I really really really believe that one of the major contributing reasons was everyone's thoughts and messages. I received over 150 emails and wall posts (Facebook). If all of those people just thought about me for the 30 seconds it took to write the post, that is a lot of positive energy flowing my way!

Coincidentally, Time Magazine's Cover Article this week is called, How Faith can Heal. And while I am nowhere near religious, my new age hippy-ness completely has faith in the power of mind over matter and how lots of people thinking the same thing can cause physical events to unfold.

The whole point of this is to thank you for all your love, support, prayers, thoughts, positive energy, good vibes, or whatever you want to call it. I wholeheartedly believe that it all of you who caused my tumor to have such an extreme reaction to the chemo.

I know the skeptics will remember that I had mentioned before that aggressive tumors do react well to chemotherapy, but even the stoic Dr. Khan (aka Dr. Gandhi) was quite amazed, and even SMILED (he is the one who said to me the week before, "You have a serious problem." ).
He looks like Gandhi, doesn't he?

To chasten things, I am still not by any means out of the woods, and I am looking forward to a lot more vomiting, low white blood cell count induced sickness, and rough patches, BUT I am heading in the right direction! So thank you, gracias, and lots of mahalos!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Lazy Sunday and my Chemo Cocktail


I am still learning a LOT about chemo. I mentioned in the last post some people were interestd in the drugs themselves. But for those who need a chemo primer, bottom line is that chemo interferes with cancer cells so that they can’t reproduce. Cancer cells are constantly dividing; that’s how they grow and spread. If you can stop them from dividing, their growth stops, they can’t spread, and they’re effectively killed.

I am on a dose dense chemo cocktial of AC. Dose Dense means that since I have a good heart (as these babies damage your heart), I can take chemo every two weeks rather than every three weeks. AC means the two drugs Adriamycin®, which fights cancer cells by altering its DNA and Cytoxan®, which interferes with the cells’ metabolism. After four cycles, or 8 weeks, they are going to switch me to Taxol®, which prevent cancer cells from dividing. And then I think I am going to get Herceptin®, a drug used to treat certain types of “receptive” cancers, blocks cell division. My type of tumor is very recpetiveto HER2, which is typical of aggressive cacners.

Okay, so almost one week on chemo. Most interesting is that I am thirsty all the time. No matter what, my mouth is always dry. I leave the house and walk the dog for 20 minutes, and I come back completely parched. Like hiking in the desert without a canteen. Always need to be drinking.

Kenjichan had a great suggestion of putting protein in the water, which I need, because I have lost 3 lbs in 5 days. I don't feel like I am not eating, but I guess since you always feel a little nauseous, you don't snack, I can't drink wine (which I did everyday!), and I am off the birth control. But I don't want to loose anymore weight! I get so cold already, if loose more lbs I am going to be freezing all the time.

Concerning the hair loss, I am completely obsessing over it. Every second I think it going to be the moment where all my hair follicles die. I ran my hands through my hair last night, and I saw some hairs come out, so I freaked and started pulling to see if they would just come right out of my skull, but nothing. I think it was just normal shedding. He he he. Going to order some cool Isreali head scarves today, so I have them when it happens.

So now some normal life news.

Today is my gorgeous amazing husband's birthday! We are going out to a BBQ (after I take a nap) and then we are opening up presents. I had thought that I was going to be able to continue with my social life regardless of the cancer, but I just found out I can't! It sucks!

Since chemo attacks the cells that are dividing (hair), that means it is also going to target my bone marrow. Which means my white blood cell count is gonna drop. Which means I can't be exposed to germs. Which means I can't be around kids, or people with colds, or well, people in general. Which is great, because I can legitimately hire a housekeeper as a medical expense, but it means that in a couple of weeks no more movies, no more parties, no more grocery shopping! Unless I wear one of those SARS masks.

I might just get the outfit too!


Quote of the day: “Cancer’s not so bad, but the treatment’s a killer!”

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Chemo # 1

I am officially a Stage IV cancer patient.

Although I don't have it anywhere else in my body, because it has left the regional zone of the breast and is now in the lymph nodes in my neck, it is Stage IV. Still freaks me out that it got that far without me noticing, but as all the doctors say, no need to look backwards.

So with my VW in the shop (cost to fix at $2000), I went to my first chemo appointment. I have some doctor friends who might be interested in the cocktail, so I will go into details at the end of this post for those interested.

It took three hours total. Here I am at the beginning, quite happy, and quite un-nauseous. They first give you an anti-nausea medicine, and then some sort of steroid. Not quite sure what or why (I can hear doctor friends clicking their tongues. Don't worry, I will find out). Then I get a dose of AC, which takes about an hour and a half.

During that time, they give me free Cheez-Its (MY FAVORITE!) and Famous Amos Cookies, and party mix and whatever I want to eat. And juice and water of course.

I only got a little dizzy during chemo, and was pretty much fine, just tired until I got in the car. My treatment center is 30 miles away from my house, and I guess after chemo that is a long way to drive on a sick tummy.So I got home, tried to eat a little, and promptly stuck my face in the toilet to clear out all the yummy snacks I had several hours before.

Now, until I got cancer, I thought chemo patients got so skinny because they were nauseous all the time. Not so, the reason that they don't eat is because food tastes like shit. Basically, everything tastes like foul iron. It is horrible, even my mom's yummy spaghetti was hard to get down. I could chew it in the front of my mouth, but as soon as it started going down my throat to swallow, it because the worst tasting slime I ever had. It isn't that we can't eat, it is just that it tastes horrible.

Why is this? Basically, they have no clue. But almost everything tastes bitter, like unripened olives.

Now in my case, although things still tasted horrible the next day, by afternoon, my taste buds were back to normal, and today I ate a juicy cheese burger and fries, and although it sat heavy, I was able to keep it down. So of course I am thinking, wow, lucky me, I am going to be one of the ones that chemo has very little or no effect.

Wrong. Apparently, most people experience low side effects in the first couple cycles, but then things get worse.

One thing is that I am quite tired. I took the dog for a walk, and crashed out for 2 hours. Which was delicious! Today I didn't nap, but I can barely keep my eyes open. And the reason I didn't nap was because I went for another hair cut!

Okay, well, enough for now, I can't keep my eyes open. The chemo cocktail recipie is going to have to wait, doctor friends.

Monday, February 9, 2009

OMG What a Bitch!

Today I had my chemotherapy port put in. Luis' best friend drove me to the hospital because Luis was taking care of errands in Dallas. I mentioned the port in a post several days ago, but chemo ports do a better job of protecting the veins from very harsh chemicals. Crappy thing is that it is a surgical process to implant. So here I am prepped for surgery!

I came out pretty groggy and a little sore, but I did remember the oh-so-lovely feeling of the anesthesia just taking over. There is no way I could be a doctor. With access to so many cool drugs, I don't think I couldn't control myself.

So I came out really groggy, and went over to the other center to get my chemo, and this is where Dana the Bitch from Hell started to emerge.

First, they couldn't do chemo on me because I arrived too late from my surgery. Then, I was told had to wait 40 minutes at Costco for them to fill my prescription, which I couldn't understand because it had been called in 2 hours prior.

And then, I started to hurt. I mean, really hurt.

And then our car broke down.

So I am in tremendous pain, with tubes hanging out of my body, and my piece of crap VW breaks down. Just overheats and dies. . . .And if ANYONE knows my history with VWs, as soon as they come into my possession (they can be straight off the factory line), they start dying a slow death.

Since we couldn't do chemo, I told my mom to drive directly to my part of town rather than up to McKinney. My mother has a slight obsession with tacos from Jack-In-The-Box. I know, right? WTF?

So that is where she is when I call her from the cell phone. Jack-In-The-Box. Luis is hunched over the engine, trying to use his manly powers to get the car to telepathically tell him why it just upped and died.

The pain is starting to stab up my neck, and I am too infuriated to figure out how to explain to my mom where we are, so I start screaming directions to her that make no sense because she isn't from this area.

My mom finally manages to make sense from my directions (for example, "Turn right at the light two streets before where I had my car accident), and I now have another person to whom to direct my fury, since Luis decided to ignore my screaming rant against German car companies who sacrifice precision to have their factories in Mexico and are producing pieces of crap.

I walk up to her and she immediately knows that it is the pain talking, so she says, "Dana, do you have your pain medication?"

I retort, "Of course I do, do you think I am so stupid I lost already?"

She smiles at me and says, "I have a diet coke in the car if you want to take your pills."

And I scream, "I hate Diet Coke, I have never drank Diet Coke, and I won't drink diet coke! I am only going to take my pain pills at home with distilled water!"

So Luis slams down the hood and says, "Let's go home, and I'll drive back here and deal with this."

I get into my mother's rental and I mutter, "Yea, you deal with it for once. It's always me solving car problems." Which is totally a lie, but I feel a lot better for saying it.

So we get home, and I tell my mom that towing it is going to be really expensive because I let my AAA card expire. So my mom calls AAA, and it is still valid, while Luis calls his friend who is really good with cars. I crawl onto the sofa, holding my head upright with my hands because the muscles in my neck hurt to much to take the weight, and announce, "For once, I am not going to solve any problems here. It is MY day and it is your turn to deal with all this shit."

Luis raises his eyebrows at my mom, which pisses me off to no end, but before I can say anything, he is out the door. My mom brings me a water and my Propoxy, which I down without saying thank you.

I turn on House, which I have TiVo-ed, and then my phone starts to ring. I reject every call, and start screaming to my mom how people won't stop calling me and why do they all do it at the same time, and they have to be doing it on purpose because it is statistically impossible that all calls to my phone happen during the same 30 minutes of each day.

But then, the pain pills start to kick in. I took another, and then a bit later a half. And then I began to feel a calm, and I realized how much I love opiates. And then my rational brain started working, and I replayed in my head how horrible I had just been to my mother, who has flown several thousand miles to take care of me on a red-eye and hasn't had a wink of sleep.

So, flying just a little high, I apologized to everyone, gave my mom lots of kisses, picked out the book my mother and I are reading at chemo tomorrow, and hopefully made everyone feel a little better.

In my defense, I seriously have not thrown a tantrum like that since my wedding. And I do believe a yearly tantrum is recommended to keep you sane, especially in circumstances like these.

So, moving on . . . chemo update tomorrow! Don't miss it ;)

Sunday, February 8, 2009

been so busy!

Okay tons going on, will give a quick synopsis!

Thursday
- I had a PET scan. Was not allowed to eat anything but protein for 24 hours before, and then they injected me with something radioactive and told me I was not allowed to go near pregnant women and young children. Uh . . .okay.

The nurse (male) tried to flirt with after and asked if I wanted to see my images, so I was like, "sure." He showed me, but then he got really quiet, I got to see that I have cancer in three lymph nodes. Having studied PET scans before my test, it was easily recongizable. So much for the flirting, huh?

My scan kind of looked like this.

So after going home and drinking wine, I confirmed my photo shoot for the next day. A la Sam in Sex in the City, I decided that before I loose my hair and other body parts, I was going to splurge and get a magazine photographer to photograph me in all sorts of glamor shots celebrating my body.

Friday - I got there terribly nervous. Luckily, he gave me two Irish Coffees (emphasis on the Irish part), and after a shot of vodka (all before 11 in the morning) I had pretty much calmed down. There was a makeup artist who did a great job doing my hair and covering all the zits that sprung up with all the stress. I have blurred the photo a bit to make it more appropriate, but it was actually very fun and liberating.

The photographer I think is going to continue photographing me through this entire process, but this is the last one I am going to post ;) Considering that it is a disease that 1 in 8 women will get, I think it is important that there are more images, especially of younger women, and what will happen to their bodies.


Saturday- I got up and chopped off my hair. I am going to wear it short for the first time in my life for about two weeks, and then get a pixie hair cut right before it starts to fall out. Once it starts going, I think I am just going to have Luis shave it for me. Never ever thought I would ask my husband to shave my head, but things change.


Today - Chemo attacks all fast growing cells, which include cancer, hair follicles, bone marrow, and the lining of your mouth. My taste buds are going to go, and pretty much everything is going to taste like crap (bitter, metallic, or just too salty). As my white blood cell count is going to go down, I can't eat raw foods, so I went out with my friend Julie this evening and gorged myself on sushi, as I will be deprived of it for 6 months and probably would gag on it anyway if I tried to eat it.

It was wonderful. I had two orders of Japanese Mackeral, which I got hooked on in Japan.

Tomorrow- First day of chemo and my mom arrives!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

A second opinion

Well, today was a bit of a shit.

I sought a second opinion, who told me that I shouldn't be f'ing around with fertility and my tumor was so aggressive, I caught it at a very late stage, and he wants me on chemo yesterday. Although it was shitty, I decided to change to him rather than staying with the doctors at the Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas. Several reasons:

1) Because of the aggressive nature of my tumor, I was eligible for a clinical study, which is what I was going to do at Presbyterian. Dr. Khan said my tumor is so aggressive and already moving into the lymph nodes on my neck, that to waste time with all the tests required before joining the study is endangering my health.

2) Even waiting until next week to collect my eggs is endangering my health. Which is fine, but I needed someone to tell me that. Me not being alive eliminates the needs for embryos, right?

3) He didn't like the chemo drugs there were going to put me on, he said they were a bit old school. Well, he didn't really say that, but he implied it.

4) The man got ON THE PHONE WITH MY INSURANCE COMPANY RIGHT IN FRONT ME to make sure they covered the pet scan to determine the stage of my tumor, which Presbyterian said I didn't need.

Not sure which is right, but you gotta go with your gut, and my gut said Khaaaaan! Okay, only the Trekkies would have got that reference . . .

You have no f'ing idea how exhausting it is talking about cancer all day long. I feel like it is all I do.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Okay, so wait, what actually happened?


I got an email from someone saying that this blog wasn't clear on where I was in my diagnosis. I realized that they were right! Okay, so brief synopsis:

December 22 2009: Yearly checkup with breast exam
January 12: Dana realizes left breast feels . . .thicker than right, no lump or bump, just thicker
January 14: Primary Care Physician (who Dana just saw less than three weeks before) acknowledges that the left breast feels more fibrous than the other.
January 15: Mammogram, slight area of calcification, sonogram shows some cysts, no biggy
January 16: See Breast Expert, who orders core biopsy
January 23rd: Breast core Biopsy, that sucked.
January 27th: Doctor calls me and tells me that I am positive for a very highly aggressive invasive ducal carcinoma (IDC). Oncologist told me later that the cancer is growing so rapidly, it makes sense why the doctor didn't feel it three weeks before and now it is bigger than a golf ball.
February 2: Got news that it isn't in my bones or lungs or liver, but it has already moved to my lymph nodes. But that is okay! Still fixable!

So what now? Since my tumor is ginormous and spread out and weird like in the pic above, I will be undergoing neoadjuvant chemotherapy, which means chemo BEFORE surgery. So six months of chemo will began as soon as I my eggs have been aspirated (more on that later), in about a week and a half.

Approximately 15-20 percent of breast cancer cells produce an excess amount of the HER2 growth protein on their surface, which makes the cancer more aggressive. I have excess of this protein, which makes me eligible for a clinical trial, where I will be testing some cutting edge stuff!

So hopefully that gives you an idea of where I am. I still don't know what "stage" I am in, since that is dependent on the amount of cancer in the lymph nodes. But I am definitely not Stage IV, since it is no where else in my body! Yay!

Mom is coming on the 8th! I can't wait!

Monday, February 2, 2009

Clean clean clean!

Bone Scan: NEGATIVE

CT Scan: NEGATIVE

Fertility Treatments to harvest eggs: START TONIGHT

Chemo Port Installation: TOMORROW!

This is absolutely the best news I have gotten in weeks! It is regional! Not in my bones!

SUCK IT CANCER!

For those of you who know nothing about chemo ports, here is a beautiful diagram!

Uh . . using cancer to get miles?


So I called my insurance company today.

I think "Medical, Life, and Disability Insurance" should be a mandatory course in high school. Luckily, I did training as a financial advisor, so I took a four day course on insurance and a four day course on stock brokering. Again, something I feel everyone should know so they don't get screwed.

Now unfortunately, I took this course after my husband had already made the changes to health insurance, and you have a window during beginning of school to make any changes before it gets locked in. And although they told me you need to get life insurance when you are young (even as a baby), because NO matter what happens you will always be coverable, I was laaaazy and didn't and look where I am now. Uninsurable. So please! Get life insurance!

So we are at a $2000 deductible, 20/80 copay, with an out of pocket expense of $5,500. Which is a total of $7500 we are going to have to pay. Which is 7,500 miles I get to add on to my mileage. So at that point, I will have almost 80,000. That is 2 tickets to Brazil, my FAVORITE COUNTRY EVER! So I think that is where my post-treatment trip will be.


If I use my miles to fly 10,000 miles round trip to Brazil, while the ticket is free, I can not count the mileage earned why on an award ticket. BUT, if I were to buy a cheap ticket, use miles to upgrade to first class, then I get first class service and the miles will count to a future trip or upgrade. If you ever want to calculate miles from one airport to another, you can use this tool.

So anyone up for a BC survival trip to Brazil?