Monday, March 30, 2009

Things to make you smile . . . or scratch your head

First, I want to say that I am sorry my last post was so depressing, but sometimes a girl has just gotta blow off some steam!

And I have just learned how to
Andy Warholize photos on photoshop. It took me two days. Ha!

I have my surgery scheduled for April 15th at 1pm. My mom is flying in that morning from Hawaii. I will stay in the hospital for one to two days, and I get my very own morphine pump! Yay!

Here are some amusing funny things that I came across:

Is this not the COOLEST Light bulb?
It is totally my style.

FunFact: Gary Leon Hill's book (below) won the 2005 Bookseller/Diagram Prize for Oddest Book Title of the year. I want to order it just to have it on my book shelf.

All of these found at The Book of Joe!

And last but not least, is this ad disturbing to you? I saw it for the first time. It is kind of funny,
especially where the oven begs the employee to "put it in me"

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Imagine yourself lying on a bed.

Then imagine that
you just completed a 10 mile hike with a 70lb pack and you are just exhausted and can't get up.

throw in a stomach virus where even the mere thought of edibles makes your stomach clench painfully and threaten to expel the nothingness that is in your belly.

Now t
hrow in a hangover that just makes everything ache and the daylight feels like razorblades to your eyes.

And then for the fun of it,
add some bone pain, so no matter how you try to lie down to just wish yourself oblivion, you can't get comfortable.

throw in the fact that you have something in your body trying its darndest to kill you.

Now try to be positive.

Welcome to my world!

Don't worry folks. I am very positive. I am young, healthy (well, besides the 9cm tumor), I have an amazing husband, and so much support!

But, the enormity of what I am facing really hits me sometimes. I keep reading about all these poor women who had a lumpectomy. A LUMPECTOMY!!??? A small little wad taken out of your breast? And they are upset because their breast now has a dimple?

One nurse last week asked me
if I saw Christina Applegate on Letterman this week. I did. But I didn't care.

Well, that isn't true.
I feel bad for Christina Applegate for her double mastectomy, but I feel bad in the way I feel sorry for someone for breaking their pinkie finger, or loosing their wallet and having to cancel their credit cards, or for missing their flight because they were at the airport bar and missed the final boarding call.

I don't see her vomiting her guts out, loosing her hair, knowing she might never have her own children. NOT BEING ABLE TO PLAN ANYTHING because you can't have a "long-term plan" until you know you have a "long term." Statistically, I have 70% chance of having of a medium-term plan and a 57% chance of a long-term plan. Ms. Applegate is running around looking gorgeous and going on with her life and has her own TV show and she didn't have to stop working or dating or going outside because she might catch a cold that puts her in the hospital.

Oh I know . . . stop complaining Dana! I am just jealous:) It could be worse. A lot worse.

- I could develop a life time allergy to alcohol and never ever be able to enjoy a cold beer again
- My cats could wander off and be hit by a car
- I could be totally depressed and have to be zonked out on tranquilizers
- My husband could get a job somewhere cold and miserable like Fargo (bless their souls)
- I could get my arm bitten off by a shark
- I could walk through a time warp and have to go back to middle school

Oh, I could go on and on, plenty of situations I would not trade mine for . . . especially the middle school one.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Garlic Ice Cream and my Brazilian Mom

Luis has been doing much of the cooking since I was diagnosed. First, I wasn't in the mood, domesticated tasks seemed to be a waste of time, and a diet of Girl Scout Thin Mints was fine with me! And after chemo started, I couldn't smell anything cooking without wanting to stick my head in the porcelain bowl.

But yesterday I decided to cook. Luis had great news at work, and I thought it would fun to treat him, so I made Fennel Rubbed Pork Loin with Roasted Fennel Wedges and a Arugula Salad with Lemon Parmesan Dressing. Yummy!

I went to the store, and while I was shopping in the produce section, a Kroger employee walked up to me, asked me if I needed anything, and then proceeded to help me around the store, went through my shopping list, and got everything I needed. This is the first time I have gone shopping bald and alone, which I guess makes me look like I need help, but I am not gonna complain! I hate shopping, so if someone wants to help out, I am not gonna stop them.

When I was in Brazil for my semester abroad, I lived with a lady named Mariana
Cantanhede. She was a psychoanalyst, really cool, loved movies, and did Tai Chi every morning at the Ponto do Arpoador (her apartment was in the perfect location between Ipanema and Copacabana). The Point where I lived (and where she did Tai Chi) is pictured below. I have never had a better homestay experience in my life. Marce and Ellie will remember her when they came to visit over Thanksgiving in 2001. She was the uber-cool grandma figure that everyone really wants.

Anyway, point is, her daughter just wrote me to tell me that she passed away. I am bummed because I didn't make the effort to see her when I was in Brazil last, but she knew I cared for her a lot. I don't even think I have a photo of her, but I will try to dig some up.

Okay, my last weekend before chemo, so I am going to live it up and pork out! My goal is to make a batch of homemade ice cream. My first batch (cantaloupe coconut) coconut failed, so I am going to try again tomorrow. I think the base was wrong, but I am going to try another flavor.

I actually like savory ice creams a lot, garlic is one of my favorite, so I might go that route. Here is a link to a recipe I might try from the Gilroy Garlic Fest (which of course I was lucky enough to attend). Imagine driving toward the festival, and 8 miles before you get there, you can smell the garlic cooking! They even had garlic wine, which just tasted like an alcoholic version of the ice cream. Now we're talking!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

On a bus

Generate your own slogan here
(by way of Book of Joe)

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

missing Hawaii . . .

Mom left yesterday back to Hawaii. I am so bummed, I wish I could go with her. Nothing would make me happier than a day at A-bay or paddle boarding or just eating really hot malasadas on a rainy day in Honokaa from Tex's.

I have been really behind on emails and getting back to phone calls. I have had such wonderful lovely messages from people, especially people I havn't heard from in ages, and all these wonderful gifts in the mail. We have a friend that lives on a farm in Oregon (a real farm with a wood stove that heats their house and all sorts of animals and getting up at 5:30 am every day) and she sent me all these delicious homemade jams and applebutter. I also got an aloha carepackge filled with all these aloha print and themed headscarves! I hate saying it, but cancer is better than Christmas!

A couple cool things about cancer and chemo

- chemo kills fast growing cells like zit cells, so your complexion totally clears up! I have not had a blackhead or zit in a month and a half!

- "I'm sorry officer for speeding, but I'm late to my chemotherapy appointment" has a great chance of working!

- You have an excuse to watch TV all day

- people you haven't made the effort to talk to in years besides a random wall-post or mass email actually make the effort and write you wonderful sweet messages! It is great to catch up!

Okay, I promised my husband I would get out more and walk a bit, and since it is 75 and breezy, i don't have any excuse. Gonna download the NYT podcast and move my skinny bony butt around the block.

Friday, March 13, 2009

3 chemo treatments down!

Well, the chemo is catching up with me I think. After my last chemo session I felt like I had just run a marathon. I am really tired all the time. Spending half an hour on my computer is exhausting. Medical bills are rolling in. My cat has a urinary infection. It won't stop raining. So, I just haven't been able to summon the energy to post.

Two weekends ago, my mom, who has been staying with us, took a little trip to visit to grandparents in Abilene, so Luis and I went out on a date night to see the movie Coraline. Since the weather was warm, I decided to go bald! It was fun, I put on makeup (which I never do) to accent my eyes. I wanted to dress casual and subdued, but for some reason all dark tee-shirts make my look like a Neo-Nazi, so I got girled up in a nice blouse.

People stared. Especially the 13-year-old mall rat group. However, a lot of people, particularly older women, smiled, because I think that as you get older more people identify with the disease.

We then went to PF Chang's for lettuce wraps and Asian fusion food. It was delicious, and it was wonderful going to eat in a restaurant like a normal person with my husband. I almost forgot I had cancer!

So I met with a plastic surgeon yesterday to decide what kind of reconstruction options I have. Because of the extent of my cancer, I will have to have radiation to my chest wall (post-mastectomy) and likely to my neck. This means that I cannot have an implant. Since radiation changes your skin so much, implants heal horribly, and sometimes the skin pulls the breast so that it is facing the wrong way, like under your armpit. And plastic surgeons don't want to touch you for any other kinds of reconstruction options until at least a year after radiation and your skin settles.

There are some other options for me that don't include implants, like taking the skin and fat from your back and stomach and creating a breast from that. Unfortunately, I have lost too much weight for that now, but perhaps I can pork out on pizza and milkshakes for a year and they can use that fat and then give me a tummy tuck at the same time!

My main choice right now is whether or not to put in an expander, which is slipped under the muscle and inflated with fluid through a tube to create a "breast mound." If I were to have implants, this would be replaced by an implant later. However, there can be a lot of complications due to expanders, especially with a compromised immune system like a chemo patient, where I can get infections etc.

So if I don't put in the expander, I have to be completely flat on that side for at least a year and a half, maybe more.

Which initially seems okay, but psychologically it will be difficult. Bathing suits won't ever fit for a year and a half. And I will always have to wear a bra so I can have a falsie in it, which I hate. I love those tank top bra things, and stopped wearing bras as much as possible these last couple years, so that is a bigger lifestyle change than you would expect. Or I will just have to get used to more people staring at my tits trying to figure out why I only have one boob.

But I think that is what I am going to do. No expander, and just deal with the reconstruction later.

Okay, so in the noncancer part of my life (there doens't seem to be much of that anymore), did anyone see the Jon Stewart's Smackdown of Jim Cramer/CNBC last night? It was wonderful.

My mom and I have been looking into DCA as a cancer treatment. Here is some info those who don't know anything about it

A cure for cancer found, but it won't make enough money, so I'll never see it.
Please don't let Glen Beck turn you off, for once he is talking about something important.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Fight Breast Cancer with Humor

Quick note before my daily nap :)

I went to a Breast Cancer Conference that was in Dallas (thanks Kenji and Michelle for the heads up about, by the way) and I met lots of amazing young women there. Everyone seemed to have a cute T-shirt! Here are some I saw!

We actually saw a really cute one that I girl made for herself (I take no credit for the idea), and it didn't seem to be the kind under copyright, so I recreated it on Zazzle.

Okay, nap time!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Surgery is Scheduled!

So my tumor is now operable! I met with the breast surgeon a couple days ago, and it seems like now instead of just being this spongy mass that takes up two thirds of my boob, it is now a removable, albeit still a large, mass! So I will have a left mastectomy to remove everything, and reconstruction much later down the road after chemo and radiation.

Strangely, my cancer case is very unusual. I am so young, it is such an aggressive cancer, and it is so advanced. Dr. Khanny Baby (how my family refers to all doctors, with a diminutive "y" and then "Baby" at the end) says, "I defy protocol," and he presented me at a Dallas area Tumor Board to get more opinions. Not quite sure what was said as I won't see him until next week, but my surgeon was there and I met with her later on in the day after the presentation of my case.

As you might remember, I had/have cancer up into my neck in my lymph nodes. Dr. Iyengar, my surgeon, explained that in the old cancer diagnostic, cancer in the lymph nodes at the number 5 position was considered Stage IV. That has been revamped recently, and cancer at the lymph nodes at position 7 is Stage IV. See this beautiful chart below:)

As I mentioned in my previous post, the number 7 is no longer palpable, but that doesn't mean that cancer cells still aren't in there. I can still feel the enlarged lymph node at position number 5.

Then this is what she said that got me: "Our goal with Stage IV cancer is to prolong life, not to cure you."

WTF? I was kind of pissed, but then I did some research and I found she is right(from

Stage IV cancers have spread beyond the breast and lymph nodes (lymph nodes under the arm) to other parts of the body. While surgery and/or radiation may be useful in some situations, they are very unlikely to cure these cancers, so systemic therapy is the main treatment. Radiation therapy and/or surgery may also be used in certain situations, such as to treat a small number of metastases in a certain area, to prevent bone fractures or blockage in the liver, or to provide relief of pain or other symptoms. If your doctor recommends such local treatments, it is important that you understand their goal -- whether it is to try to cure the cancer or to prevent or treat symptoms.
Later she mentioned that we were going to treat me as a Stage III cancer patient, which made me feel a little bit better. I think that because the metastasis is still lymphatic in nature, so they can do radiation on my neck and breast (although sometimes it causes 2nd and 3rd degree burns! Ouch!) after more systemic treatment of chemo (taxol) and hope that takes care of it.

However, this comment made me realize, and this is probably a good thing, was that I am going to be dealing with this my entire life. What a pain in the ass!

Okay, so for those who care, this is my treatment schedule!

March: Chemo
April: Surgery
May-August: Chemo
September: Radiation
Then TWO YEARS of Herceptin (blah!)

I have had two chemo sessions, and interestingly enough, my tumor hasn't shrunk much since my first one. However, my lymph node under my arm has gone from 2 cm to .5 cm. Yippie!

Now my question was, why did it work so well at first, and not now? And I got some interesting answers:

Tumors aren't composed of one kind of cell. It could be that all cancer cells of a certain characteristic shrunk, and the other cells are taking longer to respond, or will only respond to another kind of drug.

Or the chemo could be killing the cancer cells, but the tumor doesn't shrink, it is just stuck there as a massive lump of dead cells.

The chemo can affect the tumor in different ways, killing the tumor like peeling layers off an onion, or it can also bore holes into it like Swiss cheese. The tumor looks like it isn't shrinking, but its mass is decreasing and it is become very "holey."

They won't know ANY of this until they remove it during surgery and the pathologist can take a look at it.

Sorry if this blog wasn't as entertaining, but there was a lot to digest this week. My WBC count sucks and won't get above 1.2, so I am stuck inside, watching TV this week.

However, I was blessed with a two-hour special of 24, three nights of American idol, and a great episode of Lost where Sawyer was on 80% of the time. Someone up there loves me :)

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Monday, March 2, 2009

Demi? Britanny? Natalie?

So it was time.

19 days after my first chemo therapy treatment, my hair refused to stay in my head.

It was falling into my plate at dinner, coating my shoulders if I went out, and if I just pulled at it, tufts would come out into my hand.

It was gross.

So we decided it was time, and yesterday we shaved my head.