Friday, October 30, 2009

Big in Japan!

I am growing hair. I walked into Lowe's the other day (as a new homeowner, I actually walk into Lowe's pretty much every day), and one of the greeters said, I love your haircut! She was African American, and had the same hair length as me, very cropped close to the skin, so actually, what she was saying was, "I love my own haircut," but I enjoyed her self-compliment anyway.

It now looks like I cut my hair to this length, rather than having it styled by a strict chemotherapy regime. Which is pretty great as temperatures nosedive around here in Texas. Some are a bit grey now, but I am hoping that those fall out and I get some pigment back. At what age to most girls start dying their hair because of they grey anyway?

Hair is growing back in other places too, and I am finally using the razor that Luis' mom gave me for Christmas last year. As I was diagnosed immediately in January when I returned from Puerto Rico and I had lost all hair by mid-February, my Christmas gift didn't get any use this year.

I might be able to combine radiation treatments with my chemotherapy regime. Apparently, some chemos actually enhance the radiation effects, or don't diminish it, so I will be able to multi-task on my cancer therapy and maybe really finish in April.

I have a November 4th PET scan coming, and will get the results when I return from Japan to see my best friend and roommate from college get married on the 10th. Luis and I have decided not to travel outside of Tokyo, but go on a full Japanese food fest to find the best ramen hole-in-the-wall and the best tempura bar. I am planning to go to the fish market and have sushi for breakfast after perusing the craziness of fish hawkers in Japan at 5:30 in the morning.

On the non-health front, Luis has gotten an iPhone. He doesn't have a clue how to use it yet, but he has the iPhone, which is a huge step! He isn't technologically unsavvy or anything, he is much better at using film editing software for example, but to be able to email and search on google maps on the road is a priceless tool for him!

Annie Brown, one of my closest friends from high school, are going to take part in NaNoWriMo this year. I am blogging about it so I do it, rather than giving up after the first week, which is what I have done since 2003. NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month, and the goal is to write 3000 words a day of the novel that every person has inside of them. It emphasizes quantity over quality, as most people never try to write it because they are waiting for that perfect moment or time in their life, or to have a detailed outline, or whatever.

I have several ideas, but I am too shy to put them out there until I at least pick one, but I will link to the page and summary once I get some words out there. I actually think it is going to be total crap, because I know from experience I am a great reader, but not a great writer. But again, I am baring it to the public so that I am kept accountable for my goal. My only hiccup is that I go to Japan for 5 days of NaNoWriMo, so that is 15000 words that need to be made up on other days.

Steroids are keeping me up like crazy. I went to bed at 1:30 am on a heavy dose of Benedryl, and now I am up again at 5:30am. Plenty to do though. Blogging, journaling on Penzu, paying off my mounting credit card debt somehow, cleaning the fridge, setting up my office, making the bookshelves look nice instead of just crammed with books, etc. I am also studying for the GRE (which I have been studying for since 2004 when I realized working sucked and all I wanted to be was a student). It is kind of fun learning all the math skills again. I don't really want to go to grad school now, but the scores are good for 5 years, so I thought I ought to take the time.

Okay, tea water is boiling. Actually, I can't drink tea anymore because it gives me heartburn, but I am going to have some yummy hot water in a mug. As soon as the bookshelves are put together I will post some before after pics of our house now that it is painted and set up!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Proselytizing Happiness

We had our first dinner guest last night! It was great, the house is ALMOST orderly. We still need to have a housewarming party, but we need to install handles on our kitchen cabinets, and I still need to go to Ikea to exchange some lights so we can install them and bolt our bookshelves to the wall.

Cancer stuff is
not exciting. I am going to go to a Survivor Party this evening held by my breast surgeon. Tripple chemo whammy today with all three treatments that I am getting. And next week I am going to attend a presentation put on by the head of Oncology at Georgetown University Hospital.

From meeting a variety of women with breast cancer, it seems that there are two paths to dealing with the disease. You either try to get ALL in info you can, stay on top of treatments, new clinical trial results, know all the dosages for the medicines you receive, and attend colloquiums or conferences. Or, you don't delve deeply into anything, don't seek out second opinions, and are just anxious to lodge the experience firmly in the past. It is hard to tell which is better, the first makes me FEEL better, but cancer is personal, and everyone has to do what makes them emotionally able to cope.

This brings me to a lady called Barbara
Ehrenreich, and a book called, Bright Sided. She has been in the paper, NPR, and the Daily Show, so I feel that I have heard her arguments fairly thoroughly, and I have to disagree with most of them. She wrote, Nickle and Dimed, one of the best books I have ever read and ought to be REQUIRED READING IN HIGHSCHOOL, so I have so much respect for her.

be lives that not only does the forced, “smile or die” cheerfulness of the breast cancer culture infantilize women, she argues, it can do them harm, by making them feel guilty for “failing” to heal themselves by staying positive. She hates all this voodoo that just thinking something can make a physical impact in the world, and states (quite rightly), that there is no physical proof by quantum physics or any science to substantiate.

She was diagnosed with breast cancer, and it seems like she had a horrible experience with all the "stay positiveness" that is pushed by the greater breast cancer movement. Breast Cancer Support is one of the most highly organized movements, and they do push their pink fuzziness a lot. I think she got sick of people trying to cheer her up, so she wrote a book basically saying that positivity was a delusion akin to organized religion, and she didn't like being proselytized to.

Which I understand. For instance, I love talking to
Kenji, because I can make comments like, "if I die..." without worrying about hurting my family, or eliciting the typical over exaggerated response like,"OH NO! Don't say that! You are going to be fine! You have such a great attitude, you will overcome this." Very few people can hear me say, "If I die.." and take it with the same attitude as if I had said, "If it rains."

That being said, I do not want to begin every sentence or though with a stated or implied,"If I die." I don't want to die in the next five years, although statistically things aren't in my favor, I would prefer to operate as if I was in the minority statistic rather than the majority. So I make plans, talk about kids, bought a house, think about a dog, think about where the future might take my husband and I, etc. While I do appreciate doses of realism, I take small, infrequent doses.

She stated on the radio the other day that she took nothing from breast cancer, and hated all this BS about cancer teaching so much or opening up new doors, etc. She hated this imposition that she was supposed to take something from her experience with breast cancer. I say she is wrong.

She was bitter about getting diagnosed. We all were. But for instance, if my car breaks down and I need to change my tire, I am going to be pissed about it, but in a week I am going to be laughing about it and say, "Thank goodness for my
iphone, I sat in my car, watched a YouTube video on how to change a tire, and I changed to spare right on the street without any help!" It would be a opportunity, a learning experience.

For me, and again I reiterate the personal experience of cancer, I have reaped so much from the experience. I spent quality time with my family, I revamped my diet and the way I think about nutrition, I re-prioritized my life, I became closer to my friends, I have discovered an interest in biology and body chemistry. Never would have happened otherwise. If I had a choice, I wouldn't "do it all over again," but I am not going to deny that their was a MAJOR silver living.

The ONLY interesting thing that she brought to my attention was that she alleges that there is no connection between mood and the immune system. I don't know why I am under the impression that there is. I haven't seen empirical data. I feel that I have read it, but it could be just a myth that has been perpetuated, like oranges and Vitamin C, or poisoned Halloween home baked Halloween Cookie treats (yes, that NEVER happened, just an Urban Myth that has caused parents to toss hundreds of thousands of perfectly baked cookies out of Trick or Treat Bags for the last 3 decades). I will explore more and report! Would love to hear any feedback from anyone who has thoughts.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

back to blogging!

Things have just been so hectic. Will bullet point to save time:

1) Luis and I have joined the real adult world and become home owners. We have been looking for a place to live since May, and more seriously since he got his book contract in August, and we found the PERFECT house. Every house we went into, it was all about how we would change it, what walls we would remove, etc, and we walked into this one, and it was perfect. Huge vaulted ceilings, plenty of room for children, offices, guests, a library, and a very contemporary look with lots of light. Luis didn't want to see anything else, and 45 days later, we are moved in!

2) We are painting it. Hector, the painter is here right now. We are going for a rustic look, save the kitchen which will be very "modern" looking. Our appliances are stainless steel, and we are making it look really sharp. We have also purchased a dining room table, which we will pick up next week once everything is painted!

3) Now I can get a dog. What do you think about this guy? He is available in November.

Actually, I am going to wait until after spring break, when I will finally be off chemo, just going in for radiation, and moving on to my post cancer life. Also, the weather will be better for dog walks:) Luis has given me some guidelines since he is acquiescing to a dog. He wants a small dog, because he think it will be less intrusive, but me (and his friend Alberto) are trying to argue that bigger dogs aren't so yippy and annoying. Small or annoying or big and lumbering. I pick the latter. It also has to be a minimal shedder. I can work with that :)

4) Paul, Willem, Luis, Mom, Dad, and I are heading to the Santa Ynez Valley (Sideways wine country) for Thanksgiving break. Lots of wine, and lots of food! If you want to join, visit, or whatever, bring an air mattress and you are most welcome. I think the house has a hottub!

5) Got a second clear CT scan result on Monday. Yay! Because insurance companies only pay for PET scans every four months, and four months of cancer growth is a loooooong time, especially when you have a very aggressive cancer like mine, you get a CT scan every four months, but staggered, so you have some kind of scan every two months. Think summer Olympics and winter olympics :) This is wonderful news, it means the chemo is working. But the real scans to celebrate are when you are no longer on chemo and still getting clear scans, because that means your body is killing the cancer on its own, not the chemotherapy.

6) I am on weekly chemo doses now, because the mega dose every three week was causing too many side effects. I am also on avastin, which causes my nose to bleed about 4 times a day, which is lovely.

7) I am making a desk. Two of them actually, for my office. I have decided to go DIY and learn how to work with wood, etc. Basics. I am not about to rewire the house or do my own plumbing. I managed to glaze the legs today, and are letting them dry. Tomorrow I am planning to make the table tops!

Well, that is my round up! I will be posting more, now that the hecticness level is way down.