Monday, March 23, 2015

As of tomorrow, you may call me One-Eyed Willie.


Although it would be an eye without a pupil, if we're speaking metaphorically here.  (Yes, I'm talking about my boobs.)  Maybe One-Eyeballed Willie.  No, wait - Wilhelmina.  One-Eyeballed Wilhelmina.  Let's at least find some. damn. way. to keep me feminine, here...

Let's start from the beginning.  "You told me to go back to the beginning...so I have.  This is where I am, this is where I will stay.  I will NAHBEMOVED!!"  What moooovie?

Kay, so.  I had radiation for six and a half weeks.  All but the last four days were kind of in a big square going from between the boobs and over to my side, and then from just under my boob to my clavicle or so.  And you guys know this.  When my skin started burning, I had a really awesome wound in my armpit.  I'm seriously extremely pleased to report that the armpit has healed up really nicely!  Gorgeous, new, pink skin up in there.  Thank goodness.

The last four days of radiation were called the "bump up" days.  They only radiated along my scar.  Like if there was a big, fat caterpillar on my scar, that's the area that was hit.  And I could tell that the length of time that they hit it was longer.  It buzzed there FOREVER.  I was really glad that I didn't have to breathe shallowly for that part, though.  And I figured that, if I had some blistering and open-wound action in that area, it wouldn't matter that much, because I don't have a ton of feeling on that skin.

As predicted, the area got very red and started blistering.  I was doing the proper burn wound care and all that.  A week ago or so, I was pushing Gage along the street on his bike (he can't figure out how to continuously pedal, and in my overzealousness, I pushed it too hard - kind of my MO), and I pulled my left pec.  Oh the PAIN!!  I don't know what the deal was, but the pec, plus the radiated, messed up flesh in there - the combo was horrible.  I had to stay in bed for two days straight.  Eventually, the pec healed, and I was back to my normal wound care stuff.

I've gone back to my radiologist to have her look at my skin a couple of times, and as recently as Friday, I was doing well.

That all changed today.  I went to change my dressing, and, um, well...if my scar is the zipped up ziplock bag, it had unzipped.  It was so gross, you guys.  SO GROSS!!!!

And I could see my tissue expander right there.  Through the huge gaping hole on my boob.

Sigh.

Again, the pain wasn't horrid, because my nerve endings are pretty much shot right there.  So at least there's that.  I went to my radiologist's office, and she urged me to see my plastic surgeon as soon as possible.  So I got in to see him, and  he told me that sometimes, after you've been radiated, your body is trying heal up the skin and all that jazz, and that's when it finally dawns on your body that you have this foreign tissue expander in.  And it wants to kick that expander out.

So here's the game plan - I have surgery in the morning.  They'll take the tissue expander completely out and sew me shut.  We can't put another one in.  I will be concave on my left.  In a few months, they will have to give me a tummy tuck - yes, you read that right - to harvest skin from my tummy and make essentially a big old patch to put on top of my silicone implant on my left side.  The right side will go as originally planned - deflate my right side tissue expander, make a little cut, slide it out, slide the silicone one in, sew it up.  Badda bing, badda boom.  I wish it could be that simple for Leftie, but that's life, right?

So until then, I will have one fake, hard-as-a-rock boob on the right, and I will be concave on the left.  Yeah.  But I'm not mad about it.  It's just temporary.  I'm soooo past the point of caring about how I look.  I look like Frankenstein.  I've made peace with it.

And I get a tummy tuck out of this!!!!  Once again, let's review.  Would any of you have guessed that Your Dear Kar would end up getting fake boobs?  And a tummy tuck?  I wouldn't have pegged me for that.  Not in a billion years.  It's funny, where life takes you.

This is just going to be a one-day surgical center kind of a deal.  I've got good pain meds, and I'm on antibiotics, and my adorable church ladies are poised and ready to help with food and child care.  They're awesome.  Hopefully this will just be a little blip in the journey.

Wish me luck tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Gage's Very Important Minutae

Oh my goodness, my little Gagey is so busy.  So, so busy.  Which is good.  I'd be concerned if he just sat there, staring off into space. 

He doesn't play with toys, per se.  He plays with household objects that he turns into toys.  Anything in the house is his, in his view.  Chopsticks?  Those are Gage's.  Scotch tape?  Solely Gage's.  Mom's decorative cardmaking buttons.  (Grrrr.)  Spoons.  Butter knives.  My armpit ice packs.

And you know, I'm glad that he is using objects in imaginative ways.  I am.  I just wish he'd not be up in my grill about it all day.  I was extremely, extremely ill yesterday (stomach bug of some sort) and totally out of commission on the couch.  Gage didn't have school, so of course, he got to work on his Very Important Gage Projects all day.  My sweet friend Janet had brought some playdoh over for the kids to play with, and Gage wanted me to help him make snowmen out of it.  We couldn't get the balls to stick together, so I grabbed the toothpick box and used them to skewer the snowmen.  Then I lay back down. 

So then, he wanted me to make birthday candles - me making the small flame and then skewering it to the top of a toothpick.  I made like a hundred "candles," making a hundred bathroom breaks in between.  Then it was paper airplanes.  He took page after page out of our paper binder (supposed to be for homework) and asked me to make paper airplane after paper airplane.  Eventually I had to put the paper binder on top of the fridge (that's where we put things so they're out of Gage's reach.  We have a whole buttload of crap on top of our fridge).  Then I lay back down. 

I was just dying.  I was feeling so, so poorly that I called Ben and begged him to come home so I could just sleep.  He did, and I was so glad.  So then Gage had someone else to help him with his Very Important Projects.

Gage has a pretty persistent cough this morning, so I kept him home from school.  As I've been preparing for our Relief Society Inservice meeting that's coming up, he has kept me on my toes.  He asked me to print a picture of a dinosaur.  I did.  He asked me to print fifty other things.  I said no.  Sorry; ink is EXPENSIVE.  Then he wanted me to rip a rectangle surrounding the dinosaur.  Then he got into my buttons again.  Then he got a bowl and filled it with water, and then put the buttons in the water.  Then he decided that he wanted the buttoney water in a baggie.  He specifically wanted me to use a spoon to put the buttoney water in said baggie:
Then the baggie started leaking.  So he emptied a toy bin and had me dump the contents of the baggie into the bin.  Then he got a large freezer ziplock bag.  Then he had me pour the buttoney water into that bag.  Then he asked me to rip some tape pieces from the scotch tape roll.  Then the tape pieces inevitably got stuck onto themselves.  Then I had to unstick the pieces from themselves.  Then he taped the picture of the dinosaur onto his toy bin.  Then I had to cut out the shape of an airplane out of a piece of paper for him.  And then another one.

It goes on and on.  Ay, carumba.  He's killin' me, Smalls!

Cancer stuff:

1.  Ben's skin scan went well. They removed two small moles that could have, in time, become cancerous.  And a skin scan?  It's like four people, searching every inch of Ben's body for moles.  Using these light/magnifying glass thingeys.  While he stands there, in a loincloth.  *Snicker*  Sorry, it's just a funny visual for me.  Poor guy.  But he's good!  He has to go in every three months to get scanned.  In a loincloth.  Hahaha!

2.  Today is my last radiation! I have to have the armpit radiated one last time.  It looks way worse then it did when it had a wound the shape of Louisiana in it.  I'm not going to even take a picture of what it looks like now.  It is seriously so gross.  And let's say that it's no longer Louisiana.  It's more like the Gulf of Mexico.  Yesterday, the doc was like, "Maybe we should wait a week for your armpit to recover..." but I was like, "No.  We're finishing this.  I can do it.  Let's just get the damn thing done."  The radiation to just the scar area hasn't had a bad effect.  Just red, like a sunburn.  I don't have any feeling there, so I'm doing good there.  My armpit - not so good. :(

3.  I was supposed to have my third of 17 Herceptin treatments this morning, but my little Sickie caused me to postpone it.

4.  My bladder still gives me a lot of problems.  My urologist is trying a different medication to help with the constant urgency feelings.  I don't think it's really working.  I get frustrated.  And I use a lot of that AZO stuff that helps with the urgency and discomfort associated with UTI's.  It makes you pee orange.  I LOVE that stuff.

5.  I find myself feeling really, really jealous of healthy people.  People who feel good enough to run, or play with their kids.  Or dance.  Sometimes I wonder if I'll ever feel good again.  The limitations of my body really bum me out. 

6.  I go in next week to get my right boob filled back up again.  And then, in three months, the plastic surgeon will examine my skin and make sure that I've healed sufficiently enough to get my "real" boobs put in.

But let's revisit #2.  Can you believe that today is my last radiation???  This is a cause of celebration, friends!  A huge milestone behind me.

Guess who is being over-ambitious and wanting to run a half-marathon with my friend this summer?  Me, that's 'oo.  I mean, if I feel good enough to train for it and everything.  She will attest to the fact that my health has made me pretty flaky in the running department of my life.  But wouldn't that be cool if I could do that??  It would be close to the one-year mark of my diagnosis, and it would feel so EMPOWERING to do that.  Kind of like, "That's right, Cancer.  I kicked your arse.  Here I am, a year later, alive.  And running.  Even though it's 3.7 mph running.  Most people can walk that fast.  But I digress.  I kicked your ARSE!!!"

Okay, I guess I get to go pop some popcorn for Gage.  Which he will probably use as a toy in some way.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

I've got Louisiana in my armpit.

Soooo.... I only have 6 radiation sessions left.  Six!!  It has flown by.  And for the most part, I haven't had too much pain or discomfort.

Until last week.

It was the weirdest thing.  One day, I was fine.  The next day, my armpit/side/former blood grenade spout site hurt like crazy.  I think it finally dawned on my skin that it was being hit daily by radiation, and it got ticked.

The "breast" itself is doing great - just a little pink.  (I put "breast" in quotes because I feel weird referring to it like that.  It's not a breast.  It's a hard balloon filled with fluid, under skin.  There are no ducts.  There is no tissue.)  Above the "breast" - up to the clavicle or so - is kind of rashy-looking and itchy.  My upper left back is red - my masseuse (we'll get into that in a minute) says it's the radiation shooting through my body out to the back skin.  All of these I can deal with.

But what's going on with my armpit - it feels like a wound.  Not a sunburn, like they said.  A wound.  And it's in a bit of a difficult place.  It chafes when I swing my arms while, say, walking.  It chafes when I fold laundry.  It chafes when I bathe Gage.  It chafes when I do dishes.  It's an issue.  I've started kind of walking everywhere and doing everything with my left hand on my hip, a la Daphne:
Perhaps Daphne has been getting radiation in her armpits for the past 40 years and is avoiding chafing.  You never know.

By the way, I don't recommend looking up images of Daphne on the internet.  There are a lot of really sick dudes out there. :(

I've been jogging with a friend, and last week, I had to start jogging with one hand on my hip, elbow kind of flapping in the wind, and one hand swinging front and back like normal.

It's been so painful this week that I haven't been able to jog at all.  Plus my bladder is still causing me some pain, despite $200 medicine that's supposed to make it calm down.  Sigh.  My urologist's diagnosis - irritation - STILL - from having been exposed to Cytoxin, one of the chemo drugs in my cocktail.  He says it should eventually get back to normal.

I hate chemo.  Hate it, but grateful for it.

Anywho, are you ready to see my armpit?  I think it's fascinating, personally:
Did I just lose both of my readers?  Haha!  I hope you're not too grossed out. I just thought you might like to see what radiation does to your skin.  THE PEOPLE NEED TO KNOW!! Those are not droplets of water, my friends.  Those be blisters.  I don't know why they're in a line like that.  The above picture was taken yesterday morning.

This picture was taken this morning:
The blisters are still there, but not in the frame.  I wanted you to get a close-up of the cracking of what used to be just a blackened, sore area.  In the mirror, when I look at it, it looks like the state of Louisiana.  Mentally flip the picture over.  Can you see Louisiana?  I can.  Which is why I'm naming my left armpit Louisiana.  I've never thought of naming my armpits before, but I'm loving the idea.  I'll have to examine my right armpit and come up with something.  Softie?  Happy?  Supple? 

So yeah.  In a teeny bit of pain.  I use this special radiation ointment/cream on it.  I also use these wound dressing thingeys, which provide a tonnn of relief:
They kind of wrinkle and bunch up if I'm doing work around the house, so I save them for when I know I'll be sedate.  I tuck ice packs under my armpit (with protective cloth around them, of course) during the day when I'm cooking, doing chores, etc.  I just kind of hold it on with my upper arm and go about my day.

I have only one more treatment left on Louisiana, and then we'll be done with that part!!  They're going to do the remaining five treatments only around where the scar is on my left "breast."  I think I can handle that okay.  I don't have much feeling in that area, so even if it blisters or cracks, I won't be in much, if any, pain.  I wanted to finish my final armpit session today just to get it OVER with, so that it's not hanging over my head, but my doc wants the armpit to get a rest.  So we'll do five scar area ones (I'm calling them Caterpillars - long, but a little bit thick), and then they'll hit my armpit one last time a week from today.

Then I shall be done with Phase 3.  Phase 1 - Mastectomy.  Check.  Phase 2 - Chemo.  Check.  Phase 3 - Radiation. One week left. Phase 4 - Herceptin, which I've already started.  I go in every three weeks for it - it's an IV that only takes half an hour.  It targets my type of tumor - HER2+.  And it has zero side effects.  I like the sound of that.  I've completed 2 of 17 treatments.

My running buddy and I are thinking of trying to do a half marathon in June.  Eeeee!  I've never done  more than a five-mile relay!  But I so badly want to do it.  It will have been almost a year since my diagnosis, and I just kind of want to feel...empowered.  Like I've really stuck it to cancer and told it who is boss.

Oh, and masseuse - the hospital where they burn Louisiana up offers free Raiki, massage, and acupuncture to cancer treatment patients.  I la-hove this.  My favorite so far is acupuncture.  I basically get to sleep for an hour.  The needles don't hurt one bit.

Kay, my kids are screaming at each other downstairs, so I have to get going.  Pray for Louisiana. :)


Monday, February 23, 2015

Ben wanted to join the club. We should get jackets.

What did I tell you, way back in early July, about us?  Ben and I are hapless, plain and simple.  Bad luck.  :)

Soooo, when we arrived here in Bend at the end of December, Ben was getting ready to take a shower, and I saw this mole on his shoulder.  Now, Ben is a very moley person ("Moley, moley, moley..." What movie?), so I try to keep my eye on him.  I've had some suspicious-looking moles removed in the past, but upon biopsy, none of them ended up being cancerous.  My dermy wanted to play it safe, and I support that line of thinking.

So anyways, when I saw this mole, I said, "Whoa, whoa, whoa.  Ben, you have a mole on your shoulder, and it's new, and it's scary-looking."  He was like, "Pshaw [does anyone ever really say that??  I've read it in books, and it makes me laugh so hard.].  No big deal.  I have moles."

"Babe, but this is brand new.  Like, developed in the last four months brand new.  And big.  And black.  And asymmetrical.  Need I go on?  You need to get it checked out."

I finally talked him into going to get it looked at.  The following photo isn't his mole (we were idiots and forgot to take a picture of it), but it's what it looked like.  Flush with the skin.  It was blacker than this one.  Asymmetrical:
Another reason this wouldn't be a picture of Ben's back is that his back isn't hairy.  Yet.  Haha!

So he went in, the doc agreed it didn't look good, and they cut it out and biopsied it.  Malignant Melinoma.  "The scary kind of skin cancer," as my sister puts it.  So Ben had to go back in last week and they had to dig more tissue out of his shoulder, all around where the mole had been.  It's a pretty big incision:
There is an inner layer of stitches, and then these ones on top.  When he went in for this procedure, his doctor told him that I saved his life.  I like the sound of that.  I saved my husband's life.  Haha!  So now, if I ever need anything, I can play the I-saved-your-life card.  "Babe, can you go get me some ice cream?  After all, I saved your life...  Hon, will you bathe the kids?  I saved your life, you know. The least you can do is bathe the kids..."

Joking, joking.  I'm not like that. :)

But yeah, the doc said that, given another year without having checked this mole out, Ben would have been at stage 4 and fighting for his life.  Unbelievable.  And really scary.  I'm so, so grateful that we caught it and that he's going to be okay.

The poor man's incision got infected a couple of days after the Large Chunk of Flesh Removal.  He went in again and got on antibiotics and powerful pain pills.  He was really hurting.  And I'm not going to even tell you how gross it was looking. Not going to even go there.  I gagged.  I will say that. I've had to be kind of his wound-dresser, since it's in a place he can't directly see.  It's gross.

Today is the first day that he's been able to say that he feels a teeny, tiny bit better.  Phew.

So yeah, we dodged yet another bullet.  I'm grateful.  So grateful.  Ben goes in this week for some kind of skin scan (that's fun to say) to make sure there aren't any more scary things going on.  They've visually checked all moles, and they seem to be fine, but they aren't taking any chances.  Which is good.

This is a weird line of thinking, but Sadie has been working on a project about The Unsinkable Molly Brown.  Who was never called Molly in her whole life, BTDubs.  She was named Margaret and called Margaret.  Anywho, Margaret lived in the late 19th/early 20th century, right?  Her parents had both been widowed, then met, married, and had her.  It reminded me of how often people used to die early back then.  I mean, my own great-grandma died at age 33 of some kind of infection on her cheek.  I'm always amazed at people from the past who were able to live past, say, 60 years old.  Like ole' Molly Brown.  She survived the sinking of a ship in arctic waters!  She later escaped this horrible hotel fire that killed hundreds of people!

And as I've thought about that, I've thought of what my family's fate would have been if we were living in the early 1900's.  Micah and Gage would have both died at birth (neither was breathing when they came out of me and they both needed to be suctioned and resuscitated).  And then Dylan and Sadie would have been orphaned.  It's just crazy.

And it kind of bugs me.

That I wouldn't have lived past age 60.  That I would have died so early on.  I know.  Weird line of thinking.  But there you have it. 

Kar's Cancer Update:

1.  I go to ten billion appointments every week.  And have to do ten billion pages of paperwork and bills related to the ten billion appointments.  I swear it's a full-time job.

2.  The hospital where I get radiation offers free Raiki, acupuncture, and massage to its patients.  So far, I've had one Raiki healing, and it was extremely relaxing.  I fell asleep.  I liked it.

3.  I have 2 1/2 weeks left of radiation left.  That's it!  My armpit and the area underneath it, on my side, is the most tender.  I mainly look like I have a rash/sunburn that is shaped like a large square over that portion of my body.  My armpit is beginning to look a little leathery.  You can see a little of the redness here:
I still have to breathe shallowly, and I still hate that part and get panicky.  But it's for such a short amount of time.  I'll be okay.

4.  I had my second herceptin IV last week. Still zero side effects on that.  Can I tell you how grateful I am for that?  So, 2 out of 17 done.

5.  I have occupational and physical therapy on my armpit twice a week.  She's been working on the scar tissue from my lymphadenectomy, range of motion, things like that.  We're keeping our eyes out for any signs of lymphedema.  So far, so good.

6.  I've been jogging and hiking!  I go a few times a week.  I would have never, ever thought in a billion years that I would feel this good again.  The weather has been unseasonably warm, and frankly, I'm loving it.  It feels so good to be outside, surrounded everywhere by junipers.  I love it here.

7.  Still some bladder issues.  I went to a urologist last week.  They did some tests and examinations, and he said that it was one of the chemo drugs in my cocktail - Cytoxin - that can have lasting bad side effects on your bladder.  He prescribed me a temporary medicine to help my bladder Simma Down-a.  He says that, in time, my bladder will heal and be happy again.  It's crazy that my last chemo was two months ago, and my body is still experiencing side-effects from it.  Nuts.

8.  I found out that my radiologist is a lesbo.  Who knew? Not me.  My gay-dar is horrible.  She has a partner and a toddler.  Just interesting information.  It doesn't change how I feel about her as my doc.  Other fun facts:  she thinks that I am hilarious and that I look like Charlize Theron.  Seriously not sure where she sees that comparison...  But I'll take it!  It's funny how much you learn about people when you see them for 20 minutes every single day.  One of the techs is from Bosnia.  She immigrated to Germany during the Bosnian war/conflict thingey, and then immigrated here.  She really loves going to concerts.  She has a crush on the lead singer of Train.  Another tech is engaged.  Another one has a really whiney voice, but she doesn't ever whine.  Does that make sense?  Another one gets deep tissue massages to help with her plantar fasciitis.  Swears by it.  I'm slowly starting to learn their names.  Chemo brain is still a big deal. They're nice folks, and when all of this is over, I'll genuinely miss them.

Kay, I have to gooooo!  Off to more appointments!  Check your loved ones' moles!  CONSTANT VIGILANCE! :)


Friday, February 6, 2015

Fake Lashes upon Fake Boobs

Kay, soo...I'm an idiot, and last week, to make an extremely long story short, I wasn't able to take my anti-depressants for two nights in a row.  Faulty pharmacy hours, my forgetfulness, etc. etc.

Do you know what happens when you go off your anti-depressants cold turkey?  Bad things, my friends.  Bad things.

Let me tell you a leetle story.

Our honeymoon.  January of 2001.  We go to Cancun.  Kar, being the idiot she is, forgets her medications, including her anti-depressants.  She starts having heart palpitations.  She's dizzy every time she stands up.  She's nauseated.  And she bawls uncontrollably at the smallest thing.

Ben must have been like, "What on earth did I get myself into here?...."  Haha!  Poor guy.  He truly is longsuffering to put up with the likes 'o' me.

Anywho, when we got home, I had my meds again, and all was right with the world.

So last weekend, I was a hot mess.  I had all the physical symptoms listed above, which made me feel crappy, plus I cried and cried and cried.  It would let up for awhile, and then something would set me off again. The kids arguing with each other.  Bumping my thumb on the cabinet.  Really stupid crap.

Sunday, the pharmacy didn't open until 10, and church started at 10.  It was important to me to be there, because I was going to get sustained in sacrament meeting and set apart right after it.  I tried to put on my Big Girl Pants and buck up.  I decided to go get my medicine during Sunday School.  No judgie.  Sometimes you have to buy stuff on Sunday.  When that stuff will make you stop crying nonstop and make you stop feeling dizzy and nauseated and like you're going to have a heart attack.

So of course, I cried all morning before church, but then I pulled it together enough to put on my makeup.  I decided to put on my fake eyelashes, because I have, like, three eyelashes left on each eyelid.  And like three eyebrow hairs.  Unfortunately, any hair I had left at the end of chemo continued to fall out when the chemo was all over.  I was warned of this.  Ah well.

I had practiced with them before and even wore them on my anniversary:
 They're hard to put on, and when you wear them, you feel a bit like this:
But I was sick of looking like a sick cancer victim, you know?  So I've worn them on special occasions - mainly on Sundays.  So I stuck them on and moved them around until they looked presentable and felt secure, and we headed off to church. 

Of course, because I'm a psycho without my meds, I cried all during sacrament meeting.  It was so dumb.  I'm really hoping people thought I was just really feeling the Spirit. 

At one point, Ben and I looked at each other at the same time, across the pew, with our kids between us, and I saw Ben do a double-take.  He started silently chuckling (he's so cute when he does that.  For reals.  I love his silent chuckling), and he leaned over and whispered to me, "Um, your eyelashes are on your boob."

Wide-eyed, I looked down, and sure enough, my left set of falsies was on my left boob.  I was mortified.  I whispered, "Is the right side still on??"  Still silently chuckling, he answered in the affirmative.  So I started bawling again as I plucked my fake lashes off my fake boob.  Like I said, the smallest things set me off.

As soon as I pulled it together, I told him I was going to the bathroom, and I grabbed my bag and headed out of the chapel.  Because I had also realized that I had put on a bra that day, and my right boob no longer fills the bra, and it was all lumpy and weird-looking on that side.  Sigh.  So I wanted to take it off and stuff it in my bag.  Which I ended up doing.

And you know what?  When I got into the bathroom and took a good look in the mirror, the right side fake lashes were already starting to peel off as well.  "Screw this," I whispered to myself.  And I threw them right into the trash.

Fake eyelashes kind of mess up your eyeliner, and since I didn't want to look any more of a freak show, I washed my eye makeup off and tromped back into sacrament meeting.

No more fakies.  I think I look just as well with some nice liquid liner, so that's what I'm sticking with.  But I think you should know that I have some new, little teeny eyelashes sprouting along my lash line.  And that's exciting.

As far as an update on all things cancer, here you go:

1.  Lingering Chemo Side Effects:  Still feel like I have a UTI all. the. time.  Still have low blood pressure.  Still feel like my tongue is burnt.  Not bad, overall.  The UTI-ish feeling isn't my favorite, but we're working on it.  And no, I don't have a UTI.  We've checked.  And checked.  And checked.

2.  Herceptin Side Effects:  None. Yessss!

3.  Radiation:  They're still taping my boob to the table. And now I also have to "breathe shallowly" during the CT scan they do every day before radiation and also during the actual radiation.  They tried to coach me on it.  It will prevent the radiation from hitting my heart and causing damage.  It's hard.  It makes me feel a bit panicky.  My lungs are just aching to take in a full breath, but I have to breathe shallowly for probably two or three minutes for the first part and two or three minutes for the second part.  I feel like I'm suffocating.  I'm thinking that forcing someone to breathe shallowly would be a good interrogation technique for the FBI.  Because it's torture.

As far as radiation-related fatigue, I just have to go to bed a lot earlier than I used to.  We're talking 9, 9:30.  At that point, my body just won't go anymore.  I used to stay up and watch TV with Ben until 10:30 or 11, but those days are gone. Someday I'll feel more peppy.

My skin is doing alright.  It's starting to take on a pink color and it's a little sensitive where my upper arm kind of brushes my armpit.  But it's hanging in there.

4.  Therapies:  I go to physical therapy once a week for my dumb foot injury, and some days I think it really helps.  Other days, I'm not so sure.  I go to occupational/physical therapy twice a week for my lymph node arm, where this lady kind of massages my armpit and manipulates it around.  It's very gentle and relaxing.

5.  The hospital I go to for all this stuff offers free Raiki, Acupuncture, and Massage for cancer patients!  I get to start that in a couple of weeks.  I can't wait!! 

6.  Hair:  Growing little stubby eyelashes.  Hair on my head is growing rather quickly now, and it's as soft as  baby's hair. I shaved my legs for the first time last week.  I've got to be honest - it was exciting!  Because it means I'm rejoining the human race and don't feel like such a freak show.

7.  Chemo Brain:  Still there.  Like crazy.  In Relief Society, I stood up and told the ladies that I was going to try so, so hard, and that I'm memorizing their faces and their personalities, but that my brain isn't doing names right now.  And of course, I bawled the whole time I was talking.  They must think I'm a piece of work!  Sigh.

8.  Oh!  And I got this intestinal infection called C. Diff last week.  That's what was making me so sick.  I'm on good medicine for it now, and I'm doing much better.  People who have received chemo often get it.  It's neat.  Not nearly bad as The Great Nor-Easter of December.  That was horrifyingly awful.  This was just...moderately awful.

I've felt a little annoyed at all the stuff I have to deal with physically and emotionally, but Pit Bull put it all in perspective for me as I listened to his new song in the car the other day.  He says, and I quote, "Any day above ground is a good day.  Remember that."  So thanks, Pit Bull.  It's true.  And I appreciate you reminding me of that.  Even though your songs are derogatory to women.  And I usually change channels when I hear you going, "Woooooo-OOOOOOO!" at the beginning of each of your songs.  I was having a weak moment.  Curse you and your infectious dance beats.
everyday above ground is a great day, remember that

Thursday, January 29, 2015

I'm...RADIOACTIVE! RADIOACTIVE!

Man, I love that song.  It would be the coolest song EVER to choreograph. 

Soooo, I started radiation this week.  AND my Herceptin IV!  My new oncologist told me it would be okay to do them concurrently. 

And my visit with him was really...odd.  He told me, right off the bat, that sometimes he says things that are in his head, and then he realizes later that he should have filtered these things.  I assured him that I wouldn't mind.  As he talked to me about my cancer and treatment, etc., he started talking about how he's on this big existential search for a way to quiet his mind and prioritize his life.  (No, I don't know how we got from the subject of cancer to the subject of his existential search.)  He tried meditation for awhile; he studied Buddhism for awhile; now he's reading the Old Testament.  I got the impression that he hasn't ever been a religious person.  He told me that he was struggling with the Old Testament.  I asked him what book he was in.  He said he was in Leviticus.  I laughed and said, "No wonder you're struggling!  That's all stuff about how to build the ark of the covenant and things like that!"  I told him that, in my humble Kar opinion, he could safely skip Leviticus - that he wouldn't miss anything crucial.  However, he's determined to continue reading every word.  Good on him.

He forgot to have me put on a gown, and when it came time to examine my chest, he goes, "Well, go ahead and lift up your shirt and show me your boobs." It was a little disconcerting.  I mean, I know that they aren't real boobs, but I still feel a sense of modesty about them.  And I felt like I was on Girls Gone Wild.  He didn't even blink an eyelash, but it was a little awkward for me.  Lack of a filter, indeed.  He's just quirky.  One of those brilliant, quirky guys.

Herceptin is only once every three weeks and has minimal to zero side effects.  Herceptin targets my type of cancer, which is called HER2+.  It's really, really complicated to explain, and I'm not very sciencey, so just hope over here to learn about HER2+ and here to learn about Herceptin.

So I went in yesterday to do my first herceptin treatment.  It was in the chemo infusion room - the room where people get chemo shot into them - which made me have uncomfortable flashbacks.  But everyone is so brave and so positive.  Cancer People are the best!!

The nurses accessed Portia, my port, and hooked me up to a drip bag of herceptin.  I was only supposed to be there for an hour, but with a little education session with the doc and other delays (it was really, really busy), I was there a whopping 3 1/2 hours!!  Mama mia.  But it didn't hurt, I sat and read my book, I chatted with my neighbor in the chair on the right, and it went quickly.  So far, I haven't had any side effects.  I'll keep going in every three weeks for a year.

Radiation.  Sigh, radiation.  What a pain in the butt.  My first session was Monday, and it took longer than the other sessions will.  Just getting everything set up, etc.  My body mold is as hard as a ROCK.  Pretty uncomfortable.  But it's important for me to be in the same exact position every time.  A special light from the ceiling shoots the grid down onto my body, and they line me up with my tattoos.  They also have lasers on each side of me so that I'm lined up on my sides and not, like, tilting too much to one side or whatever.  They use a sheet that's under me to scoot me all around, and I lie on a special table that moves in all directions to put me in just the right spot.  Once they have everything lined up, they do a CAT scan.  Every time.  As I lie on the special table, these four arms of a machine that is behind my head rotate around me to do the CAT scan.  Each arm looks different.  One looks like Baymax's head. 

One looks like the light that the dentist adjusts above your face when he's working on your teeth.  And two of them look like waffle irons.  I can see a green light on my left "breast" (I use quotations, because I feel weird referring to it like that) as the arms slowly rotate around me.

Then the ladies come back in and put this small, sticky mat on the right side of my left breast.  Then they leave the room and shoot the radiation at it, through this sticky mat thingey.  I want to ask what everything is for, but I get the impression that they're in a hurry and just want to get me done and get the next person in.  So no, I don't know what the sticky mat is or what it's for.  I obvi can't see anything when the radiation is shooting.  The only way I can tell that it's being released is that the Dentist Light Arm is lined up to shoot at that side of my breast, and it buzzes.  For about 7 seconds or so.

Then the ladies come back in, move the sticky mat to the left side of my breast, the Dentist Light Arm rotates to that side, the ladies leave, and it shoots me for 7 more seconds.  Buzzzz.  Then the ladies come back in, take away Mr. Sticky Mat, the arm rotates to right above my left breast, the ladies leave again, and it shoots straight down at me.  No sticky mat.  For a good 20 seconds or so.

I mean, it's really not a huge pain in the butt; it's just obnoxious to have to go in every single dang weekday to do it.  And after the first day, they had some issues with my right boob getting in the way of the radiation thingey when it's aiming at the right side of my left boob.  I was lined up the same exact way; everything was the same; and suddenly, my right boob is in the way.  They kind of fudged it that second day, just having me tilt to the right a bit, but that afternoon, I had to go to my plastic surgeon and have him take 120 cc's out of my right boob.  So it's now a size A, and it's so soft.  It almost - ALMOST - feels like a real boob!  It's all loose and weird-looking now.  And there is a glaring difference between the two boobs.  But I'll so whatever they need to get it just right.

However, yesterday, with my newly-deflated right boob, it was still in the way!!!  Ugh.  So here's what they did, and what they're going to do from now on - they used athletic tape, attaching one end on the left side of my right boob, and attaching the other end to the table.  They're going to tape my boob out of the way from now on.  It's weird, but no, I don't want my right side radiated if I can help it.  So I'll succumb to the indignity of it. :)  As Gordon on Thomas the Train would say, "Ohhhhh, the indignity!!!"

Gage really likes Thomas the Train.

Ya know, being taped to a table reminds me of a really funny story.  Wanna hear it?  I knew you would!! 

So.  I was pregnant with Dylan, and somebody rear-ended me while I was at a stop sign.  I don't know.  Some young dumb fart.  It really wasn't a big deal, but the ambulance dudes wanted me to go to the hospital to get checked out, to make sure everything was alright with Dylan.  They had me lie on this hard, yellow board, on my back.  And they taped me to it.  My head, my feet, my legs, above my belly, below my belly...  I was like, "Um, guys, this is really unnecessary.  My neck hurts a little, but I really don't think you need to tape me to a board..."  However, they insisted, and I figured I could just deal with it during the ride to the hospital, and then they would untape me and let me lie on my side on a cushioned gurney or something. 

Oh no.  Once we got there, they wouldn't untape me.  They just set my board on one of those cushioney gurneys!  And I had to wait, like, three hours!  Ben was there with me, which I was grateful for.  After awhile, I started to get really nauseated, because Dyl was getting bigger, and you get sick when you lie on your back after the first couple of months.  The baby rests on an artery or a vein, or something like that, when you're on your back.  And it makes you really nauseated.  So I called out to the nurses and asked to be untaped, telling them that I couldn't be on my back for very long because I was pregnant.  They still didn't want to untape me until a doctor could examine me, so they just tilted my board to one side and put rolled up towels underneath the other side, to keep me tilted.  I kid you not.  As the time dragged on, I slid a little bit to the side that was facing down, the tape unable to hold my weight very well, but still securely fastened.  It was ridonk.  They eventually untaped me.  But it was really awful.  Haha!

So.  That's my story about being taped to a board, and that's my story about radiation.

I haven't felt any side effects of radiation.  My skin on that side sometimes itches, but I've been vigilant about putting the special lotion on it twice a day.  I can only use all-natural deodorant on that side.  Normal deodorant has aluminum in it, which messes with the radiation, I guess.  I can only use a very mild bar soap, like Dove, when I wash myself.  Body washes have alcohol in them, which is very drying.  I have to wash my natural deodorant and lotion off my left side four hours before each radiation treatment, also. 

They say that, in about a week, I'll start looking red, like I have a sunburn.  By the time I'm done, I may have blistering, as well as the sunburn thing.  But honestly, none of this will be as hard as chemo was.

Strangely, I got really sick the night after my first radiation.  My radiologist says that what I have been experiencing (stomach flu-like symptoms) isn't ever a side effect of the radiation.  I must have just caught a stomach flu bug.  Again.  It's kicking my butt, you guys.  Not as much as that one in December, but still.  Let's just say that I'm pumped full of Immodium right now.  I'm terrified that I'm going to poop my pants on the radiation table one of these days...

Oh, and in other news, dude.  I got a calling.  As first counselor in the Relief Society presidency. What in the what???  I couldn't be more surprised.  I'm brand new!  I don't know anyone!!  (Oh, and if you don't know what I'm talking about, the relief society is the women's organization of my church.)  And I can't remember anyone's names because of my stupid chemo brain!!  The Bishop told me he wants me to really ease into it.  He knows that the radiation might make me really tired, and he says that I should only go to meetings, conduct meetings, etc. when I feel okay.  So I won't do anything really major or full-fledged until my health improves.  It's nuts.  But I'm excited to work with the lady that's the RS president.  She is so fantastic.  A bit irreverant.  And about half as tall as me.  I just love her.  She wrote me letters the whole time I was in Idaho.  What a babe. 

Oh, and last piece of news - my hair is growing in!  A little weirdly.  A bunch of blonde peach fuzz on top, and darker hairs on the sides and back. 




So basically, I'm going to be looking like Friar Tuck pretty soon.  Oh, the indignity!!  Naw, I don't really care.  I'm just excited that my body is showing some signs of returning to normal.  Though my blood pressure is still really low.  Humph.  Boy, am I sick of that. And of the other gross things I can't talk about.  It's been six weeks since my last chemo!!  And I'm still having these side effects.  It's just crazy.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

That one time my mom hit on Andy Williams.

A few weeks ago, at Christmas time, my mom and I were doing some dang project at the table and listening to Christmas songs on the radio.  An Andy Williams song came on. 

Now, I'm not familiar with a lot of non-rock 'n' roll artists from the sixties, but apparently, that was his heyday.  He sounds a lot like Frank Sinatra to me.  He was famous for singing "Moon River" on the Breakfast at Tiffany's soundtrack - a gorgeous song, in my professional Kar Opinion.  He's a handsome feller:
Look at those baby blues.

And, no, he's not that one guy from the sixties who sang really, really cheesy Christmas songs.  I don't know this other dude's name, but oh, how I hate him.  He sings "Walking in a Winter Wonderland," and it's the cheesiest thing I have ever, ever heard.  My Cheesiness Tolerance Threshold is very low.  Nicholas Sparks books and movies - fugeddaboutit.  I also hate romantic comedies.  Blech.  I like action films.  That's just how I roll.  Ben and I went to Taken 3 for our anniversary.  And I was thrilled about it!  (Liam Neeson kicks BUTT!!)

My mom says that Andy Williams also popularized "Do You Hear What I Hear?"  Which is one of my favorite Christmas songs.  Ever since we sang it in 5th or 6th grade for our Christmas program at school.  Back when we could sing songs about Christ's birth.  Sheesh.  Lex sent me some videos of Gage's Holiday program at his preschool - they sang random songs about snowmen and stuff, and they sang Jingle Bells, because that doesn't mention anything religious.  And then they sang Happy Holidays to You to the tune of Happy Birthday, I believe.  It made me sad.  I don't know.  I mean, it's great that they had a program at all.  And I support separation of church and state, and I respect that there were probably a lot of kids in his class that were of other religions.  I guess what I'm trying to say is that I really love songs about Christ at Christmastime.  And I loved singing them in a school setting.  But times change, I guess.  I'll just make sure I play more religious Christmas songs in our home.

Anyways, I think that "Do You Hear What I Hear" is so magical.  And it's one of my faves. But I do have conflicting feelings about it.  At the end of the song, the king hears of Christ's birth, and he says of Christ, "He will bring us goodness and light."  Which is true, but didn't King Herod want Christ dead??  Isn't that why he originally sent the wise men out?  "Find this kid that everyone says will be the king of kings, and kill him!" I ignore that part of the song and focus on the magicality of it instead.

So when the Andy Williams song came on (I forget which one), Mom started chuckling.

"Did I ever tell you about the time I met Andy Williams?" she said.

"Wait, is that who sings this song?" I asked.

"Yeah."

"Oh!  I thought Andy Williams was the name of that horrible cheesy guy who sings Walking in a Winter Wonderland.  You know?  How he changes keys in the middle of the word 'snow'?  He goes, "...snoooooo-OWWWW!!"  And he says in a speaking voice, "YOOOO-hoooo!"  And at the end, he goes, "...winter wonder, winter, wonderland..."  Man, I HATE that dude."

"Oh, um, no, Andy Williams is this guy who's singing right now."

"Well, good.  Then I like him.  And you MET him??"

"Yes!  At Sun Valley!  Our family was there, skiing, and I went over to the lodge to use the bathroom, and there he was, outside the lodge, waiting for his daughter."

"Were people bugging him?"

"Not at all.  Everyone was playing it cool.  And he was so nice!  He spoke to me first!  He said, 'What a beautiful day, huh?'"

"Really? That's so cool!!  So unlike when you met Clint Eastwood."

"Yeah, he was really mean to me."

"So what did you say in return??"

Mom started giggling.  "Wellll, I said to him, 'It is a beautiful day!  Say, would you like to come over to my car for some wine and cheese?'"

Then I started giggling.  "Um, WHAT?? You propositioned Andy Williams???"

"No!  No!  This is what my family did!  We'd take little breaks during skiing and ask friends or people we had met on the mountain to come back to our car for wine and cheese!"

[Let me insert here that my mom and her family weren't active in the LDS church at this time.]

"Well, he probably thought you were propositioning him, Ma.  How old were you? 

"Oh, 17 or 18."

"OMG, so you were this hot young thing, propositioning this major recording star!  Haha!  What did he say???"

"He looked a little uncomfortable and said something like, 'No thank you,' and wandered off to find his daughter."

Good for him.  A family man.  I like it.

What kills me about this story are two things:  1)  My mom accidentally hit on an older, famous, married man.  That's hilarious.  2)  How did I not ever, ever hear this story until now??  I've known my mom for 37 years!!  And it's a major, really funny story!  I shall certainly be telling this story down through the ages.  It's a keeper.
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