Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Farewell to The Boob

Today at work we had a "Farewell to The Boob Party! Tara baked the boob cake. It was so realistic that one boob was slightly larger than the other! The cake was banana w/ cream cheese frosting. It was tasty. Tara could start her own business baking boob cakes. There was good food and good friends. Laurie bought me a mullet wig for when I lose my hair w/ chemo. I have yet to try it on. When I do, we'll have to take a picture.

I had a brief confab with the surgeon's office today. Apparently we are all of the mindset that both boobs need to come off. They will have a definite answer after all the tests are over. The PET Scan is set for tomorrow morning. I have not been allowed any caffeine at all today and it's killin' me!!! It makes me crazier than usual. Then to top it off, my mother brings me cream-filled bismarks from my all-time favorite bakery (Pfaff's in Pontiac) and I can't have 'em. I have to wait until after the PET Scan. I have to hide them from the rest of the family or they'll disappear before I can have any!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

MRI & marriage

Today I had the MRI. The MRI technique uses a contrast material called Gadolinium DTPA, which is injected into a vein in the arm during the exam to improve the quality of the images. This injection, which is cold, shoots up your arm, then your lips tingle and you taste metal. It was very weird. This picture shows how you lay on the machine for the MRI. The cool thing about Christie Clinic in Urbana is that they have satellite radio. So, while I'm laying in the machine like the picture below, listening to 70's music, I managed to fall asleep! I was snoring and drooling. Luckily the noise of the machine drowned out the snoring! Just goes to show I can sleep anywhere.
Today, I learned that PersonalCare has now approved the PET Scan. Dr. Chaudhry is my hero! He really went to bat for me. After 23 years of advocating for others, I think this is the first time I have been on the receiving end of someone advocating for me. It felt really good. I hope that is how our clients feel when we advocate for them. I'm going to marry Dr. Chaudhry someday (he just doesn't know it yet!). Hannah is quick to point out this would make me a polygamist as I've said I wanted to "marry" her very first pediatrician, our chiropractor and our massage therapist. When I find a good man, I like to keep 'em! Anything wrong with that?

Monday, September 28, 2009

Looking ahead

Today was the day they had originally scheduled my surgery but since I couldn't get in for the MRI until tomorrow, surgery was pushed back until Friday. It's probably a good thing as I'm still tying up loose ends at work. Every time I think I'm done, I find something else! I really want to leave the place in good shape during my absence.
As you may have already figured out, I'm all about research. I found this information at the Susan G. Komen website: Approximately 200,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer every year in the United States alone. Treatment for the disease has improved, and five-year survival rates are now greater than 90%; however, survivors have a significantly increased risk of developing a second breast cancer in the opposite breast. This is exactly why I think they should take 'em both! We should have a better idea if that's a possibility after tomorrow's MRI. But then again, we're dealing with PersonalCare!
My friend, Kim, a yoga instructor and substitute staff at AWP, has suggested yoga as a complementary therapy. Researching it, I found this (again on the Komen website): Several studies in cancer patients report enhanced quality of life, lower sleep disturbance, decreased stress symptoms, and changes in cancer-related immune cells after patients received relaxation, meditation, and gentle yoga therapy. I will have to take her up on her offer to teach me yoga! Kim, be warned-the last time I tried yoga I was kicked out of class for snoring!!!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

How I got cancer...

Do you remember in elementary school when you returned after the summer break you were asked to write the "How I spent my summer vacation" essay? This is similar except for now I'm making up reasons for getting cancer. My mother's theory is from drinking too much soda pop. Now I think we know where I got my "weirdness" from, huh?! My #1 theory is that I got cancer from the water in Deland, IL. Number 2 is from working & (now living) near the Solo Cup factory. Or maybe from playing tackle football with the boys in high school? Or swimming in Clinton Lake? What about stress? One article I read said that although some studies have shown that factors such as traumatic events and losses can alter immune system functions, these studies have not provided any evidence of a direct cause-and-effect relationship between stress and breast cancer. So perhaps Mike's accident had more consequences than we knew? We'll never know how I contracted this cancer but I'll keep theorizing! Maybe I should stay off the internet as it gives me too much to think about. I have to admit that it is fun to mess with people by giving them my theories of how I got cancer. You'd be surprised at how gullible some folks are! Anyhow, I'd be interested in hearing any outlandish theories anyone else might have!

Saturday, September 26, 2009


Did you know that time flies in Cancerville? Maybe it's because time becomes much more precious after a cancer diagnosis. I have been in fast-forward mode since Monday--I almost can't keep up with it all. The only time I don't "have" cancer is when I am asleep. I can escape from Cancerville during blissful sleep. Suddenly, every ache and pain gets attributed to cancer. You become the cancer. This afternoon I had most of my hair cut off. I figure if its going to fall out anyway, I might as well be 3/4 of the way there. A shout out to our good friend Sam, from Bement, who drove in to cut my hair. It may seem like a small gesture but it was so much more than that. I felt by deciding to cut my hair, I have a very small measure of control again. Sam helped me to achieve that. Hannah says my haircut makes me look more like my mother. I'm not sure how I feel about that statement. I already worry about becoming my mother!
For some reason I'm having trouble finding the right words tonight. I'm in a weird place, not blue but not especially upbeat. I guess I'm just tired. I'm already tired of this "burden" and its only just begun. On a less serious note, we now have a vote for tattooing my soon-to-be- bald head and/or make money by using it as a billboard! Thanks to my high school pal Susan for the most creative suggestion so far!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Xena: Warrior Princess

One of the ways I will beat this cancer is with visualization. Thoughts, if powerful enough, are accepted by the subconscious mind. So, I picture myself as Xena (I even have a toy foam sword) and then I "act out" killing the cancer. Sometimes the cancer is a just a gray blob but most of the time its a gynormous black fire-breathing dragon. When I'm really being weird, its Pizza the Hut from the movie Spaceballs! I always kill the cancer thereby returning to a state of good health. I'm sure it looks pretty silly but the dogs never complain-they just play along as if they are fighting with me. Maybe I'll be Xena for Halloween. After all, I have my handy-dandy sword!
To update you on the headgear count, it's 1 for an afro wig; 1 for a clown wig; 1 for Harley-Davidson bandanas; 1 for a football helmet; and 2 for a mullet wig! Have no fear, there's still plenty of time to weigh in on this! After all, I won't start chemotherapy until November. I am planning to have my hair cut tomorrow afternoon. I'm going to cut it short before it all falls out.
I'm tying up loose ends at work so everything will be in order when I have surgery next Friday. They say pain shouldn't be the issue but rather fatigue will. I'm hoping the Reliv will help with fatigue. We are planning a "Farewell to the Boob" party next Wednesday at work. It should be great fun!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Healthcare Reform and Head Gear

No PET (Positron Emission Tomography) Scan today because the f***ing insurance company refused to authorize it. They say it isn't necessary. The clinic would have done it if I agreed to pay for it if PersonalCare continued to deny it. Yeah, it only costs about $10,000! After an hour of arguing over it, I extracted myself from the very heated argument (I only used a few cuss words). I have fought with PersonalCare before and it's very tiring. Besides I was starving and had a raging headache! My oncologist ordered it because PET is considered particularly effective in identifying whether cancer is present or not, if it has spread, if it is responding to treatment, and if a person is cancer free after treatment. And people say we don't need healthcare reform. Ha! What really pisses me off is that I didn't go to the ICADV Retreat at Rend Lake because I needed this test!
Right now I am scheduled for a modified radical mastectomy, where the entire breast is removed, as well as most of the lymph nodes under the arm. This surgery is most commonly performed if the tumor is large and/or cancer has already spread to the lymph nodes. A modified radical mastectomy without reconstruction takes 2 to 4 hours and usually involves a one- to two-night hospital stay. A single incision across half the chest usually allows the surgeon to remove the breast and the lymph nodes. Ironically, I am scheduled for surgery on October 2, which is It's All In The Jeans Day, where employees pay $5.00 to breast cancer research to wear blue jeans at work. Now that your all medical experts, I'll stop being so serious!
Since I needed a good laugh, I'm watching Caddyshack. The swimming pool scene with the Baby Ruth candy bar cracks me up every time! Also, I love the gopher. We've been discussing head gear for when I lose my hair. I have one suggestion for an Afro wig, one for a clown wig and one for Harley-Davidson bandanas. Anyone else care to weigh in?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Circus Freak

Last night as Hannah & I were walking the dogs, we saw one of the exotic dancers entering the Silver Bullet Bar. I made the comment that now I couldn't work there. Hannah said that maybe people would pay to see the one-boob woman. Then she says, "Better yet, you could be a circus freak!" She's such a smart-ass (must get it from her father). It made me laugh because I often threaten to run away and join the circus--apparently now I can! I immediately thought of Dr. Phreak's Traveling Freak Show from the movie Bubble Boy! I then thought about other movies that make me laugh, like Vacation, Caddyshack & Spaceballs. So, if anyone has other funny movies they think I should watch, please let me know. After all, they say laughter is the best medicine.
Most of the time, I'm ok but occasionally I find myself choking up when I go to say the words "I have breast cancer". And sometimes tears come with that. It makes me feel absolutely crazy but I'm told that's normal. This emotional roller coaster sucks! I swear that every time someone says something, all I hear is "boobies". Today at work Stacy (our IT guy) spoke to Rudy (our dog who visits at work) and instead of "Rudy" I heard "boobies". I guess the phenomenon is "Boobies on the Brain"? Tomorrow's the PET Scan. Stay tuned...

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Tests, tests and more tests

Today was a day of tests--I had an echocardiogram, an EKG, a chest x-ray and blood work. I was on every floor of Christie Clinic except the 2nd Floor! Thursday is the PET Scan and next Tuesday is the MRI. I had to break the news to everyone at AWF/AWP. I was afraid I wouldn't be able to get through it but I did. I feel confident in their abilities to carry on without me for a while. I'm surprised at how easily I am able to turn it over without worry.
I started "pounding" the Reliv shakes today. For those who aren't familiar with Reliv, it is a powdered nutritional supplement that you mix in liquid and drink. I've heard several stories of people who have beaten cancer by adding Reliv to their regimen. I had 4 "shakes" today. I figure if I flood my body with good nutrition, I will easily triumph over breast cancer. I will be the next Reliv cancer success story. Once that happens, I will renew my distributorship and share it with the world.
Hannah and I spent time looking at breast cancer shirts on-line. We like the "Feel Your Boobies" shirts! Tara is putting together a team for the upcoming Breast Cancer Walk on October 17, 2009. She is so awesome!

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Diagnosis

Today I was diagnosed with breast cancer. As much as I was expecting the diagnosis, I wasn't. I just can't help but wonder how much one person can take. First it was Mike's accident, now this! Whatever did I do to deserve cancer? There's no family history nor did I possess the risk factors. The doctor said I was just "unlucky". Boy, what an understatement!!! The tumor is so large that they plan to take the left breast off and once I have more tests they will determine if the right one needs to come off, too. What does one do with only one boob? Walk lopsided? Get a prosthetic boob? I have no idea. For those of you who know me, I will say this only once because I am loathe to admit it, but I'm scared. That said, know this-I will beat cancer as I have far too much left unfinished. Once the surgery is complete and I am healed, I'll start chemotherapy. I will lose my hair. Maybe my friend Deb will let me borrow her wigs!? I am thankful to have the support of co-workers/friends like Tara and Deb and my family, especially Hannah, Mike & Bert. I won't get through this without them (which I also hate to admit!). What I need from everyone is positive thought & prayer along with any suggestions for alternative therapies to complement the standard treatment.