Saturday, October 31, 2009

Pelosi's Bill Good For Domestic Violence Victims, Less So For Cancer Patients

I've been trying to follow the healthcare reform issue, especially now. While I'm happy about the DV issue, I am perturbed about the breast cancer drugs. I'm supposed to start taking Herceptin. What will my insurance company do in response? We've already had to fight about needed tests. Will we be fighting over needed drugs next? Here's information on the bill:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's 1990-page health care reform bill has plenty of nuggets for supporters and detractors to debate. One topic the bill addresses in full is the insurance company practice of classifying victims of domestic violence as patients with a pre-existing condition and then denying them coverage. Pelosi's bill specifically and unequivocally bans the unconscionable practice.


A health insurance issuer offering health insurance coverage in the individual market may not, on the basis of domestic violence, impose any preexisting condition exclusion (as defined in section 2701(b)(1)(A)) with respect to such coverage. But the bill doesn't prohibit the equally abhorrent practice of classifying rape as a pre-existing condition.

One of the issues the bill doesn't address, however, is the problems patented medications cause for women suffering from breast cancer. Cancer survivor Jane Hamsher writes that Pelosi's acquiescence to provisions that provide extra-long patent monopolies to drug companies that discovered biologics, one of the newest waves of medical research, will hurt women. The extra patent terms mean that for one drug utilized with great success among breast cancer patients--Herceptin--Roche can continue to charge upwards of $70,000 for a course of treatment, causing patients to run up against their lifetime payment caps or fail to get the best treatment.

Sounds like some lobbying is needed to "fix" this problem!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Get your casket from Wal-Mart!

Yesterday was such a long day that I've been pooped all day today! I did manage to get in a few hours of work though. In yesterday's paper there was an article about Wal-Mart selling caskets and urns on their website. This generated a discussion about burial vs. cremation. We also discussed organ donation. The general consensus was to take the useable organs and burn the rest. Then scatter my ashes over what used to be Big Daddy's Bar in Pontiac as well as the softball field I used to play on! Those were places where I spent many happy hours. Even better, have a kegger-build a funeral pyre in the yard and as I go up in flames "toast" me. Just save my ashes to be scattered later! Or use my ashes to make jewelry. Mike didn't think it was funny. He got upset with me.
I wasn't trying to be morbid, just realistic. We never know exactly how much time we have on this earth. I watched today's Oprah Winfrey Show with Patrick Swayze's widow Lisa Niemi, who spoke candidly about losing her husband just six weeks ago to pancreatic cancer. Niemi told Winfrey she has learned a lot from losing her husband. "You end up living a lot more in the moment...," she said. "You realize that we don't have anybody for long, and we don't even have our own lives for long." How true. Even though during his final months she told him several times daily, "I love you,"she said her one regret was that she didn't tell Swayze she loved him enough (during their marriage). I don't want to live my life with any regrets.

Thursday, October 29, 2009


Tonight's post is much later than usual as I was "working" tonight. It was AWF's Freaktini fundraiser! I do believe a good time was had by all. But it's been one hell of a long day! I started the day by ripping open my incision. It wasn't all the way, just a small portion (about 1-2 stitches). So, I put a butterfly bandage on it and headed off to the doctor (I had an appointment anyway). He fixed me right up and reviewed my lab work with me. As a diabetic, I see my doctor regularly. My A1C is now 6.0 (needs to be less than 6.5), my "bad" cholesterol is now 97 (needs to be less than 100) and my liver function is now normal (used to be abnormal). I know, I know who ever thought I was normal anyway, right? I needed to see Dr. Walker because next week I start chemo and I'll be taking steroids which will raise my blood sugar. He thinks I'll be just fine.
Then, as I'm driving by McDonald's, where I no longer eat, I see the marquee which tells me "McRib is back". Bastards! The one item they sell that I find hard to resist. So, I decided to have one last McRib meal for supper. When I finished, I was sorry as it sat so heavy in my stomach. I think I'm "cured" as I probably won't have another one. Then it was off to Freaktini. Tonight Tara got to be the boss as she conceived the Freaktini idea and was the one who pulled it all together (absolutely fabulous work by the way) and I was her assistant. Unfortunately, I shirked most of my responsibilities by schmoozing with others instead of following her directions, so she fired me from that position. I would have to lodge one complaint and that is that Tara wouldn't let me enter the costume contest. After all, I had the best costume. I was the one-boobed woman! How much freakier can you get?
I decided to take my own advice and "blow off some steam"! I thoroughly enjoyed myself as I hung out with AWF's finest volunteer, Carol B. and her son, Tim and daughter-in-law, Kerri. Tim & Kerri came down from the Chicagoland area for a visit. We had a few drinks, told stories and laughed till I almost wet my pants! Downtown Champaign is a happening place and we just added to it tonight. Too bad we can't have that much fun every night! Or can we?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Cancer Game

Remember when I talked about my idea for the video game I named "Cancer Wars"? I actually found a video game on the Internet called The Cancer Game. It can be found at It's simple but entertaining. Go try it! I had fun playing it. The Cancer Game was an idea originally conceived by Dave Kristula, now a graduate of Albright College, during his near month-long stay in 1998 at Hershey Medical Center for a stem cell rescue (bone marrow transplant), treating his recurrent Hodgkin's Disease.
In the fall of 2002, Kristula took a class with a new professor, Yuko Oda, who was teaching advanced uses of Macromedia Director software. Kristula developed a small, silly game in under four weeks, all while completing three additional classes. In the spring of 2003, Albright College began requesting proposals for ten-week summer grant projects. Kristula approached Oda, suggesting the possibility of the game, and Oda signed on as faculty collaborator. After some debate, the college approved the project, which commenced on June 2, 2003 -- with a $500 budget.
Over the course of the next ten weeks, Kristula and Oda researched current essays and books on the healing through visualization therapies, focusing on stress relief and the power of the Shaman of old (Shamanism refers to a variety of traditional beliefs and practices, that involve the ability to diagnose, cure, and sometimes cause illness because of a special relationship with, or control over, spirits). After four weeks of research, programming and art development began. Public beta 1 is the product of this ten week project, and while it needs a little bit of work here and there, overall the designers are satisfied with the project.
Creative visualization is the technique of using one's imagination to
visualize specific behaviors or events occurring in one's life. Creative visualization is distinguished from normal daydreaming in that Creative visualization is done in the first person and the present tense – as if the visualized scene were unfolding all around you. This is yet another way for me to "visualize" killing the cancer cells. Now go forth and kill my cancer cells!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Mirror of Death

Is there a connection between cancer and the mind, the way we view ourselves and our emotional states? Can we harness the power of the mind to improve the likelihood of recovering from cancer? Twenty years ago, Dr. Ryke Geerd Hamer, a German doctor and his wife were diagnosed with cancer shortly after their son was murdered. Dr. Hamer subsequently developed his theory about cancer. In his view, cancer is a natural process which gets triggered by an overwhelming emotional shock for which the body is totally unprepared. This shock registers itself physically in the brain. Healing, in his view, cannot occur until there is first an emotional healing. Dr. Hamer was actually imprisoned in France for 18 months due to his cancer views.
Previously I talked about the Cancer personality. Dr. Lawrence LeShan, an experimental psychologist and therapist developed this theory. Through his studies he determined that there is a general personality configuration among the majority of cancer patients. What he discovered was that for a significant majority of cancer patients, there had been, prior to the onset of cancer, the loss of a crucial relationship. This loss may have been a physical, or more frequently, an emotional loss. It makes me think that Mike's accident, which was so traumatizing that took me a long time to deal with appropriately, may just be the root cause of this cancer.
He also discovered that cancer developed in people who had denied their own creative potential. He refers to the "Mirror of Death" which while staring death in the face, allows patients to confront their true selves, to become aware of their true desires and to make them feel important to themselves. He noted that when people make certain kinds of psychological and life-style changes, they often stimulate their natural self-healing abilities. In LeShan’s approach, the focus is not on problems and past causes, but on what interests, excites, fulfills and vitalizes the person. This therapy emphasizes the unique individuality of each person. It encourages you to find your own best ways of being, relating and creating. Its basic questions are “What is right with you?” “What is your own best ways of living?” and “How, given the reality of your situation, can you move more and more in that direction?” So, is opportunity knocking here? What would the "new" Tami do differently?

Monday, October 26, 2009

Lymphatic Massage

Since surgery, I've been experiencing lymphedema, which is a tightness in the skin, a feeling of "fullness" in the affected area (armpit), and persistent swelling. It's a very weird feeling. One of my good friends has suggested looking into lymphatic massage. This is what I discovered about such a massage:
As a vital component of the body's immune function, the lymphatic system is comprised of several organs (thymus, tonsils, spleen, adenoids), hundreds of lymph nodes, and a multitude of vessels that run throughout the body similar to our circulatory system of veins and arteries. These lymphatic vessels carry a clear fluid, known as lymph, that circulates around the body's tissues, absorbing fluid, waste products, dead cells, bacteria, viruses, fats, and proteins from the tissue as it goes, while also giving passage to immune cells as they're needed.
Lymph nodes are found throughout the body -- including most notably the neck, armpits, and groin -- and have the job of filtering the lymph fluid and removing damaging elements they've picked up along the way, such as bacteria and cancer cells. When the lymph nodes detect these foreign elements in the fluid, they begin producing additional infection-fighting white blood cells, and become enlarged in the process, hence a swollen gland. If the system gets overtaxed because of ill health, surgery, stress, or poor diet, it can get sluggish and not do its job as efficiently. As a major player in the body's immune process, it makes sense that by waking up the lymphatic system you dramatically improve your chances for staying healthy.
With lymph massage, the system gets a wake-up call through delicate means. Lymph massage is extremely gentle and slow, not just as an aspect of its healing nature, but by necessity. Most of the lymphatic vessels are just below the skin and are stimulated by .5 to 8 ounces of pressure per square inch. That light, slow pressure mimics the pulse and rhythm of the lymphatic system itself and gets the vessels to respond as they should. Each stroke slightly moves the skin in the direction of the lymphatic flow to encourage the drainage of fluid and waste.
The delicate nature of each stroke as it carefully glides across the skin can sometimes make it feel as if nothing is happening, especially for those who are used to deep bodywork. But it's exactly that noninvasive quality of lymph massage that makes it work. They say the results can be profound. When the lymphatic system is especially compromised, as in the presence of cancer or after it's been disrupted by surgery, it can slow to a near negligible pace. This is when a swelling of the lymph passages occurs, known as lymphedema, creating a painful, potentially debilitating condition. One of the most common causes for lymphedema is undergoing a mastectomy, where breast tissue and/or lymph nodes under the arm are removed. Of the women having this operation, up to 15 percent are likely to get lymphedema. Of course I just have to be in that 15%! I'll have to check with Rick to see if he does lymphatic massage as it sounds like just what I need!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Stressing Out

A breast cancer diagnosis and stress—you can pretty much count on the two going hand in hand. Now, a new study is raising hopes about the effects of therapy and relaxation techniques on the well-being and survival rates of women with breast cancer. Learning how to handle the stress of a diagnosis and treatment in the first year may help such women live better and longer, researchers say. Psychological therapy, such as talking with a counselor, improving diet and exercise habits, and learning new coping skills and relaxation techniques, can provide big benefits—from increased immunity to better survival rates—in cancer patients.
Yet I sit here stressing about work. The State has only sent us 1 payment in 4 months and that only covered about 6 weeks of service. Bills are going unpaid and making payroll is in question. I'm trying to be optimistic, hoping against hope that money arrives soon, very soon. Tara's right when she's talking about it helps but I wish I had the solution. I'm trying hard not to worry but I fear more layoffs if something doesn't give soon. I keep picturing myself having to move into AWP to answer the hotline! Believe me, that doesn't help the stress level!
So, I researched stress management (surprise, surprise) and this is such good advice I decided to post it!

Give Stress a Rest-Five Ways to Decompress

*Just say "no" - There are only so many hours in a day, and if you're already overloaded with items 1-5 on your to-do list, it's OK to say no when someone asks a favor. It may give you a sense of control, and being in control can have a positive effect on your stress level.

*Yoga? You know it!
It may seem like stress is all in the head, but it has physical effects, too.
After all, if you're stressed, you can end up feeling too busy to exercise.
But don't forget, exercise is a great stress-buster. So why not try yoga?
Yoga's focus on breathing along with stretching can help you feel calmer
and more relaxed.

*C'mon, get happy - What makes you laugh? Really, really laugh. Comedies? Spending time with friends and family? Your dog or cat? Well, whatever it is, if it makes you laugh, it's a good way to relieve stress and relax. So laugh it up all you want.

*Take a break - Simply giving yourself time to relax may help reduce stress. So give yourself a break! Whether you spend it in another country or in the backyard, if you've got a vacation coming, take it.

*Tick, tick, tick, time management

Think ahead: When you've got a lot on your plate, preparing yourself in advance goes a long way

Make a list: Writing down the things you need to get done – and the fun of scratching them off as you go – helps keep you organized

First things first: Prioritize the most important things you need to get done every day. And worry about the rest later.

So, I'm going to try to stop stressing out about work by trying some of these suggestions. Wish me luck!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Carcinogenic Personality Profile

As I was doing more cancer research, I found this carcinogenic personality profile by Dr. Alexander Mostovoy. In general terms, the carcinogenic personality profile can be summed up as follows:
  • Loss / Grief (relationship, status, etc.)
  • Unfulfilled passion
  • Unworthiness
  • Avoidance of conflict
  • Tension in parental relationship
He goes on to explain:

Loss / Grief - This could be a great shock when one loses a spouse, child, friend, … Grief of course is a normal process and is part of everyone's life. However, many fall prey to this destructive emotion only to realize years later how vulnerable they are and how easy it is to cross that line of no return. Loss of status, financial or otherwise could be just as devastating as a loss of a relationship.

Unfulfilled Passion - In his work as a psychologist in a New York City cancer hospital for over 30 years, Dr. Lawrence LeShan observed a common thread amongst cancer patients. The common thread was unfulfilled passion that had been suppressed for many years. For example, a child who wanted to learn the piano, but couldn't because either their parents could not afford those piano lessons, or other priorities took precedence over theirs. This pattern of suppression would repeat itself over their lifetime. Oddly enough, studying piano later in life, or fulfilling a previously unfulfilled passion has an amazing curative effect.

Unworthiness - The personality predisposed to cancer is usually what I would call 'nice', a 'kind soul', or 'other-centered' someone who would put the needs of others before their own.

Avoidance of Conflict - These people avoid conflict and are unable to express hostility in their own defense. These people prefer order and avoid arguments, as arguments are unpredictable. Order to them means control, whereas arguments or expressions of hostility means loss of control. Of course this is a compensation mechanism for their feelings of unworthiness and self-dislike. They are usually nature lovers, artistic, social activists who are particularly pained over environmental issues. People with an artistic streak usually have an appreciation for the elegant. They are achievers with a tendency to overdo and overwork. It is hard for them to relax, and instead they do things to exhaustion and crash. Many of these individuals come from a parental relationship where, in order to get affection as a child they must achieve ie: please the parent; thus they become the best in their class, orderly, submissive. This behavior in turn creates friction, since from an early age their desires are suppressed even though most of them have a very passionate nature that is unfulfilled.

He says that self expression and creativity is a key for these individuals and it is this very struggle for individualization and creativity that often leads to the discovery of their artistic talents. Their intuition often leads to an expression of an inner world. Music and painting are creative avenues that are used as a means of self-expressing the pain they have endured.

I found this information very interesting. It makes me wonder if I am indeed a type-C personality? I always thought of myself as a type-A but now who knows? Apparently you should always follow your passion and be creative!

Friday, October 23, 2009

BRAC Analysis

The first question I asked when they told me I had breast cancer was if Hannah was at risk. I'm afraid that I have "jinxed" her. The doctor mentioned testing for it. Two genes are responsible for breast cancer. The BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes encode proteins that can lead to breast cancer in women. BRACAnalysis is a new test that chemically analyzes this gene to detect if the patient is susceptible for the disease. This test is specific to breast cancer and is a reputable, formal way to detect the possibility of breast cancer. BRACAnalysis can be used to detect the possibility of breast cancer even if no symptoms or diagnosis has been found in the patient.
You've probably seen the BRAC (Be Ready Against Cancer) commercials. Did you know that people with Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer (HBOC) Syndrome have up to 25 times the risk of breast cancer by age 50 and more than 22 times the risk of ovarian cancer by age 70. Knowing your risk can help you make better, more informed decisions about your health, before cancer has a chance to develop. You should consider testing for Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer (HBOC) syndrome if you:
  • Have had breast cancer before age 50
  • Have 2 or more relatives who've had breast cancer
  • Have a male relative who's had breast cancer
  • Have had breast cancer in both breasts or twice in the same breast
  • Have had breast cancer and are of Ashkenazi, or Eastern European Jewish, ancestry
  • Have had ovarian cancer at any age
BRAC analysis is a means of looking for genetic indicators for breast cancer. This is important for those individuals who have a particularly high risk of breast cancer due to strong family histories. Quite often, this test will tell the participant that they have a 100% liklihood of developing breast cancer. The question now is not whether, but when? BRACAnalysis® results help women make more informed healthcare decisions—before cancer has a chance to develop. For example:
  • A woman who knows she carries a BRCA mutation can start cancer screening at an earlier age. She can also choose options like risk-reducing medications and preventive surgery
  • Doctors can help women move forward with the right action plan for their particular risks
  • Women already diagnosed with cancer may be able to prevent a second cancer
  • Test results can help relatives learn and understand more about inherited risk and how it may affect them
Again, please be vigilant with your health!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Scary Procedure

Today I had the scariest procedure ever! Because this other "mass" is so close to the heart they didn't want to be poking around in there with a needle. So I had a TEE or TransEsophageal Echo. A TEE is performed by having the patient lie on their left side while a sedative is given through an intravenous (IV) line to help in relaxation and the throat is sprayed with an anesthetic to "numb" it. The TEE echo transducer is much smaller than the standard Echo equipment and is positioned at the end of a flexible tube (similar to the tube used to examine the stomach during endoscopy). The tube transfers the images from the transducer to the Echo monitor. The patient swallows the tube and the procedure begins. The use of anesthesia and the sedative minimizes discomfort (like hell it does!) and there is usually no pain. The tube goes down the esophagus the same way as swallowed food. Therefore, it is important that the patient swallow the tube rather than gag on it. The transducer at the end of the tube is positioned in the esophagus, directly behind the heart. By rotating and moving the tip of the transducer, the physician can examine the heart from several different angles.
The heart rate, blood pressure and breathing are monitored during the procedure. Oxygen is given as a preventive measure and suction is used, as needed. After the procedure, driving is not allowed for 12 hours (because of the use of sedatives). Eating and drinking should be avoided for at least two hours because the throat will still be numb and the food or drink could be aspirated into the lungs. Hot food and drinks should not be used for about 24 hours. The throat may be sore and throat lozenges can be used after two hours of the procedure.
As soon as the cardiologist started sticking that tube down my throat I freaked out and yanked it out. I went into a full blown panic. He managed to get it down the second time as I tried to remain calm (which didn't work). I freaked out again as he was removing it. Then he tells me that he didn't see anything and that my heart is strong and healthy. So now the question is "Does the mass even exist or was it some sort of shadow?" And my throat is killing me!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Chasing the Devil

Well, I went back to work today & put in 9.5 hours. Sounds "normal" for me. It was nice to be back in the "chair". Work keeps my mind occupied so I don't obsess over other things, like hair loss. Today my mother found a black fur hat that actually fits me and looks pretty good so I'm keeping it for later. My latest obsession has been death. Not that I worry about dying but I do have fleeting thoughts about how my obituary would read and what my memorial service would be like.
See, we've "cheated" death before when Mike had his accident. I think this is payback as death thinks he's coming for me. But he's not. Yeah, he's lurking out there, hiding and just waiting. I've stared him down before when Mike was in the ICU. People on either side of Mike were dying and I felt that I had to stand guard at Mike's bedside. I did and it worked. Now, my strategy is to "chase the devil" [death] and make him run like hell! The further I chase him, the less chance of him getting me. The further off in the distance he is, the better. If I catch that little bastard he's gonna be sorry!!!
I've said before that time flies when you have cancer. Time is precious and it really is all we have. So, although it seems mushy and very much unlike me, I ask you to be sure to tell those you love how you feel. While anger and bitterness can sustain many people (some well into their 90's) I know that it can't sustain me. I've spent so much of the last 4 years being bitter and angry but then I realized that I had to let it all go in order to fight this battle. I have done so and face the breast cancer with a new, positive attitude. I promise to try not to hug you all too much!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

One perky & one saggy?

I got to the clinic this afternoon only to be told that my appointment was canceled. When I asked why, no one knew. So, I informed them that I was not leaving until someone released me to go back to work! The surgeon worked me in and checked me over. He then started talking about reconstruction. I said "Whoa, back up the truck!" as I didn't recall even discussing breast reconstruction. Just what I need, one perky boob and one saggy one! Then, what if the right one needs to come off? I'll be back to one boob again. I'm not sure how I feel about that. When I babbled on about this, Dr. Haynes said that I would be able to see the difference between the reconstructed breast and the remaining breast when naked. But when wearing a bra, the breasts should be alike enough in size and shape that I should feel comfortable about how I look in most clothes. He went on to explain that they could take "fatty" tissue from either my lower abdomen or butt for reconstruction. I pointed out that my butt doesn't have much "fatty" tissue as it is a nice butt. He almost laughed. Or they can put in a breast implant.
Utilizing the "fatty" tissue is called tissue flap procedures. These procedures use tissue from your tummy, back, thighs, or buttocks to rebuild the breast. The 2 most common types of tissue flap surgeries are the TRAM flap (or transverse rectus abdominis muscle flap), which uses tissue from the tummy area, and the latissimus dorsi flap, which uses tissue from the upper back. These operations leave 2 surgical sites and scars -- one where the tissue was taken and one on the reconstructed breast. The scars fade over time, but they will never go away completely. There can also be problems at the donor sites, such as abdominal hernias and muscle damage or weakness. There can also be differences in the size and shape of the breasts. Because healthy blood vessels are needed for the tissue's blood supply, flap procedures are not usually offered to women with diabetes, connective tissue or vascular disease, or to smokers. In general, flap procedures behave more like the rest of your body tissue. For instance, they may enlarge or shrink as you gain or lose weight. There is also no worry about replacement or rupture.
Adding to my uncertainty was the very nice woman I met in the waiting room who told me her breast cancer story. Four years ago she had a lumpectomy (right breast) and then chemotherapy. The chemo was so toxic that it landed her in the hospital so her "chemo cocktail" was changed. This past spring, her cancer returned, this time in both breasts. She had a radical mastectomy and just finished chemotherapy. She was there to have her port removed and discuss reconstruction. At least I can return to work tomorrow. Yeah!

Monday, October 19, 2009


Today was a "lazy" day-I didn't accomplish much more than a load of laundry. Fatigue hit hard. I was surprised as it's been over 2 weeks since surgery. So, of course, I looked it up! They say that fatigue occurs in 14% to 96% of people with cancer, especially those receiving treatment for their cancer. After surgery, which disrupts your body's normal rhythms, fatigue usually follows. In most cases, it usually lasts longer than you expect it to. For women who have gone through breast cancer, fatigue usually comes from worry, diagnosis, treatment, other medical conditions and lots of other emotional baggage like stress. Sometimes the reality of the diagnosis hits women only after it's all over because it's the first time women actually have a moment to stop and think. This can create even more fatigue. Nausea and pain as well as pain medication can quickly zap your energy. Fatigue may also result from changes in your appetite, eating pattern or diet, increased weight, lack of exercise, premature menopause and problems with sleeping. Hot flashes can also deplete your energy. When they wake you up in the middle of the night, you're missing out on much needed sleep. If steroids are a part of your treatment regimen, you may not be getting adequate rest as well. Even if you're sleeping for more than 8 hours, it might not be enough because steroids interfere with deep, restful sleep.
I now understand fatigue much better. It also didn't help that as I was resting on the couch this evening, Rudy took a flying leap off the back of the couch right onto the "boobette". Talk about hurt! My appetite fluctuates, I have hot flashes & night sweats and I'm stressed about not being at work. The steroids start right before chemo, so fun times ahead! So, when will it end?Sadly, there really is no expiration date on fatigue. As a general rule it takes about as long as the time from diagnosis through the end of treatment. So, if your diagnosis and surgery took 4 months, followed by six months of chemotherapy, it may take at least 10 months to recover from fatigue. But, fatigue related to breast cancer treatment has been known to go on for years, even when you do everything possible to eliminate it. Great!!!

Sunday, October 18, 2009


Sweet, blissful sleep is the only time I don't have cancer. My unconscious self doesn't remember. Ever since I found out I have cancer I've been having dreams about my childhood-from elementary school through high school. It's more like reliving memories while sleeping. What's nice about it is I'm repeating conversation with loved ones who have passed on, including my step-sister, uncle, grandmother and a great aunt. They are so vivid, I'd swear it's really happening.
Dream Moods notes that to dream of your childhood, indicates your wish to return to a life where you had little responsibility and worries. It also represents innocence. Alternatively, it suggests that certain aspects of your childhood have not yet been integrated into your adult personality. Or, on the other hand, some childhood anxiety has yet to be resolved in your adult life. Another dream analysis website notes that dreaming about childhood can mean that you will experience a period of renewed hope and vigor. Dreaming of good friends can mean a promise of good news. They say that friends of the same sex can represent your shadow self-the aspects of your personality that you have rejected. However its friendly nature suggests that you am prepared to integrate this neglected part of yourself.
It is also said that children in your dream, signifies an aspect of yourself and your childlike qualities. You may be retreating back to a childlike state where you are longing for the past and the chance to satisfy repressed desires and unfulfilled hopes. Perhaps there is something that you need to see grow and nurtured. Take some time off and cater to the inner child within. Alternatively, the dream may be highlighting you innocence, purity, simplicity, and carefree attitude. I guess I should figure out what this all means, huh? Maybe a new career in dream analysis is in my future!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Hair Loss

I'm telling you, I'm obsessed with losing my hair! They continually warn me that I will lose my hair because of the aggressive chemotherapy protocol. This is what I pulled off of

Hair loss (also called alopecia) is when some or all of your hair falls out. This can happen anywhere on your body: your head, face, arms, legs, underarms, or the pubic area between your legs. Many people are upset by the loss of their hair and find it the most difficult part of chemotherapy. [I'm ok with all hair other than what's on my head falling out.]

Some types of chemotherapy damage the cells that cause hair growth. Hair loss often starts 2 to 3 weeks after chemotherapy begins. Your scalp may hurt at first. Then you may lose your hair, either a little at a time or in clumps. It takes about 1 week for all your hair to fall out. [What lovely holiday memories to look forward to!] Almost always, your hair will grow back 2 to 3 months after chemotherapy is over. You may notice that your hair starts growing back even while you are getting chemotherapy.

Your hair will be very fine when it starts growing back. Also, your new hair may not look or feel the same as it did before. For instance, your hair may be thin instead of thick, curly instead of straight, and darker or lighter in color. [I vote for straight blonde hair!] Anyway, I'll try to get over myself before the hair loss starts but I can't guarantee it!!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Self Image

I have been feeling very self-absorbed as I am obsessed with only having one boob and losing my hair! I've been wearing big sweatshirts so the lack of one boob is not so noticeable. I'm surprised by this attitude as I have never cared about appearances before. My oncologist referred me to which notes that being diagnosed with and treated for cancer changes a person. Some of the changes are physical, such as hair loss or the removal of a breast. Some of the changes are emotional or mental, including lingering mental fogginess from chemotherapy, depression, or feelings of renewed appreciation for life. Some changes are temporary, such as blotchy skin, and others are permanent, such as surgical scars. All changes, however, affect a person's view of himself or herself in many different and important ways. Treatment for cancer can be rigorous and may change a person's appearance. The cancer itself can cause physical changes, too, especially if it affects hormones, blood cells, or organs that can decrease energy levels or food absorption. Some of the more common physical changes of cancer include:
  1. Hair loss (including hair on the head, face, arms, legs, underarms, and pubic area)
  2. Changes in weight, either gain or loss
  3. Changes in skin tone or color
  4. Disfigurement from surgery
I am so screwed! They say to allow time to adjust. The process of learning to accept a cancer diagnosis and undergoing treatment changes a person's life. It takes time to adjust to a new way of feeling about oneself or how one looks. In 2002, Look Good…Feel Better sponsored a survey among women who had been treated for cancer within the last five years to understand overall quality of life during cancer treatment and how a woman’s appearance affects her sense of well-being.
  • About 79% of women said that cancer treatment had a somewhat negative or greatly negative influence on their psychosocial (emotional and social) well-being.
  • Two-thirds of the women indicated that cancer treatment had a somewhat or significant negative effect on their appearance.
  • Seventy-eight percent (78%) said they experienced some or significant changes in their appearance during treatment, and 83% of these women said that their overall quality of life was affected by cancer treatment.
So, I guess I'm not alone in these feelings!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Do antiperspirants cause breast cancer?

I had heard this before and a friend sent me this information via email so I researched it:

The leading cause of breast cancer is the use of anti-perspirant?!

Here's why - The human body has a few areas that it uses to purge toxins; behind the knees, behind the ears, groin area, and armpits. The toxins are purged in the form of perspiration. Anti-perspirant, as the name clearly indicates, prevents you from perspiring, thereby inhibiting the body from purging toxins from below the armpits. These toxins do not just magically disappear.. Instead, the body deposits them in the lymph nodes below the arms since it cannot sweat them out.

Nearly all breast cancer tumors occur in the upper outside quadrant of the breast area. This is precisely where the lymph nodes are located. Additionally, men are less likely (but not completely exempt) to develop breast cancer prompted by anti-perspirant usage because most of the anti-perspirant product is caught in their hair and is not directly applied to the skin.
Women who apply anti-perspirant right after shaving increase the risk further because shaving causes almost imperceptible nicks in the skin which give the chemicals entrance into the body from the armpit area.

However, researchers at the National Cancer Institute (NCI), a part of the National Institutes of Health, are not aware of any conclusive evidence linking the use of underarm antiperspirants or deodorants and the subsequent development of breast cancer. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which regulates food, cosmetics, medicines, and medical devices, also does not have any evidence or research data that ingredients in underarm antiperspirants or deodorants cause cancer.

The scientific findings linking breast cancer and antiperspirants are inconclusive. Much of the data conflicts with one another, and not enough experiments have been properly conducted to definitively have an answer. As of right now, further research needs to be conducted in order to find if there is a link between breast cancer and antiperspirants, although even if there is a link, there are much bigger risk factors out there that people should be more worried about (such as their diet and family history).

Urban legend or fact? What do you think?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Complementary & Alternative Medicine

Cancer is a journey-both medical and emotional. You leave behind the life you know as soon as you hear the words "you have cancer", unsure of what lies ahead. Did you know that among Hindu religionists, cancer is often viewed as karmic payback for bad deeds from a past life? What did I do that was so horrible? It's quite unnerving.
Returning to work after a cancer diagnosis can be more of a mental challenge than a physical one. Although some survivors can work through treatment and not miss a beat (hopefully I can do so), others find it to be an emotional transition. The new status of being a cancer patient (or survivor) can be difficult as they may reassess their career and/or refocus on other priorities such as family, friends or philanthropic work. I'm trying to figure out where I'm at with all this. I have missed being at work but it has got me thinking about the future. (Don't worry kids, I'm not planning on leaving anytime soon!)
I've started to get the feeling back in the boobette and my arm. It feels really weird. I spent the day reading books on cancer and researching complementary & alternative approaches. Although often identified by the acronym CAM (complementary and alternative medicine), leaders in the field say the term is problematic based on their distinct differences. Alternative therapy refers to unproven or disproven treatments that are used instead of standard or proven therapy, and complementary therapy is used in addition to standard medicine to help improve quality of life and relieve chemotherapy and radiation side effects. The term “integrative” is now used to more accurately describe CAM therapies that complement conventional cancer therapy. You'd be surprised with what's out there--everything from coffee enemas to the all-grape diet. It makes my head spin! Any other outlandish suggestions from anyone?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Feel Your Boobies

Ok, time for some education. Not to harp on this but since I discovered my cancer by a self-exam, I decided to post information on self-exams. So, Feel Your Boobies!

To perform a breast self-exam, follow the steps described below.

In the mirror:

1. Stand undressed from the waist up in front of a large mirror in a well-lit room. Look at your breasts. Don't be alarmed if they do not look equal in size or shape. Most women's breasts aren't. With your arms relaxed by your sides, look for any changes in size, shape, or position, or any changes to the skin of the breasts. Look for any skin puckering, dimpling, sores, or discoloration. Inspect your nipples and look for any sores, peeling, or change in the direction of the nipples.

2. Next, place your hands on your hips and press down firmly to tighten the chest muscles beneath your breasts. Turn from side to side so you can inspect the outer part of your breasts.

3. Then bend forward toward the mirror. Roll your shoulders and elbows forward to tighten your chest muscles. Your breasts will fall forward. Look for any changes in the shape or contour of your breasts.

4. Now, clasp your hands behind your head and press your hands forward. Again, turn from side to side to inspect your breasts' outer portions. Remember to inspect the border underneath your breasts. You may need to lift your breasts with your hand to see this area.

5. Check your nipples for discharge (fluid). Place your thumb and forefinger on the tissue surrounding the nipple and pull outward toward the end of the nipple. Look for any discharge. Repeat on your other breast.

In the shower:

6. Now, it's time to feel for changes in the breast. It is helpful to have your hands slippery with soap and water. Check for any lumps or thickening in your underarm area. Place your left hand on your hip and reach with your right hand to feel in the left armpit. Repeat on the other side.

7. Check both sides for lumps or thickenings above and below your collarbone.

8. With hands soapy, raise one arm behind your head to spread out the breast tissue. Use the flat part of your fingers from the other hand to press gently into the breast. Follow an up-and-down pattern along the breast, moving from bra line to collarbone. Continue the pattern until you have covered the entire breast. Repeat on the other side.

Lying down:

9. Next, lie down and place a small pillow or folded towel under your right shoulder. Put your right hand behind your head. Place your left hand on the upper portion of your right breast with fingers together and flat. Body lotion may help to make this part of the exam easier.

10. Think of your breast as a face on a clock. Start at 12 o'clock and move toward 1 o'clock in small circular motions. Continue around the entire circle until you reach 12 o'clock again. Keep your fingers flat and in constant contact with your breast. When the circle is complete, move in one inch toward the nipple and complete another circle around the clock. Continue in this pattern until you've felt the entire breast. Make sure to feel the upper outer areas that extend into your armpit.

11. Place your fingers flat and directly on top of your nipple. Feel beneath the nipple for any changes. Gently press your nipple inward. It should move easily.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Good news and bad news

I saw the oncologist today. The tumor was 3.5 centimeters (Stage 2) but it was contained and has not spread to the lymph nodes. The PET Scan revealed a spot under the esophagus that needs a biopsy to determine exactly what it is. It was not a "hot" spot so they think it's probably a cyst. They are hoping to do the biopsy this week. Chemotherapy is scheduled to begin November 4th. Unfortunately because it is an aggressive cancer (HER2+), I will need 18 weeks of chemotherapy which is once every 3 weeks for 6 rounds. During that same time, I will be receiving Herceptin, which specifically targets HER2, kills those cancer cells and decreases the risk of recurrence. Even after chemotherapy is complete, I will continue receiving Herceptin until 1 year has passed. I will also have to take Tamoxifen for 5 years.
The staples were removed today-the boobette is healing fine! Again they warned me about losing my hair. They say with the aggressive chemotherapy, hair loss is a given. So we need to resurrect the headgear discussion. Apparently I will also need a cool stocking cap to keep my head warm! Interestingly, I was also informed that having cancer makes me disabled and my employer has to "accommodate" me. Ha! I told you so, Tara. I want that cushy handicap space by the door! (Just kidding). I'm not at all worried about my employer "accommodating" me.

Sunday, October 11, 2009


There once was a woman who woke up one morning, looked in the mirror,
and noticed she had only three hairs on her head.
'Well,' she said, 'I think I'll braid my hair today.'

So she did and she had a wonderful day.

The next day she woke up, looked in the mirror
and saw that she had only two hairs on her head.
'H-M-M,' she said, 'I think I'll part my hair down the middle today.'

So she did and she had a wonderful day.

The next day she woke up, looked in the mirror
and noticed that she had only one hair on her head.
'Well,' she said, 'today I'm going to wear my hair in a pony tail.'

So she did and she had a wonderful day.

The next day she woke up, looked in the mirror
and noticed that there wasn't a single hair on her head.
'YAY!' she exclaimed.

'I don't have to fix my hair today!'

Attitude is everything!

Be kinder than necessary, for everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle.

Live simply, Love generously, Care deeply, Speak kindly

Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass...

It's about learning to dance in the rain.


Author Unknown

Saturday, October 10, 2009

My sojourn

This is a Sojourn Cancer Bear that my dear friend, Ellen Fondren, had sent to me. Sojourn Bears primary mission is to make cancer bear-able by providing inspiration and comfort to adult cancer patients through the distribution of original hand-made teddy bears. The message is "This bear is given as a sign of love and understanding from one cancer patient to another. To sojourn is to stay for a time or reside temporarily. It's our hope and prayers that your time with cancer is a short sojourn with a happy, fruitful ending. We've learned that hugging is the perfect cure for whatever ails you. At least if it doesn't make you well, just seeing or hugging a teddy invokes a feeling of warmth, security and whimsy in the hearts of all ages. We encourage you to hug your Sojourn Bear often. It will take in your joys and your fears. Our love and bears hugs are with you."
I have received cards, gifts and positive energy/prayers from so many of you that I'm beginning to lose track. The outpouring of support has been overwhelming but greatly appreciated. It's nice to know how much people care. It has also made me realize that things should never be left unsaid. Our loved ones should know how we feel about them. I know that I could not face this fight without all of you. While I often draw strength from Hannah, Bert & Mike, I sustain my strength because of all of you. So, thank you for being there when I need you most. Most of you know how much I hate asking for help but I haven't even had to ask. Thanks for making it easier.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Living In Fast Forward?!

I've spent so much time researching nutrition & cancer that I should have a degree! It's hard to believe how much what we eat affects us. There's a Kenny Chesney song titled "Living In Fast Forward" which starts out like this:

The body's a temple, that's what we're told
I've treated this one like an old honky-tonk
Greasy cheeseburgers and cheap cigarettes
One day they'll get me if they ain't got me yet

It made me wonder if that's what I had done to myself? Well, minus the cigarettes. I'm trying to be good and eat right but I'm really troubled by hard it is! Bad eating habits are extremely hard to break. It helps that Mike, Hannah and Bert are trying to eat right also. Tonight we had whole wheat pasta with organic sauce. It was really quite good. I need to be fully on the anticancer diet at least one week before chemotherapy starts. I'm doing pretty well although I did have a bite of peanut butter which is a no-no.
I saw the surgeon today to have fluid build-up aspirated but there wasn't much. He told me that if my boobette looks like it's growing, not to get excited because it will just be fluid! Damn! I guess growing it is out of the question. I saw a feature on the news where a woman had fat taken out of her butt and injected into her boobs. I wonder if that's an option? I'd have to take it out of my stomach as my butt actually doesn't have much fat to spare! I'm sure that procedure is too "experimental" for the insurance company to even consider.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Soy or Not?

It was such a crappy, rainy day that I spent the day doing more research. I really wish I could go back to work-I feel like I'm "loafing". So cancer research will have to suffice. There is so much controversy surrounding the question of breast cancer patients eating soy . says the concern about soy is that the estrogen-like substances (isoflavones) in soy may stimulate the estrogen receptors of breast cancer cells and make them grow. It's this potential danger that makes many doctors warn their breast cancer patients against eating soy products. Then you find other information that says a small amount of soy is ok. I'm so confused!!! Reliv is a soy-based nutritional supplement and now I'm wondering if I should continue using it?
I'm happy to say that as I've spent more time researching the anticancer diet that pasta is not completely out of the question. Spinach pasta, Jerusalem artichoke pasta and whole-wheat pasta are ok as long as it's no more than 2x a week. Tara says that the whole-wheat pasta is pretty good. I can also have butter (not margarine)--Yeah! Looks like I'll also be eating lots of veggies. For supper I had chicken breast and a mixture of vegetables (okra, tomatoes, corn, asparagus and carrots) which was actually very tasty. I'll be hanging out at Strawberry Fields looking for organic foods I can eat.
I ordered some books on cancer today. I ordered the book Rick loaned me, Natural Strategies For Cancer Patients, as it has so much good information. I started to take notes but it is so chock-full of good info, I decided I needed a copy. I also ordered a couple of books my friend Tess (from the fabulous Illinois Coalition Against Domestic Violence) suggested-Cancer: The Complete Recovery Guide and The Chemotherapy & Radiation Therapy Survival Guide. I feel very fortunate to have so many wonderful, caring friends who have taken the time to also research the issue and offer suggestions. Back to the surgeon's office tomorrow to have the fluid buildup checked and drained if needed. I shouldn't be allowed to have this much fun!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Food Strategies

Many of you may know how fanatical I am about gathering information. I have always believed that information is power. So today I started reading Natural Strategies For Cancer Patients by Dr. Russell Blaylock, one of the world's foremost experts on cancer and nutrition. It was loaned to me by my awesome massage therapist, Rick Smith. Let me tell you, it scared me shitless! I've definitely learned things that none of my doctors have told me. Especially about the diabetes and cancer connection. I understand that I have to completely change my diet.
Sadly, I discovered that their is an additive in ice cream and baked goods called carrageenan. It is an especially powerful promoter of cancer growth and spread. (This ingredient is listed on the product label, I checked). Dr. Blaylock also says to stay away from all of the newer sweeteners since they have not been tested for safety. A small amount of Sweet 'n Low is acceptable and Stevia is ok. Boy am I screwed! Eek, step away from the cookies and ice cream!!!
Here are the diet suggestions listed:
1. Choose chicken or turkey.
2. Avoid commercially prepared food.
3. Avoid cow's milk, cheese & milk-based products.
3. Avoid foods containing aspartame, MSG, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, soy protein & the additive carrageenan.
4. Avoid plastic containers.
5. Avoid sugar.
6. Avoid fruit juice.
So, if you should see me eating something that is not good for me, you have my permission to tackle me, slap me, whatever it takes to get my attention. I know how hard this is going to be but my life depends on it!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Mastectomy and Menopause?

Today the hemovac drain was removed. Pulling it out felt so weird and hurt a little. I finally got a good look at the incision and what's left of my breast. There are 25 staples in there! I called it an A- cup but Hannah says that it's not even an A-! A--- maybe? They say that a woman who undergoes a mastectomy has to deal with not only the stress of coping with the cancer but also the anguish of losing her breast. Not that I was all that enamored of my boobs as they've mostly been a pain in the ass, getting in the way all the time so I was unprepared for the emotion that followed the first "real" look. I actually felt like a freak. It made me cry.
Apparently I was being too "active" today and Dr. Mom (aka Hannah) gave me holy hell. The surgeon says I can't go back to work for 10-14 days! He's killin' me. Then Dr. Mom was mad at me because I was running around the house flashing my non-exist boob at everyone. Sometimes she has no sense of humor. See, when Mike & I went to Sturgis in 2004 and everyone was flashing their boobs, I wasn't. Talked about missed opportunities! I was just trying to make up for it.
God/the Universe/Mother Nature (whatever you believe in) must have a sense of humor because not only do I have cancer but it's pushing me straight into menopause-hot flashes, night sweats and all. I've been waking up at night soaked and accusing Mike of peeing on me. Turns out it's me soaking the bed! And I swear I smell but hopefully now that I can actually shower instead of sponge bathe, I'll not feel so stinky. But I'll still feel freaky!!!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Did anyone get the number of that truck?

I swear I've been run over by a truck! Ever inch of my body hurts. They warned me that fatigue is the most common symptom associated with cancer and cancer treatment. There are no standard definitions for cancer-related fatigue, although it has been characterized as overwhelming, whole-body tiredness that is unrelated to activity or exertion. It is not easily relieved by sleep or rest. Boy, they weren't kidding. Other than that, I feel fine. I have a hemovac for wound drainage that is due to be removed tomorrow. I'm glad because it's itching something terrible. The purpose of this type of device is to promote healing by draining fluid from the wound. This prevents swelling and pooling of blood and fluid. The drainage tube is threaded through the skin into the wound near the surgical incision and is held in place by stitches. I keep catching it on things and yanking on it. Luckily, I haven't pulled it out! This is what the hemovac looks like (see right):
Today is the Day of Unity for Domestic Violence Awareness Month. AWF had it's annual silent march and press conference. It sucks that I couldn't be there! I know it went well and the gang at AWF is handling things, but this was my baby. I'm thankful to all of my lovely co-workers for stepping up for me! I was able to get some fresh air this evening sitting out on the front porch and it was great. It really helped me to feel better and less fatigued.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Rough night in Cancerville

During surgery, I was filled up with air (CO2) so the instruments could easily maneuver within my tissue. You have to pass the gas or the pain is excruciating. Walking certainly helps so I wandered the house last night as the gas settled in my lower back. As it started moving, I spent the night farting & belching. Mike, being supportive, joined in the "gas fest". Luckily it pretty much dissipated by morning. Now I'm experiencing hot flashes, followed by chills. Jeez, what's next?
If you don't already know, I have the most awesome massage therapist, Rick Smith. Now that I'm a cancer patient, deep tissue massage is out of the question. So Rick has started using Reiki on me. Reiki practitioners channel energy in a particular pattern to heal and harmonize. Unlike other healing therapies based on the premise of a human energy field, Reiki seeks to restore order to the body whose vital energy has become unbalanced. Thanks to all of you who sent positive thoughts during my surgery. I could feel all the positive energy as I awoke in the recovery room awash in a cocoon of good energy, with a feeling of peace. Special thanks to Tara who brought over her homemade chicken pot pie for supper tonight. It was delicious. And for all of you wondering if I plan to go to work tomorrow-NO, my body is far too sore!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Look Ma, No Boob!

Surgery went well and I was released from the hospital this afternoon. I have a drain installed that will be removed next week. They installed a Bard port, also known as a mediport, which is surgically connected to a large vein or artery and implanted under the skin, for direct access to the blood stream. It is used for long-term IV medication therapy (chemo, etc.). They did tell me that I have tested positive for HER2. HER2 stands for Human Epidermal growth factor Receptor 2. HER2+ tumors tend to grow and spread more quickly than tumors that are not HER2+. In addition, the treatment of HER2+ breast cancer is different than the treatment of breast cancer that is not HER2+. Studies show that approximately 25% of breast cancer patients have tumors that are HER2+. It means more aggressive treatment. It also means that the right breast might eventually have to come off, too. Thankfully, it is not hereditary.
I'm feeling good about my recovery. I'm in good hands and plan to assault this cancer on all fronts. No stone will be left unturned. Just having the tumor gone feels good. And believe it or not, having only one boob isn't so bad!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Cancer Wars

There is a song by Rodney Atkins called If You're Going Through Hell, which is the ringtone on my cell phone. Part of the lyrics are:

If your going through hell
Keep on going, don't slow down
If you're scared don't show it
You might get out
Before the devil even knows you're there

Yeah, If you're going through hell
Keep on moving, face that fire
Walk right through it
You might get out
Before the devil even knows you're there

That's my philosophy-it's hard to hit a moving target! So I came up with a video game concept. I call it Cancer Wars. It's a combination of hide-n-seek and dodgeball. The 2 villains are the Devil and the Grim Reaper. The hero/heroine has to avoid the "cancer" balls they throw or catch them and use them as weapons against the villains. I haven't worked out all the details yet, but I enjoy figuring out ways to dodge the "cancer" balls. The Devil likes to telegraph his moves, but that Grim Reaper, he's a sneaky one. You have to be on guard at all times!
Tomorrow is surgery. The results of the MRI and the PET Scan are not yet available but they found an infection in my right breast. So they can't remove it yet even if it needs to come off. I have a bad feeling I'll have to go through this again with the right breast. The surgeon has decided that we cannot wait as the left breast needs to be removed, now. I'm trying to respect that decision as he doesn't want to release infection on top of cancer. I realize he's just looking out for me. I don't know why I have to make everything so hard! I'm expected to be in the hospital at least overnight but if I can talk Hannah into posting information you might see an entry tomorrow. Send me all the positive energy you can and keep me in your prayers.