Friday, January 15, 2016

Cancer, Stage 4 - exit left!

It's funny how the human mind works. After I'd been cancer free for a few years, I stopped keeping up on this blog. I guess it was because I figured that if I didn't talk about it anymore, cancer would die from neglect. But that's the thing about cancer, it really doesn't care whether or not you ignore it. IT makes up the time schedule, whether you feed it or not. Sometimes, it decides that the battle should begin anew. It's reared its ugly head, and has challenged me to another duel. I am now Stage 4 - my cancer has metastasized.

Due to other health issues, my niece, Melody, has dubbed me the "Queen of Beating the Odds". Well, it's time to pick up the crown, give it a good scrub, and put it back on my head. Along with a hefty suit of armour.

It's time to go to war.

I'll write more this weekend, but let me say this. There is an arsenal of new medicines that have just recently (within 3-6 months) been approved in this fight. And I intend to use each & every one of them.
 







Thursday, April 10, 2014

New nipple - hopefully

Well, folks, Dr. Morrissey tattoed my new nipple a few weeks ago. It started out really dark, and didn't match ol' lefty even a little bit. He said it'll lighten up, which is has, but it's not quite a match. We're going to wait a few months & see what happens. And hasn't that been the story of my battle with cancer to date?

Anyways, I've finally decided to write my book about my battle with cancer. Just as I've been here with you, I'm going to be very candid about what I've been through. I just recently realized that I was Stage 3c, which is one step away from metasticizing. Translation - whole different outcome. I would have been annoying the daylights out of St. Peter to let me thru the Gates of Heaven. I'm Lucy, though, I can annoy even a Saint. So I'm a very, very lucky girl. And St. Peter can breathe a sigh of relief that he doesn't have to deal with me yet. Then again, I might be going the other way.

Keep your fingers crossed that I can finish this book! I get distracted easily and . . . . . oh, look, a butterfly!
 

Monday, January 27, 2014

It's late & I'm heading into bed soon. I'm up, though, cause I have an appointment with my oncologist, Dr. Nakajima. I have to have a real talk with him - and I haven't told you about it because I don't want you to worry that you may experience the same thing. I'm pretty sure I'm in the minority.

Anyways, I've been experiencing shooting pains from my elbows to my hands. When it reaches my hands, they tingle, itch and/or feel like they're being poked with a hundred needles. Needless to say, it isn't pleasant. Couple that with my joint pain, the pain that radiates from my back to my front legs all the way to the soles of my feet, & I'm hurting a lot more than I thought I would at this time.

Let me be REALLY CLEAR, though! I contracted MRSA during the mastectomy & spent months trying to knock it out. I had 3 additional surgeries & an extended hospital stay so they could administer IV antibiotics. They also left the wound open, packed it, & cleaned it. It wasn't pleasant. Then I had the max amount of chemo they could give you followed by 6 weeks of radiation - a lot of people don't have to go thru that many. What I'm experiencing is unusual. Please don't think that because I'm sharing this with you that it's in any way normal. If you have any questions, or want to pick my brain, please leave a message either at the bottom of this blog or directly to me at tamkells@gmail.com. Please put "cancer" or something like that in the memo line, though, so I know it's okay to open the email.

Anyways, I've been having pain & Dr. Nakajima gave me pain meds a few months ago. I don't want to have to continue to take them, which is evidenced by the fact that I don't get in touch with Dr. Nakajima before any appointment to ask for more. I take them sparingly, but the fact of the matter is that I need to ask him for more.

The weird thing is that I'm nervous about doing that! Matt keeps telling me that I just went thru Hell, & am dealing with painful side effects & that's his job to help me. Still, I don't want him to think I'm trolling for drugs. Matt made me promise I'd ask though.

I'll let you know this week what happened. Also, if you have ANY suggestions about dealing with this neuropathy & the tingling/numbing/needles sticking in my hands, I'd sure appreciate your input.

K, gotta get to bed. It's after 2:00 am! Thank you so much for your continued prayers.



Tuesday, October 15, 2013

PINKTOBER (or, shoot me now)



During Pinktober, I and my fellow cancer bloggers, rail about the world turning pink and all the money to be made by slapping a pink ribbon on just about everything. However, for the record, I want to thank everyone who purchased the products, signed up for the walks, and wore (or wear) pink ribbons. I know that you wanted to help, and thought you were doing so. I can’t tell you how deeply I appreciate what you’ve done. BBC (before breast cancer), I did the same thing because, like you, I never knew the truth. Still, if you want to wear the pink ribbon – you go right on ahead! I’m not offended! I think you’re awesome; I just want us all to take the next step & demand honesty from those that claim to be helping us find “the cure”. Again, thank you for wanting to help the cause and women like me. God Bless You.



I can’t help it, but every time Pinktober rolls around, I think about Ralphie in the movie, “Christmas Story”. Aunt Clara made a big pink bunny suit for him, which his mother forced him to try on. As he comes down the steps, his mother thinks that it’s adorable while his father shares in his son’s horror. He says that Ralphie looks like a big pink nightmare. All I can think about is the other months, staring as October is forced to wear pink; you just know they’re all laughing and pointing. Which is sad, because October should be equated with falling leaves, apple cider, pumpkins, and Halloween. 

Sadly, like Ralphie, it’s now just a big pink nightmare.

I have my own rants coming your way about this time of the year when all the world turns pink and companies slap a pink ribbon on just about everything. Hey, there’s money to be made! But before I rail, I want to share a post from my blogging sister, Ann Silberman. Ann is a metastatic cancer patient, and is fighting each and every day. The way I see it, if anyone can beat Stage 4, it’s Ann (and my friend, Stacy).

You can keep up with Ann on her blog, “Breast Cancer? But Doctor – I hate Pink”. Here’s her story about being contacted to help a guy “save man’s real best friend – boobs”. Ugh. Wouldn’t it be nice if the emphasis was on saving the woman, not the boobs? Anyways, here’s what Ann had to say to the idiot:


Look at this jerk. He actually wrote me a private message and asked me to support him in his effort to save "man's real best friend...boobs." and asked me if I wanted to "rock a tee shirt" like a dying woman has the energy to "rock" anything, and support Komen and some damn race. He didn't bother to call me by name, (more evidence that those of us with mets are not people) he didn't learn my stance on Komen, didn't even gather a little clue by the name "I hate pink." He just blithely asks me to help him get MONEY so he can enjoy himself. He's spamming me, obviously, but hey, it's for the "cause" How could I possibly object?

My response? In part: "I, along with many metastatic women, do not support Komen and won't have anything to do with them. Komen does not help the ONLY women who will die of breast cancer - those of us with metastatic disease. Out of hundreds of millions of dollars raised, Komen donates only 17% towards research that could possibly result in a cure. The rest of their money goes to throw parties and races for the "Survivors" which also include women who never had cancer. Their profound focus on early detection has caused tens of thousands of women to lose their breasts over a disease that is called DCIS which could never, ever have killed them. Research would help them too.

I am dying of cancer. It is not cute, it is not pink. It is not about bras, and it's not about "rocking" anything.

You want to show support for women with cancer? Than learn something, don't just do something you enjoy already (exercise) and pretend you are helping. Read my blog. Read sites like "Think Before You Pink." Watch the movie Pink Ribbons, Incorporated. Read the New York Times article (where I am quoted) here:

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/28/magazine/our-feel-good-war-on-breast-cancer.html?ref=magazine&_r=0

Ugh, I hate this month, where every idiot in the world wants to make a buck off the suffering of the 40k women who will die this year of breast cancer and everybody thinks because I have written about my terminal disease of breast cancer I MUST support Komen. That is how brainwashed they have people.

Do not help this guy and in fact, let's get the word out that if he wants to run in a damn race then he should effing pay for it himself. His prizes for donations include such sensitive and charming items as "sweater puppy solo cups"

UGH UGH UGH UGH UGH

I suggest you ask any other metastatic women to support you as you will likely get a very similar response.




Thanks, Ann, for always telling it like it is. If you’d like a REAL eye opener at how low Komen will go to get money for feel good walks & parties, check out Ann’s latest post on her Facebook page. You can read it here.

Un freaking believable.


Sunday, September 1, 2013

Houston, we have a nipple



Looking back on recent posts, I see that I have been remiss in telling you about what you get sent home with once you have a brand new nipple. Ready to find out what this sci-fi like technological wonder is?  Really? Okay, heeeerrrreee it is:


It’s a piece of foam that they cut a hole in, held onto your breast with tape. Don’t get me wrong; it works. The thing is, after seeing all that they can do with rebuilding my boob, I expected there to be some amazing contraption (that I never would have dreamed of) protecting the new nipple. Eh – the point is, it works, so there you go.

The second nipple surgery has gone quite well! Plus, Dr. Morrissey didn’t need to do a skin graft or take fat, so there wasn’t any pain – woo hoo! It’s looking good, well, with the exception of the ugly black stitches. Ever notice how black looks even darker when it’s up against a light colour? I’m so white, I glow in the dark, so the stitches are kind of scary looking.

The good news is that there has been no oozing or scabbing this time!! The bad news is that it looks like a little cone head. Hopefully, that’ll change in time, or else I’m going to look perpetually cold.

I see either Morrissey or Jason next Wednesday. I’ll let you know how it goes!

In the meantime, here’s a big head’s up!!!

YOU CAN NOT WEAR UNDERWIRE BRAS IF YOU’VE HAD DIEP FLAP RECONSTRUCTION SURGERY (and probably TRAM flap surgery as well).

Dr. Topham told me this, but that was a while ago. I guess I conveniently forgot, as at the beginning of summer, I was going nuts because I needed a strapless bra. Ever tried to find one of those bad boys without a wire in them? Trust me – it’s like rooting for truffles in a fish tank. I’d found this really cute dress, but it was strapless. Finally, I decided that since it was only this one time, I dug out an older strapless bra – with underwire. I trotted around, all happy with my smart self, arrogantly thinking I knew what I was doing.

Until that night.

I took off my bra, glanced down at my boob, & saw that it was misshapen – really, really misshapen. It looked like something out of a sci fi movie. I freaked out a little.


Okay, I freaked out A LOT. But it was the weekend so I couldn’t call Dr. Topham and let’s face it – a trip to the emergency room was out of the question. Although if I’m being honest, it did cross my mind. Fortunately, the boob was back to its normal boob like shape in the morning. Crisis averted.

Still, I wanted to find a strapless bra that didn’t house those little torture wires; I began to look everywhere. They have plenty of those boob squishers called “bandeau bras”. If you happen to wear a cup size over “B”, then this isn’t for you. Well, that is unless you want your boobs flattened, sending them migrating to your back, thus parking your nipple in your armpit. If that’s cool with you, then have at one - and send pictures.

However, one glorious day, I took Boy to the Philadelphia Outlet mall, where I saw a Maidenform store. I knew that I wouldn’t be able to sleep if I didn’t at least give it a shot, so I went in. A really sweet girl (who I took to calling Angel when I retold the story) asked if she could help me; so I told her that I was looking for what constitutes the Holy Grail of bras for reconstructed boobs. She thought for a second, then went towards the back of the store, stuck her hand in a display, and brought out a wire free strapless bra.

I had to blink my eyes really fast cause I could have sworn I saw a halo glowing over her head.

I asked if there were more of these treasures hidden throughout the store, and she sadly informed me that she was surprised they had this one. Oh, well, I didn’t care, I had the elusive wire free strapless bra in my hot little hands and I was happier than a politician with an original idea (whoops – that’ll never happen so let’s just say I was happy). Just at the moment I thought Nirvana was mine, my salesgirl asked if it was the right size.

What?

I stood there gaping at Angel as in my mind her halo fell off her head and Elvira, Mistress of the Night, was looking back at me instead. It’s amazing how quickly one can go from joy to despair.

Thankfully, the band size was correct, but the cup size was one size too small. I thought for several moments, then made a decision to buy the bra. I figured that as long as I had one of those nipple foam devises to protect my new addition, I was gonna jam those bad boys into that bra like I was stuffing a sausage. All was once again right with the world and I took my bipolar self out of the store; of course, after thanking Angel profusely.

Naturally, I wanted another one of these miracle bras, and came home to begin my search on the world wide intranets – only to find that they no longer manufacture this well made bra. Well, of course they don’t – it’s comfortable. My friend, Dorothy, said that maybe I could take wire out of a bra, which was brilliant! So I grabbed an older one out and began the task of yanking the booby destroying wire out. A few cuts, several gashes, a myriad of curse words that I didn’t even know I knew and well over an hour later, I triumphantly held the wire in my bloody little hands. I put it on, and grabbed a shirt. While my arms were heading north to put the shirt on, the bra was headed south. Or, I found out what keeps most bras up – and I’d just removed it.

I’m still looking for a comfortable wire free bra. Wait, I should amend that to strapless. You can find many regular bras without the little torture wires, but that’s because straps hold the girls in place. I have no idea what miracle produced the Maidenform bra, but I’m still looking for another one.

To that end, if you ever stumble upon a Lilyette (made by Maidenform) bra, style #457, would you give me a holler?

This Wednesday, I think Morrissey will take the stitches out of ol’ righty here. Soon, it’ll be time to tattoo her so she looks like lefty. I’ll be sure to let you know, in mind numbing detail, how it looks as we near the finish line. Why should things change now?




Thursday, August 22, 2013

Just a quick giggle

I'm getting a post ready, but until I put it up, I thought I'd share this with you.

If you love something, set it free. If it comes back, it was meant to be...if it doesn't come back it was never yours to begin with. BUT, if it just sits in your living room, messes up your stuff, eats all of your food, uses your phone, takes your money and doesn't appear to realize you set it free...you either married it or gave birth to it!

And you'd get all this silliness for free if you "like" my Lucy page on Facebook. I have NO idea why that's important, but supposedly it is. I contend that my readers are like me - technological troglodytes. We're only using the web for important things, like shopping. In fact, one of my dear readers sent me an email about the time she tried to find my Facebook page, so she had her son Google "The Brunette Lucy". 

And that's how I found out there's a porn star out there going by the same name. 

Anyways, here's my stupid Facebook page in the event you're bored & want to scroll thru & read some of the dumb stuff I post (like the above). Just click the link & my big ol' face will show up (my big ol' AIRBRUSHED face)! I'll never be accused of writing the great American novel, but I sure do think of stupid stuff. That counts for something, right? Okay, here's the link:

The Brunette Lucy

Before I let you go, I have to show you the sweetest, most adorable nurse ever in the whole wide world (aside from my daughter, Elyse). Her name is Kyriel Manzo and she's awesome. She, like Jason (you can see his photo below) work for Dr. Morrissey. Soo, like I always say, if you need a plastic surgeon, see Morrissey. He's a talented surgeon & his staff is the best.

Here's Kyriel (with her dog Bruno):






Isn't she adorable??


I'll post about my second nipple surgery soon! Then I'll tell you about my visit with Dr. Nakajima (oncologist). I have the most interesting conversations with nurses. Here's a hint - we spoke of undergarments of the steel belted, rearranging your innerds persuasion. 





Wednesday, August 7, 2013

A nipple for Lucy - kind of



Sorry I haven’t written for a while! I’ll try to catch you up as best I can.

Before I do, would you mind including my friend, Stacey Kemmerer, in your prayers? I’m at the end of my battle, but there are SO many women out there on the battlefield, fighting the good fight, but needing as much help as they can get. It seriously freaks me out that cancer hasn’t been eradicated. What with all the foundations dedicated to finding the cure, you’d think we’d be much farther along in our understanding of this horrible disease.

Unfortunately, many charities have lost their way and are using the funds for things that have nothing to do with cancer research. Susan G. Komen, in MY OPINION (if I don’t say that, I can get sued – they have tons of lawyers on hand to keep an eye on people like me. And sue, sue, sue, sue, sue – that should really be their motto – in my opinion), is the worst. If you learn nothing from this blog, please know that many, many women who blog about cancer feel the same way about this organization that should be ashamed of themselves – in my opinion. If you’d like to read more about them & others, I wrote a four part series for AOL’s “Patch”. The first two parts were about my experiences with cancer; parts three and four deal with what many of my blogging sisters refer to as “pinkwashing”. Here’s the links to those articles:




Okey doke, I’ll get off my soap box! On to what’s been going on.


Dr. Morrissey has a new doctor working with him. His name is Jason Dos Santos & he is so freaking sweet! I keep forgetting to bring my camera to appointments, and I haven’t taken a decent picture with my Blackberry in, let me think . . . oh, let’s see. When was the last time I took a decent picture with my phone? Oh, yeah, I know – never. Soooo, I found his photo on line (if you’re reading this, Jason, please don’t kill me for putting this up). Here he is:





Cute, right?

Okay, back to nipples.

After the new nipple surgery, I was feeling pretty awesome. It looked amazing. Dr. Morrissey put a skin graft on half of it – the top half. Of course, that’s what I see when I’m looking down, so that was cool. Then he created the nipple mound using what’s called a “skate flap”.

Before I forget, Dr. Morrissey said he didn’t think it would hurt much. Now, I consider myself a seasoned surgical veteran, and hence, a bit of a connoisseur of levels of pain. I’m also fairly sure that I have a little higher tolerance than most. Much to my chagrin, I discovered that due to all these surgeries, I’m highly tolerant of percocet. Which really, really sucks. Anyways, when I saw him for a follow up visit, I told him to never tell a woman that it doesn't hurt again. Well, I think I might have said something snarky like, “it hurt, you ass”. I hope not THAT snarky, but I say so many dumb things, it’s hard to keep them all straight. Anyways, it’ll hurt because they’re taking skin & fat from other places on your body. The breast mound has no nerve endings, so there’s no pain there. But I don’t care who you are, if someone slices off some of your skin, it’s gonna hurt. And I don’t know why (and I kept forgetting to ask) but my side and a small area on my stomach was really, really sore for weeks. Sore, however, I can deal with.

But I digress.

For the first week or two, everything went great. Matt & I even went on a weekend get away to celebrate our 25 years of marriage; to each other - with all 25 years served consecutively (giggle).

Then, it began to ooze. And a small part near the projection site turned green. Originally, I thought it was infected, but Jason said that my body rejected that portion of the graft & cut it off. The projection began to look smaller. Then the oozing stopped and scabs began to form. Then the scabs would fall off, the oozing started again, and the nipple began to shrink again. Long story short, the projection is almost nothing. Which really, really sucks. Now don’t get me wrong. Dr. Morrissey told me that shrinkage was normal and expected.

Gotta be honest, though. Every time he said that, all I could think of was the “Hamptons” episode of “Seinfeld” where Jerry’s girlfriend walked in after George had been swimming. Shrinkage, baby, shrinkage! “It shrinks like a frightened turtle”. Apparently, my nipple channeled a frightened turtle. And soon became little more than a pimple.

AAAAAGGGHHHHH!!!!

I had the option of having Dr. Morrissey do a 3-D tattoo. After the nipple had healed, I was going to have the areola tattooed to match ol’ lefty anyways. But all I could think about was I could have done that in the first place. So, I’m electing to give it another try. Tomorrow. If the nipple doesn’t take this time, I’ll just leave it alone & have the tattoo.

Tonight, I’m getting things ready for tomorrow’s surgery. I’ll write more, probably this weekend. I’ll explain what happens after surgery, and what you run around wearing in such a sensitive area. Curious, now, aren’t you?

I also want to tell you about the wonderful staff at St. Luke’s Quakertown campus. From checking in to pre-admission testing, the people are wonderful. I can’t wait to tell you about Fran, my awesome & beautiful (really) pre-admission nurse.

Talk to you in a few days!! In the meantime, feel free to leave your comments here. Or, you can “Like” me on Facebook. Here’s the link to that – The Brunette Lucy. I mostly post stupid stuff, but I also answer anyone who writes to me. Here’s a few examples of my dumb Facebook posts.



If you love something, set it free. If it comes back, it was meant to be...if it doesn't come back it was never yours to begin with. BUT, if it just sits in your living room, messes up your stuff, eats all of your food, uses your phone, takes your money and doesn't appear to realize you set it free...you either married it or gave birth to it!

If you’ve gauged huge holes in your ears and don’t keep Oreo cookies in them for snacks, then what the hell’s the point?

A friend took going to jail badly. He refused all offers of food & drink, spat at people, swore at anyone who came near him, and smeared the walls with his own feces.

We are NEVER playing Monopoly again.


 
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