Saturday, July 31, 2010

Yup, I'm Lucy

Good news!  Radiation isn't sucking too bad anymore.  Gotta tell you, it's a huge relief.  It's been much more comfortable than the first two times I went.  It probably has to do with a change of attitude – MY attitude.  I decided that this is only part of my day, not the whole day.  It still takes 2 hours in total, but, that's just two hours out of 24.  It's still a pill to have to calculate that into your daily life, but, what are you going to do?  

Bonus, there's a Mexican restaurant a block away that's awesome & a fruit & veggie stand on the way home.  I love that about summer; that & my deck that's exploding with flowers, bushes & vines.  The heat – I could do without.

I've decided to get back to writing.  I have the job at The Examiner (I've got 3-4 articles I'm working on), & I picked up free lance work with a Philadelphia area magazine.  Plus, I've stalled finishing my book long enough.  I need to be able to provide more than just quips to agents.  I have to string the whole book together & until I do, I'm going to put dealing with agents on the back burner.  Got enough going on right now! 

I've GOT to tell you about what happened when I got home the other day.  I'd worn a peasant top & a similar, very full, skirt.  It was in the middle of a (what's beginning to feel like an endless series of) heat wave of almost 100 degree days.  I was telling Matt & Gretchen about my day & while doing so, hiked my skirt up.  Since I'm a fidget, I was swaying side to side a bit.  They both started laughing & through the laughter, managed to tell me that I'd (yet again) reminded them of my name sake:
Yup, I came about the moniker "Brunette Lucy" honestly.  In fact, I was telling Michele about something I'd done the other day when she said that my life should come with a laugh track.  

Yesterday, Aubrie brought a package up for me.  It wasn't big enough to be what I was expecting, so I was baffled.  Then I saw the return address, Dorothy Brandes.  She's the lady who sent me a mastectomy bra for free.  You can find the link to her eBay store to the right of this.  She doesn't sell just mastectomy products, though.  She has all kinds of lingerie, so give her a look-see.  Her eBay store is called "Smiley's Treasures".

I opened the package to find that she'd sent me an "I Love Lucy" hat.  Here's the picture:
 Is anyone noticing an (almost) entire entry devoted solely to Lucy here?  Yikes!

She wrote a note in which she explained that she'd bought the hat years ago at a yard sale.  She didn't know why she did, though, as she never wore it.  For unknown reasons to her at the time, she just wanted that hat.  She shared that now she knows why – it was meant for me.  Isn't that the coolest thing ever??  It's amazing how things like that happen.  Thank you SO much, Dorothy!

On a sad note, though, her good friend was just diagnosed with breast cancer.  She underwent a double mastectomy recently.  I'm so sad for her, since she's at the beginning of her journey.  I hope that, like me, she'll be surrounded by wonderful family, friends, doctors & nurses.  In my book, if Dorothy's her friend, then she's well taken care of.

I'll tell you all about what happens at radiation in the next day or two.  I'm looking at Google images to show you what the machine looks like. 

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

I'm a blessed Lucy

I'll write about what happens in radiation next.  First, though, I felt that this entry needed to be made.

Thank you so much to those of you who've been following my journey.  I've received so many comments on my blog, Facebook messages & supportive emails, that I honestly don't know how to say thank you.  Some of you have confided in me, shared your experiences with me & have been my cheerleaders – even though you may not have even met me.  And I count myself as one of the most fortunate women in the world because of it.

I was thinking about this as my daughter, Elyse, was driving me to & from my radiation appointment.  I still struggle with neuropathy, & I occasionally take pain medicine for it.  Although, if I'm being honest, I can't WAIT to not have to take it.  I really, really don't get what people are talking about when they say they feel "high".  Really?  High?  Holy cows, it just tires my old butt out.  If I take one of those things, I'd better be near a bed & soon.  Cause it just makes me sleepy (& from what you've been telling me, you feel the same way.  What's up with that?).  But I digress.

Both of my babies have been shuttling me to most of my appointments.  They feel like they're helping – and they are.  They don't feel as helpless when they're doing something; even if it's driving me around from appointment to appointment.  Good Lord, I've been blessed with my family.

I've been fortunate in that I work from my home.  Not everyone has that luxury.  When I've been tired, I slept in.  When I was sick, I was in my own bathroom or bed.  When my hair, lashes & eyebrows fell out, it was within the privacy of my home.  When I couldn't make dinner, precious friends & family brought it to me.  Throughout all of this, I was able to deal with it safely ensconced in my house.  Most women (& men) aren't so lucky.

YOU, strong ladies, are the reason I write this entry.

Your stories have been imprinted on my heart, & I'll never forget that you felt comfortable enough to share them with me.  I can't fathom having to go through cancer, whether it be breast, colon, or any other kind, & have to go to work.  With all the crap that's cancer, you've managed to get up every morning & attend to all that you have on your plate.  Your stories have both inspired & humbled me. 

Thank you for sharing your struggles, your triumphs, & most importantly, your spirit with me.  I can't believe I've been given such a tremendous gift as to hear your stories.  I hope that sharing them with me has helped you, if only in the teeniest way.  I'm here if you need to vent, cry, brag, or share your frustrations with.  And I'll feel lucky to hear them.

To all the strong women out there, I salute you.  Your courage has been an inspiration to me.  Thank you.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Is this dumb or what?

I have my first two radiation treatments under my belt!  I have to say, it doesn't take that much time when I'm there.  It's the getting there that's a pain in the rear!  I think I told you that it's about 25 minutes each way.  Plus, my appointments are at 2:45 pm, so its rush hour when I'm done & going home.  

I asked about burning, & the nurse said that it depends on your skin.  BUT, there was a lady there Friday who was having her very last session.  She'd had a double mastectomy, & 8 more sessions than I'll have.  Either which way, she was pretty burned, but not in that weird way I showed on the blog earlier.  She said it was like a sun burn.  PLUS, they were expanding her tissue for her implants - yikes.  So, like Michele said, after all I've been through, a sun burn is the least of my problems.  I can sooo do this!  Possibly without even whining; but here's the juxtaposition. 

I know this sounds dumb, but, I've never felt like I'm a cancer patient more so than now.  I mean, really?  I've been through surgery that removed my breast, then several surgeries from the infection that resulted.  When that was done, I underwent chemo, & saw my hair, eyebrows & eyelashes fall out.  I hate to have my husband see me like this.  Yet this – THIS, is freaking me out.  What's up with that?  I may get a sun burn.  Holy cow, call the news & stop the presses; Lucy may get a sun burn.  Wow.

It's especially bizarre because my hair is growing back, albeit oddly.  The back of my head is a blaze of brunette fuzz.  The sides are coming in & the top is fuzzy as well.  My eyebrows & eyelashes are growing in at lightning fast speeds.  I haven't been more excited about the prospect of wielding a mascara wand in my life! 

I never thought I'd miss worrying about the peach fuzz that grows on the sides of my face, because man, that used to piss me off.  I went after it like a Jedi Knight hunting Darth Vader (call me Luke).  I see hair removal commercials now & I wish I had that problem.  But it's coming back!  So why this worrying over something completely painless, that will be over in just 6 short weeks?    

I was also freaked out about my port removal.  It's all so insane, it makes me wonder if I've lost all reason.  Matt made me laugh in pre-op, but it was just a moment.  I don't think I told you this part about the port removal.

Matt & I were speaking about the day I had my mastectomy while we were waiting for my port surgery.  We were joking about the anesthesiologist's assistant that kept trying to start an IV.  She stabbed me over & over again, resulting in a major bruise (I posted the photo to this blog).  

It was as if it was on cue from a macabre play that my nurse came over to start my IV for port removal surgery; right when we had finished reminiscing about it.  She tried twice, but couldn't get it going.  She'd get the needle in, push it further (I honestly thought she was wiggling it around in there), making me see stars.  Thankfully, she wasn't going to torture me any more, & called in help.  Another nurse started it without incident.  Still, I have two good sized bruises to this day from where the other one tried.

Anyway, I'll write more later & tell you about what the radiation procedure itself is like.  I just have to put my big girl panties on & suck it up.  I can see the finish line, but my feet feel like they're mired in quicksand.  Yup, it's pretty dumb.  But, I promised to tell you the truth, & this is it.

On the bright side, after radiation, we go on vacation to Maryland.  I'm planning on cultivating a taste for crab, since that's what Maryland's known for.  It takes one crab to know one!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

I've been deported!!

Yup, I had surgery yesterday to take out my port, making me officially de"port"ed.  Get it?  The next time I have surgery won't be until well after the New Year – need a break!  But, I'll be excited for this one, my "addaboobtome" (add a boob to me).  I can't take credit for these terms, though.  Matt had a LOT of time on his hands yesterday & came up with them.  At least we had a laugh.  On second thought, I wonder if the other people in the pre-op area thought we were nuts.  I mean, we were laughing before I was being wheeled into surgery.  Hey, we're Lucy & Ricky – it's expected (that's my story & I'm stickin' to it).

OK, folks, here's the update.

Monday I went for the dry run at the radiologist's (Dr. Cardiges) office.  Honestly, the nurses there are wonderful too.  Anyway, they used the time to program the computer specifically for me.  This will decrease the amount of time I'm there, since it'll all be automatic.  They'll position me correctly, turn the machine on & let it do its work.  At least, that what I took away from the experience.  I'll keep you posted on that.

If I'm being honest, though, I'm nervous about radiation burns.  I see Dr. Cardiges next Wednesday & I think I should raise that concern to him.  I don't know why I didn't think of it when I met him.  ~heavy sigh~  Or, duh, I could ask the nurses tomorrow.  

Yesterday, Dr. Quiros removed my chemo port – WOO HOO!  It was quick, & I didn't have general anesthesia.  They used something called "twilight sleep" but  I call it plain old sleep.  They pushed some drugs into my IV, & that was all she wrote for ol' Lucy.  As usual, Dr. Quiros was terrific; such a cutie.  I looked like death warmed over, though, as I hadn't had a good night's sleep for three days.  My eyes were slits & I was pale as a ghost. 

Worse, I couldn't wear makeup, which is against my personal religion.  "Thou shalt not leave thy house without proper spackling & colour application".  Well, it's not one of those big time commandments, but, you get the point.  It sucked.

For some reason, I was waaayyyy nervous for the surgery (this entry should be called the nervous post).  I have no clue why.  I mean, I had a mastectomy, for heaven's sake.  You'd have thought that this would have been a walk in the park.  I was all whiney & stuff, which isn't normal for me.  Well, OK, maybe whining, but I usually reserve that for when I don't get my way. Since that doesn't happen a lot (giggle), I usually don't whine.  Much.

Okey doke, tomorrow starts my 6 weeks of radiation therapy.  Then, I'm done - & hopefully, cancer free.  And cancer can suck it.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Truth, The Whole Truth & Nothing But

I started this blog to tell you the truth about what happens when you have breast cancer.  I assure you, I've been telling it.  However, I also wanted to make those of you who don't have it, as well as ladies who do, smile – if at all possible.  I've been keeping as positive an attitude as humanly possible.  Still, in my zeal to be upbeat, I haven't been posting as much as I should.  My husband, Matt, & my sister, Jill, pointed that out to me.

Part of not posting has had to do with the funk I've been in.  I've had some difficulty dealing with pain & the changes in my body.  It's all lobbed at you like a bomb & feels as if your life has exploded; because it has.  I've slept a great deal, & for the first week since this all began, I haven't left the house all week.  I haven't had any doctor visits, but that all changes next week (details later).  Still, I usually love to get out.  When Elyse asked if I'd like to go shopping with her, she was surprised when I didn't.  I was surprised I didn't have the energy or the desire to go spend money, which (as Matt can testify to) I do with great aplomb.

So I'm going to post more often, & concentrate on telling you the truth; even when I can't be clever doing it.  Don't think, though, that I'm not going to try to be upbeat – I don't know any other way to deal with this.  Still, even the Brunette Lucy can be depressed.  It's OK.  We just have to pick ourselves up & go on.  I'll be more forthcoming with what's going on from now on, starting now.

I was ready to lose my hair, & I thought I was ready to lose my eyebrows & lashes.  When all three happened, though, it's a bit of a different story.  Even though I have wigs, fake eyelashes & false eyebrows, going to the trouble of putting them on when you're home is a bit daunting, as it's time consuming.  Still, you want to look as normal as possible for your family. 

Problem is, we've been having major heat waves this year & wigs are warm!  So, I decided to wear scarves, which, too, can be warm.  I decided to get over not having my head covered – kind of. 

Eyelashes & eyebrows are a different story.  However, makeup is terrific.  Thankfully, with over 40 years of experience with it, I can use it to minimize the lack of them.  But waking up in the morning with no hair on your head or face is challenging to one's self esteem.  My eyelashes have just started coming in, but not many.  I guess I'll be a slave to fake ones for a while yet.  The thing is, you'd think I'd be an expert at putting them on.  Yet, the other day I got glue in my eye & temporarily glued it shut.  Heavy sigh.  

Off on a bit of a sidetrack, I have surgery Tuesday to remove the chemo port (woo hoo!).  But before you go in, they always tell you not to wear any makeup.  What's up with that?  I mean, unless they're operating on your face, I don't see the point.  The anesthesia mask they put on you is disposable, so even if you get makeup on it, it gets tossed.  I've never cared that much before, but without eyelashes & eyebrows, no way.  I don't want to scare children & hospital personnel!  They're going to have to deal with it.  

OK, I'm done with my grouching.

Tomorrow, I go to the radiation oncologist for some type of scan.  Tuesday, off to surgery.  Since you (more importantly, Dr. Quiros) never know what's going to happen with me (me plus surgery equals surprise), I didn't plan anything for Wednesday.  Thursday, I'm off to the races with radiation therapy.   I have to go Monday through Friday for 6 weeks straight.  Ugh.   Of course, the closest place I can go is 25 minutes away.  So, it should take about 2 hours out of each day.

On the bright side, my hair is growing in.  I'd heard stories about it growing back a whole different colour, so I was glad to see it's still dark.  Can't have a Brunette Lucy if my hair is blonde!  It's weird, though, because there's a lot of white fuzz everywhere mixed in with the dark hair.  It's normal, though – Matt looked it up.

That's it for now, happy campers.  I'll be writing more often, I promise!  And don't forget, if you need someone to "talk" to, you have my email.  

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Again, I apologize for not keeping you up to date.  It seems that the only thing I'm good for these days is sleeping!  The doctors all say that my body is healing, so, I'm gonna run with that.

I met with Dr. Quiros Thursday & we're going to take the port out.  Let's see, how shall I put this . . . . . oh, wait, I know. 


I'm so excited.  Getting this dumb thing out marks the end of my first phase of cancer removal.  I'm fixin' to embark on the next – radiation.

First, I think I should share something with you.  If you've been reading this for a while, you know that so far, nothing has gone to plan with me.  After the mastectomy, I got a raging infection which ate the tissue expander (they put them in to stretch your skin to make reconstruction easier).  Then, when Dr. Quiros went to put the port in, he had to put it in a different spot.  What should have been a one hour procedure turned into four.

When discussing taking the port out with Dr. Quiros, he told me that he often does the procedure right there in his office.  With ME, however, he wants to do it in the hospital.  He seemed embarrassed, as he said,

"With you, however, I'd rather do it at the hospital.  I mean, you know, well, um, gee, cause, well, you know . . . .  you're you!" 

I had to put him out of his misery & told him it was ok; I understood & I agreed with him.  He seemed sooo RELIEVED when I did.  I guess I could have let him keep going, but, I like him.

Yesterday, I met with Dr. Nick Cardiges (again), my radiation oncologist.  I'm pretty sure I told you before that he's a good lookin' guy, right?  I didn't take his picture, because I had a bunch of stuff going on.

I was in the x-ray room, & I had THE BEST nurse!  Man, I could just kick myself in the rear for forgetting her name (I'll get it the next time as well & maybe her picture).  Honestly, I was trying to keep track of all the stuff she was having me do.  The biggest one was to LIE STILL!  Yikes!  Me?  Be still?  Holy cows, that was hard to do.

I was going there to get tattooed.   Basically, they use tiny tattoos to mark the area to be radiated.  Rather than try to explain in my air headed, Lucy way, I looked up Dr. Jay Harris, who 'splained it way better than I can:

Jay Harris, M.D., Professor and Chairman, Department of Radiation Oncology, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Brigham and Women’s Hospital

Question: What are tattoos used in radiation treatment planning and are they permanent?
Dr. Jay Harris answers the question: Why Use Tattoos in Radiation Treatment?
Answer: Most institutions do tattoos. And I know the term conjures up large roses, or other images. But in fact, the tattoos that are used are pinpoint marks, which mark the edges of the field. In radiation therapy, one of the most important aspects of the treatment is precision. And, the use of tattoos is an important aid in helping to make sure that your treatments are going to be done precisely, the same way each day.
The tattoos also can be important in your future care, in that sometimes situations arise, and it is important to know with precision where you had previously received radiation since we're not able to give radiation to the same area, except in very special circumstances. So this information can be very important to your health in the future. We recommend that tattoos be placed -- typically five of them -- these dots are placed, and that patients keep them on. There are now plastic surgical approaches which can remove these. And, currently, for the reasons that I've given, we advise patients not to do this. And for the most part, given how small these marks are, patients are convinced that this is in their best interest, to keep them.

So, there you go.  What happened to me yesterday & why.  Honestly, it was NOOOOO big deal!  If you've ever had your skin pricked with a needle, that's pretty much what it feels like.  Not a big deal.

And, when Dr. Morrissey tattoos colour for a nipple on my new, majestically large boob, I can have him put an arrow on it, saying something like, "you are here".  Maybe with an X to mark the spot if I'm particularly silly that day. 

OK, here's what's upcoming:

Today, met with family doctor, Dr. Ruth (yes, that's his REAL name) to keep him posted.

Monday, July 19th:  More x-rays & stuff @ Dr. Cardiges;

Tuesday, July 20th:  PORT COMES OUT @ hospital;

Wednesday, July 21st:  Day off in case something happens & I end up staying the night at the hospital – you know, the whole Lucy thing; and

Thursday, July 22nd:  Off to the races!  Going to have 6 weeks of radiation.  Hopefully, I'll tolerate it well, & won't burn.  I'll keep you posted.

OK, happy campers, that's all I have – for now.  I promise, you'll see another post before the 19th.  Until then, I'm off to take another nap – sigh.

My guestbook