Saturday, October 31, 2009

Congratulations to a little batty and her littlest batty!

I had been following the blog of a fellow cancer patient, a little batty in the Emerald city who had been diagnosed with stage IV cancer a few years ago, when she was only 25 years old. Earlier this year, she found out that -- much to her surprise -- she was pregnant. But despite the chemo and some tests she had received while pregnant but before she knew she was, her pregnancy was progressing well. Her continued need for chemo caused some problems during the pregnancy, but overall everything went remarkably well. 

Yesterday, I finally saw her latest blog entry, the one I had been waiting for since hearing that her doctors had decided to induce labor a bit early, on October 23: Her littlest batty, Anya, was born safely on October 23, 2009. I think this is more than a little miracle!!! So please join me in congratulating Kim, her husband, and their families on the birth of Anya!

You can find Kim's blog entry on Anya's birth here. Go visit it to congratulate them yourself!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Late at night, the poison man called

I know it's been a long time since I posted. The good news is, that during this time I haven't had to do much fighting of that nasty triple negative breast cancer. While I still feel the effects of the chemical warfare the chemo has been waging inside me, I spent the last few weeks gradually getting back to the kinds of things I used to do in my life before cancer, i.e. working, cooking, exercising and more. This kind of stuff was so ordinary, that it would have been boring to blog about -- and so I didn't. It was a nice relief not to have anything worthwhile blogging about. Come to think of it, for a cancer-related blogs, boring is a very good thing -- at least for the cancer patients! Thus I'm happy to not be reporting on my egregiously boring life at this time. After all, I can never be sure how long such boring times may last.

This past week and a half brought more news worth reporting, though, as it began with my first post-chemo checkup with my poison man. As always, DH accompanied me on my trip to Dr. V's office at the cancer center. Having had a lucid moment, I had scheduled my doctor's appointment right after a port flush appointment (this needs to be done ever 4-6 weeks if the port is not being used), so they could draw the considerable amounts of blood needed for tumor marker tests, chem panels, and all the other tests I was supposed to take. Then, I went to see Dr. V -- and barraged the poor man with all kinds of questions regarding where we go from here, and how I can/should live my post-chemo life. 

As expected, he would prefer that we wait another year and a half before thawing out any of our dozen little frosties in an attempt to get pregnant. It takes roughly a year for the effect of the chemo drugs to wear off entirely -- and for TNBC the risk of recurrence is highest in the first two years after diagnosis. So in order not to harm any baby with chemicals, nor to have a baby just to turn it into a half-orphan shortly thereafter, it seems advisable to wait a while. As far as everything else is concerned, he recommended that I stick with a low-fat diet (with only about 20% of daily calories from fat), as it has been shown to reduce the risk of recurrence by about half. Beyond that, he mentioned that there is an ongoing study in which an osteoporosis drug is administered by IV once every six months as there is reason to believe this drug may also prevent breast cancer recurrences. Once the study begins recruiting again Dr. V's office will call me to see whether I might like to participate. So far so good. 

The other thing I asked about was to get the chemo port removed while my boob man exchanges the tissue expander for the permanent silicone implant. I want to get rid of my frankenboob and get a step closer towards final reconstruction. After all, the implant will need to settle for a while before they can fix the other side to even things out on that end of things. And while they have me under, I figured they might as well yank the chemo port out of me before I develop some more fancy blood clots around it. 

But before the poison man would give me permission to have the port taken out, he insisted on a few more scans -- just to be sure. After all, during my August hospital stay a chest CAT scan had shown some "ground glass opacities" that needed to be followed up on as they could represent many things, including lung metastases. Furthermore, I had never had a bone scan to see whether anything funky had gotten into my bones. So the good doctor sent me to get both of those scans taken care of before I schedule the surgery. 

So last Friday, I went for a fun day of getting poked, prodded, and scanned at the Cancer Center. Yipee -- so much fun to have be needled again, and shoved into huge machines in which the camera with the big bull's eye type hatchmark on the cover comes to within an inch of my nose. This sort of stuff is always extra fun for a gal like me, who tends to have twinges of claustrophobia on occasion... But luckily some deep breathing got me through it all. 

Of course the weekend required more deep breathing, as during our workout I noticed a sore spot on my ribs. And naturally, the funny way in which the brains of cancer survivors work meant that I immediately began worrying a bit that this may be a bone met on my ribs. Why else would that funny little spot be hurting? Well, I didn't really think that -- or at least not constantly, but there always is that little nagging voice inside that whispers "what if this is a bone met and you're now officially stage IV?" Not a pleasant thought for any cancer survivor, but one that brings up particularly dark visions of an imminent demise for TNBC gals, who tend to do very, very poorly once they're stage IV. 

This weekend brought a big rainstorm on Saturday, but a stunningly beautiful Indian Summer Sunday. So I suggested to DH that we take a daytrip up the river to enjoy the last of the colorful fall foliage. And so we did, having a grand old time exploring places neither of us had ever visited before. The leaves and the weather were absolutely gorgeous and DH and I enjoyed the trip so much that we vowed to go on similar excursions again in the near future. Plus, this was a very beautiful way of keeping busy in a positive sense and recharging our batteries. This kind of stuff keeps my mind from straying too much in dangerous directions...

Today I could finally call in for my test results. But of course, Dr. V is a very busy man, so I had to leave a message. Tonight he finally called back at 11 p.m., which oddly enough is not at all an unusual time for him to respond to my messages. (You've got to love a dedicated oncologist who works this late.) In any case, despite the late hour, the poison man had excellent news to share: both my chest CAT scan and my bone scan were clear! Yay!!! So I can go ahead and schedule my next surgery. "You're doing good" Dr. V said. I like hearing that...because it means my life gets to stay as boring as it has been these past few weeks. And that is most excellent news worth reporting: that I do not anticipate I'll have terribly much news anytime soon.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Radiation Oncologist said...

NO radiation for me! Yaaaayyyyyyyy!!!

This is excellent news, as I had been dreading to face the whole radiation issue. The last time I talked with the radiation woman, she said it was a fifty-fifty case, and after some hard deliberation she came down (barely) on the pro-radiation side. Since then, however, she had spoken with a colleague who tends to be more aggressive in his treatment than she typically is. He is sort of her litmus test: If he says he wouldn't radiate, then she'd be even less likely than him to radiate. Apparently, his recommendation was not to radiate. 

Thus I am officially done with my cancer treatment! 

It's a great relief for me, even though I know I still face at least two separate surgeries to complete my foob reconstruction and take out the chemo port. But I've sort of gotten used to the idea of surgeries and they are now at lot less scary for me than they used to be.

But tonight, we just want to celebrate the good news that the treatment is completely behind me, so DH and I have decided to go and make a night of it, even if we have to be back at work tomorrow...

Friday, October 2, 2009

Plugging along

I am now three weeks and two days post-chemo, and enjoying it! Although I still get tired very easily, I feel a bit stronger each day. Actually, DH and I also resumed our common workouts of lifting free weights -- and that has probably helped my recovery. I've lost a good bit of muscle tone since my cancer diagnosis in March, and I'm feeling the effects. My posture is worse, I often have pain in my shoulders, and my lower back. So it was about time that we resumed those workouts, as I've had these pains before but was able to 'cure' them with workouts that strengthened the muscles involved. I am excited to be back on the workout wagon -- and my boob man has even given his ok to me doing pushups, so I essentially have no restrictions left. 

Talking about my boob man, I had been scheduled for a top-off in August, but had to cancel due to my unexpected weeklong stay in solitary confinement at the hospital. Now I finally had the energy to reschedule that appointment and went for my final top-off to 475 ml last week. Now my foob looks like a frankenfoob, as it is bigger than its natural counterpart. Apparently they do this so that the finished foob has a nicer, more natural drape. Unfortunately it also means that I will have to live with some lopsidedness once again. 

How long I need to live with this depends on what I decide on the still-pending radiation issue. On Monday I have an appointment with the radiation oncologist for one last discussion on the issue. I must say I am currently leaning against radiation -- although that opinion varies depending on my level of cancer paranoia. It just seems that the side effects (and I'm not even talking about the burns and fatigue, but the increased likelihood of getting cancer in the other breast, or sarcoma, or any of a variety of other cancers that have been associated with radiation therapy) are too well-established and the benefit too uncertain. But I'll talk it through again on Monday with the woman who wants to fry me after I've been sliced, diced, and poisoned.

Although it has been difficult, I have managed to keep up with my work schedule these past weeks. My energy has improved enough that I no longer need to sleep all afternoon after work, but only require a one or two hour nap. Several days I have even managed to make it without a nap at all, as the phone kept ringing off the hook (oh yeah, did I mention we've been having both phone and internet problems, and had to deal with customer service at those companies - took a while, but it's finally fixed now, yay!). 

One other bit of good news is that I had another doppler ultrasound scan of my UEDVT. Thankfully, the thrombosis has cleared up entirely, which means that I no longer need to give myself those painful daily Lovenox injections. Hurray!!!

Anyway, as you can see I've been plugging along. It's just that I'm too tired at night to write blog entries. Plus, I am trying not to get too alert in the evenings as I'm still not sleeping well due to frequent nightly hot flashes that keep waking me up, or keep me from going to sleep. Another reason why my blog entries have become so sparse.