Doctor Day-Part Two

After we left Dr Grasee’s office, we headed to Noblesville to visit Dr Birhiray at the hospital up there.  The directions his office had given me were pretty vague.  Basically, they got us to the hospital and that was about it.  Once there, we were on our own.  We went in a door near the entrance for the professional offices, thinking that might be where he was.  Rather than wander around, I stopped immediately at the information desk and asked the volunteer where I could find Dr Birhiray’s office.  In his 70s, missing a few fingers (ex-machinist, perhaps?) and laboring to breathe, the volunteer in question looked at me quizzically and said, “Beer hurray?”  Yes.  Then he asked what kind of doctor he was.  It was when I explained that he was an oncologist that the pitying looks and the unsolicited reassurance began.  All the while, I’m thinking, “Can you please just tell me how to get to where I need to be?”  Finally, our friendly volunteer gave us the absolute most convoluted directions in the world, slowly, and punctuated by many laborious breaths.  (Good thing we were early) By this point, we’d pretty much deduced that the place we needed to be was on the extreme opposite side of the hospital.  Rather than traipse all the way through, we asked the volunteer what door the office was closest to so that we could just drive around and park near the entrance.

 With that information, we drove around and parked near where we needed to be.  Sort of.  We still had a ways to go.  Having learned nothing from the previous experience, I again stopped to ask the two old ladies at the information desk where I could find Dr Birhiray’s office.  Once again, I was met with blank stares as if they’d never heard of him.  They even asked me if I was sure he had an office there and not in some other building.  I assured them I was, and they asked me what kind of doctor he is.  Here we go again.  When I said he was an oncologist, there was this strange vibe that came over my two helpers.  It was one of shock and pity.  Please.  Cancer is not getting ready to kill me, but frustration just might if I don’t find somebody who can tell me how to get where I need to go.  They give us directions to “the cancer ward” (which sounds like someplace no one ever returns from—or as Don Henley put it, you can check out any time you like, but you can never leave) and we are on our way. 

 Arriving at the end of a hallway, we come upon an entire flock of these volunteers sitting and drinking coffee, and shooting the breeze.  Apparently, there is no Hardees in Noblesville, so all the oldsters hang out in the hospital every morning “volunteering”.  Maybe it’s because there is no Hardees, or maybe it’s because at the hospital, the coffee is FREE.  I glance quickly from left to right to try to determine, without assistance, which way we need to go, but it’s too late.  “Do you need help finding something?”

 Aw crap, here we go again.

 Me: “I have an appointment with Dr Birhiray.”

Oldster #1: “Who?”

Me: “Dr Birhiray.  Oncology.”

Oldster #2: “Oh, <insert pitying looks and tone of voice> you need to go left and the cancer ward is on the left.”

(Meanwhile, some of the others cluck softly amongst themselves, no doubt about what a shame it is that I’ve got one foot in the grave.)

Me: “Okay, thanks.” (walking away)

Oldster #1: “They have really nice doctors down there.”

Chorus of Oldsters: “Uh-huh, they do.”

 As I power walked away, I could hear them murmuring amongst themselves.  I don’t know for sure what they said, but I’d guess it was something along the lines of, “That’s just so sad—dying so young!” 

 Once I found Dr B’s office, everything was normal again.  Sort of.  Instead of waiting and hour to get in, it was only about 10 minutes.  It seems that up at that office, there are fewer distractions, less interns, and things actually run on time.  Who knew?  Doesn’t make me want to go up there again and have to run the pity gauntlet, though.  So, I scheduled my next appointment back at the usual place.

Doctor Day – Part One

Normally I go to see Dr Birhiray at his office up at the Breast Care Center.  In order to do that, the appointment has to be on a Tuesday or Thursday, because Dr B spends the rest of the week at other offices. I like going to his office at the BCC, because it’s all breast cancer patients, and I usually go in and show off my long hair and generally be a poster child for life after breast cancer.  Another reason I like it is that it doesn’t have a TV with which to blare soap operas like the Hux Cancer Center where I did my rads. And I think I’ve mentioned before how I do not like going to the main oncology place because it’s full of people in all stages of a variety of types of cancer, and it really just weirds me out.  I much prefer to go to the BCC where, for the most part, you don’t see anybody who looks like they’re on their last leg.  Bald, yes, but that is a temporary thing, and we can handle that.

 However, the last time I scheduled an appointment, it was going to fall in the same week as my follow-up with Dr Grasee, so Hubster said, “Can we schedule it for the same day so we don’t have to make two trips?”  Well, we *could* but that would mean that I’d have to go seen Dr B in his office in Noblesville.  Despite my whining about not being able to go to the BCC for my appointment, Hubster insisted that we kill two birds with one stone and schedule the appointments on the same day.  And since I didn’t have any better argument than to whine, “But I wanna come heeeere” we made the appointment when Hubster wanted it.

 The appointed day arrives and first stop is Dr Grasee’s office in Carmel.  This is the follow-up visit where they will take to official “after” picture of my reconstruction.  Dr G is very pleased with how the recon looks, smiling and commenting how it’s really not obvious that the tissue has been radiated.  If you remember, I had to sell the idea of the expander/implant to Dr G, who wanted to do the LD flap procedure because of the radiation.  I take pleasure in reminding her of that as I sit there looking all fabulous.

  So, now that I’m all super-fabulously reconstructed, I asked Dr G about getting the newpple tattooed.  Because the newpple is just regular skin color, many cancer girls elect to have it tattooed—in my case it will be matched to the color of the remaining nipple.  So, Dr G referred me to a woman who specializes in such tattoos.  Her name is Cricket Hemp. 

Cricket.  Hemp. 

Given the name (is there even a remote possibility that it’s her real name?)  I’m pretty sure a Janice Joplin wannabe is going to be doing my newpple tattoo.  Should I be worried about this?  I mean, what if she tattoos a peace sign on there, or worse yet, a smiley face?  You know, I get kinda grossed out by needles, so I probably won’t be watching.  And forget Hubster—he’s really squeamish.  My only comfort with this deal is that she works for Turkle and Associates rather than Cricket Hemp’s Groovy Booby Tattoo Palace.  Dr Turkle is top notch, so I’m clinging to the hope that she wouldn’t hire some crazy hippy.

 I guess I’ll know for sure when I see her on October 29th.

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Holy cow!  It’s been a really long time since I posted.  Closing in on two months.  I know that half of you probably thought, “Oh, she’s moved on with her life since all of her cancer stuff is done” and the other half thought, “I wonder if she’s had a relapse? I bet she’s dead.”  The answer is neither, really.  I’ve a got a couple of other irons in the fire.  Plus, Mini Me, who was previously homeschooled, is going to school this year, and let me tell ya, this school thing is kind of involved. So, we’ve been going through a few adjustments here, and I just haven’t kept up on the blog very well.

 But you really didn’t think I’d miss our favorite time of year, did you?  Yes, that’s right folks, it’s almost October, and we know what that means: Pink Ribbon Overload.  Yay! So, be on the lookout for those fabulous articles of awareness—like the Pink Ribbon Blow Dryer, or the infamous Tiny Hair Tongs—and email me your pics at themoodyfoodie@gmail.com.  

 This year I want to do something different.  At the end of October, I’ll pick my favorite 5 submissions.

(Now if I were you, I might include a witty comment, or a poem, or some awesome alliteration with my submission, just to have a leg up on the competition—but you do whatever you want.  Bonus points for items photographed in a store rather than ones you found online.  Super bonus points if you, or a partner in crime, poses with the item like you’re a Price Is Right model.)

Then I’ll let the readers decide which one is the best, most ridiculous example of the P.R.O.  To see last year’s submissions, click here.)  The winner will receive a fabulous prize of my choosing. 

 I’ll be back later in the week with a post about my latest visit with Dr. Beer-Hurray, and news on the final phase of my reconstruction.

I’d Rather Have a Butterfly Hand Than a Crab Arm

Yesterday I had my check-up with Dr Birhiray.  The worst part of that these days is the blood draw.  Lymph node removal on the mastectomy/reconstruction side dictates that  blood pressure cuffs & needles are forbidden on that side forever.  For-ev-er.  The reason being that any sort of infection in that arm could lead to lymphedema, a condition in which the lymphatic fluid doesn’t drain out of the arm like it should, and causes the arm to swell.  Permanently, in some cases.  This always makes me think of the fiddler crabs we saw a few years ago on Little Tybee Island, and while I thought they were neat, I really don’t have any desire to sport the fiddler crab look.  So, I try to avoid punctures and other arm trauma at the doctor’s office, although I only sometimes successfully manage to avoid such things in the kitchen.  So far so good, though.  No crab arm yet.

 Anywho, the end result is that any time blood needs to be drawn, it has to come out of the right side.  And these days the right side is putting it’s foot down and refusing to give the requisite blood.  You can only poke the same place so many times before it forms a shield of scar tissue not unlike the armor plating on the Batmobile, or at least as tough as that really sorry excuse for Indian flatbread I made the other night.  (No wonder that cookbook was on the clearance rack at Half Price Books.)  Yesterday was the second time in the last three visits that I’ve had to have my blood drawn via the little butterfly needle in the hand that is normally used to administer chemo.  More than once I’ve suggested that they stick my foot.  The foot has nice, plump veins that look up at me and laugh as I’m sitting there for 5 minutes waiting for an adequate amount of blood to be drained from my hand.  But, for whatever reason, they never take me up on that. 

 After my blood was drawn, I could have gone back out to the waiting area like a normal person.  But I like to visit my chemo nurses.  Maybe because we bonded during chemo, or maybe because they always tell me how great I look.  Okay, probably the latter.  So, I went back to the chemo area to say hi to Leslie and Karen, and I told them that I started chemo on May 8th, so it’s been almost exactly 2 years.  As usual, they commented on how much my hair has grown, and then they said, “Come out here and meet some of these ladies.  They’re just getting started, and they’d probably be encouraged to see you.”  As is often the case when I’m visiting back there, I’m like their poster girl for good attitude and good health.

 So, I got to meet some of the ladies on the chemo floor.  Nurse Leslie pointed out to one group of ladies that I’ve “been through everything you guys are going through and look how great she looks.”  I then explained to them that I’d been through chemo, radiation, and 6 surgeries, so indeed, I had done it all within the last couple of years.  They asked me questions like “Did your hair come back the same color?” and “How soon did you hair start growing again?”  Hair, as you can see, is a hot topic with chemo girls. 

 Soon, though, another nurse came and fetched me.  For once, Dr Birhiray was only half an hour behind, and my exam room was waiting for me.  But, I’m so glad I got to spend some time talking to those ladies—even if Hubster did wonder what had happened to me.  I am so blessed to have the opportunity to encourage folks by sharing my experiences.  I enjoy doing that in person, as well as here on the blog, so please don’t ever hesitate to ask questions.

 While I was there, I showed Dr B his fan club page on Facebook.  Not being on Facebook himself, at first he was a little confused—he thought I’d moved my blog or something.  But I soon had him straightened out, and he read the messages and got a big kick out of the whole thing.  So thanks to those of you who joined the club and left him a little note.

The Dr Birhiray Fan Club

There’s been a whole lot of love for Dr Birhiray going on in the comments lately.  That’s great—beats the heck out of the comment recently left by Jamie, who apparently had no appreciation for the irony of hatin’ on a bunch of cancer survivors for poking fun at BC Barbie when she left the following comment:

 “You people are ridiculous.  You should feel embarrassed by the way you are replying to something so simple.  This Barbie is only being used to spread the awareness.  This Barbie was made to represent something devasting to many men and women in the world, breast cancer.  No this Barbie isn’t realistic to the effects of breast cancer; but there is one thing, there is beauty in everything.  God made everything beautiful.  Even when we are having hard times, even when women who are beat down by breast cancer, this represents the beauty that is able to shine through in a bad situation.  This Barbie was only to raise awareness, not to depict the actuality of breast cancer.  Get real.”
 
(Sheesh.  Jamie are you, like, the creator of breast cancer Barbie?  Or are you just some random do-gooder swooping in to save all those poor beat-down breast cancer survivors from meanies like us?  Newsflash, my dear—we ARE breast cancer survivors. I’ve got a 10 inch scar across my chest that gives me the right to make fun of Pink Ribbon Barbie all the live-long day.  So chill.  Dang.)

Ahem. 

 Alrighty then, so back to Dr Birhiray.  As I said, there’s been a lot of folks loving on Dr B up in here, so I decided that gee, maybe we need to take this to the next level.  So, my friends, I’ve set up a Dr Birhiray Fan Club group on Facebook.  If you’re a patient, a family member, or even a friend who is really glad that your peeps have such a fantastic oncologist, please join! 

 My next appointment is in about a month, and I’d love to be able to show Dr B his fan club page with just gobs and gobs of folks on there.  This will serve a couple of purposes.  First, it will show Dr B how much he’s loved, because let’s face it, the man doesn’t always see happy endings and that’s got to wear him down sometimes.  Second, I hope to enhance my status as Dr B’s favorite patient.  Yeah, that’s right, apparently I must be his fave because  at least one person googled “dr. birhiray favorite patient” and lo’ and behold they ended up here!  So that must mean it’s true, right?

If I Only Had a Brain…I Could Think of a Snappy Title

I just realized that it’s been almost two weeks since the last time I posted.  A reader (Hi Theresa!) emailed me and asked if I was doing okay, and I thought “Well, that’s odd, it hasn’t been that long since I posted.”  Then I checked.  Yikes.  I guess it has been a while.  As usual, part of this is because life keeps rolling on, whether a girl has something to write about or not.  And sometimes I just don’t have much to say.  But it would be dishonest to say that either one of those was the case this time. 

 The truth is, I’ve been struggling.  I think that I have Tamoxifen to thank for this.  But knowing the cause doesn’t necessarily diminish the problem, and for the past week or so I’ve just been in a really crappy state of mind.  I do the things I have to do, but anything above that requires a conscious decision to suck it up and do it whether I want to or not.  Which I don’t.  And you can’t make me.  So there. 

 Now, I don’t want those of you that I’ve been around in the past week to think I was totally trying to fake you out.  I’m still up for joking around and chit-chatting.  But, I just have this underlying dullness of brain and general lethargy going on, and it seems to be getting gradually worse.  I’m starting to think that Tamoxifen is making me depressed.

 I hate to even say that.  It’s sounds so “wah wah wah wah waah”.  And trust me, I’m totally the least sympathetic person you know when it comes to stuff like this, and I’d be the first one to tell me to suck it up.  I think that’s part of why it’s getting to me so much—because it’s making me feel totally not like myself, and I’m about up to here with The Cancer and it’s accompanying meds trying to steal my identity!

 You guys have heard me gripe about the Tamoxifen before.  I believe it’s responsible for the fact that I can’t remember squat.  Chemo made me feel fuzzy headed, but I had about 5 months between chemo and Tamoxifen, and I noticed this persistent short term memory thing after I started the Tamoxifen.  I can handle the memory thing.  It’s kind of amusing to me, and I’ve learned to write most everything down—which works great since I’m a compulsive list maker anyway.  Really.  It bothers Hubster more than it does me.  But it’s discouraging to me that it affects my vocabulary—I’m trying to write, for crying out loud!  How am I ever going to get a book deal if I can’t even beat my 12 year old at Quiddler anymore?

 And this mood thing is really making me fed up, and considering that I have to take Tamoxifen for 5 years I’m beginning to wonder if there will be anything left of me by the time I’m done.  Can any of my cancer girls out there relate?  Do you feel like you’ve got a starving brain sucker on top of your head 24/7?  Have you been through this and can tell me that it’s only temporary?  Or do I need to go see the wizard and ask for a brain?

Another Visit with Dr Beer-Hurray

Picture taken on my previous visit in November.

Picture taken on my previous visit in November.

I had my quarterly appointment with Dr Birhiray last week.  Believe it or not, I actually look forward to this even though the minimum wait time is an hour and I have to be both weighed and have a blood draw.  The blood draw is getting to be progressively more difficult, because I only have one usable side, and that side’s kind of worn out at this point.  Last time, after the arm was a great big FAIL, they actually had to use a little chemo needle in order to draw blood out of my hand.  It was great!  As soon as she finished, I said, “Thank you ma’am, may I have another?”  She told me, no, that I’d have to wait until next time, and I pouted all the way home.  That’s how much fun it was. 

 So, anywho, in spite of all that, I still look forward to my appointments with Dr B.  Part of this is because he’s just plain fun, which is a very good quality for an oncologist, especially for MY oncologist.  And part of it is because he actually reads my blog, and he mentions it every time I visit—so, he’s totally speaking my love language.  Awesome. 

 Occasionally, Dr B has other doctors following him around the office.  I’ve never figured out if they’re full-fledged doctors, or doctors-in-progress, or what exactly it is that they’re doing.  Perhaps they’re learning how to be a good oncologist, in which case they’re in the right place.  At any rate, other than the fact that they get to see my boobs (and really, is there anyone in the medical community who hasn’t seen them at this point anyway?) they don’t really have any bearing on my visit.  This visit was one of those times that Dr B had a tag-along. 

 I don’t remember his name, except that it started with an O….OompaLoompa, Obadiah, something like that.  So, anyway, Dr B comes in and introduces Dr Oklahoma, then proceeds to ask me how I’ve been doing, if I have any questions or concerns, etc.  In the meantime, Dr Okinawa is standing off to the side perusing a stack of papers, which I assumed might have something to do with my medical history.  Finally Dr B says, “We’ve been reading about you.” At which point I look over at Dr Okey-Dokey who is chuckling as he shows me what is actually in his hand—print-outs of my blog.   Since I’m nothing if not narcissistic, that totally works for me, and I decide right then and there that I like this Dr Odometer, even if he is the eleventy-seventh stranger to see my boobs in the past 2 years.

 As it turns out, the post they’ve printed off is not the current one, but the one from January 14th.  I said to Dr Oleo, “That’s not the latest post.  You’ll have to check out the current one later.”  I also told him I’d be blogging about him—so Dr Onomatopoeia, if you’re out there, it was nice meeting you—sorry I don’t remember your name, it’s that memory thing we talked about, you know.  Maybe Dr B needs to put me on Ritalin after all. 

 Then, in one of the most amusing moments of my visit, (second only to the raging fun I had being weighed) Dr B starts talking about my blog and refers to my “cancer journey”.  I bust out laughing, and tell him he needs to read the latest blog post.

******

Some of you may remember the posts from this past July when my nephew’s best friend was killed in a motorcycle accident.  At the time, I wrote two entries chronicling the events of that week.  I’ll be adding the final installment of that story after the first two, dated the same week.  If you care to read it, you’ll find it here.