Things are Going to Start Happening to Me Now

In the movie The Jerk, Steve Martin’s character, Navin R Johnson, gets super excited upon the arrival of the new phone book. Jumping up and down, he shouts, “The new phone book’s here!” Navin is psyched because finally his name is somewhere in print, and the scene ends with him declaring, “Things are going to start happening to me now.” That’s kind of how I’m feeling these days. Many things have happened since I last blogged.
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Whew! In less than one week I have two brand new nephews. Little MacGyver was born Monday night a little before 9:00. He weighs 8 lbs 10 ounces, which I think may consist entirely of skin stretched around a big lung. I don’t know him very well yet, but I can tell you one thing—he does NOT like taking a bath. And when he doesn’t like something, buddy, you know it.
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I had an appointment with my oncologist, Dr Birhiray, Tuesday. For those of you who haven’t been around very long, that’s pronounced Beer-Hurray! (Now, isn’t that fun to say?) I love Dr B for a couple of reasons. First of all, he laughs a lot. There’s never doom and gloom at Dr B’s office. There are only things that need dealt with. We deal with them. We move on. We laugh along the way. Secondly, he never makes you feel rushed. Got questions? Ask away. Got more questions? Ask those, too.
After I got done meeting with Dr B, I went back to the chemo room to visit the nurses. Oddly, there’s a special bond that forms between chemo patients and the people who inject them with poison every other week. So, whenever I’m there, I stop in to see Karen and Leslie. Little did I know what was in store for me.
You ever have an experience that would be traumatic, were it not for the fact that it was so stinkin’ over-the-top crazy that it makes for a great story? The kind of incident where you’re laughing on the inside while thinking, “I can’t believe that just happened” and simultaneously trying to stay cool? And if you’re me, you’re also thinking, “I’m so gonna blog this.” What happened next definitely fits into that category. Leslie asked about my reconstruction plans. I told her that since I had rads, I’d need to have the lat flap surgery.
At this point, two women who are sitting there—hanging out, not doing chemo, just hanging out–interject themselves into the conversation. “No, you don’t! You don’t have to have the lat flap.” Then they start telling me I need to come to some informational meeting they’re having about reconstruction using the DIEP method. I don’t remember what it stands for, but basically it’s where they make you some new boobs out of your gut fat. Anyway, I’d read about it before, but it’s a relatively new and complicated technique and no one around here does it. These women had traveled to New Orleans to have this done.
So, they’re telling me how great it is, and suddenly the one woman, looks to be in her 50’s, whips up her shirt to show me the results that she was obviously so darn proud of. There she is, holding her shirt up while pointing to various features like some sort of breast reconstruction weatherman, “Tomorrow’s forecast should see highs around my collarbone with lows in the mid-torso region. Chance for blinding, white skin is 100%” The whole time, all I’m thinking is, “Wow…I’ve just been flashed by some middle-aged woman. I gotta blog this.” Things are going to start happening to me now—indeed!

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Last Saturday, I celebrated a milestone: My First Post Chemo Haircut. Woo hoo! Now, I’m a little less butch. Yea me. And, you wouldn’t believe how many compliments I’ve gotten on it, even though it can’t possibly have changed by more than a ¼” at the most. I guess that’s where having a professional involved really pays off.

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Okay, now that I’ve told you about all the minor happenings like flashers and haircuts, I need to tell you something that you might find upsetting. The Foob has decided to retire. You’re shocked, I know. If you need to have a good cry, that’s okay. There, there. Let it out. Take a deep breath. Through your tears and snotty sobs you’re probably saying, “But, I thought The Foob would always be here for me. What about Foobhog Day? If he retires, he won’t be able to look for his shadow and then we’ll have 6 weeks of excruciating uncertainty about the weather!” Take heart, my friend. The Foob is not leaving you high and dry. He has already hired a successor. We thought about giving the new foob his own name, to distinguish him from the original foob. First, we thought we might call him Noob. Then we considered Foob Two, or Toob, but we didn’t really care for the shape that implied. In the end, we thought it best to pass on the name, rather than come up with a new one. Think of The Foob as the Dread Pirate Roberts of the prosthetic world—each one inheriting and carrying on the name and reputation. And in plenty of time for Foobhog Day.

Bigger Than a Bread Box

Hey Aunt Phyllis–I visited your hair yesterday! I was back at the boutique, only this time my mission was to find a prosthesis. Along with the fake boob I needed a special bra, with a special little pocket to hold my special new friend. Two bras were approved by Dr Schmidt for immediate post-mastectomy use. The 1st one had about 6 hooks in the back & 6 hooks in the front–in case you can’t reach the back. It comes in beige only and is bigger than a bread box. It may even be bigger than a bread truck. I didn’t even try that one on. The 2nd one only had hooks in the back. It came in the exotic color choices of black or white & was not quite as big as a bread box. I did try this one. The granny style cup molded my real boob into the approximate shape of a can of frozen concentrated orange juice. Need I even state that this was NOT acceptable? Furthermore, it was so big that it peeked out the top of my not terribly low plunging shirt and said, “Howdy! I’m Aunt Bea’s underwear!”

Andrea, the boutique manager, is a little younger than me. She could feel my pain and brought me a bra that was not on the approved list, but was more along the lines of Victoria’s Secret, instead of Obviously Octogenarian. This one comes in a variety of colors including black and leopard. I tried it on. Finally! I actually felt like myself. Andrea even ran over to Dr Schmidt’s & got Tana’s approval. In the meantime, Hubster was on the phone with the Insurance Nazis trying to figure out if they would cover the new boob. They informed him that they might, provided that we send them a letter of medical necessity, treatment history, etc. It would take 2 weeks for them to decide whether of not to cover it.

Does anyone besides me get tired of having to beg their freakin’ insurance company to do their job?! How ridiculous is it that after they’ve paid tens of thousands of dollars for all my treatment, they conveniently don’t have the information necessary to decide that I deserve a prosthesis? That’s right, Giant Insurance Goliath…this whole mastectomy thing was all part of a big plot to get a free fake boob because they’re just so stinkin’ cool! Fake boobs are the new black you know–everybody’s getting one! Why just the other day my girlfriends and I were just discussing how lucky I was to have an 8-1/2″ incision across my chest, because I was that much closer to attaining my goal of defrauding the insurance company of the price of a spiffy synthetic detachable substitute breast! GRRR!

In the end, I got the prosthesis and bra. Paid for them myself. The new boob looks like what would result if the Cabbage Patch doll factory made B-2 stealth bombers on a B-cup size scale. Maybe I should check the package & see if it came with a birth certificate & name.
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The highlight of the day was having my drains removed. Okay, the actual process was not the highlight. But being free of them is wonderful. The bummer of the day was finding out that upon further testing the pathologist did find a speck of cancer in the node. That pretty much guarantees the radiation I was hoping to avoid. Dr Birhiray said that as little as there was, it’s not likely that it’s gone any further–which is the major concern here.

Have I mentioned that I love Dr B? (Okay, maybe the t-shirt was a clue)He’s a very busy man, but you never ever feel rushed when you see him. He will answer as many questions as you can think of. You’ll never hear me gripe about how long the wait is to see him. In fact, I expect him to be running behind, and I just ask, “How far behind is he today?” My visit to the boutique actually occurred during my wait.

Yesterday, Dr B said, “I think I know you well enough to say that you seem down.” He was right. I had been deflated by the news that the node wasn’t clean. I’m very thankful that I have people like Dr B as part of my medical team. They’re all excellent, caring people I’m very blessed to have them along on this journey.

The Land of 10 Thousand Tourniquets

 I had an appointment with Dr Birhiray (that’s pronounced Beer-Hurray! for those of you who are new here) today, and it was the perfect occasion to debut my new t-shirt. The shirt is my chemo completion present to myself. The nurses were all crackin’ up when they saw me. Dr. Birhiray liked it, too, and I even got him to pose for pictures. Everybody say, “Hi, Dr Birhiray!”

Dr B also gave me some samples of another med that’s supposed to help with the hot flashes and enable me to sleep better. Hopefully this one won’t make me feel like I’m taking hammer blows to the head. Of course, some of the potential side effects include sweating and insomnia…gee, that’s kind of counter-productive. Let’s hope it doesn’t do that. I can’t imagine sweating MORE and sleeping LESS than I am now. I really would be holding up the coffee shop at spud gunpoint.
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Not to be outdone, Hubster brought his newly mountain-bike-accident-sculptured face along to the doctor’s office. Oh, sure, steal my 15 minutes of oncology office fame, Honey! Monday Hubster and G went mountain biking (those of you who know Hubster know where this is going) and within the first ten minutes he’d managed to take his face for a stroll down a big chunk of concrete. So, he comes back all bloody and Dad has to patch him up—picture Mick patching up Rocky’s cut eye for the umpteeth time so he can go back out and fight Mr. T, and you’ll have a pretty good idea what this was like.
You’d think from the picture that I’d be freaking out, but ‘tis not so. You see, with my husband, blood and mountain biking go together like peanut butter and jelly. I just expect them to be together. My fear was that we’d end up at the emergency room on a holiday. There has to be some pretty severe trauma to motivate me to do that. Like, maybe if he’d come back with a bunch of pieces of his head piled up in his helmet, or with half an arm tucked into his back pocket, or a spoke sticking out of his eye, I’d have considered it. Thankfully, Dad’s patch job worked and the ER was not necessary.
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I had the MRI today. It was pretty uneventful. The most exciting thing about it was the lady who was supposed to set my IV tried to kill my hand. She put a tourniquet on the forearm, about 4 inches from my wrist. Tight. Like as tight as humanly possible. My hands were cold, so she went to get me a hot pack, leaving the tourniquet on while she did so. She was gone at least a minute.

My hand, at this point, was not the same color as the rest of me. Then she came back, and since she still couldn’t see a vein, she put *another* tourniquet on my arm, in between the first one and my wrist, explaining to me that this was a “new trick” they had for making this whole thing *easier*. (And you know I was thinking to myself, “Gee, Self, this is WAY easier than it normally is when it only takes about 20 seconds and my arm’s the right color.”) Now my hand is really feeling asleep and it’s definitely not the right color. She’s still looking at it and feeling for a vein. I’m thinking, “Make a decision, Lady, are you going to stick it or not?!” I’m also beginning to wonder if she’s A) a Manpower temp, B) on work release, C) the cleaning lady or D)she stayed at a Holiday Inn Express last night. Finally, she decides to put another tourniquet on…no, I’m kidding…finally she decided to release the blood back to my digits. And, thankfully, she called another lady over to put my IV in.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hair on Fire

Dr Birhiray prescribed some stuff that was supposed to help combat the hot flashes I’d been having. Hot flashes, for those of you who haven’t experienced them, involve a sudden spike in body temperature, and profuse sweating giving you the sensation of having someone light your hair on fire. The major difference between regular hot flashes, and those induced by chemo is that with regular hot flashes you actually have hair to mistakenly think is aflame.Anyway, this stuff he prescribed seemed to be my friend at first…the hot flashes weren’t waking me up all night long. However, as the week progressed, I noticed some side effects. The most significant thing was a shooting pain in my head, not unlike being repeatedly hit upside the cranium with a hammer. I thought, “I don’t need this stuff! If I want to feel like this all I need to do is talk to Mini Me about keeping her room clean.”

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Attempting to breathe water is not a fun thing to do. I’m trying to drink my daily allotment of water, and I think I just tipped my glass back and poured a big ol’ swig straight down into my lungs. This was followed by a huge gasping, choking fit. Good grief! I’ve got to be the only person alive who can nearly drown while typing a blog entry.

Last Chemo

Well, here I am at chemo…the LAST chemo. Woo hoo! And, double good, it only took one stick to draw blood and one stick to put my IV in!

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I’ve been busted.

Dr Birhiray has apparently been reading my blog. This just cracks me up. I’m amazed the man even has time. I’m not sure who he’s signing in as, because he defintely has not registered as himself…maybe it’s really him who has signed in under a bunch of different aliases trying to win the prize. (Maybe he thought it was one of those Lurcher dogs) However, he made sure I knew that he had read that I said I liked him because he laughs a lot.

Walkies!

Okay, which one of you has been taking Beginning Voodoo Doll Construction at the Y this summer?

Yesterday at chemo I had to get stuck 7 times two accomplish 2 successful sticks. Two for the prerequisite blood sampling and 5 more for the actual chemo drip. Not fun. It’s usually not this much drama, but apparently after so much chemo the old veins just start to revolt.

I had my treatment at the Hematology-Oncology center because Dr Birhiray was on vacation. Hubster and I had been referring to it all week and Death Row because, unlike the Breast Center chemo place, this place has people with all types and stages of cancer. I was by far the youngest patient there. After all my drama, I commented to the gentleman next to me, “I bet this makes you glad you’ve got a port!” He said, in a voice turned raspy from his ongoing radiation, “I was just going to congratulate you on getting through all that!”

The nice thing about Death Row was that since I was the only female there who sat around without a head covering, and I was new there, I got several compliments on my cute, bald head. Hey, I gotta take whatever I can get these days. Yea me.

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Hey kids, want a career that provides more money than you know what to do with and all the vacation time you want? Become an oncologist!

While waiting to see the doctor yesterday—not Dr Birhiray, who was on vacation—Hubster picked up a magazine in the exam room called Country Life. Now, you’re probably thinking it had to be full of old tractors, gardening, beekeeping and the like. (It even had a picture of a scruffy dog on the cover.) I’m sure he was thinking that, too. Nope. The first 108 pages were glossy ads for real estate, specifically manor homes in the UK, Caribbean vacation homes and even private islands. I can’t even tell you how much they listed for as the prices were all in Great British pounds.

And that scruffy dog? Well, that, my friends is a hoity, specially bred mutt known as a Lunger. Doesn’t that sound all British manor quaint? Makes me think of the English lady who used to be on TV training dogs. I can hear her now…”Walkies!” These things are sold for what amounts to several hundred dollars to manor dwellers for their sporting pleasure.

Wow. This is so not my reality, and I daresay most likely not the reality of any of the other patients.

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I’m feeling pretty good today. Always do on Wednesday, thanks to the ‘roids. Rah! I think I’ll go ride the Tour de France!

Thurday & Friday are usually the worst, and by Sunday I’m pretty well good to go. Taxol has been way easier than the AC combo I had before. It could not have been much worse, anyway. I’ve been walking and biking some the last few weeks. I told Hubster that after chemo is over and before my next surgery I want to go do some hiking in Brown County or maybe some canoeing.

And speaking of surgery…
I’m currently waiting to find out if my insurance company will pay for genetic testing to see if I carry either of two breast cancer genes. If you’re a young BC patient, it’s often suspected that you might have come by it genetically. If I carry this gene, not only does it make my chances of recurrence more likely, but it also means I’m at increased risk for ovarian cancer. If it comes back positive, they’ll be recommending I have those removed too.

The other thing is that if I’m positive, Mini Me has a 50% chance of having the gene. So would Garlic & Bagel.

So, all that being said, I ask for your prayers on this one. A) Pray that the insurance company will cover the testing, because folks, it ain’t cheap. B) Pray that it comes back negative, not only for my sake, but for Mini Me’s & my sisters’ as well.

Eyelashes

It’s been a week since I posted, and you’re probably wondering how I’m doing. Usually, if I don’t post anything it’s either because I feel yucky and don’t have anything entertaining to say, or I’m feeling good and am too busy running amok to write. Fortunately, I’m feeling good. Woo hoo!

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At chemo last week, I asked Dr. Birhiray if we could possibly back off the Benadryl a bit so it didn’t make me feel so crazy. He decreased it by half and it worked great—no more cussing, spitting or twitching, and no Ativan required.

I have two treatments left and right now my focus is on not losing any more eyelashes. In order to create the illusion that I still have all my lashes, I got some waterproof mascara. I truly believe this is made from the same stuff as I-70. I have yet to find anything that will remove it, though I haven’t yet tried the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser. I’m hoping that maybe if I don’t clean it off, it will successfully hold my failing lashes in place until new ones start to sprout. 

And I Cleaned That Toilet for No Good Reason

Did my first chemo treatment yesterday. Don’t believe the hype…it was SO not the big drama most people think it is. Really, I think the most traumatic part was weighing in, but that doesn’t have any shock value left considering some of the other things I’ve had done lately. Had to have blood drawn, met with Dr Birhiray, then went to the chemo room. They started an IV, gave me fluids first, then steroids (RAAAHH! Do I have a beard yet? Oh well, it should fall out with the rest of my hair soon enough.) which made me feel cross-eyed for a while. That mostly passed, but I still felt a little cross-eyed when I left. 

Hubster ran out and got a pizza from Bravo! for lunch. Yummy! I’m highly motivated by food, so you know I might just decide that I like chemo and be trying to go back after my 16 weeks is over just so I can have a yummy lunch.

The ladies in my area were a hoot. One of them is about my age, I think, which is cool. Unfortunately for me, they were all either on there last or second to last treatment, so I won’t be able to hang out with them much longer. Like I said, they were fun and it’s good to talk to people who are going through the same stuff, but just a little ahead in the process.

Total time in treatment, about 4 hours.

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Funniest thing I said yesterday…
After we left, went to Wild Oats for some groceries, and were heading down 86th Street, I was telling Hubster how I was feeling kind of dopey still.
I said, “I’m not thinking real………………………….fast.” Bear in mind that all of those dots equal about a good solid 5 seconds of delay. So read it again and count to get the full effect. He just busted out laughin’ and said, “Reeeaaallly?”

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Welcome to another installment of “My Friends Rock”. I came home Monday evening to a big honkin’ box from Chicago—a care package from Jeff and Marie. It was just stuffed with all kinds of goodies like coffee, teas, balsamic vinegar, pasta, chocolate covered macadamias (took those to chemo with me), fuzzy socks…and a bunch of other cool stuff. Jeff & Marie are foodies like we are and they were just so speakin’ my love language.

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Okay, so you all are probably wondering how I’ve been feeling since treatment. Well, not too bad. The worst thing was that I barely slept last night. Not sure what’s up with that because I felt very fatigued. I’m pretty drained today too, but no nausea thanks to my meds. Woo hoo! And just to prove that I’m not lying (Debbie, I know what you’re thinking) my mama was here earlier and she commented that I looked pretty good and was doing a lot better than she thought I’d be. I’d say I’m feeling like a do when I have a bad cold…except minus the snotty head. Tired, a little achey, a little warm, a little slow mentally. No projectile vomiting or anything like that. Dang! And I cleaned that toilet for no good reason!

Dr Beer-Hurray

I don’t have a whole lot of time this morning because I’ll be going back to Indy, AGAIN today. However, I know some of you were waiting to hear what I found out yesterday, so I’ll give you a brief summary. Met with Dr. Birhiray—that’s pronounced Beer-Hurray! I tried to get an appointment with Dr. Coffee-Hurray! but he wasn’t taking any new patients. Heh heh. I really like Dr Birhiray because he laughs a lot. I know, you’re probably thinking, “THAT’S your basis for liking your chemo doctor? Moody, you laugh a lot too, but you ain’t no oncologist.” Yeah, but laughing is one of my favorite things to do—really. Plus, it’s good for you. In fact, my new motto is “Laughter is the Breast Medicine.” Anyway, I have to go back to Indy today to have a MUGA scan to make sure my heart can withstand the chemo they want to give me. A MUGA scan involves shooting radioactive junk into your body and then watching how your heart works. I’m thinking if this kind of thing keeps up I’ll be my own nightlight pretty soon. They couldn’t fit me into the schedule yesterday while I was already there, so here we go again. If all goes well, I’ll be starting chemo next Tuesday. When you’re as young as I am, they pull out the big guns and do what they call dose-dense treatment. I’ll do treatments every 14 days for the next 16 weeks. I’ll post more later…including a description of the joys of MUGA scanning…when I’m back home.