Sunday, October 31, 2010

I'm getting Chemo for Christmas (and a hat!)

The cats are going bald to support me - kidding!
I finally got tired of the suspense, with no call regarding last Friday's fun filled MRI, so I called the surgeon's office on Thursday.  She called me back, and while the good news is, I now officially have "the good one" aka my left breast, the bad news is that on the MRI my tumor looks to be more like 3 cm vs. the one cm they previously thought.  Some of which may be due to that huge needle they stuck in it four times.  The bigger isn't better realization is what finally made me cry.  (I half sniffled when I got 'the news', but after getting the automatic tissue, it passed). 

Also good, is that from an MRI perspective, my lymph nodes don't appear to be unhappy.  Which isn't to say, I will getting out of the blue dye test of the sentinel nodes, which I hear is a real blast.  (I am getting ahead of myself, but my oncologist said 'Don't be a hero, take the pain meds they offer", which is no problem now that I realize I will be awake for this half hour or so of fun).

This Cancer Friday was meet the medical oncologist day (there will also be a radiology oncologist in my future).  Unlike the South Beach spa setting of the breast center, the cancer center is dark and depressing, and about as clinically ugly as they can make it.  The visit didn't start out very well because they handed me the same multi-page healthy history questionnaire I filled out not two weeks ago.  But I grudgingly trudged through it again.  (I am starting to wonder if they are checking to see if you change your answers).

I was called back just as I finished listing my supplements under medications (oh yes, that is about to change).  I then had the pleasure of being weighed and having my height checked at the scale conveniently located in front of two reception desks.  Here's a thought:  Isn't it about time to move the scale somewhere a little more private?  If the government can spend boatloads of cash and time coming up with ridiculous privacy rules, how about moving the scale out of party central?

Then I was ushered into a small conference room by a nurse that neither identified herself, nor made eye contact, (her rolling cart had a girl's name in a fancy font, but I figured that was the cart's name) who left the door open while she checked my now rising blood pressure, and rubbed some gadget across my face to take my temp.  Maybe they left the door open so I could watch the next victim get weighed.  When she was done pecking into her laptop, she rolled "Susie" or whatever the cart's name was away and went presumably, to spread her own special brand of bedside cheer to the next victim, er, patient.

Next up, an intern with a medical student sidekick.  I was already aggravated, and I smelled fear, so I punished them accordingly.  If I have to tell you that I have cancer and that's why I'm meeting an oncologist, well, we're off to a bad start, huh?  I'm pretty sure I didn't look like I'd dropped by to sell Girl Scout cookies or preach the good word. 

There was much muttering and mumbling about this is 'how they get to know me'.  Here's a thought:  Read the medical history I filled out two weeks ago, which is on file, before I get there, instead of semi-out loud in front of me.  I had to tell them to go get the MRI results, and they seemed to be missing about half of the relevant paperwork.  I guess they thought they were going to get to tell me I had cancer, but I spoiled that one for them when I told them I already knew. The student smiled nervously and looked deeply into his laptop, probably at Facebook, for most of the duration. The longer they acted like this was their first day with a live patient, the grumpier I became.

Finally, the actual oncologist joined the fun.  The student scurried off, since the room was getting a little crowded. She made the intern give her the Cliffs notes, and she took notes.  I don't think she was in the room 4 minutes before she said "You are so doing chemo.  And you will lose your hair and you won't have it for at least 9 months".   Let's throw that skunk on the table.  Apparently, I will however be allowed to keep the hair on my legs. 

Then we moved to the exam room.  And no, they didn't even buy me a drink before asking to see my breasts. We all poked them, and that's where "the good one" vs. the "the bad one" were identified.  The bruise and the scab from the biopsy were good clues. 

Then back to the conference room, where doctor in training was quizzed again on his findings.  You should have seen the look on his face when I asked him if I was going to live.  He may not be too sure about the rest, but he spit out "YES!" so fast, I cracked up and gave him props. (I was joking, FYI, when I asked).

So it's triple positive, which she says is good, and better than triple negative.  Because of the new, bigger size, not sure it's Stage I or II yet, won't know until the surgery, which is still going to be a lumpectomy.  Less is more is the new mantra of breast cancer treatment, meaning that don't automatically whack 'em off and take lymph nodes like PacMan. But it's also H2 positive, which isn't so good, so they will be throwing in 17 IV doses of Herceptin for good measure.

So I got the wig and hat catalog, Breast Cancer for Dummies, and another big wad of stuff for my now bulging, will soon need it's own set of  wheels, cancer folder.  Including, I am not kidding, another copy of the history q&a I am supposed to fill out and bring to chemo 'school'.  Which I can bring friends to, if you'd really like to get the skinny.

She told me to not read the stuff for a few days.  And I finally did a little today, but reading about nausea, makes me well, nauseous, so I stopped. I still don't feel the need to go on info overload.   I did look at the hat and wig catalog; not thrilled with that whole drill. 

They seemed a little confounded that I have zero family history of cancer.  We're heart attack, stroke and diabetes people.  Someone had to be first, but she said to tell my sister to not forget those mammograms. 

She said that drinking wine during chemo is not contraindicated, which is good, although I have a feeling I am not going to feel like doing that too often.  And the tastebud fatigue, including a metallic taste, caused by chemo is definitely not something I am looking forward to ("You're going to have start following the recipes", she said.  Also said that my toque is going to fit a little differently - which did make me laugh).

I am also about to the enter the 'immune comprised' camp.  She said I needed to a get a thermometer.  I said "Thermometer?", and she said, "Yeah, if you get sick you need to take your temperature".  Duh - when I think thermometer, I think Taylor Commercial Waterproof Digital Thermometer, but she said I couldn't use that one on myself.  Oh, and apparently I need to start carrying sanitizer everywhere. (I'm sure Martha probably has something on her craft page where I can make a sanitizer bracelet).

So if you are hacking and runny nosed, don't show up on my doorstep anytime in the next year.  And don't bring a Bundt cake. (Bundt cake became forbidden when my crazy former neighbor DROVE to my house, about 125', less than 24 hours after my husband died, and when I opened the front door, she thrust the cake at me and said "Bud died 7 years ago, and I just want you to know: It never gets any better. EVER."  Well thanks for that bit of cheer. )

So in between starting this post last night, and coming back today, I have decided to ditch the L.A. finals of the Aetna Healthy Food Fight.  The fact that the marketing company hasn't booked the travel arrangements and forced me to hound them, doesn't bode well, and I really don't need to be on airborne germ capsule right now.  And with my luck, I'd win the $10k in kitchen appliances I don't really want or need, and I'd get to pay taxes on them to boot.

I'd rather just get the surgery bumped up a week and get it over with.  I still have second row tickets for Alton Brown at this year's Fabulous Food show, so I'd rather enjoy myself,  and go have a nice dinner at the chef's table at Crop Bistro before I become a full-time patient and future bald lady.


  1. All that shite and you still have to shave your legs? Well, isn't that about a load of crapola? When I first read your FB post about skipping the finals I was bummed to hear the news but after reading the blog post I get it. Have you thought about sending a letter to the caner center including some of the excerpts from this post?

  2. Oh your blog! I shall stay tuned.

  3. Your humor will serve you well...this I know. There were so many parts of that post where I wanted to interject how things went for me, but I quickly recalled how much I hated hearing everybody else's stories ("This is happening to ME people!!!") at the stage you are at now. So I will just say--keep blogging! Okay, I'm also going to say...on the blue dye stuff. I had the pain meds. Didn't feel a thing.
    Well, okay, way do you lose the hair on your head and not your legs. I'm 1 1/2 years out from chemo and still don't have much hair on my legs or underarms back! (This is not a complaint. This is meant to say there are little, tiny, positive things that happen.)

  4. OMG!! YOU'RE HYSTERICAL! Surely your attitude and propensity for comedy will get you on the fast-track to recovery!! Wishing you the best!

  5. Save your piss and vinegar for the cancer. You will do great.


  6. I have just happened across your blog...I hope to become a follower...I am still trying to figure out the blogging thing but I work in a hospital and you should share it to their fb account if they have one...they could use your first hand account to maybe become customer focused...imagine that...a new concept for them...

  7. Oh my, after snickers and giggles for the first several paragraphs, I actually snorted coffee through my nose when you got to "we are high blood pressure, diabetes and stroke people." LOL. Oh girl, you crack me up and it's 9:40 and I'm reading about cancer. Thanks for the levity and while I will send love & light your way, I will NOT come wielding a bundt cake in the near future :o)


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