November 30, 2006 § 9 Comments
My medical group is pretty cool. They use a web interface for making appointments, requesting referrals and filling prescriptions. To access my personal medical records I just plug in my password and log on.
That’s how I came upon on my preliminary lab results earlier this month. Unfortunately it was before the definitive biopsy was in, so I was left deciphering ominous codes and guessing at meanings on my own.
A few clicks on-line and I learned that BI-RADS 5 at the end of a report is very bad news indeed. That helped explain why the radiologist said she was “deeply concerned”.
Weeks later and I am on and off this info rich site daily prompted by emails that point me to log on and retrieve a new message. I don’t have high hopes for these messages. They’re often appointment reminders and I have many appointments to be reminded of.
Appointment reminder for Monday 12/4/2006
8:30am Appointment with CHAIR 22.
First, this doesn’t sound fun. Second, this doesn’t sound human.
In the meantime, today’s appointment was with an honest to goodness live person, the affable Abram Recht – Radiation Oncologist. It’s not easy to find his group. They’re hidden in the basement; a dandy place to hide the Radiation. This visit was mostly a meet and greet with a brief exam thrown in. Nothing more than happy heads up about what to expect, 6-8-10 months down the road after chemotherapy and surgery.
It’s starting to feel a bit surreal again.
For the record, radiation is nothing like chemo. No nausea, or hair loss. Maybe some fatigue but not the huge chemo exhaustion. Good news there. On the other hand, I am told that you might get a rash, a burn, some discoloration, and if it’s on your left side (which it is in my case) there is a very small chance of damage to the heart and in the most rare of instances, a risk of cancer.
This does not make sense to me.
Nor does an appointment with a chair.
Another thing that does not make sense to me, but nonetheless delights me is that I am especially photogenic this month so I am smiling.
November 28, 2006 § 17 Comments
In a rare display of interest my daughter asked me what I did today. “Mama, what was your plan today? What did you do?”
In an unprecedented move for me, I followed the advice of others. I told the truth.
“I went to see the doctor about the lump in my breast and they are going to give me some very strong medicine to shrink it. That’s called chemotherapy. The medicine is so strong, that it might make me tired. It might make me nauseous and (pause and nervous laughter), it might make my hair fall out.”
“Oh Mama you can’t go to a party like that”
I met with my Oncologist today, Dr Come. A terrific, personable, seasoned cancer doc, with as many credentials as wrinkles. Just the kind of guy you want heading your team. Complete with a tweedy jacket, shoes well worn-in and a home phone number listed in the book on the off chance there’s a rough night ahead.
You know the landscape has changed when word that your chemotherapy will start on Monday is cause for celebration. Treatment begins and continues every other week for 16 weeks. Surgery is postponed til later and with enough poison, prayers and positive thinking I could actually shrink this baby to oblivion.
Here’s the good news, I am really ok with all this. The potential hair loss. The exhaustion. The nausea. Even the early and instant menopause. I am thrilled there’s a plan. I am thrilled it’s a plan that’s been around for a while with an awesome success rate. I am thrilled I have an A medical team. I am thrilled I can visualize springtime. I am thrilled my chemo coincides with cold months where anyone in his or her right mind would wear a hat. I am thrilled I am not going into surgery this week.
Mostly, I am thrilled for my beautiful and inquisitive daughter who seemed to get it.
When I am tired and bald and hanging over the toilet, I am sure she will remind me that it just means the strong medicine is working. Amen.
November 24, 2006 § 10 Comments
For the moment, I am wallowing in my diagnosis. Consider a car bomb in the middle of a family picnic. I’m there, but I am also looking on. Very much an out-of-body experience. Do I salvage the tuna salad, or collect my family and huddle beneath the largest tree I can find and under a down comforter?
Am I upset over the possibility of losing a breast? Not really. Though I reserve the right to change my mind the day after. I’ve had a terrific pair for 48 years and am willing to fly solo or add a cup of silicone down the line.
My girls have given me and many boys great pleasure. One taken down while it’s stock is still high is not the worst thing in the world. No chance of future sagging. Stick a bag over my head and a potato sack past my belly and I pass for 30, quite possibly 28. An instance where not breast feeding was a very good idea.
I am anxious about removal of some number (tbd) of axillary lymph nodes; filtering glands. The same glands that can get swollen and sore and messed up when messed with. I have come to depend on the Brita filters in my left armpit.
Some of you know that I have spent the better part of a year and the cost of a small used car on a personal trainer getting back in shape after suffering from a herniated disc. The thought that my triceps will be back to square one, and my biceps more blabber than buff, pummels me.
Remember that episode of General Hospital where the patient wakes up only to learn that a portion of her brain was removed? Surgery scares me. Like all of us, I have a few secrets and I’m worried about being outed once opened. They will certainly find a broken heart.
While I can stomach almost anything, I buckle at the thought of my daughter seeing me ravaged by chemotherapy and it gets worse from there. So much for keeping things close to the chest. It’s all dandelion pollen on a windy day now. If your allergies are bad, you might very well tear up.
Since I may never win an Academy Award and have the opportunity to publicly thank Marty for his amazing support.
Marty, I love you, thank you. And to Karen, Mize and gang, your Thanksgiving dinner rocked as did the leftovers.
This too shall pass. Gam zeh ya’avor.
November 22, 2006 § 7 Comments
I’ve always been intrigued by blogs. I wondered who had time to read them. I wondered who had time to write them. I wondered who cared. There’s a pile of unread New Yorkers by my bed to say nothing of the other literature peppered through the house near toilets and tables. So if you are reading this, you are most likely not reading a great article by Seymour Hirsch. What can I say, you’re my friend. Thank you.
Two weeks ago I was diagnosed with breast cancer. They say one in eight and it’s hard to not keep track. I’d be in a room with a dozen women and when there was no metastasis in sight, I felt a game of Russian roulette coming on. Once over the shock and awe (well not entirely over the shock and awe) It occurred to me that very basic statistics should have foreseen my outcome. I’m just not sure how regular mammograms overlooked a 3.6cm tumor.
When I’ve not been sobbing, sleeping, sharing, cat scanning, bone scanning, drinking, freaking or meeting with docs I’ve enjoyed brilliant support. Thank you.
Read, respond, shake your head in disbelief. Carcinoma streaming right at you along with every possibly attempt at finding a silver lining.