Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Date with Lucifer, Part 6

Chemo today. Had my oncologist check-up yesterday, and she gave me some more drugs for the excruciating joint pain that I get with this chemo. I told her I'd been eating some magic brownies, and she was fine with that. She said that we live in BC, after all. Hey, whatever works. Last time I had chemo, I had an immediate allergic reaction to the Docetaxel drip--I got really hot right away and had chest pains. So they stopped the drip and pumped me full of steroids and Benedryl via IV. Then they started the drip again. So this time, I'll get premedicated with the stuff to prevent the same reaction.

I gather from my nurse and doc that what I experienced with the last chemo is only going to get worse, as the effects are cumulative. But the good news is that after this chemo, I only have 2 more! I should be finished with chemo in the second week of January.

Then comes the radiation. We met with the radiation oncologist on Monday, and it was explained to us that the benefits of radiation are good and proven, that the chances of secondary cancer is less than 1%. So starting at the end of January, I will go in every day for five and a half weeks to get my radiation. I was told that it's like going out in the sun, that I will tan on the radiated area. Folks, I don't tan--I burn, like within ten minutes of being in the sun--with 50 SPF sunscreen. But if I get bad skin irritations, they will, of course, give me yet another prescription.

This morning, before I go in for my chemo this afternoon, I'm going to do the whole home spa thing. Long hot bath, good reading (I'm reading Inventing Victor, which is a collection of short stories by my friend Lisa's friend, Jennifer--and it's great!), sitting in my new massage cushion (DH bought me a new wonderful massage cushion yesterday at Costco, which has a rolling function, a shiatsu function, and a heat option!). I'm hoping that after chemo, I won't be too wiped out to go to the end of the term Creative Writing party on campus. I haven't seen a lot of my creative writing cohort in a while.

I want to write about all the fun stuff that's been happening in the past two weeks and try to forget all the crappiness (since that will be soon revisited anyway). Lisa and Vicki's visit was a godsend, if only a little too short for my taste! It was so wonderful to hang out with my best friend from home and her mom, and take them to all my favorite restaurants and places in Vancouver. Luckily, the weather wasn't shitty the entire time, as we were blessed with some wonderful sun. I think they really enjoyed it, and I hope they come back soon. When I'm not a lazy ass, I will download some of the pictures and post them.

Then we had two wonderful events for the book I edited that came out of the workshop that I taught back in February and March. The book is called Eating Stories: A Chinese and Aboriginal Potluck. I went on CBC on Friday morning to talk about it, then three of the authors went on CBC on Sunday morning for an interview, and other authors and folks are going to appear on radio, tv, and in print about it. People seem really excited about it! So I celebrated my birthday at our launch on Sunday, with song and cake and flowers (thanks, everyone!). And then we had dinner with DH's folks and sister and her family (before the launch we went out to brunch with DH's parents at Cafe Pacifica in the Pan Pacific Hotel). Then DH and I went to see Beowulf on 3D Imax (which would have totally blown chunks if not for the impressive 3D effects). It was a great day!

Last night, our pals Michael, Anne, Debora, and Lynda brought over a fantastic dinner (sushi from Hiroshi's, noodles that Michael made, and salted cod that Debora made), and frozen soups. We had great conversations, enjoyed the food, and it was just so great to see my pals.

But the best thing that happened in the last few weeks was when we were at our family doctor last week, getting our flu shots. While we were waiting for her to come into the exam room, Chloe grabbed my head and pulled it to her ear and said, "Mama, I can hear the ocean. I can hear whales." Granted, it's like she's saying I'm empty-headed, but it was wonderfully poetic to me.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Happy Freakin' Birthday to Me

I'm 32 today. I'd like to thank and congratulate my mother for giving birth to me 32 years ago. No one ever remembers their mothers on their birthday, but yeah, folks, your momma's the one who went through the pain of bringing you into this world. I was a c-section baby, so for the longest time, I thought all babies were cut out of their mother's stomachs. The doctor even cut my face on my way out, so I have a battle scar from birth.

Who knew that on my 32nd birthday, I'd feel so old and creaky and be bald? But I've got the cutest, sweetest kiddins on the planet, a caring, loving hubby, awesome friends, and a colorful family. The best presents ever.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

On the Bus

I was on the bus yesterday, going home after massage therapy. I take the bus a lot now, to go to and from all my appointments along Broadway, which is one of the main drags in Vancouver. There are two buses that I could take: the 9 or the 99. The 9 is like the everyday people bus--folks look a little more sullen and don't smell as good. The 99 is the express bus that goes to UBC, so it's full of university students. Most of the time, I take the 9 because I can't stand the chatter of students, even though the 9 takes longer than the 99. But yesterday, I caught the 99 because it was the first bus that pulled up.

The bus was packed, but I was able to take a seat when a bunch of people got off at Granville. There were two women sitting across from me, bitching about their professors. I gathered that they were grad students from the way they were talking about theory and such. One of the girls was complaining about some criticism her professor made of her performance in class, and she began her sentence with "I appreciate what he's saying, but...." Which got me thinking about euphemisms in academia. Basically, when someone says they appreciate what you're saying, what they mean is that they think you're full of shit, which is also what they're saying when they state, "That's interesting." When they say, "That's interesting," they really think what you're saying is completely idiotic. Now when someone says, "I find that fascinating," what that means is that they're not sure if you are full of shit or not, but they think what they're saying might be full of shit too, so they will investigate the comment to decide on the exact content of BS later.

What the fuck does this have to do with my cancer? I don't know. I just wanted to sound pretentious.

But really, I wouldn't have been thinking about this if I didn't have cancer, because if I didn't have cancer, I wouldn't have been on that bus going home from massage therapy, which helps get rid of some of the pains of cancer.

The other meandering thought that I had while on the bus: there was a woman standing in front of me as I was sitting down. She was about 20 years older than me, or so she appeared. My first thought was, "I should let her sit down because that's the polite thing to do for older people." Then I thought, "Screw that. I have cancer, and she's only about 55 or whatever anyway." Just as I was about to whip off my hat to demonstrate the level of my sickness, I noticed that she was wearing a wig. I can spot fake hair a mile away now. Then I thought, "Shit, she probably has cancer too." But I sat there anyway.

It got me thinking about the hierarchy of illness, especially when it comes to cancer. The day before, I was at the acupuncturist, and there were two other women in the room with me. My acupuncturist said, "This is Blahblah...She's got a rare form of cancer. So rare that only three people in Canada have been diagnosed with it--and I'm treating two of them!" He beamed. The woman just sighed. The first words out of my mouth were, "Wow." But then I thought, What a dumb thing to say. Wow, like impressive? Or wow, like unbelievable? Either way, my gut reaction was that I felt icky for saying "Wow." But yeah, I've noticed how people like to one-up everyone else with cancer stories. Makes me feel weird.

Like when people say to me, "My sister had cancer, and it was awful for her, but she didn't complain at all." Like, wow, good for her, she's such a fucking hero. What's with the heroics of not saying anything when you feel like you're going to die? It's like when women, or their husbands, brag that they didn't have an epidural or scream when they were pushing a melon-head out of their vaginas. Cuz you know--it makes me feel better to bitch and moan and cry and wail when my body feels like it's being ripped open or aching with every little breath. Being silent is only an option for when I'm really dead.

I guess that's the stigma of cancer. Not supposed to talk about pain and death and dying. But really, that's what's going on inside the head sometimes. I myself find that really interesting. Fascinating.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Greetings from Kirkland, WA!

I'm feeling much better, thanks very much for asking. DH and I picked up Vicki and Lisa at SeaTac airport last night. Other than my mouth feeling like a desert, I'm feeling fine! I almost have my tastebuds back! So we're gearing up for a feeding frenzy this weekend. We are going to wine and dine Vicki and Lisa like never before. I'm so excited they're here and that I don't feel like a camel's soiled ass.

I know people have a thing against Wal-Mart for them exploiting workers so they can bring the consumer low low prices. But I got some cozy soft hats at Wal-Mart last night, and I love them. And they were $4.92. U.S. dollars. WEAK U.S. dollars.

Thanksgiving in the U.S. is coming up, and I feel like I'm missing out. I always liked Thanksgiving, especially since it's always been close to my birthday. Maybe we'll have a small Thanksgiving dinner for U.S. ex-pats in Canada.

Anyway, no worries today. Yesterday was good, and today will be even better!!!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Smiley Faces

This sucks. I told DH that I'm feeling so much pain that I feel like I'm paying for all my sins. My throat is swollen inside so I can hardly swallow, every joint in my body hurts (Tylenol doesn't do shit for me), and well, the weather sucks. Can't blame chemo for the weather though.

Chloe is drawing in the "Time for Me" activity book for kids with parents with cancer. She drew a smiley face and arms and legs on the cartoon of the tumor and asked me if that made me happy, if it made me felt better. Yes, Chloe, it does. So now she's filling every single page with smiley faces with arms and legs. Some of them have hair too.

Speaking of hair, Chloe asked me when I'm going to fix mine. Kids are awesome. I love their perspective on things.

The other night, when the kids came home from being at their grandparents' house, they burst in the door and shouted, "Mama! Mama!" Mylo ran by all his birthday toys, ran up the stairs, and hopped into bed with me and started snuggling. Then Chloe followed. That made me feel both happy and sad.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

How It's Looking

I had round 5 of chemo yesterday--a new chemo cocktail. Docetaxel (aka Taxotere) and Capecitabine. Docetaxel is administered through an IV, and Capecitabine is a pill dosage I have to take twice a day. Here's picture of my bruise from my IV yesterday. I didn't put enough pressure on the vein when the nurse took out the IV, so I got a nasty swollen bruise:

So far, I've been feeling okay, though there was a woman in the chemo room with me who was getting her own dose of Docetaxel, which she started a few cycles ago. She was telling me about all the problems she's had since starting it, which wasn't that reassuring. But the nurse said that everyone's different, so we'll see. The new fun side effects I can expect are peripheral neuropathy, which is numbness and tingling in the hands and feet, and body aches and pains. The nausea should be less or even non-existent, which is good. But my taste buds are already back to flat and metallic, which sucks.

DH and I are very concerned and have our doubts and fears about radiation. We're supposed to meet the radiation oncologist soon. We have lots of questions, mainly which point to how necessary this is, especially given that if I were to get radiation, I would be doing it before surgery, so how do we even know that it's necessary assuming that the surgery would take care of getting rid of the cancer. Anyway, we're eagerly waiting the appointment. It's an odd thing because the nurse and the oncologist were reassuring us that with the radiation, we were getting the "deluxe package," as if this were some sort of resort vacation deal.

The nurse also mentioned that I'm "lucky" to be getting in on the reconstruction list, because there's such a wait list for those wanting reconstruction. But my group--I guess that would be women who have the hardcore yet operable breast cancer--is the only one that's being accepted onto the list without waiting. I told the nurse that I felt so special. She laughed.

And here's the news from the ultrasound I had last week: "There has been a moderate decrease in the size of the multifocal carcinoma in the superior right breast. Significant residual disease persists." So mostly good news, some sucky news. Specifically: "One lesion measures 1.1 x 0.4 cm. . .this was measured 1.3 x 1 cm in August. A second lesion measures 0.9 x 0.5 cm. This was previously measured at 1.3 x 1.4 cm. A third lesion measures 0.7 x 0.6 cm, and this has not changed."

I don't know if this means anything...but I just gave Chloe a book that my therapist said I should give to her called "Time for Me: An activity book for kids when someone in the family has cancer." She went right to the page called "What is radiation" and colored green all over it. Green, in aura therapy, means healing I think.

Anyway, I fallen into not caring about what I'm eating (I'm a Weight Watchers lifetime member, which is probably put into jeopardy since I stopped going after my diagnosis in July. I've become accustomed to what I was putting in my mouth in terms of calories, fat and all that). But now, I'm trying to get all belly fatalicious so I'll have bigger jugs when reconstruction time happens--but nothing is changing. My doctor beamed and said, "Weight is maintaining. Good job." I'm like--just fucking great. Now that I want massive girth, it's not happening. How cruel can this world possibly be, man???

As far as my appearance go, I've totally stopped putting on makeup or giving a crap. I pretty much go out bald; it comes in handy sometimes. Like when I'm on a crowded bus and want to sit down. I whip off my hat, and people get out of my way. The perks of looking seriously ill.

So that's the latest in Brandy's cancerland. Life goes on.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Angel and a devil

Here's my little angel:

And here's my devil...the tumors are the black blobs that you see on the images...these are from my latest biopsy, which was last Thursday:

Tools for the biopsy...On the right, the thing that looks like a very long drill bit--that's the biopsy needle:

Lucky Ladybug

It's been a dizzying week, trying to keep up with the kids without my parents around to help. But it's also been good in terms of reclaiming my space, my house, and my family. I'll see how it goes when I have chemo this Wednesday. It's my first round of the second type of chemo cocktail I'm getting. This one is suppose to be stronger with new side effects. I have to take double my dosage of puke pills, which isn't cool because the puke pills have some nasty side effects of their own.

It was a good thing that I took a copy of my chart with me to the oncology surgeon's office because she was missing information that she needed. It's also a good thing that I have a distinctive ladybug tattoo around my arm. I got a call last week from the plastic surgeon's office. Her secretary told me that the surgeon forgot to number and identify the pictures she took of my boobs. So they needed to identify my headless torso. She asked me, "Would you by any chance have a ladybug tattoo?" I said yes. What would have happened if I didn't have that tattoo? Would I have been asked to go into the office and identify my boobs in a line-up? How odd.

My best friend from high school and her mom are coming to see me in a week and a half. I'm super psyched because no one from PA, except for my parents, ever comes to see me. Plus, they're bringing me my favorite food from central PA--Hartley's bbq potato chips. Salty, spicy goodness. I wish they could bring OIP pizza too. The best pizza in the world comes from Amish country.

I need to eat all the Hartley's that I can. Hartley's=tummy flab=new, bigger boobs. An encouraging equation.