It's October 2015

It's October 2015
Have You Scheduled Your Mammogram??!!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Pennies From Heaven

For those of you who haven't heard about or seen it, there is a sea of pennies the size of a city block near the tree at Rockefeller Center. $1 million in pennies (sprinkled with some silver) are guarded by volunteers 24-7. The concept, Penny Harvest Field, was designed and executed by Elliot Spitzer's wife, Silda Wall Spitzer. Children from 800 public school's collected the pennies between late October and Thanksgiving. When the display is removed the first week of January, each school will decide to which charity it would like its portion to be alloted. The kids are learning about what it means to give back to society.  

I love this concept. 

My mom and I have this thing about finding change in the street (like George Kastanza can spot dimes). Some days I collect a small handful. No amount is too small to pass up (although I ignore the pennies on tails... I always wonder if it still counts as bad luck if you see it put don't pick it up). We actually get excited about finding the change, "Oooohh, look what I found here!" And then we give each other the change in order to spread the wealth. 

I've known people who actually give away their change because they don't want to be bothered carrying it. I had a boss who would always give me the pennies in his pocket as he thought them to be useless. 

Yet all this small change can add up to a huge amount. 

I think it's a great thing to remember this time of year. If you have ten minutes, c'mon, you can find it, take the jar of pennies you've been collecting, roll them up, deposit them in your account and write a check for a few dollars to your favorite charity. Or walk to the nearest homeless shelter and bring in the money with a can of soup and that old coat you've been meaning to get rid of. Even if it's five bux you're donating, that's five more dollars that someone didn't have before. You'll feel good once you do it; it's very cathartic.

I recently joined a foundation called Step Up For Women (www.suwn.org). Its purpose is to provide underprivileged girls and women with the proper tools they need to create a better future for themselves. There are wonderful mentor programs, health education and advocacy and much more. I was particularly interested in the healthcare aspect. Girls and women are taught the importance of and given the tools for maintaining good healthy eating habits, exercise, disease prevention, funding for research initiatives and "wellness bags" for women undergoing cancer treatment. 

No, I'm not going to hit you up for any money. I already did that this year. I'm just putting out the reminder that a little goes a very long way. And if you don't have money to give, your time is just as important.

My treatments are going very well. I'm experiencing zero side effects thus far. I've got my routine down and take advantage of having to head downtown every day (Trader Joe's being a huge plus). The thing though that really makes this so easy, is the way I am treated from the moment I walk in to the waiting area. The therapists have a very hard job to do. Although it may appear rote, there is no room for error. But every single person there says hello, asks how I'm doing, smiles, and treats me with respect. I remember thinking I was going to miss out on the terrific (cushy) care I might've received at MSK. I thought I'd be really miserable going to BI but how can I not pass up the chance to have insurance cover everything? Well, I'm glad I stuck with my decision. I never leave that place feeling down. I actually leave feeling somewhat empowered, optimistic and protected. Again, thanks to the kind treatment I receive. 

As the year comes to a close, I just wanted to thank everyone again for your outreach and support. Believe me when I say, just knowing you read this blog goes a very long way. (You don't know how much until you learn of those who will/don't not read it). Your cards, emails, phone calls, speak volumes. Taking five minutes out of your busy day to do this, is worth just as much if not more than a sea full of pennies to me. 

To quote a Christmas card I received yesterday, "Give generously, receive abundantly."

Wishing you all a year full of health, peace and love. 

Best in 2008, 

Elizabeth

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

RT Treatment Day 1

Started radiation yesterday. The long wait in the depressing waiting room is the most annoying part. Of course this was day 1 so that may change. But really, you do not feel a thing. Just the numbness in your arm while you're lying in one position (note to self, stretch more). Supposedly by week three, one's skin gets irritated--like a sunburn. During the next six weeks, I've been advised to:
  • Use non-scented soap
  • Don't shave (la pit)
  • Only use non-aluminum deo (like Tom's which does dinky)
  • Only use Aquaphor or pure Aloe Vera gel on the area
  • Take no antioxidants (since the treatment is actually oxidizing) so no Vitamin C IVs for six weeks. (The jury is still out whether or not the anti-oxidants would help during treatment. I find it strange since you're advised to eat lots of green, leafy veggies, but I'm taking and doing enough to keep myself in good shape.)
  • No perfume (it might cause an irritation as well as make any chemo pt's in the waiting room nauseous)
Of course this will all double up my morning routine as I put the real deo on one side and the Tom's on the other. Then again, I'll cut my shaving time in half. See, you must look at the positives!! Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz....

Anyway, according to everyone I've spoken to, it's the nuisance of going every day that is the worst part. Some experience fatigue but again, that's probably by week three and my friend has volunteered to do acupuncture on me to help avoid this and any other side effects (BC patients feel these a lot less frequently than say, head/neck cancer pts). Beth Israel actually has someone on staff who will do this for you as well as teach you some guided imagery exercises. The staff is very nice and they do their best to keep you in a calm, happy, stress free place. 

My schedule is now M-T @ 4:15 and F @ 9:30, for six weeks. I should be done just after my b'day which is great timing. Start the year off with a clean slate!

Happy Holidays, everyone,

Liz


Thursday, November 15, 2007

I Was So Wired Today!


No, not on Starbucks. Today was the SIM appointment. After falling asleep in a stifling hot waiting room and then going for lunch, I was ready to be seen. The good news is that BI's down one machine but only because it's being upgraded with a new, higher-tech machine. Everything was painless, just more of a nuisance. You lie down on a table with lots of computerized machinery on top of and around you. A mold is created of your head and neck. You rest your head on a warm, chemical filled like pillow, turn your head to the opposite side being treated, and then it sinks into the pillow which hardens into the mold. This is one way to ensure that you will be set up the same exact way every time you go for radiation. So, head's turned and now arm is lifted above head and stays put, along w/ your entire body, for at least one hour. By above 45 minutes I got a little twitchy but no big deal. The worst part was the fly buzzing around the room which I obsessed about thinking it would land on me and I wouldn't be able to shoo it away. Well, it knew better and left me alone. 

In the meantime, the radiation therapist wraps around and tapes a wire to le boob. Lines are drawn all over w/a Sharpie, measurements are taken and she's running back and forth capturing each line and measurement, varied positions of machinery on a screen in the next room. This simulation, or dry run, is looked at by the radiologist, Dr. Chada, for a minute and radiation physicists. Last step, I got the tatts which mark the treatment ports. With what feels like a pin prick, 3 tiny permanent markings the size of a freckle are made. These marks are another way to assist the therapist in aiming the radiation at the same spot each time.

Next, while marked up and wired, I walked my mold --which looks like a blue boogie board-- over to the other BI building on Union Sq. East. It didn't matter that I didn't know where I was going. Someone spots you with a blue boogie board, they know where to direct you. I caught up on the tabloids in a room w/folks with varying types of cancers. Let's just say, I felt lucky to be me. Eventually I was met by Terry who walked me upstairs for my CAT scan.   

I change into my new uniform--a mint green and white pin stripe seersucker robe. People are walking around downstairs in those as if at home or in a spa. Women in a robe and pants, men in a robe and no pants. Kind of depressing but that's where the tabloids come in handy! 

If you've never had a CAT scan, it's painless and not claustrophobic or noisy like an MRI. The difference b/w that and a regular x-ray is that a CAT scan is a 3-D x-ray vs 2-D. You can see the heart, lungs, everything going on inside as opposed to say, a flat front view.  We now had to match my position on the table to that of the one during the SIM. I have the mold underneath head/neck, rt arm above head and left arm exactly where it was before (tucked under my tush). I'm moved back into a giant (unfortunately unglazed) donut which captures all of the data. Some stuff inside it is spinning around the donut like your laundry on spin cycle.  After about 15 minutes I'm finished. I pull off the wires and tape and remove the roadmap with rubbing alcohol. 

The films will be reviewed by the radiologist. She, along with a dosimetrist and the physicist, decide how much radiation I get and on what schedule. If I remember correctly, the first 5 wks target the whole general area and the last week and half zoom in to exactly where the cancer was. On December 6th I'll return. We'll make sure the machinery is positioned exactly where it should be as seen in the x-rays, take more films, etc. The following Monday, December 9th, will be the first radiation treatment. I'll go five days a week at 4:30 for six weeks. 

     THIS IS NOT ME
By the way, that wired orb up on top is not at all what I looked like. It was just for effects. I've taken the liberty of stealing, let's say borrowing, another woman's, more accurate image of her simulation which you can be seen to the left.  I apparently am not the only one who's ever written a boob blog. Go figure. 

Thank you, woman whose SIM image I've used. I hope you are doing well and don't mind that I've helped educate others w/the use of your image. 

Last, I'm happy to report that thus far I've had no side effects whatsoever from the Tamoxiphen (Leslie calls me Foxy Tamoxy). I feel great actually. No sugar is suiting me well. I get weekly vitamin c (and some other stuff) IVs which take about two hours each, am popping all sorts of supplements, and not forgetting for a moment, that I may've dodged the bullet, but I've got to do all I can to try and make sure this doesn't all happen again. I hope you do the same and take good care of yourselves. 

I'll have a lot to be thankful for this Thanksgiving. 

Love and health to all!

Liz

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Stamp Out BC--this takes TWO minutes at most...

Hi All,

What if I told you that a major source of funding for breastcancer research was at risk, and that all we need to save it is for you to write your Senators? The Breast Cancer Research Stamp has raised $55 million for breast cancer research since its introduction in 1998. It has become the best selling commemorative stamp in U.S. history, with100% of the net proceeds benefiting breast cancer research programs. But unless the Senate reauthorizes it, the stamp will disappear in less than two months!

Please urge your Senators to save the stamp! Just click on the link below. http://komenpolicy.org/campaign/bcrs_sen

We're in a good situation - the House has already reauthorized the Stamp, and Sen. Dianne Feinstein has a bill in the Senate that would do the same. All we need now is to put the pressure on the Senate to cosponsor the bill and make sure it comes up for a vote. That's why I just wrote my Senators - please, will you do the same?

Just click the link below. http://komenpolicy.org/campaign/bcrs_sen

Thanks for your time!

Liz

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Losing Your Marbles

Someone sent this email to me yesterday and I thought it was worth sharing. We all know life is short, etc., but this was an interesting way of looking at it. I think it's a good lesson for kids too. 

3900 Saturdays

The older I get, the more I enjoy Saturday mornings. Perhaps it's the quiet solitude that comes with being the first to rise, or maybe it's the unbounded joy of not having to be at work. Either way, the first few hours of a Saturday morning are most enjoyable.

A few weeks ago, I was shuffling toward the garage with a steaming cup of coffee in one hand and the morning paper in the other. What began as a typical Saturday morning turned into one of those lessons that life seems to hand you from time to time. Let me tell you about it:

I turned the dial up into the phone portion of the band on my ham radio in order to listen to a Saturday morning swap net. Along the way, I came across an older sounding chap, with a tremendous signal and a golden voice. You know the kind; he sounded like he should be in the broadcasting business. He was telling whom-ever he was talking with something about "a thousand marbles." I was intrigued and stopped to listen to what he had to say

"Well, Tom, it sure sounds like you're busy with your job. I'm sure they pay you well but it's a shame you have to be away from home and your family so much. Hard to believe a young fellow should have to work sixty or seventy hours a week to make ends meet. It's too bad you missed your daughter's "dance recital" he continued. "Let me tell you something that has helped me keep my own priorities." And that's when he began to explain his theory of a "thousand marbles."

"You see, I sat down one day and did a little arithmetic. The average person lives about seventy-five years. I know, some live more and some live less, but on average, folks live about seventy-five years.

"Now then, I multiplied 75 times 52 and I came up with 3900, which is the number of Saturdays that the average person has in their entire lifetime. Now, stick with me, Tom, I'm getting to the important part.

It took me until I was fifty-five years old to think about all this in any detail", he went on, "and by that time I had lived through over twenty-eight hundred Saturdays." "I got to thinking that if I lived to be seventy-five, I only had about a thousand of them left to enjoy. So I went to a toy store and bought every single marble they had. I ended up having to visit three toy stores to round up 1000 marbles. I took them home and put them inside a large, clear plastic container right here in the shack next to my gear."

"Every Saturday since then, I have taken one marble out and thrown it away.
I found that by watching the marbles diminish, I focused more on the really important things in life.

There is nothing like watching your time here on this earth run out to help get your priorities straight."

"Now let me tell you one last thing before I sign-off with you and take my lovely wife out for breakfast. This morning, I took the very last marble out of the container. I figure that if I make it until next Saturday then I have been given a little extra time. And the one thing we can all use is a little more time."

"It was nice to meet you Tom, I hope you spend more time with your family, and I hope to meet you again here on the band. This is a 75 Year old Man, K9NZQ, clear and going QRT, good morning!"

You could have heard a pin drop on the band when this fellow signed off. I guess he gave us all a lot to think about. I had planned to work on the antenna that morning, and then I was going to meet up with a few hams to work on the next club newsletter.

Instead, I went upstairs and woke my wife up with a kiss. "C'mon honey, I'm taking you and the kids to breakfast." "What brought this on?" she asked with a smile. "Oh, nothing special, it's just been a long time since we spent a Saturday together with the kids. And hey, can we stop at a toy store while we're out? I need to buy some marbles.
_________

P.S. No crazy effects from the 1st nite on the T. Didn't howl at the moon once. 

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Next Step...


Today I made my SIM appointment. I'm lucky I called when I did because I got the last slot available for a while. As it is I should've done this a week or two ago. Regardless, I was told that the timing is fine and many people have been known to wait to begin treatment a lot longer than me.

The appointment is November 15th @ 11:30 and will take a good portion of the day. I'll be getting the freckle tats and all the markings and perhaps they do a dry run? I haven't gotten all the vernacular down yet. I'm just glad this is in the works already. On the 15th I'll be able to make the 2nd appointment necessary before I can begin the actual radiation. Can't make it any sooner so the date is TBD. I still need to understand what will transpire at that appt. Maybe that's the dry run day. I know they'll be using films taken on the 15th so I'm guessing they do the final calibration and note the settings of the machinery.

I'm off to see T+A and tonight I'll start the first dose of T. If I turn into a mad woman, we won't know if it's the drug or the Halloween moon or both. Speaking of Halloween, this is the first one ever that I did not have one piece of candy. Living sugar free wasn't too easy in the beginning but the cravings are definitely dissipating.

Thank you all for your words of encouragement. Your emails mean a lot to me. Feel free to post them on here too if there's anything you want to share with others.

Trick or treat!

Liz

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Time In A Bottle

Well, here it is. The latest edition to my nighttime regimen. Tamoxifen 20mg. Take once a day with or without food. For five years. 

This should be a clue as to my final decision to use or not use chemo as part of my treatment plan. If you remember, one would only start this drug if s/he did not do or else finished chemo. 

Today I called Dr. Malamud and told him that I am refusing the chemo. This was not met with any good or bad reaction. I think he was ready to hear it. We just discussed next steps. That is, he will fill my Rx for Tamoxifen and I should see him within 3-4 weeks of beginning radiation. As for the latter, mea culpa, I should've have made an appt for my SIM (simulation) already but with all that was on my mind, I simply forgot. I suppose at one point I thought I may do chemo and would have a few months before the appt was necessary. Regardless,  I left a message with the rad's (that's cancer talk for radiologist) office requesting a date and should hear back tomorrow. 

Tamoxifen (ta-MOX-i-fen)
Common uses: This medicine is an anti-estrogen used to treat or prevent breast cancer. It may also be used to treat other conditions as determined by your doctor.
BEFORE USING THIS MEDICINE: WARNING: Tamoxifen rarely may cause serious (possibly fatal) side effects. These include cancer of the uterus (endometrial cancer and uterine sarcoma), as well as strokes and blood clots in the lung (pulmonary emboli). Tell your dr. immediately if you develop: vaginal bleeding, irregular or abnormal menstrual periods, groin pain or pressure, chest pain, trouble breathing, one-side weakness. If you are taking this medicine for prevention of breast cancer .... discuss w/ your dr. the risks vs the benefits... However, if you are taking T for treatment of breast cancer, the proven benefits clearly are greater than the risk of side effects. Consult.......... blah blah........blah blah........

POSSIBLE SIDE EFFECTS: Side effects that may go away during treatment include hot flashes, leg cramps, UTIs ....women stuff, women stuff, women stuff.... If they continue.... consult....zzzzzzzzzzzzzz...sharpen steak knives...zzzzzzzz...

Well, let's hope I fall into the positive stats of ER+ tumors/invasive cancer from being prevented.

I spoke to a woman today who has another six months left on this drug. She said other than weight gain and slightly thinning hair --remedied with more cardio and extensions respectively-- she didn't experience too many bad side effects although the first night on the drug she had a pounding headache that wouldn't go away and she went somewhat hysterical, crying, sobbing, and felt out of control. 

When I questioned Dr. Malamud if this is normal, he replied, I HOPE you have that feeling for only one day! 

When I asked about the likelihood of uterine cancer, he said, 1:10,000. (These are odds I can live with). 

What if I get bad headaches? Take Tylenol, avoid aspirin. 

So, I'm entering what will kind of feel like menopause but won't actually be menopause. (Of course some side effects are worse with some than others.) The "antiestrogen" intercepts the estrogen from the estrogen receptor on the surface of cancer cells, preventing estrogen from entering the cell and stimulating growth. (Growth leads to tumor).

As you know, every drug has its side effects. We make fun of those Viagra and myriad drug commercials constantly. Although after reading those of Tamoxifen I haven't been thrilled with the idea of taking it, I know I have to do something conventional. With the use of this drug is how I come to only a 13% chance of recurrence within ten years. Those are the odds I was weighing against doing the chemo or not. 

I thought I'd be somewhat relieved after I spoke with the dr. I was as far as finally voicing my decision, but I felt a little wilted and got a little teary eyed walking to the pharmacy to pick up my new hormone therapy. Who the hell wants to take this stuff? No one. But after tearing through the stack of books that arrived from Amazon today, I know this is what's available right now and it's going to fight the cancer. My situation can certainly be far, far worse than it is. Nonetheless, I am more drained from this past week than I have been since hearing about my diagnosis. 

For now, I know everything will be all right but my spirit's a little busted up. I'm sure this will turn itself around in a just a couple of days (if the drug doesn't make me insane). As a matter of fact I'm going to see "A Chorus Line" tomorrow night. You remember the song, "Tits and A-aaasss, yes, tits and..." 

Can I ever escape this topic?!

Friday, October 26, 2007

Is That Your Final Answer?

Oh, where's Claire Voyant and the Amazing Kreskin when you need them? How I wish I could get an ironclad guarantee that my decision to do or not do chemo will be the right one.

For those hoping to learn how I will proceed next, unfortunately you may not be happy with this entry.

I have been doing my due diligence and calling those whom I think are all the right people, asking what I think are the right questions, doing the right research.

I am not opposed to chemotherapy. I am opposed to doing it unnecessarily. And therein lies the rub. There are no definite answers a) with any chemo b) without the chemo c) with someone with my rating on the Oncotype scale refusing chemo.

Reminder: According to the Oncotype Dx test, if one falls into the low or the high end of risk, it's found that patients will not/will respond and benefit from chemo respecitively. This discovery is great b/c for many years, people were getting chemo when it was unwarranted; now they are ruled out. What's still being studied, however, is what to do for intermediate scorers (in my case I fall within the low end of intermediate risk or 13% risk of recurrence w/in ten years).

The greatest cons --aside from the obvious ones we all know about--of doing chemo:

Option 1, lowers odds to 9%:
CMF, or the "lighter" formula, brings with it a 50% chance that I will go into menopause.

Option 2, lowers odds to 7%:
The "stronger" formula containing Taxotere + Cytoxan (for which studies have only been done FIVE years, not the full ten): Osteoporosis (already a potential side effect of the Tamoxphen that I will be on for five years once radiation begins); Chemobrain--patients report forgetfulness, trouble focusing and even mental fatigue as part of this phenomenon (I think may not be long term); nerve damage or neuropathy which can cause loss of sensation, tingling, numbness or painful sensations. Nerve damage is most often associated with the taxanes. May fix itself after a year.


Regardless of whether or not I do chemo, I would of course be regularly tested for breast cancer with the help of bi-annual mammos. For cancer of the body, PET scans would be given. According to Dr. Malamud, they're good but not perfect tests, but it is what is available right now. Other than that, there are regular physicals and blood work done.

For the record, when I conveyed the possibility of my refusing chemo and the reasons why to Dr. Melamud this past Friday he said, "Liz, there is no right or wrong answer." It basically is about my being satisfied with a 13% chance of recurrence. He understands that if he'd said, Liz your risk is X% high, you really need to do this, then I would.

I know many of your have expressed that you'd do anything you could not to get cancer a second time. If I thought that this was a surefire way not to, I would be a lot more open to it. Trust me, when I have a bad headache or PMS, I take an Aleve. Because I know the pain will go away. When my body doesn't feel right, I go to the appropriate dr. Going for my baseline mammo at 40 is what got me here in the first place (I'd been asking my gyno for at least five years if I should be going yet). I believe in medicine and the medical technology that's helped me thus far. I also believe in doing what I can to care for my well being without it.

My mind is swinging like a pendulum. I say, I want to do the right thing. But what is it? God forbid I do have a recurrence in a few years, I realize I will have to live w/the choice I've made today. I think that if there was no option at all (just the rad+Tamox) and I was given a 13% of recurrence, I could really live with that number. But it's also highly probable that just a few years from now, there will be a lot more information available about various treatments. Even the study for the chemo being recommended to people who fall into my category would be that much more advanced in its findings.

I've changed my mind several times, so don't be convinced that this is my final answer. But for the past couple of days, what you've read is what I see in my crystal ball.

Next installment will be this Monday, Tues the latest. I will have either met with Dr. Malamud in person or given him my answer on the phone.

Also, for those concerned that I am waiting too long, I am not. I am definitely within the window of time that one may take after having his or her surgery.

I can't ask that you understand exactly from where I am coming. I can only ask that you don't shoot me down and just support me in my decision. And if you don't, I understand, that is your decision.

"We have to believe in free will. We've got no choice."
Isaac Bashevis Singer


Thanks for reading....

E.


Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Venus - Mars = Venus

Last night I found myself watching a fairly cheesy movie on Lifetime. Ricki Lake portrayed, Linda, a single woman who had a mastectomy and had to go back out into the dating world. She was feeling totally insecure and thought she'd never find a man who loved her and that the only way should would feel sexy and um, whole, again was if she had a man.

For the record, Lifetime movies typically make me gag but for obvious reasons I kept this one on. I must give credit where it's due. They covered the topic fairly well and the dialog was pretty realistic. One gorgeous guy after another tripping over Linda wasn't all that realistic, but I made allowances. I digress.

Recently I have not only joined the ranks of breast cancer survivors out there (man, I'm really tired of hearing that term thrown around. October is a long month)... but I am surviving BC AND a breakup! I was bitter at first although thankfully I never took on the "why me" attitude. I was just, well, bitter. And a bit sad. It was something that I knew should've happened 2-3 weeks prior to my getting the call. But aside from getting out there and "looking again," I didn't do much else it b/c I thought life would be better if I had a man in my life albeit not the right man. And before any of you men reading this think that this is point where I start male bashing, it's not at all. This man was a gentleman who offered me a lot of support and whose conversation and humor I really enjoyed, but in my heart, I knew it wasn't going to work. That being said, it really wasn't going to work b/c he "ran into an old friend." Whether or not it's true, and I'll never know, it still hurt because a) I hate abrupt good-byes, b) my ego was bruised and c) it wasn't done on MY terms.

So there I lay manless and tumorless and I still have this treatment road ahead of me for which the decision process is not easy. Sigh. Heavy sigh ... oh, woe is me. Cancer would be soooo much better if I had a man telling me that I'm beautiful. Wouldn't it?

A few weeks ago I went to my elementary school's 80th anniversary. I saw my 3rd, 5th and 6th grade teachers all of whom I remembered and they remembered me. It was a great day. It was as if time stood still. The only difference was I was bigger and all the rooms and desks seemed smaller. Upon seeing my 6th grade teacher, Barbara H., we hugged and she made me cry as a result of her excitement in seeing me; I told her all the things that I'll never forget she taught me. (She jokingly asked if I'd speak at her funeral). Just yesterday--prior to turning on the cheesy Lifetime movie-- I got a card from Barbara in which she wrote, "...You still have the grace and beauty that you had in sixth grade...". This immediately brought me to tears.

It occured to me that with or without Mars, I really am OK. My sixth grade teacher told me so!

As you can imagine, Linda gets her man at the end of the movie, but not until she's suffered a lot of growing pains.

Thanks all for being there while I go through mine.

;>)

Friday, October 19, 2007

Got Milk?

Food for thought:

Some of my blood work came back and it appears that my Vitamin D levels are extremely low. There has been research done connecting low levels of D with various cancers including BC, neurological diseases (e.g. MS), Diabetes1, bone loss and other conditions.

The normal range is from 10-60.
But less than 30 is considered insuffienct.
Less than 20 is deficient.

Mine was 8.4.

Dr. Dana said she's only seen two patients in her medical history with levels that low.

It would make some sense seeing as I do my best to avoid the sun b/c of my skin's sensitivity to it.

So I'm off to the tanning parlor and with my new tats, I should be looking fiiiine.

Kidding.

If you don't get a lot of sun though, you may want to consider getting your levels checked and eating a lot of tuna, salmon, sardines, mackerel, dairy and egg yolks--all of course depending on what you personal dietary needs/restrictions are. That being said, I do eat many of these foods but again, I avoid the sun. So I'm now taking extra supplements.
Moo.


Thursday, October 18, 2007

I'm Wiggin' Out...

Went to see the oncologist, Dr. Melamud, yesterday to review results of the Oncotype DX. http://www.genomichealth.com/oncotype/default.aspx?c1=google&source=searchkw=oncotype_dx I was so confident I did not have to be faced with the decision of whether or not to do chemo. Alas...my score fell into what’s considered to be the “intermediate risk” of recurrence area. This essentially means, based on testing about 15 genes from the sample of my tumor, and with the assumption that I will be taking Tamoxophen for five years, there's a 13% likelihood of cancer recurring anywhere (not just breast, anywhere) in my body over the next ten years.

Based on that information I may or may not choose to do chemo. Do I want to lower my odds 4-5%? I supposedly can by doing one of two chemo treatments for approximately four months. Or can I live with 13%?

This reflects if I were to take Tamoxophen but did NOT do chemo:

86 out of 100 women are alive without recurrence in 10 years
13 OUT OF 100 WOMEN DEVELOP RECURRENCE IN 10 years
1 out of 100 women die of other causes in 10 years

If I were to get chemo, I’d have two treatment options: 1st or 2nd generation, 2nd being the "stronger" of the two which means more side effects (e.g.hair loss) but lower odds of recurrence. (There is a 3rd option that is heavy duty and I ruled that out immediately.)

OPTION 1 (along with Tamoxophen);
CMF-Like (Cytoxan; Methaotreaxate; 5FU):


86 out of 100 women are alive and w/o recurrence in 10 years PLUS:
4 out of 100 women are alive and w/o recurrence b/c of therapy
9 OUT OF 100 WOMEN DEVELOP RECURRENCE IN TEN YEARS
1 out of 100 women die of other cause in 10 years

This would be administered by IV six times, once every three weeks. Side effects include minimal fatigue; it’s generally well tolerated; very little to no hair loss; 2-3 drugs are given to combat nausea/GI upset (Aloxi, Emend and Compazine if needed). One must watch blood count and only if necessary, Neulasta is given if white cell count is low.


OPTION 2 (along with Tamoxophen);
Second Generation Chemo Docetaxel (Taxotere) + Cytoxan:

86 out of 100 women are alive and w/o recurrence in 10 years PLUS:
6 out of 100 women are alive and w/o recurrence b/c of therapy
7 OUT OF 100 WOMEN DEVELOP REUCRRENCE IN TEN YEARS (7 vs the 9 from option 1)
1 out of 100 women die of other cause in 10 years

This would be administered by IV four times, once every three weeks. On the day following chemo, an injection of Neulasta is given to support the blood counts (vs only if necessary for option 1).

There is more fatigue, hair loss (i.e. balding), in some cases neuropathy (tingling of fingers); same 2-3 drugs are given to combat nausea/GI upset which is common as well as rawness of skin in mouth and a metallic taste.

I did not commit to doing either and advised the dr. I would get back to him. He not only understood, but encouraged me to think about it. I did ask him, If I were his daughter, what would he suggest? He said, Option 2. If I proceed, the chemo is done prior to the radiation + starting the Tamoxophen. (One can choose to start radiation half way through chemo but the cosmetic effects of the breast are worse than if one waits).

As for the radiation, met with Dr. Chada, but there’s nothing we can do now until I decide on the chemo. I know for sure though that I will do the radiation. Remember, radiation is to treat the area (e.g. le boob) locally vs the chemo which treats the entire body.

After lunch and slugging a glass of anti-oxidant-rich vino, I visited my friend Dana's office (she practices complementary + alternative med http://www.patientsmedical.com/Dana-Cohen-MD.html ) and she is setting me up on a program called First Line Therapy by Metagenics, a highly respected supplement company. There's a food plan which is basically based on eating foods low on the glycemic index therefore controlling insulin my levels. This happens to work well for me at this time since cancer loves sugar; sugar lowers your white cell count quite a bit (consider this before you unwrap that next Snickers bar). The purpose of the program is really for overall well being and can be tailored to your personal needs. I would eat small meals from specific food groups throughout the day and the diet encourages your body to gain more lean muscle mass vs some diets that cause a loss in muscle mass. I haven't read through it entirely yet, but a good portion plus Dr. D brought me up to speed.

I had blood drawn and a full work up is being one; the results will take a few days.

I also made an appointment with Dr. Ronald Hoffman for next week. (You may've heard his radio shows or read his books). http://www.drhoffman.com/ Dana used to work for him and she will accompany me. He treats a lot of cancer patients going through chemo primarily with vitamin drips. He can give me the formula and they can be administered by the nurse in my office for free. Dana and I both looked into an extremely alternative doc (so as to avoid doing chemo) however, although his regimen works very well, it entails a HUGE lifestyle change (including but not limited to 175+/- supplements/day) to which I know I will never stick. I've ruled him out.

Dana will come with me to Dr. H next week. By then I will have my blood results for him to review. I will have an answer of my choice of chemo by next Friday.

For the record, there are plenty of studies using alternative treatments with or without chemo that are poo pooed by many western dr’s and pharmaceutical companies. They do exist though. This isn't just voo doo stuff I’m talking about. If I can lower my risk with the “kinder, gentler” chemo with the help of the alternative stuff, I’d be a lot more comfortable with that.

I am not ruling out anything but I am on the fence about the 1st vs
2nd generation and what I can use as adjuvant therapy. I must do my due diligence. With all the access to info out there, it would be silly not to.


To do, or not to do... to do, what to do... that is the question........

Friday, October 12, 2007

Blister In The Sun


... my 80's music fans will appreciate that one.

Well, Karen clocked in 39.3 miles over the course of two days while schvitzing under the hot Indian summer sun. The NY Avon Breast Cancer Walk alone raised $10.2 million. (click on headline for full story). Mom and I did the easy part and met Karen at the finish line and stayed for the closing ceremonies. All the walkers (who stayed) marched in with 400+ attending survivors at the head of the line. It was very powerful, very pink, very poignant. People from all over the world (e.g. 22 walkers from Iceland) came for this event, many camping out overnight. After this tiring "feet", the finish line at Pier 43 is NOT where one wants to go to look for a taxi cab. As exhausted as everyone looked though, they were that exhilarated from their achievement.



A note of thanks for all of you who made donations (together, Karen and I raised about $5,000) and for everyone's continuing support. And of course an extra special thank you to Karen (that's her to the left!) for putting her best foot forward.

Thanks all!

Liz

Friday, October 5, 2007

I'd Like To Have Met This Guy, Buddha


"You will not be punished for your anger, you will be punished by your anger...
Let a man overcome anger by love.
--Buddha

When life hands you lemons, squeeze 'em and make lemonade!

I started to tally how many people have manhandled my lemons in the past two months. I ran out of fingers and lost count. And let's not forget the number of mammograms I had.

But, hey, it's all in an effort to ade the lemons so what do I care? I love these doctors! And I'm not the least bit angry about this lemon cancer thing. You know who should be angry? That woman who was erroneously given a double mastectomy. I can't imagine what kind of roller coaster she's been and will continue to be on. SHE has the right to sue for millions of dollars, not a woman who claims to have been sexually harassed by her boss. If she really sued bc she wants to make a difference to women in the workforce, let her take the money lost when she had to look for work and donate the rest to women who can't afford higher education or Dress for Success. We all know she'll even more from a book deal, etc.

Anyway, I'm starting to get angry now so I'll just go back to being grateful for the manhandlers.

Last reminder, it's not to late to sponsor Karen for the Avon Walk. She'll be walking aaallll weekend to help raise money and awareness for breast cancer. The link's on the left side of the page. Even $5 makes a difference!!

Love to all,

Elizabeth

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

I'm Getting a Tattoo!



And you're not gonna see it... or them. OK, so they'll look like freckles. Not exactly a cool thing. The Hello Kitty tattoo'll have to wait.

Met with the radiologist, Dr. Chada, at BI today. Lovely woman, very well spoken, thorough, and approachable. Another winner--I feel so lucky. Although we didn't establish the treatment plan--more of the waiting game--she did go over the whats, hows, whys, etc. To sum it up, we want to kill all the remaining cells that could be lingering around in the breast. More than likely, there will be a six week course of treatment. These take place five days a week. The first 4.5 weeks, the entire (right) breast is targeted; the last 1.5, the exact site of surgery. The armpit (location of sentinel node biopsy) is not intentionally treated but may get radiated. After we finalize course of action, I make a "sim" or simulation appt. We designate the actually spots that get treated which are marked with tattoos in order for the machinery to be properly aligned every time I go back. There won't be a treatment done this time.

This site is one of many that can answer questions about radiation + its side effects. Quick ease of mind, no, I won't be "radioactive" and won't be a walking florescent mushroom cloud. Please read this for some quick Q+As.
http://www.ucsfbreastcarecenter.org/radiationtherapy.html

So why didn't we finalize everything today?

During the next appt, I met with the oncologist, Dr. Malamud. A dapper man in a pin stripe suit, funky neon tie, elephant cuff links and nice tan (I asked him where he got it. He said, "Eh, New Jersey. No ozone."). Dapper, smart and funny. Who can ask for more.... The use of chemo is TBD. There's a relatively new test (has been used for two+ years) called the Oncotype DX. In essence:
The test was developed for women like me w/early stage bc that is hormone receptor positive and lymph nodes are negative.
A sample of the tumor tissue is sent to the Genomic Health Reference Lab in CA.
Ones "gene signature" is reviewed and gets translated into what's called a Recurrence Score: from 1-100, what's the likelihood of the bc returning within 10 yrs of diagnosis.

The higher the #, the more aggressive, the more likely the use of chemo. The use of chemo is based on the assumption that I am getting radiation treatment and taking tamoxifen (hormone therapy). If my #s fall in the middle, then even more careful consideration goes into the decision to use it or not. IF, and only IF, I were to proceed with chemo, it would be completed before radiation over the course of a few months. Chemo is used to kill anymore cells lingering in the entire body; the radiation is targeting just the breast.

Anyway, this is a great test which helps the pt and dr be more informed about the individual's cancer and enables the drs to tailor the treatment plan accordingly. The results will come back in a couple of weeks and will be reviewed w/ the dr on 10/17.

For info on this test, go to:
www.oncotypeCX.com

The use of tamoxifen would begin when the radiation is started. Tamoxifen is the only drug for pre-menopausal women and is also referred to as 'hormone therapy." This is not to be confused w. taking any synthetic or bio-identical hormones.

I took this from a website: Estrogen promotes the growth of breast cancer cells. Tamoxifen works against the effects of estrogen on these cells. It is often called an “anti-estrogen.” As a treatment for breast cancer, the drug slows or stops the growth of cancer cells that are present in the body. As adjuvant therapy, tamoxifen helps prevent the original breast cancer from returning and also helps prevent the development of new cancers in the other breast.

For more info go to:
http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/Therapy/tamoxifen

A lot of info I know. In summary:
1. Wait, wait, wait, tap fingers, wait some more.
2. On 10/17 review Oncotype DX results w/Dr. Malamud.
3. Results determine likelihood of recurrence and therefore use or not of chemo (hopefully and likely I will test low on the scale and not see a definite need for it).
4. Review this info w/Dr. Chada who will plan out the radiation dates based on whether or not chemo is administered.
5. If chemo's used, do that for four months followed by six wks of radiation. If not, then book sim appt, get new sexy tattoos, and soon after begin the six week treatment.
6. Regardless of use of chemo, take tamoxifen for five year pd at time radiation starts. (five years being the amt of time during which it was tested on pts; it's not a random #)
7. Pray for no side effects of any of these treatments. Big OY VEY but I don't think anything intolerable.
8. Closing ceremonies for boob blog. (TBD)

Monday, October 1, 2007

TGIICGHADWIWTDD


I've a coined a new term: TGIICGHADWIWTDD or, Thank God It's I Can Go Home And Do Whatever I Want To Do Day.

This past Friday I was out with friends for happy hour(s). Great conversation, laughs, vino, atmosphere. We got into talking about how the past present future are all one. If you want to know what you did in the past, look at one you're doing today. If you want to know what you're future will be like, look at what you're doing today.

After a few hours, everyone got psyched up to hit another spot crosstown. I decided to part ways and go home myself. Them: No, no, no...come with us.... Me: No, no, no, it's nothing personal guys; I haven't been feeling great for a few days* and I think I just want to go home and relax so I can go out tomorrow. My friend, C, joked, Clearly Liz, we just want you to come out and don't care about your health, so come.

(* not feeling well was not bc related, rather a shitty case of food poisoning)

J had gone home about an hour earlier only to find himself at another bar and made sure to let me know he was having a blast. I later heard from the others the nite was fun and they got home at 1:45am.

So what brings me to write about all this?

While walking home, I knew I was doing the right this by calling it a night and I really, really wanted to finish the last two chapters of "Into The Wild" (I highly reco it as well as the movie). But this voice in my head kept saying, You "should" be going out and having the time of your life!! You dodged the bullet, Liz, rock on!!! Live like it's your last day!! Haven't you learned yet that life is short?!!?!??

I thought this for a good hour or so until I was finally comfortable in my bed (being a Murphy bed, it's got the doors open, overhead lites and shelves with pictures and books around me, it's like a little cocoon)reading this book I was enjoying so much. I was really content.

Then the next day I got the recaps of the nite and got that feeling again... why wouldn't you just go out? WHAT'S WRONG W/YOU...Don't you want to have more fun?

A few minutes later, something had agitated me. It was a phone call I got, it was actually trivial, but it bugged me.

And then I realized, OK, maybe I've gained some new perspective over the past two months, but I still am the same person, just a little scarred (pardon the pun). Certain things will still bug me, the things I like will not have changed. Maybe I'll pursue some interests that I've been meaning to get around to but took time for granted. Maybe I'll be more vocal about what I want in order to stop wasting time. But at that very moment on Friday, what I really wanted to do was go home, sink into my pillows and read the book. And I did it. And I loved it. And if that's the last thing that I want to do, so be it. I went "Into The Not So Wild" and it felt just right.

I can't wait til the next TGIICGHADWIWD.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Life Stinks


My cousin, Jim, shared the following with me today.

The battle against body odour stinks for the planet (Globe&Mail)
by Nathan Shedroff - Friday, September 28 2007, 10:36 PM

HEIDI SOPINKA

We absorb just under five pounds of chemicals through our skin each year in
the form of creams, lotions, sprays, deodorants and antiperspirants. And
though the alleged link between aluminum-containing antiperspirants and
Alzheimer's has long been in the public consciousness, many of the so-called
"natural" (supposedly chemical-free) deodorants are startlingly far from
non-toxic. Terra Naturals' Zemea, a corn-based aluminum- and petroleum-free
deodorant launched this week, begs the question: Is it possible to
obliterate body odour and be good to the planet?

50

Percentage of natural deodorants that contain petroleum-based propylene
glycol - also known as antifreeze in 100-per-cent concentrations. It is
extremely toxic to aquatic life.

57

Percentage of U.S. streams surveyed that contained triclosan, an
antibacterial found in deodorants and soaps, which washes down the drains
and into waterways when we shower. This has scientists worried because of
triclosan's ability to kill the "good" bacteria that fight germs, resulting
in concerns over rising antibacterial resistance.

90

Percentage of breast tumours in a 2004 British study found to contain
parabens, a common deodorant and antiperspirant ingredient. While the study
remains controversial (no control group was tested), researchers state that
parabens have been known to mimic the effects of estrogen, which can promote
cancerous tumour growth in the breasts.

3,000

Estimated number of tigers in India, down from 20,000, because of the
illegal mining of talc, which has threatened their habitat in the Jamwa
Ramgarh Wildlife Sanctuary and the neighbouring Sariska Tiger Reserve. Talc,
though a natural ingredient, is common to drugstore deodorants (and is also
a key ingredient in baby powder). Talc is closely related to the potent
carcinogen asbestos and can be carcinogenic if contaminated with arsenic.
Talc particles have been shown to cause cancerous tumours in the ovaries and
lungs.

BOTTOM LINE

It's hard not to glaze over when considering the sea of scent-prevention
products. But a position on the health-food store shelf doesn't necessarily
equal chemical-free - some natural crystal deodorants actually contain
potassium alum, a form of aluminum. Deodorants, considered cosmetics by
Health Canada, have "no regulations specifying good manufacturing
processes," but have recently been legislated to list ingredients, so it's
imperative to check labelling. Avoid antiperspirants entirely, and if after
reading the label you find no mention of parabens, talc or propylene glycol,
you're on the right track. You might have to arrange for emergency
reapplications throughout the day, but it beats the environmental price of
coming clean.


Sources: The Environmental Investigation Agency, Journal of Applied
Toxicology, Health Canada, National Research Center for Women & Families
September 28, 2007
© Copyright 2007 CTVglobemedia Publishing Inc.
http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20070928.wlfootprint28/BN
Story/lifeMain/home


TO WHICH I REPLIED:

Thanks, Jimmy.
I have heard of the connection and literally, the day I got "my news", I went out and bought some Tom's of Maine deo and my friend had bought me the crystal. The Tom's does squat. Goes on wet even tho a stick and for a few minutes the verbena smelled good. The crystal alone did nothing too much on its own. I combined the two and thought I had it made. I was clear of smelling and toxins. I made my friend--ok, this is the weird side of me--sniff my pit to prove me right. He nearly keeled over. (SEE PICTURE) He said, nope, you still stink. But I just COULDN'T go back to putting chemicals back there could I? So I compromised and just litely dabbed it on swearing that once summer's over I'll go back to my allegedly non-toxic combo. Well, I'm back to using the deo full strength on the left and ever so litely on the rite for fear of it trickling on to my wound (although pretty closed up). As they say, beauty is painful. Or at least requires some common scents.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Today's quote...

"Pain and suffering are inevitable. Misery is optional."

I don't know who originally said it, but I believe it!

Dr. appt's with Radiologist + Oncologist have been scheduled for the AM of October 3rd.

L.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

A Toast to Good Health



Today I got some fantastic news. My lymphnodes are clear, my margins are clear, I tested negative for Her2 protein and my hormone receptors were high which means I'll probably qualify to take the Tamoxaphin (for information on this drug, click below)

http://cms.komen.org/komen/AboutBreastCancer/Treatment/s_002836?ssSourceNodeId=298&ssSourceSiteId=Komen

The tumor was smaller than what had been reported, 1.8cm vs. 2.5cm, and the cancer is stage 1! (I would've thought 2!)

Appointments are being set up with the oncologist and radiologist to discuss the radiation, which hormone treatment will be used (e.g. Tamoxaphin) and the POSSIBILITY of chemotherapy. The latter is TBD. As I've previously reported there is a rule of thumb that if the tumor is greater than 1cm, offer chemo. I've no idea what kind, strength, etc. so I am unable to make any decisions until I meet with the doctor. Since my reports have come back looking so great, I think that the suggestion to use it would be as Dr. Montgomery had originally put it, an "insurance policy" that there are no cancer cells floating around in me anywhere. I will of course update everyone after I meet w/these doctors OCTOBER 3rd. (With all this dr. talk, I think I've earned an honorary rite of passage to move into a gated community in FL).

Mom was w/me when Dr. O gave me the news and needless to say she got all varchlempt. Even Dr. O did! She couldn't believe how calm I was. I said, Because I knew. With the exception of the stage 1 vs 2, I was right on as to what would be suggested. If only I dreamt of lotto #s.

Please, please, please, everyone take good care of yourselves. Do what you can to remain in good health. I've become so sickened by watching people smoke cigarettes. Why volunteer to get what I am so excited to get rid of? I'm not suggesting I'm perfect and will start eating vegan (ugh) but I will try to make more and more healthy decisions to at least lower my risks of this coming back and to avoid the onset of any other ugliness.

On my way back to the office, I stopped at my favorite accessory store on Columbus Ave, VERVE. I bought (well, Dad did without his knowing...I know, of all the verve...) a beautiful necklace w/a purple amethyst. It's my own version of a purple heart and a reminder that everything is OK, but that I never want to have to worry about if it will or will not be. Or at least, don't just expect it to be without making any effort.

Below was taken from an email that was sent to me. Some more words of wisdom from Maya Angelou. I hope I can learn something from her now and not wait til I'm 70 to find out. And if you are 70, remember, it's never too late.

Love, healthy hugs and champagne to everyone,
Liz


In April, Maya Angelou was interviewed by Oprah on her 70+ birthday.

Oprah asked her what she thought of growing older.

And, there on television, she said it was "exciting." Regarding body changes, she said there were many, occurring every day, like her breasts.

They seem to be in a race to see which will reach her waist, first.

The audience laughed so hard they cried. She is such a simple and honest woman, with so much wisdom in her words!

Maya Angelou said this:

"I've learned that no matter what happens, or how bad it seems today, life does go on, and it will be better tomorrow."

"I've learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way he/she handles these three things: a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights."

"I've learned that regardless of your relationship with your parents, you'll miss them when they're gone from your life."

"I've learned that making a 'living' is not the same thing as 'making a life'."

"I've learned that life sometimes gives you a second chance."

"I've learned that you shouldn't go through life with a catcher's mitt on both hands; you need to be able to throw some things back."

"I've learned that whenever I decide something with an open heart, I usually make the right decision."

"I've learned that even when I have pains, I don't have to be one."

"I've learned that every day you should reach out and touch someone.

People love a warm hug, or just a friendly pat on the back."

"I've learned that I still have a lot to learn."

"I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel."

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Phenomenal WomEn

Part of an email sent to me by yet another phenomenal woman. I wanted to share it with all you gals b/c it applies to all of you. Let this be your mantra.
Thanks for sharing, ML. You're tops.

a brave, phenomenal woman...that's you.



Phenomenal Woman by Maya Angelou
Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I'm not cute or built to suit a fashion model's size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I'm telling lies.
I say,
It's in the reach of my arms
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I'm a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
I say,
It's the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I'm a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can't touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them
They say they still can't see.
I say,
It's in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I'm a woman

Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

Now you understand
Just why my head's not bowed.
I don't shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It's in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need of my care,
'Cause I'm a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

Midnite Buffet

It's just after midnite and I closed my eyes thinking I can sleep after an hour of reading in bed. I find the last thing I want to do is sleep. I'm once again overwhelmed by so much emotion I don't know where to stuff it. Not to be a martyr or be a superheroine, but I can literally count on one hand the # of times I've cried as a direct result of dealing w "my news." I'll spare you the details. It seems what brings me to tears more than anything is the outpouring of love and friendship I've received from friends and family the past few weeks, especially the last. So about a minute or two ago I started creating a list of all the little things that got me through the past week since surgery + for which I'll be forever grateful. In no particular order:

1) Flowers, flowers, flowers. Despite my hopless rotting green thumb, they're all still thriving in my now cancer-free apt. Hopefully I'll be able to maintain the one green plant I got but I'll make no promises.
2) My beautiful pink orchid candle that I'll lite when I get my good news this Thursday. I know it'll be good. It just has to be!
3) Dani hauling her ass to BI in an access-a-ride van at 8:00 am to see me off to my surgery. Dana picking mom + me up in her very own access-a-ride Dodge for what could've been an awful cabride home w/me dry heaving in the backseat. Thanks guys, you were like bookends holding me up.
4) Seeing mom actually sleep(!) on my couch after mental exhaustion. I knew she was getting a well-deserved, much needed rest.
5) The coffee delivered the next day at 6am.
6) My entire family. Their phonecalls, questioning, "being there," delight in any good reports I shared, wishing they could relieve me of "this burden", and so much more.
7) The doctors+ nurses, as well as my bosses for paying for my health insurance.
8) Laughing at goonie googoo (if you don't know, don't ask)
9) Chocolate brown miniature poodles.
10) Books, fancy soaps and chocolate.
11) Visitors and more visitors.
12) The perfect weather we had all week.
13) Demorol.
14) Sports bras.
15) Phone and email messages.
16) Kleenex which is saving my computer from being waterlogged as I write this.
17) Karen walking for the cure and raising more and more dollars. Thanks for all the donations, people!
18) Pink ribbons.
19) The internet.
20) Tumor Humor.
21) The comfort of my apt.
22) You all indulging me by reading this blog.

There's so much to be happy about I don't know what to pile on my plate first.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Heel!



The best medicine...yesterday I had the great pleasure of having Sadie for the day. She's my friend's dog and I knew at some point I was going to want to see her b/c she makes me so happy when I do. So excited, jumping in and out of her bag, wagging her tail, she offers you unconditional love (if unconditional means you pick her up and give her water when she wants). Chances are I'll never have a pet any time soon, but just after one day, I think I healed enough for one week.

Today was back on my feet for more pampering--that is a bright red pedi--after having friends and family over for bagels and hugs.

The weather couldn't have been nicer. A clear blue sky and warm sun with that slight feeling of fall in the air.

Here's to new beginnings.

Friday, September 14, 2007

All is Cool...



Well, I'm comfy at home surrounded by flowers, cards, friends and family. Sure beats being in a sterile hospital room. September 12th was certainly a different day.

Ken + I took the subway to BI (or as Ward calls it, ElizaBETH Israel) and was met in registration by my mom + Dani. Although I wasn't the least bit nervous about the day ahead, I have to say that having your loved ones there to laugh with before you leave is great medicine. Got changed into my "uniform" and waited in a room with others waiting to be called in for their surgery (of all kinds, not just breast). Eventually was called in to have an ultrasound which guides the dr. as to where to insert a needle into which a very fine wire will be inserted. A radioactive dye was injected. This with the wire highlights the area that needs to be removed. For a while I walked around with the wire sticking out a la the John Hancock building (fortuntately though w/only one wire, not two). Had my fourth mammo in a month, this time just of right side. Then waited for over an hour for the dye to take affect. The wait was tedious. Felt tired, hungry, staring at others dreading surgery and no one feels like conversing. I was wrapped in a woobie (blanket) that I carried around w/me b/c the rooms are cold and my feet were freezing.

Eventually I was called in to meet the anesthesiologist who had a great Irish brogue. I came "this close" to saying "I didn't know they had med schools in Ireland" when I realized what an idiot I'd sound like. I guess it's all the books I read about dying from the consumpion and eating rotten potatoes. When I asked if I'll be able to have alcohol later he said that he actually encourages it. My kind of man! But of course this is assuming I'm not flying on Vicoden. Needless to say, I didn't have any. Soon after, my hero, Dr. Osoborne, came in to greet me and we chatted for a few minutes. Then Nurse Julie did the same. Everyone was so nice and comforting. I then walked into the OR when I couldn't help but ask the team, You've all done this before, RIGHT?! I lied down on a flat, thin bed that's warm and toasty. And just as the IV is going into me to knock me out, I think my last words were, Remember, it's the RIGHT side... Then buh bye. Surgery took about 2-2.5 hrs.

I woke up in the OR shivering and in great pain. Nothing two Demerol can't do to help. Aaaahhh. I drifted off again. I woke and saw my mom and brother, Jeff, the nurse and Dr. O. We chatted a bit and although in some discomfort, I knew I'd be fine. Then I tried to stand, moved to another chair, drank some ginger ale, and well, suffice it to say the affects of the anestesia were not fun. I apparently had general vs local --I haven't found out why yet.

I was thrilled when Dana picked my mom + me up b/c there was a lot of traffic due to the holiday. The thought of being thrown around in a cab w/ incense and a guy eating an egg sandwich for a half hour was revolting.

I got home sweet home around 6pm. One Vicodan and chicken soup cocktail later and I was drifting off to sleep by 10pm.

Yesterday Mom and I got up at 6am and had breakfast delivered. Took a (semi) bath--I can't get the dressings wet--and took a walk outside which was good for the head. Home for another nap and then more visitors.

I have to say, I'm not really in great pain. The areas are rather tender and stiff and I can't raise my arm very high--no pulling, lifting, pushing. So, my real princess qualities will surface this week. Today I will get my hair washed and blown, prob take yet another nap and have more visitors. The room is filled with beautiful flowers which makes me happy.

Everyone's phonecalls, emails, and messages have been so appreciated. I'd hate to think anyone should go through this alone. But with all the fabulous resources out there, no one ever should be. Really though, thank you all for your kind thoughts and prayers.


My follow up appointment is next Thursday. We'll get the full pathology report (Dr. O said based on what he can see w/the naked eye, things look good but the reports tell all) as well as next steps for treatment. Until then, I'll just take it easy in my new sexy velcro bra (gag) and pink ribbon.

Life really is good.

Love to you all,

Elizabeth

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

WHO Will Not Wear The Ribbon!?

I couldn't help but crack up extra hard at tonight's Seinfeld ... which of course I've seen 100x but this time it tickled me pink. Click above + enjoy.

Take THAT, left side!


The previously identified 6x6mm mass posterior to the dominant mass is no longer identified. There is a 2mm focus of enhancement seen anteriorly that is new since prior MR. Transient nature of these two findings supports BENIGN etiology.

Tomorrow's schedule:
No more donuts after 12 midnite.

I've got to be there 8:30am tomorrow for registration. (paper work, blah blah).

By 10:00am I will go to radiology to start on sentinel node procedure (prob injection of the dye).

I should leave the hospital tumorless b/w 2-3pm.

There is a waiting room outside of 4M:

Beth Israel
Phillips Ambulatory
10 Union Square East @14th Street
Suite 4M.
When u get off elevators, go left of the wigs (aaaahhhHHHH!!!) then bear rite and walk to end of hall.

Ken and I will take the subway there in the AM. Ma, whatever time works for you and the train schedule.


Love,

Elizabeth

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Hanging In There

Today the little bandages from biop came off and I'm pleased to say, No bruising!! This is since the dr. knew exactly where to get it w/the assistance of the MRI vs the last time when the doc had to go at it like a pinata (not b/c he wanted to!).

Last nite there was a very good segment on ch. 2 about breast cancer and the Susan G Komen foundation; today is the race in the park. Strange how all that was said seemed so familiar to me. If I were listening to the show last year, I may've retained just one or two points. This time, they were talking about me. The show gave me the confidence, which really I already had, that everything will be fine. There are sooo many strong survivors sharing their stories.

Seems my friend, Karen, is doing the 5K walk today IN ADDITION to the 39 mile Avon walk in October. She is kicking some serious butt!! Thank you Karen for getting out there and raising all this money.

So now "we're" just "hanging in there" and waiting for Tuesday's final results on the left and for Wednesday's surgery to be over with.

I think I'll go take a walk for myself. :0)

Friday, September 7, 2007

EB Phone Home!

The MRI guided biop today was somewhat extraterrestrial to me. The good thing was that I a lot more mentally prepared for the MRI than last time. I knew what to expect and how to keep my mind relaxed while in the the tube. Just like the first time, you're lying face down with two cut outs for the boobs. My right arm--b/c the biop was on the left, was hooked up to an IV which has a dye and then some saline running through it. When this happens it feels very warm and kind of peculiar. You of course can't move for the whole 30 min or so. This time there were less images taken b/c we're only concentrating on one area.

At first I was sent in and out of the tube a couple of times to take images. This time stuck to the inside left of the cutout, there was a grid which will help find the coordinates of the area needing biopsying (as seen in the 1st MRI). The radiologist, Dr. Handler (sure did handle me!), and his tech spread bendadine all over the area (remember, I'm lying down with my head the opposite direction so do not see any of this) and eventually the biop is done with--for lack of a better desrciption--a motorized syringe. When the biop is done there is a clip put in there. This is tiny and will remain in there forever. It will not set me off at the airport. I asked.

Then got bandaged up and sent in for a new mammo on the left side. The purpose is to show on film exactly where the clip is so they don't rebiopsy the same exact location should the need ever come up. BTW, the area biopsied was one of the two masses seen on the first MRI. Seems that the dr. who did the first core biop reached what was one of the closest areas to those two spots that he can get to; this was based on what he saw on his ultrasound. So really today we got the first of the two orginally seen. Confusing, I know. But the two are so close together that it's highly likely that if it comes back neg, the other one will be. If pos (malignant) then they prob do a lumpectomy b/c the one next to it would be poz too. But since the THIRD (from the core) came back benign, it's "assumed" this will too. The proof'll be in the pudding. Results come in Tues.

While not in tube doing my mental relaxation, and when I was out getting "probed", the (very friendly) staff kept asking if I was OK. I was but all I could think was, Who invented this stuff? How? This is all saving my life and/or making this a more tolerable experience. You may ask how that is so. But just 15 years or so ago, everyone was sent to OR for a biopsy. These machines didn't exist. So people went for a more elaborate biopsy and many times were benign. I think these radical (although at the time radical as compared to what?) procedures including many unnecessary mastectomies, were what made this so frightening for the patient and her support system. Granted this hasn't exactly been a walk in the park, but I've been spared some serious stuff.

Following this procedure, I headed down for the pre-op stuff. Do not believe anyone who says this will take 15 minutes. You're a walk-in so the nurse has to be found. Then you get your EKG and bloodwork. Go over paperwork to be filled out and instructions prior and post Wed's procedure. Then finally, off to another floor to get a chest X-ray.

While waiting in the reception area one couldn't help but notice the two latino transexuals chatting up a storm. I'm thinking, is "she" (whose name by the way is Daisy) getting a chest X-ray too? To her fake boobs? Are they fake? While Daisy's struttin' her stuff, her friend is chatting up others and handing out their business cards. Don't ask. I've no idea....

After a long wait, I got called and two X-rays were taken, all of which took just a couple of minutes. I did find out that Daisy was getting some sort of other X-ray b/c I overheard her phone call, "Cheee-caaa, I'm heya at Beth Is-ra-el getting my....... OK, sis-tah, Daisy looooves yoooou...."

What can I say.... IIIII loove Neewww Yooorkkkk....

Thanks for all your well wishes and a shout out to all of mom's friends who call to check in. It means a lot to her.

Oh, I learned two more things today. Radiation doesn't begin until about one month after surgery. I kind of thought you get the procedure done and then you start getting zapped one -two wks later. But apparently they want you thoroughly healed. There is a post-op appt done a week later during which the dr will ck the location and go over pathology report. Then you begin meeting w/the radiologist to go over questions, expectations, etc. Second, if you have something done on one side, if you need to ever take blood or blood pressure, you do it on the opposite side. And if you've had both sides done, then your legs are used. Who knew?

Thanks again for checking in!

EB.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Who Says Ignorance Is Bliss?

In just the past two days I learned three sisters of an acquaintance of mine has had breast cancer; the receptionist at a dr's office I go to has been out due to ovarian cancer; someone else had some test on her uterus which led to a discovery of something on her liver; the same woman's mother is being treated for liver/pancreatic cancer (believe it or not has been living w/it for ten years--I don't know the details); a friend's friend needs something checked. Again, this was just w/in two days.

We're clearly all touched by this cancer thing--either a friend, relative, relative of a friend and so on has it.

PLEASE, let this be a reminder to pay attention to listen to your body as well as do any recommended screening. And if you've been meaning to quit smoking, quit now. Ran out of sunscreen? Buy more. Eat an unhealthy diet? Eat a piece of fruit a day. Do SOMETHING. Read. Talk to your doctor. Find out what preventative measures you can take. You don't need to become a health nut or obsessed with exercise. Just become informed. It's really scarey getting all of this news and trust me, you don't want it to apply to you.

OK, I'll stop the lecturing and just post an update.

Finally go the auth. # required for the MRI/MRI led biopsy and this will take place on Friday. Seeing as the results take 2-3 biz days to get, it doesn't seem feasible that I'll have the "L" next Wed. We will stick with the original date of the 19th. I should be ready to go back to work the following Monday. At this point I'm not nervious. Rather I'm more anxious to just get this out of me and begin treatment and get on with my normal, healthy life.

Thanks for continued support. Speaking of which, keep the donations coming in (see Avon Walk on the left). The cost of a tall Starbucks coffee will make a difference. Or in October during Breast Cancer Awareness Month, you'll be able to make all kinds of purchases, part of which proceeds go to many foundations.

Be good,
Liz

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Stop Sign

Although not a huge fan of morning tv, I do occasionally watch and have had a particular interest in Robin Roberts' (GMA) recent dx of BC. She's young, intelligent, healthy, and in the public eye. I heard the announcement about a day or two after I got my diagnosis. I followed a bit of her news on both the tv on the ABC website. Seems that she caught this early and will recover well (as much as they can know now).

I was crossing the street, heading east on W. 72nd Street when I noticed Robin --all 6' or so of her-- chatting on her cell. She looked very engaged in the call and as if she just came back from a walk in the park. I really wanted to stop and chat with her but how rude would it be to interrupt her while on phone? Instead I waited while the light was still red, stared and thought maybe I can will her to hang up. Any more waiting and following and I'd cross the line of stalking.

So instead, I texted my friend about my "sighting" to which she replied, I think that's another good sign.

Click on the heading "Stop Sign" to read a good article about Robin's early detection, how technology can help us and the need to get all women proper screening. Please read and share with others. BC no longer is/has to be the nightmare it was once thought to be.

Friday, August 31, 2007

A Wait Off My Chest...

The BRCA tests arrived after only two vs three weeks. What a relief to finally hear back and results were fortunately nega-tiv-oooo. Although one still has to do proper screening, the odds are no longer 60+% more that Ovar/BC will come within the next ten years. This just means getting tested as told and living a very healthy lifestyle. I think I can handle that. Had the results been otherwise, I would've have prophylactically removed some good parts. It must be difficult for women to do that and I was somewhat prepared to, but was more concerned for the side affects. Well, at least for now, I don't have to think about it.

Next steps:

Dear Dr. Osborne:

I spoke with Karen O. and the BRCA results came in early--as suspected, they are negative. I will send Karen a letter stating that it's ok to release the results to you.

That being said, you'll have my core biop slides from MSKCC by Monday or Tuesday and I'm waiting for the authorization # for the MRI . Perhaps we can move the surgery date up from the 19th? I prefer to have it sooner rather than later.

I decided to go with Lumpectomy vs the Mastectomy despite any possible chance of disfigurement. It hit me shortly after I learned about the test results. And when I was mulling it over in my mind, I was walking along W. 57th St., looked up and there was a building canopy on which it said: The Osborne. Talk about a sign.

Please let me know about the date. I am very flexible.

Have a wonderful holiday weekend,

Elizabeth

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Beauty Is Only Skin Deep


I'm still slightly tortured over my last visit with Dr. Osborne. Not b/c he did anything wrong. But before I met him, I was determined to do a mastectomy b/c based on what informal research I did, I thought the treated area would be somewhat deformed after doing lumpectomy/radiation. He tells me that I should heal fine from the radiation and to really consider conserving the breast; the results of radiation will be a lot less visible than that of recon surgery. I told him I've heard and read horror stories (relatively speaking) about radiation. He tells me the conditions I explain are rare . I am nervous due to the extreme sensitivity of my skin. I burn and scar easily, get heat rash, blister in the sun (a la Violent Femmes) and my reaction to certain foods, chemicals, extreme temperatures all get manifested in my skin. I've called to make appts w/both a reconstructive surgeon and radiologist just to get their opinions and assure myself that I've done my due diligence. Clearly there are so many things things that cannot be predicted, but I'd like to know that I've thoroughly investigated all of my options. I feel that I'm in the best of hands, but I hope--as most women do-- that there are no ugly scars to remind me of this time in life. Of course health comes first, but based on the assumption that I will be just fine (which I know I will), I can't help but hear the immortal words of Fernando, "Dahling, you look mahvelous..."

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

My Cup Runneth Over

Today I met with yet another remarkable doctor! I came to Dr. Michael Osborne at the recommendation of Dr. Montgomery at MSKCC. The thought was to investigate a surgeon who'd be covered by my insurance plan (for which I am so grateful to have). The care I received is of utmost importance, and if I can get reimbursed for excellent care, why not pursue it? After googling, networking and finally meeting Dr. Osborne, who by the way has been at Beth Israel on Union Sq. East for only six weeks, I'm here to say that he is one of the finest dr's I've ever met. Seasoned, intelligent, fabulous bedside manner, humble, giving of his time... I've scheduled a tentative surgery date of 9/19.

I am still in need of one more MRI and am awaiting the BRCA results. The latter should arrive w/in another two weeks maximum. The waiting is difficult however I know I will get answers. I take each day as it comes and have time to do that much more research. As one question's answered, another one comes up. Knowledge really is power.

While on my way in to the dr's office today, I crossed paths with a dear friend of mine (nameless) who'd been seeing Dr. O for years. She continues to get a clean bill of health but does annual follow ups despite being told there's no longer a need to. It was meant to be that I saw her b/c she really put my mind at ease that this is a great dr. and that everything will be OK. I've never doubted the latter, but this was coming from someone I know personally experienced this at my age.

I was pretty set on having a mastectomy b/c I'd heard various things about the outcome of radiation. Dr. O seems to think I will look fine afterwards so I am scheduled for a lumpectomy. If the BRCA results come back poz, things will change bu the seems to think the odds are in my favor. The next day or so will be devoted to researching more about the after affects of radiation, but after speaking to my friend last nite, I feel a bit more comfortable with the outcome. This is one of the hardest decisions to make b/c once you do it, there's no turning back.

Of course my health comes first, but there is also an aesthetic/cosmetic component to this for me as with many other women. I want to heal and feel the best that I can.

Monday, August 20, 2007

My Cup is Half Full!

Today's newsflash...this just in....

Results from the core biopsy:

The right side is what was thought. The cancer there is invasive ductal or if you want the technical term:

"Infiltrating ductal carcinoma, moderately differentiated".

Ductal means it's in the ducts of the breast, or where the milk goes vs. lobular
which is where the milk is made (in the glands).

Invasive means it isn't just confined to the very spot it started. That would be in "in situ". In this case it is invasive so it spread out a bit, but don't confuse that w/spreading to another body part; that is
when it metasticizes (sp?).

So we know for sure the right side is getting operated on.

On the left, remember the MRI picked up 2 masses but Dr. Kolb only found one w/use of US (Ultrasound). He did the core biop on the one he found and it is benign!

In technical terms:
"Predominantly firbrotic breast tissue with focal confluent sclerosing adenosis."

Say that ten times fast.

That is excellent news.

Dr. Kolb has to chat w/Dr. Montgomery and figure out how to find the "missing mass." It probably will be nothing but we still must find what the MRI was picking up. She probably will request that I do a more specific MRI. They have them where you do the MRI and there's a grid on you and they literally can biop right there. I've yet to make contact w/her and will of course let you know the next step for that.

What these tests don't tell you is about hormone receptor neg or poz... they need more tissue and it will be tested once they remove the tumor. (Or as Ward calls it, the Good Tumor Man). It also cannot tell you if anything has gone into the lymphnodes. Again, we'll know after surgery and when we get back the pathology report. At that time we will know
which chemo drugs I'll get as well as the need for hormone therapy. And last, we still need the results of the BRCA test.

I just heard from the person who referred me to Dr. Montgomery and he said I am in the best of hands. That the entire team is top notch and the outcomes now are getting better and better. He also assured me that the reconstructive surgeon w whom I'll consult on 9/4 is fantastic, so much so, that he even sent his own wife to him (despite a not so great bedside manner). I think this speaks volumes seeing as he was a chief surgical oncologist at MSK up until just a few years ago.

So, let's just remain thankful that this was caught sooner rather than later and that according to my posse I suppposedly have decent enough cheekbones to sport a super short haircut. (What are friends for?).

Love to one and all,

Elizabreast

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Hit Me With Your Chest Shot

The effects of the core biopsy have left my boobs swollen, tender and beautiful shades of black n blue. I feel like they have taken on a life of their own. They are no longer mine. They're there for others to look at, poke n prod, and later discuss with others. But it's ok. They're still mine and every doctor thus far has been caring and I do not leave their offices feeling down. When I get a glimpse at the multi-plum-colored melons, I remember that I'm lucky to be getting treated and this will all be a thing of the past.