Friday, July 31, 2009

Pass the salt please

That's Epsom Salts. My new treatment for the heat radiating from my underarm. I bet I could soft boil an egg if I tucked it under my arm for a few minutes. I had my Dr. follow up on Wed as usual, but I got a new Dr. this week. I like him, he actually looked at my underarm/burn area and suggested I use an epsom salt solution to bathe this area. Last night I did it two times and again this morning. Wow, what a difference! Thank you, new doc.
As for my timeline, I have two more treatments of radiation and then on Wed I start my daily dose of Tamoxifen and I also have my first phsyio appointment to help me deal with my arm swelling. I'm hoping for some resolution there. The hot weather makes it a bit of a challenge as well, but things are cooling down every day now. I think we have peeked in our heat wave.
One big struggle that exists right now it that as soon as I open my eyes, well, before I even open them, I am reminded that I'm dealing with breast cancer by the pain that I feel from my underarm. I know this will heal and it will pass, but I'm really looking forward to the morning when I wake up and just think about what I need to do to get ready for my day. I won't be thinking "when is this going to end", "when am I going to not feel this under my arm" "won't it be nice to move my arm and not feel anything different". Not having to go to Bellingham every morning will start this process. This ends on Wednesday. After this day, my trips to Bellingham will be for appointments at various dates and times, or the trip will be purely for pleasure; if you call Costco and Fred Myer pleasure trips ;-). I actually avoid going to Bellingham on the weekends, just because I've been there every single week day for the past 8 weeks. Again, this shall pass and be a distant memory in the journey of life.
I went away over night last weekend, and it felt like I was away for days and days. It's amazing what a day with a friend doing a little retail therapy and a night in a hotel can do for the soul.
Go enjoy your day today!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Some Thoughts About Cancer

Well, I am in my last full week of radiation, the time has gone by very quickly. Today was red sharpie day. How is it when I get a Sharpie mark on me somewhere I cannot get it off for days, and if I get it on any clothing, just consider it part of the outfit from there on. Yet today, my boob got all marked up with a red Sharpie, many lines zig zagging all around the area that is the new bullseye for the radiation. And today I wore a white cami with a white linen shirt over top. And now my cami has a soft pink circle the size of my boob! How is it that THIS Sharpie came off my skin right away, no washing, no trying, it just did! Oh well, if that is the worst that happens to me then I guess my week is going to be great!
My friend and co-worker gave me a book a few weeks ago, a big Thank You to you, as it is a wonderful book full of really insightful words. I'd like to share one page with everyone.

"Nobody every flunked breast cancer.".... Anonymous

We want to know if we picked the right options in breast cancer treatment, as though breast cancer was some big math test in the sky. We want to know how we've done. We think, God knows, and we'd know too if only we could sneak a peek at the answers in the back of that big black book.
We want to know in order to return comfortably to an illusion. What we are seeking is a way to reembrace the fantasy that we will live forever. But sooner or later we face the fact that when it comes to life, there is no single and certain right answer except the acceptance of uncertainty.
"The only certainty there is in life is what I discover about myself in the process of living it."

So go live your life today, it's here and it's real!

Friday, July 24, 2009


the 28 days of full radiation with no blisters. OK, my arm is swelling, but if that is the worst reaction I have to everything so far, well, I can count my lucky stars. Today the Rad. therapists started realigning my treatments, taking more xrays, and they are getting me ready for Monday, a new day of treatment. They will finish all the marking and measurements and then proceed with the targeted radiation for the next seven days and then I will be DONE!
I told the therapists earlier this week I was sick of visiting them every day and that the next time I see them I'd like it to be in the shopping mall or grocery store. They got a chuckle out of that. Thank goodness for the personalities of the whole group of them, I have had Kris, Laura, Joan, John, and Liz as regular therapists and due to their caring and kind and humorous attitudes and how they treat the patients, they have been the shining light in this ordeal.
Now as for the Dr. , that is a whole other story. I am finished seeing this one, partly because I am at the end of treatment, (almost) but mostly because of his complete disinterest in me as a person and a patient. So I'm skipping my last visit with him next week and will not bother to follow up in a month. I will have appointments with Dr. Kominsky and Dr. Kaufman and I trust that both of them are capable and willing to look at my treatment area and confirm that I am doing fine. The deal with radiation is that no one can look and "see" if it's working. All we can see is the burn lines and see the area that has been targeted and "know" and "trust" that is will work as planned. I have full confidence that will do the job as required.
Today I dropped off my "bitch" prescription, the lovely drug that will give me mood swings and hot flashes and the "effects" of menopause. How wonderful, I will get to test run menopause and then actually GO into menopause in a few years, whoohoo. One of the lucky ones, everyone has to just wait and see how it feels, I get to test drive the effects. So lucky.........
My gal pal Paula K. arrived in town yesterday and a little retail therapy has been booked for this weekend.
Enjoy the day!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Update on my arm

Thursday morning started off with my regular treatment at the Cancer center then I was off to the hospital. The East tower is just a block from the Clinic so the timing was perfect. I got checked in downstairs and then the nurse took me upstairs to the waiting room and told me someone would be out to get me. A few minutes later I hear a male voice call my name. I got up and looked over to see a very good looking man, tall, dark and handsome, standing in the doorway waiting for me. He introduced himself, Fabian. I couldn't help comment, I asked him if the women teased him about his name. I followed him down the hall and we entered a room. He closed the door and after some small talk, I started to unbutton my shirt. He dimmed the lights and directed me to a freshly made bed. I got comfortable and he started to cover my throat with warm gel..........and then did the ultrasound! Ha! Makes for a good intro. Well, he went from my neck to my wrist and back up the other side of my arm and double checked me out and there are NO signs of a blood clot so that is great news. The bad news is that I can't get in to the Physio office until Aug 3rd. Both staff are booked up solid and since this is the best place to go for this type of arm swelling, I'm going to have to wait.
Apparently these therapists are the top people when it comes to working with breast cancer patients who experience swelling of this nature. I am back to see Dr. Kaufman this week for another check up and if this plan needs to change, I'm sure he will advise accordingly.
Only 5 more days of full radiation. I'm hanging in there, but the energy level seems to drop a little every day. The full radiation is under my arm and around the back of my underarm and down my side, and of course my full breast. Once this week is over, the radiation becomes "targeted", which means the beams will be focused on the specific spot where the tumor was removed. The tech's at the clinic mentioned that when it gets to this time, most people are very glad to be done with the whole area because their skin has been compromised so much. As much as mine has changed color and a few other things, I'm doing really well.....aside from having a swollen arm.
I'll update in a few days. Hope everyone enjoyed their weekend.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

I'm hitting a rough patch on the highway

Just when I hit my "hump" day, some things started to go a bit off. Friday I felt my right arm swell a bit and by the end of the weekend, well, I definitely knew something was not right with things. Since I was seeing Dr. Kaufman on Tuesday, I decided to wait and discuss it with him. Seems like this is NOT a normal side effect of either the surgery or the radiation. That's not to say some people don't have the swelling of their arm, they do. But it shouldn't be happening in my situation. I did not have any lymph glands removed or disturbed in the area that would cause the swelling. Radiation may cause swelling, but not when one is just four weeks into the process. If it was 6 - 9 months after the treatments, and if they were radiating a larger/higher area, then OK, but again, not the case with me.
So now I'm off to the hospital tomorrow at 9:30 am for an ultrasound to rule out a blood clot. Dr. Kaufman has an office admin staff that is FANTASTIC. Laurie ROCKS. She always gets me my appointments right away and she works so hard at making my life a little easier with the timing of appointments. Like tomorrow, I asked for the a.m. since I'm already in Bellingham. I told her I could waste an hour or so if she could get me in sometime in the morning. So she gets my appt at 9:30. I finish Radiation at 9:00, I'll be able to let Annie go for a little run around, drive next door to the hospital, park and go check in.
I also need to get my appointment at the therapist's office to show me how to wrap my arm/hand to try to reduce and eliminate the swelling. I am waiting for that office to call me back with a date/time. Meanwhile, I try to remember that it really hurts if I reach too far for anything, and I'm doing my best to keep my arm elevated as much as I can. That also helps things. As for the other side effects, I'm starting to see the "burn" area on my skin and am seeing a few tiny blisters. I have 14 more treatments and then I am done with this. Until then, I continue to drive the I-5 and enjoy the banter of the 92.9 FM morning DJ's. They make my trip so much better. Check them out if you get this station!
Thanks for stopping by today, I'll update as I can.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

And the journey continues

I am now on the down slide for my treatments, and the side effects are on the up side. I guess it would be too much to hope for no side effects. When I see the other women and men at the Cancer center, I count my blessings at how lucky I've been along this process.
A stranger, (fellow blogger) stopped by my site and left a comment. I backtracked to her blog, 60 Magnificent Miles, and it amazes me at what people are doing to support the research and funding for Breast Cancer. If there is anyone who wants to get involved in one of these fundraisers, Susan G. Komen is the place to check out! They do amazing things here.
Later today I go to see Dr. Kaufman for a check up. The timing is perfect as I need to see about my arm. It has decided to swell up and my wrist isn't like it should be. I am hoping this is a side effect that will simply "go away" but the concern is that I still have 15 more treatments. Is it going to get worse before it gets better? Only the Dr. and time will tell.
So for now, if I'm exhausted at work, I will go home. I did that yesterday, got home, flipped on trashy afternoon tv, and just relaxed for a few hours. I don't like to nap for fear that I won't fall asleep at bedtime. Today I woke up and felt quite rested. Maybe the afternoon off did some good!
Until again,

Friday, July 10, 2009

It's Hump Day today

Yup, it's "hump" day. I know, today is Friday and usually we refer to Wed as "hump" day. But it's my middle point of radiation treatment. I've gone 18 times and I have 17 more treatments before I can say adios to the Cancer Center.
My skin is holding up very well, partly because I'm being very diligent in the care and the product I'm using is excellent, Aquaphor. What's starting to happen now is my mobility is starting to slide backwards. After the surgery I had been working on the stretching exercises and was thrilled when both arms went up the same distance. Things were great, I had terrific mobility in my right arm and shoulder. Now it's not so good. The radiation causes a new round of swelling, which in turn, affects the nerves and muscles and it's a bit frustrating to be sliding backwards. I'm starting to feel the fatigue, I really could use a nap in the afternoon. I struggle to get past 5:00 p.m. Miss Molly and Anna Banana need fed and walked and that is what keeps me going and I get past the "I just want to sleep" feeling.
The other side effect is my ability to sleep through the night. Every time I roll over in the night, I am awakened by the soreness. I hesistate to use the word 'pain' as it's not that bad. I'm starting to feel the tenderness in my side along my ribcage and in my shoulder. It is whas it is, I am thinking it will get worse before it gets better, and I just have to work through things. Once the treatment stops my body will start to work on the healing process and I have confidence that I shall return to my "new normal" in August. Then I get to deal with a whole new round of issues. But until then.......I keep doing what I'm doing!
The sun is shining this weekend, I see a walk along the ocean and some time spent on a farm!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Friday the 13th

Today was my 13th treatment so now I only have 22 left to go. So far things are ticking along. I notice that something is going on inside, but it's nothing too much. Every so often, usually in the afternoon, I'll get a few twinges, but other than that, things are good.
Enjoy the 4th of July if you are south of the 49th, I'll be at the parade and then soaking up the small town festivities at the waterfront. Following this, it's off to a BBQ. The good part of the small town is that I can walk everywhere. It's going to be a hot one this weekend, don't forget the sunscreen!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

As a Quilter......

....and a Breast Cancer survivor, I challenge all quilters and NON quilters to take a look at this magnificant quilt. With a donation of just $10, you could be the owner of this quilt. Just look at who has contributed to this amazing work of art. Plus your reciept is tax deductable AND the whole amount amount will go to the most amazing organization. So far the Susan G. Koman group has donated over a billion dollars in the race for a cure.
Because of this amazing group of people, my journey dealing with BC has been so smooth. I've been fortunate, and will make this organization my first choice when looking for places to donate time and/or money.
Please join me in making this quilt project an overwhelming success. Please feel free to mention this on your blog, or direct people over to this post. Either way it will help spread the word.
Sew amazed at the generosity of quilters!