Friday, July 23, 2010


We all face certain choices every day. Some are easy – paper or plastic, soup or salad – some are difficult – should we have another child or not? Being diagnosed with cancer gives one another entire set of choices; ones that have not been given any thought before the occurrence. These include chemo or not, radiation or not, and others. My choices were, lumpectomy, single mastectomy or bilateral mastectomy, and, reconstruction or not? I chose bilateral mastectomy, but I also chose to be tested for the BRCA gene since the history is so strong in our family. When the test came back positive, I knew I had made the right choice.

The choice for chemo was another that was not so difficult. One wants to do what they can to insure against recurrence. The choice for radiation was not so easy. By the time I was ready for that stage, I had developed a painful condition involving a nerve that had gone haywire in my armpit. Radiation has a reputation for doing the same type of damage that I was already experiencing. It was a more difficult choice. In the end, I chose not to have it, partly because of all the complications involved and partly because of the difficulties with my insurance company.

After treatment, there are still more choices. For those of us with hormone linked cancer, there are several different hormone therapies available. This was a choice that, initially, I thought was easy, but since has become difficult. The year prior to my cancer diagnosis, I had a stroke. I was extremely fortunate that the blood clot somehow was redirected into my eye, instead of my brain. I had a small blind spot for a short amount of time, but there were no long term disabilities. Since the hormone therapy drug, Tamoxifen, has been linked to increased risk of stroke, we went with one of the other choices. After taking Arimidex for about a month, I had a bad reaction to it. Very bad. I was hospitalized. In the psych ward.

It took a while to get at all figured out, but now I was faced with a new choice. Hormone therapy or not? Tamoxifen or not? Cancer or stroke? Which one was I willing to take a chance on? I din’t like this choice at all. I chose Tamoxifen, accompanied by Aspirin and said my prayers. So far so good.

Now I’m faced with another choice. Since my last surgery, I have been feeling increased amounts of pain in my shoulder area. They think it’s a compressed nerve, but they don’t know where it’s being pressed or what is doing the pressing. The pain goes all the way from my ear to the outer part of my shoulder, into my chest and partway on to my back. It’s a large area and it’s a severe pain. At first they started me on some medication that is commonly used for nerve pain, but my reaction was severe and similar to the one with Arimidex. It seems that I cannot tolerate drugs of that class at all. So my choice is live with the pain or live with the possibility of another bad reaction. I don’t like these choices at all. I don’t know what to do or who to turn to. I’d like a different choice.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

It's That Time Again

(cross posted from Momma Mindy's Moments)

It's that time again.

I had my six month routine blood work
to find out the status of the cancer
that has staked a claim on my body
with squatter's rights.
In a few weeks, I will have a sonogram.

In January, cancer was discovered for the third time,
but my body didn't absorb radioactive iodine,
so it couldn't be used as a treatment.
It's too soon for another neck surgery.
So I wait,
and wonder
if they will grow or spread.

I always feel a little apprehensive,
so I commit my concerns to the Lord in prayer,
and try not to take it back out of His hands with worry.

But, I always know,
that little band-aid on my arm,
could be the beginning of another life change for me.

As I was leaving, my endocrinologist cheered me on,
as she is good at doing,
by complimenting
"You're such a brave young woman."
The good news is,
she thinks I am young.

But, the brave part,
I'm not sure about.
I appreciate her warmth and her encouragement,
but I am not brave.
I just have cancer.

People with bravery
rescue other people from drowning and car wrecks.
Brave people jump out of airplanes,
climb Mount Everest,
live in the jungles as a missionary,
and walk on the moon.

I am not brave by character,
my situation forces bravery
because the only alternative
to living with cancer,
if you can't be cured,
is dying with it.

So, if that is all it takes to be brave,
I hope she calls me brave for
many years.
I would like to someday be a
"brave, old woman."

So, my heart and mind are swirling
with prayers and scenarios,
as I consider what the future might hold,
it's that time again.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Two years later

Two years ago, a doctor, whose name I can't even remember, called to confirm the diagnosis of breast cancer. Now - I wish I couldn't remember having breast cancer. But, the reminders sometimes wake me up at night. I see them in the mirror every morning. I take them with my morning juice and cereal. I put them on as I select my wardrobe each day. I brush them out after my shower. I feel them when a friend pats me on the shoulder. I feel them flash through my body from time to time. I schedule them around my work hours. I feel them when I want to be intimate. I worry about them hurting my children. I fear they will steal my future.

I hate cancer and all it's done to my life.

Tomorrow I have an appointment with the pain clinic doctor. The pain in my shoulder started in October. I have taken two different types of medications that have not helped the pain and actually screwed up my body more. I was referred to the pain clinic in April - and tomorrow is my appointment. I'm hoping for a diagnosis. I'm hoping for a treatment that works. I'm hoping for a cure, but I'll probably just get referred to yet another doctor.

Sorry for whining. Pray as you see fit.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Upping the Ante -- Moving On To Stronger Pain Meds (Medical Update)

(cross posted from Coffee and Chemo)

Today, I began treatment with Herceptin again.  Since I have not received Herceptin in a long time, I needed to receive a "loading" dose.  Beforehand, I agreed to take hydrocortisone, to reduce the chances of an adverse reaction.  I did not really want to receive more steroids, but I also did not want to have to stop treatment in the middle.  Thankfully, I did not have an adverse reaction this time.

Also today, thanks to Moshe's gentle persistance, I chose to switch my method of pain management.  I got a patch which releases pain medication on a steady basis, over the course of three days. I am starting with the lowest dose patch, because I do not want to be all woozy.  I had to upgrade to something a bit stronger, becaue my previous regimen no longer kept the pain at bay.  I am hoping that this low dose is enough to do the trick.  One of the nurses warned me that I might experience some wooziness initially, but encouraged me to keep the patch on for several days, to give my body time to adjust and get over the wooziness.

So far, I am not feeling particularly woozy.  I still have some mild pain, but it really is mild.  We will see how I am feeling tomorrow.

My mom kept me company at the hospital today, which was really nice.  We ended up being at the hospital for a really long time (I arrived at 9:00 am and we did not get out until 4:30 pm).

I would have liked to go home and rest, but God had other plans for me.  My son, who got himself a job working as a junior counselor this summer, had a field trip with his camp today.  He called me as soon as he learned that they would not be getting back in time for him to catch the bus to Tekoa for his horseback riding group.  I offered to take him by car today as well (I drove him and one of his friends yesterday, for their first lesson, so I could see the stables, meet the owner, and provide the boys with some sort of orientation so they would be able to come and go on their own).

Once I was driving in anyway, I decided to hang out in Tekoa with my friend, KAA, and just drive the boys home after their horseback riding session. I did not mind the wait, but I needed ice cream.  KAA and I went to the Makolet and I bought myself a tub of Ben & Jerry's Chunky Monkey ice cream. Despite the hot weather (and the steroids coursing through my system), I exhibited exemplary self control and did not eat the entire tub of ice cream.  I used a trick my father taught me and wrapped the left over ice cream in multiple layers of plastic bags.  I used a LOT of plastic bags and the ice cream was still frozen when I got home, almost an hour later (Thanks Dad!).

Tonight, Moshe, my mom, and I, watched several episodes of The Big Bang Theory. (Thanks, LWG!)  If you are a geeky type, or even just married to one, you have to watch this!  You will laugh!!