Thursday, August 13, 2009

Breaking: Leo Keeps Mane

Okay, bad news first. I got a friggin’ staph infection from my surgery. So my doc switched me to malaria grade antibiotics to kill that. Ick.

But the good news is my Oncotype results show that #1: My cancer recurrence is slim. And #2: It probably would have been resistant to chemo anyway. So no chemotherapy! Who-hoo! I fell into a category below even the shaggy grey area and would have only gained a couple percentage points for a cure by taking chemo.

Where does that leave me? Well, I have a bottle of Tamoxifen sitting in front of me, for when my staph infection subsides. I will be on that five years. I also will be receiving a shot once a month of Zoladex (for the same amount of time) to suppress my ovaries. My oncologist says that these two treatments have much the same effectiveness for my cancer as chemo does in other non-estrogen cancers.

I have an appointment with a geneticist to determine if I have the BRCA gene that indicates ovarian cancer risk. And an appointment with my OB-GYN to determine if I need a hysterectomy. The whole she-bang could be taken at once and I would stop the Zoladex shots. But I won't know for a month or so. And really, do I want another trip into a staph-riddled hospital?

We're not exactly dancing around, because there are still a few twists and turns, side effects etc. But it is entirely likely the worst is behind us. And that counts for A LOT.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

No Better Time Than Now

There's no point in waiting until I'm cured to start banging the drum about cancer awareness, prevention and research funding. The American Cancer Society has all the details and it isn't always about forking over cash. Sometimes it's about volunteering. Which means a Web site or two in Carbon Creative's future.

There's another cause bears mentioning and that's becoming a donor. At this point in my life, I already owe two people a great debt—two people I'll never know who made it possible for me to have a strong knee again and brand new breasts. Our friend Stephanie can attest to such gifts. Her cousin was recently killed in the war. It was a devastating blow to many people. But the upside is his heart has given a Chicago woman a chance at life.

So please 'pay it forward' for me and become a tissue and blood donor, because at the moment nobody wants my "stuff".

Excellence in Parenting

Madeline has been behaving oddly. It coincides with my illness and the start of kindergarten so we assume either one or both are the cause. About a month ago she began confessing all the possible things she'd done wrong.

"Hun, I got paint on my pants." or "Hun, I dropped a booger on the floor."

At first it was sweet. And we thanked her for telling us. Then it became a little wearisome.

"Hon, I just spit out my pepper." and "Hun, I forgot to brush my back teeth."

It came to the point that confession was the only conversation she could have with us. So then we began to ignore it, trying not to fuel it. But that caused an escalation: purposefully doing things wrong and suggesting things she might do wrong in the future.

"Hun, I touched my ———— in public."

We knew it was a quest for attention but we weren't sure why she felt she wasn't getting attention. Perhaps it as a quest for control, because my illness and kindergarten are losses of control. But she just learned how to ride a bike and we hoped that being able to master that would give her a sense of control. We began asking her just to tell us what she'd done right. It was getting to the point where Cameron could not be heard over all her "sins".

This morning they were getting ready for summer class when Madeline said, "Hon, I breathed into a plastic bag."

Well, I had no choice. I had to whip out an Aesop's fable. So I proceeded to mangle that story of the boy who cried wolf. You should have seen our babies, eyes bulging, as I told them about little Emo (only name I could think of at the moment) who kept telling his dad he saw a wolf that wasn't there. But when I got to the end, I remembered why we never tell them old fables.

Madeline's eyes were all glossy. "Did the wolf eat him?"

"Um, well, I think it just scared him."

"I think it ate him." Cam nodded.

"No, it probably just scratched him."

"Do you think it bit him, Momma?"

"Oh, I don't know! The point is there's a moral to this story. And what do you think it is MADELINE???"

"That we should never, EVER, mess with wolves."

Monday, August 10, 2009

Dangerous Curves

Been trying to live my life again, the way it used to be. Playing slowly-moving-target to the kids' waterballoons and scanning the art fair for free junk. On Thursday night, Cheryl and I hung out with the guys. On Saturday night, we hung out with the gals. Yesterday, I got to ride 26 glorious miles.

'Course, this illness thing keeps wanting to tussle. Over the past few days, a section of my scar has become inflamed. My left breast is stinging in odd areas, nowhere near the scar. Last night all I could imagine was the cancer was back. Something they missed. Because that does happen. Or maybe some new cancer, like the inflammatory type, which is the most gnarly of the gnarly buggers and presents like an infection. Then my mind begins a subconscious march through all the things I need to be, and be doing. Be a better mom, be a better wife, better friend, make amends. Become a saint essentially, which doesn't look good on me; makes me look fat. It's wrong to go there, I know. But I’m a little suggestible when everything is not 100% fine. So this morning we headed back to to the plastic surgeon, who was a little stumped by it. He did a culture and put me on antibiotics.

There are other reminders, all around, disturbing as Betty Davis in Whatever happened to Baby Jane: "But you are Blanche, you are in that chair!"

While we were all talking on Saturday night I realized our friends Mel, Nancy and their daughter Ivy had stopped by after my surgery. Ivy entertained the kids; Madeline had lent her one of her Eeyore stuffed animals. This was all news to me. Somehow, in my percoset/ativan/post-anesthesia haze I lost the event. Certainly, I was there sprawled on the recliner, but not in spirit apparently.

Last night, I saw an old clip from a show Cheryl "forced" me to watch, The L Word, about all these women who were friends and lovers and full-time drama queens. I had forgotten there were some characters that didn’t make it to the end of the series. None of these women represented our lives very much anyway, so to try and somehow match yourself to a personality type was like trying to dress in the petite ensemble of a manikin at Ultimo. But secretly I wished I could squeeze into the character of Shane, the rascally lothario (lotharia?). Then seeing that clip last night, I realized I must be Dana the dorky one who got cancer. Feh.

We find out the results of the tumor test on Thursday, which will determine my chemo protocol. I will also find out the results of today's culture.

I am so over this cancer business. I wish it was over me.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

And Now For Something Completely Different

DISPATCHER: Metro 911, what's the address of the emergency?

WOMAN: I'm locked in my car, my battery's shut down—

DISPATCHER: You're locked in your car.

WOMAN: Yes, I can't . . . my power's shut down on my car.


WOMAN: And I'm starting to hyperventilate. I'm starting to freak out!

DISPATCHER: Now ma'am, you think your battery died?

WOMAN: Yeahhhhh.

DISPATCHER: So, okay, and you tried the handle, right? It won't let you out that way?

WOMAN: No, ma'am, it won't let me do anything, and I'm—

DISPATCHER: Can you, did you, can you actually see the top of your lock? You now, on the door, can you see what it's . . .

WOMAN: No, it's . . . Oh, my gosh.

DISPATCHER: Yeah, just pull it up, baby.


WOMAN: Okay, I'm embarrassed.

DISPATCHER: You can get out now, right?

WOMAN: I'm out. Thank you. I am so embarrassed.

DISPATCHER: That's okay. All right.

—courtesy of Amy, Lauren and Drew

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

It's Not About The Bike

Re-read the first part of Lance Armstrong’s memoir last night. I had picked it up a few years back when I was racing and hoped to somehow absorb his skills (negligible results, by the way). This time I was more interested in his battle with cancer, which involved an orchiectomy (testicle removal), brain surgery, high doses of chemo and another painful surgery to remove his chemo pump. That he won multiple Tour de France titles after a 25% survival rate and all that punishment leaves even the most agnostic among us muttering the world “miracle.”

He says something very interesting about his belief in survival:

"Without belief, we would be left with nothing but an overwhelming doom, every single day . . . I knew now why people fear cancer: because it is a slow and inevitable death, it is the very definition of cynicism and loss of spirit. So I believed."

And that is a truism found in just about every cancer patient. An immediacy in everything. To believe or disbelieve. You aren't asked to choose. You are forced.

It’s interesting how that book turns out, with him walking into the sunset with his wife Kristin and new baby. As if cancer would make him live happily ever after. Well, nearly a decade on, he and Kristin are divorced. He has run through a string of high-profile relationships and is back in Europe trying to regain his former glories. Did he lose sight of cancer’s “gift”? Did he see through life’s BS and decide to just live for himself? Is life just too long to live it selflessly every single day? (And do I read the Enquirer too much?) We may never know if he took performance-enhancing drugs. He may have just been super-human. But he’s clearly still mortal like the rest of us. Phew.

Where Lance really shines, where he has managed to put his world-class ego to good works is in the Livestrong foundation. Not just raising awareness and funds for testicular cancer, but all cancers. When I am cured (see how positive I can be?), I probably owe him some percentage of my recovery.

These are our gods here on earth. Brash and flawed and always redeemable. Every time I get on my bike, I pretend that I am coming back. And I can thank Lance for that.

Well, Lance and that 70s movie Breaking Away.