Saturday, November 13, 2010

Like Daughter, Like Mother

*Warning: This post may be contain angst. There are just a few things I need to get off my chest*

A year ago today I drove to Indy to go to the doctor with my Mum to hear results of her recent breast biopsy.

The biopsy was a year ago Wednesday, preceded by a mammogram a year ago Monday. I wasn't able to go with her because I had chemo that Monday, which sucked in layers.

When I got breast cancer, both my Mum and sister, Jennie, came to Cincy for my lumpectomy and my mastectomy. As soon Jennie went home to Charleston, she did not pass go, did not collect $200, but went directly to the mammogram center. They sent my sister (who was feeling my pain in her own bosom the way sisters do) home without even giving her boobs a good feel for good measure, and told her to come back when she turned 35, so insurance would cover it. Her 35th birthday was only 2 months away.


Thank God that mammogram came back OK.

But seriously, Grr....

My Mum did not proceed directly to the nearest mammogram center. She doesn't have insurance-


-so it didn't even enter her mind. Until she saw a commercial by the Little Red Door Cancer Agency advertising free mammograms. So my Mum got a mammogram. They found a lump. They followed up with a biopsy.

Thank you, Little Red Door.

Still, she wasn't supposed to get breast cancer. I had taken the genetic test and "passed".

I knew the 1/8 breast cancer stats. I know this might sound sick, but I often find myself doing the math when I'm in groups of women, and if I'm the 8th, sometimes I think to myself, "Cancer dibs! Please, God. No more cancer in this group of women."

Then I make a mad dash to another group of seven women. And then another... which I know is probably, not technically fair. But it's not like cancer plays fair.

If you oughta be able to, for sure, be the 1 in 8 for anybody, your Mum oughta be one of the seven. But a year ago today I was sitting in the doctor's office with my Mum, her 2 sisters, 3 friends (=7) when the doctor (a female) said the C-word to my Mum.


(I didn't really say Grr.... Sometimes I say really bad words at cancer and it makes me feel better. I don't mean to offend anybody when I do that. It's just that sometimes I get so offended by cancer that I either forget to, or don't feel like, being eloquent. Sometimes I get so ticked off at cancer there are no words to express. Sometimes, like today, I have this nagging grr... that I just have to get off my chest. I mean, it's not like I've got any convenient places to hide stuff there anymore.)

Anyway. Jennie flew to Indy for our Mum's lumpectomy, and thankfully, I was able to make it too, since it was scheduled in between my second-to-last and FINAL! chemos.

Thank God for the Little Red Door because that mammogram she got after seeing their commercial helped them find the cancer early.

Like my oncologist says, "Early diagnosis, excellent prognosis." It's a mantra she drilled into me so deeply that I could slur it, at will, even in a chemo fog.

Unfortunately, my Mum's breast surgeon wasn't happy with the margins she got, so she scheduled a second lumpectomy.

I couldn't make it to my Mum's second lumpectomy. We both had surgeries scheduled a day apart in separate cities. Neither of us could be there for the other's.

I had downed my last chemo for an early Christmas present, and was scheduled to have the port removed on Epiphany. Her surgery was scheduled for the day after my surgery. Which also happened to be the day before my end of chemo, Not-a-Chemo-Cocktail-Party. Which, unfortunately, she obviously had to miss, sine she was recovering from her surgery.

Fortunately, the breast surgeon felt really good about the margins after my Mum's second lumpectomy. Then she knocked down 33 radiation treatments. Now she's on Tamoxifin, but she's technically cancer free. And it's been a year today! Go Mum! Way to kick cancer's ass! Happy Cancerversary! Yeah, it was the worst day, but it was also the first day, of the rest of your life. So cheers, to health and happiness! Yeah, it's been one hell of a year, but you're one hell of a cancer ass kicker. So go you!

(Isn't it a good thing we're both too old for you to chase after me with a bar of soap to wash my mouth. Whew.)

Anyway, way to go, Mum!

And, in honor of your 1-year cancerversary, here's a video of Amanda singing the "Cancer is a Bitch" song, which she wrote for my last chemo and performed at my Not-a-Chemo-Cocktail-Party. Pretend you are me, and that she's singing to you. Of course, you'll have to minus all the references to chemo and insert radiation-type terms, but you get the idea. And yeah, I know it's also not Christmas. Normally I don't pull out the Christmas music until the day after Thanksgiving, but I think this particular one is my one exception.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Doing Quarters in the Chemo Cocktail Lounge

Yesterday was my final appearance at the chemo cocktail lounge for 2010! How weird is that to say after the past two years. But Ya freaking Hoo!

These days I'm just a quarterly maintenance person. My chemo sistah Shelly had her very first maintenance check-up too, so we naturally we scheduled our appointments on the same day so we could haunt the chemo lounge the day after Halloween.

Our chemo sistah, Julie or "Cruise" was going to be having trick or treatment, so we were excited to hang out with her. We call her cruise, because we often have had treatment at the same time as her, but then she goes on all these cruises that messes with "the schedule" and we have to wait for another cruise or something to bump her back on schedule with us. Anyway. I've written about Cruise before asking you to pray for her when you pray for me, since we have the same name and I figured it would be no sweat. Her breast cancer has metastasized to her bones and liver but she just blazes a LIVESTRONG path that inspires me. She is leaving for a cruise tomorrow and it didn't surprise me when she said her itinerary was chasing a hurricane. Watch out, hurricane, is all I can say.

We inducted a new friend into our little club. "Etch a Sketch" has super long and beautiful hair that she had just had a lovely photo shoot of before it goes into hibernation during the winter of her chemo. Her positive energy positively lit up the lounge. It was so great getting to meet her. She is probably not having the best day today, as she was doing her second round of Adriamycin and Cytoxin. (Sorry if those are spelled wrong but I dislike them so much I don't feel like doing a spell check on them). Anyway, I hope you'll say a prayer for or send some good vibes to Etch a Sketch.

We got to the chemo cocktail lounge at 11:30, in time for Cruise's trick or treatment. Shelly's appointment was at 1. Her counts were good! Yay God! She got her end of chemo scans scheduled for later this week, so let's all pray for the happy all clear! She also has to have a MRI on her leg because it's been super sore. So we're not worrying about it, but praying that it will stop being so sore and trying to rain on our parade and stuff.

After Cruise got her trick or treatment and went home to pack for her cruise, Shelly walked me down to the labs because I am at the bottom of the totem pole of appointments now;) While we were standing there waiting for me to get called back, we met an amazing survivor, very appropriately named Joy. She heard us mention Herceptin and we got into a delightful conversation with her, where we found out that she was on one of the Herceptin trials, which made this miracle treatment available to both Shelly and me! How cool was that?! I remember seeing the Herceptin movie, Living Proof, and just being amazed at the women who took it as a trial drug way before it became the drug that saved my life. I think it was the first time I really cried after I got cancer. I was so overcome by the amazing women who went before me. I was just as overcome yesterday, getting to meet one of those women. I actually got to say thanks. Wow.

Then I got called into the lab to get my blood drawn. First I step on the scale. The day after Halloween and minutes after eating not quite a quarter of Cruise's birthday cake. I made a comment about packing on the pounds since my last visit and my nurse said, "Yep." Or something like that. My temp, heart rate and bp were a happy menaje trois. And when she drew my blood I said I had done my part to make her job easy at the Hallow-wine party I went to at my next-door-neighbors after the trick or treaters went home to count candy.

My counts were all good. I have to wait to hear on the tumor marker and my vitamin D count. But there is no reason to think those will be anything but good.

I have to wear this sexy paper shirt now, when I go in for my check-up, so I had to change out of my Beatles tee shirt. But I was glad that I had chosen my white TOMS to wear with it that morning, because they so went with the white paper shirt.

One thing I noticed during my the wardrobe change was that I guess I was nervous because I had pitted out my tee-shirt. I couldn't remember the last time I'd had body odor but I'm not kidding, I almost knocked myself out. Here's the tricky part. Since I had lymph nodes removed I have this thing about putting on antiperspirant because it feels like my underarms have enough issues and antiperspirant seems like it would just constipate things. I don't know if everybody who has had breast cancer thinks about these things but I do.

Anyway, my exam went fine. I had Dr. Lower check a tiny pea that has developed in my armpit and she said it is nothing, and nothing to worry about. I didn't feel like worrying about it anyway, because it would only make me sweat more, so I'm not. I only mentioned it to her because it's stupid not to say stuff about things you could potentially worry about when, if you just said it you could put it out of your mind. That's my PSA for the day.

On my way out of the office I ran into Leona, who I hadn't seen since my bookreading bash. Shelly and I met her during her last chemo, and right before her surgery. They found a little lymph node involvement, so she is currently half-way through her radiation treatments. And doing fabulous! It was so awesome catching up with her and seeing her head sprouting the salt and pepper. It reminded me of when my head was fuzzy and my Redheads couldn't walk by me without petting my head because it was so soft. I didn't really have many favorite things about chemo, but that was one.

I hope you'll also remember Leona when you remember me, and Shelly, and Cruise, and Etch a Sketch.

And until next quarter, that's a wrap from the chemo cocktail lounge, and thank God my cancer is old news. Here's to hoping it stays that way.