Nine down, 15 to go....

I should update this more often, it seems - it might not be as taxing on my chemo-fuzzed brain when I try and wrap a week's worth of stuff into a small period of time, seeing as I have the memory of a flea at times. The weekend was good. Fairly uneventful, and full of relaxation, a great run (8.25 miles - longest one in a while!!), some new restaurants, lots of sleep, and some good food and wine.

However, the weekend was also unfortunately peppered with tons of dumb hairs swan diving into the sink en masse. It was time, I thought, to do something about it. It had just gotten too thin to be as long as it was, and I couldn't stand the sight of it looking scraggly - at least by my estimation. This caused more tears than necessary, even though I found myself pleasantly surprised at times when I looked in the mirror expecting to appear a bit more bedraggled than I apparently look to the outside world. Still, I'm full aware of the fact that the transition from hair to no hair is the hardest part. I just hate the hardest part. The part about cleaning enough hair out of the sink each morning that could make an entire wig after a week. I am truly amazed that I have anything left on this head of mine at all.

Sunday night, I wasn't feeling my best. I'm not sure if it was the combination of the emotional drain of the dumbest of all hairs, the fact that I ate something that didn't quite agree with me, the extra half-beer when I should have stopped at two, or perhaps some kind of strange alien bug. Whatever the case, I tend to get a bit spooked when I don't feel right because I don't know if it's because I just don't feel right, or if it's symptomatic of something else. In either case, I was originally scheduled for Jury Duty on Monday, and although my juror group was excused, I (after much encouragement) took a not-feeling-well/mental health day. And much needed, at that. It helped. Greatly.

Monday consisted of a bit of working from home, a trip to Home Depot for some new flowers and herbs to plant, a stop at the Safeway for Monday Salad makings, a bit of Super Password, some down time with the puppers, and a trip to Gee Wigz. After trying on about 5 hair hats, I finally found one that actually looked remarkably like a haircut I've had in the past. So, I took the plunge and actually bought a doubleyew-eye-gee. By the time we sat down to eat our beautiful Monday Salad, I was amazed at how good everything tasted and how much better I was feeling. PHEWWWWWWWWWWWWW.

Tuesday, I called Adam Pink (my wonderful hairdresser that actually does quite a bit of work for Look Good, Feel Better , and had him take a look at what was there to see what we could do with it at this point. I ended up with a haircut that looks very much like the one above. Think I'll be able to fool the world once I need the doubleyew-eye-gee? Who knows. Really, who cares. (Well, besides ME of course - but I'll continue to pretend that I don't.)

And all of a sudden, Wednesday rolled around again. I put down over three liters of water on Tuesday, and as much as I could possibly handle on Wednesday morning. Apparently something worked, and my overused veins were back in action with only one stick each needed for both Tuesday's blood draw and Wednesday's chemo! The little things that make one happy... Apparently my quest to become the Ship of the Desert was successful (special thanks to my mother-in-law for snapping the most recent photo of me on record).

So, nine treatments down, enough hair on my head to suffice for the meanwhile, a six mile run the day after chemo aided by new Thorlo socks compliments of Larry and Jan. You know, I have to give kudos to them. Each and every Wednesday, I return home to find a gift bag with some weekly treat. They've been so good to me... although come to think of it, I have to wonder about the irony. The first few were food, and the latest ones are active-related... maybe they noticed I put away a bit too much of that See's Candy and homemade ice cream... hmmm. Kidding guys, I know you read this and I can't tell you how much I love everything.

Dichotomy. di·chot·o·my /daɪˈkɒtəmi/ Pronunciation Key - [dahy-kot-uh-mee] –noun, plural -mies.
1. division into two parts, kinds, etc.; subdivision into halves or pairs.
2. division into two mutually exclusive, opposed, or contradictory groups: a dichotomy between thought and action.

That word popped into my head in the middle of the night. I was searching for a particular word when talking to Greg the other day and trying to explain something that I just couldn't verbalize. I think that's what I was looking for. I struggle so much with the dichotomy between living as though we are not dealing with this, and realizing that we actually are. It's as if I wonder at times, "Am I doing this right?" "Am I taking this seriously enough?" But in reality, what on earth does that mean? I think I got spooked when I wasn't feeling well on Sunday, becasue I'm so used to feeling great. In reality, I think we're treating this the best way we can. Hitting it as hard as possible with the modern medicine that is available to us, while managing to maintain a nearly seamless transition to life as we know it with a few minor changes. Add the Tuesday blood draw, add the Wednesday chemo, and aside from that and being a bit more tired at night (which could be attributed to the fact that I'm just old, or perhaps that I've become very much a morning person over the years), all pretty much goes on without missing a beat.

Except for the following fun facts:
  • My left eye twitches and my right eye tears. Except when I sneeze, then both eyes twitch.It's very attractive. I'm hoping that the twitch on the left doesn't get any worse and cause people to think I'm winking at them. That just might be embarassing.
  • The hairs that fall out in the shower collect in my butt crack. Ridiculous. And most likely too much information, but the truth is, I have no idea why they choose to land there. Thankfully, being aware of this fact helps me mitigate the situation.
  • My taste buds seem to be fine. So does my sex drive. So does my energy while on a run the morning after a chemo day. Thank god for small favors.
  • Radishes planted from seed really do germinate in three days. I continue to be amazed by this fact.

Thanks Liz, for reminding me that people are waiting to hear what random streams of consciousness I have to share!

Carry on... life is good.

All things considered...

I suppose it's not a bad day, for a Wednesday. Treatment #8 is now behind me which means I'm a third of the way done. A third of the way closer to some end result. It's gone quickly, most of the time. Today, however, seems a little slow.

There were quite a few dumb hairs in the sink today - lots jumping ship these days, it seems. They have been conversing, sticking in groups of three or four at times. I suppose we don't want the jumpers. God, how I hate the hairball that I clean out of the sink each morning, and I'm not too enamored with the strays that I find on my shoulder or on my shirt during the day. All things considered, I am glad that to the outside world I still appear to have a normal head of hair, and that I don't see any thin spots when I do it in the morning, and that it's hung in there much longer than I originally anticipated.

We went to the Baywood office today, as Desert was overbooked. They scheduled me at 8:45 but we were told that the chemo could not be administered until a doctor got into the office. I wonder why on earth they scheduled me at 8:45 if there was nobody there to approve all things necessary. I remember looking at the clock around 9:20. I'm not sure if that's when they started the premeds, or began working on starting my IV. The infusion room was virtually empty at this office, a stark contrast to the hustle and bustle and full suite at the Desert office. The nurses were very nice, and all things considered, the treatment went smoothly and quickly, once it finally got going. That, in and of itself was a tribulation.

I guess I didn't hydrate correctly this morning, or perhaps my tiny, rolling, tired veins were just not in the mood today. Six sticks and three blown veins later, they finally got the IV started. On the 4th one, or maybe it was the 5th, the nurse asked me if I just wanted to call it a day. "No f-ing way!" I replied. "I do NOT want to come back tomorrow." Six times a charm. All things considered, I'm glad they finally found one with a good blood return so I was able to put another round behind me.

We got the results back from the CA 125 test today. I'm not sure what I was hoping for. I think that number falls into the "dont' tell anyone your pipe dream" category. It went down to 465 from 536 which apparently results to an approximate 13% decrease. My first reaction, however, was disappointment. I wanted more. I wanted low, low numbers. I wanted a miracle. I realize that the CA 125 is not the end-all for tumor markers, and that there are many discrepancies in the results, to include the fact that a friend of mine who was diagnosed with Stage IIIB a few years back never had a CA 125 over 40. Could you imagine if they only used that to rely on for her? I know it's just a number, and all things considered, decreases are good. Perhaps something in there is working. I just want it to work more, better, faster.

So, I can't say that so far it's my favorite of all Wednesdays, as I don't love doubling as a pincushion, but I suppose that with the greatest of days also comes the middle of the road ones. I can't say, however, that it's my least favorite either.

I'm thankful for the weather cooling down and our run through the desert this morning, and for Super Password, and for sweet dogs. I'm thankful for being able to work from home on Wednesday afternoons and still being able to fulfill my billable goal. I'm thankful for the love and companionship of the wonderful man in the other room who sits patiently with me each week as they search for a vein, watches the life-saving toxins drip through the tubes, makes me laugh when he sings about the dumb hairs in the sink and how we don't want them anyhow, writes Wednesday updates for the people who love us, reassures me when the tears come when I am feeling let down about the test results, treats me like a person instead of a patient, makes me smoothies and pumps me with antioxidants and calcium and magnesium to make sure I stay strong, tells me I'm brave even when I don't feel so brave, runs alongside me in the mornings, and holds me close each night before we fall asleep.

All things considered, even on an average Wednesday, things could be much much worse.

Besides, I have mashed potatoes and sauerkraut to look forward to a little later.

Medical Terminology

This was plagarized from Greg's weekly Wednesday update, but I couldn't have said it any better myself...

There are medical terms that Jen and I don’t understand, and medical terms that we do understand. “WHOA!” falls into the latter category. “WHOA!” is the exact term that Dr. Cavalcant used today upon examining Jen’s abdominal area, after struggling to find the mass that once loomed larger. While whatever is in there still exists, it clearly has shrunk significantly, and that, in the understatement of the day, is very good news.

So, it's working. Whatever they are pumping into my veins each week is working. Thank GOD. I get my CA 125 (tumor marker) tested next week too, and with any luck it will have dropped from the count of 536 from mid-July. (Wow, I nearly made a huge typo and put 5236. It might have been high, but it wasn't THAT outrageous.) But the abdominal masses are shrinking. I had a feeling they were, seeing as I dilgently poke and prod the offending area each night before I fall asleep, at least once in the middle of the night, and a time or two in the morning before getting out of bed. Obsess much? I suppose I'm entitled.

It's working. The shit actually works.

Dr. C has also decided that I should take weekly doses of the Taxotere instead of 3 weeks on, one off, since I'm tolerating it so well, with the caveat that if I want the off week, I can always have it. So much for the less is more theory in this case. It won't shorten my course of treatment any more, but if whatever is working continues working, the extra boost can't hurt.

It's working... thank god.

1.5 Minutes of Fame...

Well, here it is!

It's not exactly 15 minutes of fame, but 10% of that isn't too shabby....

Scenes from the bathroom:

Yesterday morning after getting ready for work which includes straightening my hair daily, I walk out into the kitchen where smoothie making is in progress and must have had a troubled expression on my face:
"What's wrong?"
"Can I ask, will you humor me with something this week and maybe (sniff sniff) go to the (sniff sniff) wig store (enter tears) with me?"
"Ohhh... lots falling out today?"
"I don't know (sniff sniff) if that's what I want (sniff sniff) a wig (tear) but I know you'll tell me (sniff sniff) if I look absolutely ridiculous (sniff sniff giggle)."

And then there is my hair drying routine. Since I haven't had the chance to get to the gym often, I've wanted to keep my arms in shape. I've perfected the art of doing bicep, tricep, and shoulder exercises while alternating hands with the hair dryer. This is my hand weight of choice:
Apparently, the Costco-sized bottle weighs about 3.5 lbs. The problem is, I need a bigger bottle of scope now. Suppose I should find out where I put those hand weights...

Then, this morning:

(Me, in the bathroom doing my hair)"Uh oh. Huh. Oh boy."
(Greg, from the office, who can't see me from where he is) "What's the matter?"
"Huh. More dumb ones. I can't tell if it's more or less than yesterday."
"Well, like I told you, we don't want the dumb hairs. WHO NEEDS the dumb hairs anyhow? If they don't know enough to stick around and fight, WE DON'T WANT 'EM! Dumb, I tell you. The dumbest of all hairs. We just want the fighters."
(giggle) "What if I want them all?"
"I tell you, we don't want 'em. (I've now walked into the office) What are you talking about, Aunt Bea? You still have a full head there. (shaking his head) Dumb hairs. Who needs 'em. Anyhow, didn't you just shave your legs this morning?"

It's that time of year again...

Chemo, I can handle. No problem, as long as my sometimes-temperamental veins hold up, right? My latest quest to either float myself or become a human camel has been working beautifully at keeping the Tuesday blood draw and the Wednesday chemo down to one stick apiece. This is quite the accomplishment for one with rolling, tiny veins. Six rounds behind me means I'm a quarter of the way to the finish line. I can do this. Even though there may be some Wednesday in the future that all I want to do is superglue myself to the I-beam in the garage at 1432 Dobson Road and stage a protest because the thought of walking in to Desert Oncology and facing yet ANOTHER treatment is enough to make me want to implode, I know can handle it, even then. Fearlessly, I'll continue to show chemo and cancer that have no idea who they decided to pick a battle with. The Race for the Cure? Year after year it puts the fear of God in me.

I walked my first Race for the Cure in October of 2000. It was 2 months after my first course of chemo treatments had ended, and the first time I went out in public without the security of my bandana on. I remember feeling overwhelmed as I struggled with the concept of who I was, and how I fit in the world of pink around me. I was supposed to embrace this, but in reality, I felt lost. In time, my hair grew back, my strength returned, and by 2004 I had become some semblance of a runner. Still, every year around this time, I start to hear advertisements for the Race, I receive my registration in the mail, and those Race for the Cure jitters begin to kick in. I can handle that too, right? Riiiiiiight.

These aren’t your usual pre-race jitters I’m talking about, these are ridiculous. And I mean absolutely ludicrous and irrational. Let’s face it, even though I’m not setting any records or breaking any tapes, I’ve become an OK runner that usually places somewhat respectably in my age group. My typical morning run is around 6 miles when I’m not training, and I’ve completed six half-marathons in three states since January 2006. And then, there’s the 3.1 mile Race for the Cure.

About a month pre-race, I start to have the dreams. Not your typical dreams, mind you, but dreams that more often than not fall into that category of preposterous. The other night I saw myself walking toward the staging area, late of course, wearing jeans and dress shoes. Men’s leisure suit white patent leather dress shoes that one might see in an ad for sans-a-belt pants. Yes, this is this what was on my feet and by the time I realized what I was wearing, and that I’d have to run in socks, despite that fact that my MP3 player was on my arm, but my earbuds were not attached AND that I had now missed the start of the race... doomed. Last year I think I had followed the signs incorrectly since they had re-routed the race, and it ended up taking me through a hotel corridor, up escalators, and through various ballrooms following signs with pink arrows to point me in the right direction. If any one ever knew about this, they’d revoke my right to purchase Asics, let alone enter an expo and pick up a race packet…

I’m not certain what it is about this particular event that tends to trigger this response within me. I’ve put some thought into it though, particularly over the past couple of years. It may be the fact that it’s one of the days during the year that I need to show my stripes, or wear my pink, as the case may be. It could be that for this day, I’m not just a runner that can blend into the crowd and go unnoticed. Perhaps it’s the fact that even though there are thousands and thousands of people out there, I am one of a select group within the masses. Perhaps I know in my heart that as a runner, I’m not sure I’ve ever finished this race knowing that I put it all out there, and in the process, haven’t managed to break my personal elusive time goal of xx minutes. No, I’m not telling. Runners World recommends that you keep your pie-in-the-sky goal to yourself. The thing is, it’s not unattainable by any stretch of the imagination, and I just haven’t gotten there yet. I also know that the Race for the Cure is a non-competitive event. That time? That’s for me.

Thankfully, over the past couple of years I’ve had Greg to remind me that this event is bigger than me running a race. Me, and the people like me, that’s the reason this event is held to begin with, and just to get out there and run, that’s what it’s really about. So, it’s that time of year again, and at the same time as my half-marathon training starts for January, I prepare myself mentally for another Race for the Cure. This year, I realize it’s even more important than ever, and that the awareness and funds and research that events like this generate are a huge part of the reason I’m able to receive treatments today that weren’t even available when I was first diagnosed seven years ago.

On October 14, I’ll have 11 rounds of chemo behind me. Maybe I’ll still have hair, maybe I won’t (although I’m hoping for the former…). I’ll be able to put another season of irrational dreams behind me and focus my energies on why I run. Maybe, just maybe, someone out there that is going through the same thing that I am will look at me and think, “I can do this, too.” For everyone who is out there and has either faced with breast cancer, will face breast cancer, or loves someone who has had breast cancer. For the people near and far who have reached out and wrapped their arms around me from all corners of the world, some of whom have never met me, and have lifted me up in strength, in prayer, in hope, and in faith. For my friends and family who unwaveringly and wholeheartedly believe in me and told me without hesitating “time to lace up your gloves” because they know I can beat this. My mom participated in her first Race for the Cure in Central Park this past weekend. She sent us an e-mail afterwards that read, “Today I learned the difference between a ‘Thriver’ and a ‘Survivor’.” Thank you for realizing what I’m about…

October 14, I’ll lace up my shoes and participate in another Race for the Cure 5k with Greg, once again, reminding me why I’m there. Somewhere around mile 2.6, the realization kicks in. I’ll look to my right and see the greatest friend, companion, love, running partner and co-survivor I’ve ever met, running alongside me. This year when I cross the finish line, whatever the time says on my stopwatch is what it is. Does the runner in me still want the PR? Well of COURSE. I suppose the difference in this event is that each PR or each step taken is still one step closer to a cure…


Hunh. I wonder how it got to be September. Strangely enough it snuck up on me and was disguised in the unseasonably hot weather. Yet, it's September. September means that I'm coming up on my sixth week of treatment. September means that someday in the hopefully not so distant future there is cooler weather on the horizon. September means that somewhere in New England the leaves are going to start to change. September also means that once the month comes to a close, I'll have four more treatments under my belt. Or under my skin, into my veins, into the cells that need to be stopped. Really, nowhere near my belt at all.

It's been a nice, relaxing Labor weekend so far. Yes, I realize the gaffe - it's in honor of Alice who is "Having Labor" today (read: having the Labor Day party/cookout). The best part is that there are still the better part of two beautiful days left. The heat isn't oppressive today, the pool will be welcome, and I get to wear one of my new Victoria's Secret bathing suits today. Funny, I think back to when this was all discovered and we were convinced it was ovarian cancer. A secondary cancer scared the hell out of me, and I can't remember reading anything about ovarian Stage IV that didn't seem like gloom and doom. I remember being so sad, because the new bathing suits that I finally broke down and bought hadn't even arrived in the mail yet, and I was potentially faced with largely invasive surgery that was certain to leave me scarred and feeling not all that comfortable in a bikini at all. We researched all the wrong things, tried to prepare ourselves for what seemed like the inevitable, and then heard that we were all wrong. I think Greg was right. I think the devil we know is definitely better than the devil we didn't. And the devil is losing. And I get to wear my new bikinis and even when I feel a little bloated, I remember how thankful I am that I am able to look down at my body and see a smooth, pretty flat stomach and barely visible scars elsewhere, unnoticeable to most, left over from the first battle with the beast.

My dosage was upped by 10 mg this week. At first, I think I felt a little different, but in hindsight, I'm not certain I really did feel different at all, other than the fact that I anticipated feeling differently. Even the wine tasted pretty good to me this week, even though I'm only good for one glass at a time these days. It's not the worst thing in the world though, and my taste buds have been surprisingly tolerant of everything I have been eating all along. Which reminds me that I probably have a hungry person in the other room that is most likely waiting for me to do something with this mop of hair that is still hanging in there...

You know, I have a such a hard time remembering a life before we were together. Call it chemo brain, call it love, call it finally finding my place in the world. Whatever it is, I know I'm alive.