This is my word of the day today.
Definition: marked by arbitrary often ruthless disregard of individual differences or special circumstances.
Use in a sentence: My veins will be forever grateful that Dr. Cavalcant does not have a procrustean treatment regimen for all of his patients.

OK, so it's a stretch, but I thought it was a fun word and felt compelled to use it in a sentence. Yes, I should be working. No, this is not part of my job description.

In any case, it is amazing to me what qualifies as "good news" these days, and as I drove back from a somewhat tedious errand during lunch today, I started thinking of the things that fell into this category over the past couple of days.

1. Hairs. Hairs growing in places that I am certain to remove them from once there are enough to matter. Seriously. Who gets excited about armpit (or other) hairs? People pay good money to have these offending hairs removed. Me? I can't wait to tell people. Rationale? Armpit (and other) hair growing certainly means that head hair is growing. Two weeks until a crew cut, I tell you.

2. A non-procrustean doctor. One who tells me that there are decisions to make once the cancer is at this stage, and recommends (not just gives the options of, but RECOMMENDS) Herceptin alone. Yes, I had already decided on this, but something about him recommending it is reassuring to me. Additionally, he saw no proven benefit to taking it weekly as opposed to every three weeks, so everyt three weeks it shall be. This thrills me, this thrills my veins, this thrills the people at Sonora Quest, and I'm certain this thrills the chemo nurses who only have to jab at me once every three weeks. This will give those veins a chance to rest for three weeks and most likely, at least for the time being, allow me to avoid the ever-dreaded PORT.

3. Lack of intimacy issues. No further explanation necessary.

4. I think I found my butt. At least temporarily. You see, with all these ridiculous body changes I have gone through over the past few months, somehow along the line I seemed to misplace my previously pretty cute butt. Even when I put on the gazillion pounds of water weight. Ridiculous, I tell you. It looked simply ridiculous. Then I lost the weight I put on, but strangely enough, even though I was back to pre-cancer "fighting weight", all my jeans fit differently. I suppose I could blame it on the missing butt, but whatever the case, it was a bit unnerving. Today I broke down and bought a new pair of jeans. Yes, I paid too much. Who cares. I think I found my butt, at least while wearing these jeans. My luck? I'll take them home and try them on and not be able to close them.

5. NY Giants fans. Well, two of them, at least. My uncle and cousin have taken out a 2nd mortgage on the house and will be coming out here this weekend. I'm really, really looking forward to seeing them. Eyelashless and all. The rest of the Giants fans? Meh. Whatever. Only 26 days until pitchers and catchers report....

With that, I see that I only have 1/2 hour left until I blow this popsicle stand. (What a ridiculous expression. I'm only leaving it there because of the ridiculous factor at this point)

Phase Three... Ready? Go.

I think I've officially entered Phase Three of this leg of the journey. That is, if you consider Phase One to be chemo, Phase Two to be surgery, and Phase Three to be post-surgery treatment. Who knows, anyhow. I think perhaps I'm safer calling it the "next" phase... potentially of many.

In any case, I believe that my entrance through the doors of the Sonora Quest Lab may have marked my entrance into the next phase. I tried to stifle the feeling of 'ugh', as I'm well aware that this weekly blood draw will be a regular event for quite some time to come. Small price to pay. I signed in, and waited. Waited. And waited some more. This place usually has me in and out of there in about 15-20 minutes, but today? Not so much. On top of the waiting, my favorite phlebotomist (flee-bow?) Paul was headed out the door. Finally, after telling me that my standing order was going to expire on February 1, they called me back. I had a new (to me) phlebo who seemed pleasant enough. She may not have been new to the job itself, but after going in there weekly for the past six-plus months, I've seen every phlebo in there multiple times. This one? New to me. After verifying the necessary information (two N's? 1971? 3305?) she took a look at her canvas.

"Oh. Just this arm, huh?" (nodding) "Did you have lymph nodes taken from the other?" (more nodding) "OK, then. What's usually a good place?" (Oh boy...)

She went through a couple different needles before choosing a good one and wrapped the tourniquet around. Poked my veins with her finger. Looked. Poked. Looked. Then, went in for the stick. It rolled, she got nervous, and instead of fishing around, decided to take out the needle and look around some more. Sigh. She then left the room a couple of times, rummaged around in the drawers, and finally came back with a butterfly and syringe. "I am going to go with the syringe, I don't want to blow out any of your veins." OK, fine by me. Tourniquet on. Poking. Looking. Poking. Looking. "You know what? I'm going to get Barb. She might have better luck than me trying to stick you again." Oh boy. Good thing she was pleasant, because this was taking for-effing-ever.

I hear some mumble-mumble in the hall, to include the other phlebo telling her that she can stick twice before having to get someone else... long story short (too late), Barb comes in, says, "Oh, I've drawn you before." (Yeah lady, everyone in town has drawn me before) Thankfully, she tourniquets, pokes, looks, finds, draws, and sends me on my way. 45 minutes after I signed in. OK, such is life - I'm not any worse for the wear.

However, each incidence of them trying more than once to find a cooperative vein brings up one of my phobias. THE PORT. Oh man, I know I'm going to fight that one kicking and screaming all the way to the OR if that's the course I eventually have to take. Yeah, yeah, I know. Suck it up. Small price to pay. All these small prices seem to add up after a while, don't they?

Anyhow, the return to Sonora signified a return to reality (or something of the sort). I suppose I need to allow myself to get back to this routine of blood draws and infusions. It's been such a welcome respite, being out of doctor's offices and labs and scanners for a while. Alas, I knew it was fleeting. However, sometime along the course of an otherwise pleasant night, I had a moment.

A moment of, "Oh god, I don't want to go back there. Please, please don't make me go back there." Which was immediately followed by a string of ridiculous "what-ifs" running through my crowded mind. What if the side effects weren't all from the Taxotere? What if I need a port? What if I start to swell up again? What if it's too much on my heart? What if I don't want to talk to anyone back there? Meanwhile my inner voice was exclaiming, "But I'm feeling GOOD. I'M FINALLY FEELING GOOD! I don't WANT more drugs in my veins!!!" What I unfortunately forgot is all too simple. THIS is what I wanted. This option is victory! Thing is, it's STILL what I want. I guess, for a moment, I forgot.

The strangest part of all that is that it was the first time in a very long time that I found myself a little sad. However, realization of the fact that it was so long since I had been sad was actually quite enlightening. Also, it's amazing how therapeutic it can be to pet a grey dog's soft ears for a little while. I've still got this thing beat, in the long run - chronic or not. I just had to get past the fact that I still had work to do, and that the break was just that. A break. Now? I have to lace up, show up, and after today, realize that this is the easy part. It's a small price. Yes, another. But I'm determined to ride this wave as long and as loudly as I can. The truth is that this is the easy part. Big deal. Herceptin. No debilitating side effects, no fatigue, no hair loss. I think perhaps, I just got temporarily spooked.

Today, I'm going to show up with a smile, like I always do. I get to tell Dr. Cav that I'm going to ride this wave, and go with the Herceptin, until I am forced to make another decision. Then, I will walk back to that chemo suite (after the mandatory waiting, of course), stick out my arm, and expect that they will find a vein (and most likely will have taken my precautionary Ativan). Half an hour or so later, I'm going to walk out of there, still strong and fuzzy-headed, knowing that this truly is a small price.

After that, I'll head off to tackle more important things, like the business of growing hair. I hear it's even dark in the dark these days...

Just because I'm bald

doesn't necessarily give you the right to assume I'm just like you...

I was thinking this morning that it feels like a long time since I've written anything worthwhile. Hell, I've been thinking all week that it feels like a long time since I've written anything at ALL. Is that what happens? Once one gets out of crisis management mode are things just not that interesting anymore? Eh, whatever the case. I'll take status quo for as long as I can. As long as this chemo-free existence is the status quo in question. As I type this, however, I am feeling warmth in my fingers, spreading up my arms, and through the center of my body, down through my legs and... gone. Was that a hot flash? I think it has passed. This, I can deal with. The ironic part of it all is that I was so, SO cold before, that perhaps I'm now functioning at a relatively normal temperature. Greg got in bed last night when he returned (finally!!) and as the nighttime is when I seem to get these minor spells of warmth, I found it ironic that my first comment to him was, "Oh, you feel GREAT! A cool body next to me!" Ridiculous.

In any case, I suppose this leads me to my initial thought. I remember after my hair grew back the first time, from time to time I would see bald people, most likely going through chemo. I would do a double take, and if our eyes happened to meet, I'd give a shy smile and usually quickly go about my business. I can't remember a single situation in seven years that I had approached someone without hair and either asked them if they were going through chemo, or assumed that they had to have something in common with me. Maybe the baldness was a fashion statement, maybe they lost a bet, maybe they had alopecia for other reasons, maybe it was chemo. Even if it WAS chemo, how could I ever assume that every woman with cancer had breast cancer. In any case, if it was cancer and chemo that was causing this mystery person to be bald, what business of mine was it to assume that they were experiencing the same treatments, side effects, or emotions that I did? Perhaps I passed up opportunities to share with people, but the way I saw it, this person had enough to deal with, without strangers making assumptions. Then again, maybe that's just my perspective. All bets were off, of course, if I happened to be at a cancer-related event, but even then, I never tended to be the person that approached others.

Since I've been among the hairless, this time around, there are a handful of occasions that people have approached me, for various reasons. Again, when it comes to cancer-related events or people that have seen me at the oncologist's office - all bets are off. It's safe, at that point, to make a couple of assumptions such as: a) if I'm at the oncologist's office and not dressed in a business suit carrying pharmaceutical-related swag or lunch enough to feed an army, it's safe to assume I have (or have had) cancer of some type and b) if I have no hair, it's safe to assume that said cancer and related treatments are the reason. These exceptions aside, a few occasions of people approaching me come to mind.

We were at Teakwood's watching football on a Saturday night - December 1, to be exact - we were there to watch the ASU/UA. At that time, I had started to feel a bit sub-par, although I was feeling pretty good that night, but I wasn't drinking much other than iced tea or water those days. I had a baseball cap on and it was chilly enough out that I was wearing that schmatta under the hat (you'd be amazed at how cold your head gets without hair). In any case - I remember feeling pretty good that night, and laughing. I think we may have even stayed for the full game, instead of leaving at halftime. In any case, as we were on our way out the door, this woman sitting about 3 seats down the bar from TZ stops me. She tells me, "I just wanted to tell you what a beautiful smile you have. I noticed you earlier, and I just want to let you know how pretty and strong you look. Your smile just lights up your whole face, and I wish you all the best." I didn't know what else to say aside from, "thank you." But I remember feeling flattered, flabbergasted, and thankful at the same time.

The second time was at the Arizona Room on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. There was a girl and her boyfriend that had come into the tiny bar area where we were waiting for a table for dinner on our last night there. She had a tiny pixie haircut, and I remarked to Greg that I wondered how long it would take for my hair to get that long. I'm not sure if she overheard me, of if something simply compelled her to ask since she saw another young face (she was about my age) but she asked me if I was going through chemo, as she had just finished a couple of years ago. We had a pleasant conversation, the four of us, as we waited for our tables. Some of the conversation was cancer-related (she worked for PET imaging at UC Davis) but I remember feeling like she was asking questions about what I was going through, rather than assuming from personal experience. Ironically, her personal experience was very similar to my first round. We wished one another well, and went on our separate ways when we were called for our table.

Then, there was today, which leads me back to the statement of "just because I'm bald, don't assume I'm just like you." Perhaps that sounds a bit harsh, but it is what it is. And this is why...

Greg and I were enjoying our semi-regular lunch of Friday chowder at Keegan's, and had just finished a short conversation with Buzz, joking about the hair-growing attributes of Keegan's clam chowder. The events that followed started with an innocuous enough comment, when a woman a few seats down from Greg said, "Are you going through chemo?" Never mind that I was not in the mood to have a "Why YES, YES I am!"-type conversation. In any case, I nodded and replied affirmatively. She mentioned that she had gone through it herself and made some comment about hair growing back. I'm not sure why I feel compelled to tell people this when they are trying to reassure me that I will, indeed, have hair, but my following comment is inevitably, "Oh, I know. This is my second tour of duty." Usually that's enough to head off unwanted conversation at the pass, but not this time. OH no, not this time. She said something about the fact that she had three rounds, two breast and one something else (a sure sign that I started to tune her out) and then follows that with, "I think I know you. I met you at the race when I was diagnosed the second time. Didn't you get just get married recently at that point." UGH. I was afraid at that point that my internal groan was going to be so loud you'd be able to see it in one of those bubbles above my head. I told her yes, that must have been me, and followed with, "and THANKFULLY have gotten remarried since." Once again she managed to find common ground as exclaimed, "Me, too!" Great. At this point, what's left of my chowder is starting to get cold, she's continuing to talk AND ask questions, and somewhere along the line there was some joke made between Greg and I about hot flashes, which just opened up the flood gates.

She proceeded to tell us how she, too (imagine THAT!) had the ooph and that there were ALL these side effects that nobody told her about. I let her know that so far it's been very mild, and that they told me that it would kick in almost immediately. Her response, "well, they lied. There is more, and there is more that they won't tell you about. You'll have problems. (enter hushed tone) Intimacy problems. Problems they won't tell you about. You'll get skin changes, you know, down there..." I know she must have said more, but at this point, much of what she was saying sounded like the teacher in the Peanuts cartoon. My GOD lady, just because I'm bald doesn't give you the right to assume I'm just like you. I know she said some more about this doctor that finally helped her, and that it was tough being a newlywed with these problems (followed, of course, by the all-knowing nod of understanding that we MUST be having the same challenges) and that we should be prepared. I know she said more about some test results she was waiting for, that she was feeling sick for weeks, something about wine... I don't even know anymore.

I don't know if our lunch finally came or her wine glass was finally empty or what but I know she wrote down the name of the doctor that helped her and told us to tell him that she referred us. OOOOH, wait. Maybe she's working on commission! Anyhow, before leaving she also passed us a business card and told me to call anytime if I wanted to talk about female problems. At this point I am grateful that my brain-to-mouth filter was on so I didn't blurt out, "SHUT UP ALREADY!" Thankfully, I went the nod-smile-mumble pleasantries route and at long last she left and the exchange was over.

Now, in order to avoid the TMI factor here, I can confidently say based on current and historical evidence, I'm fairly certain we will NOT have to deal with said intimacy problems.

What I wonder is if this type of interaction happens on at least one occasion to other people out there that happen to be dealing with chemo or the hair-regrowth process? What I find amazing, is that it continues to catch me off guard when strangers ask me if I'm having chemo. Granted, the majority of the time the question comes from people who have been through it themselves, but I still find myself lost in the thought process. Are these people looking to commiserate? Are they looking to share their own experiences? More likely than not, they are probably just reaching out to someone that they think might share something with them, and might appreciate the reaching out. There's also a good chance that I may be more private than most when it comes to strangers and should probably attempt to stifle the "it's NONE O' YO BIZNESS" feeling that comes over me. Ironically, I'm very open about talking about my situation if the circumstances are right. Even with strangers. Perhaps it comes down to the way I'm approached. I don't think there's any right answer - just my miscellaneous ramblings on the matter.

Whatever the case, if you don't know me or know anyone that knows me? Don't assume that just because I'm bald, we are soul-sistas. Furthermore, don't assume that I'm going through exactly what you have, whether I have or not.

Oooh, maybe this is the bitchy, mood-swing part of that menopause they told me about!
Kinda fun.


It's a beautiful, 64-degree day here in Phoenix. This is the weather people come out here for. None of that below-freezing, cover-your-citrus junk. This is the good stuff. The sun is shining, my hair is growing (albeit slowly), and as I took a modified figure eight walk around the lakes with the dogs, I found myself loving the fact that I had a spring in my step again, I wasn't short of breath, my legs didn't feel like they were encased in concrete, and even though this nagging cold is almost gone, I can still breathe deeply, and yes, exhale.

First of of all, it's amazing how you miss the company you are used to at certain times. My partner in crime/love of my life is off for parts north and training this week, so it's just me and the puppers holding down the fort until Thursday. A MUCH better week (not that any time is my favorite week) for him to be traveling, as the house is painted, the swelling is all but gone, and I'm moving around at nearly 100% after the surgery. Anyhow, all parties involved missed him on our walk.

I let my mind wander to random subjects as we walked along. What would I have for dinner tonight? (Beautiful left over vegetable soup/stew that Alice made for us last week.) Is there anything I have to go out in the world for? (I don't think so, but that could change after a shower.) Did I forget anything in the SOQ I put together this morning? (Most likely not - anyhow, it's my day off, things can be dealt with tomorrow.) Now that we have a temporary restraining order against chemo and all things cancer, what's next? (The million dollar question.)

Well, we live.

I'm still coming back - I know that. I have strength to regain, eyelashes to sprout, leg hairs to eventually shave, scans to have, bloodwork to be taken, praying to be done. As I'm writing this, a song comes on our favorite cable music station and while I've had it on as background music all day, suddenly the words of this one catch my attention.

"...There is a light in your eyes, in your eyes
Breathe in and breathe out..."

I'm probably taking the lyrics entirely out of context, but they just struck a chord with me. Breathe in and breathe out. I've got a lot of work to do, still, but it's so damn nice to be able to breathe again. I know when the time comes for another scan I'm sure I'll be panic-stricken at the thought of the unknown. Or, maybe I won't. What I do know, whether this fact surprises me or not, is that I am not going to spend the time in between wondering about the what-ifs. I'd rather spend it with Greg, and the pups, and friends, and family. I'd rather spend it laughing so hard that my eyes tear, and watching the transformations in the mirror as I continue to return to me. I'd prefer to spend it sheepishly smiling at the fact that he always knew I'd bounce back quickly, and that the weight would fall off, the hair would grow back, the fingernails would return to normalcy, and the dark circles would subside. I suppose, after all, that's why he never lost sight of the person behind the crap. He knew she was never far away.

Each little step, each little victory - they buy me time and remind me how precious this life we have is, and how fortunate I am, despite the prices I have paid at times, to be exactly where I am.

Right. Now.

(Well, I'd be happier if I could walk in the other room and give Greg a big squeeze, but the fact that it'll only be a couple of days until I can do so means that my previous statement still stands. )

So, tonight? I look forward to calling Liz and having a phone-glass.
And hearing that my boy has landed safely. Ironically, 3o minutes away from Liz and Sa.
And I'll say a prayer of thanks, and one of hope.
And one for Deanna.

I'm not sure it's a TKO, but I'll take it.

We left Dr. Cavalcant's office yesterday around lunchtime, and got into the car. I turned to Greg in a bit of disbelief and said, "So, what just happened there?"

With tears in his eyes (that were potentially from hunger at that point) he quietly said, "Victory."


Round one belongs to ME.

We went to see Dr. Cavalcant yesterday - armed with the knowledge from the pathology report and what Chairman Mao told Greg he saw while he was in there last Thursday. The first piece of good news came when I did the dreaded weigh-in, blood pressure, and heart rate. But wait - since the last time I had been in there on December 29 with the edema, I had successfully dropped 18 (yes EIGHTEEN) lbs of water, tumor, and junk and was back to my fighting weight. This surprised me, particularly since I've been eating like a normal person again now that I can taste things. I suppose I'm misguided by the abdominal swelling that is still present. I'm ready to be done with that part... yesterday. Then, the blood pressure and heart rate. NORMAL??? Holy crap.

And then, back to The Waiting Place, now disguised as an examining room.

He finally came in, and said he had seen the pathology report, and we recounted what Chairman Mao and all other doctors of note had said. I think that was the first of three times he shook our hands during that particular visit, in congratulations. He expressed his relief that it was not all "socked in" and that the cancer had not spread anywhere outside the ovaries. We briefly discussed the ascites, and our relief that it came back with no malignant cells. Most of all, he was relieved that we decided to remove the offending ovaries. As a side note, even though we haven't expressly discussed this benefit with him, it seems to me that removing the ovaries also removes my primary source of estrogen, and being that my breast cancer happens to be ER/PR+, removal of the source can be nothing but good.

So, then what.

Well, he told me that he wouldn't put me back on Taxotere because the truth is, it would just beat the crap out of me again. He then told us about Abraxane - another taxane, but one bound by a protein instead that doesn't require steroid pre-meds, and somehow gets into even more nooks and crannies than the other taxanes. The side effects, albeit milder, are not that different than the other taxanes. Ugh. So, the Abraxane would be given weekly for 3 months over 30 minutes per session, with the Herceptin.

He then told us that it wasn't our only option. In his words, treating a cancer is very cookbook at the beginning diagnosis, but when it gets to a certain point (read: Stage IV, chronic illness) things become less cut and dried and there are more paths to take to get to the same end point. He then gave us Option B, based on the pathology report and the surgery findings. Herceptin alone.

Wait, was I hearing correctly? Was there even a faint possibility of NO MO' CHEMO???

So, we asked questions and more questions. Questions about if he felt OK with this option. Questions about "what next". Questions about why, when, and how. And we got these answers, in no uncertain terms...

More isn't always better. The fact that I am young, strong, motivated, and in great (by his estimation, "relatively good" by mine) shape gives me an edge. Right now, the cancer is either gone, or stable, and what we're trying to do, is keep it that way for as long as possible. The thing, is there is more than one way to get there, and toxicity isn't always necessary. He's going to watch this like a hawk - scan often and thoroughly - and be conscious that all involved keep on top of the progression (or non-progression) of the disease. Sometimes people (myself included until the chemo started to beat the shit out of me) think that the best way to get to the end result is to hit it as hard as possible as soon as possible. The thing is, the nature of this says that there's a good chance it will come back eventually. However, the coming back part might not happen for many, many years. That being said, quality of life is an important component to factor in to the equation. As strong and as healthy and as motivated as I am, I'm still made of blood and organs, and if I don't give my physical self a break and push too hard for too long, it's not going to do me any good in the big picture. Or now. Option B. Ride the wave that I'm on as long as possible with the least amount of toxicity. At this point, neither option necessarily guarantees a better long-term outcome and he reassured us he wouldn't present it as an option if he wasn't comfortable with it. I never thought to dream that Option B was an option when we walked in the door...

It's too early to re-scan at this point, as the PET would be all screwed up and inaccurate due to the post-surgery internal trauma, but in 8 weeks, we should be able to get an accurate scan done. So, the way we figured it, WORST case scenario something shows up on the PET when I get re-scanned and I can start the Abraxane, if necessary. By that time? I will have had the pleasure of living chemo-free for three months.

I think the world heard our collective sighs of relief as we realized what Option B meant...
Option B will get me into the Canyon when the Clouds come in March.
It will allow me to continue to taste and enjoy and savor.
It will allow me to continue to regain my energy and once I am recovered from this surgery, allow me to rebuild my muscles and continue to get stronger.
It will allow me to start to hike again. Maybe even to run.
It will allow me to actively work on my hair growing project. GOD, how I can't wait to bitch about my hair...
Option B will allow me to reap the healing of my soul as my body heals and relish in the love and laughter around me.
It will hopefully mean that my eyes will stop tearing eventually and I won't have this nagging eyelash-envy of others.
It will mean that for now, whatever that means, whether it's 8 weeks or 8 years, I can start to live again.

We left the office with the literature on Abraxane, and the knowledge that in two weeks I'd be back to see him, and armed with a decision. By the time we had gotten to Paradise Bakery (or potentially the second the words left the doctor's mouth) the decision seemed clear.

I wrote it back in August:
"I'm going to win, you know."

Victory. Even for a little while...

Oh, the Places You'll Go

"...And when you're alone, there's a very good chance
you'll meet things that scare you right out of your pants.
There are some, down the road between hither and yon,
that can scare you so much you won't want to go on.

But on you will go though the weather be foul
On you will go though your enemies prowl
On you will go though the Hakken-Kraks howl
Onward up many a frightening creek,
though your arms may get sore and your sneakers may leak.

On and on you will hike
and I know you'll hike far
and face up to your problems
whatever they are..."

We've now left The Waiting Place. And the news, it is good.

It seems that the ovaries were enormous. And there were, indeed cancerous cells in there that are consistent with breast cancer. However, the offending ovaries are now GONE. In the rest of the pelvic area? No cancerous cells seen. Fallopian tubes that were removed? No malignancies. The pelvic fluid that was removed? No evidence of malignant cells. The liver spot? Who knows. It was not biopsied, only observed, and there was no way to tell if it was a dead spot or a live tumor. The last PET showed very little SUV uptake and I think this is the one that Dr. C called the "cold" spot. We'll see for certain on the next PET scan.

So, yeah. I know why I'm crying.
We're going to get this thing. We're going to get this freakin' thing...

I'll be hiking again soon...

The Waiting Place...

Four days post op, and we've reached The Waiting Place..

"...for people just waiting.
Waiting for a train to go
or a bus to come, or a plane to go
or the mail to come, or the rain to go
or the phone to ring,
or the snow to snow
or waiting around for a Yes or a No
or waiting for their hair to grow.
Everyone is just waiting."

What I'd like to know is why are all these people waiting for their hair to grow??

Anyhow, the surgery really went smoothly, all things considered. They finished with the procedure in just over an hour. While in there, the doctor did see one spot on the liver, which I can only assume is the spot we already knew about, and some fluid/ascites in the area. Other than that, and the two orange-sized masses that they took out with my ovaries, nothing really looked awry. I suppose that alleviated one of my biggest fears - that they'd be in there looking around and the cancer is everywhere. Thankfully, that wasn't the case. The way I saw it, whatever those orange things were, they are now OUT, and with regards to the liver and surrounding organs, we didn't really learn anything we didn't know. So, the way I saw it, worst case scenario, the cancer was stable from the scan in November.

Until I realized that at the follow up appointment with Dr. C, I'd have to make some decisions on course of treatment based on whatever the findings were from the pathology. And the fact that there is still THAT DAMN SPOT. I could allow myself to dream - that the spot is of insignificant findings, but why bother...I'm not yet acquainted with my elusive friend NED (No Evidence of Disease) and the sooner that he and I become close personal friends, the better.

This is the part where I'm thankful for Greg working for a wonderfully understanding boss/company that decided that instead of traveling this week, it was more important for him to be here with me. Between the post-op healing, the house being painted, and the appointment with the oncologist, if ever there were a week for him not to travel, this would be the one. I was fully prepared to juggle all that needed to be juggled, without a peep. Thank you, BD, for taking away the need for me to do so. You have no idea how grateful I am...

So, the surgery. Well, as I started to say, it went smoothly, and by 1pm I was stuffed into the car and on my way home with three steri-strips and a bandage covering the largest of the incisions (which is about 2 inches). From what I hear, this incision is a bit larger than anticipated, due to the oranges. Anyhow. I remember eating a handful of pretzels and some salt and vinegar chips and guzzling some sparkling water with fresh orange, most likely burping loudly, then sleeping off and on for the next 3 or so hours.

The following few days have gotten progressively better with regards to range of motion, but I'm still swollen and bruised in places I wasn't sure people got swollen and bruised. I've been walking each day - today I did about 2 miles - and while the going is slow, I suppose it's like physical therapy - it hurts afterwards, but has its benefits. So, I walk.

The day after surgery was filled with the phone ringing off the hook, and various and sundry wonderful deliveries ranging from flower arrangements to tea and bath products to sinfully decadent chocolate dipped berries. The piece de resistance arrived just as we were trying to decide what to have for breakfast on Saturday morning in the form of 2 dozen H&H Bagels, complete with coffee mugs, cream cheese, and lox. Apparently whatever weight I might have lost from the oranges will apparently be put back on in record time. Such is life. At least I can taste things again.

So, here we are. Day four. Still in The Waiting Place but not too much worse for the wear... all things considered.

Laced up, cleaned out, showered..

and ready to go...
Yep, all cleaned out - that's for certain.

Say a little prayer this morning.
And one that the dogs won't get into anything too important in the house while we're gone...

Ready for the next step of this journey...
Laced tightly...

Chairman Ma(y)o

For some reason I'm feeling strangely calm about this upcoming procedure. I suppose it's not *that* strange for me to be calm, other than the fact that I'm usually all worked up about a simple scan these days, but surgery? Feh. Bring it on.

Even after yesterday's phone call...

"Hi, this is Joe Shmo from Mayo Clinic somethingorotherdepartment. We're calling about your surgery on the 10th. Dr. Magrina came down with something this weekend and he'll be out all week and not able to perform your surgery on the 10th. Dr. Magtibay is available to take your case, so you can still keep the surgery on the 10th if you would like, or if you would prefer to wait for Dr. Magrina, he can do the surgery on the 18th."

HUH??? Ok, first of all, HUH?? The surgery was originally scheduled for the 18th, we changed it to the 10th, took the appropriate break from chemo, took appropriate days off of work, Greg took the appropriate days off of work but in the meanwhile, someone in scheduling at Mayo didn't get the message. After a verbal sparring match with the scheduler (who I hope I never have the fortune of meeting) and making sure it was indeed, on the 10th and confirming it with anyone with vocal chords last Thursday, Dr. Magrina is SICK???

"Uh, Dr. WHO? What's the situation?? Um...uh...oh boy..."
"Dr. Magtibay. He's the Chairman of the department and it's fortunate that he's free to perform your surgery as that's not always the case and we have no choice but to reschedule. It's up to you though."
"Um...uh... the 10th. Keep it. That's fine. Everyone has already taken the days off. The 10th it is."
"Ok, great. We'll see you then."

Well, I haven't met him, but apparently, he is the Grand Poobah. Or as he will now be known: Chairman Ma(y)o. Still, strangely not nervous.

I mentioned this to Greg this morning. His response?
"Well of course you are, you old hound dog. They're just going to be playing Wii on your belly..."
Um, no. They're going to be playing Wii IN my belly. Still? Strangely not nervous.

I've been successfully clearing off my plate of things to do here at work and taking care of various and sundry estimates, pay applications, and invoices that will be due in my absence. Dan asked me yesterday if I was writing my memoirs. I'm not sure if you'd call this a memoir, but I suppose it's something...

Now, how's this for the kindness of strangers... (well, not *strangers* per se, but from a place I didn't expect it) I just got a call from our Chief Estimator asking if I'd be in my office and if so, he'd be up in a minute. Ok, not too strange. I've been working on pricing for a handful of projects and figured there was something in either the bid items or scheduling to review. Anyhow, a couple of minutes later, all eight estimators come walking into my office with two cards and hugs, wishing me good luck on Thursday. Completely unexpected, and very much appreciated. Maybe at times I run around here, getting done what I need to get done, with my head down, and I don't realize that people actually do notice.

In other worlds, I'm feeling pretty good these days. It's as if somewhere along the line, potentially somewhere in Grand Canyon country, I started to come back to life. Maybe it's the 12 (count 'em, TWELVE) pounds of water I have now peed out.

Ridiculous, isn't it? 12 lbs is a LOT. Granted, I'm still over my preferred fighting weight - but I much prefer being 5-6 lbs over, than 18. GOD was that uncomfortable. I can see my ankles again, and my legs no longer touch when I stand in the shower. The little things that make one happy.

Now, how about this hair growing process...
I shaved my legs yesterday morning. I'm not entirely certain it was warranted, but the razor looked like it wanted to be used and the legs felt vaguely of stubble (unless it was my overactive imagination working). Anyhow, they are smooth now. Is it completely bizarre to wish they would be stubbly soon?

Tomorrow at this time I will be undergoing the MASTER CLEANSE...
Can't wait.

Cleared for lift off...

Next week at this time I should be resting quietly the morning after surgery, with two less estrogen-producing ovaries, minus a couple of mystery masses, and short one unnecessary appendix. At least that's what they cleared me for yesterday after spending half a day at the Mayo Clinic being checked in, checked out, debriefed, thoroughly interrogated, and at long last, poked (three times) for blood. Now, I am officially cleared for my bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy and bonus appendectomy. Say that three times fast.

So... yeah. Here we go. The next step on this roller coaster ride of a journey. I'm ready for this one. I'm sure I'll be panic-stricken next Wednesday night, and I am NOT looking forward to the bowel prep they have prescribed for me the day before. And lest I forget, I am less than thrilled at the prospect of clear liquids only after lunch the day before (but wait, they said I can have clear chicken or beef broth for dinner!!). But eh, small potatoes. (Which I had better stuff up on at lunch on Wednesday, come to think of it.) I'm ready to get whatever is in there OUT of there though. I don't need it. And truth be told, whatever else there is in there, I want to know. Only if I know what there is, will we know how to proceed. And, I'm ready to proceed.

The chemo break has done me a world of good, and aside from last Friday's minor episode, I'm feeling much closer to normal. Minus the hair of course. And the eyelashes. And the waistline. (Too many potatoes?)

Yeah, last Friday's minor episode was interesting. I had been bitching and moaning for a while about the excess water weight I had been slowly putting on. Resigned to the fact that it would dissipate after the chemo stopped, imagine my surprise to wake up on Friday morning having lost my ankles completely. Yes, the water retention got bad. So bad that when I called Dr. Cavalcant's office, they asked me to come in for a nurse evaluation. That, coupled with the atrocious fingernails, and I was apparently too much to diagnose over the phone. Long story short, I went, they saw, they prescribed, and a week later, according to the Mayo Clinic, I have peed out nearly 8 lbs of water. (Before stepping on the scale today) YUCK. Just freakin' yuck.

The good news is, I have already peed out 8 lbs of water, and hopefully the Lasix will continue to counteract the effects of the steroids and Taxotere that went into my body weekly for over five months straight. What's more, the atrocious smell emanating from under my fingernails is no longer in evidence (thank GOD for small favors, for a multitude of reasons).

In unrelated news, thanks to Vitamin K and a diligent husband, the Rocky Raccoon circles around my eyes are MUCH improved. What's more, I haven't had a nosebleed in two weeks, my legs no longer feel like they are encased in cement (most of the time), and I no longer rattle the bed with my breathing at night. Even better news? During yesterday's inquisition at Mayo, I learned that for the first time in months my blood pressure is back to normal, and my resting heart rate, while higher than it used to be, is pretty darn normal again as well. All together now.... PHEWWWWWWWWWWWW. I bet the nurse there never heard anyone cheer when she gave a blood pressure reading before.

So, gloves laced, and here we go...

(Thank you, Liz! xoxoxo)

Two Thousand Eight...


Aside from the piles of work on my desk that I have slowly been plodding through, determined to tackle before the 10th arrives, life continues as usual...

It was a beautiful week or so off - lots of relaxation, lots of cooking delicious-smelling things, lots of love and laughter mixed in with some reflection and not too many tears. It was just what it should have been.

New Year's Eve found us keeping with tradition and sitting at our favorite sushi bar after having the traditional pre-sushi drink with TZ (which will, this NYE on, be enjoyed at Caffe Boa...). Three years running we've done the sushi-and-home routine. It was nice to be sitting there, realizing that we have created somewhat of a tradition. It was nice to be sitting there, feeling good, being able to taste the food in front of me, and knowing that I looked somewhat normal. Most of all, it was good to know that in the eyes of my husband sitting beside me - due to antibiotics, Vitamin K, and lots of love - I knew that he could once again see past it all and see the inner me. It was definitely a roller coaster of a year, but as we sipped our (traditional) Clos Du Bois chardonnay and reflected, we agreed it was definitely more good than bad...

So, we looked at the year in review:

January: P.F. Chang's Rock'n'Roll Half Marathon. Our 3rd one together. Not my best effort, but only about 30 seconds off last year's time. It was cold.... very, very cold that day.

February: The FBR Open, the Clouds' visit, Greg's birthday, the Lost Dutchman half marathon, the Hoffmanns in town. It was a busy, fun month...

March: My first time to Santa Fe. I loved it. We ate, we drank, we braved the cold. We got our marriage license, we checked out the sculpture garden, we laughed and dreamed and planned.

April: I'm sure there was more going on in April prior to April 27, but that weekend is what sticks out in my mind most of all. We got married in our beautiful sculpture garden on a crystal clear spring day. I got to be the beautiful bride I always wanted to be, I got to look into the eyes of the man I knew I'd spend the rest of my life with and join our hearts and lives in front of God and the world. It was just he and I in our own world, and it was just how it was supposed to be.
We celebrated and dreamed and enjoyed and loved and lived...

May: Our party at Caffe Boa. We celebrated with friends, we hiked, and we came up for air...

June: Havasupai Falls. One more thing checked off of my life list. I've always wanted to go, and finally, we did. I could try to find the words, but amazing wouldn't quite cover the feeling of swimming into pounding water to cling to rocks behind the waterfall at Havasupai Falls or facing my fears and navigating the hike down to Mooney Falls, or traipsing through the lush vegetation on the way to Beaver Falls or diving off the rocks into the clear blue water once we got there. Or drinking wine chilled from the river after a long day of playing and exploring and experiencing and swimming. Or falling asleep in perfect temperature feeling the breeze rustle through our tent in the arms of my husband. And then there was the Red Sox Series. And Alison Krauss. And Norah Jones. June was full of sweet, soulful music. And we went to Flagstaff. And prepared for Mt. Whitney. June also brought Greg some sadness with the tragic loss of a long-time friend. And a bit of reconnection with the past and the people that shared the memories during a trip home. June was full of activity and learning and music and strength and led straight into July...

July: July started off quietly aside from the air conditioner breaking, but the quiet was fleeting. July brought scans and doctor visits and biopsies and diagnoses and the realization of one of my greatest fears. Cancer. But there was a beautiful trip to Prescott with hiking and friends and dogs. And a trip to Overgaard the weekend of my birthday as we watched the rain pouring down from the wrap-around deck of our rented cabin, contemplated our future, enjoyed one another and prepared for what lie ahead. Together.

August: Chemo. And the beginning of this leg of the journey. It can all be found in these entries - at least pieces of the story. Yet, we conquered Mt. Whitney and got to stand on top of the world and tell cancer to fuck off and that it's not going to take me. I had too much still to accomplish. I still do.

September: September was full of treatments. And my 1.5 minutes of fame on Channel 12. We got the opportunity to sneak up north to camp on the Mogollon Rim for some fresh, cool air and rejuvenation. Twice.

October: Still full of treatments. And being featured in two articles in the news. And the Race for the Cure. And shaving my head. Still running. Still thriving. Fundraising and getting ready for the 3-Day. Going up to wine country and San Francisco, and even though we were sick, laughing and enjoying one another and having fun. And watching the Red Sox win the World Series...

November: The 3-Day. Standing in front of the crowd of walkers, crew, and survivors, bald head out there for everyone to see, proudly carrying a flag that read "Belief." And afterwards, finally starting to feel the cumulative effects of treatments and starting to slow down, kicking and screaming all the way. Thanksgiving. Giving thanks for friends, and family, and love and life.

December: The holiday season and putting up our beautiful tree. And getting that warm feeling inside upon coming home and seeing our lights. Our house. Our life. Dealing with the fact that the weeks and weeks and months of chemo had finally caught up to me, and not dealing with it all that gracefully at times. And finally taking a break. And the Nutcracker. And heading up to the Grand Canyon, which was full of more time in the lounge and scrabbling then hiking, but still just as beautiful. Looking out over the edge and saying a prayer to whomever happened to be listening, in thanks and reverence to the wonder before me and the wonder I still had yet to see in its depths. Finally feeling my body and my soul start to bounce back and my spirits start to rise again. Tasting food and looking toward the time when I wouldn't have to cover my head with a ski cap to protect it from the cold. Relaxing and cooking and filling the house with comforting smells. Celebrating the holidays with the beautiful family I married into, and looking forward to the year ahead. Finally, coming full circle, to sitting at the sushi bar at Sakana, talking with Greg about the year we just had. Looking forward to seeing what the coming year would bring. Realizing that the next couple of weeks would bring about some interesting developments and questions answered with the surgery on the 10th and being glad to finally have that behind us. And realizing that the future of treatments would not be decided until then. And knowing that more prayers were needed.

At the time? Enjoying the Red Storm and the assorted sashimi and the spicy scallops and unagi. Savoring the crisp taste of the chardonnay and smiling about the tradition we had created and the fact that this was the third year in a row we had spent New Year's Eve in this manner. Realizing that we were, once again, laughing more than not. And hearing him say, "I love my girl, so much...".

Quite a year it was...