Thursday, September 30, 2010

His Precious Little Girl

These last two days my head is reeling from the 180 I've experienced.  I will do my best to recount it to you, but I can't get believe the brain fog that has settled over me.  Fog like split pea soup!  My short term memory is terrible.  Here's the highlights folks.

True North called yesterday to give me the official word that she cannot perform my surgery till after she returns from maternity leave next year. 

My insurance company, United, has denied my request to have Dr. Hands paid as an in-network provider, even though they would not have to pay anything more to do this.  They would have to pay two in network plastic surgeons for this procedure regardless.  I was just asking them to pay Dr. Hands this way.  I will be appealing their decision.  I can make three appeals.

I am going ahead with a bilateral mastectomy with The Wizard on October 26.  He is planning a "skin sparing" mastectomy for Flopsy, and I am electing a prophylactic skin sparing mastectomy for Mopsy.  Mopsy's nipple will remain; The Wizard will save Flopsy's nipple if he feels comfortable based on the pathology when he opens me up.  I am not counting on this.  He will also remove a fair amount of my lymph nodes on the left.  I will only be in the hospital a day or two, not the seven required for the mastectomy and immediate reconstruction.

When I wake up, my girls will be gone, and I will be left with hanging skin as if both my melons were scooped out and deflated.  At least one nipple.  I asked The Wizard "What will my breasts look like?"  He said "Well, kind of like a fried egg."

If all goes well with my healing and I am able to reach over my head, I will start radiation treatment one month later.  The week prior to starting radiation, a CT scan will be performed, and I will receive my radiation tattoos.  5 1/2 weeks or 28 sessions of radiation, twenty minutes at a time, Monday through Friday.  The radiation will be directed where the tumor used to be in Flopsy, and up into my arm pit for my remaining lymph nodes.

6 months after the completion of radiation, I will be able to have my reconstruction. During that six months I will continue my appeals to my insurance company, and will make a serious effort to get in the best shape I can prior to that surgery.

Folks, my brain and emotions have been all over the universe and back in a couple of days.  I am doing my best to absorb this.  I really really wanted to wake up with my new boobies.  I did not want to go where I am going.

I am a girly girl.  This is asking so much of me, on top of asking so much of me.  No hair.  No boobies.  God help me.  I've been carrying these big girls around since 7th grade and I am 51 now!  Identity crisis!  and I can't even twirl my hair when I'm anxious.  Now I rub my fuzz instead.

I am not ashamed or hesitant to tell you I am crawling right now, physically and spiritually.  I stood like a mountain during chemo, and now that it's done and with all of this, I am really grieving.  I am so tired, my stamina the lowest it has ever been, and the neuropathy is a daily challenge.


Things happened so fast in these last two days, I didn't have a chance to call out for my angels.


They started arriving on their own.


It started with this message from my fellow survivor Jill, who writes the blog A New Shade of Pink.  She wrote a recent post about her Dad.  It struck a very deep nerve with me and I wrote her a personal message about it.  One of the things I said to her was this, "At 51, the little girl in me still waits for someone who is never coming."  This was part of Jill's loving reply to me.


If I may, I'd like to remind you that you have a loving heavenly Father. You are and always will be His precious little girl. And I believe it broke His heart when you were diagnosed with cancer. He sees your tears. Every one of them. He feels your heartache and pain. And I believe He longs to heal you and love you and bless you.


While on the phone with the insurance company today, I felt myself getting upset and angry realizing the people you talk to are not the ones who make the decision, and it was obvious, whoever had reviewed my case did a cursory review and stamped it DENIED.  The only explanation I got regarding the denial was "we have in network providers."  They gave me the name of one.  I called his office today.  This plastic surgeon has very little experience doing the DIEP procedure, and where he performs surgery IS OUT OF NETWORK.  How absolutely ridiculous.  Don't even make me say the eff word.  While on the home phone with them, I heard a call coming in on my cell.  I was bawling after the insurance call ended, sat on the couch, and listened to the voicemail waiting for me.

It was from Nani Glenda; our mutual friend is Emily's Mama, who got me involved with the Relay for Life.  I met Nani at the Relay, she is one of the people that came up to me to introduce herself and tell me how much my blog was impacting her life.  I wasn't even at the Relay ten minutes and I was already bawling from my conversation with her.  Remember?  She said she's been wanting to tell me some things, and she asked Emily's Mama for my phone number.  She's had it a week or so, but called and left this voicemail today.
  
She reminded me who she was (of course I remembered you Nani!) and that we met at the Relay, "when I told you how much you have impacted my life with your blog, I still read it and so look forward to it."  She talked about how on her walk today, starting up the big steep hill (actually near my house), how she was looking at the top of the hill way off in the distance, such a long way!


"Why did I come this way?" she thought.  It was way more than what I think I can do.  She went on, and I paraphrase.


God told me "Look down at your feet.  Start taking one step at a time.  Don't go too fast or too slow."  I focus on where I'm at.


I focus on where I'm at.


She continued, with a voicemail so long she had to leave two!  "I encourage you in this journey, stay focused on the day, God's mercies are new every day."


God's mercies are new every day.


She continued.  Maybe the whole issue with the doctors is a closed door, she suggested. Remember how you talked about when God closes a door, he opens a window, but it's hell in the hallway?  Maybe you are in the hallway.  God will open a door for you, and you will know that was his perfect plan for you.  In the midst of the struggle, I pray that out of the confusion and mess, he will make clear his plan for you.  Thank you again for sharing with us, I look forward to your blog and it is still impacting my life.  I love you and I am lifting you up every day.


I listened to this message absolutely stunned and cried with such gratefulness and comfort.


It was as if God called me today, and he used Nani's voice to make the call.


Keep going.  I am with you.  I love you.  Trust.  Let go, let Me.  My precious Writergirldreams.  My precious Debbie.  Keep going.  My hands are on you and this path, and my mercies are new every day.


I collected myself, barely, and returned her call.  She said how she picked up the phone a couple of times then hung up, hesitating, afraid to intrude, but she felt compelled to make this phone call to me.  I told her she made my day.  She said I made hers.  


Wow.


In my mailbox was a card from my girl Midge, with some loving words in her familiar handwriting.  The quote on the card was this - Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage.  Anais Nin


Midge, did you know both you and your Mama sent me the same cupid sticker book!

There was also a box in the mail, from Kimberly, my angel at the American Cancer Society.  The card read "If people ask why you're wearing a scarf on your head and you say it's because you're a pirate...They'll have no followup question."  Aarrrgghhh!  Inside the box was a cute little figure dressed in breast cancer pink, and a little bald head that you can grow some grassy hair like a Chia pet.


Then later, while writing my blog, my Duncle Dody left me a voicemail saying SHEESH at all the turn of events, and in his Duncle Dody style "I love you Deb."


I can't say if my battle with the sharks and King Kong is over, but I've settled down now.  I am surrendering again.  I am handing over the reins.  Again.  I am taking a deep breath.  I am letting go.


My body and my life and my brain and my soul is at Genesis.  There is a plan for me.  I am not a super hero.  I am human.  I am loved.  I guess you're stuck with me well into next summer.  Lucky you.

I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.  Michelangelo

Tonight, with your help, I realized I am the angel in the marble, and God is carving to set me free.

Remind me when I forget.

I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.  Michelangelo


Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Writergirldreams Please Report to the Principal's Office

I don't know where that title came from, it just made me laugh.  Years of school and I never got the call.  Never got in trouble.  Ok, maybe a few times, not at school, involving judgment.

Like the time my girlfriend and I did the old "staying at her house tonight" and didn't go to either house.  Somehow our fourteen year old brains thought it would be cool to just walk the streets all night.  I know, sounds goofy, doesn't it?  In today's world, probably dangerous.  It was a different world back then.

Where was I, chemo brain?

We decided to roam the streets like gypsies all night.  About two a.m. we were cold and tired.  We couldn't go home.  How would we explain the late hour and why weren't we at the others house?  Just as we walked into the light of a streetlamp, a pimped up van drove by, very slowly.

It was him.

The guy behind the wheel was one of the hottest, hippest Seniors in the whole school.  This was the seventies folks, he had long blond hair parted down the middle and was fine and buff.  Played football, raced moto-cross, smoked pot.  No steady girlfriend, a play-ya.  A teenage girl's dream in the seventies.  Well, except for the girlfriend part.

How cool it would be to wrap his class ring in angora and wear that fuzzy proclamation of his   devotion?  Sounds like Grease huh?

I had never really spoken to him before, maybe a little.  His little brother was in our class.  Also a hottie.  We were Jr. Varsity cheerleaders.  His brother played football.  He was the star of the Varsity team.

The van stopped just ahead of us, we continued walking.  He was waiting for us.  I was scared.  Not like I thought he would hurt us.  Just thinking about talking to him.  We sheepishly waved from the sidewalk as we passed.

"Ladies." he nodded.  "Need a ride?"

We looked at each other, our hearts racing.  THIS IS THE EXCITEMENT WE WERE LOOKING FOR.  It was enough just to talk to him.

Need a ride?  Where?  We weren't going anywhere.  We approached the van.

"Well, we, see we had this idea..." and interrupting each other, told him our story.  He laughed.

"Get in" he said.

We weren't expecting that one.  We both gave each other a "what da hell" look and climbed in.

He drove us to his house, got out and left us alone in the van for several minutes.  We weren't sure what to do, we were chattering like chipmunks, scared, thrilled, should we run away, should we stay?

He came back and opened the rear doors of the van, arms loaded with blankets.  He made a makeshift bed on the floor of the van.  I was nervous, and I admit, a little excited.  What had we gotten ourselves into with THE FINEST BOY in the school?  A Senior!  He got the bed all comfy then smiled at us.  

Here it comes, here it comes, his lustful intentions for us and

"Anybody need to pee?"

We both raised our hands, like kindergartners.

"Come on then, and keep it quiet."

We followed like puppies into the house through the back kitchen door.  I could hear a TV going in the living room, and familiar voices laughing.  His younger brother, our classmate, was having a sleepover, with several boys we knew.  We used the restroom, then quietly slipped back out to the van.

He was waiting there for us.

"I"ll leave the back door open in case you need to go again.  Get some sleep."  He smiled and walked back to the house.

We jumped in the van and closed the door, and had to stifle screams and squeals.  We slept in our bra's and panties in a bed HE made for us in the back of HIS van.

It was the night of our lives.

The next morning he drove us each home, making sure to drop us off up the street so no parents would see.  My girlfriend was dropped off first.  He drove to my street and pulled over.

"Thank you" I said.

He nodded and smiled a sweet smile at me like "I know.  It's ok kid."



I had a rough day today, seeing things as they are and not how I wished them to be.  I let myself cry here and there, and wallow in my bed.

I thought about my life.

I don't know why I thought about him tonight.  I did not expect to write about him, it just came to me when I put my hands on the keyboard.

Sometimes help arrives unexpectedly and from an unexpected source.

I'm not sorry about the grieving and processing I needed to do today, and a whole lot more is on its way.

Tonight though I know, good is on the way.

Good is on the way.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Fortune Teller

It was a dark and stormy night.

Why do I feel as though this passage in my life is turning into a bad novel?  The worst case of fiction ever.

Can't I just have one thing I want?  (She whimpers.)  Can't I just have one thing, in this thing I did not ask for, go the way I WANT IT TO GO?  Damn.

Get ready for the anti-serenity prayer, prayed by God's favorite donkey girl.  Hey.  No laughing.  I'm gonna rant now and whine like a baby and stomp my feet.  And spit.

I'm too mentally exhausted to recount how the plot thickened today, but let me put it to you like this.  Ever ride Space Mountain at Disneyland?  Rockin rollercoaster, right turn, right turn, right turn, right turn,

THEN BAM, FREAKIN SHARP LEFT TURN YOU WERE NOT EXPECTING AND YOUR WHOLE BODY, WHICH HAS BEEN LEANING INTO THOSE RIGHT TURNS, IS VIOLENTLY THROWN LEFT AND YOU SCREAM BABY SCREAM.

Let me put it to you like this.  It's like a damn roux now, headed towards gumbo or jambalaya and I ORDERED SOL MEUNIERE.

Deep breath.

Are you ready for this?

True North had a scare with the twins yesterday.  Everything is fine except HER DOCTOR thinks she is overdoing it, and wants her to drastically reduce her work week and surgical schedule.  Especially the surgeries over five hours on her "Babies Onboard" feet.

What does that mean for our heroine?

Another twist of twisted, gosh how much more of this, fate.

Am I tied down to the railroad tracks and just don't realize it?  Take a look at me.  Is there a sign on my back that says "kick me?"

If I'd like True North as my plastic surgeon, I will have to wait till after her return from maternity leave to have my reconstruction.  February.  Oh no, wait, it gets better.  After being radiated, I have to wait six months before reconstruction.  That really makes it June.  Kinda makes the whole who-tee-do dance I've been who-tee-stewing about regarding plastic surgeons moot.

Let's review.  A breast cancer diagnosis.  Five months of chemo.  Double mastectomy.  Five and a half weeks radiation.

Iced with months and months with no boobies and dragging this thing well into 2011?
  
Deep breath.  Blow it out like a dragon.  Scorch.

Let the record show that in addition to all she is, Da Good Witch is a fortune teller.

Somebody, get my Fay Ray outfit and cue the JAWS music please.

Shit.

Monday, September 27, 2010

The Power of Furry Angels

I'd like to introduce the canine contingent of my wellness team.

Sisters.  Cassie Deer and Hallie sayin "Whassup"
Little Miss Muffin


My nurses, always near, all throughout chemo.



I know I'm naughty, but how can you be angry at this face?


the cone of shame


During the day, when the house is quiet, these girls are my faithful companions.  When it's time to nap, they all follow upstairs like a parade.  Hallie and Cassie flank both sides of my bed on the floor, and Muffin takes her place at the foot.

Good good medicine, my faithful girls, all pound puppies.

Furry angels.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Coming Down and Into Focus While Finally Getting Sleepy

I am coming down now, from the wakefulness that follows each chemo.  AC had its own difficult challenges.  The insomnia after decadron for the Taxol has gone on for 3 months of weekends and I'm sure played a huge part in my body hitting the wall.

The other symptoms, the residual effects of chemo, are masked during the sleeplessness.  On the last several Sundays, when I start to come down and feel my body getting sleepy, the other side effects reappear in full force.  It does not surprise me now, I suppose it still does disappoint.

I understand what is meant by the collateral effects of chemotherapy taking anywhere from 6 to 18 months to finally subside.  I don't know why I thought once it was over, it would be over.  Maybe that's why it still does not feel over to me.  A lot of what I was feeling during is still here with me after.

I had magical thinking about what this weekend would be like.  Silly girl.

For five months I was chained like Esther Williams to a giant clam shell at the bottom of the ocean.  Although set free, I have a long swim to surface down here from the depths, eyes wide open and face in full makeup, luscious red lips.

Don't worry.  I'm swimming, up and up and up.  It will be some time before these boobies bob on the surface.

I am not down about this.  Resolved.  I will do what I can when I can, and each week will get better and better.

I notice my blogs are much shorter on Sundays.

Cause I'm really tired guys.

Here's a flower for you.  Down there.

This rosebush has been growing in my front yard twenty years.  Tell me what you see?  You see the torn petal?  You see the heart in the center of the rose?  The imperfect petal.  The perfect heart.  On the same rose.

Focus on what's right in your life, and it will become the focus of your life, and your heart will be happy. 
    



“You may break, you may shatter the vase, if you will, / But the scent of the roses will hang round it still.”



Thomas More





Saturday, September 25, 2010

Sharks and King Kong

Getting ready for chemo was a chore.  I was tired, achy, moving slow, short of breath, and sure felt like a weak old lady.  I got out to the car winded, then realized I had forgotten the cards written the night before for Vonda and The Good Witch.

I headed back into the house, and up the stairs to my bedroom where I left the cards.  Three steps up I thought "whoa this is hard" and by the seventh step up I had to rest.  I think I was eight or nine months pregnant with either boy the last time I had to rest on the stairs.

I don't know if it was the cumulative buildup of the Taxol, the weeks of sleeplessness, the mental strain of these last months, but this last week leading up to this last chemo was really rough.  I was also getting off the Cymbalta, I'm sure that had some effect even though I had only been on the anti-depressant for two weeks for my neuropathy. I had so much fatigue and was very emotional most of the week.  I don't know how much of this was the weight of the five months and the glimmer of lightness on its way that hit hard this week.
 
I did make it up the stairs, grabbed the cards, and was on my way again.  I usually drop my car keys at the door and again at the car.  It's strange.  Generally my hands feel tight, the numbness is mostly in my feet and toes.  Even so, I drop things quite often.  It surprises me every time.  I have to be careful with knives and glasses in the kitchen, and grabbing jars out of the fridge.  Quite a few of these have ended up on the floor.

I walked into the chemo center, checked in with Lady Grace, and reminded her it was my last one.  She said "Let's party."

"I sure hope Vonda brought the Vodka" as Vonda appeared through the door behind Lady Grace.

"Huh, what, who said I brought Vodka into the office?" Vonda asked.

"For the party, I brought the olives and blue cheese, you have the vodka, right?"

Vonda still seemed a little confused.  I could tell they must be short handed today, and it was already starting at the start of her day.

It did not seem like this was really my last one.  It didn't feel that way the whole time I was there.  Only today, the next day, it is settling into my brain.  I have finished chemo.

No more chemo.  No more weekly labs.  No Ports.  No PICC.  I had forgotten the old rhythm of my week.  This one was so different.  Let me remember, what did my old week look like?

Sunday and Monday was our weekend.  Pancakes or waffles Sunday morning, maybe watching a movie, lots of relaxing.  Monday was always an errand day, grocery shopping, refilling cars with gas, laundry.  Tuesday I worked the lunch shift so was home for dinner that night.  Wednesday through Saturday night was the rest of my work week.  Wednesday and Thursday were always my favorite, just a nicer pace on the dining room floor.  Friday and Saturday nights were busier, more parties, more guests, more staff, more drama.

My chemo weeks were often a blur, only punctuated by getting blood drawn on Thursday, chemo on Friday mornings, at least two nights of insomnia, coming down on Sunday and resting all day.  In the early chemo days I would still be sick through the week and would feel a little better in time to start the process over again.

Then there were all the mechanical problems, two failed ports, a port wound that would not heal, getting the PICC in, initial problems with that arm.  The days and weeks and months just melted together and none of the months stick out, except maybe July because of seeing Batman perform at the Rose Bowl.  Other than having Robin home from school, and Batman gone on tour, it never felt like summer to me.  I don't have distinct memories of any particular days, only of events.  I've had to read back through my old posts to remember things.  It's strange, my memory of most of it is very fuzzy.  It could have been February, the dates meant nothing to me except that it was 2010.

I am aware now we are going into Fall.  I am waking up.  I need to get out the Fall decorations and Halloween things too.  Strange, my first year not home for Halloween.

I don't know what these in between weeks will look like, only a few of them before my tentative surgery at the end of October.  I hope I can work some.  This will be my last weekend of insomnia, although I've been doing it twelve weeks now.  Who knows, will I get to next weekend and not be able to sleep?  Maybe it will be a good time to finally see all the Twilight movies.

Slowly I am beginning to feel the freedom.  I am only reminded my PICC is gone when I look at my arm and realize "Oh, it's out."  Right now both arms are fairly banged up.  The left has little red dots all around the inner arm from pokes.  The right arm has several areas that are still healing from where the PICC went in and sores where the line burrowed into my arm.  The skin under the Tegaderm patches is still peeling and chafing.  I have tried to put my thumb ring back on my poor left thumb but it is still swollen from the ordeal a week ago.  I noticed a distinctive redness under my right foot toenails today.  I will show this to The Good Witch at my appointment next Friday.  Hey.  I will be there next Friday.

Where was I, oh yes, Vonda greeted me and we walked down the hall towards my usual weigh-in, blood pressure, and temperature.  The Good Witch was coming towards us from the opposite end of the hall.  Vonda was ahead of me, I was hidden behind her, dragging my bootay.

"Hey, how are you doing?"

Vonda said "Good."

The Good Witch laughed.  'Yes you too, but how bout that Lady behind you?"

Many of you are too young to remember Walter Brennan, an old time actor I remember mostly from a show called "The Real McCoy's."  I am really dating myself here folks.  You with me?  Walter had a trademark walk.  I always think of him as I scuffle around with neuropathy.

from WikiAnswers:
A friend of his in the motion picture business - Jack Foley - suggested as a prop for Walter Brennan to put a rock in his shoe to simulate a limp. It went over so well that it became a trademark of sorts.


I was doing my Walter Brennan hitch down the hall.  I am sorry I was not doing cartwheels and hooting.  I was moving slow, five months of chemo slow.  There is just no way I could have done even one more week of this.  Not even one more week.

The Good Witch came up to chat, which she usually doesn't do on the days I am not scheduled to see her.  She is usually flying through those halls and will give a quick wave or smile.  Today she purposely greeted me.  Both she and Vonda flanked me, it was great, I pulled the cards out of my purse and handed each theirs.  They smiled.

I had given Vonda a card about friendship "Hold a true friend with both your hands."  I told her how I never could have or wanted to go through this without her.  Had our Mama's conspired in heaven to put us together?  I told her when I am into my new normal, everyone better watch out, because the two of us could get into some serious trouble.  and we will.

Vonda, thank you, again and again, for your constant, funny, presence and smackin volley as a reply for my banter.  We had our own routine, didn't we Girl?  We'd do it every single time, soon as we saw each other.  Me getting on the scale and taking off everything I possibly could.  You taking my blood pressure 3 times, I say ouch, you say you going to be a baby today, then when I start talkin, you shove the thermometer in my mouth.

Loved those bangin eyebrows you got done baby, wow, did they look good or what?  Ladies, go get your eyebrows professionally done.  Really.  What a huge difference on a face.  You look good Vonda.

Where was I before I got into eyebrow envy, oh yes, Vonda, like I said in the card, I will spend the rest of my life showing you and giving back what you did for me.  You thought you were getting rid of me, didn't you?  Nope.  Not going anywhere.  Love love love.

The card for the Good Witch was a haunting photo of a lake all fogged in, with a little canoe floating next to a small pier with an empty Adirondack chair on the pier.  I told her this reminded me of us, I am the little canoe, on a journey.  She is always there waiting on the dock for my return, and pushes me out again.  I told her that aside from all the obvious things to thank her for, she is my quarterback, a comfort, a good laugh, a reassuring presence.

Well, reassuring until that last morning of chemo.  This is where the sharks and King Kong come in.  She asked me not to put it in the blog, laughing.  I not only put it in, see it up there, it's the title.  Sorry Doc, a writer's got to do what a writer's got to do when good material presents itself.

"You've been on my mind this week" she says.  "I even had a dream about you, like you were in some kind of trouble, like in a movie, you know, something like a shark attack, or maybe it was King Kong after you, I don't remember, I just remember you were in battle..."  She drifted off, trying to recall the dream.

After we picked our jaws off the counter, I don't know who laughed harder, Vonda or me, we both about fell on the floor.

It took a minute for the Good Witch to catch on but when she did she laughed too.

"Let me get this straight, when your oncologist is dreaming about you getting attacked by sharks or beating off King Kong like Fay Ray, I think that's a pretty good sign you are in a shitload of trouble" I said laughing, that gut laugh that is a little hysterical.

We all laughed, it was just really funny and strange and The Good Witch was at a loss to explain it, and that's when she said "Don't put this in the blog!"

This is how I have decided to interpret the dreams of The Good Witch.  I was battling demons the last week of chemo, it was a hell of a struggle for me.  I think she is just in tune with her patients, and she was right, sharks and King Kong were good metaphors for what I was battling.

I don't know, Mft, will you chime in, you are part of a dream group.  For all I know there is some sexual meaning behind shark attacks and King Kong, or these just generally may be a bad omen, delivered by the one person who is supposed to be my shaman against evil.

Somebody help me out there?  I should have asked her what she had for dinner that night?  Did I have hair in the dream or was I bald?  Old boobs or new boobs?

Sorry Doc.  It was just too strange and compelling.  Please folks, send in your interpretations.

Fusion Room number Two.  Ah.  My Friday morning home.  I will miss eating my snack in a pea soup green vinyl Lazy Boy chair with little side trays.  One for snacks, the other for resting the chemo arm.

I will miss seeing The Good Witch flying through the halls in spike heels and pearls.  I will miss Kitty wheeling in her little cart of pain and life.  I will miss Vonda flashing me, hugging me, chatting me up, loving me and whipping my ass into shape.  Oh and Vonda, thanks for reaching the TV remote for me.  Who is tall enough to put it up on the TV that hangs high up on the wall, and why would you put it there for a person who is short tethered to the chair?

I will miss the taste of chemo, I will miss the blood return, I will miss the grogginess coming over me in minutes, like a warm blanket suffocating my head and closing my eyes without my permission.  I will miss watching the drip drip drip of overkill to save my life.  I will miss the cold sips of ice water out of a paper cup.  I will miss peeing hooked up to a rolling IV,  in the intermission between pre-meds and the hookup of da good shit.  I will miss the strange colors and odors of my pee during and in the days after chemo.  I will miss the stool softeners, the Ativan, the Vicodin.  I will miss the seven days of shots for four weeks following each round of AC.  I will miss the exorcist Port, and the PICC snake slack making its home in the tender skin of my arm.  I will miss the constipation.  I will miss the nausea and the vertigo, the fog and the fuzzy logic.  I will miss the aversion to red kool-aid liquids, reminding me of AC.

And let's not forget the hair, falling strands turning into clumps turning into skeins turning into dead dreadlocks turning into a sore and tender scalp turning into bald as Kojak.

Ah.  Memories, light the corners of my mind, misty pea soup vinyl memories, of the way chemo was.

Thank you chemo for saving my life.  Thank you for returning Flopsy to her old soft sexy self.  Thank you for doing your job killing all things bad and many things good in my body.  Thank you chemo.  Thank you.

I am delirious again.  Where was I?  Kitty was still out for the birth of her daughter, so another of the nurses, who reminded me of a young and beautiful Jill Clayburgh, was pinch hitting for her.  "Jill" didn't work on Fridays, so we didn't have much interaction, except for weekends when I needed a neupogen shot to restore my bone marrow while on AC.  Jill was usually the weekend person giving the shots.

"Well, I heard all about last week for you.  Did I read that right, chemo in your thumb?"  She gave a look like what the hell, you telling me that's all they could find?

"I am hoping things are going to go well for both of us today, how's that sound?"  Sounds good.  Real good Jill.

That's just how it was.  She searched the right arm and found a good vein very close to where my PICC line had gone in.  The inner bicep.

"Here we go."

I never want to hear that again.

She poked and hooked up the line.  We waited for the blood return.

"And there it is, great blood return, we are in!"

That was that.  Jill hung the bags with premeds and was on her way.  There was no drama, no hoopla, it seemed very quiet and strange with both Kitty and Mariah out of the office.  Vonda didn't come to visit much either, really busy handling many jobs.  When the timer went off, Jill came in, switched the bag to my last bag of Taxol, and that was it.  I was done in a little over an hour.  It was the easiest quickest most boring chemo round I had in five months.

That reminds me.  Guess how much each round of chemo costs?  Four Grand baby, most of that the chemo drugs.  A huge part of that the drugs.  Cancer is big big business for drug companies.  No conspiracy theories here on why we still don't have a cure, I'm just saying, big big business.  I did my part.

I left there that day like I didn't know what had hit me, or hadn't hit me.  It was so uneventful, well, except for the sharks and King Kong.  I think it probably would have been a much more emotional day if Kitty had been there.  It was strange to go through this passage without her.

Kitty.  I will miss your face, your reminders about God's love and plans and faithfulness to me.  I will not miss those awful sticks in my awful port, but I will miss your concern and tenderness knowing you were the messenger of pain.  I will miss our little talks about life and husbands and children and keeping the faith in hard times and good times.  I will miss your touch.  I will miss the hugs goodbye and the wishes for a good week.  I will miss you "poor baby"ing me as I'd come in each week with some new chemo challenge.  No one knows better than you just what I went through each and every week.  Thank you for taking care of me, and your constant whispering in my ear about how God and many angels have always been with me, every step, every fumble.

I walked out of there free but felt numb.  No feeling.  Surreal.
Robin had a "Picnic on the Green" at school, which is where parents come and eat lunch with their kids.  I was able to go, Batman dropped me off then picked me up when I was done.  I napped a bit that afternoon.  It was a very uneventful day, except for the greatest challenge of my life, so far, was over.

As usual, I did not sleep until 5 am, woke up around 8ish, been up all day today. Engine running. Check.

I will celebrate, my brain isn't there yet.  I am happy, it just hasn't hit me I am really done.

It's over.  I still can't believe it.  It's over.  I did it.

Now I would like to settle into some quiet uneventful peace and restoration leading up to my surgery.  I plan on returning to swimming and walking next week.  I have also started taking a multi B vitamin, magnesium and Sam-e for the neuropathy.  I will let you know how that goes.  When I am all pumped up on chemo crack, the neuropathy is masked.  By Monday and through the week, I will know what is left and if the new supplements help.

It went out quietly.  I hope it is a sign of things to come.

and yes, I will stay out of the water and out of the jungle, just in case The Good Witch is also a fortune teller.

It is for us to pray not for tasks equal to our powers, but for powers equal to our tasks, to go forward with a great desire forever beating at the door of our hearts as we travel toward our distant goal.



- Helen Keller

Friday, September 24, 2010

I Hope That Bitch is Toast

I have so much to talk to you about, but a brain that can't seem to translate thoughts into words into the movement of hands on a keyboard.

I am done with five months of chemotherapy.

I hope that Bitch is toast.

Thank you for your love and support and cheering and carrying me and getting down on the ground with me when I crawled.

I will tell you more tomorrow, ok?

Tonight, these self-portraits I took with my phone can tell you part of the story of what chemo, five months in, looks like.


Where da hell are my ankles?




A vein found, almost where my PICC went in.



Give it up for Mopsy, she's a real trooper!



I tried to smile, ten pictures later this was all I could muster.









Rode that horsey hard but can you see it, in my eyes?  A little bit of my trademark sparkle.


I did it, angels and starlight in my pocket.

Now, sheeza need a makeover!


Thursday, September 23, 2010

Last Chemo Eve

September 24, 2010.

I remember after receiving my diagnosis, that first meeting with the Good Witch to plan my treatment.  I about fell off the exam lounge when she said "five months of chemo."

Did she just say five months?

I had no idea that people receive chemo for that long.

I sat there as she stood and went to the calendar hanging on the wall of the exam room.  She counted off each round, the first two months, May and June.  4 rounds of AC every two weeks.

Then she continued counting the weeks on the calendar, one, two, three... pointing to each Friday.  12 weeks of Taxol.  I watched as she flipped the calendar pages for July, August and September.  My last round of chemo would be given September 24, 2010, barring any complications.

How would I ever get through five months of chemotherapy?  How?  I am still asking myself now that it's almost done.  How in hell did I do it?

Now here I am, the evening before my last dose of Taxol.  Went to get my labs today, ah, the old scavenger hunt for a bleeding vein, digging digging digging, nope, let's try again, digging digging digging.  Hit blood on the second poke.  It does not rush, she has to wiggle and move the needle around and I feel the cold sweat before she fills a couple tubes.

I thought I would be happier tonight.

I am quiet and solemn and allowing myself to feel this moment.  The hard knocks and sweet blessings of the last five months are clicking through my head like a deck of cards, shuffled then thrown into the air.  The cards and the days and the sleepless nights rain down on me.  All of it scattered now on the eve of the last chemo.

I thought I would be happier tonight.

masonmft said...


One more kiss on your donkey forehead. On Friday one more chemo to kick your donkey a%%. JUST ONE MORE CHEMO!!! I will be thinking about you and sending love to your veins. Plumping them up.

I laughed my ass off at this Mft, hee haw, that's me, stubborn stubborn donkey girl.  You nailed that one and hit it right out of the park.

Plump them up.

Lord hear our prayer.

Amen.

Get

me

there.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Will You Just Relax?

Somebody used to say this to me cause I have a tendency to get very intense.

"Will you just relax?"

Heavy sigh.

I've had my panties up my ass the last couple of weeks, since I couldn't work because of the smorgasbord of side effects I've been dealing with.  My job had me on the schedule for Wednesday and Thursday nights, and I've had to call in and tell them I can't do it each week since early in the month.

My boss has been very accommodating, but when I talked to him on Tuesday, it hurt my feelings that he said let's not worry about this week or next week either and we'll stay in touch and see how you're doing.  It upset me.

Until today, when I thought about it.  I've had myself on this rollercoaster wanting to work so bad, each week thinking for sure I will be able to, and then when I can't, I'm all upset.

Huh, what? I didn't get the memo.  What do you mean, Body?  What do you mean?  Why aren't you cooperating WITH MY PLANS?

Duh.  Blond brain.  Duh.

It's not like I work an office job while still going through chemo, I work as a server.  It was pretty damned ambitious to think I could juggle all this and do that too.  I realized today, I need to let it go.

I told Husband about all of this when he got home tonight.  He said "Honey, you're only job right now is to get through this."

Duh.

I know.  I know.  It's just that those few shifts I was able to work, I felt so good.  Physically they were very challenging, but mentally, I felt like the old me.  It did so much for me to GET OUT OF THE HOUSE, run around taking care of guests, hanging with my peeps, and doing all the rituals that are part of my job.  At work was the longest I've gone not thinking about somethin cancer this or that.

I need to let it go.

Maybe things will ease up after this last chemo and I'll be able to work a shift or two before my surgery in late October.  Maybe I won't.

I need to let it go.

Here. (She hands it over).  I will return to going with the flow, managing my side effects, getting rest, taking care of myself, trying to keep my chin up.

So I'm not superwoman or invincible, and my 51 year old body has its limits.  I will honor that.

Will you just relax?

Deep breath.

Alright horsey, I'm facing forward again.  Take me where you're taking me.

That goofy little hummingbird buzzed me again late this afternoon.  I was standing on the patio, in front of his favorite fuchsia and he came in like a fighter jet ready to land on an aircraft carrier till he realized I was in his way.  He came straight at me then made a correction a second before impact, zoomed past my head then floated in the air above me as if to say "Get out of my way Lady!"

I got out of his way.

I'm getting out of my own way too.

Giddy up.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Pending

Today I sent emails to True North's office, and Dr. Welby's office, asking them about the DIEP procedure and their patients experiences, and a few other questions.  I also checked back with the insurance company; their answer regarding payment of Dr. Hands is still pending.


Pending.


In the period before the decision or conclusion of.


That's me.


I feel like my life is pending.


Hurry up, hurry up, hurry up and 


WAIT!


Waiting waiting waiting...


Waiting to finish chemo.


Waiting for side effects to go away


Waiting to return to work.


Waiting for the insurance company.


Waiting to make my decision regarding plastic surgery.


Waiting for my surgery.


Waiting to recover from my surgery.


Waiting to see what my new body will look like.


Waiting for radiation.


Waiting for my hair to grow back.


Waiting for life after a cancer diagnosis.


Pending.


In the period before the decision or conclusion of.


Uh huh.


You notice I changed my blog colors to purple?


Tired of the breast cancer pink.


Purple is the cancer survivor color.


Pending survivor.


I'll be glad when I take that huge leap from "in treatment" to SURVIVOR.


tick tock tick tock tick tock tick tock tick tock tick tock



Monday, September 20, 2010

Wise Counsel

I started and ended my day with two great phone calls, reconfirming what a great team I am assembling for the treatment of my cancer and making all these difficult decisions.

My radiation oncologist, Dr. Lotus, returned my call early in the day, and my surgeon, The Wizard, finished his day with a phone call to me.

I feel so blessed that these physician's are on my team, not just for their competence and experience treating my disease, but for the care, concern and wise counsel they give to this patient.

Both conversations were unrushed and a dialogue.  It was very satisfying to hear them "think out loud" with me.  Neither gave me any hard position, because the truth is with much of what we discussed, there is none.

I realize I am part of a new wave of innovative cancer treatment, and there is continuing debate among colleagues on the myriad choices of care, reconstruction and after care.  Today, each of my doctors, helped me balance and weigh my options, allowed me to ask many questions, and within the parameters of personal decisions I need to make, helped me get closer to the best for me.

It was great that as part of my "cancer treatment team" these two always started with "Let's look first at what is best for your cancer treatment" and then "Ok, here are some things for you to consider regarding your reconstruction..."  Or "This has been my experience..."

It was helpful to discuss the two plastic surgeons I am considering, and the arguments on either side of radiation prior to, or just after, reconstruction.  It was great to hear that either plastic surgeon is highly recommended and regarded by their colleagues, and both considered extremely likable and caring of their patients.

After discussing what is NECESSARY for the best treatment for my cancer, we switched to "Ok, all things being equal between the two, skill/competence/experience, what is my gut telling me about who would be a better fit for me?"

Each of these doctors today listened to my concerns and allowed me to bounce several things off them, provided answers in some instances, in others, helped me define my list of priorities and hopes in a cosmetic outcome.

I just can't say enough about the care, accessibility and attention that was given to me today, and how absolutely helpful and appreciated it was.  It doesn't hurt that I ask great questions and have obviously done my homework.  I know they appreciate that about me.  The Wizard said today "Well, you have beautifully summarized both sides of this, let's talk about each..."

I know I am heading in the right direction.  I should be hearing from the insurance company this week, and will be relieved to make a decision and finalize the plan.

How profoundly your care and confidence is positively affected when you have a personal connection with your provider, and can use them as a valuable resource towards the direction of your care.  I am moving closer to making the best informed decision I can for myself, and so thankful for my team.

The Good Witch, The Wizard and Dr. Lotus have all provided wise counsel in helping me navigate the labyrinth of choices for the creation of my new body.

I'm really grateful.

I'm also a good lesson in what it looks like to be your own best advocate.

You get what you pay for.
You get back what you put in.

I'm doing my homework and it's coming back to me.

That, and it don't hurt the angels and starlight in my pocket.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Strike a Match

"I feel as if I've turned a corner."  That was from my post last night, Server Down.  This morning in my email was today's message from Daily Word, which I subscribe to online.

from Daily Word
Sunday, September 19, 2010
TURNING POINT
I recognize and accept the good that awaits me.
In anticipation of an upcoming change, I may wonder what my life will look like. Will it ever be the same? The truth is that every day is filled with change. Some changes are major turning points and others are small adjustments.

Instead of worrying about what may happen in the moments, days or weeks ahead, I choose to remain calm and confident. I know that good is always present, because God is always present. Attuned to God, I am aware of everlasting good.

I welcome the turning points in my life that bring new opportunities to recognize, accept and experience the good that awaits me.
Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.--James 1:17



I recognize and accept the good that awaits me.


I woke this morning feeling better physically and mentally than I have in months and months.  My brain and heart and spirit are finally allowing me to celebrate that I only have one more chemo treatment left.


The weight of the last five months is lifting.


The PICC and the Ports, the ropes that tethered me to cancer and medicinal hope and pain have been severed and I feel free.


For so long, I had no sense of this season of chemo ever ending.  I can see it now.  I will finish.  It will be done.


It is almost over.


My spirit is reclaiming my body.


The lightness is translucent where once there was gravity and weight.


You came here to listen to me, blowing on me as a dandelion, seeds of me float in the wind, carried to far away places where my voice has been heard.


The United States, Canada and the UK, Japan, France, Denmark, Ireland, Poland, Russia, India, Singapore, Spain, Australia and South Africa.  I have readers in all these places.  This is where you carried me.


I recognize and accept the good that awaits me.


Seeds of me float and blow in the wind, carried to far away places where my voice has been heard.


I had been holding on so hard to the old life, I did not realize till now my new life has already started.


I am on the threshold of a new season of letting the old life go to allow the new one its life.  A new life already sprouting from seeds I sowed not realizing the garden I was creating.


I am crossing a threshold, stepping off the plank, on to a fine sailing ship, and for the first time not looking back with grief.  Ready to cast off.


Ready to explore the new world. 


Cancer did not give this to me.


This was a generous act of giving I gave myself, and you, and you back to me, as a reply when cancer said it had me. 


Every new day is a new world when it is greeted with anticipation, joy, gratitude, hopefulness, curiosity and love.


And the belief that despite the weight and gravity,


good is on the way.


Good can be created.


Even when it is so dark, the blackest of black,


strike a match.


The match can light a candle, the candle a lantern, the lantern a beacon, the beacon the world.


Strike a match.  


This sits on my piano, and I lit it for you tonight.
I dreamt of being a writer.


I've been writing my whole life.


Tonight though I realized, this blog is when I struck a match.






   












Saturday, September 18, 2010

Server Down

That's what we used to say at the now defunct Napa Valley Grille where I used to work when a server would take a spill or be totally in the weeds in their section.

Server Down.

Started the day heading into San Francisco on a drizzly foggy morning, to see second opinion Plastic Surgeon, and possibly my guy if things do not work out with True North.  His office on the 4th floor was in the same building we had just been in a week or so ago, to meet Dr. Hands on the first floor.

We were greeted warmly by his staff and didn't wait long to be seen.  We met his Physician's Assistant first, and she asked questions from the typed summary I had made of the details of my case.  She was pleasant and thorough.  After she was done, she asked me to change into the goofy tissue paper thin gowns that never quite close and often rip.

Dr. Welby came in shortly after and I have to say, this guy is so charming, relaxed, personable and All American Dad handsome.  We chatted as he asked questions about my case, peppering the conversation with comments about his teenage kids and working as a server through college and part of medical school.

"I think everyone should work as a server at some time in their life, talk about multi-tasking.  I always loved that job."

You had me at hello Doc, don't tease me now with your appreciative server talk.

I was immediately comfortable with him, he was very engaging, interested and had a great easy style about him.  How could you not feel like you were cared about and in excellent hands with this guy?  By the scrapbook in his waiting room, he is obviously loved by his patients and its not surprising when you meet him.

He spent a great deal of time with us, at least an hour, and asked a fair amount of questions about what True North and The Wizard had planned for me. These are the top two plastic surgeons in the Bay area doing the DIEP procedure, and obviously each other's competition.

He talked to me about the decision to have reconstruction before or after radiation.  He quoted several studies, all of which he said pointed towards having reconstruction AFTER radiation.  The reason is that radiation can alter the appearance of newly reconstructed breasts and in one particular study out of Texas, women had to go back about 45% of the time to have the breasts "fixed" after the effects of radiation.

It was obvious that Dr. Welby was biased towards this approach.  I was surprised at this new development.  True North had said they would make Flopsy about 20% larger than Mopsy to allow for shrinkage after radiation.  If the breast is still a little large, then she would lipo it to make it symmetrical to Mopsy.  She never really discussed it as if it was a problem or a concern.  No big deal.

Dr. Welby made it seem as if you'd have a 50/50 chance of having to go back in and have another surgery to correct radiation effects.  Under his plan, I'd have The Wizard perform my left mastectomy, recover, have that side radiated, and then 3-6 months later, have my mastectomy of Mopsy and reconstruction of both breasts.  Under his plan, I'd have an implant to hold the spot where Flopsy was, and then have to wait several months for the reconstruction.

I appreciated what he was saying, but was not happy at all thinking about delaying this whole thing into next spring.  I've had my mind set that I'd wrap up this whole thing by the end of the year, and kick 2010's ass out the door with a big swig of Martinelli's Sparkling Cider, all of this behind me.

We left there realizing we'd need a lot more information to make an informed decision.  Dr. Welby said the decision was mine, he would perform the reconstruction prior to radiation if that's what I wanted, but it was obvious he does not think this is the best plan.

I have my work cut out for me.  I need to talk to The Wizard, True North, The Good Witch and my new radiation oncologist, Dr. Lotus, to ask all of them their opinion.  I may even need to talk to another radiation oncologist for a second opinion.

I need to find out from both True North and Dr. Welby how many DIEP's have you done, how many that were radiated after reconstruction needed repair, and how many that were radiated then reconstructed needed tweaking?  How satisfied were patients with the end result?  Excellent?  Good?  Satisfied?  Not?

I looked at several other plastic surgeon's websites later that night, and they seem to be fairly divided about the best course.  Some plastic surgeons do not like reconstructing a mastectomy that has been radiated.  They said that because there is no breast tissue there, the radiation tends to cause more hardening and tightness in the skin, and the skin loses elasticity.

Others recommend the DIEP first, and when the reconstructed breast is radiated, the new boob absorbs some of the radiation, and there isn't as much hardening.

Some like Dr. Welby, prefer reconstruction after radiation, because they don't like the effects of the radiation on their newly constructed work.

What's a girl to do?

This has been one of the difficult parts of this whole process.  There are no clear road maps, and often huge debate on the best course.  Some oncologists do chemo up front, others still do all the surgery first, then chemo.  There is much debate among colleagues in the treatment of breast cancer, and regional differences too.

We headed back to the Cancer Center, and Husband dropped me off then headed in to finish the rest of his work day.  I was feeling confused about the whole thing, but happy to be at chemo for my SECOND TO THE LAST TREATMENT.  Little did I know what I'd be in for.

I saw Vonda walking down the hall to greet me, where I was sitting no one else could see her.  She lifted up her shirt to flash me her GIANTS sweatshirt underneath.

"You flash everybody that comes here, or just me?"

I sure love that girl.  We always walk arm in arm down the hall to the Chemo Center.  She escorted me to my room and we sat and made each other laugh waiting for Kitty to get me my lovely poison.

"Will you change my dressing first, cause I'm all raw under there, and the line has gone in to my arm again?"

"Sure honey" Kitty said and went and got all the new dressing for that.

For the month and a half or so I've had the PICC, my skin under it is raw because they have to keep the whole area covered and sterile with Tegaderm patches.  The skin is soft and gushy and pale now, like I've been in the hot tub way too long.  With the skin being so soft, the slack in the PICC line burrows right into the skin and hurts!!  I also noticed that where the line enters my bicep, it seemed red and agitated and felt a little hard.

Kitty came in to the room, and then peeked out to ask if she had other patients.  Nope, I was the last one for the day.  The private chemo rooms have a large glass sliding door and a curtain, all of which are usually left open.  Kitty was so cute today, she slid the heavy glass door closed, threw the curtain to seal us in, and had a shit-eating grin on her face like

Woo Hoo, it's Friday, LET'S PARTY!!!

Vonda didn't have any patients either so she hung out, and before you know it, Mariah was in there with us too.  The four of us chatted while Kitty cleaned me up before starting chemo.  I sure love those ladies.  I am so overjoyed to be finishing chemo, but I will sure miss my five month Friday date with them!  Wow, I will miss them bad.

Kitty got me all cleaned up, taking the patches off, swabbing orange iodine over the whole area, and then moving the slack of the PICC line to a different place on the skin than it was before.  First thing she does before chemo is flush my PICC line with saline, by hooking it up to the valve at the end of the line, screwing in the plastic syringe and pushing in the saline.  The plastic syringe has a long plunger and she just pushes the liquid in.  That's when I feel the cool saline going through the line and a little when it goes into my arm, and then it's gone.

Kitty pushed.  The plunger did not budge.

Kitty kept pushing.  Nothing.  H-m-m, she wondered out loud, is this thing clogged?  She kept pushing, moving around me to get a little leverage to give a good shove to the plunger.  Nothing. 

"Well, let me change the valve at the end of the line, it must be clogged."  No biggie, right?  Kitty unscrewed the valve, screwed a new one on, reattached the syringe and gave a good push.

Honey nuts and oats.  Nuttin honey.

"Well, you are just our problem girl, aren't you!" Kitty said with humor and a little tension in her voice.

Oh holy crap, don't even tell me, I got two treatments to go, and my damn PICC ain't working?  What is it with me and the mechanical problems?

"Ok, so here's what we're going to do, I am going to flush out your valve with some (I forgot what she called it, but like draino for a PICC line) and that should get things flowing again.  In the meantime, I'll start an IV in your left arm to give you your pre-meds and then we'll switch back to your PICC to give you the Taxol."

Ok, I thought.  No biggie, right?

But if the Lab can hardly get a good vein to get blood of my left arm which has gone to shit, how is Kitty going to find a good enough vein to get an IV going?

I tried to relax cause Kitty works magic and talks to God when she has to do crazy MacGyver stuff to me.  Kitty is one of those fly by the seat of her pants gals, and she makes it work with whatever she's dealt.  That's how she moves through life too.  She makes it work and has faith that God will deliver help and a plan.

Kitty searched my arm.  Not a damn thing.  When a nurse with a needle starts flipping and torquing your arm to find a vein, you know you're in for some shit.  She gave a try in a spot on the arm, and when she was in, ouch, tried for the blood return.

Nuttin honey.

She continued the search then looked up at me discouraged and hesitant.  "I'm going to have to use your hand, and the only thing I see is this small vein here by your thumb.  I'm sorry honey, I'll do my best."

What happened next, I don't know if it was the wicked pain, the fact that I had not eaten all day, had my lunch with me but with all the excitement and delay had not starting eating yet, or if maybe it was all the months of trauma getting poked, stabbed, repoked, snipped, cut, all without any gin or whiskey.  Not even a silver bullet or smoked turkey leg to bite down on.

Kitty asked Mariah to get her a the smallest butterfly needle.  Butterfly needle for a skittish butterfly.

The mood started to change in the room.  I broke out in a cold drenched sweat.  I had my cute girl wig on, Miss Vonda smart ass says "You want me to flip your wig around so you can't see what's gonna happen next?"  [She was full of it today.  When I first came in she was talking about needing her eyebrows done cause they were so dark and bushy, and she says "like the hair on my ass."  Yup Vonda, I put it in.  You deserve it for all the torture!  I love you girl, you crazy funny thing.]

When I'm all done with this, the two of us could get into some serious trouble together.

We all laughed hard at her wig joke, that uncontrollable laugh that's mixed with fear.  I was drenched and feeling really strange.

"Ok here we go" Kitty said.

"Take a deep breath" Vonda said.

Mariah just looked at me scared, and I know I looked back at her scared shitless.

Kitty poked.

Oh shit, I thought, are you kidding me, oh shit.  How much more of this wicked just feels wrong hurts like hell, ouch, I can't explain it, Oh Lord help me, I can't do this shit anymore, I just can't.

I'm sorry folks, I can't do this shit anymore I thought to myself as I started to feel dizzy, and then the next thing I knew, Vonda and Mariah were fussing at me and I could tell they were talking loud all in my face but I couldn't hear anything.  It was like I was underwater and sound was muffled, and then nothing.  I could read their lips "Debbie, Debbie, come on Debbie" but no sound.

I was blacking out.  Shit.

Kitty continued to stab and move that needle around my thumb knuckle to get that itty vein, and one of the others, I can't remember who, flipped the leg rest up on the chair to get my feet up.

I still couldn't hear anything, just saw Vonda and Mariah lip synching, scurrying around, looking worried, running to get a fan, dabbing me on cheeks and forehead with a cool wet paper towel, and patting my hand hard.

I was trying not to go, but I was going.  I felt my eyes rolling back and I was trying hard to stay awake but...

Crap, I haven 't blacked out since karate class in high school when I was on my period and just had the flu, and down I went mid Hi-ya!  My Karate teacher was this hot Bruce Lee type and when I woke up I was cradled in his arms.  I was hoping he had given me CPR and asked him so, but it was not to be.

Now here I am, Server Down, 34 years later, in a damned chemo chair.  Who's gonna give me CPR?  Where the hell is Bruce Lee?

The next several minutes were a complete blur, but good ole Kitty's prayers and steady hand got the needle in and the drip dripping while Vonda and Mariah revived me.

They all looked at me so sad and so sorry and so lovingly, and I felt absolutely terrible I had worried them so.  They know better than anyone I've been through some weird odd glitches, one after the other after the other, and here in the home stretch I guess I just lost it.  I don't even know what happened.

They got me some ice water and saltine crackers and before you know it, I was rosy again, but definitely wilted, bruised, shaky and confused.

Kitty told me recently a patient fainted in chemo, the Dr. told them to call 911.  Oh man, I would have hated that and they knew it.  They weren't letting me go down.  My girls, got my back.

Order was restored, although the IV in my thumb proved to be very painful and very tempermental.  The vein was so small that if I moved even slightly, the drip would stop.  Kitty kept repositioning my hand and turning my thumb to get the needle back into the right spot, and rigged some tape on it, and the drip dripped.

What usually would take a little over an hour to drip, ended up taking well over two hours.  We never were able to switch back to the PICC.  Kitty tried to flush the draino in, but that wouldn't push in either.  My PICC was blocked and nothing could be done except take it out, and hope that this and my last chemo could be given by regular IV.  They don't like doing this because it is better for the Taxol, which is a real irritant, to travel through a line and then dump into the large vein leading into the heart.  When they give it without the PICC, the Taxol has to travel through the veins all the way.  It's just not as efficient, and can be corrosive to the smaller veins before making its way to the larger ones.

When Kitty started the Taxol, there was a terrible burning in my hand, Kitty was worried. 

"Ok, we can't have the burning, if we can't get it right into the vein and if it keeps burning we are going to have to take it out."

There was no way in hell I was going to have chemo delayed by another week.  I must have given Kitty a look that pleaded "I don't care what you have to do, make it work.  I don't care how it hurts or how long we're here, just make it freakin work."

Kitty did.  This was the first time in all these months of chemo one of them stayed in the room with me the whole time.  They never left my side.  Sometimes the drip would stop dripping or the burn would come back and Kitty would shift my hand a little or move my thumb slightly, and we were back in business.

"Well the good news is, I can take your PICC out today, and I promise, it won't hurt, really, it won't" Kitty said.

That was weird and almost hard to believe, my PICC was coming out today.  Damn, what a ride.

I forgot to mention I showed Kitty and Vonda the new rash on my hands, like poison ivy, and they said Dr. should see it.

Once we got chemo going, I needed to call the Disability Office before they closed as a follow-up regarding my check which had not arrived and from their account the day before, was not even being processed yet.  Getting through to a person at the EDD is like trying to get the President on the phone.  Just as I got connected with them, The Good Witch walked in ready to talk to me.

Oh geez, my check.  My doctor.  My check.  My doctor.

"Doc, I'm on the phone about my disability check..."

"It's ok, I know how hard it is to get them, I'll come back" and off she went.

I got the check thing all straightened out, because I had worked some shifts they were still processing that, but it should come next week, a week late.  Not so good when you're living paycheck to paycheck on half your pay.

Da Good Witch came back and while she washed her hands, my angels told her about the excitement of Server Down.  She looked at me like poor baby, and shook her head.

Yes, I am Da Queen of Da Glitches and Houston We Have A Problem.  Uh huh, that's me, as charged.

Good Witch examined my rash, asked all kinds of questions, and got that worried thinking cap look on her face.  "When did this start?  Anybody else in the house have it?  Eat anything different?  Could these be flea bites?"

Started last night, no one else has it, no did not eat anything different, and no fleas please!

"Well, your skin is extremely sensitive and I think all of this is the Taxol building up and your body is reacting and had enough of all of this.  We only have one to go, you will get there.  Ok so the PICC is coming out and next week we'll use the right arm for chemo?" she asked Kitty.

Nurses all agreed.  The Good Witch pulled up in the chair next to me so I could tell her about my meeting with Dr. Welby.  She already knew all about True North.

As we were talking, Vonda and Kitty were trying to sneak taking my PICC out, but I turned to them mid-sentence and said "I hear you guys" and we all laughed.

"Really, it's not going to hurt, just keep talking to Dr. and don't look and we're going to take it out."

Oh God help me.

Kitty was right, it didn't hurt, just felt like a damn snake crawling out of my body, across my chest and collarbone, down my arm and slithered out, back to hell.  Kitty threw the snake into medical waste.

Ok so am I a drama queen?  Really guys, really, some of this stuff just feels all wrong and you are aware of things in your body that just aren't supposed to be there.  Really.  Wicked.  That's how a lot of this is.  Wicked.

After listening to my whole deal and dilemma with Dr. Welby, I could tell the Good Witch thought he was being way to conservative and maybe a little old school.  She knows I want this stuff done and really don't want to wait if I can help it.

She suggested I phone True North and talk to her about all of this and as I had already decided, ask both Plastic Surgeons how many have you done, how many before and how many after radiation, and what were the problems with each?  She also recommended I talk to my surgeon.

She also said the Cancer Center out of Texas where some of these studies came out had "questionable numbers" and I generally felt like she thought if all the insurance stuff goes well, go ahead with True North, of course after all my fact finding.

I felt much better after talking to her.  She also mentioned if I went to five more plastic surgeons, I'd get five different recommendations so don't drive myself crazy over this.  Get as much info as you can and commit to your decision.

Next week I'll have my last chemo, please God, and then I'll see the Good Witch the week after that, and we can discuss the surgery/radiation options again.   She's my quarterback.  My Chief of Staff.

Vonda had put my lunch in the fridge and asked if I wanted it, but I wanted to wait till I got home.  I was whipped but had a huge sense of relief that my PICC was out.

I finally finished the Taxol and Kitty hardly lifted the taped down IV when the needle, barely in, just popped out on its own.  She looked at me and we both smiled.  We did it.  I am still on track and the Eagle has landed one more time despite stormy weather.

I hugged all my girls goodbye, especially Kitty.  Her daughter is scheduled for a C-section on Monday and so Kitty won't be there for my last chemo.  Probably just as well, I think I'll be crying a lot and even more so if she was there.

I love you Kitty.

I said all my goodbyes and waited for Batman who was picking me up.  When he got there, I asked him to park cause I wanted the nurses to meet him.  I paraded my six foot handsome baby around the chemo center like the proud Mama I am.

Have I mentioned how handsome both my sons are?  They got their Daddy's good sense and height, and my looks and personality.  Hee hee.  Good combo.  Would not have been as good if they got my good sense and height, and Daddy's looks and personality.  Just kidding Husband.

I went home liked a whipped puppy who spent the night out in the rain, just wanting to be home and inside and warm and crawl into bed.  I wolfed down my tuna sandwich and got in my bed.  I did it.  I did it.

Let the cranked up jacked up chemo crack decadron howling at the moon begin.

I was still wired at 2 a.m. but felt this peaceful grace and happiness come over me like somehow the worst was over (for awhile) and I was so thankful for my Angels at the Cancer Center that treat me with such love and kindness and humor and tenderness.

I NEVER EVER could have done this without these specific people.  I am serious.  I could not have done it without these lovely ladies who love me back as much as I love them.  God sent me some remarkable angels for this path.  Right on time for me.

I wrote another post a little after 2 a.m., this euphoria coming over me.  I last looked at the clock at 5 a.m.  Those next three hours flew by as I thought about my life, and these last five months, my new body on the way, just everything.

The people I love, the people who have helped carry me and lift me up on this path, and all the wonderful medical people I've met along the way, and the new ones I'm meeting now.  I have been so fortunate to get the kindest most personable care.  I have been treated with great affection.

For the hardest most challenging time of my life, some days hanging on by a thread, some days ready to give up if not for all the people who love me, I have been blessed by my family and friends, and some incredible people who have come into my life to help me get where I need to go.

It was a hell of a day that carried over into the next, and after only four hours of sleep, I woke up at 9 am completely wired again and still have not slept at all today.  Maybe I will sleep tonight.  I don't know.  I don't care.

I am over the moon that I no longer have that IV hanging out of my arm.  My arm is all banged up, scarred up and lots of inflamed tissue, but its out.  Its out.  I won't have to look every day at this visible reminder that I have cancer, I am in chemo, always having to adjust my arm to feel better, wear the little tight sleeve on my arm to protect it, and have people ask me what is that, and so on.

I look more like me now to me.  More like the old me.  The Deb without cancer.  Except for the white fuzz on my head and the sunless sunburn on my puffy pufferfish face.

I made it through another challenging day and finished it happy and grateful and peaceful and hopeful.

Tomorrow I will tell you about some things I keep forgetting to tell you about.   Changes I've made eating more whole foods and Omega 3, and the affirmations I say out loud every day.  I said a lot of them to myself last night before I finally fell asleep.

I felt so exhausted and yet wired today, talking a mile a minute, the boys know the drill when Mama is on chemo crack, but I am happy and relieved too.

I feel as if I've turned a corner.  Only tonight and tomorrow night left of Cymbalta, already feeling much better there, and ever since I got my PICC out, I swear, my neuropathy in the right foot and leg is so much better.  It might be the chemo drugs with their false high.  Probably.  I hope it stays.

Maybe I can work?  Will iron my apron for good luck.

One more to go.  Lots of phone calls to make next week.  Should be hearing back from the insurance company regarding payment of Dr. Hands.

I am still hoping for him and True North.  Still my first choice.  We'll see what happens.  I'm not even going to try and predict.

Stay tuned.

Love.  Love.  Love.
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