Friday, June 29, 2012

Brachytherapy Day 3.5 Or I'd Rather Be ......

I missed blogging yesterday as I was too tired to do anything. The CRT remained down until this afternoon, so I had to spend several hours waiting yesterday. I was just happy not to lose any more time in doing therapy. This am I had to be up earlier then usual to have the ultra sound, so my neighbor took me to breakfast and I decided to have a cup of coffee. It's been about 3 weeks since I had a cup. It tasted like nectar. I also hoped for a small boost so I could run some errands and it did help. The other issue is that area around the catheter in my breast is tender and sensitive also. But that seems to be the end of the side effects for the moment.

I did a manicure/pedicure today. It does help you feel better and the pampering was relaxing. I've noticed that there seems to be two types of women in the waiting room at the radiation center. Those who seem to be trying to look their best and those well, not to be mean, but that look like they haven't seen the good side of a bathtub in quite a while. The one who look their best also seem to have the more positive attitudes about their process. They are open about what they are doing and have a realism, but still picture that there is hope. The others seem more depressed, have more sadness and even drama. I don't think any woman or man should have to look like they are going to a black tie event during this time, but I think giving attention to personal grooming really does help improve your outlook. Again  it can be tough if you are having limitations and don't have a caregiver to help you and it's probable that that was the issue for some, but others just don't seem to want to do anything.

It's a quiet time right now. They told me to give myself extra time to sleep and to be a little careful about infectious disease as all the stressors I've put on myself through the surgery, treatments etc can affect the immune system.  When I can I reflect and try to figure out where I'm going...

It's a bit like being a caterpillar who has spun a cocoon around oneself. You can feel changes occuring, you just don't know if you will emerge or what you might emerge as....

Right now I'd rather be cancer free then have cancer. To be just having come back from Vermont then to have missed it. But it isn't to be. I cannot choose what will come with time. So my gratitude is for the time I have right now. Each day has it's own rhythm and I'm learning to appreciate that.

Simon and Garfunkel was the music du jour today in the treatment room.

Simon and Garfunkel, "El Condor Pasa":

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Brachtherapy Day 1.5 or Complications

Day started well. Did a guided meditation, a little stretching and left for day 2 of therapy. When I got to the center I found out that CRT was down and no treatment was possible as they have to scan the catheter before every session to make sure there are no problems. I told them it was all right and they said they would call later.

About 1:30 I still had not heard so I called them and they told me the machine was out of commission as it needed a new part. They told me they were trying to see if my surgeon could do an ultra sound which would allow them to do the treatment. I asked if I had time to run an errand at Barnes and Noble and they said yes. About 5 minutes after I got to B&N they called and told me to go to the surgeon's office. I told them I would be there shortly. Finally got to the surgeon's office, waited about 20 minutes and then she came in to do the ultra sound. After she did it, she couldn't get it to print. After working on it they stated it was out of commission and they would to find another available machine. I started to laugh. If I was superstitious I might have suspected someone put a hoo do on the machines. They didn't see the humor, but I just thought technology 1, medical staff 0. So finally they found a machine, got the result they wanted and sent me on my way. Luckily the radiation center is only about 5 blocks away and I was there in minutes. Waited another 20 minutes and had my treatment. It worked out though as I had appointment with my stylist to have my hair washed and styled as I cannot do it right now with the limitations I have. Best decision I could have made. My hair will be good for a few days and she will repeat the process on Saturday. Carlene you get my gratitude today because you have made sure I look and feel my best through all of this and it's been some of the best medicine towards healing I've had..

One funny thing. As I was going into the radiation center I saw a driver from one of the transportation companies I work with at my dialysis clinic. He looked stunned to see me there and I could tell, I was going to have to take the lead in the conversation. I just told him matter of fact that I had breast cancer, was being treated and was doing fairly well. Told him I'd be back in August and to say hi to everyone for me. He gave me a huge smile and hug. I could tell he was happy I had taken the lead and that my attitude made it easier for him. So lesson learned and reinforced. People will take their cue from you (at least most of the time).

Feeling balanced today. Still power napping about 1.5 hours. Not as nauseated. Ginger ale really helping. Picked up some good salad fixings at the Sunflower Market. Eating this way is becoming easier and more natural. In fact, my sugar cravings are almost gone. Oh Stevie Ray Vaughn makes a great musical companion when you are receiving radiation. Also have had to borrow a couple of photos from my backlog as I'm having trouble lifting my Olympus E-3 for very long. Here's my new dream camera, the Olympus OM-D:

Hopefully when I return to work in 6 weeks.

Will be in therapy a bit longer to make up for lost treatment today.

I found this after I completed the blog post. It came from the Yoga Journal's Daily Tip and felt I needed to include it as it is so reflective of the practice of gratitude that I have instituted since being diagnosed:

On the surface, gratitude appears to arise from a sense that you're indebted to another person for taking care of you in some way. But looking deeper, you'll see that the feeling is actually a heightened awareness of your connection to everything else. Gratitude flows when you break out of the small, self-centered point of view and appreciate that through the labors and intentions and even the simple existence of an inconceivably large number of people, weather patterns, chemical reactions, and the like, you have been given the miracle of your life, with all the goodness in it.

The truth is, you are supported in countless ways through each moment of your life. You awaken on schedule when your alarm clock beeps—thanks to the engineers, designers, assembly workers, salespeople, and others who brought you the clock. Your morning yoga practice is the gift of generations of yogis who observed the truth and shared what they knew; of your body (for which you could thank your parents, the food that helps you maintain your good health, doctors, healers, and the "you" who cares for that body every day)—the list goes on.
If you're like most people, you notice what goes wrong more often than what goes right. Human beings seem hardwired to notice how reality fails to meet some idea of how they think things should be. How many times a day do you sink into disappointment, frustration, or sadness because others haven't met your expectations? If you limit your attention to how life lets you down, you blind yourself to the myriad gifts you receive all the time.

Stevie Ray Vaughn, "Superstition":

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Brachytherapy Day One Or I'm Radioactive

I started radiation today. When I arrived at 7:45 am I did speak about the occurrences yesterday. They performed an 180 turn around and I felt much more comfortable with the staff treating me. As I explained I needed to feel they were treating me not a disease process.

So what happens? I changed into a gown and they took me into the Cat Scan room. My gown was opened, the surgical bra opened and all of the gauze/band-aids were removed. I had leaked a good deal of fluid and it had gone through the bra. They ran a scan and had to take even more  fluid out of the balloon area. They then ran another scan. I was then moved to a gurney, they covered me with a sheet and the brought out 5 leads about six feet in length. They connected the five long leads to the five leads coming out of my catheter. The next step was to move me into the treatment room. They moved the gurney next to a machine that looked like a thick upside down L. It had a round end that looked like a meat grinder. The leads were plugged into this and they turned on some music, moved out of the room and then I was treated for about 10 minutes. I could feel the leads of the catheter pulse. I used a visualization during the treatment and it helped me relax.

They then took me out to another treatment room, I was bandaged and given a second bra. The procedure was repeated again in the afternoon. The staff were good about interaction. I didn't talk when they were doing connections etc. But to just talk briefly when they were moving me etc established connection and made it feel as if we were working as a healthcare team.

When I got home there was a message all my paperwork for leave was completed. So I feel much more at ease today with being in active treatment. That is I'm working effectively with all my providers to accomplish treatment and healing.

I've been a bit nauseated. Back to ginger ale and crackers. I'm also tired, ended up with an hour and a half nap. Staying active though. Will take a walk a little later.

I'm grateful today for the people who are making up my healthcare team, that they were willing to hear my concerns and are reaching out to respond to them.

The Firm, "Radioactive":

Monday, June 25, 2012

Step Into Our World

Life is changing. It hit me emotionally today even more so then it has before. I have breast cancer and I'm in a system that is doing some rough things to my being to supposedly heal it. With a good friend, Tami, accompanying me, I went at 9:00 am this morning to get results and have the catheter inserted. For the third time in a month my breast was pricked, cut on and had medical assault in order to have medical healing. Dr. E. was warm, but efficient. My problem was when she used the other c word...chemotherapy...

I have stage 2a cancer. This is based on this size of the tumor taken out. My lymph nodes were negative, but they remain concerned about the tumor because it appears aggressive. They want me to see a medical oncologists to discuss hormone therapy and the other c word. She was kind enough to point out the oncologists who were available. The one I wanted who might be open to an integrated approach is not on my insurance plan.  She stated the others are by the book. I have agreed to pretty much all they have wanted, but here is where I will dig my heels in. I will consider hormone therapy, and I will listen to the reasons for chemo, but right now my gut is saying no way in hell!

Lying on the table during the catheter insertion, I began to feel very vulnerable. I could feel fluid leaking out of my breast. Three medical people were gathered around me while it was put in. I joked as much as I could, but I felt as if they were focused on the procedure and somehow who I was was disconnected, i.e. not many direct questions to me. They talked over me even when I tried to connect on some level.

Tami and I then drove to the radiation center. I now know what my Jeep feels like. I was brought into a room to have a series of CAT scans done and to set the plan/schedule for the next 5 days. They introduced themselves, put me into position and spoke medical jargon. Not one person asked how I was doing, if I needed anything...My right arm was raised above my head and they ran me through the CAT scan for several minutes. During that time my arm suddenly went into a painful spasm. I had to signal them for a couple of minutes before some noticed. It was the head of the imaging and he more or less chastized me for interupting their progress. He let me put my arm down for 30 seconds then put it back up and put me back in telling it would just be a minute. It was a bit longer and I returned to spasm. It was so painful, I had tears running down my face. Mr. Wonderful came out to tell me they were done. He could see it had been painful, but didn't comment, just told me they were done and walked away. A tech then came up and I will give him credit, found a pillow and put it under my shoulder and I thanked him. Then another one came and started connected the five leads, didn't introduce himself, just went connecting one, two, three....etc. Like I said I felt like my Jeep. As I laid there I could see my face reflected in the shiny metal rimming of the machine and my face was shell-shocked and I came as close as I've come in this whole process to getting up, telling them to take out the catheter and I would take my chances. All of the techs murmurmed amongst themselves that I was done and ready to be bandaged by Mary. Again not one of them asked me how I was or told me good bye as they left the room. I think if it hadn't been for the humanity of Mary, I probably would have walked out. She helped clean my breast area, told me how to care for it and joked with me about the bra that they put me in that I will have to wear for the next week.

We came home, Tami knew I needed sleep and left me to it. She was my life savior last night and today and she gets my gratitude. I also let work know that I would be out. Still waiting for the paperwork and hope it will be ready by tomorrow....

I feel very vulnerable today....and I feel alone. Logically I know I'm not having had people with me every day. I'm really trying to find humor somewhere...I just feel frozen. I know it's just part of the journey. Tomorrow will probably be better.

Time for a warrior song. I need something to kick my butt so I can fight tomorrow.

Madonna, "Die Another Day":

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Feeling Stronger?

Got up this morning and decided I was going to clean the whole condo. End result, I did it, but felt like I was about 30 years older then I am when I got done....I had a fine sheen of sweat covering me. I laughed, considering two weeks ago this would have been a walk in the park. I'm gaining a whole level of empathy for my clinic patients. But I'm celebrating that I was able to do it. And I think I'm feeling stronger every day.

I'm going to hire some help though for the coming weeks. Still not eating a good deal. All I can say is thank goodness for Pho. It is the one thing that seems to taste good. Some fresh fruit is the other thing I'm eating. I'm losing weight, but since I have about 15 lbs I can spare for my height, not too concerned.

Visited with a friend in the afternoon and am going for my nightly walk shortly. What can I's kind of a laundry list entry, but it's what's going on....

Chicago, "Feeling Stronger Every Day":

Friday, June 22, 2012

Setting A Direction

When I look at other blogs about breast cancer on the net, it seems many women's (and the rare man) stories have a good deal of drama about what is going on. Drama is not something I want. At this point I feel (and hope) that my story becomes almost straight forward and quiet. Lumpectomy, radiation and then remission/cure. In other words, I prefer a short story to a novel.

The next direction of  treatment was set today. My insurance company approved the brachytherapy. I will have the catheter inserted on Monday am. The paperwork for disability was also began by my primary. He agrees that six weeks is needed given the big picture of what is going on. So as of now it looks like I will not return to work until the first full week of August.

It's funny. The first weeks you are dealing with the cancer diagnosis is like being in an emergency situation. Every one is on red alert and it consumes much of what you do. Post surgery and things began to fall into the acute phase where it is about routine hard work. Especially if you are not at a later stage of the diagnosis process i.e. stage 1 vs stage 4. Everyone is still concerned, but the sense of  urgency is muted...

I know that I'm more fatigued then I thought I would be at this point. I can do things, but my energy is in spurts. I do something and then lay down or take a nap. Dr. T told me this isn't unusual post surgery. He told me it will get worst for awhile after radiation which is part of why he put me off, besides my immune system being affected. Working on this by doing massage therapy and Reiki. Both are helping.

Today I am grateful that my cancer story seems like it is going to read like a short story vs a long novel. Some of my bc sisters/brothers are not so lucky. Truly I have been blessed.

Gossip, "Move in the Right Direction":

Wednesday, June 20, 2012


Finally today I released a breath I didn't realize I had been holding. The radiologist/oncologist let me know that the path report showed negative lymph nodes and I was a candidate for the breast brachytherapy. Now I have to wait for my local group and United Healthcare to approve it. If all goes well I will have the catheter placed on Monday morning. A friend is coming up for the doctor visit and we are going to do a little girl hanging out.

I'm meeting with my primary on Friday to work on coordination of my plan for recovery. I'm not out of the woods yet, but at least I feel like I've found the path that may lead me out.

It's hot here today. Just have been reading and resting. Woke up with grief swimming through my being about everything that has been happening. Stretching, meditating and sipping tea in the early morning air on the patio helped. Also talked with some friends about the shadows.

My gratitude is for the quiet I had today. It was the first day in about a week that I felt at ease with it...had been afraid of too much of it last week. Also for my camera, once again it's becoming a companion. I'd been away from it for far too long.

Jesse Cook, "F Maj Lick":

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Summit of Healing

Today I got feeling much better after a 10 hour sleep. My emotions were more settled and I could see with a clearer sense of what my next steps needed to be. After working with the surgeon and the radiologist I realized if I want to blend allopathic and complimentary treatments...if I really want to heal, it's going to be my responsibility to bring together the elements that will help me scale the summit.

So after consideration, I took my first drive in 4 days and went to Barnes and Noble. I parked myself in front of the section on cancer and found 3 vital books....Breast Cancer Survivor's Fitness Plan, Mindfulness-Based Cancer Recovery and Embrace Release Heal.

I went through the Breast Cancer Survivor and found an exercise plan and began stretches/balance exercises appropriate for lumpectomy. Tomorrow I will add the strength training element. Also, I walked.  I read the Embrace Release Heal and found agreement from other cancer persons that if you do not take the reins of your healing, you might find the horse taking you on a trail you don't want to go down. In reading the book I realized that if I really want to heal I need to be away from work for a time. The universe has given me the means in I can do it and be supported financially. So I will meet with my primary if possible in the next few days as I believe he would be the most amenable to my reasons and plan for taking time off. I also have work to do on anger, fear and other pieces of my shadow. I will be doing that through journaling, meditation, spiritual exercises and other ways that I discover.

What is incredible though is that my doctors didn't even mention about exercising for my shoulder, underarm, breast area. If I hadn't found the information I found today, I could be facing a frozen shoulder etc. I could feel pulling, tingling and almost burning as I went through the exercises, but I also realized, that I was healing and it kept me going.

I also began eating more normally today. For the last few days crackers, a few pieces of banana, and broth, a bit of yogurt has been all I seemed to want. Today I had a salad and soup twice. Also my sense of smell seemed more acute after the surgery and certain smells have been nauseating. That seems to be going away.

My biggest eye opener today is the dawning realization that cancer may not be the death sentence that some people seem to think it is rather it may be what finally brings me to a fuller awareness of my life and what I need in it. I'm not a positive pollyanna. I have had and I will have anger, this is part of the journey, but what I do with it eventually is what will make the difference to what is to come in my life.

My gratitude today is for educational materials being placed into my hands that I need and that they contain the messages I need in this moment. Also for the quiet and silence of today that I can reflect...

Sarah Mclachlan, "Silence":

Monday, June 18, 2012

My Turn

It's my turn to deal with cancer. Breast cancer to be exact. I had started another blog to deal with the implications of it. I ended up having to delete it. There was a major break in communication with my family who were here over the past weekend.

I'm not going to go into details, but right now I don't have the energy to deal with ongoing negativity. All of my energy has to go into figuring out how to survive and there are people here who will work with me. It ripped me apart and still rips me apart to keep them out of my life, but for the moment I will do it.

I went today to meet with the radiation oncologist. Depending on the return of my tests I will either do brachytherapy or the more traditional 6 week radiation. There could be chemotherapy if the 2 biopsied lymph nodes come back with intermediate or high risk results. The time frame for knowing may be as soon as Wednesday or Thursday.

If I met the requirements, I plan to do brachytherapy. Emotionally I am drained today, I feel like I lost alot of ground, I'm trying to regain it. Several of my female friends surrounded me with support and reasurrance today and will be helping to step up to the plate as I figure out how to reconfigure my life. They receive my gratitude today.

Whitney Houston, "I'm Every Woman":

Beginning Yet Again

  "Never feel guilty for starting again." -Rupi Kaur These days being a flaneuse has been more mental than physical. I moved to Ar...