Thursday, May 28, 2009

4th grade: here we come!

I've never been one of those mothers who abhors her child's growth. You know, the moms who cry: "Oh, I can't believe my baby can sit up already! She doesn't need me anymore! Soon she'll be going to college!" I've always celebrated J's achievements and growth, and his growing independence and abilities. True, part of it is selfish. As he grows, I get some of my independence back. But overall, I really enjoy seeing him become the interesting, capable person that he is becoming.

Last night, I had an opportunity to go to a meeting at school for the incoming 4th graders. [At J's school, the kids move from the lower school building (K-3) to the upper school building (4-8) , and start in the "intermediate division" which is 4th and 5th grade, after which they will enter the middle school program in grades 6-8.] I really liked what I heard! I am very excited about 4th grade!

The director of the intermediate division is a man who seems to really love kids of this age. I was so impressed with him. In addition to the academics, which sound wonderful as usual, the kids have the opportunity to take part in student government on a rotating basis, can choose to be in the 4-5th grade choir, and can take part in various bands. The daily schedule still includes a nice break for snack and recess (so important to boys of this age!) and I was happy to hear that many of the specialists are male (PE, science, music, and the on-campus Rabbi). J really benefits from male role models, and now he will get them!

Mostly, I am just excited for J. He is definitely ready to leave the lower school, having been there an extra year (he repeated kindergarten - long story). He is now one of the oldest and one of the tallest kids in the lower school, and he just seems ready to go. Step Up Day is on June 11th, and he goes!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Last period?

So I just finished radiation session #25 of 25, and tomorrow I start the first of 5 "boosts" and then I am done! Yay!

Last week, I had my first triptorelin (ovarian suppression) shot, and yesterday, I got my period, right on schedule. So maybe this will be my last period? Last period, last period...oh it's my last period, last period... (sung to the tune of Last Dance)

Still waiting to feel the first signs of menopause. Perhaps the triptorelin will interrupt this next cycle, and I'll start feeling something. In the meantime, I feel pretty normal. A little tenderness under my right arm from the radiation, although the techs keep assuring me that the redness is normal. I feel pretty cooked, but at least today was the last of the full treatments. I think the boosts are much more concentrated to the tumor area, so my underarm will be spared.

The funniest thing so far is a comment of a colleague of mine after my first shot. I came into the office, and he asked me about the study, etc. I told him I wasn't sure how long it would take for menopausal symptoms to kick in. He wondered: "Do you think you'll be in menopause by lunch time?"


Thursday, May 21, 2009

American Idol Finale in 60 seconds

J has been loving American Idol this year, and I've been watching it, too. I thought it was really entertaining this year, with lots of great singers. Anyway, this wrap up of last night's finale (in 60 seconds) is incredibly funny and spot on. Enjoy!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Meno, meno pause pause pause

There was a song we used to sing on bus rides long ago that went something like this:
Abra Abra ham ham ham
Abra Abra ham ham ham
(something) his name was Abraham (scarily, I just found it on the internet)

So my brain keeps singing
Meno meno pause pause pause....

I know...I'm crazy.

So here is the article I can't stop reading this week. It's the best article I can find about the benefits of ovarian suppression. I get my first shot on Tuesday morning. I'm nervous.

I have lots of questions. How big is the shot? Will it hurt? How will I feel right after? How long does it take to take effect? When will I start having hot flashes and night sweats and all that fun stuff? Hmmmmm?

The article is actually quite reassuring. It says:
These analyses definitively establish that adjuvant ovarian ablation as a single treatment modality significantly reduces recurrence and increases survival in women less than 50 years of age with early-stage breast cancer and support a greater benefit for this management strategy for women with ER+ tumors.

In the aggregate, the data suggest that the clinical benefit of chemotherapy followed by 5 years of tamoxifen appears to be similar to the clinical benefit of ovarian ablation/suppression plus 5 years of tamoxifen in premenopausal women with HR+ early-stage breast cancer, although this has not been definitively established in a randomized clinical trial.
Which is part of the reason I'm in this trial. They even mention my trial (TEXT) in the table!

So overall, I still think I made a good decision. Now I just have to deal with meno meno pause pause pause...

Obama on abortion at Notre Dame

He's just so great!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Marley and Me didn't do it for me

J was home from school today (long story) and we ended up watching the movie Marley and Me on Pay Per View. J has been wanting to see this movie for a while, so I just gave in. I'd heard it was a little inappropriate, but I figured: what the hell (I'm such a great mother!).

Overall, it was a pretty stupid movie, with a very sad ending (J and I were both bawling our eyes out), but it was the middle that really bothered me. All of a sudden, this silly movie about a couple and a dog who wouldn't behave was turning into a drama about fetal death, and the difficulties of raising small children, and women giving up their careers and having to choose between motherhood and working, and people who don't appear to know about birth control....Whoa! This wasn't the movie I signed up for!

And they didn't deal with these issues well, either.

So Jennifer Aniston (looking great, as usual) is having a sonogram done on her flat yet pregnant belly, and suddenly the technician leaves the room, and the doctor returns, and it's "I'm sorry, the fetus has died, you can try again soon..." and suddenly I'm having to explain THAT to J.

Soon they (Jennifer and gorgeous hubby Owen Wilson) have one child, and then pretty quickly another (birth control, anyone?) and then Jennifer is crazed with having a toddler and a baby and a dog who misbehaves and she has decided to leave her job as a reporter but running the house is driving her crazy, and... and....

And then they decide to stop having babies, and immediately have another baby. Hello?

There was one part in particular that drove me mad. Jennifer is holding the baby and the other one is crying and the dog is crazy, and she says to her husband, "I chose this, I wanted to stay home, why do I hate it so much?" or something along those lines. And he's like... "I dunno."Great social commentary, guys. Deep.

I guess I just wish they hadn't tried to delve into these sorts of issues in a movie that is supposed to be light and funny (or light and furry...). It felt very uneven to me.

Did anyone else feel this way about this film?

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Strippers and Masada

So on the ride home from school yesterday, J informed me that he and a friend decided on "Masada" as the place in Israel about which they would do their research.

"Masada? Oh, that's interesting. And why not Tel Aviv?" I inquired, Tel Aviv being the place he and I had discussed earlier in the day.

"Someone told me there are strippers in Tel Aviv."



"What are strippers?" I asked innocently.

"Bad people," he replied.

I took a deep breath. "J, strippers aren't bad people. Strippers are people who work in nightclubs, and who take their clothes off."

"You're kidding! Why do they do that?"

Another deep breath.

"Well, you know how some men like to look at women's boobs? Some men like to look at women who take their clothes off."

"That's gross!"

[He was sufficiently horrified that he didn't ask any more questions. I realize now that the "boob" thing wasn't ideal, but I was in a pinch.]

Later on, we needed to do some internet research about his chosen place in Israel, Masada. I'd forgotten what really happened at Masada, but the internet reminded me. Uh, oh. Time for another interesting conversation.

"So here's Masada on the map..." I pointed out.

"So, Mom, what is so important about Masada anyway?"

"Well, it's actually a very sad story. Some Jews were living there a long time ago, and the Romans were trying to attack them, so the Jews decided to kill themselves rather than be attacked or captured by the Romans."

"You mean they committed suicide?"



Don't you just love being a parent?

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Parenting and spirituality

Speaking of Faith (SOF) is my new favorite podcast, after Manic Mommies, of course. I love how the host says "This is Speaking of Faith, public radio's conversation about religion, meaning, ethics, and ideas. I'm Krista Tippett" in her smooth, bubbling, smiling voice. Okay, that's not the only thing I love about the podcast, but it's one of the things.

SOF discusses religion, spirituality, and such. It's rare in the world of religion podcasting to find shows that don't promote a particular point of view, but SOF does this. SOF is a show of exploration. It takes its time to really go into topics in depth.

This week, SOF re-broadcast a show with about parenting and spirituality. The premise is that children are innately spiritual; what is important is how we as parents respond to their questions and thoughts. This has been my experience with J. He thinks and talks about G-d all the time. Granted, he goes to Jewish day school, but even outside of that, he seems to have a very natural relationship with G-d and spirituality.

Here is a quote from this week's show:
"I think society does a very good job of teaching us how to be consumers and a very good job in teaching us how to be competitors. The question I think parents are struggling to answer is how do we not just teach our children's minds, but how do we teach their souls? We want our children to be gracious and grateful. We want them to have courage in difficult times. We want them to have a sense of joy and purpose. That's what it means to nurture their spiritual lives."

--Rabbi Sandy Sasso, in Speaking of Faith: The Spirituality of Parenting
Is your interested piqued yet? If so, go and listen to this podcast! Here are some great instructions if you don't know how to download a podcast.


Thursday, May 07, 2009

Radiation update

Well, I'm about 3 weeks into radiation, with about 3 weeks to go, more or less. I saw someone new today, a nurse practitioner, and he felt that I was starting to show some visible signs on my skin. I just took a good look in the mirror, and I look like I have a tan, but just on one side. I've been feeling a bit tender on the side they are radiating, but nothing terrible. Also, I'm so tired, but as A points out, I haven't exactly been going to bed early these days (I'm reading a good book).

The NP gave an interesting explanation of what radiation does: it disrupts the DNA of any cancer cells that remain, and they are not good at repairing themselves. Healthy cells will repair themselves. It also creates free radicals, which also help kill cancer cells.

Today, the radiation therapists were chatting, then fussing with x-rays (they take x-rays once a week), then fussing with the "couch" which is what they call the hard table I lie on during treatment, then finally they did the treatment. Then I had to see the nurse practitioner. So it was a longer visit than usual.

Overall, the radiation is okay. Just long. Also, I'll get my first ovarian suppressing shot in less than 2 weeks. Can't wait for that :-) And I found out that I was randomized (in the clinical trial) to Tamoxifen, so I guess that's good. I think Tamox has less side effects than the other possible medication (the Aromatase Inhibitor). But...time will tell.

A night at the Pops

A and I had a rare "date" last night, and free tickets to the opening night of the Boston Pops. Our seats were on the floor, quite close to the stage. The music was lively and interesting, and there were special effects, video, a balloon drop, as well as fantastic music. I really enjoyed it!

Highlights were a performance by a 19-year-old cellist named Anthony Rymer, and the musical stylings of Barbara Cook, who is 80+ years old and fantastic!

P.S. Couldn't resist this video I just found about the Pops rehearsal for last night's performance!

Monday, May 04, 2009

What is someone with cancer supposed to look like?

Lately, people have been coming up to me and saying things like: "You look really good!" The implication being: how come you have cancer and you look good?

I feel like I'm supposed to apologize or something. "Sorry I look so good! I should really be looking more awful, but the cancer hasn't really affected my appearance. So far."

I've been lucky. My lumpectomies don't really show through my clothes, so my chest looks pretty normal. I haven't had chemo, so I still have my hair. I haven't had any side effects (yet) from radiation, and even if I do, I don't think you'd be able to SEE those side effects. So, it's true, I look pretty good for someone with cancer.

But what is someone with cancer supposed to look like, anyway? And if I don't look the way people expect someone with cancer to look...what does that say about me? And about them?

And how I look doesn't necessarily reflect how I feel. I've been pretty tired lately - not sure if it's from the cancer or just from life. And I'm not particularly enjoying going to radiation every day, even though I have a reserved parking spot that reads "oncology patients only." Why would I park in a spot for oncology patients? Oh, yeah...

Friday, May 01, 2009

Happy May!

Whence this fragrance wafting through the air?
What sweet feelings does its scent transmute?
Whence this perfume floating ev'rywhere?
Don't you know it's that dear forbidden fruit!

Tra la! It's May!
The lusty month of May!
That lovely month when ev'ryone goes
Blissfully astray.
Tra la! It's here!
That shocking time of year
When tons of wicked little thoughts
Merrily appear!

It's May! It's May!
That gorgeous holiday
When ev'ry maiden prays that her lad
Will be a cad!
It's mad! It's gay!
A libelous display!
Those dreary vows that ev'ryone takes,
Ev'ryone breaks.
Ev'ryone makes divine mistakes
The lusty month of May!

Lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner, from the musical Camelot