Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Estrogen reduction accomplished

I don't want to announce this prematurely, but I think...I really think... that my stubborn ovaries have finally been vanquished. The triptorelin has kicked in, and I haven't had a period in 5 weeks. Woo hoo! Sorry, Tambrands and Always, I won't be needing you any longer.

In other news, I'm off my old anti-depressant, and just started the new one. Literally started it this morning. It may take a few weeks to kick in, so don't know yet if it will work, how it will work, how I will feel, etc. Hopefully, I won't go crazy in the meantime.

And in still other news, I'm starting to feel some heat. Not hot flashes exactly, but definitely some heat in my body. Mostly in the evening, and definitely when I'm trying to sleep.

So the good news is that with the triptorelin kicking in and the Tamoxifen, and the anti-depressant that doesn't block the Tamoxifen, my estrogen should be getting lower and lower now. And that is GOOD for preventing recurrences. Woo hoo!

Sunday, July 26, 2009


Every now and then -- maybe once a year? -- I become obsessed with a song. Don't know why. It just happens.

This year -- this week -- I became obsessed with Chris Brown's song "Forever." The reason? Jill and Kevin's wedding entrance dance, the newest YouTube video to go "viral," currently at 6.5 million views.

And I'll admit: I'm hooked. The song is stuck in my head big-time. And I can't stop watching the video.

I'm trying to figure out why I'm so stuck on this song, and this video. It's like this: these people decided: we're not going to just walk down the aisle like everyone else. We're going to dance down the aisle. Not only that, we're going to have all our friends join in the dance. This dance is going to be an expression of who we are, and how we feel about ourselves and each other. Our wedding is starting with a dance.

I love how their friends dance down the aisle -- some better than others -- some with hardly any rhythm (this video could well be subtitled: most white people really can't dance). And they know that they aren't great dancers, they are just doing it because their friends wanted them to, and they are doing the best they can. Eventually, they form a group and start down the aisle again, and the groom somersaults down the aisle out of the group. Then, as they make their way toward the alter, during a slower part of the song, they start moving in slow motion... it's hard to describe, but it's just too funny! Finally, the bride makes her entrance, dancing down the aisle herself...

If you haven't had a chance to see it yet, take a look:

Admit it, it brought a smile to your face and tears to your eyes, didn't it?

Thought so.

P.S. Here's more from the Today show. Apparently I'm not alone in my obsession....

P.P.S. And one more link.

P.P.P.S. Just one more!

Thursday, July 23, 2009


Feeling grumpy.

Met with new doc yesterday, psychiatrist. Young, pregnant. Nice enough, maybe a bit stand-off-ish. Took psychiatric history and ruled out manic-depression, OCD, psychosis, and a number of other possible conditions, bottom line: need to switch anti-depressant that has worked since 1993 since it may reduce effectiveness of Tamoxifen. New anti-depressant is called Celexa. Am currently ramping down old anti-depressant and ramping up new one. Finding it all a bit depressing.

Still waiting to see if period will not come this month. Feel like period is coming. Face is broken out. Feel PMS-y. Not sure what is going to happen.

Today is A's birthday. He is 55. Wow. When we met, I was 30, he was 37. How did this happen?

J was sick yesterday, and I had to miss work, so I'm at work today. Don't want to be here.


Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Harvest, again

Today: some green beans are ready to pick! Also, an interestingly-shaped zucchini!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Monday, July 20, 2009

Man on the moon

It's hard for me to believe it was 40 years ago that my family gathered around our black-and- white TV set at Nantasket Beach (where we spent the summers) and watched real footage of astronauts walking on the moon. I remember it very clearly. I was 8 years old.

I remember poring over maps of the moon's surface, knowing what a LEM was, thinking that astronauts were heroes. And they were.

The space program, frankly, hasn't been as exciting since then. There have been other lunar missions, the development of the Space Shuttle, and several famous and tragic crashes, but nothing as exciting as watching Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walk on the moon.

P.S. Here are some great photos courtesy of the Boston Globe.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Three berry pie

So I saw a recipe for vegetable-oil based pie crust that sounded interesting and easy in Thursday's Globe, and blueberries have been on sale at the market, and my raspberries are FINALLY ripening, and strawberries were on sale yesterday, and the moon was in the Seventh House, and the stars aligned, and I decided to make a three berry pie!

Here is the recipe for the pie and here is the recipe for the pie crust. I used the times for the crust (for baking). It came out great! I was quite impressed with myself.

The pie crust, while beautiful, is a little bland for my taste, but VERY easy, and I assume, healthier than a butter crust. If anyone has any ideas of ways to spice it up a bit, let me know.

P.S. I was reminded today that this is officially called Bumbleberry Pie. So cool!

Saturday, July 18, 2009


I made the mistake of reading some research articles about Tamoxifen last night before I went to bed, and I think I was dreaming about them all night. This is the thing: turns out that while Tamoxifen is pretty good at preventing recurrence (cuts your chances of recurrence in half), there are a few things that cause it NOT to work: 1) taking a medication that inhibits it (as I mentioned yesterday - some anti-depressants and some other medications as well) and 2) about 10% of women just naturally have an enzyme that prevents good metabolization of Tamoxifen. You can read more about it here.

So basically, you are taking your Tamox, you think everything is fine, and it's not working. This is not good.

So Dr. Susan Love says that one way to know if it's working is that you have side effects. Hot flashes, night sweats, and all that fun stuff. I'm not having any of that. Yet. So is it because of the medication I'm taking that's interfering with the Tamoxifen, or am I one of the10% with whom Tamox is essentially worthless?

I think that's what was keeping me up last night.

It's funny, because my docs keep saying: well, maybe you're just one of those women who don't get side effects. But now I'm starting to worry. If I don't get side effects, how will I know that it's working?

So I think, in the end, I need to switch my medication AND get the test to see if I metabolize Tamox. Sigh.

I almost forgot: I also read a study last night in which they were trying to reduce the side effects of Tamoxifen in women, and they gave them the very anti-depressant that we now know reduces the effectiveness of Tamox! And indeed, the side effects lessened, but I'll bet that these women were more likely to get a recurrence. It's really a horror-show, isn't it? Fix one thing, break another. I think that was keeping me up as well.

Friday, July 17, 2009

A new phase

So it's over 6 months since my diagnosis, I'm done with treatment, and now I'm moving into a new phase: survivorship. Not sure how I feel about that word yet.

Yesterday, I saw my oncologist's nurse practitioner (oncologist is on maternity leave), my surgeon, and today I see my radiation oncologist, all for follow-up appointments. Everything is fine, I feel fine, I'm healing well, etc. etc. The only glitch in all this is that the anti-depressant I take has been shown to interfere with the cancer-preventing action of the Tamoxifen, so there is a good chance I will have to change to a new anti-depressant. This is somewhat depressing (couldn't resist) since it's the only one I've ever used that actually worked. On the other hand, having a recurrence of cancer would be even more depressing. Not to mention possibly fatal. So I'm willing to try out the new class of non-interfering depressants and see how it goes. Stay tuned for more on that.

Overall, I'm feeling pretty good, although this is the sticky wicket: whatever was going on in my body that caused the cancer in the first place is likely still there. I'm hoping that a) the radiation b) the Tamoxifen and c) the ovarian suppression (if we can ever get it to WORK) will all help prevent recurrences. But there are no guarantees. I keep hearing about people who were treated, seemed fine, and then... either had a recurrence, or far worse, the cancer metastasized to other organs. You don't ever really get rid of cancer. It kind of lurks inside you. So I don't feel cancer-free or cured at all. I just feel....kind of nervous. A pretty constant, low-level nervousness. Occasionally, I forget. And then I remember.

I still want to do some real work in the area of prevention, and haven't figured out how to do that. I still think cures are great, and early detection is great, but prevention is even BETTER. I still think that 50 years from now, people will look back on 2009 and laugh... That they will know that our toxic environment is causing all kinds of issues (cancer being only one of them) and they will chortle in disbelief at how stupid we were, not to understand.

I almost forgot: almost in passing, yesterday, I mentioned to my surgeon that I'd received quite a bit of radiation as a child due to being a carrier of TB (annual chest x-rays) and due to having scoliosis (more x-rays of my spine to check on that). She said: "Yeah, that was a lot of radiation. That could be it." Interesting.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Violence and play

J -- my almost-10-year-old -- is currently obsessed with professional wrestling. Professional wrestling, not to be confused with amateur wrestling, is a showy, scripted, non-athletic event, in which the different contestants have costumes, personalities, and special "moves" that they perform in matches with other contestants. It's really quite silly, and sometimes quite violent, although I do remember vividly that my dad was into it when I was kid, and my brother and I were as well (probably my brother more than me). So now, the circle has all come around, and J has caught the wrestling bug.

In addition to watching wrestling on TV, J bought (with his own money) a wrestling game for the Wii, which he plays CONSTANTLY. When I can stand it, I go downstairs and watch him play for a while. Parts of it are kind of cool: each wrestler has a song that is played during his entrance, and he walks out, arms raised, pumping up the crowd. J actually dances around the basement while this is going on. Next, the match starts. The contestants -- who actually look fairly realistic in the game -- fight using different moves against their opponent. Some of the moves can be pretty violent, such as bashing your opponent's head into the floor. J likes to describe the grosser moves to me, perhaps to get my reaction.

What J really likes to do is watch wrestling on TV, and then go downstairs and perform the moves he has just seen on the Wii version. It's similar to when he is watching baseball or football, and then wants to go outside and try out his own skills.

All this is fine. Except: it's violent. More violent than anything that we've allowed him to do so far.

So here's my question: is this just a normal part of male development, to be interested in something as silly and also as violent as professional wrestling? Or should I be worried?

In trying to answer my own question, I happened to listen to Speaking of Faith recently, and the topic of the episode was Play. What the guest speaker (Dr. Stuart Brown) talked about that I found so fascinating was that both children and animals need rough and tumble play in order to develop properly. They learn about their abilities, what they can and cannot do, and how to get along with others during this kind of play. Consider this quote from the show:

Dr. Brown: Well, I think we know a lot about it (play) through the wonderful laboratory rat. They make a particular squeak, that's inaudible to humans, as a signal that they want to play. They then wrestle with each other and pin each other, particularly during their juvenile times. They engage in what a number of investigators call hardwired rough-and-tumble play. And the outcome of that is quite striking, because if the laboratory investigator stops the rats specifically from playing, there are some dire consequences. They do not socialize normally. They can't recognize friend from foe. And there are other very specific kinds of outcomes, which to my way of thinking, to some degree, match some of the human outcomes. But, of course, they're in rat language and human outcomes are much more intricate.

He continues:
Let me sort of go on a riff about rough-and-tumble play …which occurs in children both genders, but is a bit more obvious usually in boys. If you are to observe kids, like in a preschool, that are involved with all the exuberance that preschool kids have age 4 — 3, 4, 5, and you watch them at play, it's chaotic, anarchic, looks violent on the, to the surface. They're diving. They're hitting. They're squealing. They're screaming. But if you look at them, they're smiling at each other. It's not a contest of who's going to win. And most well-meaning parents and a lot of, certainly, a lot of preschool teachers put the lid on that … because it's, you know, it's scary, a little scary for an adult … because they don't remember. And almost, always has pretense and real. It has violence and fantasy, and it is the borderland between inside and outside in making sense of the world. It's a very important part of free play driven from within by the child's own personality and temperament in mixing with others. Now, you were surprised when I said things like empathy and trust earlier … in our discussion. But think about this. If, if you are in a rough-and-tumble situation, somebody hits you too hard, you know what that feels like. So you're not going to hit, in general, hit somebody else too hard, because you know what it feels like. And that's the roots, for example, of an empathic response. And the thing that — none of the murderers I studied engaged in normal rough-and-tumble play. Absolutely none. And if you extrapolate the rough-and-tumble play backwards into animals, they also appear to need it to be able to properly find their place in the troop or the tribe or the pack and develop a social reality to meet their needs.
So this makes me feel better. Maybe enjoying professional wrestling (which is at its core violence and fantasy) will help J not become a murderer, and even more, it will help him learn about himself in the world. I sure hope Dr. Brown knows what he's talking about.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

A day in the city

Yesterday was that summery kind of Saturday with no plans. We decided, after hanging around all morning, to head into Boston. We had a few ideas: try to see the Tall Ships; stop off at Fenway Park to buy tickets using J's Kid Nation membership; see the new Rose Kennedy GreenWay. J thought it all sounded boring, but we dragged him out anyway.

And it was a pretty good day.

After parking in Brookline and grabbing some lunch, we walked to Fenway and scored some tix for A & J to see the RedSox via Kid Nation. A mentioned to J that MAYBE we could look into buying some tix for that evening's game, and then the fun began. J would NOT let it go. For the rest of the day, my extremely persistent son asked, on the half-hour: can we go to tonight's game? Argh...

Here we are outside Fenway Park.

We took the trolley into town, and walked through Fanueil Hall, watching some of the street performers and attempting to find a bathroom for me (no luck). Here you can see one of the living "statues": this is actually a person with very realistic statue-like makeup on! If you gave him money, he moved and handed you a slip of paper with a riddle on it. Very cute.

Then we walked to the waterfront, tried again to find a bathroom (still no luck) and walked over to where we could see the Tall Ships.

Then we finally found a bathroom for me (relief). After that, we walked along the Greenway for a while. It's kind of amazing to think that this area used to be the Central Artery (an elevated highway). Now it's an urban park.

Hot and tired, we decided to head back to the trolley. I was starting to fade at this point. We decided that A and J would head to Fenway to see if they could get some tickets to the evening's game, and I would head home with the car.

Turns out they were able to get tickets to the game, and it was a fantastic, exciting game. J got to see not one but two home runs by his favorite player Kevin Youkilis, and it was Big Poppy's 1000th hit as a Red Sox. I went to sleep, and A & J came home around midnight.

All in all, not a bad day.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Only the good die young

I've been a Michael Jackson fan for years. I remember when the Thriller music video came out: it was like nothing I'd ever seen before. I remember seeing MJ perform Billie Jean at the Motown 25 show, and do his famous moonwalk. Again: like nothing I'd ever seen. Watching him perform was so exciting. The way he moved.

As the years went by, I still liked his music, but he became stranger and stranger. His features slowly morphed from someone African American to someone white to someone almost ghoulish. His behavior in life was strange: creating Neverland, a child's playground for himself; marrying Lisa Marie Presley for a short time, then divorcing; marrying someone else and having children, white children; his crotch-grabbing dance moves, strange for a seemingly sexless man.

These are my thoughts: I think he never really grew up mentally or emotionally. Being a child star, he never had the chance to do the normal child-like things, and he was never able to get past that. I also think that he possibly was gay or maybe even asexual. Even though his songs were about girls and women and love, it never seemed real, somehow. It was like a child singing about adult topics. I think he felt badly about himself as an African American, and he slowly erased all evidence of his race through surgeries and other procedures. He even chose to have white, blond, blue-eyed children, and he named each of them, as a part of their name, Michael. I don't think he liked himself. Only when he was performing, perhaps, was he at peace.

In a way, it's not so surprising that he died so young. Given that he never really grew up, it makes sense in a way that he would never grow old, either. Perhaps it's best to just remember him as a child singing with the Jackson 5, or as a teen or someone in his early 20's, when he did some of his best music (such as the album Off the Wall, one of my personal favorites). In any event, I hope he has found some peace now, and that his three children are also able to find privacy, normalcy, and peace.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

In the news

While I was away in CA, there was quite a lot of news. Farrah Fawcett died, Michael Jackson died, Ed McMahan died, and yet another governor was discovered to be having an affair (gasp!). I just read the most wonderful take on Mark Sanford's affair. You must read it! Hysterical!

P.S. SuperRaisy also has a wonderful commentary on the recent news! You must read it, too!