Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Hell, no, we won't go!

That's what my ovaries are saying, apparently.

"We don't want to shut down! We like making eggs! We want you to continue to have periods! We ain't gonna stop!"

This is the thing. My breast cancer, like most, was "fed" by estrogen. What I need right now to prevent future cancers is LESS estrogen in my body. One way to do that is to stop my ovaries from working, hence the Triptorelin shots. Another way is to take a Selective Estrogen Receptor Modulator (SERM) which blocks estrogen receptors, hence the Tamoxifen. So I'm doing all this stuff, and still my ovaries won't stop.

Yet.

I just had an interesting conversation with the onc NP (as my onc MD is on maternity leave). She said that she asked some colleagues about my case, and that it is "very unusual" to still have periods after 2 shots of Triptorelin, but they are "pretty certain" that I won't have another period.

Great. Now I'm special? Unusual? I have special, super-duper ovaries that won't shut down? Terrific.

Someday I will look back on this and laugh.

Tamoxifen

Took my first half pill last night...the other half this morning. 1 pill down, 1,824 to go.* Can't wait for those hot flashes!

*(365 x 5 = 1,825)

Monday, June 29, 2009

Snippets of Disney



It seemed as if everyone was sporting mouse ears of one kind or another. While I remembered these ears from past visits, I didn't remember seeing ears like these. You could also create your own personal ears, choosing the cap, the ears, the veil, and having your name stitched in the back. It was pretty cool, although I couldn't really justify buying something that I'd feel like an idiot wearing anywhere but Disney.

Another thing I didn't remember was seeing little girls decked out like this. Apparently there is a place now in Disney called Bibbidy Bobbidy Boutique, where little girls are transformed into princesses - for a price, of course. It was cute seeing all these little girls walking around with fancy hair, and princess dresses, but once I saw the prices....whoa. I'm glad I don't have to deal with that.

One of my favorite things was watching the Jedi Training Academy. About 25 or 30 kids were chosen from the crowd, given brown robes and "light sabers", and trained in the art of using the light saber in a certain combination. It was pretty cute. Suddenly, Darth Vader himself appears, and each child has a chance to "fight" with him. If J was a bit younger, he would have really loved this. I got a big kick out of it myself.

We all enjoyed Turtle Talk With Crush at California Adventure Land (which is located right next to DisneyLand in CA). It was A's absolute favorite. Another blogger wrote about it, so I'll just link to that. It was totally awesome, dude.

Friday, June 19, 2009

"Up" and infertility

J and I saw Pixar's new film "Up" last week, and it really was wonderful. I don't want to spoil it for you in case you are going to see it, but what I love about Pixar films is that they are made on so many levels. Kids appreciate them for the fun and action, but there is always another level that makes them deeply appealing to adults, too.

"Up" starts with a montage of the life of the protagonist, Carl (voice wonderfully done by Ed Asner), and it quite poignantly mentions the topic of infertility. Lollipop Goldstein of the blog Stirrup Queens and Sperm Palace Jester's wrote an eloquent piece on this aspect of the movie. I urge you to read it. It made me realize how important it is to present this issue in the mainstream media, and I just love her description and assessment. Enjoy! And go see "Up"!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

End of another school year

The last day of school always makes me a little sad. By this time of the year, each classroom is a well-functioning unit. The kids know the teachers, the teachers know the kids, and they all work well together. It's sad that it has to end, and then they will have to start all over again next year, and learn how to get along with a new group of kids, and with new teachers.

J has had a great year in third grade, and he has really progressed in so many areas. He seems so grown up to me!

I was thinking today that it was this time of year 8 years ago that we first dropped J off at daycare. J was just shy of 2, and it was the day of my 40th birthday. He stayed for about 2 hours. A and I were pretty traumatized. Gradually, he worked his way up to a full day (8-3:30), learned to sleep on the little cots they had there for the little ones to nap on, and spent 3 happy days a week there.

Here's J around the time he first started "school":

And here he is today:

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Still waiting for M

Had my second study shot today (triptorelin). Still not feeling anything. I guess I should be happy, but I think that means it's not working. I asked the study nurse, and she said most of the women on the study are already in "chemo-pause", so they already have their ovaries suppressed. I'm the first one she's had who isn't already there. Great.

Also, I found out today that I have to start the Tamoxifen soon. Tamoxifen is a medication that has been proven to reduce recurrence of breast cancer, but it has a few troubling side effects, most of which sounds a lot like menopause: hot flashes, night sweats, etc. So between the triptorelin and the Tamoxifen, menopause should be coming soon. Yippee.

In other news, I had my first chiropractor visit today, ever. It was very interesting. My back has been bothering me for a number of days, the pain even waking me up at night, so I decided to seek treatment. Treatment was strange, and much more physical than I expected. But I do feel somewhat better. Here's an interesting explanation of a subluxation, and I love the moving graphic!

Tomorrow, on to the dentist. How many health care providers does it take...?

Friday, June 12, 2009

The car guy

I got a flat tire yesterday. I was driving my little carpool home from school, and suddenly we all heard it: thumpa-thumpa-thumpa. "You've got a flat, Mom," J announced. I did indeed.

After consultation with my husband, I called AAA, and two guys (one friendly, one not) came to fix my flat. They jacked up my car, took off the flat, took the spare out of the trunk, and then.... the spare didn't fit. The holes didn't line up...you know, the ones that are supposed to fit the bolts? They were puzzled. I was puzzled. They put the flat back on the car, and left.

Further calls to my husband. Consternation. Turns out that I'd needed a new rim a while back, and the car guy must have inadvertently put the wrong rim on the tire. Turns out that they changed the model in the middle of the year, and he must have put the old model's rim on the tire. Turns out I'd need a new rim.

And this takes us to the car guy. My husband's car guy.

There are plenty of car guys in our little town, but my husband chooses to use a car guy that is located far away, in the city. When he needs to see the car guy, he has to drive about 10 miles in the wrong direction of everything to get to him. But, you see, my husband LIKES this car guy. He has a RELATIONSHIP with him. Actually, they have become friends: real friends. So my husband doesn't mind driving 10 miles in the opposite direction in order to see his friend the car guy.

So that's what he did this morning. He drove to the car guy's shop. Got my tire repaired. Ordered the right rim. Yes, now he is 2 hours late to work. But: he loves his car guy. And all is right with the world.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Susan Love

Segment is just okay...but Susan Love is so great! I love how she cuts to the chase. No bullshit. If you don't have time for the whole segment, go to minute 8. Prevention - woo hoo! Be sure to sign up for the Army of Women!

A poem on abortion and such

I just read this poem on a blog called Abortionclinicdays, which, unfortunately, has been quite busy of late. I really like the poem, so I'm sharing it here.


Women of the World Vs. Ernie


1.

This is what I know about being a woman:

My body is coursing with estrogen,

I have a uterus. My breasts fit nicely into bras

that shapes them into fashionable

things that men like to look at.

Once a month, my uterus lets go

of its contents and I bleed

for a few days.

2.

I am not immune to the stigma of the whole

thing. I read Cosmo and think:

this is what I am supposed to look like.

this is who I am.

this is what I am supposed to buy.

this is what I am supposed to eat.

It goes on like this all the time.

I buy, I eat, I apply lipstick.

3.

The single man outside the abortion

clinic stands there with his sign.

He thinks he will change some minds today

because he has god and patriarchy

and a picture of a bloody fetus,

the force of his own stupid ego

on his side.

4.

Some of the women I know have abortions.

Real abortions, not the ones on the signs.

The kind that keep them up nights

going over it over and again.

We are all powerful

and sometimes subjugated.

5.

They are my sister.

my best friend.

my next door neighbor.

The lady in line behind me

me at the grocery store-

we are in the express lane,

she has 26 items.

the check-out girl, too--

she is pissed .

myself.

Me.

6.

He says it so clearly,

You need to be ashamed.

Of your body,

of it weakness,

of yourself,

of your woman-ness.

Keep this secret,

keep your mouth shut

And your legs closed.

7.

I no longer care what his real name is—

I will call him misogyny.

Does he speak to his mother

with that mouth?

In my dreams she is washing out

his mouth with soap.

8.

This is what I want misogyny

with his sign to know:

I want what I want. I need what I need.

This body is a gift from that same god.

He gave it to me because he knew

I could be trusted.

He said to me in a prayer:

You know what to do, and when.

Second hand news

For some reason I don't quite understand, I am more upset than I should be hearing about the breast cancer diagnosis of a friend-of-a-friend. She is in her early 40s, she has 3 kids, she has the same type of cancer that I do, it appears to be early, but for some reason, she is about to have a bilateral mastectomy. For some reason, this is upsetting me. A lot.

What is going on?

I realize I don't have all the facts about her cancer. Maybe there is something I don't know that pushed her into this decision.

I do know that some women, when confronted with a breast cancer diagnosis, want to do everything they can to get the cancer out of their body, and never have to deal with it again. So having your breasts removed is one way of ensuring that you will never have breast cancer again (although it could recur in another part of your body...).

Some women want to do everything possible to make sure they are cured and it won't recur.

I guess I'm not one of those women. I wanted to do the minimum I needed. Not the maximum.

Maybe that's why I'm so upset. Maybe part of me wishes I had been braver, that I'd opted to do more. I'm second-guessing myself.

Compared to many women, I had it easy. I had surgery, I had radiation, and I'm going to have medication. But I didn't have chemo. I didn't have mastectomies and reconstruction. I escaped the worst (so far).

I guess part of me feels guilty. Less than. I know it's stupid. But it's how I feel.

Meanwhile, I hope I don't hear about any more women getting bilateral mastectomies. But I doubt my wish will come true.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Busy

This is a really busy time of year. In the past few weeks, A has graduated from Meah, which is a local program of "100 hours of adult Jewish learning" over 2 years time; A also received a volunteer award from J's school for his work as commissioner of soccer; J has had numerous Little League practices and games, and starts the playoffs this week; J and I went to a Red Sox game; J had his 3rd grade "State Fair" and I, as room parent, organized (don't ask!) and presented the teachers with their class gifts; I finished radiation; J had an orthodontist appointment and I have a follow up visit next week to discuss "the plan" with the orthodontist; J is having his first set of cavities filled tomorrow morning; A and I are going to my work's annual celebration tomorrow night; school ends in just over a week; right after school ends, we are going on a vacation with my extended family to Disneyland in CA; and it's my parents' 50th wedding anniversary the day we arrive in CA; and my birthday soon after. Whew!

Once we get back from CA, J will start summer camp (day camp), and things will settle down a bit. Although almost immediately we will be going up to NH to visit some friends there around the Fourth of July, and we need to start planning our end-of-summer family vacation to Virginia.

Hopefully I will find some time to relax....

Monday, June 01, 2009

Telling

While most people in my world "know" (about my breast cancer), there are still a few people who don't. These include friends who live nearby but whom I don't run into very often; people, like some college friends, who live far away and with whom I only communicate with once or twice a year; people who aren't on Facebook and/or who don't read my blog; and others who for some reason just don't know. So now it's been 5 months, and there are still some people who don't know. And it's still very strange when they find out.

The first thing that happens is that they feel awful. For not knowing, for not being in the loop, for not being in touch, for not being able to help. Then I'm in the position of having to reassure them-- "oh, really, I'm doing well, I'm feeling fine, everything's okay." Then they want to hear the WHOLE story. Then I ask about them, how are they, what's happening with them, and pretend to be brave and strong, etc. It's so much fun.

What I'm trying to say is, it ISN'T fun at all to tell people. I hate telling people. It upsets them, it upsets me, it puts me in the position of having to make them feel better when actually I don't want to be in that position...it sucks. So I hope not to tell anyone else. Although I know there are a few people who still need to be told.

In other news, as my radiation winds down (1 more treatment to go!), I'm starting to breath a sign of relief. Kind of. The bulk of the treatment is over, and now I just have to deal with whatever side effects I'm going to have from the ovarian suppression and Tamoxifen. For the next 5 years. And then basically I just have to hope and trust that everything that's been done to me and everything I'm doing will prevent those little cancer cells from growing again. Because I don't want a recurrence. I keep hearing about women who did it all, only to have it come back worse. I don't want that to happen to me. And I'm scared about it. Damn scared.

I also keep hearing about women who are just finding out that they have breast cancer (and other cancers, too), and this makes me very sad. And angry. Angry that everyone is focused on finding a cure, and no one seems to care about preventing it in the first place. What is wrong with everyone? I'm starting to think, too, that cancer is big business, and someone is making a ton of money on it. That's making me angry, too.