Thursday, October 27, 2011

Mend (to fix, to repair)

If your hospital gives you a free whoopie pie, then it counts as healthy, right?

Okay, I'm still limiting my online activity to spare my arms, but I wanted to write something because people keep sending me sweet emails and it's so hard to keep myself from replying. I'm going to type this very slowly.

Here's some background: I've had repetitive strain issues since 2005, when a combination of constant guitar-playing and geeking out caused two years of pain in my ulnar nerves (along with the 'carpal tunnel nerve', the ulnar nerve is one of the main nerves in the arm). I stopped guitar cold turkey and modified my activities enough to limit the pain to a few months a year.

Although I got much better - well enough to pretend I was fine - I never 'recovered'. I spent my first internship out of grad school using the mouse with my foot, and speaking all of my documents using voice recognition software. Many of the things I'd trained to do have been off-limits.

Besides the misery of the pain, I feel so unproductive and useless every time my arms flare up and 'remind' me that I have a problem. Nothing makes me happier than feeling buried in a work project, and all of my work involves my arms; sadly, soccer is not one of my projects.

The whole cancer thing, though, kinda pushed this issue to the side for a while. I was blindsided when the pain returned two weeks ago. (I'm blindsided every time it returns. Brains are pretty dumb adaptable.)

So, on Monday I saw a surgeon.

On Tuesday of next week, he'll cut into one arm to try and fix it.

I'll be recovering for a few weeks, so no blogging for me, probably. If all goes well, you're next, other arm! LET THIS BE A WARNING TO YOU.

I'm, uh, 99% terrified. 1% whoopie pie, but mostly terrified. Nerve surgery is messy and painful. And this Friday I get my Lupron shot. I'm also terrified of that. Both of these decisions have been so hard; I'm a ball of nerves and I hope I'm doing the right thing. I just want to be able to get back to feeling like I'm contributing to the world in the small ways I know how, and these decisions might get me there, or stop me.

A few positive bullets to round out this post:

  • I've had warm nights sitting and watching movies and drinking tea. I'm getting better at doing nothing and just breathing.
  • My husband is the most wonderful person.
  • My mammogram today was clear.
  • I've had some phone and g+ chatting with some inspirational ladies (I'm thinking of you, C and N).
  • Halloween is coming up, and I'm planning something amazing based on my post-chemo hairstyle.
  • Free whoopie pie.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Brief update

Hey, this is saveandcontinue's husband. She's having some bad repetitive strain in her arms and can't reply to your emails or post right now. She hopes to be back in shape soon!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


My oncologist confirmed that I seem to be doing fine so far. Then she gave me a choice.

She offered me a drug called lupron. It suppresses the ovaries and therefore may reduce the spread of breast cancer that's driven by hormones. My oncologist was very clear: studies are pending. Adding lupron to breast cancer treatment is standard in Europe, but not in the US. If my cancer were a little more vicious, she would have pushed it more, but she honestly couldn't decide with me. So, to lupron or not to lupron?

-menopause-like symptoms
-pain, moodiness
-loss of bone density
-heart disease risk
-cognitive difficulties

-my chemo didn't work well, so lupron might help me stay alive.

My dad and I had a long talk about it. He jumped on the cognitive difficulties side effect, just like I did; when I heard that I might have trouble thinking, I felt pretty upset. I'm from a family of academics and nerds, so cognitive impairment really scares me.

Anyway, I'm going to do the lupron. But I'm not happy about it; I'm tired and angry and if anyone says something about how cancer is a life-changing and life-affirming journey I'm going to flail at them with my incredibly tiny fists.

Sunday, October 16, 2011


Tomorrow is my first checkup since treatment ended. This means I'm feeling a lot of fear.

In the past few weeks I've gone hiking in search of fall, eaten apple donuts and reveled in sunset-colored mums. I stayed awake through all of my husband's birthday party. I went on a great field walk and found a dozen baby snakes. Mostly I've been sick, but the kickass days are slowly outnumbering the bad.

I need to sleep.

Friday, October 7, 2011


I've had a bad cold all week. It's making me feel pretty uncomfortable. Typing this seems to be taking a long time.

I keep typing jokes that are probably really terrible, and then erasing them. Back to the couch!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Poked and prodded

The surgery yesterday went well. The IV placement didn't - I have bruises from many failed attempts - but after that it was smooth sailing. Sort of.

I had a consult with an anaesthesiologist about my sedation issues, and elected to go through it with just local anaesthetic and some benzos (a class of anti-anxiety drugs). Hardcore.

So once again I got under the sheet, and felt all manner of bizarre things. Sometimes the local failed, and I asked for more. A few times I asked for a bit more benzo and drifted into a warm fuzzy time. The local anaesthetic really failed during 'closing', and I felt a bunch of the stitching, but it really wasn't so bad - no worse than getting a mild injection. A nurse patted my head. All of the docs were incredibly nice and they listened to everything I said.

On the whole, it was nowhere near the horrible experience of port placement. I was pretty calm and comfortable. Of course, now I hurt like gangbusters.

This entry is pretty disjointed. I think I'm still woozy. Doop doop doop

Sunday, October 2, 2011


Tomorrow I'm having surgery to remove my portacath, the chemo delivery device that was implanted at my collarbone to spare my poor veins from dissolving. My port (I named her Portia) looks an awful lot like the one in this hot guy's neck:

A portacath has a little round bulb on the chest, and a tube running up to the neck. If my neck looks SUPER RIPPED in some of my wedding photos, my port is to blame.

Getting the port installed was problematic. The conscious sedation failed and I had a paradoxical reaction that rendered me INCREDIBLY AWAKE. This was why I was able to hear the doctor yell at the nurse for flooding my system with an antibiotic I'm allergic to, despite asking me about my allergies mere moments before.

So, I'm a little anxious about this surgery. It will be #5 since I was diagnosed. Luckily, I'm getting it done at my shiny new hospital, so hopefully my transition from bionic human to non-bionic human will be smooth.