Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A bright spot

Today I learned that there's a japanese dating game in which you play the part of the only human at an all-pigeon boarding school. Yes, you're hitting on pigeons. As a human. And they play sports.

Don't worry, baby, it's coo'.

Hear me out

I'm still having trouble hearing in one ear, and the doctor this morning couldn't see anything wrong when she looked inside, which suggests a deeper issue. I've got an appointment with a specialist back home, and I've dropped a line to my oncologist, who doesn't think it's consistent with symptoms of metastasis (always a concern).

Sigh. Every little problem could signify that we've lost the game. My body's so worn out that there are a lot of these little problems cropping up.

It's too weird and painful to talk with folks vocally at the moment, but I'm thinking of you, bridesmaid with exciting news, and you, old close friend with too many stressful things in your life.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011


I'm in a hippy cafe in North Carolina. I have a busted ear.

My husband and I were feeling very optimistic lately because I was doing so well, so we decided to do one of our favorite things - take a road trip somewhere new. I love traveling, and it lets me participate in my recent favorite hobby...

Salamanders. So, there are hundreds of different kinds of salamanders (you know, frogs with tails). I track down new ones and take pictures of them. It's called herping, especially when combined with snake-huntin', and it's a mix of geocaching and Pokemon. But slimier. I'm really not sure why I love it so much.

With salamanders in mind, we made our way to Georgia to meet a good friend. We climbed into a muddy cave, hiked up a hill in a rainstorm, and generally roughed it. Our reward for getting mud-covered and occasionally drenched with freezing streams of water was discovering four new (to me) kinds of salamanders.

One was like a slender orange dragon, and we found it in a cave, gazing out from a crack with its big amber eyes. One was tiny and silvery and crawling across a cave floor. One was multicolored and peered up at me from wet leaves. And one, a very special and rare salamander, was clinging to a lichen-covered rock, its back a shimmery mix of green and black. Amazing.

Then we retired to a hotel. We were planning on driving home the next day, but all of the elevation changes seemed to have mucked up one of my ears. It felt full, and everything sounded off. It was worse the next morning, so we declared a day of rest.

We took a brief trip to a nearby aquarium, curling up in an alcove while sharks sailed overhead, separated from us by just a little bit of glass. I touched a sturgeon (for the very first time!). But despite the fishy rest, my ear still felt wrong. Now we're on the road, and my ear is still having problems; it's not painful, but something is definitely wrong, judging by how the hippy music in this funky cafe is being hopelessly distorted in one ear, but merely boring the crap out of the other one.

I called my primary care physician, and she told me to get checked out before I fly home, so tomorrow I see a local doctor. Argh. Part of me is so adventurous (the brain part), and the rest of me is so darn fragile, especially after all that grueling treatment - one doctor told me I temporarily have the body of a 65-year-old, and I'm not sure if that's more insulting to me or to 65-year-olds.

I wish I knew how to resolve this tension. Maybe more sharks would help.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Mixed salad

Some things that have happened in the last couple of days:

  • I found that I'm not qualified for a clinical trial because my cancer was too severe when diagnosed. No new information, but it was still difficult to hear.
  • I got my second Lupron shot, and now have an enormous butt bruise.
  • I flew to visit my husband's family for thanksgiving. I ate turkey and chocolate pecan pie, joked around with my new brothers, toasted my new mom-in-law and was toasted as the best (if only) daughter-in-law in the family.
I have a difficult time describing these days, which are pretty much my worst (potential death) and my best (warmth, love and family). The best way I can describe them is 'salad'.

It's like I'm forced to eat this very big salad, every single piece of it. There are a lot of wonderful bits of blue cheese and pear and olive and walnut in my salad, but every now and then I find an incredibly wilty piece of radicchio, or a slug.

Thursday, November 17, 2011


I'm having HOT FLASHES, check it and see!
Feels like a fever of a hundred and three.
Come on, Lupron, I just put on these pants.
I've got... hot flashes! HOT FLASHES!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Luproncalia, and how to stop a cancer

I keep meaning to post long updates, but I have a bad case of Lupron brain. I feel like my head's full of cotton that has been soaked in gloom-ahol. It's been difficult for me to stay on task.

I'm struggling with the post-treatment period. I'm mostly doing well, but it's a time of such change and uncertainty that I'm often not sure how to plan my day. (Lupron wants me to sleep or stumble around the house like a zombie. I try not to listen to Lupron, but it's very persuasive.)  One thing that helps structure my time is to take a few actions that reduce the risk of my cancer returning.

What are these actions? Well, teasing out the right activities from all the myths and bad advice is very hard. There are more opinions about how to stop cancer than there are seconds in a day. It's really, really overwhelming, especially as a new patient; I've often felt really guilty for not keeping up with every piece of advice I stumbled across, which is goofy because much of this advice is unsubstantiated and just causes more stress. Even scarier: some of this advice is dangerous. One guy urges taking massive doses of vitamin C, for example, which can make radiation therapy less effective. And then there are the folks who poisoned themselves by eating apricot pits. Oy.

So, here are the things I've decided to do.

1. I met with a cancer center nutritionist early on. She helped me sort through the many, many food myths and facts. Then she basically advocated a heart-healthy diet. I was already eating pretty well (many veggies, a few farmers' market meats), so I upped my veggies, reduced red meat, started eating more leafy greens and whole grains and made a few other small changes. This might not do much to reduce the risk of cancer recurrence; studies on diet and cancer are few and messy. It's good for my bod, though, so no harm there, and it's freaking delicious.

2. I take my Tamoxifen and bend over for my Lupron buttshots.

3. I exercise, because holy crow, this is one exciting emerging area of cancer research. Some studies put the benefits of daily exercise at a 54% reduction in cancer recurrence risk. That's better than chemo. I walk every day, and try to fit in half an hour of elliptical most days a week, because that's exactly what the ladies did in the studies and I'm a geek like that.

After that, I just have to trust in luck. It takes a lot of bravery, and some cookies and walks on the beach with my sweet man.

Friday, November 4, 2011


This'll be a short post, since I'm typing one-handed. The surgery went well. My arm's recovering brilliantly and soon I'll get to try it out. I'm so deeply tired, and feeling slow and confused, but getting better every day.

I have so many pithy (read: long) posts to make about cancer, but for now this is as much as I can write. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Posted from pre-op

Got my fancy socks and my heated blanket. Arm surgery time!

On the way to the hospital a few drivers cut us off without signaling. Every time it happened I wanted to roll down the window and yell You just cut off a CANCER PATIENT, you jerk. Of course, there's a reasonable chance that some of them had cancer, too. These... are the things I think when I don't get to eat or drink past 12am.

My nurse looks like the princess from Enchanted.