Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Surgery Tomorrow and Other News of Today

I was actually quite busy today. I went into my office to pick up some files - I needed to contact some people about various things I said I would do this summer and either notify them I would be late or I would just not do them. But with over 3,000 emails in my inbox and not remembering when or who I was in contact with, I needed my hard copy sheets so I could follow up with them.

I also made a few phone calls about things like summer salary, disability, FMLA, insurance, etc. I need to figure out what my options are, how much to save, etc. I have a post about that, so I won't go into it here.

I also had to have my blood drawn and go see the wound care nurse. I forgot to mention that there are two smaller areas where the skin is almost all the way grown over near the bottom. In other words, almost all healed. The other larger area, up under the pit, is now about 6x3.5cm (she thought it was 5x4cm last week, but it's in an area that's hard to measure; seven days ago, it was 8x6cm. So, it's growing in nicely. It's not draining as much so less dressings. Maybe another 2-3 weeks.

I went with dad to pick Ed up from school and we ran an errand before we came home.

My colleague, M, and her husband and daughter stopped by and brought dinner and visited. It was a good visit. Thanks, M, for dinner!

I didn't take a steroid today. I took one yesterday and felt like my heart was racy and I was shaky all day. Yuck! I hardly have any numbness in my fingers, so I figure that's a good sign that there isn't much swelling. No head or nausea, either. I'll let the surgeon know that I didn't take steroids . . . I don't think it will make much of a difference. I hope that I won't have to take it afterwards, but if I do, maybe I can talk them into a smaller dose.

It seems a bit surreal to me that I head to surgery in less than 12 hours. I mean, they're opening up my head. I have reminded myself that the surgeon has already done this to me once and I was okay. This surgery is less risky and will only be 2 hours rather than 3. So, I should be okay. The radiation oncologist was surprised that I was having another surgery - this whole idea about standard of care in situations of 2 or more tumors in the brain usually means that there are cancer cells running around all over in there, so the treatment is radiation. If there is just one tumor, then surgery and radiation. When I told her that the surgeon said that I was now in the latter category and wanted to do the surgery, she said that that wasn't maybe technically correct and then she asked if my own oncologist knew what I had decided. I told her he was on vacation and didn't know. I think she's a little surprised that I would just make a decision without consulting and talking to a few docs - I might've passed the idea by Dr. K but I knew he was on vacation. So, I made the best decision I could at the time. As far as I'm concerned, the sooner we can get the thing out, the better. Then I can get to healing elsewhere instead of waiting to see if radiation worked.

A Wrinkle in my Disability Plans

I had hoped to take long-term disability all next year. It turns out, though, in order to have my benefits covered, I either need to work at least half-time or pay COBRA. This is because I do not have enough FMLA left to protect my benefits. (I've been on FMLA for over a year. Long story; don't want to talk about the nitty gritty details.)

I can't afford COBRA, I don't think, with the decreased salary I would get on disability. I'd like to keep my current insurance. I could go on the Oregon Health Plan, I supposed, but I don't know how well it would work.

I really wanted to have a stress-free year where I didn't have to worry about work.


I really wanted time off. But I may end up teaching a course a term or something. I'll have to talk to my supervisor. Not 'til next week sometime, after I'm home from this next surgery.

Sheesh. I'll be up tonight worrying about this one, I think.

UPDATE: I found out that to pay for my own insurance out of pocket,it would cost me about $1250 for both medical and dental. Holy cow. I have half a mind just to put it on my credit card for a few months so I can rest up and not worry about work during the fall. We will see.

Chest Tumor

In my sleepless night last night, I thought about writing about this chest tumor, too, but got too tired.

I noticed that it seemed bigger over the winter and it seemed to really start growing in February. I am not sure when, but it was about 2cm long. Now, it's about 8cm long x 6cm wide. But I'm counting the curve of the tumor going down to the skin, too, as part of the length and width. If I were to just measure the "top" part (not including the sides where it meets my chest bone), it might only be 6-7cm long x 5cm wide. It sticks up about a 1cm, in other words, and that centimeter enters into the measurement.

I remember thinking awhile ago that it was my body's way to push the cancer out of my system. And, it seems to me, but memory isn't great, that it started moving up and out in February, when we on Mt. Kilaeua, the volcano, in Hawaii. (See, there's a great metaphor - my tumor is erupting from my body - getting its start when I was on the volcano.)

So, I'm trying to think of this thing as my body trying to remove the last vestiges of anger and resentment I may still have over my life. It's a physical manifestation of what is holding me back from stable disease status.

I started visualizing last night that what needs to happen is the herbs and aloe gel and turmeric and everything else, creating a pathway under the skin to begin remove dead and dying cancer cells. It just occurred to me that maybe I should visualize underground lava tubes taking up these cells and washing them away in my body.

You see, I have to visualize the creation of lava tubes, too, because the skin and tissue there has been so damaged and compromised from radiation and surgery. This means that the lymphatic and blood vessel system is scarred, so chemotherapy and targeted treatments can't make their way effectively to the tumor to kill it.

My treatment options for this damn lump are limited because of the compromised tissue. I can't have it radiated again because it has had its life time dose of radiation. Surgery could take out the lump, but it couldn't take out the whole lump, so it would leave a big wound there that would be hard to heal because cancer retards healing. The only thing they suggest is to find a chemotherapy regimen that might work to shrink the tumor. So, I continue with Herceptin and Zometa for that - and I want to add Tykerb to the mix.

That is why I tend to think the only thing that might be effective is a topical treatment - like an ointment to kill the tumor from the skin side, not the lymph/blood side. That is why I've been using this turmeric/mushroom/melatonin concoction on it. I'm going to let the wound care nurse look at it and see what she says. I've been trying to visualize that this concoction is creating a healthy pathway (i.e., lava tubes) to clear away dead cancer cells. And also that the concoction is killing the cancer. It doesn't look like it's grown, actually. Now it needs to shrink. It occurred to me that the tissue underneath was so damaged that maybe it couldn't take away dead cancer cells, so hence the visualization. Maybe the concoction can create a healthy escape hatch so the damn thing can shrink and go away.

I'll keep you posted on this eruption . . .

UPDATE: I saw the wound care nurse who looked at that tumor today. There's a circular area, about 1cm+ round, that's white and superficial. She thought that it might be necrotic tissue. It's not ready to be debrided yet. But I was happy to hear "necrotic", which means it's dying. Right now, I just want the damn thing to die and go away. I also know, however, that it might mean that I end up with a wound there that never heals. I'll deal with that later . . .

My Word This Year - Acceptance

One of my friends lives in Hawaii. She and I have had long email conversations about life and things spirituality over the past couple of years - we both had this sense that she was to help me in some ways and she has. I think I still need to step back and think about how she has helped, but suffice it to say that she has. (My friend doesn't know I'm writing this - I write it knowing that maybe I shouldn't but hoping that she understands how I am processing what has transpired between us.)

When I saw her in February in Hawaii, she told me that her word for the year was the Hawaiian word (I think) for "move", which was a way to encourage her to become more active. She asked me what my word for the year and I wasn't sure at first and then I said, "maybe acceptance". Her reply if memory serves was, "be careful what you choose because some words are more work than others".

I haven't really thought much about it in recent months, but tonight, as I was sleepless in bed, it came to me again. I really do think "acceptance" is my word for the year. It has to do with accepting people as they are. It has to do with accepting my health situation. It has to do, to some extent, with me giving up this tight control I like to have over parts of my life.

I grew up poor at times - sometimes we lived in subsidized housing and on food stamps - and my parents were alcoholics. (The alcoholism wasn't bad and the drinking didn't happen often - maybe once or twice a month. But it was there.) I was the oldest girl and ended up being the babysitter of the younger ones as I grew up. And, while I knew I wanted a child, I also knew I didn't want to be a stay-at-home mom. I came to realize I had already done my stint supervising little kids. So, Eddie went to day care and I was at work. I did feel some subtle societal pressure that I was making the wrong choice. But over the last few years, I've made peace with my choices - and now some of those choices mean not going to an evening lecture or committing to any late afternoon meetings, because those times are for me and Eddie. Work just isn't that important for me to return to in the evening most of the time. Home is just as important.

To get back to my point about giving up this tight control is this: I grew up poor. I didn't want to stay that way. And, I developed a strategy whereby I kept tight control over things so that I could get to a point where I wasn't poor anymore. My intelligence has opened up opportunities for me to get away and I am fortunate for that.

I am an anthropologist, which means that I like to learn why people do things the way they do. Then when I learn it, then I can do those things as well. I am an anthropologist because I want to fit in to whatever new situation I find myself. Growing up, I didn't feel like I fit in at all and I always attributed it to being poor and/or too smart. Anthropology, though, gives one certain tools of observation - I observe the way people behave toward each other - all the time, I never turn it off - and then bring those behaviors into my own life.

I wanted to escape a poor lifestyle. So, I "studied up" - how do middle class people live? My education has allowed me access to middle class America and so I got some ideas of how middle class people existed. For a long time, that meant exerting a certain level of control over my image - how do I look to others? What can I change about my house or my clothes or my mannerisms so that I can blend in? How can I surround myself with people who are middle class? I tried to control the people around me so that they also "looked" middle class. I wanted them to behave in certain ways and would get frustrated when they didn't. I didn't want to be around people who didn't live like this because it brought me back to being the poor girl.

But after several years of trying to blend in and not really being happy, I came to realize that while my socioeconomic status says "middle class", in my heart, I am still more blue collar than anything. For example, a lot of my work colleagues grew up in solidly middle class homes. I'd go to social events with them and they'd enjoy talking about politics or NPR or whatever. BORING! I just wasn't interested. (I hate to watch the news, for instance.) Instead, I say, "give me a beer and let's go play softball!"

I also don't like wearing makeup, I hate high heels. I don't particularly like wearing dresses. I will wear simple skirts in the summer time with sandals. It' getting to the point where my work or lecture clothes are a nice pair of jeans, a nice shirt, with a jacket. I don't color my hair. I am not fashionable. But all of those things are trappings that go with an image of middle class. Our society is all about image, it seems, and I don't really want to play that game.

But I digress.

Over the past few years, my therapist and my acupuncturist have both helped me to become more comfortable with who I am as a person. For so long, I felt like I was on the outside of a house in our society, looking in to the promise of middle class America. But I was always always on the outside - I never fit in. It took just one phrase from my acupuncturist to change all that: "That used to be your story. It doesn't have to be your story anymore."

Wow. All of a sudden, I was the person in the house. Just like that. I realized that I, in fact, did fit in. I had tenure. I had family. I have many many friends and colleagues. I am in touch with people all the time from all walks of life - from my colleagues to my ball-playing buddies. People had already accepted me and I didn't realize until that moment that I already had what I wanted - to be accepted and to fit in.

In sessions with my therapist, I also came to realize that while I was accepted, I also occupy what anthropologists call this "liminal" space - a place that is "betwixt and between". It refers to rites of passage as discussed by Van Gannep. Van Gannep wrote about the structure of rites of passage - that all cultures and all peoples celebrate the passage of life from one stage to the other. These celebrations or rites all have a certain structure: the person (or persons) who is changing their status (say from childhood to adult), separate from the others in their society (think kids in the gym in high school graduation) because they are undergoing the rite. Then the rite or ritual happens - this is the liminal or "betwixt and between" stage. This is when the person is neither their original status or the one they are moving into. Then the person or persons enter the reincorporation stage, where they are presented to their group at their new status. (Other rites include marriage, baptism, military boot camp, etc.)

Anyway, as I said, I occupy this "liminal" space. I am betwixt and between. I have a middle class occupation (a professor), but I don't really socialize with colleagues outside of work because I don't necessarily like what they like to do. I'd rather go play volleyball or softball with my friends and drink a beer. I am also a King Islander who grew up in Oregon. I act more white than I do King Islander. I have learned to act more King Islander over the years, after much patient help from cousins and other relatives in Alaska. But again, it's a situation where I am "betwixt and between" because I don't ever quite fit in with my King Island relatives. I have, however, been accepted by them and for that I am grateful. I don't quite fit in with my colleagues. I don't quite fit in with my ball-playing friends because of my occupation and some of the issues I support. I don't live and breathe my job (I see colleagues who work like 60-70 hours a week. That's crazy.). I think once I realized my "between-ness" between this group and that group, I learned to accept myself and others around me more. My life has become an eclectic kind of blend of dipping into middle class and out again, of being a King Islander for awhile and then an Oregonian.

The point is that my "liminalness" (if there is such a word) has given me a certain degree of fluidity and flexibility in how I live my life. I kinda like that.

But to get back to "acceptance". As I said in my last post, my family moved in with me. When I wrote the first draft of my dissertation in 1997-98, I lived with my folks again for the first time in like 15 years. It was kinda hard. I had been angry with them for a long time for being poor and alcoholic and I didn't spend much time with them. I came to accept them, to some extent, at that time. But since they moved in, there's been another adjustment period and , as with all close living situations, we get irritable and frustrated with each other.

My dad just had open heart surgery in February. During her recovery at home, she said that one thing she learned was more patience and appreciation for family. But at the time of the surgery, my parents had been driving me nuts. I needed time away from them so the day dad had surgery, I went to Vegas to see my friend for two days. I don't even really feel guilty - my sister and brothers took care of mom and were involved with all the medical personnel. Dad was barely aware I was away.

But now I am home recovering from surgery and in just over 24 hours will be in surgery again. Even in these close quarters at home, with my folks taking care of and being with them all the time, I rarely find myself irritated. We are getting along quite well surprisingly.

Somehow or other, since the April 1 surgery, I have learned to be even more accepting and more patient. I think it has to do with understanding that they are just doing the best they can as I am. I think they recognize that too.

It reminds me of what my friend Phil told me a few months ago, after we returned from Hawaii. In difficult situations, it's best to learn how to navigate in terms of "spirit", not ego. (Phil had me read excerpts from a book called "This Thing Called You" and while I cannot, in any way shape or form, adequately paraphrase what Ernest Homes said, what I took away (or created in my mind to help me visualize what he said) from the reading is this: we are each threads in this tapestry of life. If I start tugging on my thread too hard, I mess up the design - the flow gets obstructed. When I tug on my thread, my ego is involved. I need to not tug that thread because then I start tugging other peoples' threads and messing up the whole design.

I think I'm learning to remove my ego from the situation - that is, that part of my ego that wanted control so I could fit in. And once I do that, things just flow easier. I don't feel like I'm butting my head up against a wall or trying to control what the people around me do. Things are much more peaceful inside me and around me.

That is acceptance, too. Like the serenity prayer - to accept the things I cannot change. So, I think "acceptance" is my word for the year. Okay. Finally sleepy again. I'm going to try to get back to sleep 'cuz it's 3am and the deep thoughts are no longer so deep! HA!

Monday, May 30, 2011

Thank goodness my family lives with me

About a year and a half ago, my folks and my brother moved in with me - for financial reasons.

We have worked out a system - I pay the bills (except groceries) and they take care of the house. They do the grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning, yard work. I mean, I make sure that my areas and Eddie's areas are clean but since they are here all the time, the housework kinda fell into their hands.

It's been nice not to have to worry about grocery shopping and all that. I had plenty of other things to do with work, my own appointments and Eddie's activities. I feel very fortunate.

But this morning, I realized just how unable I am to take care of myself. I mean, I am able to wash up and wander around the house and get my own food or drink.

But I am completely unable to shop or drive or run errands, pick up or take Eddie to school. At the moment, I am homebound.

It occurred to me that other people would not have this kind of live-in help that I do. I can't even imagine how difficult it would be to have to ask for help all the time. There is something about how easier it is to ask family for help. AT least, in my case. People that I know and can talk are giving me assistance.

Last night, for instance, I decided to get a prescription sleep pill. I was able to ask dad to run to the pharmacy and I had the prescription in less than an hour. Dad is also driving me to my appointments. Scotty took Eddie to Wacky Bounce yesterday.

Thank goodness for family! Thank you, mom, dad, and Scotty. It helps tremendously!

It also occurred to me that my recoveries from these surgeries are gonna take awhile. I am now about 10 days post-surgery and can't fend for myself. I have another surgery on Wednesday and I think that I can expect at least a couple more weeks of not fending for myself afterwards. I feel a bit weak standing and walking still. This morning, I woke up and my middle finger was more numb, so I took a steroid pill. Didn't take any yesterday, but I'll take one today and see how things go. I hope after this next surgery, I won't have the numbness and unsteadiness to deal with. And, I hope I can sleep when I come home. I think my recovery will go faster if I can.

And, so it goes. I am trying to be productive - but it's things like balancing the checkbook, paying bills, etc.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

After Trying to Nap Twice today . . .

and failing, I called my oncologist's office and asked them to prescribe me a sleeping pill. I now have prescription Ambien. Let's hope the stuff gets me some good sleep tonight!

Damn Steroids

I am sleep deprived. I don't think I've had any decent REM sleep for three nights. I think I may have dozed three times last night for about an hour. I think I really only got some real sleep for one hour last night.

Sheesh. When I am up, my eyes feel so heavy. I'll lay down and rest them for awhile. I just tried napping for two hours and didn't get to sleep. So, while I'm laying there, I can't turn off my mind. I wrote this post. I thought about things like house projects. Then my stomach growls and growls and I got to eat.


One decision I made was to not take any steroids today. Or the anti-seizure medication. I figure I will be okay.

I did have one session of whole brain radiation. They say that radiation kills roughly half the cancer cells that are there. So, I assume that at least some of that damn tumor left in my skull is dying. Which means it's not as big which means there isn't as much swelling.

I also feel like I'm already pumped full of steroids - the neurosurgeon thought my dose was too big when I saw him, so I figure, if I can't sleep, they must still be in my system. If they are in my system, they are decreasing the swelling that is there.

Then, there are my symptoms. If the swelling was bad, my fingers would be weaker and/or number. I would be shaky on my feet. I might have headaches and/or nausea. But in fact, no headache or no nausea. (I don't want to throw up. My stomach gets gurgly and I just want to settle it with crackers or food. I don't get heartburn either. Just a bit unsettled.) My two right fingers (index and middle) are numb but are less numb than when I got home. I am fairly steady on my feet. So, hardly any bad symptoms.

So, no need for the meds, I think. I need sleep more. I won't take them today and hope to high-hell that I get at least a few-hour stretch of sleep sometime in the next 24 hours.

Don't worry. I will closely monitor myself over the next couple of days. If I start getting any hint of weakness or headache or nausea, I'll take the damn steroid. But surgery is in just 3 days. I think I'll be okay. : )

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Summer Plans

During my sleepless nights - and after making some decisions about next steps - I have also thought a lot about what I want to do this summer, other than rest and gain strength.

Travel is one thing. We'll rent a place at the coast for a handful of nights. We might stay in a treehouse in southern Oregon. We will go visit my godparents in Omak in August. I may go to Bend to visit Beth sometime. Cathie from high school invited me up to visit her and her mom and stepdad in July. So, the summer seems to have become full of travel plans already.

I have also wanted to do things in my back yard for the past couple of years. I want to make that yard a bit of a haven - maybe a place to meditate and just sit outside and relax in the sunshine during summer. I have either not had money or the time or energy to devote to doing something about it. I want to take care of that issue this summer. Dad wants to create another raised bed. We may start laying out an area to make a deck. We also need to redo the front walk and put down weed control stuff. I also want to work on mosaics to put back there.

I also decided that I want to work on my cancer book - I've thought about it for the past year or more and a couple of friends have wondered. I spent a couple of hours last night thinking about the things I wanted to say.

Next year, while I'm on disability, I would work on my other book manuscript for which I have a contract with OSU Press. It's about King Island and I've already reworked a couple of chapters. I need to update them, though, and that means going to Alaska to interview people. That will be easier if I don't have to worry about my other job duties and after I gain some strength. So that's the chore next year. I mean, it's not a chore as I want to do it. But my head isn't there this summer.

So, there you have it. Seems like a pretty full summer, huh?

Sleepless Nights are Conducive to Thinking and Making Decisions

I have been feeling generally sleep-deprived the last couple of days. Damn steroids. But the news that I can go off of them sooner rather than later - in less than two weeks - was very welcome news. The neurosurgeon allowed me to cut my dose from 4mg 4x/day (which he said was too much) to 4mg 3x/day. My fingers are still numb but I am steadier on my feet, so I made the decision to only take two doses a day until surgery.

Oh. I forgot to mention that surgery is Wednesday morning.

If my hand gets weaker and/or I feel unsteadier on my feet, I'll go back up to 3 doses. But I don't think I need it. I mean. It's only four more days until the sucker is taken out and I don't have to worry about swelling.

I slso decided to put off whole brain radiation for a couple of months - maybe to the end of summer. That is now a prophylactic treatment - to prevent regrowth. But I plan to ask Dr. K to put me on Tykerb again which is a drug like Herceptin but is a small enough molecule to cross the blood-brain barrier. If I can start taking that within a couple of weeks of surgery, I will have some preventive measures to keep any more brain tumors from growing. Tykerb is easier on my constitution.

I made this decision because I want to get stronger this summer. I feel like it was a long long winter and spring - I was tired a lot with that damn tumor under my armpit. It's gone and with no lymph nodes or lymph system, I presume that there will be no further cancer growth there. Chemotherapy last fall through January made me tired and by the time I had surgery, I really had no reserves to fight the infection. I am still recovering from the April 1 surgery and now I am 8-days post brain surgery and am contemplating another surgery in 4 days. I am bouncing back from these last two surgeries faster (which seems strange that you'd bounce back quicker from a brain surgery but there you have it).

I just want to spend the summer having fun, resting, and gaining strength. If I go on Tykerb, it can perhaps help with the tumor on the chest and it will protect my brain. If I can avoid the heavier-duty chemo (although Dr. K won't like that idea), I will get stronger faster. Radiation creates fatigue, but if I can delay that for a few months, I will get stronger faster. Tykerb would give me the same result, I think, that radiation would in terms of protecting my brain. If they press, I will consider radiation in late summer/early fall. That is soon enough, I think.

Doing this, going on Tykerb in addition to the Herceptin and Zometa I already get, will help me gain strength. That tumor on my chest didn't grow while I was Tykerb. I want to get back to "normal". I want to travel locally this summer, visit people, have fun. I am in a much better position to do that if I can delay radiation and heavy-duty chemo. Like I said earlier, I'm not convinced that heavier duty chemo is the way to go. I will, however, consider both if there any indications that the cancer keeps progressing this summer. But I don't think it will if I go on Tykerb.

I also decided the night before last that I will probably go on long-term disability this next school year. As I tried to go to sleep, I had morbid thoughts about not being around and concluded that life was too short to stress about work. I really want to spend the next year figuring out a treatment regimen (both western and alternative forms) that will get me into stable disease status. I felt like this last year and a half, I have been doing a half-ass job at work and a half-ass job at healing. Knowing I couldn't put my full energy into either made me feel conflicted all the time, worried about inconveniencing my colleagues, worried I wasn't doing enough for my health, and not having any energy. It's time to devote myself to healing and to let my colleagues get someone in there who can take over my duties so they don't have to wonder and I don't have to worry. At this point, I figure it will be the whole year. This will allow me to really consider a wide variety of options and being proactive instead of reactive with my treatment. I want to develop a range of spiritual and medical practices that will allow me to reach stable disease status. I can only do that if I don't have to worry about work.

When I reached that decision, I smiled and felt some measure of peace, even if I couldn't sleep.

So, that's the plan, man. I'm gonna try to start Tykerb within a couple of weeks of surgery. I will delay radiation until later this summer after I gain strength. I will continue with Herceptin and Zometa and will continue with my turmeric/mushroom paste on the skin tumor. I will gain strength and contemplate the things I can do to reach stable disease. : ) Sounds like a good summer, eh?

Friday, May 27, 2011

Wow - Things Happened Fast

I saw the neurosurgeon today to take out the staples. One thing I asked was about how soon I might be able to have surgery to take the tumor off my chest and what might delay that.

The answer is that radiation delays it.

Then he said that I do have another option to radiation - another surgery to remove that second tumor that is near the top center of my head.

Wow. I didn't see that coming. I wondered if it was operable and why no one ever mentioned it. I guess I didn't ask the right people or even think to ask.

He can do the surgery next week.

I am going to go ahead and get rid of the damn thing. Then I know it's gone. With radiation, we'd have to wait 2+ months to see if it worked. Surgery would let me know almost immediately if they got it all. Then radiation would be a precaution to prevent more growth rather than a necessity to kill what's there.

Wow. My head is still spinning.

But if I get it done next week, then we can contemplate next steps that much sooner, rather than "waiting and seeing". I like that idea. I also get off the steroids and anti-seizure meds sooner, which means I sleep and eat better. I can get back to "normal" sooner rather than later. Also, getting off steroids means wounds heal faster. I can probably get off steroids within a week after this surgery - otherwise, I was looking at another 6 weeks. I already feel better knowing that I will be getting better rest sooner rather than later.

Surgery is scheduled for Wednesday June 1. That will be surgery #3 in two months - April 1, May 20, and June 1. I will be home next Friday, June 3.


In the meantime, the wound in my armpit is slowly healing. In fact the largest area that needs skin to grow was 6x8cm (about) on Tuesday and seems to be about 5x4cm today. I even looked at it for the first time in a long time and wasn't traumatized. I think I can even begin changing my own dressing. It's been a long 8 weeks since that surgery happened.

As for the tumor on my chest, I made a paste or concoction using turmeric, my five mushroom blend herb (3 with anticancer properties), and melatonin. I've put it on the last two mornings. When I changed the dressing this morning, the area seemed better. Healthier. Not so raw. Let's hope the anticancer properties in the concoction start shrinking that lump as chemo will have difficulty getting to that area from below because of how badly scarred that tissue is from surgery and radiation. Maybe this topical treatment will take care of things while we take care of the brain issue.


Thursday, May 26, 2011

CEA Result - and a nice visit with my godparents

I just got my new CEA result - updated from 3+ weeks ago. It was 12.4. It was 5.4 (or 5.6?) at the beginning of the month.

So, that indicates the remaining brain tumor. But my inquiring mind wants to know how long those tumors were growing - because in theory, when my CEA was 41 or higher, the tumors could've been there. But then it fell to 5 after surgery after the majority of what active cancer was in my body was taken out with the April 1 surgery. Or maybe the brain tumors weren't there until I stopped targeted treatments and Chinese herbs prior to surgery and they grew rather quickly because I didn't take them for a few weeks because I felt so tired and fatigued. If the tumors weren't there before surgery and started growing in late April, they grew fast. That's a disturbing thought. So, I don't know how long they've been there or if stopping targeted treatments and herbs caused the brain tumor growth. I just don't know and that bothers me.

The CEA may go up briefly, too, as I get radiation as that indicates rapid cancer cell death. And, maybe the 12.4 is an indication of some of that rapid cancer cell death after the first whole brain radiation treatment. I already have a little less weakness in my hand and I'm steadier on my feet so that tells me that some of the swelling has decreased in my brain - partly attributed to the steroids but I can also say that radiation helped.

The bottom line is that we really don't know. Joanna, in a comment to my earlier post, said that my life is better because I choose not to worry about things I can't change. She hit the nail on the head. I can't change that fact. I can only change how I keep the damn stuff from continuing to grow. And, that is worth more of my brain cells than worrying about why it all happened or how long things have been growing or what I did wrong. Who really knows? But I can do something for the future. : )

My godparents came down from north-central Washington yesterday and got in a bit late, but we visited for an hour before I went to bed. They hung around for most of the day before heading back up to Portland, where their son was at a meeting. It is a good 9-10 hour drive and luckily they are retired. I couldn't believe they made the trip, but when I asked why, they said it was because they've learned that if they have time, they need to make the effort to see people because you never know when another chance may show up. It's very very true. No time like the present, eh? I think we're going to go plan to visit them in August, after my son returns from his trip back East. They have the Omak Stampede and that might be a fun time to visit and see people I haven't seen in many many years.

I feel very very fortunate to be surrounded by so many good people. It touches me more than you can know. Thank you!

P.S. Why I Can Play This Summer

Another thing I am thankful for - my state benefits for work that will allow me to play this summer.

I will get short term disability checks that, I think, won't be much of a decrease in my pay. I worked enough in May and the whole year that my benefits are paid through the summer.

In other words, I will be okay financially with a little extra cash to play.

So, as I said, life is good. It would be worse if I had to worry about money. But I don't. And, for that, I am thankful!

Should I Be More Worried? OR the Power of Positive Energy

When I got the news last Wed night that the MRI showed two brain tumors, I wasn't too upset. My family was much more upset and I cried because they were crying but not because I was devastated at the news. I know it's serious, but I am still not really devastated or even worried. I am more worried that I need to be worried about this setback than about the setback itself.

So, as the steroids keep me awake at night, I have been trying to figure out what I think about the whole situation.

I keep thinking that it could be much worse. Surgery was successful. I am on steroids that interrupt sleep and mess up my stomach but the weakness and numbness in my hand and arm are dissipating. I hardly have any pain. The acid reflux pills help. I rest as much as I can. I have a plan for treatment in the next weeks that should take care of that pesky brain tumor. We will work on a maintenance plan to keep it from coming back afterwards.

I have a plan for the tumor in my chest. My wound under my armpit is still healing - the skin is still growing over the lat flap. There was a 6x8cm open spot and I think it was a 2x1 and another 2x1cm spot.

I start PT next week for the lymphedema in my upper left arm.

I decided the brain tumors were a wake-up call - I had been really fixated on the damn wound and satellite lesions (about 18x12cm right before surgery) in my armpit prior to the April 1 surgery and I hoped that after that surgery, I could enter into stable disease status. But the brain tumors might be telling me that I can't be too complacent about how I approach my treatment and my healing.

I am not convinced, however, that heavier duty chemotherapy will be the ticket. I read other bloggers who have gone that route - they've lost some quality of life and yet their disease still progresses.

To me, that means that I need to figure out ways to approach my treatment that are more humane to my body. I've been doing a lot of reading on EAstern philosophies and healing traditions and want to bring more of them into what I do. I have friends who pass me on information on that and I see my acupuncturist. I think I will dedicate my summer to exploring these kinds of both spiritual and physical actions more as I think I will live longer that way.

The brain tumors have also really given me permission to just forget about work. The stressful part of work. The only kind of "work" I want to do is the fun stuff - learning about people and why they do what they do, which is why I got into anthropology in the first place. My whole plan this summer is to putz around at home, work on mosaics, maybe plan yard projects, go to the Coast, stay in a treehouse. Fun stuff. Life is too short is get caught up in the drama and politics of work.

So, in the end, I guess that's why I am not more worried about the brain tumors. Things could be worse. I could either spend my time depressed and worried and sad or I could just see this as an opportunity to make sure I make the most out of my life, enjoy myself, enjoy my friends and family, spread joy, be creative, be thankful, and count my blessings. Laugh. That is a choice one can make. I choose to focus on the positive. And, life is still good!

I also think that the continued good energy, positive vibes, prayers, blessings, and whatever else is coming my way also help me a lot. And, for that I am always thankful!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Hmmm . . . Kinda Nice to be on Disability!

The last couple of days, the reality of not having to work is starting to set in. I'm starting to think about what I can do. I don't feel much like reading and I've sorta had my fill of TV the last couple of months. So, my head is turning to home projects.

I've had some shadow boxes that I wanted to do mosaics in. So, I might start contemplating potential designs today. Dad has some plans for the yard and I feel like I can spare some brain cells to helping him think that through. And, since I've spent so much time at home and/or in hospitals lately, I haven't been eating out at lunch so have saved up some money. Some of that needs to be set aside for household expenses as I ran out of sick leave and am on disability but I think I will have enough to get stuff for the yard.

I also have a plan for the tumor in my chest. That area has been radiated twice and there's been surgery so the blood and lymph system feeding the tissue is compromised. That means that chemo and the Chinese herbs I take can't make their way very efficiently (or apparently at all) to the area where the tumor is to kill the cancer cells. I decided last night the thing to do was to apply a topical ointment that could kill the cancer and heal the skin. (Cancer retards healing.) So, my plan is to take my Five Mushroom blend (three of the mushrooms have anti-cancer properties) and turmeric (effective against skin cancers) and make a salve or ointment using aloe vera gel. I will soak some drain sponges in the concoction and apply it new every day. That way, I will feel like I'm doing SOMETHING to take care of that damn tumor. We will see what happens and I will keep you posted.

My right arm is less shaky and weak today. That's a good sign. I also feel less shaky on my feet. So I think I'm on the mend - the steroids are apparently helping with the swelling. They just give me some tummy issues but I think it's being taken care of with the acid reducer tabs.

All in all, things are good. It's nice not to have to worry about work!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Visit with Dr. K and Random Thoughts

I had an appointment with Dr. K. He described my situation as "putting out fires". I can expect to be in real active treatment for six months. So, a couple of weeks after radiation, I will probably add a chemo to the mix to try to keep cancer from cropping up back in the brain.

And, while it's a serious thing that I developed brain tumors, I still don't feel too worried. I guess I still think that I will enter into a kind of stasis where there is no cancer progression but I can live a relatively normal life.

There is a chance that the brain tumors will come back. But we won't go there.

Maybe in July I can get this lump removed from my chest.

The weird thing about all of this is that I am more irritated and want something done about these damn wounds, the chest tumor, and the lymphedema. I would feel fairly normal if not for them. I guess that has something to do with how I look - I want to look normal even if everything isn't quite normal. I am more irritated about them than the brain tumors.

I have been watching lots of TV and see all these "normal" people and get a little envious since they aren't having to deal with what I deal with. But when I think about the people I know, I see them all dealing with something, so I've come to believe that "normality" is an illusion - or rather, that "normal" means that everyone has their cross to bear. I just don't happen to see it - we are so good at covering it up. I just can't cover up my "cross". And, that's okay.

I've gained a pound, I think, since Sunday. It's all the carbs I'm craving because of the acid reflux. Mom bought some acid reducer tabs for me today and they are already helping. Taking steroids in oral form can cause stomach ulcers/acid reflux. So, last night, my tummy was gurgly. I ate crackers and had a diet sierra mist through the night. But now it seems to be settling down.

Okay, I'm rambling. I'm gonna sign off because I'm tired. But I'm doing okay. Got some paperwork done today, recycled stuff I didn't need, took a tour in the yard to see the blooming flowers, so I feel like it was a productive day. I'm still shaky and weak but tonight, I feel like that's gonna improve. I am thinking hard about starting a mosaic. It's hard for me to read but I want to do something creative and productive. A mosaic just might be the ticket.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Whole Brain Radiation

So, today, we figured out the plan of action for the next few weeks. As you remember, I do still have a 2cm tumor near the front of the left side of my skull. Some of the swelling may be causing me to have some weakness on my right hand and arm - they feel weak and a bit shaky. I am still shaky on my feet but that may dissipate as I recover more from surgery.

I get the staples out of the incision on Friday. I will start (or restart) whole brain radiation beginning May 31, the day after Memorial Day. That should remove the 2cm tumor in my skull. I may experience more swelling (which would cause headaches and nausea) or it may actually decrease as the tumor shrinks and the swelling goes down. It all depends on how things go. I hope that I get through the radiation treatments with nothing more than fatigue.

Because I only had one radiation treatment, the radiation oncologist wants me to have 14 more sessions of daily radiation. That starts May 31 and will go to June 17. So, it looks like the next month, I will be resting, recovering from surgery and radiation, and just not doing much overall.

The wound in my armpit is healing and getting smaller. There isn't much drainage anymore, but will still have biweekly dressing changes for the next few weeks. Also, during surgery, the OR people did not protect the lump in my chest, so now the skin tissue there is degraded and draining a bit. I am not sure what we're going to do about tha damn thing, but I hope that Dr. F (the surgeon) can eventually take that lump off and patch over it with a skin graft.

I am always amazed that people keep telling me about my positive attitude. I guess I do work at cultivating one - part of my strategy is that I always figure there's someone else worse off than me. Yes, I have these brain tumors, but it looks like treatment will take care of those. I have the tumor on my chest, but we have a plan, of sorts, for that. Otherwise, it seems to me that the immunotherapy I had at UW last year is taking care of any advancement of cancer within my body. My liver and lungs are fine and I have sclerotic (i.e., scarred) lesions in my bone marrow, but not attached to my bones. The way I look at it is that I'm doing okay. I think there are things I can do to keep the cancer from coming back to my brain. We just need to get on a maintenance plan for the rest of my body. I fully expect to get through treatments and recover this summer and return to stregnth in the Fall. I'm not ready to kick the bucket yet.

I also think that my positive outlook is due to all of you out there praying for me, sending me positive energy and vibes and blessings. It buoys my spirits and keeps me smiling. Love to all of you!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Quic news

Remember the nausea and vomiting I thought was from Dilaudid? Turns out it was from 2 brain tumors. I have a 2cm one near the top of my head and another one that was removed this morning. I think it was also 2cm, but it caused a 4cm cyst to clog the vetricles. They started who,e brain radiation but the neurosurgeon caught the clog and cyst.

I am doing okay. The steroids make me euphoric - am feeling a little silly and would probably feel sillier if there wasn't News of brain tumors.

I Amin the hospital for q few no ore days. Hard to type with these damn linger fingernails! Once I get them cut, I will write a longer post!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Withdrawal Symptoms Suck

I am trying to wean myself off of Dilaudid, mostly because I don't really have much pain, only some muscles that keep wanting to tense up from my right shoulder blade, to my right shoulder, down my right arm, forearm, and hand, ending with tingling and numbness in the right hand.

The left surgical side hardly has any pain. So time to get off the Dilaudid. The nurse at Dr. F's (the local surgeon) feels that maybe I'm trying to do too much right now and maybe I shouldn't go off Dilaudid just yet. But I think it's time.

Since I started going to Dilaudid every 10-12 hours, I've had a headache. I also had a leg cramp in my lower right calf early Friday morning. I get hot flashes and woke up from one my cat naps last night sweating. I also got felt sick to my stomach after lunch - like right after it. We drove home from Portland and I felt sick the whole way. I came home and napped off and on for about an hour.

All but the headache are official symptoms of withdrawal, according to websites. But the plastic surgeon in Portland and the regular surgeon felt the headaches were Dilaudid withdrawal symptoms.

Dr. F's nurse suggested Valium to help with the right shoulder blade/shoulder pain. Then, a friend in Australia, V., also said Valium was used to help her wean from a pain medicine. So, I asked Dr. F and received a prescription for Valium last night. I just took the second dose. We'll see if it helps with the headache. It's okay if I don't move my head too fast. I am going to try to stay with Dilaudid every 12 hours for a day or two and then try to decrease it again.

In the meantime, I will make an appointment locally with my physical therapist about the lymphedema in the left arm. Dr. F wants to wait and see what happens with the lump on the breast bone for another couple of weeks, but if treatment doesn't shrink it, I will be looking at another surgery soon. Also, Dr. F will take out the catheter/port in my right arm since I don't really need it.

Dr. T at OHSU felt that the wound might have skin over it in another two weeks. The hypergranaulation, which occurs in several spots in the area, is causing the healing to go slower, but it's going. It even looks less red to me. I see the wound care nurse again this afternoon.

Today, I've got class and I will also meet with a candidate - right after lunch and for dinner. But I might have to skip dinner depending on how I feel.

Have a good day everyone.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

"'Cuz Two out of Three Ain't Bad"

The last few days, I've had a headache (from Friday evening to today, that extends from the back of my neck to my temples and on the top of my head). I've also had a leg cramp in my right calf early Friday morning. And, I've also had several hot flashes in the last few days.

When I looked up symptoms for Dilaudid withdrawal, I learned that leg cramps and hot flashes are common.

Two out of three ain't bad.

Not sure where the headache is coming from, but my guess it's part of the Dilaudid withdrawal. I'm trying to wean myself from them. I've gone from one every 4-6 hours early last week, to one Dilaudid every 6-8 hours on Tues/Wed, to one every 8-12 hours Thurs/Fri/Sat. I didn't mean to do 12, but that's what happens when it comes to sleep and the timing of when I take the Dilaudid.

The left arm/surgical side doesn't hurt much. Now the lymphedema hurts more - like a bruise. It's the right arm that bothers me, but it helps when I try to relax it. So, I think that I can get by with just the Tylenol and Ibuprofen. (I only take Ibuprofen once a day.) So, I will try to go to one every 10-12 hours and then stretch that so that it's one every 12-14 hours for a few days and then make it 1/2 every 12-14 hours and then do away, eventually, with the half a pill. We'll see.

Tomorrow, I head to Portland to see the plastic surgeon. Then I see the local surgeon in town.

I guess that means today, I need to grade papers, pay bills, and help Eddie. Yesterday was my day to be lazy. Today is my day to do some work. I feel like it, so I guess that's good!

I plan to keep weaning myself from the Dilaudid. I'll let you know how it goes.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Lazy Saturday

Today was a lazy day. I didn't change out of my jammies until noon. I watched movies this morning. I also had a headache - a slight one - that extended from my neck to my temples and up on top of my head. Even now, into evening, I can still feel the headache. Not sure why.

I also didn't go to Urgent Care to change my dressing - I think it can wait until morning. I will see when I change out of my shirt and see how much bleeding there was. It'll be the first time since I was in the hospital that I haven't had the dressing changed daily. That's a good sign, that things are healing and I don't need to change the dressing as often.

This morning, I said on Facebook that I needed to grade papers and pay bills. I also thought about cleaning my bathroom and washing my sheets. But in the end, I didn't do any of those things.

I did take Eddie to Wacky Bounce. It was tough until I could sit on the couch. It was a little uncomfortable in the tall stools. I am trying to keep my left arm elevated because of lymphedema.

After dinner, Eddie and I went to the park for about an hour. It was getting a little chilly and windy by then, but the fresh air did me good. I even forgot about the headache.

Now, I have a bit of a headache and I keep tensing my right arm. But it was a good lazy day. I guess that's okay since I only got about 7 hours sleep the last two nights. I nap a little in the evenings, too. But overall, I'm doing okay. I love lazy days.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Minor Issues

First, I want to say that I think I'm doing okay in the grand scheme of things. My tumor marker is low and most of the elevation is probably coming from the tumor on my breastbone. My energy is coming back (although I didn't feel like doing anything after wound care at 1:30).I am doing more or less normal activities (well, normal for me in the last year or so). Life is sorta getting back to normal.

There are some minor issues that I'm finally getting around to thinking about now that the major issue (the wound) is resolving. I'm still trying to grow skin over the flap. It's not going to be done by the time I see Dr. T. in Portland on Monday but because I know there is an end point in sight, I am continuing to deal with daily dressing changes. It is still bleeding, which then makes me wonder about my energy, so I will continue to rest and not push myself too hard.

The other issues are:
1) lymphedema in the left (surgery) arm. The swelling is mostly in my bicep and tricep area, but on Monday, I must've lowered my arm a lot because when I got home, I couldn't see my wrist bone and most of the bones in my left hand due to swelling. I've spent most of the last few days trying to keep that left arm elevated. Now I can see my wrist and even most of my elbow, although there is still swelling just below my elbow, too. I mist have to wear a sleeve.

2) the tumor on my breastbone. I could tell that it grew after surgery. I hope that Herceptin stopped the growth, but I still have about a 3-4 cm lump protruding from my upper chest. That lump seems to have gotten more purple and blue since Herceptin, which might be death? Either that or it's grown so much that it's bursting the skin at its seems and the skin is bruised in response. I hoped that it could wait until summer started, but maybe well have to do surgery to cut it out sooner rather than later.

3) the right shoulder/arm/hand pain. I am constantly telling myself to lower my right shoulder and relax it. I keep tensing it. I also find myself tensing that right hand. It's one reason why I'm not on the computer (blogging or facebook) as much because it irritates that right arm. Acupuncture the other day helped to relax it some and I'm trying to keep the effects of acupuncture (relaxation) more in play. I think it's better, but I still get numbness and tingling in my fingers.

4) the P.A.S. port in my right arm. The catheter seems to have moved around before and after surgery. There's a slight buckle in it, near the port, where the catheter makes a kind of "s" curve. I can also feel the end of it in my chest - all the skin around that area is tender. It feels swollen to me. And, while I can stretch my arm out horizontally, I can't stretch it out overhead because it starts hurting. I have a suspicion that things shifted somehow. I really want this port taken out. If it gets as painful in my next infusion as the last time, I will talk Dr. K into taking the damn thing out. I don't think I need it after all . . . I don't plan on having chemo again anytime soon. Just the targeted therapies (Herceptin and Zometa).

So, several issues related to my upper body. I hope to gradually work on each of them so they can resolve. : ) Happy Friday!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Transfusion Helped

As I mentioned in my last post, I had a transfusion on Friday. This past weekend and the last two days, I have noticed that it has definitely helped.

On Saturday, I was lazy through the morning, but after lunch, I went to urgent care for a dressing change and then my folks and I went shopping in Albany. I was specifically looking for button-up shirts since I can't lift my arm above my head and put on t-shirts. I still can't wear my zip-up hoodies either as the sleeves are too tight. We got home about dinner time and I managed to keep going through dinner. Then I rested.

On Sunday, after being lazy in the morning, I then ran errands to my office, then picked up Eddie at his dad's, then I went to Urgent Care, then Eddie and I went to the park before dinner, then I had dinner. Then I rested.

On Monday, I was busy from 8 in the morning until about 6:30pm (I worked for awhile, then wound care, then lunch, then met with my colleague K., then picked up Eddie, then did a presentation with K., then stayed around for the reception). I collapsed by then - I was really tired during the reception. The presentation did generate some interest with a few people, so I guess it was successful.

Today, I went to the office for a bit, then wound care, then my class for two hours, then lunch, answered some emails, then had a meeting, picked up Eddie, and from the afternoon until now, I've been sitting in the living room. This is partly because since I came home from the presentation yesterday, my whole left arm has been swollen with lymphedema. I've spent yesterday evening, through today and now this evening, I've been trying to keep my hand and forearm elevated so that the swelling can go down. My left bicep has been swollen since surgery. I figure that once the wound clears, then I'll worry about decreasing that swelling, but I might have to start wearing a sleeve or something before that.

So, even though I am tired now, I am glad that I can have more or less normal activities during the day. I'm happy about that. I am also able to walk up stairs or walk several blocks without losing my breath. Thank goodness for the transfusion.

It's now sunny out. It's supposed to be really sunny and warm tomorrow, with a temp of 70 predicted. Yay! Spring is finally here!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

CEA, Transfusion, and Right Shoulder/Arm Pain

I had Herceptin and Zometa on Friday morning and they took some blood for labs, to check my tumor marker, and my other metabolic and blood cell levels.

The good news is that my CEA was 5.4, down from 41.9 on March 8. 3.8 is considered normal. Yay! I'm glad it's that low and confirms my assertion that the tumor under my armpit was causing that number to be so high. (I do still have that tumor on my breastbone, which is one reason why I had Herceptin and Zometa. Maybe that will help lower the CEA even more?)

But my hemoglobin was 8.7 (normal is 11.5-13.5; some docs give a transfusion when it's under 8 and some under 9). They called my oncologist, who decided to give me a transfusion, for which I'm glad. My hematocrit was 26.3 and normal is 36. The nurses said that because I was symptomatic (shortness of breath, high pulse rate, fatigue), Dr. K ordered the transfusion. I think I also need energy to help heal the wound in my armpit.

So, I sat at Ambulatory Infusion for another 4-5 hours, first waiting for the blood and then getting it. That was really hard on me because I had a lot of pain in my right shoulder blade, up to my right shoulder, then my right elbow and down my forearm to my hand. It got so bad I was in tears. My right fingers were also tingly and numb. Dad brought up Dilaudid for me and the nurses gave me hot packs for the shoulder and the forearm.

I think that I am overcompensating with my right arm - doing more things with it since I am not able to stretch my left arm out yet because of surgery (and lymphedema). I also find myself automatically raising that shoulder even when sitting or standing, so I have to consciously keep telling myself to relax. I also think that keeping it more immobile while at Infusion contributed to the pain. Finally, I think having fluid going in the catheter up my arm also contributed. Yesterday, I had hardly any pain, but I moved around more. I went to wound care and then shopped for button up shirts in Albany. I had plenty of energy. Only once did my right shoulder/arm get painful. Yesterday evening, after laying down to rest some, I could feel some of the pain coming back. I'd left that right arm more immobile than earlier that day. So, I got up and did some simple arm exercises and tried to stretch out both arms. I found that I could stretch out my right arm as much as I wanted because the catheter is in that arm. I really think that has something to do with it. I wish I could get it taken out . . .

It was also tough because I feel like I'm failing somehow because I can't wean myself off the pain pills just yet. It's not because of the surgery site, but the right shoulder pain. Dilaudid helps relax that area. But the nurses assured me that it's okay - it's only been four weeks post-surgery. I also feel like it's taking me much longer to recover from this surgery. Next time I do it, I want to be much stronger physically.

The transfusion did help, though. I feel more energetic and I don't feel my heart racing as much as it did. So, that's a good thing. And, today is sunny. I see blue skies everywhere. It's supposed to be 70. I do need to do some work - grading papers and then preparing for a presentation tomorrow - and I'll pick up Eddie at his dad's house. I don't think I'll go to Urgent Care for a dressing change - I think yesterday's dressing can last a day because of how well the doctor wrapped it. And, besides, my lilacs are blooming!

Oh. I forgot. A colleague of mine gave me an orchid. It's really beautiful. Thank you, W.!

Here's the CEA history:
1/2008 - 1.2 ng/mL
3/2008 - 0.9 ng/mL
6/2008 - 1.0 ng/mL
8/2008 - 1.1 ng/mL (need to double check this number, but it was in that 0.9 to 1.2 range)
9/2008 - 0.5 ng/mL
10/2008 - 0.9 ng/mL
10/31/2008 - 1.2 ng/mL
11/28/2008 - 1.2 ng/mL
12/30/2008 - 1.1 ng/mL
3/2/2009 - 1.4 ng/mL
4/8/2009 - 1.6 ng/mL
5/5/2009 - 1.9 ng/mL
6/4/2009 - 3.0 ng/mL
7/2/2009 - 3.7 ng/mL
8/3/2009 - 4.2 ng/mL
8/31/2009 - 5.1 ng/mL
10/2/2009 - 5.7 ng/mL (or was it 5.8?)
11/2/2009 - 7.6 ng/mL
11/30/2009 - 10.5 ng/mL
12/28/2009 - 13.2 ng/mL
3/8/2010 - 22.9 ng/mL
4/22/2010 - 28.9 ng/mL
6/7/2010 - 46.3 ng/mL
7/19/2010 - 44.3 ng/mL
8/19/2010 - 50.9 ng/mL
10/05/2010 - 41.6 ng/mL
11/04/2010 - 7.1 ng/mL
12/03/2010 - 3.4 ng/mL
12/30/2010 - 17.1 ng/mL
1/28/2011 - 44.3 ng/mL
3/8/2011 - 41.9 ng/mL
4/29/2011 - 5.4 ng/mL

Happy May Day!