Thursday, March 31, 2011

COUNTDOWN - 10.5 hours . . .

and only one more dressing change!


I will have drains in for about 10 days (a major pain in the neck, but it goes with the territory). I will also have a catheter delivering a local anesthetic to the donor site (my lower left shoulder blade) for awhile. This will help me go off any pain meds sooner. I will also have a skin graft taken from my left thigh. So, I will likely be uncomfortable, but I know it gets better every day and that's a whole lot better than pain getting worse as it is now.

I'll see (i.e., well, you'll see my words) you all on the flip side!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Qigong, CT Scans, and Mood

As I mentioned in the post a couple of days ago, I am doing much better, emotionally and mentally. I attribute it to both qigong and the intentional breathing (breath in strength and energy, breathe out pain and sickness and worry).

White crane qigong is partially meant to dispel sadness. It helps your lungs move qi and it also gathers energy to your heart. I think that has really helped my mood. So, even though I had persistent pain yesterday (and it happened again this afternoon although not as bad even though I remembered the nerve pain pills), I could handle it easier. (At the moment, the back of my arm/shoulder is tingling.)

So, I'm good.

I also picked up a copy of my CT scan results. Other than the mass under my armpit and also the one on the right side of my breast bone, no new masses, stable disease in the bones, scarring in the lungs, and some cysts on my liver. I also just confirmed that I don't think the main artery supplying the latissimus muscle is not involved. I think I will have the easier surgery, but I haven't confirmed that with the plastic surgeon yet.

As for the breast bone mass, I don't think the immunotherapy can work on that area as well because the tissue has been compromised by two rounds of radiation. The tissue under my arm is compromised as well, so there's been growth there because the t-cells can't get in there to do their job. We will deal with that breast bone tumor later . . . I'm not too worried as it's growing much more slowly.

Here is a website for the lat flap for any inquiring minds:

Lat Flap

I will have a skin graft from my left thigh - I think that skin graft will cover the donor site, but don't quote me on that.

So, good news overall. Good mood. Good news on the CT scan.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Only a Few More Days

I try to be fairly consistent with pain meds - I alternate Tylenol with Gabapenten. I usually take the Tylenol in the early morning hours when I wake up (like around 4am). Then I take Gabapenten with breakfast, then after lunch, and then before bed because it makes me drowsy.

But today, I think I forgot the Gabapenten after lunch. I took Tylenol about 2:30, but by the time I picked up Eddie at 3pm, I kept getting this persistent *ZING* in the middle of the mas, pressure on the implant, a kind of burning/tenderness from the shoulder down the back of my arm, and the one satellite lesion that is just below the shoulder in the back was *ZINGING*, too. Everytime I leaned back, whether in the car or on my bed, it would hurt.

When the pain meds wear off, sometimes I can feel the heavy weight of the growth, just dragging down my whole shoulder.

Anyway, when the Tylenol still wasn't helping an hour after taking them, I decided to take another dose of Gabapenten and assume that I forgot to take it.

I'm back to feeling relatively pain-free. But man, the pain was intense. I had to beg out of a meeting this afternoon. I could just feel my face tighten with pain and I knew I'd be focused on that rather than the subject of the meeting.

Much Better This Morning

Even though I was tired last night, I couldn't get to sleep, so I finally got up and did a qigong form called "Great White Crane". It's to help your lung meridians but some of the movements mimic a crane taking a bath in the water or just walking through the water in joy.

Also, one of my blogging friends, Jeanne, said that she wishes she could help lighten my load somehow in one of her comments to my post about the wound. When I woke up at 4am, I remembered that comment and also a breathing exercise given to me back in 2002, the first time I went through treatments.

The trick is to breathe in strength and energy and breathe out the bad stuff. Bad emotions, etc.

So I did that at 4am for a few minutes. I imagined bringing in strength and energy with my in-breath and breathing weakness and pain out with my out-breathe.

And, ya know what? I feel better this morning. Better able to meet the challenges of the day. Better able to work and teach my first class.

That feels a whole lot better than the last few days. Thanks for jogging my memory on that one, Jeanne!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Near Tears - Need a Distraction

Near tears? Actually, when talking to my two grad students in the last couple of days, I've actually teared up, especially when they asked how I'm doing. One of them even told me today that I don't need to put a brave face on for her benefit!

But in truth, I put a brave face on because it makes me feel better. I'm tired of feeling sorry for myself.

I was feeling nauseous this morning - I took two of my nerve pain pills (which is allowable), but I found that it's too much for my system.

I am fatigued. I slept decently last night and so was able to operate fairly normally this morning. But by the time I got home, I felt tired. Work was a welcome distraction.

I still have a stuffy nose. And the pain pills wear off after a couple of hours or so.

My plan is to endure the next few days. I am trying to focus on the fact that by this time next week, I might be heading home. Surgery will be done with and I will no longer have a growth under my armpit.

My dad is also frustrated because he's not able to do much and when he does, he gets tired.

I think we both need to foci on what we can do, not on what we can't do, right dad?

Sunday, March 27, 2011

WARNING! Bitch Session

If you don't want to hear (i.e., "read") me bitch and complain, then this isn't a post for you. In fact, I'm already coming out the other side and am tired of the bitching and complaining that's been going on in my head. But I'm gonna bitch and complain anyway because it makes me happy to get it out of my system.

I am so very tired of this wound and growth. It is consistently leaking out - I wake up i the morning, and the dressing is leaking somewhere. The other day it was all over the back of my shoulder. This morning, it was dripping out below. When I woke up at 4:30am (when I took some Tylenol), I put a washcloth there under my arm to catch the drips. It was wet and my pajama shirt was wet, too. It makes me feel ugly.

I'm also tired of the pain. There's both nerve pain and other general pain, including on the implant. The growth is pressing on my implant and I feel pressure there. I can see a couple of veins on the implant, which I assume arose because of the pressure.

Also, last night, the damn thing started bleeding a lot. It was bleeding on the underside of the muffin top, where I had been packing the underside with an AMD drain sponge to catch fluid. I guess the tissue under there degraded enough and it started bleeding. I luckily have this powder that I can put on the bleeding part which forms a layer - it's like it clots the blood and creates a boundary so that the wound won't bleed. I thought I had covered enough of it so I started putting on the rest of the dressing and when I looked a few minutes later, I found that I had dripped four drops of blood on my quilt. GRRRR!

The skin where I attach the clear transparent dressing (which is supposed to keep the fluid in) is getting pretty tender and sore from repeated adhesive on it. It's red, almost like a skinned knee.

I also ran out of this dressing called "Mepiplex Border Lite", which I put first on the wound. This dressing doesn't stick to the wound when you take it off. I called in a reoder on Thurs and hoped that it would get here yesterday, but it didn't. They don't carry this stuff in stores, so I need to get something else (probably Telfa) today. I hope it comes in tomorrow.

To sum up, then, I cannot wait for surgery. Seven months of dressing changes and pain is more than enough. Countdown - 5 days and 9 or 10 dressing changes!!!!!!!!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Nitty Gritty Work

I am such a procrastinator, especially when it comes to the kind of work I need to do before surgery.

Today, I wrote my syllabus. It is hard to foresee how everything will come together. I think I finished most of it, but now it is the nitty gritty details. Did I remember all the readings? Did I put the due dates for the assignments? Are the .PDF readings uploaded into Blackboard? I also need to proofread what I have and edit it. Did I include all the assignments? Are the guest lectures on the schedule? Etc. Etc. Etc.

I also need to score candidates for a job search committee that I am on. I have 13 applications to screen and I need to make some determinations about whether or not candidates met the minimum criteria. And because of Affirmative Action, I need to be really clear about why a candidate did not meet a requirement.

I also need to address about 20 comments to a chapter I wrote. The comments are kinda detailed - some more than others - but it's boring work and I have been putting it off (in the name of spring break and/or more pressing tasks like the syllabus) for a couple of weeks.

Blah! Details details! Nitty gritty boring stuff.

This kinda work comes with the territory, though. People sometimes wonder that we are only in class 4-6 hours a week. The reason is that we are dealing with this kind of stuff. Plus imagine preparing for a 2- hour talk a couple of times a week. And committee meetings, writing up minutes and/ or figuring out what classes you will teach when. Then there is research, analysis of data, writing, finding money for new projects.

But enough complaining, huh? I get to decide what to do when. That's the beauty of the job!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

CT Scan this am

cT scans take a lot out of me. Not sure if it is the iodine contrast, the fact that I don't get breakfast until afterwards, or maybe I just didn't sleep well. I need to take it easy this pm.

Anyway, I will need to see if I can schedule appointments with Dr. K after a CT scan more often. He pulled it up as soon as I told him I had it. The good news ismthat it seems like the blood supply to the latisimus muscle does NOT have cancer involvement, so I will get the easier pedicle flap, which means the blood supply is still attached to the flap with reconstruction. It is a shorter surgery and a faster recovery time!

It was hard, though, to keep my left arm above my head because of the pain. I just tried to deep breath through the pain and when I felt myself stiffening up with the pain, I just tried to relax arm and shoulder muscles.

The other spots of cancer (sclerotic or scarred lesions - where there are calcium layers around clusters of cancer cells - in the bone marrow were stable and the tumor at the sternum) were stable. The lung was okay, we think.

Dr. K did say he isn't a big fan of surgery, but I just kept saying that I wanted this thing off/out of my body. I am so tired of changing wound dressings. I hope he understands that chemo wasn't controlling it.

Anyway, he is okay with the surgery and said he would trust the surgeons when they say that this is the right course of action.

I am so ready!

Countdown: 7.5 days and 15 dressing changes.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Appointments and Errands and Work Emails

I had three appointments today and then lunch with a friend and colleague.

The wound care nurse said that, under the circumstances, the wound and the growth are doing okay. The growth actually shrunk to about 17 x 13cm. She also said that, in her experience (and she hasn't had many patients with cancer), growths/wounds like this have very compromised tissue and it tends to bleed easily. It was bleeding awhile ago, but the powder seemed to keep it from bleeding. Lately, I've been using turmeric and she thinks that it is keeping it from getting infected and from bleeding. In other words, the wound/growth could be worse.

I also saw my acupuncturist and she treated me for the fatigue and anemia and pain in my armpit/shoulder mostly, but since I am also working to remove my ego from many sources of frustration and stress, she put in a couple of needles at "constitutional" (basic DNA level, which is pretty deep) points. What was interesting is that after she left so I can just sit there, one point, my third knuckle on my left hand, just started throbbing. That's the San Gao 4 point, which has to do with my essential self. The funny thing is that there was no needle there. She thought the fact that point was reacting was a good sign that energy was moving to that area to help my body remember my basic DNA (I think), which cancer has hi-jacked. The idea, I think, is for my body to remember my essential constitution (i.e., pre-cancer) and recreate that. So, I had a reaction that she considered a positive step toward my healing.

Lunch with my colleague and friend, K., was fun. I think we're going to put in a pre-proposal with another colleague to continue some work in Alaska. There's some good positive energy there, which was really cool. My issue is that the pre-proposal is a quick turn-around. We have to submit a 4-pager by April 6 and my surgery is April 1. So, I need to work on as much as I can before my surgery. And, that's on top of edits to an article, my syllabus, figuring out Dropbox, etc. K. and I also had to do a little debriefing from our Hawaii workshop.

Then, it was off to my teeth cleaning. I hate getting my teeth cleaned. But Monday evening, one of my crowns started aching a little. But she didn't see anything of concern. It just might be bruised from chewing a lot of gum or something. And, amazingly, the teeth cleaning was fairly easy and gentle. Usually, I feel like she's poking my gums something awful.

Eddie and I also ran a couple of errands. He started rereading the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books, so we got the last two in the series. He's going through one of those books a day.

Now, I'm just trying to get caught up with work emails. Man, they keep piling up.

Tonight, I'm just gonna watch reruns on TV. And, work a little on my syllabus.

I am enjoying watching things bloom and bud. But it feels like an awfully cool spring to date.

Countdown: 8.5 days and 17 dressings changes to go.

A Good Couple of Days

On Sunday, I used a LePatisserie gift certificate, given to me by a friend and colleague, to buy some yummy treats that I (and my family) snacked on all day. We had a croissant, an almond croissant, a "ganache", and a mixed fruit tart. YUM! I think the sugar, though, woke me up every couple of hours that night. Most of the day was spent doing a little cleaning around my room (filing away papers) and I ran some errands with mom. Plus, I watched some Harry Potter movies.

On Monday, I had to go to a faculty meeting (goodbye winter fellowship! I'm so sorry to see you go!). That signals the loss of freedom as I will be expected to do more service around the department again. Some members of the department spent the first 45 minutes complaining. I wont' say about what; suffice it to say that I think it's a moot point and is not something I want to waste any energy on. We finally got to the business at hand after that.

Then I took Eddie and his classmate to Putters Family Entertainment in Eugene so they could play laser tag. The boys also played in the Arcde and they played mini-golf. I think they had a great time.

Yesterday, Eddie, a friend of mine and her corgi, and I went to Lincoln City. We stopped and walked on the beach in Newport (just a few minutes as it was sprinkling) and then had lunch. Then off to Chinook Winds Arcade, where Eddie played in the Arcade again. He asked to go to their day care center while my friend and I went to the outlet mall (found four shirts, a hood, and a pair of khaki cargo pants for dad for $40). We then had time to spend about 30 minutes at the casino. After that, we went to the beach at Road's End and other than a slight breeze, it was beautiful. The sun was shining through some high clouds and the tide was high. We had a nice short walk, then we stopped at McMenamin's Lighthouse Brewpub and had ice cream - Eddie had a vanilla milkshake and my friend and I had marionberry crumble with ice crea. The dessert was everything I shouldn't eat (other than the berries), but I figured I was on vacation. We got home about 7pm. I was tired, but pleasantly so.

Today - appointments. Wound care nurse, acupuncture, and a teeth cleaning. Also lunch with a colleague and friend. I need to pick up some stuff at work and then I'll take Eddie to Wacky Bounce, where I'll work on my spring term syllabus.

Tomorrow - a CT scan and a visit with my oncologist. Then, work. Maybe bring Ed to Wacky Bounce again.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Spring Break Plans

Yesterday, I worked on edits for an article in my office. (Eddie is at his dad's house this weekend.) Then I treated myself by driving to Spirit Mountain Casino and playing for a few hours. In the end, after about 4 hours of play, I broke even. AT one point, I was $30 up. It was fun just being on my own.

Today, I need to do some work around the house. Laundry. Filing papers. Dust my room. Mop the spare bathroom. Clean the big bathroom. Maybe take some stuff to Goodwill, in the ongoing mission to declutter the house. Eddie comes home around 6pm.

Tomorrow, I will take Eddie and a classmate to laser tag in Eugene.

Tuesday, it looks like Eddie and I might go to the Coast with a friend and her dog (Eddie really likes this dog).

Wednesday, I have three appointments and lunch with a colleague.

Thursday, I have a CT scan and an appointment with my oncologist.

Friday, I may take Eddie to Portland to OMSI - and then later on, pick up a friend from the airport. I may wait and take Eddie to Portland the next day or the day after. We'll have to see how things work out.

I plan to work as much rest in there as possible. I also need to work on a syllabus for my Spring Term class, Research Design. And, figure out how to use Dropbox.

A busy but fun week is emerging.

Countdown: 12 days and 24 dressing changes - 23 after I shower this morning. Surgery will be so welcome. No matter how I do the dressing, it leaks out somewhere. The damn thing is draining so much. I might have to go to three dressing changes a day.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Pre-Op Visit

I went to Portland today to see the plastic surgeon and to get some blood drawn.

But I took the long way to Portland - and it was longer than expected. I decided to do a quick visit to Spirit Mountain Casino - and at one point, I was $20 up. I ended up $5 to the positive before leaving to Portland.

Unfortunately, I left a little too late, maybe 15 min. late.

Then, I didn't catch the sign that said that I should go straight to stay on Hwy. 18 so instead I ended up heading south on Hwy 22, so after I discovered that, I tried to get an alternate route and ended up driving Hwy 99W all the way to Tigard - stopping at all the towns along the way!

Then, once I got to I-5, I ran into traffic. A big semi broke down.

I was a full 45 min late. Luckily, her office didn't mind, but it did mean that I waited an additional 90 min to talk to her. My own appointment was about 30-40 min all together.

Then it was time to go to get the labs drawn. I finished my day there around 3:50pm.

So, with the plastic surgeon, I found out some things to expect:

1) Dr. T thinks she can do a pedicule flap (one in which the muscle stays attached to its blood supply) which is a simpler procedure. She wants to use my latissimus muscle, but in case the blood vessel for it has cancer and needs to be severed, she will have to use my pectoral muscle.

2) Patients who do this surgery tend to experience a little more pain than those with a TRAM flap - for that reason, she puts a catheter in which will allow the nurses to administer a novocaine-like anesthetic. This will also allow me to get off pain meds sooner rather than later. I like that idea.

3) I will lose the implant, which I expected.

4) The surgery to remove the diseased tissue will take 2-3 hours; Dr. T says that her part will take 4-6 hours. If there isn't a viable blood supply for the pedicule flap, she will have to do a free flap procedure, which involves micro-surgery to connect the blood vessels. This will take an additional 1-2 hours.

5) Dr. T will need to do a skin graft. She will take it from my upper thigh and I can expect pain - the kind you get from a skinned knee.

6) If I have a pedicule flap, I will probably stay in the hospital three or four nights. If it's a free flap, since there is always danger that the blood supply to the flap will fail, so I will be in the hospital 4-6 days so the nurses can keep an eye on the flap to make sure it's okay.

7) If I have a pedicule flap, then I may be feeling strong enough to go to a conference in Vegas three weeks later. If it's a free flap, the recovery time is longer.

8) Dr. T felt that my "muffin top" may be happening because the growth has outstripped its blood supply so it is starting to atrophy.

At the lab, the only thing that ws interesting was that my heart rate was high (about 92, which is about 20 beats higher than usual). This was after I walked from the Tram about 1.5 blocks to the lab, which had a slight uphill. When I mentioned that I was anemic (9.5 for the hemoglobin), she thought that that was why, because I also had shortness of breath. I may have also been slightly dehydrated, since I hadn't had much water to drink beforehand, waiting in the exam room for the plastic surgeon. This also explains my fatigue. At any rate, I need to try to increase my hemoglobin as much as possible.

I got home about 6pm and with the time change, it was still light out. Yay!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

A Muffin Top

I am proposing a third definition of "muffin top". The first is the real thing - a muffin in which the top spills over the cupcake cup.

The second is also sometimes referred to as love handles - the part of your stomach and sides that hangs out over your pants when you gain weight.

The third is what my wound care nurse and I saw yesterday in my armpit.

Yes, the growth in my armpit is starting to look a bit like a muffin top.

About 11 days ago, I started putting turmeric spice on my dressings so that the growth/wound always has the spice (which has anti-cancerous properties) on it.

I also had a Herceptin treatment.

Now, remember that I have tended to think that the immunotherapy (t-cell therapy) and the Herceptin is effective against the cancer in my body. I also said once or twice that I sometimes imagine that my body is pushing the cancer out of my body, through the wound in my armpit.

Who knows, really, if the turmeric is working in the wound - although it hasn't grown as much in the last week as the previous two (was it the Herceptin, too?). But since I started using it and since the Herceptin treatment last week, the growth is starting to pull away from the skin in a few spots. In other words, the growth appears to be the muffin top that is spilling over, creating a bit of a crevice underneath it. In other words, there is space between the growth and my skin underneath it a couple of places.

My wound care nurse, L., was a bit excited. She said she's used to seeing the cancerous tissue create a bit of mountain, with the slopes of the mountain going down to the skin.

I think, in other words, that my body is starting to squeeze the growth out of my body. Imagine taking a muffin and squeezing the muffin cup (i.e., the bottom part) and having the muffin squish out the top. By cutting off the growth about my skin level, it's making it easier for the surgeon to cut out the growth.

I'm going to start visualizing that every day before surgery: my body pushing out the cancer so the surgeon can get to it and get rid of it. I'm imagining that there's good tissue underneath it.

I go to Portland tomorrow to see the plastic surgeon and to do labs. I'll know more about how long I'll be in the hospital and what to expect afterwards.

Countdown - 15.5 days and 33 dressing changes.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Countdown to Surgery - 16 1/2 days

. . . and 34 more dressing changes!

Can you tell? I'm looking forward to this upcoming surgery!

: )

I'm blaming chemo and getting older!! LOL

I am tired today. I guess I walked a lot. But I woke up three times last night (my norm lately is only 1 - a HUGE improvement).

I spent late afternoon and into the evening hanging out with a colleague and my grad research assistant. My colleague, T., was in town from Oxford (I visited him at a symposium in August 2009) and we had to talk about our project on ANCSA. I was supposed to meet him and another colleague at the Society for Human Ecology conference in Las Vegas in April, but the conference happens just three weeks post-surgery, so I can't make it. I'm going to send my research assistant to give my paper for me.

Anyway, we had dinner - and I had 2 microbrews - but I was home by about 7:30pm or so.

This afternoon, another friend called me to ask a favor. He asked how I was doing and I replied that I was tired because I was "out late last night"!!

He then asked, "How late?" and I said, "8:00pm". He just chuckled and said, "8pm is late for you!"

Why, yes. It is!!

Sheesh. I'm getting older!! But I think I can also blame chemo, eh? LOL

Monday, March 14, 2011

YAY! Surgery is April 1!

Yay! OHSU was able to move my surgery up to April 1.


No more skin wound.

No more growth.

And, here's hoping that the cancer is contained inside me with the current regimen. Time will tell!

YAY! The countdown begins! 18 days and counting!


Sunday, March 13, 2011

Would Like to do Something for Spring Break . . .

It seems a shame that I haven't planned anything for spring break. I thought I would be recovering from surgery, so I didn't make plans. But now the itch is there to go somewhere, at least for a night.

But, in reality, I shouldn't spend the money to go somewhere. There will be other expenses coming up with my surgery, I'm sure.

But still . . . hmmm. Maybe I can stay with a friend somewhere fun . . .

I also need to make sure that someone is around to care for mom and dad.

And, I worry a little about the pain in my armpit/shoulder. But then again, I shouldn't let that stop me from doing something fun!

Revisiting Herceptin Side Effects

I love having this blog. Occasionally, I will use the "Labels" in order to look up some topic that I've written about before. I decided to see how Herceptin affected me 14 months ago, when I first started taking it.

Fatigue - check

But also, there was a post from a year ago where it said that after a few days, I begin to get really hungry and want to eat a lot. I figured my body wants the energy in order to remove the dead cancer cells from Herceptin as well as to heal.

Great Appetite - check

No word yet from OHSU. Still no official date for my surgery. I'm not going to fret . . . it will happen when it happens. I want it to happen sooner, of course, due to the pain, but I think I'm getting a good system for pain relief going.

Have a great week everyone!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Dad's Home . . . and Fatigue . . . and Flexible Spending Accounts

Dad came home yesterday afternoon. She is finally eating more solid foods and we are all working to figure out our new roles in the household. I expect we'll continue to settle into these new roles for awhile.

I have also been experiencing fatigue in the late afternoons and evenings. I still manage to get out and about sometimes, but I'm really just gonna try to sit and relax as much as possible.

I also signed up for a healthcare flexible spending account and while I occasionally have issues with insurance reimbursements (taking sometimes over two months to get reimbursed for acupuncture) and with the billing department at the hospital or the clinic, I must say working with ASI Flex has been a real pleasure. They are prompt with the processing and reimbursement of my claims. I filed a claim on Sunday evening and was reimbursed by Thursday. A heck of a lot better than 2+ months for insurance reimbursements. The flexible spending account also allows me to claim up to the amount I contribute over the year, even if I haven't paid the full amount into the account yet. So, for instance, if I have $1000 taken out of my check over 12 months, I can claim the whole $1000 in January if I want to. What this means is that at the beginning of each calendar year, I have a $1,000 out of pocket maximum. That often means that I will get a bill from the hospital for about $1000 in March - so while I haven't paid that much in yet, I can still claim it and pay the bill. This week, I got the reimbursement before the bill was due, so now I have the cash to pay it. Whew! The money they take out of my check is also pre-tax dollars, so it lowers my total tax bill.

It's always nice to end on a positive note, eh? : )

Thursday, March 10, 2011

CEA Results

The other day, they did blood work right before my Herceptin treatment. For the most part, other than being anemic (hemoglobin was 9.5, normal is 11.5), everything was normal.

Kinda nice to have some things normal. Let's just revel in that for a moment . . .

Okay, so now for the CEA - it was 41.9 (41.something?), down from 44.9 on Jan 28. So, while it's still high, for me, it isn't much higher than about 5 or 6 weeks ago. I attribute most of that to what's going on in my armpit.

Anyway, here's the 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

Downward is good, eh? At least, it's not up!

Thankful for Family and Friends

With everything going on with my dad (who received a the permanent pacemaker yesterday evening), I must report that I'm thankful that my siblings have taken on a bigger role in taking care of my parents. That's a good thing since I'm still anemic and get tired in the evenings.

I've also stayed busy hanging out with friends and family.

On Monday, I had lunch compliments of the colleague whose class I taught in - thanks, M., for lunch!

On Tuesday, I had lunch at the hospital while I was getting my infusion, but it wasn't enough so then I had lunch at McMenamin's (no, O'Callahans, no, McGillicuddy's, no O'Flanahan's; LOL, Reen!) with my sister, who bought lunch for me! Thanks, Reen!

I was going to go visit dad Tuesday evening, but my godmother (my godparents arrived yesterday after a bowling tournament in Reno so they could visit Dad) told me I looked tired and should stay home. So, I did. I still paid bills, though.

On Wednesday, I had acupuncture, then lunch with a friend from high school (Thanks, L., it was fun getting caught up!). I was pretty tired after school and into the evening. I still had dinner with another friend, B., at McGrath's. Yummy!

Today, I met with Dr. K., who agreed that I shouldn't wait until April 22nd for surgery. So, he was able to get hold of the surgeon at OHSU, who reported that he was trying to find a different plastic surgeon who could get me in sooner. In the meantime, I've been putting turmeric spice on the dressing and, while I have no empirical evidence, I tend to think it's helping to slow the growth of the damn thing under my armpit.

I also broke part of a tooth under a filling a few weeks ago, so I finally got into the dentist today (canceled last week because I had a fever). The decay was further back than expected, so they may have gotten close to a nerve. Because I'm on Zometa, it's very difficult to do root canals or extractions as the bone doesn't heal. We don't want to have to go that far, so we really have to watch my teeth for signs of decay to make sure it doesn't get far enough to need a root canal or extraction.

This evening, I'm having dinner with a grad student whose been working for me. That'll be fun to get caught up.

In the meantime, my dad is due to come home this afternoon. My colleague, K., offered to let us use her recliner for awhile, while dad recuperates. (Thanks, K.!! It is much appreciated.) My brothers made room for the recliner by taking apart the futon couch - we put the mattress under Eddie's loft bed and the frame is out in the garage. (Sheesh, someday, I would love either more storage space or to do another decluttering effort.)

Tomorrow, I meet with another grad student who works for me and will have lunch with a colleague about our spring term course.

So, life continues to be busy. I am thankful to family and friends - family for taking care of my folks, to friends for their company, and to colleagues for their ongoing support. Thank you!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Would any of my Her-2 positive readers like a little VIAGRA? LOL

One of the other blogs I read, written by Ann, had the following post about Herceptin, a treatment for Her-2 positive breast cancer. Ann had quite a humorous take on this actual research study . . .

Viagra for Cancer

Enjoy! Thanks, Ann.

This was even funnier today as Herceptin was infused into my veins!!! : )

Monday, March 7, 2011

Presentation at Work Went Well

My colleague, K., and I presented a preliminary paper on Birds of King Island today for a class on campus. We'd gone to a cabin in the woods a week or so ago, which gave me time to begin doing background research on the topic.

It's been actually pleasant (maybe even fun) to go through and read old ethnographic notes and reports on Iñupiat culture and particularly bird symbolism, art, and folklore. Reminds me of one of the reasons why I love my work! It was fun putting together the slides and finding some good images.

I think that the presentation went fairly well today. I think most of the students enjoyed it, although I saw a couple napping off to the side.

My colleague, K., had already done a lot of work on the powerpoint, so my own work was fairly easy to pull together. Thanks, K.!!!

I'm tired, though. There's a big outlay of energy for that kind of work. I also didn't sleep long enough this morning. I also think the pain takes a lot out of me. I felt fine during the presentation as I had Tylenol 90 min before and the gabapentin (i.e., neurontin) about 30 min prior. But it's been hard this evening as the meds wore off.

A good day.

P.S. Dad got a temporary pacemaker today. He had a couple of episodes last night and then again after mom left this afternoon -the ones this afternoon were bad enough that they decided not to wait. Afterwards, dad even had an appetite. So, progress!

Springtime in the Valley

I'm tired of bad news. So, I'm going to report on springtime sprouts:

I see more and more patches of daffodils blooming around town. Our own daffodils are slower to bloom as they are planted on the north side of our house. I see two blooms so far.

Lots of patches of crocuses, mostly purple and lavender, but also white and yellow here and there.

I saw a patch of dwarf irises on campus last week.

The lilac bush outside our dining room window has some new sprouts on it!

Yay! It's getting warmer! And, it's lighter later!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Increased Pain and Dad is Still in the Hospital

I've been getting increased pain and am trying to figure out the right dosing schedule to keep me relatively pain free. I take the gabapentin (generic neurotin) in the morning with breakfast then a few hours later, I'll take Tylenol, then gabapentin with lunch, then Tylenol, then I guess I took Tylenol in the evening since gabapentin makes me tired - so I'll take that right before bed and I end up sleeping really well.

I think I may have mentioned that OHSU will not be able to get me in for a surgery until April 22. Since I think the lesions are continuing to grow, 7 weeks seems a long time to wait. So, I decided to try turmeric - I tore apart the capsule and am now sprinkling the spice on my dressing and putting it directly on the wound. I started it last night. We'll see if it makes a difference. I think it might be making it drain less, but I don't know that for sure.

Also, I may have caught some kind of respiratory infection - I seem to be coughing more but usually only after I eat any hint of sugar (even a clementine made me cough) or dairy.

As for my dad, she "crashed" on Friday night - her heart rate went really low (into the teens), so the "rapid response team" came into her room (all 6 of them) and worked on her. Good thing she hadn't come home yet since they could get help to her really fast. She also went low again last night with a heart rate in the 40s. She's also nauseous, probably from the antibiotic (Levaquin - which made me nauseous) and is back to not eating much. The docs decided to give her a permanent pacemaker, which we thought might happen tomorrow, but dad's white blood cell counts are high, so she may have an infection. If so, they don't want to operate until that's under control - they could infect the heart. They are taking blood cultures and doing other lab work to see if she has an infection. They won't know the results until Tues, which means the earliest she could get the pacemaker is Wednesday.

And, so we wait . . .

Friday, March 4, 2011

A Friday

I canceled my dental appointment today - figured if I'm fighting some infection, I shouldn't have dental work done.

I took Eddie to school. Then relaxed for a bit, took mom to the hospital, then went to my office to meet with a student. We had a great conversation - this is one of the reasons why I love my job.

But because I was still tired, I came home. Watched a movie. Tried to work on a syllabus, then picked Eddie up from school.

Relaxed some more. Worked a bit more on the syllabus.

Then, it was time to go to Eddie's school's auction. The food was good and got caught up on the latest with a couple of other moms. I helped a bit with data entry on the silent auction items, then I got tired when I finished that part, took Eddie and came home. Good thing, too, my dressing was just starting to leak.

Dad was supposed to come home today, but she had a bit of a panic attack and had some arrhythimia, so they decided to keep her until tomorrow.

I'm going to take Eddie to play laser tag tomorrow and we'll meet the son of another of the Puttin' on the Pink models. That will be fun. Other than that, pay bills, submit claims to the health care spending account, work on a syllabus, and work on a powerpoint for Monday's presentation.


Oh, I forgot. OHSU is not able to schedule the surgery until April 22nd. Something about how one of the docs didn't have an 8-hour block of time for the surgery. Which sucks because the mass under my armpit is growing slowly and causing some more pain. My brother accidentally bumped into my right shoulder yesterday - and his shoulder hit one of the growths. It hurt and now that particularly growth has like a black or dark purple bruise. In other words, the sooner I have surgery, the better.

I'm going to have a Herceptin treatment on Tuesday, but I'm thinking something more drastic is going to have to happen sooner rather than later.

Thursday, March 3, 2011


I felt chilled all day. I finally took my temperature and it was 100.0. Dangit! I don't know if it's a cold/flu virus (I have been coughing, but usually after having a little bit of dairy (butter on a bagel) or a bit of sugar. Maybe my wound is infected.

I also had a really bad charley horse last night in my left calf at 3:30am. I finally got back to sleep and when I woke up, my right foot (underneath) and calf were cramping up. Sheesh!

So, I tried to drink lots of water today. But just a few minutes ago, the top of my left foot started cramping. Luckily, my brother is a night owl so I sent him to the local 7-11 to get tonic water since everyone on facebook said that it helps. Thanks, Scott!

In the meantime, they decided that dad had a mild case of pneumonia. She had a bit of a temperature last night and then I guess they had to change her gown three times because she broke out in a sweat. So, they put her on antibiotics today and they have lowered the oxygen level. They also took out the pacer wires and did some kind of procedure where they thumped her back while she breathed into a tube. I think it was supposed to shake up her lungs. But it means that she won't come home for another couple of days. When I visited her, she was more animated, so that's good.

No word yet on when my own surgery may be.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Health Updates

I apologize for not posting more often. I've been busy as usual, but also tired.

Dad is still in the hospital, but now out of the ICU. She is walking farther and faster, which is good. However, they haven't been able to drain the fluid from her lungs because her blood is too thin. So, she can't take in a full breath and is still on oxygen. If they can drain the fluid from her lungs today, then she will probably come home on Friday. When she comes home, she may be on oxygen and use a walker, so we need to make the house somewhat handicapped accessible.

As for me, because the operating rooms at OHSU are in such demand and the surgeon and plastic surgeon are busy with surgeries, it looks like the earliest I'll get in for surgery is April 1. This is good because it will allow our family to adjust to having dad at home recuperating from such a major surgery.

This is bad, though, because I am getting increased pain. I mentioned how the upper back of my left arm is tender and sometimes tingly and numb to the surgeon and he mentioned that the cancer is probably in the nerve (or around the nerve?). In the last couple of days, I've also felt pain in the front of my arm/shoulder and extending down the underside of my arm. Also, I discovered the back of my hand is tender. Then, when I raise my arm level, then flex my hand down, I can feel a tightness (cording?) in the muscles or nerves on the back of my forearm and ending in that tender spot on the back of my hand.

So, since the surgeon planted the idea that I had nerve pain in my head, I contacted my oncologist's office and he started me on the generic drug for neurotonin. I had it last night and it put me to sleep. It also took care of the pain, but now I can feel it again, so time for another one.

I can't really sleep on my left side anymore, so it's either on my front or my back and sometimes the pain bothers me when I sleep on my front. So, now a sore back since I'm sleeping more on my back. I'll need to get a bolster for my knees.

I'll have another dose of Herceptin and Zometa next week as neither of those targeted therapies compromise my immune system for surgery.

An April 1 surgery messes up my teaching schedule - I canceled the second day of classes on March 31 since a lot of our students will be at a conference anyway. I have colleagues coming in to talk to my class on March 29, April 5, and April 7.

I was also supposed to go to Vegas for a conference April 20-23, but that will only be three-weeks post-surgery, so I don't think I will be able to fly . . . will have to ask about that.

The stress got to me yesterday. Something happened at work that tipped me over the edge. Luckily my therapist helped me through it and I'm less upset about it.

I'm also dropping a lot of balls at work and only doing the bare minimum.

It will all work out. Time to begin living in the moment . . .