Monday, November 30, 2009

Memory foam

In a continuation on the never ending search for back pain relief, I have moved to memory foam. We were in a store this weekend which had lovely memory foam beds for the paltry price of $2000-$4200. We decided to move on to Plan B, a/k/a another store. Then I started thinking again. (Sorry, I'll try to stop.) What if we took interim steps to see if memory foam is right for us. So I did some research and bought a memory foam mattress topper.

I did some online research and found I could get a Tempurpedic one for around $800 or I could order one from Costco for $150 and wait 10-15 business days. I can't wait 10-15 business days. So I went to Costco, on a Thanksgiving weekend. It was crazy. I went the last hour before it closed and the shelves were desecrated, empty, no stock left. But I got my mattress topper and dashed out.

We set it up and had to wait for it to 'inflate'. It makes our bed look really tall. We weren't sure the cat would be able to get up on it. But we all slept well. My back feels slightly less bad than most mornings so I think its money well spent.

If I have any other options for back pain relief, I'm happy.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Does cancer cause PTSD?

In cruising that vast sea of information (a/k/a wasting time online) called the internet, I ran across an article on how childhood cancer survivors don't get enough follow ups even though they are more likely to develop later cancers. I thought (a little only - I promise - too much thinking causes problems) and found several points in the article worthy of comment:

- Cancer causes PTSD. Well I can buy that one. Being hit by the cancer bus is really more like being sideswiped by the giant cancer semi as it roars through your life and takes out all sense of normalcy for a long time. I was going to write for months but its really longer than months. And I am not sure you can ever go back to normal. They call it finding your new normal. Well, I liked my old non-PTSD, cancer free normal just fine.

- Childhood cancer patients are less likely to get follow ups they need. Well, part of a cancer diagnosis is living with it. My feeling is if they told you once you had cancer, what else can they tell you that's bad? Not much.

- If you had cancer you need to be followed up by an oncologist, not a general practitioner. I didn't know this (see I'm not that smart). I never went to an oncologist until I needed chemo with breast cancer. I went to an endocrinologist for a while and then she retired and said I could just go to a regular general internal medicine doctor. But I did talk to my oncologist and will now go back to an endocrinologist just to check things out.

Now I am not a childhood cancer survivor because that is the age group of up to 15. But I was 19. I think that these lessons apply to anyone who is a long term cancer survivor.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Reunions are funny things

But first a bit of morning's entertainment:

I went to my 'ahem' several year high school reunion last night. There were all sorts of conversations about what everyone was doing since we graduated and about the ones who have died. One good friend died last year of pancreatic cancer. Another friend I found out had testicular cancer. A third had a brain tumor - don't know if it was benign or malignant. All this talk of cancer but did I talk about mine? No. I thought about it. Cancer should just be a blip in my life, not my whole life.

Anyway, there were people there who looked 30 and people who looked 70. There were people who looked the same as high school and probably could wear the same clothes. There were people who wore the same clothes as high school and were no longer that size. It was nice to see everyone but I can wait another 5 years for most of them. Life moves on. I ended up leaving relatively early because my back hurt. I guess that's what runs my life these days.

This morning we are off for a family breakfast and then a big walk before my brother and his family return home. Then perhaps it will be time for some house cleaning (eek) or some laundry (yuck).

Friday, November 27, 2009

Communications Malpractice?

This was an interesting article in today's newspaper about how possible those lovely 'morons' (and I use the term loosely) committed communications malpractice when they broadsided the American public with those lovely new guidelines last week. The article is quite interesting and comments on the way the information was delivered - as a bombshell - and now has created a lot of mistrust in recommendations. It ends in this: 'The evidence so far points to a backlash of mistrust. Memo to the next panel: Remember the old Hippocratic oath, first do no harm.'

I work in marketing which is all about messages and delivery. Its not just what you say but how you say it. The panel released their findings with no advance notice. They also gave their message and then the explanation of why. Perhaps if they had turned it around and said this is why we make this recommendation people would have listened. Instead, they didn't and everyone says 'wait, that's wrong, I've been taught this differently and now I have to change'. Personally, I cant follow all their math that 'justifies' their position. Its very confusing.

Okay, I'm done with orating for the morning. I am going to the gym to attempt to walk off my turkey and side dish and pie consumption from yesterday. I will have to walk millions of miles for that but I figure a couple is a good start. I will also ignore my back pain and pretend it isn't there. I have drugs to take and will take more.

Next I will try to figure out how to look 20 lbs thinner before my many year high school reunion tonight. If you have any suggestions, please let me know. But I am also trying to figure out how I am going to be on my feet for more than an hour or so without crumbling in pain. Drugs. Alcohol. Hmmm... No alcohol, but yes pain meds. Then leave early. Or some what early. Can I stay up that late? I have no idea. I have no life these days if I can't stay up to go to my reunion. All these dilemmas too early in the day. Time for the gym to work on the weight loss thing.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Well That Was Stupid

Yesterday I was spending quality time online (wasting time again) and found a holiday food calculator. This is one where you enter everything you eat and it tells you how much you are really eating in terms of fat grams and calories. There are three choices here: ignore the totals, lie and enter that you are eating a small portion of white meat and some steamed vegetables or skip the calculator. That was stupid to enter everything.

This morning I still have to make two pies and go for a walk. I already made two pies, caramelized onions, cranberry sauce, and cornbread and something else I can't remember. However I got my husband to make both the mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes. (How smart was that!)

This is the second holiday season since cancer. Last year I was still feeling wiped out from gall bladder surgery. I was tired but could eat food. Two years ago was mid-chemo and I wasn't interested in eating much. Now I can appreciate food more but if I stand for long periods of time, my back really starts to hurt. This means as opposed to its regular aches and pains it just turns into a big nasty mess. My goal is next year to be healthy and pain free. Can this happen? I don't know but I can hope.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Spare Time

Apparently I am supposed to have spare time in my life in the next few weeks. I don't have a doctor appointment until December 8, unless my therapist gets a cancellation and I can be squeezed in. So what to do with my spare time now that I don't have to go to the doctor or physical therapy?

I can watch videos on You Tube:

This is clearly a left over from Pinktober but I really like the janitor... He's a hoot.

I can clean the house. Now why would I want to disturb my dust bunnies and do that?

I can cook Thanksgiving food. I did start. We now have cranberry sauce. But I have lots more to make.

I can go to work. Wow and get paid?

I can make a list of back pain issues in preparation for my back doctor in a few weeks. That will be a really big list.

Or I can just waste time online....

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Doctors need to pay attention to their scripts

I went off to the ankle doctor for what I thought was the last time. (Mental note: eat lunch first to prevent crabbiness in doctor's offices.) I also was very stupid. BRING IN YOUR BOOK! I didn't bring in my book and it took me an hour to get out of there. Stupid me. If you bring your book you never get a chance to read it. If you don't bring your book, you sit there forever. And it was a new wing on the hospital that just opened so they didn't have a lot of magazines. No TV. Just big windows on the shopping mall parking lot.

Anyway, I digress. This was supposed to be my last ankle doctor visit and today is my last PT visit. But she said that if my ankle is still sore in two months - which would be six months from the flash of stupidity that caused me to look over my shoulder while walking - then I need to have an MRI and further discussions. However if it is fine and I can live with it (meaning it probably won't get much better), I can feel free to cancel the appointment. I really want to be able to cancel it.

I am glad that this morning is my last PT visit. I mean he's a nice guy and the exercises help but this 730 am stuff is killing me. I need to be there at 730 which means leave at 7 which means get up by 545 so I can take my pill and wait an hour before eating. I should get a whole list of exercises to do so maybe I won't have to go back to the ankle doctor if I am really good about doing them.

So last night I went to bed thinking I have to get up on time, I have to get up on time, I have to get up on time. Walter is off this week so he is only getting up because I get up. (But he said he will go to the grocery store for me this morning - for the quick last trip for the third time.) So I woke up and it was dark. I looked at the clock and thought it said 615 which meant I overslept. I said 'oh BLEEP' and woke up Walter. Then I took a second look at the clock and it said 115. So I said 'oh BLEEP' again and tried to go back to sleep.

Then the alarm clock went off and I got up (with a moderate amount of whining), took my pill, hopped in the shower, and am wasting time online until I can eat breakfast and rush out the door. I was just informed I need to get my butt in gear too. So perhaps its time to get dressed etc.

Monday, November 23, 2009

More on those pesky new guidelines

This morning's newspaper had a great in depth article on how to understand those pesky new guidelines. It seemed to be very informative but as I was reading it before my first cup of coffee not much made sense - it involved statistics and charts, etc.

Then they had another article about how the new guidelines are the beginning of nationalized health and rationing of health care. I admit I didn't read the whole thing because it involved politics and it was pre-coffee as well and I can't handle politics without a lot of coffee. But really this is everyone's fear. The government will now ration health care and we will all die as a result. But again because of the pre-coffee status I just skipped all this and listened to the news.

The news this morning was wonderful. Here is the best advice on what to do about the new guidelines. Are you ready? Are you sure? IGNORE THE GUIDELINES. There that's it. Ignore the stupid guidelines made by well meaning people who believe saving a few lives isn't important in the medical world. So there you go. Ignore the guidelines, just like you ignore the weird noise your car makes by turning up the radio or the little toothpaste mark on your black shirt that you notice after you arrive at work or the deep cravings for a chocolate chip cookie when you are attempting to diet. Ignorance is bliss they say. So now we can all relax and be happy.

Now a funny story. Last night we were out for a family dinner with my parents, sister, brother in law, and a couple of old family friends. Some how we got on the topic of men having a lower threshold for pain and basically being big babies. My husband turned and said to my sister: 'but she has a low dead mouse threshold.' Then all the stories came out about me not being able to deal with dead mice and my family will be able to make fun of me for years. Thanks, dear! I'll get even. I have some stories up my sleeve as well!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

A Holiday Miracle - Or Am I Confused

I think my brain is returning. Can it be possible? Have I settled in to my recent lack of brain or has my recently changed medication levels helped? All I know is I feel like I can think again these days. Now my husband would argue that I shouldn't think and plan and do things like that because it usually results in work for him. But I enjoy being able to remember what I was going to do five minutes ago, most of the time. Now I will not say my brain is completely returned (or that I am completely sane) but I do feel better.

So last week I had my doctor visits. I met with my new oncologist - who is much younger than me and made me feel like an old fart. However, she spent half an hour talking to me (yes a doctor who communicates) before examining me. So here's the deal. She thinks I am doing okay - which is always good. I asked her if I should ever go to an endocrinologist because of the thyroid cancer thingy. I went to the conference recently for thyroid cancer survivors and everyone talked about going to an endo and I haven't been to one in YEARS. Possibly 15, but probably more like 10. I asked her if I ever should and she said yes. Therefore I get another new doctor! Yippee, yahoo. NOT!

Then we talked about tamoxifen vs. going on an Aromatase Inhibitor which are the new hormonal things to take after breast cancer for post menopausal women (or should I say chemopausal women - thank you chemo! NOT!). She said she would like me to switch in six months but wants a bone density scan as a baseline then. I was already scheduled for one because I am osteopenic but apparently AIs are hard on your bones too so I will need to be monitored (oh, joy! NOT!). So I get to go back and see her in six months.

Then she answered all my other questions about aches and pains and backs and mets and all sorts of other issues and basically said I am normal and after cancer treatment you get the additional joy and privilege of post treatment pain for years. Also, its a good thing she's young because I get to see her regularly for the next three years and then yearly for life.

Finally, I say the meds prescribing therapist (psychologist/psychiatrist I can't remember) and she agreed to cut back my dose of anti depressants to half. This is perhaps why my brain has returned. I am not sure. The jury is still out on this but I can think somewhat again.

Today is Sunday. You knew that you have calendars too. I have to make one last ditch run to the grocery store for the things I forgot to buy but need before Thanksgiving. I will do that now before the hoards descend. Then walk with a friend later and out to dinner for my parents 53rd wedding anniversary.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

I'm so much cooler online

I have no life, I am sure you all know. I have cancer and a bad back, a diabetic cat, work too much, stress, and a wonderful husband. I just go from doctor appt to appt and job to job. But I'm cooler on line. There is even a country music song about this by Brad Paisley.

I'm much cooler online. I am 5'8" and wear a size 4. I am a former fashion model, who has been to every continent, all 50 states, and over 100 countries. I drive a Maserati in the summer and a SAAB in the winter. We live on a 100 acre organic farm where we raise 90% of our own food. The maid comes in daily and cleans the house and does the laundry. I have never had any medical ailment and both of us are very healthy as we eat organic food all the time and work out daily. Or at least I can pretend.

Lyrics below:

I work down at The Pizza Pit
And I drive an old Hyundai
I still live with my mom and dad
I'm five foot three and overweight
I'm a sci: fi fanatic, mild asthmatic
Never been to second base
But there's a whole 'nother me
That you need to see
Go check out Myspace.

'Cause online I'm out in Hollywood
I'm six foot five and I look damn good
I drive a Maserati, I'm a black belt in karate
And I love a good glass of wine
It turns girls on that I'm mysterious
I tell 'em I don't want nothing serious
'Cause even on a slow day I can have a three-way chat
With two women at one time.

I'm so much cooler online
I'm so much cooler online.

I get home I kiss my mom
And she fixes me a snack
I head down to my basement bedroom
And fire up my Mac
In real life the only time
I've ever even been to L.A.
Was when I got the chance with the marching band
To play tuba in the Rose Parade.

But online I live in Malibu
I pose for Calvin Klein
I've been in GQ
I'm single and I'm rich
And I got a set of six-pack abs that would blow your mind
It turns girls on that I'm mysterious
I tell 'em I don't want nothing serious
'Cause even on a slow day I can have a three-way chat
With two women at one time.

I'm so much cooler online
Yeah, I'm cooler online.

When you've got my kind of stats
It's hard to get a date
Let alone a real girlfriend
But I grow another foot and lose a bunch of weight
Every time I log in.

Online I'm out in Hollywood
I'm six foot five and I look damn good
Even on a slow day I can have a three-way chat
With two women at one time.

I'm so much cooler online
Yeah, I'm cooler online
I'm so much cooler online
Yeah, I'm cooler online.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Friday

The end of a long week. Walter had the luck to start with fillings in his teeth, a burn on his tongue from the drill, and a business trip. But its ending a day early so he got to take the red eye home last night. He will get here approximately 30 minutes after I have to leave for work.

I had a long week too: Monday was work, Tuesday was work, Wednesday was waiting for mechanics and doctors in waiting rooms, Thursday was work, Friday is work. I also fit in fun things like walks, and grocery shopping, and picking up prescriptions - three times already this week. I am tired. My back hurts. (Have I mentioned that before?) I have to take the trash out this morning. They say put it out by 7 am. We have had ours picked up before 730 so they are serious here.

I am sure my back will hurt some more today but these lovely lidocaine patches are awesome. I will have to start hoarding them. (But wait, if I don't use them and hoard them I'll be in pain which is why I have them, but if I hoard them for that possible 'in case I need them more time' in the future, I can't use them now. Or there is plan B. Use them now and beg doctors in the future for more if necessary.) I talked to too many doctors this week and have to sort out what they all said.

I think I need a weekend to digest this week. But wait, that starts tomorrow!

And the phone just rang, Walter is at the airport about to jump in a cab home so he can take out the trash and give the cat his shot. The day is looking up already.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Waiting room redux

Yesterday I got to spend quality time in several waiting rooms - I feel so privileged. First I took the car for an oil change to the dealership which is now halfway through a VERY long renovation. The waiting room is new, sterile, and has a giant TV set which is a cross from a single row of chairs and no daylight. We got to watch Walker Texas Ranger (and since I missed the first ten minutes, it took me until the very end to figure out the convoluted plot twists with all the bad hair) and sit in a single row. They needed more chairs.

From there, I went to see my oncologist but before I got there, I took a little detour into the seasonal flu clinic and got to sit in a minuscule waiting area for about 15 seconds and admire the passing cars outside. There was a wall of windows so there was lots of daylight. I wasn't there long enough to have any deep thoughts.

My next stop was the oncologists waiting room. It doesn't matter that its a lovely new wing on the hospital and there is a wall of windows leading to a hallway with another wall of windows to the outside, you still feel like you are underground some how. They upgraded last year and now there is a giant flat screen TV - even bigger than at the car dealer - which was on the Game Show Network at a loud volume. It was hard to hear names being called over the volume. I saw the nurse, I saw the doctor and then got to go sit in the waiting room a bit before going back in for blood work.

Finally freed, I wandered around and healthily bought a bowl of fruit in the cafeteria - after eying the cookies for which I had a craving - I proceeded to the seating area which is really a giant waiting area. Most patients are there killing time before the next appointment. Its a lovely sun filled room - filled with the setting sun at a low angle that you need sunglasses on to avoid - or you could find a single chair behind a big pillar and sit in the cool shadow.

From there, it was finally time to go to see my prescribing therapist (psychiatrist/psychologist I can never keep them straight). That is the very plain somewhat dumpy room with no TV, lots of plants, lots of magazines, lots of chairs, and windows to a quiet parking lot. There was no streaming sunshine, no screaming television, and I got to read my book in peace. Then a miracle happened - she called me ten minutes early!

I was finally done and did a quick bit of shopping before meeting a friend for dinner. I happily settled into my living room for the evening with no screaming TV, no names being called, and windows only onto the front lawn. Peace and quiet.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

I have now thought

I have now thought about the recommendations and have one word: Stupid. I have read a lot of reaction and had my own thoughts. I think there are two sides to every story and while at face value these recommendations are about reducing patient stress, etc. they were not made up by doctors but by PhDs and deans and all sorts of other well educated, well meaning people who apparently just don't get it. (I don't mean to say there is anything wrong with PhDs or deans but just that they belong in a different field.)

I would like to say that every breast lump I have had I could not feel myself. Every one that I have thought I have had has turned out to be a fat lot of nothing (but a big pile of stress). However, millions of women have found lumps themselves and saved their lives. So clearly another topic on which this group of educated people should shut up about. The point of a breast self exam is to know your body and notice changes. What are you waiting for the magic genie to say 'you have cancer cooties, let's get rid of them?'

Now on the American Cancer Society guidelines, I have another thought. They don't start early enough. Women at age 30 and 35 should get initial screening baseline mammograms. Then start with annual or biannual at 40 if there are no risk factors. But start sooner. Okay, enough deep thoughts for the day. (Muttering about stupid people...)

On Monday I called my back doctor to whine about being in pain and my doubled dose of pain meds not working and to see if I could get in sooner. They called back and said nothing sooner but try Lidocaine patches. I picked them up last night (my insurance saved me $517 for a one month dose - I was amazed) and put two on my back. I think they worked. My back this morning is better. I slept relatively well (except for the cat throwing up next to the bed at 2 am and the alarm my husband reset yesterday morning going off at 5). I like these patches! I put them on for 12 hours and then off for 12 hours. The only problem is one is easy to put on down low by my tail bone but the other is up near my shoulder blade. I had to contort to get it on and will have to be creative to pull it off as my husband is out of town.

Anyway, today I get to go break in my new oncologist. My old one left to do research or something and I meet the new one today. I have a list of 13 questions and a giant list of medications. I also get to go see the medications therapist (psychologist or psychiatrist I can never remember - the one who prescribes) and talk to her about maybe reducing my anti-depressant dose. I'm thinking I want half as much. Then I meet a friend for dinner.

But first I get to take the car for an oil change and am meeting a friend for a walk. I hope it warms up in the next couple of hours because its around freezing right now.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

That new recomendation

Did you see that new breast cancer recommendation for mammograms only after 50 and then only every two years? Unless you are in a high risk category for some reason. I am not sure how to react. Less testing means less stress and less cost. But do some get missed? Possibly. I have to think about this one some more. But I need coffee first so I can think. I am up this early because I am going to score all sorts of good wife points by driving my husband to the airport before my PT appointment at 730. This means leave here by 6! Eek!

Monday, November 16, 2009

I am a moron

And I use that term loosely. Yesterday morning my husband and I went for a walk and stopped to buy milk on the way home. I stuck a few dollars and the ATM card into my pocket in case we ended up with more than just milk. We came home, stuck milk in the fridge, took showers, went to brunch, concert, bookstore, and came home. At the bookstore, I went to pay and realized I did not have my ATM card with me. I figured I left it at home. So last night before going to bed, I looked for it and couldn't find it. I resolved to look some more this morning. It was possible that it was hiding in my uncleaned out purse but I cleaned my purse. Its not in the pockets of what I wore yesterday either or any logical place I might have put it after walking.

It is no where. So I called and canceled it. Today I will have to stop by the bank and get a new one. However, how long do you think it will be before the old card surfaces? I am betting on less than an hour. I am a moron. That is all that can be said.

Today my day is already busy. I am going for a walk shortly, then to a funeral, and then to work and will stop by the bank at some point. Grrr....

My other big project for the week is to get prepped for my doctor appointment on Wednesday. It is my long awaited new oncologist appointment where I will have to break her in - here's my medical history, here's my questions, now what? But I have heard good things about her. Walter leaves on a business trip tomorrow morning so I can waste all sorts of time researching non-existent medical issues without him around to tell me to stay off the internet.

But the sun is up and things are drying out after the rainy weekend so I am off.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Some Random News

First of all some very important news! There will be an Eggo waffle shortage continuing through next year. Yes, really. Kelloggs made a big announcement. Now I can't tell you the last time I ate an Eggo waffle but now I have the urge to go out an buy some while I still can. Then in six months, I can throw out the frost encrusted box and feel gratified I had them during the shortage. I could have eaten them if I wanted. What a marketing ploy!

Then from that stellar health news source, Parade Magazine, comes the news that Optimism is a powerful medicine. Well it makes sense. If you preach doom and gloom and walk around saying 'I'm gonna die' and sit in the corner and mope, you probably will die. But if you go out and do things and keep that nice rosy view of life, you will at least die happy.

Finally, after my post yesterday someone commented about ways not to forget everything and gave me a link to their website: www.yourbrainafterchemo.com. How exciting a website full of tips on your brain after chemo! What a great resource. Then I went there and found out they are selling a book with that title and there is
a link to Amazon to buy the book. But there also is some information that I will have to go read.

Anyway, so today we are being a little lazy this morning - only until Walter's pirate movie ends - and then we are out for a walk before going to brunch and seeing the Trans-Siberian Orchestra in concert this afternoon. Its supposed to be an amazing show. And my back hurts. How's that for news? Grrr...

Saturday, November 14, 2009

In Search Of My Brain

Somewhere in the past few weeks, my brain has gone missing. My husband might say it has been missing for longer than that but I can tell you that it has definitely been gone for several weeks. If you have seen a liberal arts educated brain wandering around thinking about cancer, cats, husbands, winter sports, vacations, work, cooking, crocheting, thanksgiving dinner, and daily walks, please send it back.

No seriously, I now clearly do not have a brain. I sat in a meeting yesterday and took notes. In the twenty seconds it took to walk back to my desk, I forgot what I needed to do urgently. We went out to dinner with a friend last night and I started a sentence about what the physical therapist said and forgot the second half of it while I was saying the first half 'The physical therapist told me...' It took me three tries. I also think I look the same things up on the internet daily. Because I can't remember what I looked up the day before. Every day I come up with brilliant ideas for my blog but then forget them before I can write them so write about really lame things instead.

My life is littered with sticky notes but I am past the sticky notes stage. I write them and then lose them. A niece and nephew had birthdays recently and I forgot to call. No wait, one birthday was last week and one is this coming week so maybe I can remember long enough to call this weekend.

I think this is chemo brain plus back pain meds brain combined. I am wandering around like the scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz. AAAARRRRGGGHHHH!!!! Please send it back.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Better Living Through Chemistry

After a lot of deep thought, I remembered what I was going to write about. I'm a little dense these days. Call it chemo brain or even lyrica brain. I complained to my therapist about that this week and she said it could be the lyrica which is causing me to have absolutely NO short term memory. Tell me something now and ask me in 15 minutes and I may have no recall. But that's not what I was going to write about.

Years back a friend of mine admitted to me that she was on anti-depressants and she called it better living through chemistry. We laughed about it and I then promptly forgot about it. Now that I am an 'expert' on the subject (being a patient makes one an expert on your course of treatment) I ponder this statement as well as I can ponder when I keep forgetting.

Better living through chemistry. Well, I think I am a specialist. With chemistry and medicine, it is doubtful I would still be here with all my medical crap. I mean would I have even survived my earlier medical crap? Now with anti-depressants are making life a little more 'dealable' (a new technical term), I think I can really say life is better with chemistry.

Now I am late again. I have another PT appointment at 730 and still need to take a shower, eat breakfast, etc and leave in 45 minutes. So in other words, bye.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Something I didn't need a news article on

I was reading again. Sorry. Then I started thinking. Sorry, I know I shouldn't. Sometimes news articles are enlightening, sometimes it makes you mad, sometimes its humorous and sometimes they make you say 'doh, I knew that'. This article is clearly in the category of 'doh'. Breast cancer patients feel pain for years after.

I could have written it (but wouldn't have all the fancy references they have). They are talking about pain related to the surgery and basically the treated areas - breast, underarm, etc. Yes, I get those pains too. Sometimes I wonder why I can have pain from anything because of my back pain meds but I do. My ankle hurts - especially after PT bends it a 1000 different directions. My underarm hurts - I don't know why but it seems to be worse now than before. But I will ask the doctor about that next week.

Anyway, back to the article that I could have written. If you think about it, it makes sense. They do some surgery and dig around inside your lymph nodes (which are nice and deep). Then they give you chemo which messes up cell growth. Then they use radiation to chase down the cancer cooties hanging out in the area. And you wonder why it hurts afterwards? Now I don't mean massive pain here. I mean spontaneous pain - where you are sitting still and all of a sudden you get a sharp pain or tingling, or why did you do that pain - when you attempt to drink a glass of water or raise your arm and it reminds you not to, or you slept wrong pain - where you wake up because you did something silly while sleeping and it hurts. And not a level 10 pain either but a level 2-5 on a scale of 1-10 pain.

So I read the article and will talk to my doctor and be told that its normal for some women to have this kind of pain and basically that its one of those little joys from cancer that we just get to suck it up and deal with. Boy am I cynical this morning. Perhaps I got up too early. Too bad I can't go back to bed. I'll just rein in my cynicism and attempt to be a normal human for the day.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Its Too Early

Today is Veterans Day. It is a day about honoring the soldiers. It is not the 43rd shopping day before Christmas. You aren't supposed to run off to the mall and shop until you drop. You are supposed to take time out to think about those who have fought in wars.

I used to work in retail. I understand why stores bring out holiday merchandise so early. Its simply logistics. For math purposes, say that they want to sell $100,000 worth of holiday merchandise this year. But their trucks only can hold $10,000 worth each week. That means they start ten weeks prior, which puts them in early October. This means they need to send their $30,000 worth of Halloween merchandise over the three weeks prior to that which brings it to mid-September. Once holiday (stuff with a date to sell by) gets in the store, they start pushing it as the newest stuff and try to start moving it. And if times are tough and they have fewer trucks to ship, maybe they can only put out $8,000 worth each week which makes it start even earlier. Does this make sense? Well, I tried.

Today, my husband has the day off. I thought it might be nice to spend sometime with him. How's that for a novel concept? We have a few plans that start with a walk (not a death march or he might be whiny) followed by Belgian waffles. I am not sure what else the day will bring but we'll deal with that when we get to it. In the meantime, I am off to do my damn ankle and back exercises and try to figure out why my back really hates me today. Ouch.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

THE topic for marital harmony

There is one essential topic for marital harmony. Many are in denial or don't know when it happens. There are endless claims to cure it. There are many bitter accusals and battles over it. I am perfect so I certainly know I don't do it. My husband thinks he does, but really doesn't. However there is one household resident who skills know no boundaries. Yes, we have a cat that snores. (What did you think I was talking about?)

Last night, the cat joined us in bed. He snuggled up next to me and put his paws in my hair (he has a thing about hair) and fell asleep with his nose next to my ear. Then he started his little purring/snoring combination and kept me up. I tried to ignore it but since I couldn't sleep I finally instituted the kitty relocation program and moved him.

Therefore today, I am tired. And overscheduled. But very tired. Its the cat's fault. He should be extra nice to me today as a result or I won't cook him any more chicken. (I burned the chicken I was cooking for him yesterday.)

Here's my day: 7:30 PT, 830-2 work, 3pm business call from home, 330-6 work other job. Why did I do this to myself? I have no idea. I am sure it was a good idea at the time. So I am overtired and have to run around all day. Will crankiness ensue? What do you think?

Monday, November 9, 2009

A Really Clean Bathroom

Yesterday before I got home, there was an incident which resulted in a really clean bathroom. Walter was in the shower when the hose that goes to the bottom of the toilet tank spontaneously separated from the tank and proceeded to spray water all over the bathroom and dump an entire tank of water on the bathroom floor. (A little plastic thingy decided to fall apart.) It is very clean now. I don't recommend this way of cleaning the bathroom but it worked. And required lots of swearing, two trips to the hardware store to repair (first store didn't have the part). We are just glad someone was home when it happened.

The other event that happened this weekend is I overcooked carrots to the point that I have to throw away the pan - its now peeling inside... Grr. and it was a very nice pan.

I had a very nice weekend away but am exhausted. I am not sure why I am so tired this morning. Yesterday I did go for a walk and then went to bed relatively early. I also had a leg cramp in the middle of the night which prevented a good night's sleep and have a fair amount of back pain this morning. Grrr! But I will do my best to ignore it all and go about my busy day. Call me over scheduled but I think I may be today.

But the big news for this weekend is I have a million veggies to admire. I joined a Winter Farm Share CSA and Walter picked up our November share on Saturday. We now have (deep breath): sweet potatoes, regular potatoes, butternut squash, carrots, parsnips, turnips (2 kinds), kohlrabi, lettuce, green peppers, brussels sprouts, radishes, apples (3 kinds), leeks, and a few other things I am sure I am forgetting. I am bringing a fair amount to my parents because there is more than we can eat. And we get another share the first weekend in December. Most exciting! I love fresh, organic vegetables.

Anyway, I do have an over scheduled day that I should just get started instead of procrastinating online again.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Procrastinating

I went away for the weekend with friends. I got home a little while ago. I could be doing all sorts of things but am definitely in avoidance mode. I am procrastinating instead of unpacking, sorting vegetables from the farm share, doing laundry, or going for a walk. Instead I am avoiding all of it and sitting here at my computer...

However it is a beautiful day so perhaps I will go for my walk. My back is not a happy camper because I dared do something like go shopping yesterday... And I dared to sit in a car for extended periods of time. I iced it yesterday and can see more ice in my future today... But perhaps I will take my back pain out for a walk.

Friday, November 6, 2009

I really was trying to be a good person

I mean I do try to be a good person but there are always the times we aren't - when we make a nasty face or rude gesture toward the rude customer service person on the phone who can't see you but you still feel better because you did. But yesterday I tried to be good.

First I was driving to PT at my early morning hour and an electricians panel truck pulled out on the road in front of me with one of his back doors gaping wide open. My first thought was to hang back in case anything fell out. But then I noticed the phone number on the back of the truck so I gave them a quick call. The man on the phone was very appreciative and said he would call the truck right away. While we were speaking, he hit a bump and the door sort of shut. I don't know if it was shut all the way but it was no longer gaping open. So maybe I didn't need to call. But the truck did pull over and the driver hopped out to check it.

After returning from my morning of lets see what makes your ankle hurt, I decided to go for a walk. While walking, I met a nice orange cat who sort of had that rumpled look from too many nights on the streets. But he seemed decently fed so I didn't think much of it. Then I crossed a busy road and cut through a park and there was a sign with his picture and the words 'Lost Cat' with a phone number. I immediately called. They sounded somewhat hopeful and said they would go off to find him.

I went into work and told my co-worker about my morning's adventures and she said she knew them and their lost cat. She called them as well and now I have a cell phone number to call in case I find the cat again. His name is Dandy and he has been missing since August! So I will definitely keep a look out for him.

So I tried to be a good person yesterday but did fail miserably in the exercises department. I started my morning back exercises but the phone rang and I forgot to go back and finish them. By the time I got home from work last night, I said I need to do my back exercises but never got that far. I am remiss. But this morning I have done my back exercises and will next do my ankle exercises so I can go off to work.

I have a shortish day of work as then I am going up to the mountains for a girls weekend. It will be a small group and include a five year old and a new cat for mouse patrol. But we will have fun and that's the important part. I am leaving Walter here with a big list of things to do to keep him out of trouble (too many computer games) while I am gone.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Working on this time change thing

I am a person who likes consistency - I resent change and can be quick to drag my feet when it interferes with my personal life - especially something like sleep. Twice each year I go through a few days of messed up sleep patterns. I can handle overseas business trips with multi-hour time changes much better than I can deal with a one hour shift. I am still adapting to this time change thing this week. The result is crabbiness for the duration. But I have the following complications on which I am blaming all my lack of sleep.

- The cat gets lots of blame. His stomach is set for 530 am in the old time which would be 430 am in the new time. So guess who comes up and does laps around the bed and walks on my nose (yes, twice this morning) and generally is annoying and usually gets dumped off a few times? He's very conducive to lack of sleep.

- The clock gets lots of blame. Yes really. Several years ago my husband gave me a projecting clock which is satellite controlled. Its great. You wake up in the middle of the night and just by looking up, you can see what time it is. And it has a battery back up for those pesky power outages. None of this rolling over and squinting business, its in nice big numbers directly overhead. But when the time changed, it didn't (I think it doesn't know about the new DST dates or something). I woke up Sunday morning all confused. Was it new time or old time? Did it automatically switch? It didn't. So I pulled out the plug and the battery and hoped it would reset. It didn't. It kept the old time. So I repeated the plug/battery exercise and waited a few minutes. It started at 0:00. And it said it was receiving information. I figured it would reset. That was on Monday. It didn't reset. I would wake up in the middle of the night and it would say 8:05 or something that was obviously incorrect. It wasn't helpful. Last night I woke up and it said 4:23. Did it reset itself yet to correct time? I couldn't tell and wasn't going to figure it out in the middle of the night. But I was awake. Very aggravating.

- My husband gets some blame too. Because of the lack of sleep issues, I have developed a tendency to fall asleep while watching TV. Last night I fell asleep about 845 on the couch in front of the TV. My husband woke me up. I thought I had slept all night. I was groggy and out of it. I was ready to rush around and get ready to go to PT. Then I realized it was 1010pm and time for bed. My husband thought it was very funny that I thought it was morning and says if he had realized this he would have said things like 'hurry up, or you'll be late'. (Thank you DEAR!)

So here I am this morning after sleeping from 845-1010, 1030 to some unknown time, a slightly later unknown time to 430 (thanks kitty), and then probably 5-6... Where's my eight hours of uninterrupted sleep? I don't know but it better return soon. This was a night that my back wasn't hurting so I should have slept. Grrr....

Once I adapt, I get to repeat the whole thing again in April. Triple grrr...

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

A Bit About Me

So this is a blog by me and about me so periodically I guess I should fill you in on how I am doing. Basically I am doing okay. My back continues to be the focal point of my life. Or should I call it the body part which provides pain and causes limitations?

On a day to day basis, I do okay. I can't lift anything over 20 lbs - which causes all sorts of fun. If I do, I can, I mean I am not instantly in pain but then my back reminds of my lack of adherence to this limitation for the next few days and requires ice and extra pain pills. The main source of continual pain (anywhere between 0 and 8 on the pain scale of 1-10) is my right sacroiliac joint (which is down between your tailbone and hip). I think it is inflamed and needs some cortisone - but then I am not the doctor, merely the patient so what do I know?

I also can't stand for any significant length of time. I mean I can stand. But if I am in a vertical position for more than an hour or so, my back reminds who is in charge and forces me to (painfully) sit down for a while and sometimes even apply ice for extended periods of time. If I am very bad, after a day which includes being vertical and doing something like shopping, hiking, volunteering at conferences, etc., I spend a couple days on ice with extended periods of crabbiness.

My back also keeps me on my toes by sometimes being cooperative and allowing me to roll over in bed or reach for something, but then other times the exact same motion results in shooting pains. I have been on the double dose of Lyrica for a few weeks and it seems to be doing the trick except for these extra 'special' pains or extended vertical periods. My back also has pointed out it doesn't like boat rides, bumpy car rides, walking on the beach and many other day to day activities. I am busy documenting all this and will bring in my list to my next back doctor appointment - which isn't for another month but I call weekly in hopes of a cancellation.

My ankle is getting better. But with all the anti inflammatories and pain meds for my back we wonder why it still can hurt. I was originally signed up for three weeks of PT but now they have extended it and I will go until Thanksgiving... Always at 730 in the morning. I will have to get more motivated first thing and do things like skip my morning wander on the (world's giant time suck a/k/a) the internet... I have exercises to do twice a day and if I remembered to do the new ones that I was given on the last visit, that would be a good thing. I go back to the ankle doctor just before Thanksgiving and hopefully get the green light. All this as a result of one nanosecond of klutziness.

I go to my new oncologist in a couple of weeks to find out all sorts of good things (I hope) on getting off Tamoxifen (because its almost been two years), blood counts, prognosis, etc. I am actually going to get my blood tests next week so when I see her the following week, she will have new blood work to look at and be able to provide all sorts of updated information. I have not met her yet but have heard good things that she listens and takes time with her patients - this is the through the patients informational chat channel. We all compare our doctors. I do have a list of questions for her... And a script for her to read that is full of good health...

In December I also go back to my radiation oncologist. I am not sure why she wants me back so soon but that's the price I pay for forgetting to ask about follow up when I saw her.

On my mental state, well I have switched to a monthly support group which is very different than the weekly one I went to. I also see my therapist still. And I am nearly two weeks into my anti-depressants... Do I feel better? Maybe. I think so. I think its hard to tell. My husband claims I am perkier. But I did go on the antidepressants at the same time my back pain meds were increased. So does less pain make me perkier or is it the anti depressant? I don't know. I'll just call it better living through chemistry.

Seriously - don't laugh. It seems like all I do is take pills and do stupid PT exercises. First thing: thyroid meds and tamoxifen. One hour later with food: two kinds of back meds and anti-depressant. After breakfast, six ankle exercises and four back exercises. Three or four hours later (or when I remember) vitamins. When I return home, repeat the six ankle exercises and two more kinds of back meds with food. Before bed, more back meds if my back is cranky. I now have two pill boxes which are day by day ones. But if chemistry (and PT exercises) are improving my life, I'm okay with that.

Now today I need to go take some pills and do exercises before I forget.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

My monthly education

Back when I was first diagnosed and frantically searching the internet for as much (and more) information as I could possibly absorb, I came across this site http://www.hopkinsbreastcenter.org/artemis/. It is a monthly breast cancer newsletter from Johns Hopkins Breast Center and chock full of information. I get my subscription delivered monthly and then attempt to understand what they are telling me. My chemo fogged brain has difficulty with medical terms at times - particularly when they are not about me - but difficult when I have to figure out if they are or are not about me. This month's issue is no different:

- Breast Cancer Patients with High Risk Gene Diagnosed Six Years Earlier than Generation Before - not about me. I don't have the gene

- Emotional Toll of Breast Cancer on Well-Educated Women and Those Who Live Alone
Gene Blamed for Immunological Disorders Shown to Protect Against Breast Cancer Development - interesting. Educated women know more and stress more. Live alone and stress more.

- Hormone Mix Could Cut Breast Cancer Risk and Treat Symptoms of Menopause Increased Levels of Muellerian-Inhibiting Substance Could Mean Greater Breast Cancer Risk - I didn't get past the Muellerian thing but don't think its about me.

- Study Finds No Relationship Between Pathological Complete Response Rate and Race in Women with Breast Cancer - Not about me.

- Study Shows How Normal Cells Influence Tumor Growth - interesting, but technical. Basically something about one gene and how it reacts with tumor growth. Not sure I understand it all but it does signify progress in cancer research so I can live with that.

- Surviving Breast Cancer – Low-Income Females Worst Hit by Breast Cancer - This one I understand, poor people are less likely to have medical insurance, get regular mammograms, and more likely to have poor quality treatment and hence have lower early diagnosis rates and higher mortality rates.

This is just a list of what was in the November issue. I recommend this newsletter to anyone dealing with a diagnosis. Go sign up for your own copy. Its not long but chock full of information that is informative, latest on discoveries, and pertinent.

Anyway, I have another stupid people story for you. We were out for our wall the other day along a local reservoir. There was a woman with a terrier on a leash who was throwing the ducks and geese some bread. Don't feed the ducks!! But anyway she was and the ducks were gathering on the water and every time she threw a piece of bread they would come in a little closer... But her throwing arm also had the leash for the dog who would bark and attempt to chase the bread with each toss... The ducks and geese were getting no food. The dog was barking and running back and forth. But she still fed the damn ducks.

Monday, November 2, 2009

I Survived Pinktober!

I survived Pinktober again. I think I should get a little gold star for not buying anything that was pinked. (And I guess it is nice to say again meaning that I am still here.) I think its interesting how the whole pink marketing machine, which is based on efforts by the Susan B. Komen Foundation, actually has created so much anti-pinkism. The Komen foundation is a worthy cause. They have done amazing things with fund raising for breast cancer research, bringing breast cancer, and other cancers, out of the closet so to speak, and creating support for men and women with breast cancer.

But the whole pink tidal wave is now officially out of control. If you google 'pink for breast cancer' you will find: the Breast Cancer Awareness Pink Ribbon Shop, Pink Ribbon Inc, Komen's Passionately Pink for a Cure, The Breast Cancer Site, and my favorite, Think Before You Pink. I have seen NFL players with pink helmets, pink utensils, pink clothing, pink throw blankets, pink posters, buildings lit up pink, pink baby crawls, pink everything. But does all this pink solve the problem, give us the cure? No. Why doesn't the NFL take all the money it took to make pink helmets and donate it to cancer research? If they didn't pay for them, whoever donated them should take the money and give it to cancer research. How about all the electricity to light up buildings in pink? Take the electric bill money and give it to cancer research. Don't buy a pink utensil, give the money directly to research. Well, if you need a utensil and like the pink one, then okay buy it....

Anyway you see my point. There is so much money spent on making non-essential things pink and the money could be spent directly on cancer research and be much more effective.

Enough rambling for this morning. Due to the time change, I am up way too early. But apparently not early enough for the cat as he was doing laps around the bed for over an hour. We have to train him to adapt. One hour difference and his schedule is all messed up. Today I have to work from home and go for a walk before going to work. Then off to physical 'does it hurt when I contort your ankle this way' therapy and maybe Walter makes dinner.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Special deals

So yesterday I went on a mini yard sale spree. I sometimes do yard sales and some times skip them. Yesterday I heard about one where someone was selling lots of women's clothes in sizes that might fit me so off I went. But driving there was a sign, sending me up a steep hill to a multi family yard sale. There were six or seven homes with items for sale. I got some deals. I saw two nice quilts - and we had recently discovered we have a blanket shortage for house guests - which were a tiny price and have now been through my clothes washer and are folded up in the basement. I also got a lead crystal vase. Then I went off to my original destination where I acquired a cashmere sweater for a pittance.

Then went went for a walk and conveniently ran into signs for an estate sale, which was right on our walk (I didn't know this before we started as my husband suspects) but there was a great deal on an antique mirror. Then we heard they were making everything half price today. It was half an hour before they closed up for the day yesterday and I plan on getting there this morning when it opens and see if I can get that mirror for $12.50 - its a lovely antique. I think 19th century.

But later on, I was perusing all sorts of information on CSA farm shares to plan for next year. My big dilemma has been finding one that does half shares for two people and delivers someplace locally. I do not want to drive an hour each way once a week for 21 weeks which you would get in a summer share. But yesterday I found a farm that does winter shares for November and December and delivers to a mile from home. I consulted with Walter and decided if its too many vegetables I will give some to family members but it is a good deal and nice organic produce... I have signed us up for two months of organic veggies (and possibly some maple syrup). Such a deal.

Such a day for deals...

Now I do have to comment about stupid people. I really hate it when I run into them. I just don't understand stupidity. We went out for a walk through a very residential area. No through streets, not really a cut through and there was all sorts of traffic coming and going. Then we were on a very little street and a red sports car pulled up and said 'how do I get to Route 2A?'. I asked him which way he wanted to go to Route 2A and he didn't care, as long as he got to Route 2A. Well, if he wanted to go West he was facing the wrong way but he wasn't listening so I sent him off the way he was going... Right into the big repaving project he was probably trying to avoid in the first place. But he had his red sports car and ego to protect so he didn't really care I don't think.

Now I have to run and see if I can get that mirror.