Bad Right Breast

I've Always Hated My Right Breast!

BONE TREATMENT – injection vs infusion May 29, 2020

Filed under: cancer,Hormone Therapy,stage 4 Metastatic — Bad Right Breast @ 5:51 pm

Good news first! My metastasis is not anywhere else in the spine. My chest scan on Tuesday is all clear, and only shows the areas as seen before (T8-10, & T12). The next scan is pushed to 3-4 months to give the current targeted therapy (Abemaciclib) as much time as possible to work. More waiting….

Now onto the not so good news. At my last monthly injection of Lupron (aggressive hormone therapy to combat my estrogen receptive cancer, which is how it progresses in my body), my doctor admitted that she wanted me to also receive a monthly injection of Denosumab, to help strengthen my bones (to prevent bone loss and fractures). However, my insurance company denied it.

For the past month, she battled with them. But still 4 weeks later, they denied. However, they did approve another drug, Zometa. However, it can only be given through an IV, aka infusion. And tests have to be run each and every time prior to ensure that my kidneys are in order.

So an appointment that I thought was only going to be 30 minutes tops turned out to be nearly 3 hours. First, check of all vitals (temp checked a total of four times thus far due to COVID. An update with the doc and nurse practitioner. Then the blood draw – five large vials. One of which we wait on my kidney results. (Another was guaranteed to be a liver check, most likely for cancer but I really know it’s for my doc to keep track of my drinking – listed as LOTS on my chart).

After my kidneys were given the all clear, the Zometa infusion commenced. What is Zometa? Well, according to drugs.com (cause that’s where I get all of my drug info), it slows bone loss and prevents fractures, and used to treat bone cancer that spread from somewhere else in the body. So, it’s like it’s made for me!

Once the infusion was complete, I got my Lupron injection in my bum. And then I was out. So I ask you, how is it that the insurance company is ok with a nearly 3 hour infusion, using 4x the materials, occupying twice as many staff resources, an additional blood test needed with immediate results – how is all of that cheaper and better than a 2 minute injection?

Not to mention the PTSD involved with sitting in the chair for hours.

Good job CIGNA.

 

My First Mother’s Day & I Can’t Indulge May 9, 2020

Filed under: cancer,radiation — Bad Right Breast @ 8:07 pm

For the past 11 years, I have managed one of the largest annual events in Central Park – Japan Day. It’s a single day event celebrating the culture of Japan, that gathers on average 50k+ people. My staff of 30+ would work nearly 36-48 hours straight to load in, operate and strike the event (over 30 tents, generators, sound system, LED screens, food & activity tents, signage, and so much more).

Every year, the event falls on Mother’s Day, so every year I miss the chance to indulge with my family, even though seeing the handmade cards displayed at 4am and their faces for a fleeting a moment through the massive crowds have always been a delight. I even worked through it following my treatment 8 years ago, as my 30 radiation treatments ended on April 17th. What with the pandemic canceling the event this year (which was bound to be stellar given the 2020 Tokyo Olympics), I was looking forward to the moment I’ve always craved – homemade eggs benedict (which Graham has mastered).

But starting last Saturday, the day after my last radiation treatment, I started experiencing extreme acid reflux, which my oncologist through tele-medicine diagnosed as mucositis, and can take 2-8 weeks to subside. The effect? Extreme pain any time I eat or drink anything.

This has turned my diet to watermelon, yogurt, pedialyte or Recoup (see http://www.recoupbeverage.com) and Coke – thank you Katherine Marks! So while I’m losing weight, down 8lbs so far, my stomach growls so much that it can almost be heard over zoom meetings. I sleep until about 3-5am and then have to move to the couch to continue sleeping upright.

Meanwhile, my med intake, which before all of this was only one pill a day, has now turned into 5-6. And I’m starting to feel hot flashes, but with the nervousness about the virus, I’m checking my temp 2-3 times a day (still 97.6). I’m hoping to get an appointment next week to see if I have the antibody.

So my indulging tomorrow will be more time at our garden, which is what’s been helping me stay sane through all of this, just as it did eight years ago when Jenny saw my bald head and gave me a plot.

But since May is the month of Mom (my birthday is on the 30th!), I’m hoping to indulge on those eggs Benedict then. In the meantime, I’ll be working on my killer bod, keeping busy with my work from home and finding zen once again in the garden. All in all, it’s still a pretty wonderful time.

Happy Mother’s Day to all moms of all kinds out there. As I feel all caregivers at this time should be celebrated, so please indulge if you can.

 

Day 10 – done, now what? May 1, 2020

Filed under: cancer — Bad Right Breast @ 11:09 pm

The mixed feelings of adrenaline and exhaustion are, well, exhausting. I woke up this morning knowing that in a couple of hours I will have gotten through radiation, but then starting my next steps.

Once it was all done, I got my certificate and rang that bell (or tried to), and I was overwhelmed. Overwhelmed that it was over, but then also knowing that I was heading into the area that led me into the deepest depression eight years ago. The waiting. I always say that the waiting is worst than finding out you have cancer.

So I rang it and left and walked across the street to my oncologist’s office. After I once again got my temperature checked, for the second time, I chatted with the nursing staff (handed out donated masks from my army of friends), and was then led to get my vitals – blood pressure, pulse ox, temperature (#3), and weight – this happens each and every time I go to my oncologist.

I was led to the ever fearful infusion suite. Except I wasn’t getting chemo, I was getting my Lupron injection, along with Anastrozole, will be my hormone therapy for possibly life. I got comfortable and waited for my Dr. Oncologist. It was good to see her, the first time since my initial meeting in early March that started all of this.

She asked about my pain from radiation, which I admitted to her. She then called me out. “Did Graham tell you to call me?” (hang head in shame) “Yes.” She then said matter-of-factly with her staff present, “Next time, you need to listen to him, because we could have given you a simple steroid injection that would have relieved it all.” Ok, lesson learned.

She gave me the instructions for my targeted therapy to start on Monday, and once again mentioned that the moment I suffer any side effects that I must call her. Apparently, I have a habit of dealing with crap on my own.

She then said that now that since we have the mid to lower torso taken care of, she’d like to do a scan of my upper torso and chest, and possibly a bone density test. She was concerned about how I felt coming to the hospital. I said as long as it was a sunny day I had no problem biking in!

She traveled to her next patient as a nurse came to once again check my temp, and draw my blood – 4 vials. After another 5 minutes, another nurse came to give me my injection, right in my bottom.

The issues at hand are waiting for the insurance company to approve things – a monthly injection (same time as my Lupron) to build up my bones, the chest scan and then the bone density. As of catching any cancer early is more costly than when it becomes deadly.

So that’s where we are. More waiting. But spring is here, and I’ve got plants to put in the ground. I’ve got planning to do for work for the multiple scenarios we have to plan for given the pandemic, and so much more. So I’ll keep myself busy and out of my head. And work on my podcast….that’s right.

So while I wait, for two months, I have a test for you. Thanks to the incredible staff at Mount Sinai West, I got approved to record my last radiation treatment, the fastest one to date. Find a spot and get comfortable, before you press play. For almost 8 minutes, you can’t move, whatsoever. Just sit there, listen to the drones of the machine, the zap of the radiation. All the while the little box on the ceiling above you, a few feet away from your face reads: CAUTION – AVOID EXPOSURE. LASER RADIATION IS EMITTED FROM THIS APERTURE. How comforting, right?

 

Day 9 – one to go April 30, 2020

Filed under: cancer,radiation,stage 4 Metastatic — Bad Right Breast @ 10:56 pm

When you start, this day feels so far away. Whether it was 10 treatments or 30 treatments. To know that I’ll go to sleep tonight and wake up to go to my last treatment, it’s bitter sweet.

Eight years ago, I really got to know the staff. I’m already a bit of an extrovert, so seeing the same people, Monday through Friday for 6 weeks, it was easy to get attached. But I remember the feeling when it was over. Bitter sweet, to say the least.

This time around, I knew that I could get through 10 treatments. That wasn’t the problem. I didn’t want it to become normal. But it’s hard not to. From start to finish, I pass through a minimum of five people, sometimes more. But for these people, those in healthcare, I can’t imagine.

To say thank you, isn’t nearly enough. All we can do is give them the little signs of gratitude – donated masks, daily cheers, butterflies on the wall. And hope, just hope that they know how much we appreciate each of them.

 

Day 6 – not just another Monday April 27, 2020

Filed under: radiation,stage 4 Metastatic — Bad Right Breast @ 11:02 pm

When it starts to feel normal, that’s when it gets scary. When you know exactly where to stand for an elevator, know which way to turn when the doors open, turn right to get your temperature checked before going to the back.

Except, the waiting room, normally filled by 1-2 other women, now was at least 8. And with half of the 6 seats taped to adhere to social distancing, we were doing a lot of musical chairs. The nursing staff was working wonders moving us in and out, checking our weight, moving one into a waiting room, etc. Luckily I prefer to stand these days.

Nothing like a radiation waiting room full of women (I saw at least 3 men go through) to remind you that all if this isn’t just happening to you. At that time of morning, my pain is pretty manageable, even if I bike in. But there were several of women who were in obvious constant pain. And a couple of others who were new to the whole scene.

We don’t want to ask each other about our cancers. We don’t want to know each other’s horror stories, fears, pains, worries. There’s no point in comparing. Even though we all have cancer, there is no comparison. We just don’t ask. We stare at our phones and wait for our name to be called.

Four more to go, as I don’t want this ever to seem normal.

 

Day 5 – I’m still ALIVE, but living through the Pain April 24, 2020

Filed under: radiation,stage 4 Metastatic — Bad Right Breast @ 9:25 pm

Yes, I’m still here. Halfway through radiation the second time around and I’m still here. I’ll admit, the ten hard-core sessions are a bit more difficult to push through than I remember the 30 being over 8 years ago.

Speaking of….why did it feel like FOREVER to get through March, and April has flown by?

Anyway, yes, it’s harder this time around. I never felt any actual pain from receiving radiation on my breast and axilla (armpit), even though it was six points. But now, with these four? Well, it’s hard for me to think that it was due to me cycling nearly 10 miles, round trip. Ok, so I realized I’m not actually wonder woman. Taking a cab the past two days did help, but only because it was snowing one morning and raining today.

So yes, the pain, it comes and it’s debilitating. I’ve succumb to lying on bags of frozen vegetables, that I’ve been forced to promise not to put into our dinner menu – clearly marked for mom’s lower back and bum. I don’t want to give in to the heavy meds, like Percocet or Vicodin. Besides being addictive, they make you extremely constipated. And yes, TMI, but I can’t be in pain and NOT be able to poop.

One thing I’ve always said – stay ahead of the pain. With the current health crisis going on, the fear of taking any anti-inflammatory is real. So I’m left with Tylenol, which is barely on the shelves. (Don’t start sending me Tylenol, I’m good.) So the only thing left is marijuana, and yes, it works like nothing else. Without this, I would be writhing in pain – sitting, lying down, standing. I wouldn’t be able to bend over. I wouldn’t be able to walk. It’s not continual. But when it comes on, it is debilitating.

I’ll relish in these two days without radiation. To garden, to relax, to not have to walk through the doors of the hospital, nod at the entry guard for access. To not have to wait for elevator after elevator, because I need to go to the basement, and not up. To not have to get my temperature checked, and given a oversized blue gown. To not have to put all of my items in a locker and sit and wait, while listening to DeBlasio (as his morning briefing is always on while I wait). To not have to walk 20 feet, only to wait for the slow automatic doors to open. To not have to scan my palm for them to be re-assured it’s me. I mean, who would voluntarily come to do this?

I walk into the radiation room, beyond the door that is more than 5′ wide and over a 1′ thick. My bed is made for me – foam pad, with my torso mold on top, and a double folded sheet. I lie down, removing my arms from the gown sleeves, and prop my legs up on a double wedge. I fit right into the mold and lie still, completely still, as the tech(s) use their ‘sheet language’ to adjust my body perfectly so that each of my four points line up. Then they leave me. The giant door slowly closes behind them. And I’m left to lie there, completely still. Today it was for 12.06 minutes. Nothing touches my body. Nothing pokes or prods me. But the radiation, yeah, it happens.

But not for the next two days. For these days, I don’t have cancer. I’m just an ordinary mom, wife, friend and gardener. And I’m alive. It’s the little things, you know.

 

This is What Stage 4 Looks Like April 19, 2020

Filed under: Hormone Therapy,radiation,stage 4 Metastatic — Bad Right Breast @ 10:34 pm

Metastatic cancer by definition is cancer cells that have broken from the original cancer tumor (in my case it was breast cancer, and in that bad right breast there were 15 tumors) and travel through the blood or lymphatic system (in my case, 24 of the 8 lymph nodes tested were cancerous) and spread to other parts of the body – liver, brain, lungs and, in my case, bones.

Breast cancer always has the possibility of coming back months or even years, in my case 8 years later, and in actuality there’s a 30% chance of it coming back. So as you can imagine, the fear has always been there. With every ache and pain, I worried.

So when you say the words, “Stage 4 cancer,” what comes to mind? It’s ok, you can go ahead and say it – death, dying, end of life – right? Do feel bad. That’s exactly what I thought, and wake every morning fighting to get that out of my head.

But it’s not a death sentence. It’s not. People live for years with stage 4 cancer. It’s really all about perspective. It’s labeled STAGE 4 because it has metastasized. No matter where it’s travelled to, no matter how bad – it’s stage 4. Want some perspective?

Flashback – I was Stage 3 (actually stage 3b), because my cancer traveled to my lymph nodes. Six years later, when I went with my BFF to her post-surgery appointment with her doctor after her surgery for colon rectal cancer, the doctor was great. All positive and upbeat. “We got it all. We really did. We did this, we did that.” (ok, I’m improvising this.) And then, “It was nearly entering one lymph node, so you’re stage 3.” BRAKES SCREECHING SOUND.

I felt her tense up, and stopped the doctor. “How many lymph nodes did you test?” I asked him. “Ten,” he replied. “And of the ten, you’re saying only 1 was positive?” “That’s correct,” he confirmed.

I turned to her, “That’s 10%. I had 24 removed and tested and 8 were positive. That’s 30% and I was told that even THAT was good.”

See? Perspective.

So the need to stay positive, you see why, right? Many people live with metastatic cancer for years. I just have to find out what my ‘new normal’ is. A term that each and everyone one of you out there reading this can NOW understand given our current health climate.

I’ve chosen to have a health idol – Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Despite being the Notorious RBG. Here’s her quick health summary. She was diagnosed with colon cancer in 1999, and underwent surgery, chemo and radiation without missing a day on the bench. Ten years later, she had surgery to remove a tumor in her pancreas (and went back to work 10 days later). A cat scan after a fall in 2018 showed spots on her lungs and had a lobectomy, missing her first ever oral arguments in 25 years. Last August, she had focused radiation treatment for another tumor in her pancreas, and as of this past January is cancer free.

So what’s next? Extreme hormone therapy & targeted therapy – each will have their own set of side effects and issues. I’ll be on these for possibly the rest of my life. Tomorrow afternoon, I’ll start radiation therapy. 10 treatments. 2 weeks, every day, Monday through Friday. I’ll bike along the Hudson River down to the hospital, get zapped in my four spots, for about 15-20 minutes, and head back home.

What I can’t do are the things that I really want to do during these crazy times – help deliver coffee and food to our healthcare workers. So since I can’t, I need you to. Ok, I know you can’t deliver, but you can donate $5 right? And if you can’t, you can forward to someone who can.

$5 gives a Healthcare Worker on the front lines in New York City a meal. We’re working with my dear friend, Min from Star Lite Deli in Times Square to now feed at least two hospital ER staff a week. Please donate during these two weeks of radiation in my name.

After that? Who knows. But we at least have these two weeks. So make sure they count. Venmo @whitney-keeter or cash app $lulupicart. Do it now.

 

I’m not going to lie. Yesterday was a tough day. April 14, 2020

Filed under: biopsy,radiation — Bad Right Breast @ 12:21 pm

I knew the words ‘bone biopsy’ sounded scary. But I admit, it was nothing compared to what actually happened. It was closer to out-patient surgery than anything else. And as much as the nurse techs and physician assistant talked me through the procedure prior to going in, nothing could prepare me for hearing a drill go into my back.

After I was given a pulse-ox (index finger thingy to monitor your oxygen), blood pressure wrap (randomly constricts and feels like your arm will fall off), IV line in and cleared (to allow them to give me the necessary meds to relieve pain), and I have to always remind them of my limb alert (on my right arm, where 24 lymph nodes were removed nearly 9 years prior, and where I can’t have any blood drawn, line-in, blood pressure taken otherwise it would compromise my arm – as if that’s my worry)….where was I?

LINE-IN

Oh yeah, after ALL of that and more (paperwork, questions about allergies, confirming my name and date of birth to every person that approaches me), I was wheeled in on a stretcher into a cat scan room. I’m told that they would use the cat scan to guide the doctor to the actual location of the spots on my spine. When I got there, I rolled from the stretcher to the cat scan bed onto my stomach. They put that oxygen thingy up my nose to help me breath, as I soon learned that I would stuff my face in the pillow to muffle the pain sounds.

I was then given a nice dose of cocktails on the house (the nurse’s exact terms), and they stuck a gray charted grid like thing to my back to locate the spots during the scan. They then gave me pain killers in the exact spots as they would remove tissue – yes, it was painful. And then the doctor extracted the first specimen from my lower lumber, but when he went to the middle of my back, well, that’s where the drill came in. Three times to be exact. And yeah, it hit me what was happening. They were drawing samples from inside my bone.

The two spots biopsied.

When it was over, I was a little sore, but knew that the pain would worsen as my cocktails wore off. As they strolled me back to my curtained corner, I had a bit of a meltdown. And without any words, my bed was surrounded by all four nurses on staff and they ever so gently laid a hand on me – my shoulder, my arm, my leg. We stayed like that for a couple of minutes until I motioned that I was Ok. I had to sit there for the next hour, before I could be discharged.

Once I knew Graham was downstairs (they wouldn’t discharge me without him there), I was able to slowly get dressed, gather my things, and then was escorted to the hospital lobby. We sat there for the next 1.5 hours, had lunch, played games, and waited. He returned home for the girls and work, as I went back to the elevators and went down to the basement to Radiology. A place I went very often (30+ times to be exact) exactly 8 years prior, to exact the date. It was very surreal.

I saw three patients there. Three people who were coming in for their regularly scheduled radiation treatments. All three smiling at me, as if they were being supportive thinking this was my first time, not knowing that I just had my back drilled into. Not knowing that I was actually the pro. I let them all be handled before me. One came and went before I was even seen, which reminded me how quick the process was once you’re all set up.

Once I changed into yet another gown and locked my belongings away, I was immediately taken through the double doors to the simulation room. As they prepared my mold, I waited to talk with the Radiologist. He came in and slowly talked through the planning – making my mold and getting my tattoos. But I instantly had a plea. I needed to see the MRI in which he and my Oncologist say they saw the two spots. He looked a little dumb-founded, but I then stated that I couldn’t continue without looking at exactly what we’re all dealing with. He took a minute and then said that he could take a picture on his phone. I agreed. He left and returned soon after with his phone.

There it was, a side view of my spine. The spots within 8, 9 & 10 area and then on the 12th, but clearly not in the spinal canal. When I asked, “And those are on the bone?” He answered, “No, they are in the bone.” My heart skipped a beat. This entire time I understood that the spots were ON the bone and not IN the bone (thus the drilling). Just goes to show you that you MUST continue to ask questions, to learn those small details that are actually so huge. (I’m gonna get a copy of those scans, don’t you worry. But later when I talk to my oncology team, they understood how it could have been misinterpreted but that the protocol and treatment would be exactly the same either way.)

My Mold – AFTER I’ve laid in for about 30 minutes.

The nurses were ready. I laid on the bed, got comfortable within my mold, while they adjusted and literally taped me into position as the chemical mix in the plastic blue covering underneath me hardened and conformed around my body. My eyes closed as I started to just breathe. I felt them place stickers on my previous 6 tattoos, most likely that would show up in the scan. I breathed in and out as my body was marked and then confirmed where the new four tattoos would be placed. That’s right, four more tattoos – one on each side of my torso, one on the center of my sternum and one just above my belly button.

I needed a break. My back was in pain, and I just needed a moment before the worst part came. The nurse helped me sit up, as she prepared the tattoo mechanism. And then after a couple of minutes, she helped me lie back down. I remember the tattoos hurting but not like this. It was as if I was being slowly pierced through my sides, on my sternum, in my gut. I couldn’t help but cry, because of the pain, because of where I had returned to, because of what I knew was in store.

One of my torso tattoo points. After it heals, it barely looks like a mole. More like an ink point.

The nurse helped me up and off of the bed and into the chair where the Radiologist returned to give me my 10 day schedule starting the following week, pending my biopsy results. But I knew in my gut what road lies ahead, just as I knew almost nine years ago.

I got home, laid down on the couch with a giant ice pack on my back, took some additional Tylenol, and then meditated for the next hour. It was tough. It was tough to talk with my kids. One just wanted to hug me, and the other wanted to know the details – there’s no in between. Luckily I was able to get to sleep, just wanted to sleep. I just wanted the day to end. And then….

I awoke. It was a new day. My back is still soar, but somehow I feel, well, alive. Grateful. After all of that the day before, I am still here. I wait in baited breath for every call, for every MyChart notification. As I’ve always said, the waiting is the absolute worst. Worse than finding out if you even have cancer. But for now, I’m alive. And goddamn it, I’m going to make me some meatballs.

 

Cancer during Covid April 11, 2020

Filed under: biopsy,cancer,MRIs and Scans,radiation — Bad Right Breast @ 7:44 pm

If you know me at all, you know that I’m a ‘Doer.’ I take action whenever necessary.

Seriously.  After I talk through the issue at hand, I am all about – Ok, what’s the next step?  What do we have to do to get to the next step?  Or what steps of A & B do we have to prepare in order to get to C?
 
So when the left side of my abdomen started hurting, and progressively got worse over the course of the next several days, I called my General Physician.  And when I couldn’t get in immediately to see her, I contacted my Oncologist. I knew it would raise an alarm, since I’ve NEVER called in to see her outside of my normal three then six month check ups.  The next morning, she orders several different blood tests (all of which came back normal) and an abdominal and pelvic cat scan.
 
But by the next day, Saturday, a panel of skin on my left side became very sensitive and numbing.  I immediately thought of…SHINGLES!  Right?  And everything I knew about shingles was that you have to catch it early.  So first thing Monday morning, I went to my doctor’s urgent care, and yes, the doctor on-call agreed – I had pre-cursor to shingles.  She prescribed me 7 days of Valtrex, the singles anti-viral, and I thought that would be it.
 
My Oncologist still moved forward with the cat scan, because, well, you know, why not?  What harm could be done, right?  In ‘normal’ times, it would be no big deal for me.  But in the current Covid climate?  Well, getting any ‘normal’ procedure done would have it’s own obstacles, but now?  To say there are hurdles to jump over is an understatement, but having an Oncologist that doesn’t take ‘no’ for an answer definitely helps.
 
The memories of what I had to do to prep for a cat scan came flooding back.  Don’t eat or drink for 4 hours prior.  Drink a large amount of ass water an hour prior (for the contrast to highlight the organs), and then a open line to my veins for them to inject the contrast (which makes you feel like you’re peeing yourself, but you’re not).  I get through it all with no problem, but the next day I’m told that there are a couple of spots on my lower lumbar that require an MRI.
 
 
During this, the days of Covid became heightened and more rules regarding moving about the city had been enforced.  I returned to the same hospital for the lower lumbar MRI with armed guards at the entrance, to ensure that no one entered, not even visitors who went to check on loved ones.  The security guard recognized me and I went straight to the 4th floor, which was a ghost town.  My appointment as 5pm in the afternoon, and apparently I was the first patient of the day.  So I was either very diligent or very insane.
 
Through all of this, I was simply holding fast to the memory that when my breast surgeon saw a couple of spots on my spine after a full body Pet scan, and subsequently ordered a lower lumbar MRI, she thought that it was something that resembled something more like arthritis.  That’s what this was, right?
 
Sadly, no.  My Oncologist called the next day to say that she thought the two spots on my spine were tumors and that if they’re cancerous, they’re most likely connected to my breast cancer from 2011 (stage 3b, double mastectomy, 4.5 months of chemo, 6 weeks of radiation).   The words hit me like a ton of bricks.  My greatest fear for the past 8 years may in fact come true.  But I soon realize I need to listen.  The two spots are on the bone, and have NOT entered the spinal canal.  They are near it, but have not entered it.  And this, this is a good thing.  So once again, it’s caught before we could ever turn back.  She reassured me that she is not going anywhere and that she will see me through all of this.
 
She set forth a protocol that doesn’t require monitoring.  I’m to start very aggressive hormone therapy – Lupron injection once a month, Anastrozole once a day, and Abemaciclib twice a day.  What does this mean?  Well, my breast cancer was estrogen receptive, which means that it responds to the amount of estrogen in my system.  So if you block the estrogen, you block the cancer.  I’ve been on Tamoxifen for 8 years, which has slowly put me in pre-menopause.  But this?  Well, I’ll be in those later years within a few weeks.  (Household joke: so you’ll have a reason to be a bitch now? Answer = YEP!)  She also set me up with consults for both a bone biopsy and radiology.
 
The Radiologist called me first.  He looked through all of my history, and agreed with the Oncologist – two spots, on bone, look like tumors, haven’t entered spinal canal, if cancerous they’re related to my breast cancer.  He understands how things can get delayed, and after reading my chart knew that I could take whatever they throw at me.  Knowing that it takes a week or longer to start radiation, he moved forward with my simulation – making of my body mold and getting my tattoos.  And then we cross fingers that after my biopsy consult, the procedure would be set within that timeline.
 
SIDE NOTE: I would only need 10 treatments, as they’d be able to zap it more directly on the bone, versus before when it was within tissue. Back then, those 6 weeks were actually 30 treatments, every morning at 7:30am, M-F. I’d bike down along the Hudson, go in, get zapped for about 20 minutes, and bike over to work. For me back then, the worst was an eventual sunburn in my armpit, not fun. This time, it’s predicted to cause a minor burn, but instantly relieve any back pain.
 
And just like that, the biopsy is scheduled for the same day as the radiation simulation so that I can consolidate my trips to the hospital – this Monday, 2 days away.  BUT, before I could get in, I had to take a COVID test to ensure that I don’t currently have the virus.
 
injection.selfieSo this morning, I went in to take that test, and I have to say that it was the deepest nose tickle ever!  Seriously, it was the absolute weirdest thing EVER done to me, and well, no other comment needs to be made. 
 
Before you feel sorry for me, or keep me in your thoughts and prayers, I want to say this.  All of this is happening to me and so many others during the worst health crisis of nearly every generation alive.  We are all experiencing this together, working through our own issues, whether it be physical or mental. 
 
Yes, I’ve sat in that dark place, seeing every fleeting moment pass me thinking that it might be my last.  I wouldn’t be human if I didn’t.  It would be realistic for me to think that I would be invisible to this.  I’ve felt all of those dark feelings and have done my fair share of crying, and still do.  But living in that place does no one any good.  So as soon as I’m able, I take a deep breath and move forward.  I move forward for myself, for my husband, for my daughters, for my family, for my friends, and for those that need it most.  We are ALL in this together.  
 
So once you take that deep breath, be a Doer and take action.  For yourself and for everyone around you.  And that’s how we all will rise above that dark place.

 

Day 8 – 2 to go! April 29, 2020

Filed under: cancer — Bad Right Breast @ 10:25 pm

Overcast day and birds abound! Loon flying overhead, and a small flock of geese are protecting their new goslings.

Everything was like clockwork. I got there early despite the casual bike ride. They brought me in early, and 11.5 minutes later I was out.

I relished in the fact that I was in and out so easily today, knowing that the next two days are full of scans, follow-ups, injection and starting the next phase.

So for now, here are the goslings.

 

Day 7 – why I write April 28, 2020

Filed under: cancer — Bad Right Breast @ 9:31 pm

Nine years ago (when the shit was hitting the fan the first time around), telling my parents was one of the hardest things I ever had to do. I instantly felt a sense of shame overwhelm me, as if I had done something wrong. I knew even in the moment that it was ridiculous, but the feelings were real.

I also knew that I didn’t want them to deal with any of the questioning. You know – small town, people talk. I didn’t want them to hear, “Laurie is dying of cancer up in New York City.” I didn’t want there to be any question about what was happening to me and also I didn’t want them to have to tell my story.

Little did I know, that writing my story for them actually became therapy for me. It became a way for me to get out of my head, a way to re-enforce the fact that it wasn’t just happening to me. That there were many women before, during and that would sadly come after.

A few months ago, during an open discussion session on breast cancer I led once in which I talked through my diagnosis, treatment and recovery, I was asked, “Does talking about your cancer help give you the positive attitude you have?”

It’s not the first time I’ve been asked this. But maybe the answer is yes. Writing about, talking about it – it’s all therapy for me. Writing down the words, talking about the truth. Almost as if once I put the words out there, it’s confirmed that it’s happening. It’s confirmed that it’s so incredibly shitty, ridiculous, unfair.

Then there’s the dirty truth of it all. Each and every step, never quite what anyone warns you about.

So that’s why I write.

But I bike to actually stay in my head, for just a bit. To slowly stroll up and down the massive river called the Hudson. A river that just a couple of miles further opens up to the Atlantic Ocean. I know how fortunate I am. To end my round trip journey at a place that saved me from the same mind game trauma I’m about to be set upon yet again. I may only have three more treatments to go, but the next two months will be the most challenging ahead. The waiting…

PS – a loon was gliding over the water. Enjoying the sun’s raise and had no time for Peek-a-Boo.

 

Day 4 – #tbt April 24, 2020

Filed under: cancer — Bad Right Breast @ 7:44 am

What is radiation? I’ll write in detail later but for now, here’s a throwback to 8 years ago. 15/30 treatments in…

https://badrightbreast.wordpress.com/2012/03/28/halfway-thru-radiation/

 

DAY 3 – celebrate the Earth April 22, 2020

Filed under: cancer — Bad Right Breast @ 9:22 pm

Just another day of radiation. A windy bike ride, with two loons flying overhead that got lost in the clouds.

But today marks four years since our beloved Victor died of brain cancer. So instead of a new post, I send you back 4 years ago to remember a great man, and his mangoes.

https://badrightbreast.wordpress.com/2016/04/25/no-more-mangoes/