Bad Right Breast

I've Always Hated My Right Breast!

DAY TWO – Radiation Radio April 21, 2020

Filed under: cancer,radiation,stage 4 Metastatic — Bad Right Breast @ 8:26 pm

Let’s take a little turn. There’s enough doom and gloom in our lives, even on a good day. So in case you were wondering what I am listening to during my bike rides to and from the hospital… More specifically, what do you listen to when you’re a Murderino who’s listened to just about every true crime series? Here are my current choices:

DAILY in the AM – just in time for my 9am bike ride south, I start off with the 10k Daily. Since 3/16, Alison and Lulu (both isolating in Florida) have been publishing daily 10 minute podcasts, cracking me up every morning. Separate from their weekly Wednesday and Sunday casts (equally hysterical – I will never hear Crested Butte the same again), the daily gives you some insight to what you can do, watch, build and more during our shelter in place, while laughing at the same time. Subscribe to 10k Dollar Day.

11:30am or soon afterwards- Governor Cuomo ‘s Daily Briefing

DAILY in the PM – with her regular podcast, Family Secrets (equally as thrilling) on hiatus til August, Dani Shapiro has started a daily called The Way We Love Now. In each episode she interviews someone different – restaurant owner, a retired physician, actress Jamie Lee Curtis, a New Orleans musician, Senator Chris Murphy, a therapist and grief counselor – all describing the world they’re living in now. Eye Opener!

WEEKLY: Terrible, Thanks For Asking – in a normal week, it’s already crazily refreshing hearing tales of life that people have persevered. But now that everyone IN THE WORLD has joined the Terrible Club, what next? Today’s episode with her kids killed me.

GO BACK AND LISTEN to Phoebe Judge’s This is Love, and then to get your true crime fix that’s more refreshing than gory, Criminal.

AND IF YOU WANT TO LAUGH AT NOTHING: Do You Need a Ride? Two comedians who give comedians a ride to/from LAX airport for gigs, but what do they do now? When laughing at nothing is what you need, listen to this.

And today? Even tho my trip took place in the AM rather than the afternoon like yesterday, a loon was still around to greet me.

 

DAY 1 & DONE April 20, 2020

Filed under: cancer — Bad Right Breast @ 5:27 pm

It was as good as it could be given all of the circumstances. I have a lot to contemplate regarding the new medication, side effects, how I should adjust my diet and the best way to keep alcohol in my daily allowance.

Really, I’m just tired. A lot leads up to your first day. First day of school, first day on the job, first day in a new home. Today, like all other first days, I’m tired from mostly the adrenaline. I’ve come down only to know that I have to get back up.

In talking to a lot of friends, one mentioned that the first time around, with cancer, was like a marathon. I did it. I pushed through. I got to the end. And now? They’re making me run it all over again. It’s a great analogy for going through cancer another time around. But to be honest, I can’t see myself running a marathon. Better yet, I have no interest in running a marathon. So, I guess I’ll take it.

Just so you know, I witnessed at least 5 individuals in there 80’s at least, kicking ass out there, running and biking. I was barely keeping up. So yes I’m taking it easy, no I didn’t try to beat them (although I did two), and I didn’t have any road rage. – writing this all specifically in case my Oncologist reads this.

Glad to have Day 1 over and done. As I rode back home, I was followed by a couple of loons along the Hudson that reminded me of something we all need to keep repeating right now. We are not alone.

 

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.

 

No Regrets…Despite the Tsunami November 5, 2018

Filed under: cancer,in memorium — Bad Right Breast @ 8:00 am

You know how life can run away from you?  That no matter what, there just is never enough time?  Whether it be in a day, week, or even lifetime.  And no matter how many times you say, “I’ll call/visit tomorrow, or next week,” and you don’t, it seems you never learn.  I mean, we all get bogged down with our own life in our own ways.  For me it sometimes feels like a tsunami, and I have to do everything in my power to muster through.  When I come out on the other side, I begrudgingly have to play catch up on what I missed.  I’m lucky if it’s a deadline for the girls, late on a bill payment, or not able to join in a harvest at the garden.  And then there are times that I find out I missed something that I’ll never have the chance of getting back.

Friday, I found out that a friend had passed away the week prior and I didn’t even know.  I mean, I knew she was in the hospital again, but thought it was just like all the times before.  That she had gotten a little sicker, needed a boost, and would be back out walking among us, as she’s done over and over again.  The last I talked to her in person was a month ago, and she said in passing as we were picking up our kids from school, “I might need another transplant.”  To Sam (name change to respect the privacy of the family) this wasn’t out of the ordinary – the transplant or the out-of-the-blue one-liner.  Our talks had been like this for the past four years – so busy we barely had time to catch each other up on what was important in our own care or what our kids needed.  Those check-ins where you quickly say, “My doctor appointment is tomorrow,” for the sole purpose of sharing your anxiety with someone who truly understands, and nothing more.  Or “check out Gilda’s Club, it’s a god-sent.”  I knew I needed to send her a text soon, but didn’t, well, because I was in the midst of my tsunami.

Our kids have gone to school together since 2nd grade.  Soon after we met, she told me that she read my blog and that ironically we went through the exact same type of cancer, treatment, and recovery, but a year apart.  We even joked about how our breasts could be nearly the same.  She became a pillar of strength and support within her community, especially among women who can easily feel ashamed by simply having cancer.  She was an advocate for cancer care, and freely told her story so that others could know that they weren’t alone in their fight.  But Sam also epitomized the word, “warrior.”  As a single mom, she showed her child such strength amidst a humble endurance, that in turn  taught every person in her presence just what bravery was.

Last fall, after suffering pain at the nape of her neck and in her gums, she had a bone marrow biopsy which proved positive for Leukemia.  After months in the hospital, which included 24/7 week-long chemo treatments and eventually a bone marrow transplant, she was told there was nothing they could do.  She walked out of that hospital and into another where she joined a research study that extended her life so she could celebrate her 35th birthday this past September.  That’s right, 35.  My younger sister’s age.

I know it’s ridiculous to feel guilty about not connecting with her just one more time.  Just like it’s ridiculous to feel guilty that it was her and not me.  But just like the fear of cancer returning is real, so is the guilt – all of it.  No matter how much you try to say, “There’s always tomorrow,” sometimes there isn’t, and there’s nothing you can do about it.  That’s it.  Sometimes, there’s simply nothing you can do.  It is, what it is.   And I fucking hate that phrase, more than all of the cancer fighting cliches, this cliche of life is my all-time least favorite.  I don’t think anything ‘is what it is.’  I think ‘it is WHAT YOU MAKE IT.’  Of course there are things that are out of our control, and it’s when you feel completely helpless that you fall into a deep sadness that’s hard to overcome, sometimes leading to its own tsunami.  So to admit that it is, in fact, what it is, well, it sucks.

But for Sam…even during her last stay in the hospital, she was grateful for all of the care despite not being able to get a good night’s sleep.  She kept her faith in God despite being tested over and over.  She always smiled amid the tubes and needles.  I can rest easier knowing that she’s at peace, that her family and child no longer need to see her suffer behind her glowing joy for life.  Sam truly made her life into what she wanted, despite the most extreme challenges.

Nothing like a little cancer to put your life into perspective again, and again, and again. The constant reminder to live with no regrets…despite your tsunami.

 

 

Protected: Jenny’s Garden Harlem October 2, 2018

Filed under: cancer — Bad Right Breast @ 12:39 am

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17 years ago today… September 11, 2018

Filed under: breast self exams,cancer,in memorium — Bad Right Breast @ 6:45 am

17 years ago today…it was a Tuesday morning, just like today.  Not gloomy or rainy like today, but incredibly sunny with clear skies.   I left our tiny apartment downtown, like every weekday morning for the past 3 months, and traveled to my office in Times Square.  Just an ordinary day.  I was sitting at my desk, when a co-worker came in to say that a plane hit the World Trade Center.  I tried to load the news station online, but all I could see was a smoking tower.  He went downstairs to the Broadway League, and called up – another plane.  Then minutes later…a tower fell, then the other.  We scrambled to connect with all of the actors we were to be transporting to Connecticut that day, one of which was my best friend.  I tried to contact my family in Louisiana, only to touch base with my dad for a couple of minutes.  We all tried to make sense out of the unknown, afraid of staying and of leaving.

It wouldn’t be until hours later when I met up with my then fiance in the Village, and we slowly made our decent back to our apartment downtown.  The smoke billowing above all other buildings was our target direction.  The weeks following included walking miles to and from that apartment.  No subway service, three police blockades, proving that we lived there every time we encountered a group of armed officers with machine guns.  Each step closer to what we called home smelled like another world.  The smell for months afterwards is something that I will never forget.  I don’t have to close my eyes to remember that smell.  Who knows what it was.  Well, we all know what is was, but couldn’t think about it.  We were just trying to get by.  To survive.

10 years later I would be diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer.  Extremely aggressive, estrogen receptive.  15 tumors, 8 out of 24 lymph nodes testing positive, on the verge of spreading throughout my entire body.  Complete double mastectomy, 4.5 months of chemo, 6 weeks of radiation.  I tested negative for all of the possible cancer genes, and am told to blame it on just dumb luck.

But what if my dumb luck was more than just finding the disease that knows no prejudice on a whim, a mere self-exam.  What if it was because I walked towards that billowing cloud of smoke day in and day out.  That’s right.  Several weeks ago, I was told that I’m eligible for 9/11 compensation due to my cancer.  And foolishness ensues, given that I shredded all of my paperwork this past summer in the midst of a full on purge.  That’s right, it’s all gone.

Ironically, I now work mere blocks away from the new World Trade Center.  I see it standing over me every time I leave my office building, sometimes several times a day.  It’s my new reminder.  For the past 6 years, since I’ve been told I was cancer-free, I’ve pondered.  What if I didn’t smoke during my college years?  Do I drink too much? (I dismissed that one before the thought barely formed, as I sip my 2nd cocktail of the evening.)  Could I have done something differently so that I didn’t put my family through that year of hell?

As you can imagine, I’ve been contemplating the past couple of weeks on how far I want to go with this.  The PTSD of my diagnosis, treatment and recovery is real, and comes back in waves, a constant rollercoaster.  Survivor guilt is real in more ways than one.  And now, it’s a whole new type of PTSD…and guilt.  So today, I will remember.  I will remember all of the victims, living and deceased.  I will never forget, as it’s a part of me, and forever will be.

Then we’ll all wake up tomorrow and start all over again.

 

 

If I Had Just Prayed… October 12, 2017

Filed under: cancer — Bad Right Breast @ 8:27 pm

“Pray as though everything depended on God. Work as though everything depended on you.” – St. Augustine

This is a post that has been a long time coming. I’ve written and re-written it multiple times. I’ve questioned whether it’s worth the scrutiny that I could receive.  But I truly feel in my heart that the time has come.  I’ll preface it with this…This is my story, my experience, my life.  It shouldn’t be taken as a personal attack against anyone.

Throughout everything I’ve experienced and witnessed in life, I still believe in the power of prayer, in its infinite possibilities to make change, to impact the world. But I don’t think it’s the only answer.  When I was diagnosed with my cancer, the amount of ‘you’re in my prayers’ or ‘praying for you’ was incredible. I could actually feel the love, and boy, did I need it.  When 30 monks in Tibet were chanting simultaneously, for six hours during my first day of chemo in my honor, I knew I had a power behind me like no other.  

But if I were to be completely honest, there were times when I didn’t want to hear it, any of it. I was angry. ‘I don’t want your prayers,’ I would sometimes think.  ‘I want this to be gone, done and over. And prayers aren’t going to do that.’  That latter? I still believe.  I know that there are a number of reasons, both explainable and unexplainable, as to why my cancer is gone.  That you could never know by looking at me (except for my perfect bra-less tatas), that I went through 10 months of pure hell 5 years ago.  Some may think that it’s the power of prayer that rid me of it. But I know that if I would have just knelt and prayed, I’d be dead.  

First of all, I got my cancer by mere dumb luck.  Even though there’s a plethora of cancer on both sides (making my family tree look as if it had chicken pox), I’m truly negative for the cancer gene, a bewilderment to both my genetic counselor and my breast surgeon.   I found my tumor by mere chance, doing a complete random, self-exam while lying in bed one night.  I had an assertive breast surgeon that led me right into action – scans, tests, surgery, treatment.  My cancer was so aggressive that waiting a mere month would have sent it to stage4.  I stood up to my oncologist when she made a mistake with my prescriptions, with the help of my husband who had my back.  I questioned my doctors, and I was assertive enough to make my point heard – and they listened.  Two weeks after surgery, I went straight into 4.5 months of the harshest chemo (it’s not called the Red Devil for nothing) to 6 weeks straight of radiation, to forcing my doctors to order a PetScan to ensure all of that hell was worth it and that the cancer was gone, only to then go back under the knife for reconstruction and healing.  I knew, throughout all of this, that just being on my knees to pray was not going to heal me.  I need to take action for myself and my family.  While prayer gave me the strength, I had to actually do the work.  

There is nothing wrong with questioning authority, especially doctors or any public position whose purpose is to serve the people.  It’s incredibly challenging to listen to an opposing view, whether it be medical treatment, how to care for someone, or even how an entire group is being oppressed.  It’s all the same.  It takes courage and endurance, and a humble acknowledgement that you may have been wrong in choices you’ve made in the past. You are sometimes forced to put your pride aside and stand up for what’s moral and right, for yourself, your loved ones or even complete strangers.  It means you may have to think differently than you did before, than your family, friends and co-workers. It doesn’t mean you hate the person or persons you’re questioning.  It means that you’re so passionate and confident about your beliefs that you would rather be questioned and scrutinized than end up on the wrong side of history, and for some that means life or death. 

Then, there are things that simply can’t be rationalized or you’ll go insane.  Why was my body able to handle the worst of the worst and my aunt not able to handle  a fraction?  Why did her cancer continue to spread, despite all of her efforts and mine cease?  Why has a school mom who went through my near exact treatment, been diagnosed with what they say is an incurable leukemia and not me?  For them and so many more, prayer is what gets them through, but boy do they fight with as much energy they can muster.  

At the same time, there are so many people who are so far down the rabbit hole that they physically, mentally and/or spiritually  can’t pick themselves up.  That no matter how hard they try, they can’t.  And prayer alone especially won’t do it either.  It’s easy to sit back and judge these people – they caused they’re own homelessness, they aren’t hard workers, they just expect handouts.  Judging is so easy but is so wrong.   You see, I experienced just a sliver of that judgement when I had cancer.  When I didn’t look sick but was filled with so much Red Devil I looked like a drug addict, asking for a seat on the subway, fumbling and bumbling down the street. People looking at me as if I was contagious, as if I had caused my own downfall.  It was embarrassing.  On the other hand when I did look like cancer, I’d get the extreme looks of sympathy and concern.  After experiencing this day after day, I realized that the looks weren’t always for me.  My cancer reminded others of their own. Maybe they just received their own diagnosis or that of a loved one.  Maybe they are taking care of their dying partner.  Or maybe even they buried their own child.  We’ve absolutely no idea the pain, the struggle, or the history of someone’s downfall.  And it shouldn’t be up to us to judge them or keep them in their pit of misery.  I’d bump into people all the time, fell asleep on someone’s arm once – all the while, none of them really knowing what was going on with me. 

While prayer is sometimes the only thing a person has to offer, the majority of us have so much more to give.  Whether it be a dime to homeless person, a voice for the oppressed, an advocate for a loved one, food to the poor – the list is endless.  Prayer is an amazing and wondrous act of faith and spirit. Its powers are limitless. But getting on your knees to pray for others is easy. It’s when you have to pray for yourself to have the courage and bravery to do what’s right that’s the most difficult. And then actually doing it, even more.