Tuesday, October 27, 2009

I got out of the hospital yesterday, but spent all day there today getting a PICC line put in (like a port for my arm).  I'll write a longer update later, but I just want to say that they did not give me enough drugs for the venal rape that I went through.  Not enough drugs at all.

Monday, October 26, 2009

I'm supposed to get out of here today, which is good because shit is getting weird.  In addition to the moaner, we now also have a random yeller.   It's like a regular Halloween extravaganza around here.

Edited to add: My oncologist just walked in to tell me that he's running a little behind because someone is having a "hair emergency."  I don't even know where to begin with that.

Friday, October 23, 2009

New update:  I will be leaving the hospital early next week (probably Monday).  They want me on round the clock IV antibiotics for a full week before letting me go.  My blood cultures are looking good, though. 

As I understand it, my chemo would be pushed back a week from my vacating the hospital.  I'm not sure what this means in terms of my final chemo, but, you know what?  I'm not even going to worry my pretty little head about it.  It'll happen when it happens.

In other news, I have 9 remaining lower eyelashes.  Total.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

I'm on a fair amount of opiates (read: vicodin AND morphine)  as I write this, so please excuse any typos, grammar errors or nonsensical ramblings.

So, as some of you may have heard, I've been spending my days in the hospital. The short story is that I woke up feeling fluish on Sunday, and after a short nap, my temperature reached an upsetting 104.5.  Any time my fever goes above 100.5, I'm supposed to rush straight to the ER, so that's what I did.  Turns out I have a staph infection in my blood.  (Astute readers will remember that, along with with shingles and cancer, staph infections are one of my biggest medical fears.  Go me for conquering them all in one fell swoop).  I'm currently on round the clock IV antibiotics and they are doing all sorts of heart tests to make sure that the infection doesn't settle in my heart valves (which are currently fine).  I also had to have my port removed today, since that can harbor bacteria.

I'm feeling better every day, and my fever has been gone for most of the day.  So that's good.  I've been having this weird, severe chest pain that doesn't seem heart related and isn't abating either.  So that's, I don't know, neutral to bad. I'll be in the hospital at least one more day, though, and possibly more, depending on the results of my labs.  My chemo, which should have been today, is tentatively scheduled for Friday, but I'm not sure if I'll make that.  Regardless, I'll probably end up going pretty much straight from the hospital to chemo.  Fun!

Oh, also, my next door neighbor in the hospital is a nighttime moaner. It's awkward. 

Thursday, October 15, 2009

But how will I ever meet Snoop if I don't have boobs?

So, chemo related news: First off, I'd like to give a shout out to AC.  By shout out, I mean, I HATE YOU, AC.  Do you remember the salad days of docetaxel, back when chemo was fun?  Man, those some good times.  Now, I'm all nauseous and exhausted and generally under the weather.   AC, you can go f- yourself.  (Just kidding, AC, please keep curing my cancer.)

Also - quick rant - I am so sick of trying to fit three weeks of life into one week of feeling good.  Do you have any idea how hard it is to do 3 weeks of stuff in one week?  It's really hard! No like, seriously hard. Pity me.

But really, I know that you aren't really hear to listen to me bitch about chemo (I mean, come on, that's been done to death).  You want to hear all about the boobs!

I want to start by explaining a something about mastectomies that many people don't realize.  When you get a mastectomy, they take your nipples.  Repeat: you no longer have nipples.  If you get breast reconstruction, you either need to get prosthetic nipples, or you get a little pucker sown into your new boobs and then get an areola tattoo.  Isn't that weird?  No, I understand. It's okay to take a moment and get weirded out by that. So, when I talk about how I'm going to miss my real boobs, what I really mean is that I'm going to miss having nipples.  I feel that it is mourning the upcoming loss of nipples is a valid, normal thing to go through, and so I'm doing it.  However, as saying "nipple" is funny, and nipples, in general, are pretty much a comedy gold mine, please feel free to mock my nipple-less existence.  I understand that sometimes, we just do things for the lulz, and I'm honored to be a part of that.

So, on to reconstruction. First, the bad news:  Even though I have put on 9 pounds since starting chemo, I do not have enough tummy fat to make new breasts.  I don't even have enough butt fat to make new breasts.  This means, I get neither an incidental tummy tuck nor an incidental butt lift.  It's at times like these that I feel like cancer and I have an unbalanced relationship.  I mean, I've given up a lot for cancer.  My hair, 9 pounds, flossing, etc.  And does cancer have the decency to give me a great butt or a washboard stomach? No!  Cancer is such a dick. (Also, I asked how much weight I'd need to gain in order to make breasts.  Answer: 50 pounds!)

Since I can't make breasts with my own fat, do I get to have awesome implants?  Um, kind of.  I don't just get implants because I need radiation.  According to my doctor, who, incidentally, looks a lot like the DJ from Northern Exposure, radiation makes your chest muscle "woody" and it doesn't hold implants well.  Instead, I get what is known as a "lat dorsi."  There, they take the latissimus dorsi muscles from my back and form them into little hammocks which will support implants.  It's like all the pain of the autologous tissue surgeries with all of the annoyance of having implants!  Whatever, though.  I am having elaborate fantasies about all of the cute tops I'll be able to wear once I don't have to worry about industrial strength support undergarments, and that soothes the pain right away.

Another note, (so you aren't surprised if you see me):  Because I need radiation, I won't get immediate reconstruction.  I'll have a good 10 months or so between mastectomy and reconstruction at which point I'll have the chest of a young, nippleless boy.  I don't think I need to remind you that this is fraught with potential comedy, and I hope to exploit it whenever possible.

I've gotten several recurring questions from people about different mastectomy stuff.  Let me just say, the answer to all of the questions is pretty much, "No, I need radiation."  So, if you have a question that can possibly be answered by "No, I need radiation," I can practically guarantee that's the answer.  However, keep them coming, and at some point, I'll create an FAQ.

And before I sign off, a humorous anecdote: My friend Mickey was talking to a book publisher (is that right, Mickey?) about how I write quirky little bits about having cancer, and the book publisher told him that the funny cancer market is flooded right now.  Isn't that lulzy?  A) There is a funny cancer market and B) it's already saturated.  If I'd been serious about a publishing career, I really should have gotten my cancer sooner.  I'm not concerned, though, because it's really my soon to be completed young adult novel that will take the publishing world by storm.

Also, Denzel Washington's personal driver paid for my dinner tonight.  True story.  (No, this really is a true story.)

Over and out,
Titsy McGee

Sunday, October 11, 2009

They say I could have been brain dead in a wheelchair, but I'm standing in the booth and the skills are still here

Now that my hair is growing back and doesn't seem to be going anywhere, I thought I'd chronical my hair through chemo.

First up, some examples of my pre-chemo hair:

I'm the one sitting on the couch on the right.  Doesn't my hair look curly and shiny here? 

And here my hair is looking particularly cute during a night of roller skating:

Again, I'm on the right here.  God, hair, you are so cute and perky here.  It's like you knew that disco skate night was the night to rock out.

And then I started chemo, and, after 15 days, the hair started to fall out, as exemplified here:

Ew.  Having your hair fall out in chunks like that is pretty unnerving.  Like a horror movie or something. So, we cut my hair quite short.

We listened to Girl Talk and I sang and danced a lot.

The cat judged.  (BTW, we are in the process of renovating the bathroom, so it looks pretty depressing in these pictures.)

Here I am, still dancing around with the finished product.

So, the short hair lasted roughly twelve hours before I started going bald right in the front.  After about 3 days, my hair had finished falling out, and I looked like this:

This picture looks like a Glamour Shot, right?  It's only because Don is like 12 feet tall.  Also, don't I look like a little baby bird here?  We referred to my hair during this period as my "pricklesoft," as it was both prickly and soft.  Bet you couldn't have guessed that on your own.

At the end of every cycle, I'd lose a bit more hair and it seemed like any remaining hair was white.  Here I am, at last docetaxel infusion looking especially bald.

I'm trying to look punkrock in this pic, and if you look really closely, you can see my chemohawk.  You can also see some of the changes in my weight and skin texture in this picture. 
By the time I started my first round of AC, my hair had started to grow back.  Initially, it was just those little white strands.  (It's really common for hair to grow back white at first.) However, I'm starting to get a nice layer of regular colored hair.  When I shaved my head this morning, the clippings were pretty prototypically salt and pepper.  So, here is my current hair, on day 10 after my 2nd AC cycle (6th total cycle).

And a little more hair-centric:

It's comparatively lush, right?  And I can't call it a pricklesoft anymore, because it's just soft.  I'm pretty curious to see if it keeps growing back, or if my awesome Halloween costume will be realized.  I'm sure that I'll post more pics either way.

And to end, here is a cute picture of Cancer Puppy (also known as Beulah):

Friday, October 9, 2009

It's Jay-Z night, my hair re-growth looks punk rock, and part of the money I'm going to spend on that amazing pink plaid miniskirt goes back to benefit me. Me!  Who gives a fuck about cancer when life is this kickass?

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Before chemo, I was clearly taking my awesome brain for granted.  I believe my feelings towards cognition function are best summed up by Cindarella's 1988 power ballad, "Don't Know What You've Got Til It's Gone."

Saturday, October 3, 2009

I just rubbed my eyes and lost a bunch of eyelashes.  Why are my eyelashes falling out and while my head hair remains attached?  I believe this is what is colloquially known as complete bullshit.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Just a quick housekeeping note:  As we begin Breast Cancer Awareness month, I'd like to remind you that sometimes the most effective way to support the fight against cancer is a direct donation to a patient.  Just saying.

So, chemo news:  Man, Week 1 of my new regimen is so craptastic compared to my old regimen.  Week 2 was better, so I guess it all comes out in the wash, but did I mention Week 1 is lame?  Who would have ever thought that going through chemo would be kind of a bummer?  I did lose one of those extraneous pounds I gained on the old regimen, though.  Thanks, nausea!

I also only have two more infusions left before surgery, meaning I'm almost done with chemo.  It sounds strange, but in some ways, I'll kind of miss it.  I like only needing 15 minutes in the morning to shower and get ready.  I like the drive to Hershey and watching trashy TV in the infusion room.  In some ways, I even enjoy being so dumb afterward that the only things I'm capable of doing are watching DVDs and reading the Internet.  I also like all of the nurses and staff in the infusion center.  I guess all bittersweet things must come to an end.

Tumor news: My doctor could barely find my tumor, and said there is a chance that the mass we're currently feeling may just be left over scar tissue.  This doesn't change my course of treatment at all, but it reminded me of the picture attached to this update.  (Note: if you ever find yourself having cancer and not wanting to let it get you down, Courage Wolf is often a good pick me up.)

Side effect news:  You may remember from my last update that my hair has been growing back ever since my last docetaxel treatment.  It's still there and it's still growing. The doctor promised me it would fall out with my last AC cycle, and it's definitely starting to a little bit.  However, my Halloween costume depends on me being mostly bald, and I'm going to be so annoyed if my hair stays attached.  I realize that I still have a month until Halloween, and my chemo nurse said that it sometimes takes two AC cycles to see real hair loss.  All I know is that if I miss out on an awesome Halloween opportunity because new chemo failed to make me bald, I'm going to be pissed.  I might even write another one of those F you, Cancer updates.

(Some people have asked why I don't just shave my head for Halloween.  I feel like there is something fundamentally wrong about shaving new hair growth after chemo.  That's akin to killing kittens or drinking baby blood.  The hair has to go on its own, or I'll just be G.I. Jane for Halloween, a far inferior costume, I might add.)

I have an appointment in Plastics (doesn't that sound badass?) on Monday to discuss breast reconstruction, which has made me think quite about about my upcoming mastectomies.  I don't know quite how to explain how weird this feels, and I can't really think of either a unisex or male equivalent of a mastectomy to put it into perspective.  At any rate, it's going to be weird, weirder than losing my hair, I think, and although I generally conceptualize the mastectomies as battle scars in my epic war against cancer, I still feel unsettled when I see Girls Gone Wild commercials late at night (don't even act like you don't see them when you have insomnia and end up watching reruns at 3 am).

And finally, I managed to score some Jay-Z tickets, so that crisis has been averted!