Archive for March, 2012

The Tomato Plant
March 31, 2012

Ken has been sick this week. Typically, on Fridays, his day off, he runs errands and takes care of things that need to be done around the house, etc. There are many things that I used to do, that he has taken over during the past couple of years. But yesterday, after work, I made my list and took off to run errands. I know that doesn’t sound like much but, believe it or not, for the past couple of years, I haven’t done that. I may go out to do one thing or I may ride along with Ken when he goes to a couple of places, but that’s about it. But yesterday, that changed. Had to fill my car with gas, go pick up meds, do the weekly Sam’s run, etc. It was a beautiful day and, while driving home it hit me like a ton of bricks. I am a normal person again. What? I’m not a cancer patient. I’m a normal person. I think I was experiencing a bit of that while at work yesterday as well. I had a ton of things to do, but I was just ticking them off and making progress and feeling good in the process. Now, was I still fatigued? Yes. Did my bones still ache? Yes. But everyone has issues. I’m not talking about a physical feeling. I’m talking about a mental feeling…a state of mind. All of a sudden,  I FEEL like a normal person again. I’m not sure what happened to change that. For years I have felt like a Cancer patient trying to make my way through life. But driving home from Sams yesterday I suddenly felt like a normal person who used to have Cancer but doesn’t have cancer now. I’m a different person. But in a good way. It’s a state of mind. I’m pretty sure this beautiful early spring had something to do with it. You can’t help but feel uplifted. You can’t help but feel a spirit of rebirth.

Last week-end we went to Omaha and stopped at Mulhalls. If you’ve never been there, you have to experience it some day. It is a huge, beautiful nursery/greenhouse/garden center. And, they had plants all over the place. Big, healthy plants. We couldn’t resist the temptation. We bought a couple of tomato plants and a pepper plant. We are fully aware of the fact that March is not the time to plant tomatoes in this area. But, this year is different. Ken really wanted to try it. So we bought a couple and he did. That is true hope…true optimism. He has a greenhouse type cover he made so he can cover them up or let them soak up the sun like they are this week-end. And he/we feel that these plants will be fine. They will grow and flourish even though it is six weeks early to plant them.

I have two medical appointments this week. On Wednesday I see my primary care physician to catch up on some tests, etc. that have slipped by the wayside with everything else that has been going on. He will also order the bone density test that I need. Then, on Friday, I have a weigh in at the Cancer Center. Once I make it through those things, I will just have my appointment with Dr. D. on May 11. I think that is the day that I will officially be free. Free of the Cancer patient label. Officially. It’s time. They need to stop making me feel like a cancer patient and allow me to move on. I’m not going to Mayo Clinic. He may or may not agree with me, but I truly believe that I am fine.

Like the tomato and pepper plants…it’s my time, in spite of what some may think. Those plants will be fine and so will I. I feel it and I believe it.

Later.

One Down
March 26, 2012

Ticked off one of the appointments on the list of those currently standing between me and being “sprung.” I went in for my dental appointment this morning. Not really what I had hoped but it is what it is. First off, they determined that I needed a periodontal treatment. Hate, hate, hate those. But I had nitrous this time and being as super sensitive to stuff like that as I am, I basically went to sleep and missed the whole thing. 🙂 Then, when the doctor came in I asked him about the drug that Dr. D. is considering putting me on…well, asked him as well as I could with my face numb from my eyes to my neck. He definitely doesn’t recommend these types of drugs. He says that if something happens and I have to have a tooth extracted, there is a chance that it won’t heal. And, also, these drugs have a very long half-life which means that they stay in your system for a very long time. That said, he agreed that there are circumstances where the benefits outweigh the risks and he approved the use of it in my case. Suffice it to say, I would have preferred a more resounding endorsement. Will have to see the results of the bone density before I agree to go on it now. AND…thanks to my treatment today, I have to come back in six weeks, so yet another appointment. They will do some sort of laser treatment at that time. It’s something new, I guess. And, so it goes…

My head is heavy tonight. Not sure if my headache is the result of the nitrous or the treatment. And my gums are sore as well. But Ken has offered to fix me something I can comfortably eat for dinner so thank you so much to my husband.

Later.

And MORE Hope On the Horizon
March 21, 2012

Seriously? Aspirin?

For those who have not yet heard…and I find it hard to believe that anyone has not heard since it has been on NBC new, Reuters, NY Times, Wall Street Journal, Yahoo, MSN, all of the major Internet medical sites, etc…an aspirin a day may reduce the risk of cancer.

Could it seriously be true that aspirin is an answer? Aspirin has been around since 1900. Aspirin is extremely inexpensive. Aspirin has relatively few side effects. Yet, supposedly, it has been proven to reduce the risk of cancer and also proven to reduce the incidence of metastasis of cancer. I’m not going to reproduce all of the findings here, but I will say this…

In an article published by the American Cancer Society it was announced that

“In one of the studies, published in The Lancet, researchers from the University of Oxford analyzed patient records from 51 trials that compared people who took aspirin every day to people who took no aspirin. They found that taking daily low-dose aspirin (less than 300 mg) for 3 years resulted in approximately a 25% lowered risk of developing any type of cancer.

A second article by University of Oxford researchers published in The Lancet looked at the effect of aspirin on cancer metastasis (spread). They found that during an average 6 ½ years of taking aspirin ( 75 mg or more a day), trial participants lowered their risk of metastatic cancer by 36%. The main effect seemed to be on the risk of metastatic adenocarcinoma (a common type of solid cancer that can occur in many areas, including the colon, lung, and prostate), which was lowered by 46%. Researchers also found that daily aspirin lowered the risk of non-metastatic cancer progressing to metastatic cancer, especially in patients with colon cancer.

The third study, published in The Lancet Oncology, also looked at aspirin’s effect on metastasis. The researchers reviewed observational studies as well as randomized trials to draw conclusions regarding less common cancer types and cancer in women. They found significantly lowered risk of cancer and metastasis in colon, throat, gastric, biliary and breast cancer.”

This could be huge! For anyone interested in reading more, here is a link to a similar article published in the Wall Street Journal. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304724404577295462452273218.html?mod=googlenews_wsj

Now, I know that I have a tendency to oversimplify, but I’m thinking…why not  replace the drug I am currently taking, Femara, with aspirin. The purpose of Femara is to lessen the chance of a recurrence of breast cancer. It is expensive. $400, $500 or more per month, in some cases. It has some major side effects such as hot flashes, fatigue, bone pain and the possibility of developing osteoporosis. Case in point…from an article in the National Academies Press that I was reading the other day…

Case Study: Aromatase Inhibitors’ Late Effects

E-mail from a patient, 3 months after starting aromatase inhibitor therapy:

“It has been several months since I started taking Femara. Although I do want to continue taking it and not take any chances with a cancer recurrence, I have encountered some problems. I am experiencing constant pain in my muscles, joints, etc., as if my body was continuously sore from strenuous exercise. The hardest times are in the morning and in the late afternoon, and I am usually very tired in the afternoon as well. I feel better after exercise, but often I do not have enough energy or willpower after work to go to the gym. Instead I go to my bedroom and sleep. Altogether, this is not me and I want to do something to change it.”

SOURCE: Ganz (2004).

I can so relate. 2nd case in point…I was visiting with a breast cancer survivor at the recent Komen Symposium about her experience with Femara. She told me that by the third year, she could barely walk she was in so much pain. She finally told the doctor that he had to either take her off of the drug or order her a wheelchair.

Ok…back to my previous admission…I do tend to oversimplify, but seriously? If aspirin helps to prevent cancer…aspirin does not cause osteoporosis…aspirin is also a pain reliever…aspirin does not cause drowsiness…aspirin costs next to nothing…I’m just saying.

Hope does spring eternal.

Later.

Hope Springs Eternal
March 18, 2012

I didn’t hold out much hope for this week-end. Basically all we had on the agenda was to work on our income tax, clean, do laundry, grocery shopping, etc. Not very exciting. Yet…it has been a really enjoyable week-end.

After spending the better part of yesterday sorting through receipts, bank statements, medical bills, etc. we decided to take a break and go for a Charlie Boy and Schooner lunch in honor of St. Patrick’s Day. We skipped the green food coloring, but thoroughly enjoyed getting away from the tax mess for a while. It was a fun thing to do. Then, back at it until I had to stop to make my annual corned beef and cabbage dinner. I’ve been doing that for about 5 or  6 years but thoroughly remember two years ago, when I was in the thick of chemo treatments. I was so looking forward to it but one bite told me the suspense was definitely not worth it. I can’t even explain the taste of corned beef and cabbage with chemo infused taste buds. Not good, to say the least. So, the best I could do was to hope that I would be around the following St. Patrick’s Day and be able to enjoy the traditional holiday fare. I was and I did. Hope springs eternal.

This afternoon, I finished entering the tax information into the electronic organizer and tomorrow I will scan and upload all supporting documentation to our CPA. Then, we will just wait and hope and pray that we don’t have to dip too deeply into our savings to pay the government. At least it’s done for another year.  Hope springs eternal.

I noticed for the first time, while sorting through tax info, just how much my medications are actually costing. It’s eye opening. I have just not paid any attention to it since it has basically all been covered by insurance up until now. And, that reminded me that in just a few months, I lose that insurance comfort zone and enter the uncharted territory (for me) of Medicare. I don’t know why that scares me so much but it does. All I know about it is that there are all these different plans and if you end up selecting the wrong one for your scenario it can be very costly. I have no idea how to sort through all of that and make the right decision. And then, there is the “donut hole” I hear people talk about. That, apparently, is a period of time in the year when you have to pay all of your own medication expenses. Ouch! With the tax stuff behind us for another year, I think it is time to suck it up and try to figure out what Medicare is all about. Hopefully, there will be something that can save us from medical bankruptcy. Hope springs eternal.

I think about all of the people out there who have things they are going through…big things. I know one who has just had breast cancer surgery and is now waiting for the pathology report. That report will determine what her treatment options will be and those treatment options will determine the course of her life, potentially, over the next many months. It’s one of those things that will seem like a very long wait.

I think about the lady I have mentioned before who also writes a breast cancer blog. She has just found out that her recent PET scan was inconclusive and the surgeon wants her to return to San Francisco for another. What a long, drawn out waiting process that has been and continues to be. Has the cancer spread or not?

I think about friends who are going through deep, personal sadness and turmoil in their lives. Their world has been turned upside down.

Yet, for all of them…hope springs eternal.

This has been a wonderful week-end. We took some time to sit out on the deck and enjoy the warmth of the sun. It was then that I discovered the flowers already blooming in our yard. As soon as the last leaves fall from the trees I start thinking ahead and counting down the days until we discover the first signs of spring. Sometimes that can be a long and seemingly endless wait as well, but not this

 year. What a beautiful, uplifting feeling to see the daffodils and snow drifts peaking out of the ground so early. Talk about hope. It is literally watching what is essentially dead come back to life. Kind of like the Easter season. Hope springs eternal.

And, since Ken’s practice was cancelled this evening, we capped off the week-end with him helping me trim back the Clematis. It is already sporting new growth. So nice to be back outdoors.

Who knows what lies ahead. Lets see…spreading my cards on the table, I now have an appointment and some tests coming up with my primary care physician on 4/4. I have a weigh in and nurse evaluation at the Cancer Center on 4/6. I have called for my dental exam which is required prior to starting the new medication that my oncologist wants me to take. At some point in there, I will have a bone density test followed by another Cancer Center appointment and consultation with my oncologist on May 11. And my hopes hang, once again, on that appointment resulting in my release from patient status. I’ve been hoping for that for a long, long time and it hasn’t happened yet, but like I said, hope springs eternal…for all of us. That’s how we do what we do every day.

Later.

A world within a tumour – new study shows just how complex cancer can be
March 12, 2012

A world within a tumour – new study shows just how complex cancer can be.

Interesting – scary – hopeful.

Later.

Flight Insurance
March 3, 2012

When I look around me and see the suffering that so many others are going through, I feel really good about where my life is at right now. Sure…I still have cancer related annoyances to go through. Dr. D. thinks the medication I’m on may be causing osteoporosis so I have to have a bone density test. And, there is a new medication, just released, to help prevent or reverse osteoporosis but it can cause jaw and dental problems so before he prescribes that I also have to go in for a dental exam. And then there’s the Mayo Clinic issue that just won’t go away.

But all of that pales in the face of things like the high school students shot and killed this week…my “blogging sister” who has just been told that a recent scan shows a 1.6 cm mass in the ablated area of her liver…the unexpected death of Davey Jones, etc.

Ken is on Spring Break next week, so we’re living it up and heading to Colorado on Monday. Looking forward to some relaxing family time. We will return to the Mile High city in May to celebrate the graduations of Tyler and Kelli. PLUS, we just bit the bullet and booked the big June celebration. We’ll be headed back to wine country and the northern California coast. We have rented a home on the ocean at Bodega Bay. For those old timers out there, Bodega Bay is where Alfred Hitchcock’s, The Birds, was filmed.

I look at my life with enough confidence these days to move forward and make plans like these but not with enough confidence to do so without a safety net. Therefore, I did take out flight insurance to protect our airfare investment…just in case. It’s that darn Schleprock thing, ya know?

Later.