Friday, March 15, 2013

Round Two

First I'd like to apologize:  I'm sorry!  I stopped writing just when things were looking good, and that's not fair.
So, to catch everyone up, I had a great year.  After my move to Chicago the doctors at the University of Chicago Medical Center, headed up by Dr. Olopade, aggressively secured a plan of attack using the drugs Herceptin,  Tycurb, and Xeloda (yum yum). The side effects of these drugs were fairly mild... tingling, soreness, and burning in my hands and feet, crazy diarrhea, and some faint stands of weakness (know around my house as lazy sweat-pant days). Within six months my cancer was pronounced as NED (no evidence of disease).  I was thrilled, we were all thrilled, and honestly quite stunned.  Well that party lasted another seven, neigh, eight months.

In early December a test came back inconclusive.  There was showing of a new lesion in my vertebra, however it's growth was oddly shaped, not spherical like most cancers.  My doctor took this to mean it was just normal hyper cells.  AAAAAHH! He was wrong.

Yesterdays results showed the following:
"Today's CT portion grossly demonstrates multiple osseous sclerotic foci compatible with metastatic disease.  These are seeen in the right 6th rib and multiple thoracolumbar verebral bodies.  Small/mildly enlarged left supraclavicular lymph nodes have increased in size compared to the prior exam.  Mild retroperitoneal and left common iliac chain lymphadenopathy is present.  The right common iliac chain lymph node appears slightly larger.  A new hypoattenuating lesion in the lateral segment of the left liver lobe is seen.  A nodule in the upper right bottock appears new."

AND BREATH... but not done

Today's PET examination demonstrates moderate to marked hypermetabolic activity in the T10 vertebral body.  There is new focus of hypermetabolic activity in the L2 vertebral body.  A new focus of hypermetabolic activity is also seen in the right posterolateral 6th rib.  New moderate to marked hypermetabolic activity in multiple retroperitoneal and left common iliac chain lymph node are sespicious.  A new focus of hypermetabolic activity corresponding to the nodule int he subcutaneous tissues of the right upper bottock is suspicious for metastatic disease."


In summery, the damn thing is back and my drugs have stopped working.

However, there is good news.  A new drug called T-DM1, or the "magic bullet" (no really that's it's nick-name, ladies) just got FDA approval last month and is shown to be 25 percent more effective than the old crap I was taking.  When my insurance stops peddling about, hopefully by next week, I'll be ridding the T train for as long as it will have me.  Fingers crossed people, I need to this work for a very long time.  Until then, I'm drug free for the first time in almost two years.  I have to say it feels pretty good.

Friday, May 25, 2012

a sample of writing

Her father, Lanes Milford Dane Randolph was given two middle names by his father forty-two years ago.  Samantha Randolph wasn’t given any.  When confronted with the reason for this, her father replied, “be grateful, more is not always better.” Samantha knew that what her father really meant was less was always better. If given a choice, Lanes would have non-regrettably packed up things dear to him, easily fitting into the old green stamp decorated trunk left by his father, and moved from their spacious five bedroom house into a comfortable trailer.  Instead, he chose to honor his marriage vows.
 Lanes was a talker.  Elevators, bank lines, drive-thrus, no situation was too intimate, too constrained by a ticking hand, too pointless.  If there was a mouth, nay, a pair of ears, there was a conversation.  Lanes lit up like a refrigeration bulb, quickly and without prejudice. As if it were a game, Lanes would generally start the conversation by asking a question he’d already partially figured out, like, “Where are you from, I hear a long ‘au’, do I hear a bit of New England dialect there?”  It surprised Samantha that more often than not, her father was correct and that the person was exceptionally flattered by this.  

Friday, April 27, 2012

More City/ More Chemo

our street

Spring time in the city, of Chicago
That’s correct!  Second City, I’m here! Though I have yet to laugh at the next SNL cast, I’ve kept myself humorously busy.  Expanding  over fifteen miles of lakefront area codes I’ve joined three soccer teams, interviewed at bakeries, restaurants, sky rises, started a new “now is the time to get aggressive” cancer treatment, strapped on the bicycle helmet, and found multiple organic food suppliers.  Basically, loving it.

Dress rehearsal:
Cubs/Cards game
My hair is growing back quite aggressively. Two bra implants, one handmade by a friend, have given me the balance, the breast, and the confidence to wear fitting shirts.  Playing soccer, riding my bike, and walks to the dog park are helping rebuild the muscle I lost this past year.  Honestly, I’ve been out of shape on and off for years; after thirty how many of us aren’t?  However, working in the hospitality industry and my active lifestyle has allowed me to jump in on kickball in the park and family volleyball games in the past without much worry. 
So, when I was recently faced with similar social events at which my body complained and then resisted, I realized my rehabilitation went beyond therapy around my scar and arm.  My whole body needed to recover.
I’ve pushed myself more and sometimes it pushes back and I’m out for a day or two.  What a game!? Other than muscle loss my drug induced obstacles (from Xeloda and Tykerb) are burning of the hands and feet, diarrhea, nausea, and feeling tired and week.  Sometimes I can barely walk.  Often times food and its powers frighten me into not eating.  And at times my laziness makes me sad.  But they are all intermittent and can be reduced by getting plenty of sleep, exercise, wearing comfortable shoes, applying lotion, sucking on hard candy, and drinking lots of water--simple steps that make the daily routine enjoyable.
I continue to receive Herceptin for an hour every three weeks.  This treatment was started in Boise at St. Lukes, where an hour meant an hour.  Now at the UofC, the same treatment takes upwards of four hours.  I don’t like it. I waist a day because the staff is over stimulated by nearly dead people.  (Wow, that’s dark.)   I’m being treated by Dr. Olopade, noted as a “genius” doctor and the UofC ranked #14 in the US for cancer treatments. So, I put up with the poor day-to-day practices.  
Six weeks ago they started me on daily doses of Xeloda and Tykerb, 13 pills a day total.  Xeloda is meant to stop cancer cells from growing and decrease tumor size.  In another month I will have my quarterly scans (CT and Bone) which I’m hoping will show the Xeloda likes me and not the cancer.  Tykerb helps slow or stop the spread of cancer cells. It can cause severe liver damage.  My doctors and I are monitoring this closely since the cancer has already spread to my liver.  It is crazy how that little, tasty, brown glob is so important.
8 K 

On Stage:
As I noted above I’ve been applying and interviewing at dozens of jobs around the city.  Armed with my trusty Samsung map app and freshly updated resume I braved Chicago’s pothole broken roadways like a new kid at the hopscotch courts.  Often noisy and periodically last to join the trafficked areas I gave it my all, though, not without laying down some rules of my own.  I wanted a part time (2/3 days a week), job with weekends off to spend with my gf, and a fun and casual environment.  And sure enough last week I joined the Red Door Restaurant team.
In an attempt to do it all, I’ve also joined a once a month breast cancer group, as well as a free form writers club.  Online I’ve signed up to receive emails to an adventures meetup where I continue this competitive streak.

I expect my dad and Sherry in a week where we’ll tour the city with cameras and neck straps, street maps, full stomachs, and thinning wallets.  On the sightseeing list is a big bean, comedy routine, deep dish pizza, Chicago dogs, a lake, a tower, and me.
Okay, that’s it for now…

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Catching Up

Well, in the words of Fiona Apple, "I've been a bad, bad girl".  

Ha, did that get your attention?  Honestly, as I'm sitting in my mom's office, it certainly caught mine.  I'm like, "you have?" And yes, in a way... food, drink, and video games.  However, this story ends with me nicely wrapped like a pretty little present, bow and all.

Gift-Wrapped BooB:

About two months ago Dr. Wolf (real name) removed my right breast in another whitely dressed St. Luke's operating room.  In consultation the Doc described the incision leaving my tattoo unscathed but in the end removing the tumor was the goal.  In an attempt to better understand exactly what was to be expected I started to review online photos and went as far as watching a Youtube vid of a mastectomy.  BAD IDEA.  So, by the time I was answering questions from nurses naked, poked, and hungry my tattoo had already been stripped.  But we know better now, don't we?  Not only is my body art all in one piece, the incision didn't leave a massive dent and Surgeon Wolf stitched my chest to appear a bit muscular.

Radiation and Ribbons: 

People often ask, why Boise?  They've been asking this since my initial move in 2007.  And the same answer still makes sense...potatoes.  Hahaha, that's a great name for my family.  A clan of potatoes we are.  Seriously, I moved back to be with family but in-turn may have given up on some 'better' treatment options. And just in case that was true it's been important for me to know that other more widely known tumor professionals have reviewed my case and agree with the processes here.  

A month after surgery and two months after my last fuel-filled injection of chemotherapy I flew to Chicago for a preemptive move and to get a second opinion from the award winning doctors at the University of Chicago Medical Center on radiation treatment.  This just days after my return from a San Diego wedding. I was tired of traveling, of eating things unrelated to my diet, and of showering so that I may appear to be of decent upbringing.  But with open arms and a list of to-dos (mostly questions for the UofC staff) I put off playing with my dog and advancing my fictional video game character, a Dark Elf named Noug,  through the Province of Cyrodiil.

Sure enough, Boise and radiation was a-go.  Two days after Christmas I opened yet another gift, in the color of red and the spirit of giving, I was radiated.  My treatments take place M-F, 10:45 am - 11:10am, for seven or so weeks.  I lie on a hard glass bed separated by a single white sheet while a spherical arm rotates across my chest aimed at three specific locations (scar on breast, rt armpit, and rt lower neck).  It doesn't hurt, actually can't feel it at all.  Each day during the first week they had to remind me to lower my arms.  I get x-rays every couple weeks making sure no unwanted damage to the heart, lung, or arm has occurred.  My throat has gotten soar and cat-call sexy.  At some point I will experience what they refer to as a "sunburn" on the radiated skin which will most likely result in peeling and infection. They've given me lotion.  But for now I look and feel pretty great.

Filling in the gaps:

For those of you who don't know I thought I should clarify the name my doctors have given my cancer.   I call her Annoying, but apparently she has a proper title so if you have further questions that I haven't answered you'll know to google: stage IV HER-2 positive (estrogen receptor/progesterone receptor negative) right breast carcinoma metastatic to bone and liver.

Although my 6 cycles of Taxotere, Carboplatin, and Herceptin are done I'm on, and will indefinatly be on, an every three week treatment of Herceptin.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

some surgery images

I really don't have the energy to write about this experience now, but it will come soon.  Don't fret, it's because of the meds, not because I've been "flattened" by it emotionally.   Here are some pictures to keep everyone occupied.  Oh, and if you have questions please ask, it'll make it easier to decide what to say.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

answering questions and setting dates

My last chemo session is this coming Monday.  Three weeks later they will remove my right breast.  I will heal, take another trip to SD for a friends wedding whom I've known for almost 33 years, and come back just in time to bake XMAS cookies with my sisters and mom.  I will have radiation, probably in December,  yet it's not set up yet.  I don't know how much the chemo has benefited.  I'm sure more test will come after the operation.  As of now, "they" haven't said anything about further chemo treatments.  However, I will continue to research on my own and volunteer for clinical studies (if they'll have me).
I will be writing again and posting pictures (because I'm not shy) after the surgery.  Stay tuned.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Cali, My Home!

I’ve had an epiphany:  the last time this broad took a holiday from her home for longer than four days was the summer of ’98.  It was my last trip to Europe.  Now, you won’t hear any boo-hoos coming from me; for I’ve traveled a bit since then… Maine, RI, Penn., Connecticut, NY, NJ (and it’s oh so popular shore), Vermont, OR, ID, CO, Wash., Cali, all of which include at least two full days of site seeing.  Then there is a list of cities the four cross county road trips have deemed “drinkably” acceptable.  Some I have forgotten, other’s not even Google maps have remembered, and then there are Little Rock, AR, Cheyanne, WY, and Las Vegas, NV. 

Escaping to different environments was made possible by my “pick up and move” philosophy; that, and the geographical closeness of eastern states.  The drive from our abode in New Jersey to the shores of Maine took 11 hours, passing five states between.  You could leave San Diego driving north and not exit California in that time.  I’m not trying to convince you, nor tell you as if it’s new information.  I’m simply in awe like when watching a wunderkind completing the Sunday New York Times crossword in record minutes.  If I get five I know it’s going to be a good week.

I will fan away the crooked brow of my Cali. readers by saying that along the 5 freeway, I’ve encountered as much richness and diversity from the trees, to the sand, to the cities as I have on the east coast.  Cali is better than multiple states, it’s home.

You can imagine my excitement when after all these years my first “real” vacation, 7 days 6 nights, was a trip to back to my roots.  I’ve always adventured with the understanding it’s best to see a place through the eyes of its citizens.  Luckily in all my moves I’ve kept many friends at a phones length.  And when I finally reached out and touched them, some after seven years, I found more than a connection.  They offered their time, experiences, and most amazingly their homes.
I flew from Boise to San Francisco, starting off with a bang.  If you knew the three ladies I’d met you’d agree such a decision synchronized a bang with a boom.  San Fran-fucking Cisco!! Individually, Trisha, Michele, and Carla led me through the city taking on public transport, the arts, food, drink, music, and even found time to sleep.  Wonderful, brilliant, simply breathe taking, oven baked bread and whole fresh boiled crab, a bicycle festival with staged racers, a back-alley lesbian bar, a gay-boy disco club, house-made brownies topped with mint ice cream caramel and chocolate syrup, a bloody-mary breakfast with 10 sliced pickles (my own demand), and a history lesson by a friend who’s love for the city shines like the glitter on a tranny’s nails.

I could have stayed another week, a month, the rest of my days but the city of angels was calling.  Los Angeles had a different plan for me. Dinner and wine anyone?  Don’t mind if I do!  In a last minute decision, Amy and Patrick were there to pick me up.  (A savings of around $50.  Thanks again guys.)  After a brief stop at a local wine shop, we headed to mannequin heaven, also known as West Hollywood.  What do you get when you mix 216 vintage mannequins with a chemotherapy patient?  A lot of bald heads!

Chad-Michael is known for many things, and parties are one of them and never let the amount of intimacy fool you.  There was (did I mention) wine, gourmet vegan cuisine, laughter and catching up, some German folk singing (schinken!!), wine, gardening, the masturbating tortoise, a large eye sculpture, walks to the liquor store for more wine, pictures, and mannequins.  Through the laughter, bottles of wine, lost purse, trips to the liquor store I saw us clearly.  We were no longer twenty-somethings, but thirsty, wise, humble, strong, determined, ambitious adults.  And it was a spectacle to cherish.  We didn’t compete for stories or favorite moments but offered them up as reflections of ourselves or as pieces of advice gift-wrapped and labeled for use at a later date.  Who we’d been was no longer up for discussion. Instead who we’d become gave tranquil responses to those previous experiences like we’d recorded the past and now felt at ease in its proof.  I would have loved more time, but slept well knowing one night had had given me back ten years.

Brother Doug, the bestest brother in all the land, picked me up from The Alibi where I nursed my hangover with a shot of patron and a Corona.  The two hour drive back to San Diego was sobering.  We arrived to home-made lasagna and more wine, conversation that continued to revisit “the meaning of life”, and warm sheets in my old room.  The truth of the matter is I’d called every bedroom, half of the garage, and the den, “my room” at one point, with the exception of my parents’ master suite (which had also been redesigned into two separate rooms, but only after my departure).  A quick dip in the pool and it was lights-out for me.

Only two full days left.  However, the agenda was simple: friends, La Torta, and the flight. The old Pizza Nova gang made it real easy on me by showing up at Gorden Biersch with photos, stories, and an appetite.  In a few hours we devoured years of house-parties, trips to Vegas, beach bathing, bike rides, clubs, dinners, hole-in-the-walls, wine tastings, and every employee or infamous customer who happened to breach our little pizza home.  Oh, and the course wouldn’t be complete without some Charger girls.  Just in case I’d forgotten to represent the team as their token lesbian, they bought me a Charger cheerleading calendar to remind me.
Hugs and kisses to: Emily, Cindy, Laura, Amy, Britt, Amanda, Laura, Kris, and on to my last day.

Had I known the lunch with brother and dad at La Torta would have been our last meal together, I may have convinced myself to chew the most delicious sandwich in the world.  Yet, as the odor drifted from the warm bun to my nose my hand to mouth movements became involuntary.  And thus the end! 

Oh, not of my story, just of that meal.  We parted ways in La Mesa as I took the trolley downtown and they headed back to East County.  Who knows, maybe it was chemo brain, maybe I was comatose from eating a sandwich the size of my head, or maybe it was due to drinking three of the last five days but I could not for the life of me give Michelle the correct cross streets to where I’d gotten off downtown.  She got there nonetheless.
On the drive, we both realized that born and raised we had not frequented the world famous San Diego Zoo quite enough, and that the only thing that had stopped us was ridiculousness. The zoo is a work out, centralized, fairly inexpensive, beautiful, educational, and down-right fun.  We felt like Crocodile Dundee, Siegfried and Roy, Dian Fossey, Steven Irwin (except protected behind think glass or large metal cages).

Now, what led up to this is debauchery (of the best kind) but the details are a little muddled.  I spent the last night of my California vacation on a fairly cushioned 5 by 4 foot jail mat.  Sure I was drinking.  Sure we closed down the bars and that wasn’t quite enough.  And sure, I had friends with me throughout most of the evening.  But when and how exactly I wound up bruised from falling sitting Indian-style on the dirt staring at a bush when two nice, handsome, San Diego, police officers tapped me on the shoulder is beyond me.  I mean how, as my day started off with a family meal at La Torta and a trip to the zoo, could it end purse-less, phone-less, friend-less, and bruised?  Well, the only real cushion here is knowing that I can finally count that one off my bucket list.  Next in line, fist fight. 
Shout out to: David, Carla, and Jacqueline