pink, pink, pink, PINK, PINK, PINK, pink, pink, pink

I did not see this, I saw it on xxx blog (vvv), and maybe found the original at http://www.luvimages.com/image/campbells_pink_label_soup_cans-5975.html

I did not see this display in a store—I’ve been avoiding stores like the pink plague this month. I saw it on Stephanie Gilman’s blog Pass Me Another Cupcake blog (http://passmeanothercupcake.com/2014/09/29/one-of-those-days/), and maybe found the original (http://www.luvimages.com/image/campbells_pink_label_soup_cans5975.html).

This photo totally explains why I’ve stayed out of the grocery stores this month. Pink packaging runs amok in October. Pink soup, pink juice, pink milk, pink M&Ms (pink outside package, pink M&Ms inside the bag), pink toilet paper, pink curling irons and blow dryers, pink Kitchen Aid mixers for heaven’s sake!!! Please send me one. And a big bag of those M&Ms.

I’ve been trying to write a posting on October, you know,

 

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But I am so conflicted I can’t really get anything out on paper. Or here either.

I knew October would suck for me. I discovered my lumps last October. I feel as though I have let my pink sistahs down—I never painted a pink ribbon on my nails, or dyed my hair pink before it fell out, or wore pink to chemo days. I don’t have a magnetic pink ribbon on my car, or one hanging from my rearview mirror. I don’t call myself a cancer warrior, and I haven’t signed up for a cancer run or walk. I discussed with my psychiatrist (new experience for me, an actual real psychiatrist just for me) how I haven’t gone to any group sessions, have done no bonding with any other breast cancer women, or men for that matter.

What I have found is some excellent writing by other bloggers who have breast cancer, and over the rest of this month I will be reposting some of their posts.

As for me and the avoidance of stores this month? I have Thanksgiving dinner dishes to prepare, and there is not enough in the fridge to cobble anything together, save a pearl onion, olive, anchovy, pickle and fish sauce stew, and I don’t think there’ll be any takers for THAT one!

So it’s off to the shops later today. Maybe I’ll wear my wig. And I won’t be wearing pink.

MRI reveals adrenal adenoma: NO BIG DEAL!!!

What the CT scan showed, and the MRI detailed, was simply an adrenal adenoma, a noncancerous tumour.

YAY!!!

Join me and Spidey in a dance of cancer freedom!

Yes, this is what I did once I got out on Queen Street in front of St. Mike's. I was ecstatic! I love this gif, thanks to http://gifvault.com/dancing-gif-111.html/dancing-gif-111

Yes, this is what I did once I got out on Queen Street in front of St. Mike’s. I was ecstatic! I love this gif, thanks to http://gifvault.com/dancing-gif-111.html/dancing-gif-111

I have spent so much time and energy convincing myself and Tessa that I would be told I needed a biopsy this afternoon that when Dr. Brezden told me I was clear and could now go home and celebrate, I didn’t know how to respond. I was in a daze of sorts. I wandered out right past the desk with my blood req in hand and they called me back to set up the next appointment. They thought it was pretty funny that I had forgotten the drill already. They set me right up with a printout of upcoming visits to St. Mike’s: I have a plastic surgery app’t, mammogram, and checkup with my cancer surgeon in November, and see my oncologist on December 18, exactly one year from my sentinel node surgery.

From the hospital I went to my place of work, picked up a fellow editor friend, drove to her house and this happened:

Only when Diana opened the bubbly, she did it like a pro, with a pop and no loss of champagne. Pic from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/richard-jennings/holiday-champagne-buyers_b_4325064.html

Only when Diana opened the bubbly, she did it like a pro, with a pop and no loss of champagne. Pic from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/richard-jennings/holiday-champagne-buyers_b_4325064.html

And then this happened:

Hmmmmm, this was tasty. Made me wish I had a driver so I could have indulged more. This pic courtesy of http://www.matfenhall.com

Hmmmmm, this was tasty. Made me wish I had a driver so I could have indulged more. This pic courtesy of http://www.matfenhall.com

So, this is the confirmation that there is no discernible cancer in my body now, after chemo, surgery and radiation. Thank you to the many doctors and nurses who have taken care of me, and thank you to my family members and friends for their prayers and positive vibes and healing thoughts. It looks like everything worked.

I should sleep very well tonight!

Thank you all ♥

Midnight MRI

I had a full chest-abdomen-pelvis CT done just before radiation was over. I called a week later and was told  by my oncologist’s assistant that it was clear. YAY! No little cancer worms, scraps or shrapnel got loose into my body between surgery and radiation. Huge weight off my shoulders. Yahoo, whoop, whoop, whoop!

One month later, at my September appointment with my oncologist, I say, “Well, I heard my CT scan was clear,” and she says, “Yeah, well, about that. There’s something on your adrenal gland in the CT. Could be something, could be nothing.” I’ll order an urgent MRI and we’ll see what it is.”

“IT’S METASTASIS, THAT’S WHAT IT IS!!!” I didn’t say that. I asked, “Is that in my brain? Because I don’t want it in my brain.”

I love when I am my own comic relief. My doc laughed and laughed—”no, they’re little glands on top of your kidneys.”

“Oh good. I just don’t want that cancer in my brain.”

I didn’t ask any questions, because Dr. Brezden-Masley and I don’t deal in what-ifs. She said she’d ask for the MRI on an urgent basis, and I should call her one week after the test. Then I left the hospital and drove to Stratford for Dad’s visitation and funeral.

It took me a day or two to actually get to my computer and look up triple negative spreading to adrenal glands—and damn, it does! I also found this image:

OMG! How could I be scared of what looks like two chocolate-covered jumbo jellybeans with cute little toques on???

My urgent MRI came up five days later at 12:45 a.m. I drove back to Toronto, and took Graydon as my companion—when you self-medicate in the MRI tube, they won’t let you leave the hospital on your own. It was loud and clangy, and claustrophobic So at 2 a.m. I was back in my bed in Toronto, thinking about my dad, about this aggressive triple negative cancer, about metastasis, about prognosis with metastasis, about that evil freaking cancer. Low, low times.

So tomorrow I will call and hope the CT had a shadow, and the MRI banished it.

Join me in hoping please, please, please?

My dad is gone…

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My dad, L. Ray Waller, died last week on September 17. My sister Heidi called at lunchtime to say one of the nurses had called her because he really wasn’t eating anything, he was making noise when he breathed, and they were having a hard time waking him up. Heidi said she was on her way to see him. I said I had an appointment with my oncologist to go over my recent CT scan the next day, and I would likely leave from the hospital for Stratford. She called me five hours later and said he was gone, in his sleep.

One of the reasons I never wanted a big wedding was that I knew I would cry all the way down the aisle walking on my dad’s arm because I couldn’t stop thinking that he would one day die and leave me forever.

I took a university psych course on death, dying and grieving, because I knew I had a problem if I couldn’t even handle the thought of it.

I visited my dad at every hospital stay, staying overnight a few times so there would be a family member right there to advocate for him, went to specialist followups, visited him in his nursing home. I told all my family NOT to mention my cancer, because I couldn’t bear the thought of him thinking that his “baby Jackie” was sick with this f’ing disease. I wore my wig religiously every time I saw him.

Ed and Heidi spoke at the funeral for themselves and for Juli and me, two chickens who have never been able to speak publicly. They made me cry. The mayor spoke as well—my dad lived in Stratford 52 years, yet when the mayor added up my dad’s years of public service, he found that my father put in more than 140 years of public service. The city flew the flag at half-mast the day of his funeral, out of respect and gratitude and mourning his loss.

I drove back home today for a test, and have spent the last four hours in my room, trying to cry it out. So far, it’s fresh tears every time.

The flag flies at half-mast in Stratford on September 22, 2014, in honour of our father, Leslie Raymond Waller, November 12, 1929 – September 17, 2014. Photo by Juli.

The flag flies at half-mast in Stratford on September 22, 2014, in honour of our father, Leslie Raymond Waller, November 12, 1929 – September 17, 2014. Photo by Juli.

Heidi made a website for dad, and if anyone would like to read about an amazing father and man, please visit. She did a great job on a great man.

Do you smell something burning?

This incredible hand-beaded bag—Genie's New Hangout—by Sherry Serafini has nothing to do with this post about side effects on the skin from radiation treatments. Photos to illustrate the post would be gross. This beading is gorgeous. Better to look at, by a long shot! Find Sherry's work at ww.serafinibeadedjewelry.com.

This incredible hand-beaded bag—Genie’s New Hangout—by Sherry Serafini has nothing to do with this post about side effects on the skin from radiation treatments. Photos to illustrate the post would be gross. This beading is gorgeous. Better to look at, by a long shot! Find Sherry’s work at ww.serafinibeadedjewelry.com.

Oh yeah, that’s my skin. Ick.

When I started radiation, I obsessed over whether my skin would burn dark red or just sunburn red, maybe just pink, or not, in particular if I would end up with weeping, oozy, open sores. I heard about a full range of skin effects from women who’d been through it, from a light sunburn, to a full sunburn, to the dreaded weeping, oozy, open sores.

After three weeks, I had a rosy pinkiness to half of my chest, underarm and back. My weekly appointment with the radiology oncologist came up, and I told him how I was really worrying about the full five-week effect on my skin, even though I knew he couldn’t possibly predict what would happen with me. I said I would appreciate knowing even a rough percentage, based on all the breast cancer patients he sees, of women who end up with raw, open burns from their radiation. Overall, he said, maybe five per cent.

FIVE PER CENT!!! I was torturing myself over five per cent?!?! What a doofus. I stopped worrying.

Less than a week later the skin under my arm turned black. For a little while I thought it was because I wore a black top and the copious amounts of moisturizer I was applying picked up the black colour from it. Then the black crumbled off to reveal bright red, raw, oozy me. Of course, with triple negative, and no actual primary site, I would fall into the five per cent of women with weeping second-degree burns. My radiation oncologist prescribed a silver sulfadiazene cream (Flamazine) to prevent infection, and for the first time since May 22, I was glad my nerve endings didn’t work in my arm and underarm area—it feels creepy, but it doesn’t hurt. Thank God! Because the sight of it turned my stomach.

When I saw my plastic surgeon during the last week of radiation, undressed from the waist up—of course, I feel like a poorly paid stripper since last October, ripping off my tops, sweaters, bra and gown for almost anyone—she gingerly lifted up my right arm and said, “They fried you, sister!” She sure spoke the truth.

Radiation is finished now. The sleeping continues.

Girl irradiated

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Today I am four-fifths of the way through the radiation portion of my breast cancer side trip. I was in a bad place when I started radiation—sad, scared, not too brave and strong, and not in a mind space to be confidently ticking off the days. So, here’s a recap:

After a triumphant poisoning of my entire body, I had a complete pathological response to that poisoning, known as a cPr. That was the best-case scenario from chemo. Then I struggled over bilateral mastectomy, one side only, lumpectomy, partial mastectomy, radiation only (and I mean a kind of tortured inner wrangling with my emotional self vs the opinions of the medical people, who did not have consensus, mixed up with blogs and forums and discussion boards by women who’d made the choice and were living with their choices, happy or miserable). I had my fancy customized bilateral mastectomy, and after the pain and “discomfort” I must admit I have healed up pretty good. Then, on July 4, I started radiation.

Before the actual radiation began, I went for a simulation appointment, where my chest and breasts and armpit were measured six ways to Sunday in an effort to pinpoint exactly where the radiation beams would be directed and at what angles and for what spread. It was not an unpleasant procedure, nice techs—one guy and two girls—and the tattooing of four blue dots didn’t even hurt. Unfortunately, one of them is front and centre between my breasts and  and up three inches—visible with almost every summer top I own. It looks like I’ve been doodling on myself or dropped a teeny blob of ink there. Oh well.

Why do I need radiation? Speaking personally, I want to zap any and all bits of cancer left behind from the mastectomy and lymph node removal. There’s hours of cutting and scraping and poking about during that surgery, and God only knows what might have been missed or dislodged. Radiation zaps the tissue were it is pointed, in my case to four “fields”: entire right breast, right axilla, and because my cancer is metastatic, the internal mammary lymph nodes and supraclavicular lymph nodes too. Radiation that is delivered to these areas kills off the good cells as well as the bad, but the healthy cells can build themselves back to working order, while the cancer cells are weaker, and research has shown that doses of radiation delivered daily will kill off the cancer that is left. I HOPE!

My radiation treatments are at Princess Margaret Hospital, every day, five days a week. The appointments are scattered throughout the day, which I thought would be disruptive but turned out to be good—I come in as scheduled, some days at 8 a.m., sometimes at 5:40 p.m. Treatments are always on time, and many times I have come in early, even by an hour, and I’m always seen quickly. I’m called in, change into a gown, then go into the treatment room where I lie in a narrow table. They place a form under my knees to keep them bent and my back flat. I take my arm out of my gown and place it up over my head in a metal arm rest so it’s always in the same position. The two technicians then ask for my birthdate, rhyme off measurements and numbers to each other, sometimes cover me with a sheet if the gown doesn’t want to stay up. Lately, they also strap me down with a thick, wide Velcro band (a new practice since a patient at another hospital reportedly fell asleep on the table and rolled off) (I practise deep breathing during my radiation, but I have never been close to relaxed enough to fall asleep!). Then the techs step outside the treatment room to their computers, and the linear accelerator does its thing, whirring and beaming and then rotating around the table to get various angles on me. The whole thing, from gown on to gown off, takes 15 minutes. Nothing hurts. Nothing feels sick. I say a cheery thank you and see you tomorrow, and they say the same.

Side effects from radiation:

  • my skin is burning—you can see one patch in the photo above, and there is more under my arm, on the breast, and on my back. I put Aveeno and Lubriderm on every day, but some areas are getting worse, so the nurse gave me ProShieldPlus, which is the stickiest, gooiest stuff I have ever felt.
  • I hurt on the inside—apparently radiation can cause swelling of the tissues in the chest and armpit, and I’m feeling that. Nothing that tylenol or ibuprofen can’t fix.
  • fatigue—i am sleeping far too much. On a typical day when radiation is in the morning, I can sleep from noon until 5:30, then 7:30 to 11, when Luka wakes me so I can actually go upstairs and sleep until 4 or 5, when I wake and worry until I fall asleep again, always lightly, until I get up at 6:30 or 7. A variation on that one is sleeping from noon until 8 p.m., then going upstairs to sleep through until 4 or 5. Today, Saturday, so no radiation, I woke at 8, fed the animals, slept from 8:30 to 10:30, Skyped with Tessa and woke up Luka, slept 11 to 4 p.m. and have remained awake all evening. This is a feat!

I have one more week to go. Yay!

 

To read or not to read? Netflix to the rescue!

For the photo that could have been taken at my house, I thank Dianna at  http://www.diannahuff.com/2013/01/the-best-books-i-read-in-2012/

For the photo that could have been taken at my house, I thank Dianna at http://www.diannahuff.com/ 2013/01/the-best-books-i-read-in-2012/

Like many people who love to read, I have stacks, and shelves, of books I want to read. When I got my TNBC (triple negative breast cancer) diagnosis, I had visions of me lying in bed, propped up by countless pillows, a cup of tea on the nightstand, Clover and the cats lounging on and around me, as I read my way through those books. Between chemo and surgery and radiation, it became very clear that reading anything longer than a magazine article, and I mean a short one, was not going to happen. Chemo made me feel artificial and achy and foggy, surgery made sitting up and holding a book uncomfortable for anything more than 20 minutes. Concentration is poor, my body aches, and I just don’t care about people in books. It takes too much effort. Just like so many things. And I used to love reading my books in bed, and if I lie down now it’s 95 per cent certain I will be asleep within minutes.

Enter Netflix, streaming TV series and movies to your TV, computer and even the phone. Netflix has become my go-to hobby, pastime, babysitter, amphetamine, sleeping pill, best friend, you name it. Eight seasons of House M.D. had 176 episodes, which is approximately 7,920 minutes, or 132 hours of viewing nirvana. After almost every episode I also read a review and medical analysis written by Dr. Scott over at Polite Dissent—we agree that House was the best medical series EVER. If I hadn’t had cancer and been sentenced to the life of a hermit, I would never have had the chance to watch it.

I’m on a roll. I haven’t been completing many things these days, but I think I can pull a list together. Here is what I have consumed as a cancer hermit:

Luther, from the BBC, a psychological police/crime drama, starring the gorgeous Idris Elba. Three seasons; 14 episodes.

Fringe, a sci-fi, parallel universe, time-jumping, paranormal series that fills a bit of the void left by X-Files. Lead is female (Anna Torv! yay!) as FBI agent, with Joshua Jackson as her right-hand man and John Noble as an LSD-dropping scientist. Five seasons; 100 episodes.

House of Cards, political thrills drama starring Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright that got 13 Emmy nominations. Netflix original. Two seasons and a third in the works; 26 episodes.

Boss, super-dark political drama starring Kelsey Grammar as the mayor of Chicago as dementia with Lewy bodies begins to take over his body and his life. Only two seasons, which is a crying shame; 18 episodes.

Orange is the New Black, everybody knows this one. I’m halfway through the second season; 18 episodes so far.

The Fall, British detective drama (BBC) with lots of murders and fabulous accents, starring Agent Scully Gillian Anderson. Only one season thus far, but a second season is in the works; five episodes.

The Killing, very dark, crime drama, based on the original Danish production, features intricate weaving of plots and personalities. Best lead actors of any show. Three seasons, and eagerly anticipating season four, available August 1 (or 5, I can’t remember); 36 episodes.

Damages, legal drama with huge arcs, adore Glenn Close and Rose Byrne. Five seasons, 59 episodes.

Canterbury’s Law, courtroom drama starring Julianna Margulies, whom I would watch acting in just about anything. It was a warm-up to watching The Good Wife, see below. One season; just six episodes.

The Good Wife, courtroom, legal and political drama starring Julianna Margulies, Matt Czuchry and Christopher Noth (whom I have adored since the first-ever Law and Order in 1990). Four seasons; 113 episodes

Shameless, Brit comedy import about a drunk dad and his eight kids and how they basically bring each other up. Four seasons; 33 episodes.

Dexter, super bloody, murder-an-episode set in Florida with C. Michael Hall playing a psychopathic forensics tech who kills the criminals he feels have eluded their true punishments for bad deeds. Sometimes too predictable. Seven seasons; I’ve watched 36 so far.

The Guardian, legal drama and social work meet as Simon Baker (swoon!), corporate lawyer who likes coke way too much, is forced to rack up 1,500 hours of community service as an ad litem. Three seasons; 67 episodes.

Lie to Me, behavioural psychology meets crime drama starring Tim Roth and Kelli Williams. Three seasons; 48 episodes.

Homeland, American political drama, starring Claire Danes, the CIA, the Marines, Al Qaeda. Two seasons; 24 episodes.

Numbers, a crime-solving pair of brothers who rely on mathematics to solve EVERY case! I make my son watch this one to show him the pure beauty of math. He got 100% in a summer school math test = TV is good for your grades. Six seasons; 119 episodes.

United States of Tara, a comedy/drama about a mum with dissociative identity disorder (Toni Collette), her husband (John Corbett) and their family. I don’t know anyone with this disorder, so I can’t vouch for how on the mark it was with the psychiatry, but I could have watched another season or two. Three seasons; 36 episodes.

And I am watching Wallander, starring Sir Kenneth Branagh, a fabulous BBC Scotland project that is adapted from Swedish novels, and filmed in Sweden, Three seasons; I’m on the last of 12 episodes, and an episode is an hour and a half long—lots of time for character development.

So you know I have to do what I’m going to do now. Add them all up.

946 episodes. Roughly 135 episodes a month, which is four and a half episodes a day. And I cook and clean and do laundry and sweep and fold clothes while Netflix streams on, keeping the little voices in my head how I like them—overpowered.

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