Archive for September, 2008

Radiation, halfway done

This is in the radiation waiting room.  Love it.

This is in the radiation waiting room. Love it.

Radiation is still going well.  I’ve been told to expect some fatigue but it hasn’t shown up yet.  I do have a lovely pink rectangle though.  It reminds of a PBS shape song L has been singing lately.  🙂  (Bear with me, it’s just the way my mind rolls.)  Starting next week, I get what’s called a boost.  Right now I get radiation pretty much all over my upper left torso, but next week they’re going to concentrate on my scar area.  That’s where my cancer is most likely to recur.  The boost will also give the rest of my skin a break, giving it a chance to heal before the home stretch when we go back to irradiating the left side again.   Other than the pink rectangle, the only discomfort I’ve had is when skin touches skin.  Like where my armpit touches my side.  It’s uncomfortable and almost feels like it sticks together, but still nothing like some of the sunburns I’ve had in my life.  Here’s to hoping it won’t be.  🙂

Ode to Sawyer

Lisa left me this link in the comments and it made me laugh.  Awesome.

LOST (insert noise that plays with the cliff hanger)

I watched the first 4 episodes of Season 1 on Sci Fi last night.  It’s so long until it’s on again.  Until then, I found a link to Sawyer’s Nick Name generator.  He’s so pretty.   Apparently, he would call me “Skeletor”.  Hmm.  See some flaws in the generator.

Sawyer’s Nick Name Generator

BTW, for those of you that were wondering…

I graduated in ’92.  Seems a million years ago.

School Daze

There are things nobody tells you about being a parent.  It’s sort of like when you first get pregnant and women start telling you stories about tearing.

Tearing.  Why is there tearing?  There should not be tearing.  Tearing sounds very bad.

So now that my firstborn is in kindergarten I’m finding a whole new set of things nobody told me.  Like how we now pretty much have to schedule our lives around THEIR schedule.  Flex days, Parent/Teacher Conferences, Take your parent to school day, Class parties. daily homework, Friday Folders.  Now, Nicole, I’m sure many of you are saying in your heads, You were a public school teacher, how did you not know these things.  I was vaguely aware of the Friday Folder thing (I would send home any communications to parents about programs etc through this vehicle, but I never actually saw one.)  Nobody told me that Friday Folders have about as much reading material as an abridged Victor Hugo novel.  OK.  Maybe not THAT much.  But a lot. 

Also, you must always check your daughter’s backpack EVERY night, but especially on Friday (see Friday Folder) and not on Sunday night you might have a big surprise waiting for you.  Unfinished classwork is sent home in the dreaded GREEN folder.  We are well acquainted with the green folder as apparently L is somewhat of a talker.  OK.  BIG talker.  Lots of talking, not so much with the work finishing.  We have spoken to her about this and had hoped that it would magically get better but apparently Dumbledore was not on our side this week.  Opened up the backpack this evening and lo, and behold:  Green folder.  With a giant (Ok. 5 page) packet of Kindergarten work to be completed.  We had started homework at a very respectable 6:45 PM and finished around 9:00 PM.  Now I take full responsibility for not checking the backpack on Friday.  And L will be seeing some lost TV privileges if the Green Folder makes another appearance.  But the tired, irradiated Mama can’t help but think, “Good Lord that’s a lot of coloring and letter practice.”  2 hours and 15 minutes worth. 

What the heck is that girl doing in school?  Hosting her own talk show or something.  Seriously.

BRCA 1 and 2 testing demystified

Here it is.  The post I promised.

I must remind everybody that I am not a medical professional and this is my interpretation of the information given to me by somebody much more qualified.  That said, here goes.

Everyone has the BRCA genes.  They are tumor repressor genes that keep our cells from growing wild (cancer) in our breasts and ovaries.  What we’re being tested for is a damaged gene.  This can happen for various reasons which I won’t go into (mostly because I can’t remember that part.)  If your cancer is hormone negative, you are more likely to be BRCA 1 positive.  Hormone positive cancers tend to be BRCA 2.  If you are under 50 with breast cancer, you have a 7.5% chance of having the gene but it is good to remember that only 10% of all breast cancers are hereditary.

What does this mean for me if I am positive for one of the genes?

-the untreated breast has a 50% chance of developing cancer

-there is a 30 – 50% increase in the chance of me developing ovarian cancer

So what can I do?

-continue to be vigilant for any changes in the untreated breast

-prophylactic mastectomy on the untreated side

-transvaginal ultrasounds to check for ovarian cancer

-CA125 blood tests to look for tumor markers

-both tests for ovarian cancer have a lot of false positives and negatives.

-prophylactic oopherectomy (removal of ovaries)

What would I do?

I have a grade III cancer (most aggressive) with 4 positive lymph nodes.  This gives me a 60% chance of microscopic spread of the cancer. All along we have treated it aggressively and I would continue on in that fashion having the prophylactic mastectomy and removal of the ovaries.  I also learned that even if I were to remove the ovaries, I would continue taking Tamoxifen.  (Didn’t know that.)

What does this means for my family?

The genetic counselor said that if I am positive, it is from my Dad’s side so they would want to test him.

My sister and my brother would have a 50% chance of having the gene.  My sister, K, should be tested as soon as possible.  My brother. T,  might want to be tested for it’s ramifications on his future children.

My children would have a 50% chance of having the mutation as well.  When L is in her early 20s she would be tested and receive her first mammogram (which she’s going to get anyway because the rule of thumb is 10 years prior to your mother’s cancer diagnosis).

The stats for T and J would be this: a 6% (up from 3%) chance of developing breast cancer and a 20% (up from 15%) chance of developing prostate cancer.

So that’s it in a nutshell.  I’ve got a few more weeks to wait for the results.  My insurance did cover the testing, which is good.  I also think that the WordPress spell checker should add oopherectomy and transvaginal since I’m only guessing at the spelling.  Just sayin’.

NBC Heroes Countdown

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8 down, 4,252,876 to go.

Ok.  Not really.  People keep asking me how many radiation treatments I have left and I never know the answer.  It’s not that I don’t care, I’ve just never been a counter.  When I was teaching, people would ask, “When do you have to go back to school?” 

“Um.  When they call me?” 

or “How many days left until summer break?”  And yes.  I rarely knew the answer to that one either.  (Shocking!)

So, if I sat and thought about it a bit, I could come up with the answer 27.  (Wouldn’t it be cool if it were 42?  Then it could be the ultimate question!)

So here I am.  27 treatments from the end of radiation.  It’s not really as eventful to write about as chemo was.  No dramatic barfing.  No holing up in the bedroom for 4 days watching reality TV (Actually kind of miss that.)  Just 30 minutes, tops (depends if the nurses get me talking about my theories about public education, or more specifically how I believe that music education should be fun, informative and meaningful for all children, not just the ones that have a natural aptitude… wait.  Where was I?)  30 minutes.  This includes the breezy hospital gown, adjustments on the not so comfy board and arm brace, and the quick rays of death that are decreasing my chances of recurrence. 

The biggest difference between radiation and chemo for me is that I do more serious thinking in that 30 minutes than I ever did hooked up to ol’ Jethro the IV pole.  There is almost a social aspect to chemo, where in radiation treatments it’s just you and the big machine and just enough time to ponder Life, the Universe, and Everything.  Did we get it all in the surgery?  Am I holding still enough?  Did the chemo finish it off?  Will the radiation keep it from coming back?  Am I BRCA positive?  Will my daughter have to do this too?  Uck.  Don’t like that one. 

The truth is, I could drive myself crazy with those.  So I plod on, trying to incorporate wellness into my life.  Do the things I know will make me healthy.  Moisturize with aloe 4 times a day.  Ok.  Twice a day for sure.  Eat healthy foods.  (and ice cream.  There must always be ice cream.)  Increase my activity level (Only driving my daughter halfway to school.  Heh.) 

27 more to go.

(This will probably be the last time I know that number.)