My cancer saga started when I was diagnosed at 38 with Invasive Ductal Carcinoma. I have a twisted sense of humor and have tried to continue that laughter and optimism on my journey...

Friday, December 19, 2014

So Very Frustrated...

Episode CII - never get tired of trying

I might need some type of sedative before the week is over. Seriously... can I get a doctor to prescribe me something... and make it something strong!!!

Monday I had the rushed MRI at the location I did not want, for what? I never got a call about the appointment with the Neurologist. Since they rushed the process you would assume that an appointment would have been made. Right???

Because I had heard nothing I politely called the Cancer Center and asked about the appointment. They assured me they sent the referral over and someone would call me back. So, I waited a few more days....

I politely called again trying to find out if an appointment had been scheduled. Nope. I was told that I should be hearing directly from the Neurologist's office. So again, I waited. Then I called again. Third time is not a charm... it is irritating. I got a very abrupt you can call their office and bug them yourself response. Fine, I will!

So, I called the Neurologist's office to see if I can get an appointment. Guess what? There is no referral there... they have no idea who I am and why I am calling. I knew something was not right. Argh!!!

I immediately called the Cancer Center's office and they tried to assure me that I was wrong. I explained to them that it was over nine days, they just forgot to send the referral, and they made me rush my MRI. Just resend the thing! But what I was really thinking was someone messed up and totally forgot about me!!!!

The referral was properly sent and surprise, surprise, I was called by the next day. After much ado I finally have an appointment next week right before the holidays. I guess I should be glad I am getting in before the end of the year the way I am going!

Yes, I think I might be going crazy here

Not to worry the Cancer Center called me back to reiterate that it was not their fault. A simple sorry would have been enough. Even though they did not send the referral and that it was basically lost in paperwork, it was not their fault. I still have not figured out who's fault it is then, but it really does not matter. I just wanted an appointment. I guess my constant calling that annoyed them was necessary. Ha... being annoying is sometimes good!

Can you tell that I am seriously worn out and in pain?

It has been difficult dealing with my physical limitations. I am sick of feeling bad and my body continually reacting to daily living. Post cancer living is definitely not what I was hoping it would be. Heck... it is down-right bothersome. I am past six month post-treatment... that means I should be feeling better... at least a little better!!! Give a girl a break!!!

We all know that my general mood is upbeat. Generally, I am pooping rainbows and skittles, but I have my moments and my frustrations in this horrible post cancer existence. Seriously, I do not think the doctors or people really understand the continuing effects after cancer treatment. 

I had to go there... 
Pooping rainbows and skittles is positively beneficial to your health!

When the chemo and rads are finished it is assumed that we are ok and finished. Sure, we have gone through the trenches… we have fought… we are tired… and let’s be honest we are not done. There is continued medicines, appointments, scans, blah, blah, blah… it is like the craziness of cancer did not end and I think we all assume it should end. It really should end at some point… right????

It seems like a never ending fight...
my own personal Spy vs Spy

For some people they end treatment and gain some normalcy. For others the post cancer side effects become life long struggles. From hormone therapy to lymphedema to whatever else ails you... life does not always bounce back afterwards. 

Cancer is not over because the “cancer” is gone. I am not even sure it is gone, it could be just undetectable. I think there is a lot of information out there that is just not discussed, read, or explained that helps define surviving cancer and recurrence - click here to learn more.

Will I ever get down from my soap box?

My doctor has never even used any terms that implies my status. I use the term NED (no evidence of disease) based on the fact that my scans are clear. My doctor will not use any specific name and cleverly avoids labeling what I am right now. I don't know what I am?!?!?!

However, with so many people asking I have to say something... or put it in terms people would understand. Being cured is not really an option for my type of cancer - which I understand and I am ok with. Basically, I am not looking to be cured... I just do not want to come back! 

The idea of what cancer is and what it does to patients is all over the place ranging from the media to internet to people who know people who have had cancer. It seems that even with all that knowing, the idea of living post treatments is totally misunderstood.

Even the people I know assume I am finished which means I am cured... I wish. That since I survived I should be planning some grand adventure to climb Mt Everest or something wickedly amazing to celebrate. Instead, I am just trying to make it through the grocery store without having moments of excruciating pain. I think Everest can wait!

Sure I may not be the typical post cancer patient, but I know I am not alone. With the increasing numbers of survivors, I think doctors are being told of complaints they do not know how to treat. It feel as if they just want to treat the cancer and not really deal with the difficulties of surviving with issues cause from treatment.

Plus, we have more survivors now and more people willing to share their experiences… we are realizing that the survivorship does not mean it is over or easy or the cancer damage goes away. Even the statistics are showing an increase in unmet needs, click here to find out more. 

In my head...

Thank goodness for self advocacy and a strong constitution. If I had not kept after the doctors I would probably still be sitting around waiting for an appointment. It never hurts to get involved and speak up for yourself. It is exhausting, frustrating, and enter-any-explicit-word annoying to fight for your health. But it is your health and you are worth fighting for. Time to get enter-any-explicit-word annoying!!!

I have found it is good to know that we are not alone in the post cancer craziness. Thank goodness for the other bloggers and readers who are trying to find their way through this. The other fighters, survivors, family, caregivers, and loving people all finding each other and trying to find solutions. Maybe if we complain enough or join forces to make change then it will happen.

Episode Reference: Louisa May Alcott's Little Women:
“Watch and pray, dear, never get tired of trying, 
and never think it is impossible to conquer your fault.”

Monday, December 15, 2014

Brain MRI... someone thinks something is there???

Episode CI - insane in the brain...

Can nothing ever be super easy or go smoothly? Since the computers where down at my last doctor's appointments I was unable to schedule anything. Not the Onc follow-up, MRI, or Neurologist appointments. The nurses told me the receptionist would call with those. So, I waited and finally got word about my MRI. However, that first call was only the beginning of what was a mess of appointments and phone calls and craziness...

Let the rescheduling begin...

My MRI Scheduling Debacle 2014:

Call 1:  Original call to let me know I have an MRI at the Cancer Center at 11 am on Tues. Yeah, I have a time!

Call 2:  Call to change appointment time because machine needs to be repaired on Tues morning, now appointment on 2 pm on Tues. Ok, I still have decent time!

Call 3:  Call to change MRI to Thurs at 12 pm due to not thinking the repairs will be done on time. Well, at least I am still at the location I want to be!

Call 4:  Missed call, but message left saying that appointment has been changed to Monday at 5:30 pm at Medical Mall. What the heck did they say?!?!?!

Call 5:  I return call asking about why they changed appointment times and location. Turns out they want to rush the MRI so they can have it for Neurologist appointment which has not been scheduled. Since they want it fast they had to move it to the Medical Mall which I despise... because of my last experience there... click here to re-read an earlier blog post about what happened.

I ask them to reschedule for the Cancer Center because I really do not want to go the other location. Then I proceed to do what could be construed as begging. Seems they will check and call me back. What the heck did they say again?!?!?!

Call 6:  They refuse to move MRI time and location. So, MRI at 5:30 pm on Monday at the Medical Mall. Well, crap... yuck!!!

Now that it was settled, I was now ready to hopefully endure a slightly better experience than what happened last year at the same location. However, I was still convinced that they would find little more than a tiny brain in my head. There cannot be a full normal sized brain in my head because I have such little ability to think lately. If there is an average brain someone better tell it to start working!!!

Normal MRI vs My MRI.

However, I knew I had to go. So, after doing my normal Monday routine I drove myself to the Medical Mall for a now extended version December Doctor Madness Month. I was suppose to be finished with medical appointments, but now I had more to go.

Whoever decided that evening MRI scans are a good thing is seriously delusional! The last thing I want to after a long day is go have a loud, confining brain MRI. To top it off MRI scans are my least favorite of the scans I have had. They suck!

So I prepared myself to hopefully try and relax during what was soon to be an hour of torture. I am seriously too tired and sore for this scan... can I postpone it... wait... I have already had it rescheduled too many times!

Picture Proof: 
I am too tired for this.

I signed in. I sat down. I was basically there by myself. I think one other person showed up in the imaging department. Of course, any one with half a brain would not be there in the evening. Therefore, I only have less than half a brain.

When I returned my paperwork I mentioned the late hour and they told me that they scan up until 8 pm. That just sounds way too late. Now my 5:30 appointment was sounding better.

Tonight when I was called back the procedures were completely different. Since it was after hours, the nurses were gone for the day. So, I would not have to endure their vein breaking procedure. Instead the technician would apply the contrast directly into my arm mid-scan. Meaning he would bring me out of the machine at some point before reinserting me for the last part of the scan.

Normally for my breast MRI scan I am put in a slight downward dog position with my boobs flopped out through a giant hole. Truly a scary sight... and one that is kind of funny. This time I was flat on my back, strapped in with an odd face mask. It was like I was confined yet unconfined since I could see out through it.

The brain MRI mask looks awfully familiar to me...

Of course my ears were plugged and covered for safety for the impending loud noises. Plus, the tech let me pick the music which was then set to a blaring volume. I was slowly inserted into the MRI machine... or what feels like a coffin.

Normally I am in a position that makes me basically unaware of how narrow the machine is. This time I can see nothing but the confining space of the tube that I am in. My arms are slightly strapped down and touching the edges of the machine. My head is restricted, but I can still see that only inches in front of me and around me are closed off. Next time someone cover my eyes!

Keep going... you're not all the way in the machine 
until you see nothing but the white of the machine.

I have never had a claustrophobic feeling before, but I did for a minute after I was placed inside the machine. I had to remind myself that there was a large room around that small machine. I had to close my eyes and remind myself to focus on the music because it was going to get all sorts of noisy in just a second.

The reason the MRI scan is so difficult and annoying is primarily due to the noises and the loudness of those noises. Even with the ear plugs, ear phones, and music going the MRI sounds are uniquely torturing. No matter how prepared I am for it, it is always wrenching.

If you are unfamiliar or really interested
click here for the Sounds of an MRI

So after about forty minutes into the scan, I was brought out of the machine and given an injection of contrast. While he did have to search for a vein the tech was far better than my last experience with a nurse who supposedly did IVs for a profession. I was so grateful that I avoided the whole IV experience. Maybe there is some benefits to the late night appointment.

The joy of the moment could not last, because I was shoved back into the machine to finish my last fifteen to twenty minutes of confined loud beeps, bangs, screeches, and other weird noises.

In my head...

The MRI was exactly as it should be... confining, noisy, and long. Seriously, they really need to find a way to get such great images without torturing the patient. The CT scan is super fast and super easy and super quiet. I have decided the MRI is like the CT scans loud obnoxious relative!

The best part of the night was that it was over. I was not bloodied or beaten. I may have a raging headache and be slightly exhausted, but it was over.

“Sometimes I sits and thinks, and sometimes I just sits...” 
- A.A. Milne

Episode Reference: Insane in the Brain, Cyprus Hill song
(there are some bad words,
you have been warned)

Friday, December 12, 2014

another round of doctors..

Episode C - Can't Stop

This week is suppose to be my last week of appointments until the end of the year. So my December Doctor Madness tour was going to include my OT, Oncologist, & Family doctor. My OT appointments are so standard now that it just seems like my normal routine. Instead, I was really focused on my what my doctors would say. Last appointments of the year... or it was supposed to be!!!

First Up... Oncology!

It was time to make my Oncology follow-up. My real irritation is not that I have to go, but that I forgot to have them draw my blood for labs when I was already there last week for my scans. Usually I remember to ask them to do this, but I forgot last week. So, I would endure another needle today. Head thunk!

The blood work section of the center had gone through a transformation since my last visit. They had rearranged the seats... so that no one was facing each other. They had added curtains to try to separate the new seating arrangement... effective, but ineffective as the curtains are not really dividing anything. I could still see everyone when I walked in and it made me feel more confined. I guess there must be some new HIPAA laws.

Then there were a bunch of new faces... new nurses. When my name was called, I was greeted by someone I had never seen. She was less friendly than my previous nurses, but I was going to win her over. I am not sure I did... and I usually do!

Instead, I think my veins annoyed her. Normally the cancer center is the best at finding my very challenging veins... today I was not so lucky. I squeezed and squeezed my hand. She tapped and tapped on my arm. She was still stumped after many arm slaps. Then she got the idea to put the blood pressure cuff on my arm and pumped it up. We waited.. and waited... and waited! I finally had to let her know that my hand was really tingling and I was going even more numb than normal. Finally she went for it and dug around until she finally got inside a vein. Ouch! That is going to leave a mark!!!

It left a mark... for days...

So the blood work took longer than normal. And it really did not matter, because I ended up waiting even longer than normal in the doctor's waiting room. It was extremely slow... unusually slower than normal. And we all know how long doctors can take some days!

Waiting around 
in another waiting room...

Nothing is easy... and today was no exception. It was one of the first times the center had computer problems. The entire system was down. They could not access any of the records - no blood work report and no scan report online. It is a good thing that I do not fret over getting my test results!

My take on follow-up scans and worrying is not like most cancer patients. From what I have seen there is a lot of worry or panic or fear or concern or nervousness. Maybe a bit of everything. I am not worried when I go to the appointment or when I am waiting for the results. It is not that I am unaware something could be wrong, but if it is then it is. Simply put, I have no control over what shows up on those scans so I do not worry about it. Yes, I am weird!

I have been questioned about if I really feel this way or if I am in denial of my fears or depression. The fact is, I am really not worried. I actually try to focus on the fact that scans are good because if something is found then I will know and be able to make choices. Basically, if the scan shows something then I will deal with it and if it shows nothing then yahoo!

If I had to put a feeling towards my outlook on scans, testing, results then it would be hopeful... just hopeful that I am unremarkable and without cancer. The doctor was also calm. He had the nurses go and see if a report had been printed since I had the scan a week ago. Of course it had... and today I was lucky and heard that there was no evidence of disease (NED). Still no sign of cancer! Today I get to say "Yahoo!"

With the knowledge that I was showing no signs of cancer, we then focused our discussion of my continued list of side effects. I had some new ones that emerged since I saw him last. As normal, they do not want to admit any of the problems are due to chemotherapy, radiation, or hormone therapy. Seriously... that just seems crazy to me!

With so many nervous system problems he wants me to have a brain MRI and to see a Neurologist. Another doctor? I am collecting doctors. I thought I was done for the month. Argh! I think he just wants to pass me off to someone else and hope they will shut me up. I will continue to complain about my problems and advocate for my health... if I don't who will?!?!

Since all the computers were still down I left without being able to get my blood work results or schedule my Neurology & Oncology appointments. I figure if something is wrong they would probably call me. So, I was out of there. I was ready to get home because I had spent another long day at the cancer center. And I still have more doctors & a scan to go... I can't stop!!!

Friday... Family Doctor!

I am learning there are all types of doctors. Most doctors just want to deal with issues in their field. The Oncologist only wants to get rid of cancer. Forget whatever comes from those treatments. The Radiation Oncologist only wants to manage the radiated area. Hoping that the Oncologist will deal with whatever comes from those treatments. The ENT - only about my hearing. The Cardiologist - only about my heart. And so on... and so on...

My Family Doctor has really been the only one so far that is attempting to help me. He has always listened to my symptoms wanting to help me figure out ways to actually feel better. Today was no different. He had recently increased my Lyrica and wanted to do it again. However, after learning I was going to get a MRI and see a Neurologist he decided to not alter any medications until after I talk to them.

Down another appointment...

Instead of being able to do anything additional to help the pain I have to wait. He wants to see me back in January so we can regroup and discuss whatever they find out. At least he is listening!

This was suppose to be my last doctor's appointment of the month, but now I was still going to have to get a MRI & Neuro appointment. It seems... I can't stop!!!

In my head...

I guess I should be happy that after multiple months of complaining the Oncologist is at least sending me to a different doctor to hopefully alleviate the problems I am having. I am still surprised at how little accountability is given to cancer treatment for the conditions and problems it leaves you with. While I know I am not necessarily the "norm", I am not the only one who is complaining about the lingering affects of cancer... aftermath of cancer is bigger than they want to believe.

While I am not a doctor, chemo & radiation can cause serious long term issues. There is a lack of acknowledgement in Oncology that symptoms & complaints after treatment were caused by treatment. I have been complaining about this a lot recently... I am obviously and now proven statistically not alone... click here

I could find so many articles and go on as I really feel there needs to be some form of care (medical coordination, doctor specialty, or case manager) for the the post affects of cancer treatment. Instead of having a bunch of doctors pass you between them doing nothing - have a doctor who actually addresses the issues & helps find solutions for what the treatments caused.

Here I go... ranting and raving! I will now put up the soap box and mentally preparing to deal with more doctors and more tests. Like I said... I can't stop!!!

"One of the things I learned the hard way was that it doesn't pay to get discouraged. 
Keeping busy and making optimism a way of life can restore your faith in yourself."
- Lucille Ball

Episode Reference: Can't Stop, Red Hot Chili Peppers song

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Triappointments... CT/OT/BoneScan

Episode XCIX - I've been looking so long at these pictures of you...

My 3rd, 4th, & 5th appointments on the December Doctor Madness tour all happened today and the first one was early. I had to rush everyone in the house to keep on task and to keep moving... we were going to be late!

Run. Run. Run. Hurry. Hurry. Hurry. 

Take the selfie and run...

The first appointment was an abdominal and pelvic CT scan. Since it requires prep I had to get up extra early to start my barium drink. Already not liking this! Then I would need to keep one handy, because I would be drinking the second container while I was driving. Already hoping I do not forget this!

Breakfast & lunch in my case...

So my morning was insane. I needed to keep up with my time frame of drinking the barium. I needed to make sure the kids got up and ready... and on time! I needed to drive my daughter to a friends to take her to school and drive my son to his carpool pick up location. My husband would have to fend for himself. Plus, I must remember to drink the remaining part of the barium in the car. And to not be late for the appointment... hurry?!?!?!?!

Surprisingly I actually made it. And I made it on time. Miracle!

My day was going to be an all day cancer center event. I had a CT scan, OT appointment, and bone scan all lined up. I was going to be have so many pictures made of my body today. Pictures of my innards and some of my bones. It was like Scanfest 2014!

CAT Scan & Bone Scan... I will be here all day...

When I arrived at the center I went straight to the imaging department and waited to be called. I knew what was going to happen since I did this just like a few months. Nice already being experienced!

First they put in an IV to do the contrast for the CT scan, as well as to inject the tracer for the bone scan. Thank goodness the nurses here are so good. I have tricky veins and even though there was some digging around she was quick!

Then I went back to the CT room and laid down on the table. The one really good thing about CT scans are they are fast... really fast. Just a few moments of holding your breath. Just a few times back and forth in the giant doughnut shaped machine. A slight feeling that you have gone to the bathroom on yourself when the contrast is released. Then a few more breath holds and passes... IV is removed. Done!

I was not really done. I was just finished with the CT. My next appointment was down the hall, up the elevator, and down another hall. Conveniently located and strategically planned by me. Since the CT scan was so fast I would be a few minutes early to my OT appointment. Not early enough to eat, but just enough time to sit outside the door and be distracting by my cell phone!

9. occupy boredom in waiting rooms
10. know where to be at any given time

My second appointment of the day was spent getting getting a manual lymph drainage massage ("boobie massage"). It was weird because my normal OT was not there. I had another OT performing the massage. It was strange how different each person's touch and approach can be. While it was similar, the order that she went and the areas that she focused on were not the same. She really focused on my arm and forearm. Even though it was different we still talked, laughed, and hurried because I had an appointment for a bone scan right afterwards.

Run. Run. Run. Hurry. Hurry. Hurry.

I reversed my steps and rushed to the imaging department. My OT appointment ended as my Bone Scan appointment began. I was ready for my final, third, and most time consuming appointment of the day. Scan on this!

The bone scan requires me to be still. A feat in and of itself. It also requires me to be still while laying on a very flat metal table... my back!!! Seriously, even with that tiny little knee pillow you give me... ouch! Can they not afford to make more comfortable tables for these tests???

My arms were placed in a circular strap to stay in place. My body was still. Now the machine moved me into the starting position and began to find its way as close to me as possible. Each section, starting with my face, is scanned for about 15 minutes. It is really close to your face... inches away. As it moves you further out, it stays as close to you as possible. And it is really close!

I was able to see some of my scan on the screen above me. It was really cool... there were all my bones... all shiny and white on the black background. Of course, I have no idea what any of it means... but it looks cool!

The scan technician made sure there are no fuzzy bones. I did not have any because I did not move. I was clear to leave. I was really done! I had spent all morning and now into the afternoon at the cancer center and all I could think about was getting home to eat something. It was a long, exhausting day... but my pictures for the next months to year were complete!


Something would have to go weird... it was too easy today. After I got home, ate, and picked up the kids I looked at my arm... red! The paperwork they gave me says to call the doctor if there is a red spot, but I am just too tired to deal with it. Plus, I think some contrast must have gotten under my skin near the IV area. I will call tomorrow if it is still red... argh!!!

In my head...

Just as I suspected, the redness went away by the next day. However, my body was sore and it continued into the next day. Each of those things: CT, OT, Bone Scan are simple and easy... doing them in marathon form was exhausting! However, I was glad to get them all done and I got them in before the end of the year. Less expensive for me!!!

At least my first week of appointments in December was over. While I still have other things to do I am done with the medical... until Tuesday...

"It is difficult to see the picture when you are inside the frame."
- Eugene Kleiner

Episode Reference: Picture of You, The Cure song

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

I'm the 1%... a medical oddity

Episode XCVIII - I'm a weirdo!

My 2nd appointment during the December Dr. Madness visits was to the Radiation Oncologist. Thank goodness it was just a follow-up visit. Time to check out my boobs, again!

Going to another appointment...

The Radiation Oncology group has multiple offices. There is one in the cancer center... it's nice. One at a hospital with valet parking... it's super nice. And there is one in the basement of a medical tower below the actual building... that is where they put me. They want to hide me!!!

While the other offices are definitely fancier, I love my group in the basement. We are a bunch of outcasts, misfits, and troublemakers. I fit in perfectly.

After chatting with all the nurses and making my typical office routine I was escorted to one of the doctor's waiting rooms. The room looks like almost all doctor's rooms - bland and boring. I love catching up with my nurse. She has been with me my whole radiation treatments and we were ready to talk. She is hysterical and (like always) we got off topic. We talk so much I think we forget there are other patients waiting!

The Rad's doctor is one of my favorite doctors. Not only does he do a thorough physical examination of my breast, my skin, and any issue I bring up - he actual listens to me. He takes in all of my complaints and appears to genuinely care. Today was no different. I listed all of my ailments and problems - and there are many! Then he asked about my lymphedema and my side effects.

Then he said something I thought was great - I was the 1%. I was in the small minority that got lymphedema with such few lymph nodes removed. I was the small minority that got the weird fibromyalgia-like pain and nervous system side effects. I was that tiny itty bitty 1% of patients... go figure!

Now I am a smaller percent of a small percent...

Statistics show that the majority of breast cancer patients are over 50. I was in my 30's when I found mine... so I was younger than a lot of other women. Now I am in the even smaller % who got freaky rare side effects. Yeah... I am special!!!

We discussed how my age (having small children under foot & being so active during treatment) could have only amplified my symptoms. That normally the patients with breast cancer are older, empty nesters, having more time to actually rest and focus on recovering. I, on the other hand, spent my treatment like a crazy person... running around after children... forgetting that I needed to take care of myself!

While we spent a lot of time talking, he still told me to talk to the Oncologist. That the Onc should be offering up solutions. (No doctor wants to step on the Onc toes... they do not dare for some reason... it is almost as if he is the Doctor of all doctors... what do you do when that "Doctor of all doctors" does not do anything?!?!) Since I have an appointment next week with the Onc I am offered little more than his ear. However, his listening is more than what other doctors have done. Listening is highly underused in the medical industry!

In my head...

Well, I was heard. I do not have any real solutions, but I do feel like someone cares. And to be honest, this doctor only really worries about the effects of radiation. Overall, my skin looked good. He did not like the issues with swelling in my chest, underarm, and arm areas. Obviously the radiation added to these symptoms and to the lymphedema issues... I am his 1%... that makes me extra special right?!?! Or extra weird?!?!

Ok, I know I am not literally a 1% for all of you out there who are all statistics and accurate and serious. I am just a medical oddity instead of a medical norm! AKA - I am weird!

“I am weird, you are weird. 
Everyone in this world is weird. 
One day two people come together in mutual weirdness and fall in love.” 
- Dr. Seuss

Episode Reference: Creep, Radiohead song
(a few bad words in the song...
I warned you!)

Monday, December 1, 2014

Squish goes the right boob...

Episode XCVII - come on and squeeze me...

It is the last month of 2014 and I am officially renaming it December Doctor Madness month. It is part bad timing and part my own fault. Since I have spent so much money on doctors over the past two years I wanted any my test scheduled for the first two weeks of January moved to December. I was hoping that because I have already reached my out-of-pocket maximum that I would save myself a few thousands at the first of the year. Bring the madness...

I did kind of ask for it. Well, I asked for some of the craziness. I already had stuff scheduled for the month, but now I was doubling up on my appointments. Therefore I would just have to suck up the multiple (and I mean multiple) scans, tests, and doctor's appointments over the next few weeks. I might be crazy by Christmas, but I will survive it all... I hope!

My first stop during my December Doctor Madness was to get a follow-up mammogram. Just like normal I went through the here's my DL/insurance card and the standard fill out your forms routine. I supplied my birth date (for like the billionth time) and I waited to be called. Boring office routine!

Afterwards I made my way to the second waiting room where we sit around with our tops off and nervously wait until it is our turn. We are not really naked, but we are all in our two gowns. One gown opened towards the front, for easy access. One gown opened towards the back so we are not really exposing ourselves. However, the gowns seem like a false obligatory formality as we are all about to have our breasts out in a few minutes. But, I did have you visualizing a room of naked women for a minute!!!

Gowned up and mammogram ready...

The waiting room was less crowded than the last time I was here, but the women who were there were all callbacks. Meaning they were all freaking out. Of course, I had to try and assure them that even if it turned out to be cancer it does not necessarily mean bad - just look at me! Cancer is scary, but it is good for women to see a survivor. Plus, I reminded them of two positives about a callback: 1. Better to be safe than sorry. It is a good thing that they are taking a closer look, even if it is not cancer. 2. Better to know as soon as possible. Early detection is a good thing. So, I would rather have a callback than something being ignored!

As for me, I am not worried. I should not have anything show up for a few years on my right side since they radiated the snot out of my breast/chest. If there is something there - it was going to be bad and there was no stopping it. So, I was not worried. I cannot change it, so why fret! Instead, I was all about the humor...

When I got into the room I just took my gown off. I take the whole thing off, like an unsexy strip show. Why be modest? Seriously, the lady is about to handle my breasts... she and about half the medical community... my breasts have been busy the past two years!

Today I was only having my right breast examined, so I felt that my left breast was getting neglected. I think I made many random jokes about how my left breast felt ignored. Hopefully, it won't go and get cancer trying to get some attention. Yes, I did just make that completely inappropriate comment.

I got to use both the regular pads and the smaller pads so they can squeeze even tighter on my right breast. There are so many jokes and comments made about mammograms hurting. Sure it is uncomfortable, but it is not painful. It is pretty quick. The whole experience is not difficult. I say this because I hope no one ever avoids getting a mammogram because they fear of the actual scan. Take it from me... some one who has had multiple mammograms in the past couple of years... it is not bad... get your boobs (or today in my case, boob) squished!

After they took the multiple images I asked to see them on the screen. I try and look at anything they will let me look at now. I am just in awe of how much they can see and how fast they can see it. My boob looked like a standard mammogram-ed boob... which is a good thing. Unremarkable! I have an unremarkable boob!

While my day went well, my entire night was spent dealing with cable drama. And by entire night - I really mean that. I had a scheduled appointment for a technician to come and install a new cable system between 2-5 pm. I was getting an upgrade with more channels (all the premium ones) and faster internet. I was super excited. I had been waiting weeks for the guy to show up. He didn't!

I had stayed awake (since I was tired from my mammogram & my kids) even though I felt bad. Not only did I wait around for a no-show, I spent 5-8:30 pm on the phone trying to figure it out. Seriously! I was given the run around and sent to a lot of different people... blah! blah! blah!

After being shuffled to a number of people and being disconnect "accidentally" over the phone, it turns out they canceled my package and my appointment today. Oh, and they forgot to tell me. Plus, they are not offering that any more. I could get a similar package, but it had things I did not want (like a home security system thing that would cost me more later). I waited 3 hours for a guy to show, 3 1/2 hours on a phone, and I got nothing. I was really looking forward to watching some premium tv channels... instead I am going to go to bed from exhaustion!

In my head...

I want my MTV... more like I want my HBO, Showtime, & the rest of the channels! While I may not be watching some awesome movie right now, I am thrilled that my first appointment in December Doctor Madness had good results. Everything looked normal... and hopefully the rest of the month will be the same!

Mammograms are super easy and painless. It is a good thing I do not mind having them because I get to go back in six months were both breasts get squished. At least then my left breast will feel included and loved!

To truly laugh, you must be able to take your pain, and play with it!
- Charlie Chaplin

Episode Reference: Squeeze Box, The Who song

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Where did November go?

Episode XCVI - And Time that gave doth now his gift confound...

What happened to November? Time just seems to get away from me. A whirlwind of activities have happened this month. I have been going regularly to my OT appointments for lymphedema, I have increased my activity resulting in odd physical reactions, I have visited family for the holidays, and I actually have a real hairstyle...

What is beginning to look like an on-purpose hairdo...

My hair is growing so slowly! After months and months of hair growth, I finally felt it was time to go to a salon to get my hair cut. I usually use a walk-in place because I have such little hair. However it was time to actually style what is now on my head. When you go from bald to hair it has very little shape and grows in like a bad mullet.

I seriously keep getting mullets during the growing out phases! At least now I am happy to finally get a hair cut that resulted in a style. I finally feel like I am actually getting bangs that are worth brushing. Seriously, I really do not require a hairbrush. The simplicity of the short hair is actually nice. If I do not brush my hair... does not matter. If I do not blow dry my hair... does not matter. In general, the short hair is extremely low maintenance. And I will never be afraid to cut my hair short again!!!!

The lack of hair has also been convenient for swimming. I have been increasing my swimming to include additional time in water aerobics. I am one of the youngest in the classes and I am also trailing behind some of the women in there. The 80 year old women are actually kicking my butt in the class... it is slightly embarrassing.

The old ladies are schooling me...

So now that I am doing 45 minutes of aerobics and 45 minutes - 1 hour of lap swimming, I am feeling the pain outside of class. Sadly, the more I have increased my exercise the more it is affecting me outside of the water.  It is not that I am sore and tired, I am actually hurting. The very low impact of water was suppose to be easy on my body. I am feeling it in my back and my nervous system. My general symptoms and complaints began to re-emerge as I increased my exercising and activity level. Then I got a few new ones...

Not a stroke... just a slight face droop...

My face began to look like I had a slight stroke in the evenings. My left side began to droop. It seemed to happen more regularly and in the evenings when I was worn down. Besides my noticeable face issues, I was having increased muscle spasms, neuropathy, and increased pain. After I had repeated nights of facial drooping, I called the doctor. He increased my Lyrica dosage and the symptoms began to clear up... for the most part!?!?!

Even though I was physically exhausted, I had some new exciting things happen that made me ignore all that. My OT is one of those people in life who encourages and truly advocates for her patients. She knows how much I love painting so she help facilitate using my artwork at the therapy offices. Not only are they up to help other cancer patients feel good, they are letting me put brochures out to hopefully sell some artwork. Bonus!!!

Me & my OT.
Plus, a bit of artwork in the therapy office at the cancer center...

Originally I thought they would want a piece or two on the walls, but they wanted to use work in multiple rooms. So, I got my painting clothes on and spent a few days creating new abstract pieces to be used. It was fun (and exhausting). But, how could I not take advantage of this new opportunity? I was so lucky to actually have my artwork on the walls for people to enjoy... especially other cancer patients! To check out more of my artwork  - click here.

Not only did I spend a good portion of the month creating artwork, I just got back from a visit with my family for the Thanksgiving holiday. While my husband had to stay home and work, I took the kids on a short trip to Chattanooga. We spent most of the time just hanging out, but we also went on a  few excursions. My mom set up a tour at the aquarium and the whole family went to a Christmas light display.


Visiting my family...

In my head...

Like I said, the month of November seemed to go by quickly. However, November was my slow month... it was December that was going to be busy... I hope I can handle it...

When I looked at my calendar for the month of December I was slightly overwhelmed. I know that it is going to be insanely busy, so I was grateful that I got to have a good visit with my family before the craziness begins. Hopefully, I have gotten my medication adjusted to help with some of my side effects that happen when I am tired or overwhelmed physically. Because I am going to be overwhelmed next month for sure!!!

“Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.” 
- Mother Teresa

Episode Reference: Sonnet 60, Shakespeare sonnet
(a bit of sonnet trivia:
both Sonnet 60 & 12 deal with time
60 minutes in an hour
12 hours in a day
Oh, that Shakespeare... so clever!)