Saturday, December 29, 2012


I went for a shog today (for the non runners out their that is a shuffle jog). It was cold and about 3 minutes into the run I was already tired. However, I toughed it out and made it about 2 miles. It was not pretty, but then again it never is. But, it doesn't matter because I was running! Operation regain fitness (energy level during radiation pending) can begin. GI system is operating at about 80%, chocolate still induces heartburn, but improving. My hair is falling out still (scalp is a little sore), but hey it's the last time. Getting ready for 2013 and a meeting with the medical oncologist and radiation oncologist later in the week. Get to start out the new year by getting my first and only tattoo so that I can get radiation in the right spot every time. Sounds fun. Maybe they can make it a smiley face.

Had this song in my head the entire run, very cliche. I need Bruce and Jon to make a "Born to Shog" version.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas!

So grateful for the timing of my treatments. Although my GI system hasn't been cooperating (I miss you chocolate) and my hair is falling out again, my energy level is good and I am able to see all the family and friends who are here for these few short days. I am failing miserably at keeping my crankiness in check when I am asked "Feeling ok?" and have taken to answering "Yes, I am fine" with probably too much attitude for anytime of year. I really have no good reason to be cranky either. Sleeping well and able to eat some of the foods I enjoy. However, really enjoying seeing everyone and doing our family holiday traditions. I'll work on toning the Ebeneezerness done today.

Besides that I think its safe to say.....

Update: Here is a post present unwrapping with my new hat:

Merry Christmas! 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Doug E. Funny

Everyday feeling better. Made it through two days of work and multiple public transportation snafus with sufficient energy. Eating 3 meals a day and snacks. Found that I have to wear a belt with all my pants right now.

Today at work I met one of the nurses who went through the exact same treatment (lumpectomy, exact same chemo, and radiation) that I will. We have e-mailed back and forth and she has shared some resources. She was very helpful with recommendations during chemo. Today when I got in the elevator I noticed a woman with short, but definitely a full head of hair. She noted my bald head and I could see her trying to see my badge. I read her name off her coat (she's kinda a big deal) and just said "Yup, I'm Sara". It was nice to meet her in person, however brief. She finished radiation about 1 month ago and when she got off the elevator she pointed to her head and said "Look! Soon enough yours will be back too." Looking forward to having/regrowing hair in the new year.

My peach fuzz is a little long in spots and I realized the other day that I totally look like the Nicktoon's character Doug. I find that I am often humming the theme song. I don't think it helps that my pajama t-shirt is the same color as his vest. Now where is Skeeter when you need him?

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Fire Inside

Forward progress! Yesterday I was able to eat food (very, very bland food) and drink water without curling up on the couch after. My GI system has moved on from pain to fire. Fire I can deal with. I knew I was making progress when I took a shower and put on real pants yesterday. Oh, how the definition of a "win" changes on a daily basis. I also felt well enough to get to the post office. Here I found that I would have fit in fine with my pajama pants and was slightly dressed up in jeans at 2:00 pm on a Friday. This little adventure did wipe me out a little bit, but it was a beautiful day out and it was nice to be upright and out and about. I still have some crazy mouth watering at times (my mouth waters so quickly that I kinda drool, and yes it is absolutely as attractive as it sounds), but even that is improving and the baking soda mouthwashes continue to help. The intense metallic taste has settled in, but hey there are ginger chews for that. For now, it's mostly the fire inside.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Revenge of the 4th Infusion!

I know that chemotherapy works by building up in your system. I understand that it makes you feel a little worse each time while it builds up in your system. However, neither of these concepts were in my mind when I determined that when I woke up this I would feel better and be done with Chemo (cue more Barry!).

Foolish girl.

One would have thought by now I would have understood how this process works. I did not go to work today and I will not be going to work tomorrow (chalk up another first, calling in sick!). To say I have heartburn would be the understatement of 2012. Water makes my stomach hurt. Basically, I am currently in a holding pattern: drink water, eat something super bland, curl up on couch and take a nap. Boy, am I glad this is the last cycle. I can't imagine those folks who have had to do this for a year (or even more than 4 cycles). 

This one is worth repeating:

Also, some of my hair has grown back in and it is white. Say what? I've never even had a grey hair. Let's hope this pattern doesn't continue as it will all fall out again by New Years. What a long strange trip this has been.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Victory! Chemo Infusion #4 Complete

Woke up to "We Need a Little Christmas" on the radio and decided to add my Christmas socks to my uniform for Chemo. 7:30 am blood draw was uneventful and my vitals have showed that my blood pressure and heart rate have steadily declined since my first appointment with the oncologist.
10/4 blood pressure 125/84, heart rate 80 beats per minute, a little nervous.
12/10 blood pressure 108/68, heart rate 64 beats per minute, excited to be done.

Labs looked good again today too! No need for blood transfusions! Hematocrit was still a little low, but ok low. Kidney and liver function still normal.  Blood sugar remained high, 137 mg/dl, but no need for insulin or anything. Another win.

Starting weight was 144 lbs, down to 142 lbs. Once I get my heartburn under control I will be all set. The oncologist is switching my heartburn medication to help with this to a much stronger medication. I am hopeful to maybe go more than 2 days in the next 3 weeks without a constant burning in my stomach.

No human pin cushion today! I told the MD about the 5 sticks last time and they brought the IV nurse down to put my IV nurse. She had it in and running in under 30 seconds. It was glorious. I was up and running in no time! No problems with infusions (besides my tiny bladder having me drag the IV pole to the bathroom 3 times, but progress has been made my Mother doesn't follow me to the bathroom anymore).

Everyone was on the lookout for the bear today. The volunteers recognized me by it. Also, all the nurses didn't realize that my shirt says F*ck Cancer until today. They all absolutely loved it and congratulated me on the final infusion. I will see them all tomorrow for the dreaded Nuelasta shot, but light is at the end of the tunnel. Today's infusions flew by time wise. I spent the whole time writing out Christmas cards. I mean really if there was ever a place to be thankful for the upcoming year, I'm pretty sure it's in the infusion room.

Only thing that didn't go my way was waiting for my new prescription. They didn't remember I was waiting for it, even though it was partially filled after the doctor called it up. It took 35 minutes. We got over it and I sang this (yes I am aware I technically still have a rough 3 weeks ahead of me. I'll follow up with the medical oncologist and make sure all my labs look good 1/3/13 and have an appointment to get set up in radiation oncology on the same day):

And now onto celebrate with what else, but mashed potatoes. 

Friday, December 7, 2012

The Chemo Countdown is on!

Monday is the last infusion and Tuesday is the last feeling like crap inducing Neulasta shot! 3 weeks from now I should feel relatively normal. They say it will take 2-3 months for my taste to return to normal.

Feeling pretty good (besides continuous heartburn at this point). Went for a run during the week, worked the entire week and didn't get lost in the hospital. However, did forget one of my colleagues names. But, really who hasn't done that? Looking forward to a weekend full of friends (and revealing the bald look to many), cookie swapping (without other people touching my food-I have learned) and family.

I am a wee bit excited to close the chapter on the 2nd phase of treatment. 3 more weeks! Then on to being microwave daily.....more on that later. 

Monday, December 3, 2012

Dear Santa, Please Bring me Nose Hair for Christmas

Yes, this year I am asking for the return of my nose hair. At first I thought, losing my nose hair sounds great. However, what it really is is annoying. Any slight change of temperature and my nose is running. It's very pretty. While sitting on the couch watching tv, walking or running outside, my nose is running. Depending on what isle of the grocery store I am in depends on how fast my nose is running. I make sure that every pocket that I have is stocked with tissues. I am trying really hard not to be that guy who "sniffs" constantly all day long. {However, in terms of side affects lost hair and some taste changes I am feel pretty lucky}

Weekend goals were accomplished. I was able to stay up past 8 pm and see some friends (even if I was only able to stay for 30 minutes). I was able to go running too! It's still not pretty and my legs were super super tight, but I ran for 18 minutes. Love it.

Chemo Brain
Guess what? This has been proven as a real condition. A sampling of women with breast cancer who had chemo for 6 months or longer had brain scans through out chemotherapy. Actual changes to the brains were found. Many of the symptoms were decreased attention, difficulty remember name, dates or events, and get lost more easily. It's referred to as "mild cognitive dysfunction". Many people have asked if I have had any of these side effects. I have had some slight difficulty concentrating (I can't seem to get through an article longer than 2 pages right now) and some difficulty finding the right word. However, these could also be from my new sleep pattern.  I would adamantly say that I haven't had really any chemo brain. Well, that is until Friday afternoon. See what happened was I ran down to check in on a patient in the SICU (which is one floor below where my office is) and when I cam back to the main corridor I stopped dead in my tracks. I had no idea how to get back to my office. Then I started to panic a little. And then I just read the GIANT sign in front of me that told me exactly where I was. I made my way back to my office and shared a good laugh with my colleagues about it. So yes, I have had at least 15 seconds of chemo brain.  

Thursday, November 29, 2012

I Chew Chew Chews You

Thanks to a colleague at work and suggestion from my training partner, weird taste in my mouth has been abated by Ginger Chews and cinnamon gum. I have 2 lbs (yes pounds) of ginger chews, thanks to Amazon, that I am slowly working my way through. Lesson learned, more than 4 in a day = tummy ache. 

Energy level is good and I am sleeping somewhere between 9 to 10 hours a night (not straight but total). My hair is growing and falling out at equal rates currently and my house is littered with my tiny hairs (and the back of my lab coat at work).

Running is on the bill for the weekend as well as trying to stay awake past 8 pm at night. We'll see how either goes.

Currently the video and song below are making me really happy:

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Like Water but Slightly Thicker and with Pennies in It

Over the nuelasta hump (hopefully). No headaches again. Plenty of body aches, for me it really seems to be located in the rib cage, upper back, jaw area. Heating pad was key. Thanksgiving was nice with just my parents and food was good too. Seriously, seriously obsessed with mashed potatoes. I believe at one point I discussed how outstanding they were for 5 minutes straight.

Thanksgiving evening however, my body (which seems to be its own entity) did not want to sleep. After about 4 hours of sleep, I was awake for the day at 12:30 am. As I was staying at my parents for the holiday my mother found me around 4 am spewing all sorts of venom for the lack of sleep and being able to hear my father snoring. Clearly, I was still in the relaxed holiday mood I had gone to bed in. This would be the first time of the day she would try to convince me that maybe going to work was not the best plan. Defiantly I got into the shower and insisted that we go do our annual Black Friday shopping first and then I was going to work for the whole day.

1 shower, 1 fire alarm (malfunction in the building) and some breakfast later, my mother made attempt number 2 to convince me not to go to work. I think my lack of coloring and attempting to sleep in my bowl of cereal had something to do with it. I insisted I was as fine as I was going to be and that I was just feeling tired and weird. We went to the mall next to my work at 5:50 am, did one monster of a powershop (Christmas shopping basically done) and I was at work by 7:15 am. At this point, mom had talked me down to being picked up at 2 pm and gave one more try at just calling in sick after becoming easily confused by trying to pick out holiday hand soap. In my defense there were a lot of hand soap choices.

At work I realized I was a little dehydrated and quickly drank 1.5L of water hoping that would help with tiredness. Water at this point tastes a little thick and metallic. I have never been much of a "sipper" but I definitely now chug any beverage just to avoid tasting it. I moved like molasses and after 5 hours of work decided (under the encouragement of my coworkers and mother) to go home. Apparently 3.5 hours of sleep after a neulasta shot while on chemo is not conducive to feeling well. Someday I will learn to listen to other people, but who I am kidding probably not.

Since then, sleep has gradually been increasing. I have been waking up at 12:30 am every night since I started chemo and most of the time can go back to sleep (like last night) but sometimes I am a awake for a couple of hours before going back to sleep. Last night I slept for 10 hours. Yay!

Major side affect of chemo I am dealing with right now is a constant, yucky metal taste in my mouth. Cinnamon gum, cinnamon cereal, baking soda mouth washes help, but nothing currently relieves the taste. Yesterday, I went to CVS and thought well if cinnamon gum is good, lets find something sugar free (don't want cavities) to suck on to relieve the taste. Guess what? CVS does not make "Sugar Free Metallic Taste Relief Lozenges" . They do make sugar free, made with trans fat cinnamon melt-aways (didn't appeal to me) and so-much-sugar-alcohol-they-should-be-in-the-laxative-section Root Beer Barrels (um, no thanks). What did appeal to me were Atomic Fireballs. I left CVS triumphant. These were going to cure the metallic taste. I promptly put one in mouth and for the first time since starting chemo really, really wanted to throw up. Now, a regular human being would do the obvious and spit it out, but not this genius. I decided that maybe it would get better and if I suffered through the first 2 minutes of a fireball it might still work and I could want to throw up for 2 minutes every couple of hour. Yes, that seems normal. Well, end result was I made myself want to throw up for the entire fireball and it seemed to only make the metallic taste worse. I can't do peppermint or spearmint as they make my heartburn worse, but I bought some fresh ginger root to make some ginger broth with so we'll see how that works. In the meantime I bet this kid can relate to the taste:

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Lots of Thanks for this Thanksgiving!

This year I am thankful for a world full of loving, supportive people. I am thankful for my family and the amount of driving back and forth, weird requests and unconditional love they provide. I am thankful for the level of crankiness they can withstand. I am thankful for all my friends and how I always knew they were awesome people, but know I can give concrete examples to the world that they are the best ever. I am thankful for their continued support of my twisted sense of humor. I have corkboards on my wall and when this adventure began started filling them up. Well, I had to double them in size and they are covered in well wishes.  I am thankful for all the new people that Cancer has brought into my life. Although I wish that none of us had this shared journey it is comforting to know that they have made it though and are routing for me.

I am thankful for modern medicine and early detection methods. I am thankful for clean PET scans and false MRI reports. I am thankful that 3 Chemo infusions are done, and I am mostly through 3 nuelasta shots (in case the above ramblings did not make clear, feeling a little fuzzy this am). I am thankful I am healed (with scars) from surgery and that if all else goes well about 12 weeks away from being done with the Triple Crown.

Today I am thankful for my mom's mashed potatoes. I already had to ask her not to let me attempt to eat all 5 lbs of them. Despite recent taste changes, they still will taste delicious.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Human Pincushion, Chemo Infusion #3 complete

Well, my mother and I jinxed ourselves on the way in today. Hey there is no impeding snowstorm or hurricane, this will be easy as pie (Thanksgiving on the brain). Well, my veins did not cooperate. One of the nurses it was her first day at the hospital and they all thought, hey lets give her the young one with good veins. Well my good veins are a little upset with the Taxotere (a known irritant) and after she tried to get the vein (which most most unpleasant and in my roid rage I told her so "Yeah, so that does not feel ok") for a few minutes and you could see the bruise forming. Her preceptor came over bearing hot towels and two more veins were tried by her. No success. More hot towels and the nurse who is the best stick in the unit came over and couldn't get the fourth stick to go. We were one stick away from having to call in the IV team (and now 45 minutes delayed from my infusion start). I had all sorts of gauze taped to me and 4 new bruises.  Then the 5th time was a charm, finally got a vein that wasn't so pissed off that it collapsed and had good blood return! Yay (and ouch). Otherwise, infusion went well. For the visual learners this is what it looks like:

The bear was a big hit. The volunteers who bring around lunch were obsessed with him. One had picked him up and was talking too him She asked me if I needed anything and I asked if they had any honey. She straight face looks at me and asks "For the bear?". I laughed, I said no for my yogurt. Another light moment in the day was when my head got cold and I put my sock monkey hat on. My oncologist came to check in. She took one look at me and just laughed. It's apparently really hard to take me serious when I have that hat on. The volunteers decided that officially made me the Cutest Patient of the Day. I'll take it. 

Factoids from the day: Weight is stable. Up 0.7lbs. Hematocrit and hemoglobin were slightly decreased, but ok. My blood sugar level was improved down to 137 mg/dL. The only item that was low was my bicarb. However, given the stomach bug from the previous Saturday not unexpected. But, everything looks good. Got the "really" look when I did tell the Oncologist that I didn't take anytime off last week despite being tired. Oops

Saturday, November 17, 2012

We Jammin'

Stomach bug resolved. Confirmed with the oncologist definitely not chemo related. Happily I was able to work a full week and more importantly (for my sanity) got two whole runs in. I have never been a "pretty" runner, but these are especially ugly runs. I feel like I am running in my sleep which always seems to be going through molasses. They look probably worse than this:

In my new life as a hermit I have difficulty staying awake past 7:30 pm at night. So I sleep for a minimum of 8 hours a night. However, I have had some really bizarre dreams. One night I dreamt that one of my colleagues was on American Idol and I conspired with Simon Cowell (yes I am aware he is not on the show) to get her kicked off because work was too busy. However, last nights dream was really something special. In the dream I had dreadlocks (yup) and carried around a British bulldog on some hot Island country. I know the bulldog was British because I made a point to tell everyone (in real life I have no idea what the difference is between bulldogs). I woke up singing Bob Marley. At least this was a happy dream, and I enjoyed the steel drum soundtrack.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

I forget sometimes

I forget sometimes that my immune system may not be what it has always been. I forget sometimes that because of chemotherapy I shouldn't eat food at gatherings that other peoples hands may have touched. I forget that because I feel so well I don't have to meticulously watch these things. I am reminded when I have to spend all of Saturday morning in the bathroom because of a slight food borne illness. I am reminded when I have to cancel dinner plans and a run with friends.

I forget sometimes that my cardiovascular system is not in the shape it usually is. I forget sometimes that I shouldn't run after the bus when the MBTA is late pulling into the station. I forget that I shouldn't run the 300 m with two flights of stairs all out and the 50 m to catch the bus that has pulled out of the stop. I am reminded when it takes me the entire 30 minute bus ride to catch my breath. I am reminded when after I feel like I have done 6x400 m at sub 70 pace (jello legs). 

I forget sometimes that I am bald. I am reminded with any shiny surface where I can see my current speed stripe (where I used part my hair all of the peach fuzz has fallen out).

I am reminded that I am kickin' cancers ass and that it's only a matter of time until I can do all these things again. 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Sisterhood of the Traveling Teddy Bear

Yesterday, I got to meet one of the nurses that my colleagues in the MICU put me in contact with. Via e-mail and reading her blog I have been able to communicate with someone who knows exactly what I am going through. She's in her 30s and finishing up her treatment. Its nice to read about shared experiences (like struggling with acne while losing your hair, thanks Chemo!), but it has also put into perspective my own experience. She was diagnosed while on active military service. Can't even imagine going though this whole experience and having it start in another country. She's a total rock star. It was great to put a face to the name.

She came bearing gifts (couldn't resist). Above is the Traveling Teddy Bear and she brought him to pass along to me while I go through treatment. Mr. Bear is holding in his hand a tissue (right paw). On the tissue there are two names; one for each of the nurses in the MICU who have had breast cancer and successfully completed treatment. Eventually, I will be able to put my name on the tissue. In a perfect world there would be no one else to pass him onto, but in the meantime he has taken up residence on my couch. He enjoys it much better than riding the bus. However, if you are ever in need of having a seat to yourself on a bus ride it bald while holding a Teddy bear. People just run away. Either way his presence makes me smile and gives me hope; not a bad combination. 

Sunday, November 4, 2012

How to care for your peach fuzz

 Feeling pretty good. Did some baking this weekend. For me baking involves putting on music and dancing around while, in this case, making muffins. Went for a run this morning. Not pretty. About 6 minutes in I decided to turn around at the end of the street. Ran for a total of 14 minutes and it did not feel good. But, happy I at least ran.

Below are some post run photos. Left is my sweet hot pink running jacket, middle is me having fun with my sock monkey hat (new facebook profile photo?) and right is my under layer. It's the freshly delivered shirt from my brother and his fiance. It's a copy of the shirt they race the Susan G Komen 5K in.

From looking at the above photos, I am sure you are curious as to how I take such great care of my peach fuzz. The answer: Johnson's baby shampoo. It has totally calmed my scalp for the time being. This week is a hair growth week and then next week is a hair loss week (or so that is how the last cycle went).

Side Effects
I continue to have some weird taste changes and right now I am having severe heartburn. I was told that the chemo can increase heartburn and as I had chronic heartburn before chemo I knew it was a matter of time. I think it should really be called Tummy Burn as when my reflux is really bad everything burns. However, not holding me back from eating. Given the increase in weird taste in my mouth my grocery shopping was a little weird this week. My father says my cart does not look like a dietitian's (frozen fruit, fresh fruit and veggies aside) as I am seemingly obsessed with herb cheese and popchips right now.Also, eggs are great tasting. Good thing a side effect of the hormone therapy I'll eventually be on is decreased cholesterol!

As Ralph says "They taste like burning". 

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Nuelasta making me feel like crappa

Felt great all day Tuesday and then got the WBC booster shot. Still burned on the way in. Then yesterday I took the day off and made the most of it, the way Rip Van Winkle does. I basically slept off an on for 36 hours with a couple bowls of cereal and half and sandwich thrown in for good measure. Heating pads (and my new heated mattress pad) got me through yesterday. My shoulders are sore and I can count my ribs without touching them (thanks Nuelasta!), but I was able to go to work and work the entire day (and teach a student). The best way I can describe the way the shot makes you feel is fuzzy. Your a little slow moving, but still there just under a couple of layers.

The daily interactions with people secondary to my baldness are always pleasant and interesting and seem to be increasing in frequency. But, I think this is just selection bias. While doing a low fat diet education for a patient in with pancreatitis she took her wig off and asked where in my chemo I was. We briefly discussed hair loss. She complimented me on my nice shaped head and promised to follow her diet.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Sandy please, Chemo infusion #2 done!

Hurricane Sandy may have added some anxiety to the chemo infusion. My mother picked me up last night so I stayed at their place last night and had a simple ride into the hospital today. Had to drop some things off my desk, had a minor tantrum about work related items and then had to be reminded I am off today. Went down to the Oncology center had my blood drawn, vitals taken (blood pressure, Oxygen levels good, weight down only 1lb [not to worry I will eat that back]).

Rockin' it bald
No scarves, no wigs and hat only when I go outside. Inside buildings I find it much easier/more comfortable to go straight out bald. While waiting for the blood draw one of the women in the waiting room, looks at me and says "Your bald like me, but your not even wearing a hat? I am so cold, how come you are not cold? And there is no way you'll get me in a wig". I just told her that I felt cold outside and periodically will put a hat on inside, but so far my 5 O'Clock shadow I have remaining on my head seems to be keeping it ok. Agreed to with her about the wig. Our conversation was shortened when another woman, clearly wearing a wig came into the waiting room and sat with us. General reaction to my bald head has been great.

Very Stubborn
My oncologist has me pegged quite well. We went over options to avoid the headaches after the neulasta shots (including not having them) and rearranging infusions schedules and such. We reviewed the medication I should/can take for them. And being the human being who doesn't like change that I am, I decided to keep the schedule as is and to continue to get the shots. I just feel like the risks of not having it a much greater than 3 days of headaches. My oncologist also reminded me that her office is 3 doors down for mine and that she runs into me daily and that if I need to take it easy I should. She may have repeated this last part 3 or 4 times. Yup, I am that kid.

Labs look good. Blood sugar is elevated from the steroids (157 mg/dl), but WBCs look good. Everything else is within normal limits just my hematocrit was barely low 36.8% vs normal of 37%. Nothing that needs intervention, just maybe some more meat.

Chemo Infusion #2
A little musical commentary (thanks to my good friend) about chemotherapy. Nothing like intentionally poisoning your body for longterm better outcomes:

I love the continuity of care I am receiving. Today I had the same Nurse as last time, who I love. She got me hooked up early and ready to go. Her mom had breast cancer and she commented on how good my bald head looked. No burning lines this time. IV was placed in my hand and had some achiness but so excited no allergic reactions! They say the 2nd one is really if you are going to have a reaction that this will occur.  Half way done.

The drive home
I fully expected the drive back to my parents to be Hurricane Craziness, but it was ok. Just one really strong gust of wind, one downed tree. The rain wasn't too bad. We made it back safe and sound with car parked in the garage before stronger rain came. Feel good about that and feel pretty good right now.  No Zofran headache this time. No nausea. Drinking my water, doing my baking soda mouth rinses. Pretty happy to have 2 infusions done.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Hair Watch 2012 Update


My hair was making me crazy. The falling out had greatly increased, especially today. At one point today I was teaching my intern about nutritional management of patients who have had a Whipple procedure and was scratching my head when came out with a clump of hair. Oops. I cleaned my white lab coat off 3 times today. After work my mother and I went to the family friend/hairdresser who gave me the sweet pixie and she shaved my head for me today. I look very GI Jane right now. I also asked my mother if she wanted me to shave her name into my head. She said no. So just straight bald it is.

Three things.
1) Not to brag, but I have a fantastic head shape. No weird dents or misshapen. It's pretty sweet.
2) I look like a small version of my brother. 
3) My head is cold.

To quote one of my favorite bald men "Hair is overrated".

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Hair Watch 2012

Today is the official 2 week mark from the 1st infusion and the official day when I could start having some hair loss. I woke up this morning with a piece of hair in my mouth and thought "Well, there it goes". However, turns out my hair is not falling out in clumps yet. There has been an uptick in individual pieces of hair falling out, but nothing drastic. This is just another weird event with cancer treatment, the waiting for your hair to fall out. Many others who have lost their hair tell me it comes out in clumps usually when they were in the shower. This makes the shower an interesting experience. I checked my hands multiple times while shampooing. When there was nothing in my hands I decided to sing this to my hair:

No baldness yet, but the hair clock is ticking.What is also weird is I can feel my hair sitting on top of my head. A sensation that I previously was unaware of. Overthinking this much? You betcha.

Also, went for another run last night. Running makes me happy : )

Saturday, October 20, 2012


Today is a good day. Despite a slight headache, I was able to sleep for 11.5 hours last night. 11.5. That's some good sleeping. On top of it when I got up this morning my good friend met me at my house for a run! Yay! I laced up my shoes with some NFL Crucial Catch pink shoelaces (totally embracing the pink) so I could stomp on breast cancer with every step. We did a simple out and back run for a little over 2 miles. Felt pretty darn good to get out there and run. We ran comfortably and chatted the entire time. No pain in any incision sites; in fact no pain at all. Win. Win. Win.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Random Photographs

Sleeping (mostly) through the night makes you feel so much better. It's ok when you wake up at 3:30 am because you have been asleep since 7:30 pm. Headache is virtually gone and this makes me very happy.

PHOTO #1 Keepin' it Classy
It's a little dark, but above is an action shot of me doing my Maid of Honor duty and my good friends wedding. This photo makes me happy for many reasons. 1) It was an amazing wedding and I was honored to be part of it. 2)The timing of it. I got a weekend of total fun and focus on someone else before starting chemo.

PHOTO #2 The long awaited hair photo
Here's the french pixie. And you can't read it, but my water bottle says "Caution: Extreme Awesomeness". Pretty much sums that up.

PHOTO #3 Greatest. Big. Brother. Ever
My brother ran the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure in my honor on my birthday in Arizona. This is the sweat soaked after photo (note he cut his head off in the photo, not me). Some of the further genetic testing that I am having done is research paid for by the Komen foundation so I am thankful that he and his fiance got out there and did it. And that they rocked these pretty sweet custom t-shirts. 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Serious Case of the Mondays

One week from 1st chemo infusion and I am feeling pretty good. Except for this one nagging thing that won't go away. HEADACHE. I have had a headache since Saturday at 12:37 am when it woke me up from sleep. This was a cue on how sleeping was going to go for the whole weekend. Despite being Sleepless Sara I had a great weekend. I celebrated my 31st birthday with friends and family. Had lots of laughs and good food. Day time was good. But night time, when it comes to laying down right now my head wants to explode. The headache also turned me into the crazy patient. Two phone calls to the oncologists, on the night time on call oncologist and one to my regular oncologists to make sure it was fine that I had a headache. Which it is ok that I have a headache, unfortunate, but ok.

Sunday Night
This was not pretty. While trying to get comfortable I threw my back out. I was staying at my parents house Sunday night, so my mother found me in their living room swearing at the heating pad that refused to turn on at 1 am. She got me settled back into my bed as comfortable as possible (and ran around the house looking for pillows of various thickness to help out) and went to hunt down migraine medication for herself [sidenote; I am a wimp with a headache. This woman spent more than 9 months straight with a migraine and 3 days sent me over the edge].

Monday Morning
I sleep for about 3-4 hours total and not consecutively. I have nightmares about missing college students, awesome work brain. My back and head both hurt, but I decide to go to work. And I would say this is the general way I felt yesterday morning:
I keep storming my way through the day, make it through lunch (a lunch in which my boss made a delicious cake for my birthday), but then started to crack. For the first time in my life I went home form work sick. My mom picked me up (sounds like I am 12) and brought me back to my apartment. Being home, my exhaustion took over and I cried because I was tired and my head hurt. And then based on the recommendations from my oncologist I took some medication and slept for 10 hours.

Terrific Tuesday
I woke up feeling like a human being. Went to work and did not let the darkside back in. Worked a full day. Headache still in tact, but hopefully can still get some more sleep in. Thankfully, sense of humor is back with vengeance today [please see sarcastic voicemails left on multiple phones]. 

Friday, October 12, 2012

But this is why I got the flu shot

Wednesday morning woke up and bonus, no nausea! Energy level was good and headed to work. Worked a full day and then had the seemingly benign Nuelesta (White Blood Cell Booster Shot). It burned like heck going in, but dissipated quite quickly after was complete. Sat for 30 minutes and had no reaction, so far so good.

Thursday woke up felt ok. Still no nausea, but not with the greatest energy level. Went to work and during the day bam, felt like I had the flu. Muscles and bones aching and I was tired. Tired. Muscled through the rest of the day and started to feel better after dinner (food is key here).

Other item on the list for Thursday was the step down haircut. Now, lets be honest, I have never been very hair fashion forward, but I think having all of your hair cut off can be a little daunting. Fortunately, a good family friend (who cuts my mother's hair) was kind enough to take on this assignment (and I think was happy to be able to break out her razor). Let me tell you, she gave me a pretty great French Pixie [of course this is what I am told because I wouldn't have any idea beyond really short]. I am loving and rocking my new short do for the next 10 or so days that I will have it.

I was pretty tired after my haircut and WBC booster shot Thursday, came home and went to bed. Woke up this morning feeling pretty darn normal. Sometimes 10 hours of sleep is all you need. No major side effects. Slight taste changes, water is getting a little metallic-y but still eating well. Happy it's the weekend and I made it.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

25% Done with Chemo

First chemo infusion complete and so far so good. Slight stomach ache right now, but otherwise feeling pretty darn good. However, underlying stomach ache could also be from not sleeping too much over the weekend and dancing my face off at a friends wedding on Sunday.

Let's recap todays events.

I check in and am handed a pager. On that lights up and vibrates. The same kind you get when you are waiting to eat at Outback Steakhouse. It lets you know when you are ready for your vital signs (heart rate up a little bit more today, was a little anxious to get this started). It then beeps to let you know you will meet with the Nurse Practitioner and we reviewed all possible side effects (only one of them nausea is a possibility and thats why they give me anti nausea meds). She also told me because I am young and do not drink heavily that puts me at risk for nausea.  I thought, well if it would help I would shot gun two beers right now, but she said no drinking on the days of chemo. I love that because I follow a healthy lifestyle and rarely drink alcohol and I am a young women this makes me more prone to nausea.

Hair loss update
My mother and I both swear we heard the doctor tell us during our last visit it would be 3 days, but we were also absorbing a lot of information at the time and turns out that I will be bald in the most 3 weeks.   It turns out most people lose their hair between 2-3 weeks. Given the length of my hair my mother (and then the nurse practitioner again today) recommended I get my hair cut real short so I don't have continuing nightmares about all the hair I will find on my pillow or in the shower. I never had the guts to try a pixie cut, so we will see what that looks like!

Infusion time
After more instructions (mouth care is a must) and directions on taking anti-nausea meds as preventive measures they put the IV in and were ready to go. After the benedryl is infused to prevent an allergic reaction I have to pee. Me, the IV pole and my shadow, formerly know as my mother, head to the bathroom. Just me and the IV pole go in. Then first up is the more harsher of the two chemotherapy drugs Taxotere. This infuses for an hour and I eat the free lunch they gave me (turkey on white with potato chips and cookie) and the offer me a drink. The dietitian in me loved that they offer everyone an Ensure! How great is that! I chose water. Once Taxotere is done infusing (and another trip to pee) it was time to flush and lets just say my vein spasmed. Good lord that didn't feel good, but nothing a heat pack couldn't fix. Next up the cytoxan, which does not hurt going in but is dripping from a glass bottle. It only infuses for half and hour. The IV is flushed and removed and were done. No allergic reactions, no nausea and good to go home.

Game Day Apparel

Above is the shirt that I wore for my first chemo appointment. The shirts are made by Eyeful Beauty and the women who cuts my fathers hair gave it to him for me. I love it and find it perfect to wear to chemo infusions. 

On the way into the chemo infusion I was singing this song to my mother as I was going down the stairs. She was impressed.  

Tomorrow after work I will get my WBC booster shot. Lets hope I continue to feel this good (keep sending those good vibes, they are sooooo working) and next infusion is in 3 weeks. 

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Going for the Triple Crown

Had the meeting with Radiation Oncologist and the Medical Oncologists today. First stop was the Radiation Oncologist. When meeting with her nurse she went to hand the packet of information to my mother and I had to remind her, I was the patient. She said "I knew you were young, I just still so surprised by how young". They gave me information on creams and how to deal with microwaved skin and about the 33 treatments I will need. Do you know there is a cream called My Girls? Cracked me up. However, the lovely Radiation Oncologist (who was trained in the USSR) said that my oncotyping showed Intermediate recurrence risk and that I would need to meet with Medical Oncologist to decide what that would mean. She then checked my incision sites and was very pleased with they way they are healing. Excellent.

Next we met with the Medical Oncologists. After my vital signs were checked for a second time [my blood pressure improved by 5 mm Hg between visits, but my heart rate increased by 10 beats- a little anxious maybe?] she laid out the facts. With my Intermediate risk, because even though it was a micrometasis (very little in the lymph nodes) she recommended that we go aggressive, but told me the choice was mine.  I agreed to go aggressive. Go big or go home. She gave me the chemotherapy options, including none and entering a trial, but I decided to go with the regimen she most highly recommended (didn't have the risk of Congestive Heart Failure as an option) called TC (Taxotere/cytoxan). The major side effect is decreased white blood cells and total hair loss. Yup, going to be bald. However, she said most people are able to work while having it and she had patients who ran while having it (I made sure my Mom heard that part). Nausea is not really a side effect. Score! Also, the day after the infusions I will get a shot to increase my white blood cells and ward off infections.

It is 4 cycles of TC starting Tuesday. 1 infusion every 3 weeks. So after 12 weeks I will be finished (and able to regrow my hair). She said that within 3 days of starting Chemo all my hair will be gone. The oncologist gave me a prescription for a wig. My nana wore wigs growing up and I am more weirded out to wear a wig than to lose my hair. Hats and scarves it is. (The oncologist insisted on me taking the wig prescription regardless)

I am happy that we are going aggressive with the treatment. I do not want the cancer to come back and I am glad we are doing everything to ensure that (Happy about chemo, well that just seems absurd). 

Hoping to look as good as this guy bald

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Step by Step

No news this week. Still remain in the holding pattern. Next time my cells have to go to California, I think I should go with them. You know, for efficiency sake.  Energy level is much better this week. I am able to power walk! (Slowly working my way back up to running, I will get there). Still waiting for the next phase on Thursday.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Just Keep Swimming

Made it through an entire week of work!

This has become an accomplishment. I am much less sore. Under my arm looks like someone wearing a class ring punched me really hard. It is lots of pretty blues and greens. Feeling has returned to my triceps and most of my arm pit and according to the surgeon all of it will return.

Stage II 
Met with the surgeon today. My official pathology was back. The tumor is officially 2.4 cm in size (the same diameter of a quarter). Officially Stage II cancer. The margins of the tumor were deemed "close". Meaning the surgeon took out all of the cells he could, but because the tumor was so close to the chest wall (he even took out the pectoral fascia) it wasn't as big of a margin that they usually like or enough that they dub them totally clear or negative. However, there were enough negative cells to not be deemed positive. (Image Source). Don't worry about the margins being close, that's why they put me in the microwave for a couple of weeks to make sure they get all the malignant cells.

This combined with the negative genetic test means......NO MORE SURGERY!

The Lymph Nodes
One was completely clear the other had a few cancer cells and was ruled to be microscopic. So, chemo maybe. The cells have to be sent to a lab in California to see how aggressive they are. Which means we continue with waiting. I will follow up with the medical oncologist and radiation oncologist (October 4th) to get the ball rolling on either chemotherapy then radiation or just radiation.

This song has gotten me through many a week lately, but helped me keep plugging away at work (and reading Bossypants kept me from sleeping on the bus)

Sara 2 Genes 0

Second round of genetic tests are back and they are also negative. No Li-Fraumeni Syndrome. Which means no mastectomy. Yay!

Friday, September 14, 2012

If only steri strips weren't so itchy

Day 3 post surgery and feeling pretty darn good. Soreness is greatly, greatly decreased. Mom and I went out to lunch the past two days. She has helped me figure out a gauze pad-paper tape system to help with the lymph node incision lying directly in the path of the edge of the sports bra. Feeling much more comfortable.

Let's just say comfortable was not how I was feeling yesterday. Yesterday, I was nervous to take my shower. For those of you who are well aware of my type A personality, I was determined that this process would follow the take home instructions to the letter. However, when the bandages were removed the steri strips that covered the lymph node incision site came off.  Insert panic attack number 1. Me (and my half orange, from betadine,  self) wrapped in a towel run out to my mother in the kitchen to report that the world has ended and the steri strips fell off. She calmly told me to take my shower and we would deal with it after. Ok, feeling only slightly better scrubbed myself clean in the shower. This was made slightly difficult by the fact that I was afraid to use my right arm. But, shower accomplished (slightly impressed with the bruising and size of the lumpectomy incision) and it only took 1.5 hours.

Now clean, I was ready for panic attack number 2. I called the surgeons office and they said, yes I should get steri strips to cover the incision {note they did not say I needed to come in or anything else, which should have made me feel better}. My wonderful mother went to the store to get steri strip replacements, but you can't get steri strips at CVS, so she got the closet thing. Lets just say I was despondent that they were not the same. She talked me into trying what she had, placed some gauze and we were ready to leave the house for the first time since Tuesday (nearly 40 hours later). We walked around briefly and then had a delicious lunch (and I was able to talk her into bread pudding for dessert, working hard on my high calorie high protein diet). However, me and my neurotic self couldn't figure out how to put my right arm to make myself comfortable. Should I rest it on the table? Was it better to tuck it under my rib cage? Should I hold it straight down on my side? Despite the crazy arm movements, we still had a nice lunch.

You would think 2 panic attacks and weird arm movements might be enough for one day, however I wasn't done yet. I had become obsessed with my incision sites. I didn't have my bandages on so obviously I must be bleeding. Not the case, which is exactly how the post surgical path goes. However, because there was less than a spot of blood on the gauze on the lymph node incision site I got a little pissed off. How come I am not healing? What's going on? This is going to end up infected! Luckily, both parents were home at this point to talk me down (and maybe shake their heads a little at me) and assure me that everything was fine. They did have a fair point, that perhaps I was not as ready as I thought to go back to living in my apartment by myself. Perhaps it would be better to wait an additional day so they could continue to talk me off the ledge as needed? Well played Mom and Dad, well played.

Happy to report no panic attacks today. Just naps, more eating and walking around. Probably my finest moment today is after breakfast confidently saying to my mother "You know I really could have gone to work today" and then instantly falling so sound asleep I was snoring on the couch for nearly an hour.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Bye Bye Tumor

Yesterday was game day. Dressed in my finest Columbia Athletics gear I was pumped to go and have my tumor out. Ate some orange jello around 7:30 am and then drank water until 9 am, but wasn't allowed anything after. Not the best pre-game meal, but it was my only option.  Checked into the hospital around 10:35 am. Was moved into the PACU (post anesthesia care unit, or as my father and I dubbed it the Warm Up/Cool Down area) to get an IV placed and heart monitor, oxygen monitor and blood pressure cuff attached. The surgeon game in and identified which side he was working on and where the lump is. Yup, yet another day with Yes written in sharpie on my boob.

Glowing in the Dark 
Then at 12:00 pm I was sent down to radiology to have the lymph channels injected with a radioactive material (very surprised I don't glow in the dark). The radiologist was the same who had done the original biopsy, so we chatted as she injected me with the burning substance. The ChemE in me insisted on knowing what the element was, and it is Technetium.  Then it was back to the PACU for the wait for surgery. I insisted that my hospital issued slippers given the amount of radiation I've had should be Spiderman, but my father thinks they should have been Incredible Hulk. My mother just shook her head at both of us.

Game Time
The anesthesiologist came in around 1:30 pm and injected some versed (the sleep inducing drug) and they wheeled me to the OR. The last thing I remember is looking at the lights in the OR amazed by how many individual light bulbs where in the lamps. Apparently the surgeon then did his thing. Thankfully, the technetium found the two Sentinel Lymph Node and I got to keep the rest of my lymph nodes.

Post Game
When I woke up in the cool down area I had some burning in my armpit (node biopsy) and the lovely Irish nurse gave me some good pain medicine. I then went back to sleep. The surgeon came in to talk to me, but I was a bit loopy so he went to the waiting room to give my parents the rundown. Two incisions; one for tumor removal and one for node biopsy (cosmetically better allegedly). He took out the tumor plus the area around the tumor called a margin. Everything removed gets tested (come on clean margins!) to make sure it is all out.  So we'll wait another week to find out if everything is out and if the cancer is in the lymph nodes.

I finally was awake enough at 4:30 pm to go home. Anesthesia made me a little nauseous and driving home felt like we were going 1000 mph. I had a couple of spoonfuls of soup and some pain medicine and since then I have just been icing and napping.

Peeing Blue
Thank goodness the surgeon gave me a heads up about this side effect. In order for him to get the correct lymph nodes he injects you with blue dye and you pee blue. (And it is much darker than the photo below. I felt the need to call my parents in to see it before I flushed. Below is the color I am currently dispensing. Image source). And please don't claim this is TMI, this whole blog is TMI.

Currently I feel a little like this (see around the 1:30 mark):

Appetite has returned this morning and just stuffed myself with blueberry pancakes. Will be making sure I am eating to heal! 

Friday, September 7, 2012

Action Plan!

Meeting with surgeon went well. Surgery scheduled for Tuesday!  As I discussed with my mother and a colleague today, it seems weird to be so excited for surgery. I am ready to have my tumor out! The procedure only lasts about an hour and is called a lumpectomy and they will remove (hopefully) just a couple of the lymph nodes to test them to see if the cancer has spread. It is only a day procedure so I won't even have to stay in the hospital. If the cancer is in the lymph nodes then Phase II of the action plan is chemotherapy, otherwise after healing its time for radiation.

This is my song to my tumor:

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

By the Numbers

Since my brain didn't want to go to sleep last night, I ended up having a Sheldon Cooper moment and decided, I did indeed want to do the math (because you take the girl out of engineering, but you can't take the engineer out of the girl).

How much of my body (volume wise, density would involve way too many assumptions) is cancer?
0.012%  {estimating the volume of my body as a rectangle}
(see Mom, just a touch of cancer).

What was the probability of me developing breast cancer?
0.43% or 1 in 232
(I didn't do this math, the American Cancer Society did and you can find the source here)

Did you know for lifetime for women it is 1 in 8?  Well, I got most of you covered.

Friday's appointment with surgeon can't come soon enough (and by then maybe I won't take out the measuring tape and measure my depth and width).