It is more important to know where you are going, than how long it takes to get there.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Nuked Again...

Today I had a PET Scan. I had no idea what this entailed, only that I could not eat anything after 9:30 am; and before 9:30am I was limited to eggs, chicken and cheese. Strange combo. Does this mean that chickens are the only life form that will survive a nuclear attack?

I went in at 1:30 today and was once again injected through an IV needle some radioactive liquid. It was also in a lead container with a lead sleeve around the syringe. I know this can't be good for me, but what's the worse that could happen, I could get cancer? Oh yeh, been there, got that.

So after I arrived at radiology, a tech met me and took me to the bowels of the hospital where I entered a trailer. Not the tornado-magnet type of trailer, an 18-wheeler tractor trailer! The pet scan is a mobile unit that travels around to several regional hopitals. Evidently it is more cost effective to rent this technological machinery than to purchase it. The trailer was divided into three parts, an area with two recliner chairs to nuke the patients and let it travel thoughout our system, a center area with the techs and some computers, and at the other end the scanning machine. The PET scan machine looks very similar to a CAT scan machine, just thicker....raised donut instead of a cake donut. Actually, the trailer was a nice unit, and if it wasn't for the electronic lift we used to enter the trailer, you would have thought that it was just a long narrow unit. The lighting was actually nicer than the hospital, plus they had a nice sound system to play music while the patients are waiting or scanning.

After being nuked, I had to sit in the reclining chair for about 40 minutes to let the stuff migrate throughout my system. The tech said to think of this time as pampering. What? Pampering? My definition of pampering in a reclining chair involves a soapy whirlpool for my feet, a lower leg massage and a fun polish color! This guy has spent way to much time in the trailer.

The scan took about 30 minutes. I had to lay with my hands over my head, and perfectly still. The narrow table that I was on went in and out of the donut hole several time during the 30 minutes. I would like to know why the very moment the tech says, "You need to lay perfectly still," my nose begins to itch. This happened with the MRI too. It's like when someone says don't look behind you, and you are going to go crazy if you don't sneak at least a peak. Well, that's exactly how I felt about my itchy nose. I twitched it several of times, like Samantha in Bewitched ... but no magic.

When I was done they asked me it I have small children at home. They said that no small children should sit on my lap for about 6 hours because I'm still radioactive. My daughter asked if this means that I have superpowers. I answered, "I'm a mom, I already have superpowers!" When I told the neighborhood boys that I was radioactive, they said "cool!" Nothing like being nuked to raise one's coolness level.

Whacky thoughts for the day...
Why when I am told not to move, an itch surfaces that needs to be scratched?
Why is it when someone says don't look, you absolutely must look?

Friday, February 26, 2010

The Discovery...

I've been asked, "Who found the lump?"

I first discovered the lump around the end of January, while taking a shower. I knew that I should call the doctor, but with so many things on my mind, I forgot about it. I'm not sure if it was ADD or overload, but it's pretty crazy that I would forget about it. About two weeks later, I felt it again, and immediately telephoned for an appointment with my physician's assistant. ( I'm not too thrilled with my primary care doctor, Dr. Ego, so I won't see him, only his very capable PAs.) The PA made an appointment for the very next day at the Breast Center.

At this point, I was not too concerned because I've had lumps and bumps before, and they have gone away on their own. However, this size of the lump was a little concerning.

The next day I had a mammogram and an ultrasound. My last clear mammogram was June 2006.

The day of the mammo and ultrasound, I met the young doctor who will be my surgeon. I like her very much. She appears very intelligent and funny. She did the biopsy, and was worried about me being able to drive home afterward, for fear that I get queezy over procedures like this one. She confessed that she passes out or gets woozy at the sight of her own blood! I asked her to assure me that she doesn't have this same rections with patients. She laughed and said of course not, with the exceptions of breast biopsies! I haven't thought of a good nickname for my surgeon.
The reason for the biopsy was the "suspicious" looking mamogram and ultrasound...back to that awful 10-letter word "suspicious."

The cancer is 3.5cm across, about the size of a golfball... I'm a terrible golfer! However, my golf clubs have the Pink Ribbon logo on the club heads - I know, you are probably asking how could I miss something so big - I ask myself the same, but don't dwell on it. I don't know how fast it grew, how long it's been there, but am hoping to find some answers to these questions next week. I guess, at this point, it really doesn't matter how fast or how long- the cow is already out of the barn. Mooooooo

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Girls...

Me, me, me. That's all I've been rambling about. What about the girls?

When we told the girls 7 days ago about the cancer, we got to very different reactions.

Riley, 14-9th grade, who wears her emotions - which are plentiful - on her sleeve, immediately began crying and asked right away, "Are you going to die?" I told her that I would die someday, but not from breast cancer. For a couple of days, she was very clingy, and sad. We had lots of hugging and lots of, "Mom, I'm scared." She kept asking if she could tell her friends, and I told her that was up to her. I thought that if she felt better sharing it with her friends, then she should do it. Seven days have passed since the news, and she is taking in stride. She seems to be consoling her friends more than she needs it from them. Now she can even joke about it with me. She has observed me being irreverent toward cancer, and she's starting to act the same way. She is handling this all very well. Riley has even stepped up with helping around the house! I hope it lasts!

Molly, 9-3rd grade, had a much different reaction. Molly buries all of her feelings deep inside, and I often have to prode and pull them out of her. She is the family comedy relief, and she got very silly after we told her. However, this silly was different than normal, kind of a nervous silliness. Some say she doesn't understand, but she is as sharp as a razor blade. (Riley at this age would have had no clue.) She began showing her uneasiness with the cancer two nights later, on Sunday night. She cried off and on from 8pm - 10pm, BUT the 100 reasons for her tears were all over the place, and not one was my cancer. Clearly she was hiding it behind these other reasons because she didn't want me out of her sight. The next day when she was hugging me, she asked if she could catch breast cancer. I told her, "No, you can't - for two reasons: 1. It is inside me and can't go outside and 2. Because you don't even have any breasts!" Then the next night, after a day in the hospital, she was in my room when I was changing into my pjs. I showed her that I still had on my hospital bracelet, and she got a little upset and said, "You have to take it off right away." I asked her if she wanted to remove it for me, and she ripped it of and threw it away. She still gets a little uneasy when I tell her that I have a doctor's appointment. I think she is the most scared. She understands about 80% of what is going on. It's the 20% that she doesn't understand that is tough on her. She definitely needs lots of extra attention, even though she will push away. Fortunately she has maintained her great sense of humor! She makes me laugh several times a day! I wonder if it is the red hair?

Next test is Saturday, a PET Scan. No animals involved.

Whacky thought for the day...

Could you imagine having a baby at age 50? I think that would be worse than cancer treatments! Well, a few days ago, Dr. Ice Milk went rambling on about harvesting my eggs before chemotherapy treatment. Hello......I am knocking on 50's door - only days away from 49. By now, Aren't my eggs hard-boiled anyway?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

So Many Acronyms...

Today I had another acronym, and MRI...or is it just considered initials...

Molly had an MRI when she was 14 months old, so I had a little idea of what this entailed, particularly the unbelievably loud sound level. I wonder why in today's technology someone hasn't found a solution for the loudness. The MRI will give the doctors a better look at the lump, aka cancer, and determine it's exact measurements. I won't know any results until I meet with Dr. Mississippi Mud, my new oncologist, next week. So the MRI process was new to me. Again, another IV with more metal - a rare earth metal that I forgot to write down. (I'm looking a little like a pin cushion, but I'm sure this is nothing compared to what lies ahead.) I wore ear plugs and head phones to both dampen the noise and to hear the tech's voice and instructions. The MRI tech had the most soothing voice. It sounded like that voice on the Monorail at Disneyland, "Please exit to the left. Thank you for visiting The Breast Center MRI." I had to lie face down on a table that the tech described as"similar to a massage table." I have lain on a few massage tables, and this was definitely no massage table. Comfort was not quite the same, especially for my head. Plus, where were the oils? Where were the hot rocks? Where was the aromatherapy? However, she did have some nice music that played in the earphones, but I could only hear during the breaks in the machine noise. The whole tunnel thing was no big deal; plus I couldn't see it anyway. The MRI took 27 minutes to complete. I had a beautifully indented red forehead when it was all done.

My acronym-free test today was an ultrasound for the newly discovered ovarian cyst.

One hour before the ultrasound I had to drink 32 ounces of water and hold it - no bathroom! To be accurate, I drank 33.8 ounces of water. I am sure the extra 1.8 ounce made a big difference. I thought I was going to burst! When the Ultrasound tech pushed hard with the scanner, I knew that I was going to spring a leak! Oh my goodness, I thought I was 9 months pregnant all over again and was going to die if I didn't pee right away! As you can tell, I survived to write about it. I still don't know how the ultrasound techs know what they are seeing on the screen? I've had several ultrasounds and the tech always point out something for me to see, and I always say "yes, I see it;" when in actuality, I could not distinguish a darn thing! They pregnancy MRI's are the only ones that I could kind of distinguish that it was an alien-looking human inside of me and not a puppy. It was crazy when the tech would say, "here's the baby's heart, and here's the baby's liver, here's the baby's first hangnail." Are you kidding?! All I could see was a big alien head, body and a few arms and legs.

When I was checking in for the ultrasound, the very nice and friendly tech from yesterday's CAT scan saw me and asked what's up. I told her the she did such a great job with the CAT scan that I now get an ultrasound for a cyst. It seems like one scan or test leads to another. The Bone Scan lead to x-rays. The CAT Scan lead to the ultrasound. The Mammogram lead to the MRI. The Bone Scan lead to the PET Scan. Why don't they refer to the Bone Scan by its ititials - the BS Scan? I guess the answer speaks for itself. However, I know several people, that if they had a BS Scan, they would fry the machine.

Whacky thought for the day...
Who were the ultra-intelligent people that invented these amazing machines? CAT Scan - the big donut hole. MRI - the tunnel. Bone Scan-floating box? I mean really, who developed the technology and built the very first machines? There was no Home Depot and people in orange aprons to answer questions when these machines were first built. Did they have the materials in their garage like Bill Hewlett and David Packard?

And, who was the first person that volunteered to be injected with radioactive stuff for an experiemental scan? It was awfully nice of this volunteer, and I thank him for his bravery and possibly naivete'.

Happy Birthday J!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Two Events Today...

My first event today landed me a silver metal. Actually a lot of metal.

I had a CAT scan this morning. I had to chug-a-lug two big bottles of " raspberry smoothie" aka Barium with nasty berry flavor that induced some first class gag reflexes. The only thing that one should chug-a-lug in quantity is a iced cold beer on a hot summer day - especially after 6 hours of wonderful gardening, or... in college... in a glass with a quarter at the bottom. Because I wasn't metalic enough, I got an IV of Iodine. (Today I learned that Iodine is also a metal. I guess I missed that one in high school chemistry.) I had so much metal in me that I couldn't make it through airport security. Iodine being shot into your veins through an IV was a very odd sensation...first you taste metal, then your neck warms up, and then you can feel it move through your torso and then into your pelvis. Then, the nicest feeling of all, you feel like you wet your pants! No kidding, it really felt like I did, but I didn't - I know it would be a better story if I actually did. Thankfully the tech warned me of this feeling. So after two hours of putting metalic stuff into my system, a gigantic metal donut scanned my body, and it only took 20 seconds.

The scan showed that no cancer has spread to any organs! (and as my dad said, "not to any pianos either." )

The second event didn't even get me on the podium. It was a meeting with the oncologist.

I just didn't quite hit it off with her. She was pretty dry, and ....searching for a, kind of like vanilla ice milk. Does anyone remember ice milk? It was the cheap version of ice cream, and really didn't taste like much. Dr. Ice Milk is the person that told me my organs are clear, but only after I pulled it out of her. The bone scan looked okay, but they found an ovarian cyst. One more thing to deal with - but fairly minor. There was also something showing up on my second rib from the top, but it is inconculsive. (I learned that the ribs go all the way up to your collar bone, so this rib is way up high on my chest. Never took anatomy.) Anyway, it can be an old scar from some accident, coughing fit, etc. I get another scan - the PET scan. No, my cats are not involved. The PET scan will give a clear picture about the rib bone. Not too concerned....took some nasty falls skiing in the early, reckless abandon years, plus with these asthma plagued lungs, I had countless coughing spells, lasting weeks, that would make a crusty old chain smoker jealous. Just before I left the closet sized examining room, she gave me a pamphlet on breast cancer that she said is about 5 years old. She said that some of the information is outdated. am I supposed to read this and know what is current and what is outdated? So, her handing me something that belongs in the recycle bin solidified that I will not be going back to Dr. Ice Milk.

Tonight, a surgical nurse friend gave me the name of a another oncologist, someone more like Mississippi Mud or Mocha Almond Fudge.

Tomorrow is MRI. I also have an ultrasound for the ovarian cyst. It seems like every test leads to more tests.

Whacky thought of the day...
Why are the hospital garments we wear for x-rays and other hospital situations called "gowns?" The definition of gown is what Audrey Hepburn wore to the Embassy Ball in "My Fair Lady! " Now, that was a gown! Cinderella looked pretty good in her gown too. After all, she landed a prince. Someone should come up with a better name like robes or shifts. In Hawaii do they call them "hospital muumuus?"

Monday, February 22, 2010

The Tests Begin...

Some people segment their lives as the time "before I was married," "after I was married" "before kids, " or "after kids." As of today, I can now add another marker in my life, the time "before cancer," and I am planning on having the marker "after cancer."

Two weeks ago I had a went for a routine visit because I felt a lump, and very big, golf ball sized lump. Assuming it was just another basic cyst, I was wrong - as they say never ass-u-me. The next day after a mammogram and ultrasound and biopsy, I was told that it looked "suspicious." "Suspicious" is a word that I will forever link to cancer. 6 days later I was told it the biopsy indicated cancer. The next day Chubba and I were sitting at the doctor's desk talking about radiation, chemotherapy, mastectomy, partial mastectomy, bone scans, MRI, CAT scans, Oncologist...

So today it all began - the tests. There are so many tests and appointments that I started getting more stressed about where and when my appointments were than I was about having Breast Cancer.

Today was the bone scan. I arrived at the hospital only to learn I get some radioactive shot and must return 3 hours later after it gets into my bones. Yes, freaky. The tech brought out the shot in a lead box, and the syringe was inside a lead sleeve. The shot felt just the same as any other shot, except that I was nuked. Now my skin has a nice glow to it, and you can see me in the dark.

Three hours later I returned for the scan. I layed on a table with this box 3 inches about my head that very slowly moved down the length of my body. It took 22 minutes, but it felt like the scan was above my head for 20 of the 22 minutes. By the way, who picked out the color for the bone scan room at Beverly Hospital. It was the sickest pale bluish/greenish color.

After the scan, they said they needed some x-rays. Whoa, no one said anything about x-rays. So I had two thoughts: 1. Something looks bad in the scan and they want a closer look. 2. They didn't see anything in the scan so they want a closer look just in case. Why did option number 1 pop in my head first? At least I thought of option 2. I try to be the glass half full, but somehow it a little tougher when you're being scanned for cancer. The first x-ray room had a broken table so we had to move to ominous room #1 - the tech said this was the room with the "big monster machine." What he meant was that the equipment was older, and way bigger. Again I ask, who picks out the paint color for the room?! It was a color is so non-descript that I'm sure it doesn't have a name. It looked like sick skin color - the color of someone's face just before they are about to throw up - you know tanish pale whitist. So intead of concentrating on not breathing while they are taking x-rays, all I could think about is that someone actually selected, and put some thought into the colors that were painted in the radiology department's room... to mention the wallpaper trim strip that came from a Holiday Inn room circa 1988.

So, I'm off and running with tests, and decor critiques.

Can't wait to see what tomorrow and the CAT Scan and Oncologist will bring.