Friday, January 21, 2011


I've been working on getting myself out of my rut, and I think I'm making some progress - baby steps, but at least most of them are in the right direction!!

The breast cancer - had my Herceptin treatment last week (only three more to go!!!), and had a couple questions for the gals at the chemo palace. (And surprise of surprises, I did not get a huge bill for the treatment - it looks like I'll be able to finish off the treatments without becoming totally destitute! Hurray!!)

I do need to mention, again if I haven't before, the nurses and aides and everyone at that joint are absolutely wonderful! They make it so much easier to go thru all the trials and tribulations of treatment! They must go home with huge burdens from some of the things they see, and I hope they have someone who cares for them as well as they care for all of us!!

OK, let's see - questions. One was about my eyesight. My vision has changed rather dramatically since all this started. In reading about chemo, I knew it was a possibility, so I ask
ed if it was time to get new glasses, or if I should wait longer. My PA (physician's assistant) suggested I wait. First, because sometimes the changes reverse themselves after a period of time, and it would be a waste to go spend a bunch of money on new glasses and then have the vision change again. Knowing my luck, that's exactly what would happen!

She also said that they are noticing that Herceptin has a lot more 'minor' side effects than they anticipated, and as long as I still have three more treatments, it might be wise to be patient, about a lot of things. That took care of the next couple questions. My fingernails are still a wreck - peeling, splitting, tearing. The new growth is good, but SLOW!!! 'They' had put that down to the chemo, but are now saying the Herceptin is probably contributing to it too. Herceptin is a biological compound, rather than a chemical creation, so they believed it wouldn't have these kind of effects. Wrong.

Also goes to explain why my hair is growing so
very slowly. Seven months since it started growing out, and this is what I've got. I will say it's easy to take care of - can't do a damn thing with it, so I just sort of fluff it and hope for the best. I'm not very fond of it. :o(

Then I asked, again, how we know if all this stuff I'm putting in my body is working. I'd heard of a test, the CA27.29 titer test, that looks for cancer cells. A friend here at
the RV park gets the test every three months. My PA said they used it regularly in the past, but it's been found to give false positives more often than not, and because of that, they no longer use the test. So her answer is that the combination of drugs I've received and continue to receive, have the best track record to date for my type of cancer, so we just choose to assume it's working until something untoward happens.

What else? Hot flashes! I'm VERY happy to report that I appear to have them pretty much under control...finally! The drug I had read about, and asked the cancer doc ab
out, Megestrol (Megace), which works in conjunction with cancer treatments, works for me! It's also probably contributing to my belly, but to be rid of the 30 hot flashes a day makes that worthwhile! Between the Femara pills that I get to take for five years, and the Megestrol pills, both of which are known to increase appetite and belly fat - oh well.

I need to toss
a compliment in here right now for many of our medical staff and doctors. I know we all bitch about the medical profession, but after what I've been thru the last few years, and especially recently, I have to give them a great deal more credit! My friend here at the park and I have had very similar cancers and treatments, with mine coming several months after hers, and our reactions to the various chemicals and pills have been very different, leading our doctors to have to come up with alternatives to reach the desired objectives. Our bodies are incredible machines, and finding ways to make them work at their best takes considerable knowledge and caring that our doctors are rarely given proper credit for. This bout with cancer has reminded me of that. Not all of them are as good as others, and I've been lucky overall, so I'm very grateful!

On the days when I'm not at my best, I've been trying to distract myself by being 'creative'! And
that's said rather tongue in cheek. I'm playing at making earrings. As long as I have this damned hair that won't grow, I need to have something to draw attention away from my 'do' - so I'm wearing some fun earrings - at least I think they're fun...probably not very professional, or even stylish, but I'm having fun with it! Several have shells I picked up down in Kino Bay a couple winters ago. Here's what I've done in the last couple weeks!

What else? I'v
e been doing some spring cleaning (well, it does feel like spring here, even if almost everywhere else on the planet is suffering major weather traumas!) - cleaning, taking bags of clothes to charity, selling off some odds and ends (like my bras, which I'll obviously never need again), touching up paint, polishing silver, yada yada yada. That kind of stuff always makes me feel good!

Actually, it's not so much spring cleaning as getting ready to make another change in my life. As much as I've loved the RV life, and I really have loved every minute of it, even with the headaches of lousy construction and service, it's just too damn hard for me, as a single old female fart, to hook and unhook and pack and unpack and move stuff around on a regular basis. And definitely too bloody expensive. After everything I've been thru in the last couple years, together with our messy economy, I'm just flat dead broke. So I need to sell my sweet little home. I've had it listed for sale for two years now, with no interest at all to speak of. Not surprising considering the number of RV manufacturers who went bankrupt and dumped thousands and thousands of new RVs on the market for pennies on the dollar. I can't wait any longer for a 'market turnaround', so I've found a cute little mobile home not far from here, in a lovely secure park, and I'm just gonna turn my RV over to a wholesaler and take what I can get.

One more topic - I visited with a plastic surgeon a while back to talk about the possibilities of breast reconstruction. Medicare, so far, is covering reconstruction and 're-sizing' of
the remaining breast after breast cancer surgery. This doctor is an absolute doll, and spent a long time explaining everything he could for me. If I choose to go thru with surgery, it would be a very involved, complicated bunch of operations, taking up to a year to complete.

He was very professional in his evaluation, but it was apparent that he was taken aback by the slash across my chest. One of my major concerns is all that crap hanging around under my arm. But I know that's probably the easiest part of the fix - it's a clip and stitch and it's done. But the rest? It's been just over 11 months since the surgery, and whil
e it's not really apparent in the picture, the area in the center of my chest is deeply concave, and that's the first problem. It would require a surgery all by itself because the indentation crosses over the midline of the chest. It must be 'filled in' before anything else could be done.

What it needs is a healthy layer of my fat to fill it in. It could come from the remaining boob, but he'd prefer to leave that job until last (resizing the remaining boob). So the suggestion is for a TRAM-flap surgery. That stands for Transverse Rectus Abdominus Muscle. It's similar to a tummy tuck. They take part of the muscle and it's fat layer and move it. This is a longer more involved surgery than an implant, but it uses your own tissue so has a better chance of not being rejected. In my case, it seems the TRAM-flap procedure would not work for the reconstruction itself, because even though I'm definitely chubby, apparently my belly fat is under the muscle layer instead of on top, and he says he'd only be able to build me a 'B' cup boob from my own fat. Bless his heart, he said that a 'B' cup is just too small for me, considering my broad shoulders and overall body structure (and since I'm used to having big boobs anyway). So instead, he'd use the procedure to build up the hollow in the center of my chest and then go from there.

Once the concavity was fixed, we could deal with the implant. There are two basic forms of implants - silicone or saline bags. But before we can even consider the implant, first they must insert a tissue expander. I have a scar and no excess skin of course, so first need to have skin growing so there would be room for the implant. He would then lift the chest muscle and insert the implant. After that, on an outpatient basis, every three weeks or so, additional fluid would be added to the implant bag until the desired size is achieved.

There is often odd scarring around all this surgery, so one new technique includes using a protein sheet for a smooth supportive base for the 'repairs'. It's my understanding that this is a piece of skin that has been cleaned and processed and whatnot until it is pretty much just a sheet of smooth protein. I'm still trying to find a link to explain in online. Presumably it leaves a cleaner smoother finished product.

What's really nice about this whole thing, is that the insurance companies won't approve or disapprove such surgery until it is actually scheduled. So for the time being, I'm scheduled to begin this routine on March 3rd. Once we find out if the insurance will actually pay for it, we'll determine what, if anything, we'll do. Nothing is ever easy.

The Animal Rescue Site
LogoThere is
person with my name in the U.S.A.

How many have your name?