October 20, 2007


Hi there –

Because I am having so much discomfort from typing (and because I’m only taking the *good* drugs at night to help me sleep!), I’m going to write this a little at a time starting on the 13th, probably finishing on the 19th or 20th.

I visited the plastic surgeon on the 11th, got a fill, and was told to continue to restrict my activity as I have been for the past two weeks – no problems, but still a lot of swelling and pain. Interestingly, the pain of stretching the muscles with the fill is not near as bad as the ongoing pain of underneath the tissue expanders, which feels as if there’s sandpaper being constantly rubbed against my chest wall; or of the hypersensitive skin both on my chest and under my arms. I was trying to explain to my neighbor how it wasn’t so much that it was painful pain (probably an oxymoron, but it really does say what I mean – pain that hurts but is of a bearable level), but that it was just always there. She said, “Oh, it’s relentless!”, and sure enough, that describes it exactly – if I ever didn’t feel it for a while, it would be a lot less distressing. But I tried taking the maximum dose of pain pills, and besides being a zombie for two days, it definitely affected my mood downwards. So now I’m trying to find the balance between pain control and keeping my positive attitude, taking the maximum dose of Aleve during the day, and the pain pills at night to help me sleep.


On Friday, I had my first meeting with my oncologist. She indicated that several of the aspects of my lumps implied that I might not need chemotherapy; indeed, that I might not benefit from it at all. Even though the cancer was invasive and multi-focal, the fact that it hadn’t spread into the lymph system,and its very high ER-positive score (estrogen receptor) are two indications that sometimes predict a lack of response to the two chemotherapy drugs that I would be given. There is a test that will actually take some of my cancerous tissue and type it and check its response to the drugs. That takes about two weeks, so hopefully I should have an answer by the 26th.

I will, however, have to take Tamoxifen – this is hormonal treatment that suppresses the estrogen in your body – for the most part, the worst side effects (that I personally have to worry about) are blood clots and stroke, and that it triggers menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, weight gain, and mood swings. With my luck, after taking it for five years and suffering the symptoms of menopause, I’ll end up having a little break and then entering into the real thing!


Bored, bored, bored! As the Boss says, there’s 57 channels with nothing on (actually, there’s a lot more than that, even . . .). I find myself getting very restless, wanting to work on one of my many beading, knitting, or quilting projects, yet being stuck with reading, TV, and Netflix. It’s making me quite grumpy! I am able to read for more extended sessions, although it’s still only a chapter or so max, which means that there’s still a lot of time to fill in. For someone who reads around thirteen books a month while working full-time and crafting, too, this is rather depressing.

I’ve been watching some Law & Order, Numb3rs, and some CSI, and as I go surfing through the channels I get hooked by shows that I wouldn’t have expected: Man Vs. Wild, starring Bear Gryllz (I’m not sure about the spelling on his last name), for one. There’s just something about this guy that makes him very interesting to watch – it may be his complete lack of self-consciousness in front of the camera, or that he shows his honest reactions to some of the survival tricks he performs (eating scorpions makes him grimace and compare it to cheese that’s been sitting out . . . for three weeks. Yuck.) I’m torn about Meerkat Manor – on the one hand, the meerkats are fascinating to watch, but I get annoyed with the narration – specifically about the anthropomorphizing that goes on. OK, probably the thing that annoys me most is that the rival (i.e., read “evil”) band of meerkats is called the Zappa, making one of my favorite artist’s name into a pejorative; and that the names of the individuals in Zappa are often named for musicians who are from bands that are perceived as “dangerous”, such as Axl and Slash (of Guns n’ Roses) – or even named for a “dangerous” genre (e.g., one is named “Punk”, again, one of my favorite genres – but go figure – I heard a muzak version of the Clash’s “Rock the Casbah” in the mall once. Sooner or later, nearly everything seems to become mainstream.).

I do nap a fair amount, because I get tired very easily, although it’s usually not quite so urgent as it used to be. I still have “puppy” episodes when I just can’t keep my eyes open, usually after someone has come to visit (sometimes *while* they visit, if it’s more than an hour). I can’t do too much in one day, either – a couple of doctor appointments in one day wipes me out the next day.


We’re dog-sitting Jasmine this weekend, and having a great time watching her and Robin play.

Thursday I saw the surgeon again, and it looks as if I’ll be taking more time off than I originally planned. It’s likely that I’ll be off an extra two weeks on top of the original four that I planned for, and depending on how I’m doing then, he’ll decide if I am ready to return to work. In part, the change is because I misunderstood what the doctor meant when I asked how long recovery would be. He said it would be two to four weeks before I could become active, and six to eight weeks for full recovery. I didn’t explicitly ask when I could return to work, but thought that becoming active was equivalent to working. In reality, it meant (almost literally) starting to use my arms again for more than feeding myself and holding books or the TV remote.

The good news is that he told me this week that I can start increasing my activity, with a couple easy exercises and using my arms more. There’s one thing I’m absolutely forbidden to do, which is to push anything (and I still need to limit the weight I lift and the force I use for pulling). I’m still having the sandpaper sensation, although I think that it has diminished a little bit. Over the last week, I’ve been having more trouble sleeping, both at night and during the day, and even taking the maximum dose of the pain pills doesn’t seem to help – it takes care of the pain, but doesn’t make me as sleepy as it did originally. So I’ve been trying to avoid sleeping during the day as much as possible in order to keep on a normal circadian cycle.

Also, he did say I could drive if I can do so comfortably, but only short distances and duration of the trip; and to avoid having to make sudden movements. i don’t feel ready to try it yet, hopefully soon.

So things are getting better, slower than I expected, but still getting better. I even did a little bit of beading (stringing only) yesterday and that seemed fine physically, although I could only focus for a short time.

I’m going to try posting more often as I have anything worth writing, as the typing does seem to be going a bit better.


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October 2007

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