Archive for March, 2010

30
Mar
10

I’ll Drink to That. . .

So if drinking kills off liver cells, can I kill off cancer cells in my liver by drinking? And since the liver will regenerate over time, once the cancer dies off, then I can stop drinking and be fine, right? But since cancer grows quickly, I’d better start drinking fast!

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29
Mar
10

Chemo #1 – It took two nurses to hold me down. . .

Which sounds a lot worse than it was.

Due to having had two previous ports in the same spot on the right-hand side of my chest, the surgeon decided not to even try to put one on that side, which left her with the *left* side of my chest (just checking, really, that *I* can still get it right – I feel incipient chemo brain slithering through my grey matter, and yes, in this case, left *is* right!).

Because of the additional lumpectomies/chest excisions on the left side when I had my recurrence, there’s a lot of scar tissue on the left side also, so she had to place it up and back towards my armpit. Being in this highly inaccessible tube (anyone who gets that reference is my geek-god (or maybe freak-god) – I can only think of one for sure, and another two possibles. . .), it was very difficult for the nurse to access the port. Plus there was edema built up around it, so Ll & R. dragged the chair out into the middle of the infusion floor, had me lie back on the recliner, and R. held down the tissue around the port while Ll. accessed it. After the chemo was all over with, R. managed to get a lot of the excess fluid out of the area, so not only will it be easier to get to this Friday, but it has also made it easier to sleep on my left side.

Saturday was actually pretty manageable – we went out to celebrate our 13-year anniversary at The Melting Pot (what? melted cheese, melted chocolate, does it get any better?).

Saturday night, though, I went to bed at 10:00 p.m., climbed out of bed at 1:00 p.m. Sunday, slumped down to make some coffee and sit in my recliner, and after about 3 sips of coffee, fell back asleep for another 3 hours.

And my hair hurts.

29
Mar
10

New Cancer, New Look (for the blog, anyway)

The new title for my blog is from the card that came with some flowers that my friend (and awesomest boss ever) Shi-Yi sent me after I called her with the news:

“Pity the cancer that tries to take on Julie Martin!”

So of course I have to start a new cancer-fighting team – The J Team.

21
Mar
10

I don’t like cancer, but cancer likes me

Back in September, I wrote about how hard it must be to be a person with metastasized cancer.

Now I get to find out.

At this stage of the process I keep saying Stage IV like it’s on a scale of one to ten or one to a hundred, instead of being at the bad end of a very short scale.

I found out late Friday evening that the tumors in my liver (discovered just a little over a week before, and biopsied on Thursday) are metastasized breast cancer. The oncologist wants me to start chemo this coming week.

The good news is that it is metastasized breast cancer, which makes it much more treatable than if it were primary liver cancer. The sheer number of drugs available gives me lots of options for new side effects, hopefully one of which is shrinking of the tumor.

If it gets small enough (original measurement on the largest tumor was 9.4 cm or 3.7″), there are various options for more physical intervention, such as implanting radiation pellets directly into the tumor, inserting liquid nitrogen to flash-freeze part of the tumor, inserting electrical probes to kill part of the tumor with heat, and possibly resecting the liver.

Statistically, however, the average lifespan of a person with metastatic breast cancer is 24 months. Note the “average”, as my doctor assures me that there are people who live as long as 10 years. I personally know a woman who is doing very well at just over 2 years, so damn it – she’s blowing the average for me!

Seriously, the tumors and lesions are very aggressive, as it has been just under 11 months from my last chemo treatment to diagnosis at a large size; and although there is currently no evidence of metastases to my bones, lungs, lymph nodes, or brain, there is in fact the possibility that there are cells in one or more of those places that haven’t grown into a tumor large enough to see.

We can’t really establish a prognosis until we start treatment and get our first scan showing how the cancer responds to the chemo. If it doesn’t respond well to the initial drugs, we switch drugs and do more scans until we find one that helps. Oftentimes, a tumor may respond well to a drug for a time, but will develop a resistance to it, so you have to change to another drug. If it works to the point where the tumor(s) are shrunk enough, then the more direct treatment gets going. So even though it might not look good at first, we may eventually find a drug that really socks it to the cancer and it will look better quickly; or alternatively, we could happen on a really profound response to the first drug, but not have much success with future rounds. What this means is that there’s no such thing as “you’ve got 6 months to live” – that kind of drama is reserved for medical shows on TV.

While I’m not assuming anything at this point, Brian and I are taking steps towards dealing with such things as living trusts, making sure we both know what sort of end-of-life care I want, and that I want my ashes scattered on his new wife when he remarries.

For those of you whom I have not told in person, please know that this has all happened so fast that just keeping our families and a couple very close friends updated has been tough. For all the same reasons that I started this blog originally, it will be of use now, as I try to keep everyone up to date with this latest, er, bump in my life.




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