First, my hemoglobin count was up a whole point to 9.0, which means that I don't have to have a transfusion this week. Thank God! Like I said, the last thing I needed was to coordinate and pay for yet another procedure. Worst case, I'll get a transfusion when I go in for surgery on the 9th, which is fine because I'll probably be asleep when it happens anyway. I can deal with that. I can deal with anything if I get to sleep through it...as many of you know!
There really aren't too many noteworthy items to report from my pre-op appointment with Dr. E. He was an hour late. What else is new? He reviewed my colon prep for the surgery. What else is new? He reviewed what he was removing during my surgery and commented that he was running out of things to remove. Uh, not funny. At all. And I told him so. He reviewed my post-surgery chemo schedule. Nothing new there. I should resume chemo on Friday, August 7 (and will then have two more rounds on August 28 and September 18). He told me when to schedule my post-op appointment, which is now scheduled for Monday, July 20. I reminded him that I sincerely hoped this one wouldn't involve treatment of a wound infection. He agreed that would be nice. Let's see...what else? Oh, many of you might be interested to know that he finally told me to start taking iron supplements. They can wreak havoc on your stomach and, uh, "system," which is why they weren't prescribed earlier but we both agreed that since I eat about 10x the amount of vegetables as the rest of his patients, I should be okay in that department and will benefit greatly from the extra help. Oh, and you may be interested to know that Dr. E plans to be "shitfaced" while sitting on the beach in front of the Hotel Del on Coronado Island in about 24 hours. He was in the Navy in his former life and has many fond memories of San Diego from his time in the Navy so he likes to get away there when he can. I parted ways by telling him that I'd see him at 0: dark hundred hours on the morning of the 9th (and explained that I'd be the one with the bald head and the frown on my face) and wished him a nice four-day getaway with the wife and kids.
*Hey you, it's not okay not to check in (is that a double negative...hmmm?) every couple of days just because I seem okay most of the time and you happen to have big things going on these days. I think you grew bored of my cancer drama a long time ago and are over the whole thing. Or, maybe you're just more focused on your own drama these days.
*And you, it's not okay to try to fib about something so trivial because I really don't give a damn. I've got much, much bigger fish to fry these days.
*And you, I really, really can't catch up on the phone that much these days. I hope you understand that it's just too hard for a bunch of reasons but if not, oh well.
*And you, I feel badly that I'm not there for you the way I'd like to be during a big, fun year of your life but this year, for once, has to be about me and I so hope you understand. I think you do.
*And you, do you know how totally lucky you are in so many ways? Well, you are and it seems as though you forget it on an almost daily basis. Heck, I'm even lucky right now compared to some, so you've really got no reason to complain.
*And you, please understand this, I cannot freeze eggs and while I appreciate the suggestion, I'm going to scream if I hear about it one more time. I have/had cancer in my ovaries and therefore, no doctor will extract eggs from me to implant in someone else someday because as of today, scientists cannot be sure those eggs don't have stray cancer cells in them so they will not store them to put into another human being.
*And you, please know how hard it is to keep a smile on my face when there is talk of pregnancy, babies, children, etc. because somewhere along the way, someone or something decided that I don't get to have biological children (and may not see my 40th birthday for that matter...although, I think I will). And while I recognize that this doesn't necessarily mean I won't parent a child someday, it's totally cruel nonetheless and will probably hurt a little everyday until I hold the child I'm meant to parent.
*And you, do you know how scary it is to feel as though you're about to mutilate your body at age 32 in order to save your life? And while I know many people have survived it (and even like life better after having done it...), I bet you don't know.
*And you, do you know how hard it is for me to be sidelined in so many ways for almost an entire year of my life? Well, it is really, really hard.
Okay, enough! You knew you were going to get something like this at some point, right? I mean, there's only so much Little Miss Mary Sunshine in one gal. I think I've gotten it all out. Hopefully, I'll start to feel some relief soon...
And speaking of whatever it takes, this afternoon I sought the counsel of my friend (and former babysitting client), Dr. Marc Siegel, regarding my impending hysterectomy. As many of you know, I haven't been entirely sold on this procedure from the outset and have had increasing doubts about its necessity as I've seen how well I've responded to my treatment. So, I decided to call Marc to discuss things, as I also did in the beginning of all this mess, because he, unlike my doctor, has been willing to get detailed enough with me in the reasoning behind each procedure, drug, etc. that the necessity for various actions (like having a laparotomy verus laparoscopy for my hysterectomy) always seems more acceptable to me after talking with him. Once again, I pestered him with questions this afternoon and now think I am FINALLY prepared emotionally to deal my big-ass hysterectomy, which has almost been like a dirty word to me lately. I think that I finally, finally, FINALLY get why I really need to have it so that I don't end up like poor Farrah someday soon (if you'll recall, she opted NOT to have the colostomy that her UCLA doctors recommended, which most likely would have saved her life).
I will always wonder "what if..." but today I think I really, truly, finally get that I have an estrogen receptive cancer (92% so) that could/would continue to be fed if I left my last ovary in me and that was/is in my uterus, and while we hope it is gone, we won't be able to know for sure until the uterus is out and all of the necessary pathology is done on it. The bottomline is that I got bad parts and that if I really want to be sure that I'll live to see deep wrinkles and feel a bad hip, I've just got kiss it all goodbye because the estrogen that makes it all work, is just plain bad for me. Oh, well. You can't win 'em all, right? And in this series, it's more important to come out with a winning record at the end than to have one pyrrhic victory.
TGIF! I'm off to dinner with my Christina, who is town from NYC.
The truth is that it kills me to spend money on make-up, perfume, and a whole host of other "girly" things. Drop $100 on a meal? Sure, no problem. But do not ask me to spend good money on make-up. It really pains me. I haven't a clue why but it just does. Despite this, I do indulge in my Bobbi Brown concealer and pressed powder about once a year. The rest of it though, is cheap stuff and I mean, the cheaper the better. This includes my mascara, which until the past couple of months, I've rarely had to use. I was blessed with pretty full, long eye lashes (not as full and long as my damn brother's, though...) so when they're not under attack from chemo, they look pretty good with just a quick curl and some upper and lower lid eyeliner.
Recognize the pink and green tube above? I thought you might. In my attempts to plump my lashes up a bit, I've resorted to using the Maybelline Great Lash mascara I bought in CVS over a year ago -- the same mascara that is consistently written up in Allure and other beauty magazines' annual Best Bets list. Huh? Have any of you ladies ever tried using this stuff? Does it clump on you the day after you buy it? Is it really runny? Does it really not do that good of a job in thickening your lashes? It's a joke. I have no idea who Maybelline hired to manager their PR but they're brilliant at getting this crappy mascara good ink when in reality, it totally sucks.
My friend Melissa S. has recommended another reasonable brand to me: L'Oreal's Voluminous Mascara. Agree? Please speak up with your thoughts about this important subject when you have a chance. A desperate cancer patient with very thin lashes needs your help.
In other news, I'd like to take a moment to wish several wonderful Cancers a very happy birthday including my grandmother, Denny, whose ?? birthday was yesterday, as well as my younger friends, Krista and Ansley, whose thirty-something birthdays are today. I hope that you all had or are having wonderful birthdays and that the next year is filled with much happiness and good health!
Okay, now back to work.
You know, if I had a nickel for everytime someone has said to me, "You're amazing," or "You're such an inspiration," or "I can't believe how well you're handling all of this," since I found out I had cancer, I'd have probably been able to cover the cost of that precious wig you helped buy for me. I must admit, I'm completely dumbfounded whenever someone says one of those lines to me. Don't get me wrong, I don't mind it and I appreciate the compliment but I just don't get it. I mean, how else would one behave if given this kind of challenge? I've thought about it a lot and discussed it with more than one friend and I guess the answer is that some would totally fold under the pressure, hide under the covers, go into seclusion, push away their friends and family, etc. Fortunately, that has never been an option for me. And while I have had more than one momentary breakdown during the past several months, the thought of just collapsing under the weight of this thing has never once crossed my mind. I've thought a lot about why that is and the answer I've come up with is simple: YOU.
Whether through the nature I inherited from YOU or the nurturing I received from YOU --but probably both -- I've been blessed with the coping skills to meet this unfortunate (or fortunate?) challenge head on. More than any other person, YOU are the one who has given me the strength, intelligence, sense of humor, and grace I've needed to fight this disease. YOU are the one from whom I got my generous, outgoing, (sometimes) funny, Type-A, tenacious personality. (I also got my penchant for procrastination and short temper from you too but we won't get into that too much today.) YOU are the one who stressed the importance of personal and professional integrity and that your word is all you have in life and that without it, you don't have much at all. YOU are the one that taught me to save half first and then spend the rest (I fell off the wagon a bit on that one but I'm climbing back on, despite my pile of medical bills...). YOU are the one who taught me to choose my friends wisely, for which I've been so grateful over the past several months. YOU are the one who showed me the importance of being a leader, not a follower. YOU are the one who would not allow me not to compare myself to others no matter what (okay, Mom deserves a little credit for that one too...). YOU are the one who taught me that when things get really tough, you pick yourself up by the boot straps and keep on going on, which helped me focus and work my butt off at Longwood in order to transfer to Virginia. YOU are the one who also wouldn't let me quit anything half-way through, which is the reason I took piano lessons for over 10 years AND the reason I'm enduring this treatment now. I could go on and on about the life lessons YOU provided me and all the ways in which you've consistently come through for me throughout my life.
I know that my diagnosis broke your heart, that my search for a treatment course left you frustrated (sorry, but I really did have to explore that less invasive option...), and that watching me go through all of this torments your soul a little each day but I want YOU to know that because of YOU, I'm okay. In fact, I'm more than okay. I'm actually great and I'm a heck of lot better off this Sunday morning knowing that I will overcome this hurdle and do something positive with it than if I'd never been tested in the first place. The way YOU raised me has allowed me to feel gratitude instead of bitterness (okay, I do have some bitter moments but who the heck wouldn't, right?) at the half-way point of my treatment.
So, thank YOU Dad, for everything. Thank YOU for loving me more than you love yourself. Thank YOU for not giving me everything you could possibly afford but rather for giving me the tools to build a great life for myself. Thank YOU so much for teaching me to be direct with people because God knows I would have never gotten that from the other side of the family. Thank YOU for your excellent example of a work ethic and your entrepreneurial spirit. Thank YOU being a constant presence in my life -- whether on the sidelines of the soccer field, in the auditorium of a music recital, or more recently, in my hospital room. Thank YOU for keepin' it real with lectures about proper car maintenance in the midst of all of this craziness. Thank YOU for telling me not to be afraid to walk around bald because "it's really no big deal these days." Thank YOU for threatening to kick the ass of anyone who makes fun of my bald head...and for really meaning it. In short, thank YOU for being the best father you know how, which, while not perfect, is pretty damn awesome.
Dad, similar to what I said to Mom on Mother's Day, I really hope that somehow I'll be able to make YOU a doting Grandad someday. (Too bad that me presenting you with a grandchild won't be as easy as when you surprised me with my Cabbage Patch doll at age eight...oh well.) YOU deserve that kind of joy and I really hope I can give it to you. And I really hope at least one of my children is a girl because while I know you like boys okay (and that you agree our friend Thomas S. is pretty neat), it's little girls who really melt your heart.
I love you, Dad. Happy Father's Day!
How things change: My pigtails are long gone and that waistline of my dad's disappeared years ago, too.
A racey shot of the two of us! Notice whose mouth is closed and whose is open?
The whole family chilling out on the *lovely* couch after the hot tub. I look pretty cozy in my dad's arms, don't I?
Below are about two dozen photos from the photo shoot I did with one of my favorite photographers, Jen Fariello. I did the shoot to document how I looked in the midst of treatment and to celebrate reaching the half-way point of my wellness campaign (a.k.a. treatment process). The shoot was so much fun and so empowering that I would love to be able to offer "scholarships" to other young cancer patients who want to document some period during their treatment process. In fact, wouldn't it be great for a couple of cancer organizations to partner with art museums to create a traveling "On the Road to Wellness" exhibit? I mean, if 1 in 4 Americans will be afflicted with the dreaded "C" at some point during their life and since more and more young people are having to fight the disease, don't you think a lot of people might enjoy seeing people's journey to wellness? Maybe I'll start working on that...
Anyway, as usual, Jen did a brilliant job! Enjoy! Here we go...
I was kind of a slug the last two days between the colonoscopy prep and recovery but I'm back in action today. I'm in the office trying to get a million things done before two great events today: 1. A fun and yummy lunch at Art and Soul, which is owned by Oprah's former chef and two-time James Beard Award winner, Art Smith and 2. An award-winning play this evening, "Jonna's Body, please hold," which is a cancerous dark comedy about one woman's experience fighting cancer. Will let you know what I think of both! Oh, and tomorrow I start the day with a couple more diagnostics before heading down to my beloved Charlottesville for a surprise you'll all learn more about later...trust me, it's gonna be good!
What else? I had a lovely alfresco dinner with Deloitte colleagues and good friends, Kim and Holly. It's now time to tune in to another episode of Jon and Kate Plus 8. Yes, I do like and regularly watch that show. I hope they find a way to stay together.
Julie and Lindsay catching up at the dining room table. Please notice Alison's beautiful new chandelier and graphic print drapes. They're part of her condo redecorating project we have worked on together. Thankfully, it's almost complete.
Despite what you might think, Alison was not laughing at my bald head but rather the vision of Julie in my wig. Oh, and you should know, Julie is NOT the first friend to try on my wig. Thanks for the good times Alison, Julie, and Lindsay.
Tuesday I stayed in but Wednesday was the Indigo Girls concert at Wolftrap. As you'll see, we had a nice start to the evening but our prayers were not answered and the heavens opened up on us by the Indigo Girls' first song. We lasted for three songs and then Melissa, Joey, and I hit the road. Of course, their number one fan (a.k.a. Christy) endured the entire event, despite the downpour.
Christy and Mary looking the part with their braids.
Alison and I enjoyed a wonderful Oregon wine tasting (one Sauvignon Blanc and the rest Pinot Noirs) at Food Matters on Thursday night. Friday night, I popped a vicodin for my miserable back and met Kelley out at Brabo. Saturday was a full day, which included a little house cleaning (not much really...), a few hours at my parent's pool, some floral design at the Sigler's, and finally, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's Annual Man & Woman of the Year Gala at the Ritz in D.C.
I give up! Me, Michelle, and Chartese. Michelle and Chartese are previous Woman of the Year winners. Chartese is also a cancer survivor.
Me and Michelle toward the end of the evening. Thanks for a great evening, Michelle and Jim! And congratulations to all of the Man and Woman of the Year candidates for raising nearly $900,000 in just 10 weeks on behalf of the Society! Bravo!
I had a good appointment (once I finally got there...) with the colorectal surgeon this morning. We scheduled my colonoscopy for next Wednesday so that he has plenty of time to see what's inside and get himself, or one of his colleagues, freed up to scrub in on July 9, should the news from inside my colon not be so good.
I had a bad bloodwork session after the colon visit. Fortunately, it didn't affect my mood that much this time. My white count is fine (more on that in a minute...) but my red count is BAD. I knew it would be after my walk this morning. I had a hard time with the hill on Cameron Mills Road, which tipped me off to the fact that there was not much oxygen in my blood. So, after the results were in we talked about a transfusion AGAIN but I begged off until Monday. I've made a big decision: In an effort to boost my count over the weekend, I'm going to eat grass-fed beef a couple of times AND I'm not going to exercise (okay, I might do a just a few laps in my parent's pool but no walking or weights). Wish me luck for a relatively good red count on Monday morning! If it's really bad again, I face a probable transfusion AND the possibility of a canceled colonoscopy. Boo!
So, thanks to Neulasta, my white count is relatively good. However, when I woke up this morning and tried to get out of bed, I wondered, "Did I brake my back in the middle of the night?" My lower back and hip pain were so bad throughout the day today that I resorted to a few rounds of lovely vicodin. I was warned about possible bone pain from Neulasta but was not prepared for what I felt. It was the kind of pain that had me cursing out loud a couple of times when I moved a certain way. Oh well, the vicodin came through for me, as they always do, so it turned out to be tolerable...barely.
In other fun news from the day...I had a nice lunch with Brooke, Christy, and Amelie; a FABULOUS massage at 5 p.m. (thanks to Krista!); and split a great bottle of Sauvignon Blanc and some really delicious appetizers with Kelley at Brabo this evening.
Now, time for bed!
And speaking of shots, I had two needle biopsies this morning at my dermatologist's office to test a couple of suspicious looking moles. I got a compliment while there: The medical assistant in the room was a 22-year old kid who just graduated from Georgetown University and is about to start medical school at Loyola in Chicago. He thought we might play the name game when he found out I went to Virginia but then I clarified that I graduated from there over 10 years ago. Well, his jaw dropped to the floor when he figured out that I was 32-years old! Yay me. Too bad he's not about 10 years older and gainfully employed...
On another note, I guess I should stop promising prompt chemo updates following each treatment because as you can tell from the last three rounds, I never manage to get my act together for an update very quickly.
Friday's treatment went as smoothly as the others have. However, unlike the others, I slept during most of my treatment. And I kept on sleeping for most of the weekend. I think I may have mentioned (maybe not...) that I hadn't slept particularly well last week so I guess I needed to play catch-up. (See...I do listen to my body!) I slept for at least two or three hours in the treatment room on Friday and then I slept from about 11 p.m. - 7 a.m. that night. I'm not a big napper (at all!) but I took a beautiful three hour nap on Saturday afternoon and then slept from 11 p.m. - 8 a.m. (unheard of for me!) on Saturday night.
Despite how it might sound, I didn't just sleep this weekend. Friday night, I had a wonderful dinner with good friends at Kristin & Shawn's. Saturday, my mom and I had a fun lunch with my Aunt Marty and then that night I had a great dinner at Jackson 20 with my good friend, Michelle. Yesterday was beautiful so after walking with mom and grocery shopping at MOM's, I spent the rest of the day poolside at my parent's with a whole bunch of guests including Jill, Alison, Kristin, Shawn, LEW, Melissa, Geoff, and Thomas!
Oh, and as promised, here are just a couple of shots from the chemo room at Dr. E's office.
Most of the gang of chemo nurses. These women are the best people in the world. I'm so thankful they're in charge of my care. From left to right: Thy (Pronounced: Twee; I think I'm spelling it wrong), Darlene, Marianne, Rosemary, Cheryl, and ??? (she answers the phone for the chemo hotline).