Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Lucky 72

I just kissed Nick goodbye as he and his buddy Paul headed out the front door for a little boy time at the bars in Scottsdale.  Tonight we had a wild houseful as our friends the Palmers and their three kiddos visited us from Southern California.  All I can say is that at one point the big ottoman in our master bedroom was on its side, pieces to Nick's acrobatic marble game were strewn across the floor, and both four-year-olds, Fisher and Sean, were in time outs. I'm not sure who had more fun, the kids or the parents. It was great to see our old friends, Karey and Todd, who we truly love and have known since college when we were super wild ourselves.  

Paul mentioned that he noticed that I wasn't drinking (alcohol) tonight.  Well, as I was reminded by my oncologist, Dr. Wendt, at my appointment yesterday, I'm not really allowed to drink anymore.  "At all??  Ever??" was Paul's response.  Unfortunately, it kind of seems that way.  I can have one here and there, and I will, but my big party days are over. When I asked Dr. Wendt about this point blank yesterday, he quoted studies that indicate that even three or more cocktails a week truly increase cancer recurrence rates.  That part really sucks.  

I had other questions for him too.  In fact, I arrived armed with a whole list.  Besides the alcohol thing, I wanted to know the data behind why I was prescribed to exercise five times per week by both him and my radiologist.  I was told that studies prove that three hours of weekly exercise significantly cut recurrence rates.  So, you'll find me, five days a week, huffing it around Steele Indian School Park or up and back the Bridal Path on Central Avenue.  Sweet Nick bought me some fab workout attire from the fancy Lululemon store that I adore.  It's my new uniform.

So then a tough one... something that has been gnawing at me. Ready?  I read that Stage 3 breast cancer patients have a 50/50 chance of living for five years past diagnosis.  I've been stewing that one in my brain for a while now.  I desperately wanted to hear from Dr. Wendt that this prediction was bogus, but I was scared out of my mind that he would confirm it.  So I finally got the courage to ask him. GREAT news.  For me, it's not true.  He said "You are really interested in your prognosis, aren't you?"  Well, yeah, I think I am. The long and the short of it is this.  Because I took the most aggressive treatment possible, which included double mastectomy, dose dense chemotherapy and six weeks of radiation, my prognosis is that there is a 72% chance that I will still be here in ten years.  I mean really, can anybody claim much better than that? Anyone can get hit by a bus, crushed by a piano or eaten by a shark at anytime.  72% for ten years, and he had a color chart to back it up. I'll take it.  Add to that my new clean living lifestyle, I'd say my prognosis is even better than that.  Huge sigh of relief.

So leave it to Nick to bring up the really big question.  "So," asks Nick, "what about marijuana?" Dr. Wendt had definitely answered this question before.  He replied with a slight smile that while marijuana does not have actual healing powers, it may improve a patient's state of mind.  He continued that it has been proven to increase bladder cancer, surprisingly not lung, but if I got caught buying it, he could probably help me find a medical reason for my purchase.  How awesome is that?  He's a total stud.

I'm off to bed because tomorrow I'm in for a real treat.  I'm using a generous gift from our friends Pete and Mellissa Moser in New Jersey and enjoying a little spa morning at the gorgeous Royal Palms Resort here in Phoenix.  My first massage since surgery is way overdue.  While I still can't lay on my stomach comfortably, I'll be more than happy with a neck and shoulder massage while on my back.  Just the idea of it puts a big smile on my face.

With love on a rainy but cozy Phoenix night,


Saturday, December 25, 2010

Imperfectly Perfect

Heading to the Lee's in Scottsdale for a lovely Christmas Eve celebration
The house is a DISASTER.  Seriously, it's off the charts.  My anxiety from that alone is edging me to up my zanex tonight. The kids didn't put on clothes today. They went from Christmas jammies to hot tub and back into jammies.  I didn't get dressed until 6pm.  I went from jammies to hot tub to finally a pair of jeans.  I didn't want the camera Nick got me.  Nick already had the driver I got him.  Fisher, yes the four-year-old, got a fully functional heavy duty tank that is suited for a 40 year-old-man who is into warfare games that shoots actual pellets.  Jenny-Jane ate 18 Hersey's kisses and then had a grand mal meltdown.  The beautiful beef tenderloin roast took almost two hours to cook when the recipe said 38 minutes.  My mom gave me this hideous bustier style purse and I didn't know she was kidding- don't do that!  

It was the best Christmas ever.  I want 40+ more just like it.  Hope yours was equally as fabulous.

Merry Christmas,

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Out With The Old

Every December I buy a new daily planner.  I bought my new 2011 planner this past week, so tonight I sat down to do what I always do, which is go through the previous year calendar to mark down birthdays and such in the new calendar.  Obviously, this past year was rough so I knew what I was getting into, and it was deep.  For the first time, I walked through 2010 and watched as the days of my normal life turned into this incredible journey to save my life. It was all documented in my little spiral calendar: the first discovery appointments, actual diagnosis and the multiple phases of treatment. I still can't believe this was and is my life.

So many people have complimented me on my "strength" through all of this, but I never understood what they meant.  Now I see it. Literally, I see it in my calendar.  Almost every day, there were doctor's visits or procedures.  There were family and friends coming and going.  Constantly.  And through it all, we were raising two little kids, ages 1 and 4 at the time.  Holy shit.  

My 2010 planner is officially on the shelf.  I do not want to carry around all that baggage anymore.  My new 2011 calendar is pretty, it's clean and it is cancer free, like me.  

Friday, December 17, 2010

Hower Overload

Overindulgent?  Absolutely.  Do I feel guilty?  Not a smidge.  Why? Because if anyone deserves to send out a video of 56 photos of their family this year in lieu of a holiday card, it's me.  

Hopefully you received this video holiday card directly from me via email, if not I totally apologize.  I just hope you like it.

Click here to see the flash version.

Click here to see the YouTube version.

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Matrix

Gorgeous grandparents!!
I did it again, another week has gone by and I am finally sitting down to write a quick post. I think this is good news, meaning I have no major health issues to report and I'm feeling good enough to be super busy like a real live normal person this holiday season.  My radiologist warned me this would happen.  He said I'd slip back into almost normal life.  I think that's what's happening...Yay!

This past weekend was spent with Nick's wonderful Mom Virginia and step-dad Rusty here in Phoenix for four days of gorgeous weather.  Before they arrived, Nick created a "matrix" of activities to keep us busy.  I've got it right next to me, I wish you could see it.  We checked off almost every item on said "matrix" including a picnic in our favorite downtown park, dinner at our favorite "hood" restaurant Tuck Shop, a viewing of our current must-see movie "Get Him To The Greek" (warning- it's not for everyone!), a messy double dog wash at Wag n' Wash, multiple hot tub dips and coffee shop visits and a grand finale of Luminarias Sunday night at the Botanical Gardens.  If you are not familiar with this special event, they line every path of the Gardens with luminarias (paper bag lanterns) and have various musical acts playing Christmas carols.  Of course Fisher stole the show.  

Upon listening to the hand played bell choir, the director asked the audience "Who recognized the last piece of music?"  Fisher raised his hand and said "When I was a little Indian boy, I heard that song.  It was called Jupiter".  Ok, so let me explain.  For the past year or more, every one of Fisher's stories begins with "When I was a little Indian boy...".  We have no idea where that came from, seriously, but I think he believes what he is saying.  Past life maybe?  And the Jupiter part?  You got me.  I'm just glad the audience and the director thought he was adorable and not audacious.  Jenny-Jane did her part to try to out-cute Fisher by dancing like a spaghetti legged fool to a raucous swing band.  All in all, a very memorable holiday family outing.  Oh, and my favorite part was the six-member all-female mariachi band sweetly singing children's carols and playing their Mexican tuned instruments.  Quite dreamy.

Having Virginia and Rusty here before Christmas was like a gift in itself.  They are hip, funny and really, really fun.  The kids truly adore both of them and of course we do too.  It was hard to say goodbye this morning as they drove off for the airport back to temps in the teens while we hit a sunny eighty degrees today.  

In a day or so I'll have a few more photos to share of our weekend of pure play with V and R.  It was relaxing and silly and filled with love.  I'm not sure I could think of a better compliment.  We love and miss you Virginia and Rusty!

Monday, December 6, 2010

My Own Steve Nash

Oooh, it's been a full week since my last blog post, sorry.  Hope you didn't think I went off the negative thinking proverbial deep end.  In fact, quite the opposite happened.  We have had a lovely week of holiday celebrating and decorating.  Friday morning, our favorite photographer, Stuart Thurkill of Eyes to See Photography, gave us a monumental Christmas gift.  At his own expense, he accompanied my well dressed family to the Whitfill Nursery Christmas tree lot to photograph us picking out our tree, loading it into Nick's light blue '55 Chevy pickup, and then delivering it back home to our house.  The kids looked adorable in their holiday duds, and I have to say, Nick and I looked like a pretty hip couple, who just happen to have the same haircut.  Think J.Crew Christmas catalog, or that's what I'm hoping it looked like.  You'll see too when I send out my Christmas cards donning the aforementioned photos.    

I attended Andrea Evan's baby shower (Ellie should be arriving in the next few weeks!), a surprise birthday party and a wild couples' White Elephant gift exchange.  We even fit in a picnic in the park with the Lee family on Sunday.  Whew!  And, I have to brag, I'm about 80% done Christmas shopping for our friends and family around the country.  So as you can imagine, I'm feeling pretty darn good.  I do still take advantage of the double kid afternoon nap and take a snooze myself, but wouldn't you?

My recent, and fairly minor setbacks include the following:  a nasty ingrown fingernail caused by one of my chemotherapy drugs, Taxol.  It really screws with your nails and I'm on antibiotics to get that thing under control.  My other ailment is a pulled muscle under my right chest expander, which is on my cancer side.  I was trying to blow up a heavy duty balloon for Jenny-Jane and really stretched my lungs and chest far beyond their current capacity.  I'm popping Advil during the day and vicodin and valium at night.  I even tried calling my plastic surgeon to try to score some more valium, you know, for emergencies, and I got denied, damn it!  Can't blame a gal for trying.

Today I met with my radiologist Dr. Brachman for my six-week post-radiation check up.  All the nurses ooh'd and ahh'd over my new hair and my weight gain (which is a good thing).  The doctor even went as far as to say that my right radiated side looks even better than the left which was not radiated.  That's really amazing!  I hope that means my exchange surgery for my breast implants next fall will go without a hitch.

I was asking Dr. Brachman questions regarding my limits on alcohol, sugar and red meat consumption, just to confirm that he agrees with my oncologist Dr. Wendt.  Dr. Brachman said this, and I quote "Dr. Wendt is like the Steve Nash (basketball superstar) of breast cancer oncology, and your other doctors, like me, are just gravy.  So you are in the best hands possible.  Listen to him."  Pretty cool.  Dr. Brachman did say that I do not need to worry about sugar, as my primary care physician suggested, and that sugar fears are Internet hooey.  He truly believes that cancer is not accelerated by sugar in any way.  I celebrated that revelation today at Dairy Queen with the kids.  And, a couple alcoholic drinks a week won't do any harm.  Hallelujah.  Anyway, he said I am doing better than expected and he is sure I will continue to do so throughout my recovery.  Exactly what I wanted to hear.  I don't need to see him again for five more months, another vote of confidence.

This Thursday evening, Nick's Mom Virginia and his stepdad Rusty come from Boston for a quick weekend out of the cold.  We are looking forward to family mornings in the hot tub and evenings in front of the fire.  Don't you wish your in-law visits were so fun?  

I'll try to be better about my blog updates, but I think I'll cut back to two a week, especially during this wild holiday season.  Hopefully I won't have much health information to update you on, but I'll be sure to share any and all good stories as they arise.  

Happy holiday season and merry shopping,