Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Where's McDreamy?

Life has been a medical drama as of late. I would so much rather watch this all on Grey's Anatomy with a big bowl of popcorn than experience it all myself! Nonetheless, after many stressful days we have had a number of happy endings that I thought I would share.

First of all, Joey has had a very swollen lymph node under his jaw for over a month now. It is just about a square inch in size and is very noticeable. It looks like he's storing a golf ball or a walnut in his neck. His pediatrician tried antibiotics, thinking it was infected. They did not help, so he was referred to an Ear-Nose-Throat specialist. That doctor ordered a CT scan, a fine needle biopsy and six buckets of bloodwork. After nearly two weeks of waiting, we have finally learned that the biopsy is non-cancerous (as you can imagine, that is what we were mostly worried about given my history) and shows, basically, nothing at all. He has now been referred to a Pediatric Infectious Disease specialist at UCLA for follow up. I spoke to this new doctor on the phone today. After reviewing Joey's case he feels that this is probably a non-specific viral infection (in other words, something we humans haven't identified yet) that will probably resolve on its own in a few months. He will see him next week and will follow through with him until it is resolved, but he basically told me not to worry, so I will try not to! Whew!

Meanwhile, I myself had my routine PET/CT last week and received the results yesterday. Overall, the scans look great as far as the cancer is concerned, but I have developed some sort of lung infection (as anyone who has seen me in the last six weeks can attest to, since I can hardly make it through a sentence without coughing). I now have a pulmonologist who is reviewing my scan images and may or may not decide to stick a tube down my throat in the next few days to pull out some of what's in there and analyze it. The fun just keeps on coming! He assures me that, given the relaxation drugs they will give me to keep me from gagging, I might actually thank him rather than hate him after the procedure. I will reserve judgment on that.

My oncologist's concern is the possibility that my anti-cancer drug is causing this infection, which is why he is so all over this. Since my drug is untested, he has to be careful with any side effects that show up, as they could be medication-induced. It is probably a standard cough, especially since Jay and Lindsey also had one, but, as Dr. Glaspy put it, he did not save me from cancer to watch me die of a lung infection that he could put a stop to. Have I mentioned that I like him? A lot? Well, I do.

So, that's about it from here. I have to close so I can go pick up Julia from school--they just called to tell me she's sick. Why am I not surprised?!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Happy National Metastatic Breast Cancer Awareness Day

You've probably noticed that it's "Pink October". Everywhere you look there are pink ribbons intended to make people aware of breast cancer. I think we can safely say that, by now, just about everyone is aware of it.

Most of the time, breast cancer reports are accompanied by survival stories--courageous tales of women who have taken a stance against this nasty disease and beaten it. Happily, there are many such stories.

Very rarely does a news report focus on those 160,000 or so of us that are living with metastatic breast cancer--that which has spread to other parts of the body. This is probably because there aren't very many happy endings in this subset of cancer patients. It is not inspiring to fund research for those who, statistically, only have an average of three years to live. People want to help those who can win, and more often than not those with early stage breast cancer CAN win. So I completely understand this focus.

Many women with metastatic breast cancer feel left out and overlooked. I know this because I am active on discussion boards for those in my situation. Although I personally am delighted by any research or awareness done, as it ultimately benefits us all, I nonetheless am happy to report that today is National Metastatic Breast Cancer Awareness day. The intent of this day is to educate the general public about those of us living with more advanced breast cancer. And while, no, it's not curable like early stage breast cancer, it IS treatable, and we are living longer and longer with this chronic condition. I, for one, plan to be here much longer than average!

There is a nice article today about it in the Huffington Post, here.

Now that you know, have some cake or something!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Two Lessons Learned?

One thing about driving a fuel efficient car: it's not very fast going uphill. It COULD be, if I took it off of eco-mode, but since I got it for its gas mileage, I simply won't do that. Therefore, I have recently become accustomed to semi-irate people behind me, tailgating and gesturing until I can graciously move over and let them by. Now, I am not moving at unsafe speeds, mind you. I'm simply not engaging in the speed demonics of the drivers in my area, which irritates them to no end.

A few days ago, as I was moseying up a freeway on-ramp, I noticed a motorcycle so close on my tail that I could hardly see him in my rearview mirror. I was thinking to myself, "That's really not smart, to tailgate someone so closely especially when on a motorcycle."

Simultaneously, I noticed Bella, who in this car can easily reach the window button for the first time in her young life, dangling a little pink purse out the window. I had just finished talking to her about this on our last car ride. I explained that if she let go of whatever toy she was holding, she would never see it again. She seemed to take it to heart and rolled up her window at the time, but here she was just a few hours later doing it again. I had not noticed earlier or else I would have rolled up the window and engaged the lock.

Before I could fully process these two concurrent events, I witnessed, in my rearview mirror, the pink purse fly out of Bella's grasp and solidly thwack the motorcyclist in the head. Thankfully, he did not swerve or falter (for if he had, this story wouldn't be quite so amusing). I watched in horror as he removed one hand from his handlebars so that it could be put to maximum gesturing use. He shook his fist, he gave me a, "What the heck?!" and then he passed me on the left. All of this happened in a split second. Bella still hadn't even time to understand that she had lost her purse.

As I slowly began to understand what had just happened (about the time Bella let out the first of a solid 20 minute wall of wails), I was struck with the poetic justice of it all. Dangle a toy out of the window? You will surely lose it. Tailgate at a dangerous distance? You're sure to regret it.

How lovely to quite passively instruct both a preschooler and a motorcyclist in one fell swoop.