Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Halfway There

I can't believe it's been two weeks since I last wrote anything, and I truly cannot believe it's already December.  Saturday, December 4 marked my two month "cancerversary."  In addition to marking another month gone by, there is also some good news that comes with this timeline.  If you'll recall from my treatment plan, I was to receive four treatments of AC (the awful "red devil" chemo) every two weeks.  Happily, I received the last of these treatments last Tuesday (November 30).  Up next is the lesser of the chemos, Taxol or "chemo light," as I like to call it.  I will again receive 4 treatments every two weeks with this chemo.  Side effects associated with this version are not supposed to be nearly as intense as those that come with the AC chemo.  This means less nausea and fatigue, hopefully!  Also, it is not as hard on the immune system.  Because of this my oncologist has given me the green light to travel home to see my family in Texas.  I haven't been home since last Christmas, and I cannot wait to see everyone (especially the nieces and nephews!). 
I am definitely in Christmas mode now.  For me, the season officially kicks off when I drag Aaron to the nearest tree farm to cut our own tree.  Having grown up pulling the same dusty box out of the attic that contained our artificial tree year after year, getting a fresh, real tree that smells amazing is a new tradition (I've been doing this for 5 years now) that I started for myself and I really love.  This is also our first Christmas in our new house, which happens to have a beautiful wood-burning fireplace.  On Monday we had a chimney sweep (yes, they're still called "chimney sweeps," but they don't have British accents, at least not in Atlanta) come by and make sure our fireplace was in good working order.  Now our stockings really are hung by the fire with care.  Ollie, our cat, even has one that says "Santa, I've Been Almost Purr...Fect!" 
AND it's cold!  I know our friends/family in Minnesota and Boston will laugh at this description, but today it didn't make it out of the 30s.  For "Hotlanta" that is pretty chilly indeed. Now it feels like Christmas.  Happy Holidays to everyone!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Thanksgiving

Things for which I'm thankful (in no particular order):

-Life.  Chemo sucks and I may be bald, but sometimes it takes cancer to teach a person that every single day is, in fact, a gift.  Living is really quite preferable to the alternative.

-Prayers, warm fuzzy thoughts, and good vibes.  All of these things are helping me heal, and they're sent by all of you.  Thank you.

-You.  Friends, family and kind strangers.  A person doesn't realize how amazing people are until something bad happens.  I seem to know some of the best people around.  Thank you.

-My husband.  This guy falls into the above category, but he's sort of special.  Not only is he the hardest working poli sci nerd around, when I tell him to put the laptop away and give me attention, he does it (and I'm awfully needy these days).

-My cat.  This little guy hangs out with me all day, every day.  He is the object of forced snuggles and patronizing baby talk, yet he keeps the complaints to a minimum.  That's what I call good company.

-Modern medicine.  The fact that I can put poison into my body to kill off cancer cells and only suffer minimal side effects is completely crazy to me.  Kudos to you, docs and researchers.  I don't get it at all, but I am grateful.

-Wigs.  Because being bald sometimes gets old.



-Insurance.  Because cancer is really, really expensive. 

-Test Results.  The results of my BRCA 1 & BRCA 2 genetic tests came back negative, which means there was no genetic mutation found.  This is good news not only for me, but also for those who share genes with me.

That is really just the tip of the iceberg.  I have so very much to be thankful for right now.  I hope you all are able to spend the holiday with people you love.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Visions of Grace Kelly

As I watch what's left of my hair thin out with each passing day, I can't help but feel a bit like a boy.  I've always been a girlie-girl.  I love ruffles, frills, lace, the color pink, polka dots, you name it.  If it's stereotypically associated with the female sex, I probably can't get enough of it.  Mind you, you will usually find me in my Peyton Manning jersey on any given Sunday during fall, but that's a whole other blog post.  Lately, however, my appearance has drifted into masculine territory.  I have no job to go to, and on post-chemo days I tend to spend the majority of my time laying in bed, so I tend to wear a lot of sweats/pajamas/yoga pants/lounge wear or whatever you want to call it.  This may come as a shock to my college friends, who knew me when I really didn't leave the house without sporting at least 3" heels, a miniskirt and full makeup.  But it turns out when you're undergoing cancer treatment, physical comfort really is the most important thing.  Gone are the days of suffering for fashion.  Now you'll find me curled up in a sweatshirt, stretchy pants and thick woolly socks.  Did I mention I'm also missing the long, flowing locks I once spent hours bleaching blonde and attacking with a straightening iron? 

The wig fitting I was supposed to have on Monday had to be rescheduled due the wig-fitter's (I'm sure she has a better title, but I'm not sure what to call her) health.  She had a cold and did not want to get me sick.  Incidentally, I caught a cold anyway this week.  Not to worry, though.  I never got a fever and my oncologist put me on a Zpac to make sure I'll be healthy enough for chemo on Tuesday.  So now I must wait until Monday, November 15 to find my new hair do. 

Also, my head is very tender right now, so I can't wear anything too tight.  This means I'm spending a lot of time wearing scarves.  I try to imagine myself as a Hollywood movie startlet (pre-Lindsey Lohan).  Someone Old Hollywood.  Someone like Grace Kelly, an icon who possessed effortless style and was synonymous with femininity. 
Sure, scarves are not worn all that much anymore, at least not on the head, at least not in mainstream American society.  There are some current examples from the Spring/Summer 2011 runways, however.
Salvatore Ferragamo

Loewe

And I am lucky enough to be the recipient of many fabulous scarves, including an Hermes scarf that used belong to Aaron's sweet grandmother, Muriel.  I can't help but feel just a bit glamorous when I wear such a fantastic scarf, especially when worn with big sunglasses.  Feminine, no?   


My mom-in-law just informed me of a NY Times Article about the return of the turban. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/11/fashion/11NOTICED.html
I may have to give it a go, too!

Before I go, here is an exchange between Aaron and me yesterday morning when I was dropping him off at the train station:

Me:  "Wow, the trees are looking so pretty!"
Aaron:  "They are.  That one's getting a little thin up top, though."
Aaron (looking at the top of my head):  "Uh, not that there's anything wrong with that!"

This made me laugh out loud.  Can't help but love him, can you? :)

Thursday, November 4, 2010

One Month Cancerversary

It's true.  It's been a whole month since I heard the words "we found cancer cells in your biopsy."  The first few days after hearing that were scary and maddening, I won't lie.  But since then my cancer journey has been as good as one could possibly hope for.  As I mentioned before, I am being treated by the best doctors at the best facility, I am married to a loving husband whose job came with insurance to pay for these insane hospital bills, and I continue to receive love and support from my amazing network of family and friends, and sometimes complete strangers.
Yesterday I had my second chemo treatment and I am happy to report that my side effects are much better under control this time around.  One of my anti-nausea drugs from last time (Compazine) was giving me blurry vision and causing my jaw to clench up to the point where I couldn't unclench it -- definitely no fun!  I told my oncologist about this, and now I am taking extra doses of a different anti-nausea drug (Zofran) with no complications.  I'm still fatigued, but not nearly as much as last time. 
In other news, I now a freshly buzzed, fuzzy head.  Yesterday morning I had the unpleasant experience of having to clean up clumps of hair off the bathtub floor.  Throughout the day every time I ran my fingers through my hair a new clump would come out.  By evening I told Aaron that I needed to buzz it all off.  He graciously offered to do it for me.  Luckily I had anticipated this moment earlier in the week and bought an $8 pair of clippers at Target.  What sounds like it would be a scary moment actually turned out to be quite fun.  It was a team effort, with Aaron starting in the back of my head, working around to the sides, and me taking over on the front.  And we managed to keep the mess to a minimum!


 
People keep asking if Aaron is going to shave his head in solidarity, and my response is that I don't think he could pull it off as well as me :)  So for the first time ever, I have shorter hair than my husband!  It is still a shock when I look in the mirror, for sure, and I know the remaining 1/4" will all be gone one of these days, but I have been given so many hats and scarves that the thought really doesn't bother me.  Also, I have a wig fitting on Monday.  Our insurance has agreed to pay %100 for my "hair prosthesis."  Woohoo! 
That's all for now.  We're excited to welcome Kate from Boston tomorrow evening.  She's in for a lazy weekend of movie and football watching :)
Much love to all of my readers!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Good Hair Day

The past week was a great one.  My mom-in-law, Becky, was staying with us and every day was filled with a new adventure.  Most exciting was Tuesday, when I got my haircut.  As I mentioned in my previous post, I wanted to get my hair cut short in preparation for the inevitable hair loss that is right around the corner.  So on Tuesday we went to a salon (big thanks to Laura S. for the recommendation) and got it chopped.  My hair had gotten very long, so I was able to donate it to Locks of Love.
Luckily, I had an excellent hairdresser, and I love my new cut!

More surprisingly, Aaron seems to love it, too.  He had always preferred long hair (typical guy), but when he saw my new 'do he remarked "you should consider having it like that post-cancer, too!"  So I love my hair, which is good and bad.  Good because I feel cute, bad because my second chemo treatment happens Tuesday, which is when the hair starts to go.  At least I have an idea of how to style my hair when it starts to grow back!
Less fun but perhaps my important was my genetic counseling appointment on Thursday.  I have decided to get tested for the genetic mutations BRCA1 & BRCA2.  Because I am so young, in combination with the frequency of breast cancer on my dad's side, the docs thought it was a good idea to find out, not only for myself, but also for my siblings.  If I test positive, there is a 50% chance for each of my siblings to test positive.  This is of obvious concern for my sister, who will be turning 40 in April (sorry, Connie!).  Also, if my brothers test positive, there is an increased risk for male breast cancer (6%) and younger occurrences of prostate cancer.  Aren't genetics a bitch?  Just kidding, mom and dad.
I had my blood sample taken on Thursday but we won't know the results for about 3 weeks.  Apparently there is one place in the country (Salt Lake City) that does genetic testing, so they're kind of busy.  I'll be sure to let you all know the results when we find out.
Thursday was also Aaron's 30th birthday. This means I have less than 2 months to give him crap about being an old man until I reach the big 3-0 myself in December.  To celebrate we went to a great Italian restaurant, and Aaron opened presents.  Usually all of the boxes on our doorstep are for me (UPS/FedEx are still making daily stops at our house -- you all are WAY too generous!), so it was nice for Aaron to get some love in the mail, too.  Part of my gift to Aaron was tickets to "Two Gentlemen of Lebowski," which was a Shakespearean version of "The Big Lebowski" (one of Aaron's favorite movies).  The writing and acting were fantastic; a good time was had by all.
Saturday we went out for Halloween dressed as two characters from another of Aaron's favorite movies, "The Royal Tenenbaums."  I was Margot and Aaron was Richie.  I think we got the look and the attitude down pretty well.
Not to worry -- the cigarette is just a prop!  We went to a party and a couple of bars with some new friends we've made (hooray for friends!), and again a good time was had by all.
Today I'm focused on taking down Halloween decor (a giant spider web and lights on the front porch) and doing all of the chores I'll be too tired to do over the next few days.  Tomorrow is my second chemo infusion, so I now know what to expect as far as side effects.  Also, I'm excited to watch my Colts demolish the Texans on Monday Night Football tonight.  We need revenge for our week 1 loss!
Happily, our good friend Kate is flying in from Boston on Friday for a weekend visit.  I may not have much energy while she's here, but at least we can lay around and watch movies together!
In closing, I'd like to share something from another breast cancer blogger, "Chemobabe."  It is a statement that accurately sums up my inability to respond to each of you, as much as I would like to:
I seek amnesty from the normal etiquette of returning phone calls, texts, and emails. Please don’t take my lack of response as loaded with any kind of meaning. There is a pretty good chance that I actually think I answered you. (Confession: I have this mental email problem in a much milder way even when I am well.) I love getting your notes. I can’t say it enough. Please don’t think I am flaky if I don’t respond.
Happy November!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

So Chemo Goes Like This...

Since I last wrote I have undergone my first chemo treatment.  I have also met with my radiation oncologist, whose job it will be to radiate the heck out of me after surgery, but first things first.  Chemo goes like this:  the nice nurse tells you that she's going to "access your port."  This means sticking a needle where the perfectly skilled surgeon had just placed a chemo port a few days before (In case you're wondering, as I had been, a chemo port basically looks like a raised round spot under my skin -- not terribly visible).  It had only just healed, but never mind.  Luckily, that's as bad as the needles get.  All of the medicine goes through this one spot.  First they shoot in some anti-nausea stuff and allow it to work for 30 minutes.  Next comes the Adriamycin, which caused Aaron to remark "oh, it looks like Hawaiian Punch!"  A nice thought, but one look at the nurse administering the drug completely covered in plastic so as to protect herself from the drug, and you remember that cancer is some nasty business that requires some equally nasty drugs to bring it down.  The final medicine is the Cytoxin, which takes the longest to administer.  All together, the whole chemo process should take about 2 hours.  I say should here because my first chemo session took much longer due to computer problems.  (I told them I was fine with waiting and receiving the correct chemo cocktail as opposed to not.)  Luckily Aaron was there to wait with me, give me soup, watch Sports Center with me (Go Rangers!), and the whole process didn't seem that long or bad.
Now for the side effects:  The first day I felt great.  "This whole chemo thing isn't so bad", I thought.  A huge box of Omaha steaks had just arrived on our doorstep, courtesy of the wonderful in-laws, and Aaron had offered to grill something yummy.  My appetite was good, and the steak divine.  Then came the following day.  It started out alright with just a little fatigue, but slowly progressed into "I just don't feel right"-land.  Aaron took me to the hospital for my Neulasta shot (to make my white blood cell count rise), and while I was there the side effects started to take hold.  I rode back to the house with my seat reclined, thinking, "just a couple more minutes..." the whole way.  (How lucky are we, by the way, to only live 15 minutes from a world-renowned cancer institute?  Very, very lucky.)  So we made it home and I found I just could not get comfortable.  Stretched out?  No.  Scrunched up?  Not a chance.  Walking around?  Too tired.  Basically this turns into a lot of me whining with a very confused husband (poor fella).  I spend the next couple of days sort of nauseated, pretty tired, and all together uncomfortable.  I take my drugs and try to sleep.
It goes on like this for most of Wednesday and Thursday (chemo was on Tuesday), and Friday I feel a bit better.  Also helping my spirits, the aforementioned in-laws came to town.  It seems they couldn't trust their son to make all of the delicious steaks on his own ;)
So by now it is very early Sunday morning and I'm feeling the most like me since Tuesday night.  Granted, I'm up writing a blog at 4:15 am, but I can always take a nap later.  It's what we call "cancer time."  I'm operating on cancer time now, which means I can walk out of room mid-sentence if I think I need to take a nap or a breather.  Let's hope I don't abuse this too much.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

A Post from Aaron

My loving (and I must say quite adorable) husband, Aaron, wrote the following for his fraternity newsletter:


On October 4 of this year my wife, Joyce, was diagnosed with breast cancer.  This came as a cruel shock to both of us—she’s only 29, and women in her age range only constitute about two percent of all breast cancer cases.  As unlucky as the diagnosis made us feel, in another way we were fortunate.  Though women in their 20s and 30s are unlikely to be breast cancer victims, they often have worse prognoses than older women.  This is primarily because younger women don’t believe the disease can affect them, are less concerned if they do find a lump, and are thus slow to act if something seems awry.  Much to Joyce’s credit, as well as that of her doctor, she was quick to have more tests done on something both presumed would turn out to be benign.  This is not to say that women in their mid to late 20s should be scheduling yearly mammograms for themselves—their breast tissue is likely too dense for a scan to spot much of anything until it’s a palpable lump anyway—but it is important to note that this is not just a disease afflicting older women, and it’s much better to be safe than sorry when there is a reason to think one’s health might be in jeopardy.
The day of the diagnosis, as well as the next two days following it, were pretty jarring emotionally.  My immediate reaction was that I needed to be strong for Joyce, which was a great idea on paper, but quickly dissolved when I began crying next to her on the couch the first evening.  Her response to the news was initially anger; “why me?” is an understandable question to ask, though you can’t expect any good answers to be directly forthcoming.  The other emotion I think both of us experienced was fear. The word “cancer” can cast a pall over a room.  There’s an underlying enormity to it which causes the mind to race from one worst-case scenario to the next.  In my case, the fear was suppressed a great deal after meeting with Joyce’s team doctors who are currently providing her treatment.  This was not because they assured us we had nothing to worry about—medical professionals don’t give that sort of advice to people in these situations anyway—but rather because they replaced the abstract and amorphous fear that is “cancer” with an outline of concrete steps that would be taken to address the problem.  Clich├ęs exist because they have a kernel of truth, but taking things one day at a time can be much healthier from a psychological standpoint than dwelling on the unknowable future. 
At times humor even started to break in to our dealings with the disease.  For example, my wife is a big football fan, and both of us had previously been impressed with the lengths the NFL went to publicly demonstrate their support of women with breast cancer in the month of October.  However, when you personally are diagnosed with the disease, during breast cancer awareness month itself, you consider yourself sufficiently aware without seeing sweaty, 300 pound linemen wiping themselves off with pink towels that look like they belong in the linen closet at Barbie’s Malibu beach house.  As Joyce commented (and I’m simultaneously paraphrasing and cleaning up the language), “I just want to see Tom Brady get hit without having to look at a bunch of pink crap that reminds me of my boobs.”  Both of us know that seeing Brady makes many women more aware of their chests and other personal regions than they are otherwise, though not necessarily for health reasons.  Joyce, being a Colts fan, is not similarly affected, however.
The thing which strikes me the most about our short and ongoing experience with breast cancer is how many people you confide in have family members or close friends who were also afflicted with the disease.  Numbers, even large numbers, can be too impersonal to have much impact on one’s attitudes, but when you start putting faces and personalities on those statistics they get pretty real, pretty fast.  The good news, of course, is that many of these stories and experiences—while arduous--end in survival, and Joyce’s cancer is of the sort that responds well to treatment.  The reach of the disease throughout our society, as well as humanity’s general ability to be kind to those in need (and this is coming from someone who trends towards the cynical end of the spectrum), means that Joyce and I have been pleasantly overwhelmed with well wishes and generous offers of support from those closest to us and people we’ve just met.  It reminds me that if bad things, even awful things, didn’t happen from time to time, mankind’s nobler qualities like charity and empathy would burn a lot less brilliantly.  It may sound like pabulum, but it’s pabulum I believe in, and it keeps me looking on the bright side of things.  And when you get right down to it, that’s the best option you’ve got sometimes.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Hat Diaries #1

This is the hat I referred to in the last post.  One of these days I'll post a picture of myself wearing it.

Ready for Chemo!

The "main event" since I last wrote was the meeting with my oncologist (cancer specialist) on Thursday.  This post gets a bit science-y at times, and I apologize, but I have many a doctor in my group of family and friends who actually want to know the details of my chemo treatment.  Sorry to everyone else!  The Oncologist explained we will be treating my cancer with "curative intent."  Any time I hear the word "cure" I get all kinds of excited and my eyes light up, so this is very good, right?  Next came the more unsettling part.  The sweet doctor said that this meant "hitting me hard" with all kind of drugs, surgery, radiation therapy and hormones.  So I'll live, but life may not be terribly fun for a little while.  Here's the science:  I'm going to be on 3 different types of chemo drugs.  The first two (Adriamycin & Cytoxin) will be given together every 2 weeks for 2 months (4 doses).  After that I will receive Taxol every 2 weeks for 2 months (4 doses).  This will be followed by surgery, radiation for 6 weeks, and finally hormones (which I will be on for at least 5 years).  All in all, it could be a LOT worse.  For example, I could have cancer that isn't treatable.  I could be without my amazing husband.  I could be without my huge support group --all of my dear family and friends!  Life could always be more unbearable.
They say there are amazing drugs now to help with nausea, which I will also receive.  It sounds like the biggest side effects associated with chemo nowadays is fatigue for a couple days after each treatment and, of course, hair loss.  This is going to be the trickiest part for me.  I think I am going to get my hair cut short this week in preparation for the bald head that is to come.  As of right now, my hair lands about 4 inches past my shoulders (probably the longest I've ever had it!).  Some women facing chemo are terribly brave and just go into the barber and buzz it all off without any concern for vanity.  Well, that's not my style.  (I must admit, however, I've had visions of walking into the barber shop down the street and pulling a Britney Spears.  Maybe I would make the local news?)  Alas, I am far too vain to go from long to bald in one day.  My thought is that hair falling out will be less traumatic if it is already short.  We'll see. 
In happier news, did you know you can get a prescription for a wig?!  I'm not yet sure how much (if any) our insurance will pay (fingers crossed!), but I plan on befriending the woman who runs the wig boutique at the hospital in any case.
This reminds me.  Yesterday I dragged Aaron into a vintage clothing store (we were in the neighborhood anyway!), and I talked him into buying me a fabulous hat.  It looks vaguely 1940s to me, but I will call on my fashion historians to correct me. 
*This is where I was going to paste a picture of said hat, but I appear to be having technical difficulties, as always.  I promise to post the pic ASAP!*
Finally, I'd like to close with a cute story.  At our breast cancer class on Friday, we were given more information than we could ever possibly retain, but it was good experience.  The class was for newly diagnosed women, so you really couldn't tell the cancer patients from the family members who were there for support.  Aaron was one of two husbands in the room, but the other man looked to be in his early 80s.  The final class presentation came from the woman who runs the cancer boutique at the hospital.  She was telling us about special post-surgery undergarments, wigs and, finally, prosthetics.  She was terribly excited to share with us a new prosthetic that NASA helped develop.  It was the latest product on the market, allowed the skin to breathe, and was just the best fake boob money could buy.  She was so enthusiastic about this product that she insisted we pass it around.  The elderly wife looked at it with great interest and passed it to her elderly husband who everyone was watching to see how he would handle it.  He simply passed it along to me as quickly as he could.  He then told Aaron "We're really gettin' into some sh*t now!"  Aaron joked later that the man had probably fought in the Korean war, but nothing in his life had prepared him to hold a fake boob.  Poor guy.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Good news!

Finally some good news to share!  Today I got the results of my PET scan, which showed that there is cancer only in my left breast and one lymph node.  This is what we already knew, but the PET scan confirms that the cancer has not spread to any other part of my body.  Aaron just commented on how quickly one's level of expectations can change.  Last Monday we were devastated when we found out I had cancer.  Today we were elated to hear that I only have cancer in one area of my body.  We know we still have a long road ahead of us, but every bit of good news that can lift our spirits helps. 

Since my last post there has been a flurry of activity in the Heckman-Rapport household.  On Thursday evening my parents came into town (a trip that had been planned for quite a while, pre-cancer diagnosis).  We had a great time eating lots, visiting Stone Mountain park, and putting up Halloween decorations.  Our cat, Ollie, got spoiled by his "grandma," who let him hang out on the porch as long as he wanted.  Grandma is far more patient than Aaron or me.

On Monday I had my PET scan and then visited with the reproductive specialist, upon the insistence of my oncologist.  Aaron and I would like a family SOME DAY, but when a woman of child-bearing age is facing chemo, apparently it is protocol to visit with a reproductive specialist.  Warning:  If you don't wish to read about my ovaries, please skip to the next paragraph.  Regarding my ovaries, the specialist told me that there is an 80% chance they will stop functioning due to chemo.  Following that, there is a 50-70% chance they will regain function after my chemotherapy is complete.  There is an injection I could take to make these percentages a bit higher, but it is both expensive (not covered by insurance) and uncomfortable (side effects include basically throwing me into early menopause).  We looked at this as well as other options, such as embryo freezing (crazy expensive!), and decided that we're just going to take our chances and not do anything.  If my ovaries don't regain function, there are other options.  I have a gorgeous niece named Sydney Grace who proves that.

This morning I had surgery to "install" a chemo port just under my right clavicle.  The surgery was quick, easy, and relatively pain-free.  The doctor gave me a prescription for pain-killers, but so far I haven't felt the need to take any.  Aaron joked that we should hand them out to trick-or-treaters.  He has quite the sense of humor. 

Tomorrow morning I go to "chemo training" with my oncologist.  This is when I learn all about my chemo plan.  Hopefully I will retain most of the information.  The general plan right now is to do chemo first to stall the growth of the cancer and then perform surgery to cut it out of my system completely.

On Friday I go to my first breast cancer support group meeting.  I have been wanting to make friends in Atlanta ever since we moved here in July, but I never thought I would do so by getting cancer!

This week has been amazing in terms of the love and support shown by our wonderful friends and family.  My phone has been ringing off the hook, my inbox is filled with loving emails, our mailbox is filled with cards and letters, and the doorbell rings at least twice a day with deliveries for me -- cookies, other edible treats, lots of books and even a pair of luxurious pajamas that I may never take off.  I turned to Aaron yesterday and said "Aren't you jealous?  Cancer comes with presents!"  Thanks everyone.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Some News

Hi Everyone,

I have some unfortunate news to share.  The kind of news you don’t want to share over the internet because it’s just so impersonal, but by the time I get around to calling every friend and family member I have it would be December (I’m very lucky to have such a large support group!). 

On Monday I found out I have breast cancer.  Here’s what we know so far:  I have hormone-receptive stage II breast cancer.  This means that in addition to treating the cancer with chemotherapy and surgery, I will also be on hormones for a very, very long time to make sure the cancer doesn’t return once it’s gone. 

Here’s my schedule so far:  On Monday the 11th I’ll have a PET scan to make sure the cancer hasn’t spread anywhere other than my left breast and lymph node in my armpit.  Assuming that it has not spread any further (which is definitely what we’re assuming right now!!!), we will proceed with putting in a chemo port on Wednesday the 13th and starting the chemo process on Tuesday the 19th.

Here’s the good news:  I’m being treated at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, which is one of the best hospitals in the country.  The Winship Cancer Institute has amazing, caring doctors who will be doing everything in their power to get me through this process.  I have every faith in this place and the people there.

Also good news:  I feel amazing!  Cancer doesn’t “hurt”.   Chemo will definitely be uncomfortable, but hey, so many women go through it every year in order to hop over to that “survivor” list, I can do it, too, by golly.  AND, Halloween is coming up which means I should be able to score some sweet wigs ;)

And another bit of bad news:  I felt I had to quit my job at the Art Institute of Atlanta while I undergo treatment.  My doctor told me that many women carry on full-time jobs while they go through chemo, however, my situation is just a bit different.  I was hired as the one and only textiles instructor for classes that meet once a week for almost four hours at a time.  If I were to have a day when I felt I couldn’t make it, there is no substitute who could be called in, and to cancel a class that only meets 10 times total would not be acceptable.  Luckily, the good people at the Art Institute said they would love to have me back as a teacher when I feel able.

So that’s my news.  Not the best news in the world, but I certainly don’t have to look very far these days to find someone much, much worse off than myself.  The last bit of good news is that I’m determined to kick this cancer in the you-know-what.  I have a very, very long life to live.  With my amazing husband by my side (along with all of my friends and family), I know I’m going to beat this!!!

Love,
Joyce