Moira’s Cancer According To Seinfeld

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November 26, 2008: Doctor: “Well Elaine, you really didn’t have to put on the gown.” Elaine : “Oh it’s my pleasure. I love these. In fact I got one at home. It’s perfect when you just want to throw something on.”

elaine_benes0192Wednesday, and it was supposed to be another round of chemo, but first I was meeting with my oncologist, Dr. Janet Reno, to see about keeping on track and not having my surgery moved into December. So I sit in the examination room in my fashionable mauve paper gown and after a bit, she comes in and starts rifling through my chart. That file is getting fat. Then, satisfied that she has enough information on who I am, she examines the lump. She says, yes, it is smaller, but not really small enough. She is ordering a new mammogram and ultrasound to see what is going on for sure, but said that we do need to change our game plan. We can take one of two separate courses of action: go into surgery after the test results, or we could change up the chemotherapy drugs. Right now I’m on Taxotere/Carboplatin/Herceptin (TCH, although I like to call it THC). Instead they would give me Adriamycin and Cytoxan. Adriamycin is called “the red devil” or “red death” by funny cancer patients I know. I think it’s probably pretty awful. The Cytoxan doesn’t seem quite as bad. But you know, I’ll be done in a month and a half, and the tumor will shrink and it keeps me on track with the surgeon I want, so I’m happy about that. I said I wanted door number 2. She seemed pleased and started updating all my records to reflect the new plan.

I’ll also be doing the stuff that makes your white count higher, and god bless my sister FiFi for buying the glutamine in capsule form instead of powder. So that should help too.

Janet Reno seemed in happy spirits today. She even said that because they needed to get the whole medication regimen together, I therefore could wait until next week to start up again. I couldn’t believe it. I get to have a real Thanksgiving with mom, Adrienne and FiFi, with hubby Paul and NO chemo crappy side effects. I don’t have to just loll around on the couch (well, I will after all the turkey), I can actually participate like a normal person.

Oh, and she told me the lab results from the transfusion. All my blood is back to normal. So it’s like I’ll be starting afresh next week. 

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November 27, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

November 20, 2008: Jerry: In fact, if even one corpuscles of that blood should find its way across that hall I will freak out on you Kramer! Freak out.

Thursday: The transfusion went fine, although it was a very long day to be sitting in a chair. I got there at 10 a.m. and they started me right away. I didn’t leave until 4:40. I could have traveled to Boston by then, maybe even with a layover.

 

I got two units of blood and they hook it up to a machine—it’s not like at the oncologist’s where I kind of cheat and crank the IV wide open. So I just watched as it dripped slowly, oh so slowly, into my arm. My nurse was really wonderful—her name was Mary, who was from Co. Galway in Ireland. She could have read the phone book to me and I would have been fine. I had the newspaper and a book and my iPod, so the time went by fairly easily. I looked like hell, even with my stylish “Lisa Cuddy” wig on. I’m sure I’ll be looking more sprightly in 24 hours when the transfusion really kicks in.transfusion-arm-with-silpada-jewelry

 

They checked vital signs every half hour to make sure I didn’t experience any pulmonary edema or adverse reaction. It went without a hitch. It’s nice to know that I have good veins and good blood running through them now, at last.transfusion-at-total-care

November 21, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

November 19, 2008: Jerry Monologue: “Every time somebody recommends a doctor, he’s always the best.”

jerry-seinfeldEvery time somebody recommends a doctor, he's always the
best.  "Oh, is he
good?"  "Oh, he's the
best.  This guy's the
best."  They can't all be the
best. There can't be this many bests. 
Someone's graduating at the bottom of these classes, where are these doctors?  Is somewhere, someone saying to their
friend, "You should see my doctor, he's the worst.  Oh yeah, he's the worst, he's the
absolute worst there is.  Whatever
you've got, it'll be worse after you see him. He's just, he's a butcher.  The man's a butcher."?  And then there's always that,
"Make sure that you tell him that, you know, you know me."  Why?  What's the difference? 
He's a doctor.  What is it,
"Oh, you know Bob!  Okay, I'll
give you the real medicine. 
Everybody else, I'm giving Tic-Tacs.—Jerry Seinfeld
good news: No chemo this week. A week off means I can get more stuff done and not be on my ass. 
 

bad news: No chemo this week. My platelets are down drastically, and there’s no way for my body to produce them on its own. My hemoglobin is also way down. I will need a blood transfusion, which I’m going in for tomorrow. I have to head to the medical center and be blood typed and matched although I already know I’m O+ from my Red Cross donations past. Let’s hope they give me non-tainted blood. 
good news: I will be taking Neupogen on the next round, which will rebuild all the marrow and crap lost in my bones and help my blood remain strong (white count). It’s taken with the next cycle of chemo, starting on Thursday.
bad news: I will be administering it myself. It’s subcutaneous injections. FUN! Will have to stick myself. They say it’s fairly easy to do. Hell, if I can do contact lenses, I can do this. I talked to the guy at McKesson, who sends out the Neupogen overnight Fed Ex for Friday. He said that it needs to be refrigerated immediately. I said I would treat it like it was a box of Omaha Steaks.
bad news: they think the tumor hasn’t shrunk like they wished it would in the last cycle, and they want to move up my surgery, like after next week. I will be meeting with Janet Reno (oncologist) next week to discuss. They want to cut short the chemo and just get rid of the tumor. I can’t do that, because I won’t have the insurance ready to move on to a different surgeon, as I went to great lengths to make sure I wouldn’t have to use The Lopper. My new insurance kicks in January 1, which went perfect with the original six cycles of chemo. I will have to really fight for my rights on this. Janet Reno is kind of a hard ass.
That is all from here. I think I’ll be able to get my way. I’m just going to be a bitch.

 

November 21, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

November 18, 2008: JERRY: She’s crying, you put your arm around her and console her…you’re the consolation guy!

george1Tomorrow is chemo day. I’m ramping up for it. Tonight I have to take corticosteroids—if I don’t remember to take them, they won’t give me my treatment. Of course, the only way I can relate anything is through my veterinary knowledge. Munky has to take steroids when his dermatitis gets really bad. Dexamethazone is a hormone steroid that helps the body respond to stress, like injury or illness. Corticosteroids are given to reduce the function of cancer cells. They also help chemotherapy medicines work better by reducing allergic reactions and even work as anti-nausea meds a bit.

I was checking out another blog online (I’ve read a bunch; most are sooo self involved and go on forever like the most depressing books ever. Definitely wouldn’t get on Oprah’s list. Or would they?). This one was a graphic designer in New York. She is wildly emotional (she’s on anti-anxiety meds along with everything else), which I can’t figure out if it’s because of the treatment (she’s having chemo before surgery, like me) or whether she’s just a high maintenance woman. I know I have small crying jags, but they’re only when I feel like crap; otherwise, it’s just lean into the collar and plow through the cycle. Is it wrong that I don’t want to join a support group like this woman did on day one? Not if I have to be surrounded by whingeing women talking about their feelings, their struggles and their stress. Not for me. Too much like the WE network.

Before each round of chemo, I try to clean the house up as best I can (because God knows I ain’t gonna do it afterward); I pay up all the bills; go to the grocery store to hunt down things that might taste ok after treatment; ride my horse one more time while I’m still strong and basically get ready for a week of purgatory.

I’m still trying to have a good attitude about the chemo—after all the tumor is definitely smaller and losing its definition—so I’m framing it in my head that it’s a positive thing, not poison.

November 18, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

November 17, 2008: He’s got this rare immune deficiency in his blood. Damnedest thing. Doctors say he has to live in a plastic bubble. Can you imagine that? A bubble.

5_the_bubble_boyMonday. On the Mondays before chemo (which is Wednesday), I have to have blood drawn so that they can check my white cell count. I get the same Indian phlebotomist every time at the lab. She doesn’t even have to ask “what is your date of birth” any more to check that it really is me. I’ve learned a lot about getting stuck with needles—much more than I want. I’ve learned that even though they want you to make a fist to raise the vein up, I shouldn’t have a death grip on the little squishy ball—that will create too much pressure and they’ll “blowout” the vein. I also know which veins are a sure thing (the ones on the tops of my wrist are great for the IVs) and ones that are only good with experts (the ones on the arm’s insides are best for pulling blood). I know how to prevent that bruising that I used to get under the skin. Constant pressure for more than the five minutes they say! And I never look at it until it has the tape on it. Once it’s taped down, I’m fine.

Trainer Ty was doing some online research to see what might help build my blood back up. He was trying to check to see if I would benefit from having EPO. I never knew exactly what EPO was made for—I just knew that all the international cyclists are tested for the substance to see if they are blood doping. Who knew it was actually something cancer patients benefit from? Sadly, it’s not something I can dope my blood with, because it is iffy for breast cancer. Shame, really—I would have gotten my mountain bike tires pumped up. They may try some Neulasta thing with me, though. That would be great if I don’t have to hit bottom every cycle.

Work time now. Laguna is out the door. Now working on Laguna’s visitor’s guide with Micaela. Good to have things to do when I am running at full capacity brain wise.

November 18, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

November 16, 2008: GEORGE: “What about a hole? You ever put anybody in “the box”?”

Sunday. The end of the week. I feel like I’ve been furloughed. It’s been so wonderful to actually have normalcy. I rode Bridget this weekend, got to work out with Ty, went with Paul to the beach and sat on the shore while he fished. Food tasted delicious. Woke up feeling good (albeit only at half-strength).  It’s only a few days until I go back in. Until my furlough is over and it’s back in the hole. For now though, it’s good to be able to think of other things.

I’ve decided that one of my wigs is far too plastic looking and should only be worn when just knocking around. It’s a great design, but the strands are way Barbie plastic looking in the sunshine. I mean, aside from Pantene commercials, there is no freaking way that hair is that consistently shiny. They need to make a wig that has the regular dullness of hair. Maybe with some split ends or something.yhst-16383186999789_2026_82918704 

November 17, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

November 3, 2008: JERRY: “I know, I haven’t thrown up since June 29th, 1980.”

bwToday is Monday. This weekend was tough. I didn’t get out of bed except to go to the bathroom and take a shower. I can’t stand up for more than a minute without my heart pounding wildly, and even my chest tightens. It’s probably such a low blood count, low blood pressure that is making me this weak. That, on top of the fact that I haven’t really eaten in 3 days (I weigh myself to see where I am, and frighteningly it was down to 114 pounds. Supermodel here I come). The nausea is unbelievable—not bad enough to vomit, but very much like seasickness. I just sat in bed and watched BBC America for the whole weekend.

I liken the whole experience to being on a plane for hours and never being able to land. Just being in a holding pattern, waiting for the time when you can get up and get out of a claustrophobic situation, but I’m trapped and can’t get up, can’t move about, I just have to sit here and take it. I don’t feel like it’s my body. I’m stuck in someone else’s.

I’m tired but I can’t sleep. I get these waves of hot flashes that last for about 2 minutes, and then they go away. But they are like clockwork—every hour and a half. Even when I sleep. I wake up and have to throw the covers off because I’m roasting, and then a few minutes later, I’m deeply chilled and shivering.

It was good that this was a rainy sort of California weekend. Still on the warmer side of cool, but overcast with a few showers. Made being in bed easier. It’s always hard when the birds are singing and it’s beautiful outside to be sick.

Chemo is one tough fucker.

I feel better this afternoon. Like a cloud is slowly clearing. I’m able to walk around a bit more. I finally got out the clippers and sat on the edge of the tub and shaved off what little remained on my head. Between the pets, and me there was just too much hair on the floor of the house. In needed to take charge. It looks kind of sad, but not really. I don’t mind as much as I thought I might. I think I looked worse in the halfway stage, where I looked like a Chernobyl victim. Still at the current weight I’m at, it does have a certain eerie concentration camp look to it. I better go eat a Pop Tart.

November 15, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

October 29, 2008: Elaine: It shrinks? Jerry: Like a frightened turtle!

shrinkageCycle 3 of chemo. Every time I have chemo, I first meet with the doctor or nurse practioner to see how my hemoglobin count is, and if the tumor has shrunk. The good news is that the tumor has shrunk from 4.5 centimeters to 2.5. My nurse Nichol says that it might not go away entirely, but that won’t mean that the cancer is still in there. She said it would be “dead”. And she said some tumors go completely away, but there are still some cancer cells running rampant. So, she said, size doesn’t matter.

I’m more anemic than I was with the last cycle, but I’m going to take steps to combat that. I have the results for my MRI guided biopsy that they did on the other side: fibrosis. Nothing malignant. Awesome. The one on the left side showed some carcinoma deal with the auxiliary (or is that axillary?) lymph node. I’m going to have to look up what that means. At any rate, I think the doctors are pretty jazzed about my progress. They all like my wigs and they say I look great. I think they are amazed that I’m doing a lot of stuff on my own, like the acupuncture, the personal trainer, the glutamine and castor oil packs. I’ll do whatever it takes to get through this.

I got sat in a room with a nice Mexican lady undergoing the same type of treatment as me. My treatment only took 3 hours, but hers took 5. We talked briefly, but respected each other’s quiet time. I got to work for a little bit, and ended up editing two stories for the magazine. I felt quite happy that I was productive through that all.

The anti-nausea meds make me really sleepy. I am tired, but I feel good about almost hitting the halfway point of my treatment. It’s been 6 weeks out of 18 so far.

November 15, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

October 24, 2008: You know what I just realized? Suddenly, George has become much more normal than you.

Jerry and ElaineI do have normal days. I don’t want people to think that every single week is horrific and fraught with side effects. At the end of the cycle, I actually feel back to normal. I’m able to work out with Ty, ride my pony, do my work, everything. And it’s on those days that I can’t believe how great it is to feel good, to have energy enough to go for a little run, to see friends and have a glass of wine (I miss that. You figure out which one I’m talking about). My white cell count begins to return within normal range and I’m able to clean the house, pay bills, think more clearly. Who knew that those little things would be so important to me? It’s only a few more days until my next cycle of chemo. I’m bracing for it.

November 15, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

October 16, 2008: ELAINE: What? Clinging to some scraps?

OK, I haven’t shaved my head yet. I’m doing a comb-over to where my hair is thinning. I don’t go out without something on my head these days. I wear a beanie type cap when I go work out and a baseball cap at the barn. I wore my wigs last week for the first time. I felt weird, like I was masquerading as someone else. I felt like everyone knew the hair was fake. But then again, it’s much better than sitting there, bald and ugly. But when the oversized sunglasses go on, I feel like a complete idiot.

My skin has become really dry—even my face. At the same time, it feels kind of gummy, like a layer needs to slough off, even though it doesn’t I’ve put a bunch of moisturizer and gentle cleansers on. But then I went to Target and got the Boot’s botanical line so it should be able to sort out what’s going on. And I’m trying to drink more water. Weird thing about the water is; doesn’t come out during the day. But three times a night I have to wake up to pee. I am definitely living in someone else’s body. 

November 15, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment