Moira’s Cancer According To Seinfeld

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February 6, 2009: ELAINE: “Wait a minute, wait a minute. Who is the Lopper?” KRAMER: “Oh, it’s no big deal. It’s just some guy who’s been running around Riverside park-pffff. You know, cutting people’s heads off.”

the-lopperOkay, so here’s a not-so-quick-update for those of you playing at home. I met with my new surgeon, who I will call Dr. Cameron, on February 4. She is so awesome, and yes, she is very young and pretty, but she also has such great positive energy, and an impressive resume to match. We talked about surgery options, and what oncologist Janet Reno had recommended, which was a complete mastectomy instead of the lumpectomy, seeing that the tumor was stubbornly still around. She agreed, and said that it would be fine, that she uses a skin-sparing technique that allows the plastic surgeon to do some really “pretty work”. And we also decided that it would be best to remove the other breast, since chances of recurrence in that one increase with each year I’m on the planet. It wasn’t a huge decision to make, really…after all, if you’re going to take one, might as well take them both. She said that she would then make an appointment for me to meet with the plastic surgeon there who will be doing my reconstruction, and would get back to me in a couple of days.

 

Two days later, City of Hope left the message that I had an appointment on March 4 with my plastic surgeon. I was a little alarmed; that is pretty much the window of when I should be going under the knife after chemo. I called them back to see if there was any other time earlier. Nope.com. So then I left a message with Dr. Cameron’s office. I also decided that since I had her email address, I’d just send a quick note asking if the time frame was still OK, and explained the March 4 date.

 

I got a message back later that day. No lie, this is it.

It was great seeing you too! You did really well with your chemo. I just finished in the operating room (OR) so can respond. I emailed your plastic surgeon yesterday when I saw that your appointment was on March 4th–more to coordinate an operative date with him since usually it takes us about a month to coordinate an OR time (we book approximately 4-6 weeks out…). The first day that works for us both is March 13th. I think that is a good time: that is about 5-6 weeks after your last chemo, which gives your body enough time to heal from the chemo (for a better chance at healing from surgery) and not too far out that we worry about the cancer (but we are hoping that all of the cancer is gone!). I hope that date will work with you. His assistant just confirmed the date with me, so we will reserve that date for your surgery. you will need to come back to see me to sign all of the papers and ask any questions. I will have the girls in the clinic give you a call with an appointment date. I wish I could do it on March 4th (when you are seeing him) but I will be away at a conference.

I am glad you came back to see me. See you soon!

Please email with any other questions. Have a great weekend!”

 

I wanted to cry. All those positive little exclamation points. So so very different from The Lopper, who creepily reminds me of the Herbert character on “Family Guy.” I am in good hands now at last.

March 3, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

January 26, 2009: MORTY: “All right, all right, Let’s go already. They keep you in here a year. They don’t give a damn. I could die in here. . . . Excuse me! Excuse me! What’s going on? I’m here twenty minutes. Could somebody please help me?”

40265701denn_20020320_00353.jpgToday. My last chemo. It’s at a new location, connected with Memorial Hospital, since for some reason my new insurance doesn’t cover it being done at my oncologist’s office. This place is larger, one big room with about 7 treatment chairs. You can bring a friend here—at Oncol, the rooms are too small for that. The nurse is nice; very chatty but professional as she swoops around to each patient. We talk about my treatment, and IVs, chemicals, administration. I’m surprised at how knowledgeable I am about this stuff—a year ago; I only set foot in a doctor’s office for an annual exam and nothing more.

 

I was a little depressed last night. I picked up my anti-nausea meds, which solidified the fact that I would be ill. I have been feeling so strong that I just am bummed that I have to be sick again. But I am so, so very happy to know that this is the last one for this treatment. I am telling myself, in 5 days, you will be on the mend.

 

How odd it is, to sit here amongst this bank of strangers, all sitting next to humming machines that pump poison into their systems, and know that we all have this connection? God I hate this shit. Already I can feel the subtle onset of the chemicals. My mouth is dry (we are supposed to drink quarts of water the first day to flush out as much of the toxins as we can). As David Puddy says, it’s gonna be rough…

January 26, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

January 25, 2009: KRAMER: “Oh, I’ll take a vet over an M.D. any day. They gotta be able to cure a lizard, a chicken, a pig, a frog–all on the same day.”

Since the last treatment, I had an appointment with oncologist Janet Reno. You know, she is much more affable and light-hearted each time I see her. Maybe she has decided that she actually likes me—or maybe she’s happy that our time together is half over. At any rate, she gave me a few smiles during the course of our visit. She had the results of my mammogram and ultrasound which were done on New Years Eve. It was kind of interesting waiting with the other gals who were having theirs done, because for me, there is no worry. The rest of the women who are sitting in the “holding tank”—the area where they put the patients to sit in their cloth gowns, trying to keep the gown’s front from flapping open, as they wait anxiously for their turn. I was talking to a nice lesbian lady, and she was a little tense. She asked me why I wasn’t. I told her, I could relax; after all, it’s not like I don’t know already that the lump in my boob is malignant.

 

Janet Reno said that the results confirmed what she already knew—the tumor was shrinking, but nothing to write home about. It had gotten slightly smaller, but even with the new chemo, was not significant. A lumpectomy is out of the question. But I knew that. And I’m totally ok with that, too. At this point, I want it over and done with. I did ask if she thought I’d be a candidate for a skin-sparing mastectomy, which is awesome for reconstruction. She said she didn’t know but she did think I’d be good for immediate, rather than delayed reconstruction. I’m hoping for that; meanwhile I have my first official appointment with the City of Hope surgeon on Feb 2. I’m so happy that it’s scheduled and I will be officially her patient rather than the Lopper’s. Reno said that we would just finish with our sixth cycle of chemo, and then go to surgery. Sounds good to me. I will begin cutting out photos of good boobies to show my new doctor.

 

I have slowly returned to my workout routine. My weight training has improved a bit and I’m even getting a little more stamina. That will change with the next chemo, but it’s great to know that the muscle memory is there—that once I have surgery, I can work up to where I was before. Ty thinks it’s really important to prepare for the surgery as well, so that I can weather the after effects easier. So as soon as I am feeling up to it, we’re going to train as much as we can. But first have to get the last cycle done. Yuk.

January 26, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

January 23, 2009: ELAINE: “Oh, it’s coming in already! Wow, you have some very nice little seedlings here.”

I have small bits of downy fur on my head. I don’t think they are my real hair growing in; it seems more like baby hair, which will probably fall out and be replaced with the permanent hair. My eyebrows and eyelashes fell out, but already the eyebrows have made a comeback. Not surprising, since we Armenians don’t lack for body hair. When I was in college I was in a car accident where I pushed out a windshield with my forehead. I was told that because of the amount of glass I had in my head, I would need my eyebrow tattooed on. The damn thing started growing in before the stitches came out.

January 26, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

January 19, 2009: Kramer: “You’re a rabid anti-dentite! Oh, it starts with a few jokes and some slurs. “Hey, denty!” Next thing you know you’re saying they should have their own schools.” JERRY: “They do have their own schools.”

Ok, I know I haven’t put an entry into the blog for some time. Simple explanation: writing about my cancer treatment makes me think of my cancer treatment. But since a lot of you kind people are concerned about what is going on, here’s an update.

Since my last chemo, which was 2 days before Christmas, I’ve had two root canals done. Evidently, treatment may destroy your teeth. Now, all the books tell you to go easy on your oral care because of the tenderness and mouth sores that patients get. One even advised foregoing flossing because it can make gums bleed excessively. But to any other cancer patients out there—don’t listen to them. My dentist notes that chemo dehydrates the body, which reduces your ability to cleanse your own mouth. That, coupled with a compromised immune system, sets up a perfect storm for bacteria to set up shop and just decimate teeth, unabated.

So, three visits later to an endodontist, and two to my regular dentist, and about four grand later, of which the insurance covered half, I can almost chew on that side. Well, I always wanted to be British—now I have the teeth for it.

January 26, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

December 23, 2008: JERRY: “See that’s what I like about the holiday season. That’s the true spirit of Christmas. People being helped by people other than me. That makes me feel good inside.”

cast_elaineSo this is cycle two, but is actually cycle 5. If I had stayed on track this would be my next to last chemo. But since the doctor tacked on another cycle with the new regimen, I will have two more after today.

The last one wasn’t nearly as bad as the previous three. I don’t know exactly why but I would guess two things helped. One: Those daily shots of Neupogen, since I didn’t have that total white count crash at all. The only side effect was my spine killing me for about a day and a half. I’ve had backaches, but this was like the bones were throbbing from the inside. I could feel this pulsating pain that would appear and recede, moving from lower to middle back. It went away though, and I was fine.

The other thing was Emend. This anti-nausea medication is $100 a pill and works to cut the nausea off from the brain before it starts. Most of the others work on the stomach. Emend is only effective if taken before chemo sickness. It doesn’t work if you’ve already started to feel sick. That stuff is brilliant. Even though I was still queasy, it was nothing like before. Before, I cried a lot more because I was so helpless. I think with Emend I only had one little episode. They should put that on the package: “Reduces crying jags!”

I’m a little bummed that I will be having Christmas with Chemo. (Sounds like Christmas with Como…which reminds me of the early SCTVs where Eugene Levy played a nearly comatose Perry Como, lying on the stage singing into a microphone placed beside his head.) But I’d be even more bummed if I were postponing. Better to get this done.

I’m back home now, and am a bit more tired than usual. I think I should just take it easy. Leighanne is off to Portland for the holidays (am hoping she makes it out with all the snow/airport mess up there). She gave me “Twilight” for Christmas as a joke, but not. I’ve read worse.

My family is planning on doing Christmas here, at our house, so that if I don’t feel well, I can just plop into bed for a while. Also, I won’t have to sit in a car, which is probably a good idea. Paul will do a good amount of cooking and I am just waiting for those Yorkshire puddings. Hopefully I can eat something more than soup. The house is quite festive; I put up the fake tree a couple weeks ago and I’m actually enjoying the look. Oh, it looks totally fake, but it’s a good fake tree.

December 24, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

December 6, 2008: George: “He’s with the touring company of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. He’s the guy in charge of the wigs.” Jerry: “Boy…imagine…liking wigs to the point it becomes a career choice.”

I hate being bald. Cutting my hair short to prep for the impending hair loss was like Sampson losing all his strength. At the beginning of treatment, I would still wear a baseball cap over my thinning hair; or one of the little beanies/sleep caps that Leighanne bought for me at COH. When I went bald, I still never let Paul see me like that for many days. I felt ugly, vulnerable, and much older than those few months before treatment started.

 

The first time Paul saw me was when my cap had slipped off overnight. I wanted to crawl under the covers. He didn’t even bat an eye. Some time later, when I was lamenting over my new “look” he just told me that there was no way I could be anything but beautiful to him.  Big brownie points for that.

 

Leighanne was the first friend to see me bald. I put on a wig fashion show for her. It was no big deal.kylie-minogue-short-hair02

 

But it’s a rarity when someone sees my bald head. Too vain, I suppose. There’s no way I’m going out in public without a wig. I have this picture of Kylie Minogue after her chemo treatment on my computer and I look at it from time to time. It helps me get over myself and just concentrate on getting better. Plus, Kylie is incredibly hot today, so I just have to keep my eyes on the prize.

December 12, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

December 5, 2008: ELAINE: “Yeah! And he is a friend, Jerry. He is reliable. He is considerate. He’s like your, exact opposite.” JERRY: “So he’s Bizarro Jerry!”

good friendsFriday. Jenn came to visit. She flew down from the Bay Area to see me. Jenn and I met more than a decade ago when we worked on Horse Illustrated—she started out as my managing editor; today she continues to be a great writer and editor. Over the years, we’ve occasionally lost track of one another, but Jenn is the type of person where time is simply relative. When she heard through the grapevine that I had cancer, she immediately called and said she wanted to come see me.

We originally had it all scheduled so that she’d be seeing me on my best week, but because my chemo got shifted around twice, her flight landed on what could possibly be a very bad day. I woke up and did a check and discovered, however, I didn’t feel too bad. Not great, but certainly not sick like previous cycles.

Jenn arrived like the day itself, sunny and full of positive energy–a welcome sight standing on my front porch. In the 10 plus years that I’ve known her, she really hasn’t changed. Still tall, ageless, rail thin, smiling. I discovered, as we spent some time catching up, that she has this gentle compassion that I’d never been witness to. Around her wrist was a silken pink cord, tied there, she said, for me. Throughout the day, she continually checked how I was doing; making sure that I still felt OK. She had another friend who had just gone through treatment, so I say she was adept at dealing with us sickies. But it was this nurturing side I’d never been on the receiving end for. I will never forget how good that made me feel.  

Through all of this cancer nonsense, I’ve discovered such incredible support that I clearly don’t deserve. I’m so humbled by my friends’ concern for me. It blows me away that people are so kind and giving. In the case of Jenn, just connecting to my fellow Sagg for the day meant so much to me. We brought each other up to speed on our lives, talked of our mutual friends, had a quiet lunch and just hung out. Later, Ellyce joined us for a short visit and it was just three old friends together, enjoying each other’s company on a warm fall afternoon, and the cancer was miles away, out of sight, out of mind.   

December 12, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

December 4, 2008: Bubble Boy’s Father: So anyway, you’re his favorite comedian. he laughed so hard the other night we had to give him an extra shot of hemoglobin. JERRY: That’s nice!

img_60694Thursday, day after chemo. There it sits. The injection of Neupogen. I have to do this today. I can’t find the instructions.

Thank God for the Cybernet. I go online and Google the instructions for injecting the thing. I come up with them, funnily enough from some UK site. Yes! Meant to be. So they say for me to get the syringe out of the fridge and let it sit for half an hour first, to get to room temperature. I wait. Then I’m basically supposed to shoot it in a fleshy area, like the belly or the back of the arm (hey, I work hard so that there is no extra flesh there!). I choose the belly. I have all my goodies nearby: the syringe, the alcohol pad, and the sharps container to dispose of the needle. The instructions say to jab the needle all the way in, pull back on the plunger just to make sure that I haven’t hit a blood vessel, and then slowly administer the Neupogen in. OK, here goes. Heart beating, I take a stab. Wasn’t as terrible as I thought it would be. The needle is really tiny. I don’t see any blood vessel invasion, so I punch the rest of it in, then withdraw the needle—and then I LOOK AT THE ALCOHOL PAD THAT I FORGOT TO USE. D’oh! Well, I surmise that junkies don’t use swabs and most of them last for months, so I quickly give the injection site a pat with the pad and hope for the best. Then I try to put the sharp in the container. It doesn’t fit. I have no idea how this is supposed to work—again, no instructions. But after trying to jam the sharp through the lid, I just decide to remove the lid with a butter knife and throw it in there. I know, it’s not supposed to be cracked open like that, but what the hell.

I don’t feel too bad today. Not nearly as bad as I was anticipating. Of course, it’s not where I’m up and about, but I was really thinking it was going to be head over the toilet inspecting the “American Standard” label close up. None of that, thankfully. God bless pharmacologicals. 

December 6, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

December 3, 2008: Puddy: “Don’t mess with the Devils, buddy. We’re number one, we beat anybody! We’re the Devils! The Devils!”

we're the devilsToday started the new regimen. It’s almost like starting over—I had two whole weeks off and am totally feeling normal and actually pretty awesome. At least I’m in good shape for the remainder of treatment.

I had to take my new anti nausea medication an hour before I went to the doctor’s. It’s called Emend, and it is designed to work on the brain prior to chemo, rather than quell nausea in the stomach. It blocks the receptors from sending signals to the tummy that say, “hey asshole, you’ve poisoned me—get this out!”

The new chemo is bizarre. Adriamycin is delivered “push IV”, where they run a saline IV into the arm, and then they inject this giant syringe over 3 to 4 minutes into the line. They constantly check the blood flow to make sure that the stuff is going where it should go. Oh, and there’s good reason why Adriamycin is nicknamed “Red Devil”—even my nurses laughed when I told them I knew what some patients called it. It is one of the ones that really does make you nauseous (hence the new Emend, which is supposed to help immensely), it makes any remaining hair fall out (say goodbye to eyelashes and eyebrows) and if it gets outside the IV, it can cause the tissue to die off. Tissue necrosis is not really reversible so they are VERY careful. And they have to put it in the vein away from the joint, so no putting it in the crook of the arm or at the wrist. Usually patients have those Port-a-Cath things installed in their chests, but I don’t. Kaval, my other nurse besides Julie, said that I would probably be OK since I have good veins—another thing to be proud of. They didn’t have a problem and I finished that Devil OK.

The second one, cytoxan (love the fact that it has toxic in the name) has to be infused slowly, or it causes massive headaches like a bad sinus deal. They had it wired, though, and I was in and out of that office in just over 2 hours. Was able to get work done on the laptop and their wifi is somehow faster than my stupid Fios that I pay dearly at home for.

I felt quite good when I left the office, so I ran a couple of errands. I even thought, well, I need to have something to eat, so … hey, there’s Taco Bell! Yes, I ordered Bell Devil. It was great. Leighanne thinks I’m tempting fate—can’t really decide which one will be worse. I figured by the time the nausea fights through the current medication, that food will be out of the danger zone.

Tomorrow I start those crazy injections that I have to do at home. It looks simple enough. Hell, if I can inject the cat, if I can take staples out of the horse’s surgical wound, I can do this.

I was told today that since I am kind of like starting over, they’re going to tack on an extra cycle—so four times I’ll have these two things. Am a little bummed that I need one more, but small price to pay. Rather have to do it all now than come back later.

Am getting a little sleepy now that it’s evening. Am just going to have soup, which will hopefully give the Taco Bell better company. 

December 4, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment