Friday, October 16, 2009

End of Treatment and the start of the new Journey

I am so sorry for not keeping this blog up (thank you Elizabeth for guilting me, isn't it nice to nag me for a change!). I have no excuse for not writing about the final day of the journey nor the beginning of the next. So please accept my apologies.

That final day driving to the hospital was so surreal. I kept thinking "is this it, is this really the last time I will be treated for cancer and will these last zaps of radiation be the ones that kill Voldemort and company. Lots of thoughts, lots of emotions. But at least I knew going into this last treatment that my brain would be protected! You see, Robert presented me this morning with an aluminum foil hat that I needed to wear to ensure that my lovely radiation technicians did not take their final retaliation on me and fry my brain. So picture this ... me walking into the hospital with this large aluminum foil hat on, cupcakes in hand, their gifts in cute little bags and a big shit ass grin on. Definitely an entrance.

The girls just shook their heads and laughed. But they got even! As I walked into the radiation room, there on the machine was this cute little box all tied up in ribbons ... they got me a present! I opened this carefully wrapped box and there on a bed of tissue paper was a 1" x 1" section of that wonderful cool wrap that they would put on my chest every other day to disperse the radiation. Not sure if I talked about this before, but this "bolus" as they called it, was so cool to the touch it always felt soooooo good on, that I use to try and sneak it out of the room .. unfortunately, they always caught me ... guess I didn't have a chance since the room is video monitored! Well opening this box made me laugh so much that I started to cry, I then lost it completely when I layed down on the table and there above me on the top of the machine was a sign congratulating me on my final treatment. These are definitely amazing women. But the "got-chas" didn't stop there, earlier that morning as I was getting dressed, Robert and I decided to "make our mark on history", so as my doctors were prone to writing on the right breast with blue sharpies (mapping points, drawing areas to treat, etc.) We decided to make our own mark. Robert took a black sharpie and on the left breast wrote "Thanks for the Mammories" (haha ... get it ... mammories ... ok so we are warped). So as I was laying down on the table, and my gown was lowered, the girls were able to see our own little message. This is where they lost it! We all definitelty had a good laugh over that one! They zapped me and then we hugged and all cried (their's were probably tears of "thank god, we can get back to normal now .. the wacko won't be coming back). But seriously, it was a tearful farewell (though I won't actually be gone as I still have to see the radiation oncologist every now and then and they are only down the hall ... actually I saw them again 3 weeks later when I went back for my follow-up appointment, but that's jumping into the future.

As for the evening celebration, we decided to hold off on the champagne until after we got back from sushi ... which was delicious and yes did also include saki. On the way back we decided to really live it up and stopped at the store and bought some caviar to go with the champagne. Life is good. Sitting on the floor, drinking champagne, eating caviar and watching Keith Oberman ... does it get any better!

There were several toasts that night .. to the death of Voldemort and company, to each other, to how lucky we are, to our amazing family and friends who supported us through this journey and finally to the start of our new journey. As you all know, religion and I don't exactly see eye-to-eye and I am about as far left as you can be on the religious scale, but we do consider ourselves blessed.

Now ... What have I learned on this journey ...

o That it is very difficult to shave your underarms when you can't feel them (due to the numbness)

o You can drink and undergo radiation at the same time (we laughed allot when people would ask if "I could drink" (your right Elizabeth ... I guess I do talk allot about alcohol)

o To always bring my "boobs in a bag" whenever I go shopping cause trying on tops without boobs just loses something in the translation.

o That if ever I lose my job, I could entertain at parties doing my "boob" trick ... flexing muscles that just look soooo funny with skin, muscles, scars and nipples all going in different directions at the same time.... where's Ed Sullivan when you need him! Such a talent!

o That I am so lucky to have so many who truly care for me (guess I'm not such a bitch after all ... no comments from the peanut gallery Jason!)

o To appreciate each and every day as you aren't guaranteed a tomorrow.

o To surround yourself with people you love and be sure to tell them each and every day just how much you love them.

o That I have the most amazing family. Robert, Jason and Elizabeth .. THANK YOU, I could not have dealt with all of this and stayed so positive without you at my side. I love you all so very much. I know it wasn't a journey we wanted to take, but we came out of it stronger and happier.

As Tiny Tim would say ... God Bless Us Everyone!

Monday, September 14, 2009

ONE MORE TREATMENT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I can't believe it is finally here, tomorrow is my last radiation treatment for the demise of Voldemort and company! The end of this journey is tomorrow and the start of a new journey begins on Wednesday. I still can't get my mental hands around it! It feels like SOOOOO long ago that I was diagnosed. Yet it was only 123 days ago.

Robert and I plan on going to dinner tomorrow at the sushi restaurant we went to the day I was diagnosed (I was not about to cook that night and I sure as heck do not plan on cooking tomorrow!!! ... ok, so I will use any excuse to not have to cook!) and we intend to crack open a 1992 bottle of Dom Perignon (sorry Peggy, I know we said we would both open our bottles of 2006 Zichichi to celebrate, but I think champagne trumps a Cabernet for this, and I forgot we had the champagne... and I do like champagne!). The big dilemma is when to have it. Should we have it for cocktails before we go to dinner or have it when we come back (yes alcohol will play a big part of our celebration ... did I ever mention just how drunk I got the night before surgery ... ?) OR if we opt for after we come back, will it taste as good after my saki (can't have sushi without saki). Such a dilemma.

I am now working 4 hours a day until the 28th. Its definitely tiring and my arms/chest do hurt and numbness does get worse afterwards, but I think easing into it makes so much more sense (yes Jinny/Sherry I did learn after that one 8-hour day ... I'm not Polish, Blonde and female for nothing!!!). I actually feel like I am making progress in reconnecting the work synapsises and getting some things accomplished and future projects outlined.

I did get gifts for my two radiation technicians and Dr. Miercort's head nurse (will give it to them tomorrow). These amazing women have made this part of the journey fun and upbeat so I couldn't let the moment pass without showing them how much I appreciated their sarcasm and wit.

What have I learned through all of this .... think I will save those thoughts for tomorrow's blog.

Thanks for hanging in there with me!

Love, Kathie

Thursday, September 3, 2009

29 Down ... 7 To Go!

Well, as the title states, I have undergone 29 radiation sessions and ONLY have 7 more to go (last one scheduled for 9/15 ... WHAOO). My skin started really breaking down, so they switched my radiation plan a bit. Originally I was scheduled for 28 whole breast radiation sessions and then 8 sessions of a more "focalized -- boost" radiation. Well when the skin started having issues, they thought instead of giving me a break for a few days to give my skin a chance to heal, they would start the boost and then continue with the whole breast radiation after the 8 sessions. Which is where we are today. I can't believe we are finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel!

I went back to work on Tuesday full-time and realized by the end of the day that my body just couldn't handle being at the desk for 8 hours. My energy was zapped, my arm had some mobility issues, plus the radiation issues. So I will now be working 4 hours per day for the next few weeks and go back to work full-time on the 28th. This way it gives me a chance to ease back into work and get my strength back.

Sorry to be so short today, but I'm pooped!!!!! Thanks for hanging in there!

Friday, August 21, 2009

20 Down ... 16 to Go!!!

Well as stated above, I've gone through 20 rounds of radiation so far and have 16 more to go. It's the strangest thing to look in the mirror and see a 7" x 7" square (yes I did measure it, so its not an exaggeration!) of skin that looks like a cross between an over-ripe strawberry and a brownie that's been in the oven a bit too long! Interesting visual isn't it. After talking with my radiation oncologist today, he indicated that instead of seeing me every Friday, I will now be seeing him every other day so he can monitor my skin as it seems to be breaking down under the strain of the radiation (don't worry, I won't go into that description!!!)

Also, you might remember that I had/have a problem with the ceiling at the hospital ... its boring white acustic tiles that you have to stare at, well on Thursday after the technicians (Sandra and Venecia) finished getting me settled on the table, as the machine started to rotate around giving me a view of the ceiling, I see a sign that the girls put up that said "Hi Kathie, What are you looking at (with a smiley face)". It was the funniest thing (sounds pretty lame as I describe it, but I almost needed Depends!). These girls are so positive and do everything in their power to make it a "pleasant" experience. On Wednesday, they turned the lights off in the lounge as I was walking out and jumped out and yelled "BOO". It definitely appeals to my sense of humor. On Monday I am going to draw a winking eye on my chest with a note that say's "What are you looking at" or something equally as silly. The things you look forward toooo!!

Also, the bigger news that I should have mentioned first .... JASON GOT ACCEPTED TO LAW SCHOOL!!!!! WAHOO!!!! He's been there all week at orientation and starts classes on Monday. We are SO PROUD of him! So it looks like in 3 years we will have a dual graduation ... Elizabeth with her BA from Vanderbilt and Jason with his law degree from Elon! Hopefully they won't be scheduled for the same day! and boy is this house quiet and a bit lonely ... we do miss them!

Have a great weekend!

Love, Kathie

Friday, August 14, 2009

15th day of Radiation

Still not glowing (but haven't tried standing under a black light ... so don't know for sure!). ONLY 21 more sessions to go. Met with Dr. Miercort today (radiation doctor). He confirmed the effects that I am experiencing from the radiation are normal (sternum feels like I have been pounded on by a gorilla, my right side is such a pretty color ... think ripe strawberries, my chest skin is feeling like someone is pulling the saran wrap a little too tight and by noon I feel like a washed out dishrag. Gee, what a great picture I describe, but other than the above, I feel peachy keen!

Life in the Spitzer household will be changing drastically this weekend. Jason decided about 10 days ago to desert us and move to Greensboro, NC (I didn't think my cooking was that bad!). I wonder if the fact that his girlfriend is heading back to Elon (NC) tomorrow has anything to do with his decision! Melissa - who lives in Naples, is such a FANTASTIC woman and who possess all of the qualities you hope your children would find in a girlfriend/boyfriend (and she is really cute too … plus I think she can actually get him to keep his new apartment clean!! … what a woman!). If he doesn't get into law school (keep your fingers crossed that he hears something next week), he will be joining the "real world" and looking for that horrible 3 letter word ... JOB. He already has a roommate and is pretty psyched to start a new life (Robert and I are both jealous and sad at the same time). As for Elizabeth, she is heading back to Vanderbilt tomorrow (actually first to her mom's mountain home in NC for a few days and then onto Nashville on Thursday). Robert will be flying to Nashville on Thursday to help her get settled into her new dorm room. Nancy (Elizabeth's mom) will be helping her unpack, Robert will do all of the electrical connection stuff and Elizabeth has recruited a few boys to help with the heavy unloading … her room is on the 3rd floor with no elevator (way to go Elizabeth!!!). Wish I could be part of this "fun" but I have my rendezvous with Dr. Miercort!

So other than what I mentioned above, life is pretty much the same. Definitely miss my mom though. Since she went back to NJ on Monday, we are back to having to cook for ourselves and we don't have a regularly scheduled cocktail hour! BUMMER!!

Have a great weekend!

Love, Kathie

Friday, August 7, 2009

Life is Good!

We went to the Moffit Cancer Center on Wednesday for the second opinion of the course of my treatment. Needless to say, the few days leading up to that were not very good sleep wise for either myself or Robert. We finally got there and had to wait almost 3 hours before we saw anyone (very tough on the nerves!) and then we saw first a resident as well as fellowship person who asked alot of questions and then went over what they thought. We then waited another 1/2 hour before the big guns guy, Dr. Solimam came in to talk with us. The gist of it is he concurs with my oncologist that for my treatment, radiation is the best course of action and that chemotherapy would not be warranted. The areas that were not "margin clean" were small enough that radiation would get those suckers and they thought chemo would be an overkill (glad I didn't postpone my annual mammogram or else there would have been a different diagnosis ... hint hint for all of you woman out there who postpone yours!). Thankfully my cancer was caught early! He did suggest for an overall point of view that I research clinical trials for Herceptin (the drug that treats the Her2Neu aspect of my breast cancer ... great moving about the development of this drug... Harry Connick Jr plays the dr. who developed it ... "Living Proof" ... great movie and a definite tear jerker! But without his persistence, there wouldn't be any drug out there to treat this type of agressive cancer! So I will research it and look at the criteria out there for it and see if it is something I want to pursue or qualify for.

Other than that, have my 10th radiation treatment today ... only 26 more to go! The fatigue is definitely setting in .. I am wiped by early afternoon. But luckly so far no radiation burns (have a salve that I put on 3 times per day) but the skin is getting tighter which I have to try and reduce so that the reconstruction goes easier (sometime in January/February). I also developed an infection in one of the drain sites (the scar from the mastectomy drains. Have been using an antibiotic ointment on it but the dr. will determine today if I need to go on oral antibiotic to treat it.

My mom has been here since Monday and is a great help. She is like the energizer bunny. Nothing stops that woman. She is determined to rid every weed out of my garden before she leaves! And the kids (and Robert) have seconds/thirds when she cooks so they aren't too keen to see her go either (I NEVER get them to have seconds when I cook .. lucky if I can get them to finish their plates!)

Today I need to tackle all of the medical bills. I put them in an excel spreadsheet based on the information from the insurance forms and actuals bills last week ... that's when I found out that if I spend any more than 1 hour on the computer my right arm is not happy. Anyway, I want to review each one to ensure no double billing, etc. and then start that lovely part of paying them. Boy am I glad I have insurance ... THANKS PWC FOR HAVING SUCH GREAT COVERAGE!)

I forgot to mention the amazing medical knowledge of both Robert and Jason. Last night over dinner they wondered why I am not covered in some protective covering while being zapped by radiation (especially since the technicians are behind a 1 foot deep wall. So in order to protect me, they made a tin foil helmet for me to use to protect my brain. They are still revising it to figure the best way (and most stylish) to protect my female polish brain (for some reason they think I need all the protection I can get :( Stay tuned for pictures ... yes beer and wine was consumed during this endeavor!

Have a great weekend all! Miss you!

So that is the exciting news in my world.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Day 5 of Radiation

Today I go in for my 5th radiation treatment. It still amazes me how fantastic the people at the hospital are. They make a stressful situation "enjoyable" and "pleasant" if you can utilize such words for a treatment/situation that is frying your insides. Oh well!!!! The treatments don't hurt, you just lie on this table and the machine rotates around you and zaps for about 30 seconds each time. The tattoos are little black dots (a total of 6). I still want to paint the ceiling as it really bugs me that its a boring white (sorry Elizabeth ... she keeps giving me the look to "shut up please about the stupid white ceiling, gotta love that kid!). She made the most beautiful cupcakes last night for me to bring to the hospital today (thanks sweetie!). They look like sunflowers (if I knew how to post a picture I would include it!). I am sure they will be a big hit with the technicians.

While I was in the changing room on Wednesday, a woman came into the room crying. I was so concerned for her that it was bad news. But it was the best possible news ... she just finished her last radiation treatment. She was so happy, I couldn't stop hugging her as she cried in my arms. What a great feeling!

Also on Wednesday after my treatment, Kay came over for my weekly reflexology appointment (thanks again Lynn, Dennis and Danielle and of course Raymond .. the dog... who was only born a dog but doesn't realize that he is one). It feels so great to have this done and all of the research I have seen indicates that it does have a positive effect on treatment! Afterwards, I feel like "just peel me a grape".

The tiredness has started to set in. After yesterday's treatment, by the afternnoon I was ready to just lie down and not move. Will see what happens today. At least I have the weekend off from treatment.

My mom comes on Monday for a week long visit. Can't wait to see her. The radiation people said she can come into the room and see what is going on so that she can understand the treatment and lessen her worries. I know I am looking forward to all those things a mother does ... cooking, cleaning, ironing, filing, cockail hour, etc. She doesn't realize that we have been compiling a list of to-do's for her! Glad she doesn't have a computer and can't read this or she might consider cancelling her flight!

Well have to run to my appointment and "kill Voldermort". Have a great weekend!!!!