Wednesday, November 9, 2011

As each new test further reduced the likelihood of my having recurrent cancer, I relaxed and regained my equanimity. The PET scan did not give a final answer. The needle biopsy produced just some inflammatory cells, no sign of malignancy. However, the new spot remains, and there is no good answer as to what it is.
Meanwhile, I am enjoying working 4 days a week. Mondays remain open for appointments, tests, exercise and just being with my husband. Thanksgiving is coming up(my favorite holiday), and we are starting to plan for Christmas. I try to enjoy each day despite my feeling of uncertainty. A followup CT scan to check on the new spot will occur late this month.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The PET scan was another adventure. The day before I could only eat protein and non-starchy vegetables. Never thought I would miss bread and FRUIT like I did. Not only that, but I couldn't exercise, was not even supposed to take a walk. Couch potato heaven without the snacks. On the day of the test I walked from the waiting room outside to a trailer, then up on a lift to get inside. There, an IV was started in my hand and radioactive sugar injected. I had to rest in a recliner for 45 minutes, not even allowed to read, waiting for my tissues to take up the glucose. If I fidgeted too much I might have caused excessive uptake of the glucose in my muscles and thus ruined the images. So I slept. Finally into another part of the trailer for a CT scan, ho hum after all I have had.

The results were more good than bad but not definitive. The new mass was not "hot" as a cancer would be expected to be but "warm", close to normal. The next step is a needle biopsy scheduled for Monday. I can't help being optimistic as more checks fall in the NOT CANCER column. If not a recurrence, what?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Last week began another routine followup, starting with blood work. I was a little frustrated as I was not able to get the results before the oncologist did, plus, I had to delay my CT scan until this Monday. As you might imagine, I was a bit anxious going in to the appointment. Though my tumor marker was the lowest it has ever been, and normal, my CT scan showed a new mass in my pelvis, small, but definitely new. This looked like a recurrence of the cancer, but why was my tumor marker normal? A PET scan is scheduled for next Monday to answer this question.
What a let down. Yesterday was my birthday and instead of celebrating, I sat in the oncologist's office with John, hearing bad news. Today I was back at work, queasy from worry, trying to enjoy the birthday surprises arranged for me. Among these was a wonderful chocolate cupcake. Mmmm. It went a long way toward improving my mood. Amazing how a group of happy, singing people could remove part of the burden I was carrying. And how attending to my patients' needs made the bad CT recede in my memory.
Thank you all.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Warm weather was late in arriving, waiting until the first day of summer. Our newly bought tomato plants barely held on. Though I welcome summer and being able to spend time working in the yard, I have had an unexpected response to the blue skies. I find myself remembering the days of chemotherapy last summer and how I felt, vividly, right down to the queasiness. What a bad joke, having something so beautiful remind me of those miserable days when I just sat in the recliner for hours on end. In response, I have gone outside, worked in the yard and bicycled, all of which banished the feeling, for now. Having a healthy summer will do a lot for my memories. On the other hand, just as certain smells and the song of the meadow lark bring me right back to my early childhood in Culdesac, I'm sure I will still be surprised at times by the association between glorious weather and the summer of 2010.

Happy Independence Day.


Friday, June 3, 2011

We just returned from Turkey where we travelled as part of a cultural exchange sponsored by the Pacifica Institute. The food was wonderful, featuring lots of fresh vegetables. We ate cucumbers, tomatoes and eggplant at all three meals, cabbage salad at lunch and dinner. Yogurt, lemon juice and crushed red chilies were common condiments. And the meat was delicious, grilled, most often,and wonderfully seasoned. We had baklava in all its variations for dessert, or baked rice pudding. Shops sell cones topped with "sticky" ice cream that doesn't drip or fall off the cone. This is making me hungry.
The Turkish people we met were warm, friendly and very generous. The country is about 98% Muslim. One of the tenets of Islam involves giving selflessly to others. This is manifested in society in many ways. Most surprising to me was the amount of private money poured into education. New universities established and supported completely by groups of businessmen seemed to be commonplace. Usually students are required to learn English. Many of these institutions stress the sciences, math and engineering. Similarly, private high schools and college prep tutoring centers have been developed. All have tuition comparable to schools in the US, and all have scholarship programs for needy students.
Health care is free. Patients can schedule their appointments on line and usually be seen the next day. Physician salaries are relatively high as more doctors are needed. Employers pay health premiums and social security from the first day someone is hired. All children 18 and under are covered. There is coverage for those who are unemployed or disabled but I was never able to understand how it differed from that of the employed person. We were told that most of the tax revenue comes from gasoline tax. Gas was about $12.00 a gallon. Other sources are property and sales tax.
Though half of our time was devoted to meeting with and getting to know all sorts of people, the rest was spent site seeing. We visited mosques, palaces, Roman ruins, rug makers, bazaars, ceramic painters and frescoed early Christian churches in underground cities. All fascinating to someone from a town just celebrating its 150th birthday.
If you get a chance to visit Turkey, don't pass it by.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Another three month check is behind me. There is still no sign of recurrent cancer. When I got the news last week I felt like celebrating. Lucky the weekend was coming up. Perhaps after July I will only need to go through the anxiety every 6 months. In May John and I will travel to Turkey with 7 or 8 others as guests of Pacifica Institute. Once we arrive in Istanbul we will put ourselves in our guide's hands and leave the rest to him. Intriguing e-mails about Ottoman history show up in my in box every 2 or 3 days. I must admit I know little about the country. Not too long after our return we head to Taiwan on the trip we missed last year due to my cancer diagnosis. Taipei has some marvelous museums. John will have meetings with officials having to do with international trade. What a difference a year makes. On April 21st I had my tumor removed, easy to remember as it was also the day of the explosion leading to the huge Gulf oil spill. I have vague memories of viewing footage of the burning platform as I recovered from the anesthetic. The Gulf and I both had a rough summer. I continue to be thankful for every day, my weight has almost returned to pre-cancer levels (boo), my neuropathy really is improving and gardening season is here. What more could I ask for?

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Someone told me the other day that my sense of humor is better than it used to be. I do seem to be taking more time to enjoy both work and play as a result of my fight with the "bear."

A bear is a more fitting mascot for cancer than a crab. I think of crab as dinner, not as a threat. Treatment does seem to pluck you from the jaws of death, but not until a little mauling has occurred. It takes a while for the wounds to heal, and at any time you might meet the bear again along the way.

The exam at my surgeon's office this month was normal. Another CT scan is due in mid April along with another Ca 125. I alternate between feeling sure I am still cancer free and wondering what the treatment will be like if the tumor returns. April also marks the first anniversary of my diagnosis. I'll be wearing a bell to scare away any bears.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

More great news! My CT scan and Ca 125 results are still normal!

Strangely, after half expecting an early recurrence, suddenly I must live assuming myself to be cancer free. Long term plans can be made with some expectation that I will see them come to fruition. I can't ignore my cholesterol any more. I'll miss those occasional hamburgers and fries. And I really need to return to exercising.

With the recent abnormally warm weather (record high temperature this past Sunday) I've been called to the garden. Lola loves having the chance to chase a tennis ball, too. The front yard is going to be so manicured by springtime... The squirrels are everywhere, searching for walnuts buried in the fall and eating the berries still remaining on our bushes. Even the birds are starting to get noisier.

Next testing, April.