Archive for March, 2008

plot twists

Sometimes I think God’s sense of humor is a little sick- we keep accidentally renting movies where one character unexpectedly dies of cancer. Suddenly the character has a cough or is tired and pale. No warning on the box or in the reviews. They should put a gold ribbon on the box. Or, better yet, a scull and crossbones. These movies always have the obligatory doctor’s office scene. That’s usually when the “cancer music” starts up. You know, the slow sad violin, the sentimental strokes of a piano. This character always, always, always, without fail, dies.

To lighten the mood, I now play a little movie-watching game- I guess aloud to Nathan which characters in a movie are “marked for death.” In most com/dram movies, the person marked for death becomes inexplicably enlightened or says something profound. They might show this character basking in the glory of simple pleasures- staring at children playing for prolonged periods of time with that marked-for-death smile, you know that drippy “isn’t life grand?” look. Yep. They’re a gonner.

Just once, just one fucking time, I’d like to see a movie where someone recovers from a serious cancer. An “end stager.” Because it happens in real life, damn it. At least 5% of people “marked for death” in real life survive their illness and die years and years later from something else. Now there’s a story that defies Hollywood formula! What a twist! Who saw it coming? You’ve got conflict, struggle, and SURPRISE, victory. Shit, if you like death so much, make them survive their deadly cancer only to have them slip on a banana peel and crack their head open like an egg on the sidewalk.

Please know that I am not staring at children playing with that creepy death grin. Sad cancer music does not follow me everywhere I go. I am not ready to impart some beyond-this-world wisdom to my loved ones. I still curse and laugh and dance (badly.) And, despite what many think, cancer is not going to kill me. My character has a lot of plot left.


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juicy snobbery

It is interesting to me that one of the hardest things for my friends and family to grasp amid all my cancer craziness is that I will not be drinking again, EVER. In fact, in retrospect, I think I think it fair to point out that I may have been somewhat of an alcoholic. It has been 6 months and 5 days since my last taste of Satan’s Nectar; An $18 glass of cab with dinner at the Don Cesar on my wedding night (what can I say, I wanted to go out in style.) That legendary glass of wine won many awards in my book- best cab, longest lasting drink, most expensive wine (but not most expensive drink. That record is held by a $25 glass of Midleton very rare irish whiskey I had in Manhattan in 2001.) Throughout the meal I pontificated like a yuppie high on Starbucks about its bouquet, harmonious fusion and the complexity of its layers. Although I cannot tell you its name or from where it came- I knew there was no need to commit these things to memory since I would soon jump on the wagon and wouldn’t ordinarily justify such a luxury anyhow. All things considered, quitting drinking has been much easier than expected despite the fact that I had tried to quit many times in the past with no success. Nothing like the threat of your imminent death looming around the corner to quell those long Island Ice tea cravings. I don’t think my drinking necessarily caused my cancer but it sure it didn’t do my body any favors. It certainly didn’t do the trick I was hoping for- ablating my social anxiety, erasing a painful past and easing muscle aches and pains. Maybe temporarily, but those hurts were even more vivid the next morning in sync with the jack hammering on my brain.

I do need to make one thing abundantly clear- I do not care if you drink around me. I don’t even care (aside from my concern for your health and safety) if you drink to excess. I will not judge you if you slur your words beyond recognition and flail around in a frenzy and have no recollection of it the next day. Do not feel bad if you pushed that 5th drink on me way back when- Nobody forced it down my throat, despite what I may have claimed the next morning. Find comfort in the fact that I drank even when you were not around.

As far as being a connoisseur of all tastes acquired, it was fun while it lasted. I will never forget the bliss of a good, stinky piece of Gorgonzola or a good glass of Belgium ale. Gone are the days of Guatemala Antiqua coffee (at least orally) and Lindt truffles. These things are a small price to pay for my life. At least I can still have garlic. I manage to maintain my snobbery through high thread count sheets, rare vinyl, obscure organic vegetables and jasmine dragon phoenix pearls scented green tea from Teavana.

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First of all, I want to apologize to those of you who have sent me gifts, money, good vibes, etc., and have not yet received a thank you note. Please know that I am so grateful, you make me feel very, very, very loved. I am writing these things in little spurts, 3 at a time. It’s a lot to keep track of! Your overwhelming generosity and concern has really driven home the point – there is so much good in the world.

I have decided to cancel all of my travel plans for the next year, including day trips and weekend getaways. The fact is, I can not do the Gerson therapy and travel at the same time, it is virtually impossible and quite stressful to attempt. Previously, my attitude was “hey, it’s OK to cheat every once and awhile.” Yeah, that was before I knew that there were tumors on my liver and lungs. My goal is to hear these words from my doctor: There is no trace of cancer in your body after which point I will stay on the therapy for another year, then throw a huge awesome I’m Healthy! party and then travel my ass off (not that I have one anymore…) I assume that at that point I will have the energy to enjoy traveling.

Speaking of my ass, being toothpick thin is not all it’s “cracked” up to be. I get those looks, you know the oh-my-god-she’s-so-anorexic looks. Karma is a bitch, I know I’ve shot that look before. Never again. We never can tell what challenges another human being is faced with, something I try to remind Nathan of every time I am a passenger in his car (he has road rage, one of his two vices, the other being an extreme penchant for chocolate milk.) But, seriously, I drink 8oz of juice every hour. Throughout the day I eat salad, potatoes, rice, soup, 2,500 calories a day. The wasting is mostly from the cancer itself. It’s called cachexia. Put simply, the cancer was eating my body. The good news is that recent blood tests show that my protein is right in the middle of the normal range, as are all minerals. In fact, other than my tumor markers (which are steadily declining), my blood is very normal. Eventually I will gain weight. Believe me, I know my body looks like one of the Olsen twins on a crack binge.

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Since I missed the whole “liver mets” thing I decided to go back and look at the reports from my old CT scans. Turns out there was also lung mets (by the way, “mets” is short for metastasis, which means cancer that has spread to places other than where it originated.) Jesus F*##*%^ Christ, is there anywhere this cancer didn’t go? Again, glad as hell I didn’t know all of this from the beginning. It would have been way way way way way too much. I just read these reports and now I am in total shock. I guess I can pretty much assume that the lumps on my neck meant the cancer had spread there too. thank god those are gone. Two lessons in all of this- 1. Inform yourself. Doctors may not tell you everything. 2. If you have cancer, know that it is never too late. There is always hope. Wow, I can’t believe I am still alive. The fact that I am making progress against these odds is so amazing. Thank you everyone for all of your help and generosity. Also, thank you for reading and responding to the blog! It reminds me how lucky I am to have such an awesome support system. I know that has helped me heal so much. I have a lot to live for!

Well, I just talked to Nathan on the phone. He said the doc told me I had lung mets, he could see them when he went to collapse my lung during my second heart surgery. I must have been pretty drugged up when the doc told me because I have absolutely no recollection of receiving this information. News to me.

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First, the good news

The good news is that the cancer in my bones has not grown or spread at all and that the cancer in my liver has shrunk to half its original size. Here is where the needle comes off the record- What the hell do you mean, “cancer in my liver?!” Apparently, I have been misinformed- my cancer had spread to my brains, bones, fluids around my heart and my liver. Oh, ok. I guess it is good thing that I didn’t know this before. It would have been pretty discouraging considering my nutritional therapy is based mainly on how well my liver functions. I still haven’t found any success stories wherein someone recovered from bone & brain breast cancer mets, if you add liver mets, I’m sure the percentage of survivors goes down even further. I know they’re out there, I just haven’t found them. So how on earth did I miss a giant detail such as this? That’s simple. My doctor didn’t tell me anything about it! To be fair, I am partially to blame; In the beginning I could only handle small chunks of medical information. I remember specifically telling a team of doctors that visited my bed every day at Moffitt that I didn’t want to know the stage of my cancer or how long they expected me to live.

Now if I could just get the damn bone mets to shrink. They got the hint and left my scull but they seem to like hanging out in my torso. They’re just lying around not doing much, but they certainly have overstayed their welcome.

So the news is mostly good. I was a nervous wreck all morning but I even took that as a good sign- It probably means that my adrenal glands are working again which would indicate the tumor on my pituitary had shrunk even more. And you thought I was a pessimist.

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nettie.jpg Well, it’s all about sticking salt water up your nose on purpose. That’s right. But if you lived in the 3rd worst metropolitan area for allergy sufferers in the country, you’d try a lot of wacky shit too. I am looking out my front window as I type and from this vantage point I can see 3 magnificent oak trees in my yard. As lovely as they are, they are the cause of much misery in March- sinus headaches, watery eyes, sneezing, coughing up mysterious stuff. Not to mention tying up my much-needed immune system. I keep telling people if I can just make it through March, there is a light at the end of my tunnel.. But I digress- In my quest to explore every natural alternative out there for my allergies, the nettie pot was a last resort. Even once I had purchased the thing from Whole Foods I let it sit for a long time in it’s box as I worked up the nerve to use it. It’s not that bad if you can get the angle of your head just right, you have to sort of twist your neck until your head is sideways and your chin and forehead are on roughly the same plane. The painful part of water up your nose is more about water going down your throat; if you get your head just right from the start you can avoid that trauma. It helps that the water is heated to body temperature. But the most frustrating part is that it only seems to help for a few minutes. It will clear everything out, but if you live with as many oak trees around you as we have those particles will find their way back into your sinuses in no time. As it is I have my very loud Whirlpool hepa filter on 24/7 and I am keeping the guy who sells local seasonal honey at the Saturday market in business.

In other news, I get my CAT scan results Thursday. Wish me luck!

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