Buts and Fat Cells gone bad

Yesterday saw me heading up the hill armed with my MRI scans to see Dr B about those annoying nodules!  Was so nice to also have some company – thank you Gerry! 

Once again I was just blown away by Dr B’ kindness and care.  She greeted me with a smile and a ruffle of my hair, saying how good my hair was looking.  I guess she was really just being rather nice as it really was looking particularly wild!  Can’t seem to keep the wavy excuses for curls under control these days!  

So, long story short….she also seemed to think they were enlarged fat cells \ left over breast tissue which may have become infected or swollen due to hormonal changes\ scar tissue behaving badly…..but no way of really telling without whipping the suckers out. 

My heart sank….. 

She must have sensed my reluctance at the mention of surgery as she also added that it may be more beneficial to leave them for a few weeks to see if they changed or actually got the hint that they were not welcome and simply disappeared.  I certainly perked up at that option. 

BUT she said she would certainly understand if my instincts were screaming for me not to ignore them, especially considering what I had already been through with nasty lumps and the fear of nasty lumps returning…. she would also support THAT decision 100% and would remove them asap if I felt so inclined!     

In a way it was good to hear her say that as despite my complete fear of being involved in any further surgical procedures  was the complete fear of leaving them in. 

I have had lumps checked and scanned since I was in my very early 20’s and had been advised to leave them as they were harmless…. until they wern’t.  So trusting my own instincts is something I’M not 100% sure about! 

BUT (and as always, here it is!!) I needed to understand that there was always a chance of her perforating the implant if she cut them out.  EISH!

BUT she was fairly sure with what she felt she could get them out ok, under local anaesthetic in her surgery….. GULP!

 BUT that she would have to probably have to cut a little wider than my current scar – BUT probably not too much more EISH and Double Gulp! 

So for now I’ve opted to take the waiting route……for now at least I’m comfortable with that…….I think…. ?

 

“I have been and still am a seeker, but I have ceased to question stars and books; I have begun to listen to the teaching my blood whispers to me.” Hermann Hesse

“Regular people have such a hard time listening to the low hum of instinct.” Suzanne Palmieri

Instinct 4

Instinct 3

Instinct

Instinct 2

 

 

Fat cells

Just remember to breathe…

Breathe

So today was the day….

The morning started with a 7:30 visit to the laboratory for a blood test before my scan.  I must say on the drive there I actually felt a little more nervous – it had been a while since I had blood taken and I couldn’t actually spot any decent visible veins on my left arm.  I was mentally preparing myself for the foot thing ****scream face**** 

Luckily the lab sister along with the assistance of 1 x very tight compression band found one lurking in my hand 🙂

Despite the success at the Lab, I arrived for the MRI feeling rather ill.  The stress of the last week coupled with the memories of mammograms, biopsies and scans 15 days short of one year ago, were a little too fresh for comfort… 

 Fortunately I didn’t have too much time to wallow.  Before I knew it I was sitting in a chair wearing a rather flattering ***NOT! ***navy blue gown while a nurse tried to locate yet another vein!  They needed to attach a line through which the contrast could be administered during the scan.  It was clearly my day – she found one in the crook of my arm with the assistance of another 1 x very, VERY tight compression band. 

All suited up I was ushered towards the scanning machine and then VERY quickly told that apparently I did not need to remove my gown completely………….. as I stood there in my panties ***slaps head***I tell you there really is an exhibitionist in me!

Now anyone who has ever had an MRI of the chest (boobs) will tell you that it’s not a particular comfortable position to be in, figuratively and literally!  You have to lie on your tummy with your chest (boobs) in this device which I can only describe as cup holders .  No jokes – they look exactly like grown up versions of the cup holders I have in my car.  I was then asked what my cup (no pun intended) 🙂 size was so they can adapt the holders: either by adding “padding” to make them smaller or to take “padding” out to make the holes bigger – and when I say padding I don’t mean lovely soft cushioning fabric – I mean a hard plastic insert which they try and soften with paper towels.  Even the consultant said to me – “these have definitely been designed by a man”. 

cup holder

So there I was with my boobs inserted like Macdonald shakes into the cup holders while lying comfortably…..NOT!!!…… (the headrests are definitely not made for anyone with a nose) with earplugs in my ears and a panic button in my hand (just in case) although I don’t quite know how you would actually know to panic when you couldn’t hear or see a thing!   

The radiographer communicated with me via a speaker inserted in my head (ok so maybe not quite in my head) but that’s the impression I got and the conversations went something like this:  The radiographer: “Mrs Elliott are you ok” Me: “des umm byn” – apparently she did understand whale…or alternatively she actually could understand what someone said while they lay on their stomach with two blocked nasal passages!

Then the scanning began which can only be compared to walking into a rave club…….completely sober.  There is this really loud “doof doof” base-like noise with an occasional screech thrown in for good measure followed by a loud vibration which makes you feel as though you are suspended in a wind tunnel…………..without the wind.  

At some point in the procedure the radiographer let me know that the contrast would be inserted into my vein, fortunately she did or I might have missed the burning pain in my arm…. EISH!

It may or may not surprise you to find that I have a mantra for MRI’s too!  Which was a really good thing today as this one took an hour to complete – time takes on a whole different dimension when you are suspended in the tunnel.

Apparently the implants also make it a little more difficult to get a clear picture……

We rushed off to the Dent Doctor just as soon as I was able to get myself out of my gown.  He was already looking at the images on his laptop when we arrived in his office – isn’t technology amazing!  But he was still waiting for the contrast images (apparently how the dye washes in and out of the cells indicates whether there is a malignancy present or not) and the radiographer’s report.  BUT he showed us the images anyway while he explained why he didn’t think there was anything to worry about……. ummmm yes I see the blurry grey line next to the blurry grey round thing……. apparently the absence of white bits was a positive thing although we were not to worry about THAT white bit on the side as that was just a blood vessel……..ummm….sure…… OK!   

We left the Cancer Centre feeling a little more at ease but the real relief hit an hour and a bit later when he called to say he had the final images and report and it was all DEFINITELY clear!

It felt like as though I was finally able to take my first full breath in over a week….. 🙂

“We experience moments absolutely free from worry.  These brief respites are called panic”. Cullen Hightower

Keep Calm

A Lump in the road….

This has been a week of highs and some lows…….

It started off really well with a day trip to the beautiful Midlands with my sister, Shaldean, in celebration of her 40-something birthday.  There was some shoe shopping and lunch involved along with a trip to Culamoya, where she adopted some wind chimes -we were told by the lady who makes them that you cannot buy something made with love.  The ones Shal finally chose were aptly named “Happy” they certainly “sound” exactly like that – Happy 🙂

Shal at Culamoya

Shal at Culamoya

Despite having lived for the majority of my life in PMB, TODAY I did the Capital Climb for the very first time!  OK, so before any of you who know me fall on the floor with incredulation and hysterical laughter, I need to clarify that it was the 5km fun run!  And in MY case, it was the 5km (not-so-fun-up-Taunton-Road) walk.

I really should be walking these distances with a compression sleeve to keep the lymph under control on the right side; so to compensate I have to do a fair number of hand shaking and hand flicking to keep the circulation moving – I’m sure for anyone walking behind me it looks as if I am constantly indicating my intention to change lanes!  🙂

I was particularly proud of Pete who did the full 15km run in an amazing time – despite the resulting nipple blisters – hee hee sorry for you – fortunately for me I will NEVER have that problem!!!

Capital Climb 1

And yesterday, after a 4+ month break, I was finally able to get back to pilates!  It was quite a shock to the system and a very LONG road ahead to get back to where I was a year ago.  I fully faced THAT reality when I ROLLED out of bed this morning with EVERY muscle in my body protesting, desperately tempting me to stay in bed rather than put my takkies on!

The downsides to the week started with the news of Robin Williams’ death.   It took me back to my Standard 9 year when our whole grade walked all the way from our school to the Capital Towers movie house to watch DEAD POETS SOCIETY.  I have never actually watched the movie again but it remains one of those movies that will always resonate with me.   RIP Captain…..

Dead poets society

Yesterday also saw Pete and I heading to the Dent Doc’s office a week earlier than my scheduled 6 week post radiation check-up………

So there I was earlier this week with my lotions and potions, studiously working on my daily lymph drainage.  Massaging my right boob to help break down the radiation scarring so it doesn’t become a complete solid mass, putting on my bio oil and scar repair creams…….when my heart literally  stopped…..…on my left side just beneath the surface of my now almost invisible original mastectomy scar, I felt a tiny lump.

As I managed to get my breathing back under control I moved my fingers slightly higher up and found another one and then a slightly bigger one.  Now to anyone who has ever found their own breast tumours, I’m sure you understand the complete terror I’m talking about – how your body goes completely cold in denial and disbelief.  So much so that you have to go back over the spot again and again, just to make sure….. just in case you made a mistake the first 5 times………

Yip despite re-checking and re-checking and re-checking, they were definitely still there – 3 definite round lumps.

Well needless to say Pete and I haven’t slept particularly well since then.

Pete clearly less so as he emailed the Dent Doctor yesterday morning and managed to get us an early appointment….

The drive there felt like the same one we took there almost a year ago…

The Dent Doc examined me in almost complete silence (which kinda added to the stress) but did stop to remark on how amazed he was at the incredible healing of my radiated side!  I did beam at that cos it has taken a lot of hard work from both Gillian and I to get it looking that “good”!

After I managed to get dressed despite constantly shaking fingers, he sat down with us and said he wasn’t overly concerned…. BUT that there was definitely something there ……quite possibly it was a few fat cells which had adhered to the scar tissue (damn those fat cells, the bane of my life!!!).  BUT that he needed to eliminate any other (nasty) alternatives and the only way he could do that was by sending me for a scan.  BUT should that still be inconclusive he would need Dr B, my plastic surgeon, to cut that part of the scar out to investigate further……..

So Wednesday morning I head back to the hospital for an MRI ……………..  😦

 

Toughness is in the soul and spirit, not in muscles – Alex Karras

“Sisters function as safety nets in a chaotic world simply by being there for each other.”  Carol Saline

“Whenever you read a cancer booklet or website or whatever, they always list depression among the side effects of cancer. But, in fact, depression is not a side effect of cancer. Depression is a side effect of dying.” John Green, The Fault in Our Stars

“Cancer is messy and scary. You throw everything at it, but don’t forget to throw love at it. It turns out that might be the best weapon of all.” Regina Brett

“The only courage that matters is the kind that gets you from one moment to the next” – Mignon McLaughlin

My favourite Dead Poets Society quotes:

“O Captain, my Captain. Who knows where that comes from? Anybody? Not a clue? It’s from a poem by Walt Whitman about Mr. Abraham Lincoln. Now in this class you can either call me Mr. Keating, or if you’re slightly more daring, ‘O Captain my Captain’.”

“Why do I stand up here? Anybody? I stand upon my desk to remind myself that we must constantly look at things in a different way.”

“They’re not that different from you, are they? Same haircuts. Full of hormones, just like you. Invincible, just like you feel. The world is their oyster. They believe they’re destined for great things, just like many of you, their eyes are full of hope, just like you. Did they wait until it was too late to make from their lives even one iota of what they were capable? Because, you see gentlemen, these boys are now fertilizing daffodils. But if you listen real close, you can hear them whisper their legacy to you. Go on, lean in. Listen, you hear it? – – Carpe – – hear it? – – Carpe, carpe diem, seize the day boys, make your lives extraordinary.”

“Now we all have a great need for acceptance, but you must trust that your beliefs are unique, your own, even though others may think them odd or unpopular, even though the herd may go (imitating a goat) “that’s baaaaad”. Robert Frost said, “Two roads diverged in the wood and I, I took the one less travelled by, and that has made all the difference.”

“I always thought the idea of education was to learn to think for yourself.”

“Boys, you must strive to find your own voice. Because the longer you wait to begin, the less likely you are to find it at all. Thoreau said, “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation.” Don’t be resigned to that. Break out!”

Hormones and Impossible choices

Eish it’s Day 4 of my 7 day detox juicing plan – apparently from today it starts getting easier so I’m waiting in anticipation for the hunger pains and the craving of just being able to chew on something, to go away.

Pete has been in Joburg most of this week so thankfully I have not had to cook for him, cos I think (or rather I DO know) I wouldn’t have made it past day one!  (I think he was just as thankful!)

My brain doesn’t feel less fuzzy as yet, so here’s hoping the miracle happens on days 5-7!

Other than chatting to Megan last week about my toxic liver, fuzzy brain and the eating plan I will be starting after these 7 days of torture, I mean detox – no I REALLY mean TORTURE; we also discussed the next phase of my Oncology treatment – the HORMONE BLOCKERS………

She introduced the topic on my very first visit to her. As in, had I heard of a natural product which had been shown to be very effective and even out-performed the Oncology drug of choice, Tamoxifen, in blocking the “bad” hormones without the “bad” side effects.

UMMM NO, what’s Tamoxifen and what bad side effects??? Ok I can be forgiven, I was still having chemo at that stage and most of my energy was spent on getting through one treatment at a time – I certainly was not thinking about the 5 years of drugs I was due to start at the end of radiation!

I began doing my own Google research and like ALL my other research, it was completely frightening! However, in my limited access to medical research, the natural product certainly appeared to outweigh the Tamoxifen option – hands down.

B U T (and unfortunately there IS always at least one!) the natural product (I3C) has not been subjected to extensive (expensive) medical trials and therefore does not have the research to back it up – unlike Tamoxifen. And this was exactly the concern the Dent Doctor had after I first broached the subject with him – he had never even heard of it…

Now don’t get me wrong, there are thousands of women out there successfully taking Tamoxifen for hormone positive breast cancer. The drug has been around since the 70’s and has contributed significantly to the survival of many woman (and men) with this type of cancer.

So WHY you may ask, I’m even having this debate……….for goodness sake take the damn pills!

B U T when the first line of the Patient Drug Information (package insert) reads: “This drug may raise the chance of very bad and sometimes deadly side effects like stroke, blood clots, or endometrial or uterine cancer” it does make you take a moment to stop and think.

The non-severe side effects include: Hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms (because that’s what it puts you into – menopause); back, bone, muscle and or joint pain, dizziness, insomnia; weight gain; vaginal discharge; depression; constipation; cataracts; …. You get the picture.

Although as the Dent Doctor also pointed out, if you read the package insert of PANADO you may also think twice about taking it! And that I actually had to weigh up the risks associated with NOT taking the drug – recurrence VS “possible” serious side effects….

My other concern was a practical one, would our Medical Aid pay for any further treatment if I elected to not take the Tamoxifen and the cancer came back. The Dent Doctor just smiled and said that he certainly would fight that if it happened as there is no guarantee the cancer wouldn’t come back even after taking the Tamoxifen….

So realistically how on earth are you supposed to make these impossible choices when there are absolutely NO guarantees, and when making the “wrong” decision for YOU can be literally a matter of life or death?

Truthfully? After all these months of constant debate I still have NO IDEA!

I guess you just make the best decision you can with the information you have at hand, with the support of those you love – AND then pretty much hope for the best…..

 Hormones 4

Hormones

Hormones 5

hormones 3

Hormone 4

“Listen to the mustn’ts, child. Listen to the don’ts. Listen to the shouldn’ts, the impossibles, the won’ts. Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me… Anything can happen, child. Anything can be.” Shel Silverstein

“It is hard to imagine a more stupid or more dangerous way of making decisions than by putting those decisions in the hands of people who pay no price for being wrong”. Thomas Sowell

“A lot of people don’t want to make their own decisions. They’re too scared. It’s much easier to be told what to do”. Marilyn Manson

“Estrogen deficient woman are nothing but the walking dead.” ― Marie Hoag MBA

Fuzzy brains and Spell check

Pete has been making some subtle and very recently, some not so subtle inferences about my radiation brain. A phenomenon he now insists is worse than chemo brain.

So maybe now and then I forget a few things…..like where I park my car at the mall; where I put my glasses (every night); where I may have put my car keys, my house keys, the water bottle I had been drinking from less than 5 minutes before, my glasses (ok so maybe it doesn’t only happen at night!).  I start sentences which I cannot complete because I can’t remember what I was about to say…….and on more than one occasion I have been known to ask the same question over and over again – even after it had been answered!

Pete has now developed “a look” which is his way of letting me know that it may not have been the first time we have had that particular discussion!

OK I fully admit it…… my short term memory is shot!

Thank goodness my long term memory is still intact!   Or so I thought until earlier this week…….

For the last 2 months I have been helping out as a classroom assistant for two grade 2’s.  Generally just keeping them focused in the classroom and help them with their reading.

And surely even me, and my fuzzy brain can handle Grade 2 work.

Weeeell……. maybe not……

So there we were on Wednesday, learning our alphabet, “A” is for apple….”B” is for bat etc. Well certainly not this lot!  “A” is for antelope, “B” is for Brontosaurus, “I” is for Iguana….!  I was very proud of holding my own whilst having questions continually thrown at me on how to spell some common and some not so common animals.  After being asked the spelling of a particular marine mammal, I wrote it down confidently in one of their dictionaries.  I was trying to encourage them to look the words up on their own.  I was just explaining this to them when a little voice chirped from across the table, “but doesn’t that have a “p” and a “h” in it”?  I smiled at him gently (and rather condescendingly) and was about to explain that NO it definitely did NOT, when I glanced down at the word I had just written and went completely cold and totally blank.  I distracted him while surreptitiously googling it on my Blackberry

And who would have thought……he was 100% correct, apparently you don’t spell it “D-O-L-F-I-N ***slaps head***

Smarty Pants – what’s he doing in the remedial reading class anyway….!!!

dolphin

Yesterday I had an appointment with Megan, and after that episode, it couldn’t have come at a better time…..  One of her first questions to me was whether my brain felt fuzzy after radiation?!!!

So now I’ve been put on another detox.  She says it’s to help my poor stressed liver but I know it’s to help my poor fuzzy brain …before I do damage to myself or any young minds!

 

“It is a damn poor mind that can think of only one way to spell a word.”  Andrew Jackson

 

“A synonym is a word you use when you can’t spell the other one.”  Baltasar Gracian

 

“I don’t see any use in having a uniform and arbitrary way of spelling words. We might as well make all clothes alike and cook all dishes alike. Sameness is tiresome; variety is pleasing.”     Mark Twain

 

“She knows that it’s not my fault if I don’t know how many Zs there are in LOSER.” Lauren Child

 

“Plagiarism is illegal, mispeeling iz knot.”  Toni (U.A.C.)