The Stacey Report

And furthermore: Twitter

Posted in Stacey Updates by dbancroft on June 30, 2009

As it turns out, my sister is quite a prolific tweeter (or whatever you people call yourself). I’ll see if I can set up a direct feed, but for now you can stalk…uh… ” Follow” her here:

The Wac-a-Mole Approach

Posted in Stacey Updates by dbancroft on January 26, 2009

Extra! Extra! Eewy Medical Stuff!

Or possibly: Extra, EXTRA eewy medical stuff.

You be the judge.

After the Boob Job! Boob Job! there was a time of recovery and then Stacey started in with the scheduled scans and tests and pokes and prods and other pleasant and dignified experiences.

I here prepare the ground by asking: have you ever played Wac-A-Mole?

If you haven’t… well, you are clearly spending too much time doing laundry, first off. Second, here’s an online version that is NOT as much fun as the actual-factual version because when you play the real one these annoying little plastic critters keep popping up but you have a MALLET and you POUND away with great WHACKs — there’s even a little resistance to the beasties so you can feel you’ve done some real damage. Awesome.

So here’s an improbable sentence, which I am proud to attribute to our father:

Metastatic breast cancer is a lot like Wac-a-Mole.

(Here’s another improbable sentence, one I actually said to my toddler: “Honey, please don’t put peas in the stapler.” I just had to share that.)

So after the boob job, in the next series of pleasant and dignified tests, a couple of annoying little critters showed up. A few were in the necrotized fat (eeeeeewwwwww….) around the fake boob, and no one was particularly impressed — apparently necrotized fat is a tremendously confusing substance and even the most stalwart of PET scanners is occasionally thrown off.

But there were a few blips in Stacey’s liver, and I don’t have to tell you how much that sucks. The bone stuff seems fine — as you know there’s really no reliable way to scan for that, so they kind of go by whether she’s having any pain, which she isn’t. So that’s good. But liver blips call for some serious MALLET action.

So, more chemo! But this time it’s pill form and non-baldening.  Things seem to be going well, the only side effect being Hand and Foot Syndrome. No, not Foot and Mouth Disease, which is apparently available only to the cloven-hoofed among us. Hand and Foot Syndrome happens when chemo drugs leak out through the tiniest of capilaries, concentrations of which are found in the hands and feet.

The result is swelling and peeling skin and the feeling that you fell asleep on the beach for about ten hours with everything covered except your feet and now you have to go grocery shopping. That was at the height of the wonderfulness — Stacey has since figured out a routine of soaking and moisturizing and kvetching that seems to do the trick.

More will be revealed as it is revealed to the Stacey Report. But the upshot is that Stacey stubbornly refuses to cave to this bull.



…huh? Oh hi!

Posted in Stacey Updates by dbancroft on January 9, 2009

Yes, well, we had some technical difficulties there… and frankly, I think WordPress lost a few entries. Then again it’s entirely possible that I spent a lot of time thinking about what I was going to write and then did not actually write it… which is a thing that happens with embarassing frequency. 

But then Stacey said ‘hey, if you don’t have time to deal with the blog, I’ll take it over…” Which was a definite moment of crashing reality because when my sister volunteers to talk to people, you know things are really desperate. 

(Shhh… don’t tell Stacey I said this, but that’s actually a big steaming pile because secretly she really likes people. Well, most people. She just wouldn’t be the happiest camper if you shoved her out on stage and made her talk to them all at once. However, as many of you know, she happens to be a really good writer and has that snarky humor that works so well on the Internet. And then there’s the Internet itself, which really lets the shy smart people shine. So what I think is this: I think I should propose that we should both write the blog. Because there are one or two things going on in my life such that free time is pretty thin on the ground and I could use the help. OK, I’ll float the idea and see what happens. I’ll let you know.)

So here we are back again, and I’ll be posting some updates over the next few days, get us all back up to speed. The upshot is that Stacey is doing really well despite some eewy medical stuff that pales in comparison to being the mother of a teenager. But those are two completely different stories, only one of which I will tell you in upcoming episodes of the Stacey Report.

Boob job! Boob job!

Posted in Stacey Updates, Surgery, Warning: Eewy Medical Stuff! by dbancroft on May 20, 2008

So we’re standing at the end of my driveway watching our children play in the street…

OK, simmer down, now: our neighborhood is surrounded by conservation land; the only cars on the street belong to people who live here, all of whom drive at a max of 2 mph. (Except that annoying woman on Stacey’s street who’s been here a million years and never wanted those newfangled stop signs in the first place. But we always know when she’s coming — you can see the flying monkeys a mile away.) Also I live on a side street with four houses on it. And the driveway is gravel, no good for scooters and sidewalk chalk. So back off, man!

Anyway, we’re standing at the end of my driveway watching our children play in the street and Stacey says offhandedly “So I’m going in for the surgery next week.” Uhhh… wha? And she looks at me with that look, like, where the hell have you been, dude? “My reconstruction! Or reduction. Or whatever.”

“Well, I didn’t know about that. You have to tell me these things!”

“It’s been in the plans forever, I thought you knew about it!”

“Well I didn’t know it was happening NOW!”

“Well, you should have!”

“Well… you broke my pink Matchbox jeep!”

“I did not, that was Matt Alford across the street, and it happened when you were FIVE! Get over it!”

So I run out for a few therapy sessions about the pink jeep and when I come back Stacey tells me about the surgery. Which has, in fact, been planned all along (I did remember that much.)

When they did the tram flap after the mastectomy, they used (as you may recall) a pound of flesh from Stacey’s tum tum to reconstruct the left breast. And although SHE (not I, she) said at the time that her tum tum was a plenty ample source, the new boob is smaller and perkier than the right. Also it has decidedly NOT been used to breastfeed two children. The other one, uh, isn’t. And has.

So, God bless health insurance, Stacey gets a boob job! Because you can’t walk around with one boob bigger than the other, oh heavens no! (Never mind the fact that perfectly symmetrical boobs come only in blister packs.) The surgery is scheduled for Thursday; tune in to The Stacey Report for all the eewy updates!

All Clear!

Posted in Stacey Updates, Stacey's Sister Holds Forth by dbancroft on May 3, 2008

OK, I am mortally offended. I wrote a fabulously informative and, if I do say so myself, very funny post about Stacey’s recent MRI check-up and mammogram. I was shocked, SHOCKED! to find that not only had it not gone up on the site, it wasn’t even saved as a draft. The horror, the horror.

So this will certainly NOT be the shining ray of genius the first one was, but here goes.

Stacey went in for her regularly scheduled MRI checkup and they found… something we’ll tell you about after this break! (Awwwww…)

Cut to commercial:

(Sound: bass line from “Sunshine of Your Love”: DUH nuh nuh nuh DUH nuh nuh duh NUH nuh…)

“The generation that swore it would never get old… didn’t. Welcome to the summer of life. And now there’s an official hair treatment of the summer of your life: new Touch of Gray from Just For Men. Lets you keep a little gray. Works gradually. Just comb in, rinse.”

Male model who was definitely not at Woodstock: “Never trust anyone over 90, haw-haw-haw!”

“Keep a little gray with new Touch of Gray.”

I’m sorry, but is that not just the stupidest thing ever? We had a little slogan contest here in the kitchen:

“Touch of Gray: Because you can be proud of getting old. Just not too proud…and not too old.”

“Touch of Gray: The hair dye that doesn’t… uh… dye your hair.”

“Touch of Gray: a little gray tells the world you’re not completely insecure… just a little.”

Your submissions welcome in the comments below!

And now we return to… The Fascinating Tale of Stacey’s Interminable Medical Tests!

Stacey had her MRI and it showed… nuffin. Well, it showed something, but just the transplanted boob and normal bodily goo and so forth. No cancer. Then she had a mammogram: same deal, EXCEPT! Stacey found out that it’s a HECK of a lot easier to have a mammogram with .5 boobage. The nurse said “Isn’t that great? All the mastectomy patients say that!”

So. That wasn’t as funny, but at least it was super-tangential… and isn’t that really why you’re here?

Your Unreliable Narrator

Stacey corrected me on a few non-facts that appeared in the post below. First, the turkey-baster guy (who is actually the plastic surgeon Dr. Davidson, who did the whole flap thing to wonderful effect and is actually a lovely man, so we will call him TLDD.) OK, TLDD pulled the drain (just one) the week before last. Yay! He thought there might be some infection at the site, so he gave her some antibiotics.

Over last weekend the site got all red and swollen; Stacey was going in on Tuesday anyway, because TLDD wanted to check the site. It was clear that there was some collection of fluid, but he couldn’t aspirate anything. (The first aspiration was when the drain originally came out.)

SO! TLDD decided that he wanted to put the drain back in. Booo! So on Wednesday she went in to Newton Wellesley to have the drain put in. While they were prepping her (always a challenge because of course my sister has no veins) they took her temperature and it was 101. They rechecked later and it was 102. But they decided to place the drain anyway, got all the fluid out.

At the time she was under conscious sedation “Which is a ripoff,” Stacey said “because it just makes you feel sleepy; if you’re going to give me drugs, gimme the good stuff!” Also who knows if it worked; because of the surgery, Stacey doesn’t have any sensation there anyway, so it’s a waste of time. “But to add insult to injury, if you get this conscious sedation you have to sit around for three or four hours so they can observe you. i just wanted to go home and go to bed with my fever!”

While she was being observed, TLDD came in to take a look at her tummy. He was happy with the drainage but didn’t like the looks of a small area of the original incision. “It looks funky,” he said. (OK, no he didn’t.)

So he took a pair of scissor and POPPED IT OPEN, stuck his fingers in there and took out all this goop. Eeeeeew! So now she’s got two or three inches of open incision, and a fever that went up to a high of 104… and she’s not going anywhere. The fever was up and down all day: chills, then sweats to soak the bed, then chills again, yadda yadda yadda.

it got interesting again yesterday: they did a CT scan to make sure the site was free of fluids, pus, aliens, whatever. TLDD also called in the Infectious Disease guys to see what the hell was going on in there. Meanwhile, he had taken a culture of the stuff he pulled out and it started growing staph. ID told him he was too agressive and needed to relax; thus far, Stacey’s medical staff has tended to err on the side of caution and we LIKE that, so shut up ID. “They were a humorless bunch,” Stacey said, which I guess is the risk you run when you hang around flesh-eating bacteria and Ebola and Dengue Fever all day.

That’s the scoop. Since then, the fever has gone down and as long as that continues, she’ll be coming home tomorrow. So if you want to send flowers or treats or an Amazon Kindle, send them to the house.

Oh, the drainage!

Posted in Stacey Updates, Warning: Eewy Medical Stuff! by dbancroft on February 7, 2008

So, some administrative stuff first: I’ve decided that y’all are savvy enough to see the date on a post, so I shall forgo repeating it in the title. (Also I rarely know the date right off the bat because that would require remembering a number and my brain doesn’t do that. Last night Chris asked me if I remembered our phone number in Brooklyn. I gave him the “you are clinically insane” glare, and he rattled off the number no prob. I don’t get it. But don’t challenge me on theme songs from 80s sit coms! Most singable? Theme from “Dear John” starring Judd Hirsch of “Taxi” fame.)

But I digress…

I never got back to the OOF!-ectomy (which, apparently, I am unable to spell correctly, mostly because I don’t really care): but it doesn’t matter because it hasn’t happened, but Stacey has been wallowing in the wonderful world of DRAINS!

This gets really gross, by the way; fair warning for those with a low yuke threshold.

So, when you have surgery someplace where there is generally a lot of goo, like your abdomen (where the flap for the reconstruction came from) you get to have drains. These are just about what you’d think: tubes sticking out of your body, dripping eewy mystery fluids. There’s some apparatus to keep you from leaving puddles everywhere, but I don’t know what it is because Stacey wouldn’t show me (thank God).

So, two disgusting things happened. OK, just the drains alone are disgusting. But this stuff is more disgusting: the first thing was that one of the drains fell out. Just, SPLOOP!, out.  So what does my sister do? What any right-thinking person woul d do… she shoved it back in. “BLEEECH!” I hear you cry. Yeh, but she said that the popping out was the most disgusting part: she said she kinda went weak and everything went dim and she had to lean against the wall. OK, that’s called fainting, dude.

Second disgusting thing happened when she went back in tohave the drains removed. The doctor first had to aspirate (suck out with, like, a turkey baster dealie) a whole bunch of remaining fluid. Stacey said that she didn’t feel anything, but that just the idea of it gave her the wooze. I asked her what it looked like and she said (in that special “what the hell is wrong with you?!” way she has) “I didn’t LOOK at it! Geez!”

Hey, man, you said you wanted to know what was going on with Stacey… that’s what’s going on.

December 23, 2007: God Bless the Weinsteins

Posted in Stacey Updates by dbancroft on December 23, 2007

Kerry and Judi Weinstein of Acupuncture Family Practice (978443-6789) are the bomb. I brought Stacey in for a treatment this morning, got my own treatment at the same time. Acupuncture is especially good for systemic things like boosting your mood and outlook and immune system. Stacey’s been going since her diagnosis, even when she was cancer-free, and I’m sure that has something to do with her speedy recoveries: the plastic surgeon, on checking her out before she left the hospital, said that she definitely “heals faster than the average Joe”.

The other thing in Stacey’s favor is that she’s just really healthy. She and her family have a beautiful diet, as organic as can be afforded, and although she (like most of us) doesn’t have a formal exercise regimen, she’s constantly on the move, especially from spring to fall when she’s out working in the garden.  Our society is really not able to see her as being healthy because of her figure, but she’s showing her true colors through this whole thing.

For example, this morning after acupuncture we went to do some errands, to Dunkin’ Donuts and Whole Foods and the grocery store. We even jumped two deaf women.

(Uh… that didn’t come out right.  We jump-started a car belonging to two deaf women.)

So, there was more to do after the grocery store but Stacey wisely said “Home, Jeeves” so we did. Go home, that is.

 And that is all. Oh, by they way, the new boob looks great. You really wouldn’t notice the difference if you weren’t engaged in a formal comparison study, and Stacey offered the information that the new one is oddly perky. Reduction on the other side is still undecided, but I say, if the insurance will pay for it, why the heck not?

Unless something cuh-razy happens, I’ll be posting updates after the holidays: have some happy ones!

December 22, 2007: OK, Lazybones, Enough Recuperating!

Posted in Stacey Updates, Uncategorized by dbancroft on December 22, 2007

We got Christmas shopping to do!

No, actually, Stacey dealt with all of that before she went into the hospital, and anything left undone I shall do for her (whether she wants me to or not).

So, Stacey is home, discharged at about 3:00 yesterday (it was s’posed to be 10:30, but who’s counting?) She’s feeling well (all things considered) and sleeping and bathing and all that good stuff.

By the by, they didn’t do the Oeufectomy (Oeuf = egg en Francais. Why they use the French word for egg I do not know unless it’s because it’s just really fun to say Oeufectomy.) The Oeufectomy (Oeufectomy Oeufectomy Oeufectomy!) they’ll do in about a month, no idea whether they’ll do the follow-up to the breast reconstruction at the same time although that would be pretty good because being in the hospital Suuuuuuuucks! Although Stacey does want to tell everyone that the nurses were, in general, wicked awesome and totally nice to her.

Stacey says she feels best when she’s up and around, and she’s sleeping pretty well despite the fact that she’s got an incision going from one hip to the other (makes it tough to get comfortable; no matter how she lies, she’s lying on a scar. She says it’s still waaaay beter than trying to sleep in the dang hospital.)

A nurse from the Natick VNA came out today, just to check things out; she’ll probably be back later in the week. All is well, but Stacey feels better having someone who knows what she’s doing check out the scar and the drains and other eewy stuff.

Also, bye bye Pain Buster! It was empty, and she didn’t need it anymore, and it didn’t hurt to pull it out, but woah. I’m impressed. Because if I had to pull 6-8 inches of tubing out of me I would just never stop vomiting. Also fun and disgusting are the drains: apparently most of the fluid that’s leaking out is the stuff they use to flush things out during the surgery, but there’s also lymphatic fluid and blood and other repulsivity. Useful, though, for torturing teenagers: Lyle has been surprisingly helpful lately and all Stacey has to say is “Lyle, go get me a glass of water please or I’ll show you my draaaaaaaaaains! Ooooooooooh!

December 17, 2007: You want to do surgery WHEN?

Posted in Stacey Updates by dbancroft on December 17, 2007

Well, actually, tomorrow.  Thanks to TFDB’s vigorous advocacy, everything fell together: all tests were run, all specialists lined up and given orders, butts kicked, names taken, all that good gravy.

So let’s bring us up to date, shall we?

The first test that was run was the pet scan, which is really the best indicator for these things (thank you TFDB for ordering the best test right up front).  The scan was of all the relevant body parts, and found four very small nodules in her left breast (the troublesome one). 

Then, a bunch of follow-up tests (paraphrase: “let’s run every test in the whole world so we can find out as much about this as we can.”):

I. The MRI
Notable Notes: this test took SIX needle sticks, made by three different people. As you may recall, Stacey’s veins are “deep, wiggly, and hard to get.” Delightful mental image though this may be, it makes injections decidedly unpleasant. 
Results: MRI confirmed 4 nasties.

II. The Mammogram
SQUAAAAAAASH…. 4 nasties.

III. The CT Scan
Notable Notes: a CT scan starts with a luscious tumbler of barium sulfate solution on the rocks.  Post-quaff,  they start stickin’ needles. (“Uh, yesterday it took three people six tries…” “I’ll call the IV nurse.”)
Results: A CT scan is a whole-bod deal, and showed no areas of concern except the 4 nasties.

IV. The Biopsy (of the 4 nasties) and the Placing of the “Seed”. 
So, this is kinda cool in the abstract — when the Breast Center does a biopsy, they put a teeeeny little ball bearing dealie in the area they checked; they call it a seed. That’s so in later scans, the techs know where to look for trouble. And yes, then you have a ball bearing in your boob forever. Unless you’re Stacey. And then you only have it in there until tomorrow. (See? Life gives you lemons, you make Lemoncello.)

V. The ANOTHER Mammogram
Just for grins.

Then, a meeting with the plastic surgeon, because they’ve decided to do a reconstruction at the same time as the mastectomy. “Well I should hope so,” our mother said, “otherwise she’d list!” (I checked with Stacey, you have permission to laugh at that one: Stacey sure did.)

For the reconstruction, they’ll be doing a tram flap. “Cool!” yer thinkin’, “Boob job and a free tummy tuck!” Well, no, you’re as wrong about that as I was: not quite that simple. For flap reconstruction they do take a hunk of tummy to construct a new breast (which, depending on your tummy, could be a good or a bad thing).  But they also take one of your abdominal muscles out, and that’s just creepy. I asked Stacey how a person continues to, like, remain vertical without all the tummy muscles. She told me what the plastic surgeon had said, that if she was a high powered athlete (ok, Stacey laughed there, use your judgement) he wouldn’t recommend it, but most people do just fine.

And then, everybody was going to be ready on Tuesday, so here we go.

Stacey has to go in for pre-op stuff at the butt crack of dawn (o’course) and they told her that it’d be about a 7 hour deal. True to form, when I asked whether she wanted me to be there, she said “Why? So you can sit around in the hospital while I’m unconscious and don’t even know you’re there?” Well, okie dokie, man — I’m asking Michael to call me when she’s out of surgery with an update, and then planning to go in on Thursday morning to see how things be.

I’ll be posting a mailing address at the hospital as soon as I know it: I bet if you sent it to Newton Wellesley Hospital and mark it for “Patient: Stacey” it’d get to her ok. I’m making an executive decision on flowers, to send or not to send: Send. There are always fresh flowers in her kitchen, believe it or don’t, so I think she’d dig ’em. I know she’ll be in the hospital at least 3 days (gee, plenty of time to recover!) so there’s time for cards or whatever you’d like to send.

On this note, if anyone would like to send anything that won’t get there through the mail in time, and it’s a thing I can get here and just bring in, please let me know. We’ll figure it out.

OK, kids. Stay tuned.