The Stacey Report

October 3, 2006: Dude, Where’s My Cancer?

Posted in Uncategorized by ohthatdeb on October 3, 2006

So… the pathology report is in, although apparently we needn’t have bothered. The samples of breast tissue taken from the lumpectapalooza site — you know, that pesky spot where there was all that cancer stuff before? — showed ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. No cancer at all.  At ALL.  Well, it’s possible that there are a few lonely little cancer cells wandering around in there — “Hello? Hellooooo? Hey you guys? No kidding, this isn’t funny guys!” — but the path report shows quite clearly that there are no rallies, barbeques, or other hoppin’ social events going on there.

So what about the lymph nodes?  Well what about the lymph nodes, they’d like to know, as all thirteen of them stand there, hands on hips, tapping their lymphy little toes in irritation.  You yanked all of us out of there and did you find any cancer in any of us?  No you did not: not one bit of cancer in any one of us.  Healthy as horses we are, but can you put us back in there, oh noooooo…

So what about the liver?  And what about the hip bones?  Well, we don’t really know.  As TFDB said earlier, doing a scan of Stacey’s hip wouldn’t really tell us anything because it would show damaged bone: because bone heals so slowly, it would look the same whether it was healing or deteriorating.  For the diagnosis there, they generally go by the level of pain the bone-owner is having, and Stacey is having none.  Which is good news.

I don’t really have a clear idea about what the next steps are for the liver — I need to check with Stacey whether they’re going to do a separate scan of that (although she has probably told me already and I don’t remember…)  but I do know that there is no swelling and no pain, and that Stacey’s liver function is completely normal (as it has been all along) so all that can be nothing but good.

So, what happened?  Well, I think that’s pretty clear… Stacey kicked the soup out of it and threw it off the porch.  And no, she’s not done with it — there will be more treatment, including radiation therapy to kill off the ronin cells, and hormone therapy basically forever, and who knows what all else.  And Stacey’s Sister still has quite the bone to pick with IBC, thank you very much.  And we all know that it might come back.

But we don’t want to think about that today.  Today is absolutely the perfect weather for such news — bright and sunny and 80 here in Massachusetts, “unseasonably warm” they like to call it.  So everybody go out and play, jump up and down, make up a little song called “Stacey Rocks!”

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October 2, 2006: All is Well, No News

Posted in Uncategorized by ohthatdeb on October 2, 2006

Ok, poll: is the word “news” officially plural? So for example which of the following is hypercorrect (which is to say, not just correct in casual speech, but in its formal definition?)

a) Are there any news?
b) Is there any news?

It seems to me that this question came up very much by the way (as it would) in discussion some time ago and was quickly put to rest, and I could easily look up the answer on this here Internet thingie, but why do that when I could ask y’all?

In any case, neither is there nor are there any news, lab results-wise, that is. Nor any news about when we can expect such results.

However, all is well in terms of surgery recovery. In the course of a neighborhood walk, we stopped at the Stacey abode and spoke with all and sundry for several minutes before I even remembered about the surgery. This is embarassing to relate, as it reveals a certain level of sociopathy on my part, but I relate it because it also shows how completely normal Stacey looked and seemed. At a check in with TFDC at the end of last week, TFDC removed the drains (eew) and pronounced her satisfaction with the healing of the incision. With a bra and shirt on, looking at Stacey, you really would never know at all. Thinking back, she might have looked a little washed out, but other than that she seemed quite well indeed.

So… how’s everything with you? The kids? Weather good? Honestly, knock wood, nothing much doing here. Which, believe me, is perfectly all right with your humble authorette.

September 27, 2006: Check It Out!

Posted in Uncategorized by ohthatdeb on September 27, 2006

Ladies and Gentlemen, Dudes and Dudettes, it’s a technological miracle!  You don’t have to reset your bookmarks but why the heck not because we now own…

www.staceyreport.com!

Ok, technically I own it.

Also it isn’t much of a technological miracle.

All right, it isn’t miraculous in any way, at all.

Still, pretty cool, right?

September 24, 2006: Damn Straight

Posted in Uncategorized by ohthatdeb on September 24, 2006

I called last night to check in with Michael…

“We’re sorry, no one is here right now to take your call.”
(These people never answer the phone, you know this.)
“Please leave a message after the beep.”
(Yeah, well beep this, robot voice…)
BEEP!

“Hi Michael, it’s Deb, just checking in to see how Stacey is doing…”
(somebody picked up the phone)
“Hello.”
It sounded like Stacey.
“Hello?”
“Hello.”
It is Stacey.
“Hello! You’re up!”
“Damn straight.”

So, true to form, Stacey is up and about, kvetching about the annoying drains, but otherwise completely uninterested in her own physical discomfort.  As a matter of fact, there seems to be precious little of that: they offered her big piles of drugs when she left the hospital but she saw no need.  “Believe me,” she said, “I’d’ve taken them if I had needed them, but I just didn’t.” 

So we here at the Stacey Report hope that we can rely on TiVo and Stacey’s inner slug to keep her couch-bound for a bit, but we are highly skeptical.  Still no idea about a timeline for lab reports, but Stacey meets again with TFDC this week so we may know more then. 

September 22, 2006: Lumpectapalooza

Posted in Uncategorized by ohthatdeb on September 22, 2006

Stacey’s surgery is complete and everything went beautifully.  TFDC reported to Michael that everything looked great: she couldn’t see anything but some scarring (the result of the Great Cancer-Cell Massacre!) and had originally thought that she would have to make two incisions but ended up only having to make one.

There will be two drains (eew) one for her breast and one for her arm.   TFDC said that along with not seeing anything suspicious in the breast tissue, she also did not see anything suspicious in the lymph nodes she removed. 

(By the way, apparently they used to go after these like they were ripping up weeds, but now there is a lot more information about which are most likely to be affected by metasteses in which order, so the surgeon is able to be a lot more selective and reduce not only the recovery time but also the risk of later lymphedema (serious swelling caused by interruptions and blockages in the lymphatic system, like, say, the removal of a really lot of your lymph nodes.)) 

Anyway, although the surgeon didn’t see anything (which is good!) she did caution that she still has to send everything to the lab (which is simply normal, no more, no less) to see what turns up under the microscope. As of our last update from Michael, Stacey was still in recovery, but only because Newton Wellesley had a full house and they were trying to find a room for her, not because she needed to be in recovery for any extended period of time.  She will be staying overnight at NW and we’ll check in with her tomorrow to see how everything is going.  There is no information yet about when the lab results will come in or what they might mean either way, but we’ll keep you posted.

(I don’t know who this “we” is that I keep talking about, what, me and… Durga maybe?) In the meantime, we have This Week In Review by Stacey herself!

______________________

It’s been a very busy few days:

Monday: Went to the Breast Center (which is at the hospital) for the mammogram and breast ultrasound. Mammogram first, lots of fun, of course. Then the ultrasound, during which the Radiologist decided to “put a clip”. He could see what he thought might be scar tissue, though it might have a few cancer cells as well. Whatever it was, it was hard to find, so he wanted to mark the site to make it easier to find later. They do this by putting a small piece of titanium INTO the breast. Fun! He numbed up the area (not as well as he should have at first; I could feel it at first and he had to do more numbing) then put a big needle into my breast, guided by ultrasound, and into the former lump. There was an “inductor” involved, but I couldn’t tell if it was the needle itself, or if there was something else involved. In any case, he had a hard time getting it into the tissue, so I guess the tissue was kinda firm. He really had to put some energy into it! Then, when it was in, he pulled the trigger and the little clip was injected. After that they needed to get another mammogram to get a shot of the clip in the breast. After that they sent me back to the waiting room, where I waited and waited and waited, only to be told that they didn’t get a digital shot, which is what they needed, so they had to do it AGAIN! Because there’s nothing a woman wants more than THREE mammograms in one day. Oh, lucky me. Total time at hospital: 3 hours.

Tuesday: Treatment day. TFDB told me that we could do a triple dose of herceptin every third week instead of the double dose every two weeks. This might or might not have been a good idea, as we’ll soon see. Anyway, she also told me that she had been doing some testing of tumor markers ( http://www.breastcancer.org/testing_blood_test.html), which I didn’t know about. She said that for the CEA test normal is 2.5 and below. My original test was 45.something, but my current level is .8, so that’s pretty good. It doesn’t mean I’m cancer free by any means, but it’s indicative of things going in the right direction. So, after I met with her I got my herceptin and also Zometa. Total time in office: 4 hours.

Wednesday: Here’s where things get interesting. I had a Pre-Op appointment at the hospital. After checking in I met with a nurse who went over some medical history stuff, then checked my blood pressure. Said blood pressure was…200-something over 140. Yikes! She brought another nurse in to do it, so that she had another opinion, but she got the same thing. They sent me back to a waiting room to wiat to meet with the Anesthesiologist. After a few minutes the nurse came back to tell me that she spoke wiht the Anesthesiologist and that he wanted me to go to my doctor. They had called my doctor and I was to go right over there (she’s in one of the medical office buildings attached to the hospital), which I did. They took my BP there and it was a bit lower, but still 200+. They did an EKG, which TFDJ compared to the one they did in Aug when I had the second echocardiogram. The EKG was pretty much normal, so that was good. We also discussed the medications I’d gotten the day before. She didn’t seem to think so, but I’m pretty sure the bump in BP had to do with the triple dose of Herceptin, or maybe that along with the Zometa. My BP was normal the day before, so what else could have spiked it in just one day? Anyway, TFDJ decided that I should go on some meds to regulate the BP (because if we didn’t get it under control I wouldn’t be able to get the surgery on Friday). So, we went into her office and she tried to get some meds from the pharmacy for me. She wanted me to take them there and then and not have to drive to CVS in Sudbury. The NWH pharmacy wasn’t cooperative, though. She was going to ask some group of cardiologists if they had samples, but then thought to look through her own samples and found what she was looking for, so I was drugged right there in her office. She called the Anesthesiologist and asked him what meds he suggested (she was going to put me on two, but he said that one of them I would have to stop before the surgery, so there wouldn’t have even been time to start) and also what was the target BP he was looking for (160/100). So, when I was done at her office she sent me to the lab for some blood work, then back to the Pre-Op testing office to finish up there. I still had to meet with the Anesthesiologist. This was the same guy TFDJ was speaking to, so he knew the whole deal when I got back there. He had me sign some consents and told me some of what to expect on Friday. Time in hospital: 3 1/2 hours.

Funny thing: everyone kept asking me if I didn’t have a headache and were surprised to hear that I didn’t. I guess that if you have BP that high you usually feel it. TFDJ said that I was probably used to having high BP, so it didn’t really affect me. I don’t know; it’s never been that high before, so what’s to get used to? Anyway. At the end of the day I went back to see TFDJ to check to see if the BP was going down, but it wasn’t. Boo!

Thursday: I took the BP medicine Wed night and Thurs am. When I woke up I had a bit of a headache and it just blossomed over the day. I had an appointment to see TFDCh (The Fabulous Doctor Chang), who was covering for TFDJ (who was at a wedding), just to do a BP check. I asked her about the migraine and she said that usually the beta blockers do double duty and get rid of migraines. Well, that didn’t help much, because I did have one. To make it worse, I couldn’t take any Excedrine Migraine, which is what I would normally do, because it contains aspirin and you can’t take that in advance of surgery. I took some Tylenol later in the day, followed up by acupuncture, and felt better after that. But most importantly, the BP was down to 150/100. This is still considered high, but within range for the surgery. We’ll address the long term BP issues in a few weeks. So, it’s 11:46 right now and I just had a last snack because I can’t eat after midnight. I can’t drink anything after 5:30, so I have to be up on time in order to take my BP meds in the morning. I have to be at the hospital at 7:15. After I check in I’ll go over to the Breast Center where the wires will be put in, then I’ll go back to the Surgical Center and be surgerized. I have to stay over Friday night, so I’ll try to send an update on Saturday. By the way, I was writing this with only half a brain, so I’d appreciate it if you didn’t paste this whole hog. I’d be embarassed! 

 ______________________

Well, I decided that after three mammograms in one day, Stacey’s threshold for embarassment would be pretty dang high, so there you have it!  

September 14, 2006: The News is Very Very Good!

Posted in Uncategorized by ohthatdeb on September 14, 2006

Everybody do a jig or a polka or the hora or whatever dance your people do (the WASP people don’t actually have a traditional dance, we just sort of nod approvingly…)

Because it’s called a Complete Response, and that’s what we’ve got here, kids!  According to Stacey’s surgeon, The Fabulous Dr. Cronin (and she is fabulous, and apparently quite the snappy dresser) about 10% of chemo patients actually get worse after chemo (oy vey), 20% show a slight improvement, 50% show a marked improvement, and 20% show a Complete Response.  And what exactly is a Complete Response?  I will tell you.  A Complete Response is when they do an MRI of an area that formerly showed cancerous tumors and this time…

THEY DON’T SEE ANYTHING AT ALL!

As TFDC said (after she said “this is so great, you really made my day!”) this is fantastic news for Stacey, not only because they couldn’t find anything right now, but because this is a really good predictor of future outcome.  However, she said, this puts her (TFDC) in quite a spot, because she does want to do a lumpectomy… but she’s not quite sure where to lumpectomize!

There’s a whole process to deciding that, and there is a whole schedule for the surgery, and a lot of other information, but there is also a baby screeching at me from her high chair, so for right now, I will leave you with this: Stacey is seriously kicking her some Cancer butt and the surgery is scheduled for Friday.

Everbody commence to whoopin’ and a’ hollerin’!

September 13, 2006: Race for the Cure Recap

Posted in Uncategorized by ohthatdeb on September 13, 2006

While we await any news that Stacey might be able to get from the surgeon at tomorrow’s visit (and remember, anything might happen, “Oh, gee, my bad, we forgot to take the lens cap off, could you come in again next week?”) I’d like to draw your attention to Sara’s comment below about the hugely successful Komen Rrace for the Cure.  Our personal racer Sara raked in $1820.00 her very own self… so far!  “So far” meaning that the donation pages are still open, friends and neighbors, so if you’ve got a stack of cash just sitting around doing nothing, you already know that Sara did a bang-up job!

By the by, Sara mentions that it is well worth the clickage to go to the photo site to see the pictures of the day.  I agree, even if only for my one very favorite picture.  It features two ladies of a certain age, probably survivors — I deduce this from the fact that we see them later in the pictures of the survivors parade, and from the fact that they are wearing pink bubble wigs.  They are also wearing pink feather boas, and a whole lot of other flashy, fancy stuff.  But the best part is that along with all this finery, one of the ladies is wearing a t-shirt that says… well, it’s kind of hard to tell, because her arm covers part of the second word.  The first word is “Cancer”.  And the second word ends in “ucks!”  I’m pretty sure it isn’t “Ducks”.

Stacey and I both know that all of you are sort of holding your breath, hoping that tomorrow will bring news, preferably good news.  One request, though, and I’ll balance it with a promise.  I promise that I will post anything Stacey finds out in good time here on the blog; please don’t call to ask.  The reason for the calls is very clear and very much appreciated, it’s the sheer volume of calls that gets to be tough to handle.  (Plus, either we won’t know anything yet, or we will, at which point I’ll write a post.)  Thank you!

September 7, 2006: Busy Week

Posted in Uncategorized by ohthatdeb on September 7, 2006

The chemo has ended (Hooray! Stacey is writing up a Medication Recap, y’know, just for grins) but there’s more fun to be had on this medical merry-go-round!

Yesterday, Stacey went in for her weekly Herceptin treatment and ended up getting a double scoop! Turns out that this is a gen-yoo-wine treatment option: a double shot every other week instead of one every week.  Huh, lemme see… 52 trips to the Cafe, or 26… (Jeopardy Theme plays in background)…
For today, Stacey had originally scheduled an appointment with the surgeon (a Fabulous surgeon? Time will tell…), having been told that she could schedule the recommended MRI for earlier this week.  When attempting to do just that, the MRI people said “Huh? No, we only do MRIs on Thursdays.”  Another example of wishing people would just talk to each other more often, but c’est la vie.

So, today was the MRI, always a lovely experience. The purpose of the MRI is to check on the size of the original tumor and metastases to see how well the chemotherapy and hormone treatments have worked. We probably won’t hear anything until Stacey finally meets with the potentially fabulous surgeon, next Thursday. However, the results could go back to TFDB tomorrow, and TFDB could call Stacey sooner than Thursday: we will definitely keep you posted.

And then, just because they thought she might feel lonely if she had a day without medical interventions, the docs invited Stacey back tomorrow for an ovarian ultrasound! Fun! TFDB recommended this because she noticed that on the first scans, Stacey’s ovaries looked enlarged.  She said that she’s pretty sure this was because Stacey was still nursing at the time, and that because they were both enlarged (rather than one being bigger than the other) she’s not terribly concerned, but better safe than sorry.  The down side of this is that ovarian ultrasounds are not done externally.  Any of you ladies who have had one will know what I mean; everyone else… well, they’re just really uncomfortable, why don’t you just stop the mental imaging right there.

OK, moving on!  And now, a little thing we like to call Brush with Greatness!  This is when we get to tell stories of knowing or meeting famous people.  And while I would love to regale you all with the with the one about how we once saw David Brenner walking in SoHo with a really tarty looking woman, today’s story is about your Brush with Greatness.

That’s right!  You, my friend, can tell the world that you supported Sara Schaeffner’s 2006 Race for the Cure. Yes, THAT Sara Schaeffner, the one featured in the Sudbury Town Crier!  Now that’s FAME, baby!  But you only get to tell the story if you support Sara’s Race for the Cure (which you know you have been meaning to get around to doing anyway…) The Race is on Sunday, September 10th, that’s only three days away (probably only two by the time you read this).  Not much time… but more than enough to click a mouse, right?  Right.

August 28, 2006: A Day in the Life of a Cancer Patient

Posted in Uncategorized by ohthatdeb on August 28, 2006

Stacey, our resident cancer patient, had her double shot of Herceptin last week so that she and the fam could go on their yearly vacation to the Cape.  Despite the relaxing atmosphere, Stacey is following a punishing regimen of mini-golfing, beach-strolling, mystery reading, giant sea-bug eating, and at least two hours of lounging per day.

Sad, really.

Friday, August 25: Chemo Treatment #8

Posted in Uncategorized by ohthatdeb on August 25, 2006

The eigth and final scheduled visit to the Chemo Cafe this week was long and, you guessed it, boooooring. Stacey was there with one other woman who was also having her last Taxol treatment, much celebrating all around. Because of her vacation next week, Stacey also had a double shot of Herceptin this week, which took extra long, so she was there all day. I’ll have to check again on the actual time count, but let’s just say that it was too dang long. I’ll have a detailed report of medications and other technical stuff in the coming days.
This week was ok until yesterday when the aches and pains set in with a vengeance… well, ok, maybe just with crankiness. Stacey’s legs and feet hurt a lot and she felt just generally crappy. I stopped by yesterday and she wanted to show me something strange that was going on with her fingernails. She had said that the woman at work told her that the skin around her fingernails turned dark and it felt as if her nails were going to come out, so I was expecting something pretty gross, I’ll admit.

OK, I’d just like to point out here that in Stacey’s own words, she is “a bad girl.” Not that she is bad, but that she is bad at being a girl. You know that song “I Enjoy Being a Girl”? Well, not so much. All that hair and makeup and schmantzy clothing stuff, no interest in any of that since early college. This is not incredibly surprising, given that the fashion industry (on which I have many and negative opinions, I’ll try not to get started) has informed her consistently and in no uncertain terms that no matter what she does, a person of her body type is unacceptable. No wonder she finally said “screw ’em!”

So, along comes this cancer thing, patently unfair, but here’s the funny part:

(yeah, cancer, twitter twitter, that’s real funny, Deb)

The funny part is that the side effects that make other people look worse make her look gorgeous. OK, can’t really get around the hair thing, although the “Can’t Fail” Scarf by Mary Ann Weiss at CJ Hats makes a medical necessity into a fashion opportunity! But I digress.

I’ve already mentioned how great her skin looks. I mean, great. Frankly, I can tell that she looks a little pale (not that she’s generally the swarthy type: I got all of the Henri genes, she’s got the rosier Gibbs thing going on.) But to all the world she looks like a smooth-skinned, rosy-cheeked maid. With an endearing scowl. And a hand raised to… hey, wait a minute… OW!

Geez. Try to give a girl a compliment.

Anyway, she showed me her nails:”So, it’s weird, the skin here… is that called the cuticle?”

(Pause.) “Yes, Stacey. That’s a cuticle.”

“So the skin here is all, I don’t know, gone. It used to be all sort of up on my nails and raggedy, and now it’s all smooth like this.”

I swear to Durga, it looked exactly like a ‘spensive manicure. Even the fact that her nails are not growing at all now, combined with the long-standing nail-biting thing, has left her with slightly short but perfectly smooth, rounded tops, and her cuticles look just perfectly perfect. Again, we know that they are not perfect, that they are in fact stunted, but they look marvelous!

If this were someone else, I might be inclined to growl at sudden perfect skin and nails. But given the givens, I am more inclined to say Ha! And, Ha ha HA! And take THAT, stupid Fashion Industry! And, most emphatically, Screw ‘Em!