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 Dangerous Myth of the Enlightened Cancer Patient.

Posted in Stacey's Sister Holds Forth by dbancroft on June 30, 2009

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

Well, who can’t get behind THAT, amirite? But have you ever read the rest of the poem? To wit:

Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace…”

Okaaaaaay, hold it right there.

Now head on over to your local cancer fundraiser website. They all say things like “Living life to the fullest!” and have testimonials: “Cancer was the best thing that ever happened to me: I found out what was really important.” Lots of crying, lots of hugging, lots of beautiful awakenings.

This is good, don’t get me wrong. Anything that makes having cancer suck even a little bit less is good, I don’t care if you’re flogging bats. (OK, actually I do care, but I digress. As usual.)

But here’s the problem. What if you’re not interested, not even the tiniest little bit, in “accepting hardships as the pathway to peace”. What if you have no clue whatever in the world that might mean, given that there is no inherent causal connection AT ALL between hardship and peace. What if you already know what is important, thank you, and one of those things is hitting back, hitting hard, and hitting below the belt?

What if the very flippin’ LAST thing you want to do is put on a pink feather boa and cry?

What if you’re not grateful?

What if you’re just plain old pissed off?

Prevailing wisdom would have us believe that the best, if not the only acceptable, response to a diagnosis of cancer is an emotional journey that leads to acceptance… or something. Again, whatever floats your boat, but the problem is that if you do not respond in that way, people around you are likely to try to make you resond in that way, for your own good. And the problem with THAT is: if you’re having response B, and a whole lot of people express grave concern because really it would be BETTER to have response A… then they’re also saying that your actual organic emotions are the wrong ones to have.

Now let me tell you a story. Once upon a time, there was a girl who might or might not be the daughter of your humble narratress. And this girl inhereted the anxious temperament that ran in her family. This girl was constantly freaking out about one thing or another, dissolving in tears over math homework. The parents of this girl were forever saying brilliant things like “you don’t have to get so upset about this!”

And did that approach help this girl? O, no, it did not. What it did was upset her more, and the parents began to theorize that not only was she feeling inadequate to the task, she was now hearing that feeling upset about feeling inadequate would not help her; on the contrary, getting upset would make things more difficult for her.

Now, I’m not saying that freaking out is a fantastic approach to math homework, but likewise saying “stop feeling that!” is a pretty stupid approach to… well, to anything. The key to helping this girl (who has grown and matured by leaps and bound since then, whether thanks to her parents intervention we may never know) the key was to accept her emotion as fact. And one of the depressingly few things I’ve said that seemed to be helpful to her was this: “You are feeling anxious and upset about this, I know, and your feelings are your feelings. But when you’re hungry, let’s say — do you immediately start chewing on the book you happen to be reading at that moment? On the curtain next to your head? No — you do have to eat something, but you go to the kitchen and choose what you want to eat.”

So it is, I firmly believe, with everything in life: feeling is fact. You might decide to find ways to change the feeling, but that would also be a considered response, right? The initial feeling is fact. If you’re hungry, sure, you might choose a bowl of strawberry pudding with a big puff of whipped cream on top. Stacey does not happen to want strawberry pudding at this moment. If she has a hankering for Tekkamaki with extra wasabe and a side order of Whupass, then I for one will be first in line to take her over to Minado for all she can eat.


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?

In other news…

Posted in It's just business toots. by dbancroft on February 18, 2008

I have decided to try to expand the readership of this blog via its sister site, (don’t bother, there’s nothing there yet). And, purists take warning, I’m going to run Google AdSense on the sites. Why, you ask? Partly because we’re really really poor and every little bit helps, but mostly because it’s an easy way for you to contribute to the IBC Research Foundation. Every time you click on an ad link from this page, Google puts a little money in my AdSense account, and 20% of the proceeds from that account will go to the IBCRF. Snappy!

The best part is that you don’t even have to buy anything from the advertisers, just clicking the ad links is enough. So, theoretically, if you wanted to click on every link every time you visit… but you didn’t hear it from me.

More Eeeeewiness!

Posted in Warning: Eewy Medical Stuff! by dbancroft on February 18, 2008

So as you have probably guessed (I know, I know) Stacey is home and feverles. She doesn’t have any drains, so that’s good, but she does have an open wound in her stomach, and she has to pull out the old dressing, clean it out, and repack it with a new dressing twice a day, so that’s disgusting!

On the other hand, TLCD said that the tram flap is healing beautifully, which is great considering that when he said that he’d just come from seeing a patient whose tram flap had died. Is that not horrible? The transplanted skin and muscle just didn’t take. Not sure what one does in that situation, and not sure who this patient was, but please send out your prayers, thoughts, vibes, auras, or whatever it is you emanate.

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, good Lord.

Posted in Uncategorized by dbancroft on February 8, 2008

The drains strike again! (da da da duuuuuuuuum!)

Stacey went in to Newton Wellesley to have the doc look at the site where the drain was because it was kinda swollen and red-ish. While she was there they took her temp and it was 102. Unlovely.

So they decided to keep her for observation, pumped her full of antibiotics, and started poking around in her stomach. At first they couldn’t figure out what was wrong — the fluid the turkey baster guy sucked out was clear of any infection, and nothing they took out at the hospital seemed wonky. But today they figured out that it’s a staph infection. Whee!

Staph is really really common after surgery, apparently, and they switched her to a different antibiotic which is more effective for that. This is good because the first one has this weird side effect of giving you a funky taste in your mouth. And everything you eat tastes like that so why bother, right?

But here’s another interesting thing — since the surgery, Stacey hasn’t been hungry. She can’t really eat that much. And the low blood sugar that runs in the family hasn’t been bothering her. Me, I’m suspicious. I mean, they were right there, what if they snuck in a little gastric bypass action? You know, they’re thinking full-bodied woman, she’ll probably thank us if we sneak in a little perk!

Oh fine, that probably didn’t happen. Oh FINE, it’s beyond the realm of possibility that that happened. But just think about the  lawsuit! Whoo-EE! Everybody tear up those mortgages!

OK, I shall update as events unfold.  In the meantime flowers are, as always, much appreciated!