Friday, July 31, 2009


Dr. Cook gave us the PET scan results today. The spots that were in question turned out not to be cancer. The scan showed no areas of unusual activity. Wonderful news! I think I'll be having scans every 3 months for awhile.

I would have posted earlier this afternoon, but I was feeling sick. The radiation effects seem to accumulate over the week. I should be feeling fine very quickly - in time to get back to business on Monday.

Our family doctor, Dr. Roland, passed away yesterday morning. His funeral will be on Wednesday. I'm sure his family would appreciate your prayers. Mrs. Roland posted a moving letter to all their friends on Facebook at the group Expressions of Love for Dr. Ralph Roland.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

How Do You Solve a Problem like Maria?

Someone I told about the nuns in the radiation waiting room sang this little line from The Sound of Music. I was officially initiated today in the waiting room. Sister Marie sat me down and told me she was going to tell me the rules and that if I ever break any of them, I will be required to make a monetary donation to her 18-wheel truck bank. (No piggy bank for Sister Marie.)

Rule #1 - Always, always wear my name tag in the waiting room and make sure Jon wears his too. Failure to do so carries a fine of at least a nickle per violator.

Rule #2 - Never, never say "My number's up" when my number pops up on the electronic display to show me it's my turn for radiation. Instead, I must say, "Bingo!" - "like you've just won $16,000." (Sister Marie's words.) Failure to show proper enthusiasm also carries a fine of at least a nickle.

Rule #3 - Never, never, NEVER sit in Sister Marie's chair. Violation requires a donation of folded green stuff to the bank. Nickles are not accepted in such cases. Sister Owen told me I could sit in her chair anytime I wanted. Sister Marie said Sister Owen doesn't have any backbone.

Rule #4 - Sister Marie may deliver corporal punishment to any misbehaving patient or patient's family member at her discretion. "You can sue me if you want." She keeps a giant fly swatter handy - her "people swatter" - and I hear that she does use it.

Monday, July 27, 2009

The PET scan is done, and we will get the results as early as Thursday from my radiation oncologist. Since the medical oncologist ordered the scan, protocol may require that she be the one who gives me the results, and I'll see her on Friday.

Jon got up very early to fix me an omelet and bacon, so I started out with a good breakfast. The rest of the time before the scan went well without my being uncomfortably hungry. At the imaging office I found out why I had to fast. Cancer cells demand lots of sugar to multiply as fast as they do, so the goal was to get any remaining cancer cells good and hungry so they would quickly consume the radioactive sugar that was injected into me. That also explains why I could not eat carbs. The scan then allows the docs to see if there are areas where the sugar is being required at unusual levels.

The office provided a bag of snacks and bottled water so I didn't have to make an emergency stop for fries and a milkshake. Besides, after learning what I did about sugar today, I think I'll stay away from that. (I was trying to anyway.) I'd been told before that sugar encourages cancer, but until today no one explained why. I've also been told that cancer is encouraged by avocados, boxed food, tap water, bottled water, cell phones, steak, cheese, antioxidant supplements, radiation, chemotherapy, and yams.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

PET Scan

So many of you have asked about the PET scan that I can't believe I forgot to post when it will be! It will be tomorrow (Monday) at 1:00 p.m. This is terrible timing!!! I am not allowed to eat until after the scan is done, unless I get up at the crack of dawn to eat a little protein (but no carbs - doctor's orders). And I was told to allow three whole hours for the process. So at 4:00, I'll drag myself out of the office on hands and knees and crawl to the nearest joint to get some french fries and a milk shake. I know I won't care about healthy food at that point, and I'll surely be needing lots of carbs. Next time I have a PET scan, I'll make sure it's scheduled for early in the morning.

Can you tell I'm a wimp about skipping meals?

We will get the results of the scan on Friday when I have an appointment with the medical oncologist (the doctor that handled the chemotherapy). Thursday I'll see the radiation oncologist again and get an update on how the radiation is going.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Radiation and So On

My fifth radiation treatment was today. It's an unremarkable process from my perspective, although I know the technology that goes into it is way beyond my comprehension. It's so quiet and fast, it's hard to believe how much is actually happening.

I now have three tattoos so that I can be lined up in exactly the same position every day. The tattooed dots are aligned along laser lines to make sure the radiation is precise. I receive radiation in three places: my skin, chest wall, and axilla (under my arm where the lymph nodes used to be). I lie on a table with a huge machine, like a hunching, one-eyed critter, directly over me. It swivels around the table so the radiation can be delivered perfectly. I receive 5 doses of radiation, totaling about 52 seconds. On most days, I am in and out of the office in less than 20 minutes. Two elderly nuns, Sister Marie and Sister Owen (they really are sisters), keep the patients company in the waiting room, and they are a pleasure. They are upbeat, cheerful, and genuine. One is gentle and quiet, the other is loud and sassy. They have really made a name for themselves because I've heard about these two ladies for months now. They make that waiting room a comical, pleasant place. I think many of the radiation patients make their appointments for the mornings, just so they can be in the waiting room while Sister Marie and Sister Owen are there. They move on to other responsibilities at noon.

Yesterday was the interview with 9News. Kim Christiansen interviewed me, and she was so comfortable to talk too. She immediately put me at ease and made the whole interview seem like a simple conversation. I think it went well. Gilead even gave a few gassy smiles at just the right moments. 25 people were interviewed in preparation for Breast Cancer Awareness Month (October) and Susan G. Komen's Race for the Cure. The interviews will be aired during September and October. I will be sent a link to so I can share them with folks who aren't part of 9News's market. I don't know if I can figure out how to post it though.

Just kidding.

Thursday, July 23, 2009


I'll update later about the radiation and 9News interview. For now, I just wanted to share my all-time favorite comic. Those of you who know me know how much I love going to garage sales and thrift stores. I think I would still love it if we were ever to become millionaires. Someday maybe I'll write a book about the incredible things I've found by shopping that way. (Like the 39 pieces of vintage sterling - not plate - silverware for $3.)

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Day Gone Awry

I was hoping to get several projects done this weekend since it's the last chance before radiation begins. But Gilead was obviously developing a cold by Thursday evening and after being up much of the night with him, we decided a visit to the doctor's was necessary. Friday morning the doctor examined him and sent us to the hospital since he was preemie and is still pretty little. After several hours of monitoring him, the doctors at Children's Hospital decided his lungs are strong enough now to handle this cold on his own without any medication or extra support. They sent us home late in the afternoon with instructions about what to watch for, but also with a lot of encouragement that Gilead has developed very well over the past few weeks.

As I was driving home on I-25, I was rear ended by another (thankfully smaller) SUV. We were driving about 60 mph in heavy traffic - obviously he was going a little faster - so the accident could have been deadly. I was very rattled, but there was only minor damage to both of our cars, and both of us drivers were well aware of what we had just been spared. He was very polite and honest. It looks like all the insurance stuff will go pretty smoothly.

So at the end of the day, although none the planned projects had been completed and I was tired, we certainly had some blessings to count. Gilead's lungs are strong, our car still runs fine, and Gilead and I are alive and well.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

What is Heaven Like? by Beverly Lewis

In January, two friends passed away from some type of cancer, and we found out about a handful of others who had just been diagnosed. I felt overwhelmed and discouraged. Like I said in a few days ago, I felt like cancer was dropping people around me like flies. Jon knew I was feeling down, and one evening he gave me the book What Is Heaven Like? by Beverly Lewis and illustrated by Pamela Querin. A gift like this to someone facing cancer might seem morbid to some of you since talking about heaven assumes death. But since death is a common human experience, we might as well consider the after-life. There is so little information - what reliable source do we have? You all know my perspective already. The Bible has been my source of strength, and its reliability has been proven to me.

This is a children's picture book, but its simple thoughts have been wonderful. A young boy wonders about where his grandfather has gone. He asks various people in his life, "What's heaven like?" Each page is skillfully illustrated and holds a different person's answer to the boy's question. The part I like best is this: the thoughts about heaven are supported by a verse of Scripture printed on the bottom of every page. Having turned to the Bible for support, this has become the most beautiful part of this sweet book to me.

Chemo #9

My last chemo...believe it or not I've had mixed feelings. I won't miss feeling bad (this treatment has been the worst), but now I begin to wonder, "What if I have to do this all over again?" My emotions have felt kind of pregnant - that is, my feelings are all topsy-turvy, the way the tend to be when I'm pregnant (familiar territory). Radiation planning is on July 13, and the actual treatments will begin sometime that week. I hope to be finished with that by the end of August. Sometime soon I'll start taking Tamoxifen, a pill form of chemo that suppresses estrogen production since my type of cancer was feeding off of estrogen. I'll have to take that for 5 years.

I can't believe how much has changed since last October. My family continues to grow up even though I sometimes feel like my life has been placed on hold. I still can't believe we have another precious baby. A year ago, I adamantly stated that I didn't want any more children. I'm so glad we don't always get what we want. Cara walked into the youth group with feet nearly the same size as mine. John is standing on the edge of adolescence with feet that are bigger than mine. (For those of you who have never seen my feet, that's not small.) I guess one of the things that has changed the most around here has been shoes. We feel like we're buying a new pair every week. By the time I'm finished with the six-year treatment routine for this cancer, we'll have a daughter just a few months from adulthood. Amazing.