Monday, October 24, 2016

Fall Cancer Updates

     I have been so unmotivated to blog lately. But I figure now that it's the end of October, I should put on paper what's been going on lately. Developments have occurred!
     At the end of July I had my last saline injection for the tissue expanders. Dr. Klausmeyer said that Kaiser would be in touch with me to schedule surgery, and that it would probably take at least a couple of months. In my mind, I was hoping that somehow the date could be scheduled while it was still summer break, but of course that was not going to happen.
     Went back to work August 5th, and the kids started back to school that day, too. It was nice to be back at work. We had new student orientation one day that week, and during the tours, a couple of my students announced to the new students that I was the teacher with breast cancer. I thought -- shit, I guess that's my label for the next year or so.
     I saw Dr. Abdullah, my oncologist, in September, and she said I was officially in remission. Which is not as exciting as it sounds. I mean, my mom was in remission at some point, and her cancer still came back. Then I saw Dr. Leung, my breast surgeon, the following week, and told her about the remission. She said that while I was technically in remission, I was in active treatment and taking tamoxifen for nine and a half more years, so it's not quite the same. Which made sense.
     At support group that week, I mentioned my ambivalence about remission. John, our leader, said that really, plenty of people can be in remission for years, and then their cancer recurs. Another guy in group had also been labeled in remission. We talked about how that should be a huge relief, but it's really not. I guess it's still nice to hear?
     I did hear from Kaiser about scheduling surgery, and told the lady that I would love to have surgery as soon as possible, or during Thanksgiving break. She said she would get back to me, but we were looking at late October at the very earliest.
    So I was super shocked to get a call from the Kaiser surgery scheduler in late September, telling me that Dr. Klausmeyer could do my surgery October 10th, if I wanted that date. It was at Kaiser West LA, but if I wanted that spot, I could have it. I said yes! (Actually, I didn't realize it was Kaiser West LA til later, but I wanted to get this over with.)
     West LA is Beverly Hills, and a pain to get to, with terrible parking. But I got through it.
     The next morning I let Gina, my boss, know that I had a date, and she made arrangements for my sub. Dr. Klausmeyer said I would need at least three days off, so that was my plan, by Gina really didn't believe me and she had the sub lined up for the whole week.
     I got through the next two weeks at school, and got all my sub plans in order, and on Indigenous People's Day (Columbus Day for Trump supporters!) I got up super early and took a cab to West LA. I was the first surgery of the day, so I had to be there by 5:45. I was about an hour early.
     Got through surgery -- my anesthesiologist was very nice and did not suggest my lifestyle choices resulted in my cancer -- so I appreciated that.
     Hours later, the nurse woke me up and asked if my husband was there. I said that he was waiting to hear so he could pick me up. That's when I felt the pain. Just sitting up was shockingly painful. I had forgotten what that pain was like.
     Hung out waiting for Todd. He went to get the car, and a very sweet evangelical Christian orderly wheeled me out to the parking lot. He was a sweet man, and he wanted to talk to me about Jesus. I just smiled and nodded.
     Todd thought we should get lunch at Shake Shack, since it was right there and there was no line. This was crazy ambitious. Todd suggested I wait in the car, but I thought I'd be ok. So we got in line, and I ordered a milkshake and a cheeseburger and a Coke. All I really cared about was the Coke. Having a breathing tube during general anesthesia results in such a painful throat! I drank maybe three sips of the shake -- as the nausea from post-anesthesia started to take hold. I could not eat any burger. The Coke was delicious.
     We got home, and I got in bed, and really felt the pain. I took a norco (narcotic pain pill), but then I had to throw up. Throwing up hurt so much! I took another norco, then threw up again. I threw up every hour on the hour til 12: 30AM. Once the vomiting was done, I did start to feel a bit better, and I could sleep, at least.
     Tuesday, I decided to not even bother with the narcotic pain meds. I hate the way they make me feel, and I was still thinking maybe I could go to work on Thursday, so I didn't want to be addled. I took some OTC painkillers throughout the day. Todd went to work, so I was on my own and had to take care of myself. This mostly consisted of sleeping, with a nibble here and there.
     Wednesday it was obvious that I would not be up to work on Thursday. I called Gina and let her know, and she was relieved. Then I went back to bed. I had to get up, though, a few hours later, because I had stupidly scheduled a parent conference with Emiko's teacher. My rationale was I would actually be able to make the appointment, since I wouldn't be coming from work. His last appointment spot was 3, which was going to tough for me to achieve in a normal circumstance.
     Anyway, I made it to the kids' school, via my car, and toddled to Mr. Bemus's room. His earlier appointment was still there, so I had to wait. I found a chair and sat in it. Finally it was my turn -- I was a hot sweaty mess. I had forgotten that I would not be able to shower before this meeting. I tried to dry shampoo my hair, but I think I looked pretty terrible. I felt even worse.
     But the meeting was good and I was so glad when it was over. I got the kids and drove slowly home and went back to bed.
     By Thursday, I was feeling a bit more like a regular person, and the pain was intermittent and not constant, so that was an improvement.
    Friday Todd was off work, since the kids' school was closed for parent conferences. Turned out my former student Erk G the rapper was in town, and I really wanted to go see him! So Todd and the kids and I got in the car and made our way to Hollywood to see Erk G. I looked ok, as I had had a shower the night before. I didn't feel great, but it was so wonderful to see Erk! He was tickled to see me, too. It was fantastic. He took some footage of us for his video, which was hilarious. I'm so happy I got to visit with him for a bit. Once we got home, I had to go straight back to bed. Worth it!
     I went back to school Monday the 17th. It was pretty brutal, but I managed. Luckily I was able to show videos most of the week. But the first half of the week was not pretty. By Thursday I was better, but every day the kids and I would get home, and I would go to bed.
     Today was two weeks since surgery. I had pain at work today -- so I know I was up and walking around too much. But the girls are writing paragraphs and they are having all this trouble and they don't listen so I wasn't able to just sit and look at them, so I felt it. Got the kids home and went to bed. But I'm feeling better now, so that's good.
     I saw Dr. Klausmeyer last Thursday and she said I'm healing beautifully. I will see her again Dec 1, and then we can think about nipples. She asked me if I wanted nipples. YES! I miss nipples!
     OK, that's enough for now. I'm tired!

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