mohs day

img_9982

Today is Mohs surgery day. I am in the waiting room while they see if they got all the squamous cell in the first attempt. I just paid the monsterous co-pay.  $2500. Yes, really. It was cheaper to walk in the door and have breast cancer surgery.

Like any cancer, I just want clean margins.

Last week was the large basal cell removal and sadly, it’s not healing as well as was expected. They did a wound check and took a culture sample…and I get a prescription antibiotic cream and an antibiotic. I have allergies to some, hopefully this is not one of them.

I am sitting in a room of other Mohs patients in our own special waiting room. I am significantly younger than most of the patients.

One woman right in front of me is a patchwork of burned off spots as well as a Mohs spot considerably larger than mine on her face. Yet she is nut brown from tanning. All I can think is I might not really sit in the sun after this ever again.

My face is thankfully still numb from the needles of topical numbing stuff. I will be back to finish this post when I know what is what.

HGTV is on the TV and two men are discussing some accident that was on the news recently. Me? My brain is wandering and I was thinking about my friend Allison from high school. She died of Melanoma years ago.

O.K….some time has passed and it is 2:45 PM and I am home.  It took two go rounds with the Mohs and some stitches but once again God smiled and I have clear margins.  Can’t ask for better than that.  No chemo cream, either.

I am so glad this is done.  Wonderful surgeon as well.

I have earned a nap.

2fa3978d-56da-40d0-82a5-ea6be36b579e

 

 

Posted in breast cancer, health insurance | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

f*ck cancer, any cancer

LAUGHING-AT-CANCER-POINTLESS

I started getting religion about my dermatology appointments for skin checks after I finished radiation in September, 2011.

So how about the irony of a skin cancer diagnosis at the onset of Pinktober which I hate already especially because of the damn Ibrance commercial where the fake commercial patient is a middle aged woman named Carla with dark hair. I mean REALLY?????

So before I even had coffee or much of another thought this morning I opened up my email from my dermatologist at Penn:

Specimen A – Diagnosis CHEEK, LEFT – SQUAMOUS CELL CARCINOMA IN SITU WITH ACTINIC KERATOSIS 
Specimen B – Diagnosis ARM, LEFT UPPER – PRURIGO 
Specimen C – Diagnosis SHOULDER, LEFT SUPERIOR – BASAL CELL CARCINOMA-MULTICENTRIC

A – This reveals a skin cancer, and I will be referring you to Mohs surgery for definitive treatment (I believe this is the best method for treatment of your lesion).  

B – This is just a benign lesion, and no additional work is necessary.

C- This does indicate a skin cancer, and I will be calling you to schedule a removal of this lesion.

F*ck.

Yes I did just curse. Sadly it is my go to word with any form of cancer diagnosis.

Just F*ck.

4717b0b2db8e51f82223f2f66d76fd78Why am I posting this? First of all so you my readers know I am not Sister Mary Sunshine swami of the breast cancer blog who is above and over it.  I am most of the time ….but I have my moments.

Today I am having a moment….. or five.

This afternoon I get one thing sliced off.

Next week the Mohs surgery.

This is not my idea of fun.

Nothing with the word cancer in it is my idea of fun.

So other than getting this out of my system so I can put my positive hat back on, why am I writing about this?

To tell any breast cancer or cancer patient out there to take the dermatologist visits seriously.  Make the appointments. Keep the appointments. Just freaking DO IT. Actually everyone should have a dermatologist and get regular skin checks.

I am lucky.  I have GREAT doctors thanks to Penn Medicine.  I think I have one of the best dermatologists in the business.  He is about my skin and keeping me healthy and not a dermatologist who is trying to sell me cosmetics and botox and other “fillers”.

See? Writing about this crap always helps.  I feel the storm cloud lifting.

But seriously? No one should ever get unpleasant news before coffee in the morning. It’s just uncivilized.

Getting coffee now.

Pax

Related image

Posted in breast cancer, health insurance | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

as pinktober approaches….

Just like women used to be offended or even upset by sexist advertising campaigns of the past, I have grown to loathe the big pharmaceutical companies’ cancer drug commercials. I am also on overload on hospital and cancer treatment center commercials. They are my trigger and I hate watching them. They are my reminder that cancer lurks. Maybe that’s reality, but as a breast cancer survivor I don’t need to be smacked in the face with that all of the time, and essentially every damn day.

At the top of my list are the commercials Pfizer runs on Ibrance. Ibrance is a drug used to treat metastatic breast cancer. As per Wikipedia:

Palbociclib (codenamed PD-0332991, trade name Ibrance) is a drug for the treatment of ER-positive and HER2-negative breast cancer developed by Pfizer. It is a selective inhibitor of the cyclin-dependent kinases CDK4 and CDK6.[1][2] Palbociclib was the first CDK4/6 inhibitor to be approved as a cancer therapy by any organization, and as of December 2017 has been prescribed more than 90,000 times.[3]

I had invasive lobular breast cancer. I was lucky to be HER2 negative, and to be someone who came through with stage 2 and I also had clean margins. I was able to escape chemotherapy and only have radiation. The word “only” is somewhat subjective because the radiation has caused other issues down the road along with the Tamoxifen. Treating cancer has completely abandoned my digestive system, and given me mild hypothyroidism, slight osteopenia, and early growing cataracts earlier than I ever should of had to have worried about them.

OK I’m going to put my big girl panties back on and say would I do it all over again to stay alive? No doubt. But I am tired of the cancer commercials. And Pfizer has added insult to injury by naming one of its cancer victims in the Ibrance commercial which is used to treat women who live with metastatic versions of my cancer Carla. Every freaking time I hear the commercial my brain snaps. I often change the channel if I can’t forward through it because I have such a hard time hearing my name and the type of cancer I had in a commercial on television.

“Carla is living with metastatic breast cancer….” the female narrator begins. I hear my name, and boom! that fear rises in my throat every time….the woman is middle aged with dark hair and a family.

I just can’t process this commercial. I am having a harder and harder time with all of the cancer related commercials the inundate us on TV. They are as bad as the political ads starting up. And much like the political ads, big Pharma and hospital systems and what not will be going gangbusters because we are on the eve of pinktober.

I am seven years cancer free. I count my blessings as a survivor every day. But I wish I didn’t have to be smacked in the face with this via commercials as often as I am.

I can’t be the only one who feels this way I am guessing.

Sign me #pinkoverload and it is not even #pinktober yet.

Posted in breast cancer | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

survivors have a responsibility to pay it forward

I am 7 years and 1 month breast cancer free. I would not have gotten here without the occasional support of other survivors before me.This is, after all, a journey like no other. And not a journey I would wish on anyone, but it’s part of life…sadly.

I don’t pretend to be an expert on this disease, and everyone’s cancer is different so I can only say what worked for me. Part of what worked for me is this blog, which is like a living online journal of a sort and talking about breast cancer openly. I think journaling helps. You don’t have to blog, but try to journal. The exercise of getting the myriad of emotions out is so helpful. Think of it as releasing toxicity.

People almost visibly wince when you mention breast cancer. Ummm, yeah, don’t wince on my behalf because (a) you didn’t go though it, I did and (b) I am alive.If people are uncomfortable when you say you have or had breast cancer, let that be ON THEM. Not you. You have no damn reason to be uncomfortable because they are uncomfortable.

I believe being open with your friends and family is important because they are your support network. That doesn’t mean the support network gets to run your disease, however. They are there to support you, not control you. If they can’t be supportive, let them go for a while. Your energy needs to be on you.

Be positive.

I am not always positive, I don’t think it’s humanly possible 24/7, but I try. But deciding to be positive through surgery and treatment made a difference.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions of your care team. It’s their job to answer every question you might have. You are paying them to save your life, after all.

Take advantage of “breast benefits” – nurse navigators, nutritional and psychological counseling, and so on.

Be prepared to take on health insurance companies. Again, you are paying them for coverage and you don’t have to necessarily take what they say lying down.I know, I know this all sounds exhausting. But it’s not so much that as simply being proactive, and being your own best advocate.

Even if you think you can go to appointments and treatments by yourself, don’t. Trust me, extra ears are so helpful. And the company helps. Among the hardest things for me going through treatment was watching other women doing it alone. Don’t be alone through this.

Post cancer life is your new reality. I have been pretty lucky, save some side effects from radiation treatment and Tamoxifen.

The Tamoxifen side effects are hot flashes (which 7 years in to a 10 year drug plan have regulated a bit and aren’t as bad as they were the first couple of years) and early cataracts. Now I have had family members on both sides of my family with cataracts, so chances are mine would have happened anyway, but Tamoxifen has accelerated them so I am growing them in my 50s. When they are “ripe” I will have them removed. I also have intermittent joint pain. I do NOT like the joint pain, but exercise does help.

Radiation. Well while undergoing radiation my hair did thin out a little and it changed texture for a couple of years. It also made me bone weary towards the end, so remember even Wonder Woman takes naps. Radiation therapy can damage your thyroid. That is something new for me, hypothyroidism. But in fairness, genetically it may come naturally because apparently my mother has been off and on synthetic thyroid meds for decades. And my sister lives with Hasimoto’s. I was recently diagnosed with hypothyroidism.

I am a bad cancer survivor sometimes and like to avoid needles and blood work. But a nice but firm nurse practitioner who works with my primary care physician made me sit still for a full physical. Now I understand why I kept getting so tired, even with proper amounts of sleep. We will see how I do on thyroid meds and I have more blood work in my future.

Look, do I like the fact that even 7 years post breast cancer I have way too many doctors appointments? Oh hell, no. But, the bottom line is I chose life and we are a long time dead.

I still have the newly diagnosed and family members of newly diagnosed reach out to me. Some folks I know, some I don’t know. But I want to pay it forward so even if it is just me lending an ear I try to do it.

Recently someone reached out who has a loved one with a stage 4 diagnosis. That is hard for me because I was stage 2 and very, very lucky. Metastatic cancer is tough, and their loved one had the initial reaction to refuse treatment. I hope their loved one changes their mind, but if they don’t, I hope everyone respects her decision. Breast cancer is a real my body/ myself moment. I chose to fight and I chose to have the recommended treatment. But not every human being is going to chose the same path as horribly cruel as that sounds. All we can really do is love one and other at the end of the day.

Another recent development is once again learning about women who have never had mammograms. Sorry, not sorry, THAT terrifies me. Is the old boob squish fun? No, but again, you’re a long time dead, so take advantage of every damn mammogram and every bit of genetic testing available.

If you are a survivor, don’t hide. Shine your light. Pay it forward.

Again, I don’t pretend to be perfect. And as survivors are we suddenly blessed with advance medical degrees? No. But we’ve been there. So pay it forward. We’re all only human, after all.

Posted in breast cancer | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

the waiting is the hardest part

June 1st was 7 years.

Today was the official all clear.

Lucky seven. The waiting is always the hardest part.

I am still one of the lucky ones. That is hard some days to wrap one’s head around.

Posted in breast cancer | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

seven years

Today is exactly 7 years to the day that I am officially breast cancer free. It has been a crazy seven years.

And I will say it again, that everything since breast cancer has been an amazing journey.

Life is good. I am alive. I celebrated by having lunch with a very dear friend from high school. While we were out I found the quote that is the screenshot closing this post. It seemed oddly fitting.

Posted in breast cancer | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

so here we are

It’s the end of March. It has been a long and snowy winter. And with spring having just arrived, it’s time to start the next round of breast cancer related appointments.  That is how I begin the season of renewal and rebirth.

First up will be the mammogram.  Then the oncologist.  Then hopefully I will be free and clear for another six months to a year.

I make my appointments. I keep my appointments. I love my care team and I still get anxious.  It is a crazy thing, but I do.

Life and time march on.  I am one of the lucky ones. I know that and am thankful for it every day.

I never told you guys that my sweet man and I made it legal in November, 2017.  I will admit finding a dress was a challenge thanks to the lopsided post-breast cancer breasts of it all.  But in the end, the right dress found me and it all worked out.  We had an awesome day and we were surround by people from every stage of our lives that we love very much.

My friend who is a milliner made me white silk poinsettias to wear in my hair since I am not a veil person.  We had a surprise wedding.  We invited people to a holiday party.

It is almost 7 years since you my dear readers, and I began this journey.  I know I do not write very often at this point, but I do think of you and your encouragement over the years.

And I will write soon.

 

Posted in breast cancer | Tagged | 1 Comment