Monday, November 22, 2010


We met with the oncologist on October 21, 2010 for the 6-month check up and to review the 6-month MRI/mammo results.

Cancer breast:
Decrease in the enhancement at the lumpectomy site. Resolution of small fluid collection at the lumpectomy site. Category 2/benign. Recommendation: Normal follow-up!!! (exclamations were not dictated by the radiologist)

Non-Cancer breast:
No abnormal mass or significant enhancement is seen. Category 1/negative. Recommendation: Normal follow-up.

Moved to having annual mammograms!!

Final-E Finally! The two years of a grey/black “probably benign” cloud hanging over my head is gone.

Did I instantly start doing the happy dance? No. Come on, who do you think is writing this blog? Once a year mammograms? Are you crazy, doc? This is an aggressive cancer! It was the same feeling I had at my last radiation treatment. No one was watching this b*tch closely. It’s the typical “I’m out of treatment, now what do I do?” feeling.

I know I have stepped away from blogging. Why you may ask (or not, but you are here reading, right?) Well, I found that I couldn’t be upbeat and positive all the time with this “probably benign” crap (from here on out known as PB crap) hanging over my head. I tried. I did happy thoughts, yoga breathing, acupuncture, exercise, lost weight (31 pounds thank you very much), talked to God, read His promises and compared my little PB crap to others whose cancer came back or who were living life with Stage IV cancer.

And here’s what I found. It’s OK to go to the ‘dark side’. That’s what I call the times when I feel that I have no control over my life. The key is to just not stay there. I spent too many days at that stay vacation place while trying to hold together my work and home life. Not a good thing.

What I discovered was that if my life was balanced, the stay vacation in the dark side didn’t last very long. And if it did, I spent a lot of energy fighting that demon with taking control of my diet, exercising and getting the right amount of sleep. A key was not to beat myself up for being in the dark side – a challenge for someone who has depression (and anxiety only recently discovered – thank you Sue!) and had other undiagnosed health issues. Another key is to not beat myself up when I wasn’t consistent in this fight.

Here’s something I picked up from somewhere on the Internet:

Survivorship is a continuum with no closure; we face different issues at different times.
With the Final-E!! conclusive diagnoses of severe Excessive Daytime Sleepiness (Idiopathic Hypersomnia) and Fibromyalgia, this blog will now focus on ways to live life while sleepy, in pain and in a brain fog.

If the focus of the blog was my IH/FM health, it would be something like this:

I woke up many times last night because of pain in my [shoulders, hips, knees, feet, blah, blah, blah]. Sleep was not refreshing and I am now [in a brain fog, so sleepy, unstable to drive, blah, blah, blah]. How can I make it to work and function 100%? (can you hear the stress in my tone?) I hope to get out of the house today; will have to wait to see what the body and mind allows me to do, blah, blah, blah, blah.
While I do not recommend going on a dark cloud stay vacation for two years, I am energized to use the knowledge gained to live life with a chronic condition and live life despite a chronic condition.


Monday, September 13, 2010

Cognitive - no smart title (yet)

After our last visit, dear blogging community, my life became sucked up by work, medical tests, waiting for medical test results, stress from waiting for test results and visits to doctors. Let’s see where we left off on our story . . .

I met with the neurologist who was going to do 8 hours of testing. Or so I was told by my primary care physician (PCP). Neuro had me to do some memory tests, but it was not 8 hours of testing. We talked about all my aches, pains and groans, which included, but were not limited to: sweats, swollen neck glands, headache, dry eyes, intestinal issues, restless legs, confusion/memory issues, fatigue and sleep problems. Neurologist’s diagnosis was depression, “can’t be anything related to chemo since that was so long ago and research doesn’t support it”. We talked about quitting my high stress job and doing something else. Referred to psychiatrist to review my antidepressants and see what needed adjusting because of said depression.

In looking back, I realized that my cognitive skills were still a little skewed. I wasn’t functioning at the level I was before cancer; couldn’t multitask or remember things. I found that I had to start making lists to ensure that the multiple facets of my job were done and that nothing fell through the cracks. A great amount of energy was expended on ensuring and remembering. I also found that I couldn’t cook more than one thing at a time; something was always getting burnt. Before cancer, I could cook an entire dinner for 10 people without any problems.

Shrinky dink (psychiatrist) didn’t totally agree with neurologist’s opinion that the memory issues couldn’t be related to chemo. But he upped the dosage of Wellbutrin that I was already on anyway. Shrinky wanted me to take 3 Wellbutrin tablets and he faxed in a refill to my pharmacy. Okay, easy enough and I started on Friday morning taking 3 pills from my PCP’s prescription . . heck, not going to waste the money spent on the drugs. I felt weird and wired. After picking up the new prescription on Saturday, I placed it aside, since I already had an open bottle from my PCP’s prescription. I took 3 pills on Saturday and again on Sunday. I am definitely weird and wired, but now my breathing is a little challenged. So glad I’m not doing this while trying to work!

I sort my prescriptions, supplements and vitamins into pill sorters on Sundays for the following week. Yep, sorters, plural. I opened the new bottle of Wellbutrin and noticed that it was a different size and color from my old bottle. Long story short – my old prescription was 300 mg not 150 mg as I thought. So I was taking 900 mg of Wellbutrin. Poison Control stated that seizures are the number one side effect at this higher dose, so get thyself to the hospital. N O W. Poison Control called the ER while we were enroute and the ER was ready for me. They offered a lovely charcoal beverage and an overnight stay in their guest accommodations, hooked up to monitors, to ensure that I did not have a seizure.

Follow up with rheumatologist resulted in him seeing something on my hip xray and ordering a MRI. The results of the MRI were okay for the hip; however, it showed that I had a cyst on my ovary. Radiologist suggested following up with an ultrasound, which happened the next week.

Fear and worry were tops, with a little more depression thrown in for good measure. Follow up with Shrinky Dink where I tell him I’m still not doing well with the memory and confusion (this is where he adds the Prozac).

Meet with gynecology nurse practitioner for ultrasound results, who also did a pap smear. Haven’t had one of those since my partial hysterectomy in 1996! Results came back with some endometrial cells. What? Endometrial? I don’t have a uterus or cervix; how can it be endometrial? Second pathology opinion, not endometrial but something else (I don’t recall what it was). But to be safe and sure that it’s not cancer, let’s have you do a colposcopy. Yada, yada, blah, blah, blah. That’s all I heard after the word “cancer”.

Follow up with Shrinky Dink, where I tell him I’m still having issues with memory and confusion and have now added another worry about cancer. He noted that despite the higher doses of antidepressants, I was still having memory and confusion issues; ergo, cognitive issues weren’t necessarily caused by depression. I asked, and he agreed, to support my request to work part time. By Thursday, I would be so fatigued that my whole weekends were spent getting rested up for the next week. If fatigue and cognitive issues are rated as a 10 (on a scale of 1-10) while on chemo, then this current fatigue and brain stuff was rated a 5. I work 8 am to 1 p.m. Monday – Thursday (this was the company’s choice on how to meet the doctor’s recommendation of 20 hours per week).

My number one reason for working a reduced schedule was simply this: the freedom from the fear that my company would terminate me due to the time away from work to have all these tests and doctor/counselor/acupuncturist visits to find out what was causing the cognitive issues. Second reason was to address the fatigue so we could have some type of life. Third reason was for some time to work on, well, me! Go to the gym as well as take time to get back to planning and eating healthy. I realized that from the time of the diagnosis in June 2008 until June 2010, my focus was on ensuring that I had my job and that things were cool for Vic.

I am aware that in the grand scheme of the universe that having a cloud of “probably benign” hanging over my head, with fatigue and cognitive issues really aren’t a big deal. I am also aware that things could be worse. But why am I having the cognitive issues?

Stay tuned for Part 2. Time for me to elliptical myself to Hawaii (mentally).

Friday, August 20, 2010

Two Years Ago

Today marks the 2nd anniversary of the surgery to remove cancer from my breast. While it seems so long ago, it really isn't that long.

I hope to get back to blogging soon.  But in the meantime, feel free to email me at

Over and out,