Saturday, August 27, 2011


I'm sitting here listening to the latest news of Hurricane Irene.

Thing is though it seems like we've already visited the eye of the perfect storm earlier this week. And an earthquake! Seriously!

After a disastrous trip to Colorado that we had to cut short and come home, I woke up last Saturday with a newly droopy left eye. This, along with escalating pain and decreasing function to my left arm which I've chronicled here before. After calling the doctor and trying various pain killing medications, the decision was made to admit me to hospital in an effort to control the pain and try and investigate the sources further.

Oh and I should also mention too, that by Wednesday morning I woke up to find my left hand was now almost completely paralyzed. Essentially a piece of meat. So this is on my mind as well.

After being subjected to a battery of tests, the doctors concluded that these latest issues have come about through new skin metastasis and infiltration of the nerve line controlling my left eye and arm. No mass to speak of, but a shadowy specter moving across important nerve lines is what it looks like on the scans. A "coating" of the nerves if you will. Hands up who knew breast cancer could do this?

So I've now changed chemotherapy regimens and am undergoing an emergency course of radiation to at least try and reverse some of the nerve damage to the hand, in the vain hope that I might be able to regain some function beyond what is essentially a fairly useless lobster claw at the moment.

To be honest, I'm just feeling very tired and a bit overwhelmed right now. What does this all mean going forward? How do I cope with the complete loss of the hand? How will I make dinner, something I love to do, amongst other things. How will I ever wear another article of clothing that's not an elasticated waist, or doesn't have buttons? I know I'm not the first person this has ever happened to and who deal with much worse, but still, it just seems like a lot to have to think about and I can't quite get my head around it.

I don't really know what to say at this point. As a friend quipped this week my life seems to be reading like a bad movie script. New mets, chemo, hospital, earthquake, radiation, paralysis, hurricane; did I miss anything? Locust plague, Armageddon?

But in the spirit of my usual rants, here are some assorted Why/What The F$cks that stayed with me after this week's escapades;


  • If I'm in hospital with an accessed port hanging out of my chest, WTF is a nursing assistant rooting around in my arm for a vein to draw blood from me at 4am in the morning? And why am I arguing with her?

  • Ditto for my MRI tests. WTF was no one available to access my port to inject the MRI contrast?

  • When I'm whacked out on pain medication it's very difficult to have a serious consultation with a specialist doctor. Also don't be surprised if I insult your work. I'm off my face! WTF?

  • Pain medication causes severe constipation. WTF is it so hard in the hospital to get anything representing one of the main food groups and anything that might resemble food fiber? Shouldn't a nutritionist on the oncology ward be making some automatic decisions for you about food choices, since you're so whacked out you barely know your own name, let alone think about whether you should eat broccoli or spinach. But I do want to point out that the hospitals Dunkin' Donuts was open 24hrs! That's good because I needed a jelly donut!

  • When I got home, all I could think was that I didn't have enough clean underwear to last me through the hurricane. WTF am I worrying about this, my beloved asked me? I don't know I just am! Note to laundry gods aka Mother in Law. Thank you for curing that little WTF!

  • When doctors say that chemotherapy is "well tolerated", particularly in the metastatic setting, WTF does this really mean? That you might be able to get out of bed if you're lucky? That it won't necessarily kill you? What does survival with metastatic breast cancer really mean anyway?  Seems like the same issue's on The Assertive Cancer Patient's mind as well this weekend....

  • If we're serious about downgrading breast cancer to a "chronic" disease, then WTF aren't we pulling out all stops to understand and treat metastatic breast cancer. Because this is the one that really F$cks you up, and then likely kills you.  

Hurricane indeed. Yawn.

P.S. Just in case this post isn't clear, I'm now at home and resting comfortably.  Latest crisis being dealt with.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Am I A Tough Girl?

They say there's no such thing as bad publicity, but recently my other blog Can-Do Women, was mentioned by Huffington Post contributor Peg Aloi, in Tough Girls: Do They Still Exist?

Apparently there's a dearth of tough "gals" out there and women are simply "girly" again.  And "the blogosphere proves it!"

Peg writes;
Maybe it's the "new" (crappy) economy, or our fear of the imminent zombie-vampire-Tea Partier apocalypse, or the realization that teaching our kids self-reliance instead of whiny entitlement really is the best approach to parenting, but there's so much emphasis on, well, ultra-femme domestic activity these days. This weird retro world of cooking, heirloom tomatoes and Jane Austen is starting to feel a bit smug and smothering. Where's the fun?
My blog's mentioned under the auspices of "heirloom tomatoes" and whether this is "fun"?

Well readers, you know I couldn't leave well enough alone.  Here's my retort to this brassy little article;

Thank you for mentioning my blog under the auspices of "Heirloom Tomatoes" (www.candow­omen.wordp­ in seeking to answer the question of whether tough girls still do exist? 
 Funny, I've never thought of myself as particular­ly "girly" or indeed "anti-femi­nist", although I do love to cook. And in answer to your question as whether I may personally qualify as tough? Before you or your readers judge me, perhaps I should include a link to my other blog; the one where I blog about my life as a women in her early forties dealing with metastatic breast cancer (see http://can­cerculture­now.blogsp­­1/01/can-d­o-spirit.h­tml) 
Your post reminds me that both my blogs have been sadly neglected of late due to all the "fun" my illness has been serving up to me, leaving with very little time, ability or gumption to pursue the things I really like to do. Like being a tough bad-ass breast cancer activist blogger, as well as someone who enjoys a bloody good heirloom tomato.

 Tough "gal"? You be the judge.

Courtesy of Past Expiry Cartoon

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Another Year, Another Burger

Today is my 41st birthday.

The Burger King
When I was a kid I used to be a member of the Hungry Jacks Club (that's Australian for Burger King, folks). Right on time, the Burger King himself would write me a birthday letter and send me a years worth of vouchers for a free sundae, fries, whopper junior or whatever. And during the month of my birthday I could go in and claim my birthday gift. A free Whopper! It was so exciting to a ten year old girl, back in a time when going out for a junk food dinner was a special treat to be savored, and dreamed about for another year.

Now however, it seems my birthdays are officially sponsored by the American Cancer Society.

No special birthday letter, no vouchers for free stuff (would I really want  ACS swag anyway?), instead just a winsome melody from the likes of Harry Connick Junior, a heartfelt bleating by Justin Bieber or even a comedic message from Jack Black.  All with faces that say "Aw, it's your birthday and you have cancer. Poor you."  Gosh, I can't wait.  (Editors Note: In case my facetiousness is not clear here, I don't want a special ACS-branded message for my birthday thanks!)

I'll be starting my day off right with a celebratory hit of chemotherapy. Perhaps I'll yell out "chemo for everyone!" and we'll pull up our IV poles, gather around my Lazy-Boy chair in the Lazy-Boy-Showroom-From-Hell, and sing a stirring rendition of Happy Birthday to me. (Proudly brought to you by the American Cancer Society).

I guess turning "41" generally passes without fanfare, a bit like "14", "23" and "32", plus all those other ages in between.  It's not really a milestone birthday like "1", "13", "16", "18", "21", "30" and then the BIG 4-0.  But "41" is  a gentle reminder to start fielding jokes about getting old and complaining about turning "50" all too soon.  Middle age beckons!

I've begun to count birthdays.  Seven birthdays since original diagnosis, four birthdays since a serious bump in the road, and two birthdays since we encountered a major pothole. Perhaps my turning "41" might be a considered a milestone of sorts by the statisticians, but I think I'd just as soon as not consider turning "41" a milestone, thank you very much.

I'd also love to start complaining about turning "50" and the onset of middle age.

And I'd also prefer my birthday wasn't an event worthy of sponsorship by a cancer organization, unless of course it involves a free hamburger.

Happy Birthday to me!


My 2nd Birthday!

My 4th Birthday.
Love my outfit!