Friday, October 31, 2008

The Unbearable Lightness of Titanium, or, Eat My Dust

The last time I went to see Dr. Merkhottie, I asked for pictures of my collarbone, before and after, and he intuitively understood that I needed it in order to show the little people just how much I’ve been through, so that they could marvel and seek to emulate the impossible. So they threw them on a disc for me, and though the pictures needed a special program to open, I discovered just how great it is to have friends who are doctors since Jillian managed to get them open. And I would like to note here that Jillian, a doctor may I remind you, had the following to say about my pictures: “Wow, I’ve never seen a break like that before – that’s fierce! I’m surprised there wasn’t muscle or soft tissue damage – or maybe there was and you being you are just sucking it up. Very impressive. You are a total rock star.”

Okay, so I paraphrase just a wee bit, but you get the gist of it.

But before I post those pictures, I also found on my camera the following picture of me, Jillian and Deanna the morning of the Dairyland Dare. Clearly we have no idea of the total chaos that’s in store for us.

And then there are the collarbone photos:

Dr. Merkhottie left one of those perpendicular shards as apparently it was too hard to remove, and of course I trust his genius. I look at this picture of the before and I think wow, they sure gave me some good drugs. And I realize that if one is ever going to be in a bad bike crash, make sure you get a concussion at the same time. Because seriously, if there was major pain at the time or afterwards, I don’t remember it at all. In fact, except for that last week before surgery when the achiness was keeping me up at night, the collarbone actually wasn’t too bad. Of course, the oxycontin could have had something to do with that.

The thing that’s great about having a broken collarbone and the ensuing scar is that now for all the guys who are too intimidated to speak to me at bike rides and triathlons and such, because they don’t know what to say or even where to begin, well, they’ll have an automatic opening. Instead of the usual “oh, you’re that really witty person, the charming one, so athletically gifted which is obvious by even looking at you from a distance, and so practically perfect in every way, and and and and..... aaaaaaaaAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHH!" And then they run off screaming –it’s been known to happen, people. The intimidation factor is HUGE. But now? A jaunty “hey, cool scar, how’d you break your collarbone?” will suffice, because then I get to talk about the horrific crash and the months of rehab, and yet how even in the face of that, here I am, doing the Dairyland Dare again, not the least bit afraid of going screamingly fast down any big hills, no way, because that’s just the kind of person I am.

Of course, I may “accidentally” forget to mention that I don’t remember the crash AT ALL, and so being scared of descending wouldn’t make much sense. Not sure how that part would even be relevant though.

Deanna has told me in so many words that she’s scared of the additional speed my new titanium collarbone will give me, so she’s upped her swimming from 6 times a week to twice a day. Poor dear. In the meantime, I continue with my dryland training regimen, which has worked so well for me in the past.

In other news, I would like to note a grave moral dilemma I faced yesterday while on my way to PT. I stopped at the 7-11 for coffee, yet when I went to grab a medium cup, as usual, I noticed that the only medium cups were bright red John McCain cups. I took one, put it down. Looked at it – WTH? They’re doing some kind of “count the vote” thing. How cute, and yet utterly stupid. I pick up the cup again, put it back. Pick up, put down. Pick up a small cup and compare the two. Nope, small won’t do. Pick up and put down the McCain cup again. Do they really only have these damn McCain cups? I walk around the counter, notice the end-of-aisle display explaining this malarkey of “vote independent! Vote Democrat! Vote Republican!” – yet even on the display, there’s only a big stack of McCain cups, nothing else left. Shit. Do I really want to pay more for a large coffee, which I don’t really need? Apparently I do, as I walked out of there with my large coffee. Is this election over yet???

In a final note, when I get to PT these days, there’s usually some kind of news or sports show on the big tvs. A minute later, by the time I’ve taken my coat off, the channel has been changed to Paula Deen – and no one would dare try to change it, as one foolish person once did. And at radiation, we have an understanding that while I’m there, it’s a Huey-Lewis-free-zone.

Life is good.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Blackhawk Downer

So Deanna, Jillian and I managed to wrangle tickets via stubhub to the Blackhawks’ big Breast Cancer Month game Wednesday night, and we set off as a veritable vision in pink. Deanna’s insisted I bring the oh-so-attractive bright pink hat from the Komen 5k race which has “Survivor” written on the back, and as soon as I see her and pull it out of my purse, she snatches it from my hand and wears it for the rest of the evening. It’s a good look for her:

We get our pink foods (mai tais) and wait for the game to begin, but first of course they do the ceremonial puck drop. Now, call me crazy, but since they’ve loudly proclaimed on their website and everywhere else that it’s their big BREAST CANCER AWARENESS night, I’m kind of assuming that hmm, maybe they’ll have some of us out there for this kind of thing, the shootout between periods, etc. You know, bring just a bit of attention to the cause and all that.

I know, it must be the lingering effects of the brain injury that causes me to have such odd thoughts. Because next thing you know, they’re announcing that the family of some kid who was just diagnosed with.........LEUKEMIA (????) going to drop the puck. Huh? My jaw’ve got to be kidding me, right? I mean, it’s bad enough that us breast cancer people are the bastard stepchildren of the cancer world, but this, this is too much. WHAT does one have to do to get some recognition around here?? (Oh, as an aside, driving downtown to the game I did see that the Sears Tower antennas are lit up all in pink. Very nice!)

Anyway, I yell “get your own month!” at this little tableau playing out on the ice, but I think I’m drowned out by the guy in front of us who yells “Detroit sucks!” at the same time, even though we’re playing Edmonton tonight. However, even after this travesty of justice, I still have the hopes of a nation resting on my slim shoulders – the hope that for their usual The Kid, the Geek, the Bimbo shootout, they’d at least pick my people, aka the breast cancer stricken. Or strucked. Whatever.

Alas, I’m gravely disappointed yet again, as they have the usual kid and geek (both male) and then not one but TWO bimbos, one female and one male, both from the United Wrestling Federation. HUH??? Now, if that isn’t the antithesis of what those of us fighting breast cancer stand for, then I don’t know what is. (I don’t know what this means, but it sounds good.)

I was so disheartened for the rest of the game, sulking with my anti-cancer hot dog and the pink-wrapped candy that Jillian had brought us, that I could almost feel the depression sinking over me like a black cloud. What’s the point of it all anyway? If this is how we get treated, with this kind of disrespect, then how can we even be expected to go on? Then in today’s paper I read that this game was the designated “Hockey Fights Cancer Awareness” night. Seriously. Which, as I read it, means that hockey does NOT want people to be aware of cancer, they’re fighting it tooth and nail. Aha, now it all makes sense – just ignore cancer and its victims, go ahead. Hmph. Chicago Blackhawks, you’re dead to me.

At least until the next game. By the way, note to the Blackhawks: if you’re looking for a new marketing person, which perhaps you should be, give me a call. I do great freelance work. I’m just sayin’.......

(And, ahem, not that I want to bring up the much-hated Redwings, but this is part of what THEY did with their BC Night:


Wear Pink!

All fans in attendance who wear pink will be eligible to win autographed Red Wings memorabilia. The fan with the best pink attire will win an autographed Chris Chelios jersey!

All proceeds from the breast cancer awareness merchandise sales, the puck draw and the silent auction will benefit local hockey families battling breast cancer.

The team will host breast cancer patients, survivors and their families in an executive suite at the game.


Sad. Methinks our beloved Blackhawks were slightly, shall we say, owned by Detroit on this one.....)

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

At Last.....

Okay, so that was supposed to be a pic of just Sálome, but of course Kona needed to insert himself into the thick of things. I think he thought my camera was a biscuit. Anyway, finally, finally(!) I have my baby back! Dino is still being the faithful co-pilot, no worse for wear, and there don’t appear to be any scratches on her frame. What’s odd is that the only scratches/gouges I can find are on the bar-end shifters. On top. So the scenario I have in my head is something where we hit a huge rut in the road and go cartwheeling over, me still clipped in. Now THAT would have been interesting to see.

As an aside, I’d like to note that the great guys at Get a Grip Cycles did finally badger Felt enough such that they caved and sent me a new fork for my bike, so Sálome is now completely restored to her shiny perfection. Not sure if it was because they were shamed by CancerGirl here or if they were worried that GAG was serious about their threat to no longer carry them as a dealer. I think it was the cancer thing. I was there the day it came in - and hmm, oddly enough, their forks no longer come with those horrifying clear stickers that they once considered so necessary to “protect the frame.” Funny thing that.

Of course, I can’t really go riding her outside yet since I’m still dealing with this dizziness/vertigo issue, though Deanna did most helpfully suggest that I could try putting training wheels on Sálome. Which I certainly plan to do, right after I track down for myself my latest treasure in All Things Pink Land, namely Breast Cancer Barbie. Yes, under the heading of “things people with MBAs from Harvard come up with”, we present BC Barbie, in all her pink sartorial splendor:

Oh sure, she’s actually called Pink Ribbon Barbie or some such thing, but still. I’ve also been on the lookout for her besotted squire, Prostate Cancer Ken, as well as her younger sister, Leukemia & Lymphoma Skipper, to no avail. I will remain vigilant, however. I wonder though, is Barbie actually bald, with a bunch of wigs as her accessories? Are the perfect pneumatic boobs before or after treatment? And how exactly would girls play with BC Barbie? “Okay Amber, today it’ll be YOUR turn to puke your guts out. My Skipper will go for her bone marrow transplant and they can send each other kisses through the plastic bubble. ‘Kay?”

This does make me wonder though – us breast cancer people, we get a WHOLE MONTH all to ourselves, all the pink stuff, a Barbie, a hockey game, tv specials with B-level celebrities, even a Lifetime movie-of-the-week. The leukemia and lymphoma people have The Purple Menace. What about, say, people with liver cancer? Don’t they wind up feeling like the bastard stepchild of the cancer world? Can’t they at least get, say, a DAY? Maybe they just need a catchy slogan. “Paté had its heyday, what about us?” “Liver cancer – what are we, chopped?” Or, Livers are Lovely, which they can shorten to LNL, mimicking the TNT (aka TIT) people. Or, umm, not. Never mind.

On a totally different front, I had to go to Whole Foods to get a new "all-natural" deodorant, since apparently the normal ones can cause my arm to explode or something while I’m being irradiated. I get to the store and am confronted by a shelf of deodorants with scents such as lemongrass/clary sage, bayberry/rose hips, and curry/tea leaf. Great – so I get to smell like either pad thai, a candle shop, or as if I want to sell you a rug. Don’t even you freaky vegan people want to smell “powder fresh” or like an “ocean breeze”? What are you, un-American??

Thursday, October 16, 2008

It takes a village

Now, far be it from me to be sappy about anything, ever, but I have to say that it was this week that truly brought the point home, about finding out who your true friends are, as I felt we truly banded together in waging war against this insidious disease, being strong and winning one for the Gipper.

It started earlier this week when "Fred" called me from Indy to inform me that he was at a Williams-Sonoma, and not only did they have pink lounging chairs for sale, but also these beautiful $300 pink cashmere shawls – all in the name of Breast Cancer Month. Of course I pointed out to him how cold those sterile hospital hallways get as I sit there shivering while waiting to go into my painful, torturous radiation treatment (*ahem*), and how cashmere would be just the thing against my painfully radiated skin. I think I heard hearty laughter in return, but I’m sure he was just doing that to throw me off. So, cashmere shawl, check.

Then I found out that Maggs and Missy are doing the Race for the Cure next weekend – kind of. Maggs is doing her part by sleeping in on race day, on her pillow ensconced in a lovely new pink beribboned pillowcase, and Missy is in fact running but in a verrrry slow-ass sort of way. Since I enjoy sleep as much as the next person, and since I’m such a slow runner that usually towards the end of a race I’m able to hitch a ride with the people cleaning up the course – I was truly touched by these sentiments. Sniffle.

THEN, as if that all weren’t enough, people have been scouting out pink-ribboned foods for me left and right. QRGirl spotted Hamburger Helper and Folgers Coffee, so now I have on my “can eat” list the following:

• Wheat thins
• M&Ms
• Hot dogs (at the United Center during hockey games)
• Hamburger Helper
• Folgers Coffee
• Mai tais

Now we’re getting somewhere, as long as I find some donuts or other fried doughy goodness that's pink. Speaking of food, that’s another area where I’m getting critical assistance, as far as my Superfry Me plan is concerned. I had been wondering if Paula Deen actually made breakfast foods, if she was able to bastardize those with enough butter to make it Paula-worthy, and imagine my surprise when today at PT, there she was making brunch! I almost missed the show as some Athletico person who apparently doesn’t appreciate her greatness was trying to find something else to watch, but a screech of horror from me stopped that right quick. So we got to watch Paula make cheese-butter grits and sausage balls – which were made of not only sausage but cheese and biscuit mix as well. Yum. Oh, she made some kind of apple cake/bread too, but since that had apples in it and therefore qualified as health food, I didn’t pay too much attention to that.

Then my friend Laura sent me a PD recipe for, of all things, deep-fried macaroni and cheese. Mac and cheese made with not just milk and butter, but also SOUR CREAM. The woman is brilliant. Though Laura did make some comment about Paula’s “fast-track to diabetes program”, not sure what that’s all about. Shrug.

Anyway – back to our little village. Not only do I have friends looking out for me in terms of my battle with breast cancer, but they’re also concerned with my mental and overall physical health as well. You see, I’ve been giving Deanna fair warning that I fully expect to kick her ass from one end of the course to the other at any and all triathlons we do next summer. I know, I know, stating the obvious, but sometimes that’s what it takes with the little people, just beating them over the head with things until they get it. And Deanna, sweetheart that she is, accepts this with aplomb, and nothing but concern for my welfare:

Deanna: If you keep thinking you’re going to kill me next year at IM, I may have to go with you to see Dr. Grimm as he is obviously missing some huge neurological problem.
Jillian: But wouldn’t she need to see a psychiatrist as well? Since she’s delusional?
Deanna: That too.

I am so touched, I have no words.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

She shoots, she...doesn't score. Sigh.

So last night Deanna, Jillian and I went to the Blackhawks home opener, where I industriously started scouting around for pink foods as soon as I got there - I’m nothing if not dedicated to my cause, whatever that is. With mai tai thus in hand (they’re CLOSE ENOUGH, okay?) we found our seats and practiced our heckling, though “Nashville sucks!” doesn’t sound nearly as good as “Detroit sucks!” Oh well.

Anyway, we’re watching the Jumbotron during the second break, after the Kid, the Geek, the Bimbo shootout, and lo what do we see, but an announcement to the effect of “Hockey Fights Breast Cancer!” Obviously just by being at the game, we’re doing our part in the fight, and I can practically feel the cancer cells being vaporized out of me as we sit there sucking down our frothy alcoholic beverages. I decide that my having had a hot dog (non-pink) was in fact okay since it was within the protective buffer zone of the United Center (anti-cancer zone, apparently, when hockey is being played), plus everyone knows hot dogs are one of the “super-healthy” foods they keep yammering about, way up there with oat flax and cranberries. Except those taste like crap and hot dogs don’t, which is why I try to stick to them whenever possible.

Anyway, today Deanna emails me to tell me that next Wednesday’s game, on the 22nd, is officially a Breast Cancer Awareness Month game, so naturally we should attend, in our goal of partaking in all things pink in this most pinkish of months. Unfortunately, all the hangers-on and wanna-bes and Johnny-come-latelies who’ve glommed onto the Hawks this season have BOUGHT UP ALL THE TICKETS! Yes, for MY game! Oh, the humanity! Well, they’ve snapped up all the tickets that are $30 or less, for 3 people, and hey, some of us have medical bills to pay here. So I’m a little annoyed. Where were all of you in these many years past, when there were tens of us in the UC, so few that you could hear the echo of our tinny voices yelling “ref, are you BLIND?” Hmph, and now you decide to come to the party, in time to ruin it for the rest of us. Thanks a lot.

I also spoke to my brother Andrew earlier yesterday, who wanted to know how treatment was going. As usual, I told him that radiation treatment was no big deal, pretty uneventful as far as the actual treatment was concerned, though I get to worry about burned skin and extreme fatigue at some point. He wisely noted that what with the holidays coming up, it might be in my best interest to play up the whole radiation thing – you know, make it sound a bit better and all, rack up sympathy points. Hmm.

So I’d hereby like to note that my brain injury was affecting me earlier and I didn’t recall what radiation treatment was actually like. In fact, what they do is.....they put me upside down in a big tube,’s really hot and steamy and dark in there and I feel like I can’t breathe......and it’s DAMP, yeah, that’s it, because there’s water trickling in from somewhere, and I sit there for a long time while they tinker around, practically forgetting about me, and then.......they start zapping me with these radiation beams everywhere, and damn, it’s SO PAINFUL. I can feel every neutron and particle beam as they burrow into my skin, like shards of glass pelting me from every direction. They don’t call them supercolliders for nothing. And then, umm.....this goes on for a long time. And the WORST part is that they’re playing this really loud music the whole time, the same thing every day, and it’s Jefferson Starship's “We Built This City” and every godawful song by Huey Louis and the News, in a continuous loop. It’s pure torture, torture.......

(Note – I mentioned this sequence of events to my friend Keith, aka "Fred" since he wants to be anonymous, and he wonders if it’s the radiation or the music that’s killing the cancer cells. Now, that’s a good question. One thing’s for certain – a continuous loop of “We Built This City” and death by basically anything else would start looking pretty good.)

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Superfry Me

I’m fairly certain that the foodstuffs that have been chosen to wear the pink Breast Cancer Month banner are healthy and nutritious to the extreme – otherwise why would they have been chosen for such an honor? As such, I’m dedicating the month of October to my All Things Pink diet plan, during which I’m only eating pink-beribboned foods.

So far I’ve been eating a lot of Wheat Thins and M&Ms.

Oh sure, there’s yogurt, but that’s kind of a cliché, isn’t it? Healthy eating blah blah blah yogurt blah blah. I like to think of myself as a bit more cutting edge than that. So I’ve also made the natural leap that one makes with such things and am giving myself license to eat all pink foods –today was a veritable feast of cotton candy. Yum. When is this month over?? To add insult to injury, today at Dominick’s the checkout person asked me if I “want to donate money to breast cancer” – I of course said no thanks, I’ve been funding it pretty much full time lately, but I think my attempt at humor was lost on today’s callow youth. Sigh.

My next diet plan is going under the moniker of Superfry Me, or, Is Paula Deen on Crack? You see, when I go to PT they on occasion have their tvs tuned to the cooking channel, and invariably there’s Paula “lemme jus’ add anotha stick ah buttah” Deen making some concoction or another. Deep frying the green beans, adding that stick of butter to the chicken noodle soup, etc. Apparently she even once (more than once?) added melted butter to whipped butter to make.......something. I dare not guess what. My questions are – does everything really taste as good as it looks? And why hasn’t Paula dropped dead of a heart attack yet, in front of our very eyes no less, if fat is that bad for you? What is The Man not telling us?? So my plan for the month of December is to eat a Paula Deen dish for every meal – I assume she does breakfast in her cookbooks – and see where it gets me in a month. What the hell, I figure December is kind of death to healthy eating anyway – might as well go all out, right?

In other news, Deanna informed me that she’s been lifting heavy weights and eating vats of spinach to prepare her tiny, wee self to lift Salome so that my baby can be transported to me. I think she mentioned harboring hopes that my own “beefy” self could help her out too, but hey, if I can’t use the concussion/surgery as an excuse to sit around on my fat lazy ass and make other people do all the work, then what’s the point?

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The spirit lives on

So yesterday I had another physical therapy session with Erica, who seemed to think I was finding PT kind of torturous until I foolishly told her otherwise. Sure, it’s painful, I tell her, but hell, at least I’m actually doing something vaguely athletic, albeit enfeebled and wimpy. For some reason she doesn’t see this as the compliment it obviously is, but instead decides that it would a good day to incorporate some cardio. Cardio, et tu?? At last!

Then she walks me over to something that kind of looks like a reclining spin bike, with pedals to push against rather than spin. Nothing to clip into, either. Damn. Well, a bike’s a bike, so I get on.

Erica: "So you just push against those while pulling with you...."
Me, interrupting: "Hey, lookie here! A watts measurement! Umm, why is it only at 6?"
Erica: "Oh, it’s probably measuring something else. So you shoul..."
Me: "Maybe if I just keep pushing buttons I’ll get the wattage. Quiet please, I need to focus."

Erica wanders off, undoubtedly impressed by my dedication to measurable fitness goals and my quest for self-improvement. I wonder when she’ll see a doctor about that tic of hers, the head-shaking?

Anyway, clearly there’s some kind of malfunction since my watts are now only at about 67, which is FAR LESS than the 145 I know I can generate on a good day. But I figure it’s okay to start out slowly, ramp up later as usual. Besides, I’m beating the pants off the 80-year old stroke victim on the bike next to me. Sweet! Eye of the tiger, baby. Meanwhile, in the last couple of minutes, I manage to get all the way to 117. Is the comeback kid on her way or what, folks??

Then today I have a morning appointment with Dr. Merk to check on my shoulder.

Dr. MerkHottie: “So the x-ray looks good, looks like the bone is healing.”
Me, impatiently: "Yes, yes...but what are the screws holding the plate in place made out of?”
Dr. M: “Oh, that’s a titanium al......”
Me, interrupting: “YESSSSSSSsssssss!” I shout, as I hold my hands up making the V for victory sign.

I really have no idea why Dr. Merk looks at me so strangely sometimes.

He then tells me that I can handle activity except for contact sports, “but I’m sure you wouldn’t do that anyway – you know, like hockey, football....” I sheepishly tell him I do indeed play hockey, so now that’s officially off-limits. Though I kind of figured that out already.

Then it’s off to radiation, and I’m so enthralled by the idea of how totally aero my new titanium-fortified shoulder will be, propelling me through the water the couple of times a year that I swim, helping me zip along on the bike, etc., that I almost miss seeing Colleen, who’s also at the Galter, for an allergist appointment. Or so she claims – some of my fans are more persistent than others.

We chat for a while, and I tell her my sad news about realizing that I’m doomed, with cancer cells teeming through my body ready to fell me at any moment, and how I’m now embracing a fat-based diet of unwholesome foodstuffs. Instead of the sympathy I expect, however, Colleen laughs. Laughs!

Colleen: “Oh, come on, that can’t be true. I was there when the doctor said your tumor was slow-growing.”
Me: “Slow compared to what? Sure, slow as in 5 years or so, not slow as in 20. 5 years is plenty of time for renegade cancer cells to make a break for it.”
Colleen: “And what magazine was this article in?”
Me: “Umm, Atlantic something. Something VERY SCHOLARLY sounding.”
Colleen, sounding very professorial: “Sure, and who wrote the article?”
Me: “Umm.......I don’t know, but he sounded very research-y. Very researchy indeed,” I sniff. “Stop trying to confuse the issue with your professorial ways!”
Colleen: “Right, and was the research funded by the Corndog Institute of America?”
Me: “I don’t see why you say that as if it would be a problem.”

At my daily radiation treatments I have yet to see anyone under the age of, say, 65 or so. Yesterday at the desk when I was checking in there were 2 women, a younger and an older one, and I thought, I wonder which one is here for treatment and which one is here for support? Turns out mom was there for treatment, daughter for support. Of course. Bah.

But you know, this just occurs to me – it’s too bad that all my cancer doctors are women. Because if they were men of the right age, I’d be in like Flynn. The only one in my age group - those would be some decent odds, no? Note to self: when the next round of cancer inevitably hits, get male doctors. Duh! (Because I’m sure us cancer patients are such a catch, sigh....)

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

How not to spend a Sunday

Or part of it, anyway. So there I was, deciding to do a google search on my awesome surgeon, Dr. Jeruss, to see if she’s getting the accolades she deserves on the internets. This leads me to (duh) other blogs by women with cancer. Which leads to more blogs, all by young women with various types of cancer. So I get sucked into reading some of these blogs, which get more and more dire as the writer gets sicker…..then the blog stops.

Sometimes there’s nothing, sometimes there’s an update by a husband or relative, perhaps, as the writer has gotten worse, with brain lesions and the like. And then……after reading and getting to know some of these folks, you find out that they passed away.

And one of those blogs has a link to an article from the Atlantic Journal with a depressing paragraph like this -

"But consider the breast-cancer patients doctors most dread seeing—women in their thirties or forties. Such cases are relatively uncommon; breast cancer owes its status as the leading killer of women in this age group mostly to the even lower likelihood that they will be killed by anything else. Nonetheless, the individual tragedy of a disease that strikes down young, vibrant people makes it disproportionately urgent to treat them. Sadly, younger women in whom cancer is diagnosed are more likely than older women to have fast-growing tumors, because slow-growing tumors are usually still too small to detect. Given the probable doubling rates, these women will be lucky if we can give them an extra five years. Five years is, of course, much better than nothing—but much less than the thirty or forty years these women will lose."

- which basically says that those of you with breast cancer, oh by the way, it’s pretty much a death sentence, since no matter how good a job they do of taking the cancer lump out, there are in all probability cancer cells running amok through your bloodstream looking for a place to latch on, and it’s only a matter of time before it’s baaack. So you go from thinking okay, this sucks but it’ll be over and done with, to thinking shit, my life expectancy isn’t too great, now is it. WTH?

But then, I could also be run over by a bus tomorrow, so I guess dwelling on one’s mortality isn’t such a great idea anyway. Though this does make a couple of things crystal clear:

1) I can pretty much stop worrying about saving any non-existent money for retirement. Vegas all the way, baby!
2) The whole diet thing – I was going to look into a book on the whole anti-cancer diet, i.e. replete with antioxidants and other cancer-fighting foods. You know, to clean up my diet EVEN MORE, if such a thing is possible. To help stave off recurrence. But now – and I do wonder this, in all seriousness –if the cancer already exists and it’s just a matter of time, what difference does it make? Why the hell NOT just suck down margaritas all day? And corndogs? Okay, so I might die of clogged arteries before the cancer has a chance to come back, but still.

Plus I feel bad that this has degenerated into The Cancer Chronicles. I realize that people come here to my little blog to hear about the epic rides, to learn about the minutiae of my extreme training regimen, to live vicariously through my strict interpretation of the paleo diet, to glean information about my power wattage, my ever-climbing VO2max – in short, to marvel at my iron discipline and to attempt to recreate the same.

And yet, here we are.

My grueling swimming regimen has been disrupted by radiation therapy. Running? Forget it – between the collarbone and cancer surgeries, even walking briskly is painful. As for biking, ah, my beloved biking. I admit, I’ve been sorely tempted as we’ve been having beautiful weather to just take Salome out and go for an endlessly long ride, to just suck up it up, pain be damned. Isn’t that what drugs are for? The only thing keeping me from delving into this realm of stupidity is the dizziness that comes along every time I turn my head. Down, up, over – it doesn’t matter – I’m close to toppling over on a regular basis. So the notion of having to explain to Dr. MerkHottie how I broke my OTHER collarbone when I went into a ditch – well, that’s less than appealing.

And besides, I don’t even have my bike back yet! Deanna has been keeping Salome in her greedy clutches, because now that Deanna has that "heart rate” problem fixed, she’s planning on kicking my ass at any and all future IMs. I know this because that’s what she told me – I think her exact words were “you’re going down. Hard.” Obviously part of her plan is to keep me from training, at the same time that she’s mocking me. This was our conversation today:

Deanna: Hey, I was reading this thread on ST about this guy who did his first Oly triathlon 6 weeks after he broke his collarbone. So what’s your excuse? Lazy much?
Me: Laz….hey, I’ll have you know I had THREE surgeries – collarbone, cancer lump, hunk of lymph nodes. That means I get 3 times as many weeks to recover. 15 weeks or so, or 3 months. So there.
Deanna: Whine whine whine. You don’t even have cancer anymore and you’re still whining. You don’t see me whining about my heart rate problem, do you?
Me: Well, yes actually. Did you finally change the batteries in your HR monitor, by the way? And also, need I remind you that I had a severe concussion and brain bleed that’s still affecting me??
Deanna: Yeah, sure. If I look up “concussion” in the dictionary, I see the word “undertrained.”
Me: Huh? That doesn’t even make sense.
Deanna: Whatever. Btw, I was going to get Salome from Jen, but you know how tiny and wee I am, and your bike is just too too heavy for me to lift. We’ll have to wait until some brawny guys or you can do it. Oh, and Salome had some kind of stickers on her new fork – I peeled them off just to…..
Me: NOOOOOOOooooooooooo…………..

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Support me!

While I always assumed that people who wanted to support me in my endeavors would do so by sweeping the road before any of my rides, devising routes where the wind is always at my back, assuring me that there are no pretenders to my triathlon goddess throne, and last but not least, making sure there’s at least one piece of bacon waiting for me after yet another one of my grueling workouts.........this is apparently not the case. No sirree.

Apparently, “support” these days comes in the form of donning pink and buying whatever comes down the pike under the guise of being a “support breast cancer” thing. Now, not that I think this is bad per se – sinking money into research certainly can’t hurt. Though I do wonder - if they’re getting SO much money, which I think they are, how come no one has figured out how to do chemo without having the whole hair loss thing? And have no clue if or how diet plays a role? After all, I don’t want to be deluding myself into thinking I’m eating the pink M&Ms for nothing.

Anyway – it seems every day now I’m getting an email or something about buying some pink-beribboned inanit........I mean, some useful item. So in order to help you, my gentle reader, sort through the flotsam and jetsam of pinkishness in this most important of all months, I’ll try to direct your attention appropriately when I come across something especially worthy. Like this:

Yes, the Ped-Egg. Apparently if you buy this schloc.....umm, I mean IMPORTANT MERCHANDISE, you will be supporting those of us with breast cancer. I’m not sure how, but advertisers would never lie so it must be true. According to the ad copy: “The Limited Edition Pink PedEgg™ not only removes dead skin to give you silky feet but also helps in the fight against breast cancer!”

Imagine that, silky feet AND cancer-fighting too! The mind reels! The Ped Egg and you, fighting the good fight. I am moved to tears.

In other news, I’ve informed Deanna that she is slacking in her duties by not coming up with any new insults for me to write about. After all, I realize that most of my reader(s) come here expressly for cutting-edge training advice and tips as well as to live vicariously through the Tasha-Deanna smackdown that occurs on a regular basis, whereby Deanna says rude and sarcastic things to me, and I leave her by the side of the road. It’s a beautiful thing. The best she could do was to make some cutting remark to the effect that I’d have to cut my swim sessions to 3x a year down from 5, since I can’t swim while undergoing my radiation treatments. Hmph. Deanna’s just jealous that my swim time at IMMOO last year was 1:30, and hers this year was 1:15.........yet Deanna spent about 600 hours in the pool compared to my 6. What is 15 minutes? Nothing but a faster transition time at IMMOO.

Of course, in order to attempt to top me with the whole cancer/collarbone thing, Deanna has come up with a “heart rate” problem, whereby her heart rate supposedly skyrockets on occasion while working out, as reported by her heart rate monitor. Hmm, I wonder when might be the time to tell her that I switched out the batteries in her HR monitor for some cheap Russian ones? Hey, my Tony Little Gazelle is useless without the speed-o-rama doohickey attached, okay? Is it my fault that it takes the same kind of batteries? Is it??

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Whee, Breast Cancer Month!

No thanks, I already have it. Ha! See, here’s one of the problems of this whole post-concussion syndrome – it’s given me a really bad sense of humor. For example –last Monday I go to see my new neurosurgeon at Northwestern, Dr. Grimm. No, seriously, that’s his name. Grimm. To my credit, I don’t go with the “easy” comment, aka “Hey, must be grim working in neurology/oncology, aka brain tumor city, huh?” Nope. I am nothing if not restrained, as is my usual way.

Anyway, I’m unusually punchy when I go in to see Dr. Grimm – maybe it’s because seeing a different doctor every day wears on a person – a person who can’t go bike riding as her primary source of sanity. So I find everything he says hilarious and soon we’re doing some alterna-reality version of a comedy routine:

Dr. Grimm: "So how’s your health been other than all this?"
Me: "Oh, other than the cancer, the broken collarbone, the concussion, I’m healthy as can be."
Dr. G: "Any other operations?"
Me: "Nah, I decided to get them all out of the way at once. I’m efficient that way."
Dr. G: "Okay, come this way into the hall and I’ll watch you walk."

At this point I start snickering because all I can think of is Young Frankenstein and the “walk thees way” bit. Dr. Grimm probably thinks I’m a loon. Though, I’m in the neuro unit – he should be used to this. Actually, he’s chuckling along with me – and given my level of humor, I’m thinking it’s a pretty shallow pool in the neuro ward as far as humor is concerned. Hell, as far as intelligent conversation is concerned. We’re talking brain injuries here after all. I guess in that respect, I’m brilliant in comparison. Hmm. Note to self: start hanging out in neuro wards? After all, Dr. Grimm is kind of a Hottie – not quite in the Dr. Merk “Me wrench bones into place” sort of way, but cute nevertheless. I’m really starting to see the possibilities here.

Anyway, on Thursday when I have the pre-radiation mapping, I’m chatting away with the nurse as they do my tattoos (yep, I’m so cool now, gettin’ ink done) telling her that there should be a choice of tattoo options – like a flower or bird or what have you. After all, anyone can have a tramp stamp – who has tattoos on their chest? How fun would that be? She’s totally on board and has suggestions of her own, but when I ask the intern guy (who I’ve dubbed McAlex, after the Grey’s Anatomy guy who thinks he’s so hot but is kind of a jerk), he’s obviously woolgathering and has no idea what we’ve been talking about. The nurse and I laugh at him.

Later I’m giggling at the video they make me watch, which is so replete with bad makeup and oddly gaping teeth that I hardly register what the video is actually about. Then this woman is explaining to me a bunch of stuff:

Her: "And all these papers I’m giving you make up your 'welcome packet.'"
Me: "What, no fruit basket?"

You see what I mean.

I wasn’t laughing though on Friday when I went for my EEG. Not only was I instructed to get no more than 5 hours of sleep (which isn’t a problem since I hardly sleep at night anyway, but since I was TOLD not to sleep, of course I was desperately tired), but I go in for my EEG and am greeted by a guy who kind of looks like that cranky older desk clerk on ER. We go to a room where I lie down and he starts prepping my head, which apparently consists of taking a sharp stick and scraping and gouging my head with it, over and over. At least that’s what it feels like. I guess he’s embedding some kind of paste so the electrodes can be attached, but holy crap, that’s painful. He’s quiet as he works, and then all of a sudden decides to get chatty:

Him: "So who do you think will win the presidential election?"

Shit. Isn’t there some kind of rule of thumb about talking politics with someone who’s attaching electrodes to your head? God forbid I should piss him off.

Me: “Umm...tough to say?” I offer weakly. “You know how it is, you think it’s going to be one thing, and then it turns out to be another entirely.”
Him: “Exactly!” he proclaims. Grind grind grind.
Me: "So you just have to keep the faith, that the American people will make the right choice."
Him: “Don’t I know it!” Grind.

But luckily it turns out that he’s a Democrat so I’m safe for now, though I start to wonder again when he mentions the fact that he has epilepsy, and “they operated on my brain once but couldn’t do anything to fix it.” Umm, please tell me at least that medication has the seizures under control? Maybe?

Then for the final laugh riot of the day, I go for my MRI where I learn that hey, that metal plate now holding my collarbone together, that could be a problem. Luckily, I get the okay to go ahead.

Nurse scheduler: "Okay, so I found out that your plate is titanium," (note: sweet!) "so that won't be an issue. But, we couldn't find out what the screws are made of. So, we'll go ahead, and you give us a signal if you feel like the screws are starting to heat up, okay?"

Heh heh heh.......oh, wait, she's not laughing.......