Archive for April, 2008

Art Therapy

Anyone that has visited my home or knows me is aware of the fact that I am a dog lover, and enjoy dog art!  I found 3 prints by Emily Burrowes a couple of days ago and just love them.  These first two are over my tv/entertainment center in my bedroom.  The next one of the West Highland Terrier is over the desk in my bedroom.  And I threw in the freaky one of the bull dog that I couldn't get the reflection of my bed and nightstand out of 🙂 Blame it on my terrible photography skills.

One of my FAVORITE dog artists is Ron Burns.  I have had several pieces by him for a few years.  His work is very colorful, so I put them in my living room that has all white furniture so they could really stand out.

Ok, that took my mind off of breast cancer for a little bit.

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Pre-Op & More…

Met with Dr. M this afternoon.  She had me waiting a tad bit longer than I cared to (she don't know me yet!  She must learn, Hop no likey to waitey).  Good thing I took my iTouch and was able to pick up the hospital's wireless network, so I read blogs and emails until she floated in the room and graced me with her fabulousness.

She basically explained the MRI report in terms that were easy to understand.  Then she wanted to discuss genetic testing, which is something we had not discussed before.  She suggested I undergo testing to see if I carry a certain gene that predisposed me to have Breast Cancer.  The gene is only found in about 10% of BC patients, however knowing this information offers more options and is information that would be beneficial to my daughter T and brother – If I carry the gene they might also (men can get BC).  Three tubes of blood were drawn to send to the genetic testing facility and should be back in about 2 weeks.  Dr. M indicated that the test was very expensive – $3000.00.  Thank god for insurance!

Next she wanted me to go over to the surgery center to get pre – registered.  I wasn't expecting more blood draws, a EKG and chest X-Ray.  Work was slow today, luckily, since I was there all afternoon.  Anyway, I'm all set for surgery.

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Some Good News…

Dr. M. has reviewed my MRI and reports that there appears to be no spread of the disease outside of the breast.  I will have a pre-op appointment where she will explain the MRI in detail and what she is going to be doing during the surgery. 

Surgery is scheduled for early May.  I was hoping by the end of April like she originally said – I just want to get this damn show on the road!  Guess the surgery schedule is full.  I'm supposed to have two procedures, which will be explained during the pre-op appointment also.  I know one procedure is the actual removal of the cancerous mass, the other must be to remove lymph nodes under my arm – but, she will confirm.

This really puts a damper on my trip to Puerto Rico, which is May 22nd.  It's just too close after the surgery to risk it, I will have drains and I'm sure I will be sore – I don't want to risk it.  I purchased the travel protection when I booked the trip – good thing!  I cancelled it, they only kept a $83.00 penallty charge.

Greece is looking pretty shitty too – I think I will be in the throws of radiation therapy in July.  Oh well, there is always next year!

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My experience with the Aurora Breast MRI machine

Not painful, but VERY odd.  This breast MRI was needed to see the extent of cancer that can't be seen with a regular mammogram.  The Aurora Breast MRI system is the only MRI designed specifically for breast imaging.  Currently, there are only two available in the Dallas area – Dr J. has one and there is one located at the hospital were Dr. M practices.  Dr. M ordered the MRI, so I went to her location yesterday afternoon to have it done.

My daughter T went with me, which was great because I was somewhat nervous – mainly because of the unknown.  I had to get an IV for two reason, 1 – to have a line on me in case "something went wrong" and 2 – for them to add the contrast (dye) into my system which helps them see what they need to see.

OK, the IV…. needle was no joke!  I closed my eyes and turned my head.  The lady, said "are you OK?"  I swallowed hard and said "uh huh".  I have very tiny veins – this could be a problem going forward.  She tapped my arms and had me squeeze a tiny basketball for what seemed like hours, but was really only a few minutes.  After locating a vein in my right arm she inserted the IV – ouch!

Next I had to board the Aurora.  Basically, its face down ass up!  Your forehead and chin rest on cushions, your boobies have to hang through two holes while your arms are extended forward – THIS IS NOT A GOOD LOOK! The technician told me that the machine is very loud so they put headphones on patients and play the music of their choice.  She really didn't have what I wanted to listen to, so I picked 70's R&B.  She advised that there would be 4-5 45 second scans and a 5 minute scan.  After the 5 minute scan she would bring me out and insert the contrast and do 2 more 5 minute scans.

So the tech gives me more instructions like – don't move, don't raise your head, don't take deep breathes and breath normally and then gave me a ball to squeeze if I felt any discomfort or needed her to stop the scans. She said "here we go!" Like I was at the fair on a ride or some shit! and pushed me into the "tunnel".  She turned on the loud ass 70's R&B music and started speaking to me – I could hear her voice through the headphones.  She said, "you doing OK?"  "the first scan will start in a few minutes"

OMG – this machine was SO INCREDIBLY LOUD!  When it started, it actually scared me, and my heart started beating really fast. I wanted to squeeze that damn ball immediately!  The sound of the machine totally over powered the music. After the first scan she said "are you OK?"  "Is the music loud enough?"  I said "you can turn it up, and turn the machine down – lol"   The scans went on forever, I noticed that my arms started getting stiff, so I was really wishing it would be over soon.  When she inserted the contrast she said, "you might get a metallic taste and smell in your mouth or nose" and that it was normal.  I didn't get either, so that was good.

Overall, it wasn't a bad experience limited pain associated with it.  Mainly just uncomfortable and loud as hell. I'm happy that this advanced technology was available to me, it can only help.   Dr. M will review the images and contact me with next steps.

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America’s Team… errrr Hopluv’s Team is coming together

Well, yesterday I met with my Oncologist Surgeon – Dr. M.  Wow, it went way better than I could of imagined it to be!  She is totally awesome!   I'm not turning somersaults in anticipation of anyone cutting on my breast, please believe!  But, I honestly don't think I could have gotten a better surgeon for the job!  She has been in practice for over 20 years, a breast cancer surgeon specialist (the first African American breast cancer surgeon in North Texas), she has a stellar reputation – yes, I had someone check up on her.

She told me – "you WILL get through this!" Honestly, for the first time I actually believed it.  She explained everything to me, drawing out the process on a piece of paper and the steps in which things will be happening.  Dr. M is the third member of my medical team, her primary role is surgical management, but  going forward she will be the "gatekeeper" or project manager if you will of the team.  She will ensure the Medical Oncologist and Radiologist Oncologist are on the team also, to manage my total treatment plan.

I asked her if I should cancel my trip to Puerto Rico at the end of May,  she said she wouldn't if she were me.  She said a week or two delay doesn't affect things.  I still haven't decided if I want to keep my plans or not.  The staging MRI should be early next week – Tuesday or Wednesday.  The surgery will be by the end of April. After the surgery I will have Radiation Therapy – every day for 6 weeks, BLAH!.  The jury is still out on Chemo Therapy, I have to meet with the Medical Oncologist after the surgery to see if it will be required – I HOPE NOT!

I know this is my blog, but I'm hoping not to turn it into a "cancer blog" but right now – this has consumed me, and it really is all I have to talk about at the moment – and probably for a while.

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Meet Faith

The smallest things can mean so much!  Yesterday I had to pick up up my film and medical records for my meeting with the Oncologist Surgeon this afternoon.  The receptionist told me, that Dr. J  put a note on my records that she wanted to speak with me when I got there.  Of course I started thinking **what could she want?**  **maybe she is going to tell me that the diagnosis was wrong** **maybe she was reading from another person's report by mistake when she called me**  I was anxious to see what she wanted. So, I sat down in the waiting area.

The receptionist then advised me that Dr. J called and said it would be 10 more minutes because she was doing a biopsy and asked if I could continue to wait.  I said "yea, I guess so" after a few more minutes Dr. J comes to the waiting area and greeted me with bright eyes and a huge smile asking me how I was doing.  I told her that I was doing ok.  She said let's chat for a second – "I thought… oooooh SHIT!"

Then she pulls out "Faith" and hands her to me!  She said she wanted to catch me, since she knew I wasn't going to have the staging MRI done at her facility (insurance wouldn't cover it there) and she didn't know when she would see me again.  She likes to give all new breast cancer patients a little faith in the form of "Faith".   She hugged me and told me if I needed anything to call her.  Isn't Faith the cuteiest thing?  Unfortunately, Dr. J hadn't made any mistakes with my medical information- – it is what it is.  But Faith was a nice surprise.

Faith stands for – Friends always in the Heart.

The back of the card has the following:

Cancer is so limited,
It cannot cripple love.
It cannot shatter hope.
It cannot corrode faith.
It cannot destroy peace.
It cannot kill friendship.
It cannot suppress memories.
It cannot silence courage
It cannot invade the soul.
It cannot steal eternal life.
It cannot conquer the spirit.


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Still Wondering…

What's next.  Everyone has been so supportive!  Family and friends on-line/offline have been providing an abundance of well wishes and I truly appreciated it.  The hardest part right now for me is the unknown.  It's been one week since I found out, and I really don't know anymore than I did last week.

The doctor that did the biopsy, and contacted me with the bad news said that the next thing I needed to have was a staging MRI to see the extent of the disease, if it is located anywhere else hence the "stage" of it.  She recommended a surgeon that she thought would work well with me.  So, staging MRI, then surgery to remove the mass those are the immediate next steps.  Then a "treatment plan" will be established.

I've been waiting all week for my primary care physician's office to tell me where to go for this staging MRI.  I spoke with him on Monday, he told me someone would be calling me in 24 -48 hours.  No one has called, and I've become extremely frustrated with the wait.  This mess is not starting out on the right foot!

I was a bit depressed this week as this is really starting to sink in – I have cancer!  Emotions are all over the place.  Everyone is telling me things will be fine, I will be fine – but will it be, will I be.   I don't like hospitals,  I can't swallow big pills and needles hurt – this is not going to be a good look for me!  I think I am more terrified of the treatment than anything else.  I've been reading a lot on-line, research if you will.  Found a lot of breast cancer survivor blogs -  it  helps to know what I will be going through, but it also scares me.  I had to stop reading some of them after noticing I was getting a headache.  Some of my findings….

  • African American women diagnosed with breast cancer have a higher mortality rate than their white counterparts.
  • African American women for some unknown reason have a more aggressive breast cancer than white women.
  • If the MRI determines that  cancer has  affect  the lymph nodes under my right arm the surgeon will remove them.
  • If they are removed, I could lose the range of motion of my right arm.
  • I will more than likely have to have radiation therapy.  Typically treatment is everyday for 6 weeks. Insert frown here!
  • I will probably lose my hair – not the biggest deal because I have worn a short haircut for 15 years.
  • I might lose my eyelashes and eyebrows – this worries me!
  • I will be nauseas
  • I will lose weight – not bad, but I could of thought of a better method
  • I will be extremely tired – worried how work will be affected by this – can I work? Sheehs, I'm extremely tired now and I haven't received one drop of radiation.  I'm going to be flat out!
  • I might have to have chemotherapy.  From the blogs I have read they put a port in your chest to administer it.  Ok, no, no, no! that really is NOT a good look!  I'm not feeling that at all.

Whatever I end up having to do, I will do it – the trade off is death.

And, that really isn't a good look!

In other news, a week prior to my diagnosis I got a new car!!!  Of course the excitement of it has taken a back seat because of everything else going on.  He's a cutie though 🙂

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