Friday, March 30, 2012

The Longest Post Ever

Nyah-Nyah! Kept you waiting. How'd YOU like that feeling? Just wanted you to have a taste of it.

Kidding. If you've checked on Facebook, you know that the CT scan and bone scan results were all clear of cancer. We can all breathe again and celebrate this Best Breast Cancer Ever as just that: breast cancer. Interesting fact, though. If it HAD been found in my liver or bones or whereever, it would still be breast cancer. The cells originated in the breast and have breast cell characteristics as they travel and start forming tumors elsewhere. So if the news hadn't been good today, I wouldn't have been reporting colon cancer. I'd have been reporting that my breast cancer metastasized to my colon.

But back to me, and my non-metastatic cancer. Woo-hoo! I'm going to go against the policy of this blog and tell you about my awful day yesterday. However, since I'm breaking my own rule of optimism and positivity (I make the rules, so I can break them, right?), I'm going to write the bad stuff in italics. If you want to skip the italics, I'll meet you back at the bottom of this post when I start writing in regular font again. Actually, there's a lot of cool info here like that metastatic stuff above, but my experience was crappy. Anyhow, here we go:

Yesterday (Thursday) I was scheduled to have a CT scan and then bone scan to look for that metastatic cancer and then today (Friday) I was scheduled to have my chemo-teach (a hour+ session with a nurse who can walk me through everything I need to know about having chemotherapy and answer all of my questions) and then go over to the hospital to have a port inserted into my collarbone area (a little tube/hole thingy so that they can give me my IV chemo drugs without having to poke me with needles all the time).

So I lined up my childcare for two straight days (thanks to Jennifer, Julia, Kurri, and Holly), did some carseat shuffling, and was off to the CT scan at 7:45am. Upon arrival, I was given a huge, I mean large McDonalds size huge, drink of this red punch-like solution that would make my body show up correctly on the CT scan. I had to finish it in 45 minutes and then it would be my turn to be scanned. While I was drinking and waiting, the hospital called my cell phone to tell me that my arrival time for the port insertion would be 2 hours before the scheduled time. But that was during my chemo-teach. (Oh, I forgot to mention, if you ever get cancer, you do not get to choose appointment times. They are made FOR YOU with none of your consent. So I didn't schedule this conflict. They did.) So I went to the desk at the oncology center where I was waiting and shuffled myself to an earlier time slot. Then patted myself on the back for handling this crisis seamlessly and went to finish my god-awful punch.

Soon, it was my turn for the scan. Nurse inserted the IV into my left arm (did I tell you that because I now have no lymph nodes in my right armpit, I'm never to have a needle in my right arm for the rest of my life?), and pressed whatever solution was in there through the needle. I felt a huge amount of pressure on my arm and one nurse yelled to the other nurse, "Stop!" It seems the needle had busted right out the other side of my vein and the solution didn't go where it was supposed to. So the arm started to swell (hematoma) and I started to cry, less from the pain than from the fear of something going wrong. Ice pack, deep breaths, and we moved forward, finding a vein approximately an inch away from this huge lump in my arm because the right one is out of service. I was still weepy walking out of there, but washed my face and headed off to the bone scan.

Since it's a separate department, though in the same building, I had to again show my insurance and co-pay another $10. Normally, I'm eternally thankful for our great insurance plan, but in my emotional state, I nearly cried again. Just the inconvenience of having to get the wallet out while holding an ice-pack to my swelling arm. But soon I was called in for a new solution to make my bones glow. Seriously, before a bone scan, they make your bones radioactive (low level, like what's in a banana), you wait another 90 minutes, then they can take pictures and see inside your bones. So I sat in the chair while the nurse injected this radioactive stuff into me. While I was there, she asked, "Do you have young children at home?" I thought she was reading my red swollen eyes and trying to make pleasant conversation, so I replied, "Yes. A 2-year-old and a 4-year-old." She said seriously, "Can someone else take them for the rest of the day? You'll be radioactive." I just started bawling again. I THOUGHT I was prepared. Childcare - check, 4 appointments in 2 days - check, food in bag for long waits - check, co-pays - check, radioactive Mommy - WTF?!?! Wouldn't this be important to mention BEFORE I arrived that day?

So I left the room for my 90 minute wait and called Paul and Kurri. Kurri would pick the girls up from preschool and Paul would leave work early to take them for the rest of the day. Then I got to sit and wait and try not to cry. The mean nurse who told me to stay away from my kids did tell me that drinking water will help it spread and dissipate, so I chugged about a liter of water right away.

My story's not done, but here's a super part, so I'm exiting italics mode for a little bit. Because of my hematoma, the nurses from Dr. Kirshner's office had been alerted and actually called to see me to check out my arm during my long wait for the bone scan. They had to use my leg for my blood pressure as they checked me in (if you were reading the italics, you'd know why), but once I was in the examination room, both Katy and Maggie, the nurses who I'll be working with through this whole cancer process, came to see me. What wonderful women!

While she checked my arm, I was telling Maggie that I wasn't sure if I wanted a phone call with the CT scan and bone scan results as soon as they were in, or if I just wanted to wait until morning when I was going to see her again anyhow and Paul would be there. She said she'd see if she could get an exact time so she could call when Paul was home, and went to the computer in the exam room. She clicked around and then said, "Um, I have to check the other computer. I'll be right back." Literally about 2 minutes later, she returned with a print-out in her hand and said, "CT scan is clear. Got it already." I started giggling uncontrollably, hugged her, thanked her a thousand times, and promised that I'd be in much better shape when she saw me tomorrow.

Uh-oh. Back to italics. Still waiting for the bone scan, I went back to drinking my water, but was feeling a little nauseous and I was starting to get a headache. Luckily, they called me a few minutes before my 90 minutes was up and I got to lay on a table to be scanned. This machine was really slow and I'd say I was laying there about 20 minutes for a never-ending series of pictures. I passed the time by counting in my head, and each picture took between 180 and 200 "seconds". Ouch, my head was getting quite painful by the end, but at least it was over. 

There was no way I could've waited for results, and I probably shouldn't have driven home feeling that awful, but I made it into the house just in time to puke in the closest bathroom. This puke-fest, accompanied by a horrible migraine and some diarrhea, continued for about 6 hours. I did call the oncology office just to make sure this wasn't some dangerous reaction, and though them calling back took over an hour (they handle calls in order of importance...), they e-prescribed some anti-nausea medicine to my Wegmans and Paul took the girls to pick it up. After taking one at 5pm, I could hold down a little Gatorade and soup and then went to sleep.

Oh, and somewhere during my awfulness, I had Paul call to cancel the port-insertion surgery. In my non-medical opinion, I didn't think a surgery was a prudent plan after a day of puking. Dr. Cooper agreed.

So the non-italicized summary of Thursday is: CT scan complete and clear of cancer. Bone scan complete and awaiting results. Children and husband safe, Shari asleep.

This morning, we all got up and brought the girls to Holly's for yet another playdate. Then Paul and I were off to the chemo-teach. When Maggie walked in, we started our chit-chat because she's so wonderful, but then I interrupted and said, "Wait. The bone scan!" and she laughed and said, "Oh yeah. That! Here you go. All good." and handed me the results. Now we could all laugh and happily go through my lessons about chemotherapy.

That last sentence is yet another reason for the title of this blog. Two months ago, I'd never have known how delightful and fun it could be to learn about your body receiving poison for 20 weeks straight. But there was no sadness or fear in it at all. I got another care package (thanks Positively Pink Packages!), we toured the infusion room (I'll have my own TV during my 4-hour sessions), and I signed up for two clinical trials. What fun!

Just before we left, I was handed another print-out of my next 5 appointments for the coming two weeks (and that doesn't include the port-insertion surgery...calling Dr. Cooper on Monday to reschedule that). My job for this weekend is to line up the childcare for those, but it feels so good to have a plan for the next 5 months of my life that I now feel like I can work with this. I'm about to check out Google to see if there's a way I can make some sort of all-access calendar where people can sign up to take the kids as I post appointments. Anyone know of an easy group calendar online?

First chemo session is going to be April 12 (Elizabeth's birthday...BFF since I was 5 so an easy date to remember). I'm sure I'll blog before then, but you can all circle that date on your calendar for when you'll hear about the Best Chemotherapy Ever.


  1. The longest post ever had me in tears a couple of times -- is that breaking a rule here, Shari!? :P I am beyond thrilled and relieved for the good scan results today!!! You are a consummate trooper and blogger. Enjoy this latest news and know that you are being surrounded with love and good thoughts as the next steps come into place. Wish I could sign up for a play date with your sweet girls! Keep putting one foot in front of the other -- you're doing an *amazing* job, Mama!

    Mary :)

  2. Shari,
    Congrats on your good scan report'!
    I know what a giant relief that must be for you and your family.
    Shar, there is an organization online called lots of helping hands. You tell your friend to go online and select the times they can be of help to whatever you need to be done.
    Thinking of you and sending you a hug.
    Gail Miller

  3. Shari - you are braver than I could ever be. You will be amazing. Hugs to you and your family.

  4. Jetblue has super cheap fares from NYC right now. If you have any gaps, Lucy & could fly up for a "hey-girls-these-are-some-random-strangers-who've-"known"-you-since-you-were-born" playdate. So, so happy to hear the results. Your approach to this is awesome. You are going to kick this thing's ass. Go mama!
    Meg Haesloop

  5. Shari,
    I'm sorry you're struggling with all this. It didn't go smooth for me either. It will all be ok though, you'll see. I remember being told I was now radioactive. Sarah was with me as an infant in her carrier. I was like, "I'm what???!!! How the #%^* am I supposed to bring my baby home and take care of her? No one told me ahead of time I'd be freaking radioactive! I have no one to help me with Sarah until 6pm when my husband gets home!" I was crying. They told me to stay 4 ft away from her. So I pushed her in the stroller standing as far back as I could, kept her in her carseat, carried her in the house that way as if she had the plague (as far away from my body as humanly possible, and then she had to stay in her carseat in the house until my husband could get home from work while I stayed and watched her tearfully from across the famy room. It was 10 years ago, but I remember this horrible day vividly!
    It's so wonderful that you're writing this blog, because its helping you get through this experience, and it will be awesome to read it in the future to remind you of how strong you are and how far you've come! has a free calendar that you can use with multiple people ;)
    You're doing great!
    Lisa Schwartz