Happy 3rd mets-aversary to me…

Yesterday Merwyn drove me up to Seattle Cancer Care Alliance for my treatment. I prefer to go up there on the weekends whenever possible, since not only does no one have to miss work to take me, it’s also nice and quiet and FAST!

Yesterday was no exception. They “accessed” my port — meaning, a bored lab technician rubbed alcohol over the port/catheter-thing in my chest, then jammed a needle full of Lidocaine into it so that the REAL needle wouldn’t hurt, then jammed the big needle in (it didn’t hurt), then, took some blood, somehow got an IV in there, and just generally hovered awkwardly over me for about five or ten minutes. After my “labs” (which I didn’t even have to wait in the lobby for!), Merwyn and I rode the elevator up to Infusion on floor 5. Again, I didn’t have to wait; my little Olive Garden-esque pager buzzed almost immediately after I sat down in the waiting room, and I went right back to Bay 15, one of SCCA’s 35 or so private infusion rooms, for my Lupron and Zometa.

This is always the most boring part of treatment, in part because I often have to wait seemingly forever for both my medicine to arrive and my bloodwork to come back. But neither took too long this time.

Actually, the worst part about yesterday’s treatment was the Lupron. Which isn’t uncommon … even after “getting used to” shots, I still loathe them. Even Lupron, though, I tend to only think about in the brief moment it takes to give me the stupid shot. (Then, later on, it’s “why is this Band-Aid on me? … oh, yeah.”) However, I was sore up until this morning at my injection site, which … let’s just say, didn’t surprise me much after I saw my nurse reading an instruction manual before she finally gave me the injection. I think she was just trying to determine how long to warm up the medicine; still, I’d rather my nurses not find it necessary to glance at “how to” books for ANY reason when they’re about to jam a needle in me! At least it wasn’t as bad as my first Lupron shot (which is a horror story for another time).

As usual, the Zometa infusion proved uneventful … Merwyn and I sat for 20 minutes while a machine dripped Zometa into my IV. Then (after the machine beeped it was finished), the nurse came and unhooked it; then she flushed and de-accessed my port (i.e. cleaned it with saline and took the IV out), and Merwyn and I were on our way! Before I went to bed last night, I took my Femara (the pink pill I take every night); like the Lupron, it suppresses estrogen, whereas Zometa keeps my bones nice and strong.

That’s it; that’s treatment for me, except I only get the Zometa and Lupron every THREE months now. Most days, you can take out everything above except for:

“I took my Femara”

… and that’s my treatment. Pretty boring, right? Now you know why I can’t keep up a cancer blog!

Actually, today is a significant day in my “cancer journey.” It was exactly three years ago today that my horrid then-oncologist broke the news to me over the phone: both the spot on my spine (revealed in a recent routine CT scan) and a second spot on my pelvis showed evidence of metastatic disease. In other words, not only had my cancer returned, because it had spread to my bones I was now Stage IV. The “worst” of the stages. “Beating cancer” was no longer an option for me. Once somebody has Stage IV cancer, it’s pretty much established that they can be treated, but never cured.

Well … for whatever it’s worth, that treatment sure seems to be working in my case! Three years later, I still haven’t had any progression. Not only that, the spot on my pelvis seemed to disappear almost instantly (it didn’t show up on my first follow-up scan, and hasn’t shown up since) and even the spot on my spine has remained stable. Granted, it’s been ten months since my last set of scans; but that’s only because my current oncologist (who’s great; I started treatment at SCCA about three months after my “mets” diagnosis) determined that I only need scans once a year for now. I’ll get my next ones sometime in February.

Honestly, even with bone mets (which are generally considered less threatening than mets to the organs) it’s pretty unusual for somebody to be doing this well after three years. Not that I’m complaining! I won’t go so far as to say that having Stage IV cancer doesn’t affect my life (or, on the opposite side of the spectrum, that it’s been some great “blessing”) but I WILL say that I feel lucky (for it’s sure not for any great effort on my part that I’m doing so well!) and blessed (in life, not by cancer!), and that I must have one heck of a “shotgun angel” riding with me all this way.

Speaking of blessings and angels, I must log off WordPress and go get ready … Merwyn and I are going down to the Washington Center for the Performing Arts to see Handel’s Messiah in less than an hour!

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Gasp, a Kickstarter update!

Other than some Facebook updates from the road, I haven’t posted much about my epic Kickstarter journey (remember this ?). I’m hesitant to go into much detail about the actual trip for fear of  repeating myself in my upcoming book (and it’s probably “unprofessional” or something to admit that, but, technically, so is my book! Unprofessional, I mean. Sincere and written with love, yes. Professional, not so much.)

Also, while I’m a fan of Kickstarter in general, I’m not such a fan of their formatting style. I don’t know enough about HTML/formatting to explain what I don’t like; but, for example, if I push the “back” button to delete something, here on WordPress the text will disappear like it’s supposed to … whereas, on Kickstarter, if I push “back” some weird square will appear and entire paragraphs get moved to where I don’t want them. It’s rather annoying!

Still, despite my disdain for posting on Kickstarter, I realize that some who aren’t connected to me via Facebook might be wondering at this point how the trip went, or did I even go on the trip? The answer to the latter question is, of course, yes! I survived the journey! (The first question was more rhetorical, but to sum up the journey in one word: productive.)

For the most part, Heather and I followed our itinerary as planned, at least for the first four weeks. We did make a few tweaks here and there, such as adding a day in one town or cutting a day from another (and we had to eliminate Springfield, MO entirely); however, we at least visited the rest of our scheduled stops in the same chronological order that we’d intended.

Besides Springfield, the biggest change to the original itinerary is that both Heather and I (at different times, and for different reasons) unexpectedly ended our trips early. Heather made it to New Orleans before she had to fly home to New York. As for myself, I continued for another week after that and had just finished a 3-day ride on the Texas Eagle when my husband called me with some devastating news. I was hanging out at Union Station, waiting for check-in time at my motel so I could drop off my bags and proceed with my brief return to L.A., when I decided to check my messages. There were at least five of them from Merwyn. He sounded frantic. I called back, and Merwyn told me that Katie (our 13-year-old Yorkshire terrier) was in advanced kidney failure and might not survive through the weekend.

Now, there’s a LOT more that I want to write about Katie; however, at this point, I’m not yet ready. I will say that as as soon as I learned what was going on, no way could I just casually continue with my journey. Merwyn, bless his heart, managed to book an afternoon flight on Southwest Airlines (he even found a reasonably affordable “first-class” seat, with the intent to make my flight as comfortable as possible; he did this without any prompting from me, in the middle of a workday and in the midst of his own grief and worry over Katie, whom he loved to pieces. She wasn’t “just a dog” to him; she really was his “little girl” … mine, too, but point being, my husband’s heart is the size of ten Union Stations … times googolplex.)

I made it home by about 5 that evening (October 26th, to be specific — just four nights earlier than expected) where Merwyn and I spent a bittersweet last evening with Katie. We brought her here the next morning, where the extremely compassionate staff (who’d both informed Merwyn of her prognosis and taken great care to make her as pain-free and comfortable as possible the day before) helped her transition peacefully over to Rainbow Bridge.

(We now share our home with Daisy and Richard, the terrier and the “meezer” mentioned in my last blog entry. You’ll hear more about them in future entries, I’m sure. We certainly feel Katie’s absence every day, but Daisy’s presence helps a lot … and Richard even helps, too, in his own crabby old Siamese way!)

A few weeks later — beginning the day after Thanksgiving — Merwyn and my sister Missy (and Daisy) and I all rode down to Sonoma County, CA for a quick-yet-enjoyable weekend, to visit the area where my dad grew up and officially conclude my journey.

Missy and I at the Charles Schulz Museum in Santa Rosa. No one ever accused us of being cool.

Meanwhile, Heather, my filmmaking colleague, plans to continue documenting my overall journey (the trip is just part of the book, remember!); however, after much feedback and consideration (and screening all the footage she shot in our time together) she now wants to extend the filming beyond her school year. So, “I’m” no longer Heather’s “thesis”; however, I know she’s committed to this film and I wholeheartedly support her decision to proceed with the film in a more natural manner, rather than rushing it for the sake of school.

Believe me, Heather and I went through a LOT in our four weeks on the road together (heck, even before that); our journey is a story in itself! I won’t lie; as you might expect after four weeks of almost nonstop company, we also went through our fair share of stresses. Still, we survived, our collaboration remains intact, and (most importantly) I know that she treasures my friendship as much as I treasure hers.

I very much look forward to traveling future roads with Ms. Fisch! That said, it’s a lot harder for us to communicate from a 3000 mile distance  … especially when we both hate the phone. 🙂 Right now, though, for the time being I think Heather’s focusing on school while I focus on that book I keep talking about. (Provided Heather’s okay with it, I’ll certainly keep this blog updated with any “film” news on her end  … well, provided I actually manage to keep the blog going!)

Heather and I, about halfway into the journey, at Song restaurant in Brooklyn. (I think that's what the restaurant was called!)

So. The book.

It’s a work in progress, and my tentative hope is still to have it ready it before the end of 2012. To be honest, that seems really, really far off right now (and, like Heather, I’d rather not rush things just for the sake of finishing within a specific time frame) but I think I can make it happen without “forcing” myself too much … although I’ve given myself some flexible deadlines. (This might not be a professional project, but Kickstarter is still its own sort of “contract”, which I intend to honor —  for one thing, I owe it to the many generous people who supported me!)

Basically, by this time next year I’d like to have a few actual, published copies of this thing floating around (at least enough for everyone who pledged at Kickstarter!). I still have much to learn about the process of self-publishing, but if I’m finished writing by, say, my 33rd birthday (in April), I’ll have 8 months to turn what is now a mere Microsoft Word document into a real book, with pages and a (probably cheap-looking, yet constructed with love) cover and everything!

There’s one big hurdle I’ll have to cross fairly soon … maybe somebody reading this can help?

I’m a little shy about sharing these first drafts of my letters; and I guess I don’t have to share, yet I wouldn’t mind if at least one person could read over what I’ve got and let me know if I’m on the right track or if what I’ve written is  … well, crappy. The trouble is, I’m not sure who that person should be. I’d prefer this kind soul be somebody who’s both honest (but not brutally honest) and gentle (but not overly gentle). I guess a better way to put it is that I’m seeking a non-biased opinion … yet I also wouldn’t mind if that opinion came from somebody I know personally, at least on a casual basis.

Still with me? Any volunteers? 🙂

Last but not least … Kickstarter incentives. I haven’t forgotten about them, although I admit that my “postcard from the road” idea sort of bombed, due to various factors (limited time in certain areas, lack of post offices/mailboxes, the trip’s unexpected ending, fatigue … I even sent a stack of written cards not to their intended recipients, but — accidentally — to myself, when mailing some excess stuff home from Virginia. Or, I should say, my lovely hosts mailed the package; but I’m the one who “brilliantly” stuffed the postcards, which I meant to drop in a big blue box, into the package instead … which they later generously sealed and sent my way.)

If you haven’t received a postcard yet, it might have been in that stack (which means it’s currently … er, sitting in my living room), or I might have purchased it later in the journey (which also means it’s stiting in my living room). You’ll still get a card; obviously, the postmark will read Olympia, WA (or Tacoma or wherever they send our mail from here) instead of the city the card represents, but I can at least guarantee it was purchased in that city, and (in most cases) written from the road! I apologize for this delay and thank you for understanding!

I also thank you for your patience, and faith in this project, as it might take awhile to receive the other incentives. To save on postage costs, I’d like to mail as much of the items together as possible — meaning, you might have to wait until the book’s ready for most of your prizes … if you don’t mind holding out that long!  (I’m also still working on T-shirts and coffee mugs.) However, there are some smaller prizes, such as a CD that anyone who pledged at least a dollar is entitled to. If you’d like CDs, postcards, or even bookmarks sooner rather than later, I think we can make that work … just shoot me an email!

(And if you pledged $40 or more, which means you’re eligible to program and even co-host The Think Tank if you so desire, you don’t have to wait so long; I plan to get the ball rolling on that shortly after the new year, if not before.)

Okay … bedtime now. I’m not tired, but Merwyn and I are riding the Mt. Rainier Scenic Railroad tomorrow, and I want to be nice and rested for my first time on the rails since … the journey!

Merwyn on last year's Mt. Rainier Scenic Railroad trip.

Hello, Blogosphere … I’m back!

Welcome to my 474849275th attempt at a “blog”!

I think the biggest problem with keeping most of my previous blogs up-to-date was that they were often limited to just one theme (i.e. cancer, childhood stories). Not this time! Here, I plan to blab about whatever I feel like sharing with my two readers on any given day. If you’d like to follow the progress of my in-the-works “memoir”, you’ll find those updates here! If anything changes with my cancer treatment (which, let’s hope it doesn’t) I’ll post about it on this very blog! Prepare to read about such thrilling topics as my genealogy (my list of ancestors and distant cousins is pretty fascinating, if I do say so myself!); The Think Tank (that’s the radio show I host with my husband, in case you didn’t know); road trips; train trips; quirky Silky terriers; moody “meezers”; awesome antique store finds; TV or book snark … if you’re lucky, I might get really provocative and post about what I ate for lunch that day.

Seriously, I hope I can keep this blog going. Especially since I’ve started the process of Officially Writing A Book (it’s too late to back out now!); however, conquering writer’s block (not to mention worrying for way too long about whether each word I put down “sounds right” or not)  has proved challenging most days. We all know from English class that the only way to get past writer’s block and improve one’s writing is to WRITE. Right?

So do you think I am up to the task?