An explanation...

Why Foob? I had a double mastectomy, and at the time, the plastic surgeon put "expanders" under the muscles in my chest. Every 2-3 weeks, they were filled with more saline, in preparation for my reconstructive surgery. They were very full and hard. Uncomfortable. One time, one of my sons gave me a hug and then said "Your foobs are hard!" Hee, hee, hee! My kids have this endearing habit of combining words. So, "Foobs" are fake boobs. Which I will still have, even after the reconstruction.

Foob Babe - that would be me!
"The only courage that matters is the kind that gets you from one moment to the next." ~Mignon McLaughlin


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Friday, December 19, 2008

Pink Elephants On Parade

Why is the color PINK the color for breast cancer? I hate pink. I look stupid in pink. This has bothered me for awhile, probably because I keep accumulating pink stuff. I have pink shirts, sweatshirts, slippers, and pajamas. I have a pink ribbon for my car (outside) and air freshner (inside), pink hats, hats with pink flowers, pink jewelry (ok, I like the jewelry - who wouldn't), and a cute pink denim jacket (that I had way before breast cancer - but now looks like I got it just because of breast cancer) etc., etc. Why can't the color for breast cancer be beautiful vibrant RED, or a deep yummy PURPLE - or a soothing denim BLUE? I look way better in those colors than I do in pink. In pink, I look like one of those dancing pink elephants on parade from the movie Dumbo. When I wear pink (combined with having no hair) everyone knows I have cancer, and while this comes in handy sometimes (mostly waiting in line at restaurants), it's pretty much just annoying. Pink is the color of Pepto Bismal - which just reminds me of how nauseated I always feel. Red would make me feel much better.

By the way, thanks to everyone who gives me breast cancer stuff. Since pink has already been established as the color for breast cancer, I'll continue to be a billboard to raise awareness. Whoever made pink the color - I just want to know - what were you thinking???? Next time I'm in charge of a decision that important, it's red or purple all the way, baby!

Cancer sucks.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

I'm going to be tired ALL of the time? Not acceptable!

I hate the way Chemo makes me feel. I had my third treatment on Wednesday and I'm soooooo exhausted. If you know me at all, maybe you'll understand why this bothers me so much. Before I was diagnosed with cancer, I went 150% all the time. In fact, it was getting to the point where my family and friends were telling me to slow down. Then cancer hit me, and it's changed my ability to go full blast - or even at a slow crawl. There are a bunch of yucky side affects from chemo - nausea, raw mouth and sores, dry nose and bloody noses, hot flashes and being flushed on my face and neck, diarrhea, etc. - but I think the worst one is being so darn tired all the time. It took me a full day to decorate my Christmas tree. There's something not right with that. I've been reminded time and again about the need for taking care of myself. "Just forget everything else, and take care of yourself - for once". If it was up to me, "taking care of myself" would mean diet and exercise, scripture study, learning new things, etc. Not dealing with cancer. Ok, that's enough of the whining. Other people have it much worse.
I'll end with explaining this picture of the chemo blanket my mom made for me. My mom is my chemo partner and she grosses out whenever I use one of the "public" blankets in the chemo room. She says they are covered with germs. So, she found this really cool fleece fabric with skulls and crossbones all over - very appropriate for chemo (poison). I took it with me for the first time on Wednesday and snuggled under it for the whole day. It was great and my nurse loved it. Thanks Mom!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

"Don't drink that poison - it's $4.00 an ounce"

That quote is by Groucho Marx - when Rick quoted him, I knew I'd found the perfect name for this post, not just because of the price reference, but because chemo is poison. :-)

I've been waiting to write this blog post for awhile. I decided that I would blog about the cost of cancer some time ago, when I found out from the pharmacist that one bottle of nausea medication (30 pills) was costing me (actually, my insurance) $700.00! I take 3 pills a day. That's unbelievable, right? FYI, I take, not 1, but 4 nausea medications. I counted my pill bottles the other day. I have 12 prescriptions (Ondansetron, Promethazine, Cyclobenzaprine, Dexamathasone, Lorazepam, Effexor - just to name a few). I don't take them all right now, but that's quite a bit of money, just in pills. I started to try to figure out how much money, in pills, I was consuming every day and I stopped at around $800. It was making me sick to my stomach and I didn't want to have to take another nausea pill...

A few weeks ago I received a statement from my oncologist's office. It was one of those "this is not a bill" statements - just telling you how much your balance is and that they've billed the insurance. My balance was $25,000! Ok, so this was my balance after one (that's right, ONE) chemo treatment. In the last 4 months I've had 3 surgeries, a CAT scan, a bone scan, an MRI, 2 mammograms, etc. etc. I've had many, many statements and bills to work out. Good thing I've got insurance, right? The hospital bill from the mastectomies, alone, was over $30,000. But this statement from the oncologist really got my attention. Is chemo really that expensive? It's just 3 little bags of liquid for every treatment. So, last week, when I went for my Herceptin treatment (something I get to do every Wednesday), I asked for an itemized statement, so I could see what that $25,000 represented. When they brought the statement to me, it was no longer $25,000 - now the balance was over $40,000! (Deep breathe)

When I saw the cost of my treatments, I just about choked. Here's a list of what it costs, just for the IV medications, every 3 weeks: Carboplatin is $4284.00, Taxotere is $5488.00, Herceptin is $6048.oo (for the first time) and $3024.00 for the rest of the treatments - (I get this one every week for 4 1/2 months and then every 3 weeks for 7 1/2 months). Those are the IV drips. Then, after every chemo treatment, I get a fun little shot in my stomach that costs $4116.00. So, if you add all of that up - it's around $104,496.00 for 6 chemo treatments. The cost of the remaining Herceptin is around $30,000. These cost do not include the blood work that is done every time I go in to get a treatment, or the other "associated" costs, which add up to around $1500.

The cost of cancer is different for every person. Some people have more surgeries, some less. Some have different medications than others. Some people have treatments for way longer than others. For me, the cost of cancer has been around $202,000 so far. That is not including the reconstructive surgery (or any charge at all from the plastic surgeon) that I'll have next year.

For others, the cost of cancer is way higher. I'm not stupid - I know that the insurance companies don't pay nearly that much for my cancer. But, what if I didn't have insurance? There are people out there, with cancer, who don't have insurance. These drugs/treatments are way too expensive. I wish I could help those who struggle with the cost of cancer. I'm lucky enough to have a $1500 out-of-pocket maximum each year, so this will only cost me around $3000 plus copays on hospital/doctor visits and medication. I've given money to cancer fundraisers for years - ever since my grandfather died from Lymphoma. Now that I know, first hand, the cost of cancer, I'll continue to do this - I encourage everyone to help out with any cancer fundraiser. I'll be at the cancer walks next year - I encourage you to be there with me, or participate in one wherever you live. Not only does it help with the outrageous cost of cancer, it will make you feel wonderful. Galatians 6:2 - "Bear ye one another's burdens..." Help out those who are in need.

By-the-way, don't get me wrong. I'm thankful for the medication that has been developed to help me fight this beast. I'm really grateful to the surgeons and doctors who have helped me, and will continue to help me for the rest of my life to monitor the cancer. And I'm especially thankful that Rick has such great insurance. I know that it costs millions of dollars in research alone to fight cancer. I just wish it wasn't so expensive for those who have to pay for this themselves. Cancer sucks!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

As The Poison Drips...

This post will be fast, because I'm already feeling the affects of the chemo treatment I had today. My first chemo made me sick for 10 days. I won't put all of the gruesome details here, because none of you need to know that. Let's just say that today, we tried a new nausea medication - the "latest, greatest" on the market. That, in addition to the other 3 nausea medications will hopefully cut down on the amount of days that I'll be sick. The doc was concerned about a few other things (i.e. those "don't need to know" things I was talking about earlier) and so he lowered my dose of one of the chemo meds - Taxotere. That's a pretty wicked drug. I also take Carboplatin and Herceptin. Those three drugs come after the two nausea drugs. They each take about 30 minutes to 1 hour to drip - one at a time - so we are there for about 4-5 hours. My sweet mom, Barbara, is my chemo partner. She picks me up and takes me there and then stays the whole time. Today, it hit me faster - my mouth was so dry by the time I finished, that it was painful. And I'd already started getting tired by the 3rd bag of stuff. In fact, I can hardly keep my eyes open. I used the numbing creme on my skin above the spot where my port is. Oh, some of you probably don't know that I have a port. It's a small plastic triangle thingy that is under the skin of my upper chest - right below my collarbone. It has a cathether that goes into my big monster vein behind my collar bone. That's where the nurses access my vein for the drippy drugs and blood work. The needles are pretty wicked - OUCH! So, I numb the skin an hour before I go. Then, the nurse pokes a yucky needle through my skin and into the port. Today, it work really well. I didn't even feel the needle at all! Yay! The last thing I "get" to have is a shot in my stomach - can't remember what for. That one hurts. Ouch. So, all in all, the day was pretty good. Now the wait begins to see how it will affect me. I'm already started to feel nauseated, so hopefully the 4 pills I just took will start working and they'll knock me out too. ;-)

Note: if you ever have to go through this and you lose your hair, use a dog-hair remover on the stubble on your head - Alex just did this to my head and it really works! :-) Until I can get out of bed for the next post... say it with me, CANCER SUCKS! You know it!

Monday, November 17, 2008

My First Fill-Up

Ok, so this day started out with me forgetting that I have no hair. I stepped out of the shower and wrapped my head in a towel to soak up the water from my hair. Ok. Then I realized that I didn't need a whole hour to get ready - it took me less than 1/2 hour. I no longer need a blow dryer, a curling iron, mousse, hair spray, or even a hair dresser! Pretty cool, huh? I'm going to save so freakin' much money. Oh, yeah! I decided that I'd go out today with a hat instead of that hot, itchy wig. So, I picked my cute brown hat that went very nicely with my brown sweater and headed to get my nails done.

There are a few things that I didn't think about when I shaved my head. One is that hats and scarves and headbands, etc., are kind of like those brain squeezers that people put on their babies' heads! Next time I see a baby with one of those silly things, I'm going to pull it off! Because, now I know how they feel. I was very tired of the brain squeezed feeling I had by the end of the day. Another discovery that I made today is that people stare at other people who don't have hair. Even when their head is covered up by a hat. I pulled up to a stop light and glanced over at the car next to me and found that the old man who was driving had turned completely towards me and for some reason his mouth was open! Then, I stopped at another light and looked to my right and the lady in the car, who was caught staring at me, smiled. Hmmmm. For the rest of the day I caught people staring. Kris, my sister, said I was just being paranoid. Uh, NOT!

Besides being my first day out and about with no hair, it was also my first day for a "fill-up". And I don't mean gas in my car! Yep, I got my expanders filled with saline today. Just so you know, I HATE needles and, I swear, if another doctor comes at me with a needle, pointed at my boobs (or rather, my man-chest), I'm going to completely lose my cool. These needles were attached to the biggest syringes I've ever seen - filled with tons of saline. And it all had to be shot into my expanders. And, boy, did they expand! Ouch! Double ouch! I don't really recommend this to anyone. There are easier ways to get a boob job!

It was a great day, though. I didn't have it so bad - my day was easy compared to my hilarious niece, Ellie. She stuck a flower up her nose and had to go to the doctor's office to have it removed. Bwahahahahahaha! I'll take needles in my boobs over flowers up my nose any day!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

My Head-Shaving Story Moment

I've waited for quite awhile before starting this blog. It's my Cancer Blog and to tell the truth, I just haven't wanted to write this next sentence. I have cancer. But, yesterday my head was shaved and I'm well on my way to surviving and I think I can write about the whole thing now.

I'll post parts of my cancer journal to get everyone up to date after this post. For now, though, I'd like to talk about yesterday. I had my first chemo treatment on October 29th and the nurses told me that I'd lose my hair between days 14 and 17. Whatever. Well, day 14 came and went without my hair falling out. I kind of pictured it falling out all at once. For you Harry Potter fans, I pictured it being like the Whomping Willow losing it's leaves in the movie. You know - it loses one leaf that swirls all the way down to the ground and then every single leaf hits the ground all at once! It's pretty funny in the movie. Not so much when it's your own hair. But, that's not what happened.

I had a hard time sleeping from day 14 to day 17, because I kept having nightmares about my hair falling out! I'd wake up in the middle of the night and tug on it, just to make sure it was still there. I really did hold a small hope in my heart that I'd be the only exception to the rule - the only person who wouldn't lose her hair. Yeah, right! On day 17 (no kidding) I started to lose my hair. Every time I touched it, tons would fall out. I could run my fingers through my hair and pull out gobs. It was very traumatic. I put off shaving it until Saturday, day 18. I just couldn't stand to have it falling out any more.

My sister, Kris, and I went to buy a wig. More about the wig later. She followed me home and when we got there, it was time. Have you ever been so frightened of something that you are physically ill? I have been. I thought I would throw up. I stalled as long as I could. When I was ready (as ready as you CAN be), Kris braided a small portion of the longest hair and then that was the first chunk to be cut off. You see, I wanted to keep a small bit of my hair, because I hear that hair grows in differently after chemo. I LOVE my hair. It's thick and full and with the help of my hairdresser, Aimee, just the right color - dark brown, woven with reds. When it grows back, my hair might be really curly, or super straight, or a completely different color - like gray!!!! Anyway, so now I have proof that my hair was once beautiful.

At the first cut, I started crying. I'm such a baby! My boys were way more brave than I was. I completely fell apart. Every cut made me sob. Kris was so nice. She kept saying how beautiful I was with every cut. Rick ran his hands through my hair when it was super short (about an inch all over). It was sad looking, because it looks like someone just hacked into my hair. Then Kris told me to take a deep breath, and she turned on the razor. If you've never experienced this before, it's a very scary sound. This whole thing was supposed to be my way of being in charge of at least one part of this whole cancer thing. But I didn't feel in charge. I just wanted my hair back. Kris shaved my whole head. I'll post a picture here, but it won't show how I felt. I felt like a victim. And I was mad. Way mad. I looked like one of the people in German concentration camps. We decided not to completely BIC my head - the stubble will fall out soon enough and then I'll be completely bald.

I'm getting used to it though. My boys all said it didn't look as bad as they thought it would. The big liars! Haha! They were so sweet though. I'm glad I have all boys. If I had girls, they would have just cried right along with me. But the boys all felt my head and told me how to get rid of all the loose pieces - "Trust us, when you shave our heads, we go right in and take a shower!"

Well, that's my story moment. Can you say, Cancer SUCKS?!