December 21, 2014

Long time no blog

It's been busy here. Since the transfusion I've had mixed energy, not what you'd expect from getting fresh blood. Twice I've taken dextroamphetamine as per Dr G just to get started in the morning. Today's real (as opposed to decaf) coffee didn't do it for me.

But I did manage to make 25 potato latkes for our block party this afternoon. The house smells like fried oil, as it should during Chanukah. Rik took the selfie below on the first night when it was just us.  You can find my dad's latke recipe here.

On Friday night we went to friends for a latke-fest and I baked a six-pointed "Jewish" star shaped challah. It was well-received with many an ooh and ahh. One guest pointed out that her Swedish grandmother used to make cardamom bread (I fill my challah ropes with cardamom and brown sugar), and that this challah smelled like love to her. What a lovely thing to say!

Bob spent the day at the groomer but it's hard to tell in this photo. Boychik did the same a couple of weeks ago, so both dogs are now dematted for a few months. FYI, Boychik had a small cyst on his back leg that only showed up when his hair was cut. The vet removed and biopsied it and it's benign - no cancer!

And that seems to be all the news of the day! Happy Chanukah, and I wish us all a happy and healthy, joy-filled new year.

December 12, 2014

Two of three problems fixed

1. A head cold since November 8th;
2. A sinus infection since last week;
3. Anemia (low red blood cell count)

In somewhat different order:

Last week the pounding in my head and pain in my sinuses was clearly, in my experience, a sinus infection of great magnitude. It took me a few days to get a referral and an appointment with an ear-nose-throat doctor (ENT). Yet another one of my ever-growing medical specialists, Dr Burgoyne diagnosed me right away, prescribed antibiotics, and told me to call by Thursday if things hadn't improved. Which they have.

At Wednesday's chemo session, Dr G took a look at my labs and told the nurse I had anemia and needed a blood transfusion. This has happened only once before over these past 12+ years. (I love saying "12+ years!") They type and cross your blood each time and yes, I'm still O+, and give you Benadryl and Tylenol before you get the blood.

On Thursday I received two liters of blood, which took almost seven hours, from 9:30 am to 4 pm. I picked up a mocha on the way to the hospital and noshed on chocolate throughout the day. Plus I had the usual delicious Swedish lunch of soup, tuna sandwich on rye, and chips for the second day in a row. I napped most of the day but did manage to read the newspaper. I drove home and went to bed at 6:00.

Today I felt in recovery mode after being at Swedish two days in a row. I slept in, eventually waking up to shower, change the sheets, start laundry, feed myself, etc. My friend G and I were supposed to go to the local Star Trek convention today, but I lacked the energy. I didn't even have enough energy to walk the dogs, so they have been canoodling with me all day instead and nobody complained. Rik will be home soon and he will walk them. I'll roast a chicken in honor of Shabbat and the fact that my cheeks are now pink once more!

PS I still have the head cold. What can you do? Send me some virtual chicken soup, please.

December 09, 2014

I've been nominated in Healthline’s 2014 Best Health Blog Contest

I got this in my email today:

Hi Jill,
I’d like to congratulate you on being nominated in Healthline’s 2014 Best Health Blog Contest! You can see the contest here:
Each year, we recognize and honor the top health blogs of the year with our annual Best Health Blogs Contest. The contest shines light on those blogs that have really made an impact on their reader community and provided them with valuable information and resources to help them live better, healthier lives. We are happy to let you know that you have been nominated in the contest!
The contest started this Monday, December 1st and will run through January 15th. We will award cash prizes (up to $1000!) for the top 3 blogs with the most votes.
Please share the page with your followers and ask them to vote for you. Users can vote once every 24 hours, so please continue to share and encourage your followers to vote!
You can create a badge for you site that recognizes your nomination and encourages those to vote for you here:
Please let me know if you have any questions!
Thanks,Maggie Danhakl • Assistant Marketing ManagerHealthline • The Power of Intelligent Health660 Third Street, San Francisco, CA | @Healthline | @HealthlineCorp
About Us: 

(The "vote for me link" is on the upper right.)

November 30, 2014


It may seem trite or overused to say what we're thankful for on Thanksgiving Day. After all, every day can provide us with such moments if we can stop to appreciate them. So here goes….

I am thankful for:

  • still living well after 12+ years with metastatic breast cancer (this is something of a miracle owed to Dr G, luck and God, not necessarily in that order)
  • my loving husband and our close knit families, although those families live on the other side of the continent
  • our deeply connected families of the heart, with whom we have found decades of companionship
  • the unconditional love of pets (Dunky, Kitzel, Pumpkin, Bobka and Boychik)

I read recently on Facebook about an easy thankfulness practice. Starting on January 1 (or really, any time), label a jar and put it in a visible place in your home. Every day, or as often as you feel so moved, write on a slip of paper some experience that brought you joy. By the end of the year, you will have a jar full of memories to be thankful for, and the opportunity to recreate a year full of joy.

November 24, 2014

Sniffle sniffle

For the past ten days I've had innumerable cups of tea (the hot water just came to a boil now). Plenty of Tylenol. So many hours on the couch or in bed. And yet this cold, or whatever it is, remains stuck with me. Plus last week's Avastin gave me nosebleeds, and the Abraxane fatigue is on top of everything else.

In these few days before the Thanksgiving holiday, I know I can't get in to see Dr G (I tried last week). So for what I hope is a minor upper respiratory thing-y, I will try to call my primary care doctor and see a) if she can see me, and b) if there's anything she can do. If Dr K is too busy I may have to ride out this cold-or-whatever-it-is until I see Dr G next week.

Not looking for advice here; just "pissing and moaning" about feeling yucky. I hardly ever catch a cold, and certainly not one which lasts this long.

November 15, 2014

My 55th birthday

Today I celebrated my 55th birthday with my hubby and dogs, and five very close friends who have all known me for twenty years (or longer, in one case). We ate too much chocolate, drank a little too much champagne, and talked for several hours.

One birthday card quoted Marcel Proust. His words belong to everyone in the world.

Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy.
They are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.

To friends near and far, l'chaim -- to life!

November 08, 2014

Done with acupuncture

Dr Rudolph and I agreed that while I am in a treatment that has a side effect of neuropathy, the acupuncture is simply trying to keep my feet at their current (or perhaps a bit reduced) level of discomfort. It's kind of expensive to continue just to keep this holding spot, so I have decided to stop acupuncture for now. If the neuropathy progresses, or if I change treatments, I can look at starting acupuncture again.

In the meantime, I'll continue with gabapentin, L-glutamine powder, and the occasional use of 5% lidocaine cream, which is available over the counter.

November 02, 2014

Tumor markers down

I saw Dr G last week and after repeat scanning of my liver and brain, it appears that my mets are stable and my tumor markers have dropped another 50 points.

The potential infection in my port line may or may not exist. Last week I saw an infectious disease specialist who is not convinced that I have an infection. He wants me to stop using my port for blood draws a few days before using it for chemo, to give anything that might be brewing a chance to heal. So I will go early to chemo, have my blood drawn for labs, and spend an extra hour in Ballard waiting for results, instead of having a phlebotomist stick me in the arm, and then run out of usable veins in a matter of weeks. That's why I got a port in the first place. Lymphedema in one arm means no needle sticks; crappy small veins in the other arm means I prefer to use the port. And no one wants to have to stick me in the feet or in the neck, the best other options. Uggh….

Back for more chemo tomorrow!


I may not have blogged already about treating my neuropathy with acupuncture. Someone in my support group mentioned this as a viable alternative and I decided to check it out. I'd tried acupuncture the second time I was on Abraxane and it did seem to give some relief. (Unfortunately, Dr G tried Taxol and it brought the neuropathy in my feet back, raging, after only one dose.)

This time I am seeing Dr Gregory Rudolph at Swedish Pain and Headache Services. He's an MD as well as a licensed acupuncturist.

The treatment goes in six visits - four that are one week apart, and the last two which are two weeks apart. He uses acupuncture needles plus mild electric stimulation.

After the first visit, I didn't notice any difference.

On the second visit, in additional to needles on the top of my feet and shins, Dr Rudolph placed one needle in the ball of each foot and a small, gold stud in each ear. Evidently the ear is a microcosm of the body and this was supposed to help with pain management. I don't know which point was responsible - the ear or the ball of the foot - but I could barely walk that week and the pain/numbness/tingling felt out of control. I was miserable.

I told Dr Rudolph about this on my third visit. I wanted to avoid the ear studs, since placing them was painful to me and I hadn't brought along my lidocaine cream. We agreed to try it the next time with me using the cream. He did not place any needles on the bottom of my feet.

For the fourth visit, I was prepared and used the lido cream about 30 minutes before my appointment. Dr Rudolph placed two gold studs in each ear, but hadn't told me in advance where the second stud was to go, so that area was not treated with lido cream. Given my lack of discomfort with the numbed ear, he agreed that the lido cream worked and put the second stud in a spot that would also work for pain management and where I had rubbed in the lido cream. Again, he did not put needles on the balls of my feet.

That was last Thursday. All four gold studs are still in place. My feet don't feel any different. Dr Rudolph had asked if my energy felt different. Since I spent all of Friday and much of Saturday in bed, I can't say that I have better energy. Different - as in fatigue - just not better.

I start another cycle of Abraxane tomorrow and will get acupuncture again on Thursday. We'll see how it helps!

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I dance with cancer. Oy!