August 29, 2014

Update re Dr G

I saw Dr G a few days ago and learned from the scan reports that my cancer has stayed the same in my brain, but the mets in my liver have grown significantly. My tumor marker also went up by 100 points. So it's definitely time to start another chemo. As Dr G put it, Xeloda clearly worked on my brain, but not so well on my liver. The PET/CT scan also showed a new metastasis in my left elbow, as persistent pain there indicated to me night be the case.

So I start Abraxane with Avastin this week, once a week for three weeks in a row. Somehow we fit Aredia (every three months) and Faslodex (monthly) into the schedule as well.

I feel good, and hope that next week's chemo will start to make a difference quickly!

August 20, 2014

12th metsiversary

Today is the twelfth anniversary of my diagnosis with metastatic breast cancer.

It's the only day in which I let myself blow a Bronx cheer / wet raspberry / mouth fart to cancer. Nyah-nyah! It's been twelve years and I'M STILL HERE!

The rest of the year I abide by the deal I made long-ago with my cancer: it could stay with me as long as it was quiet, because (sadly for both of us) if I die, it dies too. Read this blog post for more on the dream that started my deal.

I've planned all kinds of ways to celebrate my metsiversary over the years. Some were large parties; others were intimate gatherings -- but all were with friends and even occasionally with family. It's the kind of event that lends itself to celebrating with people. Tonight, however, is also a friend's very significant birthday, and we've been invited to celebrate with her. I think she'll understand if my toast to her also includes a nod to me.

My favorite toast is the one which my friend K graciously loaned to me so many years ago:
"May all your joy be true joy,
And may all your pain be champagne!"
If you want to join my celebration, then feel free to invite your friends and family to eat some chocolate and drink a glass of bubbly with you. Together we could be a global phenomenon!

August 12, 2014

Back to Bulgaria (metaphorically speaking)

It's time to write more about Dunava's trip to Bulgaria.

Upon leaving Kyustendil and the "Silver Buckle" festival, we took the long drive to Pazardzhik. We stayed in the lovely Hotel Primavera, a small but seemingly new pensione in the town center. I was so tired from the previous days that I stayed in the hotel and did not attend either the afternoon workshop with our hosts, Ensemble Pazardzhik, or dinner with the rest of the group. The rest did me a world of good, because the next day we could choose either a half-day trip to nearby Plovdiv or the same amount of time on our own. Several of us chose Plovdiv, even though it was difficult to get back on the bus again. Thankfully our driver N is a man of excellent good humor.

Sundial on mosque, Plovdiv

Restored Roman vomitory, Plovdiv
Plovdiv is divided, like Jerusalem, into a very old city and a new city. The highlights of the old city are the many restored ruins, which feature a complete Roman amphitheater still used for performances. Our small group explored the tourist part of the old city. New shops, cafes, and restaurants abound. Except for the public toilets, where a squat toilet and Western-style toilet sit privately side by side. To use either one, you have to "pay" the lady outside 50 stotinki, which regretfully doesn't make the toilets any cleaner.

Restored Roman amphitreatre, Plovdiv
We climbed up the cobblestone streets and looked in almost every antique shop to assist J in her hunt for antique jewelry and R for her search for authentic clothing. At the top of the hill we stopped for a light lunch overlooking the amphitheater.

Upon our return to Pazardzhik, I joined everyone for the afternoon workshop, during which I tried to pick up the four songs they had begun the day prior. We enjoyed a yummy dinner in an outdoor restaurant. Unfortunately, what felt like every mosquito in Bulgaria joined us and nibbled on D and I for their dinner. After too many bites to count, I headed back to the hotel.

On the way I saw a most beautiful cocker spaniel, enjoyed yet another conversation in French with M, his maman, and picked up a few more mosquito bites.

M and her English cocker spaniel David, Pazardzhik

August 06, 2014

Cancer update

I really promise to write more about Bulgaria, especially a topic on my mind for about two weeks. My brain calls this subject "A Tramp Abroad," in humble imitation of Mark Twain. But first a cancer update.

I saw Dr G today for the first time in a month. My tumor marker has climbed 50+ points since my last treatment. Since this big a jump is no longer just "noise" to him, Dr G thinks it is time to change treatment. He would like me to try a taxane again because Abraxane worked so well, until increased neuropathy in my feet began to make me stumble when walking. I reminded him that even one dose of Taxol caused my neuropathy to flare out of control.

We compromised on trying Abraxane at a lower dose than last time. I suggested that first he order a PET scan and brain MRI, so that I start the Abraxane with fresh data. I will see Dr G after those scans, get the results, and then we can move forward. I truly love, admire and appreciate how that man listens to me!

In the mean time, I am not to restart Xeloda or methotrexate, but to continue Aromasin daily, and Avastin (every two weeks), Faslodex (once a month) and Aredia (every three months).

According to, the following side effects are common (occurring in greater than 30%) for patients taking Abraxane:

Low blood counts (your white and red blood cells may temporarily decrease which can put you at increased risk for infection and/or anemia)
Hair loss
Abnormal ECG (electrocardiogram)
Peripheral neuropathy (numbness and tingling of hands and feet)
Arthralgias and myalgias, pain in the joints and muscles (usually temporary occurring 2-3 days after Abraxane, and resolve within a few days)
Weakness and fatigue
Increases in blood tests measuring liver function (these return to normal once treatment is discontinued)

Last time for certain I experienced peripheral neuropathy, hair loss, weakness and fatigue; perhaps now blood counts and nausea (I can't remember and anyone can search my blog for that information). Who knows what will happen this time? My wig and scarves are ready, just in case...