Well, my friends are worried about my stress levels, what with the cancer and the TIA and the other stuff (WHO, ME STRESSED? WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT?, and one of them has kindly donated a week at a timeshare near Atlantic City — which will be my first vacation in six years! I’m leaving next Sunday. (Assuming my car doesn’t break down, ha ha!)
I don’t have any spending money, though. Don’t get me wrong, I can live without it, but it would feel more like a vacation if I could afford to go out to dinner once or twice.
So if you’re in a generous mood and want to put something in the tip jar, that would be swell and much appreciated!
Drove almost 80 miles round trip in crawling rush-hour traffic yesterday to meet with another radiation oncologist and get a second opinion. When I got home, I was so tense, my shoulders were up around my ears.
I wish I drank, or smoked pot. Cancer logistics are a lot of stress. (But then, so was my recent ER adventure.)
When I said when I got Medicare, I was going to see a doctor every week for a year? I WAS JUST KIDDING, HONEST.
Yesterday morning, while I was working, I noticed a strange flushing on one side of my body that left me lightheaded. Since it was accompanied by pain in my upper back, I thought it might be a heart attack.
You ladies know what I’m talking about: The symptoms for heart attacks in women are so vague and nebulous, there’s really no way to know. So my friend D. drove me downtown to the behemoth that is the University of Pennsylvania Medical Center.
I knew how it would go: They would take blood, run a few tests, and send me back home with a sheepish grin. That didn’t happen this time.
Turns out I was having a transient ischemic attack aka mini-stroke. Oh boy. I spent more than 24 sleepless hours on a gurney in the hallway, because there was no room at the inn.
They ordered a lot of tests, including a midnight run for an MRI of my brain, CAT scans of my brain and abdomen, countless blood tests, an ultrasound of my heart and major arteries, and even a drug test. (I know, right?)
I now have a neurological team, and they are in charge of keeping me from having a full-blown stroke. (Hello, Lipitor!)
When I got back home yesterday afternoon, I read through all the paperwork and test results (I am surprising healthy, considering), and one sentence jumped out at me:
Enlarged pulmonary artery, 45 mm, suggesting pulmonary hypertension or connective tissue disease.
My head hurts. Now I just want to go a month without having to visit a doctor.
Lab test won’t be back for a couple of weeks, but I’m feeling fine. A little bit of Aleve for minor pain, but that’s about it. Waiting for the anesthesia to work its way through my system, should be able to drive soon.
It first caught my ear because of the title. I’d had a long, angst-y on-and-off thing with someone for many years. At one point, I found out one of my co-workers was psychic (I was the only person he ever told, by the way — not even his wife. People are always telling me their secrets!) and so I asked him about it.
He closed his eyes and gave it some thought. When he opened them again, he looked apologetic. He said, “I’m sorry. You’re just parallel lines that never meet. It’s never going to happen.” (He was right.)
So years later, when I first heard the tune, the intensity of the lyrics brought all that back. Todd Rundgren was living with someone else (they had two kids) and his backup singer Michelle Gray was married, but they started fooling around on tour and fell in love. Much heartbreak and drama! After the tour, Michelle went to stay with her mother and told her how she broke things off with Todd, but she knew it was the right thing to do. While she’s at her mother’s, Todd mails her the demo for this song. She listened to it with her mother, who said, “Oh, now I understand.” (Or words to that effect.)
Now they’re married and have a grown son. Whew! If someone wrote a song like this for me, I’d probably get divorced, too.
Between physical therapy and doctors, I have very little time to unwind these days. Yesterday, I met with the geneticist, who likes me because I’m a geek and she doesn’t have to explain as many things.
Turns out that, unlike most cancer patients, I only tested positive for one weird gene. And it’s not meaningful, as far as they know. (They call it a “variant of uncertain significance.”) “We’ll update you if we find out it means something,” she said.
I did get to argue with one of the treatment team, which is always fun. She told me the kind of tumor I have is almost always encapsulated, and rarely spreads into the lymph nodes.
“Then why do you want me to take five years of hormone suppressants?” I asked. She then said something that got my back up: “Better to overtreat than undertreat.” Oh, no, no, no, no, no. That’s bumper sticker thinking.
I think I mentioned before that my tumor (I call it “Donald” for obvious reasons) is so rare, they clump it in with a group of other tumors that are invasive and higher risk. Yet they still want me to have radiation and take powerful drugs. My tumor type is typically indolent — like me! And when I read the research, they all say the same thing: It’s hard to decide the best treatment protocol because they don’t have enough tumors like this to decide.
This is why I’m sending my slides off to Johns Hopkins’ rare tumor center. Someone is going to have to give me some solid, data-backed reasons before I’m going to fuck up my system like that.
I went to see the geneticist at the hospital the other day, and I have to say: Until I saw it all written out, I had no idea how many people in my family had cancer. Now granted, there were a lot of heavy smokers and the occasional heavy drinkers, yet I always thought of mine as a heart attack/stroke kind of family.
The great-grandmothers with stomach cancer? The geneticist shrugged. “There was so much bad stuff in the food back then, there was a lot more stomach cancer,” she said. She was more interested in my father dying from pancreatic cancer. She said that was significant. (I think it had more to do with all the nitrate-heavy lunchmeat and the can of Diet Coke that he had for lunch every day, but whatever.)
So they took some blood and they sent it off to a lab in Utah, and I will find out all kinds of DNA trivia about myself. There is a federal law protecting my privacy, but as I told the geneticist, “I’m not counting on this Supreme Court to honor anything.”
Continued! My mechanic just locked my keys in my car last night with the ignition running. (Fortunately, he didn’t lock the hatch and crawled in through the back.)
Oh, and there was the flat tire that kept me from meeting this weekend with a dear old friend visiting here from Nashville. (It was the spare I put on two weeks ago from yet another flat, so I was screwed. That same flat tire kept me from getting to physical therapy yesterday.
Yesterday, I spent more than 2 hours trying to get the HP printer from hell to print out a current copy of my insurance card so I can get my car inspected, and over an hour trying to figure out with the Comcast guy why my laptop stopped connecting to the wifi. (That was after spending almost 4 hours — four separate calls –Friday night with them trying to fix it over the phone.)