Tuesday, February 28, 2006


today is my 2 wk anniversary - no chemo today!
i am feeling good despite the cold but i can tell i'm still toxic. no hair growth and i still don't sweat. i wonder if increased ear wax production is associated w/chemo? or is it associated w/baldness and more stuff blowing into my ears and tickling the wax producing organ? or is it because i have no hair to blowdry or brush and distract me so i'm imagining it?

coincidentally, i received several lovely gifts today (in random order):
• a delivery of 14 bags of groceries from Whole Foods from Dan and Deb in Boulder - THANK YOU!!!! what a fabulous treat.
• this link from Sonia to the Condiment Packet Museum. Enjoy!
• this excellent article by Ann Hornaday who was the fact checker at the first job i had in NYC at VDT NEWS and MICROWAVE NEWS (what a blast from the past). thanks B.

another gift (we're talking on the Oprah scale of things - looking for joy in the mindnumbingly mundane) - while in the container store looking for the most coveted of household organizing tools - the attractive yet functional cutlery tray - i heard a song by Ambrosia that i frequently played on the jukebox in Joe's Pizza during 11th grade lunch hour (despite ridicule): "You're the Only Woman." [they also sang, "That's How Much" and "You're the Biggest Part of Me" so don't even try to call them one hit wonders. singing in a falsetto is very very cool.]

anyway, the container store reminds me of the last support group i attended at msk. it was a thursday. A had just been diagnosed the previous friday, had started AC chemo on tuesday and was going to be scheduled for a mastectomy. the fast track. A was curious about how she'd feel after more chemo - she said she wanted to keep working - "I don't want to stay home and clean out the closets or something!"

WHAT? "that's exactly what i'm dying to do!!" i laughed even though it reminded me of Hillary saying she wasn't just staying home baking cookies. but A didn't say it with a snear.

tuck thinks the container store is the worst place on earth next to LA and Las Vegas. perhaps because it lures in people like me w/its seductive siren song "Elfa...herbal moth repellant...gift wrap bin...rubber cat door stop" [yes, i have actually purchased these items]
the container Lorelei convinces me that if i could just find the right cutlery tray, maybe all the other pieces of my life would magically fall into place...maybe i wouldn't feel like throwing a hand grenade into the apt?

why the sudden need for this drawer divider anyhow?
tucker's childhood home has sold - a year after his mother's death - and we've inherited her groovy danish mod flatware. there's also a truck showing up here sat. am w/15 cubic feet of other mementos, furniture, collectibles and check stubs. so i do the only sensible thing in the face of this motherload - i pick the most obscure, hidden, churchmouse of a place to organize and obsess about it instead of cleaning up the piles crap all over my desk or the dining table.

you see, my lack of progress closet-cleaning has more to do w/me than the chemo.

hey, speaking of gifts, those unemployment checks can't keep rolling in forever - what's the cutoff?

ok, bedtime.

moody blues

as you can see from my latest plush post, i am in a much better mood. thanks for your concerned emails and phone calls.
usually, if i'm in a bad mood, i don't write. this seems to have left many people w/the impression that i am 99% chock full of cheer. ha ha ha. now that's a good one. just ask my spouse.

last wk i dragged myself to the Y for the first time in about 6 mths.
there really is no reason for this - there were many days i felt well enough to go sit on a bike and read.

[in fact, i dread the day that anyone i know gets BC - this is not completely altruistic. i’m afraid that someone will have as mild a reaction to the chemo as i did and “out” me.
“Remember we baked her all those lasagnas?”
“And sent all those fancy body lotions?”
“Just think - all the while she was laying on that sofa we bought her eating chocolates and watching Project RUnway!”
“We must have flashing neon signs over our heads that say ‘SUCKER’ cuz i’m taking the same chemo course now AND playing tennis at the same time!”
“Oh, I’m working two jobs and going to school at night to become an astrophysicist during treatment”
“Yeah, what’s a few mouth sores? I’m doing a triathalon.”]

anyway, it was surprisingly easy to ride the bike and read a book. don't worry, i was sweatin' it but not as hard as when i have to climb stairs or walk down the street in a hurry.

i was not in a bad mood the rest of the wk - just didn't feel like blogging. we had a potluck at school one night, dinner w/beth and co another, jamer, judith and family were here this wkend which was great. dr judith was not discouraging about putting a blob of plastic in my body. she likened implants to hip replacement surgery. perhaps a metal boob instead of silicone is the answer?

read the article, A Right to Insult on alternet about the cartoons that inflamed tempers and buildings around the world.
although i love art spiegelman, and i agree with the right to insult (at least, the right to insult myself) i'm not so sure about that danish editor.... poor judgement.

time for the gym again....

Monday, February 27, 2006

ninjas and moustaches together at last

ninjas aren't usually huggable. they usually kick butt. not this little guy!

better yet, he's got a moustache for a pal.

Monday, February 20, 2006


the previous (or following post, depending on how you look at it) may cause some of you to think that all sharp objects and shoelaces should be removed from my home. don't worry. it was just a bad day and since i usually don't post on bad days, i could see how some of you would be alarmed.

today was much better.
went to moverman's for brunch then saw the pink panther which the kids thought was hilarious (not lou - she doesn't get slapstick yet).

Sunday, February 19, 2006


i didn't mention the visit w/margot, pablo, isaac and nona yesterday. that was the good part of the day.

in between was the usual crying and stalling and sturm and drang to just get the hell out of the house. this happens every single wkend. much more so than w/any family of four as one of us is practically agoraphobic (jo). since i have hotflashes and muscle aches and stomach pain and insomnia, i really lost it and yelled. this usually snaps jo out of her crying (which is worrisome in another way since she suddenly turns into perfectly sweet child - because i've scared her) and plunges lou into despair for me being so "mean."

my eye is twitching just thinking about this again. another side effect of chemo lately (and something i used to do just as a trick) but now it is very telling.

since tucker went to Ohio this am i thought today would be easier - just one parent stearing. but jo has already cried that everyone hates her - then she ran into the darkened bathroom until i made her come out. the cause seemed to be that her friend maya is busy today and - of course - the mention of homework. we're hiring a math tutor so maybe that will help boost the self-esteem and keep tuck and i out of the line of fire.

but back to today...i was able to talk her off her mental ledge w/the offer of going to see Nanny McPhee. unfortunately, it's not playing at union square. now comes the fighting over taking the subway...
you make it seem like it's a CRIME to dislike the subway!
if we can't take a cab, i'm not going
you're so mean
i'm not like other people!

yesterday, she whimpered, "why aren't i normal?"

this has got to stop, but the mention of therapy brings another tirade: i'm finished w/therapists!
she went last summer for 5 sessions to a very nice woman and claimed that she liked her but was dying to finish (unfortunately, the 5 session agreement that we'd made ended right after i was diagnosed)

i've told tuck and jo that we all need to go as a family to work this out. i thought the fact that her friend is going to a therapist in the bldg right next door might help. i've got to work on this.

meanwhile, i feel like crap again today. i had decided to stop taking ativan as my nightly sleeping pill (.5mg), but that didn't work out very well the past 2 nites. around 3 am i gave in both nites. after looking at the project runway site for an hour. how pathetic. last nite i tried sleeping on my left side (which takes a lot of maneuvering w/pillows to avoid pressing on the horrid valve) and when i moved, my left arm brushed against my side so hard that i swear i felt the valve move an inch. ouch.

i talked to a friend this a.m. about how i was feeling ill-ish. i know people mean well, but i REALLY can't stand it when i am telling someone this and they say, "well, at least you know it's finite" and other helpful look-on-the-bright-sides. i KNOW that!! at least i am not a starving child in africa! it also makes you feel guilty for complaining at all. like i should just shut up and count my lucky stars. and i already have that talk with my catholic guilt self enough so i don't need any lectures on it. if this were coming from someone w/cancer i wouldn't care. one friend once said, "well, at least you know it's curable," but that seemed appropriate as her mother was dying of lung cancer.
anyway, i know this friend didn't mean it to come out the way it did. in fact, if just a few words - or an intonation - were different here and there, it would've been much easier to swallow. "hang in there!" just sounds better to me.

ok, i've wasted enough time picking apart my friend's good intentions.

gotta tend to the kids and what we're going to do today...

Friday, February 17, 2006

T, N, M

how did i get this wrong?

dr bromberg said on tuesday that i'm T1 N1 M0 - i thought i was N2??
it stands for TUMOR size, lymph NODES positive for BC (i had 2 nodes which registers as N1), zero METASTESES. to be honest, i don't even know if i have THIS part right. i am usually the type of person that does her research. loads of knitting books, books on writing, dictionaries, etc. but when msk told me to stop reading stuff, perhaps i went too far.
but it is also my selective memory. every time someone asked how many treatments of chemo i was doing, i could not remember.

today was so FRIGID and i was totally underdressed (that means only 2 shirts and a cashmere sweater, scarf, headscarf, hat, kneelength down jacket w/hood) and watch the giant pillow fight at union square. it was so silly and fun to watch for about .3 seconds, but the girls and i were ice.

it's saturday nite. why do i feel sooo crappy? i didn't even have the neulasta shot this time and i am super achey, cranky...i bet some of this is due to my inertia thruout this. even when i was feeling well, i didn't go to the gym. i walked etc., but i can barely go up subway stairs w/out huffing and puffing. my goal for this wk is to go "workout" several times - aka, sit on a recumbent bike and read a book.

actually, i'm reading lance armstrong's "it's not about the bike" - sent from my very kind neighbors/fellow moms. i don't want to diss it after it came so highly recommended, but so far i think he sounds kind of obnoxious. it could be the co-authorship too - so many things just don't sound like something this loudmouth texas boy who loves his mama would say. he is super gifted athletically - part of that is genetic, part is his tenacious will to win. (since i am more the passive under-acheiver type, this is kind of a turnoff) and he fights as hard against cancer as he does in his sport - but so do lots of unsung heroes. and the people who simply can't fight half as hard against their diseases are no less admirable. just weaker. just unlucky.
anyway, i haven't gotten to the part where he sets up his foundation...so maybe i'm being too harsh.
or maybe i just can't read cancer stories right now?

speaking of fighting: i've never thought of myself as "whooping" this disease. if someone said, "you're going to beat this," i'd almost get offended - why would anyone even imply that i would not? i've used imagery lots of times - during marathon training, to relax while getting a massage/acupuncture, during meditation classes - but i didn't feel the need to do that w/the cancer. maybe the chemo just didn't make me sick enough. maybe if i felt worse, i'd picture the chemo smoking out those rogue cells. instead, i'd just go get the finger prick (eyes averted) and the needle stick (ditto - even when the needle popped out and blood started gushing). i'd read magazines as if i were just killing time before a haircut (ha ha).

i suppose i needed to think - or not think about it - this way. to call the good days my "chemo vacation" and nap on the bad ones. to always be pretty ok by the time the girls got home. to "attend" the treatments - perhaps w/out being fully present.
you can call it denial but i don't think it's cowardly orbrave - it just is.
the people who say i'm strong or whatever, they just don't know... the ones who've been thru chemo call me lucky and that's more like it!

Wednesday, February 15, 2006


hey, today is the first day of the rest of my chemo-free life (knock on wood)

manymanymany big thanks to all of you for your support and kudos and lasagnas and hand creams and kind words and pillows and, of course, the SOFA!
MWANH MWANH (big kisses)

the cover of today's nytimes has an article about AVASTIN, a drug used to treat advanced breast, colon and lung cancer. the big question is; are the drug cos. bilking patients by charging 100K a YEAR for it? hmmm, let me think a minute. And you thought herceptin was expensive at 40k...

lou is home w/a fever so no napping in site. that's ok. since i didn't need a neulasta shot for my last time i am so chipper! and it will be interesting to see how pain-free this chemo is w/bone aches.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Hit Me With Your Bird Shot

an exciting foto of jacqui and i on the last chemo day.

i pay homage to pat benatar and her twin, cathy cervenka, in this post title.

who'd a thought DIck Cheney would upstage my last day of chemo?
wanna join his gun club?
i actually laughed out loud [with chemo friend, natalie, and her pal, clarice] at the bc center while recounting jon stewart's coverage. it felt strange and inappropriate and just what the dr ordered.

i felt badly that i didn't organize gifts for jackie and karen - i saw very few roses around the offices. anyway, i'm going to ted's to get them something good since they've been great overall. it's just unfortunate that i went in for dr's visit at 10:30 and wasn't done until 6.

tuck came to the visit task questions so that was helpful,[ i'll write up the Q/A tomorrow.]
then b came as always to chemo. even got the sweet nurse churley...just like the first time.

no neulasta shot tomorrow since i don't need to boost up white blood cells before aother chemo!

Monday, February 13, 2006


i can't believe i am finally researching msk's integrative medicine TODAY! right before my last chemo!

it would have helped if my doc had mentioned msk's own center. well, i can still go and have nutritional counseling there. should be better than the grad student who basically said, "low fat diet, fresh vegetables, etc." which if you've been following the news, you'll see that the ACS was in on a huge study showing that a low fat diet did NOT help older women (50+) w/incidences of breast, colon cancers or heart disease.

so i only have 9 years to go and then i start eating cupcakes for bkfst every day!

Valentine's Day Massacre (of errant cancer cells)

I'm stealing this line from my new friend Maris - tomorrow is my last day of chemo!

Yes, this is great news but I'm also really nervous about the brave new world of limbo ahead. Just goes to show ya, if it's not one thing, it's another (paraphrasing Gilda Radner)
There's the "Soft" trial - which I finally found on msk's site - click here for the description.

Here's the summary
"If a breast cancer contains receptors for estrogen and/or progesterone, treatment with hormones has been shown to help prevent it from returning after it has been removed by surgery. The hormone therapy generally used is tamoxifen, which is usually given for five years. Studies have also shown that suppressing (shutting down) the ovaries (stopping them from making hormones such as estrogen) helps prevent breast cancers from returning in women who are premenopausal.

In this study, investigators want to determine if shutting down the ovaries while giving tamoxifen is more effective for preventing the return of breast cancer than tamoxifen alone in premenopausal women with early-stage breast cancer. They will also determine if a newer hormone drug called exemestane plus suppression of the ovaries is better than tamoxifen with ovarian suppression. In addition, they will study the side effects of these different treatments.

Exemestane is a drug which is FDA-approved for treating metastatic breast cancer in postmenopausal women. In addition, exemestane has been shown to reduce the risk of a breast cancer recurrence in postmenopausal women after 2 to 3 years of tamoxifen. Its use in premenopausal women with cancer that has not yet spread is investigational."

Here is an article about the two different drugs used in the study. The third is Lupron which I haven't looked up yet. I've had people tell me it made them "crazy" (it's also used in fertility treatment). yippee!

I could go on and on linking to studies but maybe I'll stop and read 'em - and hopefully will be able to summarize it all after tomorrow.

The things that strike me are words like: bone loss, arthritis, diarrhea, etc that accompany some drugs

One thing is clear, I will be on one drug for the next 5 years - Tamoxifen has been the standard but then switching to Femarra or another aromatase inhibitor after 2.5 yrs seems to be the new regimen. I am already having hot flashes from the Taxol turning off all hormones and putting me in temporary menopause.
The goal of oncos is to put me in REAL menopause - to turn off all hormones (which is a friend to my cancer cells)

eesh, got some reading to do - not to mention shopping for my msk team for tomorrow!

Sunday, February 12, 2006

implants a la michelle

my fellow blogger and 'breast' friend, michelle emailed me her wealth of info on implants, so i thought i'd lay it all out here for everyone's benefit.

There is an excellent forum on breastcancer.org.
http://www.breastcancer.org/ubbthreads/ubbthreads.php. You can search a
lot threads using the key words: reconstruction, tissue expanders, implants, saline, silicone, etc. I've read about one woman who had a one-step reconstruction but this is very rare and I'm not sure what this entails.

The normal route these days, however, is mastectomy + immediate reconstruction. I had a double SKIN SPARING mastectomy + immediate reconstruction.
I think you just had a single mastectomy, right?

What is your radiation situation? This has a significant impact on how your reconstruction schedule will go. Radiation can cause problems with skin healing so you'd have to wait several months for it to heal before operating. And for those who have expanders before radiation starts, there are all kinds of risks including capsular contracture and
expanders "popping" out of radiation-damaged skin.

Well, what happens is they cut open the pectoral muscle and create a "pocket". Then they slide the tissue expander in. Hopefully your PS will insert some saline to get you started. Over time, he'll perform expansions in increments that aren't too painful. I don't recommend anything more than 30cc at a time or 50cc if you pop lots of Vicadin.

You need to be expanded to 10% greater than the size you finally want to be. Note: tissue expanders are really hard and uncomfortable.

When you're finally ready, then you can go in for your final "exchange" surgery. The best implant, in my opinion, is silicone. It's heavier (which will make it droop more like a natural breast), squishier like real flesh instead of a water balloon and be more comfortable. Saline tends to "swish" and stick out more, giving them a "fake" look. Either way, it's hard to make reconstructed breasts look totally natural because the skin on our chest is tight and there is no natural tissue to
protect them. My PS put a layer of Alloderm over them for protection.

So, you should know that I'm biased against DIEPs and FLAPs because they're so invasive. As an athlete, I couldn't deal with moving much-needed muscle from my back or belly (even if I had it). Implants, IMO, are the best so solution for me. You can be as big as you want to be and my take on this is, hey I want NICE boobs as my consolation prize
for going through this crap.
Are you considering a prophylactic mastectomy as well?

If so, your reconstruction can done so you match very well. Gravity will eventually take over the natural breast whereas
the implant acts like its in space travel.

Does any of this help? Feel free to shoot me specific questions.

Process: http://michelle.wolfmadness.com/archives/000339.html
Expansions: http://michelle.wolfmadness.com/archives/000344.html
When I had problems w/my expanders:
About silicone: http://michelle.wolfmadness.com/archives/000392.html
Radiation w/expanders: http://michelle.wolfmadness.com/archives/000411.html


tuck and the kids went to check out the the brooklyn superhero supply co where they offer tutoring and free writing workshops to kids. pretty cool.

now there's about 15" of snow outside and the kids already went out w/tuck - i stayed inside to blog and blow my nose. trying to stop my sniffles from turning into a full-fledged cold. don't wanna delay the last chemo.

Saturday, February 11, 2006


i just discovered the froogle wishlist option in the 'about me' section of my blog.
i tried out a bunch of random things - let's see if tuck buys the new oven.
now that i'm at the end of chemo, i'd encourage anyone facing illness to start a blog and make a wishlist. everyone has been so generous to me that it's been overwhelming.
but the wishlist thing reminds me of that article in the nyt about the teenage boy who fell into prostitution using a little videocam and email. his johns encouraged him to set up wishlists and they would buy him stuff from it. evil.

so the good/bad news on the boob front:

saw my plastic surgeon nurse the other day
i have lost too much weight to have the operation i wanted - the DIEP flap (in which fat from the stomach is cut out and moves uptown to the old breast).
the good news is
a. thinner is better perhaps?
b. no 5 day hospital stay, no 8 hr microsurgery, no 6 wk recovery period

bad news is
a. no free tummy tuck
b. my choices are now saline or silicone implant or nothing

i can take an implant and then if/when i get a gut again, they can do the DIEP. even 10 yrs from now. i doubt that it would be covered by insurance then. probably just the first reconstructive surgery gets covered - but i'll find out.
also, i have time to decide/see if i gain weight soonish, but do i really want to go thru the summer w/this inflated balloon in my chest and valve sticking out of my ribs? not really.

there's a new generation of silicone implants - pam referred to them cheerfully as "NO BLEED" - that my PS has been approved for. meaning he is allowed to dish em out while others are not. all silicone implants are in a clinical trial phase so you're monitored...i have done zero research in this area as i was convinced this was not the road i was going down. now i'll be cking out style 410 and other globs of fake boobs...except i just looked and there is no 410. oh well.

i went to the msk support group right after the PS visit and there was a woman who went thru a similar sitch to mine. she wanted the DIEP same time as mastectomy, couldn't, thought she'd get saline implant, got silicone AND fixed up the other side w/a little silicone booster...obviously this is not the end of this topic.

i was looking at swimsuits in Land's End for our trip to LA next mth, but i realized i am neither in the 'mastectomy' category nor the 'regular' one. [we're going for the girls spring break- last 2 wks of march- to visit Ed, Kirsten, Violet and Willow in Pac Palisades and going to Twenty-Nine Palms]

Friday, February 10, 2006

Valentine ROCKS!

forget the romantic dinner - here's what you're doing on Valentine's Day
Cathy Cervenka's LOVE BITES

here's what you're doing on Valentine's Day

"Alone Again" because "Love Hurts?"
Is the thought of Valentine's Day "bringin on the heartbreak?"

Well, join the hottest performers in NYC as we come to you with "open arms"
to show you "what love is..."
.....and experience the guilty pleasure of the best & worst power ballads by
Journey, REO, Bon Jovi, Skid Row, Def Leppard, Meatloaf & more!! It's
Valentine's Day - ARENA ROCK style!

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

kmart or marc jacobs?

I couldn’t sleep last nite due to another harrowing episode of “Jo hates homework” involving lots of tears and cajoling thru a crack in the bathroom door. It has been really stressful for all of us. I know that may sound like an exaggeration to those w/out kids but when yr child sobs, “I WANNA DIE!” it rattles your nerves a bit. [a long story, but I’ll cut to the frivolous stuff now]

had a nice lunch at thé adoré w/susan s. during which we discussed all the crap jo has had to deal with this year and how well she’s doing considering. thanks for reminding me, susan. DUH! why are we overlooking the most obvious thing? why are we not praising this child every day for keeping her s&$t together? anyway, i linger too long on the meaningful things in life.

after lunch, i was very busy having a stomach ache for about an hour and a half. [stomach aches are one of my chief occupations these days]
his was pretty much all the time i had before going to the marc fashion show w/nesli. of course, i figured i had to dress up but the truth is that there were no paparazzi interested in shooting me. here i thought i had an edge over all those tired “haired” women. i even wore my beautiful hermes insect scarf on my “bald” head thinking what an interesting photo that would make - “how chic, how insouciant! les insectes sont partous a sa tete!”

i tried on black pants and black pants, a black shirt and a black shirt, finally deciding on a black undershirt, black shirt, black sweater, pants, socks and PURPLE sigerson morrison pumps. to think i even spend time ironing! the only paparazza outside the show was photographing people drinking the new Tab that she was handing out - or who were wearing colorful, Tab-by outfits.
i think my green down coat, big white lamby hat and jumbo white glasses just scared everyone away.

enough about me...how were the clothes? very dark and kind of stalinist russia meets choochoo charlie. or something. it was in the lexington ave armory which was apparently open for business judging by the camo’d guys in crewcuts walking around. the music was of the pounding anonymous variety. the models were their usual chipper selves, laughing and skipping down the runway.
actually, their hips dragged their disaffected expressions down the catwalk. jauntily. it was hard to tell if they were displaying designer threads or being marched to their death in some siberian work camp.
but there were some very lovely coats, a serviceable long gray cape, a sensible and pretty gray wool dress. gigunda bags - like, so big you could fit at least 2 cats in them.
mostly i enjoyed the spectacle.
and then it was over. what an adrenalin rush.
how to follow that up?

i took the subway to 8th st. afterwards and walked straight into Kmart. the boys collection featured a Clash t-shirt. first martha stewart, then joe boxer, then joe strummer....

i bought a few dishtowels (how glamorous) and when i showed the checkout child my license (yes, i paid w/a credit card for dishtowels- ludicrous as it sounds) he said, "Whoa!"
"You look different."
"Yeah. I had hair."
it was a pretty good license foto if i do say so.

so kmart ended up making my day.

Monday, February 06, 2006

year of the dog

unless you checked in over the weekend, you missed the changing blog skin...i'm still tinkering w/it.

has everyone heard about the new cancer detection device?

i slept most of last wk (had chemo tuesday, tuck went to LA on wed) and hours today with a lot of activity packed in over the weekend (tuck was back on sat). i went to a homework workshop for jo, excellent dinner w/the fab georgia and family, chinese new year party on sunday (thanks, sophie)

more soon

Friday, February 03, 2006

new look

i couldn't figure out how to retrieve my archives, so i thought it was time for a new blog "skin"
still need to tinker with it tho - maybe change the pepto bismol color
but it is an accurate reflection of how my stomach feels lately

no posts recently as i've been feeling too crappy and tuck is out of town so i'm busy at nite w/the girls.
time for therapy