Monday, May 30, 2016

down days

I am missing things these days.  Today I missed the annual Memorial Day Weekend bbq at Melissa's place.  A mix of pain and such keeps me at home for the most part.  The chemo drugs have me feeling nauseous much of the time, and I'm unable to eat very much.  Had half a ham sandwich today, which was about all I could tolerate.  Some days I don't want to eat anything at all.  I will probably get some Ensure, or Boost, soon, just to get some nutrition.  Losing weight is nice and all, but not at this cost.

The weather has been quite warm lately.  Not good for my breathing, or for anything else for that matter.  I had hoped to hold off on using the air conditioner, but I truly need to make myself as comfortable as possible, so its been on for a couple of days now.

I haven't even felt well enough to make it across the hall to visit with Evie.

The day before yesterday I had to have an MRI done of my spine.  That whole ordeal took a lot out of me.  They were backed up, and I had to wait for hours before even getting it done.  Had 2 MRI's done... one without contrast, and one with.  A total of nearly an hour and a half inside that noisy tube.  Not fun.  I know my oncologist wants to see if the metastasis is causing any nerve impingement, which might be causing the horrific leg pain I get sometimes.  I don't see her again until the 9th of June, so it will be a while before I learn the results.

I spend a lot of time watching Netflix, and some television if anything good is on.  I don't do much reading because my glasses aren't the best, and I need new ones.  I do some coloring now and then to fill the time.  Very fatigued, so I sleep a lot when I can.  Usually a couple of hours at a time.

I wonder when the radiation treatments will start.  It's going to be very hard to do that five days a week, especially with the summer weather.  Will it help with the pain, I wonder?

I know this is all pretty boring stuff to be reading,  but it's what my life is about right now, so it is what it is.

Monday, May 16, 2016

oral regime begins - technicalities

Just past 9pm on this monday.  I have not slept since saturday, so I'm pretty out of it.  Lots of chest/abdomen tightness pain pressure going on, and breathing is always hard.  Sometimes pain sites change from day to day, or through-out the day, or go on for days.. there's no way you can predict its path.  Rarely is the body still, and at peace.  Sometimes, it is, for a little while at least.
Today I started the oral meds.  Letrozole (Femara) and Ibrance.  The constrast of costs for these two drugs is crazy.  The Letrozole costs maybe a nickel apiece... crazy cheap.  The Ibrance, on the other hand costs close to $100 per pill.  They are meant to work together, the Ibrance specifically enhancing the qualities of the Letrozole.
Leterozole is meant for post-menapausal women with HER2-positive breast cancer.  HER2-positive breast cancer is a breast cancer that tests positive for a protein called human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2), which promotes the growth of cancer cells.  Ibrance is meant to be used with Letrozole.  The effectiveness of Ibrance plus letrozole is based on a study that measured progression-free survival. There is an ongoing study to find out how Ibrance works in combination with letrozole over a longer period of time.
Both can have side effects similar to iV chemo infusion.  Ibrance includes more serious effects, with low white blood cell count being the most common, as well as low RBC and platelet counts. Pulmonary embolisms are also common.  Regular testing and treatments for these things will be on-going.
There are at least a dozen other common chemo side-effects, including "unusual" hair thinning or hair loss.  Not too sure why they include the word unusual.
There are many things to watch out for, but I prefer not to "expect" the side-effects, lest they are self-fulfilling. Often, many of these effects will not even show themselves.  Time will tell, and I will be on these drugs for however many years I have ahead of me.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

death and netflix

On the shows at the end of season two of Grace and Frankie, there are these scenes with a dear friend of theirs, called Babe, who is choosing to end her life with dignity, as cancer has taken her over.  She is a nutsy character, play by the inimitable Estelle Parsons.  She has lived an over the top kind of good life, is probably in her 70's, and wants Grace and Frankie (Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin) to help her on this journey.  Quite an emotional turmoil for the characters.
Now suddenly, there are new story lines that somehow affect me.
I have no ide,a or want,  to end my life, but it makes me wonder.. when does someone possibly come to that cross-roads, if ever?

I know this character was more or less at the top of her game, and wanted to go out in that fashion, but deep inside I really don't get that.  I mean who's to say how long she could've gone on at that level... or maybe not even at that level... so what that it might be less.  If you can't handle it, then so be it...  But to check out?  Just doesn't seem right.
My opinion.
Anyway, enjoying these shows that I find on Netflix every now and then. But it's hard not to binge-watch them, and then you have a long wait till the next season starts.
Sam Waterston and Martin Sheen are also in this one.  They are the ex-husbands of Grace and Frankie, and come out at the beginning of the series, as gay, having been in love with each other forever, and they proceed to live together.
The main characters are all 70-something, give or take, and there are their adult children, who interact regularly.
It's very enjoyable.

Friday, May 13, 2016

good news

I have been approved for the $2,000/month copay for the cancer drug, Ibrance,  I need for one year, then will reapply.  Very relieved.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

just bull-shitting

Today I lashed out in anger on my facebook status.  Just feeling tired of answering this question and that, or being told you gotta do this or that, and do it now.
My sister said my words were harsh, and no doubt wondered if I was referring to her.  Sure, in part, but mostly I know she just really cares.
My therapist, Alice, on the other hand, has begun to irk me.  Maybe I am being harsh in my perception of her, but you know what?  I have some anger, and I need to express it.
In the beginning of our sessions together, she asked, as do all therapists, if I want to have my family privvy to my therapy sessions.  I said no.  That was how I had it with Eleanor for 12 years, and I wanted to continue that way.
So... when Alice calls my sister every time I miss an appointment, it pisses me off.  I never gave permission for that.
I know that maybe what I'm going through now is a "different" situation, but I'm sorry.. I don't want my actions under anybodies scrutiny.
OK, I didn't call to cancel my appointments with Alice or Dr. Normil, today.  My bad.  Nevertheless, I need my own space.
My priorities now, medically, are with Dr. Burdette, and the cancer center.
I may actually have Alice close my case with the mental health center.  I haven't found much benifit from it for a pretty long time now, anyway.
I'm mad because I can't walk very well, and it's scary.  It's all just happening so suddenly.  Maybe it'll change with treatments.
This is all very private, and nobody really has a clue what's going on inside of me.

I'm not saying I'm right. I may even be wrong.  But if mad, angry, pissed, is what I am, then so be it. It's a crazy time, and I need to feel free to express myself.   I don't want to hurt anybody, and I fully expect to be called out if I do.  Don't want anybody to feel they need to walk on eggshells around me.  But let's face it...if ever I was feeling sensitive, this is the time.
I don't particularly like being in the position of needing the care.  I am more used to being the care-giver.  Not quite ready for the complete roll-reversal.

Sometimes I go down the road of "why me"... that's a really stupid one. because why not?  I don't think I'm being cursed because of past misdeeds.  That kind of crap is bull-shit.  Nevertheless, that silly question does pass one's mind.
Oh Shinnah Fast Wolf said that this kind of stuff happens so as to bring about a healing in the family.  But I don't think my small but tight knit family has really been in the need for a healing.  I think we're pretty together in that respect.  Of course, lessons will be learned.  Can't get away without that happening, unless you're completely unconscious.
Well, I guess I just wanted to vent here a little bit more.

So I get a call from my therapist this morning saying "I need to close your case."  No good reason why, except that I can't make it to the clinic as much as a need to, but she had said we could connect by phone when needed.. now suddenly not even that.  Wow, nice support, huh?  Fine by me.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

treatment update

Looks like I will be treated with oral meds (Letrozole and Ibrance), and radiation treatments.
The leg pain is indeed a result of the bone metastasis.
The cancer center is taking over my pain management, thank goodness, so I can take something every four hours instead of every eight.  The meds barely touch this bony pain, but at least it's a little something.  It's possible the radiation treatments will help some with the pain.
My oncologist says she is optimistic that I will do well with the treatments.
Getting an MRI soon to see if there is any nerve impingement.
It's hard to walk, and I'll probably get a walker to help with that.

That's about the size of it.  Just taking it a day at a time.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Running Wolf

running wolf scans the white horizon
no one there
something is wrong

she runs.

there between snow whites and
whispered blues
a heaping of human flesh

curled in on itself
neither being born nor dying.

she smells the perimeter, hangs
open her mouth, breathing in
the familiarity of spirit

and at once
licks at what is wounded.

she will stand vigil for
however long it takes

until she dances
once again.


photo credit by Sandi, on Flickr

Monday, May 9, 2016


The pain I have been experiencing in my legs has been the worst ever.  I'm not too sure what the hell this is all about, but it is heads and tails above the bad pain I've had in my abdomen/chest after the operations.  Wondering if it is related to the bone metastasis... I really don't know.
I went about five days with no pain meds, but finally made it to the pain management doctor today.  Evie had to come with me, because I wasn't even sure I could walk alone.
The Percocet took the edge off, but it didn't last long enough.  Should wait eight hours between doses, but after four or five hours I was back in a state of misery.
This is not what I'd like to be writing about, but it is what it is, ya know?
Tomorrow I see my medical oncologist, Dr. Burdette-Radoux.  She'll have the results of my bone biopsy, and will outline my treatment plan for now.
Afterwards, I'll probably meet with the social worker at the cancer center to see if I can get some kind of help with paying for medications and such.  Maybe I can get a Medicaid spend-down, I don't really know.  I do know that it all too hard for me to handle financially.  It is truly a choice between food and meds.  If it wasn't for Evie helping me out, I have no idea what I'd do.
I can't help but wonder how long I have to live with this disease.  And in what shape?  I pray for better days to come.
However much I miss her, I am glad my mother is not around to witness what I am going through.  It would have hurt her so bad.  Nevertheless, I miss her gentle touch, and soothing ways.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

those waking hours

I wake, typically, with a sudden jolt of pain in the middle of the night.  Familiar pain, unwelcome, nonetheless.  So I get up to eat a pain pill, knowing I will spend at least a couple of hours slipping closer to normalcy.
Yesterday I visisted at Melissa's, with Tree.   
Had the pleasure of observing Logan's reading skills, which duly impressed me.  He says Math is his favorite subject.  I told him it was my worst.  He is just the sweetest boy, I can hardly explain.  Such a gift.

Loving his first pet, Linny, the Guinea Pig

The weather was, and has been, damp and cold.  It sinks right in your bones, and aches you up.  Thinking I need to get some Tiger Balm.  I prefer the White, but that is a little harder to find.  I like white flower oil, too, but I'd probably need to go to Chinatown to get that.  Actually will be in Brooklyn's Little Chinatown next week when I go to the Cancer Center to see my oncologist.  Store fronts, though, are usually in Chinese, and it's hard to navigate.  Not sure what each store actually sells, except for the food stuffs, mostly.

Had a pleasant surprise last night.  I was chatting with my 2nd cousin, Martin, on Facebook.  Martin is my mother's nephew, and somewhat of an ancestry hound, who found my mother several years ago.  My mom, more or less, orphaned by 5 or 6, when she had already lost both parents, has had many mysterious parts to her life.  In another country, Guyana, she had 6 half brothers and sisters.

It has been interesting to learn things from Martin, who has done (and is still doing) many years of rigorous research.

Anyway, tonight I mentioned how I have never even seen a picture of my maternal grandparents.  I doubt I'll ever get to see my Greek grandfather, Peter Nicholas, but last night Martin graced me with a photo of my Portugese grandmother, Mary Serrao (1882-1931), and here she is...

I  think she is rather stunning and modern in her look.  She has the same pin straight hair as my mom had.  I see my mother in her face.  That twinkling in the eyes.  I'm so happy to finally see her!

Wednesday, May 4, 2016


Already I feel myself changing due to this new diagnosis of my physical being.   Not so much the changes going on inside the body, but the resultant changes in my heart and mind.
I feel an increased strength, oddly enough, despite the most devastating news of my life.
It is a feeling of "Ah yes, this is MY life, and I control it the way I want to, not the way others may think I should.  I don't walk in anybody else's shoes, and I give no permission to try on mine.

The initial poignant revelation is that I will take no one's shit. Not that there are many folks that even irk me this way.  I just know, though, that if someone does, they will be hearing from me, and straightened out.
One small instance comes to mind.  Talking on the phone today with my therapist, Alice, she asked how I am.  I said "Pretty good."  Well, she was on that phrase awful quickly, questioning "What does that mean?"   Well duh, it means exactly what I am saying... Pretty good....  not great, but not bad either.  I don't talk in riddles, I am quite straight forward... and to read me as if I am hiding something, or not laying my cards on the table, is to sort of insult me.  So listen to me, and take what I say at face value.  That is the most respectful thing you can do for me.
Perhaps, for me, being misunderstood is a sore point, as I try to be clear and honest in my expression of myself.

There is also this stronger wisdom of others emerging within me, so early in this new journey.  The fact that just about everybody has their own row to hoe, and our lives are no more hard or easy in comparison to anyone else's.  We can/should only encourage each other to live as well as we can despite troubled times or decline of health, etc. 
There is always a well of something "other" that we can haul up when we really need to.  If you don't have strength of body, maybe you can haul up strength of mind to help balance the deficit.  Or strength of love. That's a really strong balancing agent, and of course balance is what good health is ultimately about.

Is my spirituality changing?  I wouldn't say that.  It's breathing... the way it has been my whole life... sometimes taking deeper breathes than other times.  I "believe" in a multi-faceted way, which I think has been a part of who I am since I was probably seven years old.  Nature has always been my touchstone, and no doubt trumps all other spiritual/religious learnings throughout my life, including my Catholic upbringing, which was not strict at all, by the way.  Some of my ways of thinking are considered pagan, of course... which, to many, would appear to be in direct conflict with the idea of God/Christ.  But to me, all these things blend nicely within myself... one nurturing the other, to create my own peace.  That's good enough for me.
There is a bit of selfishness that is emerging now, too.  I guess that's to be expected. I'm just aware that I need to conserve my efforts.  If my mom were still alive, for instance, I wouldn't be able to help her like I did for so many years.  That was evident during the last year or so of her life, after I got the cancer and the double mastectomy, which put an end to me being able to lift and transfer her.  This is a bit different, though, now.  It's beyond a physical thing... it is much more psychic, so to speak.  A psychic selfishness, maybe.  It is not that I am unable to "give" to others.. I can both give and receive love, kindness, good humor, etc.  It's more an intuitive knowing not to give in ways which might deplete me in some aspect.
For the most part I don't worry myself about too much of that.  I don't associate with a lot of people or personalities that might be in conflict to mine.  My family members and friends are small in number, but great in substance, and operate on a basis that has no room or need for bullshit.  That's a blessing.

So, these changes I speak of, are elusive, at best, and very new.  I can feel it, though.  It is a shift in being, which is a very powerful thing.  How it develops through time will be interesting to see.  I will try my best to stay attuned to it.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

just rambling here

I keep thinking I need to call my mom and let her know I'm home.  The feeling to call my mom has been strong ever since she died.  My sister feels it, too.  We communicated with her, daily, for the most part over the phone.
It's a feeling as if something will stay incomplete unless you "let her know".
Of course, she does.

I imagine her observing evenly, having become the Owl she always was.  Observing the movements of my heart and mind, but having no judgement, no need to assign value, either good or bad... just observation, and an accompanying peace.
"I see her,"  Owl says.

And that, in part, gives me some peace.
My birthday in three days.  I will be sixty-two.  In light of recent events, this number is somewhat less ordinary, or even meaningless.  Now it is the number of a significant life event that threatens to take away one's accumulation of numbers.   If you get my drift.
The woman in the bed next to me looked to me like she was maybe 80.  I soon learned that she was 67.  She was ravaged by cancer, and it was robbing her of her numbers. 
I don't know how many numbers I'll have to give in, if any, and I don't care to know.  Makes no never mind to me.
When the time comes, Wolf will howl beneath a pearly moon, while Owl hoots nearby.  True essence emerging.  Numbers will be obsolete.
Today I thought about extraordinary encounters I've had throughout my life, with higher consciousness...  although "higher" isn't quite the right word for me.  It is not so much higher or lower as it is Open or Shut.   The more you open, the more levels that can be experienced.  I think this is why I experienced many things in my teens, 20's, and 30's...  we are less jaded by the world, so more open.  Life and its trials and tribulations through the years can often close down a lot of expanded consciousness.... at least that has been my experience.
Though in no chronological order, some of the things I've gained familiarity with, first hand, are:
astral travel
shamanic journeying, power/spirit animal retrieval
encounters of the 3rd kind
pressence of spirit beings under varying circumstances

At this point in my life now, I am suddenly feeling closer to that openess which allows such energies to make themselves known.
Time will tell, and I will, too, if stuff starts revealing itself.

You never know what, either.
Way back when, in Medicine Wheel Gathering days, when Sun Bear was still alive, I remember talking to Grey Antelope about Spirit animals and such.  I was thinking maybe he could tell me what mine was, and I believe I hinted that it just had to be a bird of some sort.  Well Grey Antelope never did tell me my power animal.  Wolf came to me clearly in lucid dreams, over a course of time, until I was "given" the name, Running Wolf.  Not nearly a bird after all!
Just rambling here.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Dread the Spread

For the past month I've had a very bad time with my asthma and/or COPD.  I depleted my rescue inhaler in les than 3 weeks, and the insurance denies an early refill, leaving me with no relief, and an inability to get even from one room to another without nearly passing out from shortness of breath.
On Monday, the 25th of April, it had reached critical peak, and after speaking to my PCP, I called an ambulance and went to the ER.  What followed was nebulizer treatments, steroids, O2, etc., and 29 hours in the ER before being able to secure a bed and be admitted.
Because my breathing was not improved with treatments, it was decided they'd do a CAT scan of my lungs to check for a possible blood clot, since I had recently had additional surgery, and it was indeed a possibility.
I was still in the ER at this time... I had been there 15 hours at this point, when a new doctor came and started discussing my history of breast cancer.
Then, came the shock of my life.  The CAT scan had revealed that the cancer had metastasized to the lymphangatic system in my abdomen, and to my bones -- specifically to my thoracic vertebrae. 
The doctor apologized for giving me this lousy news while alone in the ER.
I immediately secured a phone and called my sister (at 3am), who got so scared at the phone ringing at that time that she though someone was calling to say I had died.
I just couldn't tolerate being alone for too long with this devastating news.
Later on, Melissa came by as well, while another doctor was talking to me.  I saw her but knew I couldn't acknowledge her presence just yet, or both of us would break down.  After the doc left, I opened my arms to receive her, and we both held each other, shedding many tears.  It kills me to see her cry, and even now, my tears flow just thinking about it.  Our love in deep and unique.  She truly feels me.
Anyhow, after 29 long hours in the ER, I finally got a bed on the floor, which is where I've been now for 3 days.  Writing this on paper until I can transcribe it to my computer.
Earlier this afternoon, I had another CAT scan of my addomen and pelvis, and a full body bone scan.  Those results will probably come tomorrow.
The breathing problem is very slowly improving, and is, in most part, a separate issue from the cancer developments.
Some of the oncologists have said I will probably have to undergo additonaly chemo and radiation.  Right now I'm not too certain of my prognosis.  The oncology team will talk to me some more tomorrow.
I hope I can go home soon.

Thursday now.
Still in hospitaol, and not leaving today.  Been running a temp all night.  Had blood cultures done this a.m.  Results tomorrow.  Still pretty hard to breathe.
CAT scan showed cancer in some abdominal lymph nodes, and lung as well.  It's hard to comprehend all the info sometimes.  Still waiting to hear on the bone scan results.
In any event, I will need either a lung or bone biopsy, I believe... haven't heard which just yet.  Neither sounds like fun.
My veins are a disaster, and I've endured literally hours of being poked, trying to get IV access, draw blood, etc.  Don't know if I can handle one more attempt at this, truthfully.

So... some updated info.  My lungs have some small specks (7mm) of metastasis.  Also, my ribs and spine have been affected.  Tomorrow morning I will be going for a bone biopsy, which is a painful procedure that I certainly don't look forward to at all.

Friday, 4/29/16
So, I was NPO (nothing by mouth) from midnight last night, in preparation for the bone biopsy come morning
Half expected to be taken by 9am for the biopsy.  Breakfast time came and went without me partaking.  Then, lunch came and went.
By around 2pm I learned that the interventional radiology department was backed up with a couple of emergency cases, but that I could expect to get my biopsy by 3.  Moments later it was decided that because my blood pressure had been running high, the procedure would be cancelled, perhaps until Sunday.  Maimo is a Jewish institution, so nothing is done on Saturdays, but Sundays are an option.
I would be getting either a rib or spinal biopsy, both painful procedures, each with its own risks.  The rib biopsy risk is mainly pneum-thorax, which would result in a chest tube being placed.  A spinal biopsy is a bit more ominous in terms of risk, as paralysis can result.  Seems they will opt for the rib...let's hope so.

Saw my friends Amelia and Jeff last night.  That was a real good visit.  Besides love and good conversation, they brought me a lovely miniature white orchid plant, and a pendant of a Hindu goddess, who is a slayer of obstacles, to aide in my healing.
My sister came again today.  She is running around much too much, though, and I think it's time she stayed home and got some rest.
Also, Alice, my therapist from the mental health center, came by to visit , bringing good tidings from many folks there.
I haven't seen Evie, but I know she is right in my corner, praying for me, and she is taking care of my cat, Morrison, at home.  I miss hanging out with her.
Saw my medical oncologist, Dr Burdette-Radoux, who assures me there are good treatments to be had for what I am going through. 
Sounds like I will be able to be treated with oral medications, and not necessarily more chemo/radiation.  That's really good to hear. 
Everything will be more definitive after getting the bone biopsy.

I miss my computer, and could use a nice warm shower, but I am mostly comfortable here.  Wishing desperately for a cigarette, and will no doubt partake once I am discharged.  A good fat joint will be in order, as well.

So, I've got another 3 days here, at least, and maybe even more, depending how the biopsy goes.  My breathing status is much improved, and getting better every day

4am Saturday morning
Having a hard time sleeping through the night, despite a mix of morphine and Xanax around midnight.  Really want a cigarette.

Saturday night
I won't be getting the biopsy done until Monday, because the pathologist needs to be aournd.  Hopefully this doesn't extend the stay any, and I can go home by Tuesday.  

Evie wants me to stay with her when I am discharged, and that sounds good to me.  She's coming to see me tomorrow, which is great.  She'll be bringing my Surface Pro2 with her, so I'll finally be able to go online after so long away.

Well, as you can see, I am online again.  So good to see Evie, and she spent a few hours here.

I know this was a ridiculous amount to read, not sure many of you made it through, but as always, I like to keep an account of what is going on in my life.

I think I am doing fairly well on an emotional/mental and spiritual level, and will continue to try to do so.

Thank you all for your prayers and good thoughts.