Monthly Archives: February 2013

Cancer Bingo – by David Stanton

You know, normally when you or you’re loved one gets a cancer diagnosis you can turn some of the activities that aren’t so fun into ones that are. Bingo is a perfect example. You have a bunch of procedures or diagnoses which are kept on a sheet in a random order and when you get one or do something like “group breast exam” you get to take your dorky looking magic marker for grownups and place with great gusto a splotch on your sheet. See? Something fun to do with cancer. Normally you can start small, say with “first mammogram” or “headache”. Over time you realize that something bigger is going on behind the scenes of the clinical presentations. So you go to the doctor and get “the news”. Then you can go from there. You are gradually brought into the game. You begin to see that some of your splotches are going to make something of themselves and you’ll eventually win that pack of glow in the dark earrings you’ve been secretly coveting since you were ten.

But with my mom, she didn’t even have time to mark “surgery part 1” or even “the initial worry”. All of a sudden we had a Cancer Bingo Card in front of us with no warning of any kind and a bunch of splotches already filled in. Kind of like when someone decides they have to go to the bathroom and hastily puts their card in front of you with a brief “Here! Play my card for this round!” before scampering away with everyone staring after them. Then you look down and you don’t see your bingo card, you see someone else’s. It’s not your cancer, it’s something that was just thrust upon you. You don’t even know if you care enough to really make sure that the card is won. It’s not yours, right?

Eventually you start hearing horrible noises coming from the bathroom and you realize that the person is probably not coming back to the game anytime soon. Eventually you look down and see a path to Bingo victory in the splotches of the card you never wanted to have. And eventually you start playing the game as if it were your own.

“Drain fluid from an armpit.”

Surgeon Update

I know a lot of you are waiting for this information.  I always like my family to hear this type of information from me first and not from the blog.  So, here it goes: There were cancer cells in the skin of the scar that was removed but was within 3 mm of margin.  They also found DCIS (ductal carcinoma in situ – precancerous cells) within 1 mm of margin.  While they usually like more than 1 mm of margin, the surgeon felt that future radiation treatments will take care of that.  She is going to run it by the team for a consensus.  There were 16 lymph nodes removed and 11 were positive.  This means I have Stage III breast cancer.  I was hoping for IIB but this is it so this is what we deal with.

Thank you all so much for you love, support, prayers and gifts.  I will never be able to tell you how much you all mean to me.  I am overwhelmed, awed, humbled by the outpouring of support.  I hope that one day I will be able to give back, tenfold, what I have received.

Just Hanging

I am just hanging out waiting for the surgeon to call.  Today is the day we are supposed to get the pathology report from the surgery.  I know that no more lymph nodes will need to be removed but we don’t know whether there are clean margins.  If the margins are clean then no more surgery is needed.  If they are not, then more surgery until the margins are clean.  I have also been dealing with a pinched nerve in my upper left back which has affected the strength in my left arm.  This is a bummer as the right arm has the drain coming out of it and I need the left to push me up and around.  I feel like one of those bad jokes ‘Hey what do you call a person who can’t use their arms?   Matt!”   It has gotten lots better thanks to a fabulous PT but this morning it was on fire again.  Since I truly think this is partially stress related, I must be more stressed than I think waiting for the surgeon to call.

Chilly Hilly Went By

We have a front-row seat for the Chilly Hilly.  Three boats full of cyclists.  The scene below went on for 15 minutes for each boat.  There was a steady stream the rest of the time.  I hope they all found their way home…

Chilly Hilly 2013

Honey, does this shirt make my drain look big?

Asking your spouse if any article of clothing makes anything on your body look big is just a no win situation.   It is sort of unfair to put your spouse in the precarious position of having to answer such a loaded question.  You can see the fear in their eyes, “Oh God, not this question….anything but the “does this make my _____ look big”  question.  Today I had the unique opportunity to ask Scott, “Hey does this shirt make my drain look big?”

I have a drain that comes from the depths of my chest and out through my arm pit.  It is a lovely bit of tubing that ends in a bulb like thing that keeps the swelling down.  It then attaches to the “Oh so sexy” bra that I got after surgery.  There is a velcro loop that keeps the bulb from swinging around and pulling the tubing out.  I don’t think that they sell these at Victoria’s Secret. I have to keep the drain in until there is less than 30 cc output in two consecutive 24 hour periods.

Anyway, we were going for a walk (yes I ventured out!) and before we left I asked the loaded question any women would ask “Honey does this shirt make my drain look big?”  Scott looked at me, stared fear in the face and without skipping a beat said “What drain?”    Gotta love a guy who makes you feel beautiful!

Loretta’s Saturday

I thought I would update you all on Loretta’s condition….

She’s doing fine.  Of course, that isn’t good enough for her.  She would rather be taking 4 mile walks and baking and planning some poor client’s demise for the upcoming week.  Instead, she felt okay in the early morning but went downhill with nausea and general weakness.  This was really foreign to her so she called the surgical team’s resident on call.  Turns out it was the resident that saw Loretta first last Friday when we went in to meet the team and create a treatment plan.

The resident, Laura, is a cute and very personable 26ish newly minted MD who is doing all her rotations in various disciplines while she works towards her goal of being a plastic surgeon specializing in hands.  She was the first one to see Loretta at SCCA and was there for the surgery.  She called Loretta back immediately after Loretta left the message to contact her.  The story was much the same as what I had been telling her – she was under general anesthesia for four hours and that takes a toll.  Also, since Loretta is so active, the normal recovery time seems so much longer and harder to her.

At the end of the call she was reassured that everything was okay as long as she continued to feel better.  And she does.  She felt better today than she felt on Friday.  Tomorrow I expect her to actually want to take a walk.  I’m hoping that she also gets some sleep tonight.  Sleep has been particularly difficult for her.

So, the bottom line is: she is recovering and getting better and stronger every day.  Pain from the surgery isn’t a problem (Tylenol is all she has taken and she didn’t take any today).  She got a shower this evening (what an adventure that was!) so she’s even kinda clean.  She is asleep now and hopefully will stay that way until 6 or 7 tomorrow morning.

Tomorrow I will try to get her to post something here.  Your response to this blog and to her battle has been amazing, humbling, and entertaining.  All of your comments are read and appreciated very much so keep them coming.  Thank you all.

New and Improved

This is not about Loretta or any of her parts so if you are looking for pictures, you are in the wrong corner of the Internet.  No, this is about an exciting new feature of this blog called an RSS feed.  If you’ve never used an RSS feed, it is like a bookmark that you add to your browser that shows the last 10 posts on the blog.  You won’t have to go to the blog anymore to see if there are updates.  It’s easy to set up:

There is a button on the left side of this page (any page on this blog) that is orangy and is in the RSS section:


  Click it.  Then, click the Subscribe Now button:


A bookmark will be added to your browser.  Click the bookmark and it will show you a list of the last 10 blog entries.  Click any one of those and it will take you to that entry.  Now you are an RSS master!

If you are using Google Chrome it won’t work.  Google doesn’t include a feed reader in Chrome though there are some plug-ins available to do that.  Why?  I don’t know.  Maybe to limit cannibalization of their stand-alone feed reader.  Silly, if you ask me.

Secret wedding vow no one told me about

When Scott and I got married almost 30 years ago (yikes we were only 5 when we got hitched) we wrote our own vows.  There was one secret vow that he must have whispered.  It is the one that the husband promises to clean and empty and measure the goo coming out of a drain which is coming out of his wife’s armpit after being diagnosed with breast cancer and having A LOT of lymph nodes removed.  I swear I never heard it.  He must have said it because, that is what he did tonight.

He ever so carefully stripped the line and then emptied and measured and recorded the output.  He gently pulled away all the old adhesives and replaced the dressings.   He did it like a pro.  He never waived.   He did it after waiting with me while I was injected with a radioactive tracer.  He did it after watching me walk up and down the hall waiting for the tracer to do it’s thing. He did it after waiting with me before surgery.  He did it after waiting four very long hours, by himself, during the surgery.  He did it after spending the night with me, in the hospital, on a ridiculously short and narrow bed.  He did it because he loves me.

Even though I missed hearing that vow then, I certainly heard it loud and clear yesterday, today and tonight.

Funniest Moment From the Last Two Days

I think it is important to find the humor in situations – all situations – because if you aren’t laughing you might be crying.  And laughing, I have been told, is a great work out so if I’m going to get any exercise I might as well enjoy it, too.  So, I look for the funny things.  Like this:

Our good friend Eileen offered to take care of Twix (our dog) while we were playing at the hospital.  Twix is a city dog now which means that everything she does outside is on a leash attached to a human.  She has to go outside several times a day so she can “do her business”.  Eileen did a stellar job of taking her out twice during the day, as we requested.  We would be home to feed her and take care of her the rest of the night.

Well, it didn’t turn out that way.  I arranged for my son and his wife to come over feed and spend the night with the dog while Loretta and I enjoyed a night in Seattle.  Eileen didn’t get that message.  This was totally my fault – I thought she knew she was released from dog duty when the two walks were completed.

The next morning (early because Eileen is like that) Eileen read on this very blog that we were spending the night.  She immediately panicked and thought that she had abandoned the dog and expected the dog to have made a mess of the place.  So she rushed over with cleaning supplies (because she is like that) to save the dog.  When she opened the door to our place the dog was right there to great her.  This is normally bad because we prevent the dog from getting to the front door with a gate that Eileen thought she had forgotten to put up.  She put Twix on a leash and took her out for the morning business meetings.

Meanwhile, immediately above the front door, David (our son) wakes up thinking he heard the door open.  He heard the sound of the dog (tags tinkling as she ran) go down the stairs.  Soon, he could hear the faint sound of the dog outside moving away from the house.

Rachel (his wife) wakes up and asks what is going on.  “I think someone just stole the dog,” he said as he was looking out the window, seeing nothing.

“Don’t worry about it.  Whoever stole her will realize what a pain she is and bring her back,” replied Rachel.  They both went back to sleep.

After the dog did her thing Eileen was starting to take her on a little stroll when she realized that she had forgotten to lock the door so she hurried back to our house.  When she got there, she noticed that there were shoes on the steps heading up stairs so she knew there must be someone there.  She backed out of the house, locked the door and left.

The dog, fresh from a walk and now probably hungry for breakfast, goes into the room where David and Rachel are and wakes them up.  “See, I told you they would bring her back.”