Sunday, January 22, 2006

january in pittsburgh...

not the sunny beach i wish i were on at the moment. but heading to pittsurgh (today in fact) for some advanced radiation treatments at upmc, which has expertise in a focused radiation variable called gamma knife, radiosurgery, etc....I had it once to my chest. no biggie. but seeing as how this time it's to my brain - and they screw a mask into your skull to position you - im a little more trepidatious (sp?)....film at 11

Saturday, January 07, 2006

last christmas, again

last year was my last christmas, i was sure of it. (three breast cancer re currences then and counting.) to my amazement, Im here again this year - sure this one is my last holiday, too. of course, i remind myself, ive given myself 13 last summers and 13 last whatevers since i was diagnosed in 1992. which if nothing else reminds us none of us know....
sure this was my last christmas, i was in a quandary over the mountain of gifts i annually send to family and friends - should i do more this year, less? more for charity? i landed somewhere in the middle; too many gifts for some friends and family, just the ordinary ones for others, alot more charity.
now the holidays are past and i worry that i find myself going from type a to couch potato in a dangerously short period of time. soooo, like "normal" folks (or at least those who do not have terminal cancer) Im making the usual promises: we're joining the y, i seriously plan to do some volunteer work that paid work has kept me from (my excuse anyway) over the years.
Im more tired now but it's devilishly hard to sort out the cause: is it the cancer, the two weeks of whole brain radiation treatment (not nearly as fun as it sounds) or just a mental thing? no easy answers here, in fact i could comment that having cancer almost automatically means that many answers, about treatment, cause, future, etc., will remain out of grasp.
just the same, happy new year! hopefully not the last one for any of us.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

that time again....

the season has changed, leaves are falling, must be time for that quarterly blog. have no idea why i have so much trouble doing this. maybe i just think blogs are creating too much word pullution out there. has anyone thought of calling them blahgs? of course, that's only my excuse for procrastinating.
sad times, and it's that damn (*&*& cancer again. a good friend has just died from brain cancer; another good friend is dealing with the bad news that his head and neck cancer has returned. me? i am thrilled, blessed and beyond happy to not only be here still but also feeling much better after a several months' break from chemo (taxol). but i realize that another recurrence can be only a CAT scan or two away.
I do really truly enjoy the good days i have. but no, i am not yet the wonderful cancer-transformed person who no longer "sweats the small stuff" and smells those roses every day. give me 20 years more, and ill work on that. (which makes me think: people with cancer or other dire diseases are pressured too much to become better people somehow as they - unlike others - come to fully appreciate the frailty of life. please. it's hard enough as it is maintaining normal old life in the face of this disease.)
another thing. some people (including my fine editor trish) look to me for emotional reactions (sad, happy, angry, etc.) as I deal with good or bad cancer news - such as the recent news, good for me, that Herceptin is a fine breast cancer drug. i'm still emotional about many things. but when it comes to my cancer, i've become rather matter of fact. i try not to get too excited about good developments, too depressed about bad ones. other advanced cancer people i have met act (or rather non act) the same way. mostly, i want to avoid the emotional roller coaster that so many early cancer patients, including me many years ago, find themselves on. hey, today's a pretty good day, i feel OK, i'm cooking up pots of bean soup and chili like a maniac, so that's all i'm going to think about.
i'm still thinking about summer too - a really fabulous one, best one of my life i think. thanx to the chemo break, and a wad of time off, i did so many things i had been putting off. anna and i took a long delayed trip to texas and northern mexico and a long drive to ocracoke island - a place she had not seen since she was about a year old. we swam and swam and when we werent doing those things just did nothing. it was perfect. that is one piece of advice ill give: don't put off the fun times.

Friday, July 01, 2005

can it be July already?

gosh. and it's been so long that ive blogged that for a moment there i forgot i had a blog. (is there such a thing as blogger fatigue, blogger burnout, especially for those who blog alot? i mean, it's quite a responsibility isnt it? you could see letting other portions of your life - laundry, for instance - go while you feed the blogger word beast. least that won't happen to me!)
but i digress. how am I?, long distance and near distfriends ask alot. cancer patients get asked that ALL the time. there is a sense in the non cancer world that if you turn your back for a moment on friends with cancer, they will suddenly die, or go into a coma or something. im not being critical of this...even i do it with my own friends with cancer. unfortunately, you have to actually have cancer yourself to understand that by and large, it's a very slow disease - no less dreadful for being that (dying slowly is, to say the least, a real challenge) - but still very slow. the days creep along, with very little discernible change, tho in my case ive noticed my condition seems to rise and fall in waves. had a dreadful winter, filled with antibiotics (for a swollen leg) and fatigue; now am perking up, tho no doubt the great weather plays a roll in that. i feel good enough some days to plan long road trips with my daughter, other days just "knackered" (favorite british word). overall, tho, im not my old self but a semi-invalid. i cant quite admit to being a full invalid yet, but as someone who mainly hangs around the house and cant walk much more than a block without stopping and resting, semi will do for now. mentally, i remain more on the optimistic side; im hopeful that alot of swimming this summer, taken on alot of wonderful days off, will restore both strength and spirit.
im suffering some blog guilt- not over not writing much but over not writing enough about the great friends who've sustained me and helped me out. colleen, my closest friend, deserves so much thanks that in another 100 years i couldnt thank her enough. for several months this winter, she got up extra early to come to my house and drive daughter anna to school, just so i could sleep in a bit more. this is NOT a gal who exactly hops out of bed in the a.m. yet she insisted on doing this to give me a break. what a friend....

Sunday, May 01, 2005

a month has passed...time to blog again?

ok, so Im a really bad blogger and I dont really have an excuse, other than procrastination, im an old fashioned non blogger type and also a little sketchy about writing about myself (instead of other more deserving individuals), which, I know, boils down to alot of bs excuses.
but anyhoo.
here's what's new with me: I got the results back from my genetic test, which was to help me determine if I had a genetic mutation that might explain my breast cancer. No, i dont. or at least not a mutation that is as yet identifiable through existing tests. I feel badly about this. why? because as any cancer patient knows, we all yearn for a REASON for our cancers, and so few of us find it. so im back in the dark again, not only in the dark but back to the blame game. Im certain that somewhere exist research studies showing that many cancer patients blame themselves for their disease. (I recall a study I wrote about years ago that listed all sorts of self blame rationales women had for their breast cancer.) in my case my breast cancer blame list goes something like this: too much wine, too many heavy duty hormone med during past fertility treatments, delayed childbearing, too poor a diet, too many nights sleeping with a light on (yes, there has been credible research showing that women who dont sleep in the dark are more prone to breast cancer), etc. I know in my heart it's ridiculous to spend much mental energy on this: cancer patients have enough going on, they don't need guilt on top of it. but I sure wish I had a genetic cause, then it would all be settled in my mind.
in other news, my right leg has swollen up, gotten red, warm, painful. (My right butt has done same, which is both funny and awful.) my docs, and i have very good docs, are torn between saying it's an infection like cellulitis (which, alas, does NOT get rid of your cellulite) or a long-delayed reaction from radiation to bone cancer in that leg last august. we're all scratching our heads over this. and just when it seems to be getting better, it gets kinda bad again. so film at 11. any of you swollen leg/butt people out there pls feel free to email me with your thoughts.
happy May!
fawn (fvrazo@phillynews.com)

Monday, March 07, 2005

the reluctant blogger

a friend and member of my Quaker meeting (that makes him twice a friend) sent me an email recently noting there hadn't been a blog entry from me for some time, and, uhm, was I OK? yes! but I suffer from terminal blog procrastination, which, while annoying and probably incurable, is way better than cancer. some updates in my life: nurse coordinator and genetics counselor Martha (Marty) Weinar at the Hosp. of the Univ of Pa., the sister of my excellent friend Beth Palubinsky, had a very helpful discussion with me about genetic testing for breast cancer, and as a result I gave her a bit of my blood for a test that will determine if I have a mutation in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes, which were linked several years ago to breast cancer. one of my aunts died in her late 30s from the disease (young cancer tends to point to a genetic cause) but Im not aware of any other family members with it also. (not all members of my farflung sometimes dysfunctional family are necessarily communicating well with eachother.) of interest to note: my aunt who died was on my father's side, and for some reason people assume that breast cancer can't be passed on from the paternal side of the family. totally not true! Ill know within three weeks or so if I carry a mutated gene, which would strongly suggest that my own breast cancer can be blamed on a kink in the DNA. why does it matter to know this? it won't change my treatment or prognosis; but the news would be of great interest to my sister and also my son, who, if he inherited the mutation, could pass it on to his children. (that paternal thing again.) my adorable daughter is adopted so the news will have no impact on her. who doesn't want to be able to pin down the cause of their cancer, something few of us are able to do? my advice: do this if your insurance covers it and a genetics counselor recommends it. why not?
tests, damnable tests and more tests, which, dear fellow cancer patients, I dont have to tell you about. CAT scan recently was quite good, but my hip is suddenly hurting, which points to the need for another bone scan or MRI. MRI it is. (the last MRI, in august, found bone cancer in my right thigh.) Ill try to be positive here - remembering how a test a couple years ago "found" bone cancer in my spine. it turned out to be osteoporosis. I was so happy I wanted to throw an "I have osteoporosis!!" party. so we'll see.
here's a request I made before: email me if you're currently working through chemo or radiation for any kind of cancer. I keep planning on doing on story on this. fvrazo@phillynews.com
cheers, fawn

Sunday, February 06, 2005

anticipation....

it's actually more fun just waiting for the game. seriously. (I dont want to think about later; it's a warm night, and people in my neighborhood began drinking around noon.) I get so many wonderful wonderful emails, and especially appreciated one writer who begged me not to link a cancer chronicles story to the superbowl. (Hey...great idea! I told him. how about a piece on how people with cancer watch the game compared to "normal" people. erk. just kidding)

now that my latest cat scan (with great results) is behind me, I can go to tomorrow's doc apt relatively light headed...Ive got to learn more tho about the steriod they give me along with the chemo drug taxol. Ive forgotten why, but it's making my thigh muscles act funny and lately Ive noticed that Ive been walking like a stork.