Monday, June 28, 2010

Day 96

Today is a big day for me.  I get my second CT with contrast scan today.  The last and only other time I had one of those was 97 days ago, it is that fateful scan that helped the doctor determine that I had cancer.  I don't know if I ever really even told the story of how I found out.  Many people already know from talking to me how it all came about.  There are some that do not know the story and this is for you.

Last May when I was living in Seattle I woke up in the middle of the night with a stabbing pain right in the middle of my abdomen just below my ribs.  It hurt like a knife stabbing into me.  It hurt to breathe in deeply, it hurt to touch, it just really really hurt bad.  It kind of went away a little for a day or so then came back even more painfully than before, so much so that I couldn't even sleep and lay in my bed crying because it hurt so much.  Now I have a pretty high tolerance level for pain, but this was just too much.  I called my mother and told her that I was taking myself to the emergency room.  Luckily I lived a block away from Swedish in Ballard so that was not too hard.  I walked in, got checked in and the nurses there promptly went to work asking the million questions that they ask everyone.  After telling them about my symptoms they determined that most likely they were going to have to remove gall stones.  They sent me for an ultrasound just to make sure and to confirm that there are indeed stones.  The ultrasound did not detect any gall stones.  It did not really detect anything at all.  So now they think I am crazy or a hypochondriac or something.  They tell me to go talk to my primary care physician and to think about getting an endoscopy and set me free.  They also made a note on my chart that stated that my liver was slightly enlarged.  Imagine that.

I never went to get the endoscopy.  At that point I had already had 3 of them.  Years and years ago I was diagnosed with what they call irritable bowel syndrome or IBS for short.  Now, everyone who has IBS knows that when doctors cannot figure out what is wrong with you, if you are having any sort of digestive issues at all and they cant be neatly explained they lump it all into a category called IBS.  Needless to say I know my own body well enough to know that this knife like stabbing overwhelming pain I had was not IBS and another endoscopy was not going to shed any light on anything.

In August I went to see my primary care doctor in Seattle.  She was the same one that diagnosed me with IBS in 1997.  By this time I had a very palpable hard lump in the middle of my abdomen right below my ribs.  It hurt to touch it.   It hurt to breathe in too deeply.  It felt like a hard lump of cottage cheese, kind of hard all over with little harder bumps throughout.  I had my doctor feel this and told her my symptoms, that I had been to the ER, etc.  She felt it and then said to me "It doesn't feel remarkable to me, just take some prilosec for a month and let me know if it feels worse."  Yeah, took prilosec for about a week, nothing felt any different.  It didn't feel worse, but it didn't feel better either.  It just felt the same and I felt like I was crazy because no one thought it was as big of a deal as I did.  A huge lump in the middle of your stomach that hurts to touch and breathe seems like kind of a big deal to me...

I moved to Portland in December.  I continued to have "digestive" issues and the lump still continued to hurt and grow even larger.  At this time I had no insurance as I left the Basic Health insurance from Washington state behind when I moved to Portland.  In March I had some visitors.  We went out to one of my favorite restaurants Bernie's Southern Bistro and ate lots of very rich food and drank some of their amazing cocktails.  The next day I was in so much pain.  My liver had finally had enough and was retaliating against me letting me know that it was definitely NOT ok.  Jeff told me that he didn't care if I had insurance or not, I needed to go to the doctor.  I made an appointment the next day.

I went to a place called Zoom Care.  It is one of those same day kind of clinics where you go for minor stuff like colds and physicals etc.  I am not even sure if the doctor was as old as me, she seemed very young but she also was extremely nice and compassionate.  I told her my story and she immediately had a worried look cover her face.  That look only got more intense after she felt the lump in my abdomen.  She sent me for my first CT scan 97 days ago.  She called me at 7:30 that night when she got the results from the scan.  I didn't hear the phone and it went to voicemail.  The message she left said that she wanted to speak with me in person about my test results.  I knew it wasn't going to be good.

My friend Stephanie was in town on this day and once we got that message we both were looking up all the "bad" stuff we could find on our computers.  I was guessing that it was going to be something like "Laura, you need to have your gall bladder, pancreas, etc removed."  I figured major surgery.  The thought of cancer never once crossed my mind as a possible explanation.  I remember laying on the bed with my girlfriend contemplating what it could be and saying to her "God, I hope it is not cancer."  I never thought I would ever get cancer.

The next morning Jeff and I were in the doctors office and she came in and asked me what I knew or if anyone had contacted me.  I said "No one has contacted me and I don't now anything but I am guessing that it is probably not too good." that is when she said "It is not good, you have cancer."  She looked like she was going to start crying.  Jeff was staring straight ahead in shock.  Time stood still, hell the whole world stood still for just a fraction of a second that somehow also seemed like an eternity.  The next words out of my mouth were "Alright, what else do you know, tell me everything."  I needed to know it all, every little last bit of information was somehow crucial to my very existence and continuation of my life.  I quizzed her for about the next twenty minutes until I could no longer think of what to ask or say.  She then left us for some alone time.  It was so surreal.  The only thing I could think about was "Poor Jeff! This is so unfair to him!"  At age 38 we both finally found each other, we truly love each other, we are just starting our life together and have so many things planned and after only 7 months together we find out that I have cancer.  WTF!?!?  It just seemed so incredibly unfair.

Yep, so that was my last CT scan.  On the scan my liver and the rest of my body shows up as darker than things like bones and clusters of stuff like tumors which show up as bright white.  (imagine a black and white photo or a negative print).  My liver was lit up like freakin' christmas tree back in May.  There were so many bright white spots (tumors) all over my liver that all the doctors were in utter amazement at how I was still functioning with such a shot liver.  It was not very uplifting and I knew I had a HUGE battle ahead of me that would require changing so many things in my life.

It is funny all the little things you don't appreciate or even notice until you are faced with death.  When I came home on that day, May 24th, I saw everything as if I had been seeing it for the first time.  There were so many birds in our backyard trees, hell, I hadn't even noticed half of the trees before.  It was a sunny beautiful day.  Stephanie and I were supposed to be snowboarding at Mt Hood, instead we are all sitting around the house in shock not really knowing what to do with ourselves.  We decided to go to the coast, Pacific City, and get the nicest hotel room we could find.  The next morning we went for a walk on the beach. I will never ever forget that day.  Ever.

So today is my second CT scan.  I am supposed to be there at 9:30, in about an hour from now.  The contrast they give me in the scan makes me feel like I just wet my pants.  That feeling only lasts for a few moments then it goes away.  Jeff is in class this morning so I am going it alone.  No big deal though, there are no side effects and I should be safe to drive the short distance back home.  I will not know the results from the scan until my appointment with my oncologist on Thursday.  This is when we will discuss the results of my scan.  If the tumors have shrunk considerably then I will have more options open to me as far as treatment.  Right now I am just doing chemo but I could do other things providing the tumors are small enough.  We will just have to see.  I am not so certain how I feel about invasive treatments that will leave me feeling like crap for months on end.  If the tumors are shrunk a lot then that means that we are doing something good.  If that turns out to be the case then I may just keep on with my diet and other things and try to heal it myself.  I am certain that I can.  I feel that I have had this in my body for all those years that the doctors were calling it IBS and never bothered to run a CT scan but instead gave me a myriad of pills to minimize the symptoms rather than trying to figure out what the real cause was.

Ok, I just needed to share this with you all.  I must go get my shower now and get ready for my scan.  Wish me luck!  Oh, and I will be asking them to see it before I go...


The Cancer Assassin

Monday, June 21, 2010

Day 89


I just wanted to let you all know that thanks to my the hard work of my friends Vanessa and Stephanie we now can tell cancer where to stick it :)

Organic cotton T-shirts on sale now with

cancer can suck it!

proudly displayed on the front :)  they are only $20 and there are many colors to choose from in both mens and womens styles.

you can find the order form and details here at this link

Cancer Can Suck It! T-Shirts

If you would like to order a shirt and for more information and an order form displaying the shirt styles etc. please contact Vanessa at attention Laura's shirts.

All proceeds go to The Cancer Assassin fund to save my ass :)


Also, don't forget about the benefit show at the White Eagle in Portland tomorrow night at 8pm.  There will be some really awesome raffle prizes there that have been generously donated by so many wonderful people and businesses as well as some really awesome music to boot!  Who could ask for more :)

Here are the prizes, I think you will agree that there are all really awesome!

The Cancer Assassin
Benefit Raffle
Ticket $2.00 each or 3 for $5
(12 tickets for $20)
Gnu Snowboard           Blue / Altered Genetics 158 (wide)
Gnu Snowboard           Green / Altered Genetics 158
(This board is slightly used and could use a wax and tune up.  Still in GREAT condition)

Lib Tech Snowboard     Buddha Cat graphic  158
Lib Tech Snowboard     Scotty Whitlake 156
pro model/ freestyle all mountain board

$120 gift certificate Blackbird Tattoo (3 winners)
Edgefield Hammerhead Package (1 winner)
Includes lodging for two in a queen European-style room, dinner in the Black Rabbit Restaurant or Power Station Pub, two pints of Hammerhead Ale (one pint per person) and breakfast the following morning. Guests must be 21 and over.  Prices subject to change.  Value:  $165.00
$65 gift certificate Acupuncture (1 winner)
The Institute for Traditional Medicine (Monica Zimmerman)
$50 gift certificate The Mountain Shop (1 winner)
$25 gift certificate Elephant’s Delicatessen (2 winners)
$25 gift certificate EXIT Real World (1 winner)
$20 gift certificate Dingo’s Tacqueria (1 winner)
Baker’s Dozen Voodoo Doughnuts (2 winners)

Once again, I would like this opportunity to thank you all so much for all of your support, prayers, well wishes, healing energy and vibes, love and friendship.  Thank you for keeping me in your thoughts, I feel you all every day in every way holding me in such a great space for healing and health.  I love you all.

See you tomorrow night at the White Eagle!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Day 85

I found out that the nurse did not forget the steroids last week, it is just that I am getting a little more susceptible to the effects of the chemo...huh, go figure.  My white blood cell count was getting lower, but last week my red blood cells were lower, this week they are fine so I'm not worried.  Plus I get the next two weeks off so I get to rebuild and heal, nice.

Chemo session #6 today went well, I watched Mexico win the soccer game vs France.  I found out that I had lost even more weight and since last week have lost 4 more pounds.  Now down to 121lbs.  I haven't weighed that much since I was about 15 years old maybe even younger.  I never in my life thought I would ever have to worry about gaining weight, it is a strange thing for certain.  So in light of my new freedoms in the world of food, Jeff brought me a tuna salad sandwich and a big bag of salt and vinegar Kettle chips for lunch.  I almost ate the whole bag of potato chips.  After all, it was indeed doctors orders, no lie!  Bottom line, I need to eat more food or at least more calories and more fat.  Gotta keep my immune system strong and wash my hands a lot.

Oooh!  I graduate on Saturday! Pretty cool huh?! I have been in grad school since July of 2007 at Antioch University in Seattle.  I got my masters in education in 2008 and now I will have my masters in environment and community.  Well, I have to be honest.  I am not quite done, I do still have one more class to take in the summer quarter.  I might take a break and do it in the fall.  I am not sure but I will be doing it sooner than later.  Anyway I really can't believe that I will not be around my group of school mates any more.  I will miss my cohort dearly.  What an awesome group of people.  My experience at Antioch was one of the best experiences of my life, and I have had some good ones (Crystal Mountain, The National Park Service).  I have come away from that place with so many treasures and so much personal growth and so many wonderful friends, I love you guys.  The group pictured here is the Pink Elephants, we rock :)

I just wanted to update you all before the weekend gets busy.  Next week is pretty busy as well with the awesome benefit show happening at the White Eagle on next Tuesday June 22nd.  There will be so many awesome raffle goodies.  Things like  gift certificates from Voodoo Doughnuts, The Mountain Shop, Blackbird Tattoo, Elephants Deli,  Dingo's Taqueria and 4 awesome LibTech/Gnu snowboards!  Those are some really awesome gifts! Thank you to everyone who donated to make this so great from the gift certificates to the performers, the artists and the venue.  Many, many thanks to you all!

And another GIANT thank you to all of you out there who have donated to the Chip In account and to the Bank of America account.  This all helps so much, you have no idea. You all rock!

Congratulations fellow Antioxidents!  Class of 2010!  

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Day 80

Thursday's chemo session has left me feeling a lot more tired and drained than usual.  I wonder if the nurse forgot the prednisone this time...The anti-nausea medicine has been making me feel super spacey, or maybe that is just the chemo...none the less I need to make a correction to my one of my last blog posts regarding the symposium happening on the 15th (Tuesday).  I am afraid that due to my lack of brain function and lack of function in general I am not going to be able to physically be there to make a presentation.  If you had plans to come and see me specifically on that day you may want to change those.  I am certain that the symposium will be wonderful and there will be so many things to learn there from my classmates so I still encourage you to attend for that reason alone, but alas, I will not be there.

This does not mean it is time to start worrying about me, it just means that I need rest and a very very low stress level right now.

I have to say this really sucks.  I feel like I have let my group mates and class mates down.  I feel like I am not living up to my own standards of how to do things well and that is irritating to me.  It has taken Jeff a lot of convincing to get me to finally let this go and admit that I need my time for healing and that I was getting way too stressed over this project.  It was literally killing me stressing out about it for the last 3 weeks, trying to do it but lacking brain function and capacity to even know where to begin.  I had what I thought was a great idea and I really wanted to see it come to fruition but I now realize that it took even more courage to back away from it and take care of myself instead, something that I am not that good at but I am learning how to be.

In a few hours I will be in my car on my way to Seattle to meet with my group and give the news to the ones who have not checked their email yet.  I am still going to participate in planning this whole thing, I just will not be present on that specific day.  I hate to be the bearer of bad news.

Class on Sunday, the last one ever...crazy how fast time goes by. I will miss my community at Antioch, but I know that we will be keeping in touch, we have made bonds there that can never be broken by time or space.

This post goes out to all of my classmates and community at Antioch University in Seattle.  I love you all, and I cherish the time we have spent together for the last 2 years.  You are all truly wonderful people and I am proud of every single one of you.  I am so happy that there are such inspirational, motivated, insightful agents of change such as all of you out there working to make our world a better place.  Congratulations to you all on your graduation!  I wish you nothing but the best in this world.

Peace love and light!

The Cancer Assassin

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Day 78

Getting ready to go to the chemo suite in a short while, but first I wanted to share some information with you that a lot of people have been asking about.

You know this wonderful FUCK CANCER hat that I have been sporting around.  Everyone has been asking me where to get one for themselves and here is the answer.

Jackie Farry has a site where you can go to purchase these hats, she also has cancer and proceeds go to her fund as well as other funds, so it is a good thing.

It has also been brought to my attention that some T-shirts that say "Cancer Can Suck It!" are in the making and on their way soon.  I will keep you posted on the status of these lil' darlings.

I'm off to see my homeboy, Dr Shao, then on to the chemo-suite for the rest of the day.

Take care, if man made it don't eat it, and


Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Day 77

You will be made stronger through adversity...

Once again I have been really late in posting to my blog.  It is not because I have not had a lot to say, the reasons why will soon be evident.

For the past few days the world has been really heavy.  Today especially.

I went to the doc's today, well the hospital actually, to get my stitches checked on from my porta-cath insertion.  One of the stitches is not healing like the others and I know by own body well enough to know that it is not right there.  But of course the doctors and the assistants had no idea why it wasn't healing like the rest and when asked why my right neck and shoulder constantly hurt like a pulled tendon/muscle/charley horse they also had no excuse as to why.  They suggested that maybe it was this or that (which it is not) and finally admitted that they did not know.  3 hours out of my day for nothing but ambiguity, anger and frustration.

I also called my oncologist.  My eyes are really messed up lately.  When I sleep they crust over entirely sometimes gluing my eyelashes shut or creating painful eye boogers in the corners of my eyes.  In the morning after they un-crust they feel pretty good until about 5pm when they begin their downward spiral into a sticky, blurry constant feeling of fuzz under your eyelid blink fest until they get so tired that I eventually go to bed not because I am tired but because I don't want to keep them open any longer.  I've "googled" this and found that it is most likely "dry eye syndrome" from one of the many things I have been putting into my body as of late (most likely the prednisone) and have since purchased some eye lubricant and moisturizer.  It doesn't really help at all.  It just feels like more crap in my eye.  Anyway the oncologist suggested I should go see my eye doctor. Oh my god! Why didn't I think of this?!?!!  I will get right on it.  Yeah, since I have an eye doctor and insurance and all, sounds great...NOT GONNA HAPPEN.

So now I am 2 for 2.  In other news... I received my first "collections notice" in the mail the other day.  It hurts to take a deep breath both in my liver on my right side and in my neck and shoulder (where it still hurts from my little procedure with the porta-cath).  This makes the simple things like breathing kinda lame.  I have so many pills to take I need to get a special box that breaks them up into morning, noon, and nite otherwise I forget to take them.  My brain is turning into mush.  No lie.  Unless you have ever had chemotherapy (or perhaps a stroke or other head injury) I just don't think that anyone could possibly understand the frustration of losing brain function.  Sometimes I can just sit and stare for half an hour at time trying to figure out what to do next.  I am losing sense of what is important and what is not.  I feel like I have schizophrenia or multiple personalities. I just cannot concentrate on anything at all for more than about ten seconds.

I really need to get out into the woods.  I can hear the mountains calling.  I am going to go crazy if I don't.

Today was a really hard day to see the beauty.

On a lighter note...

On Tuesday the 22nd of June there will be a benefit in my honor with live music (folky acoustic sounds) at the McMenamins White Eagle in Portland.   There is also a hotel at the White Eagle so those of you that want to come from out of town could even stay there.  My friend Angela has spent so much time and energy bringing this all together, she is amazing!  My friend Jesse from Blackbird Tattoo did the artwork for the poster for me.  He also did my back tattoo that I absolutely LOVE.  Angela and Jesse, I just want you to know that you both rock my world!  Thank you so much!

On June 15th at Antioch University in Seattle I will be giving my presentation for our Graduate Student Symposium.  Anyone who would like to come and see this take place is more than welcome (Gramma, that means you too).  I will be speaking about many things including my time at Antioch, the Change Project I have spent so much time and energy on, and significant events in my life that shaped these as well as who I am as an individual.  My groups presentation will begin at 1pm on Tuesday the 15th.  Feel free to come earlier or stay longer to indulge in the other presentations as well, they will be exciting I am sure.

And then there is graduation on June 19.  Ah yes, after three solid years of grad school I will be emerging from Antioch with my masters in education and a masters in environmental studies in addition to two certificates (for what I cannot remember).  It has been a very transformative three years and I would do it over again in a heartbeat.  I love being a student and I love Antioch and all of the wonderful friends I have made during my time there.  They are like family to me.

I go back for chemo again in two days.  This will be #5.  Fry those suckers.

This craziness will stop soon I hope.  I need to get past graduation and then maybe things will calm down a bit.

Now for some coconut bliss, some mindless television, and a snuggle with my cat.