Sunday, October 15, 2017

Endometrial Cancer

Endometrial/uterine cancer is probably one of the least researched cancer, and the most common cancer among women.  If caught early, prognosis is good.  If not, depending on the type of tumor, prognosis can be poor. It is not like people seem to think, that it is the most curable cancer.  It can be, but also can NOT be.

This post is not written from a medical standpoint.  I am not in the healthcare field.  However, I am a regular  post- meonopausal woman who is diagnosed with mixed carcinoma.  I have high grade stage IIIC-1 metastatic serous adenocarcinoma and am currently undergoing chemo and radiation.  This type of cancer is particulary aggressive and will be treated like ovarian cancer.

My symptoms were vague:  unexplained weight loss (seemed like a dream come true!  I could eat whatever I wanted and still lose weight.  If that happens, get thee to a physician ASAP and make them listen.  My doctor didn't listen to me when he marveled at my weight loss and I told him I had not tried).

Low back pain, spotting, hip pain (my hip actually locked up while walking), fatigue, lower abdominal bloating, cramps.  I thought it was:  1. my regular back pain, because I am an older woman and the doctor told me each time I complained that..well, you ARE getting older...2.  Maybe I wasn't quite finished with my periods, who knew.  The cramps do feel like menstrual cramps.

I am posting this in hopes that it helps another woman.  Advice to you:

Have regular pap smears.  My cancer actually showed up on the pap smear.

If you notice any of the symptoms above, especially the bleeding, no matter how light, and the weight loss, seek treatment immediately.  DO NOT delay. 

DO NOT let your medical provider disregard your symptoms.  If he/she won't listen, call your gynecologist and insist upon tests.  DO NOT let your provider tell you, are getting older.  Your life may depend on it.

DO YOUR RESEARCH!  There are more symptoms than what you have read here.

No matter what your age, PLEASE BE AWARE that heavy periods can also be an indicator.  There are 20-something year olds in my support group who have been diagnosed with endometrial cancer. It is not as uncommon as you might think.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Encouragement? i'm going to take it as such

Got the test results from my CA 125 test.  The value is 19, normal range is 0-35.  The lab included a disclaimer with words to the effect of - these results should not be an indicator of the presence or absence of cancer without other tests.  BUT - I'm taking it as a sign of good things to come.

It's a good day.  :-)

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Bald is Beautiful

On my visits to the oncologist, I see ladies with pretty scarves covering their hairless heads.  Some women can carry off that look, kind of cute and feminine.  They definitely don't wear that resigned look on their faces, and the ones I've seen still have their eyelashes and eyebrows.  In the face of what really matters - fighting for their lives - hair loss seems a fair trade-off.

Trust and believe, it doesn't seem that small when your hair begins falling out.  Two weeks to the day of the first treatment, I was riding in my husband's truck, windows down, and I kept seeing these wispy things fly around the cab.  What IS that?...At first, I had no idea, but I caught one.  It was my hair, detaching from my head in the wind.

It isn't that hard to describe that first reaction:  a little bit of horror mixed with a little disbelief.  But I knew this was coming, Dr. S. had said it would happen.  Yet, i was overcome with grief, and I cried.  It's not that my hair was so beautiful, but it had that wave to it that gave it a smoky, 50's kind of look when it was cut right.  And besides, I was kind of attached to it.

I had the foresight to buy some chemo caps before treatment began, so I plopped one of my head when we got home.  Took it off a while later and it was full of strands.  By then, I was used to the idea of losing it.  It's a trade-off, and it's temporary.  I can live with it, in more ways than one.

This morning, it's coming out in clumps.  My eyelashes are next.  I can feel them itching and stinging, and I'm scared to rub them or even put mascara on.  Losing those might be a little harder, but, there again, a trade-off.  And they will grow back, too.

It's nothing but vanity, you know?

I wanted to prepare my son for my new look.  He's taking all this a little hard, even though he tries not to show it.  I know because when we talk on the phone, he says I love you before we hang up.  He is a young man of few words and an overabundance of testosterone that keeps him from always showing his softer side. When I told him of my impending baldness, he said, Let me know when you get it shaved so I can shave mine, too.  His show of love and support brought tears to my eyes, but I hope he doesn't shave his head.  Again.  he spent the last 5 years looking like Mr. Clean (his choice) and has just recently began sporting his hair again  - complete with a little styling and some gel to keep it looking that way.  He is handsome with or without, but he looks really nice with, and I can tell he likes it.  I hope he'll keep his.

Today, I'm going to the prison for an employee appreciation dinner.  Can't decide whether to wear my cap or not, but probably will.  Would hate for the fan to hit me and blow hair all over everybody's food.  After that, I'll be off in search of bandanas, hats, and some earrings.  Might as well rock the look!

It really is a small price to pay for a chance to live.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Never thought I'd want to go to work this badly.

I'm doing pretty good today.  Neurontin for the nerve pain, nothing else needed. I just hope that, IF there are any microscopic  cancer cells in my body, the chemo is acting like Raid on steroids and killing them all.

Second round is coming up on Tuesday.  I'm a little nervous about that, not sure if they're increasing the dose or if it will be the same.

On the plus side, the laundry room is almost as clean as I want it to be.  Hoping to finish all my projects before next week!

Thursday, August 24, 2017

I hear the Aberdeen-Rockfish chugging on by...

We have lived by the railroad tracks most of our lives.  There was a brief stint I lived on Ashemont Road, and even though I couldn't see the train, I could hear it.  Some nights on the back deck, I could hear it's whistle, or maybe it was the Amtrack in Southern Pines, not sure.  It is a lonely sound in the night, somehow mournful, but as a kid, I remember getting so excited when the first whistle came.  We kids would drop everything we were doing - sorry, ice cream, no time for you! - and rush to the glass panels at Grandma's front door to watch the cars roll by.  It was the biggest thing on wheels we had ever seen, a special sighting that filled us with awe and wonder twice a day, like clockwork.

My Grandfather was a farmer.  He owned most of the land on this end of the county and raised produce of every kind, including Congo watermelons.  They are the huge ones that only a grown man could carry, let alone slice.  The Rockfish-Aberdeen would stop, I'm told, and those watermelons would be loaded up and carried to who-knows-where, as I imagine the peaches from Poole's orchard were, too.

The peaches were sold under the Blue Diamond label.  I only know this because my father eventually bought the peach orchard, and I loved plundering in the pack shed.  I found the labels, packing crates, baskets, old equipment...and there was a hand pump beside the shed!  It still worked, and I thought it was the most awesome thing in the world to get a cool cup of water, right from the ground.

A little west of the orchard and the farm was the Sanitorium, built on the highest peak in the county.  The Aberdeen Rockfish rolled past that, too, and the passengers would cover their faces with handkerchiefs so as not to contract tuberculosis.  Back in the day, that peak was called Pestilence Hill.

It was a beautiful old building, more majestic than ominous. It was three stories high, the third floor with a balcony for the patients to sit in the sun to help "cure" their condition.  On the second floor, there was a chapel that gleamed with polished maplewood pews and pulpit.  The chapel was probably the most attractive feature.  The patient rooms were located on the first and second floors, not so austere as you might think.  And there was a fire tower. From there, and the balcony, you could see for miles, into the next county

I know this because after it was consigned to the dept. of corrections, I worked there.  I remember the old elevator that had iron gates around the doors - straight out of a horror movie! No, from another time.  Our office faced the road, and therefore the railroad tracks, too.  By then, the Aberdeen-Rockfish wasn't making daily trips anymore, but there were mornings when we would hear the whistle, and for just a minute, all work would cease as we watched that train seemingly struggle up the hill and on past us.

The landscape has changed, as all will with time.  The sanitorium is closed, but the grounds are still kept up by the state.  The peach orchard is gone, replanted in pines and the land leased out for the pinestraw.  The packshed burned to the ground about 20 years ago, I guess, but the platform still stands, and Grandfather's farmland is now littered with overgrowth and new homes.  The railroad tracks will be there forever, I suppose.  And though the A&R makes its trips only occasionally, it still lives.  I hope it always will.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

and one more thing...

Since chemo began, I've had bad days and good days. What has come to me full force is how much we take for granted.

Yesterday, for instance, I could barely make it off the sofa.  Forced myself to go uptown, and then was down for the count again.

But today is one of those bonus days.  Yes, I notice changes in my body every day from the chemicals.  My nails are sensitive, the soles of my feet, too. The fatigue and other side effects that have been part of this chemo initiation have not been fun.  I do still have hair and eyelashes, but will probably lose those on down the road.  I can handle that as long as there are days like today.

I cooked!  I made lunch for my family - salmon with a blend of herbs I concocted, carrot fries, broccoli and buttered brown rice!  I even cleaned after making a huge mess.

Can you imagine - being thankful for the ability to get up and do things for yourself and other people?  For being able to do the dishes, walk the dog, do your laundry? Can you imagine being thankful that you woke up and could walk to the kitchen without feeling like you would faint?

I am grateful, so very grateful for what used to be small things.  God, I thank you for today.  I can face whatever tomorrow brings because of it.

One Week Later

I'm sitting here, sipping on a powerade zero because, suddenly, coffee is NASTY!  Ick, spit, patooie! Much and nothing has happened since the first round.

A few years ago (i lose track of time), I set out to locate my daughter's sister.  When I was married the first time, the husband had a daughter who had been taken away from him and his first wife. I remember my then-mother-in-law showing me a picture of a chubby, smiling little girl in white dress, and she said, this is Lorinda.  I know in my heart we'll find her one day.  Sadly, Lula passed away before that could happen.

I know her pain.  My granddaughter, Sara, was ripped away from us through circumstances that are ugly and unfathomable - no fault of my daughter's.  It was Beth's ex, who fabricated lies and made it difficult for us to see Sara.  And he ultimately won by fabricating a story of sexual abuse that never happened.  Social Services investigated and cleared the accused.  I wonder if SS investigated Sara's accusations that her father shot her in the knee (never happened), or that her step-mother routinely abused her in small but myriad ways...the child is disturbed, I know this, but I believe with all my heart that she had a lot of help getting there.  Anyway...i haven't seen her in years, now, and it's heartbreaking.  I don't even know where she is, and all my attempts to find her have failed..

BUT - getting back to my original story of Lorinda, I set out to find her one day, after reading her brother's pleas for help in locating the sister he had missed for years.  It took an entire day (that's all), and if Lorinda had not posted on a site for people looking for their biological families, I wouldn't have succeeded.  I even found a phone number, gave it to my daughter, Beth.  To make a long story short, the sisters reunited via telephone.  Turns out that Lorinda lived in the same town as we do, attended the same school as Beth, but they were so far apart in age, their paths probably never crossed.  But they knew some of the same local people, went to the same was truly an amazing parallel.

Lori traveled from Canada, where she lives with her husband, to visit her brother, sister, and yes, her biological father.  It makes me happy that she was so forgiving and delighted to find her blood relatives.  And it didn't stop there - she adopted my son as her own brother, my brother as her uncle, and she calls me Mom.  What a generous, loving heart she has.

Lori called me one day this week and said, I'm coming to North Carolina.  And I'm staying for good.  So, although I didn't get to meet her on the first trip, I will this time. And though technically,we have no real ties except that she is my daughter's sister, I look forward to having a new daughter to love.

I'm so sorry it couldn't have happened while Lula was living, but perhaps she had a hand in bringing Lori back into the fold.  I'm sure her spirit is smiling.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017


Yesterday, I had my first chemo treatment.  I slept through it, thanks to lorazepam and 40 mg. of benadryl.  I didn't even get a chance to unpack the chemo bag - i had packed books, a blanket, a notepad and pen in case I felt like writing.  I thought the infusion would take 7 hours, but some changes were made to the medications and it only took 4 hours.  Not too bad.

I feel great today.  A little headache, some chest pain that must not be anything serious, because the heart monitor didn't prompt whoever watches those things to call my primary.  Not worried about it. I went to a 3 hour dr's appt. with the radiation doc, went out to eat, and went shopping.  I could run laps around the house, i think, still on that decadron high.  And so is my blood sugar.  Mercy, when it rains, it pours, but better days are coming.  Good things are worth waiting for, and will be as abundant as cliches.

Before the first treatment, I was afraid, mostly of the unknown.  When I got there, I wasn't alone in that waiting room...there were other people awaiting their time in the chair, too. It kind of made me feel like a whiner.

I have an awesome support system - my husband, daughter, family - coworkers have come to me and said, if you need anything, let me know.  Call me, anytime.  Thank you Cindy, for sharing your experience with leukemia and offering your support.  And thanks to Tammy for doing the same, even as she fights her own battle with cancer.  I will pass this same kindess on to anyone who needs it.  This whole thing has been a terrible, yet humbling experience.

I think other patients realize how hard it is to talk honestly about this disease to others.  Family and frinds are afraid, they don't know what to say, they don't want to lose you.  And you want to be strong for your friends and family, so you cry in the bathroom if emotion overcomes you.  You avoid the topic if you can.

When my Dad was in his last months, I was the same way.  I had no idea what to say to him.  All I could do was tell him I loved him.  I moved in with him and my mom for the last two weeks of his life.  We pulled a couple of all nighters, because he either couldn't or wouldn't sleep.  I'm glad I had that time with him, still wish I had known some magical phrase that would have made things right, but instead, he was the one who comforted me.  "It's ok, I'm ready."

So journaling is good.  I can whine myself into a new perspective, think about the pro's of this disease, such realize what's really important in life.  Those grandkids, for instance.  I called Sadie a couple of weeks ago, and that sweet, sweet 3-year-old said, "Can you come to our house?"  My spirits soared three feet above my body - I could have floated to Southern Pines.  And love, my friends, is indeed the best medicine in the world.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017


My prognosis is not good.  Still going to fight.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Knowing More.

It has been a little over three weeks since surgery.  I had post-op follow-up last week, and the news was not quite what I expected.  I'm healing well, except for dehydration, but the pathology report was disappointing.  Of the 17 lymph nodes they took, 1 was positive for metastasis.  I figure, 1 out of 17 isn't horrible, but it put me at stage 3. There is chemo and radiation in my future - beginning August 15, in fact.

A lot of things go through your mind when the doctor across the desk from you is rattling off facts, figures, and more information than your blown mind can assimilate.  I just sat there, taking it all in. He said, you don't have confidence in me?  Oh yes, I told him, I trust you implicitly when it comes to my treatment.  You got my cousin through hers, and she had her port removed just three weeks ago.  I trust you.  But it's a lot to take in all at once, and my dear friend Gypsy passed away just this week...cancer.  And you're saying I'll have to keep my port in for 5 years...So, my mind is racing, but I'm in your hands and God's, and I'm going to fight this, too, as hard as I can.

The first treatment is a strike back against cancer and i'm dedicating that one to Gypsy. My friend Gypsy, the bubble of laughter and love who is no doubt a bright and shining star or a comet or some other celestial anomaly smiling down on the earth and all the friends she has here.  For you, Gypsy, as you make your music in the spheres.

The next treatment is a strike back for my Dad.  He chose not to fight it that last time around. He was too tired.  So the second treatment - in your honor, Dad, a blow against cancer for you.  It's a lot easier to fight in the name of others than just myself, but I'm fighting for me, too.  Hard.

I'm in the process of bolstering my immune system with approved supplements, taking my vitamins, eating a healthy diet, and drinking a lot of water so dehydration won't be a problem.

Planning to scrub my house from top to bottom so it will be the cleanest it has been since before the surgery.  Stocking up on antibacterial wipes, bleach, Lysol to keep things right to reduce the risk of infection.

I'm going back to work for four weeks so maybe I won't have to come off of the payroll and go on short term disability.  And besides...the work will be good for me.  I've missed my work mates, and it seems they might have missed me, too.  My supervisor was happy to hear that I'll be returning for a cameo appearance.  She said, I'll take what I can get.

Life is just full of adventures.  I can't wait to conquer this one.

Friday, June 30, 2017

What - I have an extra belly button??

One week ago today, I opened my eyes, saw a bunch of people I didn't know and promptly went back to sleep.  The next time I woke, my husband was there, and I was in a hospital room.  I remember two things from that day - the same nurse kept coming when I rang the call bell.  Didn't she EVER go home? and when I peeked down my hospital gown, my belly button was sitting up; WAY high.  Drugged or not, I knew that was wrong.

Surgery was successful - that's the word from my surgeon so far.  All the cancer was confined to my uterus.  and apparently, they woke me up a little too quickly and I became combative.  My adopted kid (40s) who works at the hospital was waiting for me in post-op and saw the whole thing.  She said my doc looked at her and screamed - get help!  Which goes to show you...if you try to kill me in my sleep or if I think you're doing that, I will whip some ass. :-D

Back to this second belly button dilemma...apparently, they took the fatty apron from in front of my intestines in case any cancer cells had settled into that comfy sofa and wanted to stay.  According to sources whose accuracy for fact is not known to me, this is also done in weight loss procedures, so that if there is hanging skin that gets infected or something, insurance will cover removing it.  I feel pretty confident mine's not that bad.  As soon as things heal up, i'm considering a little belly button embelishment.  Wouldn't a connecting earring be cool?  ;-)

Still healing, still on drugs, still having trouble with cohesive sentences.  Will write more as I find out more.

I'm just about ready to get out and have some fun.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Proactive Me :-)


Now that the shock has worn off, I'm in a better frame of mind.  I won't lie, the last two weeks have been an emotional roller coaster.  First, I was numb.  Then I was pissed - especially at the ER doctor who told me I was constipated and sent me home.  And then panic set in. Every morning, I woke with this crippling fear.  And then I cried. Honey, I cried everywhere -- at work, in the bathroom, walking the dogs, drinking coffee.  But it always made me feel better, later.  So my advice to anyone who receives devastating diagnoses - go with it the first week or so.  Let yourself cry, but don't stay down there.  Do Not Let It Keep You Down.

Yes, I'm still a bit scared.  I mean, who wouldn't be?  But since I have this thing, I have no choice but to fight it.  And battle, I will!  How I reached this particular point is funny, actually.  My husband pissed me off.  I know this has been scary for him, too, but he was MEAN.  He said things to me I wouldn't say to my worst enemy, and I could have beaned him with a heavy lamp, but I like my lamp, so...

When he pissed me off, though, it ignited this spark inside of me.  Fuck you, I thought, and fuck cancer, too.  And that spark has found fuel and burst into flames.


My surgery is a week from tomorrow.  My PET scan is Tuesday.  I'm far more afraid of the PET scan, but no matter what it reveals, this girl's going to stay pissed. I have to.

I've researched diet, plan to speak with a RD, have already planned out what will be needed after surgery and have begun gathering necessities.  When the anxiety hits, meditation and a boatload of lavender.  It smells good, and if it does for me what it did for that little frog I found hiding in the plant pot, all the better.  That little frog looked stoned.  He was so relaxed he didn't even move when i poked him.  He only looked at me like..what?

Ah, it's nice to know there's spirit in me, yet.  I will beat this.  Watch.  :-)

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Well, son of a gun

I'm just venting,don't want to depress anyone, so ... please, if you don't want to read, please don't feel like you have to.  It's just an outlet.

I have been negligent in taking care of other areas of my health, aside from diabetes, so this is my fault.  MY fault that I didn't go months ago when i first noticed the blood.  Thought it was nothing, although when I mentioned it, my boss poo-pooed the notion that it might require medical attention.  See, i'm trying to blame her, but I can't, and that makes me mad :-).  The decision was mine, ultimately, and I chose to ignore it.  It was over, anyway, and wasn't much.  Didn't see anything else (that i can remember) until a few weeks ago, so I decided it was time for the pap smear.  Made an appointment, got in quickly with the FP, not the MD, because she wasn't taking anymore patients.  Because my uterus was enlarged, they wanted to schedule an ultrasound, and they did.  On Friday before that appoinmtent, I was home for my lunch break when the phone rang.  It was the FP strongly advising me not to skip the appointment because the pap had come back positive for adenocarcinoma.  I asked...are you saying I have cancer?  She sent an email follow-up to the call that gave me all the information needed.  My boss laughed and said, oh, it's just abnormal.  My sister had an abnormal pap and they just called her in and it was all cleared up.  There again, i'm trying to blame her, but can't do it.

I do have cancer.  I had the ultrasound, had an endometrial biopsy to see if it was there, too.  And i have to say, the biopsy was the worst thing I've been through, to date, but only after i left the office. The cramps started, I passed out, broke out in a cold sweat, became physically ill.  Home never seemed so far away...

But I got through it.

My gynecologist wanted to refer me to Chapel Hill for treatment, but because of my husband's physical limitations, I asked for a doctor more local, in Pinehurst and she agreed, but said he was very busy and doubted I could get in to see him in the timely manner she/I needed.

When my friends found out, they all offered to help.  They are so wonderful, and I love them dearly.  My cousin's wife is the office manager for the oncologist I wanted.  Call her, he said.  My friend, Libby, said - my daughter is a nurse in her office.  I'm calling her right now.  In a bit, Libby came back and said, Katherine said to call, but there was no referral from my doc yet.  Still, they would work me in.

In the meantime, my husband's friend Elspeth called him to do some work for her.  She asked about me, and he told her what was going on.  She said, no worries.  My son in law will be her doctor.  I will talk to him tonight at dinner.

I had known her son in law was an oncologist, but didn't know his name until she texted later that night and said, call him in the morning.  She gave his name and son of a gun, it was the oncologist I wanted the referral to.  I called the next morning, and within an hour, I was sitting in his office.

He was amazing.  He said, Jim takes care of our stuff, we'll take care of his.  I will treat you like you're my own sister.  Later, I left the office feeling a bit more encouraged and a little less afraid.

And I'm trying to be positive, trying not to be afraid, but fear does rear it's ugly head at the most unexpected times.  It's like grief - it sneaks up on you and overwhelms you.  I woke the other morning and my first thought was Cancer.  I went into a full blown anxiety attack.  Did I wait too long?  What if it has spread?  What about the pain I went to the ER for the week before? Was that cancer? What pain is this that i'm feeling right now? Is that it, too?  I couldn't breathe.  I started crying.  And in a little while, I was fine again.  Washed my hair, went to work.  Yesterday, another Friday, still awaiting results from biopsy, went to work and everybody was in turmoil.  If they weren't angry, they were accusing.  If something happened that I couldn't prevent, they found a way to somehow make it my fault.  I have no power over my own health, and they think I can supercede the will of the transfer branch?  I cannot.  and I Could Not Take Another Thing this week.  I completed some tasks and I high tailed it out of there.

But I have to go back.  I need to save my time for the surgery, recovery, and possible chemo or radiation.  I have to keep my job for the insurance benefits.  I have to prepare and work ahead so my absence won't take too much of a toll on my boss, because she depends heavily upon me.  And I need something else to think about, anyway, because my mind is swirling and whirling with all kinds of possibilities and responsibilities.  Who will take care of my dogs?  Who will cook dinner?  Who will do my job while I'm out?

My morning mantra is, I will be strong. I will be positive, but the mantra should probably be an affirmation:  I AM strong.  I AM positive.  I AM beating cancer.  I AM making this a little easier on my family.  I AM taking care of them, of things that need doing.

I'm trying.