Archive for January, 2011

Just Put a Potato On It

Thursday, January 27th, 2011

It is hard for me to completely comprehend how my cancer affects the people in my life.  When I was first diagnosed, my daughter Maggie (front and center) asked with a frightened look on her face, “Mom, can I get it?”  At first I stumbled, unsure how to answer, I realized she was afraid she might catch it, like a common cold.  “No, honey,” I explained, “you cannot catch cancer from me.”  Her face immediately softened and her big brown eyes sparkled again.  I could see the instant relief on her adorable little face. 

Of course, Maggie is only 10, so I didn’t tell her that she now has a much higher risk of getting breast cancer than the average woman.  I am not pushing her to take preventative measures to reduce her risk by eating healthy and organic food, exercising, using only natural shampoos and toothpaste, drinking spring water, living stress free and staying away from sugar, soda, and yes, frozen yogurt with brownie pieces and a cherry on top.  It would be futile and pretty pointless to instill fear in a 10 year old little girl who already has a lot on her plate dealing with her mommy and all the changes I am about to endure.      

She is not the only one I worry about.  One of my dearest friends, Raundi, watched her mom die of breast cancer.  I can only imagine how she is taking all of this.  Both of my dad’s parents died of cancer.  I was born soon after.  They never got to meet me.  My dad is a cancer survivor.  He battled with Lymphoma when he was 21 years old, radiation and the whole shebang.  He hates the dreaded disease.  My husband is working 12 to 15 hours a day and a two hour commute to boot with his new job.  I know he worries about not being there for me.  It can’t be easy on anyone, whether it has touched you personally or someone you love.  Everyone I talk to knows someone with cancer, a mother, a sister, an aunt or a friend of a friend.  Everyone!  No one is exempt.  And everyone has a story. 

The funniest story yet, the other day my neighbor suggested I put a potato on it.  He said that there is this magical potato from Hawaii that helps heal breast cancer.  Apparently, it healed his mother.  Later in the conversation he finally mentioned that she had surgery and chemo as well.  He then went on to tell me that he has a good friend that had a double mastectomy.  He said, “She has never been the same since.”  HELLO!  Honestly, “And why are you telling me this?” I was thinking, as I waved good bye to him and told him to have a nice day. 

I know he was just trying to be nice.  What do you say to someone with cancer?  As difficult as all of this is for me, I can only imagine how all of you out there feel.  There is a lot of fear, anger, sadness, and anxiety associated with a loved one’s cancer diagnosis. Some have different opinions on my path to recovery.  Others just simply do not know exactly what to do or say.  Some are naturals, born nurturers.  And, many wish they could do more.  I know that if my mom had her way she would move in with me tomorrow. 

But, no matter how you cope, deal, handle or reach out, I want you to know that I truly value each and every one of you out there.  I could not do this without you.  Let me re-word that, I do not want to do this without you.  So, I would like to take this opportunity to thank you and let you know how much I appreciate you.  Your outpouring of love and support has been incredible.  I have never felt more loved and that is because of all of you.  

  • So Aunt Linda, thank you for the “Fight Like a Girl” T-shirt.  I sleep in it every night. 
  • Eric and Leilah, thank you for the warm fuzzy slippers, jammie pants and jacket that keep me oh so warm. 
  • Cindy, thank you for the cozy pink and black fleece blankie that I curl up under when I read a book. 
  • Sally, thank you for the inspiring cards you have sent to me and the support you have given my mom.  And, thanks to all of my parents friends and family that have reached out to them. 
  • Clare, thank you for the basket of Harry and David goodies you so cleverly sent. 
  • Grandma Anita, thank you for the beautiful flowers that adorned our dining room table over the holidays. 
  • Riley, thank you for sweeping up the broken glass and the “anti-headache” mellow music CD you made me.
  • Mom, thank you for calling me every day to let me know how loved I am.
  • Patricia and Kevin, thank you for driving across the desert to surprise me at the “Kicking Breast Cancer Ass, The Yes Mom Way Fundraiser.”  You made me cry.  Also, thanks for putting together “Team Deanne’s Daisy Chains” for the “3 Day Breast Cancer Walk” in San Diego in November.  Better get walking. 
  • Megan and Aunt Gloria, thank you for the breast cancer bracelets that you had made and are wearing way over there in Texas.   
  • Tina and Marcia, thank you for putting together the “Kicking Breast Cancer Ass, The Yes Mom Way Fundraiser” and to all of you that came out to hear us sing, made a financial contribution and simply gave me a hug. 
  • Amy, thanks for watching Maggie for me while I trekked off to yet another doctor’s appointment. 
  • Raundi, thank you for putting together the Brown Family Food Train and for simply being my friend, and to all of you that have brought such delicious amazing dinners for the kids – Amy, Stephanie, Raundi, Carolyn, Cyndi, and Cindi.  You are all amazing cooks.  Cindi, Riley wants to move in with you.
  • Orit and Diana, thank you for keeping me well fed with your healthy yummy macrobiotic meals.  Diana, the trip to Oroville would not have been the same without you and Orit my head overfloweth with knowledge from you and all the books you have sent my way.   
  • John, thanks for cutting up squash for me and leaving a trail of informative sites on my computer. 
  • Carole, thank you for getting me started on the road to Macrobiotics, a life saving diet that has forever changed me. 
  • Bob, you are a fighter, thank you for showing me I can do it.
  • Isis, thank you for using your Goddess powers and helping Maggie get into school.  Not just any school either.  Thank you, girlfriend. 
  • April, thank you for the progesterone cream and tea and all your research.  I enjoy your E-mails and our chats. 
  • Julia, thank you for the book, Cancer Vixen.  Loved it! 
  • Liz and Isabelle, thank you for sending a cleaning crew to my house after the teen party.  A true treat.
  • Daisy Chain, thank you for keeping my soul fed. 
  • Riley, Casey and Kevin thank you for wearing “I Love Boobies” bracelets. 
  • Also, thank you for all the facebook messages, E-mails, cards, texts and phone calls.  Delena called me from Germany, Michelle from Michigan and Steve from Seattle.  Friends from grade school, high school and college have reached out to me.  Tear!  

And to all of you, thank you for reading my blog.  I plan to turn this experience into a book some day and you will all be a part of it.

I am sure I forgot someone in this list because so many of you have reached out to me but that does not mean you are forgotten.  Truly, your outpouring of love has my “love tank” full.  That is the key to fighting cancer, love, much better than putting a potato on it.

Ripple, Wrinkle or Blip

Monday, January 24th, 2011

Last night, while taking a hot shower to wash away all my worries, I began to imagine what my life will be like one year from now, January 23rd, 2012, after the surgery, chemo and cancer treatments.  I felt a pang, wanting to fast forward and jump ahead simply bypassing the months in front me to a new healthy life, cancer free.  I imagined that one day I will look back at this moment in my life as a ripple in time, a blip on the radar, old news, memories of long gone.  Then, in typical Deanne style, I laughed out loud as I realized that the actual saying is a “wrinkle in time,” not a “ripple in time.” 

I always get these sayings wrong.  I used to think that “homemade” was “whole made” and “pet peeve” was “pet pea”.  My friend Isis (center of picture) does this all the time as well, but she has a good excuse. She is from Belgium and Flemish is her primary language.  One day at the park, she was ready to leave so she blurted out, “let’s blow up this taco stand” in her sexy Flemish accent.  We all cracked up.  She was close.  It is actually, “let’s blow this taco stand.”  According to Urban Dictionary, it means let’s “get the heck out of this place.”  There is nothing in the dictionary about blowing it up in the process. 

I looked up “wrinkle in time” as well.  Besides it being a great book that I read to my kids many years ago, it has another definition I’m not about to tell you.  I’m too much of a lady but you can look it up yourself.  And of course, that definition is not what I meant.

When I used the term ripple or wrinkle (whatever), I was thinking more along the lines of being faced with a stubborn wrinkle that simply needs to be starched and ironed out, or a blip on the radar that will hopefully be insignificant and mostly forgotten in years to come, old news like memories in a photo album that someday my family will get out and reminisce over.  “Hey Mom, “Remember when you had cancer?”  “Remember when you lost all your hair?”  “Remember that ugly wig?”  “Remember when all your friends brought us food and you couldn’t eat any of it ‘cause you were on some weird microcosmic, macroscopic, marcopolo diet?  Remember Chris Farley SNL skits?

Of course, cancer is nothing like this.  It is a life changing event.  I will never be the same again.  Cancer causes you to not only think about the bigger picture but to actually pursue answers to some very deep questions that lead to the bigger picture.  Why am I here?  What do I want?  How do I want to live the second half of my life?  It is huge!  There is a lot of soul searching, demons to face and inner work to be done while fighting cancer.  Not a simple ripple, wrinkle or blip. More like an earthquake, tsunami and tornado all rolled into one. 

And the scary part, there is no way around it. No fast forwarding.  The only way to the other side is through.  I find myself on my own epic journey of self discovery, not unlike the three siblings in the book, “A Wrinkle in Time”, who went on a heroic journey to find their missing father, and in the meanwhile they found themselves. What would have become of Frodo Baggins, Luke Skywalker and Harry Potter if they had fast forwarded?

No, I will accept my journey ahead, in typical Deanne style, starting with my mastectomy on Monday, February 7th at 7:30 am.  It won’t be fast or easy or a simple ripple or a straightforward wrinkle or a passing blip but it is mine and I will own it.  And some day in the future, my kids will say, “Mom, remember when you kicked some cancer ass?  Thank you,” they will say as we sit down to our Christmas Eve dinner with chop sticks in hand and all of my beautiful grandchildren.

“Kick Cancer Ass” Cocktail Recipe

Sunday, January 16th, 2011

I went out dancing with my girlfriends last night after a very difficult and heart wrenching 24 hours.  It was nice to get out and let loose a bit after the news I got from my doctor on Friday.  In fact, it was even nicer to have had my first cocktail, Ginger Beer and Bushmills, after seven weeks on a macrobiotic diet, which of course includes no alcohol.  Yummy!

Unfortunately, my next cocktail will not be so yummy.  The recipe is as follows: 

Fill to rim with Taxtere, add a shot of Carboplatinum, finish with a splash of Herceptin followed by a chaser of hormones all served up in a port surgically implanted in my chest.

Shaken’ not stirred. 

Boy was I shaken’ after hearing this news.  Actually, I was scared shitless.  I met with the medical oncologist and breast cancer specialist in Newport Beach on Friday afternoon.  She spelled it out for me very clearly.  I have full blown cancer!  Not just a little cancer, CANCER in capital letters.  The key words in my diagnosis:  invasive, high grade, her-2/neu, pre-menopausal and estrogen receptors all resulting in aggressive breast cancer.  In other words, I have a full scale invasion of insurgents, out of control cells, rapidly multiplying, destroying everything it touches, nothing left behind cancer that will require an intensive counter attack.  It’s time to get the big guns out; surgery, chemo, steroids, drugs, hormones, you name it. 

Since I was diagnosed about 7 weeks ago, I have been extremely positive and optimistic while gathering information.  I truly believed that a little surgery and a change in diet and lifestyle would do the trick.  What can I say, I am the glass is half full kind of girl.  This overly optimistic attitude may have its roots in a bit of denial I must admit.  Reality slapped me in the face on Friday after many visits and tests with seven different doctors all coming to the same conclusion.  The verdict:  “You need the whole shebang girl!”  I was paralyzed with fear.  After screaming, “I don’t want chemo!”  “I don’t want to pump poison into my body!” “I don’t want to lose my hair!” “I am busy.”  “I still have so many things I want to do in my life.”  I saw death staring directly at me.  I finally accepted my reality and cried, “I don’t’ want to die!” 

I know that there are people out there that cure themselves from cancer without chemo using a macrobiotic diet and a change of lifestyle.  It’s amazing!  I also know that some of these people die!  I don’t want to live with the fear that every time I eat chocolate or drink a beer or think a negative thought that I could possibly be feeding my cancer. 

So I have decided to embrace Western Medicine.  The path to healing sucks and someday in the future I believe that people are going to look back and say, “Oh my god, doctors used to cut off women’s breasts to treat breast cancer.”  But today, this is what we’ve got and many people kick cancer’s ass with chemo and come out the other end healthier and stronger like Melissa Etheridge and Lance Armstrong.  Sheryl Crow and my cousin Holly are in remission after a lumpectomy and radiation.  Sussane Summers, Christina Applegate, Carly Simon, Jaclyn Smith, Sandra Day O’Connor, Peggy Flemming, all of them survivors of breast cancer.  Deanne Brown, The Yes Mom, will join this list and be cured as well especially after her special customized cocktail which looks something like this:

Deanne’s “Kick Cancer Ass” Cocktail:

  • 2 Mammograms
  • 2 ultra sounds
  • 5 Biopsies
  • 1 MRI
  • 1 Cat Scan
  • 1 Bone Scan
  • 1 Echocardiogram
  • 1 chemo port inserted surgically into my chest
  • First surgery – Mastectomy and first stage of reconstruction
  • 6 cycles of chemotherapy every three weeks
  • Second reconstruction surgery squeezed in between chemo treatment
  • Third and final reconstruction surgery
  • Radiation treatment
  • Herceptin every three weeks for one year
  • Hormonal Therapy for five years

Of course, anyone who has imbibed in too many cocktails knows that a nasty hangover is expected especially with such a potent cocktail.  Side effects include but are not limited to:

Deanne’s hangover:

  • Complete hair loss including eye lashes and eye brows (And, yes, I will lose all my hair down there.  I was a bit curious about what it would be like to have a Telly Savalas. Now I can get the Brazilian wax without the wax.)
  • Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and/or constipation
  • Weight loss or weight gain
  • Fatigue
  • Numbness, tingling, or burning in your hands or feet
  • Muscle and joint pain
  • May lose nails (Did you ever see The Fly with Jeff Goldblum? OMG!)
  • Rash
  • Eye changes, may produce more tears (Honestly, who wouldn’t have more tears after going through this.)
  • Stomatitis  – sores, dryness irritation and bleeding of mouth and throat
  • Menopause (I can hardly type this one without crying – Maybe I’m odd but I really don’t want my periods to end.)

Now for the more serious hangover I plan to avoid:

  • Neutropenia – low white blood cell count
  • Infections
  • Possible allergic reactions
  • Fluid retention which can cause swelling in the chest and around the heart
  • Neuropathy (Again another possible side effect that I am scared to death of after watching my mom battle with Neuropathy these last three years.  Hmmm?  Cancer or neuropathy?  That’s a tough one!)

Did I mention complete hair loss?  The side effects really really suck but I will be working with a nutritionist (very expensive nutritionist) to keep me strong, my immune system up and the hangover at a minimum.

Next week, I plan to go shopping for a wig.  A wig made of human hair starts at $1,200.  Ouch!  On second thought, maybe I will wear my bald head proudly on behalf of every person on this planet touched by this deadly disease which is taking our beloved mothers, grandmothers, wives, daughters, sisters, and girlfriends away from us.   My son Riley has decided to join the cause and shave his head with me. 

I would like to share a conversation I had with my girlfriends last night during our GNO.  Several of us have signed up for a Women’s retreat in the mountains this coming May.  Yoga, long walks, classes, good food and beautiful women.  I was hoping to be done with my cancer treatment by this time but it turns out I will be right in the middle of it.  I still plan to go to the retreat but I may be a bit sick.  I told my girlfriends, “I will still go but you may need to hold my hair back while I am throwing up like my mom used to when I was a little girl.” Then I stupidly remembered, “Oh yeah, I won’t have any hair”.  We all laughed and at that moment I knew the recipe for the perfect cocktail.

The perfect cocktail: 

Fill to rim with friends, add a shot of family, finish with a splash of fun followed by a chaser of love all served up in a heart shaped life.

Not shaken, just perfectly stirred! 

PS I just finished reading a fabulous graphic novel, Cancer Vixen by Marisa Acocella Marchetto.  Her humor and edgy truth is very empowering and inspirational!  from Random House

ABOUT THIS BOOK

“What happens when a shoe-crazy, lipstick-obsessed, wine-swilling, pasta-slurping, fashion-fanatic, single-forever, about-to-get-married big-city girl cartoonist with a fabulous life finds . . . a lump in her breast?” That’s the question that sets this powerful, funny, and poignant graphic memoir in motion. In vivid color and with a taboo-breaking sense of humor, Marisa Acocella Marchetto tells the story of her eleven-month, ultimately triumphant bout with breast cancer—from diagnosis to cure, and every challenging step in between.

But Cancer Vixen is about more than surviving an illness. It is a portrait of one woman’s supercharged life in Manhattan, and a wonderful love story. Marisa, self-described “terminal bachelorette,” meets her Prince Charming in Silvano, owner of the chic downtown restaurant Da Silvano. Three weeks before their wedding, she receives her diagnosis. She wonders: How will he react to this news? How will my world change? Will I even survive? And . . . what about my hair?

From raucous New Yorker staff lunches and the star-studded crowd at Silvano’s restaurant to the rainbow pumps Marisa wears to chemotherapy, Cancer Vixen is a total original. Marisa’s wit and courage are an inspiration—she’s a cancer vixen, not its victim.

Good Riddance Jack, Bonjour Brie de Melun

Saturday, January 8th, 2011

Have you read the book, Who Moved my Cheese?  It is a sweet story about four little mice that find out their food source, cheese, is no longer in its usual location and they must go out into their mice world, a maze, in search of it.  One little mouse is successful at it, the others are not.  Why?  Simply because the successful mouse found the courage and strength to face his fears and conquer the big dark scary labyrinth of tunnels to find more cheese while the others did not.  The cheese is a metaphor for the things you want in your life; love, happiness, a secure job, health, or peace of mind.  You either adapt to unexpected changes in your life or you die.

I have tried a third option, yelling at the universe to quit moving my god damn cheese but apparently the universe has other plans for me.  This month alone Kevin has a new job in LA after a year of unemployment, my house is in Escrow, Maggie started school this week for the very first time in her life,  I spend hours each day cooking and eating food for rabbits and I will be having a mastectomy in the next 10 to 14 days.

So how do I deal with all of this?  Adapt or die.  Adaptation is a process where you become better suited to living in a certain environment.  If your outer world changes, you need to change too.  You can do it kicking and screaming, you can drag your feet and wallow in sadness, “oh, woe is me”, you can blame others for your situation or you can have a positive attitude and grab the world by the lapels but whatever you choose we must all change to live a fuller life.  If the fish can leave the sea to walk on land, surely I can adjust to a new job, new house, and new boobs.

I have written about this before because it is a constant theme in my life.  Actually, I bet it is a theme in all of your lives as well.  The one thing for sure in this world is that nothing is for sure.  Things are always changing, sometimes small and insignificant, other times huge and earth crushing.  There is no way to avoid it so you better make the best of it, stay positive and continue to look for new stashes of cheese.   When hit with adversity and difficult times, it is time to kick into gear and adapt to the new circumstances.   Riley conveyed this beautiful positive spirit yesterday in his amazingly upbeat optimistic words he sent me in a text, “I can do it Mom!”

Riley started school at Dana Hills High School this year as a junior after 8 years of unschooling.  Unfortunately, when he first enrolled last semester, they told him that he will not be able to graduate with the class because he does not have any accredited classes for the first two years.  Well, yesterday we spoke to the assistant principle and asked her if there is anything Riley can do so that he can graduate with the class.  She said, “Since he is a great student, we may need to be creative but I’m sure we can figure something out”.  So figured it out she did.  It will require Riley making up 120 credits, taking some on-line classes, courses at Saddleback College and summer school while still taking a full load at school. 

Riley is psyched.  I am so amazed at his positive attitude.  His belief in himself and his gumption to make this happen even though it will require a lot of extra work and will not be easy absolutely blows me away.  I’m a proud mama.  Instead of Riley feeling sorry for himself because he has so much more work than everyone else or blaming me or the system for failing him, he is going to work hard and persevere.  Perseverance is essential in adapting.  One cannot give up.  If those little fish gave up millions of years ago we would not be here today. 

Kevin did not give up when looking for a job.  I will not fall off my macrobiotic diet.  Riley will graduate from Dana Hills and Maggie will transition into school.  It is not always easy but the results are worth the hard work and determination.  And better yet, when one does not give up, it creates an opportunity for a bigger and better door to open. 

Kevin may leave the house at 6:00 am every morning and not get home until 9:00 pm Monday thru Friday but he finally has a job he absolutely loves, a steady paycheck and huge opportunity.  I honestly can’t complain (which I would have done a few years ago, relentlessly).  And, yes, it is sad that we have had to sell our house in a short sale but we are hoping to rent back from the new owners for less than our mortgage, a substantial monthly savings.   And, of course, I will miss unschooling, but I am so excited to see an entire new world open up for Maggie including new friends, new opportunities and new adventures.   And damn if I still don’t crave Trader Joe’s chocolate covered almonds and homemade oatmeal cookies but now I have more energy, I have lost weight, and am learning to sit with my emotions instead of stuffing them with chocolate.   

Not too long ago, breast cancer was a death sentence.   I am grateful to live in a time when it is possible to recover fully.  I am not happy about having a mastectomy.  It will definitely not be an easy road; three surgeries, reconstruction, lots of rabbit food, and other unforeseen twists and turns but I will be better, wiser and stronger in the long run. Like Riley, I can do it!  Like the little mouse, I know there is a bigger and better stash of cheese waiting for me.

So when adversity hits, and you find that your favorite block of Jack cheese found in the refrigerated section at your local grocery store is no longer available, try a new and better cheese, maybe Brie de Melun flown all the way in from France.  It may not offer the predictability, comfort and security you are used to, you may have to change your menu, learn new recipes or spend a little extra money but I am certain it will lead you to something bigger and better, or at least different.  So I say good riddance Jack and bonjour Brie de Melun! Adios home ownership y hola the world of renting.  Ciao unschooling and buongiorno public school.  Bye bye boobie and hello silicone!

Art Restoration and Conservation Project

Saturday, January 1st, 2011

Now that 2010 is behind me and a new year full of hope, dreams and possibilities ahead of me, I am diving into the biggest “Art Restoration and Conservation Project” of my life – Me.  Restoration is a process that attempts to return the work of art, in this case, me, to my previous natural healthy state.  Art conservation is concerned with preserving the work of art for the future and I intend to have a glorious future.  Macrobiotics is the tool for both.

I heard my macrobiotic counselor, David Briscoe, use this term at the retreat I attended a few weeks ago in Northern California.  He stated:

“Each one of us was born into this world a miraculous, magnificent work of art.  We were born with everything we need:  lungs, kidneys, skin, immune system, digestive system, eyes, brain, etc.  Macrobiotics is an “Art Restoration Project” providing tools through which we restore the natural beauty and the natural healthy function of what we already have.  When given the opportunity, the human body is naturally able to restore itself and to eliminate what doesn’t belong to it.

I am a month into my life-changing project, 32 days of brown rice, leafy green vegetables, uzuki beans, remedy drinks, and diakon baths (see ridiculous picture).  I spend hours cooking (not allowed to use a microwave), researching, doing dishes and chewing.  Yes, chewing.  You are supposed to chew each bite 50 to 100 times.  Chewing releases natural enzymes that help digest the food more easily.  Energy used to digest can now be used to heal instead.  It takes me over an hour to eat my rice porridge in the morning.  Ghandi used to say, “Chew your drink, and drink your food”.  Pretty disgusting I have to admit and it takes loads of patience.  I am still working on this one. 

Anyway, one of the goals of macrobiotics is to change the ph balance of my blood from acidic to alkaline, detox and flush the accumulation of excess (cancer) from my body, in other words, basically telling the cancer to get the hell out of Dodge.  It takes 120 days to completely restore the blood.  Once the blood is healthy it then trickles down into our tissue and organs. We have the power to completely rebuild ourselves, absolutely remarkable to realize that the power of healing rests in our own hands.  It is also scary as hell.  Sort of how I felt when I first decided to take my kids out of school to homeschool.  Their education was in my hands.  Now my life is in my hands.  But just like homeschooling there is an incredible network of knowledgeable people to help. 

For any disease to manifest itself, your immune system has to be on the “kaputs.”   Toxins, our American diet, stress, emotional issues all play a role in this.  For our body to heal itself, it is imperative to increase our immune system.  Macrobiotics is an incredible tool for this.  It is more than just a diet, it is a lifestyle and the testimonials of people that have chosen to take this route are absolutely amazing including my dear friend, Carole Lemp.  She has kept her breast cancer at bay for 10 years without traditional western medicines and treatment.  Both her mother and sister died from breast cancer.  They only chose the Western way.

However, like our fingerprints, no two cancers are alike and there is no “one size fits all” treatment.  I plan to integrate Eastern and Western philosophies.  The best way I know to fight like a girl. 

After a few more doctor appointments these past weeks, I finally have some new information that has helped me to make some decisions about my plan of action.  Apparently, I have two different cancers working away in two different areas of my breast, both being fueled by different elements.  One is estrogen dominant and the other is her-2/neu positive.  Her-2/neu, “Human Epidermal growth factor Receptor 2″ is a protein due to a gene mutation that is highly aggressive and is responsible for spreading the cancer to other parts of the body.  Unfortunately, it does not respond well to radiation or chemotherapy. 

I met with the radiation oncologist last week and he said due to my age, not too old but too young believe it or not, and the highly aggressive nature of my cancer, I am not a candidate for simple radiation treatment.  I would need seven weeks, five days a week treatments along with a lumpectomy followed by chemo.  He said I may lose about a third of my breast and the radiation will burn my skin like a really bad sun burn.  I followed up with some research and read that blistering and oozing will occur, followed by a thickening of the skin and darkening of pigmentation and that many times the 7 weeks turns into 9 weeks or more.  As I heard these words and processed this information, all I could imagine was my right breast dangling there half dead.  And on top of it all, radiation causes fatigue and destroys your immune system.  It seems pretty ridiculous to destroy my immune system when I need it more now than ever to heal from some of the treatments I am about to endure.  My oncologist later shared with me, probably after seeing the horror stricken look on my face, that I could possibly avoid radiation all together if I have a mastectomy.  This was the best news and the worst news I ever heard. 

After careful deliberation and discussions with loved ones, I have decided that a mastectomy with reconstruction is the path for me. I never needed or wanted fake boobies, but maybe it’s not such a bad idea after all.  They were hanging a little low these days anyhow especially with so much weight loss.  Maybe then I can audition for Housewives of Orange County.  Oh, I need a mansion first and an attitude.  Never mind.  Dumb idea.

I am not home free yet.  Her-2/neu requires a long treatment similar to chemo using an intravenous drug called herceptin with some of the same side effects of chemo.  Also, I do not know if the cancer has spread.  They will be removing my sentinel nodes during the operation for a more precise biopsy.  Although I have more pieces of the puzzle, I am not done yet. 

I am truly grateful for 2011 in spite of my ordeal with breast cancer.  I actually see cancer as a gift.  It is a second chance of sorts to change some of my old ways that were not working for me and embrace a new healthier and more joyous way of life.  I think it is the first New Years Day in many years, for example, that I did not wake up with a hangover.  I feel fabulous!  We celebrated at a friend’s home last night, sharing delicious food including macrobiotic dishes, dancing, chatting and laughing hysterically as we watched my friend Debi steal Casey and Harrison’s clothes, as they went streaking through the neighborhood at the stroke of midnight in nothing but their skivvies.  It was truly a great way to not only start out a new year but to start my new life.