Gotta keep on keepin' on.......

Cancer again...that's 3 times in 2 years. This time it’s not breast cancer, but a new one called squamous cell carcinoma. New cancer, same old fighting spirit! My blog is still named for one of many songs that kept me going the first time around. Driving home from an upsetting appointment, I turned on the radio just as this line from Steve Miller Band's Jet Airliner was playing: "I've got to keep on keepin' on" I did just that. And I'll do it again.

Monday, August 18, 2008

It's always something, isn't it?

"Well, Jane. It just goes to show ya! It's always somethin'! Either you're depressed at Christmas or you got toilet paper hangin' from your shoe!" Roseanne Roseannadanna, from a Saturday Night Live sketch (Season 4, episode 9)

A quick post, to catch everyone up. I haven't posted in a while, with my diagnosis "anniversary" coming up. Last year at this time I was happily debating whether or not to celebrate the anniversary of my diagnosis.....not knowing at the time that I was to be diagnosed again with a recurrence. Talk about jumping the gun!

So this year I was more than a little nervous about celebrating too far in advance! I had decided not to acknowledge the dates at all, and I was trying really hard not to associate breast cancer with the beginning of the school year. It's hard not to, with my first diagnosis on Emma's first day of 2nd grade and my second diagnosis right smack in the middle of school-shopping in August!

I met with my oncologist last Friday, my usual quarterly visit where she checks my blood and feels around for anything suspicious in my "ATWOKB" (Area That Was Once Katie's Breasts).

This visit, since I've been on Femara for a year, my oncologist ordered a bone density (DEXA) scan to see how things were going. Femara (as any other aromotase inhibitor) is supposed to keep your body from producing estrogen, and since my ovaries were removed along with my breasts, I shouldn't have much estrogen running around my body anymore. My particular breast cancer was fueled by estrogen, so of course I want none of that hanging around! However, my bones need estrogen or they will weaken.... osteoporosis.... and last year, my baseline DEXA scan showed a few areas in my back that had ostepenia, a precursor to osteoporosis. Not to mention that osteoporosis runs in my family.....naturally, they want to keep their eyes on me and my bones.

So, I'm happy to report that my bloodwork is in nothing in the lab results that indicates suspicious levels of anything cancerous. And, my oncologist's manual check of my ATWOKB (Area That Was Once Katie's Breasts) and remaining lymph nodes showed nothing suspicious either. Great news!

However, and to quote Roseanne Roseannadanna from vintage Saturday Night Live, "It's always something!"

My new "something"? Not cancer, thankfully! Not osteoporosis, at least not yet. Instead, my osteopenia "grades" have accelerated so much in the last year, and in more places of my spine, that my doctor is nervous for me. She gave me a copy of the report (and my lab results....she had my copies all ready when she walked in, she knows I like to see all that info!) In the DEXA scan report, you can see where each area of the spine that was tagged for osteopenia last year now shows an even higher level. And, many areas considered normal last year now show moderate osteopenia. A few more increments and I'll be in full-blown osteoporosis!

I don't understand how this could happen. I'd been taking my calcium supplements, with Vitamin D, very faithfully. I always drink milk, eat yogurt and cheese and good calcium-rich vegetables like brocolli. While I don't exercise every day, I do get out for an occasional walk/run, plus my Thursday night dance class during the school year. And I'd like to think that chasing Jesse around all day counts as exercise, because he is one busy boy and I am one tired mom at the end of the day!

Walking into my appointment thinking I had done everything right, only to hear that I'm one step from osteoporosis? At age 43, I would need to start worrying about getting hip fractures? I was pretty devastated! I mean, I'm not ungrateful, I realize it could have been a "you have more cancer" diagnosis. But do I have to be HAPPY it's just this?? I'm taking enough pills, thank you, I don't need any more. Especially Fosomax, one that has some wacky side effects.

I asked my doctor when I would have another DEXA scan, to verify that Fosomax was working for me. She told me it would be next year at this time. A whole year? Why is that? Well, because most insurance companies won't pay for a DEXA scan until then. Plus, she reasoned, studies have shown this drug to be effective.

(I didn't point out that studies have shown chemo, lumpectomy, and radiation to be effective either....and that those studies did nothing for me and my recurrence last year..... I'm not a rude patient, plus I'm not very fast with the comebacks! Didn't even think of that one until just now!)

No, instead of a snappy comeback, I got a bit weepy. "So I won't know if this is working for another year?" I asked her. "Well, this drug has been proven to work," she replied.

"I don't like this waiting," I sobbed. "I'm a very scheduled person, I like to know what's coming up next." (It's OK to laugh, I realize I sounded like an idiot! I was kind of laughing at myself and my tears during the whole conversation anyway.)

My oncologist, who is so quiet and kind, gently asked me, "Do you mean you don't like waiting for cancer?" To which I replied, "No, it's not the cancer, it's just that it's always something. If it's not cancer, it's osteoporosis...." at which point I realized I sounded like Roseanne Roseannadanna, and that made me laugh. (My oncologist, too young to remember early Saturday Night Live, just looked at me curiously....kindly, but curiously!)

My appointment ended with my oncologist reassuring me that this Fosomax would work for me, and saying that if I really wanted an interim DEXA scan that she could order one for me, but reminding me that most likely my insurance wouldn't pay for it.

She also said to me as she left the room, "You just have to live your life", which unfortunately told me that she didn't get it. I have been living my life. I've been living it, enjoying my children, being grateful for every day I have with them, and fully expecting to continue to be here to raise them. Why do you think I haven't posted in so long? I've been busy living!

It's not the cancer per se, it's just that it keeps on affecting me in different ways. Most are good, like the people I've met, my cute little short hairdo, and how I've learned to appreciate things more and look at life a little differently. Others, like a left arm that still hasn't gotten full mobility back, my kids getting a little skittish whenever I tell them I'm off to doctor appointment....and now this Fosomax thing...they're not so good.

Of course, I'll get through it in my own drama queen fashion. It's not the worst thing. It's just that it's always something....and I wish that for once it could be nothing!

And now, as a special treat, here is a link to a blog posting that I found when googling "Roseanne Roseannadanna". It is a reprint of one of Gilda Radner's sketches where she plays Roseanne Roseannadanna (and yes, I know Gilda died of ovarian cancer years ago....the irony is not lost on me): Please note that I know nothing about this blog, haven't browsed around except to read this particular my apologies if it turns out the author is completely obnoxious and offensive.