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, November 10, 2008

cancer likes me, it really likes me

Yes, I know. That's not a good thing.

Unfortunately, for the 3rd time in 2 years, I am having to tell my friends and family that I have cancer once again. This time, it is a NEW cancer, NOT breast maybe on the bright side, all that I went through with chemo, surgery, radiation, more surgery.....maybe that was worth it. Maybe the Femara that I've been taking every day, between that and having my ovaries removed....maybe that's actually kept the breast cancer from returning! So I'm pleased at least, that something worked!

However, I still have cancer. This one is called squamous cell carcinoma, more of a skin cancer. It is on my lower thorax, in the mediastinal tissue between the lungs. The tumor is between golf ball and tennis ball size, and it is wedged between my esophagus, heart, and lungs. Not necessarily a great position for surgery, but maybe after chemo and radiation do their job we can revisit.

My primary care doctor discovered the mass in my chest, on October 2nd, when he diagnosed me with bronchitis. I had been losing weight since September, from the Fosomax (which gave me a lump in my throat so I couldn't eat anything, just a few spoonfuls of rice here and there).

And then I caught a cold 4-year-old Frances says, "Hey guys, wisten to dis, I haf a tewwible cough". Over-the-counter stuff wasn't doing the trick, and on October 2nd I coughed up bloody boogers, so I immediately went to my doctor who told me I had bronchitis. He also sent me for a chest x-ray "to rule out pneumonia", but I knew what he was up to. The coughing-up-blood-thing, weight loss, my history....he was thinking cancer but didn't want to alarm me.

My doctor called me that day to tell me there was indeed a mass in my chest, and a CT scan and a biopsy soon followed.

The diagnosis: squamous cell carcinoma in the mediastinum. Not a trace of breast cancer. And squamous cell cancer is a skin cancer, very strange. I am a medical mystery.

At first, no one could say whether it was esophagal or lung cancer, and everyone was absolutely mystified! "Have you ever ingested lye or draino?" "Have you ever worked with asbestos?" "Are you a 2-pack-a-day smoker?" NO NO NO!!!!

So, since early October my calendar has been overflowing with CT scans, PET scans, biopsies, meetings with specialists.....I changed oncologists, too, to someone I am much more comfortable with.

Why so much testing and research? My oncologist felt it important to get as many specialists involved, to review the pathology slides and my history and all the scans. They worked together because it was important for them to determine where the cancer originated so they could select the best chemo for the job.

And finally, my oncologoist and her team have classified this as lung cancer, even though there's really no cancer in my lungs. (Though there are some suspicious spots that may be from radiation last year. And it was suggested that last year's radiation may have brought on this new cancer....interesting!) Squamous cell is a skin cancer, and the esophagus is skin....but there's no cancer in or on the esophagus either.

I'll be starting chemo after Thanksgiving. The drug is called carboplastin or carboplatin, and I'm told it's good for lung cancer (actually it covers a variety of cancers). I will also be doing Taxol, that wacky where's-the-pain-now drug I did last time around. But I know what to expect, so I know I can do it.

Chemo will be once a week, low-dose so the aches and pains and nausea should be minimal. Will probably still lose my hair, but I've been through that and still have my favorite wig, Delores. I also have Audrey-Angelina and Paige, but I dislike them immensely and they will be replaced. (They can sense it, too....they're sitting in my closet, shivering as they await their demise! I'm mean, I haven't told them I'm donating them to the American Cancer Society. Poor wigs, they're probably thinking "bonfire".)

Along with chemo, I'll be doing a daily "Suzy Sunshine" (radiation) treatment. It is a new techology that zeroes in on the exact spot they want to zap.

I'm not pleased that I have cancer again. But I am thrilled to have a diagnosis and a treatment plan.

Some of you may be saying, "Hey, that's not fair!" and "Poor Katie!".....and at first I would have agreed with you. But life isn't fair sometimes, and really there's nothing that can change where I am right now. And I'm handling this just fine.

SO, let's just say, "That's not ideal"....or even "Katie, this sucks!" because that is how I'm looking at it and it works for me! Please please please: No "Poor Katie"'s or pity looks! I just can't stand all that nonsense, as well-meaning as they may be intended. I much prefer a "This really stinks" or an "I'm so sorry, but can I stomp on your foot to get your mind off things?" or better yet, "Howsabout I run out and buy you a half-caff Cinnamon Dolce (or Vanilla or Pumpkin Spice) Latte to make you feel better?".....and then some nice upbeat conversation. Because there are plenty of things in my life to be happy about, I'm not dwelling on the bad stuff.

Back to my treatment, here's some news: I had a port put in yesterday and am feeling great, very glad to have that in. My veins aren't always cooperative, if you recall from my first chemo treatment back in September 2006. A port is truly a beautiful thing to a cancer patient.

It's a gorgeous though chilly Saturday morning, and now I'm off to get my lip waxed! (as long as I'm sharing all this personal information, why not share a little more???)

I am very much looking forward to December 1st, my first radiation treatment, and to later that week (Date TBD), my first chemo. Let's get this thing once and for all!