Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Doctors and more doctors

Before you begin your actual treatment, it's a good idea to get all your routine doctors visits out of the way. If you can get to the dentist way ahead of treatment it's a good idea. Chemo messes up your gums. In my case they turned an odd shade of white and bled if I even looked at them. I also went to the eye doctor, just so I wouldn't have to schlep there once treatment started.
Here I am at the gynecologist. Since the cancer and the radiation treatment were going to be so close to this realm, it was doubly important to make sure all was right before starting. She explained to me what to watch out for and what the implications were. For instance, if I started to have a lot of gyno infections, it COULD be a sign that the cancer had broken thru into that region and anal stuff was causing the infections. Also told me to do my Kegels. How many of you do those? Have to keep that 'woman area' flexible and elastic. Not the burnt disaster zone it could become from the radiation. Nice.

Monday, May 30, 2011

The Port, Part two

I don't know what they injected me with, but I was awake and chatting with the doctor for the whole procedure and didn't feel the slightest thing. Only when I got home did I realize how mauled I had been. I am using here my human avatar to show you just how black and blue I ended up.
The doctor made a little cut up near my clavicle, threaded a tube thru a vein and brought the tube down into the port, just above my breast. It looks like he did an awful lot of excavating to find the perfect placement.
The port itself is about the size of a quarter. After the bruising died down and the cut healed up a bit, I was able to use my arm in all the usual ways.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Port, Part one

My veins were all screwed up, due to having gotten chemo in the past and only having one 'good' arm to use. So the decision was made, by me and my doctor, to put in a port. I could have not done it. But that would have meant spending a week in the hospital, both at the beginning and end of treatment to get 'infused' with the 5-FU. No thanks. I'll do that port thing.
It's surgery. Here I am getting ready to have the port inserted below my clavicle.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Tips and Comments

A lot of people have told me they had trouble leaving Comments on the blog. I have now made it easier. If you don't have an account with Google or blogspot, you can leave your comment under 'Anonymous'. Just remember to include your name so I know you are are!

In case anyone wants even more info on anal cancer, like wondering if that thing they thought was a hemorrhoid is something else, here are some sites.

Anal Cancer Foundation
You can find a lot of links to other sites there.

I like the Rare Cancer forum:
Rare Cancer Forum/Anal Cancer
There's a lot of warmth and humor and support.

Personally I found Blog for a Cure a bit earnest...but some people like and need that:
Blog for a Cure

For more technical stuff, The National Cancer Institute has links to a lot of information:
National Cancer Institute
I found the info on staging very helpful. I just read it and finally understood why I was a Stage one or a stage 3...not a 2.

If you want technical info that isn't so technical, this site may be helpful:
MedicineNet:Anal Cancer

To see the guidelines that your doctor is probably using, this is the site, but it's quite complex:
NCCN Guidelines for Anal Cancer
You have to sign on to gain access, but it's free.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Fitting

It was time to get down to serious business. I went for my fitting, meaning a simulation to set me up so that my radiation therapy would hit me in precisely the right spots.
Once again splayed on a table with a radar? radiation? x-ray? machine above me to take pictures.
Dr.Who, the Radiation Oncologist, a physicist and a radiation tech all spent what felt like hours working on finessing my butt. I was trying to get used to people peering into my butt but this fitting including inserting what felt like a screw in there. I really didn't feel like having a conversation at that point; basically I was gritting my teeth. But I suppose the x-ray could pick up where the tip of the metal was touching. Great, Nifty...but oh so painful.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Visit to Chemo Doc

My next stop was to see my Oncologist, Dr. Illyass. Here he is with his sometimes tangential assistant, Nurse Diz. (She chose that name for herself, need I say more)
Dr. Illyass had been my oncologist for many years, due to an earlier breast cancer. I had just seen him a few months before. But at that time we had, of course, been focused on my breast. I thought about making a joke that we hadn't been paying enough attention to the OTHER side of my body. But I didn't. Dr. Illyass is a sort of serious guy. Ask him any question; he'll think about it, answer it, elaborate. That's what I really like about him. And he gave me an email address to reach him out. The ONLY doctor who ever did that....and he really answers my messages.
As for Nurse Diz, well, let's just say we spent a long time on her gluten intolerance. NO, no really guys, she's a great nurse and very attentive....maybe because she's cutting back on the caffeine...I found that out too.
Back to moi. Dr. Illyass went over the PET scan results and showed me charts outlining the course of treatment if I'm Stage one, just the tumor, or Stage 3, tumor and lymph nodes. I forgot to ask what was Stage 2, but it was not that important. Both one and three had the same course of treatment. I would be receiving Mitomycin at week one and week five of my five weeks of radiation. And I'd also be getting something called 5-FU (yes, FU 5 times!) which I would carry around in a little pack, receiving a continuous 5- day infusion, also week one and week five.
Some hair thinning, mouth sores, fatigue, diarrhea, nausea....the usual. Why oh why do I never get this symptom: poor appetite?The one time Dr. Illyass made a joke, he had said that oncologists are the only doctors who are happy when their patients gain weight. HAHAHA.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

My Official Cancer Song: Keren Ann's Blood On My Hands

I was so angry to find myself with cancer (again). Not sad, not fearful...ANGRY.
I heard this song and made it my official: Mad Cancer girl song.

Saturday, May 21, 2011


The next step was getting a Pet scan to see where the cancer was exactly, how severe it was and whether it has spread anywhere else. That's Positron Emission tomography in case you were wondering.
They injected me with some radioactive stuff and glucose. Also had to drink a big bottle of a mocha flavored something or other (forgot to ask about that one) Anyway. The radioactive stuff is attached to the glucose. Cancer cells LOVE glucose. They have a sugar addiction. So once this glow in the dark stuff is injected, the Pet Scan can see in what part of your body the cells are eating the glucose greedily. Anywhere abnormal tells the docs that it's cancer.
In my case, yeah, they saw that there was an entity in my anus eating a lot of glucose. And there MAY be a teeny tiny lymph node also eating glucose which would be a sign that the cancer had spread to the lymph nodes near the tumor site...in this case, in my groin area. But the lymph node was so teeny tiny that a biopsy couldn't be done, nor could they get a clear read on it.
So the decision was to go with the idea that yeah it had spread to lymph area. That meant I was gonna get radiated in both places: backside for the entity and front side for the lymph nodes. In for a penny, in for a pound, as no one says now-a-days.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Exams and more exams

Next, I was sent to see the Radiation Oncologist, Dr. Who. He wanted to examine me. So did his assistant. I was beginning to get use to having strangers stick their fingers in my butt. I wonder if it was OK with them?
That really wasn't the hard part. After the exam, he sat me down and explained the course of treatment: 5 weeks of radiation with a week of chemo at week one and week five. He hinted that there would be some 'discomfort'. (Isn't that like when the dentist tells you that you are going to feel a little 'pressure'?). After all, a radiated asshole is not a happy asshole. It shuts down, it refuses to comply with the reason for it's existence. It's angry, hurt, furious. There's no talking to it. Well, he didn't say that but I surmised it. Right now, I was to eat a lot of fiber, have a pet scan to see if the cancer was anywhere else and go and see my other doctor, the chemo guy.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Diagnosis: Risky business

Several anxious days of waiting. If it was cancer, I knew what to expect: Rectal Cancer. Wasn't that my rectum, the doctor has been exploring so diligently?
But the call surprised me: it was anal cancer. HOW EMBARRASSING! Who wants to say anal? Breast cancer (many years before) had been hard enough. But everyone was used to that. Nobody got anal cancer. Just me and Farrah Fawcett Major. And (sob) look what happened to her.
I feverishly began to Google. I found out it was a rare cancer. Very treatable (although the treatment is grueling), most common in women my age AND related to certain risk factors. One of which I have here illustrated.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Biopsy

I was sent to have a biopsy. It was done right there in the office under local anesthesia. The surgeon snipped a little sample. OK, it hurt a bit, but not too much.
The doctor said it didn't look 'usual'. But I chose to ignore that. Still there would be days and days of anxious waiting for the results.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Entity Revealed

Here I am, in March, 2011, having my colonoscopy.
What's not to love about a colonoscopy? You lose weight and you get high. OK, maybe the night before isn't so much fun, but I had cottoned on to a little trick: eat lightly for 3 days before. The less that went in, the less to come out....sort of.
Well, anyway, afterwards the doctor showed me what had been found: THE ENTITY!!!! What was it? Who was it?
He didn't know, so my next stop was going to be a surgeon to do a little exploring and excavating.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Signs and Omens

Last October, I came back from a month long trip to Spain. Ah SPAIN, not known for lots and lots of vegetables and fiber. The land of meat and bread (and wine too). So, when I first saw these 'symptoms' I thought nothing of it. It probably was the result of the Spanish diet. And it didn't look like what I thought were the symptoms of colon cancer: dark red blood and 'pencil' stool. PENCIL STOOL?
Well anyway, I just assumed it was a hemorrhoid and promised I would check it out when I got a colonoscopy....which I wasn't in any hurry to get either.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Can you guess?

Welcome to my new blog! Can you guess what kind of cancer I have? Here's a live photo of it.