Monday, February 25, 2013

Special Oscar Edition: Bradley & Me

For a refreshing change, this post is not about cancer at all! Rather it is an excuse to tell the story of my 10ish minutes with Bradley Cooper, a Best Actor Nominee for his role in Silver Linings Playbook.  Bradley, I'm sorry you didn't win, but you still have a special place in my heart.

I really wanted to love Siver Linings, as it starred Bradley, along with Jennifer Lawrence, who is an amazing young actress, and did score her first Oscar.  Unfortunately, I feel unqualified to comment, as I have not yet seen the entire film.  Ph and I saw it a month or so ago, and I fell asleep for a bit in the middle of the movie.  I went to see it again with BFF J2, and again I fell asleep atnd missed the same part of the movie as the first time! I've heard that the scene where Tiffany (Jennifer) tells off  BC's Dad (Robert DeNiro) in the kitchen is great, but I have not seen it! I'll clearly need to rent or buy it so I can pause, rewind, etc.

I also recently watched a DVD of "The Words", starring BC and Zoe Saldana, and stayed awake the entire time--but actually wished I had fallen asleep, as so little happened in the film.  Basically, Dennis Quaid is the author of an autobiographical novel; BC plays the main character in Quaid's book; Jeremy Irons plays an old man who actually wrote the manuscript that was found and plagiarized by Quaid/Cooper.  What a waste of three hunky guys!  

Back to me and Bradley.  It was May 2009, a lovely Summer day in Atlanta (and those are rare), during the annual international convention of the organization I work for, and a large group of us were dining at a hip, trendy restaurant (no comment on whether that a rarity in Atlanta).  One young colleague whispered excitedly (kind of a scream/whisper)--there's  XXX (the name did not compute with me or many others at the time).  "Who?" "Bradley Cooper!"  "Who??"  "He's in Alias; was in the Wedding Crashers .  ."  Again, "Who?"

 I suggested she go over and talk to him, and she said no, she was too shy.  "Ok, I'll go talk to him.  I'm old, and have no idea who he is, so why not?" She pointed out a very goodlooking man at the bar, by himself, drinking a bottle of beer (I wish I remembered what brand!)  I headed over to the bar,  many eyes from our table on me/us.  I said: "hi".  He smiled and said "hi".  That was a really good start, I thought.  "I hope you don't mind my asking, but some of my friends seem to think you were in a tv show, or a movie or something .  .  is that true?  "Maybe", he said coyly, still smiling, then, "yes".  He seemed happy that I went over to talk, as he was literally by himself, and said "no one ever recognizes me." I looked back at our table and gave a nod and motioned to come over.  Shy young colleague was glued to her seat, but less-shy young colleague B bounced over and joined me immediatey, and we chatted a bit with BC . . . . Where he's from (Philly! So we had that to talk about) . .  And he said that he had a new movie coming out soon . .  . Called "Hangover".  I said I'd be on the lookout for that (likely obscure, I thought) film.

As we were leaving the restauarnt  (me and my colleagues, not me and BC, unfortunately), we saw BC dining on the outside deck with a young woman and another couple.  Once again, I went over amd said, I'm so sorry to interupt you again, but would you mind if we have a picture taken with you? And thus, rhe photo above was taken of me, B, and friendly, down-to-earth Bradley Cooper, just 2 weeks before Hangover was released.

But . .  there's more! Just months ago, I learned of a different twist to this story, involving colleague P and wine.  Several nights before the BC encounter, a small group of us dined at a new restaurant on Peachtrree street (not to dis Atlanta's creativity in street-naming, but isn't that like the only street in the whole city??) called Livingston.  We (I) selected a wine that was moderately priced, a Spanish Grenache called Evodia.  We liked it so much that we drank several bottles; I tracked it down back in DC and determined that it actually is a very inexpensive wine--which is good to know, and so inexpensive that I likely would not have ordered it at Livingston if it had not been so overpriced.  Since that time, even several vintages later, several of us have purchased/shared cases of Evodia, brought it to department birthdays and other events. A few months ago, it was one of the wines I brought in for a birthday celebration for two colleagues--P and H.  P referred to the Evodia as the "Bradley Cooper wine."  What??? Bradley was not at Livingston restaurant!  And while we did drink the same wine during the BC encounter, P was not there.  So, as much as I respect and admire colleague P--I think his connection of Bradley Cooper and Evodia is tenuous.  My story of meeting Bradley--told to you all one day after his loss in the Oscars--provides much more of a real connection.  

And, btw, the Evodia Grenache is now widely available, even at Whole Foods in DC.  So, since 2009, both Bradley and Evodia have gained notice and popularity, while Colleague P and I are just doing the same old things.



Tuesday, February 19, 2013


I'll jump right to the exciting conclusion . . . THE CHEMO IS WORKING!! 

I cannot begin to describe how elated and relieved I am--it is a state of being unlike any I have experienced before.  Thank you, universe. Thank you science. Thank you biopharmaceutical companies. Thank you Dr. S and team. Thank you to everyone who prayed and cared, and sent good karma muy way. Thank you to dentists BS& SD for first discovering something that turned out to be nothing but led to many tests and scans that caught my breast cancer recurrence in the earliest possible phase of stage 4, prior to any symptoms or further metastaseses.  ( I still need to write about the roller coaster ride and finding of this cancer.  soon, soon.) 

WHEW! I can breathe again.  (Feel free to stop reading now, or to go on, if you want more detail about the the catscan process, specific findings, next steps medically, and what I ate and drank today. )

The biggest decision of the day was whether to have the long-awaited pancakes before or after the scan.  Ph and I decided to save the pancake trip til after the scan--just in case . .  (I mean, what if the results were that a tumor the size and shape of a pancake is sitting in my stomach? I don't want anyone confusing pancakes with cancer. ) BTW, big brother (Bro) mentioned that he didn't really "get" the pancakes/scancakes thing . .  and was wondering if it was perhaps little sister's (me) cleverly disguised name for a new-fangled diagnostic.  Bro is one of the smartest people I know (I mean, the guy studies tax law and calculus just for fun), so perhaps I should clarify for other readers: the pancakes are just pancakes.  I have been craving them. Scan day seemed like the perfect day for a pancake outing--something to look forward to, while otherwise being quite anxious about (aka terrified by) the possible scan results.  

At 11 am, I drank a barium sulfate suspension, berry smoothie flavor, at home.  This was provided by Sibley hospital, and picked up last week by BFF D, as I was booked solid with doctors, dentists, visits to another hospital, and pedicures.  BFF D--you are the best! (How many friends are talented and generous enough to provide art for one's walls and one's blog, cook delicious salmon dinners, pick up barium drinks, and accompany one to blood-fusion?  Not many!) Sibley Hospital sent the 450 mL drink in a brown paper bag, including instructions and waiver of liability forms, and even a straw--which I thought was a nice touch.) Here's a pic:

Oh no! I just saw on the label that it said to "shake well prior to use", and I dont think I did!  Oh, well, I probably ran around my house enough for it to get shaken. Seriously, what does this delicious smoothie do?  It coats the lining of my esophagus, stomach, and related GI body parts, so they can be seen more clearly in the CT Scan.

At 1 pm, we arrived at Sibley Hospital, and they gave me another berry smoothie to drink.  How generous of them!  Then I went back for the scan.  CT Tech M told me to leave most of my clothes on . .  "just take off your bra", and "in the scan room you can pull your jeans down a bit".  (What? What kind of place is this?) It is a pretty quick procedure--takes only about 5 minutes of actual test time.  A petscan is much more involved--and provides more detailed information--but insurance providers these days much prefer the catscan, and make patients really work hard to justify a petscan.  If the results today had been inconclusive, I might have had a follow-up petscan.  BUT THEY'RE NOT--the results are EXCELLENT! 

Ph and I then headed to the nearest Pancake House, which had plenty of available tables at 2 pm. on a Tuesday. The nice waiter suggested the Strawberry Pancakes, as they come with fresh strawberries, whipped cream, and fresh strawberry syrup.  Yum. I checked the menu--in Montgomery County, MD, restaurants are required to post calorie content--and the Strawberry Pancakes have a whopping 1110 calories!  Could I actually order that? Yes, I could. Even the healthier sounding pancake options had 900+ calories, so why not? Well, here's the reason for that monstrous calorie content:

These pancakes could feed a family of four in the Congo (poorest country in the world, I googled) for a week. They were delicious, but I surrendered, leaving my plate half full. And yes, I got a to-go box, rather than being wasteful. 

From Pancake House, next stop: Dr. S.  We waited a long time to see him, but it was totally worth it.  He said "sorry to keep you waiting so long for your good news". WOW. A slice of heaven.  IT'S WORKING! The friggin chemo is working!! The CT scan showed that all 4 cancer "spots" are about 50% smaller than they were in November!  And, the CA 27-29 tumor marker also shows less cancer activity in my body.  YES! I can handle the fatigue; I can handle the bone pain; I can handle the tummy aches; I can handle it all if it is working.  Bring it on! I may surrender to a huge plate of pancakes, but I will not surrender to cancer or the drudgeries of treatment.

So, chemo cycle #4 begins on Thursday.  More of the same. I will have 3 cycles--hopefully ending in mid-April--and hopefully followed by a petscan. And then we'll see what the universe presents next.

Here's to making all of those nasty cancer spots--in me and too many others--smaller and smaller and smaller, until it all disappears.


Monday, February 18, 2013

Saturday, Bloody Saturday

It is not what U2 had in mind, but I did spend a weekend day having 2 units of blood infused into my veins.  Technically, this is considered both an  infusion and a transfusion.  I'll just call it blood-fusion, to make it sound like an emerging cuisine.

No, I was not intending to follow in Lance's footsteps, and again, for the record, I have no intention of competing in world-class cycling. So, why did i need this? As you know, chemotherapy works (generally speaking) by attacking cells that grow quickly, and can lower the growth of those cells.  Red blood cells are produced  in the bone marrow and they grow rapidly, so chemo can compromise the body's ability to manufacture them.  A healthy range of hemoglobin (one of the components of red blood cells) is 12--15.5 for women; lower than 8 is cause for concern.   My count on Valentine's Day was only 7, so, Dr S and team were appropriately concerned, and ordered a blood-fusion pronto.

While I can think of things I'd rather do on a Saturday, the blood-fusion wasn't actually so bad.  Kind of like chemo--it sounds really horrible, when in fact you pretty much just sit there.  For a long time.  Like 6 hours. (I have already been challenged on the amount of time this took by friend M, another healthcare lawyer, who claimed that I may be exaggerating,, as an earlier blog post said 5 hours, and in person at a bar in Cambridge on Sunday night, I mentioned it was 6 or more . . ).  Thank you friend M, for reading and listening to me so carefully!  Thanks also for arranging that meeting for today, so I can now say "I went to Harvard Law School" (for 1 day).  :) But I digress.

Unlike my chemo, the blood-fsion took place at a hospital, in a private room.  I was extremely well-taken care of by BFF D (aka artist/creator of the 'Sunbreast" painting on my blog header), as well as Nurse Ron (N-Ron), and Pefect Husband (Ph).

Since Ph was out of town Saturday morning, BFF D picked me up at my house, a huge anxiety-minimizer, as I am not good in the morning, and likely to just go back to sleep rather than get anywhere at 8:30 in the morning.  We got Starbucks (coffee, breakfast, AND lunch for me), and she stayed with me through several hours of blood-fusion.  BFF D is a Jewish mother (as am I, so I can say that)--and was extreemly attentive and responsive to my requests such as--"can you get me a pen?", and  "I dropped the pen, can you pick it up for me?"  "Can you get me some ice, my mouth really hurts.  (Note that recent, severe mouth/jaw pain is a separate but parallel issue, to be addressed in a later post) BFF D created a great little ice bag using surgical gloves--it was the perfect size, shape & flexibility!

To explain these requests a bit, I was very well, yet tentatively positioned, with blood bags/catheter leading into the port in my chest; pillow folded perfectly behind my back; Ipad balanced on my lap; and ice/surgical glove-pack on my neck/jaw.  So of course I couldn't pick up my own pen! N-ron observed one of these requests being addressed and said, "Now I get the Diva part." Perceptive, that guy. 

Perhaps I learned a bit of Diva-like behavior from my Great Aunt S, the NY artist who was tres sophisticated.  Great Aunt S had polio as a child; resulting in the complete loss of movement of one of her arms, as well as a limp in her gait.  The family pulled together to send her to college (the only girl that did so), thinking she might not marry or have a man take care of her due to her condition.  Great Aunt S was expert at holding court, and directing those around her as to what to do, what food to take out of the fridge, what plate to put it on, how to arrange it, where to put the flowers.  It was a joy to be around her and follow her directives.  And, in fact Great Aunt S had more husbands & boyfriends than anyone.  Great Aunt S rocked! 

Back to me, Diva junior.  After BFF D left, I actually took a nap, for almost 2 hours. In fact N-ron brought me a heated blanket and didn't tease me at all.  Ph showed up to take me home, my body chock full of red blood cells. (I wonder how much those blood cells weigh??)

Thank you BFF D, N-Ron, and Ph. And thanks to so many of you for your kind words and sending of good karma.  It means so much to me.

Stay tuned for my next update:  SCANCAKES !!

Saturday, February 16, 2013


I took a day off on Friday, to make up for the fact that I'm working, traveling to Boston for a business meetng, on Presidents' Day.  I was really looking forward to a day of no work and no obligations, and planned to sleep late without guilt, go to yoga, sit at a cafe with a latte and the newspaper, and most excitingly, meet my friend and outside counsel B (OCB) for an afternoon mani-pedi at a fancy place.  (I won't name it, but the door is red. :) Oh, and somwhere in there, cruise by Sibley hospital to pick up the contrast agent to drink before my scan on Tuesday (to wash down those pancakes I'm craving!)

Well, cancer once again put a damper on my well-laid plans.  

Following my late Thursday visit to Dr. S, two obligations were added to my Friday Fun day: 1) schedule an appointment with an endodontist to try to determine why I'm having significant mouth/jaw pain, and 2) make a quick visit to Suburban Hospital for blood "typing and crossing."

My morning began in a relaxed pace, and I was miraculously able to get a same day 1:00 appt with enodondist/dentist J (EDJ), so I decided to skip yoga.  I ended up spending almost 3 hours at EDJ's office as he tried to get to the root of the problem. (yes, pun intended!)  It was very painful, as several teeth are so sensitive that even touching them lightly made me jump out of the chair, and there are sore spots in my gums where 4 wisdom teeth were recently extracted.  (yes, I am just a ball full of medical/dental fun these days!).  EDJ was very nice and gentle, but poking around and placing film in my mouth for x-rays was excrutiaing for all of those involved.  By 2:30, I knew I would not have time to get to Sub hospital and to the salon by 3:15, so OCB's assistant moved our appointments to 4:15.  By 3:30, the mouth pain team had accomplished taking x-rays and a CT scan, but EDJ still had no clue as to the cause of, or treatment for, my dental pain.  I like surprises, but have never been a big fan of mysteries, and I abhor them when related to my health.

When I finally finished--the end part of the end-odontist, it was 3:40, and now I knew I would also miss the 4:15 fancy salon appt.  I called OCB in tears . .  I'm so sorry, I don't think I can make it . . OCB said, oh don't worry, its fine . .  is there anything I can do, anything you need?


I got through hospital admissions, and having blood drawn, despite a mean desk agent who yelled at me that I needed to have an old-fashioned paper prescription with me..  (I in fact didn't, Dr S's office had set it up and sent everything they needed electronically.)  A nice couple came over and intercepted, and told the desk guy to lighten up and call my Doctors' office himself, as I was shaking by then, the tears were coming once again, and I had bad cell phone reception.  I told the mean desk guy: "This is a freakin' hospital--you're supposed to be nice to people!"  That'll teach him a lesson, I'm sure.

Less-mean lab guy took a blood sample, and I was on my way, wearing 2 hospital bracelets fashionably stacked with my other bracelets.  (I think this will be a trend by next week, don't you?) I wondered whether I would be tracked down as a hospital escapee, or perhaps the bracelets would get me a free drink later on, or entry to a concert.

I met OCB at our local, cheapie nail salon, where you don't need an appointment, and they pretty much  stay open all evening, until whenever paying clients stop showing up. I finally relaxed.  The pedicure was worth the wait.  OCB brought beverages and snacks, and we caught up, completely forgetting to talk business.  Oh well, there will be plenty of time for that.  Thank you OCB!!

Still to come: Saturday, bloody Saturday . . .

Valentines Day Surprises: Hearts (Blood) & Flowers

I was completely surprised when flowers were delivered to me at my office on Thursday.  My perfect husband (Ph) never sends me flowers, and had already given me a card and fancy chocolates early that morning.  (Ph keeps bringing me sweets and desserts . . .  is he trying to fatten me up? make me sweeter?) 

My first thought: Were the flowers from a secret admirer? How exciting would that be?? Or were they cancer flowers? You know, some charity organization, like Flowers for Middle-Aged Breast Cancer Patients (FFMABCP?) And what does one do with mystery flowers? Leave them at the office to wither while I'm out for 5 days, or take them home and have to explain them?  Inside the box, there were tulips, my favorite flower, so the sender obviously knew me.  I didn't see a card initially, and was contemplatiing the statistical probability of various possible senders, when I found the card . .  the tulips were from my lovely daughter!!  Flowers from my little girl--what could be more heartwarming?  I texted a photo of the flowers to her and said they are gorgeous, and so is she.  (She coincidentally received the same flowers from her guy). Years ago, during law school I think, I spent several days in NYC, and stayed in Gramercy Park with my dear Aunt S, an artist/art teacher, where she had lived since, at least 1950, in a rent control apartment that was "huge," by NY standards.  I brought her flowers and she commented, with her artistic flair "You don't need to bring me flowers. You are a flower!"  Lovely daughgter: You don't need to send me flowers. You are a flower!  But I am touched and delighted that you did!

Now the heart(s)--I only had a few hours in my office on Thursday, following out of town meetings and travel, was stressed and rushed to Dr. S's office just barely in time for them to draw my blood and get a lab report.  The surprising news was that my blood counts had dropped even lower since last week, so despite getting "the shot" last week, and another one on Thursday, I was told I need a blood transfusion. WHAT??  Another one of those "am I suddenly on Mars? moments."  I attempted to tell the nurse that I feel fine, I mean I'm not as tired as I should be with counts that low, I mean I'm exhausted right now, but its because I just had 2 days of travel, board meetings, several nights with only 4 hours of sleep, (including staying up til 4 am to prepare for a meeting with health officials of a Latin American country . .  and unbeknownst to me, the meeting was held in Spanish, and my limited communication skills: Buenas Dias, uno mas vino tinto and donde as el bano would not get me very far in this meeting, and was very stressful . . . . I said  this far less eloquently than even this lame attempt at writing it, and tried to apologize to Chemo room nurse K; . . .  she said--"You're not making sense because you're not getting enough oxygen to your brain.  Or to your heart for that matter, and there are risks of a heart atack.  Most people with levels this low would not have enough energy to be walking around.  Dr. S says you must get this transfusion ASAP."

Yes, m'am.  (And note to self: what if the Latin American regulations are published and all they address is red wine and finding a bathroom??)

So I was immediately scheduled for "type and cross" on Friday, which to me sounds like a London tube station--and a 5-hour blood transfusion on Saturday,  at Suburban Hospital.  There goes the weekend.

So, I'm bummed about the blood counts and transfusion, but the flowers make me so happy I could cry.

Happy Belated V-Day everyone!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

"Hi, how are you?"  What do I say to that?

I love the train.  It's comfy and gives me uninterrupted time.  And, like today, I can run into old friends, colleagues, bosses.  I dashed for a good seat in the quiet car, one away from my current colleagues, where I could shut out the world for a bit, and work, read, and think en route to 24 hours of meetings.  In my dash, I saw two former colleagues -- not just any old colleagues -- but two of the top dogs, including one of the name partners who opened the doors of the healthcare boutique law firm where I worked from 1986-1998, a good long time.  I cut my teeth at that firm, learned strategy, policy, lobbying, the ways of Washington, and how to lunch at the Bombay Club.  Ah, the pre-austerity good old days!

I was delighted to see him, and he asked, as one does in normal conversation, "How are you?"  So, rather than saying, "fine," or "oh, ok, but I have stage 4 cancer," the following dialogue transpired:
Me:  "Good!  Just yesterday I started a blog.  I'll send you the link."
He:  "A blog?  Really?  What's it about?"  (He is even older than I am, so he does not expect everyone to blog, tweet, etc.)
Me: ""
He:  "Oh..."
Me:  (interrupting) "But I'm going to be okay, really. I am."  (Note:  will write future post about comforting others when I share my cancer news.")
He:  "What are you taking?"
Me:  "Well, in the first round, I had T, A, & C.  Now I get C & G."
He:   "We worked on [getting FDA approval of] all of those.
Me:  "I know.  I remember."

Having worked in healthcare, on the regulatory aspects of various medications, including cancer drugs, certainly puts me in a different spot than most people.  So, yes, I know more than the average bear.  But when it comes down to it, I'm just another patient, with crazy stuff happening in my body, stuff that is not visible to the naked eye.  I look like everyone else (well, maybe better dressed and coiffed than most, but I pretty much fit into the crowd.)  There is no flashing warning sign.  So, when people I haven't seen for a few months ask, in normal polite conversation, "How are you," I am pretty damn open and honest, but really, that minor exchange does not generally warrant a detailed medical update.  But I also don't feel sincere saying, "Great?" So, I often go with, "I'm ok" or "Not bad, how are you?"  Some people are astute and pick up that something is a little off, and say, "Just okay?  What's up?"  Then I can spill the short version or long version or just refer them to my blog, which is a nice new option and shortcuts the conversation.  (Note to self:  Maybe I need business cards with my blog address on them, rather than writing it on scraps of paper.)

And then there was the guy I saw at the bar during our reception -- someone I see at these meetings -- and I said, "Hi, how are you?"  He replied, while gulping down a few peanuts, "Good, thanks," then walked away.  And that was all I needed to know.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Maybe possibly hopefully . . halfway through?

I have completed three cycles of chemotherapy.  Each cycle (not to be confused by a "round", of course) consists of:

  • day 1: a chemo cocktail mix of 2 drugs, some anti-nausea meds, a bit of steroids, all infused through my port
  • days 2-3, energy boost from steroids (as one BFF says, "Sandi on steroids is like . . . Sandi on steroids . . eg, on both phones, sipping a latte, while asking the waiter a detailed question about the menu, sending an email, talking to BFF, and refreshing my lip gloss
  • days 2-6, some tummy aches, ward off with various OTC and prescription meds; whine a little bit
  • day 8: one of the two chemo drugs infused again, with the same chasers
  • day 9: a follow-up shot, subQ, to boost white blood cell count
  • days 12-15: jolts of bone pain from activity of boosting white blood cell production in my bone marrow; seek to manage with OTC and prescription meds; whine a lot.
  • days 16-20: live normal life, nothing special to report usually
  • day 21= day 1, and we start all over again . . .
So, of course, I am very anxious to continue this regimen!  No kidding--I really am.

February 19, just about a week from now, will be a big day.  I am scheduled for a catscan.  No petscan this time, as apparently insurance providers prefer the specific feline scan to the more open-ended possibility of various household animals. 

On this red letter day, I will drink a contrast agent in the morning (that by then I will have picked up from Sibley hospital. I dont know if they offer different flavors or not; have not seen a menu of any sort.)   I am also allowed to eat and drink regular people food that day--I am SO delighted when a test is not a fasting one.   Im craving pancakes already!  After the scan at Sibley Hospital, I will meet with Dr. S to find out the results.  I'm really really glad I will be able to meet with him and discuss the results immediately--otherwise, I have no idea how I would sleep that night. (or frankly, how I sleep at night now . .  oh, I know how--not very well!)

So, essentially in a week-ish, I will know whether/how well the chemo is working.  Signs of less cancer, smaller spots of cancer, cancer being driven kicking and screaming from my body will all be very welcome.  And would mean continuing the lovely regimen listed above, for another three cycles.   Signs of more cancer, no change in the level of cancer, or other such nastiness will likely lead to a Plan B.  And no, I dont mean the morning after pill.  I guess there's also a possibility that the tests will be somewhat inconclusive.  As we know, so much of life is not black and white, and many decisions must be made in shades of grey.

All crossing of fingers, praying for healing, sending of good karma is much appreciated.

Stay tuned. 

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

A Shot in the Arm!

In the last week or so, I began to feel signs and symptoms of a lower red blood cell count.  Who but a non-chemo virgin would notice such a thing?? In the past, I may have just thought I was tired, or getting out of shape, or getting a cold or something . . .

The first indication was during a workout with Super-Trainer T.  We are close friends (I love this woman!) and so we talk the whole time during my once-a week-ish weight training session.  By we, I guess I mean, I talk the whole time--after all, a lot happens in a week! And there's only so much that even a Perfect Husband wants to hear.  But on this day, talking while lifting weights was not going so well.  In the few days that followed, I also noticed myself getting winded, even during power-shopping with my lovely daughter in Georgetown.  Power shopping does require energy and fous, but it is not exactly an extreme sport.  For some in my weekly boot camp workout class, my inability to talk and workout simulateously might be a benefit, but not for me.

Like the cancer nerd I am, I had saved all of my lab slips from 2010, and this year, so I made a chart.  Like the non-techie that I am, it is on paper with ink, not an excel spreadsheet.  But it very clearly shows the ups & downs of my white blood cells, hemoglobin, hematocrit, and platelets.  I knew enough to suspect the inability to power talk and power walk simulataneoulsy was not a Gerry Ford-type problem, but likely a drop in the hemos and hemas--i.e., my red blood cell count.

My next visit to Dr. S confirmed my suspicions with actual lab results--in fact showing that my blood counts now--after three cycles of treatment--are lower than they were at the very end of treatment in 2010.  The possibility of underlying anemia was ruled out, concluding it is chemo-related.  Again, that non-virgin chemo patient status rears its ugly head--feed me, feed me! 

In fact, Dr. S quickly decided to feed me with a supercharged biotech drug that boosts red blood cell production.  It is a subcutaneous shot indicated for use when red blood cell counts are lowered, within a certain range (and not to be confused with the other "shot" to boost white blood cell production.  Let's keep those colors sdtraight!  This is an appropriate use of this treatment--so hopefully I will regain the ability to walk, talk, workout, and power shop, in various combinations.  No, I will not be vying for a top finish in the Tour de France.  Just in case you were wondering.