Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Fuck 50; Here's the Truth Part I

Along with Louboutin and Hermes, I had the Sony Handycam in tow for my Nov 5 checkup with Schwartz.

I wanted the detailed DL on my case, and on bigger points as well, including the 40 vs 35 debate. Why am I not up in arms about the 50 year old thing? Well, here's the thing people: I'm a journalist. I know how the sausages are made. Briefly, here's how it goes. A leading publication/news show produces this story. It gets a HUGE reaction. The other networks/publications scramble to keep up with the Joneses. "Shit, the editor/producer says, NBC's share was huge last night. Reporter X write this story up NOW. Before the other ones get it."

Think about the saturation of ridiculous stories of late: "Balloon Boy," "Octomom," Jon and Kate and all this other 'news' that's really no news at all. It's the same thing with this. Studies and stories like this spiral out of control and cause mass fear because the media picks up the story, then the Cancer orgs are forced to spend more money on PR to take a stand against these ridiculous stories. Anyway, what I'm saying is just chill out a little. As this interview proves, the 50 thing is nothing new!! I hope at least one of you will get a mammogram or a BRCA test after this post. I really, truly do. xxoo

Int. Schwartz’s office, Mom and I bickering over who will hold the camera. I win—she gets to hold it. Meaning the mic is really far away from Schwartz who is very soft spoken.

“You’re waiting on the bloodwork, right?”

“Nope,” Schwartz says, “It’s done.”

Mom: “Oh, goooood!”

“We’re not worried that the bloodwork will be thrown off by this.”

He starts talking about the side-effects, and how that’s what he was concerned about after being on the meds for a month. Then I begin to realize we’re not on the same page.

“So how much did my blood levels (sic) improve?”

"Oh, you’re talking about your marker? [CA 15-3 tumor marker bloodwork]. No, I don’t have that yet.”

“Oh, that’s what I was talking about.”

“No what I have now is the CBC . . . Have you felt any new ones? [nodes].”

“Okay, it’s just hard for me you know, I’m not a doctor; I don’t know what everything is supposed to feel like.”

Mom keeps whispering, “That’s good. That’s good.” I have no idea ‘what’s good’ or why she’s whispering. Maybe that's her mantra. I like mine from a Wiccan High Preistess better.

Schwartz brings a tape measure out.

Oooh! So I can just measure this with my own tape measure?" Hello psycho obsessive control freak! Welcome back!

Mom: “Oh no, don’t tell her that.” Lol.

In the meantime I have to say that my boobs look damn good on camera.

“Okay so regarding me and the self exams. Like, what am I looking for?”

“I have to tell you that you’re going to be here every three or four weeks for a blood count check and to adjust the dose. So it’s [the progress/success of meds] probably going to be appreciated by me before you. The only thing that could change that is if you see a new spot.”

I was confused about how the same form of Breast Ca could return when I have no tissue in my boobies. I asked if it were possible that they didn’t gut me enough.

So, here’s a key bit of info, I think: “You recurred in the internal mammary nodes. And that’s an area they don’t remove.” So we have to worry about internal nodes like those under the sternum. Which we cannot physically feel. Cancer is the ultimate lurker.

“So, the course of treatment for me if things are going well, is just these pills indefinitely?”

“What I’d like to do, if things are going well after a certain amount of months is drop the Xeloda and continue with the Tykerb . . .”

“Is that safe though?”

“Yes, well we don’t have to make the decision now; see the Xeloda has cumulative side-effects. . .”

Blah, blah, skin side-effects, which include, as I learned last week, sensitive, painful soles of your feet. Yum. Tolerable though. Who the hellcan’t tolerate a little foot pain? Oh, wait, non-New Yorkers who don’t walk miles in Manolos? Hey dad—looks like my “you’re going to regret wearing all those dumb Manolos and Choos when you’re older and have bunions” stilettos may pay off!

Assuming the disease is under control, I may be able to drop the chemo and stick with the Tykerb, aka, Super Herceptin.

“Okay, continue on with my protocol.”

He says he can continue to up the Xeloda dosage until I can’t deal with the side-effects. Shit, bring it on—he knows I must have everything! Oh, wait, Wally—we’re not in Neiman’s anymore? Wants me to come in every three or four weeks until we can determine that everything is ‘working.’

Here’s where I make a yucky face and actually use air quotes: “So ‘working’ means shrinking the tumors or keeping them at bay?”

Keep in mind that I’m in full makeup, hair and jewelry. (Including my Talismans, the most prominent of which is a thick red string around my neck Brother brought me from India. It looks pretty ridiculous against my naked body.) So I’m sitting on his doctah chair with my robe open exposing the girls and my fat-rolls.

“Either is possible, I’d rather it shrink them.”

“Shrink them into non-existence?”

Schwartz: “So, ‘non-existence’ means a complete remission. No evidence of Cancer.”

“Okay, lemme ask you: Was I ever in remission?”

You were 'technically' in remission but in reality you weren’t.”

“'Technically' because I was on chemo.”

“Right, and you had no evidence of Cancer. [Gauged by the frequent CA 15-3 bloodwork].”

“So I was in remission from Feb 2008 [date of mastectomy] to whenever this came back.” A year and a half. Less because I was on the Herceptin after I finished chemo.

“So your opinion—if I remember last time correctly cause I was on so many Xanax—is that the Herceptin was keeping this shit down. Do you think there was any stuff [Cancer cells] still in there or it just came back as soon as soon as the Herceptin left my system?”

“I hope it came back after it left your system.”

“I’m a fairly unusual case because of everything I did and how fast it came back right? Don't you think I should be studied?” I ask deadpan, then smile and get my first laugh out of him for the day.

(Laughing) “I mean, I don’t know how you go about that.”

“Well if my case is unusual enough to where the point that . . . I don’t know, like, ‘why me,’ not like, ‘Why Me God? but—"

“No I understand.”

Hey BRCA ladies who are debating on chopping them off—listen up!

“I did every fucking thing prophylactically. You know what I mean? I would be dead. Right? I mean I would be like a goner.”

“I would imagine.” It's interesting how freely I talk about my own death in realistic terms. To be honest, I've never been afraid of 'death.' To me that's like being afraid of the sun setting. It's gonna happen. It is what it is.

“This Tykerb? Super Herceptin? Same formula?”

“Works on two receptors so it’s a double blocker.” Coolio. We like having more than one of things.

Next I go into 'overscreening' myself. Because I choose to. Because I insist on it. Because the whole freaking Cancer Center knows me by now and knows that I'll keep bugging them and 'popping in' till I get what I want. Sometimes I do pop-ins on Schwartz; it's easier than going through/relying on the call staff for messages. And he always, always takes the time to answer my questions, no matter how paranoid or over the top they are.

“And you’re okay if I do the sonogram just for peace of mind."

“Yeah, I’m okay with it.”