The Tough Conversations We Have

Just a word of warning, should you choose to proceed: this blog post will be somewhat graphic and cover the content of reproduction in scientific, biological and emotional facets.  But I assure you, whether you’re male or female, single, dating or married, with or without children, this will pertain to you–or someone you love–somehow.

I realize that yet another great expanse of time has gone by since the last post, and I can go through all the lines of why that is (work, work, work, wedding planning, family in town, I’m lazy, it’s not as exciting to write when the potential for vomit has decreased…) but the truth is, I just don’t want to write this blog.

I promised to be honest because I know that every human faces their own struggles in life and somewhere along the lines this site and one or many of the posts will pertain to you–we can all connect on so many levels and in so many ways.  Yet this topic is just so tragically difficult for me.  It is fraught with confusion and decisions that must be made which quite literally are life or death: my life or death or the chance to create another life.  So many “or’s,” when do I get the “and’s”?  My life and another one.

To back us up a little bit… I am in a committed relationship to Mr. Sean Sultan and we will be married in Maui on October 27th.  We are registered on Amazon.  Oh, there’s that east coast sarcasm again!  And, well, while we love our dog Scupper very much and hope to have twenty more on a huge property like Cesar Milan, I’d also like to produce a small human (yes, a baby) as well.  Just one.  Once upon a time maybe I wanted more but I think I’ve bartered and pleaded my way down to just please let us have one.

Pre-cancer, I was happy to assume these things would be determined in time and that I would not have to be in a rush to determine when and how a family would appear in our lives.  We were happily gliding on the dating-get-married-when-we’re-ready-maybe-buy-a-house-some-day-talk-about-the-kids-thing-later cloud.  And then, of course, we all know what happened.  Cancer was dumped in our laps and with the threat of chemo potentially taking away any and all chances for kids, we had to look at things abruptly and make some harsh decisions.

You see, friends, chemo forces the body to go into survival mode and while many of you know this means no more hair shall grow and the stomach lining shall remove itself with dramatic force (as the body purifies itself of all toxins and focuses all minute energy gleaned from the small amounts of food that make it in and stay in on survival), it also means that that if we aint usin’ it, we losin’ it.  To spell it out for you: this body is unfit for babies and thus shall not have a menstrual cycle.  Depending on a woman’s age, my period would come back or be gone forever.  How I wish the Doctors had a better answer for me there!

I started chemo in June, had an IUD (ladies know what that is; guys, you can google that for your knowledge) placed around that time and had my last period in July.  As much as we all think PMS and menstruation sucks and is annoying–painful, inconvenient, requires us to buy embarrassing boxes of materials and unusual amounts of cookies while the Safeway guy tries to pretend he hasn’t noticed…–it is kind of wonderful to know that as a woman we hold the best of the power of progeny.  Like, if we really wanted, we could create an entire HUMAN BEING (and I don’t mean to discount men on this, but really, how hard is it convince a man–ok, ok, some men–to… donate… if a lady was really set on this?).  So, I was pretty bummed to say bye to Aunt Flo because, truth be told, I felt a little less than.  I felt like that whole mystery-of-life opportunity was taken away from me and my fate of its return was unknown.  That coupled with my hair loss made me feel like less of a woman (thank God for nail polish and lip gloss!).

Fast forward to October and the end of really-super-tough chemo.  I fall into a holding pattern as I watch my hair slowly start to re-grow, my mouth hurts less, my stomach realizes that I will no longer be torturing is.  And all that time I’m just waiting for one more pre-chemo thing to come back.  And it doesn’t.

Until April.  (Oh, how you all held your breath on that one!)

And it came back with a vengeance!  It lasted an entire month.  But that makes sense, right?  I mean my body went on pause for nine months, it had a lot to say after that.  I hated it and I loved it all at the same time for everything it meant.  I could maybe have kids!  But it’s very frightening to have a period for a month and (gross part) a very heavy one at that.  I didn’t think a human being could lose that much blood and survive (you wanted honesty… I warned you!).

Of course, since cancer has made me a hypochondriac in some ways, I called my OB/GYN and went right in.  I will take a moment right here to tell you that I do not accept anything less than getting seen and/or tested within two or three days anymore.  None of the “machine’s broken” or “we’re all booked.”  Oh, hell no; refer me out, fix the machine, make time but I am coming in to be seen by a Doctor!  Shit, I got a life to live and damned if anyone is going to tell me my priorities aren’t important.

I ended up with a wonderful gynecologist Dr. Rogers, who is very kind and sweet and understanding.  I had blood work done and everything was normal and then I had my uterus looked at (enough said).  And she determined that the uterine lining was indeed very thick and that this much bleeding was normal after so long, that I could let it run its course which should be one to two more weeks (a little less than 4 weeks total).  If it got worse I was to call right away.  The other option, which is normally used, is progesterone by birth control pills to chemically balance everything but that is not something a hormonally-based cancer can handle so I had to stay clear of that.

She also found something else.

Because when can I ever just get through one thing–cancer–and let the universe finally say, “ok, that’s it, we just wanted you to pass that ONE challenge test and you did it all and now we’re done.”

Each of my ovaries has a cyst.

Holyshitareyoufuckingkiddingme?  ENOUGH ALREADY, UNIVERSE!  I PLAN TO HAVE CHILDREN.  STOP TRYING TO TELL ME NO.  I’VE DONE EVERYTHING YOU WANT, WHEN ARE YOU GOING TO LEAVE ME BE?

So I had an ultrasound to look at the uterus, ovaries and cysts (which involved drinking 48 ounces of water, and feeling like I would pee the table, just so my bladder was full and they could see the cysts better; f-ing tests…).  Then I got the results.

This was the phone message from Dr. Rogers: “Everything looks normal!  Have a good day!”

WTF?  When are newly-occurring cysts on the ovaries of a breast cancer patient who wants to have kids NORMAL?

After a long game of phone tag, reassurance from my chemo nurse (still every three weeks until July) that cysts are normal, I finally spoke with my doctor.  “Your cysts are 2.4 cm and 2.6 cm which is a little bigger than usual.  Call us when you get your period next and we’ll be able to look at them and tell more from there.”

That’s not the same as “normal”!  Normal is a terrible word, Doctors.  Normal is a joke.  Cast it from your vocabulary.  Stupid normal.

Where are we at now?

I’m awaiting a call from my oncologist to hear if there is a potential correlation between Tamoxifen and ovarian cysts (lord knows I’d love to stop taking that crap BUT it’s potentially improving my chances of survival).

I’m awaiting the triumphant return of Aunt Flo for round 2 post-chemo (BUT cysts on the ovaries can mean irregular cycles and thus the calendar will be useless in determining when this will be).

And I still don’t know what’s going to happen with having kids.  I thought I had made great strides with my oncologist when he had told me new studies indicate that tamoxifen is effective for 7 years, instead of the previous 5 years, and I had nearly cried and said, “but I want kids!” to which he finally replied that yes, well, life does go on and that chemo was my best bet; tamoxifen was just an added benefit.  I thought we were finally edging away from drugs-drugs-must-take-drugs-through-all-your-best-reproductive-years and towards a happy have-a-baby-sooner scenario.  Yet here we go again.  All the ups-and-downs of this particular part of cancer are the hardest part.  I would do chemo over and over if I was just given the chance to have a child and be alive to see that child grow up.  But to have to choose…

Every Doctor says the obvious choice is my life, that that is most important.  Because if I’m not around I won’t get to see that child grow up.  But as a scientist, this absolutely baffles me.  That line of logic is completely backwards.  All living things–for the most part–are programmed to do three things: 1) eat; 2) seek shelter; 3) reproduce.  That’s how extinction is avoided!  To tell me that my survival is more important that producing a child goes against what I believe to be one of the reasons I exist.  I think they call that maternal instinct… though it may be an extreme analysis of it.  🙂

I think about this every day.  Most of the time I stay busy with work and wedding things or reading and watching tv and hanging with my boys.  But I always come back to this drive and desire to have a family; it’s what I should be focusing on at my age.  I’m just waiting to take the next steps and see what the medical community has to say and see what my body has to say and see what time has to say.  I’m trying to finish chemo (July) and take a much-needed vacation (September) and plan a wedding (October) and fuel a career (always).  But through it all, there’s always the baby question…

And the answer isn’t here yet.

Because if the answer is that I can’t have kids, well, then, I’m too stubborn to listen.  And the universe should know that by now 😉

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Catching Cancer

Dear friends, we need some good news so here we have it… madam liver has checked out as cancer-free.  For now.  I know, I know, just stay with the positive.  But I can’t help but be cautious in receiving good news.  (Buzz kill?  Too soon?  Too soon?)

Yesterday was ultrasound day, with bro Erik and sis-in-law Lisa, the Doctors (multiple this time, they must be realizing not to F around with this, knowing my “reaction” and “interest”) looked over the images and determined that my lumpy liver is not cancerous.  And we’ll be checking back in 3 months.  Just to, you know, check, make sure it stays non-cancerous.

I think maybe my freak out helped.  Here’s my sound and logical reasoning.  Cancer is like the scene from one of the Jackass movies in which the giant floury hand slaps unknowing victims in the face as they walk through a door.  Every time I think things look good, I walk through the door and cancer slaps me in the face with a dose of bad news (also called “shit” or in the analogy, flour).  This time, I ran around and used the other doorway and screamed in cancers ear or I just told everyone else about cancer’s trickery: and it didn’t have a chance to face-slap me.  We beat it to the punch, so deflated sad little cancer moped off with its tail between its legs.

Until 3 months from now and they tell me cancer found an “in” to the liver party.

You can never be too sure with this stuff, but I will enjoy our victory cancer slap for now.

Now, I know you’ve all been wondering, “Gosh, how did Serena catch cancer anyway?”

And I know it’s not dengue fever or the plague or what’s that one from rats?  Anyway, we know it’s not defined as “catch-able” or as those pesky smart people call it “transmittable.”

Cancer has become the disease of our generation; more people are studying cancer in its various forms than ever before (see how I made that sound like a fact?  But if you really think about it, I didn’t commit a time to “ever” and of course more people are probably studying it because there simply are more people on the planet.  Genius, I know, the things I sneak in here).  Regardless, it’s probably true.  Everyone either has it, has had it, knows a close relative who has/had it, or at least knows a friend of a friend who has/had it.  Because of that, more Doctors are motivated to study it, learn about it, and try to get rid of it.

But how do you get rid of something if you cannot trace its origins?  We can treat the symptoms and we can try to kill the cells that have become cancer but how do we prevent cancer from forming?  Finding out that last part is likely impossible.

Let’s go through my day and/or life and see where I may have “picked up” my DNA-disrupters:

~I wake up: I am sleeping in flame resistant chemically-covered materials, anything from my mattress to my mattress pad to pillows to bedding is smothered in this stuff.  (GO WATCH Call of the Killer Whale, it is shocking how many chemicals we pick up daily that end up stored in our body fat over our lifetimes).  We seem to find a link between chemicals and cancer; but regardless, it just doesn’t feel normal.

~I pet my dog: He wears Frontline to protect him (and his human counterparts) from flea and tick infestation and disease.  More chemicals.

~I put my feet down on carpet: FLAME-RETARDANT!  Think of your kids crawling around on that.  Now go invest in wood flooring.

~I’m in the bathroom: most of my lovely well-marketed HABA (HeAlth and BeAuty for anyone who didn’t get to work in a big convenience store growing up) products are likely to contain parabens… linked to cancer!  Go read your products, folks.  Not only are all of those ingredients hard to read, they are likely made in a factory.  Look for anything that specifically says “[unknown word] parabens.”  Some places where we (yes, it became a family event after mom read an article, and Sean, mom and I were reading til we were disgusted) found parabens: sunscreen (I use that every day in Maui!), my Ponds face cream (used intermittently), hand lotion (work in ocean = use copiously).  I stopped reading labels; ignorance is bliss (for seven to ten minutes).  We are slowly swapping out products in an attempt to adjust and embrace a non-cancer-causing life.  In this day and age, it’s not easy.  (Sunscreen for babies tends to be paraben-free… I use Ocean Potion, and I’m happy to say that I’ve used it for a while not knowing it was paraben-free.  Phew, we can’t blame my cancer on recent suncreen usage!  But then the question of skin cancer comes up when finding a sunscreen.  Lesser of two evils?  Jury’s out).

~Breakfast time: Shall I have some fertilizer and pesticides with my fruits and highly-processed breads, cereals, and other toaster strudel-y goodies?  How about a delicious bowl of cancer?  Now, I’m furthering myself from processed foods as much as possible (I’ve never even eaten a Toaster Strudel or is it Toaster’s Strudel?).  But it is HARD.  Monsanto owns everything.  No, really, they do (go get that Facebook list or Google it).  Everything we eat—or the TV tells us to eat—is processed, canned, boxed, frozen, genetically modified.  Have you seen an ad recently for apples?  No, me neither (maybe because I don’t have cable but I would guess there are none and I would want it to be an organic apple anyway).  Somehow is it cheaper to create all the chemicals as food additives than to literally just eat an apple pesticide-free.  To me, this is counter-intuitive even though I can come up with some of the places it gets pricey to “go organic” (like if the genetically-modified lab-created Giant Apple Wasp kills off your harvest; and, no, that’s not a real creature, I made that up for the show, I mean, blog).  Let’s go back to the “old ways;” I’d like some pre-industrial revolution foods at cost-effective prices.  Why is that so difficult?!  But how would Monsanto feed the masses?!  PRAY TELL!  [insert dramatic music]

~And what’s in my water…?  That’s a whole other bog, chapter, book, made-for-TV movie.

~Clean the counter: what chemicals are lurking under my sink?  Time to convert to vinegar-water for cleaning everything.  And that ant spray and ant chalk and ant cups we have!  I swear, the island of Maui is one giant ant hill in which the ants are sent on patrol to every home to scavenge for crumbs to bring back town to their thriving metropolis below my home that is part of an entire ant planet down there!  There are so many ants and I would like them dead (yes, environmentalists, ants in my kitchen have crossed the line; they shall suffer death).  Is ant killer carcinogenic?  Why not?!

~Walk outside: the gardeners spray pesticides.

~Walk the dog: That car driving by could have asbestos brakes (I have asbestos brakes) that flake off with every tap to the brakes.  The exhaust fumes from that beat up ol’ piece of shitnanigans we’re breathing in.  Cancer-causing?  Wouldn’t be hard to believe.

~Get in the car: Love that new car smell?  Breathe it deeply every time?  Why, that’s the smell of TOXINS!  Glues melting, leathers leaching.  Windows down, air out the car.  Every time.  Even in winter in Massachusetts.  I suppose it’s a blessing in disguise I could never buy a truly new car.  There is an article in the Raw Foods Bible about this phenomenon.  Should we leave the fact that they make a car air freshener that is called “new car smell” to another time?  Yes, yes.

~Get out of the car and cry: here is the cliff notes on the rest of those questionable materials… paving tar, chemtrails (Wikipedia it since it’s still considered a “conspiracy theory” brought to us generously from our government–and probably Monsanto… don’t shut me down, Big Brother, I never committed to it’s existence here… nor do I doubt its possibility.  Ok, ignore the hole I’ve dug and leave my blog alone.  Love you, thanks!), pesticides for highway weeds (drove by that yesterday), lighter fluid, second-hand cigarette smoke, cell phones (we’re all screwed, I give up).

If you look hard enough, you can find cancer everywhere.  It can become a psychosis.

So I thought about what caused my cancer for a few days and then I accepted the realization that I will probably never know.  And I can’t go through life wondering at every little product.  Plus, I already caught cancer!

It may even be genetic.  I go to Oahu tomorrow to begin testing to find out if I have BRCA1 and/or BRCA2, the genes linked to breast cancer (only found to be linked to about 10% of breast cancers… about 80% are UNKNOWN, or see above list for potential causes).

By the way, BRCA does not actually stand for “BReast CAncer,” as it would make too much sense and most science prefers to be above the average human brain.  It actually stands for where the gene was discovered: BeRkeley, CaliforniA (Ok, maybe they did mean the CA beginning of “California” but I want to overemphasize the ridiculousness of this naming).  That’s kind of dumb.  Can’t we just be laymen about this and say it’s named for the obvious?  Or you should have named the gene(s) more cleverly; you are scientists after all.  Ah, I see, there may have been creativity lacking in that lab.  (Sorry to tease you, and thank you for your hard work).

At the end of the day, cancer is a mutation in the DNA, namely in my DNA.  And we have no freaking idea how that happens.

The worst part is that we can fix some of the decisions the industrial-revolution and that thing called “progress” has led us to, where we made chemicals that have turned out to be bad news, but it takes time, it’s costly and that word called “change” and that other phrase called “stop eating processed foods” scare people.

I’m going to leak a little story.  TMZ-style, folks.  And sorry if it’s not ready for public knowledge but I believe in it.  And it needs some more press, since not enough kids these days know about PBS.  It’s about a little story Mr. Jean-Michel Cousteau (son of Jacques, don’t tell me you had to Google that name) is filming in Oakland, CA about how all these useless fish bones from a processing plant don’t have to be thrown away in the trash anymore.  They can actually mix them in with the dirt in Oakland.  Why does this Oakland community even need fish bones, you ask?  Oh, because they have terrible problem with LEAD contamination.  It’s in everything and it’s making them sick.  They used to have a harbor that was filled in to become a community and all the lead from boats was in the ground; mixing fish bones in neutralizes it.  Ah, one man’s trash can be another man’s LIFE-SAVING IDEA!

That’s all the details I have for now, just enough to peak your interest.  I imagine it will be playing on PBS, but feel free to check out the Ocean Futures Society web site (www.oceanfutures.org).

This is just one example of how we can right our wrongs and get away from some anti-environment and anti-human health decisions we as a society have made over the years.  It’s just hard when the collective whole cannot embrace it because all the money-holders will not embrace it and make it affordable and main-stream.  But I have run out of steam for that can of worms.

Has anyone recently read the ingredients and been surprised when you actually know what all of the ingredients are?!

I have.  That’s sad.  We are too comfortable picking up an item and not knowing what we’re about to consume or slather on.

And some say we’re lucky to even have the FDA requiring the listing of ingredients!  IF WE ATE NATURAL FOODS, WE WOULDN’T NEED THE LIST!  Can a salted potato chip please just be A SALTED POTATO CHIP?!  Ingredients: potato, oil, salt.  Enough said!

I am going to end with the last bit that could be considered associated with everything above, and that is close to my heart: babies, babies, babies!

A lot of these cancerous connections also factor into reproductive challenges.  Whether it’s chemicals causing cancer that cause reproductive issues or chemicals directly causing reproductive issues.  Brain pain?  Sorry.  Read slowly.

I worked in California and assisted with a study on Horny Head Turbot fish.  See, they lived near the waste-water treatment outfall pipe in SoCal (yeah, I used that term, deal with it!) and scientists were finding that all of the hormones we ladies pee out from our birth control pills were changing the manly boy fish into LADY FISH.  Now, some fish can handle sex changes—it’s actually more common than you’d think—but this was unnatural change for this species.  The number of ladies would outweigh the number of dudes; more eggs, less sperm, no future turbot fish!

What have we done to our world?!

This forced sex change—and even sterility as a result—has been found with many frog species too (another pat on the PBS specials’ back!  Nerd it up, my friends, nerd it up.  Knowledge is power).

As for me, I cried at the Gyno’s office until she finally listened to what I was saying (part of it at least) and am going through hormone testing (too much information?  Wait til I tell you about my exam!  Just kidding).

She also started the appointment off with, “you cannot have babies for seven years.”  Oh, we’ll see, Doc.  Maybe I wont do everything that is suggested.  (**Seven years comes from 1 year chemo, 5 years hormone therapy, 2 years waiting… no science behind the 2 years reasoning, could do 0 years hormone treatment or 2 years hormones would also help a bit; could say F it all; could lose my mind).

Man, I’m tired.

Now, you have a lot to think about, huh?  Do not fear your kitchen and bathroom.  Grab that product by the plastic (*another issue for later) and read its ingredients!  And then go get the Burt’s Bees that matches (face wash for face wash, shampoo for shampoo) and feel the weight of chemical dependence lift off of you.

Nuts and Bolts

Subtitle: “The Et Cetera Shop”

(that’s actually a real place, or used to be, in New Hampshire, so I will protect the assumed title rights and not use it as a true title in my blog)

Lets rip this band-aid off right now and just get the bad news out of the way.  And don’t hide from the words “bad news.”  We’ve done this before; just another layer of the onion.

I had an echocardiogram and a CT (Cat) scan to check my organs as part of proceeding with treatment options, making sure every thing else functions, and to kill time while touring the medical system and playing in their machinery.  Experience is the teacher, right?  Sounds familiar…  My heart and lungs and everything checked out just fine… except for madam liver.

It seems that my liver has “what appear to be cysts,” not verbatim to what I was told by my health care team but pretty darn close.  Remember the last time I had “what appears to be a cyst”?  It’s now the reason that I have a piece of plastic and rubber for a right boob.

So pardon me for freaking out, googling, and coming to my own plausible conclusion that maybe I could have fucking liver cancer too.

Sharp intake of breath.

Before we all over-react, read the rest of my story (and then we just have to wait for actual scientific legitimate results).

I googled and found that the first listed symptom is “losing weight without trying.”  Well, last year around this time I went in to Kaiser to use my health insurance one last time for OBGYN fun before I went up to Washington to play with orcas.  The nurse did the usual height and weight and looked up shockingly from my chart to say, “You’ve lost ten pounds, is everything OK?  Is that normal for you?”  Nope.  I don’t own a scale so I would never notice and, sure, clothes may fit differently but that just means shopping for new clothes, which is acceptable to me.  And never enough to where I was worried.  Oh, and I’m sorry if this just pisses anyone off but I’ve never been too focused on my weight except all those times people said to me “you’re so skinny” or “you’re so skinny!”  I know people think it’s a compliment but does anyone think, “oh, your so plump” is a compliment?  I didn’t think so.  Have you every wondered if maybe I wished I wasn’t so skinny?  Yeah, body image issues go both ways, folks (sorry if I just slapped you on the wrist; I got it out and I think we’re all cool now).  But I could come up with twenty excuses, musings and thoughts as to why I lost weight… sweating my body weight out through work in the hot Maui sun, going from partying around the Maui bars to pretty much one glass of booze a week (no lie; this isn’t like when you tell your Doctor, “oh, I’m a casual drinker” when really you sling back three glasses a night five nights a week, which is your little secret, our little secret) since dating man-friend, gradually ceasing surfing and losing muscle mass.  It all sounds reasonable but her comment continued to nag on me this whole year.

Back to current times, what did I do with this new information?  I finally called back and gave them the “Look, man” speech, recognizing that I know they probably hate when patients Google shit but that I still had my genuine concerns.  And I appreciate that you probably don’t want to freak me out by introducing the word “tumor” but I’m too smart for that (Google told me so).  Tumor is definitely a possibility in my professional well-researched opinion (Ok, I’m basing it on my past experience with the word “cyst” mostly).

The oncologist nurse read word for word from the report, mentioning it could be “mangiomas” or two small cysts.  She reassured me that I should be optimistic and hopeful (is that scientific?) that maybe this really is all it is; 5% of the population has these things, it’s normal.

My surgeon, Dr. Gambhir, must have gotten wind of my freak out (the power of the computers to connect these different departments, just when I thought they didn’t share info!) and called me to give me the more spelled-out science of it: a hemangioma (pardon the spelling, I haven’t googled this yet but she said it like our favorite hero: “HE-MAN-gioma) is like a blood blister on the liver and we are born with them; they are on my right side (yay, more specific info = more believable for my science brain & not treating my like I can’t follow your diagnoses).  There were also many tiny dots on my liver that appear to be cysts or other hemangiomas.  Great.

I’m buying it for now, with heaps of hope.  But I’m maintaining a level of dignity through realism: I don’t need this building block shit of “tell the patient there’s something but keep it in best-case scenario format and work up from there.”  I want you to tell me the sliding scale of good to worse of what it could be so that I am prepared.  To me, that’s different.  I hate the hope of “looks like this” but “oh wait it’s not that at all; it’s waaaayyyy worse.”

I’ve since researched my liver more.  Found a list of liver-kind foods to focus on (I have a pretty healthy lifestyle so I’m mostly already there).  I have “The Raw Foods Bible” by Craig Sommers which I find scientifically very interesting.  It has a liver cleanse that seems harmless—maybe a little gross—but we’ll see (I know, we don’t want to shock my system).  And to let the looming liver cancer gods know what’s up, I’ve had a beer a day for a few days!  I gotta keep exercising that organ, don’s want to shock it with a booze-free existence!  Plus, I’m still trying to put on the LBs.

And I do want you to know another thing that the oncologist’s nurse mentioned: my weight loss could be a symptom of my breast cancer.

I’m crossing my fingers so hard right now.

My mental approach—as alluded to in how I want Doctors to deal with me—is that if it is cancer, it’s already there.  I can’t do anything to change that.  So like with my boob, we’re just going on from here, towards treatment and improvement.  And I sincerely hope it’s just like the Doctors are saying/hoping, that it’s just cysts.

But with my track record, when is it ever “just cysts”?

And now the band-aid has been ripped off; let us move on to some more nuts and bolts that will make this a smorgasbord of updates.

The CT scan made me almost shit my pants.

Yes, we’re in full disclosure mode here.  I know, you didn’t see that one coming!  Sweet.  I did warn you day one about grossness.

Yup, those drinks are pretty disgusting not because they taste bad—berry flavor is A OK—but because I think on another level, my body knows that shit ain’t normal.  Or digestible.  And it really just wants it OUT.  I know because it 100% told me so [insert gross visual for yourself here].

I asked the tech if it’s supposed to, “clean me out.”  He chuckled and said no but that it does that to some people.  He also said that the CT machine likes chubbier people (ok, maybe he said fat people, but that was between him and I) and that the MRI likes skinnier people.  HAHA.  Well, I hate them MRI machine!  So how does that work?!  And obviously the MRI hated me that one time… (I’m eluding the previous blog “A Bad F-ing Day” in case you’re lost).  Now the CT and the MRI machines and I do not get along?  I was not cut out for being a cancer patient.

And here’s the kicker: since my liver came back questionable, they told me to get an MRI!  Oh, it gets better.  I called to schedule my MRI (I’m always proactive in my medical appointments now because Kaiser has a bad track record with me—and probably many others—of conveniently forgetting to tell me they’ve made an appointment or making one on a day when I fly to Oahu or just plain not making the call to set up the appointment) and they asked a few preliminary questions.  Such as, do I have any implants.  Why, yes, I do!  ERROR ERROR!  We cannot perform an MRI on you because of the giant metal magnet in your boob.  This is like a double-edged sword (is that the right phrase?).  On the one side, NO EVIL MRI!  Yay, winning.  But on the other hand, shit, no clear visual answers about madam liver’s bumpy coating.

Next step: I have an appointment to have an ultrasound.  And, halt again: last time we used the ultrasound on my cystically tumored or tumorically cysted breast, the results were confusingly inconclusive.

So, ultrasound machine, we shall meet again.  Bring you’re A game and give me some damn answers about my liver!  No fucking around this time!

Well, we’ve covered nearly shitting my pants; let’s move on to stinky pits.

This has been a recurring theme ever since mom came out to Maui and threw away my Aluminum-based toxic deodorant that actually at least worked.  I have this thing about smells: I hate bad smells.  It’s really not that complex.  I must have an amazing sense of smell (maybe I’m what’s known in the beer and wine tasting industry as a “super taster.”  Career shift?  Chemo, please don’t kill my taste buds).  Sean has assured me in my quest for nice-smelling armpits, that I don’t stink, but I know I do!   I can smell me even if no one else does; it really irks me.  It’s a personal personal hygiene pet peeve.

I have sampled many deodorants.  No really, look.  Some people collect baseball cards or stamps; I collect deodorants.

Let’s go through the list of what I’ve tried so I can help you.  (And big thanks to a care package from Boston for providing half of the assortment!):

1)    Alba Botanica in “Lavender”: smells nice in the container, pits feel sticky, smell last maybe 2 hours

2)    Tom’s of Maine in “Maine Woodspice” (technically, this is Sean’s): smells great—woodsy and manly, I will borrow it cause it actually works, but I’m still seeking something more feminine and that lasts; doesn’t smell so manly that I would shy away from it.

3)    Tom’s of Maine in “beautiful earth”:  I ordered this on-line seeking another Tom’s that wasn’t apricot (the usual available in-store on-island ladies scent) and thought “I wonder what a beautiful earth smells like?  Floral?  Linen?  A nice breeze?”  It smells like apricot.  I don’t want to smell edible, and I’m stinky again after 2 hours.

4)    Tom’s of Maine in “refreshing lemongrass”: Love the smell!  Stinky after 2 hours, sticky feeling at first.  Hard lessons learned on Tom’s of Maine deodorant products.

5)    Trader Joes unscented deodorant with Cotton: obviously imported from the mainland since we have no TJs in Hawaii (Dear TJs, I love you and you seem to love the hibiscus as your image which is our state flower, why are you not here?  It is unfair.), stinky after 2 hours.

6)    Jason in “purifying Tea Tree”: Ding ding ding, we have a winner!  This is potent enough to last!  And it smells good.  It feels like the tea tree oil is bitch-slapping my underarm bacteria (don’t act like you don’t have underarm bacteria!  You, with your mock disgust, have pit-teria!)

7)    Tom’s of Maine in “wild lavender”: I know, I know, not gonna work.  But as suggested, I just tried it before bed cause it smells pleasant, and I had no plans of running laps in my sleep.

8)    Arm and Hammer Essentials “Natural Deodorant”: Admittedly, haven’t tried it yet; gotta leave at least one for “hope.”

If you had a hard time getting through the results section of this research paper, in conclusion, I support JASON PURIFYING TEA TREE PURE NATURAL DEODORANT STICK.  Go out and buy yourself one.  If you tend to be less stinky than I may be, try one of the other more fun flavors.  And chuck all that other bad-for-you stuff.  It’s not worth it to take the risk even if we still have no idea where the F-bomb cancer comes from.

(Dear JASON, would you like to sponsor me?  I’ve already pinged you as the leader in armpit beautification.)

In other household change news, my cheap Walmart Good Buy brand dryer sheet have been tossed for the more environmental and health-conscious brand.  So many toxins in our world, so little time!  We’re all kicking ourselves in the butt for the wonderful things we invented over the years that we are now realizing will kill us; even if these products give us five more minutes of free time, are they actually shaving of five years of life in the end?  Dwell.  Discuss.

I got to do some normal person things this week, like touring Lahaina-town on a Segway!  Don’t worry, our first thoughts in seeing others on these were: Lame!  Doofus!  But then we got on them (for free through a buddy of Sean’s, always nice to have connections and mutual back scratching opportunities) and realized they are wicked fun!  No, really!  And I did actually get a stitch in my side (more water next time) from the bouncing, and low blood flow to the feet.  All embarrassing, I know.  But remember, still fun!

My big moment of I’m-still-living-my-chosen-life came when I successfully snorkeled at Kapalua Bay!  Post surgeries, I’ve had a hard time lifting my right arm comfortably and without pain (I tried to swim once too soon after surgery and semi-drowned but luckily I was in 4 feet of water and just had to put my feet down; full disclosure).  Snorkeling went very well, I could swim and move my arm and was able to realize I had more range of motion.  We saw eels (my favorite!) in crevices and cruising the sea floor (a bit uncommon to see them leave their cubby holes), a flying gurnard (that’s a rare but badass fish that sits on the bottom and has fins that spread out to look like wings).  It was wonderful to be back to my marine bio roots but bittersweet knowing that during chemo, I will probably be told to stay away from the ocean (I will have to stay away from the sun and with high bacteria counts in the ocean and my inevitable chemically-weakened immune system, I can guess what the recommendation will be about mother ocean).

I’ve been proudly taking phone calls again; sorry for the hiatus.  And know that if I take your phone call, it will likely be on speaker phone as I multi-task my way through this current life I lead.  Usually, I’m juicing orange-carrot juice with and without spinach (and whatever I find in the frig) and testing quinoa recipes with turmeric and peas (pretty good, needs more flavor; quinoa is tough, I must admit, but very healthy and very Aztec/Mayan-chic).

And lets not forget why we’re all here: to laugh.  I’ve currently been reading Tina Fey’s book, Bossypants.  That lady is awesome and hilarious.  I laugh or chuckle to every page, and I completely relate to so many parts of her life and her sense of humor.  Go out and get one (or add it to your iPad or Kindle) and we can read together.  And if you have read it, I haven’t gotten to this part yet, but two very important men in my life told me about a dark joke from Ms. Fey about a pedophile in the woods…