Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Chemo-schemo

My how time flies! Two days ago I had my fourth and final chemo session. whoohoo!

Here's a pic of my favorite nurse, Leah Bail
ey, who's taken such good care of me throughout the chemo sessions. (She's even hired me to do her big fancy cake for her 40th bday this w/e!)



Of course, my friends, and soon-to-be roomies, Christa and Andie made the last one fun...even though Christa won at chemo-scrabble!


The time between the third and fourth was almost uneventful, with the exception of a wicked full body hive break-out that remains a mystery. Thankfully, my team at UCLA got me in to see a dermatologist right away, who put me on Prednisone. It was like a miracle drug...hives were gone in a day!

SOOOO much has been going on in my increasingly blessed life that I could write for sure more than you'd probably care to read. A few highlights: the bakery is getting off the ground (see the website! www.thebutterend.com), my friend Kevin is renting out his Venice house to me and my friends for a fraction of what I pay now, so I'm moving a few blocks over, and I've been asked to work on some new projects as an actor. wow. Shoot, I even had two dates last week. I haven't had two dates in one week in years...hair or not!

Coming back home for a visit to do my buddy Kirsten's wedding cake in May. I'll be home from May 3-18, so if anyone's up for a visit in the NY/NJ/PA area...give a shout!!!

After I get back from NY, I'll get ready for the last big event in the healing, which is the replacement of the expander implant with the permanent implant. That will probably be in June. After that, two small cosmetic procedures will take care of crafting a new nippie, and then...I'm done!

It just isn't possible to explain how much you all mean to me. This crazy joy that has taken over me is a product of the wake-up call and unending stream of love from you.

oh boy, I'm a lucky girl.

love you to pieces!!!!

xoxoxo

Kimberly


Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Three down, One to go!

Lounging in the chemo lounge.....

Yesterday was the third of four chemo treatments....which means that three weeks from now, I am DONE with chemo! yayyyyy!!!!

The session went really well...after th
e bumbling nurse who jammed the needled 'through' my vein, instead of into it, quickly picked up on my look of displeasure at her, and fetched a phlebotomist who sorted me out with an IV quickly and painlessly...phew! Aside from a colorful bruise to show for the miss, I have had not had any issues from this round.

To celebrate, Martha and I went out last night to get our dance on at The Brig on Abbot Kinney....They have the best live band on Tuesday nights!

And, today I felt so good that I played volleyball on the beach for two and a half hours before going in for my Neulasta shot. Of course, my favorite nurse "Barcode" aka: Marvin, gave it to me without a hitch.

Monday night a company mate from West Coast Ensemble suggested that I think about putting up "Wit" at our theater....what a great idea! I picked up the play again yesterday. Haven't read it in ten years. It sure would be great to dig into such a rich play, chronicling the last months of a professor dying of cancer in England. hmmm...

In the meantime, I've been working hard on getting my bakery off the ground! Looks like the name will be Random Tuesday Bakery. Stay tuned!

As always, I conclude with my complete gratitude for your continued love and support. It's clearly the reason that this journey continues to be as bearable as it's been.

love love love ~


Monday, March 9, 2009

Baldie...and a visit from Dad

OK, so I'm really not very good at keeping up on the blog so much...sorry! Happily, it's cause I'm feeling so great, that I'm out and about living life, and not on the computer. ;)


The most touching thing happened a few days ago when I went to get my head shaved by Camille, a third generation barber from Lebanon. Sweetest guy you'd ever want next to you with a four inch long razor. I told him how I used to go to the barber shop with my Dad when I was a little girl. The old-school kind with the leather strap on the side of the chair. It was strange being the one in the chair with warm lather on my head!


After some soft-spoken encouragement and gospel from this kind barber/preacher, he finished up my shave with some sort of potion followed by a talc powder...both of which brought tears to my eyes. Not because they stung, but because they smelled EXACTLY like my father. It was like he was visiting me, reassuring me.

After my dad died, I used to bury my face in his cap, inhaling his scent, so I remember it well.

On the way to the car, which was two doors down, I just started laughing. Turns out, my car was parked directly in front of "George's Coffee Shop". Martha asked why I was laughing. My Dad's name was George, I told her. He really was with me that day.

On the health front, my oncologist told me that if it weren't for my bald head, she'd think that I was given the placebo, not chemo. I guess that means I'm doing pretty good! She didn't even take blood this time....no need she said.

Two down, and two to go. Next one is two weeks from tomorrow.

Yesterday I played volleyball for the first time in three months. I thought maybe I'd play one token game and just hang out on the beach with my friends. Well, turns out, I felt really good, so I played like five games! (alternating sitting out games for rest.)

So, posts will likely become fewer as I leave this in the dust. I'll continue to blog to let you know about anything of interest relative to doctor visits and such. In the meantime, I'm working on cakes daily to get some mad fondant skills so I can build a business for my bald self!

Continued gratitude for all the love and support. I credit your love for my good fortune and resilience through this journey.

xoxoxoK




Monday, March 2, 2009

Halfway there!


OK. So here's the deal...this is going to be brief...turns out...I left my charger at the "chemo lounge" and I'm running on 3% battery power! The session went super smooth, and I feel just as great as I did this morning before I left the house! Martha met me there halfway through and followed me home. We even had a glass of wine over lunch!

Tomorrow I go in for the Nulasta shot. Hopefully it won't be any more of a bother that it was last time.

Saturday night all of my hair fell out. The faux-hawk is gone! booo! Now, I'm thinking I might have a future in Blue Man Group. Whadya think?


More tomorrow...after I retrieve my charger!!! ;)
love love love

Friday, February 20, 2009

I AM NOT MY HAIR!

Thanks to India Arie and Robin Roberts, I have a perfect soundtrack to one more transformational event in this journey. Two days ago my hair started to fall out. I didn't want to wait for it to fall out in clumps, so I called my stylist, Cece. I asked her to donate her time so I could donate my hair to Pantene Beautiful Lengths. (they make real hair wigs and provide them for free to women with cancer) Cece was AMAZING...she not only offered her time, but couldn't have been more lovely and supportive. With my buddy Martha right there with me, documenting the fun occasion, Cece gave me perhaps the coolest cut ever! Instead of making it a sad day, they made me feel like a rock star!

So that y'all could feel like you were there with me, I put together this little diddy of the before, during and afters. It's my first whack at making a movie on my mac...Spielberg I ain't!

Yesterday I had another wonderful experience at the Wellness Community. They team up with the American Cancer Society (ACS) to teach women how to care for their skin, face and bald domes during chemo. In addition to a demo, we all got incredibly generous bags full of fancy-schmancy cosmetics donated by companies like Chanel, Lancome and Clinique! So, I put my new make-up to use this morning and put my face on in honor of my new buzz!

Tomorrow I'm going to try to play tennis for the first time. It'll be my first time exercising in over two months....I can't wait!

All's good, and I'm absolutely loving life.... And all of you who are reading this:)

kisses for everybody!!!!


video

Friday, February 13, 2009

I have limbs

Recently I found myself starting to focus on the things that I can't do ~ now, and in the coming months. Oh, I'm going to be bald, so I shouldn't submit myself for jobs.....or oh, I may not know how I'm going to feel after chemo, so I shouldn't make plans...whoa is me, whoa is me.... The 'big questions' started to rain down, and the answers either weren't coming, or I didn't like them much.

THEN, I remembered a brief video that was sent to me by my friend, Nik. The video is of a young Australian man, Nick Vujicic. Nick was born with no arms and no legs. He just has a little 'flipper', a sort of deformed foot. Other than that, he's a torso...and a handsome one at that!

I went back to YouTube and watched some videos of Nick again this week. The biggest lesson? Focus on everything that is right, and not on what is wrong. Ahhhh, the simple lesson. Here's why it hit home...When Nick was eight, he wanted to kill himself. He started to think of all the things that he wouldn't be able to do in his life. He couldn't dance, hold hands, get married, play sports, etc, etc. Then, he looked in the mirror and noticed that he had beautiful eyes. He focused on his eyes, and how handsome he was! From that moment on, he learned to focus exclusively on everything, no matter how small, that was right and good and special about him, and eliminate thoughts on what he couldn't do.

Now Nick is a motivational speaker around the world. He went to college, makes a shit ton of money and changes people's lives. Oh, he also swims, lives on his own, and is mean on the putting green.

This little guy has changed my week, and perhaps, hopefully, given me a gift of perspective that I'll carry with me for the rest of my life. My life is great. I am blessed. Instead of focusing on who won't want me now, the auditions that I can't go out on, the fear of the future, I now focus on all of the wonderful qualities I've been blessed with. Today I woke up filled with Joy. Even before my diagnosis, I can't say that I remember the last time I felt pure Joy. Nothing has changed this week, other than perspective.

See for yourself the gift that made me write this post:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v4uG2kSdd-4&feature=related

It's just one of about sixty videos on YouTube you can check out - from 4 mins to 30. Watch and I dare you to bitch about anything in your life!

I love you. Thanks for letting me share.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

So ya say you want a notification?

I was under the impression, along with most of you who've signed on as 'followers' (how creepy is that word, anyway?!) of this blog that when I publish a new post, you'd get an email notification letting you know it's out there. Welllllll.....turns out, not so much.

I have learned how to make this work, but I just want to check in with you to see if you want that to happen, before I put you on 'the list'. Long story short, if you want to get an email letting you know a new post is here to read, lemme know....shoot a comment out here, send me an email, text, smoke signal...somethin'... and I'll make it happen :)

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

All good!

Five days since chemo and four since Nulasta, and today I feel totally like myself again...physically and mentally. Yay! It was an action-packed week with visitors, chemo, and the dreaded shot. I think I may have underestimated the emotional toll of it all, as well as some of the side effects that I pushed through.

Those side effects, thankfully, were totally bearable! The Nulasta shot, rumored to hurt even when getting it, was painless. My favorite nurse, who I've nick-named "Barcode" gave me the shot. Barcode is a short, bald guy with tattoos all over who looks like a gang-banger. He has a barcode on the back of his neck, which I particularly like, hence his name. I think his real name is Marvin. Mean looking, but couldn't be sweeter. He spent several minutes warming the syringe with his hands so the injection would be comfortable. Awwww, how cute is that?!

Saturday and Sunday I had some lower back and hip pain that made me feel really old and crickety - but not in a fancy Benjamin Button kinda way. Equally uncomfortable was constipation and bloating that I could've really done with without. That said, if a few days of annoying side effects are all I have to deal with, then I consider myself awfully lucky and will remain grateful. Even the dreaded mouth sores that were supposed to show up didn't. I think that's a result of daily loading up on L-Lysine, which came not from a recommendation of Oncology, but from a patient of Pookie's, who just finished chemo.

Yesterday I had a follow up with my oncologist. She said I'm doing great, and that I shouldn't have any more issues til my next round. I can expect to lose my hair by the end of February. Supposedly my scalp will start to tingle or hurt when that happens.

On another happy note, I booked a small role in an indie film yesterday! It's the only audition that I went out for since my diagnosis. It's a funny, character role that'll be a lot of fun. When the producer called me, I had to tell her that by the shoot date on teh 28th, I may very well be bald, and have to wear a wig. She couldn't have been sweeter and more understanding...she said scarf, wig or bald, she's just glad to have me in the project! It's nice to have something to look forward to working on. Tomorrow I'll call to see if I can schedule my next round to be two days after the shoot date, not two days before.

The only other dr's appt that I have before the next round of chemo is with my plastic surgeon, Dr. Crisera. He's going to shoot my boob up with some more saline in the expander to better match the right side. Pump up the volume, doc!

I hope to be able to exercise by next week. So, if you are reading this, and you are in CA, give a call if you want to hit some tennis balls!

As always, I can't really tell you how much your support means to me. I am so lucky to be loved like this!

xoxoxoxoxoK


Thursday, February 5, 2009

One down, three to go...


Thanks so much for remembering that today was my first chemo. I appreciate all of the calls and emails!

Two of my most favorite people came with me to the session, Pookie and Martha. We had the most fun chemo cube in the joint! We played Scrabble and laughed. See the scrabble intensity on the two of them! ;)

Thankfully, the actual treatment didn't hurt. It was pretty interesting during the "pre-treatment" drug drip, when they gave me Benadryl and a bunch of other things. The Benadryl has a side effect of sleepiness. I could feel it affect my head, and my tongue felt like it was on a time delay long-distance call...about a second behind my thoughts. It was kinda funny.

After the first drip, which took a half hour, they started the Taxotere. After that, the Cytoxan. All said, we were there for four hours, and Pookie kicked our butts at Scrabble. He's king of the triple word score.

I ate popsicles and ice cubes throughout the session, and have been loading up on Lysine, in hopes to stave off mouth sores.

Tomorrow I go back to get a shot of Nulasta, a drug that strikes fear in people, cause it is supposed to make your bones hurt like a bitch. Of course, as with most side effects, this happens to some people, and not to others. I'm planning on being 'one of the others.' I have to get one of these shots the day following each chemo treatment.

Nulasta spurs growth in bone marrow, which stimulates rapid production of white blood cells. This altering of the rate of white cell creation causes the bone pain. Oh, and the shot itself is not supposed to be much fun, either. The reason for this is that chemo kills off a ton of white blood cells, and you need them to fight off infection during treatment. I'm going to load up on Advil and weed cookies to get me through the next few weeks. (and the 5 other drugs that they gave me, as needed)

Emotionally, this week has been a toughie. After giving it some thought, I think it might have something to do with some sort of confirmation that comes with each treament step along the way that I actually have cancer. Maybe it's some kind of delayed reality check. It's not that I'm any more scared of it, but some other demons have been creeping up. It's like a cauldron of ingredients that are swirling around. On an average day, you deal with each ingredient that goes bad. When everything else is weighing on you, and you feel vulnerable, it makes dealing more challenging.

That said, today was a really good day, and I feel back to my normal self. It was a happy day, and I feel terribly loved. And I thank you so much for that. Really.

More soon...

love love love love love K


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Another good follow up visit today

Hi everybody! Happy Obama Day! whoohoo!

After sharing the swearing in of Obama with my friends over breakfast, I went to see Dr. Chang for a follow up. She was amazed at how good the reconstruction looks, and how quickly I'm recovering. yay!

She cleared me to start mild arm exercises to regain my range of motion by the end of January. I can also start chemo the first week of February.

I'm looking forward to starting chemo so that I can get it over with! Dr. Chang confirmed that not only will the hair on my head fall out, but so will my eyebrows and eyelashes. I thought that this was the case, but wasn't sure. That part I'm not so much looking forward to. With the size of my dome, being completely bald isn't going to be so cute!

I was told about a program sponsored by Pantene which provides wigs made from real human hair to women with cancer. If you are interested in donating long hair to this cause, you can check it out: www.beautifullenghts.com
Tomorrow I'm going to contact the American Cancer Society to see if I can receive one of these wigs. If not, I'm just going to rock some scarves for a while.

Mom left on Sunday, since I can drive on my own now. Life is getting back to normal, and I feel great. As always, I have to say a huge THANK YOU for your continued love and support.

kiss kiss love love

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Figures...my tumor is stubborn, too!

On the heels of yesterday's great news, I had my first consultation with my oncologist today. She's younger than me! I actually like that. Glad to have a progressive, young doctor.

She took a lot of time to explain the four different kinds of cancer that are all called 'breast cancer'. I didn't know that. Turns out, all of them have different traits, and are all treated differently.

The super short Cliff's notes on the situation is that my type of cancer is called a "triple negative". This type of cancer doesn't respond to any other therapy other than chemo. So, I'll have to have chemo. Good news is that it will only be four cycles, not six. While it is a stubborn kind of cancer, it is very responsive to chemo, and when it goes away, it tends to stay away.

So...I'm going to do everything I can to clean the slate and make sure that we zap any cells that may have settled down elsewhere in my body. My doctor explained that while my lymph nodes and margins tested clean, there is still a high enough chance that some cancer cells are still setting up shop in my body somewhere. Chemo will evict them.

She said that I'll definitely lose my hair, which honestly doesn't bother me much. She also told me that I'll have a greater than 50/50 chance of keeping my period. yay!

Healing up nicely from the surgery, and enjoying the company of my friends that are swinging by.

LOVE LOVE LOVE!!!!!!


Monday, January 12, 2009

WHOOHOO!!!!

Wicked good news today from my doctor...ALL TESTS WERE NEGATIVE!!! YAYYYYY!!! All three lymph nodes were negative, and the margine testing was negative. This means that the cancer didn't spread! again...YAYYYYYY!!!!

I'm waiting for an appointment with my oncologist in the coming days to discuss chemotherapy and my options. If the prognosis isn't much different, then I think I may explore alternative options so that I don't go into early menopause. Of course, I'm not going to mess around with this thing, so I'll put my health first. I want to make sure that it is away, and STAYS away!

Still on track to get the drain out this Friday. Surely I'll feel like a million bucks then!

Drain and all, I am amazed at how good I feel. Yesterday I went to the farmer's market for a half hour with my mom and friend, Goga. Gotta eat your beets, you know!

Today is my first Tylenol-free day. Other than discomfort, I'm not in pain. It's kinda crazy to contemplate how radical this surgery was, and to be up and about the way I am now. It's awesome.

Thank you again for all the love. Really. It's overwhelming. I look forward to healing up so I can give each of you a big bear hug when I see you ;) XOXOXO

Saturday, January 10, 2009

So far, so good!

It's three days after my mastectomy. Honestly, the worst part of the hospital stay was that they kept waking me up...and I'm cranky in the morning. OK, well, the one time when the four hot plastic surgery residents came in wasn't the worst way to be woken up.

Yeah, taking off of my breast kinda sucks. I'm not underestimating that. But, by the time I got to the hospital, I had already made peace with that. It simply is a shitty, but necessary, part of this process. The ability of the mind to come to terms with this sort of thing is remarkable.

Of course, last night when my dressing came off, seeing my boob for the first time was still a shocker. I just wasn't ready to look at it yet. I don't know when I thought I'd be ready, but it wasn't at that moment. I was sad and scared. I look like Frankenstein. Yes, I keep reminding myself that the reconstruction has a long way to go, but it's still shocking to see yourself mutilated. I miss my nipple!!

Turns out, the drain that is coming out of me was causing so much irritation where it was laying against my skin that it caused blistering. This made for a rough night's sleep. It'll feel a million times better when the drain comes out this Friday.

I haven't used one of the pain pills that they sent home with me. Haven't needed them. I'm not trying to be tough and all...it's just that Tylenol has been fine. It's much more manageable than I imagined.

Trying to be good and stay still, like I'm supposed to. Mom's seeing to that. Sweet thing is helping me with every little thing.

Fighting going batty from boredom.

Lots of you are wondering about the test results. I don't know yet. They did a bunch of tests the day of the surgery, but the results aren't in yet. Honestly, I'm in no rush to know. It's weird...I just want to focus on healing from my surgery. Step one. I don't want to worry about the unknown. They'll call me at some point this week, I guess. Then I'll meet with the oncologist and work out the path for the chemo treatments.

Keep the prayers coming that it hasn't spread, and I promise to put a post out here as soon as I find out ~ one way or the other.

In the meantime, I continue to be humbled by the love being sent my way. I believe 100% that it has made the difference in my ability to handle this mentally and physically. Thank you. Again. And, if it isn't too much to ask...please keep it coming!

LOVE! LOVE! LOVE! xok






Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Say goodbye to my little friend...

In T-minus 7 hours, Dr Chang is going to have at it. (why do they say T-Minus when counting?) While I get can my head around the reconstruction of the boob, I'm starting to seriously mourn the loss of my nipple. Yup, that's what I'm thinking about right now.

Mom flew out tonight. She's sleeping on an air bed in front of me now. For some reason, I'm just not sleepy. Huh.

They moved my surgery up to 8:30am. Have to be at the hospital in 5 hours.

Yesterday and today were full of fun activities at the hospital. Yeah...not so much. Let me catch you up:

I thought yesterday was tough...that was until today....when a really sweet Dr. Xu stuck four (that's FOUR) needles full of radioactive liquid around my nipple. For fuck's sake! GAH! That really hurt. I like to think I'm a toughie, but this was just not right. This nuclear stuff then seeps into my lymphatic system, and an hour and a half later, they take a few pictures in this massive machine. The picture is supposed to tell the surgeon tomorrow morning where to aim for the node or nodes of choice. It's all very sci fi. What's more...the surgeon actually takes a wand to this area tomorrow...and it will beep where the radioactive stuff is concentrated...kind of a guide. Again I say, sci fi.

Yesterday I just had to drink two jars of white sludge in preparation for the CT Scans. When I turned the corner into the waiting room to drink this crap, a cup full every ten minutes, I was greeted by several obviously sick people. A woman with a head scarf, an old man with a surgical mask on his face. That was kind of an eye opener. These people are SICK! I'm not sick!! Isn't there a room for the people who just have this crazy diagnosis but aren't sick?
It's too much. (I say that a lot lately).

It must have been obvious to these veteran hospital-goers that I was a newbie to the CT lounge. They all chuckled and welcomed me to the 'bar', and asked what flavor my sludge was. I just got all frat house on it and chugged it. Berry flavor, by the way. In the event you should ever have to go through this CT process, I don't recommend chugging it. Turns out, your body may not like you very much...let's just leave it at that.

So, after tomorrow, the combination of all these tests and the biopsy of the lymph nodes will tell them if it's spread. Still the only thing that scares me.

With a boat load of stuff to do in preparation for tomorrow, I may not have had the time to adequately respond to the TON of emails, texts, letters, pressies, care packages and phone calls that I've received this week. I promise that each and every message and prayer is living in my heart and giving me comfort and courage. I'm taking you all with me in the morning. I feel sooooo loved. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. I love you right back. More than my puny vocabulary could possibly describe.

Will be in the hospital for one night only (yay!) then resting at home under the care of mom and my lovely lovely friends. Please feel free to call if you like. If I'm not up for it at that moment, I'll just ring you back when I can. XOXOXO