Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Been a Long Time; Lots of News

The contractors are out. Finally. They did a beautiful job. I promise; pictures soon. We (or should I say I) still have alot of touch-up painting, organizing the mess that came from shifting storage, and decorating the rooms.

Let's see, I left off with the parathyroid hormone (PTH) test being normal. I saw the oncologist today for follow-up, and my fatigue and pain/ache symptoms are getting more severe. Adding nausea in now too.

Onc said that although my PTH tested normal, that was technically high because with my calcium level, the PTH should be zero. He had blood drawn to redo those tests. He also sent me for a chest CT scan to check for lung cancer. I'm not too concerned about that because if there's anything there, it would be fairly new. My last chest CT scan 5 months ago was clear.

Onc said he thinks it is my parathyroid. My appointment with an endochronologist is around Thanksgiving. I already am in the process of trying to get an appointment for a second opinion from a thyroidologist (a thyroid specialist) in Baltimore. I'm having trouble connecting with that office.

Onc said no to going back onto Tamoxifen (the estrogen suppressor) right now. He said that he wants to get this calcium thing taken care of first.

I went to a Wellness Community program tonight on advanced (metastatic) breast cancer. The oncologist giving the presentation, Dr. David Biggs, said something that struck home. He said that Tamoxifen does not directly cause cognitive dysfunction. However, he said it can exacerbate cognitive dysfunction in patients with clinical depression. My psychiatrist has never mentioned this, even though he knows my problems with Tamoxifen. Might he be clueless?

Oh, yes, the onc also said my bone scan showed trouble with my left temporo-mandibular joint (TMJ)--the joint where the mandible (the lower jaw) joins the temporal bone of the skull, immediately in front of the ear on each side of the head. I didn't ask for details, but that doesn't surprise me. I have had TMJ problems for years (used to wear a splint) and with this current problem with the swollen lymph node in my neck, the TMJ on that side has really flared up.

As for that lymph node, my GP also said it was inflammatory and that I should take Ibuprofen. I am, and that helps. GP also ordered an ultrasound of the neck, and there was nothing remarkable found.

I had my baseline colonoscopy about twelve days ago. The prep really made me sick. I was the queen bitch when I got to the clinic. I wanted no pleasantries at all. I was really scared about going under anesthesia and then finding a problem when I woke up. Shades of my February implant surgery.

I had the infusion of Zometa, the biphosphate, since my last post. I had trouble when the needle came out; it's like I went into shock and couldn't speak because of the intense pain. Very strange. Felt like it lasted about 2 minutes. The Zometa perked me right up, but its effects only lasted about 3 days.

A week ago Friday Jim and I drove to Baltimore to see the new plastic surgeon. It was a hard trip--long, we got lost, and there was a road closure (both directions) on Route 40. Dr. Chang is very gentle and appears very competent. My objective of another surgery was to have the scar tissue on my right side debulked and to have the solitary silicone implant on my left side removed. That seemed to me the easiest approach to return mobility to my radiation-damaged right side while making me symmetrical.

Not so, says Dr. Chang. The only way to return mobility is a skin and fatty tissue graft. Using cadaver-donated tissue is not an option. He must take skin (with the underlying fatty tissue to provide blood supply to the skin) from another part of my body. Preferably my belly. No muscle tissue will be harvested. There is a 96-97% chance that I will regain about 80% of my mobility.

To achieve symmetry, he would remove the left side implant and graft there as well. The result would be a small breast mound on both sides. The surgery will take 7 hours, followed by a 2-hour contouring surgery a few months later. The first surgery will involve 3 days in the hospital; the second is outpatient. The first surgery has an 8 week recovery period, and removes an oval-shaped piece of skin and fatty tissue from my navel to the top of my pelvic bone, from hip to hip.

I was sent home with a CD of before and after pictures to consider. I will be given contact info of a few patients with circumstances similar to mine. We scheduled the 1st surgery for May. That gives me 7 months to fatten up my tummy with nightly bowls of ice cream.

On the dental front, my dentist filed a claim for adjunctive dental care because of my cavities. I got the denial letter today. We expected that. The dentist had saved his "big guns" for an appeal. I am really glad he is working with me on this. He seems really committed to trying to push the envelope on what is dental v. medical care.

I am taking this a day at a time. Right now, there seems no way to plan my life. I have found someone (hopefully) to take over writing the book I was working on when I was diagnosed. Getting the disability checks has stopped the hemorrhaging from my savings, although it will continue to trickle down until Jim sells his condo and "buys into" the mortgage and utility payments. I also need to carve out the time (and brain) to sit down and go through the proposals the Fidelity financial planner gave me for restructuring and managing my retirement portfolio.

I think that's about it. Another dental appointment this week; hopefully the last for a couple of months. The dental work so far has been about $4,500. Jim's 67th birthday is on Friday, October 27. The cats get a vet visit that day. Ennis has been giving me trouble for about a week with his insulin. He's been getting preshot levels in the low 200s, rather than the low 100s I had gotten used to, so he may have an infection brewing. I have never started Lily on her meds for chronic renal failure (CRF) because she is so very bad about meds, won't eat wet food, and won't eat pill pockets. She also seems to have lost some weight. I did change her to a lower phosphorus dry food. Jim said he would go to the vet with me; a birthday road trip!!

Take care, all!!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Seems like you are getting things done. I am so glad the SS checks are finally coming. Take care talk to you later.