Update 101

December 26, 2008 - Still in the old year for recording but it will be in the New Year when this is posted so Happy New Year!

Nice Christmas, just Jennifer, Harold and I so it was quiet. Had enough food for an army so will be eating leftovers for awhile. I put up my Village tree as well as my regular tree and will include the photos at the end of the update.

December 29 2008 – Rita Reporter here. Time for yearly tests. I hate them and want them all at the same time. “She Who Cannot Be Pleased” is taking over my persona today. I hate them because I have to be injected with radioactive isotopes (lordy that even sounds scary!) or drink nasty stuff so they can see if the cancer has returned. I want them so I have visible proof that the cancer has not returned.  But it is depressing to have to go and get them since I know what they are looking for.  Especially since I get to do this for two days! Today is a full body bone scan. I am at home right now waiting for three hours to return to give the radioactive material time to circulate through my body.  I have had this test before and aside from the injection it is not too bad, just have to lay on a very narrow table for 30-40 minutes while this big ole’ machine rotates all around my body from head to toe.  Hardest part is getting up off the table after lying in one position for so long! However she gave me a caution this time that I have not had before – make sure I do not get any urine on my clothing. Well okay, did she think I was that messy??????????????  So I had to ask what would happen if I did………….seems that my urine is now radioactive (What! What? - Is it going to burn a hole in the fabric??? The answer is no, thank heavens!) and if even a dot gets on my clothing it will show up on the scan and could be seen as something else – not urine. Yikes!  I came home and took off my jeans and will change my undies before I go back to be absolutely sure we have no radioactive spots! Talk about taking up the whole day. I had to be there at 8:15 to fill out papers, then get my injection at 8:30 and be back there at 11:45.  Tomorrow I got for a CAT scan of my chest, abdomen and pelvis and have to drink a “shake” (yeah right!) tonight before I go to bed, take none of my diabetes medicine for three days as the stuff in the shake and the injection I get tomorrow morning will interfere with the medication. I have to go in a tube so had to get a Valium and a driver to take with me, Harold won this time. After that panic attack a couple of years ago getting the PET scan I simply cannot go into any kind of tube without sedation. Don’t like to have to take that medication but I really do have to have those tests.

December 30 – Good Heavens!  I am such a wuss!  Fearful Frieda and Stressful Stella were stuck to me like glue and I had a little meltdown yesterday afternoon and had a bit of a cry. I must say I did feel better after that, just the fact that I did acknowledge my fears. I stayed up last night until 2:00 a.m. until I finally got up the courage to drink the barium shake. I used a straw (put that down as a very good thing to do as it puts the nasty stuff way back in your throat and it is a fact that you drink more at one time with a straw) and tried to look at a magazine and pretend I was just reading. Yeah – that worked……………. The stuff was not as bad as I was expecting, sort of a thick coconut orange flavor with a bit of a bitter aftertaste. Finished that up went on to bed since I had to get up at 6:00 a.m. to get ready to go and have the dratted test. Harold drove me there, I took my Valium and they gave me another “shake” to drink. Who are they kidding with that “shake” stuff???????????????  I go to Steak and Shake when I want a “shake!”  Anyway………….I came armed with my straw so downed the shake fairly quickly. The Valium was beginning to work but not all the way and they called me in.  Drats!  Began to get edgy but was trying to control myself.  Then I saw the machine. Well………………….I remembered this machine, I had a CAT scan in it way back in 2003 when I was first diagnosed with breast cancer and they were checking to see if it had spread.  This machine is donut shaped, about three feet wide with a nice big opening and completely doable for someone who has panic attacks in an MRI!  Didn’t even need the Valium or a driver after all!  They took a blood sample to test for my Creatine level (liver function) as I am diabetic and had not had a blood test in the past two weeks and then hooked up an IV and injected more contrast solution. I didn’t feel anything at first and then it felt like I had to go to the bathroom for about three seconds and then nothing. In and out of the machine a bunch of times since they were doing chest, abdomen and pelvis. Then off I go, hopefully for another year. Harold took me to breakfast since I had not eaten or had anything but the two “shakes” since last night and by the time we were done I could feel that Valium really working well! I am pleased to know that next time I will not have to rely on a Valium to get me through and can drive myself and then go shopping afterwards! He took me home, I changed my clothes, got in my recliner with my comfy blanket and was asleep within ten minutes. I slept for hours!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  I am sure it was a combination of staying up late, the Valium and the stress.  After I woke up I watched TV all the rest of the afternoon and cuddled with one of the cats.  Felt nice to be Lazy Louise after being Fearful Frieda and Stressful Stella for the past few days.

An interesting note – I cannot take my diabetes medication (mine is oral) the day of the CAT scan and for 48 hours afterwards and no pain meds, even Tylenol, for 48 hours prior to and 48 hours after as they can interact with the barium solution in the injection. I will be eating low carb for a few days for sure and by Friday will be creaking around without my arthritis meds.  But hey – I am still here to complain about it, aren’t I!

I will go see my oncologist in a couple of weeks and will get the results and get to have another go round with Heebie Jeebie Helen Jean until after that appointment is over.

You know it is some kind of wonder that I am not Glowing Gloria from the radioactive isotopes and Floating Flora from all the liquids my poor body has been injected with but I must say I am feeling just fine at the moment!  I am making sure I drink lots of fluids to flush all that junk out!

Aside from the stress from the tests 2008 is ending on a pretty positive note for me.  Lots of interesting things happened in the past year and 2009 is looking good, too. Artist Annie is very happy. I am off to California for a huge trade show in a few weeks doing some calligraphy work for Speedball (pens and inks – in business since the 1899) and then my students will show up soon after I return for my first Art Experience of 2009 where they will stay with me for a whole week. The travel begins.  Just finished a collaborative magazine article with my art partner, SJ, for Glass Patterns Quarterly (stained glass industry) and that was fun. All my family are doing well, studio is doing great, I have an assistant, Heather, who helps me out and my garden is doing great. What more can I ask for?

December 31 – I am NOT a wuss! What a stupid thing to say! Never, ever let anyone (including your own dumb self) put you down for having fears about tests. I was glad to find out that the tests themselves were not so bad but that doesn’t change the reason I had to have them or that they are actively looking for any signs of a recurrence of cancer. I would have bitten someone’s head off if they had told me I was a wuss over those tests so what punishment can I give to myself????????????????  Must have been the drugs!!!!!!!!!!  I was tempted to go back and change that entry but I have made it a hard, fast rule never to do that because then the journals are not really true.  That is how I felt yesterday and this is how I feel today.  I am also very tired today.  I think it is still all those drugs in my system and the loss of sleep and the stress over the tests.  I am going to try and make it tonight until midnight so I can usher the New Year in but whooee……I am really sleepy right now and it is only 10:00.  Sleepy Selina might just win out this year.

I am also probably tired because Chef Cheri has been busy today.  She cleaned a ton of collard greens and boiled pounds of shrimp in preparation for tomorrow’s dinner.  We don’ t really do anything for New Year’s Eve, just stay home in my nice safe house but we have a good ole’ southern dinner on New Year’s Day. I am from Michigan and we really did not have a traditional dinner but Harold is from Alabama and you have to have fresh collard greens, black-eyed peas (you are supposed to use hog jowls as flavoring but I absolutely refuse to do that!) that you scoop up with a thin piece of raw onion (you are also supposed to put a dime in the peas and whoever gets it has good luck for the new year but the last time we did that tradition I got the dime and got breast cancer so Jennifer has axed that particular tradition!), pork roast,  peas and butter beans, and corn muffins.  I have added oven roasted potatoes and shrimp just because I like them! Okay, with that menu I think that Chef Cheri needs to be replaced with Home Cookin’ Hattie Mae!  Sounds much more in keeping with the chosen foods!  However, we will be having Brie en Croute with homemade Cranberry Chutney as an appetizer, key lime cheesecake and krusball/cocosball (Swedish treats) for dessert so maybe Bistro Bessie would be a better choice for the cook!

However you celebrate it – Happy New Year!

January 5 – I just finished writing to a friend of a friend who has had a recurrence of her breast cancer after ten years of being okay. She had asked my friend what my initial diagnoses were and my friend couldn’t remember so asked me to write her, and of course, I was glad to help in any way. It got me to thinking though, it has been a long while since that was discussed and I thought that maybe it would be a good thing to put that info here in case anyone else wondered but found it too daunting to try and find the info in the past updates. I know it was too daunting for me so I looked the info up in my documents!

So, here is a brief synopsis of all that information:

I was first diagnosed in 2003 with Stage III High Grade Invasive Intraductal Breast Adenocarcinoma in my left breast with none in the nine lymph nodes that were removed during surgery. Surgery also gave me clear margins when the tumor (2 x 1 x 1.5 cm) was removed. I was triple negative - estrogen/progesterone negative and HER2. Had a bilateral mastectomy with immediate reconstruction. I did four rounds of chemo three weeks apart. Very hard on my poor body.

My recurrence in 2005 was in the same breast in the small amount of breast tissue that is left from having a mastectomy. Because it was a recurrence it automatically was categorized as Stage IV. Again, Invasive Ductal Carcinoma. The consensus was that it was actually a new primary cancer and not a recurrence of the previous cancer but still called a recurrence since I had already had it once before. This one was 1.3 x 1.3 x 0.9 cm and a lumpectomy was performed, then testing showed that one lymph node was also cancerous and I did not have a clear margin so they went back in a week later and removed more tissue. I was also estrogen/progesterone negative again and this time was HER2 positive. My oncologist said that I was probably Her2 positive the last time but maybe right on the borderline and this time Herceptin had been approved for use in HER2 positive patients (would not have been available to e the first time if I had been classified as HER2 positive) so I did six months of tri-weekly chemo with Herceptin every week for 52 weeks and 33 rounds of IMRT radiation. I was able to travel and was really only inconvenienced in time and of course the dreaded tiredness and that Dreadful, Evil, Lucinda Faye with her gift of the horrid leg cramps. I guess I really should blame the Taxol but it doesn’t make as good a story!

For now, so far so good. It has been 3 years since my last recurrence. Just had those tests the full body bone scan and CAT scans of chest, abdomen and pelvis last week and will see my oncologist in a week or two. My oncologist said that he goes by the ten year mark and that even then that is no guarantee. So as you all know, Heebie Jeebie Helen Jean visits me every so often until I get a green light.

Putting your own needs first is not the same as putting everyone else’s last. If you are feeling underappreciated by others, treat yourself.

February 3 – Well……………tomorrow is my oncology appointment and for some reason I do not have the Heebie Jeebies!  Why is that, I wonder?  Do you think that Heebie Jeebie Helen Jean will be lying in wait for me in the morning??????????  I have my list of questions, my health update (what doctors I have seen since I saw my oncologist, what tests and their results, updated meds listing)my red rubber ball to squeeze on the way to the doctor in the morning to get my veins pumped up and I am quite calm. If all the test results are good and my blood work is good I may finally opt for going every six months instead of every four unless he thinks it better I go more often. 

I wonder if it is because a dear friend is having a biopsy tomorrow for suspected breast cancer and I am so sorry for her on one hand but on the other hand am so glad my appointment tomorrow is at the other end of the scale.  You can’t help but have mixed emotions on this. It is normal. It is the same as when I would tell someone I had breast cancer and you could tell they felt very badly for me but were so glad it wasn’t them.

February 8 – Well, it has been four days since I went to the oncologist and today is the first time I have been able to make myself write about it. Don’t be shocked – I did not get dreadful news but I have to go back and get another CAT scan of my right lung in three months because there is a place that they cannot identify. Doctor says most  likely it is scar tissue from when I had pneumonitis  from the radiation and coughed and coughed but……..it is in my right lung and the radiation was in my left lung. There is mild scarring which they expected but should not be so much in my right lung and he said he cannot take any chances with me so……………….back I go in three months for another test. All my blood work was fine, tumor markers showed nothing and the area in my lung is small. The report even said that metastatic disease is felt to be an unlikely possibility but recommend follow-up for comparison purposes.  So……..why did it take me so long to write? I have been battling fear and right now it has a hold of me and I figured now was the perfect time to write, not when I had it in check. Most of the time I can be reasonable and say to myself that it is probably scar tissue like he suspects.  But…………..what if it isn’t? And what about that crappy 1 % Club I belong to? And, please…………DO NOT, under any circumstances tell me to “think positively” or I will be “positive” I will have to kill you! The possibility of another recurrence is very real and “thinking positively” will not alter it one way or another, it will just irritate me! Like I said, most of the time I am fine but it is late at night and the fear sneaks in when you are least expecting it and then I cry.  Not for anything specific, just because I have to wait for three months to see if there is any change and the waiting is the very hardest thing to do and I am feeling sorry for myself for having to wait.  Feeling sorry for yourself is just fine and is normal. I actually would worry if I was not a bit fearful! I feel fine and was expecting a great report not a “something to watch” report so it was a wee bit depressing to hear him tell me about the test. I wrote earlier that I was waiting for a green light from my tests so that Heebie Jeebie Helen Jean would be okay and instead I got a yellow caution light so she is naturally a bit upset!

Okay, I am off to bed now. Just writing about it has calmed me down and I have lots of things to do tomorrow so I need my rest. All in all, life is very good for me.

March 28 – I am still here!  Look what happens when everything is going well, it becomes hard to write as it would all just say – “Everything is just fine here” day after day after day and be sooooooooooooooooooooooo boring!

I am way over the fear of the last post (good thing since it was over six weeks ago!) I sent Nervous Nellie packing. I spoke to SJ and to my primary care doctor and both concur that it is most likely scar tissue from the radiation.  I just wanted everything to be “fine” and when it was not (and just a tiny bit to the “not” side, mind you) it threw me for a loop.  Guess the point is that  no matter how well you are doing it doesn’t take much to slam all those crappy feelings right back at you!

I do have to start seeing a cardiologist because I had an EKG and it gave an abnormal reading.  No surprise to anyone, including me, as my poor heart has gone through two rounds of chemo, massive radiation and Herceptin once a week for a year so it would actually be more surprising to NOT have anything amiss.  I have to have a stress test with the nuclear dye so that we have a baseline to work from in the future. See, this doesn’t even bother me because really, at 61 and after all the treatments I only need to start seeing a cardiologist now and I am not having any problems but both my oncologist and primary care want to get this on record. I agree.  Grateful Gertrude is actually happy to be here after all that has happened to have to go!

We are having our house painted and I was hoping to get outside to do some gardening since they dragged everything away from the house so they could paint and it looks like a tornado hit here but we are finally having RAIN so it made me write in the journals instead! I need the exercise as I have been working like mad woman to get all my stuff done.  Greta Gardner is a bit disappointed but she will get over it!

SJ and I lost our private gallery a couple of weeks ago. “Due to the economy” the Daily Grind closed its doors for business so we had to go and get all our artwork.  It took two cars since we have steadily been placing work out there.  My studio is packed full of art right now, not sure where to put all of it!  We obviously have to find another gallery!  I have joined an online gallery and I do want to invite you to go see – artistsregistry.com and I should be in the “New Artists” and in the “Premier Members” sections. Only been there for a few days so no idea if this will be good but if nothing else it does get your name out there! I have also started an interactive blog (probably why I have been remiss in posting on this one!).  It is about everything but mostly art stuff. Photos of my Art Experiences, art techniques, art work, studio……………..  in time I will add some family pics. It is fun because you can comment if you like and it gets posted there. If you are interested in taking a peek go to http://margotclark.com/blog2/ to see what all the fuss is about! Artist Annie has been a busy gal!

Getting ready to go teach in Tucson next weekend and then leave two weeks after that with Harold and SJ on a business trip, then off to South Carolina to teach and then off to Louisville in May for the NAMTA  (National Art Materials Trade Association) with Speedball Art Products then to Peoria for a convention, then to Houston for a convention then back to Orlando for CHA (Craft and Hobby Association) so you can see that I have got to be feeling great to be doing all of this stuff. There were times in the past when I wondered if I would ever feel this way again and even though I am six years older than when I first got breast cancer I really am healthier and happier than I was “before!” I am much more emotional than I was “before” but that is due entirely to my having gone to counseling with a psychotherapist who got me to release all that pent up “junk” I was carrying around which kept me in “fight or flight” mode all the time and also taught me to cry. I always viewed crying as a sign of weakness so simply would not do it unless I was so angry it just sneaked on out! Well, I can now cry at the drop of a hat and am sure I feel better for it!  Lordy, I listened to the song “Starry, Starry Night” yesterday while viewing Vincent Van Gogh’s paintings and I sobbed like a baby!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

A bit of bragging here – I have been doing some work for Speedball Art Products and they are rewriting their booklet on Metal Leafing and I have a whole section in there! No idea when it will be published but I am soooooooo excited to be in it!  I had to send in step-by-step photos of my technique so I used Jennifer as my hand model since mine always look like I must play in the dirt all the time! I have some of the photos up  on my blog. I am having way too much fun lately!

We are having a celebration today. Jennifer, me, Harold and SJ are all going to a restaurant here called Texas de Brazil where carnivores go so they can eat MEAT. I have not been before so this should be fun. We are celebrating the publication of SJ and my first collaborative magazine article on fused glass. It is in the Spring 2009 issue of Glass Patterns Quarterly and it an actual tutorial. I write for magazines all the time but this is a first for SJ so we are all going to celebrate!

One last thing before I go…….Harold turned the big “60” recently and Jaime, Jennifer and I pooled our money and bought him the “Richard Petty Driving Experience” at the Daytona International Speedway. He drove eight laps on the track (only him in the car, you followed an instructor who stayed four car lengths ahead of you) at 145.86 miles per hour. I have not seen him grin for so long a period of time in years. It was like the grin was permanently in place! It was an all day affair. Jen and I went since Jaime lives in Texas and we watched him all afternoon. Driver’s meetings inside and outside (there were 34 drivers that day) and then while he waited his turn on the track. Got to drive my car down into the pits and that was very cool, too!  Had an awards ceremony at the end and the fastest speed that day was 146.0 so Harold was right up there at the top. He used to race his own car on a local track years ago but hasn’t done that in quite some time and did not go quite that fast. It was so much fun to be there! Jen said she would like to drive and also do a “ride along” (you are the passenger with a professional driver) where you go 170.0 mph! Whooee! I would like to do the ride along but not remotely interested in the driving part.

I will not be writing on a regular basis anymore since life has returned to “normal” and all is well. I will just write periodically mainly to let people know I am still alive and kicking! I will try for at least once a quarter. Normal Norma has taken over my life along with Artist Annie and I love these two!

Okay, what shall be the Photo of the Week?  I guess I should rename it Photo of the Quarter! I think I will do some from the Speedway. The first one is me giving last minute advice to Harold and the second one is him getting into his race car.


‘Til next time, go have a mammogram and keep safe!

Margot   a.k.a.  Rita Reporter, She Who Cannot Be Pleased, Fearful Frieda, Stressful Stella, Lazy Louise, Heebie Jeebie Helen Jean, Glowing Gloria, Artist Annie, Floating Flora, Sleepy Selina, Chef Cheri, Bistro Bessie, Home Cookin’ Hattie Mae, Dreadful Evil Foot and Leg Cramp Lucinda Fay, Nervous Nellie, Grateful Gertrude, Greta Gardner and last but not least – Normal Norma! Looks like I had lots of company this time!

If you have any questions please email me


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