Update 102

May 22, 2009 – Lots to write about so I will probably just ramble over the next few days. First is health. On the 14th of May I had a Nuclear/Treadmill Stress Test for my heart (great loads of fun, that was!). I think I mentioned somewhere that on my last oncology visit I asked if I should have a cardiologist since my poor heart has been subjected to so much “junk” over the last 6 years – (can you believe I have been writing this for 6 years??????????  Even better I am over three years since the last occurrence!) and he asked if I were having any problems and I said that I wasn’t but that I thought maybe I should have a baseline or something for future reference. This came up because on my CAT scan there was a small area on my middle chest that could be scar tissue and he wanted the area retested in three months for follow-up reference. He agreed so off I go to my regular doctor because of course you cannot just go to a cardiologist, at least not on my insurance without a referral from you regular doctor and he had to run an EKG to see if there was evidence that I needed to see a cardiologist. You would think that two rounds of chemo, massive radiation and a year of Herceptin would automatically qualify a person but no…………………………. So, off I go and sure enough the EKG shows an abnormality. I was not surprised, nor was my doctor considering all the past stuff. I would have been more surprised if it had come out normal!  I had two MUGA scans over the years which are a specific heart test to see what percentage of (can’t remember percentage of what!) your heart is operating. I know that 55% and over is normal and I was at 47% which my oncologist was fine with, again considering all the aforementioned “junk.”  Now I can make an appointment with the cardiologist.

So, off I go. First visit is consultation. Looks at EKG and tells me that I possibly had a mild heart attack in the past and there is an abnormality. What?????????????????  Where was I when that happened????????????????????? He said they would know more for sure after the stress test. I was to have the Nuclear where they inject radioactive junk into your veins so they can “see” and take photos and also the treadmill. Oh joy. Anticipation Anna was not happy. They schedule me for the 14th.  Have to be fasting for four hours prior to the test, wear comfy clothes and tennis shoes and bring a lunch that contains protein and a bottle of water. A jacket and something to read as you will be there for awhile. Again, oh joy, I am going to be there for hours.

In the meantime I have two back to back trips to take. I flew to South Carolina and taught art classes for three days to a great group of ladies in Columbia, which of course takes five days with travel, came home for one day, unpacked and repacked and flew the next day to Louisville, Kentucky to work three days at the NAMTA (National Art Materials Trade Association) trade show for Speedball Art which of course takes another five days. My stress test is the day after I get back! Well, apparently I mustn’t do that again as my poor hands were so sore from overuse that I could not cut my food, Harold had to treat me like a small child and cut up all the food on my plates for me for days and brushing my teeth put me in great pain. I have arthritis and my hands do act up from time to time but that constant use plus flying plus yanking luggage and boxes all over took a toll on my hands.

So, off I go on the 14th. I slathered my hands up with Tiger Balm (the most amazing liniment in the whole world) and wore compression gloves and off I went for my test. It hurt my hands to hold the steering wheel! So I arrive in my jeans and T-shirt and tennis and……………….black silky gloves. Do you have a mental picture of this? Everyone kept asking if I was cold! You would think I would put on a jacket if I were cold, not gloves, wouldn’t you? Anyway………………….

They get the IV thing started after she pokes around forever trying to find a vein and finally goes and gets someone else to do the deed. I told her I was getting nervous before we even begin. They took tons of photos, then I had to walk on the treadmill until I thought I would faint and then I got to rest and eat lunch for an hour, then back for more photos. I’ll  find out the results in a week or so.

June 1 – My heart is just fine. I did not have any sort of heart attack at all, thank heavens. I actually am in the regular old normal range for someone my age and the doctor said he is not treating me as a cancer patient because I do not have any heart problems from all the treatments. That was great news!

June 26 – I am writing today because of my reactions to a couple of things. Went for my “Well Woman” exam a couple of weeks ago (you know, the fun one where they poke everywhere!) and while I was there I got a copy of the report from my last CAT scan concerning the “place” in the middle of my chest that needed to be rechecked. I had not heard anything so that is always a good sign and I just wanted it for my records. Got in the car, read over the report and promptly started to cry! What!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I even thought that to myself – “What am I crying about? I just read that I am fine!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” So, of course I have to calm down analyze this phenomenon before I can leave the parking lot. I am thinking that finally seeing a report that says I am fine is more than I can bear! I am used to SOMETHING being odd that I didn’t know how to handle “fine” anymore!

There was one sentence that I didn’t understand though and I got SJ (doctor friend) to explain it to me. The answer was surprising but not scary. It read – “There are some near areas of linear density peripherally with some mild pleural thickening in the superior segment of the right lower lobe posteriorly on images 19-26 possibly inflammatory in nature or due to some interval areas of scarring.” Okay, if I am fine then what is all that???????????? Well, it seems that for some years after radiation scarring can still occur connected with small blood vessels being destroyed – Now, SJ gave a much more detailed explanation but that was the gist of it. I don’t feel anything myself and it should be coming to a stop so it is not an area of concern. Just found that interesting as radiation was in 2006 and you figure you should be done with after effects by now.

Then yesterday Farrah Fawcett died of her cancer. I was checking email when I read it on the computer screen and I immediately burst into racking sobs. What in the ##$#%%^^ is going on now! I did not watch any of her “journey” on TV as all that was a little too close to home to visually see again and I knew she was not doing well. I am sorry she died but it was not really her I was crying about. It was me. And the stinking reality that cancer kills. She fought hard and it still killed her. I wandered around my house saying out loud, “But I am fine!” over and over and over until I calmed down. I am okay now but I am writing about this because of the immediate response to some things that cancer survivors will have and I guess it is to say that even when you are fine, all this crap lurks close to the surface and pounces on you when you least expect it! So, if your friend or relative bursts into tears or gets really quiet over some things it is not you personally, just probably something that tripped the trigger for them. I really don’t think about it nearly as much as I used to so it does surprise me to find it is all still so close to the surface of my emotions.

August 16 – Well, I really am not writing very often!  Nothing here since June.  I go this coming week for my very first six-month check up at the oncologist. Been going every four months since end of treatment in 2006 so this was a biggie for me.  I have been having some “episodes” over the last couple of weeks. My left side really hurt for awhile and I kept shoving down the thought that my cancer had returned since that was the side that both of them have been on in the past. Then……………..I realized I had worn a bra for about a week and that is the area where it presses. Oh, thank heavens, I could relax again. Then I got a sore rash on my right breast and immediately thought – “Lordy what if it is inflammatory breast cancer!” Then……………I put some Neosporin on the rash and realized it was probably from something rubbing on my skin making it itch, I scratched it until it was raw so ended up with rash – and it went away with the Neosporin!  The point of all that is to illustrate what comes to your mind first when you get an ache or pain or a rash. I hadn’t even been thinking about cancer yet that is the first thing that came to mind. Probably because I know that most recurrences are found by the patient in the form of a complaint that something is not quite right.

I actually feel just fine. I will be 62 next month, been messing with this cancer stuff since 2003 when I was 55. My five year mark will be November 2011 but my oncologist says ten is my marker and that won’t be until 2016! Good grief – I will be 70 years old then!  Back to the part where I feel good. I have been outside working in the yard all day today (and it is very hot in Florida in August!). Mowed the lawn, pulled about a thousand weeds, spread nine bags of mulch, raked, trimmed bushes, cleaned the back patios and painted the front door trim and now I will shower and do some business bookwork. I obviously come from great peasant stock! No blueblood in me at all.

I am buying into a business and have running around to do tomorrow with all of that. We bought a building and the closing is on Tuesday. I go to the oncologist on Wednesday and am actually looking forward to it so I can show him how great I am doing. Buying into a business means that for the foreseeable future I will be working two jobs, running my own company with all the travel that involves and then doing my part in the new company. And, I know I can do it with no problem, I will just have to be sure I get enough sleep! Note that all my various personas seem to be dormant right now!

You remember that I now live in the present rather than the future. I have the chance NOW to do the new business, don’t know what the future will bring so – Onward Now!  I will talk more about what the new business is later on but right now it is still being transferred over from the old company to us so no announcements just yet. However, I can tell you that it is fantastic and in the art world!  I suppose that last bit was really no surprise. I can tell you that my hubby Harold and my art partner/plastic surgeon SJ are my partners.

I want to ramble on a bit about fate or whatever you would like to call it. In 2003 I am just gliding on through life with no major concerns or driving forces guiding me. Thought that was pretty good at the time. Then I get breast cancer and EVERYTHING changes! At first not so much for the good but later on even that changed. It’s like a veil was lifted and I began to really see what was around me – people as they really were, not as I thought they were – the real beauty of my surroundings – the value of MY life to myself and to others. That last bit was the biggest. I can’t tell you exactly how or why those things happened but I think it is because I truly SAW them all through a new way of thinking. None of this happened overnight by the way – this is still an ongoing process but I know that I look for opportunities now for myself and for others. Before it was pretty much just for myself. So, back to the fate part. Does fate give me a great surgeon and oncologist who will talk to me and not dismiss my concerns or did fate give me more backbone to speak up for myself or was the backbone always there and I never knew it?  Did fate send me to probably the only plastic surgeon in town for breast reconstruction who just happened to do hot glass – very much a niche art form – who is also personable and invites my family in when I am having fills in the expanders? Time passes, I get a bit complacent and begin to fall back into my old pre-cancer habits and WHAMMO – here the crappy stuff is again after only two years. Is this fate with another not-so-gentle nudge or just the luck-of-the-draw?  More veil lifting going on now!  I really begin to live in the present and not so much in the past or the future. What is going on NOW!  I start to takes chances/risks on people and business and my own art. No more safety nets – they all dissolved on me! So I have become the ultimate risk taker and I seem to feel the need to take everyone near me on the same journey – it is exhilarating as well as scary – luckily the exhilarating times are more than the scary times!  So about a year ago I had a thought about acquiring a business that needed more people to run it besides me and looked around me and there they all were in my “inner circle.” Fate? So I approached each of them with this “opportunity” and let them think on it for awhile. They know I am only in remission and that the possibility exists that the nasty stuff could return but they are will to take the risk with me. This was just me, Harold and SJ in the beginning and it now includes my daughter Jennifer and niece Heather. Now the idea is a reality and it will ultimately change all our lives for the good and we will keep adding more people into the circle and it will either change their lives or allow them to reach a dream. Fate? Would I have been so bold before cancer? I think not. Would I recommend cancer as a way to enhance your life? Definitely not, however………….do not let it ruin your life either. I view my cancer experience now as my catalyst to my real life and it has allowed me to become a catalyst for others to realize their own dreams.

August 20 – Oncology visit over and I am fine!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  I really was not worried this time, no case of the Heebie Jeebies like I usually get a day or two before I have to go see him. Is that because I am truly getting past that stage, or is it because I have gone from every four months to every six months, or is it because I am just plain too busy with so much on my mind that I haven’t room in my brain to also worry about a cancer recurrence?  I really don’t know. Maybe it is a combination of all three. I just know that it has taken me three years to get to this point.

October 23 – Good grief it has been months and months since I began this update. Life has been soooooooooooooo busy there is hardly time to breathe! Right this minute it is 3:00 a.m. and I am awake and can’t get back to sleep so I thought this would be a good time to catch up. Seems I really should get this out in the month of October since it is Breast Cancer Month! Technically today is the last day of my October Art Experience and all the students are tucked safely in their beds right now resting up for the last day of ART! We will finish a double rose painting and then go off on a gallery tour where SJ has work hanging and then back home/studio for our “awards banquet.”  In addition to that I have been keeping in touch with the new office of Unique Glass Colors which is the business I referred to in the August 16 entry. We have been in the business of manufacturing the glass colors that SJ and I use in our hot glass art since September 11 when the whole company arrived in a huge semi and we all were a bit worried that the building we bought was not big enough to hold all that stuff (it was!). We began to ship orders out on the 14th and I left on the 18th to teach in California where I ended up in the Emergency Room with pneumonia and a 104.5 temperature. Had to stay in California two extra days until I was well enough to fly home. I still have the dratted pneumonia and the doctor says I will have it for awhile yet. I have had two rounds of antibiotics and then had a chest X-ray that was not good so had to have a CAT scan and it showed that the pneumonia was still there so I have to take care of myself and wait it out. I go in December for another chest X-ray to see where I am at; hopefully I will be done with it!  Anyway, arrived home a day after the woman who used to run UGC came in to teach us how to run the office so I had to go to my second job, sick or not. I was supposed to leave to teach again on October 9 but I had to cancel that trip as I was still not feeling so good and my Art Experience students were due to arrive here for a week on the 17th so something had to give! No one has said that this has anything to do with my having cancer but of course I wonder and I have a radiation oncology appointment on the 30th and will be asking him since he will know about my lungs and if radiation would have had anything to do with being susceptible to pneumonia.

During these past few months SJ, myself and daughter Jennifer have all been showing artwork in local galleries and I have been doing a good bit of work for Speedball Art Products as well so that is why I am so long in finishing this update. Life seems to be moving right along quite nicely right now.

Do you remember that I absolutely adore Halloween? I decorated my house so my students get to eat their meals with all my “pets” and granddaughter Chloe will be here this year for Halloween! She is flying in on the 30th and back out on November 1 so she is just coming for the day of Halloween since it falls on a Saturday! 

Okay now that Talkative Tina is finished rambling on I must end this chapter as I need to get back to bed so I am fresh for my students.

December 13 – I was thinking yesterday that maybe the BC Journals had done their work and were not so important anymore and then…………….I get an email from a lady who bought a copy of the PaintWorks that had the article that Susan Mynyk wrote  about me, my artwork and my cancer journey. She took it with her to the hospital. While the doctor was telling her what was wrong with her (stage 4 breast and bone cancer) he picked the magazine up and held on to it as he talked. She believes there was some divine intervention going on because when he left she picked it up and read the story about my journey. She wrote that during the past six months the BC Journals have helped her keep her sense of humor. She hopes to get to paint with me sometime and I certainly hope that happens too!  This tells me that cancer support can never stop. Not as long as cancer is around. I read that the survival numbers increase every year and I am very happy for that but I would like to read that they found a cure so no one has to ever have a “journey” like this again. I will not write as often from now on but I will write often enough so you know I am still here and making the most of both of my “second chances.”

December 14 –I have been writing this update since May! I really must get it out in the year of 2009! I will try in 2010 to at least post once a quarter or after doctor visits. My family is happy and healthy, both of my businesses are doing really well, I am in decent health, my artwork is in galleries, I am inspired in so very many ways and am feeling very lucky to be alive.  Life is pretty normal now.  Not even so much the “New Normal” I used to talk about but just plain old “normal.” Believe me, I never, ever, thought I would be able to say that again and I love it!  All of you going through treatment pay close attention to that statement! Cancer  really does finally not be the first thought in the morning, there are days and days when I don’t even think about it. Having said that, there are still days, every once in awhile when it all hits me and I have a good cry.

Okay, I really must end this – you know I can ramble on and on.

Whatever your faith, whatever you celebrate at this time of year, may good health and happiness be with you for the coming year.

Photo of the Week/Semi-Yearly? – This is Realistic (well sort of, Garnier makes a great red hair dye!) Red-Headed Real Hair Rita saying Best Wishes for the New Year!

Until 2010,
Margot   a.k.a. – Talkative Tina, Anticipation Anna and Red-Headed Rita

If you have any questions please email me


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