Here’s the story of my adventures in Breast Cancer in chronological order. Spoiler alert: I got better. When I was diagnosed in March 2015 I just wanted someone to tell me what it felt like. I wanted the straight dope, not statistics. So here’s my tale of scans, chemo, surgery, radiation, hair loss, and all the rest. I use colorful language, but I wrote as honestly as I could in the hopes that someone like newly-diagnosed me might find some answers, some comfort, some laughs and most of all a sense that you’re not alone.
Suddenly, cancer (3/16/2015) - Six days ago I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Dun dun dunnnnn. How did this happen? Beats me. All I know was that I discovered a lump, waited a month to see if it went away, and then showed it to my primary care doctor. She sent me for a diagnostic mammogram and ultrasound. *NOTE* […] Telling a young child about cancer (3/23/2015) - What should we tell our five-year-old daughter about my cancer? What is the right thing to say so that she will understand but not be terrified or confused? How much can her Kindergarten brain handle? My husband and I spent a lot of time in the days since my diagnosis thinking about these questions. And […] Tests and the waiting game (3/25/2015) - Okay, Tom Petty, you know your stuff. The waiting is the hardest part…at least so far. The initial diagnosis happened so fast. It was Boom! Lump. Boom! Mammogram and ultrasound. Boom! Biopsy. Boom Boom Hiss! It’s cancer, bitches. Just two days after learning I had breast cancer I met with my breast surgeon, Dr. Boobcutter. […] The Good, the Bad, and the Not-so-nice (3/30/2015) - The Good Great news! I do not carry the breast cancer gene! Dr. Boobcutter called me himself to tell me. While it’s always good to not have a gene that’s trying to kill you, let me tell you why this is extra-awesome. It means my family can rest easy as well. My mother and aunts […] Resonance (4/7/2015) - Yesterday, I finally had that MRI I’ve been waiting on for what feels like forever, but was just a couple weeks. I’d had a CT scan before (the one where you have to drink horrifying chalky liquid flavored to resemble Hell’s pina colada), but this was my first MRI. Quick note: MRI stands for Magnetic […] Cancer gets real (4/10/2015) - It’s my second visit to the oncologist, Dr. Cappuccino. My husband and daughter are with me, and I’ve got my Binder of Doom tucked under my arm. It’s filled with all my shit: insurance approvals, notes, bills, etc. I say hello to the lady in reception. I call her Harley because she has a Harley […] Hair: A story of hate, love, and loss (4/16/2015) - I have always hated my hair. It’s curly, for one thing. And growing up in the 1980s, curly meant frizzy. We didn’t have flatirons or smoothing serum or special no-poo shampoo that didn’t dry out your locks. The only weapon I had against frizz growing up was letting my hair air-dry instead of blowdrying it. […] Kindergarten cancer conversations (4/20/2015) - I guess maybe I thought it would be a one-and-done kind of thing. “Allison, Mommy has cancer. But the doctor will fix me.” “Okay, Mommy.” *skips off to play* Well, it didn’t go quite like that. And it was just the first of many conversations. I felt like I had to warn her about my […] Fear – The Real F-Bomb (4/22/2015) - Normally, I would wait until I know more before making this post. But, this–the waiting, the not-knowing–is a large portion of this cancer dance. So, today, I went to the radiologist to do ultrasound-guided biopsies of stuff that showed up on my breast MRI a couple weeks ago. No biggie, I thought. I’ve done this […] Lymph Nodes, PET Scans, and Lies (4/27/2015) - I wanted to write this post last week, but was feeling too Percocet-y. And now I find that I am reluctant to put words to it. I don’t have any especially staggering news to report. As expected, the cancer has spread to my lymph nodes. Four of them, according to Buffy the Cancer Slayer. Which […] Good news and the cost of cancer (4/30/2015) - First of all. MY PET SCAN IS CLEAR! aka there are no signs that the cancer has spread to any other organs. It’s still there in my boob and lymph nodes but I’ll tell you what–if you want one cancery boob to seem as delightful as Thor in a G-string, spend a a few days pondering a […] Chemotherapy 1 of 6 – The Toxic Bride (5/6/2015) - Well, I did it! Got through my very first chemo session! Honestly, it was a breeze. The first one was long (5 hours), since I had to do long doses of my targeted therapy (Perjeta and Herceptin) for the HER2+ flavor of my cancer. But the next five rounds will only be 3 hours each. Basically, […] Small update (5/8/2015) - It’s been a couple of days since my first round of chemo, so I thought I’d check in. First of all, it’s not so bad. The nausea is on par with morning sickness, which I know I can get through. The heartburn was a surprise, but Zantac is keeping it under control. Mostly, it’s fatigue. […] Side Effects – The Straight Poop (5/12/2015) - It’s been a full week since my first chemo treatment, so I’m going to dish the details on what it feels like. And it’s not going to be pretty. Rather than engage in image-crafting or build some kind of Trixiebrand, I’m just going to put it all out there. It might make you uncomfortable, and […] Chemo – Week 3 (5/22/2015) - I haven’t felt much like blogging, and I thought about apologizing for the delay, but you know what? Fuck it. Here are my words about what’s what. The Nausea I felt really good the last time I posted and I assumed that things would improve each day afterward. That wasn’t exactly how it worked. On […] Chemotherapy 2 of 6 – Getting the Hang of It? (5/27/2015) - My oncology office is becoming like Cheers for me. I walk in and everyone’s happy to see me. My 19-year-old daughter Callahan accompanied me for my second round of chemo and I’m pleased to report that my master plan to encourage her interest in health care is totally working. She’s registering at Bellevue College in […] Chemo – Round 2 Roundup (6/1/2015) - Okay, it may be a bit early to call this a “round-up,” but I couldn’t resist the alliteration. I really really need to get back to work on my book. Here’s the pattern that’s emerging with me and chemo: Day 1: Get chemo. My spirits are good and I feel pretty normal. Day 2: Go […] A Heart, a Mole, and a Limerick (6/10/2015) - It’s been a sort of eventful (and yet not) couple of weeks. There have been a couple scares, some new side effects, a milestone, some experimentation, and a minor epiphany. Tasting and Smelling First, I haven’t quite figured out how to deal with the nausea. It’s much worse this round, but as before, I’m not […] Chemo – The Halfway Holla (6/22/2015) - Usually, I’d think about updating the blog and then I’d say, “Well, I’ll wait until I have more energy. Until I feel a little bit better.” But this time, I’m not doing that. I’m going to write this post when I’m at my lowest point because that’s part of cancer too. Not just the “big […] What To Do About the Boobs (7/6/2015) - First of all, this round of chemo can kiss my ass. Just in the last couple of days have I been able to eat meals, and it’s time to do chemo again. As each round gets progressively shittier, I will not be surprised if the awful nausea/gross taste lasts the full three weeks between rounds. Pissed […] Why does getting better feel like dying? (7/15/2015) - First I’m going to tell you the good stuff. In the waning days of Round 3 (and I mean the very last couple of days) I was able to eat meals and enjoy food. The day before Round 4, I ate: A butter and brie baguette, a raspberry Napoleon, and a Big Mac. It was […] 10 Good Things About Having Breast Cancer (7/16/2015) - Well, I feel sort of like an asshole for my last couple of posts. I absolutely do want to give you the straight dope, but I don’t want to freak people out who are just starting treatment, or worse, be any part of someone forgoing chemo. So, herewith, ten things that are GOOD about having […] Disneyland with a side of cancer (7/29/2015) - I’m in a friend’s Redmond driveway, ready for our kids to have a playdate together. My husband has come along to haul Allison’s car in the back of his Jeep, so she can race her friend Jacob who has the same car (in green, not pink) around their large yard. Gunny’s telling our friend about the […] Chemotherapy 5 of 6 – The Darkness Before Dawn (8/7/2015) - Five rounds of chemo down, just one left. It’s a triumph, yes? But, wow….this is a bad one. Here’s the thing: actually getting the infusion of drugs isn’t bad at all. They puncture my flesh exactly once to access the mediport in my chest and then it’s all okay. They draw blood to make sure […] Mortality ‘n Stuff: A Letter From the Front (8/13/2015) - If Cancer is a battle, this is my letter home, written in a fetid trench with bullets whizzing above my head and a tang of mustard gas mixed in the air with smoke and death. Dear Loved Ones, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately. Thinking some pretty heavy thoughts about the human experience. About […] Chemo Round 6 – The Worst is Over! (8/21/2015) - Yesterday I had my sixth and final round of chemotherapy!! I’m so excited and happy and relieved. I still have a couple weeks of side-effects to deal with, but the beauty part is that when I finally start feeling better I will STAY better. I won’t come out of it just to begin again. I […] Breast cancer intermission: A Smoking Ruin (9/9/2015) - Well, here I am almost three whole weeks after my sixth and final round of chemo. That day was extraordinary. I felt accomplished, and loved, and, well, triumphant. Since then? Not so much on the triumph. I don’t feel as though I’ve kicked cancer’s ass, or won the battle much less the war. The fact […] Bad Blood – A Short Delay (9/16/2015) - This might be the only blog post on the Internet that’s not about T Swizzle. By “bad blood” I mean that my actual blood in my actual body is bad. It’s anemic and my hemoglobin is waaaaay too low. This whole time I’ve been so worried about my white count and if it would get […] Phase Two – Cut it out! (10/9/2015) - Wow it’s been a long time since I’ve posted anything. I’ve composed many many posts in my head which I intend to get to before long. Posts about my existential crises, about what I got wrong about cancer in my first few posts, the cancer books I’ve found most useful and entertaining, and a list […] 10 things I got wrong about breast cancer (10/13/2015) - So here I am, a handful of days after my lumpectomy, still waiting for the pathology report which will presumably tell us either “We got it all” or “There’s still cancer in there.” And I’ve been thinking about the past few months and the assumptions I made and the stuff I got wrong. So I […] Bad news, confusion, and a giant WTF (10/15/2015) - I had nearly given up on getting my pathology report yesterday. I’d started second-guessing my memory about what Dr. Superman had told me. (“He said Monday or Tuesday…maybe he meant NEXT week…”) I’d called my surgeon’s office in the morning to make my post-op follow-up appointment that morning and asked the receptionist about my report. […] Pathology, surprises, and what’s next (10/20/2015) - Since my last post I have calmed down a bit and also found out more information. The first thing I did was go to Dr. Supe’s office and pick up my pathology report. After much Googling, consultation with my billions of breast cancer books, and knowledge I’ve sucked up over the past six months, I […] Cancer is full of SCIENCE…and Spiderman. (10/29/2015) - Now that chemo and surgery are in the “done” pile, it’s time to move on to Phase 3 and plan for Phase 4 of this breast cancer “journey.” That’s so obnoxious, isn’t it? A fucking “journey.” A trip no one wants to take. It’s actually more like being an exile or refugee or something. I’ve […] Chemo Tips for Cancer Buddies (11/3/2015) - Since I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer in March 2015, three women I know have joined the sisterhood. Two of them found it early enough to get by with surgery plus radiation, but one is about to embark on a few rounds of chemotherapy. She reached out to me for advice and I realized that […] Breast cancer phase 3: Let’s get radiated! (11/11/2015) - Now that chemo and surgery are in the “done” pile, it’s time for radiation. What’s getting zapped? My right boob and the lymph nodes in my right armpit. The preparation for this has been sort of fascinating for a nerd like me. First, the radiation nurse educated me on what I can and cannot do […] Radiation: First impressions (11/18/2015) - I had my fifth dose of radiation today. For that, I win an x-ray! I mean a regular x-ray, not the kind that kills potential cancer cells. Apparently this happens every five treatments so they can make sure the positioning is still accurate, etc. Of all of my courses of treatment, radiation is the most […] Radiation: The Dirty Dozen (12/1/2015) - I had my 13th radiation session today, but “dirty dozen” is much more clickable than “baker’s dozen,” don’t you think? I met with Dr. Spiderman on Friday (the day after Thanksgiving) and he asked me, “So, how is radiation going? Is it better or worse than you thought it would be?” And I told him […] The Magic Words (12/15/2015) - Complete Remission. Hooray, right? When did this happen?! Oh wow! Here’s the thing: I posted those two magical words on Facebook over a week ago. And one of my friends commented “I can’t wait for the triumphant blog post.” So, I’ve been waiting to feel triumphant and have come to the conclusion that…it ain’t gonna […] Radiation – End of Days (12/28/2015) - I haven’t been very good about updating during radiation. The fact is, for the first three weeks, everything was gravy. I got up in the morning, got the kid off to school, read the paper, did the crossword, played games on my phone for a while, then drove the hospital, got zapped, drove home. NBD. […] Breast Cancer: The End. (12/30/2015) - It is done. What began with a lump almost one year ago is finally over. From the diagnosis Through six rounds of chemotherapy Surgery on my breast and lymphnodes and 30 doses of radiation, this blog has been a place for me to collect my thoughts, sort out how I felt about what was happening to […] The Existential Job Search (2/2/2016) - I’ve been meaning for months now to write a post about how similar cancer and pregnancy are. Basically, your body isn’t your own, people are amazingly supportive, there is a ton of literature and personal stories of friends and acquaintances to take place of statistics and the unknowable. I was going to be much more […] It’s a Mammothon! (2/13/2016) - My friends and scholars at Not Your Mama’s Gamer are streaming Video games on Twitch and taking donations for the National Breast Cancer Foundation which provides mammogram, education and support for women in need. 80% of donations goes directly to help patients–compare that to some other breast cancer charities! Click here to learn more and […] Breast Cancer, one year later (3/10/2016) - A year ago today I got a life-changing phone call. I had infiltrating ductal carcinoma: breast cancer. It’s sort of a sad anniversary. I feel in a way as if I lost a year of my life (along with my hair, a chunk of boob, my fertility, and a few lymph nodes). But at the […] Cancer Slayer: Post Script (5/4/2016) - Yesterday I had surgery to remove the medi-port that was installed a year ago ahead of chemo. Since then I’ve had six rounds of chemo, multiple echocardiograms, 11 infusions of Herceptin, a lumpectomy and lymphnode takey-outy, 30 sessions of radiation, a bone density test, I don’t remember how many MRIs and blood tests and zillions […] Sometimes I miss cancer. (11/29/2016) - Are you surprised? I am. Après cancer is a series of milestones. One year since my first chemo! One year since my last chemo! I have come to the conclusion that my cancer-free status dates from my lumpectomy, when Doctor Superman removed those bad lymph nodes and the clip to show where Turdy once lay […] You’re a cancer survivor – a bullet list (10/22/2017) - One day you feel a lump in your boob. Machines create images, doctors test a chunk. It’s cancer. People say you’re a survivor the moment you announce your diagnosis. You think, “huh? What’d I do?” Treatment begins in early May and concludes in late December. Start the new year clean, you think. Through it all […]