Alicia in Ojai

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Digital Dojo Ojai in Winter

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We treated ourselves to a new camera for the holiday season. Here are some scenes from around the dojo, just before the rains started last week.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

They're so cute when they're little!

Another Picture
A few weeks ago, I went to visit some 3 & 4 week old raccoons that had been orphaned and were being bottle fed by a rescue worker friend of mine. You would think they wouldn't smell good, but they smelled like babies, the way kittens don't smell like cats and puppies don't smell like dogs and human babies don't smell like adults. Their little hands were like velvet, and they like to bite your nose (but not hard). It was so delightful playing with them. Raccoons that are rescued don't usually do that well in the wild, yet we don't allow people to actually keep them as pets here in California. Kind of ironic, wouldn't you say?

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Thursday, June 07, 2007


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My radiation treatment started on April 25, and tomorrow, June 8, is my last day of therapy. The first 5 weeks were every week day, full left breast and partial chest. The last few treatments have been centered on the breast surgery scar (as opposed to the lymph nodes scar) in a diameter of about 4 inches.

Strange that they took so long to start, as the surgery was on March 7, but I guess that popped stitch really did need some extra healing time. As it is, it's still partially open. And everything (especially that super-sensitive spot) is blistered, red and swollen. Yeah, the treatment itself is not painful, but the burns are cumulative, and here at the end, pretty painful. But it could be worse. And if it ever comes back, at least I can tell myself I did everything I could to prevent it.

I have to say it was pretty discouraging when the results of a British study involving 18,000 women were released last week, that said radiation doesn't make much of a difference with breast cancer, although it does with other types of cancer.

Oh well, as Bones would say, "Good God, Jim, they're barbarians"!

Please excuse all the white, waxy stuff on the video ... that's Silvadene -- a prescription antibiotic and is also effective against yeast infections. The little brown bumps are little blisters. And of course, the scars are not pretty, so please don't look unless you're not squeamish. I put this up here as other people going through the same thing might be curious (I was).Â

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Oh, Shoot !

Geez, I was so hoping I would not have to do radiation therapy, but the radiation oncologist, let's call him Dr. J, said the "Tumor Board" at Community Memorial Hospital (in Ventura) had a meeting and discussed my case and decided that since I was so "young" (that's a good one!) that eliminating radiology from my therapy gives me a 30% chance of recurrence at the same site.

So that means 6 weeks of treatment, 5 days a week, 20 minutes a day. I can maybe skip a day here or there, but that's the modus operandi. Oh well. Better than the alternative, I guess. The treatment itself is not painful, but the side effects can be, and it can make you very tired. After the radiation therapy, that's when they start you on 5 years of hormone therapy.

All of this has me concerned about going back to work. It's time for me to "ease back in", as they say, and I hope I have the stamina for all this.

I also have concerns about the makeup of the "Tumor Board". Dr. J says it's made up of a surgeon, a couple of radiation oncologists and a couple of other oncologists, and others, like ethical people, etc. (No that wasn't a misnomer.) Of course everyone is going to defer to the radiation oncologist (which Dr. J even said everyone did). And of course, if I were a radiation oncologist I would think everyone eligible "needs it".

Of course, Dr. J used the flattering "you're so young" (I'm 52) line once again. He said that if I were 70, he would debate it, and even said if it was his mother he wouldn't recommend it, but if it were his wife, he would insist on it.

So, since I have had the fear of death instilled once again, like a good little sheep I feel I have no option but to follow the herd. How depressing. But at least I'm better equipped to cope with it now than I would have been 6 months ago. That's the good part.

And there always seems to be a good part, doesn't there?

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Thursday, March 15, 2007


So, I finally got my results when I went to get my stitches out today. The news couldn't be better! Not only was the lymph node negative for cancer, but it turns out the needle aspiration biopsy got all the cancer too, and they didn't find any from the surgery excision either! I'm just ecstatic, as you might imagine. I still have to follow up with the oncologist, and they will probably make me do radiation therapy for 5-6 weeks, but my surgeon said I will not have to do any chemotherapy. Just wanted to share the news! I want to thank everyone for their prayers and support, and let you all know I love you very much!

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Loaded for Bear !

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So, tomorrow I have surgery, and will get to find out what stage my cancer is (by Monday at the latest, they tell me). My team at work sent flowers and a teddy bear and a cute yellow duckie. Thanks to Chris, Tom, Larry, Ron, John-Paul, Jean-Francois, Tu, Mark, Ravi, Elliad and Tash (hope I didn't leave anybody out). Yellow roses are my favorite. I can feel everyone's prayers and good wishes...a bad cough that had been plaguing me finally cleared up tonight. I'm loaded for bear, as they say! ;-)

Friday, March 02, 2007

Ouch !

As some of you may know, I have been on leave of absence from my wonderful software engineering job since October of last year. I have no qualms about letting anyone know that the leave was for stress and depression, with a possible diagnosis of class II bipolar syndrome. All of this stuff runs rampant in my family, as well as alcoholism, class I bipolar syndrome, attention deficit, and a host of other more physical maladies, such as osteoarthritis, hypothyroidism, etc.

However, I had always considered myself fortunate to have been very healthy most of my life, except for some problems with my left ear which required a couple of surgeries, and hypothyroidism, which thankfully requires only one dose of synthetic thyroid hormone a day (they used to have to grind up animals' thyroids -- yuck!).

But it seems that stress at work, possibly exacerbated by menopause, caused me to not be able to function properly and further investigation led to the discoveries mentioned above, with a recommendation for time off from work until February 14. Quite the ironic date, wouldn't you say?

Those of you who work with me may have noticed that it is now March 2, and I am still not back. Where is Alicia?

Well, in preparation for my return to work, I was getting all those nasty medical appointments out of the way. You know the ones: teeth cleaning twice a year, annual gynecological, the old turning-50 colonoscopy, and those brutal annual mammograms, where they twist and squish your boobies and then bombard them with radiation.

I'm looking back at my calendar, and I see that my mammogram took place on January 3 at the Women's Center in Ventura. They called me back and said that they had found "a density", and would I please come back in for a rescreening and ultrasound "just to make sure". After this, they said they still saw "something" and they recommended a "needle aspiration biopsy" to take a sample and make sure it wasn't malignant.

Believe it or not, my gynocologist would not order the biopsy (this calls for a whole separate rant), and for a surgeon to order the biopsy, I would have to make an appointment. On January 22, I finally got in to see Dr. Davis, just so he could order the biopsy. The biopsy happened on January 31, and on Friday, February 2, Dr. Davis called me into his office to tell me that the biopsy was positive for malignant breast cancer.

The tumor is very small (500 cm, which is less than .5"), but they say they think the lymphatic system may be involved. They won't know for sure whether the lymphatic system is involved until they do the surgery. At that time, they will do a lumpectomy for the tumor and then they will take what they call a "sentinel" lymph node from under my left arm. This would be the first node which drains the area where the tumor resides. If they find cancer in lymph node, I will have to have chemotherapy; otherwise not. Regardless, I will have to have hormone therapy, and possibly radiation therapy too.

Well, I thought Dr. Davis could just schedule the surgery and get that stuff out of there, and then an oncologist could take over. But no. First I had to go see the oncologist, whose first opening was on February 13. Apparently they are "having a spate of pathologies", which means they are seeing much more of all kinds of cancer out there than normal.

When I did get in to see Dr. Chang (the oncologist), he recommended a CT Scan from my neck down to my knees, and a total body bone scan. It seems that if breast cancer mestasticizes, it is most likely to go into the bones, and I had been having some trouble with my left leg ever since I sprained my ankle very badly last year.

Fortunately, all the other tests came out OK, so I could finally get Dr. Davis to schedule the surgery, which should happen next Friday, on March 9. Who ever would have thought it would take so long to get all this scheduled? I certainly didn't, and so scheduled a tentative return-to-work date of March 14. Of course, this will now have to be extended.

Anyway, for all you that have taken an interest, I intend to post all activity on this blog. This will help me by not having to repeat myself to everyone I know, and will also give people a chance to comment, without having to telephone, write or e-mail. Know that I appreciate your interest, and love you all.

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