April 23, 2016 — Friday, I had a six-month check-up at my oncologist office. When I pulled into the patient parking lot, it was full and I took the last spot. My heart sank because that meant the medical offices and infusion room were full of patients treating cancer and their loved ones trying to keep a stiff upper lip. Then, I thought, perhaps all these people were seven years past their diagnosis and treatment and were just here for a check-up like me. How likely was that? Sure enough, the waiting room was full of sad faces, bald heads, and frail ladies with perfectly coiffed hair. (I’m an expert wig spotter at this point.)
My oncologist is a wonderful physician and person. He also is a detail-oriented, find out the answers to everything type of person. I’ve always thought oncology was a difficult specialty for this particular type of personality because no one ever can get all the answers to a cancer diagnosis. Why did one person get a particular cancer? Why does the treatment work for one person and not another?
I mentioned my ongoing occasional shortness of breath and he ordered an EKG to check my heart since several of the chemo drugs I took seven years ago can cause heart damage, and a pulmonary function test to see how my lungs are performing. Fortunately, he didn’t rush either test, which makes me think he’s not too worried about the possible results.
Stay tuned and I’ll let you know what the tests reveal.
November 17, 2015 — My next-door neighbor was diagnosed with squamous cell cancer on her tongue over the summer. A grueling, hellish treatment followed, including invasive surgery and reconstruction and concurrent chemo and radiation. In the days after the surgery, she developed a debilitating lung condition and was in ICU for more than a month, nearly dying several times. The month-long chemo and radiation that followed her long surgical recovery has been brutal. The outside and inside of her mouth and throat are burned to the point of her having to be hospitalized several times to control the pain. Most recently, as she was nearing the end of the horrifying treatment, with only one more chemo treatment left and all the radiation days over, she was hospitalized again for pain management, dehydration, and malnutrition. My radiation oncologist had told me years earlier that his field was barbaric, and it was especially hard on those people having cancers of the head, throat, or mouth. As I was telling my walking buddy about my poor neighbor’s condition, I commented on how my treatment was brutal enough and seemed to go on forever, lasting 15 months, but I wouldn’t want this concurrent chemo/radiation to the throat even if it only lasted a month. My friend commented, “it’s kinda funny that from your own cancer hell perspective you are able to say you wouldn’t want this other kind of cancer hell.”
October 22, 2015 — In my ongoing quest to get my ebook Killer Boobs (paperback version here) a larger audience, I contacted Google Ads. They have no trouble with the perceived violent or sexual nature of my book cover and title. Or, they are able to get around my apparently shocking book cover and title. I have been talking to a Google Ad rep who helped me set up the account and walk me through all the particulars of the complicated world of Google Ads. The bots that monitor their ad submissions tagged my ad for “inappropriate contact” and my Google rep escalated the flag to a human being who could look at the ad and see that it was not really encouraging people to kill boobs or have sex with women in little black dresses wearing boxing gloves. So, I’ve been running some Google Ads. However, unless you can spend enough money to “buy” 10 click throughs a day (someone who sees your ad, then clicks on it to go to the website), it’s almost not worth your while. I’ve had thousands of people view my ad, according to the Google stats. And who better to come up with reliable internet stats than Google? And approximately 100 people have liked my ad enough to click through to where they could buy the book. But, no one has bought yet. (My Amazon and CreateSpace account pages lag a day behind so maybe today is the day I sell tons of books!) The reality is that my cancer-related search terms are quite popular and the price associated with having my ad pop up when someone searches for “breast cancer memoirs” or “breast cancer books” is high. So, my ad isn’t showing up on the first page of people’s searches. In fact, I’ve tried searching my keywords and I haven’t seen my ads yet. I did rule out the demographic of “men,” assuming any man searching for something related to breasts might not be my target book-buying audience. So, if Google knows you’re a man or even an “unknown,” you won’t see my Killer Boobs ad either when you search for breast cancer related terms. I think I’m about to shut off my Google Ad experiment. Fortunately, I do have friends who continue to send me good vibes and Killer Boobs publicity. One friend told me not only did she download my book to read and write a review, but her husband did as well! That’s two purchases from one household! And my witty political blogger college friend Charles Kuffner mentioned me in his blog, Off the Kuff. I suspect I will get more traffic from his mention than all my Google Ad experiments to date. Thanks!
October 16, 2015 — Amazon still will not allow me to publicize Killer Boobs through their Kindle promotion platform. Fortunately, Google Ads has no such prohibition. I’m working with one of their promotion team to figure out the ins and outs of Google Ads. It’s quite a complicated system using Google’s algorithms to figure out the best keywords to find the best audience for my book. We’re already halfway through Breast Cancer Awareness Month, but I’ll get my book promoted even if it’s the last day of pink power month.
October 12, 2015 — So, do you remember when I first published Killer Boobs, my breast cancer memoir, Amazon put the book in Erotica, based on the cover image and title? I changed the cover art, thanks to the wonderfully talented graphic designer Allison. I decided in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month to promote my book to try to get in front of as many patients, survivors, and caregivers as possible. Amazon has a nifty advertising program where you can have your book show up as a “recommended” title when someone turns on their Kindle. But, when I tried to sign Killer Boobs up for this promotion, I received an email telling me due to the title, the book was rejected. It doesn’t conform to Amazon’s creative standards. They’ll let me sell it through their site. They just won’t help me publicize it! I called customer service, assuming the Boobs part of Killer Boobs was getting my book kicked to the curb. No, it’s the Killer part. Apparently, Amazon doesn’t want to promote violence. I’ve asked my Facebook friends to weigh in on other titles if I need to change the title. I received hilarious suggestions: Hakuna Ma Tatas, No Thanks for the Mammaries, Booby Prize, Rack Attack…you get the idea. Amazon’s customer service sent a request to the Creative Standards department on my behalf to see what might be acceptable. Today, I received the news that if I change my title to the subtitle: How my breasts tried to kill me, I could promote using Amazon’s advertising program. But, now I’m confused. My cover art will still have the words Killer Boobs on it. Do I need to change my cover or just the description and title name in the ad and book description? I’m about to call customer service to get some clarification. Stay tuned…
The Book Cover
April 14, 2015 — it’s been a while since I posted, because I didn’t have much health news. It seems funny to write a blog about a non-health related topic on a blog entitled, amyshealth. So, now I have some news. After being treated for breast cancer six years ago, I was put on a daily regimen of Tamoxifen. It’s a wonder drug in preventing recurrences of estrogen-positive breast cancer, but it has its own side effects including bone and joint pain and uterine cancer. Just little things like that. The main symptom of uterine cancer is bleeding. So, after several years on this wonder drug, I experienced symptoms of uterine cancer and had the lovely experience of two uterine biopsies and a pelvic ultrasound. After six months of discomfort, my ob/gyn finally diagnosed me with endometrial hyperplasia, a situation where there is too much estrogen in the uterus and not enough progesterone. It’s not uterine cancer, but it’s quite disruptive to quality of life. Normally my ob/gyn would treat this hormonal imbalance with a daily dose of progesterone. Since my breast cancer tumors were also progesterone-receptive, that wasn’t an option. So, my condition was thrown back to my oncology. Because no matter my current health crisis, my cancer history trumps all other areas. To my dismay, my oncologist was happy that my biopsy didn’t reveal cancer and threw my treatment back to the ob/gyn because this was essentially “girl trouble”. The best advice I received during my six to nine month bout of fighting hormonal imbalance crazies was from an oncology nurse who told me, “honey, you just need two Advil and a Xanax.” Acupuncture treatment, bitter Chinese medicine herbs, and a new wonder anti-cancer drug later, I am returning to my own version of good health. But, I reminded both my oncologist and ob/gyn about that great medical advice: take two Advil and a Xanax. That might work in just about any situation.
August 14, 2014 — Maybe I know now why I got breast cancer, a question that has haunted me since my diagnosis in March 2009. The aunt of a coworker of mine was recently diagnosed with breast cancer. In talking to my friend about her aunt, I heard that the aunt’s surgeon thought the breast cancer had been caused by her birth control pill. Since the link between birth control pills and breast cancer was news to me, I went to the all-knowing Google to see if there were more information on this relationship. I discovered that thanks to the “Nurses Study,” a longterm health study on 114,000 nurses conducted from 1996 until present day, there is more knowledge about the link between hormones and cancer. According to the Nurses Study, the use of birth control pills showed a decrease in uterine and ovarian cancers, but an increase in breast cancer. Since there are so many different brands and types of birth control pills, I wondered if my Triphasil birth control pill would be mentioned in the study. Google then told me that the main link to breast cancer was in women taking a “triphasic birth control formula.” What? I suspect my “triphasil 28” brand was a “triphasic” formula! Did this cause my cancer? I was overcome with a wash of relief at this knowledge. I might actually have a reason that I got cancer — a question that has bothered me for five years. And even more important, I feel that perhaps I haven’t bequeathed to my children a genetic mutation that might subject them to some future cancer. Let the shade of blue of Daniel’s eyes and Sara’s pointed chin be my main genetic gifts to my beloved children. Not cancer.
May 10, 2014 — Last week my left leg began tingling and throbbing in an unpleasant way. The only thing I could remember that was mildly associated with that body part that could have caused my pain was when I hit the outer part of my knee with a card table, moving it to our front yard for Sara’s 12th birthday party. But, the pain in my leg was from my mid-thigh to mid-calf and seemed to move. It sometimes responded to cold. Or heat. Or massage. Or Advil. Or stretching. But Tuesday night I was suffering so much I was crying from the pain. Now, I’ve been through a lot medically. I’m no stranger to pain and I’m no weakling when it comes to tolerating unpleasant things. I didn’t fear a return of cancer because the pain kept moving and seemed so associated with the card table injury. But, this was bad. I kept thinking I should see a doctor but didn’t know who to see. My FP? An orthopod? A neurologist? Go to the ER and tell them what? And, quite honestly, I couldn’t identify where the pain was. Thank goodness I still have serious pain meds left over from my cancer days. I still felt the pain, but was so woozy on the drugs that I didn’t care. And that was an interesting phenomena too. Daniel needed to see his orthopedist for a cast check on Wednesday so I asked if I could be seen as well, assuming this might be a muscular-skeletal problem. Fortunately, the kind staff and doctor worked me into the day. After x-rays and examination, the doc said he thought it was probably a nerve that I hit with the card table the weekend before. The pain should get better, but he prescribed some special cream to help. If the pain didn’t improve, he could order an MRI to check my soft tissue. A friend on Facebook suggested a knee brace so I wore one of those for the rest of the day. That night, I didn’t need to take Advil. Or apply cold packs. Or heat. Or massage. Or stretch the leg. My pain left as suddenly as it appeared. My only consolation in the entire painful four day ordeal was that the orthopedist was hunky. (His brother is a famous actor on the CW’s Supernatural if you want to IMDB Jared Padalecki.) When Daniel first broke his arm three weeks ago, I commented to some girlfriends that if they ever had an orthopedic injury, I had the doctor for them to see. I just wished I hadn’t followed my own advice. I could easily have done without an exam by the hunky doctor if that meant I could have avoided the pain.
May 4, 2014 — I saw my oncologist for my regular six-month check-up last week. I’m always a bit anxious leading up to the appointment, suddenly aware of every ache and pain. My doctor runs blood work and does a physical exam but don’t scan me for tiny invasive cancer cells. The idea is that if the cancer comes back, it will come back in an organ or bone, already spread around the body. At that point, any treatment is just to push back the cancer and buy more time, it’s not really a “curable” situation. Based on that, my oncologist says it doesn’t increase survivability to catch a metastatic cancer when it’s a tiny blip on the liver for example instead of already a larger tumor causing symptoms. As he states, “if we find cancer, we’ll begin treating it, whether or not you have symptoms yet. You might not feel bad, but once we start treating it, you will.” I’ve been there. “Treatment” is a nice word for hellish chemo. He has told me that until the science shows that catching a metastatic breast cancer early improves survivability, he’ll just ask about symptoms. Since he seemed to think my bloodwork looked good (I’m a bit dehydrated — darn that wine and coffee) and my aches and pains seem non-threatening, he moved me to a once-a-year appointment schedule. That’s a big deal in cancer world. Of course, I can come in more frequently if something bothers me. I remember when I had a bruised rib from a respiratory infection and was worried I had cancer in my rib cage. Usually, it takes a week to make an appointment, but when I called the office with my symptoms, the receptionist said, “would you like to come in today at noon, 1:30 or 3:30?” That office doesn’t mess around! Fortunately, my rib pain was caused by coughing, not by cancer. But, I’ve seen the speed at which the office moves. Even though I’m at once-a-year, if I need it, I could see my friendly oncologist whenever I want.
March 30, 2014 — Yes, it is a bit odd to celebrate the day I was diagnosed with cancer five years ago. I’ve had several folks say, “Happy Cancerversary — that seems wrong…there is nothing to celebrate about finding out you had cancer five years ago!” However, as a fellow survivor told me as she gave me a big sisterhood hug outside the elementary school last week, “every day since you found out you had cancer is one more day of survival.” Amen, sister. Amen. But, I think I’ll also celebrate my last day of chemo since that seems a more likely cause for celebration — the only trouble is, I don’t quite remember if it was July 15th or July 16th in 2010. While March 27th changed my life forever, the last day of chemo didn’t make the same impression. Maybe we’ll party on both July 15th and July 16th! (Or, I could just go back through my blog or ask my oncologist what my last day was!)