Tuesday, March 29, 2011


Thank for all the support & SmileyCentral.com - it seemed like it was going to be such a long journey back in July and now that treatment is over it seems like it's been a whirlwind! Now I need to adjust my mind set from "getting through" to "moving on" and while this will be another long/short journey I know that I will be equal to this task as well ... with the support of my friends!!

I met up with my friend Joan on Saturday for lunch and a knitting afternoon. She surprised me with a "Celebration Scarf" from the Toronto Spiders Back to Back team!! Everyone contributed - spinning and/or knitting - to a scarf that I can feel the love in. There's a square with a bit of sparkle, awesome variegated sections with fleece that was donated by Louet and OMG - check out the bottom LF square (or RH as you're looking at it SmileyCentral.com) ... yes, it's a spider!!! You ladies rock - we've won & lost the B2B title together and now we're winning the battle against (breast) cancer together! I'm especially looking forward to our Challenge & Relay for Life this year ... no matter how hot it is I'll be wearing my Celebration Scarf. Thank you my friends!!!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Are You Ready to Frolic?

It's getting to be that time of year again - the Annual DKC Frolic. I'm happy that I'll be teaching again - my favourite subject, Finishing!

There are a lot of excellent teachers & the vendor list is enticing ... put it on your calendars!!

Monday, March 21, 2011

What Am I Now?

Today was my last day of treatment for breast cancer!!!

I am happy.
I am hopeful.
I am recovering.
I am discovering.

I am no longer a Cancer Patient - though that seems to be a bit of a non-PC term, I felt like I was a patient while I was in treatment. And believe me, the term "patient" is apt considering how much waiting there was to be done. Though I have to give a shout out & props to the staff at the Radiation Clinic at RVH. They were all awesome - always a welcoming smile, care, concern and they made me feel cared about & for.

I am a Cancer Survivor. I have survived & I will continue to survive & thrive because of and despite what I've had to overcome.

Am I Cancer-Free? No, I can't use that one.
Because the surgery got all of the tumour & there was no cancer in my lymph nodes I got asked a lot why I had to do the chemo & radiation. There is no way to seek & destroy an individual cancer cell free-floating around your body; for me the chemo & radiation were precautionary & preventative. It's different for each person who has been diagnosed based on cancer type and other risk factors for recurrence but for me it was definitely necessary weighed against the risk of not doing them.
It's kind of like being the President of The United States; even once you're no longer the current President you are entitled to be addressed appropriately as "Mr. President". I still "have" cancer. Or maybe you could just call me Madam President! Even after 5 years - during which I will run the highest risk of having a recurrence of breast cancer (though not necessarily in a breast) - one is not considered "cancer free". My surgeon said that I'll not be considered "cancer-free" until 30 years of non-recurrence.

No worries, I now have a new anniversary. March 22 will be my first day of non-recurrence and it will be an anniversary that I will look forward to celebrating for a lot of years to come!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Change of Body Part

Enough of the thumb pics - it's still kinda gross, swollen, still a bit of oozing & a bit warmish. I only have one more dose of the Clindamycin so I will be giving Dr. D a call first thing tomorrow morning to see if there should be another course of antibiotics. I'm not sure if it just needs more healing time or if the infection has not entirely cleared up. I'm just a Dr. Mom but my experience is leaning me towards the latter.

I have been knitting a bit, mostly worsted weight. Yesterday I started back into the sock for Elise in between swatching for Rowan Marsha (Ravelry link) out of Rowan Kid Classic in Pinched (a discontinued pink) which is close to Lipstick. I'm still not knitting nearly as much as I would like to be nor enjoying it as much as I should be. I need to pay too much attention to not poking the sen
sitive spots on my thumb and then there is the shooting pain that is completely unpredictable.

Monday will be my last treatment!!! After 32 of 33 radiation treatments I am totally dark, the skin that had been raw & sore has dried - though it's still sensitive and itchy. It's healing nicely though.

Monday, March 14, 2011


It's okay now Holly - I think that I've got you pretty much desensitized to the mutant thumb pictures.

By the end of day 4 of the antibiotics there is a significant decrease in the pain in my thumb/hand. Thank God!!! There is still, however a significant amount of swelling, redness & visible infection along with a definite relief map of the infection. Varying shades of red and accompanying numbishness and sensitivity tell the story of how far & deep the staph infection went. It feels like some sort of a slightly stiff sheath over my thumb, which if I could just lift off would reveal a perfectly lovely, normal thumb underneath.

I got the stitches out today! The rest of the thumb nail will be forfeit - I can tell that it's coming off soon.
I spend some a lot of my time lancing and draining infection pockets. I really believe that it will help the healing proceed faster and it satisfies an OCD compulsion.

The Dr. was satisfied with the healing and while he would not commit to how long it would take for my thumb to totally heal he said it was looking good - that must be totally relative!!! - and to call if I had any questions.

I made the mistake of Googling about staph infections in surgical wounds. I know that it's only day 4 of a 10-day course of antibiotics but now I'm thinking about that MRSA that the nurses always ask about when you check in at a hospital. LOL!!! As long as there is visible,daily progress I'll be fine and won't obsess over the more dreaded possibilities. It seems silly but thinking about how icky the skin peeling will look once the blisters heal seems trivial compared to the real grossness of the lack of a thumb nail!!! The nail will take 2-3 months to grow in.

I am going to take mmy friend Dr. Paddy's advice and get plenty of rest ... as soon as I finish my mojito.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Worth the Price

Holly - only a slightly disturbing picture today. SmileyCentral.com

Dr. Dickie just called. My first thought was that he was just following up on the infection, but no ... the pathology report came in & instead of waiting until my appt Monday he called. The sweetest words that a man has said to me in a long time, "No melanomic indications."

Relief!! Peace of mind carries a high price this time but it is totally worth it!! The infection will clear up, the nail will grow back and an acrylic "reinforcement" will cover any resulting imperfections but I will not have to wonder what that line was.

The redness & swelling have not gone down yet but it's only 24 hours in so that's okay. I've been going old-school & low-tech - soaking it in salty water, keeping it covered and icing it a bit to try to relieve the swelling and "fever". Percs are keeping me from crying and I'm knitting a wee bit to keep from going right 'round the bend.

I'll still go see Dr. D. on Monday to follow up on the (better be healing) infection and get the stitches out.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Not for the Squeamish

Just a heads-up - there is a graphic picture further down. You have been forewarned.

I am a good woman & mother. I believe that a large part of my being successful at these two significant states of being is due to excellent intuition & instinct. I can honestly say that I have never been led astray by my instincts.

I may have been perceived as weak, indecisive or hesitant at times and it wasn't because I didn't have a feeling about a given situation but because it takes me awhile to prove my instinct right. I don't know why I'm driven to do this - maybe because I'm a Libra (people who are more astrologically savvy may have some input on this), maybe it was the way I was raised (no, I'm not blaming my mother) but mostly I think that I am still working up to being able to completely trust my instincts without having to validate them (to myself & to others).

I have learned through my journey through cancer treatment that I don't need to be in pain. It really doesn't prove anything, serves no one (and least of all me!!) and is the long route to the same destination. But I'm still a bit of a slow learner.

I knew intellectually that having my thumb nail cut off & the nail bed cut into would hurt. A lot. The reality is beyond accurate description with words. Seriously, even though there was anesthetic involved and it was done in a surgical environment in an accredited medical facility the result was the same as any underground torture chamber - I would have said anything to anyone with conviction to have it stop!! Even with prescription painkillers (and supplemental/medicinal alcohol) I would have promised anything (anyone?) to make the pain end. I knew with every fibre of my being that this kind of pain that was not abating and perhaps even getting worse could not be normal. The nice Dr. had given me Percocet for 2.5 days and since he didn't seem incompetent or sadistic I had to believe that he did not anticipate the pain going much bey
ond that amount of time. The Dr. at the clinic (who did not make quite as good an impression) also did not strike me as being a quake and when she gave me another 3 days worth of meds it seems to me that the end should have been in sight. So I followed my instincts & made an appt with the original Dr. for today - 7 days post-op.

I should say that I have been through surgeries of varying degrees, birthed 2 large-headed, healthy-weighted children, gone through chemotherapy (and though it went relatively well still was no walk-over) and am toughing out the end of 6.5 weeks of radiation therapy. I am no stranger to pain & while I'm a baby with needles I can take pain as well as some & better than most. Even on T3's and Percocet I was still just will-power away from crying at the pain, not just in my thumb, but radiating into my hand and fingers.

When Dr. Dickie unwrapped my thumb, the following was revealed.
I thought that it looked fairly gruesome so I asked him if it was what he expected. He allowed as how it was fairly typical though it was redder and a bit more swollen than he would like. It's visibly swollen - I can barely bend it. And it is definitely "feverish". I thought that it might have felt warm when it was bandaged but it was hard to tell. He asked if removing the bandages had relieved some of the pain. Through gritted teeth I told him that it was exponentially worse and he made me lay down - I think that I had paled.
He cleaned it off and said that the increase in pain was definitely not typical but was likely indicative of a strep or staph skin infection - apparently common. He prescribed an antibiotic, put on a light bandage and said that I should change it daily or more often if there was "drainage". Yea!!! Drainage!!! I asked when the antibiotics would kick in and he said I should notice an improvement in about 36 hours. I had no problem asking for more Percs to get me through the next 36 hours!! As he was writing the Rx he said that if 1 tablet wasn't enough I could take 2. I told him that I rolled through the initial Rx and the 2nd one from the clinic Dr. 2 at a time with alcohol to kick it up a notch so I'd be hitting this one 2 at a time right out of the gate. I'm not sure how to interpret the look that he gave me - shock at the unashamed honesty, amusement, skepticism; I didn't care what he was thinking. I took my Rx and left. I made it home and Kyle was a good son and drove me down to The Mighty Mart of Wal to get them filled... I was feeling kind of unsteady from the pain.

I think that I am going to soak it in some saline solution (what's good for my breast can't be bad for my thumb), clean it up and re-dress it. Then some nice relaxing medication & mindless TV/DVD. A friend has lent me seasons 1-4 of Sex in the City & I have another friend that I'll borrow the rest from! I have managed to knit a few rows on a scarf - kind of holding the knitting between my index & middle fingers, throwing the yarn with my middle finger instead of my index finger and concentrating very (very!!!) hard on not using my thumb. It's almost more effort expended than the pleasure produced but I'm happy to have yarn & needles in hand. I know, but I just had to!!!

Do you trust your feelings/intuition/instincts?

Wednesday, March 9, 2011


"Salt is what makes things taste bad when it isn't in them."

Salt is amazing. Our bodies use it as an electrolyte; it helps operate & maintain our nervous system & muscles and aids in regulating our blood pressure. We have a constant balancing act going on inside the scenes without even knowing it! Just like in food though, if we are suffering from a salt deficiency (or there's too much salt) there is no doubt and we'll know about it!

There is a remarkable choice of scented, seasoned & smoked salts available. I have wanted to experiment with some of them & challenge my taste buds a bit. Mostly I just use "regular" sea salt; I'm not a fan of the iodized table salt.
When I crave snacks I mostly lean towards sweet so when I do crave something salty I kind of have to go on the prowl and usually end up with cheese. LOL!!

When I started radiation I was given a "recipe" for a saline solution that I was told would help if (when) I started getting sores & peeling. I've been diligent in using the Glaxal Base Cream & everything was going along so well I thought that I was going to be a lucky minority that didn't burn/peel. But I kept it but kind of discounted it - I mean really, 1tsp of salt in 2 cups of water? It seemed kind of placebo-ish to me. But I am nothing if not cooperative & compliant and there will come a point when I will try most anything that doesn't reek of snake oil.

I was wrong!!!

I stand - happily - corrected!! Over the weekend several small sores popped up - little blisters that burst & opened when I scratched. I know, I tried not to but even just rubbing the itches was too much for the sensitive skin. And, even though my humble B-cups aren't much, they are enough that when they are left "au naturel" (which I've been doing because bras are just too much for the aforementioned sensitive skin) there is enough a small area that is chaffing.
I made up a "batch" of the saline soak and it is perfectly soothing! There is just enough salt left behind after air drying that the sores dry up a bit and the itching is relieved! I really think that this might be my new home remedy for regular sun burns!!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Same Old

No pics, nothing's changed, nothing's new. Not that I'm complaining - I'm just fine with nothing new!!!
I still have a significant amount of pain in my thumb that radiates into my hand at about 4 hours post-pain meds. Between the T3's during the day & Percs at night (they're better for sleeping) the pain is manageable at least. But even though I do as little as I can, just doing the minimum during the day has me to my limit and exhausted by the end of the day. It's hard to say how much is the thumb, radiation and just the stress of my life but with the help of Amanda, Kyle & all my friends the load is does not exceed maximum capacity.

I have not even tried knitting yet - just holding a pen when I have to is painful! When the pain subsides enough I will adapt to a knitting style that suits & I'll let you know! I've been just watching TV/DVR/Netflix, reading some - flicking pages with my right hand requires thought and patience - but mostly just vegging, which, for all who know me know that this goes against my grain. Even typing is slow because it hurts to use my thumb (and even using the other fingers on my right hand affects my thumb ... sigh).

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Knitting Interupted

The biopsy for that black line on my thumb was bumped up to last Thursday. I was excited until I was in the waiting room and then a wee bit of panic set in. "How did I think that this was going to be a good idea? Perhaps ignorance is bliss?" But I knew deep down that if I had learned nothing else from my experience with breast cancer I had learned that I will have everything biopsied - even if there is only a tiny percent that it could be cancer, I need to know.
So ...
having the freezing go in hurt. Mind you, I'm not good with needles anyway. But at least the freezing went in to the base of my thumb & I had imagined them sticking it into my actual thumb, perhaps even under my thumbnail so that was better than I thought!

The actual procedure was interesting - I'll spare the details in case you're squeamish but I am sans 2/3 of my thumbnail and I have 3 stitches because he also had to take some of the nail bed. Check out the "OMG, could he make it any bigger?!?" bandage.
And it has to stay "clean & dry" for 10 days. I asked how I was supposed to wash my hands to which Dr. Dickie (no, I'm not making that up!!) replied, "You'll figure something out". I told him that when I came to see him my hand would be filthy but sanitized!!

I knew that it would hurt when the freezing came out but - Lord have mercy!! - I had no idea how much!!! I have spent the better part of yesterday & today in bed, drugged to the gills with some medicinal rum chasers for good measure & I'm still hurting!! And when I say "hurting" I mean pain rivaling the worst of the pain on the Taxotere!! I called Telehealth and on the nurses recommendation went to a clinic today and I'm going to try a different pain killer.
I really hope that the pain will subside significantly soon so that I can try to knit on something. And so that I can get off these drugs - I'm not good with pain or at just laying about, dozing off & on. I know it won't be anything fine or gauge-critical, but even a simple scarf ... going cold turkey could kill a hard-core addict like me!!

Thanks for all of the support - no matter if I've known you for years or we're just "meeting", whether we know each other in RL or just Virtually please don't discount the value of knowing that I'm not alone, that my instincts & decisions are valid and I have "sisters" to turn to. And I'm sure that it's going to get a bit darker before I see dawn but I know that I'll get through and will have all of y'all to thank!!