Friday, July 8, 2011

Melanoma Sucks

I don't share a lot about this, but I was diagnosed with malignant melanoma in December of 2009.  I had to see an oncologist on Christmas Eve of that year and be told that I needed surgery and Interferon therapy. There had never been any cancer in my immediate family, and I was devastated. I thought I was completely bullet-proof about cancer. I had grown up in Southern California, and beach-going was a major part of my life. I'm sure there were some bad sunburns along the way, some summers spent on air mattresses at Lake Tahoe, and I thought the only consequences were freckles.

In 2001 I asked a dermatologist to look at a mole on my back, and he was so disturbed he removed it that day. It was pre-cancerous, and he followed a protocol to remove three inches of skin from the area. He said that I had "almost a melanoma" and I thought that was the end of that. I never went in the sun again.

Fast forward to December of 2009, I had what I thought was a "skin tag"  and finally got to the doctor about it. It was malignant. At this point, I was finally, very happily married and very scared about not being around. I had surgery, and interferon therapy for melanoma during January and February of 2010. I got up every morning at 6:00 a.m.,  got to the doctors office and treatment room by 8:00 a.m., and in the office by 10:00 a.m.  I would do the best I could at the office, with our administrative manager shepherding me through assignments and asking me every day how I was doing.  When I got home from work, I would go to sleep until the next morning. Weekends I would sleep most of the day. It was a very awful time for Dave and I. I would cross the days of treatment off on a calendar, which I still have.I never want to forget how that time felt.

After I completed my Interferon treatment, my hair started falling out. When I had a PT scan in May of 2010, my oncologist wasn't concerned. I was a bit freaked out and had my hair cut short. I ended up losing about half of my hair, and the great part was that, it came back curly!

I had one more CT scan in December, 2010, and I was very scared, not wanting another awful Christmas. (My insurance company would not authorize a PT scan, which would have gone to a biological level, and cost more) but I had a clear scan. Dave and I had a great Christmas and I probably spent too much money, but after last year, I felt we deserved it.

I had a scan a couple of weeks ago. The eerie part is, that I was assigned to work for the nastiest senior partner in the firm, and I remember saying that I would rather have cancer treatment again than spend another day working for him (Seriously, he is that bad). I have also had terrible reports about my mother's dementia and how she does not remember me, and I know that I thought I really would not want to live to be that old (89).  I'm sure that didn't cause the scan results, but I do regret those thoughts. My scan revealed two "suspicious" lymph nodes in the area where two were removed before.

I have been told told that the worst thing one can do after a diagnosis is to get on the internet.  I just never knew that melanoma usually comes back. I thought I was safe. 

I had a "freak out" moment last week when I didn't think I would ever get to go to Paris again, ever get to have a dog again, or see my beloved stepson, and I felt trapped in my life like a rat in a cage. My sweet husband once again calmed me down, but it's still there, in my head.

Today I met with my surgeon/oncologist at Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles. We need to get these two lymph nodes out, and ASAP. My hematologist in charge of my care wants to have me go on the new melanoma drugs, and I have no idea how I will react to those. I keep trying to avoid negative thoughts, but it isn't easy.

I got Dave to go out to dinner at our favorite dive restaurant in Playa del Rey tonight. I'm going to enjoy life more, and hopefully, worry less. I cannot control what's happening, but I can control how it affects me and my life.

I have my sweet husband, my adorable pets, great friends, and some very supportive  people I work with. Life is good. I will face the surgery and removal of these lymph nodes with hope and grace.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Bella and Buddy

The first picture was taken when they were home from the shelter, and just back from the emergency veterinarian. They both had horrible upper respiratory infections, and Buddy was the most vulnerable. Bella seemed to have given up, and it was heartbreaking for us.  Dave and I don't shy away from challenges, and so we decided that these little ones were going to  get better on our watch. I got up early to give them their antibiotics, give them human baby food in a syringe mixed with cat milk replacer, and just cuddle them. During the day, Dave took them into the bathroom and ran the shower to help with their breathing. In the meantime, our other cats became ill, despite our keeping the kittens separate, and we had vet bills so high I needed to borrow money from our 401K. Life was very stressfull during July-August 2009.  Our senior cat, Tristan, caught the same cold and we could only isolate him in the bathroom. It broke my heart  because Tristan was my longtime pet of 12 years at that time and I was so worried about him. He responded to the antibiotics immediately. Ten days after we brought Buddy and Bella home, I was syring-feeding Bella, and she lapped up food that had spilled onto my hand. I put some food on a plate, and she lapped that up. That was the end of her needing to be force-fed with a syringe!  While we still had to keep the new kittens separate, every time we entered the room from that point on, she threw her head back and gave a very tiny mew at us to ask for attention. She still does that, and we just melt, no matter how often she does it. Buddy recovered a few days before Bella, and now weighs 15 pounds and looks mostly like a tabby cat. They are our miracle babies, and always remind me of what I can accomplish "on our watch."

Everyone have a great weekend, and please hug and pet your kitties.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Naughty Kitties

I must have yelled "Get down from there!" about ten times that afternoon, terrified of my carefully collected antique china ending up in pieces, or my guests finding cat hair in their food. I finally decided to get my camera out and have some fun.  Our dinner party was a great success once the kitties were finally shooed away, and no one was the wiser. Well, I guess, until now!

Saturday, August 28, 2010


We decided that our sweet new kitty should have a unique name, and we labored over several days to decide what it ought to be. I suggested Oscar, as in "we deserve an Oscar" and then Ollie, as in "another fine mess, Ollie." In a case of the lightbulb going off in one's head, Dave said "Ozzie!" and the Prince of Cuteness had a name.
He really is the sweetest little guy, and here is a picture with his sisters.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Loving Animals and Walking the Walk

This is my favorite picture of Tristan, with Misty.

It's always easy to say that you love animals, support rescues, and adopt from shelters, but Dave and I really do it. It's not easy to have as many pets as we do, but these magnificent, sweet creatures may not still be with us if we had not pulled them from the shelter, syringe-fed them through illnesses related to being in a shelter, and gotten them to the vet in time to save them. There are many things I don't do as well as I should, but as far as our sweet kitties, - I've gotten that right. Dave and I preach animal rescue to others, and we make sure we practice that.

In Tristan's memory, we went to the West Los Angeles Animal Shelter and saved two kitties whose time was running out. One kitty was named Dolly by the shelter, and she is a Lynx Point Siamese like our other girls. I love Dolly Parton , so the name will stay. The other kitty is a four month old male black kitten, who we cannot decide on a name for. He seems to be a sweet Mummy's boy so far, and I really want to call him Tristan II, but perhaps I need to observe him a bit more and decide.

Rembering Tristan

My sweet Siamese kitty left this world, but never our hearts, just this last Saturday. He was my constant little friend, the one who woke me in the morning with his yowl for breakfast, and the one who greeted me when I returned home from work, and the kitty who never left my side, even enduring silly television shows. He came to adore my husband, five years later, even sleeping on left-behind sandals and clothes after Dave's many visits when he wwould return to England during our extremely romantic Transatlantic courtship. Tristan only brought joy into our lives until he left us, and we miss him terribly. Our time was limited to fourteen years, and it went in the blink of an eye. Rest well Tristan, you were a sweet, sweet boy who loved your Mummy.