LEAD APRON & FACE LIFT: #17

I will admit, I am always inspired at the dentist.  I don't know what it is about his office:  the beautiful decor, the windows looking out into the woods, the calming smell of the tooth polish, or being hypnotized by big light overhead while sitting in the body conforming chair.   Yesterday was no exception.  Plus, I found out I can buy my own plaque removal tools.  This is not   recommended for the careless as one can damage the gums easily.  

My dentist, Dr. Darrell K. Roberson takes care of my teeth and gums, but also is a source of inspiration for some of my silliness.  

On a side note, I will be finishing up my Herceptin (manufactured by Genentech) treatments March 24th, 2017 and then having a PET scan done.   Maybe I am giddy with excitement hoping for a cancer-free screening.  More information to come.

SPOTS: #16

In this short video, I attribute my skin rash to some new skin cream which I was sampling.  I realized as I was getting ready to play a role for standardized patients, that I had a nice case of the "spots".   My cure seems a bit impractical.  Sometimes silliness can be a helpful remedy for the blues. 

Perhaps I was meant to drink the cow's urine.  

CREDIT CARD: #15

One fine day during this 2016 holiday season, I heard the postal truck arrive at my mailbox.  After scurrying to retrieve the mail, I was thrilled to receive a credit card application made out to "Hypochondriactress.com".  ME.    

The reason I got pumped-up (pun intended) about purchasing echocardiagram machines is that I could then perform my own transthorasic sonogram tests - AT HOME.  I have pretended to be a doctor so many times, I now think I am a doctor and a qualified technician.  This short movie shows my first echo test, a  requirement before chemotherapy and Herceptin treatment.     Since my Herceptin treatment lasts a year, I receive a TEE (transthorasic echocardiagram) every 3 months to make sure the antibody is not affecting my heart in a bad way.  These treatments are not for the "faint of heart".  A TEE doesn't hurt AT ALL and Herceptin treatment really has very few side effects.  The main side effects for me are  having to weigh each time, which is horrifying and getting stuck with the needle in my port.

Though there are many different types of echocardiagram tests, I always receive a transthorasic echo, using an ultrasound machine and a skilled technician.

transthorasic  echocardiagram

I want to thank the scientists at UCLA who first discovered trastuzumab (Herceptin) as well as Dr. Dennis Slamon

Dr. Dennis Slamon helped develop an effective antibody treatment for HER2+ breast cancer.

Dr. Dennis Slamon helped develop an effective antibody treatment for HER2+ breast cancer.

I would also be remiss if I did not thank Carol, the financial advisor at the Bruno Cancer Center for helping me secure the Genetech BioOncology Co-pay Card.  This as been such a benefit to my finances, and I am very grateful.  

The cost of the echocardiagram machine I have my "heart" set on is on sale down from $35,000 to $28,000.   The cost for a single treatment of Herceptin- around $9,200.  I'm working on my credit scores.

 

TMJ: #11

Several years ago, before my breast cancer diagnosis, I got a case of TMJ or Temperomandibular Joint.   Since I do voiceovers, I needed to deal with this jaw pain and popping as soon as possible. My  wonderful dentist, Dr. Darrell Roberson made me a retainer in order to treat the TMJ. My retainer gave me a bit of inspiration.

This was my very first recording using my phone.  It was clearly my first time using imovie too.  My friend and a practicing neurologist, Dr. Paul Atchison was in the dentist office for a routine visit while I was getting my retainer adjusted.  Rachael, the office manager took the video for us.  

The sound is barely audible but just watch the body language and you'll get the idea.

If you were paying attention and could read my lips on the first part of the video, I said we were going to be treating a man with a problem in his tibia mandibular joint.  Uh, hello, the tibia is your shin bone and goes along with the fibula.  

From Mastectomy to Staph Infecting Me: #6

There were so many choices in front of me as a person with breast cancer.  Rather than a lumpectomy, I chose to have a mastectomy, followed by expanders and finally breast implants.  After a lengthy surgery with 2 different surgeons-a cancer and plastic surgeon, I awoke in the post anesthesia care unit hopeful.  Unfortunately, two weeks after my procedure, I woke up with a fever putting me back into the hospital.  I was opened back up.  I chose to have the expanders removed due to a common staff infection in both breasts.   This was a tough 5 day stay in the hospital.  I felt discouraged and depressed.  My IV pumping me full of strong antibiotics infiltrated.  I had to be stuck several times using the PICC team and ultrasound to get a good vein.   All in all, it was a bad week, but my plastic surgeon, Dr. Steven Steinmetz went over and beyond to care for me.

Statue at The Grand Bohemian Hotel in Birmingham, AL.

Statue at The Grand Bohemian Hotel in Birmingham, AL.

Fever 2 weeks after surgery landed me in the emergency room.

Fever 2 weeks after surgery landed me in the emergency room.

Expanders are filled with saline solution to stretch the skin before implants.

Expanders are filled with saline solution to stretch the skin before implants.

A silicone implant.

A silicone implant.

 

 

The CAREGIVERS: #5

 

I chose to have a double mastectomy with expanders and implants at St. Vincent's Hospital in Birmingham, AL.  Chemotherapy and Herceptin would follow.  

People astounded me with love and care.

Cards, prayers, visits, calls, meals, cookies, gifts, words of encouragement - I have felt surrounded and loved by so many.  My husband Greg, children Lily and Hank, family, friends, clergy, doctors, nurses, technicians, even strangers have overwhelmed me with tangible love.   Thank you so very much.   I am honored by your kindness.   I wish I could have included so many more photos.

In the video below  Shades Mountain Air bandmate, Don Wendorf provided a ride when I still wasn't allowed to drive after my surgery.  He and his wife Lynda have compiled and written beautiful books about caregiving.  See the links below.

Seasons of Caring is a compilation of inspirational writings by clergy and people of different faiths compiled by Lynda Everman.   Caregiver Carols is Don Wendorf's musical memoir on the caregiving journey with his late wife Susan.

HER-2: #4

My husband and I were sitting in The Little Donkey sipping on margaritas and chomping on salty chips.  We were in a booth towards the back of the restaurant when the call came in.  " Mrs. Womble, can you hold for the surgeon?".   I went out side on the patio where I heard the surgeon tell me;  "Mrs. Womble, the biopsy came back positive for a small malignant spiculated lession 1.3 centimeters, behind the right nipple....a carcinoma. "   Deja Vu.  I have played this case as a standardized patient.  Life swirls, and tumbles.   Words get jumbled and molecules inside me spin very fast.  

"I've got breast cancer,"  I told Greg when I went back into the restaurant.  "WHAT?"  he replied.   As I sat down and we discussed the surgeon's findings, I held it together.    After several minutes of nervous cancer talk, we jumped subjects discussing our previous topic.  Greg took my hand and said, "I love you."  I burst into tears and no waiter or waitress would come near our table.  Emotionally, a cancer diagnosis is a devastating blow, even though I knew it was a small tumor,  found early.    

My pathology was estrogen positive, progesterone negative and HER-2 positive.  That meant agressive but not the most agressive.  Besides the emotionally exhausting task of telling my famliy I had breast cancer, I had to convince them I wasn't lying, talking about my next fake patient case.  I dove into researching the disease and treatment.  I watched the Lifetime movie "Living Proof" about the discovery of Herceptin, a relatively new drug I am now taking to deal with the HER-2 diagnosis.  

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To help me cope, I made silly movies with my sister Sue.

 

She had a bad mammo-grama: #2

Michelle and me

"Mam, that'll be $321.77 for this follow-up mammogram," the lady said.

"Well, I'd just rather have breast cancer than pay the $321.77.  I thought the second follow-up mammogram was free with my insurance?"

This was how I handled my 2nd mammogram when called to the payment desk at the diagnostic center.  Thank goodness I had a kind mammogram technologist, Michelle, who patiently walked me through these new waters. 

 

 I guess lots of people get bad or questionable mammogram results every now and again.  I had had one before, and figured this would follow suit.   Michelle and fellow technician Marcia led me through beautifully.  The next step would be a getting a surgeon to perform a needle biopsy.  Only 3 years before this, I had played a standardized patient, or as I call them fake patient with a 1.5 centimeter spiculated lession behind the nipple on the right breast.  This case is going to become very close to my heart.

Marcia, Michelle and me

Marcia, Michelle and me

This is what my spiculated (spreading outside cell wall) lession looked like to me.

This is what my spiculated (spreading outside cell wall) lession looked like to me.

Needles: Case #3

As a standardized patient, I played the part of a woman who had to be told she had breast cancer.  This video was made several years prior to the actual diagnosis, which would mimic the pretend case almost exactly.

 NEEDLE and BIOPSY are scary words when used by themselves.  When used together, they become terrifying.  My follow-up mammogram had shown a spot which needed further investigation.  The mammogram center assigned me a wonderful nurse navigator, Lisa, who explained what was about to happen and gave me loads of great material.  My gynecologist recommended a surgeon for the procedure. Two days later I am lying face down on  a table with a hole cut out in in it.  My right breast inserted through a circular opening on a raised table.  The digital mammogram was under the table.   My technologist, Marcia then had gravity's help while she placed my right breast in between the two plastic flaps.  With razor-sharp coordinates they instruct the surgeon where to stick a long needle into the middle of my questionable spot.   While my surgeon was very competent, Michelle put a hand on my back for support as the lidocane was administered;  and Marcia, the other tech verbally made sure I was doing OK.  I won't forget the sting of the needle biopsy, but Michelle and Marcia's care will be what I take home.

Needle biopsy table

Needle biopsy table

Michelle raises the table before the needle biopsy.

Michelle raises the table before the needle biopsy.