Sunday, March 29, 2009

WOW!!! This blog was named one of the top 30 inspirational cancer survivor blogs

My blog was listed as one of the top 30 inspirational cancer survivor blogs by I definitely want to thank everyone at that organization for the honor, I am humbled, shocked and grateful. I also want to thank for giving me a voice on there as well. I am #19 on the list. Here is the link:

Mel is a breast cancer survivor. Listen to her weekdays on The Vic McCarty Show 10-noon on Also check out her blog posts on

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Luck of the Draw

I moved to Michigan from California about six years ago. I worked in the television industry and left a pretty good career to be with my then boyfriend, now fiance, who was in an accident and moved back with his parents to recouperate. I stayed in CA for a year, working on a couple of shows that didn't last and decided that, since the television industry isn't very stable, that I wanted to move to Michigan to be with my boyfriend Doug. I thought, after I moved here in the middle of one long winter, that it would be a decision I would later regret, but looking back I was pretty lucky.

Lucky, you are thinking, you moved away from a lucrative career in television to move to a small town in Michigan, that most people have never heard of, much less pronounce, then you got cancer, how the hell is that lucky? Well let me tell you why I think I am lucky.
First of all I believe that I recieved the best care possible. The planets truly aligned for me healthwise when I moved here. I started working out more at a gym and got a trainer Scott Conti. Scott is one of the people I think is responsible for helping save my life, although he will disagree with me. I work out like a fiend, to get ready for hockey season, mostly my legs but one particular day I wanted to focus on my arms, to get them toned. We did a good workout then a couple of days later I noticed a lump in my breast, it may have been a coincidence, but I don't think so. Secondly Scott recommended my primary care physician, I didn't have a doc since I moved here and I was going to go to one to get the yearly womans exam before I found the lump. I called my new Dr., Dr. Swenor, and scheduled an appointment. While all this was going on I was in the process of getting individual health insurance. They had turned me down because I had vision insurance through their company, and I had to tell them, no its vision, its not major health insurance. They looked into it and 2 days before I saw and met the doctor my insurance card came in the mail. Could this be luck or divine intervention? I say a little bit of both. So here I am at the Dr. Swenor's office, not really thinking I have cancer, I never really thought it would be that, meeting her for the first time and we exchange pleasantries and I show her my lump. I was scheduled for a biopsy the same day. The results would come a few days later. I called her office and the nurse answered the phone, no results yet. Ok I thought, I was on my way from one job to another and 2 minutes later my doctor called and asked how soon could I get there to discuss the results. Fuck, I thought, it's cancer. I know I have written about this part many many times but it is such an important part of being a patient, knowing that the doc never calls you into the office to see how you are doing, just to give you the bad news. I remember walking into the office, but not actually the drive there, I guess I was on mental cruise control. After a few minutes of her wanting me to call my boyfriend I asked her to just tell me, although I am pretty sure I cursed at her doing so and she said "it's cancer." If you have been reading my blogs up til now you know the rest of this part of the story.
At this point I had to tell my employer, at the time I was a server at a major ski/golf resort in the area, I was scared to tell them, not that they would fire me, but holy fuck!!!! I was just diagnosed with cancer and telling the story over and over again can be completely overwhelming in the beginning, especially to your employer, you never want to cry at work, and I didn't want to cry in front of her. I told her the story and my doc wrote a note getting me out of work, the biopsy made it entirely too painful to lift any trays or even help clear tables as a hostess, (yes I am right handed and the lump was in my right breast.)
I can't recall if I met with oncology or the surgeon first, but I liked both of my doctors from the start. Dr. Smith, my oncologist was a no nonsense older doctor, whose son plays hockey. Sweet, something I can relate to him with. I love sports, so anytime I can talk sports with someone, especially hockey I am totally in my element.
The three of us, Doug, Dr. Smith and I discussed the course of action to be taken. Surgery, Chemo, Radiation, Herceptin. It would last a year. Ok, my main thought going through my head, not that I had cancer, which was caught pretty early, was that I couldn't play hockey for 2 years, one track minded weekend warrior athlete in me. It was standard protocol that I was to be put on Surgery, 4 rounds of adriamycin/cytoxan, 12 rounds of taxol with herceptin concurrently then herceptin for the rest of the year (52 rounds in all of herceptin, but they do it every three weeks after you are done with taxol, so you don't go completely nuts going to the hospital every single week.) 16 rounds of radiation, then done. Overwhelming to say the least.
When I met my surgeon I knew I would like him from the start, even though he is an Ohio State fan. Too much free time for me is a dangerous thing as I looked him up on the internet and saw his qualifications and read up on him. We discussed mastectomy or lumpectomy, I chose lumpectomy, because the lump was high enough that most of the breast could be saved and if no lymphnodes were involved we wouldn't have to worry about cutting it off, which would be hard to handle, just finding out you have cancer is hard, then them telling you you have to have something completely cut off from you? I am glad I didn't have to go through that. I told him I was a University of Michigan fan and we were joking about sports, at which point my boyfriend pipes up I don't care anything about sports, probably thinking my love for the maize and blue would taint the doc's professionalism in the operating room when he is cutting me open? I really don't think he thought that, but he was just as freaked out as I was.
So are you still wondering how I am lucky? Well let me tell you. If I was still living in California I probably wouldn't be able to work, tv production hours are long 12 hour days mostly and my fatigue level was pretty high. I don't think I would get to know the doctors that I have as well as I do if I was being treated out in CA, now I am not saying it isn't possible, but this is my journey and my opinion. I see my docs, and nurses around town and we talk, I don't think that would happen if I still lived in the san fernando valley.
If you had told me I would be on the radio championing causes and being a producer/co-host a few years ago I would have told you you were crazy. I would have never thought I would be on the radio, being able to speak about my causes, relay for life, and pretty much other cancer related events that go on in the area, whether it is a spaghetti dinner for someone needed help with medical bills or just relaying information on an upcoming event in the area like Bike 4 Breast Cancer or Tri 4 fun. I never thought that I would be one to be on the radio, I hate the sound of my own voice, I never really liked talking in front of people, although I am overcoming my fear of public speaking. I wouldn't have found my voice, on the radio and in this blog.
Most importantly cancer has given me something that most people don't get, a second chance, at many things. I don't take people or things for granted anymore. Looking back I think I was so consumed by my career in television that I took Doug for granted. Little things don't bother me as much anymore, when you are faced with adversity like I have been you have to laugh, like when your car has a fight with a carport an loses, yes that was my fault and $200.00 later I am still laughing about it, and yes its expensive, but in the grand scheme of things, so what?
I am truly grateful and truly lucky for all the Doctors, Nurses and Medical personel that have come into my life. Everyone I have met has made a positive contribution to my medical care, even if it was just a smile or a hello on a day that was difficult to get through.
So yes I am lucky to be living where I am living, having the doctors, friends and jobs that I have and the life that I have.
My friend is going to Vegas in a couple of days, a place where, when I lived in California I would go to twice a year. Maybe I should have her put a couple of quarters in a slot machine for me.
Listen to me on The Vic McCarty Show weekdays 10am-noon on, & read my blog posts on

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Blue Room

Yesterday I had doctors appointment with my primary care physician, not surprising, I usually have been averaging 6-7 doctor appointments a month. This one was a little different. First of all, this is the only doctor appointment I have all month, finally I don't need to see my myriad of ologists this month, oncologist, endocrinologist, radiologist, cardiologist, you get the idea. So this appointment was a follow up. Now let me go back in time a bit to set up the scene as it were, when I was diagnosed, my primary care doc was the one who told me "it's cancer." It was in the blue room. The last time I was in the blue room was probably about 6 months ago, I had a blood test to check my cholesterol. Everything was fine with my results, but I totally flashed back to Sept 18, 2007 when I was diagnosed. I really don't recollect what was said about my results other than that they were fine, but I just wanted to get the hell out of there.
I had been thinking about that for a while. How could nothing but a room get into my head so much? Not only that my doc just took on a new partner so the probability of me not going into the blue room was pretty slim. I told myself to, well, get over it, its just a room, I am cancer free. Which brings me back to yesterday. I was back at the doc's office like I said, and the nurse took me into the blue room. I was totally fine, the room lost its power over me. Amazing things that we can accomplish once we put our minds to it.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Some older blogs that I wrote before I started this one



Hi Everyone
I am a DJ/Producer/Jane of all trades here. You may recogize my on air voice as Dusty Ryan. Besides being an on air personality I am pretty much like most people here in Northern Michigan. I love the beautiful summers here, love to ski, I exercise and eat right,love to watch hockey, I play hockey on a local womens team, and oh yeah I have breast cancer. I wont tell you my age,just that I am old enough to be your cooler older sister.
I was diagnosed on September 18 of last year. I I found the lump myself and went to my primary care physician for a physical and for her to well, check out my lump. After about 3 mammograms and 2 biopsys later I was diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma. I had a lumpectomy 2 days after my birthday in October, not really the present I was looking for, considering I have been healthy for most of my life, with the exceptions of the usual childhood illnesses and the occasional cold & flu here and there. Once the surgery was complete the doctor sent my pathology (fancy term for part of the lymph nodes they removed and the lump) to the oncologist here at Northern Michigan Hospital. He was able to determine that I have stage one (which is the lowest stage) grade three (which is very aggressive) er/pr positive (cancer responds well to hormones) her2positive(agressive gene of cancer) Whew. That was a lot to take in. Here I was not sick, just getting a physical then wham, pretty much all this hit me like a ton of bricks!! Since I had such an agressive form of cancer he suggested that he send my info to the karmanos cancer center in Detroit for basically a second opinion. What was I going to say no? The top in the field here in Michigan were going to discuss my case and find the best form of treatment for me, and I wouldn't have to travel there, just see my regular oncologist. I was all for it.
At the end of October/beginning of November I was told what my chemotherapy treatment would be. 4 weeks of Adriamycin/Cytoxan those are cancer killing drugs (every other week) Then 12 weeks (in a row ) of Taxol(another cancer killing drug) and Herceptin (targeted gene therapy, because of I am her2positive that is what they treat that with) after that cycle is done I continue on the herceptin every three weeks until basically the beginning of next year. I will have radiation at some point after the 12 weeks of taxol/herceptin is complete. Once all of my chemotherapy is done I will have to take tamoxifen which is a pill for the next 5 years. Pretty strange to have your life planned out for that long.
I have already completed the first cycle. There are of course many side effects of these drugs that they put into your body. They are fatigue, hair loss, nausea, diarrhea, constipation, vomiting, numbness in hands & feet, decreased white blood cell count, weight loss, weight gain, loss of appetite, heart failure.
Now I wont tell you all the side effects I have had except for nausea & fatigue. Those are the two big ones that most people are afflicted with.
Fatigue is a big one for me. It can hit you without warning. You can feel absolutely fine one second, then feel so tired that you have to sit down the next. Considering I am used to working out 4 to 5 days a week that was quite startling.
The nausea was bad the first night, 3 hours of nausea without vomiting. I can only equate it to your worst hangover times 10. I unfortunately have had the hair loss. The docs said that hair loss occurs 2 weeks after the first treatment of Adriamycin/Cytoxan. I didn't think that they meant EXACTLY TWO WEEKS. I took a shower and my hair started coming out in clumps when I was brushing. Yikes. I had already spoken to my stylist Val at La Dolce Vita before my treatment started and she said she would shave my head. So after the salon was closed and on my Mom's birthday, November 28th, I went with my boyfriend and my friend Stacey to get my head shaved. Stacey, is not only a good friend but also my neighbor and a member of my soccer team. I couldn't watch Val shave my head but it was such a relief to know that I wouldn't be pulling clumps of hair out of my head. Although I do miss my nice long shoulder length hair, and it is damn cold here in Michigan without any hair!! I do wear do rags, bandannas and hats at work and at home to keep my little bald head warm.
Along with the treatments there are some things I have had to give up. I can't eat certain foods right now. I miss a good medium rare prime rib, but I can't eat foods that are not well cooked and the chemo makes it hard to digest red meat. I can't have fresh fruits & veggies unless they are washed really well, so I am looking forward to having a big salad and steak dinner at the beginning of April 08! I also have to stay away from buffets(which I love, specially when I used to go to vegas their buffets rock!!)
Another big thing I had to give up for now is hockey. I have been playing every year since 2001. Because I have a port I can't play contact sports (no soccer this summer either) Hockey is especially hard since it is my passion. To me everything makes sense when you are out on the ice. I am also captain of our local women's team the herricanes. My team has been very supportive of me and I can't wait to hit the ice with them again in the 2009-2010 season, man that feels like a long way off.
Tomorrow is my second treatment of taxol/herceptin. I will have ten more to go after that. Yes I am counting down to the day when all I will have is the herceptin.
Well that is a small part of my story so far.


Sometimes the cure is worse than the disease

Today I start my second treatment of taxol/herceptin
The first things the nurses do is clear the line with saline, then they start with the pre chemo meds, anti nausea, steroids what ever your treatment calls for. I was also given benedryl, the doc said that helps with the side effects. The nurses say that benedryl makes you feel wired. And then some!!! As soon as the injection was given I started feeling fidgety and weird. The nurses say it is like restless leg syndrome. I felt like I was going to jump out of my skin. It felt like my leg bones wanted to leave my body. That feeling lasted for about 45 minutes to an hour. Luckily I was able to fall asleep after that, the entire chemo treatment takes about 2 hours. Now I don't know what side effects I would have if I didn't take the benedryl but I have to say I really don't want to know. I figure I can endure 45 minutes of that compared to the alternative. As my friend Vic says just rub some dirt on it! That cracks me up. Since I am used to playing hockey i just think of it this way I just have to get up and keep on skating. I will leave you with this quote that I found on the internet:
You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing you think you cannot do.
-Eleanor Roosevelt



I just had my 4th treatment of taxol/herceptin and I am feeling good 8 more to go

his round is definitely treating me better than the first round of adriamycin/cytoxan.
One of my hockey teammates came to sit with me while I was getting my 3rd infusion. She was interested in the whole process and was there when they put the needle in, I can't even watch that, I am some what of a needle phobe, and she was asking all sorts of questions about the process. Luckily my doc lowered the dosage of the benedryl so i wasn't sitting there freaking out while she was there, that wouldn't have been fun for anyone. I was very greatful that she came to sit with me, and was interested in the whole process. My boyfriend always comes but it was nice to sit and chat with one of my friends and get my mind off of things. (Usually I just sit there and watch tv until I fall asleep, the drugs make me sleepy and sometimes I get crabby too, although some of my friends will tell you I can't blame that on the drugs.Wink
I have been pretty lucky with the side effects with this round. Nothing is new. I still get fatigued. My blood counts are still low,but they are climbing so I don't need to take any boosters yet.
One thing that is driving me crazy is my hair (or EXTREME lack thereof) Ok everyone who knows me knows that I am not a vain person, but come one I would really like my hair to start growing again. I have sprouts of longer hair on some parts of my head, and some parts are completely bald. I know it is only hair and it will grow back, but I feel like a gardener constantly looking at her crop, hoping that it will grow again soon.


The Boxer
I have been thinking about what to write about. This round has been going fairly well for me.
I have noticed a new side effect, intermittent tingling in the fingers. That is from the taxol. It just started in one finger. It is normal for the meds to to do this, hopefully it will be intermittent and not all the time. It is very distracting.
Today I had my 6th treatment of taxol/herceptin, I am halfway through this round. It is kind of a milestone.
Since I have been feeling so good I thought I could push myself a little more than I usually do. Nothing big. My trainer gave me exercises to do at home but I haven't done any of those since my white blood counts are low (white blood cells fight off infections) and you don't feel anything if your counts are low. You don't feel sick or weird or anything, which is frustrating, because I feel good and I think sweet! I can do a little more. Well that is not necessary the case. The chemo attacks my body, I push myself a little more, and my body feels like its attacking me when I feel fatigued. I feel like I have a thousands little boxers inside me attacking me from all angles. I need to take a nap at that point but I want to fight it and feel like I did before I got cancer. When feeling tired was someting you could kind of shrug off and sleep when you wanted to, not when you need to.
The chemo attacks my body, My body attacks me. It is a vicious cycle. I know I need to sleep when my body tells me to, but I am used to going all out all the time. Now I can't do that. It is hard thing for someone like me. If I am the boxer fighting all the boxers inside me I will have to keep on fighting, get knocked out when i have to (sleep I mean) or take a standing 8 count. I will stay in the ring and fight, but also know when I can't.
I will leave you with this quote from football coach George Allen:
"One of the most difficult things everyone has to learn is that for your entire life you must keep fighting and adjusting if you hope to survive. No matter who you are or what your position is you must keep fighting for whatever it is you desire to achieve"

5. 02/28/08

brown really isn't my color

Well I am over halfway done with my taxol/herceptin treatment 5 more to go

Some of you may have heard me on the Vic McCarty show on Wednesday talking about all that has happened to me in the past few months. Even though I am on the radio pretty much every day I was a little bit nervous. I mean its one thing to talk hockey or movies or other things its another to talk about yourself. It was actually a little cathartic.
Let's see, I am still tolerating the chemo pretty well, I do have a new side effect, the taxol turns your nails brown. Now it is not as bad as you think, it is not like my nails look like they have a bad brown nail polish on them, in fact unless you are up close and looking you can't really see it all that much. My thumbs are turning brown and the rest of my fingers have brown rings, nail colored, then brown, kind of like a tree would have. Not exactly my color.
My hair is starting to grow back slowly. VERY SLOWLY. My boyfriend says he can see the growth every day. I think he is just trying to make me feel better. My hair was dark brown-black colored before all this started now I have white hair growing in too. I was hoping that if my hair did change color, which I have heard it may, that it would come in blonde. I could go for that california surfer girl look.
I still have fatigue as a side effect, and as a matter of a fact I am late for my nap.


Things I've learned so far

I realized I haven't written in a while so here are things I've learned so far

I don't feel like I have changed at all since any of this started. A friend of mine said that they are surprised how strong I am, that I haven't lost my faith. I guess I don't know any other way to be. Another thing I have learned is that that and you really find out who your friends are, and people that you would least expect to be there for you end up standing by your side and people you would expect to stand by you don't know how to and treat you differently, like all you are is your cancer and because of that you would be some kind of Dr Jekyll & Mr. Hyde. I have told my friends that no matter what I am still just Mel.
Also when people tell you things to try to make you feel better, like" isn't it great you get to see all the different hairstyles you will have?" Yeah great. I really didn't want what is referred to as the extreme haircut. If you think is is so damn cool shave your head in solidarity then we will see.
Monday is my 9th of 12 Taxol/Herceptin. The light at the end of the tunnel is getting brighter.
I will leave you with this quote:
Don't walk in front of me, I may not follow. Don't walk behind me, I may not lead. Just walk beside me and be my friend- Albert Camus

7. 03/18/08

So What

Two more taxol/herceptin to go

I could have called this blog things I have learned so far part two. Its funny, people get riled up over really stupid things. Now don't get me wrong, I still get upset when things bug me, but not so much any more. For example, you're stuck behind someone slow and you won't make it to the grocery store when you wanted to ? So what? Your computer isn't working how you want it to ? So what? You should live every day because it is a gift. I know that sounds kind of preachy but that is how I feel. I guess it takes something like this to realize that.
I saw a friend of mine that I haven't seen in a while and I had my bandanna on over my head and she said oh you look great, you have all of your hair under there? Well last time she saw me was I guess in August or September before the diagnosis. She asked me what I did to look so good. I said I got cancer!! Well I didn't really know what else to say. Most people gain weight on the treatment I am on, or so I am told. I have actually lost weight, not much but enough for my friends to notice. Of course she didn't know what to say to that, I'm so sorry blah blah, that kind of thing. but what else was I to say? I don't feel sorry for myself and I guess just blurting it out was better for me than for her but, so what?
I am really looking forward to this taxol to be over. The steroids they give me make me all hot and my face gets red and I feel tired. Hopefully the insomnia will end too. It would be nice to actually sleep the whole night. The same week I am done with this round I will have an EKG to make sure the herceptin hasn't damaged my left ventricle of my heart. One of the side effects of the drug is congestive heart failure. So what. If this will cure my cancer the percentage of that happening to me is pretty slim.
I do want to thank a friend of mine in this blog. Lisa Skop. She knows how much I love hockey and got some sweet tickets to a red wings game from her husbands boss for me. Unfortunately my blood counts were too low and I couldn't hang out with 20,000 of my closest friends at the Joe. So what? We can see a game next season, or even the playoffs if we are lucky.


One is not the lonliest number that you'll ever do

three dog night was wrong

One is not the lonliest number that you'll ever do. I am on the eve of my last chemo treatment for taxol/herceptin. What will I be happy for the most, well besides my hair growing back?? Lets see, I will be happy that my skin will go back to feeling normal again, that the herceptin treatments will only take a half hour instead of 2-3 hours for the chemo. I will be happy that I won't need a nap everyday, although I could get fatigued from the radiation I will be getting, but since I have yet to see the radiologist that is another blog for another time. Well this is a momentus occasion I think. Last chemo treatment. I have had, after tomorrow, 16 in total, and it started on November 12. Seems like so long ago. I see the radiologist on Friday & I have an ekg that day too so I will report in sometime over the weekend and explain all the fun things that radiation has to offer me.


Not my first choice for my first tattoo but it will probably save my life

two dots from the radiology tech

I had two appointments on Friday. One with the cardiologist to have an ekg and one with the radiologist. I have already had an ekg with the cardiologist before I started chemo to take what they call a baseline, which is defined by free "as reference point used to indicate the initial condition against which future measurements are compared" to make sure I had not had any major heart issues, and since I am on herceptin to see what my left ventricle ejection fraction was which is defined by as" the portion of blood that is pumped out of a filled ventricle as a result of a heartbeat." Now why herceptin specifically bothers the left ventricle I don't know, but the docs have to check it obviously since herceptin can attack the cancer gene and the heart.
The ekg is basically like an ultrasound for your heart. You lay on a table half naked, well topless, they attach electrodes to you, squeeze goo onto the device that checks your heart press it against your chest. The whole procedure takes about 45 minutes to an hour. I got the results of the ekg on Monday before my herceptin. The oncologist wanted to make sure the chemo/herceptin didn't damage my heart so bad that I couldn't do the herceptin that day. My baseline for my left ventricle ejection fraction was 60, it dropped down to 48.9, which sounds scary, but is within acceptable parameters for herceptin, there always is a drop this is normal.
My second appointment was with the radiologist. You first meet with the radiology nurse. The first thing they do is tell you cant use scented soap or deodarant with aluminum during the weeks you get radiation. I use body wash just because it is easier and chemo makes your skin feel different, I can't really explain how, but it does. I like using irish spring, but that is out since it is on of the most scented soaps out there, so there goes one thing I will do without for 4 weeks, add that to the list. I bought dove scent free which I will start using the week of but I am not giving up my irish spring until then!! I also bought Tom's of Maine deodarant, which is the only aluminum free one that I could find out there, plus I really don't want to go hunting down and comparision shop at this point. I already started using that.
After meeting with the nurse and her telling me what I should and shouldn't do I met with the the Radiologist. He explains what the machine will do and has a small version on the table next to me where he can show what the machine does. I asked him why there was no doll to go on the machine. He said it came with one but he doesnt' have it anymore and told him he should get a stretch armstrong doll to put on the machine. Imagine how much stress that would relieve and make people laugh. That gave the doc a good chuckle.
The next person I met with was with the radiology tech. Again I am topless. She puts tiny tattoos on you so the radiology machine will line up every time you go in and zapps the same area. They also put stickers on the site of my lumpectomy. That will tell them the depth of the radiation so it wont go into my lung. As the tech was explaining the tattoo I told her that I wanted to get a tattoo after this whole experience was over and when I am cancer free. I thought no problem this wont be that bad, well one tattoo goes basically in my cleavage and one on my right side, the one on the right side didn't hurt, but the one in my cleavage kinda hurt, I thought, I better toughen up when I actually get my tattoo!!
Ok so then they take you down to the ct machine to make sure everything is lined up too. They tell you to breathe normally, because if you breathe deep the radiation will go into your lung and damage it. Of course you are lying there and I usually close my eyes when these procedures occur and what do I do? Focus on my breathing, then I start thinking am I breathing deeply, am I breathing normally? All this time you have to lay still with my arm in a brace over my head, in a position like I am raising my arm to ask a question in class. The tech said I was breathing normally but I didn't feel like I was. I have 21 radiology sessions starting on the 16th. Less than I thought. I will go every day for 21 days.
When I was all done I asked to see the radiation machine. It looked like something out of Battlestar Galactica. It was huge!! And the door that closes looks like something that you would see in a presidential nuclear fallout shelter. It was that big.
So here I am one day after my herceptin only treatment. Leave it to me though to get side effects AFTER chemo. Neuropathy. Tingling in extremities, I have it in my feet & one of my hands. It can be painful, but for me it is not at the moment, just really annoying, but like I told my oncologist, I don't plan on running a marathon anytime soon.
The next countdown begins. 14 more herceptin. December 29th is my last herceptin. Tomorrow I have a mammogram. (Another topless day, I feel like I have been topless for most of the last few days.) It is the brand new digital mammography machine at the hospital.


Much like your tv dinner I have been microwaved

well not really but I started my radiation this week

I started my radiation treatment. It actually takes longer for me to park the car and get to the radiation department than the actual treatment. Here is what happens. I get to the radiation department and go directly to the changing room. I get a robe and take off my bra and shirt and put on the robe and I put a sweatshirt over the robe (its chilly in there!!) I have a scanner card that scans in and tells the radiation techs that I am there. There are two rooms you can wait in. One is a typical waiting room area with a tv and chairs, the other is a room that is kind of like a nice living room. I wait in the living room and recline in the lazy boy chair until it is my turn. The one of the techs comes to get me and I walk to the room with the radiation machine. I take off my sweatshirt and take off half of my robe ( the side that needs to get zapped and they line up the machines with the little tattoos that they made during the run through I had a couple of weeks ago. They tell you not to breathe deep. Unfortunately that is all I could think about for the first couple of times. I put my left hand in my jeans pocket and I rub my red wings alumni keychain to keep my mind off of not breathing deep, but of course I am my own worst enemy. The first day they were running late and it took longer because they had to xray and line me up and I didn't eat enough and my anxiety practically rattled me off the table. I felt pretty nauseous and headachy and just plain crappy. Great, I thought, I have 20 more days of this, well that sucks, but spoke to the nurse and she said it was nerves and lack of eating so you can bet I will eat and try to relax before the next treatment. Its not an easy thing to do. I thought I was a pretty cool customer but for some reason I just get all anxious and it jacks me up. The techs were cool, they showed me my xray and explained exactly what they were doing so I wouldn't be so freaked out. It kind of helped. Actually the thing that relaxed me the most was that the techs talked Tigers and Wings with me. Leave it to me to find the sports fans, and one of the techs plays hockey, so of course I am going to actively recruit her for the womens hockey team. Only me. I go in to get treatments and come out with a potential new player. Life is good. I keep my eyes closed during the treatment. I hear the large machine moving around me and it makes clicking noises. I prefer not to watch. Let it zap me without me seeing. I do the same thing when I have xrays done or anything like that. Why? I don't know. It makes me feel better I guess.
One funny thing happened the first day. I put on my robe after I was done with the treatment and I was starting to put on my sweatshirt and before I zipped it up my robe opened up and I flashed the tech who was (luckily) the only person in the hallway. Since I spent most of the day topless anyway ( I had a follow up appointment with my surgeon before radiation) it really didn't faze me that much. Although it probably would have given the elderly gentleman waiting for his wife a nice show for hump day.
I will do radiation 5 days a week until the 16th of May.
Spring is finally here. I am still deciding when to stop wearing do rags, bandannas & hats and let the world see my extreme haircut, it is growing but slowly.

11. 04/30/08

Do I Stutter??

Well Actually yes I do

Another quick update. Yes another one of the great side effects of herceptin. Stuttering, doesn't happen a lot,but it does make it difficult to do the news broadcasts in the morning. I am still suffering from the effects simply known as chemo brain. Makes it difficult to think or put complete thoughts together sometimes. Not something I will ever get used to. I am used to being quick witted and it is hard to be that when it feels like someone has literally taken information from your brain and you are struggling to think of an answer. I also still have perpherial neuropathy. Fancy name for tingling in your hands and feet, actually could be anywhere you have nerve endings, which is, well everywhere. When I first told my oncologist about the fact that I had it he said let me know if it hurts and we can prescribe something for that. I scoffed to myself. How could that hurt? Well, it can and it does sometimes, luckily not enough for me to have to take something. When will that side effect go away? I was told it could go away tomorrow or last forever. Yeah thanks for that one.
Radiation is going well. I have roughly 2 weeks left of that. My doctor says I am a very good patient. I still am anxious when I am in the radiation room. The nurse suggested that I bring my ipod &play music. That was a good idea. I added a whole bunch of songs to it and figured out the time it takes for me to get all situated and get zapped is exactly 3 minutes and 51 seconds. I listened to Sweet's Ballroom Blitz, and that is how long the song was and the song was over when the techs came back into the room. Not that long of a time, but it still is the most stressful part of my day. I joked with the nurse that when this is all over I will be deaf because I crank up the volume on the ipod, so I don't hear the machine move and whirr.
Spring is here and summer is right around the corner. I am hoping my hair will be long enough for me to be comfortable to not wear a hat or do rag or bandana. It is not ready for prime time just yet, and it is still whitish-grey colored, can't wait for that color to go away, but that may not either. Lots of things that docs just don't know about cancer. Well I can always dye my hair as long as the cancer is gone.
12. 05/14/08

Thanks for helping save my life, here have a cupcake.
Yes that's right I am done with my radiation. The thanks I give to the radiation therapy department? Glen's cupcakes.
Ok so I am not a baker, I am a good cook, but what do you say to someone who is helping to save your life? I say thanks, have a cupcake.
I am glad that I am done with radiation, it is actually the shortest therapy I will have to get rid of cancer, but the most nerve wracking. Yes it all in my head, but the mind is a terrible thing sometimes. Just breathe, I say, but not too deep on the radiation table or else it could damage your lungs. Thank god for anti anxiety meds and one of the best inventions in the 21st century- the ipod. That's right I said the ipod. Just put your favorite tune in there, crank it up and you don't notice that the machine that is as large as a yugo is rotating around your half naked body and making an annoying buzzing sound. I can't really describe what it sounds like but it is disturbing, but once again, it is all in my head. And did I say how cold it is in there? Did I mention I was topless? It is kind of a funny experience because you lay there on the table half exposed with one arm up in the air and the radiation techs are lining up the machine to the little tattoos that they made,and they measure something with a cold little ruler? Do I ask what? Does it matter?No. Since I only had the lumpectomy they are still real and still spectacular.(Thanks to Doc Brown for that, no not the guy from Back to the Future, sorry I don't have a cupcake for you but you do have my undying gratitude.) Normally I would be upset that women would be staring at my chest closely but hey, I am getting rid of cancer so its all good.
So I hope you enjoyed the cupcakes, Lynn, Rob, Mary, Annie & Dr. A. and to anyone else who had a cupcake. Thanks.


Definitions are all relative.

I participated in my first group therapy session today.
I am part of an online group meeting. We meet every Monday night. Much easier or so I thought than doing one live and in person.
Today I went to the infusion center and was in one that they have every Monday at 2pm. I have been invited to join every Monday since the group started. Normally I don't like talking about myself to perfect strangers (yeah I know I am on the radio so I do it almost every day, but this is different, because you actually see the peoples faces who you are talking to) but I decided that I would try it. Susan, the social worker who is in charge of the group would ask me to participate when I would come in for my chemotherapy treatments. Well since the medications make me fall asleep I thought I wouldn't be that interesting to listen to as I would probably fall asleep during the session. How rude!! Not my fault I blame the drugs. Anyway as we were waiting there was a lady there who was a 2 time survivor of breast cancer. She asked me if I was a cancer "victim." Ok that really got my ire up. First of all I am not the victim of anything. If you get diabetes are you a diabetes victim? Or get the flu are you a flu victim. No I think not. defines victim as "one who is harmed or made to suffer from an act, circumstance, agency or condition. " That could be defined as almost anything. Yep I drank way too much wine last night, therefore I am a hangover victim. I ate too many chips at the mexican restaurant therefore I am a nacho victim? NO!! I immediately corrected her and said I am a patient or survivor. Maybe she feels like a victim, but I do not. I don't really feel like a survivor either. Most people say you are a survivor as soon as you are diagnosed. I don't really know how I feel about that word either. defines survivor "to carry on, despite hardships or trauma, persevere, to cope with a trauma or setback, persevere after." Ok so I guess by definition I am, but I won't be done with my herceptin until December, so I still feel like a patient. I think I will feel more like a survivor when I get this damn port out. Ok so I digressed. Back to the whole group therapy thing, I guess it was a little cathartic. There were a couple of people there, one lady who had inoperable liver cancer and one who was a breast cancer survivor for 10 years. We all talked about our own experiences, drugs we take and our caregivers. It was a good experience. If I can make it for more I will, depending upon work schedules. Oh well my last thought is this. If you see someone,or talk to someone that has or had cancer, don't think of them as a victim, or even if you do, don't call them that, that lady didn't know me or my experiences, maybe in her mind she is a victim. but in my mind I am not.
We also got this cool book called crazy sexy cancer at the group meeting. I found a good quote in there and I will leave you with it.
"Courage is being scared to death, but saddling up anyway." John Wayne said that.

14 06/05/08

The Stanley Cup aka hockey really does fight cancer
The Red Wings have won 11 stanley cups in their history. Why do I write about them in my blog, well because since the very beginning of my diagnosis the red wings, unbeknownst to them, have been right there with me.

I am sitting here watching the post game for the stanley cup finals, watching all the red wings players grab hold of the cup and skate around with it, all the post game commentary, and I am glad they won the cup. It makes me think back to September 18, 2007, not that long ago, almost nine months ago when I was diagnosed. I was going to go to the last day of training camp for the wings in traverse city. Fate had other plans for me. I missed the last day of training camp, but ultimately my life has been saved.
Hockey has been a part of my life since 1999. I first got into it when I lived in LA. A vendor gave me tickets to see the Kings play the Oilers at Staples center. I was immediately hooked. I even learned to skate and bought gear and started playing as soon as I could. I played coed in California, in Burbank and in Pasadena. When I moved here to Michigan I was in contact with someone who was part of the womens hockey team at Griffin in Harbor Springs. I started playing here in 2004 and became captain in 2006. I honestly believe had it not been for my working out at balanced body & fitness in harbor with my trainer Scott Conti and if I didn't have hockey in my life and have an athletes mentality about defeating this disease that my whole attitude and determination about my fight against cancer would be completely different.
Being able to watch the Wings hoist the cup tonight gives me a sense of pride. That may sound silly but the Wings will always be a part of my cancer treatment.
Another interesting thing that happened was that the petoskey news review did a story on me. It was in the June 4th edition of the paper. I talked about how I am doing the relay for life this year and how that affected me. It was very odd to see myself in the paper. Kind of a weird thing to say since I talk on the radio everyday, but most people don't see the face with the disease. I guess now they will. I hope that people will participate in the relay, or donate, and I hope that my story about determination beating this disease will help other cancer warriors survive this disease.
I will leave you with this quote tonight "The worst thing that happens to you can be the best thing that happens to you if you don't let it get the best of you" I am not sure who wrote that but it seems appropriate.


Beautiful Stranger

As it has been almost 9 month since my diagnosis I pause to reflect.
I am finally feeling like myself again. Lots of changes for me, some good, some bad during this whole process. I say I feel like myself because the cure made me feel like someone else. Hopefully gone are the days of feeling so tired I didn't want to get up in the morning, or feeling so tired that I wanted to nap right where I was (luckily for the workers and customers of Glens and other fine stores in the area that did not happen, otherwise that would be a whole other blog) My skin is finally feeling normal, the chemo made it feel like it wasn't mine, hard to explain but my skin felt like it does when it gets cold, like goosebumpy but all the time. Even when I get ready for work in the morning, or get ready for bed at night I see the scar where the lump was removed. Still sometimes I can't believe that is me. Don't get me wrong, Doc Brown, no not the crazy scientist from back to the future, but my surgeon , he did a fantastic job. My hair is finally growing back. I can look in the mirror and see that it is me staring back, not some beautiful bald stranger. It is finally long enough to style, well kind of. The chemo made me feel like I wasn't me. I know I was getting cured, that the drugs are killing the cancer, but it also felt like it was taking a part of me with it. I am feeling back to what I was before. I am going to the gym again, I can't quite work out like I did before, not yet anyway, and I put the emphasis on yet. I can't wait for this herceptin treatment to be over. Soon it will be soccer season, then hockey season and I will be watching, waiting, impatiently on the sidelines and on the bench, waiting to kick that first ball, or take that first wrist shot. I guess during the warmer months I will ride my bike on the bike trail, or attempt to play golf. So if you see me on my bike or on the green say hi, just know you will be talking to ME, not the fatigued, chemo brained, anxiety filled person I was during this journey, but me and every day I will be closer to the person I was before. Hell, I say even better.
I will leave you with this quote from one of my favorite movies "The Shawshank Redemption"
Get busy living or get busy dying.
I think you can guess which one I am doing.
16. 07/23/08

Ok so it has been a while

Yes it has been a while since I have been blogging so lets catch up

have started taking tamoxifen. So far I am about a month into taking that. I take that for 5 years. I am not supposed to eat soy with tamoxifen as it counteracts the effects of the drug. I never realized how much soy is in almost everything!! Protein bars, most frozen foods, canned chili, candy bars, potatoe chips. Pretty much everything I eat that is the delicious processed food that I eat soy is in. Well. I guess I will be losing weight since my diet will be restricted from eating soy. Obviously it will be difficult to avoid all soy, but there ya go.
I was in the Petoskey Parade on July 4th. It was fun. I was one of 3 survivors in the cancer society float. I rode in the float, I was too tired to walk (damn fatigue is the bane of my existance.) I did my little queen wave to the people who were there. That was fun.
I also did the Relay for Life on July 12. I did not camp out for the 24 hour event, and I feel like i missed out on a huge experience. I gave the opening speech. I felt like it was something I had to do. I walked for about 3 hours and came back for the survivor walk. I can't explain how or why but it was a life changing experience. Unless you are a survivoryou can't really understand what I felt. I can't really put into words what the day meant to me, but I am looking forward to next years relay.
I do want to thank everyone who was involved in the relay for life in emmet county.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Time to reflect

I just got my haircut the other day, only the second or third time since my hair started growing back, it came back in all grey, then back to my normal black, well now its kind of salt & pepper. I showed a good friend of mine my new 'do and she said it looked great, even though I think it is a little too short (although I am grateful that I have hair) and she is amazed how well I am doing considering where I was a year ago. I said I didn't want to think about it, but I guess actually I do.

One year ago I was on round 9 of twelve of taxol, and I was also on herceptin (which I was on for a year) My white counts were low and I couldn't be around a lot of people, I couldn't go skiing or play hockey, I was totally immersed in treatment, I averaged about 6 doctor visits a month, fatigue was plaguing me every day, and I had no hair. I could only work about 20 hours a week due to the fatigue and my white counts. I was about 5 months into producing the Vic McCarty radio show, which I am still on.

Its a year later and I am still dealing with the effects of cancer, I never capitalize that word, I don't want to give it that power, don't get me wrong it did have a hold over me, but I feel like I had more of a hold over it, with my sense of humor keeping my spirits up. Many of my friend had told me that they couldn't believe that I could have a smile on my face every day and be in such good spirits, that they couldn't have the same positive outlook that I had. I don't believe that. Everyone has a fight in them. I still have the fight in me. Survivorship is harder than I thought. People expect you to be the same but you are not. The differences are on the inside not on the exterior.

Do I wish I was never diagnosed? Easy answer yes. Do I think it has changed me for the better? yes, I don't take things for granted as much anymore and I do believe I have an "attitude of gratitude."

My chemo treatments lasted a little over a year. I finished my treatments on Dec 29, 2008, but I am not done with cancer yet, or least it is not done with me.

Thursday, March 5, 2009


I am pretty much just like you. I am a sports fan, I enjoy skiing, snowshoeing, in the winter biking, tennis in the summer.I am the captain of the women's hockey team.
I produce a local morning sports/talk radio show The Vic McCarty show, I just got engaged, and oh yeah, I am a breast cancer survivor.

I work for the local radio station, and we do a lot of charity events. I wanted to participate in one and hadn't so I randomly picked one, it happened to be the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life. It was powerful. (I had only known one person who died of cancer, his name was Nick Corea, he was a writer on Walker, Texas Ranger, and a great guy. Pancreatic cancer took him quickly.) Hearing about all the survivor stories touched me. Little did I know how much. The Relay was in June or July. I was diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma stage one grade 3 breast cancer in September of that same year, just a few months later.

I found the lump in the beginning of September of 2007, never in my wildest dreams did I think cancer. I didn't have a doctor here so my personal trainer suggested a couple of doctors and I picked one, a female doctor, just because I had heard good things about her from other people. I met her and she scheduled me for a biopsy a day or two later.

September 18, 2007.

I remember pretty much everything about that day like it was yesterday. I was driving home from work and I had called to see if my biopsy results were in. The nurse answered the phone and said they were not in. Not even two minutes later the doctor called me. She told me that she had my results and how soon could I get there. FUCK, i thought, It's cancer. It's never a good sign when they want you in the office, its not like they are inviting you to try the extra cookies that the receptionist made for her daughters bake sale. Nope never good news. I don't even remember driving to the office, I just remember ending up there waiting in the waiting room, I recall the doc coming out wearing this odd chinese type apron and she lead me back to one of the exam rooms. It was blue and I sat and I waited for her She asked me if there was someone I wanted to call to be with me when she told me the news, but I just wanted to get it over with, she pressed the issue again and I think I said just fucking tell me!!! "It's cancer." I looked at the silver clock in the blue exam room 1:12pm. Even though I knew that is what she was going to say it still doesn't mentally prepare you for that actual statement. All I heard after that sounded like the adults in Peanuts blah blah blah, staging, blah blah blah tumor size, blah blah blah surgery.

I sat there stunned, being in the best physical shape I had ever been in my life I couldn't believe it, I don't smoke, I don't drink, I eat right, I was gearing up for hockey season, and here she told me news that would totally change my life.