There was no lump -- a Breast Cancer blog

This blog is about my experience with Inflammatory Breast Cancer.
You can learn more about Inflammatory Breast Cancer at or

The names of my Doctors have been changed.



Contact me at Liane58 at gmail dot com
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Location: United States

Monday, December 27, 2004

Fit as a Fiddle

OK, I certainly am full of energy. Today (Dec. 26) I went to a yoga class, and then tonight (at 10:30) I got out my cross-country skis (giving up on shoveling, after two bouts) and skied around my neighborhood in the new fallen snow! It was beautiful and great to be out before the snow got trampled by plows and people.
I'm excited to be nearing the end of my treatment -- only five more radiations. I do have a blister-like burn on my armpit, but it really isn’t bad. Also a little pinkness and tenderness to the scar area. I'm feeling very lucky that I've had so few side effects from the radiation.
So it's looking like "My Cancer Adventure" is going to end happily -- I'll have to see my oncologist again, but I feel confident the prognosis will be good. Of course, I will be living with cancer -- with regular tests and fear of reoccurrence, so the happy ending is a little bit open-ended. I'm taking Tamoxifen, so I will be getting that hormonal therapy for the next five years. But I am also looking forward to returning to "normal life" and letting my identity as a cancer patient slip out of the foreground.
Rosie and I have decided to travel to Puerto Rico in early January, so I'm having fun planning that.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Fry me to the Moon ...

As of today, I am finished with all the full treatments (28), and only have the five "boosts" (treatment of the scar area) left. Yeah! I have a very pink square on my chest, including half my armpit -- it looks pretty fried. I got some prescription cream, "Radiodermitis emulsion" that feels very cooling. Anyway, I think I am lucky not to have any blistering or "wet desquamation." And no fatigue or any other side effects.

A friend from my support group was in the hospital for a second time, because of infection to her "pik line." The hospital is not a fun place to be for so long. I borrowed a laptop with a DVD player and took a movie in so we could watch it together -- Danny Kaye's "The Court Jester" -- very fun! She was just getting out today, I'm very happy she won't have to be there over Christmas.

I got fitted with my prosthesis, although it is going to be a while before I'll be wearing it much -- I'm getting cooked to medium rare with radiation, so it will take a while to heal from that. It does look like "the real thing" (not quite as saggy as my remaining "real thing") and feels a lot like it too, in weight. Was a little bit chilly, though -- maybe I can microwave it?? And at last I've learned the difference between "Silicone" and "Silicon."

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

My Job: Hold Very Still

Dec. 14th -- radiation treatment number 21
It isn't always easy -- the other day I had an itch on my face and I was twisting and contorting it trying to ease the itchiness, I must have looked like "Mr. Bean". I completely wasn't thinking that the RT's are always watching me through a camera when they are not in the room with me -- what a show for them!
Today I had a yoga class; my teacher had breast cancer and went through radiation last summer. She knew all the RTs and staff and told me to say hello to everyone there. It's a small world -- and breast cancer is one of those threads that can connect women.

2005 -- and the end of treatment
My last treatment is scheduled for Jan. 3, 2005. I had hoped that I would be able to finish treatment in 2004, and my support group said it was silly to have just one treatment scheduled in 2005, and that they ought to be able to double up -- give me two doses on one day. So I asked Dr. Brown about this. Her answer was not what I had expected. The last five treatments are called "boosts," they are just to the scar area. She said, (I paraphrase here) "Oh, we'll just give you one treatment less -- it won't matter. Because your cancer is inflammatory, what we are really concerned about is the chest wall, and not the scar. Five boosts is just an arbitrary number, we don't really know that five are better than four, we just know that five shouldn't hurt you."
Now this certainly made sense and was very reasonable, and also is one of the common features of treatments -- that there are a lot of unknowns and thus there can be a lot of variables. But it also made me uneasy that I would be missing a treatment. And if I did have a recurrence, later down the road, I know I would say to myself, "Oh no, I shouldn't have talked Dr. Brown out of giving me that last treatment." In short the unease I felt at having one less treatment outweighs the relief I would feel at being done on Dec. 30. So I think I'll go back to having my last treatment on Jan. 3 -- it's not like I'm going anywhere.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

The Joy of Eyebrows

THEY'RE BACK! And more beautiful than ever. I had wanted to get a close-up picture of my sad-looking "deforested" eyebrows, the few brave hairs that managed to survive. Too late now – they are better than ever, because they all grew back at the same time and thus are exactly the same length. They have a smoothness and regularity that they didn't before.
My beautiful eyebrows. I just stand there in front of the mirror -- raising both (looking alarmed), raising one (looking quizzical), pushing them together in a scowl. Not having eyebrows had really taken away so much of the expressiveness of my face, and just left some very bleak features. The eyelashes are back, too, I saw them first sprouting as a row of tiny dots around my eyes.
And my head hair is growing back, too. It is wonderfully fuzzy (Dr. Brown was stroking my soft fuzz the other day). It is now long enough so that it is lying down flat on my head, and so that some hairs seem extra long, and I can even have messy looking "hat hair" (solved by keeping my hat on – I do still need hats for warmth). The big difference here is the color –the brown is lighter, sort of faded looking. And there is plenty of gray – maybe it's half-gray now, as opposed to the one tiny cluster I previously had over my forehead. That grayness is a testimony to the strain the treatments have been to my body. Also there are some more wrinkles. But all in all, I feel great and am so happy to be feeling so great, and to be getting my hair back!
Yes, I'm still in treatment, but now I once again share the feature of hair with the human race, and with mammals of the animal kingdom.
Inquiring minds have asked about my pubic hair comb-over. Those inquiring minds can satisfy their curiosity by joining my health club.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

The Toaster

I was thinking (in my treatment) about how the radiation machine needs an affectionate nickname. (I still think it needs to be decorated with stickers and artwork, but I guess that's not going to happen). Of course, thinking about that computer in the film "2001," anthropomorphizing powerful machines can have sinister overtones. How omniscient this one is, is not clear to me. My five Radiation Technologists are like high priests tending it, with their ritualized vocabulary of actions and words (I was looking up "gantry" and "bolus" the other day). Gosh, I guess that makes me some sort of ritual sacrifice, being placed on the altar – every day. That's not a very positive metaphor. Let's try something else, like the machine as some sort of spa apparatus, the RTs as the masseuses and spa attendants, and me as the recipient of the machine's healing rays and the RTs healing touch (and healing Sharpie marker lines). That's better – it is after all a healing ritual – maybe it needs to incorporate some Navajo elements? It really does need to be aesthetically improved.
Anyway, The Toaster was the nickname I came up with – affectionate, yet sarcastic. Before my treatment started I had imagined that my treatments might be like going to a tanning booth – soothingly warm, and filled with a brilliant sunny light. But of course that's not the case, the radiation I'm getting is invisible. But I am seeing the effects, as my skin is getting red in the quadrant they are zapping. Exactly one half of my right armpit is being treated -- that half remains bald while the hair is flourishing on the other half.

Friday, December 03, 2004

aa-OO-gah! aa-OO-gah!

We have such a great time in my support group. I was about to go for my prosthesis fitting, and I mentioned all the great things about having a "falsie." I could get the practical money-belt/coin-purse model, for instance, or the one, that when you squeeze it, goes "aa-OO-gah!" General hilarity followed, and one woman said she really would like the "aa-OO-gah" boob. Since she had her bilateral mastectomy, she missed having the "bumpers" that protect her from people getting too close and "in your face" when they give you a hug, so the "aa-OO-gah" boob would serve as both buffer and protective alarm. If either of these ideas exist, I haven't seen them in the cancer products market -- maybe they are in joke stores.

Rosie's thought was that it isn't really socially acceptable to go around squeezing your boob (even a pretend boob), which is true, this is just an idea I had to share with my friends. But it is one of the ironies I've considered before. I remember once seeing a poster on the subway, reminding women to do a monthly self-breast exam. Now, there I am on the subway reading this, and of course it is also a time when people have a few spare minutes -- it could be a practical use of time. But although you see all kinds of acts of personal hygiene in the subway (including applying mascara and flossing of teeth), to engage in the potentially life-saving act of touching your own breast is something our culture frowns upon. It's all because of the breast as a site of sexual pleasure -- and thus a highly charged topic, one generally taboo in public. But if only we could better compartmentalize the different functions of the breast. After all, I saw a woman very comfortably breast-feeding her baby on a bus not too long ago. And I think everyone would agree that when you are thinking about breast cancer, the breast is not a site of sexual pleasure!