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Sweet T's Story

The Chronicles of a Survivor

Month

April 2013

Top 10…no, Top 7 Reasons Chemo Doesn’t Suck

ImageAs I turn the proverbial “corner” after chemo #2 of 8 and there is more hair covering every square foot of my house than is left on my head, I feel the need to remind myself of reasons chemo does NOT suck.

1) Naps. When you’re going through chemo, napping is completely acceptable and appropriate. And I’m not talking a little 20 minute nap after a long day at the office…I’m talking long, mid-afternoon naps, with no alarm waking you from your slumber.  It’s lustful.

2) Ellen. The Ellen Show is hilarious and heartwarming and is also realistically the only good show on day-time television.  I get to watch it and literally lol* every damn day. Thanks, Ellen.

*Here’s a funny story about “lol” that I just have to share.  Older people accepting and using technology, more specifically, internet slang inevitably hilarious.  Take this little gem of a story as an example…One of my friends mothers (who we’ll fondly call “Jenny” in order to escape ridicule) is drafting an email to her friends/family notifying them of funeral arrangements.  She writes a very nice, thoughtful and sentimental email and at the end signs it, “Hope to see you all at the viewing. Lol, Jenny”.  Everyone who receives this email is baffled as to why these funeral arrangements are making Jenny “laugh out loud”.  Hey, Jenny. LOL does not mean “lots of love”.  LOL

3) No hair. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to not be bald right now, but having hair is expensive. I could adopt a child with my money I’m saving on razors, waxing and hair products.  Plus its really awesome not having to shave your legs.

4) Snail Mail. People don’t send paper mail much anymore.  Unless its your birthday.  But I’ve received at least one card every single day since Sweet T v Cancer: Part Deux commenced. It’s such a treat to pull brightly colored envelopes out of your mailbox and hear from old friends, new friends, friends of friends everyday.  Also, anyone over 70…why and how is your handwriting EXACTLY the same??  Mind blown.

5)  Visitors. People are always wanting to come visit me! I don’t know if they feel obligated, sentimental, or if I’m just amazing company…but, either way, I’ll take it.

6) Opportunities. Chemo/cancer, although it has been quite disruptive to my mid to late 20’s, has also presented me with the opportunity to do things that I probably wouldn’t have had otherwise. The first time I was diagnosed, my wonderful Aunt Vic sent me to the Superbowl!  What??  Who does that?  It was one of the best memories of my life, watching the Steelers stomp the Cardinals.  This time around, I’ve decided to take medical leave and cash in on doing some things that I haven’t had the chance to focus on…like, teaching myself how to play the harmonica, starting a garden in my back yard and baking all the cupcakes my little heart desires.

7) Kindness and love. I know I’ve said this before, and it might sound a little bit silly, but I’m truly thankful and awed over the kindness and love that stupid cancer brings out in people. So, thank you, cancer, for grabbing all of us by the shoulders and shaking us until we realized how wonderful life is, how beautiful and deep our relationships are, and how effing special it is to be able to share everyday, no matter how simple, with those that we love.

Disclaimer:  Cancer and chemo do indeed blow a big one (sorry that was vulgar). This was supposed to be a Top 10 List, but I couldn’t come up with 3 more reasons to finish off the list.  I need to keep it real. And I don’t want you all to think that I’m living on a planet where all things are puppies and sunshine. I have bad days just like the rest of the world, I’m just choosing to focus on the good and not the bad.  That’s what gets me through.  I hope this encourages you all to do the same! 

Peace and Love,

Sweet T

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I’m pulling the cancer card…

Friends and lovers,

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I’m doing it.  I’m pulling the cancer card. Below, you will find an email that I sent to The Avett Brothers this morning, asking (maybe begging a bit) to hang with me at an upcoming show that I’ll be at.  Please share share share…tag, email, call, facebook, tweet, stalk…well don’t stalk…but you get it. 

 

AVETTS!! I have CANCER!  I JUST HAVE to meet y’all!!

Ok…maybe that was a little dramatic. But I do have cancer. For the second time before my 30th birthday (check out my blog…I hope it makes you laugh and cry and brings you peace and inspiration just like your music does for me!) And I’m kicking cancer’s ass as I type. Impressive, I know. I don’t want you all to think that this is like a death wish or anything…I’m going to be fine. I have been through a lot however, and I figured if there was ever a time to do it, this is the time to pull the cancer card.  Here it goes…

I was first diagnosed with breast cancer in January of 2009.  I was 25.  I had 6 rounds of chemo and a huge surgery that had me laid up for over 3 months.  But I beat it and even came out the other end a better person.  About a month ago, I found out that my cancer was back.  Luckily, we caught it early and it’s still treatable.  I had surgery to remove the lymphnodes where the cancer was in March and started chemo April 10th.  I’ll have 8 rounds of chemo over the next 13 or so weeks…then radiation. I’ll be bald and sick some of the time, but I’m not going to let it get me down.  I didn’t last time, and this time is no different.  

Here’s where you guys come in.  I’m going to be celebrating my 30th birthday, which is June 24th, at Firefly Music Festival and I would love the opportunity to meet you all.  I have literally scheduled my chemo treatments around that weekend.  My oncologist laughed in my face when I told her that there was zero chance I wouldn’t be having treatment that week because I had plans to go to a music fest to see my fav band (that’s you guys). I just stared at her until she realized that I was serious. HA. I have been looking forward to this weekend for months, and when it comes down to it, I refuse to let cancer take over my life and take away the things in life that bring me joy.  

I’ve been a huge fan for years…seen you live many times…own every one of your albums…have watched pretty much every crackerfarm youtube video ever posted at least 5x’s.  Ok, I’m going to stop now before I start sounding crazy.  Truth is…your music brings me joy, inspires me and just warms my soul.  It would mean a whole lot to me to meet you guys…hang, have a beer, get some pics of us to hang in my home and smile and reminisce about for the rest of my days.  

If you’re feeling extra generous…if you could work sanguine into the set list that would just make my life.  It’s such a beautiful song and it has deep sentimental meaning for me.  Sanguine: cheerfully optimistic; red in color. That’s my soul word!  I live my life remembering every day to smile, be thankful for what I have, my experiences and to look forward to even better things to come.  If that’s not enough, the type of chemo that I’m getting right now is nicknamed “the red devil” it’s literally blood red as it’s being injected into my veins.  Once I’m finished with treatment, my next tattoo is going to be the word sanguine with both of my diagnosis dates and a little peace sign…to help make me sanguine:)  So appropriate. 

That’s it.  I hope this email finds it’s way to you guys somehow, someway and I hope I can touch your lives the way you have and continue to touch mine.  Either way, I will be rocking out with you in June at Firefly!  Can’t WAIT!!

Peace and Love,

Talia

let’s get drunk and shave my head

ImageTypically, copious amounts of booze and sharp objects don’t mesh well. Take these scenarios for example…(these are all true and unaltered stories)

Scenario #1: Spring Break 2005, Panama City

A bottle of wine+no opener=a bunch of drunk college kids desperate for even more booze playing with knives. Luckily no one was hurt. That bad.

Scenario #2: My first head shaving, February 2009

Lessons learned, 1) ensure any needed equipment, including clippers, are fully functional and working properly, 2) don’t trust your mother, after ingesting any amount of alcohol, to know how to use above mentioned equipment, 3) in no situation is a reverse, asymmetrical mohawk a good look.

Scenario #3: Me, in pretty much any circumstance, including cooking, biking, walking, etc.

I trip, cut, run into things on a pretty consistent basis. Even when I’m stone sober. As a generally clumsy person, when you add booze, this is just magnified. This is the point where you all take a few minutes to laugh at my expense and reminisce about the many times I have injured myself. Go ahead. I’ve long ago accepted my accident proneness.

However, on this particular occasion, the combination was in perfect harmony. Last Friday, I hosted a “head shaving party” and invited my gal pals for some good old fashioned fun.  The night was filled with laughter, friendship, food, drinks, new friends, old friends, family, reminiscing…you know, the stuff memories are made from. It was just.absolutely.great.

Party re-cap…ok, go!

Working upon past experience (reference scenario #2),  I made sure that I enlisted professional help with the haircut portion of the night in my wonderful and beautiful friend AND stylist, Brooke (thanks, Brooke for giving me the raddest, hippest pre-chemo hair fall out cut eva). Before we handed it off to the professional, everyone got to chop a chunk of my hair off.  I have to admit, the reality of having drunk people come at your face with scissors is definitely as terrifying as it sounds, but it all worked out and I only got cut once. That’s not a joke…I bled from the ear for 45 minutes. We also busted out our crafty and creative inner hippies (this is mostly accredited to pinterest and it’s ability to make all of us feel like 4-H pros) and tie-dyed scarves for me to rock when all my hair is gone. In addition, there is a video floating around of my mother and aunt having a dance party in my living room. All I have to say is, hey mom and aunt vic…the 80’s called…they want their dance moves back.

They say when life hands you lemons, add tequila and salt. Those are some words to live by if I’ve ever heard them.  Mostly because I happen to love tequila. But also because I have great respect for those who are able to handle difficult situations with grace and a sense of humor. Hardship is undoubtedly part of all of our lives. I’ve learned that you can either let those hard times get the best of you, or you can turn your hardships into happiness. Much love and thanks to my incredible friends and family who joined and supported me in turning this seemingly hard time in my life into a memory that I will nostalgically look back upon and smile hard for the rest of my days.

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quick update: chemo numero uno

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chemo #1 4/10/2013

Yesterday, I had my first round of chemo. Everything went as planned and today, I’m at home in my sweats watching trashy television…it’s almost like I’m on vacation…almost. I do feel a little under the weather and a bit out of it…probably from all the crazy drugs they pumped through me yesterday. On a scale from one to the worst hangover I’ve ever had…I’m probably around a 6…not too bad.

Sick and out of it isn’t the only thing I feel though. Most importantly, I feel so much love, hope and support. All the messages, calls, flowers, gifts, visits…it has reminded me that people are truly kind. It’s heartwarming…no, even more, it’s soul-warming. Thank you for warming my soul.

For today, I leave you all with this…

“If you take of my soul, you can still leave it whole, with the pieces of your own you leave behind.” -The Avett Brothers, Salvation Song

I’m giving out strength, peace, love and courage, you all are filling me right back up.

Sweet T

Let’s start from the beginning…

Those of you who know me have heard the story of my first scrap with cancer.  However, now that my blog is becoming world wide super fly, I figured it appropriate to take a step back and start from the beginning. Grab some popcorn kids, it’s story time. 

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That’s me at my first chemo treatment.  I had just got back from the Superbowl and was rocking my gear, bragging to everyone.  Steelers beat the Cardinals asses and I was right in the middle of the action.  The boss was the halftime show.  I practically choked on the masses of confetti that rain down after the victory.  It was awesome. Just sayin.

One of my favorite things in life is vacation days.  I’m talking the kind of vacation day that entails sleeping in, watching trashy day-time television, showering at whatever point in the afternoon you damn well feel like it or not showering at all in my case (don’t judge…I hate showering…I swear I was a hippy in a past life) spending entirely too much time surfing the internet and watching ridiculous youtube videos…you know…just maxin’ and relaxin’.  Well, in December of 2008, I was cashing in on like 2 weeks of vacation time that I had saved up, and I was doing exactly that, and loving every second of it. 

A few days before Christmas, I had plans to meet up with my lovely sister to do some last minute shopping.  On this particular day, I did shower…and afterwards, I was lotioning up with some good smelling festive body lotion from bath and body works.  (I should mention…I put lotion all over every inch of my body EVERY day…gotta keep that baby soft skin moisturized).  As I’m putting on my lotion, I pass over my right boob and I feel a lump.  Now, I had felt this lump before, but for some reason that day, I didn’t just ignore it like I had all of  the times before that.  It felt bigger…harder…I just couldn’t stop thinking about it.  

Later that day, after both my mom and sister had felt me up a few times…per my mothers (who has been a nurse, a very talented and compassionate nurse, for over 35 years) suggestion I made an appointment with my gyno to get the lump checked out. The next day, I saw my gyno and she had the same reaction as the rest of us…acknowledging that there was definitely a large mass in my boob and that we should probably find out exactly what it is…so she recommended a mammogram and ultrasound, which I should have done after Christmas.  Until then, Merry Christmas…Happy Holidays…Peace on Earth!

We had a lovely holiday at the Piazza residence that year…one filled with love, laughter, fine food and spirits and time with friends and family. 

To be completely honest, I really wasn’t all that concerned about the lump in my boob.  Cancer was the last thing on my mind.  I was scheduled to get my first ever mammogram and I was more concerned about the large machine that would be squeezing the shit out of my boob later that morning.  

The mammogram wasn’t all that bad.  It was over in a few minutes and they proceeded to stick me in a small exam room where I was told to wait for the doctor who would be giving me an ultrasound.  After a few minutes and a few nurses popping in, I knew something was up.  They kept on confirming my age and medical history and asking me if I had someone there with me.  The doctor finally came and got me and took me in for the ultrasound.  I laid in a dark room, on a cold table, for what seemed like an eternity, while the doc kept on going over and over the lump.  There was a small TV screen and I could see exactly what she was seeing (which looked like nothing but a bunch of white waves to me).  She left me in the room and said that she would be back in a few minutes.  

“I’m really worried.  I think you might have breast cancer.”  Those were her exact words when she came back into the room.  I didn’t know what to say or think or feel  People say this all the time, but it really felt like I was watching someone else in that moment.  It wasn’t even real.  I think my reaction was kind of a combination of complete shock and just absolute rage.  I couldn’t believe she just came into the room and word vomited such heavy news all over me, with what at the time, felt like no compassion or concern whatsoever. 

A few minutes later, I was back on that cold, hard table having a breast biopsy, which was quite possibly one of the most horrific and terrifying experiences of my life.  I felt like I didn’t even have a chance to process the news and now they were stabbing me with a massive 6 inch long needle that was hooked up to some sort of vacuum, sucking out tissue from the middle of my boob.  I’m not a crier, but I balled the entire time.  

Those biopsies were sent to the lab and I would get the final results after the new year.  Happy 2009, T!  WTF?? 

Ok ok…this is getting really long.  If you can’t tell…the first cancer rodeo was way more dramatic.  I’ll pick up where I left off next time.  Until then, check out this interview the hospital did with me and my oncologist a couple of years ago.  

 

 

it’s biznass time

The port is in.  The appointments have been scheduled.  The drugs have been prescribed.  Ok….GO! 

Yesterday, I got a port put in.  Although I’ve only seen what it looks like all bandaged up, it’s a lot smaller than I was expecting. Rather than the giant ugly extra terrestrial I had imagined, it’s more like a little baby alien…which I’m totally ok with. I think I’ll fondly call it Spike. Of course, I have my reasons (these are in no particular order):

  1. Because it reminds me of someone naming a cute, cuddly little puppy “killer” or “rex”.  The juxtaposition kills me.
  2. Because it’s going to be poked with approximately 1.48j89 million needles between now and the end of summer.
  3. Because it kind of feels like a giant spike inside my chest at the current moment.

Appropriate?  I thought so, too.

I also got the game plan from my oncologist and we’re getting right down to biznass. Chemo starts next Wednesday, April 10th.  I’ll have 8 cycles of treatment once every 2 weeks for the next 16 weeks.  The first 4 treatments will be a combination of Adriamycin and Cytoxan, more commonly referred to as “the red devil”.  Eeeek.  I’m not sure whose idea it was to start calling something that is going to be injected your body and supposedly heal you, the red devil, but I can’t pronounce the real  names, so I’m just going to go with it. The latter 4 will be another type of chemo drug called Taxol.  I had taxol last time around…so it’s going to kind of be like a reunion.  Oh the memories…

That also means I have 20 days, max, of having hair.  I’m not thrilled about being bald, or the thinning eyebrows and lashes.  However, I AM thrilled about not having to shave or wax my hairy Italian body all summer.  That’s the silver lining, people…there’s one in every situation.  The one thing that kept me from looking completely sickly and slightly normal last time I lost all my hair was the fact that my eyebrows didn’t fall out.   Eyebrows are a big deal.  Don’t believe me, check out this website. Word on the street is that if you put Latisse on your brows and lashes, they won’t ALL fall out.  I’m going to give it the old college try…

One other thing I’m not so thrilled about…my kids.  No, I don’t have children. And I’m not anywhere near a point in my life where I can even picture a little Talia running around (even though she would undoubtedly be gorgeous and hilarious). Let’s be real, I can’t even take care of a plant.  I killed a cactus last month. I didn’t even think that was possible.  Yet, we young and supple ladies with cancer not only have to worry about kicking cancer ass and looking good while doing it, we also need to worry about our unborn babies.  Wtf? Right??  So, I’ll be getting a lupron shot on Monday, which is supposed to protect my baby makers (ovaries) while I’m going through treatment.  Either way, children or no children, I don’t want the choice taken away from me, so lupron it is.

To everyone who has already read, listened, responded, sent cards, letters, gifts and flowers–one love!!  My house looks like Gidas Flower Shop on  Forbes Avenue.  It’s quite lovely.  I’m so surrounded by love I can’t help but smile.

Until next time…peas,

T

Here we go again…

Cancer: “I’m back! Muahahahaaa”

Me: “You want some more??  Bring it, you little biotch.”

So maybe in real life, I’m a lover, not a fighter.  And any of you who know me at all are probably giggling a little bit at the above hypothetical conversation between myself and cancer, because everyone knows that all I really want is peace and love and laughter (awww).   But when it come to cancer, I’m one bad ass mofo.  So watch ya self.

Here’s the deal.  My cancer is back.  Yep, that’s 2 cancer diagnoses before the age of 30.  I don’t have the stats in front of me, but it’s safe to say, that like never happens.  So folks, you’re reading the blog of a super human or an un-super human…depending on the way you look at it.  Congratulations.

I’m starting this blog primarily because I want to be famous…and hopefully get on the Ellen Show…and possibly The Doctors.  While I’m at it, I guess I’ll share my story and experiences with those of you who are interested, and hopefully make you laugh while I’m doing it. So, here it goes…

First, I must apologize to anyone who is hearing the news of my cancer recurrence via this blog.  If I was able, I would have called (or at least texted) each and every one of you and personally told you.  But, obviously, I couldn’t do that.  I’m sorry.

Let’s get down to the diddy.  Earlier this month, I had a PET scan because my bloodwork kept on showing elevated tumor markers.  The PET showed a suspicious lymphnode along my internal mammary artery.  Because of the location of the lymphnode (behind my chest wall and close to my lung and implant), I had to have surgery last Wednesday to remove and biopsy it.  The biopsy came back positive, thus, Sweet T v Cancer Part Deux commences.

I’ve spent the last week or so out at my parents all hopped up on percocet, soaking all of this in and recovering from what my surgeon described as “feeling like you were stabbed 3 times up on the streets of Mt. Washington”.  For the record, that kind of stuff doesn’t happen in my neighborhood.  And if this is really what being stabbed feels like, it’s not that bad any way…at least not when you have narcotics readily available and some pretty awesome friends and family around to take care of you.  Today, I’ve made peace with the situation, and I’m ready to kick some cancer ass.  Again.

Let’s do it to it.  Tomorrow morning, I’m headed back to AGH to get a portacath put in.  That’s basically an artificial vein  that will stay under my skin all through treatment so I don’t have to be stuck by one million needles over the next few months.  It also looks like a small extra terrestrial is growing under my collar-bone, so don’t be alarmed when you see me next.  Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll be starting chemo.  Yes, I’m going to lose my hair…just like last time, 14 days after the first treatment, it’s going to start coming out by the hand-full.  No one WANTS to lose their hair, but to be honest, I don’t really like my hair right now anyway.  Plus this gives me a really good excuse to drink excessive amounts of booze and have my girlfriends over for a party.  After chemo, I’ll have radiation.  I didn’t have radiation last time, so I’m not really sure what to expect.  I know that when they removed the lymphnode where all the cancer cells were, they left a “clip” so that they could direct treatment right to the exact spot where the cancer was/is.  Doctors are so god damned smart.

Until next time…Peace and Love, my friends and lovers.  I’m accepting positivity in any form you would like to send it…thoughts, vibes, prayers, pens tickets, visits, notes, songs….

-Sweet T

 

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