Friday, February 18, 2011

It's Always An Adventure

Here I Go Again

After getting the disappointing MRI results, I made the rounds of all the relevant doctors (such an awesome team, truly). The radiologist who has been reading my brain MRIs all along is very good, and her opinion is that the enhancement showing *is* active metastasis. The oncologists aren't so sure, but do agree that *if* the enhancement is active metastasis, what we are currently doing is not going to be enough to treat it (in the parenchymal tissues as well as the LM).

So we decided the more prudent thing to do is treat me with the whole brain and spinal radiation that I turned down last July/August (after MRI showed no more active mets in the brain). It's been a flurry of activity as I see all the doctors and get started with the oncological radiation department.
I had to be measured and marked and tattooed and pinned facedown with another one of those masks (like Cyberknife used) as we lined me up in a CT and then with the actual radiation equipment. I'll skip over describing for you how torturous some of those appointments became for me!

And then I got the call. Even with our awesome insurance covering much of my costs, I will still need to pay hundreds of dollars each week for my treatment!!! Coming at a time when we are broke, are owed money by others, and got hit with a $860 electric bill followed by a $1500 one; all I can do is trust that God will continue to take care of me financially as well as physically.
Clearly, now is NOT the time to make all those trips to Seattle.

Somewhere in the middle of all this activity and stress, DH managed to take a day off from work to spend Valentine's Day with me. Given our bills, we settled for the cheap date that I often am -- and simply took my new dog and went hiking at our local Punchbowl.

Click on any picture to see the larger photograph.

I love that Punchbowl vista!

My girl is coming along so well now that she lies down in the car and rides like a pro. She already walks so well on a leash that she virtually NEVER starts dragging me. And boy, does she LOVE hiking with us! She is so well-behaved when she hikes with us, more mature than I would ever expect a 4-mo-old puppy to be. We love her and are already SO attached!

This was her longest hike to date; we walked at least 1 mi out on the Burkhart Trail, making it from manzanitas to mountain pines before we turned back. I love this walk because it feels a bit like Hansel and Gretel; the manzanita starts off as the bushes to which we are accustomed but quickly becomes large, old, twisted TREES tangling the terrain.

We walked all the way to the first big hairpin in the trail after the junction with the Devil's Chair trail, admiring the transition from high-desert to mountainous plantlife. There was a nice flat spot above the trail at the base of a twin tree; that's where we popped open our picnic and enjoyed the spot. DH smoked roast beast and fresh fish and brought that along with dried fruit and nuts for us to eat. It was delish! Only problem was, we forgot to pack the dog's lunch! So we broke a cardinal rule, and shared ours with her. We did work on enforcing that she couldn't just help herself!

"I can see my house from up here!"

The way we came.

Picnic spot at base of twin tree.

Save more of the trail for another day!

Picnicking on the mountainside.

I felt SO GOOD and the day was so beautiful, blue skies and sunshine and just cool enough that I never had to peel my sweater. The chemo rash stayed Grade 1, and I simply stepped into shade anytime the sunshine started triggering the itching.

First glimpse of Mt. Williamson on the return.

First glimpse of home on the return.

It was so beautiful and I felt so good, that I attempted a little experiment. I ran (about a jogging pace) approximately 150 ft! My feet, although numb, kicked into muscle memory mode after the first few steps, and I was really able to do it! And then I stopped, because the jarring on my spine (and those spinal nerve roots) was OBVIOUS.

A Punchbowl canyon.

But I also wondered if there were any neurological symptoms showing yet, so I tested myself by skipping. Yes, skipping. Like most of us haven't done in over 40 years. And not only did I immediately remember HOW, I could also DO it. So I think I'm doing great, and I do wonder if it is NOT mets that is showing in the brain MRI.

I told her to walk herself while I took a picture, so she did!

We arrived back at the parking lot just as the sun was sinking behind the mountains, just as we had planned. Total trail time was 2.5 hr. All in all, a very nice Valentines day!


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