We’ll take a break from the usual whine and complain format to answer some questions from recent emails…

Are you doing any better yet?

Yes, I guess so, although you’d have to ask my children if I’m less cranky to be absolutely sure.  The nausea from the last chemotherapy is all gone, the bone pain from the Neulasta is much better, and I’m right in the middle of the mucositis (the mouth/throat/esophagus pain, sores and inflammation) …. my wish is to have that part all healed up at least a few days before my next chemotherapy, and I’m already making my “favorite foods I just have to eat while I have a chance” list in case that happens.

Is the “cooler fairy” thing still happening?

Absolutely, and it is the biggest blessing to our family.  Wonderful meals appear anonymously every afternoon.  You know, one of the best parts, beyond not having to cook when I’m just too sick and tired and hurting is that I don’t have to THINK about food.  The only downside I can think of is that my kids are starting to get used to FANCY foods – the chicken pies with elaborate woven pastry crusts just amazed them.  I should have taken a photo to add to my “food art photos” collection.   It’s also possible that I’m not going to be able to get away with instant mashed potatoes after all this 🙂

Are you still bald?

There’s fuzz left… I have no idea why it didn’t all fall out…  see below:


And I have maybe 20 % of my eyebrows but hardly any eyelashes.  Baldness is good when you have hot flashes from chemotherapy-induced menopause.

Did you fix the knitting problem?

Yes.  I decided that what I needed to do was to knit something I could do with my eyes closed that also involved no thinking or counting.


For non-knitters, the photo above is a Baby Surprise Jacket in progress.  All knitting, no purling.  After the first row, no counting or looking or checking.  No pattern, no charts.  One color at a time.  This kind of knitting is clearly perfect for chemotherapy.

What’s the problem with your arm, exactly?

Two problems.  Both from the surgery. 

See, when my surgeon planned my mastectomy, after tons of CTs and MRI’s and everything, we all thought my cancer wasn’t as big as it was and we really had no idea it had spread like it had.   So while he was operating, he sent a few lymph nodes to his favorite pathologist, just to make sure there wasn’t any cancer in them.  Turns out that ALL of them were cancerous.   Once that happens, the surgeon’s priorities change from “Let’s make a small, pretty incision and take care to not cause any unnecessary tissue damage” to “We have GOT to muck around as far as we can reach and get all the lymph nodes we can find”

So he did a big surgery, and dug all the lymph nodes out from under my arm  (100 % of those had cancer, too.)  Well, there are lots of other things besides lymph nodes under your arm.  The most significant thing, IMHO, is nerves.  All sorts of nerves from your neck and chest go crossing and twisting through there.  And all those lymph nodes are tangled up in the nerves.   Anyway, several nerves got badly damaged, which can be expected.  Some of them don’t bother me much, because the damage just causes numbness, but one little guy, called Wrisberg’s nerve, is damaged in a way that causes it to send pain signals all the time.  I’m on three medicines for this, but it still is a big problem.  Apparently it’s going to get worse when I have radiation therapy, but after that I can try accupuncture to see if it helps some. 

The other problem with my arm is called lymphedema.  This happens because when the lymph nodes got gone, the vessels leading to and from them got gone, too.  So now high protein lymph fluid can build up in my arm and hand.  I’ve only had one bad flare, but just that one time means that for the foreseeable future, I have to wear this long, tight, brown elastic thing on my whole arm and hand.  Ugh.

Any good jokes recently?

Not a joke exactly, but the big kids were doing something they called a “google meme”… you know how when I laugh at the computer, they come running?  Well, they were giggling so hard I had to see what they were up to.  They showed me.  Turns out that this afternoon, (it apparently changes all the time, which is part of the fun….)  if you entered “Elizabeth is” in a search engine the first thing that turns up is “Elizabeth is old and tired”….  How did they know?

5 thoughts on “FAQ’s

  1. re Google Meme:
    I got “Madonna wants to be called Esther”. And while there’s a Michigan to Rhode Island connection somewhere in there, it’s not nearly as clever as what your kids got. 🙂
    see –
    Madonna wants to be called Esther
    The name Esther is derived from the Persian name Satarah, meaning “star”. “I was named (Madonna) after my mother,” she explains. …
    The BSJ in progress is pretty! What yarn is that? Looks like you’re nearly 25% done — ALREADY!!! My goodness.

  2. Elizabeth is old and tired?????

    I found Elizabeth is a hot elf chick…..
    Of course that might be referring to the hot flashes, or the fuzz on your head which is chick-like, but hey, you can take it any way you want!

  3. Dear Elizabeth ~

    Thank you for taking the time to answer the FAQ’s – it is so like you to think of your many friends!

    Thank you also for your previous post. I only know of the cancer journey through family and friends. They have told me they always felt better after an “honesty session” because sharing their journey helped them feel less alone as well as helped others understand and be more supportive. I feel honored that you are sharing your journey with all of us and you can complain all you want!

    Here’s to feeling well enough to take your children to their next violin practice!


  4. Hello Elizabeth! I am a friend of Sue Petro’s and big fans of your wonderful, entertaining parents 🙂 First, I think you’re AMAZING! Second, I think you’re AMAZING. Third, I think you’re AMAZING! I am sorry this journey has come into your life but I can see that you are living it honestly and with spunk and creativity. My constant prayers are with you and your family – I trust God will provide all that you need – and all that your children need – I’m sure love abounds in your circle of support. I pray that you feel surrounded by love and healing power like a warm blanket of the comfort and security. May you find strength as deep as the ocean to keep your body, mind and spirit moving forward. Many blessings from Michigan 🙂 Maureen Hall “Mo”

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