hi there · just do it already · scary · weekend report

My Breast Cancer

Nobody likes to talk about it but it is out there. The C word. Cancer.

I was diagnosed with breast cancer earlier this year and I thought I would share my experience to help people going through it. Maybe to help them with the steps, or feelings, or advice, or questions.

Sometimes I treat this blog as my diary. Sometimes I think of it as a way to get good information about things I have experienced. Most of my experiences have been quite enjoyable with traveling and eating! But this latest experience has not been so enjoyable but I thought my story could maybe help someone who is in this situation. So here, is my breast cancer story.

First of all, I live in Spain, Mallorca to be exact, so my experience is with Spanish medical professionals. Sometimes things are done differently in other countries, just in case you think it might have the exact same procedure in the USA, for example.

I had a mammogram (one of MANY) in November 2021. I actually hadn’t had one for about two years because of being lazy (not recommended) and COVID (not recommended either). Ha, see no need to always be so serious! And in Mallorca the patient usually picks up the report from the hospital and takes it to the doctor for them to review. Well, I read the results (they were in Spanish) and I thought everything seemed okay, like my past results. So I dragged my feet a bit to getting back to my gynecologist (Dr. Raas – thank you!) to show it to him. Well, when I did finally go back a few months later he told me that they found something with the mammogram and why did I wait so long to get back to him!? Well, I was a bit angry with myself and nervous. I was told to get another mammogram for them to look closer at the suspicious area. I did and when it was finished the nurse told me to wait while she spoke with the doctor. She came out a few minutes later and confirmed that yes, there was something there. But she said it may only be fibroids (non-cancerous growths) but I needed a biopsy next to confirm what this was. This really put my head spinning into nervousness.

Next up. Biopsy. Let me just be straight up about this. It was not fun. I had googled breast biopsy many times just to make sure I knew what was going to happen. I don’t always have an English speaking doctor when I go in, my Spanish isn’t horrible but I needed to make sure what was going to happen during the biopsy.

And I need to back up a little bit. Most patients can get a biopsy in their gynecologist’s office because the gynecologist can see the area with ultrasound. This was not the case for me. My gynecologist could never find my tumor because it was non-palpable, it wasn’t this solid mass. So because of this I had to have my biopsy done with the mammogram machine with the doctor being able to see it with the computer and knowing exactly where the needle needed to go.

So, the biopsy. I sat in a chair next to the mammogram machine where my breast was squished in the machine. Ladies, you know what I’m talking about. The doctor numbed it a bit but definitely not enough. I don’t know if this is normal for Spain but it was painful. A long needle is inserted into the breast to the area they need to take the sample from. Once the needle is in, another “pincher” is inserted to take the sample. This lasted a few minutes. I was stuck in the mammogram machine and trying not to hyperventilate and pass out. The doctor was trying to take my mind off the pain by asking me questions but I could only give short answers. Finally, it was over. I didn’t cry! But damn, not fun.

My breast was very bruised and sore for over a week.

Now it was waiting time for results. Again. Thankfully we had family coming in town for a big birthday celebration and that took my mind off things.

But then the results showed that yes, it was cancer.

Lots of things flooded my brain when it was confirmed. Places I still needed to see, experiences I still wanted to do, friends and family that I don’t see nearly often enough. But I put positive thoughts in my head and told myself that I would beat this and be strong.

Back to the gynecologist to discuss the results. It showed that it was both estrogen positive and progesterone positive (which means the cancer grows in response to those hormones). But we still needed to wait for the HER2 result, which is a growth-promoting protein that’s on the outside of all breast cells.

Now I had been doing some googling to get some answers and maybe more questions to ask my doctor and I saw that a triple positive or a triple negative are the most aggressive type of breast cancers. So I was keeping things crossed that my HER2 result would be negative. And lucky for me it was. So that was one good moment for me during this time.

Next up was a CAT scan, to help see better where the non-palpable tumor was located. Plus more blood tests and finally it was time to schedule the surgery.

So again, my gynecologist can’t see my tumor on an ultrasound machine so I needed a little more help from the nuclear radiation department. I needed the Radioguided occult lesion localization (ROLL), which is a relatively new method to localize and orientate the excision of non-palpable breast lesions.The day of the surgery I had to get nuclear radioactive dye injected into the tumor area. It involved the injection of a small amount of nuclear radiotracer under guidance by ultrasonography which helps the surgeons make sure they are getting all of the cancer removed. After getting the dye injected I had to wait in the hospital for about an hour while massaging my breast to help the dye work its way into the area fully. Then when my nuclear medicine doctor (Dr. Cristina at Juaneda – thank you!) said ok the dye is in the area, I drove to the hospital where the surgery would be done.

If you know Mallorca, I can recommend the hospital PalmaPlanas. All of the appointments needed – CAT scan, mammogram, biopsy, etc have been done there. They were always very professional and kind. So I parked in the parking lot and checked myself into the hospital. My room was a private room with a sofa bed if Felix wanted to spend the night. A sweet younger team of three came to take my blood pressure, ask a few questions and gave me that sexy hospital gown. About an hour later a guy showed up with a hospital bed and wheeled my down to prep for surgery.

I received an IV in my arm and waited with about 15 other people who were in the room either waiting for surgery or had just finished with surgery and the staff were waiting for them to wake up to take back to their room. One guy was full on snoring. Loud as could be. That put a smile on my face while I waited. I was a little nervous and very cold. They kept the room freezing so someone brought me a blanket. And then it was time.

I was wheeled into the surgery room where my Dr. Raas was waiting for me. There were also my nuclear medicine doctor, my doctor’s assistant, the anesthesiologist and a few nurses preparing things. Everyone was very calming. And then the anesthesiologist put me out. During the surgery (which was about 3 hours), they removed the cancer area from my breast and also some lymph nodes from my left armpit. They then sent those to the lab in the hospital to find out if they got everything or needed to cut/take out more. The lab said they couldn’t detect anything around the edges and the lymph nodes were clear. So I was stitched up and woke back up in the recovery room and then wheeled back to my room where Felix was waiting for me. I was so relieved for the surgery to be over.

Soon after Felix left for McDonalds. 🙂 I took a pill that they gave me to help me sleep and I did until 10 pm when they brought me dinner. I hadn’t had anything to eat for about 24 hours and the ham and cheese sandwich with a side of fruit looked like the best thing I’ve had in years. I scarfed it down, sent Felix a message and was back asleep until breakfast was served at 7 am. A nurse came in an hour later to give me more acetaminophen for the pain (in the IV) and then Felix came back at 11 for us to wait for the doctor to give me the ok to go home. Dr. Raas showed up, looked at the stitched up areas, changed the dressing on them and said I could go home if I wanted. I laughed and said does anyone want to stay? He nodded emphatically and I could only think of lonely people who wanted more time to be taken care of.

As soon as we got home I crawled into bed and took a three hour nap. Felix came to check on me since I had been asleep for so long and I slowly got out of bed. I took some more pain medicine (acetaminophin) but the pain was manageable, thank goodness. I was worried about that, I didn’t want to be in lots of pain and I only took pain medicine for about two more days. I needed to wear a sports bra day and night, even when sleeping. It was annoying but I tolerated it. During the day I wore one of Felix’s button down shirts which he would help me into and out of. So thankful that he was there and calming and helpful.

Next was the wait for the in-depth lab report to let us know if everything had been removed. It took about three weeks but when Dr. Raas called and told me that the margins were clear a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders. Plus a few tears as well. This was all such a stressful time and to hear that I was in the clear was a relief.

Still not done with things though. Now I needed to meet with the oncologist to decide what kind of treatment would be best for me – hormone therapy (HR), radiation and/or chemotherapy. He thought HR and radiation was the way to go. I started tamoxifeno 20 mg which I will be taking for up to seven to ten years. No noticeable side effects.

Finally, radiation was finished last week. After meeting with my radiation oncologist, she said that the 5 day radiation treatment would be best. This is a somewhat new way of doing radiation, instead of the 15 day treatment. I still get the same amount of radiation but in 5 days, not 15 and the results seem to be the same if not better. I had to get my radiation tattoos, four tattoos that ensure the radiation machine does the treatment in exactly the right place, every time. My doctor gave me some cream which I put on after every treatment. My breast was a bit red and tender and near the end I was pretty tired but by the next week I was feeling fine. So thankfully no horrible side effects from that either.

And that’s it. I will continue to meet with my oncologist and get regular mammograms and hopefully thanks to the advancement of science I will live a long cancer free life. If needed I will edit this for future things or write a different blog post.

I want to thank the doctors and staff and especially all of my friends and family for their love, support, messages, flowers. I would not have been as strong as I was without you all by my side.

And please remember to get your checkup! Do that breast self-exam (men too!), get that mammogram, get that colonoscopy. Take care of yourself and stay healthy.

Sending love and light.

beach · Europe · hotels · Road Trip · spain · touristy · travel

Tenerife and Back

It had been over two years since I have traveled up to last month. Of course, you know the main reason – Covid. But even when restrictions were released I didn’t travel. I didn’t understand this immediate need to get back out there. Sure I missed seeing new places and going back to my favorite spots but why the rush? Covid was (is) still a big problem. There were a new surge of Covid cases in Mallorca when tourists were allowed back (naturally) and I just didn’t get it the immediate need to get away.

Anyways, I turned the big half a century last month and I wanted to go somewhere to celebrate the big 5-0. I felt so bad for the people who turned 50 or had any huge celebration during 2020. I know that had to have sucked. We looked into fun places that would hopefully be somewhat warm. Felix, being European, still wasn’t allowed into the USA so we couldn’t go there. We looked into a cruise but after REALLY looking into it we found out that our stops, mostly in Italy, we wouldn’t be able to get off the boat just ourselves. We HAD TO go with a group. Well, that’s not what we wanted to do. In the end, we decided on Tenerife. Felix had been when he was eight (how cute!) and the flight there was a direct flight. So, alright Tenerife, show us what you got. 

View from our room

We chose the Gran Melia Palacio de Isora hotel which I may do a separate blog post about but just be careful if you choose this one, or it may be just the way things are in Tenerife. There are a few pros – friendly staff, the Bali beds looking over the Atlantic are nice and I liked the Clarins products in the room but sadly, the cons outweighed the pros – the restaurant situation is horrific, you need to book 2 or 3 days in advance if you want a table at a decent time, the service is slowwwwwww, the bars close at 6 except for the big main one which takes forever to get a drink. Again, a possible blog post. But I really didn’t want this one to be negative. But seems like it is so far, so let’s change that, shall we? 

Alright, we enjoyed a few relaxing days renting a Bali bed, drinking some cervezas and swimming in Europe’s largest salt water pool. The lizards were fun to watch and I loved the red dragonflies buzzing around.

The cool breeze coming off the Atlantico was a nice feeling against the hot sun tanning our skin. One night we ventured out to a local Italian restaurant with great service and yummy food – Pepi Vintage Room Tenerife in Puerto de Santiago. Great food, wine and service. It is a bit small so I would call for a reservation at 673 72 56 61.

Close to the hotel was a black sand beach which seemed pretty hip with the locals.

After a few days of completely vegging out on the beds and swimming we decided to take a break from the Bali beds and rent a car to check out Teide and Masca.

Beer and Bali Bed. RELAX.

The rental car was booked at the hotel, it was super easy and 60 euro for the day. Off onto our best day of the trip. 

Teide National Park took us about an hour from our hotel. Teide is an active volcano but the last eruption was in 1909. I must add to this post that we were in Tenerife at the time the La Palma volcano was erupting. We tried to get a view of it but alas, it wasn’t meant to be. My heart goes out to the people who have lost their homes and belongings from the erupting volcano.

Teide National Park is the biggest park on the Canary Islands. A trip that should be at the top of the must-see list of everyone who visits Tenerife. And the island was busy! It was a four day weekend for the Spanish (un puente as they call it), plus a two week school break for the Germans, lots of people had descended onto the island. And the closer we got into the park the more you could see it. All photo opportunity spots were full and when we got to the area where you could take a cable car to the top, forget about it! There were at least 200 cars lined up. And you do need tickets for the cable car so book in advance if that’s what you really want to do. We drove a bit further and found a spot that seriously looked like Mars – so cool. We got out and walked around and took some advantage of photo ops.

o Getting up to the timberline

Next we decided to check out Masca. Be prepared, the road to Masca is tight! If you are afraid of heights or get car sick, it might not be the drive for you. But the views are beautiful.

Until the 1960s, the picturesque mountain hamlet of Masca was only accessible on foot or by donkey. Nowadays, it is well connected to the rest of Tenerife by road. Winding roads lead to exciting hairpin bends and narrow corners. The trip will take you through deep ravines covered with lush green vegetation.

There weren’t any parking spots for a restaurant when we arrived in Masca so we continued on the curvy road and soon came across a cute restaurant overlooking the gorge. You can’t miss it, after passing Masca you will see it when the road starts heading back up. We stopped for a glass of wine and some roasted potatoes with mojo sauce. Super yummy.

It was so nice to get away from the hotel madness and actually have people attentively serve food and drinks! Seriously Gran Melia, you need to figure some problems out!

One more day at the hotel and we were looking forward to home and all the comforts one has at their home. And our six cats. 🙂

But one more thing.

When we first arrived there were a lot of plants under big tents that were on large plantations. I kept wondering what it was, they were even right outside our hotel window (see first pic). And then it hit me, BANANAS! B-A-N-A-N-A-S. This shit is bananas. Bananas are a particularly important crop, as Tenerife grows more bananas than the other Canary Islands, with a current annual production of about 150,000 tons. Nice.

See them bananas?

In the end, everyone that we encountered in Tenerife were really friendly and the sights in Masca and Teide were gorgeous. I am glad to have experienced the island and seen the sights. I’d give it at least a chance if your travel plans allow for a stop there. It’s always a nice to change your scenery view even with a few bumps in the road.

There is never a bad trip! Unless you took some bad LSD. Don’t do that.

beauty · earth · flowers · fun in the sun · planet · witchy

Happy Summer Solstice

Happy Summer Solstice, y’all! The longest day of the year. Enjoy with a walk in the sunshine (or even the rain is nice too), a fresh glass of sun tea and pick a flower for a tiny vase.

I’m becoming a bit more spiritual and witchy (in the good Glinda kind of way) as I get older. So enjoy these ideas to celebrate Litha. Where’s that gold candle of mine?

covid · Europe · just do it already · planet · save our world · scary · sickly · tragic

Hey, EU, How About Those Vaccines?

I have been quite patient. I really have. But as the days tick by with this complete vaccine fiasco here in the EU, I am getting angry. And I’m not the only one. What the hell is going on? We aren’t getting any answers just more restrictions, another lockdown, more negative news. Hey I have an idea. How about instead of spending all your time on new restrictions, why don’t you figure out how to speed up the vaccinations? Smart, right?

WHERE ARE THE VACCINES?

The U.S. is vaccinating people left and right! My parents who are 75 and over are vaccinated. Hallelujah! My brother, my sister-in-law, my friends in TX, NY, OR, CA, OK, KS are vaccinated! Don’t get me wrong, I am very happy for them. Some were very emotional to be vaccinated and even more so with their parents being vaccinated.

And the EU? I live in Mallorca. Armengol is our Balearic President and she just makes me laugh more and more ever day. But not happy laughter, more like maniacal laughter. Everything she says and does just gets worse and worse. The vaccines? Only 4% of our population in Mallorca has been vaccinated. This started in December! And here we are in April with only 4% vaccinated. Lord help us. They started with people in elderly homes and hospital staff. I read a report yesterday that “a record number of people” were vaccinated last week. Who knows what this “record number” is, but I’m sure it’s not much. I know a few people who have received theirs, they are doctors and some teachers. But the grandparents are still waiting. We are still waiting.

In Germany, it’s the same. My parents-in-law are over 75 and have no news when a vaccine will be available to them. It’s so frustrating for them, for us, for the family members who so desperately want to get together.

It’s not like the vaccines are “new” anymore. These have been available since the end of 2020. And here we are, starting the fourth month of 2021 with nobody doing anything to help the situation. Get your act together EU! What are you doing? Here is the latest as of March 13, 2021.

And every day there is a new regulation. Last week it was face masks at the beach. Even if you have enough distance to be safe. And then two days later it was overturned. They open the restaurants, the next week they close the restaurants. We were able to have an Easter paella at 3pm (because all restaurants close at 5pm) outside (because all indoor seating is closed) with about 75 other people all in close contact. While if the restaurants were open longer, for actual dinner, it most likely wouldn’t be as crowded because there are more times for people to go. And let’s not forget that our lovely Balearic President, Armengol, was caught a few months ago for drinking at a bar after closing hours. breaking her own laws that she is enforcing.

Don’t even get me started on the fact that Germans could fly here for Easter holidays but Spaniards from the mainland CANNOT. WHAT?!? People are getting tired of this rigmarole and Mallorca is going to lose all those tourists they are so badly wanting, needing. Greece is ready for you, tourists!

Even the WHO has said this is a serious problem. “The World Health Organization (WHO) has raised the alarm on Europe’s “unacceptably slow” rollout of COVID-19 vaccines as it warned of a “worrying” surge in coronavirus infections.”

EU what can you do? I don’t know but maybe ask the U.S. for money or how they are doing it so quickly. To the so called leaders of the EU, do the job you were hired to do. Because at the moment all we are seeing is failure.

I know that Covid is real. I believe in science and I am very thankful for all of the frontline people who have been working so hard and putting their lives on the line to fight this. I have been following protocol since day one, I think masks are important, social distancing is important but VACCINATING your people is extremely important as well. EU we are waiting. And not patiently anymore.

Do your job.