Mary Anne Mohanraj

Journal

February 27 -- 7:23 PM

Somewhere in this house there is a videotape of me, playing Spock, on the Enterprise bridge. I was fifteen years old, at Universal Studios, acting out a scene in front of a green screen. (The final version had Kirk and the rest of the crew and the bridge set in it.) I was such a terrible actor that I was only able to bear to watch the video once, and it's a little surprising that I didn't just burn the damn thing. But I didn't because me. As Spock! (I actually did it twice; the second time through I got to play Kirk, and I honestly don't know which was better.) And I don't know where that video is now, and I don't have a VCR player, and it's probably just as well, because as I said, truly terrible acting. But still. If I could, I'd watch it tonight.

This will have to do. It feels rather ridiculously geeky, sending this out into the world, but if y'all don't know what a huge geek I am by now, you haven't been paying attention. I'm sad, people -- not for him, but for those of us he left behind. Part of me must have thought he'd live forever.

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February 27 -- 1:04 PM

Cancer log 29:

There are little things that make all this easier. I bring my laptop and a book with me, every time I come to the hospital -- if I end up spending an unexpected hour waiting for a procedure (as I have been today, due to what I hope is the last of the referral frustration), I can avoid being totally enraged at the wasting of my time, instead being productive / entertained. I discovered where in the Loyola complex (the nursing school) you can find a Starbucks chai tea latte -- despite its not bearing all that much resemblance to actual chai, I find it a comforting and decadent drink, and its treat-like nature helps to counter the simmering irritation. I'm wearing comfy clothes, and comfy shoes -- the latter were particularly helpful as I went to two different wrong buildings today, trekking an extra twenty minutes back and forth. I keep snacks in my backpack in case I'm stuck somewhere and get hungry (just ate a Kind bar, very glad it was there). I make sure that I have childcare coverage (thanks, Kat!) in case things take longer than I expect, as they so often do; adding time pressure to this process is additional stress I don't need. Nothing can make the hospital actually fun, but if I'd spent the last four hours just sitting around waiting for people and paperwork, I'd be in a much worse mood.

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February 27 -- 8:33 AM

Cancer log 29:

BRCA testing this morning. BRCA stands for BReast CAncer susceptibility gene. There are two BRCA genes: BRCA1 and BRCA2. Normally, they help protect you from getting cancer. But when you have changes or mutations on one or both of your BRCA genes, cells are more likely to divide and change rapidly, which can lead to cancer.

I'm guessing this will come back negative, since we have so little cancer in my family, but on the other hand, I expected the biopsy would come back negative too; the universe is full of surprises. If it's positive, that means the likelihood of recurrence is higher, which may affect my later decision (in 5-6 months) about how extensive a surgery to have. We'll see how it goes. I think this one is just a swab, so it should be the easiest of the tests.

And then we're hoping to do another MRI, if the referral comes through. The whole referral process has been frustrating and slow enough that I've lost about a week of treatment time, I think. It's unlikely to be a critical week, but still. Yesterday, I switched my hospital-of-record over to Loyola, and picked a new primary care doctor, who should be able to process my referrals much faster.

I'm a little bummed to leave my old doctor, whom I really liked, but Kevin and Roshani were quite certain yesterday that I needed to be proactive about making sure my care was taken care of in a timely fashion, and they're right, of course. At least the hospital switch went smoothly -- both my old hospital and new one are in network, and insurance let me make the change in about five minutes total. It only takes effect on the first of each month, but luckily, that's in a few days, so there won't be any delay to affect me. I'm planning to stop by old doctor's office and drop off a little present of some kind -- probably a book or two of mine. She's been great, and I feel bad abandoning her, though I know she'd tell me I'm being ridiculous and not to worry about it. Stupid insurance system.

The MRI is a repeat -- Loyola felt that the previous one wasn't done well enough for them to be certain of what they were seeing. Beyond the definite cancer, there are two other suspicious areas that they want to look at again. It's possible (likely) that those are just scars from the breast reduction I had in 2011, esp. since they're in roughly parallel locations on the two breasts. If they decide that's not necessarily what they are, it'll mean a MRI-guided biopsy to confirm or deny the presence of additional cancer. It'd be very bad if those came back positive -- it'd move me into a later stage cancer group. Seems unlikely, though, so I'm trying not to borrow trouble.

Right now, test test test, and wait for the results. We'll see what happens.

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February 26 -- 9:07 PM

Am pleased that I was impromptu able to serve a very nice Italian dinner to serve two other families on short notice. It helped that we had some leftover Italian takeout from last night to supplement the Costco meatballs in red sauce, pasta, and steamed broccoli. But however it happened, it happened, and since being able to feed hungry hordes is a pretty fundamental part of my identity, I am pleased. Take that, cancer!

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February 26 -- 3:55 PM

Cancer log 28: People are so nice. Here are just a few of the ways people have been nice to me lately:

  • banana nut muffins arrived on my doorstep just now, with a note suggesting they could make breakfast a little easier tomorrow (or lunch, snack, or freeze...)
  • my editors taking on some of my work to make it easier to finish the anthology
  • books being mailed to me (one on fighting cancer, one a cheerful picture book telling kids why mommy's hair is falling out)
  • my department hiring subs to cover classes I can't get to (this one is HUGE, and I am so glad my department has both the financial resources and the social will to support me in this way)
  • a mom at the school's PTA re-opening the after-school class registration so I could get Kavya into the new Indian dance class (that I helped organize adding to the curriculum!) -- I had been so harried the last two weeks that I'd missed the sign-up period, but she's in now!
  • a friend meeting Kavi at the bus stop and keeping her 'til 4-ish most days the past week, when I had hospital procedures
  • literally gazillion offers to help, and local people especially offering babysitting or grocery runs or hospital chauffering
  • many people who have been through cancer, or had a friend go through cancer, offering to be there as a resource, as needed
  • medical friends doing research to learn more about breast cancer and then offering me advice
  • doctor / hospital staff going out of their way to make things more comfortable / easier / possible for me
  • a glorious floral arrangement from my college roommate (that one is for wedding, not cancer, but including it because it's in the picture :-) )
I'm sure there are several more I'm forgetting. I wanted to list at least a few though, particularly because I know so often people want to help in this kind of situation, but aren't sure how to do it.

I know it's super old-fashioned to offer to bring a casserole, and it undoubtedly feels cheesy, but I have to say -- I think it's not a bad idea. I mean, we don't need fifty casseroles the first week -- we don't have the freezer space. But last night, we were too tired to cook after the day of procedures, and ended up ordering out; luckily, we can afford to do that on occasion, but I would not have turned up my nose at a casserole, esp. a kid-friendly one!

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