Felt a Lump, Blamed Cancer

Cancer’s only redeeming value is that it comes in handy for blaming anything that goes haywire.  I have blamed cancer for everything from aging to zhingles.  I know, but shingles spelled correctly won’t cover the whole alphabet spectrum.

My most recent addition to the blame-cancer game is a lump on my left arm near the shoulder.  I noticed it one day while soaking in my five-minute vitamin D quota from the toasty Southern California sun while seating on the only patio chair in front of my privacy-walled minimalist manor.  At first I stared admiringly at the lump, delighted that I was getting some muscle definition.  But when I looked at the same area on my right arm and saw nothing there to balance it,  the lump raised my suspicion.  I didn’t think it suddenly appeared but I didn’t know how long the lump has been there.  I had been too busy taking selfies.

At first sight of the lump, the author celebrated her new muscle definition, or so she thought!

I immediately blamed cancer, returned to my alma mater, Google University (GU) and revisited my mentor, the founder himself, Dr Google.  I asked about “lump in my left arm near the shoulder.” Sure enough, other alumni had already inquired about it.  How dare them debunk the myth that the Senior String-Bikini Babe is an original!

Dr Google had a few things to say about the lump. Its location, appearance and texture based on what I saw and felt, describe LIPOMA, a slow growing usually harmless, painless fatty lump that is most often situated between the skin and the muscle layer and located in the neck, shoulders, arms, and other areas that did not matter anymore after reading the shoulders and arms.  Any one can get Lipoma at any age.  It requires medical diagnosis because the lump may be LIPOSARCOMA, which looks similar but is bad news. I threw some more questions. Dr Google’s answer:  Enough already!  Stop self-diagnosis. See your doctor.

Grudgingly, I contacted my Primary Care Physician (PCP), a gerontologist who makes a living looking for as much wrong as he can find in me. Of course he has his RN for his first line of defense.  I described to her my GU findings.  She said she would ask PCP.  After conferring with him, she connected me with a surgeon, another young handsome Southern Orange County doctor.

Three days later,  I faced the good doctor, Dr Han Sahm.  The name sounds fictitious because it is, to protect his privacy.    Obviously he had already heard from RN everything about the lump.  He jabbed the lump with his forefinger, pushed it around and declared it 99.99999% not cancer. I said, So there is that 0.00001% it is cancer.  He said, I have operated on thousands of this over five years and the results have been 100%.  You have two options: (1) Remove it, or (2) Do nothing but watch it for some time and if it starts to bother you, we’ll remove it.  It will take only minutes.  My decision came swiftly: Let’s wait until it becomes the size of a cantaloupe then do the liposuction.  He laughed, We don’t want to wait that long. We want the procedure to last only minutes.

So there’s my lump story.

Tell me your own lump story, if you have any.







My CO-1686: Second Anniversary!

Oh dear! Has it been two years already? Time does fly when one is having fun.

This blog and my participation in the CO-1686 clinical trials started simultaneously in March 2014 when all I had under my belt was zero experience in blogging and clinical trials. As a matter of fact,  I have deleted the maiden post dated March 14, 2014 from the blog archive because I suddenly realized it made no sense.  It contained only the title “In Two Weeks I’ll Know More About the Biopsy,” followed by space as big as the great outdoors.  It happens when a future awesome blogger only knows how to tweet.

While creating the blog in 2014, I discovered that WordPress requires a title, so without hesitation, I named it “Cancer Laughter.”  Looking back now, I realize it was so presumptuous of me.  Cancer Laughter! What was I thinking? What if the trial drug wielded debilitating side effects that would obliterate the laugh lines off my face? What if the trial honchos yanked me out because of progression after the first CTscan?  Well, honestly, those thoughts just never occurred to me.  My mantra being  Learn something new everyday, I’m like a horse with blinders on. All I could think of at the time was that I’ll have fun learning something new in the clinical trials; fun researching new knowledge; and more fun learning blogging and sharing it with anybody who cares. Fun, fun, fun!  Sure enough, since the blog christening moment, for the most part, it has been fun.  I have found entertaining things to learn and write about –  first six months in the University of Colorado in Aurora; second six months in UCLA in Santa Monica, and twelve months in UC in Irvine.  Situation comedy abounds at reception desks, in examination rooms, emergency rooms, urgent care, and in the car playing Miss Daisy doing lottery puzzles with her loving Octo at the wheel.

Now, as I celebrate my CO-1686 second anniversary, I wonder if Motivator Extraordinaire Napoleon Hill, author of the book Think and Grow Rich,  might have been on to something when he wrote, “What your mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve.” Oooommmmm. Or maybe I’ve just been fortunate so far.

I  have never read Napoleon Hill’s famous book but when I was a 25-year-old engineer babe in the Philippines, I dated a successful businessman who talked about the book incessantly I might as well have read it myself.  Obviously, it had impacted him so profoundly and positively that he felt a need to brighten my youthful existence with its highlights. Being a hot chick in seduction mode full throttle at that time, I listened raptly to the well-intentioned Casanova, gazing at his eyes the way Nancy Reagan did to her Ronnie, and all the while I was thinking: Napoleon Hill – that’s the dude I should be dating. Moments ago, I googled Napoleon Hill’s birth date and found out that he was alive and in his mid-80’s those days. Right Octo, wrong time!

Of course, it was not all laughter the past two years. Unwholesome events that precluded smiles came and went. There were no cancer issues, but holy “tamale,” did I encounter other maladies from which senior babes with lung cancer should already  be exempt: urinary tract infection, eight months of hyperglycemia and Metformin-induced loss of appetite, overactive bladder, bacterial infection, and shingles. But I enjoyed writing about them too soon after I had staggered out from the ashes. Each experience brought me and the blog followers – or maybe just me – precious knowledge.

I consider lost appetite (LA) the worst part of the journey of the last two years. Yes, loss of connection with food, not shingles, not infections.  Food strategies, cooking, the motions of eating, and cleaning after remnants of midieval feasts consume a huge chunk of my day. Without them, during the LA episode, I might as well had been dangling by my toes inside a stacked pantry, cheerless and unfulfilled. Indeed, Mr LA single-handedly gave the self-proclaimed Guru of Positivity a nice little run for her money. And yet, after surviving the ordeal, I appreciate the benefits: (1) a junior babe figure 25 pounds lighter and (2) a diploma from the medical marijuana school of “higher” learning.

To the question What has been the best part of the journey as of the second anniversary? The answer is unequivocal: Qualifying to keep riding the trial pony after each CTscan. Insn’t that what this whole exercise is about?

And now, the CO-1686 Report Card as of post time…….drum roll……. Cancer: stable. Bloods: normal.  Side effects: zilch.  Performance Rating: 0-1.  Skinny Girl jeans size: unchanged. Other: Eight faint chicken pox dots scattered around the right eye – fading souvenirs from the Battle of the Shingles. Win some, lose some.

So onward and forward, but first: celebrate!  Chug-a-lug the brew! Beat the heck out of the pinata! Indulge the inner hedonist!  It’s Exclamation Point Day!

Happy dance, Feisty Heifer!










My CO-1686: How About ’em Shingles?

The year was 2013. I, freshly annointed Queen Diva Poksa, was happily ramrodding the Inspire blog Tarceva Divas and Dudes (TD&D), when one day a mysterious rash appeared on my tummy. The inch-wide belt of tiny purplish red blisters wrapped across my belly button from one hip to the other hip, ruining my pole-dancing plans. I described the rash on the TD&D thread, hoping someone who had experienced the same Tarceva side effect would share his or her coping secret. Instead of advices, I received a scare. One diva said my descriptions fit meningitis rash. I told Octo about it and true to our characters, he dragged me to the car, put the pedal on the metal all the way to the emergency room (ER). The ER doctor declared the rash “acute dermatitis” and shooed me off to my Onc, who immediately exclaimed,”Shingles!”

It’s now 2016 and safe to say that my Onc knew zip about shingles. He was dead wrong. I did not have shingles in 2013. I’m absolutely sure because I’ve just recuperated from shingles. Shingles is like orgasm; you’d know when you’ve had one. But the comparison ends there. You’d never want shingles anytime soon or ever again.

I learned from my alma mater Google University (GU) that it’s extremely important to take antiviral medications within 72 hours of the onset of shingles. How did I know facial shingles was knocking at the door? I didn’t because I had never had one. All I know is that the top of my head suddenly became ultra-sensitive to touch. It drove me nuts thinking, Could this be Stroke? Metastases to the brain? My inner genius solving the global warming problem? I took a couple of Ibuprofens and hit the sack. In the middle of the night, a painful sting on the end of my eyebrow above my nose yanked me from snoring. I audited additional courses at GU then shocked Octo with an announcement early that morning. “Let’s go see Dr GL at Urgent Care. I believe I’m getting shingles.”

My self-diagnosis was spot on!  I wanted to high five Dr GL but decided not to. He might feel threatened by the competition. He started me on Valacyclovir  – perfect timing – within 24 hours of the onset of shingles. The drug does not kill the virus; it stops the virus from replicating, thus decreasing the individual’s suffering. The shingles virus just runs its course; there is no cure for it. Why are incurable maladies chasing me as my age careens toward a hundred?

I also found out from GU that shingles occurs when the virus that causes chickenpox starts up again in the body. After a bout of chickenpox, the virus “sleeps” or stays dormant in the nerve roots. In some people, it stays dormant forever. In others, the virus “wakes up” when disease, stress, or aging weakens the immune system.

I learned further that shingles occurs in different parts of the human body, affecting one side only, along a nerve line. NFL great Terry Bradshow shows one example in the TV ad that peddles vaccine for shingles. In my case, the shingles virus temporarily homesteaded on my face, installing red relief maps on my  forehead similar those of Mikhail Gorbacev’s birthmarks.

Shingles inflicts the worst pain I’ve ever known and I’ve experienced a lot. I had had a full-mouth gum operation, hysterectomy, goiter and cataract surgery. I had delivered a baby the natural way. This revelation should surprise no one because this senior babe is waaaay past the age of acne.

One conversation during my late pregnancy in 1974 is forever etched in my memory. Hours before my labor pains began, a friend asked me, “Do you want your husband to be in the delivery room with you?” What was she thinking? “No!” I deadpanned.  “I don’t want my husband there, I don’t want the doctor there, I don’t want me there!” But I couldn’t do childbirth in absentia. I had to be there. Women who have experienced natural childbirth will know the facial shingles pain as I’ll describe it. The headache was extremely excruciating it was like delivering a baby through the ear canal. If I were a horse, I would have been shot dead already.

The shingles virus finally ran its course.  My face looks nearly normal again. People do a double take on it now because it reminds them of the mean mama-san in a Jackie Chan movie.

The shingles event capped my 2015 fourth quarter from hell that started at the end of  the Shanghai/Tokyo CTscan celebration trip, which gave me a bacterial infection, which was disposed of in two days by my immune system helped by the antibiotic Azithromycin. Then I paid the price for Azithromycin’s help: two weeks of malaise from its knock-down side effects.  Then while my heroic immune system was resting, the chickenpox virus rose from the dead and harassed my face. All these things happened just because I had celebrated my CO-1686’s latest stable CTscans! Fortunately, being the self-proclaimed guru of positivity, I dwell on the awesomeness of the first three quarters and the knowledge acquired in the fourth quarter of 2015.

I’ve just finished dusting myself up and am now ready to face the new year 2016.

The moral of the story? What doesn’t kill you makes you strong. Happy dance, Feisty Heifer!

Happy New Year!