Tracie Cone has always been a trailblazer. This award-winning journalist is the former California Newspaper Executive of the Year. She shares a Pulitzer Prize with fellow staff members at the Miami Herald for coverage of the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew and has twice been nominated individually. She has focused her writing on helping the underdog and empowering those without a strong voice of their own. Now she takes us on the fight of her life.
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One Thing, Then Another

The infusion nurses singing my sendoff, with help from Dr. Mollick aka Dr. Nice on the far right.

Yesterday was quite a day at Stanford. As soon as I had relished receiving my last dose of chemo I was whisked away to meet with a surgeon and anesthesiologist about my next phase: double mastectomy. Sigh.

But first the good part. The nurses in the infusion center were genuinely happy to see me go. (Technically speaking. Go from chemo. I’ll still be there every 3 weeks for the next year for Herceptin, the biological agent that works to turn off the gene that produces my type of cancer, HER2pos.) They wrote and performed a pretty funny song, and even Dr. Mollick (aka Dr. Nice) joined in. Everyone knows how hard chemo is and everyone rejoices when another patient gets through it.

Now I’m bracing for the lethargy, itchy rash and mouth sores that are my symptoms of Taxatere (aka Toxictere) and Lapatinib, my trial drug. This time I’ll be armed with a rinse that should make the mouth sores more bearable. Ah, it really takes four months of chemotherapy to figure out what’s right for the patient’s individual maladies. Trial and error. Now I’m done, providing the cancer has cooperated, which by all accounts it has. And I’ve finally figured it out.

I’m about to lose my fingernails and am wondering whether it will hurt. They are soft and flaking and are yet another symptom of chemo at work. Fast-growing cells are attacked, and cancer and hair are the first to go. Now the nails, which is ok because they have been slowly dying and look pretty bad anyway.

After my big sendoff, I met with Dr. Frederick Dirbas, Stanford breast surgeon extraordinaire for yet another follow-up visit. He wants to make sure patients haven’t changed their minds about the surgery, and I have. The last time I wrote about this I was opting to have my diseased breast removed now, then having my good left breast removed at the time of reconstruction to save the skin and reduce the number of skin grafts I would need.

Upon giving it more thought, I’m going to have both removed at the same time on October 20. Michelle and I need a break, and delaying reconstruction is something over which we have control so that we can get back to living our lives. It will mean that after radiation, which will take up most of December, I’ll be able to return to work after the first of the year. I can wait as long as I want for reconstruction – and I may even decide I don’t want it. Having the double now will give me options I otherwise would not have.

Not to say a double won’t be hard. It will. It takes 6 weeks to recover. I’ll wake up with scars where a part of me used to be. I’ll suffer pain. But that is for another post at another time. And it’s a worry I will not contemplate until the moment it is necessary.

Because for now, I have something behind me, which is something I could not imagine four months ago when this all started. By all accounts it is the worst part.

Today I feel fine, and that’s what life is about. I can’t control tomorrow, I can’t change yesterday.

At this moment in time all is right with my world, and that’s all that matters.

8 Responses to “One Thing, Then Another”

  • Sheila Porter:

    One step at a time Ms. Tracie. You are in my prayers every day!!

  • Jeff:

    Nice update. I’m praying for ya. JP

  • Elaine Hoover:

    Praying for you this minute… and then the next… and then the next…and then the next…

  • Bryan:

    You rock, Warrior Tracie. Those last sentences should be everyone’s mantra every day. And they’re precisely why you should fight through this next week of bs pain with your head held high. You beat this shit disease and will fight it’s return forever. Congratulations again, you rock!

  • Sue:

    We love you, Tracie!

  • maria:

    hear hear!!! i second that motion about the mantra bit!!
    You rock tracie!!!! I am so glad that you are almost done with all this! Again, you are an inspiration and all the angels have been on your side!:)
    We are all behind you and are cheering you on!

  • Linda Robertson:

    Congratulations! You did it. The worst is over. You can write a pilot for a new kind of “Survivor” show. Feel the positive waves of energy coming your way from around the USA.

  • Kelly S.:

    You made it, Tracie! Great job! Sat down to read a few entries I missed while taking a kid to college, and it looks like you’re kicking this thing in the a$$. Your outlook on the double is incredibly inspiring. We’re here to “support” you, if you’ll pardon the pun. :-) Fight on!!

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