Fires, Forgetfulness and Men’s Accessories

November 13, 2012


After re-reading my last post, I realized I failed to tell you the results of the oh-so-art-inspiring brain MRI. Of the original 14 lesions and 4 tumors, 2 tumors – though greatly reduced in size – remain. That was in August. I’ll have another brain MRI sometime before the end of the year. What is interesting is that I am getting the impression this was somewhat unexpected. I asked my doctor some time ago and he was asked again during my most recent visit by my mother, what happens if they disappear? Am I cured? Will the pills and infusions stop? Knowing the answer already because I had asked, I told my mother that, “We don’t know.” This is because they won’t know whether the tumors disappeared for good or if the chemo meds are just holding them at bay. Interestingly, as much as I hate choking them down, it’s kind of frightening to think about NOT taking them “regularly” – I admit, I skip a day or two here and there.

Had another full body bone scan last week (week before that?) due to a sharp, poking feeling in my rib cage. Breast cancer is most likely to metastasize to the liver, bones, or brain so my doc takes any bone pain pretty seriously. Anyway, it turned out to be nothing – probably a pinched or overwrought muscle. I say this because on the day it happened, Larry suggested I try a heating pad. Because, at that point, I had already allowed my imagination to run wild for hours, I explained to him as calmly as I could that a heating pad would not cure a tumor that had – overnight – grown large enough to break my ribs!! Even so, I tried it.

He was right.

Despite feeling better, doc thought it had been a while so the bone scan should be done anyway. He also ordered a test that he doesn’t usually order that measures the number of CTCs – circulating tumor cells – in your blood. I had asked him about this test a couple of years ago and he said he didn’t like running it because so many people (docs AND patients) get hung up on what in reality is an arbitrary number. Some doctors use the number to determine whether a patient that has been “cured” needs to return for chemo. As he explained, “Is there really a difference between 25 and 26?” I said, “Well, yes. One.” to which he replied, “You know what I mean.” And I did.

So anyway, he ordered this test that he has never ordered before and guess what? I’m a big, fat ZERO. That means there are ZERO circulating tumor cells in my bloodstream. That’s got to be good – right?


Some of you may know my friends, Patsy and Joel. We went to high school together – they weren’t a couple then – until Joel left to finish at Lamar. Anyway, Patsy and Joel had a son, Luke, that was about six months older than Jackson. [Actually, they are the reason Jackson has his name – we were joking around that, if they had a boy, they should name him Jackson (because their last name is Pollock). When Jack was born, Kim and I had winnowed the name list down, but looking at him, none of them “fit” (if you have ever named a child, you might know what I mean). Looking at the list we had made of possible names for both families (including one of my favorites – Winsislow), we hit upon our suggestion for them of Jackson. Of course, I like telling everyone that he was named after Michael Jackson, but it’s just not true. Back to Luke…] Luke was born about eight weeks premature and had more than his fair share of health issues, in particular, respiratory. Following a “routine” tonsillectomy (that, considering his health history should NOT have been “routine”) and the customary same-day discharge, he passed away in his sleep at the age of four.

Needless to say, Luke’s passing was devastating. To this day, I continue to be awestruck by Patsy and Joel’s bond and their strength. I know there were years and years of each taking turns being strong while the other submerged into the inevitable questions, anger, and grief. I imagine that, at least to some extent, this must still happen.

However, beauty and love persist, and one of the most beautiful things to have come from Luke’s death is a ritual that Patsy and Joel created to celebrate his birth. Each year, they save their Christmas tree and, on or about his birthday eleven months later, they have a get together with friends and family and burn the tree. I’ve gone probably three or four times. When I got the text from Patsy this year announcing the date, the boys, Anna Rose and I decided to make the trek.

I think it took Joel a full five seconds after opening the door before he recognized any of us – I hadn’t mentioned we would be there. Seeing Gabe and Jack can be bittersweet for Patsy and Joel. Jack, in particular, as he and Luke would have hit any number of milestones together. I only knew one other person there – the Pollock’s social life now revolves around their very tall and Austin-esque 9 and 11 year-old daughters – an ex of mine that it is always good to see and catch up with.

When the time came to light the trees (due to the burn ban in Austin last year they were unable to set their 2010 tree ablaze), Joel read a very heartfelt message along the lines of not being done with all the love we have to share and, after reminding us that we could all use the fire to carry a message to those we’ve loved and lost, he lit the first tree.

I’ll have to tell you about Men’s Accessories next time. Just not important at the moment.

Be good to yourself,

~ Tina


10 Responses to “Fires, Forgetfulness and Men’s Accessories”

  1. Kyle said

    Hey Tina, just very curious. Is Patsy’s maiden name Loving? I knew a Patsy and Joel long ago when I worked at World Cinema. Joel had worked at Star Pizza. I’m just wondering if it is the same Patsy and Joel. đŸ™‚

    • tinaborja said

      Not the same P&J. Both grew up in the Montrose and I’m sure they have eaten at Star and attended a movie compliments of World Cinema both separately and, likely, together… Hmmmmm. If we work this angle hard enough, we could have a blockbuster script in hand by the end of the year – no?

  2. AH, hun. I think that’s pretty impressive news. Mebbe the numbers ARE arbitrary, but ZERO?!?!? Cool! I love your writing style. Bless you for sharing. Made my day!!!!!

  3. Anne Ramsey said

    I, too, love your writing style…very touching entry….

  4. Beth Van Deusen said

    Zero? I agree – it does have to be good. Nothing but love from all of us.

  5. Thanks so much for sharing your stories, Tina. Thanks especially for the phrase “beauty and love persist.” Amen!

  6. kathy frazer said

    Tina , I am so happy that your tumors have shrunk and some are gone! What great news!!!!
    AND, no trace of tumors in your blood. WOW!!
    I think that miracle that so many pray for is happening!!!
    Great news and I am thrilled for you and your family.
    Thank you for telling the story of your friends and their way of dealing with their great loss and sorrow.
    Wishing you well and praying for your miracle.
    Have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

  7. Weezie Mackey said

    Love this on so many levels, Tina. But mostly that I know what’s going on with you. Thanks for sharing.

  8. Lu Ann Martell said

    If there is anyone out there that I would designate as being “strong” enough to beat a crappy diagnosis like the one you got, its you. Amazing news, and hoping for more of the same.

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