Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Healing House

We're in our new house--the healing house--and kind of settled - though we can't find a few vital things like dish and bath towels. The help has been amazing and mind boggling. I hate to think of the number of backs thrown out on my behalf.

This is not the time to be moving, and believe me we've been wringing our hands ever since getting the news. But from the moment I saw this house online I had the thought that it looks like a place built for healing. That impression was compounded when we walked through it. The walls are dusty blue. There is a large deck in the back surrounded by trees, with a gazebo, and a hot tub. From the master balcony there is a perfect view of the new LDS temple, which lights up beautifully at night. There's even a sauna in the basement.

Everyone seems to be thriving so far, except the dog, who can't maneuver the stairs. But he's getting the hang of it. I'm slowly unpacking the less vital boxes--hoping to find those towels--in between doctor visits and treatments intended to help my body fight off those wicked cancer cells.

Please stop by and visit if you're close. Just make sure you call, since I can't hear the door bell from the hot tub or the sauna.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Big Words

So they've pretty much all been used. The big scary words I didn't want to hear:


Each time a new word gets tossed out there it comes with a fresh wave of grief and tears. But then it finds a place to settle in my brain, stretches a bit, makes itself at home, and I move on.

The doctor used the word BIG when describing my tumor. Followed by REALLY BIG. Tossed out "has me worried." When I go onto those cancer message boards, where people talk in abbreviations like "I had a dx on my ILC that was 2mm," I see pitiful little sizes like 2 centimeters and even 10 millimeters. I want to tell them to get back to me when they have a respectable tumor, like 4.8 centimeters. That's 1.8 inches, in case you're wishing you knew metric better. Apparently it's about half the tissue mass of the A cup "body part" that's holding it. At least that's how much they'd have to take out if they tried a lumpectomy. (And in case anyone just felt offended, I do believe any lump commands respect.)

Fortunately, the scariest word of all...METASTASIZED...was preceded by the phrase "No reason to think that it has..." I'm praying (and I mean seriously praying) that it will stay that way. That's one word that is so not welcome in my brain.

The surgery isn't until Oct. 7. They were saying this Monday, but by the time they got all the doctors schedules coordinated, that was the best they could do. The nurse assured me that the tumor has been around a long time and two weeks wouldn't hurt, especially when it bought them time to do it right. Then she added that it's fine with everyone but the patient.

She sure got that right. But despite the anxiety, it'll give me time to get settled into the pretty new house we found. More on that later.

Monday, September 21, 2009

More Ups and Downs - Mostly Ups

Based on the phone calls I've received today, I guess I'd better post again. The fact of the matter is I didn't want to because the news I received today had me shaken. Turns out though, as I sat down and studied it tonight, that it was actually good news. It was just me being stupid. And since I've talked to so many people on the phone today, I guess I'd better set the record straight. Or as straight as my rattled brain can get it.

A nurse called with the full biopsy report, and I misunderstood and got it in reverse. I thought (and told a few folks) that it showed the tumor as slow growing but extremely aggressive. Fact is, it's actually on the low end of the aggression scale(talk about relief). It does have all three of the factors that can make it grow quickly. (Go me!) I was pretty stumped when I was all mixed up and thought it was a slow grower, but this one makes much more sense. And I'd way rather have a grower than an aggressor. (And if you happen to really know all about this stuff, please forgive me if I still have it wrong!) The only real bad news is that one of those factors is apparently caused by "wear and tear and old age."

Yep, you read right. Old age. Wow. It's getting really hard to keep thinking of myself as a youngster. Isn't that right all you little whipper snappers?

But seriously, in case I haven't said it enough - I'm really, really grateful for all the thoughts and prayers going out on my behalf. I'm absolutely feeling like the Lord has taken the wheel of this little roller coaster, and I'm just along for the ride.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Today's Traumatic Experience

It was actually a very good day. The housing situation still isn't settled, but we have some good prospects and believe we'll be able to move into one of a couple of good choices by next week. We also have some substantial packing taken care of, with a plan for the rest. The blessing so far is that the upcoming move is doing wonders at keeping my mind off the other upcoming thingymajig.

But the day wasn't all sunshine and roses. While standing on the porch of one of the homes we're considering, an adorable 4-year-old blond girl came running up saying, "Who are you?" I told her I was just visiting, but she wasn't satisfied and repeated the question, and I repeated my answer. She was followed close behind by an equally adorable 3-year-old blond girl who said. Are you ready? Cause seriously I was floored.


I wasn't sure I heard her right. I couldn't have. I promise, every single time I tell someone I'm a grandma, they react with surprise. "Oh, you're much too young to be a grandma." And it has to be genuine. Right? I mean, people don't just say things like that unless they mean it. Right? Plus, I'm just BARELY a grandma. But she repeats herself. "Are you Grandma?"

I swallow my indignation and tell her that I am A grandma. Then she studies me for a moment with her wide little innocent eyes, and says, "I want you to be MY Grandma."


I guess if I have to look like a Grandma, at least I apparently look like a Good Grandma. But I'll think twice before going out of the house without makeup again.

The Best T-Shirt Slogan Ever...

I have a dear friend who I just learned is a bc survivor. She said, "There are lots of us, you just can't tell because we look like everybody else." During our conversation she told me about a t-shirt she'd seen that she immediately coveted:


Friday, September 18, 2009

But For You...

So one of my good friends told me last night (at that party I was talking about where I might as well have spilled the punch all over myself) that she checked my blog several times throughout the day for the update that I hadn't bothered to post. So for her benefit, and any other of you curiosity-challenged, I'm going to break a record and post twice in one day.

I visited the plastic surgeon today. He went through about three different treatment options, in great detail. The third sounded perfect. I was actually feeling a teeny bit excited. I mean, seriously, I get a tummy tuck out of this? How sweet is that? A six-week recuperation. I can handle that. Have had worse. But just as he finishes, and I'm feeling all warm and fuzzy, he puts up his finger and says, "But for you..."

Yeah, of course I'm special. Apparently due to the size (3 cm) and type of tumor, he's fairly confident I'll be needing radiation. He then described the process he recommends, which will mean two, maybe three, surgeries, spanning a long time and who knows how much pain. He finished and asked if I had any questions. When I shook my head he moved on to the need to take pictures. A big bubble of emotion came out of my mouth. He paused, and asked if I objected to the pictures. Rob took my hand and said he'd go with me. I didn't--couldn't--say anything, but couldn't have cared less about the stupid pictures (though I have to admit that was a tad bit humiliating). But I hadn't thought that far. I hadn't been listening. I was still back on the radiation. I'd somehow convinced myself that wouldn't be necessary.

He had no comment on the possibility of chemo. That'll be decided after the surgery. But it looks like I'm officially in this for the long-haul.

How NOT to make smooth exit

Couldn't sleep again last night. And I know, you don't have to tell me, my body needs its rest. Of course I tell my body this, which sends it into a panic. My brain starts screaming: "How are you going to heal if you don't rest!?!" And of course nobody ever fell asleep with their brain screaming. But I'm working on it, really.

Anyway, while pacing the house, and lying in bed, and sitting on the couch, with my stupid brain screaming at me to stop thinking so much and just fall asleep, I thought of some brilliant advice to give you all. Just in case it comes in handy for someone. Here it goes: if you're ever trying to move away from a place you love without making a big fuss, do not go and announce you have breast cancer. It's like trying to slip out of a party and knocking over the punch bowl just as you get to the door. Everybody in the room looks up and says, "What the heck?" And then you just stand there all wide-eyed wiping red goo off your dress and smiling feebly at everybody.

Of course it's not exactly like that. Because at that party they'd probably just laugh for a minute then go back to what they were doing. But in my case they then all come rushing up to you to give you a hug and ask how they can help. Which is really good. It's just not the smoothest way to make an exit. But then I always was kind of a klutz.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

First the Good News...

Wow do I feel loved. The support I've received in the last few days has been wonderful. I also feel incredibly under control under the circumstances.

That's the good news.

The bad news is that the tumor is malignant.

For those that want more gory details: they don't have all the results of the biopsy, and ran a bunch of new tests today, so I guess the answers will dribble in over the next few days. What they do know is that it's a rare type of tumor (rare is what I do best) a Lobular Carcinoma, which just so happens doesn't always show up on mammograms. (Hence the reason for SELF-EXAMS!!!) The good news to that is that it didn't just show up and start growing out of control. The bad news is that it's been hanging around for a while, so who knows what its been doing. I have a theory on why it at least seems to have grown so suddenly recently, but won't know if it's correct until some more tests come in.

The surgery doesn't have to be immediate, but will be soon--about ten days--which will give them more time for more tests. Love those tests. Especially the way you repeatedly get asked, "So how are you today?" And then you repeatedly think of snarky responses that you'd never actually use. I mean, they're holding the chart. They know the diagnosis that was just received. Isn't there a better greeting than that?

So for your homework tonight, please either: A. give me a good response or B. suggest a better greeting. And most important, please keep those prayers coming. I can truly feel them.

Oh, and if you know of a vacant house around Draper that will be available in the next few days, let me know!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Day One: On the Edge

I'm sure you've seen a scene in a movie--there have been several--where a character in a nice, comfortable house goes to the front door; and upon opening it discovers nothing but open, unknown space.

That is where I am standing right now. Clutching the door frame and staring into the darkness.

There have been notable moments leading up to this day: Day One. But this feels like the first. The beginning of something I don't even want to imagine.

One of those momentous days was four months ago, when my husband and I decided to put our home up for sale. We have lived here eleven years. My youngest son doesn't know any home but this one. And it's a beautiful house. We were highly reluctant, but for many reasons it felt like the best thing for the family.

I know the exact date of the next event. June 28. Two and a half months ago. I had a routine mammogram. A couple weeks later I got a routine call notifying me that it was normal. I had no idea that would become momentous.

It was the beginning of August that I noticed the lump while dressing in front of the mirror. About the size of a walnut. It startled me, how obvious it was. I even showed my husband, something I've never done before. But I tend to be lumpy. And I'd just had that mammogram, so I put it out of my mind.

Wednesday, September 2. We were scheduled to close on the sale of our home. But I was in mourning. My feet weren't just cold, they were frozen. We had found a beautiful home to move into. But that had fallen through. I couldn't stand the thought of selling this home without knowing where we were going. And all I could think about were the reasons not to leave our home. But my husband and I went to the Lord for advice, and individually felt strongly that it was the right thing to do. So we signed. And proceeded with an obsessive search for a new home.

Just two days later, Friday, September 4, I realized the lump had changed from a walnut to a plum. I had an appointment already scheduled with my doctor for the following Thursday, the 10th, to followup on some unrelated health issues. I told myself to stay calm until then. Besides, I had to find a house before the end of the month.

And that's when the whirlwind began to pick up. The right house remained elusive. And the doctor assured me it was probably just a cyst that needed to be drained. He scheduled me for an ultrasound the next Tuesday, yesterday. September 15. But by then I was calling it an apple.

I was late to the appointment, even though I'd planned to be early, since I'd never been to the facility. The freeway was backed up and not moving. I exited and took State Street. I uttered the word 'cyst, cyst' over and over as my car crept slowly along. I told the lady at the front desk that it was a very stressful way to arrive at a stressful appointment. My husband was waiting for me, but was in the wrong part of the building. They called me back before he found me, so I asked them to send him back when he showed up. They told me he'd have to sit in the waiting area, where a couple of men were already waiting. Reminded me of labor and delivery rooms from a couple decades ago, when they thought men were wimps.

I changed into the ugly blue gown, and was seated in a room with four other ladies who were discussing the joys of mammograms. I had barely put my touche in the chair when I was called back, breezing past those other ladies like I was something special. The technician was very kind. Very gentle. And after her perusal of my delicates (with me silently chanting 'cyst, cyst') she stood and said she'd get the doctor who would chat with me.

A couple years back, I had a cyst on my thyroid. A big, ugly thing growing out of my neck. The technician pulled out a syringe when he was done looking and drained it. There was no doctor. No chat.

I felt a bit of foreboding and asked for my husband. She said she'd check with the doctor. She seemed uncomfortable. Like she shouldn't say too much. And I really began to worry.

Then the doctor arrived and announced he would be doing a biopsy.

"So it's not a cyst?"

"No. It's a tumor."

That was the word. The one I'd been dreading. The tears started, and he made a swift exit to find my husband. All I could think about was my bed. And how I wanted to curl up in it. Except it isn't in my room.

I don't have a room.

My treatment has been put into high gear. I should be getting the biopsy results today. I meet with the surgeon tomorrow.

I remember fumbling with the little locker key in the dressing area afterwards. I couldn't see what I was doing through the tears. A woman asked if I needed help. I knew she and all the women in their blue gowns knew the news I'd just gotten. And they were thinking how it could be them. I wanted to tell them not to rely on the mammogram alone. But I couldn't talk.

I cried all the way home. Expressed my anger to the radio. About how unfair this was. I eat right. Exercise. Watch my weight. Besides, I already paid my dues with open-heart surgery at age thirty. I should have gotten a free pass after that. Fortunately I was able to stop the flood in time to tell the children. My littlest broke down at the word cancer. The only people he knows with cancer have died. I told him that wasn't going to happen to me.

So today, Day Two, I'm just counting on the Lord having a plan. And I'm thinking it would be nice if he let me in on it real soon.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Wahoo! It's a Contest!

One of my good friends and favorite authors has a new book coming out in the next week, and to celebrate she's having a contest. I love contests. I happened to be a winner of the contest for her last book, and loved the story even more than the chocolates that I won! The author is GG Vandagriff, and if you haven't read any of her stuff you've been missing out. The Hidden Branch is a novel of mystery, romance, and comedy that takes place in Huntington Beach, CA, (one of my favorite places ever) and is the fifth in the Alex and Briggie Mystery Series. Fortunately it can also be read as an introduction to the series, so you can jump in now if you haven't read the others. See for more info.
-Buy the book on line or in the store before September 17th and qualify for an Alex and Briggie gift package, and a chance to win an autographed set of the entire series. Just make sure you do the following:
E-mail GG your name and address at ggvan1 @
Tell her where you bought the book

That's it, and you're in the running!