Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Just One Shot

So the big dramatic thing I learned from the oncologist is that there can only be one round in this war. If it goes into round two, I'll lose.

The good news is that they have a huge arsenal at their disposal, and because of the nature of my cancer they intend to use them all. He started by telling me that if we were to quit now, there's an 80% chance it would return. That's one mean cancer beasty. But by the end of our discussion he had those odds down to 15. Just a fifteen percent chance it will come back. And that's before things like my fabulous organic diet, exercise, and the millions of prayers being offered on my behalf. I figure I'm probably about as likely to get hit by a car.

The other news, whether good or bad, is that this particular cancer will come back quick, if it comes back, like within a year, maybe three. No long wait on this one.

It actually felt like good news to me. I honestly don't think I'm going anywhere right away. My biggest fear has been spending years and years in battle, and the turmoil that'll cause my loved ones. But apparently that's not even an option. To win right now is the only option.

So I have a week and a half until the chemo starts. That'll give me time to get nice and healed before they whack at that cancer again.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

My Very Own Ministering Angel

Ive been anxious the last couple days about my upcoming visit with the oncologist. Mostly because of the numbers. The one the surgeon didn't want me to pay much attention to. I know they'll be bad. And part of me doesn't want to hear them at all. But that's not who I am. I need to know what I'm up against. And I know I'm up against a Goliath. So I'm nervous.

But this morning--as with most mornings these days--I got a visit from my very own angel. She happens to be housed in a mortal body for the time being, but that's a mere technicality. She is, in every measure I know, a true angel--generous and unselfish to the hundredth degree. I'm sure she wouldn't want me to say her name. Angels are like that. But My Angel arrived as she often does, and nurtured my physical body--to turn me into a David--then fed my spirit with a pep talk like only she can give. Then, either sensing the extra level of muck or my extra level of stress--or both--she even cleaned my house.

She slipped out with the house sparkling while I was in the shower--preparing for that appointment--and left me armed for battle.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Unreasonable Cheerfulness

I've been told I sound "unreasonably cheerful" in my posts. So I thought I'd come on today when I'm not feeling anywhere near that. I do have ups and downs. Lots of them. Most are small--a quick cry while going to sleep, or reading something discouraging. I try to cling to the ups as much as possible. But it has been a rough weekend, with the pain increasing instead of decreasing. I think that's just because my nerve endings are healing and I can actually feel things that used to be numb, which is good. And maybe because I've done a little too much. I actually went to a party with my husband last night. But it still hurts. And it's frustrating to have to break out the pill bottles that I've tucked away in the back of the medicine cabinet. So there you have it. No sunshine and roses today. I just hurt. But I'm working on it.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Ahh Sweet Shower

I showered today. It wasn't the first shower since my surgery. Just the first not spent both crying over the shock of my new reflection in the mirror, and trying to juggle dangling tubes and bulbs along with soap and shampoo. Almost felt human afterward. Such a wonder, those showers. Turn a knob and a gentle spray of soothing warm water drenches you. Pure heaven. Just one of many things I've taken for granted lately.

Also talked to the nurse who is coordinating my care. She told me that chemo is the second-worst part of this process. That surprised me, since it's the part I'm dreading the most. I asked her what the worst part is, and she said I just did it.

Whew. I'm still absorbing that. I just did the hardest part. If that's true, I might just make it.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Baby Steps

So...let's see...I slept without Percocet last night. That was a biggie. One step closer to being able to drive. Then I went to a class where I learned how to paint my eyes with so much makeup that no one will know when I don't have any eyelashes. The point was that studies have shown women who get dressed and make themselves look nice actually recover better than women who don't. Looking like a hooker was just a side benefit.

And after that class was the best of all...I got the rest of my drains out! Woo Hoo! It doesn't take much to excite me these days.

I won't have any more big hurdles until next Tuesday, when I meet with the oncologist and go over the game plan. I was told I could start chemo as soon as the next day. But I know I'm going to want a couple of days to review my options and get my brain wrapped around it all.

On a final note -- if any of you nice people out there sent me a soft, fuzzy blanket, with the breast cancer awareness ribbon, will you please let me know who you are so I can thank you properly? I only know it came from Overstock. And I seriously doubt they randomly send out blankets to cancer patients.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Big, Tiring Day...

I've pretty much been a slug for the past week, but yesterday I had to hide my bizarre figure enough to leave the house for my first post-op appointment. I say first because I guess there are a whole bunch of them. Two more next Friday. The doc had to do several things that took quite a while and involved blood, stitches and other gory stuff that caused my poor husband to flee the room. The good part was that he took out two of the four drains. The two most annoying ones, as it turns out, so that was good. After that Rob and I walked over to the Huntsman Cancer Center at IMC to make an appointment with my new oncologist. (I seem to be collecting doctors the way I used to collect shoes.)

We got side-tracked in the lobby where we discovered a little library and resource center. I asked about wigs, and it turns out I'm eligible a free one. (You're jealous, I know. I'm just special that way I guess.) They took me on up for a fitting right then. Kind of disturbing. Okay, super disturbing. But I now have a wig. It's pretty much like my own hair, except styled the way mine should look if I did it properly every day. I don't know how often I'll wear it--I guess it'll depend on how itchy and miserable it is. But that's just one of hundreds of mysteries I won't know until I get there.

Anyway, we'd been doing the doctor thing for four hours by the time we finished with the oncologist, so we bought a sandwich, then decided we really ought to grab some milk before heading home, since neither of us would want to leave the house once we got there. (I think the appointments were as draining on Rob as they were on me.) Costco is right by the hospital. But it's not possible to just buy milk at Costco. Not with all those free samples and great deals on giant cheese blocks and such. By the time we straggled home I was ready to never move another muscle again.

On the upside I slept really well last night. And today I was able to lift both my arms above my head, (progress from the day before) so I guess the day wasn't too damaging.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Staging Is In - But I am not a statistic

That's what the doctor said...several times..."You are not a statistic."

He also said that dang old tumor was 5.7 cm. If you're not a tumor expert, that is officially "huge". And of the 18 lymph nodes they removed, 12 had cancer cells. T*W*E*L*V*E. Which is officially "a whole bunch".

That puts me at a Stage 3.

I'll be "presented" to a cancer board tomorrow. About twenty of Huntsman's finest. They'll put together a recommendation for treatment, which I'll learn about when I meet with an oncologist next week. Chemo will begin in two to three weeks.

But I am young and strong and healthy and I will beat this thing.

Just do me a favor and do routine breast checks. By routine I don't mean annual. Mammograms have their place, please get them done, but don't count on them for safety. Ten to fifteen percent of tumors are the kind that don't show up on mammos. They call that rare. I call it likely enough to be persistent. While I may not be a statistic, I don't want any of the women I love to be one either.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Meanwhile back at the ranch...

Just when I don't think I can handle any more twists or turns...

As you may know my ten-year-old son is a little actor, singer, dancer, etc. Loves to sing and loves the spotlight. Months ago, when life was normal, I took him to an audition for a movie. We do that a lot. He's had some cool opportunities, but for every role he wins, there are a dozen or so he didn't get. I figure the auditions themselves provide unique experiences for him, and plenty of learning opportunities, so we plow ahead. I never heard back on this particular audition, and didn't give it much thought. Then today I get an email asking for his bio to post on the movie's website. I promptly reply asking why the heck they would need that? Is he in the movie or something? Well, apparently he's been cast as an orphan, and will be "featured in several scenes."

Yikes. His big opportunity and I'm previously occupied. I went ahead and sent the bio, but told them my situation. They said it will be several weeks before they get back to me with scheduling. I guess that's all I can do for now.

In case you're interested, it's a western musical satire called 'The Medicine Show' that they're hoping will become popular in the way of 'The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly'. Or maybe 'Napoleon Dynamite'. (Who doesn't hope to become the next Napoleon Dynamite?) Here's the website:

Looks like a lot of fun!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Wardrobe Quandary

So imagine you have the brilliant (and by 'brilliant' I meaning (wink wink) 'insane') idea to dangle Christmas ornaments from the edge of your bra. Maybe four of them. Nice big ones. For the perfect touch, they should rest right on your waist line. And for ribbon maybe you use, oh, I don't know, how about surgical tubing? Attached with giant safety pins! And since you're on a surgical theme, you make sure those ornaments are clear and filled with a fluid so disgusting that polite people don't mention it in mixed company.

Yeah, that should look pretty.

Now your only problem is you need to hide this nifty decoration so your young and impressionable children don't puke whenever they see you. (Especially your boys. Boys are so not understanding when it comes to jangly see-through tubing hanging from their mother's underwear.)

When the doctor said to plan on "loose clothing" after surgery, I had no idea just how loose we were talking. I knew about the drains, but I never imagined they'd be this bad. I mean, I'm actually shaped like a loose and jangly Christmas tree. The animated kind you'd see in a holiday parade.

I'd include pictures, but I'm much too polite for that. Maybe I'll just find a green shirt with polka dots and call it good.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

And then there were none...

At least at think they're not there. I'm so padded I can't be sure.

The surgery itself wasn't nearly as traumatic as I'd imagined it to be. Way easier than heart surgery anyway. The worst of it was the anxiety...they took out lobes. A bunch of them. Don't know the details of what that all means, but I know at least one was positive for C. Cost me a couple of panic attacks. I haven't researched any further since the anxiety creeps in when I do.

I'm going to live through this. That's what I do know. I've built too beautiful of a life to just give it up.

Besides, the Lord went out of his way this weekend to make sure I knew that too. Won't go into details here, but I'm sure it's true.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Just Waiting...

Tomorrow's the day. The surgery. Bilateral mastectomy with tissue expanders and node dissection. Sounds impressive. And as my friend Lynette said, very "ouchy". It was kind of cool of me to do it in Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

I was good with the idea of surgery (get it out! was all I could think) until I started reading other's stories. And looking at pictures. Had a kind of freak-out weekend. I sent an email to the surgeon (his preferred method of communication.) And he was good enough to reply with his blackberry from Disneyland. Then he called me Sunday evening, as soon as he got back. I feel very fortunate to have such a caring and skilled team of doctors. I figure their kind of torture will be the gentlest kind possible.

I've actually felt surprisingly good most of the time, but with plenty of dips. I cry at random grandson's smile, my husband's touch, my little boy's laugh. It's been a blessing to be so busy, to keep my mind off of the upcoming drama. Between the unpacking and the treatments designed to keep the nasty cancer cells away from my nodes for another week (juicing, ionic baths, sauna, etc.)...I hardly have had a minute to think. Which is great.

Here are a couple of my week's highlights:

The Glowing Room. I am not making this up. The colors of this bedroom were apparently picked by a five year old. There was a glow under the door. Even seeing the glow, and having been in the room a half-dozen times, I would still jump when I opened the door. My friend Sharon thought we should keep it in case I needed a good laugh. But poor Whit didn't think she could sleep in it. Here's the BEFORE:

and AFTER:

Not perfect, but much better.

Another good day was yesterday. I got to watch my grandson for the entire day. The docs tell me I'll only be able to have people put him in my arms after tomorrow. Yeah, I know, makes me cry. So I tried to record our day. Usually Ethan is full of all things happy. But that didn't show so much in the pics.

"Hmm, a camera. I'm cool with that."

"We done yet?"

"Okay, that's enough Grandma."

So there you have it--my week of waiting. Keep those prayers coming, I'm so grateful for them!