Waiting for Savasana


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Out of surgery

A quick update from Beth’s husband—Beth is out of surgery and resting. She’s alert and doing well. Her pain level seems ok. Jello and apple juice so far.

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This Is It

Here I am.  The night before surgery.  It is quite surreal.

Clear lymph nodes.  Clear lymph nodes.  Clear lymph nodes.

We saw the plastic surgeon this morning.  He wrote all over my chest with a marker.   Guidelines for surgery.  Mortifying.

But it made me wonder about the scrubby soap that the hospital sent me in the mail.  I’m supposed to scrub myself in the morning and keep the soap out of my eyes and ears to avoid damage.  DAMAGE?  What the heck kind of soap is this?

The plastic surgeon told me just to dab with the scrubby soap.  This, in my opinion, defeats the scrubby purpose of scrubby soap but I guess the guidelines he wrote on me trump a good scrub.

I have been feisty today.  I am acting the same way I behave the day before I run a marathon.  Kind of moody. Kind of crabby.  Kind of snarky.  Not much fun but I’m still kind of funny.

Tomorrow begins in the nuclear medicine department.  Shots of radioactivity in my boobs.  I can’t wait.

Then we head to the hospital.  Check in and then surgery.

I’m scared but I’m ready to start the  cancer marathon.  I am prepared.  I have supplies.  I’m good.  I hope.

I hope they give me some really good drugs.  I deserve some really good drugs.

When I was first diagnosed, I knew I wanted to be open about my cancer experience however I didn’t expect the outpouring of love and kindness from everyone.  It has been such a blessing.

My dad battled cancer for twenty years before he passed away in 2011.  He was very private about his battle.  He didn’t want people to know he was sick.  Even toward the end.  I tried my best to respect that and I know that the approach was what my dad needed.  He was a very strong man.

I also knew that keeping my cancer a secret would have probably made me feel even sicker.  I just let everything out there all the time and I can’t see why this cancer thing  should be any different.

And also, I am terrified. I am not the biggest social butterfly.  Honestly, people exhaust me.  But I’ve realized that while I spend some of my best nights at home in my p.j’s with a good book, I do need people.  I need support.  I can not tell you how much the support of my friends and family has meant to me.  Truly, it means the world.  I believe in love.  I believe in giving people positive thoughts and good vibes even when it’s the only thing I can give to them.  And here, at the beginning of my journey, I need every bit of positivity.  I need you.

And you need each other.  It shouldn’t take a cancer diagnosis to reach out to someone in need.  We all have stuff we go through and it’s important we try to be there for each other.  Kumbahya and all that.  But it’s true!  It’s so true.  We need each other.

Reaching out can be so simple.  Some people have sent me cards in the mail.  It lights up my day.  Cards are such a wonderful way to let people know how we feel about them.  When was the last time you sent a card to someone you love?  I admit, this is something I myself am not good at but from now on, I am going to make a bigger effort to send as many cards as I can (once I can move my arms again).  Maybe tomorrow you could send a card to someone you haven’t talked to in awhile or someone you miss or someone who is hurting.  It doesn’t have to be me.  Just someone.  Someone you care about.  Someone you need.

Tomorrow really is the first big step.  The needle biopsy, the MRI, the consultations, they were all just the prologue to this journey.  It all begins tomorrow.

I wonder how this will change me.  I hope I can be strong.  I hope this isn’t my last hopeful post.

Tonight I’m signing off with a very cheesy song that has inspired me in the past when I ran marathons to fight cancer.  Now the fight is for my children, my husband, my family, my friends.  This time the fight is for my life.

Wish me luck.


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Ladies, Pick a Good One

This post is an ode to my husband who has thus far stepped up to the challenge of his wife (me) having breast cancer at a fairly young age.

This man has been my rock.  Since my diagnosis, he has sat with me, listened to me, comforted me.  He lets me win most arguments.  He stays with the boys while I go off with friends who are trying to support me with coffee, and wine and lunch.

All he asks in return is that he gets to get a bit of tennis in.

That’s all he asks.

He has been gentle, patient and understanding.  He has also been my cheerleader when I feel down (which, if we are being honest, is necessary but annoying).

Neither of us likes domestic stuff.  Cooking and cleaning and laundry are at the bottom of our list.  But he is mostly making an effort.

When we first began to date many, many years ago, I had that thought flit through my head in the beginning “He’s just too nice.”

Like a dating death sentence, am I right?

But then I really began to look at my life and realized that I could do a lot worse than nice.  In fact, I deserved nice.

And he wasn’t just nice.  He was (is) thoughtful and kind and gentle.  He is strong and brave and extremely loyal.  And ladies, he is also dreamy, hot, handsome.

He’s a good dad to our boys.

He’s a wonderful husband to me: smart as a whip, sharp as a tack, the man is the whole package.

Not every man will get up with the baby in the middle of the night.  Not every man understands that when he is alone with his kids, it’s not babysitting.  And no one needed to explain that to him which is an even bigger bonus.

He is my partner in everything, especially co-parenting and I respect his style because he is very creative.

When our eldest was born, my cousin gave him this little plush cow and when you squeezed it’s tummy, he said “Moo!”  Well, whenever my husband would change the baby’s diaper, I would hear the “Moo!”.  Even at 2 in the morning.

I asked him why  he did this and he said that this was his way of letting the boy know that a diaper change was coming.  Umm…ok. Kind of Pavlovian but ok.  I guess it’s a good thing we didn’t live on a farm.

We still have that cow somewhere and every time I see it, I think of late night diaper changes.

My husband also invented “punishment hugs”.  When one of our children is completely losing it (and this happens quite a bit) or has done something inappropriate or foolish, my husband will say, “I think that deserves a punishment hug.” and then he walks over to the child and gently hugs him.

And people….most of the time…it works.

I work in early childhood education and I never in a million years would have thought of that one.

And now we have found ourselves in a difficult place.  And even though it is essentially happening to me, he has made it abundantly clear that we are in this together.

And yes, we still have arguments (it’s always about cleaning! Ugh!) and no neither one of us is perfect but during this time I realize that my investment in marrying a really nice guy, is paying off.

I am so grateful to have him as my partner.  I honestly don’t know what I would do without him.  I really picked a good man and I am so glad that I realized all those years ago that I deserved to have NICE in my life.

And I still do.


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Even Vacations Aren’t Very Fun

Or at least, I’m not very fun.  We went on a mini trip with the boys.  They were absolutely joyful.  Running around jumping and climbing on things, enjoying themselves.  I have to force myself to engage right now, and when I do, I find it exhausting.  I am trying.

We went to dinner.  It was nice.  The host walked by and noted we were all eating comfort food.  Husband had pot roast, eldest had fried chicken and mashed potatoes, I had salmon with more mashed potatoes and youngest had pasta with butter.  Can’t get more comforting than that.  Our family needs comfort.  There is no denying that.

There was a big party going on in the restaurant and this man stood up and gave a beautiful toast to his daughter on her fortieth birthday.

Her fortieth birthday.

And I sat there and cried a little into my mashed potatoes.

When I met the plastic surgeon last week, he smiled and said ,”Helluva Fortieth Birthday present, eh?”

Whatever, I spent my birthday in Paris and it was glorious. Breast cancer is NOT my birthday present.

But speeches like that about fortieth birthdays make me a little weepy I guess.

I am really trying hard not to feel sorry for myself.

Today was better.  I’m feeling ok.

When we got home, we turned on a DVR’d episode of “The Voice” and some country western girl starts talking about how she lost her mother to breast cancer…

“FAST FORWARD!!!  FAST FORWARD!!!”

And we did with a sigh of relief.

We don’t need to hear about that stuff.

I am not going to let this kill me.

And with that, I am going to link to an article sent to me by my dear friend and former roommate.  It speaks volumes about how to treat a patient and their family.  Please take a look if you have a chance.  HERE

As always, thank you for your support throughout this difficult time.


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One Down, Two To Go

I found out yesterday that I do not have a BRCA mutation.  So that’s good.  Very good.

As my friend J texted, “Yay! You get to keep your ovaries!”

It’s looking good.

My surgery is scheduled for THIS Thursday 4/18.

I am excited to get this stupid, ugly, no good cancer out of me but I am scared as heck of surgery.  I’ve never really been under full general anesthesia.

And I don’t even want to think about the procedure itself.  Makes me throw up in my mouth a little.  Yick.  Good thing I get to be the patient and not think about the ins and outs of what is going to happen right, because it sounds horrific.

But I want this tumor out of me so bad.  I hate it.  It throbs at night from the biopsy and it scares me because I start to worry that its growing or something.

I don’t like you tumor.  You suck.

My birth mother sent me this mantra to my cancer and I am trying to repeat it as many times as possible:

“Found you out CANCER!  Got you on the radar!  You’re going nowhere but DOWN!  You are now under arrest!  in JAIL!  on HOLD! and going nowhere but into an incinerator!  So it is!  Thank you God!”

I am asking my husband to update on my Facebook and this blog once surgery is done.

I can’t tell you how much your support means to me.  The care and consideration is so uplifting.  Thank you for keeping me in your thoughts during this horrible experience.

Last night, I was sitting in my bed reading a magazine and realized I have never ever in my life spent so much time thinking about my breasts.  I realized that no matter what, my life is never going to be the same again.

I really, really like my life so yeah, I’m sad about this.

But I’m just one out of eight women you meet every day.  I’m just the average gal who got hit with the cancer stick at age 40.  Freakin’ 40.  So far 40 has not been one bit fabulous.

One of my hopes is taken care of: BRCA negative, baby!  I’m still focusing on clear lymph nodes and a low onca score.  Let it be!!!

As always, thank you for following me on this journey.


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The Stages of Grief

Most people are familiar with the stages of grief original concept by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross

Denial

Anger

Bargaining

Depression

Acceptance

Yeah…I’ve been through three of the five stages.

Denial began when I noticed the nipple (I hate that word) turn in.  “Could be anything,” I said to myself.  “I’ll just keep an eye on it.”  But after a couple of weeks, it wasn’t getting better and if anything, it was deeper.

So I went to Disneyland.  With my friends.  And no, I didn’t take my children.  My children really don’t love Disneyland.  They won’t go on most of the rides and forget about rollercoasters.  There were people who gave us a hard time about leaving our kids at home but I ignored the haters.  I had a secret.

I told my husband that I was making an appointment to go to the doctor when I returned because something was wrong and all signs pointed to cancer.  And he kind of scoffed at that.  He did this partially because of his own fears.  His arm was hurting awhile back and apparently he had convinced himself he had bone cancer, but when he went to the doctor, he found out he’s just getting old.  SO he assured me that my experience would be the same.  But I didn’t think so.

I had a lovely time at Disneyland.  My time in the land of denial.  I drank wine, I went on lots of rides (including Little Mermaid eeeeeee!!!) and I spent quality time with my friends who I adore.  We rode Tower of Terror three times.  We went to fancy  dinner and I accidentally drank a $25 glass of Cabernet that was worth every sip of deliciousness.  It was an excellent retreat.

And then I came home and made the appointment.

You know the rest.  My doctor didn’t like the look of things and sent me to the main clinic for a mammogram and ultrasound.  That was on a Friday.  I couldn’t get in until Monday.

Crappiest Easter weekend ever.

But on Friday, I was all zen.  There was nothing I could do.  I wasn’t going to worry until I needed to worry.  I told my husband as much.

Then Saturday came.  I woke up still feeling zen.  My husband went off to play tennis.  I was ok with that.  I took my younger son to an appointment and I was keeping it together.  Cool as a cucumber.

And then after lunch I started googling.  And I freaked myself out.  Husband had to dart out to check out this famous tennis club.  He was on recon or something ridiculous (at least to me at the time).  I was slightly annoyed when he left.

The kids were watching t.v. and I was googling.  And unfortunately, I came across life expectancy rates.  Holy crap!  I had no business reading that.  And I kept reading.  I couldn’t look away.  Mothers of fairly young children who suspect they might have cancer have no business reading about survival rates. And I got really nuts.  Red Alert!  I’ve gone over the edge!

So I stepped away from the computer, took a deep breath and decided I needed to go to the grocery store and get eggs.  Dammit, it was Easter and we needed to color some eggs.  But my husband still wasn’t home.  Where the Hell was he?!  How dare he LEAVE me when I might have cancer.  When I might be dealing with things like “Life Expectancy Rates”?  I imagined him sipping a cosmo while I was here at home needing freaking eggs.

I told the boys to put on their shoes because we were going to buy some eggs.  They could tell from my voice that something was up and they hopped to it.  And we were off.

There were lots of eggs at the store.  I picked up two cartons.  But I couldn’t find any egg dye.  you know that PAAS stuff?  Couldn’t find it.  But I knew I could use food coloring we already had at home.  But I couldn’t find the vinegar.  WHERE WAS THE VINEGAR?!!  And I started to cry.  My eldest put his arm around me.  “It’s ok Mom.  We’ll find the vinegar.”

And this nice man showed us where it was (while probably wondering why the heck this seemingly rational woman was crying over vinegar).

We got a couple of other things and stood in line.  I had tears running down my face.  I could barely keep it together.  But the check out lady just ignored it and was nice as can be.  We grabbed our stuff and left.

And when we got back, my husband was home… and  here is where I truly (and unfairly) entered the ANGER phase..

Poor guy.

The boys went straight back to their bedroom and closed the door and started playing a game.

I am not proud of what happened next.  Needless to say it involved me yelling and screaming and throwing things.  I was a whirling dervish of panic, fear and rage.  And my poor husband bore the brunt of it.  It ended with me screaming about marriage vows and tennis and then running into the garage where I sat in a pile of dirty clothes and cried my eyes out.

My husband tip-toed in a few minutes later and bewildered said, “I thought we were going to be zen about this.”

“WELL YOU THOUGHT WRONG THEN, DIDN’T YOU?!!” was my pithy retort.

And then I cried some more.  I told him I was freaking out and that I needed him and that I didn’t appreciate him ditching me for tennis.

And then he promptly cancelled his tennis match for the next day (who plays tennis on Easter Sunday anyway?  I’ll tell you who, fanatics!).

Then I went into the kitchen and got out a pot and said, “I’m going to boil the eggs now.  We need eggs for tomorrow.”

And my husband said, “That’s great but where are they?”

Where are the eggs?

Huh?  We bought them!  We bought them.  But then we didn’t bring them home.

So my husband took the boys back to the store to get the eggs where the nice check-out woman was holding them for them.  It takes a village sometimes.

And my husband spent the rest of the weekend with me.  Just sitting next to me.  Sometimes he held my hand but he always stayed close.

I apologized for my temper tantrum and he said it wasn’t necessary and gave me a hug.

He’s a really good one.

Since my diagnosis, the anger I felt that day has not resurfaced.  I’m sad and scared and that’s about it.  I haven’t really gotten to bargaining because I’m kind of a realist when it comes to stuff like this.  I am hoping for clear lymph nodes, and a low oncoscore but I don’t think the universe is willing to trade anything at this point.  I don’t think that if I eat all my brussels sprouts or go to church every Sunday that it is somehow going to change the cancer I have.  I think this is it.  I don’t have anything to bargain.  All I have left is hope.

Coloring the Easter eggs didn’t make any difference.  Bargaining is just a distraction.

Mostly what I am feeling now is depression.  I’m trying not to let it drag me down but there it is.  I am just really sad.  But that’s better than being hysterically pissed off at the wrong person, you know?

I hope I can eventually get myself to the point of acceptance but I’m not close to there yet.  And I don’t think I need to be.  For now, I’m just going to live in the process and hope for the best.

With that said…THIS REALLY SUCKS.


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And the Saga Continues…

I met with my surgeon today.  It went about as I expected.  She gave me more stats.

She also told me some new news that I am still processing and am feeling kind of sad about.  The glitch the MRI found on the left breast apparently was also on a cat scan I had done in 2009.  They went back and found it retroactively.  The problem I had back in 2009 was a ruptured ovarian cyst so the technician obviously wasn’t looking at my breasts.  I feel very conflicted about all this.  The good news is that the glitch hasn’t changed since 2009 so they are guessing it is a cyst or something.  But I am bummed that it was there at all, especially four years ago.  The thought kept me up last night.

Did you know that 1 in 8 women will get breast cancer in her lifetime?

And that’s just regular woman on the street.  The stat doesn’t even take family history into account. 1 in 8.

And BRCA.  Do you know about BRCA?

It’s a genetic thing and people who have a mutation on the BRCA gene have a much higher probability of getting breast and ovarian cancer than the average Jane.

I had the test last week.  See, I don’t know if many people know this but last year, around April, my birth mother was diagnosed with breast cancer.  She’s had quite an ordeal this year herself.  My oncologist seems intrigued by this development of two relatively young women, mother and daughter, being diagnosed with breast cancer within a year of each other.  At the end of our appointment she asked about our personal relationship…and I told her what I am going to tell you.  We met 6 years ago after years of looking for each other.  Our relationship is very complicated.  I don’t think even we can explain it.  It is also very, very personal and private and it is not something I share with many people. And I don’t feel like sharing it here.

I will also say that I am so extremely grateful that after living my first 34 years knowing almost nothing about my medical history, that finding her and learning about my genetic makeup will (hopefully) save my life.  I don’t know that I would have gotten my butt to the doctor in a timely fashion had I not known my birth mother was fighting breast cancer herself.  I probably would have ignored the signs. And because of what happened to my birth mother last year, I paid close attention to the signs.

So I am under age 45 and I have a close relative with breast cancer and that puts me at risk for BRCA mutations.  Yes, I already have breast cancer but if I test positive for BRCA, my chance of ovarian cancer shoots up from 2% for the average woman to a whopping 25-40%.  You bet your tush I took that test.

But for me, more importantly is that fact that I have sisters.  Three of them.  One from my birth mother’s side and two from my birth father’s side.  They are all significantly younger than me so maybe my test can help them.

Still I am really rooting for my BRCA to be normal.

Really, REALLY hoping for that.

Here are my 3 big hopes for the upcoming weeks:

1. Clear lymph nodes- Everything looks pretty good on the scans but we won’t know for sure until they test them at the surgery.

2. Normal BRCA test.

3. Low ONC score after surgery.-They send it all to a lab post surgery  to test and they score it.  The lower the score, the better.

Please direct your thoughts toward these three goals.

I’m really scared.