LilySlim Weight loss tickers

LilySlim Weight loss tickers

Thursday, September 30, 2010

This One Time, in Band Class,,,,,

I woke up early this morning. Well, early for me. I have my first oncology appointment today, and as usual, my nerves were in overdrive. It was two hours earlier than I'd planned to get up but I knew I'd never get back to sleep the way my belly was churning. So I got up, took a look out the window. The sky was a brilliant blue back ground for the changing leaves. There was dew on the grass. I opened the window to a refreshingly chilly breeze. And music.

At first I could barely hear it, but within minutes it was as if they were right outside my window. The south side high school marching band was practicing in the street a few blocks away. I realized that there's a parade tonight. How could I forget that? It's my mom's absolute favorite, one she waits for all year. Before I went on the night shift, we would go together.

The marching band went into the school fight song, and it was like I was stepping back in time. I remember every detail: how wonderfully cool the air felt in the mornings, our band director, now retired, standing at the side of the road calling out anyone who wasn't in step. The awful polyester uniforms complete with tall, heavy, tasseled hats and spats. The cute blond boy who marched right in front of me. The young mothers on our practice route bringing their little ones out to watch. The excitement on parade day. In the days leading up to the parade, the band director would have everyone excused from their third period classes so we could practice longer. I used to get so mad - third period for me was study hall. I would much rather have skipped gym.

Listening to them, I started thinking, "If I could go back, knowing what I know now..." but really, what then? Say I did go back and talk to the flute playing freshman that was me. What, exactly, would I tell her? Live the next 27 years in fear because, honey, you will be getting breast cancer? Or how about, forget all your responsibilities and just have fun cause later, you'll have no time to just play? Um, no.

The thing is, even with this damn cancer that fills my mind with unsettling thoughts, wakes me in a cold sweat, and consumes my day with phone calls to insurance companies, doctor visits, and fear, I have a great life. I have a circle of friends who love me and are cheering for me every step of the way. I have a family who looks out for me, making us dinners and helping around the house and sitting in the hospital waiting for me to wake up from surgery so they can help me to the car and take me home. I have coworkers who send me cards and emails letting me know they miss me and are sending prayers. I have no doubt that by the time the snow flies, and my cancer treatment is obvious, I have neighbors who will shovel our driveway and take the garbage cans to the street. I have Walker who has been right at my side for every last step of this journey, despite his insane work schedule and his own fear.

Sure I wish I had never gotten cancer, but it's here, we're handling it, and soon it will be something I look back on, just another memory.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A Little Waterfall

Last week, after we visited the Moving Wall, Walker and I trekked across the park to the Friendship Garden. As soon as you go through the gates you come upon a little pond that houses several water features. This one is my favorite:

Check out other Watery Wednesday photos here

Monday, September 27, 2010

Baby Steps

On the day of my official breast cancer diagnosis, Dr C presented me with a book. I call it my "How to Not End Up Dead from Cancer" manual but that really isn't what it's about. The book presents information and resources for each stage: everything from how to tell your loved ones to treatment options to what to pack for the hospital to dealing with the after effects is detailed in that book. At first, I focused on the surgical options and the chapter on radiation therapy and pretty much ignored the rest. Last weekend, I stopped avoiding and read.

The section on chemotherapy was hard to get through. For one thing, I haven't fully come to terms with it. I feel fantastic ~ it's hard to make myself believe that I need this treatment that will make me sicker than I have ever been in order to get better. How do I get better than fantastic? Mostly, I think I'm just plain scared of the whole thing. I imagine that's normal but it sure doesn't feel good. I had to read a page or two, do something else for awhile, read another page or two, do something else, yada yada yada. I did get through the whole chapter eventually.

One of the things the book advises is a dental checkup, to make sure you don't need any work done during treatment. Chemo wipes out a lot of your natural immune system. Dental work can release all kinds of bacteria into your bloodstream that your body won't have the resources to fight off. So they suggest you go in for a dental check right away and take care of any necessary issues before you start chemo. I figured I could do that now, while I'm still on medical leave.

Well, I called the dentist today but the receptionist I spoke with didn't seem to know anything about having a checkup before chemo. She's been there for years ~ am I really the first client who asked for a pre-chemo checkup? She did make an appointment for me, so I guess I'll see what the dentist has to say when I get there.

Since I was on a roll, I also called my favorite hair salon and made an appointment to get my hair cut. I spoke directly with my stylist. When she heard that I was most likely going to have chemo she told me she's help me come up with a plan to transition to short hair over the next couple weeks. She was very sweet about the whole thing ~ she didn't make me feel silly for not wanting to lose my hair. She also told me that the salon has a private wig studio in their lower level. I've gone there for years and never knew that.

I'm glad I finally read the book. I always feel better when I know what I'm up against. I'm glad I found some things that I can do, now, instead of just sitting here waiting.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Saturday, September 25, 2010

An Outing

Today I asked Walker to drive me downtown to my favorite park. The weather was cold, very windy, with a promise of rain. We went anyway.

There was a special reason why I wanted to go to the park today: the Moving Wall, a half-size traveling replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall was set up there. We wanted to pay our respects.

I've never been to Washington, DC. Never viewed the Memorial. I don't know anyone who died in Vietnam. Regardless, the visiting the Moving Wall was an emotional experience. As we walked along the memorial, reading name after name after was surreal. Knowing that every one of those 58,195 names represented a life lost, a family devastated, was almost too much.

I was planning to take photos of the Wall but somehow, in that setting, it just didn't feel right. Members of several veterans' groups were on hand and, I don't know, it felt almost like taking photos at a funeral or something. So I googled the wall and found this photo. If you ever get a chance to visit the Memorial in DC, or view the Moving Wall, please take the time to do so. And bring your Kleenex.

photo by Susan Parker

Friday, September 24, 2010

Ten Day Update

It's been ten days since my surgery. The incision is healing really well. There's no drainage. I can wear a normal bra. I can pull a t-shirt on over my head. I still have quite a bit of discomfort in my pit from the nerve trauma that occurred when my lymph nodes were removed, but no swelling that I can see. This morning, I woke for the first time since surgery with no swelling in my hand and no pain in my arm.

The girls....well, kudos to Dr C. The healthy breast is a little more round than the healing breast, but when I'm dressed I can't see a difference in them. When I'm not dressed the healing breast has a bit of a flatter side, toward my armpit. I don't know if there's some swelling under the skin yet, but right now, I don't feel like I'll need any enhancement to balance things out. I considered posting photos, in case anyone else going through this would benefit from seeing actual documentation. The books I have feature lovely line drawings that don't really help outside of the technical aspect. But breast cancer is part of my life, not my whole life. This blog is my outlet for several of my interests. So I decided against photos.

I'm having a hard time getting used to the idea of chemo. I know that in the grand scheme of things, chemo is just a blip on the radar. What my dad would have called a speed bump on the road of life. Still, it's hard.

I don't like the idea of looking sick. I don't like not knowing what to expect, how my body will react. I want to know if I will be able to go to work, if I'll get puking sick, if I'll be able to have some semblance of normalcy. Everyone handles chemo differently. I just don't know. Not having a plan takes me completely out of my comfort zone.

And honestly, I worked hard to get myself back to a healthy body weight. I'm not quite there yet, but I've made great progress. I'm not happy about seeing that go down the drain. Chemo for breast cancer often causes weight gain. I get that chemo is necessary, I get that a few extra pounds shouldn't matter; still, it does. If that makes me vain and silly, then I am vain and silly.

And of course, there's the hair. Chemo lasts three months, but it will take years to grow my hair back. If I do grow it back. It's been long-ish most of my life. Maybe I won't want it long after this. I wonder how I'll feel six months from now when I run into someone I haven't seen in a while and they comment about me cutting my hair. Will I tell them I had chemo, or just say, "Oh, do you like it?" My eye brows and lashes will likely fall out as well. There are no wigs for brows and lashes.

Diva will be here this weekend. I want to talk to her, to get the inevitable conversation over with. I want to explain that even though I'm going to be sick for a while, in the end I'll be stronger and healthier than ever. She's the kind of kid that takes everything in stride, yet I wonder if all this will freak her out. Diva is the world to me. I can't help but wonder how my cancer will affect our relationship.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Booking Through Thursday

Booking Through Thursday
What are you reading right now? What made you choose it? Are you enjoying it? Would you recommend it? (And, by all means, discuss everything, if you’re reading more than one thing!)

Right now, I'm reading "Marrying George Clooney" by Amy Ferris. I chose it because I loved the title, and wanted to know more about the woman who is trying to steal my man. Okay, I don't actually know George Clooney. I know, right! Shocks everyone when I admit that. Anyway, would I recommend it? Well, I'm having a hard time getting through it so probably not, but to give Ms Ferris her due, I've been pretty stressed lately and would likely have trouble focusing on any book in my collection. What I don't love about it is what I usually love about memoirs: the honesty. Ms Ferris tells all, and I mean all, in ways that make me uncomfortable. Especially some of the bits about her mother. The "dressing room" passage just seemed to me to be way too much information. I don't consider myself a prude but I have to say, some things just don't need to be shared.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Okay, Now I'm Mad

I love photo memes, but lately I haven't had much time to participate. With my enforced idleness, I thought it would be a good time to get back into the game. Well, after posting my "Watery Wednesday" entry, I took a look at the finished post to check the links and there, in my ad space, was an ad for funeral flowers.

Now I know that these ads are computer generated but really, I so did not need that sucker to pop up today.

Rant over, LOL. Thanks for listening.

Still Blooming

One of my favorite local parks includes a Friendship Garden, which features plants, statues, and fixtures from our sister cities around the world. I was surprised to see so many flowers in bloom this late in the season. This beauty was floating in a little pond.

Check out other Watery Wednesday photos here

Mixed Results

The good news: no cancer present in the lymph nodes, and the lumpectomy margins are clean. The not so good news: inside the margins did show a few cancer cells, and due to my age and other risk factors, the doctors at this point are recommending chemotherapy. I was pretty sure I had dodged that bullet when I heard "lymph nodes negative" and "clean margins". Four rounds of chemo, starting in about a month, followed by six weeks of radiation.

More Waiting

One hour from now, Walker and I will hear the results of my final path report. Walker wants to go out to lunch afterward. I'm holding out to see if we have something to celebrate. I need to stop typing so I can cross my fingers.....

Monday, September 20, 2010


I'm trying to make sure I get out a bit each day, but this morning the skies were dark and the forecast called for rain so I slept in. I was pleasantly surprised to wake to a whole new view. I quickly got dressed, grabbed my camera, and made my way around the block. Here are some bits of red, courtesy of my neighbors:

View other Ruby Tuesday posts here

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Taking Stock

Walker and I moved into this house five years ago this month. At first, the house was a mess. It was a single owner home that had been unoccupied for months after the original owner went into a nursing home. She had raised her family here; they owned the home for fifty years. While the house was structurally sound, everything needed updating.
So we updated. We cleaned and painted and pulled up carpets. Curtains, light fixtures, and orange bath fixtures went out with the trash. One room at a time, we spent every free hour putting the house together. I wouldn't say we finished, I'd say we stopped. We ran out of steam about the time we ran out of money. Most everything got done, though there are odd projects here and there that are incomplete. The important things are done, and I doubt the previous owners would recognize the inside of the house. The biggest holdover is the pile of "leftovers" in the basement.
The past few days have been tough. I can't really do much, but I have all day to lay around looking at it. The basement has a family room area, a storage area, and laundry room. As we remodeled the upstairs, all the "leftovers" made their way down to the laundry and storage rooms. Now we have full shelves as well as a stack of boxes of odds and ends that need to be sorted, purged, and disposed of.
I can't do any of it.
It's bugging me.
A lot.
Walker and I are so busy in our "normal" lives it's easy to ignore the junk. With all this time on my hands, it's so hard to just keep ignoring it. Don't get me wrong: it's not a disaster area. As we finished each room the paint cans, unused art and knick knacks, etc, were put onto the shelves in no particular order. The extra furniture was lined up against the wall in the laundry room. The materials for finishing the basement have their space, too: new light fixtures, tiles for the bar, boxes of shelving and photo frames....we can't just finish the basement because that would increase our property taxes above what we are willing to pay in this crappy economy.
So as I lay here in Walker's big easy chair, I mentally plan my attack. When I'm feeling better, when I can use my arm again, when I am allowed to lift, here's what goes, here's what stays. This is how it will be organized, here's who will take the donations. It's all in my head. One day, hopefully soon, it will be out of my head and into reality. Soon. When I am better.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Thinking Pink

I've always loved the color pink, but since my diagnosis a few weeks ago pink has taken on a whole new meaning. Here's a Barbie doll that I received the day of my surgery. She was released as a fund raiser for Susan G Komen, but I just love her elegance.

A Quiet Day

I wanted to take a shower, so Walker helped me take my dressing off today. The incision is longer than I was expecting, but it looks good. There was very little drainage and I haven't needed any sort of pain medication. I have to admit, after I saw the incision I opted out of the shower. We don't have any extra steri-strips on hand and I was afraid a couple of them might come off - that happened after each biopsy. In those cases I lost a strip or two but the incisions were so small it wasn't an issue. With this long incision, I didn't want to chance it. Walker is picking up a box of strips after work tonight.

I also called the nurse to see about using deodorant. I thought I might need to use a spray rather than a stick. Um, no. The answer is no deodorant at all until the incision heals, and then only aluminum free ones. Great. Since I have time to wait for it, I went online and found some aluminum free kinds at They're on the pricey side, and the reviews aren't great, but I ordered a couple to try.

The blue dye from the lymph node test is out of my system. I'm glad I was warned that I would be peeing blue, or I probably would have thought I was losing it.

The weather has gotten much colder, so Walker made grilled cheese sammies and potato soup for supper. I still don't have much of an appetite but I'm drinking lots of water and napping a lot, so I'm sure it will be back to normal in a day or two. So far, all is well.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


It's over! I'm back from surgery.

Today was the first day I felt like a cancer patient. Sitting in a wheelchair while an elderly man had to push me from department to department....a sympathetic nurse let me walk for a bit but mostly I had to ride. The cocoon of warm blankets was wonderful but I'd have rather moved about under my own steam,even with my naked butt hanging out of my gown.

The wire placement wasn't a big deal until the last one, which hurt like hell. I admit to yelping when I got stuck with that barbed wire through the boob. Dr U was very nice about it and shot me up with more Lidocaine to finish the procedure. Then, with four wires protruding from my boob I proceeded to the mammo room where the wires were taped to my skin and my girl posed for a new photo shoot.

Then came the waiting. Over three hours of just.....waiting. One of the nice things about not sleeping much is that I was very drowsy there in my nest of warm blankets. I was able to doze a bit, which helped to pass the time. My mom was there, and Walker. My sister stopped by for a while, and my brother was there when I woke up. I was grateful for the company.

Finally I was taken to the surgical floor, where the anesthesiologist told me I would not be "asleep" for the procedure. He told me I'd be so out of it I wouldn't feel a thing, but that they would be talking to me during the whole procedure , and I would be able to respond. He gave me an anti-nausea patch along with a shot of Benedryl before he went on his way. I am very, very glad I didn't know ahead of time that I wouldn't get general anesthesia. Not sure how I'd have handled that but I'm guessing, not well.

A few minutes later Dr C came in for a final check with me and we were on our way. I don't actually remember much after going into the surgery room: a couple nurses introduced themselves, an anesthetist told me she would be starting sedation, and I slid over onto the operating table. The nurses started strapping things to my body. Then I *woke* in recovery.

And I woke to lots of encouraging news: Dr C was able to remove all four tumors along with the two sentinel nodes in one incision. I don't have a drain. The initial dissection of the sentinel nodes didn't indicate cancer. I get the final path report on Tuesday.

I was released about two hours later. Thanks to my new friend Janine, I had brought along a pillow for the car. Thank you, Janine! I definitely didn't want to strap that seat belt over my sore boob. We went through the pharmacy drive-thru for my pain meds but so far, I haven't needed any. I do have an ice pack wrapped in a dishtowel under my sweatshirt.

I ate PB&J for supper, and Walker mixed up some munchies for the Survivor debut tonight. All things considered, today was a great day.

Off to See the Wizard

The Wonderful Wizard of Boobs! We need to leave here in about twenty minutes. I'm a nervous wreck. I didn't sleep much. I keep reminding myself that in about 9 hours we'll be back here and it will be behind me. The hard part is the next couple hours, waiting.

Minutes Creeping By......

I should be in bed. I have to get up in five hours for my surgery. All day I alternated between feeling relieved to finally be taking some action and mind numbing fear. It wasn't so bad while I was at work ~ I was busy there, too busy to think about it. But now, at home, well, if I manage to sleep at all it will be a miracle. It doesn't help that I'm normally still at work at this time of night, or that Lily is running around like a hummingbird on speed.

Tomorrow, I see Dr U who will insert wires through my skin into the tumors. Then I have a three hour wait for the surgery. Dr C is doing what she calls a quadrectomy, like a lumpectomy on steroids. She'll be taking the four little tumors out in a section that looks kind of like a wedge of orange. She's going to do a sentinel node dissection, too. If all goes well, I'll be home by suppertime. Of course all will go well. Being me, I'll pack a little bag anyway, just in case. I don't want to get stuck wearing paper underwear again, like I did after my emergency appendectomy.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Shifting into High Gear

Dr C just called with the results of my two most recent biopsies - both are positive for cancer. Surgery is set for the day after tomorrow. Yikes! We knew this was a possibility but it pretty much sounded like surgery wouldn't be until the end of the month. We're hoping for a lumpectomy but it's iffy at this point, with four not-all-right-together tumors that need to come out. I have a meeting with Dr C tomorrow morning to go over everything. My mind is racing with all the things that need to be done before surgery. Right now, I have to get ready for work.

Sometimes It's the Little Things

I have a headache.

I have a headache and we're out of Tylenol, and I can't take any aspirin because I might be having surgery this week. Walker is snoring on the sofa, the dogs have taken over our bed. I'm going to try to sleep in the guest room. My head pounds more when I'm lying down. This sucks.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Day Tripping Through the Blogosphere

I started reading blogs several years ago when I was planning a trip to Alaska with Walker. The plan was to spend a few days each in several towns around the state, and I wanted to see what the locals did, where they ate, how they spent their free time, etc. So I Googled around looking for blogs written by Alaskan authors. I found some good ones, and still keep up with a couple even now, six years after our trip. I thank one of those authors, Susan Stevenson of North Pole for one of the best meals Walker and I have ever enjoyed together at Gambardella's in downtown Fairbanks. We still talk about that meal, LOL.

At any rate, I have continued to use blogs for "real" information when I've faced challenges, including losing weight and planning other trips. This weekend, I Googled "breast cancer blogs" and have spent hours reading about strong, beautiful, pink ribbon warriors that I would never have had the opportunity to meet in my daily life. Their courage is incredible. Their questions are daunting. Their challenges are frightening. Their strength is inspiring.

I choose to define myself as a future breast cancer survivor, rather than as a breast cancer patient. I'm not looking forward to the fight, but I feel very privileged to be in the company of so many (too many)women who have walked this road before me and have so generously and honestly shared their experiences. If I can get through this with half as much humor and grace as these women, I will come out ten times stronger in the end.

Out and About on a Saturday Morning

Working nights, it's easy to get lost in my own little world. Walker has mastered the art of the switch: he can go from a night schedule to a day schedule with very little transition time. He works all night, takes a short nap, and just like that, he's back to days. Me....not so much.

This morning, though, I dragged myself out of bed very early to go with my mom downtown to the city rummage sale. We were the first ones in line with our loaded-to-the-hilt vehicles, and we spent the morning bartering away our cast off treasures.

It was a gorgeous day. Walker came down after work, bringing breakfast for us. During a slow period we wandered the other booths. I picked up a cute corduroy coat for Diva, and we had fun hanging out with my mom. It felt great to focus on something other than my boobs for the day. At one of the last booths, I found this little guy. His hang tag says he brings luck, so Walker bought him for me and I brought him home.

Here's What Happened.....Part 9

Valium is a wonderful thing. The second MRI, done a couple days later and only after taking two mind numbing little green pills, was a piece of cake. The procedure itself is fuzzy in my memory. I do know that when Walker and I arrived at the hospital, we found my mom in the lobby chatting up one of the retired volunteers at the elevator. She hung out with Walker while I was being scanned. Afterward, I went home and slept for a couple hours.

A couple days later Dr C called with the results: the MRI revealed three satellite tumors around the original cancer. Back to the hospital for more biopsies.

So far, during this process, the waiting has been the worst part. Knowing I have cancer is bad, but feeling like I'm not doing anything about it is worse. Of course, I am doing something about it: the tests are necessary to determine what kind and how much treatment I'll need. Still, sometimes it's all I can do to sit patiently, waiting for the results of the most recent tests.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Here's What Happened.....Part 8

In the days leading up to the MRI, I thought about little else. I know: dumbass. I was just diagnosed with cancer and I'm worried about an MRI? Well, yes!

I tried to analyze my feelings, because I knew it wasn't reasonable to be so freaked out about a forty-five minute procedure when I was facing surgery, radiation therapy, maybe even chemo. But I was. The only thing I could come up with was this: the previous MRI treatment was a last-ditch effort to kill my uterine fibroid and save my fertility. It failed. Maybe, somewhere in my brain, I was equating the whole MRI process with the largest loss I've faced in my life: the loss of the family I will never have. Not just children, but grandchildren as well. I don't let myself think about it too much.

Needless to say, I flunked the MRI.

I went into the appointment on time, stayed calm while the nurse started my IV, joked with the tech right up until she and the nurse shoved me, face down and feet first, into the mouth of the machine. Then I lost it. I waved my hands up and down, praying I could get their attention. I didn't even bother with the panic button.

They pulled me out of there as quick as I went in, but there was no going back. They said my skin was bright red and felt very hot. I think they thought I was going to pass out. I thought I was going to barf. I really wanted to sit up but the nurse vetoed that. She told me to go ahead and toss my cookies, but please try to aim away from her since she didn't have extra shoes in her locker.

Fifteen minutes, one glass of ice water, and many apologies later, they sent me back to Walker. I had to call Dr C and request sedatives, then come back and try again a couple days later.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Here's What Happened.....Part 7

The official diagnosis came three days later, on Monday. I invited my sister to come along with Walker and me, since she understands medical terminology and she had been more or less housebound after shoulder surgery a couple weeks before.

If Dr S hadn't already told me, I would have figured out the diagnosis pretty damn quick. For one thing, the nurse that led our little group to the treatment room gave me a card with all her contact numbers and told me she would be my resource for the next few months and to feel free to call her for any reason at all. I don't think she does that for everyone. Then again, maybe she does. I guess I could have my sister call and ask her to stop by with a quart of milk and see what happens.

Dr C came in next. She was very solemn, of course, as she held my pathology report vertically so I couldn't sneak a peek. When she told me she was ready to share the diagnosis with me I let her off the hook, explaining that Dr S had already told me. I really just wanted to get into the "what's next" discussion. Gotta have that plan, ya know.

The good news is, the tumor is small, about 1 centimeter by 1.7 centimeters. It is grade 2, which is not terribly aggressive, and is considered highly curable. The bad news, at least from where I was sitting, was that Dr C wanted to do a few more tests. Including an MRI. Two years ago, after spending upwards of fourteen hours in an MRI machine, I promised myself I would never, ever do that again. Guess I lied.

Dr C also wanted to run a chest Xray, blood work, and a test for the BRCA gene, to determine the likelihood of the cancer recurring after treatment. This test takes a couple weeks to come back. For the moment, the treatment plan was to just sit and wait for those results. Waiting patiently is not my strongest skill.

Here's What Happened.....Part 6

I had some decisions to make over the weekend. On the one hand, I didn't have a confirmed diagnosis yet. On the other, I was pretty sure that once I got that diagnosis things would happen pretty quickly. I wanted to tell my family, but I didn't have answers to the questions I knew they would ask: how big, how bad, what next.... I also wanted to come up with a plan, cause I'm just that kind of gal. I feel better when I have a plan. But I needed those answers myself.

In the end, I told my younger brother, my older sister, a couple of close friends, and my bosses. I made it clear that the biopsy wasn't back, but that Dr S was very confident in her diagnosis. My bosses were incredibly supportive. Everyone was. I take a lot of comfort in knowing that I have so many strong, caring people pulling for me.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

And Now, Back to our Story....Part 5

Hearing the words. "You have cancer" didn't hit me the way I think most people would expect. I didn't cry, I didn't get lost in a fog. When I looked over at Walker, his stunned expression broke my heart. Dr S offered a choice of having the biopsy right then or after the weekend. For myself, I requested an immediate biopsy. Walker went back across the hall while the procedure was done. I left with an ice pack in my bra and a handful of appointment cards.

Since the appointment had gone so late, Walker and I decided to swing through the Mc Donald's drive through on the way home. I didn't have much time before I had to leave for work. At home, I fed most of my cheeseburger to the dogs and the cat. I wasn't really hungry, and I had to get over to my mom's. I really wanted to tell her what was going on, so as soon as we finished eating I leashed Lily and off we went.

Diva answered the door at my mom's. I wasn't expecting her. I hugged her carefully with my right arm while hiding the bulging ice pack with my left. My mom was on the phone in her room. I sat, heart pounding, until I heard her hang up, then I asked Diva to take Lily outside so I could talk to my mom alone.

My mom used to be a nurse. She doesn't freak out in a crisis but I still dreaded telling her. In the end, I just jumped in: "I went to the doctor today. She says I have cancer." My mom looked at me for a minute, I'm sure noting the ice pack. She asked, "In your boobs?" "Yes." "Oh, crap!" And that was it, pretty much. I explained to her that the biopsy wasn't back yet, but that Dr S was certain of the results. She told me about a few friends of hers who are survivors. Ten minutes after I got there, Lily and I went home, just in time to head to the office.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Two Steps Forward, Two Steps Back

Dr C called this afternoon with some test results. I'm negative for the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, which is good news. The bad news is, the MRI showed three additional masses that need to be identified and biopsied. We go back to the hospital the day after tomorrow, which is when we were supposed to be schduling surgery. I'm anxious to get the show on the road.

The first week or so after my diagnosis, I didn't have much of an appetite and I slept a lot. At least, I slept as much as I could considering the schedule of medical appointments several days a week and working every night. After a week or so, things reversed on me. I haven't been sleeping well and I'm hungry ALL THE TIME. Mostly just for junk food, too. I was pretty self indulgent the first couple days but it's time to get myself back on track. I don't want to go into battle all sluggish from sugar and grease and too many reruns of M*A*S*H*.

Reality Check

I take my "lunch break" at a time when most people are heading to bed or watching Leno. I'm not really into Leno, so most nights I take a walk or bring a book into the lounge at work. Tonight, however, the book I'm in the middle of reached a disturbing passage about the author's mother not wearing panties when she tries on clothes at department stores. Ewwww. Why would anyone feel the need to share something like that? The worst part is, last night's revelation was worse. Anyway, someone had left the local paper on the table in the lounge, so I put the book back in my bag in favor of the hometown news section.

Big mistake. I know, right? What's worse than thinking about someone's mother going commando while you eat? Well, I'll tell ya:

As soon as I opened the newspaper I saw the obituaries, and at the center top was a picture of a pretty young woman who died at 34 of breast cancer. I recognized her name, sort of. I went to school with her husband's sisters. I think I remember her husband, though he was a little boy way back then.

My logical self reminds me that every cancer is different. There are different types of breast cancer, some more aggressive than mine. At this woman's age, it's not likely that she was getting mammograms, and probably didn't find her tumor until it was much bigger than mine. Unfortunately, the not-so-logical part of me isn't really listening.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Here's What Happened.....Part 4

My radiologist....what I can I say about Dr S? Her passion for womens' health was evident immediately. I had met her once before ~ last summer, when I was recovering from my hysterectomy, she performed a test at my follow up exam. Then, she struck me as very confident, very knowledgeable, and with a terrific sense of style. I know, I shouldn't be concerned with my doctor's wardrobe but this is a fairly small city. We are definitely shopping challenged around here, at least in my price range. I was laying on the exam table in a very unflattering and uncomfortable position when she breezed in and my first thought was, I wonder where she shops? Yeah, I know. I need help.

So anyway, this time around Dr S came into the ultrasound room and immediately the tech became visibly nervous. While I wouldn't want to work for an intimidating boss, I would totally choose one to lead my team. Dr S took a quick look at the ultrasound screen, directing the tech toward the areas she wanted a closer look at. After just a few minutes she asked if that man waiting alone across the hall was with me, then sent the tech to bring him in.

While we were waiting for Walker, Dr S asked me when he'd had his stroke. To me, Walker's stroke isn't immediately evident unless he's really tired. Since he was sitting in a chair reading a magazine I had to wonder what Dr S had noticed, but I just answered her question and we moved on. By that time, I had a pretty good idea that Dr S had something to say. The official reason for getting Walker was that she wanted to make sure that he knew my appointment would be a drawn out affair, but I knew that if everything had checked out I would have been released after the ultrasound. Something was definitely up.

One of the things that I really appreciate about Dr S is her directness. As soon as I introduced Walker, Dr S looked me right in the eye and said, "There is an area of concern on your films that I need to biopsy, but I can tell you right now, with thirty years of experience, that I know the answer without the biopsy. It is cancer. You have cancer."

Monday, September 6, 2010

Here's What Happened.....Part 3

The radiology message requested that I call by four p.m. It was now 2:30. I decided I could still check my email and have plenty of time to call. But apparently the radiologist was on a mission, too. Ten minutes later they called back, asking me to come in at 8 the next morning. Since I'm a dumbass, I explained that I work nights and asked if there were any afternoon appointments available. I agreed to come in at 1:30 the next day.

I can't say that I was all that worried ~ see? Dumbass! To be fair, I read everything, including dozens of accounts of mammograms gone bad. I know that lots of suspicious films turn out to be no big deal - cysts, bad film, faulty equipment, even just uncertainty by the radiologist who reads the films. I told Walker that I had to go for a recheck and he offered to drive me. I think Walker was more concerned than I was.

I guess my first red flag was that my follow up was scheduled at the hospital, not my usual clinic. The next red flag came at my appointment, when the staff was practically waiting at the door for me. Though I was right on time, they told me the radiologist was asking for me, and wanted to know as soon as I got there.

Mammogram number two was not the digital variety, and involved different views than the first time. Still not a bad experience. The tech literally ran out of the room with the films and I was escorted down the hall for an ultrasound. Red flag number three. At this point, everyone was still referring to the "density" on my films. That was about to change.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Here's What Happened.....Part 2

The clinic I go to uses digital mammography. Can I tell you ~ I do not know what the big deal is. I went to my scheduled appointment, I presented my girls to the technician, they were smushed into the machine for about three seconds, I got dressed and left. No fuss, no muss, no whining. Don't get me wrong ~ it wasn't exactly fun, but it was literally about twelve minutes out of my life. While I wouldn't want to have a mammo every day, I decided I could certainly do this once a year. I felt like a total weinie for avoiding it for so long. The tech told me that a radiologist would read the films and send me a letter if everything was fine. If not, they would call. Walker met me for dinner at a nearby Chinese buffet and then I went to work.

A couple days later, I was outside with the dogs when the mail chick came by. I decided that I would scan my "all clear" letter and blog about the experience, so any other weinies who were avoiding getting scanned might think twice. How awesome would it be to help someone get a scan that might just save their life?

But there was no letter in the mail. Hmmm. Usually the clinic is lightning quick on testing procedures. Well, I decided, the letter will come tomorrow. If there was something wrong I'd have gotten a call by now. I called the dogs and we went back into the house. At the computer, I started logging into my email when I saw the message icon on my cell phone. Playing the message, my heart sank. The radiologist wanted me to call. As soon as possible. Ruh-roh.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Here's What Happened.....Part 1

It started innocently enough. I had an annual checkup with my family medicine doctor, which went really well. My blood work was fine, I've lost a little weight, I feel fantastic these days. I was just about to make a clean getaway when she stopped me and asked how long it had been since my last mammogram.

Ruh-roh. I'd never had a mammogram. And I didn't want to get one now. But I have tremendous respect for my doctor, and she was on a mission. So I let her talk me into it. Reluctantly, I went out to the appointment desk and requested a mammogram. The whole time I'm thinking, I can cancel this. I really don't need to do this....but then the appointment chick tells me, they can take you right now. Ruh-roh.

So she leads me back to Radiology and I sit. I take the copy of "Eat, Pray, Love" out of my bag and read the passage where the Indonesian medicine man does a ceremony to remove the curse of a baby born on Thursdays. Seems babies born on Thursdays have nothing but bad luck. It occurs to me that I was born on a Thursday, and I get a little irritated at the whole passage.

The appointment chick reappears to tell me that I can't get scanned, today, after all, and we go back to the appointment desk. She hands me a card to come back the next week and I leave to meet Walker for supper before I go to work.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Dreaming of Better Days

Last night, I dreamed about Disney World. For years I've wanted to stay at the Beach Club resort, but it is so, so expensive. Walker and I have made several trips to Orlando over the years but we always choose a budget motel. We can stay a week for the price of one night at the Beach Club. Seriously.

In my dream, I was walking the perfectly landscaped grounds of the Beach Club, admiring the pools and smelling the flowers. Everyone was so friendly. Then I realized, all the employees were people I had known through my life. Old friends who have slipped away, all dressed in Hawaiian shirts and working at the resort. I can't stop thinking about it. I'm not sure what the dream means, but I do think the time has come to plan a visit to the Beach Club. Who cares if we can only afford to stay two nights, LOL. I just want to go.