Category Archives: Breast Cancer

Anything But Courageous

I didn’t realize how much I was dreading today until today happened. I have a number of friends who are teachers. They are pretty distressed after the events in CT. They all know, we all know, it could happen to any school. I also have school age children. We all know or fear it could happen to any of our children. As I headed of to work, I recognized a deep sense of malaise within me. I felt tired. Weary of the evil and darkness. Weary.

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Same Song, Second Verse Same As The First…Other Side

I must confess. I have not been up late at night…much…lately. I’ve been sleeping very well and feeling good when I wake up the next day. Never mind that I was sick for two weeks with food poisoning. My bills are paid. There is food in my cupboards. And there’s a wee little bit to offset the unexpected thing that might come up. It is amazing how having a little extra cash in the bank and a car that is reliable changes one’s outlook on life. It’s also pretty incredible how that makes it easier to sleep. It’s been a good month. Or rather, a good couple of weeks. I can’t complain. And I won’t start now, even though, life has turned on the proverbial dime for me, once again. Read the rest of this entry

Radiation Celebration and Moving Buddies

Today I had my 5th of what is scheduled to be 33 treatments of Radiation Therapy. I call it my Rad Therapy. One of my friends, who has a much more serious cancer situation than I, told me that I’d meet people scheduled at the same time and get to know them. Well, it didn’t take long. On my second day, I started to get to know this other woman pretty well. At least, we talked easily and seemed to have much in common. She had the same treatment I was having; radiation, no chemo required. I was looking forward to not spending time alone and silent in a waiting room.

Today, she celebrated her last day of Rad Treatments. She was so excited. When she came out, she had extra stuff: a certificate and something else they gave her, which I’m forgetting. I didn’t notice because I was dealing with an unexpected rush of emotion. What was that? Where did that come from?

As she hugged her sister happily and collected her things to go, we said the customary, “Best of everything to you,” statements and then, just like that she was gone, and I was being called back for my treatment.

I will probably never see her again.
I am sad about that.
I didn’t even remember her name.
We didn’t exchange numbers. I would like to know how she is doing in the future.

I think life is a funny thing. No one wants to be diagnosed with cancer, and I certainly have it far less than some I know. But the most bizarre and surreal thing about this entire journey is that of all the things I am dealing with in my life right now, this one is the least stressful and easiest for me to cope with. There have also been great moments of joy tinged with sadness, like the one this afternoon as I watched my friend revel in completing this leg of her journey. I was very happy for her and a little sad that I won’t be seeing her every day after work anymore.

I feel a little lonely again. Sometimes when you’re heading down a new and unfamiliar road to an unknown destination, it helps to have a walking buddy. Kind of like the toys in “Toy Story” when they all had to find a moving buddy. Somehow Life is moving me. In January, it picked me right up and put me on this road marked by frequent stops for medical services. Like always, I’m an inquisitive traveler, so I’m learning a lot. I’m not afraid. I am very happy about how things are going in this part of my life.

But I’m going to need a new moving buddy.

This time, I’m going to make sure I get her name.

Global Warming and Insomnia

I love summer. I love it for a number of reasons, not the least of which is, I don’t have to punch a time clock and report to an office away from home. I also enjoy the things everyone else loves about summer: the blue skies and the warm weather.

Where I live, we usually have four seasons. The last few years, however, we have observed a reduction in the amount of the year allocated to Spring and Fall with an increase in time for winter and summer, with summer edging out winter a bit more with each passing year.

This year, we went straight from winter, to summer in April, and it happened this last weekend. I love that. Spring isn’t my favorite season anyway. But after experiencing the first dreadfully hot night where I tossed and turned till well past 3:00 a.m., I think I have come to appreciate the gradual lead-in to the summer heat which Spring provides.

Tonight seems like its going to be another hot one as well. I need the sleep. It gets tough to perform well on the job with no sleep, and it looks totally unprofessional when you begin nodding off in a marketing meeting with important clients that you really, really want to sign. Further, I started radiation treatment and the big concern about radiation is the fatigue that sets in somewhere around week three or four. I was hoping to be able to rest up in a feeble effort to avoid the fatigue and consequently having to take even more time off work.

What I need right now is a really dull movie.

My Life on The Titanic

Someone once stated, “All we have to fear is fear itself.” For the most part, I’d agree. I have my own statement about fear, “Fear never made a good decision.” Today, as I faced my first of 33 sessions of radiation, I wonder if facing the unknown isn’t also a valid enough cause for fear. By unknown, I don’t mean the unknown where the possible risks or consequences are relatively minor. I’m talking about the high stakes unknown where the risks are great and the consequences unknown or potentially damaging, lasting, or life threatening.

My life is a convergence of unknowns right now. This creates a great deal of stress for me. Stress is not good for our health and even more so with those dealing with cancer or pre-cancer.  I liken my life to a vessel like the Titanic, which is large and carries the responsibility for the lives and futures of many. I’m not a control freak, but I do like to have my cake and eat it too, whenever possible. I like everyone to be able to do their life and attend all their events. With five or six schedules to deal with, this can be a challenge. I find that if I know in advance, I can usually plan things or get the needed help or money in order to make it all happen. As long as I know far enough in advance, I can maneuver around the icebergs in life and make sure it is smooth sailing for everyone.

When navigating icy seas at night, charting a course that is mostly unknown is, to me, terrifying in many ways. Of course, not many are gifted in seeing the future. This unknown is always with us, and for the most part, I don’t worry a bit about it. But today, lying in that treatment room, both arms frozen over my head, alone, with only the buzzing, clicking and spinning of a very large, intimidating, flat-faced one-eyed machine to keep me company, I felt my first really strong emotions since this whole breast cancer journey started. it wasn’t panic, but it was something close. It wasn’t fear, but it was something close to fear. There was great sadness there, too, along with wonder and a substantial dose of gratitude, which is always part of my emotional palette.  Maybe it was just the fact that I was tied down in a room with a very large and intimidating machine that seemed to move of its own volition that spooked me.

The radiation treatment took barely 25 minutes from the time I walked in the building to the time I walked out. I feel nothing…yet. More blue ink drawn on me to ruin my clothing and, with no great fanfare, I’m off to a day of making life smooth for everyone; dodging icebergs along the way and retorting as needed.

But I’m scared.

What if I have made and am making devastating choices with irreversible consequences?

What if the results of these decisions, intended to make the sailing through life smoother for us all, actually make things worse?

And…the question that plagues me and can really make me crazy if I let it…what if…instead of getting better, things don’t ever get better…or they get worse?

Then of course, there are other unknowns, more practical ones.

What is my schedule for radiation treatment going to be?  Will I need to take more time off?  How will my body respond?  Will I be able to continue work without having to take any time off?  My last treatment is scheduled to be June 5.  That is three days before the last day of school. How will this impact the rest of the school year?  How long will the effects of radiation last and how will that impact my summer?

Then, there are issues about the school district discovering my recent move and insisting I complete an inter-district transfer, since my new address is out of the district where my two older children attend school.  This gets tricky because it means both districts must approve the request.  If they do not, then I have a daughter, who within seven weeks of graduation will have to face finishing her senior year at another high school.  Now, I can’t imagine any school district official being so evil as to insist that this happen, but budgets being what they are, school districts are less likely to grant transfers than they have in the past.  I will also have a son, who at the end of his sophomore year, will have to attend high school where they have none of the activities that he is currently involved in.

On a side note, you might wonder why I moved if the high school in the district I was moving to was inadequate.  The move was a good one, for my youngest.  The entire family, even the high-schoolers were, and still are, in favor of moving to where we moved.  I just didn’t imagine the transfer issue would be a big deal.  I’m now hearing that it could be. I don’t yet know. I filled out the paperwork and we will just have to wait and see.  It’s an iceberg I can’t exactly dodge or move right now.  I’m kind of hope it’s a mirage and it will evaporate as I approach.

Then there is the added stress of the Evil Ex seeking a modification of the child support. The unknowns here were more frightening until I met with my attorney this afternoon.  I had to part with $150 hard earned dollars, but it was money well spent and good information I received. She was able to paint a picture of the worst likely scenario (bad, but not intolerable).  She was also able to paint a realistic picture of what was likely to happen.  This helps me chart the course through the iceberg strewn sea of Post-Divorce Dealings With The Evil Ex.

In other posts, I’ve mentioned the financial iceberg that creates stress as it slides along the ship that is our family.  I worry that any day now an edge will puncture us and we will sink.  For now, we remain afloat.

The icebergs continue to converge with no relief.  One after another appears out of the fog of unknown possibilities and they are all frightening in their own way.  I can’t do anything about them right now…I can’t even see them clearly enough to know which direction to turn the ship.  All I can do is survive today.  And after today, tomorrow.  And after tomorrow, the next day.  I hope that, by so doing, I will eventually find that I have successfully maneuvered my way through the icy currents I’m experiencing to warmer, more pleasant waters.

Reality Overdose

The year, 2012, didn’t hesitate in announcing itself. Even before it’s calmer, more peaceful predecessor, 2011, had the opportunity to exit the scene, 2012 was pushing its way in loudly declaring that this was going to be a very different year. And, 2012, has not been wrong about that.

2012, began its oppressive rule when I had a biopsy the first week in January. It wasn’t a clean report indicating a benign issue. An additional excisional biopsy confirmed the diagnosis of cancer which lead to a third surgery to remove all the affected tissue and get what the medical professionals seem to enjoy calling “good, clean margins” or “nice, wide margins”. 2012 is literally leaving scars.

The year continued its domineering disruption this week with the start of my radiation treatments. Until now, I’ve quipped and teased and joked about it all. My coping mechanism is humor.

In spite of my ability,thus far, to remain positive and upbeat, I was silenced on Tuesday, when I attended my first appointment for radiation simulation.

“I’m here for the party.” I quipped as I checked in, garnering a smile and conversation from the associate at the front desk. Moments later, I was being led through the radiation department, to the special waiting rooms with lockers. The nice lady explained all the procedures carefully. After she left, I donned my hospital gown and headed out to the interior waiting room designed for those awaiting treatments.

I don’t know if it was her bald head, clearly indicating chemotherapy treatment or her courageous words as she spoke with another patient.

I believe am going to beat this. I’m convinced this isn’t going to do me in. My purpose here in this world isn’t quite finished yet.

It was then that 2012, slapped me full in the face and brought me up short. Suddenly, my mind grasped what I did not want to acknowledge: This disease is for real and sometimes, often, it plays for keeps.

There sat a woman, possibly even younger than me, in much worse condition than I. ( I have to say she looked strong and healthy other than her hairless head). She spoke confidently, but there was an ever-so-slight tremor of hesitating uncertainty in her voice. I realized then, that her plight could as easily be mine.

I wasn’t allowed much time to even get to know anyone. In less than a minute, I was whisked out of the room and led through a barrage of protocols required to prepare for my first treatment next week. Marked up with Sharpie marker, infused with India Ink and sporting four or five tiny but permanent tattoos the reality of it all begins to crush me.

I really do have cancer.
This is really happening.
I’m a little scared.

It was an overdose of reality shock taken intravenously, in a moment. This thing kills. Though my odds are really great for a cure, it could be worse. In fact, it still could get me…one day.

It was then that I began to shake.

I wish I’d at least had the opportunity to get to know her name before being ushered into my own room with the large spinning donut contraption. Her courageous words required applause, but time ran out.

Three days/nights later and I wonder how she is doing. I hope for her, that she is right. The grim realities of this disease hit hard in that brief sojourn in a waiting room. Tonight, I wonder, is she sick somewhere, alone? Is she dealing with the negative effects of Tuesday’s treatment and fighting off the pain and fear with every bit of her being?

I hope she’s not alone.
I hope she’s not afraid.
I hope her time doesn’t run out.

I hope she wins.

Money, Cancer, Aging and Losing Forty Bucks

The cats are at it again. Sometimes I really wish I would have paid attention to the fact that cats are nocturnal creatures before I allowed my children to talk me into getting one. I really wish I would have realized how wild their behavior can be at night before I signed on to take in four of the homeless creatures. Tonight they are flying around the house like they’re on speed, claws fully bared, tearing the place apart and me with it. It’s not cracking up to be a peaceful night of slumber.

In addition to that, finances have me tossing and turning. My daughter needs to apply for financial aid so she can continue schooling and because my cash flow and ability to help is zero, it’s creating some stress. No, it’s creating a lot of stress. I’m filing for bankruptcy, which is a smart move, but the paperwork burden and getting the right documents to the right people in the right amount of time has me twisting up the sheets as I toss and turn.

Then this cancer thing, yes, it is cancer, gnaws at me. While it really is the least of my worries right now (early stage, non-invasive), it still has me wondering sometimes about how much time i really have left on this earth. I hate thinking about that. Then that thinking leads me to realize I have no life insurance, and that I probably couldn’t get any now anyway. Then that leads me right back to stressing out about money that I don’t have now,and the lack of it I’m likely to face after I can no longer work. If I live that long. Then, of course, that spins me into a cycle of worrying about the kids, which takes me back again to the money. And so on.

I swear this all giving me dementia. I forget things more often now. I can’t remember where I put things. I can’t remember entire conversations, sometimes. This is terrifying to me. Today, I had $40. I stuffed it in my pocket until I could get it into my wallet, which I wasn’t carrying with me at the time. Between then and an hour later, that money completely disappeared. I retraced my steps, searched everywhere. No money. Now my mind is obsessively reviewing my day trying to figure out where the money went. I didn’t spend it. This I know for sure. Where is it?

There appears to be a momentary lull in the cat craziness. Now the place feels like a tomb, and the silence is problematic. I can’t win here.

I think there are some of those pain pills left from my last surgery. I didn’t use them for pain since I didn’t really have any pain, but they were rather effective in helping me sleep. Something I can’t do when wearing a bra to bed and after breast cancer surgery, that’s exactly what one is instructed to do. In fact, I was instructed to sleep but also to wear the bra. These two instructions were really mutually exclusive orders. I blew through the pain meds using them as sedatives. I think there might be one or two left.

I think I’m going to have to go find out for sure.

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The Domino Effect of Tragedy

Isn’t it funny how sometimes in life the biggest issues, problems, crises, or challenges seem to just silently occur? My day was filled with such things. In fact, the last month has been particularly filled with such events as has been the last 5 years since leaving my second husband. I think these quiet appearances of the most dramatic aspects of life may have always occurred, but I just didn’t pay attention to them…until I was truly on my own and found myself forced by circumstances to do so.

Today was a big day. It was one of those days that will not easily nor quickly be forgotten.

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Happy New Year?

While most folks were winding down the year preparing for the annual celebrations and celebrating the usual annual celebrations, I was doing the same thing I always do about this time of the year:  annual checkups.  It seems crazy to add one more housekeeping item to an already full list of things to do at this time of year, but it somehow works for me.  I have a two week break when the kid are out of school and during one of those weeks my kids are all away at their other home.  It’s a great time for me to get caught up on all the medical check ups and doctor appointments that must occur, now that I am over a certain age.  That certain age was, for me, thirty-five instead of forty like it is for most women.  You see, my mother had a full masectomy in her late 50’s or early 60’s.  She also had an uncle who died of breast cancer.  For women in my family tree, breast cancer is not a matter of  if, it is a  matter of when.  So, this year, when my annual mammogram indicated a need for a second look, which led to the need for a biopsy, I was not really willing to dilly dally around.  The day I heard the news that they wanted a biopsy, I insisted my doctor write up the order, I walked it over to the radiology lab myself and scheduled an appointment.  This is just one area I can’t afford to stick my head in the sand and pretend it will all go away.  We all know better; it doesn’t go away.

So, biopsy scheduled and done.  Here I sit awaiting the verdict.  

 I think I’m beginning to understand the most difficult aspect of any health-related, potentially life-threatening diagnosis is waiting on the test results.

I remember as I sat in the radiology center after my second mammogram in two weeks, thinking that I really didn’t know what to think. Should I be worried?  Should I not be concerned?  I didn’t know.  I was finally released with the standard response informing me that my results would be sent to my doctor within a certain period of time and that my doctor would then contact me.  I thought, “Okay, no news will be good news.”  Ten days later I was in the doctor’s office going over the results which she had to request from the clinic and a week after that I had a biopsy.

Not exactly my idea of a fun way to spend a Friday afternoon.

I’m still thinking, “If it was really serious, I’d be in serious surgery right now.”

I’m also surprised at the exhaustion I’m feeling post biopsy.  Thank God my children are all old enough that I can tell them what is going on.  Thank God modern research and technological advances in the last 20 years helps us detect  and deal with problems before they become diseases.  And, once again, I’m incredibly grateful for my health which, this time, enabled me to bounce back with no pain except fatigue.  It’s not just physically stressful, but psychologically demanding as well.

I’m not sure this is the best way to start a New Year, but it has made me even more aware that each day we have our health and life is a good day.

Today, I have my health.  I am alive.  I have children that I love and who love me.

I’m grateful.

It is a Happy New Year.

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