Wednesday, April 29, 2009

I'm sitting in a beautifully appointed hotel room, overlooking.....trees. Lots and lots of trees with lots and lots of birds. Beautiful. Beneath those trees is Disney's Grizzly River Rafting ride. Right now, if I didn't know any better, I could think I was in a mountion lodge, listening to a majestic river running by. In a couple hours, when the park actually opens and people start screeming on that river, in regular, predictable intervals, it will sound more like I'm next to a natural disaster, or perhaps.....a Disney Theme Park.

Yesterday, day one on wheels, was bitter sweet. Getting to zoom to the front of every line sure changes your Disney experience. Stress is gone. Everyone knows they'll get to ride what they want to ride and when they want to ride it! Of course, as happy as that makes you feel, it never leaves your mind that you're also first in line for other things; things like pain shooting up your femur everytime you stand, waves of naseau the instant your medication wears off, and heartburn from taking all the other stuff. Without the chair, I would have probably made it about 90 minutes in the park, with the rest of the day spent on Mr. Oxycodone's Wild Ride.

So, I'm a more humbler mouseketeer now. I used to be impatient with people in personal wheeled vehicles....they always went so slow. But now I understand that slow means you don't run over people. That's a good thing. (not running into things is a good thing too.... especially the docking fence at "Small World"... going full's not such a small world anymore when hundreds of people are wondering what's wrong with you....including the girl with the microphone...maybe she didn't know it was on)

To all those people I bypassed yesterday and will bypass today, who are tired, who have whinny little kids, who would like to go to the front of the line too.....I say this: I will GLADLY stand in line for you for a WEEK if you will go through chemotherapy for me once.

I've thought about it long, and have decided in this blog, that I'll spare you the gory details of all the side effects of having World War III inside my body. It would be too much like sitting down and reading over all the bad skits that didn't make it on SNL during any one of their bad seasons. There's just some stuff left better unknown. But I will tell you this, to quote my friend Wendy, "cancer stinketh"!

Now they've turned on the lyrical, gentle country guitar background music in the park. I'm liking this. Anyone for another great day at Disney?!

Friday, April 24, 2009

We Can Fly!

My nurses weren't so happy to learn that we were planning on driving to Disneyland next week considering all the side effects and complications that frequently attend chemo patients. Mark listened to their concerns and became burdened with worry, but quickly bit the bullet and started doing the next right thing: Find the money for airfare and get me on a plane.

Somehow....word got to his brother (who we have learned has more frequent flyer miles than tinkerbell has pixie dust) and as of this morning, Mark and I have tickets to fly together to Anaheim!

We're assuming, this same magic will transform my mother-in-law into Mary Poppins, as she now has the duty of driving all our children down there by herself. They are rather good children, and she is "practically perfect in every way"(and has the singing voice to prove it) what could go wrong?

Cancer sure has a way of making everything harder....but also of bringing out the best in us

First Chemo Session

Chemotherapy proved to be much more exciting than I had anticipated...six hours more exciting to be exact. The actual therapy itself usually consists of an hour in a chair with a needle in your vein. Done. But in my case, there arose some concerns over the results of my PET/CT scan, which needed to be resolved before we did anything.

Our worst fear, that the cancer had spread to my lungs, was the first words that popped out of my doctors mouth. Ten spots. Inoperable. However, the befuddling thing, to him and three other experts, was that none of those spots found on my PET scan showed up on my CT scan. In his words "an anomaly... they've never seen anything like it."

Long story short...all we can do right now is treat the breast cancer as planned.  Fortunately, the chemo regiment is the same for breast cancer and lung cancer so we've essentially got all the bases covered either way.  They will order another PET scan down the road to see if my lung spots are still there. I guess that's how you treat an anomaly. The good news...we all feel so at peace with it. My doctor, my Markie and I. The PET scan guy isn't so tickled, but we'll deal with him and his isotropes later.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

A Whole New World

Cancer is like a passport to a whole new world. Not like Aladdin's "shining, shimmering, splendid" whole new world, but more like Star Trek's "resistance is futile" whole new world.

In my old world, I didn't have anything implanted in my neck to provide direct access my jugular vein. Nothing. I didn't have to use a special bathroom, and flush twice, because my urine was radioactive. I NEVER went to church on pain killers, just to find out that after sitting still for three hours with pain killers in your system, you get rather stoned ( I guess that was kind of like a magic carpet ride). In my old world, I didn't spend entire days in manic cleaning fits, cloroxing everything in sight in preparation for tomorrow's chemotherapy sickness.

Not that it's all bad. In my old world, I also never got surprise tickets to see Broadway musicals like "Wicked". I sat in awe for the first ten minutes of the show, utterly amazed that I was there. I finally had to tell myself to snap out of it, or I'd miss the whole thing!
My new world also includes MASSIVE doses of friendship, love and support, none of which I feel worthy of. After wondering to myself dozens of times what I had done to deserve the kind of compassion I have been receiving from my friends and family, the Spirit finally whispered to me: " It's not about what you've done, it's about who they are."

Tomorrow will undoubtedly bring another day of "whole-new-world-ness" and I'm pretty sure it won't include any cute little monkeys or Robin Williams, but that'll be ok, because what my new world does have is better..... Christians.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Anesthesia, here I come!

My trip down MRI lane revealed a mass considerably larger than anyone expected. Quicker, more aggressive action is the new plan. So tomorrow I will go to the hospital to have a cathiport installed in preparation for Wednesday's first delicious dose of chemotherapy! Yum yum.....gimme some o' dat poison! (forgive me if I seem callous.....the crying gets old after a while).

My daughter wants to hold down the fort by herself. She's totally capable...but what mom wouldn't worry???

If I cowgirl up enough after the surgery, my dad is giving me his ticket to see "Wicked" that night. Cool or what!?

And yes, I WILL be at church Sunday! I can't wait!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

No words....

Last night, I fear in the pouring rain, someone came by and planted the most precious, pretty, little pansies in my garden. Act of love? Yes...but to me, it's a miracle. It's a miracle that Heavenly Father sent someone on such a personal errand (my gardens mean so much to me) so that far the worst day of this whole ordeal yet....I would have cheerful little flower faces smiling up at me when I came home. Thank you.

Monday, April 13, 2009

It was the best of times, it was the worst of was an MRI

Having an MRI was the most intense psychological experience of my life. Emotionally speaking, there's nothing right about being in that tiny tunnel, in the position I was in, for close to an hour. But when you realize that it's finally over, and that you managed to ignore every itch and muscle cramp and that they didn't have to start over even once....your elation is overwhelming! The only thing that comes close to the joy I felt when I left that tunnel was remembering how I felt when my daughter Emily suddenly decided to potty train herself at age 2.

I'm sure my joy was intensified knowing that by having this MRI, there was a greater chance that my surgeon would be able to find a way to remove my tumor without removing my entire breast. With surgery scheduled for this Friday the 17th, I was finally starting to feel some relief that we were at last on our way to recovery. Imagine my disappointment when the MRI tech. called me the following day to tell me that something went wrong with the imaging on my scan and that I was going to have to do it all over again AND that it would be a while before the machine was fixed AND my surgery would have to be postponed yet another week!

I'm so frustrated! I just want to get this behind me and get on with my life. Maybe in a sarcastic twisted way, that's why they call sick people "patients".

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Telling the Kids

When the pathologist telephoned with the results of my biopsy, he ended the call with an apology. “I’m sorry,” he said. I wondered how many times a day he had to make phone calls that ended in “I’m sorry”. After all, over 750 people are diagnosed with cancer every day. I started feeling sorry for him. But then I began to think about my children. How was I going to tell them? Give it to them straight or put it off as long as possible? Certainly, I would need more than an “I’m sorry” to get through this one. Within five minutes I was on the phone with my mother-in-law, a certified grief counselor. Needless to say, my question/revelation caught her off guard, but eventually she was able to gather her thoughts and give me some valuable advice. Basically she said that the children should not be lied to in any way. They’ll find out sooner of later, be it through overheard conversations, or just picking up on little nuances. But, only give them the information that is pertinent to them, those things that will directly affect their lives. Don’t overwhelm them with every minute detail.

So we picked a Monday night to tell them and invited my parents to be there. My parents knew what was going on and were ready to be there for extra support.

I mulled over what to say for days, but still found myself at a loss come the big night. Then the miracle happened. Every night as a family we read a chapter from the scriptures. When we opened our books to where we had left off, we all discovered to our chagrin that we were on one of the longest chapters in the book, not to mention one of the most challenging to comprehend. As the others began to moan, I began to grin.

Somehow, we made it through the entire chapter and at the end; we had the perfect chance to discuss how our family just did something really hard. We talked about how good it felt to have that long chapter behind us and how it wasn’t as bad as we thought it would be. The children then got to hear the word “cancer” in relation to their mom for the first time, and that wasn't easy. But then they learned that cancer doesn’t have to mean dying, sometimes it just means that, for a little while, life would be challenging and unpleasant. But that was ok…because we had just found out that together, our family could do such things.

Friday, April 10, 2009

New Perspective

For so many years I've been at a loss as how to help someone I care about who is suddenly facing
major, life-changing obstacles. I usually let my fear of looking stupid (i.e. showing up on the doorstep with the sixth frozen lasagna they have received in three days), to gradually talk me out of doing anything. With the outpouring of love and concern we've felt this week, I have gained new insight into how I would answer the question "what can we do to help". Hopefully after I take care of my cancer, I will be able to use my new perspective to be a better friend and neighbor. Here are some thoughts I've had and some that I've read (while sitting in waiting rooms, of course).

  • Don't ask, just do. If there is an obvious need, like a filthy car, lawn that needs mowing, a bike with a flat tire in the garage, a garden waiting to be tilled or a deck that was almost done before tragedy struck, just show up with some friends and do it. Asking often puts an unnecessary burden of decision on the recipient.

  • Smaller is better. The less grand the act of kindness is, the better. Some examples are:
  1. A friendly note or email of encouragement
  2. A prayer in someone's behalf, especially on a day of treatment or testing (yes, they WILL feel it).
  3. Taking their child to the orthodontist, basketball practice, youth group, etc.
  4. Loan them a favorite DVD to watch (preferably uplifting, comedy).
  5. Bring a small food gift. Large, full course meals can add up to lots of leftovers. Sometimes appetites are decreased when dealing with stress. A loaf of bread or a fruit salad provides needed nourishment and are a ray of relief anytime.
  6. Be a good listener and confidante. Everyone says that one of the biggest blessings is someone trustworthy and caring to talk to.
  7. Distract the spouse or children once in while with something fun like flying kites, going to the dollar show, or overnight camping (contingent on how long the patient can be left alone). They will appreciate a break from the "world of the oppressed" and any reminder that life will be normal again someday.
  8. Don’t be a messenger of doom and gloom. Okay you had a cousin that had the same condition and passed away as a result. This is not the time to share this story. Instead be positive and encouraging no matter the situation.
  9. Don't take it personally if your phone calls are not returned. Sometimes it's hard to reciprocate when you're emotionally tapped out. The consistent friend, even when it seems to turn into a one-way relationship, is the true friend.

We will never forget all that has been done, said, and sacrificed for us already. Everything has helped. Everything.

The Longest Fifteen Days of My Life

Fifteen days ago I went to my doctor to have her look at a dimple on my breast. I just thought it was merely a sign of a wrinkle. I had been ignoring it for close to a year. I expected a knowing smile, simple explanation and the proverbial pat on the head as I went out the door. What I got was my first appointment for a mammogram. Since then I've been squished, scanned, poked, sliced, and scanned again.

What they can definitely tell me is that I have invasive ductal carcinoma. They can also tell me that I'm too young to be diagnosed with this and that I will definitely have to be artificially induced into early menopause to minimize further occurrences. What they cannot tell me is what stage I'm in or how big it is. So I have to be scanned, poked and sliced some more next week. Each day waiting for test results feels like five. But today is good because I don't have ANY doctors appointments and I survived my MRI !!!!