Sunday, November 30, 2008



I made it through the weekend with many ups and downs. I figured Wednesday would be hard, but that I'd bounce back in time for Thanksgiving on Thursday. It didn't happen. I woke up still feeling down, and Kaycee had a huge melt-down, so we didn't make it to our Thanksgiving day event. Which turned out ok, because I spent some time relaxing with Karina and watching the documentary, "The Secret". I had some huge grief time alone in my bathroom, then got up and the girls and I went for a very long, fun walk. We all felt much better afterwards. The rest of the weekend I spent shopping a bit- I got some nice, inspirational pictures for my bathroom since that seems to be the place I go when I don't want the girls to see the full extent of my emotions. It now has a nice calming feel to it, just like my bedroom. I was feeling great on Friday, so I went roller blading for half and hour. The weather was amazingly beautiful and I went along the river and had a nice, peaceful time. I was sore and tired afterwards, but felt great for having gone. Yesterday I was feeling some pain in my breast, but had arranged to practice soccer with F. (awesome, sweet boyfriend), so I wrapped it up tight and went. I was feeling so good that I was considering playing a game the next day. I went for a little jog around the track to see how running felt, and I didn't make it too far. My breast really started aching with the extra motion. I finished up practice and got home exhausted and had a bit of a nap. Today I was very tired, so I went to a movie with Karina and friends had a nice little nap in the theater. I had told the girls that I wanted to try to walk every evening, and Kaycee is super excited about this. She bugged me and bugged me to go tonight after dinner, and although I didn't want to, I did. It was fun and refreshing. I asked her to bug me about it other nights, and I am hoping that she will help keep me motivated to walk.

I did some reading and some talking to people and I'm at a place of acceptance today. The port-a-cath (?) is not how I pictured it. I imagined a plastic thing sticking out of my chest with a cork in it blocking off my heart vein. It is actually implanted beneath the surface of my skin. Each time the chemo is injected, the skin gets numbed up and a needle is inserted. It was explained to me that the chemo going into this big vein is like being dumped into a river, as opposed to going into my arm veins, which are like streams. My mom said that the people she saw having it done this way seemed to have an easier time of it and that she thought my doctor was trying to make things easier for me. Ok, I can have some gratitude around this.

Dr. T suggested that I stay the night in the hospital, and I was resistant because the little room I was in before sucked and the bed was hard and uncomfortable. But, a friend of mine who had a recent hospital stay said the actual over night room is beautiful and the bed is comfortable and it would be nice for me to be taken care of for that first night. So, I am considering the option and plan to pack my own pillow just in case I stay.

My mom also told me that she imagined chemo being like a powerful monster that was eating away at the cancer. I like the idea of flipping the image of poison to one of it being a powerful weapon. I have confidence in my body to bounce back from the chemo. I am in great health and I know there will be bad times, but I am picturing myself returning to my healthy, active self once the chemo is over. And, going on walks through the neighborhood with the girls is something that I wouldn't normally do, but I will do more of. It is a great opportunity to slow down and see what is right around me and bond with the girls.

I know my arm may be messed up after the lymph nodes come out. I am wondering how that will affect kayaking next summer. But, mostly I am so grateful that soccer is played with the feet! And, I'm confident that physical therapy will help me.

I learned to knit this weekend!! It is so cool and hopefully will give me something to do when I'm resting.

I've got some fears about the actual surgery and of waking up in pain afterwards. But, I've got a few days to work on this. And, my first mind/body class is this Tuesday, so maybe I'll learn something there to help.

I've told a few more people this weekend- some parents of the girls' friends. It is hard to tell people, but it feels much better when people know. I've got some play dates lined up for them for the week after surgery. I don't think its as scary for them now. I've explained that it will be a lot like last time- I'll need lots of rest for a week or so, then I'll bounce back. I've got family coming for a chunk of time over Christmas, so I feel like the girls will be well cared for. I had a bad dream a few nights ago where I was leaving them to move to Germany, and my flight was leaving in half and hour, and I hadn't made any arrangements for them to stay with anyone. I was frantically making phone calls as I was packing, and they couldn't understand why they weren't going with me. I couldn't understand it either and it was breaking my heart to leave them. I woke up from that dream knowing it was about the cancer. One of my biggest fears is that I will have forgotten to have made arrangements for them to get picked up one day, and they'll be left stranded at school. Or, I'll have a complication and have to stay longer in the hospital and I won't have made arrangements for them. Today I got organized and got a new schedule book and I have written in there which kid is going with who on which days. I can easily see where I still need help and where they will be when. I should be able to sleep easier this time. And, I know that I've got many, many people who I could call if I really did drop the ball and forget to get them.

I googled CT scan and it seems ok. Drink some stuff- dye maybe? and lie really still while a big machine takes pictures. I've done this before and while its not fun, I have had some pretty cool meditation experiences.


Thursday, November 27, 2008



9 years ago today I took a pregnancy test and discovered I was pregnant (with Kaycee). It was one of the happiest discoveries of my life and the very best Thanksgiving day of my life.

Today is a different day. My discovery this year was the absolute worst discovery of my life. And, I'm determined to be grateful today anyway. I am thinking of many years ago- 18 or so, when I went off to the Gulf War for 9 months. I was so terrified when I learned that I'd be deployed. It was about a week from learning the news to actually leaving, with lots of false alarms as to when we'd leave. Finally, I was in Walmart shopping for a pocket knife when a call for me came over the intercom saying to report immediately back to base. We left a few hours later. The plane ride over was so surreal and I was so terrified. Everything about those first few weeks was scary and different and unreal. 9 months later it was all over and I came back to the world. I had the odd sensation that the world had gone on as normal and hadn't missed me at all. I had missed out on a huge chunk of the normal world and I had a hard time jumping back in as if all was normal. I was forever changed. I had fought a war, been afraid for my life, and returned looking just the same on the outside. I'm feeling all of these same feelings today. I got the call that I will be going to war with cancer. I had the first little battle and discovered that this is going to be a longer war than I thought- about 9 months or so. The next battle is coming up and the dread is awful. I was afraid I might die in that first war, and I remember writing a goodbye letter to my mom. I am a bit afraid of the same thing in this war, but I refuse to write a goodbye letter. When I was in the middle of that first 9 months, and even for a time right after, I couldn't imagine a time when it would be behind me. I thought about it every day. Now, I realize that although it did have a profound effect on me, and it did change me, it is very much in the past and it is something I don't think about too often. The cancer war will be like this for me one day too. Yesterday I was scared and pissed off. Today I feel ready for battle. And I'm still pissed. And hopeful. I'm not a naive 21 year old. This time I'm wiser and I know a little bit about battles. I know what my weapons against cancer are: acceptance, surrender, peace, love, nurturing, friends, family, doctors, nurses, poison/medicine, scalpels, meditation, herbs, crystals, mind/body work, wise women, healing women, and, most of all, the big nuclear bomb in my arsenal- my spiritual connection to my higher power. I have some great words from Alanon that I keep repeating: I don't have to like my situation, but I want to like myself in my situation. And, of course, the serenity prayer: God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change (cancer), the courage to change the things I can (my attitude) and the wisdom to know the difference.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

A Hard Day

November 26, 2008

I'm not sure if I can write my feelings just yet, but I'll start with the facts. I learned today that the cancer was only in the original lump, not in the outer satellite spots. Dr. T explained that when those two spots had a biopsy, probably the needle actually went back into the original lump by mistake. I thought this was great news at first, but it actually doesn't really matter. He still did not get a great margin on the chunk that he took- 1 mm and he likes 5 mm to be safe. I was hopeful that the lymph nodes would have been spared, but he went on to say that there was cancer "all over" the one node he took out.

Next Steps for me are:

1. Go in next Monday for a CAT scan (not sure if this is spelled right or what it stands for or really what it even is) to look for cancer in other parts of my body. All I know is that this involves not eating ahead of time and drinking something and then getting scanned.

2. Go in next Wednesday morning to be injected with dye- the same place where I was injected before. Leave, then come back in the afternoon for a bone scan. Again, looking for cancer in other areas of my body.

3. Go in 6:00 Thursday morning for my 7:30 surgery, number two, to remove all my lymph nodes under my right arm. Have another lumpectomy to get a better margin. Have a drain installed to catch the gunk for a few weeks after the surgery. Have a port? something like that, installed into the vein on my left side that leads to my heart (did I really hear that right? A tube in my heart vein?). This thing will be in place for 6 months and will be the port of entry for chemotherapy. Dr. T explained that its better for chemo to go into this big vein as it won't be as hard on my veins. He says that having an IV each time would be hard because chemo destroys small veins. I need to do some looking into this. I DO NOT want some thing stuck in my heart for 6 months- I just pictured a vampire putting a stake through my heart and leaving it there, then injecting poison into it. ARRGHH I wish my mind wouldn't conjure up such images!

4. As soon as the drain comes out (this is a little plastic thing that reminds me of a hallow hand grenade. It sound really gross. It fills up with blood and gunk and I have to unhook it and empty it and wear it attached to me) I begin chemotherapy. The sooner the better according to Dr. T. I looked at the calendar and it should be Christmas week. Chemo for Christmas this year. Probably the most hated and loved present ever. I HATE THIS. And of course I'm extremely grateful for treatment, even if it is poison.

5. After 6 months, I start 6 weeks of daily radiation on my breast. Depending on the extent of cancer in my lymph nodes, maybe on that area too.

6. Some point after chemo, something happens with my ovaries and estrogen. Dr. T didn't want to talk to me about that yet.

I'm really, really , really PISSED OFF today. I'm ok with this. I haven't felt much anger yet, and I guess its time. I'll go back to my calm, peaceful self another time. Right now I'm ANGRY.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Still Waiting

Tuesday Evening, Nov 25, 2008

Still no idea what the doc will say tomorrow. I had a great, normal kind of a day today. Got to visit with some friends and I got out of the house for a very nice walk through the woods. Not too sore right now, just very sleepy. I finally read a little bit more about all the different scenarios and treatment options. So many of the drugs used to treat cancer have awful side effects. I read today that some women who get chemotherapy later on develop leukemia. What a dirty trick- the drugs that can fight one type of cancer can also cause another type of cancer?

I am hopeful though. I feel really, really healthy and like I'm in good shape. It has been a week today since my surgery and compared to how I felt the first days after, right now I feel about 80% normal physically.

The piece that I wasn't able to write about last week was this: I have the type of cancer that grows better in the presence of estrogen. In order to stop that, I will need to stop producing estrogen. It sounds like there are two choices- take a drug that stops it, and has some possible wicked side effects (like cancer of the uterus), or have my ovaries removed. I hate both choices, and I'm not even sure if I get to make the choice or if the type of cancer chooses for me. I have been all done having children for awhile now, but I still didn't plan on going into such early menopause. When I got this news last week, it was almost more upsetting than the news that I have cancer. I'm not sure exactly why yet- something to do with my view of myself as a woman. Also, the thought of yet another surgery on yet another part of my body doesn't thrill me.

I think I have come to believe that the hardest part of the last surgery was recovering from all the drugs and anesthesia, rather than the actual surgery. Maybe it'll be easier and I'll be more desensitized the next time.

I've got my plan in place for tomorrow- I'm bringing my friend to write notes and be a moral support and my boyfriend to put his arms around me and comfort me. I've got time set aside after the appointment to either hide in bed and cry for an hour, or go out for lunch and celebrate.



Still waiting. I called the doctor's office yesterday to see if any results were back yet and left a message. No word yet. Called the VA again and left a message. No word yet. Kaycee was home sick with me yesterday, so I had an opportunity to rest and mommy her. It was not so bad having company. I got out for a walk last night when a friend came over. I thought I'd just go for a short one, but it was so beautiful out, very cold and foggy, and I ended up walking for almost an hour. I was very sore and tired when I got back in, but my spirits were great. I was a little sad that my legs were so sore- I wonder how long it will be before I can get back to playing soccer. But, I'm so glad that I seem to be healing so well. I am sleeping a lot still and sleeping very well. I slept in yesterday and today until about 10:00- something I NEVER do. I felt like I could have kept on sleeping, but the phone began ringing.

I have the feeling today that I'm done with the cancer thing and ready to get back to my regular life. I wonder if I just skip the doctor's appointment tomorrow if I could just go back to normal?
I know the answer to this, but its nice to imagine it anyway.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Sunday Eve


Got through the weekend. Yesterday's euphoria ended during the evening bedtime routine. The girls are impatient for things to be back to normal and ready for me to carry on with taking care of them again. They will be changed, too, from all this. I think they will become strong, independent, and caring, but we have a lot to get through first.

I am so very grateful for the cherished friends who took the girls on outings this weekend. It was challenging having them at home so much, although it was nice too because I've missed them.

Today I went out again, to the grocery store for toilet paper and to Sweet Potato Pie for some comfortable, natural fiber clothing. It was recommended to me to wear more natural clothing that doesn't bind like my jeans do. I found a bunch of stuff to try on, then realized I was exhausted before making it into the dressing room. I got in there and the perky young sales girl kept asking if I needed any help. I got my arm stuck several times and almost considered asking her if she could help dress and undress me, but I'm not quite that ready to ask for help whenever I need it. I did it myself, and ended up feeling like I'd been to lift weights by the time I was finished. I got a few very soft, comfortable things made of hemp, organic cotton, and bamboo. Now I can get dressed during the day, but still feel like I'm in my pajamas!

I left the store thinking that I should go for a walk, but I was so tired, and I was not dressed for the cold. I feel like I've been away from the world for a month- its cold now and Christmas decorations are up and this is not how things were a week ago.

I had a bit of a nap when I got home and I messed around a bit with a large, lavender crystal that was given to me today. Its a beautiful stone and I love how it feels. I tried a little Reiki holding the stone and sort of drifted off and was very, very relaxed. Then the girls came home and we had a much better evening tonight. I've just been leaving the room when they start acting up, and telling them that I will rejoin them once they stop fighting. Tonight we actually got to spend some nice time together playing games, reading, and even finishing up homework. Its 8:00 now and I'm wiped out and ready for bed.

Tomorrow is Monday and I'm anxious. Afraid that the doctor's office will call. Afraid that they won't call. Thinking of calling myself. But not wanting to. Also, I'm in that awkward in between state of not needing to be in bed all day, but not quite ready to jump back into the full swing of things. The retreat/vacation was nice last week, but now I'm ready for something else. Restless I guess. I am going to do a bit of work from home tomorrow. My scars are restless too- sometimes they hurt, sometimes they itch, sometimes they seem to move. There is this cloud over me- I really focused so much on getting through the surgery that I sort of blocked out what is coming next. And, I don't know what's coming next. I really, really wish I was done as the surgery felt like such a bid deal that I should be done. I'm back on the roller coaster, going slowly up, up, up, with no idea if there is a huge drop or a gentle curve over the edge.

Well, at least I know that if I get another Monday call, I won't be driving to get the kids when it comes in!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

First Walk!


I woke up feeling so good this morning! Just in time, because Kaycee woke up sick. She's been having a tummy ache- I thought maybe as a way to get to spend some time with me, but today she actually puked a bit and was really needing some mommying. I used some of my herbs on her and tucked her into bed with me. I tried some Reiki on her, and she tried some on me- it was very sweet. I was able to get breakfast and unload the dishwasher this morning. I got a shower with no problem. And, I got dressed in real clothes- not pj's today! I was feeling so good, I was toying with the idea of playing a game of soccer tomorrow. Then, the girls left for an outing with some friends, and a friend of mine arrived to take me out for a walk. By the time I got my shoes on, I realized that I was exhausted. But, I went on the walk anyway. Nice and slow and it was SOOOOO good to get outside and walk through my neighborhood. It was a beautiful fall day today and perfect, cool weather. It wasn't a long walk, but I was so tired by the time we finished. I wore a very good sports bra, but the jiggling still caused some soreness. Nothing too unbearable, and well worth it. I don't have bandages over the incisions today- just lots of steri-strips covering the stitches. And lots of red welts from the tape that held the bandages down- I have been plagued by a latex allergy and I must also be allergic to the adhesive in non-latex bandages. I am so happy that I am feeling so much better and can get out. But, I think the soccer game will have to wait. I'm getting ready for a nap right now and I may go for a short drive later.

I can't believe how happy I feel right now. I am sure that I'll get sad again, but for today, I am very peaceful and happy. I have been sleeping so well at night, and I haven't been needing to take a sleeping pill like usual. I was thinking about why that is, and I believe its not only because I'm so tired, but also because all the normal daily stressors are absent for me for right now- I'm not working, not having to get the girls ready for school, not having to pick them up, not having to struggle with them during homework, not having to cook, clean, do laundry, or even change my sheets. Aside from the stress of having cancer, this is like a very relaxing, luxury vacation. This is a very weird thought I know. But, I am getting it that the reason why its so important to have people take care of me is that it frees up all sorts of mental and emotional space inside of me to just concentrate on healing. I realize that I am so very lucky to have so many people helping to carry me through this time.

I thought about calling the doctor's office to see if any of the pathology reports were back. I did finally call yesterday, but they were already closed. Of course I want to know, but a huge part of me also recognizes that if I do know right now, and its bad, that could take away from my healing. And, if I'm to have another operation right away, I really need to be recovered as much as possible from this one first. I really think I'm just supposed to be waiting and relaxing and healing right now. Wednesday will come soon enough.

I tried again to access the VA health system yesterday to see if any of my bills could be covered by them. I had a stomach ache most of yesterday, and as soon as I called the VA number, i could feel my stomach clench up. Its always so frustrating trying to get through to a real human being to ask questions. There is an answering machine with a bunch of different choices, but all the choices either led me right back to the original message, or to a phone that just rang and rang. I finally got through to a real person and found out that there is a whole separate section in the VA health system devoted to women veterans' health issues, and that breast cancer falls under a special women's health issue. The person I wanted to talk to can't be reached by phone, so I left a message with person number one on the phone. Who knows if I'll get a call back, but we'll see. I will be fine without the VA's help because I've got great medical insurance (another huge reason to be grateful), but I want to at least find out if they can cover some of this. I figured that if I'm laying in bed anyway, I may as well make some phone calls. But, the stress may not have been worth it. We'll see.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Clear Day

Nov 20, 2008

Not quite sure how it got to be Nov 20th already. I'm still stuck on Nov 3rd when I first got the news. Can't quite fathom where 17 days went.

I am breathing deeply and clearly today. No heavy pain medication- just a bit of motrin this morning. I am so glad to have my mind back and clear. I am sore today, but when I realized that I've been more sore after an intense soccer game, I realized that I don't need the pain medication today. I am being careful to take it easy, though, because I can only handle being up and about for about 10 minutes before I get fatigued and start feeling pain. I am looking at this day of rest as the luxury that it is- I haven't ever had an entire day to lay in bed and do whatever I want- read, watch a movie, write, talk on the phone, think. I haven't done much today other than sleep, write a little, think, and watch my kitties at the end of my bed. I've never studied cats before for such a long stretch of time- they really know how to live life- they play a little, eat, poop, and sleep A LOT and when they sleep, they look like they are so thoroughly enjoying it!

I want to write about the day of the operation while I can still sort of remember it:

The kids got off to school with a cherished friend, and my other cherished friend, D (the nurse) came and picked me up. I had called her late the night before with a list of things I wanted her to be sure I didn't forget. In the morning, we got out my big wicker German shopping basket and packed it with my comfort stuff. It was a little like when I used to get ready to go to a birth as a doula. I packed my favorite remedies that people have given me and told me about these past weeks- Bach Rock Rose flower essence (drops to be put in water to "add courage and presence of mind in the face of terror or extreme fear"), Tranquility essential oil (to be rubbed on my head when I needed calming), Peace of Mind cream (peppermint smelling cream that can be put on and breathed in for stress), a Lavender scented inhaler to be put under my nose when needles are going in and I need to breathe deeply and calmly, homeopathic arnica tablets to be taken after the surgery to speed healing and reduce bruising and swelling. Along with all that, I brought some favorite books- The Woman's Book of Courage, Succulent Wild Woman, and The Power of Reiki. I thought I might have some periods of long waits, so I brought along nail polish to do my toes, but never did get to them. And, I brought along bottles of water since I could drink still for a few hours. I knew I wouldn't be able to eat all day, so the night before I baked some chocolate chip cookies and had many warm cookies and a glass of milk just before midnight. I also had a little doll that Kaycee had made for me and filled with flax seed, and a shell and wrist band of Karina's. And, a picture of the girls and I visiting my old childhood fort. The best thing of all in my basket I discovered later.

We got to Oregon Imaging and the women at the front desk all greeted me by name and were super friendly. I had to laugh at how funny it was to be back there yet again. I went in and had my breast numbed up again and this time a long wire with a hook was inserted into my breast to mark the outer edge of the cancer. The wire was left sticking out about 8 inches or so and I was sent for yet another mamogram to get a picture for the surgeon. After that, the wire was padded and taped down to my breast. Once again, the numbing stuff didn't work too well and I started feeling pain. My anxiety level went way up and i began using all the stuff from my basket. D waited with me until my driver arrived. I was escorted into a huge SUV (not a limo)- some type of Caddilac. I was in a lot of pain at this point. D was following behind me. I called my boyfriend (who was home recovering from his own medical procedure) and he told me a beautiful story about being up in a tree house. It was very relaxing and I got to feeling better.

We got to the hospital (the new one) and I was escorted into a huge train station type of area, which is where family members wait for people in surgery. There are big computer screens up that have tracking numbers so family members can track where the patients are, just like in a train station. After a short wait, I was escorted back into my little room where I changed into hospital clothes. D had me ask for some medication to calm me, but by that time the pain wasn't too bad and I didn't really want it. I had it ordered just in case. The first step after a bunch of nurse questions and forms was to get an IV in. This has never been a problem for me before, but the nurse couldn't get it after 3 tries. I was quite fed up with being stuck with needles by this point, so she got an anesthesia doctor to come in. This guy was wearing a scrub hat with soccer balls all over it and I just had to laugh- God sends me many angles, and they are often soccer related! This doctor was a soccer player and as he talked about soccer, I relaxed enough that he was able to get the needle in with very little pain. My sponsor kept holding the lavender stuff up to my nose when the needles were going in. Then I waited some more. At one point while I was waiting I opened a card that had been tucked into my basket. It was from everyone at work and it was stuffed with slips of paper with different messages on them. It was also stuffed with cash. I was so emotional already, and even typing this I get emotional again. As I read each message, I could feel the words float up just above me and hover there, surrounding me in a cloud of support. The money I have now tucked into a special wallet that Karina made for me. It will be used for anything that comes up related to this cancer. I've used it to buy my pain medication and will also use some of it to buy some good, high quality vitamins. I so appreciate this thoughtful gesture from my work family and I have re-read the messages several times already during some of my low points.

Before I forget, I bought the most amazing pair of shoes last weekend and I've been wearing them to all of my medical stuff and when I go walking. They were designed for Nike by a teenage girl who survived cancer and is now a high school soccer player. The shoes have all sorts of symbolism related to her fight with cancer, and 100% of the earnings goes to research and kids who don't have insurance at Doernbecher's Children's Hospital. If anyone wants a pair, they make great walking shoes and they are available at the Nike store. There are 5 shoes total designed by kids who have been helped at the Children's Hospital. My friend D bought a pair too and we both wore them the day of the surgery. Here's the newspaper article about them:

So, after the IV my sponsor came and stayed with me for a bit. She read something quite beautiful about growing from pain. Then, it was time to go to nuclear medicine for the radioactive dye stuff. I got wheeled to the other side of the hospital- through a bunch of hallways and up an elevator. It was very surreal being wheeled down the back hallways with various workmen hanging about. I felt like I was in some bad movie about a mental hospital, so I just closed my eyes and prayed. When we got there, I began panicking as the woman described how a needle would be inserted into my breast and radioactive dye would flow through me while a machine took pictures. I would need to lay still in this machine for about half an hour, with my arm above my head. The thought of yet another needle, radioactive material in my breast, being still in another machine, and my aching arm above my head was enough to make me wish I had taken that medicine that would have calmed me. I asked D, who was still with me, if it was too late for it and she said that it was too late. She held the lavender up to my nose while the needle went in. I decided to try what little I knew of Reiki to see if I could calm myself. I put one hand near my heart and closed my eyes. I started breathing deeply and I had an image of the radioactive liquid being like a blinding light sent by God to show the doctors where my cancer was hiding in my body. Like a blinding light, I felt pain when the needle went in, but it wasn't so scary. I was able to get away from the scary thought of radioactive poison and shift to the thought of healing light. Once in the machine, I could see out the window into the tops of some very tall pine trees and I was taken back to the tree house story my boyfriend told me on the phone earlier. As the big machine closed in on me, I pushed the claustrophobia away and closed my eyes again, and again had the image of God filling me with liquid light. My arm above my head immediately began going numb like my hands do when my carpel tunnel is acting up. I couldn't imagine how I would hold my arm in that position for that long. But, I kept my left hand on my body, near my heart, and pretty soon I could feel my whole body surrounded by a humming sort of energy. The numbness in my arm was absorbed by this energy and didn't bother me any more. No, I was NOT on any drugs at this point, just enjoying a deep state of meditation I think. I had an image of all of my fears and hurtful experiences from my entire life going into the cancer in my breast. I had an image of a soft, lavender colored baby blanket gathering up all of these hurts and fears. There was an image of me, strong and powerful, holding this blanket lovingly and watching as all the hurts and fears turned into a beautiful baby. All this time the baby and I were surrounded by this humming, bright energy. When the blanket was full, the strong, powerful me told the baby everything would be ok and kissed it. I then opened the blanket and tossed the baby up into the bright humming energy, straight into God's arms.
At this point, I heard a new voice in the room and felt hands on my body. I opened my eyes and looked into the face of another doctor, this one with a pen-like instrument in his hands. I said hello to him and asked him if that was the geiger counter. He smiled and said it sort of was. He used this instrument to find the spot on my body where the radioactive stuff had settled. As this geiger counter traced my body, the machine made funny noises that sounded just like R2D2 from Star Wars. I laughed and thought what a funny sense of humor God has- I get this amazing, mind-boggling experience and come out of it hearing R2D2 beeps.

Once I was done, I got wheeled back through the hallways to my room. I was so zoned out I felt like I was on the best drugs in the world. It was like this massive endorphin high. I really wasn't on any drugs at this point, and I normally would be too self-conscious and embarrassed to share such an experience on a blog. But, times are different for me now and I am no longer afraid to share stuff. In fact, I'm no longer afraid of a lot of things that used to terrify me.

I got back to my room and pretty quickly Dr. T came in with his scrub hat on. No soccer balls, just fish. At first I thought he was just in for a visit, but then I realized that he was there to take me to surgery. I began to panic a little. I said goodbye to D and my Sponsor, and as I was being wheeled away, my Sponsor told me that I was on a bed of something- love? surrounded by a legion of angels. I kept my eyes closed until we were in the operating room. I imagined my angels flying along over the top of me. The nurse was telling me everyone's names in the room, and I opened my eyes. I saw a man covered from head to toe in blue scrubs and I saw a huge tray of surgical instruments and I began bawling and I was so very, very scared. I slid onto the operating table and the nurse asked the anesthesiologist to give me something to calm me down. He put an oxygen mask over my head and told me to breathe deeply. I couldn't though, because I was crying too hard and having trouble breathing. At that point Dr. T. came over to me, held my hand, and bent down close. I could only see his eyes and hear his voice. he told me that everything was going to be ok and he had such kindness in his eyes. I told him that I appreciated him and that I trusted him. The anesthesiologist told me I'd be asleep in less than 30 seconds and the last thing I remember was looking at Dr. T and feeling him holding my hand and me trying to trust that I'd be ok.

I woke up later to a nurse yelling my name and a whole lot of pain. I looked to either side of me and saw beds of patients and lots of nurses moving about. This was creepy and scary and I asked for my friend D. The nurse was kind of mean and said that my friend couldn't be with me. I asked if she could pull some curtains around me and she did. It was better when I couldn't see all the other patients- that made me feel like I was back in the creepy mental hospital movie again. The pain was bad and she said something about having given me all the morphine I was going to get and that I would have to deal with some pain. I don't remember much, but I do remember yelling and thrashing about and being very scared. I heard another voice say to take me to my room early so I could be with my friends. Then it was all blank until I opened my eyes in my room and saw my Sponsor and D. They said I had been in the recovery room for an hour. In my room, I was still feeling lots of pain and I don't remember much but D saying that it wasn't ok that I was feeling that much pain and the nurse kind of arguing back and me thinking holy shit this really really HURTS!!!!!!!!! I heard D say something about a nursing protocol and then something was in my IV and the pain was gone. It came back about 10 minutes later and more arguing between D and the nurse and it was gone again. I vaguely remember talking to my brother on the phone and him being upset that I wasn't going to stay the night in the hospital. I got the sense from the nurses that they wanted me to hurry up and get out of there. I was very scared about going home and having that kind of pain again. Finally D explained that I hadn't been in the recovery room for the normal amount of time, so I would need a little extra time in my room before I'd be ready to go home. A big stretch of time went by and finally I was feeling no pain and the bed started to feel uncomfortable and small and the pillow was hard and I wanted to be in my own bed.
Somehow I got to feeling a bit better and I went home. That night and the next day is a blur of pain medication right now. I know my bed felt immensely wonderful and peaceful and I was in and out of sleep.

The Universe

There's a cool website that a friend told me about where you can sign up to receive a message from "The Universe" each day. Its I've been getting some really perfect ones. Here's two of my favorite:

I wish there were words to tell you, Krista, how beautiful life really is, how safe you always are, and of the love that constantly bathes you.

How powerful you are, how much you can have, and of the glories that await.

Of the perfection, the magic, and the infinite possibilities.

But you actually threatened me with bodily harm if I were to ever let you peek at where you were headed before you arrived.

You gangsta',
The Universe

You do realize, Krista, don't you, that there have been others - in lifetimes, millenniums, and civilizations past - who have been to some of the same "places" you've been to? Yet, they got so scared they lost control, turned away, or flat out quit.
Yep, and they surround you now in the unseen. Your greatest admirers.

The Universe

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Post Surgery

I am to nauseated to type so my friend is tying this for me. The pain medication has left me feeling car sick; no not puking, just dizzy. I stayed in bed most of the day exhausted it was very quiet and peaceful, without the girls here, but I missed them. I took the bandages off today and saw the scar, it is longer than I thought it would be but I am definetly NOT DEFORMED.

If I get to keep my breast I think a tatoo of pink roses winding around the scar would be pretty. Now I am waiting to hear the results from pathology to see what my next steps are. Yesterday was an amazing life changing weirdly positive experience. More about that later.


I made it!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008




Just waiting. My stomach is a mess, good thing I can't eat today.

Waiting, waiting, waiting. There's some peace actually in waiting. There's something to be learned here. A whole day to be still and to not even worry about getting from point A to point B. The girls are in good hands. Last night there was some anger, but this morning was sweet. I left them each a note in their lunch boxes. The house will seem empty without them tonight.

I can feel the love and good thoughts in the atmosphere already. I am actually feeling deeply grateful for many, many things right now. I'm amazed at the way God works through people- friends and strangers alike.

I've decided to discard the word "deformed". My body is my body and I've worked hard the past few years to accept all of it, exactly as it is. I will do this again. Scars simply have stories to tell, and this scar will ultimately have a good story to tell.

Monday, November 17, 2008

More Monday Madness

Nov 17 (I think?), 2008

Another relaxing weekend where I didn't have to think too much about my situation. Went into work this Monday all happy and relaxed. Started getting anxious about an hour before my dr. appt. Went in and got some good news, some bad news, and some wait and see news. The good news is the left breast biopsy came back NEGATIVE for cancer! This is a big, huge deal to me and when I'm done freaking out, I know I'll be very happy about this. The right breast I already knew from last week that it does have more spots. Today the doctor explained that the lumpectomy will be large and that it won't look pretty. The actual word he used, several times, was "deformed". What an ugly word. Then it got worse. He said that the MRI actually showed three spots and that those may be all, or there may be more that aren't showing up. I will find out about that a week after the surgery when the pathology report comes back. It would mean another surgery for a mastectomy. He also explained that since the original lump sent out satellite cancers, that there is a high probability that it will be in my lymph nodes and that I would need a second surgery to remove those, probably within two weeks of the first surgery. Not too thrilled about that, but again, I won't know until pathology comes back a week after tomorrow. He did say that chemotherapy is almost certain, and that would start within a few weeks of my last surgery, and go for about 6 months, possibly followed by radiation. It got worse from there, but I'm not ready to write about that yet. Well, when I say worse, I mean emotionally worse, not really too big of a deal medically I suppose.

For tomorrow, plans have changed a bit. I'm back at Oregon Imaging in the morning for a needle biopsy so that a wire can mark the outer edge of the cancer so the doc knows where to remove the piece. They are going to stick the wire in me, then put me in a limo (hey, I get to have another limo ride!) and send me over to the hospital. I thought that maybe "limo" was doctor slang for "ambulance", but the doctor assured me it would be a real limo. Kind of surreal and funny. My nuclear medicine thing will be at 12:45 and the actual surgery will be at 2:30.

I met another woman today who had breast cancer two years ago and she was very comforting. Many, many emotions today after the doctor's visit. Not sure how I'll be feeling tomorrow. I did get mostly good news about the rest of the original pathology reports- the markers were not alarming- this has to do with cell growth, aggressiveness, and some other things.

The girls and I have be receiving some wonderful meals already and we are deeply grateful for them. We feel nurtured and taken care of and I am so thankful for the amazing people that have been helping us out in so many different ways.

Saturday, November 15, 2008



So, yesterday went way, way better than I had anticipated, and I expected it to be the most scary procedure yet. A friend came over in the morning and we had a great talk and she did Reiki with me. I am still just beginning to learn about what reiki is, so I can't really explain it here. I can say that I felt deeply relaxed, unafraid, and incredibly strong afterwards. I even felt hungry for the first time in a while, and my stomach wasn't in a knot. I became aware of my heart beating- not faster than usual, but more powerful than I had ever noticed before.

My next friend arrived to drive me, and off we went. I was feeling great until we started going up and around in the parking garage, and I went back to that place of fear and nervousness. This was my FIFTH time at Oregon Imaging in the past couple of weeks, and I wasn't thrilled to be back. The ladies at the front desk are so kind though, that I actually felt comfortable once I walked in- its become a familiar place to me.

My patient navigator was there too and she visited with me a bit in the waiting room. I didn't have long at all to wait and off I went to change- a pair of HUGE scrub pants, a gown that opened in front, and another that opened in back. Drowning in clothing, I shuffled off to get an IV in and straight to the MRI room. My friend stayed outside and was able to watch through the window. The patient navigator came in and I felt such comfort, like many people were holding me in their thoughts. I felt like there was positive energy and love in the atmosphere around me (and this was before the drugs!!!!) My patient navigator kept her hand on my back and rubbed me in the most comforting way. The medical people there were incredibly compassionate and gentle with me. I had to be positioned face down on the table, with my upper body on a sort of upward slanting ramp, with my breasts hanging down through two holes, and my forehead resting on a narrow support. My arms were just sort of tucked up onto the table. Once I was positioned, I got some drugs- Verced and something else, in my IV. I was a little worried about having a bad reaction- I haven't ever had any type of medical drugs before and didn't know what to expect. But, I was still feeling mostly calm- I think the Reiki, the support from friends, the medical staff, the presence of God, and the thoughts of all the people thinking of me were at work. Once they pushed me into the MRI machine, I could feel the drugs kick in and I felt kind of dizzy, then just so relaxed that I couldn't really move, which was great since I was supposed to stay still. Some pictures were taken, and I was pulled out of the machine. The doctor numbed me up and inserted a ceramic marker, then I went back into the tube for more pictures. Then back out of the tube for the actual biopsy. This time I didn't feel anything at all, not even any pressure. She took 10 samples, and each time the needle going in made a sound like a sewing machine. When she was done, I may have gone back in the tube again- I don't really remember. The whole thing took about an hour, but seemed much shorter. When it was time to get up, I was pretty wobbly, but had someone helping me. I went off to get a mammogram. They had told me ahead of time that I would need a mammogram afterwards- not too cool! The incision couldn't be taped up till after the mammogram, so there was some blood that I saw that freaked me out a little. In the mammogram room I started shaking all over- they said it was probably an after effect of the drugs. I sat while the pictures were taken, then had to wait a while with pressure on the incision until it stopped bleeding, then it got taped up and off I went to change. I got into the changing room and had a bit of privacy and started bawling. Not sure why- it really wasn't all that stressful, but I guess my body was stressed. My friend came in and hugged me and helped me to get dressed and off we went. It was so eery walking into the waiting room, feeling like I had just been through something huge, but here I was walking out into the world as if all was normal. My breast stayed numbed up and I did not experience the type of pain like before. I got home and was just so zoned out. I am so grateful that my friend picked up the girls, got dinner, another friend came and took the girls out for the evening, and yet another friend came over and hung out with me and helped get the girls to bed once they got home. I went to bed quite early and woke up a few times in pain, but took the vicadin and slept pretty well. Today I am feeling some pain at the site of the incision, and some stiffness in my arm, but mostly I'm just very, very tired.

The girls and I are going to the library and to spend some time outside and I am so very, very grateful that we get one more weekend to relax together before the surgery.

I am most grateful for all the friends who supported me yesterday, both the ones physically present with me and the ones whose thoughts were with me. I am experiencing the power of those thoughts. Please think of me again Tuesday at 10:30 when I'm being injected with radioactive stuff, and again at 1:00 when I'll be having surgery.

one more down

Nov 15, 2008

Just a quick note to say that I'm fine. The third biopsy went well- way better than the first two. I did find out that on the right breast, the other two areas are also cancerous- so one lump and 2 "satellites". Which I believe means a bigger lumpectomy, but I'll find out more on Monday. The doctor who did the biopsy yesterday said the one on the left did not feel cancerous- no resistance to the 10 needles she injected, so we'll see. I'm hopeful..

Friday, November 14, 2008



Just waiting, waiting, waiting. The MRI biopsy is in a few hours. I'm not so freaked out at the moment. It is what it is and it won't last forever.

I finally did a little online searching last night. I have avoided big chunks of information, but I wanted to see pictures of what women's breasts looked like after lumpectomy and after mastectomy. It felt a little creepy to be looking at pictures of women's breasts on the internet, but I gotta say, I am very, very grateful to the women who allowed their pictures to be posted and who share their stories. The lumpectomy pictures are such a relief- the breasts look normal, although not the same shape/size. The one has a scar on it. I really feel at ease- I can handle a scar and a change of shape. The first mastectomy picture I saw was not at all what I had expected. It was a picture of a beautiful 31 year old woman who found out she had breast cancer and was pregnant all in the same week. She went through a mastectomy and chemo while pregnant. In the picture, she has no clothes on, is hugely pregnant, bald, and has a large line across a flat spot where her breast used to be. She has her arm around her 3 year old daughter. The picture is oddly beautiful and their is such a sense of courage there. It puts things into perspective for me. There was a also a whole series of pictures showing what the breast reconstruction process looks like over a series of many months. Right now it looks pretty weird to me.

I had a nice chance to sit and talk about all this yesterday with some of my special people. It was the first time I got to talk about it all without being in a doctor's waiting room, stressing about some procedure. I'm not disappointed with the surgery delay. I think maybe I could use the few extra days to get my thoughts in order and a chance to feel a few more emotions. I have another weekend and I'll try really hard to relax and resist the urge to get everything in order again like I did last weekend!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Geiger Counter??

I finally felt ok enough to read over the notes that my two support people took during my 2 hour Dr. Trezona visit. I've been curious about the nuclear medicine procedure and I know the dr. talked at length about it, and all I remember is the term "sentinel node". As I was reading over the notes, I remember what happened- I was in information overload and as soon as he mentioned something about me being injected with radioactive material and him using a geiger counter to locate the node in which the radioactive stuff settled, I tuned out. I had this picture of an old Twilight Zone episode with guys in space suits holding huge geiger counters and walking through a nuclear waste land. When I tried to picture what my breasts had to do with this image, I couldn't reconcile the two so I went away somewhere. Thank God I had people taking notes. As I read through the notes, bits of what was said came back to me. The part I don't recall, but both sets of notes said, was that there is a possibility of a second surgery to remove lymph nodes, based on the results of this nuclear medicine procedure. I won't know about this second surgery for a week after the first one. I do recall that Dr. Trezona is the one who brought this procedure to this area. I believe in the past, all the lymph nodes were removed just in case they were cancerous. In this procedure, the radioactive material takes the same path that the cancer would have taken to the first node. This one node is then removed (instead of all of them). The one node is tested and a week later I get results- if it is negative for cancer, no more surgery. If it is positive, another surgery and all nodes are removed.

The other creepy thing I read is that by the time cancer like mine shows up, its already been present in the body for 5-10 years. WHAT??!! What a horrid thought.

I go in on Monday morning to get more results and hear the final plan for surgery (or so that's the plan for now)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


Nov 11, 2008

Thinking about Veterans Day today. Today I am grateful for learning in the army how to push emotions aside and get the job done, then feel the emotions later. The times when I'm in a doctor's office, or having a medical procedure, I feel the intense need to have my wits about me. There was such confusion yesterday, and I was able to persist until it was cleared up. But, after I get through these situations, the strain of holding the emotions in overtakes me. Last night was really, really awful. Kaycee had a huge blow up with my friend who was trying to help while I rested. Then I had a huge blow up, then Karina did. It actually ended ok, with all of us talking and Kaycee being able to share some hard feelings and ask some hard questions. It came out that she has been afraid that I'm going to die. I think when she sees me in pain and in bed when I'm usually up and full of energy and in control, she becomes very scared. My friend and I were able to talk to both girls more about breast cancer. I am so very, very grateful for all of the survivors we know who I can talk about to the girls. I actually don't know anyone who has died from breast cancer.

Update- Friday at 12:30 I'm going in for the MRI biopsy on the left side. My surgery has been changed to Tuesday- check in at 8:30, then nuclear medicine (I need to find my notes because all I remember about this is something to do with some die being injected into me and something to do with nodes and maybe information about whether or not the cancer has spread?), then surgery at 1:00. I'm hoping to meet with my doctor on Monday to get all the biopsy information and learn what exactly he will be doing surgery on.

Took another vicadin, so don't know how long I'll be able to type. Last night was weird- it never took the pain away and I'm not sure if I slept or not. I must have because of the weird dreams, or maybe they were hallucinations? My cancer has become a black jellyfish named Cretcher the Cancer Creature. The radiologist who did the biopsy yesterday was a scuba diver shooting a harpoon at the Creature. Very weird- it must have been the vicadin- I hope I'm not weird enough to have thought that up.

The radiologist yesterday was phenomenal. She came into the room and I could feel her calming, confident energy and an amazing warrior strength in her. She was incredibly kind and competent and smart. I ended up feeling pain again, but not the throbbing kind. She used a lot of numbing stuff, and even gave me extra so I would be ok picking up the girls. But, it began wearing off as I was driving away. I got home and it just got worse and still hurts today. I am hoping that women reading this realize that this is probably very unusual and that most people would probably not feel anything like I did. As my doctor says, even though other people may have the same thing going on, everyone experiences things uniquely and differently.

Part of what was so hard yesterday was frantically trying to find someone to be there with me to hold my hand. It happened so fast (again) that the friends I called couldn't get the time off work. I was thinking I was going to have to go in alone when I got ahold of my boyfriend (my very new boyfriend) and he said he'd come. This amazing doctor allowed him in and treated him like a part of the team (the last time I had to ask several times before the doctor allowed my friend in). When I started to feel pain and cry, he held my head in his hands and I could feel his warm, strong hands catching my tears. It was such a safe, calming feeling during such a scary time.

This same woman is going to do the MRI biopsy and I know I'm in good hands with her. She described it a little, but I still can't picture it. Somehow she will be to the side of the machine and somehow she will be looking at a picture as she shoots the needle(s) in. She tells me that its very complicated and that she has about 5 minutes to complete it from when she sees the picture. I think the spots move about a bit, I'm not sure. My boyfriend watched the ultrasound during the biopsy and he said it looked like the spots were moving around in liquid and that the needles looked like harpoons stabbing them. The needles sounded like harpoons too- they make a loud shooting sound as they go in. I read a description of it and a metal tube is inserted, then the needles are shot into the metal tube, hitting the spot and sucking out a bit of tissue, then retracting. Gross, gross, gross, gross. I can't even describe the insult and violation I feel. The worst part of it is that this is in a milk duct. I don't get how for 4 1/2 years (with a break in between) my milk ducts flowed with the most nutritious food in the world and grew my babies, and now one has been invaded. What kind of bullshit is that?

And then I go to my gratitude list. Its the only thing that saves me from spiraling downward. I went into work today and didn't feel so funny and self-conscious this time. Well, I did still feel that, but not so much. Mostly I felt reminded of what a bunch of amazing people I work with and am surrounded by in all aspects of my life.

I also took my girls into Dr. Trezona's center today. I had to get some paperwork signed, and I wanted them to see the place. The staff there was incredibly kind to both the girls and I. They gave us a tour of the place and the girls got candy. I think it will help them to have a picture of me being in a safe, kind, nurturing place. I also talked briefly to the billing manager and she mentioned that she loves working with my insurance company because they are so great. I also heard from someone at work with huge medical bills that our insurance is great. What a huge relief. I realize how fortunate I am on many, many different levels.

Ok, time to try sleep.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Roller Coaster

Nov 10

I actually hate roller coasters- I hate that feeling of going up up up slowly and knowing that there is nothing I can do to prevent the crashing fall. Roller coasters in the middle of a hurricane are the worst of all.

I decided to ignore my phone for a couple of hours this morning. I told myself it was so I could focus on trying to finish up some important reports for work, but I think really it was so that I didn't have to face anything. I did get some work done and left my phone in the car. When I went back in the car, there were three messages, one from Dr. Trezona's office, one from the imaging center, and one from my car insurance company. As I was calling the imaging center back, a call from Dr. Trezona came in at the same time. I made the mistake again of trying to drive and talk at the same time. I was on my way to one last home visit for work, but ended up having to pull over as I was talking because the emotions were getting to me again. I scraped a car last week when I was trying to park, yell at kids, and cry all at the same time. What a mess. I told myself I was not going to drive and talk on the phone anymore. Anyway, it was 10:00 and I was on my way to this visit when I was told to come in right away for another ultrasound- I was told I could come at 10:45 or 12:45. I actually said I'd be there at 10:45, thinking I could get through my visit in half an hour. Then I was told that another biopsy might follow the ultra sound. I realized that it would be sheer madness to try to get myself mentally prepared and through a home visit in that amount of time. I picked the 12:45 time, made it through the visit, and began calling friends to see if someone could go with me. The last biopsy was awful for me and I still have a bruise from it and am still having pain. This biopsy was to be on the same breast, with the idea of identifying the 2 mystery spots. If they are cancerous, they will be cut out along with the original lump. If they are not, then a smaller amount will be taken out. Great reason to do another biopsy, but my emotions weren't buying it.

I actually need to stop typing now. I'll fill in the blanks later. I had the biopsy, had more pain, and am just starting to feel the effects of something the doc gave me- vicadin I believe. I realized that I've never taken any type of pain medication other than over the counter stuff and this is catching me off guard. I am nice and relaxed and sleepy and loopy and still in pain, but I guess I don't care so much about the pain at the moment. Next step for me- spend yet another tomorrow waiting for yet another phone call for the scheduling of yet another biopsy, but on the other breast- this one promises to be one of the modern, new, lighting fast roller coasters- I'll be in the MRI tube during the procedure. I cannot even imagine how that will work.....

Sunday, November 9, 2008

The Weekend

Nov 9.2008

The weekend has been good, up until now. Had a very, very nice day yesterday. Went tree climbing with the girls and a friend and some dogs. We got soaked and cold and loved the beauty of the trees, the leaves, and the solitude- hardly anyone else there. I had whole chunks of time where I didn't think about cancer.

I had a late soccer game last night, and I had decided not to go because I've been so tired. But then I realized that this would be my last chance to play for awhile, so I went. Even though it was late, I took the girls. I wanted them to have one more image of me as athletic and strong. I wanted to have one more image of myself that way too. One reason I like Dr. Trezona so much is because he told me I not only could, but should keep playing soccer after my surgery. I had said some feel sorry for myself thing about being sad about missing out on soccer and skiing this winter. He said that it will be very important for me to get as much exercise as I can and that the good feelings I get from soccer will help me heal. I may not feel like soccer if I do chemo and/or radiation, but that won't start for a month or so after the surgery. I'm not thinking about that yet- just trying to focus on the next step of getting through the surgery. Something my mom said has stuck with me too- she tells me that I am a healthy person who happens to have cancer. I really like that perspective and I'm trying to hold on to it.

My soccer game was so great. My team is undefeated and I love playing with them. I had huge chunks of time while playing when I didn't think about cancer. I scored a goal and thought about hanging onto that feeling of nailing the ball and watching it go in whenever I get to feeling down. I got really, really tired toward the end, but I realized that the last week has been a huge drain on my energy, and it was a very late game. After the game, I had that great, post-exercise high that lasted for a few hours. Today the girls and I went to a Duck soccer game, their last one, and I had a great time. After that, we went grocery shopping and I started to get sad as I was trying to figure out how much food to get. I know its unrealistic, but I felt like getting enough supplies for a month. I had the hurricane fear again- how big and how devastating is this going to be? I'm home now and my plan for the rest of the day was to get the house in order. But, instead I'm crying in bed again and writing. I'm so afraid of tomorrow, when the doctor's offices will be open again and they might call me again with some more urgent news and some more urgent testing that needs to be done RIGHT NOW!

Maybe I will try my old technique for dealing with sorrows- give myself a certain amount of time to cry and feel sad, then get up and do something nice for myself. I've got a chocolate bar in the fridge- think I'll cry for 20 minutes or so, then eat chocolate, then maybe play some nice music and do a little bit of work.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

The Hurricane

When I lived in the south, there were always hurricanes headed my way. I would hear of one coming and get into a mad flurry of preparations, hoping to be ready before it hit. Then it would hit and all hell would break loose and I would find out if I had been adequately prepared or not. Once it was gone, there would be a period of clean up and exhaustion at the amount of work to do. Eventually, it life would be back to normal, but reminders would be there- like the tree split in half or the house with the shiny new roof.

Getting a cancer diagnosis has been a little bit like a hurricane. I felt the lump, but didn't really know at first if this would be a hurricane that would hit me full force or if it would be one that would die off at sea before hitting land. It has hit me full force and I thought at first I didn't have adequate time to prepare, but really every life experience I have had up until this point has prepared me in different ways for this hurricane.

Writing has always helped to keep my sanity in tact so I will use this blog as a way to record the facts of what is happening, and my feelings about those facts.

The Facts and the Feelings:

On the Friday before Halloween I woke up on my stomach with my breasts feeling smashed. I got in the shower and my right breast was hurting. I thought about how long it had been since I'd done a breast exam and decided to do one. I felt a lump in my right breast. Years ago a nurse taught me how to do a self-exam using a rubber breast with a hard lump in it. She explained that if I found one on myself, it might feel like a hard pea. This one felt just like the rubber breast model. I got ready for the day, dropped the girls off at school, and called my doctor for an appointment for 3:30 that afternoon. All day long I fretted and worried and finally convinced myself that because I was feeling pain, it wasn't cancer and I must have been hit in the chest during my last soccer game. I reminded myself of all the things I had done right in my life to reduce my chances- having a child before 30, nursing for 4.5 years total, eating very healthy and making a point to eat cancer fighting foods, having a yearly mamogram. I reminded myself that I had just had a mamogram last July, and my doctor had examined my breasts then and I was ok. Still, I had the nagging thought of my mom's breast cancer diagnosis 3 years ago. At the doctor's office, he felt the lump too and scheduled a diagnostic mamogram and ultrasound for the next Tuesday.

On the Tuesday, I went to the Oregon Imaging Center and had a mamogram that did not show the lump. I then had an ultrasound that did show it. I was scheduled for a biopsy on Friday, Oct 31st right at the time that I had planned to be getting the girls ready for trick or treating.

The Biopsy: The biopsy was scary. I knew that I wanted someone with me. My experience as a childbirth instructor and doula has been that people are much more calm and peaceful when a support person is with them during medical types of things. I asked my alanon sponsor to come and she did. She was able to sit right next to me and hold my hand during the procedure. When I began picturing a needle going into the heart of my breast, I thought I would pass out and roll into my sponsor's lap. When I told her how much it sucked, she suggested I do a gratitude list in my head and she reminded me how fortunate it is that I live in a country where this procedure is readily available to me, and how fortunate it is that I have the means to have it paid for. Focusing on gratitude leaves little room for panic, so that is what I focused on. It worked until the needle hit a nerve and my nipple began throbbing. I began to cry and panic a bit because I didn't want the crying to make my chest move and I was having trouble holding it in. But, the doctor was able to stop then because he had enough samples (3 were taken). Off I went for a quick cup of tea, a trip to 7-11 for tylenol, then off to trick or treat with my kids. I had told the girls very simply and briefly what was happening and explained that I would need to take it easy trick or treating. The results were expected to come in sometime the next week, around Wed or Thur.

On Monday I took Kaycee to vision therapy and endured a huge melt-down in the car afterwards. I picked up Karina from her after school program, then got back to the car and saw a message on my phone from my doctor's office. The message said my results were in and I should come in that day. It was 4:30 and when I called back, they told me to be there by 5:15. I took the girls back to Creative Care and briefly explained that I was getting results back from the biopsy. Karina asked me if I had cancer as we were walking back in the door of the school. I tried to remain calm and reassuring on the outside.

On the drive there, I called my sponsor to talk, and she ended up driving to the doctor's office to meet me. I was so very, very grateful to not have to walk in there alone. All the movies, tv shows, and country songs I knew off that showed people getting their scary test results came back to me. In the doctor's office, I was told that I had breast cancer. My doctor kept talking, but I was in a spinning free fall up and out of my body. I looked down at myself and saw myself hunched over and crying and I looked lonely so I got back into my body and heard the rest of what the doctor was saying. I don't remember much, but I do remember him telling me that I wouldn't hear much of what he was saying, but that my sponsor would remember. The one thing I do remember is him telling me that right now my fear was huge and my information about the cancer was small. He said that as my amount of information increased, my fear would decrease. He said that my next step was to have a lumpectomy and he made a recommendation of a surgeon and said his office would schedule it. We left his office and had about 10 minutes to talk before I needed to get the girls.

On the drive to get the girls, I tried really hard to stuff the fear and feelings away, but wasn't really able to stop crying. When they saw my face, Karina was scared and asked if I had cancer. I hurried them out of there and she kept pestering me. I asked God to help me out, and on the way to the car I told them something- I don't recall what. I do remember emphasizing that it was something that I would have to have a doctor help me with, but that it would be ok. I know we went home and I fed them dinner and I don't remember anything about the rest of the night. I'm sure I called a few people, but I don't remember much.

My doctor made an appointment with me to see a surgeon on Thursday. On Tuesday I stayed home and stayed in bed most of the day. A friend took the day off of work and brought me food and kept me company. I called the VA clinic to see what my options were with VA support, and I got an appointment with my doctor there within two hours of my call. He spent about an hour with me, going over the results and talking about my options. I learned that I could receive all of my care for free at the Portland VA hospital.

On Wednesday, I called my patient navigator. This is a woman I met at the biopsy whose job it is to support and help people diagnosed with breast cancer. She is a survivor herself and is a resource person and has a nice, calming spirit. She met with me an hour after I called and shared some booklets with me and let me know that I had some choices to make about my treatment. She also gave me a bit of support in how to support my girls. She let me know that I could either go with my doctor's recommendation of the general surgeon, or I could pick my own person. She gave me a few names of doctor's that she thought I might like. Dr. Trezona was the one that sounded the best- he would do the surgery and as a cancer doctor would provide follow-up treatment. I called his office that afternoon and his soonest appointment was a week away. I pleaded a little with the receptionist, and she went to talk to him personally, then got back on the phone and told me I could come in the next morning at 9:00. I called my insurance company and they said they would pay for as many consultations as I wanted, so I decided to see both Dr. Trezona and the general surgeon. I also decided I would see a doctor at the Portland VA and then decide who to go with.

Thursday morning I went to Dr. Trezona and brought both my sponsor and my best friend (who is a nurse and who has worked with this doctor and knows him a bit). My support people took notes while he talked. I expected to be in there for about half an hour since he had squeezed me in. Instead, he talked to me for two hours. He very, very thoroughly explained my test results and my options. It turns out that not all of the testing from the biopsy was complete, so there were (and still are) unanswered questions about the aggressiveness and type of cancer I have. He explained that he recommended a lumpectomy, but he wanted me to have an MRI first so that he could see if there was more cancer than just the one lump, and if there was cancer in the other breast. He said that there is only one MRI machine that could do this in Eugene and that it would take a while for me to get an appointment and that would delay surgery a bit. After my two hours with him (and I think 20 pages of notes between my two support people), I waited while the receptionist called to make my MRI appointment. She told me that they could get me in in 15 minutes and that she would schedule my surgery for the next Thursday (Nov 13). In a daze, I rushed off to the MRI place. On the drive over, I called and canceled my afternoon appointment with the general surgeon and I called the VA to say I didn't want to go to Portland. I had decided to go with Dr. Trezona. I am relying on my spiritual intuition to guide my decisions and I had a very clear, very strong sense that I was in the right place with Dr. Trezona. Check out his website (and all the cool stuff his wife offers) and you will see why:

I found myself in scrubs in a waiting room, with my friend by my side. My sponsor came for a bit, then had to go. I was so grateful for my friend, who explained to me what would happen in the MRI. I found myself in a long white tube on my stomach trying not to move a muscle. I forgot how to breathe normally and kept alternating between shallow breaths and deep breaths. The helpful technician spoke to me through headphones and told me to breathe normally. I then discovered that its actually impossible to breathe normally on command when I'm in the middle of about to be freaking out. All I had to fall back on was my relaxation techniques from childbirth. My favorite one was imagining warm water slowly cascading over my head, down my neck and shoulders, all the way to my feet. After about 15 minutes, I was able to completely relax, in spite of the very loud sounds the machine was making- they reminded me of a construction site and I had to fight to keep images of heavy machinery mixing with my breasts out of my mind. When I opened my eyes, I could see into a mirror that reflected the view from the window, which was of tall trees with beautiful fall leaves on them. I tried the gratitude list again and I pictured each person in my life who is important to me on an individual leaf. As I looked at each leaf, I thought about each person in my life and their special qualities. I was amazed to discover that I know many, many amazing people (yes, each one of you who has access to this blog had your own leaf!) When the wind picked up, the leaves would dance about frantically, but the trunk of the tree was still. I imagined that I would be leaving my own leaf for a time and hanging out on the trunk. I imagined my special people moving about, taking care of me, and me resting on the trunk. I imagined a period of rest for myself for the winter, then in the spring I imagined myself on a beautiful, strong, green leaf. You know, I say I imagined all of this. That isn't exactly right- it was more like these images came to me and I just watched them. By the time the MRI was finished 40 minutes later, I was in a state of deep relaxation and my breathing was very deep and even. I got up from the MRI and felt like I was drugged- the same feeling I got once after a 10 mile road race. I am not a person who has ever been able to meditate before, but I imagine this might be what meditation is like.

Part of what has been so hard for me throughout all this is the extremes of emotion- intense peace and calm followed by intense fear and sorrow. It is exhausting.

I was expecting MRI results in a few days, but Dr. Trezona called a few hours later, just as I was driving to pick up the girls. I asked if I should pull over while we talked and he said yes and I about puked my stomach was so lurchy and nervous. The MRI showed more "highly suspicious areas" in both breasts- two next to the original lump, and two in the other breast. He said I needed another ultra-sound to pin-point these and that he would be taking out a bigger chunk during the lumpectomy and would need to do a biopsy on the left breast. He said that if the areas on the left breast didn't show up on the ultrasound, then I would need another MRI at which time a needle would be inserted to mark the spots. I got off the phone and off I went to pick up the girls. I couldn't pull myself together and asked a friend to bring us dinner and be with the girls for the evening. I went to bed and cried and cried.

The next day (which was yesterday- Nov 7th) I had a pre-surgery appointment in the morning that lasted 2 hours. I met with several different people, then had a chest xray. I took a break for lunch and attempted to go into work for a bit. That didn't work out so well as I couldn't stop crying and couldn't really concentrate.. I then went in for the ultra-sound. The areas on the right breast showed up, but not on the left.

I see Dr. Trezona again on Tuesday to talk about the revised plan for surgery and to hear about the rest of my results from the original biopsy. I don't know when or how this other MRI will happen.

It's Saturday now and I'm so relieved that I won't be getting any phone calls from any doctors until at least Monday. I am trying to rest and be peaceful this weekend. I am also going to try to get my house and my girls in order in preparation for the surgery.

I have gotten emails and phone calls of support and that has been so nice. I'm struggling quite a bit with wanting to isolate and knowing that I need to reach out to people. I feel so grateful that so many people are arranging for my basic needs to be met- food, care for the girls, and company for myself.

All the doctor's phone calls have left me a bit scared to answer my phone. The exhaustion of talking about it and the pull to isolate have prevented me from returning all my calls. I hope people will be patient with me and know that I will call back when I can.

That's all for now. The girls and I are going to Mt. Pisgah to climb trees.