It is more important to know where you are going, than how long it takes to get there.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Either, Or...

Either I am a bit of a wimp, or having a mastectomy with a tram flap reconstruction really sucks. Maybe a bit of both.

Here's a quick run down of my the last two weeks.

Surgery on the 18th took 7 1/2 hours. I was supposed to take only 5 hours, but they found a little more cancer than they were looking for. It looks like they got all the cancer. The biggest tumor was 5.5cm! Plus there was a 3.1 cm, and a few small satellites.

Lymph nodes - yes some cancer. However, it was only in the sentinel node - the main one - and had not spread to the others. They removed 4 lymph nodes. Because I was afraid of lymphedema - this nasty thing where your arm and pits swells up, I am keeping my left arm glued to me as if it were in a broken-arm sling. If you put a pen in my hand, you would swear I look just like Robert Dole.

Little or no pain except one nasty night in the hospital. My thumb was glued to the magic morphine button. Nausea was a constant problem.

Three distinctly different roommates; two of which were annoying.

Four nights in the hospital. They wanted to kick me out after three, but I made them let me stay another night because my pain and nausea flared up. They changed my narcotic from percocet to dilaudid, with the addition of compazine.

Because of poor directions by the hospital regarding pain management , I over-medicated myself at home on dilaudid. I felt totally out of it - cried too much, slept too much, didn't want to read or even look at a magazine, and no interest in writing (obviously). Nothing. I felt great one minute, and slammed into the wall the next. I had to put myself through detox.

Drain tubes are gross, and you don't get use to them. I have four! Clothes became an issue because of the drains. Poor Chubba, he doesn't have a clean button front shirt left in the closet. Any big short or sweats with pockets (for drains) were pretty much taken over by me too. When I got dressed at the hospital to come home I said, "Look I have balls." I know, sick, but it made Riley and Molly laugh. When Molly and I were snuggling at home the first night, and she leaned against the drains on my side, she said, "Mom your drains do make you feel like you have 'man privates'." Don't get the wrong idea. She was just reinterating what I said earlier in the day at the hospital, but with more tact. Out of the mouths of babes...

I left a lot of detail out, but will fill in later. (The roommates were too much!)

Today is the first day that I started to feel like myself again, as long as I don't look in the mirror.

The biggest bummer was I missed Riley and My Mom's Birthdays - May 20. However, I did have the nurse write "Happy Birthday Riley" and "Happy Birthday Mor Mor" on my whiteboard.

Tomorrow I go in for my first follow-up appointment. I am hoping the drains come out.

No whacky thought for the day...
Thought for the day...
1 in 8 women have will get breast cancer. So, if I ever even started to feel sorry for myself, I kicked myself in the ass because millions of women are going through this right now with me, and many millions of women bravely paved the way before me.

Happy Memorial Day. Let's not forget those men and women who serve on our behalf. God Bless Them.

Monday, May 17, 2010

10, 9, 8, 7, 6, ...

Countdown to take-off, T minus 10 hours.

Today the girls, my mom and I visited Mass General Hospital. I know, with all the istorical sites to see in Boston, we visited Mass General. After my shot, we checked out The Healing Garden on the 8th floor. It is very zen-like... calming and beautiful. The designer was masterful with the plant selection. Trees, grass, scultpures, a large square floor fountain, and private seating areas cover 6300 square feet. The entry is a floor to ceiling glassed atrium with big, large-leafed plants and sitting areas. I think that Chubba and the girls will probably visit it a couple of times during my stay.

The nuclear shot took about five minutes. When I was nuked previously, I was told that I was highly radioactive and shouldn't have small children sit on my lap. So I asked the nurse if this was the case with this injection, and she said no because the previous shot was 200 times stronger than this shot. However, she did give me a card to carry in my purse that states that I have been injected with radioactive material. (Why was I not given this card with my two other nuclear shots?) She said that I need to carry the card for three days because if I go to an airport, a city dump, or the White House, I might set off the radioactive detectors. The city dump? What? I guess no household nuclear waste at the local dump. I must say, though, Michelle was very disappointed when I had to cancel our dinner tonight.

Bubble Wrap sent me an e-mail today, saying that she is going to wear pink tomorrow in honor of me. So to everyone reading this...think pink!

Off to sleep to get ready for slicing and dicing. I'm sure there won't be much sleep tonight...back to the flipping and flopping like a freshly caught fish.

The Tasmanian Devil...

I think the Tasmanian Devil from Bugs Bunny is a female. And, she is either about to give birth or is about to have surgery for breast cancer.

Last week I felt like the only time I sat down was when I passed out. I made a list longer than Santa's. I completed most of the list, even though some days I felt like someone pulled the plug on my energy.
build a fence -check
weed garden- check
clean house-check
surprise extreme makeover Riley's room while at school-check (Thanks to Mary's help)
two trips to mall and Target for some power shopping-check
organize stuff for Riley & Mom's birthday-check
get broken storm window fixed-check
get someone to build shelves-check (Thank you Bob the Builder! (Mary's husband))
break dryer-check
find someone to fix dryer-check (with Chubba's help)
clean house some more-check
re-pink my hair-check
get nails done-check
edge and weed whack yard-check
fill house with groceries-check
have parish priest over for dinner-check
receive Sacrament, Anointing of the Sick-check
other stuff-check

On Saturday night I picked up Molly from a slumber party at 9:30p.m. (She has a hard time sleeping overnight.) When I got home at 9:50, there was a strange car in my driveway. When I went inside, Riley and four of her friends presented me with a gift - a large fleece blanket they made during the day! It is solid pink on one side, and has patterns of breast cancer ribbons, the words "mothers and daughters" and other graphics on the other side. It is so very special! I thought Riley was at a birthday lunch for D.K. and the beach with her friends on Saturday, but she was actually at someone's house tying this beautiful blanket. I learned later that the girls gave up a pool party to make this for me. This is proof that high school girls can be wonderful, thoughtful, and selfless. A giant, loving thank you to B.J., D.K., E.M., K.M., Roo, Wild Kingdom, and Colorado Mama!

Today Riley, Molly and my mom are going with me to Boston while I get a shot of nuclear medicine to make my armpits (lymph nodes) glow. I think this is a good opportunity for the girls to see the hospital, visit the cancer resource room, and check out the Healing Garden. Their last experience scared them, and they only sat in the car while was picked up after day surgery! I am hoping that his trip will ease a little of their anxieties about the surgery. Maybe it will ease some of my anxiety too.

Last week a Mass General nurse called for a pre-admission interview. She told me that I will be probably be in the hospital for 5 days. Ugh! She said that I will have a button to push to self administer the morphine for pain. I think I will just bring some duct tape and tape the button down for a constant drip. I don't do pain well. She also explained that after the surgery I will be laying in a jackknife position. Lovely. (Whenever I hear the word jackknife, I think of a big rig clogging up the freeway.) On Friday, when I told one of Molly's teacher's that I will be in a jackknife position, she said, "Oh, you mean like a martini glass." Maybe we should check her water bottle for floating olives.

I hate to admit this publicly, but I am more nervous than a hen in a wolf den. This whole reconstruction thing is causing the majority of the anxiety, and it is the reason for the jackknife position. If I just did the implant then it would be fewer days and easier recovery. But, then I would have a foreign object in me rather than my own body parts. I know it is better for me in the long run, but yikes, it's freaking me out. (I am way beyond this tummy tuck deal - I know I could get a flat stomach back on my own. Did it once before.)

Last night Fr. Jack came for dinner. Last week he asked me if I would like to receive the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick. When I told the girls about receiving the sacrament, Molly got a little freaked out because she learned the Seven Sacraments, and thought that Anointing of the Sick was when people are dying. I explained to her that it changed years ago. Chubba arranged for him to come to dinner. After some laughs, lots of sarcasm, good conversation, dinner, and an apple pie -that was excellent if I do say so myself, Fr. Jack gave me the Sacrament. Molly was in the bath during this, which I think was a good thing because for some reason Riley appeared a little uneasy. It was beautiful and I feel blessed to have received the sacrament from such a wonderful priest as Fr. Jack. Now the only sacrament left for me is Holy Orders; but I think I will skip that one...I don't see a future as a nun.

I only have one more day to play the sympathetic cancer card. I use it liberally in an attempt to get what I want out of my family, but it doesn't work anymore. (The other day Fr. Jack trumped my cancer card with his liver transplant card. Darn!) Yesterday, after I said to my family, "I only have two more days to use the cancer card," Riley responded with, "Yeah, but then you will use the chemotherapy card." I hate being predictable!

In 24 hours and 38 minutes I will be in surgery. It is schedule for 8:00 a.m. I feel like throwing-up.

Whacky thought for the day...
There are only two people who need to be connected with cell phones 24/7 - a person waiting for an organ transplant, and the surgeon performing the operation.

Happy Birthday Timothy!

Belated Happy Birthday to KiKi and Katie Shea!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

More Forms To Complete...

Every time I see a new doctor, go for another test, or have another procedure like a biopsy, I am given a mountain of forms to sign. The insurance forms, privacy act form, and the list of medications forms are the most common. The medications form is easy because I typed up a list: name, dosage, and how often, down to the most benign medicine - Tylenol, and attach the list to the form. The privacy act form is a piece of paper stating that I was given the privacy act policies, read and understood them. Does anyone ever really read this privacy act stuff? I just sign it and move on to the next form. Insurance usually consists of two forms; one saying that I have insurance, and the other stating that it is okay for the office to bill the insurance. I always use my own pen because I have become a germaphobe over the years. Just think, everyone at the doctor's office is there because they are sick. Do I really want to use a pen that some sneezed-in hands used? Pediatrician's offices must be the most germ-ridden places on the earth. I do not understand what there are toys in the pediatrician's office, especially that ever present bead maze. (Because of our moves, we have visited about 6 different pediatrician's offices, and every single one had that gross bead maze.) I have observed every runny-nosed, sneezy, feverish-looking, coughy sick child play with that maze. What are they thinking? Is this just a ploy to insure repeat customers? I always brought my own toys to the office, but for some reason, that darn bead maze was a magnet, pulling them in as I was pulling them away. Wow, did I ever digress.

This week I picked up my new mastectomy bras at Nordstrom. Before I paid for them, I had to sign two insurance forms. Yes, I am standing at the Nordstrom lingerie counter filling out a couple of insurance forms...who would have ever thought? The very nice saleswoman asked me if I wanted to go into a fitting room to complete them, but I declined - it was only a couple of signatures and address. Plus, if it makes one woman think about breast cancer and her need for a mammogram/MRI, then give me the big pen! (Isn't it strange that my insurance pays for these bras, but I'm struggling with Blue Cross to pay for asthma medicine that doesn't make the girls' heart race and make then feel like they are jumping out of their skin?)

The bras are made out of the softest cotton imaginable. The fabric is infused with vitamin E and Aloe that lasts for up to 35 washings. (I am curious if they make garments for burn victims or people with severe skin conditions out of this fabric.) It is the softest cotton I ever felt, and I worked in the apparel business for 26 years. The bra has four hooks in the center front, and the shoulders have a hooking system so that they can be removed that way too. The range of motion is compromised after surgery, especially for a double mastectomy. It takes a while to be able to lift your arms up past parallel, past your shoulders or over your head. I wonder if these bras will be like maternity pants, after you no longer need it, you kind of miss it - the comfort!

Last night I was asleep by 10:30p.m.! This is like 5:30p.m. for normal people. I rarely fall asleep on the same day I awake. As a result, I woke up at 4:15a.m. I went scrounging around in Riley's room in the dark, looking for her computer, and I awoke & scared her. She was back asleep before I made it out her door...remember those days...

Whacky thought for the day...
Why do I have the best hair day on the day before a haircut appointment?


Friday, May 7, 2010

Liftoff Stays On Schedule...

Dr. T. Best called yesterday to inform me that the biopsy from April 26th came back negative. There is no cancer in the right breast, but some other lobular stuff is floating around in there. This other stuff is normal tissue. I asked her if this normal tissue can turn into cancer, and she said no. She also said that any chance of getting cancer in the right side will be cut in half by the Tamoxifen, a pill version of chemotherapy that I will take for five years. The Tamoxifen is taken in addition to IV chemotherapy and radiation.

With no extra cancer, the surgery remains scheduled for May 18th. I will go to the hospital on the 17th to get injected with some nuclear dye. Yep, nuked again. The dye lights up my lymph nodes so that the doctors can see them more easily during surgery. Nothing better than glowing armpits. (Why is Debbie Boone's "You Light Up My Life" going in my head right now?) This process of injecting the dye will take about 5 minutes, and then I go home. On the 18th, I check in at 6:00 am, with surgery scheduled for 8:00. No, I am not taking the train this time. Chubba gets to drive me and sit for hours and hours. Maybe the nurses will give him a floor show too. Heck, if he's not a deer in headlights, he'd probably join them.

I lost track of the countdown...I think 11 days.

On Thursday night, Molly, little miss keep-it-all-inside, confided in me that she is scared because she said that I am "sick with pneumonia and asthma and cancer." Through her silent tears I was able to convince her that the three medicines will cure me of the pneumonia and asthma; and after the surgery I won't have any more cancer in my body. At least I think I convinced her. I must be scary to only have the understanding of a 9 year old.

Whacky thought for the day...
What is the difference between worrying and stressing?
Bridget and I were trying to figure this out. We came up with the idea that worrying is in your head, and stressing involves the whole body.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Yep, One More...

It's 3:50a.m. and not even the Zithromycin, Prednisone and Codine cough medicine can help me with my nocturnal tendencies. Goodness gracious, I have pneumonia! Yep, one more health issue. I know what you're thinking, "Who says "goodness gracious" anymore?" Isn't that a great retro expression? I have 13 days until surgery, but who's counting, and I need to knock this stuff out of my lungs. I chose the most aggressive course of treatment offered to me.

My mom is coming on May 15 to take care of her little girl and her little girl's little girls! (With the assistance of Chubba, of course.) She will be here for three weeks. Yep, one more Californian descending on New England. However, she's a native Alaskan, but, she never saw Russia from her front door in Ketchican. She's been going rogue for seventy years, long before it was fashionable, and without the use of insipid quips. (No offense, SP fans.) I am blessed that my mom is able to come here and bestow her magical motherly love and care.

Whacky thought of the day...
When you don't feel well, why do saltine crackers and 7-Up taste better when your mom gives them to you than when you get them yourself?

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Sometimes We Need To Lie...

Last night, a rare event took place, Molly and I sat on the couch and watched the evening news. I generally do not let Molly watch the news because of all the awful stories about rape, murder and the U.S.Congress. Normally, I watch the news from a distance, catching about 30% of what is said, while making dinner and helping with homework - regular chaos. However, for some cosmic reason we found time to sit down and watch the ABC evening news. The last story was about the death of actress Lynn Redgrave. She died of breast cancer! Eeks! Molly got an "oh my God" look on her face. I explained that she did not have the same breast cancer as me. (I really don't know what type she had, so I lied.) Molly replied, in a self-convincing manner, "But, she didn't die from breast cancer." I agreed, (again lying.)

Honestly, I had an "oh my God" moment myself. I thank God every day that the cancer is isolated in the breast and not spread to my organs.

Whacky thought for the day...
To whom is it okay to tell "white lies?"
When is the last time you told one?

Monday, May 3, 2010

The Countdown Begins...

Countdowns can be very exciting: countdown until your birthday, countdown until Christmas, countdown until the last day of school, and countdown until liftoff. But, there are also countdowns with dreaded anticipation: countdown until finals or countdown until the first day of school. I think surgery falls in the latter group.

I feel that I need to do a million things to do before the surgery. I have that nesting-type of feeling that women get before having a baby. You know, that silly feeling of thinking the house needs to be perfectly clean, including stove, oven, closets, drawers, etc. (Like the baby would even know if the house is clean.) Why do I think that I need to run all the errands that I repeatedly put off until another day? You know, the annoying little trip to home depot to return the bbq grate that is too small, or finding a place to repair the cracked storm window. (Californians, a storm window is an extra window on the outside to help keep the frigid cold out and expensive heat in!) Talking about windows, they should be washed too.

Fortunately, this feeling of needing perfection, and getting everything done in a short amount of time, dissipates before I act on advantage of getting older. When I was younger, I would have tried to conquer it all, and more.

There are fifteen days until surgery. But who's counting?

Whacky thought for the day...
If you want to make someone smile, color your hair pink!
Over the last few days, several strangers have looked at me and smiled. I smile back. A few minutes later I realized that they were smiling because of my hair.
Whatever it takes!

Happy Birthday Chubba!