Archive | September, 2010

Re-post of a favorite post . . .

19 Sep

One of the benefits of blogging I did not expect was that it would put distance between me and the cancer. It is still in the room . . . reconstructive surgeries and scans ahead of me . . . make it hard to not think about it.  But, looking back, reading old posts, for me really reminds me of how far I have come and how so many have helped me to where I am today. So, thank you all, my family and my friends . . . for rallying behind me, around me, praying for me, cooking for me, driving me to and from and just being there, here, for me.

Here is the re-post of an old post (originally from February 14, 2010 – one year after my ride began):

Last year, on Friday the 13th no less, I received a phone call, instead of a letter, from my doctor’s office about my last mammogram results. When I had the mammogram, my doctor told me that I would either get a letter in a couple of weeks or, if anything showed up, then they would call me. He conducted a physical exam first, told me he didn’t feel anything abnormal in either of my breasts (and neither did I, by the way) and that most likely I would hear in a couple of weeks by mail – meaning nothing to worry about.

Instead, I got a phone call late in the day on Friday, February 13th. I was feverishly grading exams that had to be returned to my students by our final class to be held that Sunday. So, since I didn’t recognize the number, I let it go to voice mail and kept grading.

I checked my voice mail the next day, it was a vague message (naturally), but, I had a pretty good idea of what it meant. The doctor’s assistant actually gave me her cell phone to call her back. So, the next day, on Valentine’s day, I called her. We played phone tag until she finally reached me back (I was on the phone with my brother Steve at the time, telling him that I didn’t get the letter, that instead I got a phone call and that I was worried and so on and then she called). I spoke with her and she told me that the mammogram showed a mass and that I had to have a biopsy.

As much as I hoped that it would be one of those things that turned out benign, I knew that it wouldn’t. I just felt it, I can’t explain it really. I just knew it.

So, I went back to work, finished grading my exams, taught the last class of the course the next day and then on Monday scheduled my biopsy.  They wanted me to do it as soon as possible and so to speed things up, I was told I could pick up the mammogram films and deliver them to the facility where I would have the biopsy.

I of course did this. I remember walking down a long, cold corridor, looking for the room to pick up my films. I remember signing for them. I remember the woman at the counter sealing up the oversize envelope that contained the pictures of my breasts and telling me I was not supposed to look inside, that the information was for the doctor.

I remember walking back through that cold corridor and feeling the weight of the films growing heavier and heavier in my hand, and, as I left the building and walked through the parking lot to my car . . . heavier and heavier still.

I of course opened up the envelope as soon as I got back to my car. I didn’t look at the films, I didn’t want to touch them, as if in doing so, somehow it might spread. I know that sounds weird, but really, I was terrified to even touch or look at the films. But, I did look at the one white piece of paper and I read the typed letters: ” . . . biopsy ordered to confirm malignancy . . . “

I put the paper back in the envelope, sealed it up and drove it to the facility where I would come back a few days later for a biopsy.

I never shared those words with anyone then. Why should I have? What for? No doctor was going to tell me that it couldn’t be benign. No radiologist, no person, no one was going to take away the hope that I would carry for the next weeks that the biopsy would show that the mass was just a benign cyst. And so I went about my business, albeit in a little bit of a fog, but truly hoping for some miracle. For some OTHER explanation than cancer for why I had been so tired the past many months, nearly a year now – for why I just didn’t seem to rebound the way I used to after a long day or week of work.

I promised myself, whatever the outcome, that next year’s Valentine’s Day would be a better one. And I know it will be. I did not get the news that I wanted last year. But, I have learned a lot about life in the past 12 months. I have learned a lot about myself, about regrets, about not having regrets in the future, and about how to live. I have learned how wonderful and beautiful people can be, how near strangers can become some of your most steadfast supporters and cheerleaders and I have gained so much strength from all of you, my family and friends and . . . I am here.

I watched a movie a couple of days ago called “Crazy, Sexy Cancer” (got it from the library). It was supposed to be an upbeat film/documentary about a woman who was diagnosed with cancer. It was, I enjoyed it. But, here is how it started: “Happy Valentine’s Day, you have cancer.” Apparently that was the day that the woman, whom the documentary was about, found out she had cancer.

My Mom and I were watching it together and I turned to her and said THAT was the day, last year, last Valentine’s Day, when I knew I had cancer. Bizarre. Anyway, it’s been a year now. And, assuming all is going well, I am nearly done with treatment (at least all of the IV type of treatment). There are still some medications to take or at least one to take – but, that is to be worked out still. I will have a bunch of tests in May to see where I am at and will have tests forever I guess (since I plan on being around a very long time).

Well, another ramble during another sleepless night – but the night isn’t quite over yet, so maybe I will go get some sleep now :)

Please continue to keep me in your prayers and send positive thoughts my way, I still very much need it. And, Happy Valentine’s Day.

Much love,

L.

Feeling better . . .

18 Sep
The baseball diamond of the San Diego Padres' ...

One of my favorite baseball stadiums - Petco Park

What a great day. Last night I didn’t sleep much at all, was up again until about 4 am (5 am the night before). So, I am pretty tired. But, I had such a nice day.

I followed instructions and stayed still for most of the day. And, my friend Andrea took me to a hair stylist. It was very nice. I really like the color and it feels so much more like me . . . getting rid of some of my hair was a really good thing. Sections of my hair were still really coarse from the post-chemotherapy growth. It came in coarse. Now that is all gone and it really feels like my old hair . . . just a lot shorter. The stylist spent a lot of time with me. And, Andrea, she gave up half of her day (on her own birthday weekend no less) to make me feel good. Pretty darn nice. I will post pictures soon of the new hair do. I am looking so tired right now . . . so I am waiting until I have had some rest before I take a picture and post it.

So, other than the hair styling/coloring outing I have been in bed resting, watching DVDs and yes, I even got in a nap today!  Unheard of for me – I seem to be completely unable to sleep during the day – despite the fact that I haven’t slept the night before. But, today I was able to get in a little bit of sleep.

I am not very good at the whole laying in bed thing . . . especially when there are things to do . . . and there are always things to do. But, when my doc/surgeon told me that I needed to . . . well, I am not completely stupid (even if it was my stupidity in the first place that may have caused the problem . . . running last Tuesday). My doctor was so nice about it, I told her what I did and she said, “No, don’t worry about it, I am a runner and I understand, you just want to do it . . . but, let’s agree no more until after surgery . . . ”

Agreed.

My surgeon called it the “running incident”.  Of course, let’s give credit where credit is due: I wouldn’t have had a “running incident” if I had not first had the “over-expansion-of-my-radiated-skin-incident”. My prior surgeon over expanded me to the point that my skin became torn. This caused all of the trouble in the first place . . . but, it was a true blessing in disguise as it paved the way for me to get into Cedars Sinai with Dr. Sherman (who is AMAZING).

Anyway, I am happy to report that the rest and, I think the antibiotics my doc put me on, are doing the trick. There is less swelling under my arm and no more heat (the skin over my “boob-like” structure – the skin over the expander – was pretty warm the past couple of days, possible sign of infection).

Tomorrow I am going to walk to the end of my block to see my friend’s boy play in his first year of little league (there is a baseball diamond at the end of my street, actually there are two on my street). I love baseball. And, a very good friend of mine is coming by to visit me in the afternoon. But, it is already decided . . . feet up, resting, DVDs . . . rest, rest, rest.

Next week is pretty crazy. Monday, I have to make my way up to Cedars Sinai (haven’t quite figured that out yet as I am not driving right now). Tuesday I see my radiation oncologist, Wednesday it is pre-op testing (EKG etc.). Thursday back up to Cedars Sinai to see Dr. Sherman for my pre-op and Friday down to San Diego to see a client. It is a busy week before surgery to be sure. Monday the 27th is coming up on me fast!

So relieved to be feeling a bit better.

I will continue to rest as it seems to be helping a lot.

Love and peace,

Lisa

Hair do . . .

18 Sep

Today my friend Andrea is taking me to a hair salon to get my hair colored and perhaps cut (cut just a little bit, as I am trying to grow my hair back). It was her idea and it is her gift to me. What an incredibly nice thing to do. I really can not afford to go to a hair stylist right now. I am really grateful (thank you Andrea) 🙂

I will keep you posted (perhaps a before and after photo . . . well, at least an after photo). The before, this morning, is really not pretty . . . I have had no sleep and since I am pretty limited physically today, I don’t think that I will be doing much of anything to my hair . . . I will leave all of that to the stylist Andrea is taking me to.

My appointment is for the middle of the day today, so I will try to post something later this afternoon.

Oh, any thoughts on color??? I was thinking of blonde or a golden brown??? No red, as I just did that.

Today should be fun 🙂

Love and peace,

Lisa

Pinktober – Breast Cancer Awareness Month . . .

18 Sep
In Finland the October the 3th is the day of s...

Maybe I should wear this to the Race for the Cure 😉

Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Pink

It is nearly Pinktober. October is breast cancer awareness month. I will be recuperating from surgery during the month of October, so I will have less exposure to pink 🙂 You start to resent the color pink after a while . . . especially since it is virtually everywhere. Pink. How did that become the color of breast cancer? Pink flesh? Pink disease? Pink, pink, pink, pink, pink.

Well, I did wear a pink t-shirt to many chemo and Herceptin rounds. But, I wore that shirt because it had, in very bold, large, black letters the word “FIERCE”. I loved that shirt. It is faded now, having been through the wash many times and worn many times . . . to chemo, to the gym and sometimes to bed. It was as if wearing that word across my chest (and for a good part of the year . . . across no chest) could influence the battle beneath. Fierce. I could make myself fierce even if I did not feel that way, I could make my cells within my body wage the war I needed waged and conquer the cancer.

So, I wore that shirt in spite of it being pink. I will be at the race for the cure next Sunday. (I say “at” now because of recent complications that make it pretty difficult to get around – my right side is pretty messed up – I will explain infra).

There will be lots and lots of pink there. I am going with a group of girlfriends who are all going to be wearing pink. I kind of want to wear chartreuse green to the event. Seriously, from head to toe . . . chartreuse. Why not? I would get some funny stares. It is funny, women with breast cancer either love it or hate it (at least that is what I see from my view) . . . love or hate pink, that is.

So about my not being able to walk in the Race for the Cure . . . today I was told to be still for the rest of the weekend. I mentioned that I have been having some pain on my right side. I thought that maybe it was lymphedema. But, now after speaking with a nurse who specializes in lymphedema and then a surgeon up at Cedars Sinai, it seems clear that the pain is probably not from lymphedema. So, that is a good thing as I really want to get through this cancer nonsense without having to contend with lymphedema . . . at least if it is possible for me to do so.

It appears instead that the pain I am experiencing is likely due to my pectoral muscle tearing. The expander is placed underneath the pectoral muscle (ultimately an implant will replace the expander . . . in addition, I will have muscle and skin brought to the area as well). The surgeon explained to me how a tear can happen and that it would cause me to have pain using my arm since the pectoral muscle is connected to the shoulder . . . any movement of my arm then causes that torn area to hurt. Anyway, she wants to see me on Monday. My surgeon is out of town (I am scheduled to see him for my pre-op appointment on Thursday of next week). However, his associate does not want me to wait that long. She gave me instructions to be still for the rest of the weekend to see if I can get through the next couple of days until I can get into see her on Monday. She put me on an antibiotic as a precaution (said there is too much at stake to take any chances right now). I appreciate her attitude and concern. It is a little disturbing. I had no idea what was going on . . . I should have called her a few days ago, but, I just thought it would get better and instead, it got worse.

She wants me to call her if the pain increases over the weekend and if it does she will have me come into see her . . . presumably to take out more fluid from the expander so as to alleviate the pressure there. But, I am not sure really. And, there is also the possibility that they will see me on Monday and decide surgery needs to happen earlier. God, I hope not. But, that is not really something I am going to worry about. I just really, really want Dr. Sherman to do the surgery. So I need to hang in there until he returns. So, no moving around this weekend at all. Of course my plans of doing laundry this weekend are completely out of the question. Oh well.

Keep me in your prayers, I greatly appreciate it. I think things will be fine. I am glad to know that this is not likely a lymphedema issue. Although, hopefully the muscle tear is not something that will be a problem. I think it will be fine. Mostly, I think she is worried about preventing an infection. I am very glad that she is so pro-active and concerned. And, she took a lot of time with me on the phone. She asked a lot of questions and then seemed to be able to discern what was going on, explaining it in a lot of detail. I liked that very much. It is such a relief to have a great surgical team. I am so happy about the switch to Cedars Sinai.

Love and peace,

Lisa

Pity party coming to an end :)

17 Sep

Regarding my previous post: Yeah, well, I thought I might regret blogging after four am . . . ugh. Delete, delete, delete . . . 🙂

This week has been rough I guess. I don’t do well with the whole pain and physical limitations thing. I am definitely not good at that at all. Add no sleep on top of that and it is prescription for a very bad mood, and, apparently, feeling sorry for myself. Let the pity party begin, I guess 🙂

No. I am here, I am not dead and I AM getting my life back. It is funny though, how sometimes I am simply overtaken with a sense of mourning over this whole thing. Most days are not like that at all. Maybe it is the headaches I have been having the past couple of weeks straight. Headaches are scary. Prolonged headaches mean scans and scans mean waiting for someone to tell you everything is okay . . . or, God forbid, everything is not okay.

So, once I get a headache it is very easy to have it linger for days and days . . . simply the worry of what that headache means can give you a headache . . . do you see how ridiculous it can get? Ugh.

So, I got a couple of hours of sleep this morning. Not enough. But, tonight I will definitely get some sleep. Melatonin here I come. And, maybe something for the pain that keeps me awake. I hate taking pills. But . . . I need to sleep.

So today I am going to try to get into see a doctor about my right side and arm. I am wondering if it is lymphedema perhaps. I hope not. But, it kind of seems like it could be. And, to think I might have caused this by going for a run a few days ago and continuing to run even after it was hurting. The running thing, it is very compelling . . . it is one of the things that when I can do it, it makes me feel well again, makes me feel like I am not sick, wasn’t ever sick . . . so it is something that I feel I need to do if I can. But, I think I did it when I should not have . . . the timing works out that way . . . I have been in pain ever since I ran . . . so, probably should not have done that. I don’t know what I was thinking, I could have just gone to the gym and rode a stationery bike and avoided having any impact at all.

Well, things will get better I am sure. Things are already getting better . . . I am one day closer to getting to surgery. YAY! 🙂

Love and peace,

Lisa

Patchwork-quilt-of-a-breast keeping me up . . .

17 Sep

Well, here I am . . . again, no sleep. It is after 4:30 in the morning. It has been a year and a half of no sleep, really. I am quite tired of it. I am at half speed, half brain and half energy. Surgery is coming up in a matter of days now and I am not ready. Yet, if my surgeon told me I could go for surgery tomorrow, I would do it, God, I want this over with. I am so done with all of it. And now, here we are in the middle of “pinktober” (October is breast cancer awareness month, so the pink is everywhere).

Pink is on everything now . . .

Don’t get me wrong. I am grateful to have had a kind of cancer that is popular, sympathetic etc., etc., etc. What I mean is that breast cancer gets most of the research dollars and most of the “awareness” attention and as a result there are many treatment options available for breast cancer patients. And, for the type I had, a targeted therapy – one that cures the type of breast cancer I had – that not long ago few ever survived.

But, but, but . . . I want my life back. I want the non-hijacked-by-cancer-life-I-had-before back. But, I know that is not going to happen. And so, I have, for the most part, accepted certain things. Last year they took body parts away. Now more than a year later, I am getting new parts. But . . . my body will never be the same, I will never feel the same and I will never be the same. I have one reconstructed breast (on my left side, the non-radiated side). I still feel that it is foreign. I still feel sharp jabs of pain in my back from where my latissimus muscle was taken from my back to my front to help “rebuild” me. I still feel that new “breast” move whenever I move my arm . . . it pulls my new “breast” to the left . . . I swear, I could probably do tricks. And as funny as that seems, it isn’t funny at all. I hate it sometimes. Mostly, I just sincerely dislike not feeling like myself and . . . I hate the constant physical reminders that I had cancer.

And now as I get closer to perhaps being done with all of this nonsense, I am faced with the realization that this is it . . . this is how I am feeling. I have done battle and there are scars and parts missing and movements I make everyday that remind me of what I have been through. I can’t open a car door the way I used to do it. I can still do it, but, I have to do it differently now and the annoying thing is that I always forget this and so my first attempt never works . . . I have to be reminded – by not being able to open a door – that I now have to do it a different way. That is what it is about now, I think, re-navigating, re-routing things. Everything really.

Maybe one day the new ways of getting things done will become hardwired into my brain and become second nature so that I won’t have to think about it, won’t have to try to do it the old way first (because that is what my body instinctively does) and simply have the new way hardwired into my brain.

The path is still shaping up for me. I am still figuring things out and I guess I just have to be okay with that.

I saw someone with his shirt off the other day . . . a friend changed his shirt in front of me at an outdoor barbecue (can’t say that I minded it one bit, but, that is a whole other story). But, when he joked with me that I should do the same, we both immediately realized how unfunny that joke was . . . he felt badly I am sure and I felt, well, just kind of sad. There will be no unscarred pretty version of me naked. That is not happening. And after this most recent mishap with my prior surgeon, what I can hope for is something that will resemble a breast when I am wearing clothes. And, I am grateful for the patch work breast that I will get. I am grateful for the surgeon I now have as I know that with him, whatever the result, it will be the very best that I can get at this point.

But, I am also terrified of it, terrified of seeing it and terrified of having anyone else ever see it. So what is a girl to do?

Sometimes a girl needs to cry a little. Damn. This is where the being single with breast cancer cuts kind of deep. Not to say that having a husband would have made this cancer roller coaster a bed of roses. So, really, I don’t even know what I am talking about. But, I guess I am talking about where to pick up my life after this . . . and whether or not anyone will want to pick it up with me. I do have someone in my life. But, what that will be like after more surgery and recovery . . . who is to say? And, whatever it is like, well, only part of me will be there when I am done. Does that make sense?

I am so, so tired. Sleep is so hard to come by these days. This might be one of those four am rambles that I regret. Hopefully not 🙂

Love and peace,

Lisa

Pre-op Hop . . .

16 Sep

So, my surgery is on September 27th. I will no longer be uni-boob. For those of you who are just joining this extravaganza . . . please see the “About Me . . . ” page above for a little back ground. And, thank you for subscribing to my blog, it makes me feel good to know people are reading . . . especially with this next surgery coming up and the knowledge that I will be down for the count again for a little while . . . my blog and facebook will be my world for a while after surgery 🙂

But, all is good and soon, soon, soon I will be back to my life!!!

A little over a year ago I had a bi-lateral mastectomy. And now, I am finally about to have the last major surgery to complete breast reconstructive surgery. It has been a long time coming and a lot of discomfort in between. I long for the day I can sleep on my side or stomach again . . . a few months from now maybe . . . woo-hoo!

I am walking in the Orange County Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure the day before my surgery. It should be a nice send off I think. I am so glad to be able to participate this year . . . this is my first year participating as a cancer survivor. In the past, I have run in my Aunt Anne’s memory. She died of breast cancer in 1994. I wish I could run it this year, but, that is not possible. Next year though.

If you are walking or running in the Orange County Race for the Cure and would like to join my team, please do, here is my link: (link disabled). Somewhere on my page you will see a “Join My Team” link. If you are already signed up for the race, I think you can easily join my team by clicking on that link.

I am with the Hope Wellness Center Team, #1336. Hope Wellness Center provides free support to cancer patients and their families. They are an amazing organization.

Well, today was a bit rough. Since the complications on my right side developed a few weeks ago, I have gone from being able to run a couple of miles, to having trouble driving and just getting around. I know that the surgery will fix a lot of this. But, in the mean time, my window for getting things done and being able to get out and about seems to have shrunk. I am in pain now pretty much most of the time. It is certainly not the worst pain I’ve had and in the scheme of things, it is really nothing.  Hate to whine about it, it is just difficult to use my right arm right now. So, I’m not getting a lot of work done right now. My plans of getting things done around my place, prepping for surgery and recovery by making some food to freeze. grocery shopping, etc. and just day to day things one has to do . . . all foiled.

My big outing today was to drive to lunch (I wasn’t up to cooking anything) and then a stop at the post office. I came back wiped out . . . after having driven about two and a half miles. It is so weird to go from feeling fine to feeling a bit crippled (okay, that is a bit dramatic I guess, but, seriously, trying to cook right now is totally unrealistic . . . unless it is microwaveable). I know it will get better.

I just have stuff to do and I can’t seem to do it. It is frustrating. But, this next surgery will fix this problem. It is just temporary. And, who knows, maybe with some rest in the next few days, I will feel better.

The surgery date is really coming up on me quick. I still need to arrange for care takers while I recuperate, food to be brought in . . . all of that stuff. There is a lot to do. I hope to make some headway on this over the weekend.

Well, keep the prayers and positive vibes coming my way. I greatly appreciate it. And, thank you to those of you who have joined my team. It really helps the cause.

Much love,

Lisa