Thursday, September 30, 2010

Meanwhile...Back at the Ranch...

So today is a day "on holding pattern" waiting for tomorrow when my life will change.  So, I thought I'd say a few words (and hope not to put you to sleep) about me, my family, and friends.  And if you do start to go to sleep, then thank me for the nap.  Or, you can just skip today and return tomorrow. 

My husband and I have been married for almost 40 years (we were going to celebrate with a trip soon, but we are taking a raincheck now.  Maybe we'll just go to Hastings for now).  The best part about being married that long?  You become really good friends as well as partners.  No one knows you as well as that person.  He laughs when you laugh and he hurts when you hurt.  So, right now, we are hurting together....but we also laugh together since that is what we love to do best.

We have only one child, a son, who is married, living in PA with my daughter-in-law and my granddaughter.  I always wished I had been able to have about six children, but instead God blessed me with over 1,000 through all the children I have loved at the preschool where I am Director.  The biggest regret, though, about not having more children with my husband is that my son never got the chance to tattle, fight with, compete with, love, hate, ignore, cling to, confide in, and share life with a brother or sister.  Although only children are great, and I am so happy to have's cool to have siblings!

As far as extended family, at one time there were many, now some have moved away, and some are no longer with us.  Those that moved, we try to keep in touch with by e-mail and phone...but we could be better about it (isn't that the story of all our lives?).  Right here, we have close ties with some of our nephews and cherish those ties.  And one of my nephews married someone who is my "old-same" and we are incredibly bound (you need to have read Snow Flower and the Secret Fan to understand).  I also have a niece and grand-niece that I love and we do have some friends who are more family than family can ever be and have been a part of our lives for a long time.   

I claim big bragging rights on our circle of supportive friends through our village, our churches (yeah, we both have one...but we share occasionally), our jobs, in surrounding villages and towns, and personal acquaintances from near and far.  And boy, am I going to be draining them of that support this next year (get ready, friends...and I've locked the door so you can't escape!)  I've always thought that everyone I meet has an interesting story and that our connections with each other are somehow mysteriously ordained and seem to come and go at just the right times.  I had lunch with one such friend just yesterday.  We probably know each other more intimately through e-mails than any conversation we have had face to face.  But she was the first one I thought of when I had to confess my constant, pounding fear of this new journey and I knew she would understand why.  And she did.  But there are many others out there who I know care for me and for my husband and are hurting for us and want to help and have already reached out in so many wonderful ways.  (Hey, prayer is always welcome...and it's cheap!)  We had pizza the other night with a couple that lives in NYC, who came just to be with us on the night of the last doctor visit, knowing it might be a tough night for us.  I have a friend going through this same journey with me who told me she believes in the "power of God" and the "power of shoes" as her bright pink 5" heels she wore to her last surgery seemed to bring "luck" (wouldn't you have loved to see the faces of the medical staff when her heels clicked her way in?)We have received meals from friends at my church and my husband's church to which I am thankful and my husband is ecstatic ( maybe I am not the best cook...thank god, someone else is!)  I have flowers now that are blooming in every room in our co-op thanks to friends and neighbors (and they are beautiful!)!  I also have many individuals coming to me with stories of hope and courage and survival...and I hope to be one of them...a story you will tell later to someone else.  (If the story you are bringing me is not of survival...then please keep it to person insisted on e-mailing me with all the worst parts about chemo...I clicked delete after the second sentence!)

Even people that touch your life briefly sometimes amaze and delight you.  Just one example...I have tried over the years as much as I can through the preschool, to assist children in the "Spanish" (their word of choice when they explain themselves to me) community in our village financially so they can send their children to our preschool.  It is important to them that their children have a good foundation, and I am glad they come to us.  This one "mom" that I have been helping for a while called yesterday to say "Sharon, we love you and we want to pray for you.  Our church has a special service for healing and I am going there to pray for you with some other families you know.  You have been good to the Spanish people here, and we want to pray for you."  Wow...that brought me more to tears than any other message lately....but how beautiful!  So, hey, treasure those small moments you meet someone, you never know how you will affect their lives.  (whoa...too serious now...taking back the reins!).

(But...if you happen to have some extra money that needs a cause....why I'd be happy to find a child from that community that would love to be in preschool...end of commercial break)

So, now you know the boring part, which may or may not help you understand me and this journey.  I promise not to bore you again...but thought in this lull...I should fill you in.  Stay tuned...tomorrow's the day that determines some of what is to come.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The News and The Beginning

I have always considered myself a pretty lucky person.  I've been in a job I have loved, in a community that is supportive, I have a great family....yadda, yadda, yadda (yeah, I know, who says that anymore).  Even when a recent ultrasound technician turned to me and said, "I think you are going to need a biopsy", I still never gave it a second thought.  Of course, I had the biopsy about a week later (it was just before vacation and nothing was getting in the way of vacation) and even after it was completed, I still wasn't waiting anxiously by the phone. 

I should have known better!  "Life is like a box of never know what you're gonna get" (thank you, Mrs. Gump!)  

So, I got and I got big.  If you are like me, you thought that if you had breast had it, and then you got rid of it by surgery or treatments.  Sometimes lucky, sometimes not.  However, I have found that between diagnosis and decisions are a lot of grey areas, a lot of new attitudes about past surgery and treatment options, and a lot of words that I never heard of before.  And I am most thankful to have as my doctor on this journey a wonderful, caring, funny, supportive surgeon that I just love...and that is most important to have for anyone out there having this same journey!  

The biopsy showed an 8 mm invasive ductal carcinoma...which after the MRI (hated it...and I will explain this invention just for breasts in another blog...kinda like a milking machine taking pictures) showed that the 8mm might be a little bigger...oh, and there is something else off to the side (like what?  a man holding a sign pointing to my cancer?).  Then, the scheduling of surgery (lumpectomy...yes, no... quadrontectomy...maybe) with the added thrill of another MRI, but this one to insert wires!!!  Is this never-never land?, I thought...are there going to be pirates also?  I mean, who invents a machine that not only makes you claustrophobic, temporarily deaf, and has you hanging your breasts through two holes (I know, ick!), but now has the added torture of allowing someone to go below and jab you with a local anesthesia before juggling wires into your breasts!

(Ok...honestly, after the shock wore off...I was kinda impressed that someone invented this and that it was actually designing a good surgery outcome for me.  But, it's still kinda creepy.)

So, then I hear that they have targeted three areas (three....where did that come from, I thought it was two?).  I leave there and go straight to the hospital for my surgery with the wires kinda poking me each and every bump.

We get to the hospital, and I am told they are ready and waiting so I sign some papers, and then get whisked into the ambulatory surgery unit.  Yes, you heard one stays in a hospital too long knew that already, I'm sure.  But, it's time to think...and that's good! 

I have to say that everyone there was wonderfully patient and had a great sense of humor.  My husband put on his best "dog and pony show" (he had cardiac robotic surgery last November and when he coughs, his lung pops out a little on his chest....some people are grossed out about it, but medical people make him do it over and over and keep feeling it....he loves it!) and before I knew it, I was given (I believe, but I was so scared, not sure) a radioactive isotope to which something is going to happen with blue dye.  There were plenty of jokes then between the medical staff and my family about breasts turning blue and my peeing blue for a few days (but hey, that blue pee was really kidding...I was almost sorry when it stopped).  And then, I'm on a table hearing that I will feel drowsy...and that's it...I'm out.

I come to and hear that only two nodes were taken, they look clear and some other stuff that I couldn't stay awake long enough to hear.  I wake again, and then stay awake, and was told again about the nodes, and that the "quad" was done to remove the cancer-s (yes, cancer-"s"...I have not one kind, but two:  one invasive, one not...but let's not forget they are both still cancer).  I have my ginger ale and buttered roll and go home...and here's where you ARE glad it is ambulatory surgery!

Then we wait.  We are feeling a little good to have all this behind us.  And we almost, we did forget...that everyone said "wait for the pathology report".  Then the shoe drops again.

As the "stuff" they took out of me grew in petri dishes (do they really do that anymore...whatever, it was doing something, somewhere), I got the news that two more invasive cancers were there, and a whole lot of what is called DCIS...which is kinda like a bad "fairy dust" just waiting to turn into cancer, and still one margin not clear.  And that the two small invasive cancers were on the second node (BUT I THOUGHT IT WAS SUPPOSED TO BE CLEAR!).  We forgot the warning to "wait for pathology".

So, now the appointment on Friday with the oncologist.  I understand she will decide on whether more nodes need to come out, or to start chemo right away.  And that is where I am in my journey today.  I am back at work, feeling pretty good (although emotional as a roller coaster), and wondering how I got here in such a short time.  AND there are still future decisions to make such as clearing that margin...or mastectomy...or, who knows?

Right now, I can only think of today.  And I comfort myself by thinking that somewhere, someone is getting even worse news today so I should be thankful.  And I need to be thankful to God for people that can do miraculous things and invent strange machines and for hope that each day gives us and for friends and family that hold you up when your legs give away...and you feel like you are falling over a mountain.