Archive for April, 2009

Waiting for a mastectomy is like waiting for a baby

April 26, 2009

I am really struck by a few things this week. Like, how waiting for my surgery is so similiar to waiting to have a baby.


Everywhere I look, I see something I need to do to get ready for my big “event” (coming up in about a week). My God, those kitchen cupboards still need to be lined, and the fridge needs to be cleaned out. Wish I could get my bedroom cleaned and keep it that way. And my desk….(sigh) wish I was better at filing. The whole concept of the “nesting” thing….I always thought it was a male definition of womens’ activities in the last stages of pregnancy….a nice fuzzy description ascribed to “nature'” of what women are doing, when they are actually just frantically cleaning because they know that once that baby comes they will be too tired/busy/not care enough to clean again for a long while (and they pretty much know that if they don’t do it……………..well, you fill in the rest of the statement).  That’s how I feel, “nesting” for the event of losing my breasts.


I am so anxious to have this “rock” removed, while at the same time, really kind of a little concerned about the unknown.  So, how long am I going to be restricted to “lifting nothing heavier than the Sunday paper” anyways?  And the estrogen blocking medications I’ll have?  How do they make you feel?  How about those mood swings I have been warned about?  I’ve been pretty even keeled so far………

Once you get on this ride, there ain’t no gettin’ off.

Kind of like being pregnant, there is no “little bit” of cancer.  Once you come to awareness of this crappy disease as being your crappy disease, you have stepped onto a ride that has lows and highs and sometimes quick rides in between.  At least being pregnant was fun, this really isn’t much fun at all.  It’s been intense.  Instructive.  Even insightful, but not really much fun.  Newly diagnosed cancer has the power to pull a foggy grey curtain over all the joyful aspects of daily living.

I have 8 days to go…


My good karma and optimistic nature didn’t deliver me from cancer

April 19, 2009

So, there it is.  I always thought attention to health and wellness, my good karma and my very positive outlook on life would truly help me sail through this life with a minimum of ……….(what should I call it?) …..”really bad things”.   Oh, how stupid. 

Even though I have a sister with breast cancer (twice!) I wasn’t too worried when, in early February my doctor said, “Hmmnnn.  I don’t like the feel of this in your breast”, and she ordered a diagnostic mammogram.  A diagnostic mammogram is scheduled when your films can be read immediately after they are  taken, and you may be referred for an immediate ultrasound.  Of which I was.  Foolishly, I still wasn’t too worried.  Until March 4th that is. 

March 4th.

That is when she called and I’ll never forget the words, “this doesn’t look good kiddo.  You have a mass that concerns me with irregular margins of 1.2 cm to 8 mm.”   The next 2 days were kind of a fog until my appointment with my new doctor, surgeon, Candilee Butler.  Butler is a small, amazingly intense woman who has a  reputation as a top notch surgeon. 

Once again, a bit of optimism fluttered across my heart as she commented, “I don’t usually see people as healthy as you in my office” while she perused my medical file.  I felt proud for a minute that yes, I do take pretty good care of myself, and for a fifty year old woman, I look good, feel good, and do good work.  Well, that didn’t last for long.  Dr. Butler assured me that my regular mammogram really isn’t the best vehicle for detecting anything in dense breast tissue such as mine.  I didn’t realize that I should have been having digital mammograms the last couple of years they have been available here in Northwest Ohio.  Dammit!  Why didn’t I know that?  I’ve had “regular” mammmograms like clockwork every year since I was 40.

In a flash, Butler had the ultrasound wand on my left breast and it was obvious there was something there, and it was big.  Hard, too.  It was difficult to anesthetize my breast because the mass bent the needle.  Dammit again!  The mass would actually slide away from the core needle attempting the biopsy.  I couldn’t take my eyes off the four samples Butler extracted as she prepared them for the lab.  My tumor is hard, and creamy in color.  Again, words I’ll never forget, “I’m so sure what this is, if it comes back negative, I’m doing it again.”  Ok.  Ummmm……the woman here in the room needs a translation………are you saying, hey baby, you got cancer, we just gotta prove it?  Well, yea, thats what she meant.

Friday the 13th. 

Life was a complete fog for a week until March 13th when Butler delivered the test results, Invasive Mammary Carcinoma, estrogen and progesterone positve. 

This was the beginning of my new life as the girl with cancer.  Wow, how things can change.  The second half of March and April meant:  Blood tests.  American Cancer Society.  MRI.  Bone Scans.  Reddicat and CT Scans.  More Blood Tests.  Mastectomy.  Bilateral Mastectomy.  Breast Expanders.  Breast Implants.  Gummi Bear Implants, and reading, reading, reading, all while keeping a “cover” at my workplace.

I’ve made lots of new friends,  Breast Health Educators, lots of Lab Technicians, Nutritionists, Counselors, Prosthesis Fitters, a couple of Plastic Surgeons, and an amazing and interesting array of “women who have been there” who are nice enough to take a call from a complete stranger to just talk.  The first group of people I “came out” to are the folks at my Unitarian Church.   Thank God for the Unitarians (ha ha, a little Unitarian Humor!) the nicest, most intelligent group of people I’ve ever been around.

Oh, and BTW, my tumor is actually quite bigger than first predicted.  It is 4 .4 cm by 1.7 cm.  Most likely this is stage 2 cancer, and most likely I will make a new friend next month in a  Medical Oncologist.  :^(   Silly, crazy, optimist that I am, I am hoping I don’t have to get to know any Radiation Oncologists as well.

Telling others I have cancer is an interesting, yet  hellish experience.  I never have bad news, so this is exceedingly difficult for me.  I owe an apology to a few people I told early on, as I was really testing out how to even say the words, “I have breast cancer”, and perhaps I didn’t have much compassion for how it might affect them.  I don’t know why, but I usually hate expressions of sympathy, and it takes real effort to not snarl at the friend who murmurs, “I’m so sorry.”  When I got up at church a month ago at the beginning of the service where we share “joys, milestones and concerns” I ended my cancer announcement with, “and please don’t tell me you are sorry, because it just makes me feel bad.”  Actually it makes me wilt into an emotional mess that I’d rather not present to the world, much less myself. 

Well, this is where we are now.  Friday, I completed an autologous blood donation (when you “bank” your own blood for your surgery) and next week I have a couple “pre-op” appointments.  My “date” is May 4th.  Dr. Butler and Dr. Frank Barone will perform a bilateral mastectomy and reconstruction.  This is a big step in the process of the cancer experience.  I am just going to put all my faith in my surgeons, but I am still scared.  I am used to controlling the situation, not the other way around.

If you are a person who prays, please pray for superior skills and clarity for my doctors on the morning of Mon. May 4th.  If you believe in Karma, good thoughts or energy fields, suround all of us in the room with visions of positive outcomes.  I’ll keep posting on new events as they happen.

Love you all,