Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Occult Breast Cancer

This would be the unofficial diagnosis. Long story short, the preliminary pathology report is that no tumors were found in the breast. I am that 1%.  They are still examining it, apparently they cut my breast into 100 pieces so there might still be something in there somewhere but for now - nada.

She did say that it was in all the lymph nodes she removed though.

So, it's on to oncology now. She said I will likely have aggressive chemotherapy because I'm young and otherwise healthy and can take it. They will do radiation also (here in Oshawa hooray!!!) on my armpit.

So while I'm not overjoyed that is wasn't apparent it is really what I expected to hear and as I told her, relieved to be on a path to healing.

Onward and upward....moving on to our new Step One

I'm 12 weeks and craving pickles

****You've undoubtedly stumbled across my blog in an effort to find out why people are posting all sorts of cryptic messages on Facebook. You will find the answer here.

And now that you're here I encourage you to stay and read on. Read it all. Start reading at  My New Journey and read forward. Take the opportunity to hear from someone has been through breast cancer and all it's ugliness and lived to tell about it.

Because Facebook games are all well and good but taking the time understand what's really going on for someone battling breast cancer....that will really raise awareness. ****

For you Facebook users, do you remember last year when this trend went around in which people (women) posted the colour of their bra as their status and the idea was that it was supposed to bring awareness to Breast Cancer.

So yesterday, I got a message on Facebook. It was from a woman I know casually. Her kids go to school with mine and we once, many moons ago, had some mutual friends. For the most part though we don't know each other very well at all and unless she reads my blog and hasn't said anything (I don't think so though) she has no idea about my current situation. Anyhow, this was her message:
OK BEAUTIFUL LADIES!!! It's that time of year again in support of Breast Cancer Awareness! We all remember last years game of writing your bra color as your status? or the way we like to have our handbag handy?
Remember last year so many people took part that it made national news and the constant updating of status reminded everyone why we're doing this and helped raise awareness!
DO NOT tell any males what the status' mean, keep them guessing And please Broadcast this to all ur female friends to see if we can make a bigger fuss this year than last year
I did my part... So now its YOUR turn!
The idea is to choose the month You were born and the day you were born. Pass this on to the girls only and lets see how far it reaches around. The last one about the bra went round the world.
So you'll write... I'm (your birth month) weeks and I'm craving (your birth date) !!! as your status
Example: Feb 14th= I'm 2 weeks and craving Choclolate mints!!
January-1week
Febuary-2weeks
March-3weeks
April-4weeks
May-6weeks
June-8weeks
July-10weeks
August-12weeks
September-13weeks
October-14weeks
November-16weeks
December-18weeks
Days of the month:
1- Skittles
2- Starburst
3- Kit-Kat
4- M&M's
5- Tomatoes
6- Ice Cream
7- Dairy Milk
8- Lollipop
9- Peanut Butter Cups
10- Meat Balls
11- Twizzlers
12- Bubble Gum
13- Hershey's Kisses
14- Chocolate Mints
15- Twix
16- Cheese
17- Fudge
18- Cherry Jello
19- Banana's
20- Pickels
21- Chicken Wings
22- Skittles
23- Gummy Bears
24- Gummy Worms
25- Strawberry Pop Tarts
26- Starburst
27- Mini Eggs
28- Kit-Kat Chunkie
29- Double Chocolate Chip Chrunchy Cookies 30- Smarties
31- Chocolate Cake

I read this message one big thing came to mind. How, exactly, does this raise awareness of Breast Cancer? Implying I'm pregnant in my facebook status has very little to do with breast cancer. Actually, even less than very little. It has NOTHING to do with breast cancer awareness.

The catty, bitter part of me wanted to message her back and let her know this, and to say something to the effect of I don't need to post an asinine, nonsensical status to be aware of breast cancer, I just need to look down at my missing tit (or, as it's becoming known around here - my boob hole) but I didn't. Because I've learned a few things. It could be that she's just blissfully ignorant. Maybe she's never had anyone in her life have breast cancer. I was blissfully ignorant once. Or, maybe she has had someone in her life who's had breast cancer and this is her way of dealing. We all deal in different ways.

So because of that, and because I am not drawing attention to myself to those who don't already know (she'll know soon enough when she sees me at the school sans hair) I didn't reply to the message.

I did however, have a stroke of genius. If one wants to raise awareness of breast cancer in their Facebook than one could, perhaps, change their profile photo to a Pink Ribbon. Everyone knows what a pink ribbon represents and you can be assured that if you post a pink ribbon on your wall or as your profile picture it will create awareness. It's not an ambiguous status update that no one gets unless they've been privy to the message to post said status.

So, that will be MY Facebook campaign to raise awareness for Breast Cancer. Only I won't be sending out messages to all my FB friends to do the same, to each his own. I learned a valuable lesson from my brothers this past summer that everyone deals with things their own ways - I chose to remember, to embrace and to fight. Others might not do it that way. So by all means, be 6 weeks and crave skittles or post a pink ribbon on your wall or say a little prayer or do nothing at all. Because the fact of the matter is, I don't think there is anyone out there who is NOT aware of breast cancer. It's just that sad a world.

I go see the surgeon in an hour and a half. She'll give me the pathology from the mastectomy. I'm hoping they were able to find it and that we can finally get some positive news (I don't say good news, the only good news I'll ever get in this situation is when the Dr says "You are cancer free." but that will be a while yet.  But positive news would be that they found the source and we can move on with chemo now.

Oh, wait, some good news would be if she tells me that I can go to the chiropractor soon. I've over compensated for the joint pain on the left side on my back that I'd pinched a nerve on my right and now I've got sciatica so badly on my right side that my right foot is numb and I actually cry in pain. Honestly, giving birth didn't hurt this much (and Mary was born au natural)

I'll end on a positive note. Three wonderful things happened yesterday. First, I had a shower.  My first since August 19th, it was heavenly. I get to have another one on Friday (I still have dressings so I can only shower when the nurse is coming to change the dressing so it doesn't fester with moisture) Second, my beautiful and talented daughters were chosen as semi finalists in a contest on Family Channel. They stand a chance to win an appearance in a 'webisode' of a show they watch on Family. And Third. I had beer yesterday. Two of them. I've missed beer so very much. It was soooooo good.

Yum yum.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Being Selfish

I'm feeling better today.

I had to go to the school again today to send my Dr's notes through inter departmental mail and I got a chance to talk to some more co workers.

One in particular is also taking a sick leave this year and we were talking about it all. I was telling her how crappy I'm feeling about not being able to go to work and missing out and while she thinks I'm nuts for loving my job (she's been at it a lot longer than I have) she also gets it. But she said something to me that made a lot of sense.

She was telling me about last year when she was really quite ill and resentful about the idea that she was going to have to use all of her positive energy at work for the kids and that meant that when she was done working there was none left for herself. She said when you're dealing with a serious illness you have to step back, take all the positive energy you have direct it toward yourself. It's your time to be selfish.

I get what she means. She doesn't mean to say screw everyone else, it's all about me but she does mean to not stress myself over what I'm going to be missing this year because frankly, it will all still be there, with or without me so why not take all my positive energy and use it to get better and use it for my family and friends and those that really make my life special. And when I feel better and beat this and get back on my feet, then I can take some of that positive energy and use it at work with the kids.

So for now - I'm moving out of this anger stage, I'm going to be selfish and remember that this is about me and my fight for my life.

And while I might have some days when I feel really bored or missing the camaraderie of work or the mental challenges at work, I can take heart in knowing that A: it will all be there waiting for me when I get better and B: I'll be in snuggled up in my house (maybe even in my jammies) in the dead of February when all those other suckers are freezing that a$$es of on yard duty.

Yeah, a little selfishness never hurts. 

Monday, August 29, 2011

Cheated Part II

I guess I'm at the stage of this journey where I feel anger. Yep, that's about right. I'm pissed. I'm pissed at the world for shitting all over my good thing.

I went to school today to talk with my principal. He was aware of the situation (news travels fast) and though I wanted to speak with him in person I ended up emailing him last week as I knew human resources was going to tell him before I could.

He was super nice (it's the first time we've spoken at length, he's new to my school) and really supportive. Of course, I'm still worried about getting back into my own school when I'm ready to go back to work but my union says this will not be an issue. The joke is, I somewhat expect life to further shit on me. I'll beat cancer and be thrilled to be able to return to work only to find out that the board is sticking me in some school in the west end.

I saw one of the teachers while I was there, a super nice guy who was always very friendly and sweet. I told him I wasn't coming back right away and why and I thought he was going to cry right then and there. It was then that I really felt is - how much I'm going to really miss going to work. I love this job. I finally FINALLY have a job I loved EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. even the shitty ones and now I can't go to it. The last year was a tease. Look here, after 16 years you finally have your dream job - enjoy it because next year you get to watch someone else do it for you.

I came home feeling worse than before I went there. And I have to go back again on Wednesday because I forgot to send something through the inter office mail.

If I thought I could do it, I'd work through all this - just so I didn't lose that connection - to the outside world, to other people, to using my brain, to my coworkers, to my friends, to being a professional. It's ironic that for years I had jobs where the prospect of not working for year would have made me jump for joy and now when I can't work all  I want to do is work.

I guess I can add this to the list of reasons why I need to beat this shit - because  I have far too much to live for.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Cheated

Blah. That's about how I feel today. Tired. Down. Blah.

My nurse came yesterday (she only comes once every three days instead of daily since I'm such an outstanding patient) She took off the steri strips and one of my drainage tubes. So now I'm full on scar and only one drainage tube left. I think this one will be another week at least though, it's still has quite a bit of drainage to it.

The scar isn't too bad, it's long and once it's properly healed I'll use something like Mederma to try and lessen the scar's look. Not that I'm that vain, and frankly, besides Sean, who's looking at my chest anyway?

I'm a little depressed these days though, as we get back into the 'back to school' mind set. I'm not going back to school in a week and I'm upset and sad and jealous. I don't want someone else teaching my class. I don't want to have to go back in April and try and fit into the routine, I don't want to adapt. I want to develop the routine, I want to have my class from the beginning. Despite the concerns I had for this coming year I was looking forward to it and was excited for year two. And now - well...I get to go to endless appointments, feel like shit 80% of the time, worry about staying strong and beating this crap, losing my hair, adapting to life less one body part, have no money, feel useless because A, I'm not earning any money and B, I can't work.

I finally had everything in my life in place, my perfect family, my perfect job, my debt freedom. I was happy. I was content. I didn't want anything more than what I had. And I fully appreciated everything I had....it wasn't like I took it all for granted. I had to work hard to have a good marriage. I had to work hard to have my kids, I had to work hard to get my perfect job and I had to work hard to remain debt free. 

But life has a way of pissing all over the goodness.

I'm sure tomorrow I'll feel better. But for today, I feel nothing but cheated.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

One Week Ago

I'm truly amazed at how little I miss my boob. Weird huh? Truly, if it weren't for the constant dull ache, the itchy and uncomfortable drainage tubes and the searing nerve pain that occasionally shoots across my chest I really wouldn't notice.

I know that sounds dramatic but I really mean it. And I don't think, for the most part, other people notice either. I've been out, several times and I watch people. I don't get stares, I don't get anyone blatantly looking at my lopsided chest and while I'm sure people I know who know have taken peeks when I'm not looking (it doesn't bother me...honestly, sometimes I look in he mirror and go "huh, weird!")  it seems like no one has noticed this cyclops boob lady.

I'll tell you the vibe I do get though. I get the 'You're out of bed??!!" vibe.

When I went to the cancer support centre the lady was amazed that I was up and around a couple of days after surgery. A few other people have commented about how I should be taking it easy, resting, etc etc.  I'm not over doing it but come on people, I don't lay around on my best days (at least not for more than an hour or two) how can I be expected to lay around for days on end. 

AND - this laying and sitting around has f*cked up my back to no end. Seriously, last night I went to bed in tears because I couldn't stand upright. I walk like I'm 98. I can't go see the chiropractor yet and while I know it hasn't (because I've had two CT scans and a bone scan) I secretly worry the cancer spread to my spine and that's why I can't walk (nevermind that I've had chronic back problems for the past 12 years) 

Ironically I went to bed in tears last night and heavily drugged. And I woke up this morning feeling better than I have in a week, with minimal back pain and no chest pain.

I intend to keep it that way by spending as little time as possible in one position today. I have no desire to sit in bed or on the couch all day. I don't want to wallow in my misery, I'm not miserable. I don't want to feel sorry for myself, all I feel sorry for is that don't get to go back to work next week (I was SO looking forward to going back to work)   I'm not a pity party kind of person.

Well, I plan to celebrate my one week boob-off-versary by picking up my new car in 1.5 hours. Yay me!!

Enjoy your day and for my friends in the US east coast- stay safe.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Suggestions Please

Alright ladies and gents, the time is upon us. The kids go back to school in 2 weeks. I'm starting to feel better and have much more mobility in my right arm (I'm a lefty but it helps to be able to use both arms) I'm still probably a good 3 weeks away (maybe longer) from beginning treatments (I don't get my path report until August 31 and the oncologist said I have to be completely recovered from surgery before beginning)

I'm running into a problem. I bore easily. Very easily. I've also never not worked. Actually not totally true, I did have 6 months off after Mary was born but I had a newborn and a 3 year old and I was knee deep in getting my home daycare set up and ready to go so I was busy.

I need something to do. I want to do something crafty. I want to do something that I can use to raise money for the Relay. I want to do something to make myself feel good. But most importantly, since I'm going to be a decidedly fixed income, I want to do something that will not require me to spend a lot of money.

I'm thinking of my photography. I'll have time, especially during my favourite time of year,  fall, to take pictures.

I'm thinking of my sewing. Perhaps it's time that I learn how to read a pattern. I want to try and sew myself some of those head scarves. And if I could figure out how to follow a pattern I could sew other things besides tote bags. Oooh, I'd love to make a quilt.

I want to write. I've been tossing around an idea for a book, a based on true events story about the PP. I think about us and I could see it being an Oprah book of the month book. I mean it really is a fabulous story. Maybe even as an collaborative effort between everyone in the PP who would be interested in participating, writing their story of involvement in the PP from their point of view. (so PP sisters, what do you think of that idea?)

I've been thinking about making Christmas ornaments with the Sculpey III  I have left over from the earrings and posting them in my Etsy store.

My friends came over last night for supper. No wait, that isn't right, my friends came over last night WITH supper. They brought supper over to us and stayed to enjoy it with us. It was fabulous. It might seem like such a little thing but really, it's so much bigger than that and I truly appreciated it. Not just to dinner but the company too. I guess, part of me worries that people will feel differently or treat me differently now, with kid gloves or backed off and I don't want that. Sure, I'm different now but only on the outside and not that I thought they wouldn't but I'm glad my friends see that.

So, throw me out some suggestions....what am I going to do to keep my mind sharp and my creative juices flowing when the kids go back to school??

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Boobs and Wigs and Books, Oh My!

I went to Hearthplace today to register as a member. You see, you need to be a member to access the resources and in order for me to join the 'recently diagnosed with breast cancer support group' I needed to be a member.

I brought my registration form in and they brought me in to see the peer counsellor. These are not trained counsellors they are simply other cancer survivors - but they facilitate the programs.

Anyhow, we talked for a bit about what I was hoping to get from the group (connecting with people in similar situations) and she told me about the different programs available (I'm also going to go to the Live Better Feel Better (or something like that) workshop that helps you deal with the physical issues during treatment; skin care, scalp care, etc) for me, Sean and the kids. She was amazed that I was already out and about even though I'd only just had surgery on Friday. I explained about my inability to sit around for long and for me, it's more therapeutic to live life than it is to sit around and complain or stress about aches and pains.

After this conversation she mentioned that they have a wig boutique and asked if I'd like to see it. I said sure. I remarked that I'd probably just wear the bandanna type things as I thought a wig might be too hot. She brought me into this room full of Styrofoam heads and wigs. She pulled off this one cute wig and asked me if I'd like to try it on. So I used a stocking to put my hair up and tried it on and while it was a very different style than I wear my hair, it was cute. She said "Well then you'll want to take this home now. If you don't, it might be gone when you do want it" So she packed it up in a bag for me to take home. She said, even if you only want to wear the head dresses most of the time you might want to get dressed up one day and want to wear a wig. Made sense, with Christmas coming and all.

Then....she started talking about prosthetics and I was explaining that I was going to take Emily for her birthday shopping trip to the Eaton Centre but it would be delayed until I got my prosthetic and she goes out of the room and comes back in with a prosthetic. For me to keep!! And then she said, now after you've healed if you think this one is not quite right (it's the right cup size but it's a generic shape) just come in again, we've got all kinds of different ones.

Can you freakin' believe it??!! 

I was on cloud 9 when I left. I mean, I seriously didn't think they'd offer that kind of support. I was thrilled just to be able to get into the support group but now I've got a wig if I want one and a prosthetic for when my swelling is down and tubes are out and it will tide me over until I can get my own ordered.  And she said, if you need a bra, we have those too.

Wow. I really felt great after visiting there. I can't wait for the swelling to go down so I can try on my new boob!!

It's Hair Washing Day!!

I feel so gross. I'm forbidden from bathing while I have the drainage tubes in which means I'm sponging for the next week and a half, at least. Have you ever noticed that you can't smell your own stank? I'm very aware of the fact that I can't smell myself and that I'm probably really, really stinky.

The other problem is that I lack the dexterity to wash myself properly because of the obvious issues on my right side. 

You know it's true love when your hubby is volunteering to wash your butt crack.

Yeah, that's my life!

In all seriousness, I showered before the surgery, shaved everything that needed shaving (in hindsight I would have waxed....live and learn) and even did my hair. Since then I've been sponge bathing but my hair has taken a beating. I sweat when the pills kick in, I spend a disproportionate amount of time lying down and my hair is starting to feel gross. So I think I'm going to try to hang myself over the kitchen sink today so Sean can wash it. That will make me feel better.

Emily painted my toe nails for me last night, rainbow colours.

I'm also noticing and increase in pain -  a burning sensation in my breast (or would this be called 'the area previously known as my breast' - I could be like Prince and just assign that area a symbol)  I thought at first it was stitches ripping but I think it's actually nerve endings reconnecting. Most of that area is still numb but I get the same sensation in the back of my arm and I'm starting to get the feeling back there so that is all I can think it might be.

I'm just counting down the days in which I can get my prosthetic. I'm excited to get new bras (yeah, it doesn't take much to make me happy)

I'm going shopping today too. I'm going to find something in my closet (or maybe my mom's she has lots of button up shirts) that I can wear that will discretely hide the drainage tubes and then I'm going to go to WalMart to buy myself a couple of new shirts....again, to hide the drainage. I know I'll only have them a few weeks but I don't want to have to wear Sean's shirts everytime I go out. I think it's more obvious that way.  The nurse said I could wear a sports bra so I'll have support on the one side anyway.

I'm feeling great today! (and again, forgive the jumpiness of the post - I take my meds when I wake up and by the time I get to the computer they are just kicking in)

Monday, August 22, 2011

The New Me.

It's been an interesting day. Ups and downs.

I woke up feeling pretty good, despite my horrible sleep and bad back.

I was getting cabin fever and it's such a gorgeous day that I decided we should all go for a walk at the beach. I managed to find something to wear that would discretely hide my drainage tubes (it's not so much the lack of breast that bothers me but the drainage tubes/bulbs are gross) 

We got to the beach and walked for maybe 20 minutes before the nurse called and said she was on her way.

So home we went.

Apparently, this nurse had been here before, two years ago, for my Dad. She was really nice then and still is now.

So, she thought I should take off the outer bandages today. I've got suture bandages holding my incision together (no stitches) but the outer dressing needed to come off to make sure there was no oozing, redness, etc.  I got my first look at the new me.

I wasn't really surprised with how it looked. (I'd seen pics online and in books) but I was surprised at how numb the area still is. I am also very wary of the drainage tubes which are only held in with one stitch and a bit of tape. Don't want to pull those out or get infected.

She did say I could wear a sports bra so I might give that a try the next time I go out.

I'm not sure how I feel about it just yet. Emily took a peek, I was so proud of her, I AM so proud of her and how she's handling all this. She wasn't all like "eeewwww gross!!" and she didn't seem weirded out either. She asked to see it and was genuinely interested. 

So, I was feeling down about this, about the pain, about being drugged, about feeling useless and the doorbell rang and the florist was there with a lovely 5 stemmed (for health) bamboo plant from my PP sisters. And not two minutes later the doorbell rang again and it was an Edible Arrangements delivery, also from my PP sisters. They have like a psychic sense that I needed a pick me up.

So, now I'm stuffed full of chocolate covered strawberries, I sat outside in the beautiful sunshine and played cards with my mom and I feel on top of the world again.

It doesn't take much.

Worst. Sleep. Ever.

I will preface this post by saying that I still have some meds in me so if this post is jumpy or doesn't make a whole heap of sense - that's why.

Ironically it's not my arm/breast/armpit area that is bothering me. It's my lower back. I really should have gone ot the chiropractor before the surgery.

I'm only able to sleep on my back (though I might try to sleep on my left side tonight) and for the last 2 days no one would let me do anything except sit or lay down. So my lower back has seized up. I've been taking the pain meds for the surgery but truth be known they are more for my back.  The thing is, last night before bed, I only took one, thinking, I'm not needing to be as heavily drugged since I'm not hurting that mu ch in the srugical area. Bah. I woke at 2 am to pee and my back was already sore. I woke at 5 am in pain so bad I couldn't even sit up and Sean got me a pill. I dozed as the wave came over me but when I woke at 7 am I was still sore.  It's almost worth it to me to be in a drug enduced haze just to be pain free for a while. So, I think I might take one during the day when I'm able to be up and around to stretch my back but at night before bed, I'm taking two.

The surgeon told me there was a chance of nerve damage with the surgery. I've discovered that I have no feeling in the back of my right arm, up near my armpit. Every now and then I get a burning pain there, like a muscle pulling so I think it must be the nerves reattaching. I'm not overly concerned if I don't get feeling back there just so long as that pain doesn't continue.

So, now I've moved on to being bored. Yep, bored. I'm a doer. I'm not a sit around and watch kind of person. I can only lounge for so long and because my mind is not foggy (well, except when I'm drugged...I slur a bit) I feel like I want to get up and do something; go shopping, cook supper, take a walk. Of course, beyond cooking supper, none of these are options. I have the drainage tubes in. As Sean says, they kind of look like bull testicles hanging from my shirt. I've got them pinned up but I've changed clothes and I'm wearing Sean's shirt - it's not as long and so the bulbs show at the bottom a bit. Clearly I should have bought more than one pair of button up pj's. Needless to say, it's not a pretty picture and not something I'm going to venture out in public with. 

I'm going to have to get used to this holding pattern for a bit. No outings, no appointments, no game plan, limited mobility....thank God for the internet and for my Kobo. And thank God for friends and family who are keeping me sane.  

Today will be a better day.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

A Few Pics

Post Surgery. We celebrated my birthday with the kids two days early with a Hello Kitty ice cream cake (Mary LOVES Hello Kitty)
I've been stressing about my hair, it's getting too long and unmanageable. I guess that won't be an issue soon enough.


My Boob Birthday Cake, courtesy of my friend and co-worker Tania. I told my kids that it was my new prosthetic. I thought it was especially funny that Emily was a little bit shy and embarrassed. Tania has a 13 year old son, a cutie and here's he and Emily eating boob cake together. I think she hearts him but she won't admit it.


From my dear friends  Judy and Lori.  A butterfly to signify my rebirth.



My birthday cake with the kids. yes, I got 3 birthday cakes and birthday cupcakes this year!! Don't mistaken my lack of smile for misery, I was actually quite stoned. These pain killers are the best!! Better watch myself. 

Well, there you have it. My pills are kicking in again so I think I'm going to sit back and ride the wave for a bit. My nurse is coming today so we'll see what she has to say.

Have a good day!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Why This Birthday Doesn't Suck

Because it's the first day of the rest of my life.

It's such a cliche statement but for me it really is true. Day 1 of Step One.

So, you want all the dirty details?  Okay.

I spent most of Friday morning reading, keeping my mind off of food and drink and the impending surgery. I finished The State of Wonder (and right after I commented about how slow it was it picked up and had a fantastic ending!)

We had my BIL drive us to the hospital. My Grandma lived in the nursing home across from the hospital and when she passed away my Aunt gave me the parking pass so I can park at the nursing home and not pay hospital parking. But of course this is all on the down low so Sean didn't want to take the chance of leaving the car in the parking lot overnight and getting caught.  We got there early enough got checked in and waited to be called back to the pre op room. I ordered (and paid for) a private room because I thought it would be our best chance at them letting Sean stay with me overnight. No way they'd allow it in a semi private or ward room and frankly, I don't want other people's sick germs.

In the pre op I got changed and they hooked up my IV and gave me - get this now - 2 Tylenol 3's and two Celebrex. Yeah, me the person who gets stoned on 1 Tylenol 3. They also said my surgeon was an hour behind schedule. So we sat in the pre op for almost 3 hours. My lower back was killing me, despite the heavy drugs.

When they called me back I gave Sean and hug and kiss but I couldn't look back at him or I would have lost it. I was barely hanging on as it was. And when I got into the OR I almost lost it again. I was shaking, cold and nerves.

The anesthesiologist asked about my reaction to the anesthetic and my surgeon said to him "She's already had two anesthesia consults here" at which point I said "yeah but the one yesterday was really rushed and I didn't feel heard"  So, he asked me again to explain. He reassured me that the reaction I had at 7 was more likely to have been caused by too much narcotic rather than the anesthesia. 

I figured at that point I had to trust that I'd made my concerns heard and he knows what he's doing. And it's not like I had a choice. He then offered me a spinal block which would manage my pain for about 24 hours. I readily accepted but was concerned because of my shaking. He said, not to worry, we'll give you some sedation. All of a sudden I feel a rush and wow.....it was heavenly. Seriously there is nothing in the world better than sedation. I highly (pun intended) recommend it.  So he shot up my spin about 6 times and then laid me down. He put oxygen on my face and the next thing I know I'm being woken up by a nurse. It really couldn't have been a less scary experience - all because of the sedation. Seriously they should give that out in the pre op room.

So, into my room I went with Sean right beside me. I was still pretty drugged up but aware that I was alive. (and overjoyed!)  Sean and I didn't talk much. He read, I dozed. I think we were both just too relieved for words.

At 9:00 they announced that visiting hours were over and it was 'quiet' time on the ward. We were extra quiet and it wasn't until my nurse came in at about 10 pm and commented that it was so quiet in my room, I hadn't called for anything that she noticed he was still there. BUT - because I had a private room and we weren't being a bother (and because this nurse's sister also had had a mastectomy so she was likely a little more sympathetic) she allowed Sean to stay overnight and even brought him a stretcher to sleep on so he wouldn't have to break his back in the chair all night.

She was fabulous.

So now, I'm on to the recovery stage. They let me out at 9 this morning with my instructions for cleaning my drainage tubes and the nurse will come in everyday to check them and my dressings. I didn't have to take any pain meds until 8:30 this morning and have only taken it once since. My pain is pretty manageable and I'm taking them as needed. So far, so good.

Some girlfriends came to visit me for my birthday and my rebirthday. Two of my girlfriends gave me a lovely silver butterfly necklace....my rebirth from caterpillar to butterfly. I love it. My other friend brought me a boob cake. (I'll post pics of it tomorrow - I'm on my mom's laptop right now)

This wasn't how I ever thought I'd spend my 38th birthday but I think it will be one of my most memorable ones. It's the day I came to life - again.   I was born on August 20th, 1973 at 9:45 am in Scarborough Centenary Hospital.  On August 20, 2011 at 9:45am I was pulling out of the parking lot of Scarborough Centenary Hospital to begin this new chapter in my life. The one in which I kick cancers ass and call myself a survivor.

Happy Birthday to me!!

I'm Baaaack

Thanks for the updates Jenny!

I'm home and sore as hell. I'm typing on Emily's iPod and it keeps losing the wifi signal. I will update with much more detail later when I can sit at the computer or laptop but for now, I need to lay down and ride the Percocet wave.

Friday, August 19, 2011

In her room

Sean is with Jean now. She says she is tired and sore, but happy to be here!

Don't you just LOVE her positive attitude!!

Out of Surgery

Great News! Jean is out of surgery and the Dr. said it went well. She is in recovery now, and Shaun should be able to see her in a couple of hours. The hope is that she will go home tomorrow before lunch. I will let you know if I hear anything else. Thanks for all of the thoughts and prayers everyone, I know Jean drew a lot of strength from them!

No News Yet

I haven't heard anything from Sean yet, but I promise to let you know as soon as I do!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Birth and Rebirth

At 2 pm tomorrow I should be on the operating table. It should take about an hour and a half and then another hour and a half in the recovery room before I get back to my room.

Sean will text or call a few people when he gets any information and I will text or call a few people when I'm awake enough. For the rest of you, never fear, I won't leave you wondering for great lengths of time about what is happening. My dear friend Jenny (affectionately known as Texas Jenny in our house because we know several Jenny/Jennifer's and this narrows down who we're talking about) has kindly agreed to update the blog for me.

Saturday is my 38th birthday. I'll wake up in the hospital less on body part and on a journey unlike one I've ever had before. So while Saturday is my 38th birthday it's also my Re-Birth Day. The first day of the rest of my life. The first day of my road to being a survivor. I plan to celebrate not only many, many more birthdays but many, many more re-birthdays too. 

The nurse at my pre-op today told me I had a wonderful frame of mind and a great attitude. She laughed at my joke when she confirmed my weight and I said "164 but I'll likely be about 5lbs less after the surgery."  I'll be honest, it's not always this rosey, I do cry a lot, but I also smile and hug my kids and thank God for the life I've had so far and pray for strength to get through this. I find so much strength in the phone calls, emails and cards I'm getting from so many people. It is indeed true that you find out who your friends are in time of crisis and I am blessed with so many friends I sometimes can't believe it.

YOU, my family and friends are my strength and with you, I can get through anything.

I'll be back as soon as I'm up and around (or stir crazy and begging for my Mom's laptop in bed.) 

See ya soon!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

What Lies Ahead

Each step in this process is what I call Step One. Getting the lymph nodes looked at, Step One. Getting the lymph nodes removed, Step One. Getting the diagnosis of cancer, Step One.

This Friday I come to my new Step One. Mastectomy. And then I wait for my next Step One - pathology. Did they find the primary so that I can move on to my new Step One - chemo.

I know that sounds like I'm not moving forward, by always being at Step One but I prefer to look at it differently. Each Step One I pass is now Past. I will not linger on it. I'm not lingering on finding the lumps in my armpit, I'm not linger on the last surgery, I'm not lingering on diagnosis.....I'm looking ahead, not back. So by counting the surgery as Step 4 I'm allowing myself to see a Step One, Two or Three.  Not acceptable.

Step One is almost here.

So, I've got nearly everything in place for my new normal. I've got my employment insurance worked out (and say what you will about Government workers but the woman I spoke to on the phone about my government sick benefits nearly had me in tears with her encouraging words)  I've yet to be able to reach anyone within the school board to notify them of my sick leave. It appears no one knows how to return phone calls. I'll keep harassing them. I've collected my personal items from school (and my resources, which I was going to leave there but decided not to because I suspect they'd be lost or *borrowed* by the time I get back.)  I've got 8 books on my Kobo and 1 1/2 paperback books to read. I'm going to call the mastectomy bra store today to find out when they recommend I come for a fitting.  I'm as ready as I can be for something like this.

I was talking to my Great Aunt yesterday (also a breast cancer survivor!) and she'd mentioned to me that the Patron Saint of Cancer Patients is St. Peregrine.  So when I got off the phone with her I went over to our local Catholic book store and bought a St Peregrine medal to put on my bracelet, right along side my hope, believe and Miraculous Mary medal. I wanted to buy a novena too but they didn't have any so I'm going to print the one from the internet and laminate it.

I've been thinking a lot about the Relay for Life.  My mom and I had been planning to try to get a bowling fundraising event together this fall and then our Spring Tea in the spring (naturally - haha) but obviously the bowling won't be happening. I'm sure there will be lots of time for me to sew when I'm home during treatments and the kids are all at school. I don't intend to lie around in bed (though I'm sure sometimes I'll want to) But then, a stroke of genius hit me.

I had told the girls that I was going to have a head shaving party when I started my chemo. I told them they could do the honours of shaving my head. (you see, from a psychological standpoint, if my hair falls out on it's own, I won't handle it well - but if  I beat it to the punch and do it myself...) Sean told me that he's going to stop cutting his hair and shaving a la Movember and won't cut/shave until I do. My brother Shaun also told me he's going to shave his head for me (granted neither one of them has a ton of hair - it's the solidarity that speaks)

So, I've decided to make this party a fundraiser. I'm going to invite everyone I know. For $10 they can come, enjoy some yummy snacks and drinks and the highlight of the party will be the head shave. Oh, and here's the really fun part...for anyone who is interested in shaving their heads also - the $10 fee is waived. 

So even if I only have 10 people show up, I can raise $100 for our Relay. And I have way more than 10 people just in my immediate family!

I'm excited about this, I'm looking forward to having something to celebrate and since the Relay has become even more personal to me (as if it weren't personal enough already) I'll feel like I'm still doing my part.

But for today, I plan to ignore cancer, spend the day at the beach with my family and enjoy life.

Have a great day!

Monday, August 15, 2011

An Apology

for the rant in the previous post. It's been an especially hard week.

I fear alienating people when I need them the most and it's a fine line I'm walking between holding it all together and going crazy.

Please (all of you) don't interpret my previous rant as my not wanting to hear your thoughts and concerns and yes, suggestions too. I will actively try to be less bitchy when receiving them and take them as they are intended - as love, concern and care. Because I know that's where it comes from and it's my fear and stress that are causing me to overlook that.





Grrrr!!

I've been on the hunt for resources, support for the kids, for me, for Sean and I'm coming up empty.

There is a place here called Hearth Place that offers support to cancer patients and their families. I was certain they had a support group for kids whose parents have cancer (they did when my Dad was sick) but it doesn't appear that they do anymore. They did have some printable resources though, so I printed them for Mary (a bit too young for Emily)

It had a list of books that would be great for the girls so I looked at Chapters and guess what, Chapters has NO books to help kids with a parent with cancer. Some of them are available on Amazon so I'm going to order one in particular for Emily today.

Hearth Place has a support group for those newly diagnosed with breast cancer but it's an 8 week cycle and they are in week 6 I think. So I'm hoping to be able to register for the next cycle but I haven't heard back yet when that will start.

I want to avoid internet chat rooms and random websites for fear of false/misleading information and for my own sanity.

I'm going to browse through the Canadian Cancer Society site - hopefully they'll have something. Anything.

Emily went to a friends house yesterday. On the way there she asked Sean (again) why it is that whenever we have a family meeting someone is really sick or dying. He explained that it was just the easiest way to deal with it together.  I swear the next family meeting we have will be about something positive - my beating cancer! A family trip to Disney Land! This is my goal - a great family meeting.

This friend whose house she went to. She's the one whose Aunt had cancer. Em came home and told me right away that the Aunt had had breast cancer as well and what's more - she also had a mastectomy. Her friend said she'd been playing with the prosthetic breast once and it was really squishy. I get the sense that Emily felt really great hearing that. Emily knows the Aunt, she's there frequently so she sees how 'normal and healthy' she is. Truth be known I felt great hearing that she too had a mastectomy. I've met the Aunt several times too and it reassures me as well. I can beat this.

I was a little frustrated again yesterday with yet another suggestion that I have both breast removed. I want to set the record straight.

I am not opposed to the mastectomy at all. This isn't about vanity for me. Sure, I'm not thrilled about being less one (or two) boobs but I'll get prosthetics and maybe one day I'll get reconstructive surgery. I just want to be cancer free. I get that having both breasts removed may decrease my chances of it reoccurring in the other breast - MAY. It doesn't mean it will. I can still get breast cancer in the remaining tissue/cavity. Furthermore, while I understand I am entitled to tell my surgeon I would like them both taken off I am putting my trust in her and the other Dr's that she's conferred with that if it were something they felt was necessary, they would suggest it. Go flip through a book of breast cancer patient photos. Most of the women with mastectomies only have one gone - not both. Just because I have it in one doesn't mean I'll get it in the other and while I know there is a chance - there is also a chance Sean could get testicular cancer (his younger brother died from it some 30 year ago) does that mean Sean should cut his balls off?  I don't need my appendix and there is a chance I could one day get appendicitis - so should I get an appendectomy? I know this is slightly different than those examples but to me, it's more the same. I'm not cutting off my nose to spite my face. And if they later determine I need to have the left one removed then so be it. Hack it off Doc.

Don't get me wrong, I know these suggestions are coming from a place of love and concern and for wanting me to beat this but without sounding bitchy, it's not helping - it's just adding to my stress. Everyone knows I'm already second guessing a lot of my choices and while I'm not asking for people to blow sunshine up my ass and tell me I'm making a right choice if I'm clearly not,  at the end of the day 95% of my driving force in my choices comes from what my Dr thinks is best. She's the expert, not me.

Please don't misunderstand me - I have had nothing but love and support from every single person who knows. It is so true that in times like these you find out who your real friends are and I'm so happy to know that all the people who I thought (hoped) would be there for me really are. I do welcome input but please...please....if I don't ask for advice or suggestions...don't offer it. Sometimes I just want an ear. Sometimes I just want a hug. Sometimes I just want to have a conversation that has absolutely nothing to do with cancer. My SIL called me yesterday to talk iPods and it was fantastic! If I need advice or suggestions I will ask for it. I promise. There are several of you who have walked this road, either yourselves or with a loved one. Your advice and suggestions have been invaluable to me because you've been in the thick of it and are helping me prepare for what is to come.

I am re reading this and it sounds so bitchy. I really don't mean it to be that way. I don't want to alienate anyone because, as I said, everyone has been so fantastically supportive to me this past few weeks (and months for those who knew about the lumps pre diagnosis) but I'm already so on edge, terrified and unsure of what's ahead. I am trying to keep my stress levels to a minimum and like my brother said to me - trust my gut and trust my Dr's.  I love you all and thank you all so much for being there for and with me through all this.

So, today, I'm off for a long list of housekeeping items before the big day on Thursday. I'm tired already.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Cat is Out of the Bag

We told the girls today. I feel like a weight has been lifted.

It was not pleasant, there were lots of tears but there were also a lot of hugs and reassuring words. Emily gets it. She got it right away. She knew before I even told them. Mary hears it but I don't think she fully comprehends it. Connor wasn't even there - no point.

But, in the end it's out in the open and now we can talk about what's happening, what will happen in the future and we stay strong together. They are my reason for being and they are the reason I will fight this and they are the reason I will beat it.

Thou Shalt Not Google

Yesterday was not a good day. I'm finding the rhythm of grief. Each time I get bad news I have two days of hell, lots of tears and such and then I bounce back. So I'm hoping today will be a better day.

I spent a lot of yesterday second guessing my choice. Should I go to a hospital that has a cancer centre (mine doesn't) Should I get a second opinion? Should I hold off on the mastectomy until I know for sure where the tumor is?  But I've come to these conclusions.

My hospital does not have a cancer centre but it does have an oncologist. It does have a surgeon who is getting opinions from Dr's in Sunnybrook...which does have a cancer centre. If I go to another hospital I'm going to be delayed because while our health care system is doing it's job for me and I am going through the system at a good pace - if I opt to go to another hospital I'm dropping down the queue and do I want to do that? No. Same with seeing another Dr or getting a second opinion. That was offered to me. I could go see the breast specialist at Sunnybrook and have her do more tests and assess but at best it will mean a lumpectomy rather than a mastectomy. And frankly, I'm willing to take my chances that I have a breast (or two)  needlessly removed than I am at giving this shit further chance to grow and invade my body. My sister in law's mom is proof positive that even a few short weeks can create a very different ball game with cancer and remember, I want to be on the winning team (my SIL's mother is a breast cancer survivor and one of the people I am using as my inspiration that I can beat this shit).

My Aunt (a retired nurse) was looked at all my test results and was able to decipher them better. Everything else looks good and the only spread appears to be in the right armpit lymph nodes so I want to keep it that way.  

So I'm not seeking second opinions (my surgeon got second opinions for me), I'm not switching hospitals (though when it comes time for chemo I will see if I can do it out here just for the convenience - if it's going to affect timing though - I'll take the commute) I am going to stick with my decision, own it and hope and pray it's the right one and that when they remove my breast they find the cancer so we can nip this shit out.

Yesterday I broke my first commandment. Thou Shall Not Google. I decided to just see instances like mine in which the primary is not found through imagining. I didn't find much info on it but I did find placed me (I think - if I'm reading it right) at a stage II cancer. I googled for only 15 minutes and started to scare myself so I stopped.

I also thought - when I was struggling with infertility and loss I joined Fertility Friend. It was there that I 'met' my Pumpkin Patch sisters. Over the past 4+ years they have been there for me, not just through IF, loss, pregnancy and having a rainbow baby but for life events too. They were a shoulder to cry on when my Dad was sick and two of my PP sisters lost parents to cancer around the same time. Several had lost parents to cancer in the past. We bonded further over that. My PP sisters have become so much strength for me in all parts of life and especially now as I feel their love coming though the computer screen, phone texts and in the mail. I'd be lost without them.
So in that spirit I thought I would find an online group for those battling cancer. The PP made IF easier, maybe the same would be for cancer. I found a group for those with breast cancer and I read a few posts and joined and posted my intro but honestly, I don't think I'm going to stick with it. I'm too scared to. I don't want to become 'attached' to people who may die. It was hard enough hearing about PP friends who were losing their babies, I can't hear about people losing their lives to something I'm battling too. I think, for my personality, it will make me weaker, not stronger.

So, my strength comes from my kids, my husband, my mom, my brothers and sisters in law and their families, Sean's family, my friends, my PP sisters and most importantly the survivors I know, Janice, Rose, Debra, Aina, Denise.  If they can beat it so can I!

I will beat this. I have to. I have too much to live for.
And today is a new day.

Friday, August 12, 2011

The Best Laid Plans....

Remember that funny story I told you about how I was going to take my holiday and take the kids to the trailer? Yeah, the joke's on me.

So, without getting to long winded, here's the scoop. 

In roughly 1% of breast cancer patients there is no easily identifiable source of the cancer within the breast. That's me. When have any of you known me to do things easily or normally. No, I have to unusual.

The ultrasound was not helpful and as it stands right now they still don't have a clear tumor identified in my breast. But all the experts my Dr has consulted with still agree that the cancer found in my lymph nodes is very likely from the breast. She also said it was aggressive. That was what drove my decision.

My options were presented. I could see another surgeon at Sunnybrooke, a breast specialist who could do an MRI biopsy and other things like that in hopes of finding the source. But she's going on holiday for two weeks at the end of the month so this could delay things 6-8 weeks and ultimately there's no guarantee she'd find it either and I could end up right back to where I am now.

OR

I could do what my surgeon has wanted to do since day one but did her due diligence in testing everything, which is a mastectomy.  She said in 60-80% of these cases the cancer is found after the mastectomy, it's just that the type is harder to detect through imaging.

So, that's what I'm doing. Next Friday, August 19th I'll be having a right breast mastectomy.

Wanna here the kicker? My birthday is August 20th.

Last year at this time I was thinking about what I wanted for my birthday, how I was getting older, what I wanted to do that day. This year, I'll be waking up in the hospital short one body part that I was born with. Wow.

It's not the end of the world. I'll trade a breast (I'll trade both!) to keep my life but I still wish this wasn't happening.

I had my pity party yesterday on the way home from the hospital and now I'm okay again.

As for our vacation. We cancelled. The policy of the trailer park is that cancelling within this time frame gives you a credit voucher for a future rental but Sean explained the reason for our cancellation to the manager and they kindly refunded our money less the $100 cancellation fee. I was happy about that. I'm not happy about having to tell the kids though. We'll be doing that Monday. I can't hide the truth much longer. They'll notice me gone overnight and less one boob.

Yesterday morning Sean and I went car shopping. My lease is up in September and we needed to get this taken care of before my surgery. So on August 27th I'm getting a brand new, red, HHR. Funny since I've always maintained that I hate those vehicles. I thought they were ugly. But, it's not too bad and it was nice to drive. The girls hate it though. Emily was holding out for a Dodge Journey.

And last night I went to dinner with two co workers. The teacher I used to work with and the other ECE I work with. I can always count on the other ECE to understand my sense of humour/defense system and play on it. For example, when I was leaving the house yesterday to go to dinner I whispered to Sean "like my right breast, I'm off!"  So my girlfriend told me she was going to come see me in the hospital on my birthday and bring me a chocolate breast. She knew I'd laugh and Sean would laugh but was worried she'd offend my mom - that she wouldn't see the humour in that. I was more concerned about my new breast melting at the beach.

I have to make light of it. I mean really, inside I'm screaming but what good would it do me to carry on? It's not going to change the fact so all I can do it live with it. Stay positive and strong and keep my sense of humour.

I will beat this. I have to. I have too much to live for.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Hmmmm

What does it mean when the Dr calls you at 10:30 and night from her home and says she wants to see you the next day "because we haven't met in a while and should discuss some things".

I don't know either but I'm scared as hell. For a Dr who, until now, seemed to be taking things a little easy this late night, not from the office, call has put me on edge.

The really funny part....I'm actually hoping the reason she's bringing me in is because she wants to tell me that she's decided to do a mastectomy. I'm prepared for that. I'm not prepared for anything worse.

Who'd have thought I'd ever see the day where I was hopeful a Dr would tell me she's going to hack my boobs off.   I mean, obviously I'm more hopeful that she's going to say "Oh shit, we made a giant mistake and you don't have cancer after all" but I'm also not a fool and don't give in to fantasies like that. They just set you up for disappointment. Remember, I'm a realist.

Well, I guess I'll find out soon enough. Happy thoughts.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Some Clarification

It would seem that my last post brought a bit of concern and confusion to a few people so I thought I should clarify.

It's not something anyone wants to imagine but think for a second about how you might react if your Dr told you you had the dreaded C word. I imagined it, a long time ago when the Dr told my Dad that he did. I would ponder it at night, when it's dark and quiet and your worst fears take hold. It was a horrible thought. I imagined I'd be a puddle, no good for anything and desperate to make it not true. I imagined I'd walk through the rest of my life like a zombie, not really aware of what was going on around me, numb to anything but the devastating truth.

But when my Dr gave me the news that I had the dreaded C word, it was not at all like that. Sure, I was a puddle and spent a good portion of the next two days crying and going through worst case scenarios in my mind but then I snapped out of it. Because the simple fact of the matter is, I do have cancer but I don't have a  death sentence.

I could, if I really wanted to, curl up in my bed, throw a giant pity party and feel incredibly sorry for myself. I could cry, why me? What did I do to deserve this? It's not fair!! But what good would that do? Would it cure me? Hells no. Would it make me feel better about all this? Quite the opposite. So why waste the energy? Instead, I'm pouring that energy into being positive, accepting that this is what it is, it sucks and I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy but that I will have surgery, I will have treatments, I will beat cancer and I will get on with my life. Truthfully, I'm more stressed out about my eventual lack of income (so much for being debt free) and about what I'm sure will be a lengthy battle with the insurance company over my health crisis insurance on my mortgage than I am about the cancer.  I'm not overjoyed at the prospect of being sans boobie (though this is not decided yet) and I'm not overjoyed about trying to help a 3 year old understand why Mommy's hair is all gone (he LOVES to play with my hair) but again, these are blips on the screen.  

I am stronger than cancer. It's as simple as that. And when if get weak in the knees I have great family and friends who will pick me up and be my strength for me until I find mine again. But I am not giving up. 

So, on to, what I think is, positive news.

I had my ultrasound today. I had a great tech who didn't turn the screen away like they tend to do during OB ultrasounds so I was able to watch. As best as I can tell the ultrasound picked up a few things (I can't remember if it was 2 or 3) in my right breast - all the measurements she typed in were 2 cm as well as 2 or 3 very large lymph nodes in the right armpit.

On the left, nothing. She didn't mark or measure anything. Now, it was the left that showed things in the MRI that my Dr was more concerned about but since nothing showed up in the ultrasound I don't know if this means I'll be sent for another special MRI or if we're heading right to surgery.  I expect I'll hear from the Dr by next week.

So, that's where we are today.

Ooh, and my back has finally stopped hurting. So I can sit/stand/lay down for longer than 13 seconds without crying in pain. Yay me!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Unnamed Post

I don't like posting without a title but sometimes my posts are a bit jumpy and I can't think of a fitting title. This would be a good example.

I spoke with my Uncle last night and got some advice. My Uncle lost his first wife to breast cancer some 10 years ago and I wanted some advice on how to tell the kids about what was going on. My younger cousin was about Emily's age when her mom passed away.

He gave me some great advice on how to handle it but one thing in particular that he said really made sense and reaffirmed what I've been trying to do all along. He said, don't let it become the dominant part of life. Make it just another one of those things. So, for example, you go to work, you pick up your dry cleaning, you go for chemo. Make it part of your routine and then it won't be such a big deal to them. And live your life.

So far, despite them not actually knowing, that's what I've been trying to do with all the Dr's appointments and tests, just make it a thing I have to do before we go do something fun.

It also helped me make a decision. I've decided I'm taking a week off from cancer when we go to the trailer. I'm going to tell the surgeon to not book me any appointments or the surgery for that week unless it is of an urgent/critical nature. And I'm guessing that since, while things are moving quickly, they are not moving at lightning speed my 'taking a week off' will not have any serious consequences. The fact of the matter is, when we really start rolling with surgery, chemo and radiation, as much as I will strive to keep things normal, it's going to be a 'new normal' so I'd like to have this one last relaxed fun time with my family before I tell the kids what's happening.

Moving on...
we're trading in our van soon. The lease is up in September. I'm hoping we can lease something new but there is a bit of body damage, some minor dents from when I hit my brothers van a few years ago. From what I've read they are small enough to count as 'normal wear' so I'm hoping we won't have to worry about that. I don't particularly want to buy it out, I don't like it but if we have to...we have to. I don't know what I want in it's place though. I'll leave that to Sean. Frankly, I'd be happy with a small car like his but let's face it, his little pocket rocket is not conducive to shuttling around three growing kids.

I can't believe in just 4 short weeks Connor will be starting kindergarten. I was thinking about it last night, especially his bathroom obsession. I don't know how they work it in his school. He doesn't have a bathroom in his class (most kindergarten classes do) so I'm wondering how this will work. I picture my little guy asking to go to the bathroom and then getting lost in the school. 
I know, realistically, this won't happen but it's one of those things I think about. I'm sure his teacher will either get incredibly irritated by his constant bathroom visits or call to ask if there is a chance he's diabetic. He's not, he just has a thing for bathrooms. 

Today, in fact, I got to visit the men's washroom at the park. Connor had to pee (not really) and the women's washroom was closed for cleaning. A man heard me tell him it was closed and offered to guard the door while I took him into the men's washroom to pee. It was nice of him and Connor was overjoyed to pee in the urinal. He was less than impressed that I wouldn't let him stick around to watch the urinal finish flushing. 

I've been thinking a lot about karma. I'd made a comment to Sean and to a friend that I felt like I brought this on myself. I know it's ridiculous but my thinking was that with my constant thought about the Relay and raising money for cancer for the past two years that maybe I made it manifest itself in me. Again, I know how ridiculous that sounds out loud  but when trying to make sense of why this is happening it's crossed my mind.

Anyway, my friend, who has an incredible knack  for making me look at things in a different light, said that obviously that was a ridiculous thing to think BUT that maybe all that fundraising and dedication was building up some good karma for me for this fight.   I really love that way of thinking.

I do believe in karma, not just because I really need to now (not like atheists who finally acknowledge a higher power on their death beds) but because I always have. You reap what you sow. I've tried to be a good person. I don't deliberately do unkind things and the times when I might be have been less than kind or honest I've felt guilty as hell about it and tried to make it right.  I'm hoping some good karma is coming my way (or more importantly that I haven't already used it all up!)

Finally, I've always been a big Alanis Morrisette fan and I was listening to her this morning. I've always loved the song "Ironic" and in particular this line

"Life has a funny way of sneaking up on you when you think everything's okay and everything's going right.
Yeah, life has a funny way of helping you out when you think everything's going wrong and everything blows up in your face."

It really describes my life.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Two Steps Back, One Step Forward

I'm starting to wonder if my surgeon reads my blog. Or perhaps my mind. Or perhaps the oncologist called her and gave her a 'what for' for my (and his) obviously being out of the loop.  Regardless the reason she called me yesterday with a plan of action.

She did say at the moment she was more concerned with what showed in the left breast (interesting since the lymph nodes were in the right) So, I have to have an ultrasound (she eluded to it being on Monday and said her secretary would call me with the details - she didn't so I hope the diagnostic imagining department of the hospital does call with the details) Anyhow, the hope is that they can see the lumps described in the MRI through the u/s and if they can they will try to biopsy them right then and there. If not, I'll have to have a specialized MRI in which they attempt to biopsy them during the MRI (apparently not all hospitals have this capability so I suspect I'll be going downtown - though I hope with the new cancer centre here that maybe they'll have it)

She did elude to the idea that if the needle biopsy is not possible that there could be more surgery - which could possible include a full mastectomy. And it is entirely possible that they could do said mastectomy and not actually find any cancer in the removed breast. Not exactly the desired outcome but I have the utmost confidence that they are doing all they can to prevent that. I think mastectomy to find the cancer is last resort.

She also said the results of the bone scan were good. I said, well good, I guess I'm taking this as a good sign that it's so hard to find and maybe we caught it really really early. She shut right down and said "Well, let's just do what we need to do."

I know she's not in the business of giving false hope but throw me a fricken bone here woman!

I'm keeping that good thought anyway. Screw her.

And so, this roller coaster continues.

And as a little side note, I decided to clean up my blog a bit. It was a little too busy. So now you'll see fancy tabs at the top to visit our Relay for Life page and the Papa's Pride blog plus another page for my Etsy Store. The links to the blogs I follow and the past posts are at the bottom now.

Much less cluttered. Great for the anti horder in me.

Friday, August 5, 2011

A Little More than Vaguely Frustrated

I left the oncologists office feeling encouraged and like I was beginning the path the end of this ugliness.

I now feel like I'm still right at the beginning of it and I'm frustrated.

I called the oncologist yesterday to get the results of my breast mammogram. My hopes were that this would pin point where we need to focus surgery and treatments.  Instead, it left more questions.

In the oncologists words.... "This is the vaguest report I've ever seen. I read it. I read it again and then I reread it." 

So, basically, there is 'something' in each breast. They can give measurements (one in the right is 5 mm - but that was all I remembered. He read it over the phone and offered to fax it but I don't have access to a fax right now. I'll pick up a copy next week) Anyhow, the descriptions of what exactly it was in each breast left more questions.
They recommended and ultrasound and if nothing could be determined by that then it's off to another, more specialized MRI.

The long and the short of it is that there is something in both my breasts that may or may no be cancer.

So we move on to my frustration with the surgeon. The oncologist handles me for chemo and radiation. But none of that happens until after the lymph nodes and any other cancer is out. My surgeon seems to be a little slow on the uptake. The only reason I know the results of the MRI are because the oncologist said to call him to find out. Otherwise I might be blissfully sadly unaware thinking that the results aren't even there yet. My surgeon does not seem to be very proactive. My thought is what the f*ck are you waiting for??  The longer we wait around sitting on our hands the more opportunity this shit has to grow and spread. Not good.

So after I got off the phone with the oncologist I called the surgeons office and made another appointment. Truly, I'm mad at myself. I had an appointment with her yesterday and she said not to bother keeping it, to wait until I heard from her office. Well, I'm not waiting anymore. She doesn't seem to realize who she has for a patient. Words used to describe me  - stubborn, control freak, impatient , so if she thinks for even the slightest minute that I'm doing this on her schedule...she's mistaken.  Sorely mistaken. I will not sit on my hands and wait.  I will do.

I'm also a little miffed that I left not one but two messages for her to call me and neither were returned. Also not acceptable. I realize she's got lots of patients and a busy schedule but she's also got my life in her hands so if she can't take 5 minutes to call me back I will be happy to ask for a new surgeon who can. Not acceptable.

So, I wait. Again. I see her next Wednesday and as with the oncologist I will go armed with a list of questions. I will also address these issues I'm having. The downside to this is that Sean will not be going with me to this appointment. It's on a scheduled work day. He's already missed so much and since I figure she's not going to tell me anything I don't already know (thanks to the oncologist) he should go to work.

I worry too about my job. Again. When we got the plan from the oncologist I emailed my union president for some advice on who to talk with from my union about this. We don't have a collective agreement yet and I worry about job protection when I have to take and extended time off. The way things are going - I may be going back in September after all, if even for a few weeks.

I don't like being in limbo. I don't like not knowing and most importantly, I don't like not having a plan. I'm a planner. It's what I do.  And yet, again, maybe I should take heart in the fact that wherever the source of this ugliness is, it's not blatantly apparent - which I would think means I caught it really really early...which would be a great thing.  I hope I'm right. I'm trying my absolute best to not take the pathology report and google. Dr. Google is bad and does nothing but scare me.

Now something a little more positive.

Yesterday we took the girls and a friend for each to Canada's Wonderland.  We haven't been there in about 5 years. The last time we went Emily was too afraid to go on most rides. We spent upwards of $200 to go and she went on about 5 rides and wanted to leave. Sean and I were unimpressed and vowed to not go back for many years.

Anyhow, now Emily is as tall as me and less fearful. Mary just made the 48" height requirement for most rides. So she was able to go on some of the big roller coasters. Mary's friend is almost Emily's height so she had no problems.

I can't remember the last time I had so much fun. Wonderland is one big line up, true, but all worth it. There were a lot of things we wouldn't go on, just because the lines were two hours long but I got to take Mary and her friend on their very first real roller coaster. I got to go on a few rides myself that I never thought I go on (one was a roller coaster in which you lay face down - yeah, it was a hell of a lot scarier than it looked when I was in line)  And of course, we did some of the good old standbys like the tea cups (only at Wonderland they are barrels)

I truly had fun yesterday and relaxed. I didn't think about this ugliness, even after I spent 20 minutes on the phone with the Dr.  I was just me. It was nice bit of denial. I'm hopeful that I'll still be able to get to the trailer in two weeks and enjoy a bit of the same.

And so, we move on. Hopefully there will be some written in stone answers soon and a clear path for treatment.  I don't like being frustrated.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Pin Cushion and a Plan (of sorts)

Pin Cushion. That's what I feel like at the moment. My left arm is covered in track marks and I'm sure on a bad hair day I look like a junky (and not a very good one as one of my 'tracks' is quite bruised)

They won't use my right arm for needles because of the surgery so all needles go in the left. But my veins are skinny and deep so they poke and prod and rub and strangle the life out of my arm just to get the vein to pop out.

Since Friday I've had a bone scan, another CT scan and an MRI.  And all came with needles.

I don't mind needles. They hurt but I don't look when they are going in and that makes it better. Once it's in, I'm fine.

So the bone scan entailed being injected with nuclear something or other. There  was a sign in the bathroom that said if you were injected for a nuclear test to sit when you pee. I guess they didn't want any radioactive pee splatters around the bathroom. That test wasn't so bad, much like the CT Scan only without the warm, peeing my pants feeling.

The CT scan, still a mystery as to why I had that.  The oncologist today didn't understand why I had that either. Interestingly enough, and I'm just noticing this now, I called the surgeon to call me back today and I've not heard from her. Hmmm. Fishy. I may call again tomorrow.  That was another one with contrast aka the stuff that makes your throat burn and feel like your peeing your pants

The MRI - let's talk. I was nervous about that. I'm not claustrophobic but I am under a lot of stress and things that wouldn't normally bother me are so I was concerned I might be bothered by that. Combine this with the 'why-am-I-having-this- again- CT-Scan' and the rushing from one hospital to another. Actually we have tons of  time (Ajax hospital is really nice since I was last there with Emily in 2000) and they were relatively quick with the test. We went to Timmies and WalMart and I bought Connor a copy of Despicable Me (his favorite movie).  Anyhow, I'm getting off topic. The MRI also had a contrast. But this one didn't feel like anything and they assured me that it wouldn't react with the contrast from the CT Scan.  So after what felt like an endless wait, I got my IV and was brought into the MRI room.  It had a special attachment on the bed because since this was a breast MRI I was laying face down with my boobs in holes and my head resting on this little head rest thing. (Think cow udders hanging below them)  They gave me ear plugs and slid me in.

It really wasn't that bad, the least scary of all the tests I've had so far. It was noisy but it was rhythmic, almost a white noise and it gave me time (forced me) to relax, be calm and think. I thought about how this is not going to beat me. I thought about how all these tests suck but they are a necessary evil and that they will only benefit me. And I made a mental list of what I wanted to ask the oncologist today.

I've also decided on my next tattoo. (as a funny side story, I had been thinking about this before and my friend was over and telling me about another friend of hers who had cancer and got a very similar tattoo to what I'd been thinking about)  When this is all done and over with I'm getting either a ribbon (I'd like it to be pink but I honestly don't remember if they have pink ink so if not I might go for a light purple which is the general cancer awareness colour) or possibly a daffodil. And under it it will say "survivor". I'm thinking I will get it on the inside of my right wrist.

So, on to today.

I was nervous as hell going to see the Dr. He's the expert and would be able to decipher more of the report. The thing is, he didn't have the report from the pathologist. So I made sure to tell him, we already heard back that it was cancer and were looking for a clearer picture and a plan of action.  He went to his secretary and computer and got all the info available thus far.

So, in a nutshell, he says it is most likely breast cancer. He'll know more positively when he sees the MRI report which he said I can call for tomorrow afternoon. He explained it this way. Think of the cancer as a seed. It needs fertile soil to grow. So it started in the breast but it wasn't a fertile place, that's why it's not showing up in the mammogram or by touch. But the lymph nodes were more fertile so it went there to grow.
At any rate he said we'll do surgery to remove the rest of the lymph nodes, whatever tissue in the breast is cancerous and if need be, the whole breast. He said recovery from that will be about a month. From there we move on to about 4 months of chemo (guess I'm going bald!) and then radiation.. After that it will either be another medication or a hormone treatment but it will depend on the type of breast cancer it is.

Either way, it looks like this will be a roughly 6-7 month road ahead of us. And while that seems like an eternity, it's a plan and I'm happy about that.

So, it's not all sunshine and lollipops but it wasn't the worst case scenario either and I call that a good day. I came out of it feeling good, feeling hopeful and feeling as happy as can be expected given the circumstances.

I do, now, have to figure out how I handle things on the job front. I've emailed my union rep to see where to go from here. I not only want to keep my job but I want to be able to keep my school. Fingers crossed. It's going to be a tough road economically. The benefits of our health care system is that none of this will occur at any cost to me and any medical costs I do have (medications) will be covered by Sean's insurance but with my not working, I'll only get Employment Insurance for around 20 weeks as of September (I qualify for 29 weeks of EI but since I'm on EI right now for 'lay off' those 29 weeks are counting down as of now.  And Sean will likely be taking a stress leave to be home with me to help me with going to and from treatments and appointments. My mom has got the kids. I guess Sean will take as long as he can and once he's got to go back I'll have to rely on family and friends. I know they've got my back and would drive me to and from the hospital. 

So, that's it for now.  A lot to process but today I feel great (though I'm still stressing about that pain in my sinuses) I'm feeling hopeful and strong.

I will beat this. I have to. I have too much to live for.