Archive for August 2009
Up and getting ready to take my first meeting with my plastic surgeon. I’m told I have assembled a very experienced, very professional group of female surgeons, physicians, genetic counselors, and nurses … Last week my cardiologist noticed that he’s the only male on my list. Who knew my city was so wealthy in breast cancer healthcare workers? I am blessed with God’s grace to have them working on my behalf.
On another matter, I think I took a morning pill with my bedtime medicine last night … I tossed and turned all night unable to get more than 2 hours sleep max. There’s a reason why patients are advised not to take their medicines in the dark :-O
Make it a wonderful day, and remember to smile … your’s may be the only one someone out there receives today!
Que sera, sera
what ever will be, will be;
The future’s not ours to see.
Que sera, sera
What will be, will be
Well, two weeks from Tuesday, on September 15, 2009, I go under the knife for a bilateral mastectomy and reconstructive breast surgery. Two months ago I was fretting over passing the English Language Arts and Reading teacher certification exam, hoping I would somehow get a classroom of my own enthusiastic middle schoolers to teach, and in an instant, my life changed with the knowledge that I have breast cancer.
At first, I thought I could multi-task my way through the ordeal … kind of throw fighting breast cancer in amongst all the other things I have to do to progress and maintain my life. But then when my genetic test came back positive, and I discovered that from birth I was at increased risk of getting cancer, and that unless I take drastic measures, I will remain at risk … well, nothing else seems as important right now as fighting breast cancer.
When school began I was so sad as I watched the other teachers prepare their rooms and lesson plans for a new year, and greet their classes on the first day. I kept thinking: “That should have been me!”
So, don’t get me wrong … all of my hopes and dreams are just as clear, just as real, just as intense as they always were … I still want to teach middle school; write a book of essays, and reach out to teenage mothers and other young women struggling to find themselves. I even now want to become a living testimony of breast cancer survival for other women, and men, too. But all of this will have to wait, or at least progress will need to slow up a bit while I fight this alien that has invaded my body.
Speaking of the alien, I received the results of my recent bone, CAT, and PET scans as well as my MRI and I am relieved to report that all was fine and it looks like the alien is still where we found it … sitting comfortably in my left breast … it has not metastasized … Thank God!
And I’m happy to report as well that the nightmares have decreased somewhat; although the thought of cancer is never far from my conscious mind, I am at least able to sleep a little better these days.
I suppose in some way I’m getting used to the idea of living with cancer, or the threat of it. And, consequently, I realize that I will never, ever be the same person. How I will change and grow is yet being determined … right now, I’m just looking for peace in the storm.
Today was a productive day. I was able to squeeze in a visit with The Center’s resident social worker, something I was attempting to do, but had not yet secured.
The bone scan is not radioactive; I don’t think … because the door was open. Turning my head to my right allowed me to see an image of my skeleton displaying itself on the computer screens on that side of me. The technician was willing to take a photo of me before I got up, but the camera’s batteries were zonked.
Meeting with surgeon went well … nothing happened that I didn’t expect, except that she was running late, so I went downstairs and had lunch. I landed in the Cafe at the height of lunchtime rush hour. Cheers to the Ben Hogan Center employee that gave me one of his meal coupons so that I could afford to pay for all of my meal.
Stopped by the Cancer Boutique; met the director. She was able to provide me with some direction, encouragement and support … the visit went well. I left with some intriguing investigative journalism ideas in mind.
Productive Day …
I stayed up late last night unable to sleep. I’m up early this morning for another long day preparing for breast surgery in September.
- Show up at 7:45 at the cancer center to begin the 3-hour bone density test (take a shot of dye; keep myself busy for 2 hours before taking the actual test);
- Meet breast surgeon at noon in her office for our last meeting before surgery … I expect her to explain exactly what she plans to do during the operation and to tell me that because of my history of heart trouble I am not a candidate for the TRAM flap breast reconstruction surgery;
- Meet with the nurse navigator at one of the local hospitals who will take me on tour of the hospital’s cancer boutique where I should be able to pick up supplies I’ll need during treatment (scarves, wigs, information, etc.)
When will I be free??
I wake up in the mornings, or from a nap not quite sure of where I am, or what I’m doing. These are very vivid dreams …
This morning’s dream was of me in a classroom … teaching, of course. In the beginning of the dream, another teacher and I were preparing for the students to arrive. They came in; they sat, and then for some reason somebody gave me a hampster-like animal to hold and take care of. I decided to take the animal outside, but before I could get it to the ground floor of what was obviously a high rise building, the darn thing fell down the elevator shaft.
Once on the ground, I grabbed ahold of the hampster, but now it was really big, really, really big and it was white. I was trying to hold onto it, but it kept getting away from me. Finally, I had it cornered, but then it bit me on the finger and that’s when my eyes opened.
I’m no interpreter of dreams, but I find it interesting that the dream-animal resembles a rat. I am horribly afraid of rats, mice, hampsters and anything that looks like a rat.
I’m tired of dreaming about cancer.
On July 27, 2009, I was diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma … breast cancer. I still cannot believe that I have cancer. Like so many other things that can happen, a cancer diagnosis is something that happens to other people.
It all began when my July 3rd annual mammogram revealed a lump in my left breast. Most recently, I also found out that I am positive for the BRCA 2 gene mutation, a big reason behind why I have cancer. The gene mutation also makes me highly susceptable to get breast cancer again and to get ovarian cancer.
Now I’m scheduled to get a double mastectomy, perhaps as soon as next Tuesday, August 25, 2009.
I’m scared … I want very badly to heal and get on with my life. But there are so many unanswered questions: What will I look like after the swelling and bruising goes away? How will what I look like affect my self-esteem? While I’m healing will we have enough money to pay for the doctor visits and prescriptions? Will my decision to sever my breasts and remove my ovaries ultimately save my life or regret that I allowed my breasts to be surgically removed?
Today we went to the grocery store where we attempted to buy the least expensive, yet most nutritional foods we could afford. On the way home I begin thinking about how I’m going to have to allow my gym membership to elapse, how I’m going to have to close my checking account because nothing’s going into it for awhile, and how much I miss Molly. The tears were flowing …
Funny thing about my Molly. I’ve been silently grieving her death since Memorial Day when she passed, but I’ve already realized that if she were still alive I wouldn’t be able to physically handle her once I’ve had surgery.
When things get better I hope to get another lab, re-open my Wells Fargo account, and reinstate my gym membership. I will hired as a middle school English teacher, and I’ll move into my own classroom. I will continue to write. I will find the lesson in the middle of this storm. This will happen for me, for us! I just have to really keep focused on undergoing these surgeries, getting well and moving on with my life.