Saturday, April 30, 2011

Stepford Wife, Anybody Seen the Old Me?

My brain sure loves being back on the job.  I feel lit up when I'm there, and happy to meet and greet and take care of all my guests.  Sometimes for several minutes throughout the evening, I almost forget I'm just returning to work after a long absence due to cancer treatment.

It doesn't take long to be reminded.  My foot starts aching terribly around hour 4, and my left arm and chest wall on that side gets very tight midway through my shift.  I've struggled to get a good grip and leverage when opening some bottles of wine, something I used to be able to do with incredible ease and with eyes closed.  I notice my bra gets tighter too, so I must be having some chest swelling as well.

Tonight one of my tables was discussing a friend of theirs who recently completed breast cancer treatment, and is now taking Tamoxifen.  As I poured wine, it felt strange overhearing the conversation.  They will never know that their server tonight is a recent survivor, this short hair is my brand new hair after no hair, and these boobs?  Fake.

It is strange and surreal returning to my familiar, in a body that is so unfamiliar.  I'm still getting used to it, this altered me.

My friend Irish BC Warrior, a Sister ahead of me on the path, sent an email my way, wishing me well and just checking in on me.  She said "I am amazed at the strength of the women who wait for reconstruction . . . like you."

Honey, I didn't do this by choice, this was one of those twists and turns of cancer treatment that absolutely devastated me at the time.  Gosh did I grieve not being able to wake up with my new boobies.  I'm already getting tired of strapping these girls on, and sometimes I get really itchy in there, but I sure like looking down and seeing something there.  It just feels better.

One great thing about working - you sure do appreciate your days off!  I've got the next two  off, and I feel like a kid, home from school for the weekend!  Yippee!

When I meet with the Good Witch week after next, I'm definitely going to talk to her about starting on a neuropathy drug like Neurontin.  My Duncle Dody has been on it with great success for his neuropathy, which was far worse than mine.  I've been hesitant about trying it, just because I didn't want to add another drug to the mix while still letting my body adjust after chemo, and I've been concerned about side effects, and/or interaction with Tamoxifen.  I will talk to her about it.

I know I need to do something.  It is extremely difficult to have a lame foot in a job where it feels like I run a marathon every shift.

I've been thinking up all kinds of ideas for my presentation at the Survivor's Day Celebration. I'm going to use props and I want it to be more like a one woman show than a speech.  I want it to be wicked funny, with an emphasis on wicked.  Um, does anybody know, can you get in trouble for mutilating a Barbie doll?

If any of y'all Sisters or devoted blog followers are interested in attending, you need to pre-register for the free event by calling The American Cancer Society at their office in Fairfield.  The phone number is 707-425-5006, option #3.

It's a national celebration, and here's a link about it.  The local event that I will be speaking at will be held at the Fairfield Center for Creative Arts, on Sunday, June 5th, from 2 to 5 p.m.

Gosh, it's so strange to think, I am in the home stretch of writing this blog for one year.  Mother's Day is the day.  Not sure what I will be doing with or about the blog after that.  I really don't know.

Stay tuned.

Friday, April 29, 2011

The Delicious Art of Doing Nothing

I must confess my guilty pleasure today.

Jammies all day.
A comfy spot on the sofa.
Canine companions underfoot.
Eldest Son and his Girl on the other couch.
A royal wedding to watch, again and again and again.

Aaaaahhhhhh.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

See How My Garden Grows

I've written 352 posts, and Mother's Day is right around the corner, completing one year of writing this blog.  This time last year I was only a week into my diagnosis.  I was waiting for my port to be installed and five months of chemo to start.

Fast forward to today.

I was invited to meet with the organizers from NorthBay Cancer Center to discuss their upcoming celebration, sponsored along with the American Cancer Society, in honor of National Cancer Survivors Day.  They found out about me when they asked Kimberly at the American Cancer Society for a recommendation of a survivor, and after calling me to get my permission, she gave them my name and sent a couple of my posts and photos from my blog.  The event is scheduled for Sunday, June 5, and attracts several hundred survivors and their friends and family.

"Did Kimberly explain what you got yourself into?" they asked, big grins on their faces.  Sure, I thought to myself, I will be one of the survivors speaking for a few minutes.  Nope.  Not exactly.  They would like me to be the keynote speaker, and give a thirty to forty minute speech all about my cancer journey, including photos of me throughout treatment as I speak.

Gulp.

I have a month to write and rehearse my speech, and choose the photos.

Gulp.

Seeds I planted a year ago,
watered by my tears and your prayers,
are starting to bloom.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Worth More Than Gold - Your Good Health!

Click here if you want to see my slip resistant Glass Slippers for work!

I bought them at a uniform store, filled with scrubs, and a few styles of shoes.  These shoes are very comfortable, and although my right foot was still sore by the end of the night, it was dramatically better.  I think I need to wear compression socks too.  Do they make anklet compression socks?  I'll let you know.  I think I need an orthotic insert too, might help.

I am seven months out from chemo, and the neuropathy in my right foot has not changed.  Uh, I don't think this is going away.  I am so thankful I no longer have it in my hands, but it is really an adjustment to work in such a physical job with a lame right foot.  Tonight before work, I took 600 mg. ibuprofen, and had my new shoes on.  My shifts are typically 5-6 hours long, and right about hour five my right foot was getting very achy and tired and felt swollen.  I may have to take ibuprofen prior to each shift, and probably about 4 hours in.

I plan to talk to The Good Witch about this; I don't know if this is a good plan as far as the ibuprofen, or if I need to consider one of the drugs specifically for neuropathy.  I see her in a couple of weeks for my 3 month check-up.  I was actually supposed to go last week, but I rescheduled because I wasn't ready to do my necessary labs the week prior to the appointment with her.  I'm not ready to get poked and poked and nuttin comes out.  After the vein debacle during my hysteroscopy, my right arm needed a rest, and so did I.

Speaking of getting poked, Robin had his annual physical today, which included two immunizations.  He was so anxious about getting those two shots, I could see the apprehension on his face and it's all he asked about on the way to the appointment.  "How many shots am I getting Mom?  Doesn't a tetanus shot really hurt Mom?"  Two little shots.  That's all.  He got through it just fine, and as we drove away, he said "I'm so glad that's over Mom, I've been nervous about it for a week."

I smiled.  I thought about my year of living dangerously, the apprehension and anxiety prior to each procedure or treatment.  Getting my port in.  Getting stuck for chemo.  Chemo itself.  The seven days of shots after each AC treatment.  Weekly labs.  Emptying my drains each night and sometimes getting too much suction in the drain, ooohh that hurt.

I am even surprised at everything a breast cancer patient goes through, and I did it!  Several of my Sisters that I correspond with are in various stages of treatment, and when I listen to what's going on with them I feel just awful and cringe, and then remember, I DID ALL OF THAT.  I know I keep saying this, but now that it's over, I still don't know how I did it, the freakin breast cancer triathlon of chemo/surgery/radiation and all that damned poking!

I'm with Robin; I've always had a fair amount of anxiety over shots, or giving blood.  Now after my year at Cancer Camp, and with all the problems I had with my little petunia veins, I am almost phobic about it.  I need to find a solution for this, in a big way, because I will continue to need labs done at least every three months for the foreseeable future.  I need to discuss this with The Good Witch too.

Be thankful, be exceedingly thankful, if you have never had your health or wellness compromised.  Keep it that way!  Eat right, exercise, manage your stress, do the things you love, get good sleep, meditate or pray.
Do everything you can to invest in and protect your good health.  It's the best gift you can give yourself and the people that love you.

For those of us whose have had a serious compromise to our health, in my case cancer then CANCER TREATMENT, it is doubly important.  I am committed to taking better care of myself.  Right now I'm working hard to get back on the horsey, and slowly add new habits and practices every day that promote my wellness, and reduce my risk of recurrence.

I know now more than ever how valuable good health is.  Feeling good in your body every day is an incredible blessing, and is so easily taken for granted.

Every day I will do good things and make good choices and practices towards my good health.

I never want to go through anything like this again. 

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

You Got Any Glass Slippers for a Princess with a Lame Foot?

I searched the Internet today for nursing shoes, orthopedic shoes, shoes for diabetics and shoes for neuropathy.  Found a few that might work, going to check a uniform store first and try a few of them on, then see if I can find a better price on the Internet.  They are pricey.

I also checked around for swimsuits to put my fake girls in, just in case I feel like going to the pool stacked.

I shoulda been a chiropractor for all the adjusting I am doing right now.  Returning home from the war, learning to live with my battle wounds, and my prostheses too.

The flashbacks of treatment continue, I told NaniGlenda today.  Sometimes they are so vivid, I almost have to hold my breath.

I see myself.  Doing what I had to do.
I see her.  She is somebody different than me.  She is braver.  I don't know how she did what she did.  I don't know how she did it.

I couldn't do it.  No way.

and then I remember, she and me are the same, and it's freaky baby.  It's freaky.

Everybody wants me to be ok.
Everybody is relieved this cancer gig is over.
Everybody is welcoming home Deb.

I am still trying to integrate the three me's.
There is the old me.  The Deb before diagnosis.
There is the Deb who went through Cancer Camp, who wore the purple scarf on a bald head and started this blog.
Then there's the me right now, the Deb who is searching for her "new normal."

Sometimes I miss old Deb, but it's like she's dead.
I look back on all the stuff that Cancer Deb went through, and I'm like, Damn Girl, I'm impressed.
Then there's this me.

Still unfolding.
Wings still wet.
Heart still mending.
Still rowing.

“He went into the hills to pray.” Mark 6:46
What does Jesus do while we are in the storm? You’ll love this. He prays for us . . .
So where does that leave us? While Jesus is praying and we are in the storm, what are we to do? Simple. We do what the disciples did. We row . . .
Much of life is spent rowing . . . Getting out of bed. Fixing lunches . . . More struggle than strut.
Max Lucado

Monday, April 25, 2011

Home From the War

The brain is so happy to be back at work.
The body is really complaining.
I felt great my first few shifts, but got my bootay kicked tonight.
It's hard putting the pedal to the metal after almost a year off for cancer treatment.
My right foot is very unhappy with me, the whole thing just aches, except for the toes, which are asleep and completely numb.
Most of the evening on the dining room floor, it felt as if the right foot would explode out of my shoe.
My ankles are huge.
I'm going to get in a hot bubble bath now, with a Mimosa, well, minus the sparkling, add ibuprofen.
Feels so good to be out in the world again,
my body
not so much.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter

He rolled back the stone for me,

the one that lay massive and heavy

and pinned me under its gravity.

He rolled back the stone.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Sh-h-h-h-h-h-h...

I am doing my best to adjust to being back on the job.  It is still surreal to me.  So much is the same.  I am the change.

It was difficult financially to be on disability for almost a year.  The gift though was having so much time with my family, and so much time for myself.  I felt some pangs this week missing them, as I returned to work, and would not be home at night.

I have always worked.  Throughout my life.  Throughout my marriage.  Throughout my children's lives.

This was one of the unexpected blessings of cancer treatment, I was always homeIt felt good.

When I was going through treatment, I was focused on getting through each marathon and jumping every hurdle, I didn't realize how much personal time I had.  It's not like I could go on vacation or had the money to do things, but I did have an incredible amount of time for thought and reflection.

I read a lot.  I wrote a lot.  I had many hours where all I could do was lay in my bed, or sit in a comfy chair or out on the patio in the sunshine.

Cancer really does clear your calendar, and now I realize I never really liked all the hustle and bustle of our lives.  I am quite content being at home with my family and friends, making a nice dinner, watching a movie, playing the piano, just being.

I have had a year of opportunity to do archaeology on myself, digging up and excavating and gently blowing the dust off the bones of things I buried years ago.  During this last year, I became quite familiar with my child self, and very aware of how she ran around lost and wild and still influenced my beliefs with mythology created in childhood, most of which was unhealthy.  I clearly recognize her now, when I have a huge reaction to something.  I did not understand this before and was often confused by my reaction to things.  I get it now because I get and know her.

I learned how to parent me.

I thought I would read more fiction, but most often found myself reading the Bible, and the Tao Te Ching.  I read poetry, and books about artful living and mindful loving.  I became a reader of blogs as I became a writer of a blog.

This was a year full of immense challenges for me, yet simultaneously, it was as if I was living in technicolor and amazed how the small things are the big things.  Like the feeling you get when you are quiet enough and still enough for a hummingbird to float face to face with you, the sound of his wings, the glisten on his chest.  These things I had missed before, became second nature to me.

We all take so much for granted every day.  We miss so much of the spectacular and miraculous and mysterious that is happening all around us. 

I am grateful that cancer treatment is over for me, but I don't want to lose the way it made me live.  How can I hold on to an incredibly heightened sense of awareness and presence and intention?

I don't want to go back to sleep, taking things for granted, living in 2-D.

I think the only way to keep this collateral bonus of cancer treatment is to slow down, simplify, live with less, and spend more time doing nothing.

I remember the days during chemo when I didn't feel good and was beyond fatigued.  I would sit out on our back patio for hours and watch the birds and insects and our dogs in the yard. Often I didn't even have the energy to read.  I just observed.

I got quiet and watched and listened. 

I cannot describe the peace I found in these moments, despite how sick I was.

As I return to work and resume a schedule, I am rethinking how I will structure my day and my time.  I know for sure being quiet and meditative and observing nature has to be a daily practice for me.

Being sick forced me to do this; I don't want to lose it now.  I spent more time at home, less time in a car, and more time outside.  Isn't it telling that during the time when my body was at its sickest, my brain was clearing and finding peace and wellness in those open spaces?

This was one of the hidden gifts of Cancer Camp.

Wake up.  Listen.  Get still.  Breathe deeply.  Move sparingly.  These peaceful waters are where I must keep returning to, for inspiration, restoration, and the wide open spaces of myself.

God speaks in whispers.
My heart does too.
I know now where and how to listen.

Friday, April 22, 2011

I See Now, said the Little Fish

It is a rare person who can pierce the veil between ordinary life, consumed with matters of physical survival, and pursuit of the empowered path of purpose and meaning unless he or she is motivated by a crisis. Most often we require the failure of some system of power that we rely on before we take action.  Caroline Myss


Yesterday I needed you to hear the hard stuff.  Yesterday I needed you to be reminded, for myself and all my Sisters out there, how this cancer thing and its treatment shakes you out and knocks you down and leaves you whimpering.  Yesterday I needed to recount to you my breast cancer badges of courage, and Baby, there were so many of them.  Am I right Sistah's?  Let me hear an Amen from the Sisterhood of the Cancerous Breasts!


Yesterday I grieved my one year cancer-versary.  When I got home from work, and took off my fake boobs, and looked at myself in the mirror, examined every scar, massaged toes that won't wake up, and took stock of what remains, I cried and felt those losses, the built-in unavoidable losses that come with a cancer diagnosis and treatment.  Yesterday.

Tonight I am ready to begin telling you more
about all the ways I've been blessed
and opened
and changed
and shot like a rocket towards
my unfolding good.


Tonight I need to begin the witness of the sacred and divine and holy things that came to me, like a butterfly on my bald head.  Tonight I need you to hear about the ordinary miracles and tender gifts that arrived, hand in hand with my cancer diagnosis.

I can't say I'm happy this happened to me, but this is what I know for sure now.  When it did happen, when I cried and held out my hands and prayed for direction and gave this fear and sorrow a voice, grace flooded into my life and my heart, with an awesome abundance that cancer's losses were no match for.

You remember one of my favorite quotes about "I was a man riding an ox searching for an ox to ride."

I was a little fish,
searching for meaning and wellness and deliverance,
never realizing I was swimming in a colossal ocean
of eternal grace and infinite love.

Sometimes Little Fish, bad things happen.
I have been witness to the leviathan good that is already set in motion before the bad is even a hint.

I was inspired on Mother's Day last year to leave my comfort and anonymity and do something extraordinary for me.  I made a vow to write this blog, get naked for you, come what may.  I kept my vow, day by day, walking, crawling, carried, given in real time and without editing.  It was important and needed and powerful, and every day I still get unbelievable messages of its impact and new followers to the blog.  Many of them newly diagnosed Sisters who go back and read the blog from the beginning.  Hello Sistahs!!!  As they lose their hair, they read about when I lost mine.  As they experience the gut wrenching triathlon of cancer treatment, chemo/surgery/radiation, they read about when I did them all.  Every post, coming up on one year now, of show and tell.

The writing of this blog has changed my life.  Bravo.  Bravo.  I am proud of me.  I helped myself.  I helped you.

I am ready now to move beyond recounting the details and treatment and science and being a patient, to tell you more about what else I take with me now.  It is so much more than what I wrote about yesterday.  It is the sacred ordinary.

I have arrived at a new destination and way of looking at my life that could only be reached passing through each portal of Cancer Camp, another veil removed.  I no longer question that this was necessary and essential for me.

For my soul to get here,
I had to go there.

Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace, and gratitude.  Denis Waitley

Come closer Dear Reader, let me whisper to those who sleep through life.  Let these words fall on your ears like thunder, waking you, piercing the veil, absent of crisis.

You don't have to have breast cancer to get this Baby.

Let me talk to you about the depths of my love and gratitude,
and the abundance of grace in my life.


I see now,
said the Little Fish,
the ocean I've been swimming in all along.


I see now.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

One Year Cancer-versary

From this time last year -

I called my doctor and asked if I could get in for my mammogram, like soon. Don't usually do this stuff till around my birthday. In November. Just being cautious, right? Couple days later, there I was. No biggie, I've had them before. No problem. Here, put this boob on this tray. Squish. Like a flapjack. Ok, now flip the tray the other way, squish. Ok, now lets see if we can squish them like a crepe so we can fill them with coconut custard and Silverado Trail strawberries and drizzle orange Grand Marnier sauce on them. Flop. Squish. Next. Usually a couple a pictures on both girls. In then out. No biggie. Hey, give me a couple swigs a that sauce while you're at it.


When the mammogram technician took my pics out to show the radiologist she was gone for awhile. H-m-m I tried to tell myself. They are just busy. My gut was saying oh Jesus. Oh Lord. Not taking his name in vain. Dialing 911.


When she came back in the room, she didn't make eye contact with me. Shit. I am in deep shit. I notice this stuff. I notice when people are looking me straight in the eyes, I notice their body language. I would a made a great poker player. I am great at reading somebody's tell. 


Ok she says, just a few more pictures. She didn't touch my left again. Lots and lots more pictures squeezing and flipping and torturing my right side. Nothing more on the left. Oh jeez, gut whispered. They already see what they see on the left. Now they are just checkin the right to see if it's there too. This is what I thought. I was right.


I usually got my mammogram results in the mail. I got a call back from my primary care doctor that day. "Well" she says, "looks like something we need to get a better look at on the left. We are going to schedule you for an ultrasound, and probably a biopsy." I hung up the phone. I called back. "Doc, give it to me straight. What else they say? I need to know worst case scenario and then I'll work my way back from there."


Quiet. Quiet. Like when the universe gets super quiet right before an earthquake. No sounds. No birds. Everything is still and eerie.


"The radiologist said in his years of looking at these, he will be very surprised if this is not cancer. Your ultrasound is next Monday. Your biopsy on Wednesday. I will pray for you."


Oh no, don't say it, don't say that word, the "c" word. Don't say it. Why'd you tell me that? Oh man, that's gotta be a bad sign when your doctor says "I will pray for you."


Panic. Panic. Panic. Sh-h-h. I hear a voice say. Sh-h-h. I get quiet. Yeah, I said all kinds of prayers. I focused on white light. I tried to bargain with God. I talked to my boob. I told myself the good ol don't worry about what you don't know until you have somethin to worry about. You know like when you were little and your Dad says for the millionth time to your brother "Don't cry or I'll give you somethin to cry about."


It would be another two weeks of diagnostics before I would get my somethin to cry about.


But I already knew.


The voice told me.


Now it has been one year.
I survived hearing the words "You have breast cancer Debbie."
I survived having to look my kids in the eye and tell them "Mom has cancer."
I survived having to tell my family and friends and coworkers.
I survived having to leave my job, when I have always worked, since I got my work permit at 15 1/2.
I survived a port that got tangled up in my chest like Christmas lights before it ever got to be used, delaying the start of chemo.
I survived a second failed port.
I survived a failed PICC line.
I survived months and months of getting poked and poked and poked looking for a good vein and having to talk myself down from the ceiling.
I survived five months of chemotherapy.
I survived losing all my hair and eyelashes and brows and muffy hair, and had to live with the irony of leg hair that would not die.
I survived countless CT scans, nuclear medicine, biopsies, and every test imaginable.
I survived having to wear a wig, and even wearing one to work.
I survived a bilateral mastectomy and partial axillary dissection of my left arm lymph nodes.
I survived waking up to a chest as flat as a kitchen counter and grieved the loss of my precious fat bunnies.
I survived almost seven weeks of radiation treatment.
I survived the collateral damage of chemo, the stuff I live with now that never went away.
I survived a month long scare, where a secondary cancer diagnosis loomed, had my uterus blown up like a puffer fish, only to find out I'm a quirky little girl with a heart shaped uterus.
I survived the toughest blow to my courage, long after my cancer treatment was done - an insensitive anesthesiologist stabbing me in the neck to find a vein, but not before finding the depths of my woundedness first.
I survived getting fitted for a mastectomy bra, and learning how to wear one, and that it feels better if I powder flattened Flopsy and Mopsy before I tuck them in behind fake boobs.
I survived having to wear fake boobs to work.
I survived being in the most pain I have ever been in.
I survived being the sickest I have ever been.
I survived being the saddest I have ever been.
I survived being the scaredest I have ever been.
I survived the ones who walked away, loved even more the ones who stayed, and was immensely blessed by all the Angels that arrived.
I survived the biggest challenge of my life, and had my endurance, hopefulness and faith tested beyond anything I could have ever imagined.
I survived living with what I thought I could not live without.

And except for a few days when I was in the hospital after my bilateral mastectomy, I faithfully showed up and wrote this blog every single day, and the year is almost up.

I feel so many things tonight, proud of myself, melancholy, missing Flopsy and Mopsy, noticing my hair looks cute, and in my mind unpacking after Cancer Camp.

I don't know what happens from here.
I guess I'm gonna find out.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Coffee, Tea or These?

It was hard to believe this afternoon I was really getting ready for my return to work. My new white button down oxford shirt and white apron were neatly pressed. My shoes were polished and new black dress socks tucked inside. I suited up. Control top panties? Check. Fake boobs in a bra? Check. Wine key, crumber, server book? Check, check, check.


I walked in tonight and it was as if I never left, everything seemed the same, all except me.

With each new table, and all these wonderful appreciative guests, I swear, it was so hard to keep my mouth shut when they thanked me profusely for my fabulous service. I wanted to say-

YOU HAVE NO IDEA HOW FABULOUS THIS REALLY IS. IT'S MY FIRST NIGHT BACK, AFTER ONE YEAR OF CANCER TREATMENT. SEE THESE? THESE ARE FAKE. GO AHEAD, TOUCH EM IF YOU WANT TO. SEE? THEY FEEL LIKE MEMORY FOAM DON'T THEY? THEY LOOK PRETTY REAL, EH? MY BOOBS ARE ALL SCOOPED OUT, AND TUCKED INSIDE BEHIND THESE, AND TOMORROW IS MY ONE YEAR CANCER-VERSARY...

I didn't do any of that.
None would ever know that they were being waited on by a lady who went through five months of chemo, lost her hair, eyebrows and lashes, and this sassy little haircut is the first of my "chemo hair." None would ever know, when talking to my boobs tonight, as guests often do, they were actually talking into a couple of pillows.

It really hit me tonight,
stepping back into my old life,
Cancer Girl has left the building.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Wine Key? Check. Crumber? Check. Fake Boobs? Check.

I have two big milestones this week.

Tomorrow night is my first night back at work.  Other than a short return during chemo, which was only a few shifts before neuropathy set in, my last night was May 1st of last year.  The following week I had surgery to install my port, and I started chemo.

I'm excited and anxious about my return.  It will be great to resume the rhythm of work again, and I'm looking forward to being with all my peeps.  I know though it will be an adjustment, and some of it I can anticipate, and most of it I'll find out as I go.  I'm not returning as the person I was when I left, in more ways than just the physical.

My Sister Tmack started a great email discussion with me, all about work after cancer treatment, and we each weighed in on what we'd need to work through as part of the return.

I think these are the primary concerns for me: my physical appearance; my stamina and balance; returning to the fold of my coworkers when I feel like a changed person; and loss of seniority at work.  I'm so happy and grateful to be returning to my job, but I know there will be some big adjustments ahead.

It's a year later.
Life there went on without me.
I'm coming home, and yet it feels like I've been a soldier off to war, and now I'm returning from the front line and will have to fit in with a bunch of civilians who've never seen the shit I've seen.

Speaking of the war, my other milestone is this Thursday, April 21st.  It's one year since my diagnosis.  Seems like yesterday when the Good Witch, at our first meeting, told me to expect that my cancer treatment would take the next year of my life.

"Are you crazy Lady?" I thought to myself.  Surely she must be exaggerating.

Now here I am, just shy of the one year mark, and she pretty much nailed it.

My neighbor says to me the other day "Hey, how you doin?  Did you beat it?" {Add this to the well intentioned but stupid ass things you should never say to somebody who's had cancer.}

I'll get back to you on that Mister, but I'll tell you one thing.
I survived cancer treatment.
I beat that.

Thanks for comin along, dearest Reader,
like starlight in my pocket.

Monday, April 18, 2011

but what do I do with all this melted butter...


My boy Robin took this photo at Disneyland, and I thank you Son, for this great metaphor you shared with Mama.

That's just how life is sometimes.
Sometimes the corn is not available.
It may be at some future date, but you can't stop living waiting for the corn.  You can't just stand in line patiently waiting for the corn when they are clearly telling you "Sorry, the corn is not currently available."  It does you no good, and will not make the corn available any sooner if you just sit there whimpering about the corn saying "but, but, where is the corn..."

There are all kinds of other vegetables and delicious side dishes.  Don't miss out on all of those just cause your heart was really set on corn.  Nobody said that corn would be available all the time.

It's ok, there there now, I know, I really like the corn on the cob too.

Can you find a way to be ok without the corn?

Sunday, April 17, 2011

If All Else Fails

It comforts me to know
that if all else fails,
according to my email inbox,
there are always
Beautiful Russian Women
waiting to meet me.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Blue Plate Special

I felt like a housewife from the 50's today.  Our dishwasher is out of order so I washed a full sink of dishes by hand, stacking them to dry on a towel on the kitchen counter.  I mixed meatloaf, folding in snippets of fresh herbs I added from the garden.  I stood at the sink peeling potatoes, and after they were boiled I mashed them with hot milk and butter.

My companions today were our three girls, and two hot dog boy house guests.



You haven't lived till you've hung out with five dogs in one house.  If I was in the kitchen, they were in the kitchen.  If I was on the patio, they were on the patio.  If I was sitting on the couch, they were laying underfoot and in my lap.  "Look at all these doggies" I thought so many times today, and felt happy in their pack.

My day was simple and good.  Lots of quiet, content moments.

A scrub jay bathed in the backyard fountain this morning, while a robin waited his turn nearby.

Our resident squirrel ran along the top of the fence that encloses our yard, his own Squirrel Main Street.

A yellow and black butterfly floated over the lawn, then over sunbathing dogs, and for a moment as I held my breath, almost came to rest on a dachshund's snout.

A nap.
Five dogs lined up for a treat.
A catalog in the mail.
Comfort food for dinner.

I sipped a cup of Chai as in a Japanese tea ceremony, reflecting on a day spare of tension or drama, instead overflowing with simplicity and the ordinary.

It's where I always find my sacred.

Friday, April 15, 2011

True North, Heading Out of Cancer Camp

Today was another marker that I really am leaving Cancer Camp, and moving on with my life.

It was an appointment with True North, my plastic surgeon.  It was the first I had seen her since having my BLM and completing radiation.  It was the first I had talked to her since our phone conversation last Fall, when she called to cancel my reconstruction, along with several other patients surgeries, due to her doctor's orders regarding her impending delivery of twins.  I bawled my eyes out on that phone call, and for a few days after.  I didn't know how I was going to cope and handle waking up from bilateral mastectomy without reconstruction.  I didn't know how I was going to get through that, knowing that it would be some time I'd have to live with deflated breast leftovers.

I did what I did not think I could do, and today was one of those full circle moments Oprah talks about.  It was hard to believe that all these months have passed, I really have completed treatment now, and if I wanted to, could have my reconstruction surgery as early as this July.

I can see myself, crying my eyes out back then, and now here I am, in no rush to get it done, having found a way to live with what I thought I couldn't.

It was a great meeting, she was her beautiful, exuberant self, with the added glow of becoming the very proud and devoted mother of twin girls.  In her waiting room on the coffee table is a photo book from their delivery.  It is filled with adorable shots of the girls, wrapped in the traditional papoose wrap, right after being born.  At the end of the album was my favorite photo, of her Husband holding the girls, while True North gives him a kiss with her eyes closed and immeasurable joy on her face.  It reminded me of the game "I Spy" because as I looked at it I thought "I Spy a Family."

She was happy to see us, Husband and I, and wanted the update on the finish of my treatment, and how was the blog going.  I also told her about The Case of The Heart Shaped Uterus.  I was surprised when she offered her take on the whole lymphedema thing, and that she does not feel I am at high risk for it since I only had seven nodes removed.  I have gotten such conflicting information about this, and plan on doing more research on the subject and talking to all of my doctors about it.

Are you saying I could have used my left arm for the hysteroscopy?  I went through all of that for nothing?  Was Dr. Boy not a cad for suggesting it?  True North recommended I talk to The Wizard, my breast surgeon, and get his opinion as well, but she seemed quite certain.

It was a great meeting, and she seemed very pleased with The Wizard's handiwork, and the effects of radiation on Flopsy were not a problem.  She said she had seen far worse, and my skin is in very good condition, all things considered.  She did not have any special instructions for my breasts prior to surgery, other than moisturizing.  After discussing my goals to get in better shape, lose some weight, get back to my life and back to work, we agreed that I didn't need to be in any rush to schedule the surgery.  It would be my choice when I am ready; just let her know a couple of months before, and we'll make the plan.  I've been thinking about scheduling it in November or December, to take advantage I will have already met my out-of-pocket and it's a slower time of year for my job.

The other great news she shared, knowing it would be of great interest to us, is she's adding an Associate micro surgeon to her practice.  The new surgeon will partner with her in surgery and will be covered by my insurance, so I won't have the whole out-of-network issues I was facing previously.

I left there feeling very excited about the reality that when I am ready, the new body is going to happen.

It is starting to sink in.
I am leaving Camp.
Good things are coming.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Silver Bejeweled Lining

There are moments, all along this journey, that are so startling you wanna lay down and give in, and you just have to keep putting one foot in front of the other, and fake boobs in your bra, and keep going. You adapt. You show up for the life that is, and stop looking over your shoulder for the life that was.


I wrote that, you remember, from last night's blog.  Sometimes when I read back over something I've written, I feel satisfied.  Not like "Oh that was such great writing" but "You got it right, you said what you meant to say, and told what this feels like."

My Sister Jane Marie, with a heart as big as Texas, is going through one of those startling moments right now.  Her brown curly hair is coming out in big clumps, and soon she'll make the passage all of us do who go through chemo.  She sent me a text photo of her in the chemo chair, all hooked up, looking so sweet, and it made me cry.  She goes back again for round number two this Tuesday.  I am thinking about you tonight Girl; I remember how hard that was, losing my hair.  I'll walk you through it baby.  I'll be right here, sending you courage and strength and cheesecake.

Dear Reader, may I tell you again about this Sister thing?  It has changed my life.  I have a safety net now that is wide and strong, and bi coastal too.  It makes every difference on this journey knowing my Sisters are out there and I am part of something really big and meaningful.  There are the Sisters who are ahead of me, who keep checking that I am following, like Jill, and Irish BC Warrior, and Gloria.  They cheer for me, give me booster shots of courage, pat and whisper to me, they know this journey well.  They reassured me that soon enough all of this hard hard work will be done, and I will rebuild and regroup and take cancer off the table, and put it up in the cupboard.

I happily do my best to give the same to the Sisters behind me, reassuring and encouraging, gently reminding that this too shall pass.

This is an area of my life, lack of sisters and girlfriends, that has always been a void for me.  We moved around a lot as I grew up, and many years I was the new girl.  I never thought that at this stage in my life, I would have the joy and comfort of so many wonderful and interesting women in my life.

It is like sipping the sweetest, most refreshing nectar, and I am a little hummingbird, with a heart shaped uterus, enjoying every drop.
 
Ain't nuttin like it, this Sisterhood of the Cancerous Breasts.  For all the times the diagnosis and the challenges, the glitches and the heartache of this cancer gig made me feel cursed, oh how rich and glorious a blessing all these women I continue to meet and love on this path.
 
and who love me back.
 
Nighty night Sistahs. 

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Mammary Magical Mystery Tour

Cat got your tongue baby?  I had to laugh my ass off when there was not a single peep from the Peanut Gallery regarding my fake boobs, otherwise known as "foobs" in the business.  My Duncle Dody had me laughing saying they looked huge and who shot the photo from down there?  That was another of my self portraits.  Sorry if I poked your eye out with those things.  That why you didn't write?

Tonight's little show and tell gives you another of our famous insider tours, so you can look behind the curtain and see how the wizard pulls off this illusion.


Mastectomy bra and my prostheses

Front of the bra, with prostheses in


Prosthesis is dense, heavy and feels like memory foam.

Prostheses in their sleeve, placed inside mesh cups of the bra.

I can wear them in the pool, without the sleeves, I just need to make sure I have a bathing suit with pockets to hold them in.  They can pop out and float!  Oh my.

I wore the bra again today and it was very comfortable, although when I take it off, Flopsy and Mopsy are all crinkled and wrinkled up.  I gave my girls a good massaging with cocoa butter for all their cooperation.

It's nice having boobs.  I didn't realize that throughout the day, I'd look down at my flat counter top and for a brief second flinch and think "Where are my boobs?"  I don't do that now.

I gotta tell you though, this is surreal.  Putting on my boobs.  Surreal.

Wanna fly, you got to give up the shit that weights you down.  Toni Morrison

There are moments, all along this journey, that are so startling you wanna lay down and give in, and you just have to keep putting one foot in front of the other, and fake boobs in your bra, and keep going.  You adapt.  You show up for the life that is, and stop looking over your shoulder for the life that was.

Acceptance.
It is what it is.
Go with the flow.
Don't look back.

Simple concepts.  Hard to do.  You gotta lean into it.  Keep practicing your practice.

When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.  Viktor Frankel

See me leaning?
See me growing?

I am evolution at work.  My old self is extinct.  I am creating a new species of me.

and life goes on.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Flopsy and Mopsy Redux


So what do ya think?

These are the new girls in town.  Say hello to Flopsy and Mopsy, the sequel.  Ain't they nice, and so perky too.

I had two important appointments today, both heading in my favorite direction, OUT OF CANCER CAMP.  First up was meeting with the mastectomy bra fitting specialist, to procure some new breasts, the prosthetic kind.  After trying on several mastectomy bras and different size prostheses, the photo shows what I ended up with, and I am very happy with how natural they look.  In a shirt of course.  My ass is quite happy to have tits back.

The new bra is a "C" cup, and quite an economic downsize from my former double D's.  I like em.  They are heavy though.  How did I carry those big fat bunnies around for all those years?

A mastectomy bra looks pretty much like an ordinary bra, except inside the cups there is a pocket for the prosthesis to fit into.  I have a size 8 prosthesis on Mopsy's side, and only a 6 on Flopsy's, due to the swelling and thickness on that radiated side.

We tried all kinds of positions for my pancake and waffle inside the bra, and are you ready for this?  After squeezing them, rolling them, and throwing them around like dough, I folded them up, as in lifted them up, pressed flat against my chest, so my nipples are up at the top of the cup!  Holy contortion Lady!  I had to laugh at what a freakish sight it was when I peeked down while adjusting my flat girls, and there were my nipples looking up at me!  Never seen that before.  Hello.  Are you lost?  I remember with big boobs adjusting my nipple position to make sure both were centered in the cup and pointing in the same relative direction, but this was crazy.

Surprisingly, it was comfortable, and I wore the bra for the whole day [and before I got into my Tink jammies tonight, had a little boob fashion show for myself].

My new boobs and I then went to my second appointment, to visit my boss to discuss my return to work.  I am on the schedule next week, 3 nights!  Wish me luck!  Hello Napa Valley!  Here I come!  Time to get out the old white apron and iron it, find my wine key and crumber, and buy myself a new tie to celebrate my return.

It's like a whole new ball game folks.
I got boobs.
I got a job.
Please return your seat to the upright position.
We are leaving Cancer Camp.


Monday, April 11, 2011

Oasis

Anybody can preach a sermon on a mount surrounded by daisies. But only one with a gut full of faith can live a sermon on a mountain of pain.
Max Lucado


I walked out of a desert today.
I've been hungry and hot and thirsty and hurting and lost and alone and sunburned.
Whole lotta dust.
Heat and glare.
Prickly cactus and scorpions and sharp rocks.

I wrote a song a long time ago, had not played it since forever, and thought a lot about it tonight.

I fight the hunger and the pain.
I wait in silence in the rain.
Look for shelter under angel wings.


Then I say "Leave me evil,"
and My Father's voice delivers me.


The desert becomes nothing,
but sand under my feet.


What was a desert became a beach, and I am wiggling painted toes in the sand.

Pathology results are in.
All clear.
No cancer.
Nothing pre-cancerous.
Nothing atypical.
No endometrial hyperplasia.
No hysterectomy.
Nothing but a heart-shaped uterus.

I'm done.
I am officially declaring I am done with cancer treatment.
Yes I will continue to be monitored.
Yes I continue to take Tamoxifen.
Yes I still need boobies.
Nevertheless,
and notwithstanding,
despite everything,
and because of everything,

I am done.

Hello.  My name is Writergirl.  I have had breast cancer.  I survived breast cancer treatment.  Nice to meet you.

The desert becomes nothing,
but sand under my feet.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Brother Bears

From the minute I found out I was going to become a Mama, my brain instantly took on a whole other consciousness, and started worrying about my children.  It started when I was pregnant, thinking about the wee little baby growing inside me, would he be healthy and have ten little fingers and toes and ...

When they became toddlers, I worried about keeping them safe and healthy and being a good teacher for all the important learning they would need to do.  When they went off to school, I worried would they have friends and do well in school and love learning.  With each new passage of my boys lives came a new and built in Mama worry for me.  So many things, will they always be loved, find a great partner, achieve some dreams, learn from failures, take risks, keep going, love their lives, keep things simple, be kind, do good, have a few really good friends, find faith, and the list goes on and on.

As my boys got older, and as I got older too and especially after my cancer diagnosis, a new worry was added and became prominent in my Mother Brain.

Will they be ok without me someday?

Little things happen all the time that ease my mind.  Seeing how they handled everything regarding my diagnosis and treatment, how they stick together, and look out for each other.  I'd like to share this one with you.   I can thank (and I did) Batman's girl BabyBear, who took this with her phone while they were all on the bus, and thoughtfully sent it to me via text.


Big Bro fussing over his Little Bro's Fro

I am so blessed, every day in every way by these boys, and continually touched by their love for each other.  I hope they will always know how very much their Mama loves them, and nothing, nothing, will ever change that.

Even when I am not around anymore.

Nothing.


 
p.s.
 
Dear Reader, I am so behind on your wonderful comments!!!  Give me a day or two and check back and you will see my replies on prior posts.  Thank you so much for your incredible support!  love.  love.  love.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Bless This Mess

There is a painted wood sign that hangs above the door to my family room and kitchen, that reads "Bless This Mess."  That's how I felt, driving up tonight, home, after a really long, exhausting, trying, happy, rough week.

Home.

Nothing like crawling into your own bed.  I will rest now, and recharge tomorrow.

Monday?

Time to start picking up the pieces.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Our Happy Place


To All Who Come To This Happy Place:  Welcome.


Today I left cancer and all its baggage at the gate.  They won't let you take that stuff in here.  You must leave your troubles and your worries at the door when you enter.

Today I discarded my hurt feelings and wounded body, so I could just be a Mama in a Tinkerbell hoody, standing on Main Street, waving and clapping as both my sons marched by.  Youngest son Robin, playing mallots, strode past, with his older brother Batman marching alongside as an instructor.  Batman's girl BabyBear marched too, as the color guard instructor.  It was like a trifecta, with all three of them in the parade together.

It was a good day,
and my heart soared,
like a run away balloon.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Postcards









The sea does not reward those who are too anxious, too greedy, or too impatient.  One should lie empty, open, choiceless as a beach - waiting for a gift from the sea.
Anne Morrow Lindbergh


Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Hump Day

Sometimes unexpected Angels appear, and today was like that for me, as if a special delivery arrived with my name on it, and all I had to do is sign for it.  Writergirldreams.

It was a very rough morning for me, still processing what happened, the utter disbelief of it at this point in the game, and some old old stuff was triggered in me.  It was supposed to be a happy day, getting out of Dodge for a trip to So Cal to watch our boy Robin march in a parade at Disneyland!  The band group left early this morning, chartered buses filled with excited kids, many of them making their first trip without Mom and Dad.  We were to follow later today.

I was so anxietal this morning.  So fragile.  So cranky.  So angry.  So needy.  My Husband does not do well when any of these show up in me.  His unanswered needs met mine, his fear met my fear, and we ended up screaming at each other, and considered cancelling the trip, or delaying it.

That's when my Angel arrived.  Our dog sitter called to double check when we were leaving; the phone rang right after my little meltdown.  We were probably on the phone an hour, and she Mommy'd me into the shower, gently coaxed me to put down the sword aimed at Husband, and look at what happened to me on Monday in a whole new way so that I could stop beating myself up about it.

I needed that.  I really did.  I needed a Mommy today.  And a Cheerleader.  And a Nurse.  And a therapist.

She had me laughing when she said my five year old self, and Husband's five year old self were screaming at each other and no adults were present.  She also said you can't buy milk at a hardware store, and you can't hang a picture with a plunger.  You need a hammer.  All of this made perfect sense to me.

We are here now, at our destination, in the fold of dear old friends who love us, and have been fluffing the pillows waiting for our arrival.  We will try to behave now, Husband and I.

This is not easy, this cancer work we do, added to all the work we already do, trying to understand each other when he speaks Mars and I speak Venus.

Thank goodness for Angels, getting me over the hump today.  Thank goodness for Angels.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Can You Pat Me While I Cry, and Rock Me to Sleep?

I would never have guessed that this far in, after basically completing treatment, I would have a day like yesterday.  Even though I was up at 4 a.m., I couldn't fall asleep last night thinking about it, up till after 3 a.m. this morning.  My brain would not shut down, but it was not lost in thought.  More like the shock absorbers were fully engaged to process the assault.  I don't know how to describe it to you, but I am still traumatized.

I'm sure the angels must have worked hard to sanitize the prayers I said during the roughest moments.  It was a first for me.  Praying and cursing.  Silently.  Simultaneously.

Even writing about it now, as if looking down at myself on the table, I feel choked up.  I'm relieved all the spitting I did yesterday is done.  I spent much of the day so angry.  Mostly at myself.  I posted this on the message board to my Sisters, talking about how I let myself down.

I left there very angry with myself, for letting an anesthesiologist have way too many tries with me, way past the point of patient torture. It's so hard though, when you are laying there on the OR table, so nervous, so trusting and in their hands, and when things start to go wrong, my tough girl self is not present. It's my little girl self, my compliant "children should be seen and not heard" self.


I need to find a way that I can summon tough bitch when I need her, especially in these moments of vulnerability. This is one of the hardest things I am learning on this cancer camp journey, how to be my own best advocate! It's so hard!

I'm so angry at me. I'm so angry at me.

Somebody, please learn from me. Please learn that these doctors are not infallible, they make mistakes, they are often stubborn and would rather hurt you than accept defeat, and sometimes enough is enough and you have to stand up for yourself and say it.

Please learn from me. I'm talking to myself now. The one above was for you.

I feel very wounded today, body and spirit.  Wounded and assaulted.  It's ironic that I've had very few side effects from the procedure itself, the hysteroscopy.  Some spotting mostly.  Very manageable.  A little comforting in a weird way, having what felt like a period again.

My neck is what really hurts, it is hard to turn side to side, and my right arm down to my hand and fingers is still huge.  There are purple and black bruises where my IV blew, and from the stick on my hand, and the one inside my wrist.

I feel like I was hit really hard by something yesterday, and it lingers today.  I cannot process it yet.  My body feels the physical part of it, my thoughts and heart and spirit can't yet.

I feel numb.

Yesterday was probably one of the hardest physical challenges I have ever had in my life, and I am still dazed.

Who'd a thunk it?  This far in.  I thought I left shit creek a long time ago. I didn't even take my paddle with me yesterday.

I never saw it coming.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Happy Valentines

I made a little video for you of my day today.  I hope you like it.  You might want to pop some popcorn, this is a long post, with the movie and all.  I'll wait for you.  I'll be down there, when you're done.  See you in a few.  By the way, this post is rated R for graphic language, adult situations, and crazy menopausal mermaid bitch fantasy violence.



The day started with the radio alarm going off at 4 a.m. and the feeling I'd christen the day with a good vomit.  Just nerves, didn't vomit.  Brushed my teeth, threw on my most comfy uniform, panties, my purple velour sweats and a little white cotton t-shirt.  Pancake and Waffle were still sleeping, that deep happy baby sleep knowing no harm would come to them today.

Muffy on the other hand was wondering why she got such a good scrubbing last night, and yeah, I folded and shaved my legs.  I was only thinking they might shave Muffy and give me like a free Brazilian or something so I might as well do the legs and then I'd be pool ready.

Husband and I left the house in the dark, and as we backed away, the headlights lit the house for a second then back into shadow.  I thought about what if I don't wake up from surgery, and that was the last time I saw my house.  When you've gone under more times in one year than you ever did your whole life, this stuff creeps in.  I think about those things now.  There was a great news anchor at a local San Francisco station, named Pete Wilson, who was a fixture in the Bay area for over twenty years.  He went in for a routine hip replacement at Stanford Hospital, no less, and had a massive heart attack and died on the table.  He was 62.

As Husband drove in the dark, I thought about my life and what if I didn't wake up.  I wasn't thinking about how much money I don't have in the bank, or the projects around the house I've been wanting to do.  I didn't think about the pile of clean laundry at the foot of my bed that needs to be put away, or the stack of magazines waiting to be donated to the Cancer Center.  I wasn't worried about the garage that needs a good cleaning and organizing, and probably a lot donated.  I  wasn't thinking about how much I weigh, or my boobies, or missing my long hair, or the box of brownies I've been meaning to make.

I thought about my boys, sleeping soundly in the house, and what their life would be like if Mommy didn't come home.  I thought about Husband, how lost he would be without the little blond who has been at his side since he was a teenager.  I thought about my doggies, and the Doves who rely on me.  I thought about the little pots of flowers that are the welcome at our door.  I thought about the snow village I put up every Christmas, and always let the boys sprinkle the fake snow on the scene.  I thought about the best Thanksgiving dinner ever, the one I make, with my secret stuffing and gravy and my Mom's pumpkin bread recipe.  I thought about my friends and the people I love and who love me, and the kind strangers who have come to love me and who I now carry in my pocket.  I thought about the world, Debbieless, without all my trademark touches, mostly about giving and needing love, in a big way.

We arrived at the hospital just before 5 a.m., all kinds of people waiting at the locked front door not knowing what to do. I stepped up and pushed the call button for security, and told him there was a party waiting for him at the front door. All of us nervous people waiting outside a hospital at 5 a.m. laughed.

I got checked in, went through hoops, up to my room, got naked, put on the paper gown and the stupid non-skid socks, and jumped into bed. I kept thinking I had to pee. I did a couple times. I had to remind the nurses checking me in about my lymphedema risk in the left arm. No pokes. No blood pressure. Not no how not no way in the left arm. They still forgot till I reminded again and made a sign and got me a wrist band.

Time to start the IV. Oh baby, come to Mommy, I felt like the lady in the old Mervyn's commercial, OPEN OPEN OPEN, please oh veins, open big and wide and gush like oil for Mommy. Husband told nurse all about my hard stick problem. She didn't take any chances, wrapping my arm in a wet compress and wrapping that in a plastic sheet. She gave me a numbing shot just in case she had to poke around a bit. Sometimes those numbing shots are way worse than the poke.

Before I knew it, she was in. A nice little tender spot on my inner right arm near the elbow. Not so bad. It wasn't much later they came to wheel me in bed down to the OR, and that's where Husband and I awkwardly kissed goodbye.  It was not a good kiss if it had been our last.

The anesthesiologist, young baby face he was, came in to do his greet, give me the risks, and tell me he was going to put a little something in my IV to make me sleepy and relaxed.  I was looking forward to being all tipsy and compliant by the time I got to OR.  I thought about one of my Sisters, right before her surgery in this condition, and when they asked her name she said dreamily "Paris Hilton."  I noticed through corridor after corridor under bad flourescent lighting, and into a room that was cold as the walk-in produce fridge at Costco, I was not getting happy or sleepy or frisky.  In fact, my arm hurt like hell.  Like burning painful hell.

They helped me scoot from hospital bed to OR table, and I started to tell them about my arm when they lifted my gown and saw it for themselves.  It had swollen bigger than a softball at the injection site, and was growing.  The masks circled me, "Looks like the IV has infiltrated."  When an IV infiltrates, the substance that was supposed to be flowing through your vein has entered soft tissue, and starts dumping out in your body.  It causes major swelling in the area, and a whole lot of discomfort, and is basically useless.

The anesthesiologist was anxious, annoyed and was hoping he could save it.  It was obvious the nurses disagreed.  "Look at her arm.  We need to start over."

He agreed but seemed to be a whole lot more concerned about the inconvenience to his busy schedule than worrying about his patient laying there on the table.  My Lady Doc came in to see if we had the show on the road, and they told her they'd have to start a new one.  She patted me and gave me a sweet you poor baby smile. "Ok I'll let them do their work, and I'll be back."

Dr. Boy took out the IV, then hurriedly searched for a new spot.  Next he went to my hand.  Poke.  Nuttin.  My inner wrist.  Big poke.  Twist it till it burns.  Nuttin.  I can't tell if this guy was late for his tee time, or just anxious he was going to have to MacGyver a hard stick like me.

He jumped over to my left arm and starting examining it.  That's when I started to get pissed.

"You can't use that arm.  I'm a lymphedema risk.  That's why there is a neon pink band on my right wrist that says USE THIS ARM ONLY, FUCKING ASSHOLE."  Ok I didn't say the eff A part, but I did the rest, and the eff A in my head.

Then he starts mumbling about how a lymphedema alert is a soft contra-indication, somethin, somethin, somethin, and I'm thinking this is nuts and this guy wants to use my left arm.  Where's my lymphedema therapist when I need her?  Where is my Susan G. Komen advocate?  Where are all my Sisters?

What the meow?

I tell him no.  Then he starts nervously telling me it's either that arm, or it's my feet or my neck.  Which is it gonna be?  My blond brain, ok my platinum brain, starts cursing like a sailor with VD.

Dr. Lady comes back in the room.  Dr. Boy starts telling her "the patient does not want me to use her left arm and..."  It was like he was telling on me to teacher.  And by the way buster, this patient's name is DEBBIE.

Dr. Lady was upset, for me.  "Ok, I am thinking maybe we just need to abandon ship here and try again next week.  Your right arm is your best bet, and that was blown.  Let's give it a chance to rest, go on your trip (I forgot to tell you Robin is marching in Disneyland this coming Friday with the Middle School Band), or if you want to get it over with, he's going to have to use your feet or your neck and it's not going to be pleasant and you will be awake when he tries.  Or I guess we could do a local inside your vagina, but I can't guarantee your comfort level with that.  It's your call."

Hell if I was coming back.  I'd spent weeks in agony just to get my ass on this table.  No.  Just do it.

Dr. Boy was riled.  Look, I don't think this guy is just some egomaniac asshole, he hasn't had enough years as an anesthesiologist to age into that.  I think he was flummoxed and there is nothing that a man doctor hates more than when things don't go as planned.  I'm telling you, my experience is that female physician's know how to wing it, work with what they got and what comes up, and they don't make the patient feel bad because of it.  This is not the first time a man doctor's ego came up against my uncanny ability for the glitch. He starts checking my feet, and moving them around with no care or sensitivity.  I told him I had neuropathy in the right foot.  He said it probably wouldn't affect anything, but he'd look at the left.

"There is just nothing" he said.  "I'm going to have to use your neck."  He asked the nurses to get him an ultrasound, so at least he'd be able to see the veins. 

I laid there on the table and saw a little banner float down over me.  It said "On this 4th of April, 2011, let the record show it has been confirmed by the Cancer Camp World Records that Writergirldreams can be counted as one of the bravest, toughest menopausal mermaid bitches on the planet."

He put the cold goop on the right side of my neck and pressed the magic wand in, I was looking towards the screen and saw the white gray lines of veins in there, mine.  He didn't even have to say what was coming next.

"Get ready for the stick.  It's gonna feel like a bee sting."

Stick.  Stick.  Pressure.  Pain.  Trouble breathing.  Eyes watering.  Stick.  Pressure.  Pain.

I started to cry a soft little cry knowing I could not move.  Nurses in masks on either side of me held me tighter.  One adjusted her mask.  She hurt for me.

He stopped for a minute.

"Are you ok?"

My voice broke and I whispered.  "I, I, I'm just sick of this shit.  I've been through a year of hell.  I'm sick of this shit."

He gave me a minute.  The room was silent.  A nurse said "You are doing good Debbie, you are doing really good."  Did you hear that Dr. Boy?  She called me by my name.

He continued.  I have decided that every anesthesiologist as part of their medical training, should experience an IV in every possible area a patient might have to get an IV.  And let's start with the neck.

Stick.  Pressure.  Stick.

If I had a loaded gun laying there on the table next to me, I would have reached down and grabbed it in my lymphedema hand, pointed it at my head,

then shot Dr. Boy.  You know, nothing fatal, just so he'd need an IV in his neck.

This is my neck when I got home and took my first look, and Robin counted 12, count em, 12 needle marks.



The nurses were hesitant, but one of them finally said "Would you like us to call Dr. So and So who is over in cardiology right now, and ask for his help?"  Dr. Boy got a little upset and said something like "He's doing a such and such procedure now" and continued knifing me in the shower.

Just then another man in a mask appeared in the room and looked over the situation.  Dr. Boy said something about doing some kind of kit on me, I guess something to get the thing in there and hold the place so he could then put the needle in.  I thought new man was going to step in, but Dr. Boy got it.

All in all, this process took almost an hour.  Dr. Lady had told Husband in the waiting room that there was a delay, and he knew in his gut exactly what had happened.  Just like with my BLM surgery.  Right before I fell asleep, I heard Dr. Boy say "Well, that was quite a rough ordeal for everyone in the room, but mostly the patient.  You are a real trooper."

"You're damned straight" I heard myself whisper, "one tough bitch.  Wanna see my boobs?"

When I woke up, I could tell Muffy was bleeding, but it wasn't so bad.  My neck really hurt, and my arm was absolutely huge.

That ain't a thigh, that's an arm!

I woke up in recovery no problem, as far as the waking and the breathing, but the neck and arm were in bad shape.  It wasn't long before I was back in my room in the short stay unit, and soon after discharged.

As Husband drove home, the adrenaline and anger started to build in me.  When I got home and got in bed, huge right arm held above my head, Muffy bleeding, and neck feeling like it had a hangman's noose cinched tight around it, I had such adrenaline and fury I think I could have thrown a car.  I started venting to Husband about the day, but often he gets defensive and angry when I do.  I think he feels so powerless, to hear me recount all this agony and not be able to help me.  I know it must be tough to listen to.

I could not believe I had to fight to keep my left arm from being used, and was angry at myself that when Dr. Boy started to have such trouble, why didn't I say "I need another guy.  You're done."

I thought about all the patients that don't speak up; I thought about all the times I did, and all the times I didn't or not soon enough because I didn't know MY RIGHTS.  When do you stop the show when the job they are trying to do for you is becoming torture?  I felt so angry today.  So angry.  So angry.  At myself.

Then the text messages and the tulip kisses started coming in, and I ate something and felt better, and rested awhile and felt better, and took an Ativan and felt better.  I have about a dozen Ativan left.  I counted.

Oh my goodness, in telling you all about my ordeal today, I didn't tell you the most important part.  Dr. Lady spoke to Husband after the procedure, she said everything looked really good and beautiful in there.  She suspected that what the ultrasound picked up as a large thickening was actually the result of some anatomical quirk of my uterus.  It is heart shaped.  Where the two halves come together at the top, lining meeting with lining makes for an extremely thick spot, but upon examination, she said there was next to nothing to cut or scrape away.  She did take some samples to make sure there is nothing suspicious on a cellular level, but seemed very positive that this could be

much ado about nothing.

Muffy is doing well, sipping a milkshake and reading Soap Opera magazine, while on the last period she'll ever have.  They did trim her up nice, but ruined the effect with all the orange iodine staining me everywhere.  Now she looks like a baby pumpkin, all ready for Easter.  My neck and arm not so good. 

Later, when I told the Senator about my day and my heart shaped uterus, he said "Happy Valentines Day."

Happy Valentines Day everybody.

Love.  Love your life.  Love your peeps.  Love.  Love.  Love.  I love you.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

In My Pocket

I carry you, in my pocket with me, when I go to do these things I don't want to do, or am scared to do.  I carry you with me, like George Bailey carried Zuzu's petals.

It's all I will take with me, since they don't want you to bring your purse or jewelry or anything.  I don't normally take my wedding ring and thumb ring off ever, except in these cases when I have no choice.

Thank you Dear Reader for all the messages of love, support, encouragement and strength.  It helps.  It really does.

I even got one tough Irish Bitch in my corner, thank you Sister Pat, for hanging on so tight to me.  Thank you to all my Sisters who have been circling me.  For more tulip kisses Jane Marie.  My Sisters know what this is like.  The waiting.  The not knowing.  The stuff we gotta do just to get some answers.  And sometimes the answers are really really hard to hear.

I am going to take a nice bubble bath after I finish writing you, do a little reading, whisper in God's ear, then try and get some sleep.  Good luck with that, right?

I am not a morning person, as in anything before 10 a.m. seems rather uncivil to me, so you can imagine how I feel about a report time of 5 a.m.. Or as Jane Marie called it, the butt crack of dawn.  You got that right Sistah.

Maybe you are right Midge, getting it done first thing in the morning will be one less day I have to wait for it!

Wish me luck and good veins!

I was going to shave my legs but decided, what the hell.  Deal with it people.

Deal with it.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Kiss Me with Tulips

I bought myself a bouquet of tulips at the grocery store yesterday.  I looked through all the bunches, and found the ones still tight in bud.

They opened today.

Lipstick red with neon yellow centers,

like Spring kissing me on the lips,

and I felt happy.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Stick a Fork in Me. I'm Done.

This week a Sister started chemo.  Way to go Jane Marie.  You did it!  Don't mess with Texas.
This week a Sister finished 20 weeks of chemo.  Way to go TMackQ! For all her hard hard work, her Hubby is taking her to Paris!  I think that should be a required chemo protocol.

They called me with my pre-op instructions today, for my hysterical-oscopy on Monday morning.  They need me at the hospital at 5 am (can't I just come in at Midnight and sleep over?) to get me ready for the procedure, you know, the usual, some lab work, meet the anesthesiologist, blow up my uterus like a balloon, blah blah blah.

Another little party, just for me.  Hello everyone, good morning, this is my Muffy, and way way way up here, this is my uterus Gladys.  Please be nice to her, I grew two little baby boys in here and I'm kind of fond of her.

I have to laugh at myself now, so upset and angry about this whole latest wrinkle.  "Don't you people understand?  I am done.  I have jumped through all the hoops, I have done everything you asked of me, and completed the iron girl triathlon of chemo, mastectomy and radiation.  What do you mean I'm not done?"

As one Sister said "You already gave your boobs, now they want your package?"  Gosh that made me laugh.

Excuse me Writergirl, she says talking to self, let us remind you how this cancer thing works from here on out.

After a cancer diagnosis, there is no such concept as "Done."  You can pretty much count on that for the rest of your life, every little thing, any little thing that seems atypical is going to be scrutinized and examined like an IRS audit, of your body!

I understand.  It's just not easy being on the receiving end of that.

It helps though, to have little pansy faces greet me.  Spring.  Spring.  Winter is almost over.



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