Monday, August 31, 2009

For the Thousandth Time

Today, I reported to the hospital at 11:30, just as I was instructed. The PET scans are done in a portable unit that travels from one small hospital to another. The only day that they do PET scans here is on a Monday. When I pulled into the parking garage, I noticed that the tractor trailer unit was not there, and that made me a little nervous. I went into the hospital to register fully expecting to be told that my appointment was cancelled. It wasn't, but I did have to wait until 1 for my 12:00 appointment. I was so relieved that my appointment was not cancelled that, really, I was okay waiting in the hospital lobby.

I was reading my book and an elderly lady came down and sat across from me. I smiled and continued reading. Her daughter came in a while later, and said, "Oh, I didn't see you at first," to which the elderly lady responded, snappishly, "That's because I usually sit over there (gesturing to where I was sitting), but she was there, and I did not want to bother her." I was so surprised that I nearly burst out laughing on the spot, but I kept my face straight and my nose in my book.

Fellow cancer survivor Mary took a few minutes off from her desk to wander down and sit with me. She knows without words that this is a stressful time. I am just so anxious to be done, and to finally know, and to figure out what comes next. It is more helpful than I can say to have a friend who understands, no explanation required. I find myself getting a little weepy when she goes, overcome with gratitude for friends. Starvation, too, I imagine, not having eaten since 5 the previous night. Ack.

They finally came to get me. Another elderly lady got frustrated. "What about me?!!! My appointment is at 1!" and the attendant said, "Her appointment was at noon." On the walk back, the woman apologizes repeatedly for my wait. I don't tell her that I would have waited all afternoon, gladly, relieved as I was that the scan was not postponed until next week. I lay in a dark room for 45 minutes holding still, waiting for the radioactive marker to go through my system. I lay still for another half hour strapped in place while the scan was completed, listening to 92 Gold, and Fleetwood Mac singing about "Don't Stop Thinking about Tomorrow", and with my eyes still closed, smiled at the irony. When it was done, I tried to catch a glimpse of my pictures on the way out, but I could not.

The first time around, I knew that I had cancer. I simply did, don't ask me how. This time, I don't know, I honestly don't have the slightest idea of what I will find out. I walk out through the busy lobby. I look around at the people. So many people coming in, and walking out, each person with a story of their own. How will my story turn out? I cannot guess. The surgeon will have the report in 2-3 days I am told.

I get in my car and drive to the home of the 'other' Mary, my childhood friend, and we watch a comedian on the television and eat sandwiches, rolling about with laughter. By the time that I drive home, my shoulder throbs dully, and I wonder for the thousandth time what that means. For the thousandth time, I find myself getting emotional about my wonderful friends. I think again, for the thousandth time, I will be so everlastingly glad to finally know what is going on.
Like the new banner? Bush Babe did that. Thanks, BB. You're a peach!

Sunday, August 30, 2009


Lying in bed tonight, unable to sleep, I thought about Monday and the PET scan. After getting through August one day at a time, after a month of trying to keep myself calm, after these weeks of choking down my concerns day after day after day, finally, at long last, August is nearly done. The only thing standing between me and Monday is Sunday. As I tried to get my aching back and shoulder comfortable, it suddenly occurred to me that I might not be ready to hear what they have to say. That was a new thought. After an entire month of waiting, now the day is nearly here, and I'm dreading it. I gave up and took a sleeping pill.

We human beings are complicated beings.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Call.

Okey dokey then. I come home to find that there is a message for me on the answering machine from the fine folks at PET scan. They want me to call them back, and leave a toll free number for me to do so. It is after 5, so I decide to call the next morning. I go to bed praying, 'Please oh please oh please, don't postpone this appointment, people.'

I get up this morning and I call.
I call.
I call and I call and I call.
There is no answer. So I go back through the caller ID and get the number of the place as it showed there. I called them, and got an answer. I explained the situation, and before long, I was talking to an earnest young man who explained that they had some questions. Bracing myself to hear that the test was being postponed, I heard instead, "Could you come in early?" My instant and hopeful response was 'Today?' Nope. Still Monday, but two hours earlier. Yeah. I'm kind of okay with earlier. I have to tell you that waiting any longer would have probably killed me. Then he began giving me instructions. There are a lot more of them this time than last time. I write everything down, because really, really, really, I just want this to go perfectly, for them to be able to tell me what is going on, for once and for all. Young 'Earnest' finishes up and brightly says, 'Now, do you have any questions or requests for us?'

This is just a little too easy.

"Yes, I do," I said. "Can you NOT find cancer this time around?" He stuttered a little and I burst out laughing. He laughed too, uncertainly. He said, "Let me give you our toll free number just in case you need to get hold of us, and gives me the same number I'd been calling all morning.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Walmart Backs Me Into a Corner

I wandered in to the Walmart to buy my dog his canned dog food. Then I bought some cards - a couple birthday cards, an encouraging card, an aniversary card and one that I bought simply because it reminded me of my friend. I always buy sensitive and touching sorts of cards, because that is how I am. Hey...did you know that Harry Truman once said "Never kick a fresh turd on a hot day"? I had to buy that one. Because it was sensitive and touching. Buuuuuut, I digress.

So I'm checking out with my pile of sensitive and touching cards and a dozen cans of 'Savory Beef Cuts in Gravy'. My intention was to get $10 cash back to vacuum out my work truck before turning it back in. The new cashier efficiently rang up my stuff under the watchful eye of her trainer. I ran my debit card through and tried to enter cash back. Suddenly, in the middle of my typing, it said, 'Approved', without any cash back. Gaping, I said, "Well. Gees. I wanted $10 cash back...what did I do wrong?" and the trainer with the watchful eyes said, "Well, the least you can get back is $20." I groaned dramatically. "You know, I would have never done this, being a person of strong resolve, but you have forced me into it. I'm going to buy a candy bar so that I can get that cash back, but I am doing so under duress." And lo. The trainer with the watchful eyes also had a quick wit. As I returned with a Snickers bar, she said, drily, "I notice you didn't get your favorite kind, either." To which I retorted, "This is for my dog, being that I am so high minded and full of resolve which means that I would never think of eating this candy bar." She quickly reminded me that dogs were not supposed to have chocolate. I fixed her with a look and said, "Well, really, you're telling me that I have no choice then. I'll have to eat this Snickers on the way home for the good of my dog. Is that what you're saying? Because I will totally do that, because I love my dog." And she said, "Yes. You have no choice." So I ate the candy bar on the way home.

Stinking Walmart.

The end.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Life's Funny Like That

We don't laugh because we're happy -- we're happy because we laugh. William James

But the fact that some geniuses were laughed at does not imply that all who are laughed at are geniuses. They laughed at Columbus, they laughed at Fulton, they laughed at the Wright Brothers. But they also laughed at Bozo the Clown. Carl Sagan

So many tangles in life are ultimately hopeless that we have no appropriate sword other than laughter. Gordon Allport

Nothing shows a man's charactor more than what he laughs at. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

I am thankful for laughter, except when milk comes out of my nose. ~Woody Allen

Man, when you lose your laugh you lose your footing. ~Ken Kesey

Against the assault of laughter nothing can stand. -- Mark Twain

You can't deny laughter; when it comes, it plops down in your favorite chair and stays as long as it wants. ~Stephen King, Hearts in Atlantis

Whoever said "laughter is the best medicine" never had gonorrhea. ~Kat Likkel and John Hoberg, My Name Is Earl, "Robbed a Stoner Blind," original airdate 16 November 2006

Today in the grocery store, I ran into an acquaintance. Before too long, we were both laughing heartily. In the midst of that, she suddenly stopped. "You're very inspiring," she said. Going from laughter to seriousness that quickly left me at a loss of what to say next. "No matter what," she continued, "You're going to find something to laugh about. It doesn't matter how bad things get, you'll find something hilariously funny about it. No matter what, you'll have everyone around you laughing right along with you." August has been kicking my butt. I thought maybe my sense of humor had headed off on vacation or something, so it was good to hear that it had not deserted me after all.

Tomorrow I will hand over my keys and walk out of the office for the last time. I will come home, collect my salad, and then without delay, I will head to the house of a friend. Other friends will be there. We will eat and visit, tell each other stories, slap the table, wipe our eyes, laugh until we are gasping for breath. Laughter is best when it not only comes from within us, but from around us, when it fills the air, and our hearts, and our minds. When you're completely enveloped in laughter, it does not matter what's going on in your life. You are lifted completely above it on the laughter of your friends.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Weighing the Facts

Only 5 more days until this PET scan. I try to take comfort in Dr. B's words: "The blood work looks good." I think of all the other things that this mass could be. I rely on my faith. I go through my days, one at a time, ticking them off, each on bringing me closer to Finding Out For Sure.

In the midst of all of this, however, there is one thing. My shoulder hurts. It hurts a lot. Perhaps I'm just more conscious of it, I argue to myself. Maybe now that I know about the mass, that knowledge just sort of preys on my mind, manifesting as pain because of my own worries about the unknown. Yeah. That's it, don't you think that sounds logical? Except that this pain is now waking me up at night. Except that that pain seems to be more severe, radiating into the long bone of my upper arm and into my back. Bad enough to send me looking through the medicine cabinet for something to ease it. And that broken sleep probably explains today's event: I have been trying to get as many last minute treatments done in as many mosquito 'hot spots' as I can before the job is done. Complicating matters is the fact that because of the heavy rains, underbrush has grown up heavy and thick, meaning that I have to fight my way into some areas with a running back pack sprayer on. Today, treating one such area, I went in, twice. Using up the second tank of larvicide, I walked back to the truck. For the first time, I simply could not go on. I was just too physically tired to continue treating the area. So I stopped. What does it matter anyway? The job is ending.

Last summer, I remember one thing. I was stumble footed. I kept tripping over my own feet. It aggravated me more than words can say and there were even a couple of bad falls. ("Graceless cow! Pick up your feet!") It did not make sense to me that I was so tired, and it is not my nature to baby myself. Impatiently, I pushed myself. Then I found out I had cancer.

Am I a big baby? Is this all my imagination? I cannot tell you what a relief it will be to just get this PET scan over and done with, to finally know one way or the other. The questions are driving me nuts.


It's been a hard month, but August is nearly done. Summer is drawing to a close. I cannot tell you what the fall will bring. Even though I have not officially wound up this job, I received a surprising call today. A new position is being created, and I have been invited to apply for it. A chance meeting months ago made an impression. Who knows what will happen next, but it looks as if I might have a choice in where I go from here.

It sounds strange to say, but up to this point I have not had a lot of opportunity to choose in my life. I've always ended up doing what needed doing. I've always ended up making the responsible decisions. Stepping into my current job was the first time in years that I had the luxury of taking a job because I wanted to do it, as opposed to taking the job because I didn't have a choice. Just the fact that I am looking at opportunitieS is awfully exciting, and I am so grateful for that.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Mikey and Wade

Don't look at the pictures if you're squeamish, but Mikey got herself hurt. You might want to stop by and leave your best wishes. Oh. And Wade got messed up too. Confrontation with a wildeyed filly. There were no pictures of that however.

Take care, you two.

In touch

I watched a man walk into traffic talking on his cell phone. It's not that he was distracted and did not notice. He just walked out into traffic, daring cars to hit him. One car got too close to him, and he spun around to glare and make motions with his hand, still talking on his cell phone. Later, when I was in a store, I heard someone yelling, "Answer me! You answer me!" and then, a split second later, "Nope. Too late. You took too long! No. That's it." You guessed it. It was the same guy, still talking on his cell phone. He left the store still raging on his cell phone, giving the world hell one phone call at a time, glaring furiously at any passerby who dared to look at him curiously.


Oh, gosh, I slapped that last post together before I headed out the door for work. 'Nothing Gold Can Stay' was totally cut and pasted from a Robert Frost site. I did not notice that I'd not got the title and the author note. I apologize, I apologize! I was NOT trying to take credit for that. I do not write poetry.

That was embarrassing.

Today when I went to the barns, there was another dead pigeon. There is no way to tell whether or not it was the same bird. There is no way to tell whether he died of a broken heart or whether he was stricken with some terminal pigeon disease. I wonder sometimes at all the little stories in the world that we will never know in their entirety.

Bring on September

The month of August has been a long one. It is a very happy thing for me to look at the calendar and see that it is winding to a close. Next week, September begins.

Nothing Gold Can Stay
(Robert Frost)

Nature's first green is gold
Her hardest hue to hold
Her early leaf's a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

I turned down a dirt road last week, and the sun, struggling to shine through the heavy cloud cover, cast a golden glow to the road. It was cool. The road actually looked golden. I drove along marvelling over the color. It didn't last long, but that's life, isn't it? We ramble along on our respective roads, and sometimes, for a minute, everything is golden. Those golden moments never last, but, luckily, our memories of them are forever.

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Pigeon

Today, when I went to the barns where my equipment is stored, I saw a dead pigeon laying at the corner of the barn. Without getting graphic, allow me to say that it was a fresh dead pigeon. I noticed it in the passing way that one notices these sorts of things, and went about my business, which took me to another section of the barn, far away from the first section where the dead bird was. I was working away, and boxing up my equipment when I noticed it. A pigeon standing quietly in the middle of the floor watching me.

I spoke to him and he (she?) stood quietly listening, and then turned and walked away, walking to, and through, the door that connects the two wings of the barn. Curiously, I watched him walk away (he never flew) continuing down the little anteroom that connects the two barns, walk through the far door, and pause at the body of the dead bird. I went back to work. When I left, the bird was standing outside the big double doors of the barn, staring off into the distance. He did not look at me or move as I locked up and walked to my truck. "One of two things," I thought. "This bird is sick (West Nile Virus? How ironic, now that I'm closing up shop...) or this bird is grieving." And I drove off thinking on that, feeling a little ridiculous.

Just out of curiosity, when I got back to the office I checked. Know what? Pigeons mate for life. I think of that little bird, staring off into the distance, paying me no mind at all as I broke off bits of my midmorning granola bar and tossed them his way. And all day, I've wondered. Do pigeons mourn?

Thanks, Stephanie!

I've 'met' a lot of people through blogging. One of those people is Stephanie, over at 'Bah! to cancer'. She's currently at the LiveStrong Global Cancer Summit in Dublin. Bless her little cotton socks, look what she's done!

She 'tweets' if you want to follow her on twitter, but she'll also be blogging about the happenings there, if you wish to follow along.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Thanks, Bob and Judy!

You know, I needed this weekend. I bought myself a bottle of wine Friday night. It has been such a rough and long month that I had plans to have a glass or two of wine curled up in bed with a good book ('The Lemon Tree' by Sandy Tolan). I had a glass of wine, read a couple of pages, dozed off by eight.

I spent time with my husband. We worked on an apartment, but it felt good to work alongside him in our normal quiet way. I spent an afternoon making homemade pizzas. That felt good too. Somehow, it makes me feel centered to putter around in the kitchen, to have the time to putter around in the kitchen. Tim and I went walking in a cemetary, and he showed me an old suspension bridge. I traversed the wires in a dress (I had swapped the heels for a pair of flats). I went to meet a friend at her church this morning. We've been writing back and forth on the internet, and she has been a blessing to me. Tim and I both felt that we were right where we were supposed to be this morning, as we listened to her husband preach. In visiting with them, we were amazed that these quiet people have been part of some mighty works of God, including starting (from scratch) a Halfway House for men.

It's been a rough month, really, but you know what? I am blessed. I am so blessed. I'm blessed that God puts me into contact with people that encourage me when my own spirits lag. I am blessed to be one half of a marriage that works. I am blessed to have food in my pantry. My children. My friends. The list of good things in my life is a long one indeed. This weekend was badly needed. A chance to calm myself, center myself, to fix mine eyes upon the hills. There is a lot of uncertainty in my life right now, but this weekend put things right for me again. I find that I am waiting not with dread, but with expectation.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Speaking in Tongues

Well, I laughed my way through Bushbabe's post about Vegemite this morning. Laughed my hind end off. Someday, I'll give that Vegemite a little try. Over at her sister's blog, Jeanie was talking about the great Tim Tam dilemna/dilemma. I had to google Tim Tam right away, and they do look like tasty little things (unlike vegemite...sorry BB, but it's the truth...). I was a bit mystified as to why any person would stop to quibble about spelling in the face of FREE COOKIES FOR A YEAR! Jeanie informed me that they were NOT cookies, they were biccies. (what the heck is a biccie...)


The two of's like they live in a foreign country or something, the rosy cheeked little Tim Tam eating vegemites.

To my American ears, that sounds quite like a dandy little epithet...

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Support Group

You know, I've been having a rough time lately. The whole PET scan thing. Cara headed off back to school. Finding out my job is cut. I've been struggling. I try to be positive and patient, but sometimes life just sucks.

I received an e-mail reminding me of the Cancer Support Group meeting tonight. On the spur of the moment, I decided to go. I'd met the leader before, at the Relay for Life. She was glad to see me. As I began to meet people, my name was recognized from the paper. Turns out, my phrase 'every good thing in my life has only been made better by cancer' had stuck in people's minds. They agreed that it was true.

We talked about a lot of truths. When it was done, I walked out of there chatting with everyone as if I'd known them a hundred years. I am still losing my job. I still have the uncertainty of cancer hanging over my head. I still have children I am concerned about. Listening to their concerns about their upcoming PET scans helped. Listening to the stories of other mothers, that helped too. A lost job? Eh. Not really such a big deal compared to some of the things you can lose along the way in cancer-land. And you know what? It was very good to be reminded of these things.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Getting my Picture Taken

I received a letter asking that I come in to have a picture taken to display for Breast Cancer Awareness month. You all know how much I love having my picture taken. Not.

This is different though, and I will have the picture taken. I will come up with a few words about my experience. Know why? Last year, I found the cancer just before Breast Cancer Awareness Month. I remember walking into the hospital very early in the morning for the surgery, and I remember being greeted by great arcs of pink balloons, and the Survivor's Wall, rows of pictures, their words. I was at a very hard place then. I was afraid. It was all new. It was unreal. I just could not wrap my head around the fact that it was happening to me. Was I going to die? I did not have a clue and I was just sick about it. I hadn't slept much the night before. It all just seemed so big, so completely overwhelming. While Tim was taking care of the registration, I took a minute to wander through these pictures, to read the words, and you know what? It was a very 'real' moment for me. It helped. I recognized faces, and I thought, "Oh, I did not know that she had breast cancer..." and it was encouraging to think of that person as I'd seen them last, lively, active, busy. And two days later, I was back for the medport. I read more of those words, studied more faces. I remember Elaine, the nice nurse telling me that she was sorry to hear that it was cancer, but that she was sure that I had what it took to beat it. During that uncertain time, the words that I read on the Survivor Wall gave me hope. The encouraging words that people struggled to come up with meant a lot to me too. I tucked these things away in my heart, clung to them like a lifeline.

There are a lot of things that I'm not really sure of right this very minute. However, I am sure that if I can encourage one woman who has heard, for the first time, "You have cancer," then I need to do it. It's a debt of honor. I owe it on behalf of every single person that has helped me during this long, long year. Even if it means I have to sit for a stinking picture.


...I discovered that my job is done. Pennsylvania is still finangling a budget, but in the meantime, I've lost my job as of August 31st.

I'm a little surprised. The last word that I received was that they were keeping the West Nile Virus program intact. I pulled off the road while DEP was telling me the news. Rick felt badly. He assured me repeatedly that it had nothing to do with job performance because I ran a very good program, one of the best under his jurisdiction. That was nice of him to say, and I'm glad that he took the time to say it.

It is what it is.

A Testimony to my Unstressed State

I met Mary in the Walmart parking lot. I was headed to my car, she was headed in. She's frustrated. She was trying to get ready to head to Washington DC with friends. She lost her prosthetic boobs. "I've looked everywhere," she grumbled. I burst out laughing and rewrote a phrase: "She'd lose her boobs if they weren't attached..."

In the never ending quest to find the humor in this situation, I've named 'my girls'. They are 'Flopsy' and 'Not-sy'.

I took a test for a new job yesterday. I usually am a knockout in standardized testing. Yeah, this time, I don't think so. Really. This test was two hours long. Lots of calculating. They told us repeatedly that they did not expect us to finish the sections in the alloted time. Good. I didn't. Meanwhile, this little brainiac sitting next to me did. I'd be scribbling away, and I'd hear the 'click' of her pencil being set on the table, and look over to see her leaning back, hands folded. It was a testimony to my own state of unstress that I did not reach across the table and smack her one. I did not know the test was going to be so long. I usually don't eat breakfast, having a fruit bar in midmorning. I was getting hungry. At the end of one section of testing, I commented that I should have eaten breakfast. One witchy little thing said, "Sure. That's a good excuse for not doing well. You didn't eat breakfast." Number one, was it that obvious that I was not doing well? Number two, it wasn't an excuse. (I'd have offered up 'chemo brain' if I needed an excuse...and I don't think I was doing that badly, truth be told. I was just not as quick as young brainiac sitting right next to me.) In another testimony to my state of unstress, I did not snap at witch-y woman, and was able to see that she probably was having trouble with the test. She stressed, unlike some (me). Sad thing is 50 people were there for that testing. They had two more tests to run, and expected that many at all of them. Doing some quick calculations, I came up with this: Debby + this job = snowball's chance in hell.

My coffee is gone. I've got no excuse to not get my fanny out of this chair and begin to get ready for work. Darn it.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Driving me buggy

I just spent over two hours counting mosquitoes, including one sample that contained 800+ mosquitoes which had to be separated from about 800+ other insects. All this rain has created wonderful breeding sites, and the mosquitoes are taking advantage of this.
And know what else?
It's still raining.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Take it easy

Friday was my fall apart day. By Friday night, I was feeling a little embarrassed about the whole thing. I'd been pushing myself physically, at work. I'd been staying up late to entertain company. I was in pain, and privately trying to deal with my own fears. Cara was trying to deal with her own fears, prepare to head back to school, and both of us, overstressed, tired, and worried, fell apart. She, because she was concerned about me, me, because I didn't know how to 'fix it' for her. Going to the Cancer Center and getting some questions answered was the right thing to do.

Although I had planned to set some traps over the weekend, I did not. I decided to take it easy. Tim and I went to watch stock car football. Laughter is the best medicine, and I got a heaping dose of it. We sat with a group of friends, and we are a funny bunch of people. We all laughed ourselves stupid. It was also scary. Luke, our friends' son, flipped his car. He didn't get out of the car for a heartstopping time. "Mary," I said, "maybe you'd better go down there..." and about the time that she handed me her camera, and began to head down the bleachers, Luke climbed out of the upside down car, and leaped up on the undercarriage, throwing his hands up in the air to show that he was okay. They rolled his car back onto its wheels, and then, almost immediately, his teammate, Pete, flipped his. Since Luke's team had won the previous two years, they had become the team to beat. Their opponents were driving aggressively, and 'the Red, White, and Blue' was responding aggressively. The final round had the two top teams coming back for the Superbowl, and as I watched, I said, "Gees. These teams are out to win." The crowd loved it, and Luke's team did win, for the third straight year. It was almost a relief when it was done, because it started to get scary.

We drove Cara back to college. She's hired by the college to be one of the people in charge of the dorms. She's called an RA, gets a free room from the college that she does not have to share. That will be nice for her. Plus they pay her for 11 hours of work a week, so she'll have a weekly income. That will be nice too.

I worry about her tendency toward dark colors.
Do you suppose she's depressed?

She's got a couple weeks before her students move in. I don't think she's in any hurry to unpack. She's going to take it easy too.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Falling Apart

Tim and I were talking last night in bed. I felt badly about falling apart, about reaching the point where the only thing I could do is walk into the Cancer Center and say, "Okay. I'm having some trouble here, and I'm not sure what I'm supposed to do." Tim cleared his throat. "I'm glad that you did," he said. "I've been worried about this pain all week, and I'd made up my mind to spend the weekend trying to talk you into going to the Cancer Center before the end of the month."

I knew that these were challenging times for all of us, but I don't think that I realized how this was impacting the family until I saw Cara's tearful face, until I saw the slightly frantic look on Tim's face as he leapt out of the car at the Cancer Center. (Since it was spur of the moment, he had no clue why I was there and assumed something had gotten way worse.) Tims rarely get frantic, so this was new to me.

The oncologist is good, and she did not make me a feel foolish. I explained what was going on. She offered other ideas of what could be going on besides localized advanced breast cancer. It was reassuring. She looked at me much like I had looked at Cara, I imagine. She said, just as I had said, 'Listen, I can't tell you that you don't have cancer again. I can't tell you that you have nothing to be worried about. But I can tell you, right this very minute, that there is nothing here that is setting off alarms for me.'

Yesterday was an awful day for me. Yesterday, although I did not crumble and fall apart in a weeping heap of sobbing, I fell apart completely. This was a surprise to me, but I found, once again, that there is a good safety net, people who care, to catch me when I fall. People prayed, for me, for Cara. A doctor spent time to talk. The staff reassured and told me that they were glad I was there. My husband said, for the first time, how proud he was to watch me move through this as a woman of faith and courage. He said, for the first time, how horrified he was to know there was a second lump. He was very afraid, and drew strength from my calm.

Things are back on a more even keel today. The situation has not changed at all, but peace is again coming from a very deep place inside. It is what it is. I resolve once again to stop being this little 'self contained unit'. I will throw myself into my little community of people who love me, and people who care, and I will draw my strength from them when I cannot find it in myself. I will allow myself to be blessed, and I will thank God.

And can any person out there tell me why, after everything, my biggest fear is of looking foolish and over-reactive?

Friday, August 14, 2009

See, I listen...

Last night was an awful night. Cara fell apart, wanting guarantees that I could not give her, that I would not give her. "Cara," I said, "the easy thing would be to promise you that everything will be just fine. I can't. I don't know." I did not realize that her friend's mother had died. I hadn't realized that she was struggling. I tried to say all the right things, but you know what? I hated it. I hated watching her crying. I hated it when she looked square at me, fiercely, demanding that I promise her that I would not die of cancer. I hated it that I had to say, 'that's not my call, Cara.' It was an emotional evening. Being women of fine good humor, she said at one point, 'You are supposed to live long enough to get dementia and drive me crazy...' and I said, helpfully, "Well, if you like, I could drool on my shirt front to make you feel better." The conversation started off with tears, ended up with wry humor. "Hard times make you wise..." and "Well, I'd just as soon be dumb as rocks..."

When I went to bed last night, I could not sleep. My shoulder ached awfully, and the throbbing went into my back. I got up to take a pain killer. That was all she wrote. I laid awake for the rest of the night, unable to get into a comfortable position. This morning, I got up and went to work. I was sick with exhaustion, sick to my stomach. So, I gave up. Many of you suggested speaking to a doctor before the end of the month PET scan. Following your suggestions, I went to the cancer center. I told them them about the pain. About how sometimes I could not get comfortable enough to sleep. I asked questions so that I knew what to say to my kids.

The blood work 'looked good'. That was good news. And although there are unanswered questions, the doctor said there was no cause for alarm at this point in time. She also gave me a card with her phone number and a social worker's phone number for Cara. There was some discussion about controlling the pain and getting proper rest. I walked out of there feeling better. Like at least I have a plan to get through the rest of the month. Like at least I know how to help Cara.

Eeeh. This is such a roller coaster.

Thursday, August 13, 2009


If you have not seen 'The Soloist', you should.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Locally Advanced Breast Cancer

I've been reading about breast cancer. I had stage 2 cancer. No lymph node involvement. 17 were removed, a pretty substantial number, so I can feel pretty good about that, right? I assumed, anyway. Fast forward. Less than 10 months after the original diagnosis, 5 months after the end of chemo, 3 months after radiation, I have a lump in my armpit. It's a pretty large lump. I can hold my arm up and actually see it. I've clung to the idea that it shouldn't be cancer, because I have not had any cancer in my lymph nodes. I'm waiting for a PET scan at the end of the month. Meanwhile, the pain in my shoulder has sort of spread into my back and my arm. I am trying very hard to be practical and sensible, but I'm really having a hard time right now.

Today, I read that there's something called locally advanced breast cancer. Symptoms include a large lump (typically 5 cm or more) in the armpit, a fixed lump that is attached to the muscle or chest wall and does not move. It says that most women with locally advanced breast cancer do have lymph node involvement, however there is a subset in that group who do not have any lymph node involvement at all. It made me a little sick to read it, and in my heart, I just had this certainty that I am about to learn that I have locally advanced breast cancer.

I've been thinking about faith. Do I have it? I thought so. Is faith what keeps you going through the motions of your day to day life when life is falling apart? Is faith what makes you smile when you feel at a loss inside? I don't know. I really don't know. I try very hard to remember that God is in this. I try to remember that He has plans to 'prosper not harm'. I try very hard to keep the faith, but this is one loooooooooooong month.

Sorry for the bummer of a post, but it is what it is.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Quiet Time?

I've been using this quiet time wisely. Tim and I went to see Asia and Yes. This was not at all quiet, but it was great fun. Steve Howe looks like a cadaver, but the man can rock. Being with both bands, he played for three hours straight. He actually seemed to gather energy as the show went on, and he is a remarkable guitar player. I am not a big 'drum solo' fan, but Asia's drummer did a trick where he was drumming without his hand on the stick. The crowd went screaming nuts every time it showed up on the jumbotron. Although Yes had two new members, the sound was the same, and it was an excellent show.

We have company, so it is fun to reminisce and talk, quite a change from the months of coming home from work to an empty and silent house (Tim and I work different shifts). Cara is home and last night, I fell asleep to the sound of her friends gathered around a camp fire, chattering into the darkness.

Saturday, my old friend (maybe better to say 'long time' friend) Mary and I will go to a women's retreat.

Tim and I are building a rose trellis.

My shoulder aches, and the pain has moved into my arm and into my back. I wonder if this is simply my imagination. It is a strange place to be...anxious for this month to be done, to have the scan done, to know, for once and for all, what I am up against, but, on the same token, holding onto these golden moments, willing them to never, ever end.