Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Soapbox, revisited...

Gloria sent me this after my last column. Since it covers a topic near and dear to my heart, I will post it for all of you, as well.

http://info.org.il/irrelevant/may02-smilepop-soapbox4.swf

The New Normal

Daria commented that she was glad to see that my energy had come back. That's the odd thing. It hasn't.

Truth be told, I feel ill. A lot. I feel exhausted more often than not. I ache and I hobble around in the morning, in the evening, and anytime in between when I sit for any length of time. I guess this is the new normal, and it is a surprise to me to realize that I may never go back to what I was. I'm starting believe that there will ever be a day when I don't think about my body. The day starts with pills, and the amounts of motrin in between is adjusted to accomodate the pain. Some days are good days. Other days are pretty awful. But I don't have cancer. The irony of that will stay with me always. Last fall, I wasn't sick. I had cancer. This fall, I am miserable, but I don't have cancer. Other people who have dealt with cancer tell me that they also cope with pain and exhaustion, even years after treatment.

Simply put, if this is the new normal, then I guess that I'd best learn how to deal with it, hadn't I? I will not be an invalid moaning quietly to herself in a rocking chair, wasting one precious day after another. So I push myself, because it is all that I know how to do. This is my life, and I have contemplated the end of it. Galvanized by that experience, energized by the words 'cancer free' (never mind the 'at this point in time'), I look at the things that I always meant to do, but never quite got around to doing. And I drink a cup of coffee, take a couple motrins, and I get around to doing them. And out of the ordinary, a very satisfactory life takes shape.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Wind

Last night the wind was blowing like crazy. I lay in bed listening to it. I've listened to the wind all of my life. I remember being just a small child in my little red and white bed with the animals marching across the foot of it. The wind scared me then. As I got older, I stopped being scared, but I do remember how the winter wind seem to scream around the eaves of our attic bedroom. I left home, and I listened to the wind in other places, alone in my soldier's bed, far away from the storms at home. I've laid awake at night listening to the wind laying in a double bed next to a man who did not love me. There were times when it seemed as if the storm outside was nothing compared to the storm that raged within. And when I came back to the only place I felt that I understood, I sometimes wondered as I listened to the wind, was I strong enough to withstand it? Could I bring my children through it? Now I am...well...oldish. I laid in bed next to my comfortable snoring lump, underneath warm blankets and let my thoughts wander to other times, and other storms, and other places, and other ages. Tim and I have weathered a lot of storms lately. The wind no longer frightens me.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Boring

You know, there are conversations that, pre-cancer, you cannot imagine yourself having. Tim and I met Mary downtown. We were going on a tour of the Historical Society. As we waited, Mary turned sideways and whispered, "Notice anything different about me?" My eyes popped a bit as it registered. "Nice boobs, Mary!" And she grinned big. The prosthetics make her feel better, you can tell. I'm happy as heck for her, but still, a year ago, I could not imagine noticing a woman's breasts, let alone complimenting her on them. She laughed when I told her that.

After the tour, Mary declined to join us, but we went out for dessert. I got blueberry crepes. Since it was so late, I drank chamomile tea.

Saturday, home renovations. Saturday night, we sprawled on the couch, tired but content. We watched a video. 'An Unfinished Life'. It was a pleasant movie. Had plenty of chuckles. Predictable, but a nice movie, with wonderful scenery.

Sunday, there was church, and then a plumbing disaster. A friend brought me flowers and visited for too short a time. I made out invitations for Stacey's homecoming party (she's on her way back from Korea, should be landing in Pittsburgh in about four hours). I went to bed and stretched out with a funny book while Tim talked to Mike on the phone.

Today I scrubbed down the bathroom. We're painting. I got the guest room ready, in case Stacey wants to stay here. I did the laundry. I did the ironing. I did the folding.

Tim's old boss called. We've never talked before. He said that the thing he always liked about Tim was the way that he talked about his wife. That was a sweet thing to hear.

Sounds boring as all get out, doesn't it?

Boring is good. I've missed boring.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Balance

Well, the dust is starting to settle a bit. That's a euphemism, and one that is probably not all that funny if you're living in the eastern part of Australia. Since the big switch to digital TV, a move that was suppose to improve things for us, well, we no longer get TV at all, except for the public broadcasting station from Penn State University. That is actually not such a bad thing. We found that we do not miss television nearly as much as you would imagine. After three months, we scarcely think about it. If we want to watch something, we go rent a video. But I digress. In fact, if you take note, I've actually digressed from my original digression, which just may be a record for me, but I am of an unfocused state lately. Anyways, the original digression was to say how shocked I was to see footage of the sandstorms in Australia, to hear the estimates of the topsoil lost (I guess it blew right out over the Sydney Harbour, which is probably wreaking havoc on the marine life, although I've not heard anything about that.) Now that I'm done blabbering on about Australia and digital television, let me steer myself back on topic.

Cancer is a funny thing. I keep thinking about it. Last fall, I found a lump. It was cancer, and that was a bolt out of the blue. Apart from being tired, I really did not have any symptoms. I've gone back to re-read my blog posts, and it's ironic really, the weeks leading up to that. I did not have a clue. My life bumped along. Then there was cancer.

I've gotten through the treatment, and there is a wariness about me now. I'm aware of my body. What makes this difficult however is that I have aches and pains. Tamoxifen? Chemo induced menopause? Who knows, for sure. You learn to deal with them. Those highly touted breast self exams? They're kind of difficult. Scar tissue makes lumps and bumps itself. Radiation thickens tissue. I'm looking for changes, they tell me, new lumps, new bumps. And so I try to be patient with the aches and pains. It is what it is. I try to figure out which lumps and bumps are now normal for me. It's not so clear to me anymore. Next thing I know, the shoulder pain has become at times, unbearable, and in July when I found a lump under my armpit, I did not screw around. I'd been down this road before. And there was the biopsy, which was benign, but a mass was noted in my shoulder muscle. Then there was the PET scan which talked about four areas of activity. Last week, a mastectomy and surgery to remove the mass from my shoulder was tentatively planned. Friday, the word is that I don't have cancer. Something is going on. They do not know what it is, but right this minute, the one thing that they are fairly certain on is that this is not cancer.

I'm stunned. Do not misunderstand me at all. I am happy beyond all words. Truly. But last fall, I had a lump w/ no symptoms. Cancer. This fall I find a another lump and am dealing with something that amounts to a giant toothache in my shoulder, constant and unrelenting, and it is not cancer.

It is not fun to look your own mortality square in the eye. You spend a lot of time wondering about the importance of your own life. You wonder if your children will be okay. Those words that we sometimes keep tucked away, too shy to say them? Yeah. I don't have so many of those words anymore. I tend to say them. I tend to do the things that I always meant to do, instead of simply meaning to do things. I find myself feeling less guilty about doing things for my own pleasure. Tim and I went to see two concerts this summer. He built me a rose trellis. I spent a lot more time putzing around in the yard or visiting with friend or reading a book. So cancer hasn't been all bad, but really, it is a scary time.

I sit here with my aching shoulder. I don't have cancer. And I found myself with a funny dilemma on my hands: do I trust the diagnosis? I'm in the cancer free zone right this minute, but I will be monitored carefully, because I do have a lymph node that glows. It is at my windpipe. It is not on my lung, a big difference that makes me glad inside, remembering my own father's death from lung cancer. I've also got that area of activity inside the pelvic bone. The pain in my shoulder is not normal despite the claim of Pittsburgh's surgical oncologist: ('pain is unfortunately not an uncommon side effect for breast cancer patients after chemo and radiation'). The fact of it is, I don't feel well. I don't feel well a lot. The difference between this fall and last fall? This fall, I'm unwell. Last fall, I was not. Last fall, I had cancer. This fall, blessedly, I do not. Life's funny like that, isn't it?

A lot of you praised God for this news. My new friend Mary went with me to Pittsburgh three times last week, and we rejoiced at the end of the week. My old friend Mary (we do need to figure out a new way to differentiate between them, because old Mary is starting to get a little ornery) was with me yesterday. Her eyes got wide and she nearly leapt to her feet and shouted 'Halleluia!' right there in the doctor's office. I sat there, frozen in amazement, speechless, hardly daring to believe what I was hearing.

Now a day later, the news has begun to sink in. I am, of course, very grateful to God. If this had happened to anybody else, I'd be calling it a miracle. However, I'm embarrassed to claim that for myself - just who do I think I am, that the almighty God would take notice of me... But my prayers have been answered. Looming on the horizons are questions and scans, and 'waiting and watching'. Life is not going to be the same for me. Not for a while anyway. This is the new normal. But after the last two months, I have learned something, something big. I cannot waste time in dread, or fear. While I must be vigilent for changes, for warning signs, at the same time, I can not be preoccupied, let my life be derailed by the threat of cancer. It's a delicate balance, and after this last scare, it's going to be even harder to maintain that balance. I guess that is where, after all, faith comes in. We all live until we die. None of us know when that day will come, not for sure. My life has been shaken to its very foundations in this past year, but a woman of faith would figure out how to give thanks and fearlessly move on into the future, trusting in God. So will I.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Not Cancer

There is good news from the MRIs. No abnormality in the shoulder found. While I am everlastingly grateful for that, I would also be a big liar if I did not say that I was hoping that they would find some sort of 'easy fix'. My shoulder aches badly from yesterday's two hour immobilization. BUT, the good news is that it is not cancer. They are adopting an aggressive 'wait and watch'. I'm comfortable with that. The imaging will be done in Pittsburgh. If something just taking root, beginning to grow, it will not be missed for long.

I've never dealt with chronic pain before, so that is a bit discouraging. 3 motrins take the edge off of it, but I cannot remember the last time that I was simply, blessedly pain free. Still. It is not cancer, and I can live with pain.

Late edit: This post sounds ungrateful. I am not. I'm as grateful to God as any one woman can be. I think that I am, once again, shocked silent.

FYI: Don't get used to it.

Troubles

I reconnected with a friend. P. We'd been friends in high school, ran into each other a few times after high school. When I was stationed at Ft. Belvoir, she was stationed at Walter Reed Army Medical Center (where Dylan was ultimately born). We got together a few times. The last time that I saw her, she and her husband had just adopted their third child from China, their fourth child under 6. I ran into P's stepmother at the Cancer Support Group. Newly widowed, and not married to P's father for all that long (P's mother died of cancer), none the less, immediately upon finding out that P and I were friends who'd lost touch, she gave me P's contact information, telling me, "She needs support right now." Her love for a grown woman she'd had little contact with was evident and touching.

I called and left a message, and P. called me back. The marriage was over. Has been over for more than a year. Unbelievably, this strong woman, a capable officer in the United States Army, a bright woman with two degree had became an abused woman. "How did I ever let this happen?" she asked, and her shame and her anguish was evident. Her 14 year old son was the one who said to her, finally, "You must do something about this." A little child shall lead them, and he did. The scales fell from my friend P's eyes, and she saw what she needed to do. The strong woman emerged again, and she did what she needed to do. The capable woman emerged again, as she took charge of the raising of her four children. The bright woman has emerged again, as she learns to manage on a shoestring, juggle everyone's schedules, and some how, amazingly, make it work. She is tired, but making it. I wish that I lived closer.

She stops in the middle of what she's saying, remembering that I met her stepmother at a Cancer Support Group. "Debby," she asks. "Do you have cancer?" "Did. Do? Don't know." Immediately, she said, "Oh, how trivial my problems sound," and she was ashamed of herself for talking on about things.

This is what I know for a fact. I've had cancer. I've also been singlehandedly responsible for three children. You know what? I don't really think that one's easier than the other. There's not much help for the emotional aches. When my shoulder kicks up, I've got drugs, if I want 'em. I kind of think that she's got the bigger challenge, and I make up my mind not to lose touch with her again.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

A Tube of Annie Lennox

Today was the MRIs. It took forever. I lay in that tube not moving through Sting's entire 'Ten Summoner's Tales' (my choice) and then Annie Lennox's 'Medusa' (not my choice, shoot me now). I did not move, and my shoulder was aching from being strapped in place, and Annie Lennox is truly not my cup of tea, and 'Medusa' is my least favorite Annie Lennox album. I kept still, and I kept thinking, "If they can tell me what is going on with this blessed shoulder, it will all be worth it." I guess I'll know tomorrow if it was. It's been a looooong couple months, and really, truly, I just want some resolution to the situation. And to never hear Annie Lennox sing 'A Whiter Shade of Pale' ever, EVER again. Those two things.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

A Penny for Our Thoughts

Today, I went to Mary's house. Her mother had been saving pennies for years. Anne is gone now, and Mary and I sorted through those pennies, to have them appraised. Old pennies from new pennies. We sorted through them checking the dates. Years stood out: 1975, the year that we graduated high school. 1957. The year I was born. 1958. The year that she was born (and the snotty thing will not let you forget that). It went on and on. There were dates before our time, dates that were important to our parents, I suppose. Even before that. The oldest penny I found was from 1909. We talked about how the world has changed since then. What was it like to hold the new 1909 penny back in a day before we knew about World Wars? Before the Depression? Imagined all the hands that held those pennies before they wound up on the kitchen table being sorted through by two old friends talking easily about life.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Not Gonna Take It No More

I'm not a real fan of forwarded e-mails. You know the ones I'm talking about. The dire warnings. You know. For instance, your dog can die if he licks the floor after you've used a Swiffer on it. Or carjackers are sticking a piece of paper on the back window of your car. You get in, start the car, go to back up, realize that there is a piece of paper on your rear window, get out to take it off, and voila, the waiting carjacker hops in your car, drives off, not only taking your car but your purse. There's toxic lipstick warnings. False lost children reports. Today, I got one from a fellow that went something like this:


REMEMBER: Cell Phone Numbers Go Public next month.

REMINDER.... all cell phone numbers are being released to telemarketing companies and you will start to receive sales calls..... YOU WILL BE CHARGED FOR THESE CALLS

To prevent this, call the following number from your cell phone: 888-382-1222. It is the National DO NOT CALL list. It will only take a minute of your time. It blocks your number for five (5) years. You must call from the cell phone number you want to have blocked. You cannot call from a different phone number.

HELP OTHERS BY PASSING THIS ON TO ALL YOUR FRIENDS... It takes about 20 seconds.

I've seen this one floating around for a couple years now. I looked it up on Snopes.com and I looked it up on Truthorfiction.com and discovered that it is a hoax that has been circulating since 2005. As is my wont, I hit 'reply all' and typed:

Hi. Just wanted to let you know that this rumor has been going around for many years. It is not true. These e-mail forwards circulate around and around the world for all of eternity, unless we begin to question the truth of them.

As Christians, we all know that dishonesty is a sin. I would urge everyone to look carefully at the e-mails they are considering forwarding. You can verify the truth of them by snopes.com or truthorfiction.com . I have also called Kathy Rapp's office to verify rumors. Please. Let's all of us take a moment to be purveyors of truth.

Hoping for a better world!

I got a very angry reply from the person who sent this. He does not feel that he has to defend his e-mails. He also wants to know if I am calling him dishonest. He tells me that this number will not work for us because it is a New York number, and we live in Pennsylvania.

Bruce: Misinformed. You are misinformed. You are passing along information that you are not checking for accuracy. That number is the National Do Not Call List that has been in place for some time now. It was not set up for this purported cell phone threat. You can call it in New York. We can call it in Pennsylvania. Mary can call from Missouri. Mikey and Susan from Arizona. Even Hal in California and Bill and Margie in Alaska. Know why, Bruce? Because we are all part of the same nation. The fact is, Bruce, I started out thinking you were misinformed. Now I'm thinking that you are plain ignorant. Ignorance is not a crime, I suppose, but when you choose to stay that way, it makes you a fool in my book. Sorry you're mad, but ignorance offends me. I am sick of hearing all about the government's secret agendas. I'm sick of hearing our President is the anti-Christ. Terrorist plots. I'm mad as heck. I'm not going to take it any more. This is America. We have freedom of speech. I would like to see us all begin to claim the freedom to think about what we're saying, about what we're hearing, and (dear God, puh-LEAZE!) the crap we're forwarding.

*pant. puff. deep breath*

Okay then. I'm off my soapbox.

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Coat

Tim started his new job here. It is amazing how that worked out. During his last period of unemployment, he applied at the biggest employer in town. He tested there in January, and heard nothing from them. When he called to inquire, he was told that he had not passed the test if he had not received a letter. We were doubtful of this. Tim is a very smart man. He is not gifted in words, but he always scores off the charts in math. Always. So we wondered, but you cannot argue with the faceless autocracy of the biggest employer in town. Disappointed, we went about our business, and eventually Tim did find employment in Olean, NY, about an hour's drive from here. He has been there about 6 months, and word came down that they were laying off their night shift. Tim works second. He was sure to be 'bumped' (meaning that someone on third shift with more seniority than he has would take his job). I'd just lost my job, remember. We both looked at each other, squared our shoulders and forged on. What else are you going to do? You pray hard and continue on and wait to see what happens next. What happened next was at 8 AM, one morning, our phone rang and lo, it was the biggest employer in town offering Tim a job.

You know, it's one of those times. It's just one of those times. Scary as all get out, but you hold on tight, because things are working out in almost a miraculous way: the daughter your heart grieves over has a full time job for the first time in years. You pray for another child, "Please, please, Cara is so smart. She deserves her college, help us to be part of that possibility"...and then your child, your petite child gently coaxes a confession out of a rapist (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) and is being considered for a program that would give her a free education for as long as she stays at that university. Things are just happening, good things, in the midst of all the uncertainty. When Tim got his phone call, we just stared at each other in amazement yet again. God is at work.

Anyway, where was I? This was supposed to be a post about a coat. Tim has a rain jacket, but it is his nice one, and he did not want to wear it to his job, so my mission yesterday was to go to the Goodwill, and find a rain jacket for work. I love the Goodwill, so off I went. I did find him a rain jacket, a black one, and even better, it was on sale for 29 cents. Most amazingly, I found a rain coat for myself. Now you've got to understand, the last thing that I need in this world is another raincoat. Tim bought me a jacket from Cabela's for work, and Stacey bought me another for my birthday. I've got rain coats. But this rain coat was a shock. It was the exact same coat that I had found at a thrift shop in Michigan years ago, when the children were young. The same color, everything. I held that coat and I remembered our big house, and hanging that coat in the closet right inside the big wooden front door with the little window that opened behind decorative grill work. I remembered the tall window next to the door, with the 5' foot diffenbachia in front of it. The ceramic tile down to the kitchen, the glass fronted cabinets. Just all these little details that I hadn't thought about in years. And once I was transported back to the setting, I began to picture my children as youngsters, and smile at the little memories. Shrugging on that coat to take them to school, or Trick or Treating, or to the Tridge, or the playground, or Dow Gardens, or the library. Really, I stood in the middle of a crowded Goodwill store, clutching those two coats lost in my own reverie. I had to have that coat. I just had to. When I saw that it had an orange tag and was only 29 cents, I bought that as well.

That coat has been hanging on a chair since yesterday. I keep marveling that I found it. I touch it and remember. I must confess. There have been tears, because not all that time was good, and I find myself wishing that I could have a 'do over', a chance to raise my children again, this time with a man at my side who was not ashamed of me, who loved our children so dearly that harming a hair on their head was incomprehensible to him. A chance for them to be raised by a wiser mother, one with a little more self esteem, maybe, one with a clearer understanding at how quickly those years would fly by. Would it have made a difference? I think of them all. They are good kids. I am lucky there. I am blessed. Despite everything, I've got good children, with good hearts. I bury my face in that raincoat and I begin to rain. Hard.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Lost?

You know, I am a believer. I believe in God. The Alpha. The Omega. I know that not everyone does. Their unbelief does not affect my belief, and so I am not offended, and enjoy their company anyway. I believe that all roads ultimately lead to God.

I recently had an e-mail from an acquaintance. She is a believer too, she and her husband. They no longer go to church, but study tapes from a minister who does not believe that people can learn about God without his guidance. She has always been a very judgemental person, and we have spoken about this. Perhaps as a result of this, I have not heard from her lately. I got two e-mails from her on Friday, and I was shocked to realize that she no longer even sounds coherent. She paints canvasses black and believes that God puts prophetic pictures in the blackness. She speaks of demon insects, of Satan, of the beast, of naked prostitutes, hollow eyed children, angels, she points to a thumb print of God. I see nothing, and I read these captions to her pictures, and I am afraid for her.

I find myself studying my own situation, my seesawing emotions. I'm strong one minute, weepy the next, praying amidst the uncertainty, trying to keep a level head. I've been worried about my own focus. After pondering it for the day, I decide this: The difference between my friend and me is this: she has isolated herself and her husband from a community of Christians. She has limited all contact with people who believe differently. I may waver, and have difficult times but I have my friends to help me down the road when times get rough. She trusts no one but a disembodied voice on a tape. I am desperately afraid that she and her husband have gotten lost.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

It's the Little Things...

Last night, I was tired and discouraged at the fact that I still don't know what's going on. I went to bed early with my Bible and read that God has heard my request. That's good enough for me, right now anyway. I fall asleep with one final prayer. I accept His will, but I also pray for resolution, for knowing, one way or the other. I've got MRIs Thursday, and another appointment at the Cancer Center on Friday. I just want to know. I fell asleep (with the help of an ativan) and I slept the clock around. My shoulder woke me up a couple of times but I was so tired I fell back to sleep quickly. It's been an exhausting week and I guess that I was tireder than I thought.

This morning is surprisingly cool and we have a wood fire going for the second time of the season. When your bones ache, the heat is a comfort. We get up early because today we are going to the Farmer's Market.

Today at the Farmer's Market, we ran into lots of folks we knew and enjoyed visiting in the cold morning air. I met another breast cancer survivor. I've talked to her on the phone but never met her. She is a rugged and strong lady who operates heavy equipment for a living. Oh, she's a hoot. She waved her hand at me. An earlier injury cost her three fingers. She airily said, 'If I can live with half a hand, well, half a boob? That ain't nuthing.' I about fell over laughing. I do so love characters, people that are strong and true and themselves. Every few steps, it seemed like we were running into somebody else to talk to, and I enjoyed that feeling of belonging, and connectedness.

Today at Farmer's Market, I bought myself a bag of Fair Exchange coffee beans. What a treat! I bought my last bag of coffee beans from the store. Even though it was a brand I'd used before, there was no rich aroma when I ground the beans and the stuff brewed up pale and puny. Ack. When I opened my new bag of beans, they fell into my hand rich and shiny, and when I ground them, I got a little caffeine buzz just from the smell. The coffee brewed up black and strong. I sip on my mug slowly, and with each sip, my mind sighs "mmmmmmmmmm..."

Today at Farmer's market, we got strawberry/rhubarb jam along with a loaf of homemade bread for breakfast tomorrow. I got some Hungarian peppers for stuffing. We bought some home cured bacon. I found the biggest tomato I've seen in forever. Just huge. We had BLTs for lunch today. Well. Sort of. Tim had bacon and lettuce. He hates tomatoes. I had tomato and lettuce (no bacon) with lots of fresh ground black pepper. We used a wonderful 12 grain bread. It was a quiet and companionable meal, the two of us sitting at the table savoring those delicious sandwiches.

Today, I got a package from Susan. A while back, I wrote 'I am regaining my equilibrium. I can see a little more clearly. And once again, I'm finding I do have faith in 'us'. God, friends, family, the doctors, myself, even the occasional Snickers bar.' I received a package in the mail today. Susan sent me an entire case of Snickers. An entire case! Oh my gosh, I laughed so hard, even through my tears. Susan's husband is laid off, and she's cut back to four days a week at her job. The last thing she should have thought about is sending me a case of Snickers. "I oughta kick her butt," I said to Tim. And Tim said, "You might want to tell the woman that you put 1200 miles on the car this week. If you ever decide to drive in a straight line, you could easily end up in Arizona. Remind her that you have her address." Okay. Susan? You're warned. And thank you.

This has been a crazy time, really, but the little things do make a huge difference. Devotions. Friends. A warm house. Goooooooood coffee. A simple, delicious meal savored at a quiet table with your fine husband. A good chunk of sleep. Oh. And never underestimate the power of chocolate during trying times.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Brianna

Today is Brianna's birthday. How did it come to be that I have a 28 year old daughter? I don't know, but I've done the math several times and it is correct.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Monday's trip to Pittsburgh was good news. No cancer in the breast. No mastectomy. Flopsy and Notsy stay right where they are. I'm glad.

Tuesday was a waste. 3 hours there for a 20 minute office visit. It is not that the surgeon was unkind. She just pointed out that chronic pain was, unfortunately, not a rare side effect of breast cancer treatment. She was recommending physical therapy and medication. A little surprised, I said, "What about the mass?" She said, "What mass?" I said, "The one the surgeon found." She curtly said, "It is inappropriate to ask me to comment on another surgeon's findings." She went on to say that you do not expect to find breast cancer in the shoulder. So. It wasn't breast cancer, most likely, and the appointment was done.

I walked out of there discouraged. There's the words: most likely. I want to know for sure.

Today I was back in Pittsburgh to meet with their oncologist. Three hours later, I was headed home. She is concerned about the shoulder. She doesn't think it is breast cancer either, but she does think it's important to find out what it is. 'There are sarcomas' she tells me, and also says that she's not saying that is what this is, she is ordering two more scans specifically of the shoulder. She says that a surgical biopsy might be required, but she'll wait until she sees the results of these scans. She leaves the room to study past imaging and then returns. She's changed her mind, she tells me. She wants to do another full body scan in three months instead of six months, and she wants to know as soon as the MRIs of the shoulder have been completed.

I walk out of there with my friend Mary. We both feel relief. Nope. I still don't have all the answers, but for the first time in a while, I feel like my questions have been answered. I feel like there's a plan. That is a good and comforting feeling.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Night

These last seven weeks have been a very hard time. I'm practical and I really tried hard to be sensible and wise for the kids. I've been looking squarely at (and dealt with) the impending loss of my breast. I've been dealing with some really terrible pain which interferes with sleep. The tiredness makes the pain harder to deal with, and so the cat begins to chase its tail. I have been, I'm sorry to say, fearful. Miraculously, I've gone from understanding that cancer was back to hearing the words 'there is nothing in your breast' and 'whatever it is in your shoulder, it has not infiltrated your bones, so this makes metatastic breast cancer unlikely'. It's been explained to me that chronic pain is actually unfortunately not a rare side effect of chemo and radiation, although my pain is not where they would expect a problem. The doctor matter of factly tells us that palliative care is hugely important and that getting a handle on the pain is going to be the biggest priority right now.

I've driven to Pittsburgh twice this week. I will get up at 3 AM and head out on that long drive there one more time. I'm concerned about the lung thing. On the same token, is there a lung thing? What about the pelvis? I don't know anymore. This is all so confusing. I'm gladdened by the news, but afraid of the issues that haven't been addressed, and still, there is this truly awful pain in my shoulder. I find myself sitting here tonight trying to make sense of it, and I can't. I want to cry. I desperately want to cry. I think that it would help. I want to cry tears of gratitude, and relief, and frustration, and release, praising tears, cleansing tears that will wash the seven weeks of fear right out of my body.

I don't know how to feel. I don't know what to think, and worst of all, I can't cry. Who would have thought that good news would come as such a shock?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Michelle

Yesterday, in Pittsburgh, I had a long wait. Poor Mary was out front. I was out back (not to be confused with Australia, mate, or a steak house) wrapped in a double layer of hospital gowns, waiting.

I was not alone in my wait. One woman said, "I had to be here at 8:30 and I drove all the way from Punxatawny." I smiled wryly and said, "I had to be here at 7, and we drove in from very nearly the New York State line. Long pause as everyone studied me. We began talking, because that's kind of how I roll. An employee came around with a basket full of snacks. I wasn't holding out for much hope for anything I would eat, having become a little picky and health conscious, but lo, there was a Nutrabar, and it was good. The employee said, "You all are being so patient, and I said, "Really, you're about to see a group of gowned and topless woman stage a violent revolution. We were planning it before you got here and we're going to continue planning it after you take your basket and go." And we all laughed, hard, the way nervous people do when they find an escape from stress.

There was a black woman there sitting at the far end of the hall. Even though she was in a blue gown like the rest of us, I could tell that she was a woman who paid careful attention to her appearance. Her hair was perfect, her makeup perfect, and beneath her gown peeked some amazing shoes, people. I noticed that she was blind in one eye, and she was quietly listening to the rest of us as we laughed, not taking part, but listening closely. There were women who had cancer before. There were women who had symptoms and were fearful. There were just some annual exams. And we all talked.

I saw her studying me closely when she heard that I was tentatively scheduled next week for a mastectomy and to get the mass removed from my shoulder. She came down from her end of the chairs to talk to me. Her name was Michelle. "It's not so bad," she said, and she went on to explain that it was mostly how you dealt with it in your mind. Matter-of-factly, she opened her gown. I looked at the scars where her breast used to be, and I said, surprised, "Well, that's not so bad..." and she smiled. They called my name, and I hugged her, and went to hear that they needed more pictures. And I died a little inside, thinking 'Good God, how bad is this?'

When I came back out, Michelle was back in her chair, at the far end of the hall, away from us. I headed for the chair next to hers. We talked about cancer, and kids, and faith. Much to my surprise, she said that her biggest problem was that, as a single parent, as a cancer survivor, what she wanted was love, another person at her side, and that she was having a hard time because she was embarrassed to show her scars, self conscious. I stared at this woman, shocked, really. She had just shown those scars to me. Overcome with gratitude at her sacrifice, I opened my mouth to say something, and my name was called again. I hugged her once again, and walked off quickly to the woman waiting with the papers.

They wanted to double check, with ultrasound, and I died once more. 'Oh, dear God,' I thought yet again. 'How bad is this?' And then, finally, we looked at pictures. As you know, it wasn't bad news, and I walked out of there in shock. Total shock.

On the way home, I remembered Michelle, and I nearly cried, because I did not go back to tell her. For all her self consciousness, she displayed herself to me, in an attempt to comfort. I had started to tell her, 'Michelle, you are beautiful. Truly, truly beautiful...' It was perfectly true, but the woman did not know it. Michelle did not have a clue.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Shock and Awe

Today was a long day. I was up at 1:30, and I'm ready for bed right now, although it is not even 6. You know that 'area of activity' in the breast? Not only is it not cancer. It is not there. MRI. Mammogram. Ultrasound. There is nothing in my breast.

Thank God. Oh, thank you God.

My shoulder is still an issue. "Something is going on there in the soft tissue," they explain, pointing it out to me, "but it is not in the bone. It is behind the bone." I look at them, and say, "Yes. It is right here," and I point where my pain is. And they said, "Yes." So there is more to go, and I have two more trips to Pittsburgh, but at this point, the one thing that I know for sure is that I'm keeping 'my girls'. I wrap my arms around 'Flopsy' and 'Notsy' and hug them close. Mary, aware of my total shock, volunteers to drive home. Gladly, I let her. And two and a half hours later, I am finally able to run into the arms of my husband.

The Answers

Up? Dressed? (check)

Maps, directions, alternate routes? (check)

Medical records, five large envelopes? (1, 2, 3, 4, 5...check)

Insurance info? (check)

Chicken in crock pot for Tim? (check)

I'm terribly organized for 2:30 in the morning, don't you think? (and I have been up for an hour...) Mary and I headed on our road trip. 2 1/2 hours to Pittsburgh. 2 1/2 hours back. Today is the first day on the way to knowing.

*knocks back last of her coffee*

Okay then, lets get this show on the road.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

One Day at a Time

Mikey, I got your card today. Thank you. And you give that little cowgirl a hug for me, and tell me that the picture made me feel loads better. Mercy writes very well for a kidlet of her age group.

I am feeling better over myself. Please understand. It is not as if I don't have hope. I do. But facts is facts, Jack. Badgering a poor oncologist into giving you information that she simply doesn't have yet, urging her to 'guess', talking about gut feelings...ack. I was like a small child begging for a fairy tale. I've given myself a good talking to, and am back on firmer footing today.

This will be a busy week for me. I will take three different trips to Pittsburgh. It will be a lot of driving, and it will be driving in the big city, which is not my cup of tea. Mary, God love her, arranged her schedule to go with me Monday and Tuesday. I'm so grateful, I cannot tell you. It is likely to be overwhelming, and the idea of having a calm friend along is very comforting. Thursday will be an all day thing. Tim is going with me that day. By the end of that long day, we will have our facts. We will have a clear idea of what is going to happen next. Nearly 7 weeks of waiting have really taken a toll on me.

Next week, unless something earthshaking comes out of Pittsburgh, there will be surgery. I've always been a self conscious person. I was invited to go to a spa in October, and I find myself cold at the thought that others might see my fresh scars and the place where once I had a breast (breasts? dunno). Mary had drainage in place for weeks. Really. I just can't bring myself to go to a spa. At the risk of hurting feelings, I turn the invitation down. In trying to explain to Tim, I suddenly realize that I'm not anxious for the moment when he sees this for the first time, which opens up a whole new area for me to fret about. Yeah. I can't get too far ahead of myself. The challenges of this week are enough to handle.

I imagine that I'll handle it like I handle everything else. One day at a time. And some days, I'll fall apart. Some nights I'll be sitting in front of a computer at o'dark-thirty trying to put words to what keeps me awake that night (and usually failing miserably...) Some days, I'll take a deep breath and forge on bravely. Some days, I'll be wise for my children. Some days, overwhelmed, I will turn to my friends. One by one, these trying days will click by, and then, once again, the present will recede into the past. Life goes on.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

The Unvarnished Truth

What a time.

I am going to give you a piece of unvarnished truth about myself. This last month has been perfectly awful. Truly. The waiting. The uncertainty. Trying to 'remain clam' , watching Cara breakdown, breaking down myself. Yesterday, though, yesterday took the cake. (I took the cake? Whatever.)

Next week I am going to Pittsburgh for my second opinion. After that is surgery. I received a call from the hospital there this morning as I got ready for my bone scan. They had a lot of questions for me, and I began answering them. And then the woman said, "Your doctor does not believe that this is anything, but wants to be certain." I was, as they would say 'down under'. gobsmacked. The first thing that I thought is that she must have gotten me mixed up with another patient. I said, "Um. I don't think so. My mastectomy is scheduled for the following week. They will remove the mass from my shoulder at the same time." (And inside, I thought, 'the doctor does not believe this is anything? Really?!!!!' Hope takes root.) The woman explains to me that there needs to be a 'breast study'. She explains that a bilateral diagnostic mammogram needs to be done, an MRI, even a biopsy. She counsels me not to let anyone lay a hand on me until these things are done. "There is no going back to undo a mastectomy if a mistake has been made." She gives me a list of things I need to make sure I have when I come. She calls back later to tell me that I have an appointment Monday morning at 7 AM for the mammogram and the MRI. I have an appointment w/ the surgical oncologist Tuesday at 1:30 PM. I have to be back Thursday AM to speak w/ the oncologist. It will be a day of testing. At the end, everyone will confer, and I'll be sent back to my own doctors with Pittsburgh's thoughts on the matter. We'll decide where to go from there. The woman also tartly says, "It is not even certain that you have cancer."

You know. Here's the unvarnished truth: Today I behaved like an emotional asshole. I called the cancer center to find out when my last BUN/Creatonin had been done, and to ask them to fax it to Pittsburgh. But, in addition, overcome with longing, I said, 'have I misunderstood something? Does Dr. B think this might be nothing?' and she was standing there. They put her on the phone. 'I never said that,' she said. And like a child, like Cara had tried to get assurances from me that I could not give, I began to ask. I could not stop myself. "Is it possible that this is NOT cancer? I mean, I'm not asking for a crystal ball here, but really, if you went with your gut, would you guess cancer? Or not? What are the odds, do you think, that it's not cancer? Because they sounded kind of sure that it might not be..." She stumbles for words, because I have caught her off guard. She cautions me. She avoids numbers. She tells me that the second opinion will answer those questions more completely. Finally, she gives way under my badgering, just a little, and says that it is possible that this is a false alarm. I hang up completely flummoxed, but also, a bit of excitement takes root at the thought that I might not have cancer after all. It's not till I'm down the road on the way to the hospital for the bone scan that I realize that her answer quantified nothing.

I got my medical records today to take to Pittsburgh Monday morning. I made copies of everything. I got all the imaging that has been done on computer disks. I've got actual films as well. I've got a load of stuff to take to Pittsburgh. I've spent the night poring over this stuff and the truth of it hits me. The roller coaster has been cranking up a hill all day, and tonight it came barrelling down the other side.

Reading my own doctor's reports, I come to understand that her intention was never to authorize the mastectomy without an MRI, without a bilateral mammogram, without whatever they need. The breast study was being done in Pittsburgh, with state of the art equipment far more sensitive than we have at our small hospital. There was certainly no need to put me through tests (some of which can be quite painful) both here and in Pittsburgh. The surgery was tentatively scheduled for the week after my return from Pittsburgh with that data. Reading my own doctor's words, I see her concern. Reading my own doctor's words, I see that she is welcoming input from Pittsburgh. She lays out her concerns quite well. She notes that the mass (the one the surgeon found deep in my shoulder muscle) has gone from not being palpable to being palpable in 21 days. She's faithfully documented where the pain is. She's listed why they think surgery is, pending the results of everything else, the primary course of action. She's listed the facts, the figures, documented everything carefully. I will take these things to Pittsburgh with me on Monday. Monday, Pittsburgh will take these records, but they will rediagnose me, as if they had no records. As the nurse put it, "They are not even certain that I have cancer." And it won't be certain in their minds until they complete the testing. That is what a second opinion is.

The fact is, something has convinced both the surgeon and the oncologist here that these results will likely be cancer, and they are preparing for that. The nurse that was so outraged on the phone had not yet seen the evidence that I will bring with me on Monday. It is easy to second guess, I suppose, but the one thing that I know for a fact is that I have a good oncologist, a very compassionate woman. The surgeon is gentle and thorough. I know that they are both kind. Proactive. Today I pressured a doctor who deals in facts and figures. Basically, I asked her to pull a number out of her magic hat, to draw conclusions before the data was in. I was quite persistant about it. I owe her an apology.

What it comes down to, the long and the short of it, is 'do I trust my team?' And the answer comes to me again. Yes. I do. These are good people. I will go to Pittsburgh, and if the news is different from what I've been lead to expect, well, I guess we'll all do a happy dance. But the fact is, my doctors here, the ones who've been working with me right along, have some real concerns. Pittsburgh will give us the second opinion. Then I will have the numbers that I wanted so badly.

You know, I have really watched myself come unhinged over the course of August. Really, I've got to get a hold of myself and buck up, because now, my friends, now I am acting like a baby.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Secret

Stephanie, another breast cancer blogger, was invited to attend Lance Armstrong's Global Cancer Summit in Dublin, Ireland as a member of the press. She was impressive, no pun intended. She sent me two bracelets from the summit, one for me, one for Mary. Thank you.

Our pastor came this morning, and we talked about how one person's story touches another, and that story then touches another and on it goes spinning into eternity, and that really, all that is needed is for us to understand that our stories are God-given, and meant to be used for the good of us all. Last Sunday, Mr. B cried hard to hear that I had cancer again, and I tried to soothe him there in the center aisle. I turned to see Mrs. L, newly widowed, weeping in a pew. "You are so brave," she said. (I'm not, not really.) But I looked at her and pulled her close. "Oh, Mrs. L," I said. "I've watched your poise and grace during your own hard time. I have learned from you." And that is the truth of it, really. We learn, we share, we love each other. Jesus called us to be in community, and this is why. It was a nice visit with the pastor this morning. Another chance to connect.

I'm sitting here just a little bemused today. I'm headed off across the reservoir to meet Lesley, a breast cancer fighter, as I take care of some business. I hold this little package from England. I had an IM visit with Roxanne, another cancer fighter in Florida yesterday afternoon. I've been reassured by people in Australia, and in Canada, and goodness knows where. I've got good friends in Arizona I've never met. I think of all the blogs that I've read, and been blessed by, and am humbled to hear that others consider themselves blessed by mine. My family. My friends. My church. Cancer has connected me to life in a way that has not happened before. I've always been a pretty independent soul, but now, I realize that I am a stone dropped into a pool. My ripples reach out and meet with the ripple of other people, other stones, for we are all dropped into the same pool. I feel blessed to know this secret, and I hug it to me.

Tomorrow is my bone scan. I probably won't be posting.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Like A Baby

This latest twist has thrown me for a loop I guess. I woke up in the night, and my shoulder ached horribly, sending shooting pains to my ring finger and little finger. I realized that it was a nerve issue, but laying there in the dark, my mind began to spin off. This was a new situation. Had this stuff in my shoulder grown that much since last week? It wasn't pressing on a nerve then. Is it even possible for cancer to grow that quickly? I got afraid. Am I making the right decision about holding everything up for a second opinion? Suddenly, I felt very uncertain about what I was doing. Maybe I should have just opted for surgery ASAP. Dunno. I laid there, and fretted in the dark for awhile, and finally got up to take something.

But this morning, instead of 'sucking it up', instead of calling myself names, I just went to the cancer center, and I said, "Listen. The situation has changed. What does this nerve pain mean? Can cancer grow this fast? Should we be looking at this differently?"

It felt good to talk to the experts, to listen to their take. It was a relief to hear the oncologist say, 'You know, I just really want this surgery done as soon as possible, but I don't think it's a mistake to get the second opinion first.'

I'm tired, and I'm going to take a little nap. If acting like a big baby allows you to sleep like one, well, I guess that I'm kind of all for that.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Books?

Okay. I need to fortify myself with positive vibes: We've got A Novel Woman and Barb (the mother of BB and Jeanie) suggesting Bernie Siegel's 'Love, Medicine, and Miracles'. In addition, the Novel Woman suggests Frankl's 'Man's Search For Meaning'. I'm getting myself together here. I've got boots to polish. I've got a pin to get out. I've got a faith to dust off. So while I'm doing all of that, if you all were recommending a book, the funniest book you've ever read in your life, or the most uplifting book you've ever read in your life, what would it be?

Dylan

Twenty three years ago, at 8:32 am, a 9 lb 13 oz. boy was born at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. He was mine.

Happy birthday Dylan. I'd give anything to be there with a cake.

Facebook

Okay. I don't 'do' facebook, but I got an invitation from Redlefty, and since I know that he and Redwifey have created an adorable little Redbaby, I couldn't resist his invitation. I had attempted to use it before to keep up with the younger generation and all the baby pictures. I found it frustrating and a real spam generator. Anyhow, I ended up accidently sending out a bunch of invitations. Did not notice the checkmarks. I thought that I was skipping the page. If I have given offense, I apologize. I had no clue what I was doing. I will try facebook again, but am making no guarantees. Don't be offended if I drop off the edge of the planet Facebook yet again.

But Mike and Jamie? The baby is adorable. The siblings look very very sible indeed. Congratulations.

Question for My Readers

Cara came home Friday night. As an RA, she gets 4 - 24 hour blocks of personal time a month. She used one of them for 'mommy time' as she phrased it. Listening to her talking about 'her' girls was fun. She's really cut out to be an RA. She managed to get a rapist to confess. That was a hair raising story right there. I learned that Cara is capable and resourceful and level headed and brave.

We went to see Francesca Battistelli Saturday night at a historical theater. It was really lovely. We took Brianna, and ran into other friends there. That was a nice Saturday, walking back to our cars in the dark and laughing.

Church gathered close around me, to hug me and to weep. Their tears must have unfrozen my own, because last night I climbed into bed where Tim was waiting. I opened my mouth to speak and started to cry. Tim, surprised, said "Hey, now, you don't need to cry...." but actually I did, I think. I cried about the pending loss of my breast, and I find myself thinking perhaps I should request a bilateral mastectomy. I'm going to ask for a diagnostic mammogram on the right breast as well, because back at the beginning you remember, there was another lump there. Now I cannot tell so much. The lumps from the medport scar tissue make it hard to figure out what's going on there, so I figure that mammogram is prudent. I cried about my hair, just barely grown back from the last chemo. I cried about something else, too. A question that occured to me. A lot of people read this blog and most of you never take the time to comment, but I'm going to ask: Do any of you know anyone that had a second bout w/ breast cancer...and won? Anyone?

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Merlyn

I keep thinking of Merlyn. I wonder what happened to him. We drove past their house a couple months ago. I wanted to stop in and say, 'Hey. Remember us? Wanna hear something ironic...' That would have probably been a tactless thing to do, but I don't know, really...cancer fighters are quick to step up to use their experiences to help others.

Last fall, two weeks after marveling at Merlyn's wisdom, I discovered my own cancer for the first time. Amazing coincidence. Or not. You know, we are connected together, knitted together in the most astounding way. Each of us has a story meant to be told. Others find their own answers in what you know.

Many of you commented on my calmness. Believe you me. If I thought it would make a difference, I'd run circles in the yard, flapping my arms, screaming like a banshee. It won't though. So in this uncertain time, I look for the things that are certain. Because I am blessed, there are many.

Last night, I could not sleep, and I lay in bed thinking in the dark, trying to get my shoulder in a comfortable position. I remembered an old man named Merlyn, just about the happiest guy I ever met. I smiled tiredly into the dark, and I made my own choice.

a href="http://ihasahotdog.com/2009/09/04/funny-dog-pictures-joy-simple/">funny pictures of dogs with captions

Friday, September 4, 2009

Weathering the Storm

Sometimes things happen that sort of raise the dust in life, don't they? I mean, one minute, you're standing there admiring the view, and the next thing you know, you can't see anything for the flying debris. You grab hold of the sturdiest thing (or person) you can find, and you hold tight. The dust from the latest storm has begun to settle.

Today was the appointment with the oncologist, and I explained to her that I want to know. Maybe I didn't ask the right questions before. Maybe I was a little too passive. This time is going to be different. She explained what they had done before, the big picture. Pieces clicked together that I did not understand. She is a good person, and she is compassionate. I am comfortable with her. I said, "I just want to be sure at the end of this that all the i's are dotted and the t's crossed. I don't want to ever look back and wonder if I did everything possible." She understood. She assures me that she feels the same.

There's a fourth spot, in my left pelvic area. 'Do I have trouble walking' Yes. I hobble around like an old lady in the morning. I've fallen off my flipping porch twice in the last couple months because my ankle just gives way beneath me. I thought it was the tamoxifen. A bone scan is ordered for next week. We discuss stopping the tamoxifen, since it didn't seem to stop the recurrence.

I want a second opinion. She's encouraging that wholeheartedly. I will be going back to Pittsburgh. She says that it is a bad sign that the cancer continued to grow despite radiation and chemo. I kind of thought that myself. Surgery is tentatively scheduled for the week of the 21st. Go into the muscle to get the mass in my shoulder. A mastectomy. Last fall, this news would have been devastating. Now, it merely seems logical: my life for a breast? Okay.

Dave commented on the last post that "he has faith in 'us' ". I guess that's what it boils down to, isn't it? Slowly and surely, the dust settles. I am regaining my equilibrium. I can see a little more clearly. And once again, I'm finding I do have faith in 'us'. God, friends, family, the doctors, myself, even the occasional Snickers bar. (Never underestimate the power of a good piece of chocolate in trying times...)

It is what it is.

But, you know what else? I am what I am. I am practical, and strong, and stubborn, and tenacious. I am wise and I am intelligent. I have faith. I'm glad I am me, because, really, I think all of that will come in handy.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Encounter

I went downtown to show an apartment, and stopped off to pick up a few things at the Dollar General. I was standing in front of an array of things looking for a night time pain reliever. A woman stood beside me. We both studied the situation in silence. For a while, anyhow. Because I'm a bit of a blabber (you may not have noticed), I said, "Well, where'd they put the (insert registered trademark here)?" and she said, "I can't find my low dose aspirin." We adjusted our reading glasses and studied on. Suddenly, she said, "Ah...here we go. I have to take the 81 mg. It's hell getting old." And it just burst out of me: "I want to get old." She looked at me wearily. "No you don't," she said. "Yeah. I do. I found out yesterday I've got cancer again." Shocked she stopped. "I just found out this morning that I've got cancer too. In my lung." We stared in amazement. Her eyes went red. "I've got seven kids. I've told five of them." I said, "Yeah, that's no fun. That's what I was doing last night." She said, "I can't stop crying." I said, "I haven't cried at all." And we hugged tightly in the middle of the store, exchanged telephone numbers. We live in a small community, but really, that was kind of a remarkable meeting. She said, on parting, "You know, I've already done this twice. I don't know if I can do it again."

That's where we're different, she and I: I know that I can.

Don't wanna.

But I will.

Whatever it takes.

Rules for Round 2.

Okay. New day. The dust is starting to settle. I have cancer again.

(deeeeeeeep breath)

It will be different this time.

Rule number 1:

I will not go to appointments alone, because I am far more passive than I like. I need back up. For whatever stupid foolish thinking, I am afraid to look like a baby, or a hypochondriac.

Rule number 2:
I will never, ever tolerate hearing 'most likely' or 'probably'. If they do not know, for 100% sure, I will not accept 'probably'. The activity in your shoulder is 'probably' some arthritis. The night sweats were 'probably' menopause brought on by the chemo. The lump is 'most likely' nothing to be concerned about. No more. I am lucky to have good and caring doctors, but the fact is, they play the odds. In most cases, odds are, they probably would have been right, but in my case, they weren't and it would behoove all of us to be way more vigilant.

Rule number 3:

I will not feel badly for being a outspoken bitch person.

I won't.

(cringes a little at how awful that sounds...)

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Oy.

I got the call. Area of activity in the shoulder, in the breast, and in the lung. I thought I would feel much better once I found out.

Actually, I don't.

(Area of activity = abnormal cell growth. Most likely culprit? Cancer.)

Cancer sucks.

Ay yi yi

Yeah. We do have our moments. I'm not sure what kind of a moment the charming Ms. Denney is having (see above), but she doesn't look like she ever yells at her husband when she's having 'her moment'.Poor Tim. I yelled at him. And then I felt so badly I cried, and couldn't stop apologizing. He began to give me sidelong looks, as if perhaps my head was about to spin 360 degrees. Do you suppose Ms. Denney's head ever turned 360 degrees? Probably not. *sigh* That is why 'my moments' are not advertised. They are not charming. And I'm not from Philadelphia. Those two things.

I did call the surgeon's office. My PET scan is in. I can expect a call this afternoon. Those darn office managers in doctor's offices...they're inscrutable. Not even a hint. Not the slightest clue.

I really should get to doing something...

Waaaaaaaaaaiting....

Well, one day of waiting is down. I've only got 1-2 days left to wait. I'll give the surgeon's office a call this afternoon. Just to see if they have the results.



Karen called to see how I was doing. She's been having health problems of her own, and testing so far has only showed them what it isn't. She's understandably frustrated at this point. Then she remembered who she was talking to and got embarrassed. "I probably sound ridiculous complaining..." she said. "Not so much," I said. "A life disruption is a life disruption, no matter what name it has." Her life has been disrupted by this mystery. Shoot. If she doesn't think I complain, long and loud, she needs to come read this blog for a while.

I also called Painted Promise. I'd never spoken to her before, and it was nice. I have promised myself one 'treat' each day, while I tick these days off, something to look forward to at the end of it, when Tim's at work and I'm sitting home by myself. Now technically, with the plants and the phone call (we pay one price for long distance so that is an affordable luxury), I treated myself twice yesterday, self indulgent heathen that I am. Of course, yesterday, I also fell off the flipping front porch. (again...) Stupid ankle just gives out with no warning at all, and I'm sitting on the lawn clutching my foot trying not to cry. (I am sure this gives the neighbors something to gossip about, but seriously, I finished the last of the wine off last Thursday). Based on that, why I think I was due this extra self indulgence. Justification is a wunnerful thing, innit?

I think that I might be getting a little better about this waiting game. At least learning how to wait and hold on to your final shred of sanity.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

When Life Hands You Lemons...

Today, Tim and I worked on a house. We taped off a room, and then I went back down to paint the woodwork after I got him off to work. I spent the afternoon in the quiet of a 150 year old house, feeling the ghostly sighs of generations long gone, painting, daydreaming about the changes the house has witnessed in its years along the Conewango Creek. It was a pleasant way to spend the afternoon.

I played in the dirt too. I planted 8 mums, 4 asters, some iris that my sister gave me, a fuscia, a butterfly bush, and the two boxwoods that I got at the beginning of the month.

It was nice to work hard on my own projects for a change. It was pleasant to contemplate in silence. The big question today was this: 'Will the day ever come when I have time to plant at the same time that I can afford to buy plants without feeling guilty about it?' I'm really pondering that. I bought 17 plants at Lowe's. 6 of them were not for here, so I don't have to feel badly about that. The other 11...well...yeah...I probably shouldn't have bought them. I would have been bad if I'd paid the full price of $75, but since there was a sale, and I only spent $18.79, well, I'm not really bad but only sort of bad.

I need to stay out of Lowe's Garden Shop. I'm unemployed. I wonder if there is a 12 step program for people like me?

Anyways, that's what I did today.