Sunday, July 29, 2007

Sunday, July 29, 2007 Letting go

What a day, weekend, month, and year it’s been. Tomorrow is a major milestone, when I have the biggest surgery of my life, and I leave my care to two female surgeons, Linda Smith and Gladys Tsao-Wu. I will remember July 30 for the rest of my life.

Sometimes (OK, a lot of time) I stumble through life, being a mom, going to work, sitting through soccer or football games, making dinner, reading, watching movies, making appointments, traveling here and there, and generally doing the things that fill up my weeks and years without putting much thought into it. This surgery has required me to put a lot of thought into it and make a lot of choices. I am pretty calm considering what a big deal it is. I think that’s because many of these decisions have been made and I’ve come to understand what’s within my control and what’s not within my control.

First of all, the cancer and the way it behaves are not within my control. I had no idea I had cancer a year ago, and now it’s taken up residence in body. I have put my body through the paces (chemo, surgery, and radiation to come) trying to get rid of it, shrink it, and control it. It’s still not under control. The surgeon will remove it, and it will not be completely gone. Cells will remain and will be poised for a big comeback. So all I can do is work hard to eradicate it now, hope, and wait.

Secondly, the advancements in cancer treatment are not within my control. I get what I get There are no miracle cures out there, but there may be some on the horizon. I can’t get wistful and think, “If only I had cancer ten years from now.” There will NEVER be a good time to get cancer. As I’ve said before, I feel fortunate to have it now, when I am young (ha!) and strong enough to fight it and my attitude is in the right place. Ten years from now I might not be this strong. Today we are seeing major improvements in what docs know about surgical techniques, managing side effects of chemo, targeting radiation to the correct spot without a lot of collateral damage, and many others. I am glad I didn’t get cancer ten years ago . . . again, out of my control.


There are other things that are out of my control, but frankly if I think about them it makes me pretty sad. I can’t control the fact that my children’s father and grandmother died of cancer. If anything happens to me, my children will be orphans. I just hope that it’s later rather than sooner. I can’t control the fact that my children may get cancer at some point in their lives. We are mortal and imperfect. That is life.

What’s within my control? My choice of doctors – and I think I have good ones. My choice of treatments, to some extent. I chose to have my chemo before surgery, and that was a good choice. My surgeon says it shrinks the blood vessels as well as the tumors, and so the surgery isn’t such a bloody mess. (aaaaaackkk). I may have some choices about radiation treatment, depending on what the tumors look like after surgery and biopsy. I also have a few choices about reconstruction, none of them really good, but it sure beats having cancer boobs!

I can’t express enough gratitude for all the friendship and support I’ve received, and I’d like to think my choice of friends was also within my control. Maybe it wasn’t. Maybe you all are just gifts from God and I had no choice in the matter. Thanks for sticking around. I’m going to lean on you more and more after tomorrow.

I have choices about how I live my life from now on. I have put a lot of thought into that. Of course I will always be cautious when it comes to my health, and I know I’ll take better care of myself now. I already do, and it’s been rewarding. I’ve tried to keep a positive outlook, and I’ve begun to plan activities and trips for the fall and winter. That definitely helps my attitude. I have some other things cookin’. You’ll have to read about them in future blogs.

My friend Sandra called today. She listened to me whine and moan for a while. In her strongest voice, she said, “You have no choice. You HAVE to do this.” We cried, and she got me through the darkest moment of my day. And then we laughed so hard until I almost cried again.

Here’s something funny – another thing I have no control over. My eyebrows fell out during chemo, and now they’re growing back. I have eyebrow stubble! I look so goofy! But eyebrows are not important.

It’s late, and I should be getting to bed. I had to do some really important things tonight. You know what I mean, right? I had to give myself a pedicure! My toes look gorgeous. (toes aren't important, either)

Thanks to everyone who called and stopped by. I didn’t get nearly enough done today but it was worth it. My brother-in-law, Ted, came over with his family, and the high point of my day was watching my nephew Brandon walk across the floor. He’s just one year old. Isn't he darling? He's got attitude!

Attitude and gratitude are important things. Here's a little bit of mine. This prayer was given to me by a preacher's son and it just makes me feel good to hear it (especially in his voice, which I am imagining right now):

"Dear Heavenly Father, Maker of all things and Mother of all Nature, praise be to Thee!!
We thank You for the very gift of life itself and the added blessings of family, friends and our health; may others be so blessed.
Now we ask that You guide us and protect us and keep us safe always and forever. Dear Lord; this we beg of You, this we pray, have mercy on us and may there be Peace on Earth. Amen."

Surgery is tomorrow at 7:30 am. I will be in the hospital only two days, and then I will be home. I will be up and around soon. You can count on it.

LOVE YOU ALL . . . . . .Grace

Friday, July 6, 2007

July 7, 2007 I'm a lucky girl

What can I say, I'm a lucky girl. Here are the Top Ten Reasons I feel lucky:
10. I'm lucky I have a very treatable form of cancer. I'm estrogen receptor positive, progesterone receptor postive. Her2 negative. Very treatable.
9. I'm lucky I was diagnosed with cancer in my 40s, after having my children. I'm glad so many new treatments and medicines are now available, after years of clinical trials.
8. I'm lucky to have friends and acquaintances who've gone through this before me and have taken the time to explain to me what to expect and t
o share with me their experiences so I'm not as afraid.
7. I'm lucky I was diagnosed with cancer when I was OLD (mature?) enough to know how to deal with doctors, insurance, appointments, schedules, prescriptions, and all of that. At my age, and having had 2 kids, I am pretty bold when I talk to medical professionals. I do a lot of research and I ask a lot of questions.
6. I'm lucky I have a great job with good insurance benefits, a generous leave policy, and kind bosses.
5. I'm lucky I have the best (in my opinion) OBGYN, r
adiologist, oncologist, breast surgeon, plastic surgeon, and radiation oncologist that I could ever hope to find. I have no worries.
4. I'm lucky I have my mom, also a breast cancer survivor, in my life. She helps me so much and keeps me sane.
3. I'm lucky that my two children are being so great
through all of this. If you know them, you know they've been through a lot of bad stuff. They remain mentally and physically tough and very positive. And they make me laugh so much! Craaazy!
2. I'm lucky I have my faith, and it has not been shaken by this minor bump in the road.
1. And the #1 reason I'm lucky: I have the kindest, smartest, loveliest, most generous and loving friends in the whole wide world! Yay for friendship. I owe you all a big one. I will never, ever forget your kindness.

I have had the good fortune to be able to spend a lot of time with old friends lately. It has been a laugh riot (remember my earlier pledge to have a belly laugh once a day? This has not been hard to achieve!) Catherine W., who lives in Alexandria, Virginia now, is such a great friend to me. She has flown out to NM a few times since my diagnosis, and even sat with me through one of my longer chemo appointments. She's been so strong for me when I was at my weakest, and always tried to make me laugh. I thought I'd include a photo of her (and she's wearing my shoes, thank you very much). Gawd. Look at us. I'm going to start bawling again. (no, not about the shoes!)

One of my work friends, Phil F., wrote me an email, saying, "Grace, thanks for inviting me to your last chemo treatment. I couldn't attend, but wanted to extend an invitation to my next colonoscopy." I love his d
ry sense of humor. That's most people's reaction: Why would I ever want to go to a chemo treatment? Well, I totally understand. I don't even want to go!

And yet, lots of people came and sat with me through the last 4 months of treatments. So much gratitude and love go out to those brave souls (you know who you are) who sat with me when I freaked out, when I
fell asleep, when I wanted to pull the tubes out, when I started to cry. I really couldn't have done it without you. I'm lucky to have you in my life.

My last chemo treatment was Tuesday, June 26th. My latest MRI was nearly clean, meaning the tumors have disappeared completely on the right and 75 percent on the left. My oncologist HIGH FIVED me when she read the report. Have you ever been high fived by one of your doctors? Seriously, hav
e you? I feel like a champ and very, very lucky.

I still will undergo surgery at the end of the month, but the prognosis looks very good. I will need a sentinel node biopsy to determin
e the extent to which my surgeon will dissect the lymph nodes on the left. I'm getting ready by having some diagnostic tests (chest x ray, EKG, MRI) and blood work done prior to surgery. I also will need radiation, but don't know all the treatment details yet. I'll post again soon when I know more.

This much is true: Even if you wouldn't trade places with me, I still kn
ow I'm the luckiest girl in the world.