Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Good Times!

October 30, 2012:

It was a pretty fun weekend, all things considered. Drinks, breakfast and dinner out, soccer games, seeing lots of friends...I'm not sure that I had this much fun in a weekend, even before I had kids. (Of course, I'm kind of a lame homebody at heart, so this isn't really surprising).

Cards, notes, texts, and Facebook posts from everyone are coming in. I got a card from my grandpa and it made me cry. Yep, that was pretty much the end of my keeping it together. I have received thoughtful notes and funny notes, and care packages that range from pretty to fun to tasty.

Finished everything I could think of at work today, though I'm sure I will remember something super important (ha!) at 3am. It's been a day of people asking "when is your surgery?" And wouldn't that be a terrific question to know the answer to? Apparently they don't call you until the day before the surgery to let you know the time to report. Super helpful policy for those of us with kids...not!

But the call finally came and I have to be there at 7am tomorrow. Hello? Not a morning person. We couldn't have chosen a more sleep-friendly check-in time? Whatever. At least that means I should be home earlier in the afternoon and not stuck in the hospital when the Halloween crazies start to roll in.

Off to take my daughter to the neighbors' who have generously (crazily) volunteered to keep her for the next couple of days, it being Halloween and all tomorrow. Wait until they discover that she's showing up with baked goods at 8:00pm. They might not love me as much.

And then I'll be contemplating whether wearing a costume to the surgery is bad form or not. Zombie makeup? Fake blood? Perhaps they won't appreciate the humor...

Friday, October 26, 2012

A Day for Music

October 26, 2012:

I'll admit that it appears I'm keeping it together most of the time. I mean, really, what else could you possibly do? But I have been known to freak out just a little when left on my own. Typically this is when I'm driving somewhere by myself and some sappy-ass song comes on the radio.

So, I'm done with radio at this point, and am moving on to my own playlist. I think it's possible that I've blown out one of my car speakers cranking P!nk and other such rockin' songs as loud as they will go (don't tell Keith). If cupcakes can't cure you (see yesterday's post), then clearly a good rock anthem will.

On a serious note, I'm posting this song, because it's starting to mean a lot to me...and I'm probably hearing the lyrics all wrong, so please don't correct me. But last night I found out that a fellow volunteer is at the same stage in the diagnosis/process as I am and it makes me sad. I think that we will soon become fast friends for life, and I wish her all the best!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Cupcakes Cure What Ails You!

October 24, 2012:

Today, my daughter made cupcakes and cake for the teachers/staff at my school. She said that she had to do it to thank them for "giving you their sick time so you can get better." It kind of makes me tear up thinking about it. Baking is her way of dealing with anything, because let's be honest, cupcakes cure all of life's problems! Especially when they're made with Nutella buttercream frosting!


And this is the Thank You note I found when going to retrieve the platter. Bonus points to the anonymous staff member that did this! You are going to MAKE HER WEEK!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Telling the World

October 23, 2012:

Well, we told the kids on Sunday, and my parents last night, so now it's time to tell everyone else. How does one do that without (1) telling the entire story 372 times, and (2) everyone finding out the news from their own kids, who heard it from my kids, before I have a chance to tell them? In a move that can only be described as one that makes me the tackiest friend EVER, I decide to blanket the world of Facebook with my news. I prefer to call it efficient. Sure, that sounds good, and makes me feel much less crappy.

It actually goes well, and I've directed everyone to this blog, conveniently ready to go so that it would answer people's questions for me.

Here's what I discovered: 
(1) People are on Facebook ALL THE TIME, at all hours of the day and night, and obviously at work. I received immediate comments, as well as comments WELL into the night (after even I went to bed).

(2) People think I'm a tough, crazy, kick-your-ass, strong person with a wicked sense of humor. Okay, I'll take that! I think many of these people are too, which is why we're friends :) 

(3) I have AMAZING friends and family! The support, prayers, wishes, and words of wisdom were reassuring and much needed. Just further proof of what I already knew...I love all these amazing people in my life. Thank you!

What I also want noted is that some people still find out in rather crappy ways, and it clearly cannot be helped. One of my friends who works at the neighboring middle school found out from one of the district mucky-mucks, over the phone, before I had a chance to tell him in person. I'm not even sure that was legal, but certainly wins the tacky award! And my poor husband had been trying to call his brother (and family) for at least a week, but they had been playing phone tag. It's not really the kind of news you want to leave on voicemail. Well, my niece saw the post on FB and texted her dad the news. Oh well, we tried. (Keep in mind, my own brother still doesn't know. He only texts, I won't send that info via text message, and he lives in LA. Probably won't see him until Thanksgiving...Happy Thanksgiving! Good times!)

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Finally Telling the Kids

October 21, 2012:

Sunday evening, and we finally told the kids the news and what it means. I made my husband be the bearer of bad news (we've already talked about how I'm a bad wife, so this should surprise no one). 

We had originally decided to go out to dinner with the kids and my parents and tell everyone at the same time...in public...so that no one (my mom) could go crazy. I decided that it would make us never want to go back to whatever restaurant we chose, so we told the kids today at home, and will tell my parents tomorrow (or not...there's still hope I can pay someone else to do it).

The kids were GREAT and handled it in typical kid "whatever" fashion. Now, I'm not saying that they aren't concerned or a little freaked out, but they are total troopers, and can't really do anything at this point anyway. And they are pretty used to a life that isn't all rainbows and buttercups.

It was about a 10 minute conversation from start to finish (I'm learning that my husband likes to give news like he gives directions...TOO MUCH INFORMATION). At the end, I asked the kids if they had any questions. Here's what I got:

AJ (10 year old daughter): (1) Who's going to be staying with us while you're having radiation? (Note to self: 10 year olds don't automatically realize when you tell them that radiation will be 5 days/week for 7 weeks, that you will be at home every day, not living at the hospital).
(2) Who's taking me trick-or-treating?

Alex (15 year old son): (1) So, you're not going to die? (2) Can you fix my phone now? Yep, typical teenage boy...slightly more concerned about the broken iPhone and that dad had promised to fix it tonight. 

So, it looks like we survived the scariest part of the process for me. Apparently I didn't even need to freak out about it. And before you think my son is a heartless, teenage boy, he did give me a hug before he went to bed, and I'm not sure I've had one of those from him since he was 8. But don't tell anyone, because there were no other witnesses and I'm sure that he'll deny it.

Some Humor to Get Me Through...

There are some humorous moments throughout this last week that I'm trying to hold onto. I need all the smiles I can get. 

One is that I've never been called "young" so many times in the course of a week...I'll take it where I can get it! 

Two, my surgeon said I could go to Vegas for Thanksgiving, but I should not plan the Hawaii trip for Christmas. Oh sweetie, you just don't know who you're dealing with. Keith laughed out loud when she said this. 

And last, when filling out the NUMEROUS medical history forms (seriously, can't these people just make photocopies???), one of them asked for history of cancer in the family: mom, dad, siblings, spouse. Call me crazy, but does it really matter to my medical history if my spouse has had cancer? Thought I had a pretty good grasp on genetics, but maybe not...

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Telling the Kids...

Now that I have details, I have to tell the kids...and my parents...and my friends. That will happen tomorrow, and I'm not excited about it.

And I think it might make me a bad friend that I'm going to email my friends with the news, rather than telling them each individually in person. I really can't figure out a better way to do it...and quite honestly, I'm just not up to it right now. The odds of getting everyone in the same place at the same time, even for 5 minutes, would be astronomical, and probably wouldn't happen until next June :)

Deep breath...

Friday, October 19, 2012

How I'm Feeling

It's been two weeks since my initial surgery, and about 10 days since the diagnosis. Here's how I've been feeling...

Left side is still painful. I removed the steri-strips from the right side incision at the one week mark. All is well there! I took the left side strips off in the shower the other day and nearly passed out. I think this is probably due to the fact that I had been in the very warm shower WAY too long, and they were SO stuck on, that it felt like I was pulling the incision open again. I now have a band-aid covering it, because I'm not sure that it's healing correctly. It sure doesn't look like the right side anyway. But in the grand scheme of things, she's going to open me back up again, so does it really matter? 

The giant bruise is fading at this point, as is the giant lump that was surrounding the left-side incision.

Range of motion on my left arm still isn't good. Wearing the seat belt when I'm driving hurts because it hits the incision. There is a 2 inch section near the scar where I have no feeling at all. I'm thinking that she hit a nerve or two...hopefully this will slowly come back. 

I have pain in my shoulder, back, arm pit, and down my left arm. Not sure if this is related to not being able to move my arm correctly which is causing other problems, but I sure could use a massage! Since I can't lay face down though, this is not a possibility.

I only get a few hours of sleep each night, mainly because I just can't fall asleep. I am so tired when I come home each day from school that I take a nap. Which is probably perpetuating the problem, but just can't be helped. And if I could just convince my daughter not to wake her sleeping mother, life would be lovely. I never woke her when she was a sleeping baby, why can't she return the favor?

The sick feeling in the pit of my stomach has never really gone away. I haven't been eating all that much because nothing even sounds good. I think that I've lost 5 pounds because all of my jeans fit perfectly. Maybe there is an upside...no pigging out on Halloween candy this season.

What I Know Now...

So, now I have details! And a course of action. It feels good, but it also means that now I have to tell the kids, and my parents...ugh...

The first step in the treatment process is a surgery on 10/31 (so much for Halloween being my favorite holiday...and this means cancelling the Yusko's annual Halloween party. My daughter will be crushed!). This will be a pretty invasive surgery, and will hopefully remove all the cancer they can see and also determine whether it is in my lymph nodes and/or has started to spread elsewhere. This surgery will determine the next course of treatment: if it has spread, then there will be chemo (for how long, I still don't know), followed by 7 weeks of radiation. If it has not spread, then there will be 7 weeks of radiation, 5 days/week (this is the option that I'm rooting for!)

I anticipate that I will be out of school from Halloween through Thanksgiving. After the surgery, there is a 6 week period before any treatment can start, so whatever the next step is, won't happen until New Years. Best case scenario, I will be out for 2-3 weeks before Thanksgiving, at school in December, and out in January and February. 

After chemo/radiation/both, I will have to take Tamoxifin (sp?) for about 5 years, and have an MRI and a mammogram every 6 months (good times...you're jealous, I know). The thinking now is that if all goes well, a mastectomy will not be in the picture, though the surgeon did recommend it. I'm opting out at this point in the process.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Back to the Surgeon

October 18, 2012:

I was at work yesterday, and this morning. I had to give a webinar to librarians across the country. Again, it's good to be distracted.

The surgeon's visit was MUCH briefer than the oncologist visit. I love that they are both so different in their approaches. I'm beginning to think Keith is overwhelmed with information, but I can't really do anything about that right now. I'm a science major at heart and so this all makes sense to me.

We've decided on a lumpectomy (which this time means she's really opening me up and scraping out all the cancer she can find. Keith and I have started to refer to this as being poked with a sharp stick). This surgery will also include looking at the lymph nodes to see if the cancer has spread. This is a more involved surgery and will actually take place in the hospital, though I will still go home that night. The recovery time will be longer.

My choices could have been a mastectomy at this point, but I am opting to not do this at this time. She tells me that this still might be necessary down the road depending on what they find. She also tells me that I will probably have to have an MRI every 6 months for quite some time...this is a discussion we will have another day.

I schedule the first surgery she has open, on the 31st. There goes Halloween being my favorite holiday, and our annual Halloween party. My daughter is going to be crushed, because being in 5th grade, this was going to be the last one. Oh well, this is a tragedy we will have to deal with.

After the surgery, I will know what the next course of action will be...regardless, nothing can happen for 6 weeks after the surgery because it needs time to heal. So it looks like whatever the next step is won't happen until the New Year.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Meeting the Oncologist

October 16, 2012:

Yesterday I went to work because I can't just sit at home thinking. Still not eating much or sleeping, really hard to be motivated to feed the kids some nights. Hopefully today I will have answers.

Today I met the oncologist. The appointment was at 12:30pm, so Keith and I decide to go to Costco first and run some errands. Why not? And their frozen mocha slushie is really the only thing I want for lunch.

When we're done shopping, I get a phone call from the MRI center that says the results of the MRI are unreadable and I will have to do another one. Apparently I was moving (how is that possible with 3 Valiums in my system?), and the estrogen in my system was clouding the image (no one told me I should go off my birth control pills). WTH?! Needless to say, I am a little angry on the short car ride to the oncologist, which I spend plotting ways to yell at the people involved. This is going to set back my plan of action/results at least another week! SO VERY MAD!

Which is how I walked into the office, but the receptionist was amazing and I feel bad that she has to deal with crazies like me on a daily basis. Bless her.

We did meet with the oncologist...for TWO HOURS. I had no idea the appointment would be this long. At least at the end of it, I felt like I had details and answers that I had been craving, even if they weren't all good. It is from this visit that the name of the blog came about...

First, he went and looked at my MRI himself, and called in the head of breast imaging to look at it also. While they agreed it was inconclusive, they both felt they could see what they needed to see, and thought I might not have to have another one right now since I was going to have to have another surgery anyway. (More details to follow).

From this visit I learned that:
My tumor is 1.1 cm, with a histological grade of 8 out of 9. I refer to this number as the "cancer badness" scale, with 9 being the worst. 
Other words I heard were invasive, aggressive, and angry. Yep, I have angry cancer...of course I do.
I actually have both types of cancers: invasive ductal carcinoma, and ductal carcinoma in situ. Because why not have it all? :)

It is still unknown whether it has spread to the lymph nodes (damn MRI), and it is this info that will drive further treatment. What he does know is that I will have another surgery, and then either chemo and radiation, or just radiation. Either way, it appears the course of treatment will be much longer than I thought.

Now more waiting...surgeon's appointment is on Thursday.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Scary Tube of Death

October 11, 2012:

Today is the day I am going to die...well, not really, but it feels like it. I have to have an MRI, which is the first step in determining where and if the cancer has spread. I have panic attacks just watching MRIs on House or any other medical drama...seriously. The one thing that truly freaks me out because I am so claustrophobic.

I spent the morning presenting my seminar (a big hit, invited back next year), and driving back from Yakima. I got a ticket on the way to Yakima the night before and my husband wonders why I didn't start crying and play the cancer card to get out of it. Sorry, just too angry.

The doctor has prescribed Valium for me, taken every 30 minutes for the hour before the MRI. I figure this will help. My wonderful neighbor has volunteered to take me to the hospital under the guise of going out, since it is at 7:15pm. I warn her that the last time I had Valium I only had 1/2 a tablet and it made me very relaxed. Now I've had 3, so I really don't know what will happen to me by the time we get to the hospital. She promises not to let me check into maternity :)

Let me just say that if they had told me the type of MRI they would be doing, it might not have been so bad. Yes, still a scary tube of death, but for a breast MRI you are on your stomach, looking through what I can only describe as a periscope. You only see the ceiling and lights of the room, not the small tube that is around you. This might have made me feel less anxious. 

It was about a 30 minute procedure and I did survive. And, by the way, the Valium NEVER kicked in. 

My husband was there to pick me up and home we went after telling me that the results would be ready in 3-5 days. SERIOUSLY? More waiting? Grrr...

On a side note: the Valium finally kicked in at 10:00 that night, and I didn't wake up until noon the next day. Good thing they hadn't been expecting me at work!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Telling People Makes it Real

October 10, 2012:

Today, I make the decision to tell the people at work. At this point, many of them know why I was out last week, and if I suddenly stop showing up, rumors will start to swirl. So at a stand-up faculty meeting after school, the wonderful VP tells everyone my diagnosis and what we think it means. God bless this woman for being able to stand up there and do what I knew I could not!

Unfortunately, I don't know a whole lot, so that really sucks for everyone. At this point, I think treatment (whatever that means) will be fast, and I'll be gone until the New Year. Donations of sick days are appreciated, and thank you to my wonderful Evergreen family for jumping on that bandwagon. I am not worried about time off!

What I discover, is that telling people has made it real. And a little scary, especially all the unknowns. What I also discovered, is that I work with amazing people and it's made the first step in the process a little easier. I also learned that a new co-worker went through the same thing at the same age, and when I'm ready, she is going to be my sounding board.

Still haven't told the kids. Just can't do it with all the unknowns. And it's homecoming week for my son, and who wants to ruin that? And my parents are still in Hawaii, which is good because I'm a big chicken anyway.

Besides my co-workers, I have told a friend who lives in the neighborhood and helps me with Pantry Packs, as well as my best friend from school. I am slowly realizing that I don't really want to have this conversation 100 times. Facebook is looking more and more like not such a bad way to tell people. That must make me a horrible person, right?

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Now What?

October 9, 2012:

It's the next morning, and I have to go to work so that I can tell someone in person that I won't be in to work today. All I really want to do is throw up, so how can I go to work and be nice to kids? Especially middle school kids.

I spend an hour in the Vice Principal's office, a lovely young woman who now has the sole responsibility for keeping it together for the rest of the day by not telling anyone else, while I go home and be a vegetable.

We don't know anything yet as far as types, treatment options, course of action, next steps, so we can't tell the kids. I'm having an MRI on Thursday evening, then meet with the oncologist in a week, then back with the surgeon next Thursday. It's not until all three of these are done that I will "know" what is going to happen. 

The funny thing here is that long ago I committed to presenting a 3 hour seminar on YA literature at a state conference this week. I'm still going to do it, because it is a welcome distraction and keeps me from surfing the Internet for answers. I know better than to start typing things into Google at this point!

The throw up feeling in the pit of my stomach never does go away, and this is the first of many days to come where I really don't eat much. And I'm definitely not sleeping. And damn if one of the shows we watch isn't having a storyline with the main character getting breast cancer.

I am a concrete, sequential, process type of person. Just give me details, answers, and a schedule and let's go! This waiting thing SUCKS!

Monday, October 8, 2012

The Phone Call of Doom

October 8, 2012:

Monday morning and back to work. My left side still isn't working and really does hurt. It's starting to bruise also, which is quite lovely. The right side is healing quite nicely and on schedule.

After school, I am running a packing event for the non-profit charity I run (Pantry Packs...you can find us on another blog), when I get a phone call from my husband. The doctor has called the house and won't leave a message. She's going to be calling me on my cell phone.

What I don't tell Keith in that moment is it's a bad sign if she won't leave a message or tell him. Damn...here comes the phone call of doom.

When it comes in 5 minutes later, it really is doom and gloom. The big "C" word. Cancer. And let's be honest, I don't hear anything else other than that. Except, I also heard the words "survival rate." Seriously just like the movies, I didn't hear ANYTHING she was saying. (They really should follow this up with an email, because I didn't have any real details after that phone call). 

There was something about an MRI that needed to be done ASAP, and someone would call me with the  time and place of that. Sure...whatever...not thinking anything right now.

It's about 4:30pm and I run into the school office hoping to find someone there so that I can tell them "Not coming to school tomorrow!" but this appears to be the one day in the history of public education when everyone has left the building before 4pm.

I get home as Keith is leaving to ref two high school soccer games. Hmmm, do I tell him before he's about to get into a giant truck and get on the roads? Yes, I can't have this knowledge all to myself for 3 hours until he gets home. I know...I'm a sucky wife. Don't really care in this moment.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Waiting for Results Again

October 6, 2012:

Saturday morning and I'm still in pain. I did make it out and about yesterday to take my son to get a haircut and grab a drink with a friend. I was still all bandaged up though and today is the day when I'm gonna peel off the giant bandages (stuck on with what feels like duct tape!). This will leave the steri-strips only.

Everything still hurts though, especially lifting and moving my left arm (the side where the two lumps were). Keith reminds me that the surgeon said this would be the case because of how much digging she had to do around the muscle to remove the lumps. Really, and when was this conversation? In the recovery room when I'm still hopped up on drugs? Sure, I remember that...

A weekend full of soccer games ahead of me, and I never thought I'd say it, but I'm grateful that my son can drive (well, with his permit, but still). 

What I forgot to mention the other day was that Thursday when I came home from surgery was the first time my kids knew anything about what was going on. Pretty hard to hide anything at that point. We told them that I had lumps, and that they were taken out, and that everything should be good now. Perhaps this was not the best strategy, but it was the sense we got based on initial feedback.

Back to work on Monday. Ugh! I hope my left side feels better soon!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Surgery #1

October 4, 2012:

My surgery was this morning. The best thing that I can say right now is that I get to miss three days of work because of this (yesterday, today, tomorrow). Here's the play by play:

I show up around 11:45am for the 12:30pm surgery. It's an outpatient procedure, actually done in the doctor's office, not the hospital. Before taking me back, the nurse, surgeon, and anesthesiologist all come in to talk to me about what to expect during and after. The anesthesiologist actually says, "our goal is to keep you breathing." I'm not sure whether to laugh or not, because I can't tell if he's being funny to lighten the mood or this is his bedside manner. Dear lord, I hope that's your goal!

They take me back into the room, get me ready to go on the table, and cover me with a nice warm blanket (and thank God for that! Why are these doctor's offices always so COLD? This is another theme that I am picking up on). The anesthesiologist, who is not my favorite person after the breathing comment, cannot find a vein in my hand to hook up the good drugs which are supposed to knock me out. I could have told him this was a bad idea, because my veins suck, but I assume that I should keep my mouth shut because he's the one with the degree. Once he finds a vein, after several sticks, they tie down my arms (not really, but it felt like it, and it's so I don't hit the surgeon during the procedure while I'm knocked out), and start the juices flowing. Suddenly there is the most painful stinging in my hand. I really want to scream, but I know that the drugs should kick in any second so I'll just suck it up. All three of the other people in the room gasp at the same time when it is discovered that the stinging I'm feeling is the vein collapsing and the drugs flowing all over my skin. Whoops!

So now we have to find another vein in the other arm, and try again. Please let it work this time!

I wake up two hours later in the recovery room, fully dressed, sitting in a comfy chair with my husband next to me. Have no memory of anything else. They are telling me some follow-up info and if they actually think I'm listening, they're on drugs, because I don't really remember any of this conversation. Except for the fact that they asked me what time I wanted my follow-up visit to be in two weeks, and I said, "whatever." Does another sick day at this point really matter in the grand scheme of things?

The ride home is painful! Every bump makes things hurt. Please stop now and get me my pain meds! Grateful today for a husband who encouraged the pharmacist to speed up the normal 20 minute wait time. However, when he got back to the car, the battery was dead and the car wouldn't start. SERIOUSLY? This is not what I need right now. Thank you good samaritan for stopping and giving us a jump!

I go home, take the good drugs, and try and sleep.