Saturday, August 15, 2009

Diane, My Hero

One of the things that I am becoming acutely aware of as I go through this experience is how many families are affected by this disease. It seems like everyone I know has a friend or relative that has had it, might have it now, or is already at war with it. Some have won their battles, and too many have lost them. But, everywhere I go someone is affected. I really wasn't one of those people until it happened to me. With one very special exception...

When I was 14 my parents divorced. My Dad remarried right away and my Mom was adjusting to life as a single mom with 2 girls. I guess I was confused a lot and didn't really know where to take those thoughts or exactly how I was supposed to act. I don't remember being terribly traumatized by the whole thing, but I was definitely in uncharted waters. That's when I met Diane Harrison. She was my new stepmom's best friend, and she filled a gap for me that no one else did.

I believe I met Diane after she was already battling breast cancer. I don't have any memories of her with hair or before the war was waging. So, I'm fairly certain that's a true statement. She never seemed to wear hair. It was too hot in Houston. She just put on a beautiful scarf and away shew went. I have many clear memories of her. She was like light and energy embodied in human form. I never remember her not having a smile on her face no matter how bad she felt or ever being unkind. Her presence and laughter filled a room like no one else I had ever met before, or since. She was the kind of person that you never wanted to leave. I got to spend several precious days with her, just the two of us. I guess my Dad and Stepmom were busy or something. Don't remember what the reason was, but I have always been so thankful for that time.

I remember the day we went to Foley's to try and find her a bra that would work with her "falsie" since she'd had a single mastectomy. They didn't have cancer salons that met those needs back then. You were just kind of on your own to deal with it. Nothing seemed to work right so we gave up and left. How hard that must have been for her. Here she was with a tag-along new stepdaughter of her best friend going through an experience that would put any woman on the floor in a puddle. But, not her. She even asked my opinion of each one and we discussed why it wasn't going to work! I was too young to understand what it meant then, but I do now. What a woman!

I also remember the day we were shopping in TJ Maxx and a headache hit her so hard that we had to leave. It's one of those moments in time that stands still in a snapshot that was never taken. It had been bugging her all day but this wave of pain was different. She looked scared to me for the first time. Again, I didn't understand what was really going on. We left. I went back to Dad's house and our day was cut short. Turns out that was the first sign of the cancer's return. This time it was in her brain. She fought hard but didn't win the second time around. Over the years I've thought of her often. But, now I do every single day.

You see, God gave her to me for a very short time to meet the need of a 14 year old girl who was confused. One who needed her example. I just never completely knew why until now. I've spent my life surrounded by great women. My Mom and both of my Grandmothers come to mind immediately. But, they never did THIS. And for some reason I couldn't talk to them about what was going on then either.

He also gave her to me for now, 25 years later. He knew this day would come and her example would be one I desperately needed. As I ponder the next step (no hair), I am overcome with grief. I try on all my wigs over and over hoping that they will look better each time. They don't, not yet anyway. Supposedly they look better when your hair is gone. Of course they do!! How could they not look better than that? The alternative is nothing! Or, maybe it's not. Maybe it's to be like Diane, find a pretty scarf, and walk tall. Either way, I wish I could tell her that she was my hero.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Going it alone

Ever since I found out about this diagnosis, I've wondered how people deal with this kind of thing without faith. It happens every day to people of all faiths and to those of no faith. Cancer is anything but discriminating. It doesn't care what your chosen profession is, how important you are, where your worship, or how much money you have. We're all equally susceptible. Some have a family history or genetic predisposition, but as far as this breast cancer goes, most of us do not. So, how do you deal with it alone? I say "alone" because at the end of the day, no matter how many friends you have, how much support your family offers, or how good your doctors are, YOU are the one with cancer. It's just you. They don't have it. I just can't imagine having to pull myself up by the bootstraps and get through it without being able to bring it all to the feet of Jesus. I get to leave it there and know that it's really not my problem to solve. It's off my plate, in my life, but off my plate.

I bring this up because I've been reading a book about a girl, much younger than me, diagnosed at 27 with the same disease. There's a good story there. She had it all together. Her career was taking off as a television producer, married to a young doctor, had the world by the tail. Her story has a lot to offer. I've learned about some tips to help me through the chemo that's ahead. She just dug deep and made it through on her own. I admire her choice to never buy hair. She just wore a cap and hung on to what whisps she had left. I could never do that of course. But, it took great courage to do it that way. Clearly, she's not a southern woman. I mean NO HAIR in the land of big hair??? My mother would die! She gets her face on to go to the mailbox, because "you just never know". I'm not quite sure what "you just never know" means exactly, but whenever possible I do the same. I've even done the same here in the house recovering from the surgery. It's a whole new definition of dressed up with no place to go.

I went to get one of my last 2 drains removed today and actually got my hands on the printed pathology report. Thanks for all of the prayers for containment that I asked for and you carried out. Turns out they found a strange thing as they were chopping up the pieces to examine them. They told me the tissue around the tumor had chronic inflammation. Apparently, that's a little unusual. My surrounding tissue was fighting back against the tumor. It wasn't going to win, but it was fighting. That sounds like me, and I was proud of it for trying. I think it was buying time for the surgeons to get it out, and it looks like they made it.

I also learned that because the pathology report was so good (as far as pretty darn sure they got everything) that the Oncologist will probably recommend that I do it, but give me the option of no chemo if I choose. That just seems crazy to me at this point. I've already chosen the most drastic surgery. (Not to mention hundreds of dollars of "hair" to wear thanks to my company and my loving sister.) I'm not quitting now. I could never live with the knowledge that one little cell escaped and took Brayden's mom away a few years later. No way. I'm fighting this to win. So, if you're in there, you one little cell of cancer, prepare to die. We're bringing in the systemic nukes. We'll find you and get you, too. I'm just glad I'm not doing it alone. Thank you to all of the wonderful people of Fellowship Church who've fed our family so well and contributed to the wonderful gift basket I got yesterday from Tisha and Michelle. I so appreciate it. I just can't believe the outpouring of support and generosity from our church. Thanks to my family and friends. And most of all, Thank you, Jesus for always meeting me right where I am and giving me a place of rest like no other. I for one know that I could never do this "going it alone".

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Final Pathology is in!

Got great news last night from my breast surgeon. She called to tell me all of the final pathology results from the tissue removed during my surgery last week. Turns out that the tumor that we knew about was the only one! No more signs of cancer and all of my lymph nodes are clean. So, my prognosis is looking great in both the short and long term. She still recommends chemo due to the aggressiveness of the cancer I managed to grow, but there will be no radiation. Since the cancer was limited to the one tumor and my choice for the double mastectomy meant completely clean margins, there just isn't a benefit to be gained from radiating me. That's good news no matter how you look at it. One thing that was concerning was that the tumor had grown .2 cm in the short period of time between the MRI and surgery. Thank goodness we got it out when we did. I also had a lymph node that was enlarged to 2 cm. That's a little wierd and could have indicated cancer. But, they chopped it up into little pieces and were unable to find any cancer cells. We may just have gotten to it just in time. Thanks to all of you who prayed for containment because those prayers have been answered!

I should be meeting with the Oncologist next week to talk about the details of the best chemo for my type of cancer, how many rounds, and all of the other details for the upcoming months. So, on to step two...

One funny thing happened yesterday. I went out shopping with my mom for a couple of things and got to wear my new prosthetic boobs. (Sorry if the word "boobs" offends anyone. I just hate the word breasts. Makes me think of chicken...) We had to go exchange them because they were much too large. Since the plastic surgeon gave me more of a "starter kit" than I expected we had way overestimated my need for the prosthetic ones. All I needed was a little southern accent and a big blond wig and I could have been a Dolly Parton look-alike. So, we fixed that. I'll have to find a different Halloween costume instead.

I'm still carrying around two of these drains. They just won't quit producing junk. I probably did too much yesterday getting ready for my nephew, Aiden's 1st Birthday Party. So, today's nothing but rest and recuperation in the hopes that we can get the other two out by Friday...We shall see.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Two down, two to go...

Today has been a great day! I actually got to go out of the house and do things! The morning started rough because I have been trying to cut down on the pain meds. But, we changed those today and now I can get more relief with less pills and that's always a good thing. Thank you, Debbie for fixing that problem! I also got to go to the plastic surgeon's office and get two of my four drains removed. Now, if you've never had surgery requiring drains, it's quite the experience... (THIS NEXT PART IS NOT FOR THE SQUEMISH...)

Basically when they take things out of your body, your body tries to fill that space back up with something else, like blood and other fluid. So, they have to get that stuff out of there or it can cause problems. So, the answer is to poke a hole in you with a tube coming out that attaches to a bulb-like thing on the end. Each of those bulbs has a little plug in it, like a blow-up beachball where you can empty it a couple times a day, and recollapse it to create suction again. Thank goodness I have always had a 6 year-old boy living in my head who thinks gross stuff is cool because as nasty as it is, I kind of look forward to seeing how much I can get out each time. (I know that's gross, but still kinda cool.) The idea is to get it down under 20 cc's a day. Then, they can take the drains out. So, when you have four it's kind of like a race to see which ones you can get out first. I'm happy to report that Drain #2 is our winner with a close second in Drain #4. Drains #1 & #3 need to get with the program. I'm about tired of having them hanging out of my sides.

So, after that Dr. appointment I talked Mom into taking me out to eat and to Target so that I could buy my nephew a birthday present. He turns 1 tomorrow. Happy Birthday, Aiden!! It felt pretty good to do normal activities. I marched into Target with my new "starter boobs" and 2 hidden drains and got to feel normal for a brief period. No one even looked at me wierd. It took a lot out of me though. I had to take a 3 hour nap to recover, but it was worth it.

I want to say a special thanks to all of the wonderful people from church who have brought us dinner for the last few nights and for those who are bringing them in the coming days. The meals have been wonderful and we so appreciate them. I have brought my share of meals to people in the past and my mom has done the same my entire life. It seems like she's always making a meal for someone. But, neither of us ever knew what that actually meant to those recieving them until now. Besides prayer, there's just about nothing you can do that means more. Thank you, thank you, thank you! You are all such a blessing.

We should have the final pathology results soon. If that goes like we think, step 2 will begin early September. I think step two will be the hardest because chemo scares me to death. Thankfully, I won't be doing it alone. The Bible tells us that, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." Philippians 4:13 I'm counting on that.

©2009 80% Sporadic | by TNB