Tuesday, December 29, 2009

One Week Till Surgery

So, I don't think I'm going to publish that long, anti-chemo post that I wrote... because that should at least wait. It is not time for me to even be thinking about chemo yet. I should instead be focusing on the lumpectomy surgery, which happens one week from today!

I'm doing well preparing for it, both emotionally and practically, and I'm proud of myself for that. I'm not feeling very scared. I trust my medical team, and I have wonderfully supportive family and friends, and I'm also doing a good job taking care of myself... and I just have a strong gut feeling that everything is going to be okay, if I just breathe and trust.

This is what I'm doing/have done to prepare:

- I cleaned my whole room, and it looks beautiful! Now if I need to spend lots of time in here during recovery, it is actually a lovely space I'm excited to be in, instead of looking like the aftermath of a tornado. I even set up a meditation corner.
- I am gathering books and DVDs, ones that are either new or exciting enough to me that waiting until after surgery to read/watch them is making me impatient and annoyed - which is a good thing!
- I used Christmas money to stock up on necessities, like cat food, cat litter, cleaning supplies, kitchen stuff, shampoo, etc... boring things, but it will help.
- I pre-paid a bunch of bills due throughout January
- I bought a bunch of paper plates, which I am a little embarrassed about because I care about the Earth, but they are made from recycled paper and I certainly do not use disposable kitchen stuff REGULARLY... it just will help SO much to not have to worry about dishes when one of my arms isn't functioning properly. (We don't have a dishwasher!)
- I put all of my "post-surgery clothes" on a low shelf, so they are all together and easily accessible. Big flannel PJs, button-down shirts, shirts loose enough to step into if I can't get them over my head, velour and other soft stuff, etc.
- I bought one of those "old lady" pill boxes that organizes all of your meds for you (in my case, supplements and vitamins)

There is still more to do, but that's a great start! My hope, of course, is that surgery will go very smoothly and my body will be so strong and healthy that recovery will be a breeze... maybe I will feel great after just a couple days and we'll all be happily surprised to discover that all of this prep work I've done was unnecessary. BUT, just in case I AM housebound and weak, it will be great to be able to just stay in bed and not have to worry about whether I paid the electric bill or how I'm going to lug 20 lbs. of cat litter home from the store.

Also, right now I am rather obsessed with getting in as much yoga/circus/physical activity as I possibly can, to make up for the weeks (?) when I won't be able to do any of that. I've done a lot of yoga and circus this week already and have more coming up soon... it makes me happy and feels so good.

Big thank yous and lots of love to my family and friends who have helped me with all of these things...by helping me financially, loaning me shirts, getting my vitamins, making circus & yoga possible for me, and just being so kind to me!

Monday, December 28, 2009

No Chemo

I just published a long, anti-chemo post, then un-published it. I'm going to sleep on it and see if I still want to publish it in the morning.

The gist of it is, I'm feeling strongly anti-chemo. I'm thinking that as long as there is no lymph node involvement (which no one THINKS there is, but we won't know till after surgery), then I am going to say NO WAY to chemo, regardless of whether my doctor(s) or the Oncotype DX test recommend it. I can't bring myself to allow doctors to pump my veins full of poison, just as an attempt to prevent a recurrence of cancer, which may or may not ever happen. Right now the idea of voluntarily putting dangerous toxins into my body seems worse to me than taking the risk of having a recurrence.

Thoughts??

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Happy Holidays!



Happy Holidays to all of you, dear friends and family! Wishing you love & light! Thank you for your support. I am so grateful for you. I hope your holidays are wonderful!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Cancer is Not A Blessing

So, I haven't written about the thoughts in my head lately, although I sure have been thinking a lot.

Some women choose to keep their BC diagnosis rather private. I, obviously, did not. I'm quite open about it, partly because it would be difficult for me to hide something so big that's going on in my life, and partly because people's love and support is what's helping me get through this.

However, being so open about it isn't always so great. I got my first negative reaction from someone the other day... when I was downtown, I ran into an acquaintance I hadn't seen in a while. She talked for several minutes about what's new in her life, and I listened quite attentively. Then she asked what's new with me, and I told her I was diagnosed with BC last month. She babbled a few questions without really giving me time to answer, then babbled something about how she hasn't checked her own breasts in a long time, then said "WELL I'VE GOT TO RUN!" and quickly scurried away. And then I just stood there looking at the now-empty spot where she had been standing, and felt my face turn red. It was the first time someone had freaked out and bolted, and I was left feeling like Typhoid Mary.

What has also been difficult is hearing people say, in a nutshell, that BC is either self-caused, and/or should be self-healed. Most of my friends and the people I know are artists and healers, into alternative spirituality, holistic health care, etc... I am, too! But I have heard many variations of the following and just can't take it anymore:

- Don't listen to the doctors. Use this as an opportunity to upgrade your thought patterns.
- Lots of cancers just disappear on their own, you know.
- Maybe you don't really have cancer.
- Cancer is usually caused by anger.
- Cancer is a result of inflammation, and sugar is inflammatory, and didn't you eat a lot of sugar as a child?
- I know someone who had BC and she really thought of it as a gift! She just watched lots of funny movies all the time and laughed her way through it!
- Radiation pokes holes in your aura. Don't do it!

And then there are women's own stories of how they were diagnosed with BC but chose not to have surgery/radiation/chemo and instead looked within to figure out what memories or feelings they were repressing that caused the cancer, and then healed those memories and feelings and thus rid themselves of cancer, or changed their diet or lifestyle or whatever, etc., etc. Sometimes I get these lengthy, unsolicited stories when I am just trying to get from one aisle of the Co op to the next.

I don't want to belittle any woman's journey or story, and if a woman feels that what she is doing works for her, then I am glad for her and wish for her continued health and happiness. But I get angry by the message, sometimes implied and sometimes said outright, that if a person is unable to heal herself from cancer, it is because she is somehow spiritually or psychologically inferior, or not enlightened enough. The implication is that if someone (say, ME) "resorts" to Western medical care, it is because I don't have enough love/trust for myself and my body's self-healing abilities. THAT'S BULLSHIT.

I DID NOT want, ask for, or cause this cancer. I WILL NOT take personal responsibility for its presence in my body. I know that no one is perfect, and we ALL have things in our lives that we could improve upon, but I am the freakin' poster child for the "anti-cancer lifestyle" -

I'm 30 years old.
I have no family history of breast cancer.
I have never had an alcoholic drink in my life.
I have never smoked a single cigarette.
I have never done drugs.
For the first 29 years of my life, I drank no coffee.
For the past 9 years, I have been eating a vegetarian, largely organic diet.
I exercise regularly, yoga and trapeze and walking. My body is strong.
I am a healthy weight.
I use natural bodycare products.
I have a fulfilling spiritual practice.
I have always had a healthy body image/love my body.
I get plenty of rest - usually 8 hours of sleep per night or more.
I don't wear underwire bras, and haven't worn any bra in years.
I have the highest levels of antioxidants out of the several hundred people who have been tested with the biophotonic laser scanner in my dad's chiropractic office.
I have wonderful friends and family, fulfilling relationships that make me happy.
I laugh a lot and enjoy life; I am silly and I play.
I am so healthy that until the biopsy, I had not had a needle in me in about 16 years, other than for dental work.
I can't even remember the last time I threw up, and I've never broken a bone, or been unconscious, or needed a cast or crutches, or had surgery, or had stitches, other than a few on my nose when I was one and fell while learning how to walk.
I say prayers of gratitude at least 80% of my nights for my life, my health, and the love that surrounds me.
I am a good friend to myself and others.
I have been journaling extensively since I was 10 years old, which is a great stress-relief outlet and a way for me to really know myself.
I am an optimist, and think positive thoughts, and use visualization and affirmations.
I take really good care of myself.

No, I am not perfect! Of course I have problems, weaknesses, issues, and ways in which I need to learn and grow - every human on the planet does! But overall, I am super healthy and happy and thriving, and I WAS STILL DIAGNOSED WITH CANCER. IT CAN, AND DOES, HAPPEN TO ANYONE. IT'S NOT MY FAULT. BEING DIAGNOSED WITH CANCER IS NO ONE'S FAULT!

Some health-nut, well-adjusted women still get cancer. Some women who eat horrible food and party it up with drugs and alcohol all the time and never exercise and have had a lifetime of emotional trauma NEVER get cancer. So I don't understand why so many people go on and on about how "it's in the mind," or it's related to the way a person lives, and all of that blame-the-victim stuff, because it's not like that. Why not instead take things like THE ENVIRONMENT into account? Can we look at that, please?? The Earth is so polluted. The water, soil, and air are so full of chemicals and toxins. For DECADES, humans have been doing horrible things to the Earth, to the point where the question isn't why do I have cancer, it's why don't we ALL? And what about the fact that I spent the first 23 years of my life on Cape Cod, where the rate of BC is 20% higher than it is in the rest of the state? (No, no one knows why - Boston researchers are studying it). Clearly that has something to do with THE ENVIRONMENT, not Cape Cod women having defective thought patterns or something.

I am having surgery in less than 3 weeks, and then I will be having 6 weeks of radiation to make sure the cancer is good and gone. I will ALSO be continuing to eat well, rest, laugh and play, take vitamins, work with holistic health practitioners, take supplements, drink nourishing herbs, think positive, do yoga, send healing energy into my body, and all of that... because I do believe it is important and that these things work. I trust myself and my body's ability to heal AND I trust my doctors. I don't believe that Western medicine is all that's right and everything else is New Age quackery. I don't believe that the power of love alone heals all and only weak people poison their bodies with Western medicine. I believe that both Western medicine AND alternative treatments will help me, TOGETHER.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Button-down shirts?

Hi friends.
I've been told (by the other BC survivors) that for a few weeks after my surgery, it will most likely hurt to raise my arms all the way above my head and I will be more comfortable wearing clothes that do not require that - e.g. shirts that button/snap/zip up the front. I think I only own about 3 button-down shirts, because I don't usually like them. Therefore, I would love to be able to borrow some button-down/front-closure shirts for the month of January! Does anyone have one/some that I could borrow?? My surgery is Jan. 5. My shirt size is 6 or Sm/Med, but it would be fine if the shirts were even bigger than that. Also, I'm in need of any pajamas that don't need to go over my head, such as nightgowns I could step into, one-piece suits, or button-front pajama tops! If you have any of those to loan, I would so appreciate it!

Leave me a comment here and I will email you with my address or we can make arrangements to meet, if you are close by.

THANK YOU SO MUCH!!

Monday, December 14, 2009

:(

This is the 3rd evening in a row that I have felt nauseous. Thanks to my visit with the naturopath*, I'm now taking 27 supplements/vitamins per day.

4 Juice Plus capsules
1 Multivitamin
4 mushroom capsules
6 Green Tea extract capsules
10 Melatonin tablets (Yes, TEN...I think I got the wrong bottle)
4 drops of Vitamin D
3 Digestive Enzyme capsules

Hard to say which is making me nauseated, since I started taking them all at once. I'm hoping it stops once my body adjusts. I'm still trying to figure out a system for taking them all. JP have to be taken morning and night, mushrooms have to be on an empty stomach, multi needs to be on a full stomach, digestive enzymes have to be taken right before each meal, and melatonin has to be taken an hour before bed. I guess when to take the green tea and vitamin D is up to me. The amount of water I need to drink in order to swallow 10 melatonin tablets means that I end up waking up at like 2 am to go pee... sigh. Must look into getting higher dosage tablets to avoid this.

I bought a white board "Chore Chart" that has a weekly grid with spaces to write "chores" and magnetic stars to place in the boxes when you've completed the chores. Instead, I wrote the name and dosage of each supplement, and pile on the little stars when I swallow each...

*She is great, btw. My favorite quotes: "I think you should listen to your body if it's craving something!" & "I'm not going to micromanage your coffee intake!"

I don't like this

Here's an article about research done on mucinous BC, the kind I was dx'd with -

New Study Questions True Favorability of Rare Breast Cancer Type

In a nutshell, it says that we all assume mucinous BC isn't so bad, but WE MAY BE WRONG. Dammit.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

On hiatus

Hi everyone,
Sorry I have not updated for several days! On Tuesday, I either broke my pinky finger, or sprained it, or SOMETHING. It is bruised purple-y gray and swollen and painful, and it is slowly getting better but in the meantime, I have not been typing much, other htan the typing I have to do for work. Typing with only 9 fingers is annoying.

It's really bizarre to me that there is CANCER in my body that I can't even feel, whereas something as tiny as a bruised pinky tip disrupts my life in a much bigger way. WEIRD!!

I;ll be back when my pinky's better!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Hmph

So, the cancerous lump is in my left breast. When I was at DH last week, I had my right breast mammogramed. I just received the results in the mail:

"It is normal, there is no evidence of cancer on your mammogram."

So, health is defined as the absence of a negative? Hmph. I wanna re-write it:

"Dearest Britta!
Your right breast is so healthy and normal and beautiful, like the breasts of women all over the world! How wonderful! Go eat some chocolate and celebrate your awesome breast!"

There, that's better.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Pink Glove Dance


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OEdVfyt-mLw (Is that link working??)

I LOOOOVE this video. You may have already seen it, considering it has almost 4 million hits on YouTube! It's a music video that the employees of St. Vincent's hospital did in honor of the fight against BC - everyone dancing in pink gloves! It's so upbeat and uplifting and FUN, but at the same time, it makes me cry every time I watch it. I don't know why! I think it's because it's so touching to see what's probably like a hundred people, all taking time out of their day to do this, putting so much energy and effort into it... EVERYONE is there dancing in their pink gloves, from surgeons to nurses to cafeteria workers to a bald cancer survivor to the old man janitor, and I love that. I love their smiles and laughter. And even though the song ("Down," by Jay Sean) seems like an odd choice to me, the lyrics "Baby, don't worry; you are my only; you won't be lonely; even if the sky is falling down" buoy me. I DO feel everyone on my side. I can totally picture my surgeon and medical team dancing in pink gloves with the rest of them!! My surgeon, especially, is so awesome. I am scared of surgery but I feel so safe in her hands. I know she won't let the sky fall down on me.

Forgive me!

Hi everyone!
Thank you all for the wonderful emails and voicemails and FB messages. I love hearing from you and I appreciate you all. I'm sorry I am not always able to respond to each message individually! I wish I could! And if I don't respond, or if it takes me a long time to respond, I promise that it is not personal, and it's not because you said or did anything wrong. It is because I am overwhelmingly busy at times, with things like:

- scheduling appointments
- emailing/calling my surgeon, nurse, hospital social worker, etc, to ask questions, get more details on my path report, update them on which vitamins i'm taking, etc
- talking with other breast cancer survivors
- talking with my insurance company, and regularly updating my income information so that my insurance continues
- talking with my various employers, to make changes to my schedule as necessary (due to upcoming surgery)
- doing the lengthy intake paperwork for Sojourns
- sleeping extra, so that i stay as healthy as possible before surgery
- thoroughly cleaning my room and the house, to prepare for the weeks after surgery when i won't be able to do so
- trying to find an inexpensive front-closure sports bra to wear after surgery, because i've been told i'll need it
- trying to get my xmas shopping, etc. done
- reading the STACKS AND STACKS of info all of the various doctors/hospital employees have given me - articles, pamphlets, copies of my tests, newsletters from BC survivor groups, financial aid info, and on and on
- researching BC even more, by reading books and websites and talking with other survivors, to make informed decisions about my treatment
- trying to get organized, by making a phone/email list of all of my different health care providers, getting a folder to put all of my medical records into, writing to-do lists and lists of questions i need to ask and who to direct these questions to, etc
- working as much as possible to make more money NOW in preparation for the weeks when i'll be unable to work
- Googling "foods high in potassium" and then grocery shopping for those foods, because my bloodwork showed that i'm low in potassium

It's a lot to be dealing with. So if I don't call you back or email you back, it doesn't mean I don't like you! I SWEAR! :)

EDITED TO ADD:
Some of you have tried to leave comments on my blog and it hasn't worked. Blogger does seem to make it more complicated than it needs to be! It will ask you which "identity" you want to post with. If you are already logged into something like Google, go with that. But it may be easiest to just post as "anonymous" - but please sign your name so I know who you are! :) ALSO - when you first click the submit button, it will give you a PREVIEW of your comment, and won't actually post it until you AGAIN click "publish comment." Hope that helps!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Rough Night

I had a good day, but now I'm having a bit of a rough night, and I'm not quite sure why. My head and neck are very achey, the way it has felt on those 2 or 3 occasions when I've fallen off the trapeze, only this time I didn't. I wasn't even ON a trapeze. I can't think of anything that happened to my head/neck to make me feel this way!

Or maybe it's the snow that's getting me down. First snow of the year, and most people I know are giddy because of it. Most people I know don't start to hate snow until it's March or April and there's just too much of it and it's gray and slushy and everyone's impatient for spring. But I hate every stupid flake of it from day one!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

[New Hospital] Visit

I'm exhausted and this will be short. My mom and I got up at 5:30 am to drive to the hospital, and didn't get home till about 2:45 pm, so it's already been a 9-hour day and I have to go to work in half an hour. Aaahhh!

SURGERY DATE: JANUARY 5

Today I got a chest X-Ray, bloodwork, a brief physical, mammo twice, and an ultrasound. I met with a nurse, social worker, and surgeon. I am tired and on information overload!!

Brief synopsis -
X-Ray - super quick and easy, and everything looks normal/healthy.
Bloodwork - also super quick and easy, and surprisingly did not hurt. I have great veins! Everything came back normal, except I'm a little low on potassium. Okay, so more bananas.
Meeting with nurse and social worker - They're both very nice and helpful and had good info about financial resources, health insurance, etc. They weighed me down with articles, books, pamphlets, etc. that I still have not had the energy to wade through.
Meeting with surgeon - The pathologists here confirmed the diagnosis of early-stage mucinous carcinoma. However, they say the tumor is 1.06 cm, which is larger than the 8x7mm figure I'd been told by the previous doctor. There's also a tiny bit of microcalcifications near the tumor, which are likely benign but may be cancerous. They, too, will be removed during the lumpectomy and what this means is that the amount of tissue my surgeon will need to remove is a bit larger than expected. My breast may end up looking weird, I don't know. But as I told her, I mostly don't care; I prioritize health over aesthetics. My surgeon is great, and I feel very comfortable with her. She had me laughing a lot! UNTIL SHE SAID THE "CHEMO" WORD. She wanted to prepare me for the possibility of it. She felt bad that I visibly deflated when she said that word... because yeah, I hadn't been thinking of chemo at ALL. I was naively assuming that since the cancer in me is so tiny and so early-stage, and the mucinous/non-life-threatening type, that there's no way I'd need chemo, and maybe I wouldn't even need radiation! Well. Radiation's pretty much obligatory, and chemo's a possibility. We won't know until after the lumpectomy and sentinel node biopsy. That's when the doctors will know more details about my cancer, stuff that I'm too tired to write about write now, but basically there are just a bunch of factors to consider and I'll have to have meetings with oncology people to talk about whether or not they recommend chemo.
Mammo and ultrasound - the surgeon wanted me to get a mammo of my right breast, just to check it out, since I'd only had a mammo of my left breast previously. This took a long time because I hadn't had it scheduled in advance and thus they had to squeeze me in (no pun intended :P ) between other patients. Then they had to do the mammo AGAIN because the results weren't clear enough the first try. Then we sat in the waiting room for a looooong time and then they called me in for an ultrasound. I started freaking out a bit, thinking it was because they had found something... but no. They just wanted to be super duper thorough, and young, dense breasts often don't do well with mammograms. And the ultrasound went well - I am ALL CLEAR on the right breast! Everything is fine and normal! That's what the MRI said, too.

Okay, more later. TOO TIRED.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Life is a miracle

My consultation at the hospital is tomorrow morning, and the doctors and I will figure out a plan for how to get this cancer out of me. I'm a little nervous, but I know it will be okay. Know why?

This is me when I was 24 hours old:



This is me now:



I started life as a 4 lb. preemie in an incubator, and now I fly. Life is a miracle, and my body is so good at growing and being amazing.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Cape Trip

I was down on the Cape yesterday and today, enjoying some time with my family and getting some dental work done.

The novacaine lasted for FIVE HOURS. I spent the afternoon at my parents' house, waiting for the swelling and numbness to go away so that I could eat lunch then drive the 3.5 hours home, and the wait was hard. Opening my mouth hurt, but even closing it all the way hurt, so I ended up looking like a slack-jawed idiot for hours. I felt like such a slug, sitting in front of the TV with my fat, numb face... when normally at that time on a Tuesday, I would have been in yoga class! I sure did miss it today!!

Finally I gave up waiting for the novacaine to wear off, and packed some Chinese food leftovers to bring with me in the car, figuring I could just pull over somewhere to eat once I actually regained feeling in/control of the right side of my face. First I stopped by the beach before it got dark, to hang out with the full moon... and the beach was as soul-nourishing as always. You can see I'm much happier at the beach, even though my mouth is still a little weird!