Sunday, January 31, 2010

A Good Day

Today has been a very good day! A very ANTI-CANCER day! :)

- I slept well, for 8 hours
- I ate delicious, healthy, cancer-fighting food: yogurt with stevia, apple spice cake sweetened with fruit juice only, quinoa with Indian peas/cheese/sauce, a cup of frozen cranberries, two cups of green tea, a little bit of 70% dark chocolate, walnuts, and a vegan/gluten-free/refined sugar-free cookie with raisins and sunflower seeds.
- I walked in the invigorating winter air, for 2 hours!
- I used a positive adjective in relation to winter (see above)
- I had a good conversation with a friend, to process negative emotions
- I journaled more about my mastectomy vs. re-excision + radiation dilemma, and wrote to a few people about it
- I did a load of dishes, cleaned the litter box, paid 3 bills, returned a library book, replied to a bunch of emails, and cleaned a little
- I read over 100 pages of my new Anti-Cancer book, by Dr. David Servan-Schreiber (Thanks, Mom!)
- I cuddled with my cat
- I completed about 2/3 of the set of meeting minutes that are due tomorrow afternoon
- I laughed
- I did 5 pull-ups
- I checked my incisions, and smiled, because they are looking great, and I'm so proud of my body for being so good at healing! I sent happy thoughts to my breasts!
- I emailed myself ideas for how to make tomorrow good, too

One day at a time...

Kids Say the Darndest Things

Okay, some funnies, before my blog gets too depressing!

#1 - A few days after my re-excision, when the incision on my breast was healing again, I went with my friend D to pick her 2-yr-old daughter R up at childcare. R & I were happy to see each other, and she wanted me to carry her... D said, "Britta has a boo-boo and can't pick you up today, but you can hold her hand on the way to the car. Let's all go downtown to Coffee Country!" So R held my hand, and said to me while we were walking, in her sweetest voice, "Bitta, I will hug and kiss your boo-boo when we get downtown!" HAHA! Luckily, she forgot about that by the time we actually got there, because I can only imagine trying to explain to a 2-yr-old that she can't hug and kiss my breast in a coffee shop. Or anywhere, really, but it was sweet of her to be concerned. :)

#2 - My niece is almost 4. When she was a baby and couldn't pronounce my name, she called me Ta-Ta, and it just stuck... it wasn't until recently that I realized how funny it is that her nickname for me is a slang term for breasts! But she really calls breasts "noo noos," back from her nursing days...
SO, her question recently was: "Why does Ta-Ta have a boo boo on her noo noo??"
HA! That could have been the name of my blog... The Boo Boo in Ta-Ta's Noo Noo.

There are a lot of children in my life, of various ages, and most of the children who know me well know that I'm dealing with breast cancer... It is a surreal experience to have an 8-year-old greet me with a hug and ask with such love and concern in her voice, "How are your breasts doing?"

I was thinking back to this funny babysitting moment from a couple years ago...
M, who was maybe 2 at the time and had only recently stopped nursing, one day pointed to my breasts and asked to nurse. "Sorry, M," I replied, "that's something you did with just Mama! And I don't have any milk in there!" Her 4-year-old sister, A, listened to me say this, and gave my breasts a long, suspicious look. "What DO you have in there?" she asked. I burst out laughing, for the tone of her voice made it sound like she suspected I'd been holding out on her all this time, and maybe my breasts had apple juice or something! I laughed and told her, "It's milk or nothing, A!" At the time, it cracked me up... it STILL does... but I also realized that actually, it's not "milk or nothing," for my cancerous tumor was probably close to 3/4 of a centimeter in size by that point. NOW, it kind of gives me pause to recall this moment when a small child stared at my breast-full-of-undetected-cancer and asked, "What's in there?" A, especially, is a child who has always been quite sensitive and wise, and in touch with the universe. When she asked her question, the look on her face made it clear that she thought there was something unusual about my breasts (which were covered by my shirt, just to be clear, so it's not like she had visuals to go by ;)), but maybe she wasn't at all thinking apple juice or chocolate milk. I wonder if she 'sensed' something, and it gives me goosebumps to think about.

Uh, wasn't I supposed to be writing FUNNY things? Oh dear!

Friday, January 29, 2010

1/29/79

Whoever thought I would be spending my 31st birthday trying to decide whether or not to keep my breasts?

Yesterday, I received the news that my margins were unclear again. The area of DCIS (which is pre-invasive cancer) turned out to be over 3cm, despite only showing up as 3 millimeters on the MRI/mammo/etc. I now have to at least go back for a 2nd re-excision surgery (surgery #3), and consider getting a mastectomy. If I got the 2nd re-excision and margins were clear, I'd need to follow that with radiation. If I chose mastectomy instead, I would not need radiation. It's a huge, difficult decision. I know that most people think I should take the route of re-excision + radiation, because mastectomy is "so extreme." But it worries me that there was so much DCIS in my breast that was unable to be detected through imaging. It makes me wonder what other cancer might be in my breast, or even the other one, that can't be detected by anything other than surgery. I also wonder, would 6 weeks of daily radiation truly be less physically dangerous/damaging to my health than mastectomy? Is mastectomy only seen as OMG SO EXTREME because of its emotional effects?

There are a gazillion thoughts inside of me, but I don't want to blog about my reasons for and against mastectomy. For once, it's a topic that just feels too personal for the blog. I have to think more first, just by myself.

Despite the unrealness of spending my 31st birthday trying to decide whether to keep my breasts or not, I have also had a wonderful time with friends and family today. I had plenty of laughing fits, and also was in tears of gratitude over the outpouring of love I received from so many people...phone calls, emails, FB messages, e-cards, snail mail cards, surprise gifts! I am so blessed to have such amazing friends and family and people who love me. Life is GOOD. And it will KEEP being good.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Risk

I've been thinking a lot about how weird I am... I am a statistical anomaly, bigtime. A minority within a minority within a minority. I don't have a math brain, so forgive the inaccuracies of the proportions of these graphics... but you get the general idea:









See, it was highly unlikely that I'd have cancer...
...but I do.
It was highly unlikely that that cancer would be mucinous...
...but it is.
It's highly unlikely that with mucinous cancer, I'd be so young...
...but I am.

I am that tiny, tiny purple dot up there, so unlikely to even exist. Can you even see it?

Sometimes this makes me throw up my hands and laugh. Because since when have I EVER been "normal"?!? I am the lesbian pagan feminist circus freak diagnosed with the old lady cancer at the age of 30! OF COURSE!

Other times, it scares me, because I have absolutely no faith in predictions and statistics anymore. They are meaningless to me. Like when K said, moments before surgery as I was signing the consent form, "There is a 5% chance of lymphedema as a result of surgery," that doesn't reassure me...I am not thinking, "Whew, there's a 95% chance I won't get lymphedema," not when that surgeon that biopsied me was like "I'm 99% sure you don't have cancer!" Now every time I feel the slightest twinge in my arm, I'm thinking OMG HELP IT'S LYMPHEDEMA!

This is why making decisions about which treatments to do next (e.g. mastectomy or 6 weeks radiation??) feels so impossible to me - what do I base my decisions ON?? Doctors' guesses and meaningless predictions? "By doing X, you'll reduce your absolute risk by Y%, and your relative risk by Z%..." SO WHAT?? Are those figures based upon studies done on 30-year-old women with mucinous breast cancer? No! BECAUSE I AM THE WEIRDO WHO DOES NOT EVER FIT IN THE NORMAL BOXES. I'm actually surprised the hospital hasn't tried to study me yet, considering they are a teaching/research hospital....

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Starting the Day with a Laugh...

One of the breast cancer message boards I go to has a bunch of different folders to post in - Just Diagnosed, Surgery, Help Me Get Through Treatment, etc. One folder is Inspiring Stories. I was scrolling down the list of threads in that folder, and there were all kinds of inspiring stories about family members who had triumphed over breast cancer, stories of being cancer-free for years, miraculous healings, etc., with all of these breast cancer survivors cheering each other on. Stories of amazing doctors, and celebrities who raise money for breast cancer research, and promising new treatments, and stuff like that. And then, suddenly, I come across:

"PARROT SAVES CHILD!" Someone had posted a link to a Denver newspaper story about a parrot that saved a toddler from choking on a Pop-tart! WHAT?!? The randomness of it made me laugh so much I nearly spit out my coffee. The parrot's not even a breast cancer survivor or anything.

Monday, January 25, 2010

High as a Kite

Okay, this is a tad ridiculous. It's been 3 days since surgery and I am still high as a kite. After surgery, you're supposed to go home and rest, recover, take it easy, etc., right? Maybe take some pain meds and get extra sleep?

You wanna know how I spent these 3 days post-surgery?? I walked for over an hour, had dinner with a friend, had a 4-hour brunch with 4 friends the next morning and laughed so much I nearly peed my pants, had tea & played board games with 3 other friends for a couple more hours, had dreams about flying two nights in a row and woke up exuberant, wrote over 12 pages, cleaned 75% of the apartment and took out the trash and did laundry, had fun at work, did 5 pull-ups, started a sugar-free support group, secretly loved the "awful" rain today, sent a bunch of babbly voicemails and emails the way drunk people do, started outlining my book, hula-hooped to the Pink Glove Dance.... and then giggled on the phone when a nurse called with a phone survey about my surgical experience, answering no, no, no, when she asked if i am bleeding, or vomiting, or nauseous, or in pain.

NOOOO, I am not in pain or bleeding, I feel pretty darn FANTASTIC! I wake up in the morning like "OH SUNSHINE I LOOVEEE YOUUU!!!" and sing loudly in my car and can't stop babbling. I threw out all the sugar/candy/chocolate in the house and got really excited about a sweet potato, and I nearly hugged my boss today, and my scars DO look really beautiful, as does the rain, and guess what, I got a surprise check in the mail, along with a letter explaining that the IRS didn't give me enough money last year so here's a little more! FOR REAL!

What's going on?! Do I still have "happy juice" drugs in my veins?! Is that possible?? I always worry that because I have never had an alcoholic drink, or smoked a cigarette, or done drugs, and rarely take Western meds for anything, that when I DO end up taking meds, they effect me super strongly because my body's not used to it. Once after a root canal, with lots of novacaine, my dentist witnessed me walk into a wall as I attempted to leave, and then made me sit in the waiting room for 45 minutes till I was safe to drive. Once back in college, my professor added a bunch of wine to the cheese fondue and then I ate a cupful of cheese and spent the rest of the night giggling so hard I could barely stand, nevermind give a presentation like I was supposed to be doing. So am I still high on "happy juice," 3 days later??

Or maybe K cut the cancer out of my breast then filled the hole up with sunshine and sparkles instead. HAAAA!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

what are the chances??

Guess what. K says ALL OF MY DRUG-INDUCED DELUSIONS ARE REAL!

Friday, January 22, 2010

chocolate mocha cherry cake!

the re-excision surgery went VERY well this morning! the whole thing was even easier than i thought it would be! the worst part was having to get up at 4:15 in the morning to get there, and not being allowed to have coffee pre-surgery like everyone else. but surgery was over by 8:15, and by 9 or so, i was enjoying a double mocha with my fam. :)

i didn't need general anesthesia this time, which made all the difference. i was conscious-but-very-relaxed-and-pain-free in the OR during the half hour surgery. a side effect of the sedation is memory loss of the OR time, so i only vaguely remember...bizarrely enough, it was kind of a happy time. K made me laugh a lot as usual, and the OR "team" was comprised of her favorite people, so they were all happy together, too. and K had sarah mclachlan playing, not even knowing sarah's my favorite, so that was happy, too! there was a drape over part of me so that i couldn't SEE K cutting my breast...and i couldn't feel any pain, but i did feel a bit of pressure and movement and it was okay. and i have vague memories of us talking about all kinds of HAPPY things, like cake, ice cream, reeces peanut butter cups, mocha joes, coffee, and other stuff i can't remember. maybe i'm making that up?!? i swear that's what my brain THINKS we talked about...ha! it's like waking up from a dream in the morning and remembering bits and pieces. and i remember feeling happy that my scar was beautiful?! what the...?? dunno where that came from. :) but the whole thing was totally a PIECE OF CAKE!

and i wasn't even a drugged-up zombie at the end of it, like i had feared! i was pretty coherent, and soon impatient to get out of the bed in post-op, and once i showed a nurse that i could safely walk up and down the hall a little, she took my IV out and let me get dressed. she insisted i still had to ride in the wheelchair to leave the hospital, even though i felt fine...so, whatever, i wore my ridiculously crazy pink hat and let my mom take me for a ride in the wheelchair. we went to au bon pain and john bought me a lovely mocha and a salad and it was nice. :) i was glad to have andee with me today, too. i felt so loved and cared for all around.

now it's 4 pm and technically i should be napping, considering i A) HAD SURGERY and B) HAD SURGERY ON ONLY 4 HOURS OF SLEEP, but for some reason my internet addiction is trumping my fatigue right now... haha.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

I Miss Trapeze

I just did 3 pull-ups. I COULDN'T HELP IT!!! Walking underneath that pull-up bar dozens of times a day, without using it, was driving me crazy!!
I've been afraid of hurting my underarm incision by doing pull-ups, but also afraid of my muscles weakening if I DON'T do pull-ups...
So I figured just doing one third of my usual amount was a good compromise. (Uh, does that actually make any logical sense??) And my incision doesn't hurt at all. My shoulders hurt a bit, though, and my upper abs, which is odd - usually I don't feel anything in my abs while doing pull-ups.
Pull-ups are a poor substitute for trapeze, but it's better than nothing.

Cancer Girl

Hi friends. Okay, for the first time, I'm kind of just sitting here staring at the screen, unsure of what to say. It feels like all the thoughts in my mind are swirling around like a hurricane.

It has been a rough few days, for a number of reasons, but mainly I'm feeling angry that cancer is taking over my life. I don't mean it's taking over my BODY - it's actaully pretty contained in there, now that the icky tumor has been surgically removed - but it's taking over my mind, energy, time, focus. These days it seems to be all I can focus on, because there is so much I need to learn about breast cancer in general as well as the specific cancer that is in me, and all of the potential treatments for it, so that I can make the best decisions for me. It's confusing, complicated, and overwhelming, and I'm terrified of making the "wrong" choices.

I feel like on Nov. 9, 2009, upon hearing those awful words, "They found something...they're calling it cancer," I woke up in a foreign land where I was lost and didn't speak the language. I am now getting a crash course in breast cancer, which of course is not something I ever ever would have signed up for voluntarily. Not only did I have no understanding of words like "ER+ PR+ HER2-," "lymphadema," "axillary node dissection," "prophylactic bilateral mastectomy," "Oncotype DX," but I was SO ignorant about cancer in general that I did not even know that chemotherapy was drugs and that radiation was something different. I thought chemo WAS radiation, and that it was the radiation that made people lose their hair. I have learned SO MUCH in the past 2 months, but there is still so much more to learn. I'm obviously not the type of patient who is able to just leave it all up to the doctors and their expertise and follow the path that they set for me. I've never been like that. I will certainly take their expert ADVICE, and I do trust my doctors, but really it's my body and it's my ONLY body, and I feel a strong need to be in control of it as much as is reasonably possible. Because having cancer makes me feel like I'm losing a lot of control of my life/health and it's awful.

I feel like there's so much going on in my head that it's hard for me to even write coherently, or to stay on topic, because my thoughts are jumping around so much.

The surgical phase of treatment is almost over for me, which means there is a big transition coming up - I have to leave my surgeon, whom I have really come to trust and respect, to go to the oncologists. I am incredibly resistant to leaving my surgeon, mainly because her job/role is the only one I'm 100% comfortable with. Physically removing the cancerous tumor from my body makes total sense; it's not something I had to think twice about. Everything from here on out, such as chemo, radiation, hormone therapy, etc., scares the crap out of me, with all of the potential side effects and dangers. My appointments with the oncologists aren't for THREE WEEKS, so in the meantime, I have been researching everything, reading cancer books, talking with other breast cancer survivors, making extensive lists of questions for the oncologists, and driving myself crazy in the process. (If knowledge is power, why does it sometimes feel so paralyzing?) I don't see that there are any GOOD options, in terms of further treatments. It's a matter of choosing between the lesser of the evils. And that sucks.

And probably the hardest part of having cancer be my "full time job" right now is that I worry that I'm becoming a self-absorbed hermit; a bad, unavailable friend; the Party Pooper Cancer Girl. I'm trying not to feel guilty, but I do. I feel like I'm so out of the loop, in terms of everything that's going on in my friends' and family's lives, or in the rest of the world. It's hard for me to sustain my focus on much more than CANCER right now, other than sometimes vegging out with X-Files DVDs when I feel like my head would otherwise explode. I'm not able to follow any news stories...politics, health care reform, Haiti... the devastation in Haiti is heart-breaking, but I can't even process it, and I feel like a jerk because of that. I hate being like this...letting friendships drop by the wayside because I can't keep up...Some days I am so desperate to get away from all this cancer crap that I wanna just get in the car and drive and drive and drive, all the way to the beach or something, and just stay there. But it doesn't freakin work that way. I can't put my cancer on hold for a week and choose not to deal with it. I can't ignore the healthcare re-application form that has a deadline I have to adhere to. I don't know how to balance "cancer stuff" with "the rest of my life" right now. OMG and I don't even know how to WRITE right now. This mess of a post is proving my point!!!

I hate being so self-centered right now and not being able to keep up with everyone else's lives to the extent that I'm used to. I want to be out celebrating all of my friends' happy news and changes (the new jobs, upcoming graduations, engagements, etc!), and I want to still be working on the NECCA board, and volunteering with the Women's Film Festival/Women's Crisis Center fundraisers, and sponsoring "my" kid in Pakistan, and babysitting, and helping with NECCA shows, and helping raise money for Haiti, and working with the foster kids, and facilitating Girls Circle, and writing grant proposals, and roller skating with my friends, and doing trapeze, and doing yoga, and ALL OF THAT. But I can't right now, because I have to have more tissue cut out of my breast in 2 days. And then I have to recover from that, and go for a follow-up, and meet with the radiation oncologist, and meet with the medical oncologist, and go back to my naturopath, and choose which treatments to do next and do them.

I'm trying to accept the fact that I NEED to temporarily let go of all of that, and slow down, and not EXPECT all of that from myself... I need to ALLOW myself to be "self-centered" right now, and take care of myself, and allow others to love and support me without feeling guilty for it. It's a big life lesson I need to learn, and something that I will forever be practicing, and it's hard, and I'm just fumbling my way through it. I feel like apologizing a million times over for being an unavailable friend, for not being much fun right now, for being Cancer Girl... Logically I know I shouldn't be apologizing, but... I'm sitting here with a lump in my throat because really that's what I'm feeling. So guilty for not being able to be a good friend right now, for not being able to help other people, or do good things for the world. Ever since I was a kid myself, I've known that my mission in life is to make the world a better place for children. And I worked with kids, probably nearly a thousand of them, for 15 years straight. Then I got burnt out and "quit," but not really; I've STILL been working with kids because I can't NOT. And women's rights has been my other big focus for the past decade or so.... The day that I got diagnosed with cancer was the day that I had been planning on mailing out my cover letter and resume to apply for my dream job, to be a Women's Advocate at the local Women's Crisis Center. And then suddenly I BECAME the Woman In Crisis. It makes me so angry and it makes me cry. I know that I can't help anyone else until I help myself... that whole airplane analogy; you have to put on your own oxygen mask first. So I guess that's what this whole stupid cancer journey is forcing me to learn - how to put on my oxygen mask. I'm gonna stop typing and go practice breathing.

Friday, January 15, 2010

I'm Okay

Things are slowly getting better. I know it will just be a roller-coaster for a while.
I talked with my nurse this morning, and pretty much got things straightened out.
I made the appointments with the rad onc and med onc, which can always be rescheduled if necessary, or canceled if I decide to go to different oncs.

Other things that helped me calm down today:
- Buying more Rescue Remedy pastilles
- A visit with my naturopath
- Reply email from K, about surgery issues/?s I had
- Dinner with a friend, full of laughter
- Watching YouTube videos about radiation therapy so I know what to expect
- Commiserating with other BC survivors on message boards
- Talking with my mom
- Loving emails from friends
- Coffee

I'm hoping for a good night's sleep... and tomorrow will be a new day.

Horrible Night of "Sleep"

Well, I lay in the dark for about 7 hours with my eyes closed, after taking 20 mg of melatonin, but I don't think I slept much of it, with all of the anxiety that was in my body and the horrible thoughts that were in my head. Usually, worries don't keep me up at night. I can acknowledge them, then tuck them away for later while I focus on something happy/relaxing, and drift off to sleep. But last night...every time I'd tuck one anxious thought away, another would pop up. Because there are just a million things to be anxious about. Here's what was in my head all night -

- all the chemo fears I've already babbled about
- memories of how AWFUL it felt to have that male doctor who did my biopsy have to give me a breast exam
- worries of what it will be like with the male radiation oncologist - will he have to literally touch my breast every day for 6 weeks??
- there's a thread in one of the BC forums about how radiation treatments increase some women's asthma. My asthma has been well under control for years ago, and I'm going to be so pissed if radiation makes it flare up.
- the Oncotype dx test costs over $3,000. What if my insurance doesn't cover that?? Some insurance companies don't, because they consider the test "experimental" despite evidence to the contrary. I am so poor I'm on food stamps, and receive health insurance through the State of VT for low-income people. I started mentally calculating my average monthly income and how long it would take me to pay off that Oncotype bill.
- K is going to be leaving me soon and I don't know how I can do all this without her.
- Would chopping off both of my breasts eliminate my need for chemo and/or rads?? Because I would do it.
- Is my insurance company going to pay for annual MRI screenings for me? MRIs can cost like $1500. And for me, annual mammograms are not enough. It turns out there was a secondary area of cancer in my breast - microcalcifications - which ONLY showed up on the MRI, not the ultrasound or mammogram or physical exam.
- Will I be one of those people who doesn't have many side effects with radiation, and can continue working, or is it really going to hurt and make me so exhausted I have to take more time off?
- Have I slept at all yet? When's the sun coming up?
- What am I going to do with my cat, when I'm living at my parents' house for 6 weeks during radiation treatments?

I'm not looking for answers. These are each questions/worries I can theoretically tackle one by one, during the daylight, when I'm awake. Many of them are questions I need to ask people at the hospital, and I can and I will... But in the meantime, how to keep all of those questions and concerns from piling up and making noise in my head all night while I'm trying to sleep, I don't know. Even 20mg of melatonin didn't let me sleep.

You know, I think a big part of the problem is that the way that I cope with the stress of this cancer journey is by being very careful to just take things ONE STEP AT A TIME. That keeps me calm and focused. For example, if I know the next thing that's coming up is surgery, then I research what that surgery is like, ask the necessary questions about it, prepare for it, etc. But it was that AWFUL PHONE CALL yesterday morning that screwed all that up for me. I had been focusing only on getting through my upcoming 2nd surgery before even attempting to think about/plan the next steps...because THAT'S HOW MY BRAIN HAS TO DO IT. But this woman on the phone jumped the gun and started asking when I'm starting radiation and can we set those appointments up, and wanting to set up an appt for me to talk about chemo with some new doctor, and it was TOO MUCH. It ruined my plan of compartmentalizing and taking just one step at a time. She opened the floodgates of worry in my mind.

Now I have to get ready for work.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

NO NO NO NO CHEMO

I wrote the following a couple weeks ago, but it's still pretty accurate in terms of what I'm thinking and feeling (and edited slightly) --

-----

Okay, I am having a rare panicky moment. For the most part, I have been surprisingly calm and centered, in terms of dealing with the cancer diagnosis... Surgery is in 8 days and I am not even all that scared. I've been preparing well, both in practical ways and emotionally.

But at this very moment I am freaking out about the thought of chemo. I nearly cried in the surgeon's office when she suddenly said that she can't rule out the possibility of chemo. She said we won't know until after the lumpectomy surgery, about whether chemo will be recommended or not, because it depends upon my post-surgery pathology report. She recommends having my tumor sent off to CA for the Oncotype DX test, which predicts how likely recurrence is and whether or not I'd benefit from chemo.

At the moment I am feeling like I would refuse chemo no matter what, so what's the point in getting the (THREE THOUSAND DOLLAR) Oncotype DX test. The test cannot say, YOUR CANCER WILL RETURN, SO DO THE CHEMO... all it can do is predict is whether my risk for recurrence is low, medium, or high. And if I am high-risk for recurrence, then chemo would be recommended. But like I've said before, predictions are rather meaningless to me now. Everyone predicted that I wouldn't have cancer right now, and they were wrong - thus, people predicting that the cancer will return could be just as wrong!

Chemo scares the hell out of me. Radiation is at least targeted to just the area where the tumor has been removed from...whereas chemo is systemic. I will not POISON MY WHOLE BODY, dammit. I will not allow doctors to flood my body with horrible toxic chemicals that kill not just any lingering cancer cells, but all of my GOOD cells. Even if I have a high risk of recurrence and still forego the chemo, it's possible that the cancer would never return. Or if the cancer DID return, it's possible that it would take 6 or 10 or 25 years to return, and by then, there would be awesome NEW treatments and technologies that are better than today's horrible chemo. Because treatments for BC have been rapidly progressing for years now - as horrible as today's chemo is, it's SO much better than what was available a decade ago.

If the cancer has not spread to my lymph nodes - and I don't think it has [IT HAS NOT!! :)] - I can't think of any good (enough) reason to agree to chemo. Merely being at "high risk" for recurrence would not be enough of a reason for me, because that makes chemo/poison into a "preventative measure"... which is so the opposite of everything I believe in. Preventative measures are things like NOURISHING my body with GOOD things, resting, laughing, playing, eating well, exercising, checking my breasts regularly for the rest of my life with various technologies (i.e. my hands and doctors' hands, MRIs, mammos, thermograms), putting my energy into fulfilling relationships with friends and family, meditating, doing yoga, praying, dreaming, getting enough vitamin D, keeping my immune system strong, becoming more of an environmental activist, eating organic and overhauling my diet, etc. Poisoning my body in an attempt to prevent the recurrence of something that MAY OR MAY NOT come back is so counter-intuitive. I've been trying hard, for a long time now, to love myself and be a good friend to myself, and allowing myself to be poisoned seems like the ultimate self-cruelty. Cancer might come back and hurt me in the future, but it might not, whereas chemo would FOR SURE hurt me NOW. NO THANK YOU!

I understand that I run the risk of having cancer come back, by refusing chemo. I know that just a few days ago, I was ranting about the foolish belief (at least, I consider it foolish) that cancer can be thoroughly cured and/or prevented by things like visualizing oodles of white light, healing painful childhood memories, and eating mushrooms. So I don't at all think that a healthy lifestyle would be enough to prevent a cancer recurrence. I believe that the healthy lifestyle I try to maintain is worth it for its own sake, and I'll continue doing all the good things I do REGARDLESS of how high my risk for recurrence is. I don't need to know that my risk of recurrence is high, to be convinced that it is worthwhile to eat organic vegetables and exercise, nor would I think that having a low risk of recurrence means I can switch to a diet of Twinkies and beer and never get off the couch. I'm gonna continue my healthy, "anti-cancer lifestyle" because that's who/how I am.

I'm worried about offending women who have chosen to undergo chemo. I'm certainly not saying that chemo is never the appropriate choice. Every woman is different, every body is different, every cancer is different, and what's right for one woman may be wrong for the next. We all have to make our own choices and decisions, and I'm well aware that chemo saves lives. Right now I'm just at a point where the thought of chemo seems worse to me personally than a possible recurrence of cancer. Life is so full of uncertainties, and there is no way to know for sure whether the cancer would come back, whether I undergo chemo or not. Chemo is no guarantee that the cancer is gone for good!!

All I DO know for sure is:
1) I currently have a cancerous tumor in my breast that is big enough for me to feel when I poke at it, yet my body and spirit feel just fine. WONDERFUL, in fact. I am strong and healthy. Even with cancer in my body, I am doing handstands, laughing, enjoying my life.
2) The present moment is all there is.
3) No one can say that chemo would definitely kill all of the cancer cells in my body entirely and forever, but chemo would definitely kill good cells in my body and do many unpleasant, negative, harmful things to my body, mind, and spirit. Chemotherapy drugs are toxic.

To me, chemo does not seem worth it. I would rather run the risk of having cancer return years down the road, not really knowing whether it will or it won't, but fully enjoying my life in the present moment NOW, since the present moment is all that is real...than put myself through a dangerous poisoning that will DEFINITELY have negative effects. I am more concerned with the quality of my life than the length of it, which is to say, I am immensely grateful for this beautiful life I'm living, whether it continues for another 70 minutes or 70 years. None of us know when we are going to die. Or rather, when the body our spirit is currently inhabiting will expire. ALL WE HAVE IS THE PRESENT MOMENT, AND THAT IS NOT A TRITE CLICHE, IT IS REALITY! The type of cancer I have is early-stage, non-aggressive, and of the least dangerous type, so I am totally not worried that I am in a life-or-death situation in regards to chemo, so I don't want to sound melodramatic. It's just that the word "cancer" inevitably makes one start philosophizing about life and death. And seriously, I have no idea when death will come...all I know is that I plan on keeping my body full of sunshine, chocolate, laughter, delicious food, love & hugs, nourishing herbs, clean water, joy, beautiful memories, music, salty ocean air, voices of loved ones, and vitamins and minerals... for as long as my body is here, however long that may be. And I'll be staying as FAR away from drugs, smoke, alcohol, artificial sweeteners, chemicals, and toxins as possible, which includes chemotherapy drugs. The earth is already so full of pollutants and toxins that go into my body and I can't control it. But I can certainly say no to allowing poison to be pumped through my blood via IV.

If the cancer comes back, I'll deal with it then. For now, I am going to enjoy life and all of its uncertainties, and trust.

CANCER IS A PAIN IN THE BUTT

I am so sick of cancer taking up so much of my time and energy. I have lots of examples of this, but today it is:

I was woken up by a confusing/anxiety-producing phone call by the hospital, and now I'm struggling to not let it throw my whole day off. Already, I have spent over an hour calming myself down by posting the whole story in BC forums to get advice from other BC survivors. Which means I don't want to detail the whole thing here, too, because it will just eat up even more of my day, dammit.

But the gist of it is - I was woken up this morning by some random person from the hospital whom I've never spoken to, asking me, "Do you know when you're starting with Dr. so-and-so and Dr. so-and-so at [cancer center closer to my home], so we can schedule those appointments?" Um, what?? I wasn't fully awake and had to ask who those doctors are. She was referring to the radiation oncologist and the medical oncologist. No, I don't know when I'm starting radiation...why would I know? It's not up to me to just pick a date, is it?? I thought K would be telling me that at my two-week follow-up visit after surgery. And as for the medical oncologist... I stupidly had to ask what that person is FOR, and the woman on the phone told me s/he would be talking with me about whether or not chemo/hormone therapy/etc. is recommended. And that freaked me the hell out... what a way to wake up. I've been strongly anti-chemo from the start, to the point where I nearly cried when K mentioned it as a possibility. That was a month and a half ago, and she hasn't mentioned the topic since. And now I'm feeling like, NO NO NO, I don't want to make an appointment with some stranger to talk about chemo, when I haven't even had the re-excision yet... I have been trying to just focus on taking things one step at a time, and right now the next step is the re-excision, and healing from that.

I was so flustered and confused on the phone that the woman ended up saying she'll have K call me to talk about this stuff first, before we attempt to schedule the appointments. And now I'm left wondering if I'm just being a "difficult" patient. Maybe the problem is really that I'm too attached to/dependent on K?? She's the one I know and trust, the one who's been with me on the journey thus far...maybe subconsciously I've stupidly been wishing she could be my "everything" doctor, when really, she's just my surgeon. Maybe the purpose of the 2-week follow-up visit is really just so she can say "Yup, your incisions are healing well!" and send me on my way, and it really is the medical oncologist and radiation oncologist that I need to be having the "Where do I go from here?" conversations with. But dammit I don't want to. I can't see how some STRANGER would be able to convince me to consider chemo. I don't know if K herself could even convince me to consider chemo, but at least I'd listen to what she had to say. Argh, am I just being a baby?? I feel like I need K to shove me out of the nest if that's the way it's gotta be, because there's no way I can bring myself to jump.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

News

K called me tonight.
GOOD NEWS: MY LYMPH NODES ARE CLEAR/HEALTHY!
Bad news: My margins were not clear. I have to go back for a second surgery, so K can remove a little bit more tissue.

That was really hard to hear. It is not horrible news, meaning, I am not in DANGER from this... the cancer has not spread or grown or anything like that, and my prognosis is still excellent. It's just that she didn't quite take out enough of the tissue that was surrounding my tumor. I don't know how to explain it, or the technical terms and all that... but she assured me this second surgery won't be a big deal, it'll only take 20 mins and I'll probably just need a sedative and local anesthesia, not general, and she'll just be re-opening the incision that already is there, not making a new one, and I'll recover quickly and easily.

I'm not looking forward to a second surgery - the possibility hadn't even crossed my mind - but I'm trying to focus on the VERY GOOD NEWS that my lymph nodes are clear.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

You've Got To Be Kidding Me

There's a game going around on Facebook right now - it starts when you get this mass message in your inbox:

"Just write the color of your bra in your status. Just the color, nothing else. And send this on to ONLY girls no men .... It will be neat to see if this will spread the wings of cancer awareness. It will be fun to see how long it takes before the men will wonder why all the girls have a color in their status...

Enjoy and spread the awareness!"

Okay, you really wanna know?? I normally don't wear bras, but right now I'm wearing an ugly sports bra that is navy blue and bloody. That's because I had cancer surgically removed from my breast 4 days ago, and the surgical discharge papers say to wear a bra for 2 weeks straight to protect the incisions as they heal. If y'all wanna have fun toying with the boys' heads by having secret conversations about your bras, have at it, but don't pretend like it's doing anything to end breast cancer. Scrolling down my FB page and reading about my friends' fun, green-polka-dotted, and sexy animal-print bras doesn't take the bloodstains off of mine.


Salon article that says it better than I could -

http://www.salon.com/life/broadsheet/feature/2010/01/09/bra_status

Up

I just got back from a 20-minute walk, my first time really leaving the house since surgery. The air felt so good, it was like breathing sunshine in and out. I just walked up the street and then back... I wanted to take a picture of how beautiful it all was, but I know that in a picture it would just look like my boring street, my boring driveway, not the way it looks to me. After 4 days of just a living room and bedroom, I don't even have words to explain the beauty of a sky that never ends.

No Node News

still no word about my lymph nodes. k is great at communicating when there is actually something to say, so i'm sure this just means my results aren't in yet. which is frustrating but there's nothing i can do about that and i will have to now tough it out through the weekend!!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Don't Know

Oh, where to start.

I'm back home... Mom drove me home last night. I was doing fine yesterday until I suddenly had horrible abdominal pain for an hour. The kind where you can barely breathe or move. I don't know what it was or what caused it and I don't really want to talk about it, because it was horrible.

I slept well last night, during the times I actually slept and wasn't kept awake by my STUPID CAT. She is so overly affectionate that while I am sleeping at night, she doesn't just lay at my feet like a normal cat would - she's all up in my face, licking me, sleeping right on top of me in uncomfortable positions, walking all over me in an attempt to get comfortable, etc. So I shut her out of my room last night when I went to sleep, because I knew she'd walk on or sit on my injuries and wouldn't understand not to, and I didn't want to risk getting hurt. But then she whined and pawed frantically at my bedroom door for HOURS. I guess I'd rather be kept awake due to noise than to pain, but still.

What's on the agenda for today? A shower and a walk, again, because I was not entirely successful with those things yesterday.

I don't want to go too far away from the phone, though, because today K is calling to tell me whether or not my lymph nodes have cancer in them. I wasn't nervous about this before, but suddenly I am.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Hypergraphia

OMG, why can't I shut up? Is it the Percoset? Lingering effects of anesthesia?

After spending nearly 2 whole days in bloodstained flannel PJs, I am now wearing a rather fancy, fitted, nearly-new button-down shirt. I feel ridiculous, like I'm on my way to a job interview. In reality, I was like a clumsy 4-year-old in the shower, and didn't even manage to shampoo my hair. Why am I still dizzy? I'm sick of being dizzy.

Edited to add:
Hypergraphia. I think that's what it's called when you write too much. Do I have that? I can't stop. I don't know why I'm writing so much. Probably because I can't think of what else to do. What else was on my agenda today? Get off Perc - CHECK, I just took Tylenol instead of Perc. Go for a walk - well, not yet. I'm still dizzy and don't want to fall in the snow. Should I walk up and down the stairs, or pace the hall or something? Oh geez. I don't really wanna watch TV, because there's nothing on. I was reading the list of shows last night and there is a new show called "WHAT I HATE ABOUT ME." That's so sad it makes me want to cry. Why is there a show devoted to what women hate about themselves? :( I have been trying to hard to love myself lately, and have been talking with friends about the importance of self-love, and we've all been encouraging each other to love ourselves and remember our awesomeness, because most humans don't ever love themselves enough but it's so freakin important and the whole world would be a better place if we humans just learned how to love ourselves and helped each other to do that, and I RELALY MEAN THAT, I'M NOT JUST SAYING WEIRD SHIT BECAUSE OF PERCOSET! So it really stung to see that there's a TV show about hating yourself! I HATE TV!
So anyway. I don't wanna watch TV, but I don't think I could concentrate on a book right now, and I'm a little shaky for some reason, too. Maybe the coffee. I don't need to sleep any more right now. Yesterday I took a 4 hour nap, and then slept for 10 hours, so I'm good. So what do I do now? Hmm. Write about how I write too much, I guess. Maybe I'll just go sit.

Surgery Day

SO, the following entry is every little detail of my day at the hospital that I can remember!!! It's really long and you might not want to read it! :) I have really written it for myself... I don't know, writing everything out in great detail like this helps me process things. And I am fascinated by the fact that there are lots of things about the day that I don't remember, or have really skewed memories of. Because in general, I have an excellent memory. And I know it's normal that my memories of Tuesday are distorted, and that it's due to stress, pain meds, anesthesia, Percoset, ETC... but I find it fascinating that reality might be vastly different from my memories in some places, and when people who were actually there that day, or who talked to me that day, tell me what REALLY happened, and it's so different from what I remember... it's just wild! Like, Andee says she talked with me on the phone that night about how awesome it was that the cancerous tumor was out of my body and apparently I responded with a total lack of enthusiasm, like 'yeah, whatever.' HAAA! Don't remember that at ALL!!
Anyway. Even though the following novel-length post is more for me than you, I don't MIND if you read it, which is why I'm posting it.

7:00 am: My cell phone alarm wakes me up. As I reach for it, I notice that it's still dark outside, which means that it's early, and I wonder, why would I want to get up now?? I almost turn the alarm off and go back to sleep. And then I remember, oh, right, I have surgery today. It seems ridiculous.
7:30 am: Mom, John, and I leave for the 90-min drive to the hospital. I sit in the backseat, quietly, obsessively sticking the thermometer in my mouth every 20 mins or so to make sure I don't have a fever anymore. I hold my comforting objects, and listen to the Sigor Ros meditation song on my MP3 player. I make a shopping list of items I'll need post-surgery, in case one or more of my family members gets restless during the hours and hours of waiting around the hospital while I'm in surgery and needs a task. Ginger tea, canned soup, Arnica.
8:50 am: We arrive at the hospital, park, enter the building, and promptly get lost. We're simultaneously looking for my dad, and reception area 3S, where I'm supposed to check in. Suddenly, I accidentally bite my lip, which is already chapped, and it starts bleeding and won't stop. I dab at it with a tissue and it just keeps bleeding, and I can taste it, and it's making me mad.
9 am: We find my dad, and we all go to 3S, the mammography department. I check in while still holding a bloody tissue against my mouth and it's embarrassing and annoying.
9:10: The nurse (or maybe she was the mammography person? There were so many people...) calls me into a small side room. She closes the door, snaps a hospital bracelet on my wrist, looks me earnestly in the face, and asks me my name and what procedure I'm in the hospital for today. I tell her, "I'm having a lumpectomy," and she asks me where. "Uh, my left breast," I reply, feeling like I'm in the Twilight Zone - does she not know why I'm there? She must, or else she wouldn't be part of my team right now. Is she checking to make sure I'm mentally with it? Is this some kind of trick question? WHAT? She leaves me alone to put a gown on, and then goes to get my mom. There's a knock on the door as I'm doing the snaps on the gown, and I say "Come in," thinking it's my mom, but it's a male doctor I haven't met, and a female med student. He asks if it's okay with me if she's there, and it is - I'd rather HE leave. My mom comes in, too. He - I don't even remember his name - explains the procedure that's about to happen, with the wires and mammo and ultrasound and stuff, and I start to cry, mostly because I don't want him doing it. Then another male doctor enters the room, tells me his name (which I forget) and shakes my hand, and sits down next to the first guy, and asks if I have any other questions. I had too many but couldn't think of any polite ones, and ended up bluntly asking, "And what is YOUR role?" Meaning, who the hell are you and why are you here? Why are there TWO of you male doctors? He hedged - "I'll be overseeing the procedure, helping with it, doing it..." It turns out HE was the doctor in charge, and the first guy, who explained it all to me, was the resident who was assisting. This was confusing to me, and it seems like it should have been the other way around - the doctor in charge should have been the one to explain the procedure to me and then the resident should have been introduced as the assistant. Or at least they should have been both meeting with me together, instead of having the doctor in charge just breeze into the room at the last minute like an afterthought. Maybe most women wouldn't have a problem with that. But I had already explained during my surgical consultation the month before that I am very uncomfortable with male doctors and would like to have female doctors as much as possible, or at least be prepared in advance for the male doctors. At some point during all this, someone asks for my name and birthdate again.
Unknown time that felt like an eternity: the awful wire-insertion processes with mammo and ultrasound, as already described in a previous entry. Someone makes me repeat my name and birthdate again, despite the fact that I'm crying and can barely squeak it out. Then my mom and I returned to the mammo waiting room, where my dad, stepdad, and now also brother, sister-in-law, and niece were waiting for me. I gently hugged people, feeling fragile with the wires protruding from my breast. How to explain the wires? They were not thin like acupuncture needles, as had been my dad's hope. They were more the thickness of the kind of staples that come out of a normal desk stapler.
Approximately 10 am? 10:30?: All 7 of us stumble and fumble our way up to 4W, the Same Day Program Area. I check in at the desk, and have to answer the same batch of questions I've already answered, beginning with, yes, my name and birthdate. The receptionist also asks if I want to give visiting clergy permission to visit my room. UH, NO. My family chuckles behind me. I feel funny sitting in the chair answering the in-take questions with an entourage of family members there. Then we all go sit in the pre-surgery waiting room. I'm glad to have another annoying form to fill out (updating my list of medications and supplements), so I don't have to think about what to think about while I'm there waiting. A nurse calls my name from the doorway, and I get up and go to her. She makes me spell my last name and recite my birthdate before we go down the hall. I start to get nervous - what's happening now? Is this it? Do I get to say goodbye to my family first? She assures me I'll be in a pre-op room for a while and that my family members can take turns coming in to see me one last time before surgery.
11 or 11:30? Who knows?: A nurse hands me a gown and tells me how to put it on, then leaves, letting my mom in on her way out. There is no door, just a curtain. I promptly forget what she says about the gown, and put it on but can't figure out where the heck the ties tie together. It leaves big gaps in front and I have to awkwardly hold the gown closed. I open the curtain to signal that I have the gown on (sort of!), and then lots of nurses, it seems like, are in and out of my little room doing stuff. It's possible that it was only one or two nurses, but everything is blurring together at this point. A nurse asks me for my name and birthdate, and I dutifully recite the info, but this time ask WHY. She tells me it's their policy to be extra extra careful about making sure they have the right patient and right procedure at all times. Even when it seems silly, they have to ask these questions over and over. Someone tells me I should go to the bathroom. I say okay but then they keep going with other stuff. The anesthesiologist comes in and starts asking me questions, at the same time as a nurse is trying to start an IV in my arm, and it's hard for me to focus on both at once. I ask if I should go to the bathroom before getting the IV in, and the nurse says no, I can just bring the IV bag in with me when I go to the bathroom in a few minutes. The anesthesiologist asks me to take a deep breath and then blow out, pretending like I'm blowing out birthday candles. I do that, and it's absurd, like pretending to blow out birthday candles is the "next step" after being asked to recite my birthdate a million times. He asks me when the last time I ate was, and I say, last night at 7 pm. Another nurse asks me what procedure I'm having done and on what breast, and I start to giggle uncontrollably, asking if she wants to see the wires and magic marker Xs all over my breast herself. She asks when I last ate, and I practically shout, "I had egg foo young! At 7 pm last night!" and my mom and I are giggling out of control now. A nurse takes my BP and it's elevated, thanks to the laughing fits. I intuitively turn to look at the curtain, several seconds before K pokes her head through it, smiles at me, pokes her head back out. I ask a nurse if I can keep my own socks on, or if I really have to wear those hospital socks that were given to me with the gown, and he replies with a touch of amusement, that believe it or not, I have to wear the hospital's socks with the no-skid rubber pads on both sides, for liability purposes. So I don't slip. I giggle more. I'm lying in a bed. How could I slip? I can't wear my own socks? K comes in, and I'm so loopy. I think the first thing I say is, "K, I put the gown on backwards!" and she laughs at me. Then she starts talking about my blog and I'm shocked that she reads it. I don't even remember giving her the URL. I don't remember all of what she says or what we talked about, but I remember being glad to just see her comforting face. I grin and ask her if she wants me to tell her my name and birthdate and why I'm there, joking that for a while I thought everyone kept asking me that to make sure that I was okay in the head. She laughed and said something about how she wishes I could be conscious during surgery so I could keep talking to her. Haha, I would've been glad to keep chatting with her, but I'd prefer it to be over lattes, instead of while she was slicing into my boob! She has me sign a consent form I think I already signed earlier. In the middle of signing, I pause to blurt out, "OH, you wanna know something funny?!", and she must think I'm nuts. "The nurse on the phone yesterday told me not to wear deoderant because the alcohol in it makes it a fire hazard in the OR!! Can you imagine if my armpits burst into flames in the middle of surgery?!" She laughs with me, and says she's never heard them saying that before, and she'll have to look into that! Ha! I think I say something about being glad surgery didn't have to be post-poned, and K nods in agreement, saying she's glad I'm there. "Well, not really REALLY glad you're here," she amends with a sympathetic smile, and I know she means she wishes I didn't have cancer so I didn't have to be there with her at all. And then it's a good thing I put the gown on backwards, because before she leaves me, K has to reach in and quickly feel the wire to make sure it's okay. And yup, it is.
When K left, a nurse told me she'd go get my family to come see me before I went to the OR, but I reminded her that I was supposed to pee first...it was awkward timing, me trying to go to the bathroom while hooked up to the IV with the IV bag hanging on the door, while my family waited in the hall for me to be back in the bed so they could come in. It would have made MUCH more sense in the following order:
1. Britta pees
2. Britta gets the IV put in
3. Britta's family comes in to say goodbye.
I don't see what the problem with that would have been?? Anyway...
Then everything blurs together even more. I remember someone, probably the anesthesiologist, saying he'd "give me a little squirt of something" in the IV to start relaxing me on the way into the OR. I think this is when I lay back against the half-reclined stretcher, had the poofy hat thing put on my head (it has a simple name - why can't I remember it?), and then my family came a couple at a time to say goodbye before I went into the OR. I have vague memories of them coming over to kiss me one at a time, and standing around my bed, and I felt kind of like Dorothy gazing dopily at her family when she goes "And YOU were there, and YOU..." I remember being wheeled down the hall in the stretcher and it felt so weird, like something in a movie. I made the effort to smile and wave at my family members lining the hallway. Then I was in the OR and I was surprised by how much stuff was in there - it's not like on TV. I was expecting a big, mostly empty room, with a table in the middle and some surgical instruments or something. Instead, there were lots of lights and stuff on the walls and I don't know, just STUFF. I couldn't look around much, but it just felt surprisingly cluttered to me. I remember K's face. And I remember having to scoot, with assistance, from the stretcher to another bed or whatever. I think K asked me what kind of music I wanted to listen to, and I think I laughed and replied that I wasn't going to be able to hear music for very long. I don't remember when, but at some point, I heard someone say in amusement, "I haven't even given her anything yet!", so I assume I was giggling. And I THINK I remember someone telling me to think of a nice place to go to, or something like that... and then I tried to do that but... that's all I remember!! Weird, no one said anything like "Okay, count down from 10," or "Here comes the anesthesia"... There was no transition like that. My memories of the OR just suddenly stop there.

1:15-ish??:
I am suddenly aware of my surroundings again. Or at least, aware of my own consciousness again. Sort of. I seem to be back in the very same place that I started, the room where I was before they wheeled me into the OR, but it was really the "post-op" area in an entirely different place and just LOOKED like the pre-op area. My head felt heavy, I was dizzy and woozy, and I was shivering under the blankets that were wrapped around me. I don't think I was babbling like an idiot. I think I asked normal questions like "How did it go?" (Very well!) Oh, and I asked if I still had my underwear on! And yes, I did! Hilarious. I probably do not remember much about this time, or about how long it lasted. I remember lots of people talking to me, but I don't remember what they were saying.

3:00-ish??: I'm allowed to get up, get dressed, and sit in a wheelchair to be wheeled out of the hospital! Mom tells me that Finnie is down the hall, eagerly waiting to see me to give me a picture she drew, and very much looking forward to seeing me in a wheelchair. HAHAHAAAA! She gives me a receipt that she scribbled on the back of, and tells me it's a picture of the windy roads so that the foxes can't eat the people. Something like that.

I'm happy to go home.

Day 2 Post-Op

I slept for 8 consecutive hours! (With 2 Benadryls and 1 Percoset). Then I slept for 2 more!
Then I woke up for coffee, and while I drank it, I walked in circles around the kitchen. Because I was getting concerned about the possibility of bedsores and leg clots from all the resting. Am I being paranoid? Maybe I'll walk up and down the stairs a few more times.

Now that I have slept sufficiently, my agenda for today is:

* a shower: the discharge papers say I'm allowed to now, but they also say to let the tape that's covering my incisions fall off on its own, and I'm worried that a shower will make that happen faster than it should. Hmm. But it would be really, really nice to get the bits of blood and sticky residue off of me. When I was preparing to leave the hospital, taking off the gown and putting on my own clothes, I discovered multiple patches of sticky residue on my skin, as if I'd been totally covered in stickers...including a large area across my abdomen. Maybe I don't really want to know the details of what goes on in the OR??? Anyway, what ended up happening is that my flannel pajamas totally STUCK to my skin because of this, ew.

* a short walk in the fresh air, which I have not breathed since Tues eve

* an OTC pain reliever instead of Percoset (but the Perc can be for bedtime if necessary)

* return to Bratt this evening, after John or Austin check my car battery to make sure it's okay (the neighbors screwed it up the day before my surgery when they used my car to jumpstart theirs! GREAT TIMING). Mom will drive me in my car and Adriane will follow us to then drive Mom back home, so for you concerned friends, I will not be driving. ;)

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Staying at Mom's Another Night

I'm definitely staying at my mom's another night!
K said I could take Benadryl to help me sleep, so I did... but I ended up napping from about 2 to 6 pm, which was an odd time. Who knows what that means for "bedtime" tonight! I'm getting a little restless and irritable...feeling ready to be back home in my own quiet place with my cat and to see friends.

I forget what I've already posted about and what I haven't. Going to sleep last night was difficult. It took me forever to arrange my bed Just So, and then I had trouble relaxing my mind because I was paranoid that I had overdosed on Percoset. I really HADN'T, but taking drugs of any kind is so rare for me that I just get anxious about it. The bottle says to take "1 to 2" every 4 hours, so I was mentally reviewing how many I had taken and when, and I couldn't remember what time I had taken the first one (in the hospital!), but I thought that I had taken 4 total in 7 hours, instead of 8 hours like it should have been. That got me thinking about how that might be too much because I don't weigh very much, and I got a bit panicky wondering if I had accidentally taken even more Percoset than I remembered taking, so I actually turned on the light, got out of bed, and dumped out the bottle of pills to count them all and make sure there was still 37 like there was supposed to be. GEEZ!! Then I lay awake in the dark, trying to recall the long list of possible side effects. I remembered that one of the uncommon-but-dangerous side effects was unusually slow breathing. I noticed that I was breathing slowly, and freaked out and tried to breathe faster. HELLO! IT'S NORMAL TO SLOW YOUR BREATH WHEN YOU'RE IN THE PROCESS OF FALLING ASLEEP! Oh, it was so stupid.

Once I reassured myself I had not overdosed on Percoset, the Percoset relaxed me totally and I was calm, quiet, and still as I lay there... for 6 hours straight without sleeping. Yeah, it relaxes me, but does not make me TIRED. I was mentally writing emails and blog posts all night; it was very strange. Of course in the morning none of what I had "written" during the night was anything I actually wanted to type for real.

OH, and it and was at some point during the night, while I was lying there not sleeping, that it suddenly hit me - hey, the lump of cancer is out of my body! I don't know why I didn't realize that until that moment...I mean, I know that seems kind of stupid. I don't know how to explain it - I think I had been so narrowly-focused on getting through each individual step of the day that I had lost sight of the overall picture, if that makes any sense. The day had been a blur of sign this form, get a hospital bracelet snapped on, get injected with this, recite your birthdate to the nurse, put on this gown, get a mammogram, get injected with more stuff, go to this reception desk, fill out this form, wait for the nurse, recite your name and birthdate again, get your BP checked, talk with the other nurse, answer a list of questions, get the IV in, etc., etc., that it was all just overwhelming and blurred together. I didn't have a chance to stop and think about anything. And it wasn't until the whirlwind of it all was over and I was lying quietly in bed that I realized, the cancer it out, and then I smiled.

Of course, it's not OVER. It's not THAT simple. Having the tumor removed is certainly not the same as being cancer-free. There are cancer cells that are too small to be detected, and it's impossible to know if there are any still left in my body or what they will do. But still! Having the tumor gone is a huge and wonderful thing! And did I tell you, my breast still seems to have its natural shape?? That was a happy surprise! I told K from the start to not worry too much about my breast's appearance, and to instead focus on taking as much tissue as she needed, to be sure to get clear margins. Nonetheless, she made the effort to get clear margins AND keep my breast looking nice for me, "since I'm only 30." Wow. I'm so lucky to have her. The tape is still on my incisions and I'm going to let it come off on its own, so it's hard to REALLY see what it looks like under there... but at this point I really can't detect a dent or dimple or anything! Just the incision of about 1.5 inches, which is really hardly anything, compared to what I had been expecting!

In fact, I am wondering if I overprepared for this surgery in many ways. So far everything is turning out to be much better than I had expected. I don't think I was being a pessimist... I was doing the "Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst" thing. It's better to be overprepared than underprepared, and doing everything that I did to prepare was a coping strategy for me as well. It made me feel better to be proactively filling a low shelf with button-down shirts, than to be sitting around feeling anxious about what was to come, you know? And if it turns out I don't need all of that, great! What a happy surprise! It's just that I had never gone through surgery before (other than wisdom teeth extraction at age 14, which I don't really count), so I had no idea what to expect and wanted to be prepared for those worst case scenarios.

I'm still very tired, a little groggy and dizzy, etc. But I'm not in pain and I can move my arm, so I'm happy.

Zzzzzz???

Well, Percocet makes me babbly (at least in writing and in my head; it doesn't spill out of my mouth), but not sleepy. I took the full doses throughout the night and was pain-free, but hardly slept. The Percocet made me so relaxed that I didn't MIND lying there for 10 hours and only sleeping approximately 3, but ya know, my body NEEDS the sleep. Now I'm a little cranky. And I'm inquiring about whether there's a sleep aid I can safely take. I don't think I should attempt to drive the 45 mins home until A) I have slept a bit, and B) I have switched from Perc to a less intense OTC pain-reliever, or at least am between doses of Perc. I'm not sure yet if those conditions will be met today...or if I'll be here at my mom's another night!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

I Shouldn't Be Online Yet, But YOU KNOW ME

hi everyone, it's me, britta! thanks, andee, for updating my blog in my absence!

so i just got off anesthesia about 7 hrs ago. and i'm doped up on percoset. probably i should be lying down instead of blogging, but...well, you're not surprised, are you?? considering i'm such an internet junkie. and i really can't handle phone calls yet, so at least i can write.

in a nutshell: everything went very well, and i'm so relieved and grateful. i'm so grateful to my family for being with me today (thank you, family), and for you other family members and friends who were there with me in spirit. i really do feel your love like a warm blanket around me and it helps me so much. i had my backpack and my jeans pockets filled with your letters, photos, cards, and all of the comforting objects - buddha statue, angel & heart, sparkle ring, heart pillow, eshka, stones, etc! there weren't many times during the day where i was actually able to take them out of my pockets and hold them, but just having all these things nearby helped. when my breast was pancaked in the mammography machine and bleeding from the wires being inserted into it while i cried, i couldn't quite reach into my pocket for anything - so i ended up just gripping the fabric of my jeans, and praying. that was close enough.

those beginning procedures were definitely the worst part of the day, and possibly the worst part of ANY day. for starters, two MALE doctors i had never met did all of the procedures - as some of you know, i have major issues with men touching me, especially the personal parts of my body. 75% of the mammo dept's staff are women, and it was just my bad luck that men were the ones working today. they were very kind and very competent doctors, so it's not personal... it's just that merely having ANY male, doctor or not, touch my breast for ANY reason is enough to make me nauseous, so i can't even explain how awful it was to have a strange man A) tell me no family members can come in the mammography room due to the radiation, then B) squish my breast painfully into the mammography machine, touch my breast, draw on my breast, clean my breast with an alcohol swab, stick a needle in my breast to inject numbing medication (which HURT, of course - that's the catch-22 of pain med injections), insert a wire into my breast, then repeatedly take more mammos of my breast in different positions. i could not help crying, and much of the time, my head had to be tilted back in order for my body to be in the right position for the mammo, and then all the snot ran down the back of my throat. i did not look at my breast the entire time... i didn't want to see the wires. but i did accidentally catch sight of my blood all over the plastic thing that it was squished in.

i was so upset that this was how my day had to begin, and that i couldn't be unconscious for that part, or at least have a freakin valium or something.
then i had to cross the hallway to the ultrasound room, and this time they let my mom be there with me, thank goddess. that was a big help. they used the ultrasound to insert yet another wire, to mark the site of the microcalcifications that were to be removed during surgery. then they injected the radioactive dye into me (i'm assuming that's why my pee is blue), which HURT A LOT because they couldn't numb that spot first or else the dye wouldn't work properly. it took them a frustratingly long time to find the right spot with one of those needles; i don't know, i wasn't looking...but it just felt like i was on that table forever, being stabbed way too many times. then finally it was over and someone, a nurse i think, put lots of tape over all of the ends of the wires that were poking out of my chest, so that they didn't stab me when i put my shirt back on. lovely.

all of that was so awful, that by the time i was actually in the pre-op room meeting with the anesthesiologist and nurses and my surgeon, it almost felt GOOD...just by comparison, you know? like, YAY, yes, i will totally sit here with this silly gown that i've mistakenly put on backwards, and answer routine questions a million times, and let you take my BP and temp again, AWESOME! because you're not a strange man jabbing a wire deep into my breast! actually, i was a little deliriously giggly with the poor nurse who asked me to recite my full name and birth date for literally about the 15th time that day. i was laughing so much it elevated my BP. i asked why they had to keep asking that, thinking it had something to do with checking to make sure i was okay in the head, but she said it's because they follow very (very!) careful procedures to make sure they have the right patient and are giving them the correct treatments. it just seemed so absurd, to the point of being unreal, when i'm sitting there with a boob full of magic marker X's and wires protruding, that someone was asking me with a straight face, "and which breast is receiving the lumpectomy today?" i giggled about this with K, who rocks. it's kinda amazing how she and i were joking around and laughing as if we were out for coffee or something, when not so long before that in the mammo dept, i was crying and trembling and felt on the verge of fainting. it reminded me of all the toddlers i've known, who are so in the present moment that they quickly and easily flow from one emotion to the next... a toddler will be sobbing on the floor one moment, and then someone makes a goofy face or blows bubbles from a wand, and she's suddenly giggling again. i was kinda like that. K's mere presence puts me at ease...it's too bad i was unconscious for most of my time with HER! oh, and apparently i "giggled like a little girl" while going under anesthesia, although i have no memory of that!!

surgery only took FORTY-EIGHT MINUTES! i guess because everything had been marked so precisely during that awful time in the mammo dept, and also because K rocks. did i already say that? :) and then apparently i started waking up from anesthesia after only SEVEN MINUTES! (i thought it would take an hour or two!) i was of course dizzy, woozy, shivering, etc., but i wasn't babbling like a drunken idiot or anything, which i was glad about. my family members came in to see me, 2 at a time because that's all there was room for, and i was glad to see everyone and have that much love around me. i drank some water, and the nurses wrapped me in HEATED BLANKETS... that was so nice. and i dozed awhile. then they kept asking me if i wanted some saltine crackers and i kept politely declining, because i don't really like saltine crackers and have been trying to avoid white flour and processed foods. HAHA, i didn't realize that me eating crackers was a required part of the discharge procedure, so that i could take a percoset with something in my stomach. once i understood that, i said okay to the crackers, and then had to swallow my laughter when a nurse tore open the plastic package of crackers and just kind of tossed 'em onto the blanket covering my chest. my arms and hands were pinned under the blanket, and one arm still had an IV (inner elbow - so i didn't want to bend it), and then i was fumbling to get my available arm out of the blanket to eat these silly crackers that i didn't even want... for some reason, that moment is when the whole day/situation felt especially surreal to me. like, WHAT?? i'm lying on a stretcher half-naked with a needle in one arm, concentrating on finding a way to eat the required crackers that are spread across my chest? really? they left crumbs all over, and it was just so stupid/funny.

OMG, here i am going on and on about the crackers, when really i should be going to BED. i'll update tomorrow with more details. leave it to me to forget to say the big things, like "lymph nodes appear healthy but we'll find out for sure on friday," to instead babble about saltine crackers. ha. time for another percoset.

update!

hello again! this is andee with another update.

i just got off the phone with britta. she is at her mama's house and is pumped full of pain killers that are making her too dizzy to be on the internet for very long. she's doing good and happy that the surgery is over.

and she wanted me to tell you that she has had neon blue pee all day.

out of surgery!

hi everyone! this is britta's friend andee.

i got a call from britta's mom at 1:30pm saying that brit is out of surgery & in recovery. she is groggy, but the surgeon says the surgery went "very very well" and it took a lot less time than they thought it would. they were able to remove the entire lump and they also removed the first three nodes to analyze. on friday brit will find out the results on the nodes, but the surgeon says they "look healthy".

keep sending her healing sweet thoughts!

i'll post again if i hear anything new. xo

Monday, January 4, 2010

Surgery's Still On!

I'm better today! I went to the doctor's this morning, and was told I just have a cold/virus - no infection or anything. And my fever was down to 99.7 this morning, steadily decreased all day, and now it is back to normal. So as long as the fever stays away and I'm still fine in the morning (KNOCK ON WOOD), I'm good to go!

We'll be leaving at 7:30 am for the hospital. At 9:10 I go to the mammography dept for a "needle biopsy something-or-other" procedure, when they'll put a catheter [EDIT: whoever it was on the phone that used this word was wrong!] in my boob. OH JOY. Then I have to be transported by WHEELCHAIR (due to the pain meds, apparently) to the "Same Day Program Area," where I'll quickly talk with the anesthesiologist and my surgeon again... and then surgery should be 3.5 hours. Recovery from anesthesia will take about 2 hours, and then I should be able to leave by 3:30 or 4 pm.

I'm leaving my cell phone with my family tomorrow, so if you want to call it for an update or to leave a message, one of my family members may even answer it! :) If you don't have my cell phone number, you can get it from my FB page if we are friends on FB... Because I'm obviously not going to post it in a public blog! And Andee will probably be updating my blog for me until I am well enough to do it myself - thank you, Andee!

Thank you all so much for your love and support. I'm feeling much better today not just physically, but emotionally. I feel calm again, and ready.

I will end with something funny - when the nurse called me this afternoon to give me instructions and details for tomorrow, one thing she told me was not to wear deodorant tomorrow, because "if there is alcohol in it, it may pose a fire hazard in the operating room." HAAAA! Can you imagine if my armpits burst into flames mid-surgery?! That would be hilarious.

Okay, gonna get ready for dinner and early bed. Thanks, all. XOXOX

Sunday, January 3, 2010

I'm Sick

Surgery is the day after tomorrow, and I'm sick. :( I barely slept last night, then woke up with a fever, cough, and headache, and just generally feel like crap. I had to cancel everything fun I had planned for today, which really made me upset, and I have spent almost the entire day in bed - either sleeping, dozing with my cat, reading, watching Girl Interrupted, or eating vegetables and drinking tons of water. I keep repeatedly taking my temperature in hopes that the thermometer is wrong, but the stupid fever lingers.

Hindsight tells me that I should have seen this coming. I was feeling this slightly-panicky feeling of "oh no, only a few days left of freedom and then I'll be an invalid - better make the most of these days!!" And I totally overdid it. I had a really stressful day of work on Dec. 30; then on New Year's Eve, I went out to dinner with friends then stayed up way too late at a party; then in the morning I went to a brunch potluck then spent the rest of the afternoon having a crying meltdown [not BECAUSE of the brunch potluck, though] and again stayed up way too late; and then yesterday I went to visit friends in the afternoon, then had dinner and went ice skating with another friend last night; and today I was ACTUALLY going to try to have a morning mocha with friends, go to a handstands workshop, go to a clothing swap, have dinner at a friend's house, then go out for tea with another friend. It's hard, because I really really WANT to be spending all of this time with my friends and doing exciting things like handstands and ice skating... but I really should have just spent these last few days before surgery resting. Now my body is FORCING me to, with this stupid fever.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Anger

I just spent a while crying in my bed, buried under the covers. I hadn't cried like that since the first few days after diagnosis. I've been doing so well...I didn't see that meltdown coming. But I guess I should have... I had been noticing for the past few days that minor things have been making me extremely irritated and/or upset. e.g. I truly almost cried when the Co op was closed, and when my stack of tortillas were so frozen together I couldn't get one out of the package without ripping it, and when my attempt at transferring songs from iTunes to my MP3 player failed. Not being able to find a matching pair of socks made me want to kick something, and getting stuck in the snow on Crosby hill made me want to scream. But I didn't allow myself to cry, or kick, or scream. And I guess I've just been holding it all back for so long that today I couldn't help bursting into tears.

Of course, tortillas falling apart and mismatched socks are not really what I'm so upset about. They are just convenient things to attach my emotions to because it's pretty freaking scary and overwhelming to be crying about cancer instead. But now I am. And mostly, they are tears of anger. I don't want cancer. I don't want go to the hospital. I don't want to have surgery in 5 days. I don't want to open the bill from the hospital that's been sitting on my kitchen table since yesterday. I don't want to start off the new year by being bedridden when I should be on the trapeze instead. I don't want to have to choose between having poison injected into my bloodstream, and risking the surprise return of a much more aggressive cancer if I refuse chemo. I don't want to be talking about cancer anymore. FUCK CANCER.

I guess I need to cry... these tears are long overdue. But I hate crying. And I don't know what to do with myself right now. I have friends I could call, friends who have told me to call them at anytime, but I hate crying on the phone. And I can't decide if I want to be alone or if I want a friend with me now. It's tempting to distract myself with DVDs or books or something, but I know - I've learned the hard way - that that doesn't really help in the long run. The only way to get through these difficult emotions is to just let them run their course. Distracting myself with DVDs right now would just push the tears aside for later, at which time they'd come back twice as strong. So I might as well just sit here and cry now and get it over with. Goddammit, I hate this.

Why do I have to have cancer??? I promised myself I wouldn't be one of "those people" who sits around wailing "WHY ME?!", but...honestly, that's where I'm at right now. This moment will pass, I know, and I'll be strong and optimistic once more...but right now, I am a crying mess and that's just the way it is. I'm scared and I'm mad and I just want to go back to my life the way it was a couple months ago, when I had no idea I had cancer and I felt great and life was happy and good.

The really twisted thing is, I would never have even KNOWN I had cancer if the doctors hadn't told me. I can't feel it, I have no symptoms... I almost wish I DID have symptoms or pain of some kind, because it would make the idea of surgery more palatable right now. Because I've felt GREAT even with this stupid tumor in me, and now it's the TREATMENTS that are going to make me feel like shit. If I were in pain right now, then at least I could be eager for the surgery that would ease that pain. But since I have been feeling so healthy and well, it's so hard to mentally prepare myself for surgery that's going to fuck all that up, and BRING pain instead of alleviating it. I know I know I know the tumor has to be removed, because eventually it could grow bigger and be dangerous and hurt me. But there's a little voice inside of me cruelly wondering if the tumor is the kind that's so slow-growing and non-aggressive that I could go the rest of my long, long life without ever being bothered by it. It's certainly possible, but my rational brain understands that there's no way of knowing and I can't afford to take the risk. But it still SUCKS.

Happy fucking New Year...

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EDITED:
It's a few hours later now, and I'm getting better...
I did 45 mins of yoga, and ate some good food, read a few chapters of a novel with a protagonist who has it worse than I do, had some chocolate, read some of the tao... I'm now looking forward to getting a good night's sleep.