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Archive for April, 2012

I told Amy I’d fill in (comparatively poorly, I’m sure) for her here until she’s feeling well enough to update you all herself, in her own amazing words.

I do want to take the opportunity (while she’s still in surgery and can’t give me a hard time) to just take a minute to reflect on how amazing, strong, determined, and loved she is.  She knows she is surrounded by loving, compassionate friends, family, coworkers, etc.  And just as she has helped us all through one drama, crisis, challenge, and joy at one time or another, we’re all here for her, too.  I’m not even going through what she is, the choices she’s had to make, and the ones she hasn’t been able to make (like running away and ignoring all this 🙂 and I am so moved by people that have reached out to me to check in on her, offer a hug, kind and encouraging words, even cupcakes.

You’re one in a million Amy Lee, we love you like crazy.  I hope that all these good wishes, good vibes, hugs, kind words and gestures, are keeping you company while you’re in surgery today. 

And I can’t wait to update everyone that you’re smiling and ready to tackle the next challenge.

 

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I am so thankful I went out with a bunch of friends and family last night because I drank a little too much and slept like a baby. Of course that’s not the ONLY reason I’m glad I went out with them, but it was definitely a bonus. Had I not, I would have not been able to sleep and just laid there making lists in my head, worrying and probably crying. So instead, I’ve woken up refreshed – and jittery!

I am scared to death. I have never been in the hospital for anything other than my son being born, when I was so excited to finally meet and hold him, and an emergency D and C when I was having a really bad miscarriage, and then I was losing so much blood I was practically passed out, so I wasn’t worrying about anything except mourning the loss of the baby I wanted. So I am not used to this anticipation of impending doom. I was starting a depressed/bitchy spiral yesterday afternoon before going out and texted Tara that I felt like Anne Boleyn waiting for her head to get chopped off. She made me laugh with her response (“In three days you’ll be back on your way towards crazy sex and love with a king, though. And she’ll still be dead. :)” How do I argue with that? And my mood began to lift.

I have a ton of errands to do today. Things I need/want to bring to the hospital (long bathrobe, laptop cover before I destroy the new mac) and things I need/want at home (new comforter tops the list), pack for the hospital, make sure everything is in some semblance of order here and hopefully lunch with Tina and the girls. I know I am going to run around to try to keep my nerves at bay. My hands are already literally shaking and my mind (and probably my heart) is racing with a zillion things – what if I forget this, what if I don’t have time for that?!?! As I tell everyone else: Deep breath! It will all be fine. And I know whatever I miss someone else will take care of. I’m so used to doing everything for myself, it’s just hard to think that way… And in a way it’s good to be focused on that stuff because then I’m not thinking about what’s actually happening tomorrow and the longer I don’t think about that, the better, in my opinion. Yup – back to denial and I want to stay there every second I can!

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I had a wonderfully relaxing three days in Florida. I got some rest, some sun and a whole lot of love.

I also realized it will be incredibly difficult to detach from work. This may be a surprise to some, but I really thought it was going to be easy to turn the laptop and blackberry off. Yet I worked some of every day I was in Florida and felt bad not being at work for all the events happening, both planned and unplanned. Then when Vanessa said she’s cutting off the work talk from here on out, I felt like she was putting me out in the cold (for my own good, of course). I take comfort in the fact that I will be able to coax stuff out of her along the way (maybe bribe) – and that I do have other sources! David was right, though: this ain’t gonna to be easy.

But it was so nice to have a few days with this part of my family and somewhat away from all the cancer stuff. I spent as much time as I could with my crazy fun nephews, who I hate living so far away from but who are always so excited to see me, even when I’m not with their cool cousin Nick. And it’s amazing how their minds work. You wouldn’t think they would really get what is going on with me, but when they played the lottery Friday (with the fortune cookie numbers that eight-year-old Hudson instantly memorized), Holden said was that if they win he is going to donate all the money to cancer research.  Not what I’d expect from a six-year-old. I didn’t even know he knew cancer needed research!  I guess you can’t underestimate what young ones absorb and take to heart…

I also found that you’re never too old for your dad to teach you something new. We spent a leisurely morning at the beach treasure hunting. I have always been great at finding beach treasures – at least they are treasures to me: shells, rocks, sand dollars, starfish, hermit crabs. But I’ve never found a shark tooth, although I’ve tried. This time, dad taught me how – what to look for (the shape, the gum line), how to tell how old they are (black are the oldest – billions of years, brown – millions of years and white – most recent) and that they are lighter than rocks and shells so you have to grab them before the water sweeps them away. He started finding a bunch (including a big brown one that’s about an inch wide.) Then I started to catch on and finally found my first shark tooth! I soon found a few more and went home with my pink Red Sox baseball cap full of beach treasures. Dad made me take all the shark teeth – except I gave the first one I found to him.

 

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I have not connected with others who have gone through or are going through the same thing as me. Yesterday a woman I work with came up to me and said that when she was going through cancer the number one thing that helped her was joining a support group. Talking and being with people who really understood because they were facing the same thing.

I am sure she is right. It was definitely reading through breast cancer discussion boards – essentially eavesdropping on other women’s conversations – that helped me make the double mastectomy decision. That, and reading about Christina Applegate (and seeing her fabulous new boobs – can I look just like that please?) and watching Giuliana and Bill, the reality show about E talk show host Giuliana Rancic and her husband Bill (first winner of The Apprentice), who happen to be going through the same thing in this season’s episodes.

But I haven’t actually written anything on any of those boards. And while so many of my friends and family have offered to connect me to people they know who have been through this, I haven’t taken anyone up on it. Yes, I guess I’ve still been holding on to that last bit of denial.

You probably wouldn’t know it by talking to me. At work, so many people know that I’m almost surprised when someone doesn’t. As people have heard just that I’ll be out, they’ve asked where I’m going – somewhere nice? Somewhere tropical? Poor Steve, I just spurted “breast cancer” and shrugged. His eyes widened and mouth dropped, and I felt so bad for saying it that way. “I’m sorry,” I explained, “It’s just become automatic.” So it appears I have faced it and am sailing through, but as a handful know, it’s not necessarily true. I have a lot of dealing to do. And I should probably start by making some of those connections…

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Written this morning

I’m sitting on the plane, on my way to visit my family in Florida. What is my reading material? Two magazines: Dana Farber’s Paths of Progress and Breast Cancer Wellness. We haven’t even taken off and my eyes start to fill. I never thought this would be me. I don’t want my life to be about cancer. I don’t want to read this stuff. I want to read novels. Or the Steve Jobs biography. Or Shades of Grey, which I now see everywhere since Tina told me everyone is talking about.

Last book I read? Why I Wore Lipstick to My Mastectomy.  Don’t get me wrong – it is excellent and I am so thankful Geralyn Lucas wrote it because as far as I’ve come on my journey, so much of what she’s said is right on. We’re very similar and so I can see some of what I’m going to be going through. It isn’t all pretty, but it has a happy ending and I’m determined mine will too. (I highly recommend it for anyone wondering what this is like – or you can watch the lifetime movie based on the book – it’s free on the web site, link above. I haven’t watched it yet but plan to.)

I know I need to read, to study, to learn. At dinner last night Mike asked me if there are certain foods I should be eating now or after surgery. I know there are but I haven’t really looked into it. And he asked about other things like certain types of exercise or specific things I’ll need. I don’t know. I haven’t wanted to deal with it. Surgery is Monday. I guess it’s time to find out.

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Letting go

April 24, 2012

Today was my last day at work for a while – hopefully only six weeks or so, but possibly more. It’s not easy letting go. I love my job and the people I work with – they couldn’t be more supportive. And I know I couldn’t be leaving things in better hands – thank goodness Vanessa joined us in January! I do feel guilty leaving her with it all, but I know she’ll kill me for saying that and that it will all be just fine. And I will do as promised and turn my work laptop and blackberry off on Sunday and will not turn it back on until the doctor clears me. I know that, as a work friend/cancer survivor told me Monday, my job will be to get better.

Before Monday’s surgery I am going to visit my Florida/Tennessee parents Dad and Maggie, and my brother Steve, his wife Kelli and my nephews Hudson and Holden. While it’s not quite the trip I had initially envisioned or would prefer, as I’m going alone, that can’t be helped and it’s still important I go. I need to show my family (especially my dad) that I really am fine and will be throughout all of this. I know it’s especially hard for them being so far away. And I get to see my two precious and rambunctious nephews. And hey, who couldn’t use a pre-surgery tan?

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Why do we never take our own advice? Someone close to me recently had to make a life-changing decision – nothing would ever be the same either way. She was really torn. Like this, there was no good decision – the options both sucked in their own way. It seemed so simple to me: either try the 10-10-10 method from Suzy Welch (thanks to Kristen for buying me that book!) , where you consider how you will feel about a decision in 10 minutes, 10 months and 10 years (or similar), or simply pick a choice, convince yourself you’ve made the decision and live with it for a few days and see how it makes you feel. She listened to me, did some considering in her own way, and then made her decision and stuck to it.

So here I am with this major decision, trying to figure it out, and did I even remember what I told my friend just days ago? Of course not! Not until I ended up doing one by accident. And it did work, because it clearly showed me where my heart was. Here’s what happened…

Today was pre-op. I went to work in the morning and then to the hospital for meeting after meeting after meeting.I still wasn’t sure if I was going with the single or the double. I hate being indeceisive, but just wasn’t sure. I wanted clarification on the money part, though, before finalizing anything, so I called my health insurance. I was told that they would only pay for the left breast if it was deemed ‘medically necessary’ – so if it also had cancer. Well, there you go. I do not have thousands of dollars to do the other side. So it will just be one. The decision was made for me. And… my heart sank. But I knew there was no debating with her, so I said thank you, took the reference number and hung up. I’d have to accept that.

Fast forward to the hospital. I filled Mom and Mark in while waiting for the first appointment. We went in and spoke to the woman about the surgical consent. And there on the first line: bilateral mastectomy. I explained to her what the health insurance had said, she said she would need to get a new form, and called my surgeon’s office. Since she wouldn’t be able to talk to them for a few hours, we were sent on to my other appointments and told she’d catch up to us with the right form later in the afternoon.

So as we went to the different meetings, I digested the fact that it would be a single. And that I’d have to keep coming back here and continually checking the other breast. And going through all the tests. And then the worry any time anything unusual showed up. And the possibility of having to do it all over again. And (sorry – vanity) that I wouldn’t match. It just sucked, and felt like this is only the beginning – now it’s really never going to end.

At the last appointment (anesthesiologist), we met back up with the original (surgical consent) person, as well as talked to my surgeon’s assistant. Their news: my health insurance cannot deny me. It’s part of the Women’s Health and Cancer Rights Act – they have to pay for all related to the other breast, too, to make it symmetrical. To mom and Mark’s surprise, I immediately smiled, said yes, I want the double and signed the consent form. Living with the thought of only having a single, even for those few hours, showed me my true feelings. We all discussed it a bit, I explained, and the anesthesiologist said more and more younger women are electing this, so they don’t have to live with the constant fear of reoccurrence. And the younger we are, the longer we have to live (we hope) and so the more chance we have of it showing up again. No thank you, I want to be done, at least as much as possible.

Another bonus to my decision? I just learned I won’t have to take the Tamoxifen for five years, so there won’t be that concern if I’m ever again in a place where I want to have another child (don’t worry Nick, I’m not there yet!). But it is nice to have some positive options in my future…

Oh – and something that surprised me: tonight at dinner Nick said he knew that was what I was going to do. He turned to Alivia and she confirmed that he said that a week ago. He said that he knew I, like he, would want to do everything I could to just be done with it. And he was right. Like mother, like son. Next time maybe I should ask him what I should do? Hmmm… will really have to think about that one!

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