Friday, August 31, 2007

More Fun in the Center Ring

So my 30 minute MRI turned in to 2 1/2 hour affair. No issues, just mostly waiting. I had to be injected with gadalidium so they could see the cancer better. When they injected it, I felt a little warm and tingly, however the thing I noticed most was the distinctive taste of burning dog hair in the back of my throat. Of course, how I would know exactly what burning dog hair tastes like is beyond me. A very strange experience indeed. I won't know results until next week sometime...

I've been blessed during my life not to have had any major health issues. So I'm marveling at all of the new considerations that have to be made daily. And even about the simplest of things. For instance, having been married nearly 10 years I've not had to pay a whole lot of attention to daily underwear selection. I became blatantly aware today that is something that needs careful consideration before showing up to any medical appointment. Hospital gowns are not known for their, well, coverage. So wearing the big ol' granny undies might be a bit embarrassing. But waltzing in with skimpy Vickie's Secrets could also be a faux pas. And you really have to scrutinize those comfy cotton ones for any blow outs too. This really does take critical planning! My husband said that the undies with the days of the week would probably be safe. But again, you can't just reach in the drawer and grab whatever. Say it's Thursday, but you put on Monday. This could spell disaster as the MRI tech's might assume that you are confused and try to do an MRI of your head instead! So I'm learning that it takes a lot of planning and coordination to be sick.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

The Circus goes Mardi Gras

So it occurred to me that I've been showing by boobs to a lot of strangers lately. I mean A LOT! I was telling my friend Deb of the parade of physicians and residents and many others that have been examining (read: KNEADING) my breasts. Her response was, "Too bad it's not Mardi Gras. You'd have a great collection of beads." What a great way to poke fun at a clinical, albeit sometimes slightly humiliating experience. So here I am, diving in to my mothers coveted collection of beads (although she swears she didn't come by them the "traditional" way - Lord I hope not!!) Each one of these strands represents just the last 2 weeks of exposure. I'm going to continue my collection throughout this experience. I hope my neck is strong enough! Think the doctors will think me crazy if I start wearing them to my appointments?

I've had many comments lately about my positive 'attitude.' I've also been asked repeatedly, 'how are you really doing?' I keep telling people that I am REALLY doing very well. I can't explain it why I feel this happy and hopeful. Certainly most women diagnosed with breast cancer can't possibly feel this way. But since my diagnosis I feel like I've been awakened. Not really like getting a wake-up call, but I feel like I've been sleepwalking and now I'm very alert. I haven't felt any fear or trepidation, but I know that these feelings may come. I feel like I am so lucky to have found this early. Plus there are so many other horrible things going on in the world, and despite this little mole hill to get over, I am so fortunate. I think too that the support and love that I've received from everyone has just filled me with such joy. It is truly beyond any words that I have. Everyone should receive this love and support from everyone, everyday. I can't possibly imagine the kind of world it would be if everyone were filled to the brim of what I've felt everyday since my diagnosis.

My mother and I got into the "mortality" conversation today. She feels it's not fair to talk with me about it, but I completely disagree. It's something that I should talk about, you should talk about, we ALL should talk about. I firmly believe that this is not going to kill me. The statistics would back that assessment up. However, I could step off a curb tomorrow and be creamed by a Mac Truck. So we talked. I told her I intend to live well into my 90's (or longer) as both my grandmothers did. But I think that this, my first 'health crisis', has made me realize that I don't want to live for tomorrow. Looking back, I have no regrets and I think I've had a remarkable life. I was raised on an island in an amazing lifestyle, I've been exposed to many cultures, I've traveled extensively, I've sailed the oceans, I've sung and recorded CD's in Russia and Carnegie Hall, I've helped make movies, I've eaten some of the most amazing (and exotic) foods, I've drunk some incredible wine, I've taught young minds, I've saved a life or two, I've loved deeply, laughed loudly, cried unabashedly, and surrounded myself with truly amazing people. How could I possibly have regrets?! One of my most favorite movie lines keeps echoing in my mind during the last 10 days: "Get busy livin' or get busy dyin'." Wise words for all...

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

...Still Waiting

Well, I had a 3 hour appointment today, but I'm still not any closer to knowing what is going to happen. I met most the "Breast Cancer Team" today. This consists of the surgeon, the radiation oncologists, the program coordinator, and a volunteer. This is a teaching institution so I didn't even list the residents and fellows. AND I didn't get to meet the medical oncologists or the plastic surgeon (vacation time ya know.) Essentially this was just a 'meet n' greet.' They discussed ALL of the options with me, however the upshot is they just can't make any concrete determinations of what I need until I have an MRI, which is scheduled for Friday. They would then like me to meet with the oncologist and the plastic surgeon, just so I can make a completely informed decision. I have an appointment with the plastic surgeon on 9/13, so I'm certain that NOTHING is going to happen prior to then.

So in a nutshell, my options are as follows:

  • Lumpectomy and radiation - They remove the "offensive" tissue and conserve as much of my breast as possible. Then I would have radiation. This can either be external (they would light me up once a day for 6 weeks) or there is a study that they could put a balloon of sorts into the area that they took out and inject that balloon with liquid radiation (radiator fluid?) for twice a day for 5 days.
  • Mastectomy with reconstructive surgery: They lop that sucker off and stick on a new one. No, really... They would remove the "offensive" tissue along with everything else and then, during the same surgery, they reconstruct a new one. This can be done in a few ways: first is the usual method that is favored by SO many in Hollywood (can you say implant), or they can take "belly fat" (their words, not mine) and make a more natural breast out of... ME. During this explanation all I could think of was, "Can they take it from my ass? I've got plenty there to spare!" I'll save that question for the plastics guy.
Either one of these options are still on the table. Usually they would suggest the first option, but because I'm so "young" my chances of recurrence are higher. Again, they urged me to wait to make any sort of decision until the MRI results are back. It may give us reason to lean in one direction more than the other.

So again, we wait. I have to say I am still upbeat, but a little disappointed we aren't closer to resolving this. Again with the patience stuff. Hurrumph!!!

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Welcome to the Bigtop

I stumbled across a great website this morning. "The Circus of Cancer." Kinda gives me an idea of what I'm in for... I never did like the circus. Well, Cirque de Soliel was cool. But Barnum and Bailey freaked me out a little. I think it was the clowns.

I'm inserting a link about how to talk to a friend with cancer. I feel like much of it is very good information. I can't begin to say how much everyone's support strengthens me. If I'm feeling low, I can just replay the voicemail or read the email sending encouragement and I feel better. But surprisingly, I find it a little overwhelming at times. So please don't be offended if I don't immediately return phone calls or e-mails. After reciting the story of my diagnosis for the 15th or 20th time, I become a little exhausted. And I'm sure the repeated conversations are weighing on my family also. Everyone has their own way of dealing with this, even in my household of 3 there are drastically differing attitudes, emotions, and questions among us. Something I've gleaned from many websites is that a lot of patience is required to get through. Patience was never my strongest virtue, but I guess God is really gonna teach me that lesson this time!

Friday, August 24, 2007

Day 4: Post-diagnosis

Well, it's the end of the first week and I don't feel any differently than I did a week ago. I had the breast biopsy on 8/16. The news came Monday afternoon. Ductal Carcinoma In Situ. As far as cancer goes, I drew a pretty good card. It is one of the most treatable forms. That doesn't mean treatment is going to be easy. The next couple of months are going to suck! I see the surgeon on Tuesday. Surgery is definitely in my future; the question is how extensive... I guess my dreams of becoming a topless dancer are out. Oh well. Guess I'll have to save the world instead.