I can’t actually call myself much of a blogger anymore since I looked back at my stats and, gasp! the last blog was in October. Yikes. How times slips by. But thismomisalwayswrite is still my blog and I can come and go as I need to. It’s been an outlet for me. Where I try to be witty at times, poignant at others and then just darn corny at others. Cant help it. It’s just me.
In any case, so much has happened in the last several months, I don’t even know where to start.
I guess the beginning would be good.
We can really talk first about Sandy. The hurricane. Remember her? Darn bitch too if I can be truthful here. Caused soon much physical damage, and pain and anguish to so many people it just is unimaginable. Sure up here in the sticks, we lost our power for a while but we a did get a generator the day before and a kind electrician trudged through downed limbs and floods to hook us up the day after. And I picked up my mom who lives near the Connecticut shoreline and she stayed with us for a while until her town’s power came back on. No biggie. A Halloween Trick or Trunk event where the town’s park was lined with decorated cars and people gave out candy to kids was a sure light in our darkened town that Halloween night.
But then seeing the photos of Staten Island and Queens and Far Rockaway, a place that my own mom had lived for y ears,completely decimated, and I just couldn’t bear not to try to help. A teacher at our town’s middle school grew up in Breezy Point and did an everything drive for residents out there. Me thinks I bought out the whole Kmart store and packed bins of whatever I could think of and dropped them off in the lobby of the school that was already so full of things from people willing to help. A beautiful thing in the aftermath of the awful.
Ands then there was the other Sandy. Sandy Hook Elementary School, just a few short miles away from here. Words can not even begin to express the sadness and grief the world is feeling. For most of us around here in our little Connecticut neck of the woods, it was not a six degrees of separation situation. It was one degree. Everyone knew someone affected by this awful tragedy. A child, a teacher, a principal, a mom, a dad, a first responder, a friend, an ER doctor, a funeral director. Someone. And the dark grey cloud has been over us since. Yes, life does go on and the kids are now back in their new school thanks to the kindness of neighboring Monroe. And everyday gets easier. Maybe. I don’t know and can’t even imagine. But yes life does go on. We pray everyday for the sadness and heavy burden to ease.
So that brings this to my own life. As I type this latest blog, I am resting in bed after surgery. I was diagnosed in early November with breast cancer again. Not a recurrence. So that part is good. It’s a new breast cancer, in the other breast. It’s been 15 years for me, so needless to say, it was a shock to hear the words again.
For those who know me, since I came out of the closet so to speak as a breast cancer survivor prior to my first Avon Walk for Breast Cancer in 2007, I have been a diligent and perhaps at times annoying advocate for early detection, breast exams and mammograms at 40, regardless of what new AMA directive came out. Every year I wish my friends, family and those brave enough to be my Facebook friends a Happy Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October with a little reminder to get checked: how ever you need to. Dense breast ultrasounds, regular mammos whatever.
I even had my annual mammo on 10/10/12. Looking back, that sounded like a lucky number. In early November, my breast surgeon’s office called to remind me of my annual appointment with her. I hadn’t written it down, forgot about it and almost canceled. I thought better about canceling because she is the lady and I may not get back on her crazy schedule for a looooong while. So I went.
And when I got there, she threw my mammos up on the xray film thingy and said “They missed something. Here.” I didn’t have my cheater readers on so I couldn’t make out the microscopic things she called calcifications up there on the film. She even called the radiologist while I sat there and basically asked him WTF? How did you miss this. (She’s awesome by the way. I love her.)
In any case, she immediately set me up for a stereotactic biopsy the following Monday. In case you don’t know what that is, you lie on a table, boob through a hole, they squeeze it in a mammogram machine from underneath and then take samples. Yeah.
So that was fun to look forward to. But while she was examining me in her office, she found a lump, one that I had been feeling but thought it was one of the gazillion fibroid adenomas she’d already biopsied. Nope. New one. Damn. “Have five minutes and we’ll test it now?” Sure. I had time and she, being so diligent herself wanted it done. So one core biopsy (like a staple gun) later, an ice pack in my bra and instructions for Monday at the hospital for the stereotactic and I was good to go. She was pretty confident that this little thing was nothing. She was more concerned about the two other ones she’d get next week. I’d have the results from the core then.
Just so you know, procedures before a weekend suck. Your mind goes to dark places, yup. Dark.
Anyway, Monday came and my daughter was sick. I begged and bribed her to go to school so my husband could drive me. No go. She really was sick. So off I went alone with my very now blue and black and yellow boob from the core biopsy.
I don’t need to go into details. An upside down mammo with your boob in a hole and neck in a funky position — could only have been designed by a man. Maybe a nicer man would have used tempurpedic, but that’s for another discussion.
Anyway, after the first lesion was tested and my doc was getting ready for the second, she sat down in front of me and gave me the results from her office biopsy. “You have cancer again.” It threw me and my initial reaction was a few tears and then anger. Get these things off. Now.
She didn’t even get to the second lesion. I was going to have a double mastectomy with reconstruction and that was that. It was something that I had been thinking about as the one that I had radiated 15 years ago was smaller than the other, which was really now a B long. It hung there and I had to pad my bra to get some symmetry. She asked me every time I saw her over the years about reconstruction and I just didn’t want to do it. I had an excuse every time. Want to breast feed, kids too young, don’t want to go under anesthesia if I don’t have to, there’s nothing wrong with the good one (except the droopiness) blah blah blah.
She looked at me while I sat on the table, wiping away a few tears and told me, “Now you have too. I am making you.” And that was that. My decision was made.
The hard part was the timing. Just my husband and I knew as we hosted Thanksgiving with smiles. And lots of wine. And then we waited to tell the kids. There was always a reason not to. We decorated the tree, my daughter’s annual Nutcracker, my sister’s visit from LA, a party. Just not the right time. And then on December 13, we sat them down and told them about it. My daughter cried a little and my son hugged me and said he would say lots of prayers. It went smoothly. We had prepped each one of their teachers at the parent/teacher meetings as well as the school social worker so we were good to go. I had the best night’s sleep I’d had in a month.
And then Sandy Hook happened and everything, I mean every single thing paled in comparison. I cried for days for these people, did what I could to help with the things happening in our town and tried to tell my own kids that things like this don’t usually happen. That school is still safe and a police officer would now be there making it safer for them. I could not hug my kids and every friends’ kids enough. So close. Too close.
The grief and sadness I felt for the people of Newtown was the one thing that took my mind off of what was happening here at home. It was easy not to tell people about me. And it was good not to think too much about it.
But eventually people were finding out and I felt I needed to explain. So cowardly I did it in an email! Not really cowardly but hey, it was now three days away and I just wanted people I cared about to know. And for them to know that it was caught early and a sentinel node biopsy would determine whether surgery would be enough.
And thankfully it is. Negative node, surgery, lots of pain and some new boobs that will soon stand at attention. Yay!
A downside is the type of surgery I had, latissmus dorsi flap that takes a back muscle and tunnels it through to make a new boob on the one that was radiated 15 years ago. (I know .. TMI.) I haven’t looked but my husband was kind and said the scar wasn’t that long. And one of the visiting nurses said “wow that is a big incision.” Yikes.
So there are a lot of things happening. Recovery, from the cancer, from Sandy Hook and trying to get into a comfortable position. Through this ordeal, all of them really, I have learned that Hillary Clinton, though I don’t agree with most of what she has to say, was on the money when she said “It takes a village.”
The support for Hurricane Sandy by strangers and the world over was really awesome. The continued support for the victims of the Sandy Hook tragedy is something I have never seen. It makes me cry every time I see someone reaching out to do something. (And if Extreme Makeover ever sees this, please please please raze that school and give those kids a new place to start over.)
And for me, the continued support I have received from friends, family and neighbors is enough to swell my heart to full. I feel like George Bailey. The richest man in town.
And the very latest thing I have learned is two fold: Do not attempt to blog while on Valium and take meds on a full stomach.
I promise this won’t be a blog about breast cancer, but since it is about my life, and there is that, well, bear with me.