Monday, March 23, 2015

Wish it was good news...

It's been an incredibly long time since I've blogged and whenever I start again, I always think how much I used to enjoy writing, and vow to start again.

Who knows, maybe this time I will.

So much has happened.

My oldest son, Shane,
went off to college at 
the University of Oregon
(he loves it),
my youngest son, Jacob,
turned 16, and just doesn't seem
to need his mama as much as 
he used to because he's
so busy with his own life
(lacrosse, scouts, sailing).

It's all as it should be,
but sometimes it makes me sad
because life has been happening too fast.

And then a few weeks ago, my little
world was rocked.  A routine
mammogram turned into a follow-up
"just to get some clearer pictures",
that turned into a sonogram,
"just to take a better look",
that turned into two biopsies
"because why wait and watch and worry",
that turned into a breast cancer
diagnosis one snowy Friday
morning that sent me into a tailspin.

Here's what you might not know about me.
In life, I'm a glass half full kind of girl - unless it's my health, and then I'm a 
worst case scenario girl.   I'm not
proud of it, it makes me crazy, the anxiety
level I create within my own body with
my mind going to all kinds of terrible
places literally had me sick with
worry until I could meet with 
the breast cancer surgeon.

I had to wait five days to meet with her,
and it was the longest five days of my life.
I tried everything to keep myself calm.
I breathed deeply.
I took more baths in five days than 
I have in five years
(I'm a shower girl),
I tried yoga, I walked, I cried
I cried some more,
I talked to friends,
I talked to my sister and my mother
and I prayed, and then prayed some more
(and then some more)

By the time my appointment with the
surgeon came around I was an absolute
wreck.   My usually perfect blood pressure
was so high, my resting heart rate was off 
the charts, I was so nervous I thought
I would pass out.

My sweet husband, Rob, stayed calm,
he did everything he could to reassure me,
to keep things calm for our 16 year old
(I kept my crying confined to the bedroom!),
and maintained a level of external calm
when he was home that would have won me
an Academy Award.
(At least that's how I see it.)

Right from the get go, the staff at 
the Breast Center at Anne Arundel Medical Center made me feel like it was going to be
okay.   The nurse assured me the type of cancer I have wasn't going to kill me.
"Yeah, right, what do you know, you're not the doctor.."
(Hate to say it, but that's really how I felt in that moment.)

The surgeon came in, talked to me about my options, said what she saw, said I might need a mastectomy, explained all about the sentinel node, talked about my lymph nodes, chemo, and radiation, my family history
and after an exam, more questions and more 
medical terminology asked if
I have children.
Yes, 19 and 16.
And then she assured me I would live to 
see my grandchildren.
That's when I turned to a sobbing mess.

I kept asking them to repeat themselves.  
I was stunned.

But she ordered an MRI and a meeting with
a plastic surgeon.

It was getting so surreal.

The MRI was to "get a better look" to
help determine whether I would need a 
mastectomy or a lumpectomy.

Options were explained, appointments 
were scheduled.  I left the office
feeling better than I could have hoped for.

It was strange.   I still had breast cancer, but for the first time since I got the news, I felt like I was going to be okay.

The next day I had to go to an orientation
type program at the hospital for women facing
breast cancer surgery.   It was surreal.
The week before I was living my life, and
on this Thursday I was in a room on the 6th floor with seven other women.
And we all have breast cancer!
We went around the room like we were new friends taking a knitting class and made
"Hi, I'm Susan, I'm having a double 
mastectomy, surgery April 10th."

"Hi, I'm Carol, bi-lateral lumpectomy...."

It was surreal, I could barely speak, my
anxiety level was at 10+!  We talked
about surgery procedures, support
systems, how to stay calm, where to go for support....
(WTF?  Calm?   We have breast cancer people!!)

When it was over I talked to a woman and
her sister who were sitting next to me, and commented how calm the sister with cancer was and asked how she could be so calm.

Her name was Alandria, and she explained she had no other choice and with her faith in God she is going to beat it, she's a warrior and she needs to stay strong.  

It was such a powerful moment for me because
she was so right!   I decided right then and
there self-pity time was over and 
warrior time was calling!
I have a very strong faith and a very loving family and circle of friends that I know are going to help me through this.  

My new friend, Alandria, told me
I need to turn my fear to faith.

And so that's what I try to do, and for the
most part, I'm doing okay.

But then, five more days go by and the morning of the MRI I had myself so worked up with fear 
(the faith part was out the window!)
I had to take an anti-anxiety medication my
doctor had prescribed for me. 

Rob went to the MRI with me.
30 minutes on my stomach with my breasts 
falling through an opening in the machine
and the whole time I tried to
think positive thoughts,
remind myself that the MRI was to help me,
help the doctors gather as much information
as they could to help me.

And it worked, I made it through it.
Rob and I headed home, I was just emotionally exhausted from worry and not sleeping well.  

Then I went to the beach along the Chesapeake
and walked for hours waiting for the nurse to call with the news. 

I cried.
I prayed.
I breathed deeply.
I called my mother.
I prayed some more.
I was constantly texting my sister and close friends - keeping them informed.

I texted Alandria,
who kept me calm and reminded me
to turn my fear to faith.

Finally around 3:30 the nurse from the
breast center called the house and talked to Rob.   He called to relay the doctor had reviewed the MRI and said the mass is 
actually contained and smaller than they 
originally thought, so I would be a good candidate for a lumpectomy followed up with
radiation.   But of course, nothing is 100% until the surgery is done.

I was thrilled!
I sat on the beach and I sobbed on the
phone with my husband like a baby.
Absolutely sobbed.

I still have breast cancer, but once again
I was starting to feel like in the end,
I will be okay. 

So then I called my mother.
And sobbed like a baby.

And I called my sister.
And sobbed like a baby.

And let my kids know.
Mom's going to be okay.

The next day I had to meet with the
plastic surgeon.   What a treat!
(Major sarcasm!)
Sitting in a room in front of an Olan Mills
type black velvet cloth for pictures
of my afflicted breast and the other one
that would be getting a lift and reduction
to match the cancer stricken breast.   

With the doctor, his nurse, and my husband all taking a peek, measuring, sketching,
drawing how the surgery is done.  


And so now, I wait.
Surgery is scheduled for April 27th.

I'm still praying, and trusting in my faith,
but I'm not as full of anxiety and fear
as I was.   A calmness has taken over.
(Hell, it could just 
be the anti-anxiety meds!)
But, I'll take it.  

It's just surreal, because wherever I am,
whatever I'm doing, in the back of my mind, 
I'm thinking, "I have breast cancer."

And it's just so surreal.

And I just want to do something about it!
I don't want to wait! 
Let's go, get it the hell out of me! 

Everyone says it must not be really bad,
the doctors are waiting over a month for your
surgery, while others are going in much sooner who were diagnosed at the same time, 
and I am taking that as a good sign.

And I'm praying my new found sisters
with breast cancer will also be warriors,
and that their journey's fear will be
replaced with faith, and I look forward
to the day we can all say,
"I survived breast cancer"

I kicked its ass.


Sue said...

Gail, you've GOT THIS. Just like everything you've tried since I've known you, you POWER through it. You are FAR stronger than you have ever thought and I'm right here with you. Every step. XOX

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