Archive for December, 2010

Peas or Corn?

Sunday, December 19th, 2010

What a crazy week it has been.  I can’t begin to tell you how many times I have heard the phrases, “undress from the waist up” and “it opens from the front”.  “I know the drill”, I respond, as the nurse hands me a bright colored smock.  My breasts have become a free for all, definitely not a time to be modest.  Ultrasounds, MRI’s, biopsies, cold hands, touching, probing and taking pictures, like stars on a stage.  Thank goodness I do not suffer from stage fright.

I have been to one doctor or another every day for the last week.  I am, in what I call, the “information gathering stage.”  Information gathering is kind of like finding all the pieces to a puzzle.  As you find each piece, you then slowly fit the pieces together until you can see the whole picture.  It takes time, patience, perseverance and patience.  Did I mention patience?

This week several more pieces to the puzzle have been unearthed.  Unfortunately,  the MRI picked up several additional areas on my right breast that look suspicious so I had to go back for three more biopsy’s, five in all.  Damn, this last one hurt.  I actually found myself lying on the floor because I almost fainted after they squeezed my breast between two cold glass panes immediately following the biopsies.  Not fun.  If the cancer has spread, then the doctor’s are recommending a mastectomy instead of a lumpectomy.  Of course, I was hoping for the latter.  I will see more of the picture this week when I get the results of the latest biopsies.  “Patience, my dear,” I tell myself. 

Due to my “super mom” syndrome, I did not make plans for carpool that evening, and I found myself driving to Santa Ana during rush hour traffic to pick up Casey and the gang at OCHSA immediately following the biopsies.  Not one of my better ideas.  I was in severe pain and no meds for me since I am on a very strict healing macrobiotic diet right now.  No meat, dairy, fruit, sugar, alcohol.  That means NO chocolate covered almonds, NO salmon, NO avocados, NO Corona and NO Advil.   That is a lot of “no’s” for “The Yes Mom.”  What is left to eat you ask, not much.  Whole grains, beans, seaweed and vegetables.  Yummy!  But honestly, I actually feel great.  It is hard to believe I have breast cancer.  I have lost weight, my skin is clear and I have amazing energy.  I also smell like green leafy vegetables. 

As I was leaving The Breast Center (an entire center dedicated to breasts), my doctor told me I must go directly home, do not pass go, do not collect $200 and crawl into bed and ice my boobies so that there is no bleeding internally.  Apparently, internal bleeding makes it very difficult for the surgeon and causes nasty bruising.  The doctor could tell from the ultra sound that I did not “ice” or rest enough after my last biopsies.  You can keep no secrets from the ultra sound.  I promised her I would, right after I pick up carpool. 

Fifteen minutes later, I got onto the I5 freeway and headed north towwards the school.  As I approached the school, I was sick with pain and the ice pads they gave me were warm.  “Ice, ice baby” kept playing in my head.  I remember someone telling me one time that frozen peas make a perfect ice pack.  So, I parked at a small local Mexican market near the school where English is a second language.  I slowly headed to the back of the store looking for the freezer section, feeling as if I may faint or throw up from the pain at anytime.  I was bleeding through my ace bandage and I was sure people were staring at me as if I was on drugs or something.  I must have been a strange site.  As I stood staring at the huge selection of frozen vegetables, I could not decide between the peas or the corn. I stood there frozen like the vegetables, staring, confused and in a fog.  “Peas or corn”, I asked myself.  “Peas or corn”, I thought again.  “Girl, just grab an f#$*% bag”, I said to myself exasperated.   I finally grabbed a package of peas.  They were frozen solid like a brick.  Corn it is then.  I went through the checkout stand, paid for the corn, got back into my car, carefully squeezed the frozen bag of corn between the layers of my ace bandage and picked up the kids at school. 

This experience was a true reality check for me, a reminder of what I am facing.  I need to accept that life is “not as usual” right now.   Normal has a new meaning for me and I need to shift gears and focus on the more important thing, healing.

This is one of my favorite times of the year.  I love Christmas.  As I watch people shopping for presents, decorating their homes in twinkly lights, mailing cards to loved ones and baking cut out cookies, I admit, I am a little envious.  Most of my time is being spent putting all the pieces of the puzzle together so I can kick some cancer ass.  Dealing with long lines, traffic and other holiday stresses does not seem so bad to me right now.  In fact, I would be happy to spend the day at a busy crowded mall instead of another Doctor’s office.  It is moments like these when I really appreciate the “normal” because, as I have learned, your life can change in a heartbeat.  I truly look forward to the day when I am faced with the decision of choosing peas or corn for dinner, not as an ice pack.  Patience my dear!

PS.  I did take some time for “Daisy Chain” this week.  We had a concert last night.  I still know how to have fun!!!

Kicking Some Cancer Ass

Sunday, December 5th, 2010

There is no way to gently break the news so I will just go ahead and say it.  I was diagnosed with breast cancer this week.  When I first received my diagnosis, I said these words out loud to myself over and over again making special effort to emphasize each word as if reiteration would dull the shock of it.  “I have breast cancer.”  “I HAVE breast Cancer.”  “I have BREAST cancer.”  “I have breast CANCER.”  I thought if I could actually taste these wretched words as they roll off my tongue, smell the stench as they permeate the air, and feel the sharp pain as they sting my body, my heart and my soul, I would believe it.

It all began about two weeks ago, when I found a lump on my right breast.  I knew when I first felt a hard knot the size of a marble located at 6 o’clock that it was not supposed to be there.  I always wondered if I would be able to discern a normal lump from a “not normal” lump.  Apparently I can.  I say this for all of you women out there that have worried about this as well.  I called my doctor first thing the next morning and they got me in that afternoon.  The nurse practitioner agreed that it was “suspicious”. 

A few days later, right before Thanksgiving on my husband’s birthday, I found myself having my breast smashed between two cold panes of glass as low dose amplitude x-rays were taking pictures.  Not fun.  Then, I was lying on a table with high frequency sound waves traveling into my breast transmitting an image of the area onto a monitor.  Once the technician found the “mass”, as they called it, two small incisions were made and a long needle-like tool stuck into me as the oncologist probed for a sample of tissue both from my breast and a lymph node.  I was there for four hours.  The oncologist said, “Deanne, I will call you after the Thanksgiving holidays with the results,” but I knew.

Thanksgiving in Arizona with my family taking a tour of the National Reserves while waiting for diagnosis.

My cell phone rang Monday evening after the holidays.  Maggie and I were in the car on our way to her tutoring session at the library.  The oncologist asked me if I was alone.  “No, I am with my daughter,” I responded.  She asked, “Would you like me to call you back?” God no, I thought.  I have waited six days. Six days!  I do not want to wait one more f$%@# minute.  “No, I will pull over,” I uttered.  It’s hard to articulate the exact feeling that came over me as I heard her say, “You have breast cancer.”  An extraordinary calmness of sorts transpired.  I believe having my daughter with me kept me strangely strong but I knew at that moment my life was about to change.  I asked a few questions then hung up and drove Maggie to the library. 

I was diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma and ductal carcinoma in situ, high nuclear grade.  That was a mouthful.  I do not know what stage yet.  That will depend on the MRI and whether or not it has spread to my lymph nodes. 1 in 8 women in Orange County are diagnosed with breast cancer every year.  No two cancers are alike and each woman is treated based on their own characteristics.  Apparently, I am in the minority.  Fourty-four and pre-menopausal is considered young.  Most women are diagnosed post-menopausal. 

Initially, I had this bizarre internal shaking throughout my body, like I was bitterly cold and could not get warm as I set in motion the daunting task of telling my husband, my kids, my family and my friends.  I actually found myself apologizing a few times, “I’m sorry Mom.”  I’m sorry Kevin”.  I truly hated delivering such forbidding news.  I did not want to upset the people I love but I knew I could not do this alone.  It is difficult for me to personally admit that I am in a vulnerable position and to ask for help, a bit of the super mom syndrome I suppose. The thing is, I did not need to ask.  My friends and family stepped up to the plate and have been absolutely generous, supportive and all around amazing.  So to all of you, I could not do this without you. Thank you!

 A few of my fabulous friends and our new band picture and new name, Daisy Chain

On Tuesday, the day after the diagnosis and our 19th wedding anniversary, this strange energy swept through my body, an adrenaline rush of sort.  I still went to band practice and park day and soccer.  I had dinner to make for the kids and laundry to do and Kevin and I went for sushi to celebrate.  Life does not stop for such things. 

I was also on a mission to learn everything I could possibly learn.  Knowledge is power and I intended to empower myself.   

Two days later, I crashed and burned.  Sobbing tears finally broke the surface and I cried.  Up to that point, I was bone dry.  I woke up before the sun and birds that morning after a restless sleep and a sick and frightening panic overwhelmed me.  All those words I repeated over and over again earlier, I have breast cancer, I HAVE breast cancer, I have breast CANCER hit me like a locomotive.  The reality finally sunk in.  I may lose my breast, my ovaries or possibly my life.  This is for real.   

These last few days after my meltdown, I have taken charge.  I have been busy talking to insurance companies, making doctor’s appointments, researching on-line, reading books and registering for a macrobiotic retreat in Northern California with a renowned macrobiotic counselor, David Briscoe and his wife Cynthia.  Keeping in style with my non-conventional ways, I am embracing the Eastern methodology of healing.

Today, as I am preparing my macrobiotic meal, steamed brown rice, lightly sautéed kale and azuki beans, I am thinking how lucky I am to be loved by so many and I am overwhelmed with gratitude.  Because I cannot call each and everyone one of you every day with an update on my latest adventure, I plan to use my blog as a way to keep you all posted on the most recent news.  It will also be cathartic for me, a type of therapy to keep me sane and restore some balance to my life in a very lopsided time for me and my family.

I find it funny, when I first started writing this blog, my goal was to share my adventures and inspire people to think outside of the box, dare to try new things, and stir up a little desire to “grab the world by the lapels…and kick ass”, Maya Angelou’s motivating words.  I believed kicking ass would include such things as surfing, singing in a rock ‘n roll band, and unschooling my kids.  Never in my wildest imagination, and I have a wild imagination, did I think that I was about to embark on my biggest adventure yet, battling cancer. 

As many of you know, these last few years have been especially trying for me.  I used to say, “at least I have my health”.  If this were a text I would put an lol next to it.  I can’t say that anymore.  But I can say that I am a strong, optimistic and positive woman with a love for life.  I plan to be here for a long time.  I have children that need me, a husband that adores me, friends and family that love me, a book to write, a band to get signed and a world to travel so I plan to kick some serious cancer ass.

I’m off now to buy that cute T-shirt at Tilly’s that says, I Love Boobies.  To be continued…