Saturday, December 31, 2011

Goodbye - Hello!

2011 found my cancer and 2012 will find my cure! Enough said. Only looking forward from here on out.

Friday, December 30, 2011

T Minus 7

Next Friday, January 6th I'll be having a showdown with the Big C and a double mastectomy - Courage with a capital 'C!' Mustering all that I can, keeping my sense of humor yet confronting this surgery with all my might, I hope to earn my medal of honor, walk laps around the nurses station and return to a better version of myself. I have a phenomenal, medical 'Healing Dream Team' behind me but even more importantly, I have the love and friendship from so many. This in and of itself will fuel my soul and bring me to an even brighter side of life.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Cancer Conversation DO'S & DON'TS

Let me be frank here. There are well meaning people out there who just want to help during a health crisis, but undeniably make some half-witted comments. It's not that they don't have your best intentions at heart or don't speak the same language as us, it's just that they can't help themselves. I understand, I've been on both sides of the cancer coin, so these situations are undoubtedly chock-full of awkward moments. So, in an attempt to keep you from being baffled and flustered any further during your next encounter with a cancer patient (that would be me), let me help you out a bit.

DON'T - Break down uncontrollably with the ugly cry so that the cancer patient has to console YOU!
DO! Show emotion, compassion, care. Let a tear or two run down your cheek. It shows you are real and empathetic to our situation.

DON'T - Tell a cancer patient to "Just think positive!" Do you honestly think that we are not doing everything in our power to stay positive? Do you know how many times a day I'm am trying to find my 'happy place' through staring at the clouds, meditating and smelling flowers?
DO! Say - that you are sending your most positive thoughts and energy our way.

DON'T - Make cancer jokes! This is reserved IF and ONLY the cancer patient makes the joke first! (That would be me...not you!).
DO!  Smile and express your mirth at all of our jokes. Shows you have a sense of humor in our situation and that you are indeed paying attention!

DON'T - Say "Well, you look good!" The cancer is not on my face! It's in my boob! Of course I look good! I still do my hair and make-up everyday and try to dress in my Sunday best. OK, well that won't be true once I come out of surgery but still, DON'T say that!
DO! Ask us how we are feeling today? It's simple. It's short. It's not awkward.

DON'T - Tell me about your aunt's horrible-cancer-situation-gone-bad-story! I. Don't. Want. To. Hear. About. It! It's depressing's not MY situation.
DO! Tell us something inspiring. How well your aunt did with her new 'girls.' How the Kale juicing really helped give her energy. A wonderfully, inspiring book you've read. Anything, but the bad stories where someone died!

DON'T - Do nothing, say nothing. Ignoring a cancer patient and their diagnosis is just the worst. It not only hurts our feelings and makes it seem like you don't care, but it actually makes you look a tad insensitive.
DO! Something! Don't just ignore us, drop us a line, a text, a post-it note for Pete's sake. Let us know that you care. Write one, simple line, it doesn't matter, but say something!

DON'T - Minimize cancer like it's the common cold and say things like "Look at the bright side of things, you get two new perky breasts, I'm so jealous." Really?! DON'T say that either.
DO! Validate. Validate. Validate. This is a scarier-than-heck situation we have on our hands here. Just leave it at that and say something like "I don't know what to say, but please know how much we are thinking of you during this time." No pity party, no downplaying, just validating.

Just sayin'...

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Sunny Side Up!

I've heard about the Law of Attraction and all, but this freak-of-nature occurrence this morning at breakfast was ridiculous! I mean really? I can't remember the last time, actually decade, when I cracked an egg open and two yokes spilled out onto the frying pan! Gah! I literally stood there, speechless, just staring at them as they mutually stared back at me. Not scrambled. Not an omelette. Nope, sunny side up! But seriously, who the hell prepares to go in for a double mastectomy and is greeted by two, perfectly symmetrical spheres at the break of dawn?! Was this some kind of cosmic affirmation? Barnyard humor? What's to come? (oh, I can only hope my new ones look so perfect!). But really! I need to know - what does this mean?

Monday, December 19, 2011

Breast Cancer Puzzle

While most everyone has been out fighting the holiday crowds and shopping for last minute deals, we've been driving up and down PCH between Ventura and Santa Barbara shopping around for my 'Healing Dream Team' (HDT). Interviewing surgeons, collecting business cards, pamphlets and breast cancer booklets like my 17 year old nephew's baseball collection. I must say, the menu of doctors and treatment options have, without a doubt, changed since my first diagnosis in 1992. But due to my stubborn family genetics (thank you mom and dad!), my OCD tendencies (I knew they'd come in handy) and my Sagittarius stamina, I have finally assembled what I believe to be my HDT! And, I promise to introduce you to them soon but after three weeks of interviews, appointments and procedures, right now I'm going to relax with a little afternoon tea followed by another green drink because apparently, a cocktail isn't on the menu.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Doorstep Surprises

My neighbor texted to say that she put something on my front doorstep for me. We often do this with things we borrow, a movie we watched, or very random items we find in each other's driveways. But  when I opened the door and looked down at the mat, this is what I found. A breast cancer ornament delicately tucked into a box.

May I just say how thoughtful of a gesture this was. And, while I'm at it, I am reminded on a daily basis these days, just how kind and generous people are.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Going Green!

This 3rd cancer diagnosis has most certainly given new meaning to the term going green! First, I wore green to a few appointments for the sole purpose of attracting goodness and healing, and now, this bright color has entered my diet. And although the orange carrot foam on top of my kale and chard-in-a-cup looks a tad intimidating, trust me when I say, it's all green under the surface. I might also add that consuming this antioxidant elixir was surprisingly palatable - and followed by a yummy salad, I feel full of health, vitality and zing! Watch out cancer cells, I'm a comin'!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Goodies & Gratitude

I am truly surrounded by life's little goodies and full to the brim with gratitude. From neighboring Santa Barbara to Boston, I have received love in a box, inspiration in a bag and flowers to boot! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

Friday, December 9, 2011

A Dose of Inspiration: Turtles

Turtle documentary picture courtesy of IMDB

Long gone are the days of watching mindless t.v.! Okay, well, not COMPLETELY gone. But, my current obsession seems to lie with animals. Having grown up with all sorts and sizes since childhood that included dogs, goats, horses, sheep, pigs, cows, you name it, I've always had a special kinship with the animal kingdom. I've taught pigs to follow me with certain whistles, I trained my childhood dachshund to lead my horse around a corral to cool it down (ok, so that was a little lazy of me) and I also taught my 3-legged dog to sit on her haunches and give me 5! with her only front paw. But until recently, I did not know the power and inspiration behind the turtle. And if you think I'm exaggerating, then you've got to watch Turtle: The Incredible Journey. I saw this while recovering from a couple of biopsies two weeks ago and was literally blown away. These cute little reptiles crawl their way into the ocean and paddle through life (solo!) with the fervor and zeal of nothing I've ever witnessed in my life. So, of course, this got me to thinking, if this endangered species can swim their way through life with such courage and might, then I too, can make my way through uncharted territory while understanding that I really do know my way around and maybe, I'm more on course than I thought. Because the turtle does not actually know where they're headed or how to get there, they just keep moving forward!

P.S. Thanks to my neighbor and friend Kim for dropping off the green turtle ornament on my doorstep last week! It will be by my side in the months to come.

Poetry in Motion

"If you get, give. If you learn, teach."
-Maya Angelou

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Note to self. MUST have gratitude.

I am grateful for the outpouring of love via emails, texts, and phone messages. I am grateful to my family for their love, daily phone calls and texts (rock on sister & mom!). I am grateful to Hil's family for their endless love and support. I am grateful to my neighbor Nicole who stopped her own tree decorating with her young daughter to come over and put up our tree and take down all of our boxes of decorations. I am grateful to Julie and her beautifully, well said, heartfelt words 5 times a day. I am grateful for the very sweet and touching email from My Henry's parents. I am grateful for Russell Brand's comedy DVD and for LMAO! I am grateful for Mari's wisdom. I am grateful for the beautiful yellow flowers left at my front door from my 'new/old' friend Donna. I am grateful for Cynthia who I can call at any time after 32 years because she's always there for me, long distance, and going the distance. I am grateful for Facebook's instant messaging so I can chat with my all-time-favorite-sign-language-student and now friend, Louise, in Gothenburg, Sweden. I am grateful to Rosa for being my personal Fed-Ex courier. I am grateful to my new boss 'Saint Silvia' because, she's simply a saint. I am grateful to A.H. for keepin' it real. I am grateful to Marti-Mama for the Cedars Sinai referral. I am grateful to our other neighbor Kim, who brought over an organic rotisserie chicken for dinner and for christmas shopping for us. I am grateful to Aleesh for her love and some much needed 'obligatory reporting.' I am grateful for House Hunters on HGTV to take my mind off of everything. I am grateful to my 13 year old little pooch for the staring contests because he can't figure out what's going on with me. I am grateful to a fellow breast cancer survivor and new/old friend Sydney who is helping me navigate my way through this while she is still navigating her own way. I am grateful for STL for THE most hilarious hospital story I have EVER heard - busted! I am grateful to SKYPE so that I can talk with my cousins in Sweden at any time. I am grateful to Barb ('Flascher') for her willingness and attempts to get me into the MAYO clinic. I am grateful for 'Purple Sue' because, well, I love purple and she's just Sue.

And lastly, I am so very grateful for Hil, who will stop at NOTHING to drive me everywhere, ask a million questions at every appointment, do research into the wee hours of the morning while I sleep because she doesn't want me to see or read anything right now, make a million phone calls on my behalf, be my wound-care specialist and for bravely watching my needle biopsy while silently mouthing "Oh. My. God." I am truly blessed and so very grateful.

3rd Surgeon Visit

Prepping iPad for recording, looking at stats & cancer cell drawings
courtesy surgeon #1

On the tail-end of great news, we drove down the street and went to my 3rd visit to, well, let's simply call him, 'Surgeon #1.' Post biopsies, post diagnosis, pre-planning for what's next. Two hours later, I was confused as ever with the multitude of possible options that are all heavily weighing on lymph node biopsies, additional genetic testing, blah, blah, blah. The good news is that 'Surgeon #1' is taking my case to the Santa Barbara Tumor Board this week to get more input from fellow breast cancer docs and specialists as my 'case is a bit puzzling.' So, we'll see what comes of that. In the meantime, I have a second surgical opinion appointment next week, an appointment this Thursday with an oncologist (pulled in a favor for that one) and an appointment with a plastic surgeon to discuss reconstruction on Friday. Somebody get me a cocktail STAT!

Giuliana Rancic: "AMAZEBALLS!"

Giuliana's photo courtesy of style-code.blogspot

I don't know what came over me this morning, but hearing that Giuliana Rancic (E! News host) was going in for a double mastectomy literally lit a fire under my 'arse!' I nearly flew out of bed, showered at lightning speed and quickly combed my closet for something green to wear to my surgical and genetic counseling appointments (even down to my socks!). And no, it wasn't St. Patrick's day, but a color that I had heard of during my first BC diagnosis that was connected to healing.

But seriously? Green? Why not purple (my all time fave color) or maybe even white (no, don't want white or a long tunnel with someone calling my name from the other end. Change my mind!). ANYWAY, my point - I just knew I had to wear green in order to take back my life and have the bold mindset to hear good news because, afterall, I am the boss of me! Ironically, my geneticist also happened to be wearing green today too! See what I'm saying, green was conspiring with me.

So hats off to 'G!' Someone I have never met but, someone living a paralleled universe to mine during this crazy ride of breast cancer. Thanks for the dose of inspiration! Boy-howdee did I need some. And P.S., as you've already read, I am BRCA 1 and 2 NEGATIVE!! Woot! Woot!

Negative IS Positive!!!

I think this video speaks for itself. Finding out my initial BRCA 1 & 2 genetics testing came back negative was beyond great news and a total game-changer! It's the first time in my life that someone told me I was negative and it was THE best compliment I have EVER received! Afterwards, Hil and I went skipping down the halls of the cancer center while holding my sore breast in one hand! Trust me when I say, it was appropriate and totally acceptable behavior. Even had a few smiles thrown our way. So a huge THANK YOU and shout-out to my 'Mad Scientist' Megan (AKA, Genetic Counselor) for delivering such kick-ass news! Can I say kick-ass? Well, I believe I just did.

Friday, December 2, 2011

"As we suspected, you have cancer"

Invasive. Non-invasive. Double mastecomy. Reconstruction. Hormone therapy. Clinical trials. Chemo. Radiation. SCREW YOU CANCER! Ommmm and sun salute.