Wednesday, November 28, 2012

One Year Later...

Breast Cancer Phone Stats:  Repeat - NEVER! Alert - NONE! 

What a difference a year makes. Never in my wildest imagination, dreams or nightmares would I have ever thought I would be marking a solid year of breast cancer yet again. And when I reflect back on this past year's events of getting another diagnosis, surgeries, chemo and numerous doctor's appointments, I can still hardly digest it all.  But in contrast and to keep my mind from reeling over the past 12 months, I instead choose to focus my attention elsewhere, and that's with gratitude.

So, here I go as I did in one of my first ever posts last year - my gratitude to my universe of peeps.

I am grateful for my family for their endless love, humor, grace and support that they have given to me through both the highs and lows. They've seen me at my best and at my absolute worst. I couldn't ask for a more loving mom, sister, bro-in law, niece, nephew & 'J.' I am also very grateful to Hil's family for their love, humor and skills (and boy do they have skills!) - thank you Natey-Nate (wickedly funny!), Christine (sister-in-law & pharmacist extraordinaire!), Marcus (Boob engineer), Shawna (Words With Friends champ!) and 'da Mama' & Steve! I'm grateful for my 'Babysitting Posse' (Donna, Kim S., Miss O., Deb, Sam, Dolores, Donna, Maureen, Jack, My Angela, Cheri, Val, Nessa, Dana). I am grateful to new and old friends who supported me to the moon and back, Julie-Bunny, Cath, Susan & Sydney & Cynthia! Wow, you five could run this country! I am uber grateful to my 'Kid Posse' that continues to inspire me through their sweet honesty, beanies, and a 'who cares that you're bald and have cancer' mentality - Miss O., Little Mister Cash (who has finally stopped calling me 'shiny head!'), the Strand boys, Sam, Jack, Kai, Alex, Chloe, Zoe, Maddie, Hannah, Ethan and Eli. I am so very grateful to my 'Work Posse' and THE best boss I have ever had in my life!! Thank you 'Saint Silvia,' Wlady, Rosa, Donna, 'A,' Grace, Crystal, Gaby, Suzanne, Mari, the TCRC ladies and 25 others!  I am grateful for all the dinners provided to us when I could barely tolerate a sugar-free jello cup - so, hats off to the Sanfords, the Clawsons, the Beltrans, the Halls, the Joyce's and VAN (you know who you are!). I am VERY grateful to my 'Cancer Center Posse' for lifting my spirits every couple of weeks from the moment I walk into the building to the time that I leave - so thank you Tammy S., Sam, Joanna, Martha, Martha B., Amber (I miss seeing you!) Amanda, Dr. G., Socorro, and Kimba! You people ROCK! I am grateful for my longterm caregivers who came from near and far (Sweden) and who used their vacation days, sacrificed family time and who gave wholeheartedly to my care - thank you Aleesh, Jane, Denise, Kim & Eric, Mom, Deidre, Mama and the 'Swedes' (Micke, Lollo, Oscar, Johanna!). I am also beyond grateful to my amazing medical 'Healing Dream Team' - Dr. Soares, Dr. Grafton & Dr. Greenwald - they are freaking AWESOME! And lastly, my cup runneth over with gratitude, love and support for Hil. I can't even begin to find a proper word for the level of caregiving I have received from her over this past year. It is a very difficult job to provide caregiving to a cancer patient 24/7. So MWAH and gratitude to her, all of you and many more that I hope my chemo-brain has not forgotten.

And finally, but equally important, I have immense gratitude for my health, my life and my imminent future. Not yesterday, not tomorrow, just right now.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Herceptin #11: BOO!

By now, my new friends at the Cancer Center have learned one thing about me - expect the unexpected. And, never underestimate the power of a little humor as it truly can carry one through difficult and dark times. Hence, the hats for Herceptin treatment #11.

Delightful and humorous, simply said, these hats that neighbor Sam gave me came in handy just in time for not only Halloween, but for the diversion I was looking for 4 days post-reconstruction surgery and for some gnarly pain. And because of that, may I openly and honestly admit that I don't recall much about this day, my treatment or the hats (Thank yoooouuuu Norco 10, Ativan annnnnd Tramadol).

High on life (and apparently pain meds), this treatment went swimmingly well and smooth according to my mom and Hil. And while I value a sharp mind and memory, undeniably, I didn't have much of either for Herceptin #11 or for that entire day for that matter. For all I know, I showed the chemo staff and the room full of my newest, elderly friends, the 'New Girls' (Oh, how I hope that isn't the case!).

And so here's how the day went down according to Hil, my mom and the pictures that I found on the computer just yesterday - a genuine surprise.

First stop, an appointment with my oncologist which was quickly followed up with my Herceptin treatment in the chemo room (again, I only know this because of the pictures you see above that I found on the computer yesterday). Second stop, lunch with Julie-Bunny at her house for some lovely soup (so I hear), great company and stimulating conversation (I recall NO.THING! - Sorry Julie). And my last stop was to my post-surgery appointment where my acute memory (vaguely recalled yesterday) of the conversation the three of us had (subtext: a lecture from Hil and my mom) in the parking lot as we were walking into the medical building to see Dr. Soares. Apparently, it went down something like this:

HIL: Ma, we HAVE to make sure Yog walks in there like she's off her pain meds because the nurse doesn't want her to be on any and will chew her out if she suspects anything!
MY MOM: Okay, what should we do?
HIL: We need to give her more coffee!
MY MOM: Did you hear what Hil said, Yog? Drink the coffee. Quick!
ME: What are we doing here?
HIL: Yog, I'm, serious, stand up straight, don't talk much, open your eyes and act like you're really alert.
MY MOM: Shouldn't she be able to walk in on her own, Hil?
HIL: Yeah. Well, we'll just get her up the ramp to the front door of the building and then have her walk into the office on her own.
MY MOM: Got it. Sounds good. Did you hear that Yog?
ME: Oh yeah. I just love Dr. Soares. He's the best ever!

Stellar performance with Dr. Soares and his nurse - check. And from what I found out yesterday and after looking through all of the pictures, the appointment went very well and the doctor was extremely pleased with the outcome of my reconstruction surgery and recovery.

Moral of this story: Ignorance is bliss.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Goodbye Expanders -Hellllooo New Girls!

Click and Enjoy the Show!
Music: 'Butterflier' from A Movable West

After months of waiting, and watching my original implant due date come and go, I finally welcomed the 'New Girls' on Friday, October 26th! And no, do not expect the pink announcement in the mail giving all the details like "They're twins." "Weighing in at 425cc's." "October 26, 2012 at 7:15am." "Santa Barbara, California.' Nope, not going to happen.

And long gone are the days of the uncomfortable-hard-as-rocks faux breasts from those gnarly expanders that have been in place since last January. And, as luck would have it, I am actually one of the first patients in Santa Barbara to receive the new FDA gel-filled breast implants with the new outer casing and durability. Feeling like a true breast cancer patient pioneer!

I know, I know, a bit of an 'overshare' on my part but hey, the days of being timid about the 'Girls' are so over. But, I've had every doctor, nurse, intern, surgeon and friend take a peak at my front side over the last year, so by now, the subject is clearly no longer taboo for me. A little nip and tuck here, liposuction there to even them out, half a foot of stitches there and 2 hours later - VOILA!

But all kidding aside, I once again had an entire team of medical staff and family by my side to see me through this next step in the journey. Both nurses Barbara and Joe, were at my bedside yet again as they were for the double mastectomy surgery. Mindy, the surgical nurse was again cracking us all up with her hilarious jokes and iPhone pics of past Halloween costumes. Dr. Soares, surgeon extraordinaire, who was by my side gently holding onto my arm,  promised me and the nurses that he did his morning 'Surgical Zen ritual' and that he was completely prepared for my procedure.

And last, but definitely NOT least, was the loving presence of Hil and my mom by me every step of the way that Friday. Snapping pictures, holding my hand, helping me get into a good space with releasing, breathing and meditation, both walked by my side as I was wheeled into the surgery room. I couldn't have done it, or would have had it any other way. I thank them both with all my love for the purest form of love and care that anyone could ever hope to have.

So, as usual, I went in with my "See ya in 2 minutes" philosophy and with my dad's Two Feathers in hand, along with my chanting music playing on my iPod; all was well and all went well. I thank my family, friends, neighbors and co-workers for all your prayers, good wishes, jokes and love. It really does make a difference in my life.

P.S. Special thanks to 'Julie-Bunny' for bringing mom and Hil S.Bux and goodies to the waiting room. MWAH!