Game Face

Yesterday, I could not stop smiling. When I tell you why, you might think I’ve really lost it.  I just can’t help it, I got my game face on.

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Me and my Mister pre-op

  The morning started with a consultation with yet another doctor, my surgeon.  We were there to discuss diagnosing my left side, as well as my PORT insertion.  The man seriously made my day when he asked, “How does your tomorrow look?”.  He made room in his schedule for every procedure, scan, and surgery that had to be done by his office.  Chemo could start as early as next week.  From 7:30 am til 4pm today, we were getting down to business, FINALLY!  I went home in a state of complete elation.  My amazing parents packed up and hit the road, so that sunny visit was on the way to a very grey Georgia.  I spent every second I could with my tiny people.  I swung them around and danced, snuggled them close, and rough-housed them till they were overloaded with tiny giggles.  Feeling like myself, I made Cam a big gnocchi dinner, and he surprised me with pints of gelato.

There is so much pleasure in the mundane. Everyone keeps treating me like I’m so very sick, looks of pity in the eyes of the other patients and healthcare providers alike.  I can hear their thoughts… “She’s too young”.  Being treated like a victim to this awful disease can be overwhelming.  I feel the solace for now in being anonymous in public… a coffee shop, the grocery… because until that moment my hair comes out, no one knows.  For right now, I don’t feel sick.  I feel strong.  This is the time to enjoy that feeling, to live out loud.

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PORT is in! Even though they had to run the dang thing up my jugular! I just always gotta be different…..

I’m not completely insane.  I know what’s coming.  The sickness, the loss of time with my children (the hardest part of all of this), and the pain.  I know there will be lots of pain.  Despite that looming knowledge, today began early and the elation did not subside.  The doctor asked me how I was feeling. I told him I was excited!  He and the nurses stared for a minute, then burst out laughing.  That was pretty much the atmosphere for the rest of the day.  It’s hard to be upset when you know you are making progress.  So, we began with new mammograms, ultrasounds, and led up to 3 separate core needle biopsies.  After that, we had a quick change in venue to the surgical center for the insertion of my port.  Now, I’m snugly tucked into bed with my new hardware and the biggest sandwich ever (you are not allowed to eat, for like… a whole day before!!).  Sore, sleepy, but smiling.  If all goes well, we will be kicking cancer in the teeth with our first round of chemo next week!  What’s not to be excited about?

Prelude to a Knockout

Yesterday, I won’t lie, was hard.  Some weak moments just sneak up on you, and surprise!  You are back to feeling completely vulnerable again.

The day was filled with an undeniable nervous energy.  It did not help that mine was practically the last appointment scheduled for the day.  I’m pretty sure that the “hurry up and wait” philosophy that seems to be the standard of Army living has been adopted by the Oncology profession as well.  But, we finally made it, 4pm.  Being the last appointment of the day came with all the backlog that had been created for the last 8 hours of the business day.  We got there, again, we waited.  For two hours, I got to imagine what he was going to tell me.  Turns out, I was in for a bit of a shock.

Having been biopsied only on the right side (with the egg sized mass that refuses to be ignored), we had an abundance of information to discuss about that cancer and its 3 major areas of hostile takeover.  However, the cancer on my left side has kept its air of mystery, seeing as I didn’t even know it existed until a recent scan.  The 4 areas on the left seems to be altogether separate from its counterpart.  Who knew that two cancers could simultaneously take up living quarters in a part of your body?

my appointment notes

my appointment notes

For now the only thing I can say, definitively, is that I fall in the category of STAGE 3 breast cancer.  So guess what I get to do alllll over again?  The poking, the prodding, the examining.  Add to that list the installation of a PORT (the fun little IV hookup that gets to move in to my chest and become my cancer’s super obnoxious roommate).  That’s right.  For now, we are skipping the surgery and headed straight for Chemo.  All my new fun biopsies and screenings, as well as the PORT insertion should happen this week (pending the approval of my BFF, aka the insurance company).  If all goes smoothly, we could be poised to start pumping chemo into my body as early as next week.

What I WANT to say to you is that I’m super pumped to get this fight started.  And that’s not untrue, I can almost feel the adrenaline running through me and it’s all I’ve wanted for more than a month now.  BUT there is also a part of me, a louder voice, screaming “Get this out of me! I wanted the double mastectomy first not chemo!”  When something foreign starts palpably moving its way through your body, when you can chart it’s growth, all you want is to remove it.  For me that means that you cut it out.

Some of the armor, I've gotten from some of the best people. Wearing my love on the left and strength on my right.

Some of the armor I’ve gotten from some of the best people. Have your love on the left and strength on my right.

But for the less emotional and the better informed professional, we do a one two punch.  First we are making sure they can determine the right kind of chemo to really give this thing the knockout, then do the surgery to get rid of it once and for all.  As I have more time to process the logic and strength of this strategy, I’ll get to re-establish my game face.  The determination is already creeping back into my veins.  Give me a day or two, I’ll be ready for the KO.

Hair Today… Gone Tomorrow, or Maybe the Next Day

First I have to say,  I can not believe the support this page has gotten in less than 24 hrs. It was really hard to make the decision to share so much of myself in such a public way but I’m already finding the reward in sharing the fight with others.

In the ten days since I was diagnosed, the analyst in me has come to full (manic) light.  The consumption of information seems to be all I can think about in my down time.  The questions that demanded immediate attention involved developing a treatment strategy. But after all the facts were locked in and there was confidence in my knowledge to make choices, the girl in me really emerged.  I mean, if I have to lose both my lady lumps, how unfair is it that chemo will likely take my hair too?  These are the two traits that are most significantly (and emotionally) tied to the feminine identity.  I didn’t like how this made me feel.  Vulnerable.  A little vain.  A lot furious.

Poor Cam has been subject to fashion shows via text.

Poor Cam has been subject to fashion shows via text.

That anger led me to control.  With type A people, it always comes back to being in control!  I needed a plan, to take action.  The know-it-all in me has already mastered how to rock a head scarf and the best beauty products for absolute “chemo chic-ness”.  The therapy shopper went and added more than a few comfy, but put together pieces to my closet (only I would think “cancer clothes” is a thing…). Then there was the hair… I know it’s going to go. I know that I probably get to face a surgery before chemo.  So yesterday, I took back the control.  If I have to do this, I’m doing it my way.

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Before

The theory is that if I lose my locks in stages, maybe it won’t hurt so much.  So, pre-surgery we start with a bob. Is this the shortest my hair has every been? Uh, yes and it’s a little scary!  The truth is even though I have to say ‘goodbye ponytail’ for what will be more than a year, I feel like the my outside now looks as fierce as my insides feel.

After

After

Stay tuned for the pre-chemo pixie cut… Hopefully, I’ll find the same strength in that day because the thought still terrifies me!

Let’s get up to speed here

Many already know how this story begins, but for those who don’t….

On January 21, I found a large mass in my chest. I think I knew immediately where this was leading. It is so large that the fear flooded immediately.  For three long weeks, I was screened, probed, and scanned. They quickly told me that I should not hope for this to end in positive news.

The day after the doctors told me not to hope, there still was light

The anxiety of this time was consuming as I awaited for the inevitable news. I woke up on February 12, with a verse in my heart, a box filled with encouragement on my door step, and a song on the radio telling me to let my worries go.  That was the day I heard the words,  “You have breast cancer”.  I didn’t fall apart (I already did that), I just felt my spine turn to steel and my gears started strategizing.  Since that day we have discovered that it is an aggressive malignancy taking up residence in both sides of my chest. A full body scan has shown that the cancer has not spread outside of one possible lymph node that appeared enlarged (Praise the LORD!).

I have now been referred to a cancer center near our house (seriously 2 minutes away, people) where their only mission is cancer treatment. They have set me up with the chief of staff there and everyone has been so helpful.  I like to call it ‘helpful to the point of terrifying’.  Heads of Surgery, Doctors and liaisons alike have gladly handed out their personal cell phone numbers for me to keep contact.  They are all so positive though that I can’t help but feel fearless. There is no room for worry when the confidence of my caregivers is so infectious.  Monday, we get all the hard facts. I meet with my oncologist for the first time and he will outline the specifics of my cancer, treatment options, and my chances of survival for each recourse.  I’m telling you right now though…. my odds of destroying thing are 100% because I refuse to accept anything less.