Tag Archives: death

Surgery and Radiation

Surgery and radiation were the final two steps in my treatment program. I have had surgery before (just last summer I blew out my knee), but for some reason this one terrified me. It was a relatively simple procedure. Many women have to have full mastectomies, but I was lucky, the tumor shrank so much that a lumpectomy was all I needed. My surgeon reassured me that I would be in and out of the hospital in half a day. Me? Well, I was still on the, “I’m going to die” wagon and I thought for sure this would be the end of me. HA! I thought every step was the end of me….. so what’s new?

As promised, I was in and out of the hospital the same day. I checked in at 6:00 am and my husband took me home at about 3:00 that same day. I was pretty sore for quite awhile afterward (I still get pain now again and it has been 4 months since surgery), and I was quite swollen and turned all kinds of black and blue. I only have the scar left now. The best news is the removal of the tumor and one lymph node was a success. They had clean parameters and only 5% of the cells had live cancer. Clinically, this is a negative result and I was declared cancer free!

Radiation came next. What an odd experience that was. They had to map the area where I would receive radiation by way of live X-ray and CT scans. I was given six tiny tattoos, each the size of a pin prick. There are three down the center of my chest, one on each side of my chest and one just above my left breast. These were for the technicians to align the radiation machine when I went in for a treatment.

Each visit I lay on a hard table with my arms in stirrups over my head. A huge machine circled over with a buzzing sound starting to my right then circling up, around, and down to my left. In all I lay there for maybe 2 minutes and I was done. Five days a week and 35 visits later I had quite the rectangular sunburn on my breast. Thank goodness for emu oil!

I have now been finished with treatment for over a month and it feels strange to be done. The biggest surprise was how I felt emotionally. I have seen movies about survivors, and I have read many stories too where the survivor has a new lease on life. They have a 360 degree turnaround, and joy pours down from the heavens and lifts their hearts and their lives to new heights. This was not quite so true for me. I have been visiting with a psychologist who specializes in cancer patients and when I told her that I was depressed and wasn’t that thrilled with my life she wasn’t surprised.

Although she wasn’t surprised, I was. It turns out that many cancer patients are actually depressed post-treatment. The way I understand it is that when  patient is given a diagnosis of cancer they go into survival mode that is cranked up full blast until they are finally done. This is when [they/we/I] have a chance to breathe and are able to work through the anxiety, depression, and grief of this illness. Prior to that it is a mind set to just keep putting one foot in front of the other.

It is now the end of October 2015. Eleven months have passed since my diagnosis and my life is now moving forward. I still have the chance of my tumor returning, yet I am working to keep that thought from dominating my ability to live, love, and laugh. As my family and I carved pumpkins today I thought about how lucky I am to be sitting at the table with my family. It was wonderfully normal.

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This is the end of Part 4 of a multi-post story. Part 5 (the final installment) will be coming soon!

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Make a difference by donating to your charity of choice. Support the fight against Breast Cancer!

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Filed under Breast Cancer, My Cancer Story

Facing Death Changes Everything about Living

Halloween was over and gearing up for Thanksgiving should have been a piece of cake. Last year, I didn’t make anything for Thanksgiving. I was a “no show” for Christmas, New Years, Easter, my birthday, and Mother’s Day. I didn’t make it to any of the celebrations between November 15, 2014 and June 15, 2015.

Facing death does a funny thing when it comes knocking. It changes everything about living. On November 15, 2014 I was diagnosed with Stage 2, invasive breast cancer. The “BIG-C” knocked on my door. It was the last thing I could imagine to show up. My family’s health history is healthy, hearty, and we live forever. Nope. “I’ll never get cancer,” is what I always thought. When I received the news my world tipped over in a blur. It landed on its side and everything spewed out onto the floor. I stood over the mess of my life with an empty stare. My gaping mouth wouldn’t close and my knuckles dragged along the ground. The news pulled me to my knees and I wailed like never before.

Life’s joke was on me this time, and the questions started to tumble through my mind. What happened? What did I do wrong? Wasn’t I living a good, moral life? Had I laughed about exercise too long? Was my diet so horrible that my body broke? What do I do now?

I was forced to face this head on. I had no choice. Breast Cancer would kill me just as surly as if I were hit by a train going 60 miles an hour, only I’d die a much more slow and painful death. I had nine months to a year if I did nothing. A year and a half on the outside. Somewhere I found a bit of strength that was buried deep inside my soul. It was a tiny spark. The one that people tap into whenever they face a crisis. The blind faith that promises everything will turn out as it should. It was the light of that small flame that got me through those first few weeks.

In the short time between my diagnosis and the start of Chemo I was poked, prodded, photographed, MRI’ed, CAT scanned, biopsied, and looked at by more people than I could have imagined possible. I consulted with doctors, nurses, friends, relatives, and (of course) the internet. Friends volunteered their stories of mastectomies, lumpectomies, chemo therapy, radiation, lymph nodes and reconstructive surgeries. They told me about the many who survived and the few that didn’t. I went vegan, then raw, then I got sick from changing my diet. I found a new taste for freshly squeezed vegetable juice ( in case you are wondering, kale juice is really gross). Organic foods filled the cupboards and exercise was no longer a 4-lettered word.

My life was changed forever. There was no going back…only forward. For a short time, I flayed through each day without direction or focus. Time was not what I had an abundance of. I wanted to know what my options were. I had to do a LOT of research. I needed a lot of information in a very short period. I had to decide if I would follow the traditional treatments or some other, alternative, method.

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This is the end of Part 1 of a multi-post story.

Look for Part 2, “Decisions for the Rest of My Life”, coming soon!

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Make a difference by donating to your charity of choice. Support the fight against Breast Cancer! 

breast-cancer-ribbon

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Filed under Breast Cancer, My Cancer Story

A Puzzle

It is funny how some people fit into life just perfectly from the day they are born until they are taken away in a fine pine box. They are like puzzle pieces that have the perfect shape, and colors that fit just where they are supposed to.  They are able to see themselves and their lives stretch out before them and with so many possibilities they find their place in the puzzle early on.

There was a man I once knew who attended college to learn an entirely new language then spent his life creating things from this language. It is fascinating to see how a series of odd numbers, letters, and symbols could be strung together and, once completed, could come to life and help a scientist solve a theory, or a student to write a term paper. He continued to expand his knowledge through books, seminars, and real time learning. He problem solved his way through his career and, in the end, found himself at the pinnacle. He was no longer the student of this language, but the master and teacher of it.

On the other hand, I never quite fit anywhere and found myself wandering through my life flitting from place to place and job to job. I did the obligatory fast food gigs and waitress jobs that are needed to be able to say on an application, “Hey, I really do have experience and I’m actually good at any task that is given to me. Please hire me.” Money was not an issue for me and found that the less money I earned the easier it was to find a job.

From one little job to another I learned many, many things, but never really mastered any one of them. I rebuilt car engines, repaired jet planes, and built mouse traps. I completed four years of college and spent twelve years in the photography industry (which, as it turned out, to be my longest stretch in any one career). I designed jewelry, sold skin care treatments, and made the best chocolate candies your mouth could ever experience. I wrote stories, painted landscapes, and sculpted minor monsters that never terrorized any hamlet or town.

I spent a lifetime doing all of these things and find myself here in this small town doing yet another minor task in a world that is filled with so many major possibilities. I long to turn the clock back so I might find that one thing that I could do for all my days. To fit just right in a jigsaw puzzle. There are those pieces that, with just an arm and a leg, hold two large parts of the puzzle together, or the one that fills part of the edge holding the rest in place. A jigsaw puzzle is what I am a part of and I know that in the end, I will be the final piece of the puzzle. The one piece that has been tested and tried in every place of the puzzle, never quite fitting anywhere, never quite the right shape or color. And, when that last piece is found, and it is held carefully at just the right position, and slid down with a final gentle tap, the puzzle will be complete. All of the pieces would have found their place and with that final piece I will finally find my place. Then, and only then, will I die.

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Filed under Aging, Arbitrary Thoughts, Dreaming