Sunday, December 6, 2009

A few of my favorite things ...

My son's laughter
Kitty cats
Men in uniforms
Rainy Sunday afternoons
and Bocelli ... ahhhh ... Bocelli.

Saturday, December 5, 2009


How do you say 'ENOUGH' so loudly that it makes a difference ?
Enough wars.
Enough killing.
Enough hatred.
Enough fear.
Enough hunger.
Enough vandalism.
Enough rudeness.
Enough gossip.
Enough lies.

How can we begin to radiate love and caring like a ripple in a pond ?
Radiate peacefulness.
Radiate nurturing.
Radiate compassion.
Radiate kindness.
Radiate gentleness.
Radiate truth.

Holy Father, please help me make a difference in those lives I touch. Help me choose my words and actions with more care. Give me the strength and courage to speak up when I should, and the greater strength to be silent when I shouldn't.

Divine Mother, please help me look outward to see more clearly the needs of those around me. Help me extend your gentle love and compassion. Help me see past my own tears to see those in the eyes of others.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


Do you have any idea how odd you look without eyebrows & eyelashes ?

Saturday, November 21, 2009

#8 - All Done !

My last chemo treatment was this past Thursday; hopefully last Neulasta shot was on Friday. Even though I'm officially done, I still have the effects of this one to get through. The pain & fatigue kicked in today, and I expect tomorrow and Monday to be harder. Then .. then .. I'll start back on the upswing for the last time. Usually just about the time I start feeling better, it's time for the next treatment. This time that day will come and go and I will be able to continue upward, rising back up through the swirling waters to break the surface instead of being shoved under once again.

There was a point I stopped referring to my pre-surgery, pre-chemo life as my 'normal life'. The treatment schedule became my 'normal'. The roller-coaster ride is almost over, although there will be bloodwork & scans to follow. Now that I'm nearing the time to return to work, to go back to that former schedule and lifestyle, I'm as apprehensive as I am excited.

In the beginning I described breast cancer as a 'detour', expecting to return to the same road in my life after treatment was over. I'll never be back on that same road again. The road has changed. My life has changed. I'm looking forward to the new path.

Friday, November 13, 2009

More Youthful

Sorry to be so long in posting for those of you who are keeping up with me. I'm ok, just very tired.

Today was eventful .. I picked up my silicone breast forms .. they actually look pretty good. They're definitely more 'youthful' looking than I was naturally.

I won a 32" tv through a drawing at work ! I'm not quite sure I've ever won anything. Sweet !

Not quite as exuberant as I've been in months past .. the chemo is wearing me down both physically and emotionally. But ... I still think I'm doing great considering how it could be. Next week I will have my last treatment, then I can breathe a little deeper and begin to regain my strength.

As bizarre as it may sound, I am thankful for this journey. It has enriched me as a person, I have learned it's ok to let friends help, I have met some truly amazing people, and I am a stronger, happier woman than I was 6 months ago.

Holy Father, Divine Mother ...
I thank you for this season of my life.
I thank you for the people who have made it easier.
Please help me open my heart and my hands to give back.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Happy Birthday Autumn Heartsong !

Today is a most special day ! Today my wonderful friend Linda, and those blessed enough to know her, celebrate her birthday. She walks a path of kindness and nurturing, a path of honor and respect, a path of gratitude. (

Be blessed my friend, this day, and those that follow.

She Walks in Beauty
by Lord Byron

She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies,
And all that's best of dark and bright
Meets in her aspect and her eyes;
Thus mellow'd to that tender light
Which Heaven to gaudy day denies.

One shade the more, one ray the less,
Had half impair'd the nameless grace
Which waves in every raven tress
Or softly lightens o'er her face,
Where thoughts serenely sweet express
How pure, how dear their dwelling-place.

And on that cheek and o'er that brow
So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,
The smiles that win, the tints that glow,
But tell of days in goodness spent,—
A mind at peace with all below,
A heart whose love is innocent.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Hope !

I slept about 6 hours last night somewhere between about 3:00 & 9:00. At 2:30 since I hadn't been to sleep yet, I got back up to tackle my next mid-night project & decided instead to try my sleep meds again. Took my Ambien CR, turned off the alarm & went back to bed. OMG .. it worked ! Maybe all the other things I'm trying are starting to help. Afraid to get my hopes up too much until I see what happens tonight. Did talk with the Dr office, and yes, the steroids I'm taking *do* have a longer residual effect than I had thought. She said it may take weeks after my last treatment to get it all out of my system, and that is likely what is over-riding my sleep meds. My options are to either ride it out or go to a stronger sleep med. For now I'm going to keep experimenting and see if I can get by. I've cut out all caffeine, stopped taking any meds that might be contributing (like replacing my Zyrtec with Benadryl), I yanked the memory-foam topper off my bed yesterday morning so I wouldn't get so hot. Will be interesting to see how it goes tonight.

It has been beau-ti-ful here the last couple of days ! Got some chores done this morning & went for a nice walk in the crunchy leaves this afternoon. I'm planning a relaxing evening, with a movie & maybe a nice long bubble bath. It's been forever since I turned my bath into a candlelit haven with wine and soft music. Ok, so I have to skip the wine for now .. maybe some grape juice.

At least my positive thoughts are returning .. yayyyyy ! I expect to feel well the next couple of days .. just in time to psych myself up for my next treatment on Thursday. Only two more !!!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Still Chasing Sleep

Going on 2-3 hours/night for about a week now. I'm exhausted but my house is clean. This morning I yanked the memory foam topper off the bed & took it back to WalMart. It's nice and soft & cushy, but it's like sleeping in an oven. My guess is covers were flung off/on about 80 times last night. Worked on dvd video issues a good part of the morning; Deacon solved it in about 5 minutes. Gggrrrrr. Tried out a fancy new mop .. left my floors all streaked .. it's going back too. To Hell with these newfangled contraptions, I'm going back to an old-fashioned sponge mop.

I'm tired, I'm irritable, head won't stop hurting, and I'm about to panic wondering how I can possibly go back to work when I can't sleep.

It's funny the things that push you over the edge.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Mr Sandman ...

Today has been very discouraging .. much pain, have been sleeping very little. I seem to only be able to sleep between 5:00 - 9:00 am. I've taken Ambien CR for over a year & it's just not helping anymore. In addition to that I've tried OTC Unisom, melatonin, valerian root, chamomile, Benadryl .. sometimes alllllll together. I did try a narcotic sleep med ONE night .. that was enough .. I'd rather be awake.

Say a prayer, light a candle, chant a spell, somebody please send some sleep my way ??

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

How can it not be a wonderful day ?

67 degrees.
Leaves lilting back to earth.
A bright red cardinal and a peaceful mourning dove feeding at the same feeder.
Squirrels playing in the back yard.
Vanilla scented candles burning.
Ginger-peach tea.
Sarah McLachlan.
How can it not be a wonderful day ?

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Joy Cometh in the Morning

There is a verse from the Bible that has often sustained me since I was a teenager. Psalm 30:5: "... weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning". Even during times when I thought my world was crushed, there was indeed a morning that brought new joy and restored happiness. When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, a friend who had heard those same words in her life, cautioned me to 'Remember it's a season, not a lifetime.'

Yesterday was a hard day. I started the series of Taxol treatments on Thursday, hoping it would be easier than the Adriamycin/Cytoxan. So far I can't say that it's easier, just a different set of side-effects. Not nearly as much nausea, but muscle & deep bone pain. My hands & feet look like they're very badly sunburned. Blisters between my fingers. This morning they aren't quite as tender; I'm hoping the blisters heal in a couple more days. I have meds to take for the pain, creams to put on my hands. So on this cool, damp, fall day, I'll rest and give my body a chance to heal, and wait for morning.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

When My Shoes Are Empty

When my shoes are empty, you will know the life I have lived. Before you box up my shoes, take a look.

The conservative navy pumps worn to work on days when I wanted to project my most professional image, when I wanted to be taken seriously, when I wanted to say 'I do a damn fine job and I want you to recognize it'. When I was in high school I aspired to excel as a business-woman. I never did move up on the corporate ladder, but my position is one of responsibility and skill, and I am proud of the work I do .. I do it well.

The burgundy Clark's worn when I need comfort and support for days spent running up and down the aisles of a grocery store helping my mother with shopping, or running errands, or indulging in a 'shop til you drop' excursion for a new purse.

The simple white leather sandals that keep the hot-natured, menopausal, mature woman cool while looking classic and attractive with polished toes and a delicate ankle bracelet.

The white canvas Keds and their numerous predecessors, worn with comfy white socks and jeans, that walked on fall days with my small son, that drove to and picked up at school, that ran away to the playground when I should have been ironing.

The black 'Betty Page' heels worn with black backseam stockings to the symphony, or to dinner with friends. They hurt my feet, but looked so beautiful with a slinky black dress. They made me feel feminine and pretty. And that is, after all, more important than comfort isn't it ?

The red patent-leather pointy-toed high heels. They never hurt my feet that much because I rarely took more than ten steps in them. Worn with delicate lingerie, they said 'I'm a sensual woman and I want to please you'. Dust them, they haven't been worn in a very long time.

The sensible black leather ankle boots purchased to wear in New England snows while I spent the most joyous times of my life with my son. Trudging through slush to buy chocolate and ham, or slipping and giggling across a parking lot to enjoy a movie together, or wet feet stomping back up the stairs and boots tugged off to relax and cherish our last moments before my flight back home.

When my shoes are empty, you will know the life I have lived. Before you box up my shoes, take a look. See that they are well-worn from a life well-lived.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

The Three Things I Am Most Thankful For ...

I am a blessed person, and one of the most life-changing things I've learned is to 'see' those blessings. I remember several years ago saying out loud .. 'I hate my life !'. Wallowing in the despair of little things gone wrong, I was missing all that was so amazingly 'right' with my life. I've also learned we have to make a concious effort to look for something to be thankful for every day. Today there are three specific things I am most thankful for .....

My Son - A. Reluctant to be born, came kicking and screaming into this world. There were some challenging years (notably ages 2-3 and 17-18). He could turn a Sunday afternoon drive into hell-day, or throw those little arms around me and make me feel like the most-loved person on the face of the earth. Those arms aren't so little now. They're big and strong and can reach all the way around me. They can pick me up off the floor. He's all grown up now. He still has the ability to make me feel like all's right with my world, He's still a little boy in my heart, but when I look at him I have to admit he's a no longer a child but an amazing man. He's honest and works hard. He's caring and talented. He makes mistakes and learns from them. He still holds my heart in the palm of his hand. His hands .. they can pick up a freezer or caress a tiny kitten. His eyes .. they can burn so intensely the bravest of men take a step back, or they can see into your soul and understand intense fears and hurts. His heart .. as fierce as a knight or as gentle as an angel. No, he's not perfect nor would I want him to be .. 'perfect' is way overrated and takes the adventure out of life. We disagree on a wide range of things, and that's just fine. He's independent and strong-willed, and sometimes just a little cocky; he'll be a survivor. There are times I'm too dependent on my son and I'm trying very hard to not let that grow into a cloying curse. He is my greatest blessing, my breath, my soul. I am thankful to God every moment for my son.

My Sister - S. Several years are between us, and I'm quite sure she considered me a curse for many years. When I was a child I destroyed the one 'prize-possession' she had .. a small music box with a twirling ballerina given to her by our Grandmother. I snapped the little bitch right off her fancy platform and smashed the mirror. One Christmas after we were both past 20, I actually found one that was almost identical. I gave it to her and asked her to forgive me. She was gracious and kind and forgave the devil-spawned brat I had been. As sisters usually do, we've had varying degrees of 'closeness' over our adult years. We've gone through times of raising our own families and being involved in our own lifestyles and neglected our relationship. We've argued and been miffed with each other. In many things we are at opposite ends of the spectrum, and we've learned to appreciate those differences rather than rail against them. We've learned there are few bonds that are greater than that of sisters. We've learned we can take each other's hand and face the worst the world can throw at us. She can be vulnerable and consumed with sorrow and fear as she was when her husband died. (Ahhhh ... now there's another soul to be thankful for.) Or she can kick down a damn door. She has wrapped me in bandages and cleaned incisions and emptied disgusting drains. She has sat with me while toxins drip, drip, dripped into my veins. We can chatter away or sit for hours in silence, and both are just as wonderful. There has never been a moment in my life when I doubted she loved her terror of a little sister ... welllllll ... mayyyybe when she put me in a box and taped me up and threatened to mail me to our father hundreds of miles away. Wait .. there was also the time she begged Mother to please just leave me in a department store. As different as we are, there are hurts only my sister comprehends. She is an amazing, gentle woman who gives every ounce of her being for those she loves. I am so very blessed to be one of those people. If I could go to a 'sister store' and pick out just the perfect model, I would say ... I want the one there with the auburn hair in a pale dress, sitting on a tricycle; I want the one with an angel's heart that loves me even when I'm unlovable. If I could choose, I would want this same incredible creature as my sister.

My Best Friend - L. I remember the first time I met the woman who would become my best friend. I walked into a room filled with people, nearly all of whom I had never met before; and this one woman exuded a warmth and peacefulness all the way across the room. She had just emerged from a hot kitchen where she was helping prepare an incredible meal, conquering an oven that didn't want to cooperate, working her 'kitchen-magic'. Instead of scowling and cursing as I would have been, she was singing. Singing ? And laughing ? Over the course of just a few days we had the opportunity to get acquainted. There was something so incredibly soothing about just being near her. Being in the same circle of friends, even though we live several hours apart, I had opportunities to learn to know her better and a wonderful, nurturing friendship developed. She has taught me to take the 'labels' off people (professional, religious, background, etc) and simply learn about them for 'who', not 'what' they are. We deny ourselves some of life's most wonderful blessings when we limit the package they come in. She has a healing heart and healing hands. When she hugs you, she holds you close, enveloping you in her strength and peacefulness; I can close my eyes and stress melts away because my best friend is holding me. I am quite sure this is the only person in my whole life who has truly understood what makes me, *me*; why I think the way I do. She comprehends the way I'm wired. I can confide in her things I could never tell anyone else, and she responds without judgment or criticism, but helps me work through my own doubts and fears. She helps me refocus and find balance in my life. Our 'labels' might make us seem far apart, but our strongest beliefs are the same. It's amazing that when we actually listen to people, we are so much closer than those 'labels' would allow us to believe. My friend who understands me, who loves me, quirks and all, I am so very thankful to have in my life. I'll never be able to give back all she has given me.

Yaaaa, I know, enough with the mushy stuff. But sometimes you really need to make sure the people who are closest to you truly comprehend just how awed you are by their presence in your life. I am in awe. I am blessed. I am thankful.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Evening Thoughts

Come .. open your heart to my voice.
Set aside narrow precepts.
Believe there could be more.

Come .. allow yourself to feel my touch.
Relax in my gentle breeze.
Breathe my scent after rain.

Come .. let me soothe your thoughts.
Know my peacefulness.
Recenter in my calm.

Come .. embrace my love.
Allow me in your world.
Rest in your mother's arms.

(Divine Mother - RJH 092909)

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Ready for #4

Little things mean a lot - a big THANK YOU to people who have learned to sneeze/cough inside their own shirt.

Got several errands run today in preparation for #4 so I don't have to go back out for a while. Chiropractor (ahhhh), Office Depot (didn't have anything I was looking for), Petsmart (to stock up on nyjer seed for da wittle finches), then the grocery store. Mostly quick stops, but too much for one day, well all at one time anyway. You'd think I'd have this figured out by now.

I was already hot, and the hats I wear tend to be hot, so I got brave enough today to just leave my hat in the car & do what I needed to do with a nekkid head. I figured I was clean, had on makeup, have a cute head with little ears that don't stick out, so it was ok. I did fine with it. I figure if anybody gives me an odd look, I'll stick my tongue out at 'em & run !

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Wow ...

... something happened to me yesterday that hasn't happened in a very long time ... years even.

I was coming back from the Walgreens' in my neighborhood; short drive. While I was sitting at the red light waiting to turn left, I glanced over to the car (which happened to be a truck) beside me. We all do that don't we ? The man in the truck gave me a huge smile and winked. Now maybe it was because I had just gotten my car cleaned the day before, and I'll admit it is pretty gorgeous when it's clean. Or maybe he likes girls in hats. Or maybe he likes bald women. Or maybe he recognized the 'chemo-look' and thought I needed a smile. Or maybe I reminded him of his mother who is far away and he misses. Or maybe I don't need to analyze it and just be thankful. For whatever reason, it absolutely made my day and I beamed happily back at him.

No .. I didn't follow him.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Today ...

... If we could find a way to let go of the fear and hatred spawned by this day, and embrace the sense of unity and caring for our neighbors we saw in the days and weeks afterward, our small part of this world would be transformed.

Holy Father, Divine Mother, please help me comfort someone else's sorrow, help me brighten another's day, help me display the love you have so generously given me.


First let me apologize to those of you who follow my progress through this blog for taking so long to update again.

Didn't bounce back as well from Treatment #2. I did ok, but just never did get much energy back. Yesterday was #3, and today I went for my Neulasta shot. Planning to take it easy the rest of the day. I have to be very careful what I eat so the nausea doesn't get out of control, but this time I need to try to find more sources of protein that are easily-digested. High-protein shakes seemed like a good idea, but milk products don't work so well. If you have any ideas out there, let me know ! Hmmm .. maybe I need to contact a vegan friend.

Even when my days are challenging, I try to focus on those things around me that are still great .. watching & listening to the birds that honor me by venturing up to my feeders, closing my eyes and listening to Andrea Bocelli, seeing the smile on my neighbor's face if she sees me outside, the bunnies that play in my lower yard.

One of the things that's comforting to me is going to sound bizarre. I have a rock formation in my back yard that to me looks exactly like a 'fallen warrior'. Very few others can 'see' it, some who say they do are probably just humoring me. I've lived here for over 17 years. I didn't even notice it until a couple of years ago. I was sitting on the deck and just looked down through the yard, and he was as clear as could be. No, I'm not nuts .. I just have a vivid imagination.

Centuries ago Indians heavily populated this area. In my mind I can see him giving his life to protect his home, his family. As odd as it may sound, I feel like his spirit may still hover these grounds, and keep me safe as well. Or it may just be a rock.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Down the Drain

Last Thursday was my second treatment. If I follow the same pattern, today will be my hardest day. I'm sticking close to the anti-nausea med schedule this time .. seem to be doing a little better with that. Still have to be very careful what I eat .. don't want to push my luck. Will probably spend a lot of time napping today; I've learned that's ok.

This morning's shower brought a new experience. When I washed my hair (already buzzed close), my hands and shoulders were covered with loose hair. Odd feeling watching my hair slide down my body and go down the drain. I was sure there would be none left by the time I toweled dry, but there is. I feel fairly sure it will all go next time though. My scalp isn't as stark white as I had expected; maybe time spent reading out on the deck has helped with that. (Note to self: be careful in the sun.)

I'm ok, right where I should be. Very tired but will start perking back up in a few more days. Today I'll go back to the 2x2 plan .. up a couple of hours, nap a couple of hours. I'll watch the birdies and the squirrels at my feeders. If I can, I'll read a page or two ('Eclipse'). And maybe watch an episode of 'Red Skelton'.

My home is quiet and peaceful .. the sound of the aquarium bubbling in the background, birdies chirping just outside my window. No kitty meows. I keep looking toward Badajan's urn hoping he will decide to haunt me and I'll hear that precious creature again. If that ever does happen, I'll have to make a point to *not* post about it here .. otherwise you will worry for my sanity.

Holy Father, guide my steps as I walk this path. Divine Mother, help me to be kind and gentle with those who walk with me.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Thank you, Mother Teresa ...

Thank you, Mother Teresa .. you are much on my mind today. You gave completely of yourself to others, without bluster, without fanfare; you gave freely of your smiles and your touch. Surely there is no one who was honored by your presence who was not happier and more peaceful because of it. You taught us such simple philosophies that were life-changing.

"Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God's kindness: kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile."

"We can not do great things. We can only do little things with great love. "

I have experienced first-hand how powerful those 'little things' are. The friend who called the night before my surgery and prayed a sincere prayer with me. The aunt who made me one of her awesome chocolate pies. The cousin who got down in the floor with my kitty and asked Jesus to bless him. My mother who made sure I had a comfy chair to sleep in after my surgery. The friend who drove three hours to give me a hug and a massage. The stack of cards from co-workers and friends. The text messages and emails. My son has kept me laughing and kept me believing in myself. My sister's husband cooked meals for me. My sister has driven me to dr appts, taken me to the grocery store, went to get the lunch I was craving, held me when I cried, and has kept a finger locked under my chin to keep me facing up.

Maybe none of those things are great within themselves, but those little things done with such great love has impacted me beyond measure. Rest well, Mother Teresa, your tenets of love abound.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

My Baby's Home !

My sissie came over to chauffeur me around today (thank you) .. grocery store then home to rest, drug store, the vet's office then back home to take it easy again. Yayyyyy that's a very busy day compared to what I've been doing.

The crematorium delivered Badajan's ashes back to the vet's office yesterday evening, so I was able to pick him up today. He's in a lovely antique-copper urn that's sitting on the piano. As odd as I know it must sound, my home is more peaceful with him home.

Yep .. all's right with my world again .. my baby's home.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


Beginning to feel human again today .. like resurfacing from a long way down. Yesterday I was starting to worry if I would recover in time for my next treatment. Napped a lot yesterday, but was able to stay up all day today. Overall I guess I did pretty well, but there were moments I had my doubts.

Lessons learned:

1) Take all the nausea meds & on time !

2) Don't use up energy unnecessarily

3) Don't make any appointments in the days after treatment

4) Plan on taking naps

Hoping after a good night's sleep I'll be back to 'normal' tomorrow. Counting on the 'the first treatment is the hardest' philosophy.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Rough Day but OK !

The chemo kicked in yesterday, very little energy, nauseated. Had a rough night but feeling some better today. Hoping if I get some sleep tonight I will feel much better tomorrow. Learning I reallllly need to conserve energy !

Thursday, August 13, 2009

First Chemo

Results from heart test was ok, today's labwork was ok except just a little bit anemic (have to start taking prenatal vitamins). Was able to go ahead and do first chemo treatment. Seemed to take a very long time (we were there 5 hours with the labwork, seeing dr, and treatment), but it went very well. Had a headache/dizziness with the Cytoxan, but the nurse said to remind them next time & they would slow the drip down & that should help. The Adriamycin makes you pee red .. jeeeepers I'm glad they told me about that ! Feel a little 'buzzy-headed' but otherwise great !

I'm armed with an arsenal of anti-nausea meds & am eating bland foods (chicken noodle-doodle soup is my friend). Tomorrow I go back for the Neulasta shot.

Yayyyyyy .. the first treatment is over ! Now I know what to expect .. that will make it easier.

Thanks so much to all of your for your prayers & words of encouragement. And a very special thank you to Deborah .. for making my road so much easier by sharing hers before me.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

One of the hardest weeks ...

This has been one of the hardest weeks I've had in a very long time. Had my port put in on Tuesday, tomorrow is first chemo treatment, and today .. today .. I had to give up one of the best friends I've ever had.

I've posted before about my precious kitty, Badajan. Badajan had his 17th birthday in May of this year. He's had months of chronic diarrhea. Nothing the vets have tried has been successful for more than a few days. At one time he weighed 14 pounds. In November of last year he was down to 10 pounds, and this week down to 6. I talked with my son, the lady who takes care of him when I'm away, and the vet. I've wrestled with this decision for weeks, and struggled with it all day. About 4:00 this afternoon I took him and had him put down. This was such a difficult decision. Dr Jane assured me it was the right thing to do. She gave him a sedative, let me have a few minutes with him, then came back & gave him the final injection. I held my precious kitty in my arms, rocking & talking to him while he slipped away. My eyes never left his until the light in those beautiful eyes flickered out.

Badajan .. I love you. You're the most glorious kitty I've ever known. Thank you.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

A Pain in the Neck ... or ... Have I Been Bitten ?

Today I had my port-o-cath put in & an echocardiogram to be sure my heart is strong enough to have the chemo treatments. Echo was interesting, not that I could tell a thing about it other than my heart was beating. It sounded like an old wringer washing machine. The port procedure went ok. I was expecting to be sorta loopy, but was wide awake, only numbed. So far the incision isn't painful at all, but the catheter that goes up through the large vein in my neck is extremely painful. Hurts much to turn my head at all, and especially getting up & down, etc. They tell me this should subside in several days, but may always be sensitive. I'm hoping it feels a lot better before my first treatment on Thursday. Back to pretend baths for a couple of days. I've really learned to appreciate showers.

Somehow it all seems very fitting since I'm reading books about vampires. I can manage the pain by closing my eyes and pretending I've been bitten .

Sunday, August 9, 2009


Ok, so I've had my few days of anxiety about chemo; days to adjust to the idea, days of reasoning, days of calming my fears. It will be ok. I'm trying very hard to just relax and not 'worry in advance' about side-effects that I may or may not experience. I'll expend my energy in preparing as best I can, and deal with issues as they arise.

I've even thought of a very positive way to view treatments .. it's my conversion to a vampire. Yaaaa ... you could say I'm influenced by the 'Twilight Saga' .

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The Enchanted Forest

Somehow I feel like I'm walking through the Enchanted Forest in 'The Wizard of Oz'. It's dark and spooky and the trees keep slapping my hands. On the other side of the forest is the bright field of poppies with their sweet seduction, their sleep-inducing opium. Dorothy and her friends take a long detour on their way to see the Wizard and ultimately home.

My detour continues. My release date to go back to work after surgery would have been the end of this week. As much as I was dreading going back to work, at least it would have meant a return to my 'normal' life, my routine. There's something comforting in routine.

Instead of going back to work right away, I'll be preparing for chemo. I saw the Oncologist today and got an overview of treatments in the months ahead. He was a very nice man who reiterated that I am the one who is ultimately in control of the path I take. I want to be aggressive now rather than being regretful later, so I told him I want to go forward with chemo and I want to start quickly. Tomorrow I will attend a class that will give me more information and will get scheduled with the surgeon to put in my port (hopefully the first of next week). Next Thursday I have an appointment for labwork, EKG, etc. First treatment will likely be the following week (the week of August 17th).

I'll have to admit I'm a bit more apprehensive about chemo than I was about surgery. I'm sure I'm going to have some very challenging days, but along with those challenges I also have a wonderful support group.

Dorothy's friends guided her through the forest with their brain, their courage, and their heart. My doctors, friends, and family will do the same. I'll make it home too. And I suspect it will all feel like a dream.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

10:00 and all is well ...

In two days (Thursday), it will have been four weeks since my surgery. It is so wonderful having surgery behind me, the worries, the fears, the logistics of preparing my household for my 'down time'. Recovery feels like a slow process. I had expected to be almost pain free at this point, but I still have times every day (usually evening/night) when it seems to be just as 'fired up' as it was in the first few days. I'm interpreting the pain as a burning sensation .. almost identical to when you've burned yourself.

I have moments of feeling almost guilty that I'm not doing something productive with this time away from work. A wonderful friend who came up to visit with me this weekend responded to that statement with this question ... 'when did healing and recovering from surgery become non-productive' ? Good point, So the last couple of days I've done less and felt better about it. I've stopped feeling like I really should be cleaning out a closet or taking the car to be cleaned. I've realized that with only a couple of weeks left before I have to go back to work, the time I spend just 'healing' is crucial. I'm not using it as an excuse to be lazy; I'm doing the small daily things to take care of myself, but I'm not feeling like I'm wasting time when I take a nap or relax and watch a movie. Isn't it wonderful how friends can change our perspective on our life situations ?

My incisions are looking good. I have a few spots that look irritated and appear to be healing a little slower, but no sign of infection. I have the same hard spots that I experienced with the biopsy. When I say 'hard spots' I mean hard as a walnut shell. This is mostly in the area where the lymph nodes were removed. Dr says this is normal and should go away in six months or so. In the meantime it feels like there's a rock under my arm, not overly painful, just hard.

Arm exercises are going ok, progress seems steady but slow. I've concluded that everyday movements contribute as much to regaining my range of motion as the specific exercises. Stretching while I'm still in bed has been very helpful as well. I can stretch arms farther and with less pain with the bed supporting them.

I've graduated to wearing pullover tops again; a tank with a button-up shirt over it looks better .. will have to go shopping for more. In the meantime I'm determining which pullovers/tees look ok, and those that are cut too low or are too clingy & accentuate my concave chest. I'm liking not having to wear a bra. I'm liking not feeling like it's 120 degrees under my breasts. Definite advantage.

Yep, it's 10:00 and all is well with me.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

How is it ...

How is it folks can be so seemingly insensitive, especially when you're in a more vulnerable state?

I've done so well with my surgery, been very blessed to have wonderful caregivers, family & friends to help with a variety of things you take for granted on a daily basis. And I appreciate every bit of that.

Yesterday one of my visitors commented he'd like to take my kitty Badajan to the shooting range to use as target practice. I was so stunned I just mumbled something and walked out of the room. Tried not to give too much thought to it, but it resurfaced in my dreams last night. Someone was shooting at my precious kitty and he was running to try to get away; I was trying to rescue him & couldn't quite reach him. I'm not sure why someone would say such a cruel thing in the first place, but certainly not to someone they know cherishes their pet and is clinging to them during recovery from surgery. Badajan is a very gentle, sweet-natured, 17 yr old kitty who loves everyone. It's been on my mind much today. I know he didn't mean it literally, and I recognize I'm a bit overly-sensitive/emotional just now,
but it was hurtful all the same.

Precious Father and Divine Mother, please help me be sensitive to others and respect those things they hold dear.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Post-Surgery Follow-Up

Went yesterday morning for my post-surgical follow-up. Got half the staples out (every other one), and one drain out. The other drain has to stay several more days. Have an appt for next Tuesday (the 14th) to get the left drain out if it's ready, and the rest of the staples out. Dr said incision looked good .. nice words to hear when you're wondering if you're taking care of it right. My sister has done an amazing job keeping everything all nice and clean. Informed me he had removed nine lymph nodes, not just one. It was that only one had cancer in it. He said the pathologists couldn't find the actual area where the cancer had moved from the ducts into the lymph node, but it was definitely there. The cancer was Stage 3, considered agressive because it had moved into the lymph node. Made an appt with Oncologist for August 4th. Surgeon thinks he will want to do chemo, and will probably start fairly quickly after my appt. There is also the possibility he may have me forego the chemo & just take Tamoxifen. Or both. If I do chemo, I'll need to go back to surgeon to have a port put in. I guess I should be hoping for just the Tamoxifen pills, but I feel fine about having chemo if I need it. I'd rather be very aggressive now, and have less worry about the cancer returning later. Did you know that even though you have both breasts removed, they still want you to do a monthly check of the remaining chest tissue for lumps, etc. Right now there are hard places and lumpy places, and smooth places .. how the heck would I know if there was a change ?

I still have a good feeling about my new adventure. Thus far there has been no emotional trauma from the loss of my breasts. I realize that may surface yet. Having breasts does not define me as a woman. I still feel very much female, I still want to look as good as I can, I still feel sensual (well not so much with these yucky drains), I still have a sense of nurturing, I still feel a wonderful sisterhood with the women around me. I'm still a woman. I still love being a woman.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Alive & Well !

Surgery was Thursday morning; the time since has gone so much smoother than I had anticipated. Like so many things in life, our fears are often greater than the reality.

My wonderful surgeon, Dr Thomas Brock, removed both breasts and nine lymph nodes on the left side (one of which was cancerous). No cancer on the right, the left 'was' invasive rather than non-invasive, confirmation that the mastectomy rather than a lumpectomy was absolutely the right decision. I've had no second thoughts about having the right breast removed as a precaution. I feel confident and pro-active, and that's a good feeling.

Overall my pain has been low to moderate, with a few peaks but manageable. Mostly have been able to use less pain medication than I could have had. I'm having spurts of energy where I can do 'normal' activities for a couple of hours and then rest for a while. I'm not happy about not being able to take a shower for a week and a half, but I can manage, I'll be 'clean' . Son & sister are changing my bandage and rewrapping the Ace bandage. When I'm standing, arms stretched out while they are wrapping me, it feels like putting lights on a Christmas tree.

If you are following this blog because you want to keep up with how I'm doing, know that I'm doing great ! If you're here because you're looking for information like I was pre-surgery, I will be happy to give you more details or try to answer your questions; just leave me a note. Women who have been kind enough to share their experiences and offer tips/suggestions have made this so much easier (thank you Deborah). If I can pass that on to someone else, it will make me very happy.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Less than 48 hours

In less than 48 hours, I'll have my mastectomy behind me. I'm finally having moments of 'the jitters'. Last night I fought nausea and it was a very long time before I went to sleep, even with a sleeping pill. Today I had spaces of time my mind just went completely blank. No panic though. I know everything will be fine; it's the 'process' of waiting for my turn in surgery, wondering how I'll feel when I wake up (both emotionally and physically), how much pain will I have, will I be able to sleep in a recliner when I have a hard time sleeping in my own bed.

Odd thing that a bilateral mastectomy is an outpatient procedure. I may be thankful for being home quickly though, in my own comfortable surroundings.

Today I am very thankful my son will be here tomorrow afternoon .. I am stronger when he is near. I am thankful for the kindness and caring of my sister. I am thankful for the strength of my mother. I am thankful for friends who truly do care, who take the time to say a sincere prayer, or light a candle, or chant a blessing.

I've had no inclination to pray for this to simply go away, only that I move through this season of my life with dignity. Father God, please guide my surgeon and caretakers, and grant me a swift recovery. Divine Mother, please grant me grace and a peaceful heart.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Running Out of Time

Spent last week with my son; was a wonderful visit ! He took me to see Carey Mansion in Newport, Rhode Island, where the exterior shots of 'Dark Shadows' were filmed back in the late 60's/early 70's. It was sooooo awesome to stand on the lawn of 'Collinwood' !! We also visited 'Old Sturbridge Village', a working 1800's village (very much like Cade's Cove here in Tennessee).

Today was a trip to a different vet in hopes of new ideas to help my kitty, Badajan. Nothing hopeful .. just keep him comfy, try an antibiotic, and maybe he'll stay with me thru my surgery recovery .. maybe.

For the last couple of months I've had this uncanny 'calm' that several people have remarked about. Apparently that 'calm' is disturbing; my son is waiting for a major meltdown. Perhaps I've managed that because surgery has been something 'out in the distance'. Now it's not so far away, just a few days. I feel like I'm running out of time.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Nesting Syndrome

I remember when I went into a cleaning frenzy just before my son was born 27 years ago, they called it the 'nesting syndrome'. I should have recognized the sign when I cleaned nearly every evening during the week and all day long on Saturday .. I started into labor on Sunday morning. That Friday was my last day at work for maternity leave; I was looking forward to two weeks of resting before my due date. He came two weeks early.

I've been in the same mood for the last few weeks .. trying to get everything cleaned and all my 'loose ends' caught up. I have more I'd really like to get done, but have run out of funds for anymore special projects. I've already started on my list of things I want to do while I'm off work 'recuperating'.

At the top of the list is to catch up on filing. The next item is to clean out the chest & dresser in my guest room. Those are things I'm hoping I can do without too much exertion or lifting. I've wanted to clean out the furniture in my guest room for a very long time so
I'll have a separate place for guest linens, and if I actually have 'guests' they'll have somewhere to put their things. That would have been a good thing to have gotten done *before* my son comes down to help me post-surgery. Also on that list is to catch up on all the movies I've had recorded for months but haven't had time to watch. I'll have to figure out a way to transport the drawers into the living room so I can watch movies while I clean. And then I'll have to figure out a way to put all the stuff that gets tossed into the trash .. all without lifting .. hmmmm. There's stuff in those drawers that's older than my son .. there's gonna be a lot that's tossed!

But for tonight, the regular cleaning is done, wonderful fresh sheets on my bed, my house is smelling like lavender-vanilla .. life is good.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Quick Update - Busy Week !

This has been a verrrry busy week ! Trying to get much done before vacation and surgery. Carpet has been cleaned, car has been waxed, kitty groomed, crickets who had taken up residence in my lawn-storage room exterminated .. no, I didn't do any of these things myself, but setting up appointments is exhausting ! Even worked in an impromptu dental appt for a crown. Hoping to do major housecleaning and some shopping this weekend. Other than being exceptionally busy, I'm doing well .. except for nearly having a coronary over the crickets.

I was hoping hospitals had a new policy about nail polish .. nope .. I'll have to have 'nekkid' toes during surgery. You would think they would leave you a tiny bit of dignity. I understand about making sure you're getting enough oxygen and all that, but really ... no polish on my toes ???? The wonderful lady who does my pedicures says as soon as I feel up to it, she'll come to my house & re-polish. Now that's a friend !

A new lesson learned .. when you are truly in need is when real friends shine ! Another new lesson learned .. it'
s not a 'weakness' to let them help.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

My Best Buddy

Today my best buddy & I celebrated a new litter box. Yep, you read that right. Seemed like a 'splurge', but some things just need to be replaced on a regular basis. This one is fancy, with a larger clear swinging door that lets more light in and hopefully will seem less confining.

My kitty, Badajan, celebrated his 17th birthday this past Mothers' Day. He was born in this house, downstairs, under the ping-pong table (which is long-since gone). His mother, Gweneviere, was a previously outdoor kitty that someone dropped off at the animal shelter when she came home pregnant. Gwen was a beautiful black & white cat who stood at the door and cried to be outside. After having her litter of five kittens, she retired to a co-workers farm and was much happier. Three of the kitties moved to other homes, and two stayed here with us.

Michaelangelo was a classic short-haired tiger-striped tabby who followed after Deacon (my son), and wasn't especially affectionate with anyone else. He had a penchant for sitting behind you and playing in your hair. He suffered occasional seizures and died about five years ago.

Badajan is a medium-haired, black & white kitty who shows evidence of being part Maine Coon.
In his youth, he weighed about 13 pounds, but over the past few years has lost considerable weight. Once an amazingly beautiful cat, he has begun to show his age with little hip-bones protruding, and coat losing its lustre. He's still beautiful to me.

What's still incredible about this cat is his intense affection. He brings new meaning to the term 'lap cat'. Wherever I am, he wants to be close by, sitting or lying on top of me. At night he often sleeps fully stretched out the length of my back. It feels like he's trying to cover as much of me as possible to protect me. He likes to be cuddled and rocked. He likes when I sing to him. (His favorite is 'Jesus Loves Us'. He comes to bed when I say 'It's bedtime for kitty-cats and little girls !'.

Somewhere around six or eight months ago, he abruptly started insisting he lie across my chest. If I'm sitting, he walks up to my shoulder and drapes himself over my chest. If I'm lying down, he lies completely across my chest, just inches from my face. When I try to make him move, he protests loudly and comes right back. I have to wonder if he's known about my breast cancer long before I had any suspicions.

I also wonder how I'm going to deal with that when I get home from surgery. I've started luring him away from lying on top of me at night with a heating pad. He loves the heating pad. He cuddles with me for a few minutes, then heads for the warm spot. As annoying as it seemed at times though, I miss my bed-buddy. Maybe somehow he will understand that it's not ok to lie on top of Mommy when she has stitches.

I love this cat. He's my best friend. He loves me back. I know the time I have left with him may be short, and the thoughts of not having this incredible creature close to me are devastating. He has to stay with me at least during my recovery. He just has to.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

A Clearer Head

Message this morning .. surgery has been rescheduled for Thursday, June 25th 5:00 am. Son will be home the day before & he'll be there a full week after I go home on Friday. Panic over. I called the nurse back and told her to please thank the surgeon for being willing to schedule early on his 'office' day. And then I sincerely apologized for my 'meltdown' with her yesterday. She says not to worry .. that's normal. Normal ???? It's normal ???? I explained that I simply didn't understand why all thru this experience I've been uncannily calm and then I lost it over a two-day change in surgery dates. She said it was good that I did that. Good that I was quite seriously thinking about canceling surgery altogether ? Hmmm .. I'll have to think about that one.

Someone remind me later .. I owe this kind lady flowers.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Way Too Much Trouble

The one thing in this adventure that I've had control over was still being able to take my vacation mid-June, and scheduling surgery the following week. I consulted with family to avoid scheduling on special days, coordinated with my supervisor, had forms filled out for my son's employer, he made flight reservations, coworkers changed vacations to accommodate my surgery date of Friday, June 26. All was set .. I felt good about it.

First thing this morning I got a call from the surgeon's office .. it seems he wants a long weekend and has decided he cannot do my surgery that Friday morning. He can do it the previous Wednesday, or the following Monday.

If I do it on Wednesday, I'll be going under general anesthesia just about the same time my son will be going down the runway .. he won't be here until almost 5 hours later. He's my strength. How can I roll off to surgery without him there to hold my hand, to hug me & tell me everything will be alright, to look in his beautiful blue eyes and tell him I love him more than anything or anyone I've loved in my lifetime. He might make it here in time to be there when I wake up.

If I wait til the following Monday, then the majority of his trip is over before I even have surgery. His main reason in coming is to assist me afterward. I would come home on Tuesday .. he would fly out on Friday.

So I asked two questions. 1) Is there any possibility he would do the surgery on Thursday morning before he goes into his office for regular appointments ? She will ask, but even if he is agreeable, he may not be able to schedule the OR .. it's not his regular day. 2) What if I just call the whole thing off ? She says she doesn't understand. I clarify .. what if I just cancel the whole damn thing and take my chances. She is speechless.

How do you go from feeling confident and positive about cancer and treatment to just saying 'forget the whole thing' in a matter of minutes ?

Damn surgeons .. damn OR schedules .. damn trying to coordinate work .. damn airlines that won't let you change flights .. damn cancer.

It just seems like way too much trouble and disruption of lives for one little girl. What if someone finally stood up to cancer and said (borrowed from 'Pretty Woman') "I say when, I say where !" ?

I'm sure by morning that cool, confident voice of reason that lives waaaayyyy back in my brain and rarely surfaces, will come screaming out and war with the voice that says, 'now close your eyes, click your heels together three times, and say 'there's no place like home .. there's no place like home'.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

A New Path

You see, it’s like this: my son says I need to start a blog. He says I should just say the things I’ve expressed to him in emails. I had never really thought about having a blog, although I’ve certainly enjoyed reading his,, and that of my best friend, Not sure I have the time or energy for regular posts, but I will try very hard to post at least every couple of weeks.

I have a fairly boring life, and I’ve learned to appreciate that. Boring = quiet, peaceful, soothing, uneventful .. going to work, coming home & reading on my deck, listening to birds sing, cuddling with my cat, Badajan. Since the end of March, however, my life has taken something of a detour. Last month I learned I have ‘non-invasive breast cancer’. The best & the worst in the same phrase.

I’ve been through the gauntlet of tests, an exam by my primary doctor, a mammogram, follow-up views, an ultrasound, an MRI, and then an ultrasound-guided core-needle biopsy which rendered the diagnosis ‘ductal carcinoma in situ’. I’ve spent hours searching medical websites and personal blogs in the hopes of finding accurate information and tips/advice from those who have actually experienced breast cancer.

I’m not sure about a personal blog .. well not just for showcasing cancer anyway. Part of me wants to share my experiences in order to help the women who follow me down this path .. the information I've found from individual women has been more encouraging than the medical websites. But at the same time, I really don't want breast cancer to overshadow my entire life, to consume it. I don't feel like a 'breast cancer victim' .. I feel like a whole woman who just happens to have breast cancer. I recognize that it will definitely take precedence over everything else for a few months, but I don't want it to steal my everyday life, my interests. But it's a 'part' of my life, so perhaps I should use a blog as an outlet if nothing else. At the same time, as much as I appreciate other peoples' encouragement and concern, it forces me to focus on just the cancer .. that's why I've tried to be selective in whom I tell .. to keep my life more 'normal'. And now it’s ‘out there’.

I’ve gone through the range of emotions .. disbelief (maybe it was a mistake), panic (I can *not* do this), fear, finding courage (and losing it again), accepting what is to come.

Next month I will be having a bilateral mastectomy. How is it I can say that so calmly ?? That’s just strange. What’s even stranger is I’ve begun to look for advantages of not having breasts. I will never have to wear a bra again unless I choose to. No more intense heat underneath. No more sweating underneath. But then I find myself looking down my shirt .. beautiful, full breasts that say ‘I’m female and I love it !’. Will I still feel feminine after they’re gone ?

One thing is certain. My life has already changed. It changed the moment I heard the words 'probable malignancy'. Even before it was confirmed, I was different. Many things I had once complained about vanished. People who had once intimidated me lost their power. The sky is more intriguing .. I find myself just staring at the bright blue, fluffy clouds, dark menacing clouds, the darkness of night. Jet trails fascinate me .. I long to be going to see my son. I actually smell the fragrance of the earth after rain. I don't just 'hear', but I listen to the beautiful bird songs. I've learned to recognize those things I'm thankful for every day.

This is an unchosen path, but one I must take, at least for this space of time. My deepest wish is that I can walk with courage, grace, and dignity. And that somehow, I can make it easier for those who follow me.