Inspiring Insight

Archive for ‘June, 2010’


OK. I’m back. Here is a short and sweet history of my week:

Monday: Grocery shopping, clean house, pick mom up from airport. Ate nothing after 6pm.

Tuesday: 7am, pre-op stuff. No food or water or even gum. Shots in both breasts for dye to mark my sentinal nodes for biopsy. The Surgery. Post-Op: extremely groggy. Nauseous, not really good. Got up in middle of the night three times to use restroom, vomited copious amounts each time. Discovered my lymph nodes are clean – YAY!

Wednesday: Want to go home. Now. Badly. Had to wait until 5pm. Forced two bites of croissant and kept it down. Walked to the bathroom with the IV stand in one hand and my drain pack in the other. (For more on draining, check it out: Dr. Bourne let me go grudgingly. Hubby looked doubtful. He tried to feed me salmon and chocolate cake. 48 hours since I ate something. Wouldn’t have the salmon, too dry.  🙂  Lots of kisses from kids and mom and sister who just arrived from California!  Went straight to bed with three vials of meds on the nightstand.

Thursday: Happy to wake up in my bed. Have to empty and measure drains regularly. Pin them to clothes. Be careful not to tug at them. Looked at the work. Almost fainted. Two tubes coming out of my ribs. Tightly bandaged chest. Needed to re-bandage, too tight!  My sister JoAnne washes my hair in the kitchen sink. Aaaaahhhhh! Feels so much better. By Thursday evening, feeling more like myself. Walked around, wrote a paper.  Started bleeding and went to the doctor. He applies pressure, changes bandages and says I might be able to remove the drains next week! “If you start bleeding like that again, just apply pressure.” I can also take a shower tomorrow! JoAnne picks girls up from summer school. We eat dinner and I crash. (By the way, my chest does not look like this picture. Dr. Shaun Parson did an outstanding job – the drains are on the sides of my body and much of my breast tissue was conserved).

Friday: Wrote two papers first thing in the morning, while drinking coffee. Heaven! Kisses to the girls. Received a steady flow of cakes, flowers, gift cards, get well cards, phone calls and emails. Where is my cell phone? Haven’t seen it since checking in at the hospital….My sister insists on taking pictures, as if I want to remember looking like this. Brother from California arrives with wife and daughter. Josie, Ava and Jae swim in the Hyatt Place swimming pool while Willey and I buy me a new cell phone. We all go out to eat at Hodori for lunch.

Saturday: Take Ava to dentist. She gets sealants. “She’ll need braces,” the dentist informs us. Great. Go home and watch “Samsoon,” an old Korean TV series my friend Grace sent to me by mail. Sister, mom and I are hooked! Sister leaves Saturday night. Brother comes to drive her to airport. It’s all too short, this family time. I decide to forego Vicodin and just take Ibuprofin instead.

Sunday: Happy Father’s Day! I wake up with my chest on fire. It feels like two people took a knife to it. Wait a minute…..they did! Willey takes the girls out while I work on three assignments for The Principalship class. This is the last week of my first summer session and I have many things due. Hoping I can take the drains out tomorrow, they are seriously cramping my style. I looped them on a necklace and feel like a cheap Flavor Fav imitator.

Tomorrow, I see my plastic surgeon and I hope I can get at least one drain removed. It’s disgusting, this plastic vial of blood and waste collects and you can’t get away from it. Every once in awhile, I feel a sharp jab at my ribs and it’s the tube, jutting out. It’s difficult to disguise.  Tuesday morning, I see my oncologist surgeon who will review the results of  pathology report. At that time, I will have a better idea of next steps: radiation, chemo, hormone therapy….not sure yet. I go back to my class Tuesday night.

I’m doing well. Of course, I have moments of anger. Why do I have to go through this? Why can’t I go to Hawaii this summer? Or Canada, Alaska, Austin, TX….anywhere but here, doing this.

But I can’t think that way.

Pity parties do no good. Plenty of very good people are going through much worse. I have to overcome this and overcome it well. My daughters are watching.

What’s on the Menu?

I’m asked how the girls are taking the impending surgery. Here are their words:

June 12, 2010

-My mom is having surgery on Tuesday. I’m a little bit frightend but mommy said she would be alright. So, Ava and I have made a little menu for my mom with all different food and drinks when she’s in her bed. Her friends and our relletivs are coming over and helping us. I’m going to miss mommy. But when she’s up and around were going to play lots of board games and do math puzzles .My mom has done so much for me in the past that I’m not going to realy be used to all these people being with me.

Josie 🙂

June 12, 2010

My mom is having surgery on Tuesday.

I gave her my zu zu pet  so she could  press the nose  and it would make a noise so we could come running to her. We made a menu for her so she could pick what food she wanted. If  needed anything  more she would tell us.  There was coffee on the menu.  Diet coke, water, and  many other things. I feel a little scared because my mom is having surgery. But my mom is always brave.  I will have quit violin for a  little while.  But till my mom gets better we have to go back to violin.


I am grateful for the amazing outpouring of love, support and encouragement I am receiving from friends and family near and far, and from complete strangers I have met online via friends. It makes me want to be a better person.

I’m asked,”What do you think you are supposed to learn here?” Although I believe everything happens for a reason, I don’t think I have led a life of unhealthy habits I need to ameliorate, nor have I sustained any toxic relationships. I don’t think this is a wake up call, because there is no place in my life where I need to realign my actions to suit my goals. I do, however, feel a renewed sense of appreciation for people in general, for the importance of health and responsibility. I always considered myself to be a strong person, but  I’m having my mom sew a giant “S” on a blue nylon shirt after my recovery. Willey is making the cape.

On Friday, I had a 9am appointment with my plastic surgeon and a “check engine” light came on in my car.  My first thought was, “On top of everything….my classes, and my surgery … my car now?”  I was in Scottsdale and wondered if it was safe to drive. I completed my appointment (they took the “before” pictures and had me sign papers acknowledging all the risks of surgery, including infection, asymmetry, the need for more surgery, etc.).  Suddenly, I felt as if I was  being challenged. Someone or something was testing me to see when I would break. I will not break!

So I go home, find a mechanic with great reviews online, pack Josie’s swimsuit and towel, go to the mechanic, learn I have to go to a different mechanic sometime next week (it’s probably the o2 sensor), pick up the girls from summer school, drop Josie off to her playdate, have a date with Ava at the mall, go home, make dinner, get ready to go out with some friends and chat with the husband before I leave.  I had a wonderful evening talking and laughing with a group of strong, beautiful women.

I’m ready.

“Life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans.”  John Lennon

The Wait

Surgery is scheduled for June 15th, exactly one week from now.

I find myself “nesting” as a friend mentioned. She had a medical condition too, congenital heart disease. We spoke of cleaning house, having enough food around for hubbies to zap warm, and so on.  Her story reminded me of how we are all so alike. We react the same way much of the time, it’s just that some of us get handed a bad card and the rest of us say, “How on earth do you handle it so well?”  For one, you would too. You have no choice but to “handle” it. And if you have kids, well, I don’t have to say anything else, do I? We do everything for our kids, our children make us better people.

So now I wait. Friends and family call to check in. They send me stuff to read:

They ask, “How are you doing?” “Fantastic, ask me in eight days!” I dread the recovery. I know, you fans of “The Secret” are trying to hush me right now, but let’s be realistic, shall we?  A radical mastectomy (both breasts for those of you who don’t know) and biopsies of BOTH armpit lymph nodes….it’s not going to be pretty. And I don’t rest well. I’m not a good patient. So mom, JoAnne and Willey, accept my apologies right now for the grumpiness you shall bear.

The surgeon informs me, I will be “Ace bandaged tightly” around the chest following surgery. I’ve asked my sister and daughters to wash my hair.  I’m getting waxed tomorrow. Why? JUST BECAUSE.  I am also getting a pedicure and manicure on Monday. JUST BECAUSE! You’d think I was preparing for a beauty pageant. Which brings me…

to the Plastic Surgeon’s office!

It’s like a spa. It’s housed within a medical building, but when you step into the office, you’re met with several square feet of granite before you make eye contact with the gorgeous receptionist (blue contact lenses, reconstructed breasts).  On a table sits a large, flat bowl of miniature chocolates and cookies, cold ice water with cut lemons await. The women who walk in and out do not resemble the women who walk in and out of the oncologist surgeon’s office. No, these women wear a smile, high heels … they push their babies in strollers, they have lean muscles observable through their Juicy sweatpants and they sport perfect hair.

Talking to the plastic surgeon is a bit like speaking with Santa Claus. Hello, you’ve been so good through this, the poking, the prodding, the cutting and the pain…..what size breasts would you like darling? It’s the gift or reward I have earned. At least, it feels that way. Christina Applegate still mourns her original breasts, “I had beautiful ones,” she recalls. Well, mine have been encased in very padded bras for almost three decades. This might not be so bad.

This summer holds more work for me than I anticipated. But that’s OK. Life happens.  I’ve got my trusty sidekick here, to keep me busy:

From a Tim Burton Movie

I finally told the girls about my cancer and impending treatment (surgery, reconstruction).

Here is how it went down:

Me: “Girls, remember how Auntie Kristin died of cancer?”

(Both girls nod yes)

“Well, when they found the cancer, she was in late stage 3, close to 4. When they find cancer at stage 4, it’s usually too late to do much. There are stages to cancer, 0, 1, 2, 3 and 4. If they find the cancer at 0, 1 or even 2 and sometimes 3, there are lots of things they can do to get rid of the cancer. Usually surgery is used to cut out the cancer and then sometimes you have to take medicine after wards.

They found cancer in my left breast. But it’s …”

Josie interrupts, big smile, “Stage 0!”

“Actually, Stage 1. But that’s good, I’m going to have surgery and they’re going to take it out.”
Ava: “When did you find out?”

“Last week.”

Ava: Why didn’t you tell us right away?

“I wanted to know the date of surgery before I told you.”

Both girls: “When is the surgery?”

“June 15th.”

Ava: How long will you be in the hospital?

“One night.”

Josie: But you’re going to look weird! It’s going to be wavy on your chest!

“They are going to put something in and I’m going to have even bigger boobs, isn’t that great?!”

Both girls: “Ew! Like what?”

“Mmmm plastic bags with salty water in them.”

Ava: They’re going to put Ziploc bags in your boobs!?

“Uh, kind of, something like that. It’s safe.”

Ava: Can we watch Spongebob now?

So there you have it.Clearly, they’re traumatized.

I’m still researching and looking at pictures of reconstruction. I see boobs everywhere. It’s always on my mind. I scar easily and I have hyper pigmentation big time. I am picturing myself post reconstruction and can’t help but see Jack Skellington’s girlfriend Sally in my mind.