Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Off the Grid

It's been a while. I didn't mean to disappear but apparently, I don't recover from surgery very well.

So, to recap the past couple of weeks.

I got the cancer diagnosis on August 21. That was a Monday. I met with a surgeon on Thursday, August 24. He sent me for an x-ray and blood work that very day and scheduled an MRI for the following Wednesday, August 30. I met with the surgeon the day after the MRI. He told me that the MRI came back with good news, there was no sign of cancer in my lymph nodes. At that appointment, he also told me he had an opening for surgery the next Tuesday, which would be September 5.

I said, "Let's do it."

And so we did. Tom and I got to the hospital at 10am on Tuesday, September 5. Surgery was scheduled to start at 2pm but the surgeon wanted the surgery to be wire guided, so we got there early so they could insert a wire into the tumor so the doctor wouldn't have to cut more than necessary. The wire was inserted using an ultrasound for guidance. The radiologist who inserted the wire had a hard time finding the tumor. I told him it was pretty deep and he'd have to push harder on the ultrasound wand. They got the wire inserted and then I had to have some dye injected that would make it way to my lymph nodes. Even though the MRI showed no signs of cancer there, the surgeon planned to take out a couple of them for testing.

At about 1:00 my mom showed up to wait with Tom and relieve him so he could go home and wait with the girls when they got off the bus. At some point, my pre-op nurse gave me a Xanax, so I was quite relaxed before surgery. I dozed while waiting to be taken back to surgery. I remember being moved from the pre-op room to the operating room but once I was on the operating table, I remember nothing until I was back in the recovery room.

I evidently also take quite a while to wake up from anesthesia. It makes me very nauseas and so the post-op nurse kept pumping me full of anti-nausea medicine, which also made me groggy. The surgery only took about an hour and a half but I wasn't ready to go home until about 7:30 and even then, I was still a little sick to my stomach and VERY groggy. I slept the entire drive home and vaguely remember Tom and my mom helping me up the stairs to our house. I collapsed in the recliner and do not remember Tom helping me move to the couch to sleep that night. I do remember him giving me the first of the prescription pain pills. Yeah, more on those vile things later.

The next morning I felt better. In pain, but better. I woke up in time to hear Alyssa yelling at Olivia at the kitchen table, where O was being a brat about her hair. I felt good enough to go in and braid her hair for her, which made her happy and made her sister seethe. Alyssa is all about helping and making my life easier. Olivia...is not so much all about that.

My doctor called on Thursday after the surgery to tell me that pathology came back and they got all the cancer. It was contained to the one tumor (Pete) and my lymph nodes were clear. So yes, all good news. He asked me how I was feeling and I reported that I was doing okay.

I saw him for my post-op appointment last Thursday, September 14. After waiting with Tom in the exam room for an hour and fifteen minutes (much to Tom's disgust) the doctor finally arrived. He noticed that I moved slowly from the chair to the exam table. When he first looked at the site of my incision, he flinched a little and said, "Wow, I didn't expect that much bruising. Were you this bruised when we talked last week?"

I shrugged and said, "Well, yeah."

He asked Tom, "Is she always this stoic?"

I joked, "Eh, he probably thinks I'm pretty whiny."

Tom replied, "Not about this, I don't."

The doctor declared that I am much more bruised and swollen than he'd anticipated and decided I need to be off work another two weeks to recover. I appreciate this because I still tire VERY easily and I admit to still being in some pain.

But in the long run, I've been very lucky. The worst news I've had yet is the initial cancer diagnosis. The good news is that we caught it early, it's contained to the one tumor and hasn't spread. It is stage one.

I meet with an oncologist next Tuesday to discuss further treatment.

Today, I had a meeting with Liv's teachers, which means I've been able to think about something other than my own health/pain/recovery. That's always good, even if it is about how to motivate a child who doesn't feel that learning for it's own sake is motivation enough. But that's a post for another day. Tomorrow, maybe?

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Prep

How does one spend a nice long weekend before heading off on a Tuesday for surgery?

Wait, did I mention that I'm having surgery on Tuesday? I am. I went to see the surgeon last Thursday after my MRI on Wednesday, at which I was dubbed the valedictorian of MRI patients. So, sure, I might have given myself that title but the technician told me I was the best MRI patient she'd ever had. Even if she tells all her patients that, I'm taking the valedictorian title because, well, I can.

So the appointment with the surgeon on Thursday started with him telling me that the MRI results were good. It showed the cancer isn't in the lymph nodes. That's excellent news.

Then he asked what I thought of surgery on Tuesday. They're going to go in and take out the mass and leave as much breast tissue as possible. There will be a pathologist in the operating room to check the nodes. While the MRI showed good news, they want to make sure while they've got me on the operating table. I do like the idea of only having to be cut once if possible.

So this weekend has been one of prep. I have boatloads of laundry. My bathroom is cleaner than it's been since I moved into this house seven years ago. Yes, I'm kind of ashamed of that. Alyssa, bless her sweet heart, cleaned her bathroom too.

Tomorrow I have to wash the sheets on my bed and shower using Dial antibacterial soap. I am also going to mop the kitchen floor.

I've baked two batches of cookies, apple turnovers and cherry turnovers and blueberry muffins. Apparently, when surgery is looming, I bake.

I still need to clean the half bathroom and someone (Alyssa?) needs to vacuum. I've brought down the movies I might want to watch while I recover from surgery. I would like to dust because, yeah, my house seems filthy as I look around at everything I've put off thinking I have all the time in the world.

And I have kids and a husband to love. Honestly, I'm a very lucky gal.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Well Then

Last night I made my way to the girls’ school where I sat in the choir room with a bunch of other parents and listened to Mrs. F talk about a trip to Chicago that she’s planning for the high school choir.

It sounds like a lot of fun. I wrote a check for the first part of the payment for Alyssa to go on this trip. I filled out the forms and signed the permission slip. I even expressed interest in being a chaperone.

While there, I was able to talk to another mom, Mrs. Porch actually. Remember her? She has two daughters, one of whom is in Alyssa’s class, the other is in Olivia’s class.

We compared notes on how much we’re hating fourth grade. Not because the teachers aren’t awesome, they are amazing. No, it’s because fourth grade is hard and our daughters, Olivia and Delaney, simply don’t care.

They couldn’t possibly care less about whether one number is greater than the other. They don’t care about interrogative sentences versus exclamatory statements. They don’t care.

Which is why it’s so hard to get homework done each night. These girls don’t care and so we parents have to drag every single word, number, sentence, answer out of them.

And it’s hard work…for us.

But there is comfort in knowing that Olivia is actually just like one of her typical peers.

I guess the old staying is true…misery does love company.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Fourth Grade So Far

Fourth grade is kicking my butt. I don’t know if it’s kicking Liv’s butt or not, she’s a tough nut to crack sometimes but I’m about done with it and the girls have been back at school for eight days.

Last night we struggled through an hour of homework. That’s ONE HOUR of homework, in case I stuttered back there.


Now, to be fair to the teachers sending home the work, if dear sweet Olivia had let her teacher help her with two pages of math work, she might have only had forty minutes of work instead of an hour but alas, my stubborn love came home with a yellow letter stating she wouldn’t work with her teacher on her math work. So we had to do it at home.

Ugh!

I try so hard not to get frustrated with her and lose my patience. I mean, I don’t think she does this shit on purpose but sometimes it’s hard to not take it personally when I’m sitting at the kitchen table from 6 to 7 ‘helping’ her with her homework because she can’t be trusted to do the work herself. And honestly, I’m not sure she CAN do it without prompting and help and near constant cajoling and reminders of the math rules she’s working with and on and on and on.

I did tell her, quite sternly, that when her teacher offers help, she HAS to accept it. She HAS to do the work her teacher is putting in front of her. She HAS to interact with Mrs. K.

It’s only the second full week of school and I know that Liv takes time to bond with her teachers/aides/therapists but damn it, she’s ten years old and in fourth grade, it’s time to pull it together!

So easy for me to say, with my (fairly) typical brain and my 46 intact chromosomes.

And that’s why I try so hard to be patient and kind and remember that more often than not, she’s doing her best. Sure, she’s stubborn and yes, maybe a little lazy. And she might very well be manipulating me all the way around the block but who really knows?

So we’ll keep muddling through and figuring it out and hopefully, not doing homework for a freaking hour every night for the rest of this school year.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Cranky Pants

Guess what? I was not the one wearing the cranky pants this past weekend. I know! Big surprise, right?

In fact, one of my aunts (I have A LOT of aunts) told me I am one of the most positive people she’s ever know. Yeah, put that in your cranky pipe and smoke it.

No, the cranky pants this weekend were worn by one Miss Lyss. She was tired. She was overwhelmed by school and marching band and life in general. She missed our house and didn’t want to wait while her sister swam what was probably her last swim of the season. Oh, and she was hungry (Lyss, not her sister, who just wanted to swim.)

Let’s back up just a little. See, on Friday evening, Lyss’s school had its first football game. Alyssa plays the flute in the marching band so she had to be back at the school at 5:30 that afternoon. Thankfully, Tom made her eat something before I got home because I got home at 5:00, had time to pee (hello, it’s what one does when one gets home from work, just saying…) and then I hustled her back out the door at 5:15 to take her to the school. Oh wait, between walking in the door, peeing and then walking back out the door, Alyssa asked if her friend Tessa could come back to our house after the football game. I used the few minutes I had between suggesting the Lyss wear shorts instead of running pants under her band uniform to text Tessa’s mom and see if the overnight plans were okay with her.

The football game started at 7:00 and she didn’t call me to go back to the school to pick her and Tessa up until 10:30. So it was a LONG night for her. I get that.

Then they had to be up by 10:00 because T’s mom was picking her up at 10:30ish. So insert tired emoji here.

After Tessa left, Lyss had to pack some overnight supplies because she, Livie and I were heading to Battle Creek, Michigan with my mom to stay with my aunt (not the one who told me I’m a positive person) and all the other aunties, a few cousins and my grandma.

My aunt L was throwing a “Tea Party” for all of us, but the guest of honor was my cousin’s daughter, Sabella. She needs to visit with all of us more and it was great fun.

Though there were times when Alyssa was bored. I understand that. There was a lot of talk and visiting amongst the adults. The only kids were Alyssa, Olivia, my cousin E’s daughters, who are eight and not-quite-two. And of course, Sabella, who is eleven.

So boredom was to be expected. But it’s something one puts up with to hang with family. Sorry kiddo, family is important.

By Sunday afternoon, though, Lyss was done with tea parties and visiting and just wanted to go home. Though isn't she adorable in the hat she made for herself for the tea party?


And home we went…after Olivia gone one last swim in.


I mean, it’s late August. There very well may not be any more chances to swim this season. The local pool has been closed for a couple of weeks. The nights are getting cooler which means the lakes are cooling off. Fall is right around the corner. Bummer for all of us, right?

I do understand, too, that she’s probably stressed about my health too. I am trying to be understanding of her stress, her tiredness, her anxiety, her school work load. I want to be understanding while still holding her to the standards of being a member of our family.

You can put on the cranky pants but you can’t complain about them non-stop. At some point, you just have to come to the realization that they’re itchy and uncomfortable and you need to change into something more soothing.

I promised her that next weekend will be a stay-at-home weekend and that the best part is that it’s a three day weekend for all of us. That helped her a little.

She is a teenager after all.

And for the record, she wasn’t cranky ALL weekend. I have photographic proof. See?

Friday, August 25, 2017

Peace

I met with a surgeon on Wednesday. The appointment was originally scheduled for Thursday, but they called with an opening on Wednesday and I took it. I mean, who doesn’t want to move up something like that? Let’s get this party started!

The first thing the surgeon told me was that I am young and that I’ve caught this early. He didn’t want to commit to a treatment plan until we get a little more information so he sent me for a chest x-ray and some blood work.

I am scheduled for an MRI next Wednesday. I see the surgeon again next Thursday to see what these tests have shown.

He wants me to see a genetic counselor; so I will. This will tell us how radical the treatment needs to be.

I kind of hate this limbo right now. I want to get started, start doing something. But for now, we wait.

But even as I’m anxious to start I feel peaceful.

Especially at home with Tom and our girls, there is peace. There is such a sense of love and kindness. There is a gentleness that has settled over our home. I feel like we have a warm blanket wrapped around us, protecting us, sheltering up from the stress that is just outside the doors.

I have so many lovely friends who are praying and sending positive thoughts.

And I can feel that positivity. I feel the peace.

Thank you for that.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

So...

Yeah.

About six weeks ago, I noticed some pain. It wasn’t horrible. Just…weird. It was near my left armpit. I couldn’t tell if it was in the breast or the armpit, actually. It was vague.

A week after the pain started I mentioned it to my family doctor. I was there to talk about my stupid left foot but mentioned the armpit/breast pain too because, well, I was already there in the office. He did a little pushing in the general vicinity of the area I indicated the pain was and declared that since I’d had a clear mammogram just this past April, well, let’s just see if the pain resolves itself.

It didn’t.

Four weeks after that appointment, five weeks into experiencing the pain, I called my gynecologist. I mean, I just figured a doctor who’d chosen to specialize in women’s health might be the better bet on this second go around in discussing the pain.

This time, the doctor had me take off my shirt and bra and lie on the exam table. He pushed and PUSHED and yikes, I was able to say, “Yep, that’s where the pain is!”

He felt some ‘thickening’. He didn’t like the feeling of that thickening. He scheduled me for an ultrasound the very next day. This was last Wednesday.

Since I was there in the office, I decided to schedule an appointment for Olivia to get some vaccinations. She was due for them (maybe even overdue) and what the heck, the girls weren’t in school yet. Her appointment was for 9:15. My ultrasound was scheduled for 10:00 in the same building.

We arrived at the hospital for her appointment at 9:00 (because if you’re on time, you’re late!) and waited. She was finally called back at 9:35. I told the nurse, as nicely as possible, that I was supposed to check in for an ultrasound at 9:45 for a 10:00 appointment so if we could move Liv’s appointment along, that would be great. She made soothing sounds and said she’d be right with us.

We managed to get out of there in time for me to check in for the ultrasound at 9:50, only five minutes late. I was only a little stressed at this point.

I was called back for the ultrasound right away. They’re cool like that. The girls were allowed to come back with me and wait in the “Ladies” waiting room, just outside where the ultrasound was taking place.

The tech found a mass that was about 2cm. The ultrasound results were sent to the diagnostic center to be read. Twenty minutes later, a doctor was on the phone with me telling me that he’d like me to get a biopsy of the mass. The ultrasound tech and her co-worker, the mammographer told me to stick around, they were going to do their best to get a doctor down there in the next half hour to get the biopsy done.

We were walking out of the hospital by 11:30, biopsy samples collected and being sent off to the lab.

That was last Wednesday. The ladies at the imaging center told me it would take about three business days to get the results back to my doctor. I went about my life, got the girls off to their first day of school, went to work, bought groceries.

On Sunday at 5pm, I saw that I’d had a missed call from my gynecologist. He’d call about an hour before. On a Sunday.

That gave me time to get used to the idea that the results were back and they were not good news.

I called him back first thing Monday morning and he told me over the phone, “It’s cancer.”

Then he asked me if my husband and I could meet with him in his office at 2:45 that afternoon. He said he didn’t like to go into details over the phone.

Okay.

Tom and I met at the doctor’s office (which is in a wing of the hospital) and we were told that I need to meet with a surgeon. The doctor said it might take two weeks for the surgeon to fit me in.

The nurse came in and told me she’d already called the surgeon and I was scheduled to meet with him on Thursday…of this week. Yeah, that was fast.

So…we’ll see what the surgeon says on Thursday.

I’m still processing everything. I’m trying to be positive and calm. I’m trying to remember that this isn’t the death sentence it was so many years ago.

I’m trying.