Sunday, December 23, 2012

HOW CAN I TELL YOU?


Now that we had the diagnosis that I indeed had breast cancer, the next big concern was before us.  How the heck were we going to tell people?  Especially our beautiful, sweet, innocent children.  We decided that we wouldn’t say anything to the kids until after we saw the surgeon.  We hoped to have some more answers after speaking with him at the Women’s Breast Health Center a few days later.

My Dad & Sheila with my babies - Gore Bay 2006

The day after getting the results was a typical August day in the summer of 2006.  Except everything was different now.  At one point the kids were off playing with friends and I was doing some tidying up in the house and I started to cry again.  Just out of nowhere.  How could I possibly be physically feeling exactly the same as I did when I was tidying up in the house yesterday doing the very same activities except that now today I knew that I had cancer?  How could this happen?  Yesterday I was me and today I am still me but this me has breast cancer.  I stood in my house yesterday and was fine and today I stand in my house and I’m cancer-woman.  Yesterday was the last day of my life “before cancer”.  Today is the first day of my life with cancer.

Thankfully Mike totally got what I was saying and took me in his arms and we both just stood there holding each other and it all seemed so very surreal.  We both knew that we had to start telling people.  Mike called his mother to tell her but I couldn’t bring myself to listen to their conversation.  I wanted him to have that time alone with her.  I knew that this must be killing him and that he needed someone to talk to.

I had to call my Dad and Sheila (his wonderful wife, my kids’ Grandma, my sweet step­mother).  I also had to call my Grandma.  Those were the hardest two phone calls that I had to make.  I couldn’t put it off any longer but I just didn’t want to do it.  I kept looking at the phone like if I touched it my hands would be badly burned and scarred but at the same time I really wanted to just grab the phone and get it over with.

My Grandma & I - Gore Bay 2006
(obviously after a day at the beach for me)
It ripped my heart out to have to tell my family.  We had all suffered such an incredible loss when my Mom died that to have to tell them that I had breast cancer was extremely difficult for me to do.  I knew that my Dad and my Grandma would try to be brave in front of me but that they would both worry terribly.  I hated to do that to them.  As a parent I couldn’t imagine how difficult it would be for me if something happened to one of my children.  Now I had to do that to my Dad.  I wished so bad that I could talk to my Mom about what to do.


I had to make the phone calls.  So I did something that I was getting good at.  I took a few deep breaths, swallowed back the lump in my throat, and made some decisions.  I finally picked up the phone and called my Dad.  That conversation and the next one with my Grandma are now a bit of a blur.  I did it though and somehow I got through it.  I’ll never know how.

How Can I Tell You? - Cat Stevens


Well it has taken me awhile to get this latest post out.  With Christmas preparations and lots of hockey, I found that the days have just slipped by.  I hope to have more time during the holidays to prepare some more posts.  I wish you all a very Merry Christmas, good health and lots of happiness!
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Thursday, December 13, 2012

I NEED TO KNOW


Now that we had the diagnosis and had some time to talk about it over dinner, I still was not ready yet to go home.  We headed to the nearest bookstore because I wanted to get a book so that I could start educating myself on the subject of breast cancer.  This was a whole new world for me.  For us.  We didn’t know much of anything about cancer generally or breast cancer specifically.  It wasn’t something that had touched our lives too much in a direct way up to this point but we had known others that it had. 

My Mommy & I - 1967
Cancer was this horrible word that we heard all the time on the news and in conversations with friends and family but maybe we didn’t really pay that much attention because it wasn’t something that would ever happen to us.  Wrong.  It seemed like one of those things where you’d hear someone say, “So and so has (fill in the blank) cancer.  Isn’t that sad.”  Then they would go on about them as if they had a death sentence or already had one foot in the grave.  There were always news reports about different studies and research relating to various types of cancer but again, I only partly paid attention to that.  I knew that I had no choice now but to dig right in and learn as much as I could.  This was now affecting my life in a very big way.

When I found the Health section at the bookstore I was completely overwhelmed at how many books there were on the subject of cancer!  There were rows and rows of them.  I had no idea what type of book to get or where to start or why I was even in a position that I had to be looking at books like this.  Before I knew it, I was crying again.  I stood there in the cancer section of the bookstore and I was lost.  I wanted my Mommy.  I wanted her to come by and sweep me up in her arms and tell me she loved me and that everything was going to be okay and that we were going to go home where we’d be safe and happy forever.  Just like the time I got lost in Woolworth’s when I was a little girl.
   

I ended up choosing the only book on breast cancer that I could find that was published in Canada.  I would end up with several books in the coming weeks from various sources and made sure to try to read only what applied to my situation.  There is also a lot of research material online.  However, you can over-read I think.  It is something that would be different for everyone so I just did what seemed best for me.  Mike too had a book that was geared to spouses and perhaps that helped him a bit.  I know it made me feel better that he had something to refer to when he had no idea what to do.  We were in this together.

I started reading that book right away but I made sure to hide it from the kids until we had a chance to talk to them.  The first thing I learned was that cancer is the uncontrolled and abnormal growth of cells.  Little cells that grow rapidly.  These cells can invade and destroy surrounding tissues.  They can also break away from the tumour and go into the blood system.  This means that the cells could spread to other parts of the body (metastasize).  These cells are tiny but a force to be reckoned with.

I was determined to stop them.

I Need to Know - Marc Anthony


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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

I FALL TO PIECES


So now we had the results.  A diagnosis.  And we fell to pieces.  When we left the doctor’s office after getting the news and recovering from our initial meltdown, we made our way outside to the car and then we just sat there and didn’t know what to do.  All of a sudden our lives had changed without us asking for it and we had no idea where to go or what to say or what to think.  So, we decided to eat.  Food helps in times of crisis right?  We went to a restaurant and the waitress must have thought we were completely bonkers because we cried all throughout our meal.  We managed to laugh once or twice but mostly I cried.

Mike & I & Food - Barry's Bay 2004
It was a bit of a relief that we now had an answer and that the waiting part was over.  It wasn’t the answer we wanted but it was an answer.  They had found cancer cells.  Wasn’t that a kick in the ass!  They had found cancer cells.  Are you kidding me?  Nope they had found cancer cells.  Seriously?  In my body.  In my healthy, young and not-too-bad-in-a-bikini-for-a-forty-year-old body.

Mike & I - Providence Bay 2005
Now we had the worst case scenario answer.  No more “what ifs and maybes”.  We now knew and we would have to take the next steps to do whatever it was going to take to get rid of this cancer.  Of course we had no idea what to expect next or what those steps would be but we would take them together regardless.  It was going to take some time to digest this news and have the reality of it sink in.  Only briefly did the thought cross my mind that this was a disease that could be fatal.

I really didn’t even know exactly what cancer was anyway.  All I knew about cancer was that it was a horrible disease that got inside people’s bodies and could kill them.  People of all ages and from all walks of life get cancer.  It didn’t matter who you were or where you lived or how much money you had in the bank.  Cancer was something that could attack anyone.  Now it was attacking me.  It made me feel yucky and I just wanted to get it out of my body as quickly as possible.  I was healthy.  I hardly even ever got a cold.  I ate fairly well.  I exercised.  I was positive and young and healthy and happy and on top of the world with my life, my husband, my kids, my friends.  What did I do to deserve this?  Why me?  So many questions.  No answers.  

I Fall to Pieces - Patsy Cline



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Sunday, December 9, 2012

DOCTOR DOCTOR GIMME THE NEWS


I was going to get the results today.  The waiting would be over.  It was August 2, 2006.

Mike and I headed into the city to meet with our family doctor.  (I will refer to her as Dr. Family.)  She took us into her office right away and the three of us sat down.  The first thing she said was that she was glad that we were both there.  It was like moving in slow motion into a bad dream.  Dr. Family has been our family doctor since we moved to Ottawa in the early 90s.  I had such a bad feeling.  I just knew something was wrong.  I was looking at Dr. Family’s face and trying to read what was there.  Finally she moved away from the small talk and proceeded to give us the news.

Me at a Crossroads - Whistler, BC 2006
She took a deep breath and said that she wished she could give us better news but that unfortunately cancer cells were found with the biopsy.  Obviously this was not the diagnosis we were hoping for.  I couldn’t breathe.  Or talk.  Or think straight.  My doctor had just told that me that I had breast cancer.  Breast cancer!  The “C” word.  This was not really sinking in but at the same time it hit me like a ton of bricks.  I wanted to scream, “I knew it”!  But I also wanted to scream, “Are you kidding me?  You must be talking about someone else!!”.  This was the same doctor that had confirmed both my pregnancies.  She was usually full of good news.  What on earth could she be talking about?  I was reeling from the news and it was almost like I was outside myself watching this scene play out.  It was all so very surreal.  I can’t imagine what was going through Mike’s mind.

Dr. Family was very supportive and so very human about the whole thing.  When she had received the results she made the decision that she wanted to be the one to tell us.  She didn’t want us to see the surgeon, and find out from him.  I will always be grateful to her for her delivery of this message.  It must be a horrible thing for a doctor to have to do.  She reassured us that we could see her at anytime if there was anything that we needed throughout this process.  She told us that we would now be turned over to other doctors.  Specialists.  I would see a surgeon in three days.  She reminded us that this was going to change our lives.  We were at a crossroads.

Then that was it.  The news was delivered and her job was done.  We left the office.  As soon as we got into the stairwell outside the office we both fell apart.  We cried and held each other and promised to fight this with everything we had.  Mike vowed to be my rock and swore that he would be by my side throughout.  He said that he wished that it was he that had the cancer and not me.  That’s the way you think when you love someone so much.  He loves me and no matter what, we were in this together. That is something I knew I could count on.

Doctor Doctor Gimme the News - Robert Palmer

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Thursday, December 6, 2012

(GOING) CRAZY

My Dad & I Being Silly - Summer 2006
Well there I was just waiting.  Waiting for results.  And going a tad bit crazy.  It was the end of July 2006.

On the first day of August I got a phone call at work.  It was my doctor’s office calling to see if I could come in to see her about the biopsy results the next evening at 6:00 pm.  6:00 pm?  What the hell was that about?  How many doctors schedule appointments at this time of day?  It wasn’t even day anymore by 6:00 pm it was evening for gawd’s sake!  I didn’t feel too good about this.  Plus, I wasn’t expecting any news until the end of the week.  This was too soon.  I wasn’t prepared.

That did it for me at work.  I really could not concentrate but didn’t know what to do since my boss was away.  It was pretty quiet around the office.  I had to talk to someone because I couldn’t just leave.  I didn’t know what to do or who to go to so I decided to go speak with our Human Resources Director.  I was thankful that the Director was a woman and I told her my situation.  I explained that if a got a poor result I probably wouldn’t feel like coming in for the rest of the week.  If I got a good result, I still probably wouldn’t feel like coming in for the rest of the week since I was going a bit crazy.

Manitoulin Island - Summer 2006
She told me not to worry and to take the rest of the week off either way.  In fact she sent me home right there and then in the middle of the afternoon.  She looked after informing the appropriate people that I would be away for “health issues”.  I was so thankful that I spoke with her.  When I left the office I felt comfortable knowing that she would take care of things.  It was one less thing to worry about because the next 24 hours were going to be torture.  And, like I said, I was going a bit crazy.

At this point we hadn’t really told many people about what was going on.   I really didn’t see the point in alarming people on “what ifs and maybes” and without any conclusive results it seemed to me that it would be better to just wait.  So only a handful of people knew that I had the biopsy. We had told a few friends and family simply because I think we needed to have someone know.  Maybe we thought they might add us to their prayers.  I don’t know.

The results were coming the very next day.  I had a few more hours to keep it together and not go totally crazy.

Crazy - Gnarls Barkley


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Monday, December 3, 2012

THE WAITING IS THE HARDEST PART

Now that I had the biopsy over with.  I was waiting.  Just waiting.


Over the next few days after the biopsy, the affected area on my left breast turned into a big ugly, yellow, black and blue bruise.  It was the first time that I could actually see something that made this all seem more real.  I mean with the mammogram and ultrasound you don’t see anything different on your body afterwards.  I also couldn’t see the lump but just feel it.  The biopsy bruise was a visual element that was adding to the experience by leaving a mark.  I could see it and that made it all more real.  More upsetting.


Carefree Days - Carter Bay 2006
The reality of what I was now waiting for started to hit me.  This waiting part was the hardest thing I’d had to do so far.  It was the hardest thing for Mike too.  In fact it really, really sucked.  I found myself going online and looking things up and then I would freak myself out and think that there was no reason for me to be doing this because everything was going to be fine.  Then I would second-guess that and I would go back online and look up some more stuff.  My emotions were all over the place and I was having a hard time focusing on the everyday things going on around me.  They didn’t seem so important but at the same time they were everything.  Those little things kept me going. 

Guardian Angel- My Father's
Garden 2006
Although I’d had a mammogram, an ultrasound, and a biopsy so far, I had received no real results back from any of it.  I couldn’t think past the next few days.  Friday, August 4 was the day that had been booked for me to see a surgeon (remember “should that be necessary”?!?) and I assumed that this was when I would get the results back from the biopsy.  It was agony waiting.  I couldn’t concentrate at work and I couldn’t focus on anything at home and I felt like I was walking on egg shells.  I found myself constantly going back online and looking up information on biopsy results, mammogram results, and gasp – breast cancer.  I kept thinking, “why I am looking up stuff on breast cancer?”.  It’s not that.  Maybe it is that.  It probably is.  That’s why I had to have the biopsy.  No it couldn’t be that.  I’m perfectly healthy and I’m only 40 years old for gawd’s sake.  It was all very confusing and I felt like I was on an emotional roller coaster and I just couldn’t get off.


Waiting for the answer just couldn’t come soon enough but at the same time I didn’t want the answer at all.

The Waiting is the Hardest Part - Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers



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Sunday, December 2, 2012

THE NEEDLE & THE DAMAGE DONE


Our return home from Disney was a return from fantasy to reality and my reality was that I had to go for a biopsy.  Sure I know people get these all the time but when it is happening to you it is downright scary.  Especially when you have never had this type of thing before.  Regular check ups with my family doctor and the birth of my two kids were pretty much the extent of my experience with medical appointments up to this point in my life.

Summer home - Manitoulin Island 2006
We had to leave the kids with a friend so that Mike could go with me to the biopsy appointment.  He refused to let me go alone.  Love that guy.  At this point our daughter, Tasza, who was only eight years old at the time, had no idea what was going on.  Alex was 11 and he knew something was up.  He had overheard Mike on the phone when I had called to tell him the news that the mammogram results indicated the need for the biopsy.  We had told him the truth because we couldn't very well lie to him now and say everything was hunky dory and then if later on down the road we got some bad news we would have to tell him something different.  That would totally blow away Alex’s trust.

Mike drove me to the biopsy appointment and waited for me.  I didn't feel nervous or scared or anything once I got there.  The medical staff were really nice and made me feel quite comfortable.  If you have a fear of needles then you might find the procedure a bit daunting.  The procedure involved local anesthesia and then a biopsy needle was placed into my left breast and tissue samples were removed.  The samples would be sent to a pathology lab for examination.

The procedure didn't take too long and there really was no pain or anything.  Afterwards, when the freezing started to disappear, I was a bit sore and a bit tender but not really too bad at all.  Mike and I spent some time together afterwards and decided not to rush home right away. 

Retail therapy seemed to be what was in order.   It occurred to me that I had also gone shopping after my mammogram and after the initial appointment with my family doctor too.  Hmmm...perhaps there was a pattern developing?  I think shopping just took my mind off of things for awhile.  Anyway, it made me feel better.  This was not good for our bottom line but I suppose at the time I didn't really care about that.  I guess I was being a bit selfish and thinking that I deserved something new for what I was dealing with at each step.

The next step was going to be huge.  Waiting for biopsy results.

The Needle & The Damage Done - Neil Young


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