Monthly Archives: August 2018

“All is well, until I hear definitively that it isn’t.”

UPDATE on my health if you’re interested. If not, carry on!
(TL;DR: all’s well, surgery getting scheduled soon.)

“All is well, until I hear definitively that it isn’t.”

The ultrasound follow-up appointment last week (to the breast MRI) came up with no issues after all. Biopsy was cancelled, as it was not needed. That was a huge relief all around.

John and I met with my plastic surgeon as well, last week. I really felt heard and seen, my thoughts and my decisions were listened to and not diminished or minimized in any way, and so I’m very happy with her as my surgeon.

The treatment plan is still for a double mastectomy with reconstruction, but it will be done in a couple of extra steps. The reconstruction will not happen until later in the process, after the mastectomy has mostly healed up. She will be at the mastectomy surgery to be involved and have accurate information for my treatment, but she won’t be doing any surgery at that time. After a few weeks, she will then insert skin expanders. They look like flat donuts that get filled with saline, in steps, to encourage the skin to stretch and make room for the implants. Then I’ll have a third surgery to put in the implants. The exciting part (strange word choice perhaps) is that the implants will go above the pectoral chest muscles, not behind!! This is apparently not viable for everyone, but is for me, and the people that have had this have had an easier recovery and are happier with the results, according to my oncology nurse navigator.

All of it is still overwhelming and scary, but I’m at peace with the process right now. Everything could still change on a dime, when they do the surgery and can see what’s actually going on inside the breast tissue and the lymph nodes that receive the lymph from the breast tissue (located in the armpit). If there is cancer found in the lymph nodes that would mean the cancer has metastasized outside of the breast tissue, or at least is trying to get out and get into mischief elsewhere in my body. The oncologist surgeon thought this was very unlikely, but nothing is ruled out at this point.

I’m not really scared about the cancer at this point. I’m scared to have surgery! Until a few years ago, I’d never had any sort of surgery, and even now i’ve only had a couple of laparoscopic surgeries. This time they are going to cut me open, cut things out, rearrange things, and stitch me up again. Then, they’re going to cut me back open, put things in and stitch me back up. And then, they’re gonna do it again! I figure by the third surgery I’ll be a pro at this, but right now I’m pretty nervous about the cutting open and the aftercare. Seems kind of silly to be nervous about the aftercare, but here we are anyway. “I don’t know what I don’t know”, right Bev? And Linda😍

Because of the change in surgery requirements (delayed reconstruction), I’ll need a shorter time in surgery and a shorter time in the hospital afterwards. Those are both pluses. I meet with the genetic testing person this Thursday to find out what was found out through the genetic testing they did on my dna, but at this point I’m not expecting it to direct my surgery, as it might have if I was planning to just do a lumpectomy. It might direct my future care, as the same gene variants that are known to be found in high occurrence of breast cancer are also found in a high occurrence of ovarian cancer. Ovarian cancer has no real screening process, so we might decide to remove the plumbing, as it were. My step-sister (Selena) died of ovarian cancer last year, the survivability of it is not great, and I want no part of it!

I’ve requested waiting for surgery to be scheduled AFTER my daughter’s (Chantelle) wedding and reception in mid-September. I would ideally like to have surgery at the beginning of October. The last week of the month is my busiest time at work and is not the best time for me to be down for the count. However, … we do what we must, so if that’s not workable, we’ll do what does work. They don’t like the idea of pushing my surgery out too far, but really it’s probably been growing for a few years, so hopefully the few weeks won’t change things. The growth rate of this cancer is very low (5%), so it shouldn’t be an issue.

I’m not a medical person, other than what I learned for massage therapy, so I may have some of these particulars not *quite* right. But, to the best of my understanding, this is where I’m at now. As I said earlier, I’m at peace right now with the entire process, and feeling optimistic about the treatment plan.

I’ve increased my self-care in increments: an extra massage per month (thanks Kathryn!), adding acupuncture (thanks Marianna!), continuing personal therapy, trying to meditate, using hypnosis applications for relaxation, healing, and positivity, spending time outside in a peaceful environment (my wonderful backyard!). Giving myself a month to eat my feelings (Hello, Ice Cream, you beautiful source of comfort!) was okay with me, because it was what I felt I needed then (like, “I’m stressed out! I’m eating the damn ice cream!), but now I’m about to embark on a healthier eating plan. Because, self-care isn’t just about doing what feels good. Self-care is choosing the best thing for me, even when I don’t like it. I love sugar. I mean, I REALLY love sugar. But, it’s got to go! Empty carbohydrates have no place in my (future) healthy body, no more than once in a great while. That means I’m going to have to eat right and step it up and figure out how to exercise without throwing in the towel. I’m told I will need to incorporate nutrition and movement in ways I have resisted thus far. I’ll figure it out eventually. 🤨

If you’ve gotten this far, thank you for taking the time and having the interest to read my words! And, a heartfelt thank you to so many of you, for reaching out to me personally. I really appreciate the evident care and love being directed toward me. It gives me strength to know I’m not even close to being alone on this journey, not even in the moments when I alone have to make what I feel are my best choices for treatment and care. 💗


**I will not fall apart!✊**

UPDATE on Health Information / Introspection / Thoughts on this process of breast cancer discovery and treatment. If you aren’t interested, please carry on!
(TL;DR: MRI leading to ultrasound and biopsy of the other breast, results TBD)

**I will not fall apart!** However, today is a struggle for me. I was blissfully unaware during my acupuncture appointment this morning that I was getting a phone call from the hospital, telling me that I needed to come in for an ultrasound and biopsy on my other breast.

I put my phone on airplane mode for my appointment to avoid any interruptions that would make me fret about what the notification was. I spent the entire appointment coming up with the names of unusual animals for every letter of the alphabet. So, instead of C is for Cat, I said C is for Cheetah, that kind of thing. The intention is to keep my mind fairly in the present and solving a puzzle instead of worrying over the past or the future, which is really important for me right now. I have pretty significant anxiety at the best of times. Right now it’s working overtime.

Then, I got in my car a few minutes after my appointment and discovered I had a voicemail, with no other information besides “these are the things the doctor wants you to come in for, here are the times and dates we chose, call if you can’t do those times or dates, otherwise see you then.” Wait, what?!? 🤔😳😣

I had my breast MRI done yesterday. Not a procedure I can recommend. Review: 0/10, would not do again by choice. I’ve had lots of MRIs over the years, but none of them were that uncomfortable. I had to lay on my stomach with my arms stretched out in front of me, like Supergirl. (WHOOSH!) I was laying on a contraption/form that then goes into the MRI machine. There were holes in the…. form?… that my breasts fit into, and my body was on foam padding that allowed my knees to bend a little. Not too uncomfortable, should be okay for 45 minutes, I can do that. THEN, they put me in the machine. It’s basically a tube, about the length of a person, if you haven’t had an MRI. The machine then closed around my hips and abdomen, squeezing me to the point that i could just barely take a deep breath. Then they say “try not to move”. Uh… yeah, definitely not moving. I’m barely breathing!! But then the body says “i can’t breathe, i must now breathe harder and faster than normal because i need extra oxygen!” They tell you to try to relax and zone out as much as possible… RIGHT. I’ll get right on that. *eyeroll*

If I understood correctly, they took a bunch of images, then injected a contrast dye into my veins and took the same bunch of images. This helps to clearly show breast tissue details. There is the possibility of false positives, meaning they might see something that looks like a tumor or atypical, but upon biopsy is benign. So, this definitely doesn’t mean I have bilateral breast cancer! But, it might… 👀

“It might…” is such an anxiety-provoking concept. Ugh. 🧠

I go in on Monday, August 20th for an ultrasound, and then again on Thursday, August 23 to do a biopsy. So, clearly, they have seen something for which they don’t like the look and want to get a physical sample of to test for cancer cells.


Okay then.

“All is well, until I hear definitively that it isn’t.” This is my new mantra; I picked it up from another patient that attends the breast cancer support group at the hospital. 💞

I will try my very best to enjoy my weekend! I hope you all enjoy your weekends! Thank you for your love and prayers and wonderful messages to me. If you sent me a personal message, I promise I’ll be getting back to you. Just a little overwhelmed at the moment, but I am truly grateful, again and more. 😍 💗💖❣️

Buckle Up, Babe! This Could be a Bumpy Ride!

Update on my health for those interested. If not, please carry on! (TL;DR: Stage 1A, surgery TBD)

On Monday, August 6, I went to meet my breast surgeon to talk to her about my cancer and my treatment options. I was relieved that my surgeon was a woman. Not that I wouldn’t trust a man, but I felt better knowing we had the same equipment and hopefully a better understanding of and empathy for the emotional minefield that comes with the possibility of losing one’s breasts and what that might mean to me.

I went into the appointment with a treatment outcome in mind, but I wanted to be open to hear what she had to say. John accompanied me, and having been advised to bring someone who could take notes and listen to the doctor without a WHOOSHING sound rushing through their ears, I brought my longtime bestie, Sonja. She took 3 pages of notes. I also voice recorded the meeting.

I have a small (1.4 cm) tumor that they have preliminarily staged as 1A. This is very good. The doctor’s recommendation was for a lumpectomy followed by radiation, probably no chemotherapy needed. The words radiation and chemotherapy scare me, so that’s when the whooshing started. In my mind I thought “I DON’T WANT RADIATION AND CHEMOTHERAPY!!!!!” and I leapt back to my treatment plan: double mastectomy, no radiation or chemotherapy! This was about the time I stopped listening very well.

Unfortunately, or fortunately, I’m not sure which, I did hear the part where she said that mastectomies don’t rule out chemotherapy. This is where fear set in. I could feel the tension settling into my frame. In the fight or flight response, my conditioned response is actually to freeze. So, I felt my body freezing and my brain. I was thankful immediately for the voice recording and the notes that would be available for me, for when my higher functioning brain would kick back in.

So, I was partially successful. I listened, and I asked some questions, and then I still wanted the same treatment plan. I asked them to schedule for a double mastectomy with reconstruction. The doctor advised that it would take awhile to get that on the books because the operating room has to be scheduled for a long period of time, and both the breast surgeon and the plastic surgeon have to be available for it.

In the meantime, I’ll be meeting with the plastic surgeon for more information on what I can expect from reconstruction. If I decide to scale back on what I want done, it’s easy to take time away from a scheduled surgery. It’s much harder to add a few hours on to a surgery that was going to be for a lumpectomy. So, I decided to plan for the most surgery time I would need, then scale back if I want to later. I’m already second-guessing the mastectomy idea after reading up on the different treatments available. The fact that I can get reconstruction on both sides so things are symmetrical, without having to do double mastectomy is appealing. But, it will depend on some other factors… Such as the following.

When the doctor heard that my maternal grandmother’s double mastectomy for breast cancer had probably occurred pre-menopause, she decided I needed genetic testing. When she did my exam and I mentioned that I had recently (a few months earlier) had a lump that I thought was a lymph node along my collar bone just above my tumor (though I couldn’t locate it just then), she decided I needed an MRI with contrast to get a better picture of what might be going on. Perhaps this is more than a simple Stage 1A tumor. Perhaps a simple lumpectomy will not be enough. I need more answers.

I went home and called my aunts, to see what they knew about my grandmother’s cancer, when she was diagnosed, what she was diagnosed with, etc… NOT MUCH, as it turns out. Apparently they were just told that their mom needed to go get some rest for a couple of weeks. They were still at home and in school at the time. My mom was the oldest child and she can’t answer any questions anymore. She had told me long ago about the mastectomies, but she was very unclear as to whether her mom had actually had breast cancer. I had come away with the impression that maybe she hadn’t actually had cancer, that maybe it had been preventative, or a scare that they decided to handle with an emphatic response.

Let this be a lesson: If this kind of information isn’t freely given out in your family, ASK your parents about your family medical history. Write it down somewhere you can find it again. Eventually you’ll probably need it, and then you won’t struggle for days like I did to fill out the family history questionnaire for genetic testing!

After I spoke with my aunts Mary and Margaret, I gave my mom’s cousin Joan a call. My aunts had both mentioned she’d probably know more than anyone else about this. I had never spoken to her before, though apparently we’d met when I was young. We talked for over an hour and boy did I find out that cancer runs in my family!

So, now… I go to get an MRI and Genetic Testing (not exactly sure what this entails yet) this coming week on Thursday. I’m a little nervous about the outcomes of these tests but I’m glad they are looking further than the immediate problem.

On Tuesday, I went to a Breast Cancer Support Group for patients and survivors. It was really good, but a little intimidating to see what these women were going through. I told them about my triple whammy of ex-boyfriend dying, father dying, and cancer diagnosis within 1 week. Everyone’s jaws dropped. I told them that I was a little concerned because so far I hadn’t really cried about any of it for very long, and I’m a crier. I mean, I cry at commercials all the time! People say to me, “you’re too sensitive!” The group told me it will hit me when it hits me, and to just be cautious about how much I took on in the near future. To be aware that I could get overloaded easily and to have room and space in my life to fall apart for a little while if I needed to. To build the best support system around myself that I can. I had lunch with a couple of them after the appointment and they gave me a lot of good information and wisdom.

Maybe too much… I left in a great mood, but by nightfall I felt completely overwhelmed. When I get overwhelmed, I cry, I withdraw, I’m irritable, I want to be alone, and I write. In this case, I mostly got quiet and withdrew into myself. It lasted a few days.This was hard on John and on me.

John is also struggling a bit. He’s helpless to do anything but be supportive. He can’t fix it. He’s an engineer. That’s what he does. He figures out how to make things work. But he can’t fix me. This makes him also withdrawn and irritable. John also needs a support system. In our lives, I’ve been the one to hold space for and handle the emotional issues. When the kids were younger and troubled, I handled the emotional impact, he handled logistics. But I can’t handle the emotional aspect of this for him. I am full up, handling the emotional aspect for me. Buckle up babe! This could be a bumpy ride!

That’s all I have to tell you for now. If you made it this far, thank you for taking the time and having the interest. It is tremendously helpful knowing I have a small army at my back, people that care about me, that are available to me, that want to help. Thank you, thank you, thank you! I’m so grateful! People have messaged me and called me and it’s been a tremendous gift!

(p.s., the family information tree got activated [though I am not on it, must fix that] after I spoke with my mom’s cousin, and I heard from my somewhat long lost 2nd cousin, Kristin Leaf, which made me super happy!!)

Goodbye Daddy

Update: my dad, Jim King, passed away tonight, a couple of hours after I left for the night. About a half hour ago.

I knew it would probably be tonight, so I left knowing it would be the last time I saw him, most likely.

It feels different than I expected.

He’s had dementia for awhile now, so he has been mostly gone for the last year or two. He still recognized me, even this week, but he hasn’t really been capable of conversation in a long time. Still, there is a suddenly empty feeling I didn’t expect.

A void in a spot I didn’t know was there. Only one of the people that brought me into the world is still here, and she doesn’t recognize me at all.

Anyway, for those that saw my previous post, I just wanted to update those people that wanted to know.

💕 Thanks for all the support you’ve been giving me at this time of difficult and stressful circumstances!

Here Comes the Sun(set)

img_4038I’m sitting with my dad, in the (relative) quiet and stillness of his room, at the foster care home where he is in hospice, listening to him breathe. 🍃

The death rattle has begun. It’s alarming at first, to hear someone breathing through the terminal respiratory secretions; it sounds a bit like he’s gurgling or choking. Shortness of breath and rapid chest movement are also present. Signs of impending death, sadly. 🌺

However, he’s sleeping fairly peacefully, so I’m going to just BE here with him for a few hours, as he transitions into whatever comes next. 🛤

I hope he moves on to a marvelous adventure! I think it’s good that we don’t really know for sure what happens after this life we’ve been given. It allows me to dream big for him! 💕