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20 posts from November 2010

November 29, 2010

I didn't forget about today

but my mind has been traveling lately. In fact, I realized today that I read (and re-read) an email incorrectly FOUR times yesterday! When I looked at it again this morning, all of the sudden it made sense.  Just one word was off (I read the word "limes" as "times") and yet it skewed the entire meaning of the message in my mind.  So, I am now instituting a mandatory day of review if I am at all hesitant about a note.  Sheesh.

If you are wondering, yes, today is "the" anniversary, as written about on her birthday in 2009,  last year and more recently on her birthday  in September of this year.  I'm really not sure what else can be said at this point in time.  For my own selfish reasons (as you are all probably a bit too aware), I am already cried out, possibly for the rest of the year.   I've thought about Mom many times today, but haven't once had a lump in my throat. One could call me a heartless soul or decide it's progress.  Knowing Mom as I did, I think she would go with progress....as will I.

November 28, 2010

We arrived

Photo-7 home tonight after splitting the 400 mile journey over two days.  The fewer hours in the car, the better for all of us.  We came inside knowing the cat and guinea pig would be fed and happy (check, check).  What we did not expect? To smell the gentle scent of pine or discover the tall, green and very handsome fir* complete with lights and two decorations.

Photo-6 We had actually discussed Christmas preparations on the way home, after I had another morning of wanting nothing to do with anything.  I have found that unfortunately I am still going through lots of highs and lows, rather than just the even keel I crave.  I know it is out there, but between pain and discomfort from the tissue expander, not having full range of motion and still feeling miserable that the surgery had to take place in the first place, it simply hasn't happened yet.  It could also be the few unknowns that still exist (radiation, hormonal therapy, what we will do next year...), but this morning was particularly difficult.  

Photo-5 While Peter had assured me he would take care of everything Christmas-related, I hated to leave the burden of it all on him.  I had a feeling it would just take procuring a tree or maybe once the lights were on said tree, the mood would hit.  While I can't say I am full-throttle just yet (but pretty darn close), who would not be moved* incredibly by the actions of the Salty Dog Crew and our friends, Jack & Janet?  A gorgeous display of the true meaning of Christmas if I do say so myself...

 

*Nicholas refused to take a picture under the tree and I love that I have this shot of them instead.

**Yes, I cried...bawled like a baby for a good 20 minutes...then later ...and again just a few minutes ago....wait, oh, yep,here we go again... 

 

November 26, 2010

{this moment}

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see. 


IMG_5302
 

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Have a magical weekend!

Idea courtesy of Soulemama.

November 24, 2010

A Perfect 10

I know folks are busy (well, I'm hoping) enjoying the company of friends or loved ones and prepping for a bit of over-indulgence tomorrow, so this will be brief.  Even a few hours ago, I wasn't quite sure entirely what I would write, but given our recent spate of good news (regarding the results of the surgery), I felt something needed to be written to express my gratitude about a few items:

  • I am thankful that while our plans have massively changed thus far this year, we are together for the holidays.  
  • Despite a long trip up to MA, I am grateful that I have a fantastic device that allowed us to make a last-minute change and secure a hotel room last night. We figured out during our stop for dinner that there was no way we would make it to Peter's parents house before, say, 4 in the a.m. and that was a bit too much travel for one day.
  • I am thrilled for the pain meds that allowed me to get through the trip.  I woke up this morning in excruciating agony (a combination of the expansion, using my arm even more and travel) and thanks to two Percocet, many blankets, pillows and a hearty breakfast at Cracker Barrel, made it through the remaining 5 hours of the drive (oh, Jersey Turnpike, how I haven't missed you).

I am not quite sure that there are words that will properly capture today's final bit of joy. Earlier tonight, I was relaxing on the recliner in my in-laws' sunroom, watching Nicholas play. Just as I was about to join in the Lego fun, Peter raced into the room and asked me I had received an email.  I had no idea what he was talking about and he quickly pulled up a note from my oncologist.  We aren't slated to see her until next week and the email could only mean one thing:  she had the results from the Breast Cancer Recurrence test.

My score?

I am a perfect 10, so says my Oncotype DX test.  The exact message from my oncologist?

 

Please see your attached Oncotype report.  No chemotherapy is needed :-)

Take care and have a good Thanksgiving.

Onco

With that, I am off to celebrate with the family.  Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

 

 

November 22, 2010

Shades of Gray

Some people like things to be very defined into good or bad. One could also say, perhaps, sick or healthy or perhaps positive and negative.  It's understandable as it can make decision-making easier.   On the other hand, some of us like some wiggle room, or shades of gray, as one might say.

The decision for me to have the more invasive surgery was fairly clear-cut once we had as much information as we could gather without actually seeing the tumor and other cancer cells.  Yes, there are days that part of me still regrets doing it (well, feeling that it was the only solution), yet I know deep down inside that I did what needed to be done.  Of the two surgeries available, it was the one that would increase my survival rate far more and possibly, hopefully, just maybe reduce my need for further treatments.

Reduce it, it did.  We still don't have the Oncotype DX score, but even the basic pathology report was far more positive than anyone expected.  To our complete and utter shock, even the radiation oncologist agreed that the report had surprised him.  Instead of the worst case scenario of mandatory chemo and radiation, everything is still up in the air, including radiation.

I spent the weekend fearing the worst about today's appointment and had a terribly sleepless night last night.  The issue that had taken ahold of me last Wednesday was a margin.  The anterior (front) margin from cancer cells to normal skin tissue was only 1.2 mm.  All other margins were much greater and created no worries for the doctors.  In fact, as this particular margin relates to the DCIS (my stage 0 cancer that was in the ducts and non-invasive, as opposed to my IDC tumor), it was less of a concern for me.  However, despite absolutely no nodal involvement (not one iota), the breast surgeon and oncologist both felt it best we meet again with the radiation oncologist to review the pathology report and my "options" for treatment.

As I thought, starting  the day off with a massage was the best idea I have had in ages.  Not only was the therapist able to now work on my right arm, but was able to stretch my legs for me in ways I haven't been able to do since the morning of the surgery.  She was surprised by the flexibility in my arm and this gave me yet another boost, since I don't want to find myself in physical therapy for something I could have prevented.

A good hour later, Peter was ready and waiting with everything (my 'Cancer 101' suitcase) we needed to meet with the radiation oncologist located one floor beneath us.  The radiation oncologist, Dr. B.,  met us personally in the waiting room, greeted us gently and led us back to an office.  He started off with letting us know he had reviewed the path report and then asked what I understood about it.  Where to start?

I repeated key parts and left it at that, as it is several pages long.  We touched on the good news (almost everything) and then ended up at the margins. My margins (the difference I mentioned earlier) were negative, but just not AS negative as they could be.  Dr. B. was  hoping for a 2 mm difference, but we were left with just the 1.2 (mind you this is for the front margin only).  He then offered various rates of recurrence, based on doing nothing (possibly chemo) or including radiation.  In the end, while the rates were obviously lower should radiation be completed, the rates of recurrence without radiation were not overly frightening to either one of us.  Then the doctor, who had been so calm and almost, shall I say, reassuring (?) up until this point said, "Well, here is a 'shades of gray' scenario.  In the end, this really, truly is your choice."

I could have cried.  Well, honestly, I have already cried several times today because even with the margins being close, I did not expect Dr. B. to so readily offer that the ball is in our court.  Perhaps it also had to do with a tiny piece of information that Peter and I both happened to find out on-line this weekend.

I know Google isn't always our friend, but I have recently been trying to stick to areas that are truly oncology research sites.  While I do appreciate websites and discussion boards on-line, it is so incredibly difficult to truly compare even the most similar cases of breast cancer.  Therefore, when both of us happened on a case with a unique twist for a person not wanting radiation, we knew we had to mention it to at least one of the doctors, if not all three.

It was a gamble, and we knew it.  The last thing we wanted to do was to be admonished by the doctor for our 'miracle cure' we found by accident on-line.  However, the notion sounded so reasonable and made so much sense, that when we were nearing the end of the meeting, Peter forged ahead with our question:  Would a secondary scraping and possible removal of a tiny bit more skin to achieve that clean margin?

Since the margins in question are close to the skin, there will be a chance to revisit them:  during reconstruction.  We were sure Dr. B. would just laugh, or perhaps say, "Yes, but"...and change the discussion.  He didn't.  In fact, he said that it was a reasonable solution, and should we decide we wanted to try it, and the new margins were 2 mm or more, then radiation may not be necessary in my case.  However, we would have to verify with the plastic surgeon that he would be comfortable taking on this task.  We also realize that if I choose to go this route, it means that I could still end up having radiation (post-reconstruction) if the margins are not comfortably clean.  However,  even then, because of the gray area, it would not be required, just recommended.

The meeting ended soon after, we shook hands and Peter and I literally floated down the hallway.  To say it went better than expected was a complete and utter understatement.  In fact, we were now even more anxious to meet with Dr. X and find out his take on the situation.

IMG_0652 We did not have to wait long, as the second drain needed to come out.  There had been not been much drainage to begin with and it had nearly abated entirely by this morning.  We are traveling tomorrow and with 8 or so hours of driving and a week before we could see him again, he felt the sooner it was out, the better off I would be.  Oh, and he had another surprise for me...perhaps you could guess from the tools in the photo?

We began the appointment with the standard review of the incision and then, as promised, the drain was pulled.  While it's not without discomfort, it was over quickly and we then moved onto the next step:  my first expansion.  Peter had been told over the phone that this would not occur for at least another week, so we were shocked to step in the room and have the assistant indicate that everything was "ready to go" for that step.

Immediately following the drain removal, Dr. X used a magnet to find the port in the tissue expander.  Interestingly enough, that was the most painful part.  As I have so much sensation, the pressure of locating the port was far more intense than the brief stick of the needle or the injection of the saline.  Within a few minutes the syringe was empty and we were ready to be on our way, save but for one question:  would he, Dr. X, agree to the residual scraping and consider it to be a viable option that would allow me to possibly avoid up to 7 weeks of radiation?

Without hesitation, he agreed that it was a topic that could be easily researched.  It is really just a matter of him discussing the location of the unclear margins with the breast surgeon.  In fact, he said that often the old scar from the (are you ready for this??) mastectomy (there, I typed it!) is removed, and he can also easily scrape the other areas close by and submit for pathological review.  With that, we left the office and as we were walking to the car, I started to tell Peter how I felt so lucky.  I then paused and realized that not even two weeks ago, I was miserable, questioning what I had done to deserve this and asked "Why me?" on an hourly basis.   

I know it's not necessarily luck.  I know it simply is what it is.  However, considering where I was mentally and emotionally six weeks ago (or even 5 days ago) and where I am now?  Utterly amazing what just little bits of good news can do....it's also interesting how simple twists of fate can alter your life in other ways...but let's save that for another post!

 

Note:  We still have to meet with my regular oncologist next Wednesday and, on a separate note, coordinate with the breast surgeon regarding location of the margin.  We are very optimistic, though, as the two most heavily involved doctors in this particular matter both agree it's worth a try which is a huge weight off our shoulders!  We also know there is a chance that it might not work at all, but at least we gave it a shot... 

 

November 21, 2010

What?!

This post isn't about...well, no, it isn't about that....that which has done nothing but occupy my mind for the past (is it only?) 6 weeks.  This post is about how we went to lunch!

Yes, the kids were out of the house for the weekend thanks to the Salty Dog Crew and Peter felt it was time that we got out of the house and I got fresh air for something other than just doctor/massage appointments.  Now, I am still recovering from surgery, so I have cut myself a bit of slack and massively upped the napping, but I thought he had a pretty good point.

Note:  the weekend actually almost didn't happen as he planned.  As it goes with this whole 'disease' business, Wednesday through Friday were a bit off for me.  As much as I tried, I couldn't get that nasty radiation business out of my head.  Remember how I had the extra huge surgery to avoid that sort of thing?  Well, it's anything but on the table in my opinion (and, yes, I am well aware I can go through it...but at this point, I am not committing to it). 

We have decided we will have another meeting (tomorrow, in fact) with Mr. Radiation Oncologist (who will have by then been informed by several people that his previous attitude was not only less than stellar, but absolutely, positively inappropriate for anyone, much less newly diagnosed patients still in shock) and learn about my 'options'.  Do not worry, we are also attacking this meeting head-on in the most pro-active way we know how: I am having another massage/drainage session immediately prior to said appointment! 

So I spent a good two days in funk about this whole thing and just couldn't get out of it.  Then Friday night I took a long walk to the mailbox (exercise is important) and found a plethora of cards for me, including one from an entire group of people in an office where Peter theoretically (since he is transferred often) works.  I opened the card, and it was like a Hallmark (or cotton, your pick) commercial.  The next thing I knew, both Peter and I were in tears and it reminded me that the world had not ended.  I was so touched (as I am by everything that each and every one of you has done for us) and all of the sudden Life Was Good.

Now, aren't you glad I lied about not writing about that which I was not going to mention?  Well, I tried....

Since I woke up in a much better mood Saturday morning, we decided to tackle the Farmers' Market.  I lasted a whopping 15 minutes before something about it made me sad, so Peter cheered me up by finding the best cup of hot cocoa on the planet and sharing it with me (as well as pumpkin with candied pecan ice cream).  If you are curious as to the nutritional value of the ice cream, I couldn't tell you as the company refuses to share it.  The exact quote is:  "You don't want to know!"

IMG_0636 Ice cream and hot cocoa do not a lunch though make.  Remembering that La Caraquena, an appropriately named Bolivian/Venezuelan cafe was not far away, we decided to share a few arepas for lunch.  As we went to sit down (carefully, of course), I turned, looked at the wall, and saw this sign.  My first thought:

How did they know about the handshake?  No one was around, other than the Ambassador, Chavez and his protective detail! 

IMG_0637 A few minutes later, after reviewing the menu and ordering our fried yucca, dos arepas and one bowl of sopa per person (mani for me, frijoles for Peter), I happened to look up and see the rest of the items that were framed around the sign.

IMG_0638 Oh.  They didn't mean Peter after all.  Given that it has been well over 8 years since we moved away from Caracalus*, where we lived for two years while he worked at the Ombassy, and also where  Caitlin drank copious amounts of mook-leggett (milk-leche), one would think the handshake would have been old news (though I bet our housekeeper at the time still brags about it...um, yes, we were on opposing political sides).  Still, I thought he had another 15 minutes coming....well, maybe after these pictures from our lunch!

*Yes, these are exact words from Cait's vocabulary at the time and I realized I must write about them before they are accidentally forgotten.

**If you are wondering, we highly, highly, highly recommend La CaraqueƱa.   If you try nothing else, have at least one arepa (we prefer grilled, but...) and the pabellon criollo is just as we remember...

November 19, 2010

{this moment}

A Friday ritual.  Two photos - no words - capturing moments from the week. Two simple, special, extraordinary moments. Moments I want to pause, savor and remember. If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment(s)' in the comments for all to find and see. 

Due to missing last week's moment for a complete lapse of, um, energy (?) on my part, this week will be a two-fer!

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IMG_0612

 
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Have an awesome weekend!

Idea courtesy of Soulemama.

 

November 18, 2010

100%

Today was supposed to be a good day, but I have learned of late not to put all of my eggs in one basket. I was a bit hesitant to leave the house, as I had not one, but two doctors' appointments, but given the way the surgery went, given the (verified) results I received over the phone and given that one visit was to the plastic surgeon (and we all know I utterly adore Dr. X), I was hopeful.

We made it to the first appointment in a timely manner, and the breast surgeon started off with an exam. She was extremely pleased with my progress, noted that I still had much more feeling than she expected and signed off on the manual lymphatic drainage massages that have increased my mobility, decreased my stiffness and enhanced my overall mood. Then she dropped the bombshell about my stage.

Breast cancer, as you are probably aware, can be defined by stages.  Since no one knew the true nature of my tumor or what was really going on in my breast until everything was, ahem, excavated, it was hard to truly define mine.  I'm not even going to get into too much detail just yet (we'll deal with that later), but for the sake of the conversation, we'll keep it to my overall level of illness, for lack of a better term.

When we first met with the breast surgeon, she put me somewhere between Stage 2A and 2B.  It was wrongly (at the time) assumed that my tumor was larger, and we had no true knowledge of the extent of lymph node involvement.  This did not thrill me, as the OB had assured me we had caught it 'early' and to me, nothing stage 2 or beyond (especially involving extra letters) reads 'early' to me.

We didn't stress about that too much, though, since there was plenty of other stuff to fret about.  Then we made the big mistake of visiting Mr. Radiation Oncologist who annoyed the you-know-what out of me.  Just prior to my putting him in his place, he decided to get in my face about my diagnosis and spat out, "For all we know, you are Stage 3!"

Now there are three parts to stage 3 and while they appear scary on paper, by this point in time I had read miracles about those with Stage 4.  So, if he though that was going to throw me, he had another thing coming.  Of course, it still lurked in the back of my mind, but we haven't seen him since and no one else bothered mentioning stages since only the surgery would answer all of the questions.

Well, answer it did.  I'm not Stage 3...not even close.  As the doctor looked up at me today with a huge grin on her face, she proudly announced that due to the small size of the IDC tumor (fewer than 2 centimeters) and the fact that there was no lymph node involvement, I am...drum roll...

Ahem, DRUM ROLL:

Stage 1.  Take, that Mr. "You Might Be Stage 3"!

And the survival rate for Stage 1, assuming that everything is caught in time and treated properly (remember we are still hoping for low Oncotype DX and no radiation)?

100%*.

(Now following the appointment there was a bit of nasty business about possibly still favoring radiation in an email from the oncologist, but we are doing our darndest to ignore that for now.)

Now, just how does one follow-up a visit like that?  With a little stop at the plastic surgeon's office of course!

The good news:  the dressing came off, everything looks good and I was able to adios one of the drains. The bad news: I looked, I was horrified and I just cried.

I think it's just going to take time for me to adjust.  The surgeon left the room and I wept in Peter's arms for a good 10 minutes.  I guess it's not awful, but it's not what was there.  Yes, there is a good bit of feeling, yes, it has only been 6 days since the surgery, and yes, we are nowhere near finished. Still it's not the same and I can't say it's not going to take a bit of adjusting.

The upside?  There is not so much dissimilarity between the, uh, sides, that I can't soon wear normal undergarments (well, as normal as zip up sport bras get).  Um, yeah, that's it for upsides for now...

*Yes, there are some websites that say 98%, but we all know that in cases like this, it's much happier to round up. So, round up we will! 

November 16, 2010

Is it safe to look?

It's been 5 full days since the surgery that I was fully convinced would change my life forever.  In fact, to be brutally honest, I was not sure I was actually going to make it through the surgery.  I was sure my complete mental block over the entire situation was going to cause some kind of shut-down somewhere and the event would be over before it started.  I am not sure what exactly the outcome would be, but I did not expect for me to be here, feeling as I do.

And what, pray tell, is that?

To already feel as though I have an almost normal life again.

Well, it's not entirely normal. I have sizeable medicine chest just for me (you know the plastic kind with 4 rows for each day of the week), there is the drain issue, I can't wear anything that doesn't make me look 6 months pregnant (the first person that congratulates me...), I sleep 10 hours at night, plus several more during the day and just taking a shower exhausts me to the point of needing a nap.  On the up side, we have been showered with flowers, healthy and tasty meals and I am actually being encouraged to take naps on a regular basis (naps ROCK, by the way...percocet-laced dreams, not so much, but beggars can't be choosers...).

I have been lucky (well, some say luck, but it's also his hard work) to have a husband with a stable job and plenty of sick leave so that he can care for me and run the household.  I am trying to overlook the fact that while I appreciate his help and it is much needed, I still feel incredibly guilty that he is here assisting me instead of saving the world or all the other stuff he does so well in his professional life. I am also very relieved to announce that I received a phone call today that the clear lymph node test results were NOT a fluke (there is a 5% chance false negative) and the cancer absolutely, positively, has not spread.  

There is but one thing that prevents me from feeling 100% myself.  Okay, several, but one biggie:  I have no idea what I look like.   I don't mean what I look on the outside..(squeamish people, run and hide), but what I look like on the inside.  What is lurking behind that incredibly large camisole-type bra that poufs my shirt out to Kalamazoo?  What is underneath the mysterious dressing that I have glimpsed only briefly as I claim to look at a mole on my shoulder, but can't help but let my eyes wander just a teeny tiny bit further south than they should?

In other words, I cannot say whether I am disappointed in the surgery, pleased with the outcome or simply can't wait for the entire reconstruction process to be over as I haven't yet gotten up the nerve to look at myself in the mirror.  If you are wondering, yes, this can making showering and getting dressed (to a point) a bit difficult.  However, since I still have so much accoutrement, there is little getting dressed that doesn't require a tiny bit of help. 

I have seen the before, during (post- surgery, pre-reconstruction) and after photos from my plastic surgeon's other cases.  I have all of the faith in the world that in the end I will be pleased with the results.  Yet, it didn't even occur to me until two days after the surgery that anything had been removed.  I was so tightly bound with dressings and surgical bras that everything 'felt' just like it should.  In fact, during my post-surgical exam on Friday, I nearly jumped out of my skin when my doctor ran her finger along the top of my breast (well, technically the skin is still there).  This startled her as she expected me to have little to no feeling.  I have been pleasantly surprised by itches, the warmth and cold of water temperatures and the unexpected, but happily received pain from Little Guy hugs that were just a bit too tight.

I know I should just give in and look.  I tried to peek the other day, but didn't notice much other than things didn't seem to line up quite the way they had in the past.  It wasn't terribly dissimilar, but just enough for me to notice a slight change and quickly look away.

Tomorrow is not only my first out-patient review with my breast surgeon, but there is also an afternoon appointment with the plastic surgeon.  Peter has suggested that perhaps if I wait until the time with Dr. X, it will be a better time to take that first glance, to see my new (albeit temporary) self.  Dr. X will be present with his kind words, his patience and the knowledge of what to say to those who are perhaps a bit stunned by their newly altered bodies.  And maybe, just maybe, I'll give it a good long look, glance away, look again and (fingers crossed) realize that I have just crossed another hurdle on my path to wellness.  I'll know that it's just temporary, comparatively speaking it 'looks good' and within a few seconds I will be dressed and discussing what will happen next.

I'm really not sure what happened last week.  I went into the surgery thinking it was the end of my world.  I thought I would end up leaving the recovery room a mental wreck, feeling as though I had been mutilated and permanently disfigured.  Instead, at least for now, the only sense that continually swirls through my mind is that I suddenly have a new lease on life and it feels pretty incredible if I do say so myself.

 

November 14, 2010

Sssh!

Peter doesn't know I am on the laptop.  As far as he is concerned, my jammie-clad and uber-comfy (minus a good amount of arm pain) self is happily tackling the Sunday crossword.  However, due to my new friends, Ms. Percocet and Mr. Valium, just 5 minutes of crossword puzzle attempting can send me right into nap-land.

As Peter blogged on Friday, all is basically well.  Despite my fears from my pre-written post that published almost exactly at the time that I was being hoisted on to the OR table ("scoot over to the right...no back to the left...well, just a smidge more to the right..."), the day far exceeded my expectations.  The sentinel node biopsy prep was handled by a nurse with a calm demeanor, a quiet voice and a skilled hand.  The three shots were no more painful than bee stings and it was over before I knew it.   

IMG_0604 In fact, the morning was quite smooth from arrival to the beginning of surgery.  I was prepped nearly exactly as described, given warming blankets aplenty, a relatively painless IV and had visits with each doctor who would be working on me during the surgery.  I was also hooked up to a compression machine that would help avoid clotting issues, crucial especially given my family history.  My legs were wrapped in what looked (and felt) like soft shin guards that alternately compressed my lower legs from the time I was prepped for surgery until I was up and mobile.  Most importantly, Peter was with me until they took me down to the OR.  In fact, once I was settled on the OR table, I had but a few seconds before I was completely passed out.  No counting backwards for me on this day.

IMG_0609 Before I knew it, I was in the recovery room being regaled with the good news:  not a bit of cancer was detected in the sentinel nodes.  The surgeon did have to remove four nodes, as they were all clumped together, but they were 100% clean. The news, as one might expect, led me to burst into immediate tears of joy.  My biggest fear was a possible spread and now I was reassured that was anything but the case.  I have a feeling the OR nurses are used to this, as one simply asked if I was okay, I said, "Yes, just very happy!" and he let it go at that.

I can't honestly say that I remember much more of the day.  The surgery left me feeling as though my right side had been run over by a Mack truck and between the anesthesia and the constant stream of pain meds, I was pretty much out until the next morning.  I had a few minutes of clarity that allowed me to visit with my friends Jack and Janet, who kindly watched me so Peter could grab some dinner and a few minutes with the doctor.

It must have been a classic hospital visit:  the breast surgeon walked in, asked me how I was doing, I gave a thumbs up and then promptly yakked up the water that had just been too refreshing to pass up not five minutes before.  She took it as a good sign, though, and reminded me that since I do not take much, if any medication, on a regular basis, that the anesthesia was likely to affect me a bit more than others.

IMG_0599 I also now remember that I probably owe Jack and Janet a better visit. Not only did they thoughtfully bring Peter an eggnog latte while I was in the midst of surgery, but came back several times and just sat with us.  I wish I could have actually conversed, but my strength was pretty much limited to occasionally squeezing Janet's hand and a wan smile thrown in Jack's direction.  My hopes to sit up and have quality time with Peter later that night were dashed by my exhaustion, though I eventually managed to down a small container of gelatin and sip warm broth through a straw.  Then, despite numerous interruptions by nurses throughout the night, I still eked out several straight hours of sleep and managed to wake up by 8 a.m. and stay awake (okay, I had a few nap breaks) until later in the afternoon on Friday.

IMG_0610 By Friday afternoon I had passed all of the prerequisites for check-out (if you will) and was ready to have Peter pack my bags and head home.  My doctor had not only signed out on my departure early in the afternoon, but also approved a post-surgical massage from that point on (originally I had been told I might have to wait a week, however, she was extremely impressed with my progress).  Given that, Peter will be calling the Teal Center first thing in the morning to pencil me in for a massage/manual lymphatic drainage that should coincide with my follow-up visit to the breast surgeon later this week for a check-up and post-op pathology report review.

Where are we now?  I have been home for nearly two days and while I am not quite my old self just yet, I am sleeping long stretches at night, getting great use out of my new jammies* during the night (and day) , eating real food and enjoying visits from friends and family.  Between the Salty Dog Crew and Grandpa Kirk, the kids have been consistently occupied and have barely noticed that I am not quite back to ye olde Jen/Mom Lady just yet.

We also had an incredibly special treat last night:  Jill, an amazing lady who I am so honored to call a friend, and her husband (also deployed on a one year UT), stopped by to visit and have dinner with us.  I fear for what I must have looked like as I can't really do the make-up thing yet (oh, heck, I rarely do it anyway) and my shirts are dictated by the under-accoutrement (drains** and the like) that I must wear for the next two weeks or so, but it was an extremely fun evening regardless of me maybe still being a bit out of it.  It was a relaxing night, a distraction I needed, and though I wish I could have been a better hostess, both Peter and I were so grateful to have a much-needed quiet couples night in.

Today I haven't accomplished much other than napping, resting and using my right arm to the extent that I can without overdoing it.  Nothing other than a quiet night on the agenda, while the kids spend a bit more quality time with Grandpa and we try to stay awake for a whole movie.  All things considered, I am in such a much better state than I was this time last week...and owe a huge debt of gratitude to my friends and family for helping me find that happy place!  Please know that the comments, messages, emails, texts, cards, gifts, meals and phone calls continue to boost my spirits, as we know there still may be not so thrilling, but possibly necessary follow-up treatments.  Many, many thanks to each and every one of you!

(If you are wondering, since no jewelry is allowed (quite obviously) during surgery, the nurse suggested that Peter take care of my rings for me, rather than leave them at home.  He found the perfect way to keep them safe and close to his heart while I was in surgery.)

 

*The jammies are designed just for folks having this type of surgery.  I really, really did not want to buy the pajamas due to what they represented. However, I am so very glad I did, as they are so incredibly comfortable and useful.  More importantly, they do not look anything like what one might imagine post-surgical jammies to be.  

** I will just link to this topic here. Drains are one of the unfortunate necessities for this type of surgery.  The good news?  All appears to be going well with mine. The better news?  I have a fabulous husband who has taken care of everything in this regard and has not let me stress over it one iota.

November 12, 2010

The Morning After

Pete here again with an update for everyone. The bad news is that hospital gowns have not evolved in step with modern fashion (see pic of my beautiful wife included for proof! (but in truth she makes anything look good)). The good news (as we had all hoped) is that the cancer had not spread and the lymph nodes are clean! The axillary node dissection was not needed.

Since the cancer did not spread to the lymph nodes, it means she may not need as much treatment as originally thought (it will still be a few more weeks until the doctors review all the test results to make a final determination).

Jen slept peacefully throughout the night. I too was able to catch a few winks. However, most of the time I just sat there and stared at this amazing woman in front of me. As I did, instead of thinking about what she has endured over the past month, I thought about all the joys we will experience together in the future!

The Morning After

November 11, 2010

The Woman I Love

As you have probably surmised from the title of this post, this is Pete making a rare blog authoring appearance to give a quick update on the woman I love. I have spoken to Jen's doctors and they tell me her surgery went well. She is out of recovery and we are in her room. More details will follow in time, but right now I have to take care of my baby.

If you are reading this

Warning:  This post is not for the faint of heart. If you tend to be squeamish, you may want to stop reading now.  I should also note that this is what we expect will happen.  In all likelihood, I will post an update if things were radically different (and hopefully better)!

at the exact time it was published, then the journey towards my 'new life' is likely beginning. I have been at the hospital since 7:30 a.m. in order to take care of paperwork and other fun pre-op chores.  While I may not be under anesthesia yet, let's hope to God the Xanax I took at midnight last night and the follow-up dose I took at 6:30 a.m. did the trick of relaxing me.

Once the paperwork was finished, I was led to a room where I could change into my surgical 'gear'.  I am wearing a hospital gown that opens in the front (*shudder*) and one over that one that opens in the back in order to keep me warm until surgery begins.  Thoughtful, eh?  Supposedly, I will have warming packs, too, but those will not be added until the pre-surgical procedure is over.

You see, as part of this nightmare, I am going to be forced to undergo a sentinel node biopsy.  I tried to opt out (lymph nodes are there for a reason), but was told "no" in no uncertain terms (so much for options).  Yes, I am one of those crazy people who prefers their body to be more intact* rather than less.  Apparently, the surgeon disagrees.  A huge point of contention, but I am going through with this anyway and woe will be to the surgeon** if I end up with lymphedema.  

After I am in my surgical get-up, I will have been sent to radiology so they can inject me not once, not twice, but three times in my breast with radioactive dye.  Fun!  Not only that, what is the follow-up? I will have had to rub my nipple in order to get the dye "flowing" to properly work during the surgery.

Guess what, Jen?  Not only are you having your entire boob removed, but, to add insult to injury, we are going to force you to rub in the radioactive dye in the area that you will lose within hours and never feel again....ever.    Yes, you can bet they will be getting feedback on how to make this procedure less emotionally painful.

Following that debacle, we will have gone back up to the pre-surgical area, where the I.V. for anesthesia will have been started.  I'll have been on the gurney nervously awaiting transport praying that the anesthesia kicks in quickly once we arrive in the O.R. ...the faster I am asleep, the better as far as I am concerned.  Then a few minutes before 10:30 a.m., they will have retrieved me.  I'll give Peter one last kiss and hold onto his hand as long as possible, until they pushed me through a set of doors that breaks our clasp.

Then?  Supposedly three hours (or so) from now, I will be wheeled into recovery and I will be on my way to healing.  I am too frightened to think about what I will look or feel like.  I guess only time will tell as to whether I will be remotely pleased or upset beyond words by the results.  It's all for the best, though...right?

*I am sure there are many who will think I am off my rocker and I accept that...but A. it's my body...and B.  damage done now will affect me for the rest of my life...and quality of life is a huge issue for me.

**It's probably quite obvious that I am not thrilled with the bed-side manner of my surgeon.    While researching a separate topic, I stumbled upon this article.  I was thrilled to find someone in the medical field who not only noticed the pain, but actually attempted to understand the loss incurred...for both the woman and her spouse/partner (and then shared with the world). 

November 09, 2010

In an attempt

IMG_0550 to distract myself from my life, I ran away last weekend.  I packed my bags, grabbed Peter and we high-tailed it to Bucks County, PA.  Long before these messy health issues were upon us, we had been invited to my cousin's wedding and we realized it would be the perfect time for a weekend special at the Sheraton.

We had originally planned to do the uber-romantic B&B thing, however we ran up against two issues: they are pricey and they don't always have what you want.  If I am back-packing across Europe, I don't mind having to share a hall-bath.  However, a romantic weekend getaway that is running us $200/night?  We darn well better have a clawfoot tub/Jacuzzi and most definitely a private bath.

 Even when we thought we would have a bit extra from Peter's time in B'dad (those days are LONG gone), the thought of spending that much on a weekend away made us a bit ill.  Then my cousin mentioned that there was a post-wedding brunch at the hotel on Sunday, and we realized we could suck it up and consider the Sheraton our place of choice for a whopping $99/night (pre-paying Friday morning saved us $105 alone!).

It wasn't until our arrival at the hotel that we realized that our last stay there had been the evening of May 17, 1997 (ahem, think wedding bells for us...).  So, while it may not be the B&B we hoped for, certainly brought back many good memories (minds out of the gutter, I was remembering our moms singing a duet of "I Will Survive" during a Karoake session at the post-reception party).  Oh, I must find those pictures!

We checked in and had but a few minutes to scoot to the rehearsal dinner.  My aunt (technically my cousin, but I don't feel up to semantics) had invited us to nearly every event possible.  The dinner was held in West Trenton and upon arrival, we realized we didn't really know that many folks, nor did we have a clue where to sit.  We did the small talk thing, sipped a nice pinot and then we were motioned to sit...but where?

All of the available seats were taken, save for two at the table with the bride's parents and their best friends. Rather sheepishly we took our places and felt like complete intruders...until they learned about Peter's job and our travels.  Instantly it opened up the conversation for the men.  However, I was a bit, well, shy and unsure of how to fit in.  Then fate took a hand.  

I admit, I spent a good portion of the night texting with our 'sitter'.  We had never left Nicholas for an entire weekend before and while I assumed he would be fine, I didn't want to jinx myself.  Just as I was putting my iPhone back in my purse for the 100th time, I felt a pair of eyes on me.  I looked up (having hoped all of my texting had gone unnoticed) and there was the mother of the bride, with just the tiniest gleam in her eye.

"You have an iPhone?" she asked.

"Um, well, yes, just texting home to check on the Little Guy!" Huge gulp and quickly imagining being kicked out of fabulous dinner.  Busted!

"Don't you," and she paused to look around, "Don't you just LOVE it?"

Huh?

She then looked down at me, gave me a big grin and stated (oh so proudly),"I got an iPad for Christmas...I don't know what I ever did without it!"

Commence at least 30 minute conversation on iEverything.  The rest of the evening flew by, and the next thing we knew, it was Saturday afternoon and we were off to the first wedding we had attended in years.  Even when we have been state-side, our schedules/circumstances haven't always allowed for us to be able to participate in family events.  To actually be present at a wedding and catch up with family we haven't seen in years was an enormous treat. 

The reception lasted well into the night and the reports from the homefront said that all was going well.  We ended the weekend with a post-wedding brunch on Sunday morning and headed home after making a brief, but necessary stop at the cemetary.

IMG_5276 Normally not a topic one would associate with the emotion 'happy', but we had stopped to ensure our satisfaction with my mom's gravestone.  We have been waiting years (quite literally) and it wasn't until last fall that it was finally completed.  Despite my fears, it was not the upsetting trip I thought it might be.  We found the grave, marked it on Peter's GPS (if you know my mom, she would love that...), and added a small Christmasy decoration.  I really wasn't sure what to do, as it still seems wrong to be doing any of this so soon...she was just so young.  I got through it though, and realized that I was fine.  No tears, it just is what it is, even if seemingly years too soon.

Then we went home.  We had a dinner to attend that night in Annandale, so we picked up a quick lunch (Jules, how we have missed you!) and headed back to 95.  We didn't have a chance to do everything we originally planned (no romatic stroll along the canal), but Peter wisely figured those items left undone could easily be added our list for the next trip.  Still, we had more than 48 hours just to ourselves and they were absolutely priceless, especially considering the timing.  The next few weeks to months will likely be less than stellar and I will need all of the happy weekend memories as motivation to slug through it all.  Pete swears that island vacation is not on the back burner, as I feared...guess we shall see?

Um, yeah, kind of forgot to have anyone take a good pic of us and not sure when the official family wedding photos will be ready.  As an FYI, that is not a giant pimple on my face in the first photo, it's a dimple...I swear!  

 

 

 

November 08, 2010

Is it wrong

to be extremely cranky and jealous right now?  I am supposed to be on a high from a weekend away (thank you, Salty Dogs, for taking such fabulous care of our crew!) which was really awesome, BUT

posts are being assigned.  Handshakes are being given and so many people are finally hearing the good/great/fabulous news about upcoming assignments except...yep, except us.  Thanks to my less than stellar health, our bidding is still completely on hold and may in fact, be over for this year.  I thought I was getting over it, and then realized this morning that I still can't shake my utter disappointment in myself.

We worked SO bloody hard for this and everything has completely fallen apart with regard to next year's post.  People say things happen for a reason.  Reason, if you are out there and listening, please get in touch ASAP.  I really, really need to know why me, why now...and I'll take almost anything for an answer.

(And, yes, there WILL be a Jen & Pete had a very happy weekend in "Pencil"vania* post..it just may be a bit delayed)

*About an hour after we left, Nick asked where we were going.  Shannon replied, "Pennsylvania."  A bit later, Nick asked if we had any pencils.  I do so love the literal thinking of a toddler...

 

November 06, 2010

Who knew

Power strips were required for romantic getaways? Ah, one of the many joys of being married to a techno-gadget geek...and, no, I wouldn't change him for the world...

Who knew

November 05, 2010

{this moment}

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see. 

 

IMG_0543

*** *** *** 

Idea courtesy of Soulemama

November 04, 2010

Grateful

IMG_0548 For the friends who are giving us a last weekend away before the 'D day' on Thursday, watching our children on 'D Day' and giving us a follow-up weekend to recover.  For Grandpa, who will travel several hundred miles to spend several days (and nights) with the kids, so we will not have to stress about anything after two days in the hospital.

IMG_0549 We are thankful for the long-time friends and those we have only just met who have dropped off dinners and for those who have offered meals over the next two months.  We are appreciative beyond words of the person who has taken it upon herself to organize this site for us.  She has worked diligently to ensure that our needs are met and we are so grateful for all she has done.  We are touched by those who bring drop by hand-made gifts 'just because' and by those who know when a box of chocolates is just what the doctor ordered.

Then the cards, comments, emails, and phone calls have continued and also work to bouy our spirits. We are thrilled to be part of such an amazing community and while it is nowhere near adequate thanks, please know that we are so appreciative of each and every person out there who has been so kind to us. We only hope that someday, somehow we can return the favor... and maybe throw a giant party when all is said and done?

 

November 03, 2010

I spy

While all three kids were home from school on Monday, yesterday was a day off only for Caitlin and Kelsey.  Prior to this entire "BC" mess, I had planned on taking the girls into the city to visit the Spy Museum on this particular Tuesday.  I had long been intrigued by the concept, but had been forewarned by others that LG may not yet appreciate all it has to offer.  Since it turned out that we still had a relatively free day, we went ahead with our plans (shockingly normal!).

IMG_0544 Caitlin surprised all of us by actually hauling her tired self out of bed by 9:30 a.m. (it's hard reading until 3 a.m. and then being expected to get out of bed before noon on a day off!).   Peter purchased tickets for the 11 a.m. tour and we drove into the city (which breaks my green, eco-concious heart, but since it would cost us 3x as much to take the Metro as it would to drive....).  We parked, walked the whopping two blocks to the museum and took the one and only picture we could.  For whatever bizarre reason, one cannot take photos inside the museum.

I thought momentarily I was some sort of criminal type as it seemed like my iPhone had 'accidentally' snapped a photo while I was in the "choose your disguise" room.  Sadly, it was not the case (and the photo would have only been of the floor).  The verdict?  

The kids liked it, Peter liked it, and I thought it was interesting.  I probably would had more fun, but I knew in the back of my mind it was just a distraction.  I did enjoy actually being able to peruse the museum at my own pace, as that has not happened in ages.  While I love Little Guy dearly, I absorb next to nothing when we take him to a museum.  Ever tried following a whirling dervish through the Museum of Natural History or any other museum, for that matter?

After absorbing oodles of information on every spy and double agent out there, being cajoled to purchase half of the gift shop, and watching a theft nearly take place in said gift shop, it was time to leave.  What is it about kids and gift shops...why do they always want what they already have?  We have a perfectly good set of real handcuffs at home, but NOOOO, gotta have the cheap souvenir junk. 

I thought the perfect way to cap the day in the city would be a tasty lunch downtown.  The only problem? I have not been to that part of DC in ages (yes, I am embarassed to admit that) and had no clue what was around.  I Yelped nearby restaurants and found a Latin American themed restaurant that seemed to fit the bill.  It was a bit pricey, but had crab-filled arepa on the menu as well as other tasty treats.

It was a total disaster. Not only had they just changed the menu, so the "seasonal" arepa dish was now a duck confit, but the kids' burgers came out covered in stuff they didn't order and raw as could be.  The guacamole was quite good (and ended up being free), but it just wasn't what we had desired.  Between the lack of arepas (they are NOT seasonal!), the messy burgers and me suddenly remembering what I was trying to forget, it was a lousy lunch.  I had to work to finish the tiniest salad on the planet and then escaped for a few minutes by myself while Peter dealt with a cranky Kelsey (well, they did royally screw up the order) and Cait, who must antagonize her  ("My burger is SOOO yummy!").

Part of the problem is that I had too much time to think during the morning.  I had plenty of time to reflect on last week and decided to dwell on the visit with the radiation oncologist that was less than stellar.  It probably would not have been so problematic, but the appointment was Thursday afternoon.  We found out Thursday morning that it would almost immediately followed by that ultrasound of my right ovary that I had been delaying.  Well, not delaying, but I simply had not scheduled it, as by the end of the week before last, I simply couldn't take any more bad news.

I figured I would get to the ultrasound eventually and since most everyone seemed convinced that the ovary issue was a naturally occuring blip, it wasn't urgent (in my mind).  The oncologist decided at my visit on Wednesday that it would behoove everyone to simply nip it in the bud and have the scan completed ASAP.  As luck would have it, there was an opening an hour after my visit with the radiation oncologist was over.  Thrilling, no?

To say I was not happy about meeting with the radiation guy was an understatement.  It was my 5th appointment of the week, and I was completely over meeting with people.  He noticed that I was not thrilled and thought it would be fun to play Dr. "I'm not going to sugarcoat" anything.  I was SO not in the mood and when I finally snapped at him that "I DO have options" he paused, admitted I was right and made his tone a little less threatening.  In reality, of all the things that may happen, I am probably the least stressed about the possibility of radiation treatments.  However, he caught me on the heels of an hour of Googling "treatments for ovarian cancer" and my mood was in the toilet. 

Fortunately, as with the chemo, radiation is not even on the table yet.  It won't be an issue unless they find "x" number of affected lymph nodes during the surgical procedure.  Supposedly, x=3, but I am sure if this guy has his way, x will = .01% of one node.  We went on our merry way after he softened his tone and realized that it was pointless to go much further since we did not have a complete diagnosis.

We still had an hour to kill prior to the ultra-sound, but we managed to fill that with lots of 'what-ifs' about both radiation and the possible results of the u/s.  Finally, we were called back and I got to have not only an abdominal ultrasound, but also a...you know what, I'll spare you the misery.  After 20 agonizing minutes and little or no talking on the part of the tech, she left for a consultation with the radiologist.  Another incredibly long and painful five minutes passed and she finally came back.

"The radiologist reviewed the ultra-sound and we can tell you that it's...

completely normal."

Not the response I expected given the somewhat grim look on her face, but our exhalations could likely be heard in California.  We practically skipped out of the office, and hurried home so Caitlin could make it to her voice class.  The best part?  The ultrasound not only capped off the week of appointments, but was also the final doctor's visit prior to "D-Day" next week.  I can't say that I am looking forward to November 11 at, gulp, 10:30 a.m., but at least we have a few normal days before then...

 

November 01, 2010

In a groove

of good spirits.  For whatever reason, and I am not questioning my good karma on this matter, my ability to be a bit more even-keeled has extended into today and no end appears to be in sight.  Not only did I not spend the entire day worrying about next week (or the weeks after) but I was actually able to get a few things accomplished.

I'd like to believe that something magically clicked and my enthusiasm for life will not again ebb, but I am not going to go that far.  I do think that finally really revisiting the oncologist appointment with Peter might have much to do with it.  As much as I expected last Wednesday afternoon to be a complete wash, I was actually pleasantly (yes, a happy word) surprised by the visit.

Now I am not necessarily 100% on board with everything that she desires for my treatment plan. However, as it stands now, there is only one semi-definite item on her list for me:  hormone therapy, in the form of Tamoxifen.  As far as I am concerned, this needs to be discussed a bit more.  I was not expecting to hear anything about it in the appointment, so had not adequately researched it prior to our meeting.  Now that I have....well, many questions will have to be answered and topics discussed before I will choose to go ahead with it (yes, choice, a wonderful thing!).  It doesn't mean I won't, but I am not jumping head-long into anything.  However, we have plenty of time for a review, so yet another item  I can put on the back burner for now.

Perhaps I should start at the beginning....after lunch following the visit to the plastic surgeon, we drove to the hospital arriving at the hospital well ahead of our visit.  We arrived very promptly at the wrong office, and then spent 15 minutes trying to find the oncologist's office.  One problem:  it was located next to the cancer treatment area and no one could tell us exactly where it was.  No signs pointing us in the right direction, and we finally stumbled upon it by sheer dumb luck (why are hospital ground levels like mazes?).   The receptionist was kind (why do they have to be so nice?), but inundated me with a stack of paperwork.  My medical history (just one more time...), the usual consents and basic contact information.  

A few minutes later we were interuppted to begin the appointment.  It wasn't until this point that I realized that the office was within the treatment center.  The nurse took us back and let me know she needed to get my weight.  We turned the corner and landed smack in the middle of a room half-filled with patients in the middle of chemotherapy treatments.  I was stunned and it hit me full-force why we were there.  Yes, it was only a consultation, but that could easily be me in a few months.  

Suddenly weak-kneed, I stood on the scale.  She noted my weight and I realized quickly the (only) bonus:  I am dropping weight faster than I have in years.  It's not the cancer, but the accompanying stress.  I was fully clothed with chunky-heeled boots on and still weighed two pounds fewer than I noted on the form (and I thought that was a low estimate).  The nurse then took my temperature and blood pressure and exited in time for the doctor to arrive and ask that we continue the meeting in her office.  

I was not sure what to expect at all, but she was just, well, normal.  Not overly stressed, not in my face about treatments or my "lack of options," just concerned and wanting to get as complete a picture as possible of my history.  Peter began and then she began peppering me with questions.  She admitted it wasn't to stress me, but to really try and figure out what was going on.  In fact, she was still catching up on my case and had not realized that I was not going to have neo-ajduvant chemotherapy prior to surgery (yes, we, too, were surprised when she mentioned it).  There were a few minutes of confusion and she finally realized another exam was needed to give her the full picture.  

The exam gave her a better idea, but the primary problem is that no one knows the full extent of what is going on inside me.  There are numerous calcifications surrounding the tumor and the lump that I felt may or may not be entirely cancerous.  It is, sadly, a mystery of sorts that will only be solved when the entire area is excavated (if you will)  and studied next week.  While it is thought that (unlike the original estimate) the invasive portion is only .2 cm, no one knows for sure...hence the need for surgery.

The exam, a thorough review of the path report and finally confirmation that I am Her2-negative (this is a good thing).  In case you are taking notes, I am also ER and PR positive.  This is the situation that the oncologist was hoping to find, as it means more treatment options and that the breast cancer may not be as aggressive as it could be.  Yes, this is GREAT...well, so I have been told.  It doesn't negate the fact that I have still have cancer and am facing up to...egads...months to years of treatments, it simply means that the response to the treatments might be much better than if I happened to be ER/PR negative and/or Her2-positive. 

After the spiel on Tamoxifen and the mention of "shutting down my ovaries," I fell into a daze of sorts.  I am guessing that between the stunned look and a few tears, that she seemed to think we could discuss the subject more later.  She then began to touch on chemotherapy.  I didn't lose it (amazing, as I am not pro on the idea at all), but at least in this area, there is more room for contemplation.  She utilizes a method of testing called Oncotype DX test in order to assess whether chemo is truly needed.   Clearly, I am hoping to be on the low end of the spectrum, but we will discuss thoroughly and weigh the options no matter what score I receive.

Given my family history of clotting issues, she was motivated to order a rather thorough work-up to ensure that if hormonal therapy would be used, it would not be problematic for me.  The visit ended on a high note of only 9 tubes of blood being drawn, though the wait was far more painful.  It was a good 20 minutes before the nurse could figure out how to "code" the test, take the blood and then not screw up the tube labeling.  

Ideally, I would never choose to spend the afternoon at the oncologist's office.  However, she was so refreshingly human that it was not nearly as painful as I expected.  I can't say I was working on all gears, as I was so incredibly nervous about what she might suggest.   It wasn't until I started reviewing the information that I realized I had digested worst case scenarios that she had not mentioned.  By Saturday, I was up to reviewing the day with Peter and he realized that I was putting more stress on myself by somehow confusing one of the issues on chemotherapy.  He insisted he was correct, and thoughtfully verified with the doctor today.  Oh, and he didn't call her, SHE called us.  She just wanted to relay the results of the blood work (all clear) and check on me.  Thoughtful, eh?  

I really don't want to have an oncologist.  However, I think if one must be had, her demeanor, concern and willingness to help in a thoughtful manner has convinced me that she is the right one for me.  Not something I ever thought I would say or write, but I'm liking the calm and just going to focus on the positive...(I know I've said that before and promptly fallen off the wagon, but I think I'll cut myself a little slack given the circumstances).  Oh, and another reason I may be happier...a day off from appointments tomorrow AND a trip into DC with the girls.  Distraction City, baby!