Another big day—chemo treatment #2. Getting through this one means I’m halfway through the hard meds. Yay!
One of the weird things that doesn’t get talked about much is that every treatment goes through the port and that the port is at a weird spot in the chest—about 4” below the collarbone and about that close to my armpit. I need to wear clothing that allows access—a button down or a shirt with a low and wide neckline. I know it doesn’t sound like a big deal in the grand scheme of things, but in the middle of winter, all I want to wear is a soft, cozy sweater.
I’m also tired of wearing the easy, “comfortable” clothing they recommend for these visits. I always enjoyed dressing up for work (not anything I need to do for work-from-home) so I decided I’d make a bit more effort for my doctor’s appointments. Since my appointment today started at 7:30 am, I picked out an outfit last night after testing shirts that weren’t flannel. I ended up with a crossover shirt and sparkly cardigan with dressier leggings and cute boots I haven’t worn since last winter. I even put on jewelry!
We’ve all heard that we should dress to impress. I’m not sure I impressed anyone today, but I did feel more like my normal self, which felt good. It felt like I was back in control. I haven’t been living in pajamas or sweatsuits, but I certainly haven’t been dressing up at home. Maybe I should, at least occasionally. Thoughts for another post. Today, I’m grateful for moments of normalcy during times that certainly are not normal. Oh, and I’m thankful for making it through round 2 without issue. Yay! (Again because it deserves it.)
We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools. —Martin Luther King, Jr.
This quote seems every bit as relevant today as it did when it was spoken in 1964. I’m grateful today for the brave men and women who speak up for others and do what’s necessary and right for all people at the risk of their own lives. They seem to be more and more rare.
However, regardless of what the news constantly shows, I believe there are plenty of people who want to live in harmony. During what seems like an insurmountable divide in our country right now, I interact with people daily who know how to be decent and respectful to others, even when they don’t agree. The examples may not be as memorable or grand, but I believe it’s not insignificant. We can personally make a difference in our own interactions. I’m also thankful for that.
As part of a Christmas gift, someone gave me a box of these inspirational cards. I flip through them every once in a while and this one stood out to me because I feel like I had a moment like this today.
Our two dogs are a lot like small children in the house. They get bored periodically and start getting snippy with each other or with us. They drag their toys around the living room and fight over the same bones. Usually around late afternoon, I can tell that they need to release some energy. Mind you, they have a doggie door and a large, fenced back yard which they run out into throughout the day, mostly to bark at some poor neighbor trying to walk past our fence. Yet they still seem to need some interaction. Probably because we aren’t walking them around the neighborhood during the winter like we do during the warmer months.
So I started going out into the back yard with them. It’s amazing how excited they get when they see me grab my snow boots. They have complete and total access to the backyard 24/7, but for some reason, they love it when I (or we) go out with them. Usually, it prompts them to start a game of chase where they run after each other around the yard. And sometimes, like today, we just walk to the back fence and stand under the trees together.
I’m sure our neighbors think we’re weird, but I don’t care. Most days it helps the dogs lounge easier all evening, having worn themselves out a bit. And it makes me feel good to know how much they love it.
Today, as I stood in the backyard with my pups, we all looked up at the trees and breathed in the cool, fresh air when it started softly snowing. I looked back at our house, and I thought, I’m really happy to be in this moment. Like the saying on the card, I felt truly grateful for what I have.
Today I took down our Christmas decorations. Well, most of them. I kind of ran out of steam so I left some of the little trees around. They seem wintery still and I’m not ready to see the house so empty.
This is one of the areas I left that makes me happy—it’s a combination of nature and family mementos. I’m thankful for these little spots in my house.
Today was more difficult than I was anticipating. I had an appointment early in the morning to meet my plastic surgeon and go over reconstruction options. Although it’s not 100% necessary, I’m leaning towards a bilateral mastectomy. I really don’t want the worry that cancer could return in what I leave behind.
My plastic surgeon is nice. He specializes in this area and has his own family history of dealing with breast cancer, so he has an understanding of how overwhelming things can be. He mentioned more than once that I could call his office at any time with any question and that ultimately I was in charge of what I wanted. His explanations were thorough, his suggestions made sense, and he seems very capable.
I’m not sure what my expectations were. I expected that they may have to take photos. I guess I wasn’t expecting that they’d be taken in a room with bright lights and a backdrop, like class picture day. Standing with my hands by my sides, naked torso, turning at intervals while the female nurse photographed me wasn’t what I had imagined. I expected that the doctor would want to examine me. I may have even expected it when he took out a white eyeliner to draw on my body to show me where the incisions would be made. What pieces of me would need to disappear. When he turned me to the mirror so I could see myself as he explained what he would need to do, I didn’t expect to feel so sad. So vulnerable.
By the time we talked through the timeline, it finally sank in how long this process of being cured to being made something akin to whole again will take. Reconstruction won’t happen until all my treatments are done. Chemo will take until June. A mastectomy will follow and the recovery time is 6-8 weeks. At best, that take me to August. Radiation will follow…how quickly and for how long now will be a discussion with the radiologist next week. Originally, that was going to be many weeks. I suspect reconstruction will begin at best October, maybe November. The type of reconstruction my doctor suggested will be two-phased. If I’m lucky, I’ll start the new year with a new look.
It’s daunting and overwhelming, and honestly, I felt a bit sorry for myself when I got home. I was angry and tired and so damn disappointed again. And then you know what happened? Patrick reminded me that we’re in it together and we’ll get through it one step at a time. And then a friend sent me a funny text and made me laugh. And another friend texted saying she had left something at our front door, which contained among several things, coffee-scented room oil and bubble gum flavored lip balm, which is Ah-mazing. Then I grabbed some candy from the gift basket a friend dropped off the other day that I didn’t even tell you guys about because you would be SO JEALOUS of its awesomeness. And I realized once again how loved and supported I am and that’s all that really matters anyway. Thankfully, gratefully, I will get through this year.
Remember when I mentioned a few days ago about how difficult work was…well, it’s been a long week. But today I was able to resolve a problem that has been an absolute blight on my workdays for weeks. It’s been a problem that immediately affected others more than myself and had the potential to really negatively impact a sector of our business. Now that I put it that way, it’s amazing that I was entrusted to figure it out. But I persisted and got it done.
If I haven’t mentioned it before, I’ve realized over the years that I’m pretty driven by the end game. I like the feeling of accomplishing something. I could never be the type of person who lounged all day with nothing to do. I’d go insane. At the same time, I don’t like spinning my wheels and getting nowhere. That may be why when I finally got this issue resolved today, I felt giddy. My wheels stopped spinning and I got to the finish line. I was also so relieved to put this problem aside, that I felt like crying from relief.
I think it’s important to have a sense of accomplishment, especially when there isn’t a lot going on. I suspect during this pandemic era, with people working from home, I’m not the only one who has doesn’t have as much to do. Some days, I count getting the house clean or finishing the laundry as my achievements. Not high stakes, I know, but I take what I can get. Today, I’m thankful it was something important as well as an issue I could take off my continual to-do list.
Today I’m thankful for laughter. I’ve had many friends and family who have been checking in with me regularly to see how I’m doing or to let me know they’re thinking of me. And I’m beyond grateful for every one. Some also have been sending me funny photos or jokes. It’s really true that taking a moment to laugh makes it hard to stay anxious or sad or even tired.
I love a good joke or a funny meme. I have a Pinterest board where I save items and some days, I go to it and scroll through. Patrick always wants to know what in the world I’m laughing at, but I don’t even need to share it with him. I’m ok laughing by myself. Sometimes I find one particularly suited to someone, and I’ll send it on. Otherwise, I look and laugh and feel a little better for doing so.
Can I just say that this has been a long day? It started with a 7 am online meeting with my boss and ended with a 7 pm callback from a government agency for work.
Days like this really make me look hard for moments of gratitude because they aren’t as obvious. When the day is tiring and frustrating, it would be easy to just go to bed disappointed. But it’s probably even more important to look harder.
I have several friends and family who are also going through difficult times. I’m not the only one I know with cancer. A close friend is about a month ahead of me in her breast cancer treatment. My father has been going through prostate cancer treatment. Another friend’s mother was just diagnosed with stage 4 ovarian cancer… And another friend has been battling a terrible case of Covid. I could go on and on. It’s been a difficult year for a lot of people.
I’m not a big church goer, but I’ve always had faith in God. It’s been tested in the last few years for other reasons, but I’ve been given some great reminders recently that have helped me. My mom and sister have been sending me cards just to cheer me up and let me know they’re thinking of me. I love it. My mom has also sent along a couple items that I’ve put on my bulletin board.
It’s made me think about my faith again. I’ve tried lately to pray for all those who are struggling with their own heartaches. It actually helps me on these lousy days to focus on others. Today I’m thankful for my mom’s strong faith and her willingness to share it with me.
I had a follow-up appointment with my surgeon today. It was mainly to check the healing of my port and lymph node incisions, which I’m happy to report are healing “very” well (doctor’s words). Since this was the first time I’ve had a chance to talk to him since my surgery, I took the opportunity to ask a couple of very important questions. First and foremost, when can I wear deodorant again? I mean, really. One incision is right under my armpit and for the last couple of weeks, I’ve been using deodorant only on one side. Thankfully, I’m not doing manual labor, so it’s not gross, but it’s weird. Seems I’m clear to use “a little” unless it becomes irritating. Yay! Small victory.
My second question was more of a confession. I wanted to know how to avoid the embarrassing recovery phase next time I have surgery. See, I have constant sinus issues and the morning of my surgery, I had been having a lot of sinus drainage. I was intubated and when I woke, I immediately had a hard time breathing because of the drainage left behind. I’ll avoid being specific, but for hours I struggled to cough up or swallow down the phlegm in my throat. Full disclosure, choking is probably top of my fear list. Needless to say, the longer the feeling persisted, the higher my anxiety went. At one point, I started a cough that sounded more like a high-pitched dog bark. The recovery nurse consulted an anesthesiologist, and I was given a breathing treatment and steroids to help reduce the swelling in my throat. FINALLY, I was able to go home. It still took me three days to be able to eat and drink without fear.
My surgeon didn’t know all the details, but I laid it out honestly for him. I know it was mostly me. I admitted that I wouldn’t have been surprised if Xanax was the next thing they were going to give me in recovery. But I want to be prepared for next time. Sadly for me, it appears they can’t just suction all the crap out of my throat after surgery. Sadly, I’ll need to be intubated for the next surgery as well. But thankfully, he listened. And not only that, he put in my chart details that made my experience sound medical and normal. There’s also a note to discuss with the next anesthesiologist. Victory!
Listening is really an underrated skill. Sometimes, just hearing what someone is saying can do wonders for lessening a burden. I’m still thankful I won’t have surgery again for months, but in the meantime, I’m thankful I have good doctors.
Today I almost felt back to normal with my energy level. It could be that I didn’t have any anti-nausea medication last night, so I didn’t have the side effects today. But whatever the reason, it was a welcome change this week.
Not wanting to waste it, I decided on a whim to paint a wall that had been bothering me in my craft room. It’s a wall that I’ve hung a bulletin board on and some miscellaneous pics. However it’s never felt quite cohesive since I wallpapered the adjacent wall. At any rate, I moved what I needed to get started and jumped in on painting.
Note to other impatient folks: it pays to read the fine print when ordering paint for pick up. I accidentally ordered oil based paint. I realized it when it wouldn’t come off my hands and when the fumes started making me feel a bit woozy. Opening windows at 30 degrees only makes the heat run constantly, by the way. I’m not sure it helps paint dry any quicker. I kept doing small bits at a time and leaving the room for a break until I covered enough of the wall that I could live with it. Five hours later, and it’s still not 100% dry, even with a fan going in the room. I’m hoping when I open the door tomorrow, I’m not knocked over by the lingering fumes.
So what am I grateful for today? That today felt normal. That I got something accomplished with my day. That even though the painting job is somewhat sloppy (and not my norm!), it looks like it will accomplish what I intended. And I have putting the wall back together to look forward to.