“Life is the art of living with uncertainty without being paralyzed by fear.” ~Dr. W. Dillon
I didn’t immediately look at going through cancer as an opportunity to rework my life, even though I knew it to be a wake-up call and change was needed. But I didn’t make those changes. Quite the contrary. All throughout treatment, I longed for a return to my old life, some sense of “normalcy”. Partly I could barely see the end of the treatment period, it seemed like it would last forever, making it difficult to imagine what my life could look like after cancer. And partly because treatment and healing took up all my energy…I didn’t have enough available band width to imagine anything different.
But now it’s coming on 4 years, and even though I’ll be on Aromasin until the end of 2019, it’s time to make some changes. And I think a lot of us are in the same place.
I would say that I’ve been lucky enough to bounce back incredibly fast from all of this, except that Jess and I both believe in stacking the deck in our favor, so to speak. For years, we’ve both used guided meditation CDs to enhance health and mood, and are positive that it really paid off this time too.
I listened to Belleruth Naparstek’s Meditations to Promote Successful Surgery starting about 10 days before the surgery, and have listened to it every day since. It contains healing imagery to use before the surgery to “anticipate a successful surgery experience, surrounded by protection and support, the body slowing down blood flow and speeding up its mending capacity,”
So, now we wait. When I was in Post-Op just prior to leaving the hospital last Wednesday evening, Dr. Blair, my surgeon stopped by to say that the surgery had gone very well and that she was pleased. That’s important, of course, with the tumors gone, the immune system can focus on healing. But just because the primary tumors have been eliminated by surgery, doesn’t mean I’m cancer free.
Thank you all for the prayers, well wishes, and healing energies… Jess and I have been blessed and held in your love. We’ve both felt completely supported by this grace and it has been doubly wonderful to be so aware of it all.
Wednesday was a very long day, and one that we are grateful to have gone so well, and also grateful that it is now over.
9:30am Surgery Check-In Time
11:00am Radiology Appointment
12:30pm Nuclear Medicine Appointment
This surgery usually takes an hour. Recovery time is one to four hours. Then Jess gets to take me home.
When it first sunk in that I really have cancer, all sorts of resources, both physical and metaphysical, came to mind for how to best support this process. Some of them I’m doing, and others, not so much. But it feels a little like I just added “Go through breast cancer” to an already over-full TO DO list. Most of the rest of my life hasn’t changed… I’m still doing everything I was doing before. Why wouldn’t I? I actually feel fine. I realize that will likely change with the surgery next week, but up to this point or that day, I plan to go on feeling good.
My surgery is scheduled for Tuesday, October 29 at Thornton Hospital. The pre-op appointment is the previous Friday, October 25. Thankfully, all of the places I need to go are right there at the Moores Cancer Center and the hospital is on the other side of the parking lot.
Now that there is a definite date, I feel a certain relief. There is a written plan for my physical process through this journey now in the binder I set up (surprise! My organizing gene kicked in.) to keep track of all this stuff. I realize now that the binder was/is a very necessary tool. I have a quote from Mike Dooley speaking as The Universe www.tut.com on the cover. It reads:
Jess and I met with Dr. Sarah L. Blair of University of California – San Diego (UCSD) Moores Cancer Center on October 10. It was supposed to be an hour-long consult, but it turned into four hours as Dr. Blair, who was my second opinion consult, wanted my mammograms and ultrasounds redone. Apparently, my first films showed the two masses in two separate places, different from what I was told. Also, they use the films to measure the size and placement of the tumors, using those measurements for where to make the incision to find them in the breast tissue – we are actually talking about a relatively small group of cancer cells, a little like looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack. The new films did show the tumors differently than the first set. Both tumors are much smaller than the small hematoma left behind by the needle biopsy. Altogether, both tumors and safety margins are less than 2 centimeters in diameter. That’s about the size of a shelled peanut. Which was a huge relief, because the first doctor had offered me a choice of a full mastectomy or a partial, and that had me thinking I might be losing a lot more of me than I had originally thought. Now that we’ve acquired a lot of reading material on the subject of breast cancer, we’ve got a context to place the terminology in.
The diagnosis of cancer is initially not very straight-forward or clear until after surgery. That’s when the doctor can actually see it and the pathologist tests the tissue the doctor removed. My current diagnosis is Invasive and Ductal Carcinoma in Situ (DCIS).
All DCIS is considered stage 0 cancer – the earliest stage possible. “Stage” describes how far the cancer has spread beyond the site of the original tumor. Even though DCIS is always considered stage 0, it can be any size and be located in any number of areas inside the breast.
I sit here looking at a blank computer screen, trying to take it all in. I should know how to start because I’ve certainly told this story enough times. But even though most of you, my dear ones, have been so patient and supportive and forgiving of my saying things that maybe didn’t make a lot of sense, the act of writing it down seems to be useful to think it through myself.
My husband, Jess, and I entered some kind of alternate reality this summer in which I have cancer, and our world has changed. We are sharing this together, and at the same time, apart. Grey’s Anatomy fans will appreciate that we are each other’s person.
I'm learning more about my art, and from my art, every day. It's not so much a matter of skill or practice... mostly it's a shift in perspective, a way of shaping how I look at and exist in the world.
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