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Monday, June 30, 2014

Porch of Dreams

Something happens to people when they sit on my porch.

Their eyes begin to glaze over and their muscles relax. They exhale deeply and melt into the cushions of the chair or couch. They talk about the old-fashioned qualities of such a quaint neighborhood, and how people don't really talk to their neighbors anymore... isolated in those big suburban housing tracks within the fortress of their big McMansions. It reminds me a lot of the move "Field of Dreams," where the idea behind building the field was to bring back a simpler time, when folks enjoyed the all American game of baseball (well, that's not why the field was built, but I won't spoil it for you if you've not yet [unbelievably] seen the movie). Remember this classic line?
This field, this game: it's a part of our past, Ray. It reminds of us of all that once was good and it could be again. Oh... people will come Ray. People will most definitely come.
Today, I head back to work after 3 1/2 weeks on my porch during which I had a lot of great visitors, read a lot of great books (but, alas, did not do any work-related reading!), watched the social comings and goings of many birds, squirrels, and chipmunks, and took a nap or two. My porch will go back to a weekend porch, rather than a weekday porch, and I surely will miss it.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Wallstock '14

Tomorrow we are heading up to Mary's for our first (and what we hope will become an annual) "Wallstock" BBQ and camp out. With Mary's new home (which is a great party house) and their cabin in the woods there is plenty of room to spread out and camp. I, however, will not be camping since that's not my thing. Mark and I will stay in the house and leave the "layin' on the cold, hard ground in a tent" to the youngins. I've even created a t-shirt for the event that reflects what has become our family motto:


Let me explain.

My parents came from blue collar, working class families and neither graduated from high school, which was not totally unusual for those days. There was much you could do in trades and industry/manufacturing, and folks could get by with the lower cost of living back then. So, while my father loved us dearly and wanted us to be the best we could be, educational expectations were never super high. Occasionally, when someone would get a bad grade on a test or not succeed in some way, he would say:

"Well, we ain't the smartest people."

He did not mean it to be condescending, it was just one of those things he said based on his experience and coming from a time when not many people in his immediate family or circle of friends was educated beyond high school. Imagine how proud he must have been that his three girls graduated from college, one with a masters degree, even. And all of his grandchildren have gotten/are getting college degrees, and Drew just finished his masters degree as well. He would be super proud to know we're pretty smart after all! So, whenever someone does something "not so smart" (actions, grades) we say, "Well, we ain't the smartest people," then break up laughing.

We know Dad will be with us (as will Auntie and Uncle Joe) this weekend as his family comes together to spend some fun time together. Nothing, absolutely nothing, would make him happier than a great party!

Friday, June 20, 2014

Fill 'em up!

First things first: the drains are gone. Glory Hallelujah! Regular clothes again!

I went for my second "fill" this week, and it was exponentially better than last week's fill. I think it's because I took a muscle relaxant this time and he didn't fill them as full as the first visit. When the filling is complete is up to me, when I can look in the mirror and say, "Okay, that's good enough." Of course, contrary to popular advice, I will not be going for the beach ball look, but COULD if I wanted to. Power! 

The doctor said that after I'm done filling, the "exchange" (procedure to remove the expanders and add the actual implants) could take place three weeks later. HURRAY! Maybe if I'm done filling by the end of July or August I will be done with this by September ~ just in time for girl's weekend. Fingers crossed!!

The other great news is that my pathology report came back clear: there were some abnormal cells that might have turned cancerous in the right breast so it was a good decision to be proactive. The left breast tumor was approx. 5mm in size and he got everything he needed from that area. The lymph nodes were clear. He suggested I meet with an oncologist (already scheduled for next Friday) who may suggest some chemo or just observation (I'm pushing "observation"!!). Since things are moving along, I've decided to return to work a little earlier than planned (June 30) to save my time for the "exchange" procedure and my future ovary surgery, which I am going to ask my doctor to hold off on until next year at this time if there is no urgency.

Great news all around, don't you think?

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Holy Food!

Fork to mouth, fork to mouth. Homemade berry pie with what has to be some of the best crust I've ever eaten.

Paprika chicken with cous cous.

Gluten free meatloaf with gluten free pasta salad.

Lasagna.

Tortellini soup.

Turkey Dinner with all the trimmings.

Pasta with eggplant marinara.

Grilled chicken with BLT salad.

These are just some of the amazing things friends and neighbors have brought for us during my recovery. My neighbor, Stephanie, arranged a meal sign up for Monday, Wednesday and Friday nights, and it's been amazing. I'm a little afraid to step on the scale (so I won't), and also feel a little guilty having folks brining dinners when I'm feeling so well (I suppose I'll have to get over that).

In addition to the outpouring of food, there have been random treats in the form of baked goods (the aforementioned pie, for one), flowers, Edible Arrangements (four of them!), and other kind gifts.

Just another reminder about how blessed I am, as if I could forget!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Drains/Pains

My recovery is going very well, except for the nuisance of the freakin' surgical drains dangling from my body (which, most of the time, are pinned to whatever pants I'm wearing). Eleven days post-surgery and the fluid from my surgical area, while greatly reduced, is still not "clear"(still too much blood/pink) enough to justify the removal of the drains. DANG. While I've been able to shower and carry on normally, I've had to continue to wear baggy, long t-shirts and still can't sleep on either side. As a result, by 4am my back is totally aching and I have to spend the rest of the night (or early morning) sleeping sitting up. Oh well, in general I am feeling very good so this is all really a minor inconvenience.

This week I also had the first fill of my "expanders," which are expanding my skin and muscles to accommodate the eventual placement of my implants. Wow. Was that a difficult and uncomfortable experince. I seriously wondered if I would be able to continue with the process, going through this every week. Luckily, I had medication to help and felt much, much better in the morning. Now that I know what to expect I will just have to be prepared to deal with the pain and inconvenience once a week...I have to "keep my eyes on the prizes," as they say!!

This week was a great one spent with Mom Shiao here to help out, and more food and treats than we could handle. The generosity and kindness of wonderful friends and family has been overwhelming! I'm one lucky girl!!!

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Post-Op, Day Five

Welcome to Day Five, and I'm feeling fine!

This experience so far has been so different than I expected, and in a good way. I guess it's true what they say: expect the worst, hope for the best. Most of what I have experienced so far in my recovery could best be described as a "nuisance," and not really painful. The worst has been having the drains hanging from my body (from the incision sites?), and some muscle tightness across my chest. I have taken pain medication to relieve some of this soreness and discomfort, but today only took it at 8am this morning. (Please be assured: I'm no hero. I will take them if I feel like I need them.) 

While I probably should not have, I ventured out with my sisters, Nicole, and Annalisse for three hours on Saturday morning for Nicole's appointment at the bridal store to look for her wedding dress...AND she found it with the first four she tried on! Hurray!!! It was a nice sisters-niece-aunts-cousins bonding experience. Afterward I knew I needed to lay low and relax, and I did. I also stayed home and sat on the porch most of today even though it was Fairport Canal Days. While I was sorry to miss it this, there's always next year.

This week the visiting nurse will come on Monday morning (I do have some questions for him/her), followed by an appointment with the plastic surgeon on Wednesday. My goal is to be able to remove the surgical drains by Wednesday, so I'm taking care to try to not do too much.

All in all, a lot to be thankful for. Mom Shiao is spending the week to help out, and we are not only grateful for her help, we are just plain happy to spend time with her!!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

A line in the sand

Well, I made it through! I got home from the hospital around noon today, and ate a little lunch before taking a snooze on the couch.

Yesterday went very well. Of course, after "being put to sleep" I didn't feel a thing upon my wake up in my room, Mark sitting nearby. I felt very, very comfortable last night, with no pain. It was probably all the medication, but I was so pleasantly surprised my condition. The greatest news: there was no cancer in the lymph nodes. While the results are preliminary and the final pathology will arrive in 10 days or so, I'll certainly take that nugget of good news.

After a very bad night of sleep (not because of discomfort, but rather between nurse checks, doctor checks, and a machine that kept randomly beeping loudly (not to mention my roommate also having her doctor/nurse check at different times), I got very little shut eye. Oh well, that's what being home is for.

I view this stage in my life as drawing a line in the sand with how I take care of myself from this day forward. A neighbor turned me onto the idea that cancer can be exacerbated by what we eat (certain foods "feed" cancer), I am now committed to staying away from sugar, milk, red meat (steak is out, but an occasional hamburger will be fine), and other cancer-feeding foods.

Additionally, I am committed to eating more fruits and vegetables, and will be getting some info on healthy blended drinks. Cousin Kara from Portland sent me a $50 Amazon gift card (such a sweet gesture) so I bought the book "Anti-Cancer: A New Way of Life,"that talks about food, exercise, and stress management as a way reduce chances of cancer recurrence. So, I'll be reading that during my "break."

So, all in all, I'm sore but doing well. Thanks, all for your prayers, well-wishes, stories of "someone you know who went through the same thing and is fine," and general "good vibes." I believe they have had a positive affect on my health, and certainly on my sense of well being. I'm feeling the love!!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

How I will be spending my summer vacation

Some people will take trips to the beach for their summer vacation. Others will visit the mountains. Me? I will be spending the month of June on my porch recuperating from a double mastectomy and reconstruction. What a fun few months it's been...

It all started with a routine mammogram in mid-March which led to...
...additional mammos and ultrasounds, which led to...
...biopsies on both breasts which revealed a very small, very early (3mm) tumor in my left breast, which led to...
...an MRI to be sure there were no other suspicious spots (there weren't - thank God), which led to...
...genetic testing because the tumor was not hormone-driven so there was no logical reason for it to be there, which led to...
...the test results showing that I was one of 8-10% of the population that had the BRCA1 gene that causes breast AND ovarian cancer (I should have bet the lottery...), which led to...
...the recommendation to have a double mastectomy (to remove the breast with the tumor [left] and the right breast as a preventative measure), plus testing of the lymph nodes to see if the cancer has spread, which is leading to...
TOMORROW, when I have my surgery and begin the process of reconstruction (and resulting implants in a couple of months).

To say that the last couple of months have been a bit of a nightmare is an understatement, but there have been so many silver linings. The outpouring of love and support has been absolutely overwhelming. Thanks to all for your encouragement, kind words, and stories of survival (everyone seems to know someone that has gone/is going through this ~ it almost seems of epidemic proportions). It has meant so much and given me strength when I just wanted to crawl under a rock.

I will be well. This is a bump in the road, and I will handle whatever challenges await me. I need to carry on, and I shall. Tomorrow begins the "new normal."