Sunday, June 28, 2009

Finally, some good news

I've been away contemplating wellness and my destiny, and traveling for some much needed family time.

Here's what we know. My BRCA came back negative, meaning I do not have the two genetic markers that put me at a 40% higher risk of getting invasive cancer in my breasts or ovaries. That's the good news. And it's really good news. This news is the difference between a simple lumpectomy and a double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery.

So Wednesday, I'm headed in for my lumpectomy. It's day surgery, so I should be home safe and sound by early afternoon. Two thirds of the time, the surgeon is able to remove the entire cancerous area the first time around, so odds are good it will only be one surgery.

After that, I will see a radiation oncologist, and begin a 7-week course of radiation therapy. I expect to be tired and have some bad skin effects, especially since I'm pasty-white and as I've mentioned before, a big-busted gal.

I'm a little frightened at the prospect of the surgery. More accurately, I'm frightened that I will fall, once again, into that foolish minority, and have to go back in a second time. I am not looking forward to the radiation therapy, although truth be told, it's 15 minutes out of my day that I will be addressing my own needs instead of someone else's. For almost 9 full hours over the next two months, it will be my needs that take center stage, something most moms never allow.

My friends and my coworkers have been extremely supportive, and for that I am so thankful! We have had offers for meals and babysitting, and one of my dear friends has offered to sit with me during my treatment every single day for seven weeks. I will never hesitate to offer my sincere help to a friend in need, because I know now what it feels like to be on the receiving end of things!

I had a terrific sales week last week and a much needed visit with family from far and wide, so I would have to say that the past week, overall, has been pretty damn good.

Keep your fingers crossed for me on Wednesday. Light a candle, say a prayer, hug that tree. Whatever works for you. I need all the karma, good wishes, blessings, and divine protection I can get.

And the same goes for the doctor in charge of my care on Wednesday. Poor schmuck has no idea how bitchy I am going to be without my morning Diet Dr. Pepper!

I will check in as I'm able, and as my addled mind allows. Ever forward, friends.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Just checking in

I will be on the road for a few days. I'm ok. Still stunned, a little frightened about what the future holds. But all told, I'm doing pretty well.

I'm going to go do what I love - sell some stuff and rub elbows with my clients, in a ritzy resort in Reno.

It's not ALL bad in the Land of Lady Steele.

Have a nice week!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The best kind of bad news

I know I'm a day late. Sorry.

I needed a few hours to wrap my mind around the news I got yesterday. The news was not good, but on the scale of catastrophic news, it was the best kind of bad news.

I have early stage, non-invasive breast cancer. My life is not in danger. This will not kill me.

Still, though, when the radiologist dropped the bomb on me yesterday, I was stunned. I have thought all along that this is "the sky is falling" kind of medical hysteria. So big deal, there are some calcifications. 80% of calcifications turn out to be nothing.

Wouldn't you know, I'd fall into the 20%? I do love to distinguish myself among my peers, but trust me when I say, this is NOT the time to be in the minority!

Anyway, my mom beat this two years ago, and I will beat it, too. I am definitely facing surgery, probably just a lumpectomy, but we will know more after an MRI and some genetic testing. At the very least, I will have a lumpectomy and seven weeks of radiation therapy. At the most, a double mastectomy.

It is scary to know that this puts me at a higher risk for invasive cancer down the line. And it is almost more than I can bear to consider a mastectomy at 41. You don't realize how attached you are to these things until you think about waking up one day without them. Although the prospect of a fresh perky pair is not too depressing, now that I consider it.

Mentally, I am in a decent place right now. I'm looking at this like a really bad broken arm. It is a hassle. It's going to take some time and money to heal. I'll have to take some time off work and more importantly, some time away from family, that I had not planned to take. My quality of life will be gently compromised.

But very few people die from a broken arm.

I also believe beyond a shadow of a doubt that this has happened for a reason. There's a plan out there for me that I didn't get to write, and I don't get to approve. I don't understand it, it's not clear to me, but I still believe there's a plan, and this happened for a reason.

What's the reason? Who knows! Maybe my scare will encourage one of you to have a mammogram, and that mammogram will save your life. Maybe a group of us will walk together in the Komen someday, (I will be the one in the pink survivor's shirt), and the money we raise will be the money that goes to the doctor that finally figures out the cure for breast cancer. Maybe it will strenghten my relationship with my husband, a friend, my daughter, my mother, my sister. Maybe I will meet a lifelong friend during my seven weeks of radiation. Maybe I will learn I am stronger than I think, or maybe I will finally learn to let others help when I need it.

It's not my plan, so I don't get to understand the reason. I get to live it and hope I learn the lessons that are set forth for me.

Regardless, we have a rough plan in place, and the important thing is that this thing won't kill me.

I have good health insurance, a very understanding group of bosses, and the best support group a modern superhero could ever ask for.

Thank you all again for you thoughts and support. The waiting and the worrying is crazy scary, and just knowing I have an army of friends, real and cyber, makes me feel like I'm almost invincible.

If you've not had your mammogram this year, go get one. And do it now.

Ever forward friends, and as my friend Stu says, F Cancer.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

A note to my friends

"Walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light."~ Helen Keller

I have the dearest friends, perhaps on the planet.

Many of you have been in my orbit for years, some just a few months. Some of you I've never even met, and yet I feel a connection to you beyond what I ever thought possible in this world of cyberfriends and cyberfriendships.

I want to thank you all for your generous support - your calls, texts, emails, flowers, cards, good thoughts - all have meant so much to me! I feel like you've been sharing my burden with me, and it makes my heavy load so much easier to bear. Thank you.

Whatever the outcome today, my life is better because of your presence in it.

Here's to good health friends!

Lady Steele

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

And so we wait





Lather, rinse, repeat.

Yesterday was frightening and the waiting is interminable. As soon as results are ready, I'll get a call on my cellphone tomorrow. Good news or bad, I will either speak to the doctor or get a voice mail with the news.

I am tender and uncomfortable, but I am not really in pain. I am delighted to say I did not leave the Imaging Center in my $4 WallyBra, but instead, wrapped in a giant Ace bandage. I sported the bandage again today, and now the girls are cradled tightly in a heavy duty sports bra.

And so we wait.

Monday, June 08, 2009

My body is a wonderland

“Through humor, you can soften some of the worst blows that life delivers. And once you find laughter, no matter how painful your situation might be, you can survive it.” ~ Bill Cosby

I alluded awhile ago to a health situation I am currently facing, and I've thought long and hard about how much I want to share here with you. Those of you in the Inner Inner Circle know what's up. The rest of you probably know that something is going on but don't know details. So here you go.

After a string of absolutely fine, run-of-the-mill mammograms, I had one come back with some suspicious spots. I've gone in for additional diagnostic mammograms, and what we know now is that something is going on, but we don't really know what.

Today, at 1:00 pm Central time, I'm having a breast biopsy. And I'm facing it with as much courage and humor as I can muster.

Breast cancer killed my maternal grandmother. The spring after cancer killed my father, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. She beat it. Take that, you smug bastard disease!

It's even odds right now that what is showing on my mammogram will turn out to be nothing - a benign group of little cells. Or, it could be malignant. We don't know until the biopsy, so that's what we're doing.

I on purpose didn't put this out there for general consumption. The ones who need to know - my mom, my sister, my best friend, my dear posse - all know the gory details. For the rest of you, I've not made mention. I don't want your pity, I don't want your fear. I don't want to talk about it, because if you bring it up, I have to think about it. And then I just get scared.

Besides that, I am pretty sure that HIPPA laws prevent me from even acknowledging that I have breasts, much less that there might be anything wrong with them. Please sign the attached form to indicate your acknowledgment before proceeding. Blah blah blah.

Anyway, as I said, chances are even that this turns out to be absolutely nothing. My rational mind has held on to that for dear life over the past three weeks. My irrational, oh-my-god-who-is-going-to-take-care-of-my-family-while-I-am-puking-my-guts-out-from-the-chemo mind already has a Lady Steele In Waiting for MrG and a new Work Posse member all lined up.

I will know more on Wednesday. Until then, I will breathe in and breathe out. You can feel free to join me if you'd like. There's really not a whole lot else we can do. Pray if you want. Light a candle. Hug a tree. Whisper a spell. Whatever floats your boat. I kind of feel like the universe is no doubt unfolding as it should and there's not much I can do about it, but if you find comfort in one thing or another, and you think it will help, please knock yourself out.

I'm sure you're saying to yourself right now, Lady Steele, you promised me humor. Nothing about this is funny thus far. And you're right, dear reader, so here we go.

I am going in for what's called a stereotactic biopsy. My mother the former RN would tell you it's really cool technology, and she would use a bunch of fancy words and the correct medical terminology to describe the affected body parts. I'm in sales, not medicine, dear friends, so let me dumb this down for you.

I will be crawling on a table in a few hours that has a big hole in the center of it. I will proceed to hang the offending body part down through the hole. The nice doctor will raise me up on the table, kind of a like a 1987 Ford Taurus at the Jiffy Lube, so she can get a good angle on the offending body part. She will then use a fancy mammogram machine to "locate the area of concern" which as far as I can tell involves two plexiglass plates smooshing me in my altogether into one nice flat plane, which is funny when you take my size into account, but more about that later. I really can't tell you any more about the process, because when the doctor was describing the procedure to me, I pretty much blanked out after the smooshing part. I'm sure there are needles involved and some type of tissue removal, but I can't say what at this point. I do know I don't get Valium, which makes me a bit grumpy.

Anyway, when we're done, they will lower me from the hydraulic lift, apply a "pressure bandage" to my "surgical site" and send me home. But wait! There's more.

As one final parting shot, the salt in my wound so to speak, the insult to my injury, my post-op instructions tell me that I am not to wear an underwire bra until my "surgical site" has healed.

Say what?

I'm a 41-year old, rubenesque kind of gal. I'm more in the "Needs Weight Watchers as a Lifestyle" category, rather than the "Quick, Get the Gastric Band Surgery" category. However, I do have, as they said back in the good old days, nice ample bosoms. And I am going to be required to flop out of the Womens Imaging Center, and through the next several days, WITHOUT. THE. BENEFIT. OF. UNDERWIRE.

I am not really a girly girl, but I do admit I lean towards pretty lingerie. My favorite bras are from Nordstrom, and I'm embarrassed to say that I spent more on my last bra than I did on my last tank of gas. They don't call me "Lady" Steele for nothing.

But I digress.

I'm being forced, by the threat of this smug bastard disease, to purchase a bra without underwire. And I will NOT for all the tea in China, spend good money on a garment I am going to wear a few times and then hate forever. My goal is to wear it only as long as I have to, then burn it in effigy on my back porch while I drink scotch and watch the grass grow. (And with that sentence, my dearly departed scotch-loving conservative father is officially rolling over in his grave).

Going braless is clearly NOT an option, at least when I'm alone or with other people. I have to have a plain old vanilla bra, so I treated myself this weekend to a nice standard non-underwire support undergarment. Yep, bought it at the Walmart. For $4.00. Because I'm a Lady, and I'm worth it.

And there we have it. The threat of maybe having cancer is terrifying to me. The thought of Jiffy-Lube-Mechanic-Does-Biopsy is a little funny, if you scrunch your face up and forget the part about the needle. But the vision I have in my head of me, in all my $4 underwireless bra glory, jiggling and wiggling all over the office for the few days is downright, knee-slapping, guffaw-inducing funny as hell.

Don't be afraid for me. Instead, think of me and giggle inside as I slide off the Jiffy Lube rack and work those babies into a $4 bra.

Ever forward, friends. You'll hear from me when I know more on Wednesday. Or sooner if I put someone's eyes out with one of these things. Cheers.

Humor is just another defense against the universe. ~ Mel Brooks