Sunday, December 31, 2017

Breaking the News

Even if you've ever thought about how terrible it would be to have cancer, you've probably never thought about how terrible it would be to tell people you have cancer.

Telling the people you love is the worst part.

My dad lost his father, my Grandpa, to cancer a few years ago.  Pepe, my mom's dad, was diagnosed with colon cancer recently and is recovering from surgery.  Knowing that I had to tell them that I was next was heartbreaking, because I knew I would be completely breaking their hearts.  And then to tell my siblings?  My in-laws?

But before all that - we needed to tell the kids.

Jamie and I were in our bedroom when we talked to Dr. Le and got the news.  We cried.  A lot.  And we knew that when we came out of the bedroom the kids would know something was going on.  So we decided to go ahead and talk to them right away.  We sat them down on the couch and told them that the doctor's appointment I had a couple days before had been to run some tests, and that the doctor had just called to let us know that it was breast cancer.

They took it as well as can be expected.

Miles provided comic relief ("You'll be bald?!") while Gisele tried to stay strong, but cried.  But we kept talking to them and encouraging them to ask questions.  We reassured them that we were going to fight this as a family, and that we weren't going to hide anything from them.  That nothing anyone did caused this, and that no one else could catch it.  We talked about how I was going to get really sick, but there were a lot of things the doctors could do to make me better.  And we talked about how I was probably going to lose my hair.  They've both latched onto that as the funny, tangible thing to talk about.  But they're talking about it - not keeping it all in - so that's good.

We got the news Thursday evening, and waited until Sunday to tell my family.  Mom was in Missouri and Dad was in Texas, and I wanted them to have each other when they heard.  So when they got home, I called.  It killed me to tell them, and I think it was worse for them to hear.  And soon after we hung up, they sent a text to let us know they would arrive at our house about 3 1/2 hours later.  It was exactly what we needed.

After the call to Mom & Dad, I called each of my siblings.  Jamie had already let his family know.  And then the news went on the blog and Facebook.

We have a good support system.  We have wonderful families, and wonderful friends.

We can do this.

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Waiting For Official Results

Jamie and the kids arrived home shortly before I did.  They had stopped at Target and picked out a selection of maximum support, front-close sports bras, as recommended by Telissa, the fabulous nurse.  I was instructed to wear them day and night for at least the next 2 days before switching to something slightly less constricting.  

The kids knew I was coming home from a rough doctor's appointment and wasn't feeling very good.  They had loaded the couch with pillows and blankets for me and made a card filled with coffee and Star Wars references, and lots of "I love you's."  I'm keeping it forever. 

Jamie cleaned up the bloody biopsy sites and helped me gingerly zip up the sports bra before I collapsed on the couch.  I stayed there for the next 2 days, other than the frequent checking of the biopsy sites.  It turns out when you're pretty sure you have cancer - but are waiting for official word - and are in pain, you can't sleep.  Or eat, really.  Or find a comfortable position.

The biopsies were done Tuesday.  Dr. Le, my OB/GYN, called Thursday evening. 

Both my right breast and lymph node tested positive for cancer.

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The Biopsies - Or If You've Seen the Movie, "Bobopsies."

Dr. Terrell came in to do her own scans.  She smiled at me a little tensely, and then proceeded to make quiet comments to the tech for the next few minutes while pressing the ultrasound wand firmly and painfully into my right breast and armpit.

Finally, she turned to me.

"You have a worrisome mass in your breast, and enlarged lymph nodes, as well."

She was compassionate, but very direct.  She recommended immediate needle biopsies, and suggested she contact my referring physician to see if we could get them done right away.  She and the tech left the room, leaving me with a nurse, who immediately started to ask about my medical history.  I have no family history of uterine/ovarian/breast cancer, but I have colon cancer on both sides of the family, and apparently there's a genetic link.  I had no idea.  She told me that having that in my record meant that insurance approval for testing would come through more quickly than if it was missing.

Around that point in the conversation, it hit me that it was likely that I had Cancer.  That I wasn't fine after all, and that I was going to have to tell my family that I had cancer.  The tears began and I think I started to go into shock.  Telissa, the amazing nurse, saw what was happening and came over with a box of Kleenex and tears in her own eyes.

It turns out that she had been through breast cancer herself.  She was diagnosed at 39 when her kids were 2 and 5.  And she made it through.  And she kept reassuring me, "You can do this.  You can."  She took me to get my shirt back on while waiting for the doctor and insurance approval, and I got my phone so that I could let Jamie know what was going on.

Jamie was at the yearly vet appointment for the cats.  He had both cats and both kids with him when he received my texts - my increasingly frantic texts that included the words "worrisome mass," "immediate biopsy," and "oncology."

The biopsies were painful.  The axilla (armpit) one was fine, but the breast biopsy was horrendous.  I was given injections of lidocaine to numb the area, but the lidocaine burned - it probably included dextrose, and I'm allergic to corn - and didn't numb the breast at all.  When the samples were taken, I felt as though I'd been stabbed, and sobbed through the procedure.  The doctor said she hadn't had a reaction like that before, and thought that the breast tissue must be incredibly inflamed.  Lucky me.

Next up was recovery from the biopsies and waiting for the official results.

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The First of What Will Be Many Procedures

I arrived at 7:15am at the Breast Center at Methodist in Katy.  It was the day after Christmas, and my brain was having trouble switching from festivities to medical mode.

The mammogram was first.  I was given a warm gown ("undress from the waist up") and a warm robe to wear.  I had thought ahead and was wearing comfy sweatpants and some thick socks so I could stay as warm as possible through the two procedures.

The mammogram, I thought, would be uncomfortable.  I had heard they squish your breasts in the machine, and since my right side was sore already, I assumed it would be a little more uncomfortable than usual.  It was worse than expected.  It took a very, very long time, and the tech used ever-decreasing sizes of plates, which put more and more pressure on my poor, sore breast.  When she finally finished, she left the room to show the images to the doctor before she moved me to the ultrasound room.

After a few minutes she came back into the room and didn't quite meet my eyes as she cheerfully said, "The doctor just wants a few more images, and then we'll be finished."

Uh-oh.  That didn't sound so routine.

After the mammogram, she took me to the ultrasound room.  As I got "comfortable" on the table, the tech explained that she would get the scans needed, and then the doctor would come in to talk to me and then we'd be finished.

After a long time, she somewhat cheerfully explained that she was going to go get the doctor, who "would do her own scans, as well," and then we'd go on from there.

Uh-oh.  That REALLY didn't sound routine.  

At this point, I was pretty sure that Dr. Patel's "90%" didn't apply to me.  

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Saturday, December 30, 2017

How It All Began

Sometime earlier in December, I thought I had bruised my ribs.  My right side felt sore.  I couldn't remember what I had done to it, but I must have done something, because I felt bruised.  I ignored it as best I could, but after several days, I found myself feeling around my ribs to try to find the bruise or knot causing all of the pain.  There wasn't anything obvious, but I did feel a... firmness on the side of my right breast.

That was odd.

I get my breasts checked every year at my annual appointment, and even remember to do breast self-exams every few months, and I had never felt anything like this before.  It wasn't what I would have defined as a lump, but it was... firm.  And the left side didn't feel like that.

When Jamie got home from work I had him verify the difference between my right and left sides, and he said I should make an appointment to have it checked out.  I promised I would do so, and then - of course - googled "firmness in breast."  Everything I read said that a cancerous lump would be more lump-like and would definitely not be painful, so I shouldn't worry.  I decided to make an appointment anyway.  I had promised, after all.

I had an appointment on December 20 with Dr. Patel. Dr Le - my normal OB/GYN - wasn't available and I wanted to see someone sooner rather than later.  He felt both breasts and could feel the "lump" right away.  He said he was 90% sure it was fibrocystic changes in the breasts and nothing to worry about, but told me to schedule a diagnostic mammogram and bilateral ultrasound to be safe.

It being the end of the year (already met the deductible!) and wanting peace of mind as soon as possible, I spent that afternoon calling different locations to try to schedule something before the end of the year.  Methodist West, in Katy, could fit me in on the 26th. 

So that was my next step.

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Jamie and I are nesting.

It's just like getting ready for an adorable addition to the family, except that we're getting ready for the unknown. And we won't get an adorable bundle of joy at the end.

We haven't heard from the surgical oncologist yet, so we don't know when that appointment will be. We have the preliminary pathology report, but want to go over it with the doctor before announcing anything about the type of cancer or possible treatment plan.

So we're waiting. And nesting. Because we're facing the unknown.
Jamie has started an extensive file to be filled with all the information we will obtain. He's also taking down Christmas decorations and cleaning the house.

I'm shopping. Soft, oversized button-up shirts, comfy pants, zip-up hoodies. The kids looked online with me and each picked out a hat for when I lose my hair. We're assuming I'll at least have surgery and chemo.

One of the hardest things right now, besides the waiting, is that I haven't been able to tell my parents yet.  Mom is in Missouri with Meme and Pepe, and Dad is home in San Antonio. I want them to be together - to have each other there - when I tell them. And I don't want to tell my siblings until I've told my parents. And it's hard to keep this in.

So we'll wait and nest.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

I Have Breast Cancer

I have breast cancer.

I need to get used to saying that, I think.  

I just learned about it tonight.  

I found a lump a couple weeks ago, saw the doctor a week ago, and had tests done 2 days ago.  And now I know.

I have breast cancer.

My Dr called tonight to give me the news.  I held it together on the phone and then Jamie and I both lost it.  And then we calmly decided we should tell the kids right away.  They're smart.  They would have known something was up.  So we told them.  It went as well as could be expected and now the four of us know together.

We'll tell more people soon.  Family.  And then friends.  And then everyone.  This is still new. 

We're going to get a call tomorrow morning from the nurse who will be setting up an appointment with a surgeon at MD Anderson.  We live in Houston, so we're already near MD Anderson, so that's good.

Because I have breast cancer.

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Friday, October 13, 2017

Miles at Age 8

To read about Miles at age 7, click here.

1. What is your favorite color?  "Blue." 

2. What is your favorite toy?  "Tennis ball." 

3. What is your favorite fruit?  "Mango."      

4. What is your favorite tv show?  "Teen Titans Go."  

5. What is your favorite thing to eat for lunch?  "I wish I could say pizza.  Pizza!"     

6. What is your favorite outfit?  "Trick or Pizza {t-shirt}.  Wait, no - not that.  My Royals shirt."   

7. What is your favorite game?  "Geometry Dash."  

8. What is your favorite snack?  "Small donuts."   

9. What is your favorite animal?  "Cheetah."     

10. What is your favorite song?  "Down With the DC Talk."     

11. What is your favorite book?  "Pokemon Legendary."  

12. Who is your best friend?  "Brycen."  

13. What is your favorite breakfast?  "Pancakes!" 
14. What is your favorite thing to do outside?  "Play baseball."  

15. What is your favorite drink?  "Dr. Pepper!"     

16. What is your favorite holiday?  "Christmas."  

17. What do you like to take to bed with you at night?  "Nothing."    

18. What is your favorite thing to eat for dessert?  "Mom's awesome angel food cake."   

19. What is your favorite dinner?  "Pizza!"     

20. What do you want to be when you grow up?  "Pizza maker!"     

Miles, you are incredible, and I'm so, so, so happy I'm your mom!!  Happy birthday!
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Monday, August 28, 2017

Gisèle, Age 10

1. What is your favorite color? "Purple."

2. What is your favorite toy? "I don't know. Wait - could it be, like, a stuffed animal? Surfer Dudette. That's the name of my stuffed animal turtle."

3. What is your favorite fruit?  "Mango."
4. What is your favorite tv show?  "I don't know why it is but I'm going to be embarrassed to tell you... My Little Pony."

5. What is your favorite thing to eat for lunch?  "Macaroni and cheese."
6. What is your favorite outfit?  "umm... I don't know how to explain it to you. It's that white shirt with the cuts in the shoulders that are braided, and soft, short, jean shorts."

7. What is your favorite game?  "Machi Koro. I enjoy that one quite a lot."

8. What is your favorite snack?  "umm... almonds with light salt."

9. What is your favorite animal?  "Elephants."
10. What is your favorite song?  "Overcomer {Mandisa} or Backseat {Backseat Driver - TobyMac} or Good Morning {Mandisa}."
11. What is your favorite book? "Probably Treehouse Wars and Double-dog Dare. And A Tangle Of Knots."

12. Who is your best friend?  "Hannah. And Kendall."

13. What is your favorite breakfast?  "Waffles and bacon. I also quite like quiche."

14. What is your favorite thing to do outside?  "Probably draw with chalk."

15. What is your favorite drink?  "Probably milk. And orange juice with no pulp."
16. What is your favorite holiday?  "Christmas."

17. What do you like to take to bed with you at night?  "God."
18. What is your favorite thing to eat for dessert?  "Ooh, this is hard. Probably chocolate mousse."

19. What is your favorite dinner?  "This is hard. Probably breakfast for dinner."
20. What do you want to be when you grow up?  "Okay, get ready to type. There's a lot of things. Vet, teacher, actor, writer, there's more... I can't remember it now... Olympic gymnast, I don't know. Actually, President."

That's my girl.  Amazing, always.  Happy 10th birthday, G!  You are truly one in a million.  

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