Category Archives: parent

New beginnings…

I know, I have been out of the loop for a bit, determining my next steps while getting back to work, recovering, moving, and getting back to society’s definition of normal. Normal, yeah we can go with that for now. But for me, normal has a new definition and it is not dictated by anyone but me.

That may sound selfish, and on occasion, I can deal with that definition but before judging, let me explain. I spent my life always doing the right thing, being the right person, burying my needs and desires and dreams to accommodate many around me. My reward was breast cancer…hey thanks! Ironically, it was the best thing that has happened in recent history, truly a blessing in disguise. I was forced to take inventory of my little world, eliminate the clutter, and with my heart on my sleeve fight for my own survival, literally and metaphorically speaking.

What I discovered is that I am much stronger than I give myself credit for, that my world is full of love and kindness and encouragement, that my dreams and passion have as prominent a place as my family. I’ve learned I can have what I want, a balance, and that my life is full of new beginnings.

A year ago I was recovering from a bilateral mastectomy, awaiting chemotherapy and radiation. I was weak on all levels and tired of fighting the day to day battles. I felt discouraged and frustrated with my life…as though my momentum had come to a screeching halt and Stuck was my new address. This year I am cancer free with it all behind me. On Monday Nov. 30th I begin a new career as a college admissions counselor while pursuing my business degree with a focus on small business management. In 90 days my classes will be free as will degrees for my sons and husband should they choose to utilize my benefits. I have connected with women business owners who are also breast cancer survivors. I have spoken at breast cancer fundraisers. My ultimate goal is to utilize my business degree to assist women in starting their own businesses, especially other survivors. How amazing is it that becoming sick would be the most healing experience of my life!!!

Everyone reaches a point where dreams and goals and passion take hold to morph into new beginnings. I admire those who find and capture it early on. I respect those who take a circuitous route. I admire those who are baptized by fire and illness and find it, embrace it, and follow it through illness and survival. When it is finally discovered, regardless of the path, I admire the pilgrim and the journey. For me, I have seen my path off in the distance for years, always feeling it to be just out of reach, making excuses and putting others needs and wants and desires and demands ahead of my own. Those paths have all converged…my new motto is get onboard or get out of my way. Again, as someone who for years always made way, it feels selfish but wonderful and liberating. We can all walk our paths together but separately…

So there it is, my new beginning shining before me…new career, new schooling, new opportunities, continued connection with the pink cancer web and my sister survivors and fighters. My future is so bright,  so beautiful. I am moved by the experiences that brought me here, by the love and support and encouragement, by the family and friends that stand resolutely in my corner, by the pink web that embraces and inspires me. My new beginnings bring me such joy, such sunshine, such hope.

Did it bring her peace?

I had to comment today on FB in response to a rude comment…difficult as I don’t really respond to anything negative, EVER. I feel that my positive voice and energy represent who and where I am, how I want to be seen, what I want to be about.

The woman stated that she has to laugh, so much fake shit on FB, but that it’s better she keep her mouth closed. Normally, I would jump over that and keep going. Today however, it almost immediately followed my post about spending time with my family and feeling blessed for so much goodness in my life. She is an EX of my father’s and the comment related specifically to him. Whether the timing was coincidence or not, it hit me wrong and I responded with a post of my own.

“I usually say nothing…but today, if you can’t say something nice on FB leave it unsaid. Our lives are filled with enough challenges without hurtful words or innuendos or indirect insults. Words are forever.At the end of the day, will those words have achieved anything? And does saying those words really make a huge difference? In inflicting or hinting hurtful words, does your world level out and is your soul filled with peace and serenity? Just something to think about… Rant over!”

I worried that this voice would attract a bad response, and almost didn’t post it. My words had just the opposite effect. So in the end, I still wonder if her comment brought her peace and did it achieve its desired goal? Did it make someone feel bad or stupid, or did it just reflect badly on her that she would take the time to post something mean? And why post it at all…what’s the goal? Was her Buddha in the corner with his arm raised in solidarity? Did serenity and peace and calm overtake her spirit?

I’m not sure just why it is that this stupid comment bothered me so much today. It’s been quite a year for me, and I was always able to stay positive and upbeat. I had a couple moments of frustration but never anything of that I would have posted or shared. I feel like social media just isn’t the place for any of that…I caution my own sons about words and their eternal and piercing power once sent out to the universe.  I wonder if maybe it was me overreacting … and then I think no I did not. Did my rant bring me peace? I think it did in so much as my words were approved of by several of my friends, that they were taken as wisdom or strength vs just being mean. And the message here is simple, like our mother’s taught us…if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.

Polite Brush-off…

In today’s politically correct world, where truth has to be carefully worded and spoken to avoid, I mean let’s admit it, hurting feelings, it’s very difficult to be clear and direct. I make every attempt to provide a clear but polite brush-off, when boundaries are being crossed, especially those of someone I’m very close to, my son.

It seems, the more I come in contact with the younger kids, that the relationships are all so desperate, for lack of a better word. It’s a clingy, constant texting, unlimited access via phone and computer, constant photographing of the young couple, posting of various “I wish our love was like….” and choose appropriate photo or comic. And then, once all those posts and song lyrics for the first hour are used up and awaiting approval, response, likes, comments, and lovey responses, it’s time to find new posts and movies and messages and comics/photos. It has to be exhausting! That’s a lot of work for a first time relationship or high school romance. I believe in happy endings, don’t get me wrong…but those messages just wear me out, just reading them or seeing them. Desperate…clingy…needy…dependent…

But back to the brushoff…my son is in his first real relationship. And it is long distance to boot which makes it even harder. Like all young couples, there are multiple FB posts, song lyrics, etc and all day/all night texting…and she texts my phone as well. Right now, she is feeling ignored and from a female perspective, I know that feeling and can empathize. As Mike’s Mom, I can’t disclose the details she so desperately wants to hear from me…clearly, loyalty is to the boy first. He is currently going through something right now…he looks a mess and seems to have no energy or desire to make the effort to look any better. He is quiet and keeps to himself…we don’t talk as often as we did a while ago…he sleeps for long stretches of times and naps whenever he can catch a free moment. He ignores the intimate details and focuses on xbox where he can disconnect from the thoughts and demands swimming through his head. I can see it…I don’t have to press for those details as they are physically written all over his appearance.  And then her text comes….again.

I politely say he seems to be going through something, but stay positive and talk to him directly. Be open. Ask if you can help. He’s working on his license, fixing up his truck (which has been a huge project), looking for a better and full time job (sort of). He is trying to buy her plane tickets so she can come home to Maine and they can be together. He’s 20…it’s a handful to manage. But she needs to talk to him…be straight with him…call a spade a spade (which I told her) as she is giving up her own home and vehicle, her family, the town and world she has known her entire life.

And still more texts come…again I respond with You really need to speak to him yourself, not to me. I don’t have the answers she is looking for, he hasn’t talked to me but I know him just based on who he is. That’s a very clear message in my mind…talk to him directly…I don’t think there are any mixed signals or miscommunicated ideas. Is there a more polite brush-off to avoid getting myself out of this conversation?

What I have learned…

In the throes of unclouding and uncluttering my brain, I ended up figuring out something. As much as I want to overlook and give little value to my cancering process, it sits before me like an elephant in the room. It has slowed my life down to a fairly uncomfortable pace which is difficult for me to process…the slowing down has made me think a bit less of myself as I am currently not working…and in an effort to keep my spirits vibrant and fresh and strong, I began to examine where I am at.

As my story mentioned, my perspective has become very clear. I know that I am not satisfied with my current position or status in life. For a long time I have settled, played the game and done the right thing. I’ve been a good girl, a good do-bee, a good worker. However, at this point in my life there has to be something more, something bigger … bigger than just getting along, bigger than overcoming the cancer, bigger than my self worth being determined by a ticking clock (I mean working 8 hours a day, not a life clock.)

I return repeatedly to the life coach field, how that might look for me, what steps I can take now while I’m burning time at home. It means reconnecting with society, overcoming my own insecurities to get out and talk with people, finding the right certification programs to validate my services and direction, and being able to effectively navigate questions that I will be asked or situations that could use my skills, background, knowledge, etc.

To me, this is a valid and much needed field. It can provide guidance and direction, set goals and see incremental steps become success, and provide an outside voice/perspective to get someone through.

There has to be more … whether it is working with cancer patients, coaching new patients, providing information, serving as a life coach or a cancering coach, writing about all this or just creating newsletters for local events and charities and facilities, volunteering as a writer and photographer, or my dream job of opening a bookstore there has to be more. I know…perspective and focus are strong but details still need to be ironed out.

No More Excuses…

After spending much time on my “Healing Journey” I came to the conclusion that the story and information I was sharing was not actually what I wanted to say, so that project is going to be totally revamped at some point and shared at a later date. Bits and pieces of that initial story will be shared in the new version but in the meantime, I’m just coming back to write, share, and hear from friends whose voices I have missed.

When I say no more excuses, it’s me that I am speaking too, trying to will myself back to the point where writing each day becomes part of my regular routine. My mind flies constantly from idea to idea, thought to thought, and needs some decluttering from big to little. And so it is that after months of absence, I am taking back my WordPress space and reclaiming my online oasis.

My first bunch of thoughts involve where I am in my process just to update anyone who has been keeping track. Today finds me more than halfway through my chemotherapy process, with 5 down and 3 to go. After the final treatment, I am escaping to Florida to spend a month with my mother who lives in Daytona Beach for some much needed sunshine therapy and R & R. It is just me going … it will be the first time I have ever been away from my husband and boys for an extended period of time.

There is a piece of me that already feels an element of guilt as our winter to this point has been brutal. In the same breath, I need the sunshine, the warmth of the sand under my feet, and the power of a new environment to strengthen my soul and reinvigorate my spirit. I worry that while I am gone roadblocks will erupt and cause drama that I won’t be here to resolve, especially with my sons. They are older and I have raised them well, but I feel that my comfort and presence is what assists them in making better and more informed choices…and I won’t be here to provide that. I worry that somehow makes me a bad mother, that I am being selfish in getting away. But…I am still going as my ticket has already been purchased.

It’s ironic that having come through the cancer surgery and now finding myself almost having completed chemotherapy that it is still not my own best needs I am looking out for. My life, aside from no longer working full time or at all for that matter, has not changed dramatically. I still do as much of the housework as possible…I still maintain the strong personality when drama or a crisis arises…I still put the needs of them all over the needs of myself. Even on my exhausted and challenging days I fight to maintain the stability in their world. It’s a mom thing I assume, the need to ensure the well being of the boys and household above that of myself.

The Healing Journey … Chapter 7

As I continue this journey and bide my time until surgery day, which is just 8 days away, I find myself still wondering about where this journey is taking me. For whatever reason, I am finding myself surrounded by women crossing into life coaching professions. One woman is utlizing her career planning and development background to begin a career in life coaching. Her strength will be that transition phase for people of all ages and helping those in need discover a course and path that best serves their personal and professional goals. Another young woman was blessed that her employer saw fit to provide wellness coach training to integrate with her role as a charge nurse. As she is an avid health buff and healthy eater, this wellness training and coaching opportunity is a perfect fit in her existing career path and a natural progression. The third woman, ironically, is my general practioner who is learning about finding the authentic self through personal and spiritual guidance. It’s fascinating that in such a short time, all three of these women have come into my life. And more than fascinating but encouraging, as I am a firm believer that surrounding onself with empowered women benefits not only personal goals but professional ones as well.

I have asked them all about their schooling and certifications, how they are planning to integrate their learning into their work places, and whether or not they will be utilizing these skills on a full or part time basis. For the two in the medical field, they truly believe that soon, life coaching will be a service covered by medical/health insurance as the price of coaching can be expensive and at the same time, it’s value is equal to that of therapy. Therapy has much value to those truly vested in it, but when one is looking for an expedient path or a path not psychologically based, working with a life coach is an excellent alternative. Case in point is the work being done by the woman in the career development path…this is simply utilizing existing skills that someone has, taking aptitude tests so as to see where the person’s skills lie, and embracing all that information to build a career path and/or destination through schooling and work.

Based on my own assessment of all this information, and my belief in today’s women needing a strong base and group of resources to pull from, I can stand firm in knowing this field has been brought to me for a reason. I have always wanted to provide a foundation type program to women in my area, providing connections and networks and opportunities for these women to become a part of in order to better their own lives. I am well connected in the staffing world, well connected with area employers, am comfortable talking with people individually and in groups, and believe my life experience has something more to offer than just my day to day data entry type work. That being said, I know that my journey is not only driving me to further my writing and photography, but to become involved in coaching.

I’ve begun looking into different coaching programs, different opportunities in the area, trying to determine if I need a formal degree in counseling to lend credibility to coaching, who my audience would be, and how I might connect with that network. As an avid reader, listening to the voices of strong women whose words have inspired and empowered me so many times, I believe that those words should not be spoken in vain. I know that those voices are all but yelling at me right now, telling me to listen to that inner voice and trust what it is saying, what feelings it is sending to my brain, and to follow in the direction I am walking. Through my news about breast cancer, it is as if my priorities lined right up, and long locked doors are opening before me as if they have always been open. It’s a staggering and empowering message of hope, dreams, and goals finally being attained.

The Healing Journey … Chapter 6

As I am going through this process, I keep feeling my life beginning to change. Perspective seems to be changing for me, as though elements of my life I have felt to be crucial are no longer as important to me. All I want is to spend every free moment with my family, to hear them laugh and see their smiles, to watch my sons and nieces grow up, to crack inside jokes with my sister, and to spend time with my aging parents. I no longer care about work, which is horrible considering my insurance is through my work, though soon, my husband’s new position will be taking care of my insurance. There is much weight being lifted from my shoulders.

What I have also come to realize is that life is too short to spend doing what does not make me happy. I stare out the windows of the office on sunny days willing my day to move more quickly so that like a sunflower, I can turn my face to the warmth of the sun. I spend the entire day on the computer and the telephone, and while I am good at it, I’m not happy there. I am creative and have no creative outlet at work…I’m not complaining just making a statement. I have a great job, and am blessed to have one, but right now, my heart just isn’t in it. There has to be something, some way, that I can reengage in my life and have it supply money as well… where my heart comes through in a manner which allows success as well as some measure of financial income. I’m not shirking my responsibilities but keeping an open mind, much more open, on opportunities. My someday promises need to become today… time to make it happen!

In regard to my most recent testing, I did learn that I am not a carrier for the genetic anomoly referred to as BRCA… this means I am less likely to have a recurrence with this cancer, and more importantly, my boys and their lineage will not have to worry about this gene, at least not from our side of the family. That being said, that reopens the debate of removing one breast instead of two. My husband keeps saying, “Are you sure you want to remove both?” I don’t want to remove one, let alone two …. it’s a very scary thought no matter how you look at it. Major surgery is never a small task and now that I am no longer “young” it is even more daunting.

But I am sticking with a full mastectomy, and at some point in the future, having both breasts replaced. I learned, and may have mentioned, that as a smoker, I need to be tobacco free for 6-10 weeks before they will even consider reconstruction. Good lord … like overcoming this cancer is not enough, I now need to stop smoking as well? Don’t people know that smoking is tough to quit? Why did they wait until now, just before I have wrapped my head around this surgery to tell me? Doesn’t two surgeries seem more daunting and dangerous than just one? I know the argument…infection, skin breakdown, unhealthy skin trying to encompass new material. I get it , I truly do … it is no less daunting though knowing that there is another surgery to follow, to be healed and then start again, more recovery time, more missed time from work (another reason I need to work for myself.)

The good news, as I have stated is that my mother will be here, and because she will be here, my father will hover around my household as well. She will be the love and healing, he will be the strength. I am so blessed. I know that now more than ever. My sister will be the entertainment, my children the questioning expressions trying hard to not see a weakened mother, my youngest niece hoping to play nurse to her “best friend” as she recently described me, my older niece kind of hanging back, and my brother in law coming in and cracking jokes. What a great group of people to be surrounded by while recovering from major surgery … it will be a long process but one filled with so much love and adoration. I couldn’t ask for a better recovery team to be in my corner!

What I do know is that my onward and upward path has not dissipated but rather provided a rocky terrain. I’ve got to strap on my boots, trust myself and my balance, and move forward. Even careful steps are steps forward. I will not be slowed or discouraged. I will follow this path from beginning to end, growing more balanced and steady, more trusting in my ability and inner strength, learning more from guiding forces than the occasional obstacles that lay ahead of me. I feel encouraged by what I am learning about myself, feeling more confident about my path, and more positive with each step that my path has taken me to where I need to be in my life. I’m not always a Me First kind of person … and for the first time in a long time, I am wondering why I haven’t shown myself the kind of love and attention I show everyone else. Would my path have slowed if I had paid better attention? Could I have done something different? Regardless of those answers, the past is just that, past, gone, unable to be changed. What I can do moving forward is pay better attention, take better care of myself, and watch over myself as I do those I love. Having to pay better attention has forced me to slow down, reevaluate where I am in life, take in my blessings, and really begin setting priorities. I would not change a thing… one of those blessings in disguise kind of things!

The Healing Journey… Chapter 5

I spent the weekend explaining to my boys what was happening and what the plan of attack was. Neither of them seemed to really respond except to say “At least this is the kind we can beat. That is the good news.” Positive mind over matter! I was ok with their answer. I did not push either of them to discuss this further though I have asked, from time to time, if they have any questions. So far, they are both “ok” with things and don’t have questions for me. I think they are dealing with this by not dealing with it…they are definitely My children!

When the time came to explain this to my father, I knew this would be the most difficult obstacle we would ever face together. When he came into the house, I gave him a big hug and kiss, asked if I could get him anything. As is our normal routine, we sat down at the kitchen table…or rather I sat down and he paced the kitchen. “Dad, I need to talk to you about something so please sit down.”
“No, I am good standing.”
“Dad, please come sit down. I need to tell you something important.”
He slowly approached the table and sat down. He knew it was going to be a little rough. Being that he still sees me as this itty bitty little thing, it was going to be very difficult.
“Dad, you know that I’ve been having tests done lately on the lumps in my breast. I got the results. I have breast cancer.” I waited…he shifted in his chair. “So…what I have decided is to have the left breast removed and not to have reconstructive surgery. It is what is the best for me and my lifestyle. I can’t be down for a long time and this is the safest option for me right now.” He lit his cigar, leaned back, tapped his boot on the floor and said “Whatever you need or whatever I can do, let me know. ” It was exactly what I needed for an answer. My father was terrified, I could see it on his face…like looking at my own reflection in a mirror, the same stricken expression buried beneath the calm demeanor and voice.

I had only my mother left to discuss this issue with and she was getting ready to leave for a three week vacation to Scotland and Ireland. Being a good daughter, I weighed the pros and cons of how much I should disclose. Until she returned from her vacation, I decided no information was the best option. I did not want her carrying this heavy news with her as she toured Ireland and visited with friends in Scotland. When she came home however, I had to let her know what was going on. I could live with that decision.

Two and a half weeks passed when I got the text that they had just come back across the pond and landed in JFK. I welcomed my mother home, told her I missed her and that I loved her and my stepdad Dean. I also asked, though it was late at night, to call me when they were more rested. They had been on the plane for hours and still needed to catch the tram which would bring them to a train, then from one station another train before they arrived in Trenton for pickup. I hoped for the call that evening, stayed up until 11pm which is an hour over my 10pm weeknight curfew, but the phone did not ring.

The next morning, Mom was texting up a storm, asking when she could call. I told her that my sister and I would call her at 1pm, our lunchtime and put her on speaker…two phone calls in one! At 1pm, I called my mother and as promised put her on speaker so that me and Jen could both speak to her at once. She regaled us with stories from her trip…concerts, food, cafes, pubs, the people they met, the friends they made, how fun it was traveling around with their favorite band, the sites they visited, and then how wonderful it was to spend time with their friends in Scotland. It was a once in a lifetime trip and we drank in every second of every story. The topic changed to my niece and my oldest son…how are they, how are their jobs going, etc. All good, all good. My sister looked at me and pointed to the clock. Lunch was almost over.

I took the opportunity to fill my mother in. ” Are you sitting down Mom? I have some news for you.”
“Youre pregnant!” She laughed because I had a partial hysterectomy 4 years ago.
“Umm no, but I do have breast cancer and will be having a double mastectomy.”

Insert crickets….chirp chirp chirp…followed immediately by my mother saying “You DO NOT KATHYLYNN. You are not Kathylynn. What are you even talking about?”

“Yes Mom, I do have breast cancer. Remember I was having testing before you left? I knew the results within a few days, but you were going on your trip and I couldn’t let you carry that with you. I’m ok though, please don’t worry. I’ve given all this a lot of thought, and if it buys me a future with my boys and my family, it’s all worth it in the end.”
She paused. “Oh Kath, I’m so sorry. Geesh, I can’t believe you’re telling me this. When is your surgery? I can’t believe you didn’t tell me this sooner! You’re just like Grandma, she always kept bad news from me. You’re so young Kath…it should be me and not you. Wow, I’m just speechless.”

Lunch had come to a close but having worked over the night before, I decided to stay out and finish the conversation with my mother. I told her about the entire process from start to finish, told her I had met with various members of the hospital staff and departments, that I had biopsies done and that after the results of the genetic testing had come back, we would be getting ready for surgery, preferably in mid-November based on my own plan of attack. I let it all sink in for her, answered questions for her, and remained calm and cool to avoid shaking her up anymore than the news already had. Like everyone I had talked to, my mother said “You seem so calm and logical about all this Kath, like you’ve really thought it all through. And if you’re this confident, then you’re making the right decision.” She was nervous, I knew it then like I know it now. I’ve always been the rock in our family, and my calm demeanor and even keel are comforts my mother counts on from me. If I am not shaken, everyone else can be…if I am calm, they follow.

Having wrapped up  the phone call with my mother with the promise to call her later, I went back inside to the office. When I got back inside, I did text my stepdad and tell him that although I know they have commitments when they get home, I selfishly wanted my mother to come home for my recovery period if possible. He said, my mother was saying the same thing…she was coming home and going to be here with me. It was like someone wrapping a warm blanket around my shoulders, like the perfect cup of hot chocolate…I was immensely relieved knowing she would be here with me.

Before I move forward, I must clarify that when I spoke to my father, I had just recently discovered the cancer diagnosis and felt that whatever I could do to prevent being out of work long term was the best answer for me. Yes, I’m one of those people that put and always have put work above my own needs, and for that, I definitely have some regrets. However, at the time I spoke with my father, I felt that a quick single breast mastectomy with no reconstruction would mean the quickest recovery time without any follow up surgeries or potential complications.

The more I read about and learned about breast cancer, I became more and more concerned about the “what ifs” of this illness. What if the cancer came back or spread to the right breast? What if I have to have chemo and/or radiation anyway? What if regardless of my simple decision I was out of work longer than anticipated? What if this surgery was not enough and affected my life in a greater capacity than I was planning for? And why not, if the option is there, reconstruct the girls? My friends kept saying “if it were me, I would take both of the girls off and get new perkier cha chas!” I couldn’t help but laugh but gave it some serious consideration. And when I learned from my mother that our family had suffered a breast cancer death, I knew the choice to remove both breasts and reconstruct later was my only option. I have since cleared up my plan with my father.

The remaining people in my life, my nieces and friends each had the reaction I expect people to have. Both nieces were immensely concerned, hearing only “cancer” and instantly panicking. My sister told them that based on the surgery plan and long term treatment plan, I wasn’t going anywhere, that I would still be around to see them grow up. Both girls know that they can ask me questions any time, and that if I do not have the answers, I will get the answers for them.

As for remaining friends, I am disclosing this information a bit at a time. Some of my friends are people I can count on to remain calm and logical with me, and those are the friends I have told first. The others are more emotional than I am, and truly internalize the illness as something they are suffering, making it about them rather than about me. I understand that everyone handles it differently, that each person will take the information and process it in his/her own way; I am fine with that, but selfishly, I do not have the energy to console those making it about themselves because it is about me, just this once, just this one time.

A Healing Journey… Chapter 4

A week later, I attended the counseling session for genetic testing, its importance, and how the results could affect the need for both breasts to be removed rather than run the risk of the cancer returning in my right breast. I know that everyone is removing both breasts these days, and while it seems a little extreme, I fully understand the logic in just doing the operation/recovery/reconstruction one time. I took the test…mouthwash being swished around then spit into a test tube at least 20cc’s worth of fluid. It would be 2-3 weeks before I had the results. I thanked the nurses for their time and detailed explanation then headed off to meet with the plastic surgeon.

The plastic surgeon welcome me, asked me to put on a robe and began her process. She found the lumps, examined the incisions, then took a picture of the girls for reconstructive purposes. I changed back into my clothes and with my husband, headed toward her office to discuss reconstructive surgery. At this point in my process I had decided to have the left breast removed and not do reconstructive surgery. Sadly, I didn’t want to miss any more work than I needed to being that I’m still fairly new. No reconstruction means less missed time. She seemed irritated that I wasn’t buying what she was selling, literally and metaphorically speaking…

I left with my husband, both of us on sensory overload from the information received. When we got to the car, I lit a cigarette, looked at him and said “Oh my god…too much information in a two hour span. I’m exhausted.” We had absorbed so much information, so many pros and cons to the various elements involved in this process, so many details, and so many options to consider. The doctors were open and honest which I appreciated, but two consultations in one day proved to be one too many. We had much to discuss and think about, and of course, discuss with my family.

A Healing Journey…Chapter 3

Monday (three days later) I was home from work with a migraine, and the phone rang to schedule a biopsy, that day. Can you be here at 2pm the voice asked…it was 1245pm. Yes I responded…power shower then out the door. We can make it no problem. While I showered my husband called into work…I just couldn’t go alone to this appointment, and his presence would really help me remain calm under the circumstances. I cried for the first time as the events of this process became more real and slightly scary. I never cry…my poor husband knew he had to go with me regardless of him having to miss work.

We arrived and sat briefly with the newest doctor, Ms. Helmer. She looked just like you would expect a female doctor to. White coat, glasses, soft wavy hair, and a great little personality! I liked her immediately. After our brief conversation about what the biopsy process entailed and why the process was occurring, she excused my husband so that we could begin. When he left, Nurse Rachel came in with all the gear for the procedure. I’m not afraid of needles but the ones on that table gave me pause, briefly, until I realized I would be numb anyway. That’s right…she told me general anesthesia in the affected area. I was ok again.

When the doc returned, we began. The inital anesthesia was not bad and thus the procedure began. For each lump, a small incision was made prior to the tool entering my breast to take samples. Approximately 6 samples were removed from each lump, and since I kept my focus on the third tile of the second row of the ceiling, I didn’t see not did I want to see, the samples being removed. At the end of the procedure, sterile strips and butterly stitches closed the incisions on my breast. The incisions were bandaged up and I was sent into the waiting room to see my husband. It would be a week until we got results of the biopsy. Again, waiting to hear back was another small bit of torture but, what can we do? We left to return home, both of us quiet.

On Thursday of that week, just three days later, I received the call to come in Friday as my results were in. 1pm was the scheduled time to meet with my doctor, and my general doctor Ms Allie had already been notified that results would be in. I worked half a day Friday to keep my mind busy and to be with people, and being that I work with my sister, that made the day even easier to endure. At 12pm I left, not knowing how long it would take me to cruise along Route 1 on this glorious Friday afternoon. The sun was shining and despite where I was going, I was in a great mood. Doug was driving, I was relaxed and enjoying the view along our drive. As we turned right into the hospital parking lot, I was still ok…he however was a little pale. Being my true self I said “Please don’t worry. Whatever the outcome, we get through this together.” My doctor’s assistant took us right in, and Nurse Rachel greeted me with her warm smile as we entered Rm #2. She told me to change real quick and the doctor, Ms Helmer, would be right in. As usual, green robe, open in the front…a quick knock and my doctor was there.
“Well, we got the results…both lumps are cancerous.” Thank God I was sitting down…I felt a bit faint and short of breath.
‘Do you understand what that means Kathy?”
“ I think so yes” (I was an English major after all!) but I had not responded which is why she probably asked me that question. “ I guess my next question is what does that mean for me?”
“ Please change and then we will go to my office to discuss this.”
I did as instructed then met her outside the door. My husband and I trudged (imagine the hallway scene from Joe Vs. The Volcano) towards the doctor’s office. When we got in there, we both sat down and for a minute said nothing. There were books in front of where we were sitting…one for me, one for him, and a cute little journal.

“At this point, because of the size of the lumps, we feel that a lumpectomy is not a valid option. Your best bet is a left side mastectomy.” (Hold the phones…a mastectomy, as in cutting off one of the girls…this can not be happening. I’m 42…this is not onward and upward…this is bad news and totally defeats my plan for myself. Yes, getting healthier was part of the plan but NOT having surgery/removal of my breast.) I could barely breathe and looked at my husband.

“Here is a PowerPoint showing information on your type of breast cancer as well as pros and cons of the surgery. Some of these women had just a single breast removed while others opted to have both breasts removed. These pictures show post surgery scars prior to the implants being filled.” OMG… I had just found out that I have breast cancer and Now a mastectomy was my best option for survival but that I should be considering both breasts to truly prevent the cancer from returning…and now I’m seeing women with scarred chests prior to the implants being filled up. I could feel myself slumping into my chair, getting as far away from the screen images as humanly possible. I’m 42 and acting 10…I was afraid, nervous, overwhelmed (apparently overwhelmed is the most common word for women in my position.) Ms. Helmer continued “Once the implants are in place, they are filled a little at a time, to monitor the healing process and avoid infection. These pictures are of the women’s breasts after the implants have been filled partially or fully. Reconstructive surgery is a wonderful option and we have an excellent plastic surgeon on staff for this very reason. You will be meeting with her next week to discuss your reconstruction options. Kathy…Kathy…you seem overloaded. Do you have any questions? Can I help in any way?” Clearly my eyes had glazed over and my brain had shut down. I couldn’t be hearing all of this information in one sitting. I couldn’t believe this was happening. Again I responded “No, no questions right this minute.” So she continued…” When you meet next week with the plastic surgeon, you will also talk to the Breast Care Center about genetic testing to determine if this cancer is hereditary or if it’s just your body. Oh, and because you still have your ovaries, we will be recommending you see an OB/GYN and probably have those removed.” Before I could censor myself I responded…”So while I’m asleep, why not just give me a penis? Seriously…I might as well be a guy with all my feminine parts being cut off or out.” I didn’t mean to say this outloud and laughed, embarassed and immediately apologized. It was not her fault that I had this cancer, and she was providing me with numerous opportunities to speak with everyone involved and knowledgeable in this field. I agreed that the testing is a good idea being that my grandmother had a breast removed and, as I learned later, that my grandmother’s father (my great grandfather) died of male breast cancer. My mother and sister needed to be aware of the hereditary repercussions, and because my sister has daughters, we really need to know. I have boys…but if they have girls, it would be crucial we know. Yes, I’m definitely ok with the genetic testing.

When I left this appointment, I texted my sister to let her know the results were in. She was waiting and knew I would text as soon as I knew…we had agreed that I would let her know, that we would get through whatever together. Jen, my sister, is my best friend in the whole world. Her love, support, and friendship have gotten me through so many rough patches, gotten US through so many rough patches. We could get through this too.

“So…I got the results of the biopsies. I have breast cancer.”
“OMG Kath…are you ok?”
“I’m as good as I can be considering the news. Just so you know, they are recommending a mastectomy of my left breast with reconstructive surgery being optional.”
“Wow… cant you just have the lumps removed?”
“No…too big an area. Mastectomy better option.”
“I love you.”
“I love you too. Call me later when you’re out of work.”
“I will…talk to you soon. <3″

We normally go out on Friday nights and I knew tonight, I wanted to stay home. My friend Jeanne texted to get the results. When I told her she took a minute to respond. She is the tenderhearted of the two of us…she was crying, told me she was sorry and that she loved me. I definitely wasn’t going out tonight. Later that afternoon, she texted me again…”Are you coming over tonight?”
“Yes, I will, I could use a drink. LOL. But don’t freak out on me…”
“LOL…I won’t I promise. We don’t even have to discuss it if you don’t want to.”
“No we will chat for sure but I can’t do the teary eyed thing. I have to be logical about this, taking each step in stride so as not to get as upset and overwhelmed. Know what I mean?”
“I do…see you in a bit.”
My husband and I did go see Jeanne and Jeff, got a little tipsy I admit. It was a good decision…I really needed it!! It was the perfect end to my day!