Tuesday, July 26, 2016

The Breast Cancer Chronicles ~ The Video Edition: Day One

This is new territory for me. Breast cancer, double mastectomy, bald head, chemotherapy, and now we add to that list Video Blogging. It does, however, seem like it may be a better option some days than writing a full post because fighting cancer can be exhausting.

I was holding the camera while I shot it because I am computer-challenged and too tired to figure it out tonight. This is raw video. I feel silly talking to a camera, I apparently look up A LOT when I'm trying to think. Maybe I need a script next time. We'll see. I just wanted to give it a shot and see how it worked.

Watch with those warnings in mind. Then please be kind if you choose to comment. If you have a suggestion for a phone stand to use during video, I'd seriously appreciate it. I mentioned this is new to me.

Enough stalling. I need sleep. Laugh. Smile. Giggle. Enjoy. Be kind.
And since I forgot to say it at the end of the post, #GlovesUp


Saturday, July 23, 2016

The Breast Cancer Chronicles: It's Me Again!

I'm back! At least for a little while...

First, thank you to everyone who has been supportive of me and my family through this first round of the battle with breast cancer. Your love, time, thoughts, prayers, energy, calls, texts, messages, tweets, cards, gifts, meals, and shoulders keep us going whenever things become too challenging or scary. Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU. I will say it again later because there will never be thanks enough.

One of my goals in dealing with this damn disease is to use my experience to take some of the fear out of cancer for the next person, or loved one of a person, who faces it. When we talk openly and honestly about things that scare us, the power that those things have begins to dissipate. If it were up to me, and frankly it should be, cancer wouldn't be able to scare or hurt any of us ever again.

As I have said before, I am lucky to have had the amazing doctors who have helped me through the first surgical part of this journey. Dr. Rock Star and his staff have been lovely, kind, gentle, and even entertaining throughout the "taking them off" part. Dr. Superwoman took the second half of the surgery, "putting them on" in the form of expanders to help my chest muscles learn how to work in their new place. The expanders kind of remind me of whoopee cushions, or empty beach balls. They go in flat and get filled every week with sterile saline until they are the size and shape that the actual implants will be. Pretty cool, right? But I am jumping way ahead. We'll come back to Dr. Superwoman and her terrific team in a little while. In the interest of full disclosure, I must say that I am still on meds, so I talk in circles sometimes. (Like that is anything new! I just have something on which to blame it now!)

The surgery was three weeks ago yesterday. and I may have to tell this in installments because so much has happened in the last twenty-two days.

Day One: Surgery
I knew that the scan they needed to do of my lymph nodes before the mastectomy involved an injection, what I didn't know until the day before my surgery was that the injectionS were to go in just below my nipples without anesthesia! I had never been in so much pain in my entire life. Until after the surgery. There was no way to prepare for that! If any part of it could be funny, it had to be the fact that the doctor who came in to give me the shots was the parent of a former student! I knew as soon as he introduced himself, and I told him how much I enjoyed teaching her. Then, midway through the injection, I remember wailing, "I was nice to W...! Why would you hurt me?" He apologized and just kept on sticking. Then I was left alone for twenty or thirty minutes so the stuff he injected could get where it needed to go to be detected.

Next was Pre-Op for loads of questions, weight, BP, and an IV. The nurse or tech trying to put in my IV was midway through her second try when a lovely doctor walked in and asked, "Amy?" Instantly I recognized her as the mother of yet another former student! She said, "K... told me you would be here today! I'm not your anesthesiologist, but I wanted to make sure you were okay." I was thrilled! Then she looked at the IV debacle happening in my right arm and said, "I got this. Thanks." Not only did she numb the area -What a concept!- but she put in a painless IV on the first try into an even tougher spot! Thanks, Dr. B! I still have a bruise from the one that was happening when she arrived. After huge thanks, an update on her kids, and a couple of hugs, she was on her way. Just a few minutes later, a former student popped in to check on me. Come to find out she is a tech at the hospital and wanted to give me a pre-op hug! Love you, KH! Again I was overwhelmed with thanks for this amazing life I live.

And then it was time.

Surgery started later than scheduled. My Dream Team of perfectionist surgeons had another case before mine, and they wanted to make sure everything was right. We were  happy to know how much it mattered to them to get the little things right. The complete operation lasted between four and five hours. Through the post-op haze I remember being almost unable to breathe from the pain I felt coming back into consciousness. Baby Sis tells me that all I got out was a barely audible, "Hurts...so...much," that made them all want to cry. I'm pretty sure I was crying. Loads, and loads, and loads of Dilaudid later, it still hurt like Hell, but I was able to rest a little. E stayed the night with me in the hospital so Mom could go home to get some sleep. He made sure I rested as comfortably as I could with with four drains sticking out of me, not an easy task. That night when I first tried to get out of bed to use the restroom, I remember being so thankful that my office is on the second floor, and that I have taken the stairs up and down several times each day for the last year. That made getting into and out of bed without using my hands or arms a possibility. I'm not sure I could have done that eighteen months ago. #glasshalffull

Who would have believed that a complete double mastectomy with reconstruction only merited a single night in the hospital? Not this Betty! But that is, in fact, the case. One night only. Getting out of the hospital should have been the easy part right? Not if you know my family! Mom, Dad, and Baby Sis were all there to help. Truth be told, I wasn't feeling particularly well as I made the switch from IV pain meds to pills. I thought I was just a little light-headed and figured it would pass, but probably should have said something. The wheelchair came, everyone took a bag and we were out the door. Suddenly we entered what I was sure was the Walking Dead hospital crossway, remember? You know, the one that was so bright, where they were going to get Beth back from the woman who held the hospital. Yes! That one! The image popped into my head and as it did I heard a crash behind me, followed by an expletive or two. I twisted around in my chair (bad plan after double mastectomy) to see Dad on the floor! The man has a pair of bright, shiny, new hips, so his fall was more than a little scary for all of us! He was fine, but mortified. I remember trying to ask if he was okay, as the nurse was explaining that she needed him to go to the ER to get checked out, and then everything went black. Yep! I passed right out in my chair! I had already been released from the hospital! This had to be a joke. Right? Next thing I knew they were wheeling me back into a room, Dad and Baby Sis had gone downstairs to fill out a report and agree not to sue, since he refused to go to the ER, while I lay in a freshly made hospital bed sobbing. It was, at the time, awful. The next day, it was hilarious! And it gets funnier by the day. I'm pretty sure we have more fun laughing at ourselves than just about anything else. We crack ourselves right up almost all of the time.

I'll end this post here, but stay tuned for new ones, shorter, and funnier, and filled with hope.

Thank you for taking this journey with me. Take care of each other and be kind.



Peace from Post Op

Thursday, July 21, 2016

GUEST POST: Three weeks post-op

"Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion..."
-Miss Truvy, Steel Magnolias

These past three weeks have been most stressful we can remember, and we are in for several more before it is all over and done...

This is Mom, SandiPaints, guest posting now.
Amy is and always will be the most positive person I have known, and with this attitude we have all laughed more then we have cried around this cancer bullsh!t, that is for sure.  I love her so much for helping us to help her get on the other side of this and on to the next step.

Next up we are on to chemo, which none of us likes the idea of, but it is the lesser of two evils so... Bring it on, Chemo! Our gloves are all up!

 We, in this family, have been so blessed and we are Thankful to everyone who has shown us so much love. The doctors, the nurses, the techs, the support staff everywhere we go who have been so wonderful, done so much, and just keep doing more...
The cards, letters, shirts, bracelets, foods, gifts, prayers, shoulders, and good thoughts have been more than we could have asked for, and we are so appreciative...Thank you. Thank you. Thank you!

Please keep the good thoughts coming as we head into the next phase of crushing this cancer. Chemo starts next Thursday. Amy (Betty) will post her own update soon.

Thank you all so much.  Take care of each other.

Gloves Up, y'all!


"Working hard" a while ago at Painting With a Twist.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Guest Post: Two Weeks Post Op

This is Amy's Dad.  Guest posting because she asked me to. Not sure Wy.

So Amy has been home for 2 weeks today. 2 weeks. And she continues to amaze. She is doing so well. Her last drain (of 4) "fell out" Sunday night. No more drains. She did a little Yoga last evening.
She must get her positive attitude from her Mother. It is serving her so well and we are so happy about it.

Going to have to have Chemo. Preventative. We'll know more later this week. Surgery seems to have "got it all." All of us feeling so blessed.

Since Jenn left, Sandi has stayed the night mostly to supervise pain meds, drains, etc. and has taken great care of our girl.  I've taken a few shifts as Night Nurse and Amy says I am progressing nicely.

So much thanks to so many people for all the food, gifts, positive thoughts, and prayers. You have been such a help to our bodies and our spirits. This is going much better than we ever thought. Thank you. Thank you.

Amy will write her own update soon.

Thank you for all of your love and support.


Sunday, July 3, 2016

GUEST POST: The Post-Op Update You've All Been Waiting For

Well, here we are. First of all, allow me to introduce myself. My name is Jennifer, AKA "Baby Sis", "Monster's Mommy" or "Nifer". I am the little sister of our favorite Betty and I am visiting from Seattle to get in the way, ahem, I mean help with the recovery of my dearest sister.
So the surgery was three full days ago, and she got through it like a real champ! Both surgeons said she did amazingly well and the surgery went just as expected, no surprises. The cancer does NOT appear to have spread to the lymph nodes! Great news! Thank you, thank you!!
She will be meeting with a medical Oncologist on the 21st to discuss chemotherapy. Meanwhile, she is home and resting (un)comfortably. She is feeling all of the love and support from "Amy's Army" and she feels, in her exact words, Incredibly Grateful. The calls, texts, cards, deliveries, etc have been wonderful and we are all so, so thankful to have all of you out there pulling for her. It really does make hard times easier when we know that so much love and positive energy surrounds us.
Thank you all from the bottom of my heart. You all know My Betty, she can't stay down long, so she will be back to share her words of wisdom soon. Until then, she will be resting, medicating, and building her strength back up so that she can return to being the Rock that you are used to seeing.
Keep those positive thoughts and prayers coming! Gloves up!!
#glovesup #breastcancer #gratitude #surviving #luckygirl

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

The Breast Cancer Chronicles Volume Eight or Nine, I've lost count: Tomorrow's the Day!

Good evening, friends!

Tomorrow is the big day. Two boobs are coming off and the beginnings of two fabulous new ones (extenders) are going in to get the next phase started.

This will be quick. I am exhausted, as I have crammed as much fun, friends, and family into the last few weeks as humanly possible.  Today was sincerely one of the most wonderful, memorable, restorative, soul feeding days of my life. Thank you to everyone who had any part in it.

Hair chopped off: check
"Before" picture taken: check
First boat trip with Monster: check
Dinners with the family: check
Fun times with friends: check
Laughter until tears flowed and I was in pain every day: check
Smile from ear to ear: check
Gloves up playlist(s): check
Deep breaths in and out: check

Thank you to all of you who have called, texted, emailed, FB or Twitter messages, and snail mailed cards, gifts, and care packages. I have smiled and sometimes cried, too, as I opened it.  The thank you notes are going to take me ages, but I am already thanking you in my heart every minute of every day.

All will be well. Updates will follow as soon as I can get them posted, or have someone post for me. All will be well. I am surrounded by love on every front. I have the best doctors and hospitals I could ever have chosen. All will be well.

Please be kind to each other the way you have all been so kind to me. Please be even kinder to yourself. You are important. You are special. You are needed. You matter. You are valued. You have gifts to share with our world. Please know that you make my life better each and every day. Our job is to leave our world a better place than we found it. We must each work to do that every day with every breath. Hug someone you love today. Forgive someone today, whether they have apologized or not, for yourself. Forgive. Wrap each other in love. I will be drugged up and sending only positive energy and love into the world for each of you, and those I have yet to know.

Can you tell I am getting tired?  Will likely not even proof this, if you don't tell my students.

See you on the flat side. Hehe!

Peace and love to you all.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The Breast Cancer Chronicles: Volume Seven

After soup, sleep, and antibiotics, this weekend I finally worked up enough energy to set my house in order to receive loved ones who will be here to help for surgery and recovery. Preparing my home to become a place of sanctuary and healing had been weighing heavily on my mind, beneath all of the really big stuff, from the time I found out that The Big C would require a calling-in of the cavalry. Of course I am well aware that no one would actually come into my house to help me and say (or even think), "I can't believe she didn't even vacuum the office!" Or, "I know just the thing to get those rust stains out of your toilet."  Go ahead, laugh at that last one, but there is precedent. Bless her heart, my late grandmother was kind enough to offer that tidbit of wisdom to my mother (and our houseful of twenty-plus people) at full voice one particularly memorable holiday. I can't make this stuff up. Seriously. So you can see why I might worry about the thick coating of dust "protecting" the blades of my living room ceiling fan. Right? Right. (But if you are good on a tall ladder cleaning ceiling fan blades, I seriously need you. Call me. Thanks!)

I digress before I have even begun. Shocker! Welcome to the cacophonous maelstrom of voices jockeying for position in my head.

In all seriousness, the struggle this week has been to find a way to manage all of the appointments, insurance calls, paperwork, pre-op, pharmacy, sleep, food, meditation, yoga, work, planning, and preparation for all possibilities while still maintaining the "stress-free environment" insisted upon by Dr. Rock Star. I laughed out loud when he said, "No stress," to me with a straight face. I thought he was kidding. I have since learned that he was not kidding...at all. Who knew? So, once again, I have come face to face with my own limitations. And, to be clear, I am not a fan. Today I had to retreat, give up the idea of working normally until the day of the surgery, and go home. I know talked a great game last week about being set up to work from home, but I didn't want to actually need to work from home. I wanted to, once again, be able to do it all. I learned, once again, that I cannot. Excellent, eager, exceptionally capable people are in place to do the parts of my job that need to be managed in my absence. I need to let them. I will let them. I will do what I can do, but know that all will be well. I am so very grateful and so very lucky.

I am told that I have one job right now: to fight. I am told that by others. I am learning to tell myself. I know, and am constantly reminded, that I am a fighter. Unfortunately it appears that I have been fighting against only myself. This is never a good idea. No matter how I win that fight, I lose.

Tonight, after I hit Publish, I will hit the yoga mat, like I do every night. But tonight, rather than fighting to find the Yin Yoga poses of release, I will exhale deeply and surrender. Within the surrender the chaos will quiet. Within the surrender the stillness will be found. Within the surrender, the kind, gentle, loving voice of my soul will be heard. Within the surrender the strength that I need for this battle will be found. Within the surrender the victory will be realized.

Rest well, my friends. Find your surrender. Find your stillness. Find your light. The light in me honours the light in you.



Thursday, June 16, 2016

The Breast Cancer Chronicles: Volume Six, Because sometimes breast cancer just isn't enough...

I woke up yesterday with a searing sore throat. Usually I just suck it up and wait three weeks or so, until I feel like I'd have to get better to die, to go to the doctor. Not this time. My surgery is fourteen days from today, and if I am sick, it won't happen. Unacceptable.

So I went to my regular doctor today, aching all over, throat worse, and head starting to feel full and hot. Try to contain your shock when I say that I have a sinus infection. Welcome to my life. The good news is that I can take the same antibiotics that I will get for pre and post-up, I'll just be on them ten days longer than planned.

I came home and slept for four or five hours AGAIN! Then I got us, had some magic soup, took my meds, and can already barely keep my eyes open.

So thankful for the white tea that arrived today to fill me with antioxidants. Thank you to my college friend who was so very thoughtful. It is making my throat feel better for sure.

Be kind, be well, be rested, and be restored. Our job is to leave the world a better place that it was when we got here. We can do that one breath, one positive thought, one act of kindness at a time.


(Too sleepy to go back and proof this again, so please forgive any typos.)

More peace.

The Breast Cancer Chronicles : Volume Five, The Roller Coaster Continues

I think the things that are challenging me the most right now are my own expectations. I feel like I should be able to get everything done that I want to do, when I want to do it. I feel like I should be able to do my job by myself, without asking for help. I feel like I should be able to handle all of the doctors' visits, and paperwork, and testing, and scheduling, and meds on my own, without needing to be reminded. I feel like I should be able to go to sleep when I go to bed, and wake up with my first alarm and live my life as usual. I feel like I should be able to handle two big, energetic, crazy dogs and a neurotic cat on my own... But I can't. That is the reality that has smacked me square in the face, over and over again today. I can't do it all on my own. I HATE THAT.

I love that I have friends and family who want to help. I appreciate that more than I have words to express. I know that I Need that help, but I don't Like that I need that help. I don't like putting an extra burden on other people. I like taking care of other people. I am so uncomfortable with the shoe on the other foot. But I know that learning to walk in these uncomfortable shoes is part of my lesson in this journey. (If those shoes could have red soles toward the end of the journey, that would make it easier to handle.)

I read somewhere that the greatest way we can  show our love for others is by allowing them to help us. Well, if this is true, I must seriously suck at showing love for others! OR maybe this is the first time that I really have the chance to show all of those who have asked to help just how much I do love them. That must be it! This is my chance to show that I love everyone enough to Ask for help. Now if I can figure out what shape that help should take, I'll be one step closer to making it happen.

Thank you to everyone who has asked how to help. I am working on figuring that out, but will put it into words as soon as I do.

At work, my colleagues have gone out of their way to take things off my plate, and for this I am grateful beyond words. Working from home for some of my more challenging times has also become an option. For this I am grateful. Hugs, tissues, pep talks, ears, and shoulders appeared today just when I needed them. For this I am grateful.

Tonight we honored the birth of Middle Sister. For this, I am grateful. To have her home, even for a little while, is a tonic to my soul. For this I am grateful. Tonight I learned that Baby Sis and Monster will be home to help me through the surgery and recovery. For this I am grateful. Tonight I am warm, safe, and surrounded by healing energy. For this, I am grateful.

Be well, my friends and know that, for each of you, I am grateful.



Tuesday, June 14, 2016

The Breast Cancer Chronicles: Volume Four

So yesterday happened. And it was a rough one. And then I slept for four hours, got up, organized the kitchen cabinets, did some yoga and went back to bed.

And then the cat woke me at 3:00 AM and peed on the floor. Immediately I decided he was in full-on kidney failure. I was a wreck again. And then I bleached the floor.

I tried to go back to sleep. #fail
I tried journaling. #fail
I tried mindful meditation. #fail
I tried stretching. #fail
It was shaping up to be a great morning to go back to work!

But go back to work I did. Not as early as I had hoped, but I got there safely. Many other people around the world never made it to work today.
And then my day became about gratitude.

I am grateful that I made it safely to and from work today.
I am grateful that I was greeted with smiles, hugs, love, and support at work when so many others are miserable in their jobs.
I am grateful that the first thing the vet did was give me a hug when he came into the room because he knew I was scared.
I am grateful that I spent a surprise evening with Mom and Dad, floating in the pool, eating, laughing, and listening to amazing music when so many others are away from those they love in one way or another.

I am so grateful to realize how incredible my life is. I am surrounded by everything I need to get through each day. I have been taught to find the strength I need to get through anything. I have been taught to ask for help. I have been taught to look for the good in people, even when they try to show me something else. I don't always see it, but I always know it exists.

Thank you to everyone who called, texted, messaged, emailed, hugged, gifted, laughed, sent prayers, sent positive energy, thoughts, strength, and healing my way today. You each reinforced for me how much we have to take care of each other. We all need love. We all need to belong. We all need to heal.

Tonight I go to bed chlorine-soaked, skin shriveled, belly full, heart warm, and soul at peace.

Love and celebrate each other with every breath.

Gloves up!