Tuesday, March 27, 2012

You're Only A Day Awayyyyy....

Pre-surgery day! I've been sleeping like crap, so I got up at 5:00 and went downstairs to mop the kitchen floor. I had the best of intentions. REALLY, I did. But then I saw all the lovely gifts on the dining room table from the Ta Ta party and from my fabulous co-workers at preschool and, well, the kitchen floor still needs to be mopped....

I said goodbye to my son in the driveway, since he drives himself to school. I know he was trying hard to hold it together, so I must say I kind of shoved him in the car and sent him on his way so neither of us lost it. I rode to school with my husband and daughter, because I needed to talk to her track coach about her missing the meet on Friday night. When I walked back to the car to tell my daughter goodbye before she walked into school, I could see her eyes filling with tears. Dear God, how that hurt! Kids shouldn't have to worry about their parents. It's our job to worry about THEM.

Back home, I packed and waited for my parents to come get me. Naturally, I lost my list of stuff I wanted to remember to take with me. I remembered the sheep dip. I forgot my new Sue Grafton book and gum. I think I got everything else. I brought underwear, but I don't know if I even need it. I didn't bring any bras, except the one I'm wearing. I optimistically packed make up.

Dr. Bumberry did my "dye job." I asked him if I would see him in the morning while I was still lucid, and he said maybe. I said what about Dr. Geter? Would I see HIM while I was still lucid? He said I would, because he would come in to draw on me with a Sharpie. 

And that leads to my latest worry. When I met with Dr. Geter, my surgery was more or less elective and we were talking about something that might happen in a few months. In the meantime, the stupid cancer came up and now he's going to be making me new boobies tomorrow without us really talking about what they are going to look like.

I pictured going to his office, looking through some kind of catalog of pictures of boobies that I could pick from. And then I decided that what I REALLY wanted was Jennifer Aniston's boobies. They're small, perky, and haven't been drug down by pregnancy and breastfeeding. I set out to find a good picture of her that I could take to Dr. Geter.

Google Images gave me lots of pictures of Jennifer Aniston, mostly as "Rachel," and none of them really showing what I wanted. So I narrowed my search to "Jennifer Aniston swimsuit," thinking one of these would show enough to give Dr. Geter the idea of what I was looking for.

Funny thing, when you Google "Jennifer Aniston swimsuit," you get more than you bargained for. Am I the only one who didn't know that she is one of the most Photoshopped celebrities? And by "Photoshopped," I mean her head onto very naked bodies? Very naked bodies doing a variety of activities, none of which could have been shown on "Friends"?

Needless to say, I don't have a picture of Jennifer Aniston to show the plastic surgeon.

So many are praying and sending positive thoughts my way. I am humbled. Tomorrow's the day. No backsies.

Monday, March 26, 2012

No Time Like The Present

My surgery could not have been scheduled at a more inconvenient time. Really could not. Not that there's ever a really GOOD time. I have made lists and sublists and crossed things off lists and added more to the lists. I've lost more of my lists than I care to think about.

On Tuesday, March 27, I have to be at the hospital around noon to get a shot (as in with a needle) of dye so my sentinel node can be tested to see if the cancer has spread (I don't really understand all this - I am just regurgitating what I was told). Since my husband is finishing up his MBA and has a class that night that he really can't miss, my parents are going to fetch me and take me to Springfield for my appointment, just like when I was 7 and got my tonsils out. 

To further complicate matters, my daughter has her first track meet that afternoon. Melinda to the rescue - she will go home with her friend Madeline after the track meet and spend the night. My son will go to tennis practice and then spend the night with my husband's parents. My husband will go to class, then drive to Springfield when it's over, spending the night with me in a hotel room that my friend Traci has kindly gotten for us.

After a night of what I suspect will be very little sleep, I have to report at the hospital at 5:30 a.m. I'm pretty sure that I will catch up on my sleep that day, but my major concern is not the surgery, not what they will find, not the risks or complications. My biggest concern right now is the knowledge that this is going to be my last chance to wash my hair and shave my legs and under my arms for DAYS. Thinking some really yummy scented body wash would help thwart my future state of squalor, I was looking forward to using lotion and body wash that was a gift from one of my preschoolers and her mom (shout out to Alex and Joanna). Or that WAS my plan, until the pre-admitting nurse called Friday and told me I had to bathe in some kind of sheep dip the morning of my surgery and could not apply any lotions, powders, perfume or deodorant afterwards. Instead of the lovely springy scent I had hoped for, I will smell like I have been de-loused.

My husband and my parents will be at the hospital during the surgery, apparently a 6-12 hour ordeal. Sucks to be them. I get to sleep....

My husband is going to spend the night with me in my room Wednesday night, then he has to go back to Joplin Thursday morning to finalize his Everyday Heroes lunch for the Red Cross that is scheduled for Friday.  (He's only been working on it for, oh, MONTHS.)  After my dad's recent hospital stay, I understand the need for someone with a SPINE to stay with you in the hospital and be your advocate.  My husband's sister, Kristin, offered to come babysit me that day and night while he is gone. And my friend, Cindy, offered to come Friday morning. I gratefully accepted both offers, not thinking at the time that, with one a nurse and the other a doctor, I was surrounding myself with Nurse Ratcheds who will probably be really mean and make me cough and walk around and stuff like that.

My husband will be there as soon as his event is over, and he will stay with me until they release me, whenever the hell THAT is. When I am released, I will be going to my mom and dad's house in Branson for a few days, because there are no stairs and because my mom will spoil me.

In the meantime, my son has a tennis match in Springfield on Thursday afternoon, my daughter has dance on Wednesday night, volleyball on Thursday night, a track meet on Friday night, and her regional volleyball tournament in Kansas City on Saturday and Sunday. The enormity of getting them where they need to be with all the stuff they need to take with them has nearly done me in. 

But after hours of making schedules and lists, I'm not going to worry about it any more. What happens, happens. Instead, I will worry about the important things, like not being able to shave my legs or take a shower....

Saturday, March 24, 2012

I Think, Therefore, I Can. I Think.

Ever see "The Music Man"? As part of his swindle, Professor Harold Hill teaches the "think system" to the boys who have ordered marching band instruments, telling the boys that if they THINK about it hard enough, they will be able to play.  I've decided to employ the Think System for myself - if I THINK hard enough that everything will be fine, then it WILL be. 

We waste a lot of time borrowing trouble, worrying about things that might never happen. I believe in self-fulfilling prophecy. I often tell my kids if they THINK they're going to do poorly on a test, performance, etc., then they surely WILL do poorly.  Think positively for a positive outcome (Jeez, I really AM a Pollyanna!). It's about time I started practicing what I preach.

The boobies have to go. They have been very, very bad. And I could cry about this loss or celebrate the beginning of a new chapter.  Enter the Ta Ta to the Ta Ta's party.

I am so grateful to Melinda for putting together a fabulous party for me! I didn't cry ONCE, which was my goal (Think System at work), although I came thisclose with the cards and gifts from my former co-workers at Warner Bros. There were a lot of little birds at work, pulling off that surprise, including my husband and Melinda. Well done, all of you! (Presents were entirely unnecessary. I truly only wanted to be surrounded by laughing friends, but I love them all and I'm not giving them back.) 

My friend Kathy made me laugh so hard I cried (the GOOD kind of tears) when she told of going to Hallmark to buy me a card and finding out that breast cancer cards are only available in October. Her reaction upon hearing this from the card store employee? "Damn you, Dyanne Dillon, for having breast cancer when it isn't October!" We took pictures of me holding the boobie cake in front of my chest, my friend Dawn fondling the nipples. Then, they made me lick the nipples on the cake and bite one of them off. How can you feel sorry for yourself with friends like that?! 

I'm still mad and sad and scared that this is happening to me. But if I can think myself better with laughter and silliness, then Professor Hill was onto something. And I will do it wearing my new boobie crown. Watch me.

Friday, March 23, 2012

When I Tell You "I'm Fine," I'm Totally Lying

Since my diagnosis, I have tried to be the optimistic, look on the bright side, glass half-full Pollyanna that I usually am. I did a fabulous job faking it when I had to call my parents and tell them. I should have given an acceptance speech when it was over, my acting was so Oscar-worthy. Texting is a wonderful invention at a time like this. I was able to text my boss with the news, and she sent the word out to everyone I worked with, sparing me having to say it over and over and over again. 

So, in keeping with my look-for-the-silver-lining attitude, I decided to have a Ta Ta to the Ta-ta's party. My friend Melinda jumped all over it and offered to plan it for me - yay! I requested a titty cake and that no one makes me cry. I know I'm at least getting the cake....

Now, because I blabbed on Facebook about the biopsy, many of my friends knew something was up. I didn't announce the diagnosis on Facebook until I had a surgery date. But what about those friends and acquaintances that I am NOT friends with on Facebook, or whom I don't see on a regular basis? What do you do when you run into someone in passing at Target or at the mall and they casually ask that  loaded question, "How are you?" The only answer they're looking for is "fine."

It reminds me of that Facebook status that middle schoolers are so fond of, called "Like My Status for Truth Is..."  For every "like," a post is then made proclaiming some profound truth about that person on their own wall.   Such as, "Truth is... you're an awesome cheerleader! We should hang out some time!" I've always wanted to make it my Facebook status, only be brutally honest with my truths. I'm thinking, "Truth is...  you're a sneaky little shit who never gets caught by teachers" or "Truth is... you're entirely too fat to wear the stuff you do." (Probably best that I never give in to temptation and play that game.)  

So, instead of telling people how I REALLY am, I lie. Nobody wants the truth when they play Truth Is, nor do they when they ask how you are. Now, if my mean streak were a hell of a lot meaner, I could, just once, say, "Well, I was just diagnosed with breast cancer, I'm going in for a double mastectomy next week, and I'm scared that it's going to be worse than the doctor had originally thought. And, shallow as it may be, I'm afraid of having chemo and losing my hair. And I'm sad that this is now my daughter's legacy, that she will always have to be diligent about  checking herself. And I'm not looking forward to weeks and weeks of recovery from the surgery, of being helpless and completely dependent on others." I could go on, but you get the idea.

I'll just answer "fine."

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

I Don't Hear Well Under Stress

I'm not sure where would be the best place to hear the news that you have cancer, but I can promise you it isn't in the checkout line at Academy Sports, especially mid-transaction. I had just run my debit card through the machine when I got the call. I walked away from the checkout, leaving my daughter there to complete the volleyball shoe purchase on her own. Luckily, the little snoop already knew my PIN number. I pressed the phone to my ear, holding the other ear with my finger, trying desperately to hear what the doctor was saying, because all I was hearing was the "wah wah wah wah wah" voice of Charlie Brown's teacher on a Peanuts special. I walked into the entryway, thinking it would be quieter there. Crash! An employee brought carts in from the parking lot. I kept apologizing to the doctor because I couldn't hear him, although I think it was probably more of a comprehension issue. Because this was incomprehensible to me.

My daughter had joined me by this time, so I told the doctor I would go to my car, where it would be quieter. Except I couldn't find the car.  My daughter pointed out the car, pushing me towards it, but I said, "That's not my car! That's my license plate, but that's not my car!" (Whadya know? It WAS my car....) The poor doctor was so very patient with me. I'm going to guess that my reaction was mild compared to what he might get from other patients doing what must be the suckiest part of his job. I sat in the car, listening to his "wah wah wah" and not absorbing any of it, other than that it was small, slow-growing, and caught early. There was other stuff about it being estrogen receptive and chemotherapy may or may not be necessary that I just couldn't absorb. He told me his office would contact the plastic surgeon and get back to me with a surgery date. I hung up,  started the car, and headed for home.

It was strangely quiet in the back seat. My nonstop talker only asked if it were bad, and I told her I wanted to wait until I got home to talk about it, because I only wanted to say it one time. Once home, I called my husband and son back from playing tennis, sat everyone down, and told them. I was unbelievably upbeat about it, promising the kids that their activities would continue as planned. They would still have tennis and volleyball and dance class and prom and mission trips. We would figure out the logistics somehow. I didn't cry until I was alone, as I sent an email to three of my dearest friends from high school, telling them I had cancer.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

My Jellybean

The wonderful nurse practitioner in my ob/gyn's office got the ball rolling for me again when I went to see her on February 1, showing her the newest lump I had in my left breast that felt like a jellybean. She had staff members trying to track down any available medical records of mine (a fruitless search, it turns out - fucking tornado), and set me up with a surgeon in Springfield.  (The surgeon's office asked me to bring my films with me from my previous procedures, which was a laugh. Told them we would check the fence lines for them on our way there from Joplin.)

 I must admit that I liked Dr. Bumberry immediately, not because he seemed competent, or that he was kind and caring, which he turned out to be, but because he had beautiful auburn hair. (Reminded me of a guy I once dated who had hair like that. All similarities stop there, however, because the surgeon does not appear to be a complete asshole.) He was in agreement with my previous surgeon that I was a candidate for prophylactic double mastectomy and wanted me to meet with the plastic surgeon, whom he said had "great nipples." My husband and I were juvenile enough to snicker at this. Dr. Bumberry was professional enough to ignore us. The plastic surgeon was able to see me that afternoon, and he explained the reconstruction procedure to us. He wanted to do a tram flap, where the breast skin is saved and muscle and tissue from my tummy is used to build new breasts. A tummy tuck and perky boobies all at once. Win-win.

The next step was going to get a mammogram and ultrasound a week later. Now, I've had countless mammograms over the past few years, but the barracuda that gave me this one made me cry. A radiologist came in after the ultrasound and told me she was usually a little hesitant about prophylactic mastectomies, but after reading my mammogram and ultrasound, she was in complete agreement that it needed to be done. She was also concerned that my "jellybean" was not like the other cysts I have, which are filled with fluid. She wanted me to come back the following week for a needle biopsy.

The needle biopsy was done on February 27. Four days later, while checking out at Academy Sports with my 13 year old daughter, Dr. Bumberry called to say my "jellybean" was Stage 1 cancer.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Tornado - The Gift That Keeps On Giving

"Atypical cells" was the verdict of a cyst aspiration in November 2010, and I was sent to see an oncology surgeon. Actually, I didn't know he was an ONCOLOGY surgeon until I went to his office for the first visit and saw it outside his door. And they wondered why my blood pressure was high when I got inside....

The surgeon wanted to remove the area surgically, so he sent me for an MRI (my first). Let me say that two Valium and headphones playing 70s music was not enough to drown out the sound of the jackhammers inside the MRI machine. I felt like Fred Flintstone was carving images on a slate the entire time I was in there. But that's not the best part. The BEST part is that I had to lie face down with my titties hanging down through a hole in the table. God's truth. Dignity? Pshhhhh.

The MRI revealed that the cyst with the atypical cells had collapsed after the needle aspiration and was no longer an issue. But the MRI indicated a place on the right side that looked suspicious, so back to the breast center for a needle biopsy, then an MRI-guided biopsy, which an entire BOTTLE of Valium would not have made tolerable (and made even worse because they wouldn't let me have headphones this time). Pathology report said the place on the right was, thankfully, benign.

It was at this time that the oncology surgeon and I discussed the possibility of prophylactic double mastectomy. I was tired of the pain and the endless worry that a lump would be cancerous rather than a benign cyst. He was ready to plead my case to the insurance company as soon as I was ready. I was to follow up with him in June or July of 2011.

And then, May 22, the tornado hit Joplin. Our home was not hit, but the hospital was, as was the office of every doctor I had ever seen in Joplin. My surgeon's home was destroyed, his office was destroyed, the hospital where he worked was destroyed, and he left town. I no longer had a surgeon. I no longer had medical records for the endless procedures I had already endured. I no longer had the heart to pursue any of it when our town and our lives were in such shambles from the tornado. My follow up went on a back burner....

Chapter 1, Page 1

Boobies, ta ta's, tits, breasts, whatever you want to call them. I remember being 11, when I couldn't WAIT to get them. They held out on me until I was about 13, but I had a bra anyway, purchased at TG&Y - a humiliating experience with my mother and a sales lady that I've mostly blocked from my memory. (I do remember hearing the words, "28AA is the smallest we have.") My boobies were never deal makers. No one would ever say they were the first thing you noticed about me when you met me. Not even in the top 10 things you might notice. Okay, or the top 50 things you might notice. I didn't notice them much, either, once I got them. 

When I was in my late 20s, I got the first hint that my boobs could actually turn on me. I found a thick place in my left breast that led me to a surgeon and my first mammogram. The surgeon eventually removed a small, benign lump and several small cysts and pronounced that my breasts had fibrocystic tendencies. I would probably always have areas of dense breast tissue, cysts, and tenderness. Just what you want to hear when you're 27!

Pregnancy and nursing in my 30s gave me "C" cups for the first (and only) time in my life. I wasn't sorry to see them go back down two cup sizes when it was all over, but did the very LIFE have to be drained from them as well? 

A few years ago, my fibrocystic tendencies became full-blown fibrocystic disease, starting a cycle of painful lumps, ultrasounds, mammograms, cyst aspirations, needle biopsies, and follow-up. The follow-up ultrasound would find yet ANOTHER large cyst (or two, or five) and the cycle would begin again. None of it fun. All of it leading to the next chapter....