Friday, June 22, 2012


My dear readers,

I've been keeping a secret from you, from pretty much everyone. Last month I went for my 6 month check-up and the doctor found a lump. It was 3mm. It was on my right chest area. She looked at it with the ultrasound machine but just couldn't tell what it was. She felt it was probably nothing, but, we had a game plan. She knew about my upcoming surgery (the one I just had) and recommended I talk to that surgeon and ask him to just remove whatever it was so we'd know and wouldn't have to worry.

I was terrified. My only experience with having something tested turned out to be cancer. So you can imagine how I was feeling. But. We had a lot of fun things coming up. And I didn't want anyone to worry. And I didn't want to have to tell my children - and I knew, if I shared, I'd have to share with them. And it just didn't make sense to worry anyone, especially with the doctor feeling pretty confident it would turn out to be nothing. So I kept it pretty close to my heart.

And we had a party. And I did a walk. And the kids had softball and baseball. And I was healing. And feeling good. And still, I was nervous. But I knew the lump would be coming out, and soon we would know. And I just wanted to know before telling anyone.

All of this to say, today I got the pathology report and it said "Conclusion: Not malignant" and I almost burst into tears when the doctor told me. Because it meant I could breath again. It meant I could let out a huge sigh of relief. It meant no more worrying. Or wondering. Or thinking about what if.

Now, on one hand, I feel like it should be illegal to get a tumor after having cancer once because in truth how could I not worry? The only other time I had to have something tested, it turned out to be cancer. That is my history. Tumor=cancer. But, the silver lining of this is, now I've had a lump tested that isn't cancer. Not that I ever want to go through this again, at least if I do, I can remember that it's not always cancer. It's not always bad news.

So, I'm sorry I kept the news from you, but I needed to do it for me and for my children. They've been through hell this past year too. And it didn't make sense for me to worry them anymore. I hope you're not too mad at me. And that you can understand.


Ball and surgery

Softball Player
My 12yo at a game this year!
This time of year we are quite busy with ball. My 6yo plays baseball and both girls play softball (of course, on different teams in different division to make driving everyone where they need to be much more fun!).

We have games and practices almost every night of the week. And it seems like most nights all three kids have something - practice or game. Luckily the girls usually play on fields that are right next to each other, so that helps a lot!

Tuesday I went in for surgery. It was a minor procedure, but still required going under. The surgery was to remove scar tissue from December's surgery and the skin that was just too damaged from radiation and the infection. This is my 4th surgery in 14 months, so by now I feel like I could work for the hospital and give pre-surgical instructions.

Anyway, every time, I am put into a pre-op room (that is more like an ER in that it's not an actual room but more of a spot in a big row of them). And every time before they go to wheel me in, they give me a shot and tell me "You wont' remember anything after this until you wake up." And every time, I remember being wheeled into the OR. Which was scary the first time. Because there was so much I didn't know. In fact, I freaked out when they started to strap my arms down on the arm boards because I didn't know it was coming. This time, I put my arm on the board for them and laughed when they said one was missing and they'd have to go get one from another room. Then when they didn't have the strap for the oxygen mask I joked that the OR room hadn't been prepped very well had it? They laugh back. And talk. And when I say, I cant' wait to tell other people about this, they say "Oh, you wont' remember." Okay. But I will!

Anyway, coming out of anesthesia is usually not as smooth. That's when my memory is hazy. This time, however, not so much. I woke up before they finished wheeling me into the recovery area. I clearly remember waking up and being so confused.

me: Wait, where am I? Why are you moving me?
Nurse: You are being moved to the recovery area.
me: Recovery? For what?
Nurse: You just had surgery. And it went really well.
me: Wait? I had surgery? Oh. I thought I was at a baseball game. 
Nurse: chuckles
me: Well, I do go to a lot of games so I guess that's not too surprising.

 At this point, I started shivering and asked for blankets. And more blankets. And oh, can I get another blanket please. And can you cover my head? Because it's cold too. I remember the nurse asking "Are you sure you're cold? You've got a lot of blankets on you." And I was all, look! I'm shivering! And so she'd run and get another blanket and switch off the older warmed blanket for the newer one. And she covered my head with a warm blanket when I asked. And was lovely. Because at that point I just started talking. I told her she was nice. I thanked her profusely every time she brought me a blanket. I told her I didn't have any pain. And last time I was in that room I was in so much pain I just cried and cried. But after my previous surgery I couldn't remember, but that was a different hospital so it didn't happen in that room. I asked if the person next to me was okay. I asked the time (several times) and commented on the time. I'm pretty sure I actually was talking, kind of sleeping, talking, kind of sleeping. But the nurse was lovely and never once acted annoyed by all my chattering.

Eventually I was wheeled back to the area I started, where my husband was waiting for me. And while I'm not positive, I'm pretty sure one of the first things I told him was I thought I was at a baseball game.

I just couldn't get over the fact that I thought I was at a baseball game! LOL! But, we have been to a crazy amount of games - between baseball and softball, I've seen a lot. So I guess it's not too much of a stretch. But still. Cracks me up today thinking about it.

On a more serious note: recovery this time has been a breeze! This was the easiest procedure I've have done. I only took pain killers for the first 36 hours. The next day was a bit rough, but it passed quickly and I'm so grateful for that!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Good Day ...

I'm SO behind on all the wonderful things I want to tell you all .... and I'll get there.

But. It's actually good that I'm behind. The fact is, I'm having a lot of good days lately. I wasn't sure I'd actually get back to this place, but alas, I am!

Today I had a doctor's appointment. I am still going every 3 weeks to get my lovely dose of herceptin. Way back when, even though I was going every 3 weeks, I was only supposed to see the doctor (or nurse practitioner) every 6 weeks. But things went awry. And I was having a lot of issues and side effects and things were hard. And it seemed like every time I went in, when the nurse asked how I was, I broke down into tears and starting going through my huge laundry list of things going on. At that point, I was switched to seeing the doctor every 3 weeks. We added meds, we adjusted other meds, we stopped all meds, we started new meds. Time kept marching on.

Today, I went in. The doctor walked in and asked how I was and I looked at him, and honestly said "I feel great!" Now my doctor, whom I love, pretended to be shocked and asked if I wasn't really Brandie's twin sister because he hadn't heard me say that I felt great before! I joked back and showed him my port to prove I was in fact me.

But. I can't lie. There was something that felt so darn good about sitting in that room, and feeling good.

And I feel like we've reached a turning point. Things are getting back to normal. School is over and we're having a fun summer and getting out of the house and going places. I'm cooking again and sort of cleaning again. I'm singing along to the radio. I'm knitting. I'm taking pictures. I'm even reading again. Things are looking up, and for the moment I'm embracing this feeling and going to hold onto it as long as I can.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

This Moment

The walk was incredible. The walk was amazing. It was also grueling. And tough. And difficult.

I was blessed to have some pretty supportive people around me.

On the first day a group of 4 others (one who was a teammate and then 3 wonderful men of Team Skipper) walked with me, and encouraged me to keep walking, even when I thought I couldn't take another step, because they got that being able to finish it was going to mean so much to me. They encouraged me. Helped me when I freaked out over a missing camera (that was thankfully found). They carried my bag. Told me to drink more water. Basically, they had my back. When we crossed that finish line the first day, I cried. No, it wasn't the first time that day. But I had done it. Not alone though .... the hard things in life are so much easier to get through with help. Surgery, chemo, radiation, infection, surgery again, healing, and walking 26.2 miles. I was not made to do it alone. And every step of the way I have been incredibly blessed to have people there who have metaphorically carried me through it. The walk was no different.

The second day, despite being fewer miles, was much harder for me. I won't lie. At one point I'm pretty sure I growled at some people. I was exhausted. I was tired. I thought for sure I couldn't take another step. But my same group of four, where there beside me. In addition, 5 more of my teammates (including another breast cancer survivor) and 3 other new friends (shout-out to team North Dakota) joined me. And helped me. And again, encouraged me. Carried my backpack. And helped me, because seriously, I wanted to stop. so. many. times. {But seriously, I really didn't. I just didn't think I was strong enough to do it. I also want to take a second to assure you that my wonderful support group would have stopped me should I have hurt myself or looked, you know, ready to pass out. They truly had my back}.

So anyway, we were walking. And with 1.5 miles left, I was feeling pretty defeated. I texted my husband to let him know I was 1.5 miles away. He told me he was at the finish line with the kids and would see me soon.

We started walking again. Through the Cancer Survivor's garden, and Buckingham Fountain and heading towards Soldier Field. And I hit a wall. There was a moment where I was just ready to stop. Get in a car. And drive there. But then I thought of my husband and kids, waiting for me. And I looked around at all these people who were there, encouraging me. A few who were essentially strangers. Some old friends. Some new friends. There. For me. They would have crawled to that finish line if that's the pace I needed to keep. These amazing people, who could have taken off and walked much faster, were instead walking with me, to help me finish. And somewhere, somehow, I got re-energized. And I was ready to keep going. To walk. To finish this amazing journey I had started. So we walked. We knew we wanted to cross that line together - we had done this together, and we were going to finish together. And as we neared the line, we linked arms.

Somehow when we got closer I was sent to the front. And my friends started chanting my name. This incredible group of people I was walking with, chanted my name. It is one of those moments that I will always remember. They have told me that they were inspired by me. But I would argue that it was I who was inspired by them. This incredible group, some of whom were strangers to me a mere 36 hours prior, took time to encourage me and to help me. Out of the kindness in their hearts.

That is what I will remember about the walk over the past weekend. People coming together, for their family, their friends, their acquaintances and for strangers. I believe life was not meant to be lived alone. I believe there is strength in numbers. I believe kindness is never the wrong path to take. I will forget the blisters. I will forget about the achy joints. But I will not forget how amazing it felt to have finished this walk. I will not forget that I didn't do it alone. And I will not forget all* the amazing people who helped get me to that moment.

*all the amazing people who helped get me through it includes you, my lovely readers, every person who donated to me, every person who wished me luck on the walk, every person who thought about me, prayed for me and sent good vibes for the weekend, every person who walked with me, every person on my team, every person who supported me every step of the way. So thank you. To all of you.

So much to say ....

I have so much to say, and yet, words are failing me right now.

Two weekends ago we had a fabulous celebration with so many wonderful people. It was incredible. I'm still rounding up photos, but will write about it more eventually.

This past weekend I did the Avon 2 Day Walk in Chicago. It was fabulous. I have about a million things to say about it. But for now, I will leave you with this picture