Saturday, November 18

Day By Day...

So here I am. Three weeks out from having my right breast removed. And you know what? I feel fine. Even better than fine actually, this last week or so I've felt...well...Alive.  And excited, not anxious, relieved, happy even. My hair is growing back, the dark circles under my eyes are receding, I think I can actually feel an eyelash or two. The only real issue now is the hip and lower back pain I'm feeling. I know it's a side effect of the chemo and that I should be patient with myself and let myself heal, but man, do I ever want to start exercising and being able to get off the couch without groaning  and walking all bunched up for a few feet before everything stretches out a bit! and the menopausal side effects aren't great either. Hot flashes and night sweats as well as, well frankly, a dead libido and dryness that matches the Gobi desert. Sigh. Everyone tells me it will get better and I do now believe that, as they said it would get better during chemo, and it did. OH MY GOD I am so fucking glad that cancer is out of my body!!!!! did I mention that before? FUUUUUCK this is a hard thing to do. But totally survivable. I've been thinking about that, survival and our instincts and what makes one person strong and able to handle shit and another just dissolve. For me personally, this event and writing about said event has shown me I am strong. People continue to tell me I am, and that they don't know how I can do it and that they are proud of me for weathering everything the way I have. Thank you, but you know what? that's just me and my personal level of strength. I didn't really know how I did it either, until I thought about it. I do know how I fucking made it. I have a survivors strength. For years, I lived with the internal pain of child abuse, I learned how to protect myself, deflect, keep safe, that spark inside of me was surrounded by a fortress. You see my inner Demons that plagued me for half my life? they lost. I got help, and it took 9 years to get to a place where I was calm. I know about walls, and protection and the will to survive. No way in Hell is a little cancer going to make it to the inner core, my inner core, the core that is pure me. Nope. Not this time buddy. And you know, learning to share my body with an alien thing, I mean being pregnant, prepared my for this too.That feeling of being on a ride you cannot get off of, and having to give over a certain amount of yourself, however unwilling, to the other. That's how I did it, how I'm doing it. I already knew how to do it, I just didn't know I did. And now I feel strong, and lighter, free. I get more time, another chance, more Life! no not everything is perfect, but that's ok. I get to keep going! Thank you everyone for keeping tabs on me and making me feel so loved, it's been incredible to have such support. I feel very lucky to have people like you all in my life and I am deeply grateful for each and every one of you. Some of you have suggested I keep writing my blog when I'm done all this cancer stuff (I still have radiation, reconstruction, and 5 years of meds, before declared cancer free) but I'd like to keep going. Are there any things you'd like to know more about? Until next time. Jeff.

Monday, November 6

My Friends Call Me Lefty...

                                  
                                                            Before....

So my surgery was last week and I'm sure many of you would like to know how it went. It went really, really well.A few of you already know that because you've checked in, so thank you. I think I've been reluctant to write about it because I'm still processing everything.
                                                          During...




                                                    And after...

I arrived at the hospital at 6:30 am, I was the first surgery of the day for my surgeon. I was gowned and put in a waiting cubicle by the nurses station and the anesthetist and the nurse who would escort me came to say hi. Then the doctor who was going to watch the surgery came in and initialed the breast that was going to go. Then my surgeon came in and said hi to me and asked me how I was feeling and if I was ready.I nodded, too choked up to voice anything. I was actually afraid, but I didn't want to show any fear. I wanted to be strong. My nurse then told me it was time to go and she walked me down the hallway to the operating room. I started to cry when she was walking me and she squeezed me and said "Don't cry sweetheart, look at me, I am 67 years old and two years ago I was where you are, and now look at me. I am fine, and you will be fine too". It did feel weird walking into the operating room and getting up on the table myself. but everyone was cheerful and efficient and my I was not conscious long. My recovery from the anesthetic was a little longer than they predicted, I was in recovery until almost 3 o'clock and the nurse I had was wonderful. Nurturing and concerned, clucking around me like a mother hen she was perfect. Home was fine too, I wasn't feeling to groggy, but I did try to eat a few hours after getting home and I got sick. The drains were a pain in the ass and really weird. I just don't need to see the internal fluids you know? But I was up and atem a few days later, much to the surprise of my friends and family. All week people brought food over and checked in. I got my drains out exactly a week after surgery and I still have the steri strips on as you can see in the above picture. Much to my own surprise and secret relief, I don't miss my breast. Of course now that it's gone I can no longer be in denial about the shape my body is in 'cause it's not hiding under my boobs. But that is for later. now I need to rest and stretch my arm and continue recovering from chemo as well as surgery. Pathology report is on Nov. 22nd.

Saturday, October 21

On the Eve of Surgery....(almost)

This last week has been a doozy. I had my pre surgery prep class and learned all the things. Home the same day? what? Drain care? what? Yup that's right, I'm going to have two drains hanging off my body for up to 10 days. They will prevent swelling and the collection of fluids under my incisions. YUCK. Sometimes I really don't like being in a human body. It's been a bit of a trip for me in that regard because I spent so many years dissasociating from my body and living in my head. Now I know many many intimate things about the inner workings of my body and systems. Some days Life is just a little too REAL, you know what I mean?
And of course most of you know, that I had to have my cat Luccia put down a few days ago. My life is a classic Country tale of woe right now. Old country, not new. Me and Hank Williams, hangin out eating 'Gator Fritters, on the tailgate of a gas guzzling flatbed.
I first heard Hank Williams when I was 8 years old. My Mom had a contract at a logging camp in Bella Coola to be the cooks assistant and I went up and lived with her for a while. The Foreman of the camp, Fritz, loved country music and so did his wife Sheila, the Cook. It played over the speakers most days in the mess hall or when Sheila and my Mom were cooking. They also had a black and white bobtailed cat that would only eat salted raw eggs. And a huge newfoundland dog that I used to ride around the camp like a horse, until he got smart and started taking swims in the sewage pool, so I wouldn't come near him. Anyway, I digress. I guess my point is, even when your life is a country song, there are good things there.
How am I feeling? most of you ask. I guess I'm ok. I am definitely looking forward to having the cancer removed and examined so I really know what's what. I'm sad I'm going to lose my breast. but feel like it is a small price to pay for my life. And having it out of my body soon is going to be great.
So far the "only" lingering effects of the chemo are fatigue, I get tired by 1 or 2 o'clock usually, and some aches and pains that are residual. I feel old. I know I'm not but I never felt middle aged before now. I guess I still had some residual immortal feelings from my youth, not now. I've been thinking about death a little more lately,  particularly my death and for the first time, have been quite scared about dying. In the middle of the night, if I wake up, I lie there, mulling over all the scenarios of where my life could lead after this. Most of them are good, positive places, but there are some dark ones too. What if my cancer did actually matastasize and it's somewhere else? What if I get cancer in the other breast? What if I can't change my eating habits and exercise to a satisfactory degree? What if I die? what does dying really mean? What does it feel like? where will I go? What have I done, in this life, that is of any significance ( I mean outside of procreating).
I think it's quite natural to have all these thoughts, and it has opened up some space in my mind, for me to try and find the answers to those questions.
My surgery will be at 8 am on Tuesday the 24th. I will be in surgery about 2 hours, with a recovery of about an hour and then I will be sent home. With good drugs. L is taking the day off and is going to be with Jake all day, and I will squirrel away in the bedroom and rest.
I just remembered the dogs name. His name was Jed.
Love to You. I'll write soon.


Friday, October 6

The Next Step/ This Isn't Really Ever Going to be Over....

Don't get me wrong, I still feel the love, but as my chemo has concluded and I'm now moving into the surgery and radiation part of treatment, the hammer has kind of hit home. I'm having a reality check in the middle of something that I wish was not my reality and it's difficult to say the least.

So you get the news. Breast cancer, FUCK. The first worry(worries), what stage is it? how big is the mass? has it spread? will I lose my whole breast? what about the other one? will I survive this? how do I do this? Will it come back?
And then you get to tell all your friends and family your sick and they get sad and worried because they don't really know what it means, unless the have a survivor or two in their families (and there are A LOT) That's one of the first things you learn about this disease (all cancers not just breast) there are a FUCK of a lot of sick people out there, Holy Shit.
And so you just go through the steps that your Oncologists suggest, slowly grasping the facts here, and there, absorbing what you can and moving forward on this horrible ride. And then you learn you must have all your lymph nodes taken out on the side they are taking the breast off. Shit. Now, on top of every other thing, I am at risk (56 percent) of developing Lymphedema. This risk is for life. FOR LIFE!!! which, if it happens will seriously fuck with my "I want to live on a sail boat and sail the world" dream. Also, I will be flat on the right side for about a year, so my idea of looking like this right away:
looks more like this:
ok, I'm done complaining. I thought I was explaining everything factually but what I'm doing is ranting.And I'm done with that.  I think while I was doing chemo, I was so focused on the day to day, trying to get through feeling so bad, that I put all the other stuff away, deep inside my head, and as I neared the end of chemo, it all came bubbling up. Not just the facts about the next part of this journey, but the feelings around it all. So I have had days where I cry, actually I call it spontaneous leaking, random, solid, fast tears, hot, angry tears, sad slow tears...but then someone sends me a note saying hi or I get an awesome parcel in the mail and I remember I am so, so grateful to be alive, not terminal, and surviving. I am in awe every day at the people around me and the generosity they have shown me, and the inner strength I seem to be able to muster, even after the worst day. The key is, letting yourself feel all the feelings. I haven't held it all in, which is so important. It's hard to give yourself permission to just feel shitty, to me it feels like giving up, but it's actually a really important step in getting better.
So we move forward...I'm going to go to the Lymphedema  clinic at the hospital and get all the facts about everything. And I have come to terms with the idea I'm not going to look conventionally "pretty" right away in the booby department (which is a dream I carried through chemo so I could cope with all the information). In fact I may decide to stay flat instead of reconstruction, who knows? None of my clothes now really have a spot for breasts anyway, I mostly wear stretchy black clothes and sports bras, so there you go. I have a feeling that my scar will be something to  feel proud of, and worn with pride. Once I get through the mourning process and getting used to it being gone. (does that ever really happen?)
Anyway. I love you all. Thank you for your support and love. Onward we go.


Friday, September 22

This One's About Love....

Yup you read it. Love. (and gratitude)

Being diagnosed with cancer has actually helped me. Can you believe it? So far it has been a crazy, sad, hopeful, determined journey. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying, "hey, you should try cancer sometime, it will really change your life!" but it has. and not in a bad way.
first of all cancer has made me a nicer person to the general world. And most importantly, nicer to myself. These are some of the things I have learned:

-I have a very hard time asking for help. ( I am figuring it out)(the first few experiments have gone well!)

-I used to feel like I shouldn't burden people with my state of mind, or my huge emotional feelings. ( I have started to trust, that when people ask me how I am, they really want to know)

- I thought I was fat. In every single picture ever taken of me (after high school). And it was simply not true. (That's why I posted that cheesy motivational poster thing on my FB wall about wanting to be friends with my body)

-I am really strong. Like, stronger than I know. I keep having this flashback of me as a kid, I'm not sure what age, maybe 7? of me trying to get up and going on our friends windsurfer. It was way too big for me, and every time I stood up and grabbed the sail bar to go forward, I would fall over into the water. I did this for over an hour. over and over again, I believed, that if I could just get up on it in the right way and  hang on, I could go. I couldn't/ wouldn't give up.

-Even though my face and hair and body are different/changing, and soon I will missing my right breast, I have a partner who will stay with me, through thick and thin.(thank you B)

-My Toronto "family" is here for me. Other parents are helping with childcare, my neighbors are bringing us meals, my co-worker from Lilliput Hats has made me bone broth and borscht every time I have chemo, my friend and ex boss has come by with meals and she and her Hubby have been checking in all through this process, not to mention L, who comes over almost every night and washes the dishes and takes Jake for the weekends that are the hardest for me. T came and brought groceries, and cleaned my kitchen. It is amazing. It completely blows me away, every time someone reaches out. Shout out to #hospitalglam gals and especially Rosalind, for pain and stress management tips as well as moral support, and her adorable kitty Louis Cat-tors (sp)

-My international "family" and my friends back home have been amazing at sending cards and love. (and flowers! Butch Kaplan!!)

-I am learning who my real friends are and who will be there no matter what.

- My blood family, my Mom, my Dad my Aunts, my cousin Dale, are awesome. They have all been loving and supportive. And they believe in me.

-Kids are resilient (well my kid is) he is lovely, happy, and not phased in the least about Momma's changes. And my kid is going to be ok.

-eventually I will feel normal again.

Take care of each other, we are all we've got. J.