August 24, 2016
last week felt different, felt like a turning of a corner. i’d been sailing along, feeling healed from surgery in july and just cruising along with my every-three-weeks herceptin infusion.
then the heart palpitations hit, the day after my last infusion. for several days, i was sidelined, hesitant, worried. what was going on, why was my heart pounding and racing and skipping?
was it the herceptin (which has as it’s main side effect, impact on heart function)?
bigger than that, and underlying really all these next treatment steps, is this: if i believe that i am healed, and the post chemo breast MRI said “complete response to neoadjuvant chemotherapy” and “no visible residual abnormalities” and “completely resolved”
and the pathology from my surgery (lumpectomy and 12 nodes taken) revealed “no residual invasive carcinoma seen” – NONE!
and the surgeon said the pathologist only sees this maybe twice a year and used the word “miracle”
then do i walk into unknown and potentially huge side effects from continued treatment?
i am thankful for the question – for the hard pause this last week represented and the grappling that feels inextricably linked to this healing journey.
more questions, more seeking, more praying, another invaluable consultation with my integrated oncologist, more revealed.
August 14, 2016
it’s been a tough weekend. not in a catastrophic, acute crisis way but just in my heart & mind. i woke up saturday morning feeling overwhelmed, weary and depleted. i think that the multiple intense doctor appointments last week, the infusion of herceptin thursday, going fast, having had to grapple with another huge treatment decision last week, hubby having been out of town then back home and working nonstop, the relentlessness of parenting demands and household maintenance and feeling like i’ve neglected many of the essential pieces of my healing protocol – i think it just hit me. sunk me a bit.
i struggled with feeling – and even heard this sentiment – that shouldn’t i be feeling better; shouldn’t i be feeling more relief and space and hope? what’s my problem??
and of course, my reasonable self knows that yes, these things are true. i AM over the worst of my cancer treatment; i AM healed and well!; i AM around the bend and looking over the new horizon.
yet, when i step back and give myself the compassion i’d give a dear friend, i know that yes … i am weary and it makes sense. this season has been more dark and full of turns and dips and aches and heavy. of course i have days of deep fatigue; of a struggling spirit and overwhelm. of course.
and then there are the real side effects of herceptin that i take via infusion every 3 weeks, until january. this weekend, that has looked like heart palpitations, fatigue and the ever present runny nose and split fingernails and aches.
yesterday i felt desperate for solitude — and not the kind that has a one hour time limit and kids knocking at my door the whole time. i wanted to escape for the weekend to somewhere quiet, maybe even near water. alone.
i didn’t get away and my heart still yearns for that quiet … that time away. for now, for this moment, i am giving myself grace to rest and feel the feelings and prioritize healing over tasks and do my best to love my people.
August 12, 2016
(and a post without the word “surgery” in the title – glory!)
there is so much of life that is awesome and continues along and as always, there are amazing moments & sweet memories. i want to capture some of those recent ones here, and take a break from the big C! ha.
when i look back over june, i see a sort of visual rollercoaster – ascending up, then a dip down, then a glorious and prolonged swing back up.
weeks before chemo ended (may 19), my heart drew me toward gathering some of my loves in a celebration – heart bursting for many months with the innumerable kindnesses, the overwhelming grace and love shown, the gifts, the hugs, the deep soul-nourishing friendship. i *knew* i needed to gather some of these loves together and celebrate *them and the completion of chemo – their love having buoyed me through this dark chapter.
i am SO glad we gathered! the timing also ended up being a God-send: my hubby decided to spend that evening with papa in the rehab facility, watching a basketball game, helping papa eat and just being there for those hours. that was papa’s last night and we are so SO grateful for the gift of sweet togetherness that evening.
there is something about a large group of women gathered together, some kind of magic that my heart loves. june 5, you were awesome!
(my precious lifelong kindred girlfriend and member of the family, really – kristi … with my grandma and lovely aunt nancy)
these girls, so dear to my heart, so many prayers and miracles and life shared – ernestine & lori
i love the love captured here – you are so loved, gretch!
so much love and kindness right there! several dear friends that were out of town and were missed …
July 22, 2016
it’s after 8pm – boys are bathed and tucked in bed and i’ve snuck outside with a glass of red wine, a couple squares of dark chocolate & my computer … to soak in this amazing evening air and allow space to sit with my thoughts of all that has been happening. so much to rejoice and allow gratitude to soak in my heart and mind.
i had surgery last friday – 6 days ago. oh, how glad that it is done! it really all went so well but the little pieces like getting sick as i was about to leave (and again in the van driving away); pricks and pokes and 5:30 am arrival and the *operating room … yeah, it was a lot. but oh my, the grace and love and goodness: the hubby who so faithfully is always beside, loving and being present and making me laugh and being steady & strong; the lifelong sister/friend who came super early to sit with and advocate for and hold my hand going in to the operating room … and the initial news: that the sentinel node tested negative for cancer. glory!
this week has been full of the haze of recovering …the throbbing pounding ache of incision sites and bruising and sutures, the bizarre yuckiness & discomfort of the drain (the tube that literally comes out of your body and drains stuff – eck). each day has gotten better. the fog has totally lifted (or maybe that was the side effect of the wonky percocet, lol). shooting pains like a bee sting still keep hitting the incision area – nerves, recovering? i am being vigilant to not lift which, with 2 kiddos, is super hard. no cuddling on mama’s left side, for now.
the initial plan had been for me to have my second surgery (the plastic surgery part) tomorrow – friday, one week after my first surgery. but this immediately didn’t feel right, felt too soon. the standard time frame, i’m told, is 2 weeks between. but the plastic surgeon will be on vacation that second week so his staff pushed for one week. my instinct told me that waiting longer made good sense; that my cancer-fighting immune system (the thing that will continue to ensure my body is inhospitable to cancer, not drugs) needed more time to recover to remain strong. 2 surgeries in 7 days is a lot. so as i do, i called my team of doctors, seeking counsel and collaboration in considering this. some said the timing was fine but a few said waiting was the best so with great peace, i’ve scheduled that surgery for august 15. exhale.🙂
yesterday i saw my oncologist and was super nervous before the appt, expecting to hear results from my pathology done from surgery. however, the path report wasn’t done. our appt was interesting as i continue to feel some discord around my choices that haven’t been what she has recommended (ie, partial mastectomy vs full mastectomy), but it is good to push through those moments, continue to speak truth, ask questions and increasingly just appreciate and recognize the very limited yet specific role she has in my healing journey.
today, TODAY i had a follow up with my surgeon and again, had some mild anxiety wondering if he may have the final path results. hubby and i sat in the room, waiting for him to come in. the door opened and he said, “there’s my miracle girl.” huh? then he said, and at this point the world was swirling and i started crying as i hear him saying that he doesn’t have the final official pathology report but he spoke with the pathologist and of the 8 nodes and breast tissue that he took, that NO CANCER WAS FOUND! that this is very “rare”, that the pathogist sees this maybe twice a year.
there are pretty much no words.
giggling, crying, hubby smiling, the doctor saying how great my incision looks, that i’m healing great, that i am an inspiration to him (??!).
and so now, i press on with the end of this cancer medical healing piece (surgery, then radiation plus herceptin infusions every 3 weeks til january – today included). and i continue to move strongly forward with my healing protocol, thankful for the tools GOD has shown me, more determined than ever to steward well this vessel. there is so much ahead that i feel inspired and stirred to walk in to …
and tonight, i’m grateful. weary & tired but oh so grateful.
July 8, 2016
i had a really great meeting with my local surgeon today and am thankful and relieved to have my surgery set – next friday, july 15th @ 7:30am.
the past week included a few more instances of angst and tension around my surgery choice and i am indescribably relieved to have the agreement of my local surgeon to do the surgery that i desire; to be supportive and to join those on my treatment team holding the belief that, in fact, this is MY body and as my lovely integrated oncologist told me, “they should not take out your body parts without your permission!” well, of course. except i often feel like i’m swimming upstream in holding this expectation. i have wrestled hard with this decision but have a solid and unwavering peace & conviction about my decision, coupled by the instinct that i need to have *courage* and not allow fear to sway me.
i see continued healing and strength in my future and am eager to walk that out.
so, my surgery is actually in 2 stages: next friday is the partial mastectomy and limited lymph node dissection … my surgeon said i may not even need to stay overnight, we will see how i feel and if there was more lymph node involvement.
my breast tissue will be sent to a pathologist to assess the presence of any disease.
once those results are clear, i will have the plastic surgery portion of surgery within 1-2 weeks … another outpatient procedure.
my sweet sister just asked me if i’m nervous for the surgery and i told her that i have total peace. strange. because the operating room terrifies me and i am sure i’ll be super nervous right before but again, overall and deep down, i feel good about it. thank GOD.
June 26, 2016
very few steps of this journey have come easy. from the very beginning, when i pressed and questioned doctors and sought second opinions and then had to make the gut-wrenching decision between 2 different chemotherapy protocols … i have found myself digging and grappling and researching and questioning and often being *that patient.
i believe GOD has good purposes for the struggle; so much is revealed when we press in, although the in between moments are so seriously hard. but the depth of my understanding of the many facets of this journey, the extraordinary healing tools that i’ve learned and applied … much has come from the pressing in. (and also maybe slightly due to my obsession with reading and research and the 20+ books i’ve inhaled, lol).
i find myself here again as i walk toward this next step: surgery. once again, i have 2 dramatically opposing recommendations (local surgeon/local oncologist vs. best breast surgeon in the country @ucsf/integrated oncologist). this weekend, this moment, i sit in waiting, my mind racing with ideas and questions and strategy as i prepare for my upcoming conversation with the local surgeon, hopefully monday. (he’s been out of town this past week which has felt like added stress since there is an oft-cited timeframe of 4-6 weeks for when surgery should happen after the completion of chemo – it’s been 5 1/2 weeks today).
i am not sure how these next steps will play out, but i am believing that through the angst and prayer and grappling and seeking … the plan will again come together.
June 22, 2016
i have this image in my mind that completely captures these last several months.
there is this large, dark pool of water … a big vat. i am in the dark deep water, sinking beneath and at times, briefly treading water and putting my head up to breathe. then i sink again.
fear, physical pain, anxiety, overwhelm, chemotherapy, doctor appointments, scary tests … the dark water.
GOD’s word, a moment in nature, a word or hug from a friend, laughter, physical lifting … those brief moments of coming up out of the dark water and catching my breath.
i’ve felt, since the completion of chemo and the great news from my MRI, like i’m climbing up the side of the big vat of darkness. climbing up, almost to the edge and able to look over the horizon. i see glimpses.
yesterday, i had an experience that felt like my feet were dangling again back in the dark waters. it took some time to feel the shaking off of my legs and the climbing again, the climbing OUT.
this all – these months since my diagnosis january 8 – have been traumatizing. ptsd feels more real and the trauma that dips my feet back in the deep – i guess that will be a part of this healing journey, yet i hope to be wise in navigating areas of life within my control, to avoid the deep.