Thursday, December 26, 2013

One Year

One year ago today, I went out on a date. It was a first date, and I was nervous, of course.  I wasn't sure how it would go.  I knew I liked the fella based on our interactions up to that point. But you never know how things will work in person.  

I needn't have worried. I had a great time.  He was tall and handsome and so easy to talk to -- I talked so much that night, I gave myself a headache! Thankfully, I didn't give him one, too.  Or, at least, if I did, he didn't let on that I did. It must not have been too awful, because he did ask me out again. 

And a series of dates turned into something much more. I know it's sappy and schmoopie, but I warned folks awhile ago -- if you're going to read my stuff, you're just going to have to deal with it.  I found the most amazing man and am so very lucky to have him in my life. I know just how rare that is. So I'm not going to be shy about expressing my gratitude for it. 

He is so good to me.  So very kind and thoughtful.  So funny and silly.  So smart and witty. So loving and patient. And have I mentioned he's handsome?  He has two awesome daughters whom I've enjoyed getting to know, and with whom I genuinely love to spend time.  He's wonderful to Riley.  His family is lovely, and he's taken to mine without batting an eye.  He has made my life much fuller and richer, and I'm a better person for knowing him.  

So, Happy Anniversary to my beau!  I am beyond thankful to have him in my life.  

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

A Merry Little Christmas

"Have yourself a merry little Christmas. Let your heart be light. From now on your troubles will be out of sight."

Every morning when I go in for my radiation treatment, they have music playing. It's been an eclectic mix - from Sinatra to Dave Matthews to Christmas music. Yesterday, as I settled in for my daily zapping, I was greeted with the above refrain.  And I found it unexpectedly reassuring.

In years past, when I heard it -- if I gave it much thought at all -- it made me feel sad and wistful. It felt like an empty promise. Or, at least, an unfulfilled one.  

Not this year.  Oh, it's had its share of troubles -- more than its share, some would say. And I'm not naive enough to think there will never be more. But they don't overwhelm me and weigh my heart down the way they once did.  

And for the first time in a very long time, I am indeed having myself a merry little Christmas.  I hope you are, as well. 

Thursday, November 28, 2013

I Am Thankful

On this cold, quiet Thursday morning, I am thankful for so very much. 

  • I am thankful for the roof over my head. My house is small. My yard is huge. They both need a lot of work. But this has been our home for the past six-and-a-half years, and a very sweet home it's been. 
  • I am thankful for the Highlander sitting outside. It's nearing 200,000 miles, it's survived a rollover accident, and it's lately sprung an oil leak of indeterminate origin, but it has kept Riley and me safe and delivered us to all sorts of wonderful places over the past seven years, and it still runs.
  • I am thankful for my job. It is trying and stressful at times. And sometimes it's just boring. But it challenges me, and allows me to work with some wonderful people, and put food on the table.
  • I am thankful for my radio gig. Every Tuesday evening I get to chat with good friends and interesting guests about all manner of things political (and sometimes not). I get to research and contemplate topics that fascinate me and then share my views on them. I get to follow my passion.
  • I am thankful for this wonderful country of ours. It's easy to focus on the negatives and become overwhelmed with all that isn't right. But we live in a beautiful, bountiful land.  In a nation built on the bedrock principle of freedom.  A republic if we can keep it. 
  • I am thankful for the men and women who serve our country in the military. Who put their lives on the line to keep us safe. Most especially those who are doing so today, far from their families and loved ones.
  • I am thankful for the nurses and doctors and other medical personnel who have cared for me these past few months.
  • I am thankful for my health -- though it obviously hasn't been perfect of late. I'm still here. I'm still strong.  I will heal.
  • I am thankful for the furballs who inhabit my house.  Pringle with his waggy, destructive tail and big, expressive brown eyes; Hurricane with his hair band and ice chip fetish and Stormy with his squeaky mewl and affinity for all bags and backpacks. I can have a horrible day, and then one of them will come lay his head on my lap or snuggle up against me, and all seems right with the world again.  And even poor Louis, the fish. Even though he can't really cuddle, it makes me smile to say hello to him in his little bowl on the counter each morning.  
  • I am thankful for my friends, both near and far. Most especially this fall, I've come to realize just how blessed I am to know so many wonderful, kind-hearted, supportive people.
  • I am thankful for my inner circle -- the ones who have held my hand when I was low and belly laughed with me when life made us high.
  • I am thankful for my extended family -- my passel of cousins whom I don't get to see nearly enough, but am able to keep up with compliments of Facebook. 
  • I am thankful for my immediate family -- my parents who still look after me even though they're 80 and I'm 45. They help me in so many ways, and I am so thankful to have them nearby.  My brother and sisters and their families -- I am so very lucky to be close to them all. I know more than a few people who don't have the greatest relationships with their siblings. God blessed me with three of the best anyone could ask for and I love them all more than words can say. 
  • I am thankful for my daughter, who's still fast asleep in her room right now. She looks so sweet when she sleeps.  And also when she's awake. She is kind and thoughtful, funny and insightful. She helps me so often without being asked, and even when I do have to ask, she generally does without too much eyerolling. She is becoming a lovely young lady and I am so proud to be her Mom.
  • I am thankful for my love, David. I've said this more than a few times: Had I sat down at a drawing board and attempted to draw up the perfect match for me, it would be him. He is so smart and funny, so thoughtful and caring.  He is supportive and generous.  He is strikingly handsome.  He has a wonderful family who've welcomed me warmly.  He is an amazing Dad to his girls.  He is such a good man, and so good to me and for me. I am a very lucky girl.
My life is far from perfect.  But later today, I'll watch football, and maybe paint some of my kitchen to its cool new shade of gray. I'll prepare some Bacon Cheddar Bites as appetizers, and travel with my daughter out to my brother and sister-in-law's gorgeous home in Augusta.  I'll share dinner with them and their family and my folks. And I will give thanks, for all that has been given me.  

Monday, November 25, 2013


"I'm waking up to ash and dust
I wipe my brow and I sweat my rust
I'm breathing in the chemicals"

Yeah. I was going to try and find a way to tie in this newest phase of my journey through Breast Cancer Land to the Imagine Dragons' popular hit, but instead, the lyrics seem to match up more with my recent adventures in home renovation, than with my cancer treatment.  And, fact of the matter is, when I think of "Radioactive," it's The Firm's version that tra-la-la's through my brain.  Yes, I truly am a child of the Eighties.  

Anyway, though I did begin my treatments today, I'm not actually radioactive.  Think I mentioned this in the previous blog, but I'm receiving "external beam radiation," rather than "internal radiation therapy" or "brachytherapy." I think I like the sound of external beam radiation better -- it sounds almost space age in a Star Trekky kind of way.  

Come to think of it, the process itself has a sort of other-worldly sense to it.  Once I'm properly begowned, the tech walks me into a vault-like room -- it has a heavy door that's about 6 inches thick and a lot of large pieces of equipment that look like an old mainframe.  I lie on a table on my back, arms outstretched above my head, and this roundish device with a glass covered face swivels around me at various angles.  When it's directly above me, I can see a bright green line from it lining up with the marks on my chest (which I can see in the reflection of the glass.)   When it's to the side, I can see its innards adjusting to various positions. They look like squared-off metal teeth, sort of like the steel comb inside a music box, and call to mind a space alien working its mouth into various expressions.  Only the machine isn't there to gobble me up.  Just to briefly emit some rays at me.   And the process is brief -- once they have me on the table and lined up, the beam-shooting itself only takes 5-10 minutes.  

And then I'm done for the day and off to work.  I'm told the effects are cummulative, and the fatigue and skin irritation won't kick in until about week three.  For now, I feel no different.  I'm supposed to try and keep my arm out to the side whenever possible to lessen the heat build up.  And supposedly I can wear deodorant (y'all can thank me whenever you see me), but it's a special kind that's supposed to be less irritating.  Seems I also may want to invest in a couple of comfy sports bras as those of the underwire variety can add to the irritation.  

The weirdest instruction I've been given thus far?  There are special parking spots up front, right next to the building for "Cancer Center Patients."  I've seen them whenever I've gone, but eschewed them, assuming they are reserved for, you know, Cancer Center patients!  Of which I am one.  I keep kind of forgetting that. 

I did sneak my pal Chernobyl (compliments of my friend Annie) into the treatment room with me.  He stayed in my purse, though.  I think he's already radioactive enough.  

Friday, November 22, 2013

Set Free

A year ago today, I made a fateful decision. Though I couldn't have known at the time just how much it would change my life, I do recall how knotted my stomach was as I made it. I wavered for a long time, and almost reversed myself three or four times, before committing to it. 

I'd spent a long time fashioning that cage for myself. I fancied it necessary -- to protect myself from the hurts and disappointments I was certain awaited me outside it. Thing is, hurts and disappointments reached me inside it, as well, but they were of the familiar sort, and I took cold comfort in them. I chose to dance a sad, slow dance with the devil I knew.  But a devil is still a devil.  And it really wasn't better.  

Intellectually, I knew that. But it took a very long time for my heart to accept it.  And as I sat by myself in a quiet house last Thanksgiving Day, reflecting on my life, where I'd been and where I was versus where I wanted to be, I knew that the time had come to make a significant change.  And so I opened the door to my cage and warily stepped out.  

It scared me. It made my heart race and my palms sweat, as I was certain it would.  But it surprised me, too, how free I suddenly felt. And the more steps I took away from it, the more I realized just how much a prison my cage had been.  It really hadn't kept me safe.  It had kept me sad.  

This being the month we celebrate Thanksgiving, I've seen a lot of people sharing their reasons for being thankful each day on Facebook. It's a lovely idea and tradition, and I thought about joining in, but frankly, got distracted and lazy.  I didn't want to let today pass, however, without acknowledging just how thankful I am that last Thanksgiving Day, I finally set myself free of the notion that bittersweet was my destiny and happiness would forever remain just out of reach. Amazing how much easier it was to get to once I left my cage behind.    

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Aren't Enough Days in the Month...

I often feel like there aren't enough hours in the day, days in the week, etc., to accomplish all the things I want to accomplish.  I'm sure I'm far from alone in that feeling.  Today, I learned that there aren't enough days in the month (of December, specifically).  I hadn't honestly taken the time to sit down and do the math regarding my prescribed 33 radiation treatments and the number of week days (minus holidays) between now and year's end.  

Any other time of year, it wouldn't matter nearly so much.  But I'd really been hoping to finish up my treatments in this calendar year.  Not so I could start the new year with a "clean slate" (to go along with a clean bill of health.)  No, this is purely mercenary on my part.  You see, January 1st brings with it not just a new year with all its promise, but also a new deductible to meet.  Bleearrrggghhh!!  

Okay, enough with that. At least I still have insurance.  For now. So there's that.  Also, political geek that I am, I find it vaguely amusing (in a sort of dark and twisty way) that the Senate and I are both going nuclear at the same time.

Today's appointment was essentially a "practice run" for my treatments.  The techs had me lie down on the treatment table, adjusted me this way and that, then added some new ink to the right side of my chest, to make sure that everything would line up just so when they do start zapping me.  They took some x-rays and additional photographs to record the proper coordinates and such.  And that was that.  Nothing painful about it (thankfully). The one tech was profusely apologetic when he had to pull the old plastic tape off me, but really, pulling a bandaid off is the least of my worries these days.  

At the end of the appointment, I was handed my schedule of treatments.  The good news is I got the early morning slot for most of them, and, now that I've dutifully added all of the appointments to my calendar, have determined that none of them appear to conflict with court appearances or other work-related matters already on it.  The bad news is they stretch from next Monday to January 13th. Meh.  Financial considerations aside, it's good to know I'll be essentially done with treatment in less than two months.  And whatever cruddiness comes along with radiation will be offset to a certain degree by the fun of the holiday season.  

Again, I have to acknowledge I'm lucky in so many respects, and thankful for the continued well-wishes and support of family and friends. Now if I could just figure out the trick to increasing the number hours in a day....

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Permanent Marker

Those of you who read the most recent installment of my breast cancer blogs may recall I mentioned that, rather than being "tattooed" in preparation for my radiation treatments, the doctor indicated they would simply use permanent marker.  His rationale was that a tattoo truly is permanent, whereas permanent marker will eventually wash/wear off one's skin, and he doesn't believe most breast cancer patients necessarily want that permanent mark and reminder of their treatment.  

Well, I can only speak for myself on this one: Honestly, it wouldn't bother me one way or the other.  Just as the biopsy scar doesn't bother me, or the surgical scar (which I keep being told won't even be visible.) They've become part of who I am and, like all scars do, tell a story.  It's not a story I'm likely to forget, either, with or without the marks. Experiences like this tend to stay with you.  Now, I can see how for some that might be a bad thing, something they'd prefer to forget and put behind them.  And maybe I'll feel differently about it a few months or years down the road.  Certainly, I hope this never becomes something -- the thing -- which defines me. But is it shaping me?  Is it leaving a mark?  Yes. Hopefully in a way which makes me stronger, not weaker; weathered, not damaged. 

Yesterday I went in for the CT scan and requisite marking so that the radiation oncology folks can map out my treatments.  First, though, another mammogram was needed -- not for diagnostic purposes, but for positioning purposes.  Now, here comes the part I'm a little loathe to share, though I have spoken about it to some friends and family, and even discussed it on the radio show with Josh last night:  It really hurt.  I've been feeling quite lucky that, post-surgery, I really haven't had all that much pain.  A little sensitivity and tenderness still around the incision, but it's what I've likened to that feeling your skin gets when you're starting to come down with the flu -- kind of achy and annoying, but really nothing in the whole scheme of things. That is, until it was time to be squooshed again.  This may not come as a surprise to many, but significant squooshing of recently-operated-on boob does not feel good.  At all.   

The tech could see it was hurting me and advised me to grit my teeth.  I assured her, I already was.  I guess I really shouldn't have been surprised by this either, but given my past mammography experiences (somewhat uncomfortable, but not painful), and my relative lack of pain since the surgery, it really didn't occur to me.  My reluctance to share that is not embarrassment or shame on my part -- I know it's okay for me to admit that some things hurt and this whole experience isn't rainbows and unicorns -- but I don't want it to scare any one of my readers away from having the all-important screening mammogram!  Because they don't feel like that. And honestly, I suspect a month from now, it probably wouldn't feel like that for me, either.  But I've been somewhat in a hurry to get going with the radiation because, quite frankly, I'd like to get it done before the end of the year so that I won't be starting over with a new deductible and significant medical bills.  (More on that in a moment.)  Anyway, point being, that it probably is okay for folks to give themselves a little more time to heal post-surgery before hopping back in the MammoMat.  So, that would be my advice to anyone else going through this if asked -- assuming the docs say it's okay.  

That said, I (obviously) survived the squooshing.  The rest, after that, was pretty much a breeze.  I was directed from Mammography down to Radiation Oncology (just the next floor down -- I'm becoming quite familiar with the layout of the Cancer Center these days.)  There, I was placed in the CT scan machine -- which, for those who've not experienced it, is not unlike an MRI machine, only instead of a long tube, it's really more like a doughnut.  You lay down on the table and it rolls you back and forth under the scanner. The tech positioned me and made note of it all so that they can be sure to position me the same way each time.  Then the doctor came in and drew some marks on me which will serve as the blueprint for where they deliver the radiation. Though it's permanent marker, it obviously would wash off between now and the end of my treatment, so they put a clear plastic tape over the top of it.  As I mentioned on Facebook yesterday afternoon, I look a bit like I did battle with a Sharpie -- and the Sharpie won.  

Next up, the folks at Radiation Oncology will finish calculating everything and setting up my plan, then call me back to officially schedule my treatments.  And then I'll enter the "radioactive" phase.  (Yes, that song is permanently stuck in my head.)  Not really, though.  External Beam Radiation (which is what I'll be getting) does not make a patient "radioactive." So no glowing or setting off geiger counters for me!  And friends and family ought not fear being irradiated by hanging with me.

Now, on a more serious note, as I was ruminating on this latest entry, I came across this article:  "Death By Obamacare: 'Reform' Reams Cancer Patients."   I shared it several places and noted that, yes, this pisses me off.  It should piss everyone off.  Because under the guise of assisting those who were (involuntarily) uninsured, our government has done a serious number on us.  Rather than simply expanding Medicaid and other programs designed to help those with lower incomes and/or in high-risk categories, and raising taxes to do so (which would have been far more straightforward, but, of course, tantamount to political suicide), instead, we've been handed a top-down, one-size-fits-all program which, in truth, fits few.  The net result of it is that many of us are having insurance plans with which we were content canceled and/or finding our premiums and deductibles skyrocketing. (See?! We're not really being taxed more -- we're just having to pay more, which is a completely different thing, right?!)  What's worse, as the article rightly notes, the ripple effect of this is forcing many providers out of certain networks and forcing patients to either sever their ties with doctors with whom they already have a relationship, or pay tons more out of pocket.  

I've spent the past two months becoming acquainted and comfortable with a staff of medical professionals who've helped me navigate a significant health crisis.  I've relied on them to help me fight this battle and developed a level of trust in their care.  I've managed to remain somewhat Spockian throughout this adventure, and approach it clinically, rather than emotionally.  But if I were suddenly told that I'd have to switch everything up, or find myself out significant additional funds, I'm pretty sure I'd lose it.  

Fortunately, I'm one of the lucky ones -- even though my plan is being canceled, I was given the opportunity to renew it now (rather than in July) so it will be good until December, 2014.  Assuming my treatment goes as planned, I should be pretty well done with everything long before then, and just following through with regular screenings.  But what if I'd been diagnosed this time next year?  I'd have to hope and pray that whatever "government-approved" plans are available to me would still include this network of doctors and not cost considerably more out of pocket.  As I said, I'm one of the lucky ones.  For now.  A lot of other folks aren't. 

Unfortunately, the law of unintended consequences often is written not just in permanent marker, but in indelible ink.  

Tuesday, November 12, 2013


There was a time when I attempted to write most every day.  In an effort to do so, I resorted to sharing my daily "smiles" -- it was a bit lazy on my part, I'll concede, but it also was an attempt to acknowledge and express my gratitude for the many blessings each day brings.  

Well, it's time for a confession: I can't do it.  I cannot guarantee I'll have something to say each day that even marginally qualifies as decent blogfodder.  All I can promise is to try to have something arguably interesting to share on a relatively regular basis.  (How's that for lowering expectations?) 

Speaking of expectations, I noted earlier this evening that today is 11/12/13, and it's hard to ignore the fact that my life is so very different than it was on 10/11/12.  I can't tell you off the top of my head what I was doing on 10/11/12, or what my mood was that day.  I can only say, with certainty, that I'm in a much better place today than I was then.  Which might sound a little suspect coming from a gal who's currently undergoing cancer treatment, but, yeah, that aside, I'm in a way better place. 

And while I have no way of knowing for sure what the future holds, honestly, I sit here tonight optimistic and excited to see where life will have taken me by 12/13/14. Maybe that's naive. But I'm glad for it. It's nice to look forward with anticipation rather than apprehension.  It's a gift. And I'm thankful for it. 

Monday, November 11, 2013

Well, Don't I Feel Silly?

I've had more doctors' appointments in the past few weeks than in the past 10 years. I don't know why that surprises me, but it does. I guess I never really stopped and thought about the number of specialists and appointments necessary to actually oversee one's battle with breast cancer. I wouldn't blame other cancer patients or their loved ones if their response to the above involved eye-rolling, or smacking me upside the head were I within reach. And now that I think about it, it does seem rather...naive (perhaps too kind a word) on my part. Anyway, I don't mean to complain -- the doctors and their staffs have all been great. And my employer has been very understanding. I think it may just be the reality of it all sinking in.

It's not a bad reality, really. I had my follow-up appointment with the surgeon last week. She confirmed that all is healing well and that the pathology report from the surgery showed "clean margins," meaning no further surgery would be necessary. So it was time to set up appointments with the radiation oncologist and the medical oncologist. (Maybe that's part of it, too -- the multiple scheduling phone calls and reiteration of medical history.)

I met with the radiation oncologist on Friday. He outlined the various radiation methodologies and why the standard treatment is indicated in my case. For me, that will mean 33 sessions -- every day, Monday through Friday for the next six-plus weeks. They'll start out radiating the entire breast and then "boost" the radiation to the actual site of the cancer. But first, they have to map everything out and get the proper boob coordinates -- which involves another mammogram and then a CT scan, which I'll undergo tomorrow. Then they'll mark the target area(s) -- with permanent marker, not tattoos, as are sometimes used. I'm hoping they can get me scheduled for the early morning (7:30 a.m.) radiation sessions, but those are highly coveted spots, so we'll have to see. He confirmed I can expect to encounter some fatigue, and also some skin irritation. There also will likely be some scar tissue (internally), but, hey, when you alter things surgically and then nuke them, I guess that's to be expected.

Today I got to meet with the medical oncologist to review my options regarding medication. Tamoxifen is often recommended for breast cancer patients for five years post-surgery and radiation. At least for those whose cancer cells respond to estrogen. Mine do, and given my age, (45 as opposed to 65 or 70), it's a reasonable option. The survival rate is the same with or without it. The recurrence rate is somewhat lower with it than without it. But it also comes with some side effects, and, after reading up on it, I was kind of hoping they wouldn't strongly recommend it for me. They didn't. Again, it's a reasonable option, but so is foregoing it, so I've opted for the latter. (I realize that this may invite others to weigh in with their opinion on my decision, and that's fine. But it's my decision and I'm comfortable with it. The doctor was, as well.)

Anyway, I wanted to bring folks up to date, as many have asked how everything is going. I haven't meant to be evasive or uninformative. I just didn't have much more information to share until the past couple days. Oh -- one bright spot -- all three doctors who've seen me in the past week have remarked at how well the incision is healing and that they don't think the scar will even be visible. So that topless dancer thing could still work out for me! (I'm kidding, Mom.)

Thank you again to all who've reached out with encouraging words and prayer. Y'all have really helped make this easier.

One last note -- I saw this article today and shared it on Facebook: "ABC News' Amy Robach Reveals Breast Cancer Diagnosis" Another reminder of just how important mammograms are. Get yourselves checked, ladies!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Did You Seriously Just Create Your Own Facebook Page?!

Conversation I had with myself yesterday:

Me: "I really feel like I need to have two separate blogs, but I wish there were a way to better integrate them."

Me2: "What if you created a Facebook page where you could post both?"

Me: "Like an actual page, page?  Like for companies or brands or celebrities?!"

Me2: "Sure.  Why not?"

Me: "But I'm not a celebrity. And treating 'SmoosieQ' as a brand seems so, so..."

Me2: "Savvy from a marketing/publicity/increased readership standpoint?"

Me: "Tacky. And narcissistic."

Me2: "You do realize you write about yourself, your life, your opinions, all the time -- and that you publish your writing hoping others will read it, right?"

Me: "You have a point."

So that's how I ended up with a separate Facebook page serving as a place to aggregate my blogs.  And hopefully radio archives/links.  And this is my self-conscious way of thanking those who've been kind enough to click "Like" in response to my invitation to do so.  

I figure other bloggers whom I admire do it.  It seems to be a marginally acceptable method of self-promotion. So...I'll give it a try, at least.  Although now I feel some added pressure to regularly produce quality writing.  Which might not be a bad thing.  I guess we'll see.  Anyway, thank you for *Liking* my page. I hope not to disappoint!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

When Negative is Positive

WARNING:  The majority of this post details my surgery.  If you're super squeamish or easily bored, skip to the last couple paragraphs. 

So my surgery was last Thursday.  It was hard to go into it with anything other than a positive attitude, what with all of the love and support I had behind me:  There Just Are Not Words.  Still, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't somewhat trepidatious.  Surgery is surgery after all.

My pre-op instructions were easy -- no food or water from midnight on.  I very rarely have any food or water that late.  Except that the knowledge that I couldn't sure did make me thirsty!  I managed to get some sleep, but Thursday morning came early.  David, who is a saint, kindly carted me over to the hospital at 6:30 am, and sat with my while I waited to be called back.  Eventually, they ushered me back to a sort of pre-op holding area where they gave me two lovely light green hospital gowns to don -- one to tie in back, and the other to wrap around me like a robe.  I know they aren't supposed to be fitted or anything, but they certainly were awkward -- none of the ties seemed to line up correctly.  Oh - and there were these nifty green skid-resistant socks, too.  I kind of liked those.

After I was gowned up, the nurse took my temperature, blood pressure, pulse, etc.  By then, my Mom had arrived and was sitting in the room along with David and me.  The nurse had to run through a series of medical history questions with me, and then asked if I had any loose metal or jewelry items.  Oops.  I'd forgotten about the belly ring.  She felt fairly certain that we could just put some tape over it and all would be well.

Finally the time came for them to take me to get wired up.  (The surgery is actually a two-step process -- the first thing they do is insert a wire, using mamography/imaging techniques, which then serves as a guide for the surgeon.)  I waved goodbye to David and my Mom.  From this point on, I was wheeled everywhere and got to experience full hospital patient-hood. There were a couple of points along the way where I'd get wheeled down a hallway and then set some place for a bit until they were ready for me at the next stop.  It gave me time to process the whole patient thing -- it's a rather weird experience, that feeling of being essentially helpless and at the mercy of others.  Especially for a control freak like yours truly.  At some point, though, you just kind of have to resign yourself to it, and remember that in the end, it's all in God's hands.  

For the wire placement, the process was very much like the biopsy.  I had to lie on a table on my stomach again.  The tech apologized for the uncomfortableness of it all.  I warned her she might have to remove the padding on the table in order to position me correctly.  She was scandalized by this thought, but I assured her it wasn't so much the padding issue that caused the discomfort as the having to lie with my head to one side and not move for an extended period of time.  She assured me that this process would not take nearly as long as the biopsy -- and to her credit, it didn't.  Still, I can't wait to go make use of the Massage Envy gift card David was kind enough to donate to me awhile back.  

The tech managed to position me properly without having to remove the pad.  She had me drop my shoulder partially through the hole in the table, too, and that seemed to help.  It took a few images and some repositioning to get me set just so.  And I'll confess, one of those repositionings really squished me and hurt quite a bit. But it wasn't long before I was set up correctly, and a doctor came in to actually place the wire. This involves administering a local anesthetic, and then inserting a hollow needle next to the marker they left behind during the biopsy, then threading a thin wire with a little hook on the end down the needle.  The wire then remains in place and helps the surgeon locate the area that needs to be lumpectosized.  While this was going on, the tech related to the doc that the biopsy team had removed the table padding in order to position me correctly for the biopsy -- this was met with much clucking by the doc to my amusement.  Apparently, this simply is not done! 

After the wire was placed, they sat me up and the tech used some tape to anchor the external portion of the wire so it wasn't sticking out wildly.  I couldn't resist the urge to ask her if I could now pick up FM stations.  (What else are you going to ask when there's a wire sticking out the side of your boob?!)  Then we headed over to the main part of the Breast Care Center for an actual mammogram to verify the wire was where it was supposed to be.  Thankfully, it was, and the tech seemed quite pleased with how everything looked.  I found this encouraging. 

From there, I was wheeled to pre-op. They placed me in a bed, and handed me a lovely cap for my hair. Had to have the nurse help me get it on right, because I wasn't supposed to move my right arm much for fear of pulling on the wire.  It's a little odd there in pre-op.  A lot of activity, doctors and nurses busy charting and making phone calls.  And other patients behind the curtains on either side of you.  There was a gentleman to my right who sounded like quite the character.  He had lots of tats from when he was in the service, and was a big fan of the show Duck Dynasty.  Can't say I blame him re: the latter.

A nurse came over to check on me and ask me a few questions, including the jewelry question again. She seemed a little concerned about the taping solution, but apparently checked and determined it was okay.  I was asked several times for my name, birthdate, what surgery I was having and on which breast.  I figured they'd be able to tell from the wire placement and all, but I'm happy to know they double and triple check these things before proceeding.

The anesthesiologist came over and, after determining I was right-handed, attempted to insert the IV into my left wrist.  Several times.  To no avail.  Like most people, I'm no fan of needles, but I can tolerate shots and IV insertions fairly well.  This attempt really didn't go very well, and the anesthesiologist was quite apologetic for it. Frankly, it felt like he was squeezing my wrist flat.  He worried I was going to have an awful bruise there and hate him for it.  I assured him that he was forgiven, but did warn him that I've been blogging about all this and so would certainly include that part, since I was awake for it.  I told him not to worry, though - I wouldn't use his name.  The nurse came over and, after letting me use my right hand to sign off on the consent form, inserted the IV in the right wrist without much ado.  Truth be told, I have mild bruises on both wrists, but certainly nothing traumatic.  

The surgeon came over to check in with me and see how I was doing.  She said we were ready to go as soon as the OR opened up.  She looked me over, contemplated the incision placement, and promised she'd put a lot of local anesthetic in the surgical site so I shouldn't have too much issue with pain.  Shortly thereafter, they wheeled me into the OR.  I kept waiting for someone to say something about me needing to count backward, but all I remember is the nurse placing a mask over my face and telling me to breathe.

Next thing I recall was being wheeled down a hallway and into post-op. I was definitely groggy, but I know I tried to talk.  God only knows if I made the slightest sense.  I  remember looking up at the clock and seeing that it was close to 11:00 am, which meant the surgery had only taken around an hour.  I took that as a good sign. The nurses asked me if I was in pain and I said yes, some, so they gave me some morphine. Blech. I did not like the way it felt. Just made me feel really heavy and yucky.  

After about thirty minutes, they rolled me into an individual post-op/recovery room, and David, my Mom and my Dad came in to see me.  The nurse sat me up in a sort of recliner chair, I think.  I was still feeling groggy, but not too bad.  My sister Julie stopped by to check on me.  The surgeon came in and said hello to everyone then checked on me, as well.  She showed me the incision and talked to me about the wound care and healing process.  She seemed pleased with how everything had gone and how everything looked.  She told me they would get the pathology report back on Tuesday and that would hopefully verify that the evil boob Nazis (my terminology, not hers) had been removed and hadn't spread.  

They still had me hooked up to an IV and fluids so a couple trips to the restroom were necessary.  The first time, the nurse escorted me.  The second, I was feeling well enough to walk myself.  Tricky thing about those hospital gowns that tie in the back, though -- I was a little concerned I might flash everyone, so I reached back to gather it together.  Only it was tied more off to the side than the back.  So rather than gathering it together, I did the exact opposite and ended up flashing my folks and David as I attempted to leave the room.  I'm sure that was charming.  

Finally, it was time for me to be discharged.  The nurse asked if I wanted to fill the prescription for pain medication and I decided maybe I should just to be safe, though I really wasn't feeling a lot of pain.  Once that was taken care of, they wheeled me out, and David brought the car around and carted me back home, then stayed with me and took care of me the rest of the afternoon.  I mentioned above that he is a saint. I don't say that lightly.  He has been beyond supportive through all of this and I am one amazingly lucky girl to have him in my life.  That song from Sound of Music often comes to mind when I think of him -- somewhere in my youth, or childhood, I must have done something good....

My recovery since last Thursday has been relatively uneventful.  I took a pain pill Thursday afternoon, but it made me loopy, so I went with Advil Thursday evening so I could watch the Cards play.  I took another one Friday morning, but decided Advil was just as good and without the loopiness and other side effects.  I haven't had to take any since.  There are some pretty gnarly looking bruises on the side of my boob (which I think are from the wire placement, rather than the surgery itself) and, of course, the incision itself, but very little pain.  I've been referring to it as my Frankenboob.  (It is Halloween this week, after all.)  It looks like everything is healing up pretty well, though.  

I was able to get out Saturday morning for Holly's soccer game and then Saturday evening with David and his sister and aunt to watch the Cardinals game.  Watched another soccer game on Sunday and then enjoyed dinner with David, his sister and the girls.  Several people have remarked on how quickly I seem to have bounced back.  I'll confess -- I feel somewhat weird about it.  I know I had surgery, but it wasn't like major surgery, and I really do feel almost fine.  Yesterday, as I walked back from lunch with my friend Dean, I mentioned I had gotten a flu shot a couple weeks ago (though I usually don't) because they recommend them for cancer patients.  He said, "That sounds weird."  (Calling me a "cancer patient.")  I agree.  I don't look or feel sickly. And believe me -- I'm quite happy for this.  But it's a rather heavy mantle.  And frankly, I feel a little odd sporting it.  Because I feel fine.  Again, this isn't a complaint.  Just an acknowledgment that, considering how serious a thing this can be, I've really been quite lucky with it all.  I may feel differently after a few rounds of radiation.  Naturally, I'll be letting you know.

In the meantime, my surgeon called this morning with good news regarding the pathology report. The only thing in the specimen was the in situ cancer and the margins are negative (clean).  Which is good.  This means the cancer hasn't spread or done anything dastardly, and so, surgically, I'm all good.  Next up is a follow-up appointment with the surgeon next Tuesday so she can check out how everything is healing.  Then they'll get me set up with a radiological oncologist and medical oncologist to set up my radiation treatments/schedule and determine if I'll need to take any medication.  And we'll go from there.

Thank you, again, to everyone who's been keeping me company on this journey.  The prayers and well-wishes have been an enormous help to me in keeping a positive attitude.  Thank you to my FTR friends who, in addition to creating #TeamSmoosieQ, put together a radiothon to raise money for the Breast Cancer Research Foundation and to Jennie Bos who created the awesome "Walk a Mile in My Boobs" t-shirts which also helped raise money.  I think our total amount raised was over $2200. Thank you to my friend Annie who sent me the scary/cute pink unicorn to keep me company during radiation (and one for Riley, too), since I'd told her I knew it wouldn't all be bunnies and unicorns, along with a darling charm bracelet with an "S" and a pink lady bug on it.  I'm wearing it every day.  And special thanks to my Mom and Dad for being there with me during the surgery, to my big sis Julie for stopping by to check on me, and to my love David for holding my hand through it all. 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

There Just Are Not Words

Anyone who knows me knows I'm rarely at a loss for words.  This would be one of those times, so forgive me if the ones I do manage to find aren't all that eloquent.  Since I began sharing my journey through Breast Cancer Land, I have been overwhelmed with the outpouring of love and support directed my way.  

I'll confess, I feel a bit guilty about it.  No, this isn't a pleasant sort of thing to deal with, but in the whole scheme of BAD THINGS, my particular bad thing seems relatively minor.  Don't scoff. I know CANCER isn't minor, but mine was caught so early, and the prognosis is so encouraging, that I DO feel a bit guilty, because I know there are so many people facing far fiercer foes than I am, at present.  I tell myself neither love nor prayer nor good will are finite.  But I surely do appreciate all who've taken the time and made the effort to send it my way.  I've had several people say to me this cancer doesn't stand a chance. Not with y'all behind me, it sure doesn't.  Not that I feel sorry for it. 

There's been a smidge of confusion re: the timing of it all, but tomorrow (Thursday) is the day I'll be undergoing surgery for it -- a lumpectomy which, I'm told, won't keep me down for very long.  Following that, they'll set me up for six weeks of radiation, just to be sure we kick the crud out of the evil Nazis lurking in my boob. 

In the meantime, I'd like to make a passing effort at expressing my thanks:

  • To my family, who love me unconditionally and are there for me always;
  • To my love, David, who has been the most supportive, understanding, loving boyfriend a girl could ever ask for (have I mentioned lately what a very #LuckyGirl I am?!);
  • To his family for being so very thoughtful and wishing me well through this;
  • To my dear friends who've checked in on me and offered to help however they can;
  • To friends and classmates from long ago who've generously donated to the BCRF Fundraiser which my FTR Family put together and/or bought one of these snazzy "Walk A Mile in My Boobs" tees to help us raise money for the cause;
  • Right along side many new friends from both the "real world" and on-line who've also given generously and helped spread the word;
  • To those who've quietly reached out to me to offer love and support and their own experiences with the Evil Cancer Monster;
  • To everyone who's sent a prayer my way or wished me well.
There are individual thank you notes which are due to many of y'all and will be forthcoming.  But I want to say an extra special big thank you to my FTR Family and anyone else who helped orchestrate the #TeamSmoosieQ campaign today on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.  And for all I know, Pinterest.  For those uncertain as to what I'm referring, I invite you to sneak a peek at my Facebook page, or search the #TeamSmoosieQ hashtag on Twitter.  That will give you an inkling as to why I'm feeling so very verklempt/verklemmt right now.  No, there really aren't words to express it.  So I will simply say:  Thank you. 

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Sticking Together

Note: I originally started writing this 8 or 9 months ago, but set it aside when I reached a point where I wasn't entirely certain where I was going with it. I think it's probably deserving of being completed, though, so....

Recently, a certain 10 year old I know asked me, "Why do people get married?" We've had a lot of discussions of such things of late, and I've been digging deep into the Magic Bag of Answers Moms Give to Tough Questions grasping about for responses that will satisfy without overwhelming.  I did my best to explain that most people just naturally want a partner and someone to share their life with, but the answer felt inadequate to me; incomplete.  Still, she was gracious enough to accept it without seeming overly skeptical.

The question stayed with me, though, lurking behind a few others, but leaping back to the forefront as I drove back to St. Louis today from a court appearance in Benton, Missouri.  I was traveling behind an SUV and noticed that it, like so many do, had a stick family decal on the rear window.  I recalled a conversation with a single friend several years ago wherein we both, rather ashamedly, admitted that we hate those things.  It's awful to acknowledge, but they touch an ugly, envious nerve.  And I've since learned we're far from alone in that sentiment. 

"Why is that?!" I wondered today, as I recalled the conversation.  It isn't just a matter of the grass being greener....I frequently hear friends in marriages or committed relationships fantasize about how "fun" and "exciting" it would be to be single again, but when push comes to shove, they're generally content to remain on their side of the septic tank.  Besides, if someone truly wants to become single again, they generally can arrange that.  (Not without some significant effort, and often a great deal of pain.  But it can be achieved.)  The reverse? It's far more complicated and contingent not only on other people and the many variables they bring to the table, but also, in most cases, on luck -- timing, circumstance -- things for which most people cannot control.

No, it must be more than simple envy.  I think it goes even deeper than that - I think most of us are hard-wired to familitize.  We long to be part of a family -- and not just any family -- a happy one, at that.  And when, for whatever reason(s), that isn't possible, it can ache in a way that few things in life do. Even when everything else is going well and life is good in most respects, there's that knowledge that something important is missing.  

For a long time, for me, that translated into not "qualifying" for a stick figure family on my car. I guess, in hindsight, that seems rather silly, but somehow, I had it in my head that just the two of us -- Riley and I -- weren't eligible for vehicular stick figurehood since we weren't a "traditional" family.  Then one day, I was browsing through Amazon and decided to search for the stick figures. When I found them, I realized I'd been looking at it all wrong -- they come in all different assortments, and you don't have to have a "cookie cutter" family in order to find a set that represents you. So, impulsively, I bought a set.

But once I had them in hand, I still couldn't bring myself to put them on my car. I set them aside in my "to get to" pile, and kept not getting to them. I couldn't quite put my finger on why, but I think I finally figured it out.  I think, on some level, I worried that applying stick figures to my car was somehow akin to setting my life's course in stone.  That telling the world "this is my family" now foreclosed the possibility of that definition ever again expanding. 

Yeah. I think I let stick figure decals and what they represent get into my head a bit. Today, I overcame that silliness. I placed stickers representing myself, Riley, Hurricane, Stormy and Pringle on my car.  (Sadly, my set didn't come with a fish sticker -- sorry, Louis!) That is, at present, my family. And we're good -- and happy together. And if at some point our family does expand and more stickers need to be added, then we can add them. And be happy together. :)

Thursday, October 17, 2013

It Feels Better to Do SOMETHING

I've been in a bit of a holding pattern since my meeting with the breast surgeon two weeks ago.  Surgery is set for next Thursday, and in the meantime, there isn't really anything for me to DO in relation to this.  People often refer to those with breast cancer (and other cancers) as "fighters" or "survivors".  And I'm not going to argue with that.  It is a battle of sorts -- in some cases, a very tough battle.  Thankfully, from everything I've learned to date, my personal battle isn't going to be nearly so tough as it is for many.  I'm lucky.  In so many ways.

That said, I haven't had much to do in the way of fighting the Evil Cancer Monster since I learned it had decided to pay me a visit, and that has left me feeling somewhat asea. I've never been very good at passivity -- certainly not when a battle or challenge is at hand.  So when my good friends at FTR Radio (in particular, John Brodigan, Thomas LaDuke and Fingers Malloy) suggested holding a fundraiser/radiothon to help raise money for a breast cancer charity, I was all in.  THIS was something to DO!  I can tweet and Facebook and e-mail the heck out of a fundraiser link!

So, that's what I aim to do today. I was going to apologize in advance if it seems as though you're getting inundated with these links and notifications, as I know they can be somewhat overwhelming, but you know what?  No. I'm doing this without apology.  Since I shared my diagnosis publically, I've had so many wonderful people reach out to me and ask me to let them know if there's anything they can do to help. Often, my response has been, "Thank you, but I really can't think of anything I need right now, other than prayer."  And the prayers, I promise, are tremendously appreciated!  But now, there IS something you all can do.  Actually, there are several somethings you can do (I like to give people options!):

  1. Go here and click on the link at the bottom to donate directly to the fundraiser - our goal is $1,000;
  2. Go here and buy a snazzy pink tee - our goal is 45 t-shirts sold; OR
  3. Share either and/or both of these links via social networks or e-mails.
A little background re: the first two:  As you'll see from Link #1, FTR is hosting the fundraiser, and specifically broadcasting TONIGHT from 8:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. (Eastern) in an effort to get the word out on this.  I'm not the only one at FTR who's faced this sort of battle, personally, or on behalf of a loved one. So I know it means a lot to the folks there to help raise money and awareness for the cause.  It certainly means a lot to me.  Link #2 was the handiwork (and thoughtfulness) of my friend Jennie Agape Bos, and offers another way you can help contribute -- and receive something in return. 

Lastly, I understand all too well that times are tough and money is tight for a lot of folks, so would simply ask if you cannot contribute monetarily that you help spread the word via social media, e-mail, however. 

I know I'll make it through this -- the odds are overwhelmingly in my favor, and I have wonderful friends and family supporting me.  But imagine if we could actually find a cure!  Your help today/tonight will go directly to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, where 91% of every dollar spent goes to research and awareness programs.  So please step up and help however you can.  Thank you!! 

Sunday, October 6, 2013

There Are Always Reasons to Smile

Lately, my "fluffy bunny blog" posts have all been centered around my adventures in Breast Cancer Land. But, much to my surprise, neither the world nor your own life stop upon receiving such a diagnosis.  In fact, most things go on pretty much as usual. People are just extra nice to you. Which is a wonderful reminder of how much of a blessing family and friends truly are. Even in the midst of, well, okay, I'll acknowledge it, rather cruddy news, I've still been given so many reasons to smile lately. And I want to get back to writing about them, too.  For instance,

  • Parkway West won their first varsity football game in two or three years last Friday - was so neat to see how excited the kids were, especially since it was Homecoming.
  • Got to see some dear friends and hear some great speakers at last weekend's CPAC - especially enjoyed our lunch and then drinks later that evening.
  • Dinner with my beau that same evening - I know it's corny, but I just enjoy his company so.
  • Our long walk and lunch the next day, followed by watching Holly's soccer game.
  • Got my office (at work) cleaned and mostly organized - this was much needed!
  • Probably a silly little thing, but I've really been having fun lately with Instagram -- taking and posting photos to it and viewing those posted by friends. It's simpler and more low-key than Facebook or Twitter.
  • Another trivia night this past Friday - even though the questions were on the tough side, still had a great time with David and some of the other soccer parents from Emma's team.
  • Last night, bowling and laser tag with David, Emma and Riley - had so much fun, including the part where we all danced to "YMCA" - followed by board games at David's house - who knew they actually made a game out of "Awkward Family Photos"!?! 
  • The Tigers, Blues and Rams all won this weekend. (The Cardinals need to wake up!)
  • Emma's soccer game today - yes it was cold and windy, but we managed to stay mostly warm, and her team played great!
  • My family and friends have been so great - so supportive and intent on letting me know they're there and praying. 
  • My daughter. She's such a sweet kiddo anyway, but she's been making extra efforts lately to be helpful -- cleaning and organizing her room and helping out with other chores around the house, helping me out when we go grocery shopping. We've gotten to spend some extra time together the past week or two, and she regularly makes me laugh, whether it's joking about "wheatzas" (pizzas on wheat dough) or "nazis" (knots) in her hair. I'm so lucky to be her Momma. 
Anyway, the thing is, I am once again reminded just how very blessed and lucky I am. Thank you. 

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Well, at Least My Car is Super Clean

So, today was Breast Surgeon Day.  Part II, actually, as I explained here.  I won't go so far as to say I was looking forward to the consultation, but, having waited since last Wednesday for additional info as to my prognosis and recommended treatment, I was rather ready to have it.  

In the interim, I've done a bit of work on the education front -- researching DCIS ("Ductile Carcinoma in Situ), and familiarizing myself with such terms as "micropapillary" and "cribriform".  Oh and "breast conserving surgery."  There's a lot of talk of BCC sprinkled throughout the land of DCIS. Which is why I wasn't horribly surprised when Dr. Surgeon outlined my options today.  Yes, I'll admit it -- I was holding out hope that I'd fall into "Monitoring Camp," and simply have to endure more frequent and consistent squishings. So I'm sure my shoulders did droop a bit when the options presented consisted of Lumpectomy + Radiation or Mastectomy, and nothing quite so simple as Keeping a Watchful Eye. 

Still, it wasn't shocking news.  Dr. Surgeon, whom I must say I really like -- she's sharp and very easy to talk to, felt like we connected right off the bat -- did a great job of describing the disease and the treatment options and their various pros and cons.  She also said something very important to me:  "You now have a white card (figuratively, not literally) which entitles you to politely ignore the numerous offers of well-meaning advice people will give you based on their aunt or co-worker's treatments and experiences. This is your experience."  I laughed when she said that at told her I'd come to the realization that being diagnosed with breast cancer is in some ways similar to being pregnant -- everyone is super nice to you and everyone has a story to share.  She laughed, too, and agreed.  

Which isn't to say I intend to ignore any of the kind and supportive things people have said and done or will say and do.  I feel so very blessed to have as many wonderful people in my life as I do. As much as something like this can tend to make you feel somewhat alone, I've been reminded quite a bit lately how very much that isn't true for me.  And I'm so very thankful for that!  But I also know I have to do what's right for me, after weighing all of the information I've been given.  And, to that end, I'm opting to go the more conservative route (go figure) of lumpectomy and radiation. (Tempting as the thought of reconstruction/expansion might theoretically be, I think I'd rather keep as much of me with me as possible.)  

No, I'm not particularly looking forward to surgery (scheduled for about three weeks from now), although Dr. Surgeon assured me it would only knock me out of commission for a couple days. And six weeks of radiation sounds about as fun as having sand in your shorts. Permanently.  But there are people who've endured far worse and, in the whole scheme of things, this is but a speed bump.

Speaking of which, after my appointment, I stopped off to fill up my car at Waterway.  And, being as my car hasn't had a right proper bath in, oh, a good three years, I treated it to one.  I think I actually heard it let out a happy sigh as I pulled away from the gas station.  Either that, or my radiator's about to blow.  But my car sure looks awfully pretty for a change!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to My Date with the Breast Surgeon

Let me start out by clarifying that by "date," I mean "appointment."  It's just that the blog title was already sort of long and "date" sounds more intriguing.  There's only one fellow with whom I actually have dates, and he's been amazingly sweet and supportive throughout the past couple weeks. Well, truly, throughout the past nine months -- just realized tomorrow is our nine month anniversary! But especially with all this fun stuff. And for that, I am quite thankful!

Anyway, as those who've been following along know, I explained last week why Now is the Time, and earlier this week why there are times When 0 > 1. I'm going to continue with my kudos to Breastcare Center #1 and the Nurse Coordinator Lisa - she got me set up with an MRI yesterday and an appointment with the breast surgeon today. That's some fast work! 

I've never had an MRI before.  And, to be honest, never really imagined having one for my breasts, as opposed to my knee or back. Or head. (It really probably warrants a thorough examination.) When Lisa called to set it up, she walked through all the preliminaries -- made sure I wasn't claustrophobic (nope!) and didn't have any metal in my body (nope!)  Oh. Wait.  Oops.  (Mom, don't read this part. Or don't be shocked.) I do have a belly ring. And it's of recent enough vintage that I wasn't entirely comfortable with the notion of removing it. Not to worry!  The tattoo/piercing place where I got it done has these nifty little plastic insert thingies which Mr. Technician was kind enough to swap out for me for the low-low price of $5. 

So, off to the MRI place I went yesterday morning. They got me in quickly, prepped me for an IV (for the contrast) and ushered me into Magneto Land.  The machine looked pretty much like what you see on TV. Only it was set up for me to be on my stomach, rather than on my back. I was really concerned about the prospect of having to lie still for 30 or 40 minutes with my head turned to one side, but wonder of wonders - they did have the little cut out for your face like massage tables do! And instead of having my arms down by my side, I got to hold them up above my head. So it was kind of like I was flying. While surrounded by jackhammers.  Man, is that thing LOUD! The tech warned me that even with the earphones piping in music (I chose classic rock - yes, I got scanned rocking out to Billy Squier and AC/DC), the machine would be loud. She wasn't lying! Once I was in there, I started worrying about moving too much. I didn't want to breathe too hard, then realized I was holding my breath and that probably wouldn't work out all that well.  I tried to relax, but then I was worried I might have to cough.  Or that I'd start to fall asleep and twitch.  Or that I'd have a weird reaction to the dye.  Thankfully, none of the above happened, and I was only in the machine for about 30 minutes.  

Once out, the tech handed me a CD with my MRI scans on it to take to my appointment today. They'd forward everything over to Breastcare Center #1 and I'd get a call in the afternoon with the results. Sure enough, Lisa called early in the afternoon. What she said was somewhat encouraging: The MRI looked "good," although the reading was a little complicated by the fact that I'm at a "high hormone" phase of my cycle. (So don't piss me off!)  This phenomenon apparently causes one to "light up like a Christmas tree" when magnetized, which is why they optimally schedule MRI's for a different time. BUT, she explained, when they do have a diagnosis of cancer, they don't like to wait. She didn't think this would require me to undergo another MRI in a week or two, but I'd need the results confirmed with the surgeon when I met with him.

Okay. Good enough.  I'd take that as positive news and see what Dr. Surgeon had to say. The appointment was set for 10:40 this morning, and I initially toyed with the idea of going into work early, then going to the appointment, because, you know, work is what pays the bills (in theory)! I nixed that idea when I started feeling icky late yesterday afternoon -- my throat was sore and I had a fever. Bleh! Alright, so I'd stay home and rest this morning, then go to my appointment, then go to work if I felt better.  

I left the house on schedule, but was worried I might not make it to the appointment on time because I lucked out and got stuck behind Mr. Snail on Clayton Road. Finally got past him and made it to MoBap with about a minute to spare.  Hurried up to the sixth floor, walked into the doctor's office and thought, "Hmmm....this place looks....familiar."  Well, there's a reason for that.  Turns out it's the same place I went for my mammogram four years ago that didn't take my insurance.  The place that made me be all stubborn about getting one rescheduled. (No, truly - the place didn't make me be that way - I was that way. Still....)  Well, I thought, they already had all my paperwork and info and no one had sounded any alarm bells, so maybe all would be well. I filled out the remaining paperwork, gave them my ID and insurance card, and had a seat.  To occupy my time while I waited, I tweeted some, checked e-mail and Facebook and texted David. Me: "Also - in a strange twist of fate - this doc office I'm in is the place that didn't accept my insurance 4 years ago when I tried to come get a mammogram...." Him: "Cue Twilight Zone theme....Keeping fingers crossed for you this morning for good news on multiple fronts." Me: "Oh I'm just waiting for them to come out and tell me they still don't accept it so I can't see the doc....."  Thirty-five minutes later.... Me: "Called it."  

Yes, yes indeed.  Turns out that, while this place accepts Coventry, I have an extra special version of Coventry which they don't accept after all.  In fairness, I can kind of understand the confusion. And the nurses who talked to me were very nice and apologetic.  Dr. Surgeon even came in to talk to me and apologize.  He was very nice and handed me this snazzy canvas tote they'd already made up for me with all sorts of breast cancer related goodies in it. (I'm using that term rather loosely - mostly, it's literature re: various aspects, treatments, etc.  But there was a little pillow thingy in there.  Oh hell - I just Googled "breast cancer pillow" and discovered that this is a special pillow designed for people suffering from uncomfortable pain due to mastectomies and such. I'm going to remain optimistic and hope that's something they give to everyone who's been diagnosed.  Not just surgical candidates.)  He also wanted to reassure me that Ductal Carcinoma in Situ (DCIS), which is what I have, is "very treatable."  Which sounds good and encouraging. Except that it sounds like it involves "treatment" rather than mere monitoring. 

Guess I'll find out more next Tuesday. Which is when my new "date" with new Dr. Surgeon -- who does take my insurance -- is set.  'Til then, I certainly won't object to any prayers or good thoughts sent my way. Because it's been a helluva week already. And it's only Wednesday!