Friday, April 26, 2013


There will likely be more details later, but here are the high points of the mastectomy:

1. I no longer have a right breast. Yay! The surgeon didn't mess up and take the wrong one! I've been thinking about that scripture "a hair on your head shall not be lost." I know it sounds like I'm trying to be cute here (maybe just a little, but only a little) but I'm changing it to more current relevance. Of course, after a couple of rounds of chemo, the "hair on the head" maybe will sound more relevant too.

2. Margins are clear. I can't tell you how marvelous this is. If the margins were NOT clear, that would mean the surgeon didn't get all of it and would have to do more surgery. Awful.

3. The mass he removed was big (9 cm) but most of it was NOT invasive cancer, which is what they worry about most. Not that there wasn't cancer, but the cancer masses were all small. The biggest was only about 2 cm. WAY better news than we thought.

4. There were lymph nodes involved. This is the bad news. The four "sentinel" lymph nodes, the first four that drain(ed) the breast, were all "involved." They did another 13 lymph nodes, and three had microscopic cancer in them. On one hand, it is bad that there is cancer there. On the other hand, there is not a lot, and most of the lymph nodes were NOT involved. That is to say, chemo and radiation should get the little buggers. Hooray for chemo and radiation!

Thank you all so much for your prayers, good thoughts, love, lighting candles, fasts, and putting me on the prayer roll at the temple, depending on religious preference! I have been so grateful for all of you. Please don't stop! I feel the first big step has been taken, but I still have a long road of...unpleasantness to deal with. I can't express how much you have strengthened me. I feel so lucky for the support I have in this crappy situation.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

New Hair

I really need pictures for this post, but I don't have them yet. Still, I can document the story for posterity!

Today I got my hair cut. I have a few weeks -- maybe eight-- before my hair falls out. But when it does, my understanding is it's like the cartoon leaves that basically go whump! and are on the ground. I thought that if 18+ inches of hair fell off like that, well, it would be harder than necessary. Also, I like my hair. So I decided to cut off my hair preemptively to make a hat with hair. I'm planning on getting a wig, too, but I thought it would be psychologically comforting to actually have my own real hair. It also won't be as hard when only 2 inches of hair falls out. I hope.

Today, then, I went to see Lorna, who has done Mom's hair for basically forever. At Mom's suggestion, I also took my kids. There are family legends about Benn seeing Mom's new haircut or (worse!) Dad after having shaved off his mustache and sort of freaking out. Sabrina and Sasha watched the process. Sabrina told me I looked like a boy. Sigh. But no one freaked out (until Spencer saw it, that is). Raiden didn't care, because apparently I sound the same, or smell the same, or something. Regardless, he wasn't bugged, and thanks to them watching the process, the Twokids weren't either. Sabrina also got her hair trimmed, so that was another thing that helped her be okay with my hair cut. I did tell her I was getting my hair really short, and she told me she just wanted her hair "a little bit short." It took me a little while to realize she wanted her hair still long. A little bit long. Of course.

I'm exiting denial. It sucks. Denial is a nice place to live. Nice climate.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013


Today, I met with the plastic surgeon. When I have a mastectomy in a couple of weeks, he will put in a tissue expander to make room for eventual reconstruction. Because I'm having radiation, he does not want to just put in an implant, since radiation kills both cancer cells and perfectly good cells. There are two options.

1. Use tissue from the abdomen. Tummy tuck plus reconstruction? Sounds great! However, there are downsides, most notably FIVE days in the hospital and six weeks of recovery. Plus, surprising as it may sound, I don't have enough tissue in my abdomen to reconstruct this baby. Strike option number one.

2. Use the latissimus muscle. The downside here is that I'll never again be a world-class swimmer or rower. My public will be disappointed. It looks like option two is the winner.

I have had so many people call and email to check on me. Thank you all so much! I feel so loved and taken care of. Thank you especially for your prayers and fasts. I feel incredibly humble that so many people are taking my cancer problems to Heavenly Father. I don't know what I need yet from my family and friends, but right now the prayers and love are the best things I could ask for. Second is that those of you who know my children, please love them. They are my biggest concerns right now. They are almost my only concerns. I cannot bear the thought of leaving them. This is what breaks my heart. Fortunately, it looks like that won't happen, which is why I really am doing well right now. I can do it. I can do the physical pain and discomfort and reconstruction. I will miss my hair and breast, but as long as I still have my health family and friends, I will make it through this hard time and come out the other side. I plan on looking back at this year from the age of a tree. An old tree, maybe an olive tree.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Treatment Plan

I realized I did a whole post about the day, but neglected the treatment plan! And, of course, everyone wants to know!

1. Mastectomy in a week or so. Family pictures previous to this, so I can remember me.

2. 4-6 weeks after surgery, 4 cycles of yucky chemo, every other week.

3. 12 weeks of not-so-yucky chemo, weekly.

4a. Six-ish weeks of radiation, daily, after step 3 and concurrent with step 4b.
4b. Continue not-yucky, hair-growing, no-vomiting chemo for a year, every three weeks.

5. Be cancer free. Burn the ashes and stomp on them gleefully. I'm not sure what this means, exactly, but you get the general idea.

Tests and pricks

Today was the big day. I got to Huntsman this morning at 8:30 for labs and lots and lots of tests, as well as meeting with my distinguished doctor, John Ward, M.D. & G.P. (Great Person).

After getting an IV, I went for my first ever MRI. (This is a week of firsts.) The MRI was very noisy, and more boring than a c-section. That was just of the breasts. By the way, if you're scared of the word "breast," you may want to skip this blog for, I don't know, the next year.

When the MRI was done, I met with Dr. Ward, G.P. He really is the greatest. I might say I am already be doing the "fall in love with the person saving your life" thing, except that I've loved Dr. Ward since I was Sabrina's age. He did the new patient interview and a quick physical, including tests I think are only for the doctor's amusement, like touching my nose, then his finger, then my nose again. I had a hard time with that one because I was laughing so much. He told me that other than the ENORMOUS MASS in my breast (there's that word again!) I was the picture of perfect health. No other masses, great blood work, negative tumor marker, etc., etc.

Then, everyone offered me food, juice, whatever I wanted. I can't, despite the fact that I'm starving, due to a PET scan at 1:30. (Mom likes PETs better than CATs, because she is non-speciest.) Instead, I met with a woman who just happened to be in for her yearly I-don't-have-cancer checkup. She got cancer almost identical to mine at 36. It was nice to talk to someone who went through it, although she didn't have kids at the time. She adopted the day she finished Herceptin. Or whatever that drug is.

At 1:30 I went back to Radiology for my PET. First, you have to get a radioactive sugar thing in your IV. Then, you have to sit and not do anything (except, of course, think about your cancer), not read, not work, nothing, for over an hour. They don't want your brain too busy, because they want the sugar to go to the tumors, not your brain. Whatevs. Then the PET. I think I fell asleep. It was quiet, soothing, and moved me back and forth. Also, more boring than a c-section.

After the PET, I went back to Dr. Ward to get my results. In the room, besides me, were Dr. Ward, his nurse, his PA, and my mom. A tight fit. Looking through the PET, he told me there is some lymph node involvement, it looks like, but nothing else. Combined with my negative tumor marker, it looks like this cancer can be sucker punched and beaten into submission. Hooray! I honestly didn't know what good news it was until I saw my mom's face. Then I knew. This is great, great news. This impression was seconded by a nurse walking by and giving me the big smile and thumbs up. Yes, cancer, we will pummel you until you die.

I know this post is long already, but I wanted to put in this poem. I've always liked it, now I love it. It's how I plan to live my life from now on. It's how I always planned on living my life, but the minutia of life got in the way. Cancer sure has a way of boiling life down to its essence. Oh, and I, like the poet, plan on fifty more springs.

LOVELIEST of trees, the cherry now
Is hung with bloom along the bough,
And stands about the woodland ride
Wearing white for Eastertide.

Now, of my threescore years and ten,
Twenty will not come again,
And take from seventy springs a score,
It only leaves me fifty more.

And since to look at things in bloom
Fifty springs are little room,
About the woodlands I will go
To see the cherry hung with snow.

A.E. Housman

Thursday, April 4, 2013


It's been a long time since I posted. I have great excuses about being busy, working a lot, getting up really early. They're all true. However, it's time I started posting again. I've been diagnosed with breast cancer, and what is more therapeutic than writing your innermost thoughts about your breasts for the consumption of the general public?

Here's the timeline.
Monday, pap smear and oh yeah, breast exam.
Tuesday, mammogram, ultrasound, biopsy. The hell of waiting.
Wednesday, more hell. Then the results. Cancer in the breast, hopefully not the lymph nodes. That's good news!
Thursday, hooray! The waiting is over. Now I can plan. Far fewer tears than any day since Tuesday.

I really like my breasts. And my hair. I think they're two of my best features. I can face it, though. I can face the chemo, surgery, radiation, losing some of my favorite features, reconstruction, nausea. It's all going to be okay. The thought of leaving my babies, though, is unbearably painful. It has caused 95% of my tears. Happily, I don't think it will come to that. Everything looks pretty good.

Humor, naturally, is the way I am going to cope with this. I'm sure I was totally hilarious during the ultrasound of my lump. I did not, however, ask if the lump was a boy or a girl. It seemed too cliche. And, heaven knows, we don't want our gallows humor to be cliche. I do want to say, however, that I showed those doctors. They told me no showering for 24 hours after the biopsy, and I showered after 22. Boo-yeah!

I don't have many answers right now, and I don't even know the questions to ask. I would appreciate all your prayers. I know I'll get through this, hopefully with my sense of humor intact.