I cried to my hubby the other night that I did not want to become “The Cancer Patient”…to which he responded “And I don’t want to be “The Cancer Patient’s Spouse”. I’m so thankful that he GETS it. It’s easy to look at us now and only see the diagnosis and the prognosis. Don’t feel guilty. I do it to myself! I fight daily not to let cancer become the sole lens through which I view myself. It makes me incredibly angry. It makes me incredibly discouraged. My strength and mobility…or the lack thereof…should not define me. And yet I catch myself wondering who I am if I can’t train for triathlon, or cook dinner for my family or clean my own house. If I can’t go to work or the grocery store or youth group. If I can’t DO then WHO am I?

You’ve probably seen the inspirational memes stating “You are not a human doing, you are a human being” touting that our worth is not found in what we DO but who we ARE. That’s all nice and pretty and true. The more dominant truth is that’s not how we operate. It’s not how our society operates. We’re the only species that anguishes over our purpose. My cat sleeps in her cat tree all day. She’s not worried about productivity. Our dog is secure in her role to watch over and protect us but she does not agonize over if she’s doing enough or is pursuing the “right” purpose.

The fact is, I’m the same person I’ve always been. I’m still farm animal obsessed. I still laugh at our favorite comedians and animal fail videos. I still want to hear about my friends’ days…good and bad. About their triumphs and their struggles. I still want to read race reports and hear about funny training stories. I still want to be part of my youth group girls’ lives. I still love chocolate and cheesecake and good food and time with friends. I’m still a Marvel girl and my favorite genre of book is still fantasy. I’m still all the things God created me to be. I just can’t DO. Maybe that will change with treatment but if it doesn’t, I am still ME. And if it does, I’m starting to examine what is worth adding back in and what is unnecessary filler.

When I was a kid, I would have identified as a “book nerd”. If I could tell my kid self that one day I would be required to sit still 24/7 but would have practically any book ever written at my fingertips, my kid self would have been ecstatic. My kid self was not concerned with productivity or purpose. Maybe I’m coming full circle even though I still wrestle with the concept of “wasting” time. Sometimes I sit and stare out at my backyard for an hour. I watched a bird build a nest this morning. I’ve never just sat and marveled at that feat of nature. Still – I was uneasy with the idea that I did not DO anything. But I also figure God could have taken me suddenly. I have never been guaranteed another day. None of us have. And yet, here we are. I don’t know what that means except that we do have a purpose. Even if you can’t go and do, you have a purpose. You are worthwhile. Jesus said the two most important things are to “love God” and “love people”. We don’t have to be strong or mobile to do that.

So. I’m not just “The Cancer Patient”. I am still ME. My husband is still HIM. Please fight past the ease of reducing us to a diagnosis. And remember not to limit your identity to what you can do either.

Don’t Live Like You’re Dying

When we first started this cancer journey last year, one of my youth group girls sat beside me one night and said multiple times “You can’t die.” I confidently told her “I’m more likely to die every time I drive Eagle Road* than I am from this.” (This time last year I was still curable)

We have a group that started out working together but became close friends outside of the office. She said “I kept thinking, we might lose a close friend in the next 18 months. I just couldn’t process it. But then I thought…any of us could die before her.”

We lost another friend a couple of years ago after she went several rounds with cancer. She would tell people “We’re all dying. I’m just doing it faster than you.”

How very very true. Every morning that we wake up is a gift. Every evening that we get to go to bed is a miracle. Lord knows there are approximately 7,359 ways we could be killed on a daily basis. In some ways, being given a timeline is a gift. It has caused me to examine my life and sharpen priorities. It has given me the opportunity to hyper-focus with an intensity that is not possible to maintain otherwise. And there is some freedom to behave more “irresponsibly” when you KNOW time is limited versus when you think you have another 30-40 years.

The cliche’ “Live like you are dying” is not reasonable. There’s a lot I can do with my prognosis that I would not have considered when there was a long future to prepare for. But “every day is a gift”? That I can get behind.

I spent some time examining my life recently, specifically looking for amends that need to be made and regrets that can be either addressed or released. It’s an exercise that should probably be a regular habit, and not just a death process task. But I have some regrets that I realized aren’t truly important:

  • I never practiced enough to be fluent in French (or any second language).
  • I never rode in a hot air balloon. That’s a little more disappointing but still not truly important.
  • I never completed a 70.3.
  • I’m going to keep playing piano but I am not likely to every play as well or as much as I want.

I’m sure I could list more but these fall clearly under the “release” column. I hesitate to even to label them with a word as powerful as “regret”. Mild disappointment is a better descriptor. Thankfully I do not have a lot of true regrets. The only one I have clearly identified (so far) is this:

I did not invest enough time in important relationships.

If there are amends to be made, they are because of this. Every true regret that I have falls under this.

Many – if not all- of us have had the thought “Later”… I’ll text her later. We’ll have lunch later. This month is just so busy. Maybe we can hang out later. I’m so tired of Zoom…maybe some other time. (I’m super guilty of this) But if every day is a gift, “later” starts to feel too late.

I did not cure any diseases or write a best seller or become a social media influencer. The world at large will not remember me. And that’s okay. God gave me life so that I could positively impact people immediately around me but I did not let that be my guiding life principle. There was always “Later.”

You don’t have to live like you’re dying. Don’t quit your job. Don’t drastically increase your cookies and milkshake consumption.

Go ahead and clean out some unnecessary clutter. Examine your life to see if there are amends to be made or regrets to be addressed. And for the love – don’t wait until later to spend time with the important people.

Thoughts on being called a warrior

Well. I guess we’re not movin on. If you follow me on Instagram or are a friend irl and/or on FB, you know the most recent news.

In short. Awhile ago I started developing joint stiffness/pain. About a month ago I had trouble getting up our stairs for the first time. Hubby encouraged me to call my oncologist office. I had a CT scan and bone scan and they found numerous bone lesions consistent with metastatic cancer. We’re still waiting on biopsy results to confirm that and to identify if I’ll be a candidate for immunotherapy in addition to chemotherapy. Average prognosis for triple negative metastatic breast cancer is one – two years.

There’s a lot more to be said because I *always* have a lot of to say. But I wanted to start here — with the oddness of being called “warrior” or “fighter” or any of the synonyms.

I want to be very clear – I appreciate ALL the support and love that I’ve received. Our support system is amazing and there are very few “wrong” things to say (it’s also okay to not know what to say). I am not calling anyone out nor do I want anyone to feel bad for using these terms.

When I was first diagnosed last year, a lot of people called me “warrior”, “fighter”, “wonder woman” etc. And it didn’t particularly bother me then. It definitely did not feel accurate. But at that point, it was curable. I was going to “beat this”.

Now? Now everything is different. I read those words and am grateful for the support but simultaneously…uncomfortable. I had not really tried to identify why until Hubby sent me a blog post written by another woman with stage 4 cancer. A lot of things clicked. Suddenly I understood why it bothers me. I do love a good list so….

  1. There’s no battle. I will do what I can to stay (otherwise) healthy. I don’t want to sabotage treatments by weakening my body further. I’ll stay hydrated, rest, get good nutrients and all that jazz. (Although my cookie consumption has gone up significantly and for that I will not apologize) Of course I will show up for my treatments. But beyond that? There’s no fighting for me to do. I’ve heard all the things about all the natural options. But in the end, I lose. Period. Or do I? Because the cancer won’t survive without my body to sustain it. So when my body dies, so does the cancer.
  2. We are in this crazy world together. 2020 was HARD for a lot of people. 2021 is HARD for a lot of people. People are suffering physically, mentally, emotionally or all of the above. People are grieving. People are scared. People without cancer are fighting big battles. Every day that they survive, every night that they fall into bed battered and bruised and exhausted, they are demonstrating a strength that they may not feel. There should not be a competition for who has it worse. My prognosis does not trump or invalidate someone else’s bad day/week/month/year.
  3. It’s exhausting. I am tired most of the time. I hurt most of the time. I don’t REALLY want to think about having cancer. It’s necessary sometimes. There are details that have to be discussed. And it’s impossible to ignore all the time. I already feel like I’m living in a broken, alien body that’s a constant niggling reminder. We try to live life as normal as possible but there’s very little that’s normal. I don’t want to think about battles or fighting or anything so dramatic and energy sapping. I saw a post that said “I don’t want to be the strongest person you know.” No idea who to credit but that is accurate. I can be strong. I don’t want to be. A lot of the time it’s just too exhausting.

I have posted a lot on social media which is basically asking for responses. My goal is to highlight positives but in the interest of transparency, I have shared some hard stuff too. If you have called me any of the “warrior” varieties – let me reiterate – I am not upset. If I loved you before, I still do. I appreciate your encouragement. And if it happens in the future, I am not going to shun you. I am being intentional about where I focus and I prefer to be grateful for the intention and heart behind the statements. But I also hope that if you love me, you would want to know. That being said, my hubby bought me a CUTE Wonder Woman purse for Christmas and I will continue to carry that. Because cute. And I do like the “real” Wonder Woman.

Wrapping up and Moving On

I realize I have not posted anything beyond the port insertion surgery story. I find I’m not really all that inclined to document the minutiae of chemo/radiation/chemo. I tolerated the chemo infusions relatively well considering what it was. I often overheard other patients talking to the nurses about side effects and would find myself relieved that I didn’t have it so bad (and feeling somewhat guilty at times too if we’re honest). I never had any nausea or stomach issues. Of course I grew weaker and more fatigued but I was able to continue going for walks through the Taxol (the first, and “easier”, drug). My biggest issue was joint pain. After 12 weeks of weekly Taxol treatments, I switched to Adriamycin and cyclophosphamide (also known as the Red Devil) for four treatments over eight weeks. (Usually they start with Adriamycin & cyclophosphamide) The first couple of treatments definitely hit me harder than Taxol had. There were days I could barely get out of my chair. I would go from bed to recliner to bed. I got up only to go to the bathroom. Hubby would bring me food. And honestly, my memory from that period is very fuzzy. But since there were two weeks between treatments, I would start feeling slightly better right before I went in again. We moved the weekend before my third treatment. I was able to rally enough to help with the move…some. And unpack a little bit before I was down again. But that treatment I ended up with Hand Foot Syndrome. Basically the chemo leaks out of capillaries in the extremities and causes heat sensitivity and blisters. Somehow the worst of it cleared up before the last treatment. It wasn’t completely gone but at least I could walk.

I had my final treatment Monday, June 1, 2020. My parents, both sisters and their families flew in on Thursday for our oldest son’s wedding. My sisters, brothers-in-law, three nieces and one nephew stayed with us. (My parents stayed in a hotel within half a mile of us). The wedding was on Saturday the 4th. We hosted the reception at our new house. Yes, the one we moved into 3 weeks earlier. It was all wonderful and beautiful and I loved every moment…except for the mouth sores I developed. Somehow I did not feel awful though. I think the adrenaline and excitement carried me through.

(Pics below: My last day of chemo and the shirt my mom sent for the occasion; My sisters and I at the wedding. Yes, I’m wearing a wig)

On June 15 I had an MRI. They did not see any cancer on the scan. But when I had my lumpectomy on July 1st, there was still a tiny bit of active tumor. Just 15% of the original size. But it was there…until they removed it. I count July 1st as my “cancer free” date.

Radiation started on August 10 and lasted seven weeks. We discovered I had “radiation resistant skin”…so I didn’t burn as badly as expected. Oh I still burned. But it could have been worse.

In October we tried oral chemo to reduce my chance of re-occurrence. I was supposed to do take it three weeks on/one week off for six months. But as soon as I started my second round, I developed Hand Foot Syndrome again. My oncologist office told me to stop taking it immediately and after it cleared up, we would try again at a lower dose. I started crying one night at dinner and told my husband I didn’t want to start taking it again. We talked about statistics and the impact it was having on our life and decided to forego any further treatment. It all impacted my husband at least as much as it did me. I would say more so. I went into my next appointment (Nov 18) prepared to for push back but my care team was incredibly supportive. They agreed that we had made the best decision for our family and affirmed that I had been through aggressive treatment. And they encouraged me not to second guess myself.

And here we are. Almost three months from that last appointment. I still have to have check-ups every six months. And I really should go get my port flushed. I’m still weak but am getting stronger. I still have joint pain/stiffness, some days worse than others. I still try to claim chemo brain but I’m not sure that really flies anymore. And now I have enough hair that it looks like a cute little pixie cut.

I told my oncologist at my last appointment that I “want to be JUST a diabetic” since I never had the opportunity to figure that out without chemo/steroids/general trauma to my system. And I finally have the bandwidth to really start learning about it, and how my body responds. There are a lot of factors, only a handful of which are easily controlled.

It’s time to move on from the cancer saga. There’s so much else I want to write about and focus on. I’m always willing to answer questions. If someone would like to me to expound on something specific, I’m happy to do that (Assuming it’s not a creepy request. This is the internet after all)

Until next time…

(Current picture. NOT wearing a wig)

January 22, 2020 – Surgery Day

Until January 22, 2020 I had never been “put under”. And I was okay with that. I would have been perfectly happy never having to be under anesthesia. I’ve since heard that some port placements can be done with local (and my removal will be) but mine was not.

We didn’t have to be at the hospital ridiculously early. Maybe 8? I honestly don’t remember. I did all the fun check in paperwork and my request to go to the bathroom was denied (I had been drinking Gatorade per their instructions). After waiting for what seemed like FOREVER but was in reality less than ten minutes, they took me back to pre-op…and finally let me go to the bathroom. Because, pregnancy test. I told them if it came back positive we had a much bigger issue than cancer.

The pre-op bays are a joke for privacy. I knew the names of everyone around me, what kind of surgery they were having, why, who was with them, and even their birth dates and details about their lives. I remember very little…and not one name or birth date…so I guess my brain is not violating HIPPA.

The staff was amazing. But don’t tell them you have good veins. It almost guarantees they won’t be able to get the IV in easily. Most of the pre-op is a blur of people in and out, questions, vitals being taken. But I do vividly remember that my anesthesiologist’s voice was incredibly soothing. (Her name was Tatiana but I have no memory of what she looked like)

In the OR the nurse asked if I was claustrophobic because she was going to “swaddle” me on the table. I told her that actually sounded wonderful. Then she put an oxygen mask on me and for the first time ever, I suddenly became VERY claustrophobic. I was trying to tell her I didn’t like it when Tatiana told me I was going to feel something “spicy” in my IV and it was just my “sleepy juice”.

And the I woke up in recovery.

I looked over at the nurse and said “I haven’t met you yet.” He told me he only worked in recovery so I wouldn’t have. He asked how I felt and I told him “sleepy”, then tried to curl up and go back to sleep. He wouldn’t let me…and I told him he was NOT my favorite nurse. He asked me if I could get dressed on my own and I said “Yeah. I feel tipsy…like I’ve had a Mike’s hard lemonade. But I can get dressed. I’m a bit of a lightweight.” He dryly replied “I gathered that from the Mike’s comment.”

After meeting with the doctor (which I remember almost none of), Jon put me in the truck and we started home. It was right at lunchtime and I hadn’t eaten since dinner the night before. I asked him to drive through somewhere because I wanted chicken nuggets and french fries. He reminded me that the doctor told me to eat like I was recovering from a stomach bug (clear liquids, toast, etc). And I promptly started crying. Not just a few tears. Oh no. Full blown CRYING. Because I didn’t WANT broth. I wanted chicken nuggets and french fries. And I was quite vocal about it. Finally he sighed and told me to eat whatever I wanted but he wasn’t responsible when I got sick.

I did not get sick. I ate chicken nuggets and french fries. (Spoiler – I craved it all through chemo) And then all the left overs I could find in the refrigerator. All while crying. Turns out coming out of anesthesia makes me hungry. And makes me cry. Jon would walk through and say “You’re eating AGAIN?!!? And why are you crying?!!?” My only response “Uh-huh and I don’t know. I feel fine. But my body keeps crying.”

The Surgeon told me I would be fine with ibuprofen and could go back to “life as normal” the next day. So I went to work the next day. For eight hours. That was a mistake. Turns out my surgeon is quite the optimist. I was okay with just ibuprofen except for my shoulder. They did something to it and it HURT for several days.

Overall not a bad experience. I kinda like the anesthesia nap. That’s some of the best sleep I’ve ever had.

At home post surgery

January 14, 2020 – meeting my surgeon

(Funny aside…when I wrote this title, I originally wrote January 14, 2019. Because the year has felt that long.)

If you’ve been following along with this journey, you might remember that my PCP told me in December that the cancer was small and we were looking at a quick surgery, 12 weeks recovery and back to normal. He referred me to a surgeon that his wife (also a physician) used for her surgeries. The referral was accompanied with high praise, including that he doesn’t send his patients to anyone else. Good enough for me.

This whole time, while I have been saying “easy surgery and done”, my hubby had the attitude of “wait and see”.

The day of the appointment, we went to lunch (Italian food…one of my favorites) then drove to the surgeon’s office. Ahhh…back in the day when your spouse could accompany you to appointments in PERSON. I had already had this appointment several times in my head. We were going to talk about how quickly surgery could be done. Restrictions after, healing time, what I would be able to do versus what I wanted to do. We sat in the examining room and I was confidently prepared to drive this discussion.

The Surgeon burst into the room with his energetic manner, plopped down on the stool, rolled right up to me (personal space? what?), patted my leg and said “We’re looking at a nasty little cancer here. If we don’t do chemo, we’re going to lose you in five years. We can just do surgery but it will come back in your bones and brain.” Turns out my PCP did not have all of the pathology results and it was pretty agressive. (Triple negative)

Not the conversation we were supposed to be having.

I was blindsided. Jon was not. I don’t remember much about the rest of the visit…it’s all quite a blur. I remember The Surgeon telling me I was going to lose my hair and I teared up. He patted my shoulder and said “It will grow back” and I said “But it took me SO LONG to get it this long.” I know he was patting my hand for what felt like the whole time. I know I couldn’t think enough to form questions…I think Jon asked a couple but I couldn’t tell you what they were. I remember being relieved I didn’t have to drive home and then starting to cry on that drive. The Surgeon was very positive on the prognosis side of things. There was no doubt that this was curable. But it wasn’t the journey that was supposed to happen. I remember it snowed. That I remember vividly. Because it wasn’t suppose to and I was wearing canvas shoes.

Surgery to put in my port was scheduled for the next Wednesday (22nd). I received my pre-surgery instructions and started figuring out who all we needed to let know. Scratch that. I texted my mom and sisters and a couple of my closest friends. Jon took care of letting other people know.

I was meeting two good friends that night for dinner and a movie. They offered to reschedule but I wanted to do something normal. We went to see “Little Women” and it made me miss my sisters. I don’t know when in the movie I started crying but I didn’t really stop until we got to the parking lot and I had to focus on navigating the icy patches. I’m pretty sure there’s a life analogy in that somewhere.

My Facebook post from two days later is below. There’s a few more details in it…

I guess it’s time for a “public” update on the whole health saga. Actually the surgeon told me I was “very healthy” so let’s just let that sit for a moment. He also told us that we need more than surgery to treat the cancer. I’ll go in to get a port next Wednesday (22nd), we meet with the oncologist next Friday (24th) and I’ll start chemo sometime after that. The outcome is still the same. The surgeon said he’s confident it’s curable. It’s just a different treatment plan. And since I’m “very healthy” he expects me to tolerate chemo well. I don’t know exactly what that means but I like the sound of it even though I’m sure it doesn’t equate to “life as normal”. I won’t have any restrictions on me during treatment. I can swim/bike/run/yoga/work/youth group/etc as much as I feel able. I’ll probably lose my hair but I’ve been telling people I look cute in hats. (Cause I DO) And maybe I’ll get to sport some fun wigs too. It will definitely make getting ready easier…and I don’t have to mess with swim caps for awhile! Oh! And I also get to have an MRI. I’m kinda excited for that. I know it might sound odd but I’ve always wanted one. I haven’t wanted a REASON to have one but the whole process is fascinating to me. So check that off the bucket list I guess! Jon and I still don’t need anything right now. That might change as we go through this process. I’m reserving the right to change my mind and call on some of you down the road. 😛 But for now, prayers are great!

Also one of my nieces in Arkansas mailed me a bracelet that she made and I wore it constantly for weeks.

Next – my first experience with anesthesia. (Spoiler alert – I am not AT ALL dramatic….)

Flashback Friday – January 8, 2020

Back to the saga of 2020…

I met with my Primary Care Provider and we discussed the whole cancer thing. But we also discussed diabetes. Because, you know, cancer isn’t enough.

You may (or may not) know that I was diagnosed with type two diabetes in May of 2016. I was never able to control it. I had periods of time that were better but not consistently, even when I was eating really well and exercising. A lot.

In 2019 I trained for a half-iron distance race. That’s a 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike and 13.1 mile run (70.3 miles total). One does not just “do” a race of that distance. At least THIS one doesn’t. It’s quite a bit of training. I did the training. And the race (in September 2019) did not go as planned. That’s a whole ‘nother story. But when we did blood work in December, my blood sugar numbers were awful. (A1C for those who know) All that moving, they should have been great. After all, type 2 can be controlled with “diet and exercise”. But they were quite the opposite of great. My PCP said “I don’t know how to help you. I’m out of ideas. I’m referring you to an endocrinologist.”

So on January 8th, I walked into an endocrinologist office expecting a lecture about better dietary compliance. But he listened to my history and very calmly said “You’re not type 2. We’ll do blood work to confirm that but I’m 99.9% confident that you have adult onset type 1. Your pancreas shut down over a couple of years instead of immediately but you were never going to be able to control it with diet and exercise.” I immediately burst into tears causing the him a fair amount of concern: Endocrinologist “…I can see that I’ve upset you…” Me – now laughing and crying simultaneously – “No! No! I’m so RELIEVED!”

The bloodwork confirmed the diagnosis. He took me off a med for type 2 that was actually working against me, prescribed me rapid acting insulin and put me on a Libre Freestyle.

The Libre is a device I wear on my arm and scan to get blood sugar readings instead of having to stab my finger every few hours. It’s fantastic…now. But trying to put it on the first time was fifteen minutes of dramatic tears, declarations that I would just continue to do finger sticks because “my fingertips are numb now anyway”, and begging to call a friend that wears the same device to “find out how it feels”…at 10:30 at night. My hubby finally threatened to put it on me himself (to which I responded “DO NOT TOUCH ME!! I’LL DO IT!”) and eventually I was able to push down on the “installer” enough to insert the little needle in my arm. Jon stared at me expectantly. I sheepishly said “Oh. I didn’t feel anything.”

This has all been at LEAST as much fun for him as it has me.

So that’s how we started our year. Surprise! You’re insulin dependent! That was the first appointment of MANY to come.

My new hardware

We interrupt your regularly scheduled program…

During our morning walk, my co-workers were discussing their journey as writers. I mentioned that I felt like my writing muscles have atrophied. Once upon a time I would have considered myself somewhat of a writer. That started about the 6th grade (aka a LOOOOOOONG time ago). These days? Not so much. It’s something I regularly feel “nudged” to do but rarely follow through on. As social media grew in popularity, I started using those platforms more. I feel like those posts lack the substance that a blog encourages although I do enjoy the ease of interaction.

That being said. When I re-read my first two entries on the whole cancer journey, they felt somewhat stiff and shallow. I attribute that to two factors: (1) the aforementioned lack of writing practice and (2) the genuine lack of emotion I remember feeling during that time (other than irritation of course). I mentioned it felt surreal. It really did…or maybe just not at all real.

Also – and this might go without saying but still. I’m relaying how I remember things…and my memory isn’t great during the best of times. You’ll find my husband is the actual hero of the story. But I’m sure he has a much different memory of many events/moments . In the last two decades he lost both his grandfather and his mother to cancer…and he was heavily involved in both of their journeys as well. This is pretty much my first encounter with the disease. That contrast in experience, along with the natural difference in perspectives, means we saw things through distinctive lenses. I’ll talk about how I saw him react or what I THINK he was thinking/feeling but that’s no guarantee that I’m accurate on those points.

Before I started treatment, we joked about “chemo brain”. (We actually made a lot of jokes within the walls of our home that would have made most people look at us in horror. We use humor to deal with a lot of life. I only regret that I do not remember more of the jokes but I DO remember laughing a lot). After I started treatment I tried to use chemo brain as an excuse. Still do actually. Most people let me have it. Hubby shakes his head and said “Nope. That’s just Rhoni brain.” The week before I started chemo I walked in a circle THREE TIMES in the kitchen trying to remember what I was doing. He might have a point. MY POINT is that I thought I had something else to say but now I can’t remember what it is.

Without a fun seque or nice tidy ending, I’ll simply say – stay tuned. I’ll return to recounting the journey soon!

The Biopsy and Results (Miracles #2 & 3)

My husband drove me to the biopsy appointment. My best friend had offered to go with me. I thought it was odd that anyone would want to go. It was just local anesthesia so I could drive. And they would just be sitting in the waiting room. But it was at the downtown hospital so I was glad that Jon took me since I’m not familiar with that location.

The biopsy team was fantastic even though I felt like they were handling me with kid gloves again. There was a lot of hand patting and arm rubbing. Jon and I had talked about that after the last appointment and I realized that they probably worked with a lot of very scared, freaked out women. I just…wasn’t. It all felt a little surreal. And (as I’ve mentioned), a lot irritating. But like I said – the team was great. They are good at what they do. I knew when the doctor was about to take a sample because the nurse would ask a question to get me talking/distract me even though I honestly did not feel any pain or discomfort, I would just hear the loud “click”. I spent the evening watching movies with my ice pack but never developed a bruise. It was a non-event. I’ve talked to other women who did NOT have that experience and am very grateful that it was so easy for me.

Because that was a Wednesday afternoon, the results phone call was scheduled the next Monday afternoon (Dec 16). I’m a planner. While I don’t mind (good) surprises, I hate suspense. I usually “plan for the worst, hope for the best”. My husband says I’m pessimistic. I say I’m prepared. But in this case, I barely thought about it. My usual MO would be to consider every possible scenario and how I would respond to it. And while I did that a little, I did not obsess over it. I was going to take the phone call at work and move on with my day. Jon asked me to come home so we could both be there. And yes, I know, that makes MUCH MORE sense. But it was still mostly a non-issue to me.

Driving home Monday afternoon, it suddenly hit me…this could be a thing. I felt anxiety start to rise…and then immediate calm. I felt like God was saying “I already know the results. I’m already in that moment waiting for you.”

When the call came, I put the nurse on speaker phone in our living room. She started by saying the lymph node biopsy came back negative. Whew. But then she said “But they did find cancer in the breast.” And she told me to schedule an appointment with my Primary Care Physician asap.

Miracle #2 – it is very, VERY difficult to get in with my PCP. He is ALWAYS booked out for months. I know in this situation they would have found a way to work me in. But I already had an appointment for THE NEXT DAY. That I had scheduled a YEAR EARLIER. It was supposed to be my annual check-up but the purpose had just changed.

I hung up the phone, looked at Jon, started laughing and said “Well. At least if I have to have a mastectomy….” He interrupted me with “No. No. You are NOT going to tell me how this will help your triathlon”…which was EXACTLY what I was going to tell him. I was laughing about “free speed”. He was not amused. Too soon.

I like my lists and calendars and schedules. I like my plans. I like control. The fact that NONE OF THIS had freaked me out is Miracle #3. The next day when my PCP asked how I was doing, I told him I was irritated that it was going to mess up my 2020 triathlon season. He said “Nah. It’s pretty small. You’ll have surgery and be back to training in twelve weeks.” And that was what we told people.

Ha. Little did any of us know…

In the beginning aka Miracles #1

It’s been almost two years since I posted. Does anyone still read blogs? Maybe not. I know I often don’t take the time to even read an Instagram post, much less a full blog post!

I’ve decided to document the past year/my cancer journey. I don’t really know if there was a reason. But the thought has come up more and more often lately. Last week a co-worker commented that she had appreciated being able to keep up on social media but thought I should blog the journey. That was the confirmation I needed. And if I’m being REALLY honest, I kinda miss writing. So maybe no one else will read this and it’s just for me. But maybe God will bring who needs to read it. So with no further ado – let’s start at the beginning.

Once upon a time…October 2019 to be exact….

Some co-workers and I were taking our usual walk break and discussing mammograms. That sounds really random. Context – the company health fair was coming up and St. Luke’s Health Care was going to be there with their mobile mammogram bus. I mentioned that I had never had one (at 43 years of age). I had a whole list of reasons: it’s a hassle, there’s SO MANY false positives, there’s no family history….I wasn’t planning to sign up for an appointment. But the day before the fair, my teammate Crystal mentioned she had called to make her appointment and there was one left. She told me I should call and schedule it. And she had HER list of reasons: they were coming to me, insurance paid for it, my doctor had recommended I get one… Fine. I called and got the last open appointment – which also happened to be the last appointment of the day. October 11, 2019 I had my first mammogram. (Miracle #1)

The next week they called and said they wanted me to come in for a diagnostic mammogram and scheduled me for November 21. I was irritated. Obviously they weren’t concerned since it was over a month away. It was exactly why I didn’t want to do this…it was a hassle.

On November 21st I went in for the diagnostic mammogram. The tech cheerfully told me they were going to try and “squish that spot out”. Yay. They tugged and squished and squashed and smashed. And then told me to sit in the gowned waiting room for the ultrasound tech. At which point I thought “Huh. Guess it didn’t ‘squish out'”

I laid on the table while the ultrasound tech rubbed the cold wand up around my left boob…and up into my armpit. And I thought “That’s lymph node territory. Great.” I was not surprised when she asked me to wait for the doctor. I was not surprised when the doctor came in and told me they wanted to do a biopsy on a spot on my breast…and my lymph nodes. I did feel like they were treating me like a fragile vase they were expecting to shatter at any moment…which kinda irritated me. I was fine. I mean, I was irritated by yet ANOTHER appointment. But I was fine. We didn’t even KNOW anything yet.

The biopsy was scheduled for December 11 – two months to the day from the first mammogram. We didn’t tell anyone except my parents and sisters and a couple of close friends. After all, there wasn’t much to tell.