Thursday, January 31, 2013

let's make a deal

who remembers monty hall?  talk about a hustler. an original gangster, all of those deals.  

i used to watch that show with great emotional investment.  monty would cruise the audience, select someone dressed as a cupcake or banana, and ask them, 'do you have a paperclip in your purse?'

 i used to inventory my imaginary let's make a deal purse, trying to outsmart monty if i ever got on.  as if i'd find myself in hollywood.  i was probably eleven or twelve at the time.

i forget what happened after the paper clip discovery part, but at some point, the lucky contestant would get a chance to choose between 3 doors, where the potential for far greater prizes lay in wait.  but behind one of the doors there was always a crash and burn, a 'prize' nobody wanted.  no one in the audience ever wanted to choose the wrong door. god forbid.

monty would say, with great game show host flourish, tell me. 

do you want door number 1......

 door number 2......

 ....or door number 3?

 and he'd kind of drag it out, just for suspense.

nail biting would ensue.  the audience would call out, trying to help the cupcake decide. it was pretty obvious she wanted someone to tell her. especially monty.  not that he would. 

pick door number 2!!  no 3!  go with door number 1! it's door number 1!!  

monty would smile that slick monty game show host smile. i can see it even now. the more i think about it, the more i think monty could have been in 'the family'.  he had that kind of vibe.  he'd wait.  just not forever.  he knew there was a commercial break coming up. it was monty's job to keep things moving.

the cupcake would simply have to choose. she'd have to make up her mind.

 but which door?

i told the godfather that's what it feels like.  it feels like  we're on let's make a deal.

how do we know radiation is best?  

wouldn't mastectomy be more of a guarantee?

are there any guarantees?


i said say we pick door number two.  and we get a washer and dryer.  that'd be pretty good, right?

and just to be sporty, he said sure, even though he really doesn't like playing these games.

then i asked, but what if there's a car behind door number three?

he said well.  you never know. 

 (i believe it's possible the godfather could be monty's 'nephew'.)

i said come on!  we have to decide!  do we stay with the washer and dryer, or should go for the car?  i just don't want to end up with a pair of goats that could be behind door number one. what would we do with those?

as if this is all really happening.

he said katy.  you could walk out the door and get hit by a bus.  you just never know.

i said yes i do. i know i'm not going to get hit by a bus, bc it's not like i'm going to go out and walk into traffic. duh.

he said you know what i mean.

i said which door?

do we stay with the washer and dryer, or do we try for the car?

(if the car even exists)

he said let's ask dr. bear.  that's why we have him.

i said ok.

but dr. bear is kind of like monty if you think about it.  he can't tell us either.

we have to choose.

i don't like this game anymore.  it's not like i have a cupcake costume.  and i never went to hollywood either.

xx katy

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

chemo skin?

before i moved to massey, i was under the care of another dr, who did the first surgery at a different hospital.  this was before we knew it was cancer. at this point, we knew there was a chance,  just not for sure.  that's what this first surgery would eventually tell us.

 that morning we had to first go to another facility to have a wire placed in the tissue, deep in the breast (wincing even now thinking of it) so the surgeon could use this as a guide.  this was required as part of a 'wire guided excisional biopsy.' (who can keep up?) i told the godfather, this doesn't feel like a wire, it seems more like a fish hook.  i can feel it when i move.  but think about it.  fish hooks are wire, aren't they?

later, when we arrived at the hospital, when i was finally moved to the surgical unit for prep, the nurses said 'time for happy hour!'  i said what?
they said we're going to put a cocktail in your iv, so you'll be relaxed going into your surgery.  i said fine.  i already had a fish hook. 

before they did that, i was trying to lay as still as i could so i wouldn't feel that piercing.  but my eyes kept following the colorful surgical caps the nurses were wearing.  i could see all of them had hair underneath.  except for one.

after a while, they all seemed to disappear, except for the one with no hair. she appeared to be close to my age.   she had on colorful glasses, colorful earrings and sweater, along with that brightly colored cap.  

it felt like something was up. so i just asked.  happy hour hadn't even 'started' yet, but i thought big deal. 
i knew they were looking for cancer.  and she did too.  

i said are you in treatment?

she said yes.

i said i figured.  

she said it's not so bad.

but i knew it was bullshit.

i said come on.

she said okay.  okay it stinks.

it felt conspiratorial.  like we were together in some kind of cancer conspiracy.  there we were, sharing a kind of off beat bond.  i'd never been to a happy hour like that before.

i said i'm sure.  but you look great in your cap.  it's so cute with your glasses and all your other colors.

and i said wow.  you're here working too.  that's really something.  

she said well it helps.  everyone is so supportive.  you can probably tell by the caps.  i said yeah. and then i said if they find out i have the kind of cancer where i'll need chemo, i'd wear a cap like that i think.  and i would have.  but 'my kind' of cancer is treated with radiation.  so yippee.  i think i said that before.  

she said i hate every single bit of it.  i'm so mad i can't believe it.  

i never really heard anyone talk like that before about cancer.  but then again, being a rookie, why would i?

i said well.  i get it.  i'd probably be mad too.  (and sometimes i am, what a surprise.)

but i said still.  i know you've lost your hair. and chemo sucks,  but what's the deal with your skin?  it  positively luminous.  

she said oh.  that's the chemo.  it kills everything but somehow it improves the skin on your face. go figure.

i said well.  that's kind of an upside, isn't it?  it's gorgeous. seriously. it's even kind of lucky, don't you think?

she probably wanted to kill me for that. and she could have, given the iv, if you think about it.  this is where your mind can go when you have 'mob ties.'  (which i don't.)

are there any feds reading this?

  she probably thought come on.  an upside to chemo?  what does she know?


   i don't think i'd say that now. actually i know i wouldn't. i'd just let her go on and say what she wanted, not try and turn it around, and turn it into some kind of bs plucky campaign. 

but what did i know?

xx katy

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

ready set jump?

Actress Buff Cobb, Standing on the Diving Board Premium Photographic Print
does this girl look ready to jump to you?  look closely.  there's no water in the pool.  she better be careful, make sure she studies her options very closely.

this is how it can feel when all the testing is done, and you've come to the point where the choice is yours, regarding treatment.  it's a good and bad thing, that yin and yang.

the great dr. bear called last eve, putting me out of the misery of waiting til thursday to find out results of final pathology.  this was super decent of him. he's that kinda guy.

we got clear margins.

even writing it here makes my heart pound, and takes my breath away at the same time.

give me a minute.


okay i'm back.

oh that made me weak just there, saying it then, bc it's still so hard to believe, after 3 surgical attempts. bam bam bam. i'm worn out from even trying to believe it.  but it's the truth.

the good news here, and hooray, bc it really is good news, is this means mastectomy is off the table.  so there is a way there is cause for hallelujah here.  (you can ask the godfather re this, if you don't believe me.)

we'll find out more on thursday, but the outline of plan is that once 'surgical site' (right breast) heals, (supposedly 4 - 6 weeks), you move onto radiation. maybe it's like a graduation. i'll find out.  we won't know how long healing will actually take on a area that's been cut and healed, and cut and healed, and cut and healed again, until time goes along.

that's another reason things seem to take so long.

this time they said no exercise or lifting beyond walking for 6 weeks.  this is a bitch in itself bc it's harder to not be bitchy if you can't work out, and work out some of that energy.  try it.  i know.

i can walk though.  that's something.

 sometimes i feel like i'm falling apart by the day.  i ask the godfather, am i falling apart?  he says no.  i say come on.  you can tell me.  he says i'm telling you. you're not falling apart.

sometimes i believe him.  and sometimes i don't. 

the idea is to reduce the potential for scar tissue build up.  this would not be a helpful thing in the context of radiation.  or further, diagnostic mammograms or other such imagining down the road.  

that's another thing. you already know you're subject to more of that, 'frequent imaging,' once you've been caught in the cancer net.  

(do you think this girl should jump or not?)

there is a way i feel like i should be saying yay!  radiation! thank god!  but that's weird isn't it?  who says yay to that?

but it's what we were 'hoping for.' 

so i guess this means our dreams have come true.

but given the nature of cancer, like i've said, there are no real absolutes.  

there are women, and i can totally see where they're coming from, who say hey.  let's go for the mastectomy.  i don't want to have to wonder anymore.  how do we know it's really gone, when you didn't know it was there all along, when it was a surprise, finding those margins again.  and then again? 

this is that whispering over the shoulder.  my sister wrote 'excellent news!' when she heard the news re the margins.

but her very next text was 're the radiation, i think giuliana rancic opted out of that in favor of mastectomy in order to minimize risk of recurrence?'  

see what i mean?

she was trying to be helpful i know.  it is her nature to consider ALL the options.  and then some.  and i appreciate it.

sure there's risks, benefits, no matter what you decide.  this girl on the board, she'll figure it out.  she's lucky the absence of water is so completely obvious.  that it's so clear.

xx katy

Monday, January 28, 2013

i'll be there

do you ever wonder why 'real' godfathers always seem to have drivers?  do you suppose it's because they might have a teeny faulty sense of direction, yet forever be in denial about it?

thank god for navigation.

at one point, i'm guessing 8 weeks into the 'testing' (biopsies, consults, follow ups, etc) i noticed the godfather hadn't missed a single appointment. i said did you make some kind of deal with yourself to come to every single one?  

he said yeah.  i said you don't have to.  he said i know.
i don't mean to say i took it for granted, bc i didn't, it was just something i noticed once i stopped to think about it.

after the first surgery, but before the 2nd one, is when i became a patient of dr. bear's at massey.  massey is the cancer center, we already knew that by then.

the first day we got there, walking thru those doors, i said whew.  think about it.  no one really ever wants to be here.  you're either a cancer patient, or you're visiting a cancer patient.  he said yeah, that's true.

 we made it through the maze of valet parking, through the hallways, elevators, doors, and into that world.  and i'm not saying we gave each other high 5s when we left, bc we got thru it ok, but we could have.  bc it felt like a kind of accomplishment.

so when i had to go back for my pre - op appt, the godfather asked, do you want me to go?  i said no, i'm fine.  it's only pre-op.  he said are you sure?  i said yeah.  i figured i should be able to make at least one appointment on my own.  i'm a rookie maybe, but not that much of one.  i'd been there before.


i had to dress like a gangster to do it.  a mobster's wife.  (the godfather is not really in the mob btw)

i wore black.  with platform heels.  and fur vest.

i figured that would help.

so when i arrived, after parking, and going through the hallways, and the elevators, and doors, i thought wow.  here i am.

very nice people took me into an office and started asking me questions.  and then i started to cry.  

i said i don't know why i'm crying.  i've been here before.  they said it's okay.  this isn't easy.  i said i know.  but still. face it, this is only pre-op.  

the one nurse had me figured out pretty quickly.  not that i'm that mysterious.  she asked me my height.  i told her.  she said wow.  you seem taller.  i said it's my shoes.  and she let the conversation go in that direction, shoe talk, until that un-ease passed.  

that was nice.

after a while she said okay you're done here.  the next part of your appointment is down in dalton.  i said dalton?  she said yes.

i'd heard of dalton, but didn't know what it was.  

when i arrived, the sign said dalton oncology.

another *wtf* moment.

i met some nice people in the waiting room.  and then i had a super nice nurse.  i think they could tell i felt alone.  i must have seemed like an open book. some mobster's wife i am.

when i was in the room waiting, the godfather texted.  everything ok? he asked.  yeah, i answered.  he knew this was bullshit, bc normally i would have written way more than that.

he wrote sure?  i said yeah.

he wrote, want me to come?  i said no. he said i can.  i said you'll never find me.  i'm way in the bowels of the hospital.  i don't even know how to tell  you to find me. (i knew his sense of 'direction.')

he said i'll find you.  where are you?  i said dalton.  i didn't tell him oncology.  why should he feel bad?

he said i'm coming.  i said no seriously.  you'll never find me. i'll be gone by the time you get here.  

ten minutes later i was still there waiting.  these pre ops take a long time.  the nurse was in and out.  she came back in and said you have a surprise.  i thought wow.  dr. bear's great and all, but it's odd she'd refer to him as a surprise.  duh.  he's my doctor.  why would i be surprised?

but it was the godfather.  i was surprised.  

i said god.  you must have flown here.  what are you, superman?  he said yeah, i guess so. i can't say how fine it was from there.
thank god for the godfather.    

xx katy

cancer door?

is there a cancer door?  and if there is, can you open it?  i've wondered.  and the women i've talked with about this have wondered it too.

we're not scientists, only women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer.  some are ten years out.  more than ten years.  five years.  though it remains in their psyche, as if it were yesterday. even though they try and put it behind them.  

everyone i've talked with about this has said the same thing.  'my diagnosis came after the most stressful year of my life.'

everyone has stress.  it's a kind of low grade constant, in varying degrees, at different junctures.  it's almost like a stress symphony, a kind of sound track in the background of your daily living. it's so a part of the everything, that unless you tend to focus on it, you don't always realize it's there.  

i can say a couple months before the mammogram there were some heightened things going on in my universe, which like most lives, is pretty typical. always the bitter and the sweet.

but this was different.

when i'd try to go to sleep at night, and things were quieting down in my body and mind, i'd notice a kind of current, electrical, in the right breast, where the cancer was later detected.  

it felt like a dull, low budget fireworks display on the 4th of july. it wasn't significant enough at the time for me to nudge the godfather and say hey.  i feel fireworks going off in my right breast.  he'd have said oh katy.  give it a rest.

but current is what it felt like.  i could trace it if i wanted to, as it was actually happening. at the time, it never occurred to me to think hey, this must be cancer. why would i have thought that, when forever, in my rookie mind,  i'd always thought cancer equaled a lump, and yet there wasn't one?

 you know those fireworks that shoot up in the sky, that leave a lit trail as it's rising, before exploding into it's ultimate 'destiny'?  that's what it felt like.

marcia said she felt this too.  she didn't have a lump either.

they say you can't feel cancer.  it's only a jumble of cells run amok.   but before they called it cancer, once they finally did, i called it current, electrical, exactly, almost exactly, like the 4th of july.

if we're supposed to 'listen to our bodies,' then are we also  supposed to make an appt. and tell our doctors we have fireworks going of in our breasts?  

tough call.  

paging the umpire.

xx katy  

Sunday, January 27, 2013

mama june = luv

i don't know how or when it happened, but my daughters (four)  started calling me mama june.  i take it as a HUGE compliment.  mama june embodies LOVE.  so OMG.  love her!  i can't pin point exactly, but over time i realized i was calling each of them boo boo,  as in hey boo boo.  thanks boo boo.  boo boo?  time to get up! etc. each of them thought they were boo boo.  they'd say it to each other, i'm boo boo. no i am.  i thought i was?  bc of this, i gave each of them pink t shirts for christmas, with the words 'i'm boo boo' printed across the front in diner style font. of course, this somehow evolved into making me mama june.  ella, 12, told me she has me in her phone contacts under 'mama june' -- (this is pushing it.)  

the other day, as i was waiting to go into 3rd surgery, i heard from my girls via text.  they were in school, not supposed to be on phones.  but they knew the deal, wanted to send messages of hope and love.

this was sweet.

the messages?

good luck mama june!  you got this! luv u mama june!


like i said.

xx katy

muffin top

recently one of my brothers had us over for a visit.  we were sitting around his kitchen table eating little muffins and drinking mountain dew.  my brother was trying to get a sense of the cancer, treatment so far, etc.  i picked up one of the muffins to be used as a 'visual aid', and aimed it at the 'class.'  the muffin was a 3d object, the class consisted of my brother, the godfather, and our two youngest daughters. the muffin top had a blueberry on it, i said pretend this is the nipple.  dave said ok.  and i pointed, and 'educated', and said, and here is the side, and the cut was made here, and the other cut was here, and so on. 

the godfather, who is a troublemaker, was misbehaving in class.  he was 'listening' to the 'lesson', but then said 'wait a minute.'  i said 'what?'  as though i was really a teacher.  he reached across the table, grabbed the muffin, bit off the top, and gave it back.  

that was that.

class dismissed.

xx katy

mammo wink

i don't know about you, but whenever i went in for mammograms, i'd always try and get a sense of things from the tech doing the procedure.  even though they are not authorized to share any info, still, there was a way i wanted to know in advance. i'd try and study her expression while she casually reviewed the images, figuring i could pick up on a flinch or absence of such. i had the same tech for a few years, she had a very pleasant demeanor, though a rock solid poker face.  however, at the end of every mammogram, this year included, she'd give me a wink.  this was my high sign, my girlie high 5.  i'd think hot damn as i left, another bullet dodged.   

this year i got the wink.  i told steve, affectionately known as the 'godfather', i got the wink again.  he said thank god.  we don't have time to deal with that bullshit.  i said yeah really.

the day i got the call back the godfather was golfing, something he nevah evah does unless he kinda has to.  i know that sounds untrue, but it's not.  fishing is his bag. that morning he said i won't be able to take calls today bc i'm going to be golfing, and you can't take calls on the course.  i said what bullshit.  and he said yeah really.

late morning the call came.  and i couldn't call the godfather.  this really was bullshit.  i thought *wtf*. but as i said before, there are lots of those moments.  he might as well have been on the moon.

i was trying to think of who i knew who'd gotten callbacks, and i remembered my mother in law had, so i called their house.  i asked mike (father in law) could i speak to judy.  he said oh, she's out golfing.  i said seriously?  i needed to tell someone, bc i was anxious, hadn't gotten call backs ever.  i said look.  you're just going to have to pretend you're judy here.  he said ok.

when i told him, he said oh katy!  that's no big deal.  call backs happen all the time.  we know such and such, and such and such, and such and such.  and by the time he was done being a 1/2 way decent judy stand in, i was feeling  1/2 way better, just not completely. i said ok then.  don't go trolling the golf course for widows for steve,  bc i'm not going anywhere. i forget what he said to that.  probably something like yeah right.

but the wink.  

when the tech called to tell me that i had to go in the next day for diagnostics, i started to cry a little, right then on the phone.  i said but you winked at me!  she said what?

i said you winked, remember?  you always wink when i leave, and this year you winked too, so how could there be any reason for me to come back?  i don't get it!

that was a little melodramatic i know.  and i ended up feeling bad bc she thought i was mad at her but i wasn't.  it was my own fault for misinterpreting that wink, not hers.  she said i was only letting you know i got good pictures!

i said oh.  ok.  but to myself i said good pictures my a**. 

                              xx katy

Saturday, January 26, 2013

tumor board

i realize this is nothing like the tumor board in real life.  but the image here is how i imagine it.

  ladies and gentlemen, presenting 50 yr old female, relatively good health overall, here today due to ductal carcinoma in situ, discovered in recent routine mammogram.  patient presented with zero symptoms, discovery made during annual exam.  features include intermediate grade, along with estrogen receptor positive finding, at rate of almost 100%. 

matching bag, (not shown) will come in handy for carrying the recommended hormone suppressant pills known as tamoxifen.  large bag required, subscription needed for five years post treatment. 

comfy shoes (not shown) recommended, though not required, as 'journey' can tend to drag on.  

patient has to make up own mind.


the tumor board

i (heart) pink

i (heart) pink.  there is not a degree or shade of it i'm not fond of. like steven tyler says in his song, 'pink, it's like red but not quite.' (i developed a low grade  crush on him when i first heard this song,) there's long been an association between that color and breast cancer awareness.  i'm fine with that. i've worn pink for years, though  tempered with black, grey, white, or denim. i consider it a little too soft on it's own.  since the diagnosis though, i found myself distancing from it a bit, it's hard to say why.  but it's back in my heart now. yIpPiE! i was so convinced that what the doctors were investigating wasn't really cancer that i wore hot pink jeans to one of the early biopsies, trying to show solidarity for the cause, never imagining i'd actually be part of it. i'm pretty sure i had the strange and false idea that if i wore pink as a breast cancer patient, it'd be kind of like letting my world know i had it, without my having told them yet. ridiculous, i know.  but that's what it was.  i was definitely on the down low for a fair amount of time.  i had to practice saying it remember, in order to even believe it myself.  then i had to say it to others. and that was a weird deal too, forming those words.  (it's hard being a rookie.)  but i still wasn't wearing it. i wasn't ready to connect it to myself in that context. fughetta 'bout it. (as the mobsters say.)  

 but then marcia showed up one afternoon and brought me a black baseball cap.  black is a color i've never once had a problem wearing.  this hat had a couple of tiny whimsical pink ribbons monogramed on it, not in your face, just subtle and even kind of fun looking, with curly que type things around them. it was strangely love at first sight. i don't get it, but it was. i like hats, and black, and the ribbons on this cap seemed to jive. the hat was my entree, like those traveling pants were to those friends in the story of the sisterhood. i wore the hat the next day.  and then a couple days later, and then a couple more times after that.  i know it sounds odd, but it became a kind of badge even, a blankie. (?) it definitely helped me find my breast cancer groove. (is there a bc groove?)  one of my daughters picked up on it, knowing how i am about wearing messages.  she said i can't believe you're wearing that hat mom.  i said i know.  me neither.  and yet i was. luv it. thnx marcia. (again!)

ps.  i'm happy some of you are interested in reading about breast cancer rookie.  i've had some questions about how to follow - on the right side of the blog is a follow by email option. you can type your email in this box, click button, and you'll get a notice from feedburner asking you to confirm your request by email.  once you confirm, you should be notified anytime new blog posts are published, via email notice.  

pss.  re comments.  there is a pencil icon at the bottom of each post.  if you'd like to comment, i'd love to hear from you.  click on pencil, and it will direct you to a comment box, you'll have to click on the 'comment as' box, and scroll down and click the anonymous option.  this allows you to comment as yourself, not as someone thru google or blogger, or some other url.  (trust me, i'm a computer rookie too)  this kind of stuff is brought to you by my genius young neighbor mike v who will one day take over the world.  in the best possible way. 

                        xx katy 

Friday, January 25, 2013

marcia marcia marcia

if you ever get breast cancer, and i pray you don't, i hope you are lucky enough to find yourself a marcia. (as in brady)  i think you will.  that's been one of the nicest surprises so far, how many 'sisters' there actually are out there, willing to mentor you through your rookie terrain.  my marcia has been a real god send.

of course this makes me jan, which i'm fine with now, though i hope one day i can be a marcia to someone else, who might need or want my 'expertise.'  this is assuming i'll have some, when it's all said and done. you can't help but pick things up along the way.  not that there's any kind of end of semester quiz, but i honestly believe i could pass a basic test even at this very early juncture based on what i've learned so far, largely in part to marcia, and my surrogate marcia also.  see what i mean?  there are even folks willing to be marcia stand ins!  how lucky am i?  but that's the nature of this kind of diagnosis.  there are far too many marcia's and jan's out there in the world.  sure, we're grateful for each other, but wouldn't it be better not to have them, or need them at all? i mean in the context of breast cancer mentoring? 

i like to believe that by the time my four daughters come of age, this kind of disease will be a thing of the past, like polio, or scarlet fever. i like to imagine them having a chat in the future, asking each other, can you believe they used to do mastectomy for breast cancer?  can you believe women had to have radioactive beams aimed at their breasts, essentially burning them daily, as insurance against rogue cancer cells? seriously!  how about the women who lost their hair, due to the chemo being so 'effective', that it was considered a small cross to bear, in exchange for mercy? how barbaric, is what i want them to say.  but this is all we have for now.  though great things are happening, right this minute, just around the cancer bend. 

 in the meantime, i love my marcia. and i'm super proud to be her jan. it took me a minute to figure out how to be katy with cancer. but thanks largely to marcia, i'm getting it figured out.

                              xx katy (jan)

more waiting

3rd attempt at clear margins went fine, surgery uneventful. dr. bear is what i'd call a rock star. won't know results till 31st, which seems like a long time from now, bc it kinda is.  i don't know if the waiting gets easier, or if you just become more used to the waiting itself. either way, that's the deal.  at massey, once your tissue is signed off on by pathologist, it goes before a tumor board. this really sets my imagination aflame. a tumor board?  this means an entire panel of surgeons, radiologists, oncologists, nurses, researchers, etc, are reviewing your case.  this alone separates a national cancer center, which is what massey is, from another hospital out in the 'community.'  bc there is no 'cure' for breast cancer, the best shot anyone has is a good treatment plan. having these collective experienced eyes on your case gives you a good shot at the 'best' answer possible.  and yet still, due to the nature of cancer, these answers are never written in stone, they are simply best 'guesses' based on experience and years and years of research.  cancer is weird. cancer is a beast.  but i've got a bear.  and that helps.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

breast cancer fight?

the girl in this image isn't me.  but sometimes it feels like she could be.  when people find out you have breast cancer, it's amazing the number of times you hear 'good thing you're so strong!' or 'good thing you're a fighter katy,' etc.  but so far, in my limited breast cancer (rookie) experience, i can't say i'm as strong as i may be perceived.  it's a compliment i realize, when these things are said.  but until this diagnosis, my idea of strength included lifting heavy pieces of vintage furniture on and off the bed of my pickup to be delivered for painting, only to be heaved back up again when they're ready for delivery to stores.

fight in my mind had generally involved yelling and slamming an occasional door. add a few not quite g-rated words, and you get the idea.  a so called cancer fight simply was never part of my vernacular.  how does showing up on time for the countless appointments regarding testing and surgical procedures constitute any kind of fight?  to me it felt more like surrender.

and yet, as i navigate this rookie status, i realize it does involve some sort of effort. (fight?) you have to do something,  regardless of how you perceive it.  sure, you can do nothing i suppose, not even battle at all.  and i know of a few people who have done this, though that's not part of my 'fighting nature.'  call it strength or fight if you want.  i'm still not there yet. (rookie)  fighting? sure. i guess so. if you say so.  but is it?

  i see the other patients at massey cancer center, so much more debilitated than i am, unable to walk or even breathe on their own.  more than a few in upbeat scarves or colorful hats, covering bald heads which i imagine would still be freezing in this january cold.  how tough do i really have to be, when i'm nowhere near where they are?  they are the seasoned ones, having  moved past rookie status a pretty good while ago. those are the ones really fighting here, not me. they are the ones with skin in the game. my hat goes off to them, and yet that doesn't feel fair either. tipping my hat would simply reveal my hair underneath.  if i were them, i'd wonder what i was doing there too.   

if i'm so strong, and such a fighter, then how come i'm not one of them?  i'm supposed to be tough, remember?  but i'm not, you can probably tell that by now. it is painful seeing those patients in their varying degrees of diminished strength.  they're the strong ones, as i see it, fighting so much harder and longer than me.  

but what i've learned so far at massey, is that cancer is cancer.  it's a flipping cancer center after all.  the staff there makes everyone feel like they're on the same team, an especially cool thing. even the rookies, right along side the wiley old veterans, the outfielders, pitchers, and catchers, we're all on the same stinkin' bus. the myriad of specialists seem to serve as our coaches, leading a team no one signed up to play on.  but here we are.  
xx katy

Tuesday, January 22, 2013


Blog3_largewaiting is hard.  welcome to breast cancer rookie, a blog created as a result of my recent breast cancer diagnosis. if this surprises you, then we're simpatico, it surprised me too.  so far what i've learned about a breast cancer diagnosis, is that waiting is the hardest part.  back in october, which seems like a long time ago now, i got a call back on a routine mammogram.  (it's january now, still waiting)  there was something suspicious enough to warrant another look.  this was a thursday.  they wanted me to come in the next day for a 'diagnostic mammogram.' (i thought all mammograms were diagnostic?) this is another thing about being a rookie.  you learn new things all the time.  the diagnostic mammo showed 'microcalcifications in a linear formation,' suspicious enough to warrant a biopsy.  i had never heard of these before.  i only thought breast cancer meant a lump was discovered.  (rookie)  they said 'we need to do a stereotactic biopsy.' (another new term)  i said ok.  everything that's happened since then has led to my current breast cancer rookie status.  so far we know that the cancer is dcis (ductal carcinoma in situ)  (new term)  in situ means 'in place'  who knew? not me.  but now i do!  this is a good thing, as breast cancer goes, so i'm told, because it means it hasn't traveled outside of the breast, which makes it non invasive.  at least that's what they think so far. (still waiting)  they won't know until 'final pathology'  (feeling like a med student yet?)  with dcis, the cancer is removed surgically, as mine was in early december.  the plan was to proceed to radiation after site healed. external beam, 33 days. (so much learning!)  but pathology showed margins not clear.  i knew what this meant.  this meant i really was a cancer patient, even though i didn't feel like it at all, i had to be reminded.  i even had to practice saying it to myself before i could say it out loud. i'd say it in the laundry room, or when i was driving, or in the shower. but it came out in the 3rd person, 'katy has cancer,' not 'i have cancer.' i somehow couldn't internalize it.  (rookie)  i became a patient of dr. harry bear at massey cancer center in richmond.  that's his real name, harry bear, and he is tough but adorable, and i am grateful and in love with him and massey.  i hope no one reading this ever gets breast cancer, but if you do, massey rules.  dr. bear became my new doctor only after i was finally able to appreciate the gravity of a breast cancer diagnosis.  it took me a little while, like i said.  dr. bear did a second procedure to clear margins.  this time it wasn't a lumpectomy, it was a 'segmental mastectomy,' more tissue taken than before, down to chest wall.  i don't know if this is correct, but in my mind, i picture it like a slice of cheesecake, say between the hours of four and six on a clock.  i felt like a little less of a rookie after that, but still.  after this second attempt, margins are still unclear.  learning this was a real *wtf* moment but there are many of those i've discovered as i've gone along.  tomorrow dr. bear will make 3rd attempt at achieving clear margins.  in true rookie lexicon, we appreciate his attempt to step up and swing again.  i figured i'd share the story of a breast cancer rookie only so i can hopefully put a voice out there to someone reading who may one day find herself in similar rookie territory. (though i hope not). i have  been mentored, as rookies are, by more than a few breast cancer sluggers, who have lent their voices (and hearts) to me.  it's their open heartedness that made me wonder if maybe i could help someone too by sharing here.  i hope so. there's a way to subscribe to this blog if you like, in order to receive email updates re postings. it appears near bottom of page, (i hope it works, it should), if not, feel free to visit  xx katy    

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virginia, United States