December 25, 2011

Holiday Update

It’s Christmas morning, and the house is quiet. This is the beginning of the downslide to the church’s “quiet season” of winter, having worked basically full time hours for the past several weeks.

We opened presents last night because I will be working this morning at the one service our church is offering. Then we’ll pedal off to St. Louis for three days of fun and chaos with my brother’s family. My two sisters from Florida and Alaska will also be there. This makes the first time all four siblings and eight cousins have been together in one place. It’s going to be great.

Everyone will be seeing me without hair for the first time. I’m also round as a beach ball from the steroids. Not my finest moment for family pictures, but it will pass. It will be so great to see everyone!

I’m sorry for my prolonged silence. I’ve been especially moody, and they tell me I can blame the weekly steroid infusions. Some people get really mean; I get weepy. But only three more chemo appointments!

I will be going down to Florida for a couple of weeks in January. This is an annual trip, but this one has special meaning: it will be my last hurrah before surgery. Upon my return, I will have a single modified radical mastectomy on my right side in early February. My best friend since forever is coming up from Florida to baby me for a week. It’s only a two-week recovery since no muscle is involved.

I had originally wanted both breasts removed. But the odds of cancer occurring in the other breast is less than one percent for this kind of cancer; it most often recurs in scar tissue or in a distant site. And the fact that I had lymph nodes removed on the left side years ago from melanoma makes extensive reconstruction surgery very risky. So I will wear a prosthesis until I can have reconstruction on the right side and simple surgery to “match” on the left side.

After about six weeks of recovery from surgery I will begin radiation treatments. It will be daily (Monday through Friday) for about eight weeks. Then the waiting begins for reconstruction. That will be determined by what they find in the tissue from surgery; it could be as early as six months or as long as three years, waiting to see if the cancer recurs. I may be retired by the time I get the look I had when I was younger. But hey, if I’m going through this, I’m going to have something to look forward to.

When I went to my plastic surgeon for consultation about my options, he commented that I had to have caught this cancer early. He apparently expected to see me disfigured. Early?! It was stage 3C! I was aware of pink skin for five weeks by the time I had the mammogram and biopsy. Damn, this stuff moves fast. Many doctors treat the symptoms as an infection (as I had originally thought) for months before thinking about a mammogram. No wonder it’s so deadly. And all the literature tells you to look for lumps, when IBC grows in smooth firm sheets in the skin. I was just plain lucky to have caught this when I did. I know IBC is very rare, but still we should be informed.

Well, this wasn’t much of a Christmas post, but honestly, Christmas hasn’t been much on my mind in spite of the hours I’ve put in at church. Helping others make Christmas memories has been fulfilling, but it seems like I missed it this year. That’s just the way it is; I knew it would be different and I had no expectations. I’ve just lived day to day, but I’ve had a lot of happy moments, too. And in spite of the general tone of this post, I do continue to have hope.

It will be merry at my brother’s house this evening. I can’t wait! I hope today brings laughter, joy and hope to all of you, whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Solstice, or sales.