January 2, 2008 – First off, the link I gave last time to the University of Michigan info on Breast Reconstruction did not work for some reason so I traced it down again and here is a good link. Go to med.umich.edu then type Breast Reconstruction Plastic Surgery in the empty Search box over to the upper right of the screen. There is tons of info there.
I was surprised at how many responses I got on writing about fear. I don’t really know why I was surprised, fear is real and everyone is afraid of something. Many wrote that they never talk about their fears to anyone and I have to say I thought hard about writing about my own fears here for all the world to see. But then the whole reason for writing the journals crept back into my mind – I am to write the unvarnished truth here, not a softened, weakened version. And, once again I am amazed at the response to a “real” emotion. If you can’t talk about your fears with anyone else, talk about them to me. I will listen and not offer advice or tell you not to worry. I will just listen. Sometimes that is all you need, someone to just listen to your fears and once they are out in the open they seem to not have such a hold on you. And paralyzing fear is not just about cancer, people have fears about many things. I know that “before” I never discussed my fears with anyone. I didn’t want anyone to know I thought such dark thoughts. I also know that when I was going through therapy and told my therapist I was afraid I was going to die I was quite amazed to find I felt a bit better almost immediately. She didn’t tell me to “think positive” or to “not worry about the future” or any such thing. She acknowledged that my fear was real and that by confronting it head on it would lose some of its power over me. And it was true. Doesn’t make the fear any less real but it does make it a bit easier to deal with in your life. So…………..talk to someone you can trust or to me.
January 29 – Well obviously I am doing well since I have not written anything for almost a month! I do go this week for the dreaded PET scan. If you remember last year when I went I had to drink the half gallon of water right before the test (the water is supposed to plump up your organs so they get a better reading) then had to go to the bathroom so bad I started to have a panic attack because I was stuck inside the machine and was afraid my bladder would give out and I would electrocute myself and then the tech didn’t answer when I called and I ended up with a full blown panic attack. I did however, make it to the bathroom just in time after falling off the table because my feet and legs were asleep after laying there for 45 minutes! This time when I spoke to the scheduler I told her that I would not drink that half gallon of water because I was 60 years old (NOW I can use that for effect!) and my bladder could not make it through and I have claustrophobia and I have to take a Valium and have someone with me just to get through the test and that my oncologist said he would rather I have the test without the water than not have it at all and guess what she says……………….”Okay. Just drink lots of water the day before.” What!!!!!!!!!!!!!! What!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I have suffered over this test since last year, finally summoned the nerve to tell them I would not drink the water fully expecting to get a hard time over it and she says – “Okay.” !!!! There is a moral to this story here, I swear. It is to speak up for yourself when something really bothers you about your treatment or tests. Now, you would think I know that and I do but it is a bit daunting to tell someone you WON’T do something they want you to do for your health. She was very nonplussed about the whole thing and followed up by saying that is what she told anyone who objected to drinking the water right before the test. Lordy, when did I become Timid Tammy? Am so glad to see that Outspoken Olga finally returned!
I get the Heebie Jeebies around test time. Your brain can’t help but go into the “What If” mode of thinking. I see my oncologist on February 6th so it is only a few days after the test before I find out the results. I feel fine, I don’t think I am anemic anymore so am hoping for only good news.
Life continues to be good. Harold and I are working like crazy to get the old studio ready for guests because I am having my First Annual Art Experience here at the end of February and students are actually going to live here with me for a week! You know my stamina is back if I can contemplate doing that! Laying new flooring tonight. I can start calling it the Victorian Room instead of the Old Studio!
Still showing at the downtown art gallery and in February will actually be doing “Live Painting” during Opening Night! I am getting a new easel for the occasion!
An update on “The Ongoing Saga of Droopy Dolly Formerly of the Perky Twins.” After seeing Dr. J about hauling her back up to match Polly I have decided to leave the poor girl alone. He said it could be done but that I might possibly have constant pain from the procedure – not excruciating pain but nagging pain – and that more surgery might aggravate the seroma problem (that seems to have resolved itself, finally) and neither of those things really appealed to me. He also said that Dolly was exactly what she should look like and that Polly was the one that was too firm and too round for realism. I told him I liked the fake looking one better than the normal looking one and he just shook his head. I do have to wear a bra again though and Dolly is okay with it since it hauls her up where she belongs and really, since Polly doesn’t move at all and is very firm she really doesn’t care much but………………….they both require lovely, lacey, sexy bras if they are going to have to wear one. So now you know that when you see me “out and about” I have on sexy underwear. The rest of me is very mild mannered and plump! Except for the red hair of course! Also, an implant only lasts for ten to fifteen years so eventually I will have to get Polly replaced and she will probably match Dolly then!
January 31 – Well, the dreaded PET scan is over for another year. I drank tons of water yesterday, stayed up late so I slept late since I couldn’t have any food or water for four hours before the test. Now, you have to wonder why I can’t have food or water before but then they want me to drink a half gallon of water the half hour before I get there???????? Hmmmppppffff. Not this chickee! I popped my Valium in my mouth right before going in the door so it would be working when I actually went in to the PET scan room. First off (after explaining to everyone there again, why I didn’t drink the water!) I go into a little room and sit in a recliner. They come in and insert an IV so they can check your blood and blood sugar levels if you are diabetic and then inject Radioactive Glucose into your body. Lovely! Do you think she could get that thing in my arm??????????????? Nooooooooooooooooooooo she had to use the top of my hand and I HATE that! She did use a baby needle but it still hurt. Then I had to sit quietly for 45 minutes there in the recliner. Then off to the bathroom to be sure your bladder is as empty as possible (I was fine since I refused to drink all that water). Off to the room with the big machine. I meant to bring my camera and forgot. Drats! I forgot my washcloth that I place over my eyes and all they had was a piece of paper and that just wouldn’t do, so Jen went out to her car and found a headband thingee so I put that on. If I can’t see out accidentally and see the tube literally RIGHT in front of my eyes, I am much better off. Anyway, I get up on the table, they put a foam brace under my head and place another one under my knees. Then they place your arms in position and wrap you in Velcro closure wrap that goes from your waist to your neck so in case you fall asleep (like that is going to happen!) you don’t move. Then on goes the blanket since they keep the room at 40 below zero! Then for me, we make sure I cannot see out from under the blindfold! Then into the machine for a trail run. We did that about three times before they got my arms arranged so I didn’t touch the sides of the tube when I went in. I really hate that feeling of touching so close……………that is what can bring on the panic attacks for me. She asked if I was ready, I said “Yeeeesssss…….” and they started the scan. She said that every eight and a half minutes they table would move further in and the test would take 52 minutes. Lordy! At least I could break it down so I had some idea how much longer I had to go. I was okay until towards the end and I could feel the fluttering sensation begin in my chest. Also, the headband Jen gave me had a very soft rim around it but by the time I laid on it for that long the back of my head was killing me! I tried thinking of paintings that I had to do, how to mix a color I needed, what Jen and I were going to have for lunch, that I needed to finish painting the bedroom wall, did I put the cats out before left? Anything to keep me from thinking about where I was. Just as I thought I could not do this anymore the tech came in and said I was done. Just barely missed having Panicky Penny in for a visit!
February 5 – Tomorrow is D-Day. Four month check-up time. Trying now to let the Heebie Jeebies get to me but I think they are winning! I colored my hair yesterday and I feel better because I will look better. Does that make sense? I always get dressed up to go – maybe all this is battle armor! War paint? Yes, since I always have all my make-up on, too!
In the mean time I am getting ready for my First Annual Art Experience. Students are coming here, staying for a week and painting every day! Working like mad trying to get the old studio turned back into a nice bedroom. We took everything out, tore out the woodwork and carpeting and began to fix-up and paint. Just put in a nice new wood laminate floor last weekend. Bought a bed that I am redoing for the room, have to sew curtains and decorate after we get the woodwork in this coming weekend. Getting in some good gardening time since our weather has been so nice. Oh, and getting my art stuff ready for the Art Experience! And of course, the downtown gallery – two pieces their right now, Cosmic Garden and Tulip Rising. Doesn’t that sound “arty.” And the glass stuff I am collaborating on – wait until you see what we are doing. Of course, I showed Harold some photos and he said, “And you two wanted it to look like that?” I had to laugh at that one! The point of all this is that I am feeling quite well and do not want to have to think about cancer.
Having said that, a friend just dies last week of breast cancer. She was going through treatment about a year after me the first time around. I really, really hate that. I want everyone to make it through and have a life. Getting news like that really sends you straight down into that scary place. Your guts get cold. You are so sorry it happened to your friend and scared that if it happened to her it could happen to you. Do not even think about telling me not to think like that. You cannot help but think like that. Especially right when you are going in for your own breast cancer check-up and have already had a recurrence. Okay, enough already, Pessimistic Priscilla is really trying to get a foothold here!
February 6 – Yea!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!Yippee!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!Hurray!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I AM FINE! First time I have not had any complaints (except for being nervous!), my blood is up where it belongs, nothing is leaking or swelling, the PET scan, brain scan, and all preliminary blood work is NORMAL! I told a good friend about this and that I am normal and he said not to get carried away with the “normal” bit! Hmmmmmmmppppppfffff! My oncologist said it was great to see one of his patients nice and healthy. I can well imagine! I am still on a four month schedule and that is just fine and dandy with me. He said he will keep me on four months for a good while yet, maybe even indefinitely. This time last year I was having a blood transfusion because my blood count was so low. This year I am normal. I love normal! I have to say though, that as soon as I got outside the building I started to cry and then just sat in my car for a bit until I got control of myself again. It has been so very long since I had an appointment with him where there wasn’t some other problem to solve. Celebrating Celeste is here visiting now and she is a big improvement over Pessimistic Priscilla!
I must tell you about what my doctor said about Thank You’s. Remember the painting from last update titled “Aftermath?” I took photos and made them into greeting cards and then had the idea to send one to each of my health care providers that really made a difference in my journey. I sent one to each of my general surgeons, oncologist and his nurse, plastic surgeon and his staff and the woman who takes care of referrals in my primary care doctors office. She was amazing in 2003 when I was first diagnosed and helped me far more than was required of her job. I explained about the painting, sent along the statement about it and included a paragraph specifically about the person receiving the card and their specific role in my journey. Anyway, Dr. M. and his nurse thanked me and I told them they were most welcome and he went on to say that healing people was part of their job and they didn’t expect anything more but when someone takes the time to acknowledge their efforts and say Thank You for saving my life it really makes a big difference to them and their own outlook on what they do for a living. Just thought I would pass that on because it is easy to take doctors and nurses for granted because it IS their job. I was a bit surprised that it meant that much to them and I was very glad I had sent the cards. Even if you never hear back if you send a card, know that your efforts were greatly appreciated.
February 8 – Just got back from the Tiffany Museum here in town. Seeing all those works by Louis Tiffany is so inspiring and amazing! Going to take my students there the day before we begin our classes here. Going to bed shortly as tomorrow is Saturday and we have to be up early so we can finish the old studio guest room.
March 3 – Good heavens! Has it really been almost a month since I wrote anything here? Been a little busy and that is a very good thing as it means I feel great!
Finished painting the woodwork in the old studio on a Wednesday, moved in the furniture on Thursday and did “live painting” for three hours at the Gallery that night, shopped for groceries on Friday and my students arrived on Saturday! Whew!
This is Monday morning and my First Annual Art Experience is over. It was fantastic! Artist Annie was in her element! Students were here from Saturday to Saturday and we worked and ate and talked and created art! After I dropped the last student off at the airport on Saturday morning, I went to breakfast with Harold (he loved having all those women around for a whole week and they just thought he was great!), shopped a bit and came home and went to sleep for the whole day! Woke up for about three hours and went back to sleep! It was like a car battery that got too low and had to be on the battery charger for twenty-four hours! Sunday I got up and did yard work all day long since my “batteries” were all charged up!
I was reflecting on life as I was gardening yesterday. What a difference time can make. One year ago exactly I was going in for the first of all those surgeries for Dolly. This year I am hosting week long Art Experiences and doing major garden work. I spent a good portion of last year unable to do heavy stuff in my garden and I missed that aspect of gardening. Hauling stones, laying brick patios, hauling around bags of dirt, digging and transplanting are my major form of exercise. Greta Gardener is so happy this year!
Getting ready to start my travel teaching for the year so I can only say that things are pretty normal – yea! Normal is such a nice word!
I did find a great website though and I want to pass on the info. It is called Caring Bridge and it allows you to create a blog, similar to what I am doing here, but only available to family and friends and allows you or another family member or friend to post about how a person is doing. Believe me, your friends and family members really do want to know but don’t want to intrude or maybe are afraid of asking the wrong questions or even saying the wrong thing so they say nothing or stay away to protect the patients privacy so being able to read about the progress, when it is a good time to visit, what would be helpful, all the things that could go on the blog so people would “know” is a great thing. It is free and a really great thing in my opinion. http://www.caringbridge.org
March 12 – Good grief, I was ready to send this out on the 3rd so where did the time go? Things continue to go well, health wise for which I am soooooooooooooo happy! Friends who are going through treatments are holding their own so life in general is good right now.
Don’t give up on saying a little prayer for me now and then, I still need those!
Okay, I really am going to send this off NOW!
Photos of the Week – Multiple photos this time. Showing off our new floor in the den and kitchen. Only took us a year to decide. Lordy that was a lot of tile to lay! Harold has outdone himself once again! The second photo is the group from my very first Annual Art Experience. From left – Joni, SJ (taught a mini class in hot glass), Patte, Me, Jen (daughter), Bonnie. The third photo is of me being Artist Annie doing the “live painting” at the Eola Loft Gallery at CityArts Factory. Don’t I look great painting a nice soft rose in front of that really contemporary art!
Take care and get your mammograms and PSA tests and colonoscopies!
Margot a.k.a Keeper of the formerly Perky Twins, now to be called the Odd Couple instead, Artist Annie, Timid Tammy, Outspoken Olga, Panicky Penny, Pessimistic Priscilla, Celebrating Celeste and Greta Gardener.
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