1 in 8

After months without posting, I dived into my blog once again this past week. The peace writing brings me along with the tinkering of widgets, layouts and uploading pictures is so meditational for me and that is huge in terms of quieting my brain. This was originally intended to be an outlet for me. A way to express myself. A way to come to terms with how my life had been flung into a different trajectory almost mid-course. It was a visual way for me to organize my thoughts, fears, dreams, hopes, goals, and somehow compartmentalize them in such a way that I could manage them all without losing my mind. Cancer has a way of doing that to a person. It is an insidious snake that wraps itself into every crevice of your being and makes you doubt everything you ever thought to be safe or predictable or comfortable.

What I found through this cyberjournaling is that I was not the only one feeling this way. I was not the only one going through this. I was not going to be the last. I made online acquaintances that stretched out their arms across thousands of miles, oceans, and continents to befriend me, to lift me up, to support me, to walk in spirit with me. I found friends near me that were willing to do the same. In this past year, I have become one of those spirit friends myself to many women both locally and far away. I have tirelessly advocated for early detection with my growing number of friends on facebook. I have reminded both the women and men in my life and those I randomly run into weekly, if not daily, to take care of their boobs. I have passed out self-check breast exam flyers to random strangers. I have done things in the name of breast cancer awareness and I have made it known to all that if you EVER feel you are having a scare, or you need information or you want to talk or you just need someone to pray for you or with you–I will be there for you.

I have had women I barely know and many I do contact me this past year. I have talked into the wee hours of the morning with strangers across the country. I have facebooked and I have messaged and I have emailed back and forth with others who are in the middle of a scare. I have begged and pleaded for everyone to get a mammogram–and to NEVER blow it off, and I have just sat and listened and cried with some who have been diagnosed. I never really thought in the beginning that I would later go on to become someone that would be a source of comfort to another that was fearing her worst nightmare coming true. I never thought that there might be a former high school enemy that would be inspired to go get checked for the first time because of me or become someone I actually appreciate now that we have grown up. I never thought that people would really read this blog. But, all those things have happened and continue to happen.

When I submitted my post a few days ago after a 5 month hiatus, I was astounded by the irony of what happened later that night. I was reminded once again that because of me putting out there the good, bad, and ugly, a woman somewhere would also be reminded that they could call me–to talk, to cry, to vent, to plan, to question, and to ask questions. I never thought I’d get a call anytime soon. But I did.

A long-time friend of mine messaged me through facebook. The urgency in her tone led me to believe that something was very wrong. This same woman began reading my blog from the onset and two weeks after I launched it about a year and a half ago, she found herself thousands of miles away going through a similar scare. She found me then on facebook and we talked and talked and talked. Her scare was just that at the time. I have learned that if you are a woman and you have a scare that is in need of biopsy or MRI imaging or you are told you have dense breasts or there are just a few “normal” looking calcifications showing up on a mammogram, you should be diligent in your self-care. My friend has done just that. However, her followup mammograms have been proving to be more questionable. Without telling many people, she went in for the suggested biopsy last week. She thought nothing of it because she had been told since that first scare she was fine. She wasn’t nervous at all.

She has just received the news. She listened to the woman over the phone tell her those words that change everyone’s life when they hear them. “You have breast cancer”. It wasn’t 24hrs. after posting my blog that here again was my friend–now facing the same form of cancer I did–DCIS–Ductal Carcinoma In Situ. I stopped everything, didn’t care if I was an hour late to a meeting, because I knew I was the person she wanted to talk to. I listened to her and I shared with her–the tears silently streaming down my face. She will be seeing her surgeon tomorrow. I am asking for prayers please.

Yesterday–I couldn’t help but feel a heartwrenching ache in my gut. I was mad. Mad that a cure hasn’t been found. Yes, early detection is the key and there are many pieces of health news always swirling around puporting to be something for you to do in order to decrease your risk of getting the disease. But ya know, I did most of those things and I still got it. Sometimes, no matter how you live your life, manage your stress, what you eat, or drink, or how much you exercise–sometimes you still get cancer. Sometimes it’s just predisposed in your genes and you don’t know when that snake will raise it’s head to strike, but it doesn’t make it any easier for me to swallow. That pill still gets lodged in my throat and it makes me really mad. My status updates since finding out have been filled with angst. Many of them reminding everyone that 1 in 8 women (or men) will be diagnosed. Let me rephrase that–1 IN EVERY 8 INDIVIDUALS WILL HEAR THE WORDS–“YOU HAVE CANCER”.

I took stock of just the people on my facebook friends list and realized that many of these women had already had scares. A few had already been through their cancers. I wondered how many more in just that list alone would have to go through that. I put out a request for everyone to stop and go through their own lists and to take a moment and pause for a prayer for each person on their list. I might seem melodramatic to some and that’s ok. I get it. They just have never had to go through what I did and there is power in prayer, I do believe that. 1 in 8. That is too large of a pill for me to swallow. I sometimes don’t know what else I can do though. I have wondered what else I was meant to do. Maybe I’m doing enough. Maybe I could do more.

Maybe we could all do more. Maybe we could all just take the blinders off and stop trying to pretend its not one of the leading killers for women. Maybe those that are scared of having the pancake masher hurt them will be reminded that having your boob CUT OFF hurts more–emotionally, psychologically, physically, etc. All I can do is put it out to the cyber world now and scream!! GO GET YOUR MAMMOGRAMS!!!!! Maybe we’ll find a cure. Maybe…Maybe…Hopefully…I do hope. For now, “L”, you are in my heart and prayers as you embark on this road. Good luck tomorrow, dearheart. I am with you in spirit.

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I Run for Life…

It’s that time of the year. Race for the Cure. I have been looking forward to it for a year now. When I walked my first race last year, I had just undergone my first chemo treatment and the start of my second; I had suffered respiratory arrest due to the severe allergic reaction I had to the chemo drugs; and I had lost all my hair. Slowly, but surely, though, I walked that route surrounded by a sea of pink. Overwhelmed by the shear magnitude of the event (my first ever), I walked proudly with tears streaming down my cheeks and told myself I would be back again in 2010. When I crossed that finish line, I pulled my signature Superstar move and although I felt like a winner, there was a small seed of doubt. Would I make it?

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Superstar!

It has been a whirlwind year–at times moving at warp speed and at others, creeping along at a snails pace. For months now, I have looked forward to walking this race once more, crossing the finish line, and pulling my Superstar–only this time with the assured confidence that I had/have beaten this disease. Is there any doubt? Yes, a smidgeon. Enough to pull me down every once in a while, especially when I get sick and my mind starts to race through the “what if’s”. I came across a few pics from right after the race last year. Pictures I was too embarrassed by to put into my Flikr photos with the rest. When the pictures were taken, I was sitting on the front porch. Jordan came along and snapped a couple pics of me. It seems like yesterday when I think back. I was caught up in my anger then and it’s written all over my face. My eyes look sooo tired and expressionless. The worry lines had been chiselled deep into my brow by fear. My chest was non-existent and my hair–well, see for yourself.

Lost in Self-Doubt

She told me to smile. “Just Fake It”, I remember her saying. So, I tried. I really did.

“C’mon, Mom…you just Raced for a Cure…you should be happy!” I was. I smiled. I guess it wasn’t convincing enough. So, I tried again…

It was no use. That earlier feeling of euphoria while walking had been replaced with the weight of the world. I attempted one last try at a decent picture–one full of hope and determination–hell my before and during pictures in my Flikr photos are absolutely night and day compare to just a few hours later. (click on “more photos” in the sidebar to view last year’s 2009 Race for the Cure pics), but it just falls short.

I remember thinking how badly I needed a nap. Right after the race last year I worked at the Arsenal for several hours and then went on to piano lessons. When those pics were taken, I was exhausted and you can see it in my eyes. For the most part, these days, my head is in a completely different place than it was a year ago. Thank God.

I really wanted to go this year. I planned on going. I was all set to assemble Team Superstar and proudly walk with my fellow sisters. Then, I got a call, from someone that gave me some news. Nothing bad, in fact, very humbling news. I am being awarded something (I can’t say anything more until afterward). My presence was being requested in Iowa City to accept the award–on the same day. Of course, I felt honored, and after the surprise of the call began to wear off, I realized the event was on this Saturday, June 12, 2010–the same day as our local Race for the Cure. I wondered if I could actually swing both, but it really didn’t take long to make up my mind. I would probably only get this honor once in my life and the race will be here next year. So, I’m going to Iowa City on Saturday. My family will meet me up there to video. I’ll upload over the weekend so you can all share in the news.

For all those planning to walk or run in this year’s Race for the Cure–do me a favor and keep me in mind–even scribble my name into a corner of your memorial badge if you feel inclined to do so. I’ll be there walking in spirit and to show my support–I dyed my hair this past week–platinum with fuschia tips in the back. It has been cut in a way that shows off the tattoo I got last year, and as I promised, I will be going back really soon to have the word “Survivor” added underneath.

Showing My Support

I also found a video this past year that has gives me the chills each time I hear it. I have made the song my ringtone on my cell phone and I thought I’d share it here for all of you to enjoy as well. For all my sisters who are fighting this fight, have won their fight or have lost their fight, I will be running for you…soon.

Race For the Cure

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Throughout this past year, with all the ups and downs and major family crisis, there is one event that really sticks out in my mind–a moment where we ALL came together (including Jasmine)–The Race For the Cure. I am going to be completely honest here, I had always heard of it, but had never participated before. I had always read about it in the paper, but had never witnessed it. I had always seen news clips of our local race, but I had never been touched personally by breast cancer up until this year. I take that back, as I’ve stated before in my post Strapped In Tight , my oldest daughter’s daycare provider was affected by the disease and yet, after she got remarried and moved, we lost touch. We weren’t thinking about it daily anymore and therefore, details and extra curricular activities once again busied our lives.

I have spent a great deal of time flip-flopping between being on the outside looking in (even though I was very “IN”) or “owning it”. I have said openly–“I DON’T WANT TO BELONG TO THIS CLUB”! I don’t. A big part of me really just doesn’t want to ever have to worry about cancer, statistics, prosthesis, chemotherapy, metastasis, reconstruction, wigs, mastectomy swimwear, etc. etc. etc. It’s like this…when you are pregnant for the first time, you are hyper tuned to all the strollers you see passing you in the mall, all the laughter of a preschooler playing in a park, a toddler crying for a piece of candy in the checkout lanes of the grocery store, or a baby and its mother conveying their love for each other through their eyes. If you aren’t pregnant or trying to conceive, you are busy with many other routines of life. Same goes for cancer. I am now, on alert when I read things in the newspaper regarding cancer treatments. I am more aware of (young and old alike) women that have lost their hair and whether they are wearing a head covering of some sort. I am more aware of the anguish some women are feeling as they are sitting in the Center for Breast Health. I know what they are feeling now. I have been there. I have walked a mile in their shoes. I have deep compassion and respect for these individuals who are facing their own mortality.

So, it goes without too much saying that when all the buzz about our local Susan G. Komen’s Race For the Cure was getting underway, that I found myself drawn to signing up. What an experience that was! I couldn’t believe how many people were at the sign up. I couldn’t believe how much pink was being proudly worn. I couldn’t believe how huge this was. The signup happened on a weekday and since I provide childcare during the day, I thought I’d just take them down with me–no big deal–we’d sign up–they would be my sign up supporters and we’d high five a good job done for Tina and we’d go grab a pizza somewhere. Little did I know that it would turn into a huge nightmare.

It was COLD and windy that day. The parking lot was jam packed and we had to park all the way to the back of the lot and run up. Once inside the convention center, I had to navigate through lines of women all the while continuously counting heads even though the kids are all knowledgeable about the rules I have while in public–hands on the stroller at all times, listen carefully for instructions, etc. We made it to the line where the applicants who hadn’t pre-registered were asked to stand. I waited approximately 20 minutes only to get to the front of the line when I remembered I left my debit card in the van. We turned around and headed back out into the cold to retrieve it. Once we returned the line had grown. We waited again for approximately another 30 minutes and once I reached the head of the row, the lady explained that they do not accept debit cards. I couldn’t believe it. I was so angry! She knew that was what I was going to get. It was the same lady. She heard me! Couldn’t she have told me then and saved me the trouble? Yes–but she didn’t. I turned everyone around and out we went to the van yet again. I loaded all the children, the double stroller and away we went looking for an ATM.

We ended up at a bank and after getting the exact amount of money we would need–plus a little extra to spend at the mini pink ribbon store that was there–we went back for a third time to the convention center. Pulling into the parking lot, I pulled out the snacks and had everyone finish up those before going in. I knew if I attempted it again, I would ultimately hear, “I’m hungry”. So, I crossed that one off the chesklist, first, and made my way through the throngs of women who were now standing in long lines. I found the same lady’s line that I had already stood in twice before. I know, you’re all probably wondering why I chose her again, afterall, she had already failed to give me pertinent information that would have made my life easier given the fact that I was trying to get through this process with 6 children by my side. It was a matter of principle at that point. I was going to prove to her that I was not easily deterred. That I was determined to sign up for this event–and really, if I left now without signing up after going through all the hassle, I would have been more mad at myself!

I thought that if we went and looked through the store, killed some time while picking out some bumper stickers, the lines would diminish some. I kept my eyes on their status and when I realized they were only getting longer, I figured I better go and grab a place. As we stood there, we played Simon Says and amused all the women around us. We also played I Spy until I was sick of it. I was getting hot and so were the kids. I started to peel coats off and pray the line would move faster. I finally get to the front after another 40 minutes only to have her smile sickeningly at me and ask me where all the registration forms were. That was it! I was about to blow and I knew I couldn’t because I’d have 6 children watching me. It’s moments like these when you know they are watching you. This is a teachable moment in patience, tolerance, and keeping my mouth shut firmly. I tried. I really did. I couldn’t help it, though and so I leaned over the table and got very close to her and as I smiled sweetly to her I told her through clenched teeth that this was my first time here. I had no knowledge of the process, the order to get that process done, or that I needed to bring cash or check. I told her that it was her duty as a volunteer to be trained adequately so that when someone shows up and looks lost, they are given ALL the information they need to produce the items necessary to register”. I then asked her where in the hell are the forms. She pointed to the back of the line where a table was set up. AAAAGGGGHHHH!!!!!!!!

“Calm Down”, I told myself. “Breathe”. So, I did. The sound in the convention center was becoming deafening with all the chatter and women’s laughter. I was totally over stimulated. The kids, although satiated for the time being, were bored. What was supposed to take me 15 minutes had now taken me over two hours and I was still no closer to getting my race badges. Here is where the crucial mistake was made. Recall, I had given the children snacks in the van? What goes in must come out, right? Yeah–I never thought about that in all my frustration. So, after spending 10 minutes filling out all the information on front and back of 5 forms and standing in line for another 20 minutes, I hear that familiar sound, “Tiiinnnnaaa–I have to go potty!!!!!” That prompted the next one to grab themselves and start dancing–and the next one and the next one–etc. etc. etc. I looked at the front of the line–I was second in line. The women all behind me were secretly happy. I could tell. They were tired of listening to the umpteenth repetition of “Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush”. “Can you hold it just a little longer?” I begged. “NOOOOOO! They all cried”. I should have pottied them when we were filling out the registrations. Hindsight. Crap. “I give up”, I dismally said out loud.

I took them all to the potty but the women’s line was out the door. Double crap. I can’t go in the men’s bathroom, especially with a double stroller so, I am going to let the 4 preschool boys go in as a buddy system and I would be standing right at the door listening for them. The first sign of trouble, I was coming in. Note to self: Never let 4 boys go into a public restroom with urinals hanging from the wall because 1.) they are not preschool sized or hung at a preschool height; 2). They can’t reach the sinks or the soap hanging from the wall; and 3.) the toilets are usually plugged and not flushed and no one will want to go. I could hear the laughter. I knew something was going on. It was just a matter of time, really. They all were bored and it was more fun to be playing in a big boys bathroom then to stand in a line waiting to be helped. I asked a man coming out how it was going in there. He was in there and I know not only had he heard me, but many, many women all around me heard the ongoing conversations I was having loudly with the boys. The man told me they were the only ones in there–noone else if I needed to go in and check on them. I thanked him and started maneuvering the stroller into the narrow opening.

What I saw was comical to say the least. On the one hand, it completely helped break the tension that had been building in me from our disastrous morning and on the other showed me how ingenuitive these boys really were. There they were–still buddied–only not hand in hand as I sent them in there. They had collectively figured out a way to use the urinals so they could all have a chance of peeing on the blue urinal cake. One buddy hoisted his partner up by holding onto his legs. Boy being hoisted was leaning with both hands on the wall on either side of the urinal and the forward lean was helping point the arc in the correct downward spiral. Once done, they switched spots and the hoisters now became the urinators. I do wish I could have taken a picture of that–although highly inappropriate–it was hysterical. My boy was heard throughout the immediate vicinity to say very loudly–“Just don’t pee in my mouth–ok?” I laughed and helped the boys all up to wash hands. I congratulated them on their use of logistical thinking skills and their cooperative teamwork, but asked them kindly to just use the normal potty from now on–even if it means you have to pee on someone’s poo (that was the overwhelming concern they all voiced).

As we emerged from the men’s room, I realized how odd that statement probably sounded coming from my son for those who had not witnessed what was going on. I couldn’t help but openly smile. I re-entered the line to register with all my applications and noticed the lady I had dealt with was now gone. “Probably out to lunch”, I thought. The lines were starting to dwindle and as I approached the front and got all the applications turned in and paid for, I mentioned to the lady as briefly as I could how unprofessional I felt the woman she replaced was. She asked me if the woman had shown or pointed to where the ATM machines were located there within the facility. I was horrified and speachless and as I turned around and looked down a dark corridor, I saw it. AAAAGGGGHHH!!! I turned and told her “Absolutely Not”. She shook her head and apologized. She finished up and told me to take my badges over to the T-shirt table to pick up our groups shirts. I thanked her and headed over there hoping we were close to being done. It was there that the gentleman helping me shorted me one shirt. He swore he had only received 4 vouchers. I swore I gave him 5. He went back through a giant stack of vouchers and began to check. I looked to see if I had dropped one somewhere. Then I saw it. One application that had gotten shoved down by the coats in the cargo bin of the stroller while I was in the restroom with the boys. It was Jasmine’s application. Triple Crap.

You know what that meant. I had to return to line to pay for hers and get her voucher. At that point I was wondering if I should just forget about it. I mean, she was, at that time, MIA and Lord knows when she was going to be back. I went with my gut and decided to wear her badge along with mine should she not show up. Knowing that if she were in her RIGHT mind, she would not miss this and if she did, she would walk in spirit with me. When I got to the front, the first lady was back. I glared at her. She asked me for the money and I handed it over. She said I was $5 dollars short. WHAT??!!!!! I was FURIOUS!!! I had no more money, time, or patience left. I began to replay the events of my entire morning to her including the part where she failed to tell me there was an ATM ON SITE!! Her supervisor came over and it was waived. I was not trying to get out of donating to a worthy cause, mind you, I had spent upwards of $100 that day and knew I would spend more at the race as I perused the vendors, so it’s not like the organization wasn’t going to be making any money off of me, that’s for sure. I snatched the voucher out of her hand, marched over to the T-shirt table and had the man bag up all my shirts. I was relieved to be done, finally. The kids were relieved to be done, finally. Finally, we were going home.

We left the center and it was so nice to hear the quietness of that cold morning. We went to the van, loaded everyone up, loaded the stroller, and began to exit the parking lot. QUADRUPLE CRAP!!!! This sickening feeling washed over me as I looked in between the seats for the bag of shirts. “Oh God, please tell me I didn’t forget them all in there!” I kept muttering “Please, Please, Please” as I pulled over to check the cargo bin of the stroller. Not there. I looked up at the convention center and realized I had to make one more trip inside. I was about to say “Forget It” and take off without them, but I had paid for them. I wanted my family to all wear theirs with me. I pulled back into the parking lot and for the last time, I unloaded all the kids and walked into the center. Now–I just hope someone hasn’t stolen them. We waded through the sea of women and came to the table. There, all bagged up and sitting on top a pile of t-shirts were mine. I opened the bag, counted the shirts, made sure the sizes were all right, and left for the last time.

This would be my first Race For the Cure. I prayed that my children would walk it every year in memory of me and not because they had been affected themselves by the disease. I prayed that I would be a more willing participant of the “Club” once I could see visually how many people are affected by breast cancer. I prayed Jasmine would come home. I prayed that I would have the strength of an army to get through the rest of this year. I was just happy I had made it out of the damn convention center without killing someone!

The morning of, it was chilly and rainy. Not bad, very spitting conditions, yet not my ideal forcast for my first race. We didn’t let it get to us. We donned our shirts, our race badges, and peeled Jasmine out of bed–she had made it. I’m not sure how with us she really was, but she was physically there and she was willing to participate–so that spoke volumes to me at least. I was overwhelmed and found my eyes tearing up on more than one occassion. I had never seen so many people! I even knew some of them–more members of this club of women–some I had even remembered seeing in the Center for Breast Health’s waiting rooms. We walked that day–all 5 of us. Jasmine pretty much walked ahead of us and at times I wondered if she were looking for an escape route somewhere along the way. We posed for pictures and I secretly wondered if I would be around for next year’s. I began to notice the little patch on the survivor caps that delineated how many years cancer free they had been.

I didn’t wear a wig and I was trying to own my baldness on that day. I had a baseball cap and a smile and my family. That was all that mattered to me. We walked the long route. We saw all sorts of crazy and funny things from t-shirts to dogs decked out in pink ribbons and booties. We saw memorials emblazoned across the backs of countless idividuals walking for loved ones they had lost or were battling their dragons. It’s hard to explain, but the whole time I walked, I had a lump in my throat. It was hard to swallow. Just as it is hard to swallow the fact that 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed. Seeing that many women walking, and watching more intently to the chatter on Twitter regarding similar walks all around the country has prompted me to really think that statistic is not correct. “It just has to be lower than that”, I kept saying to myself as we walked.

One of my all time favorite movies is Superstar featuring Mary Katherine Gallagher, a clumsy parochial student who is just looking for acceptance. She always strikes a pose and cries, “Superstar” as an affirmation to her awesome-ness. When I passed the finish line I pulled my signature Superstar move. Everyone there laughed and cheered! The news crew came down and asked me to give my name so they could give a shout out to me on the radio. I told them I was Christina Heald, 3 month survivor so far, and I was a Superstar!

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Superstar!

Moral of the story: Always pre-register for the damn race!!!

How the Hell am I Supposed to Know?

Have you ever thought about what you would want to say and to whom if you were drawing your last breath on Earth? I had an opportunity to find out just exactly what would filter through my mind almost a week ago Thursday, May 28,2009. I went in for my chemo treatment and ended up having such a severe allergic reaction to the drugs that I came close to checking out–for good. I’ve spent the past several days reviewing in my mind what happened and it makes me more and more frustrated. The doctor also seems to be giving very vague and watered down information to me which insults my intelligence and leaves me feeling even more like I just can’t trust anyone anymore.

On this particular day, I worked until 12:45 pm and then raced off to place my own child at a friend’s home so I could go get treatment. I almost forgot that I needed to do something with him. Jeff didn’t go with me this time because I really didn’t see the necessity. He’d be bored sitting around for hours and I would either nap or chat with the other ladies I usually got paired up with. I wasn’t nervous about anything or stressed out about anything except that my daughter who had been home for two and a half weeks had taken off again. I was actually curious to see if I would have the same reaction as the last time.

Three weeks ago, it was so hard for me to differentiate whether the excruciating migraines (which lasted 9 days) were a result of the chemo, or because of the fact that three days prior to that treatment, I had all my dental work done–5 cavities filled and a root canal. It was so intense that I had to be put under for three and a half hours while the dentist hovered over me wearing his microsurgeon’s binoculars. When I tell people that they wonder, “Gee, when was the last time you saw a dentist” and my reply is “6 months ago”. This particular example of where my body was in a heightened state of deterioration may or may not be contributed to the fact that I have cancer, and I don’t know whether or not research has been done on this, but if you ask me personally-I do believe this was a telltale sign. It could very well have been a combination of both.

I had been told I wouldn’t have much of an appetite afterward and that food would taste different. Due to the pain and throbbing in my mouth, I wasn’t able to eat or sleep for 5 days straight. Everything did taste different, too. It had no taste, actually. My mouth seemed dead. There were no flavors and even when I tried to eat, I was forced to suck on everything because there was just too much sensitivity. I was also extremely wiped out once that shot of Neupogen hit my system the next day. After 9 days of these horrific headaches, I finally called the oncologist’s office and told them what was going on. It truly felt like there was something happening to my brain. I could only visualize the worst–possible bleeding, blood flow being severely restricted, something getting ready to burst, and so on and so forth. They talked to me like I was an idiot. Their response was “well, why in the world didn’t you take any Ibuprofen?” “Gee, I don’t know, because I’m a masochist, I guess–DUH…I was told I shouldn’t take it because it thins the blood. I wasn’t told I COULD take it–at some point–and when is that point?” I mean really, it’s not like I’ve ever done this before so–HOW THE HELL AM I SUPPOSED TO KNOW???

In all, it has taken close to three weeks to be able to chew anything. There were several days where I called my new dentist up and asked about the problem. I even took all the children with me one day so I could have my bite filed down a bit in an attempt to lessen the skull piercing pain. I was told it may not take and we may need to pull the two teeth in question. I just prayed that wouldn’t happen and kept taking my antibiotics faithfully. I was desperate for some pain meds, but working with children during the day and transporting them to and from various activities–I knew that wouldn’t be an option–I’d be under the influence. I just stuck to Tylenol even though it didn’t work and so, I suffered through it.

Mother’s Day weekend I was wiped out. I was also emotionally drained because that was the weekend we found our daughter. I was stressed and worried and sick to my stomach about what was going on with her. Through it all, I managed to take her to the doctor to get her the medicines she needed for a host of illnesses. I also ran kids to birthday parties and coffee house meetings so I could get to the bottom of some girl drama with my young daughter, her friend, and her friend’s mother. I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t do anything but cry. I had reached an all-time low. Not about the poison that was filtering through my veins, not about the constant questioning that I submitted myself to everyday, but for my daughter and for my best friend who was losing her dad to stage 4 lung cancer. While in Virginia over the holidays, she received her news. Just a few weeks later, I received mine. Together we have cried and bitched and moaned and occassionally laughed. We have been there for each other and had it not been for each of us–the other wouldn’t have been able to get through these life changing events. I was at the visitation this past Tuesday where they said goodbye to her dad. She and I were just becoming close when my dad died exactly one month shy of two years ago. We’ve been through a lot–her and I–we both have teens that have pushed every limit possible and thankfully we have been able to lean on one another and vent our frustrations. We are both childcare providers and we both are going to school together. We are both at the same point on the wheel at the moment. As it happens, life has thrown a huge crow bar into our wheels and we have both come to a screeching halt. On that Mother’s Day weekend, I cried for my friend. I knew what it was like to lose a father. I knew it wouldn’t be long and I prayed he went in peace. I’m glad he did.

Here it is now four weeks later and I just can’t believe it’s been one week since this life-threatening episode happened to me. I really didn’t expect anything to happen. I walked into the place and had a seat after checking in. I was called into the examining room where the Dr. came in to talk to me and see how I was doing. I really didn’t have much to report and I had told myself not to forget talking to him about the Ibuprofen, but I did. From that room, I was taken to the other side of the building where the chemo rooms are. I’ve never been given a private room, they’ve always been communal. I don’t mind that because there are other women there in various stages of their cancers and I have gotten a lot of information from the ladies in those rooms.

The first time I went, Jeff took me. I remember it being a gorgeous day outside. My spirits were up and I was totally packed and ready for a long day. One of my daycare moms, Tracy, gave me a care package that morning. It had trashy magazines to read, lemon heads (supposed to take away the metallic taste you might get in your mouth), gum, a little personal fan (in case I got a hot flash), and a new water bottle (pink–just for the occasion). I was so touched by that gesture and I realized I had not thought of taking any of that stuff, but she also has family members who have gone through this and so she knew more of what to expect than I.

Last Thursday, however, I was in a rush. I hadn’t packed anything and really didn’t worry about it since there was a TV in each chemo room, a small fridge, snacks, blankets and lazyboys to recline in. I did pray that something more positive would be on the TV this time. The first time I was there the ladies and myself were glued to Elizabeth Edward’s interview with Oprah where they discussed her husband’s affair and her battle with breast cancer. Hers is terminal. I wondered if that was a sign that first day. On this day, there was only one other gal in the room. Her husband was with her and she was sending him off to poke around Home Depot for a couple hours. We started to chat and it turned out she was past staging. Totally terminal. She told me that, at first, she had had stage 2 with no node involvement. She had gone through a mastectomy, chemo, remission for a year, and now it was back–widespread throughout her bones and brain. She was now undergoing chemo again–heavier duty stuff, radiation to the brain–resulting in hearing loss, and the cancer had deteriorated her vertebrae up where it meets the skull and she could no longer hold her head up. This resulted in spinal surgery where rods and metal plates were fused to her upper spine. How depressing is that. I know. Totally. Yet, I keep getting paired up with patients with stories like this. It is doing nothing for my emotional stability. It doesn’t give me encouragement or hope and I am not sure if its just a random draw as to what room I am put in, or if Iam put in there to boost THEIR faith and hope.

The last time I had treatment I made it through the whole bag of Taxotere and it wasn’t until the last half hour of it that I started to feel some weird stuff–my eyes were burning and watering, my throat was on fire, my chest felt really tight and it was hard to breathe–but it was somewhat tolerable. I didn’t say anything at first because I figured this was what having chemotherapy felt like–afterall it is poison that’s being infused into your veins. I remember really trying hard to withstand the drug, but with 10 minutes left of the bag, I had to tell the nurse. She said to me, “well, honey, you’re having an allergic reaction–why didn’t you tell us sooner?”

My response to her–“HOW THE HELL WAS I SUPPOSED TO KNOW?”

Geez, I’ve never done this before, I don’t know what is normal. I’ve never had an allergic reaction of this kind before–and I’m allergic to a lot of stuff. Nothing was explained to me beforehand. I wasn’t prepped on what signs to watch for. It really felt like she was considering me an idiot–like–“Duh”. She then turned the meds off and switched me to Prednisone, Benadryl, and Saline before turning the Taxotere back on to finish out the drug. I thought it was odd that if I was having an allergic reaction to the Taxotere–of any magnitude–they would stop that drug–I mean–I was almost done with it–why not just stop that and switch to the Cytoxin at that point? I don’t have the medical knowledge or training when it comes to this stuff and so as I watched the drip start again, I paused and thought…

HOW THE HELL AM I SUPPOSED TO KNOW…

So, as I sat in my Lazyboy recliner chatting away with the terminal gal, I apprehensively watched the different drips of liquid oozing from their bags and traveling down toward my vein. For the first hour and half everything was fine. Through my IV, I was given 2 bags of Prednisone (because I fell asleep early the night before and forgot to take my pills), one bag of Benadryl (just in case I started to have an allergic reaction like last time), and a bag of saline to wash it all out of the line before the Taxotere drug started. A woman from Gilda’s Club came in and we were all laughing when I got this familiar feeling. The same feeling as the last time only this time it came on with such ferocity and within the first couple of minutes after the Taxotere started that I had only a moment to react. My eyes flew up to the bag hanging above me and through burning and watering eyes I noticed that I was at the very beginning of the bag.

“Shit–I have to get through the whole bag ‘, I thought in an instant. Then I felt my throat begin to swell. What a strange feeling that is–but it was just like the first time only it was rushing in like an F4 tornado. I struggled to gasp for air and my arm went up to wave to the two ladies that I was in distress. I could tell my face was getting red. My lungs felt as though someone had taken a rope and wrapped it around both of them, tying and overhand knot, and pulling tight. Initially, I began to panic, but somewhere I remembered not to expend my energy by flailing. I never saw the woman from Gilda’s jump up and race down the hallway in search of help. I did hear her screaming, though. I felt someone thrust a bedpan in my left hand that was clenched tight into a fist. I remember thinking–“oh, God, I hope I am not going to start foaming at the mouth or vomit in front of all these people that have just run into the room. Then, my mouth filled with cortisol–that stress hormone. I was just talking to my nutritionist about that last week. He told me that in a fight or flight mode your body produces this and in extreme cases your mouth will fill with something that tastes like copper metal. Sure enough, the most rancid mouthful of copper was now trying to make its way out of my mouth. Is that what the bedpan was for? I remember my body slumping over. It was as if I was in a coma–unable to move, speak, or breathe, but fully awake and aware of what was going on around me. I know at least a minute and a half had to have gone by by the time the doctor came running in the room. I had been curled up on the Lazyboy with my legs tucked underneath me and he straightened me out, but I was still slumped over. I couldn’t move. He got down on the floor and looked into my eyes and asked, “Can you breathe?”

Mind you, by now I was purple and the pressure in my head was so great that I thought something would surely explode. So, when he said that to me I wanted desperately to say sarcastically, “Does it look like I’m breathing?” but I couldn’t. I looked hard into his eyes as I felt more and more like darkness was approaching. With my eyes I told him…

“Please find my daughter, Jasmine, and tell her I love her.”

“Please get my cell phone and call my husband and let him know what’s happening–and tell him I love him.”

“Please find my other children and tell them that I love them.”

and then I thought…

“This is it. I’m going to be staring into the eyes of a man I don’t trust as I leave this world. I’m holding the hand of a strange woman.”

I remember him telling a nurse to go get the epinephrine. I thought–“oh, shit, that’s gonna hurt when they jab that needle in my leg”. I remember her returning. I saw her standing there, not with the epi-pen, but with a syringe. They were going to put it into my IV which had been turned off and replaced with more benadryl. But she never came. It was never put in. I remember pretending I was diving into an olympic sized swimming pool. I was swimming the length of it underwater very slowly. I kept telling myself…

“When I get to the other side, I’ll come up for air”.
“When I get to the other side, I’ll come up for air”.
“When I get to the other side, I’ll come up for air”.

Then the lights went out. When I opened my eyes, I was covered with a blanket, my breathing was very shallow, and I had oxygen up my nose. I don’t know how much time had passed or what happened, but I knew I was going to have to stay for a long time while they watched me. I was so tired. Everyone was gone and every once in a while someone came back to check on me. I reached for my phone and tried to call Jeff several times, but he never picked up. I tried to text Jasmine when my new friend, Denise, from down the street texted me inquiring when my chemo was. I was still pretty out of it and I sporadically told her what happened and that I was alone and couldn’t get ahold of Jeff. This woman that I had really just started talking to in the past couple months came to be with me. I was really touched. She drove me home and helped me pick up Justin. I will always remember and be grateful for her texting at just that moment. A sign. God is putting new and old friends in my life to help me when I need help.

I was told to come back on Monday of this week and the doctor and I would discuss options. I was able to go to my appointment through the help of my dear friend, Becky, who was off from childcare and making arrangements for her dad’s funeral the next day. She watched a few of my daycare kids for an hour so I could make that appointment. Jeff met me there and together we went in to listen to what the onco man had to say. Remember back when I said I had decided to like the guy? I take that back, now. I’ve been getting increasingly annoyed with this man. I truly feel that he gives me information in a very watered down fashion. He talks vaguely and I need specifics. I’m a big girl, I can handle it, just give it to me straight–BE SPECIFIC. But he’s not and I start getting upset and so once again, our visit ended in a deadlock between us. It went like this…

He comes in and shakes my hand and acknowledges Jeff. We exchange salutations and he says, “So, Thursday didn’t go so well”.

CJ: “No, it didn’t”
Dr.: “I don’t think it would be in your best interest to pursue any further treatment–do you?”

HOW THE HELL AM I SUPPOSED TO KNOW?

CJ: “I don’t know, are there any other options?”
Dr.: “Well, yes, but we can no longer give you anything in that whole class of drugs now because the first time you had a mild reaction and this past Thursday was very severe. The next time would have grave consequences”

I’m thinking…..”DUH”

CJ: “I’m curious why you didn’t do anything–call 911, administer the epinephrine, etc”
Dr.: “Well it looked like you were going to come out of it’

Was that before or after I blacked out? Really–what was the guy waiting for–my heart to stop beating? I went over two minutes without oxygen. I don’t know about any of you–but it’s stuff like that that makes me not trust the people I’m paying unbelievable amounts of money to help KEEP ME ALIVE. ???

Dr.: “We could continue with another course of treatment that consists of 3 drugs and would need to be taken 5 more times. Usually it’s 6 treatments, but since you’ve already had one, you’ll need only 5 more. The drugs are Cytoxin–which you already have had, Methotrexate, and 5FU”

“Well, that last one is appropriately named”, I thought.

CJ: “What is the difference between the two courses”
Dr.: “This course was used a long time ago–like 20 years back. It’s side effects are severe diarrhea and mouth sores”.

That’s just great. That’s just what I need. I’m so sick of all this crap (no pun intended) and I just want my old life back.

Dr.: “It seems to be tolerated pretty well, but you need to decide whether you are interested in pursuing chemotherapy at all or if you just want to stop. Do the benefits outweigh the risks?”

HOW THE HELL AM I SUPPOSED TO KNOW?

CJ: “I don’t know what the benefits or risks are of these drugs. I don’t have any information on them. Is taking them going to increase my chances for any other major problems–heartattack, stroke, anneurism, other cancers?”

CJ: “If I don’t do the chemotherapy at all, then what? What happens then? How do you monitor me? Are you going to give me a whole body scan at some point? How do you tell if its coming back? How do you tell where its coming back? How do we proceed from there and for the rest of my life?”

I was so upset. Here I was back at square one again–needing to make this decision all over. It was just so overwhelming. Is it good enough that I’ve already had one treatment? Am I settling with just one treatment? Was that enough to eradicate all the free radicals that could be swimming around my lymphatic system just lying in wait for a new host site? Or do I go for the new course of treatment. Afterall, I already chose chemotherapy the last time foregoing the study. That was my huge gamble, my roll of the dice. I made that decision once and then I stuck with it. Should I do that again–I mean–if I lost all my hair for just one treatment–I’m gonna be pissed.

Dr.: “It just seems like you want to be in control of everything”.

Again, I wanted to say to him…”Duh”.

CJ: “Of course I want to be in control. I have very valid concerns about my care and the people I have entrusted with my life. I don’t feel that my questions are being answered. I feel that you want me to make a decision rashly and without the information I need to make an INFORMED decision”.

Dr.: “What is it I haven’t explained over and over? I cannot tell you if its going to come back. There is no guarantee with chemotherapy”.

CJ: “I want to know how you can tell if its coming back”

Dr: “I can’t”

CJ: “That doesn’t make sense–how can others get PET scans that let them know if they have anything growing somewhere else. Why can’t we do that?”

I’m sorry, but there just seems to be a few links missing in the chain. There is specific information that is not being told to me. Just tell me, dammit, is it an insurance thing? Is there a protocol for these types of things? Do you have to do X,Y,and Z before I get the PET scan? Am I even thinking of the right type of scans? Am I using the right terminology?

HOW THE HELL AM I SUPPOSED TO KNOW?

Jeff: “I think you’re worried about the end of this process and not focused on the here and now”

CJ: “No, in order for me to make the decisions I need to make here and now, I need to know the timeline of events. It’s how I process things. Tell me everything from start to finish so I can process all the steps in the process. So I can wrap my brain around what is happening and I can choose to deal or not deal with it’.

Dr.: “I will not give you this PET scan. We just don’t use this as a way of diagnosing. You would just become a victim of technology because we all have cancer cells and you may see something that may not be something we need to worry about.’

CJ: “I understand that, but you may be able to detect new tumors forming on major organs and how are you going to know if something is coming back if you don’t do scans and at that point–will it be too late? And if you catch it in the early stages then we have a better chance of getting rid of it.”

Dr.: (fully exasperated) “Listen, just go live your life and don’t be so consumed with this”

CJ: “WHAT?? I would love to. Do you think I want to have poison pumped into me? Do you think I wanted to wake up to this diagnosis? Do you think I wanted to have my breast cut off? Do you think I wouldn’t love to just have my old life back? Do you think I wouldn’t love to be sitting somewhere other than here in this office? I would LOVE to go live my life. But, my life is forever changed by this. No, it doesn’t need to define me, but you tell me one person that doesn’t worry about whether or not there cancer is going to come back–and where it will come back–and how severe it will be when it does. Maybe survivors or patients that are in remission are able to sleep a little easier the further out from their surgery and treatment they get, but when you are still in the thick of it–how can you not be consumed by it? This cancer has not only invaded my body, but it has invaded my sleep patterns, my dreams, my thoughts, my fears, my hopes, my family, my jobs, and all the little details that make up me. It has affected my appearance to the point that I am reminded every minute of every day that I have cancer. I have a 10 inch scar across my concaved chest where all the nerves have been severed and I can no longer feel anything. I have lost all my hair, gained 20 pounds, and watched the bags under my eyes get darker. You don’t have this. You are not emotionally invested in me, but the people around me are and this has affected their lives also. They would love for things to be back to normal also. My normal is so far removed from what it used to be that I can only dream about my old life now. It will never be like that again.”

I wasn’t crying, but my eyes were filled with tears. I was pissed. And you know what he said to me?

Dr.: “It seems like your on the verge of a mental meltdown and you really need to relax because that is half the battle”.

I had to suck in my breath. A mental meltdown? Are you freaking kidding me? I wasn’t–until he said that and then I was so angry that my eyes turned into slits–I knew at that moment, I looked like my mother on one of her good days. I was completely insulted. Even if I was going to have a meltdown–who is he to judge? Just because I don’t roll over when he tells me to and just because I come in there armed with questions and I am expecting specific answers to those questions–to him–that makes me a control freak. If I show a tear or two out of frustration–well, then, I’m on the verge of a mental meltdown. Maybe most patients worship their doctors. Maybe they will do anything that doctor says without questioning it. Maybe they don’t have the courage enough to stand up for their own bodies and their own health–but that’s not me. I’m trying to be proactive about my life, my health, my options. I can’t control the unknown, but I can try to control some of the knowns and how do you find out about those? All I wanted to know was basically–How are you going to monitor me if I don’t do the chemo? And in return, I get tactless, sexist remarks.

CJ: “Tell me this, how do you define remission? How do I get there? How do you know when you are no longer in remission?”

Dr.: “Remission is when your cancer hasn’t come back in a while”

Geez, I feel like I’m playing word games with my teenagers. Why can’t he be SPECIFIC?

CJ: “You’re idea of ‘a while’ and my idea may be totally different–what’s you’re definition”

Dr.: “Listen, you probably already are in remission”

CJ: “How do you know that? How can you tell? To me, there’s a wide disparity between ‘Probably” and definitely.”

Dr: “You’ll know.”

CJ: “How can you say that? What if I don’t? I didn’t know I had breast cancer.”

Dr.: “You’ll feel it.”

CJ: “What if I don’t? My own doctor didn’t feel anything–it was only detected through imaging. I just want to know how you are going to be able to tell if I’m getting this somewhere else. Are there blood tests you do that alert you to increased elevations in certain counts? Something that would make you say–‘oohh, we need to look into that further’ and then you order some scans? And why don’t we just go ahead and do the hysterectomy and even an ooferectomy (removal of ovaries) since the Tamoxifin (hormone blocking drug given for 5 yrs.) is known to cause uterine cancer.”

Dr: “That is major surgery and we don’t just do that without reason.”

How many more reasons does he need? Should I see a gynocological surgeon to talk to him/her about it? Has he forgotten the massive surgery I just underwent? If I am ok with it, why can’t we discuss it? Hysterectomies are done every day? Two less places for this cancer to land. I know I won’t die of ovarian, uterine or cervical cancer then.

Maybe I was not expressing myself or my concerns in a way that he understood. I knew he wasn’t giving me the answers I needed in a way that I needed them in order to process them and make a decision. I know he just wanted me to shit or get off the pot. Chemo or no chemo so we could go from there. I was hung up on what would happen if I chose no chemo. I know, to him, it must seem that my inability to make a quick decision was really indecisiveness or in essence inaction–procrastination. The look in his eyes and on his face spoke volumes of this. I tried to convey to him that this wasn’t like picking out my nail polish color for the week. We were at a standstill and I was keeping him from lunch. He got up to leave and he said,

“Why don’t you think about it for 24 hours and then call the office and tell me what you would like to do–if you decide on the chemo we’ll see you tomorrow”.

With that, he left. Well, that is impossible. I simply will not come in tomorrow on such short notice–I have other families that rely on me being there and they already took off Thursday and Friday of last week. I can’t wammie them like that. I simply won’t even think about that as an option until next week. I don’t know if that throws things off in the cycle or not. I don’t know if they HAVE to stay within a certain time frame. Maybe not doing it until next week kicks me out of the 5 cycle treatment and back into the 6 cycle treatment all over again. I just felt like there were too many things I wanted answers to and I wasn’t getting those answers. I needed to talk to other people and get their thoughts. I talked to Denise for a long time about what her follow up care is like. I wondered why I just couldn’t forego on the chemo for now and if it turns up somewhere else–start it then–or is it too late at that point? If all these women that are in these rooms have already been through it before and they are back again–then it really didn’t do them any good in the first place–did it? I needed to take a break from thinking about it.

I didn’t call them back the next day. I called my Aunt Pam. I talked to other survivors. I really talked to Becky and Denise. I called the nurse this past Wednesday and for 40 minutes we talked. She pretty much reiterated what he said and I felt myself frustrated all over again. We hung up with her promising to get specific answers and call me back during naptime. When she called later that day, I did get a couple nuggets out of her. I was told that the shot of Neupogen would no longer be part of the regimine and I was glad because it carries a risk of future Leukemia. She told me specifically that one treatment isn’t “good enough” because studies have shown that 4 treatments (or more) depending on the type and stage is the magic number. FINALLY, something a little specific–one question down. I was told that I would have regular 6 month checkups where I would have a mammogram and we’d discuss how I was feeling.

That’s it? How is it that everyone else I talk to has regular CT scans of their bones, brain, full body, and chest x-rays. I was originally told the likelihood of it coming into the other breast was minimal and that this type of cancer usually travels to ovaries, bones, brain, lungs, and/or liver–major organs. You can’t even detect ovarian cancer through yearly pap smears. By the time its found–its usually too late. I watched Farrah’s Story the other night on TV and she was getting all her scans done each time she went in. Is this something just for the uber rich?

I know he’s not God–he can’t tell me whether I’ll get it back anytime in my lifetime again. He can’t “cure” me, but there has to be a way that he can tell if I’m growing a tumor somewhere else. I know in my gut there’s an answer to this somewhere. I went onto the Cancer Treatment Center’s website and looked at the list of things you would have to bring with you to your initial consultation. In that list–all your CT scans. I’m to the point where I just need to talk to another oncologist to see what the protocol is. I cannot afford to take off a week for the initial visit at these Centers, but I will try to get in with Denise’s oncologist. I’m really not trying not to pick fights with my surgeon or my oncologist, but dammit, I know there are answers out there. I’ve realized that it’s not so much the cancer I’m fighting as it is the fight I am battling each day with the insurance company and the doctors that are supposed to be looking out for me. I just don’t trust anyone. Not one doctor I have has given me reason to do that yet. Am I just being a bitch? I hope so. Babe In Total Control of Herself. I am trying to look out for me.

I’m in need of advice. I need SPECIFIC advice that deals with these drugs and also the types of follow up care I should expect to receive at each future visit. I’ve researched the drugs and its all so worrisome. I think back on this past week and all the conversations I’ve had with friends, survivors, terminally ill patients, and medical professionals. I’m taking all this information in and trying to come up with an informed decision. If you can help me–please leave comments because…

HOW THE HELL AM I SUPPOSED TO KNOW.

Heartfelt Thanks…

I am overwhelmed.  I can’t think straight.  My world seems to be spinning into outer space.  I have so much to write.  So little time.  I have so many demands on me right now, I can’t breathe.  I can’t sleep.  I can’t eat.  I have so much to say, so much to purge, so much to vomit up onto my computer screen, but the countdown is on.  I want so badly to catch up and make sense of what is happening to me and around me.  I want to wake up from this nightmare and know that this is not really happening.  But that will never happen.

What I want to do more than anything is thank everyone for all their prayers.  All the kind words, the encouraging remarks, the laughter, the hugs, the hand holding-in spirit and in person.  I have wanted to respond to each and everyone one of you that has posted comments.  If I make it out of this, I will–I promise.  I can’t tell you how much it has meant in my darkest moments to come back and know that there is goodness and kindness in this world that will come from complete strangers and those that have been there the whole way with me.  I want you all to know that I am deeply humbled and grateful to have this outlet to release my frustration, fears, newfound wisdom, and if for some reason, someone out there should find it helpful in anyway, or can relate to my story in any way, or it provokes someone out there to go get a mammogram–then it was worth the hours of writing through blurred and tear filled eyes to get my thoughts out. 

The story has continued, it is still compelling, it is still heartwrenching, it is still worth me telling.  However, my life has become filled with distractions along the way and has caused me even greater heartache.  My oldest daughter has run away from home again.  This time, I fear for good.  The subject is so intertwined with what is happening to me, I have not been able to seperate one from the other and since this was a blog about my journey with cancer, I have found it difficult to concentrate on even this because all my energy has been going to her.  It has torn my family apart, it has caused so much sorrow and I have had deep flashbacks to my childhood when my own sister ran away.  Those feelings are much a part of me all over again, and the pain is raw and real.  I force through my days right now, carrying out my cheery duties of  “Tina”, daycare provider and Mom–of a runaway, a daughter who will turn 13 (a teenager) on this Wed., March 18, 2009, and a 5 yr. old that is having trouble dealing with what is happening to his mommy.  I have a limited relationship with my husband at the moment, and have decided it was time for me to grab the life raft my pastor has thrown out to me.  I have joined a bible study, bought a new bible, and have been overwhelmed at the messages and signs that have been coming at me lately.

I have been honored this past Wednesday at our state capitol for community excellence in my profession and I could not be more thrilled to be at the top of my game in that aspect.  The price of that is taking its toll, on my family, my education, and my health, however.  I am trying, but as hard as I try, more demands keep cropping up despite my attempts to delegate them off somewhere else.  I feel as though many are just as secretly terrified that something is going to go wrong and heaven forbid I don’t get everything all done before I should kick the bucket or be incapacitated for several weeks.  My accountant is one of those people.  She got really upset when I said I would need an extension for taxes.  I just don’t have the time or energy to put into it right now.  Isn’t there a joke about how there’s only two things you are guaranteed in life–taxes, and death…well, my accountant must swear by that rule of thumb and wants to make sure I pay mine, if necessary, just in case…

I also have a class I can’t keep up with no matter how hard I try and I think I just need to withdraw instead of screwing up my GPA.  I have one teacher who is also not friendly at all and is unsympathetic to the fact that I will be having surgery or that I will be unable to do anything for about a week.  I have checked into voice recognition software, but its EXPENSIVE and I just can’t afford it, so maybe I could get a friend to type while I dictate.  More than anything, I just want to sit and write.  I need to relieve myself of this burden I’ve been carrying.  I’ve been swamped with midterms, doctor appointments, and information overload.  Even though, I pray there will be more time in the future to really lay out my chronological account of events, what it all boils down to is this…

I am having a radical mastectomy on Thursday, March, 19, 2009. 

This has all come up as of today.  I knew it was a card on the table.  I prayed someone would call the surgeon’s bluff.  I prayed I would see some hint that his poker face was just a bunch of B.S.  I was wrong. I will have the full story I hope and pray soon.  Right now, I can’t think, I am emotionally spent and physically exhausted.  This is happening.  There is no ace up my sleeve.  There is no trump card.  I can’t throw my cards in and ask for all new ones.  I have to play this hand out.  I would rather be playing strip poker in front of thousands then have to undergo this process, though.  Maybe….that is what I am doing by writing this blog, now that I think about it.  I am stripping off the layers…that have covered up all sorts of yucky character traits…in a way that would leave me exposed to thousands…of strangers as well as friends…and strangers that may become my friends.  How I wish I could explore this concept fully in my mind and round out my thoughts right now.  I am just too scared and tired to do that right now.  I just can’t believe this is happening.

I don’t know if I will be able to check in for some time.  I don’t know what will happen on Thursday.  I don’t know if  things will all go well.  I pray it does.  I am asking for you to stop and say a prayer, for me and for my family–I’m not picky–any denomination will do.  If you would all say a prayer for my daughter, Jasmine, that she may see the light and run toward it and away from those that have pulled her down;  for my daughter, Jordan, who is terrified that she will lose her mom the day after her birthday; for my little boy, Justin, that he won’t be so scared and worried that God is coming to get me; and for Jeff, that he has the strength and stamina to keep up with these kids and sees to it they are well taken care of should something happen or while I am laid up.  If I don’t ever make it back on, thanks for listening, caring, praying, loving, and thinking of me and my family.  Thanks for stopping in–for a long time, or just for a peak.  Thanks for commenting–I’ll leave my husband the password to get in–maybe words of encouragement would help them all get through what lies ahead.  And if I do make it out of this, be sure to check back, you’ll be in for one hell of a read.  You’ll never believe what has transpired in the past couple weeks while I’ve been away.  I can’t believe it myself.

I pray that God will see me through this safely and that I shall be called truly, in time, Mrs. Heald.  How prophetic that seems now, looking back.  Little did I know 20 years ago, that my husband’s name would be my biggest sign.  Its funny, I have such a low voice that whenever someone would ask me my name over the phone, they would never be able to quite catch the pronunciation.  I would have to spell it out–“H as in Harry, E as in elephant, A as in Alice, L as in Larry, and D as in David–like I was HURT but now I am HEALD”  I have actually said that thousands of times.  What a huge misguided sign that was.  I have been hurt, but I haven’t been healed–YET.  I married a man that would be all I should ever hope to become, in body, mind, and spirit.  Jeff, I love you.  Jasmine, Jordan, Justin…I love you more than you will ever know, forever and ever, with all my heart and soul…Mommy

Started Tracking on 12-1-09