Friday, July 15, 2011

This is some real flower power

So for those unfamiliar with breast reconstruction after a mastectomy, in my limited knowledge and reading, I found out that they often tattoo new nipples on the breasts. In talking to my mom about this, as she is preparing herself for the prospect of a double mastectomy, she made the comment, "I think I'll have them just tattoo something else there. Maybe I'll get coy fish, or daisies. Daisies make me smile and if I saw daisies every morning waking up it would spread a little cheer."

Funny stuff! But of course, now I'm wondering why the heck not? I mean, if seeing daisies there would make my mom happy and she really thinks that. . .I'm not sure why what has started as a joke shouldn't be gone through with if it truly would bring her a smile.

She also said something in the nature that it's not like tattooed nipples really look all that real anyway and if they are going to be altered, why not have something fun. Of course, it would be kind of funny at future doctor appointments after she has daisies for nipples. I can only imagine doctor's faces when they saw that. Sounds like chuckle material to me. :)


Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Club

The last two weeks have really opened my eyes to something that I think I took for granted. Perhaps took for granted isn't the right phrasing to use. It's something I didn't quite understand. I never really understood the pink ribbons, the "club" like feel surrounding all the "Breast Cancer Awareness" campaigns that have been in the media. I didn't "feel" the passion.

Honestly, I didn't have the amount of empathy I have for many other causes. I know everyone has a cause and many are health related and we kind of lump them in to what we do for work. You know the drill, someone organizes a 5k, we go on a Saturday morning, meet co-workers and walk it. Often times the goal in mind is our own fitness and the cause is really a secondary thought. At least, that is what it seems if whatever is being supported doesn't hit close to home. After all, much of our empathy comes from within, due to circumstances and pain we have already felt - and that pain is then redirected towards the individual or group with a similar plight.

So, let me share a little of what it's like after those words "It is cancer" are spoken to you or someone you love. Naturally, I can only speak for what I felt when those words were spoken to my mom.

Cold. It feels very cold. Perhaps that's in the manner which the news is delivered, but I don't think outside factors influence this internal coldness that I felt at that very moment. It was like my bones had been chilled. Goosebumps, all over my body and instant fear.

Lost. You have absolutely no idea where to turn and what to do first. It's easy to think, "well, call a doctor" but which doctor do you call? How do you know you are selecting the absolute best doctor for the task at hand? How long will the wait be? This is a major diagnosis, what is her insurance going to do, what will be covered? What won't be covered? Where do we turn first?

Afraid. Cancer - that's the big C. People die of cancer. Even if this doesn't end up being the worst type of case - do treatments hurt? Will she be sick? How will we get through that? Can she mentally bear this burden?

Hurt. My heart ached from that moment on. I feel terribly sad that my mom is going to have to make choices that will be the most difficult in her life. I know how deep and personal it would be for me if I had to make the choice between risking life or death - or keeping my breasts. If she chooses to not go the double mastectomy route, then will she live in fear that the cancer will return? Will that gnaw at her each day wondering if cells are mutating and multiplying within her remaining breast tissue? Can she take that stress? But, in turn, can she face the mirror if her breasts are removed? Will they do reconstruction immediately?

These are all questions and thoughts that weigh on the mind. Fortunately, many of the questions have have been answered. But, this is my life experience right this very second and I KNOW I'm not alone. Millions of women, mothers, daughters, sisters, friends - they are all experiencing these same thoughts. These same feelings. These same fears. This is why they are part of the "club." They are seeking comfort in knowing they are doing something.

I had no idea. I honestly didn't.

Each day my mother's cancer is on my mind when I wake up. When I go to work. When I come home. When I get on the computer. When I go to bed. No matter what I do, even if it slips out of my mind for a split second, it's looming in the background. I carry it with me on my shoulders and no matter where I go, there he sits, ready to creep back into my mind.

Why do I tell you this? Because there is something each and every one of us can do. We can support organizations that seek out research for treatment and cures. By supporting this, I am supporting my mom. By pushing this, I'm doing what I can FOR HER! I know I'm pushing this hard right now. And I know it may not be quite understood. Perhaps you are like the old me and saying your sick of hearing about breast cancer and seeing pink.

As a family member of someone who was diagnosed with breast cancer, we HAVE to do something. We HAVE to try to help. Especially if they have a personality trait like I have - I want to fix it. I want to make it better. Honestly, it's keeping me sane. I am a strong person. I am strong for her and I'm positive for her. Doing THIS helps me do that for her.

Your donations and participation in the Susan G. Komen walk with me is personal. It's meaningful. It's helping me cope with the situation that has been dealt. Just like the millions of other people affected by this and reaching out to their friends and family to support this cause.

I want to see my team hit 50 participants. I want to see us hit BIG NUMBERS.

So, I've purchased pink bracelets. There are four different "styles" - four different words. Hope. Strength. Faith. Survivor. I will begin selling these and every single dollar will go to my Susan G. Komen fundraiser. Additionally, I'm going to sell pink ribbon car magnets. If I sell out and people want more, I'll buy more to sell.

This is my way of doing something productive with my racing thoughts.

Yes, now I understand. I understand the passion behind the people that push. I understand why the "pink club" exists. I do hope you will never have to join this club. But, please consider joining me for this cause. Rally around my mom with me and let's show her how much good can come of a nasty, nasty day like "diagnosis" day.

There are multiple ways you can support this.

  • You may sponsor me with a donation to the cause - click here to donate now
  • If you are local, please sign up to walk ($25) or run ($32)
  • If you aren't local, please consider to join the team and "Sleep in for the Cure" ($30)
Fundraising is NOT mandatory, but greatly appreciated. Imagine if I was able to gather 50 people who each were able to raise $50 (that's only $10 from 5 friends - that's asking your friends to give up two trips to Starbucks). We would have $2500 in donations (in addition to my individual fundraising goal of $500). Can you imagine if we told my mother we had raised $3000 for the cause? or $4000? or $5000???? Talk about the gift of HOPE!

Please friends, we can do this. We can do it together. Join me, won't you?

Register for Blisters for Becky today by clicking here


Wednesday, July 13, 2011


I truly believe we have angels all around us. They may be a close friend who at just the right moment provides information that changes your life. Perhaps they send us small signs which tell us everything is going to be ok.

Today was a rough day for my mom. The diagnosis from yesterday hit her pretty hard. Don't get me wrong, my mom is still very positive that she will beat this. She will be a survivor. Emotions about the situation should never be confused with negativity - as they are two very, very different things. She will have rough days. I will have rough days. We both still very much hold hope that she will be well, she will beat this beast and life will be "normal" once again.

Since the diagnosis, there have been a few signs that were extremely comforting and meaningful. The first came on Saturday. Mom was sitting on her front porch and a hummingbird came up on her porch. In all the time she has lived in the house. hummingbirds have not been frequent flyers. Yet, this guy came and lingered for a short while. Shortly after, a bright red cardinal sat on the palm tree in the flowerbed right in front. Again, cardinals are common birds but my mom doesn't really have anything in front of her home to attract birds and they haven't been around before this day. My grandmother loved birds. Her favorite bird was the red cardinal. She had kitchen mugs with cardinals, she always liked to sit and watch them. She liked hummingbirds and used to put hummingbird feeders out so she could watch them. I truly believe my grandmother sent my mother the birds that morning to let her know she's still with her. She's still thinking of her. She's praying (I mean, she kind of does have a direct line since she's there and all). It's little signs that provide huge amounts of comfort - if we just take the time to watch for them and listen to them.

I also received some amazing information from a large group of friends. They recommended a new primary care physician for my mother to see. Through a series of events, we were able to have mom's appointment bumped up to see her today. The appointment was fantastic. The doctor is SO GOOD. She had already reviewed my mother's results prior to the appointment. She gave some wonderfully encouraging words but also acknowledged that my mom will have good and bad days. She gave her a prescription for Xanax for the bad days, to help her get through and remain positive. She gave her tons of information.

It was through my group of friends that we found this doctor - she is the perfect fit. Without having these folks in my life we wouldn't have this new doctor. We wouldn't have known to go to the surgeon she will be seeing next week. We wouldn't have the best oncologist in town on the case. People are in our lives for a reason. I hope, one day, I can be someone else's angel. I hope I can do as much for someone else as these people have done for my family.

Today, also a bright spot, a package came for my mother. It was a tote from a group called The Lydia Project which was requested by a very dear friend. The kindness and thought that went into requesting this gift, which will lift spirits throughout this journey was received with tears of joy and swelling of the heart. It is a faith based group and the messages were so very, very clear. Have faith - love is around you. To the person that sent this, you know who you are, thank you so much. Your kindness and love were received today in a very powerful way and you made a difference in brightening the spirit of someone who is very scared. So thank you, again.

I think it is only appropriate to share this video. It was part of the television show So You Think You Can Dance a few seasons ago. I remember when I watched it the first time I cried. It touched me deeply, however, at the time I hadn't a clue as to how deep and meaningful it truly would be.

Please, please, if you have not already, schedule your mammogram today. It just may save your life.


Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Second Biopsy Results

Well, the phone call came today. Biopsy results for the right breast are positive for cancer. In my quick internet search I found that less than 5% of all women diagnosed with breast cancer will have it in both breasts at diagnosis. However, having it in both breasts doesn't mean a worse prognosis is eminent. So that was good to read.

Remember, my mother's cancer cannot be felt. She didn't feel a lump and had it checked out ... this was found by a routine mammogram. Please schedule yours today.


Monday, July 11, 2011

At least we can laugh

In our normal nightly ritual, my mother and I chatted on the phone for about an hour. It was really the first conversation we've had in the last few days that didn't have the "C" undertone and it really felt good. Sure, we talked about it a little bit, but with the shock of the diagnosis wearing off and the return to normal Monday work schedules, we had other things to discuss, like So You Think You Can Dance and the Casey Anthony trial. . .her strange neighbors that seem to have near death experiences daily. For example, last night her neighbors were setting fireworks off in their driveway. They were those little ground fireworks. The strange and deadly part was the fact that it was 12:30 in the morning AND small children were within two feet of the stupid things. This happens to be the same family that the old man goes and gets in the minivan and nearly runs over his other family members because he starts to drive the car without them all in it! The other day he pulled out of the driveway and just sat in the middle of the street until his wife (also older) hobbled her way down the driveway to get in the car. Yes, we find humor in strange things.

Our sense of humor has not been lost as we approach this unknown path. Oh no, we can still cut up.

The "C" topic did come up. My mom told me that a very good friend at work had a story for her about a woman . . . I interrupted, "You know mom, when people say they have a story you need to tell them that there is a rule that you will only listen to stories that have happy endings."

She said it was, and continued. She said that it was of a lady, that after all else failed, turned to "all natural" treatments and it cured her cancer. Now, while I'm sure there are cases out there where something like this worked, I think my mom is far from needing to seek out alternative medicine at this moment. Fortunately, we have for the most part been true believers in modern medicine, so it really wasn't anything to be concerned about.

My mother's response was, "Listen, I want chemicals. I want the most powerful chemicals they can pump into me!"

7 days and counting until she meets with a doctor at MD Anderson.

No biopsy results today. We are hoping to hear something tomorrow. If we do, I'll surely update.


Saturday, July 9, 2011

The dog ate my homework

I have to share something a bit funny. If we don't laugh, all we do is cry and then what do you have? Dehydration. (Ok, not really, but whatever.)

As I mentioned before, after the first biopsy, while waiting for results, we were convinced that the dog had injured my mom's breasts a year ago when he jumped up on her and nearly knocked her out. We were sure the beast's giant paws had caused scar tissue which made the mammogram come back irregular and we would then be able to tell the dog, Issac, that it was all his fault.

Of course, the result wasn't scar tissue so our plan completely backfired.

Now to really get this, you must know a little about my mom and dad's dog. Issac is a 200lb or more black lab. Ok, perhaps 200lbs is exaggerated. But he is a HUGE black lab. It seems anything my mother cares for for any length of time, gets fat. Her kids, her dogs. . .you get the idea.  Issac is a smart dog and very sweet. But he is VERY energetic and well, as much as I know she wouldn't want me to say it, Issac is out of control. He can listen, when he wants and feels you are worthy of telling him what to do. But the rest of the time, Issac does what HE wants to do. Fortunately, he is crate trained, so their house is still standing. 

Oh and Issac is extremely spoiled (as dogs should be) but spoiled to the point that my father will sit and hold his bone while Issac chews on it. Yes, dogs are capable of holding their bones on their own and chewing them, but Issac likes it this way. He also thinks he is a lapdog and will nearly tip a recliner over as he leaps on to your lap.

So, when we found out that our blaming the biopsy on Issac fell through, we had to come up with some other way to blame Issac. Immediately my mom turns and looks at Issac and says, "you know, Ize Guy, there ARE cancer sniffing dogs out there. You obviously aren't a cancer sniffing dog. . ." and of course our banter, through tears and laughter, consisted of "Poor Ize guy failed in cancer sniffin' school."

So, Issac still gets to take the blame since he didn't sniff out the cancer. It's ok, he likes it when we talk to him. As long as we do it in that one voice, no matter what we say, he thinks it's great.


Friday, July 8, 2011

Plans Make a Difference

We are going to celebrate every single thing, no matter how small.

The night that we received the results, I was so peeved at how my mother's primary care doctor had handled the situation that I asked a group of friends for some recommendations for good primary care doctors in Orlando. Honestly, I think a higher power had control of this situation and knew she would be best served with a different doctor. His response was just the nudge she needed to switch.  One specific doctor was named SEVERAL times. The bonus is the doctor is also a woman, which my mother would prefer. So, I gave the name to mom and she called the next day to schedule a new patient visit - the appointment was August 5th which is a little long to wait to switch but we will take what we can get.

Today I decided I would also call her for an appointment so I can get established and ask for a referral for my mammogram. I'm not a fan of my current primary care doctor, so figured there is no better time than the present to just do it. I called the office and spoke to an extremely pleasant person on the phone. She took my information and said they had just had a cancellation and the next available appointment was next Wednesday, July 13th. I was so excited!! Not for me, but for my mom! I immediately told her that my mother had called yesterday and scheduled a new patient appointment and we would love it if she could have that spot and I'll take a later spot. She was so sweet, said of course we could do that and booked my mom for the 13th. The timing is perfect! So mom will go to her next Wednesday and I'll go on August 10th - with my first mammogram soon to follow.

Another glimmer of light is through asking many friends in the area for surgeon recommendations, we received the same name over and over again. She is a breast surgeon at MD Anderson. My mother went ahead and called and they were able to schedule an appointment for July 19th. (We were anticipating a much, much longer wait). When I got home this evening, a very good friend had asked her friend that is also a doctor in Orlando (OB doctor that delivered Matthew, my first son, actually) and he gave the same name. We just know she's going to the right place and we are finding the right doctors for the case.

All of this just makes this process a little less scary.  A plan is already in place. And we will celebrate every little thing we can.

You are welcome to leave comments on this blog for my mom. I'd also love to know if you have scheduled your mammogram yet?


Thursday, July 7, 2011

My Mother Has Cancer

Those words are extremely difficult to type and as I do it feel as though I'm typing for some other person. The last few days have been a whirlwind and I know this is only the start of a very difficult journey. My mother is strong and she will win this battle. I can't even begin to tell you how lost we have felt not knowing what was really next. At first I was unsure how to talk about this. I didn't want my words to cause any additional pain to my mom. I didn't want to overstep boundaries of privacy. I wasn't sure if I should tell anyone, do I call family for her? Is it too difficult for her to talk about to others? I need to do something but WHAT DO I DO??

My mother is so strong. I am so fortunate to have her as my mom. She is my best friend. I talk to her several times a day on the phone. I often see her several times a week. She knows everything that goes on in my life, as I do hers. So, I just asked her who she wanted me to tell and her words were pretty much, "this is no secret, Elizabeth. It is what it is. Not talking about it to people isn't going to make it go away. If talking about it makes others go get their mammograms, TALK ABOUT IT!"

When I mentioned the Boobs in a Vise blog, again, she had the idea that if capturing this journey will help someone else, we need to do it. So, let's start at the beginning.

This really started in May. My mother went for her routine mammogram (she's 56 so gets them regularly). She went to one of those standard, somewhat big box imaging centers. You know the place, they x-ray knees, they do mammograms, they do ultrasounds, etc. It's a cold, sterile kind of place, everyone is really a number and rarely do you see the same tech or receptionist twice. She received a call a week or so later that her mammogram was showing some irregularity and she would need to have a second level mammogram. However, the big box imaging center was no longer a provider on her insurance so she would need to pick up her films and find another provider. This was actually a blessing.  My mother called the Women's Center for Radiology in Orlando.

I cannot sing enough praises about the Women's Center and the doctors who practice there. She went for her second level mammogram and waited for results.  That evening she told me of the center, the fancy bras they have hanging around the office, the lack of paper gowns (rather they use pink smock type shirts - sometimes it really is the little things that make things more comfortable) and how friendly the staff was. She was pleased that she had to change centers, even though initially it seemed as though it would be an inconvenience.  Soon after she received a call that there were spots showing in her left breast and she would need a biopsy. This was feeling more serious, so I went with her for the biopsy. She was nervous, of course.

The day of the biopsy we drove to the office. The conversation in the car was something like, "I'm sure this is nothing. They have to be thorough and it's probably just a cyst." At one point we had even convinced ourselves that the dog may have caused scar tissue from jumping up on her (very hard, btw) a year ago. He did nearly knock her out, so we thought perhaps it was equal to trauma to the chest and it was a little scar tissue. . .

Anyway, my mother said the actual biopsy wasn't nearly as bad as she thought it would be. She was numbed, the tech that was with her told her what was happening every step of the way and she only had some minor soreness for the next couple days. She did take a Tylenol 3 in the evening which helped her get some rest but other than that, the biopsy (as scary as it sounded) was fairly uneventful.

The biopsy was on Wednesday, June 29th. On Thursday, June 30th in the afternoon my mother's doctor's office called her to tell her that her results were in and she would need to come in to the office to discuss with the doctor. The soonest he could see her was the following Tuesday, July 5th. I found this to be a tad insensitive but was hopeful that it was just routine to discuss results. The July 4th weekend felt long and drawn out as we anticipated the news.  Tuesday finally arrived and we went in to the doctor appointment. He is a very matter of fact doctor with poor people skills. I think receiving the news from anyone other than this doctor would have been a softer blow. Basically we walked in his office, he asked why she had a biopsy, grilled her as to why she went to the Women's Center for Radiology and then very matter of fact stated, "You have cancer."

Without even pausing to allow those three words to sink in he said he would be right back, she needed a biopsy of the right breast and he would send her "next door" to the surgeon this afternoon. The next moment he was walking back in the exam room with a hand written note to a doctor in an opposing building. He didn't want her to go back to the Women's Center for Radiology.

We went to that surgeon's office. It was sterile, paper gowns, signs hanging all over the office and immediately knew she would be going back to the Women's Center for Radiology. He gave us some information but she just knew she wasn't comfortable there and asked to go back to where she knew. He wrote the script and we were on our way.

Her biopsy on the right breast was today. It was about as uneventful as the left breast biopsy and we are hoping and praying that these results come back as no cancer in that breast. It seems one cancerous breast is enough to deal with right now. The radiologist was nice enough to tell us next steps would be to seek out a surgeon.

Our plan is to go to MD Anderson Cancer Center where they have the best doctors and nurses available. We are fortunate to live in an area that has not just one but two fantastic cancer centers.

So tomorrow, my mother is calling to hopefully get on the schedule for a surgeon. She won't be able to meet the doctor until the biopsy results are in (sometime early next week) but it can't hurt to at least call and see if an appointment can be made. We've been told it can take a few weeks to get in to see the doctor, but is well worth the wait.

So, here is to waiting.


Get your boobs in a vise

Sad. Mad. Angry. Lost. Scared. All emotions I felt the moment I heard those words spoken to my mother, "You have cancer."

On July 5, 2011 my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. Everything is unknown right now. In fact, today she has an appointment to have a biopsy on her right breast to see if the cancer is also there.

I hope and pray all will turn out ok. I'm starting this blog as a record of this journey.

My mother's message to everyone today - go get your boobs in a vise! Do not delay. Get your mammograms TODAY!

I'm quite sure as time goes on I'll fill these pages. But for now, this is all.