Thursday, December 29, 2011


As I write, I am sitting in Palm Springs. I have spent the holidays here with my kids and my extended family, and it has been bliss. One of the weird results of my surgery (and mastectomy surgery in general) is an odd, come-and-go tightness in my chest. This tightness gets worse in cold weather. Since it has been in the mid 70's here, I have been much more comfortable. I referred in a recent blog to "a steel bra, two sizes too small." This phrase was not my invention. I read it when I googled "post mastectomy chest tightness" and it described this sensation very accurately. I've read that this feeling can last for 6 months or more...some in the chat room were even a year out and still experiencing it to some degree. To me, this translates "You will remember your cancer and surgery well into 2012."

This afternoon, my family and I went and saw the movie "New Year's Eve." It was a feel-good movie that touched on birth, death, distance, closeness, creativity, reflection and projection. I am one of those people who still thinks in terms of resolutions come December 31st. I know that a person can decide to start over any day. But New Year's is just a good time to do some concentrated thinking and reflecting, planning and reorganizing.

"Resolution." Being a word freak, I looked closely at this word and broke it down. Re+Solution: to solve again. I've looked at my health and my body one way all my life. Now it's time to look at it again, differently. A new solution. Though my bout with cancer was short-lived, I am reminded constantly. Clothes fit differently. I sleep differently. I'm still on coumadin because of blood clots. I have this weird tightness that responds to weather for crying out loud! Breast cancer has changed me, and I need to think over some new solutions to these changes.

This blog has gotten a bit rambly. I hope it makes some sense. I'm in a pensive, post-holiday, vacation mood. I hope that as you look ahead to 2012, you are also thinking over some re-solutions. We've all got our "stuff"...right?

Monday, December 19, 2011

My First Christmas

This is my first Christmas.

It's my first Christmas in 25 years without my husband, it's my first Christmas as a single mom, and it's my first Christmas without my boobs. In some ways, this Christmas, for me, is about loss, which is odd, because Christmas is usually about gain. We gain "stuff" from the many generous folks who lavish us with love wrapped in paper and bows. (I am not being sarcastic here. I LOVE giving people things at Christmas as a tangible expression of how much they mean to me. It's cool.) We gain memories as we form new traditions and embellish old ones. We add photos to those scrapbooks. We gain a deeper knowledge, hopefully, of what it meant for God to send His only Son.

So, can a Christmas that's mostly about loss be a "good" Christmas?

I believe it can. A friend shared with me his thoughts about what it must have been like for Mary to receive the news that she would be the mother of the Messiah. Though Mary may not have grasped the magnitude of that proclamation at the time, it became clear as her boy grew. She would eventually lose Him. As she watched Him live, she knew He came to die. I have pondered these thoughts much as I parent my 17 year-old son. What would it be like for me to stand by Thomas as he lay down his life? It is overwhelming to consider. And yet Mary's response was, "May it be as you have said." Can I face loss with the same attitude?

I want THAT kind of faith. The kind that doesn't really understand it all, but knows that it's okay not to always understand. I do not understand why I was diagnosed with breast cancer, or why my husband was unfaithful. But I'm learning to navigate the losses. I am leaning on a strong God who is able.

My prayer for you this Christmas is that you will also lean on a strong God who is able. If you are experiencing loss this Christmas, lean harder. Joy is that thing, deep within, that has nothing to do with circumstance, but everything to do with this fact: He. Is. Able.

Merry Christmas, my dear friends and blog-followers. You mean the world to me.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Mondor's Cord

Hah! You thought I disappeared! Many of you have seen on facebook that I was blessed with a wonderful surprise at Thanksgiving. My stepmom flew my firstborn home for the long weekend. I walked in the door and saw her face and heard her say, "Hi, Mom!" It took me a minute to register that she was REALLY home! I had wrapped my heart around the fact that this would be my first Thanksgiving in 23 years without her. And then there she was! We wept, both of us, and neither of us are "weepers."

After further analysis, I realized the reason behind the tears. First, I have not seen Molly since my cancer diagnosis, so it seemed like I went through a lot without her. Second, I have cried so many tears in the last few months, but these were the first tears of JOY in 4 months! It felt GOOD! Anyway, we had a wonderful visit and I consider this one of the very best surprises ever.

Now. On to Mondor's Cord. Doesn't that sound like something out of Star Trek? An episode name, perhaps: "The Cord of Mondor." Well. Instead it's the name of a complication that I'm experiencing. I had my last visit with Dr. F on Monday. The scar looks great, and for the first time, no draining was needed. He ended with "Seeya in 6 months!" Then I asked him to look at this "thing." One day while looking in the mirror, I noticed a stripe running down my rib cage, vertically, about 7 inches long. Honestly, it looked and felt like a piece of drain tubing that was left inside me, just under the skin. In fact, everyone I showed it to asked, "Did you have drains?" Well. Dr. F took one look and nodded. "It's Mondor's Disease" he said. I thought he was kidding. No, really! I guffawed and played along, "So...what's the solution?" And he then explained it. About halfway through his explanation, I realized he wasn't kidding. Google it if you're interested. It's really no big deal. But he did say that it's "very rare" and that he only sees one case every couple years. He called me a "rare bird." For some reason, this made me feel good. Anyway, this cord-thing should resolve itself in a couple months with a little heat and a little tylenol. I'll keep you posted.

Other than my sidekick Mondor, I am doing well. I will write another blog about the steel bra, 2 sizes too small. Bet'cha can't wait!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Giving Thanks

Count your blessings,
Count them one by one.
Count your many blessings,
See what God has done!

I love these words so much! I have been cooking this morning, (a crumb-topped apple pie and two kinds of stuffing!) and as I've chopped, sauteed, stirred and peeled, I've been counting my blessings. Wanna hear some?

My children. I have been abundantly blessed through my children. As a kid, I always wanted to be a mommy. I began this motherhood journey 23 years ago, and it has been a deep source of joy for me. Though my kids are now older, that joy has not diminished. Molly, Megan and Thomas are evidence that God is good.

My family. I have amazing people with whom I share a family connection. These people have been a tremendous source of encouragement to me. My mom, my stepdads: thank you for loving me and my children!

My colleagues. Few people get to work with the caliber of people I work with. I am humbled that God would surround me with such dear sisters in Christ...friends who I love dearly and who reciprocate that love.

Friends. Whoa. People who will hold my hand through procedures. People who will drive me, make me dinner, help me to the bathroom. People who pray for me, send me cards, books, flowers and uplifting e-mails. They have encouraged me more than simple words can express. I am filled with thankfulness.

(You know what's cool? Most of the things I consider to be my biggest blessings have names and faces and beating hearts. Think about it!)

Finally, I am thankful for my health. I am one of many who has taken her health for granted. This year, I have seen my health as a tremendous blessing. I want to be a person who oozes gratitude. It's so easy to get cynical in this world. But a glance around is all it takes to see that we have so much to be thankful for. I'm hoping you find time today to glance around.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Range of Emotion

Part of bouncing back after major surgery is restoring the range of motion of the affected parts. This has been an interesting process. My exercises have included something called "wall walking." Do you picture me as Spider-Woman? Good. I like that. But truthfully, the only thing that's walking on the walls is my fingers. I stand about 10 inches from the wall and walk my fingers like little mountain climbers, up the wall. All that it takes to progress in this exercise is to make it further up the wall today than yesterday. I am also using a yardstick (SO high-tech!) to do some exercises recommended by the American Cancer Society for mastectomy patients. Getting in the pool has done wonders, and I actually swam REAL laps on Wednesday. It felt great. I am getting my range of motion back.

Then there's the range of emotion. This is, to be grammatically sloppy, a whole nother story. Healing from a mastectomy is a different kind of healing than say, from an appendectomy or gall-bladder surgery. In both of the above, a body part is lost, true. But few people grieve the loss of an appendix or a gall-bladder. (Do they? If you have, let me know---I'll take back what I said, I promise!) I AM grieving the loss of my breasts. They were, after all, an outward expression of my femininity. My range of emotion in any given week since surgery (4 weeks and 3 days already!) runs the gamut from "I am a cancer-free miracle!" to "I'm. So. Freaking. Ugly." At the end of the day, I gather up the fallen-leaves of emotion that have gathered and swirled and take a look. Thankfully, most days end with the positive messages winning. But it's a range, that's for sure.

I guess one of the strategies for a full-recovery that I'd recommend would be to give yourself a little more room. Just as I am having to make time in my day to work my way back up to a full range of physical motion, I need room in my day to work my way back up to expressing a full range of emotion. Life IS different, and to pretend otherwise is...well, pretending.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Phantom Pain

I've been thinking a lot about "phantom pain" lately. It intrigues me. The Mayo clinic defines it this way: "Phantom pain is pain that feels like it's coming from a body part that's no longer there. Doctors once believed this post-amputation phenomenon was a psychological problem, but experts now recognize that these sensations originate in the spinal cord and brain."

If you think about it, your brain has been wired since birth. It's the message-center. Imagine how many messages your brain sends to your body parts on any given day, without you even THINKING about it. Truly, we are fearfully and wonderfully made.

I have sensation two inches out from my chest. Two inches out, there is nothing. Zippo. Nada. Now, we all know that something does not have to be present to cause pain, but seriously, this is WEIRD!

My Dad died 13 years ago. Prostate cancer cut him from my life when he was only 65 and I was 38. And yet, there are days when I honestly think, "Oh, Dad will love to hear that story!" And I almost head to the phone to call him. It's phantom pain! I was so used to sharing joys and stories and laughter with was wired into me after 38 years of being his daughter.

My life has changed in big ways this year. That breast cancer and a mastectomy was a part of it all has given me much opportunity to consider symbolism. Cancer invaded me. It was found. It was dealt with. I am forever changed by it. Is that a bad thing? Believing as I do in a Good God, I am going to say NO. It is not a bad thing.

Phantom pain is a reminder. It reminds me of what was, and what is no longer. By God's grace, I will be a more compassionate, kinder person because of this reminder.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

True Confession

So, I have this "thing." When I put my mind to doing something, I want to do it WELL. Am I a perfectionist? Maybe. An over-achiever? Probably. Full of pride? Definitely.

When this whole cancer thing happened, right on the tails of some other big, challengy things, my first thought was "I want to ROCK cancer." I desperately wanted to be good at show the world how cancer should be done. Though I am an introvert, I actually wanted to be the Breast Cancer Poster Child.

Well, here's the thing. God had other plans. He is in the business of sanctification. This means He is constantly seeking to free me from the sin that so easily entangles. (Hebrews 12:1) Pride is a very tangly sin. It is easily excusable by the world's standards. (We SHOULD want to be good at all we do, right? Isn't that a good thing?)

I was left, in the stillness of recovery nights, asking myself, "Christie: WHY is it so important to you that you rock cancer?" There were many answers, believe me. I think the one shining in neon was: "I want to rock cancer so that people can see how STRONG I am." Now, if you know me, you know that I really DO want to glorify God. I love bringing Him glory, I really do. But in this cancer thing, I wanted some glory, too. True to His character, God had different plans than I. He threw in this side order of blood clots and a dollop of drain-issues as a tool to humble me, again, into dependence on Him.

I love that God is committed to sanctifying His people. I love being reminded that He is God and I am me. If you notice me vying for the Poster Child status, feel free to do that little cough-cough-pride-cough-cough thing. I'll get the hint. Hopefully.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

By My Side

Let me introduce you to three amigas. There have been LOTS of women who have stepped in and stepped up to make this craziness bearable.These three have gone above and beyond the call of duty. On the left is Gayleen. She spent that first night with me at the hospital. She also spent the first couple nights at home with me, getting up in the night for potty breaks and to administer meds. She has a heart of gold. And now she is teaching me how to get my range of motion back. I value her more than words can say.

In the middle is Posse Girl Dawn. She flew all the way from Minnesota to care for me. She was there on day 3 when I tanked. She sweated while helping me put on my compression tights (another prepared!). She cleaned my house and fed my cat. She showed great patience, actually all summer long. We have logged approximately 469 phone hours in the last three months. I love her.

On the right is LorieAnn. She has accompanied me to many doctor visits, waited many hours in waiting rooms. She was there for the ultrasound as well as the MRI-guided biopsy. She watched the drains getting pulled out of me and has beheld Dr. F in action, pulling excess fluid out of my side. We have laughed together in the worst of times. She is a good shot-giver and she reminds me to not forsake the emotional healing that needs to take place. Her friendship is priceless.

These three women represent a total of 35 years of relationship. We have poured into each other's lives in deep and meaningful ways. They have lifted me up from the depths, and I will always be grateful. I only hope I can be as good a friend as they have been should the opportunity arise. Thank you, Gayleen, Dawn and Lorie. Your selflessness humbles me.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011


Before I had surgery, one of the big questions simmering in the back of my mind (and yours, too...admit it!) was "What's it like to look at yourself in the mirror for the first time after having a mastectomy?"

I chose not to do a lot of "googling" before my surgery, because I didn't want to get all crazy with anxiety. I felt it best for me to steer clear of input from the masses and just process what was about to happen to me on a very personal level. That's just me.

So, the day after surgery as I was being readied to go home, the nurse came in to change the dressing on my wound. I endured this without so much as a glance-down. When I got home, I changed into my comfy jammies, again, without looking. It wasn't until the next day that I took a look. And it wasn't a mirror-look, it was a glance-down look. I didn't cry. I didn't even gasp. I just marveled. Where once were breasts are now two nine-inch scars crossed with steri-strips. Just like that.

I'm sorry if this is too much information. It's just so WEIRD processing an amputation. I am blown away that modern medicine has made this whole thing possible, from detection to amputation. Three months ago I knew nothing. Now I am a cancer survivor. I am in awe of the fact that Dr. F did something SO invasive and today, 15 days later, I'm home, doing laundry, getting in the pool, driving my car. My body looks SO different to me when I look in the mirror. I don't love it. But then I never really LOVED my body. Clothes DO fit me differently. My bra-basket sits in my closet, dejected over being utterly ignored. My chest feels tight, like there's duct tape wrapped around me. I am flat as a pancake. My friend Judy and I joke that I need a 38-T bra..."T" standing for "trainer."

I am adjusting to the new way I look. I have my moments, believe me.

But mostly I just marvel.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Pool Party!

I'm on day 14 of post-op fun-n-games. I decided it's time to get in the water! Dr. F okayed this. In fact, he said, "the sooner, the better." Getting my arms moving increases the flow of good fluids (like lymph) as well as bad fluids (like the stuff I've been getting drained out of me by Dr. F). So, before my next (and maybe last) visit to the doc on Friday, I'm gonna stimulate this stuff as best I can. Anyway, it was SO good to get in the water. One of my posse-girls, Gayleen, is actually a pool therapist, and she helped me tremendously in figuring out which muscles needed exercising and how best to do it. I found that there are stretches I can do in the water that are impossible on land. For instance, I cannot lay flat on my stomach at home, but I can do that in the water. If you are recovering from a mastectomy, I recommend you ask your doc about getting in the water.
P.S. Does this bathing suit make me look flat?

Monday, October 31, 2011

Shopping List

Without a lot of "back story", since I think it'll be clear as I write, let's just start with this statement of fact: General anesthesia slows "things" down.

6 days post-op, committed to resolving this issue, I sent my friend Dawn to the store with a shopping list. The list read: prune juice, bran cereal, suppositories. She was ready to go, and just as she was leaving, I noticed that my little weather-reader outside my kitchen window was malfunctioning. I fiddled with it, determined it was a battery issue, and added "AAA batteries" to the list.

Well. She came home a half-hour later and said, "THAT was embarrassing!" As she told me about going through the line with these four items, we laughed our heads off! Imagine what the checker was thinking! "Ummmm...I get the first three items, but WHERE do the batteries fit in? Is there something I don't know???" Needless to say, Posse-girl Dawn was glad she's not from here.

This picture reminds me of that Sesame Street game: "One of these things is not like the other." Anyway, I'm having some ups and downs today with this coumadin thing (got more shots today--level's still not right), but I did want to blog something funny. Laugh with me?

Sunday, October 30, 2011


Yippee! This morning, Posse-girl Gayleen gave me my last heparin shot in my polka-dotted belly! Huge thanks and gutsy-awards to LorieAnn, Tracy and Gayleen for being willing to shoot a friend! I now have a new compassion for diabetics.

Tomorrow I go get my coumadin level checked and hopefully my blood is as thin as it needs to be. Now, just pray I don't cut my finger...

Saturday, October 29, 2011

A Part of the Picture

Hi! Sorry it's been a while. I'm actually doing great. I walked up to our church's Harvest Party earlier today and saw some of my precious preschoolers. It was good to reconnect. One mom told me how very worried her child was...tears, etc. Though I do not like the thought of children crying, this compassion warmed my heart.

Anyway, in the coming days, I am going to share some of the different parts to the picture I am living in now. Put together, they'll give you a good idea of MY cancer experience. This post is a tad graphic, so be warned!

Above is a picture of my "going home" outfit when I left the hospital. It's called a "mastectomy cami." Those bottles hanging down are the drains. When this picture was taken, those drains were still connected to me. I am standing just to the right of the picture. One drain tube entered my right side, one, my left. The fancy cami has "hidden" pockets into which these drain bottles fit. Every 8 hours or so, these drains were emptied by my faithful posse. The "contents" were measured and recorded, noting amount and color. (Makes you wanna think twice before offering to help a newly mastectomied person, doesn't it?)

On the Monday after surgery, I had these drains removed. I was dreading this procedure, mostly because Dr. F had told me point-blank: IT HURTS. Plus also, there was no offer of anesthesia, local or otherwise. Rats! So, here's the, laying on a table. Posse-girl Dawn holding my hand, eyes closed; Posse-girl Lorie standing by my side, watching for details. Dr. F removes the stitch which was holding the drain in place and like a master gardener starting a lawn mower, pulls that bad boy out of my right side. TEN INCHES of tubing was snaked inside of me, people! TEN! It felt so nasty and it hurt like a...lot. But then, just as Dr. F had promised, relief! But then? Dread. There was another drain. He repeated the above and I was FREE! I wanted to hug him. (This wasn't the first time).

The drains were not my favorite. Sleeping, showering, etc. with drains in you is...awkward. I am so happy that they are out. BUT here's the thing. All that "stuff" that was draining into those bottles is now draining into ME! So, Friday I went back to Dr. F's office and he, with a syringe, removed about a half-a-cup of Christie-fluid from my left side. Thankfully, this was painless, since I am still completely numb there.

So, there's the drain part of the picture. Sorry if you got more information than you bargained for. More tomorrow! (Bet'cha can't wait, ha-ha!)

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Good News. Bad News. Good News. Bad News. GOOD NEWS!

I posted about coming home Wednesday and how sweet it was to sleep in my own bed the 2nd night after surgery. It took some nest-making and my friend Gayleen was very patient in creating just the right spot. I slept well, albeit drug-induced. Apart from moments of searing, weird, hot-lava pain, it was a good night. Then came Thursday. I mostly stayed in bed, but did a couple little walkabouts inside my house. Gayleen helped me shower. At the risk of sounding weird, it was BLISS.

Friday, I crashed. In our family, we call them "episodes." At the end of the day, we concluded that my body had basically reached its limit of toxic pain meds. We cut the vicodin out and halved the oxycodone. It took a while, but what a difference! The tough part of this is that everyone (including the doc) tells you to stay ahead of the pain. They sent me home from the hospital with 2 meds and with instructions, which I followed to the "T." But most of Friday, I'd get up, feel tremendously dizzy, lay down, sweat and just barely stay conscious. It was very nearly a 9-1-1 kind of day.

Saturday was SO much better! I woke up feeling like a new woman. There were fewer drugs in my system, and it mattered. My brother Tim flew up from San Diego for the day and we had a wonderful visit. The picture at the top of this post is of when he refused to sit in the chair by the bed and had to actually climb in next to me. I love this man!

Sunday I woke up in the wee hours with serious leg pain. I could barely walk to the bathroom. My friend Dawn was staying with me at this point and she helped me in. By 6AM, I knew something was not quite right, so I called the on-call doc in my surgical group and he recommended that I head to the ER immediately. Dawn took me in the still-dark morning. They did an ultrasound on both legs and sure enough, each leg held a blood clot. I was given a shot in the belly of quick-working heparin as well as a coumadin tablet. We got home around 1PM. It was a long morning. Posse-friend LorieAnn stayed with me through this backward step and has been great about giving me shots. As it stands, I'll be getting these shots 2x/day through Wednesday (tomorrow). I'll have my coumadin level checked and see where we go from there. This was a discouraging day for me. I have never been on a drug longer than about 10 days. They're talking about 6 months on coumadin. But...blood clots can be serious, and I don't want to mess with it. I'll do what they say.

Monday! At 10:00 I had my appointment with Dr. F. It was good to see him on this side of surgery! The first thing he did was to remove the drains. I will post more about these drains, because they deserve their own post. Let me just say this: Getting them out was wonderful, awful, horrible, disgusting, and liberating. I was glad when it was over. Once the drains were removed, Dr. F sat and explained my pathology report to me. This was my moment of truth.

He explained that I had made the right choice. He said they found more pre-cancers than expected on one side, and that I have all but guaranteed that I will not get what I was gonna get. And then he told me the best news of all: NO FURTHER TREATMENT IS NECCESSARY! What music to my ears! Yes, I would have walked through the next door regardless of what it was. But this really was encouraging news! I left his office buoyant and ready for a nap!

Rejoice with me at this news! My friend LorieAnn reminded me that God would grant grace for whatever the news was. True. I had wrapped my head around the possibility of chemo. and I knew that God would be my Hand-Holder regardless. But I did have a tremendous sense of gratitude and relief upon hearing the news! More soon...

Monday, October 24, 2011

It takes a Posse

This is me with the Posse Leader, my middle daughter, Megan. This pic was taken 4 days after surgery.

On Tuesday, October 18th, this child of mine stuck to me like glue. She drove me to the hospital and sat next to me as I was introduced to the pre-op process. This process included, but was not limited to, getting my nose swabbed 4 times to prevent mersa, donning very fashionable compression tights, getting a blood-thinning shot in my belly, AND the much anticipated shot of blue dye into each breast up in the "nuke med" wing of the hospital. (which, may I add, was NOT painful, so quit yer cringing!)

Our pastor came back to the pre-op room and prayed for me/us. My sweet child was a trooper, and finally it was time for me to get wheeled up to the OR. Megan then returned to the waiting room where some more posse members were waiting. I was taken back for surgery about an hour late, 1:30pm. The cute anesthesiologist started me with versed which he promised would give me a "buzz." Next thing I knew, I was being wheeled to the recovery room at 3:30. It's a strange feeling, waking up from surgery. My mind felt weird: "Wait-where-am-i-oh-i-am-still-alive-i-wonder-how-it-went-and-i-want-to-see-my-people."

I was in the recovery room a little longer than expected due to a blood-pressure dip. I was in my room by 7PM. What a day!

Knowing that my posse was waiting, praying, worrying made ALL the difference. It was a long day, and they hung out all day long, checking the hi-tech reader board which tracked my progress. Dr. F came out with the news that it went well and that he was 95% sure that the cancer had not spread.

It's now Monday, 6 days later. I head in to the doc today to get the pathology report. There's more to write about the last 6 days, but I'll save it, lest this post get too long. Have I thanked you for lifting me up? THANK YOU!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


Yep. Less than 24 hours after surgery, and I am surrounded by pillows and blankets on my own couch in my own living room! The new and improved me comes complete with two drains, one in each side, as well as a "compression" cami. Ahhh, life IS good!

This morning first thing, my friend who spent the night in the hospital with me went down to the Starbucks in the lobby of the hospital (ya gotta love Seattle!) and brought me up a tall, nonfat, one-pump pumpkin spice latte. It's the new official drink of post mastectomites everywhere!

I know you all are concerned about my pain level. Let's see...Right now as I type it hovers in the 3-4 range...not too bad, thank-you oxycontin. I am looking forward to sleeping in my very own bed. So good.

Dr. F was very encouraging. He said it went very well and that he is 95% sure the nodes are clear. I will find out for sure on Monday when I go have the drains removed. Thanks for your care and concern and the many prayers and petitions sent up on my behalf. God is real.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Night Of

Greetings from the happy land of narcotic induced painlessness!

Everything went great today. Thank you so much for praying. More details tomorrow, but I just wanted you all to know that I'm doing well.

The Day Of

Well, here we are.

One of my early thoughts this morning was "THIS is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it." How gracious He is to make that one of my first thoughts!

One of my all time favorite verses says this: "His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness." (2Peter 1:3) I love this verse because it shines light on the all-sufficiency of Christ. EVERYTHING WE NEED. Whoa. But there is a caveat. This "supply" comes through our knowledge of Him. Just think about it.

I am ready for this day. God has, indeed, given me everything I need for life. I have a sweet peace that this is the right choice and that Dr. F will do a great job. My next post will be to let you know that I am fine and dandy. Oh, and if you're interested, I might let you know how much weight I lost during surgery. Something tells me it won't be as much as I'd hoped.

Can I leave you with one thought?
Last night it took me a while to get to sleep. My middle daughter was home with me and slept beside me in my bed, which was so, SO sweet. Anyway, as I was laying there, I had this thought. Tomorrow, I am losing my breasts. In January, a friend lost her two year-old to brain cancer. In May, a friend-of-a-friend lost her two year-old son in a river drowning. Maintaining perspective is sometimes really hard. But if you hear me say, "They're only boobs," you'll know why.

Peace out!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Saying Goodbye

How DOES one say goodbye to something that has been a part of life since conception?
Bethany Hamilton, the teen who lost her arm to a shark while surfing, didn't have the opportunity to say goodbye to her arm. Countless soldiers who lose limbs never have the chance.

I do.

But how?

I think I'll pay tribute.

A Fond Farewell

At twelve you embarrassed me. I wanted to wish you away.
(I had grown up with brothers, after all, and wanted to go shirtless forever!)
But that was before.
Before I knew how fun it was to actually fill a bikini top. :-)
Before I knew how fun it was to bra shop. (NOT!)
Before I knew that when a woman sets out to lose weight, it usually starts with the boobs.
Before I was married.
Before I knew what it meant to be blessed with a body part that could actually sustain life.
Before I knew that someday I'd lose you.

And so, on this mastectomy eve, I will say "Thank You."
Thank you for appearing out of nowhere that summer before 6th grade.
Thank you for holding up my strapless wedding dress.
Thank you for faithfully producing life-sustaining, fat-roly-thigh nourishment to my three precious babies.
Thank you for pointing the way all these years. (Hahaha, I crack me up!))
Most recently, thank you for showing me what gravity actually looks like.

Thank you.
Though you never defined me, you did accent me.
I will miss you.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Bring a Pair, Say a Prayer

I had some girlfriends over today. It was self-serving.
I told them that since I am choosing not to have reconstructive surgery at this time, I needed their help in finding "replacements." (Or as my one friend calls them: "substitits.") So, their ticket in my door was to bring me a pair of something. Anything. (I, personally, am partial to pumpkins.)

I've learned that it's important to laugh. Tears are fine and they certainly serve their purpose. (Did you SEE that last Harry Potter movie?) But for the most part, I'd rather laugh.

And laugh we did! Among the "pairs" that I received were hand-crafted, double-D rice krispie treats, complete with chocolate kiss nipples...two VERY mighty, very "pendulous" summer squash...two brass knockers (get it?) and a pair of very red, very round tomato pincushions! (Have I mentioned that my friends are amazing AND creative?) We ate and chatted, laughed and prayed, and it was so perfect.

My sweet dad died from prostate cancer in 1998. One of his least favorite parts of having cancer was when people would look at him with what he called "cancer face." The look says it all: "Oh, you poor thing, I feel SO bad for you, it must be awful, how sad." Yeah, I don't like it either. So, next time you see me, wipe off the cancer face and picture me with pumpkins. Let's laugh together!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

I wanna hold your hand...

On the post called "You want fries with that?" I referred to a double MRI-guided needle biopsy. I'd like to revisit that for a sec.

This procedure?
Is crazy.

They DO inject your breasts with a local anesthetic called lidocaine. But at one point, on the first side, when she was using the biopsy drilly-thing, she hit a nerve. It felt like an ice pick. I hollered, and I'm not a hollerer. I yanked back, forgetting in the pain of the moment that my breasts were compressed in a mammogram-type apparatus. After the combination of these three things: nerve+holler+yank, I pretty much had had enough. I began to weep, big fat tears that ran down my nose onto the machine. (I was face-down, remember) My body was shaking. It was awful.

At this point, when I was feeling just DONE, I felt someone take my hand. She didn't just touch my hand, she HELD it firmly. It calmed me in a way I cannot explain. My breathing evened out. The radiologist completed the procedure. My tears dried.

When I was flipped over and being bandaged, I looked around at the seven women who stood in the room. I asked, "Who held my hand?" They all pointed to one gal. I said to her, "You need to keep doing that. I was NOT gonna make it. And when you held my hand, that changed. Thank you for doing that." She smiled and said, "Sometimes it's just what you need."

A couple days later, as I was replaying this traumatic event, I had the most wonderful epiphany. It dawned on me that the people I have in my life are ALL the kind of people who would have done what this gal did. God has blessed me with HAND HOLDERS.

This blows me away. You know why?

Because not everyone has friends like this. I am a woman blessed. Lord, help me to remember.

Friday, October 14, 2011



Today I had my pre-op. I am now officially "braceleted."
It was an hour-long Q&A plus bloodwork which resulted in me being just a little closer to realizing that I really DO have breast cancer.

Actually, the "severity of my condition" hit me at two points in this process. The first was when Dr. F said the word "invasive." That word took my breath away. it sounded so...ummm...invasive.

At my first meeting with Dr. F, where he used the word "invasive," there were four people in the room. Dr. F, myself, my middle daughter, and Donna. Donna is a Very Kind Soul who is the breast cancer liason between the hospital, me, and my doc. She handed me a bag full of literature. When I got home, I dumped it on my bed. Shaking out the bag, the last thing to hit the bed was......drumroll, please......a PINK BRACELET.

THAT's when it really hit me.

I really DO have breast cancer.
When baseball players use pink bats and football players have pink-ribbon stickers on their helmets and people walk 60 miles in 3's for people like ME.
I might lose my hair.
I might lose my boobs.
I might die.

Okay, well, so we ALL die. I take that one back.

Where was I? Oh, yeah. Pre-Op. So. Now they have my blood type, since they tell me I might need blood. They now know that I'm not allergic to any meds or latex or avocados (yep, they asked me!). They know that there is a high likelihood that I will take a valium on the morning of my surgery, especially since I cannot have coffee that morning.

I'm ready. Now, can we please fast-forward to a week from now when I am (in my ever-hopeful world) WELL on the way to a full, speedy recovery?

Stay tuned. There'll be at least one more post before surgery. I'm already working on it.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

My Decision.

When you finish reading this post, you are officially current. I am writing today about what happened yesterday.

Disclaimer: This post is a little hard core.

Yesterday I met with Dr. F. It was a work day for me, so I had 12 4-year-olds to keep me busy until the appointment at 11:30. A dear friend took me. Actually, she not only took me, she went IN with me. (Cancer people: take someone IN with you---seriously--it matters!)

I just need to take a minute here to say how much I really LIKE Dr. F so much. I know I mentioned it in a previous post, but it warrants mentioning again. He pulled up a chair. He looked me AND my friend in the eye. He was kind, humble. He listened. He respected. He was honest. As one of the gals in his office said, "He is 'old school.'" Cancer people: it is important to LIKE your doctor. (Okay, I guess that goes for ALL people.)

Anyway...Dr. F re-explained what Dr. R had explained 10 days ago: the post-MRI-biopsy pathology report. He told me that the new, pre-cancer on the right could do one of two things: given two years, it could revert back to being normal cells. Or, it could become cancerous. He explained some other stuff about surgical biopsy vs. the biopsy I had and how the results could vary depending on the sample taken.

I then spoke. And here is what I said. (Not verbatim, but pretty-much)
"Dr. F. Here's what I've been thinking the last 10 days. There is breast cancer in my family. (maternal grandma). I have a definite cancer on one side and a pre-cancer on the other. I have seen enough in the last months to know that I NEVER want to do this again. I am thinking of a bilateral (double) mastectomy. This choice is consistent with who I am as a person." I then cast a sideways, affirmation-begging glance at my friend. She agreed with me. (Thanks, Rhonda!)

Dr. F responded in such a gracious way. He said something along the lines of YES, you can do that. That is a very valid option for you. In fact, if you were MY wife, I'd advise you do to do that, because I have a stable marriage, and I will love my wife whether she has breasts or not. It IS a more complicated surgery, but I'll do it.


On Tuesday, October 18, 2011, I will have the ultimate "breast reduction surgery." I will undergo a bilateral (both boobs) mastectomy, under general anesthesia, spending at least one night in the hospital, hopefully being sent home the next day, on my son's 17th birthday.

That was yesterday. I am now 30 hours into this decision, and I feel good about it. It is drastic. I do not HAVE to have a bilateral mastectomy. Nope. I could choose a double-lumpectomy, 6 weeks of radiation and 5 years on tamoxifen. And then I'd be fearing every mammogram. I'd be constantly wondering if I was cancer-free. I would adopt a new normal in terms of my level of anxiety, which is really NOT who I am.

So. Who AM I?

I have had to ask myself this question many times in the last three months. And I won't go all into it here, but I will say that I am a person who values character and heart over looks and....boobs. As a person newly-single, if I were to, say, meet another man in 5 years, I would tell him up-front, "Hey, I have no boobs." And he could say, "No big deal...big or small, I like them all." And I would reply, "No. I have NO boobs." And then he'd know. Depending on his reaction, we'd BOTH know.

Who ELSE am I?

I am creative. That means a "new normal" is NOT beyond me.

Who else am I?

Really, first and foremost, I am a strong believer in Jesus Christ. This means that I have FAITH. Here's what that looks like in my situation: It means that I believe that God knew, on 3/7/60, when I was born, that this would happen on 10/18/11. And God has been preparing and equipping me ever since. "Stuff" has happened along the way that has strengthened me. Let's just say, God has "prepped me for surgery."

I am resilient. I have been through JUNK. I won't elaborate, since this is a breast cancer blog, but yeah. I am a strong person by nature. My Dad built me strong.

If you are a praying person, pray for me. My hope is that my children will not have anxiety about me. I do not want them to fear that I will die on the operating table. I do not want them to fear that I will be somehow "different" after having a mastectomy. Words cannot express what my kids mean to me. So I'll stop here and just ask for your prayers for them.

I will post again at least once before surgery.

Thanks for loving me and reading my blog.

September 30th

As I type, I am noticing that my keyboard is sprinkled with sesame seeds. This can mean only one thing: my 17 year-old son has been eating his after-school chicken burger in front of the computer again. Bah.

Such a minor inconvenience, sesame seeds on the keyboard. I mean, think about it.

How about a sesame seed sized "pre-cancer" in my right breast? Where does that stack up on the inconvenience scale? Well...I'll tell you.

On September 30th, I was back at the Imaging Center to meet with the radiologist, Dr. R. Since my surgeon, Dr. F (the one with the twin analogy) was ON VACATION (the nerve!) until 10/10, Dr. R. kindly said she'd see me to A) see how the wounds she inflicted during the MRI-biopsy were healing and B) read the pathology report and interpret it for me. For some reason I had in my mind that the two new spots would test the same; either they'd both be cancer, or neither would. Well.

My "original" August cancer was on the left side. Of the new spots, the one on the left was nothing. The one on the right, however, was what is called ADH. On the path report, following the ADH finding are the words, "recommend complete excision." So, the lineup now reads: one real cancer. One pre-cancer. One non-cancer. (Does that mean I'm batting .333 or .666?)

Decisions, decisions!

Dr. R sent me home to think. I had ten days 'til my appointment with Dr. F, the cancer cutter-outer. What to do...what to do...

Saturday, October 8, 2011

You want fries with that?

I once read something that made me laugh really hard. (Okay, that has happened more that once, but you know what I mean.)
It said, "If you want to really have some fun, every time someone asks you to do something--ANYTHING--reply, 'You want fries with that?'"

"Mom, will you give me $20 for my late fees at the library?"
You want fries with that?
"Honey, will you help me choose a tie that goes with this shirt?"
You want fries with that?
"Ma'am, do you realize how fast you were going in a school zone? May I please see your license and registration?"
You want fries with that?

Okay, so I'm no Norman Vincent Peale. But it did make me laugh.

What did NOT make me laugh was the double MRI-guided biopsy event that took place on September 23rd. This "event" would have paired nicely with general anesthesia. BUT NO. There was no suggestion of even a sedative. I, on a whim, took one valium an hour before I went. I am convinced it saved not only my life but the lives of others in the room that day as well.

Because I am essentially a thoughtful person, I will spare you the details of this procedure. Suffice it to say it was like laying face down on an MRI table, getting a mammogram for an hour and 40 minutes, complete with needles and biopsy drilly-things. My one thought upon leaving, which I voiced to my sweet friend who chauffeured me: Never. Again.

Which brings us to September 30th.


These last 47 days have been an exercise in waiting. I have had an "extreme" summer and was eagerly anticipating a return to normalcy come September 12th when I began my sixth year of teaching preschool. It is always such a joy to meet new 4 year-olds, their parents, their siblings.

Cancer brings with it many things. One of the biggies is waiting. Waiting for results. Waiting for appointments. Waiting for call-backs on lab work and scheduling, and in my case, waiting for my surgeon to return after his vacation. It can be so frustrating!

A dear friend of mine sent me this article. I highly recommend it for anyone who is waiting for anything. (yep, that's YOU!)

Thursday, October 6, 2011

And then...

Okay. Sorry to keep you waiting. But that was kind of the point. I waited, so did you.

When Dr. B did the needle biopsy, it was a Thursday. He told me I'd hear by Monday. It was a long weekend. Life can turn on a dime. Trust me.

Monday, I had plans. My middle daughter was home from Seattle and we were slated to get pedicures, one of our all-time favorite choices for a mother-daughter date. As we headed for the salon, my cell phone rang. It was Dr. R, my GYN. He was very matter-of-fact. "I have your films here. It's an invasive breast cancer. Do you have a surgeon?" I said, "No." He said, "Here's the number of the group I refer my patients to. Call them."

I did.

Which leads us to my meeting on Monday, August 22, 2011, with Dr. F. He was kind, patient, no-nonsense. He wore a bow-tie. I liked him. My daughter came with me as a second pair of ears. She took copious notes. I am thankful for her. My cancer was referred to as "low grade," "T1a," "ER+". I was, as Dr. F. stated "a perfect candidate for a lumpectomy, followed by 6 weeks of radiation and 5 years on tamoxifen." We scheduled it for September 19. I was ready to get'er'done...take a couple days off of work...recover...head back. I was committed to being so GOOD at cancer.

Then, on September 14th, during a routine pre-op MRI, they found two more "suspicious spots." The MRI people called me the very next day (again, that in-a-hurry thing!) and I went in on Friday, the 16th. For 30 minutes, a very kind person ultrasounded my breasts. Silently. All I heard was the "click" of the camera as she took pictures of something. Then she left to get the ACTUAL radiologist. This (also very kind) person proceeded to ultrasound my breasts for another 15 minutes. Though nothing poked me, there was no blood, and I was not hurt in any way, I found this all very invasive. All I thought about as I was being K-Y-jellied, was this: "This will end in a mastectomy. Christie: get mentally and emotionally ready for a mastectomy."

(Is this too much information?) See that little "x" up in the corner of your screen?

FINALLY they told me to get dressed. I did, and they came in to tell me the following:
"On your pre-op MRI, we detected 2 more spots, one on each side. Neither of us could find them today via ultrasound. Instead of doing your lumpectomy on Monday, we'd like to postpone surgery and do another procedure to further clarify what these two new spots are so that you will not have to endure two surgeries."

I agreed. The "another procedure" was scheduled for September 23rd, a week later.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

How it all started.

In early July, I got my enthusiastic, pink "It's That Time Again!" postcard from the diagnostic center where I get my annual mammogram. I put it in the catch-all basket with all the other mail. Later in the month, I looked at its little corner sticking out and ignored it once again. A couple days later, I cleaned out the basket and looked at the postcard and told it, "FINE. I'll call." The mammogram went the way it always does: really kind people doing really mean things to my breasts.

I skipped to my car, feeling like such a responsible woman, proud of myself for not ignoring my health, went home and threw the postcard away.

A couple days later, I got the dreaded call-back. I'd had a call-back before and it turned out to be nothing, so I refused to get my undies in a bunch this time. I went back a week later for an ultrasound, at which time they found "something" on my left breast. They scheduled me for a needle biopsy three hours later. (Don't you worry just a little when anyone in the medical profession is in a hurry? I do. It so rarely happens.)

The phrase "needle biopsy" sounds so scary. It was, on speculation. I had myself pretty amped up. Doctor B was amazing. I felt nothing as I lay on my back with my eyes closed, asking God to please grant me that peace that passes understanding. He did. Friends told me how awful it was, how they were face-down in an awkward contraption, how it hurt. For me, it was painless and quick. I felt proud for being so tough, so resilient.

Before I left, the nurse showed me the little jar containing 3 plugs, like baby earthworms, of my breast tissue. It was weird. I was then sent to have a "quick mammogram." I thought, wait. You have just punched a hole in my breast and now you are going to compress it? Ummmm...will this not get rather messy? As it turns out, when they finished the biopsy, they insert a tiny "clip" in the tumor so that it is easy to find if they need to do another procedure. The mammogram was to insure that the clip was placed properly. I looked on the mammogram film and was amazed. The clip was a teeny-tiny version of a breast cancer ribbon.

(and no, it did not get messy.)

I asked the radiologist whether I should be concerned. He replied, "I find this moderately suspicious."

I went home to wait.

The Truth

Truth be told, I'm not a mountain climber. I like mountains, and I love hiking, but I'm not hard core when it comes to mountains. 'Sorry if you thought this was a blog about a hard-core mountain climber and her battle with breast cancer.

I do, however, have breast cancer.

Twin Peaks refers "twins." I have been officially diagnosed for 40 days. When my doctor explained my cancer to me, he used a twin analogy. I'll share more on that later. Suffice it to say that just as identical twins share DNA, so do breasts. What one twin develops the other is also likely to develop. At least this is what Dr. F tells me.

I have learned a few things in the last 40 days that I never knew before. One of these things is that there is a boatload of managing that comes with a cancer diagnosis. I have to manage information (coming in) and money (going out). I have been blessed with many amazing friends who care about me and want the scoop often. I needed a way to update these people who have come alongside me in this adventure. Texting, emails and phone calls were taking up a lot of time. Hence, the blog.

I am a pretty straightforward person, so if you choose to read this blog, be ready for some gritty truth peppered with humor, salted with tears. Consider yourself warned!