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!