Kicking Breast Cancer's Butt

Monthly Archives: February 2013

Today is the big day, the day we meet with the team, and as excited as I was yesterday, today I am so nervous.

So, Tina had an unexpected reaction to the first MRI attempt.  A panic attack.  Well if you have never been in one of these things.  Imagine a nightmare where a large donut is eating you.  Then your alarm clock goes off for 20 minutes and you can’t move to turn it off.  Oh and its louder than a live Led Zepplin concert.  First time I was out in the lobby.

Second time, after a Zanix pill  (usually reserved for flying etc.) and with me now in the room. She got through it.  Trust me if they tried to put an MRI in Gitmo, the President would assure us it was never used on prisoners.  20 minutes of the loudest noises every half second or so and I might tell them where I buried Jimmy Hoffa…..

At first it sounds like the world’s best alarm clock, screeching screeching screeching every second or less.  I am sitting there at the end holding and stroking her ankle.. the part that is sticking out of the donut.  Then I realize.. my head is bobbing back and forth.  OMG!! its just like Steve Martin in “The Jerk”, I have found the a rhythm that moves my white fat man soul!!.  Pathetic…

Then I look down.. at the side of the big white donut… Some perverse marketing team named it “Symphony”  ya right.  They should copyright the first three minutes of this thing’s noise corner the world wide alarm clock business…  Yet… every pass it makes the harmonic of the noise shifts.  Ironically around 12 minutes there is a pass, that I swear could be the base harmony for a Phillip Glass symphony… I can see it now.  Benoroya Hall, the Seattle Symphony and the big white donut on stage.. doing “Ode to Loud Tech” by Phillip Glass.

The other thing.  The dark mood lighting like on TV in”House” is not there.  Its not dark with dim blue floor lights.  It’s lit like an ER exam room.. Whats up with that?

This is where my brain goes for 2o minutes, while I hold Tina’s leg to let her know I am with her, as the machine searches inside her breast for info we really need to move forward.  That and I was also watching her breathing to make sure she wasn’t stressing out..

Ladies.. that is what a man thinks while sitting next to the MRI.. much more fun to write about .. after being told “The Donut” saw no problems in the adjacent lymph nodes..

Tomorrow its several hours with “the team”.. starting with The Surgeon… more reality…

I just wanted to give a shout out to Ken’s AF Family.

Your prayers, your love, your words of encouragement, and your willingness to share your own experiences brings tears of joy to my eyes.  I can never express how much it has meant to me on this day.  It is magical, it is inspirational, and it is empowering.

I am so grateful.

I love you all.


Breast cancer doesn’t just happen to you.  It happens to your whole family as soon as you tell them.

I found this out today, and I have been expecting it.  My husband, who has been my rock and my calming voice, came to his break-down moment.  It’s the waiting that is so hard right now.  Waiting to hear what the doctors say about what they’ve found, what we do next.  And the not knowing is getting to him, and to me.  We can’t plan for what we don’t know, and when I don’t know, my first thought in my less positive moments is the worst-case-scenario.  Every little ache and pain, every time I feel fall-down-tired, makes me wonder.

I started this post about 3 hours ago, and how much can change in such a short time.

I just got my results from the MRI.  They confirmed the tumor we knew about, and they found another something they want to biopsy in the other breast.  But the news I really latched onto was they found NO worrisome lymph nodes.  I’m trying not to get too excited, but this makes me feel a whole lot more positive about my marathon appointment tomorrow.

This is my first post.

Its the day after the MRI.  This is real.  [insert profanity here]

I love Tina so much.  I can’t imagine a better mate, friend, mother, lover.  I understand the motivation for people to shout “This is not Fair!”  Problem is waiting for fair, trying to manufacture fair destroys lives.  I am not waiting.  We are working the process.  We are working with the team a Virgina Mason in Seattle. And when they have an opening we will consult with Seattle Cancer Care Alliance just to make sure we have the best in the area from both places offering input.. VM has great ratings and I thank the Lord we still have the options for care where Friday your wife is diagnosed with cancer, Monday she has an MRI and blood drawn and Wednesday we have back to back meetings with the team.

See.. I am doing it.  I manage Marketing projects for Microsoft as a contingent staffer.  I have for several years.  I like the work and I like my current team and I can’t imagine a more understanding team.  This is my second year long contract them.  And I started the first year where they had just met me and I had to take most of my first week off after we learned of Tina’s dad’s murder.  How did I manage to find such human managers?  As a said, I can calm myself by retreating into the project manager.  We do this, than this, we make the milestones and it will complete successfully.  I get my projects done.  This is a project where I can only do everything right, than we assess fate and Gods’ contribution.

Yup. I beleive in God.  I am not mad at “him”… Yet.   It may come.. I am very much into science and astronomy and string theory etc.  I see art and eligance and I see chaos in the universe and it is beautiful.  God is not some old bearded guy or even a goddess in green.  It is the life force that brought everything into place, I do think God interacts… but I also thing like a good parent we are allowed to choose to be our best in good and bad.  We are to help others, something between killing them with kindness and ignoring that we are different and all have needs. Religion is our attempt to humanize someone too different to understand.

So I am a project manager and I believe in the “Big Picture”  [Reference the movie "Creator"]

Back to Tina.. In her first post.  She wrote “I am not strong.”  Don’t believe that for a minute.  She feels deeply.  She broke into tears during the Budweiser Super Bowl ad where the Bud clydesdale rediscovers the owner who rescued it as a pony.  And she had a panic attack half way through her MRI, so a sat holding her leg for the second attempt and she flew through.  She feels, she feels for people and she feels what affects her.  But then she goes on, she is a mom and a wife and someone at work people know they can trust.  She is strong and she does it while feeling deeply.

I too have been sucking down info.  Info informs choice, choice is power.  So much info… Where is my choices?.. where is the power?  I don’t know.  I hate not knowing…

What do I know.. I want my wife with my for the next 30-40 years.  I love her oh so much because of who she is.. Wife, Lover, Mother.. Friend.

Today is my day to really start feeling.  There is nothing to manage.. Nothing to plan for.. we wait.



Today is the MRI, which I am very nervous about.  Wednesday is the big day, the day I talk to my medical team.  Two days ago I was terrified thinking about what they might say.  Today, I’m excited to hear what they might say.

I have just as much chance of it being very good news, as very bad, right?

So yesterday afternoon thinking about my preliminary diagnosis, I was a bad-ass warrior.  I was sassy, and I had a take no prisoners attitude.

Last night, not so much.  Last night, I’m constantly on the verge of crying, if I’m not flat out doing so.  It doesn’t help matters that there is a TON of information on the internet, and I am obsessively searching and reading about things that only serve to confuse me more.  I can’t keep doing this.  I have to be patient, wait for my MRI on Monday, then here what the team has to say on Wednesday.  And what they could say terrifies me.

Again today, I am frequently on the verge of tears.  However, occasionally, not as often as the emergent tears, there are pockets of calm.  I exhale a sort of cleansing breath, and think “just wait and see what they say.  Once we know exactly what we’re dealing with, we can attack it.”  I go back and forth between completely freaking out – this tumor is huge!  – and saying “It is going to be okay.” From what I can feel, this tumor is bigger than any stage III tumor description I have found on line.  I kept thinking last night, it must of gone farther.  But last night, talking to my husband in bed, it occurred to me, my tumor is also estrogen positive - it’s fed by estrogen.  Maybe that’s why it grew to large, and so quickly.  It’s possible.  One of the things I noticed in all of my obsessing last night – every patient is different.  You can’t go by what is a “textbook case” because human beings don’t come out of a textbook.  There are endless variations, surprises, and just plain old funky genetics.  Just now I’m remembering something a former co-worker used to say – don’t catastrophize.  She meant don’t go worrying about things that haven’t happened, and may never happen.  I have to keep that in my head.  I don’t know yet what exactly I have.  I shouldn’t create a story around it, especially when that story is not a happy one.  I’m not cut out for long-term depression.  I never have been.  Even when things are darkest, something in my psyche won’t allow my spirits to stay down very long.  I always pop back up.  Granted, the last two years have been hard, and I am not the happy-go-lucky innocent I once was.  Horror has come into my life, since my dad’s murder.  The kind of horror you think only happens on crime TV.  But you can’t just lay down in the road and quit living, can you?  Not in the middle of Hell.  Who wants to stop for lunch there?

As Churchill once said, If you’re in the middle of Hell, keep going.

That’s what I have to do.  Keep going.

What is cancer, anyway?  Cancer sounds like a really scary word, right?  But really, what is it?  It’s not exactly a complete unknown anymore.  Yeah, no one can say what causes it, at least not with breast cancer, but what’s to be scared of until they tell you to be scared?

I’m in a little denial right now, a little disbelief.  I just got my results back from my last biopsy – I have breast cancer.  Me.  I still don’t quite believe it, and I feel a little defiant.  One day my boobs were normal (my right boob has a tendency to fibroids) the next day there’s this huge mass.  I’m not quite 50, it’s not unheard of for a woman my age to be pre-menopausal, and for her breasts to change.  My tumor came on suddenly, and it is big.  I thought, it’s just funky hormones, or maybe a cyst.  I just had a mammogram and a biopsy on a very small benign fibroid a year ago; cancer doesn’t move this fast.  It isn’t cancer.  They’ll tell me it’s another fibroid, hopped up on hormones, that I can have it out if I would like, or live with it, like I live with the three other freaking little  fibroids I have parked in that breast.  I did not expect to be having a conversation about me, about my breast, and cancer.  I’m not anyone’s cheerleader, I’m not strong, or brave, or a poster-child for survival.  I’m boring.  I work, I come home, I do laundry and take care of my family.  I do not champion causes, and I do not “stand” for anything.

Cancer doesn’t define me.  This tumor doesn’t define me.  It’s a thing I have to deal with, that’s all.  Like a bad knee, a leaky roof, or car trouble.  Nobody needs to raise awareness around a faulty transmission, nobody crys and hugs you, tells you how strong you are.  They say get it fixed, deal with it, and don’t be late for work again tomorrow.

Me? Breast Cancer?  WTF?

On a Tuesday, I had an appointment with my general practitioner about this giant glob in my breast.  I’d noticed it a couple of weeks before, but it was during my period, and I thought “Oh, it’s just hormones, I’ll make an appointment just to confirm my suspicions, it’s nothing.”  So I go to the appointment, and all the while my doctor was poking and prodding, she didn’t say it wasn’t nothing, but she also didn’t say it was nothing.  And I really wanted her to tell me it was nothing.  I asked her at one point “It’s weird, isn’t it?”  She confirmed, oh, yes, it’s weird.  She didn’t give me any clue as to what it could be – at all.  She said she wanted me to have a diagnostic mammogram (no surprise, I’ve had them once a year for three years).  No problem.  The scheduler calls me the next day, and I have an appointment on Thursday morning.  Great.  Now we’re getting somewhere.

Thursday, Big Day, arrives.  This is the day I’m going to get some answers.  I’m nervous as all get out, but at least I’ll get the radiologist’s diagnosis – it’s a cyst, it’s a milk gland gone haywire, it’s hormones.  I’m going through the breast mashing for a good cause, right?  I read all the funny poems they have on the wall, how they hurt you because they care; I get to see all the OTHER mammographing trays they have – oh, my gosh, you’d think that mashing them flat would be good enough, but NO.  You thought those little plastic trays with the indentation and the pink arrows were just hanging up there to look cool, but they do have a purpose.  Don’t ask me what they do, because I never look.  I believe it hurts less if I don’t see how my poor breast looks when it’s mashed flat under the plastic tray.  But the radiologist is going to say what he always says – it’s a fibroid, you can go home.  Or he thinks it is, but he wants to biopsy the fibroid to confirm.  Not this time.  I have “We need a biopsy to find out what we’re dealing with.”  He doesn’t say it is cancer, but he also doesn’t say it isn’t.  The closest I get to reassurance is “Cancer doesn’t grow this fast.”  Great.  So we talk about the biopsy, and what’s going to happen.  I’ve had biopsies before, they don’t scare me.  I’m just annoyed, because I still don’t have an answer.  I am freaking pissed.

The radiolgist leaves, and the ultrasound technician sets me up with a time for the biopsy.  Tuesday morning, 8am.  Great. Fantastic.  Shit, that means I still don’t have an answer, and I get to champ at the bit all weekend long.  Crap, crap, crap.  Oh, well, deal with it.

Tuesday comes, sample day, and a day I don’t expect answers.  I have a new radiologist, and she’s awesome.  But we’re having a tougher time than usual, because the tissue keeps moving, and she has to kind of burrow down to get to the mass.  It is not excruciating, but it is more intense than my previous biopsies.  I suck it up and keep focused on the fact that I must do this to get the answers I want.  Or at least an answer.  What I was dealing with must have registered on my face, as the ultrasound technician at the breast clinic dubbed me “boobs of steel”.  She and the radiologist agreed, the tissue was “like Wonder Woman,” I guess they meant like Linda Carter’s Wonder Woman costume from the 1970’s series.  I liked the term so much, I texted my sister about my “boobs of steel” and she texted back “It’s nice to know you have some kind of superpowers.”

Looks like I’m going to need them.