March 2, 2014

Flexibility Required

I am at a bit of a loss of where to begin – the past 30 days have been an interesting mix of shifting emotions along with interesting, enjoyable, and unbelievable experiences that bring me to today, March 2, 2014.

Please consider donating money to support travel expenses, surgical procedures, and medical expenses: Capture Courage Fundraiser

February is forever a favorite month; I celebrate my birthday, anniversary, and Valentine’s Day. Image my surprise when I was brought back to reality when Curtis announced I would be turning 43, not 33! For some reason I had it in my mind I was fix’n to be 33 … the idea of being in my 40s evoked a crinkled nose followed by a gasp. Mother Nature provided a beautiful blanket of deep white snow to the Willamette Valley, something that does not happen often; we were literally snowed in for several days. The next February event was Valentine’s Day and my 10-year anniversary – both occurring on February 14. My birthday/anniversary gift was my first tattoo. Never fancied myself a tattoo kind of gal … I have to say, I love the tattoo! Many have asked what the meaning of the tattoo is – let me share.

The Om symbol: This represents the all-encompassing cosmic vibration of the universe. Om is at the beginning and ending of many sacred texts. Om represents the states of consciousness and connects us to the divine.

The Elephant/Ganesha: Signifies wisdom, patience, is the remover of obstacles, discernment, loyalty, strength, and intelligence.

There seems to be a theme that continues to occur with repetition as of late; just when I think I have a concrete plan together, a barrier presents causing me to quickly shift. Being mindful that there clearly is a lesson to be learned that I must be overlooking, I REALLY want to grasp this lesson! A couple examples of this are to follow.

Meeting with Oregon reconstruction surgeon – the appointment started-off fairly normal and then slid sideways! In the exam room was a female intern, the surgeon, and me. As the surgeon conducted the breast exam, in a rather aggressive manner, he began challenging my treatment choices. He went as far as stating that I was providing myself diminished healthcare interventions. I responded by saying something like, that is interesting, I have never had a physician provide feedback of that nature before. The surgeon was shocked and responded “really?” My response – “I don’t think most would be that brazen!” I could feel my anxiety well up within my body, I took a deep breath, as I reminded him of his position on my team was that of a reconstructive surgeon – not a secondary oncologist. Later in the appointment, I exclaimed, in a “jokester” way, that I needed to ask some basic questions – such as how long have you been preforming reconstructive breast surgeries. He outlined his qualifications in the most complex and medically academic manner. I indulged him, although I had no idea what the hell he was talking about. When he finished, I leaned forward and lowered my voice as I asked if the undertaking of the second fellowship he had outlined, was a “suggestion from his professor”; in intern exhaled with laughter! The doctor went on to explain further that is truly was HIS desire to participate in a second fellowship. You really had to be there to capture the levity of it all. Despite his narcissistic nature, I went ahead and scheduled to have him be my reconstructive surgeon – there are only two in Corvallis. For the next 5-7 days, my breasts felt like they had been through a meat grinder! Yes, even my “good one”. Thinking it may be warranted to send him bill for damaging the merchandise.

In the days following the aggressive manhandling of my breasts, I noticed that there was swelling occurring in the armpit where there is a lymph node suspected of being infiltrated with cancer cells. The swelling concerned me. I was already grappling with the decision to remove the lymph node or to keep it. I scheduled an appointment to see my nurse practitioner oncologist; she was able to palpate the swollen node. During the appointment she let me know that I would have to establish with a new oncologist because my beloved Dr. Kenyon had really retired and my “treatment plan had changed” due to the re-occurrence of cancer. My response, “that is fucking annoying, I have never had a treatment plan, I am doing my own thing!” She advised me that my case will be discussed at the Tumor Board and they will create a recommended treatment plan for me …I rolled my eyes “you know that time would be better spent discussing a case that was actually going to use your western jazz.” My nurse practitioner is kind, listens, and shoots it strait in a respectful manner; this is why I like her. After leaving her office, I started to process the medical events and the response I was getting from the western medical community in regards to my treatment choices. I needed to change the way I was presenting my choices – it was different now because the cancer was back and this was making the doctors very nervous. My responses were raising red flags in their western medicine brains and thus creating barriers in accessing the interventions I desired. I was able to ground myself and refocus my responses – they do not have to agree with what I am doing. What needs to happen is for me to allow the doctors the space to deliver their informed consent and fulfill their verbal medical oath duties.

It was my understanding that I would not have to meet with the new MD until after surgery – I was wrong. The next morning, I received a voice message requesting I come in to meet the MD oncologist on that day at 1:00. My first thought … nope, I am so not doing that right now. Aware of my avoidant attachment style, I made a different choice. I contacted my friend to ask if she could go with me to the appointment, she agreed. Good thing I had grounded myself and prepared emotionally and psychologically; this woman, Vicki Lee, is a piece of work! Some of her delightful gems included:

We all can agree that you made the wrong decision in 2011 because the cancer has returned; she stated this no less than 4 times throughout the visit. You are too overwhelmed and emotional; you need your family to make the right treatment decision for you this time. We may not even do surgery if you do not let us remove the mass and the lymph node – it is all cancer, we need to take out all the cancer that we can see, otherwise there is no point.

Yep, it really happened! My friend remained silent during the visit and let me handle this Gem called Dr. Vicki Lee. This woman did not listen. She attempted to miss quote me in her notes. Awe, at one point she stated that she had a question for me – what followed was a harsh judgment. I interrupted her, “what I just heard was a judgment; you said that you had a question for me…what is the question?” She never did ask a question. I said very little during the appointment; remember I had already prepared myself otherwise I might have gone ham on the doctor. Conversely, my friend, well – she was fit to be tied!!! Clearly it was time to reassess my treatment team. 

I have decided to cancel the surgical procedures in Oregon and head back to my trusted doctors in Texas. My surgery is scheduled to take place this month. My husband and medically savvy friend Leslie will travel to Texas with me for my surgeries. I am finally at peace with my procedures and choices.

Please consider donating money to support travel expenses, surgical procedures, and medical expenses: Capture Courage Fundraiser

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Today I am hopeful~