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April 20, 2014

Weighing heavy on my mind

An attempted Emotional Hijacking, this best describes a recent interaction. It is part and parcel with the "always, never-ever" crew. It is when I find myself most fragile and vulnerable, that I am met with these forceful, condemning, and all or nothing words. 

You always do this...
You never-ever do that...
We have never...
You have never...
You always say...

I become the steam that screeches from the pressure-cooker. I then catch my breath, reminding myself that no one has the power to make me feel an emotion; this is my choice. With confident opposition, I launch my verbal defense, in a barking fashion. I choose how to respond, it has nothing to do with you; right now, I am choosing to be pissed off but really I am hurt. 

Words are a powerful weapon and are equally a safe haven. We must not become complacent, thoughtless, self-indulgent, or reckless with our words. Whomever coined the phrase "sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me", they were sorely misguided. Words do hurt; they have the power to break, cut, and stifle.

Restless and unable to sleep, the time reads 2:02 am. I am exhausted- emotionally and physically. I want to sleep, yet I am recounting the venom escaping the lips of the always never-ever crew. I consider the attempted emotional hijacking as I retreat into thought. Was this a not so clever way to jockey for unmet wants? Perhaps this behavior is a deep-seated pattern. Was this an attempt to apply guilt? Is it more comfortable to be angry then to express fear and uncertainty?  I believe in large part it is the later- with a twist of the others. I suppose, in the moment, it may appear easier to be angry with someone who is leaving you. If you are resting in the emotion of anger, it is tough to expose the fear, disappointment, and hurt. Eventually though, the anger will cease to serve you and the hidden emotions will rise. 

Words hurt. I am fragile. I am vulnerable. And now, I am wounded by words. 

This lifetime moves quickly, and for some, the end time grows near. Live each moment as though it were your last. Extend forgiveness freely. Look beyond your discomfort to embrace the good that surrounds you. Do not take yourself too serious. Love big. 

How does one recover and heal from wounds such as these? Through the love, gentleness, and compassion of others. I experienced this today as laughter was shared between my parents, brothers, sister-in-laws, and I. There were several one-on-one side conversations that evoked tear filled eyes, loving embraces, and encouragement. This brings peace and comfort during uncertain times. 

Today, I am hopeful~ 

April 5, 2014

Pathology results are humbling

On Monday of this week, my husband and I traveled to Newport to meet with my oncologist, my “real” oncologist. The oncologist will be retiring late June, so I am currently in the market for a compassionate, respectful, and cooperative oncologist. As my husband drove over the mountain, I was feverishly reviewing the recent surgical pathology report. Although the surgeon provided verbal information regarding pathology, reading it, in its totality, was humbling. I methodically compared the current pathology to past pathology; searching for something, I am not sure what. I felt my heart racing as it slowly sank into my stomach. It is not good news, not at all.

Curtis and I anxiously sat in the exam room waiting for the oncologist. When the oncologist entered the room, he walked toward me with extended hands. I knew what he was doing, but I quickly handed him my pathology report. He quietly turned, placing the papers on the counter, turned back toward me, and extended his arms and open hands toward me. I reached up placing my hands in his gentle warm hands. He tenderly squeezed my hands and looked into my eyes. His presence embodies what is needed to be an impacting therapist. My heart wanted to melt. I could have been an emotional mess several times during the visit, but I resisted. What purpose would it serve to “lose it”? I asked many questions – I like to ask questions. I even asked what type of treatment (western) he would recommend. His answer – he does not recommend chemotherapy. He went on to say that, chemotherapy would only provide a 5% chance of extending my survival rate (which would months, at best) – it was not worth it. I laughed and said, “Well good – I was not thinking about undergoing chemotherapy, been there – tried that – it is not for me”. At the end of the appointment, he embraced me and said that he admired what I am doing.

On the drive home, I felt at peace – despite the answers to my questions.

I am still recovering from my breast surgery and wanting to get my energy back, it is a slow climb. Patience is required – this does not come naturally. In the upcoming weeks, I will undergo a PET scan to see if the cancer has metastasized in other places within my body. If it has, things will most likely move quickly. I too am processing the magnitude of my diagnosis. I then went into research mode. I located a research study: Triple-Negative Breast Cancer: Clinical Features and Patterns of Recurrence. The highlights or perhaps lowlights include the following:
·      Local (most was distant first) reoccurrence was 13%. 
·      Reoccurrence (local/distant) occurred, on average, 2.6 years post diagnosis.
·      70% of deaths occurred within the first 5 years.
·      25% of women with TNBC experienced local reoccurrence prior to distant. 
·      57 of 61 women died 9 months following the reoccurrence.

Here is my positive take-away: Statistically, I continue to be in the minority (TNBC) of the minority (BRCA negative) of the minority (13% local reoccurrence). Following this trend, I most certainly will move beyond this diagnosis, with a healthy mind, body, and spirit, in this lifetime. 

Curtis and I are approaching this remarkably well! It is what it is. I am doing what I can do to conquer this beast by balancing my body. The PET scan results will really ferret out if there is anything else going on. I do not anticipate a distance reoccurrence and I want the PET scan results to reflect this. Curtis and I have talked about what I would do if the results swung the other direction - do not want to put too much energy into that scenario. 

My post-operative blood work shows that tumor markers appear to be trending downward; most significantly the CA125 (ovarian marker) that was (51) prior to surgery registered at (18) post-surgery. Ironically, one breast tumor marker, 15-3 registered (1) point higher post-surgery, this is most likely due to inflammation another was slightly lower. My iron is at the highest level it has been in over 6 months and my vitamin D continues to steadily go up; it is in the mid 50's - need to get it up into the 80+ zone.

I continue to have a positive outlook and am not becoming paralyzed by this diagnosis.

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Today, I am hopeful.