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Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Over and Out

"Well, I don't like to toot my own horn, but that looks really good!" No, I did not say that. It is a direct quote from my surgeon, Dr. Beatrice Klade, of the Edward-Elmhurst Medical Group. It's the kind of thing a survivor likes to hear from her surgeon: that the 12-inch scar extending from the underarm to the breast bone has healed so far ... and has closed this chapter in this part of my cancer journey.

I say "closed this chapter" because, to the even mildly observant, life is not to be taken for granted. The zero on my Onctotype DX test is fantastic, but it does not preclude a recurrence entirely, nor does it promise that the remaining side won't take off on its own. 

The team at E-E has been nothing short of excellent. Caring. Thorough. Empathetic. Accessible. And transparent.

But there's more to this journey than just the testing and the surgery. The emotions are part and parcel of the process. And for support there, I thank my friends and family on Facebook, my breast health navigator (yes, that's a thing) at E-E, and the incredible women on the Pink Sisters in Christ Facebook page. Prayers have encouraged me, and God has sustained me. The roller coaster ride has smoothed out a bit since the beginning, but there are still days when worry rears its ugly head.
In case you didn't know, the answer is "no."

Part of the healing is acceptance that life will never look quite like it did before. But in an effort to feel as "normal" as possible, survivors have the insurance-required option of reconstruction or prostheses. The most desirable boutiques are those who will work directly with your insurance company. So it was that my navigator suggested I head to Naturally Yours, which is a bit of a hike for me, but worth the effort. 

Don't assume that the prosthesis is for vanity or aesthetic value only. No, the "good ones" are weighted to the point of balancing your posture as naturally as possible. Otherwise, over compensation takes over, followed by back pain. So I am thankful that Blue Cross/Blue Shield is taking care of my posture today. ;-)

Speaking of keeping the spine aligned ... and other physical considerations ... I (re)joined a health and wellness center yesterday! Admittedly, I'm a bit nervous about actually showing up. I mean, what if my new body part takes on a life of its own and decides to bow out during Zumba or AquaFit? Yipes. No, that won't happen ... will it?

This brings me to what the future looks like. 20/20 vision only works in hindsight, as you've no doubt heard. Seeing the future is squarely in God's purview. Not mine. 

Original sin's ramifications are far reaching. Death, disease, broken relationships, and evil in general. If someone tells you you can avoid the ravages of sin in this life, they are selling something. "The rain falls on the just and the unjust." And this will continue until Jesus returns. But that doesn't mean that we are without power in this life. Nor are we without hope. Jesus has secured my eternity. The Spirit is carrying me through this life. All because God first created us and loved us. 

In my humanity, there will be days I'm concerned that I might have to go through this again. But overall, God has been incredibly gracious and merciful to me. One might even say that I suffer from a bit of "survivor's guilt." There are women (I'm specifically referring to breast cancer here) who have to take on years of treatment, struggling to stay upright physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I'm grateful for the path God has opened for me. 

For now, let's leave it at "over" ... and it's "out." Thank You, Lord!

Monday, August 06, 2018

Big Hairy Deal

I was attending college when I first started singing the jingle to "Sun In." Remember it?

šŸŽµšŸŽµSun in and sunlight, and you'll be blonder toniiiiiight!šŸŽµšŸŽµ

The best it ever did for me was to turn my ash colored hair a bit redder. More of a strawberry blonde.

Then, when I was in my mid thirties, I noticed the dreaded stray gray hairs begin to appear. Over the counter color boosters worked just fine. But by the time I was in my mid forties, I alternated between over the counter color and paying someone to make me look "natural." Assuming "natural" is not gray, of course.

So, now I'm sporting a full blown stripe of gray down the middle of my head. There's a fairly good reason for that. I'm pragmatic. I don't like to pay for something that may have a short shelf life.

As you are aware, I had a single mastectomy on July 18. I'm not quite three weeks into recovery. The surgery went well. I only have slight aches and pains if I overdo it. And the nodes and margins were clear. Praise God!

But there's this little thing called the "oncotype score" that is a good predictor of whether cancer will return or not, based on all sorts of factors too scientific to relate here. The score ranges from zero to 100. Each number represents a percentage of "likelihood of recurrence." Depending on the score and the oncologist, there is generally a "break even" number where the benefits of chemotherapy outweigh the side effects. You've no doubt known someone who has suffered through those "benefits."

If I'm going to head into rounds of chemotherapy, losing my hair two weeks into the process, I'm sure not going to pay good money to rid myself of gray that will fall out anyway ... know what I mean? Instead, I'd need to have her buzz my hair to get ahead of the game.

My prayer warriors went to work, praying with me that the clear nodes and margins would also translate into "no radiation" and "no chemotherapy." I will be the first to admit that I don't know how prayer works. I do know that it is a conversation with my Creator ... my Savior ... my Comforter and Healer. And I know that God is sovereign. He has the right to rule, and that means that what He says goes. I know it will be for my best, because He is working in me to make me more like Jesus. God ALWAYS answers prayer. We just don't know HOW He will answer, and we may not like the answer.

At first, I thought I was going to go to my oncologist appointment this afternoon ... alone. There is something about that word. I can say "by myself" and be fine. But as soon as I say "alone" the tears start. And so I asked my dear hubby just how late he could head to work today, knowing he usually has to leave no later than 1 PM ... the exact time of my appointment.

He asked me how important I thought it was that he be there. Duh!!! If it's bad news, I'm going to need to cry on his shoulder. And if it's good news, I want him to be there to do the happy dance with me! Okay, maybe he'd just watch ME do the happy dance, but that's close enough.

Thank You, Lord. Mark went with me.

The first stop is always to get the vitals. Rats! I drank two cups of coffee, ate way more than I should have for both breakfast and lunch, and first stop was weigh in. Quick! What can I take off? Oh, well.

Then comes blood pressure. You can imagine it was on the ascending scale as I'm waiting for what could be life changing news.

Then meet with the kindly nurse, and a knock on the door from my sweet, albeit business-like, oncologist.

"Well, I have your results here, and let's just get this out before we discuss anything else..."  Blah, blah, blah ... "You are only the second person I have ever seen with this score in my 11 years of oncology." And then she handed me the results sheet.

I cried.

Yes, I prayed for a low oncotype score, as did so many of the prayer warriors out there, but ... God, You are just showing me that I need to trust You with everything!

ZERO!!! Unheard of! ZERO!!!

That is a big hairy deal. So, please excuse me while I go make a hair appointment ... praising and dancing all the way!