Friday, January 22, 2010

Perspective gained through the strength of others

So today is better. The two week mark. My recovery is difficult at moments but truly when I look at the world around me, the death in Haiti, friends losing parents to cancer, and even a local accident which has rendered a local dad to be paralyzed for the rest of his daily pain is one that I can deal with when you gain that type of perspective.

I am still feeling a little raw  from those friends I have not heard from but then I receive notes like the one I have attached that I received last night.  I have not even met this women but she brought tears to my eyes and again, the reminder that I took my health in my own hands and glad I'm did. (I removed names out of respect) I thank her for reminding me to stay strong. 
Hi Colleen, Do you remember me from this last weekend we msged each other. I am the one with the sister inlaw with the newly diagnosed Breast Cancer.

Hope you are feeling better and are not having much pain anymore.

Sorry if any spelling mistakes I am typing with fingers shaking.

When I first saw your page here in FB I noticed your blog. I briefly glimpsed over it but did not have a the heart to read it, till now. I only read your first two entries so far but I fell like I need to tell you that you are a very special person. A part of me wishes that I would have your strength and be in your position already. This I am saying with out even being tested YET!!!

I did mention to you before about my sister inlaw having Breast Cancer. Her name is XXXX, she is not a FB user yet! She is 40 yrs old, has two boyz and is now about to start the battle of her life. We were talking today and she say's that if she could turn back time she would have done the BRCA test's and have had a double masactomy with outa question in her mind because that would be half of what she must go through now. Horrible just horrible!!! I can't believe it. I know XXXX for about 18 yrs. She is as close to me as one of my own sister's.

Basiclly, I am probably not one of the first people to tell you this but for lack of a better sentance, the sacrifice that you gave up on your body (breasts, dahhhhh) and the pain and mental hardship that you might have will in the long run be to your ultimate benefit of a cancerfree, long loving life to share with your family. I sound like a preacher. I know that is the reason for doing your surgery I just wanted to let you know that I applaud you!!!

Thursday, January 21, 2010


So yes, some days are harder than was hard. Today was the day I was fed up, done and frustrated. I was, at least, after talking with other women, expecting days like this. I accept them for what it is, and know that tomorrow is another day.

Today I just want to feel ‘normal’. I have to stay inside because going for a walk is too uncomfortable. I want to sleep through a night. I want the pain to go away long enough so I can rest. With three kids at home the floors scream sweep me, the laundry room builds up...the hardest part of recovery is the staying put.

I was, as I said, expecting days like this. What I was not expecting was the lack of support I received from certain people. Difficult times bring out the best – and the worst- of people. I expected a couple of people to write or call and yet they remain quiet. On the other side there are others who have completely surprised me and come by with food, and make the effort to call with messages of love and support. In some instances it has been difficult but I thought I would share this with you because it can surprise you to experience the ‘abandonment’ from those you least expect. At the same time it can be seen as an opportunity to evolve as a person as envelop those who do care.

I want others to benefit from my experience and hence why I started this blog. I received wise words from a fellow BRCA sister that I think sums up the attitude I now have adopted.

"Unfortunately, it can be as painful as the recovery, to see who really and truly cares and "has your back." It really made me re -evaluate the level and trust of some friendships. Some people surprise you in wonderful ways, but others are disappointments. From this process, I actually became better about not obsessing over the ones that let me down (although that is a work in progress!), and really caring that much deeper about those people who are sincerely kind and react in similar ways to how I would have for them. Hang in there, and do not let yourself be distracted by the ones who aren't there, be glad you learned.”

I knew this experience would change me, I just had no idea the extent or depth that it would.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


He blanket lesson and statement that I can claim and own is that the FEAR of surgery was so much greater than surgery itself.

Here I am breastless and happy – and pain free. The worst complication I have had this past week was actually with my pain medications.... so where do I begin?

Friday, January 8th – the morning of the surgery. I was scared, and as I arrived at 6:30 for my 8 am surgery I sat there and knew my life would never be the same. There was never a doubt in my mind though and I knew I was doing the right thing. I found comfort in that simple fact. I was pleased that my conscious had reached this level of acceptance. I can not stress enough to anyone reading this , if you yourself are contemplating surgery or even genetic testing, you need to be ready for it - on your own time, your own agenda. One of my wonderful members of my support group said to me once “The worst thing you can do is have surgery when you are not ready. You may end up with regret. More importantly you will not be able to deal with possible complications” Words that I remember and pass on to you that I hope assists others on their journey.

The biggest hiccup was 7:55am -...5 minutes to surgery as I sat outside the O.R. One of my biggest of not the most important wishes I had throughout was a thoracic block. This procedure was something I advocated for for a number of months including discussions with my plastic surgeon, general surgeon, and an interview with an anaesthesiologist. They all told me that the bock would not be an issue. Well with the clock ticking down I had to fight and beg and stop surgery for the procedure. The reasoning I was told that the risk was too high for a bilateral mastectomy. My reasoning was simple – pain management. There is a clear line in my experience that can be drawn between those who have the block and those who do not. The level of pain experience by those who have had the block is much lower. My pain was minimal and already I am not on anything except for Advil at night.

The weight, the dread, wow – the minute I woke up was all gone. The nurses kept referring to me ‘Sleeping Beauty’ - it took me forever to wake...6 hours. Finally they poked me a few times and said they either admit me or shake me up a bit. A trip to the bathroom and ginger ale shook me enough, that in addition to the wish to get home back to bed. The trip home, like many will say, very long and uncomfortable...

But here I am – done. Thrilled!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

The time has come

Here it is. A year of blogging knowing that this week would eventually come

I am glad I had the holidays to keep my mind busy. Lots of family, lots of parties. It was a great holiday. I also treated myself to a girl’s weekend away to Fort Lauderdale. What can I say except lots of shopping and some of the best restaurants ever!

Now I need to get ready for the hardest week ever. Surgery is less than a week away. It has been hard to not repeat the sentence “this is the last time I will be doing X with my breasts..” That may sound weird to those not in my shoes but apparently many of the women I have spoken to it is very common. Today for example this will be my last Saturday....

I do have to say I am just amazed at the continued support from those around me. Not only from close family and friends, but even people, ex-boyfriends, old high school people I have not spoken to, and even complete strangers have messaged me and offered some of the kindest words. Yes, not all are as supportive or understanding, but like a breast cancer survivor you figure out quite quickly who your friends are and often become closer with many. It is truly a humbling experience to have people reference you as brave, or even a hero. I simply see myself as making a choice that does not allow cancer into my home.

As confident as am in my decision my heart sunk a bit as the clock struck midnight, as I hugged my friends, kissed my children...knowing January was here.

I have things to buy, a bag to pack, and positive thoughts to keep... 

This will be trying.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

this is the hard part

December - the month of festivities, parties and well some serious cutting loose. I feel very lucky to have the number of friends that I do. I am constantly surrounded by love and support and that alone is a blessing. I, most recently, yet most significantly, am surrounded by my BRCA sisterhood - a group of women like me who stare cancer in the face and say "not me". I also have the Ottawa HBOC group which support and surround me with a love and support that I have not felt in years. A true blessing

its all about the holidays...

But this month is different

I cried tonight. A gut releasing cry. My daughter approached me with tears at the dining table; afraid... she afraid of what was going to happen to mommy. I cried and held her as we both opened our souls to the pain we so desperately hide during this very trying time. I do not doubt that many women facing a mastectomy have felt this secret pain. I assured her that mommy would be fine. It may not be fun for a period of time but in the end I will be there for her to watch her graduate, be there when she has babies of her own. I told her cancer was not welcome in our home so this is what I was willing to do to make that happen

It is an incredibly hard time right now. I hear that alot from other women who have been here. I am four weeks before surgery. I often sit and say this is my last X with my last last last cookie gets to be a joke at a point but utterly consuming and draining.

I don't have cancer but tonight I feel that it entered my home. My girls are scared. I am scared. This is the hard part... the waiting. I have taken a step back from almost everything and everyone - except for those people who I know can only feed positive messages back to me. I have, for the first time in 15-20 years decided to be selfish. A very foreign thought for me, uncomfortable at many a time...though many BRCA sisters and encourages me to be so. I can not handle anything negative or or conflict at this point.

This 'zone' of where my head lies was completely unexpected. I am living right now as a women with cancer on her shoulder because I do feel it breathing down my neck. I feel that darkness and insecurity that I can only imagine women facing treatments and the unknown ahead. This has however has offered me a light that I believe is a gift... I have removed those in my life who are selfish, learned that the past, although haunting is not that kind, and that the future is where I need to focus. That would be me - healthy - standing beside my family. a gift that sees and appreciates life as a gift.

The BRCA sisterhood has showed that so many women have faced many difficulties, some more than I could bear and that no matter what my future holds, the pain, the blood, the uncertainty, the fact is that I will live. Live with my daughters beside me. No one, no man, no selfish being can take that from me.

It is good that over the next month that I have alot to keep me busy - wrapping up work, Christmas, and FLORIDA. I am heading to have a crazy time in FT. Lauderdale with a girlfriend of mine. Run away and just forget what lies ahead.

I have to keep my sanity. Might as well have fun doing it.

Pray for me.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Phone rang and all was set

I knew the day would come.  I even hoped it would come, surprisingly, but still it sat like lead in my stomach. 

The call came today.  January 8th.  The day I lose my breasts.  Wow, writing it is yucky? final? Not very profound is it.  This weekend, as you probably read I hit rock bottom.  I completely lost it but at least it was with end purpose.  Somedays I

I saw a woman die. Her lifeless body is forever etched in my mind.  it serves as a remeber of why I am having this surgery. I saw what cancer does inside a home, using stress fatigue and fear to eat away at ones soul  I will not do that to my family. 

The hard part was telling them tonight.  They cried. I cried with them but assured in the end we would get though this.  We were beating cancer before it had a chance to rear its ugly head

I know it won't be easy, and I still think I'm in for a hell of a ride, no matter how much I prepare or think I know.  I think about Eva in the back of my mind who is now is breastless again .  I hope (dear God) I do not end that way. After this weekend though I do not doubt my decision. 

I have a picture of one of my BRCA's sister's new foobs on my bullentin board and well heck- they look awesome!  I use that and the possibility of some other enhancement once full exchange is done...hint...

So I guess I have nothing except I am surprisingly at peace for now and let the 43 day countdown begin.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The night reality came crashing in

Have you ever been angry? I mean really really angry? So upset you couldn’t breathe? I did that tonight. I cried. I scream. I yelled. I lost my breath in tears and fear. My emotions flooded uncontrollably into consciousness as reality hit and hit hard.

I attended a film festival tonight surround by heroic stories, women of courageous character. I myself was surrounded by many bald heads who share a common story in the plush red seats we sat in.  Breast cancer

My soul will be forever marked as I watched Stage IV- A Journey into the Unknown  A film that will forever change my life and brought me to my space tonight. This documentary was the story if a  women’s fight with breast cancer. Anne was an incredibly positive being. Fit, young, active, optimistic and yet as the minutes pasted in the film, which in real life was actually weeks and months, cancer kept taking a larger part of her. First her breasts. Then her liver.

Like me, one of her largest struggles was with how her child would deal with this. She remained positive, attacked cancer with every treatment and alternative method she could muster. Every P.E.T scan she remained positive and just said “Well I need more time to find what will kick this” as the diagnoses and medical reports came back continually on a negative note. Chemo was not working

In the end cancer won. I watched her die in the most horrible painful way. This very smiley woman could no longer find anything positive to say because she was in so much pain.

The film was life changing for me. The monster, my boogie man, imbedding itself slowly into her family’s life. Her son found his mom’s disease hard to comprehend. The stress on the marriage was also demonstrated. The constant challenge of her inner sprit. She demonstrated such strength. Such strength I do not believe I have. As I watched her family struggle I knew I did not want to put my family through such duress if i could prevent it.

The most notable scene was where the doctor basically said there were no more options, no more treatments available and she was given 6 months...

She lived 5.

She died at home which the film annimated clearly. Her lifeless body is embedded into my memory for life.

I am beside myself tonight with tears and an overwhelming fear as I say goodbye to my breasts.

I have never been so scared in all my life.

God and the angels be with you Ann

God help me and give me strength to get through what I know I must do.