Monday, April 25, 2011



Shortness Of Breath. Son Of a Bitch. Sob (as in cry). Time is drawing near to the BIG day and I have a lump in the back of my throat and tears leaking from my eyes. I read a blog post about another woman's experience on her BIG day. She is done and happy to be home after her pbm. I have heard many of you say how relieved you are and how the buildup to the surgery is so much larger than it should be. That it will be ok and I will be happy afterward. But how did you make it from the Before to the After? How did you make yourself get out of bed that morning and get your legs to move you out the door and all the way to the hospital? How did you force your way through the doors and past the receptionist, the waiting room and into pre-op? How did you keep yourself from ripping off the iv and jumping off the table and running until you couldn't run anymore?

It is the running from it that I am most tired of. I am out of breath, bent over, hands on my knees gulping for air, searching for a bench to rest on. I passed my first post-cancer mri, then my first mammo. Did I feel safe? No. Always more surprised than not when nothing was found. Was I being paranoid? Ha, if so I was not the only one. I talked to my former surgeon to discuss some questions I had about my recent diagnosis and she was happily surprised that they did not find any more cancer in my bad boob. Never did do my radiation therapy but that would not have helped the (formerly) good boob. They don't treat good boobs with radiation. They'll cut the whole thing off but won't radiate it. So here I am. Tired of running but wanting to finish the race. Just need to figure out how to get to the start line on race morning. Any tips are appreciated.

Sometimes I'm calm about the whole thing. I was talking with a resident a few days ago. I was assisting her with her shower. She is missing a boob from cancer some 20 years ago. Now she is nursing a bruised boob with two biopsied lumps that are cancer. She will find out today when her surgery date will be. She was so calm, matter of fact about it and so was I as we discussed it. She said I was too young for cancer. And she is too old to go through it again. She said it calmly, with a smile on her face that she was not looking forward to the surgery and pain. And I said I know as I held her hand and smiled back. I told her it is probably not as bad as when they took her first breast. Things are different and not as invasive. They spare the muscles. She isn't worried about dying. In fact, she said several times that she hopes she will be dead by the time she heals from this. Doesn't want to live to be 100 (but getting very close). I hope at her age she will be spared chemo and radiation. She is the only resident I've told about my cancer. I don't like to share my problems with them. They have their own worries and I don't need them worrying about me. I think my secret is safe though. I saw her later that evening and she has forgotten our conversation. Short term memory is not a strong feature when in the 90's!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

death is natural, most of the time

Feeling a little blah today, or meh to borrow a word from a friend. We lost another resident yesterday. When I say "lost" I mean he died. This is not unusual for my place of work, an assisted living community. To borrow a phrase from one of my residents, this is the last chapter of their lives. The paramedics are called here on a daily basis for one reason or another.

It was different this time. The resident decided to go sooner than later. I'm glad I'm not the one who found him. Much more unsettling than finding someone who looks like they are asleep. I cannot begrudge him for his choice, although his choice has shaken up the staff. He is not the first person I have known to choose suicide. I've seen it in high school and again in college. And as always, it leaves you wondering what you could have done to make them choose differently.

Many times I have heard folks say they are ready to die, yet they don't make that choice to make it happen. I'm talking about folks in their 90's and even up into 100+. They don't seem afraid of death. More like they are looking forward to it. Many of them have their dnr orders in place. Do Not Resuscitate. We did have someone over 100 years old who's heart stopped beating. As it happens, her daughter was with her at the time and asked that cpr be performed. It was, but she died later at the hospital.

Have you ever thought about how long you want to live? Would you want someone to give you cpr when you are 100? One thing I do know is that we all will die someday and we will die of something. One of my residents who has had his share of hospital visits and often laments his lost abilities says it was better in the old days before all the medicines that prolong life. He says you died when you were supposed to. Now you sit around and wait for it. I didn't comment on that because I am someone who cheated death. If I didn't take insulin I would have been dead probably 26 years ago. He has a good point though. At what point do you decide to stop taking all the drugs that are getting you through each day? When will you decide your quality of life is not worth squeezing yet another day in?

Choices. You can't live with them but you can't live without them.

And the week gets tougher. We lost another one today. Luckily I was assigned to him yesterday so I got to see him one last day. He was on hospice so it was expected but he was a young one so it makes it harder. He kept asking for watermelon but the kitchen didn't have any so yesterday I brought some in for him but he wasn't eating anymore. Today I ate the watermelon and thought of him, in the place he wanted to be.

Yes, a tough week overall. We lost three people, one of my favorite residents finished recuperating (good for her) and returned to her house and another of my favorite residents put herself on hospice which means it won't be much longer. I told her today that I was happy that I got to know her and she said the same. She told me she loved me and wanted to take me to heaven with her. I said I wasn't ready yet so she said ok, maybe in 20 years! We'll see;) Might not be ready then, either.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

the big day is finally over

The big day is finally over. Not the BIG day! Just the big day. Test number 2 for my anatomy and physiology class. We've spent the last 7 weeks learning the bones and muscles of the body, their actions, origins and insertion points. These last 2 weeks or so I've spent a lot of time studying. Time to put the books away (at least partially) as I focus on other looming priorities. I guess the most urgent is doing our taxes. I always leave it to the last minute! And then of course is this year's tour de cure bike ride for the american diabetes association. Haven't been training or fundraising much but the ride is less than 4 weeks away and I need to get my butt (gluteus maximus, gluteus minimus, gluteus medius, etc) in gear if I'm going to make my goal of 100 miles.

I am happy to have so many things to distract me from what is also looming over my head. Less than 9 weeks until my bilateral mastectomies. It will be the week after finals. I set the date a couple of weeks ago. I have been very calm but when I hung up the phone I had a momentary breakdown. It certainly is real now and I don't see myself backing out of it this time. I'm getting ready to let my boss know that I will need time off. April is going to fly by and then surgery will be just 4 weeks away so I need to warn them. Things are going really well there and I've proven myself and helped out during a couple of crunches. They are trying to find the time to train me as a med tech (promotion) and most of the residents love me. I'm enjoying being part of a team again and I love most of the residents too.  I've also learned that my company has a nation wide program in place to financially help out its employees during times of need. Actually, it is a program that is funded by the employees so I guess I should start contributing a little something from each paycheck. I'm hoping to be able to apply for a little bit of the wages I will lose during my time off. That will take a little bit of the sting out of sitting around on my ass recovering from surgery.

Spring is definitely here in the bay area so I'm going to get out there and enjoy it. I hope you all will be seeing spring soon in your neck of the woods!