Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Over the past two years, a lot of crazy things have happened.  First, I want to write the series of events as a series of negative statements, but then describe the same events as a series of positives.  Why am I doing this?  I don't know, but I know that I got a fax today from my father that made me want to write about all of this.

In the summer of 2007, my husband was working for a hedge fund that traded sub-prime mortgages.  I was pregnant with our third child.  I knew that the market was crumbling, because my husband told me so.  I was worried about health insurance for the baby that would be born in a few months.  It turned out that his company went under a few weeks before the baby was born but signed on with a new company days before the baby was born.

In January 2008, my brother, who was morbidly obese (6'2" and almost 480 lbs.) decided to have elective gastric bypass surgery.  He suffered a number of complications from that surgery and he died in March 2008.  He was my only sibling.

In the Fall of 2008, I got pregnant.  I was not prepared.  When I became prepared to have a fourth child (at the time, my oldest was 4, the next 3, the next not even 1) I had a miscarriage.  I had not been to a primary care physician in about 4 years, and the miscarriage made me realize that it was time to start taking care of myself and make sure I was in optimum health because I wanted to be around for my 3 children.

In October 2008, my husband's aunt had a lumpectomy from a breast cancer diagnosis over the summer.  She subsequently went through chemotherapy and radiation.  Another cousin, we found out, had pre-cancerous breast cells and she had a double mastectomy in 2006.

In November 2008, my husband took a package from his company and was laid off.  By doing so, he received a decent settlement package and health insurance coverage through January 31, 2009, after which COBRA would pick up starting February 1, 2009.

Sometime in December 2008, in the middle of the night, I felt a pinch in my left tricep muscle.  It woke me up and made me fearful that something bad was wrong, though after that moment, I never had a pain again.

In January 2009, I met a wonderful primary care physician who sent me for a barrage of tests, from a colonoscopy, to a dermatologist, to a baseline mammogram because I had lumpy breast tissue.

Late January 2009, I had my first mammogram.  I was told that there was a calcification in one area, but not to worry, that happened to alot of women at their baseline mammogram, and a follow-up sonogram would be no big deal.

February 26, 2009, I went back for my follow-up sonogram and mammogram.  They saw a spot.  I was not nervous.  They said they wanted to do a fine needle aspiration biopsy and I would know the results in 30 minutes.  I was not nervous.  The spot was only 5mm, smaller than a grain of rice.  I was not nervous.  30 minutes later, I was told I had invasive ductal carcinoma, I had cancer.  Then a nurse told me that my options were double mastectomy or lumpectomy with radiation.  Finally, I was nervous.

April 8, 2009, I had a double mastectomy and over the next month I had tissue expansions to get my breasts to about a small C size (from the 34DD size I was before).  My surgeon called two weeks later to tell me that the cancer had not spread to my lymph nodes so the chances of having to go through chemotherapy were very small.  Though my older daughter told me she didn't like me because of my drains that came out of my body that she could feel and for the fact that I could not pick her up. 

In early May 2009, my cancer surgeon informed me that I would have to go through chemotherapy because I was Estrogen positive and Her2Neu positive (which meant that my cancer would grow aggressively if it somehow got into my bloodstream).

June 3, 2009 would start the summer of chemo...and not chemo-lite, but chemo that made all of my hair all over my body fall out, made me lose my taste for anything sweet or tomato based, made me sick to my stomach 24/7 for the first round of treatments and then suffer from intolerable bone pain and some toe numbness for the second round of treatments, made me so exhausted during certain days where I could barely rouse myself out of bed...I could not stand the way I looked.  I would change outfits 4 times a day because I felt that nothing looked good on me.  I never went out without a scarf or wig on because I just couldn't stand the way I looked...and if I tried to exercise, my heart felt like it was jumping out of my chest and I was going to pass out at any moment...

I still have an IV drug (Herceptin) that I have to receive every 3 weeks through August 2010 that is the miracle drug for Her2Neu positive patients.  I opted not to have a port put in, so every time I have a Herceptin treatment or had to have chemo, they had to poke my veins each time.  I have such bad scar tissue in some areas that I cannot even have needles put in there.  I cringe every time I have to go back for my Herceptin treatments...

November 11, 2009, I had my exchange procedure (temporary breast expanders to final silicone implants).  I am coming upon the end of the six week recovery period.  I cannot wait to pick up my kids.

I cannot believe this happened to me.  I am still trying to figure out what I did that was so bad that I would have to suffer this pain, from my brother to my own pain.  What did my parents do to have one child die one year and then less than a year later, have the other child diagnosed with cancer.  What did they do wrong???

The positive spin:

In 2007, I gave birth to our third child, a beautiful little girl.  Despite the fact that my husband's company was defunct, he got another job and we had health insurance coverage with no problems. 

Sad to say, but I cannot find anything positive in my brother dying, except that he was finally trying to do something positive for himself, but unfortunately, never got to see the fruits of that labor...

In the Fall 2008, I had a miscarriage.  I am not sad about that because I never would have been able to manage four kids age five and under.  I joke that you would have read about me in the newspaper killing myself and my four children because I truly would not have been able to handle the madness!!!

In November 2008, my husband took a package and was laid off from his company.  Thank goodness he got a settlement that was decent enough that he has been able to stay at home during my entire cancer treatment and we are not worried about health insurance or how we are going to survive financially.  He has even been able to take on some pet projects and finance those on his own.  He is so much happier out of the industry though he does wonder why we live 12 minutes from Manhattan if he's not working there...

In December 2008, I think my brother's spirit pinched me under my arm.  I have no other explanation as to what caused that sharp pain that sent me to the doctor in January.  I know, there are numerous other explanations, but I'd like to think my brother's spirit, less than a year after his death, came to me and alerted me as soon as possible to get my ass to the doctor because something bad was a-brewin' inside me!  When I tell my dad this story, it brings him to tears.  That pinch helped save my life.

In January 2009, I went to a doctor who felt my boobs and said I should have a mammogram.  In subsequent conversations, she told me that she never felt anything, but that she thought my lumpy breast tissue was reason enough for a baseline mammogram.  I had been to the OB/GYN for  years prior to that and he felt me up all the time, and he never felt the necessity to send me for a baseline mammogram.  My primary care physician saved my life!

February 26, 2009, I was diagnosed with an aggressive but garden-variety type of cancer.  Thank goodness I found out before it had a chance to travel to my lymph nodes or become such a large tumor that I could have felt it myself.  I WAS SO LUCKY TO FIND THIS CANCER!  I had one doctor tell me that this had been growing for a matter of months...unbelievable!

March 2009, my husband and I take the kids to Disney World so that we could all have some fun before the tough stuff began.

April 8, 2009, I got rid of almost all possibility of the cancer ever coming back by having the double mastectomy.  I mean, although there was always a small chance of cancer coming back because the surgeon could not guarantee every breast cell was removed, my thought was the less tissue the less chances that the cancer would return.

May 2009, I am told I am going to have chemo.  I was told that although the tumor was less than 1 cm (9mm all in) and I was under the age of 40 (diagnosis at 37), if a microscopic cancer cell got somewhere else in my body, it would grow very aggressively, so the chemo would hopefully take care of that.  And while there are very few positive things to say about the side effects of chemotherapy (I still have not gotten my period back - is that a positive or a negative?) this made my chances of having cancer again that much less.  In fact, I have to believe if there was something else growing in my body, this poison got rid of that!!! 

September 2009, Chemo is finished!  While my hair didn't fully fall out until it was over, I am happy to say, three months later, that my hair is as long as Annie Lenox and I have had to have eyebrow and bikini waxes and I have all of my tastebuds back so I am eating sugar and tomato sauce like a madwoman (is that a positive or negative, I am not sure, my tight pants say bad, but since I was not able to eat food for so long, it's all good!)

November 11, 2009, I had my exchange procedure.  I now have my perky silicone implants.  I won't have to wear a bra when I'm 80 and, because the cancer is gone, I have a good chance of living a long healthy life!  I am also free to pick up my kids and throw them around.  Life is good!

The end of the year is near.  While I don't wish the time away at all, I am glad this year is over.  A Happy and Healthy New Year to all!


  1. This all still makes me cry. Cry because you had to go through it, cry because I wasn't living next door, cry for your parents...

    But if there is anyone in the world who could handle it with such grace, it is you.

    I love you with all of my heart.

  2. My heart goes out to you ... life can be so difficult.

    Let`s hope 2010 brings wonderful things.

    All the best to you.

  3. Here's to you in 2010. It will be a wonderful year.