Tuesday, February 24, 2009

A Place Called Today

Lori recently sent this to me.

A Place Called Today

There is a place where I have found great peace. I don’t visit it as much as I should. It is a place called Today. In Today, I often have no problems. If I do have problems, there are usually no more than one or two. Interestingly, these problems are fixable. I have the tools I need right before me. Action can be taken. Today is run by a benevolent king named I Am. I Am seems to give me everything I need just in time. He is the eternal Present.

Unfortunately, I am often in a place called Yesterday. Yesterday is a frustrating place to live. There are a thousand little suburbs of yesterday stretching back as far as the eye can see. Each Yesterday has one or two of its own problems. These problems prove impossible to fix. I ponder them endlessly. Even when I dream up a solution, I don’t seem to have the tools I need. Yesterday is ruled by two evil parties, Remorse and Resentment. They are constantly taxing me with old problems, yet providing no answers.

Sometimes I get sick of the crowded conditions of Yesterday and venture into the wilderness of Tomorrow. The wilderness of Tomorrow is an infinitely vast place. There are no roads and it is very easy to get lost. There are millions of little trails that lead to Nowhere. There are billions of problems here also. They are supplied by Imagination. Imagination mixes the problems of Yesterday and Today to come up with an endless supply of new problems. There is a ferocious beast that prowls the wilderness of Tomorrow. Its name is Anxiety. It is always watching and pounces at will. The only way to escape it is to run back to Today. It will not go beyond the edge of the wilderness of Tomorrow.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Spoon Theory

This is a very interesting writing that explains the energy conservation measures a person with a chronic condition goes through every day. It's long, but worth the time. http://www.butyoudontlooksick.com/navigation/BYDLS-TheSpoonTheory.pdf

Surgeon Update/Les Update

I didn't mean to concern some friends when I explained that I was having a follow-up with the DIEP flap surgeon. I had developed two lumps and wasn't sure what they were. My oncologist's PA also wasn't sure, so she suggested I go back to Dr. Cutter, who is local, to have them checked. No way, no one but Dr. Chang is going to do any procedures on these flaps.

So on Friday Jim and I took a drive down to Baltimore. Dr. Chang and his surgical assistant reassured me that the lump in my left flap is fat necrosis, and relatively small. He will be able to do a little liposuction on it during my revision surgery if it hasn't reabsorbed by then.

The other lump, between my right flap and my armpit, is not fat necrosis. They speculate that it is scar tissue. That makes sense to me because it is the spot that keep me from having complete range of motion in my right arm. Too much stretching there (as with yoga) leaves my right side pretty sore for the rest of the day. I have started a massage routine on the suspected scar tissue to try to soften it up.

We also talked about why I continue to have discomfort in spots about one inch above my abdominal incision. Turns out that's where they cut through the muscle to harvest the feeder blood vessels. Dr. Chang said it could be up to a year for that soreness to go away.

Dr. Chang and his surgical assistant spent some time "planning the project" on my chest. "We can lift this up a little bit here." "We can pull this in." "We can fill those scar lines with fat from the abdominal liposuction." It was a little uncomfortable being looked at as a canvas.

As the visit was ending, we complimented the surgical assistant on her new hair-do. Dr. Chang said "show them," and she whipped off a wig. She has alopecia areata, an autoimmune disease that causes her to lose her hair in round patches. And, where she has the balding/thin spots, her hair has turned pure white. She must feel pretty comfortable with her patients, or lack vanity, to just whip off her wig like that.

So the surgery is going to be April 27 at 12:30. We are to arrive at 10:30. Dr. Chang said I would likely be released from recovery about 4 or 4:30. Just in case we happen to run longer, or we are whipped by the procedure, I'm making an overnight reservation at the hotel across the street from the hospital.

I've talked with Les a couple of times since he's been home. He's taking some work phone call already, and doing some walking for exercise. He will see someone at the surgeon's office, maybe it's this week, to have the staples removed and to get the pathology report. He has appointments with medical and radiation oncologists in early March.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Les went home Friday

I don't think he was the ideal hospital patient. But he sounds good now that he is home. Sadly, Donna caught the flu while Les was in the hospital, so their younger daughter is there caring for both of them now.

I am so happy that this step of Les's journey is over.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Les called this morning

His voice is the most beautiful sound on earth. He is weak, in pain, and a little mumbly, but in very good spirits. He's out of ICU and into a regular room. What a weight that short phone call lifted for me.

Monday, February 09, 2009


Les's older daughter just called. The surgeon found a spot at the top of Les's left lung, attached to the artery, and had to take the entire lung. Taking the entire lung will make for a longer recovery, but a better outcome.

Les is in recovery now, a little freaked out because he woke to find himself still intubated. His color, O2 level, and blood pressure are good. He will be transferred from recovery to ICU. They may hold him there for a few days because the hospital is full and there are no beds available outside of ICU. Future treatment will likely involve radiation.

I was about to break into tears, but my neighbor came by with her border collie puppy. Shotsi. Not spelled that way, I'm sure, but that's the phonetic. The puppy took me out of my funk.

In Surgery

Les should be in surgery now. The surgeon has indicated that he plans to take only the lower lobe of the left lung. Prayers, bright light, and calm for Les and his family, and skill for the surgeon.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Reality Checklist

Ennis, my diabetic cat, usually asks for food every two to three hours. Small frequent meals help him feel better. It doesn't matter to him whether it is day or night.

If I am sleeping--napping or out cold for the night thanks to a sleeping pill--Ennis wakes me. It often involves a cold paw applied to my cheek. Sometimes, it is just the presence of this big hulking cat standing next to my head and purring loudly.

It might be advancing age, it might be the effects of cancer treatments, but when I wake I go through a reality checklist. First I decide whether I can be woken. If not, I advise Ennis to go ask his "poppy," Jim. Ennis usually doesn't buy that and I get another cold paw on the face.

So I progress with my checklist. I observe the outside light--am I taking an afternoon nap, is it the middle of the night, or is the dawn breaking? I roll over to check the clock. Will my feet and legs move; will they hold me when I go vertical? Up to a sitting position. Do I need to use the restroom?

Get up, grab a can of food from on top of the TV, pop it and scoop it onto the plate on the bed, and head to the restroom. I continue my checklist. If it's nighttime, the checklist goes like this--Did I brush my teeth before I collapsed into bed? Am I hungry? Did I take my nighttime pills? What day is it going to be? Do I have plans for the day? What's the weather supposed to be?

If it's daytime, a different checklist--What day is it? When did I fall asleep and why was I taking a nap? Do I have plans to get up at a certain time? Is Jim home?

I deliberately ask myself these questions. BBC (before breast cancer), those realities used to just pop into my head. Not anymore; now I need a checklist.

Since Monday night, I haven't needed my checklist. I wake up and it hits me--my brother has lung cancer. I just focus on that, and all the other realities flood into my consciousness, smothering the fear I feel rising in my belly.

I hate cancer.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

My Brother has Lung Cancer

Les is the person I love second best in the world, and a real close second to my husband Jim. Les has just told me that he may have cancer in his left lung. He has a tumor in his lower lobe that is something like 2x3 cm. Les said "may" because he has not yet had a sample of the tumor tissue pathologized. But as his doctor told him, PET scans don't lie. The PET/CT scan lit up the tumor in the lower lobe of his left lung.

I'm not sure what I should write here about Les's cancer because he reads this blog. But I don't think anyone who knows him, other than some of my friends, read this blog, so unless he asks me to stop I will write what's on my mind and in my heart.

Les has multiple sclerosis, diagnosed maybe ten years ago. He has been so brave in that struggle, still working full-time or more, despite what are now very serious physical limitations.

Les is four years younger than me, and the only one of my six siblings I keep in close touch with. Most of my siblings have hurt me, emotionally or physically, in some significant way. Les never has. He adores his wife Donna, and has two adult daughters he holds dear, and a number of grandchildren.

Our family of origin was very dysfunctional, and with the abuse, my siblings and I became loners or went outside the family for emotional support. I was not close to Les growing up, although he was a nice enough kid. I "remet" him at a family wedding in the 1980's and we hit it off like gangbusters. How could I not be drawn to this brother who was intelligent, and funny, and hardworking. We ruined many a wedding photo cracking up at the raunchy jokes we whispered to each other.

Les lives in rural northeast Texas, and easily picked up the Texas drawl when he moved there. He sounds like a native. He has worked for years for oil field service companies. He is very mechanically inclined; as as my sister-in-law says, he is handy as a shirt pocket.

Les tells me he has been going through diagnotic testing since December 19, 2008. It all started with a chest X-Ray, although I don't know the reason the X-Ray was taken. Seeing a suspicious area, testing proceeded to other imaging methods, as well as a bronchoscopy to remove a tissue sample for pathology. The doctor was not able to get deep enough into the lung to get a sample of the tumor, but other tissue taken from the procedure was clear of cancer cells.

Les is seeing a thoracic surgeon this Thursday. Les has been told that regardless of whether the tumor is cancerous or benign, it has to come out. Therefore, the doctors are not planning a needle aspiration of the tumor; they plan to go straight to surgery. Les says that by this time next week, either the lower lobe or the entire left lung will have been removed. Les has had pulmonary testing that shows he will be able to function with his right lung alone.

Yes, Les is a smoker. Our father died young of lung cancer, with metastasis to the brain.