Wednesday, June 29, 2011

medical mumbo jumbo

So here's how it went at Doctor Warden's office today:
Generally good news. We knew that it was going to be either stage 2 or stage 3. She officially called it stage 2a on the right and 2b on the left. They treat it at the highest stage.

There was 1 tumor on the right, which was the largest of them, at 1.6 cm. There were 3 or 4 on the left (I can't remember which) that were smaller, which explains why they were harder to detect.

The one unpleasant surprise is that upon further examination, there were some cancer cells in the right lymph node. But all that does in terms of treatment is amp up the radiation a little bit. Because my oncologist is aggressive (my kind of gal), we were already doing that anyway. Not the end of the world. There were 3 positive lymph nodes on the left and 2 on the right. Doctor Warden indicated that it's best of there are less than 4 on either side, so that's good news.

I, of course, did a little google research on staging. According to the american cancer society (one of the few websites - am allowed to read from), the survival rates are 76 - 88 % for stage 2. I'm going to be aggressive in treatment and beat the shit out of this thing! I have to give it everything I've got, even on the days when I just don't feel like it. I don't think I have ever failed any test, or gotten below a B when I have really tried. So why should this be any different??

Oh, and we still didn't have the her2 results back yet. What a pain in the ass! I am so tired of waiting. This is what will determine my chemo cocktail.

Aside from all this, Dr Warden was pleased with how I am recovering. It's so funny to hear all of these professionals excited about my progress when from my perspective, it's way too slow. I guess I set my expectations too high.

And finally, today was my first day without a nap! I guess that's improvement, but now I am TIRED! Let's hope I pass out quickly.

Monday, June 27, 2011


Well, first follow up with the reconstructive surgeon went without hitch. In fact, it went very well. Dr Cohen proclaimed that I was doing fabulous! Thanks Doc! I'll galdly take that lovely validation from a professional. She took out half of my drains. Yay! The drains were always one of the things that freaked me out most about the surgery. So knowing they are half gone is a victory. And I am just a little bit more comfy. To top that off, my bonus was that she has released me from having to wear a bra ever again!

Yes folks, when you go through the type of reconstruction I am having, your body acts as its own bra. Once your heal enough, you are good to go! Yippee! The women's libber in me dances for joy. I probably will still wear a tank top or a sports bra just for comfort sake, but its not needed for physical support. No more underwires!! I know some of you ladies out there are jealous!

On another note, tonight, as I was scrolling through the facebook news feed, I saw a post from the Catholic Church (yes, they have their own fb page, people). Here was the passage posted this evening: "And I will tell you one more thing: Take these graces not only for yourself, but also for others; that is, encourage the souls with whom you come in contact to trust in My infinite mercy." Ok God. You got. You keep me living, I'll keep on fighting, living, inspiring and preaching in my own way. If you wanted someone to help others, you already know you picked the right chick!

I had a special moment today. A dear friend of mine came in contact with the mother-in-law (and fellow survivor) of a newly diagnosed bc sister. She learned that this woman will be doing chemo first then mastectomy. She shared with her a post-surgery tip she read on my blog. Something minor that you wouldn't think of if you haven't walked this road yet yourself. Needless to say, the woman was very grateful to learn. Ahhhhh! I helped someone!

In my eyes, that is so much more fabulous than anything else! To learn, and share what I have learned with someone else: that, my friends, is fabulous! One more person to fight for. One of many yet to come!!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

down day.

Eh, I am feeling down today. It's one of those days. I had some wonderful visitors today, got to shower, etc. But I was still feeling tired, frustrated and a little scared. No real specific reason. It's just one of those days. Just feeling cancer-y. Blah.

Maybe tomorrow will be better.

Here's the schedule for the week:
-tomorrow, follow up w Dr Cohen, the reconstructive surgeon (here's hoping one or more of the drains come out-fingers crossed)
-tuesday, visiting nurse visit
-wednesday, follow up w Dr Warden, the breast surgeon

Sorry to not be feeling particularly inspirational today. I'm sure you all know it's part of the experience. Sometimes, the very thought of being a cancer patient just sucks. Even if things are going ok, the heaviness of it weighs on me sometimes. It makes me mad or sad or scared.

I have a lot of reasons to be hopeful. But sometimes, it's hard to feel positive. I know I had an awesome anethesiologist, but I wish she could have knocked me out for a year and a half until this nonsense is all over.

Alas, no dice there.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

butterflies and lighthouses

I was having trouble sleeping tonight. Then lightning struck me. Here is the result:

For those who know me well, you know I love butterflies. I love them so much, I have one permanently fixed on my back. When I chose the butterfly design for my tattoo almost 10 years ago, I did so because of the symbolism. Everyone knows butterflies are beautiful, graceful creatures. But do we often reflect on the catepillar, the cacoon and the transformation? I got the butterfly to remind me that good can come from darkness, and the positive results can be exponential compared to what one would expect at the starting point.

I remember thinking I wanted to pick a design that would be relevant my whole life. Little did I know who prophetic I was. I thought my tough times were those I experienced in my first 34 years of life: a bad breakup of a relationship, a rough time crawling up the career ladder, juggling my master's degree with working full time, or fighting our infertility battle.

I laugh at that now. I had no clue how relevant it would continue to be. I stand now in my cacoon, patiently waiting to re-emerge. (Ok maybe not totally patiently. But I am waiting and it will be beautiful!)

Another beautiful symbol in my life is lighthouses. Those who know me well have seen them in our bathroom, which is decorated in a nautical theme. We picked it because we live down the shore, nothing more meaningful than that. Now, it's relevant because of the beacons of hope in my life, and the beacon I hope to some day be for others.

There is no more precious light than the light of hope. Lighthouses are built by those who have sailed the waters before us and know sometimes we need special guidance.

Cancer is the dark, rough waters, while hope is the beam of light guiding us safely to whatever shore we are destined for. In my life, I aim to be the beacon of light that may tell a future sister to keep plodding forward. But I can only earn my light bulb by sailing those waters myself.

It makes me think of any captain in training. You don't get the right to guide others until you have been tested yourself. Now I know some of you will chuckle at this next reference, but I feel like a "greenhorn" on the deadliest catch. A bit nauteous, a bit frightened, and a bit invigorated. I hope to earn my spot in the captain's chair soon enough. A chance to help guide, teach and reassure new greenhorns, and help them be succesful in their goals and get safely to their own shores.

I always felt a peacefulness by the water, no matter what my stress. This was part of what lead Steve and I to move to Ocean County. There is a serenity here. This experience should be no different. I will keep my eyes out for beacons and I will welcome the feeling of sand between my toes when I land safely ashore.

moseying along

Today is going pretty well. I'm tired still, but the pain is improving. I'm feeling a little less frustrated at the moment.

One nice thing that is happening. I find more and more people are able to laugh along with me. Even my surgeon laughed. She called yesterday just to check in (talk about awesome). When I answered the phone, she said, "hi nicole, it's doctor warden, how are you?" I responded, "oh hi doctor. I'm fine. How are you doing?" She chuckled. I guess she wasn't expecting me to be a normal conversationalist. Seemed like a perfectly normal thing to say. I guess she was expecting me to focus more on the following: how am I recovering? How are my incisions? How is my pain level? Oh. Oops.

I guess this is a bigger deal than I am letting it be. I haven't been too upset yet about the physical changes. In fact, I find the smaller boobs somewhat amusing and refreshing. Maybe it's weird but it's as though the old ones were weighing me down, not only physically, but more importantly emotionally. 

They are gone. The cancer houses are gone. Adios! Don't let the door hit you on the way out.

Ah well.

Here's the practical part of my blog for future mastectomy sisters (or anyone else who just wants to know the details):
-put a gauze pad under the edge of your surgical bra to prevent it from digging into your skin. SO much more comfy! I wish we figured that out days ago.
-wear zip up shirts with pockets at the waist. Your arms get stupid tired and having the pockets helps tremendously. Oh and get shirts a bigger size than you want to wear. It's not about vanity. It's about having room to house those annoying drains and still be reasonably comfortable.
-pillows are my best friend. They prop up my arms, my back, whatever.
-be lazy. It's like Helen told me yesterday. This may be the only time I get to be the queen. I need to let people wait on me. Rest is important for healing. Sitting still and resting is my biggest challenge, but my body won't let me do too much. It's the boss of me.
-read the book called "there's no place like hope" it's phenomenal.
-don't let defeat be an option.  While I was being biopsied, even before they confirmed my diagnosis, my first thought was "we just need to fix this, whatever it takes." That has been my approach ever since. It doesn't mean I haven't felt scared or sad or frustrated. It just means that I don't let that stop me. I keep going forward. I made it through a bilateral mastectomy. No small chore. One thing checked off my list. Now, I have to heal well so that I am ready for chemo.
-Don't ever think you can't do it, you can.
-stop and look around. You realize how loved you are. It's that love that turns into fuel for the fight. Sometimes it's easier to fight for someone else's sake than your own. Having a 2 year old has helped. I don't have to get better for me. I have to do it for him.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Reflections From the Couch

Obviously, I don't watch daytime tv. So today, I gave it a go. Here's my assessment. Kathie Lee Gifford has had too much surgery and is less annoying than she used to be but that's a relative term. Plus, she and Hoda talk a lot about booze.
As Tammy said, if you didn't watch daytime tv for 10 years, and tuned in, you realize not much has changed. It's sad really. I ended up leaving the tv off most of the day.

I also find it ironic that the word patient and patience are related and similar. And as a patient, I have very little patience. I want to be back to normal yesterday. I am still pretty sore and I get tired so quickly. I know that I just had major surgery earlier this week, but I was under the impression that I was superwoman. It's extremely disappointing that I'm not. Dammit.

As much as I am whining, I do feel a little bit better. Nurse #2 today was also pleased with the surgical handy work. Woohoo! I am in slightly less pain today, and a little less stiff. I guess I am on the mend. Better and better.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

I'm Back

I'm doing ok. I am sore and tired. What's cool though is I woke up from surgery feeling like myself, a painful version of myself, but still me. I almost expected to come out feeling like a different person. But in a blink it was over and I was recovering. (well for me anyway, but not for my friends and family.)

The docs were amazing. And as you know, I was released fairly quickly. I'm still in a decent amount of pain and discomfort obviously. I'd say the best way to decribe it is to say that I feel like I did a million push ups. It's mainly a muscle-achey feeling through my arms and chest. But I have to remember the cancer is out so it's worth it.

The visiting nurse came yesterday. She was highly impressed w the reconstruction surgeon's work. She actually said that it's the best post-mastectomy surgery she has ever seen. Woohoo! Go me!

What an odd scene. I'm was standing there in my mom's bathroom with the nurse, my mom and my cousin checking me out. Odd. But a good odd considering there were no "oh shit" faces, I was relieved although I'm not ready to look. Apparently, by the time this is all over I should have a great rack. Go figure!

Unfortunately, I feel anything but fabulous at this point. I look forward to getting the drains out which is the first major step in surgery recovery. I hope they take at least some of them out Monday. They are just annoying.

Here's my sweet child moment. He came up this morning to say hi. He asked me if I had taken my medicine yet because it will make me feel better. That kid is so cute when he wants to be.

Thank you to everyone for your tremendous support, prayers and kind words. Every one of them is appreciated even if I don't get to respond back.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Heading Home and ...

Hi.  It's Frank again.  Wanted to address two things in today's post.

"Heading Home"

First, and most important, I just spoke with Nicole, and I'm happy to report that she will be heading home later this afternoon.  She said she is sore, but the pain is manageable.  She is in good spirits and very thankful for all the love, prayers and support she has received over the past 36 hours.  (And, yes, she is back on her Blackberry and checking Facebook so if you send her a note, she will see it today.)   :o)

"Man of Science, Man of Faith"

As many of you know, Nicole is a big fan of LOST.  This title of the first episode of the show's second season kept popping into my head yesterday.  

In the case of LOST, the title spoke to the constant struggle between science and faith.  Internally, Jack struggled with the dichotomy of the two, while externally, he and Locke individually personified the often-clashing concepts.

But when it comes to Nicole's fight against cancer, we will need the two to be harmonious partners.  Yesterday, they were just that.  Two highly-skilled surgeons meticulously and delicately removed the darkness from Nicole's body, while numerous friends and family members showered her with the soothing comfort of healing light.  The "Women of Science" did their part with a scalpel; the "Men & Women of Faith" did theirs with a prayer. 

* * *
It has been an honor filling in for my sister these past two days.  I look forward to her first post-surgery post in the coming days.  And I know all of you do too.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Round One Goes to Nicole

Well, the reconstructive surgery is now complete, and Dr. Cohen informed us that Nicole came through with flying colors.  Everything went as expected.  She is currently in recovery – a little groggy but doing just fine.  We will be able to see her in a couple of hours.

It struck me this morning how often we have spoken about this as a “fight” against cancer.  In many ways, that is exactly what it is.  Being the sports fan that I am, I am looking at this as a heavyweight fight; and today is Round One.

Everything Nicole has gone through leading up to today has been her training.  The tests, the research, the blogging, the prayers, the mental preparation have been her training for “The Big Fight.”

On all scorecards, Round One went to Nicole.  She took cancer’s best punches, but she kept punching back.  Of course, it helped that she had an amazing surgical and O.R. team in her corner.  For that, we are beyond grateful.

We are all aware that this is only the first round.  In the coming rounds, she will take more punches from the chemo, etc.  But we all know that she will eventually win this fight by a knockout.  And when she does, her prize will be more than some silly gold-plated belt.  It will be many decades of health, happiness and laughter.

How do I know she will kick cancer’s ass?  It’s like Harry Potter said at the end of “Order of the Phoenix” – I have simply replaced the name “Voldemort” with the word “cancer” (which is appropriate since this disease is a treacherous agent of darkness): “Even though we’ve got a fight ahead of us, we’ve got one thing that cancer doesn’t have … something worth fighting for.”

It's Out!!!

The cancer, that is.  Dr. Warden just came to see us and gave us the good news that the double mastectomy is done and there were no surprises.  She said Nicole is doing well.  She didn’t lose much blood, and the right lymph node showed no cancer, which is great news.  (We already knew it was in the left one, and that has now been removed.)  Jen then spent some time with us and reiterated that Nicole is doing great.  (We wouldn’t expect anything less, right?)

Dr. Cohen is now performing the second stage of the surgery – the reconstruction.  But as Jen just said: The tough part is now done.  The cancer is out.  (LOVE THOSE FOUR WORDS!)

So Far, So Good

So Far, So Good

Jen just gave us our first update of the day.  So far, the surgery is going well.  The word she used was “uneventful” – which Courtney just pointed out is exactly the word we want to hear.  :o)

Now sure I would use the same word for the scene in the waiting room.  A little while ago – after most of Team Nicole had headed downstairs for lunch – Donna was showing Steve an adorable little teddy bear with angel’s wings that she brought for Nicole.  Whispering (out of respect for the other families quietly waiting to hear about their loved ones who are in surgery), she said to him, “What do you think?  I don’t want to get her emotional, but listen to what it plays when you push its hand.”  Then, BLARING out of this cute little bear came Bette Midler’s voice as LOUD as if she were holding a concert in the room: “DID YOU EVER KNOW THAT YOU’RE MY HERO …”  Steve lost it.  I lost it.  My friend, Barbara Crowley (a nurse here who was on the phone with a co worker) lost it.  Even our fellow waiting room occupants started to giggle as Donna frantically tried to turn it off or bury it under a couch pillow.

Thanks, Donna!  Keep the laughs coming!  We can use them.  :o)

Will be back later with further updates.

First, thank you ...

Hi, Everyone.  It’s Frank. 

I was honored when Nicole asked me to guest blog for her today.  Let me start by saying that my sister’s blogging shoes are way too big to fill, so I won’t even try.  I’ll just do my best to keep you informed and speak from the heart.

In that spirit, on behalf of our entire family, let me start by saying thank you to everyone who continues to support Nicole, Steve, Steven and all of us during this time.  So many people have offered their prayers, their time, their resources and their talents … and we are forever grateful.

Nicole went into surgery at about 11 a.m., and she was the same pillar of strength, faith, hope and love that she has been through all of this.  Just before the nurses ever-so-patiently asked the small army of supporters she has here to leave so they could transport to the O.R., we were teasing her about the fact that even while being prepped for surgery, she was responding to Facebook posts, texts, etc.  We told her we were going to hack into her Facebook account and posts fake updates from her as if she were awake for the procedure.  Things like:  “Doctors just finished with the first boob” … “these drugs are reeeeeaaaally good” … “Ouch!  Just kidding.  ;o)”  If laughter is the best medicine, please know she got a heavy dose just before heading into surgery.

Everyone we have encountered this morning at the hospital has been wonderful.  Clearly, Nicole is in very good hands.  The surgery is expected to take at least 6 hours, and Jen will give us updates throughout the day.

I will be back again later with updates and additional thoughts.  Until then, know we appreciate all the prayers, love and energy you are sending Nicole today.  Keep ‘em coming!  :o)

today the cancer goes away

(or at least most of it does).

Please pray for me....

Pray for my surgeons, that they bring their A game today, and that God guides their hands to save my life.

Pray for my husband.

Pray for my son.

Pray for my parents.

Pray for my brothers and their families.

Pray for Kim that she can finally get out of Dallas airport, and that she doesn't beat up someone at American Airlines.

Pray for the rest of my family and friends.

Pray they get everything out that needs to come out so I can live a long, healthy life.

I don't really feel much right now. I'm tired but I don't think I can go back to sleep. Not too nervous yet. Last night was hard. I'm sure this morning at Hackensack will be harder. But tonight, I will wake up to a new, healthy life. I have an angel looking over me going into surgery today. Thank you Jen!! Words cannot express how much this means to me, so I won't really try. Just know, ok?

It will be strange to wake up to a new body. I am not looking forward to that change, but I am so glad the cancer will be out of me. At the end of the day, that is really all that matters.

Today I will wake up with my first step to being a survivor.

As Chris says, I will wake up to the score of me: 2 cancer: 0. He made a good point. It's only fair that I get one for each boob!

Everyone do me a favor today. I don't want to mourn the physical loss that I am going to experience. I want to celebrate the solidifying of my healthy future. So for me, find yourself a mini or fun sized Mounds bar, and enjoy it for me. I am going to embrace my new "mini mounds" as they mean a new differently beautiful beginning.

Love to all, and see you on the survivor side very soon.

In the meantime, Frank will keep everyone updated on the site.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

rides and waves

I expected to be freaking out much more by now. I sent Courtney a text when I left work yesterday, and said "I'm not freaking out yet. What's wrong with me?" I am more at peace with this than I expected to be. I guess it's because I finally feel I am going to beat this stupid thing, and I am feeling like there is a light at the end of this tunnel. Granted, there are a few more tunnels coming. I kind of see this whole ride like the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel thing. It's up in the sunshine and then down in the darkness a lot. At the end though, you end up closer to your destination.

Lately, there has been more serenity and sunshine than I expected. It's lovely really. I guess I am just at peace with my choice.

Spending the weekend with my boys (who are currently snoring in their respective beds) was the right move. I can't wait for treatment to be over to live again, I have to live my way through it. There's too much I would miss if I waited a year and a half to start enjoying it again.

The irony of the weekend thus far is the fact that the ride I enjoyed the most was the log flume... The roller coaster-like motion almost felt like home. I guess I have gotten used to it. The most beautiful part of it was after we went down the steepest part, my sweet boy looked at me with eyes as wide as saucers and said "WHOA!" and said it was so much fun. I have learned from him to embrace the entire ride: the ups and the downs.

The one bad thing about cancer (ok so there are more than one, but let's focus on this one for now) is that no matter where you go, it goes with you. Even out to the middle of God's country. Every once in a while, I get a wave of sadness, or doubt, but they are more like bay waves than ocean waves. I feel them lapping at my ankles so to speak, but they don't knock me over. They just remind me that they are there and then they roll on past.

The good news is, in less than 48 hours, it will no longer be with me. I will leave the cancer behind, and charge ahead to ensure it doesn't come back. I expect monday morning will be rough, but I gotta believe that it will be such a relief when I wake up that night knowing it's gone. I can't wait to post this: "me: 1 cancer: 0". How precious that will be!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Today turned out to be a pretty good day. It had a rough start, but by noon, it had clearly turned itself around.

I got some really good news today. I had my second ultrasound on that ovary today to see what the cyst was doing. And guess what... It dissolved on it's own!! I couldn't believe it. The doctor was thrilled. It was a huge sigh of relief for me. I told the ultrasound lady that she was my new best friend! The reason this was so important was that even though it was small and highly unlikely to be cancerous, no one knew for sure. The fact that it went away means that they now know for sure that it's not... HUGE!!!!

It funny because I considered postponing the appointment because I had so much to do today. I'm so glad I didn't. Going into surgery with that news was a tremendous boost. Now we can say with confidence "there is no metastatic cancer!" woooooooohhhhhhhhhhhooooooooooooo!  I was dancing in my office at work.

Then when I returned from my appointment, I returned to a surprise. Some lovely ladies at work had thrown me a party. I called it my "happy cancer" party. We had ice cream cake, talked some girly stories, and laughed. And they gave me button down pajamas for my recovery. Amazing! I was so touched by their kindness.

By the end of the day, I really really felt that I will beat this cancer. I know I have said it before, but now I really mean it. I am going to beat this thing! I really am. My destiny is laid out ahead. I am meant to survive! :-) So So SO amazing.

I was singing today "i'm gonna beat caannnceeerrr"! AHHHHH how good that feels and how sweet that song!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

validating faith

Yesterday was a rough day. Funerals are never fun. They really should have called them something else, like "saderals" or something. I learned that Aunt Theresa was wearing one of my bracelets when she died, and she took it with her to the great beyond. I cried when I heard that. It's so touching and beautiful. I hope that she shows God when she sees him and tells him he needs to heal me.  Maybe he will want one too.
After spending the day with family saying our final farewells to Aunt Theresa, I went to visit my priest. There's an interesting thing about faith. It finds unusual ways of validating itself. Yesterday, I had two such instances.
After Monsignor and I met and prayed, he handed me two things: one was water from lourdes, and the other was a prayer card and a medal of the Blessed Pope John Paul II. Now, I know this might be an unconventional declaration in the blog-o-spere, but I always loved Pope JP2. He was essentially the leader of my Church for the majority of my life. When he died, I cried. I remember getting up at 4 am to watch his funeral, grieving from my new living room in Toms River. I was sitting in a camping chair because we hadn't bought furniture yet. To me, he was a beautiful soul. He just seemed peaceful, compassionate and kind, a true Christian. I referred to him as "Popey". Some might think this was irreverant, but to the contrary. It was meant to be a term of respect and love for the spiritual leader. When I saw the card, calm washed over me, as though he was somehow interceding on my behalf. And when I read the first line of the card, I smiled. It was perfect. It said "Have no fear of moving into the unknown. Simply step out fearlessly, knowing God is with you." GASP!  Good choice Monsignor. It fits more than you may realize.
The second thing that happened was that I received a phone call from my brother late last night. He told me a friend of his co-worker was just diagnosed and asked if I could help her with doctor information. I jumped up, grabbed my files and went into go mode. When I hung up, I realized something. This was my first chance to pay it forward. I felt sad for her and wished I could do more. But I felt powerful against cancer, like I was helping another woman in her first step to beating this beast. I don't know what will happen to her or if I will ever know more about her situation. Either way, it was a positive feeling. A new sister had joined the ranks, and with someone in her network having heard my story, I was able to assist her in some small way. Wow! For the first time, I felt a bit of confirmation that this will be my calling: to help others.
I hope to continue that mission. I want to be a beacon of hope for others who will struggle with the news in the future, just as my survivors have done for me already. If I can be that for someone else, perhaps the pain and fear will be worth it.
On another note: surgery is just days away. I can see it on the extended weather report... Somehow, this is not as exciting as when you can see your wedding day, or an upcoming vacation the report, but none-the-less, it's a milestone. Several people have inquired how best to get updates and asked if I will be blogging. While I think it would probably be entertaining for me to "blog under the influence", considering I will be out of it and on a pain pump, I have asked my brother Frank to be a guest blogger while I am out of commission. He will provide medical updates and also if he's feeling up to it, some of his own perspectives as someone who is affected by this beast secondarily. He's a professional folks. I am sure he will keep you informed and perhaps entertained. Many of you have seen plays that he has written, and know he has a way with words...
No pressure FB3! ;-)

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

I'm tired

That's all I muster today folks. The funeral today took a lot out of me, more than I expected. I have a lot of thoughts that I will pull together tomorrow. To make up for tonight's lame post, I'll make sure tomorrow's is a good one.

I will sum up with this thought: with family, faith, and modern medicine, I can't go wrong!

Good night. The patient needs some sleep.

Monday, June 13, 2011

I have cancer... but cancer doesn't have me.

I have to laugh sometimes. This morning, I was feeling incredibly sad and scared and anxious. I sent an email to one of my friends kind of whining about it. And I thought to myself "what is my problem? Why do I feel so down?"

Umm, hello dummy, you have cancer.


I think that is what pisses me off the most about this disease. It sometimes changes the way I (and others) think and feel. I am inherently a positive person, but yet I have doubts. I have always been cheerful (ask my brother Chris, he just LOVED it when I was cheerful at 7:30 am.) I have always been relatively easy-going.

Right now, I'm anxious. I'm relatively grumpy. And worst of all, I'm scared. I keep hearing the "what ifs" creeping in. It aggravates me. I'm not a "what if" kind of gal. Cancer messes with your head in that way.

I have to get my head on straight. I am going to beat the shit out of cancer (KA, see, I promised you another salty word). I have to. I have too many people who need me to stay right here. I have too many future survivors who will need my inspirational story to give them hope. I have stuff I want to do. I have cruises to go on and more Disney trips to take. I have a beautiful boy who needs his mommy to love him. I have an awesome husband who needs to get joy back in his life and to get his sense of humor back!

As I sat there today in the funeral home, I thought about Aunt Theresa living a long and beautiful life. She is my family, my blood, along with so many other tough cookies. It's in me to survive. It's in me to fight. If for no other reason, then just to fight back at this stupid disease for picking on me, and trying to make me something I am not.

It's funny, I remember when I was a little kid, I was picked on by a bully in first grade. Until that bully had to face my brother Chris (hey CMB, look at you! You got two shout outs in one post! Go you). Chris "helped" him to understand that picking on me would only lead to bad things... I remember thinking I was special because I had someone to stick up for me. This time, I have to stick up for myself. But I have a lot of people backing me up. I guess that still makes me pretty special, huh?

There aren't too many people who have seen me REALLY pissed, but when I am, I am pretty feisty and relentless, like ridiculously so. Cancer really, really was looking for a fight when it picked me. And man, I am going to kick and fight until cancer crawls into a hole and dies. The good news is, they will cut out the cancer in less than a week. So basically, we are going to stab it and literally throw it away. Then I focus on healing extraordinarily well so I can poison the hell out of it! And then I am going to burn it to death. And then, for good measure, I am going to starve it for the hormones it eats. Act of terrorism? Perhaps. But I consider cancer to be veritable enough of an enemy, and it deserves all the hell that's coming at it!

Just call me "Miss Scarlet in the hallway with the knife, and the poison, and the candlestick and the rope"...

I am going to survive this. Oh yes!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

one week and a wake up

You know, usually one looks forward to having time off from work. Not this time. I have one week of work left, and it's not even a full week at that considering I have the wake and funeral tomorrow and tuesday.

My boss and I talked about how we would catch up on Friday. He said we could plan to have everything at work taken care of while I was out so I could free my mind and focus on what matters right now. He said I could walk out on Friday and forget about the company for a while. Walk out with a clear head, and focus on what's coming.

While it is awesome for him to be so supportive, the truth of it is, I don't want to focus on that. I want to forget all about it. I don't want to let go of work because to me, it means thinking about things that I just don't want to think about. It means focusing on prepping for the surgery. As important as I know it is, I just am not looking forward to it. I am looking forward to them getting the cancer out, but I am not looking forward to what they have to do to make it happen.

I don't regret the decision I made to have the double mastectomy. Based on all of the docs, I know it is the best choice for me long term. It's just a sucky one to have to make. It was a no-brainer for me, but it freaks me out. I mean, think about it. I am going from cancer-boobs, to franken-boobs. Great... Neither is an optimal choice. I know in the end my reconstructive surgeon is going to do an amazing job. She is highly recommended and a perfectionist, which under the circumstances is exactly what I need.

I just wish I could wake up next monday and have the whole thing done. By that I mean the mastectomy, the chemo, the radiation, and the reconstruction. I'd love to wake up with my curly chemo hair back and my new perky boobs. However, there is a long and winding road that I will have to take to get to that end point. I guess this is the endurance test of the lifetime.

So many people have been so sweet in saying how I have been inspirational to them. Thank you! The funny thing is, all I have survived thus far is the diagnosis. Admittedly, that's no small feat. But there is a mountain ahead for me yet to climb. Pray for me to have strength persevere. I'm going to need it.

I run for life...

Ok I didn't but I will. This morning, Frank, Rick, Courtney and Jenna ran for me today at the GWB challenge for the American Cancer Society. Frank did fundraising in prep for the event, and without hard core effort managed to be the top fund raiser among the runners!!! When we Briamonte's do something, we do it big! He got the chance to cut the ribbon opening the run for me! It really doesn't get cooler than that.

Before cancer, I always wondered what the fund raising was for. I always donated in good faith, but was curious as to what happened to the money. Now that I am closer to it, here's what I know. Research. All those crazy tests and various treatments. Many of them are funded by the organizations. I personally have recieved lots of great information and books from ACS and some other organizations. The money goes where it should. Patients get information to help them understand and manage the disease, we get tools to help us recover physically and emotionally.

So now that I have seen what it does, of course I want to help more. My family will be participating in future walks. Let me just say, if Frank can take the top honors without even trying, just wait! I believe that they haven't seen anything yet! We may be doing a walk/run this fall (of course my ability to physically participate is up in the air) and then Donna is planning on setting up a Relay for Life in the spring... I plan on being strong enough by then to be there and run. I hear there is something called a survivor's lap. By then, I will have earned that honor and plan to do it with pride. I cannot wait!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

If you want to hear God laugh...

...tell him your plans.

Randomly ironic: that quote is from a song that always reminded me of my Grandmother.

After last week's blown plans, Tammy and I had a good chuckle over "why bother making any plans?" I have always said that God knows better than I do in steering my life's course. I find that when I think I know better than God does, he finds a way to steer me back in the direction that I need to go, regardless of how divergent it is from where I expected to end up.

I had a lot of plans. But sometimes, the go right out the window.

I planned on going shopping after my mammogram on May 3rd.

I planned on being at Tammy's birthday dinner last weekend.

I planned on getting pregnant again, soon.

I planned on building that third bedroom for that new life.

I planned on going fishing last weekend.

I planned on going fishing this afternoon. 

I planned on getting some good concert tickets this summer.

I planned on buying new bras.

I planned on building up my savings account. 

I planned on redesigning several parts of my company's compensation structure this summer.

I didn't plan on using disability this year.

I didn't plan on becoming a blogger/writer.

I didn't plan on ever having implants in my life.

I didn't plan on people feeling sorry for me.

I didn't plan on seeing pink bracelets with my name on them where ever I go.

I didn't plan on cancer.

What's interesting is that despite the fact that my plans didn't pan out as expected, I do believe in free will to a certain extent. I just have faith that God will only let us stray so far from our destiny, and then he steps back in to nudge us on to the path we are meant to walk. Unfortunately, my destiny is to be a warrior in pink.

I have a hard time separating cancer from the rest of my life right now. The good news is, there are parts that are still special and happy. For example, the plans that I was actually able to keep this weekend with family and friends were a good semi-distraction from what is going on. Of course, the topic does come up at least once in every setting, but there are other topics as well, and there is just the enjoyment of being amongst loved ones.

Bear with me as I continue to navigate through the speed bumps  and potholes of life dear family and friends. The road ahead is bumpy, but I do believe there is goodness along that road, and that it leads to a new, amazing, maybe even smooth road.

I just wonder if the surreal feeling will ever go away.

Just one last note, everyone please pray for my brother Frank. He's running a 10 miler for American Cancer Society tomorrow for me over the GWB! Pray that he has stamina and that he stays safe! Thank you Frankie. Love you!

Thursday, June 9, 2011


I remember hearing a song called "Angels Among Us" years ago, and I remember thinking it was a hokey song. But lately, I have been seeing them. They are so apparent to me.

There's the wonderful survivor who responds immediately to the text message saying "I need a pep talk". Then another amazing survivor who might as well be me two years from now, as she tells me what my life is going to be like, as we sit and laugh and cry together. Then there is the other survivor angel who makes me laugh and reminds me not to leave my boobs in my purse.

Then there is the angel who researches everything and is my own personal medical nerd, and re-reads every report to make sure she's comfortable with what they are saying. Of course there is an angel who coordinated my surgical team, and will watch over me as I head in for that surgery. Then there is the angel who gave birth to me and has walked with me every step of the way. She has her own angel who married her, and well, he cries a lot. Then there is the angel who married me and makes my life complete. And the cherub born two and a half years ago who reminds me that life, with or without cancer is joyous.

Then there are two angels who are there when I need them, my ladies, ready with a glass of wine, crazy stories and a listening ear. And the family of angels who were concerned about me this week in their own time of loss. There are angels who I work with and for who are doing their best to keep things afloat and allow me to prioritize where I need to. There are angels in my life who are just doing their best to get by in their own world every day, and despite their own challenging circumstances, check in all the time to make sure I am ok.

There are countless angels who lift me up with their comments, notes, emails, and calls. There are angels who offer help whether it be to cook a meal, fold some clothes, water our plants or help in any other way. There is angel who is hopping a plane next week to help just because she can. There is an angel who sat with me at lunch today and just talked. There is an angel who planted me a garden, and one who stood by me despite her own queasiness as she watched them insert radioactive dye into me.

There are 3 angels who are nervous, and would do anything to make their sister feel better. There are angels who may not have been a prominent part of my life in recent times, but who are expressing their love and support now. There are angels who want to rally the troops and walk in my honor. There is an angel who showed me how to find what I was looking for so I can be on my path to survivorhood. There is an angel who pretty much bought out the Komen store.

There is an angel to help me understand the medical and to help me navigate insurance. There is an angel who worked as a chemo nurse who is probably going to get pummeled with questions in the coming months. There is an angel who wants to take me for my wig, and she's married to an angel who reminds whenever I talk to him to be strong and stay positive. There are two little angels wearing mini pink bracelets with the words "Aunt Nicole" on them who pray for me. There are other angels who are just the best cheerleaders going.

There are a lot of other angels that I haven't mentioned here, but I have seen them.

And then there are the angels who spent their lives studying so they can cure someone like me.

So hokey though it may be:
Oh well I believe there are angels among us
Sent down to us from somewhere up above
They come to you and me in our darkest hours
To show us how to live, to teach us how to give
To guide us with the light of love

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

living up to legacy

93. That's the number of years that great-aunt Theresa graced this earth. It seems like a long time, and of course, it IS a long time  However, to us, when she passed away yesterday morning, it's still too soon to lose a loved one. We have long-life spans in my family. My grandparents were an average age of 83 when they left this earth (ok, don't double check my math, family members, I did that in my head, so it might be off by a bit, but it's close enough.)

That's not to say that we can take things for granted or just assume we will life a long life. And certainly, those long lives come with a lot of work to sustain yourselves.

Take both of my Grandmas for example. On the health side, Caroline had high blood pressure. I was always amazed how good she was at sniffing out salt. She avoided it like the plague because it wasn't good for her. Seems like a simple thing, but you have no idea how much salt is in stuff until you really look. She was a master at it. But on the side of being strong, ah Sweet Caroline. If she is not the testament to strength and a positive attitude, no one is. She lost her father at a young age, lost a sister Julia, when she was young, and she buried my uncle way too soon! I remember as a kid, I would see her walking to Church every day after Uncle Bill died. I am sure she was praying for him, praying for strength and praying for all of us. She coped with some of the biggest heartaches in life. I need to learn from her. As many of you know, if you asked her how she was doing, she would say "better and better". It was beautiful and simple. Each day, you get better, you get stronger. And when you have a rough day, remember it will get better. If her life kept getting better, so can mine. If she could get over her hurdles, so can I.  

And Mildred, as you may already know, fought cancer (not what I have) for about 20 years in the later part of her life. She bravely took treatments even into her 80s. She never complained. Only took tylenol to manage her pain. And she never let it defeat her spirit. She kept going. I now understand how hard it was for her, how scared she was, and how strong. I pray every day to be like she was. And how I wish she was here for our daily 5 pm phone calls to tell me how to do this. The best I can do is know that she is here in spirit, and try to remember as much as I can on how she pushed through it. I know there are so many other survivors who have been tremendous support to me. I am blessed to have them. But none will be Gram.

That's ok though. I know what she would say. She would say I have to do what I have to do. She would say that I have to keep laughing, and I can never give up. And she would also tell me how lucky I am to have great doctors because they make all the difference in the world. She would tell me that if something is in my control, then I should do whatever it take, and for those that aren't in my control, have faith and just stay positive and hope for the best. I am sure she would buy me "Krispy" crackers for my chemo days and meatball soup for the days when I want to eat. And she would probably tell me to wear my wig because sometimes you have to make yourself look good in order to feel better.

I have a lot of legacy to live up to. And anyone who knows me knows that I always fight to live up to expectations. This fight is no different than getting my degree, getting my Masters, or getting the job that I wanted for years, sometimes the uphill climb may not feel worth it, but it is. You just have to keep plugging along, and doing what you must.

Monday, June 6, 2011

don't live like you are dying, live like you are surviving

I need to learn how to live with cancer. I read a post recently by a fellow cancer patient that was tired of waiting for treatment to be over and decided to learn how to live in the meantime. I haven't quite figured that out yet. I am trying, but I don't know how successful I am being.
Today was an emotional day for me. This morning, I was pretty angry about the whole thing: about the fact that this is happening to me; about the fact that I generally tried to do things in moderation; generally tried to be healthy (even though I know I could have stood to lose a few pounds.); tried to cook healthful meals; never smoked; never drank excessively (I bet anyone who has seen me drunk could count on one hand how many times they have ever seen it). I'm just mad that this happened and I am super frustrated about the concept of not being able to do things. I can do them now, but I know in the coming months, I will be limited. That is awful!
So it's frustating to now be faced with something so scary. But I can't second guess everything I did. I will never quite know what physically caused me to have this. All I can do is get my head around beating this. I have to. It's not optional. 
Given that, here is what I am learning. First of all, there are some amazing women out there in celebrity-land who have survived this. Here's some that I learned of today: Nancy Reagan had it in the late 1980s, Rue Mcclanahan had it in th emid-90s, Sandra Day O'Connor had it, Shirley Temple Black, even two of Charlie's Angels successfully beat it (Jaclyn Smith and Kate Jackson - notably, they were the two angel's I pretended to be as a kid because they had brown hair! coincidence? I'm going with NO!), Edie Falco.
I couldn't believe about Nancy Reagan. Talk about living a long life after diagnosis. And Rue, she passed away years later and didn't die of cancer! I always loved the Golden Girls, one more reason to!
I want so badly to beat this. I realize that I need to do even more to take better care of myself. I read today several reports that indicate overweight and obese women with hormone receptor positive cancer have a harder time beating this statistically. I do not fall into the obese category, but yes I am overweight. For those of you who will try to tell me I am fine, while I appreciate the politeness, this is not a body image thing, this is a numbers thing. The fact is, I need to lose weight. It's just the reality of it.
I need to be healthier. I cannot control the fact that I have the disease, but I can control the fact that I am overweight which has a negative affect on things. I am going to work on that. For those of you who are sweet and will tell me I don't need to worry about that now, I have to say, I do have to worry about it. If not now, then when? It's part of my fight. I need and want to beat this, so if there are things that are in my control to get me there, I need to do them. God can't help those who do not help themselves!
I need to feel better. I need to live better. I am given a unique chance here. Some people don't get the opportunity like I am to really evaluate their lives with such urgency. I am given that blessing. I don't intend on squandering it. So, expect that I will find ways to make people walk with me. Expect that there will be more raw veggies and whole foods in my diet. I need to limit alcohol. I might just cut it out all together. Hey, Steve, check out the bright side, you get a permanent designated driver. Enjoy that!  Bottom line is, I might as well do what I can to stack the deck in my favor right
Don't enable me. It won't help. And as some of you know, my 2 year old can spot an enabler at 20 paces! Don't be "nice" and tell me to not worry. Be "nice" and let me do what I must. And feel free to join me. I have amazing people in my life. I intend on keeping them around to keep me company too.
Here is the medical schedule this week:
- pre-surgical marathon tomorrow. Meeting with each of my surgeons tomorrow at the hospital. Hoping to get the pre-admission testing done tomorrow too.
- appointment with my ear/nose/throat guy wednesday morning to make sure this inner ear/cold crap is done and won't interfere with my surgery.
Also, thank you for understanding that we aren't able to return every phone call and email. Please know it's very much appreciated, but sometimes, it takes us a while to get back to everyone. We are overwhelmed and doing the best we can. If we don't respond, it's not that we don't care, and it's not that there is some crisis. We are just doing the best we can.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Will life ever feel normal again?

This life has been thrown upside down.

I am still sick and today, it went into my ears. Right into a round of vertigo, which meant a day in bed. I have had this before, but because I've my new found "cancer patient" status, I know it that made it much more alarming for everyone. I completely understand why. But it sucks.

I am ok. I don't feel great, but this is no different than waves of this I have had before. The only difference is I have a child and a husband now, who suffer more when I am not 100%. And the fact that word spreads like wildfire because everyone is running scared.

I makes me sad that I am perceived as physically fragile now. That's not who I am or who I want to be.

This morning, I believe I have had a glimpse into what my chemo saturdays are going to look like.  I don't like it. Not one bit. How do I stop others from being scared or sad? This is what I need to know. I know what is coming is going to freak people out. (including me of course) How to I minimize that? It complicates things so much more for me when I feel guilty for others' pain. I know it's not my fault, but I hate it. Despite how much people tell me not to feel bad or apologize, I can't help it.

Tonight, I am not at the birthday dinner of one of my favorite people in this world. It breaks my heart. The thing is, even though it has nothing to do with cancer, I blame cancer anyway.

I want a day when I am healthy again and no one worries. A day when everyone can see that I am normal, and all's well. Survivors and doctors tell me the day will come. However, living in the meantime is brutal.

Friday, June 3, 2011

just plain exhausting

You know, they say one of the symptoms of cancer is fatigue. Well, duh! Of course it is! It's such an emotional roller coaster, it drains the ever-loving energy right out of you. Thinking, crying, laughing, wondering, worrying, obsessing, I tell you, those are things that wipe you out. Then I think about the fact that I am exhausted now, but I haven't even gotten into the hard physical stuff yet.

I remember thinking that pregnancy, and the months that followed child birth were the most exhausting. I was wrong. This is different. It's amazing how consuming it is. It takes over ever thought, plan, dream, and places them under a cloud. I can't think about anything without somehow the cancer diagnosis being involved somehow.

Today was a down day for me. I don't know exactly why, but it was. Maybe I am going through doctor withdrawals. It's been a whole two days since I have seen a doctor. Feels kind of strange.  and my next appointment isn't until tuesday. Gasp!

I am trying to mentally prepare myself for surgery. It's strange how there is practically a line running halfway through my soul. On the right half, there is the part of me that is charing ahead, fists clenched screaming "bring it on! Let's get this shit done!" (more salty language, especially for you, Kathy Allocco, because you like it so much!) On the left half, there is the side of me that is sad and scared. I am going to lose a part of me. Literally. And I don't like it one bit. I am not looking forward to being "frankenboobs" but there's nothing I can do to stop this train now. And of course, I know that it's best that I don't.

It's an odd feeling to be charging so hard at something that scares me so much.  All I can do is close my eyes, jump and hope I land on my feet. I am sure I will, but sometimes, it just doesn't feel that way. I wish I could wake up and have it be two years from now, cancer-free, with my new and improved (and nicely reconstructed) self.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Drastic times call for drastic measures

What's so crazy about this whole experience is that so much is happening so fast. And none of this can be undone. I mean the cancer part can be fixed, but so much of what has to happen to get there is so drastic. I am not in any way questioning the need for it, but it just sucks that it's happening, and once it's done, there is no going back.  And no matter what happens, I will never be the same person I was on May 2, 2011. Ever. I can only hope that I end up being a new and improved model in many ways.

Be warned, the coming paragraphs delve into to some pretty intense personal thoughts and decisions. I apologize in advance for being so blunt and open, but I guess I need to lay it all out, even if just to get my head around it.

Surgery is coming up quickly now. Double mastectomy. I do believe that the end of all of this, I will be glad I did it, but man, it's worse than marine corp training. Talk about beating you down to build you back up! Kind of funny if you think of it, that slogan "the few, the proud" kind of applies to the survivors in this world too. We go through hell and back, and we come out stronger for it. But that doesn't make it suck any less. (p.s. I really should apologize to mom for the salty language that is being tossed about throughout this blog---apparently, cancer has affected my filter. It's one of those odd side effects I guess).

Then on top of that, the ovaries. Oy! What a decision. There is a good chance that they will have to come out, or at least the left one will. They don't believe it is cancerous, but they cannot be sure. And certainly, if it is fine now, my risk is still slightly elevated of having them affected in the future. The thing is, once they come out, there's no putting them back. Talk about pressure to make the "right" decision, as if I can ever really know for sure what that answer is. But truthfully, even if there is only a 1% chance of them being affected by cancer, it's 1% too many in my book. I have a life to live, a family to love. I just can't see gambling with it.

I know a lot of people will disagree with our choice.  But please understand it is not being made without much thought and prayer. To us, the answer is clear.

Steve and I have talked a lot about it. I do not think we will be having any more children. The risk (even if it is not huge) is just not worth it. I am sad about that, but I know I would be infinitely more sad if I decided to take the chance, and it ended up raising my risk for recurrence. That thought is simply too scary to bear. The cancer fear grips your soul. It is like nothing I can ever put into words. All I can say is the pain associated with the fear much outweighs the sadness that comes with knowing I will never have a daughter of my own, or be able to give Steven a brother. And trust me, that sadness is great. But the fear is greater. I know that I will have days when I wish I could make a different decision. However, for me and my life, it's just not an option. I cannot live my life wondering.

I know that there are things I could do. I know that I could preserve eggs. However, I have discussed the option with my doctor, and I can't say I am up for what it would take to make that happen. It would be adding more to my plate than I can physically bear right now. Plus, I know that I won't be able to carry any of those eggs until I am at least 40 because of my treatment plan. Having been through a high risk pregnancy before cancer, at the relatively young age of 31, there would be far more risks associated with it for me now. On top of that, I just can't see putting us through something so traumatic if I don't have to. There are enough traumatic things happening that I don't have a choice in. I can't see choosing to add one more.

At this stage, walking away from the hope of having more children is incredibly hard, but it's not as devastating as the fear of waiting for the results of a biopsy or a pet scan. Having walked down the painful path of infertility previously, and now the devastating path of cancer, I believe I can make a uniquely educated decision. I choose secondary infertility. Please, please, please know, that statement is NOT meant to belittle the pain of infertility, but rather to highlight the enormous pain of fear. Fear is almost as toxic as cancer itself.

Steve and I have also given thoughts to other options. At this time, they are not viable for us. I believe my little family unit is complete. I am blessed with the most precious son. I should count that blessing because it is worth more than I could even dream. He is the source of my strength and hope. He is my miracle. How selfish would it be for me to expect or want more than what I have already been given?

Please don't judge us for making a perhaps somewhat selfish and rash decision. Please know that it is a brutal decision to have to make... But it's one we are faced with none the less. And one that we believe is in the collective best interests of our long life together as a family.

I pray that no one reading this ever has to make the same choice.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Fired up about Health Care

Ok, first off, I have to say, I was struck this morning with a new feeling. NWC (nicole with cancer) hadn't really felt this one yet. It's pride. I'm kind of proud of the fact that I found the cancer myself, and had the guts to go and get it checked. GO ME! Even though I never expected it to really be cancer, I knew enough not to assume that myself. I guess the magnitude of that little decision to make a doctor's appointment is finally clicking in. I know it's so minor and simple, but it goes to show how something so small could save your life. Don't be afraid of it.
Being proactive saves lives. Don't procrastinate when it comes to your heath, whether that be breast cancer, heart issues, etc. There aren't many things we can control in this world, but for those things that we can, we should make good choices.
On that topic, I had an interesting conversation today. I was talking to my OBGYN, whom I just love. She was kind while I was going through infertility, she was patient when I had a difficult pregnancy, she was awesome when she delivered my son and she was compassionate today as we talked about my cancer. She is what a doctor should be. She is smart, but she also has a heart. And really, isn't that the point?
She was telling me about a report by the US Preventative Services Task Force (which I vaguely remember hearing about as NBC - "Nicole before cancer" if you are just catching up to the blog now) which recommended pushing back mandatory mammograms to the age of 50 and doing them every other year. But wait, there's more! It also said that because the chances of younger women getting breast cancer are so slim, self-exams are not recommended because they only cause undue stress and "unnecessary" testing. REALLY? That's interesting because my self-exam saved my life! Did it cause me stress? Yes, perhaps, but very justified stress, not undue in any way, shape or form. If they disagree, they can talk to my surgeons, my radiologist, or my oncologist. Or they can talk to me.... But they might want to wear a helmet so I doesn't hurt when I smack them upside the head!
How could an insurance company know the difference between two of my best friends (who had benign lumps), and me? Hmm, let's see, I have no family history, am relatively healthy, had a 5% chance of getting this according to computer models. I am certain that if I listened to these idiots, I'd be on my way to death. So for those idiots who are "so smart" they have this brilliant study that tells them self-exams are not worth the mental stress of worrying about a lump, I say, "Screw you! Would you have paid for my funeral if I DIDN'T do self-exams? Would you have helped my husband raise my child? Would you have loved my family while I was gone? Would you have taken long walks on the boards with my husband in my absence? Would you have put my son through college and cheered with pride when he graduates? Would you meet up with my friends for a drink of wine and some girl chat? Would you have comforted my family and said that the mental stress of worrying if the lump was malignant or not wasn't worth it?"
Another interesting point, they won't test you to see if you are BRCA mutation positive until after you are diagnosed with cancer. Um, perhaps it would help people with preventative care (and maybe even save money - gasp) if they knew they had the genetic predisposition to the gene. But I digress.
As my grandfather used to say, "they're so smart that they're stupid!" I say they are a bunch of crack heads... But what do I know? I'm just the one who figured out it was smart to get a lump checked, and by "dumb luck", I turned out to be right. Could it be that I actually know my body better than some bureaucrats? Nah, that can't be possible.
The truth is, early detection saves lives. I will be living proof of that. I don't give a damn what some study says. I am the "unusual" case. I am not as unusual as these people might think. I didn't listen to them, and I AM going to be here for many, many years to come. I will be here to raise my child with Steve. I will love my family. I will walk those boards. I will put that boy through college. I will cheer with pride when he graduates (perhaps even from Medical School. Who knows!)  I will have many more ladies nights, and likely some of the chat will be how stupid the health care system can be. I will celebrate with my family that I had the guts to go get it checked out! And to the health insurance companies out there, I will beat the drum of early detection and spread the word. I really don't care if you have to pay for more mammograms! I don't care if it causes someone to be nervous. THEY HAVE A RIGHT TO BE! CANCER CAN KILL YOU IF YOU DON'T KILL IT FIRST! Why should we be so dumb as to wait for it to take more lives? So some investor gets more money from their stock holdings? Hell no! Because that very same investor could get the disease, and won't even be here to spend that extra dividend! It's not about the money people, it's about life! Remember that!