Thursday, September 29, 2011

Breast Cancer Journey - D Day Done

09/28/11 ~ To borrow a phrase from my two favorite Marines (the real Ken Rodgers and the mythical Jethro Gibbs from NCIS) OOORAH!

We got up when it was still dark and Rod took me out on the front porch to show me the sky. Long ago, when my parents passed away, we assigned them each a constellation, the Big Dipper and Orion's Belt. Both were visible, one right off the front porch and the other behind redwoods out back, so they too were part of my posse.

No coffee, no food = torture!

First stop to Nuclear Medicine for the radio tracer injection, said to feel like bee sting. I didn't feel the needle at all, but on the bee sting scale I'd say the injection was akin to a giant wasp on steroids. Take comfort in the knowledge it was only long enough to chant the F bomb to myself seven times.

Next stop to have what they call a needle localization. Numbing injection didn't hurt at all. The radiologist inserts a small tube with a small gauge wire down to the tiny marker placed when I had original biopsy. The wire guides my surgeon to the exact place.

Next stop outpatient surgery clinic for admissions and chats with my operating room nurses, anesthesiologist and surgeon, all while lounging in a comfortable bed with back and knee supports and warm blankets. All I needed was a stuffed teddy bear. The atmosphere was relaxed and calming. I wasn't nervous at all. They hooked me up to IV for fluids and I presume sedation, because the next thing I know I'm in recovery with my eyes half open. While I was there my surgeon went out to talk to Rod. She is really confident that she got it all, and the sentinel node was very small which is a good sign. Tissue and nodes are in for biopsy so we'll know for sure in a couple of days. The stay in recovery about an hour and a half and then we were on our way home.

Next stop our favorite Chinese restaurant to pick up a couple of orders of hot and sour soup (our version of chicken soup) and the video store for a few movies. I parked myself in one of the barcaloungers: Rod ceded the remote to me, served me soup and with an ice pack chaser and left me to rest for a couple of hours. 

The movie we watched last night was Rango. The animation, writing, and constant play on words keep us laughing out loud. Lucky I didn't pop a stitch. One of the lines we wrote down (we listened to twice so I think we heard it right) was "it's a puzzle, it's like a big old mammogram". Somehow appropriate for this adventure, wouldn't you say? If you haven't seen it, rent it.

09/29/11 ~ I've had very little discomfort today, haven't needed any pain medication. I am one lucky rascal. I owe a huge hug to my posse of friends from near, far and other dimensions who have been sending me energy and positive thoughts all along the road. My friend Nancy just dropped off home made cookies and my neighbors down the hill brought me a dozen yellow roses! Sweeet! Well back to the barcalounger: soup, movie, ice and a foot rub on the menu tonight. I'm pretty easy to please.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Breast Cancer Journey - D Day

Yikes, lumpectomy surgery is tomorrow but my proverbial ducks are lined up and my questions asked so I'm as ready as I'll ever be. Taking notes really helped! Kaiser staff and doctors played a huge part in preparing me for this journey and lessened my fears of the unknown. There is the great interactive program on their website that walks you through each step and what to expect at

The X Factor: The biography I wrote for my 40th Tamalpais HS reunion (2003) was entitled "My Middle Name Should Have Been Serendipity". If you've read any of my blogs you'll begin to understand this cosmic force of nature has been a huge part of my life's journey. I found out today that not one, but two of my friends had the same surgeon and said she was the best. Works for me!

My knight/chef will be there at every turn and has promised to spoil me rotten and give me foot rubs while I heal. Friends from near and far have checked in with good wishes, healing thoughts and humor. What more could a girl ask for?

D-Day starts early

At 7:45am I head to Nuclear Medicine for an injection in my breast of a blue and/or radioactive tracer that travels along the same path cancer cells travel as they spread. I've been told the injection can be uncomfortable (might sting a bit, uhuh!) and asked if there was something available to mitigate the discomfort. Found out there is topical compound that will numb the area and asked for a prescription. Never be afraid to ask about options!!!

That done, I'm off to the mammography clinic. My tumor is so small it cannot be felt so I'll be having something done called a "wire localization". The area will be numbed with a local and then using ultrasound or x-ray images a very thin wire will be guided to the tumor. My surgeon can then follow the wire to the tumor during surgery. When the tumor is removed the surgeon will also take a margin around it to be tested.

My cancer is called "invasive ductal carcinoma" which means it has escaped the duct wall and may have moved into the lymph system. If it has reached the lymph system, the sentinel lymph node, the one that is the brightest blue or has highest level of radiation from the tracer injection will be removed for biopsy along with a few others. 

The ideal scenario would be to find that: (1) the margin will test negative, meaning no cancer cells have spread from tumor and (2) sentinel node will confirm no cancer has reached the lymph nodes. I'm voting for this one. A possible scenario is that the margin is positive and/or nodes are involved. If that is the case additional surgery may be required. I'll know stage and next steps in a few days. Surgery will only take a couple of hours, then a couple of hours in recovery and I can go home. I can't wait for Thursday because that will mean Wednesday is history!

Yes, I'm a little nervous, but whatever the outcome I know I have a dedicated posse riding shotgun. This is just a bump in the road, or maybe one of Petaluma's infamous potholes, but my ponies have always been 4 wheel drives, so out of my way world I'll be back in the saddle in no time.

Original Posts:
A Journey of Another Kind 08/23/11
Nobody Told Me There’d be Homework 09/06/11
Required Reading:
Just Laugh Out Loud 09/09/11

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Eight Friends, Dinner and a Movie

We spent last Sunday afternoon in Santa Rosa at a private screening, for friends and supporters, of a powerful documentary made by our friends Ken and Betty Rodgers. It's about the 26th Marine Regiment, Bravo Company and the Siege of Khe Sanh, Vietnam in 1968. It is an incredible story told by those who lived it, survived it and are sharing the experience in their own words. The title is:

"Bravo! Common Men, Uncommon Valor"
For a link to the project blog and trailers please go to

After the screening, eight of us gathered for dinner at a Thai restaurant on lower 4th St. called Khoom Lanna, a short walk from the 6th Street Playhouse. As Betty and I looked around the table we realized this group of friends, old and new, from all walks of life had been drawn together by a common thread, our late friends Vince and Trisha Pedroia. We could only smile at the synchronicity of that moment and the serendipitous chain of events that brought this film from an idea to a realized dream. There be magic afoot.

The opening of a dialogue

After my husband Rod and I got home we started talking about Vietnam. I was a college student in my early twenties and pretty much out of touch with the realities of the war, perhaps by naiveté or by choice I don't remember. Rod had tried to enlist several times, but because of a medical condition was turned down.
We all need to think about the cause, effect and consequences for the generation, our generation, who was in the middle of it. I believe the film will provide new understanding and long overdue healing: for those who lived through it, for those who kept the home fires burning, for those who protested it, and for those too young to understand it.
The Vietnam War tore this country apart. No matter what your opinion was, it's now time to open your hearts and minds to the men and woman who did what their government asked of them. One of the terrible things about the Vietnam War was that our returning soldiers were not treated as heroes as are today's veterans, but as pariahs, spat upon and called baby killers. I hate the concept of war but I will always support the men and women who serve.
Unfortunately history continues to repeat itself and the same mistakes are made over and over again: A government of old men sends children to war and then looks the other way at the pathetic care provided for veterans and their families. The Ship of State following its Train of Thought over a cliff.
It's time for a sea change, a transformation of our thinking as human beings. Perhaps today’s young men and women can get it right and find another solution to the unending cycles of war that seem to stalk each generation.

Friday, September 16, 2011

September Song

One morning you wake up at your usual time and realize the sun's not up yet, what's up with that? It's getting dark earlier too and the leaves are starting to change.

Oh wait, it's September. Shoot another summer bites the dust which means another year has passed, AGAIN! Okay so we're getting older, can't stop time, but you can enjoy the season. We often get our best weather this time of year.  

Autumn means less work in the garden as summer crops begin to fade and bulbs are pulled up and stored for spring.

September is the beginning of our craft fair season, which is a lot of hard work, but loads of fun. Tomorrow is our first, the 2nd annual Much Ado About Sebastopol Renaissance Fair. License to dress up and play make believe. How many adults do you know that get that chance?

For us it also becomes "nesting" season as in "let's clean out the nest and auxiliary storage nests and reduce the amount of stuff we possess". Henry David Thoreau said it best:

"Go confidently in the direction of your dreams!
Live the life you've imagined.
As you simplify your life
the laws of the universe will be simpler."

We used to take things to the flea market and make a few bucks, but who wants to waste a day anymore? We now donate items we no longer use to local charities to support their missions, all needed in these times.

So start with a drawer, start with a closet, start with room. Doesn't matter where, but just start. You'll be amazed at how good it feels, and you might even create a great new space for your favorite feline to snooze.

Closet Cat

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

It Comes in Threes - Part Deux

I just wrote about Omne Trium Perfectum in mid July and here we are again. My first thought was now what have we done to piss off the goddess of the manor? But then I realized humans aren't the only things that age and have parts wear out.

One – Hmmm, I wonder how long it's been since we changed the filters on our water system. Much of Sebastopol's well water harbors bacterial iron and other minerals so it's a given that things get will get funky on a regular basis. One should change filters annually. Check the paperwork - oh crap - it's been two years. Hey Culligan Man! Filter change quite reasonable, but what's that you say the compressor's shot too? Whoa $760 is an expensive lesson, but we’re trainable and a filter change is on the calendar for next summer.

Two - White Fang the Jeep ~ the extremely comfortable, 5.9 liter, deep throated and trustworthy beast I've have had for almost 12 years. She just turned up 180K so I was banking on a major tune up this week which is an ouch by itself at $550, though well worth expense. I trust my mechanic!

But life isn't always simple is it? I notice a small leak on my front differential and make a note to show him the next day. I take off to go workout and start hearing a really strange noise. I'm thinking this isn't good and since I was less than a ½ mile from home I turn back. It started getting louder. As I start up our road I'm chanting "Come on baby just get me home, just get me home". On the second to last corner of the driveway I hear a loud "thunk" and all of a sudden I'm driving a Mack truck with no power steering. I park in front of the house and open the hood. Yikes, no serpentine belt and fluids hemorrhaging everywhere. I walked back down the road and retrieved the belt.

Because the Jeep is a 4X4 a flat bed tow truck is in order to get it to my mechanic. All of a sudden I’m really glad we have AAA (first time I’ve actually had to use it). The guy shows up about 7:50am with a 26 footer and his first words are "I can't turn around up here". I said "Of course you can, bigger trucks than this little puppy have turned around here". He gave me a really testy look.

By then my neighbors up are because their kids heard the big truck and all are out watching. They're kind enough to move their vehicles so the big guy could get turned around in their driveway at the end of the road. He loads up and off he goes. About 30 minutes later I get a call from AAA to verify the address where he’s supposed to go (the street is like 3 blocks long). I call my mechanic to see if he's arrived. Kathy, his wife says “No but I just saw the tow truck go by he'll figure it out eventually.”

She called back the next day and said "Well, we expect things wear out with this much mileage, but not all at once". At that point we just burst out laughing. The front differential needs R&R, water pump replaced, power steering repair and major tune up. The job is done and I pick the Jeep up this afternoon. The invoice is only $1,968.79.

This is what my friend Trisha would have called an “Oh Well” moment. It a huge amount of money, and really inconvenient, but even this is really "small stuff" in the big picture.

Three – Oh well, oh well!

It seems the cement pad that surrounds our well head and holds the pressure tank is slowly crumbling and heading down the hill (It's over 40 years old and had a falling tree rock it's world about 6 years ago). Our well guy suggested we might want to replace the slab prior to winter. Preventative maintenance called for here, so let's stay one step ahead on this one. Estimate is about $500, seems like chump change at this point!

Messages here:
  • Due diligence on preventative maintenance whether it’s your body, your home or your vehicle.
  • Set up an automatic amount to go in your savings every month (no see ‘em, no spend em), no matter how small it adds up and can save your proverbial bacon.
  • Don’t sweat the small stuff because most of it is small stuff.
  • See the humor in everything.
  • Now go treat yourself to a massage, you've probably earned it!

Sunday, September 11, 2011


Today is not for
I should be
I'm supposed to
I need to

Today is for
Saying thank you to those who serve

Hometown Heros

Opening a door for someone
Smiling at a stranger
Taking a walk outside
Calling a friend
Planting a tree
Dancing in your living room or
Making a child giggle

Those no longer with us

Never Forgetting
How precious life is and
How lucky we are

Life is too short to sit around and let happen: follow your heart, chase your dreams, and do what makes you happy. Rain or shine step outside for a few hours. It's amazing what awaits you on the other side of the door!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Just Laugh Out Loud

Did you know that:

Laughter relaxes the whole body and relieves physical tension and stress?
Laughter boosts the immune system by increasing infection fighting antibodies, decreasing stress hormones and improving resistance to disease?
Laughter triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals that promote an overall sense of well-being?
Laughter protects the heart by improving the function of blood vessels and increasing blood flow, which can help protect you against a heart attack?

Inside Joke

The author of the following story is unknown but no doubt an audacious and fearless woman of my generation. I rarely share things forwarded to me but when I read it I laughed so hard I had tears running down my cheeks.

A Mature Woman Buying a Bathing Suit

When I was a child in the 1950s, the bathing suit for the mature figure was boned, trussed and reinforced, not so much sewn as engineered. They were built to hold back and uplift, and they did a good job.Today's stretch fabrics are designed for the prepubescent girl with a figure carved from a potato chip.

The mature woman has a choice, she can either go up front to the maternity department and try on a floral suit with a skirt, coming away looking like a hippopotamus that escaped from Disney's Fantasia, or she can wander around every run-of-the-mill department store trying to make a sensible choice from what amounts to a designer range of fluorescent rubber bands.

What choice did I have? I wandered around, made my sensible choice and entered the chamber of horrors known as the fitting room.

The first thing I noticed was the extraordinary tensile strength of the stretch material. The Lycra used in bathing costumes was developed, I believe, by NASA to launch small rockets from a slingshot, which gives the added bonus that if you manage to actually lever yourself into one, you would be protected from shark attacks. Any shark taking a swipe at your passing midriff would immediately suffer whiplash.

I fought my way into the bathing suit, but as I twanged the shoulder strap in place I gasped in horror, my boobs had disappeared! Eventually, I found one boob cowering under my left armpit. It took a while to find the other but finally located it flattened beside my seventh rib. The problem is that modern bathing suits have no bra cups. The mature woman is now meant to wear her boobs spread across her chest like a speed bump. I realigned my speed bump and lurched toward the mirror to take a full view assessment.

The bathing suit fit all right, but unfortunately it only fitted those bits of me willing to stay inside it. The rest of me oozed out rebelliously from top, bottom and sides. I looked like a lump of Playdough wearing undersized cling wrap. As I tried to work out where all those extra bits had come from, the prepubescent sales girl popped her head through the curtain, "Oh, there you are," she said, admiring the bathing suit. I replied that I wasn't so sure and asked what else she had to show me.

I tried on a cream crinkled one that made me look like a lump of masking tape, and a floral two-piece that gave the appearance of an oversized napkin in a serving ring. I struggled into a pair of leopard-skin bathers with ragged frills and came out looking like Tarzan's Jane having a rough day. I tried on a black number with a midriff fringe and looked like a jellyfish in mourning. I tried on a bright pink pair with such a high cut leg I thought I would have to wax my eyebrows to wear them.

Finally, I found a suit that fit, it was a two-piece affair with a shorts-style bottom and a loose blouse-type top. It was cheap, comfortable, and bulge-friendly, so I bought it. My ridiculous search had a successful outcome, I figured. When I got it home, I found a label that read, "Material might become transparent in water." 
Oh My!

Thirties Bathing Beauty

So, if you happen to be on the beach or near any other body of water this year and I'm there too, I'll be the one in cut-off jeans and a T-shirt! Life isn't about how to survive the storm, but how to dance in the rain, with or without a stylish bathing suit!

Ladies Dancing in the Rain

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Nobody Told Me There'd be Homework

Information: Kaiser and the American Cancer Society provide copious amounts of helpful information for patients to read: explanations of diagnosis and treatment, different procedures and therapies, how to understand pathology reports, integrative health and healing services resources, post operative exercises, living smart and more. It’s all good, but a bit overwhelming. So where do you start?

Get Organized: I sat down one morning with all the booklets and flyers, a yellow highlighter and post it flags and began the task of educating myself. This is going to be an ongoing adventure so I figure it’s in my best interests to stay on point.

A binder sounded like a good start. I setup tabs for questions, notes, schedules, pathology reports, doctors, anesthesiology, post operative care, resources and a section for communications received from friends, acquaintances and total strangers who have sent humor and positive thoughts, offered to answer questions and forward information to help me on the journey. I also taped my team's business cards to the front inside cover for easy reference.

What's Next: At my age memory isn’t something that can always be relied upon, so I decided type up an outline and make a list questions to ask doctors. Several of my friends who have been through this offered to provide me with additional questions that I may not have thought about. I intend to use all resources offered.

On the Horizon: Due to an annual mammogram the cancer was caught early and the consensus is that it is Stage I, confined to a small area. My decision is to have a lumpectomy and radiation rather than a mastectomy. Surgery is scheduled for late September, followed by a radiation therapy for a minimum of four weeks. The game could change some if we find out that lymph nodes are involved, but the answer to that question will have to wait until surgery day. My take is to keep a positive attitude.

Community: This has become a community excursion. Countless women have made the journey before me, and others will find themselves in the shoes of the new kid on the block as I did, all members of the club no one wants to join. I am happy to have a sisterhood of strong women along for the ride and hope by sharing I can help take the thunder away from someone else’s fears.

Stay positive and dance your cares away.
Check out some amazing art in my latest Etsy Treasury

Saturday, September 3, 2011

The Unexplained

Sometimes things happen you can't explain ~ I know it as synchronicity. The term was first used by Carl Jung who defined it as "the coincidence of events that seem related, but are not obviously caused one by the other". A group of my friends are well acquainted with such phenomena and we no longer question it. We simply enjoy the ride and share knowing smiles.

A Facebook post from a friend in Oregon caught my eye this morning and I felt it was worth sharing. Dealing with a recent diagnosis of breast cancer and the journey to come, I found the quote both relevant and timely. Doing a little research I found the words were from philosopher Karl Marx, as applicable today as in the 19th century.

"‎There comes a time in your life when you have to let go of all the pointless drama and the people who create it and surround yourself with people who make you laugh so hard that you forget the bad and focus solely on the good. After all life is too short to be anything but happy."

Wake Up Each Morning and Choose Your Attitude

As I was writing this post, an instrumental came on the radio that just made me stop, listen and smile. I found out it was "Water Song" from Hot Tuna. I think it will be the first addition to my "healing play list".
So now it's time to go outside and enjoy the end of Summer ~ my gladiolas need to be dug up to make room for some fall and winter vegetables. Your mission is to go outside and play in the dirt too.