Sunday, September 17, 2017

We have history...

DCIS and I have history.

We all have someone or something in our history we would like to forget. Sometimes it is a person we spent too much time with; an action we didn’t really intend; or just a straight up bad life choice - either way, on first glance every one of us can think of that thing within seconds. Nevertheless, I think there is a lot of power in living life without regrets and we should find ways to empower ourselves to look on these events as learning opportunities. Hoping and wishing can lead to a life unfulfilled.

On the flip side, history can be doomed to repeat itself no matter how hard you try to avoid or circumvent an issue.

This week, only a short 28 months from my original diagnosis, I have confirmed that my Ductal Carcinoma (in Situ) has come back. At this particular moment, I have no other information about what this really means. I can base some decisions on my previous experience, except this time it is different. This time I am fraught with anxiety and it is physically affecting me. There is a line that it feels like I am crossing between my logical brain and my reptilian brain. Through my research, my logical mind and I reviewed a lot of statistics. At face value  - we just manage this very early stage cancer with the standard practices of removing the lumps and perhaps radiating the area. Easy breezy right?

My reptilian brain has taken the upper hand though and is filling me with dread, anxiety and low levels of panic. My heart pounds, my chest gets tight, and my mind is completely consumed with the thought of “what if”. It is wildly unnerving for a person who has never officially experienced any kind of mental health issues. No matter how I try to redirect myself, the feelings sets back in without knocking or giving any warning - and I hate it. Now, not only am I dealing with that thing I did not want to revisit from my history, but it has brought a jackass of a friend named Anxiety.

I do not mean to imply I have had some perfect track record of sanity or anything- everyone has a story. However, I do mean to imply that I like having my shit together, and with the onset of this discovery, I am even more thankful I have managed almost 40 years of fairly stable mental status. My husband I have laughed about the “bloody corpse” moments of my past; however, those events were always very acute and in the moment unlike this current looming feeling of dread.

In the meantime, I am 9 days away from seeing the doctor who should reveal the decisions that need to be made. At this point in time, I feel like I would like all other life decisions to be removed from my plate. I do not care what my kids wear to school, as long as they make a decision. I do not care what I make for supper, as long as someone told me what to make. I do not care when we have that meeting at work, as long as someone tells me to just book it.

Just as I had a “clinical” presentation of DCIS, so too do I have a “clinical” presentation of Anxiety. Both of them suck for entirely different reasons (but also the same reasons). They are screwing with my regularly scheduled life program. Spontaneity has never been high on my life skills. I am a planner and I like routine. When things disrupt your life plans and screw with your everyday - it is jarring. For those who know me well, my natural way of being includes a lot of optimism and now I just feel out of my element.

In fact, this entire article (besides being an exercise in journaling my feelings) was intended to be rife with my usual good humour. I pride myself on my easy going nature and my ability to take shitty things in stride - but that side of me feels a little distant right now. There must be more than just a Karmic joke involved in all this.

On that note, my Franken-boob and I would like to share a few intimate details about the past few weeks - funny, sad, weird… let’s see what we get.

  1. The radiologist who took my biopsy used to live in Dartmouth! 4 blocks from my house. I identified him by his “accent” which was Dartmouthian. Seriously, I didn’t think that was a real accent, but he spoke exactly like a couple other men i remember from my youth (neighbours and friends). So funny. Nothing like reminiscing about your hometown over your own bare breast being shot full of various sized needles by a total (male) stranger.

  1. The last time I went through DCIS and my mastectomy and reconstruction - I remember saying I should get an autograph book for all the people who saw my breast. I mean, I had a few wild nights in my university years - but the number of “strangers” who have now seen my breasts basically increased ten-fold in a matter of days.

  1. My five year old has a song about my breast that she sings as she rubs the lump like a magic genie might pop out at any time (that would actually be pretty awesome - regardless of my earlier statement that one should not live their lives filled with only wishes and hopes).

  1. The day I got the results I also bought some lotto tickets (I assumed I was on a statistical streak based since recurrences are pretty rare). Sadly - the lotto tickets did not deliver. I actually had them stapled to my printed lab results.

  1. My eight year old asked if she could “catch” cancer - which as an adult had a lot more depth than what I think she was really asking. The answer was no, you can’t catch it like a cold… but someday I guess we need to get into the bare bones of genetics. We did also slip in a few PSAs about things that can give cancer like smoking, obesity and alcohol - however, I am staunch believer that since these don’t generally apply to me - these are not the things that gave me breast cancer. I have my own wildly unjustified reasons that are based completely outside of science, but I will tell anyone who might ask.

  1. My plastic surgeon (last time) made me an absolutely beautiful breast (although in the medical field, they don’t call that appendage a breast anymore - it is a “Flap”). Nevertheless, I am super bummed that the gorgeous job she did will be fairly ruined. I mean, when searching for the silver lining - the tummy tuck was an absolute bonus in the process. I love my flat stomach and my “milky globe” as they are right now - however, with the introduction of another 2cm lump - not sure it will ever be as globy again. Maybe more like a ski jump if I am lucky.

  1. Speaking of reptilian brain, I did not consider asymmetry as an option with my breast last time. What if something happened to my husband and I was required to attract another mate? There is a lot of science behind the importance of symmetry and the laws of attraction so I couldn’t just leave myself lopsided! Also, as avid travelers, I had visions of jumping in the ocean or pool and having my “insert” float away. I lost my glasses once to a big wave, imagine if I lost my boob!

  1. On my first go through with DCIS and the events around it, I think I formally burst into tears exactly two times:
    1. Once was when I was lying naked on the operating table in the moments before they put me out when there was a brief debate over whether I had taken a certain pill (Oxy-Co to be specific) prior to getting there. They had just introduced a new process and no one knew if I took it. All I knew was that I took a mitt full of pills before walking down there. I had a moment where it felt like 15 people were walking around my naked self wondering how the new “process” was going. I eventually just lost it. I know this is not a funny story, but the important thing was that my surgeon picked up my hand and told me everything was fine. She looked into my eyes, and I had a total rush of relief.

    1. In the days following the surgery (still in the hospital) I had no desire to eat. For those who have no actual experience with surgery, you body is pretty screwed up after 8 hours of anaesthetic. Anyway, one afternoon my husband asked if I wanted to have food ordered for the next day. He started reading the menu (starting with breakfast). I decided I would very much like to have some Crispix cereal… but as he went on reading the rest of the menu I started getting super nauseated and asked him to stop. Fast forward to the next morning… I woke up to the breakfast tray and I was so excited to finally have this bowl of cereal. Upon lifting the lid, I discovered a beautiful box of Crispix… and NOTHING else. I absolutely lost my shit and just sat in the bed crying my eyes out because there was no milk. It was quite early in the morning and I just cried for about 25 minutes before the nurses came in on their rounds to find me a blubbering mess over a missing carton of milk. Nurses are amazing people. I still joke with my husband about the missing box of milk - I totally blamed him that morning.

  1. OMG - the coffee fiasco! I was just getting wheeled into the ward and got a glimpse of my darling husband for the first time. He was talking sweetly and I was high as a kite. High. Anyway, in that hazy moment when the OR nurses were trading me over to the ward nurses Jason was talking to me about… whatever (I am reiterating the “high” part here). I do remember Jason saying he was so excited about bringing me a coffee in the morning (I am a coffee addict)! The nurse standing there said… “Oh… No, she can never have coffee AGAIN!”. Even in my very high and doped out state, I think my eyes shot open and I made frantic eye contact with him. Needless to say, Jason attempted a short debate with this nurse about never having heard this edict before from any of the surgeons or doctors before and indeed, the FIRST question we asked the plastic surgeon the next morning was to clarify the coffee status. Suffice to say the plastic surgeon herself brought me my first cup of coffee later that morning. Thank goodness - I would give up alcohol before coffee almost any day of the week.

I am positive there are other humourous events to be discussed, although they are escaping my mind. There was the hardened criminal cuffed to his bed story, and there were friends who brought home made bread to the hospital, there was visits from my kids, and most importantly - a doting husband who did his “in sickness” duties with calm, charm and good humour. Thinking through this list though that actually made me smile and allowed me access my natural optimist again.

Whatever happens over the next few months, I am sure I will meet some amazing people again. My doctors were all cool as shit - women I wished I had met at a party instead of these circumstances. I gained a greater appreciation for nurses once I actually needed them for real support. I will have a whole new list of funny stories to tell about my life and I will remind myself how I can put a positive twist on just about anything.

Thinking of you thinking of me gives me a lot of joy.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Japanese Kamikaze... Ramen Noodles?

Considering this blog had always referenced Japan, it is likely about time I actually do a post from this country! So here I am... Typing to you direct from Tokyo!

I can't say Tokyo was ever a specific destination on my bucket list until I started really becoming adventurous with food. While we have only been here a couple days in total, we have already experienced some delicious food. I attribute all amazing food finds to my husband... But also the very cool blogging duo on - - just saying you should check out their videos on YouTube... They are hilarious and fabulous!

Today we tried to chill out in the morning - the girls got up and started breakfast at 3:58am! I quickly quashed that venture and gave them both a small dose of melatonin to get them back to sleep. We are still dealing with minor amounts of jet lag to say the least.

We eventually headed off to Shinjuku with the specific intent of going to a top rated ramen restaurant we had selected called - Fuunji Ramen. We had primed the kids in the etiquette of the restaurant process and laid out the expectations very clearly. The food was spectacular and the experience felt very "local". With only 10 seats at the bar, we slurped our noodles and drank the amazing broth with haste and intent. The girls had their "we are total whities and don't know how to eat with chopsticks" chopsticks on hand and powered through a massive bowl of soup. I was very proud of their effort.

We followed this experience with a wander through a beautiful shopping district and then went to the Shinjuku Goyen park. The girls really appreciated the chance to run loose and we caught the tail end of the Cherry blossoms. The park was lovely. A side bonus was that we walked past a pet store... With the sweetest little BEAGLE! He was tiny, and while I think he was being touted as a puppy, he was a tiny older beagle with the sweetest face. We still have 6 days in Tokyo, and I think I can sway Jason towards a Japanese beagle rescue dog. The kids are already sold. Stay tuned to hear about a new addition to the family. 🤣

We followed up the park by attempting to find an American donut joint - Camden Blue Star donuts. There were some trepidatious moments with Google maps and fatigue and certain family members losing their filters, but we all know it is the journey and not the destination. The donuts were so posh and fairly pricey so we shared two with the kids - classic glaze and cinnamon. Sorry Tim Hortons, I may never eat a donut from you again. These were so light and delicious, unbelievable. This is not a family of sweet tooths - so having the kids say the donuts were one of the highlights of the day definitely says something.

We rounded it the day by hitting the Totoro store by the Skytree (right next to our Airbnb). Never have I wanted to but almost every object in a store before. What an unbelievable shop to any fans of studio Ghibli. So much cuteness.

Other observations from the day...
1. This city is the cleanest city I have ever seen.
2. Regardless of the number of people, it is the quietest place I have ever heard. Our condo is dead silent between 7pm and 9am.
3. All the men wear black suits and white shirts.
4. Japanese babies might be the cutest babies I have ever seen.
5. All the things in Japan are ridiculously cute. Like mind blowing cute.
6. Even the "crappy" food at 7-11 is exponentially more delicious then most top end fast food joints in Canada.

Ok. I better wrap this up, I have been accused of wordiness. I did fail too mention our day one in Tokyo which was in fact a day at Disney Sea. I endeavour to get back to that before the week is out, but in the meantime I can hopefully figure out how to attach my photos via mobile.

Until next time - arigato gosai mashita!