Monday, March 30, 2009

Breast Cancer’s Five-Year Journey Ended Today

Five years ago today we (spouse, family and I) waited for my left breast to heal from its lumpectomy before I could begin the next six-weeks of radiation. I did not know what was ahead. Every cancer survivor has felt this drift into cancer-treatment-oblivion. The scalpel had done its job; now my oncology battle blueprints included precise radioactive mechanics along with a five-year chemical assault.

The emotion remains obtuse. And this word, obtuse, I'm not sure if it is the correct one or not because I remain slightly addle-brained from the anti-cancer drug saturation.

Tonight's blog, however, is not about then. It is about TODAY. Yesterday I flew into Santa Fe so that, today, I could take my final 6th-month mammogram, and meet with both oncologists. Mammogram clean; blood samples clean. Oncologist One, gave me a hug and said, "Take the last of your Arimidex, and get on with your life. If you want, you can see me next year, but your primary physician is really all you need now." Oncologist Two said, "I can't promise that you won't be 'slightly addle-brained,' I mean, I'm your age and I struggle with names—but unless you notice something really odd, I don't need to see you again."

That's it. I'm done. My daughter and son-in-law brought home champagne and flowers. We hugged and hugged. I cried.

How much change has occurred within me since 2004? Enough change to write a book.

Would I do this again? I pray I don't have this decision to make again.

It's estimated that 211,000 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year. So, I am not that unique. Sadly, 40,000 will die from the disease. About 1,700 men are diagnosed each year with breast cancer.

The majority of diagnosed women will survive. They will survive, in part, because of the tireless work by the volunteers who walk, run, bicycle, and donate funds to organizations devoted to finding the cure.

Thank you.

It's my turn now. Maybe I'll see you on the next walk to find the cure.

Meet Mawser--he's the furball that let us know that something was wrong with me long before the humans discovered cancer inside my breast.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Whales, Death & Dragons

When our cable 'bundle' crashed yesterday (no phone/TV/internet) we took our evening chairs to the Pacific Ocean-facing window. A dozen or more northbound gray whales swam through the sunset-tinged waters. The cows and calves were close enough for us to see their backs and an occasional fluke. The twitch in my get-a-long relaxed with each new sighting of an incoming spout.

I can't explain how these marine mammals affect me, but they do. It's a feeling that is lost on words. My head clears and life's pages clarify.

This brings me to death and the death of a mother.

While engaged with our whale watch, my oldest daughter called in(my cell phone)her Caribbean vacation report. She shared the beach tales and our grandson's adventures. She then mentioned that she just heard that her friend's mother had died. Her friend I know, but her mother I don't. I was, however, aware that her friend's mother had been battling cancer for some time. It was a fierce mêlée that seemed to have made some positive changes until recently.

Specialists told her to go home and find her peace, there was nothing more that they could do. I imagine that she took her last deep breath, departed from her malignant body, and then swam into a sunset-tinged sea.

Leaving her beloved daughter behind could not have been easy, except that her fatal battle wounds forced her to accept, and maybe wish for a quick exodus.

Meanwhile, e-mails arrived from women who have survived cancer, or are still in combat with it, about the purchase of a dragon boat for us to paddle for both personal growth and competition. We intend to take this fight to the level of mastering the dragon while mindful of those who lost this battle because it can be bigger than our medicine.

The migrating mother whales and calves, the woman who died, the women who form an unlikely team of "surviveoars" and knowing that I'm blessed to still be near my daughters in this strange journey through life's seas, brings me to that place I found yesterday: A wordless sensation.

Monday, March 2, 2009

A Soon-To-Be Six-Oh-Dear! Inductee Writes

A California Girl, and a soon to-be-member of the Six-Oh-Dear Club, sent me the following e-mail. This woman, is an inspiration, and imagining her as one who has left her fifties behind, it unimaginable.

Charmaine.... I have six (count them.........6) more days to be that youthful age of "in my 50s."

I'm not a real birthday party kinda girl but a couple of weeks ago I thought What the Hell!!!????!!! I'm not taking this lying down!!!! No way...I'll show them (Them??Who's that?)

I had just put in a CD that my brother had made for me and as dorky as it seems, the sound track to the movie "Forest Gump" really rocked big time!
All those great sixties, seventies and eighties rock 'n roll tunes inspired me .I made a plan: PAAAAAAAAAARTY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I've invited a dozen or so friends and neighbors over on Saturday to back me up on my message ...Hell no, we won't take it!!!! I even told them all that I didn't want to have to cook for anyone and could it please be a pot luck. How's that?

Truth be told, I (like others, I'm sure) am fairly OK with this birthday. I mean, it's just another day. I just don't like the sound of that horrible word,"sixty". So I will either not ever use it out loud or I will totally embrace it (oh yeah). I am just going to go on as usual doing what I do in life. And no youngster better call me their "elder" as has happened in the past.

The good news, if there is any, is that I already had store clerks ask me ages ago if I wanted the senior discount! The first time that happened, my friend Julia Butterfly, "Of course she doesn't!" I've loved her ever since.

Another good bit of advice I've gotten lately was a friend who said, "Just look at it as a success."

How simple, why didn't I think of that ?
I'm hoping that the angst of arriving to this upcoming day is just that---the Arrival! And that once I'm past that day, everything will go back to normal. Please, tell me that it will.
So, my friend......I am ready for your words of wisdom.

So what say the Santa Fe Mother Blogger? Party on, Garth! The good news is that you get to do this just once. We'll be the last generation to collect our Social Security in a few years; and you can cancel a non-refundable, discounted flight on some airlines and not be penalized (which is good for you, oh traveling one). You can climb one of those mountains that require oxygen, and really laugh at the youngsters wheezing and trailing behind you. Now you have bragging rights. If your figure goes a bit south, you can blame it on age, not the extra scoop of ice cream. You don't havta take crapola from any one any more because you ARE the elder. You can reverse-mortgage your house in a few years. And now if you want to take a mid-day nap, you can. Now you can have fun shocking the heck out of folks you can't believe that you are in the Six-Oh-Dear! Club.

My birthday passed like the 59 before it. I felt better the day after realizing that I now have advantages I had not had prior. Party on, girlfriend!