Yesterday was a crap day.
Not even going to try to sugar coat that one, nor pretend that I dealt with it as best I could. In short – I didn’t. I just fell apart – multiple times, in front of my children, my cats, and some random guys who were here pounding really loudly on my kitchen floor. Yep, that was awkward.
So, here’s where I’m at. Really gross radiology appointment where I was first told I had a very suspicious mass that was likely cancer, followed (a few days later, no stress there) by a biopsy where I learned it was actually two areas, and then the phone call revealing both biopsy sites confirmed breast cancer.
Note – that few days between the radiologist telling me I’m likely in for one really difficult year to confirmation that it was indeed cancer was when the fear was craziest and I was barely functional. Really the only thing that kept me remotely able to get through the day emotionally was some serious anxiety medication from my health care provider that had me sleeping almost constantly.
Next was my initial meeting with my surgeon, and while that likely sounds super scary, it provided a small sense of comfort. She was soothing, honest and upfront about what she felt was going on – two fairly small areas likely not connected, and no obvious signs of spread to the lymph system from the radiology reports. She was straight up about my need for mastectomy instead of lumpectomy, but to be fair, I think there was almost a sense of comfort about that just because of who I am and where my mind travels during the dark. Knowledge is power, and she laid out something far better than what I had feared during those days between finding “something” and meeting her.
Then, the reconstructive surgeon appointment, which once again was oddly soothing. Part of it was just him – he’s very good, and deals with sad women thrown into this crappy situation all the time. Still, his large 3-ring binder filled with before and after photos provided a small sense of comfort, and the visual confirmation that a year from now, my new “me” might be ok (depends on “side boob” according to my friend Sarah, but let’s save that discussion for another day). Maybe the best part of that appointment was when he acknowledged that while this was emotionally devastating for me, that for him and for my cancer surgeon, I had what he referred to as “garden variety breast cancer”, and there’s this odd sense of comfort about being what they suspect is kind of ordinary in this situation.
Next up – surgery scheduling. Ok, here’s where the funkiness begins. Both of my surgeons practice at different hospitals, but connect a few times a month for people like me. They are also both kind of awesome, which is beyond fabulous for me, but not so easy in the hooking up for surgery department. On top of that, my breast surgeon was out last week on vacation, so my very sweet cancer coordinator could only tentatively schedule my surgery which we penciled in for April 4th – my birthday. She told me that the surgery was a bit later in the day than typical for my breast surgeon, and she didn’t anticipate a problem, but also didn’t want to interrupt her vacation to confirm so she said I’d hear back on Monday.
The trio has spring break this week, and (of course) the contracting company our insurance company has on board to help restore our dishwasher flood damage is starting their work this week. It was Monday afternoon before I realized I had not heard back, so I sent a quick email to my coordinator. That’s when I learned that she is now out of the office on vacation, and her fellow coordinator is helping her out this week, so I forwarded my note to her. It was late Monday by this time, so it didn’t surprise me that I didn’t hear back.
Yesterday (Tuesday) morning, I received an email from my coordinator’s partner, and that’s when I suspected an issue. Though I had explained that I was just waiting for my confirmation on the time for the 4/4 surgery date, instead her email was something like – ok, just confirming that we’re doing a double mastectomy with reconstruction, right? And then letting me know that the surgery scheduler would be calling me shortly with further details. Red flags were up – I took extra Prozac and made sure Elliott was up to date on his cannabis.
Late morning, I got the call – it didn’t go well. She told me she was confirming my surgery date for April 18th, and then I lost it. Literally just freaked out – not in anger, zero to ugly cry in 2.2 seconds complete with sadness/confusion/alarm & exceptional discomfort. I told her I was confused as we had been just waiting for a time confirmation on the 4th and she explained that the earlier procedure my surgeons are completing together on the 4th is a complicated case and they just couldn’t squish me in. I was devastated.
So, in the midst of all this, the guys working on preparing our kitchen floors for installation left our front door open, and the kids could not find our rescue kitten, Franni, who loves to run fast and climb tall trees. That said, here’s the scene, sad kids in tears about not being able to find Franni (except Elliott who just kept yelling “2 cats is enough – just let her go”, exceptionally loud pounding and sanding machines creating a sort of fog, and some emotionally difficult news from my surgery scheduling friends. All this, on the only decent weather day the kids are likely have this “spring” break in MN which naturally already has my mom guilt on high. Suffice it to say GIANT ANXIETY ATTACK.
I couldn’t even form sentences, so I texted Tom with the details, and he immediately sprang into action. He called Carol, who is the amazing coordinator the biopsy radiology center has that actually chooses to work with crazy people like me. She’s the kind of person I’ve always wished I could be more like, and has what I would imagine is one of the hardest jobs ever – calling people and telling them they have cancer. Believe it or not, she does it as gently and with as much grace and compassion as is humanely possibly. Rather than remembering for the rest of my life how horrible it was to get that phone call, what I know I will remember was the skill, care, compassion and heart that Carol utilized. She’s just all around good people.
You see, Carol is the reason I even got in with my surgeon. As often happens in my crazy life, different paths collided, and the sweet nurse that works with the biopsy radiologist who had my case was an autism mom. She even “got” what the heck I was talking about when I told her it would be difficult for me to drive up to Maplewood, get my original disk of scans, do an IEP meeting and then head off to a biopsy appointment in Edina. She went above and beyond to help me (we even talked social IEP goals for girls), and she hooked me up with Carol. Carol used to work with Dr. Bretzke, and had booked my appointment with her prior to even calling me with “the news”. She’s that good.
So Tom detected this was kind of a big deal to me (yes, I’m deleting some vocabulary words here that shouldn’t be in print but you can likely imagine them and insert them right here) and reached out to Carol – they were also breast cancer bff’s by now. She somehow worked some magic with people who help coordinate two ridiculously busy surgeons and their schedules, and I am now booked for surgery at 2 p.m. on April 6th. There’s a whole bunch of in-between that Tom hasn’t even shared with me about how this went down, but I’m certain it was gross. All in all, Tom Kramer is all right, and I am lucky to have him.
The 2 week delay thing – well, it was just too much. I know that it’s just my anxiety, but in my darkest moments, I can just see those sneaky, creepy little cells cruising around and hiding somewhere and every day that I wait around with my poisoned, bruised (from biopsy) right breast gets more difficult. Logically, that’s not consistent with what I’m hearing from my medical team, from the articles I’m reading, etc. but that’s just who I am, and the Prozac is not taking that away. The boobs need to go, as that’s when I’ll get more concrete answers about what the heck is going on in there, and the best ways to keep it away. Whew – I’m grateful my village worked some magic, and that the path ahead seems to be coming more and more into focus. It’s just a journey I’m not so comfortable with in general, but no one is, right?
About 30 minutes after this fun, a migraine came on at full strength, the pounding and sanding in the kitchen got louder, and the meds got stronger. It was just not my day – emotionally and physically, I was dangling at the end of my rope – and feeling like a crappy mom who doesn’t know how to share any part of this process with my trio without scaring the crap out of them. Autism and Breast Cancer are going to continue to be a very funky mix – I’m not at peace with facing both simultaneously yet, but it’s not my choice to make.
Frankly, everything about this is just overwhelming – people are truly good, and often junk like this brings out the very best in folk. It’s like having the creepiest thing imaginable (cancer in this case) remind you that no matter what, when something like this happens, your village appears, and shows up right now! It’s humbling – it just is.
Ok – two small ASD related updates because let’s face it – my breasts have dominated my thoughts and this blog a bit too much of late.
First up – E man. Remember all those amazingly long and depressing red couch posts over the past 2 years about how E and middle school don’t pair well? Since last spring, he’s been hanging out in his smaller, more structured school, and while we worked through a road bump or two – he’s been having some rock star success. Get this – I just received one of those IEP Progress Reports school sends out that usually make me want to puke detailing any progress toward specific IEP goals, and he’s already met 2 of his goals (remaining on-task with non-preferred tasks & appropriate social interactions including sensitive subjects). Best of all, because of his hard work, determination and appropriate self-advocacy, he started attending Henrys middle school last week (no, I’m fairly certain Henry still has no idea and yes, we told him) for a 1st period math class each day, and it has been very successful thus far! He told me he got to meet the Principal, but “not in a bad way – in a manners way”. E man rocks, and so does medical cannabis.
Second, Ada’s IEP was last week. Sure, IEP’s and breast cancer may not seem fun, but I’m going to flat out say it – this was by far the very best IEP we’ve ever had for Ada. Not because she doesn’t continue to face challenges navigating a mainstream setting as a girl with mild autism/language deficits, but rather because we’re all the on same page. Her team just “gets” Ada, and we even got to brain storm with one of the amazing special ed. coordinators to get some social goal ideas for girls (this can be quite tricky), and she had some great ones. Ada’s pride about her school and her blossoming social connections are hopeful, and I think we’re all prepared to hoist that bar just a little bit higher, and empower her to embrace 4th grade with zest. Ok – that was a bit overly optimistic, but I think you get it. The girl is happy, holding her own, and continuously trying to boss the brothers around – win-win!
No, I’m not purposely leaving Henry out here, but he has inherited my anxiety and is not quite himself at the moment. Positive goals & meetings forthcoming. That said, he has used spring break to share with Ada why people laugh when talking about the planet Uranus. I’m certain the 3rd grade educators will be thrilled with this development!
Last night, Ada and I were reading the new book our friends from Amazon delivered – “Have You Filled a Bucket Today?” which is a charming little story meant to encourage young folk to be kind and spread good will by “filling buckets”. The book maintains that every person has a bucket, but it is imaginary, and it can be filled or depleted based on your actions (you get the drift). My sweet, creative, somewhat literal Ada G really enjoyed this story, but struggled with the whole imaginary bucket concept. We decided to sleep on it.
This morning, I was doing paperwork on the red couch when she appeared at the top of the stairs holding a small stuffed t-rex, an overweight Siamese cat and mismatched pj’s and said “Mom, my bucket kind of hurts this morning”, and you know what? For some reason, that just made complete sense to me today. My bucket kind of hurts too . . .