Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Surgery August 9!

I’m loving all these trips to Lexington.   Jeff and I have been eating out, visiting friends, and enjoying some much needed pampering.  Lexington is home and always will be for me, and it’s a shame we haven’t spent more time in the past several years enjoying the company of friends and family.
Last night was...well…pretty amazing.  Debbie and Brian, the Lexington couple we met in Savannah, invited Jeff and I over for dinner.   Debbie served Lemon Drop Martinis for us ladies and Jeff and Brian drank beer.  How sweet, I thought.  They remembered what we drank at the restaurant.  Debbie, who could seriously give any Food Network chef a run for his/her money prepared the Olde Pink House’s BLT Salad, Jambalaya, and Key Lime pie!  Jeff and I laughed hysterically as Brian entertained us with his spot-on Jimmy Stewart, Bryan Williams, Keith Morrison (NBC), JFK, Nixon, Bill Clinton, and Julia Child impressions.  Their black lab Regis kept stealing my shoe and demanding rewards to retrieve it.   For a few hours, I forgot about why we were in town.
Liz and Barry have opened their home to us whenever we need it during this ordeal.  My head was still swimming from all of the wine with our new friends.  I collapsed on the couch with my head in Liz’s lap.  She stroked my hair until I almost fell asleep and said, “I have something for you.”  She handed me a Saint Agatha medallion.  “She’s the Patroness against breast diseases,” said Liz.  “Dang,” I said. “I love you Catholics.  You have a Saint for everything!”  The coin came along with a prayer and a footnote that five Hail Marys and five Glory Be’s must be said after it.  She recited them both in a quick, well-rehearsed prayer while I stared at the medallion.  It looked to be about one inch in diameter, the same size as my tumor.  I did what anyone would do under the circumstances.  I strategically placed it in my bra.
My appointment with my surgeon, Dr. A.J., was this morning.  After an examination, my entourage and I sat in another conference room while Dr. A.J. sat at the head of the table.  This time we were missing Jordan-he was moving today, but my sister Gail joined our party.   Peggy, the Oncology Nurse Navigator sat in the corner taking notes.  I had my notebook and Susan Love’s The Breast Book situated in front of me.  As always, the box of Kleenex was conveniently placed in the middle of the table.  I kept thinking…”Nope. Not going to need it. Not today.  I can already tell that I love and trust this surgeon.  The ball starts rolling now and I’m on my way to being cancer free!”  I nodded and smiled as Dr. A.J. confirmed and reiterated some of my newfound knowledge on my kind of breast cancer. Whenever I would glance at Peggy, the nurse, she was staring at me, trying to read my eyes.  I’m sure she thought I was in denial, but I’ve already graduated from that stage of grief.  I looked at Jeff, Lauren, Gail, and Liz’s faces and could see that they also knew that we had found the right doctor.   He spent over an hour explaining the different surgical procedures, i.e. lumpectomy vs. mastectomy vs. bilateral (double) mastectomy.   I do know this about myself:   Having two of my most feminine possessions-three if you count my hair, sliced and shaved off within the same time frame just might destroy my soul and this positive spirit that everyone seems to think I possess.   I’ve decided, for right now, to have the lumpectomy and lymph node dissection, on AUGUST 9, where he will remove the cancerous lymph node along with a few others.   Sixteen weeks of chemo will follow.  Shortly after the surgery, we will know the results of the BRCA gene test and the other lymph nodes he removed.  The plan will be slightly different depending on the outcome.  For now, I’m praying that the other lymph nodes removed are negative. 
Dr. A.J. left the room and Peggy explained in varying detail:   chemo, breast reconstruction, estrogen, progesterone, wigs, prosthetics, support groups, HER 2+, HER 2- and how with stage IIB Invasive Ductal Carcinoma, I “was going to make it through this.”  I told her, “Now that I know that I have an 83.5% chance of surviving five years or more (according to the chart in the Breast Book), my biggest fear was that cancer would steal my joy.”  Then, of course, I needed that damn box of Kleenex. Again. 

Then, Lauren had a plan that might alleviate some of my fears, and make this nightmare a little more bearable.  More information to follow….
Dr. Walid Abou-Jaoude "Dr. A.J."

St. Agatha

Saturday, July 27, 2013

More Blessings

·          “Who’s in your entourage?” said Susan, the nurse who drew my blood for the BRCA gene test.  “That’s my husband Jeff, my son Jordan, my daughter Lauren, and my friend Liz.”    She said, “You’re so lucky. You don’t know how many women come in here alone.  They arrive and leave in a taxi for their doctor appointments and chemo infusions.”   I burst into tears.  I hadn’t really thought about it.  I was caught up in my own little world worrying about things that no longer matter to me.  It’s almost as if cancer was intended to be my wake-up call to take better care of myself and to become more aware of the sick and lonely.   Under the best of circumstances (like mine), having cancer feels very lonely.  No matter how much love and support I’ve received from my family and friends, I feel alone.  Whether it’s to lend a shoulder or to join my pity party of one, I know that they’re here for me, but the “C” word has left a cloud over my head since 6/28.  Sometimes the cloud is gray and sometimes it’s black.  But it’s always there.    I can’t imagine the despair these women must feel in the taxicab rides to the oncologist.   The nurse apologized for making me cry and I thanked her for the new perspective. 

·         Before my mother died in 2003, I couldn’t care less about flowers or gardening.  It drove Mom crazy that I had empty flower beds all around the house.   We’d visit her in Akron and she’d walk the family around her house beaming with pride while identifying all of her flowers.   The flower names all sounded alike and I was anxious to get back inside where there was air conditioning.  My sister Gail felt the same way.   Digging (sweating), planting (sweating), weeding (more sweating) was just too much trouble and we both knew that we would kill the flowers and waste all of our money and time anyway.   Then something very strange happened.  Gail said that mom sprinkled some flower dust on us from heaven.  The first spring after Mom died, both my sister and I became obsessed with gardening.  We planted seeds, transplanted, weeded, then gradually learned enough about horticulture to have gardens with so many flowers and plants, even Martha Stewart would be proud.  This spring, I bought at least twice as many as I typically might plant.   It was as if God knew that this summer I would need to come home to seven blooming hibiscus bushes, dozens of happy Gerbera daisies, and some 10 ft. tall sunflowers to watch over me.  Before and even after D-day (Diagnosis Day), I smile when I come home and see the flowers. 
                              “My garden is my most beautiful masterpiece.”  -Claude Monet

·         Months ago, I had made an appointment to get my hair highlighted.   Despite my upcoming chemo treatments, which might begin next month, I decided to keep the appointment.  While there, a few of the staff had commented on my hair and how all my layers had FINALLY grown out.  They marveled at my hairdresser Hayley’s highlighted masterpiece and how much better my hair looked since I first met them in September.   With the help of the folks at Cha Cha’s in Lexington, I was finally happy with my hair.   I cried when Jason, the owner, refused to let me pay for the ‘do  “I may or may not have after chemo.”  I cried even more when Hayley hugged me and told me she loved me. 

·         I received an unexpected bonus!  It was just enough to buy an Ipad, a new toy I’ve wanted for years but felt too guilty to buy for myself.  I asked Lauren and Jordan, my “tech savvy” children to help me with the purchase.  We laughed hysterically in the Apple store while using the “PHOTO BOOTH” app.  already uploaded on my new tablet.   We made goofy faces and laughed at our distorted images until my stomach hurt from laughing.   I’m blessed to have children willing to make fools out of themselves in public…just to make me laugh.

·         While waiting for a table at The Olde Pink House in Savannah, GA in May, Jeff and I met Debbie and Brian, a lovely couple who lives in Lexington. They were “regulars” at the restaurant and highly recommended the BLT Salad, which had been touted as “the best thing I’ve ever tasted”  by a chef on The Food Network.  The salad more than lived up to its expectations and a new friendship began.  Debbie and Brian invited Jeff and I to their home the night before I meet my surgeon, where she will make The Olde Pink House’s BLT Salad and my favorite summer dessert- key lime pie!  

·         The KLC sales conference was this week.   Many of the employees usually get together at least one night for drinks in the bar downstairs, a hospitality suite in the hotel, or outside by the pool.   Sometimes a fellow sales rep named Clay brings his guitar and we all sing along with him to the tunes of Jimmy Buffett, Jason Isbell, Bob Seger, Lyle Lovett, or another artist I happen to love.   I’m usually singing off-key and wasting away again in Margaritaville until the party ends around 1:00 a.m.  This year, I went to my room at 8:30 and read fourteen pages of a prayer book that my friend Diane gave me last week.  When I found one that spoke to me, I read it aloud to make sure that it was heard.  I could hear the familiar laughs of my co-workers in the hallway as they walked past my door.    I needed to get some sleep and take care of my body…and my soul.  My, how things change.   

·         I knew that our sales force (several dozen of us) was a close knit group and have always looked out for one another.  Most of us have worked together and supported each other through illnesses and family tragedies for around 20 years.  After word about my diagnosis traveled throughout the lottery I was smothered with warm and genuine bear hugs by the most caring co-workers on earth.  If positivity is the key to my healing, I venture to say that after that sales conference, I must be cancer free! 

Sunday, July 21, 2013


It’s been a really good week, relatively speaking.  A good week (before June 28) might have meant that I made my quarterly quota,  planned a vacation, spent way too much money at the greenhouse buying flowers,  the kids called for no reason except to say they love us,  and Jeff and I watched a Breaking Bad marathon while eating popcorn in bed.  It’s different now.  Everything is different now.
The week started with a beautiful sunflower arrangement from my friend Liz.  Then, a miraculous story from a very faithful retailer who was told she had breast cancer.  She met with a surgeon and was preparing for surgery.  They performed another ultrasound and saw that the tumor was gone! Now THESE are the stories I want to hear!  I walked in another store and couldn’t find anyone at the counter.  When I heard laughter coming from the back room,  I tiptoed to the break room expecting to interrupt an employee meeting.  When I walked in, I saw five employees congregated around a computer screen.   I said, “What’s so funny?”  They swiveled it around so I could see MY BLOG!  Oh man, I felt like a rock star!  Another retailer that week shared the story of his father and his battle with breast cancer.  He, thank God, is doing well.  He said he really enjoys the personal stories in  “Keeping You Abreast”, especially the one about the gum in the urinal!  I was really surprised to see that this macho 30-ish year-old military man was interested in my blog.
The blessings continued to flow throughout the week.  I received countless messages of love, prayers, and well wishes before my Pet Scan.  One of my Facebook friends happens to be one of my best lottery customers.   This man, a former helicopter pilot in Vietnam, who is battling cancer himself, sent me a message that made my day…”If I could make it through those enemy tracer bullets trying to kill in Nam, you can make it through this.”  I’ve decided to take every positive message, quote, e-mail, and card I receive and laminate it.  I’m going to make a huge collage to help me through the rough times ahead. 
We had a lovely dinner one night with our new-found friends that Jeff and I recently met in Savannah.  They gave me a beautiful cookbook and I prepared the best dish I'd cooked in years!
I came home from the Pet Scan in Lexington and found a doll left by my co-worker Jamie, who’s been taking care of Buddy while we’re gone.  She said her daughter Rheagan wanted to give it to me because she thought it would make me feel better.
I never imagined in my wildest dreams that a great week would mean that I’d find out that my course of treatment is surgery, a “dense dose” of chemotherapy, followed with weeks of daily radiation.  It’s all relative, I guess.
The week ended with a phone call from my friend Sylvia.  We’ve been friends since we were in 3rd grade.  I thought about the days we hung out at Turfland Mall, thumbing through albums at Variety Records and eating tapioca pudding at Walgreens Restaurant.  I smile when I remember her coming over my house with a bag from Variety.  She said, “You HAVE to hear this new song!”  We were around 12 years old when she removed the sleeve off the green Elektra 45.  I remember the butterfly on the label and saying, “Bohemian Rhapsody?  Queen?  Never heard of them.”  We spent the rest of the day playing it over and over on my Fisher Price record player. We had to learn every word.  I flash back to our hours spent at Champs skating rink. I’m sure if you were to compute all the hours we spent there, it would add up to months, maybe even years.  I thought of her picking me up for school every day in her ’79 Camaro.  She would have my favorite song, “Just Once”, by James Ingram, queued on the cassette and ready for me when I opened the door.  I cringed when I recall the time we told our parents we were spending the night with each other and decided to take a cab (at age 12) to the Commonwealth Stadium to watch the fireworks on July 4th.   We stayed up all night laughing in the church playground behind her house.  The spring breaks, the boyfriends, the tears, the break-ups, the period of time I abandoned our friendship because of a boy, and her willingness to forgive me when said boyfriend was out of the picture, her being my maid of honor, me being her matron of honor, baby showers and birthday parties.  We skipped school in high school and took all of our classes together for the first two years of college.  But one of my fondest memories is…stuffed grape leaves.  Sylvia’s parents are Jordanian, but Sylvia and her sisters were born here.  Their house was like “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”, only on steroids.  Her parents spoke half English and half Arabic…all in the same sentence.  The house always smelled of middle-eastern spices, and many times…stuffed grape leaves…specifically HER stuffed grape favorite dish ever.  I’ve always wanted to find out her special recipe, but she, like many amazing cooks, has no recipe. She just “eyeballs it”.   This phone call from Sylvia a few days ago, was an invitation to meet at her mom’s house so we could make a batch together and LEARN THE RECIPE!   

Sylvia and her beautiful daughter Olivia drove three hours on Sunday to meet at her parents’ house in Lexington.  It was a fabulous day.  She taught us how to make and roll the grape leaves, and fed us more delicious middle eastern dishes. Her daughter serenaded me with “You Raise Me Up” in her pitch perfect soprano voice.  I went home with a full belly and a full heart.  For the first day in 23 days, I haven’t cried.     
Sylvia (right) & me.  Lafayette High School graduation -1982
3rd grade class photo.  Sylvia is the cute one in the pigtails on the left.  I'm the one on the far right in the back with the weird Beatles 'do.

Thursday, July 18, 2013


The PET scan was scheduled for 8:00 a.m. Thursday.   My friend Liz and her husband Barry have, God bless them, opened their home to us for whenever we have doctor appointments.   I have several other generous friends who also have offered as well.  I'm constantly amazed by the kindness most people have shown me in the last two weeks.  Grant, my 15 year-old Godson, even sacrificed his bedroom last night.   As Jeff slept beside me in Grant’s room, I stared at the photo on his dresser and remembered the day Liz took it.   He was about 5 or 6 months old and sitting on my lap. He was all chunky thighs and cheesy grin.  I thought about my own babies and how they’d be waiting for me at the oncologist’s office in the morning.  I looked over at my completely exhausted husband.  What a saint.  He’s obviously scared but trying to be brave and optimistic for me.  I knew I had to do whatever I could to fight this insidious disease. 
Like my friend Johnny Weber said, “the PET scan was a cake walk”.    They injected me with a glucose solution and since sugar loves cancer, it rushes to the cancer cells.  If that’s not enough to make me pass on a hot fudge sundae, I’m not sure what would do it.  I had to lie in a dark room, in a lazy boy recliner with a warm blanket from the toaster.    He wanted me to sit quietly for an entire hour while the solution circulated throughout my body.   Under any other circumstances, I would have been pretty content.  I had brought a prayer book given to me by a co-worker who said it comforted her through a very dark time in her life.  If ever I needed that book, it was now.  The room was dark, and it was important for me to relax, so I couldn’t get up to turn on the light.  I stumbled while saying my own desperate plea to God and decided I knew a few prayer warriors who seemed to have the fast track to heaven.  I grabbed my phone and messaged them for some last minute prayers.  The technician came in and asked if I was ready.  I took a deep breath and headed for the big machine that would soon determine my fate.  It only took 30 minutes but I had to remain completely still.  I had tears streaming into my ears and couldn’t wipe them away. was over.  He said I could finally go eat breakfast and head to Dr. Moss’s office for the results.  It wasn’t until I walked out that I realized I didn’t even ask the technician his name or thank him for his kindness.  After an hour with a stranger, I usually know their names, the names of their children, where they’re from and where they went to school. Give me two hours and I’ll find out a bit of juicy gossip or perhaps what they REALLY want to do when they grow up.  I was obviously not myself.
Dr. Moss enters the same conference room with my same entourage with the same chart. Only this time it had my results and for a few seconds, I couldn’t breathe.  “The PET scan shows that there’s no metastatic cancer.”  It hadn’t spread!  Liz and I cried, I thanked God, Jeff hugged me, Lauren flashed the biggest smile ever, and Jordan gave me a palm-reddening high five.    I have to let my sister Gail know the good news.  Whew.  Ok. Now what? The tumor still measures 2 ½ cm and the “suspicious” lymph node is about 1 cm.  The tumor is HER 2 negative (for all you oncology nurses and breast cancer patients and survivors).  She drew blood to test for the BRCA gene.  This is the gene which prompted Angelina Jolie to have a bi-lateral (double) mastectomy.  They test all young women (under 50) and here’s why:  If you test positive (and Angelina did) for the BRCA gene, there is an 85-90% chance that the cancer could reoccur in the other breast.  Given what I know now, I totally understand her decision to remove both breasts.  Now, there’s only a 5-7% chance of any woman testing positive for the BRCA gene AND it takes approximately three weeks to get the results.  I don’t want to have a lumpectomy and then find out afterwards that I tested positive and THEN have to have a total bilateral (double) mastectomy.   Two breast surgeries in a few months? How much can a girl take?  Dr. Moss used an analogy explaining that we needed to worry about the tiger in the room and not the mosquito flying around.  The closet pessimist in me kept imagining malaria.  I get it.  Odds are, I don’t have it.  But odds were one in 12.5 that I would get breast cancer. Yep. That’s the math. One in 8 women =12.5%.   I guess it’s unfortunate that KLC employees can’t play the lottery. 
Ok…back to Dr. Moss.  She recommended a very aggressive and highly toxic 16 week chemo treatment for me.  She thinks that since I’m young and healthy, I can handle it.  I’m sure that I can.  If it means I won’t have to deal with this again, I’ll bite the bullet. Unfortunately, there are no guarantees.  I can’t help but flash back to 1994, when we first moved to eastern Kentucky.  We took the kids to McDonald’s in Prestonsburg.  Jordan, who was around three years old, had to go to the bathroom.  Jeff took him in the men’s room and they both used their own urinal (each separated by a wall).  While washing their hands, Jeff noticed Jordan chewing on something. He said, “What’s that in your mouth?”  He opened his mouth to show a piece of gum.  Jeff said, “Where did you get that?”  He pointed to the urinal.  Jeff, horrified, washed his mouth, tried not to puke, and then got revenge by telling this story more times than any of us can count.   We were all convinced he would contract some horrible disease from the incident.  Thank God, it never happened.  I know that with time, good nutrition, and a positive attitude, my body can recover from this disease and Dr. Moss’s poison-of-choice for me.  It takes years to recover from chemo.  But, hey…. Thanks to the many prayers you've said for me, I’ve got time.

Jordan, age 4.   :)

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Power of Postive Thinking

It had been six years since my last mammogram.  I synched my mammograms and pelvic exams for two years thinking that I could get it over with in one day.  The women out there will totally appreciate this logic.  Why ruin two trips to Lexington a year, right?  I had a mammogram when I turned 40 and another at 41, then my gynecologist retired.  Shortly thereafter,  I started reading about the danger of all the radiation and began researching thermography.   Before I knew it, six years had passed.  Six years of researching a safer method of breast cancer.   How about that for irony?  I flash back to Mr. Ball’s 9th grade Core class at Jessie Clark Junior High.  It’s 1979 and he’s explaining this commonly misused word.    Irony: the use of words to express something other than and especially the opposite of the literal meaning    .  He asked the class for examples of irony.    Crickets chirped.   
Many have asked me if I noticed the lump or if I could feel anything.  No and no.  I did find another gynecologist and she examined me two weeks before this mammogram. She didn’t detect the lump either.  Since the biopsy, however, there is swelling and you can certainly feel…and even see it.    Everywhere I go, people want information, and I’ve never been shy….which leads me to the title of this blog…
My friend Nadina (my naturopath, in case you forgot) has spent the last two weeks drilling the importance of thinking positive.  Actually, her philosophy is to train the mind and the body will follow.   During my work day, I usually see about a dozen retailers.  Most seem to genuinely care and want to know details.  Then come the stories….everyone has an aunt, a sister-in-law, a friend, or a neighbor who has breast cancer.  They want to share all the details.  Here’s what I’ve heard just this week, “My friend in McDowell just died of cancer.  I think it was breast cancer…She was right around your age.”  Well, that’s just great.  Thanks.  Then I decided I was going to walk in with lots of positive energy and not mention it to anyone. Well, she already knew and said, “Oh, Ann…that’s so terrible.” I said, “I’m going to be fine. I’m going to beat this.”  She said, trying to prepare me for the worst. “My aunt thought that too, but it spread to her chest wall and her bones…..” Dear Lord.  I said, “Gee, thanks!”  She realized what she said and apologized.  It takes Nadina three hours every night to undo all that negative energy.
For years, I’ve witnessed first hand the law of attraction and the power of positive thinking.  Don’t we all know someone who has overcome a tragedy, health or otherwise, with an astonishingly positive attitude?  We also know people who call themselves a “sh** magnet”.  They seem to attract mayhem wherever they go.  I can’t afford any negativity.   I finally decided to interrupt anyone with a story to tell. “Please don’t tell me any stories unless they’re inspiring and uplifting.”  I wish I’d thought to do that before I saw half of my retailers.
I got a call from the man who will be performing my PET scan tomorrow.  He told me not to eat after midnight and it would take 1 ½- 2 hours.  He also mentioned that I needed to stay away from small children and pregnant women, as I will be radioactive.  Dear God.  Please let me sleep just a little tonight.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Oil & Water

I think I have a few male readers of my blog.  Most men (and probably women too) consider me a bit verbose and would prefer it if I “cut to the chase”.  For those of you know me, that’s almost impossible.  To truly understand someone, you have to know where they’ve been.   So, if you’re wanting to know my official diagnosis (so far) and my oncologist’s recommendation for me, just scroll down the last paragraph. 
It’s been 14 days since the atomic bomb dropped in my little world.   There were a few sporadic moments over the weekend when I actually forgot about it: playing Taboo with the family, eating burgers by the pool, and pruning my rose bushes.    My friend Cinder, the breast cancer survivor and eternal optimist, insists that we have the right to play the “C” card whenever we want.  I’ve yet to find the right moment to use it.  I’ve tried it and the joke falls flat.  It’s just not funny. Not yet. Not until I make it to the end of this “pink path” everyone keeps talking about.  Ugh. Pink used to be my favorite color.  I’m still not sure what to think when Jeff and the kids now laugh at my corny jokes instead of rolling their eyes.  Over the weekend, Lauren even helped clean the house and collated and stapled 78 of my newsletters and stuffed my retailer bags (a monthly time-consuming job which I used to have to pay the kids if I wanted help).  As much as I love to make them laugh or see them help, I miss my life 15 days ago….when it was “normal”. 
Nadina, my naturopath, is trained in many areas of homeopathy:  Bio Meridian, massage therapy, sound therapy, essential oils, applied kinesiology, sclerology, Reiki, iridology, meditation, and so many other fields, but most importantly to me…she’s an expert in nutrition and vitamins.  She believes that the right foods can heal the body and that speaks to my sensibilities.   She’s been all over the world to learn how to heal people naturally. She’s been trained in China and Equador and will be going to Central America in February.  She’s the one who said, “Get your butt over here!” after reading my Facebook post asking for doctor recommendations.  She first wanted to use a Bio Meridian to test what was going on inside my body.  She sprayed my hands with water so that when I held the metal barrel, it would act as a conductor. My other hand was placed on a tray which was attached to a computer.   The machine emits a frequency into the body and helps open up the pathways to meridians without needles (acupuncture).  It shows you the micro organisms, bacteria, and parasites in your body. It detected in me: “an ademona with fibrous tissue forming of dense stroma in the breast...and an amoebic abcess on the liver.”   It uses terminology from Tabor's Medical Dictionary.   Nadina gave me Essiac Tea (a proven cancer fighter since 1922), Liquid Chorophyll (to help cleanse the blood), a colon cleanse, and rubbed various essential oils on my breast and armpit (for the lymph node). She then placed warm towels on the area. This process draws out infection and parasites.  Imagine the worst sunburn you’ve ever had.  You know….the kind with blisters. Then imagine that someone rubbed Tiger Balm or Icy Hot on top of it, and then put a warm towel on top.  Then imagine that they put an iron on low setting and pressed it firmly upon said location- all of this on one of the most sensitive areas of your body!   I immediately thought of the movie Rambo when Sylvester Stallone, after pulling shrapnel out of his side, sutured the wound with gun powder and lit a flare.  I needed a leather strap to put between my teeth.
After rubbing lavender on it to ease the pain (lavender is great for burns), she talked a long time about how your physical body (cells) are affected by your brain. She went into some detail about how the dendrites in your brain actually change their shape when you change your way of thinking.  This affects every cell in your body, including cancer cells.  She impressed upon me the importance of visualization and meditation (I struggle with that one. I can’t get my mind to slow down for one minute!).  I promised I’d be back the next day for more of her TLC.  It was the most calm I’d felt since June 28.   That hasn’t happened often because I’ve been seeing my retailers for the first time since my diagnosis.  It’s drained me because with every sales visit, I’ve gotten so many hugs and so much love, I’m usually sobbing when I get back out to the car.  Then I have to try to get myself presentable for the next stop.   And it starts all over….I’m not complaining. I feel blessed to have so much love in my life. I’m just emotionally exhausted.
I told Jeff about my experience with Nadina and how conflicted I was about the orthodox treatment plan I knew I would hear on Thursday.  Jeff said, “Whatever you choose, it will be the right decision.”  Well, obviously, I made the right decision in marrying him!  I haven’t always made the right choices in my life, but who has?   I had to trust in God to show me the way.
The following day, while driving down the road, I prayed out loud, “Dear God, please point me down the right path and light it really bright so I don’t miss it.” Minutes later, Nadina called me and said she had called her friend in Florida and asked for help. She’s in the same field AND fought breast cancer with no chemo or radiation.  She recommended an iodine supplement that she started after her diagnosis.  I smiled and wondered how many signs I’ve missed in my life because I’ve been so busy.
On the way to the doctor, while Jeff drove, I checked my e-mails and FB messages.  One was from Maria Burton, a former classmate who is living in Texas.  Whenever I see her photos and posts, I’m impressed by her positive outlook, her health and fitness, and her love of life.  I know she’s a Wellbeing Coach, Shaklee Business Owner, and Practitoner and Teacher at Reikimaster.  The woman is who I’ve wanted to be for the last decade.  I just needed to be fit and now….healthy.
I asked what she would do if she were me.  After contemplating my question, she told me something I never knew. She was also told she had cancer.  She fought it with blackstrap molasses, chamomile tea, meditation, visualization, detoxification, clean food, 100% whole food vitamins, and used an “in-light Wellness System”.  The “little dudes”, as she called them, are gone. Her journey let her down a path to become one of eight (the first in the country) to be certified to be a quantum light energy coach by the Board of Natural Health Sciences.  Needless to say, after reading that, I’m very hopeful and inspired.  Then, minutes later….
My appt with Dr. Moss was Thursday.  My blood pressure was 140/96, the highest it has ever been. Typically, it’s low, and stays around 95/60.   “To be expected,” said the nurse.  Jeff borrowed a digital tape recorder from a co-worker and we were armed with that, a little bit of knowledge, and pages of questions in my notebook.  My entourage (Jeff, Lauren, Jordan, and my dear friend Liz), all went into a very hot conference room.  The mood was tense so I thought I’d lighten it…”This is the first time I’ve seen the three of you sitting together. Let me take a picture.” The kids commented on how weird that would be (given where we were), but scooted together and asked if they should smile, Dr.  Moss walks in and introduces herself.  She’s really young to be an oncologist, I think.  She explained what she knew.  She said I had a 2 ½ cm tumor on my left breast. Wait.  I thought it was 2 cm. I knew it was one inch but for some reason remembered the radiologist telling me that it was 2 cm.  Don’t they know that the metric system never caught on here?   The first sentence and it’s already bad news.  Given my previous research, I learned that if it’s over 2 cm, you’re automatically advanced to stage ll.  Then she said I was estrogen receptor positive and progesterone receptor positive.  I said, “Wait a minute.  I’m on progesterone (bio-identical hormones) to balance out my high estrogen levels.  My regular doctor told me I was a sitting duck for breast cancer.”  Dr. Moss said that the estrogen AND the progesterone were feeding the cancer.  Now I’m really mad. I can feel my face burning.  No wonder I don’t trust most doctors!   I asked Dr. Moss about her knowledge on alternative medicine.  After all, the nurse practitioner at St. Joe recommended Dr. Moss because of her knowledge and acceptance of natural medicine.  She said that her knowledge was limited to a class she had recently taken and didn’t have a problem with it as long as it didn’t interfere with her treatment plan.   I’m beginning to learn that in the real world, traditional and holistic medicine beliefs mix like oil and water.  The lymph node was suspicious so she wants to do a PET scan to see if the cancer has spread.  If there are no tumors anywhere else, she would recommend a lumpectomy with radiation.   When performing the lumpectomy, the surgeon will be able to detect any positive lymph nodes by injecting a radioactive dye around the tumor.  If any are positive, they’ll remove them.   Of course, much of this is just speculation considering that the PET scan is next Thursday.  She’ll have the results within hours.  That same day I’ll meet Dr. Strifling, the surgeon.   After the group discussion, she wanted to do an exam.  She noticed the red burns from the oils on my breast and underarm and looked worried. I explained the essential oil treatment I had the day before.  She said, “Ann, I just want to prepare you that chemotherapy will most likely be my recommendation. “  I cried like a baby and she held me for a few minutes.  At that moment, I thought, “Maybe she’s not so bad.”

My oncologist Dr. Moss

Monday, July 8, 2013

Natural Cures?

After learning about my cancer diagnosis, one of my co-workers said, "But you're the healthy one!"  I had to laugh. I'm at least 20 lbs. overweight, I don't really exercise (“shopping is my cardio”-guess where I stole that line?), and for decades, I’ve gotten 5-6 hours of sleep a night.   But I do have the best of intentions.  My whole life, well maybe since I was about 11 or 12, I’ve been obsessed with losing weight.  You name the diet or the pill, during my teens, 20’s and 30’s, I’ve tried it.  After all, the FDA has approved it (Ha!).  Oblivious to the side effects at the time, due to vanity- not health-I was obsessed with losing weight.  I’ve gained and lost 25 lbs. dozens of times.  I’m 5’8” and big boned…wait…actually I’m 5’7” since my back surgery in 1999.  People would say, “But you’re tall and big boned. You can carry more weight.”  Maybe so, but I was and still am… 20-25 lbs. heavier than I want to be.   So I spent at least a decade eating low fat garbage. You name it. Wow! Chips, Snackwell cookies, Weight Watcher dinners and snacks….   I’d wash them all down with a Diet Coke thinking I was making the best food choices.  Oh boy. 
Then…I’m ashamed to say what happened next.  I bought a book.  A really badly written book by a shady character named Kevin Trudeau.  The book is called Natural Cures They Don’t Want You to Know About.  This purchase was made long before I relied on Amazon for my book reviews.  I had no clue that the man was a sleazy fraud when I bought the book.  He’s a terrible writer, but I was intrigued by the content.  There’s something appealing to me about anyone willing to blow the whistle on a company, the government, FDA, Big Pharma, Monsanto, CAFO’s (Concentrated Feeding Lot Operations), etc. and risk their careers and reputation.  Mr. Trudeau never claimed to be a doctor.  He was a consumer advocate and researcher (and greedy felon).  Whatever the case, I’m grateful he piqued my interest.  It was around 2005 at the time and I had recently turned 40.  My energy level wasn’t the same and I was searching for an answer.  I wanted to feel better and I didn’t want to take any more medicine.  I also needed to get my weight under control.  I was very skeptical of the content in the book: the corruption within Big Pharma and the FDA, and Monsanto (yes, this was eight years ago!), but I knew I needed more information.  He cited many websites, which led to me purchasing dozens of books.  The more I read,  the more hungry I was to know more.   He cited many reputable authors as his source of information such as Andrew Weil, M.D., Michael Pollan, T. Colin Campbell, M.D., Joel Fuhrman, M.D., and Marcia Angell, M.D., (The Truth About the Drug Companies) who spent two decades at the New England Journal of Medicine, and confirmed each and every disparaging story I’d ever read about the corruption of the FDA and Big Pharma (the pharmaceutical industry). 
During that time frame, Dr. Oz was on Oprah every Tuesday.  I always recorded Oprah and Tuesdays were my favorite.  Dr. Oz, a cardiothoracic surgeon at New York-Presbyterian Hospital, wanted to educate America on their health.  For an hour every Tuesday, in addition to talking about poop, he confirmed many of the facts in Natural Cures.  I was shocked that Dr. Oz, with the popularity of a rock star, and Kevin Trudeau, a fraud and felon would have anything in common.   I decided in the summer of 2005, while living in eastern KY that we were going to eat 100% organic!  I had to laugh when I thought how ridiculous that sounded.  After all, some people were still buying lard in five gallon buckets at the local Food City.  At the time, there were NO organic fruits and vegetables in the produce section.   The only organic label you could find was on canned vegetables.  We would have to go to Lexington and stock up. At the time, there were two choices: Good Foods Co-op on Southland Drive and Wild Oats in Lexington Green, and of course the Farmer’s Market in downtown Lexington.  I told Jeff about all of the pesticides and chemicals in our food and insisted we change our ways.  Jeff was on board.   Soon after, our grocery bill literally tripled and then we began eight consecutive years of (exponentially growing) tuition.  We decided that something had to give and of course it had to be our new “hippie” diet.  (I’ve heard that said many times).   After that, we tried to buy organic at home whenever possible, and were more conscientious about labels.  Once we switched back to conventional food, everything tasted like chemicals, as if someone had accidentally mixed soap or Windex in the recipe.  I couldn’t believe I never noticed that before.  Was I really killing myself slowly?  Even worse, was I killing my family? 

My intention for this post isn’t to “blame” Monsanto, the FDA, Big Pharma, Big Food, or even myself for getting cancer.   It’s just to talk about my journey here.  Was I drawn to this book because I instinctly knew that something was wrong or was God wanting me to use HIS medicine (organic food and herbs) to prevent this cancer that might have just began to grow?  I know that if I choose to use traditional cancer treatment (chemo, surgery, and radiation….), I must change my attitude about it.  After all I’ve read, is that possible? 
I have over a dozen more on my Kindle and a few which have been loaned to friends.  With the exception of the one from the American Cancer Society, I've read them all.   

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Invasive Ductal Carcinoma

I was relieved to be able to work at home that day.  One day a month, I compose a retailer newsletter and it usually takes me all day.  Honestly, I needed a distraction.   I knew that there would be many days ahead where I would have to miss work and needed to “make hay” while I still could.   While copying and pasting pictures into the newsletter, I thought back to the days when I took all of those retailer photos.   It struck me how quickly the world can change.
When the phone rang, I recognized the number immediately.  St. Joe Breast Center.  My voice was quivering when I said hello.  “My I please speak to Elizabeth Damron.”  I recognized Dr. Brown’s voice immediately. “This is she.” 
Her voice softened and she spoke very slowly this time.  She’s from northern Kentucky and normally talks a mile a minute.  When I first met Dr. Brown, I immediately thought, “She reminds me of Jennifer…”  Jennifer is a fellow sales rep. at the lottery and from the same general vicinity as Dr. Brown.  When Jennifer speaks, I’m always amazed that her brain and voice can keep up with each other.    Both women are very bright and very experienced in their professions.  Since I moved from Lexington to eastern Kentucky nineteen years ago, my accent and the speed of my speech has changed considerably.  She intuitively realized this and spoke very cautiously.
“I have the results from the mass in your left breast….. it IS cancer. The strain is called Invasive Ductal Carcinoma.  I’m sorry. I wish I had better news.  I don’t have any news on the lymph node yet, but when I do, I will call you.  Do you have any questions?  (Silence) Have you given any thought to which doctors you want on your team?”   I said, “My friend Cinder recommended Dr. Gohmann as an oncologist, but now that I have the official diagnosis, I’m going to post a status on Facebook and ask for more recommendations.”  She replied that it was important that I make an educated decision and felt comfortable with it.  A few extra days weren’t going to make a difference.
As quickly as cancer cells multiply, that was hard for me to imagine.
I needed to call my boss, Jeff.   I was so touched by his kindness and compassion. He said not to worry about work and to focus on getting well. I got a big lump in my throat when I imagined the poor souls who had no support from their employers.   Suddenly, my job, which many say has consumed me for eighteen years, was no longer my obsession.  I have a new project and it’s not Keno….or promoting the next big jackpot. It’s healing.  That’s it.  My family insists on it and now, so does my boss.  I’m realizing that I need to make a big change and put myself first on the list. 
Now it was time to ask for help.  I posted a status update on Facebook asking for recommendations for doctors.  Once I clicked on “POST”, my notification button was growing like the National Debt Clock billboard on Sixth Avenue in Manhattan!   Wow. I couldn’t believe how many people cared about me.  Not only did I receive over 100 responses, I got dozens of private messages offering prayers and recommendations.   What’s more, total strangers saw my post (via a mutual friend), and took the time to send some very inspiring messages. 
It confirmed what I already knew. Most people are inherently good and want to help others. 


Saturday, July 6, 2013

Faith of a Mustard Seed?

I would consider myself a spiritual person.  I believe in God and the power of prayer, however, I'm not a particularly a religious person.  What does that mean?  It means that if you were to start quoting bible scriptures and add a few words or even quote the wrong disciple, I wouldn't know the difference. 

I can't help but wonder (For the Sex and the City fans...I sound like Carrie Bradshaw)....Does God listen to all prayers or just the ones from those who don't play hookie from Sunday School?  I'm not talking about just sleeping in on Sunday morning....

Every Sunday, for years, my mom, dad, and sister Gail would go to church at Gardenside Baptist Church.  My mom would sometimes teach Sunday school and I remember her often working on art projects for vacation bible school.  One day, the pastor knocked on our door.  I remember thinking it was really weird that Brother Heard would come to our house.   He quoted some scriptures (which of course I don't know) about tithing and how my parents weren't measuring up.  Mom was infuriated.   I mean seething mad.  So mad that I remember thinking that all of the time she spent volunteering to teach Sunday school, drive us to hospitals and nursing homes to comfort the sick and lonely,  were suddenly forgotten by God.  She had used words I hadn't heard yet.  She said, "That's it. I'm never going back there again."  

Well, I didn't want to quit going to church.  Not because I was overly anxious to praise God.  At seven or eight years old, I had a crush on the youth minister.   I remember Bother Gary on his knees at the front of the aisle during the weekly "invitation". The children in the congregation were singing Just As I Am. It was Mother's Day and the children's church was packed.  All I remember was seeing Gary on his knees, holding a little girl's hand and whispering in her ear.  I didn't know why they were up there but I knew I wanted him on his knees holding my hand and whispering sweet nothings in my ear.   It turned out that because of my desperate need for attention from this kind and gentle man, I was getting dunked in the baptismal pool in front of the entire church the following Easter Sunday. My parents attended that service. It might have been the last one we attended as a family.
A year or two later, after my crush had moved to another church,  the church bus would pick up Gail and me in front of the house. Mom and Dad would give us a dollar each for the offering plate.  Sometimes, we'd skip church and spend our tithes at the Donut Days next door.  Mom and Dad would ask what we learned at church and we'd say, "Eh. Same old stuff."  Meanwhile, our stomachs ached from having three donuts each.

Since then, I've said many prayers.  Some of them were of gratitude and thanks, but most were because I needed something:  "Lord, please don't let my parents get divorced"..."God...please save Jeff's brother Gary." (being a pastor with a previous near death experience, I figured God would HAVE to save him.)...."Please help my friend  and co-worker Tom..."...."Jesus, don't take my friend Wanda,"...."Please don't do this to Jeff again and take his brother Phil."...."Oh God, please give Lauren the strength to make it through this interview so she can get into the Interpreter Training Program."...."Please comfort my dear friend Liz who's mother was murdered."....and then, for Jeff's one remaining brother, "Please heal Jeff's brother, Steve"....and for Gail's husband Shane who was in a horrific car accident..."Please let him live...soon downgraded to "please save his arm..."..then to "take away his pain."  There are so many more.  But my most fervent and desperate prayers were for my parents.  My prayers have never been more desperate than they were in the 1994, when Daddy was dying of cancer and in 2003 when Mom was battling emphysema.   When they both died, everyone said it was God's will.  They said God has a plan for each of us.  Does it change when we pray?  Just maybe that tumor was only a cyst and the radiologist was wrong.  Was that too much to ask for?  

My younger sister Gail and me, waiting for the church bus on Easter Sunday, 1974.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Day 3

Day 3

Dr. Edwards said, "You're killing yourself slowly."   I knew I had to get some sleep. Each time I closed my eyes I imagined a bomb ticking inside my chest.  As the minutes went by, the bomb would start ticking faster.  I couldn't sleep for more than a few minutes at a time and woke up shaking and crying.  Jeff would hold me until I dozed off.  Dear God, I don't know how people endure this without love and support of someone here on earth.  For a few minutes, I felt lucky.  I told Jeff that if one of us were to get cancer, I was glad it was me.  I know that I couldn't be the rock that he has been these past few days.   

"You need to start thinking about what team of doctors you want.  You need an oncologist, a surgeon, and a plastic surgeon,"  said the radiologist.  I then thought about my friends Cinder and Jo Ann who are officially "Breast Cancer Survivors".  Does any woman ever "survive" this?  How do you live without having the constant fear....terror, really...that this will happen again?  She said I need to surround myself with positive and encouraging people.  Cinder is the most positive person I know. She's always made a party out of the seemingly smallest events.  I'm flashing back to an e-mail she sent her friends telling us the bad news.  I remember one comment saying, "I'm getting new girls to hang out with me...the old ones were getting to be a drag anyway."  I also remember a group e-mail to all of her friends saying, "Come by and see my new girls!"  I needed to talk to her and find out what team of doctors she used.  But she's in Africa on a mission.  She's been posting beautiful photos of elephants, giraffes, and the smiling children in Africa who now have among many other things: new backpacks, new shoes, and a new swing set for their school.   I told you she was positive. :)   I sent her a message and waited for a response.  I  tried to remember what the world was like before the world wide web.  Women had to pick up their rotary phones and actually sit down beside the three foot phone cord and ask if they knew of any good doctors. Meanwhile, the bomb was ticking in their chests.  I kept imagining my cancer cells multiplying.   No wonder I can't sleep.  I took a Melatonin and finally slept four hours in a row.

Day 2

Day 2
I called my sister, Gail.  "They're over 95% sure I have breast cancer."  She gasped.  She's 45 and three years younger than I am.  She said, "I always thought, if one of us got cancer, it would be me."  I heard her exhale the smoke on her cigarette and said, "Honestly, me too."  She said, "We're going to get through this together."  I cried and said, "I don't want to lose my breasts."  She said, "They're just boobs."   Yeah.  But they're MY boobs.  I've had them since I was thirteen and they are a part of me.  "But you can get implants and have smaller, more manageable "perky" ones."  All I could see in my mind's eye was my chest covered with gauze and me being frozen with fear too afraid to remove it for the first time.  Gail was trying to make me laugh.  She knows how much I love to do it.  For those of you who have never met her: I'm the quiet, shy, tactful one who thinks before they speak. 

I was drained by the thought of calling the remainder of my family and my friends and re-hashing the details.  She said, "Do you want me to call Dale? (my stepfather)"  Feeling guilty about not dropping this bomb on my own, she said, "You don't need to worry about anything else. I'll call him."  I was grateful and relieved.  I decided to send an e-mail to a few close friends asking to pray for a miracle, still holding out for hope that the doctor was wrong.  I couldn't believe I had to wait four more days for the test results!

I tried so hard to get the image out of my head. This cancer has spread.  I remember my first visit to a doctor I finally trust.  That was March 2012.  I knew something was wrong.   I was so tired. Very much unlike me.  She said I was vitamin deficient and loaded me on mass doses of various vitamins.  My liver enzymes were elevated, probably due to the Tylenol I was taking for my headaches, which were probably a result of my vitamin deficiencies. She gave me a test kit with seven small bottles. I had to spit in a test tube every day for a week, freeze it and on the seventh day, Fed-ex it to the lab.   The results said I was estrogen dominate.  She prescribed bio-identical hormones to balance the estrogen and progesterone and said.....

"You're a sitting duck for breast cancer."  

Of all the issues, she was most concerned about my sleep (or lack of) habits.  For many years, I would pride myself on not requiring much sleep.  I've always been an A-type personality and would work and play (usually work) until I literally dropped. I'd collapse in the bed and fall asleep immediately.  I once asked Jeff a question. He answered me and I jumped. I had fallen asleep somewhere between the question and the answer. How long could that have been?   Three seconds?  I laughed when I told Dr. Edwards this story. She stared at me with a straight face, and said, "You are slowly killing yourself."

I downloaded I couple of books on my Kindle about breast cancer and inspiring stories of survivors.  I read a few pages and realized that I need to bite this off and chew very small pieces at a time.   I wondered what type/strain/stage I had and prayed that it hadn't spread. Were those elevated liver enzymes more than just side effects of the Tylenol?

I pinched myself hoping to wake up from this nightmare.

Day 1

Friday, June 28    Day 1

It started as a normal day. Well...not really normal.  I actually took the day off so that I could tag along with Jeff.   He had a deposition that day and I had to get an ultrasound at St. Joe Breast Center.  They had called me back after a routine mammogram saying that it was different than my previous mammograms and I needed to get an ultrasound. I asked the lady on the phone if I needed to worry.  Then came the canned speech, similar to the form letter implying that many women are called back and a small percentage of them actually have cancer.  As I usually see the glass half full, I not only tried not to worry.  I'm contemplating lunch and dinner plans (we don't get out much).  
Jeff drops me off at my 12:30 appt. and heads out for errands and his deposition.  I told him not to worry about picking me up because Lauren, who's off work for the summer, could do it.  
I looked at my watch and asked the radiologist how long this was going to take because my daughter was going to be here in an hour.  She asked how old she was and I said, "Twenty-six. She just got married in October. I also have a 21 year-old son who goes to UK.  My phone is on the chair. Let me show you their picture."  The assistant handed me my phone with Lauren and Jordan on the phone case cover.  They looked at the photo..and then at each other and then at me.  "I'm VERY worried," she said, "VERY worried."  I'm sure I had a confused look on my face, so she turned the screen so that I could see a screen like the one I saw when I was pregnant and life was growing inside me.  I saw a black mass in the middle of the splotchy screen. She measured it just like the technician did 21 and 26 years ago to measure the sizes of my babies' heads.  My voice cracked.  "How big is it?"  It's 2 cm.  Since I never really grasped the metric system, I looked even more confused.  She said, "That's about an inch."  The radiologist then checked my armpit on the same breast. She said , "Your lymph node looks suspicious."  When she showed me what my other "normal" armpit looked like, I saw an obvious difference.  That's when I started shaking.  Almost every one of us has a family member or friend who has faced the Big C. The first question that many ask is, "Is it in the lymph nodes?"  I was trembling uncontrollably.  She said that they needed to do a biopsy to determine if it was cancer.  I asked the radiologist her opinion.  She said that the National Blah Blah Blah prevented her from saying that she was any more than 95% sure.  "With that being said...I'm 95% sure. Do you want to do a biopsy now or schedule it for later?"  Who would actually say "later", given the circumstances?  The biopsy procedure was virtually painless.  They numbed me with Lidocaine and made a  very small incision, There were a few clamping noises. I didn't watch. For the lymph node, they performed a needle biopsy, wherein they insert a needle and "catch" a few cells.   If it comes pack positive, it's positive. If it comes back negative, then it's only 75% accurate. 75% sure wouldn't give ME any comfort.   
She said she knew I was shocked and asked if I wanted to call anyone.  I said, "My daughter is in the waiting room.  Can you get her?"  She said, "Will her presence help you or upset you?  I said, "I don't know but she needs to be here.  Jeff will be out of his deposition soon."  She asked if I could reach him, implying urgency and adding to my terror. I said, "Before you get Lauren, can I go to the bathroom?"  She helped me tie my gown because my hands were shaking.  She lead me to the bathroom and I dropped to my knees and threw up.

I had a flashback of showing up at St. Joe Hospital to visit my dad. He had just had his gall bladder removed. His planned laparoscopic surgery turned into the traditional cholecystectomy because of a previous hernia operation.    He was lying flat on his back and asked me to sit down. "I have cancer," he said. "They sent my gall bladder to the pathology lab 'cause that's what they do whenever you get anything removed.  "Doc" came and sat on my bed and said he was shocked to give me the news...he didn't see it coming."  He unsuccessfully fought back tears and said, "I'm going to fight it." That was December. He died in April.

When Lauren came in, my role changed from confused and terrified victim to mother.   I wanted to get this right 'cause someday she might remember this day like I remember sitting beside my Daddy's bed. He was 52.  I was 29.  She walked in and all I remember saying was, "Hi baby. It doesn't look good." She hugged me, sat on the exam table with me, put her head on my shoulder and cried.  I told her that we didn't know for sure. There's always hope but I'm preparing myself for the worst.  The radiologist is over 95% sure.  I said that if you're a woman and you have to have cancer, breast cancer is the kind to have.  I had read that somewhere. They took us to a small room where they talk to families and give them bad news.  But those are other people's families. Not mine.  Soon thereafter, Jeff shows up and the radiologist introduces us to the nurse practitioner, who introduces herself.  She wants us to know her history, but all I heard was, "I'm from ...(I have cancer)....I've worked with breast cancer patients for... (I have to have chemo).....years and have helped many women navigate...(Oh my God. I may have to have a mastectomy)....The radiologist said, "I know it's scary, but over 180,000 women get breast cancer every year and 40,000 women die of breast cancer." I don't know if I actually laughed out loud.  It immediately occurred to me that she's never been a salesperson.  I was imagining myself with my innate  sales skills,  trying to do the math in my head..."Every year over 180,000 women get breast cancer and eighty-three percent survive..."  Her voice was soft and compassionate.  I couldn't be mad at her. She was doing her best at comforting all of us.  I couldn't judge her because I'd be a terrible doctor.  Let me re-phrase. I don't trust most doctors.  I'll save that rant for another post but I realized that my opinions didn't only effect me once I looked at Lauren's face after I asked, "What are your opinions on alternative and holistic medicine?" She's like me...terrible at poker.  I saw panic.  The nurse gave me a 3 inch thick book written by the American Cancer Society on "complementary" medicine which she said she had read.  She gave me her copy, which looked brand spanking new.  The radiologist mentioned her best friend who is a naturopath in Oregon who told her that there are no good naturopaths in Kentucky.  I thought of Nadina in Paintsville. I beg to differ.  They said the biopsy results would be in Tuesday or Wednesday for the lump, and probably longer for the lymph node.  Now we had to tell Jordan and the rest of the family.
Jeff is the rock.  Strong and stoic when he thinks he needs to be.  Jordan is the eternal optimist.  If anyone ever complains about a bad day, he'll say, "well at least________".  He makes me look like Debbie Downer.  This day was no exception.   I decided to buck up, dry my tears and take my swollen eyes to Chili's to have dinner with the family, but I couldn't eat.
The drive back to Prestonsburg was a long and quiet one until I would imagine   myself in an operating room with a surgeon standing over me...or....sitting in a chair with an IV pumping poison through my veins..or losing my hair..or watching my own funeral unfold.  Then I would cry.  
That night, while Jeff slept, I went outside so I wouldn't wake him. I sobbed and prayed for a miracle...that just maybe...that the radiologist was wrong.
My favorite photo of Daddy and me -1986
                            Three generations of stubborn women:
                            Mom, Lauren, and me -1987