Thursday, December 21, 2017

Life After Surgery

Surgery to remove my breasts and lymph nodes was a little over a week ago. The surgeon called yesterday to tell me the results of the pathology. I burst into tears during my conversation with her. I immediately called Reese and burst into tears. And, moments later, burst into tears again while trying to relay to my parents what the surgeon had said on the phone. The news? Pathologic complete response after neoadjuvant therapy. What that means? In layman's terms -- no evidence of cancer in either of the removed breasts or lymph nodes! The tears were tears of relief. And joy. So much joy.

Doctor's orders have me using my arms very little -- think of tiny t-rex arms and their limited range of motion and you get an idea of how much I can do for myself (not much). There are a few other unpleasantries associated with recovery from the surgery, but they are manageable with lots of help from the Amazing Reese, and both mom and dad, who came to help after surgery. I'm overwhelmed in a good way with the super, terrific, incredibly great report from the pathology. I'm alive with the probability of an extended life, AND I'm home for Christmas. These last few months of hell have all been worth it.

me and dad and our matching hair dos

Monday, November 27, 2017

In Sickness and in Health

Hard to know what sort of update to post reagarding the cancer devil. Life isn't rosy these days, but it is still sweet. Even though I was not in best form, my (54th!) birthday and our family gathering around Thanksgiving still happened. Laughter, tears, goodwill, love, conversation, and friendship were in abundance. Reese and I have been accepting the help offered to us from friends and especially family -- help in the form of meals, cleaning, laundry, dog walking, and even Christmas tree installation. We're much more accustomed to being the helpers instead of the helped, so everything seems out of whack, but that's just the way it is for now.

The tumors aren't shrinking from the chemotherapy as much as was expected -- not great news. Other options are being discussed in addition to the already planned treatment path. Surgery is scheduled for the second week in December. Everything feels unnatural....almost like it is happening to someone else's life, but it's mine. Ours. The Amazing Reese and I are very much in this together. We certainly didn't expect this tragedy in our lives, but years of loving one another for better or worse (this is definitely worse), for richer or poorer, in (this horrible) sickness and in health as long as we both shall live (how long do any of us have?) is making it easier to bear. Not easy, just easier.

In other news, a couple of my flower paintings are in an exhibit at MotherDog Studios in the warehouse district of downtown Houston through mid February. Knowing that I wouldn't feel well enought to attend the opening during Art Crawl, I took some time before my last chemotherapy treatment to go see the show. It was well curated by John Runnels -- no surprise there -- and the studio is more that happy to welcome visitors and patrons of the arts during regular business hours.

Peonies Envy in MotherDog Studios 

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Heads Up

There are no days where the bulk of my thought processes are not somehow centered around the breast cancer in my body. Though none of us know the time or the place of our death (generally -- there are a few exceptions), I certainly have been thinking of my life with a newfound awareness of its tenuousness. If I die tomorrow (not of cancer -- just some random accident), I'm 98.9% content that I've lived the life I should have lived with the gifts, talents, place, time, and resources that have been entrusted to my care. That's not to say that my life is 98.9% perfect, just that I'm content. There are a few more thank yous to voice, a few debts to pay, a few more things to do, and a few places I would have liked to visit on this earth, but by and large, it's been a great life -- including the adversity. So when I die, preferably later rather than sooner, know that I was grateful for my time here, for my place, and especially for my people, including everyone reading this. Thank you!

With my time yesterday, one of the sweet good days between chemotherapy treatments, I painted. (Only two more chemos to go -- yay!) It's something that I've wanted to do since my chemotherapy induced alopecia started -- not only to document this incredibly personal event, but to take away some of the power it holds over my fragile ego. This feels like kind of a big deal.

It's 18" x 14" oil on linen.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Round Three

Sitting in the infusion chair is scary. People think I'm brave....but I'm not. I cry every time. In order to live, I have to do it, sit there and take my medicine, but it's not easy. The Amazing Reese has been able to join me for every treatment so far, God bless him, but that's a luxury and likely will not last. So today? I'm alive and grateful for it. In this year long journey, the first half of phase one is finished. The tumors have shrunk -- significantly from the first treatment to the second, not so much from the second to the third treatment, but still shrinking. That's a good thing.

Thank you to the community of people both near and far who continue to reach out with offers of help and kindness. Though it's difficult, I'm trying not to compare my journey with others, because life isn't fair, and in any other circumstance, I'd sit and empathize with you about your aunt who lived for five years after a breast cancer diagnosis but died, right now I just can't afford to listen to those stories. For whatever reason, even the good stories can be overwhelming. I love people and value kindness above all, and appreciate that people don't know what to say to me, but maybe just being kind is enough. Maybe we don't always have to talk about cancer. Maybe we can just be.

Thanks for understanding.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Short and Sweet

Wow. I'm alive and in that sweet spot on the back end of the chemotherapy cycle, that one week of "wellness" before the next cycle of poison begins. After being in bed and in various stages of pain and discomfort for most of the day for the last two weeks, this feels like paradise.

Because of the distress of seeing clumps of hair fall out, I decided on an interim hair do of short -- because somehow it's less stressful to see little wisps of hair falling out than clumps of long strands. My wig is on standby as this short do likely won't last more than a few days.

The closest analogy of exuberant gratitude for this temporary feeling of wellness that I can think of is Tigger in Winnie the Pooh. Though I might not be bouncing around on the outside like Tigger, I'm jumping with giddiness on the inside. I feel well enough to think in complete sentences and paragraphs, so I write. I feel well enough to walk the dog, so I did. I feel well enough to go for a therapeutic float in a friend's swimming pool, so I will. I feel well enough to laugh, so tell me a funny story.

P.S.  As silly as it sounds, I've just gotten permission from the infusion nurses to unplug for a while during my August 21st chemotherapy session so that I can go outside and experience the solar eclipse first hand. I don't know if I'll feel up to it when the time comes, but there's a chance I will. Ever hopeful.

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

A Week One

(This is Reese writing this entry) It has been one week since the first chemo infusion. Our nurse, Lisa, at the Baylor College of Medicine, Lester and Sue Smith Breast Center, was simply wonderful. It was a very long day; 8am to 4:30pm. Sarah was a champ throughout the entire event. We visited, played on the Internet, read and sent e-mails, watched two episodes of Bob's Burgers (it always makes Sarah laugh), the time sort of flew by mainly because Sarah and I were enjoying being together. At the very end when they were unplugging the infusion pump, having Sarah fill out some papers, and having her watch an instructional video, it was like someone let all the air out of her tires. She was suddenly very exhausted. I thought we might need a wheelchair to get her to the elevator ... but we didn't. She made it under her own strength down to where her precious sister, Elizabeth, was waiting in the car. Elizabeth came all the way from San Diego to help with the first day of treatment. Week one has been very difficult. The chemical cocktail that was infused has done a harsh number on Sarah's ability to function. We are exceedingly grateful to everyone who has helped, offered to help, and most of all prayed.

Saturday, August 05, 2017


In the span of a few weeks, I've gone from training for an 8 mile race to barely being able to walk to the end of the block. It's certainly humbling. Without delving into the nitty gritty, the first cycle of chemotherapy was no piece of cake. Days later, and I'm still exhausted. 

Thank you so much to those who have reached out and offered support and comfort to me and my family. I've read every note and taken to heart the kind thoughts. 

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

ImPORTant Day

Dear friends,

Please forgive the impersonal nature of sharing this news. Nine days ago, I met with an oncologist who confirmed the sobering results of several biopsies from my right breast and armpit -- breast cancer. The days are starting to run together -- so much is happening so quickly -- I'm overwhelmed by the enormity of my diagnosis and the impending treatment.

Today I will have a small surgical procedure to implant a port to administer chemotherapy, which begins August 1st.

The treatment plan will start with 5 - 6 months of chemotherapy, followed by a mastectomy, lymphadenectomy of the nodes in my armpit, 6 weeks of radiation, then a drug called Herceptin for one year during which time, presumably, they will perform reconstructive surgery on my breast. My breast cancer is HER2 positive, which means that it's unreasonably aggressive.

Please remember me in your prayers as I begin this arduous journey.

Much love,