Saturday, October 10, 2015

Barium is a lousy flavor for a milkshake...

Beautiful get-well flowers from a wonderful friend in Hawaii - so much aloha here in my Brooklyn apartment right now, it's amazing! 

Post swiped from FB, figured I would just copy and paste here. I think this blog is going to go from being tales of paddling and sailing and hiking in NYC to a record of getting back to my normal active life after a hopefully brief brush with a major illness, so I figured I might as well give you the story so far so it all makes sense.  

 Hello everyone! So - I have a very unusual thing to talk about today, about as far removed from my usual kayak cheerybabble as you can get. Been putting off talking for it for a while but now I sort of have the end of the story, and it's good (knocking wood and crossing fingers) so I think I can share my little breast cancer tale with you now. Basically, in July, I'd noticed that something was looking a little off-kilter with one of "the girls" - where before things had been more or less symmetrical, now one of 'em was looking a little bit cock-eyed. I knew that this was the sort of thing that you need to pay attention to, but I decided to go to Hawaii, have fun, and deal with it when I got back. 

When I got back, I didn't get right back on it, but then I found a lump. Went to my ob-gyn, my ob-gyn said "yep, that's a lump all right", sent me off to NYU Langone for a closer look; mammogram and sonogram didn't look good, next appointment was for a biopsy, biopsy said "yep, that's cancer all right". So that was the bad news. 

The good news was that I got Dr. Deborah Axelrod, the exact surgeon who my ob-gyn recommended as one of the best - and that opinion was seconded, thirded and fourthed by literally the first 3 people I mentioned her name to (2 registered nurses and a friend who's gone through the same thing herself). Quite the confidence-builder there, and my whole experience with everyone at NYU, and the NYU system, has just been great - staff members all strike a perfect balance between friendly and efficient, and they're very clear about what your next step is and what you need to do to make it happen. They move you through this very complicated process, without ever seeming to lose track of your humanity. 

With years of various sorts of administrative work under my belt, and mine being a pretty straighforward case, with good insurance through work (thank goodness), I didn't find this too hard to get through, but I did watch the desk staff at the Perlmutter Women's Imaging Center do a wonderful job of working with a woman who'd arrived hoping to cut a corner that they couldn't cut - she was about to fall apart but they leaped to help her however they could, and I think they were able to sort things out for her; I'd gone and sat down to be out of the way while they helped her but my impression from across the room was that they'd been able to give her enough good guidance to keep going - such kindness there. 

Unfortunately, although I was hoping that MY next step would be a lumpectomy, Dr. Axelrod's recommendation was a mastectomy - not what I wanted to hear but given the confidence in her that these other folks had volunteered, I decided against going through it all again to get a second opinion - seemed the chances were that 2nd opinion was going to be "Yep, Left Girl's got to go", and I preferred to just get on with things.

Another piece of good news had been that my cancer was a very unaggressive variety, so there wasn't an enormous rush (plus the general consensus was that it was absolutely fine that I'd gone to Hawaii and that that wouldn't have made any difference, which was great to hear), but this last Thursday at 8 a.m., I checked into NYU Tisch Hospital for the procedure. Everything went great, no complications, and the best thing is that these days, instead of just taking the lymph nodes attached to the offending side, they do biopsies while you are actually on the table to decide whether that's necessary. Final pathology won't be in until next week but what they saw looked clear, so I got to keep most of my lymph nodes - I think they took the one called the "sentinal node", which is the first one as the lymphatic fluid leaves the breast, but everything else is still in there! This means much less chance of lymphodema, which is when your arm swells up because the fluids aren't circulating right; this is still possible for me but less so. In addition, this means that there was less cutting - and of course the big thing this means (if the final pathology report agrees, knock wood and cross fingers!) is that the cancer hasn't spread! So this is all great! 

There will probably still be some anti-hormone therapy (another piece of good news from the original biopsy back in Sep was that the tumor would respond well to that) and maybe some chemo, but my oncologist says not all chemo is as harsh as it used to be -- this actually came up when I asked her if she could give me enough notice to do one more hair donation if I was going to lose it anyways, and she said that doesn't always happen and that there are a couple of kinds now and they don't have all of the bad effects the older ones used to. So fingers crossed there, too.

TQ brought me home yesterday, he's taken a couple of weeks off from work to take care of me while I convalesce, and I'm feeling pretty good (OK, maybe 'cause percocet, but also 'cause things are looking so promising). Won't be kayaking for a while, but I walked half a mile on with my I.V. pole on Thursday night in the hopital, and expect to be working back up to normal over the winter and early Spring.

This may be overly optimistic, but I'm hoping that I can be part of the flotilla that paddles out to meet the Hokule'a when they sail into NY Harbor next June!

 Mahalo nui loa to all the friends and family who've given me tremendous support as I've gone through this unsettling time. TQ's the man, of course, as already mentioned, and there have been other kindnesses major and minor (company to appointments, people keeping my garden alive when I didn't have time to care for it during a very dry September, and just so many good wishes and offers of help that I may take up on down the road, depending on how the post-operative treatment plan works out, and just general emotional support of all sorts) as the news spread. 

I didn't really want to talk about it here on social media until I had a better sense of how things were going to work out; I was so busy in the lead-up to the surgery both wrapping up work stuff (I'm out for 3 weeks now) and also trying to get in as much fun as possible, getting in those last paddles and rolls and swims and dancing-off-of-socks and yes, one last trip to Gotham Archery, and then getting ready at home that I decided against it. I just wasn't going to have the time to answer questions here as I would've liked to. I've told a lot of people personally; there were a lot more people I should have told, and I am so sorry that I didn't, but I'm absolutely delighted that I can now share my story with a pretty darned good ending to it. Sequel will of course be recovery - and that should also be good.

And now I can't resist sharing my last selfie before the operation --

 I had tons of work to do at the office and at home to get ready for the operation, but I also made sure that I squeezed in as much fun as I could manage too! This was on the canoe committee's family paddle with seining the other day, I'll have a bit more of a trip report on that soon - goodness, did I have a good time, though, I'd picked that trip partly because I wanted to do lots of rolling and playing, and I did just that all the way out and all the way back! Ended up being my last day on the water because last weekend was stormy. It was a good one.


clairesgarden said...

I'm sorry to hear you've had all this going on. I am so glad you are through the worst of it and on the mend now. many blessings xx

Anonymous said...

my thoughts and prayers go with you. i'll also look for some funny video clips to keep you laughing . . . be well.

bonnie said...

Thank you both!

Will, Elizabeth's Engineer's Guide to Cats and the related Princess Bride With Cats are gonna be hard to beat, but I'd love to see what you can come up with! :D

Rob K said...

Oh, Bonnie, I'm so terribly sorry! I wish you a speedy recovery and all the best! take care of yourself!!

bonnie said...

Thanks Rob! Not how I hoped to spend my fall but I'm honestly feeling very very fortunate right now - could've been so much worse caught later, or with a more aggressive variety of cancer, but as it is, it's all gone better than I expected.

bonnie said...

Thanks Rob! Not how I hoped to spend my fall but I'm honestly feeling very very fortunate right now - could've been so much worse caught later, or with a more aggressive variety of cancer, but as it is, it's all gone better than I expected.

Haralee said...

I welcome you to this sisterhood that no one wants to be a member . I wish you continued good news and healthy recovery!

Jeff K said...

I am so sorry to hear this news! It sounds like you are in great hands and we are thinking "green" for healing. With your spirit, will and good humor you are probably an ideal patient, so the doctors are lucky too. All the best to you, and we're looking forward to seeing you at the frostbite regatta!

bonnie said...

Thanks! Jeff, I'll be at the Frostbite and of course in my penguin hat! I don't know if I'll be able to paddle yet, but I wouldn't miss the fun.