A snapshot in time

February 8, 2021 is whole body bone scan day. Tomorrow is the CAT scan day. I can feel the rising anxiety quivering in my chest like a dried leaf on the branch. What if the sensations I’ve been feeling in my breast and under arms is that of more cancer? Quickly I realize that I can’t go down this path of thought-I’ll be a mess if I do.

Yesterday I was so touched by a phone call I received from a friend I had met at work. She repeated over and over that she is here for me and if there’s anything I need I can call her. I was so touched, she has such a kind and gentle heart. She told me about a young man that works in our building who has a seizure disorder and how she had told him to come find her on the upper floor if he ever felt a seizure coming on. She said that he would come find her when he could feel it starting. She helped him. She is a prime example of how kind we can be to each other even if we are merely acquaintances. Bless her and her kind heart. I received two other phone calls from good friends and it felt like they were each holding my hand in anticipation of the anxiety I would feel the next day. I am so grateful for all the wonderfully magnificent people I know!

I went in for the radioactive injection and the young man that helped me was quite gentle and competent. I asked him if the injection meant I would glow in the dark, and he said yes. The injection took about 15 minutes and I will return two and a half hours later for the scan. I have been writing furiously since I got home! The words want to come out today.

When Fred drop me off today we both noticed a bag on the ground outside of an ihail van. Freddie honked at the driver and who said that it wasn’t his after Freddy pointed down to the ground. I picked it up as I was going in to the hospital. I waited my turn standing on my purple dot admiring the beautiful coat of a woman waiting ahead of me in her brightly colored coat printed with beautiful plants. I wanted to inspect it, was it printed, was it embroidery work? It was so lovely! It suited her perfectly in her small, slight frame, it was like a cloak gracing the space around her.

When it was my turn to be at the front of the line the young man asked me a series of questions, all of which I answered appropriately, and I found myself telling him about the bag that I had laid on the cart that is visible immediately upon entry into the hospital. A woman came in and went directly to the bag as I was telling him that I had left it there and she said, “This is mine.” She asked me, “Did you leave this here, did you bring it in?” I informed her that I had just brought it in. She blessed me and I had a felt sense that I’d done my part to make a world a better place, at least for this moment.

The young man who injected the radioactive material into my arm told me how he looked forward to retiring and returning to a warm place during the harshest part of the winter. I asked him where he would like to go and he said Ethiopia was his home. Part of me thought, “Oh honey, that country may be too hot to bear because of global warming at that time,” but these words do not leave my mouth.

As I waited for Freddy to pick me up I thought about President Biden’s push to get electrical vehicles out on the roads. Some of the car makers have even said that theses changes are happening in their production lines. Finally! I wondered if today’s vehicles could be retrofitted. I also wondered if the changes needed to stop the damage to the environment would be completed in time, before it’s too late. I watched the birds in the small stand of birch trees that resides in the middle of the pick up/drop off area of the hospital; there must’ve been 30 or more tiny birds, (perhaps finches?) flirting about from tree branch to tree branch. The clouds had formed stripes, the same pattern that one sees on the beach once the waves have retreated or in the sand under the water. I did my best to be patient while dutifully waiting for my husband,  and stay aware in the moment. After I have been waiting for a bit two elderly ladies with their sit-to-stand walkers came out into the area that I was I was waiting in and I could sense them surrounding me, as if in formation on the battlefield of life. They did not seem eager to retreat having just advanced from the area they were in before, so why should I be eager to retreat to the pit of despair?

I shall practice deep breathing and meditation. It shall be my medicine as I await the results of my fifth bone scan. Thursday I will see the PA before chemotherapy and will receive the results at that appointment.

If you are in the Midwest and reading this, bundle up! The chill of winter’s harshness is upon us. Brrr!

Blessings to you and yours,
Annette

Nipple Discharge IS a WARNING

I repeat, nipple discharge IS a WARNING.  If you notice discharge coming out of your nipple, call to see your doctor IMMEDIATELY.  Ask for a mammogram.  Do NOT wait! Call NOW. Don’t be afraid to use the “I have discharge coming out of my nipple “card.”” You will probably need to see your doctor before the mammogram can be scheduled. It’s ok.  Go through the medical hoops! If I can help one person with my public service message, then this will all be worth it!

In the late summer of 2019 I noticed, yes-you guessed it, nipple discharge coming out of my left breast.  Or was it in the fall?  My recollection of the exact date or season is unclear. Was it in July, August or September? I wish I knew-it was one of these months! However, what I do recall, other than the discharge (and the absolute ALARM that I felt), was doing a web search.  Alas, my recollection of what exactly I searched on Duck Duck Go or Google is also unclear.  Let’s see, I probably would have done one of the following Internet searches:

Is nipple discharge bad?
Is nipple discharge good?
Why is my nipple leaking?
Why is my nipple swollen?
Why is my nipple discolored?
Why is my nipple so tender?
Why does my nipple hurt?
Why has my nipple changed color?
If I am a guy, why is my nipple leaking?
Why does my nipple have a puckered texture to it?
Help, I have nipple discharge and I don’t know what to do!
Why has the skin on my breast changed to an orange skin-like texture?
I have liquid coming out of my nipple, should I be concerned?
Is nipple discharge a sign of cancer?

We all have regrets in life, right?  Don’t let your inquiry into nipple discharge stop with a web search.  Don’t wait until your breast is swollen and painful and you are in a panic. Call your doctor and be seen.  Request a breast exam.  Request a mammogram.  Do it NOW. This concludes today’s public service announcement.  Please return to your regularly scheduled programming.

Yours in health,
Annette

Happy Winter Solstice and Happy Holidays

I am writing this message to you on the shortest day of the year, the longest night of the year, while staring down the barrel of the end of the year. I’m sure I don’t need to tell you what a year this has been. It really has sucked. With so many lives lost due to a pandemic that could have been prevented, this year absolutely breaks my heart. But here we are approaching the holidays, wishing each other a bright and merry holiday season.

I wish I had something profound to say at this moment, something enlightened that could make a difference. Alas, all I have are my hopes and prayers for a better year in 2021 for everyone and everything, including our warming planet.

To those of you who normally get a holiday card from Fred & I, I am writing to let you know this is my holiday message for you: Happy holidays. Make it as happy as you can at this time. Make it as bright as your inner light permits.

Unfortunately this year I did not get to the holiday cards. I have to pick and choose what I can do in a day and it’s a fraction of what I could do previously. Even though chemo is now every three weeks, my energy just isn’t what it used to be.  However let’s not get bogged down in the misery of this time. Let’s lift our eyes to the sky or at the very least the horizon, to the coming spring, with hearts full of hope and joy for the good that is yet to be. Jupiter and Saturn will be the closest they’ve been in several hundred years tonight but it’s cloudy here in Minnesota so perhaps tomorrow night it can be viewed.

I wish you and yours a happy holiday season and a very blessed new year. Yours truly,

Annette

November News

Oh my goodness, here we are approaching the middle of November, Thanksgiving, AND I have news from my CT scan at the end of October.

It is good news! The CT scan on October 27th showed that the breast mass continues to be gone (yay!), the mass in the lymph node/arm pit is now gone (what?! For real?!), AND the masses in the liver are shrinking. I repeat, the tumor masses in the liver are shrinking! Oh and the measurement of the masses on the tumor changed from centimeters to millimeters. Centimeters to millimeters?! I was so pleased to hear this news. Did I jump up and down? I think I did, yes. I should probably jump up and down right now, it couldn’t hurt, right?

The scan prior to this, 10 weeks before, was “unremarkable““ and I was disappointed by that word at first. But then I realized that no change was good. And now, here I am with good news, a positive change. I feel so blessed.

I anticipate the next scan will be in the first week in January.  Until then, I will continue my focus on my health regimen.

Gilda’s Club, an organization dedicated to helping people so that no one faces Cancer alone, offers a program periodically called Food for Life. Gilda’s Club has moved all their programming online. This program provides a wealth of information about a whole foods plant-based diet (WFPBD).  It is a four week program, two hours a week, and I have to say-I feel so educated about food and how cancer is caused and how eating a whole foods plant-based diet can help me beat this thing.

In fact, I feel even more optimistic than I did when I was juicing. I have to admit, that while I do really love juicing, it’s a lot of work. And a nutrition specialist recently told me it may be better to do smoothies because then my body does get the fiber it needs. Speaking of fiber, did you know we are supposed to get around 40 g of fiber a day? How come I did not know this? I thought it was more like 20 g that we needed each day. I could very well have breast cancer because I didn’t eat enough fiber or because I love butter and olive oil and cheese, and fat feeds cancer. I have the number of how many fat grams I need to stay under somewhere in the paperwork handouts that were provided from the For life program. Needless to say, the program instructor recommended a simple change. Instead of using oil when sautéing vegetables, she uses vegetable broth. She also provided the name of a salad dressing line called Cindy’s kitchen, that I found at Whole Foods, and it has a really low fat content. Does this mean I have to break up with butter? Man, that is going to be the one hard thing to give up. My tastes have changed and I don’t crave cheese like I used to. That’s a good thing, I guess. Freddy & I have been experimenting with the vegan cheeses and they actually work quite well on pizza. One of these days Freddy and I are going to have to try a vegan lasagna.

I could talk about food all day. Freddy’s been great with making and trying new recipes that are vegan, although I worry at some point he will start throwing beans at me. At least if it’s the lentils, they will be small. Did you know the smaller the bean the easier it is to digest? But alas I was going to stop talking about food.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention my joy about the election results. It’s like my prayers were answered with the Biden Harris ticket. I am over the moon with the results and I am so proud that we have a woman vice president. And not just any woman, Kamala Harris is the woman our nation needs right now. Her background and experience are absolutely amazing and I can feel in my bones the good work she is going to do. If there was anyone who could help get our country back on track and recover our relationships with leaders worldwide it’s going to be Biden.

Can we be done with this year? A Cancer diagnosis, a global health pandemic, a reckoning of social injustice against Black people that goes back for generations, global warming and weather like we’ve never seen and don’t get me started about politics. I think that’s enough for one year. I missed a wedding of a cousin I adore and it’s very likely I will miss the funeral of my father-in-law who passed this week, because it’s probably best for me to stay put and to not travel to Eau Claire this at time. It is scary.

But I have faith. I think we will get to the other side of this pandemic (but it may not be until next summer or later). There has been good news from Pfizer and it looks like we may have a vaccine soon. However, we must maintain our diligence. We must continue to mask up and not visit with others outside of our household, unless they are in our ”pod.” Take a deep breath with me, would you please? And let’s take another deep breath. Ahhhhh, that’s better. Let’s focus on the good, the horizon, and be present in the moment now. As one of my favorite meditations states, “Let’s tether ourselves to the good in our lives.”

I hope this finds you healthy, well and happy in whatever way is possible. Please be safe and please keep your loved ones safe.

Love,
Annette

Songs For Our Country’s Moment

Some songs have been coming to mind lately and I hold these songs up in an imaginary boom box that I hold over my head as I play them for our country.

Who will save your soul by Jewel

People get ready by the Impressions as sung by Eva Cassidy

It’s the end of the world by REM

Amazing Grace as recently sung by Barack Obama

I am sure there are others that are perfectly appropriate for the time we are living in right now. Do you have any songs you would like to add? This list is open and available to be added to.

May you be happy, healthy and well.

Annette

Don’t look at the statistics

Greetings! Happy fall equinox. The leaves are already changing here in Minnesota and it is lovely. I do enjoy the speckles of color dappled across the landscape of trees. It delights my senses.  I’m looking forward to walks on the bike trail, dragging my feet through the leaves and the smell of autumn.

On Sunday Fred and I took a road trip down the great River Road on an adventure to Kinston in Fountain City, Wisconsin. Peter Phippen was playing along with his posse of talented musicians and Freddie and I experienced a Stonehenge-like experience right here in the United States, complete with singing bowls, flutes, a gong and hand drums! Not too shabby for a Sunday. Next time I will dress for cool weather. I was not prepared for the strong wind that was quite persistent throughout the afternoon and into the evening. I did not even bring a scarf or coat! I think I thought of it at least three times but then forgot to grab it. That’s chemo brain for you.

When I learned the cancer was metastatic, the oncologist told me, “Don’t look at the statistics.” He said each person is unique and their outcome will vary as a result. It was with this in mind that I did a little investigation on the Internet, seeking to determine what the statistics are for Her2 positive metastatic breast cancer (hormone receptor negative status). I was pleasantly surprised by what I found. For my particular type of cancer, the four-year survival rate is 82%! (https://www.webmd.com/breast-cancer/her2-positive-breast-cancer-survival-rates) Does this mean I have the “good cancer?”  I can count my blessings.
I have been carrying this around in my back pocket like a card I just can’t wait to play. This has given me even greater hope!  And let’s not forget the success I am having with the treatment.  Each day I continue to be intentional about my time and my thoughts.  When I’m meditating, I’m envisioning myself as a warrior ninja attacking the cancer cells.
The next scan date is October 27th, which isn’t really that far away.  I am optimistic that the positive results I am receiving will continue.
My thoughts and prayers go out to Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s family.  What an inspiring woman.  Her life story is impressive beyond words.
My thoughts and prayers continue for racial justice, equality, immigrants seeking asylum, our planet and its inhabitants, and for the people (and creatures) facing wildfires and hurricanes.  When I start to think that the end of the world appears to be happening, I have to remind myself to stay positive.  There is an enormous shift happening and I hope and pray it is for the best, for all people.
Thank you for your continued thoughts and prayers.  I appreciate it more than you know!
Please be well and continue to practice safe distancing.  We cannot stop our diligence yet.  It must continue, even if we are tired of it.


Best to you,

Annette