I have to say that from a young age I was always fascinated with the stories of Winnie-the-Pooh, more specifically Tigger and Eeyore. There was Eeyore, who always seemed to be caring and accepting to everything and everyone, but the glass was always half empty. Eeyore was very honest with whomever asked him how he was doing. Even if you didn’t want to hear the ugly truth, he was going to let you know all of his problems. He shared his emotions with others, his voice had a melancholy sound to it. I perceived this, at times, as a pessimistic attitude, but in all honesty Eeyore was also very realistic.
Tigger, in my opinion, was the one who made you smile. His personality was so entertaining, you were drawn to him. Tigger seemed to always have fun! He was cheerful and the glass was always half full. He was full of optimism! It was like there were no problems that existed in his life.
I see myself as more of a Tigger, OVERLY optimistic at times!
I believe we need both characters in our lives. We need a healthy balance! We need to remember that we can either enjoy what we are doing today or allow ourselves to get completely overwhelmed with tomorrow and find no joy in the present. It’s by taking steps to be courageous and feeling uncomfortable at times that will help us find the right balance between Tigger and Eeyore. I didn’t understand this until I realized my optimism can be unrealistic, especially when I allow my PRIDE to get in the way of asking for help.
I think when I was told those three words, “you have cancer,” I was devastated and at first there was no more Tigger. Suddenly, I was all Eeyore! I was overwhelmed and bewildered. Trying to solve all of the numerous things thrown at me, I was already going through a divorce and worried about our children. Now, my health became another cross to bear!
I had numerous things thrown at me about surgery, doctors, treatment, medications, side effects and of course I wanted the answers. I had to learn the art of patience and that I couldn’t do this alone.
I had to be realistic that I am not as healthy as I thought. I would need to rely on a team of doctors, treatment, family, and an army of friends, and most importantly my faith. Even after the surgery and treatment, I learned this past Wednesday from my oncologist there are no guarantees the cancer won’t come back! However, none of us have guarantees in this life. Instead of focusing on the cancer returning after treatment, I am going to focus on the Tigger side and have fun!
I remember thinking, I wanted to get to the top of the tree where Pooh got his honey from without having to climb the tree. My life wasn’t perfect and I needed to be realistic that it would be a tough climb ahead, but I could still have a Tigger attitude and have as much fun in the climb as possible.
I needed to be ok with being Eeyore and Tigger and let others in to make this climb with me up to the top of the tree and with each step, treat it as one of the many steps ahead. Almost like a checklist you cross things off as you accomplish them. Invite others into this journey who could remind me to live in the moment.
Yesterday, was my birthday and it was the best day because I got my last two drains removed. After a little over two weeks all four drains have been removed. It can take 4-6 weeks for many breast cancer patients to have their drains completely removed. Let’s just say I took my first shower in 17 days without drainage tubes! It was the best birthday gift ever!
Since my last cancer update, here is what I know. I met with Dr. Larson my breast surgeon last Friday who did the bilateral mastectomy to remove the malignant breast tissue on December 10th and also removed the right axillary sentinel lymph node. To be clear your sentinel node can range from 1-5 nodes based on where the dye went during my surgery, I had a grouping of 5 so they removed all 5 nodes and the pathologist reported no evidence of malignancy in the 5 lymph nodes.
After that appointment I met with my Lymphedema nurse who gave me some exercises to do with my right arm to prevent lymphdedema. I will see her again in 2 weeks and in the meantime have plenty of exercises to keep me busy.
This past Wednesday I met with my Oncologist Dr. O’Dea who is waiting on the Oncotype breast cancer test results. She should receive results sometime around the first week of January. The Oncotype test results will help Dr. O’Dea understand the likelihood on if my cells could have gotten in my blood, because not every cell can do that. This test will determine chemotherapy; it will tell her if I need it and the best type of chemotherapy to treat my body. Should the test determine I need chemotherapy ,then it will most likely last 12 weeks which will include within those 12 weeks, 4 treatments. The most important part of my treatment plan will be the hormone therapy which will include taking hormone blocking pills. I will take these pills daily for a minimum of 5 years but could be as long as 10 years. Biologically, cancer is more aggressive for my age group, (premenopausal) thus my treatment will be more aggressive. Hormone positive breast cancer has no magic percentage as far as declaring cancer free, but for now Dr. O’Dea can fight for every 1/2 percentage and get as close to 100% as possible.
Lastly, yesterday I met with my plastic surgeon Dr. Ponnuru and I will go in once per week and get fills. As I mentioned earlier in my blog all of my drains have been removed and it appears everything is healing up as it should.
The pathology report from the bilateral mastectomy and right axillary sentinel node removal was what they needed to move forward. I feel a lot more relaxed about what is ahead of me and although my exact treatment isn’t definitive, were on our way.
My favorite Winne-the-Pooh quote: “You’re braver than you believe and stronger and smarter than you think.”
In closing, we just have to trust ourselves and have faith, that with the gift of COURAGE, we can choose to live in abundance.