“The very things that hold you down are going to lift you up.” -Timothy Mouse

Suffice it to say, patience is not a virtue I possess!  Most of you know that I walk, talk, eat and even fall asleep FAST and if there are questions that need answers I want them now!  Waiting for pathology results and re-scheduling appointments was making me crazy but I realized yesterday that every negative, angry, desperate thought I allow is like a weed that chokes out the growth of trust, peace and healing. Waiting for pathology results required continuous “weeding” this past week! The pathology was available yesterday, just hours before my meeting with the oncologist and the results are very hopeful. In a nutshell, cancer was successfully removed and surgical margins are clear. Chemotherapy will not be necessary, although I will have radiation for several weeks. I meet with the radiation oncologist December 15 and will have more answers at that time.

I included this quote as a comment previously, but I think it’s worth sharing again. “Now I understand that to be truly alive is to expand and embrace the broader range of human experience: bittersweet sadness, righteous anger, even deep and honest despair. I surrender the illusion that this is my show. I allow my heart to break open. It is through the cracks that God enters and stirs my heart and soul to their fullest expression. This is the true fulfillment of one’s human potential, and it comes only when you are willing to let your own self-reliant spirit be broken.” Carol Matzkin Orsborn

Just days after I posed the question concerning cancer labels my sister-in-law gave me a book, “Speak the Language of Healing: Living with Breast Cancer without Going to War.”  It has helped me to understand that many people face disease with a need to “fight” and some research reveals that a fighting spirit can be instrumental in healing.  I don’t have any judgement for those who face illness with that spirit – it just doesn’t work for me.  I can’t bring myself to wage war on my body, acknowledge that cancer is an adversary worth fighting or accept that this is a battle that cancer will win and I will lose or vice-versa.  Nor do I want this experience to define me.  Since my diagnosis, I pray daily for healing but I pray for healing of every aspect of my life and I trust that I will be healed regardless of the outcome of this disease and my life will be richer for the experience.

“Healing is not the same as curing.  Healing does not take us back to what was before, rather, healing brings us closer to our true self.”

-Author Unknown-

“Waiting is part of the process of becoming what God wants us to be.” – John Ortberg

I wish I had more to update today, but the fact is we’re in a holding pattern. Unfortunately, pathology results are not yet available and so I had to cancel my appointment today with the oncologist. I am hopeful results will be available tomorrow and I can meet with the oncologist to come up with a plan.  I can’t deny the last couple days have been a challenge – trying to learn what I can from this exasperating wait and keep my mind quiet.

“May you take time to celebrate the quiet miracles that seek no attention.” – John O’Donohue

 Thanks again for your prayers and warm wishes.

“Surrender, Dorothy!” – The Wizard of Oz

Although there was never a doubt that I have no control of this journey, the vulnerability of surgery and the necessity of surrendering myself drives this point home.  I was especially nervous about the procedures before the surgery and was counting on getting through it with the help of a little “I don’t care medicine” (so much for being present right?).  However, in spite of my plans, that was not to be and I am grateful now that I got through each moment with a clear head – just by being present, every second, every moment.

“May you have joy and peace in the temple of your senses.”

– John O’Donahue

The surgery went well and no lymph nodes were taken.  The radioactive material did not highlight any specific lymph nodes, something the surgeon explained was a possibility.  Based on the low grade of DCIS, we decided that randomly removing lymph nodes carried more risk than benefit.  Pathology results should be back by the beginning of next week and we meet with the oncologist the 29th to come up with our next plan regarding treatment.

The poet, Rumi, suggests that people are like a house and we should welcome every visitor; joy, happiness, despair and suffering. Not only welcome every visitor, even a “crowd of sorrows,” but welcome them with laughter.  I am trying to welcome every guest.

Maya Angelou was interviewed once and she explained that when she is faced with challenges she gathers all the people she needs for support – those living and those who have passed on.  She tells them, “Come on, I need you right now so get behind me.”  I am so grateful for the support and love from family, friends and strangers too.  Thank you to each of you for the cards, texts, emails – for all the gifts, surprises, meals, hugs, touches and prayers.  I knew on Wednesday how many people were thinking of me and praying for me and so I gathered each of you around me for strength.  Thank you.

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
As an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!

Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

From Essential Rumi
by Coleman Barks

“Just to be is a blessing. Just to live is holy.” – Rabbi Abraham Heschel

I was able to run again today – felt great to get out outside on this windy, warm fall day and get some vitamin D and fresh air!  We met with the surgeon yesterday and have tentative plans.  The MRI didn’t show any other areas of cancer but, apparently, DCIS is challenging, if not impossible, to see on an MRI (why do those cancer cells have to be so difficult?!)!  The surgeon ordered another mammogram to be certain nothing abnormal is happening on the other side.  If all looks well on the mammogram, I am scheduled for a lumpectomy and sentinel node biopsy November 23.  We’ll meet with the oncologist soon to come up with a plan after the surgery – most likely radiation therapy for a number of weeks.  I feel confident in my surgeon – he talked to us for almost two hours and was very thorough.  I don’t have a good read on his sense of humor but since most of the quality time we’ll be spending together I’ll be unconsious, I suppose thorough is more important than funny.

“Let nothing disturb thee, nothing affright thee, all things are passing; God never changeth.” – Teresa of Avila, Spanish nun and poet

I’ve made some interesting observations recently about perspectives of having cancer – we’re considered victims of cancer or cancer survivors.   I don’t particularly like  or accept either label.  People get injured in their bathtubs too but I’ve never considered myself a bathtub survivor!  I’ll have to think about it some more and would love to know what you think.  I’ll leave it at that for now – my “deep thoughts” digress quickly and I start to sound more like Jack Handy than Eckhart Tolle.

I am overwhelmed by the love and support, gifts, emails, texts, funnies, hugs, warm wishes and prayers I’ve received.  I am truly blessed to call so many amazing, generous and thoughtful people my friends and family.  Please know that every kindness, every gesture, warm thought and prayer gives me strength and makes me so very grateful.

“Kindness extended, received or observed beneficially impacts the physical health and feelings of everyone involved.” – Dr. Wayne Dyer

“Be mindful, be in the moment, make the mundane sacred.” – A.J. Jacobs

… I’m working on it! I’m staying positive – carving out time for myself has been the greatest challenge this past week. I am so grateful for those moments of stillness when I can breathe and center myself again. Interesting that a diagnosis of illness is like the zoom lense on a camera – everything, every face around me –  is close-up and clear.  That is an unexpected gift.

The MRI went well – thanks to a mild sedative I got the giggles beforehand (among a full cast of characters waiting with me, I especially got a kick out of the guy who was at least 6’5, wearing double gowns that barely covered his business.  Judging by his nonchalance, I think he was heavily sedated) and I peacefully dozed during my “photo shoot”.  I’m not sure what to expect as far as results.  Frankly, I try not to allow time for speculation.  The “what ifs” are a slippery, dark slope and a waste of my time and energy.

I must admit, it was a relief to turn the page on the calendar and say good bye to October.  A diagnosis of breast cancer during the ever-pink, breast cancer awareness month is… redundant!  BUT, I had a happy (PINK) surprise yesterday when I walked into a bathroom at work and saw this sticky note randomly placed on the mirror. What more is there to say?!

“We don’t receive wisdom. We must discover it for ourselves after a journey that no one can take for us or spare us from.” – Marcel Proust

For at least six months I’ve been saying that I feel the winds of change blowing. I anticipated change based on professional and personal goals. I had no idea that a diagnosis of breast cancer would blow in like a squall. I’m no stranger to mammograms and this was not the first time I was called back because something abnormal was found. My doctors and I are vigilant and have been for years because of a strong family history of breast cancer. To my surprise, a biopsy on Monday was different in every way and by Tuesday a call from the doctor confirmed that I have breast cancer.

And a new journey begins…!

So I’ve decided to share this very personal journey for several reasons. Mostly, I am so very grateful to the women in my family who have faced the same challenge (my mom, mother-in-law, many aunts and grandmother) with grace, dignity, honesty and humor. Each of them has been willing to share her journey which eliminates so much of the fear factor for me. Sharing my experience is an opportunity to pay it forward. It’s also a public service announcement – ladies, schedule regular mammograms and if you have a family history (cousins!) start them in your 30’s and get a baseline! And, finally, I want to record this strange travel diary with and for my kids – I’m not a believer in sending kids out of the room when we’re faced with the challenges life inevitably brings. It is what it is. Whether they care to read it or not I want them to be part of this even if they don’t get it now.

“Things are as they are. Looking out into it the universe at night, we make no comparisons between right and wrong stars,
nor between well and badly arranged constellations. ‘ ~ Alan Watts

I must say, I dislike the notion of “fighting” breast cancer – it feels like I’m giving power to cancer by referring to it as an opponent worthy of fighting – in the spirit of Carl Jung, “What we resist, persists.” And, as much as I’d like to be Scarlett O’Hara and “just think about that tomorrow,” denial can only lead to bad decisions and a waste of precious time. So it seems the only option that makes sense is to simply accept. Accept this as a leg of my journey. Don’t get me wrong – I accept the experience, the cancer I want out of my body as soon as possible. My “theme” this year (yes, I have a theme – I know, it sounds ridiculous but I can’t deny that it comes up daily since the beginning of the year) has been to focus on being present. Learning how to be present in my every day activities, at work, with my family and friends has been great practice. I am certain that I am exactly where I am supposed to be, experiencing what I am supposed to experience, surrounded by the people who are part of my life now. There is a tremendous sense of peace that comes from knowing that God’s hand is on this – always has been and always will be. This is where I am supposed to be.

“A joyful spirit is evidence of a grateful heart.” – Maya Angelou

I’ve scheduled an MRI for Monday and will meet with a surgeon November 11. Then we can make some decisions. I am reassured by doctors, friends, and family who have recovered from the same kind of cancer that the prognosis is very good. I’ll take it one day at a time, pay attention to each moment and try to laugh along the way. I appreciate your prayers and healing thoughts. I’m so grateful for the support and love of so many people, all the friends and family who have rallied around me and especially, for my amazing hubby and extraordinary kids.

“Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” – Romans 12:12

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