wide-eyed at 4am

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This Holiday Season

This has been a very interesting holiday season.

Let me start with Thanksgiving. Because I was quick about it and got my Thanksgiving decorations down as I put my Halloween ones away (in the attic), I had my house decorated with symbols of our need to give thanks and ones representative of the first Thanksgiving – and the Fall season in general.

Not much reaching and lifting was involved so a few days after my Nov. 2 surgery, I did my decorating.

I thought that by the weekend after Thanksgiving, I would feel up to getting Thanksgiving put away and Christmas out.

Not so much.

I did manage the dismantling of Thanksgiving, but the twisting and turning bending and lifting in odd positions it would take to get the Christmas decoration bins and boxes down – much less up – was going to be quite impossible.

Unusual Moves

Don’t be misled. I had been working out with our trainer and my strength and flexibility was good. I was even beginning to do some core strength exercises to engage my abdomen muscles. But the positions required to get the… hmmmm…perhaps 25-30 bins of Christmas décor to the disappearing attic stairway and then hand them down to Dennis… made me a little dizzy from the “discomfort” of twisting with weight.

I had never imagined that harvesting fat from my abdomen to insert into “gaps” in my chest and underarm would be sooooo painful and take soooo long to recover. There are actually a couple of places that are still a little tender today – just a few days before the New Years – when I lift things in certain ways.

This is only relevant because it means that we had no Christmas decorations up for the entire season except the Christmas towels on the oven door handle.

Despite the lack of holiday symbols around our home, there is still joy. Joy in what the season’s all about and joy that all of what we were facing last Christmas is behind us.

Not Even the Wreath

Why not just get the wreath for the front door? Well – the wreaths for the doors are stacked to the side of the 25 or so bins. And I can’t get to them without moving a bigger part of the bin collection. I also had no time to bake so the aromas and fun of creating delectable holiday fare for friends and family just couldn’t happen. We were out of town the first two weekends of December (12/3-4 and 12/10) and had heavy duty performances of special music on the “free” Sunday (12/18). We finally began our Christmas shopping during the week to 10 days prior to Thanksgiving and had to continue it around the trips and music.

A Different Kind of Holiday Stress

In addition to these factors entered the sudden workload increase imposed by the exit of two key employees with my key customer….this happened between 12/1 and 12/6 which is my birthday.. Yeah right…happy birthday.

My November was stressful in trying to get back into the swing of things from what should be my final step in breast cancer surgeries and treatment (except for my tattoo date on 2/2/17). It took me longer than I wanted it to. I have had interesting soreness, interesting sleep pattern disruptions and continued side effects from radiation and chemo. (At least my hair is really cute!)

Just as I thought the stress level would dissipate, the opposite happened. Stress of picking up the slack for things that I’m not familiar with and have skeletal instructions for, just hasn’t been fun. Facing quick deadlines that couldn’t be moved that forced me to force someone else to join me in sacrificing parts of our days on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day to see challenging projects through ‘til the end… was no fun and nothing but stressful. Today, that project is complete but we’re on to other things that are jumping up and surprising us that were previously on someone else’s plate.

Work That Is Neverending 

Even on this “vacation” week between the holidays, I’m working on things that I didn’t think needed “doing.” What is it they say “No rest for the weary?”

It WILL get handled. It WILL all get done. If you know me you know that’s the way I am. Luckily I have compatriots who are just a anal and OCD as me.

One thing at a time, one day at a time. That’s the way you eat the elephant. Sounds sort of like the way you have to get through the breast cancer ordeal…only a smaller elephant to eat.



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Git’er Done

Back home after surgery…

All points of detailing are done – except the tattoo which will have to come after 3-D nipple has healed. I don’t know what that time frame is but it doesn’t involve surgery so I’m happy.

I have no idea how anything looks (except my port scar) because I’m still all bundled up in my pink corset. But my plastic surgeon is one of the most detail-oriented, respected and adored (and handsome) perfectionists around (as nurses have told me)… so I’m sure it will be as amazing as it can possibly be.

I’m not really concerned about that. It’s quite amazing how this entire experience has changed my perspective on looks. I care how I look but I’m not as convinced that I have to be as close to perfect as possible anymore. I’m just glad to be here and have hair, eyelashes and eyebrows!

My 4th surgery experience….

I continue to be pleased with the way CMC does things and treats patients – even as large as the facility and organization is.

There are plenty of people to greet you at CMC’s One Day Surgery Center. They’re very helpful and engaging. I’ve never felt as though they didn’t want to be there or didn’t live what they do. They have one person who does nothing but put folders together for the people who accompany patients and let them know how they can track the patient’s progress. They also have a liaison person who sits down with you before the patient goes into prep to explain the folder, everything available to the person accompanying and what will take place for the patient. They let the accompanying person know all of the food and drink resources closeby and what to do with their parking pass. This is new. We didn’t have this liaison person on any of our previous visits. It’s great – even for us veterans – because we may not know everything that is around or available to those who have to spend so much time waiting. They really are focused on the experience of the patient and those who are the there with them. It’s quite a comfort.

Everyone is helpful. Everyone engaging. I had quite a team working on me. A prep nurse, a vein specialist, a surgical nurse, an anesthesiology nurse and anesthesiologist and my surgeon. I must say that the vein specialist that put in my IV lived up to her nickname – The Vein Whisperer. I didn’t even feel it. I know they use numbing solution, but I’ve still had interesting experiences even with the solution. That is a special skill and The Vein Whisperer has it!

And I just can’t say enough about my doc. Awesome.

Whatever they gave me….as a precursor to anesthesia knocked me out. I don’t remember anything after we made the corner getting out of my prep room. (By the way, I had the luxury suite! Maybe you have to have punched your ticket 4 times to earn it, but I had the corner room that was huge! It was very spacious with plenty of room for 3 or 4 people to be in at the same time. I think two nurses, my anesthesiologist and Dennis were all there at once at one point.

So I have no description of this operating “theatre” or anything that went on in that room. My anesthesiologist had said I should be awake enough to move onto the operating table. If I was able to do that, I have no idea…. I’m thinking that they had to help!

My surgery took a little longer than expected but he did a little more than first planned….adding some filling in to match fullness of my implanted side and the reduced side.  ….and he filled in the “gulley” created under my arm because of the lymph node removal plus the implant. So my armpit should be prettier. (something I’ve haven’t really worried about!

It took me a while to wake up. Maybe 2 hours in phase 1 recovery and then about 1.5 hours in phase 2 recovery. I think I should have stayed a little longer in phase 2. The ride home was pretty far from pleasant. By the time we sat in rush hour traffic and made it home, I wasn’t feeling good at all. I slept from 5:30-7:30 didn’t feel like eating and slept more in 2-3 hour spurts until 4:30 am when I decided to eat something and take pain meds. That allowed me to sleep until 7:30am.

That is when I noticed the biggest difference in my awareness and mobility. If it weren’t for the pain, I would be pretty good!

But – as planned – we got’ir done!





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What If I Had Lost My Mom That Day?

I knew that my phone ringing in the wee hours of the morning couldn’t be a good thing. When I saw that it was my brother, I knew that for sure.

I answered to hear that my mom had been taken to the ER because she couldn’t breathe. She would be admitted but right now they were trying to help her breathe and stabilize her…and find out what had caused this problem. The options weren’t good either: stroke, heart failure or at the least pneumonia.

Quick shower and in the car with a cup of coffee….we’re off to Greenville.

My mind was everywhere as we made the 2 hour drive. (well I think we made it in less than 2) What if they couldn’t stabilize her and I got there too late? I didn’t even know if she was conscious. If she’s had a stroke, will she need care? What could change about her life and our lives by the end of the day?

Mom is 87 but by no means acts or really looks her age. I knew she wasn’t ready to “go,” but she was. If you’re a person faith, you know what I mean. She doesn’t think she’s done everything she wants to do before moving on to heaven. But if her maker calls her home, she would be at peace with His plan.

That doesn’t mean anyone on this side would be good with it. I’m not ready for that yet. But I know it’s not likely that I will ever be “ready.” When are you ever ready to lose your mama?

There’s so much she’s given me. Besides being lots like her, she’s showed me what strong faith can do for you and how integrity and values can mold your life. I hope I can reflect a small portion of Janie-like strength and steadfastness during my lifetime.

Thankfully, the day ended with my Mom being stabilized and feeling and looking much better. I spent the night in the windowsill pallet in her hospital room. She slept some. I watched her and listened to her breath – hoping that it wouldn’t start sounding labored again.

We had learned earlier that her diagnosis is heart failure. It’s a condition that will be with her for the rest of her life – not a health event that you just recover from. She had a heart cath that revealed no valve or blockage issues. But that also means that there is no surgical fix. Her condition will have to be closely managed and monitored with medication, exercise and diet. Hopefully that will help her heart to regain some strength and gradually pump more than the 25% it was working at  – at the time of the heart cath.

After a second night in the windowsill, I finally learned Mom could go home to rest for 3-4 days and then slowly (yes slowly) get start becoming active again. Her life will need to change to increase her probability of longevity. Throw away the salt shaker, change from higher sodium choices to lower sodium replacements and totally eliminate some favorites from her diet. Exercise 30 minutes every day – EVERY day. And (probably the biggest challenge) reduce the amazingly high amount of stress in her life.

Hearing my phone spooks me now – after hearing the cardiologist’s comments about how things can transpire after heart failure episodes. I just keep praying for her improvement, her comfort and for God’s strength to live out His will.