My Brave Pax

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Every morning Pax comes in and snuggles me.  Every morning – literally every morning since I returned home from surgery, he lies with me for almost a half hour.  Every morning he wraps his chubby little arms around my neck.  Every morning he strokes my cheek, kisses my face.

And every morning we talk about my “boo-boos”.

“Boo-Boo” he’ll say seriously, looking into my eyes.  And yes, I’ll confirm.  Mummy still hurts a little bit.  “Hap. Eee. Mum?” he’ll ask.  I am now, I say.  With you in my arms?  Always.

He’ll often join me on the couch at the end of the day, too.  Tonight he had a message for me.  He pulled down the front of my shirt, looking at my bandages.  Carefully, so carefully, he touched each one, labeling it “boo-boo”.  Then he kissed them.  He kissed my ugly, bandaged chest.  “Mum” he said seriously.  “Be….bave.  Be.  Bave.”  I looked at him.  Honey, I said.  Are you telling me to be brave?  Pax nods.  He thinks.  “Me” he says.  “Hirt. Nose…..BLUD.”  I nod, remembering his bloody nose from last week.  “Me.  Bave.  Pac.  Bave.”  He points at me.  “Mum.  Bave.”

I will honey.  I’ll be as brave as I can.

Suddenly he hugs me hard.  Fiercely.  Around my neck.  “Zha-zha” he whispers in my ear.  This means gotcha.   “Zha-zha Mum.”

They found a tumor in and amongst the mastectomy tissue.  A real one.  It’s a tiny tumor, but invasive cancer nonetheless.  I don’t yet know what my treatment plan will be, but we are meeting with the oncologist Monday.  I’m trying – for so many reasons – to be brave.

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Posted in Breast Cancer, LoveyDovey, Pax - 2 Years, Talking | 9 Comments

Fourteen

Fourteen years ago today I married my best friend.

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I’ll never understand how we got so lucky.

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I love you, MikeD.

 

 

 

 

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So Now We Have Have Conversations Like These….

Mike came bustling into the room, all sweaty, just back from his morning run.  I’m propped up on the bed, grumpy.  Mike starts fiddling with my pill bottles.

“Morning, Babe!” he says, handing me a pill.  I glare back at him.  “Water” I remind him, ungraciously.

“You OK?” he asks, pausing to give me a look.

I sigh.  “Last night I had a dream that you cheated on me.”  Mike rolls his eyes.  This annoys me further.  “AFTER I went through chemo AND tamoxifan.”  I stare at him.  The cheating bastard.

“That dream sucks” he says, handing me another pill.  I’m getting pissier by the second.  He is not nearly remorseful enough for his fake-cheating.  I start again:  “I can’t believe you wou–”

Mike cuts me off, briskly:  “Babe, LOOK.  You own my heart and my dick.  The. End.  Now take your stool softener.”

And that’s where we are.  It’s almost 14 years later, and I still crazy-love this man.

Posted in Breast Cancer | 5 Comments

Congratulations Are In Order

My surgery is over, my drains are out.  The surgery itself wasn’t a big deal, the recovery has been…awful.  Soul-sucking, actually.  In the last week or so since the surgery, I’ve routinely cried from pain. It’s the kind of pain that is always present…and isn’t localized to where I thought it should be.  I’m just in almost constant pain.  That fact kinda blows me away.  Drugs help, obviously, but unlike my c-sections, I don’t see myself weaning off the drugs anytime soon.  Trust me, I’ve tried.  I’ve had to lower my own expectations to literally rock-bottom levels.

Getting the drains out really helped.  I had one in each side, and they were collecting the fluid that was accumulating in the pocket the tissue expander is trying to create.  The tissue expander is the first part of reconstruction, and is stuck behind the muscles in my chest.

You know those really awesome block sets that preschools have?  Unit blocks?  The blocks that are made of really heavy wood and come in various sizes?  We have one of these block sets and the boys were playing with it and I picked up one of the flat square ones and thought, “I’ll bet this is what the tissue expander looks like.”  Boob blocks.  Blocks for boobs.  The first step in total reconstruction.

My surgery team, by all accounts (including major nationwide publications), are top-notch.  And they did a great job.  Mike said they came out of the OR literally beaming with joy.  “You are going to be really happy” they told him.   At my post-op checkup a week later my breast surgeon took one look at my hacked-up block boobs and clasped her hands in delight:  “This!” she cried.  “Gorgeous!  Yes….” she came closer, prodded the stitches a little, “…this is looking really quite nice. You will have a beautiful result.”

Even the home nurses – who come periodically to check on me – have gushed over the gorgeousness of my block boobs.  They are all very genuine in their praise.   One even took down the names of my surgeons (the others already had heard of them).

What I find so hysterically funny about this whole thing is this:

I look like freaking Frankenstein.

On nights when the drugs have kicked in, I find myself staring topless into the mirror – often crying, but sometimes giggling.  “GORGEOUS!”  Mike will cry.  “SO supple!”  I strike a pose.  “Congratulations are definitely in order.”  I tell him. “Not everyone gets to walk around with these.”

It’s a whole other world, this breast cancer world.  I barely speak the language and I certainly don’t know how to dress.

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All The Terrible Things

My diagnosis, as far as breast cancer goes, isn’t all that serious.  Stage 0.  Seriously, zero.  That’s about as early as it gets.  According to the doctors, I am “lucky”.  Unless, I imagine, they find something worse in the tissue biopsy after the mastectomy.  Then perhaps they’ll stop using that stupid word.  Lucky.  “It could be worse!!!” they say.

Which…OK.  It really could be worse.  I don’t know why I’m doctor-bashing.  Actually, I do:  they’re an easy target.  And frankly, I’m just pissed.  I’m pissed that I’m facing a life-changing surgery in a week, followed by months of reconstruction, and surgeries every 10 years or so FOR LIFE.  And hopefully no chemo, but we’ll see.  Bastards.

Yesterday I read that doctors are now prescribing tamoxifen to prevent breast cancer from starting.  I felt like punching someone.

In truth, none of this matters.  My cancer was found so quickly after I stopped nursing that there was no time for prevention.  And I was still thinking about maybe another baby, so I probably would’ve refused medication anyway.  I mean…37.  Thirty-freaking seven!  I simply had no idea.  I had been nursing – almost without a break – for the last five years.

Breast Cancer.  Still so weird.

I was hoping, though, that if I ever faced cancer, I would do it with more grace.  I find myself surprised by my totally misplaced anger.  In the first few weeks after the diagnosis, a friend called to say she was “so sorry” about my cancer.  I almost told her to SHUT UP.  Instead I took a few deep cleansing breaths – the issue, obviously, was me, not my amazing and loving friend.

This anger pisses me off.  It’s terrible, really.  I find myself snapping at my boys, being unreasonable.  Such a terrible way to deal with life.  Which, at the end of the day, is really what this is:  life.

It’s just life.

Part of the issue, I think, is the waiting.  We’re waiting for surgery,  then waiting to hear if I need chemo.  At some point, the reconstruction process will start, and another (smaller) surgery for the implants.   If I’m lucky, I’ll be done in 3-4 months.  If not, this shit could stretch out into next year.  The waiting is the worst.    The unknown feels terrible.

Perhaps I would feel differently if my diagnosis was truly terrible.  Perhaps then the unknown would be more comforting than reality.  I don’t know.  But I do know this:  even a “lucky” diagnosis is making me crazy.

The biggest challenge has been controlling my own thoughts.  It’s hard not to see everything as a sign.  (And I don’t believe in signs.)  I see a bird flying and think that must be what death is like.  Pax blows kisses and shrieks ‘BYE MOMMY’ and my stomach drops.  I read to Raines and think, “will I ever see him read?”

My doctors say YES, ABSOLUTELY.  And I know they are right.  But still…if I’m not careful, I end up living in a world of my own making.  But it’s a terrible world where the breast cancer kills me.  A terrible world where I can’t stop thinking Terrible Things.

Mike wants no part of this discussion, and I don’t blame him. He is not nearly as crazy as I am, and is much better at living in the, uh, actual world.  Not the terrible one of my own making.  These things in my head, all these terrible things are crazy, they are self-defeating…yet they feel, at times, so very real.  So real sometimes I can’t take a proper breath.

So I call my Mom.  My crazy comes from somewhere, right?  And besides…Mom gets it.  She gets it.  In fact, she’s lived through All The Terrible Things.  She’s lived through a diagnosis of Stage 3 breast cancer, and a prognosis of only 5 years to live.  She’s lived through a mastectomy, chemotherapy, and an ovarian cancer scare a few years later….she didn’t need me to say what All Terrible Things were, she already knew.

“Mom?”  I whispered when I got her on the phone.  “It feels like….it feels like…..I’m having a premonition.”  I told her about the birds.  About reading to the boys.  She interrupted me:  “Have you calculated how old the boys will be when you die?  Still in elementary school, right?”

I was quiet.  But in truth, I had.

“At some point” she continued, “you came to a moment of acceptance, right?  A moment where you go ‘I’ve had a good life.  It’ll be OK.’  Right?”  she asks.

And there it is.  The most terrible thing of all.  The one where you are sure, so sure that you are about to die that you start to try and accept it.  Accept that your children will be OK.  That your husband will go on.  And they will, but this is truly a Terrible Thing.  It’s a terrible, shameful thing and how did she know?  How did she know the most Terrible Thing of All?

“I remember, honey” she says.  “It means nothing.”

And then I sob in relief.

At some point I ask incredulously, “you calculated how old we’d be when you died???”  “Yup” says Mom.  “You’d be out of college, and Scotti would be out of high school so I thought, OK.  That’s pretty good.”

And then we both crack up.  It’s not funny, not really, but so crazy that it is.

My sense of humor is becoming a Terrible Thing as well.

Later Mom shared a quote from one of her best friends.  To date, it’s the most helpful thing I’ve heard:

Teene” said Mary.  “Please tell Shana that she can’t believe everything she thinks.”

And just like that, the weight lifts.

Posted in Breast Cancer | 12 Comments

The Last Day of Preschool

What a difference a year makes.

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Does he look impossibly old to anyone else?

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“I’m going to be a little bit sad, Mom”  as he realized that today was his last day of preschool.  Then he thought about it for a moment.  “Eh.  Just a little.”

It’s mind-boggling, that he will start kindergarten next year.  But it’s equally mind-boggling to think of all of the…life we have yet to come.

If we’re lucky, of course.

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And then we went to the playground.  I needed to see my babies being babies.  Ones who  run and play and jump and whoop.

And sometimes wear only one sock.

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See?  He still needs his Mama.

Also Superman missed his nap, which made him delightfully clingy.

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I think we needed each other today.

God, life is good.

Posted in Pax - 2 Years, Raines - 5 Years Old, School | Leave a comment

The Dat and the Nake

Pax and I have a new game.  We play it everyday, for as long as I can possibly stand it.   Or as long as my knees can possibly stand it.  (Admittedly, some of this shit gets old fast.)  The game starts by Pax gesturing up at me:  “NEK!” he’ll cry.  I get down on all fours, and Pax climbs up on my back, wrapping his arms around my neck.  Once he’s on, I crawl around the living room floor.  Pax taps my head, “dat!” he reminds me.  “Dat, Mummy!  Dat!”  I meow in response.  Obviously, because that’s the sound a dat makes.   So I’m crawling and meowing like a dat and Pax is just holding on, loving it.  Then he’ll shout a warning: “NAKE!!!”  At that, he’ll leap off my back and point, yelling again, “NAKE!!”  I meow in a scared voice.  He swivels back around and shushes me, holding his finger up to his lips.

“SSSSSSHHHHH…..nake.”  Pax warns.  “Nake.”  Then he’ll tiptoe in the ridiculously exaggerated fashion that only a two-year-old can…..and let loose with some sort of spiderman gun-thing:  “TCHOO!! TCHOO-TCHOO!!”

“NAKE!” he’ll shriek.  Then, in a low voice, “DED”.  Now he strikes a dramatic pose, hands on hips.  I think he saw Superman do this once.  Even at two, he is oddly convincing.  Once the pose has been held for a sufficient length of time, he runs back over to his dat, and climbs on.  I start crawling again.  “Dat!” he reminds me with a pat on my head.  Oh yeah.  Meow, I say.  Meeooow.

Until, of course, he spots another nake.  

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ps.  How hysterical are these little tights for boys? LOVE

Posted in Pax - 2 Years, Talking | 5 Comments