Me…… MIA / back in action?

I have been ignoring this blog for quite some time.

If anyone is interested, here’s the explanation.

A dear friend who was about to be declared “cancer free” found out she was anything but. In fact, her breast cancer had returned and, in her words, was “having a hootenanny in there”. Cancer was in her liver, her pancreas and in her bones.

I essentially took a hiatus from just about everything else (still working some, but not really enough) to take her to her treatments, run errands, shore her up emotionally when others felt compelled to tell her stories about all the people they knew who had cancer and died (really not helpful folks, just don’t do that — survivor stories, yes….anything that ends in “and they s/he died anyway”… just don’t do that — seriously, it’s not just “unhelpful”, it’s actually destructive). Etc. After a year and a half of doing that, and neglecting my consulting business, I got myself to where I had to take a permanent job…. which has turned out to be a serious blessing.

This February, I myself was diagnosed with breast cancer…. and my friend lost her battle about 3 weeks later.

Right now I am recovering from a bi-lateral mastectomy with DIEP flap reconstruction and prepping for 6 months of chemotherapy and radiation hell. It was originally thought I had stage 1 cancer with 2 very small tumors, one in each breast. There was no sign of anything more on mammograms, sonograms or PET scan, Unfortunately, when they “got in there” what they discovered was a mess. I have apparently been walking around for a very long time with some form of insidious evil stealth cancer that does not show up on scans…. it’s slow growing from the pathology report, and there was a LOT of it. Despite the fact that PET showed NO hypermetabolic activity other than the 2 small tumors, and sonogram of my lymphnodes appeared normal…. they discovered that I have stage 3 cancer with 24 lymphnodes removed and all found to be cancerous. And apparently this “web” of cancer had taken over almost 1/3 of my seriously not tiny right breast.

The additional cancer was described to me as a mesh of small tumors no larger than the ball point of a pen, with fine filaments stringing them together. None of them large enough to register on a mammogram, and with slow enough metabolism to not show on PET. The only reason they found it now is that I opted for mastectomy, rather than lumpectomy.

I have a 50/50 chance of surviving 5 years. Since it does not show on scans, I asked how we’ll know if treatment is working…..the straight up answer is “we won’t”. Basically, if I’m not dead in 5 years, and no additional scanable tumors have cropped up, it will be assumed it worked.

Luckily for me, the job I took last year …. well, my employer has been awesome. Short-term disability with them is full pay for far longer than the legal requirement for unpaid FMLA leave, with 60% of pay even after that…. and I’ve been assured I will have a job to return to after treatment is completed. During the time presurgery and post-diagnosis they told me that I was to just go to whatever appointments I needed and as long as I worked at all that day, it counted as a day’s work and not personal time. The support from them has been just astounding and by the time this is done, I will have been on paid medical leave longer than I worked for them pre-diagnosis…… so basically, I plan on eventually retiring from them and my bouncing around days work-wise are over….. why would you leave a firm that goes that above and beyond for their employees? They are seriously earning extreme loyalty here.

I’m still healing from the surgery and having lymphedema and neuropathy issues with my right hand and arm. Things get a tiny bit more healed each day, but I am typing this with my left hand and 2 fingers on my right….. cumbersome, but doable.

So if anyone has wondered where the Hell I am….. well, you now know exactly what Hell I am in.

Since I’m not working at the moment, and going more than slightly stir-crazy…… who knows, perhaps I’ll find my way in here more often.

Cancer has NOT altered my politics (in fact it has strengthened them — the years I went without insurance due to pre-existing conditions just may have allowed cancer to thrive unchallenged because I had no routine testing for quite some time.

My concern for the environment and the basic needs for clean air, food, water and land have only been magnified by the knowledge that cancer is now so commonplace that 1 in 3 women in this country is expected to develop some form of breast cancer in her lifetime, and other forms of cancer are on the increase as well.

So I’m still the same PlacidAir you either know and love, know and hate, or know and tolerate……just with cancer and a big-assed battle for my own life on my hands. Still mourning the loss f a dear friend and saddened by the loss of an in-law and, knowledge that a young woman I babysat as a teenager is at this moment losing her own battle and that my best-friend’s MIL is also doing battle.

I got a pedicure today, and started talking to others in the salon. 1 woman had just finished treatment for cancer, another had been widowed by it, another was supporting a a friend through it. Everyone there had a story to tell me. I cannot drive right now because of my hand (I can’t even press the button on the shift to change gears), so I’ve been taking a lot of taxis… the driver on the way home today …. well his best friend has leukemia….. it’s everywhere I turn these days, and it’s overwhelming. What have we screwed up so badly that cancer has reached such epidemic levels? Is it GMOs? Environmental estrogens? Food additives? Air pollution related to the burning of fossil fuels? Nuclear waste trickling into ground water? We have so screwed things up in this country that our own bodies are turning against us in record numbers, cells are mutating, destroying/engulfing the cells around them and spreading and people are dying. And we’re all looking for “the cure” — how about we work on figuring out the CAUSE, and make it stop?

And my hand is hurting now, so I’m going to stop typing…. for now.

Thank you for reading.