This is the last photo I have with my Papa. It's my most cherished photo and memory and it is what got me through my lowest moment in these past couple of weeks. I continue to have significant health challenges in very uncertain terrain, and am also going through a significant life change and a deep loss. The combination of all of these major stressors pushed me to the end of my rope ... and I am beyond grateful that I felt God in my heart and saw Papa and I let go, surrendered and fell into their arms. They surrounded me with angels on heaven: my dogs (Ahnung, Mister and Missy), my friends and family, my doctors and health care support team.
This past Wednesday I met with my doctors at Mayo to discuss the results of my last pathology report and to discuss options. The surgeon tells me that there is definitely something going on with the cells in my breast. "You've had 3 surgical biopsies in the past year and a half and each has shown progressively more atypia and is progressing to look like cancer." Every slide on this last surgery that the pathologist looked at shows aytpia (she says you have >3 foci of atypia), and you are also now showing calcifications. "What's of great concern to us is that there is no correlate and way for us to really monitor what's going on with you. These abnormal cells aren't forming lumps. They are dispersed and appear to be everywhere. Nothing shows up on a mammogram or ultrasound and even an MRI didn't light up the area you were concerned about on this last surgery." I reflect back on this last surgery ... something in my gut was just telling me there was something wrong and that this area in my breast just needed to be removed. I pushed my surgeon to do the surgery even though she felt like it was normal breast tissue and possibly some scarring. I'm glad I did. I learned that my breast are filled with abnormal cells and I wasn't "crazy" ... I learned the importance of listening to my gut. My 3 options continue to be a) close surveillance, b) tamoxifen or c) double mastectomy. Doctors at Mayo and in the cities feel like close surveillance is too risky an option. The surgeon said that it appears my abnormal cells aren't forming lumps and even the calcifications aren't forming lumps. She's concerned that there is already DCIS and it's not showing up on mammograms. My gut says tamoxifen isn't right with the other health issues I have. So we spent more time talking about option c. She said it would be 3 - 5 days in the hospital (depending on whether I also did reconstruction). It would be about 4-6 weeks of recovery (probably more with reconstruction) and that I should plan on being off of work for a month. If I choose close surveillance then she recommended that I have an MRI done in April as MRIs are better at detecting invasive cancer.
I shared with my doctor I have some major things on my plate right now not only health wise but also personally. They are aware of the pancreatic problems I have and know that I am seeing a pancreatic specialist next Wednesday at Mayo. They are also aware of the abnormal lab results showing high RBCs in my urine and have told me that it would be fair to address these other health issues first and put the breast issues lower on the list of priorities. I also ask the doctor that with all these various "issues" i'm having could it be something at a systemic level. She said yes and that I should consider seeing an internal medicine doctor at Mayo who can take a look at everything and work with a team of specialists. I start though with seeing my primary doctor next Tuesday to beginning the further evaluation of the high RBCs in my urine (hematuria) and possible issues with my kidneys or bladder. Repeat tests were done and apparently it's not just high, it's significantly high. The normal range is 0 - 2 and the two tests I had showed '14' and '18'.
Over the past couple of weeks I have often felt this heavy, dark cloud over me. There are moments though when I can see the sun and feel moments of lightness and relief in my heart. I hold on to those moments and know that with time I will feel them more. I've started reading a book by Pema Chodron, "When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times." I've read it a couple times before but felt the need to read it again ... I am reminded to not run from fear or pain. She says "fear is a natural reaction to moving closer to the truth."
"To be fully alive, fully human, and completely awake is to be continually thrown out of the nest. To live fully is to be always in no-man's-land, to experience each moment as completely new and fresh. To live is to be willing to die over and over again. "
~ Pema Chodron
and by surrendering and letting go and falling into the arms of angels on earth ... I trust that some day I will feel the lightness and joy in my heart again and i will be able to soar. And here's a quote from Earnie (a parishioner at St. Joan of Arc) who was recently diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer:
"And when our “Okness” doesn’t depend on specific outcomes but rather on Who is holding us we are safe beyond any power that could destroy us."