Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Art Interrupted

When I last posted back in February, my big dilemma was picking out a poem for a quilt project.  Little did I to know that I would soon be facing a much bigger challenge - Stage 1 Triple Negative Breast Cancer.

Needless to say, the poem project was completely forgotten as I prepared to face the challenges of lumpectomy surgery, chemotherapy and radiation treatments.  My surgery went well, since it was "only" a lumpectomy I recovered quickly and even went back to work for the rest of tax season.  I started chemotherapy on April 16th, the day after tax season ended - no rest for the weary!

I must say that the IDEA of chemotherapy had me a little unglued.  I've heard all the horror stories of the side effects and of all things I deplore, getting an IV line put in and vomiting are at the top of the list.  Lucky for me, the IV lines were put in with minimal discomfort and new anti-nausea medications did a great job at keeping me from getting sick to my stomach.  While chemo was certainly not a pleasant experience, and my journey was not without some complications, I found chemo to be manageable.  Yes, I felt lousy and tired.  No, it was not unbearable.  Yes, I was allowing poisons to be put into my body.  No, I did not have a choice - I needed to go "full guns" at beating cancer.  Yes, I am now a survivor.  No, I don't want to go through this again.

I learned a lot along the way - life is full of lessons if we keep our eyes open.  I was shocked to learn of how many people in my life have had breast cancer - now, remember, we know at least two thousand people just through Steve's CPA practice and we have a large circle of friends outside of that so the odds are we would know quite a few.  That list is dozens of people long - a big surprise to me and a reminder of how far cancer treatment has advanced as the vast majority of them are SURVIVORS.  I met a lot of people at chemo and radiation, fabulous caregivers, skilled nurses, brilliant doctors who patiently answered my million-and-two questions.  I was reminded of how blessed I am to live here, an hour north of NYC where some of the most talented doctors are trained - and then wind up in my wonderful Mt Kisco Medical Group.  I heard a lot of stories from other cancer patients, both good and bad experiences.  I learned that everyone deals with a cancer diagnosis differently and that everyone responds differently to treatments - sometimes largely due to their emotional state.

I am blessed to have been raised by an incredible mother and father who faced their share of health issues with amazing strength and grace.  My approach was to be pragmatic, learn the facts and do what was needed - all with the best attitude I could muster through it all.  I can't count the times people told me that my good attitude was great medicine and would be really help me through it all.

My hair started to fall out about two weeks after my first chemo treatment.  A few days into finding gobs of hair in my brush, I was running errands and it so happened that the only parking space was in front of a hair salon.  I decided to go in and get my head shaved to just get the hair "thing" over with.  It turned out that one of our clients worked there - I felt so bad for her, she had tears rolling down her cheeks as she cut my hair and shaved my head - I was smiling the whole time.  It was SO empowering!  I guess that is the "control freak" in me - I don't like being vulnerable and letting my hair be in charge of just when I was going to be bald just didn't suit me.  So, I showed my hair who was in charge, LOL.  I very quickly got used to having no hair and actually have enjoyed how quickly I could get ready and out of the house!

Anyway, enough rambling about the past few months.... it has been a journey.  One that I could not have handled as well were it not for the incredible support of my husband, my family, my friends and the countless people who have been part of my treatment team.  What was amazing to me was that nearly every day from my first treatment I received either a card, a note, a quilted postcard, flowers, a plant, home cooked food, a gift, a Mass Card, or some other kindness.  It was as if everyone in my life had gotten together and set up a schedule so that the support would be spread out over the months of treatment instead of me getting a pile in the beginning and nothing in the later weeks.  It was so wonderful, every day brought some little joy, an endless stream of love. 

How blessed I am.

I am now back to making ART again and that will be the subject of my next blog post in about two weeks...  LOL, my computer drives me nuts... I somehow hit a combination of keys that has me typing in italics and I can't get rid of it....  ARGH.  Anyway, I plan to be back to blogging more regularly, at least a couple of times a month or so.  Thanks for hanging in there and waiting for me to show up again!