A clack and a bang

Oct 31

Yesterday after radiation, I drove directly to our autobody shop near my parent’s house.  As if I didn’t have enough going on with radiation, cardiac issues, and childcare logisitics, my car started making a loud (LOUD!) clacking noise that was very ominous.  I prayed the entire time I was driving it.  The mechanics, Chatty and Boss, told me that the repair would take several days and, anticipating it was inside the engine block, thousands of dollars. Ugh.  Did you catch the plural on the thousands?  The unexpected expenses of 2012 just keep rolling in. Chatty went to do one more diagnostic; I heard the distinctive clacking and then a big bang, and he returned with a six inch metal disk in his hands.  The disk for the air compressor sheared completely off and failed as he was watching.  If I’d been driving, this could have been catastrophic to me, to my car, or to another vehicle.  Phew.  Thank you God. They wrote up the estimate for the air compressor and associated labor and parts.  They assured me that this fix would cheaper than their initial “thousands” recommendation.  However, the total came back as $1,726.88.  Um, so not much better.  I got that crappy stressed feeling in the pit of my stomach. “Can I drive it without the air compressor?” I asked, hoping that Brad and I could digest this together before we had to ante up. “Yes, it is drivable.  But you don’t have any air conditioning.” Air-conditioning, schmair-conditioning.  It’s October.  “How many miles can I drive without doing more damage?” Boss answered thoughtfully, “Best case is you could drive it for the rest of it’s life with no A/C.  Worse case is the clamp comes off while you’re driving and your engine fails, but I don’t think that will happen.” I looked back and forth from Chatty to Boss.  “So, essentially, I can leave here today with no A/C, and no danger to myself or other vehicles, and decide later whether to replace the part?” Chatty and Boss nodded and I drove home, grateful that I did not have to spend another huge un-budgeted chunk of money on an unpredicted expense. I’ve had my car for more than...

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Normal heart

Oct 30

The short version: I’m back on Herceptin, people!  The report from my echocardiogram is three pages long, and every section contains the word normal in it.  I love being normal on medical reports.  Normal and boring: that’s me!  Yes! ::happy dance:: The long version: I became a cardiac patient because my ejection fraction (EF) (the pumping quality of my heart–specifically the left ventricle) dropped below fifty percent.  My heart was probably damaged by my first chemo drug; administering this drug was a calculated risk, and the ugliness of my cancer warranted use of the biggest weapon in the box.  An EF of <50% is suboptimal.  To try to restore heart function and improve EV, I was put on medication in August.  Yesterday’s echocardiogram showed that my EF is now in the range of 55-60%–woo hoo!  Not only has my heart function not dropped, but it actually improved since my last echo in August.  Dr. Gold, appropriately, gets a gold star because my heart medications are doing their job. I am thrilled.  I’m really glad that my 33-year-old heart has gotten with the program, and seems to understand that we can’t have any decreased functionality because–ahem, I am 33 and have a lot of living to do! There is still this pesky question: if my EF has improved and my echocardiogram shows normal function, then why am I having cardiac symptoms?  Maybe a radiation side effect?  Maybe something else?  I will see Dr. Gold (cardiologist) next week and he will weigh in.  None of my doctors feel this is an urgent situation, so I am content to shrug and go with it.  After these echocardiogram results, I am feeling really good about my long-term cardiac condition, as well as the likelihood that I will be able to stay on Herceptin. ::happy dance:: I’ve been thinking about faith today.  To be honest, I’ve lost some faith in my body: it let me down in a big way.  Breast cancer at 32?  Really, body?  Heart damage at 33?  Really, heart?  It is inspiring to me to see how God is using doctors, medicine, and technology to heal my broken body. Medicine offers percentages and statistics to explain and predict.  The numbers don’t...

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Heart

Oct 30

Well, people.  I’ve got some cardiac symptoms going on.  (Shortness of breath, chest constriction, etc.)  The medical team is on it, and I’m not in cardiac distress, which is a really good thing.  The symptoms come and go, and are not related to exertion on my part. Since Herceptin (the drug I am supposed to get every week) can cause heart problems (and is possibly the culprit here), I did not get Herceptin this week.  Yesterday I had an echocardiogram, which is a fancy ultrasound of the heart.  Dr. Gold (cardiologist) or Dr. Wonderful (oncologist) will call me with the results later in the week. Best case scenario: Dr. Gold adjusts my heart medicines and my heart restores to normal-enough function over the next weeks/months so that I can resume Herceptin. Worst case scenario: My heart function has declined to the point where it is too dangerous for me to receive Herceptin, and I am done with that drug. Since this cardiac development is neither final, nor fatal, I shall keep my chin up, and do today well.  I can handle a setback, especially a setback that does not change my No Evidence of Disease status.  The incident of the suspicious lump under my arm reminds me to have perspective and to be thankful for today.  That day, I was afraid.  Today, I am not afraid. Today, I am as busy as every other mom in the country preparing for the costume-y goodness that is Halloween.  Today, I’ll go to radiation and keep my phone with me in case a doctor calls.  Today, I choose joy as I bounce back and forth between cancer-maintenance and my blessed life. And if you would, please pray for my heart.  In all senses of the word.  Thank...

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Holding hands

Oct 27

Holding hands

This moment is a perfect moment. I have the image forever in my mind, and here it is from Brad’s view behind the camera. I love holding hands with my girls (and my husband, for that matter, but that is a different post…) Greta loves to hold hands.  Each morning we cross to our neighbor’s house to reach the bus stop.  We all walk down the driveway, and then I tell Greta to hold hands before we cross the street.  She babbles, “Hands street,” because she is in that delightful phase where she tries to repeat everything we say.  And I do mean delightful: it’s not like the dreaded “why” phase, or the I-found-my-voice shrieking phase.  It really is can’t-help-but-grin cuteness.  She reaches up and my hand engulfs hers; I help her navigate the curb using wrist maneuvers and half-lifting her off the ground.  She knows she is allowed to let go when we reach the sidewalk thirty feet later, and she races to embrace her found again independence.  She spontaneously shouts “Bus!” and all of the kids at the bus stop compete for her attention.  Every ten seconds she discovers something new: it is refreshing to view the world through her eyes.  She is marvelously bright and enthusiastic to soak in. Maren, at eighteen months, never, ever wanted to hold hands.  Every. single. time. I got her out of the carseat as we prepared to enter a store, I told her, “Maren, hold Mommy’s hand, this is a parking lot.  We have to be safe.”  Maren would immediately wrench her hip in the direction of freedom and bolt as fast as possible.  I learned to do the ridiculous Mommy-hover-box-in move whenever I got her out of the car.  For the better part of two years, I walked through most parking lots carrying a writhing Maren under one arm after my laughable “hold hands” line.  She was independent.  I still remember the day, the moment, in the Target parking lot when she was thirty months old: I told her for the bazillionth time, “Maren, we are in a parking lot, hold Mommy’s hand.”  Instead of bolting, she looked at me, reached up, held my hand.  We walked into the...

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Greatness

Oct 22

Dr. Wonderful finishes my exam today, and says, “Wait a minute, don’t go anywhere.” I say, “Okay,” and swing my legs at the edge of the exam table.  I am happy to be boring.  I love my No Evidence of Disease status.  I am happy that I have no concerns, red flags, or burdens to bring to him today.  I wonder if he is going to come back with an article or something for me to read: perhaps related to cancer, perhaps not.  Last week we talked about the demise of redheads, so I’m not sure what to expect. He walks back in the exam room, carrying a garment bag. I look at him, at the bag, and back to him, puzzled. He starts to open the bag, “This is from my wife and I.” Immediately, my eyes fill with tears.  “Seriously?  You and your wife have something for me?”  I’ve spoken to Mrs. Wonderful only once.  It was when I called Dr. Wonderful at home one night when I was anxious about test results.  Mrs. Wonderful cheerfully took my message when I called at eight o’clock at night, and said she would be happy to have him call me back.  I blurted awkwardly that I was so thankful for her support of her husband’s career, that he is such a great doctor for me, and I’m so grateful for to be in his care.  I know that she must be equally amazing, and I know that I was not articulate in trying to tell her so.  The opposite of me, she was both graceful and articulate, and she thanked me for being his patient.  Mrs. Wonderful is, well, wonderful.  It’s a family affair. Dr. Wonderful opens the garment bag while explaining that his wife is helping with a project and they have found themselves with these costumes, and they thought that my girls would like them. Inside the bag is a purple tutu and crown for Greta, and a floor-length pink and gold ball gown for Maren. They are perfect.  Greta’s costume has the perfect amount of flair–just like Greta herself.  Maren’s is over-the-top glamorous, and it will transform Maren into the princess she knows herself to be....

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