University of Michigan Breast Care Clinic

I have only been a patient at the University of Michigan Breast Care Clinic in Ann Arbor, Michigan for three weeks.  But it has been an incredible, intense three weeks.  The care I have received thus far has been unlike anything I’ve experienced.  Their comprehensive approach really calms you as a patient and lets you know the experts are handling it.

For example, I received a call from my Nurse Practitioner today on her day off from her home to tell me the results of my bone scan and CT Scan.  There were some question marks on the tests, so I have to have an MRI next week.  Their entire approach is, “Don’t worry, if it is something, we can handle it. We will postpone surgery and start chemotherapy. We have chemo that can target it.  And they always tell you about another patient who is doing well after dealing with the same thing two years or five years or 20 years later.”   They bring comfort, support and encouragement always in the name of healing.

When you go to the University of Michigan Hospital, I decided it is like the Walt Disney World of Medicine.  It is like living in Tomorrow Land.  Have you been to Disney?  If so, you know the amazing, organized way they move thousands of people through their intricate system. University of Michigan Hospital does it with their patients.  And like Disney, the employees always have a smile on their face and are willing to help you.  If you stand in a corridor for 30 seconds and look the least confused as to where you are, a minimum of three employees will stop and ask if they can help you.  That means something to a patient.

The biggest thing I have received is the support.  Don’t worry, we can target that specific area, we have drugs that will help that, just relax and enjoy your life.  Let us handle the rest.  And so I am.

Check out my new ONLINE STORE:   cropped-cropped-cropped-logofb.jpg

UPDATE:   I have no been a patient there for over 4 months through surgery and chemo.  My opinion has only gotten better of University Of Michigan Breast Care Clinic and Hospital.  It is an amazing place!   One Chemo Nurse told me their philosophy is they never give up on a patient.

FURTHER UPDATE:  It is close to a year since my treatment began at University of Michigan.  I cannot say enough good things about my treatment there.

Preparing for Mastectomy

If you are reading this for yourself or a family or friend, I have learned alot in a very short time.  My mastectomy is 3 1/2 weeks away.  Preparing emotionally is the biggest hurdle.  As one Stage IV breast cancer survivor who had a lumpectomy said, “Losing a breast must take alot of mourning.”  And it does.But, it is amazing how much more detached you can become when you realize that loss will save your life.  You still cry and mourn, but you begin to start looking toward healing.

Here are some very practical matters about mastectomy.  I sobbed as I looked through my closet.   Never did I think I wore provocative or revealing clothing.  But only about 4 of my tops would work post-mastectomy.  Most everything else is too low cut.  So I began by taking out everything that would not work.  There wasn’t much left.  So trying to focus on the positive, I divided my closet for the new.   Then I went online and bought about 8 tops that were on sale, but that would work with the rest of my wardrobe.  That helps tremendously as one by one they arrive.  The other thing is you need loose-fitting button front cotton blouses to wear for the first several weeks after surgery.  I did not have anything like that and didn’t want to spend alot of money on something that would have a short closet life for me.  So I went to Goodwill.  As I walked into Goodwill, the clerk was wheeling out a rack of clothing.  I looked through it.  On it were 5 button up the front cotton blouses of a great name brand that didn’t look worn in a size larger than I wear.   Tears welled up from my soul as I thought of the woman who finally cleaned out her closet and dropped it off at the Goodwill.  Little did she know how much it would cheer a woman awaiting a mastectomy.

Please see my other Mastectomy posts to help prepare before, during and after surgery.  Also, I started a new online store.  Currently, I have a breast pillow/seat belt cover that is AMAZING!  I still use it!   Click on image!

BreastBuddy1

Friends, Family and your Breast Cancer Diagnosis

So I have had just a little time to evaluate other’s reaction to my Breast Cancer Diagnosis.  I’ve categorized family and friends by these fabricated characters.  I hope this can make you laugh because of course, I’ve taken a few liberties and exaggerated just a tad!!

I can see myself in ALL OF THESE FICTIONAL CHARACTERS!!  Usually I am a cross between Cheerleader Charlie, Comforter Collette, and Avoid-u Alicia, but I’ve been known to kick into all of them simultaneously.

This is meant to make you laugh.  I hope it does!!

Buffalo Bull Bonnie– Buffalo Bull Bonnie just charges in and is determined that you will get better.  She will do whatever it takes to help you.  By sheer will and determination, YOU WILL GET BETTER.   Now listen, stand on your head while simultaneously drinking the juice of this rare fruit, Pomedora Apricota organically grown in rain forests of Belize and flown in on a germ-free airplane.

Laughing Larry  – Laughing Larry just wants to make you laugh and pretend that you are normal.  His goal is to make you feel better by making you laugh and forget your troubles.   Did you see that Dateline report where that woman had Breast Cancer, she survived, and then became a comedian on Saturday Night Live?  No, well, here are her 242 jokes. 

Cheerleader Charlie – Cheeryleader Charlie wants to rah rah rah you through the process.  Think only positive thoughts and don’t you dare cry ever.    Your team will win.  Okay, now hold these poms poms just like this.  See was that so hard?  Now if you hold them just right and say this cheer, you will be healed!! 

Avoid-u Alicia – Avoid-u Alicia can’t handle your diagnosis and just pretends that everything is status quo.   You run into her in the grocery store, you know she knows.  Gosh, can you believe the price of gasoline this week?   Oh, Jimmy had a cold, but he’s doing better.  Did you watch the World Series? Oh, I heard Target is having a sale on clothes pins.

Crying Camille – Crying Camille is very emotional over you.  Perhaps she has been through this before, and the emotional toll it takes on her is overwhelming.   This time it is you comforting her.  Don’t cry, Camille.  You are going to be just fine.  Camille, okay, okay, okay, quit crying.  Everything is going to be okay.   

Patient Paul – Patient Paul wants you to know that whatever you are facing, his situation has been far worse.  Do you remember when I had my prostate, my liver, my left leg, right arm, and nose cut off in 1989 at the Fukishima Hospital in Japan?  Look at me, I’m still alive, but Poor Aunt Sally died of Breast Cancer and had a horrible death.

Shameful Sarah – Shameful Sarah knows it is definitely something you did.  Shameful Sarah will list your limitations and weaknesses because you definitely did something to cause this!  Remember when you slept with that blue lightbulb on while on vacation in Mexico after you drank homemade tequilla that cost 42 pesos from that guy on the beach?  Yep, you caused it! That was it!

Comforter Collette and Counselor Christopher – Comforter Collette and Counselor Christopher  know  just what to say, how to say it, and when to say it.  Well we did graduate magna cum laude from the University of SaiPan in overseas studies, microbiology, psychology and immunology.

All joking and laughing aside, one thing I know in my observations of how friends and family handle your diagnosis – THEY LOVE AND CARE FOR YOU.  It is a blessing being able to know how much they do really love you and what they think of you as a person.  THAT HAS AMAZING HEALING POWER. 

I appreciate all my friends and family and know they care, they love me, and they want to help me.  The outpouring of love and support is beyond amazing.  I am humbled and overwhelmed by their caring, their generosity, their prayers,their gifts and their kindness.   How can I be so blessed?

Check out my new ONLINE STORE:   cropped-cropped-cropped-logofb.jpg

I am not going to die from Breast Cancer.

I have made up my mind and am determined.

The above line was written on October 23, 2011, one week after diagnosis. Update:  Today’s date is September 1, 2012 – I have now been through Mastectomy with Lymph Node Dissection, have finished 5 months of Chemotherapy, 7 weeks of Radiation, 3 months of Herceptin, due to Herceptin, I had heart damage, so I am on hold while the Cardiologist helps heal my heart, etc.    I can honestly say I still feel the same way as I did when I wrote the first line.   I have made up my mind and am determined I am not going to die from Breast Cancer – at least not in the next 20 years.

I met a woman at Chemo Infusion today.  We started talking.  Her name is Nancy.  Nancy appears to be in her mid to late 60s.  Nineteen, yes 19 years ago, Nancy was given less than 6 months to live by an Oncologist.  Her breast cancer had spread to her bones in multiple places and she was then Stage IV.  She said at the moment she made up her mind that she was not going to die from Breast Cancer.   She changed Oncologists and went to the University of Michigan for treatment.  Her Medical Oncologist became Daniel F. Hayes, M.D., who is also my Oncologist.  Dr. Hayes gave her hope and treatment options.     And she has had alot of treatment, but 19 YEARS LATER, she is still hopeful and going strong!

Check out my new ONLINE STORE:   cropped-cropped-cropped-logofb.jpg

Look Good Feel Better during Cancer Treatment

The American Cancer Society has free makeup classes for women going through Cancer Treatment across the country.

Sign up at http://lookgoodfeelbetter.org/

They provide you with $250.00 to $300.00 worth of makeup, makeup instructions, wig instructions, all provided

by cosmetology volunteers!   It is a marvelous program!

Check out my new ONLINE STORE:   cropped-cropped-cropped-logofb.jpg

Beyond the Shock

So here it is…the day you get BEYOND THE SHOCK of being diagnosed with Breast Cancer.  It is still hard for me to write those words or say those words.   The sun is out this morning on a beautiful, cool, crisp October day.  It’s a different sun than it was last week.  This sun has promise and hope.  This sun has warmth in the midst of the cold.  This sun is the light.

Today I can see the path ahead more clearly.

I had a dream this morning that I owned a chateau in France.  I got to the house and there were suspended ceiling tile in the living area.  All of them were cracked and kept cracking before my eyes.  I was shocked.  I wondered why I had purchased this house in a foreign country with a cracked and broken ceiling.  So I took a long stick and poked at the ceiling tile.  A whole group of them just fell to the ground.  I was terrified I owned this piece of trash.  What had I gotten myself into, I wondered in the dream?  But then I looked up.  Beyond the broken and cracked and ruined ceiling tile, I had a glimpse, just a glimpse of this gorgeous ceiling.  More beautiful than I could imagine.   A hand-painted vaulted ceiling that was hidden by the hideous ceiling tile.   And then I awakened.

This is the day that there is a slight glimmer of hope.  The day that you can see beyond the horror. And I know today that God has more for me beyond the ugliness, beyond the sky that seems to be falling, beyond the shattered and the broken.  And so it goes….TODAY.

UPDATE:   Check out my new online store:   cropped-cropped-cropped-logofb.jpg