Posts Tagged ‘breast cancer’

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Nesting Nesting. A complete foreign concept to me, something I'm heard about from expectant mothers. Preparing their warm little homes for new arrivals. From what I can figure out since my illness, I've been nesting with the best of them! My house used to be a place I came home from after long working hours, always. My entire adult life. I always tried to keep some semblance of order in my abode, to allow it to reflect who I was. Sometimes thanks to the … Read More

via Journey


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I live for mornings, always have. In my mind the best part of the day. The hope of something fresh, a re-birth, a new plan. Every day. Wow…an AH-HA moment flashed in front of me this morning. I have to live each day like this. In hope, in wonder. Each morning I bustle around doing my daily routines. These routines have drastically changed, but are still routines to me. This morning was a bit different, however.  I took a step back and enjoyed every moment, breathed it in, wanting it to last forever.  It amazes me how the spring sun creeps up above the neighbour’s trees and gently bathes my kitchen and garden in such a delicious light..a light so clean and pure you can almost taste it. I wish I could bottle it…make a perfume or a new taste sensation. How do you bottle morning happiness? For a split second I forgot my illness, felt wonderful…what a miracle. I decided to capture these early mornings moments with my camera…please forgive my attempts at photography:



I’ve never quite got people who are night owls…they’re so different. As far back as I remember I was up before the birds, enjoying the quietness, the solitude. Of course it’s not quite as quiet as it used to be..a Jack Russell puppy who’s also a morning type reassures that. So funny, my Yorkie, Pudding, is a late-under-the-covers-don’t-bug-me type …good little team. But I digress.

I imagine I’ll have a lot of moments now when I’m home alone with my own thoughts. Reflections, sadness, hope…The blue skies and sunshine of the late morning  mock me, tease me. Tell me to go out, go to work, go for a walk, go shopping….be normal..or as the Dutch love to say…doe maar normaal. My fear paralyzes me. The streak of sun on the kitchen table points to tomorrow’s lab requisitions. mammogram, biopsies, blood tests, xrays….lord…where am I? I try to doe normaal for Wilfried’s sake, for my own. Perhaps a dark, cold rainy day in the winter would allow me to wallow in self-pity. Tuesday morning, 11h30, April 19,  in bright sunshine doesn’t. Give me 6am…give me the freshness and hope of the new morning, every minute of every day…I need to feel the hope it gives. I need hope…

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I’ve heard mom’s voice often over the years, when she was alive, even louder since she died. This past week she’s been my constant companion.  She’s comforted me, she’s scolded me …she’s reassured me. Mom’s never been one to allow you to wallow in anything for long. Home, sick? Now Suzie, get up, shower, put on your face and you’ll feel better…better yet, no, Suzie, you’re fine to go to school/work. …no staying home sick for you!haha! My mom was a down-to-earth Irish/Canadian Catholic. Pretty tough to beat that combination of guilt and tough and love.  Mom was a hero of mine, …no matter what she moved on ….But mom had something there…that Irish strength pumps through my veins. It has made me get up every morning this week even though I’ve sometimes I’ve just  felt like pulling the dekbed over my head and hiding, I’ve stood in that shower and pulled that icky dressing off my right breast and showered. Did I mention that I hate ick and blood? Well, I DO. This same strength trumps the horror as I aim the shower on my sore open breast. God, help me. I still haven’t been dextrous enough to put a clean dressing on with a sore shoulder and shaking hands so I’ve been obliged to call for HELP. God, I HATE that..I hate calling Wilfried to see me like this. I briskly cover up the wound and allow him to so very gently tape it all in place. He looks down at me in the eyes every day and asks me if I’m ok. He reaches for the fresh, fluffy towel and dries my back. He loves me. What terrifies me is losing him with all of this.  He’s always told me how beautiful I am…will he still feel that after my surgery? Maybe he’ll be completely grossed out by my body…we’ve talked about it this past week. He assures me he’ll love me no matter what. But, how deep can love be? I even gross myself out. Wilfried was a soldier, a cop...one of those tough guys who can do anything…my sweet hero. Can he take on me? this big challenge…still be my hero?

I remember this old night nurse from the Children’s hospital where i worked forever…she was quite a character, single and enjoyed a tipple now and then. I used to come in early on the day shift to have a coffee with her and see how her night shift was. We talked. She was a hard-assed old bat and we didn’t see eye to eye on everything…she found me way too soft and i found her rough and cold. But, she was a survivor. She had breast cancer before it became pink-ribboned and glam…she had a total mastectomy years before, then it showed up on the other side and had another. She talked a lot about it, it seemed so amazing to me and so surreal. One morning she whipped up her scrubs to show off her battle scars..OMG! it was awful! Huge ropy scars…nothing like implants or built-up bras for her, just scars that burnt themselves into my corneas forever…she was a proud survivor….even though I was horrified and almost spit the coffee out of my mouth I had to give it to her…man….what a hero.

geez, I have to even give it to Sylvie van der Vaart..super-glamorous football wife over here.  Even the beautiful get it, she was diagnosed in 2009 and seemed to sail through it, with a collection of gorgeous wigs and designer duds. Even she is a hero. …who knows how it was for her? maybe she felt similar to me?

Tomorrow is D-Day…where i go and find out my future…YES, I’m terrified, but I NEED to know. Want to go on. Want to plan…surprisingly calm. Think of me tomorrow morning dear readers, light candles, say prayers, close your eyes. I need to feel your vibes, your strength….be my heroes and I’ll do my best to be heroic.

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Nursing school 1982…trying to study for end exams…the Kübler-Ross model, 5 stages of grief for people coping with death and dying….memorize, memorize. Now I’m living proof.  Since being bombarded with this horribly sickening diagnosis a week ago I think I’ve passed through each of those stages many, many times.  I want to look strong and accepting, but when i lie in bed at night and I hear Wilfried’s gentle (!!) snores, I’m alone and I’m bargaining at my best.  I also have this feeling that it’s all a bad dream, that besides for the pain in my right breast (where they biopsied and left the wound open to drain) and the on-going left shoulder pain, I’m healthy, aren’t I? This is all crazy bull-shit and why is this happening to ME?  Yes, I’m pissed off…Geez, I’ve worked so hard, been through SO much, especially this last year…and now here we finally have planned 6 lovely weeks of holidays in my upcoming year and THIS happens…this cancer.  why…why?

I’ve come to the conclusion that nobody knows why.  The media tries to make us believe that breast cancer is glamorous, this pretty actress had it and now she’s the picture of health…god, even Samantha from Sex and the City got it!!..and she went on to do 2 more movies!!…I want to star in the rest of my life, thank you very much. I want this to be yet another bump in the road. ok, even if I have to go bald shall I be the best damn good-looking bald woman on the earth??…how sad am I? I can’t help thinking of what my good friend Martha told me years ago. She’s survived breast cancer…but she told me while going through chemo she expected to lose all this weight and become a svelte southern gal…looking maybe a tiny bit forward to being thin. Nope! didn’t happen, I think she mentioned she even gained weight.  geez, just my luck. Bald, no boobs and still CHUBBY!…life isn’t fair.

But let’s get down to that acceptance thing…and the positives I try to scrape together to cope: (please bear with me as I wax eloquent of all the loves of my life)

1.  I have THE best partner on earth. How ironic. After so many years of picking big jerks, I find Mr, Right and this happens…grrrrrr…..Wilfried is so supportive, so giving…so almost me-like it’s scary. He always does the noble thing and is there one step before I need him.  He’s my love, my sounding board, my nurse.

2. my big sister…my voice of reason. My only family…someone whom I can reminisce with and we can laugh our heads off.

3. I have a super group of friends surrounding me, including my on-line expat women. Many of you I’ve known almost my entire life, some just recently met, all wonderful. Thank you  Caroline for making me feel normal and allowing me to gab away with you about baking, cooking and gossip till the cows come home…

4. wonderful surroundings…living in my little white cottage on the water…I’m SO thankful I bought this place last summer. My little healing nest.

5. My sweet but naughty animals. Pudding, Bill, Molly and Smeesha who all know I’m sick and take turns comforting me.

6. having a pretty darn good job and all the craziness that goes with it…and colleagues who sms me every single day telling me I’m missed. I miss my patients…not all of them mind you…but I miss their love and respect and the allowing me the honour of helping them. I’m hoping I’ll get the opportunity to return to my practice….

….now showered, dressing changed and once again fresh-faced, I’m off to sit in my back garden among all the blooming flowers with a few cookbooks and a big glass of lemonade. Life can be sweet…I feel a bit better now after having weeped through Kubler-Ross this morning and putting my stages on my blog…who’d have thought that I’d get so much out of writing?

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one life….live it!

this sign jumped out at me this morning while taking a drive with Wilfried through a little village nearby. it was the name of a cottage. many houses in these parts have names, I always thought it was a quaint tradition. today the tradition was talking to me. …in English!

My life has been like going up a steep set of stairs. my goal has always been the next step, never once seeing the top, even though often I thought I was there, I’ve never been satisfied having the end in reach….sometimes it was one step up, 2 back.  it’s been like, ok…school, I’m a nurse, good job, but not enough. take better job, nurse manager. not challenging enough? go back to school …oh no..for you?…not in english? MUCH too easy. do it in french. ok, cool…now that’s settled, time to live? nope! immigrate …..let’s say to the netherlands…..now can the living begin????.oooo! bah! can’t work, no money…. you don’t speak the language…… setback!!..study dutch, you’ll start living when you pass that big ole dutch exam, right? …ok, you pass it!!, bells and whistles!!! YAY!…setback!!..you NEED to re-study nursing in this amazing land to work to be able to pass go and collect….life. …re-study…nope! not in english, waaay to easy…do it in dutch. klaar. schools out!! time to live? holidays? nope, not for you. work…work…work. eventually you can take time to live. hey! add a new and improved job, better MONEY, more time for yourself? geez, new work is 5 days/week…more money, eventually time to live…..no money…divorce…moving…buy house…new relationship….stress, work….no time …to live.

Maybe I’m coming to the top of the stairs…maybe my body is forcing me to slow down. maybe I’m due for holidays. maybe .  what have I been waiting for? one life…one body….let me prove that I can live it….please.

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just say it

I have breast cancer. There, I’ve said it, I wrote it, I sms’d it, I’ve emailed it…I blogged it thus it must be true.  Then why do I feel like it’s someone else’s breasts we’re talking about. I am a nurse. Not just my profession, mind you…but who I am.  I’ve taken care of the bodies of so many people during my career, do you realize how difficult to give my body over to someone else for a change? My very wise huisarts (Dutch for GP), Dr. M said to me last week (loosely translated, it sounded much stronger in Dutch)..Susan, this is your BODY we’re taking care of…you have to now care for yourself.

I was diagnosed last week, after having pretty bad shoulder pain for a few weeks and focusing on that. After having been to my gp more times in the past 3 weeks than I’ve ever been in my life,  I finally mentioned to my gp that I had some sort of swelling thingy on my right breast. I was thinking and praying that it was just another one of those icky bodily things we all get now and then…it wasn’t. he packed me and my terror off to the emergency at the hospital in the town where I work with the instructions to go see the surgeon NOW. After a whirlwind of doctors, nurses and needles…before I could even take a breath I was on the OR table and some very strange little german anaesthesist was chirping from behind my head…ok lievert, ik heb een snoepje voor jouw (ok dear, i have some candy for you)…hmmm….whatever. no time to laugh about how much he reminded me of Robin Williams in “Nine and a Half Months”…i was under.

In what seemed like a few minutes (in fact about 15 to be exact)…i was awake and on my way back to my room, ready to spend a fun, sleepless night of worry and clanking bedpans (did I also clank bedpans when I worked in a hospital at 3am??). Can I tell you all dear readers that there are definite advantages and disadvantages of being hospitalized where a lot of people know you. Disadvantages are having one of your very own patients hearing the surgeon telling you that you more than likely have breast cancer…and advantages? Well, still looking but I guess getting super care by most of the nurses is better than a kick in the head when one finds oneself with the big “C”.

So why have I decided to blog about this and my big  journey back to health? It’s freeing. It’s out there. Yes, I’ve told quite a few family, friends and colleagues (and oh ya, patients, too…oh but the surgeon did that for me!)…and after the shocked responses and requisite “can I do something for you’s”  (sweet, but besides from curing my cancer, I can’t think of anything right now)…I’m waiting here at home for Monday…de “uitslagdag”  as I call it (the results). the program, the treatment, the surgery. the future….I will write when I can…but please, please don’t ask me details. I’ve been asked so many details. geez, I, myself don’t know all the details yet. I’ll share what I can, when I can. and yes, I do appreciate a hug or a kind word. that I’ve maybe meant something to someone along the line. Wilfried (my sweet and extremely patient other half) and i allowed ourselves a BIG CRY the other day…but I’m not wallowing in it yet. maybe wallow will come, but I’m taking this challenge on as I’ve kicked other big challenges’ butts previously. I’ll survive….and geez, if I don’t, I’ll go down kicking and screaming….

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