A few weeks ago, I wrote a post titled "Too Much Information?" -- I was trying to figure out how much personal information was appropriate to share in this space. It's an ongoing issue I return to, as I suggested in the post. But I had a specific reason in mind--namely, I had been going through some issues with the health care system/institution and knew, in the worst case scenario, that I would be taking a hiatus from this blog and/or only blogging intermittently.
The worst case scenario has happened. About 2 weeks ago, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. A week ago I had some surgical procedures done and the biopsy results have come back this week: I'm in stage 2A. It means that it hasn't hit my lymph system but they removed a rather large mass on my left breast and I have some indication of cancer in the pre-invasive stage (DCIS for those of you in the know) on the right, which they excised and biopsied.
This is all, of course, devastating to me. And for those of you who know me personally, who read this blog, I'm sorry to share this with you in this space rather than in a more personal manner. It has been hard for me to let everyone know by email, let alone by phone. If you want to contact me off-blog, feel free to do so.
For those of you who only know me as the blogger of "Mixed Race America," esp. you long time readers, I'm sure this is also coming as a surprise. I wish I weren't opening up and giving you all this news. I wish this weren't happening to me.
What I can tell you is that I'm overwhelmed but doing OK. I'm a highly functioning person who compartementalizes my emotions and I'm very focused and organized and have been on a fact finding mission to discover the extent of the cancer and the best treatment and surgery options to pursue because I want to live. It's really that simple.
Anyway, there's much more to say and write about. And as I come to grips with the diagnosis and make a decision about surgery (they didn't get clean margins last week so I need to go back and do some additional surgery and I'm trying to decide on which procedure will be best for me) and treatment plans (I'm definitely doing chemo--UGH--and it's going to be aggressive and I will lose my hair).
I also wanted to share some stories of going through the hospital system. It has been an interesting experience, to say the least, and race has popped its head up and I'd like to be able to write about that as well, while maintaining my relative anonymity and the anonymity/privacy of my medical team and loved ones.
Southern Man and our dog "B" are doing OK for the time being. As things progress, we know it will get harder and harder. Which is why I may or may not be blogging on a regular basis in this space anymore. Please be patient with me. And if anyone has experience with this disease, I'm all ears on suggestions for how to get through--anything from skin care treatments (because apparently you need to use different kinds of lotions when you go through chemo) to wig options (need to look into that in the next month) to books and articles to help sustain me (although my one caveat is that I'm not a pink ribbon kinda gal--it's not a diss to the Susan Komen foundation nor to anyone who finds the symbol of the ribbon inspiring. For me, seeing the ribbon is a mark of cancer and I refuse to be marked by this disease so I've developed a motto: No Fucking Pink Ribbons (sorry for the swearing--it's what I do when I'm upset and I've been upset since I got the diagnosis). I'm a fighter. I'm going to live. And I'm open to any and all suggestions about how to fight and to live through this disease.
Saturday, May 1, 2010
Intermittent blogging -- an explanation
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Oh, Jennifer. I am one of those blog readers that doesn't know you in real life. I wish you all the best. Jennifer P.S. Swear all you want - you've earned it!
I will be thinking of you, Jennifer, as the daughter of a breast cancer survivor and a longtime reader of your blog, but most of all as someone who wishes you well.
I read your blog repeatedly, and have always loved your entries, and your perspectives.
I just want to say that I wish you the best, and that you should fight hard. I know how hard cancer is to deal with, especially since most of the women on my mother's side have had it. So fight on, girl!
I'm a blog reader and I just want you to fight the best fight - cuss along the way - and know that so many of us are out here with you on our minds and in our hearts. Thank you for your steady and generous voice. *Hugs*
I'm so sorry you have to go through this but I have no doubt you will beat it! Like many readers, I'll be sending healing thoughts your way...
I'm also one of your readers who doesn't know you in the real world, but, I'm hoping you beat this thing. I've had relatives in my family diagnosed with cancer.
So my hopes and prayers go with you. Fight and win. Take a combative stance against it and be optimistic. Grab it by the nose and kick it in the a**.
Tom's of Maine Natural Clean and Gentle Care SLS-Free Anti-cavity plus Dry-Mouth Soother toothpaste in Apricot paste. Mouthwash also. No mint--ever! You may have to search for the apricot dry-mouth products but you'll be glad you did.
Get two wigs: one similar to your hair now and one totally opposite for those days when you simply don't feel like being yourself anymore. Get a prescription so insurance covers them.
ACS and similar organizations can point you to cancer cap giving groups. Even though summer's coming up, you may feel a chill and want something comfortable on your nekkid noggin.
Ignore all the "cancer is a battle" rhetoric that tacitly implies that if you don't "fight" hard enough, you'll lose the "battle."
You will learn who your true friends are. Be grateful for them, and don't disparage the old friends who fall away. It's not necessarily their fault; cancer is really scary.
Set up a by-invitation-only online schedule so friends can know your treatment plan and allow them to cook you dinner, clean your house, take out your trash, etc. Now is not the time to be stoic. Set up an account on CarePages.com
It's ok to tell people to shut up when they start in with the I-knew-someone-with-cancer-and-now-they're-dead routine. A calm "how is this supposed to help me?" often works.
Be selfish without being obnoxious. Self-care is a priority--self-care of your body, your mind, and your spirit.
It's ok to feel sorry for yourself, but only in little doses and preferably not some public display, then suck it up and play the cards you've been dealt.
Keep a journal of the good, the bad, and the ugly. Photograph your incisions and scars. You don't ever have to look at them but you'll never have a chance to take them again. And, when you've hit that magical 5-year mark, you can burn them if you want.
I just wanted to say I am so sorry to hear of your hardship, but from what little I know of you through your writing...I am confident you will deal with it with grace and dignity.
I wish you the best of luck in dealing with this.
Delurking to extend my sympathy.
Long time lurker, here. I'll be pulling for you. My mom is a survivor, too. Here's to a speedy recovery.
I’m shocked to hear this news. You are an incredible person of enormous strength and determination, and I’ll be rooting for you all the way. Fight to win!
wow. i am saddened by your news, however you seem like you are going to fight this with all you have!!! Checked out your blog this morning, had been in chicago for the past 4 days! I was thinking about your blog as I was completely immersed in the diversity that is in Chicago! it was magnificent & WONDERFUL!!! I went to see Obama's house...got yelled at by the secret service...for being on the wrong side of the road.
just thought i'd share....we're pullin' for you!!!
on the way out of his neighborhood i met a woman who asked if I had been to see OUR president's house. It was a validation of my trip there, someone knew exactly why i had rented the bicycle and why i was in their neighborhood.
p.s. the clamshack is the new name formerly known as "Colby family"! :)
will always keep up with you here and elsewhere, jennifer.
Thanks so much for all the well wishes. I TRULY TRULY TRULY appreciate them all. One of the most important things for me right now is to feel like I have different communities I can draw from in terms of emotional and psychological strength. And the readers of MRA are definitely a community I find sustenance in. So thank you. Thank you for reading the blog and delurking and for all the support. It means a lot to me.
And in particular, a big thanks to Mommela--your practical tips for how to deal with chemo and cancer is SO HELPFUL. If you think of anything else, please feel free to leave another comment. I feel like I've gotten a crash course in breast cancer treatment in the last month and my head is spinning. There's so much to process and absorb. So practical tips like avoiding mint toothpaste and the wigs (I was planning to buy two and wasn't sure if that was overkill so thanks for recommending two) is really useful. And the psychological stuff is as well--like the cancer-battle rhetoric. I get it, but it does frustrate me as well. I've got a lot of anger issues (I had a lot of anger issues before the cancer) and yet, I'm really not a violent person. One of the best things I realized about myself came from taking tae kwon do while in grad school. When I finally graduated in belts to start sparring I realized 2 things: I hated hitting someone and I hated being hit. It shocked me because I thought I'd be a natural at punching someone and taking a blow. So yes, I don't want to battle cancer or fight it. I just want to scream at it to get the fuck out of my body and then go about my life.
Anyway, the swearing, yeah, a coping strategy. Hopefully I won't offend any of y'all (yes, I now say "y'all" from time to time). Thanks for reading and commenting and esp. for delurking as a sign of support.
Hi Jennifer... It is appropriate that you wrote this blog post on May 1st. That is my birthday and it was the second birthday I have celebrated since my diagnosis with stage 3 breast cancer in July 2008. I too am a blogger, I blog about my personal experiences with breast cancer. I'm on the other side of the journey you are starting on but if I can be of any assistance at any time, please do not hesitate to reach out. I will also reach in from time to time because I know that it can get difficult along the way. I can tell you this, its scary and yet do-able. It is hard and yet, not insurmountable. You will grow in ways you cannot see or imagine today. You will lose things that you didn't realize were important. But you can survive and come out on the other side, whole, healthy and happy. I am a witness to that.
I'm not sure if its appropriate to leave a link on your blog but if so, you can find my blog at http://fabulous-boobies.blogspot.com
First of all HAPPY BIRTHDAY! Second of all, thank you SO MUCH for your comment, and esp. for the link to your blog. I just skimmed the first entry and you have written about one of my major concerns with the upcoming chemo treatment--that I will go pre-menopausal (my oncologist said it's 75% probability--my aunt, who had 2 different types of breast cancer and thus 2 different mastectomies 5 years apart) said that she went pre-menopausal at 39 (when they first detected the first breast cancer).
So thank you for your words of wisdom and advice. I know I can get through this, but I also know it's going to be damn hard and painful and stressful--and sometimes, right now in the pre-chemo stage or things, in the just recently diagnosed stage, it feels so overwhelming that I feel all I can do is stare at the wall and breathe. And maybe that's OK to do, esp. here at the beach. There will be plenty of time for the pain and the healing I imagine. Anyway, I look forward to reading and following your blog. Thanks so much for reaching out.
:) Jennifer, when I talk to people about my experience they always ask me how did I get through the early days. My response... I cried everyday for nearly a year. That was my coping mechanism. I did other things too, but I cried every day. And it helped. Tears may not be your thing, but whatever your thing is... do what you need to do to get to the next day. Since you're just starting on your journey, I'm going to invite you to come back in time with me to summer 2008. And read from that point. http://fabulous-boobies.blogspot.com/2008/08/first-post-about-my-boobies.html
I hope that my craziness will help you deal with all of this. And I will remain in touch with you. Pink ribbon sisters have to stick together. :)
How's it going these days? You've got a whole MRA community rooting for you through this cancer suckiness. Chin up!
Thanks for checking in with me. I'm doing OK--being at the beach really helps--it's just very peaceful here and a good time for me to do some soul searching.
I'll be blogging some stuff soon--both personal and race related--like the Kagan nomination, so much to think about!
Hope you are well (and everyone else in the MRA blogiverse!)
Read "My One-Night Stand With Cancer" for a hilarious, eloquent, and no-bullshit book. I don't do fucking pink ribbons either.
Hang in there Jennifer. You are in my thoughts, and I have no doubt that you'll beat this.
Thanks Brian--and thanks for your well wishes on my marriage! The chemo sucks but being married is great. Hope you are doing well--glad to see you back!
Hi Jennifer... I am checking in again (2 years later). I learned of your blog because a friend of mine (who is a fan of yours) shared your story with me. Now that two years have gone by, I hope that you're doing spectacularly well and have completely kicked cancer's butt.
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