Funeral Potatoes

 

I’ve always had an issue with leaving work at work.

It has been an exciting scenario working at the same company for the past six years.

Between our eight kids and having a full understanding of what takes place during our work hours has always provided us talking points.

I’m sure he has drawn tired of hearing the woes of my team of younger employees.

But I have to admit I think of these guys like my own. And as HR inappropriate as it can be, they have referred to me as “mom.” And I honestly don’t have an issue with that.

Steve and I love where we work, and they are family.

Getting official news of furlough was bound to happen due to the COVID situation.

And watching two of my team members hear that kind of news for the first time in their lives was unsettling.

I was not a part of the decision. I learned who would stay and who would go.

As a gesture to “help” or make things possibly less stressful for me because my employer knows fully about my current medical situation

I had a decision to make if I choose to stay on as a fulltime employee, I will need to take “take up some slack” because of having fewer members on our team. Or I can myself choose to furlough. And depending on my decision, this will affect another member of my team.

Whichever choice I make will determine if this young father of three and fulltime college student has a job or not.

It was not a good day.

And it got worse.

There were six people in the company that lost their jobs.

Why, of course, was the question. Coronavirus is the reason.

I will be on official furlough starting this next week.

A forced break that I know I need for all kinds of reasons.

However, Steve was one of the six people who lost their job this week.

Yes, indeed, there are hundreds of thousands of people who have lost their jobs because of Coronavirus.

It is a hard pill to swallow.

And yes, the situation sucks.

Steve and I are grateful it is us.

This next chapter will be new.

I wonder what we will have to discuss.

And to our friends who showed up at our house this afternoon with funeral potatoes in hand — we will always remember that moment.

COVID19/CHEMO

The oncology treatment clinic is always a space in time when thoughts catch up to me.

My goal always to live in the moment, and each treatment reminds me of the reality of my prognosis.

My experience of social distancing during COVID19 can be similar to sitting in a chemotherapy room.

You look around a room and wonder who will be next.

Which patient will be missing from the treatment room?

I walked into the building and interrogated with COVID19 questions before I was allowed to head to the second floor for my actual treatment.

The overcrowded reception room empty.

They called my name, and I entered the infusion room. There are too many chemo chairs compared to the four of us who are receiving treatment today.

Four patient’s at a time and a handful of the usual healthcare professionals.

The nurses were all wearing their surgical masks. I couldn’t help but notice that the elderly cancer patients were not.

Next week I am scheduled for a pet scan to help make decisions regarding treating my brain tumors.

I’ll update you again at that time.

I am sending healthy and joyful thoughts to each of you.

Shari

A Four Letter Word

 

I’ve struggled with acne my entire life.

I am 56 years old, and I’m not talking about the occasional hormonal breakout, but the painful deep-rooted underground mounds that have formed over and over again.

I’ve spent thousands of dollars over the years looking for the answer.

In my opinion, organic, clean products are the best choice you can make.

I have found my go-to products that have helped. But my acne has been stubborn to clear up.

I almost hate to mention this, and I am knocking on wood that I am not jinxing myself.

Since having my explant surgery, I am noticing a difference in my complexion.

Since my surgery date on December 12. I have not experienced my day to day acne breakout.

Wow, after all these years.

I have heard that acne has been a complaint of many women who have had breast implants.

I am sharing three photos taken.

If you swipe (all the way) left, you will see a photo from the evening before my surgery. The discoloration from years of acne is noticeable. But also, look at the puffiness of my eyes.

The other two photos I took in the past week.

Like I mentioned, acne has been minimal since the surgery.

My complexion is getting a chance to recover and heal.

The puffiness of my eyes has diminished.

After having implants for 30 years, I don’t expect things to change overnight. And along with my side effects from cancer treatments, I have a lot to deal with.

But it is the little improvements and changes that make the difference in our day to day lives.

I am happy to answer any question you may have about my experience with my explant surgery.

If you are interested in any of the “clean” makeup and skincare products that I am using and really love, I am happy to share that information as well.

Health Update December 2019

 

It was necessary to complete some extra scans this go around before I felt confident in sharing an update.⁠

First an update from my PET and CT scans.

I am thankful to say that I am still NEAD (No evidence of active disease) from my chest to the top of my thighs. I have remained in a sort of maintenance and rescan mode for almost 3 years. Original cancer in my lungs, bones, and liver have all tiny or nonexistent on a PET scan. The chemotherapy, Herceptin is serving me very well. On December 17th, I will receive my 49th infusion.

Second my last brain MRI

We did have some stress over the past 6 months due to a possible progression in my brain.

I have previously had stereotactic surgery treatment to the three spots that had shown up in 2017.

The spots have been stable in repeat MRI scans. And in a scan this past April, there showed some enlargement of one of the three lesions.

It was noted, and we moved on. 

In August, the repeat scan then showed enlargement of all 3 original lesions. 

My radiation oncologist, Dr. S had explained that many factors are looked at when interpreting an MRI scan. Yes, what we are looking at could be a progression, or it might be that my brain is “angry,” and it is reacting from the initial radiation treatments.

I still did not understand the fact that there had been minimal edema or change since I had completed the first radiation treatment over a year ago. We were at a loss for why the sudden change unless it really was progression.

At this point, it was decided that we would do nothing at this time and rescan in 3 months again. Steve and I had plans to travel to Europe during that time. I’m glad that the trip was planned in the middle of that time. I did my best to not dwell on the unknown. Steven and I did not talk about the unknown.

I had yet another MRI on November 12, 2019.

All three spots had more than doubled in size. The thing I kept remembering that even with the growth, the lesions were still being measured in millimeters.

When my radiation oncologist called with the news, he was a very manner of fact and went over a few different options.

He offered to give me a referral to a neurologist. This was the worst possibility being a craniotomy to remove whichever lesion would be the easiest to simply remove and biopsy to see if the growth was indeed cancer. 

I remember the part when he mentioned to see if the biopsy was cancer and if it was that we would consider all three the same.

Now, remember, I am a metastatic patient. I’ve had cancer in all the typical spots that disease shows up when diagnosed with breast cancer.

The whole conversation was so confusing and difficult to hear. I remember standing in the aisle of the craft store, and suddenly I was trying to remember what I had walked into the store to buy. Then I found my mind finding its way back to listening to his voice. I took a large breath and tried to focus in on the information.

I chose the most straightforward option during the call. I asked for Dr. S to call and speak with the person who had translated the scan to get any extra information from this MRI, if possible. He also mentioned I could have a Spectroscopy Fusion. I had no idea what he was even talking about. But I did know that for me, I needed to breath and keep things as simple as possible.

When Dr. W called that evening, he was so kind. He mentioned that he thought it would be a good idea to have my PET CT instead of waiting. It had been just 4 months since the last, and at that time, I was NEAD. 

He felt we needed to know if that had changed. If there were any kind of progression in my body, we would need to change my total chemotherapy protocol. Dr. W didn’t elaborate on what that would like. He did not need to. 

Dr. W had already sent the orders in for a PET CT as well as a Spectroscopy MRI, which was the select MRI scan that Dr. S had mentioned. 

Dr. W also mentioned that if my PET CT showed no progression that we could start specific chemotherapy, which could help with brain lesions. He let me know that most of his patients don’t feel nauseous or lose their hair from this pill form of chemo. I would, however, most likely experience some new side effects from the chemo.

The PET CT was scheduled a week later, the day before Thanksgiving 2019. I have to admit I was extra nervous going into the test that day. I’ll never forget biting Steve’s head off regarding something very ridiculous. That has always been the telltale sign of my emotional state.

I geared up for the fact that I might have to wait until after the holiday for the results. But low and behold, I did get a call early that evening with the news that I remained NEAD. A layer of nerves was diminished as we enjoyed Thanksgiving with family.

On another note, I chose not to tell friends and family about the scans or the fact that there may be cause to worry about the lesions progressing in my brain.

I have found it most challenging to have several well-meaning people bring up the questions before having something to tell them. For myself, the added reminders of uncertainty are not necessarily helpful. So numb was the word this go around.

The Monday after the holiday weekend was the day I had the Spectroscopy MRI. The procedure was very similar to an MRI with contrast. This test took a bit longer. 

An MR spectroscopy compares the chemical composition of healthy brain tissue with abnormal tumor tissue. The chemicals determine what the makeup of the tumor or affected area is.

The results showed three enhancing lesions and are on the left side of my brain. No chemicals were indicating that is is an active tumor. 

The test showed again an increase in the size of the 3 areas. The only answer they mentioned is the prior radiation treatment is causing the edema. What they are seeing is necrosis and/or pseudoprogression and is most likely the source of the increase in the size. They recommend continued MRI follow-ups. 

I was also offered 4-6 weeks of steroid treatment to reduce the swelling. I chose not to be on steroids during the Christmas holiday. Really my choice is not steroid treatment at all.

The edema may take care of itself over time. However, it is just as likely that the issues continue and could cause issues with otherwise healthy brain tissue.

Time will tell. I am not having any side effects from the edema at this time. We will again repeat the MRI testing in 6-8 weeks.

Beyond Frustration

When I am frustrated with life, my negative talk, meaning the voice in my head that can be self-deprecating, is yelling at me.

Can you relate?

Frustration can lead to growth.

Each day I work on remembering that we grow through life.

It all depends on perspective.

I admit there are moments that I am cursing under my breath, and I regress.

I did have one of those days recently and found myself pissed off at the world.

I was so uncomfortable in that mood, and it took several hours for me to come to the understanding of what exactly had set me off.

It was a typical day for Steve and me. We were driving through town, noticing the new building and changes that were taking place right under our noses and so quickly.

I noticed I was getting aggravated, and I had no idea why. I didn’t like the gloomy outlook that I was sitting in.

As I contemplated my mood and explored my feelings, I began to see a glimpse of the cause.

I wasn’t sure if it was something I wanted to share or could speak out loud. I was vulnerable and was worried that I would share my dark cloud by discussing it.

Later that evening, when we were talking about trivial things, I got my nerve up.

I told Steve how I ended up so angry and wasn’t sure why.

In hindsight, it is so easy for me to see the “why.”

Those emotional, scary cancer thoughts had snuck up on me once again.

You might know the thoughts.

The thoughts that show up most often as you contemplate another test.

‘Will I be here when”?

My outlook on life has changed over the years.

My perspective began to evolve before my diagnosis, and thank goodness it had.

And that is how I deal with frustration.

I examine it while crossing my fingers that, in the end, I will grow from it.

I’ve learned to give myself grace.

And that in its self is growth.

A Gem of A Woman

 

It has taken me some time to accept the difficult things that I have learned regarding my biological family.

The circumstances and story I’ve learned are not at all what I was expecting when I decided to search for my birth mother.

It took several years for me to come to terms with my adoption. However, eventually, I did find peace in the knowledge that my biological mother had wished me dead from the time of my conception. You may think I’m being dramatic or exaggerating; however, I am not.

The only information that my sister Darlene was willing to share with me about our biological mother was that Pearl tried to use a coat hanger to abort me herself and end the pregnancy. The thought of this still makes me nauseous.

I tried to put this thought out of my mind by telling myself Darlene was trying to be hurtful and perhaps was jealous of the life I had led because of my fortunate adoption into a “normal” family if there is such a thing.

Darlene was fifteen years old when Pearl was pregnant with me. Oh, and I want to make sure to mention that that year was when Pearl abandoned her oldest daughter in Las Vegas, Nevada. It was 1963. That day was the last time Darlene ever saw her mother.

You might be wondering if I ever found Pearl and if we had a conversation.

The answer is yes. I had one phone conversation with my birth mom. Her words are etched into my soul like a knife to the gut.

The short conversation went something like this.

Hi, my name is Shari. I am trying to find out a few things about my medical history, and I am hoping to talk to you regarding my biological family.

Pearl said, Who is it you are trying to call?

I went on to tell her that I had been adopted by a family in Utah when I was two years old. I also mentioned that I was born at the LA County Hospital on October 17th, 1963.

Pearl told me that she had no idea who I wanted to talk to, but it wasn’t her.

I repeated myself by mentioning again my date of birth, that I had grown up in Utah since the age of two. I also said the names of her parents and even asked her about Darlene.

I will admit that I did throw her history in her face. I wanted her to be clear that she was the person I needed to find. And that she was the person who could answer my questions.

Pearl was forty years old when I was born. This conversation took place thirty-five years later. In my mind, I thought that she would have come to terms with the fact that she had given a child up. I also assumed that at seventy-five, she might be interested to know what my life had been like if nothing more than to have closure before her death.

But nothing could have been further from the truth.

Let’s get back to that conversation.

I told Pearl that I didn’t expect to have a relationship with her. I had a fantastic childhood, was married and had children of my own. I didn’t need anything from her besides information about my medical history.

There was silence on the other end of the phone,

and then Pearl said, “why would I want to talk to you; you are dead to me.”

That was it, and she hung up the phone.

Queue dramatic music.

I am not sharing this with you for you to feel sorry for me.

I share this with you because we each have something from our past. We have a choice to make; we can continue to have that chip on our shoulder to carry around with us for a lifetime. But if you are willing to deal with uncomfortable emotions, I recommend that you put your big girl pants on and dive right into the sludge. In the end, you will be better for it.

Now back to Pearl, the “Gem of a Woman” that carried me in her womb for nine months.

Later that day, I chose to write her a note. I apologized for catching her off guard and expecting a conversation with her. I included my address and phone number just in case she ever had a change of heart and wanted to get in touch.

I never heard from her, and she has since died.

Every year, International Peace Day rolls around on September 21st. For that reason, I chose peace to be the topic of September.

Picture your families, communities, colleagues, and schools. Think about the people who have something in their lives that they carry around from their past.

I’m sure you are aware of how often our issues and burdens affect us.

On that thought, remember how we all need to be accountable for what we carry into our relationships as well as how it not only affects us each day but everyone around us.

Do you have a chip on your shoulder because of something that happened to you?

I know that I had been carrying a large boulder.

Since my adopted mother passed away recently, I have been looking at photos from my past.

I was shocked as I carefully looked at pictures of myself from the age of 25-40 years old.

There was something about what I saw in my face that was different. It was a lost look. And was someone I didn’t recognize.

I thought about those photos for several days. And then it dawned on me.

I hadn’t realized how important it was for me to go through the ugliness and sadness of knowing the truth of “my beginning.”

I didn’t know who I was or what I wanted for so many years of my life. But through experiencing the hard journey, it led me to understand and believe in who I am today.

As difficult as it is to face our demons, once you do the work and get to the other side, similar to myself, you may not recognize yourself from the past.

And I am ok with that. Getting to the other side is exhilarating. Shari