A Long-Winded Update

Dazzle [ daz uhl ] v.
To impress deeply; astonish with delight.

It me. When you guys dumped your buckets of love all over me. Thank you. Of course, I’m struggling to feel like I deserve it, but regardless, I see your love and I am dazzled.

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I’ve been trying to respond to everyone who’s reached out, but there’ve been so many of you, I’m having a hard time keeping up. I’m sorry if I missed you! I definitely have read and received everyone’s messages, letters, cards, and gifts, so don’t worry if I haven’t replied to yours [yet]. Anna Laura (my sister) told me that I shouldn’t feel obligated to send thank you cards to everybody, that you’d understand. I hope she’s right. I’m having really misplaced anxiety right now, in case you couldn’t tell

So the update on m’ladies is this:

I do not have any of the eight hereditary cancer gene mutations they tested me for (including BRCA1 & 2). This is excellent news. It means the chances I’ll develop another cancer down the road are slim(ish). It also could mean that I get to keep some of my breast tissue. But that’s very up-in-the-air right now.

The tumor in my right breast is hormone positive. This means it’s been eating my birth control (rude). So I’ve had to stop taking it, obviously. I haven’t had a period in well over a year now (maybe two?) because I’ve been on the continuous pill, so I am REEEEEEALLY not looking forward to that starting up again. It’ll stop during my treatment, supposedly, so that’s nice. I’m also approved for a hormonal IUD, whose hormones are synthetic and only work locally, somehow.

Oh, I guess I didn’t mention that they found something in my left breast too. They did an MRI-guided biopsy on it the other day, so the toxicology results should be back from that by the 27th, hopefully. Their suspicion is that it’s the same as the right breast (Invasive Ductal Carcinoma). If it is, then I would be a pretty darn rare case! Young, no genetic mutations, two cancers at the same time. Jackpot of sadness.

Let’s see, what else. They were unable to determine if my right lady’s uninvited guest is HER2 positive or negative, so they’re running that test again. Should know those results any day now. I don’t understand what HER2 is exactly, but they tell me if it’s HER2 positive, my body likely won’t respond to chemotherapy.

Best case scenario, the left mass is benign, the right tumor is HER2 negative, I have a mastectomy (just on the right side), some reconstructive surgery, do chemo for several months post-op, and get yearly MRIs and mammograms for my left breast.

Worst case scenario, the left mass is malignant, the tumors are HER2 positive, I get a double mastectomy, reconstructive surgery, and probably just do hormone treatment afterward forever. Honestly, the latter option seems less exhausting in the long run.

So even though they don’t know all the details yet, my surgery is tentatively scheduled for December 16th. This is great, because it’ll meet our deductible before the end of the year so we won’t have to pay as much. Also it’s great because I need to get that cancer out my body son! Unfortunately, Covid restrictions won’t allow my reconstruction surgery to happen immediately after the mastectomy. I think they’re scheduling out several months, so I’ll have implants until then. Get ready.

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It’s weird to be saying things like “I will have implants…” like, there’s no doubt now. It’s happening. So weird.

One silver lining is that the plastic surgeon approved me for breast reconstruction with deep inferior epigastric perforator! You don’t know what that means? Well, if you don’t hang around plastic surgery, there’s no reason that you should! What it means is that they’re going to give me a FREE TUMMY TUCK! lol. Yes, they literally take my largest abdominal roll (muffin top, if you will), shape it into a boob, and attach it to my chest wall, underneath my preexisting boob skin. Isn’t that hilarious and fascinating?!

Of course the downside–– which I feel like I’ve mentioned before, but maybe not–– is that no matter what kind of surgery they perform, I’ll never have feeling in the girls again. They’ll just be dead weights on my chest. Sad sacks of blubber. Icy mounds of gut fat. Better for pinching, I guess? Sorryyy! I’m trying to find silver linings, give me a break.

And that’s all that I know so far! Like I said, we’re waiting to find out if the left mass is cancerous, and if the right tumor is HER2 positive. I’m expecting to hear something by the weekend, at which point, I’ll be making the big decisions, and my care team will be plotting out my path to recovery.

You’re welcome.

Things that are keeping me afloat? Let me tell you. LETTERS. I didn’t expect people to actually write me letters when they asked what they could do to help, and I said, “Write me a letter telling me how you’re doing.” But you did! And my heart feels warmer than a million kittens reading them. I am responding to them, btw. I had a sudden influx though, so it might take a minute. Please continue to send me letters. I don’t think this blog reaches very far, so I’m just going to post my mailing address here for you. If it gets into the wrong hands, so be it; I’m overdue for some hate mail. 822 Newton Road, Iowa City, IA 52246

And this is where the cancer update ends. You don’t need to keep reading if you don’t want to.

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One fun new thing is that I’m finally on medication for ADHD! I don’t know if it’s working yet (I confess, I’m very un-self-aware), but I’m only on the half-dose right now. Working up to the full dosage over the next few months.

The questionnaire I took to determine my eligibility for medication BLEW MY MIND. I couldn’t believe how well it pegged me. In fact, if you’ve never seen it, I’m going to post it here for you to read. The answer scale was from “Never” to “Very Often.” Enjoy your diagnosis.

  1. How often do you have trouble wrapping up the final details of a project, once the challenging parts have been done? Every time.
  2. How often do you have difficulty getting things in order when you have to do a task that requires organization? Every single time.
  3. How often do you have problems remembering appointments or obligations? Thank GOD for phone alerts/reminders!!!
  4. How often do you fidget or squirm with your hands or feet when you have to sit down for a long time? Forever, and ever, and ever.
  5. How often do you feel overly active and compelled to do things, like you were driven by a motor? When I’m not overly depressed, often!
  6. How often do you make careless mistakes when you have to work on a boring or difficult project? OH MY GOD SO MUCH ME
  7. How often do you have difficulty keeping your attention when you are doing boring or repetitive work? It’s practically impossible, in fact, I skipped to the end of the question, I was so impatient.
  8. How often do you have difficulty concentrating on what people say to you, even when they are speaking to you directly? Lordy
  9. How often do you misplace or have difficulty finding things at home or at work? I lose my phone on average eighteen times a day. I literally threw away the car key last week.
  10. How often are you distracted by activity or noise around you? This one is a doozy. It’s practically non-stop, 24/7.
  11. How often do you leave your seat in meetings or other situations in which you are expected to remain seated? I’m pretty good at sitting still and being quiet if I do say so myself. On the outside.
  12. How often do you feel restless or fidgety? Most of the time.
  13. How often do you have difficulty unwinding and relaxing when you have time to yourself? 100% of the time.
  14. How often do you find yourself talking too much when you are in social situations? With tequila, all of the time, without tequila, depends on my anxiety level.
  15. When you’re in a conversation, how often do you find yourself finishing the sentences of the people you are talking to, before they can finish them themselves? With Adam, every other sentence, without Adam, depends on my anxiety level.
  16. How often do you have difficulty waiting your turn in situations when turn taking is required? I mean, it’s annoying, but I can fidget through it.
  17. How often do you interrupt others when they are busy? Accidentally, pretty often, never on purpose!

Man, can I just say, I aced this test. All while chewing obsessively on my tongue, continuously shaking my foot, and mentally doing some prep work for this blog post. By the way, there is no such thing as multi-tasking, there is only fast-shifting focus, which I thank the service industry for teaching me when I was still teachable.

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Anyway, you may not recognize all of these traits in me, but let me tell you, that is because of hard, hard work, beginning with Mom’s legendary homeschool regimen for all ages, “Sit Still and Be Quiet Class.”

Specific characteristics that may surprise you are in questions 14 and 15 of the test. And I mentioned my anxiety in response to both of them. It’s aggravating, but true, that the “real” me is talkative, engaging, usually on point, and relatively fast-paced, but if anxiety is introduced into the equation, I turn into a person that–– odds are–– you’ve seen. She turns brilliant red, from the chest up, often splotchy. Her throat closes up and she chokes on her own words. Her mannerisms become subservient and reticent.

Until recently, I just considered this awful mechanism in me a character flaw. You know, those things that cause you just enough self-awareness to hide, but not enough to keep you from wanting to hide.

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Anyway, it feels hard to explain, but here’s a shot: I think I have a fast-paced processing center of my brain, and an incredibly anxiety-prone communication center. So, for example, when I’m experiencing anxiety, it’s very hard to string together any words, let alone the right ones for what I want to say. This can look–– I assume–– like I’m slow, embarrassed, or uncomfortable, which, to be fair, I am sometimes. But more often than not, what’s going on is that my brain’s processing too fast for language to keep up.

People have said to me, “Well, then why don’t you just talk really fast?” Because thoughts have to be interpreted into language before you can say them. I mean, unless we’re talking about music and art and stuff. So if there’s something clogging up Communication Headquarters (like anxiety), the realest shit just doesn’t get said, or is said poorly. It so sad.

The anxiety medication I’m on–– as well as therapy and mindfulness practices–– have helped tremendously with my chronic blushing and throat-swelling, but I haven’t found anything that effectively realigns my speech with my CPU. So, long story short, I hope this new ADHD medication works!

And that’s really all I’ve got. Thanks for reading, y’all.

1 thought on “A Long-Winded Update”

  1. I saw all of these things in my mind, from my memories. Well, the second half of the entry.

    I enjoyed reading this. I enjoy you.
    I am ADD I’m pretty certain, from that test. Whew.
    Anyway. Cancer. Tests. Tummy tuck. Wowzers, no feeling… I never thought about that. Wow. Wow. Wow.
    I love you.

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