Two weeks ago today, I was at Florida Hospital, getting what I now know was an 8x4x5 centimeter mass of nastiness taken out from behind my sternum. By this time of day, I was already well in to my post-anesthesia tossing-of-the-cookies and close to having Bugs Bunny Eyes. Thankfully, all of that passed fairly quickly. I was out of the hospital in five days, and on a plane back to Park City a couple of days later.
You may remember that Dr Shroff allowed me to delay my surgery a week and a half, so I could go to Santa Cruz and race one more half-ironman. Her philosophy, which dovetails nicely with mine, is that you gotta live your life (safely, taking calculated risk). Today, I met with the doc who’s going to help me create my New Normal for the next couple of months. Dr. Kristine Kokeny is a radiation oncologist at Huntsman. Now, putting my faith (not to mention my life) into the hands of a cancer doc outside of Orlando is new for me. I won’t lie, being the hometown TV girl getting treated in the hometown hospital gave me particular confidence. But when this doc came into the room and calmly busted Patrick for playing with the little ear looker-into thing with the light by saying, “It’s fun to play with stuff in the doctor’ office,” I knew we’d struck gold (or silver or copper, being Utah). She’s nice and informative and methodical and efficient. When I told her I’m short of breath, she immediately sent me down the hall for a CT scan to rule out blood clots that could have formed after surgery (negative).
She’s also helping me salvage part of my Beautiful Fall. I’ve already pushed the last two of my races off to 2014, sadly but practically. I still hoped that we could go to Kona to play sherpa for friends racing the Ironman World Championship and that I could go to Austin for my favorite, the Ride for the Roses Livestrong weekend right after that. But I had agreed that if the doc even hesitated for a nanosecond when I asked that radiation not begin until Oct 21, I would let both events pass. But, HOORAY! She says 4-6 weeks after major surgery is the norm to begin radiation, and I’ll be back 5 1/2 weeks after my operation (which was on 9/11….. Really??). My New Normal, this part anyway, is shaping up pretty nicely.
I’m still waiting for the physical part of the New Normal to get back to, well, normal. I still have no feeling, but DO have lots of developing scar tissue over the sites where Dr. Boyer went in through my ribs. Now, my skin around those areas hurts, as does the surgical area under the sternum. This just started a couple of days ago. And I can’t breathe. I wake up at night and have to sit up to get O2 into the bottom of my lungs. I’m hoping this is partly due to allergies, since I have other symptoms of that, but today’s mention of possible blood clots will make me pay more attention to whether it gets better or worse. (I will say, today’s SNOW and SLEET in Park City should kill off whatever it is that’s making me sneeze.)
I’ve hiked several miles several times in the last two weeks, reminding me how beautiful fall is in the mountains when you go slowly. Usually on our trails, I’m either on the edge of crashing my mountain bike or about to superman because I’ve kicked something while running. I don’t see much of the scenery. Slow is a whole new thing. I kind of like it.
I’ve also been on the bike a few times. Earlier this week, I did my favorite in-town loop, which includes an 18-percent short hill (!) and a 3 mile, 5-7-percent climb. It wasn’t easy, and it wasn’t fast. After the steep, in the same breath, I told Patrick, “Hey, that wasn’t so bad… I think I need to sit down.” He told me to keep pedaling, so I did, and the feeling of the world closing in on my peripheral vision went away fairly quickly. Did I mention that the Ride for the Roses/Livestrong weekend includes a bike ride of up to 100 miles? None of it is as steep as my in-town loop. Still on the radar.
Today, I read a “New York Post” editorial from a Sikh professor who was beaten up in New York by thugs shouting racist slurs over the weekend. His response: He says he is grateful… grateful for the people who came to his rescue, to the doctors who helped him, to the fact that it didn’t happen earlier, when his child and wife would have been with him. He has no plans to change his life or move away, but hopes he will be able to help make his neighborhood better.
A few times, friends have asked if I’m scared or angry or depressed about cancer coming back a second time. But I’m not any of those things. I haven’t felt any negative emotion about Cancer II. There’s no fear, no anger, no “Why me?” I identify with the feelings of that Sikh professor. I feel mostly gratitude. I’m grateful that my breast cancer 12 years ago meant that I get MRI’s every year, one of which found this fast-growing cancer. Blessings in odd places. I’m grateful that I was able to get great health insurance through my family’s company 5 years ago after the state of Utah made it pretty much impossible to get insurance here. I’m grateful that I found a Utah doctor who sees life the way my Orlando doctor and I do, that you gotta live it. I’m grateful that I moved here to the most beautiful place on earth when catastrophe showed me it was time to leave grown-up, corporate life. It’s all in how you look at things, and I choose positive, which almost always brings postiive. Attitude is everything.