Another Transition/ Retirement

https://www.higheredjobs.com/HigherEdCareers/interviews.cfm?ID=709If I had been teaching through the 2017-18 school year, today would have been my last day of work before summer. I wasn’t teaching though, so it is just another day. Or is it?

Yesterday I attended the annual staff luncheon at the school. We order in mostly unhealthy foods and a cake. After the lunch, we all move down to the theatre for some presentations like skits and songs in honour of the retirees, gifts, and goodbyes for those who don’t know yet if they will be teaching next year due to short-term contracts or who are moving to a new teaching position. Yesterday was the same as always, but this year I was one of the people retiring.

My retirement is a little different than the others because it was my Salary Continuation company who decided I was retiring. When it became clear that I would not be returning to work, they required that I put in for the disability form of the teachers’ pension plan. Guess what that meant! Yes, indeed, forms to fill in, doctor’s records to gather, and then waiting for someone somewhere to decide my fate. Seven days ago I got a letter saying I was approved, the next day I got a call from the district to come for forms. We filled the forms out in the office and…poof…I was a retiree!

My retiring colleagues, if they chose to let folks know ahead, have had a few months of celebrations at various levels. They also have been clearing out their classrooms, which I did last year. It was nice to visit yesterday with my colleagues, some of whom I have known for up to 28 years. It was fun to listen to songs and skits about some of my fellow retirees! It was amazing to participate in the receiving line and get handshakes or hugs from everyone and to hear congratulations.

So is this really a transition for me? After all, I have been at home/not working for most of two school years. In some ways, it is no transition. September without meeting and learning names of up to 120 new students, done that! Sleeping in most days until I want to get up, done that! Able to travel when I want and am able, done that! But it does feel a little different today. I know that when I meet someone I can say that I am a retired teacher, rather than telling them that it is complicated.

None of us know when we will die, though with a stage 4 cancer diagnosis it is likely sooner rather than later. We can all celebrate each milestone we reach and decide how they will refocus our view of life. I have many good memories of all those years of teaching which are easier to think about with things settled.  My focus is fully ahead, what milestone will be next?

A whole new meaning to Single Breasted

I have had my mastectomy and I quite literally am single-breasted. I know that everyone approaches these issues differently but, perhaps as predicted in my earlier post  No more bras?, I have decided to fully embrace the new asymmetrical look! I am not interested in reconstruction as it is more surgery and I hate bras to start with and don’t want to add the hassle of a breast form. What will this look like?

2c8960917eb087b39501a97a19ab6b8bI did some Google searching. Not surprisingly, most of the things I found about dressing post-mastectomy involved breast forms and bra options. There is also a fair amount online about the choice to “go flat” being made by many bi-lateral mastectomy survivors. The difference comes with the difference in the contour of one regular breast and the concave remains of a unilateral modified radical mastectomy, or the smaller change from a lumpectomy etc.

A few tips I have found;

  • Avoid tight fitting tops.
  • Fairly large patterns, like paisley, tend to work better than small patterns or solid light colours.
  • Asymmetrical tops may draw attention away from the difference.
  • Ruffles, frills, and draping fabric are helpful.
  • Wrap tops and dresses are good (though I have discovered that most wraps go in the wrong direction to minimize the loss of the right breast).
  • dark colors, especially black, camouflage the lack of shadow underneath the flat part of your chest
  • crisp shirts with breast pockets mask your contours
  • jackets and sweaters layered over form-fitting t-shirts draw attention away from your chest and hide any unevenness
  • scarves and shawls can be used to cover part of your chest

After a few days with trips to various shops in my area, I have a nice selection of short and long sleeved tops. I have yet to find a dress but that is less of an issue for me. Where did I shop?

Eloise

Winners at Corbett Centre

Second Showing

Whispering Gardens

I also found some great possibilities at Marksworkwearhouse.ca but haven’t gone in to try anything on. I started a board on Pinterest for pics of things that fit the single breasted look. Single Breasted Fashion

Some of the tips are from http://www.breastcancer.org/treatment/surgery/reconstruction/no-reconstruction

http://www.breastcancer.org/treatment/surgery/reconstruction/no-reconstruction

 

 

Plan A, no B, wait! C, maybe D, today’s plan

20170705_075801Here I am sitting on my couch at home with the morning light shining through the blinds and listening to the news. On the wall across from me, I can look up at three little paintings that I bought on the weekend. They are the three starter pPokemon from Pokemon Sun. They are taking the place of much more grown-up art, but so much more fun! I haven’t smiled at the needlepoint that was there previously in years, so out it goes!

It is the middle of the week that I thought I was going to be having my mastectomy and I am waiting for a call from the hospital to tell me when to go in for a CT scan. The results of this scan will either confirm the current plan or change it yet again.

Apparently, mine is an unusual case. I wonder if they tell everyone that? Because I have a single Metastasis the doctors are scrambling to find the best plan for me. This is great, except it is really hard to have all this uncertainty!

As of today, the plan is to check the CT scan to be sure there is still only the one Metastasis. If there is only one then I will have the Mastectomy next Wednesday. If not, I think we are back to the drawing board. Questions of radiation, surgery to remove the metastasis or stereoscopic radiation on the rib will be dealt with after that.

Have I Lost All Perspective?

bitmoji1814500902After finishing with chemo I was expecting to have surgery. When I finally saw the surgeon she said she didn’t think it was necessary, which is to say it was no more likely to return to the breast than anyplace else in my body. She sent me for an MRI three weeks or so ago and said she would take the results to tumour board so they could decide on the best course of action. The tumour board met on Tuesday and after not hearing anything by the end of Wednesday I called the surgeon’s office a few days ago expecting to set up an appointment. Instead, the receptionist told me the following;

Scan results – main mass resolved (which I am guessing means gone?)
                   – skin thickening reduced
                   – responded very well to chemo
Appointment plans
     I am now to see the radiation oncologist to discuss possibility of aggressive local treatment ie. breast, lymph nodes and targeted on the rib
     After I see him I am to make an appointment with the surgeon re surgery.

I was completely deflated! I sent the news out to my husband and siblings and they all responded positively. That is to say they saw good news. I only saw starting all over with having no idea what was goig on and dealing with doctors who all had different views. I thought the point of the board was for them to figure out what the hell they will recommend!

I have been trying to get my head around this and I guess it maybe means that they think they can get totally rid of the cancer if they treat it aggressively now, which they had previously said they wouldn’t do because it was stage 4. I guess that would be good, though it feels a little late, or maybe like a total pipe dream!

I wonder if I have lost my ability to see things in perspective! Should I have felt relief from the news? I know there are far worse things I could have heard and many would be annoyed that I am whining about having good results etc.

So I’m back to the limbo situation. I’m waiting for a call re an appointment about radiation. After I have had that, I am supposed to call the surgeon to set up an appointment. I hate this! I hate now knowing what I’m going to be doing, if I can plan things or not!

On The Road Again!

Hi all!
004I am now finished my chemo treatments for now and so plans that have been screwed up by delayed treatments and things have moved forward. Thursday you would have found me behind the wheel on the highway between Fredericton and Vaudreuil-Dorion with my younger daughter in the passenger seat trying to sleep. It was great! I love driving and was glad to discover that two weeks after my last treatment I was feeling well enough to drive for 9 hours and didn’t need to go directly to bed when we arrived. The best part of this is that I am getting a chance to visit with my eldest sister and brother whom I have not seen since before Christmas.

So, treatment is over. After two weeks one of the first things I did was have a mani/pedi which was a real treat and I couldn’t have shellac nails while in treatment due to the strong chemical required to remove it. I’m looking forward to reduced chemo brain issues, though I gather that will take some time.

I met with my surgeon early this week and was surprised, and I think pleased, to hear that she doesn’t think I need to have the planned mastectomy. Because we aren’t going for “a cure”/ because the cancer has already moved beyond the breast, apparently it is no more likely to return in the breast than any other place in the body and so the benefit of the surgery is questionable. I am going to have an MRI to see if there are active cancer cells in the area or not and then the decision about surgery will be made. Either way I will be beginning hormonal treatment in a few weeks which is meant to slow regrowth.

It is interesting to be in this place with the cancer. When I was diagnosed originally I couldn’t wait to get rid of the breast. Now I see it as a surgery, a chance for complications, potential infections, and am quite pleased to possibly avoid it.

Lint rollers and other hair care products

66902_pe180389_s5As most of you know, I am in the process of losing my hair due to chemotherapy. I have almost always had my hair short, sometimes extremely so, and I was not expecting to have much of an issue with the hair loss thing.

Over the years I have used an assortment of hair care tools and products. Brushes, combs, clippers, hair dryers of various sorts, shampoos, conditioners, dyes, even curling irons, barrettes, and ponytail elastics on those brief periods of longer hair! I did a Google search for salon supply stores and none of them listed lint rollers. I know, you are shocked by that!

I give you, the humble lint roller!

 

When my hair was starting to come out easily I had it clipped down to a number 2 (1/4 inch or so) and thought that would be great. And it was to some extent. The problem was that I couldn’t touch my head without coming away with a hand covered with little short hairs. Apparently I touch my head quite a lot. Imagine that awkward moment when, say at the checkout at a store, you ‘run your hand through your hair’ then look down and see your hand coated in short dark hairs…what do you do with it?

Even when I could keep myself from touching my head hair turned up on the collar of all my coats etc. As I noticed the layer of hair in my winter jacket the other day the light bulb went on. I thought, oh I need to remember to lint roll that when I get home. Wait! Lint rolling…hmm…

This is how the lint roller moved into my list of must-have hair care tools!

“Woohoo Chemo Starting!” and other things I never thought I’d say.

bitmoji-377167672The actual news from yesterday’s appointments at the hospital is that I am starting my chemo next Wednesday. Woohoo!

No really, I’m pretty excited that I am finally going to be doing something to counter this assault on my body! I remember when I was first diagnosed and told that chemo wouldn’t be part of it, I was so thankful. I didn’t really like the idea of poisoning myself on purpose or of the side effects making me actually feel ill, which so far I have not. I remember my dad talking about chemo in the early days…a day of poison and then they give you an antidote so you don’t actually die. Hmmm.

Things have changed a lot and they have learned so much more about the disease and treatments! It was actually two years ago today that I watched my dad walk (seemingly totally healthy) into the operating room to have a colonoscopy. When he came to in his room he joked that he wouldn’t be driving anywhere that day! The surgery went well, but in the end he never did drive again. In his eighties, he was not strong enough to recover and died a couple days before Christmas.

OK, so back to me 😉 Other things I didn’t think I would say started with, “I have cancer.” but the ship sailed on that a couple months ago. Since then I have said that a lot, as well as; “I had a CT scan.” “I’m going for a bone scan.” “This MRI was much nicer than the last one.” “That biopsy was easier.” It also includes requesting a central line for treatments and whatever else may need to be given or taken from my veins. I am pretty practical and it makes sense to me, but it is a bit eerie to think about.

Of course there are the ‘bright side comments’ along the way like; “Ooh, I’ve always wanted to be a VIP!” “At least I won’t have to shave my legs for months!” “I get a great rate on hospital parking!” etc.

 

 

No Bucket List?

bucket-listI have been trying to get my head around changes that are happening in my life. I tend to flit from one thing to another. I was sitting with my daughter when I realized, and mentioned to her, that I don’t really have a bucket list. I don’t have a list of things I have always wanted to do and have yet to do. I guess there are a couple places I would like to go. Maybe I have been spoiled and just did what I wanted at the time. My daughter tried to think of things for me and  mentioned Disney…

I have one of those book of lists you can buy and one page of it which I hit a dead end on was the bucket list one. I have plans, which may need to be adjusted. I was supposed to be retiring after 28 years as a teacher and starting seminary next fall to continue training as a Presbyterian minister. On that track I had; finish degree, get a call, be ordained, work as a minister. I’m not sure how buckety that is, but that was it.

If you, like me, wonder where this idea of a bucket list comes from, other than the movie with Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson here is a link to one of many blogs about bucket lists. What is a Bucket List?