Archive | November 2013

… So Many Questions



Just another Friday at work?  Not!  Today was very hard on me.

I worked today now knowing that I needed to prepare myself to begin the disengagement from projects I had guided for years.  I was not yet informed of the exact prognosis, but being an old lady with ample real world experience supporting family and friends with breast cancer you know the road ahead is going to be very twisted and working through treatments and surgery is not a likely outcome.  The hardest part of the day is you know change is coming, yet the doctors visits are next week and you really don’t know enough yet to go public.

Which type of breast cancer?

What stage is it in?

What does fast growth mean?

I don’t want to do chemo therapy, so what does that mean?

Has the cancer spread or is it metastatic?

So many questions – and answers not readily available.


Happy Thanksgiving!



It’s a quiet day at the Lee family home.  It’s officially Thanksgiving Day.  Our big family dinner passed days ago and the son and his family is on their way back south.  The daughter and her family are preparing to have their big family day and you’re imagining them nervously wanting definitive answers.  Thursday dinner is small and early.  It’s just me, Mom, Hubby and Cousin Danene.  Oh, and the ever cute Sullie, a very smart and active Poodle – Dachshund puppy dog which Cousin Danene brought into our lives.  Therapy on four legs this little guy is,

There is plenty of time to reflect on all things possible, but you’re trying hard not to.  Spinning your wheels makes little emotional sense.  We won’t get to see the Cancer Doctor until next week and misinformation and over-the-top worry are not a smart cul-de-sac to be trapped in.  Thinking the best and planning for the worst takes a special kind of person, a quieted person.  Balance is key, although doing nothing isn’t practical.  Your mind races.  Sleep comes very hard.  Life long-experiences tug on your brain all day and night.

Oh my! … and the telephone calls and emails that call out for attention.  How do you say I don’t know exactly what I have to people who are just as scared as you and want detailed answers like yesterday.  You begin to realize just how much you are loved in these days.

Patience …patience … patience.



A Welcomed Surprise Call



Today was a normal work day.  Our staff had split up the days so each could have special days with family.  Talk about a tough day.  The usual Project Manager kind of day.  It’s the kind of work were days slip by quickly as your attention stays focused on the customer.  Lunch comes and goes.  The workday presses on and soon your thinking about how best to wrap things up so you can begin to focus on planning tomorrow.  Just so happens that tomorrow this week, this day, is Thanksgiving Day proper. As work calms and the evening approaches the devil drops by for a visit.  “So you have breast cancer”, he says.  Go away ugly thoughts, I have work to finish and serious personal plans to make.  Oh, and there’s the preparation for Thanksgiving Dinner too!  Surprise of the day – Dr. Kapoor, my soon to be Cancer Surgeon, calls.

Dr. Kapoor too only has a partial report.  She too wanted me to know that the breast cancer was a fast mover.  She too wanted to touch bases with me before Thanksgiving Day, to reassure me that I was going to  OK.  Nice touch.  I don’t know this lady yet, but that call took a classy professional to make.  I’m quietly freaking out and her voice and reassurances made a big difference.  I relaxed.  Husband Will told me I seemed more at peace with things.  He was right.  Still don’t have the complete report.  Don’t know the exact type of Cancer or what my prognosis is.  Just know that the doctor wants to see me next week in Southern California on Tuesday.  By then she will have the full report and be prepared to talk through treatment options and surgery.

So we prepare.  We prepare for tomorrow’s dinner.  We prepare for the unexpected.  We start thinking about what to pack for our trip home.  It’s an odd thing to say when you write it – “our trip home”.  William and I have many places we call homes which is directly the result of having split responsibilities.  He in Tustin, Ca, as grandpa.  Me in Sacramento, Ca, as daughter.  The both of us in Aguanga, Ca as loving-life partners, with sprinkles of time in Running Springs, Ca, in either case wondering what happened to that calm life we had carved out for ourselves after the chaos of his medical problems which came to life in his early forty’s.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and I have much to be thankful for. Added to this list is a new, understanding and compassionate doctor.  Already on the list is an amazing family who I know will be my cheerleaders as I take on what is certainly to be the biggest challenge of my life.


Beginning Journies



Today … Now … Here … THE CALL … “You have Breast Cancer”.  There was no question about it.  Every instinct says cry, but you have prayed against hope that the additional and heretofore unnecessary radiological tests or screenings are precautionary.  You had had a benign tumor in the other breast about seven years earlier and a lumpectomy took care of it.  Annual mammograms had shown normal, so your decision a year ago to go to a two-year cycle seemed prudent.  After all, we hear about radiological exposure not being the best of things for us all the time.  It is against this backdrop you have decided to stay quiet and not report to family and friends that you are under-going additional  levels of testing.  Why scare the crap out of your parents and friends, sounding false alarms.  Then, boom … the cold edge of reality hits you in the head.

There was no “oh my God not me.”  As it goes, we were “brunching” at one of our family favorite restaurants in Northern California.  At the table are your husband (he knows about the tests and awaits the results with you), your son and his wife (they know about the tests but had been told that these were no big deal), their baby girl (who is too young to understand), and your god-daughter (who knows nothing) and her little lady (just shy of 4 years old).  How do you dare shed a tear?  Or, even gasp?  There was no fooling the husband. He instantly read me.  My son read him.  And honestly, I don’t know what my god-daughter thought as I felt like a truck had run me over.  My husband, William, tells me I handled the conversation with the doctor remarkably.

The Lee Family Thanksgiving Dinner was early this year because our son and his family had flown up north to be with us and introduce our lovely granddaughter to the Sacramento family.  They would then head back south for Thanksgiving with his wife and her family.  This family gathering would be later in the evening.  We were stealing a moment to be with our grand god-daughter and god-daughter.  We finished breakfast without saying much although family conversation didn’t feel quite as natural.  Here we are standing outside the restaurant with our son and his family saying good-bye to our god-daughter with my husband and I holding on to each other for dear life.  This was not the best place or time to talk things over, but I needed to explain the doctors call and report to him.  So we waited until after saying good-bye to our god-daughters, we would speak with her later along with her parents and her sister, who we happily adopted as our second god-daughter.  This family, the Gladysz family, is indistinguishable from our nuclear family.

Our doctor had a partial report only, I had fast-moving breast cancer.  He did not want me to wait through the full, traditional Thanksgiving Holidays to hear the results.  This compassionate man and amazing professional had made a good choice.  Not getting all of the details in this first phone call was tough, but waiting out Thanksgiving Week would have been even tougher.  Time to gather the family and let them know.  When do you lay this bomb shell on them?  It’s our Thanksgiving Dinner.  We had already let my mother know.  She was the first to know outside those who were with me at brunch.  Mom was to be our car buddy on the way over our Niece Robin’s home and telling her in advance of the evening was the proper thing to do.

I chose to take the family aside in small groups throughout the evening.  Repeating the same news over and over to individual after individual did not appeal to me.  I asked my husband to share the news with his family who were coming over for dinner.  Tough news aside,  the family dinner was special.  Being able to talk with so many members of the family all at once turned out to be a godsend for me.  Done.  The news was out in the open.  Now time to focus in on me, my husband and my kids, my immediate family which includes our extended family and kids as well.   The next days would be difficult as we made contact with those we have shared a lifetime of memories with.  We needed to begin thinking about changes to our very hectic lifestyle.  William was in Southern California doing grandpa daycare in between visits to the couch and bed because of his health issues.  I was living in Northern California so I could be close to my mom to help her. She is 89 years old this year and fast approaching 90 years old.  My precious customers were on my radar.  A project manager doesn’t disengage quickly, especially when projects are well down the road.  Primary residences in Southern California, extended digs in Northern California, medical providers in Southern California, and one long 500-mile interstate in-between all of these. Oh my … the web we weave.

One last call.  Our daughter Michelle and her family were not able to make this trip.  I needed to speak with her in a quiet place by phone.  That was a hard call to make.  My immediate family would hear from me in person, face to face.  Something about telling your daughter news like this over the phone just doesn’t feel proper.

No doubt,  we embark on a new journey!  Tomorrow will truly be a new day.