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This One’s For My Family, Especially The Ladies

Breast Cancer runs in my family…sort of. My mother, at 56, was diagnosed with breast cancer. She also had an uncle who died of breast cancer, a rare but possible thing, as breast cancer can affect 2% of all men. At least, I think that is number I remember reading in my journeys the last few months. As I’ve traveled this road, I’ve successfully laughed off the potential for fear, but I have on several occasions wished I paid more attention when my mom was going through this. The sad part is that I can’t just go back and talk to her about what went down. She passed in 2004. To the best of my knowledge, after her operation (she ended up having a full mastectomy), and her treatments, she never had a recurrence. Her cause of death, was not breast cancer, but complications of emphysema. I find this encouraging. I still wish I could talk to her about what she went through.

Since I cannot do that, and since there is likely to come a time when my sisters or nieces or daughters might want to know exactly what the family genetics holds for them, I am writing this post. I am writing this to let them know what my diagnosis is, and to inform them of my treatments so far. It is, of course, going to be a bit evident through it all, how I feel about it all.

Diagnosis

I have what the medical professionals refer to as DCIS or Ductile Carcinoma In Situ. In other words, I have tiny micro-calcifications in the duct of my right breast. These crystallizations are not visible to the human eye, and in order for them to be seen on my work up they have to be magnified a bazillion times. The term In Situ means that this particular form of cancer is non-invasive. Were it to progress it could eventually break through the duct and invade breast tissue. However, because, my cancer is In Situ, it hasn’t broken out and gone floating around either in my breast or anywhere else in my body.

Treatments

I’ve had three biopsies. Two separate bits of cancer were found. The first was intermediate grade. (Ladies, that will be important for you to tell your health professionals.) The last bit was about a millimeter in size and was of low grade. There’s been some question over the years as to whether the breast cancer gene (BRCA 1 and/or BRCA 2 mutations) exist in our family. To my knowledge, my mother was not tested for this. I know I have not been tested for it. I think this is important for you to know. I know some in the family are already asking. At some point, it might be a good idea for one of us to consider testing…yeah…I guess that’d be me.

Prognosis

My surgeon, after this last surgery informed me that there is almost zero chance of this metastasizing. However, since I have a diagnosis of breast cancer, my odds of getting breast cancer again in either breast is dramatically increased. Exercise and diet are going to be critical factors for me going forward. It is now even more important than ever that I get out on two wheels as often as possible.

Further Treatments

I meet with my Radiology Oncologist this week, to determine if radiation is necessary. I kind of suspect that it will be recommended. It’s not a foregone conclusion and radiation treatment is not without its risks. For example, I learned this week, that if I choose radiation now, and then I have another issue down the road, it will make mastectomy the only option. Though, I’m not so sure that’s entirely a problem, either. As for chemotherapy, not needed for me, because my cancer was such early stage and non-invasive.

So, Ladies, I’m going to encourage you to get your mammograms regularly. Regular exams do make a difference and early detection is the key to the cure. Daughters, you’ll need to start these mammograms earlier than the average person. You now have a grandmother and your mother with the history. Talk to your doctors, but I suspect, getting your baseline at 30 wonD’t be any too soon. If I’m around then, and you want me to, I’d be glad to accompany you for that first one. It sounds a lot scarier than it really is. I’m going to be okay. You will be too. Just remember, eat right, exercise, keep up on your scans.

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The Way To Start A Week

I lived in Albuquerque, New Mexico for a brief couple of years in the early ’90’s.  During that time I fell in love with the Southwest and with Byrd Baylor’s books, The Way To Start A Day, being one of my favorites.  This last weekend, due to school budget cuts, ended up being a three-day weekend.  Since we had Monday off and since rain was forecast for later that afternoon, the Significant Other and I decided to try something new.  We avoided the ease and predictability our beloved greenway and ventured forth on the open road. It was an excellent choice for so many reasons.  I’ve documented our ride in words and pictures, with Baylor’s book as my inspiration.  I’m calling this The Way To Start A Week.

 


The way to start a week

is to get up early on Monday morning while others sleep,

and greet the sunrise with a smile and a cup of coffee; cream, no sugar.

Revel in in the cloudless blue of the early morning sky,

feel the chill March morning air,

inhale the fresh scent of dew and cedars.

Give thanks for being alive and having the ability to enjoy it.

Take your time dressing, but not too much time, the day awaits.

Find your favorite bike shorts and

slip on the Bontrager tights that were well worth

the hundred bucks you spent on them.

Slip into the cold weather gear given to you by a friend

who no longer cycles, and be glad for her again,

since she saved you hundreds

and extended your riding season significantly.

Fill the water bottle,

grab the camera,

select the playlist,

and with your favorite riding buddy, find a road you haven’t traveled before.

Venture forth.

As you ride, be glad that you can.

Even if it is cold.  Even if it is hard, with the cold air biting through your

Balaclava, freezing your nasal passages and numbing your fingertips through gloves.

After about a mile stop,

take some pictures,

and take off the first outer layer.

Things heat up fast on two wheels.

 

After about 4 miles, stop for more pictures, a water break and to take more pictures.  You’re in no hurry.

Decide to head to a historical old town.

It isn’t far now.

You’re over halfway there and feeling good.

The hills that you could climb a year ago are nothing to you now

You’re stronger and less fearful.

The occasional car whizzing by no longer intimidates you.

You can do this.

And you enjoy it.

 Upon entering the town

select a place to enjoy a leisurely lunch while gazing out the window at passersby.

Laugh and enjoy the fact that you have overcome

caring about how you look in public places when

wearing padded pants

and sporting helmet hair, though you still quickly check

the rear view mirror of the nearest car to make sure

you don’t have bugs in your teeth.

 

 

 

 

 

During your meal, you laugh and smile,

enjoying delicious sandwiches with thirst-quenching beverages.

The miles make them taste all the better.

You observe the retired ladies, dressed up for lunch…

they must be in their 70’s or 80’s.

You think of your grandmother, who always dressed up

even to go to the grocery store,
It’s not a given, but you’re on the right path.and you hope you live long enough to do the same.

Anything can happen…
unexpectedly…

so you decide to live life…

to the fullest of your ability and today is part of that plan.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the way home, you skip the easy road,

the one you rode in on,

and you opt for the one ahead

that sports a rather long hill.

You take it.

You make it.  And you’re not even riding your fastest bike.

A year ago, you had to walk up stuff less daunting than this.

Not this time.

You feel the burn…

you inhale each breath and

experience the pounding of your heart

growing stronger with each rotation of your pedals.

Nothing feels better.

You’re healthier than you were.

You’re happier than ever.

You are your own person.

 

At the top, you celebrate this realization.

You take in the valley you call home.

The rest of the ride is almost entirely

a straight drop down to your doorstep. 

It’s Monday.

You’re riding in the right gear,

no matter what the road

and it is an exhilarating adventure.

This, you whisper to yourself as you ride up to your home,

is not just how you start a week…

It’s how you live a life.

 

New Year’s Resolutions, Revised

I’m a great one for setting goals and New Year’s Resolutions are no exception.  Back in the day, I’d write them down making sure they were measurable and achievable.  Most of the time, back in the day, I was able to realize all  these goals I so dutifully recorded.  Things sure have changed. Oh, I still set goals, alright, but with each passing year, the goals seem more difficult to achieve. I’m lucky if I can set one priority a year and make it happen.

In 2010, I made it my goal to purchase my bike.  I achieved that goal.

In 2011, it was my goal to put a thousand miles on my bike.  I didn’t meet this goal until February of 2012, but I got close. That was good enough.

This year, my priority, is losing 50 pounds by my 50th birthday, which is in June. My mantra has been “50 Less By 50.”

Well, it was my priority, until, the first week of January.

Sometimes life has a way of circumventing the most noble objectives.

In brief, my life was clicking along just great.  In December, I was called back to have further images taken after a routine mammogram revealed some areas of concern.  On January 6, I found myself lying prone while I endured what I now know is a stereo-tactic needle biopsy.  On Valentine’s Day, I was in the hospital for a wire-isolated lumpectomy, the results  of which revealed ductile carcinoma in situ, or DCIS…cancer.  At the time of writing, I’m awaiting an additional surgery which will likely be followed up with radiation.

No chemotherapy.

No free boob job.

I’m not contagious.

And…given that DCIS is completely curable…I’m likely not going to die.  At least, not right now, from this.

My overriding emotion these days?

This is really messing with my 50 Less By 50 plan.

Actually, that’s not entirely true.  My overriding emotion is gratitude.  You see, cancer, in particular breast cancer, is not the death sentence it used to be. Even so, cancer, really is no laughing matter.  I know this.  I know people who’ve suffered and died from some form of cancer.  I have immediate family members who have suffered through cancer.  It is not a pretty nor is it humorous and were it not myself involved, I’d definitely refrain from the gallows humor.  I’ll go off on how early detection is critical, and how women should absolutely make sure they keep up on their exams at a later time, but right now I’d just like to take a moment to be grateful.

Cancer caught me by surprise, and as any potentially life-threatening disease will do, it has forced me to re-prioritize my life.  Yes, I still have my 50 Less By 50 Plan as a priority, but somehow it just isn’t the most important thing these days.  In the last three months, I’ve learned a great deal about breast cancer and some of the approaches we now have available to treat and cure it. That I live in a day and age when I can benefit from so much research and the medical advancements made just in my lifetime, doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of the many, many things I am grateful for.

As I take the next step in this interesting journey through 2012, each day I find myself revising my New Year’s Resolutions.  50 Less By 50 is still a priority, in fact, even more so since exercise and healthy eating reduce one’s risks.  But, if I don’t quite make it by my birthday, or if I just need to allow myself some time to rest, I’m going to give myself permission to do it.

Two days after my surgery, I was on my bike.  Of course, it was inside on a trainer.  I made it two miles, in just under 10 minutes before I just couldn’t go any further.  Two days before my surgery, I’d completed a ride that logged me almost 40 miles for the week.  Yeah.  This thing is really messing with my workout plans and my riding goals.

I just have to let that be alright for now.

I am going to make it.

 

Cycling In Portland,Oregon

Portland, Summer 2011

Recently, Huffington Post carried an article about the 20 Most Bike-Friendly cities in the U.S..  They pulled their information from Bicycling.com’s list of America’s Top 50 Bike Cities. I was very pleased to note that Portland, Oregon placed second on this esteemed list of bike friendly cities. If you have ever had the opportunity to bike around Portland (and I do mean bike, not run or drive, because that’s a different experience) then you also understand how bike friendly the Rose City is.

But wait, there’s more

Facing Fear…In Small Increments

Summer 2011

I’m sitting out on my back deck watching my two youngest children swimming with the son of one of my friends. It is the first year in the last three that my pool has stayed clear without having to dump hundreds of dollars of chemicals into it and hours of labor. The difference this year? I changed the sand in the filter. I knew that this was a project that needed to be done, but I was understandably intimidated by the aspect of dismantling the filter on my own, clearing out the old sand and refilling it with the new clean sand without breaking or messing something up. Contrary to popular belief, there are some kinds of technology that terrify me. I guess I had to give myself the winter just to build up enough nerve to try to attempt it. As it was, had I not had help, I’m not sure I would have tackled it. However, I had help, I overcame my fear and found that was I was afraid of was was not that big a deal. It wasn’t an easy project but it wasn’t that tough either.
But wait, there’s more