Reflections ~ Biopsy Results: Gratitude Journal #9

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This past week has been very emotional! I spent most of it waiting for my biopsy results. I was in good shape for the most part, until Wednesday came. I felt anxiety creeping in as I began to think about how these results were going to change my life. I waited for the Nurse Practitioner to call me with the results and the morning whirled by and my anxiety began rising. The office’s lunch period quickly came and went and I decided to call if I hadn’t heard from her by 2:00pm.

Finally, the call I’d waited for six days finally came. I was so nervous as I answered the telephone. My stomach was in knots as I thought about the possibilities that were before me. Benign or Cancerous? Radiation or Chemo and a Full Hysterectomy, or just a Full Hysterectomy. I gasped for air as she began explaining the results of my biopsy. She stated that what looked like fibroid tissue was in fact endometrial tissue growing deep with in the uterine wall. The baffling thing is there was no blood source attached to the growth, but the great thing about the mass was it was COMPLETELY BENIGN!

BENIGN. Yes, it was benign! I was transferred to the scheduler to get my Hysterectomy date, and we confirmed May 10th. I will stay over at the hospital for one night and then I will be released to go home and all of this ordeal will be OVER!!!!

I spent Wednesday night celebrating my results! I called friends, sent text messages and took pictures to remember this moment. I needed to remember THIS moment! I needed to remember how I was feeling at the moment I heard that the mass within me was benign. I will always remember this moment and I am so grateful that I have had a wonderful medical team that always listens to me and advocates for my best health.

I am so grateful for my family and friends for their support. I am especially grateful that this entire process will soon be a part of my past.

I do not have uterine cancer — whew it feels great to be able to say that! But I have to acknowledge the thousands of women that are diagnosed with uterine cancer and cervical cancer because my heart pours out to you. The mental anguish that one suffers through the discovery process is unbelievable. My prayers are with you and your families!

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A is for Alcatraz

I have decided to do posts about my beloved hometown, San Francisco and all the things that I love from A to Z.

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A ~

Alcatraz aka “The Rock” is one of the most traveled tourist attractions in San Francisco. Alcatraz Island offers a close-up look at the site of the first lighthouse and US built fort on the West Coast, the infamous federal penitentiary long off-limits to the public, and the 18 month occupation by Indians of All Tribes, which saved the tribes.

Alcatraz is 1.5 miles off the coast of San Francisco. Rich in history, Alcatraz was once the prison home of: Robert Franklin Stroud (the Birdman of Alcatraz), George “Machine Gun” Kelly, and Bumpy Johnson. There is also a natural side to “The Rock”, there are beautiful gardens, tide pools, bird colonies (brown pelicans), and bay views beyond compare.

There is no entrance fee to Alcatraz, however there is $10.00 round-trip ferry fee to and from the island.

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Reflections ~ On My Surgery Day

The morning started early at six a.m. yet everyone lagged along in an effort not to get ready. Perhaps it was dread of the day before us, anxiety or just fear but gloom definitely filled the air of my home.

Traffic to the hospital was horrendous, maybe this is GOD’s way of telling me to go back home. I pull out my cell phone and click on Twitter. I catch up on reading a few posts: @JuliaRobers1 (Firing My Pediatrician), reading about the exclusion of @JessBWatson daughter from the Soccer Team and I checked in with @addyeb about her vacation. My anxiety is starting to rise and my fear is I won’t make it on-time for my registration check-in.

***

My Mom left me at patient drop off and I made a mad dash up to the third floor for my Hysteroscopy. I’m feeling afraid and anxious as I enter the elevator and arrive at my floor. I find the registration desk and I see the clock.

I MADE IT WITH ONE MINUTE TO SPARE!

At the desk a nurse named Kathline was there and in the background softly playing I heard I HEAR THE SOUND OF VICTORY (one of my previous Song Of The Week posts). GOD is a comforter and healer I tell you. I know I’m gonna be just fine!

***

I’m all checked and dressed in my Bairpaws Hospital Gown that has a heater attachment – how cool is this! Pre-op Nurse Neila begins verify my name, birthdate, type of surgery that I having today and we go over my consent forms prior to me signing them. My Mom has joined me now and I tell her that she has been nominated and will be honored as Mother of the Year by a local sorority. She is surprised and thrilled at the same time, she deserves this honor and I am so proud of her!

My surgical nurse named Joseph comes into my room and introduces himself. He verifies my identification, goes over my consent forms and tells me we are going to walk over to the ambulatory surgery wing. I say goodbye to my Mom and I head over to the ambulatory surgery waiting room and my Mom goes over to the Surgical Waiting Room.

Once I arrive at my surgical prep pod, I meet my anesthesiologist, surgical intern, the ultrasound radiologist and of course my gynecologist to briefly discuss my surgery, answer questions, and get the party started in the operating room. I wait another two minutes or so and Joseph (my surgical nurse) walks me into the OR.

***

The room is freezing, green tiles are on the walls, the overhead lights are extremely bright and a there is a hole in the middle of the table and I am told to place my bottom above the hole so that when the table is lifted and my legs are raised the surgical team will have access to my “womanly parts.” I hop on the table and get into position. My teeth begin to chatter and Joseph hooks up the heater attachment to my Bairpaws gown and cover me with blankets. The anesthesiologist inserts my IV and we talk a little as the medicine kicks in, I am pleasantly surprised to find out that my anesthesiologist, gynecologist, and general practitioner/primary care physician were interns together at The University California San Francisco (UCSF), and that they all currently have surgical privileges at California Pacific Medical Center, which is where I am having surgery. I relax and quit fighting my drowsiness knowing that I am in excellent hands!

***

I wake and find my gynecologist standing over me giving me the thumbs up sign. I am still drowsy and in the recovery room. She proceeds to tell me lots of information about the surgery that she tells me that it is okay if I do not remember but there is one thing she wants me to know, “It appears to be a fibroid embedded deep in the ablated wall of the uterus. The mass is hard and cancer cells tend to be soft. We have to wait for the official biopsy results, but it appears not to be cancerous.” She again offers me her thumbs up and I smile and cry and offer her my thumbs up and I ask her to call my husband and tell my Mom who is waiting.

***

I have a wave of cramping come on and Jane, the Recovery Room Nurse administers additional pain medication. I begin to get drowsy again and I stay in the recovery room for another hour and a half before moving to my post-op room where my Mom is waiting for me. I am cognizant of where I am and my Mom re-explains what the doctor said. I remember it all too well and I smile! I start reading text messages and sending responses and I let my oldest son, mother-in-law, sister-in-law and “sisters” know that I am out of surgery.

***

I am home now. I have minor pain and a slight headache from the anethesia wearing off. One of the women from my Bible Study group supplied us with dinner, and I was pleasantly surprised when Waiters.com delivered Pasta Pomodoro for my family. My family is glad that I am home and celebrating my successful surgery and the preliminary news that it appears that I do not have cancer.

I still have to wait for my official results but I feel a great sense of relief knowing that half the battle is done. I have my follow-up post-op appointment on April 3rd and I have schedule my surgery date for my hysterectomy. I will keep you updated. Thank you so much for your prayers, thoughts, concerns and love! I truly appreciate each and everyone of you!

Love,
Sammie

Gratitude Journal #8 ~ What Lies Ahead of Me

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I am grateful for the week behind me and the week ahead of me.

Last week was a busy, busy week! I had many appointments, not just medical appointments, too many in fact. I went to the my Gynocologist, my surgeon, and to get my labs done. I lost 3 pounds since my unsuccessful biopsy on last week (March 7, 2012) and I am scheduled for my Hysteroscopy on March 22, 2012. I met with my bible study group for encouragement and I found myself feeling a little self-centered and pitiful, my anxiety was rising but they pepped me right on up and reminded me that I have so many other things to focus on and my goal should be to help others even during this time! So with last week’s appointments behind me I am starting this week with with a renew focus on being positive while providing a bit of cancer education.

So this week I am booked solid with yet more pre-op appointments. Today was blood work, tomorrow will be my primary care physician and then a pregnancy test in order to get signed off for surgery on Thursday. After that I will have approximately one week of waiting to find out if I have uterine cancer. It still seems surreal, but I am grateful that I am insured. I am grateful for the outpouring of love from my friends. I am grateful that GOD strengthens me daily to complete the tasks at hand. I am grateful that these cells have been detected early and I am so grateful that I know how to fight for my life!

I am grateful that I am in the hands of good doctors, I am loved, and I will get through this challenge just as I have done with all the other challenges in my life. I will be stronger, wiser and I will survive!

REPOST: SPOTLIGHT CORNER ~ Tamara @YouAreFIERCE, Founder of MOM Magazine

Oh, I have quite a treat for each of you this week as we approach Spring.  I have the pleasure of introducing my “Sista from anotha Mista,” my confidante and advisor on all things personal, Tamara Plant of YOU ARE FIERCE and Mom Magazine.  She is an extraordinary example of making your own trail and making it blaze behind you!  her unconventional wisdom, simple approach to rejecting  June Cleaver and Martha Stewart ideologies and finding our own paths to being a successful mother has helped thousands of women to stop beating themselves for not obtaining someone else’s vision of “perfection.”

Without anymore delay, I welcome Tamara!

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Nothing about me is average. OK maybe I’m average in height but my personality take me from 5’5 to 8 feet tall and bullet proof, so even that makes me atypical.

Ever since I was a smartass kid growing up in the inner city of Edmonton, I always knew the universe had a plan for me; living an average life was not in the cards, and although there have been multiple speed bumps and road blocks on my journey, resilience has been my best friend. I went through some shit (haven’t we all?) but I don’t believe in playing the victim card. In fact, if you play it around me I will bitchslap you with it. The “Woe is Me” mentality doesn’t cut it, sister. Everyone has their demons and baggage; it’s what you do with it that defines your character.

Some defining moments in my life include the death of my grandma when I was 19. Losing her was a slap in the face, a wake-up call to appreciate the good things you have in your life before it’s too late. It also made me turtle into a steel shell of protectiveness thinking that if you were tough, nothing could touch you. I lived that way for a long time, expecting anyone I cared about to leave me. It wasn’t just her death that made me feel that way, there were other moments in my life that contributed to it but that was a big one.

At 21, I got my first job as a sports writer at a daily paper. At 24, I gave up my career to be with the man I eventually married and although there were moments I wished I had handled the career situation differently, I never regretted being with him.

I couldn’t give up the communications industry all together so I went into the back-end of publishing, learning the fine art of how everything worked: design, ad production, editorial calendars, print, web design. All of these skills came in quite handily when I decided to launch MOM Magazine in 2007. I enjoyed some degree of success, changing the stereotype of what a MOM is and is “suppose to” be. I enabled moms to leave the mommy-mode and embrace their true identity as a woman. It was quite liberating but after all of this time, I feel it’s time to move forward, evolve, if you will, as I have grown and changed over the past 5 years.

Three years ago, I created FIERCE: Females Inspiring Each other in a Real Community of Empowerment. It sat on the back-burner while I dealt with some personal issues (my grandfather’s journey through cancer and eventual death sent me into a tailspin of depression) but I have since resurrected what I started. FIERCE is all about inspiring other women, empowering them to celebrate their successes and embrace their spirit. It’s about peer mentoring in a no-catty bullshit environment and championing each other’s victories.

This past October, I single-handedly put together the 2nd annual FIERCE Women of the Year awards. As I walked around the event, I soaked up all of the crazy fantastic energy and thought to myself, “I did this! ME! All by myself!” I owned that moment and knew that I had come out the other side of one of the darkest times in my life.

No matter what life throws at you, no matter how many times it kicks you and you feel beaten, fight back. There is no reason to give up, ever. If you think there is a reason to just lay down and quit, find 10 reasons to get back up.

You are FIERCE. You deserve happiness and you deserve good things in your life. If you ever doubt yourself, just look in the mirror and repeat those words over and over until you feel a glimmer of strength. Hold on to that feeling and remember that nothing about YOU is average, either.

I said so.

Cheers!

Tamara Plant
Founder/Publisher You Are Fierce &MOM Magazine
Producer of the FIERCE Women of the Year awards

Life as a MOM doesn’t mean life as a WOMAN has to end!

http://www.yourarefierce.com
http:/www./MOMmagazine.ca

Follow us on http://twitter.com/YouAreFierce
Because We Do!
*note* our twitter account is NOT for the faint of heart or the easily
offended!

Gratitude Journal #7

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I’ve been working really hard to stay on top of my blog posts by following my published schedule in spite of the current chaos called my life.

Today, I gave myself permission to not write my Gratitude Journal because I was tired and going out to a family dinner with a family from Church. I was so excited when my husband came home to get cleaned up for us to go out to dinner (which is very rare) we grabbed our jackets and drove exactly four blocks from our house and KABLAM! Our tire popped 😦

So on this beautiful Friday evening, as we sit near Ocean Beach listening to the sound of the waves, the clicking sound of our hazard lights and feel the crisp air on our skin, I am grateful for this little hiccup in my plans. It gave me a few minutes to

s-l-o-w  d-o-w-n

and write my Gratitude Journal (thanks to WordPress on my iPhone) on its scheduled day.

I am grateful that our tire giving way did not lead to an accident. I am grateful for this quiet time with my husband away from our children. I am grateful that we are still able to go to dinner with our friends and I am especially grateful to have this loving man who is scrounging through all of the stadium chairs that we haul everywhere in our trunk for our kids soccer games to get to the spare tire. I am grateful that he is not complaining. I am grateful for his presence. I am grateful that he is my husband and he is a great man that I love with all of my heart.

Love,

Sammie

Reflections ~ Waiting to Find Out If I Have Uterine Cancer

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Today is March 7th and my long-awaited biopsy date is here. I am sitting in the hallway of the Medical Building. I am patiently impatiently waiting to get this show on the road.

Yesterday my doctor’s office called me at 6:30am to see if I could have my biopsy done, but I had no one to drive me back from the appointment so I declined and stayed with my original appointment. So here I am today, sitting, calmly waiting, anticipating the results of this biopsy that hasn’t even been taken yet.

My husband’s full with nervous energy. He is carrying so much weight on his shoulders. He is the sole bread-winner of our family at this time, the guy who tries not to wear his emotions on his sleeves. He has failed today. His focus is non-existent as he tries to mask his fears. His energy is bound up tight and ready to explode. I don’t need or want to be nervous now. I have been really good at keeping my anxiety at bay through this process and I’d like to keep it that way.

***

My oldest son came and stay and visit with me and we talked about how excited he is to start at his new college in the Fall. We got his tax paperwork together and he left for his appointment to get his taxes done.

I went by my youngest daughter’s school to pick up her report card. She is doing well in her classes, in fact she made the honor roll with a 3.33 GPA. We have managed to keep her and her other brother unaware of this current health scare, but today she really wanted leave school with us. She begged to come with me to the doctor ~ in her little mind she knows something is not right. I decided not to burden her with extra stress unless the results come back positive. She and her brother will be allowed to enjoy their childhood as much as they can for as long as they can and if this result is negative then the less they know about the process the better.

***

It’s 3:29pm now and I am waiting in the office now. All checked in and ready to rock and roll! The ladies in waiting are gone from the couches and they smiled politely as they lovingly pat their bellies after their OB/GYN check ups. But I sit here reflecting on the many times that I was excited to walk into this office, yet today I sit here dreading the music, the magazines and the cheerful staff. The pregnant bellies remind me of happier times, times before my body revolted against me.

My name was just called, so I am now in the outpatient medical suite. My blood pressure is 114/70 and I’ve lost 6 pounds since my doctor told me that she thought I might have uterine cancer on Valentine’s Day, believe me I didn’t see that coming! It must be stress weight loss because I have certainly been eating a little naughtier than usual.

The walls are thin here or either the ultrasound machine in the next room is against the wall. I can hear a baby’s heartbeat and I begin to calm down and then I remember I am over 40 and there will be no more babies for me! I have had my time and I have had my kids. It’s time for the next phase in my life. I hope that this phase will begin as a non-cancerous pre-menopausal phrase. Based on the results of this biopsy, I will either have a full hysterectomy if these cells are cancerous or I will have a partial hysterectomy if these cells are not cancerous. Either way, I am entering the post child-bearing phase of my life and I have to be okay with that.

My doctor greets me and goes over my 3D ultrasound results from the hospital, which identifies a large area of abnormal cells in the uterine wall. She goes and tell me that since I have had an ablation previously scar tissue may prohibit her from getting a clear biopsy today and if that is the case I would need to reschedule and be checked into the hospital for a Hysteroscopy.

“WTF,” I think to myself.

So I sit on the table and get two shots in my cervix and a rod to dilate my cervix.  She adjusts the rod which is supposed to help my cervix dilate and no luck.  She gently (gently according to her my cervix begs to differ) readjusts the rod and again no luck.  She smiles at me after this 10 minute adventure and pats my leg and she tells me that I will have to go to the hospital to have the Diagnostic Hysteroscopy to be done and I will be put under general anesthesia.

FML!

Her assistant comes in to re-check my blood pressure while I lay half-naked on the table with tears flowing uncontrollably now as I ponder yet more waiting to determine if the beast known as cancer is back. My blood pressure is 124/76. I am fine to get dressed and go home. I’m sent home with Motrin for cramping and pain.

My doctor says I will be contacted within the week to schedule my appointment for my outpatient Diagnostic Hysteroscopy.  I leave the Medical Building in complete frustration and I begin to laugh through my tears as I think about all of the things that are at my fingertips.

I reflect on how we live in an instant society. We make choices on a daily basis so that we do not have to wait to satisfy our desire for information. Patience has truly been lost within me and waiting is unbearable. In an instant I can have the latest music, breaking news, iBooks, the internet.  I can have it all after a few quick key stokes on my computer or iPhone but yet I have to fucking wait for 2-3 more weeks to find out what the hell is wrong with me!  Yet for me, at least for the next few weeks the waiting continues.

FUCK CANCER!

Post Script: I know that some people will view this post as too much information, but I am writing these posts to encourage others to make sure that they stay on top of their health and hopefully this will help inform others about this type of cancer. As a breast cancer survivor, I am at risk to other types of cancer. Seven years ago I had a uterine ablation done to treat fibroids, so effectively I have no uterine wall for abnormal cells to adhere to, but I currently have a mass of abnormal cells in my uterus ~ go figure huh? I think this post script brings you up to date if you wish to follow along with my story.


SPOTLIGHT CORNER RETURNS with @Sheswrite

After a three month hiatus, I am proud to bring back SPOTLIGHT CORNER!  My first featured guest is Melanie Coffee Hesselberg AKA @sheswrite.  I met Melanie on Twitter and I discovered we had a few things in common like: she’s African-American, she is in an interracial marriage, she is a mother, she is a blogger, she resides in Chicago (where my family so proudly hailed before they moved to San Francisco), and she has experienced something that I experience everyday in my local community being the wife of a caucasian man.

Melanie wrote a piece for the Huffington Post on August 25, 2011 called My On-Again-Off-Again Relationship With White People that forever in my heart made her my kindred spirit.  I want to be clear. This piece is NOT a piece of work that incites racism or hatred, it merely looks at Melanie’s experiences form her perspective as one half of an interracial couple and her experiences as an African-American woman.  The flurry of feedback on the piece really gave me pause to think about my own experiences with both my husband and my own friends in terms of race relations.  Her piece inspired me to have real life conversations about how I felt and what i hoped and dreamed for in terms of equality for my children. I could go on and on, but then you would never hear what Melanie has to say about blogging and when you are done reading this piece, I highly encourage you to click the links in this post to get to know her better.

So with no further introduction …

There’s a scary thing about blogging. At least for me there is. It’s the people who read it. I know, I know it sounds ridiculous. But I’m a writer. I write to write, not necessarily to be read.

Esoteric? Perhaps, but it’s how I feel. So when I blog, I try to write without thinking of being read. In my job as a journalist I’m always thinking about the reader, trying to convey the facts objectively so that people can draw their own opinions and not simply digest what *I* think.  This requires examining all phrasings to consider whether they can be misunderstood.

With blogging, I put my fingers on the keyboard and just go. Clickety-clack-clack away. This past summer I was approached by an editor at The Huffington Post to write for their BlackVoices section. My first response: YIKES! On my personal blog I could whirr away at whatever I wanted, now writing about something as sensitive and personal as race to such a wide audience. Naturally, I figured I’d be an idiot to say no, but  beyond the “yes,” what would I say?

I was talking this over with my friends and finally settled on my relationships with white people.  To stay true to my “voice” I tried to write just for myself. I tried not to think of how many people would read my post, what they might think. I simply wrote.

When it was posted, it stirred up an amazing response. I got about 400 comments and it was an eye-opening conversation on race. I think that the comment section was more interesting than the piece. The response ranged from the racist, to the white people who said: “I’m trying to understand” to people who called me racist. When some of the negative comments started pouring in, I wondered, do I respond? Of course the first reaction is to defend yourself.  My husband advised me to wait a bit.

I did and I’m glad. Evenutally I decided not to respond to any of them. I figured that above the comment section I said what I had to say and below my writing was where people could have their say. It’s a line I decided not to cross. And I’m glad I didn’t.

It was good to get people talking about race. I know of a few educators who passed this piece along to their high school and college students as a way of opening up the conversation. My Facebook page also had a good back-and-forth about it. I was really humbled by the response and how it helped start honest discussions.

We need more of those, especially when it comes to issues such as race.

All of this goes back to what inspired me to become a journalist. I wanted to help break down barriers and for me, that’s to do that through educating people. Teaching them something whether it’s a quick walk in my shoes, those of the Chicago superintendent, a single mom on welfare or a stroke survivor. Opening our hearts and minds to each other to foster more understanding.

I think I’m getting a little too esoteric again. Nevertheless, I suppose that’s why I like to blog. It’s writing to write.

Thanks for stopping by and sharing the SPOTLIGHT CORNER Melanie!

Melanie can be contacted at:

Her Blog: http://www.sheswrite.net

Email: sheswrite9@gmail.com

Twitter: @sheswrite

Song Of The Day ~ Magdalenha by Sergio Mendes

My daughter is participating in Carnival this year with her dance troop LOCO BLOCO it has been a great time seeing her friends from last year and her friends her performing arts summer camp as they prepare their routines for Carnival 2012

I woke today and felt a little anxious about the days ahead of me.  I had terrible cramps and was preparing to do blood work this morning but I decided to get on home to give my aching body some relief.

Gratitude Journal #6 ~ Thankful for Chaos

What a week and I am grateful even among the chaos of overscheduling!  This week has been incredibly busy.  My smaller children are blessed with wonderful activities and friends and we have been so busy that I haven’t even had time to be stressed.

My 21-year-old gave a message at Church this Sunday for their Campus Ministry Retreat this weekend. PROUD can’t describe how I felt with what he shared. Just a year ago, he attended that retreat and three months later he was baptized and gave his life and worries to the LORD!

Baseball session is in full swing and my 11-year-old’s coaches are WONDERFUL!  He has three practices a week and his confidence is really blossoming under their guidance.

My 10-year-old daughter served as the Mistress of Ceremonies at her school’s Black History Month Program on Wednesday, followed by a meeting to discuss her academic plan and current GATE status and we ended the night with her induction into the Citywide Honor Roll.

My husband has been extremely supportive and my friends have rallied around to support me during this uncomfortable time and period of waiting.

I am grateful for all that I have and all that I am.  But most of all I am grateful to know whatever happens I am loved and I have a great supportive people around me.

That’s all for this week.

Love,

Sammie