New Lease on Life

Lovely bouquet from our kids. Thanks, Jason and Carrie. They are my favorite colors. 🙂

In my last post three months ago I shared that I had a successful lumpectomy to remove a stage one cancer in my left breast. Before the words had left the doctor saying that they got it all, she called back to say that the margins were not clear.

Not to worry, I was still stage two minus the lymph involvement and all I needed was a total mastectomy, but no chemo and radiation. I felt calm. Besides, I didn’t have much to lose.

I did not want to have the second surgery right away since it seemed like such a low risk and I had so much going on this fall. Friends advised me otherwise, and I’m glad they did. The cancer had riddled the breast, so waiting probably wouldn’t have been too wise.

Today I report that I have survived for over 48 hours of that procedure. My husband told the staff at the hospital that the main thing they could do for me in the hospital was to “feed me.” I want to thank the wonderful nurses at St. Agnes Hospital in Fresno. I remember Elsa and Melba, Caesar and Jen. Vince is trying to do the work of about 4 people! Pray for him.

An accidental shot of my lovely hospital gown.

I think my husband has survived but maybe not as well as I have. I want to thank the many friends who have brought food and sent well wishes. They mean more than you know unless you’ve been in this position. Or as Carol would say, “posi.”

I can do limited things. Eat, sleep, walk, play on the computer, watch tv, take the pain and antibiotic meds, repeat.

My main worries are: falling on my owie, (I did that the first time!) eating too much great food, and wearing out the welcome of my generous friends and hubby.

I still don’t know whether the stage or grade has changed, but either way, I have clear margins this time. At least so far.

Everyone asks me if I’m nervous. Honestly, I have not really worried about the surgery or outcomes thanks to my faith in God and the many, many prayers that have gone out for me. I trust that the outcome will be what He wants for me.

It has been a blessing to be in His care.

Wishing you all the best in your lives, and don’t panic if something like this or worse happens to you. God is able to comfort and care for you, too.

The Next Stage of the Journey into the Unknown

https://www.touro.com/blogs/2017/july/hidden-scar-breast-cancer-surgery-at-touro/

Stage One Diagnosis

You find out you have cancer, do all the research, schedule treatment and wait. I love my doctor in Fresno, CA, Dr. Hadcock. She moved me up so that between diagnosis and surgery there were only seventeen days!

Stage Two Treatment

For me, the beginning treatment was surgery, a lumpectomy, biopsy of two lymph nodes, nuclear medicine, a gamma probe and placement of a Biozorb.

“Intraoperative gamma detection uses gamma particles emitted by radioactive isotopes from within the body to pinpoint tissue during surgery. By targeting specific tissue, treatments and procedures can be minimally invasive, are associated with lower complication rates, and can lead to better patient outcomes. ” https://www.mammotome.com/procedures/gamma-detection/

Less is better as far as I am concerned!

Biozorb https://www.thehealthjournals.com/biozorb-leaves-mark-breast-cancer/

A Biozorb looks like a spring with metallic markers that is placed where the cancer was, a little marker. It allows the doctor to keep an eye on things, so to speak. Eventually, it deteriorates leaving only the markers behind. They promised me I won’t set off any detectors at the airport.

During the first step of surgery, a doctor and technician marked Dr. Hadcock did surgical area by inserting two wires on either side of the tumor. Then they took four mammograms. The numbing agents weren’t entirely successful, but it was liveable – as evidenced by the fact I am writing about it twenty-four hours after surgery.

By nine-thirty a.m. Hector was wheeling me into a bright, operating room crowded with equipment. The surgeon and anesthesiologist awaited me as Hector helped me scoot from his cart to the operating table. Since I have old twisty veins, the anesthesia entered me painfully, but within seconds I didn’t care.

The next time I saw a clock it looked like two in the afternoon, but it was actually only ten after twelve. Vince told me that I had asked to come home. (Who knows, I thought they were nuts letting me leave so soon after I woke up.)

By twelve-thirty the nurse and my husband had dressed me, bundled me in a blanket, and loaded me like a sack of potatoes into the car. Anesthesia can make you do strange things and it still had a hold on me for quite a few hours. I cried all the way home and had a panic attack when my dog came out to greet me.

Stage Three – Recovery

My advice is not to text anyone while under the influence of the anesthetic. I felt like I was in the Twilight Zone. I moved my finger some random way and when I listened to my voicemail messages. Every message was from my brother. Then I finally got one without his voice from my surgeon. After that, every message I pressed was her voice.

When I tried to show Vince, the voicemails on my phone belonged to the correct people.

One message I received was a call from a reporter at the Visalia Times-Delta asking about the Kiwanis July Third Blast. Wisely I did not to return his phone call. Instead, I texted Linda about it, got the phone number mixed up and couldn’t figure out his name because his voicemail the second time was my brother’s voicemail. So don’t text while under the influence!

It has now been exactly twenty-four hours since surgery. I’m able to think again. I can eat and drink normally. My dog is no longer traumatized by my lack of attention and is sleeping on her chair next to the window. Vince is out running errands, and I am blogging.

Some people have to wear a drain. I was lucky. https://mastheadpink.com/product/elizabeth-surgical-bra/

Other than being totally inactive except for walking around a bit, life is back to normal. I’m wearing a cute pink velcro infested bra that holds me in rather than making me look voluptuous. I have a cute heart-shaped pillow printed with kittens under my arm at all time which I carry like a handbag filled with a million dollars in cash.

Best of all, I thought I was cancer-free for the moment.

Then the surgeon called back today and informed me of the biopsy results. The lymph nodes are clear of cancer, but the tumor was three centimeters instead of one and that the margins were not all clear.

That means that the cancer is now categorized as stage two, grade one, but slow-growing. It also means that I will have to go back into surgery and have a mastectomy.

Stage Four – Helping Others

Those of you who have had breast cancer have helped me go through this last seventeen days with calm assurance. Thank you especially to Jean Butler, Linda Hengst, and Donna Davis who have been through this before.

Thanks to Vince, for hanging in there with me and caring for me. And thanks to all my friends who have come by, called me and wished me well.

I can only hope that I will offer as much support to others when the time comes, as my many friends both with and without cancer have done for me.

A Journey into the Unknown

Only about 12 percent of women in their lifetime will take this journey. I’m one of the chosen ones.

Time for a Trip to the Beach

I’ve never gone to a nude beach or even a topless one. I’ve never even been tempted. In fact, it would be so embarrassing, I don’t think’ I’d ever recover.

For the last two years, my mammogram reports told me that I have dense breasts. I took that as a compliment. A big improvement, I thought and bragged about them to my friends. Wahoo! Time for a trip to the beach! Finally, something to show off.

A busty friend of mine laughed, “Me too!”

That was a good sign. Maybe they were finally growing after 65 years, but I wasn’t ready for the big reveal yet. They still seemed about the same to me.

A year later she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She went in for Brachytherapy, had a little insert and five days of intensive radiation directly on the spot and poof, all good again.

That was her, this is me. No worries.

Sometime between this year and last year’s mammogram, I noticed a dimple in my left breast. Should I have rushed back and had another mammogram??? It was just a little dimple. I love dimples, and I’ve put on a few pounds so I didn’t think a thing about it. Apparently, my decision was wrong.

Don’t Assume

On June 11 the W.I.S.H. clinic in Fresno called me with the news that I have breast cancer.

https://www.breastcancercare.org.uk/information-support/facing-breast-cancer/diagnosed-breast-cancer/primary-breast-cancer

Not that it will mean anything to you and it’s TMI but I’m going to bore you anyway. Clinically I have a Stage IT1cN0M0 Grade 1ER+ (estrogen) PR+ (progesterone) and her2-

What does all that mean? The surgeon explained it as she scribbled it on my report for me but I still had to google it.

Tumor size (T)

  • T1—Smaller than 2 cm (about 1 inch) Of course, I only have about five inches by two inches of breast tissue altogether on a good day. So that’s about 10-20% for me. The surgeon said, “You might be a bit asymmetrical after surgery. Vince kindly said, “I love asymmetrical!”

Nodes (N): Lymph nodes under the arm and neck

  • N0—No lymph node involvement

Metastases (M): means whether cancer has spread outside the breast and underarm, or “metastasized”

Seriously, I thought, “No biggie. Just get it done, recuperate for a couple of weeks and get on with life. Why does everyone get so worked up about a simple lumpectomy?

A simple lumpectomy followed by six weeks of radiation five days a week, then an anti-hormone drug for five to seven years. Then, if I’m still alive, I’m done, unless it comes back.

Unexpected Obstacle on the Journey

Moji says, “I’m clean. I wash myself every day.”

Okay, even that’s not bad, very doable. But then I found out that I have to stay completely away from my kitties. Now that hurt! They can’t get on my lap or anywhere close to my face.

They have nasty dander.

I can’t clean litter boxes. Now that’s a shame, don’t you think?

I can’t do anything for a week after surgery. No dishes, no making the bed, no vacuuming, no watering the garden, not even walking the dog. I can work in the garden, though if I don’t lift anything. That’s easy, right?

“And you’re going to feel good,” Cindy, the adorable PA said.

“I do everything anyway,” Vince quipped. “A whole week? Really?”

“You can watch tv and read, but only spend an hour on the computer. You need to walk around every hour or so. You can’t exercise until the surgeon tells you it’s okay. Gosh, it’s like a vaca.

I can’t eat at a smorgasbord restaurant. That limits things in rural Woodlake. Vince won’t go near one anyway. Too many hands in the food for my sweet germaphobe.

One in Eight Women Will Go on this Journey

https://utswmed.org/medblog/why-breast-cancer/

My surgeon told me to tell my friends not to ignore the signs like I did. As an obedient patient, I’m telling you my story so you will be careful. Most women don’t die from breast cancer because it’s treatable. But look at how involved it is to have the lowest grade and stage of a slow-growing type of cancer.

So as I start this journey, feel free to share your experiences with me, and through me, with others that might one day have to go on the journey themselves. See you along the path.

Welcome to Sequoia Country, Travelers

Summer is here and it’s time to take off for parts known or unknown – cooler, warmer, more remote, more culture something new and different, or familiar. Where are you going this summer?

Kings Canyon National Park in 2018

Central California may be hot, but there are plenty of cool places to hang out to escape the heat. The Sequoia, Yosemite and Kings Canyon National Parks are all within a few hours driving distances from Visalia, Fresno and each other. Everyone knows Yosemite, but have you been to Kings Canyon and Sequoia?

That’s not all. Kaweah Lake in the heart of the Sierra Nevada Foothills is a sporting destination on the way to the Sequoia National Park. If you get to Three Rivers, CA, you passed it. You can’t miss over one hundred acre-feet of water, though.

Have You Tried Kayaking?

Kayaking on Kaweah Lake

Last year my adorable neighbors, Diane and Selena, treated me to a fabulous day at Lake Kaweah, less than thirty minutes from where I live. Lake Kaweah serves as a reservoir for irrigation, flood control, electric power source, and fishing and boating destination

If you are like me and used to seeing the land only, you might try a different perspective this year and hop into a kayak. Getting into and out of the kayak is a bit tricky, but once you get in, time melts away as the water laps up against the side of the boat.

See my paddle keeping me from going in circles?

The temperature on July sixth was a cool 9o degrees by late morning, so we wore plenty of sunscreen, but didn’t feel the heat. It’s a large body of water, so we had room to roam. Selena took off leaving us in her wake, circling back to check on her mother and me every so often to make sure that I didn’t spend all my time going in circles.

We Could Have Been Explorers

We could have been explorers.

There were so few people on the water when we arrived that we could have been explorers from another era seeing the mountains and foothills for the first time. If you know the history of the area, though, you would know that this lake never existed until Terminus Dam was completed in 1961. Before the Corps of Engineers built the dam, floods devastated the downstream communities. The most one-hundred-year flood in recent history occurred in 1955.

Kaweah Lake Water Levels Fluctuate

Water levels in the lake fluctuate.

You can see the water levels marked clearly on this foothill. There are many levels below what you see here. What you don’t see are the whole trees and parking lots buried under the water.

Last year the water level was high because of the enormous amount of rain we had during the 2017-18 rainy season. In wet years, even though the lake is full in July, the Corps of Engineers makes sure that the dam doesn’t break by releasing water all summer. By September the water levels decrease significantly, although boats still dot the surface. You can see that the water level was near record level last year.

Near record level water in the summer of 2018

During the 2018-19 season, Central California had about eight inches of participation. That’s below the average of ten inches, but not a bad number. I haven’t been up to the lake for a while to take pictures this year, but when the lake is full they let out a lot of water for most of the summer to control for melting snow coming from the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Our canals, which farmers rely on for irrigation, are full this year.

Relaxing Before Disaster Strikes

Watch out! I can’t steer this thing!

Don’t overlook the simple outdoor pleasures near you this summer. Learning and trying new things broadens and enriches your life and keeps you young. However, I’m glad you didn’t see me Selena trying to get me out of the kayak. 🙂

You’re right, I didn’t help much. Thanks to Diane and Selena who made this trip possible.

Tell me what you have planned for this summer.

Gourdeous Works of Art

I have long admired the work of Toni Best, a retired teacher. A couple of years ago my husband and I toured her house and studio where she does all her work. She teaches classes at home and around the country.

South Valley Artists' Studio Tour
Toni Best weaves a backdrop for one of her wood sculptures.

Active nationally Toni belongs to several national basketweaving organizations two of which include the National Basketry Organization (NBO) and the Handweavers Guild of America. She will be traveling to attend the NBO conference in July to display two pieces.

Free Form by Toni Best.

Toni Best, a Visalian, was one of the three featured gourd artists at the Exeter Art show that runs from April 14th to May 26th.

Diana Pearcy a Woodlake Artist

It’s so much fun to go to an art or an arts and crafts show and discover that people you knew in other settings are actually artists in disguise. That’s what happened this month at the Exeter Art Gallery and Museum.

gourd bowl woven with pine needles on the top.
Diana Pearcy from the Woodlake Foundation Gourd Artist next to her favorite piece.

What Do You Do with an Old Gourd?

You can poke and prod them, paint on them, oil them, coil rows of pine needles around the edges, and use your imagination to create almost anything.

Animal Totem made from gourds
Animal Totem by Diana Pearcy shows personality

Diana Pearcy grows her own gourds, her garden yielding over 3,000 gourds per season. She says they have different personalities, and we saw some of them on April 14th.

Gourd with maple leaf carved out
Maple Leaf

It’s hard to believe the same artist created these two very different pieces from gourds. This one might have been my personal favorite, although several others were close.

Female  gourd statue
Gourdeous! Spirit Shawl

Sam McKinney from Lindsay

Sam McKinney with her favorite piece
Sam McKinney with her favorite piece

Sam surprised me when we shook hands and she was not a man but a woman with amazing talent. Her time-consuming projects were vases rather than statues like Diana’s. This vase took front and center at the show. Sam’s work is almost like exotic clothing. I love the neckline and jewelry on this vase.

Free flow’s woven accessories and perfect eyelashes caught my eye.

Since I can’t even hold a pencil still for even a second, the thought of making all those little triangular marks in a perfect pattern made me swoon with envy.

This multi-sided vase is drilled and stippled, painted and carved. It would be beautiful with a digital flame inside. Sam, like Diana, also grows her own gourds.

gourd vase with beads
Cupid’s Arrow Beaded Gourd vase

At an art show at the Woodlake Airport on April 20th, my friend Jaime Beck drooled over the picture of Sam McKinney’s beadwork on this gourd. The perfect v or w pattern must have taken an enormous amount of patience to create.

When you come to the South Valley on your way to the Sequoia National Park, spend a few minutes of your weekend touring the Exeter Art Gallery and Museum. It’s open Saturday 10-4 and Sunday 12-4. They change art regularly so there is always something new to see. To enjoy more from this show check out their Facebook Group.

  • Animal Totem made from gourds
  • gourd vase with beads
  • carved gourd vase
  • gourd bowl woven with pine needles on the top.
  • Sam McKinney with her favorite piece
  • Female gourd statue
  • Gourd with maple leaf carved out

If you loved these, please press like, share the post, leave a comment or do all three. I love hearing from you. 🙂 Marsha 🙂