My account of life both on and off of two wheels...... "At least I'm enjoying the ride"

Monday, May 31, 2010

"It goes to eleven.."

Back tracking a bit as I’ve missed a few days…..

Tuesday night was the night before surgery. It was 6 days ago but it feels like a month has passed. I was able to squeeze in a quick evening ride on the mountain bike with some friends followed by a fun evening out at Tomatillo, my favorite Mexican joint in Dobbsferry. I had gone back and forth on wanting to keep the night to just G and I but being surrounded by good people and yummy food was the best way to go.

I had to check into the hospital at 7:30 Wednesday morning for a bunch of pre-op stuff. Some I’m sure are routine for every surgery but since I had 3 surgeries planned there was a few other things that needed to be done. My surgeons had to “mark” my breasts with permanent marker to use as a guide during the procedure; they also had to inject my left breast with radioactive die that will help them during the lymph node dissection. This along with another die they injected during the surgery made my fluids turn aqua blue. Apparently my face would be a hint of blue as well…nobody got to see that though. Damn, I was hoping for my own Avatar moment…. Surgery was on schedule for 9:00am. Still, all of this felt so surreal. Things start to get pretty fuzzy after I took the velum so really the last thing I remember is G giving me a big hug and kiss and me climbing up on the operating table to receive my “margarita”. This is what the anesthesiologist called my cocktail that she prepared for me. Next thing I knew, 9 hours had passed ( can’t remember the last time I slept for 9 hours without waking up) and I am in this room hearing voices all around me and people holding my hand and stroking my face. It was Dr “B” and the nurses in the recovery room. I was told the surgery went really well but that it was a lot longer than they had expected. That could only mean one thing. The cancer had spread to my lymph nodes and they had to go back and take more. All I felt at that moment was the tears dropping one by one, rolling under my chin and thinking “oh my GOD no. This has to be a bad dream. I’m still sleeping from the drugs “. I felt this sweet kiss on my forehead as I look over to see G right next to me. Our journey has just reached a whole new level. On a scale of 1-10, “it goes to eleven”.

The next few days ran together as I was heavily medicated, ah…narcotics are a wonderful thing. I remember feeling so tired and sore. The medicine helped but I could still feel the pressure in my chest and under my arms. It was as if I had just done a million pushups with a small child sitting on my back. I had not wanted visitors and really could not talk on the phone, so I just spent the time dozing in and out and trying to build up my strength so I can get ready for the next step. I have received so many wonderful messages from people- I realize I may not even be able to get back to all of them, but I want to thank you all for the beautiful words and the loving energy that I felt every minute.

I thought for sure I would be able to leave the hospital by Saturday but that did not work out as planned. Through some innocent miscommunication, I missed my 4 am pain meds and woke up at 5:30 feeling like I was going to throw up. Just when I thought that was the worst of it, the pain came on like a freight train. I could feel my heart beat in ever part of my body. I thought my chest muscles were going to crush me. The pain had taken over and it was so hard to get back to some sort of peace. If my doctor had not entered the room when she did, I don’t know how I was going to make it through another minute. Minutes felt like hours but soon enough I had drugs being pumped into my veins as quick as my body would accept them. I don’t remember much of the rest of the day as I tried to sleep the memory away and tried to find my peace again.

Sunday, I woke up feeling like a whole new person. Still sore, still tired but there was a sense of calm about me and all the nurses and family could see the huge difference. I was ready to head home!

I am home now. It’s just me and my guy and oh how nice it felt to be back in our bed. It takes a bit to find a new routine but so far so good and the first night home was a relatively uneventful success. I am not sure if the serenity I feel today is the drugs they have me on every minute or if it is the incredible support that I have received through these first steps. I would like to believe that it is the positive energy that surrounds me and the love that continues to be with me. I could not and cannot face this alone and I’m so blessed to not have to. This road is going to be a long one but “we got this one”!

Monday, May 24, 2010

More sweet than bitter..

This past weekend was special to me in so many ways but was bitter sweet…More sweet than bitter. The emotion keeps building throughout the days and I have just tried to enjoy all that I can.

Friday was such a beautiful summer like day and while I had a pile of things to do, I still managed to get most of it finished so I could meet my friends in the woods for our weekly social ride. It’s always a good time and I try not to miss it unless I’m in the middle of race season. Training is so strict you tend to miss out on a whole other level of mountain biking. There is the usual cast of characters but there is always the pleasant unexpected folks that show up to get their ride on. There is no pressure to ride fast and most are just happy to be out and celebrating the start of the weekend. That was my mission and it was accomplished. During post ride chatter and an adult beverage of sorts, we planned Saturday’s adventure. My friends had a great riding spot in Connecticut they wanted to show us. I love new trail so the plan was set for the morning. This place was by far the most technical riding I have done in a while. Not a place you want to show up without your “A game”. Rocks, rock gardens and bigger rocks was how this place could best be described but there was still great flow and the area itself was beautiful. A little hidden gem in Ct. indeed and it certainly tested my skills and the bike. The mango was not quite the right bike for the job but I managed to hold my own and both of us are in one piece. The way home took us right past a friend’s family pub so we decided to swing in for some food and some good laughs. Don’t forget...Big date tonight! As exhausted as we both were, we kept to the plan and cleaned ourselves up to get on the train to the city. In attempt to reenact one of our first dates, we headed downtown to this great sushi joint and even got the same table we sat at almost a year ago. It was a great day and a wonderful evening to be in the city.

Up early Sunday morning. Some would think we were crazy for getting up so early on a Sunday but when the trails await and the weatherman says rain, you get up and you go. My body was so tired but I managed to rally and so did many others. What a great scene to pull into the lot to see so many friends ready to ride. The weather held out and in fact the sun shined bright come the afternoon for our post ride BBQ. We had a great group of roughly 17 give or take throughout the morning and the trails were in fantastic shape. My legs were spent but the bike buzz set in and I kept finding this extra energy to keep going. This is where the bitter sweet set in a bit. The moment when I finally gave in and finished up the ride, rolled into the lot and got the overwhelming feeling of sadness. I just had this great ride in the woods with my friends and feel so healthy and happy and damn it cancer. Fuck you cancer for taking away next Sunday’s ride and the Sunday after that….

It’s Monday and I have two days until the cancer get’s taken out of my body. I have to finish up work, personal business and of course make sure I still get one more pedal in. Priorities right! I’m started to get a bit more panicked about the surgery. I know I have to do this and I will do this. I am trying not to focus on the outcome as much but it’s hard not to wonder what they are going to find and how is my body going to look and oh god am I going to be out of my comfort zone physically and mentally! I have so much love and support and can’t believe how all the positive energy people are sending me is being felt from all over. I have never underestimated the power of positive energy but wow, it is there and I thank you all for it.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Fridays and special people

photo credit- keade

It’s Friday morning and it is already a beautiful day. I take these early morning times to sit and collect my thoughts for the day. Lately it has been a bit harder to find the time but I’m realizing it is even more necessary for me these days.
Yesterday started off with a fantastic ride in the woods with some awesome friends at Blue Mountain Reservation. This is by far one of my favorite places to ride around here and worth the little extra drive to make it happen. My buddy took this photo and it seemed to capture a great moment for me coming down “stinger” with a huge smile on my face. Thanks for the picture and for another fun ride.

I found myself strapped for time yesterday…shocker, right. Had a lot of good intentions but once again I was reminded that I can only do what I can and the universe may have another idea in mind. I was late to meet friends for dinner but while it bothered me, everyone was just so happy to see me, it really didn’t matter how late I was. Once I was able to relax and get some food in me (yes, I do get very irritable when I’m hungry) I quickly settled into a wonderful evening with some people that are very dear to me.
I reflected a bit this morning about a few things. One is about a race on Sunday that normally I would be gearing up for and while physically I could participate, I know I need to just enjoy the time I can on the bike and not put pressure on myself to race. I do love to race but above all I love to ride my bike.
The other thing that I thought hard about today was the overwhelming positive response from friends and family. People near and far…people I don’t even know very well who have been recently informed of my diagnosis have reached out in so many different ways. While I may not respond to all of them, the reminders that I am not alone and that I am loved by so many, feels almost as surreal as the idea of me having cancer. I’ve moved a few times in my past and met so many amazing people. Yes, you are all amazing and have individually and collectively given me something so special. I’m a very lucky and grateful woman to have all of you so thank you.
While today is the Friday before my surgery and that alone carries its own meaning just like April 15 is no longer just tax day to me, it is also a special marker for me. It is one year ago this weekend that I was reminded that love can exist again. I am looking forward to celebrating this weekend.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Words of advice...

Sweatshirts and pants on the beach- my favorite still.

Words of advice from my plastic surgeon. “This will be a great time for you to catch up on your digital photo albums, movies you have wanted to see and books you have wanted to read”. Oh boy, this should be interesting…..
I do have a huge box of memories that I have wanted to scan into my computer. You never really know which ones you remember or if you have just looked at the photos so many times that you’re able to create your own memory. What I do know is that they were simpler times (at least for me) and these photos make me smile.
Yesterday’s appointment went well. It was a clear validation that I have made the right choices. This is not going to be an easy surgery (7 hours, yikes!) but it will be harder on those waiting. I won’t have a clue until I wake up. I have an appointment today with Nurse Practitioner to get my final check to make sure I’m ok for surgery and I’m hoping the skies clear so I can get out on the bike for a quick evening spin.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Running out of time...

The weekend came and went way too fast. They always do but lately those moments never seem long enough. Beautiful weather, great bike rides and good times with friends.

I realized today that I have way too much to do before my surgery in 8 days. It really won’t be enough time so I will do what I can and leave the rest to well, whatever happens. I’ll sit down tomorrow and sort through the list and start a new one, yet again.

I have the final meeting with the plastic surgeon tomorrow and it still seems so unbelievable that this is me going through this. I asked my sister today during one of our many long distance phone calls. “Do you think I really need to have this surgery?” It’s really one of those questions that I already know the answer to and of course I got that answer “yes my sister, you need to have this surgery”. Somehow, it does not seem fair but there are so many diseases that are more unfair and cruel than this. It doesn’t change how I feel but it does make me feel a little better about what is ahead. So, off to the PS tomorrow and we finalize the plans. At least I have choices.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Vivid dreams and nice surprises

It's's raining and I feel sort of off again today. More of a continuation of yesterday. Not sure if it's all just settling in or why I feel like I should be doing something I'm not??? I wrote a whole entry for yesterday and never posted it up. I think I'll just leave most of that for my personal journal. It ended up being a hard day for me. I woke up in the early morning after a dream that was unsettling. I have those a lot these days. I know they are just dreams, right? I have always had an ability to remember my dreams so vividly. The people, the places, all the way down to the smells in the air. It's as if I'm really there but I know I'm sleeping. Sometimes these dreams are hard to shake for the remainder of the day. I'm sure some of this fear will go away post surgery but in the meantime....

Yesterday was a beautiful day and I knew I had to get out to ride. I kept trying to stay focused on my daily tasks but one thing led to another and it was 5 pm and I missed some friends who already headed into the woods. I forced myself out of the house and headed to the nearest trail. I was tired and in a funk. Wasn't sure if I wanted to ride but I rolled into the parking lot and there was a dear friend, ready to roll. What a nice surprise. It was not a planned meeting but I figured the universe had a better idea for me and it was not to ride alone. Really enjoyed our impromptu ride in the woods, thank you.

Anyway, I plan to ride this weekend as much as possible. The weather should be sunny and in the 70's. If it needs to rain today, so be it.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Simple pleasures

Wildtree Herbs -Chipotle Lime Chicken
It's days like today that I feel so grateful for the simple pleasures in life. As days go..not so bad. Work was broken up nicely by lunch with a couple friends. The rain kept threatening it's arrival so I decided to stick closer to home for my evening ride. My legs were feeling tired today and normally that would be a sign to take a day off and rest. Nothing is "normal" these days and I have that voice in my head that says.."Your legs can rest in two weeks. Go ride your bike" good thinking. Met a friend at the trail and off we went. The skies stayed gray but the rain never fell on us. 20 minutes into the ride, the legs start to warm up and the buzz starts to set in and I start to forget about my problems. Just another fantastic evening in the woods. Back home to cook the Chipotle Lime Chicken that's marinating in the fridge. New rub from my Wildtree Herbs that I had to try and it was an instant favorite in our home this evening. Yes, the simple pleasures.

Monday, May 10, 2010

It's just a date..

Graham Hills- date night ride

I came off a great weekend of riding mountain bikes but the weekend still held so much unresolved feelings of the unknown. I guess this is all part of that cancer vortex I speak of. It has started to get hard to avoid the feelings of others and to not get wrapped up into their worries and fears for my situation. It is true, if I get absorbed into these feelings, I can go to a very dark space but I can’t. I’m still wondering why me and how come others have to suffer from this disease and the stigma of breast cancer. The more research I do, the harder it is to hear the statistics of how many young women are now getting diagnosed. The numbers are frightening. Positive? Sure I’m staying positive. As much as I can be considering this is happening to me.
Got the call this morning…May 26 will be the surgery date. It seems like 2 more weeks are going to be so hard but then I stop to think. I could use this time. I have so much I want to jam into 2 weeks. It never seems like enough time. As much as I want the surgery to be done and over with, it would also be great to not have to do it at all. But living in denial is not an option. May 26 is the date and that’s that. Until then, I will get some more things in order, enjoy myself and of course ride my bike as much as physically possible.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

3 weeks, solo rides and date nights

Met with my surgeon yesterday…I will know Monday when the big day will be. I was so anxious when I got there yesterday. I was running late trying to finish up with work, had to pack my bike bag and throw my bike up on the car. These appointments can take a while so didn’t want to miss any prime daylight to ride in the woods on a beautiful night.

It seems like I always have a new experience when I go to the Dr. I never know how I’m really going to feel. I walked into the office and I looked up to see a friend of mine sitting there…with her sister. I had known her sister was going in for a biopsy as she had shared that with me last week but seeing her in this part of the building could only mean one thing…. My heart went out to her. I know how her sister must feel. It’s so scary to be sitting there waiting for the unknown. That is all it is right now, the unknown. Fear can creep up and take over if I let it. Another reason to ride my bike as much as possible these days, helps to clear my head.

So, nothing new to report other than I am on track with what I need to be doing and it is time to get this tumor out of me. 3 weeks to the day that I was diagnosed with cancer. Hard to believe it has only been 3 weeks. Seems so long ago. The surgery will be very extensive as I am choosing a double mastectomy. Yes, both ‘the girls” are going. This is something that no women especially at age 36 should have to make but I’m the lucky one I guess. Losing one is a must so if one is trying to kill me, who’s to say the other one won’t follow suit. I’m not letting it stick around to find out. The real traumatic part is I’ve never even had surgery. My first IV was 9 days ago when I had my MRI! Did I mention I almost passed out? I can’t even imagine how I’m going to feel when I wake up to a transformed body and I can only pray that there won’t be more bad news. Oh, part of the waiting experience is waiting to see if the cancer has spread to your lymph nodes. Only real way to tell is surgery. I left the office feeling surprisingly ok about all this. I had a bit of a melt down with the Dr (happens a lot) and she always seems to make me feel better. So, now I wait until Monday and go from there. I have plenty to do in the meantime to fill my mind and my time. First things first, I headed to the trail-head. It was a beautiful night to be in the woods. Sunny, not to hot and the trails were mint. I thought I might run into some folks but they were heading home when I got there. Hit the trails solo…you are never really alone out there but it feels good sometimes. Just me and my bike and nature. Sounds so cliché but for those that get the culture, it is part of that bike buzz I speak about. It really makes me smile no matter what else is going on in my life. Not looking forward to the long mandatory time off the bike…

Wednesday is traditionally date night with my guy. In an attempt for some normalcy, he met me in the woods close to dark for a quick spin followed by some dinner at are favorite sushi place. Great ride and great date night.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

My first post.

My first blog post and it is a bit long! Although I have been keeping a journal for some time now, it seems like these days blogging is an acceptable form of reaching out to the world and telling anyone who cares to read, a bit about me. My journals serve a great purpose in my life but maybe some of my story will serve a purpose for someone else.

A bit about me: My true passion is mountain biking. I started to ride bikes at 5 years old. The glorious moment when my father let go of the back of my banana seat on my styling blue Schwinn and said “keep pedaling, go..go! “ . From that day forward I have loved riding bikes and have been on the search for that eternal bike buzz ever since. Through the years I had a variety of different bikes. Still wish I had that white Peugeot 10 speed my uncle build for me. Oh, the things we hold onto and the things we let go of. ..

Today, while mountain biking is my sport of choice, it is also become a way of life for me. I never do feel the same unless I’ve had my pedal in the woods. I began racing a couple years back. I never thought I could do it but once I started that too became a whole other culture for me. The training, the people, the race day scene and the chatter before and after all became a part of the experience for me. I even went so far as to help form a racing team through my local bike shop. Team Tweed was born....I had my first full season of racing last year. It was a huge success for me! I closed out the local race series in first place. This meant one thing for the 2010 was time to move up “honor the race” to Cat 1/Open Pro class. This was going to mean more training and way more discipline. I was up for the challenge. I started training in January. Long, cold road rides when the warm cozy bed sounds so much more appealing. At the end of March I was really starting to feel strong. I had hit a weight loss goal and just needed to up my intensity. Am I going to be ready to race in a month? I had done the best I can up to this point as life does get in the way. While I would love biking to pay the bills and be the first priority in my life, it just isn’t so.

April would bring about a huge change that I could never have even imagined. It started with a lump I found in my left breast. Yes, I have always done self breast exams. As a young woman in my mid thirties, I knew I had to be an advocate for my own health. I did my best to take care of my body and to try to stay out of the doctors office. I have struggled financially over the past couple years with my business so had let my health insurance laps. I knew in my gut, insurance or not that this lump had to be checked out. It was probably nothing, right? First test….Ultra sound, lead to a mammogram on the same visit. The radiologist scared me half to death with what she told me as we looked at the images together in her office. ( G and I call her the 'terminator of cancer" and she is an amazing doctor and I thank her for that) This was than followed by a needle biopsy. They say 80% of the time these things are benign. That statistic just doesn’t change your thinking and your level of fear during all of this. 48 hours post biopsy, I get the call to come in and bring my mother with me. Oh this can’t be a good sign. My heart pounded and my mind started racing. This can’t be happening. Even when you hear those words “you have breast cancer”, it still doesn’t seem real. Really?! Are you sure? This can’t be. I'm only 36 and my racing season starts in 10 days!

I know now that I have trained for something bigger. I’m in the best physical shape of my life and I’m about to enter the “cancer vortex”. I will need every bit of this strength and courage to fight this out of my body. I am blessed as I have so much love and support near and far that I know I will get through this. We live in amazing times and I am truly lucky for that. My dear grandmother 'Teddy" never got these opportunities and choices that I have today. She died of breast cancer at age 41. I wish I got to meet her.

Off to see the breast surgeon today to finalize the surgery plans. Than of course, I will ride my bike this evening because I can.....