Lain's Log

The surgery experience

April 30/11

Everything has happened so fast, I never actually had a chance to explain what my surgery day was like! I know I posted pics along the way, but didn’t say much about the whole experience. So here’s how it played out.

7:30 a.m. - Arrival time at Princess Margaret. Sat in the waiting room with Sam for half an hour, reading magazines in a big, sunny room with a TV set.

8 a.m. - A nice nurse came to get me and had me change into a gown, robe and weird little green slippers. Had to give my wedding and engagement rings to Sam for safe keeping. He also hung on to a small bag of belongings for me, including my makeup case, (naturally!) – for later.

The charming green slippers

8:30 a.m. - Went for the dreaded “wire jamming”. Very happy to see my “personal jammer” was Dr. Fleming, the same lovely lady who assisted on my ultrasound. She already knew my fear and hatred of pain and promised to use as much Lidocaine as I needed to keep me fairly comfortable during the procedure. I was still frightened, because I’d heard that dense breast tissue (as I apparently have), makes it much more difficult to insert the wire. She and an assistant, gave me a Lidocaine injection. A minute or so later, they began the wire insertion. It started off alright, but then, the pain kicked in. Sharp pain. More Lidocaine. Then, more pushing, prodding, aching. The wire just did NOT want to go in, (as I expected). The poor doctor was saying soothingly, “So sorry sweetie,” as she put more force into it. I could tell it was very tough on HER too. At one point, she said, “Oh GEEEZ!,” since it seemed it was never going to work its way into place. Still more pushing, with all her might, more “sorry sweeties,” and just when I thought I couldn’t take anymore, she said, “That’s it.” Thank God.

They asked me to sit down in the waiting room for a few minutes. There I was, movie star sunglasses on, about to break down in tears, and found myself facing a lovely woman in a gown just like mine. Without thinking, I said, “That was intense.” She looked at me and asked, “Did you just have the wire put in?” I said, “Yes.” She then informed me, she was next! I felt terrible that I’d said anything to frighten her and then said, “I’m sure YOUR procedure will be much easier, since I have dense breasts, so don’t worry.” She responded, “I do too.” Ai yi yi. Can’t win. Then she got called in and I wished her luck.

9:30 a.m. - Off to get the IV inserted. I told the nurse I’d encountered problems with this in the past. Once, I was screaming with pain. (I think I was that nurse’s first-ever IV insertion, because she had no clue how to do it. She hit every nerve in the book, but no vein!) I was THRILLED when THIS nurse suddenly told me she was at liberty to freeze me with Lidocaine (my new fave drug), before inserting the IV. Fantastic! She did that injection and seconds later, the IV needle went in, and I felt nothing whatsoever. Winning!

Then, off to a small holding room with Sam to wait for a meeting with Dr. McCready (my surgeon) and the anaesthetist. While sitting there, a man was wheeled in on a gurney and placed next to us. It was tough to see him without my prescription glasses, but I could tell he had a patch over one eye and appeared to be in pain. Sam was now sitting right beside him, so he looked up at him and said, “You look like you could use a double scotch.” The man broke into laughter. Then I said, “I could use one too, but they won’t let me.” The man chuckled again. Next, I looked across at the nurse behind the desk, (who overheard our conversation), and said, “YOU could probably use one too!” She cracked up. Yay! Sam and I had accomplished our goal, to break the ice with someone, just before surgery. That felt good.

10:15 a.m. - The anaesthetist came by to introduce himself and tell me about the drugs he’d be using to knock me out – including “the Michael Jackson drug,” – Propofil. He told me all about the tube that would be put in my throat (after I was out), to allow me to breathe, and about the gas he would use to KEEP me asleep. Then, Dr. McCready – “the Man!”, arrived to answer any questions. I had four written down (always the reporter). He did NOT appear thrilled to see my list, but was kind enough to answer them.

1.) I wanted to know if the Sentinel nodes would be frozen while I was under the general, and checked for cancer right away. (as I’d read this is sometimes done with nodes). The doc told me no. I would need to wait the full two weeks to find out results of the pathology test.

2.) I asked if he could go to the waiting room after my surgery to tell my husband how things went. He said he would.

3.) Asked about my ultrasound, which seemed to confound some of the medical people who conducted the test. At the time, I was told it was most unusual. He looked at the results and said no, the ultrasound didn’t appear unusual to him at all.

4.) I told Dr. McCready I have a low threshold for pain and would prefer to take home something stronger than Tylenol 3 (which the teaching nurse had told me I would get). He asked what I wanted. I said Percocet. He said he’d order a prescription for 30 plus some Gabapentin (used to treat nerve pain), and also ordered Colace (which helps with constipation, due to the narcotics). When I asked for Percocet, Dr. McCready looked at me and said, “This surgery is not generally associated with a lot of pain.” This comment shocked me greatly. Was he just trying to make me feel better?

Questions asked, so it was off on the gurney to surgery. Said goodbye to Sam and told him I was going to “do the song”. As they wheeled me away, I broke into, “Always look on the bright side of life!” – from Monty Python’s Life of Brian. A dear friend of ours, Patrick Spence-Thomas, sang this when he was taken away to have both his legs amputated from the knee down. The bravery it took for him to go off and face that horrific surgery, while singing such a crazy song, inspired me to sing it in his honour and memory. (he sadly passed away shortly after that procedure). One of the nurses sang along as we merrily rode to the O.R.

10:30 a.m., or so – In the O.R., a team of very lively and kind men and women surrounded me, - “my team!” They talked to me, told me exactly what they’d be doing, and then informed me they would put a mask over my face to give me oxygen. They asked me to breathe deeply, in and out and said that seconds later, they would administer the meds through the IV needle and I’d be out. That’s the last thing I remember. None of the famous, “Count back from 100” bit. I was just - out.

The next thing I recall was waking up in recovery. Not sure what time it was. I think about 1 p.m. I remember seeing a man pop his head in, and even without my glasses, realized it was Sam. I waved to him. He asked the nurse when I’d be taken to my room and they said soon. Shortly after that, I was wheeled to the elevator and up to the 18th floor to a semi-private room where my clothing and belongings had been stored in the closet.

Sam was there and sat on a chair next to me. Can’t remember anything we talked about, but only recall being in pain. Extreme, excruciating pain. (what was it again the doc said about this procedure not being associated with pain??? I must remember to set him straight on this!)

I was given Morphine through the IV. It didn’t make a dent in the pain.
About an hour or so later, I was allowed a second dose of Morphine. That took the edge off enough that I was able to sit up and immediately asked Sam to give me the makeup bag. Dumped out the contents and went to work, putting on concealer, powder, blush, lipliner, lipstick, eye shadow, mascara and eyeliner. Then, brushed my hair (which thankfully, I’d washed, conditioned, blow-dried and styled just two hours before coming to the hospital), and voila, was ready for my closeup! (although, if you click on the pic below to enlarge it, you can see the bruising and staining below my neck. I didn't have a body makeup person around to cover it up! hee hee)

My sister, Carrie came in and laughed to see makeup was the first thing on my mind! Minutes after finishing the job, the pain was back to over-the-top levels. Then, my new roommate. Francine, was brought in and I realized it was the same lovely lady I had scared with my comments about the wire procedure hours earlier in the waiting room!

She had been Dr. McCready’s next patient after me and had undergone the same lumpectomy procedure. Behind the curtain, I overheard her tell a doctor, “I wasn’t at all prepared for this extreme level of pain.” When the doctor left, I spoke to her, we pulled the curtain and had a chat about the unbelievable pain and what we were being given to counteract it. She said she was being sent home with a prescription for Tylenol 3. I told her I had asked for Percocet, and that perhaps, she might want to consider this too. (up to her). She was all alone and asked to borrow my cell phone to call her husband. Sam gave her the phone and told her to make as many calls as she liked. She called her husband and told him what room she was in so he could pick her up later.

I stayed in my room till after 6:30 p.m., (receiving two more doses of Morphine during that time). Still, the relentless pain would NOT subside in any way. It was worse than my first episiotomy, (which was done AFTER the anaesthetic had completely worn off!) My roommate’s husband came to take Francine home and it was all I could do to stop the tears from flowing when I said goodbye to her, as he took her away in a wheelchair. I knew she was in agony and told her I hoped the pain would get better for her very soon.

7:00 p.m. - My beautiful nurse, Christine, unhooked my IV, gave me two Percocets to take before leaving, I got dressed, (which was practically impossible due to the severe pain, even though I’d chosen the loosest clothes I could find). A wheelchair was brought in and Carrie helped steer me to the elevator. Sam took my belongings and went off to get the car.

I managed to maneuver myself into the front seat, still racked with pain, and feeling so nauseous and dizzy. Tried to thank Carrie and tell her how much it meant to me to have her there with me, taking care of me and “filling in” for our Mum, whom we both miss so much. Then she left to get her car and go home to her son, Lee, and we drove off into the night, heading to see our two kids, Kate and Max, waiting at home.

Most of the rest of that night is a blur. I know I carefully hugged my kids and was SO happy to see them again. I sent a few drugged-out emails and then crashed on the couch for a while, just so glad the Percocet had actually eased the insane pain and made me comfortable.

10:00 p.m. - Max helped me up to bed and with a lot of work, between the two of us, got me into a bathrobe, then under the covers, my arm and breast propped up under fluffy pillows, and fell asleep for 8 hours. The surgery was over and I had survived it.

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First day home

April 28/11

What a crazy 24 hours. Before leaving the hospital, I was given two Percocets. By the time I got home, about half an hour later, was so happy to find the pills worked very well - in fact, much better than the Morphine drip for the pain. I was able to relax on the couch for a while, and actually slept a bit. (even though it meant missing the singing performance of James, my fave guy on Idol). Later, my son, Max, offered to help get me upstairs to bed. I was so dizzy and nauseous. He grabbed the meds and a gingerale and followed me up the stairs to be sure I made it. Then he helped me get into a bathrobe and I eased, gingerly into bed, which was quite a challenge, and then, arranged a big fluffy pillow under my arm to stop the incisions from pressing down anywhere. Next thing I knew, it was morning and I had slept for about 8 hours. Hallelujah!

Early today, the pain was very intense, but not quite as bad as yesterday. I took two Percocets, but by 10 a.m., was feeling another strange kind of pain. I'll be frank here - why the hell not? I've talked about everything else in the book. Won't stop now. Went to a mirror to look at the bandaging/dressing (which I hadn't really checked out before). Was surprised to see it covered almost the entire breast - like I was wearing half a bra, and went right up under the arm (where the nodes were taken).

But more surprising that that, was the size of the breast! With all the surgery and the amount of tissue taken, I was expecting something much smaller! But this boob now looks like a Pamela Anderson implant! Finally figured out it was massive swelling! No one had warned me of this, nor had I read about swelling in any of my research or seen it in any of my books.
(guess I was too busy reading about pain!)

Looked it up in the Dr. Susan Love Breast Book, and swelling isn't even in the INDEX! What the heck? Checked it out online and discovered that swelling is very common, especially for women who have had lymph nodes removed - but NOT so common for those who only had Sentinel lymph nodes taken. (naturally, I have to be different!)

I know this won't last, but it's been sort fun, in a weird way, to think that I'm now "bigger" than before! Once the swelling dies down and the dressing comes off, I guess I'm in for another big shock, but for now, look out Pammy! hee hee

Flowers from friends!

I received so many nice things today - gorgeous flowers from several friends and family members, (thank you Mary, Danielle, Debbie, Jan, Arlen, Sean and Robin!), gourmet mac and cheese delivered for dinner tonight from my beautiful cousin, Marilyn, a gift card for Mastercard so we can order in dinner and no one will have to cook, (thankyou Sarah and Jason!), a beautiful get-well card from my Dad, phone calls, emails, Facebook messages, etc.

I want to thank a special friend who has helped me through this since day one (she knows who she is!) She's very private, so won't mention her name, but will say thank you for ALL the hysterical laughs (and for sharing the tears).

My doctor friend Karen, in Michigan, has helped me with so much medical info and advice and I thank her for being there, and of course, to my best friends, Franelle and Joanne (and her husband, Bruce), who have been there for "daily updates" and given me so much support - (in ways I can't even describe here!), and in the case of Bruce, (Emmy winning comedy writer), - TONS of laughs. He's been going through his OWN pain, after breaking a finger. His hand has been wrapped up as tightly as my boob! Hope they can straighten it out for you Bruce!

Caught up with my high school pal, Jeffrey, who surprised me with messages and phone calls which cheered me immensely.

Have also been exchanging incredible emails with an old and special friend I never expected to catch up with again in my life and it's just been a "blastola" (a word I stole from Tom Hanks after he used it in an interview with me many years ago). Hugs to you!

I can't name everyone here, just too many, but all my family and friends have been rooting for me and I'm quite sure you have ALL played a role in getting me to this point!

I won't see my surgeon again until May 13th, after the pathology tests are in. Only then will I learn if they "got it all" or if I have to face more surgery. Seems like a long way off.

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I'm home!

April 27/11

My sister Carrie wheeling me out the door to freedom!

After 12 hours, I'm back home. The surgery is over and apparently went very well. I now have to wait two weeks before the pathology report comes in and shows if they "got it all." I'm hoping for the best!

Sam and my sister Carrie were there for me all the way. I will write more about the experience, but for now, here are some photos from different stages of the day.

Waiting to get my IV

They gave me a snazzy hotel-style robe and flimsy green slippers!

Immediately following surgery - MAKEUP PLEASE! !

I'm on a morphine drip, but the makeup is done!

The pain that I'm feeling is pretty much every bit as bad as I anticipated. It's excruciating at the moment; however, I have Percocet and a few other drugs to help me heal quickly. I want to thank Dr. David McCready and all the Princess Margaret team members who have made me well again.

Thank you to everyone who has written, called, e-mailed, commented, and just been there for me when I needed them. I have many incredibly wonderful family members and friends. More later.

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Surgery's done

April 27/11

Hey everybody. This is Kate, Elaine's daughter.

My mum just called from the hospital and she'd like me to update you all. The surgery is over; the doctor said it went fine.

She's in quite a bit of pain but she's being given morphine via IV. They say she'll be coming home later today.

Thanks for all your love and support!

xoxox Kate



April 27/11

Surgery day!

My two blog mascots, Charlie Sheen and the Cowardly Lion, are duking it out in my brain. Should I stay or should I go?

Since I want to live, I am going.

I will speak to you as soon as I possibly can. Thank you to one and all for the kind messages and all the love and support.

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I did it!!

April 26/11

The dreaded radioactive-dye-in-the-boob injections - now a thing of the past! I survived, and will admit, thankfully, it wasn't as bad as I'd thought it would be. That's NOT to say it didn't hurt, because it did, but nothing like the nightmare I'd imagined.

My cousin, Marilyn, kindly drove me to the hospital (after I took a
Tylenol 3 and a 5 mg. Valium). No way I was doing it drug-free! On the way, she taught me an Indian mantra which was used in the book Eat, Pray, Love (Marilyn is a huge fan of the book). She says the mantra has helped her thru many painful procedures and began to teach me how to do it, with deep breathing, in and blowing out and saying OM NAMAH SHIVAYA, (which translates to I honour the divinity that resides within me). We repeated it over and over on the way to Mt. Sinai.

Upon arrival at the 6th floor Nuclear Medicine department, the receptionist (who remembered me from my panic attack the week before), kindly told me she had everything ready to go for me because she knew how anxious I was and wanted to speed things along!

She asked if I had gotten the answer I was looking for last week. I told her I DID get the answer, but NOT the one I was looking for! The message I received was - No Lidocaine!

Got called to change into gowns and went into a big exam room with a huge machine (turned out to be for a Gamma probe test). A nice young woman asked if I had any questions. I had several. Then, she had me lie down with my right arm way over my head. I told her about my meeting with Barry, head of the department a few days before, how I'd asked him if women have ever left screaming from the table and he said no. Then I asked if Barry was here, but she said he was in a meeting. I told her, "He probably found out I was coming and ran for the hills!" Hee hee. My many questions tend to scare people I think.

The young woman explained the test and said, "I will give you two injections." TWO? TWO?? Everyone had told me it would be FOUR! (at this point, I thought, no WAY I'm going to suggest, 'Wasn't it supposed to be FOUR??" - Fuhgeddaboudit!

She cautioned me, it does hurt, but only for a short while. I was working away on the deep breathing, repeating Om Namah Shivaya, over and over, as she gave me the first one. It felt like any old needle I've ever had in my life, but the radioactive dye crap they shoot into you REALLY stings a LOT. THEY compare it to a bee sting, which I guess, it kinda was, but it doesn't just sting for ten seconds, but for a number of minutes. Then, the second injection - same thing.

I still believe the study I read about, where Lidocaine was mixed in WITH the dye, would make things much more tolerable. It seemed I could feel the dye in other areas, like my hands, which had weird little zings in them.

At this point, the woman who did the injections told me her shift was over and another woman would be coming in to finish the test. She came in and told me I would need to go inside this big machine and have pictures taken. (I didn't remember reading about this part of the test). It was kind of like an MRI machine. I had to keep my right hand way up for a long time, then stay still for five straight minutes while they used this machine to take photos. Then more pictures, each taking about two or three minutes.

I had read in my books that the doctor usually massages the breast after the dye injection to get the dye moving into the lymph nodes, but
this woman told me she would leave the room and asked ME to massage the breast with my other hand, in a circular motion for three minutes.

After about 60 seconds, I thought well this is stupid. I should be massaging it left to right, trying to PUSH the dye towards the under arm/nodes. So I did that, really hard, since I'd been told that sometimes it doesn't work and the dye won't "light up" the area they want to see. When the woman returned, she looked at the screen and said, "Oh my! You did an EXCELLENT job! I can see the nodes PERFECTLY!" Winning!

Then she took more pictures and sent me on my merry way with a copy of the results of their findings, (sealed, so I couldn't look at them), to give to Dr. McCready on Wednesday morning. They also marked a big X on a certain area of the breast in indelible ink, to show the doctors exactly where the node is (I think). Or maybe she was just starting off a game of tic-tac-toe!

As I was about to leave, the receptionist joked, "You made it! - And you didn't jump off the table and out of the room!" I told her no, it wasn't as bad as I thought, but that it was painful. All of a sudden, Barry walked towards me. I couldn't help myself and shouted out, "BARRY!" (had to laugh. He probably wonders why I am on a "first-name basis" with him, but what the hell!) He actually APOLOGIZED for not having been able to get an OK to use Lidocaine. He told me he even contacted another authority on the matter, but couldn't get the go-ahead. I thanked him for trying.

When I left, I said to Barry, "Well, I hope I don't have to come back here again, - but nice meeting you!" And we waved goodbye.

I called "Serenity Sis", Carrie and she was just pulling up onto Murray Street below. I told her to stay there as I was on my way down, and she wouldn't have to go into a lot and pay for parking. She drove me home, heard all about it and then came in for tea, etc, and drove home.

The teaching class in the morning was pretty intense too. Will write about that another time. I met some wonderful women, all going through different stages of breast cancer. It helped me considerably, just to meet and talk with them.

Last, but not least, guess I should mention my "photo shoot" of a DIFFERENT nature! I'd been wanting to have my daughter take a few semi-nude shots of me, so I could always remember what my breasts looked like before part of one is taken. (I've heard, pretty much every woman faced with losing a breast, or part of one, thinks of doing this!) Problem was, I didn't get around to it and my daughter was out. I knew I'd be coming home that afternoon with big markings on the breast, so when my cousin, Marilyn offered to pick me up today, I surprised her by asking her in and telling her I have one more job for her.

She glanced around and saw a big pink feather boa on the chair. I told her we have five minutes for you to shoot some pictures of me "in the raw," (well, from the waist up, anyway!) Grabbed the boa, ran to the sunny kitchen, did a bit of flirting, tossing the boa around and hoped for the best. Marilyn is a fantastic TV and movie art director and also an excellent photographer, so she didn't seem to mind being assigned the role of "nude photog" to this day's busy schedule! The only working camera we had in the house was my little digital one, so we did our best. She was shouting, "Beautiful!" And I was yelling, "Work with me Baby!" It was a riot. Then rushed to get dressed, into the car and raced off to the hospital, peeling into the parking lot five minutes before my appointment. Whew. - (Oh, and, don't be lookin' for these shots on the blog! Not gonna happen. I'm not that brave!! - Just ask The Cowardly Lion!)

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No makeup!?! - You kiddin' me??

April 25/11

I've always heard that when you undergo surgery, the doctors insist,
NO MAKEUP!! Gak. But I never thought it would actually happen to ME!!
Anyone who knows me, (or has just met me or even seen a photograph), can pretty much realize how much I adore makeup! Don't leave home without it!

This is how I USUALLY like to look!

What makes me laugh (sort of), is this. On the one day you're going to FEEL as horrible as you've ever felt in your life, they want you to LOOK your worst too! Really reminds me of that line in the movie The Big Chill when they're all discussing funerals and Jeff Goldblum quips, "Amazing tradition. They throw a great party for you on the one day they know you can't come."

And you can't beat the irony of the Look Good, Feel Better public service program that teaches beauty techniques to cancer patients. I realize this is a non-medical program, but at the moment, as the surgery day approaches, I feel they should change the name to "Look Like Crap, Feel Worse!" That'll sell! Bigtime!

So, what is the reason for the no-makeup rule? I thought it must all have to do with hygiene and sanitary precautions. But what about patients who don't take a shower before arrival or who are rushed into surgery after a car crash? Wouldn't THEY be "less sanitary" than someone who just showered and scrubbed, but has a little base on? Come on!

My Mother-in-law, (who has been through her share of surgery), told me she believes the rule is to allow a doctor to see the true colour of your skin, so they'll know you're not going downhill. - But - what if you wear NO base and just some mascara? That would make no difference at ALL to skin colour!

Finally, I heard one option that makes sense to me. Someone on the Internet posted it's because the doctors have to put a tube down your throat so you can breathe and they need to tape it to your face. With makeup on, they say the tape won't stick! OK. Well, in this continuing debate, I counteract with - what about people who are naturally sweaty or have oily skin? Do the docs have to wipe them down with alcohol to make sure the tape sticks? Maybe they DO? I don't know!

I finally emailed my lifelong friend, Karen, who is a physician in Michigan. She called me to give me the scoop. In her incredible layman's terms, she said, (re: the doctors), "They've gotta be able to see the actual colour of your face, to know how you are under the anaesthetic! They absolutely can't have you there with makeup on, plus it does actually harbour bacteria. They want your skin as clean as possible, so don't wear any makeup to the O.R. - please! It's only one day!"

So - my mother-in-law wins the prize for the correct guess!

Well, whatever the proper reasons, you can bet I'll be using all the "tricks!" At least I can curl my eyelashes! - and brush my eyebrows into place, and wash, condition, blowdry, set and style my hair so it's shiny, clean and looks half-decent. Then, naturally, I'll wear big movie star sunglasses until "showtime."

Then, when the glasses come off, the doctors and nurses will get one look and either think they have the wrong patient, or run for the hills, leaving me all alone on the table - with no makeup!

My husband says not to worry because they'll be too busy staring at my boobs! (thanks for your input Sam!)

I think I'd better call Dana Joon, my fabulous makeup artist at Global TV and ask her to get over to the hospital pronto and stand by for emergency duty! (she even made me look good for the camera after I cried for an hour the day my cat died!)

However things turn out, I'll get back to you when I'm home from surgery, after which I will get a trowel and pile on some base, concealer, powder, blush, eyeshadow, lipliner, lipstick, mascara and eyeliner. THEN, maybe I will actually look GOOD, feel BETTER! (Vanity schmanity! I just don't enjoy looking like the Bride of Frankenstein! Scary).

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Dean Jones

April 24/11

On this Easter weekend, I was thinking of new beginnings and overcoming obstacles in life.

Many years ago, I had the chance to interview Dean Jones, an actor I’d loved since his early Disney movies like The Ugly Dachshund, That Darn Cat and The Love Bug, among many others. He was in Toronto to promote a film, and was here with his wife, Lory.

Dean Jones (circa 1965)

I don’t remember why this happened, but for some reason, during the interview, Dean said he wanted to give me a copy of his wife’s new book. It’s called Hearing God – Daily Devotions for Spirit-Filled Living (by Lory Basham Jones). The book has a different reading for every day of the year. I’ve kept it on the bedside night table for 18 years, and from time to time, pick it up for inspiration.

Me with Dean Jones in our trenchcoats!

On the day of my MRI, I was particularly anxious and checked out the devotion for that day and was surprised to discover the title of this reading was Healing. The message says:

“Just as a cat running after a bird gets thorns in its feet along the cactus-ridden desert, you have picked up things that would prick and sting along your path, as you ran after elusive pursuits. Hold those areas out to Me and I will remove the thorns, for I, of all, know how they pierce the flesh and soul and weigh down the spirit. Once removed, these thorns lose their ability to wound. Depend on Me and the surgery will be easy. Reach out to the good things before you”.

I thought that was pretty amazing.

The next day, while starting the long wait for results, I looked at the following day’s devotion, which was called Calm is Constructive. It said, in part, “The world moves swiftly toward success, but you to achieve, must learn to be calm. All rush, all stress, all agitation is destructive. Peace, peace peace!”

Lory Basham Jones and her husband, actor Dean Jones

Dean Jones is now 80-years-old. All these years later, I still thank Dean and Lory for giving me this book. It’s inscribed to me, saying, Dear Elaine, May the glorious love of God surround you and your family. With Dean’s and my blessings, Lory Basham Jones.

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Happy Birthday!

April 23/11

Me and my baby, 19 years ago!

Today, my "little girl" is 19! Happy birthday Sweet!

On this day, 19 years ago, I was at Women's College Hospital, holding a tiny baby who weighed 7 lbs., 3 oz. It was the happiest day of my life (up till that point!) - Same thing can be said of the day my son, Max, was born, nearly three years later, on January 11, 1995. But today is KATE's day!

I think Kate is sick of hearing me say this, but 19 was my favourite year! I had everything I could ever want and life was nothing but fun, laughter, new beginnings, romance and excitement. I wish the same for her this year!

I'm preparing an Italian feast with pasta, parmesan, green salad and fresh Italian bread for her and some friends tonight. Then she's having a "sleepover" (without the sleep). I'm glad I have a special day to celebrate this girl (er, young woman), whom I love so much. She makes me proud every day.

My "baby" now!

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Just GOTTA know!

April 21/11 (part two!)

While undergoing the ultrasound at Princess Margaret, my brain was haunted by worrisome thoughts about the radioactive dye I’ll need to have injected into the areola next Tuesday in preparation for the sentinel lymph node removal/biopsy. Couldn’t get the horror stories out of my mind, (told by some of the women who had undergone this brutal test WITHOUT a Lidocaine injection).

When a nice lady doctor came in to check my ultrasound results, I asked if she knew anything about these injections and if Princess Margaret Hospital uses Lidocaine to prevent pain during this test. She said it wasn’t her area so she didn’t know. However, she DOES specialize in the wire insertion procedure to be done next Wednesday morning and told me she definitely uses Lidocaine for that! (Hallelujah!) I asked if she could be my personal “wire inserter”, but she couldn’t guarantee that.

As mentioned in the last post, something came over me when I got down to the hospital lobby after the ultrasound. I was shaking, anxious and suddenly, unbelievably angry! I thought, “Stop channelling Charlie Sheen!” But Charlie wouldn’t vacate the premises, so I had to go with it. Seconds later, I finally recognized what this was. The long-forgotten, feisty, often frightening, driven, get-out-of-my-way reporter in me, had bubbled to the surface. Somebody stop me!

Then, I understood what was gnawing at me. I could no longer STAND the not-knowing if Lidocaine would be used for the boob injections! HAD to find out – somehow! There must be SOMEONE in this hospital who can tell me!

Took the elevator back up again to the ultrasound floor and asked a receptionist where I might find the exam rooms for breast dye injections. He didn’t know, but directed me to the office of the infamous Fe, (secretary for my surgeon, Dr. McCready). I was finally going to meet her in person!

Upon finding Fe, she explained the injections are actually done at Mount Sinai - (not here at Princess Margaret). I asked her if they use Lidocaine, but Fe didn’t know either.

Luckily, Mt. Sinai is right next door, so high-tailed it over. Found the Nuclear Medicine Department and went to speak to the receptionist. There were several people in the waiting room and this was kind of embarrassing, so I spoke quietly. Here’s our conversation.

Me: “I’m coming in for an injection appointment next Tuesday afternoon and would like to ask a question about the procedure”.
Her: “They’re all at lunch!”
Me: “Do you know when they’ll be back?”
Her: “They just left. They’ll be back in one hour!”
Me: “Well, perhaps YOU might know the answer.”
Her: “What is it?”
Me: “I’d like to know if they use Lidocaine when they do this procedure.”
Her: “What’s Lidocaine??”
(I kid you not!)
Me: “It’s a drug used so you don’t feel pain during the procedure.”
Her: “I don’t know anything about that. Why don’t you just ask the doctor when you come for the procedure?”
Me: “Because I’m suffering a lot of anxiety and would like to know the answer to this NOW, and not have to wait through the whole long holiday weekend. Could I stay and wait to see someone?”
Her: “Suit yourself.”

After that brief (and useless) encounter, I got an idea. On the way into reception, I noticed a locked office door with a sign saying Nuclear Medicine – staff lunch room, and heard voices inside. Again, slipping into intrepid reporter mode, I thought, ‘What would I have done if I’d wanted to track down a celebrity inside that room?’ – I’d do a stake-out, wait for the door to open and attack!

I camped out front of the lunch room and waited. Minutes later, the door opened and a man stepped out. Was going to nab him, but watched to see if he would go into the reception area and grab him in there. He didn’t. He went to the washroom! So, I waited till he came out and then approached him. (I had NO idea if he even had a connection to this department).

I approached this man and said softly, “Excuse me, could you help me for a moment?” He stopped and said yes. I told him my name and that I would be coming here next Tuesday for the procedure to get four dye injections in the breast in preparation for a sentinel lymph node biopsy. I then asked him if he has anything to do with this procedure. His response was, (drum roll please), “I’m the head of the whole department!” (WHAAAAAAAAATTTTT?) Can you believe this? EPIC WINNING!

At this point, I was losing it. I started to say, “I’m really sorry, but I’m extremely apprehensive about having this procedure done,” – and then, just broke into tears. Nothing I could do to stop them – right in front of this poor guy who has never met me in his life. He was so kind and sympathetic despite my weeping. I told him about all the women’s comments who had so much pain and then finally got to ask my one question to someone directly in-the-know. I said breathlessly, “Do you use Lidocaine when you do this procedure?” He answered, “No.” I was crestfallen.

I asked, “Why not?” He explained several reasons, including that it means one MORE needle when you’re already going to have four. I said, “Yes, that’s true, but that one needle deadens the pain for the others!” I also explained that I’d had Lidocaine for the core needle biopsy and felt NO pain at all. He responded, “But a core needle biopsy really HURTS!” I shot back, “But from what I understand, THIS procedure KILLS!”

When he insisted it’s really not that bad, the needles don’t go in very far, etc., I told him I’d read about women screaming, jumping off the table and even fleeing the room. He said this never happens.

I told him I’d read a great report about a study done in which Lidocaine was mixed in WITH the dye and that the women who were given this mixture felt very little pain. He asked if I could bring the study with me and show him next week. I told him I’d be delighted.

Finally, I asked if he would BE here next Tuesday at 3 when I have my appointment and he said he would. Had one last question for him. “Could you hook me up with the best person for ME, - someone who won’t HURT??” He smiled and said he could try. I thanked him and went back down to the lobby, happy that I had the chance to meet him.

Sometimes, persistence pays off. I didn’t get the answer I WANTED, but at least I KNOW. I completely forgot to ask him about the Emla cream (topical anaesthetic for the skin). Drat.

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Ultrasound experience #2!

April 21/11

Upon arriving at Princess Margaret Hospital today, I immediately sought out the special easel. My new friend, Cynthia Mulligan of CITYNews told me to be sure to see it. Each day, there's a message written on the board to inspire the patients, family members and anyone else who passes by. Today's message said: Amends to others are very important. Amends to ourselves are essential. (Anne Wilson Schaef).

The ultrasound today turned out to be pretty intense. Moreso than the first one back in February. A lovely young woman named Emily was in charge of the procedure. Due to the pain in my breast, (which I’ve had since discovering the lump), it kind of hurt having the “wand” pressed down and rubbed all over the place. Nothing agonizing, but just not comfortable. Also, it went on for a longer time than the last one. This time, they really wanted to be sure they could see what was there and give good pictures, to assist Dr. McCready with the surgery next week.

I was surprised when Emily brought in another woman, a doctor, who
wanted to check the results and actually conduct some of the test herself. When it was over and I was still lying on the table, they explained to me that I’m a very unusual case, (what else is new?), saying the lump itself really doesn’t have the kind of look that a cancerous tumour usually does, and yet, cancer was found in the biopsy. They said I was extremely lucky the biopsy revealed the cancer, because there was no way an ultrasound would have led them to believe there was anything suspicious there. (I thought of my friend, Bruce Kirschbaum – see March 18th blog entry, who proclaimed, the third sample of tissue which found the cancer WAS the blessing! He was right!)

At one point, both ladies left the room. I was still lying there on the table, mind wandering, when what comes pouncing into my brain? Something my old high school friend, Jeffrey had emailed me the night before. Having gone through much pain in his life (and then reading my whining fears about pain issues), he sent the following message:

"You kids don't know how lucky you have it now. Back in my day they just gave you a shot of Old Rotgut and a bullet to bite on before they dug in with whatever they could find that was vaguely sharp and not too rusty!"

All alone, in that stupid gown, I burst out laughing and couldn't stop. It's amazing how so many of the things people have said to me come into play at the least likely, and often most inopportune times. LOVE it! Keep 'em coming gang!

When the ladies returned, I was asked to sit in the waiting room while yet another doctor checked the pictures, in case they needed to repeat anything, but they didn’t and I was able to leave. Once I got down to the lobby and was about to go home, something very strange happened to me. I think Charlie Sheen’s Violent Torpedo of Truth suddenly struck my soul and I went all-over-Sheeny. I’ll explain this in the next entry! (Many of my aggressive, combative reporter pals may recognize these all-encompassing symptoms and relate).

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Breast ultrasound

April 21/11

Off to Princess Margaret Hospital this morning for my first procedure. It's a breast ultrasound. Since I've had one before, not worried about it, since I know it doesn't hurt. However, it's a strange feeling. Any other time I've visited PM Hospital, it's been to accompany someone else. This time, the person with cancer is me. I'm going to look for the easel (which Cynthia Mulligan of CITYNews told me about), which has a different inspiring phrase written on it each day. Want to see what it says today as I embark on this new phase of my life. Will write it here later.

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My schedule

April 20/11

FINALLY got my MRI results this morning! (after bugging the heck out of the poor secretary). Was told they would "expedite" the results and that it usually takes about 5 business days. Turns out, I got the the information a total of 12 days later. (now THAT's what I call expediting...not!)

At any rate - didn't have to go in for an appointment. My surgeon's secretary told me over the phone! She said, "The MRI was FINE". (by fine, she means, not anything other than what they already knew). She then said, "It is NOT multi-focal" - which is good news. I am much relieved to hear this.

The MRI cannot show if the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes. They will only be able to determine that when they do my surgery, which will include removal of two or three nodes, in what the doctor refers to as a "sentinel lymph node biopsy."

I then asked the secretary about the second ultrasound the doctor had requested. She said the MRI people didn't call for one. I told her, no, but the surgeon told me in our consult that he wanted a second ultrasound to be done by the Princess Margaret staff (to add to the results of the one done by an outside lab). She seemed surprised to hear this, but called me back five minutes later with an appointment for tomorrow morning at 10:40. So that's next on my to-do list.

Following that, on Tuesday April 26th, I will go for a two-hour teaching class to learn more about the surgical procedure, after-care and follow-up. Later that same day, I'm scheduled for the injection of dye, which involves four separate needle injections into the areola. Terrific. I've read many personal experience comments about these injections and will definitely be addressing pain issues before allowing them to go ahead with this procedure!

Here are a couple of comments from those who have been through the dye injection, (some of whom say it was injected directly into the nipple. I mean good God!)

1. "I had four injections around the nipple. I have a high threshold for pain and I nearly didn't make it through. I asked for a 20 minute break between shot 3 and 4 to recover a bit. After I was finished, the radiologist told me that the two other women he had before me didn't get past the first injection. They both left".

2.) "When I asked, they said I couldn't have any analgesics at all because it might interfere with the test. The pain was sky-high, out-of-this world, shriekingly unbelievable.

3.) I have to agree, I was not at all prepared for the pain of this injection. (although the doctor did say "this is going to hurt some"-- I should have known that that meant it was going to kill"!!)

4.) "I thought I would pass out from the pain"!

5.) "Can't they conduct this procedure in a more humane manner"?


Several people I read about had GOOD experiences. Here is what they said. (and if anyone else who reads this blog entry has anything to add, let me know!)

1.) "They gave me some lidocaine cream the night before and instructions were to heavily coat the entire areola area, a couple of hours prior to the injection. Then, they deaden with several small injections of (Lidocaine?) and it was just a stinging sensation, sort of like a dentist does - then they waited a few minutes and then injected the dye. There was the stinging, I grant you, but it was over in a couple of minutes. With the dye injection, the area was numb and I didn't feel a thing. I think the secret is HEAVILY coating with the cream before any of the procedure starts. And, again, this isn't pleasant, but it passes very quickly. Good luck"!

2.) "I specifically asked for a certain radiologist to perform the tracer injections. She was the same radiologist who had previously done wire placements (10 years earlier), then the more recent stereotactic core biopsy, and I knew her and felt very comfortable with her. A tech brought in a leaded box containing the tracer material and put it on the counter. While he was loading the syringe, she asked him for the tray with the lidocaine. He said, "You use lidocaine?". She said, "Of course". She gave me a few lidocaine injections in the areola area. They were like any other lidocaine injection she has given me and honestly, nothing to complain about. She is skilled and knows to first inject some lidocaine, wait a second to let it take effect, then go further into the numbed area to inject more so it didn't hurt. Then she gave me the tracer injections all around the nipple area. They did not hurt. Other women have had other types of experiences, however my experience with it was fine".

3.) "I had the dye injection too. My surgeon used a numbing agent but it still stung, but only for a few moments. It was uncomfortable but nothing I couldn't handle. Some ladies say it was awful for them so I think it is different for everyone".

4.) "I had mine the morning of surgery. The radiologist /oncologist was extremely compassionate. It was the least painful part".

5.) "I had my injections the morning of surgery. A nurse applied a numbing cream about 30 minutes prior. The first 3 injections were tolerable. The 4th one hurt like heck. Not sure why."

6.) "Wow, I can't believe how many docs don't use the Lidocaine shots first. I had my dye shots the morning of my right mastectomy surgery. First, I had about 4 Lidocaine shots, and I only really felt the first one, which stung a tiny bit, just like getting a flu shot. After the Lidocaine I had a series of shots with the tracer and didn't feel any of them. I would definitely ask for the Lidocaine shots."

7.) "I had my sentinel node dye injection in pre-op for my surgery. They gave me Versed, and I never felt a thing or remember it either. The nuclear medicine tech who was injecting the dye said that UK Hospital's standard of care was to give Versed, that it was far too painful for the patient to have the procedure unmedicated".


So, what do you think? I find the variety of experiences phenomenal! Why the hell is Lidocaine OK in some places and not in others? Makes NO sense. (note, that final good experience was reported by a woman in the U.K.) I want assurance they will give me shots of Lidocaine (as they did when I had the core needle biopsy test, and I didn't feel ANY pain at all)

Next. On Wednesday April 27th - surgery day, my husband, Sam and I have to be at the hospital at 7:30 a.m. for paperwork etc. After that, I go to get the wire jammed into my boob. Now that should be a true delight. Once again, I'll be dragging out my "proper use of Lidocaine sheet" and discussing it with whomever will be doing the jamming.

Then, between 10 and and 1030 a.m., I'm supposed to meet with my surgeon, Dr. David McCready and the anesthetist to talk about the procedure, allergies, or whatever else I'd like to hit them with. The surgery itself, (wire-guided lumpectomy and sentinel lymph node removal/biopsy), will be done under a general at about 11 a.m. and I'm told it will take about 90 minutes. Then into recovery. I was surprised to hear this is DAY surgery, as I had been led to believe I would be in hospital overnight.

Both Sam, and my sister Carrie will be there when I wake up. (Carrie is coming because she knows "I want my MUMMY!, but she isn't able to be there for me). CARRRRRRRRRIE, I need you!!! WAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!

Dr. McCready's secretary told me I can ask for heavier drugs than Tylenol 3 and that I will likely get a prescription for Percocet, which makes me feel a little better. There are many people who have told me to shut-up-already about the pain because I'm obsessing. My response to that is, hmmmmmmm, let me think. Yes. I AM obsessing - and there's nothing you can do about it! As Lesley Gore would sing, "It's my party and I'll cry if I want to." Someday, if YOU happen to be unfortunate enough to go through the above things, it will then be YOUR party and you can do what YOU want to!

OK. Onward and upward. March forth. Into the woods. Ai Carumba! Over and out. Hip hip hooray. Hoo haw! Good luck Jim.

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I got a fantastic gift yesterday in the form of a swift, uplifting kick-in-the-butt from Cynthia Mulligan of CityNews. A few weeks ago, this beautiful TV reporter became my inspiration to launch a blog, after reading all the posts on her blog (Kicking Cancer), which she started writing after being diagnosed with breast cancer a year ago.

Not only did she go public with her battle, but also took a videographer along to capture many of the stops on the journey for everyone to see. My favourite is the day she went wig shopping with her two young daughters. After undergoing chemo treatments, she decided to get a wig sometime between starting to lose her hair and taking the plunge to shave it off altogether. She even showed the audience how quickly her hair was falling out, by yanking a hunk of it right out of her head on camera!

I had to laugh, watching her girls trying on a variety of wigs and the moment Cynthia donned a wild, long-locked look, tossed her head and quipped to the kids, “I look like Cher!”

Though I’d never met Cynthia Mulligan, I knew her work and wanted her to see the blog she’d inspired. I sent her a message on Facebook, asking if she might have time to speak to me about her experience. Just hours later, I was surprised to receive a response saying she watched me on Global for years, was very sorry to hear of my diagnosis and offered to talk to me or even go out for coffee!

Working around crazy schedules, we set up some phone time and ended up chatting for a full hour! When I looked at the clock, it amazed me that 60 minutes had flown by. I’m pretty sure she gave up her whole lunch hour, just to try and help me. In the course of the conversation, both of us laughed and cried and by the end, I actually felt like we were old friends.

She began by asking my personal situation, how the cancer
was discovered, what kind of support system I have and how I’ve handled the whole thing. She admitted this diagnosis, “Knocks the stuffing out of you. It’s a roller coaster, but it’s not a death sentence.”

Cynthia’s tumour started out at 4.4 cm., but after chemo, it shrunk to about 1 cm. Then she faced surgery (last October), for a
lumpectomy and removal of 14 lymph nodes, followed up by six weeks of intense radiation.

If you’ve seen my blog, you know all about my huge fear of pain. I asked her to tell me the truth. Cynthia stated, “I won’t lie to you. It hurt! But it wasn’t unbearable. I had a drain (under the arm) for a week. They sent me home with Percocet and Tylenol 3. I only took the Percocet for the first night. The day I went home, I took a two hour walk!”

She still finds it difficult to stretch out her arm, but admits her mobility is good. I told her it’s tough to remain positive when facing the unknown. While agreeing this is true, Cynthia told me, “Anything can happen. You could walk out the door and get hit by a bus. This was a wake-up call for me, a second chance at life. I appreciate it more, love it more and embrace this exquisite existence.”

People who’ve beaten breast cancer tell me they learned a lot during the course of their treatment and recovery. Upon hearing this, Cynthia quickly responded, “What have I learned? Two things.
1.) I want to have less in my life and live more.
2.) I’m not afraid of dying anymore.”

I asked how it was possible for her to continue to work throughout her treatment. She snapped back, “Work was my salvation!”

Once we got to talking about the 30 radiation treatments, I mentioned to Cynthia that her blog posts stopped at radiation zap #14, before much burning began. What happened when she got to zap #30? “I got very red and pretty uncomfortable,” she concedes, “but the hardest part was my life.”

Cynthia’s treatments were intertwined with much personal upheaval. Apart from the state of distress over her own health, her Dad suffers from severe Alzheimer’s; her colleague, (whom she refers to as, “a beloved cameraman”), Bill Atanasoff, was seriously hurt after being hit by a car this past November; and then, her longtime friend, Mark Dailey (“The Voice” at CITY), passed away of cancer in December while she was still undergoing radiation. They had been emailing back and forth between Sunnybrook and Princess Margaret and she was devasatated by his loss.

Perhaps these cataclysmic events led to her love and appreciation of the inspiring quotes posted daily on an easel just inside Princess Margaret Hospital. She urged me to be sure to watch for them. Her favourite says, “You can’t give birth to a rising star without chaos in your soul.”

When I revealed to Cynthia my apprehension about the moment of being wheeled away on the gurney on April 27th, knowing I won’t be the same on the other side of surgery, she recalled that feeling only too well. Her comments are the most reassuring words I’ve heard.

“I hated losing control and knowing I have to go under a general anaesthetic. But you’ve got to go with the flow. You are NOT in control of this. You have to give up that sense and just absorb, absorb, absorb. Stand up stronger and get through it one hurdle at a time until you’re ready for the next one.”

Following the death of Mark Dailey, another cancer patient she had come to know, gave her a note. In a voice filled with emotion, Cynthia recited a part of that message from this caring woman. It said, “Fall 7 times, stand up 8.” She was in tears when she read it.

Her blog entries are oh-so-positive and upbeat. I wondered, - didn’t
she EVER get angry? “You bet!,” she laughs, “and it’s OK to get mad and say, ‘Fuck you cancer!’ It attacks our femininity, but last summer, I bought some kick-ass clothes, some sexy dresses. Cancer can’t take away our confidence!”

This past weekend, Cynthia was presented the “Voice of the Foundation” award from the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation in a ceremony at the Royal York Hotel. At the event, she proclaimed, “The best way we can beat breast cancer is to raise awareness about it, take away some of the fear, keep it out of the dark closet, put it in the sunlight and kick it!”

Link: Cynthia Mulligan honoured for breast cancer advocacy work

She sure did that for ME yesterday. She really made me cry when she said, “My oncologist told me the women who do the best are the ones with the strongest and best attitudes. Mind over matter. Keep on living through this. Keep walking. Keep moving. Keep laughing. I believe in paying it forward, and that’s what I’m doing with you. And Elaine, someday, a year from now, you’ll be doing this for someone else.”

It’s very hard for me to imagine this could one day be true, but if it is, I can only hope to be as open and honest as she’s been with me.

Be sure to catch CITY News at 6 on Tuesday April 26th (date changed from the original air date I blogged previously!) Cynthia will go wig-free for the first time since shaving her head and has decided to donate her expensive real-hair wig to someone else in need. She’s nervous about unveiling the new look, which she describes as, “Mia Farrow short.” I can’t wait to see it!

In May, Cynthia will reward herself with a weekend trip to New York City with two old girlfriends who stood by her through the entire cancer experience. She looks forward to running in Central Park. After all she’s survived, she says, “We’re celebrating life!”

Thank you, Cynthia, for everything!


Crazy day

April 17/11

Yesterday was one wacky afternoon! (thank heavens, as I could use a few more of those). Was about to whip out for some last minute groceries, had my jacket on, ready to take off, when my son, Max, came running upstairs from the drum room. He wasn’t wearing his ever-present glasses, so I knew something had to be wrong. I asked where the glasses were and he told me he accidentally stepped on them and they were now broken to bits. Great. Just three hours till showtime for his band, Basement Scene’s big concert at the Velvet Underground. (strangely, only three days before, I accidentally SAT on MY glasses, breaking them. Good grief. Not a good week for glasses around here).

Max can’t see properly at all without them, and I knew it would be a problem for him to perform, play drums and focus on the cues from his bandmates, if we couldn’t find an extra pair.

I was SURE there was a spare pair somewhere in the house, (but WHERE??) - so went into Mummy-mode, tore off my jacket and raced off in hot pursuit. One hour later, with every friggin’ room in the house ransacked, no luck. We were able to track down one half-wrecked pair (with his OLD prescription), but one arm was hanging by a thread. We didn’t dare try to do the nerdy duct tape thing, or risk knocking the arm off altogether, which would be disastrous. So, Max had no other option but to head to the show, praying the crappy glasses would hang in there for the duration.

Steve Webb, (father of Max’s bandmate, lead singer Emmett Webb), arrived to pick up Max and bassist Charles Wilson. (thanks Steve!) Changed hats to become “roadie Mum”, helping to load drum gear into the van and off they went.

Meanwhile, still had an hour to get the groceries before heading to the Velvet Underground. Jacket back on, I was out the door, into the car and driving to No Frills. No time to grab a cart, (besides, I didn’t have a quarter). Nabbed a basket, raced around the store grabbing what I needed. Ran down the pet aisle to get a massive sack of kitty litter. As I was rushing to the counter, I saw a woman laughing at me. Also, noticed an extremely handsome man, staring at me with a twinkle in his eye. What the hell? Finally, turned around and noticed there was a tear in the cat litter bag and I was leaving a massive trail of litter behind me all the way down the aisle! (Hansel and Gretl would have been able to find their way home with such a trail!) Great. Put the bag up against the shelf, took another bag with NO holes, hoisted and heaved it up to the front cash, (where I had left my basket of groceries), and joined a giant lineup. (Had to wait for the opportunity to tell a clerk they required, “Cleanup in aisle 5!”)

Suddenly, the handsome man came up behind me with his basket and started talking to me. He said he couldn’t help but notice my broken boots. Ha ha! Yes, I was wearing a delightful boot with a busted zipper, (all I could find in my huge rush to leave the house). Most of the boot was drooping down around my ankle. Charming. He said he wished he had an elastic band he could offer me to hold the boot up. (The busybody lady in front of me was listening intently to this bizarre conversation and smirking, especially when this man continued on, telling me all about his life and his many employment woes). I was quickly getting bored.

Finally, as I tossed the cat litter bag onto the conveyer belt, he asked if I had a phone. I told him, yes, a cell phone. He responded, “Maybe we could exchange numbers!” Yikes. Haven’t been hit on by a guy in many-a-year, (except for my countless homeless friends outside grocery stores, who love me because I always give them change. One of them tried to kiss me a few days ago! Guess I was a tad too generous).

I smiled at the handsome man and said I wasn’t sure my husband would like that. He went on to say, “Well, there’s no harm in texting!” (I didn’t tell him, my futile attempts to text have caused hilarity to ensue for those who receive my indecipherable messages). I said, “No, better not. Don’t want to mess up a good thing”. I stopped myself from saying to this man, “Believe me, if you only KNEW the drama I’m caught up in right now, you would NOT want to get involved!”

The handsome man told me if I could wait till he got his groceries rung through, he would help me to my car and carry the cat litter. At that point I thought, gotta hightail it outta here. Thanked him and dashed. Having no cart, I had to lug four heavy bags in one hand and the kitty litter in the other. Tried to “run,” which was no easy feat. Must have looked like some comic movie scene. When I got to the door of the store, I bumped into another man – this fellow who is ALWAYS at the entrance, wants to “help customers” in exchange for spare change. Have had way too many dustups with this guy. He is deaf, so can’t hear when you say, “No thanks!”

He chased me into the parking lot, tried to grab the cat litter bag, but I shook him off, bolting to the car. He finally gave up and vamoosed back to the store, looking for damsels in distress.

Meanwhile, after unlocking the trunk, I realized the bags were too much for me. One of my fingers had gone completely numb. No feeling whatsoever, only weird tingling. Guess I overdid it with that last sprint. Packed the groceries in, hopped into the car and drove home, shaking in what was left of my boots.

Managed to drag everything into the house, put stuff away, fix my makeup, grab half a glass of wine to calm my frayed nerves in time for Sam to drive us to the Velvet Underground show. It was an absolute blast! (you KNOW you’re in trouble when a rock show actually calms you down!) Fantastic 40-minute set and great reaction from fans.

After the show, back into “roadie mode,” helped Max pack up the gear and drag it all out to the curb on Queen Street, heave it into Sam’s trunk, then get it all back into the house, after which, I promptly collapsed on the couch to watch TV, before making a late dinner.

I’ve decided I should really revel in these last few golden days of whirling around in a frazzled, frenzied state ala the Tasmanian Devil before surgery stops me cold in my boot-deprived tracks.

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April 16/11

This strange and surreal experience of breast cancer has been counteracted by the engrossing work I’ve been doing with my sister, Carrie, for the past few months. We’ve spent many hours together, day after day, clearing out our late Mum’s house, preparing to put it on the market. Often, our hearts are breaking, when we discover special items long forgotten or unearth beautiful poems and thoughts, written by Mum, hidden away in drawers, cupboards or files for many years.

But sometimes, we’re hit by uncontrollable laughter. Bouncing back and forth between emotions is trying and tough, while at the same time, fun and freeing. We came to the conclusion yesterday, that doing this bizarre job has helped us to keep it together during a time of great turmoil. Because we do this alone, often sitting on the floor in the livingroom or the basement, it’s as though we’re completely cut off from the real world in some kind of Twilight Zone all our own. Carrie said, "We’re in a little hidey-hole". I looked up the definition of hidey-hole and it is described as, “an isolated or secluded place; a hideaway or hideout.”

Later, she wrote me an email message, trying to sum up her feelings about this solitary adventure. This is what Carrie said – (with her permission to publish it here).
Read it and weep. (or at least, I did).


“Have given further thought to our meetings at the Hidey-Hole.

They say, 'Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans,' (usually attributed to John Lennon).

So here we are having what I would describe as a fascinating time. We are laughing and crying over letters and cards from the past - recent and ancient; enjoying the pictorial diary found in thousands of photos; marveling over the certificates and accomplishments of our ancestors; learning how grandparents lived and died; poring over rare newspaper clippings of Trudeau, Churchill, 9-11, Queen Elizabeth, the Dionne Quints; Marilyn Bell; and many lesser known dudes; cherishing some lovely antiques and discovering treasures from the past; surprised at finding items from our childhood and heart-warmed at what Mum chose to keep; finding interest in her travel brochures, maps, books, sheet music, tapes, movies and CDs; reading the hundreds of journals Mum has left us; chatting about the meaning of life; all while sharing tea and goodies in our mother's home. Of course, Mum is even there with us - both in spirit, and uh, on the shelf.

This is not just a means toward an end. This is fantastic living we're doing. Enjoy the show indeed! This whole era is unbelievably unique. Apart from the cancer thing, these are great times.

See you in the Hidey-Hole!”

Carrie's stylin' basement cleaning look!

The tired-of-cleaning look!

We have to wear blankets tied around our waist because the basement is SO cold!

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Stop this Train

April 15/11

I’ve always hated roller coasters. After taking the plunge and riding a massive one many years ago at Canada’s Wonderland, (and being nauseous for two days afterwards), the very thought of getting back on has always made me feel ill. Wouldn’t you know, I was forced to board this one, the day I discovered a lump on February 4th, and it’s been nothing but ups and downs ever since – with plenty more scary swoops and nosedives ahead.

One of my favourite songs is John Mayer’s Stop This Train. The lyrics are so brilliant, as they seem to fit any situation you can conjure up. To quote him:

Stop this train, I want to get off and go home again
I can’t take the speed it’s moving in
I know I can’t, but honestly, won’t someone stop this train?

In a later verse, he adds:

See once in a while when it’s good
It’ll feel like it should
And they’re all still around
And you’re still safe and sound
And you don’t miss a thing
‘till you cry when you’re driving away in the dark

Then John wraps it up:

Singing stop this train, I want to get off and go home again
I can’t take this speed it’s moving in
I know I can’t
‘cause now I see, I’ll NEVER stop this train.

That’s the way I feel right now. I’ll never be able to stop this train and I’m in for the ride of my life – and as Regis Philbin would say, “It’s outta CONTROL!!”

All I can hope is, it’ll be a train ride, not a train wreck.

Was hoping for MRI results today, but nope. Another weekend without knowing.

One good whistle stop along the way today was hearing from Cynthia Mulligan of CITY TV. This beautiful reporter was my inspiration to launch a blog, after she went through her own nine month breast cancer journey and chronicled it all online. Though I’ve never met Cynthia, I wrote her about Lain’s Log and asked if I could speak to her about her experience. She responded, saying she knew my work from the Global TV days (which surprised me) and offered to speak with me or even have coffee together so I can ask a few questions to help face my fears.

Having read her positive, upbeat posts, I can’t imagine Cynthia ever even thinking to say, “Stop this train.”

Kate covers Stop This Train

John Mayer covers himself! (Just fantastic!)

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Going all Sheeny!

April 14/11

Charlie Sheen is in town to perform tonight!
A lovely friend gave me a fabulous gift of a black "Sheen shirt" with his picture plastered on it and the massive word - WINNING! (my new philosophy for getting through all this crap).

I'm going out for a while now, so think I'll change into it and check out the kind of reaction it gets! EPIC WINNING!

Hope the Canuck crowd is kind to Charlie. They'd BETTER be. We all know what can happen if he goes all Sheeny on them! Yikes!

Lain goes Sheeny!

Later - seems Charlie got mixed reviews. Come on people. He MUST have been entertaining! "One speed, one gear - GO"!!!!

"I'm Batman!"

"Poof! - You're a gadfly!"

Sheen sends up HIMSELF! Simply hilarious!

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MRI is over!!

April 8/11

I am home from the dreaded MRI test. YAY!!

In my continuing quest to tell-it-like-it-is, am happy to report, it went very well! MRI machines work 24/7 in Toronto, so I was lucky to get an appointment at 7:30 p.m. on a Friday night. (as opposed to 3 in the morning!)

Sam was able to drive me, and stay in the nearby waiting room, which was a big plus. Always good to have someone along with you. (especially Sam, since he specializes in crisis management!) Prior to leaving home, did the usual whole shower/hair/makeup routine. Sam asked, (as he always jokes these days), "Are you shaving extra close under the arms?" - hee hee. Naturally! I'd been led to believe (from research), that this test requires you to lie on your stomach, with arms way up OVER your head for 30 minutes. WRONG! Upon being "situated," I was told to keep my arms by my side! Who knew?

I made copies of the email from Dr. McCready's secretary, asking that the technicians expedite the results, since they want to do another ultrasound asap AFTER the MRI results are in. I didn't want any problems or arguments about this, so brought the email request with me (as PROOF) - ALWAYS BE PREPARED!! Also brought a clear plastic bag filled with laundered towels, (for under my stomach). As pre-described in other blog entries, I CAN'T lie on my stomach, unless I have a pile of towels or pillows under my abdomen (due to pain, brought on by back labour, 18 years ago). I was POSITIVE this request would result in chaos of some nature, but for once in my life, thankfully, - NOT the case!!

We were asked to arrive at 7 p.m. for the 7:30 test. We got there even earlier, at 6:45. The receptionist, a young man, told us I was not scheduled till 8:30 p.m.! I yanked out the email from Dr. McCready's secretary, which said my test is for 7:30 p.m. Showed it to him. All of a sudden, I was told I would be taken earlier! Amazing. The receptionist, who was very nice, took me to a small area filled with lockers - none with actual locks. He told me to change into two gowns - the first one open at the front, the second, open at the back, and that I could put my clothing into any locker. I chose B4 (so I could remember it by thinking BEFORE). Sam took my picture in the "stylish" double gown. I was a true vision.

Taken on "BlackBerry-cam" so pretty blurry! (Good thing!)

While sitting in the waiting room with others dressed in blue gowns, I filled out a medical form. Just as I completed it, a technician (named SAM!!), came to get me, escorted me to another area to answer a few more verbal questions and then to get an IV line inserted. Being the pain-freak I am, I told him I'd had problems with IV insertion in the past, (which is true). On one occasion, years ago, they finally just gave up and shot my arm with local anaesthetic in order to be able to insert the IV! Young Sam managed to do it quite well, no pain on insertion, however, it kinda hurt through the rest of the test, but not TOO bad.

While sitting in the "IV insertion chair," I told him about my problem with back pain. Explained that I had called the MRI department the day before and was assured they have some kind of "padding" to put under my stomach, so I can get through the test. He then said he would send me back to the waiting room because there was one more person ahead of me. I stood up, and five seconds later, he suddenly changed his mind and said I would be next! (good thing I'd taken my 5 mg. Valium in advance, before I left home!)

He took me to the MRI room, found two small pillows plus a weirdly-shaped piece of foam padding. We piled all of these things on top of each other and he said he would NOT start the test until I was completely comfortable.

Next, I put in the earplugs I bought at Shoppers Drug Mart. (have NEVER worn earplugs in my life), and on top of THAT, he put noise-cancellation headphones. All this, because MRI tests are VERRRRRRY loud!

I lay down on the "bed/machine" whatever it's called, made sure the pillows were directly under my abdomen, then, he got my boobs into "place", hanging through these two holes, (delightful) and asked me to place my face right into this donut-type pillow. After everything was sorted out, I was actually quite comfortable. I was told (which I already knew from research), that half way through the test, contrast dye would be injected into the IV and that I might feel something cold. (was also told I might feel NOTHING). The technologist said he would NOT be talking to me in the headphones and that I must remain perfectly still for the full 30 minutes.

I KNEW there would be loud sounds, but ai yi yi! I thought it would be banging or tapping, but there were at least TEN different types of sounds throughout the test. One, like a fire siren, another, like clanging, the next, beeping, then, buzzing, then, (and thankfully, I'd been warned about this), a heavy duty shaking - like an earthquake, the whole machine bumping back and forth/vibrating, while I'm supposed to lie there, perfectly still. (thank God for the Diazepam. I would recommend this to ANYONE having the test!)

As for the contrast dye, I could definitely feel it going in, but it didn't bother me in any way.

Various friends told me to think of this or that, to take my mind off everything. One good pal suggested I think of my Auntie Ray and her collection of amazing hats - which I actually DID, (especially her new yellow one)! And it helped. Then, I thought about my sister, Carrie, who was in the midst of a Tafelmusik concert at the same time I was in the MRI machine. I almost started laughing, contemplating the juxtaposition of ME, enduring CLANG CLANG CLANG, while SHE was hearing/singing Beethoven's beautiful 9th symphony - Ode to Joy! I mean, come ON! - could you GET two more different events going on at the same exact moment!? Hmmmm. Ludwig vs. MRI. Which would YOU choose??"

After what seemed like an ETERNITY of ridiculous sound effects, Sam, (the technologist), ambled in, told me the test was over, got me to sit up, took off the headphones, removed the IV needle, told me I could go get dressed and that I was a good patient! R U kidding me? (Never was told THAT before!)

I asked when the "expedited" results might be known. He said it usually takes about five business days - so, we're talkin' a week from now - maybe by Friday April 15th. I'm very worried what the results could show. Decisions about my surgery will be based on the results of the MRI as well as the upcoming ultrasound.



April 3/11

My Dad has really stepped up to the plate. At age 85, he's lost all three of the ladies in his life. He and Mum were married from 1950 to '59.
I wasn't quite four when Dad left to start a new life. Fifty years later, I know he still suffers guilt over the decisions he made, even though he did the best he could for us and never missed a support payment in his life. Sometimes things don't work out the way you planned. It wasn't anybody's fault. It just happened. I'm sad that Mum had to suddenly become a single parent, but I've always loved my Dad, no matter what the circumstances.

Me, my Dad (Rex Loring), and my sister Carrie

I didn't see him much at all as a child, but in the teen days, when I was able to take transit and make choices on my own, we visited off and on, (sometimes at the CBC, where he was a TV personality and newsman for many years), and he always made sure to deliver birthday and Christmas gifts. To this day, I have magic memories of those surprise presents, which somehow showed up at our door in the middle of the night!

He married a lovely lady named Shirley and was with her for over 20 happy years, until she underwent brain surgery and later died, due to complications. Her death came only days before the birth of his first grandchild (my daughter, Kate), in 1992. I still remember being at Shirley's funeral, and having friends approach my Dad to give condolences on the loss of his wife, while at the same time, congratulating him on becoming a grandfather. Highest highs, lowest lows.

He next shared his life with another incredible woman named Shirley Jane. They had a beautiful home together in Oakville for several years. We were happy he'd found someone so special. Shirley Jane played a big role in bringing our Dad together with us whenever possible, and I'll always be grateful to her for that. But in 2004, she passed away of cancer. Once again, Dad was mourning another very sad loss.

Even though my parents hadn't been together for over five decades, he was still very saddened by Mum's death, of complications due to surgery in October, 2010. He drove into Toronto to be with us for her Celebration of Life. It meant the world to Carrie and me that he was there to support us and to remember her. Mum always believed he was her destiny, because, she said, "You and Carrie just HAD to be born!"

Check out my Dad in his 20s! No wonder Mum flipped for him!

I was reluctant even to TELL Dad I have cancer. He's been through so much already. But, as he's my only remaining parent, I summoned up my courage, (take THAT Cowardly Lion!), and gave him the news. He took it well, with great strength, in light of the losses he's survived.

Since my diagnosis, I've been blown away by my Dad's unwavering support and sympathy. He calls me. He calls Carrie. We talk things over. He tries to make us feel better. He encourages me and when I've told him my worries about the upcoming surgery, he says, "Remember, the doctors don't want to have a failure! They want success!"

Going on this journey without my beloved Mum has been so tough for me, but, amazingly, I have a great Dad, who, come hell or high water, now appears committed to being there for me.

Love you so much Dad!


What's to Blame?

April 2/11

Anyone who gets the big C diagnosis wonders how it happened. Genetic? Random? Environmental?

In my own case, there's been no history of breast cancer in the family.
I never smoked a day in my life. I've heard obesity may boost the odds of cancer in older women, but I've always been fairly slim. (Right now, at 5'3", I weigh 113).

They say diet plays a big role. I've tried to have a balanced diet, not heavy on sweets. I'm not a vegetarian, but tend to opt for lean meats or chicken. I admit I do love pasta and potatoes - (and naturally, cake and ice cream at birthday parties). I haven't always taken vitamins or done regular exercise, though I'm quite active.

So, what happened? The oncologist told me, in my case, no one can ever know for sure.

Now, it's time to face personal facts and come clean. Could I have brought this on myself?

1.) I've lived in a major city almost my whole life, surrounded by vehicle exhaust and other pollutants.

2.) I spent decades taking daily oral contraceptives, (Ortho-Novum and Triphasil). Both, of course, contain estrogen.

3.) My husband worries I was exposed to his second-hand smoke for about nine years, before he quit. (I hate that he feels any guilt in all of this).

4.) For 26 years, I held down fast-paced, deadline-driven reporting jobs in radio and TV. The stress was constant. Most days, my heart would be racing as I rushed to prepare for interviews or newscasts, ran off to locations around the city, zipped back to the station to screen, write and edit stories in time for the next newscast, (often waiting in line at the editing department, breathlessly begging Freddie, the supervisor, "PLEASE get me an editor. I'm not gonna make my slot!!," - I drove the poor man crazy - I know my old Global pals will be laughing when they read and remember all this), and then not getting assigned an editor till 30 or 40 minutes before deadline, ploughing through the story to make air, then rushing the tape directly into master control, and running, top speed back to my desk to type in the chyron names and times, sometimes seeing the story start to roll before chyron was even complete! (think Joan Cusack in Broadcast News - one of the best scenes to EVER capture the way the news biz can really be!) But the strange thing is, - I LOVED it! Every non-stop, frantic frenzied minute of it. That deadline pressure, the adrenaline pumping, - pretty much nothing could beat the rush and excitement. But looking back now, could stress have brought this on?

5.) OK. This one is hardest to write about. (and I'm quite sure, anyone who knows me, has been wondering if/when I'd bring it up). Alcohol. I've loved wine since I was about 18. Red, white, rose, sparkling, you name it. From early college days up until now, wine has always been a part of my adult life. I'm not talking secret drinker or daytime drinker, but wine at the dinner hour or in the evening almost every day, (except during pregnancies!) I guess we all know alcohol can increase the risk of cancer.

Upon hearing these "theories," an old friend of mine asked, "So, should we all be munching solely on raw broccoli and blueberries washed down by green tea? NOTHIN' is safe"!

I tend to think she may be right and this is the only way to go.