Life is a succession of lessons which must be lived to be understood.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson
I am reposting this blog entry today (from March 30, 2011) because it is one of my favorites. If all goes well for me, I will get my final chemo treatment tomorrow and be on the road to recovery. Hair is starting to grow – even the grey ones! This is fantastic news to me. I hope you enjoy this entry today. Thank you to all of my friends and readers for supporting me through this gastly journey with breast cancer.
I have lived my life knowing that there was always going to be more to it tomorrow than there was today. I have lived on this earth for close to 42 years now and I realize that if you are not paying attention, life can pass you by -quickly. I am at home recovering well from my 15 hour DIEP FLAP breast reconstruction surgery. I had a platinum team of doctors and professionals working with me through this journey. I feel that I must pay respect to each and every one of them. The following professionals saved my life, cared about me as an individual and kept me calm, cool and collected through the entire experience and for that I will be ever so grateful.
Shadiar Ohadi, M.D. – my family doctor
Jay Orringer, M.D. – my plastic reconstruction surgeon – www.drorringer.com
Kristi Funk, M.D. – my breast surgeon and speciailist – www.pinklotusbreastcenter.com
Jay Granzow, M.D.- my plastic micro-surgeon. – www.plasticsurgery.la
I was blessed to have found the lump on my own. By alerting the doctors immediately, they were able to move swiftly and strategically to ensure that the cancer was removed quickly and that I would be a survivor of breast cancer. The final part of this journey will be the one that frightens me the most – chemo. Chemo scares me because I have never been through it and, let’s be really honest here, I am upset about losing my beautiful head of hair. The upside to this is that during the time of my chemo and for a period after, I will carry the recognizable image of Cancer. This will only assist me in promoting education to the people I am surrounded by each and every day. If someone wants to ask me a question, they should know that it is okay to ask. I was born to be a communicator, advisor and protector. What better subject to communicate and educate on than breast cancer? This is not to say that all other cancers are of deserving education on…I am just doing what just got dealt to me! LOL.
Knowledge is power. I want to educate people about my experience with Breast Cancer. By doing this, I feel that I am playing the hand that I was dealt, and playing it quite well, with the complete intention of WINNING. I have been dealt a few hands in my life that others would have not bounced back from so easily. I look at life in a very realistic and grounded way. Everything happens for a reason!
This is one of my life lessons. I honor that it was given to me to deal with. I cannot imagine this happening to my sister. Now, instead, she is living through it with me. I welcome anyone who wants to live through it with me to do just that.
I do feel compelled to share this one story. If I don’t document it in my blog, I will forever be telling the story to people and I don’t want to have to keep telling the story so, here goes….
The insurance carrier had assigned a case manager to me for my chemotherapy that will start in a month. For use of the Blog and to protect the guilty, I will refer to the case manager as Cindy. Cindy contacted me a few days before my last surgery. She introduced herself, explained her function in the process and we got to know each other a little bit. I am the kind of person who will quickly become familiar with strangers who I will be working with on a project. During our first conversation I interpreted Cindy to be a professional and caring individual who had been working with the insurance carrier for many years.
Not so fast…..I was contacted by Cindy again the day before I was to go in for surgery. She expressed to me that in no way would she have the operation that I was about to have and she was asking me why I was putting my body through this kind of torture. I explained that my skin had not survived after the double mastectomy and that this was our only option. She then told me that the operation is dangerous and I that I would have a very difficult recovery. I explained to her that I had been advised by my doctors that this was not a painful surgery. I would survive. I would heal very well and aesthetically the results would be phenomenal. She again told me that I was going to be in an extreme amount of pain. She was stating this based on diagnosis codes that were listed in front of her. I explained that my muscles were not being touched, therefore the recovering and pain would be minimal. She told me that my doctor’s had not been telling me the truth about the procedure they were going to do on me. These repeated statements made me for the FIRST time in my life fear surgery. Surgery has always been easy for me. Doctor’s have always been amazed at the way my body springs back. This woman scared me senseless. I was crying uncontrollably. I was beginning to believe the things she had said. About 3 hours later, she calls me back and says “I have spoken with your doctors and you should go ahead and have the surgery”. Talk about going from one end of the spectrum to the other!
I had the 12 hour surgery that was extended to 15 hours. This surgery generally requires a blood transfusion. I did not have to have one. I came out of anesthesia right away, alert and would not shut up. I spent one day in the Intensive Care Unit where the nurses could not believe how alert and mobile I was able to be. I was then moved to a regular room for the duration of my stay and observation. The doctors and the nurses were shocked at how my body came back and latched on to the skin grafts. They were amazed at my uncontrollable ability to make jokes about everything and to laugh through it. Because of the way I was healing and the positive attitude I had, my physician’s released me a day early! I came home rested for the weekend and then got a call from Cindy the Case Manager.
NOW HOLD UP AND WAIT JUST ONE MINUTE!
Cindy called me to follow up on when I came home and how I was doing. I answered her questions and then told her that I need to say something to her. I do not think she had any idea what was about to happen to her. With all the anger and energy I had, I explained to her that I am a person who has had multiple major surgeries and I have never been afraid of them…ever. Then I started yelling at her and had a hard time controlling myself. I explained to her that she was going to have to listen to everything I had to say to her. She had no right to tell me whether to have a surgery or not. Whether it came from a good “motherly” place of advice or if it came from the place of the ugly bureaucratic insurance industry. Either way, I did not care. What she did was wrong and unacceptable. I continued to yell at her and gave her this analogy – “You have no idea who you are dealing with. I am a prize-winning thoroughbred race horse. You told me that I could not finish the race. You told me I shouldn’t even be in the race. YOU TOLD ME NOT TO ENTER THE GATE!” No one tells me that I can’t accomplish something that I put my mind to”. I explained to this 62 something year old woman that she was going to learn from this horrible experience and hopefully she will never do anything like that to any one ever again. I demanded that she find me a replacement Case Manager. I explained that her actions had violated my trust. Because my trust was violated, she was off the team. I instructed her to find a replacement GOLD STANDARD Case Manager, otherwise I would come after her with a vengeance. Within 20 minutes I received a call from a much senior Case Manager and now we are moving forward.
I will be writing a letter to the insurance carrier about this matter. My understanding in talking with professionals in the health care industry is that this may have been a ploy to get me not to have the surgery at all.
On another note – this experience has changed me. It has definitely been one of those life changing experiences that makes you value and appreciate everything you have in your life. Even though I call my husband crazy and this website was originally produced to expose his craziness, I seriously would have been lost without him through all of this. I love that man more than anything and I am so grateful I said “yes” to marrying him when he asked me on our second date and then “I do” ten (10) days after the second date.
Life is amazing. Take chances. Take a leap of faith. It just might surprise you.