Guest Post: The Adult in the Room Speaks!

Blogger’s Note: today I turn the keyboard over to Gorgeous, who I’ve convinced to share her story of resilience, bravery, and inner-strength.

Let me first start by saying that never in a million years have I entertained the thought of contributing to Martin’s blog, other than being the silent, eye-rolling character in which I’m portrayed with nearly every post (I can share with you that while he does exaggerate slightly, his exploits — and my reactions to them — are never very far off the mark!). But over the last several weeks, my life has changed so dramatically that Martin has convinced me that I have a story here to tell, and in doing so perhaps I can be of help to others who might find themselves in the same situation.

On April 20th, twenty four days ago to be exact, I had double mastectomy breast cancer surgery. I was called by my gynecologist on April 10th with the news that a mass was discovered on my left breast, and on April 12th we met with a surgeon who offered surgical options to remove the mass. The surgery was immediately scheduled for the following week. The speed in which all these things took place still rattles in my head.

It wasn’t a complete shock. Prior to the news from my gynecologist, I had been subjected to three mammograms, an MRI, and finally a biopsy of the breast. All of them came in fairly quick succession starting in late February, when I went in for what I thought was merely my annual mammogram. The gynecologist also ordered the MRI for that imaging visit because I had very dense breast tissues. I wasn’t happy with having to also endure the MRI, but my doctor said that given my age (61), it was important out of an abundance of caution to be extra vigilant. So I did as I was told, being the good, obedient patient that I’ve always been.

About a week later, I received a letter from the imaging center informing me that I needed to come back for a second mammogram because an anomaly was visible in their images. I was instructed to call my gynecologist to arrange for a follow-up appointment. When I did so, however, the staff told me that no further action was needed, that the MRI showed nothing untoward. I said okay and literally put it out of my mind. Later that afternoon I mentioned all of this to Martin. I remember him making a passing remark about “false positives,” and how doctors make us worry needlessly sometimes.

I wasn’t worried. They said nothing was found in the MRI.

About a week later, though, in early March, I received another letter from the imaging center. In stark and rather forthright language, they referenced their earlier letter with a sense of urgency that I should return for a second mammogram. Once again I called my gynecologist and told them about this letter. I was put on hold for a few minutes, and then was told that a second appointment had been scheduled for the following day. At this point my head began to start spinning. For years I’ve gone in for my mammograms, and a week to ten days later I would receive a letter in the mail informing me that nothing was found. This time, something was indeed discovered.

Pre-surgery tulips

I had the second mammogram, but this time a radiologist came into the room immediately afterwards to look at the results. I could see the mass on the monitor as they were reviewing it. It was right there in plain sight, obvious even to me, a non-medical professional. The radiologist said that I would need to come back for a biopsy, and that once again my gynecologist would need to place the order for it. The next day I received a call for an appointment scheduled for March 31st.

Cancer runs in my family. My father died of pancreatic cancer at age 51 (when I was 15 years old), as did my older sister at age 47. My older brother died last year of stomach cancer. Four aunts, one maternal and three paternal, each died of breast cancer. Another maternal aunt died of brain cancer. I have a remaining younger sister who lives in Michigan, both of us keenly aware of the cruel frailties of life in our blood lines. I knew one thing: whatever the results of this biopsy, I was going to be aggressive in the treatment. I wasn’t messing around.

I didn’t sleep very well the night before the biopsy, and that’s not usually the case. I’m told that I not only sleep like a log but that I snore LOUDLY. Again, I remind you that my husband is prone to slight exaggeration. But I remember lying in bed with my mind running like a fast car’s engine.

When I went in for the biopsy the next morning, I was surprised by an order for a third mammogram to go along with it. I wasn’t happy about that. I asked for Martin to be able to come in to be with me, but they said that was impossible because there were other women patients in the same place also getting mammograms. He was given a chair just outside a door to the area, and a nurse came out periodically to give him updates. She came back to me at one point and said, “Your husband wants me to tell you that he’s hungry. He’s kidding,” she added reassuringly. Only Martin could make me laugh in such a stressful situation.

The following Monday I received a phone call from my gynecologist asking me to come in immediately. Martin and I both agreed that didn’t sound hopeful at all. We went in and learned that the biopsy results confirmed I had a carcinoma in situ in my left breast, that it was non-invasive and therefore not spreading to any surrounding tissue. My doctor was upbeat, saying this would be easily treatable and that she was referring me to a wonderful surgeon in the same building.

I have breast cancer.” That’s all I kept saying to myself.

We met two days later with the surgeon, and just as advertised, she was completely lovely. She explained that because we’re catching this early, and it’s only stage zero, it is completely treatable. I was offered two options: a lumpectomy, which she explained is what most women choose, or a bilateral (double) mastectomy. By choosing the latter, I would forgo any need for radiation. To me there wasn’t any choice to be made. I immediately chose the mastectomy. With my family background, I wasn’t about to take any chances. My favorite aunt, Aunt Anita, had a lumpectomy only to have the cancer aggressively return ten years later. I didn’t want to suffer the same fate.

Post surgery, with my Lyle Lovett-style hairdo!

Surgery was scheduled for the following week. Again, the speed at which all of this was happening is still beyond comprehension to me. It lasted a total of five hours and I spent overnight in the hospital. Martin says I never woke up in the hours that he was allowed to be with me in my recovery room, and that I allegedly snored the entire time until visiting hours were over. If true, I’m grateful I had a private room. The next morning I was shown by the nurse how to empty the two drains which were now attached on either side of me. I was discharged from the hospital around 11:00am.

I had the drains for two weeks, plus surgical tape across my chest that I was told I could gently scrub off with a wash cloth in the shower. At a follow-up appointment with the surgeon a week later, she encouraged me to continue to “work at them” until they lifted off. They wouldn’t budge! I literally removed the last one this morning, 24 days after surgery. Two visiting nurses came to our home three times over the course of my recovery to look me over, write up progress reports for my record, and also to offer guidance. They were absolutely wonderful. I was able to shower by the third day, though Martin initially had to help hold up the drains as I bathed.

I wore an apron for the drains, handmade by volunteers at the Resurrection Anglican Church here in St. Augustine. Except for when I showered, I had to wear this apron 24/7 until the drains were removed. I was so relieved when that day finally arrived!

My “lovely” apron worn for two weeks

My healing process has been at times hit-or-miss. The surgeon said I could pretty much use any OTC topical, but unfortunately none of them have provided much relief. Out of the blue, my Vermont uncle of all people, sent me an article about a woman he knows in his community — a recent survivor of breast cancer herself — who makes creams which offer relief. Susan Shashok is the owner of Caroline’s Dream, and I can vouch that her Calendula Cream in particular has helped.

My wonderful husband took great care of me during my recovery. He surprised me with his cooking skills, long dormant since our marriage began. He made a delicious spaghetti bolognese, a roasted chicken, fresh oven broiled salmon, a roast beef, and breaded lemon chicken. I had no idea! Note to self: allow him to continue. Often.

I heard from friends and family on a regular basis, and our synagogue reached out to me in a kind and supportive way. A special shoutout to Martin’s fellow blogger Debs at Debs Dispatches, who offered kind words of support both before and after the surgery. (Thanks, Debs!)

It’s still jarring to look at myself in the mirror, and I’m not sure how long that will last. Perhaps it always will be. I’ve decided against reconstructive surgery. I might change my mind about it later, but for now I’m not interested in anything artificial in my body. My surgeon says that insurance companies must cover the procedure, and that there are no time limits attached to it. That’s helpful to at least know. I have follow-up appointments with the surgeon coming up, and it was mentioned that I’ll continue to see her on an annual basis for a while.

During my convalescence, a national health panel published draft recommendations that women should start getting screening mammograms at the age of 40, rather than 50. That’s probably a good place to close here. Early detection is crucial. So women, I implore you: get your mammograms!

Martin informs me that I’m in charge of responding here, so I’ll try and keep up with it. But as he says,

Until next time…

43 thoughts on “Guest Post: The Adult in the Room Speaks!

  1. Thank you for listening/taking Marty’s suggestion to tell your story to us his ‘followers’. You strike me as being very pragmatic, (as well as gorgeous). As a result, your accounting of this very complex process alongside personal ‘reactions’ to events as they came your way is more easily understood to those of us who haven’t walked the road you have. Yes, you had/have a fantastic team & support system, but lady – you are one strong woman. I wish for you complete healing & refreshment as you navigate this side of your double mastectomy.
    And Marty? Keep on doing your part in the kitchen – yum!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you, Laura for your kind (and moving) words. It means the world to me. You managed to make Martin’s eyes leak a little. 😊 It’s not a journey I wished to take, but I’m feeling stronger having gone through it.

      I’ll make sure to keep him cooking! 💕

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Laura has said it very well. Thank you so much for sharing this overwhelming journey to wellness. Resilience, bravery, and inner strength, indeed. I hope your recovery continues to go super well and that you keep Marty in the kitchen. Maybe he should post some of his recipes! 🙏💕

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Don’t encourage him, Jane!! Not about the cooking, it’s the blog bragging I’ll worry about. 😆 It doesn’t take much for him to share every facet of his life!

      Thanks for your kind words, it’s much appreciated. ❤️

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you, Gorgeous…for posting your story! You are truly your namesake, inside and out. And thanks for the message about mammograms. I have to have yearly mammograms due to breast cancer in my immediate family, and am very happy to do so. Early detection is so critical!!!

    Deb
    P.S. Last week I bought the same linen jacket as you are wearing in the first photo – what a coincidence. I fell in love with its simplicity and usefulness. It looks great on you!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your kind words, Deb! I’m glad that you’re doing what you need to do for yourself.

      That’s so funny that you have the same jacket! When they told me I needed to get lots of button down tops, I went a little crazy. I have all kinds of new tops plus pajamas too. Nothing like a health crisis as an excuse to go shopping! 😁

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Marty can cook? (that was my second take-away!). Congratulations and welcome to the club that you didn’t want to join. I am 20 years out now but I remember it as if it was yesterday. The speed of all the follow-ups was unnerving. I was the first in my family to have cancer. We prefer to concentrate on dying from heart stuff. In my experience the first 10 years were the worst. Since I had the lumpectomy every year the mammogram was a nightmare and the MRIs. Would they find something? I had two successive biopsies, both negative but that didn’t eliminate the worry. 3 a.m. is a very special time dedicated to totally freaking me out. Based on your family history (and what a history that is!) you made the right decision. The testing is much better these days and hopefully you are DONE. Stay strong and continue to let Marty cook!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Kate! Twenty years is such a long time, and I am so happy to learn that you’re a survivor too. You’re right– it’s not a club I ever wanted to join, but I am beginning to meet the wonderful people in it; such as yourself. 🙂 The post was getting too long, but I’ve also been to a meeting of a local survivors group. I’ll keep going to that. Yes, I’ll make sure to keep him squarely in the kitchen!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I appreciate you telling us your story but am sorry you had to go through this. It’s a saga, but one from which you’ve emerged healthy. As for Marty, I say keep him in the kitchen and let him cook all the time.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thank you for sharing your story with us. I am glad you caught it early, and you were able to make the decisions that you felt were right for you. I wish you many, many more years of healthy living. And in those years, I wish you many Marty-cooked meals which sound quite delicious to me. Knowledge is power, and now you know.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Betty! Yes, I’m much more knowledgeable now than I ever was about this. I wish I wasn’t, but I have no control over that! I am making him read your words about his meals– in the kitchen he will stay! 😆

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I have been looking forward to reading the article from Gorgeous (a hint it was in the words), and she is truly soooo Gorgeous on many levels. Thank you, Marty, for encouraging “L” to write her story.

    You are totally right, “L” aka “Gorgeous” that you never know who you may help. I have a best friend I love, who has never had a mammogram. She is going to get strong words from me this week.

    “L” Your honesty and clarity shines through on your challenging and recent story. It is interesting how serious correspondence is done via mail…not always dependable.

    Wow, reading your words how cancer runs in your family. I am very sorry about your family members.

    Wow, wow and wow, the entire procedure, the speed, the handmade aprons, your uncle, the calendula cream…the behind the scenes people who make a difference.

    The love between the both of you is always evident in every story. I have grown very fond of the both of you…through Instagram and Marty’s stories. “L” you have a gift with words, and I am very aware you have many creative gifts. The pre surgery tulips and post surgery flowers made me smile. I get it.

    Now, would I let my husband aka “Handsome” touch my blog……I used to say no way, “get your own blog” (Donna, Retirement Reflections is a witness to this). Never say never. Just hopefully never under the challenges the both of you have faced. Much love and healing sent your way. xoxo Erica

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dear Gorgeous,

      Marty will certainly verify that I am a poor WordPress follower and even poorer contributor.

      I feel so fortunate to have tuned in for this post. You write as beautifully as Marty and I truly appreciate your sharing this life experience with all of us.

      I completely support your choice to be aggressive in dealing with this diagnosis. You have my very best wishes for a complete recovery. It is so nice to know that you and Marty are attentive to the health concerns of those of us born in the 1950s and 1960s.

      Please let me know if you would like some knitted prostheses. I have done this for women I do not know through this organization:

      https://www.knittedknockers.org/

      Hugs and love,

      Eddie

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Thank you, Erica, for all those wonderful words! ❤️ Yes, please do have a stern talk with your friend. This isn’t anything to play around with.

      I’m grateful for the connection that we have also. I love looking at all of the photographs you post. You have such a perfect way of capturing a scene.

      Haha about your husband taking a stab at writing on your blog! Martin just said to tell you , “I dare her!” 😊

      Thanks again, Erica!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hi again, Gorgeous, I got carried away commenting (a little lengthy) yet, I felt compelled to respond. I am seeing my friend this week and I will share your story. Usually, I don’t interfere and I ‘hold space’ in our conversations, yet, this is an important message. Re: My Mr. Handsome(in case you thought I was referring to yours) …we will see….😊Take care🌷

        Liked by 1 person

  8. I applaud you for sharing this very personal journey so it could not only be a record of your success in traversing this medical mountain but also to inspire other people to follow up with mammograms. A fellow gardener had a double mastectomy and mentioned that many had expected her to have reconstructive surgery. She said she gave it great though and decided to ‘own it.’ I’ve never forgotten that. My husband has appointments at our local cancer center, and when I accompany him, I am always in awe of all the personal stories that exist in that waiting room. Thank you for sharing yours. P.S. Don’t tell him, but, man, I’m impressed Marty can cook. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Judy, I absolutely love what your fellow gardener said. That’s just perfect, and for the moment how I feel too. I’m sorry to hear about your husband, but I’m glad to know that he’s keeping up with his appointments and getting attention. Yes, there are so many stories from brave souls. Fear not, I’m not going to add to this man’s increasing kitchen ego! 😊 Thanks again!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Thank you for this wonderful, moving poignant post.
    It gives me pause. I had a mammogram when I was in my thirties, but have never had another (despite repeated calls from my health care representative urging me to come in.)
    I don’t know why I resist…I just do. (This is a ridiculous statement but I was never allowed to be sick or hurt when I was married, so I have always just ignored and soldiered on).
    This post will help many women and men as well. They get breast cancer too.
    Thanks for sharing and what a wonderful guy you have. That Marty…he’s a keeper.
    Hugs to both of you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi, Laurel. It’s so sweet of you to take the time to comment. I do hope this helps inspire women (you’re right, and men too) to go in for cancer exams. I hope you do too! ❤️ It certainly has shaken my world.

      Thanks for the hugs. I’ll make sure to share it with Martin. You’re right, he’s a keeper. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Thank you so much for name-checking me ❤ I was so fortunate in receiving the same from some wonderful women who trod this path before the both of us and couldn't not pay it forward.

    You've written beautifully, movingly and eloquently about your experience, and I'm so grateful to learn the full story behind your decision. I felt it was brave at the time, and still see it as that, despite the overwhelming family history.

    It's lovely to read about the humour in the loving relationship you have with Marty/Martin – long may that continue. I hope you'll pop in and write for the blog again, as well as provide fabulous fodder for your lovely husband to write about.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m grateful for your reassuring words, Debs, both before and after the surgery. You’re right that it’s helpful to connect with those who have been on the same journey. I’ve attended a meeting of a local breast cancer survivors group and met some nice women. I’m learning everybody has a different story.

      I’ll have to think about your suggestion with writing more on this blog. I could probably devote an entire one just on him and all of his eccentricities. 🙄

      Thanks again! ❤️

      Liked by 1 person

      1. My best decision ever was to find myself a group – I’m still in touch with some of them 13 years later. I hope the group you’ve found will prove to be your tribe in the same way too.

        Martin and his eccentricities is probably a book rather than a blog in the making (sorry Marty, but you do offer yourself up as a subject for laughter wonderfully well)!

        You take good care of yourself ❤

        Liked by 1 person

  11. Hi Gorgeous,
    First, you are indeed gorgeous, and have kind soul foul eyes.
    Thank you for sharing your story! My co-worker had just gone through a mastectomy. She also is choosing not to have a reconstruction surgery. Reading your story gave me some more insight. She doesn’t really want to talk about any details.
    I am sorry you have gone through this, and I am sorry for all the family losses you have suffered.
    Wishing you a speedy and painless recovery. May the future bring you and Martin many blessings!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi, Ana. Thank you for such kind words. I’m sorry about your co-worker. If she ever wants to reach out, she can via Martin’s blog email here and I can respond separately. It’s certainly been a journey I never expected! I wish you all the kindness you’ve just extended to me. 🙂💕

      Like

  12. Hi, Gorgeous. Thank you so much for bravely (and incredibly articulately) sharing your story. Ditto what everyone else said. You are a very strong woman and this is a very powerful reminder to us all. I wish you a very smooth recovery ahead. Please tell Marty that he definitely needs to continue cooking and spoiling!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. It truly is a powerful post and is extremely well-written. Every word gripped me, and I continue to think about your story all night long. It is a great reminder of the fragility of life and that everything is okay until it isn’t. Your resilience is inspirational.

        Liked by 1 person

  13. Thank you so much for sharing your story with us. I’m glad the experts were quick to act. I think Martin should continue with his cooking, now he’s found a talent for it. It sounds like he’s got plenty of meals to catch up on after you doing the cooking for so many years!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much, Nikki! I’m glad everyone did what they were supposed to do also. It’s a relief to have it all behind me. But I agree: Martin’s continued cooking is in front of him! 😆

      Like

  14. There are so many things I love about this post. The courage to tell your story, including getting into some gritty details that a lot of people aren’t aware of – and doing it with style (that apron!). Also, how you and Marty are tag teaming the blog right now (just like you tag teamed that cancer.) Wishing you all the best.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Tracey, thank you so much. I’m laughing at the style with the apron— I tried! 😂. We did indeed work as a team. I honestly don’t know how I’d have gotten through any of this without both his help, but also his infectious optimism. Even if he was a bit of a bearish taskmaster editor about this post! Thanks again for your lovely comments. 💕

      Like

  15. I am so happy that you caught it early and that you had the courage and wisdom to undergo a double mastectomy, Gorgeous. Thank you for so eloquently describing your experience. I am sure it will be a help to other women in your situation. Continued rapid recovery and enjoy Marty’s culinary surprises.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.