The frustration of recovery!


Patty and friends at the American Cancer Society Relay for Life a couple weeks ago.

Patty’s recovery from the reconstruction surgery is going well.  She still has a long way to go, but overall she’s doing really well.  They started adding saline to her implant last week and she’s pretty excited to have a cleavage again!   

The initial recovery period from the surgery was pretty painful.  She hid it pretty well from me at first, but as I’ve said in many previous posts, her eyes tell the story.  She fooled me and was on the go pretty quickly.  Too quickly!  I should have known better.  Those of you who know Patty, know that she’s hard to keep down.  She wants to exercise and get back into her routine.  She can’t do it!  Not yet.  I could see she was tiring easy and “hitting the wall” by early afternoons.  So, I’ve had to put my foot down and limit her activities.  She’s begrudgingly cooperating… 

Up until surgery her “job” was watching our granddaughter, Avery.  The doctor told us that she wouldn’t be able to watch her full time again until at least 8 weeks after surgery.  She thinks it’ll take her 6 weeks, but I’m going to win this battle.  She needs to take as long as she needs.  Avery kept Patty pretty busy during the days, but now that Patty’s on her own, she gets pretty bored!  She’s been devouring a lot of books, which she loves, but she gets frustrated that she can’t do it all right now.  She’s doing so well, I just don’t want her to overdo it and, in turn, take longer for her recovery.

She has a doctor’s appointment next Monday to add more saline… a little at a time.  Right now it’s all about adding the saline which in turn stretches the skin until it’s the same size etc as the other breast. 

Patty’s been walking as often as possible… a couple miles at a time.  She’s impatiently wanting to push the walking farther to start training for the Komen walk in November!   

She needs to heal first… she has plenty of time!

As Patty gets stronger… we travel!

We had the best time this past weekend!  We made a trip up to our old “stomping grounds” between Placerville and Lake Tahoe where we had spent the past 10 years of our lives.  We were both really excited to make this trip as it would be the first time out of town in nearly a year since Patty was diagnosed!  We were not only excited to get out of “Dodge” for a few days, but we were also excited to have the chance to visit with friends that we’ve really missed.

Patty had purchased our tickets about six weeks ago with Southwest.  She felt pretty good about getting the “internet deal” for a relatively good price.  The only issue with the internet deal was that the best price tickets were for flights people don’t want to take as our departure was scheduled for 6:30 a.m.  Thank God I’m an early person… Patty is quite the opposite.

Patty and I were at the American Cancer Society event the night before.  We were pretty wired when we got home.  We finished laundry, packed our bags, cleaned the house and hit the bed around 11:00 p.m.  I set the alarm for 4:00 a.m. which would give us time to shower etc and be out the door by 4:45 a.m.   Do you remember when you were a kid and your parents told you they were taking you to Disneyland the next day and  how you woke up every hour to see if it was time to leave yet?  That was me and Patty that night.  We woke up pretty much every hour on the hour!  In fact I was laying wide awake in the dark at 2:00 a.m. and realized Patty was awake also!  We laughed about it eventually fell back asleep.  I got up about 10 minutes before the alarm went off.  I showered, make coffee and rustled Patty out of bed.  We were on the road right on time… about 4:45 a.m.  Leaving at this time would allow us time to drive to the parking lot a few miles from the airport, shuttle to the airport, check our bags, stand in the security lines etc…  As I’m sure you’re aware, timing is everything when it comes to the “airport!”  We finished checking our bags and went to the security area.  My God!  I’m not exaggerating; the security line must have had 100+ people.  I asked Patty: “What the heck are all these people doing up so early?”  The line seemed to stretch forever!  We got in the back of the line and surprisingly it moved somewhat quick.  Not real quick, but somewhat quick.  It took maybe 15 minutes to get to the security area… remove your shoes, belt, watch, empty your pockets etc…  Thank God they weren’t using the Body Scanner as that would have taken more time.  We got through the security area and walked over to the electronic board that shows the arrivals and departures.  I scrolled my eyes down to the Southwest departures to Sacramento.  Ah, there it was, flight 522 to Sacramento, departing at 6:30 a.m. at Gate 1.  Perfect!  Wait a minute… Gate 1??????  That’s in another part of the airport!!!  I looked at my watch and it was now 6:10 a.m.  We had 20 minutes to run to another part of the airport, go through another security line and get on our flight!  Not a chance!  But, we had to give it a shot!  We made it to the other security area within minutes, but now we found ourselves in yet, another line.  Not as long as the first security check line, but this one was utilizing the Body Scanner which is a slow process!  We were both on edge hoping to make this flight. Suddenly a woman who worked for Southwest walked over and yelled our names… “Is there a Mr. and Mrs. Sousek here?”  I called to the woman who looked at me and with somewhat of a snotty attitude asked: “Why are you late?  Did you get lost?”  Whatever!  I told he that we had gone to the wrong area, hoping she would move us to the front of the line, but not a chance.  She just walked off.  We were now about the 5th and 6th people in line and they stopped using the Body Scanner so thing now moved quicker, other than still removing our shoes, belt, watch, empty our pockets etc… We got through the other scanner, grabbed out things and ran to the gate.  There stood the Southwest Airlines woman (with the snotty attitude) who informed us that we missed our flight.  The next flight to Sacramento departed at 8:30 a.m.  Patty looked at me with a frustrated expression and said: “Oh man… we could have slept in another two hours!”

We made the 8:30 a.m. flight and landed in Sacramento a little before 10:00 a.m.  I joked with Patty that I learned if you send your bags on the flight before your scheduled flight, there’s no wait when you arrive at your destination.  You just walk over to the baggage claim area, pick up your bags and leave!  Too easy!   Sacramento was cold, cloudy and appeared ready to rain.  We rented a 4 wheel drive Chevy Tahoe since we were going to snow country and were on the road by 10:30.

Our first stop was in Placerville at the El Dorado County Department of Child Support Services.  This is the office that Patty retired from in February 2010.  She hasn’t seen these people since she left.  We arrived around 11:30.  Patty was so excited to see everyone!  We walked through the security door.  People heard Patty’s voice and immediately came to the front of the office and showered her with love, hugs and tears!  It was so obvious to me how much these people truly care about her!  I know a lot of women in this office and also got my share of hugs.  I had a number of thank you’s for keeping them informed on Patty’s progress through this blog.  (That made me feel good!)  Patty and I stayed about an hour.  We got into the car for our drive up to Lake Tahoe.  Patty looked at me and said: “I’ve really missed those people!  I just love each one of them!”

We arrived in Tahoe about an hour later.  It had been really stormy and snowy up there for the week earlier and we had hoped the roads would be drivable.  We lucked out and had clear roads all the way.  We stopped by the Tahoe Child Support Branch Office.  Some of the staff had changed since Patty left and others whom she wanted to see were off that afternoon, but we had a really nice visit with Donna who was holding down the fort that afternoon.  We visited about a half hour.  Next stop was by my previous employer, Heavenly Mountain Resort.  It was funny, driving up the road to Heavenly made me feel like I had never left.  It was all too familiar and natural for me.  We dropped in on my old boss, Casey, and his office manager, Audrey.  Casey was on the phone when we barged in and the look on Audrey’s face was priceless when she saw the two of us.  I said: “Damn, if you don’t keep this door locked anyone can just walk in!”  Casey heard my voice, and I could hear him stumble his words on the phone.  We visited with the two of them for about a half hour.  We then went to another area of the resort where I found a close friend of mine, Curtis.  We visited for about half hour with him.  Unfortunately my other close friend from Heavenly, Mark, was off that day so I didn’t get to see him.

After visiting with our previous co-workers, Patty and I realized that we really miss a lot of those people.  You know, you spend 8 hours a day with them, 5 days a week!  That’s a lot of time, especially when you’ve done that for 8 to 10 years.  These people are very special to you.  Speaking with Curtis was like I had just spoken with him the day before.  Nothing had changed.

We’ve made an open invitation to any of these people to look us up if they ever make it to San Diego.  (Remember, we’re moving out of our 708 square foot condo in two weeks!  We’ll have the room for guests!)

Sometime emotions catch you when you least expect it!

I know… I know… it’s been a couple of weeks since I’ve blogged.  I know I said I’d keep this up, so I’ll try to do better. I promise!

 Last Thursday, Patty and I had the privilege of being the guest speakers for the National City American Cancer Society Relay for Life Kickoff!  The plan was that Patty would speak first about her experience then I would follow with speaking about the “husband’s perspective.”   

 I have about a half hour drive to and from work each way.  This is my “thinking” time.  So about a week before this event I gave a lot of thought about what I would say and ran it though my head until I felt comfortable.  Patty, on the other hand, is busy with Avery during the day and is pretty exhausted by the end of the day.  She had somewhat of an idea what she would talk about and the morning of the event she took some time to put her thoughts on paper.  

 Patty is so funny.  She is a great public speaker and you’d think it just came naturally to her.  That is anything but the truth.  She’s a nervous wreck!  I got home from work that Thursday afternoon around 3 p.m.  Patty was sitting on the couch holding Avery.  I can read her like a book!  I could just feel the tension in anticipation of speaking radiating from her.  She said she had written her talk down and would most likely end up reading it at the event.  (Again… I know her, she’ll start by reading but end up freelancing without notes.)  

 We got to the event early, about an hour early to be exact!  It was at a restaurant so we had time to have some dinner.  Little did we know that they were serving dinner at the event!  It’s ok… it kept Patty busy and her mind somewhat off public speaking.  The event started at approximately 6:30 p.m.  The Chairman of the Relay started things off followed by the Mayor of National City who said a few words.  Then they announced  “Patty Sousek and her husband, Ed, are going to speak about their experience with cancer.”  People clapped as Patty held her speaking notes in a sweaty death grip and we made our way to the podium.  Patty talked first.  She placed her now crumpled notes on the podium and started things off.  She did really well. Her voice never quivered and she was just the Patty we all know and love.   As I knew… she started by reading her notes word for word then shortly thereafter, she used her notes to just trigger talking points.  It was very heartfelt!  I stood behind her with complete pride!  They had told us to keep our talk short and Patty finished easily under 5 minutes.  Then came my turn.  I’ve done a lot of public speaking over the years and I do a lot of public speaking in my current job, so getting in front of a crowd doesn’t intimidate me in the least.  In fact, those of you who know me, know that I just love being the center of attention.  I had a pretty good outline in my head of what I wanted to cover and I was confident I could do this from my heart.  I started my talk.  Things were going well for the first minute or so, then it happened!  I was starting to say: “Then came June 22nd… a day I’ll never forget, the day Patty was officially diagnosed with cancer.”  About three-quarters of the way through that sentence, I was engulfed with emotion like a title wave!  I had to stop because I knew what was to follow!  TEARS!!!  I thought to myself: “Ok Ed… get a grip!”  I stopped speaking and hung on!  You could hear a pin drop at this moment!  Within maybe 10 seconds I could feel the emotions passing!  I thought “Phew… I dodged a bullet on that one!”  At least I got through it and didn’t act like a blubbering fool!  So I continued with that sentence about June 22nd.  Immediately that damned wave of emotions hit me again!  “Ok Ed… What’s going on here?”  I had to stop again… I closed my eyes for a second and did a quick prayer in my head…. “God… help me get a grip!”  I looked up at the silent crowd staring at me… I said: “Wow… I don’t know where this is coming from!” and continued with my talk.  My talk lasted, with those two interruptions, about 10 minutes. 

Those two waves of emotions really caught me by surprise!  I’ve never spoke in public about something so personal as this.  It was almost like reliving the day when Patty got the official word that she had breast cancer.  That was a pretty painful day for both of us. 

We plan on speaking in public about our story whenever asked.  This little bump of mine won’t hold me back.  I think I’ll be a little more mentally prepared, but then again, people knowing I was close to tears, showed just how this impacts your life.  I couldn’t have scripted it any better!

We got home that evening around 8:00 p.m. and got busy packing for our trip up to Placerville and Lake Tahoe for the weekend.  That’ll be my next blog.

Public speaking!

Patty received a phone call from a woman last night representing the American Cancer Society Relay for Life.  If you remember from an earlier blog, Patty is the featured speaker at their Kickoff Night in two weeks.  The woman called to get a feel for Patty and what she was going to talk about.  The woman said they’ve had speakers in the past who have offered to speak then realized once in front of everyone, speaking about something as traumatic as their experience with breast cancer wasn’t an easy task.  Patty had address a group of people back in August of last year, just two weeks after her mastectomy, and did an amazing job.  Patty  is a very confident woman and that confidence exudes from her when she does any kind of public speaking.   It took the woman no time at all to realize Patty would do a great job.

Patty is one who cannot sit still when she talks on the phone.  She’ll wander randomly throughout the house while gabbing away!  My son, Steven, and I used to get a kick when Patty was on the phone and would sometimes bet on how many laps she could do throughout the house before she hung up.  That trait of hers hasn’t ended.  Patty was all over our little condo last night.  I could overhear her conversation with the woman and at one point I heard her say “My husband is a great public speaker… he’d love to!”  I was in the living room thinking “Oh God, what has she gotten me into now!”  Patty continued: “Oh you’ll love him!  He was my rock!”  Now I knew exactly what she had done!  And she had done it without even asking me!!!  She got off the phone shortly thereafter, came back into the living room and said:  “Okay… it’s all set.  You’re speaking right after me!”  She was so proud of herself!  I said:  “Thanks for checking with me first!”  She replied: “Oh come on… you’re  a great public speaker!  You know you want to!”  Okay… she was right.  I’ve always loved being the center of attention!

So on Thursday night, March 24th, Patty and I are going to give this group the “One/Two punch!”  It should be fun.  I think the two of us could really make an impact.  Maybe this is the start of a new career!  Wish us luck!

National City “Relay for Life”

Patty and I attended the National City Relay for Life this past Saturday.  A 24 hour benefit walk for the American Cancer Society.  A friend of mine, who’s mother is a 14 year breast cancer survivor, asked me a couple of weeks ago if Patty would speak at this event and share her experience.  It was funny, when I asked Patty if she would be interested in speaking, she didn’t hesitate in the least.  She immediately answered “absolutely!”  Later she told me: “If I can touch and help even one person, it’s worth it!”  Knowing how much Patty loves public speaking, I was surprised with her quick response!  (I hope you know that I’m being very sarcastic with that comment!) 

We arrived shortly before the opening ceremony which started at 10:00 a.m.  We met up with my friend and her family.  This girl has a huge family.  When I say huge, I mean huge.  Her mother, the 14 year cancer survivor, has something like 12 sisters and 4 or 5 brothers, so when you add in children, cousins, nephews etc, it’s a huge family.  Most of whom were present.  This is a very loving and close family who has been affected by some form of cancer many times over.  Some have survived, but sadly, many have not. 

The opening ceremony was very moving!  A lot of tears shed by many people.  There were several cancer survivors who spoke, telling their story.  It was very inspiring!  From the beginning, I felt this was something that Patty needed to experience, but actually being there and listening to these people speak, I knew it would help Patty.  The opening ceremony ended and the walk began.  The survivors lead the walk, followed by hundreds of people all with a common cause… fellowship, support and encouragement.  (Of course it was also to raise money for cancer research)  It was really a sight to be seen!

This was really quite the event!  Every “team” had a booth set up.  The air was filled with the aroma of  every kind of barbecue you could imagine!  Believe me, there was no shortage of food.  Some families had decorated their booths with posters and photographs of love ones who have lost their lives to cancer.  Other’s had items to raffle, such as Charger season tickets, Coach purses, gift baskets etc, all to raise money for the cause.  Last year this group raised over $82,000 for American Cancer Society!  Their goal was to beat that number this year!

Patty was scheduled to speak at 2:45 that afternoon.  She had given some thought to what she would say earlier in the week, but the juices just weren’t flowing for her.  I think it was Thursday afternoon and she told me: “Ed… I’m just cancered out!  I can’t think about it anymore!”  I didn’t blame her!  We were both pretty much “done” with cancer!  She decided she wouldn’t think about it until sometime that afternoon, then she’d throw something together.  Well as the morning went on and knowing my wife as I do, I could tell she was getting a little tense that she was not prepared to speak in a few hours.  So around 1:00 p.m. we walked off and found a picnic table off to the side so she could gather some thoughts.  It took her about 45 minutes and she had a rough draft on paper.  She read it to me and it was definitely from the heart and very touching. 

My daughter and her husband showed up to the event shortly after 2:00 p.m. to lend Patty their support.  Patty was very appreciative of them being there.  But, the clock was ticking and 2:45 was getting closer… I could see Patty having a little internal stress party going on!  The time finally came and a woman on the stage called Patty’s name and asked her to come up.  Patty walked on stage with me closely behind for support.  (Patty was really concerned that she’d break down crying so we had agreed several days earlier that I’d go up on stage with her and if she couldn’t finish, I’d take over for her.  We’re such a team!)  The woman introduced Patty, handed her the microphone and it was “show time”! 

Patty had her notes in her hand but started off  “shooting from the hip,” not following her notes at all.  I was behind her thinking “Where is she going with this???”  She told the audience about her cancer.  How she was initially mis-diagnosed.  She told the audience to be strong and if you’re not happy with your doctor… find someone else!  It’s ok!  The audience applauded her!  She then talked about the three “F’s”, Faith, Family and Friends!  She told the audience how much God has played a role in our lives!  People again applauded!  She was now on a roll!

Here’s Patty telling the audience that she has such a great husband!  (Go figure!)

She talked over 10 minutes.  In her closing she told the audience with such conviction:  “I may have breast cancer, but I refuse to let the cancer have me!!!  I have grandchildren that will be born in the next few months and I plan on being around to see them grow up!!!”  It was awesome!  People again applauded!  At that moment, I was the proudest husband on the face of the earth!  My wife is going through such a devastating trial right now, but she was so strong and encouraging to others!  I was just so proud!

We walked off the stage and Patty was immediately contacted by a woman.  The woman told her that she was diagnosed last October with breast cancer, she had gone through the chemo and had seven radiation treatments left!  The woman was beautiful!  You wouldn’t never know what she had been through!  Her daughter was with her who I’d guess was 18 years old or so.  The woman told us that her daughter had taken a year off from college to take care of her.  Talking to this woman was very encouraging.  We definitely had a moment!  Other women came up to Patty, gave her hugs and thanked her for telling her story. 

Patty was so pumped up after speaking.  I haven’t seen her feel that good about herself and life in general in a long time!  As much as she hates public speaking, this was a moment we’ll never forget. 

We had been at the event pretty much the entire day and I could see Patty was getting tired.  We said our “goodbyes” to everyone and left.  As we drove home I could tell that Patty was still running off of adrenalin.  She looked at me and said: “I want to speak to more women.  I think I can help them!” 

Get ready… Patty can make a difference to others!

What? My Wife has breast cancer???

I wish I would have thought of blogging a couple of months ago, but I don’t really know much about how this works.  We have so many people asking how Patty is doing, I thought I’d give blogging a shot.  Don’t get me wrong, Patty LOVES getting the phone calls, email, cards and flowers, but I just thought if anyone was curious how our “ride” is going, this would be an easy place to get up to speed.   (but again, please don’t stop calling, emailing, sending cards or flowers!) 

To get started, I want you to know what a devastating disease breast cancer is.  Anyone is susceptible to this monster, both women as well as men!  Breast cancer doesn’t care about your race, your age, your religion, your diet, your hair color, your yearly income, your weight or even how much  you exercise.  It even doesn’t matter if you do or don’t have a history of breast cancer in your family… everyone is susceptible to it.  The American Cancer Society’s most recent estimates for breast cancer in the United States  for the year 2010:

  • About 207,090 new cases of invasive breast cancer in women
  • About 54,010 new cases of carcinoma in situ (CIS) will be found (CIS is non-invasive and is the earliest form of breast cancer).
  • About 39,840 deaths from breast cancer (women)

Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in the United States, other than skin cancer.  The chance of a woman having invasive breast cancer sometime during her life is a little less 1 in 8!   The chance of dying from breast cancer is about 1 in 35. Breast cancer death rates have been going down. This is most likely the result of finding the cancer earlier and better treatment. Right now there are more than 2½ million breast cancer survivors in the United States!!!

I apologize for this first post being so long but to get  you up to speed, I need to digress a couple of months…  

 Back in late April of this year, Patty woke up on a Saturday morning and mentioned to me that her left breast was really sore.  She said: “here, feel this…” pointing to an area on her breast.  Never one to turn down an offer to feel her breast, I gladly obliged.  I felt it and there was definitely a hard lump just under her nipple.  She said it was pretty painful.  I told her that she needed the doctor to take a look at it and the fortunate thing was that she already had an appointment scheduled that following week for an unrelated check-up.  That next week came around and she brought up the “lump” with the doctor who scheduled an ultra-sound for either the following week or the week after that.  (see, this is where I wish I would have started doing this a couple of months ago.)  Anyway, she eventually had the ultra-sound.  I remember coming home from work that evening.  She said she had the ultra-sound but was really concerned by the reaction of the tech doing the test.  She said when the test was completed the “tech” came out and had a very concerned, but caring, look on her face.”  Patty told me “I know that look!  I think I have breast cancer!”  I immediately thought that couldn’t be.  She has no history of cancer in her family and Patty is as healthy as they come!  Come-on, she Jazzercises at least 4 times a week walks often.  I was sure that she was overacting but, in the back of my mind I just prayed that she was wrong!  Now here’s the part that really bugs me (but I won’t dwell on it).  The radiology department at the hospital scheduled her for a biopsy of the suspicious “lump” in her breast, but unfortunately it wasn’t scheduled for another 30 days away!!!  That’s crazy!  We tried getting something earlier but were told that the person who conducts the biopsy only works “part-time” and this was the earliest date we could get!  We asked that if they have any cancellations to please let us know.  Well, let me tell you, that 30 days may as well have been 30 years as the days and hours during that time just dragged by.  It was pretty hard to really enjoy anything during that time as this, as we called it, “black cloud”, was hanging over our heads!  Now we’ll go forward 30 days.  Patty went to her biopsy as scheduled.  June 22, 2010 (I’ll never forget that date!) at about 4:45 p.m. the phone rang.  Patty answered the phone.  Even though I could only hear one side of the conversation, I could see by the look on her face that the contents of the conversation was not good.  She hung up, looked at me and said: “I have breast cancer!”  She started crying, which I’ve learned, there will be a lot of tears in the days to come!  Patty told me that was the doctor’s nurse on the phone.  The nurse didn’t have a lot of information other than the “lump” was malignant and it was a Grade III cancer.  I asked what a “Grade III” meant and she said the nurse didn’t say!  Of course we immediately ran to the internet (which I’ll comment about later) to reasearch a Grade III tumor.  The news wasn’t good as it appears that you have “stages” of cancer as well as a “grade” of cancer.  The “grade” relates to the aggressiveness of the tumor going from a grade I to a grade III.  III being the most aggressive.  The next step was to go back to the doctor and have him make sense of all of this news.  An appointment was set for the following week.  In the meanwhile, our 16th wedding anniversary was that Friday, June 25th.  We had made plans a couple of months before to take a drive to Cambria, CA., and go wine tasting in nearby Paso Robles that weekend.  We almost canceled that trip, but I thought it would be a good idea to go and get our minds off of what was going on.  We had moments where we had fun, but overall that darned “black cloud” was always present.

We met with our family doctor.  He was pleasant and took the time to discuss Patty’s diagnosis.  He referred us to a surgeon to discuss our options going forward.  Hard to recall, but I think the appointment with him was the following week.  Anyway, we met with the surgeon who examined Patty.  He told us that a lumpectomy was not an option due to the location of the tumor.  He said he have to remove the breast (mastectomy) and suggested we meet with a reconstruction surgeon to start the reconstructive process at the time of surgery.  He also suggested that Patty have a double mastectomy so the reconstruction surgeon could easily match both breasts!  (sounds pretty crazy!)  Our appointment ended and he ordered a  PET Scan for early the following week.  He also referred us to a local reconstruction surgeon. 

Patty tried scheduling an appointment with the reconstruction surgeon but was told the earliest she could be seen was two weeks away!  We have already spent since the end of April worrying about this “lump” and waited 30 days for the biopsy as this darned “thing” kept growing inside her.  We just wanted that cancer out of Patty so we could fight this sucker and get our life back to normal.  (We’ve since learned that there will NEVER be a “life back to normal” as we used to know it!)  Without dragging this blog on and on, I’ll just say that as a result, we called the general surgeon and requested that he just perform the mastectomy, get the cancer out of her and we’ll deal with the reconstruction at a later time.  The surgeon was very angry and rude to Patty on the phone and literally hung up on her!  Obviously I wanted to go down to his office and perform a little of my own surgery on him, but being the  responsible adult that I am, that unfortunately wasn’t an option. 

Patty and I were both pretty despondent.  Patty was scared to death and I tried to keep my fears away from her, but she knows me all too well!  Then… God stepped into our lives!  Literally!  Patty called me the following day at work and said she had looked around and wanted to change doctors.  She told me that Scripps Torrey Pines had a whole pavilion that dealt with nothing but breast cancer.  We made a few phone calls to our insurance company and the next thing you know… Patty was a patient at Scripps Torrey Pines with an appointment two days off… July 2nd!  (another date I’ll NEVER forget!) 

Patty and I were both very excited about the change in doctors and were really looking forward to her appointments in the next couple of days!  The 4th of July weekend was almost upon us also and we were looking forward to spending the weekend at her sister Kathy’s house in Prescott, Arizona.  Patty’s son, Nate,  his wife and daughter (our granddaughter), her father and sister were also going to be there that weekend.  That Friday morning we packed up the car and decided we’d go to her appointments then blast off to Prescott from there.   The first appointment was with the Radiation Oncologist.  We met with her, a young woman I’d guess in her early to mid 30’s who had just finished her residency.  She thoroughly examined Patty.  She asked what tests the other doctor has ordered and Patty told her about the PET Scan.  Patty also told her that she had the PET Scan on Tuesday of that week however she had not received the results of that test.  The doctor’s nurse said she’d try to track them down.  We went into the oncologist’s office where she wanted to discuss her role in Patty’s treatment.  We spoke for a few moments and the discussion was very optimistic… maybe no chemo or radiation?  Maybe no mastectomy?  She also guessed that Patty was in a Stage I cancer!!!  This was great news!  There was a knock at her office door and it was her nurse.  She asked that she (the doctor) step out of the room for a moment.  Now, Patty said she knew what was about to come, but I was still too optimistic about the discussion with the doctor to pick up on anything.  Then here came the bombshell from left field that knocked me flat… The oncologist came back into the room.  She didn’t have the smile on her face like she did when she left the room!  She held a report in her hand, sat down at her desk, then moved in close to Patty.  She took Patty’s hand and said: “Patty I have the  PET Scan results… It’s not good news!  The cancer has metastasized to your chest wall.  I’m so sorry.  It’s incurable.  We can’t perform surgery!”  Patty really didn’t react, at least on the outside.  Me, on the other hand… you could have knocked me over with a feather!  “Incurable???  What the heck does that mean???”  My mind raced with thoughts that I never imagined ever having!  I just felt sick.  Believe me when I say this, having been in law enforcement for nearly 25 years, I’ve seen pretty much everything, done pretty much everything and experience pretty much everything.  I was not prepared, nor have I ever experienced, the range of emotions that I felt at that moment!!!  The doctor was very empathetic with both of us.  Patty didn’t cry a teardrop, while I did everything I could to fight them back.  Everything was somewhat of a blur for the next couple of hours, but I do recall the doctor telling us that even though the PET Scan showed that the cancer had metastasized, it still had to be proven.  It wasn’t a done deal yet.  (even though in our eyes, it seemed like a done deal!)  We then went to another office and met with the Surgeon’s Nurse Practitioner.  What an amazing woman!!!  She conducted a quick exam but since surgery at this point was out of the question, it was very brief, however, this woman exuded confidence when she spoke to Patty.  Just before we left her office, she took Patty’s hand and looked her straight in the eye and said: “Patty, I’ve been in this business a long time.  I’ve seen tests like this not be true.  They have to prove to me that it spread.  I won’t believe it until they prove it!  I’ve seen this too many times and I’m not convinced!”  She kept looking at Patty in the eye as if saying “You need to believe me!”  She then gave Patty a hug and we left.  We were out in the lobby and I told Patty that we were still going to Prescott to be with the family this weekend.  She agreed.

The six-hour drive to Prescott, Arizona, was a long long long quiet drive.  I couldn’t talk without wanting to break down. ( Now remember, my role in all of this was to be as supportive to Patty as I could (and can) and be strong for her. )  Patty received a couple of phone calls during our drive, one from her Nurse Advocate at Scripps who had just heard the news and another from her daughter, Nicole, who wanted to know how her appointments went.  I don’t know how Patty did it, but she told Nicole the devastating news and was as strong as anyone could be.  Poor Nicole was a wreck, but Patty didn’t shed a tear.  Not one.  If it was me, I know I would not have been able to do it.  She then called her son, Nate, and told him the news.  She also said she wanted to talk about the diagnosis now and not dwell on it over the weekend.

We finally made it to Kathy’s house.  I knew once we walked in, that this was the best place for Patty to be, with family.  Come on, can anyone be more supportive than family?  The weekend was fun and yes, the black cloud was there, but it being 4th of July weekend kept us busy.  Also, when Nate and his family got there, our granddaughter, Mia, kept Grandma Patty really busy.  Patty and Mia have a very special bond.  It’s really fun to see the two of them together.

We did learn that weekend that bedtime for Patty is a very bad time.  Darkness of night is not good.  This is when her fears set in.  She was, and still is, terrified!  Facing death is something that none of us will understand until it’s you facing it.  I can only imagine how it must feel, but I’m sure for Patty it was what I was feeling times 1000!   I felt so bad because I couldn’t fix this one!  All I could do was hold on to her and try to give her as much comfort as I could. 

Well, we made it through the weekend and the next 12 days were filled with more appointments, more blood tests, chest x-rays and a CT Scan.  We met with more incredible doctors all of whom are very experienced in their field!  The final appointment was on Monday, July 12th, with a pulmonary specialist.  A very gentle older man, somewhere in his late 60’s.  He conducted his exam and told us that looking at all the test results it didn’t make any sense that the cancer could have metastasized to her chest wall.  He said “Cancer doesn’t spread that way!”  (by the way, this was the common theme of ALL the doctors who examined Patty)  But, the telling tale would come in the next couple of days as Patty had a CT Scan scheduled the following afternoon.  The doctor asked that Patty call him on Wednesday morning and he’d have  the results of the scan.  She went through the CT Scan procedure as scheduled.

It was Wednesday, July 14th, another day I’ll never forget!  Knowing that the doctor asked patty to call that morning, I got home around 10:30.  Patty was at her Jazzercise class and got home shortly after me.  I asked her to call but she was being a little stubborn and wanted to clean up first.  (ARGH… women!)  It was just after 11 a.m. and I finally convinced Patty to call.  Just before she called, I took her hands and prayed out loud with her that the news be good.  (I’ll talk about the Power or Prayer in another posting)  We were both very nervous about what news we’d get, but Patty reluctantly made the call.  She was on the phone for about a minute then hung up.  She looked at me and said: “The doctor is out of the office this morning and won’t be back until later today.”  WHAT????  He can’t do that!!!  Well, I guess “It is what it is!”  Patty said there was no way she could hang out at home waiting for his call and suggested (no, actually she told me) we go somewhere for lunch.  Next stop Solana Beach!  We talked as we drove.  At one point Patty told me that she prayed that morning that the doctor just call and leave a message on our recorder.  His message would not be one saying: “Patty this is the doctor, I have the results of the CT Scan, please call me.”  Her prayer was that his message would be: “Patty, this is the doctor.  I have great news!  The CT Scan came back negative.  The cancer did not spread!” 

We ended up at a restaurant on the beach.  What a gorgeous place and a gorgeous day.  It was warm and not a cloud in the sky!  We ate lunch and Patty had a couple glasses of wine while I had a couple beers.  I called our house to check messages at least every 15 minutes but nothing!  We finished lunch around 1:15 p.m. and as we were leaving the restaurant, Patty said she couldn’t home just yet.  Not until we learn of her fate.  We walked next door to another beach front restaurant who had a really awesome outside deck.  We sat on the deck with at least another 20 people and ordered another glass of wine and a beer.  I kept checking messages… nothing!  Then I checked messages around 1:45.   Believe it or not… there was a message!  And, it was a message from the doctor!!!  Patty was talking about something unrelated as I tried listening to the message.  I don’t even think she was aware that I was listening to a message.  The message said: ” “Patty, this is the doctor.  I have great news!  The CT Scan came back negative.  The cancer did not spread!  We’re going to treat you for cure!!!”  This was the exact message Patty had prayed for!  I looked at Patty and excitedly said: “Patty, it the doctor, the cancer didn’t spread!  She looked at me with her big blue eyes and as asked: “What???”  I said: “It’s the doctor… the cancer did not spread!”  Patty let out scream that was like no other!  She hugged me tightly and began to cry tears of happiness!  People around us starred wondering what this whacked out woman was doing!  She even stood up and did her “happy dance” all the while crying tears of joy.  At one point she exclaimed: “I only have breast cancer!”  A woman sitting at the table responded “Oh, I’m so sorry.”  I never thought we’d say this, but we responded: “No… don’t be sorry, its onlybreast cancer!  It didn’t spread!  That’s a good thing!”  Another woman actually came to our table and congratulated Patty for only having breast cancer!  Patty then spent the next 30 minutes calling everyone she knew to tell them the good news!  When we left the restaurant Patty bolted out to the beach thanking God for this little, but for us monumental, miracle!  She’s being “treated for cure!!!”