Distractions are golden!

Patty and I have been spinning the past few days over this latest turn of events.  As I’ve been saying, Patty’s frustration level has pretty much max’d.  I’ve been frustrated but I’ve also been at my wit’s end over a number of things.

Going back a couple of days… This past Monday, Patty called me when she learned that she was scheduled for a sonogram the following day.  Needless to say she was somewhat upset.  I zipped home to talk with her and reassure her that things were going to be ok.  We talked for a short time then Patty suggested we take a walk.  (As you know she’s starting to train for the Komen walk in November.)   That particular day was very hot with the temperature at our house hovering around 101 degrees!  She suggested we go down to the beach where the temps should be cooler.  As we drove to the beach, which is about a 15 minute drive from our house, Patty suggested that we take the walk  from Torrey Pines State Beach to La Jolla.  She said her sister had made this walk many times and really liked it.  Hey… Sounded good to me!

We were fortunate to find a parking place at the beach and maybe it being a Monday afternoon worked in our favor.  I got out of the car and realized the temperature was in the mid 70’s, so much nicer than inland at our house!  In fact, it was slightly overcast!  Perfect walking weather.  Patty wanted to get in a good six miles, which is in the neighborhood of a 90 minute walk.  We decided we’d walk south on the beach for 45 minutes then turn around and walk 45 minutes back to our car.  The beach wasn’t crowded at all.  We enjoyed watching people in the water, kids making sand castles and the hang gliders floating over Torrey Pines.  We were a good 30 minutes into our walk in an area that was somewhat secluded.  We could see people off in the distance ahead of us.  Suddenly Patty motions towards a man probably 50 yards ahead of us and asked: “Is that man naked?”  I looked and not wearing my glasses responded: “No… I think he’s just wearing a loose sweater!”   Patty looked at me like I was crazy.  We continued our walk.  As we got closer to the man, my eyes were able to focus better…. Yep!  He was naked!  He was walking around and in-between some fairly large boulders.  He wasn’t bothering anyone so we just walked by keeping our eyes forward.  We walked a few more yards and saw a man standing in the ocean in about a foot of water with an easel in front of him painting a seascape… naked!  Ok… he wore a baseball cap and a tank top, but other than that… naked!  Suddenly we were swarmed with nakedness from every angle!  It then dawned on me that we were at the infamous Blacks Beach, one of San Diego’s few nude beaches!  How this happened… I’ll never know!  I looked at my watch and we were now 35 minutes into our walk.  We still had another ten minutes to go until we could turn around.  No big… nudists don’t bother me nor Patty… we’ll just continue on our walk to the half way point, another ten minutes away.  And we did!  At one point I joked like I was taking off my shorts.  The expression on Patty’s face was priceless.  I did make an interesting observation during this 10 minute walk… there were probably fifty to sixty naked men in this stretch of beach and not one woman!  There were big naked men, short naked men, naked fat men, naked skinny men, naked hairy men, naked young men, naked old men, naked tan men, naked white men, naked black men, naked men with long hair, naked bald men,  naked men with tattoos… but not one woman!  What’s up with that?  We finally got to the 45 minute mark of our walk and… we had the privilege of turning around and going through the naked mine field again!

We finished our 90 minute walk and returned to our car.  We had a good laugh about the whole experience.

I learned something that afternoon… I now know what to do with Patty if she’s having a bad day!   If a good laugh at Blacks Beach doesn’t get her mind off things, nothing will!

Quick update…

I went to the hospital around 8 a.m. this morning.  As I approached Patty’s room I could hear Patty’s distinctive laugh.  I walked into her room and one would think there was a slumber party going on!  Patty and her roommate,Deborah, were both sitting up in their beds laughing about something.  They both had their breakfast trays in front of them were acting like long time friends.  It was pretty cute.

Patty is doing amazingly well!  She looks like she could come home today.  They’ve removed all the tubes etc from her and she was going to go for a walk around the hall later today.  Honestly, I’m shocked how well she’s doing!

The reconstruction surgeon came in this morning while I was there.  She took a look at her work and said everything has started healing perfectly!  Isn’t the power of prayer amazing!  This is exactly what Patty and I (and others) have been praying for  the past couple of weeks and God has listened!  We did get to take a peek at the newest addition to her body and it looks great!!!

So… the update is that Patty is recovering better than I (and she) expected!  We couldn’t be happier!

Reconstruction surgery…

"Grandma Patty" and Mia being silly in their 4th of July schwag!

Tomorrow starts the next phase in Patty’s treatment… reconstruction surgery.

The surgery is a pretty big procedure but Patty’s ready to take it on!  Sure she’s a little nervous about the surgery.  Who wouldn’t be.  But, as she told me the other day, this surgery is different.  Her concern with other surgeries over the past year was that the surgeon would find more cancer.  Thank the Lord that wasn’t the case.  This surgery is all about breast reconstruction.  No snooping around looking for cancer.  Just reconstruction.

We’ve met with the reconstruction surgeon several times over the past two months.  She’s great!  From what everyone in the medical field has told us, she’s the best.  There’s a lot of people in the medical field who have a lot of confidence in her.  One person even told us that initially she performed a number of plastic surgeries for various reasons, but has now completely focused her practice on breast reconstruction.  Nothing else.

Without getting into details of the surgery, the best I can tell you is that its called Latissimus Flap Breast Reconstruction.  (If you really want to know the details of the surgery, do a Google search)  Since they’ll be working on both breasts, the surgeon estimates the procedure will take about six hours.  Patty will be in the hospital for a minimum of three nights so they can keep an eye on any possible infection.  Hopefully infection won’t be the case and she can come home with the three night minimum.

So… tomorrow morning we’ll be getting up around 4 a.m.  She needs to be at the Scripps Green Hospital in Torrey Pines by 5:30 a.m. and the surgery is scheduled for 7:00 a.m.  It’s going to be a long day.  If you happen to be in the neighborhood, stop by, I’ll be in the waiting room!  If not… I’ll get something posted on here as soon as I can.

Send  your prayers in Patty’s direction!

“Adventures in Chemo… The bathroom chronicles”

Chemo #5 has reared its ugly head and this bad boy has come on with a vengeance!  Patty did really well yesterday at Nicole’s house.  We got there around 2 p.m. and it was a houseful!  As much as Patty wanted to be up and mingling, I was being the party pooper and made her sit on the couch to visit.  (Hey, I know her… she’ll push her limits.  Someone has to keep an eye on her!)  We had a wonderful dinner with everyone around 5 p.m. and by 6, it was time to go home.  Patty was the one who actually realized she needed to go.  Patty plopped on the couch when we got home and she was asleep within minutes.  She got up and was in bed by 7. 

She slept good all night and woke up around 10 a.m.  A good 15 hours night sleep!  She tried to force herself to do some things this morning (when she thought I wasn’t looking)  but she just didn’t have it in her.  I was in the front of the house and realized I hadn’t heard her in a while.  I went to the bedroom and found her sound  asleep.   I heard her get up around 1 o’clock and go into the “notorious bathroom.”  I didn’t think much of it, but after a few minutes I realized she didn’t come out!  Guess what?  “Adventures in Chemo” were back.  Of course the door was closed.  I knocked on the door to which I got no response.  I tried to open the door but guess who was propped against it… deja vu!  Here we go again!  Long story short… I was able to get in and get her back to bed. 

As a result of “Adventures in Chemo… The bathroom chronicles” I’ve now removed the door!  If she won’t listen, then I’ll just take matters into my own hands.  The door will stay off until I’m comfortable that she’s getting stronger.  This will most likely only take a couple of days.  So, if you stop by, please go before you get here, or hopefully you’re not modest!

*** I’m writing the below about two hours after this post ***

Patty just discovered the bathroom door is missing!  She’s not happy about it, but you know what?  Sometimes we just gotta do what we gotta do!

Sunday, 11/28 – Just to let you know, the bathroom door went back on early yesterday.  Patty seems to have turned the corner, at least for now.  Today she seems great!  But, I realize feeling great can change at any time.

Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure

Today was the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure in San Diego.  Patty had registered herself and I on the website and planned to attend.  However, after the turn of events the last couple of days, plus Patty was is pretty fatigued today, we felt it best to stay home.  My daughter, Kristi, and her friend were going to meet us there as well as Patty’s sister, Dottie.  A few friends from work were also going.  They all went to represent  and support Patty. 

We watched part of the event on TV which was pretty moving.  There were over 18,000 people in attendance which is an incredible turnout!  Patty’s sister Dottie was funny… she emailed us pictures to us as the event progressed.  It was almost like we were there! 

This is the first email she sent:


Everyone was invited!

Pink was definitely the theme!

Pink everywhere!


The race started.

They’re going through Balboa Park.

Encouragement along the way!

Big hill at the end… looks like a lot of people are getting tired!

They finished!!!

We’re sorry we didn’t make it today as it was an event we’d planned for months!  But the :Adventures in Chemo”  had other plans.  Patty is wearing her “Race” shirt today!  It’s a “survivor” shirt!

We’ve already decided we’re doing it next year!  Patty says she’s going to run it!  Me… we’ll see.

I admire my wife…

Patty truly amazes me every day!  She has a strength about her, both inside and out!  Sometimes I think I know why God chose to give her the cancer and not me.  Plain and simple… I wouldn’t do as well as her.  She’s already been victorious against cancer.  I’m learning that once diagnosed with breast cancer, it’s all about how you chose to walk through this journey.  Patty walks the walk!  She didn’t choose to be afflicted with breast cancer, but she did have a choice of how she would deal and cope with this difficult diagnosis.  She chose to not be filled with angst and bitterness wondering “why me?”  She chose to not be filled with denial, rage or depression.  Patty’s not allowing cancer to dictate who she is or how she’s going to live her life!  She’s faced this journey with courage, love, hope and Faith, the entire time keeping a sense of purpose and doing so with grace and dignity!  I truly admire my wife!!!

I wanted to let you know that Patty is doing really well.  She’s made a quick recovery from the surgery and  it looks like she’s turned the corner from the last chemo infusion and is slowly getting her strength back.  We’ve only got eight weeks to go until her last treatment!  Last night Patty said: “I can do anything for eight weeks!”  And, she can!

I’ve got an idea…

This is me and our granddaughter, Mia, at the pool.

When I started this blog, part of my intent was to document this journey so friends and family could keep up with what’s going on with Patty and me.  The other part was to document this journey in hopes that it could help others who may be in the same situation.  This particular post is intended for other husbands who may have just learned that their wife or girlfriend was diagnosed with breast cancer.

16 years ago I vowed to Patty that I would love, honor and cherish her in “sickness and in health.”  I meant that when I said it and I still mean it.  There has not been one moment I have ever doubted that. 

As the husband of a breast cancer victim you become the first line of defense for your wife.  You need to respond to her every worry, concern, and fear about a disease that would become almost as much yours as it is hers.

I may not have had the suspicious lump in my breast.  I didn’t physically have the surgery and all that would follow.  I’m not the one going through the chemotherapy infusions, the nausea or fatigue.  From the moment Patty told me “I have breast cancer”, I found my (our) life unravel in ways I could have never imagined nor predicted.  In a sense, the husband’s job is a tough one, maybe not as tough as hers, but it definitely has its challenges.  You not only have to make sense of cancer, the good and bad, but at the same time you have to learn how to filter information to keep your wife from falling apart. That is no small job.  I’m not a psychiatrist or psychologist.   I’m not a counselor.  I’ve had no training in the world of breast cancer.  I’ve had no medical training and I’m not a doctor or a nurse.  Bottom line, I’m just a husband who loves his wife very much who is flying by the seat of his pants, and at times, struggling to do what I feel is best for my wife!

When I learned Patty had breast cancer, I wanted to learn as much about the disease as I could.  I thank God for the internet.  I was overwhelmed with information and I took it all in like a sponge.  I will admit, there is a lot of information regarding breast cancer that is not good news, but it’s a reality.  I had to sort through that information and cling onto the hopeful info while also being realistic.  On the other hand, Patty also wanted to know as much as she could about the disease.  As with any other woman in her shoes, her frame of mind was different from mine.  She focused on the negative information which, in turn would frighten her.  Actually “Frighten” isn’t the correct term.  Using the word “terrorize” is more appropriate.  I had to have some strict talks with Patty about researching on the internet and even threatened to put “parental controls” on the computer.  (even though I’m sure she still peeks at the internet!)

This disease is something that totally consumes your life 24 hours a day!  Being a man, I have that “male” mentality…  “I can deal with this… Don’t worry about me, I’m a guy!”  “Guys are strong… Guys eat stress for breakfast!”  I think I’ve done pretty good over the past five months.  I’ve been strong for Patty and tried to be as understanding and emphatic as I can.  I’ve had maybe two days over this time where it was very difficult for me.  Funny, but I can’t put my finger on any specific event that caused me to just want to throw my hands up, but I know I did feel that way.  I feel guilty about that!  As a result, the one good thing is that my relationship with God has become much stronger as he and I have had many discussions where I’ve prayed to him to help me stay strong!  I know he’s in my corner!  I’ve recognized that I need to take care of myself.  Bottom line, I need to take care of myself to be able to properly take care of Patty!  Recognizing this, I decided to join a Breast Cancer Support Group for husbands.  Check this out… there are NO support groups specifically designed to help the husbands of breast cancer patients!  I find that appalling. 

So, guess what.  I started doing some research and leg-work to see what I need to do to start one!  I’m really excited about this.  I may be able to do this or I may not.  But if I’m able to pull this off, it’ll be something that will be really good for me and will help other husbands in my shoes!  Wish me luck.  I’ll keep you posted on how this goes!


Patty and Nicole… Notice the “baby bump!”  She’s due any day now… the tummy is much bigger!




Thank God it’s Friday!  It’s been quite a week.   If someone would have told me six months ago that our life would be so upside-down right now, I’d tell them they were crazy!  Everything was going so well.  Patty retired.   We moved back to San Diego.  I found a great job.  The girls were both pregnant!  Wow… everything was falling into place.  Just when we were settling in and getting comfortable… God noticed and decided to wake us up and give us a challenge!  Challenges are good… keeps you on your toes!  Right? 

Monday was my last post.  In that post I was boasting how well Patty was doing from the last chemo infusion.  Last Saturday she was down for the count with fatigue.  Sunday, she was up and doing great.  But… Monday came here and the fatigue decided Patty wasn’t tired enough so he had his way with her.  She was down again for all of Monday and most of Tuesday.  She started getting her strength back on Wednesday and by the end of Thursday she was tired, but almost back to normal.  She’s been having little bouts with nausea but anti-nausea med’s seem to help quickly.  Today she seems to be doing great. 

Patty had an appointment with the Reconstruction Surgeon this past Tuesday.  He said everything was looking great other than the fact that the incision hasn’t healed 100%.  (it seems to be taking forever!)  The good thing is that he cleared her to start Jazzercise again, but low impact.  She’s ok with that.  But, since the incision isn’t 100% healed, he won’t let her use the pool!  Too bad since this week the weather has been in the mid to high 90’s with high humidity. 

We met with another Radiologist Oncologist yesterday.  He was very very thorough with us.  He used the paper that covers the exam table in the room as his drawing pad and gave us a Cancer 101 crash course!  He explained in layman’s terms everything one needed to know about breast cancer.  From how they find it, ultra-sound it, diagnose it, grade it, stage it, chemo it, radiate it… etc.  The bottom line in this appointment came at the end when he said: “In my opinion, you don’t need radiation therapy!”  That was great news and we’re happy Patty doesn’t need to extend her treatment any more than necessary.  If everything goes according to plan, December 14th will come around with her last chemo infusion then it’s back to healing and taking our lives off hold!  We pray that it stays that way! 

So, since Patty’s feeling pretty good today, and you know Patty, she jumped at the chance to go back to her love, Jazzercise!  She took a low impact class and absolutely loved it.  Everyone was really happy to see her back!  She then flew home, showered and met Nicole at the movies (some chick flick!)  She ran over to Kohl’s after the movie and bought a new pair of jeans (since she’s swimming in all her old jeans because she’s lost so much weight) and came home.

Speaking of weight… Patty’s probably lost about 20+ pounds over this whole ordeal.  She lost weight going through the initial diagnosis phase due to stress and anxiety.  Now she’s losing weight because her “taster” is all out of whack and food doesn’t taste good to her.  You’d think she’d stop losing weight with all the root beer floats and smoothies she’s consuming!  But, nope! 

Overall, the chemo is taking its toll on her, but once we’re at about 10 to 12 days into it following the infusion, she does great.  Her taster should start coming back by Sunday or Monday, then I’m going to do some serious cooking for her!

Friends, Family & Faith


I’m embarrassed to admit this, but breast cancer is something Patty and I never thought we’d be dealing with.  As I’ve said before, there was no history of any kind of cancer on Patty’s side of the family.  We’ve never even known anyone who’se had breast cancer.  Breast cancer was an issue that was very very foreign to us.  Now we’re in the middle of it. 

Learning that Patty was diagnosed with breast cancer was very devastating news and it really took a while for both of us to digest this information.  But once it really sinks in, it hit’s you like a Mike Tyson left hook!  “Wham!  This is real!”  Breast cancer has totally consumed both of us.  You literally live it 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  As much as you try to put it out of your mind, you can’t.  Sometimes you can put it in the back of your mind during the day, but it always finds a way to creep back into the forefront.  It’s the last thing on your mind when you go to bed.  There are times that it maneuvers into your dreams.  It’s the first thing you think of when you wake up.  It completely consumes all your thoughts and your life.  The “unknown” is the worst.  Not having details just eats away you.  Then top that off waiting for the result of the various tests Patty went through really takes it’s toll. 

So how do you get through this?  You have to take it a day at a time.  Sometimes you have to take it an hour at a time.  One very important thing we learned is you have to stay away from the internet!!!  Nothing good comes out of trying to “self-diagnose  by websites!”  The diagnosing should be left to the doctors!  That’s why they went through many years of training, to provide a proper diagnosis.  Upon learning her diagnosis, Patty (I was guilty also) immediately went to the internet to learn as much as she could about her condition.  What she found was nothing but bad news!  There may have been some promising news squeezed in between the bad, but unfortunately she (we) only saw the bad.  As a result, the internet just terrorized her more.  So, no more internet.  I even threatened to put “parental controls” on our computer so she couldn’t conduct any more searches.   Patty is a very smart woman, but facing breast cancer pushed all common sense aside when she was trying to learn as much as she could about her condition.  It turns into an Emotional vs. Intellectual”  battle.  The emotional side generally wins.  She finally realized what she was doing to herself and has promised to stay off the computer.

I just recently read a journal of a woman who was going through what we’re currently facing.  She wrote:  “There is no way I could have been where I am today without the inclusion of these three “F” words:  Faith, Family and Friends”  This is so true! 

Faith!  It doesnt’ matter what religion, all have some form of God.  Patty and I were both raised in the Catholic faith.  We both believe in God but, like many people, we were a “work in progress” when it came to our faith.  Patty and I have been “talking” about returning to church as it’s been one aspect of our life that’s missing, but we just never made the time.  Always had some excuse not to go.  We have a very close friend named Jayne who is very confident with her faith.  (This picture is Patty and Jayne)  Jayne has told us man times: “You’re talking the talk, but you’re not walking the walk!”  That statement finally made sense to us.  So we’ve turned to God for help.  We’ve always believed in the power of prayer and really gave it the test over the past few months.  Now, we’re firm believers!  I can’t tell you how many people have been praying for Patty.  A small prayer group in Scripps Ranch; the congregation at the Maranatha Chapel; two separate congregations in Northern California; friends, family and countless people we’ve never met, to name a few!  Do  you think it was a coincidence that Patty was initially diagnosed with an incurable cancer then further tests proved that the cancer was contained in her breast and curable???  I don’t think so!  We’ve opened our hearts to the Lord and he answers our prayers!

The other two “F’s”, Friends and Family.  I can’t say enough about friends and family!  There has been so much support for Patty.  And, quite honestly, I really appreciate the help.  As much as I try, I can only do so much.  I’ve realized that I’m not Superman (that was a really hard revelation to admit!).  As much as I want, I can’t do it all.  So this is where family and friends come to play.  Patty LOVES getting phone calls, emails, cards and flowers!  Speaking of cards… our fireplace mantle is covered with them!

There’s 44 cards crammed on the mantle that she’s received over the past few weeks!  Patty cries every time she receives a card!  They’re good tears!  And you know what???  Those cards are not coming down!! 

Thank you so much for  your support!!!

She had the surgery!

Look at that girl!  The love of my life!  Who would ever think that something like cancer would have attacked her.  Like I said in an earlier post… breast cancer can pick anyone as their victim!

OK… so, the surgery was scheduled and we counted down the days until it would happen!  I just kept thinking… “She’s being treated for cure!!!”  That sounded so much better than the earlier prognosis!  Patty had a few meltdown’s on the days before the surgery… she’s still terrified and she’s also doing the “what if’s?”  “What if…. it spread?  What if… they find it’s in the lymph nodes?”  Hey, I don’t blam her for thinking about those things.  (OK… I’ll admit, those “what if’s” crossed my minds also!) 

So the day finally came… Thursday, July 29th!  The day the cancer comes out and the cure begins!  Patty slept really well the night before!  I was surprised but she really did.  I was the one who woke up at midnight thinking it was time to get up.  I also woke up at 4 a.m. and layed there in the dark and couldn’t get back to sleep.  So I got up at 4:30 a.m. and started my day.  Patty actually got up around 7 a.m.  We had to be at the hospital at 9 a.m. and surgery was scheduled for 12:30 p.m.

We got to the hospital a little before 9:00 a.m.  They took us into a “pre-op” room shortly thereafter.  The room was really small, but the setup is great.  It’s just a room to hang out in before surgery.  They wanted Patty there early so they could inject some type of radioactive dye into her breast that would allow the surgeon to see exactly where the cancer was located and be assured she got it all out!  (that’s pretty important!)  Patty had the injection around 10 a.m. which took maybe 20 minutes.  She came back in the pre-op room and we just hung out waiting for surgery time.  Nicole (Patty’s daughter) showed up around 10:30 a.m. and helped me kill time and keep Patty busy until surgery time.  I could feel the anxiety in the room watching the clock tick, tick, tick to 12:30.  I know Nicole felt it also but she was a trooper and wanted to keep her mother’s mind off of things so she (who is 7 months pregnant) told us stories about her birthing class and how she was worried about her maternal instincts kicking in!  She had us laughing about  how her gag reflex would most likely kick in when her baby has “ugly/stinky poo!”  Well, it turned out that the surgeon was at another clinic that morning and was running late!  The scheduled 12:30 surgery was more like 1:15!  But we patiently waited.  She showed up a little after 1:00 p.m.  She was just her happy self as usual!  She was just what Patty needed to see.  I could see her anxiety level drop the second the doctor walked in.  So, it was time to go… I gave Patty a kiss and she walked off with the doctor.  Before she left, the surgeon told me that her part of the procedure would take an hour to and hour and a half to complete then the reconstruction surgeon would come in and that would take another hour and a half.  She said she’d meet me in the waiting room.  So I walked over to the waiting area and did what I was supposed to do… wait!  Damn, that seems like all we’ve done is wait.  But what’s another three hours after the last three months?  My sister, her husband and son came to wait with me, so I wasn’t alone.  But when talking to them, my mind was in the surgery room wondering how things were going.  An hour past… no doctor.  An hour and a half passed… still no doctor.  Ok, so my mind was starting to play games with me… a little.  Of course I was making excused in my head why the surgeon wasn’t out yet.  Now two hours had passed… no doctor.  Ok, I’m really starting to freak out.  I’m normally not like that… but this was my wife, my best friend in the surgery room having a mastectomy!  I wasn’t feeling good about this.  I tried having a “normal” conversation with my sister, but looking back right now… I have no idea what I talked to them about.  About two and a half hours into the surgery, the surgeon came walking down the hallway.  She looked at me and apologized for the time but she said she was stuck waiting for the biopsy results.  She said the surgery went great… they did find one lymph node that had, as she said, “a little cancer” in it.  But the one next to it tested negative.   She also said they biopsied 14 other lymph nodes and wouldn’t have the results for at least another 5 days or so.  Whatever the results of the biopsy are just tell them what treatment Patty will need.  She did say she wouldn’t be surprised if Patty will have to go through chemo or radiation or both.  It was kind of a stupid question I asked, but I asked:  “Will Patty be alright?”  She smiled at me and said: “Patty will be fine.”

“Treating for cure” means more doctor appointments!

Things have been moving so fast since the doctors are now “Treating for Cure!”  We met with two more incredible doctors over the past two weeks!  First was with the surgeon who will remove the cancer. 

Patty and I had an appointment with the surgeon on Wednesday, July 21st.  She is the kind of woman that you just feel comfortable with the moment you meet her.  She’s probably around her 40’s but has a bio that’s a mile long.  She has a great bedside manner and had Patty laughing harder than I’ve seen her laugh since this whole nightmare started!  She explained that she could “try” to do a lumpectomy but felt a mastectomy would be best to minimize reoccurrence.  Patty agreed with her suggestion.  She also suggested that we start the breast reconstruction at the same time as the surgery.  The doctor explained that once she removed the breast she would biopsy some of the lymph nodes in her breast which would determine what type of post operative treatment she would need… chemo… radiation… hormone therapy or a combination of treatments.  She said they’ll biopsy two or three lymph nodes and if they come back positive for cancer they’ll keep biopsying them until they find some that are clear.  Once they find the clear ones, they stop.  Hey, she’s the doctor.  At the end of the appointment, she said if everything works out, she could have the surgery by the end of the following week!  She obviously knew the urgency of this situation we were in, which the doctors at the other hospital failed to see!    (Hmmm.. do I sound bitter?)  It was close to noon and she said: “let me see if I can get a hold of the the reconstruction surgeon and see if he can see you.”  She left the room and came back a couple minutes later saying: “he’s just eating his lunch and I told him to put his lunch down and see you.  So he’s waiting for you right now!”  We thanked her and went downstairs to the reconstruction doctors office.  There he was, standing outside in the reception area waiting for us.  He took us in and conducted an exam with Patty.  He then sat us down and explained how the reconstruction procedure would work.  He was very thorough and made us feel very comfortable.  He then introduced us to his office manager who put things in motion for the surgery.  She coordinated both doctors schedules and whamo… a surgery date of July 29th!  We actually had a surgery date!  You don’t know how much we’ve wanted this date!

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!!!”