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!

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.

Sorry for the delay!

Patty and our close friend, Becky, this past weekend.

Over the past 10 months, I’ve read several blogs from other husbands whose wives have been diagnosed with breast cancer.  Each blog had something in common… the moment their wife finished their “treatment phase” the blogs immediately stopped.  I was disappointed when they ended.  I wanted to know more.  More about how they were doing.  What was going on after treatment?  I told myself I wouldn’t do that with my blog.  I would continue after the “treatment” phase.  Now I understand why they stopped.  Once treatment ends, your life changes… dramatically!  It’s the “new normal.”   Things almost get back to the way they used to be.  To blog, it’s almost boring.  It’s just that our life seems like it’s been controlled with a remote… we went so long on the “pause” button and now someone has hit “fast forward X-4!”  It’s like we’re trying to make up for lost time!  So, on that note, I apologize for getting a little relaxed with the blogging.  I’ll do my best to keep this going.  We still have a lot ahead of us.  We’re not through with this just yet.

First and foremost, Patty is doing amazingly well!  I can remember many days when Patty was going through her treatment that I never thought I’d see her to the point where she is today!   She’s one tough woman!  My guess is that she has pretty much 100% of her energy back.  I can’t keep her down!  She watches Avery four days a week.  She tries to Jazzercise three times a week.  She takes long walks nearly everyday and she’s starting to train for the Susan Komen 3-Day walk in November.  It’s funny… I get home from work and I’m tired and just want to hang out at home.  Not Patty!  As she says, she is cooped up in the condo all day.  She wants to go out!

We’ve learned that human body is amazing!  Amazing in the sense of how it heals. As you are aware, the chemo really did a number on Patty.  I can’t think of words to accurately describe what I witnessed Patty go through!  Patty has told me that she didn’t realize how sick she was until she started feeling better.  I don’t recall if I mentioned this in any previous post, but her incision from the mastectomy in late July had never completely healed, mainly because of the chemo.  Here it is the end of February, six months since the mastectomy and 11 weeks since her last infusion and it’s finally nearly healed!  She meets with the reconstruction surgeon every couple of weeks now and he’s pretty happy with her progress.  He’s just waiting for the incision to completely heal so he can start the reconstruction process.  It shouldn’t be too long.  Now that she’s through the treatment phase, you can see changes in Patty every day.  Her eyelashes and eyebrows were the first to grow and now they’re nearly back to normal.  This was followed by the hair on her legs and then her head.  She’s got a great layer of growth going on her head.  It may not be long, but it’s thick!

We’re learning to deal with the “new normal” a little at a time.  We’re not even sure what the “new normal” is!  We do know that even though Patty has gotten a temporary clean bill of health, the threat of reoccurrence could happen at any time.  This is a fact that we’ll have to live with for the rest of our lives.  She’ll never be out of the woods completely.  We just hope and pray that it never comes back but in the meanwhile, make the best of today!  Speaking of the “new normal,” we were making plans the other night about things we’re doing or going to do in the future.  Patty stopped for a moment and said: “I’m not sure if I’m ready for normal.  I’m so used to taking things a day at a time, or even an hour at a time, that I really don’t know if I’m ready to go forward!”  I thought this was an unusual statement, but I realized that our life was on-hold for so long and on-hold under conditions where we weren’t sure what the future was or if there was even going to be a future that we had to take baby steps.  Going from baby steps to full strides had taken Patty a little back, but she’s fine now.  (At least that what she said!)

Patty told me that she still has moments when she gets scared.  Afraid that the cancer will return.  We’ve both heard that if the cancer does come back, it generally comes back with a vengeance.  She said “Whenever I get scared, I pray and it’s really helps.”  Patty’s relationship and closeness with God has grown over the past 10 months.  She has so much Faith!  Faith that God has a plan for her and for us.  Her faith is what has gotten her through this battle, not only during the difficult times, but throughout this fight.  My Faith is still a work in progress.  I guess it always will be but to be honest,  there are times that I feel guilty about that.  I’m trying…

Patty was recently asked to speak at the kickoff for the American Cancer Society Relay for Life at the end of March.  This is an honor for her to address other survivors and their loved ones about her experience with breast cancer and to motivate others to face the fight head on. I’m confident she’ll do an amazing job.  I’ll keep you posted on how this event goes.

Here’s our most recent challenge… As you know, we’ve been living in our little condo for over a year now.  Yep… 708 square feet!!!  The plan was to move into it from Northern California for a month or two then look for a larger home.  The home search was put on hold once Patty was diagnosed with breast cancer.  Now that she’s through the treatment phase and doing well, we’ve been looking for a new home.  We listed the condo for sale back in early January.  We finally had an offer last week, which we accepted and the condo is now officially in a 45 day escrow!  Yahoo!  I was having doubts that it would ever sell.  So now we’re under the gun to find a place to live.  We had actually put an offer on a great house, but… things didn’t work out due to some financing restrictions by the seller.  So we’re on the hunt again.  We must have looked at a dozed homes today to no avail.  Wow… I didn’t realize there were do many dumps in our price range!!!  We’re going out again with our agent in a couple of days.

My daughter’s (Kristi) due date was yesterday.  Yes… our third grandchild.  But, no such luck with this baby coming on time!  Kristi and her husband, Ryan, have been strong and haven’t found out what the sex of the baby is!  Since the baby is now officially late, my guess is it’s a boy.  (even though I’m hoping for a girl)   You know how lazy us boys can be.  Come on… hanging out in a warm comfy place.  Why would you want to leave?  So it’s a day by day thing now.   Believe me, there will be a picture posted on here once this child makes it’s presence known!

That’s it for now.  Again, I apologize for the delay in posting!

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!