Deanna’s Journey

October 6th 2012

October 6th, 2012 at 4:33 pm by under Deanna's Journey

I don’t like goodbyes, so I’ll just say thank you.  Thank you for being so incredibly nice when I run into you at public places.  Thank you for writing or calling and sharing yourselves and your experiences.  And thank you for being so amazingly supportive as I endured one of the most difficult years of my life following my breast cancer diagnosis.

 I continue to be amazed by the Hoosier heart.  So many of you gave so much of yourselves, I could not thank you all individually.  But I take each of you with me.  I’ll think of you each time a drape the blankets viewers made for me over my knees, or wear a hat personally knitted for me, or read a poem beautifully engraved on etched glass and sent to the station.  I’ll think of you when I pick up the three boxes of cards (yes, I kept every one of them), or drape a hand knitted prayer shawl over my shoulders, or adorn my lapel with one of the many breast cancer pins given to me by so many of you.

 I’ll think of you when I remember the hugs from Hoosiers in SteinMart, or scriptures shared in the grocery store line, or the many of you who started prayer chains – whispering my name in fervent pleas to the Father.

 Hoosiers are the most incredibly emotionally generous folks I’ve ever had the pleasure to know.  You’ve touched my heart, blessed my spirit, and enriched by life.  And for that, I thank you.

 Making the decision to leave was difficult.  But by the end of 2011, I knew I needed to return toTexas.  I was still healing from reconstructive surgery following my double mastectomy when I got a call from my Dad in mid December.  He told me that my mother was unresponsive and he had to call an ambulance.  The day before, she’d been feeling a bit under the weather, but she’d taught school, helped her granddaughter with a term paper, and had gone to bed.  She didn’t know the cough that had been troubling her was pneumonia caused by nasty bacteria that would invade her blood stream overnight.

 She was septic.  The bacteria were winning.  And she could neither recognize loved ones nor breathe on her own.  I couldn’t get a flight to Texas until the next day, and overnight, my Dad had been forced to make decisions alone about everything from intubation to whether to sign a DNR.

 After a two week hospital stay, my mother improved and returned to her active life as a teacher, church member, and community volunteer.  But the episode forced me to acknowledge that I have to take care of family first.  And it’s difficult to do that from more than a thousand miles away.

 And so it is.  I’m leaving.  I’ll be working as an anchor and investigative reporter at KXAS, the NBC affiliate in Dallas/Fort Worth.  But I’ll be taking a bit of each of you with me.  I came here a Texan, but I’ll leave here a Hoosier.

February 5, 2012

February 5th, 2012 at 10:43 pm by under Deanna's Journey

I’m filled with gratitude this morning.  When I look back at the past year, I see the blessings, the generosity, and the goodness of friends, family and strangers who are strangers no more.

I’ve not written in months, and I have to tell you why.  I finished chemotherapy in July and shortly thereafter a cloud descended shrouding my reality with a darkness I simply couldn’t clear away.  Depression has been my constant companion, the unwelcome visitor who brought not only luggage, but also his own furniture, moving into my place and space with a recalcitrant arrogance I’ve not experienced before.

Depression isn’t uncommon among those battling the big C.  According to the American Cancer Society, the rate of depression among cancer survivors is 25 percent compared to 7 percent in the general population.  You can imagine all the reasons why, the biggest of which is dealing with the stark unrelenting reminder of your mortality.  I’ve now had cancer three times – Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, acute myelogenous leukemia, and triple negative breast cancer.  Triple negative – the name so painfully, profoundly appropriate – especially in my case.  After three unrelated cancers, I have to come to the conclusion that I’m a biological misfit marked by an unseen, unidentified, vulnerability to cellular mutation.  And that’s scary.  Every cancer survivor lives with the fear that the cancer will return.  In my case, the fear is three fold.

Fear and anger turned inward is depression.  It’s that simple and not that simple.  I was haunted by an ever- gray existence.  And then there was guilt.  I’ve met so many in my journey not doing as well as I.  “How dare I be depressed,” I told myself.  After all, I’d been given life – another chance.  I’d beat myself up for not being able to just get on with it.  And that made things worse.   I couldn’t write about it; I was overwhelmed by the thought of writing about this gray force I couldn’t define.  But writing about anything else seemed disingenuous.  So I wrote about nothing – leaving viewers asking, “Are you okay?”  I always responded in the affirmative.  Physically, I was better than expected.  But emotionally, every day was a slog.  Because depression is not uncommon among survivors I’ve provided a link to the National Cancer Institute with information on cancer and depression.

I also strongly suggest survivors seek the support of other survivors.  I serve on the board of the Cancer Support Community and have provided a link there as well.

I finally began to feel the fog lift at Christmas when my mother got out of the hospital.  I’ll save that story for another post.  But suffice it to say, Mom’s illness and recovery brought about my epiphany.  And I vowed to start the new year with a new focus on emotional and mental clarity.

I exercise daily – hard cardio that forces me to focus on nothing else.  And only when the fog finally began to clear, was I able to write about it.  I’m facing each day with a brighter outlook, and that’s why it’s sadly ironic that my first post in months is about the death of my collie.

Those following my blog for the last year know how beautifully instrumental Tipper was in my recovery.  She was my rock, possessing a doggy intuition that helped keep me sane, grounded, and grateful.  Three

weeks ago she was diagnosed with a brain tumor.  The vet prescribed steroids which had an amazing effect.  She was energetic and happy.  I had my dog back.  I was able to fool myself into thinking she was improving.

But in truth, the medicine provided only a temporary reprieve – a few wonderful weeks with the beautiful girl that has been an integral furry member of our family since we adopted her from the humane society in 2006.  We rescued her, but in truth, she rescued us.  She was a dog who taught us the essence of our humanity.  I learned from Tipper that every time someone you love comes to the door of your heart, it’s cause for celebration.   I learned that no perceived slight is beyond forgiveness.  And I learned that showing love without fear of rejection is its own reward.

Yesterday morning Tipper woke me at 3:00 a.m.  She wasn’t feeling well.  I sat on the floor and held her for hours.  By yesterday afternoon, she was gone.  And while I miss her terribly, I’m filled with gratitude.  She was so beautiful – inside and out – and she let me love her and returned that love with a purity of heart only a dog can possess.  That’s a gift.  She was our gift from a good and gracious God.

I’ve said it before, and it bears repeating.  God made dogs.  And yes, God is good.




July 10, 2011

July 10th, 2011 at 10:57 pm by under Deanna's Journey

I spent a couple of hours sitting by the pool making a hat out of palm fronds.  It was the highlight of my week in Jamaica.  My instructor was Randolph, a Jamaican whose age I couldn’t possibly fathom.  After a lifetime spent in the sun, his skin was the color of dark chocolate, wrinkled and leathery.  His fingers were thin, heavily calloused and the nail of the thumb of his right hand was filed to a point.  He used it as a tool to help thread the thick fronds into a beautiful lattice pattern.

There were a dozen of us standing around him – our fronds in hand – trying, often in vain, to replicate the work it had taken him a lifetime to perfect.  We were all from western, industrialized countries – Canada, England, the U.S.  And we were pummelling him with impatient questions.  I sat next to him, studying his hands, not his face, when I asked, “Could you take a look at mine?  I don’t think I’m doing it right.”

He was holding another vacationer’s hat in his hands when he told me quietly, “Just a minute.  When you rush, it does not turn out as nice as we would like.  Rushing makes me nervous.”

“Oh come on Randolph,” I said teasing him. “We don’t make you nervous, do we?”

“A little bit, yeah man,” he answered without smiling.

That was the first time I looked at his face – really looked at him.  His eyes were dark and soulful.  I wondered what those eyes had seen.  The whites were yellowed and deep wrinkles created crevices from the corners of his nose to his mouth.  He was concentrating as he worked, squinting at the heavy fronds in his calloused fingers with the intensity and care of a surgeon navigating the brain of an unconscious patient.

I smiled at him.  “You make it look easy, Randolph.”

“It’s not easy, though.  I spent years getting it right,” he answered.

And it’s then that I felt shame wash over me like warm waters of the Caribbean Sea over rocks along the shore.  My shoulders had been tense with impatience.  I had really wanted to finish this friggin’ hat.   I’d been working on the darn thing  for more than an hour, and I just wanted to go do something else.  After all, to a bunch of westerners accustomed to rushing around in our self-important tasks, an hour creating a hat out of leaves felt like forever.

But for Randolph, this wasn’t just a craft for the entertainment vacationing tourists.  This was his profession, his livelihood, and he took great pride in his ability to “get it right.”  He was providing a necessity for anyone who spent time in the Caribbean sun, and he took pride in the quality of his work.

And that’s when I exhaled.  For the first time in eight months, I exhaled.  It’s funny.  You don’t know that you’re tense until you’re not.  Since my breast cancer diagnosis in November, I’ve been a walking, talking, ball of tension.  I continue to anchor and report the news, take my kid to his activities, volunteer, teach children’s church, go to chemo, doctor’s appointments, tests, surgery -  all the while I’m so tense I can’t sleep at the end of the day.

But finally, I exhaled.  I felt my shoulders relax and my neck stop aching as I slumped against the back of the chair and watched Randolph work.  He gave me a sideways glance and smiled wryly.  It was as though he knew the worry was seeping out of my ears at that very moment.

Every cancer patient should escape to a beach, or a pond - a place of peace at the end of treatment.  This trip was a gift.  I did a lot while I was in Jamaica – climbed Dunn’s River Falls, rode an inner-tube down a rainforest river, swam in a lagoon where microorganisms light up the water.  But no experience was more valuable than sitting poolside with Randolph.

He taught me the value in slowing down, tackling one task at a time, and telling the rest of the world to just wait.  He taught me that a job done well is a job worthwhile, and worth should not be determined by a western standard that values a job only by the zeroes in a paycheck.  He taught me that respect for oneself and one’s work is the greatest reward.  He taught me to just relax.

And I got a great hat.

And so it is.  God made Jamaica.  God is good.

June 9th, 2011

June 9th, 2011 at 10:58 pm by under Deanna's Journey

Going to the movies is risky when you have cancer.  Hollywood loves cancer – no joke.  For a screenwriter, cancer is dying gold.  If you’re writing a tearjerker, you need a long, lingering death.  The characters then have time for absolution and resolution; there is anger, fear, love, forgiveness and finally acceptance all wrapped neatly with a bow by the movie’s end which comes in usually fewer than 120 minutes.  When you have cancer, watching Hollywood’s version is incredibly annoying.  And you never know when a screenwriter will throw in a cancer death to assure that the audience experiences that much sought- after LA-created cathartic connection, thereby allegedly enriching the movie-going experience.  Annoying.  Really annoying.

While I was healing from my bilateral mastectomy, my mother and I decided we needed to see a comedy.  Mom suggested Tyler Perry’s latest flick. And you guessed it.  The central character (a mother figure, of course) has cancer, and her long, lingering death is the catalyst that brings her extraordinarily dysfunctional family to a point of emotional healing.  I thought I’d barf.  And I hadn’t even had chemo that day.  We were trying to escape cancer, and I had to sit through Hollywood’s less than accurate portrayal of the cancer experience.  My poor mom – who had picked the movie – leaned over and apologized.  I told her no worries.  I blamed myself.  The long-time cancer survivor knows to read plot summaries before buying your movie ticket.  I should have done that.

So understandably, I was a little gun shy when my kiddo was begging me to take him to Kung Fu Panda 2.  Animated four-legged Kung Fu masters don’t usually suffer long, lingering cancer deaths, but one never knows.  After reading about the movie online, I thought I could sit through this sweet kid flick.  But again, I was met with the unexpected.

I think God uses all kinds of tools to feed the soul.  And this week, God used Kung Fu Panda 2.  I’ve been stuck.  It’s odd.  I’m nearing the end of treatment.  Finally. More than three months of chemo, a bilateral mastectomy, another two and a half months of chemo, and reconstruction.  And then I’ll wait.  Triple negative breast cancer is aggressive, and when it returns, it usually does so within two years.  And so after I finish treatment, I can do little more than wait to see if the cancer comes back.  The thought of that makes me crazy.  I’m assertive.  I want to do something – anything to actively fight the possibility of recurrence.  But there is no targeted treatment for my type of breast cancer.  And so I’ll wait.  And worry.  And wait.  And that makes me nuts.

At one point in the movie, the overweight panda is talking to two other animal warriors who are imprisoned by an evil adversary and too afraid to come out of their jail cells.  Without a hint of irony, the adorably chubby panda says earnestly, “You’re imprisoned by fear behind bars of hopelessness and are fed three square meals of shame.”  Yeah, I know.  It’s a kid flick.  But I knew that darn bear was talking to me.  When fear comes to live with you, he brings friends.  Hopelessness and shame are his companions.  For me, the shame comes in failing to recognize the gift of each day – allowing fear to rob me of my joy.  I couldn’t help but smile at the simple truth delivered by a pudgy panda in pants.

The movie also has a sweet message about adoption.  The panda goes in search of what happened to his “real” parents finally realizing in the end that the goose that raised him, fed him, and loved him was as real as any father could ever be.  For this adoptive mommy, the message was beautiful. And it reminded me of a scripture I read recently.  Romans 8:15 tells us “For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the spirit of adoption, whereby we cry Abba, Father.”

Ain’t that great stuff?  As God’s adopted children, we receive from him not a spirit fear, but we are heirs to His kingdom and can call Him Father.  I think about how fiercely and unconditionally I love my adopted son.  Then how much greater must God’s love be for us?  And if God loves me, I’m okay.  It’s okay.  It’s going to be okay.  He’s promised us that all things work for our good – all things – even cancer.

And so it is.  I am His adopted child.  He’s my Dad.  And that’s enough.


Friday, May 6th, 2011

May 6th, 2011 at 8:16 pm by under Deanna's Journey

My house is noisy – very noisy.  My husband is cooking.   My mother is watching the news.  My son and his friend are racing remote control cars across our wooden floor, and my collie is following them, barking loudly.  What a blessing to drown in the noise of a full home.  It’s the sign of a life fully blessed.

I’ve made some decisions.  After researching a number of clinical trial options, I chose one that includes a Parp inhibitor, a group of drugs that has shown promise in battling triple negative breast cancer, the viciously aggressive monster that attacked my right breast.  I had a 50-percent chance of getting the Parp along with a standard chemotherapy agent.  The other choice is standard chemo alone.  The decisions about who gets the research drug are random – chosen by a computer by which I’m identified only as a number.  And I got the call on Friday afternoon.   I didn’t get the Parp.   I would receive standard chemotherapy alone. 

I was crushed.  That’s actually a bit of an understatement.   I sat in the bathtub and cried – no, I wailed into a wet towel.  Clinical trials can be so cruel.  Intellectually, I get it.  If we’re to assure the most effective drugs get to market, the scientific integrity is of utmost importance.  You must have one group that gets the research drug and one that doesn’t.  Then scientists wait to see if the group that got the research drug is more likely to survive than the other.  But when you’re fighting for your life, intellect takes a backseat to the immediate visceral reaction that comes with being denied what is arguably the best treatment.

As is always the case when I’m grappling with something beyond my control, I talked to God about it.  Actually I sat in my minivan and yelled at God.  I learned long ago it’s okay yell at the Big Guy; He can take it.   After I finally calmed down,  I had dinner with girl friends and talked it out.   Thank God for good friends.  I’m convinced He sent them that evening.

So then I had another decision to make – drop out of that clinical trial and try to find another, or stick with the trial and receive what I believe is the inferior of the two treatments being offered.  I had a busy weekend, so I had to put those decisions on the back burner.  I chair the board of an organization called A Girl’s Gift that provides mentoring and educational sessions for girls ages 10 to 14.  Our girls were having their overnight retreat that Saturday, and I would need to harness my energy to help corral 30 giggling little girls through hours of activities.  It’s funny.  As I opened the doors and welcomed our girls and their parents, I silently prayed for the emotional energy to get through the weekend.  But within moments, I felt better, basking in the light of little girl smiles.  They were so excited about the weekend and it helped me forget my fears.

Finally, on Monday I had time to start researching again.  I called a clinical trial matching service, scoured the national cancer institute’s clinical trial web site, and finally determined the standard chemotherapy offered in the first trial is the best option available.  So that’s where we are.  

Wednesday, with my blanket draped over my arm, I went back to the same light-filled infusion room where I had received months of chemotherapy before my bilateral mastectomy – the same place where I had celebrated what I thought was my last chemotherapy treatment in March.  Such is the nature of the beast I’ve named Fred.  He’s a tenacious little fella.  And the battle is bigger than I.  And so again, I give this to God.  I’ll receive four treatments three weeks apart – and then we wait.  And we pray.  And we wait.

You’ll remember we had another decision to make.  My adoption counselor called about a baby girl due in weeks.  I want to step out on faith and adopt her.  My husband doesn’t think this is the time.  And we both completely understand the reasons for the other’s viewpoint.  But there will be no adoption unless we both agree.  And I’m sad.  There really are no words that accurately describe where I am right now except that one – sad.

And so it is.  I’ve learned to accept that sadness does not signify the absence of faith.  God never promised us days without sadness, without disappointment, without fear.  He did, however, promise us that he would never leave nor forsake us.  And for that, I’ll give thanks this Mother’s Day as I celebrate with the beautiful little family He’s already given me – grateful that I can call them mine.

April 23, 2011

April 23rd, 2011 at 1:47 pm by under Deanna's Journey
I went to Marsh Grocery Store this week with my mother.  In the doorway are bundles of beautiful tulips in almost every color of the rainbow.  I immediately grabbed a yellow bundle. Every spring I fill our house with tulips – each vase holding exactly nine – the number of weeks baby Avery was with us.

Christmas, 2001, we conceived little Avery despite what every fertility specialist had told us.  We’d been told the chance of my getting pregnant was less than 1 percent.  We’d begun researching adoption agencies, and then - surprise – the discovery of a little heart beating strong in my uterus.  We knew this was our miracle baby, the little life we’d been struggling to conceive for almost four years.   

Then in late February I began having unbearable abdominal pain.  The specialist told me no worries – the fetus was fine.  But I felt the life slipping away.  I knew it instinctively, as does every mother connected by more than blood and DNA; it’s a soul connection with that little life growing inside your body that the male of our species could never quite understand.  And I felt that soul leave in February.  But I so wanted to believe baby Avery was fine, just as I’d been told.  

Then, at my 12 week visit, the confirmation of what my soul had felt – that painful sight on sonogram - our little one lying lifeless in my uterus, her soul already nestled on the wings of angels.  March 12th I had what so many mothers who have miscarried before me have endured, an operation to remove the dead child from my body.  And as I left the hospital I noticed the tulips filling the grounds with a rainbow vibrant color – a reminder of God’s rainbow after the rain.

Every spring I’ve acknowledged the presence of that beautiful life lost with tulips.  And so I stood there in Marsh, tulips in hand, remembering that day 9 years ago.  And God spoke to me at that moment.  He reminded me of the birth He brought to a hospital in Houston three days before I said goodbye to Avery.  It was a baby named Ethan – a little boy we’d adopt a year and a half later.  As we grieved our little one lost, He’d already breathed life into our son, the child He meant for us to raise.  He told me it was time to stop grieving life lost, and celebrate a life given.  I put the tulips back, and bought  bubblegum for Ethan’s Easter basket instead.

I’m reminded of that as I grapple with the news from my oncologist.  The pathologist found Fred’s cancerous core embedded in a mass of dead tissue.  It was 9 mm, a tiny pea-sized shadow of the tumor it had been, but it was there nonetheless.  The good news is that Fred’s no good kids had not traveled to my lymph nodes.  So the liklihood of metastasis is very small.  But because Fred survived the chemo onslaught,  there’s still a chance that cells we can’t see are lying in wait.  So now decisions must be made – more chemo?  a post-surgical clinical trial?   do nothing?  And I ask God why didn’t He give me what I asked for – the complete annihilation of Fred.  But I believe He has another plan -  a better plan – just as He did when He took Avery to live with Him.

I’ll meet with my oncologist on Tuesday.  And we’ll have some decisions to make.  Pray for us.  And we need prayer about another matter.  My adoption counselor called this week.  A baby girl is due in weeks.  But is this the right time?  Is this God’s time?  Is this our child?  Can I do night feedings and chemo simultaneously? 

And so it is.  Our God does indeed work in mysterious ways.  This is not the way I would have chosen for events to unfold.  But this I do know – His way is the right way, and all He asks of us is faith.

April 8, 2011

April 8th, 2011 at 10:30 pm by under Deanna's Journey
I lost two boobs but gained so much more.  I felt the love and support of friends and family and that beats boobs any day. Dozens of folks filled a wing of the hospital’s surgery center.  We prayed and sang with my surgeon before they took me to the OR.  It was exactly what I needed.  I felt such a sense of calm.  AMAZING. I’m told my friends and family had a great party as they waited for me.

And now we wait again.  My lymph node biopsies revealed that the cancer has not spread, but we’re still waiting to learn whether the small mass in my right breast was cancer that was resistant to the chemotherapy agents we’d used for months to try to kill it, or was just dead tissue – the body of Fred the tumor now rendered harmless by the chemo.

I was told that I’d get a report back within 48 hours, but I’ve been told nothing yet.  And it’s the waiting – the excruciatingly hard waiting that makes cancer care so grueling.  If the chemo annihilated Fred before surgery, the odds of my long-term survival increase tremendously.  This is an important call.  And I’m able to do little more than wait.

But God gives us power while we wait.  He reminds us that “they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. They shall mount up on wings as eagles.  They shall run and not be weary.  They shall walk and not faint.”

And so it is.  I’m waiting patiently on the Lord, trusting, believing, hoping, praying that His strength will carry us through whatever awaits us on this journey.

April 5, 2011

April 5th, 2011 at 9:11 am by under Deanna's Journey

Today is the day.  In just a few hours my surgeon will remove my breasts.  It’s odd.  I’ve never thought much about my boobs until I faced losing them. 

The last few weeks have been hard.  I wrote in the last post that I was paralyzed by indecision.  I was also paralyzed by fear.  Fears paralyze when they’re unspoken.  Had I written about it, prayed about it, talked about it, I would have sucked the life force from fear – rendering it powerless.  Instead a sat in silence with Fear, allowing him to move in and take residence in my spirit - stealing my faith, draining my joy.

Several weeks ago, during an exam, my oncologist found Fred, the tumor.  You’ll remember months ago there was no palpable sign of Fred.  But on that day, there he was, a marble-sized nodule in my right breast.  I was so sure he was gone.  I believed he was gone.  But there he was.  My oncologist believes he is likely harmless tissue – the body of that malevelent Fred now long dead.  But what if it’s not?  What if Fred survived the onslaught of chemo drugs and lies in wait, having sent his vile progeny to distant sites, ready to strike again in months or years?  
That was my fear.  No correction.  That was my Fear.  Fear became one bad boy with a capitol F, silent and sinister, stealthily undermining my faith.  That’s what happens when we don’t talk to God about our fear – when we fail to give Him our cares – when we forget that our Father is so much bigger than our fears.

That’s why I didn’t write for weeks.  I felt I’d failed.  My faith was wavering, and I was a failure.  If this cancer was a test of faith, I flunked – big time.  Then on Sunday, my pastor preached to me.  Jeremiah 18.  It tells the story of that potter who was shaping clay that was marred in his hands.  So the potter shaped it into another pot – a beautiful pot without flaws. ”Like clay, in the hands of the potter, so are you in my hand,” God tells us in the 6th verse.

Wow.  Ain’t that great stuff?!  I am flawed.  I did fail.  But God ain’t through with me yet.  And He continues to bless us even in our failure, our weakness, our fear.  I asked God to forgive me for my fear, and then finally, I forgave myself.  I’m crying again.  I do a lot of that lately.  But these are tears of relief.  Forgiveness of others and forgiveness of self is a gift to the soul. 

And so.. that brings me back to surgery reconstruction.  Part of the reason I had such a difficult time with the decision is because I was afraid of making the wrong choice.  And then I went to see a plastic surgeon.  I stood before this guy in nothing but a pair of panties.  Geez.  It’s humbling.   In this place and space, he was the potter, and I was the imperfect, marred pot.  He needed to see where I had viable fat to build new boobies.  I’ve dropped 15 pounds since I started chemo.  He felt my tummy.  Not enough fat there.  So he felt my thighs.  Nope not there.  “Turn around,” he said.  “Yep, they could probably take enough from there.”  I was elated.  ”But Deanna, your butt will likely look pretty different,” he said bursting my bubble – literally.  He explained that my bubble butt - as my mother always called it when I was a child - would likely be considerably flatter after surgery because there wouldn’t be nearly as much fat left.

That did it.  I’ve always had junk in my trunk, as do all the women on my father’s side of the family.  It’s who I am.  It seemed counterproductive somehow to change something with which I’m comfortable to change something with which I’m not. 
So later today, I’ll have expanders placed beneath the pectoral muscles.  Doctors will add saline to the expanders to stretch the skin over time.  In three to six months, my new breasts will be big enough for implants.  The mastectomy and expander placement will take 4 to 6 hours.  And we could find out by surgery’s end whether Fred is truly dead.

And so it is.  I’m at peace.  My faith is not in the hands of the surgeons, but my faith lies in the fact that their hands are guided by One who is greater, a Potter molding mind, body, and spirit into the vessel He wants me to be.  Please pray for me today.

April 1, 2011

April 1st, 2011 at 6:56 pm by under Deanna's Journey

To pluck or not to pluck – that is the question.  I have exactly 29 pitiful hairs forming a blotchy arch over my right eye.  There are 32 eyebrow hairs on the left. 

So here’s the thing – three of the 29 hairs over my right eye are errant hairs – hairs gone wild – growing willy nilly outside the arch.  These are the hairs I used to pluck.  Brow perfection was once important in my world.  But when you have only 29 eyebrow hairs, should you pluck three of them?  Think about this for a moment. When only 29 hairs have shown the temerity, fortitude, and undeniable chutzpa to stand up to chemo, defy the odds, and cling stubbornly to your brow line, should you pluck them just because they’re free spirited hairs who have chosen the proverbial road less traveled?

That’s the question I contemplate every morning in the make-up room of WISH TV.  It’s pathetic.  I’ll stare at my near hairless brows for 10 minutes, tweezers in hand, trying to decide whether to pluck the wild ones.  Then ultimately, out of respect for the fact they’ve stuck around when all other hairs have long departed, I’ll put down the tweezers and walk to the set – fretting about whether viewers can see my errant hairs in HD.

The pluck debate is clear and convincing evidence that I’ve not been very good at making decisions as of late.  So when faced with a really weighy decision – what kind of boobies should I get – I’ve been paralyzed, stupefied, and stuck as I struggle with a choice that will affect my body image for the rest of my life.

It’s amazing that you have only two boobs but a wealth of reconstruction choices.  You can take fat from your tummy, your thighs or your butt and build new boobs.  You can take a flap from your back or stick some implants under your pectoral muscle.  It’s dizzying, and I’ve been an emotional wreck.

That’s the reason I’ve not posted a new entry in weeks.  I’ve been a weepy, worrying, overwhelmed mess.  That really is the only way I can describe it.  The more I researched, the more paralyzed I became.

I’ve talked to lots of folks - friends, breast cancer survivors, surgeons.  I’ve held implants, cupped reconstructed boobs, and visited a wealth of web sites.  It’s been a journey that left me lost without a map because no map exists.  The right choice for one woman may not be the right choice for me.  This decision is deeply personal, and ultimately it’s a decision only I can make. 

After much angst and anguish, I’ve made a choice.  It’s funny.  I couldn’t make a decision until I took a good long look at my butt.  This journey has taught me that sometimes you have to look back in order to find your way forward.  I’ll explain in the next post.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

February 23rd, 2011 at 6:50 pm by under Deanna's Journey

Retail therapy in house shoes.  Yep.  I had the nerve, the unmitigated gall to take my black butt to Stein Mart in house shoes.  I had to do it.  My feet are a straight up mess, but sometimes a girl just needs to shop.

I’ve developed peripheral neuropathy.  It causes numbness, and sometimes pain in your extremities.  As I’ve told you in previous posts, my feet are truly ugly.  My bad boys bark like a bulldog all on their own.  It really adds insult to injury that now they hurt as well, so much so, that most shoes are really uncomfortable.

So that leads us to the trip to Stein Mart.  They were having one of those wonderful sales – 50 percent off all red dot items.  Yeah baby!  And I’ve been feeling truly unattractive.  Every cancer patient goes through it.  Cancer treatment usually changes the way you look.  That’s a fact.  The trick is not to look at yourself naked.  The glimpse in the mirror Sunday morning sent me into a tailspin.  Good grief – who is that skinny, bald black chick?  Oh my.  I needed to shop – shoes or not.

I wore real shoes to church.  It was about all my feet could take.  So after church, off I went to Stein Mart in my house shoes.  They’re really funny looking, multi-colored, pink and purple super soft fur-lined boots.  They have a hard sole, so I walked in with attitude, pretending I was wearing shoes.  I found three super comfy outfits to wear after surgery, and I met a woman in the check out line who made me smile.  She was buying business clothes.  “I start my new job tomorrow,” she told me smiling.  “I was out of work for a year.” 

“Oh wow, congratulations,” I told her.  “I have surgery in a few weeks, and I’m buying clothes to wear during my recovery.” She and I continued to chat while we waited.  She told me how hard the year had been without a job, and she so looked forward to returning to the work world.

We both stood holding our clothes, anticipating the changes ahead represented by the outfits draped over our arms.  And it’s then that I really grasped the inevitability of change.  For all of us, change is the only constant, and life is about adjusting to that change with the knowledge that God’s love is unchanging.

And so it is.  I’m okay today.  I still ain’t got no hair.  I don’t recognize my body.  My boobs will soon be gone.  But God’s love is ever-present and unchanging – bringing me peace in my ever-changing world.