Friday, May 30, 2014


Yesterday I met with Dr. Antoniuk for my final pre-op appointment. She still has remnants of her East Coast accent and while she is short in stature, she has a feistiness that is undeniable. She has already been turning over different thoughts on how she will do my surgery she says, since I last saw her.

She wants to see the wound again, and as I go to sit in her cream colored "dental" chair and she lowers me with the remote control by her foot, she exclaims, "you've cut your hair!  Its been 9 days since I saw you and you are different already."  Superman hadn't even noticed, the difference is so subtle, but she has.

As my legs rise up, she then quickly compliments my polished toes as well.  "I bet Dr. Panwalkar never notices your toes," she says.

I chuckle and assure her he doesn't.  I am already struck by her attention to details.  

She examines my scar and notices its flaking again, and brighter red.  "Oh its angrier than last week, not good," she says as she shakes her head.

She then has me sit down next to Rick and she starts drawing a diagram.  She is showing me how she will cut out the old incision and make it bigger, extending underneath my arm.  She will then pull tissue up from my ribs, but from underneath my skin.  "Tension," she calls it.  I will feel it by my ribs, while the surgery site will be further above that area.  She also may or may not have to move my pectoral muscle. She may or may not have to use a sheet of "dermis" to bolster the skin and make for good coverage.

So much will be determined by what she finds inside.  She has a plan "A" and a few variations of that. Plan "B" is to take tissue and muscle from my back, making a flap of skin to put over my chest wall.  Its a pretty extensive surgery and we would wait for another time to have that done.

Still, she goes over each scenario, in great detail.  

She also promises to send a sample of the tissue to the pathologist so we can see if any cancer cells are present.  I am more cognizant of this realization after the discovery made with my ovaries.  

But what I can really tell?  She has thought about this a great deal.

She is ready for me.

She heartily shakes my hand before she leaves.

Wednesday, June 11th, at the main Sanford Hospital, I will have my mastectomy site surgically repaired one more time.  I am having work done by a plastic surgeon!   Who would have ever thought? This will be the third time I've had work done to this area.  This will be my fourth surgery related to cancer.

The clock is ticking… those 3 tumors residing in my chest are still in need of some attention.  I need to get through surgery, so we can best decide how to go after my lung mets.  

Jesus Calling (Sarah Young)

I am with you, watching you constantly.  I am Emmanuel, God with you… Some of My children find Me more readily during dark times, when difficulties force them to depend on Me.  Others feel close to Me when their lives are filled with good things.  They respond with thanksgiving and praise, thus opening wide the door to My presence.  

I know what you need to draw nearer to Me.  

I am finding out whether I am in a sunlit meadow taking photos of new baby horses with their moms, or preparing for another surgical procedure, what I hear Him say… always…  is… draw nearer. 

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

what cancer is teaching me...

A lake is the landscape’s most beautiful and expressive feature. It is earth’s eye; looking into which the beholder measures the depth of his own nature. ~Henry David Thoreau

I grew up spending summers at the lake.  We had nothing more than a pull-behind trailer that we parked on a spot in a campground.  It was a mere 45 minutes from our house, but it felt like lightyears away.  I spent my time at the campground- on the beach and in the water- as much as possible.  I loved to swim.  To dive off the diving platform out by the buoys.  One side facing the swimming area, with the sandy bottom visible to the eye.  The other side, dark and deep with murkiness, the bottom, said to be 30 feet away.  The lake had drop offs measured to be 90 feet deep in some areas.  

Diving off into the forboding dark side, always felt dangerous and exhilarating.  I had worked my way through swim classes, that demanded more and more endurance, skill and survival techniques.  Something about just me and that deep water taught me how to grow into trust of myself over the years.

Its been years since I've had the chance to swim like I used to. My non-healing mastectomy wound simply can't be exposed to water.  As much as I long for the beach in the summer, I've had to learn to turn that desire down to a low simmer. 

It seems that cancer has taught me- that I have to give up some of the healthy parts of myself, in sacrifice to the diseased parts of myself- so that the living parts of myself can go on.  

If I can't dive into the deep end of the water?  What can I dive into with equal abandon and exhilaration?  What new things will I discover by letting go of the wall, and pushing off into the deep end of the uncertain and unknown?  

I was giddy to go to the lake this past weekend and explore.  My father-in-law's lake, while not being the most swimmer friendly, is boat and fish friendly and our family loves going.

The fish were biting abundantly and often all 3 fishermen had fish on the hook at the same time.

Grandpa Jim has retired the waders this spring, and handed them down to Nolan.

Nolan with some help from Dad rolled both the dock and the boat lift out into the lake and secured them in place for the season. 

The lump in my throat grows as I fully feel who isn't amongst us.  Rick's mom, Carole's spirit is entwined in every vignette around the lake home.  She had an eye for decorating, and making each room a favorite at different times of the day.  We miss her so.

Colton and I were fascinated with the squirrels right outside our door.  This grey one is HUGE! 

It took us awhile to discover that black lump in the tree- is really another squirrel. 

We sat by the rocker watching as the birds fed at the feeder, and the squirrels snuck up the stairs to find the seeds Jim had left for them by the door.

But we didn't stay indoors for long.  The sun was too inviting.  

Nothing but bokeh- my favorite kind to capture.

Grandpa knows exactly what kinds of things boys love to do.  The target sat at the edge of the treed area in the distance.

The sun was setting close to 9 pm and I was only too aware of how beautiful it can be setting down by the lake.

But Rick and I would have to drive to get to the right side and find a spot to safely park.  We took off without a whisper of where we were going. 

We drove and drove.  Around one lake and over to another.  Past golf courses, and campgrounds.  

Till suddenly we happened across an open meadow, that took our breath away instantly.  Rick rolled to a stop and we were out with our cameras instantly.

(Its worth clicking on some of these photos to enlarge.)

I wasn't dressed for the long grass, the deep sandy ruts, the thick stubby grass stinging my sandaled feet.

I didn't care.  My lungs ached with each climb, each pass I made along the meadows.  My lungs burned, my legs ached.  Dizziness and breathlessness ensued.  

But the smell of the meadow?  The white and crisp light bathing every square inch of the earth?  And what we would discover as we ventured closer to the pasture?  

I was letting go of the wall- pushing off into the deep end.  Willing my body to go where my spirit led. 

It was the babies that melted me.  The Colts.  My husband's talented eyes (and big lens) for seeing them in their beauty.

We were miles away from where we needed to be for the sunset.  We eventually left to travel the winding gravel roads back to the lake.  But first we stopped for deer standing in the road.  And then we slowed for the wild turkey stealthily feeding near the ditch.   We swerved just in time to spare the turtle, and soon found ourselves back at the lake.

A haze had been apparent all day and made for a muted sun setting, but beautiful just the same.

We ended our weekend visiting family.  My Grandma and Grandpa are here under this tree, with my Dad right next to them.  Mom will have a spot next to Dad.

My soft hearted- teary-eyed boy who truly misses his Grandpa, and Grandma.

Rick's mom is only a few rows away, right next to her grandson, our nephew, Hunter.  Hunter was 4 months old when he left us, and would have been as old as Nolan today.  

Our last visit was to see mom.  She beamed when we were in the elevator and a resident said to her, "Mary Ann, you have the most company come to visit than anyone I know!"  

It shows in my mom what excellent care she is receiving.  She is relaxed, strong, and back to a healthier version of herself.  

Swimming is still on my bucket list.  So I'm letting go again, nosing towards the deep end, and letting Dr. Antoniuk, a local plastic surgeon, try to repair my mastectomy wound.  

More details to follow soon.  I have cardiac function tests and some blood work to complete and then another visit with Dr. Antoniuk.  

As Dory would say in Finding Nemo- "Just keep swimming."

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Thursday, May 22, 2014

if you want to help… together we shall make a difference

 Kristi and I have been "together" so long its hard to remember just how many years. I'm guessing close to 30 plus years, or so. She has been my "forever" friend from the very start. I loved stumbling across this photo in particular. How do you like the acid washed jeans? Our 80's hair? I'm pretty sure if you could hear it, the radio on our friend's porche would be playing "I wear my sunglasses at night," by Corey Hart.

This picture marked the beginning of our "magical" summer together. For some reason we were the golden girls that summer and had the time of our lives. Around my job at a daycare center we went to the pool every day and the lakes on the weekend. We went out together every night of the week and just managed to have a good time no matter what we were doing. We had tons of friends, lots of time, plenty of energy and the mindset that we may never have a summer like it again, which was truer than we could have possibly known. 

Since that time we've been through weddings and births. Boyfriends and husbands. Mortgages and diapers. Dogs and kids. Breast Cancer, and illness.  We climbed the hill together and persevered, our friendship intact, and growing deeper each day. 

What she is currently undertaking, should come as no surprise.  What hasn't Kristi accomplished over the years?  She is a wife and mom with two young children, who is also an attorney, who runs her law practice out of her home, while also teaching college classes.  She is also an amazing seamstress and artist, and yet as full as her plate is, she has never stopped looking for the next challenge to tackle.

And that challenge?  Well, she says the idea hit her when I was telling her about my Mepilex wound care dressings, costing too much money. We had ordered a supply of them only to discover a few boxes would cost close to 200 dollars and would only last a few weeks.  My new insurance was not covering them.  What becomes a challenge, is when we're paying for special health insurance for me, plus a family policy for Rick and the boys (Rick is self-employed), plus pharmacy costs, cancer-medical- care costs, and then adding in wound care supplies at an extra 200 dollars. 

We have felt so blessed to somehow, have made it through the past 3 years, with tons of help from others.  We have always managed to pay our medical bills and we are so thankful for that. But we continually have to try and be creative in figuring out how the next bill is going to get paid. 

Recently, I stopped going to wound care. They gave me wonderful care, but couldn't give me supplies.  So I cut all my bandages into pieces and  used corners of them to piece together adequate protection, and have gotten by.

And then I stopped having to take the Tykerb, and the wound, while still full of scabs and bright red colored tissue, has remained stable these past couple of months.

But Kristi?  Was shocked at the cost of the Mepilex.  And the wheels started to turn. So...

That is when THIS started to form.

So Kristi?  Became a Mary Kay consultant- for the sole purpose of fundraising for Rick and I. 

If you click the link it will take you to a Facebook page she created for the cause.  (Maybe you would help us by liking it?)

Over the course of the last few weeks, Kristi has been attending Mary Kay meetings, designing the flyer, and setting up an online site for anyone who wants to help, and spreading the word.  And this is my way of helping her do just that.

I am more humbled than I can adequately say.

So maybe you need a year end teacher appreciation gift?  Maybe you're  in need of some sunscreen for the summer months?  Lotion?  Make-up?  

I was so pleasantly surprised to see how much Mary Kay has to offer.

But the best part, is that Mary-Kay is generously allowing Kristi to donate all of her earnings, to me, to help us defray our medical costs.  

We're only running the event until June 15th.  

As Kristi has said- "even if I can just make enough to pay for a box of bandages for you, I'd feel like I helped." 

I hope everyone has a beautiful Memorial Day weekend!  I will be back with an update on my surgery consult this week and our plans for the big surgery coming soon!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Lake Superior Stars

Sometimes it really is as simple as being in the right place.  At the right time.  And maybe just being open to what can happen- thinking it can, instead of it can't, or won't.

When Nolan was asked to participate in the Selects Hockey tournament a couple months ago, we just happened to connect with a coach while we were there, looking for some players to fill some spots on their AAA team, The Lake Superior Stars.  

Nolan and his friend, Parker, were only too happy to be asked to play.  

So the past few weekends Nolan has left with Rick to go and play on a team with kids mostly from Northern Minnesota.  

This last weekend, I was feeling well enough to go as well.

We headed to Maple Grove for a 3 days of hockey.

What a beautiful weekend.

This statue is outside the Eden Prairie Community Center.  It was a beautiful facility.

We squeaked by the first team with a 4-3 win, early Friday afternoon.

The next team would have us face, some of our own regular season team mates!   How would we do?  We'd played some of that team a time before and lost to them.

This time, our team came out the victors.  

But the really nice part?  As soon as we leave the ice, our boys go back to being instantly friends, instead of fierce competitors.  

The next day we would play two more hockey games.  But in between our games?  We all went to the park in the back of the rink.  We tailgated with Jimmy John's sandwiches, and Nolan decided to let Mother nature help dry out his gear.  

I just sat with my friend Missy, soaking in all the sun, warmth, green and blue, until it was time to go back inside to freeze a little more.  

On Saturday, we won both our games again.  Watching them was a sheer roller coaster ride of emotion- we battled hard for the puck.  We were miffed at the refs who quit calling offsides and icing.  Our coaches got thrown out of one of the games.  We were never at a loss for passion and entertainment!  
But our boys, persevered.   Nolan even scored a hat trick in one game, along with his team mate Donte.  

We were headed to the championship game on Sunday!

Sunday, the sun shone just as bright.  Our championship game wasn't until 3 pm.  So the boys all gathered to shoot some baskets, kick around the soccer ball and just hang out together some more.

This team, the Lake Superior Stars, was in its last year, and this was their last tournament after playing together for 7 years.  

We were sad after the last couple of months we spent with this team? How did they feel coming to the end of 7 years playing together?

We could only wonder.

Rick and I even got a few minutes to sit outside and enjoy the surroundings.

All too soon, it was game time.

The Wisconsin Bucks had not lost a game either and were headed into the Championship game 4-0 just like us.  They played a really defensive style game and it was hard for us to even get a decent shot off.

As spectators, we were literally on the edge of our seats, willing the puck and our kids to gain some momentum going the other way.

Then suddenly, we broke through.  #80, one of the Baker boys, buried the biscuit in the basket and we were up 1-0.

We eventually scored one more goal, and went on to win, 2-0!

The Lake Superior Stars, in their final tournament, were the Champions!

We had a chance to talk with one of the coaches Sunday morning.  We simply expressed our thanks for the opportunity to play with them.  And what was so encouraging to hear was that, his philosophy was in developing good kids who turn into good people.  Very little of what he said revolved around how our boys played hockey.  He was more interested in their manners, their respect, their desire to learn, and their hard work- their character mattered most.

Our thanks to the coaches, parents, and team mates of the Lake Superior Stars!

Back soon- off to see Dr. Antoniuk and get the details about surgery.  

When you get lucky

When you get lucky

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