White Apple Passion

White Apple Passion
for Health & Passion in Life

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Lost and then Found!

* My Journal * My father passed away just over four years ago.  The holidays are not the same for me anymore but we all  know life evolves in new directions.   While planning my father's funeral, I was driven to create a necklace for myself to wear at Dad's service.  I chose two photos... one is my favorite "pic" of my mother and father, the other is a priceless photo of Dad when he was a little boy.  I wanted to combine these images with my father's cherished wedding ring and create a meaningful token to wear.  I faithfully wore this necklace long after the day of the funeral.  About three months later, I was attending my childrens' "Muffins for Mom's" breakfast at their elementary school.  When I arrived home, I looked down towards the necklace.  My father's ring was gone.  Somehow, it got detached from the necklace and it was lost.  The wedding ring my father wore for nearly sixty years was nowhere to be found.  I wore the ring for three months. (I painfully searched everywhere for that ring.)  I was completely devastated and never forgave myself for losing what was a part of my dear father.
So today... here I am, four years later.  I was taking Anna out for a walk as Roger was cleaning the car in the driveway.  As I walked towards him, Roger held his hand out.  In his hand was my father's wedding ring.  Roger found it in a deep dark "crevice" inside the car as he was cleaning.  I think my mouth instantly dropped and then I felt my face wet with tears streaming.  I can't even describe how it felt to see my father's wedding ring after four years of thinking it was "long" gone.  Thank you, dear Roger.
As this year of 2011 has not been what I would call a year that I would want to repeat, finding my father's ring is one of the best "endings" for me to conclude this past year in preparation for a new year to come.
As I see this sentimental finding as a symbol of comfort and maybe even hope, I wish for peace and good health to each and everyone of you in the year 2012. 

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

OCTOBER...Breast Cancer Awareness..."Think about it!".

* My Journal * Obviously, Breast Cancer Awareness Month has taken on a deeper meaning to me since this has been my year to personally battle the disease as I have joined thousands and thousands of mothers, daughters, sisters, aunts, cousins, and many more individuals fighting their own fight with breast cancer.  If there has been one thing I have done right, it is being diligent about getting my annual mammogram screenings and keeping that commitment over the years.  Not only has this turned into being a "favor" to myself, but for my family as well.  The pure fact that my cancer was detected early in the "game" allowed for easier and less challenging treatments that has also coordinated with an excellent prognosis.
Now that I know that "this" too can happen to me... and not just to "somebody else", I will continue my commitment with my medical appointments as I will be carefully and closely monitored by my doctors from now on and this day forward.  I conclude by urging all women to think about the importance and meaning behind the month of October... and MOST importantly, I urge you to make your appointments for your annual screenings if you haven't already done so.  As many of us express our dislike regarding the obnoxious mammogram... ironically, IT can also be our "best friend".  As this is exactly what happened to me... and that's a good thing!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Our Beloved Anna

* My Journal * This is Anna... our beloved dear Anna.  We adopted her about two and half years ago from our neighborhood Petco.  Anna was rescued from a puppy mill.  She was overbred and abused.  The first day we saw her, I thought I have never seen an animal so timid and scared. She would not look at us.  She was too scared.  Her whole body shook with fear.  Somehow I knew this was our "dog to be", despite all the other fun, adorable, and loving dogs up for adoption on that day.  My kids were interested in some of the more seemingly fun dogs waiting to find a home.  This was a time I had to step in and convince Bryan and Amy, we needed to adopt Anna.  They agreed.  Anna was welcomed into our home and I became a dog owner for the very first time in my entire life... and I think now... whatever took me so long?
Anna has some "health" issues.  She has eye problems including cataracts, a heart murmur, and she had to have surgery to remove many of her teeth.  Along with these little problems, Anna is a bit emotionally "quirky".  When I walk her, she will not walk over drain covers on sidewalks.  She has to walk around them.  She does the same for door mats.  (I don't ask her why? :)  She has a fear of dogs.  (Does Anna know she is a dog?) She doesn't really know how to play like a dog.  She never knows what to do with a ball or any other toy that is hers. Yet, she "prances" around everyday like she wants to play but all she seems to reveal is a "socially awkward demeanor".  Yes, Anna is a bit odd and maybe that is why her and I share a particular bond. We seem to have some similar characteristics that neither one of us would feel fit for bragging.  Despite her "quirks", I must say, Anna has been a wonderful addition to the family.  I have never had any living being look at me the way she looks at me.  I have never had such a "thing" be so excited to see me when I walk into our house.  I have never had one watch me so carefully as Anna watches me.  She doesn't seem to mind when I am cranky.  She still looks at me adoringly no matter what mood I'm in.  She is always there for me.  When I am down, she comforts me; when I am filled of anxiety, she calms me; when I need a good laugh, somehow she senses that need, and makes me laugh.  Anna is a sheer delight.  I do see the benefits of having such a lovable companion.  I see how a little dog can bring happiness, love, a bit of peace, and can be an asset to one's health.  All good things.  As this topic of owning an adorable pet makes me smile....I feel the need to share my favorite prayer I happened to read on a bumper sticker one day.
"Dear Lord, Please help me to be the kind of person my dog THINKS I am!"
(And I think...if only that could be... if only that prayer could be answered... then it would definitely be a really great thing!)  Amen.

Friday, August 19, 2011

WANTED -- Patience and Understanding...AND Not to Feel Alone.

* My Journal * It has been over a month since I finished my last radiation treatment for breast cancer.  That last day of treatment was a good day.  As soon as that catheter was removed from my body, I felt free.  It felt so good. I was on my way to recovery and looking forward to better days ahead.  I was getting into my regular exercise routine, and working on projects for my freelance illustration business.  Most of my recovery, I thought was behind me and I was to feel blessed and happy....right?  Of course I am....but why wasn't I?  As I arrived at Menorah Hospital for a follow-up appointment in Radiology with Dr. Koffman, I found myself in the middle of a complete melt down.  I didn't even understand it.  I was embarrassed.  "Don't be", Dr. Koffman told me as he handed me the box of tissue and then he continued, "I seem to have that effect on people".
    As I resumed my crying, I told him I was simply worn out, I felt "crummy" and could not pull myself together.  (I visualized myself in a boxing ring finishing up a really good match... I have won the fight... I turn around smelling victory...and while raising my fists in celebration, I am blind-sided with a late one-two punch... I know... it makes no sense.)  Dr. Koffman continued to comfort me by thoughtfully explaining I was very normal to feel what I am feeling.  It takes time.   I was not only feeling exhausted but also feeling  meek and emotionally fragile,  a very frustrating feeling and I was obviously NOT enjoying this knocked down "state of being".
    This "chapter" of my journey also reminded me when my father passed.   I remember feeling a deep sense of relief that Dad's pain was "done" and he could be at peace.  I didn't really feel sadness....I just felt so glad and relieved the suffering was behind him and "it" was finally over.....that was how I felt at the end of my radiation treatments.  Then later, whatever IT is... "IT hits".  Three months after Dad died, I was suddenly feeling the grief....and for some reason now, I'm feeling similar.  I don't get it but I also think life is never quite the same after going through these trials in life.
    As I continued my appointment with Dr. Koffman, we discussed my plans, as I was to see my Oncologist for the first time the very next day.  I thought my personal decisions regarding my cancer treatments were basically complete, but I have found myself in the last "leg" of decision making regarding medication for the prevention of a cancer recurrence.  Things are never as "cut and dry" as you think. Every decision made has it's advantages and disadvantages.  Ugh.  I feel too tired to think.
    After a really good consultation in Oncology with Dr. Burt, both she and Dr. Koffman referred me to their cancer counselor.  I continued my melt down with the counselor. I felt knocked down when I should be feeling happy with my medical care, successful cancer treatments, and my excellent prognosis. As I displayed myself in distress, I was hearing the same message from the doctors, oncology nurse, then the counselor...what I am experiencing is so very normal.  "I have seen this with hundreds of breast cancer patients" said Naomi Glynn, the cancer counselor for Midwest Cancer Care/Menorah Hospital.  Many of these women, she claimed, with early detection breast cancer, and having successful surgery and treatments with great prognosis.....expect to be feeling good and celebrating victory.....but over and over patients feeling exhausted, run down, and "knocked over"... just like me.  Hearing that I'm not alone,  I found this news to be of some comfort to me.  It's not that I wish for anyone to feel this way, but the pure fact that I just might still be on the radar screen as "normal" was sort of good for my mind to know.
    The longer I venture this journey, the more I am impressed with the support and help from many in the medical field, including Cancer Centers offering different types of therapy such as massage, touch healing, yoga, nutrition classes, counseling... not to mention my wonderful medical team, and the list goes on.  I believe in using all the resources it takes to make life better.   As the counselor told me, "Treat yourself the same as you would treat a loved one going through any kind of medical challenge.....and give yourself time." OK, then... I am going to try this....as I continue to "face forward".  I realize not only do family and friends need to be patient and understanding, a cancer survivor needs to do the same for herself.  I also think it may be a matter of understanding what not to understand.  With help, the awareness to get help, and the resources available today, life before, during, and after cancer treatments can be made more tolerable.  And I must say to the very kind Dr. Koffman, after the conclusion of my melt down in his office... Thank You.  Thanks for your patience and understanding, the advice to see the counselor,  and the much needed hug.  Sometimes just a small gesture can make such a difference to keep one foot in front of the other.  That's a good thing.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Women--Our Caregivers... Celebrate them.

* My Journal * On a recent Saturday morning our obgyn doctor friend, Tom, called me about a woman who is an elementary school teacher in our community.  He told me that Jackie had been the wonderful kindergarten teacher for two of their three boys.  Tom had to "ruin her day" with a phone call telling her that her biopsy came back positive for breast cancer.  He called me just after giving her the "crummy" news.  He asked me, with Jackie's permission,  if I wouldn't mind calling her to give her some needed support. So of course I called.  This dedicated teacher was in her classroom at school diligently preparing for the new school year.  She was thrown "a curve ball" in her life just minutes before I called.  Now here we were, neither of us having met, but we had something seriously in common...."the big C"... was instantly a part of both our lives as of the summer of 2011.  I felt her shock of this unwanted and untimely news.  (When is there ever a good time?)  I did not envy her day, nor what she has to face in the months to come, but I also know she is going to be fine.  I won't go into details about her cancer "situation".  My focus here is about women...our caregivers..... and Jackie is this.  I instantly saw her as a very special caregiver...but typical of many women in our lives.  (Sorry men, I will get to you later!)  Jackie's first thoughts expressed to me was her concern for being absent in school because of breast cancer treatments and the necessity of needing to be there for her students in this new school year.  I recognized her commitment and dedication as an educator.  I told her for the sake of our children and our community, she needed to focus on herself now.   That can be a difficult and awkward position for women such as Jackie.  Jackie is a "poster child" example of women who are innate and indispensable caregivers of the world.  As I thought about Jackie and this role that many women hold, I also thought of Ella, just seven years old, who I have admired and observed at church.  She is always taking care of her four-year-old brother, Nolan, who has downs syndrome.  She intuitively has become his little "caretaker".  She watches over him... she puts her finger to her lips to "shhhh" him when she thinks she needs to... she holds his hand... she puts her arm around him when she feels necessary... and she acknowledges his "oh SO" precious smile.  This very young girl, inexperienced in life, is caring, loving, and "mothering" over her special little brother at such a tender age.  Today I celebrate all the "Jackies" and the "Ellas"....young and old, who are the strength... the glue... and critical to our lives in our world as caregivers.  We need you.  I pray for good health and time to rest for you. We can not live without you.  Our caregivers in our lives... are not to be taken for granted.  We want to hold on to them.  They are a priceless blessing.  And I do believe celebrating them is a very good thing.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

To Laugh or to Cry...Or BOTH!

* My Journal * My friend Pam, also a breast cancer survivor, was so kind to treat me to lunch as I went through my twice a day radiation appointments.  It was fun.  We enjoyed a wonderful lunch at the Mission Antique Mall....a great place to enjoy delicious food and forget about troubles while rumaging around discovering some vintage treasures.....one of my favorite pastimes.  Thank you Pam!
As Pam and I focused on the subject of healthy living, we talked about nutrition, lifestyles, our experiences going through cancer treatments, our doctors, and so on.  One thing that really "stuck to my brain" was her comment that it was not only very healthy to laugh, but it was also very healthy to cry.  I think most of us know that laughing is obviously a good thing....and you sort of figure....it's not fun to cry, but crying does allow you to "let it all out".  After that thought, I began more of my usual routine of further thinking.  Hey....the fact that I can be really noble at laughing...and then, I am also a master crier "with dignity and distinction", I must exclaim... Wow!  I believe that just may work to my supreme advantage!  Since I am such a great authority of both these virtues, and now that I have kicked my "stupid cancer" out of power,  I MUST be of prestige health....(alien or not!).  And this I say is of "impressive prominence"!   I now "crown" and title myself as the "Princess of 'to Laugh AND to Cry' all in the greatness of health".  Then I shall "crown" Roger as the "Prince Charming of 'Putting up with Me'...(will she laugh or will she cry today?...  OR will she do BOTH ?!)"....(but isn't he of elevated luck...to have your majesty (me)!... Hee!).  Now then, that feels of great stateliness! I do believe I feel the rise of my good "healthiness", and obviously a part of Royalty!  What about you, "Prince Charming Roger"?  As I declare myself a Royal Princess, living in the "Palace of Good Health", I do believe that is of stature AND a splendid good thing!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Waiting Room...Michelle

* My Journal * Just a moment ago, I was going to and through a number of medical tests, doctor appointments, and consultations for my breast cancer... then surgery and radiation.  Today, feeling "on the mend", with all that behind me,  I was in my surgeon's waiting room... waiting for my follow up appointment with Dr. Balanoff.  The waiting room was full of women.  Most of them had a sister or some other female by their side.  Most of them were older women, like the one who was sitting next to me.  She didn't have any problem opening up to me.  She was just diagnosed with breast cancer last week, and was worried what was in store for her.  I told her she was in a good place and it was going to be OK... (as if I was a veteran at this still new experience to me.) The woman pointed to the hundreds and hundreds of files exposed from the receptionist window of all the breast cancer "cases" just this office alone has dealt with.  We both looked in awe of how could this be.. but it is... it is the true reality of life.
Also in the waiting room was Michelle.  Michelle was in her wheelchair waiting for her appointment like the rest of us.  Hard to really tell, but I think she was a younger woman.  I was immediately and completely heart sick for her.  Just looking into her sad and worn out eyes, I knew she has been fighting a long hard battle of pure Hell.  It was not right.  Her "caretaker", who I don't know in what capacity or relation she was to Michelle, openly talked to the woman next to her of the troubles Michelle has faced, and is facing.  The woman told Michelle she would put her on her prayer list.  Her caretaker said they would take any prayers they could get.  I jumped in and said I would be in prayer for her too.  If a person does not feel spiritual in his or her life, I can't imagine not feeling it in these moments, just out of pure necessity and desperation for someone in need.  I usually keep this "stuff" to myself, but not this time... not today... not for Michelle.  I don't care what kind of "spiritualness" one has or not... and how it's "spirited"and/or worshipped or not...  good vibes, positive thoughts, meditation, or any form of prayer....whatever it takes...I ask that for Michelle from this day.  As I was called for my appointment, I went over and placed my hand on her shoulder.  I wanted her to know a stranger to her cares.  At that time, everyone in the room seemed to be in support of each other for the fact that we were all in this waiting room, together for a reason.  I will never forget that moment... and I will never forget Michelle.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

A Spider and it's Web ... Wake up ... "Smell the coffee"

* My Journal * My favorite "spot" is our front porch.  I find myself going to that spot to sit....especially this summer.  I like sitting when the sun is going down.  It seems to be a place where I feel calm.  Once I am there, I relax.  The ability to relax seems to be a challenge for me, but I found "planting" myself on our porch helps.  Last week I did just that, after finishing my last radiation treatment.  As I sat and rocked, my eyes were drawn to a spider spinning her web.  I'm not a lover of spiders, but I seemed to be calmly drawn to the little critter.  I took time and just sat...and watched....I sat....and kept watching.  I observed how hard this spider labored.  She worked hard and fast.  I was impressed and found myself quietly "cheering" her on.  She was such a dilegent worker.  She would not stop for a break...there was much determination and fight in her to press on, and keep going.  Finally I felt my space was being a bit invaded by the web, so I decided to let the disciplined worker "be" and I went inside.
The next day I walked out to the porch and noticed the spider sitting in it's gigantic web.  The web spread wide, across much of the front porch, and near my "sitting spot".  Isn't it amazing?!  And how does such a "little thing" like that create such delicate, transparent, and beautiful work?  Incredible. (Now, I realize I am not making any new discoveries here....but it was one of those moments in my life I have taken time to "smell the coffee".)  Later, when I arrived again, the web was gone for whatever reason that destroyed the piece of work.  All that hard work...gone.  I felt bad for the little spider.  The evening approached, the sun was disappearing, and I was back out on the porch anxious to relax.  Wouldn't you know, there she was again, rebuilding her web in the same place.  The tenacious spider had begun the process all over, and it didn't seem to phase the energy and determination in the tiny creature of nature.  What a great little example and role model in our "oh" so big world.  I felt tremendous respect and admiration for this amazing critter with great character.  She did not give up.  She kept going, despite her world being broken down. She was strong, and determined to succeed, even with overwhelming obstacles in her life. I see this tiny little spider spinning her web...an inspiration in life, with a reminder to never quit, never give up, don't get discouraged, be strong and mighty... be determined, with "chin up"... no matter what has knocked your web down, or what obstacles you face in life.  I then realized, it's time I took more time to "wake up and smell the coffee". That's a good thing.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Unlucky but Lucky

* My Journal * For so many years I have been faithfully attending my annual mammogram check ups.  For so many years I have been lucky....lucky until this year.  This year I wasn't so lucky when they called me to come in for a magnified mammogram.  I was then unlucky when they told me I needed to have a biopsy performed on my left breast.  I continued to be unlucky when the biopsy results came back positive with cancer.  Interestingly enough, my unluckiness suddenly changed to luckiness.  As soon as I was told of my diagnosis, I was also told I was lucky.  Lucky this unlucky diagnosis was lucky being found at such an early stage.  Funny, I needed to feel lucky but felt unlucky all at the same time.  The deeper we got into tackling this unlucky but lucky new challenge, the more I realized the "lucky" seemed to be feeling much more than "unlucky".  Are you following me?  :)
To simplify, my experience as a cancer patient with my unlucky but lucky diagnosis, I define my challenge throughout as a "cake walk" compared to many, (even though it hasn't felt like it).  What I am getting at is, as I have lived this journey, my thoughts and prayers continue for those I know and see fighting greater challenges than the recent journey I have had to endure.  I am reminded by Chris....the young and beautiful blond mother of two, I know from church, who has handled her cancer recurrance with tremendous grace, courage, and also with stunning calmness.  Then there is Debby....a gutsy fighter, also mother of two with difficult cancer battles, doing well, keeping "chin up", plunging through and celebrating every victory along the way. (FYI--I knew she would look great with no hair!)  Our long time friend, Joyce...no, she is not battling cancer, recently experienced a "freak" bicycle accident.  This left her near death with critical head trauma. Also a mother, Joyce is a strong athletic and tough individual.  She has made miraculous strides in her amazing and difficult recovery.  She too is a true miracle.  These inspiring women are just a few of so many individuals "out there" fighting courageous battles.  For every mother, father, aunt, uncle, cousin, friend.....  or whoever you may be fighting hard battles... I pray and wish for good days, hopes met, dreams made, and wishes granted with a little bit of the "unlucky luck" along the way...
...and this...I also hope and pray to be an unlucky but lucky, and blessed good thing.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Farewell to Cathee!

* My Journal * She's gone! She flew the "coop"!  My sister, and catheter named "Cathee" left town!  I'm free.  Yep, I finished radiation treatments this past Wednesday and Cathee left as soon as mission was accomplished! Hallehujah!  I'm done...and free of my MammoSite Balloon Catheter.   She (Cathee) and I made a mutual agreement to never see each other again.  This is not sad. (We can always text.)  I need no more of her.  And she is good without me! So she is happy...and I am happy. Just need a little recovery time for myself.  (Rumor has it, Cathee is meeting up with "The Radiator" in another Orbit!) "Goodbye, Adios, Aloha, Ciao, Au revoir, So long, Farewell!  It's a good thing!
(P.S. This is NOT the end of White Apple Passion....I will continue to illustrate, write, and "imaginate" as I recover after kicking this stupid cancer in the butt!)

Monday, July 11, 2011


My Journal * I don't know of a better way to explain experiencing radiation treatments than to say, with a bit of imagination,  it's like being an "Alien" from Outer Space!  First of all, I am receiving my radiation alone in a cold and strange room. (I believe I have used the word "alone" quite a bit.)  Well, I take that back.  I have "Cathee", (remember she is my catheter) .  Again my treatment is called MammoSite Radiation Therapy, different from the traditional radiation.  As I lie on my back, sitting next to me is who I call "The Radiator".  I will describe him as a "headless" robot.  He is a serious looking long box that sits to the floor on wheels.  As much as "Cathee" is annoying, "The Radiator" seems to be a little perturbing.  (They make a good pair.)  SO, as I lie on the table,  the "Human" Technician performs x-rays, measures, and then "connects"  me, the "Alien", to "The Radiator" for the "big event".  I am measured by wire that goes through tubing that will attach to him and me, with the help of "Cathee".  When I am ready, a "Human" Physicist comes in to reinsure everything checks out properly.  Next comes my "Human" Radiology Doctor for a final check.  When he, the last "Earthly Human" exits the room, the very large steel door that is close to a foot deep, slowly shuts, as it makes a loud noise as if I am ready to "blast" off .  I, the "Alien" from Outer Space, am in this eerie room joined by "Cathee" and "The Radiator" who are "Aliens" in their own right.  No "Earthly Being" would "dare" be in this "orbital" room! .  It is not permitted.  It's could be dangerous...YES...so I think, "What the heck am I doing in here?" Oh...I remind myself, again....I am the "Alien"!  UGH!  (And does "IT" really work?  Does it do me any good?  Or will it only harm me?).  As my head files through many emotions, I hear what is "the dummy" wire coming from the radiator, through "Cathee", and into my "Alien" breast.  It doesn't hurt, but I do feel it.  The dummy wire is to insure there are no "obstructions".  It is then released and the actual wire that draws the radiation from "The Radiator" to my breast is felt.  I hear a prominent clicking noise.  This is "The Radiator" loudly counting my radiation time.  The room itself is not quiet.  There is a whirring noise going on all the time, fit for "Aliens" such as me.   As I said, the treatment does not hurt, but gives me an odd emotional "alien" feeling.  Just to the outside of this room are the "Earthly Humans";  my Doctor, the Physicist, and the Technician.  The Technician has four monitors including a sound monitor overlooking the "Alien".  The Doctor and Physicist are viewing  "Cathee"/the balloon of the catheter in my breast on computer monitors.  I am being watched very closely just as you would watch any "Alien" if you saw one.  My own actual "alien" radiation time lasts for just over 6 minutes. I humor myself by thinking "Cathee" and "the Radiator" have "something going on" during this time, and I exist as only the "third party" "Alien".  I want no details and I refuse to use any imagination here!  Ha!  After the 6 minutes, the clicking stops, the wire goes back into "The Radiator", and the big heavy door slowly and "spookily" opens with more loud vibration. The "Earthly Humans" are not afraid of me anymore.  The "Human Technician" unhooks me from "The Radiator". Thank goodness.  The "Human" Nurse comes in to "redress" and pad my catheter area.  And I, the "Alien", am free to go until the next round. Yes, feeling like an "Alien" is not a good thing, but really it's not such a bad thing either.  I have learned through this experience that "Earthly Humans" treat "Aliens" like me, quite well.  And may I add, that is good thing.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Inappropriately Appropriate!

When my wonderful friend, Starla heard about my diagnosis, she sent me a message and called my cancer, "Stupid Cancer"!  As I read the message, it seemed to give me an instant feeling of "empowerment" over
the unwanted enemy.  I then suddenly realized there is actually a place in life where "verbal abuse" can be  appropriately used, and the unacceptable word, "stupid", is COMPLETELY acceptable!  I truly found much satisfaction in this inappropriate but appropriate use of vocabulary.  I want to thank Starla for allowing me to feel the liberating right to personally shout out and verbally abuse the "uninvited guest".
On behalf of all cancer patients...THIS is what I have to say:  "To all the 'Stupid Cancers' in the world, YOU CAN JUST GO TO HELL!!"

Friday, July 8, 2011

My Catheter....My Sister....Her name is "Cathee"

My Journal * I am trying to figure out the best way to describe my "relationship" with my lovely MammoSite Balloon Catheter.  I will call her "Cathee". The best comparison I can think of is Cathee seems to be like a little sister visiting from out of town.  (She wasn't even invited!)  I never had a "real" sister but this is as "blood related" as it gets.  (After all we ARE sharing the same blood.)  As I have said maybe twice before, Cathee is very annoying.  She is not "attached to the hip" but attached to my breast.  She is here visiting for a couple of weeks and will not leave me alone.  She hurts me...even though she doesn't mean to.  I don't like her but I do love her.  Does this sound like sisters to you?  I love her because even though she is very annoying, she loves me back, and she is going to do me a lot of good.  She is also very smart and knows exactly what her mission is to help reinsure a good long life for me.  I must say when she arrived, she did not look so great....she maintains a poor diet....she eats up my bad cells and steals my good ones too!...(the selfish sister she is.) And what are sisters for!?  I have decided, especially since she is the "smart" left brain sister (who doesn't focus much on appearance), and I am the "visual" right brain sister, I will just have to give her a little "make-over" during her "stay".  And here she is....Introducing my beloved and dear, annoying and selfish, little sister and catheter.  Her name is "Cathee".

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Radiation....My Dad....Menorah Hospital

My first appointment for my cancer at Menorah Hospital was with my Surgeon, Dr. Balanoff on June 15th.  That was the first time I had stepped back into this hospital since Wednesday, November 7th, 2007....the day my father passed away in a room on the second floor.  I have spent many days and many hours at this hospital the last years of my father's life.  My father was a quiet man, but as he got older he and I shared many conversations and grew very close.  He had many struggles with his health including; heart, diabetes, cancer, and kidney failure, all while trying to care for my mother suffering from Alzheimer's.  He would not let go of trying to care for her 'til the day he died.  Those were some very rough years.  Dad could not handle Mom.  Life seemed to be a bit out of control.  I spent a lot of time with these wonderful people, my dear parents.  I went with Dad to his radiation treatments.  I would drive him to dialysis when he was too weak to drive.  And there were many many more appointments that we journeyed to try and keep Dad healthy. My heart ached for both of their sufferings.  Only a few years later, I am back at Menorah, not for Dad, but for my own cancer that has struck me.  I am making trips to the Radiology/Oncology Department which is directly below the room my dad lost his life in.  I lie here alone on my back quietly taking in this eerie treatment...radiation...and thinking about Dad.  I am facing to the north and staring towards the ceiling which seems to be in the exact direction of my father's room.   I sometimes wish my mind would not think as much as it thinks.  It gets me in trouble and then I cry.  All I can say is I not only miss my mom, ( still with us "in body"), but I dearly miss my father.  He is my hero.  But I do know he is resting in peace...a true blessing, which it too, is a good thing.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011


Update *
** Tuesday, 7-05--Pathology report came with good news.  Then came ultrasound and changeout of catheter in the afternoon.
** Wednesday, 7-06--Radiology appointment will include CT scan to make sure the new catheter is positioned correctly..... Geez.
** Thursday, 7-07--MammoSite Radiation Therapy begins.  Ten treatments twice a day for Thursday, Friday of this week, then Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday of next week.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Pathology Report

My Journal * I did not know what my schedule would be today.  "The" phone call came in at 9:30AM.  Pathology report is in. Margins are clear!  All is good! Another hurdle down.  Rejoice.  With that said, I was then told to be at the Breast Center for Ultrasound at 1PM this afternoon and then to the Surgeon's office at 4PM for the "change out" of the MammoSite balloon catheter....ugh....(not excited about another procedure that results to no fun at all, but this does result to a speedy and seemingly safer treatment ahead, being the MammoSite Radiation Thereapy).
I arrived for my Ultrasound.  I did not realize I had one more "test" to pass in order to be able to move forward with this new radiation.  The Ultrasound was in order to "check" that the balloon of the catheter was not located too close to my skin.  If that was the case, my catheter would be removed and I would not be treated with the MammoSite Radiation, but would be going through the 6-week more traditional radiation treatment and schedule.  OK.  I would find out "upstairs" at my 4PM appointment.
My busy Surgeon was delayed from surgery as I waited for "my time".  When it was my turn, Dr. Balonoff was very pleased and happy of my pathology report and the placement of the catheter.  I am passing through with "flying colors". She then had me lie down on the table to prepare me for "the changeout".  I will explain.  At surgery time, a much "cheaper" catheter was placed in my breast.  This is for all practical and economic reasoning.  It used to be, they would go ahead and place the expensive catheter in at surgery time, and too often results of pathology reports, etc. would not allow the procedure of Mammosite Radiation Therapy.  Therefore, a catheter costing a few thousand dollars would be wasted as opposed to a catheter costing a couple of hundred dollars.
I will say especially after today, I can understand that there are women who refuse this new radiation because of "dealing" with this "catheter thing".  I believe I have already expressed it's annoyance.  I also think you sort of have to have the "stomach" for it.  The "change out" of the catheter today was not any kind of pleasant experience, just as others have not been pleasant either. I do know it will all be worth it.  And WOW, am I lucky or what?!  As a cancer patient, everything is going as well as you could possibly want.  It's all a good thing.

Saturday, July 2, 2011


My Journal *   Being a cancer patient requires "patience", as most would understand.  I am now in the "waiting" mode hoping to get the pathology report back by Tuesday, critical to my schedule as it stands now.  The "buzz" word for cancer surgery is "Margins".  We want CLEAR margins, meaning there is a good margin of healthy tissue all around the lump that was removed from my breast.  If the results conclude this, I am good to go for the new MammoSite Radiation Therapy to start this week.  If not, it is probably back to surgery but that is not in MY plans!
Here is a brief summary of what has happened:
June 8th--Biopsy performed--Calcifications were removed to be evaluated.  A metal clip was then placed in breast to mark the area removed.
June 29th--A procedure was performed the morning of surgery inserting a wire to the area as a guide for removal of the bad tissue.  This was done by using a mammogram.  I was awake during this procedure.  (It wasn't exactly an activity to be placed on a list of "fun things to do"....ha!)
By then, I was all set for surgery already with IV in place, etc.  I have to admit, I was looking forward to that moment of being "placed in a  happy state of sleep".....and finally I was there.
During surgery after removing the lump, the doctor inserted a MammoSite Balloon Catheter.  Again, if my pathology report comes back like we plan, then this catheter will be replaced by the "real" catheter to be used for the radiation treatments.
So here I am, with a catheter "attached to my breast", waiting.  I am still so glad to be a candidate for this MammoSite Radiation Therapy, but I am not exactly becoming "BFF" with this device that is a part of me for the time being.  It's a bit annoying.  The area is sore, and "wearing" a catheter is not what I would call comfortable. I do guess I just need to quit complaining, and know that this device is only a great "weapon"! Yes, it is! ...A great weapon that will be used to "kick" and destroy the enemy!  That's a good thing!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Day after surgery..."Bed Head"...21st Wedding Anniversary

My Journal * My surgery is behind me.  All is good.  I am tired.  I am sore.  I don't feel like doing anything. I have a catheter attached to my breast. Worst of all, I have "bed head"! Ha.  So you can just imagine how "lovely" a "sight" I am.  Roger and I are celebrating our 21st wedding Anniversary today as well.  What a fine day. :) "Happy Anniversary Honey"!
P.S. And he will take me just the way I am....and that's a great thing!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Tomorrow--Surgery Day

My Journal * "They" tell you when you are going through cancer treatments, you need to eat good and healthy as well as get "lots of rest".  "Excuse me"?!  Since I found out about the "C" word being a part of MY life, I have easily managed to lose my "hearty" appetite, and I have become the "Queen" of tossing and turning in bed on an hourly nightly basis.  Obviously, not only the anticipation of cancer treatments, not to mention experiencing cancer treatments, is in itself a new possibly difficult challenge, but the normal "tasks" of everyday life such as eating and sleeping can sometimes prove to be easier said than done.  Not to worry...this has made me think...I have figured out that surgery day may not be so bad after all.  I can not eat or drink anything after midnight tonight.  I am scheduled to be at the hospital to check in at 9am.  Surgery will not begin until noon.  I will be sedated at that time. This means there will be at least two good things happening on this day. When I wake up from surgery, I will probably be REALLY hungry with a hearty appetite ready to "devour" anything they place in front of me...AND, the best part of the whole day, and what I am SO looking forward to is taking a really good nap!  That is a good thing!

Monday, June 27, 2011

JoAnn.......Alzheimer's Patient......Mom

My Journal * This is my mom.  I don't call her Mom anymore when I am with her.  I call her JoAnn.  She doesn't respond to the name "Mom", but she occasionally seems to be a bit more familiar with her real name, JoAnn.  She doesn't know who I am....she hasn't known who I am for many years.  JoAnn lives in the Alzheimer's unit at John Knox Village Care Center, not far from my home.  Since the diagnosis of my cancer, I wish I could talk to my mother the way I used to be able to talk to her.  I wish she could hold my hand and rub my arm the way she used to. I miss her.  She was a great listener and she was always there for me when I needed her.  I also realize, JoAnn is much better off not having to worry about me, her daughter.  That is the "good side" of being an Alzheimer's patient. She is in her own far away "world" that I nor anyone else could ever figure what that confused and hallucinating world could ever be.  So this is OK.  I wouldn't want to complicate her world anymore than it is.  And I have Roger who has been by my side for so many years, and is by my side through our new challenge.  I am so glad to have him with me.  He comforts and calms my soul as much as my stubborn self allows....and it's a good thing.

Sunday, June 26, 2011


Update * Monday, June 27th: Appointment at Menorah Hospital.....EKG, Chest X-ray, lab work in preparation for surgery this Wednesday, June 29th.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

"Pity" Party!

 My Journal * I told myself two days after learning about my diagnosis, I need to stop attending my little "pity" parties.  Somehow, I seem to keep having them every now and then without control.  Then I realized, I might as well have fun while I'm there!  I have discovered all ya have to do is remove the "pity" and then have the "Party"!!.....after all, IT IS a party, isn't IT!!!!  :)

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


Update * Radiology appointment set for June 23rd,Thursday morning at 8:30 ... Menorah Hospital.

Roller Coaster Ride!

My Journal * On Tuesday, I felt like I was really starting to relax about this whole new idea of being a cancer patient.  I had two days of really good workouts at the gym and feeling good.  Just before leaving for a business appointment in the afternoon, I got a call from the scheduler at my surgeon's office.  The phone call felt like I was hearing two many words at once and it wasn't "computing" into my brain correctly. Then, I heard "right breast" (my healthy breast) mentioned at the "5:00 location" rolling into hearing the words" ultrasound" and "more biopsies".  Are you kidding?  The scheduler was to call me back to let me know when to come in for these tests.  That was upsetting.  After my business appointment was concluded, I called back to find out about these new tests and when.  As the scheduler spoke to me, I find out not only is there a "nodule" in my right breast, but there is a place under my left arm in a lymph node of concern.  I didn't catch all this in the first phone call....I seemed to be hearing all the words jumbled into a foreign mess without explanation. My stomach flew up into my throat.
Roger and I spent the evening nearly sick to our insides that this early detection cancer was maybe something much bigger.  We ate no dinner.  I cried and cried some more.
I had to be at the Breast Center early Wednesday morning...7:30 AM to check in. Ultrasound started at 8:00.  Roger kept telling me it was "going to be a good day".  Inside myself, I did not believe him.
There was a woman working in the office of the Breast Center named "Stella", (my grandmother's name). My first impression of her was she was an attractive, fit, and healthy woman who I was assuming never had to deal with cancer herself. Minutes later she was in the waiting room with us and I think she saw that I looked somewhat in distress and started conversation.  Her words were so supportive and soothing.  Stella herself had breast cancer six years ago and could feel my agony.  She had a double mastecomy. She looked so great. She has no idea how important she became in my life at that moment.  I was a stranger to her and she reached out to me.....when I really needed it. I will never forget our conversation about going through and experiencing breast cancer.
I was taken back to prepare for my ultrasound.  Another type of gown today.....open to the front...ties in the back.  As I lie there with ultrasound being performed, I finally start "versing" with "Heather", the technician.  I told her of my terrible anxiety over the news of my MRI. .  She began to tell me it is very common for a patient to come in for more tests because of MRI results.  The MRI shows "everything". She then asked me if I have ever been told I had fibro-cystic breasts.  I said no....she was surprised.  She also explained that the lymph node was probably flared up due to my inital biopsy. The tension in my body began to unwind a bit.  "Why couldn't this have been initially discussed with me when called about my MRI results", I wondered.  Sure enough, the ultrasound checked out fine....no biopsies to perform today.  "This" scare was over.  As we left the breast center, I waved to Stella.  She came up to the window, pointed to her chin, and told me "chin up".
Roger was right.  It was a good day.
 I'm done with THAT roller coaster ride.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Knots in my Stomach

My Journal * I have knots in my stomach.  No wonder it's been feeling the way it's been feeling.  There are all kinds of knots "in there"... the slip knot, double loop bowline, figure-8-stopper, overhand knot, turtle's noose, butterfly knot, clove hitch, anchor hitch, another way to tie a clove hitch, honda knot, rolling hitch, sheepshank, angler's loop, bowline loop knot, the angler's knot, square knot, sailor's knot, and granny knot.  Whew.  I have felt knots in my stomach since the day I learned a biopsy was in order.  I am aware my stomach seems to acquire knots often.  I realize I need to learn to untie these uneccessary elements in my life that don't do me a bit of good.  Easier said than done "cuz" my stomach seems to have a "mind of it's own".....and the rest of me feels just fine.  :)

Saturday, June 18, 2011

MRI * Peek-a-Boo * Can't run and hide

My Journal * I didn't think much about going to my appointment for my MRI, except for that I was pouting a bit having to do this on a Saturday afternoon.  I had a CT scan many many years ago on my lungs when I had acquired a nasty lung disease called "hystoplasmosis".  That's about it.  So we arrived at Menorah to check in.  Am I the only person out of the whole day checking into radiology?  There was nobody else around, including no receptionist.  The nurse did come and took us back after I wrongfully filled out some paperwork, then put my lovely gown on "open to the back", instead of "open to the front".  (Can't those medical "people" make up their minds on which way it goes?)  :)
I was taken to a big room and in it is what looked to me like a big "missile".  The two women "working the missile" mentioned starting off with the IV .....(I realized I should have done a little homework here on what I was getting myself into.)  As the IV was going into my arm, I felt like I was tasting nail polish.  I was told after that to get up and lie face down.  Yep, there it is again....instead of one big hole, there were two big "peepholes" staring back at me waiting to place both my breasts through.  UGH.  I'm lying there breasts hanging down with one person grabbing my left boob on one side, the other person grabbing my right boob on the other side.  This is really getting "pleasant".   I was told it would take 25 minutes for the whole process.  As I was inside the "missile", all alone in the big room, my head began to pound.  I felt lightheaded realizing I can't run and hide.  This moment is one of those moments of feeling very alone. No one is living "it" like yourself.  Then I realize you have to face it head on.....and kick it in the butt.

Friday, June 17, 2011


Update * MRI---Saturday at Noon, Menorah Hospital.
(Geez, "they" won't even give me the weekend off! :)

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Re: Self-Portrait as of June 9th, 2011

My Journal * I will be anxious some day to be able to change my self-portrait.


Update * Plans are made.  My surgery will be performed by Dr. Christa Balonoff, Menorah Hospital.  All my treatments, appointments, etc. will be at Menorah.  Surgery (lumpectomy) is scheduled for the morning of June 29th, (the day before our wedding anniversary....yippee!)  Radiation will begin the week of fourth of July...whoohoo!  It's all good.
Thank you to Dr. Thomas Dowd, obgyn doctor, caring thoughtful friend, for the contact and making this happen...as well as supporting Roger and me.

The Mammogram

My Journal * ...flat as a pancake....uh huh....that's how it all began.
I went in for my routine annual mammogram on May 25th, 2011.  I have been on an annual schedule now for many years.   So at this point, I'm pretty used to this obnoxious machine, THE mammogram...."pancake griddle", "flat iron", "compressor"...to name a few....(as I could call it a few other names but trying to keep my blog clean)....who in the heck invented this nasty machine that flattens your breasts like pancakes???  It had to have been a MAN.....sorry guys....I can't help myself.  OK, I am not the only woman who is accusing!   As I curse this machine, THE mammogram, I really ought to be giving it my utmost respect.  After all, it probably saved my life.  Thank you my dearest sweet mammogram.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Breast Exam

My Journal * In a two week time period, my breasts have been handled by I don't know how many "sets of hands" through breast exams, several mammograms, the biopsy, and there after.  My left breast has been handled, squashed, "needled", and bruised.....and it's only just begun.  Isn't it fun being a woman!  Ha!


Update * Our friend, Tom is an OBGYN doctor.  He has been so kind into guiding Roger and me with information and he was the connection for getting my appointment today with a second surgeon.  It was an excellent meeting.  I am going with this surgeon.  Again, the treatment will be lumpectomy followed by partial breast radiation---a new treatment of radiation that will go through a catheter into the area that the lump is removed from.  I will do this very soon after surgery twice a day for five days.  This is a much more intense schedule packed into one week as opposed to 6 long weeks of radiation.  I am very glad I am a candidate for this new type of radiation.  So basically, in a matter of a few weeks from surgery, I will be done with all my treatments for this cancer providing everything including the surgery goes as planned.  I will find out tomorrow exactly what my schedule is.  Stay tuned.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Biopsy

My Journal * Here is a self portrait I created showing myself during the breast biopsy.  I have known a lot of women going through breast cancer.  I have never heard about "the table" with the HOLE!  Is it a big secret?!  You lie down on the table with your breast placed through a big hole.  They crank you up like you are getting an oil change.  Yep...that's the way it is. So here I am with my "boob" hanging down below the table as the doctor is underneath performing the wonderful biopsy.


Update * After seeing a surgeon last Friday for my breast cancer, I am going to another surgeon in the morning for a second opinion.  Again, my diagnosis--DCIS, it's actually Stage 0 cancer, (I didn't even know there was a stage 0) and grade 1.  Excellent prognosis.  I am to expect lumpectomy with radiation.

Creating my blog, "White Apple Passion", regarding my health

I decided to create a blog allowing friends and family to view updates on my life as I make my decisions and go through breast cancer treatments...also journaling and creating images throughout, if I so desire.  I will either have listed an update or a journal page.  That way, if you want to find out what's going on without having to read my journals just look for the word "update" on each post and skip the rest.  If you want to hear my stories, then also read the posts I have listed as "my journal".
I call this blog, White Apple Passion for a couple of reasons.  Several years ago I discovered these charms that were apples made of white glass.  I loved them and thought they seemed like a symbol of "good health".  I created a necklace design using them while attaching to a card that I illustrated to represent "good health". These White Apple charms have been sold and given to many people representing wellness.  That's the story for White Apple.  The other word, Passion, I think is one of the most important components to have in life.  Having a passion allows enthusiasm in life which I believe is a very healthy thing.
White Apple Passion is a good thing.

Self-Portrait as of July 9th, 2011

My Journal * On Thursday, July 9th 2011, after coming home from a funeral, I got a call from the nurse who was with me during my breast biopsy the day before.  I knew she was going to call me to check on how I was doing.  The results of the biopsy was not going to be available until at least Friday.  During my biopsy the doctor told me she thought everything looked encouraging, nothing suspicious looking.  This gave me a fairly confident outlook when walking out of the hospital from my biopsy procedure.  As I continued my phone conversation with the nurse, I joked a bit about the "bounding" bandaging of my whole chest.  I hadn't realized how important it was to have a tight "bondage" of my chest until I took the wrap off after 24 hours from the procedure.  Ouch!  The giving away let it "all hang out" which caused "motion" which also caused pain.  I then realized the meaning of the nurse's advice from the day before telling me to wear a REALLY good bra!  On came two sports bras!

As the laughter stopped, the nurse proceded to tell me they did get the results back from Pathology.  As soon as I heard that, I knew it was bad news.  The sentence would not have started the way it did, if otherwise....I just knew.  She told me I had DCIS, short for Ductal Carcinoma In Situ and would probably involve a lumpectomy and radiation.  (She would not use the "C" word.)  The good news---my mammogram caught this at the earliest stage.  I was then told they had an appointment for Friday to see a surgeon.  Do I want to take the appointment?  My brain was full.  I numbly said, yes, I will take the appointment.  This is how my journey of breast cancer has begun....