Thursday, April 30, 2009

Surgery Went Well

Hey Everybody,

This is Jason. My mom wants me to tell everyone that the surgery
went very well (sergeon said "delightful"). She is also feeling no
pain at all (probably from the drugs) and hopes to be home soon.
Actually in her hospital bed, she told me at least 5 times that she
is feeling so great and so happy that it is over with. She truly
appreciates all the love, support and prayers she is getting from
her friends and family.


-Melissa's son Jason

Monday, April 27, 2009

Getting Ready for Surgery

I cleaned up my room, did some laundry, went out for lunch with Stef, and gathered together the stuff I want to bring to the hospital. When Aimee got home from school, I had her take photos of me and I posted them here, along with photos of my high school buddies and one of my favorite wig.

Stefanie volunteered to coordinate food offerings. So if you want to do something for us in that way, here's her email address: I'll also be giving her the email addresses of those of you who've asked about that. Geoff has been enjoying caring for our family by cooking good dinners but I think that I'm going to step in and see if he can get some relief - at least in the next week or two.

I spoke to my sister-in-care and she read my good-bye letter and said she cried. I didn't post that one. It felt too vulnerable. Then I asked her whether there's anything more I can do to work through the sadness and she said, "You'll experience more of that." I told her about feeling horror and as we sorted through that one, I realized it was about not wanting to be disfigured. She's felt that too - where she'd more likely hide her side with no breast than hide her breast...

She's gotten to feeling better about that after 10 years by remembering that many of us at this age have scars on our bodies from various ailments. She also said that after her surgery the thing that bothered her the most was noticing people's eyes always going to her chest. She got over that when realizing she couldn't control how others would react to her. When I told that to Stef, she said, it's human nature - like it's nearly impossible not to look.

All this stuff, feeling disfigured and worrying about what others will think is something I just have to use humor to deal with. So the last few days I've been laughing with my kids about being without "boobs" soon. And they've been able to make jokes about it and laugh too. That's been a great gift for me right now. I love my kids!!!!

So here's a link to Psalm 119 for those of you who were wondering but didn't have the book:

Again, thank you for all your thoughts and prayers. I feel very touched by all of the support I'm getting and wonder if I'd be as there for others as you are all there for me. Anyway, looking forward to the Valium tonight.

Challenges Turn to Strengths

So I wrote my poem (see previous update) and wrote a good-bye letter and made a collage with my photos, my writings, magazine photos/words and glue stick. I felt complete. This week has been very healing for me because I've been feeling like myself again. I am ready for the surgery and am imagining how the new body will look and feel and it all seems ok.

There were many strange occurrences this week that helped me along. They were shocking things and yet I was able to find a way to gratitude that they happened. In fact, it was so strange that they happened in this week of all weeks that I couldn't see them as problems for very long...and instead had to go, "What this all about? And why am I being confronted with this at this very time? What's the meaning and the lesson for me? How could this be supporting me through this time rather than making things harder?"

First, Geoff's dad, Daniel ben Bracha, fell and broke his ribs. He's ok, but in pain and recovering in a convalescent hospital. Geoff and his mom, Lee have been very busy and emotionally distraught. So my first reaction was to wonder if I could survive my surgery without Geoff's full attention. Next my feelings went to wondering if I could bare having Geoff needing more support than it was a contest of who had the worst stuff to deal with. Then I started to see this situation as a blessing.

It's a blessing because I'm not going through chemo and instead am feeling stronger now. I can be depended on. I can drive Aimee and pick her up. I can make dinners. I can do more. I can actually be there for Geoff and it makes me feel even stronger. This situation happening right at this time has been helpful in strengthening my sense of myself and what I can take on.

It was the perfect way for Geoff to back down too because he is so strong and dependable that I might have found it easier to continue depending on him rather than on myself. In fact, I could now say Psalm 119 for someone else. Plus, Paul, Geoff's brother, is coming down from Marin on Wednesday to support their mom and dad so Geoff can focus on me and the surgery.

The second thing that happened was I finally met the woman who's my sister-in-support from WomanCare. We went out for lunch. And as we sat down, she started to put some hearing pieces into her ears. I asked her how long she's had a hearing problem and she told me since going on Taxol. The peripheral neuropathy can happen in the ears as well as the fingers and toes. I don't think it's been proven, but her hearing doctor has seen many patients with the same problem after chemo.

So I thanked her for not telling me about that until I was done with the Taxatere (which is similar to Taxol) because I would have been so fearful. And I got to feel grateful for not having any permanent damage from all I went through with the hospitalization. My colon isn't perfect, but I'm pretty much back to my old self and hopefully will just continue to get better as time goes on.

The third shock that happened was that a psychotherapist I was planning to work with after my surgery had a recurrence of her canser and won't be seeing clients for her many months of chemo. (I'm spelling it with the s now just to take the scary away from that word.) Hearing about her recurrence immediately brought up my own fears of recurrence and possible spread.

My first thought was that this situation coming up right now is telling me, "don't be smug and think you are going to be free of this disease." Fortunately, after talking with Sharol, she gave me the idea that instead, this was a reminder that I'm not going down the recurrence path myself. I've chosen a different route - miracles have happened and I'm no longer fighting recurrence of the many things that I was fighting for so long. In addition, I'm my own psychotherapist right now and I have tons of support. Maybe it's not even the right timing for getting outside support just now.

The fourth thing that strengthened me was that I kept hearing stories of women who'd had reconstruction but lots of problems afterward. So, of course, that made me feel better about the choice I was making.

Surgery is on Thursday morning at 8am. I should be done around 10 or 11am. G-d Willing. If you want to support me during that time, you could read psalm 119 for me or pray your own prayer for me or imagine me wrapped in a fuzzy blue or pink blanket of love or peace. Whatever works for you. I figure if every one of you picks a 10-15 minute slot between 8 and 11am PT, I'll be covered for the entire surgery!!!

I will show Jason how to get on this site and give you all an update by Thursday night. Then I'm expected to only be in the hospital for one or two nights and if I want to go home on Saturday, my surgeon said he can release me. Or I may want to stay longer, we'll see. So this may be the last update before the surgery unless I get inspired again.

I've been imagining being comfortable at the hospital and I can envision how my new body will look and feel. Can't wait to see what room number I'll get this time...4/30/09 works out to #9, the Hermit and completion again, so that's interesting. (See my update from Dec. 1 & 2, 2008 for what the Hermit meant to me during my last hospital visit) There's a bit of horror still there sometimes when I think of how I'll feel after the surgery, but I figure that will diminish as I get used to the new me and more important, no more worries since there should be no recurrence. So instead of horror, what I'm focused on now is a clear, clean, healthy, strong, energetic new body.