Thank you 1

I should have started this category two months ago, and I have written some actual thank you notes on actual linen stationery, but there are so many more thank yous that I should extend:

Thanks to friends who are breast cancer survivors and have reached out to me consistently and compassionately. Thanks for the advice, the humor and the hope. My favorite comment so far: “My breast are not like my limbs. I don’t lift things with my breasts. I don’t walk on my breasts.”

Thanks to friends who have kept us together emotionally, especially Sarah, Elizabeth, Andrea, Richard, Lucia, Theresa, Clair and Liz. If I’ve forgotten anyone, advance thanks for your forgiveness!

Thanks to the many friends and family who have put us on multiple prayer lists. We’re trying to see how many prayer lists we can score!

Thanks to Sarah, who followed us to the first appointments, took notes and has been wonderful in every way. Thanks to her partner, Laura, who has made us laugh when we most needed it and who has given us many insights.

Thanks to my daughter who has dealt with all this amazingly well, and who has informed me, “Mom, I’m really glad you’ve got breast cancer and not REAL cancer.”

Thanks to everyone who does not criticize my decision to let Erin have that misunderstanding.

Thanks to my stepdaughter for checking in at the tail end of her around-the-world trip, and regularly ever since. When she had a health scare two years ago, I didn’t really realize how scary it was. Thanks to her for forgiving me for not being as solicitous as she is being.

Thanks to my husband, who has had his freak-out moments, but is still my rock, and always will be.

Thanks to my brother and my sister-in-law who both have faced cancer more times, and in more ways, than they would like. They have faced mine with humor and helping hands.

Thanks to the friends, and friends of friends, who helped me find world-class doctors quickly and, even more amazing, helped me get appointments quickly.

Thanks to the doctors at NYU, Sloan Kettering and UCSF who have reviewed all the films and reports in my plain vanilla case as if they were the most fascinating medical history in the world. Thanks for carefully explaining the same things you’ve explained a million times. Thanks for putting up with my endless questions. Thanks for being so smart and detail-oriented.

Thanks to my pathologist friend who has checked in with me every couple of weeks and given me a medical road map, and some amazing explanations.

Thanks to this same pathologist friend who first tried to talk me out of having surgery in New York, and who was later joined by a chorus of friends and doctors. I’m glad I didn’t do the cross-country drive hepped up on painkillers. I think my husband is, too.

Thanks to the MRI nurse at NYU who could squeeze my breast for 10 minutes after a core biopsy (to prevent excessive bleeding) and chat normally at the same time. She is a breast cancer survivor, she gets it.

Thanks to the many mammogram technicians who push and pull and squeeze as quickly as possible.

Thanks to the medical assistants who smile indulgently every time they weigh me and I feel obliged to explain that I’ve put on too much wine-and-brie poundage in the last couple years. I’m cutting out the wine on weekdays, as of yesterday! I expect no applause. Check with me in a month to see if I’ve stood firm. Alcohol is not supposed to be so good for breast cancer patients. Plus, it makes you fat.

Thanks to the young Harvard graduate, Erin, who has taken notes for us since I became a UCSF patient. Thanks to whomever it is at UC who has made patient information and dialog such a priority.

Thanks to the auxiliary folks at UCSF who make little pillows for breast cancer patients to hold between their arm and torso and ease the pain from the lymph node biopsies. Those pillows rock!

Thanks to all the people who have not commented as I have walked all over San Francisco with a little bamboo-print pillow under my arm.

Thanks to Clair, who took my daughter to her first day of school the day that I had surgery.

Thanks to Liz, who sat in the waiting room with my husband for most of the time he was in the surgery waiting room.

Thanks to the priest from Grace Cathedral who met me on a Sunday and made a hospital visit the following Tuesday. She didn’t have to do that—she barely knew me—but she did. Thanks to our rector at Grace Church Brooklyn Heights who gave me early advice that I think of almost every day.

Thanks to Lili, my sister-in-law, who made authentic Mexican enchiladas for us the day before surgery. Thanks to Hal, my brother, for delivering them 15 minutes before we got in the car on surgery day. I don’t think that’s what the docs meant when they prescribed a “light diet” for the first 24 hours after surgery, but they were great, and I didn’t throw them up, so hooray.

Thanks to the family of one of my daughter’s new classmates who have picked up Erin from school, every single day since I had surgery. You have a coupon for several thousand dinners and pickups on us.

Thanks to my husband for not scolding me for being too active over the weekend. Thanks to the UCSF exercise consultant, who did scold me.

Thanks to everyone who emails, and calls, and makes Facebook posts and inquiries. Thanks to everyone who bothers to read this.

Just as it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a village to get through cancer, however plain vanilla. Thanks. Thanks. Thanks.


About leftbreast

I have had breast cancer. I was diagnosed at 47, and am now 49. I have finished "active treatment," two surgeries, chemo, radiation, monoclonal antibodies. These days, I only take a drug to suppress my uptake of estrogen, since my tumor was highly reactive to that hormone. I have been married to my husband Pete for 21 years. I have a stepdaughter, Maureen, 30, and a daughter, Erin, 10. I've been a freelance magazine journalist for 20-plus years, covering everything from Chinese foreign policy to Catholic nuns to endangered species. I have had a great life. I have lived in Asia and all over the United States. I have spent nights with tree-sitters in Oregon and with astronomers at the Mauna Kea observatory in Hawaii. I've been to a cocktail party on the poopdeck of a British destroyer docked in Shanghai. I've taken the bus to Tibet, and tramped through the cloud forests of Panama with biologists. A magazine sent me on a raft trip down the Colorado through the Grand Canyon; another sent me to cooking school for a week. I have spent time with celebrities, presidents and heroin dealers. I love my work. I have a loving, supportive family and more friends than I probably deserve. I have had the space and time to camp, ski, cycle, garden, cook and spoil my pets (an Australian shepherd, a German shepherd and a tabby cat). If it all ended tomorrow, I would have to say that it has been a really, really good ride. When I was in thick of treatment, I was simply fighting for more time. Now, I'm trying to connect the experience of cancer with the rest of my life, with the time that's been won. I hope the cancer never comes back, but if it does, I'll be ready. That's what this blog is about.
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